The Old Account

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Hamlet - Act 1, Scene 3

I was musing on the old days when I used to have a bloated credit card or two as I remembered the above quote from Shakespeare. I was very good at ‘dulling the edge of husbandry’ back then, and can still be counted on to behave as such when I’m not mindful about avoiding those situations. Buy now; pay later – the sad mantra of our post-modern American society. Maybe you know what I’m talking about, but if you don’t, then in the words of Lynyrd Skynyrd, “You’ll get your chance to hit it one day.”

As subtle as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, a line of credit can slowly and methodically tie you up, and in the end can cause you to lose a lot of the things in life that are most important to you. The bad thing is you usually do not realize what you are doing to yourself until you have done it. I remember slumbering through a six-month period and maxing out a credit card with no idea where I had spent the ‘money’ as I had nothing to show for the tremendous balance incurred. If I remember correctly, it was mostly small items, you know, dinners and small purchases in the mall, with no real clue as to what was happening with the account balance until I received a very snooty letter from the credit card company notifying me that I was beyond my limit. Beyond my limit – now there is a phrase worth remembering. There are few phrases in the financial realm that are more ominous, I tell ya.

On reviewing that mind-numbing invoice, I scanned my billing summary and found I had made a purchase on E-bay for a chintzy item I no longer had any use for. But it was cheap, and in the grand scale of purchase versus available credit line it had seemed insignificant at the time. Yet it added to the tally, along with a six hundred dollar vacation expense at what can only rightfully be called a tourist trap. Sandwiched in between those charges were receipts for school clothes, dinner-dates with my wife, and yes, even Pizza Hut. Though some expenses were small and others not so, the sum of each incorporated a beyond my limit call and an ensuing penalty had been applied to my account by my well-paid benefactors at the credit card conglomerate.

I managed to eventually pay the card off and there are few greater joys than getting a statement in the mail that provides you with a zero-balance and the special ceremony I started that involves destroying the card. I have a shredder here at work that really chokes them down; replete with a satisfying gr-r-r-r noise as it does so. That’s good stuff. And barring a government financial bailout for me that will never come, it’s simply the way I roll.

Meanwhile I have another debt account that is constantly mounting and whether I think about or acknowledge it every day or not makes no difference to its tally. I’m talking about a sin debt that is being recorded in the Books of Heaven right now. The size of the sins I commit makes no difference, the debt accumulates regardless, and I have no way to pay it on my own. A dirty joke either told or listened to by me? A selfish thought or desire? A failure to do the things that He would have me do? They mount. And furthermore, they must be paid for.

I used to think that maybe I could work those debts off in some way or manner, you know, an x amount of good deeds might offset a single bad deed or vice-versa. But the problem for me was being able to comprehend the cost of a single sin in the first place. What penalty do you pay for a white lie in comparison to when you tell a real gully-whopper? What if some sort of emotional duress played into telling either lie, does that change the penalty? The answer is, of course, that it does not. Sin will cost me eternity. Sin costs everything.

At other times in my life I believed that my sins were comparable. If I committed a sin it was no big deal because basically I was a good guy and others have committed sins far worse than mine. Compared to Hitler we all look good, right? But my record in the Books of Heaven is not going to be compared with someone else’s record - instead I will be compared to His record while He was on earth. And in a seriously profound way, I will always pale in comparison.

G_d’s Word tells me there is only one way to clear my sin debt and wipe those books clean: “But G_d commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” There came a point in my life when I finally realized an acceptance on my part of the grace he provided through His death, burial, and resurrection is the only way I can ever be right with G_d. It’s simple, and it turns out that it is all I need, even on those days when I find myself beyond my limit.

On Prayer And Pink Cadillacs

This blog as well as la dolce vita I experience each day has been temporarily interrupted by too many things going on at the present time. My job continues on at a break-neck pace (what recession?) and we found out yesterday that my wife has the Type A flu virus. So in between helping her, work, and sharing doses of Tami-flu with the kids, I seem to have found very little time to be creative. Instead things now appear to be all about mere survival, at least for the time being. A bout with the flu coming on the heels of my recent round with Epstein-Barr is hard to imagine, but it is what it is. This is not a rant on the unfairness of life - in many ways I find it amusing when I think about it and in fact have caught myself laughing hysterically at sundry times over the course of the past few days. Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius. (Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.)

As I’ve mentioned before, sickness, frailty, problems, what ifs and if onlys – it was never supposed to be that way. The human species was meant for so much more than what/where we find ourselves in this present world.

