Unfaithfulness Admission #2,137: Why We Still Give a Rip About John Edwards

You’d think we’d be tired of it by now, all the hide-and-seek sexual storylines between powerful people and the intern/nanny/prostitute/co-worker. We know what kind of shrapnel it sprays into the media marketplace—the thousands of editorial columns, the scramble for a photo, the hiring of public relations experts, and the scripted confession.

I’ve lived through quite a few decades of it now. The couplings come in many shapes and sizes, and the media coverage is proportional to the paradox of its partners; in other words, a televangelist with a salvation message and a centerfold is irresistible. A sermonizing governor and his call girl is spellbinding. The leader of the free world risking it all for a giggling intern is astonishing.

So now we have another one. Same old story. New details. Why do we still care? Fifteen minutes of scrolling around the internet reveal that most of our reactions fall into one of four categories: moral, political, scientific, or emotional. The moralists say, Look at that—another weak leader shows us his natural depravity. I’m so glad I’m righteous. The political analysts examine the fallout: How does this impact public opinion, the party, the campaign? The scientists try to explain to us the brain circuitry that allows men to stray and women to stay. And finally, the emotional PTSD folks are reminded of their own personal scumbag stories and tell the wives to kick ‘em to the curb.

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Golden Anniversaries are 50/50

My guess is that fifty-year wedding anniversaries are fading faster than a cotton T-shirt in the Fresno sun.

Bad metaphor? Maybe. I’ve been on vacation.

Even so, I’ve been reflecting on the natural order of life lately, particularly as I observed the lovely passing of my in-laws’ fiftieth wedding anniversary this past week. There we were, three generations of  Ferdinandsens frolicking in Napili Bay on the island of Maui, as the grateful guests of the honored couple. While I was supposed to be indulging in tropical drinks and sunscreen, I was meditating on the four stages of mankind: childhood, independence, parenting, and finally . . . sunset.

In our extended family, these stages have moved in proper order, each one giving way to the next with ever-increasing requirements on our maturity. Childhood is first with its physical freedoms and its “glad animal movements” (props to poet William Wordsworth). The grandchildren, marveling at giant sea turtles and rainbows, were beautifully selfish this week; all they had to do was show up. It’s okay, though, because their chronic taking, their naïve delight, is a temporary condition.

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Why We Listen to an EX-

Disclaimer: Have you ever let your developing opinion leak out a little before you’re even sure you agree with yourself? This might be one of those times for me. Be gentle.

Insiders are valuable storytellers.

If you want to know what really happens in a meat packing plant, backstage of a Stones concern, or a Mormon marriage ceremony, who’s gonna give it to you straight? Will it be a news reporter on an investigative mission? A documentary filmmaker paid handsomely to check it out? Maybe your uncle who knows everything about anything?

No way. We want an insider. We want the guy who knows the dimensions of a cattle stun gun. We’d like to hear it from the dude who wiped up after Mick Jagger. If you can’t produce a temple garment from Salt Lake City, then you’re not our gal.

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How Did I Wind up Here? (Oh Yeah, God Sent Me)

Okay, so I’m lying prone in a ditch with my arms folded, corpse-like, dressed in black and staring at a darkening sky. My back is stiff and I’m praying that wood ticks and West Nile virus mosquitoes don’t enjoy the free horizontal buffet.

I’m not a prisoner of war or an injured hiker, but I don’t know when I’ll be allowed to leave. I have no earthly reason for being here. I see the stars beginning to emerge as faint pinpricks across the sky. My white tennis shoes are dusted with pine needles, if only to better assist the camouflage. And then I hear the clang of the bell, and the distant roar of the army. They are coming for me.

So goes camper/counselor hide-and-seek, one of my many experiences last week as a middle school counselor at a Christian camp in the Sierra Nevadas.

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Why the Sinking Economy Has Me Looking Up

Good golly, I had almost lost touch with my old friend Shortfall. And now that we’re reacquainted, I hope I don’t forget why God introduced us in the first place.

To share some private information, my husband and I are not rich and probably never will be. Careers in public education and freelance ministry have a nicely defined ceiling. We stay out of debt, buy used cars, live within our means, but if you want to know the truth, compared to the global population, we still live like spoiled royalty.

I’d like to say our comfortable life can all be credited to our wisdom, hard work, and restraint, but I know better. I didn’t pick who my parents are, where I was born, and what kind of opportunities I’ve been given. You could say I’ve been a good steward of my gifts, but still—I struck gold the minute I was born. Add to that the enormous blessings of good health, higher education, and a committed husband, and I’ve had a sweet deal going. No self-serving delusions here.

