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“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’.” Genesis 2:18

The politicians tell us today that there is a war on women. I think that the greater conflict is the battle between the sexes.

It’s no secret that traditional marriage is a difficult thing, and in our age even looked down upon. One fellow told me that he thinks men today think that women are just too difficult and have given up on them. I don’t really know what women think about men, but if the media is to be believed my friend’s opinion may hold true for them as well.

Pop star Sam Smith has written a poignant song about an offended lover which exemplifies a relationship gone bad.

You and me, we made a vow
For better or for worse
I can’t believe you let me down
But the proof’s in the way it hurts

You say I’m crazy
‘Cause you don’t think I know what you’ve done
But when you call me baby
I know I’m not the only one

The betrayal and pain seep from these lyrics. But what stands out even more to me is the how the two people view each other: they both think the other one is nuts, although a case can be made that the offending party is only saying this to their partner to cover their lie.

It is not easy to figure out what to do, but the classic movie “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944) may give us a clue.

The film opens with World War II soldier Zach Morgan (Joseph Cotton) riding a train full of other service men obviously on leave. Mary Marshall (Ginger Rogers) sits down across from him and they strike up a conversation.

Mary tells him she is going to Pine Hill to visit her uncle and his family and Christmas. Zach says he is also going to Pine Hill, to visit his sister.

Thus, “I’ll Be Seeing You” begins with the two future lovers lying to each other. Mary is actually a furloughed prisoner at a penitentiary. Zach is definitely not from Pine Bluff and he is an orphan.

As their relationship develops, Zach fesses up to his reasons for lying to Mary. He wanted to be with her.

On the other hand, Mary keeps quiet about her prisoner status, and is reassured by her aunt that she should not tell Zach. They will be together such a short time, she explains to Mary, and the matronly aunt says that she should “have fun like other girls.”

Unlike Mary, Zach confesses to Mary his own furlough status from a hospital, where he is being treated for his psychiatric issues. Mary proves to be a kind and caring woman, encouraging Zach that he can overcome. In fact, it his her voice in his mind that helps him stave off a relapse when he is alone in his room.

The film shows Mary to be someone who is treated somewhat harshly by the justice system. She reveals to her 17-year-old cousin Barbara (Shirley Temple) the reason why she ended up in prison.

Her boss had tried to rape her in his apartment, and in the struggle she accidentally pushed him out a 14th-story window. Although it is clear she acted in self-defense, she is convicted on a manslaughter charge and sent to prison for six years.

In this context, Mary and Zach both fall deeply in love with each other in a few days. Unfortunately for them, and of course unknown to Zach, Mary’s furlough ends shortly after the New Year.

She has to go back to jail to serve three more years. He thinks she is a traveling saleswoman and has to go back to work.

Furthermore, when Zach tells Barbara before his own leave taking that he intends to marry her cousin , she discusses Mary’s true situation, not knowing that Zach is not aware of it.

Zach becomes cold to Mary as they prepare to separate. After Zach refuses to admit what is troubling him, it dawns on her that he now knows the truth. The train leaves with Mary unable to explain.

Arriving home, she encounters Barbara, who is distraught and apologetic. This does not help Mary, however. She forgives Barbara, but she lies on her bed, weeping and forlorn.

All is not lost for her, though. At the end of the movie, Mary is shown walking toward the prison doors in the night. The camera reveals the eyes of a figure hovering nearby.

It is Zach, who embraces Mary and tells her he knew right after the train left he was wrong to leave as he did. He apologizes and says he understands why she did what she did to receive a jail term (although it is not clear in the film why he knows this). He vows to Mary that he will be right there waiting for her until she gets out of prison.

Zach’s gracious behavior toward Mary illustrates a statement made by Jamaican singer Bob Marley:

“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy. … Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”

Zach understood Marley’s sentiments.  He knew Mary was imperfect. But he loved her and wanted her anyway. Zach appreciated that he too was no prize. The value Mary had for him made her worth the wait.

Although both men and women were created in God’s image and for each other, we are both fallen human beings, and have been for a long time. It seems that we forget this truth in our perception of the other sex.

Why this is the case is complicated. I think at the root of the war between men and women is a more cosmic struggle: the one between God and the evil being known as Satan.

When Adam and Eve sinned, God pronounced a curse on Satan, the perpetrator who engineered their demise:

“… I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.” Genesis 3:15

In some fashion, though we ourselves are culpable, men and women are in no-man’s land, caught in the middle between God and Satan.