So in the interim I pray. And I am patient about it when I do so because you can’t always be cognizant of how those prayers will be answered – He knows so much more than we do and operates on a much higher level than we can ever comprehend. Case in point : something that happened when I was ten years old that continues to baffle me even to the present day whenever I think about it - today being one of those times.

Deep in the woods behind our house back then was an assortment of wrecked/ruined vehicles. It was mostly old trucks my dad rebuilt as a hobby, but there were a few classics thrown into the mix. One particular vehicle was a rust bucket 1950’s-era pink Cadillac with huge tail fins in the back. At some point, the car had been lifted onto its side and the axles had been removed, probably for a home-made trailer application. One day one of my close friends and I decided it would make a perfect fort, if only it was knocked over into an upside down, inverted position.

It seemed to be precariously balanced there, and it looked as though a good push from the both of us would carry it right on over to the desired orientation. We were small, but it should have been doable, at least to our young minds. So we pushed, we kicked, we pried with a 2” x 4” – all to no avail. How long we continued our effort on that summer day has been forgotten by me, buried deeply in the sands of time passed by. But I can recall that eventually we understood our plans for a great fort were going to go unrewarded despite the maximum effort we had put into the project.

Finally, my friend, who attended Sunday School regularly with me (his mom taught the class) brought up the idea that we should pray for G_d to help us flip the car. We knew He could – it was only a matter of attracting His attention long enough through a fervent prayer beamed up by two pre-teenaged boys. We knelt by the car and prayed; it was a prayer that would have made the most dedicated evangelist jealous with its honest intensity. Once we finished the prayer, we got up and pushed against the car one more time, certain by this point that our goal was within reach. Nothing happened. The car would not budge. Our prayer had not affected the outcome in the least, or so it seemed to us as the sun became a fiery red glow in the west.

It’s important for me to mention here that we never doubted G_d, despite our prayer going unanswered. We just figured He was too busy to worry about two little boys and their so-called fort project. Just about the time we were ready to move on to other things, in much the manner boys are known to do at that age, we heard a noise. My dad was returning on his tractor to the barn from a Saturday afternoon he’d spent cultivating his garden. He stopped and asked us what we were doing, in a good hearted way, and we explained our desire to reconfigure the car into a fort. Reaching behind his seat, he removed a chain, fastened it to a door handle, and pulled the car over for us. Just like that, our prayer was answered.

Was it an answer to our prayer? Or was it a merely a coincidence? Dad was bound to go by there anyway, as he had to pass by on his way back to the barn. On the other hand, a minute or two later and we would have already moved on to other things and would not have been around to ask him to help us. He could have been too busy as well; adults have been known to be like that from time to time despite their best intentions. But the truth of the matter, to me anyway, is that things happened in just that sequence after we prayed a sincere prayer, never doubting with the trust of children that it would be answered.

Sadly, there have been very few times in my life since then that I have prayed with the same amount of faith and trust as I had back on that day with my friend. Our prayer was a prayer that had no room for doubt, and was not tempered by logic or scientific facts on the matter. We thought little of it; it was something we knew G_d had the power to answer and that was enough for us. The prayer also went beyond religion or theology as we were too young to know about such things. It was honest and erstwhile; a simple request asked of a Heavenly Father from two little boys that simply believed in Him. And I can’t help but believe in my calloused and jaded heart that there is a lesson to be learned here, still, even after all these years.

James writes: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I’ll do my best to remember that little-boy prayer when I feel as though I’ve lost la dolce vida, and life becomes a job or responsibility instead of what it was originally meant to be.

Titanic Lessons

On the evening of April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic made her way across the dark Atlantic with 2,228 passengers and crew on board. Four days earlier they had departed Southampton, and following brief stops in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland the ship now found herself midway across the Atlantic. I’m telling you a story that you probably already know, but it is a story that bears repeating as it is germane to us still, even at this later time in world history we now find ourselves.

Dinner that night revolved around a ten (10) course meal in the first class area of the ship. Some of those passengers, mostly well to do, had paid upwards of 4,300.00 (85,000.00 by today’s exchange rates) for the opportunity to take the maiden voyage on a brand new ship that was boastfully considered by her builders as ‘practically unsinkable’. The meal began with oysters and consomm√© Olga, the fourth and fifth courses included filet mignon and roast ducking. By the tenth course, those who were able could partake of peaches in chartreuse jelly or French ice cream. Wine was provided from the ship’s stores of over 1000 bottles, although if you chose ale your choices went up considerably as there were over 15,000 bottles on board - in many different varieties.

