Friday, December 18, 2009

Resolved: I Will Not Create Any "My Favorite _______'s of the Decade" Lists.

It is nearly impossible to avoid the myriad lists generated at the end of any year. Magazines, radio shows, and "news" programs spend much of late December tricking us into consuming more advertising by summarizing the year between 30 second pleas to add gold to our portfolio.

Is there a better way to catalog the events of a year than with a Top 10 List? Not in the modern age, apparently. When, for an entire decade, world events are distilled and fed to us in sound bites and bottom-screen tickers, a Top 10 list does seem an appropriate way to "reflect" on things of significance. Things like the adultery of a man who plays golf well and the invention of a fancy music box...

While I will resist the urge to list and rank the few dozen books and albums that I have consumed in the last decade of my life, I believe that it befits a believer to frequently recall and meditate on what the Lord has done for him/her.

In retracing the days ordained for me since we learned that Y2K wasn't ordained to usher in the apocalypse, methinks that there will probably not be a decade of my life that will contain as many significant life events (especially of the "first" variety) as did this one.

The Scott Pearce Greatest Hits 2000-2009:
(in roughly chronological order)

I graduated from Hackettstown High School.

I began life as a college student.

I served as a counselor at Camp Susque (fulfilling a simple but significant boyhood dream).

I met the girl that I would marry.

I received a B.S. in Engineering from Geneva College.

I took on almost $20,000 in debt to accomplish the preceding, my first foray into the world of indebted servitude.

I became certified as an Engineering In Training (E.I.T.).

I began a career as a civil engineer.

I bought my first (and to date only) truck, my second foray into the world of indebted servitude (although this knife was only over my head for two years).

I proposed to the girl that I would marry. She said yes.

I married the girl who said yes.

We rented our first apartment.

I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

We bought our first house, by far my farthest foray into indebted servitude.

I became certified as a Grade I Field Technician Concrete Inspector, a Structural Masonry Special Inspector, and a Reinforced Concrete Special Inspector.

We became parents for the first time.

I put 200,000 miles on my truck.

Psalm 90
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God...

4 ...For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night...

12 ...So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Listen, My Son (Installment II)

William, one of the most important things you can learn is how to work. Through the work of our hands, we men fulfill one of the first commands that God gave Adam at Creation. The fruit of a man's labor is the ordinary means by which God has ordained that his family will eat, be sheltered, and meet physical needs of others.

While I hope that the majority of what I teach you is through example, I thought it worthwhile to record a set of axoims which would behove you to observe.

- Work the same way / produce the same work product whether or not you are being supervised or observed. There is One who always sees how you are working and you are to do all things to His glory (I Corinthians 10.31).

- Let your reputation speak highly of you. Let your body or work build your reputation. Don't produce anything, even a minor project, that isn't your best work.

- Be suspicious of a man who boasts about his work ethic. Remember that the son who obeyed was the son who did his father's will (Matthew 21.28-32). Remember that a tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6.43, 44).

- God does not command you to always make a profit. He does command you to always be righteous.

- The most efficient way is not always the easiest way. Be wary of those who would suggest that the fastest way to complete a list of tasks is to skip items on the list.

- Memorize the following and put them to practice: Measure twice, cut once. Fifteen minutes early is on time. Don't ever sit down on a job. Take care of your tools. Pay the extra money for steel toe boots.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

But Stay-At-Home Mothers Surpass Them All

I have always been proud of the work of my wife's hands. Employed as a registered nurse for four years, Becca served hundreds of patients at two hospitals in our area. She commuted 45 minutes each way to the first hospital, then logged 13+ hour shifts--many of them logged as the overnight variety. Her passion and heart for the care of others came through in all she did as a nurse, and I believe that the luster of the staff at her former hospitals is lessened slightly without Rebecca R. Pearce, RN among them.

Becca and I have together decided that she will not, Lord-willing, work outside the home while our children are young. As such, she has not worked as a nurse since March. Deciding to try to live on one income in New Jersey has been a continual act of faith on our part (I am not boasting--it's the truth!), but our Lord has seen fit to bless our decision thus far. Praise the Lord, Jehovah Jireh: we have lived on one income since January 1, 2009!

The purpose of sharing the above is not to garner pity or even to hearten our fellow Garden State families. I wish for the above to reinforce the significance of the new work in which my wife has engaged herself--the work of furnishing our home, raising our son, filling our table, caring for our church, etc. Using the phrasing of the description of an excellent wife found in Proverbs 31, below are examples of some of the ways in which I wish to praise my wife for what she does.

verse 13 "She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands" It may seem an inconsequential thing, but Becca has taken up knitting again. She has quickly learned to make winter hats, and has knitted one for our friends' newborn son; she has plans for two more next month.

verses 14, 15 "She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens." Becca makes her own granola; she has made two loaves of homemade bread and a different pot of soup each week since it got chilly; I have not had store-bought cookies in my lunch since May; I don't remember the last time our dinner involved a portion of anything that was bought pre-made. One of Becca's greatest delights is preparing food and serving it to others. I, of course, delight in eating it. I love her love languages.

verse 16 "She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard." Although she already did a wonderful job before we were pregnant, Becca has since re-dedicated herself to saving money in every aspect of our lives. She has resurrected her affinity for coupons and upgraded it to a passion. She takes our $50 groceries per week budget on as a challenge and meets it more weeks than not. She plans our meals throughout the week, accounting for leftovers and lunches--it is rare for any food to be tossed. She uses every part of the buffalo, so to speak: she used part of a baked chicken for four different meals, and recently stretched a baked ham into three dinners, one breakfast, and seven lunches!

verse 18b "Her lamp does not go out at night." Until Liam finally slept 12 hours straight last week, Becca had not enjoyed a single night of uninterrupted sleep for over a year! Considering that pregnancy prevents a woman from sleeping well, and further considering Becca's dedication to breastfeeding, Becca might possibly wake up three times a night out of habit for the rest of her life. How she manages to be as gracious and cheerful as she does despite the sleep deprivation is beyond me.