Sam Smith’s lyrics also reveal another truth: men and women want and need each other. He writes:

For months on end I’ve had my doubts
Denying every tear
I wish this would be over now
But I know that I still need you here

This is the dilemma. Dutch theologian Desiderius Erasmus is quoted as saying, “Women. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.” I imagine women could say the same thing about men.

If my friend’s observation that men have given up on women is true, then I can see from my male point of view at least one solution to the battle of the sexes. They should heed the words of Bob Marley and imitate the actions of the fictional Zach Morgan.

Men and women ought to be less demanding, realize we are all on a journey ad find a partner that is worth suffering for and endure. We do need each other.

words of Bob Marley and imitate the actions of the fictional Zach Morgan.

Men and women ought to be less demanding, realize we are all on a journey ad find a partner that is worth suffering for and endure. We do need each other.

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“Think of ways to encourage on another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back is drawing near (Hebrews 1o:24,25).”

I don’t know what prompted me to do it: seek advice that is. I am a typical male. I hate to stop and ask for directions.

It could have been the Corp of Cadets at the university in my town. With school back in session, the campus is full of these young men and women.

The other day I passed some of them at an exercise station, the kind with balance beams and wooden bars. As I walked by these students,  about 10 of them were in a circle. They had their arms around each other and were yelling some kind of chant, moving their bodies up and down in unison.

I got the point of the cheer. It was designed to develop and show their comaraderie and unity.

I chose to see some counsel because of a family matter that couldn’t get resolved. It concerned a path one of my kids wanted to take.

So about three days ago I got the idea to send some Emails around to some men I trust. One was a mentor of mine. Another was a high school principal.  The other Emails went to my pastor and an elder at my church in charge of the high school group my child is a part of.

Within a couple of hours these fellows had all responded. What impressed me also was the consistency of their advice.  Although their suggestions differed somewhat, their comments were more like shades of the same color.

Their counsel tended to agree with my wife’s view of things, even though I had not brought her ideas up specifically in my request for advice. While I agreed with my spouse generally, these men gave me some specifics that helped sway my view toward hers.

As we met with child and discussed the pertinent issue, I spoke out the written suggestions of my counselors. With input from my wife and kid, I made a decision.

All seem settled, that is until I heard my wife and child heatedly discussing the issue again in another room a few minute after our discussion. So much for my effective leadership!

I was quite flustered and basically just delegated the whole thing to my wife to solve. (Men: I wouldn’t recommend this as a conflict resolution strategy.)

During the last three days since there has been an edge of contention in my household.  The argument finally came to a head this morning as I was trying to sleep in. (It’s Saturday.)

Again my wife and child were having a loud discussion. Forget trying to sleep.

I came upstairs and got involved in the battle. I wasn’t much help. Indeed, in my pre-coffee state I just added fuel to the fire.

Finally, some thing occurred to me.  It became clear as day that my wife’s spirit was just flat out against the whole approach I was taking. Even though I was trying to be conciliatory and my wife was willing to compromise, it was clear that no matter how I framed the issue, she was not comfortable with how things were going.

It was after comprehending how she was feeling, I made a decision that from my perspective was completely in line with with what was in her heart. What was interesting to me was how, within the next hour or so, I had this complete sense of peace about me. In addition, my wife had the same spirit.

We were both in unity. We both were positive we were making the right decision regarding our child.

None of this would have happened if I had not chosen to ask advice from some other guys. Their thoughts acted as a catalyst to bring my thinking around to that of my wife. It took three days, but at least I finally was open minded and made the decision that seemed to be the best one.

The wise man of Proverbs tells us that healthy counsel is very valuable:

Timely advice is lovely,  like golden apples in a silver basket. To one who listens, valid criticism  is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.  Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in summer.  They revive the spirit of their employer. (Proverbs 25:11-13).

This same wise man writes that involving my wife in the decision making was a smart thing to do to:

 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)

This sage closes this  thought by reiterating how effective it is in a conflict to not be a loner.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

My adult son and I have been watching the Little League World Series. I am intrigued by how, whenever there is a home run, the entire  team of the boy who hit it greets him at home place and enthusiastically celebrates.

To me. the peace my wife and I gained, a rlesult of a decision borne from our teamwork, was to me a home run. And it was a sign to me that our success was a sign  of God’s pleasure.

He was at home plate jumping up and down with us. If those counselor friends of mine had been here, they would have been patting us on the back, too.