Meanwhile, the second class passengers dined on consommé, baked haddock, spring lamb, and roast turkey. Although surely not as luxurious as the upper deck passengers, the meal was not too bad despite its decidedly middle-class standards. Most amazingly, the third class and steerage passengers were allowed to eat prepared food in their own dining area. In the past, lower class passengers had been required to bring their own food, but not on the Titanic! Food was provided and though it was nowhere close in quality to what the better classes above them were eating, all in all it was a hot meal provided and paid for within the price of a one-way ticket.

Following dinner, there was entertainment performed by a live orchestra in the first class area, and if dancing was not on your list of priorities, a gymnasium, Turkish baths, and the first ever shipboard swimming pool were available to the wealthier passengers. Similar fare, though not as ostentatious, was on hand for the lower echelon passengers as well. Life was good on board the Titanic, and destined to continue forever – or at least until their scheduled arrival in New York. They danced, they played, and they sang their songs from their deck chairs as they sat in the lap of luxury with never a thought of a disaster looming just over the horizon on that unusually cool spring night.

As the Titanic cruised at a speed of 20.5 knots through those dangerous, frigid waters no less than six warnings of pack ice had been received from other vessels on that day alone. At 11:40 PM, the ship careened off an iceberg, ripping a gash on the right side which buckled the hull in several places and popped out rivets below the waterline over a length of 299 feet. The Captain made his way to the bridge, and following a thorough damage control report, he ordered the ship to be abandoned shortly after midnight. The life boats were prepared and a distress call was sent out. Life boat number 7 was the first boat to be lowered at 12:45 AM, sixty-five minutes after the original collision. Although it was rated to hold sixty-five passengers, the boat was sent away with only twenty-seven people on board. Unfortunately this turned out to be the norm for the night as most of the boats were under loaded, and two boats did not make it off the ship at all. At 2:20 AM the last visage of Titanic was seen as her stern slid below the surface and down into the depths.

Out of 2,228 passengers and crew, only 706 survived the disaster and lived to tell about it.

Today, I see our country, our people, and even members of my own family in much the same state of mind as those long ago passengers aboard the Titanic. We travel endlessly down the road of life with no inkling that tomorrow may never be, or that a critical disaster could easily sweep us all away. The signs are there, displayed for us on the news each night as the economy drifts toward oblivion and natural or man-made disasters flank us at every turn. But we continue to ignore those signs, preferring instead to watch our sitcoms and movies, even while we lose ourselves in video games or on Facebook.

When the ship first struck the iceberg, most of the surviving upper deck passengers stated that they felt a small nudge, and thought nothing of it. The lower deck passengers, however, saw the tear in the hull and witnessed the water beginning to rush into the doomed vessel. By that point, there was little that either group could have done anyway. Today it is not the wealthy that are feeling the pinch of the recession; in their world things continue in much the normal manner they are accustomed. The middle class can tell (because we watch) that something is wrong; we just have trouble wrapping our hearts and minds around it. The lower classes however, at least those who have worked hard their whole lives, know first-hand about the economy. It is their non-skilled jobs that were the first to go and seem to have the lowest opportunity of ever being recovered. Yet in the end, when the ship goes down we will all go under regardless of our standing in society.

An economic crash? Our country in trouble on various fronts? A breakdown in our system? Say it ain’t so, Shannon.

Tonight I’m actually thinking more along the lines of something even bigger than the economy and of more importance than possibly our very own country’s survival. I’m talking about the times Jesus warned us about in Matthew 24 – better known as the Olivet Discourse. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Yeah, I believe in that sort of thing. Maybe it’s just me. I study the Bible and pay close attention to the knowledge and wisdom contained therein. And I’m not bragging when I say that I can see the water coming in through the shattered hull of all the hopes and dreams we hold on dearest to in our world.

But let’s not worry about it, at least not tonight. Forget about a possible economic event horizon or the apocalyptic predictions of some crazy man from McNeill. Have another filet mignon or leg of roasted duck. Pull your deck chair closer to mine and we’ll watch the dark waters slide by as we listen to the band. Don’t they sound great? Such talented musicians; their lullabies can very well sing us all to sleep.