verse 20 "She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy." One of the advantages of a homemaking mother that I did not consider is the availability of the mother to minister to others. Although Becca's "To Do" list is hardly ever satisfied, she has not hesitated to minister to different families in the church as she has been aware of their needs. She has made and delivered meals for mothers of newborns, she has spent two days with a church family after the passing of their grandfather, she has visited her recently widowed grandmother, and more. Seeing my wife's example of love for others has helped me to better understand how my employment is fulfilling Ephesians 4.28, which reads, "...let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need." The Lord has blessed my labor with enough income that Becca does not have to work. As a result, she has a greater abundance of time to spend ministering to others.

verse 27 "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." Becca has dedicated herself solely to the purposes of being my wife, being Liam's mother, managing our home life, and ministering to others. There is hardly a hint of "taking up a hobby" or "finally getting Becca time." The self-less-ness of stay-at-home mothers is something that can hardly be overstated.

verse 28 "Her children rise up and call her blessed;" While Liam is not speaking coherently at this point, the ways in which he praises his mother are myriad. He is abundantly healthy, bubbling over with cheerfulness, and developing rapidly. All these are primarily testaments to the Lord's graciousness, and secondly are convincing evidences that my son has a mother who loves and cares for him well. I have made it my standard response to any compliment I am paid regarding Liam to say merely, "He has a great mother."

To conclude, my heart does trust in Rebecca, my bride (v.11); I know full well that she does me good, not harm (v.12). Together, she and I will face many snows without fear (v.21); we delight to consider the future that our Lord has for us (v.25).

It is the Lord who has allowed me to find a wife of such excellence and worth. To me, there is not a woman in my life whom Rebecca does not surpass.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Saw this on the side of the road Friday and found it interesting on a number of levels. I've passed this sign for five years and never noticed it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

UN Speech Falls on Unborn Ears

President Barack Obama addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on Wednesday. It was his first such address, and was a speech that the President himself acknowledged was significant on many levels. Talking (not to mention screaming, blabbering, and driveling) heads of every medium and political persuasion have flooded all 113 cable news channels, each of the 2.1 million political websites, and both remaining newspapers with a glut of expert, fair-and-balanced opinions. If you are one to consider and draw conclusions from national and international events, it is likely that your opinion has been formed, reinforced, tied with a ribbon and placed on your living room mantle in the time since the President's address. Well, no--who am I kidding? It was probably formed before the speech was delivered.

With a straight face, I would request that the reader temporarily forsake as many political presuppositions as possible, and engage with me in what I find to be a worthy exercise. Consider with me, first at face value, selected portions of the President's speech. Then, below I will ask you to re-read them in light of a particular position on which President Obama has shown a clear history of consistency.

Below are word-for-word excerpts from the transcript of the speech (as presented at I have tried to precede each paragraph with enough contextualization so as to maintain the integrity of the President's message. I have changed certain words to boldface for reasons that will be apparent in my comments below.

Speaking in the context of the "Second Pillar of Our Future, the Pursuit of Peace":

"That effort [to end conflicts around the world] must begin with an unshakable determination that the murder of innocent men, women and children will never be tolerated. On this, no one can be -- there can be no dispute."

Speaking of children in Israel afraid to sleep at night because of the threat of ever-present violence:

"These are all God's children. And, after all the politics and all the posturing, this is about the right of every human being to live with dignity and security. That is a lesson embedded in the three great faiths that call one small slice of Earth the Holy Land. And that is why -- even though there will be setbacks, and false starts, and tough days -- I will not waiver in my pursuit of peace."

In the section discussing objectives that the President deems imperative to solidifying a global economy which advances opportunity for all people:

"And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights, for the student who seeks to learn, the voter who demands to be heard, the innocent who longs to be free, the oppressed who yearns to be equal.

[one paragraph later]
But that does not weaken our commitment. It only reinforces it. There are basic principles that are universal. There are certain truths which are self-evident, and the United States of America will never waiver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny."

Taken at face value, the above statements would hardly spur even the most tongue-jerking "Political Consultant" to dispute or debate. There is nothing in the above text to suggest from which source or political party the words originate. There is nothing in the speech that almost any political figure wouldn't say given the same position, podium, and pre-written political verbage to recite.

But we do know the source of these words, and I think that it's worth considering some of the ideals behind the speaker. I think it will be beneficial for the reader to view the above boldfaced statements through the lens of President Obama's position on Abortion.

It is no secret that the President's voting record and Presidential campaign speeches identify him as strictly in favor of legalized abortion. There is, in fact, little room for discussion on the matter. A quick Google search of "Obama's position on abortion" led me to this itemized presentation of the President's own words and votes on the issue of abortion. The complete list can be found HERE . (Disclaimer: I cannot speak to the credibility or potential sensational nature of as I've never used the website before)

Considering that the excerpts presented above were delivered by a President who has repeatedly voted in favor of legalized abortion (even partial birth), and has not confessed anything resembling a biblical perspective regarding the beginnings of human life, I find the boldfaced statements above to be at worst hypocritical and hollow at best.

Is the following a fair alteration to the President's promise to the General Assembly? "And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights, for the student who seeks to learn, the voter who demands to be heard, the innocent who longs to be free...unless, of course, the innocent in question is an unwanted child still within his or her mother's womb."

How about this? "There are basic principles that are universal. There are certain truths which are self-evident, and the United States of America will never waiver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny. But let me clarify: The only "people" who have such a right are those whose life is not dependent on an umbilical cord for survival."

This? "These are all God's children. And, after all the politics and all the posturing, this is about the right of every human being to live with dignity and security. That is a lesson embedded in the three great faiths that call one small slice of Earth the Holy Land. At the risk offending the other great faiths, consider Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who 2,000 years ago exercised a woman's God-given right to choose."

But the quote that appears first in the speech is the one that I find most telling. It is a fine thing to claim that "the murder of innocent men, women, and children will never be tolerated." I hope that the United States never knows a time where her President would not stand by such a statement with actions as well as words.