It’s this kind of fellowship I ought to be engaging in every day.  In addition, in the times we live in, and with the difficult contests of life sure to be ahead, it’s essential to be a part of  a community of saints like this.

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A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10).”

As they lay in the bed in their hotel room, Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami can’t sleep. They are under a lot of pressure.

In an episode of the TV drama “Friday Night Lights” Coach Taylor will be coaching his Dillon High Panthers in the Texas state championship game the next day. A pressure-cooker situation under any circumstances, the heat is increased by the instability of his 15 year-old freshman quarterback J.D. McCoy.

J.D. is probably the best quarterback in the state, but he himself is under a lot of pressure to perform from his tightly wound father. In fact, after the game which got the Panthers into the final, J.D.’s Dad hit him in the face repeatedly in front of  the Taylors and other witnesses because the boy didn’t follow his instructions about how to play.

By law, both Eric and Tami (who is the Dillon principal)  have to report the incident to Child Protective Services, and do so. This causes the breakup of Tami’s relationship with J.D.’s mother, a close friend, and an even more adversarial relationship between Eric and the quarterback’s intrusive father.

At first, J.D. is angry at his father’s beating. However, he eventually sides with his father and becomes upset with Coach Taylor for reporting his Dad’s indiscretion.

As Eric and Tami stand on the balcony in the middle of the night, looking over the city of Austin and in sight of the stadium where the state championship is to be played, the coach says,”I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow.” Tami replies,”Well, you’re going to win. Or, you’re going to lose. Either way, the sun will come up the next day.”

Tami Taylor exhorts her husband with some wise words that help him to see the big picture and what is important. In essence, Tami is saying that life is unpredictable, but whatever happens life goes on regardless.

Tami’s statement echoes one Jesus made in the Bible. In the context of this statement, Jesus had just told his disciples to seek the higher values, i.e. God’s kingdom and his righteousness, over temporal concerns and added that they would have everything they needed as a result.

Maintaining such a character in a world that has no interest in pursuing godly qualities, and in fact goes after the opposite, is not easy. Thus, Jesus gave His followers some practical advice to handle the pressure:  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:32-33).

Both Eric and Tami Taylor continue to keep this perspective in the days ahead. Things don’t work out as they hoped, but they still keep their character.

First, the Dillon Panthers encounter a huge deficit in the state championship game.  Coach Taylor courageously benches J.D. in the second half. He has played terribly and acted disrespectfully toward both Coach Taylor and his teammates.

Even though Coach Taylor’s move almost pays off, Dillon loses the championship by a whisker. Even so,  the coach encourages his team and compliments his players in the locker room in front of their parents afterward for playing like champions.

You would think that having almost won the state title and having taught values to his players would make Eric’s job secure. However, in the world of Texas high school football, this kind of behavior is not necessarily prized.

Indeed, J.D.’s wealthy and influential father works behind the scenes to pull off a coup to replace Coach Taylor with J.D.’s personal quarterback coach. The school board is faced with the choice of potentially losing their star quarterback or saying goodbye to their highly successful coach.

At first, Eric refuses to defend himself. He tells Tami that he has some pride, and that the board knows his record.

Tami wisely advises Eric that he needs to come to the board meeting and speak. She knows he has no chance of warding off the attack of J.D.’s father otherwise, and it is clear that his livelihood is at stake.

Although Eric bravely fights for his job in front of the school board, they opt to keep J.D.’s father happy. Eric is basically demoted. He is offered the position of head coach at a previously defunct  high school the board intends to resurrect across town in a lesser district as a consolation. 

At a wedding where Tami informs Eric of  the decision, she continues to display grace, telling Eric,”No matter what happens, wherever you go, or whatever you do, I will be behind you.”  Eric takes Tami away from the wedding  and drive  across town to view the ramshackle East Dillon High facilities.  He obviously plans to make the best of the new situation and coach next season at the reopened school.

The show ends with Eric and Tami standing on the abandoned school’s tiny football field with their arms around each other. Eric is a man with plenty of godly traits, and fortunately for him, he has a wife who is even godlier and helps him to make right choices despite the pressures of life.

Knowing what he has in Tami influences Eric’s decisionmaking.  During the wedding, as various couples, including Eric and Tami, dance a band sings the following lyrics, which help to explain the coach’s choice:

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found

Eric Taylor has won a state championship previously and  just took his team to another final. He is a highly respected coach and would have no trouble landing a job coaching elsewhere.

