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Tidbits – February 2024

Financial potty training

While the illustration mentions a VCR tape, the point is as sharp as ever. The late Gary North (1941-2022) got this from a subscriber to his “Tip of the Week” email newsletter.

“Once, when our daughter came home from college, she rented a couple of movies and failed to return them before heading back to school. I called her and told her that I returned the movies but there was a late fee which I paid. To teach her a money lesson, I told her I did not want her to repay me, but I did want her to take the fee (a couple of dollars) and flush it down the toilet!

“She was shocked, of course, and begged and pleaded with me to let her mail me the money, but I insisted. I did not want her money. I wanted her to learn a lesson. It would have been all too easy for her to give Dad a couple of bucks to shut him up. Instead I wanted her to take a couple of dollars, walk to the toilet, lift the lid, throw them in and then flush the toilet, and then stand there and wave to her money as it went down the toilet.

“After several minutes of discussion about how crazy that was and more begging and pleading, she finally agreed and promised me that she would do it. I am proud to say that she is much more responsible about her money. I think it was the most creative parenting I ever did. Well worth a couple of bucks!

As North explained, “The reason why this worked is because of the graphic nature of the ritual – and it surely was a ritual. It required an action. This action (1) drove home the economic point; and (2) sealed the point into the memory.”

SOURCE: I got permission to reprint it at the time.

Inviting invitations

I once heard a minister (might have been Rev. Paul Murphy) claim he could tell how ready a church was for evangelism based on just one thing – how their bulletin announcements are written. He noted you can tell quite a lot from the blurbs contained therein. For example many churches announce their study groups this way:

We will meet tonight at the Smith’s. Come one, come all!

This invitation might seem inviting, but it isn’t helpful for anyone visiting for the first time, or someone who hasn’t been coming long enough to get a church directory. They won’t know where the Smiths live, and they won’t know what time the meeting normally starts. And since there’s no phone number or email listed, they can’t text to find out. It’s small things like this, the minister said, that show a church isn’t thinking about the strangers in their midst.

On complaining

Can Christians complain or not? We are told, on the one hand, not to grumble (Philippians 2:14, 1 Cor. 10:10) and on the other, we can read accounts of David, Jeremiah, and others (Ps. 12:1-2, Micah 7:1-2) laying out complaints before the Lord. So, what’s the difference? Intent.

One sort – let’s call him “the grumbler” – just wants to vent. They overlook all that is good and wonderful, and just focus in on what faults they can find. They are ungrateful. The other sort – let’s call this one not a “complainer” because that is not his identity, but rather, the one who has a complaint – has had something serious happen to them. He is facing real difficulties. But rather than just vent, he does whatever he can, and even when it is something beyond any of his own abilities to address, the Christian can still bring his complaint to God, who he can trust will make everything right in the end.

  • “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Unknown
  • “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.” – Dale Carnegie
  • “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou

Homosexuality as evidence against evolution

Homosexuality is a sin but how do you communicate that to someone who isn’t religious? Well, whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of arguing that it isn’t natural. Sexual perversion extends even to nature where homosexual behavior has been observed in over 450 species.

Christians shouldn’t be surprised; sin didn’t limit its effects to just man.

On a more positive note, evolutionists should be surprised, since evolution has no good explanation for homosexuality – they can’t pass on their genes unless they engage in heterosexual behaviour, so under the survival of the fittest theory, it really should have disappeared long ago.

Good ol’ Shoey

As a child I learned that it was never a good idea to complain to grown-ups about being bored. “Bored?” would be the response, “How can you be bored with all those toys? Why when I was a child the only toy I had was an old leather shoe, and that was good enough for me. Ol’ Shoey and me had loads of fun.”

But now it turns out that the older generation, with their scarcity of toys, may have been better off. Research has found that too many toys can actually overwhelm children and stifle creativity. The large number of toys seems to distract children and keep them from playing with any one toy long enough to learn from it. And while a child with fewer toys may complain about being bored, that too may be a good thing. Child psychiatrist, Bruce Perry, insists that a little boredom forces kids to draw on their own imagination and invent games and read to pass the time. He suggests children need at least a couple of hours of this downtime per day.

SOURCES: Edmonton Journal, Dec 2/2000 & Feb 25/2001

“How much do you have to hate a person…”

“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize; I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life, or whatever, and if you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it could make things socially awkward, and atheists who believe people shouldn’t proselytize – ‘just leave me alone, keep your religion to yourself’ – how much do you hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that? …I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was going to hit you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point that I tackle you… and this is more important than that.”
– Entertainer and avowed atheist Penn Jillette on evangelism.

Why trust flukey engineering?

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen for certain physical or chemical reasons to arrange themselves in a certain way, that gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But if it is so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way the splash arranges will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I can’t believe in thought; so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
– C.S. Lewis

On marriage and headship

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
– Matthew Henry

All equally unworthy before God

Though Europe can hardly be called a Christian continent, it does have a Christian heritage and tradition that, on some occasions, still shouts out the Truth. One such occasion was the funeral of Empress Zita, the former ruler of Austria who died in 1989. She received a royal funeral that lasted 2 hours, and was attended by more than 6,000. Afterwards, her body was loaded into a hearse and pulled by a team of horses, and accompanied by 600 soldiers to the church of the Capuchins, where many other royals are buried. When the procession arrived at the church, the doors were closed.