An easy way to measure the effectiveness of a judicial system is to evaluate how it treats those who cannot speak for or defend themselves. Any politician who claims to have no tolerance for the murder of "innocent" human beings cannot at the same time approve of the current prevalence of abortion in this or any nation. The President's words to the UN in this regard are inconsistent with the biblical concept of justice.

Imagine that a house in your neighborhood was burning. Imagine that it burst into flames at midnight while all the residents were inside. Every able person would rush to respond to the fireman who proclaimed "We must rescue the family, regardless of how much of the house is lost!" The response personnel would be regarded heroes by all as they pulled men, women, and children from a house that otherwise would have been their death.

Yet how different we would regard the same leader in crisis if he had instead called out, "We must rescue the family in the burning house--except for the people trapped in the basement! Although it is possible to save them, we must only save those above ground!" He would unanimously be discredited as a barbarian and would probably be removed from the scene so as to not be a hindrance to the rescue.

Is it any different when a politician (of any nation or political party) boasts of the life-saving efforts and relief projects championed by his administration while remaining resolute in the belief that death should be a legal destiny for an unwanted unborn child?

I am more than a little grieved to be reminded that the billions of dollars which have been put to AIDS relief in recent years (a Bush initiative), have come from the government of the same nation that has perhaps never been more committed and invested in the murder of American children.

My interpretation of President Obama's message to the world: "Applaud us and love us for saving the family members on the first and second floors, but don't dare ask us to save those burning in the basement."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rosie's Records

We have recently inherited the record player and accompanying collection of records that have belonged to Becca's dad since his days in the U.S. Navy. To my knowledge, these were not itemized portions of my father-in-law's will, nor has he been diagnosed with terminal illness. It seemed to me that we were perhaps helping de-clutter his house, and Becca and I were thrilled to bring them home. As we loaded them into our Pilot, his only parting words were, "Don't ever sell them. I'll take them back if you don't want them anymore."

Each of the record sleeves, presently sorted, cataloged, and stored in milk crates below our stereo, brings with it a distinct odor of cigarette smoke; a price tag also clings to half a dozen of them. Of much greater significance are the memories that are amplified in my wife's mind when the needle lands softly on her father's old vinyl discs. While she can't conjure up stories tied to specific dates or past events, nearly each record refreshes a distinct tone or hue of the recollections of her childhood.

We have inherited more than just what others would put out at a yard sale. We have inherited more than music, a hobby, or antiques. We are, in receiving and playing this record collection, helping to preserve the soundtrack of two generations of Roszels.

Below find the complete catalog of the records that until recently belonged to Mr. Maurice Roszel:

Aerosmith - Get Your Wings
Air Supply - The One That You Love
Air Supply - Now and Forever
Air Supply - Hearts In Motion
The Alan Parsons Project - Eye In the Sky
The Alan Parsons Project - Ammonia Avenue
Ambrosia - Life Beyond L.A.
April Wine - First Glance
April Wine - Harder...Faster
April Wine - The Nature of the Beast
April Wine - Animal Grace
April Wine - Power Play
Bachman Turner Overdrive - Not Fragile
Bachman Turner Overdrive - Four Wheel Drive
Blues Brothers - Briefcase Full of Blues
Bob Seger - Night Moves
Bob Seger - Nine Tonight (Live)
Boston - Third Stage
Bruce Hornsby - The Way It Is
Bruce Springsteen - The River
Bruce Springsteen - Born In the USA
Bryan Adams - Cuts Like a Knife
Bryan Adams - Reckless
Chicago - VIII
Chicago - X
Chicago - Hot Streets (2)
Chicago - 16
City Boy - The Day the Earth Caught Fire
Dire Straits - Love Over Gold
Don Henley - I Can't Stand Still
Donnie Iris - Back On the Streets
Donnie Iris - King Cool
Donnie Iris - No Muss...No Fuss
Eagles - [self titled]
Eddie Money - [self titled]
Foreigner - [self titled]
Foreigner - Double Vision (2)
Golden Earring - Cut
Golden Earring - North East West South
Huey Lewis and the News - Sports
The J. Giles Band - Freeze Frame
Jackson Browne - The Pretender
Jackson Browne - Hold Out
Janis Joplin - Cheap Thrills
Jefferson Starship - Winds of Change
Jefferson Starship - Red Octopus
Jethro Tull - Thick As a Brick
Jethro Tull - Stand Up
Jim Croce - I Got a Name
Jim Croce - Photographs + Memories (Greatest Hits)
John Cougar - American Fool
John Cougar Mellencamp - Scarecrow
John Cougar Mellencamp - Big Daddy
Journey - Infinity
Journey - Departure
Journey - Escape
Kansas - Drastic Measures
The Kinks - Low Budget
LeRoux - Last Safe Place
Manfred Man - The Five Faces of
Meat Loaf - Dead Ringer
Meat Loaf - Midnight at the Lost and Found
Men at Work - Business as Usual
Men at Work - Cargo
The Moody Blues - A Question of Balance
The Moody Blues - Out of This World
The Moody Blues - Long Distance Voyager
Pat Benatar - Precious Time
Phil Collins - Hello, I Must Be Going!
Police - Ghost in the Machine
Quiet Riot - Metal Health
Ray Stevens - Even Stevens
REO Speedwagon - Hi Infidelity
REO Speedwagon - Wheels Are Turnin'
Roy Head - Same People
Sammy Hagar - [self titled]
Sammy Hagar- Street Machine
Steam - [self titled]
Styx - Lady
Stxy - I
Supertramp - Breakfast In America
Turtles - The Battle of the Bands
Uriah Heep - Salisbury
Uriah Heep - Look at Yourself
Uriah Heep - Demons + Wizards
Uriah Heep - The Magician's Birthday
Uriah Heep - January 1973 (Live)
Uriah Heep - Sweet Freedom
Uriah Heep - Wonderworld
Uriah Heep - Return to Fantasy
Uriah Heep - The Best of
Uriah Heep - High and Mighty
Uriah Heep - Innocent Victim
Uriah Heep - Firefly
Uriah Heep - Head First
Wishbone Ash - Number the Brave
Wishbone Ash - Hot Live
Yes - 90125
ZZ Top - Eliminator (2)