In fact, this is not the first time Eric has put  his career behind his wife and family. Once he was offered and took a coaching position at a major university in Texas even though Tami had just had a baby and elected to stay in Dillon. When he saw his family suffering from his absences, he leaves his new job, a dream come true, and returns to coach the Panthers.

Yes, Eric knows what he has in Tami.

 When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Tryin’ to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be ( When a Man Loves a Woman, Jody Watley, made famous by Percy Sledge)

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“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.  Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:17,18).”

One of my lifelong friends invited me to view one of his loves last weekend. He’s a big fan of stock car racing, so we headed down to one of his favorite tracks to see a Saturday night competition.

On the way he showed me an article he had written on the track in a magazine called “Speedway”. At the end, the editor had left in his dedication to his father, who had raced cars briefly in the 1950s and gave my buddy his love for the sport.

As something of a neophyte to auto racing, I focused on the leaders in the race. However, a lot of the more experienced fans at the track were watching the “races within the race”.

One of the more competitive of these was a contest between two cars in the 100 lap event, the track’s longest race of the night. While I watched the leaders, the yellow flag came out, signalling a “caution” in the competition and thus a pause.

As I looked to my left, at the corner of the track a car lay sprawled. My friend told me this driver had been smacked by a competitor, purportedly on purpose.

A little bit later, the driver of the car that had been hit got his revenge. He caused his earlier attacker to spin out.

This activity was a big hit with the crowd. They went wild.

My buddy had told me earlier before the race began that I was supposed to pick a winner, so I did. However, when it was clear my choice was back in the pack and would stay there, I picked another.

Amidst all the noise (we wore earplugs) and with the earlier confrontations still lodged in my brain, my friend informed me,”He’s…., even a dirty driver.” This man with a reputation of a cheater won the race, though.

Reading an account of the results later, I learned his main competitior wasn’t enthralled by how the victor had accomplished his victory. The second place finisher  was passed by the winner, but claimed that this would not have been possible if the alleged “dirty driver” had not illegally altered his car.

My impression of the night was that auto racing at this level is kind of a controlled chaos. Most of the drivers appear to he keeping the rules, but a few derelicts stretch and even break them, creating a certain amount of nuttiness.

When you watch some of these drivers, the auto insurance commercials starring Mr. Mayhem come to mind. He’s the man play-acting as, for example, an out-of-control GPS device, or an even more out of control teenage girl driver. The end result with Mr. Mayhem at the controls is disaster.

Israelites living at the time of the Judges must have felt like the equivalent of Mr. Mayhem was steering their ship.  It was a time of needless and willful violence.

Individually and corporately, actions were taken that hurt people and destroyed lives. As the Scriptures say, everyone did what was right in their own eyes because there was no real leadership (Judges 21:25 ).

One story, told in Judges Chapter 19,  involving a religious leader and his wife exemplified this period. The insanity began with the woman’s infidelity.

Now, the idea that a marriage between two people who claim to be leaders in bringing people to God would have trouble. In fact, my friend who took me to the races, who also happens to be a licensed therapist, told me that he would like to think so, but his experience in counseling shows that ministers and their spouses have  a lot of marital trouble.

At least this Israelite minister did the right thing when his wife split and went home to Daddy. He went after her.

Apparently they reconciled because they eventually left to go home. During their travels, though, mayhem struck.

Choosing to avoid an ungodly city, he moved on to an Israelite city in which to spend the night.  His assumption was that he would not be subject to the kind of violence he could expect in the city he passed by, since Israelites were supposedly believers in the true God.

The minister turned out to be dead wrong. The man he was staying with experienced a home invasion by perverted men, and his wife was raped and murdered.

In an action that would rival any reality show on TV today, the minister cut his wife into pieces and sent the parts all over the nation of Israel. He must have thought this was the only way he could get a hearing amidst the governmental chaos of his day.

When the leaders of Israel demanded that the tribe involved, Benjamin, surrender the perpretators of the crime, they did the unexpected. They refused.

In a fit of misplaced patriotism, they took offense at the encroachment on their states’ rights. Civil war ensued.

After much bloodshed, the Benjamites were subdued and the criminal city destroyed. Some people claim there was a woman to blame, but they knew in their heart of hearts that  it was  their own fault.

When God’s way is thrown out the window, even in a nation claiming to be religious, the only thing that can expected is a visit from Mr. Mayhem.  The collateral damage in such situations is enormous.

Even as I write this, a supposedly “Christian” nation is recovering from the mass murder of many of its citizens, many of them children. The media has claimed that the man is a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” distressed over the move of his people toward ideologies he cannot abide with.