The Great King And The Virus

A Parable

A long time ago and for reasons we can never fully comprehend, a Great King decided to build a perfect place. He chose an island in the middle of a peaceful, azure sea and went to work immediately to make all things, as I’ve mentioned, supremely perfect. Anything that did not belong, such as weeds, biting insects, and of course snakes, were removed. The waters that flowed lazily from the mountains on the island were filtered clear as they made their way to the pristine beaches far below. By some stroke of genius that is not available to us, he even made the temperature a perfect seventy-two degrees year round. By the time he was finished with his work, any of his subjects who witnessed it had to agree it was perfect; as no expense and no effort had been spared to make it such.

He chose two of his subjects, a man and a woman, and placed them on the island to enjoy it and take care of it. He asked for nothing from them in return. This in itself was quite unbelievable, because there wasn’t anything special about the two people, at least not compared to all of the other subjects in his kingdom. But not only was it so, it was what he wanted to do.

He instructed them on the care and management of the island, and visited the happy couple daily in the cool of the evenings to see how things were going. Although they had free run of the estate, he warned them both of a hidden cave near the mountains, for that is where he had placed all the bad things he had removed from the island during its construction. To venture into the cave would surely mean a release of those things, with an end result of the island becoming no longer perfect. It was a simple enough request on his part, because after all, anything else, including and up to the desires of their hearts, were made available to them in the perfect world in which they lived.

Time passed, how long we do not know, but of course eventually chance happened to place them at the entrance of the forbidden cave. And due to their human nature (curiosity killed the cat) they entered for ‘just a quick look’ to see the things hidden deep within the cavern for themselves. The items they saw were strangely interesting, and unusually revolting at the same time. But in any case, the damage was already done by the time they had entered the cave – even if they did not realize it. The Great King had removed a dreadful disease from the island, isolated it into a mystic vial, and placed it in the cave for safe keeping. Unfortunately as the woman looked through the contents of the cave, she stumbled and knocked the vial from its shelf, breaking it open and releasing its toxic contents into the air.

Later that evening the Great King returned and could tell that something was out of sorts as the couple no longer responded to him as they had up until that point. Through his wisdom and powers of deduction he knew what had happened and questioned them on what they had done. For the first time, the couple felt fear, an emotion that had never been part and parcel to their island paradise before. After blaming each other for the indiscretion of entering the forbidden cave, they admitted something was amiss and came clean as to their dubious deed. They knew they needed help, and they also understood the Great King was the only one who could cure them.

“You have a virus.” The Great King began. “There is no remedy for now. You must live with the symptoms in the meantime.” He explained to them that of course the island would never be the same, yet he promised them that he would return to his kingdom and develop a cure for the sickness that was already engulfing their minds and bodies. He told them that as much as it grieved him, he could not simply take them back to the kingdom – for his kingdom, like the island, was perfect and held no place for a virus-infested couple like themselves.

Time went by. The pair noticed they were getting worse. They had thoughts and desires they had never felt before. Their bodies no longer seemed to be under their own control, and the things they knew they should do, they did not. Instead their actions were mean-spirited and nasty; it was almost as if they were no longer the same two people they had been during those earlier, care-free days on the island. Worse still, their home was no longer perfect and became infested with weeds, biting insects, and of course snakes. As the years went by, they had children, and their children had children, and their wonder and awe of the Great King was replaced by doubts and an inability to understand why the King was so Great in the first place. You see, the couple’s virus had also spread to their offspring, and never knowing the Great King personally themselves, they were worse than their parents in both thought and deed. That's the funny thing about a virus - eventually you get used to the symptoms and learn to live with it.

From time to time the Great King would send a messenger to the island, offering support and a reminder that the cure was being made. In the meantime he sent laws for the inhabitants of the island to live by to prevent the evil thoughts and actions that resulted from the viral infection from getting completely out of hand. Sometimes this helped, as sometimes the growing population of the island would heed the message that was sent to them from the Great King. At other times it only served to anger them, and they mercilessly beat a few of the messengers and even murdered some of them in cold blood. Things on the island steadily grew worse and the descendents of the couple eventually formed clans and began fighting against each other. They built temples to the gods of the cave and invented the alphabet.

Finally, the Great King decided to send his son to the island. If the people would not listen to his messengers, surely they would respect his only son. It seemed like a good idea, and for a few days it worked. The son explained what the Great King was doing, and offered encouragement to the citizens of the island and helped them with the symptoms of their virus. But in the end, most of the people did not want to listen, as they no longer felt obligated to the Great King or his rule over them. One morning they seized the son, and violently murdered him on one of the hills overlooking the island.