A. Wilbur Meshel - The Love Songs of
Barry Manilow - [self titled]
Barry Manilow - Tryin' to Get the Feeling
Barry Manilow - This One's For You
Bill Cosby - Himself
Buck Owens & His Buckaroos - If You Ain't Lovin'
Captain & Tennille - Love Will Keep Us Together
Dawn's New Ragtime Follies (f/t Tony Orlando) - Say, Has Anybody Seen My Gypsy Rose?
Dr. Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs - [movie soundtrack]
Dolly Parton - Greatest Hits
Eddy Arnold - The Best of
Glen Campbell - Greatest Hits
The Great Groups - [compilation]
High Voltage - Supercharged Hits of Today [compilation]
Joe Jackson - Night and Day
Jim Nabors - By Request
Kelly's Heroes - [movie soundtrack]
The Mariachi Brass! - Hats Off
Neil Diamond - Song Sung Blue
Perry Como - Golden Records
Original Rock N Roll Hits of the 60's Vol 16
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer [soundtrack]
Sandler & Young - Love Stories
Snoopy's Christmas
Sound of Music [movie soundtrack]
The Super Record of Super Heroes
Telestar - Apollo 100 (20 Pop Classics)
Tom T. Hall - Greatest Hits
The War of the Worlds - Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why I Shoot Film

Most of what I know about photography I owe to Camp Susque. The same faded instructional posters and 30-minute lesson that hoards of Susque boys and girls have received was to my 12-year old self in the basement of Hemlock Hall what F = m(a) would later be to my teenage counterpart in high school Physics.

I had to look over my shoulder to be sure no grown-ups were in the room when the counselor took the lens completely off the body of the old Pentax and showed us how the shutter works. I had a hard time remembering how to say the word aperture, but it's function made perfect sense--it was just like an eye's iris! It was a blank-white-page-and-sharp-No. 2-pencil-kind of feeling when he said that we could take pictures in the dark if we just held the shutter open for a full minute. Finally, I almost uttered "Why didn't I think of that," when he taught us about the 1/3 rule for composition. There was treasure everywhere, and I only needed my eyesight and a roll of film to claim it as my own.

The statistician in me wonders how many rolls of film I have sent away for development in my life. The purist in me knows all the reasons why I still send film away for development and why I still don't own a digital camera. Below find a few:

- Film came first. Well, at least it's an older photographic process. I will never advocate a return to pinhole cameras, but I do generally impose a healthy sense of skepticism and hold my tongue whenever I hear someone try to convert me to anything new-er, quick-er, or more convenient. "Newer" is hardly ever "better" in my mind (this is probably related to at least one of the reasons that I never fully relax in a church with a "worship team").

- Film can be inconvenient. Shots can be destroyed and utterly lost if the back of the camera pops open. Prints can be ruined if someone walks into your darkroom. Granted, these things have never happened to me, but the danger is still ever-present and haunts my dreams.

- Shooting film is more difficult. There is far more pressure to capture a shot the first time when shooting with film. One can't delete and re-shoot a poor picture with film; the image permanently occupies a frame on a roll of 24 forever. No one with a digital camera is limited by the price of a roll of film. I consider it partially a matter of personal discipline to consciously engage in activities that are deliberately more difficult.

- Shooting film feels more artistic. Shooting color film feels kinda organic. Shooting black and white film makes one feel artsy. Shooting black and white film in Central Park makes one feel irresistible to really cute girls from dairy farms in Susquehanna County.

- Digital cameras have given otherwise poor photographers the illusion that they are good photographers. Even more pitiable, it has caused many people to believe that they enjoy taking pictures. Taking good pictures is not easy, nor should it be made easier for a mass of people whose only qualification is that they can afford to pay to remove another human element from their automated lives. New parents can take 72 pictures of their firstborn trying to walk, and come away with two interesting pictures of the event. This will not deter them from posting all 72 pictures on Facebook, however.

- Film produces better prints. Given two prints of an identical scene, I can always pick out which photograph was taken with a digital camera and which was film. I always prefer the film print.

- Empty film canisters make convenient cases for foam ear plugs.

- Waiting for film prints builds patience. I still love dropping a roll of film in the send-away bin at Walmart. I love writing "Wednesday after 10 a.m." on the slip and waiting until four days pass. I love stopping at Walmart on Wednesday after 10 a.m. to pick up my pictures. For the purposes of this essay, I will pretend that I don't mind how many times the clerk needs to check the same six drawers of picture envelopes before she finds my envelope (right where it should have been). I love paying for my pictures without knowing how they turned out. I love walking through the parking lot dying to know how they turned out. I love sitting in my truck for 15 minutes looking at every print at least three times and finally knowing how they turned out. I curse my mistakes and rejoice in my victories. I delight in Delayed Gratification.

- I liked Chemistry better than C++. I can't explain exactly how film exposed to light will produce an exact replica of an image (and with dead-on colors!), but I'm even farther from being able to understand how a computer can imitate the process.

I choose film because it's harder, it's less convenient, and it makes me wait. I reject digital because it's more automated, foolproof, and (I feel) sterile. The above does not necessarily sanctify me, but I do believe that it contributes to the process. Give film another try--it may make you a better person.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Something to Share With Those In Need

The command to work is one of the Creation Ordinances, given to Adam before the Fall. The Lord said, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1.28) It is a command to all people of all times. Throughout Scripture, the fruit of a man's labor is repeatedly credited as a blessing from the Lord. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." (Psalm 127.1) John the Baptist knew that "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven." (John 3. 27)

Because of the Fall, God placed a curse on all Creation. Evidence of the effect of the fall on our Labor is obvious to the farmer, homemaker, artist, CFO, etc. No one disputes God's declaration that thorns and thistles, sweat and pain will accompany our work until we die. "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, til you return to ground," (Genesis 3.19) are some of God's exact words to Adam.