In reality, the man is nothing of the sort. He is nothing short of mad. He is Mr. Mayhem embodied in a true-to-life human being.

In his attack against his country and its leadership, he is right in one respect, however. His crazinness has been aided and abetted by a lack of leadership in the things of God.

As a result, people today are like the race car drivers I saw Saturday night who fell back in the pack. As they drove lap after lap toward the finish line, they slipped farther away from success.

Paul Simon wrote and sang these lyrics which describe the experience of the modern man in the human rat race:

Slip  slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

I know a man
He came from my home town
He wore his passion for his woman
Like a thorny crown
He said Dolores
I live in fear
My love for you’s so overpowering
I’m afraid that I will disappear

Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain’t got no rain
She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been

Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

And I know a fa-ther
Who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons
For the things he’d done
He came a long way
Just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and headed home again

Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

When we try to be spouses and parents without God at the helm of our personal lives and the life of our families, we are lost. Mr. Mayhem is at the wheel instead.

Simon adds:

God only knows
God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable
To the mortal man
We’re working our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away

Simon is right in one respect.  Not following God’s plan in our job or in any other aspect of life for that matter is a recipe for mayhem.

Hower, Mr. Simon is incorrect in saying that information from God regarding His plan for us is not available to us mortals. It’s right smack dab in the Bible.

Our national leaders just choose to ignore it. So do we husbands, parents and other leaders responsible for the welfare of other people.

Occasionally, you can run into some people whose lives seem to be under control. They are at peace and leading others in healthful ways.

The elders of my church come to mind. Individually and corporately, they are some of the godliest men I have ever run across.

The wisest man to have lived claimed observed that the “race is not to the swift”, but that humans are subject to the mayhem of their times and the luck of the draw (Ecclesiastes 9:11) I am glad, however, that there are men like my elders around, manning the pits as I circle life’s raceway.

They are worthy of following and emulating. One day, before I finish my race, I hope to be like them and kick Mr. Mayhem out of the driver’s seat.

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My Mona Lisa

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,  and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (Luke 8:1-3).

Stan and Bill are in big trouble. They have been accused of a murder they didn’t commit.

What complicates matters is that they are basically foreigners. Stan and Bill are a couple of young men from New York traveling in Alabama when they are arrested for murdering a convenience store clerk.

Bill calls his mother, who recommends his cousin Vinny Gambini, a lawyer who finally passed the bar after six tries.  He arrives in Alabama with his fiancee Mona Lisa Vito.

Stan is not convinced. However, Bill urges him to give Vinny a try:

Bill: You have to see the Gambinis in action. I mean, these people, they love to argue. I mean, they live to argue.
Stan: My parents argue too, it doesn’t make them good lawyers.
Bill: Stan, I’ve seen your parents argue. Trust me, they’re amateurs.”
 
What makes this movie funny is the culture class between the people of the Deep South and the hip crew from New York. In one discussion between Vinny and the Judge Chamberlain Haller, their regional dialects create misunderstanding:
 
Vinny Gambini: It is possible that the two yutes…
Judge Chamberlain Haller: …Ah, the two what? Uh… uh, what was that word?
Vinny Gambini: Uh… what word?
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Two what?
Vinny Gambini: What?
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Uh… did you say ‘yutes’?
Vinny Gambini: Yeah, two yutes.
Judge Chamberlain Haller: What is a yute?
[beat]
Vinny Gambini: Oh, excuse me, your honor…
[exaggerated]
Vinny Gambini: Two YOUTHS.
 
The Bible has an episode that coincides with the storyline in “My Cousin Vinny”. It involves the head judge of Israel, a man named Jepthah, and an Israelite tribe called the Ephraimites.
 
The Ephraimites were kind of “Johnny Come Latelys”.  They tended to show up for a fight after it was over, for motivations known only to them.
 
In one instance, they confronted a previous judge, Gideon, in similar circumstances. In this case, Gideon was gracious (Judges 8:1-3).
 
However, Jepthah was made of different material. He liked to argue.
 
When the king of the Ammonites tried to present a rather tortured legal case for invading  Israel’s territory, Jepthah would have none of it.  He argued back with the truth and defeated the Ammonites in battle (Judges 11:12-33).
 
In a similar manner, Jepthah had no patience for the second guessing of the Eprhaimites.  Here’s the story, which includes its only little humorous, yet important, ancedote concerning differences in language:
 
The Ephraimite forces were called out, and they crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over your head.”