The chamberlain stepped up and knocked three times. A voice from inside cried out, “Who requests entry?’

The chamberlain’s reply was impressive: “Her Majesty Zita, Empress of Austria, crowned Queen of Hungary, Princess of Bohemia, Grand Duchess of Lodomerai, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galizia, Illyria, Queen of Jerusalem, Archduchess of Austria, Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Cracow, Duchess of Lorraine, Salzburg, Carinthia, Krain and Buconia, Grand Duchess of Transylvania, Marchioness of Moravia, Duchess of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, of Dubrovnik and Zara.”

“I do not know her,” came the reply. “Who requires entry?”

The chamberlain offered a simpler response: “Her Majesty Zita, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary.”

The response was the same: “I do not know her. Who requires entry?”

This time the chamberlain replied: “Our sister Zita, a poor sinning mortal.” And the gates were thrown open to receive her.

SOURCE: A half dozen newspaper and website accounts which all differed slightly on the details (perhaps due to translation problems), such as all the titles the chamberlain listed, but which corroborated each other on the core of the story. Among the newspapers and magazine were: People, April 17, 1989; The Guardian, July 10, 2006; The New York Times, April 2, 1989.

Joke of the month

Q: How many bass-baritones in a church choir does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Three: One to climb the ladder and do the job, and the other two to sit there and say, “Isn’t that a little too high for you?”