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Hey, Jesus, Will You Be My Friend on Facebook?

Hey, Jesus, will you be my friend on Facebook? People would be really impressed if someone of your caliber showed up on my list. I’m trying to push my friends list to a thousand, and I’ll bet you have some great connections.

It’s funny that it’s called Facebook when I’m not sure we’ll meet face-to-face, and I doubt I’ll read your Book, but we still probably have a lot in common. I guarantee we have some mutual friends in our networks. I think you’ll be impressed by my profile page; I posted some religious stickers and links to Christian bands.  I can’t wait to see what we post on each other’s wall. (The last time you wrote on a wall, Belshazzar freaked out! LOL!!!) 

We can have little nicknames for each other. It’ll be cute. I’ll call you JC and you can think of something clever for me, too. When we communicate, we will share meaningful conversations all reduced to abbreviated letters, letter winks, and smiley faces. This way, our friendship will flourish without the nuisance of intimacy. I can’t wait for us to really bond, screen-to-screen. 

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The Altar of Words Invites Many Idols

(Note: This is a re-mix of a post I wrote in November of last year. I'm feeling compelled to toss it out here again.) 

It seems that across the world, word worship is beginning to look more like idolatry and less like a really cool hobby.

Now, I’ll admit I am in love with words. I collect interesting ones, put them on display, use them to my advantage. I’ve spent a lifetime building things out of words, and I’ve always thought I had a lot to show for it. But I think I might be ready for change.

Why this new distrust for words? After an evening of stomachaches scrolling around the internet, I realized that the arena of words has essentially become our national temple. It is here that everyone has started to worship his own prose. Let me post my clever comeback. Listen to my witty retort for your narrow-minded thinking. Watch me impress you with my intellectual rant—aren’t you jealous?

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It’s All Good When God Flips the Switch

Power outages freak people out. There’s all manner of angst when our electrical grid crashes. Quite frankly, we don’t like anyone taking away our power over light and dark.

The other evening, just after the sun had slipped away for the night, my suburban neighborhood lost its artificial glow. There we were—the five of us going about our individual school night routines—when the world stopped. Light bulbs kidnapped.  No computer. A television temporarily silenced.

At first, we had to readjust our thinking. What is this? No light? You’d think we were dependent on electricity or something from the shrieks and groans echoing throughout the house. We had no backup plan in place, of course. So our nine-year old son bumped around the kitchen until he emerged grasping a butane lighter in one hand and some leftover Christmas tapers in the other. It was a primitive moment. His little caveman face seemed to say Fire . . . Good.  

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The (Absurd) Power of a Euphemism

If there were a competition for which industry depended the most on euphemisms for its survival, I guarantee that education would win. Educators can’t live without euphemisms—not because they deal with fragile children, but because they deal with perfectly sturdy children’s fragile parents.

I discovered a hilarious option on the table for British educators. Apparently last year a group of teachers wanted to vote on a new grade classification that would replace F’s on the report card. Get this—the newly proposed label will be called deferred success.  That’s right. I suppose that for these children, success is coming. No, they’re not quite there yet. But it’s coming, mind you. They didn’t really fail, you see. But their success is . . . well, deferred for now.

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Holding Your Breath Part II

(There clearly aren’t enough blogs being written about politics. Gosh, you can't find them anywhere. You’re quite fortunate to have found one, especially one as compelling as this. So I will press on with Part II.)

 Having entered a “stage four” of political understanding (after passing through youthful indifference, parental freaking out, and cynical smugness), my original question is this: How can I live out an interior, God-designed relationship with Jesus Christ while being governed by a man-made political system?

I’m moving into new territory now. I suppose I first have to test my claim that America is “man-made.” Is our country “chosen”—in the same way we describe the Children of Israel in the Old Testament?

I certainly believe—not out of some naïve hope but on the basis of good scholarship—that Christianity was embedded into our nation’s earliest ideals. (Why hostile thinkers try to challenge that notion is puzzling to me; it is hardly controversial). But the real controversy is whether we can legislate ourselves into staying that way. We have created an entire industry—in the homeschooling communities, our churches, and our private schools—which emphasizes the truth about our Christian heritage. But if our founding fathers did have a living, vibrant faith, one that was generated more out of their spiritual obedience than their political ambitions, then it seems Christians have slipped further from their early vision than we would like to believe.   

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Why Cracks? Because in my suburban world, the collision of faith and modern life is sometimes messy. Can I find beauty, not only in Christianity’s smooth concrete, but also in the broken places?

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