 Jephthah answered, “I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn’t save me out of their hands. When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?”

Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.” The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he replied, “No,”  they said, “All right, say ‘Shibboleth.’” If he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. Judges (12:1-6).

Vinny, like Jepthah, would argue and fight in a New York minute. When his fiancee is unable to collect on some winnings from at male opponent during pool, Vinny shows up at the pool hall to challenge the loser. Eventually, he clobbers the man and gets her money.

Mona Lisa Vito is about the only woman on the face of the earth who can hold a candle to Vinny. When he uses his debating skills, she gives back as good as it gets.

What is really troubling Mona Lisa is that she wants to help Vinny, but doesn’t know how. In addition, he is reluctant to receive assistance from her.

When Mona Lisa shows Vinny some pictures she has taken around town, suggesting they might help, he explodes. Uncharacteristically, Mona Lisa storms off.

She is tiring of their long engagement. Vinny has promised to marry her when he wins his first case.

It turns out, however, that Mona Lisa is indispensable to Vinny.  He actually DOES fine some key evidence in the photos.

In addition, as Mona Lisa is an expert in auto mechanics and performance, she becomes a key witness during the trial. She is able to prove that the car at the convenience store which tore down the road after the shooting of the clerk could not have belonged to Stan and Bill.

In addition, at the end of the movie, Mona Lisa is instrumental in keeping Vinny out of hot water with Judge Haller, who has been  suspicious of his qualifications. She gets help from a friend of theirs, a judge in New York, and has him fax fake information about Vinny to the court.

Vinny is silent though as the couple drive off.  She asks him, “So what’s your problem?”

Vinny: My problem is, I wanted to win my first case without any help from anybody.
Lisa: Well, I guess that plan’s moot.
Vinny: Yeah.
Lisa: You know, this could be a sign of things to come. You win all your cases, but with somebody else’s help. Right? You win case, after case, – and then afterwards, you have to go up to somebody and you have to say- “thank you“!

In a great irony, the actress who played Mona Lisa Vito in “My Cousin Vinny” was the only Oscar winner from the movie. She won the award for “Best Supporting Actress”!

Touche’! The man DOES need his woman’s help. Something that may be even harder to swallow is that he needs his woman’s help to do his job.

I admit it. As a male I am one of the world’s great compartmentalizers.

I tend to exclude my wife from matters I think don’t concern her. I have been wrong.

I need to get her assistance and accept her as the asset she is, in all situations! She is more than willing.

Jesus accepted the help of the women around Him. Who am I do to any different?

 

 

 

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 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (C0lossians 1:15, 21-23).”

We have been taught this rule since we were kids. We learned it in our Sunday School classes, for example.

Cindy Biggar describes this traditional rule, and discusses a new one which is permeating our world today:

Do you remember the Golden Rule? We used to be taught it in school. It goes like this — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I heard that so much growing up. Treat others the way you want to be treated is a pretty amazing, a pretty profound bit of advice. Advice worth adhering too.

Think about it. What if everyone followed the Golden Rule? What if everyone decided to heed its simple yet significant challenge? There would be no prejudice, no hate, no violence, no wars, no cheating, no lying, no stealing, no killing. Crimes would stop. Wars would cease. There would be peace. If… we all followed that one simple rule. One profound, incredible, totally simplistic, little rule — to treat others the way we’d like to be treated.

In this world the Golden Rule has become antiquated to the point of being obsolete. There is a new rule, a rule opposite of the Golden Rule. It is rather a tarnished one. One that actually twists about the Golden Rule. The rule of the world today is “Do to others as they did to you.” Get even. Don’t let anyone treat you bad. If you do you are weak, cowardly and stupid. In the world’s terms, the one who doesn’t retaliate is a push over.

If something is “golden”, it is excellent and superb. A life operating by the Golden Rule is certainly one that offers promise.

If something is golden, it is highly desirable. Gold is an element which is soft, shiny and attractive. It is, of course, extremely valuable as well.

Gold also is resistant to attack. It is not easily dissolved.

Gold doesn’t really have an opposite number on the periodic table of elements. However, one can say that iron is not like gold.

The Department of Physics at the University of Illinois says it  is not very strong. Iron also  likes to combine with oxygen to become iron oxide, otherwise known as rust.

Rust is that brown, flaky stuff we see on many of our metallic objects. It makes them look ugly, makes them weak and can cause parts to break.