But something happened on that day, something mysterious and very wonderful at the same time. The key to the only cure for the wretched virus was carried within the blood of the son, and had been all along. Long forgotten letters from the Great King had already explained this to the people and when they re-read them, they went back out to the rugged hill to retrieve his body. But it was no longer there - he was gone. Sadly they returned to the city, disheartened when they realized their only chance for a cure had evaded them. Most of the people returned to whatever they were doing. Phrases like 'no sense worrying over spilled milk' and 'it is what it is' pervaded their thoughts throughout the island on that bitter day. They comforted themselves by assembling a printing press and discovering gunpowder.

But some of the people knew and recalled the words from the mistreated messengers sent by the Great King in the past, and those who listened to the son while he was with them began to see things in a different light. The king had developed a cure all along, and he had been trying to let them know from the beginning. They began to understand why the son came to their island in the first place, and the price he had paid for their cure from the virus that had been passed down through their generations since its inception in the cave so very long before. The key was simply letting go and accepting the cure, and so they did. They began to teach others on the island, and to explain to them the plan the Great King had in place. Some listened and were cured; others rejected the idea as too far-fetched to believe in. Those who rejected the cure went back to their old ways while the virus grew worse and their actions became even more sordid as they gave in to the caustic throes of the disease. In turn, they manufactured fluoride toothpaste and harnessed the power of the atom.

One day the Great King returned. It was most unexpected, although he had promised from the very beginning that he would do so. Knowing that his return meant a cure for the virus, the entire population of the island met him on the beach. They watched as he loaded some of the people on his ship in preparation of carrying them back to his kingdom. They waited their turn for the mystical cure for the disease that would enable them to join those already on the boat for the return trip to a place called home. Sadly the Great King explained to them that the cure had been as he had promised; through the blood of his son. There was no other cure, and it was too late to get the only cure as the time for it had already passed them by. The Great King had returned to destroy the island and rebuild it back into what it was originally meant to be.

The people on the island moaned in anguish as they watched the boat pull away; a familiar looking young captain at the helm, as a purifying fire began to fall from the sky.

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;" Hebrews 2:3

The Piece Which I Had Lost

Today marks a great day for me, and yet it is still very early in the morning. My prodigal cell phone has been returned to me, albeit after going missing in action for over a week. It has a new scratch or two, the keypad cover is tarnished, and of course the battery is dead. But I am in the process of charging it and have already sent several text messages to friends and family, advising them that I can be reached again as needed. Some of those messages were sent to people I know in McNeill, Carriere, and Picayune. Another message will travel as far as Hattiesburg; thanking the person responsible for its safe return. One particular text is going to travel at the speed of light to Tanzania – my boss is over there on safari and he will be glad to know the phone has been found because, after all, it is a company phone. I’m sending these messages for others to share in the joy I am feeling this morning, even if it is for something as inconsequential as a cell phone.

The odds were stacked against its safe return from the start. I was on a fishing trip last week in Port Sulphur, Louisiana when I inadvertently left the phone on a night stand by my bed. It was not until I arrived in Picayune that I realized the phone was missing and immediately began making frantic phone calls from my office in an effort to locate it. Luckily, with the help of a friend in Hattiesburg who had shared the trip with me, we were notified that one of the guides had discovered the phone not too long after we had left. He agreed to mail the phone to my friend in Hattiesburg, who in turn would use his internal company mail service to dispatch the phone to me down in Picayune. In a roundabout way, I would get my phone in a few days and all would be well in my world again.

Things did not go as planned and the phone did not leave Port Sulphur until Friday; three days after it had been lost. But I was assured the phone would be delivered by Monday with no problems and no stress. I did not have a phone for communication with my job over the weekend, but that wasn’t all bad and I made do in the interim. If they needed me, they could get in touch with me via 'some other means'. Monday came; the phone arrived in Hattiesburg and was placed in the courier bin for delivery to me the following day. Tuesday morning arrived… no phone. By Wednesday afternoon we were ready to shake down the messenger service as there was no word on when they would make the delivery, and worst of all, they could not seem to find it. Finally that evening they called and reported they had located my phone; it had slipped between the seats in the delivery vehicle and had been lost yet again. The phone was waiting for me, along with a profusely apologetic courier, when I arrived at the plant this morning. Smiling, I shook his hand, the saga of the missing phone and all of the associated stress disappearing as I cradled the phone in my hand for the first time in well over a week.