Yet despite the curse--thorns, sweat, pain and all--there is incentive to work. There is great incentive even to work hard. Proverbs is full of admonishment/warnings relating to work. The good worker described in this book of wisdom is he who plans, is diligent, cautious, ambitious, etc. It is not a guarantee that one's work will be met with plentiful physical return, but one is not a fool to expect it. Understanding that it is the Lord who grants (and therefore also withholds) all things, our Savior declared that it is just a right for a workman to receive wages that are fitting to his efforts (Matthew 10:10, Luke 10:7).

There are at least three reasons we are to work. Simply stated, one is to provide for our own physical needs. The second is to provide for the physical needs of our family. These are reasons that do not need to be expounded upon, for even pagans do them (1 Timothy 5.8). A third reason we are to work is so that we will be better able to share with others. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, taught those in the Ephesian church to "do honest work with [their] own hands, so that [they] may have something to share with those in need." (Ephesians 4.28) This aspect is one to be expanded upon for the purposes of this essay.

Who are "those in need" and what am I to share with them? How am I to share with them? There are myriad examples listed in Scripture of men/women/groups in need, and almost just as many examples of how their needs were met. A sample is below.

- In Luke 10 we read how the Good Samaritan provided for an the critical needs an enemy. He acted out of love toward a victim and was not coerced.
- The Israelite people were commanded to not reap their fields right to the edge, nor to glean what was left in the field after harvest. This was a way to provide for the poor and sojourner (Leviticus 19.9, 10)
- The Gentile churches took up an offering for the Jerusalem church, which was in poverty.
- In Matthew 5.4 (and Luke 6.30), Jesus commanded his disciples to "give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
- It is clear that it was the practice of the early church to care for widows. The office of Deacon was established primarily to care for the physical needs of the church of Jesus Christ.

I solicit the help of the reader to provide an instance in Scripture where a government was charged with the responsibility of caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan, or the sick (teaching the children is another topic for another day). The wisdom and foresight that the Lord gave Joseph helped the nation of Egypt to feed the "whole earth" (Genesis 41.56, 57), but at a price. It is presumed the nation of Egypt made obscene profits as a sole result of the leadership and shrewdness of a righteous man (it is also interesting to note that the line of the Messiah was preserved at the same time).

Is caring for those in need not clearly the responsibility of the family primarily, and believers secondarily? If the needs of the poor, widow, orphan, or sick are not being met by these two people groups, does the government even have a say?

There are many in this nation who are clamoring for the US government to take over the existing system by which the sick (and well) are cared for. If legislation is passed which dictates how much of the wages of which I am worthy are to be used to fund the medical care of my countrymen, I will be forced to pay it. We as believers are commanded to "be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Romans 13.1) The government to which the Roman church was subject happened to burn Christians as human torches. If I must pay taxes to fund a socialized system of health care, I concede that there are far more difficult acts of submission. Furthermore, Jesus commanded the Jews of His day to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20--listed three times, perhaps so as to quell any objection!)

My desire, simply stated, is for the US government to

1) Leave decisions regarding the payment for health care for
in the hands of individual citizens,
2) Leave decisions regarding the
amount of health care received in the hands of individual citizens,
3) Provide greater incentive for private citizens (both believers and pagans), to provide health care for those who cannot afford what is necessary for life,
4) Clean up a judicial system where frivolous lawsuits abound,
5) Stay out of the steroid issues in Major League Baseball (sorry, unrelated)

In short, I wish for Caesar to only ask for what is Caesar's, and to stay out of realms where God has not charged them with responsibility or authority.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Welcome Home, Dadda!

What cares and troubles of a work day can withstand the melting power of this smile?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thoughts on Matthew

I have owned the New Testament on CD for several years. I've recently uploaded all 20 discs to my iPod and have been listening to them on my way to work. Because I am more a child of my generation that I am proud to admit, my attention capacities are limited. As such, I try to make it through three chapters twice during my morning commute. I've made it through Matthew and am halfway through Luke.

It has been interesting to hear the Word read without being able to see verse notations, paragraphs, or footnotes. I'm not ready to claim that it is a more elevated experience, but it has been easier and more enjoyable than originally anticipated.

I am also surprised at how many things have pricked my ear as "new" or noteworthy or puzzling. If a covenant child knows any part of the Scriptures, it's the Gospels, right? How can anything be "new" to a pastor's kid? I at all times have a pad of Post-It notes in my truck, and I have been writing questions/thoughts (dare I say, meditations?) as I listen. Below find the Matthew collection:

1) In Matthew 6, right after The Lord's Prayer, Our Savior says, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses." This is a hard saying.

2) In Matthew 8, it is recorded that Jesus marveled at the faith of the centurion. How can it be that Jesus, who is fully omniscient God, marveled? Doesn't marveling imply that He was surprised or that He heard a response that He did not expect? Is this a proof text for the humanity of Christ?

3) In Matthew 9, Jesus tells the Pharisees to "Go and find what this means..." He commands them to search God's Word for truth, and to discern the right and proper meaning. Jesus does not tell them to be more genuine or to seek a more earnest experience as a means to achieve a relationship with God. He commands them to read, study, and discern what pleases God based on the God's own written revelation. He commanded them to have right doctrine!

4) How are the words of Jesus about the fasting of His disciples related to His words about new/old wine and new/old wine skins? They are collected as one thought in Matthew 9. Is it an old covenant/new covenant thing?

5) Is the fact that Jesus was accused on being a drunkard (Matthew 11) a proof text for the validity of drinking alcohol?

6) How am I to reconcile that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose on a Sunday with what Jesus says in Matthew 12: "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth?" I only count two nights, no?

7) In Matthew 19, Jesus says " the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Are we to know for whom the twelve thrones in heaven are reserved? If 'those who have followed me' is correctly interpreted as the Disciples/Apostles, is it not also widely held that Judas will not be in heaven? Who then is the twelfth? Paul was appointed an apostle, but so also was Matthias--that makes thirteen.

8) Why does the Roman Catholic church allow its members to call priests "Father?" Our Lord insisted that the disciples not call any man on earth their father, and forbade letting others call them teacher in Matthew 23.