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In a Nutshell

Tidbits – January 2024

It was the best and worst of times "The Christian only has to endure this world, this is as bad as it gets for us. But non-Christians have to enjoy this world, this is as good as it gets for them!” – Kel Richards’ The Case of the Damascus Dagger Titles worth the price of the book I’ve read my favorite writing book a few times now, but in recent years, when I’m battling a bout of writer’s block, I don’t need to read it. I can just pull it off the shelf, take a good long look at the title there on the cover, and that’s enough: If You Can Talk, You Can Write. Here are a few other books with especially instructive titles. Everyone’s a Theologian – R.C. Sproul knows theology – the study of God – isn’t just for pastors, but for parishioners too. Why It Might Be OK to Eat Your Neighbor: If atheism is right can anything be wrong? – Sometimes a title can be too good. I haven’t read this one, and feel like, after reading this fantastic title, I might have gotten enough of the gist that I don’t need to. Fire Someone Today – This is a business book by a Christian businessman, Bob Pritchett, running a Christian company, and he found out that, while you want to do right by your employees, it is also good to recognize God does give out different talents, so sometimes firing an employee who can’t measure up is actually freeing them up to find out what they really should be doing. Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman’s oldie but goodie is still applicable in a time when social media contagions have folks amusing themselves right into cutting off healthy body parts. Do Hard Things: A teenage rebellion against low expectations – Two teens, brothers Alex and Brett Harris, wrote a challenge to teens to pull up their socks… and make their beds… and clerk for Supreme Court Justices. Oops! I forgot my wife – How many wives suffer from neglect? This one’s a humorous, fictional smack-down on the self-centered husband written by a counselor who wants to help them change. Just Do Something – Looking for God’s will for your life, and stuck in neutral trying to figure out what it is? Kevin DeYoung has some help for you and it starts on the front cover! Wolf in their Pockets – Occasional RP contributor Chris Martin wrote a book on smartphones and social media that’s well worth reading, but the title offers quite the refresher all on its own. National debt costs $3 a day in interest for every man, woman, and child In a Sept. 15 press conference, Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor noted that: “…Canada is deeply in debt. The federal government owes about $1.2 trillion. A trillion is a thousand billion and a billion is a thousand million. Our current government is adding to that debt at the rate of $109 million per day. And what is that debt costing? $120 million every single day in interest alone.” With a population of almost 39 million, that works out to an average of around $100 a month or just over $1,100 a year that the Canadian government will have to take from every man, woman, and child in Canada, just to service our interest payments. Of course, they aren’t even managing that, which is why our debt continues to grow, increasing the burden for the next generation. That is not the sort of inheritance that the good man of Proverbs 13:22 is supposed to leave for his children’s children. A dozen deep thoughts A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. Save a tree. Eat a beaver. Always remember that you are unique; just like everyone else. Few women admit their age; few men act it. Never answer an anonymous letter. Was the pole vault accidentally discovered by a clumsy javelin thrower? Two wrongs may not make a right, but three lefts do. If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done? Can you buy an entire chess set at a pawnshop? If Americans throw rice at weddings, then Asians must throw hamburgers. Don’t think that you’re thinking. If you think that you're thinking you only think that you're thinking. 5 ways to improve instantly that require no talent If your basketball team tryouts are tomorrow, it’d be great if you could shoot 40% from the 3-point line. The coaches would love that! But that’s a skill that takes years to develop, so if you don’t already know how to do it, there’s not a lot you can do about it between now and tomorrow. But there are things you can do right now that don’t require any skill, but could get you noticed by a coach. These could make you a valuable member of the team instantly, and they go way beyond just sports. If it’s tough to keep all five in mind, then focus on couple, or three, for now. REALLY LISTEN – It’s one thing to listen, and another to engage your brain and interact with what your coach is saying. How many of your teammates are thinking through why the coach has you running this particular drill? If you know the why behind the what you’ll be able to make the most of your practice time, and your skills will grow. Listen with your brain! BE ON TIME – If you’re just 5 minutes late, but 11 teammates and a coach are waiting for you, you’ve just blown an hour’s worth of practice time (12 x 5 = 60 minutes). So respect your coach and teammates’ time by showing up just a bit ahead of when you’re supposed to. OUTWORK YOUR OPPONENT – A mediocre player giving 100% may be able to shut down a much more skilled player who’s going just 80. The trick here is that we often think we’re giving it our all, when we actually have a lot more in the tank. So analyze your effort. HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE – There are professional athletes who make millions without ever getting on the court – they’re wanted just for their positive presence on the bench and in the locker room. GOOD BODY LANGUAGE – Show your positive attitude. Just as an athlete can show attitude toward his coach and teammates without saying a word, you can give them a boost by walking around with energy, whooping it up from the bench, and just keeping the energy flowing! Dad joke refresher For the fathers out there needing some new material… I asked the beekeeper for a dozen bees, and he gave me thirteen – he said the last one was a freebee. The Texan I dated broke up with me; she said I was just too un-American. I should have seen it coming a kilometer away. Yesterday I was painting the house with my son. He said, “Dad, can’t you just use a paintbrush?” My wife asked me if I’d seen the fish bowl. I told her, “I never imagined he could.” My wife really knows nothing about sports. When I told her I’d gotten a hole in one, she went and got me a pair of socks. I hear some people pick their nose, but I never got consulted. How do flat-earthers travel? On a plane. My wife is into philosophy. On our last date night, when I got the chicken salad she picked the egg salad just to see whose order would come first. I can’t keep up with the abbreviations kids use these days and my daughters are no help. When I asked what “idk” stood for, they all pretended not to know. When the mask comes off Laura Klassen’s pro-life organization Choice42 regularly saves babies from abortion by helping out their moms. And when a baby is born, the thankful mom will often share a pic with Choice42, to encourage other moms to make the same choice. But a curious thing happens when Klassen posts one of these baby pictures. Folks from the other side blow a gasket. But why? As Klassen notes: “Funny how whenever we post pics of babies saved from abortion, some people get triggered and feel the need to comment about #abortionrights or their general hate for babies. A simple ‘congrat’ will do. After all, these women chose their babies, and y’all are #prochoice, right?” Getting out of the friend zone Commentator Aaron Renn has coined “The Kathy Keller Rule” for all of those out there stuck firmly in the dreaded “friend zone.” As he explained it in his newsletter some years back, getting stuck in the friend zone happens, “…when one person wants more out of a friendship than the other person does…. one person wants to make the relationship romantic but the other person wants to remain friends.” While it isn’t always so, the “wants more” is often the girl, while “just friends” is typically the guy. There can be some cluelessness to this; the fellow might not be stringing her along on purpose. But intentional or not, he’s enjoying some of the joys of a real relationship – the flattering, even ego-boosting, attention of the opposite sex, and the convenience of having someone who’ll drop most anything to go see the latest movie with you – without having to actually give her much of himself. This one-sided exchange is only possible because there is what Renn calls an “asymmetry of intent.” He gives as an example, a story Tim Keller tells in his book The Meaning of Marriage, about Keller’s relationship with his wife. “Though we were best friends and kindred spirits, I was still hurting from a previous relationship that had ended badly. Katy was patient and understanding up to a point, but the day came when she said, ‘Look, I can’t take this anymore. I have been expecting to be promoted from friend to girlfriend. I know you don’t mean to be saying this, but every day you don’t choose me to be more than a friend, it feels as if I’ve been weighed and found wanting – hoping that someday you’ll want me to be more than a friend. I’m not calling myself a pearl, and I’m not calling you a pig, but one of the reasons Jesus told his disciples not to cast pearls before swine was because a pig can’t recognize the value of a pearl. If you can’t see me as valuable to you, then I’m not going to keep throwing myself into your company, hoping and hoping. I can’t do it. The rejection that I perceive, whether you intend it or not, is just too painful. “That’s exactly what she said. It got my attention. It sent me into a time of deep self-examination. A couple of weeks later, I made the choice.” Renn then proposes “The Kathy Keller Rule”: “Do not stay in a friendship where your desire for romance is persistently denied, but deliver an ultimatum (or ask the other person out on a date), exiting the friendship if the other person chooses not to reciprocate your desires.” I think this is great advice. Really great advice even. But I’ll also add, this isn’t out of the Good Book, so take it for what it is – some common sense to consider, but not an 11th Commandment to be obeyed without question. Just one issue? “If you're pro-life, you realize abortion is murder. How can you say ‘it's one of many issues’ and vote for a pro-choice candidate? What policy of theirs could be so good that it's worth allowing millions of babies to be killed?” – Seamus Coughlin...