The characters in the movie “Inglorious Basterds” surely didn’t live by the Golden Rule. They functioned according to what I call the Rusty Rule. This rule is one of revenge.

In this flick, Nazi Colonel Hans Landa hunts down Jews in German-occupied France during World War II. The Nazis have this hatred of Jews beyond all imagination.

One of Landa’s victims is a girl named Shoshanna. Landa kills her family, but she escapes.

A few years later, Shoshanna, now known as Emmanuelle, gets her opportunity for vengeance. She learns that the entire Nazi High Command, including Adolph Hitler, will be present in the cinema she operates on one particular night. Also there, in charge of security, will be Hans Landa.

Unbeknownst to her, the Allies know about the Nazi’s presence in her cinema and make their own plan to kill the Nazi leaders. They send in a group of Jewish American soldiers known by the Germans as the Basterds  to assassinate them.

In the end, both Emmanuelle and the Jewish soldiers get their revenge. Emmanuelle burns down the cinema. Before she is killed, she  arranges the running of a film of her ghoulishly announcing to the assembled Nazis their impending death at the hands of one their worst enemies, a Jew.

The Basterds also get their revenge. Amidst all the chaos caused by the fire and Emmanuelle’s announcement, these Jewish-Americans shoot Hitler and other Nazi leaders.

The Old Testament, the story of the ancient Jews,  also has its stories of vengeance. One man very good at gaining revenge was Samson.

In his story, Samson marries a Philistine woman, which is the equivalent of Shoshanna marrying a Nazi. However, he  angrily walks away from his new wife after she helps his wedding companions win a bet against him. Samson eventually  cools off, though, and comes to visit her at her father’s house.

The father won’t let Samson into the house, however. It turns out that he has given his daughter, Samson’ wife, to another man.

Samson is mad again. He joins up pairs of foxes by their tails, puts a torch between them and sends them into the fields of the Philistines.

After the Philistines lose their food supply, they burn the father and Samson’s wife at the stake, perhaps getting their own revenge, but also seeking to appease  Samson. The Philistines, however, have misread this Jewish judge and warrior.

Samson says to the Philistines,“Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you (Judges 15:7)”.   Samson viciously slaughters many of the Philistines.

The Philistines don’t take this lying down. On the contrary, they go after Samson.

Caught in the middle of all this are the people of Judah. They hear both sides explain to them why Samson and the Philistines are in conflict:

 The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi. The people of Judah asked, “Why have you come to fight us?”

   “We have come to take Samson prisoner,” they answered, “to do to him as he did to us.”

 Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”

 He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.” (Judges 15:9-11)

Fast forward several hundred years to the time of Jesus. In her discussion of the obsolescence of the Golden Rule, here is what Cindy Biggars says of Him:

So according to the world’s standards, Jesus Christ was a push over — a weakling that people could take advantage of. Jesus didn’t fight back. He didn’t do to others what others did to Him. When others didn’t appreciate or acknowledge the things He did for them, He didn’t pout and complain to His friends. When others lied about Him, He didn’t retaliate. When others mocked Him, He was silent. When others spat in His face, He kept His cool. When they beat Him, He stood quietly and took it. He didn’t have to get the last word in. Instead, He held His tongue. Then, after they hung Him on a splintery old cross to be ridiculed, publicly humiliated, tortured and killed, He forgave. And, by so doing, He overcame.

Looking at the life of our Savior, the One who withdrew from the normal standards of life, withstood the trials and persecutions, and withheld the notions to get back at His persecutors, we see anything but weakness. We see the epitome of strength. We see someone who sacrificed Himself for the good of others. It is because of that sacrifice that we are not condemned to a fiery hell. It is because of His forgiveness, grace and mercy that we can find hope, joy and peace.

Jesus dared to be different. He dared to do right. He dared to take a stand. By so doing, He made a difference. He overcame evil with good. He fulfilled the Golden Rule.

Ms. Biggsar’s use of the phrase “dared to be different” in describing Jesus is significant. In this day and age, this is very applicable to the relationship between men and women. We different-gendered humans need to be different in the way we relate to each other, especially in marriage.

The divorce rate shows that an institution that is to be characterized by the Golden Rule has become more like a situation similar to that between Jews and Nazis, Samson and the Philistines.

We aim to do to our partner what he or she does to us. David G. Evans says we need to dare to be different, and he puts the onus on the male of the human species.

In his book, “Dare to Be a Man”, Pastor Evans tells men that we need to begin by casting a vision for himself and his family. Evans writes,”A man must dare to center his vision on duplicating the image of God”.