9) In Matthew 24, Jesus talks about the signs of the end of the age. In verse 24 he says "For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." To me, this verse confirms both the doctrines of Election and of Perseverence of the Saints (or the "U" and "P" of TULIP, for those of you keeping score at home). Not only does Jesus refer to his people as the elect (chosen), he says it is impossible for them to lose their salvation (even in the "end times")!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Listen, My Son
Installment 1: What Every Man Should Be/Know

My Son, as you live, move, and have your being as a boy in the modern world, you will no doubt come across those who will tell you what it is that A Man must be or know. There will be those who grant these opinions to you without solicitation--the majority of these sources should be immediately disregarded (anyone in a commercial, any scarcely-dressed woman who is not your wife, anyone whom you do not regard to be A Man himself). Others (The Honorable Mr. John Wesley Wallace, for one) will perhaps seem to broadside you with an axiom out of nowhere or perhaps more often than you desire. Deftly delivered or bold and bludgeoning, heed Proverbs 15.32 - "Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence." My Son, a few things come to mind as you consider what A Man must be or know:

1. A Man Does Not Need to Know How to Grill

Above is perhaps the single greatest misconception about manhood in the culture into which you have been born. It is not mine to know how Grilling came to be regarded as one of the defining characteristics of a modern man, yet men, women, and children will speak of grilling as if it were a great American Sacrament.

Be on your guard! Home improvement warehouses will summon you to bow down in covetous idolatry at the stainless steel shrines to smoked sausage and lamb shanks in their stores. Be wary! The host of many a backyard picnic will boast and brag about his 17-step procedure for producing perfect ribs (which may not be distinguishable from any others you have tasted). Other men will speak of unwritten laws regarding touching another man's grill utensils or flipping fillets on a grill not your own. Such binding of your Man Conscience is unnecessary at best and childish and silly at worst.

Join your father next to his Weber as he grills if you want. Debate your friends about the merits of gas grilling vs. charcoal grilling if you must. Stock your pantry with an arsenal of marinades, rubs, and utensils. Work at it, experiment, and perfect the practice of cooking excellent meat if you feel so moved. Just please remember that it's ultimately nothing more than cooking meat.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Our Firstborn, A Son

To quote Aron Gahagan, who was quoting Moses, who was quoting Eve...

"I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord!"

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Of Monkeys on Keyboards

I was first coerced into filling out a bracket for the NCAA Tournament when I was a freshman in high school. Each of the members of our baseball team--even me the third string right fielder--put in $10, and so began my practice of once yearly petty gambling. Since 1996 I have entered at least one pool a year, some years as many as three. I have never won.


By picking a 100% perfect Elite Eight, 75% correct Final Four, and 50% correct Championship Game, I have won $110 of my co-workers' money and $5 each from my brother, wife, and sister-in-law. I can now sheepishly say that my career ledger sheet is almost back in the black.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Books of 2008

The circle that is my Ideal Self is always reading, paging through one stack of classics after another (and don't even get me started on Ideal Self's comprehension!). The circle that is my Actual Self works a full-time job, has a pregnant wife at home, and--worst of all--subscribes to Netflix. The circles of Ideal and Actual do not overlap as much as I'd like when considering book reading, yet when I compiled the list of books that I read in the year past, I was pleasantly surprised. List and comments below:

God of Promise, Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton - One of two books that I read for the Men's Reading Group that met in January 2008, and my first Horton book. "Covenant theology" is a phrase that I hear a lot of, but has never been something about which I could speak with great confidence (the lines would blur between covenant of grace/covenant of works, Moseic covenant/Abrahamic covenant). I was grateful for Horton's clear introduction of the topic, and I am glad to have this book on my shelf as a future resource.

God and Evil, The Problem Solved by Gordon H. Clark - This was also read (at the suggestion of Gerry Cruz) for the January 2008 Men's Reading Group, and represents the first book I've read that was written in a formal philosophical style. I was kept busy looking up the meaning of phrases/words such as positive causality, surreptitious, workmanship of suasion, and necessity of compulsion, but found it well worth the effort. I was moved to the point of verbal exclamation a few times, struck by the boldness and deftness with which Clark dissected the issues. The book concludes with the same firepower as a July 4th fireworks display--but I remember being struck with how simple Clark's points were. It thoroughly excites me to read an expression of a grand, magnificent concept presented in a succinct, lucid manner. Another excellent topical resource.

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - I posted my thoughts on this book in June. You can dust off the post HERE.

Amusing Ourselves to Death
by Neil Postman - Joel turned me on to Postman when he shared his "Rules for Living the Rest of Your Life" lecture, and I now count him on my list of not so small man-crushes. Postman cries out like a prophet in the wilderness about the "evils" of television, although the book does not represent a mere book-lover's rant against all things modern. Instead, Postman identifies the ways in which television has disintegrated the spheres of modern journalism, religion, political discourse, and entertainment, among others. The conclusions he draws are sometimes simple yet profound when one considers how obvious they should be to the common man. It is the pervasiveness of television's effect that is perhaps the most frightening to me. Do not read this book if you value cable television. Or, better yet, read this book if you think that you value cable television.

The Sovereignty of God
by A.W. Pink - A most valliant defense of a most essential doctrine of Scripture, and the first time I've read something of Pink. Sections of his work read with a fury of assertion that I've not found in another author--he was a thrill to read. So often his arguments are not comprised of more than "verse A says this...verse B says this...therefore verse C cannot be interpreted thus." Yet the confidence a reader has in being shown the clarity of Scripture examined with Scripture creates a sense of a firm footing that is not easily lost. I can't imagine a more thorough book on the topic.

Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me
by Andree Seu - I have sometimes fancied myself a clever writer, but have indulged in these delusions far less often since reading Seu's work. She is a surgeon, I a hack. This, her first collection of essays in book form, has been my toilet reading for over a year. She writes with the observational wisdom that I wish I had in greater abundance. She declares things to be so, things that I only muse over and about which I have difficulty drawing conclusions. She is an expert pen weilder.

The Peacemaker
by Ken Sande - CJ Mahaney is quoted on the back cover as saying "There is no need for another book on this topic to be written, now that this volume exists." While far from well-read in literature from the Counseling shelf, I can't imagine a more thorough, Scripture-saturated approach to the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. This book was assigned reading in my Engineering Ethics class (thanks, Dr. Gidley). I've kept it under the driver's seat in my truck, and I pull it out whenever I have down time on a job site. It took me almost three years to finish the book this way, but it was easy to pick up and put down. There is not a relationship in your life that will not be enriched as a result of reading and applying the wisdom of this book.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson - D.A. Carson's stated purpose in compiling "The Life and Reflections" of his father, Tom, was to pen a "modest attempt to let the voice and ministry of one ordinary pastor be heard, for such servants have much to teach us." Memoirs is a home run of an attempt. To bring the life work of a modest, faithful minister under such focused yet intensely loving and personal attention causes one to marvel as one does admiring a streetlight (as if streetlights were ever admired). This book accurately potrays the immense weight that "ordinary" pastors bear on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis. Times of doubt and fits of maddening introspection, seasons of new harvest and faint shimmers of progress. The effects of all the above are presented accurately throughout Carson's loving account of his father's ministry and should cause anyone to have a greater appreciation and reverence for those called to the pastor Christ's church.

Not Even a Hint by Joshua Harris - I have read this slowly over the course of the past 18 months, picking it up when most in need (but not as often as I should). This is THE book on the topic of lust/sexual purity that I would recommend a father to give his son. This is THE book that I would urge a young brother to read with honesty and in order to better equip himself to fight his old man in the battle for purity.

The Inimitable Jeeves
by P.G. Wodehouse - Becca, Jonny Wilson, and I listened to this on cassette tape while we drove to Virginia Beach in August. It was my first experience with a book-on-tape, and an enjoyable one. Wodehouse is a master at weaving ridiculous scenarios and is as deft a composer of conversational humor as I've ever read. At the recommendation of Nanx Swift, Becca and I Netflixed the "Jeeves and Wooster" BBC television series. They feature the guy from House as Bertie Wooster, and are a more than fair presentation of the books.

Monday, March 02, 2009

How Long, O Simple Ones, Will You Love Being Simple?

It has been difficult for me to settle on how I feel about the "Self-Checkout" lanes that I see at Shop Rite, Wal*Mart, Home Depot, and the like. The poet in me weeps into his beard at the sight of shoppers rejoicing over one more way to eliminate interaction with a fellow human being. My poetical side always presents the deeper, more moving arguments, but my rational, practical self reminds me that poets are not known for their accomplishments, and even less for steady employment. It is usually in a state of deep emotional anguish that I scan my few items and curse under my breath at the screen when the sensors "think" that I've not placed one of them in the bag. I would feel guilty enough to avoid eye contact with the human cashiers as I leave, but most of the zit-faced cashiers at our Shop Rite are too busy talking with their neighbour to notice me even when I'm in their aisle.

There is another new item in Shop Rite about which I have no trouble forming an opinion: the "Checkout Aisle TV's." Do you have them at your grocery store? I won't even ask you to comment with your thoughts on them because I know that you must hate them. How can you not?

The "Checkout Aisle TV's" (CAT's) are positioned above the rack of TV Guides and Soap Opera Weekly's that line the conveyor belt approaching the register. They would perhaps be no more than an illuminated version of the tabloids and women's magazines that stand as sentries at each checkout aisle--just another reason to keep one's eyes pointed toward the straight and narrow--but they play sound! These CAT's play a loop of meaningless, hit-and-run-style advertisements in full volume that cannot be tuned out. I suppose that there are those who are delighted that the store has given them "something to keep their mind occupied" while they wait in line, but I don't like those kinds of people, and it would be for their good if these CAT's never existed.

To condense my rant into one sentence, I hate "Checkout Aisle TV's" because they represent one more way in which Everyman is prevented from being alone with his thoughts. Like the character Guy Montag trying to memorize a Bible verse while the subway radio "vomited" upon him the jingle for Denham's Dental Detergent in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, I feel as if I am being driven mad at the intrusion of the CAT's into my mindspace. What dark humor is required to laugh at the thought that if Wisdom were to be found in my grocery store, she would now literally need to "raise her voice in the marketplace (Proverbs 1.20)!"

In Fahrenheit 451, the character that first helps Guy to understand why he feels disconnected from his culture is a girl, Clarisse McClellan. Clarisse is regarded a threat to her classmates and, ultimately, society because of her "antisocial tendencies." She walks as a pedestrian instead of racing in jet cars, she spends nights outside alone instead of in the parlor surrounded by a three-walled television over which one could not hold a conversation. Guy's character was shocked and invigorated to listen to her simple observations about the Man in the Moon (because he had never looked), the smell of old leaves ("like cinnamon," she said), or the morning dew (which he was ashamed to have never noticed).

The characters in the books that I read to which I am most readily drawn are the antisocial ones, the ones that are marked as unusual by the amount of time that they spend alone. [Let me note that Boo Radley is certainly an exception to the above statement]

Clarisse is a great example in Fahrenheit 451, and the Savage character in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is another, albeit a more tragic, example. The Savage is brought from his reservation to live in Civilization where man is conditioned from conception to exist without free will, negative emotion, or independent thought. The clash is immediate and unable to be overcome. He finds himself before one of the Controllers before his exile, where is made privy to the reasons why man is kept under such control. An excerpt is below:

The Savage interrupted him. "But isn't it natural to feel there's a God?"

"You might as well ask if it's natural to do up one's trousers with zippers," said the Controller sarcastically. "You remind me of another of those old fellows called Bradley. He defined philosophy as the finding of bad reason for what one believes by instinct. As if one believed anything by instinct! One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them...People believe in God because they've been conditioned to believe in God."

"But all the same," insisted the Savage, "it is natural to believe in God when you're alone--quite alone, in the night, thinking about death."

"But people are never alone now," said the Controller. "We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it's almost impossible for them to ever have it."