What better place to start than by imitating Jesus’s application of the Golden Rule in our relationships with our wives and children. After all, this is the Gospel to which we believing gentlemen claim to profess.

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“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life Proverbs 31:10-12).”

Dear daughters,

I want you to know something. Despite all the mayhem around our house, I truly love your mother.

I think a singer from the 1960s named Percy Sledge knew what loving a woman was all about for a man. When he recorded his hit called “When a Man Loves a Woman”, the song had no title or no lyrics.

Percy Sledge was expected to improvise the lyrics as he went along. He used the melody to build the song.

Percy did such a good job everyone thought he had written the words down beforehand. It hit number one on the charts in 1966.

I was 11 years old then. I didn’t know a whole heckuva lot about women, and still don’t. But I do know some things about men, and how they feel about women.

Last night when I came home, I had a slew of bills in my hands. Your mother wanted them because she had spent an hour and a half on the phone trying to deal with them.

As we began to discuss our finances, I was getting really worried. However, your Mom, with her wisdom, began calculating and trying to figure a way.

When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Tryin’ to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be.

I can tell you that your Mom would NEVER want me to sleep out in the rain. Au contraire, she would insist on me taking care of myself.

In fact, one of the demands she has when I move overseas to provide for us all is that I eat one warm, healthy meal a day. What a great woman your Mom is!

Sure we fight. This is because we have trouble communicating.

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she plays him for a fool
He’s the last one to know
Lovin’ eyes can’t ever see.

One thing your mother has never done is made me feel stupid. She would never make me feel like a fool.

In fact, she tells me in a lot of ways how smart she thinks I am. However, she knows I am just not very practical.

As she says, I live between my ears. This is why she needs to take care of the bills.

I am so absent-minded and preoccupied that I forget to pay them or mishandle them. Your Mom knows me and she knows this, and intends to even pay my bills from 4,000 miles away.

I may have SOME brains, but not enough where it counts. I could do a better job  of making your Mom feel loved.

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found
If she’s bad he can’t see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he put her down.

I’m sorry, girls, if I have communicated anything but the utmost respect for your mother. It’s a cliche, but it’s me, not her. In other words, it’s my problem.

Sometimes men travel into a marriage with a lot of baggage in tow. I surely have gone over my limit in the amount I have brought to your Mom.

The wise man of Proverbs closed his book by putting down some instructions from a mother to her son. His name was Lemuel. She began this way:

“Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
   Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! 
Do not spend your strength on women,
   your vigor on those who ruin kings (Proverbs 31:2).”

Lemuel’s mom went on to desribe an excellent woman for him. She most likely fit the description herself. Lemuel’s mother commended to him the type of woman he should marry.

Matthew Henry, a well-known Bible commentator from long ago, summarized her thoughts:

 “She must be chaste and modest, diligent and frugal, dutiful to her husband, careful of her family, discreet in her discourse, and in the education of her children, and, above all, conscientious in her duty to God: such a one as this, if he can find her, will make him happy.”

This description fits your mother to a tee. I couldn’t do better.

I mentioned my “baggage” above. Your Mom didn’t deserve it, but she has had to live with it.

Well, this man loves a woman (your Mom)
I gave you everything I had
Tryin’ to hold on to your precious love
Baby, please don’t treat me bad.

In my own flawed way, I believe I have done the best I could to love your mother: not always mind you, but given the overall picture.

Your Mom is only human. She knows that I have a thick head and may not have always handled my behavior well, but who can blame her.

 Yes when a man loves a woman
I know exactly how he feels
‘Cause baby, baby, baby, you’re my world.

When your Mom and I were first courting, we did so by letter. She lived in her home country and I lived in mine.

When we finally got together, we hardly spent a day away from each other. We knew what seperation was like.

It looks like from all appearances that my move contradicts the feeling of this lyric, that your Mom is my world. Some would say I am running away.

I can tell you that my leaving is somehow in the providence of God. I am primarily going to support you all and keep things as stable as possible for the family.

I am hopeful that this parting will be used by God to make my relationship with your Mom stronger. It seems like it would function to do the opposite, but we have an incredibly wise God.

I just wanted you to know that even though I am going half way around the world that in my mind your Mom is still the center of it. I hope one day you find a man who feels the same way about you.

If I have anything to do with it, you will!

While I am gone, watch out for your Mom for me. Even more, observe her life and emulate it!

Love,

Dad

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