The above line pierced my heart as I read Brave New World recently (for the first time). What little time we as a generation spend alone, not just alone in Creation under a bowl of stars or next to a tree older than our grandfather, but merely alone with our own thoughts. One cannot use Romans 1 to teach that men would become disciples of Jesus Christ if only they went camping more often--we know that a claim of our Saviour's life, death, and resurrection to cover one's sin is the only means by which one may be saved. But how many men are kept from even considering the state of their lives or the state of their souls by the din of the maddening crowd around them!

I will not put on airs to present myself as a man of thoughts more profound or meaningful than my neighbor, but I can say that I do consider time alone a precious commodity. What's more, I feel violated when moments primed for contemplation are stolen by some stooge in a chef's hat peddling his wares as I wait in line at the grocery store. The "Self-Checkout" line may be a bleak commentary on our culture as it keeps us suckling at the breast of Convenience...but at least it only speaks when spoken to.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Considering the Alternatives

Work has been especially demanding lately. Our company has received a recent influx of work from our most demanding client. I spent the first three weeks of 2009 drilling a site in eastern Long Island and did not return home two or three nights a week. The past four weeks have found me drilling a challenging site in Franklin, Sussex County, New Jersey. Our proposal provided for approximately nine weeks (45 days) of field work and three weeks of analysis/design, after which the report would be issued. Our dear client approved the proposal, but demanded that they have the report in hand after four weeks!

As such, my darling wife was in many ways without a husband for four weeks. I worked Monday through Friday and four consecutive Saturdays during the course of the project (the last Saturday was a 15 hour day on Valentine's Day). It was not uncommon for me to be away from home for 65-75 hours a week, coming home to a wife who is greater and greater with child every day.

How easy it could have been to despair or to complain. How 'justified' we could have been in grumbling about the difficulties and suffering home life that were ours for a month. Alas, I cannot report that Becca and I were free of the above during the course of the Franklin job. We needed to confront each other daily about attitudes of ingratitude that we were observing in each other.

What most helped us to stave off such spirits of sin was to consider what the Lord had brought into our lives, and--perhaps more importantly--to consider the alternative. The simplest and most convicting exercise in Considering the Alternatives for me was just to listen to the radio news station on my way to and from work. Each day brought reports of more layoffs, bankruptcies, and/or mortgage foreclosures. The reality of our nation's fragile economy was undeniable. How could I complain about "too much work" when so many in my church and family were living daily life with a sword hanging over their heads regarding their job and their house? How could I grumble about a lack of a home life, when at least the payment of my mortgage was assured?

Becca and I have found that sometimes it is difficult to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess 5:18) by merely trying to put on a brave face. Yet it can seem disingenuous to try to meet every difficulty with some lame alternative like "at least I have my health" or "it could be worse." It is a worthwhile exercise to regularly reflect not only on the particular lines that have fallen for you, but also the lines that have not fallen.

I have already noted that I found it humbling to consider how my company has been scrambling to complete our scope of work while so many other companies are facing dire ledger sheets marked in red. Other truths upon which Becca and I forced ourselves to reflect were the following: 1) By working so many Saturdays, I made several hundred dollars in overtime pay that I otherwise would not have. 2) It was difficult to be away from home for so many hours out of the day, but at least I was spending every night in my own bed next to my wife. 3) The pregnancy with which the Lord has blessed us has not been one to cause me to worry about leaving Becca alone while I am at work. 4) By driving to job sites so much this year, my Travel Expense checks have been so big that, combined with the overtime pay, we have been able to put the last four of Becca's paychecks directly into savings! 5) By chasing two/three drill rigs around a snow-covered hillside for a month, I lost all my winter fat (all three pounds of it), and I am in lean, sinewy mid-summer form.

In discussing the above with my brother, Joel, he pointed me to the third chapter in Habakuk. In verses 17 and 18, the prophet declares,

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

I am reminded that even if I could not find a "silver lining" in a situation, I am nonetheless able and compelled to praise the Lord for purchasing my soul from the depths of hell. I will perhaps find myself in circumstances for which I cannot give thanks. Yet as a redeemed child of God, my cup does not ever but run over.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This Also Is Vanity

I have been working in Long Island a lot lately. The Holland Tunnel is my Hudson River crossing of choice, and I take the Williamsburg Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn as I drive east onto the Island. Both the trip into the city as well as the return jaunt afford me several break taking views of The City--one of the best ways to appreciate a city, in my opinion, is to view it from its bridges.

The above picture is the Manhattan skyline as viewed from the unheralded Kosciusko Bridge. It's not as well framed as I would have liked, but I captured the shot while driving. You can reference this screen shot from Google Maps in order to be able to get your bearings.

For as many years as I have been traveling to and from Long Island, the juxtaposition of the cemetery and the skyline has powerfully struck me. The view of the two on this particularly dreary day added to the aura of what I think is a poignant example of "wisdom calling out in the streets." (Proverbs 1.20)

Many are those who are proud of New York City, many are those who boast of its size, its importance, and its status among the cities of the world. Some of the greatest men in recent history are inseparably linked to New York City, and it is no exaggeration to declare that decisions of immeasurable consequence are settled behind the glass walls of the skyline towers each day and night.

Yet in the foreground of the picture, mirroring--mocking, almost?--the grandeur of the skyline, point innumerable gravestones and monuments in the cemetery. The memorials of the dead from generations past rise from the cold earth in silence and solemnity. Whose eye is caught by obelisks of marble and granite when there are majestic towers of steel, glass, and high strength concrete at which to gawk? Who has time or desire to dwell on the brevity of one's own existence when the pull to worship and praise the accomplishments of men is so strong?

The Books of Wisdom are ripe with myriad references to the mortality of Man, but never do we find gloom for gloom's sake. In each case, the reader is to gain a renewed (wiser, more godly) perspective by considering his place in relation to an eternal God. In Psalm 90, Moses prays that the Lord would "teach [him] to number [his] days aright, that [he] may get a heart of wisdom" after reflecting on the finite and fleeting number of his own days.

Moses sings, "You return man to dust and say, Return, O children of man!...You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers." (Psalm 90.2-6)

A few other examples:

Psalm 103.14-18 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Ecclesiastes 1.3,4 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.

Ecclesiastes 2.4-11 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees... So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem... And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2.18, 19 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.