You see, had the phone not been returned, I would have been required by my company to replace it using my own hard-earned money. I would have lost all of my contacts and some important notes and other data I keep (not such a great idea) in the phone’s memory card. It’s an iPhone, so there was also a good deal of music stored in the phone that I’d accumulated over the past year. In short, it would have been a problem to recover all of the things I had lost. But the phone was indeed found, and life is good once again with everything back to normal and in its place. For that reason, I’m sharing my good news with others, even if it sounds like no big deal due to the final results. Of course you may be thinking, "But it’s just a stupid phone, right?"

Jesus spoke of rejoicing over finding things that were lost: “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” See, it’s not so silly or frivolous to get excited when you recover something that was important to you after it has been lost. The value is truly in the mind of the owner in those particular circumstances. You do your utmost to find those lost things that are important to you, and will not rest until you’ve done so.

Jesus was using the parable of the woman’s silver to illustrate a very important point – a point that can be lost on the reader if you leave it as simply a woman with ten silver coins that lost one and had to search for it. The whole idea of the story is the joy she felt when she found it. It wasn’t merely enough that she had found the missing coin; she wanted to share her good news with others. Hers was a pure joy. We do not know how the others perceived her sudden happiness and there is always a chance they could have considered the missing coin as something miniscule or something that could have merely been replaced had she been unsuccessful in her search and rescue effort. But I choose to believe they were happy for her, because they understood that it meant everything to her.

Jesus closed His story with an amazing comparison for us to ponder: “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of G_d over one sinner that repenteth.” As much as the coin meant to the woman, and as important as finding my lost phone was to me, the search for lost souls is even more important to G_d. We simple, frail human beings, with all of our scratches, tarnished imperfections, and dead batteries mean everything to Him. He sacrificed it all, including His only Son, just to find us when we were lost. And even the angels rejoice when He reclaims us and brings us back home where we belong.

The Bachelorette

Disclaimer: The following post may contain information that could be conceived as questionable in nature as recorded by the author. While the events described therein are truthful, the writer takes no responsibility for his actions or perceptions of the author’s masculinity that may arise in the mind of the reader. That which I did, I was compelled to do.

The Bachelorette is over. Another season, another opportunity for a couple to find true love on network television is behind us and all the visual evidence points to success on the part of Ali and Roberto. They will be married soon, kids surely on the way, and a state of perpetual bliss will rule in their lives. Or maybe it won’t. After all, something to the tune of over sixty percent of marriages end in divorce these days, according to the statistical data, so who can know these things? My wife and daughter watch the show and have been avid viewers for most of the bi-annual seasons. This one was different only because (due to sickness, high fever) somehow I managed to get caught up in in the magic of this particular chapter of the show. Ah, the wonders of Reality TV, I tell ya.

The premise is simple enough. Take a girl or a guy, put them in a sort of semi-isolation with twenty-five members of the opposite gender, and have them perform a weekly 'thinning of the herd' until we are down to three suitable candidates for marriage by the last week or so of the show. They go on dates, they visit exotic locales, they have moving conversations, and the drama continually builds as the list of spouse wannabes gets whittled down. The tabloids love it and it is all the rage on ETV and other celebrity gossip shows. Heck, I missed most of Lindsey Lohan’s imprisonment saga this summer due to my captivation with the burgeoning love affair between Ali and Roberto – the horror!

But, now that it’s over I have to wonder why it left me feeling so empty and jaded by the time it was finished. I should have seen the writing on the wall with this one, and weeks ahead of time at that. Can one truly find love on national television? At some point, does the notoriety or sudden celebrity status of the contestants play a part in the outcome? Is it all smoke and mirrors designed to make viewers believe that yes - true love can be not only achieved, but programmed via the Nielson ratings? I’d say no, although I’m cynical in this area to be sure. But they sure did look the part of a happy, young couple hopelessly in love on the finale last night. Maybe I’m just not with the times anymore.

Whatever happened to old-fashioned love? That’s what I’m saying. Meeting a girl for the first time, usually unintentional, in a supermarket or at a party – the where doesn’t matter. A flutter in your chest when your eyes meet and you get that magical little epiphany that lets you know she is interested in you as well. The tension ripping through your heart as you garner up the nerve to approach her for the first time, trying to make your words come out sans a stutter or at the very least avoid saying something totally stupid because you know you’ll regret it later if you do so. And no commercial break to bail you out should things go badly, because they sometimes do. Getting to know that person and accepting or overlooking their faults as the relationship blossoms into something better as the love grows. Buying a ring, two month’s salary, and the renewal of those earlier jitters when you officially make the proposal to share the rest of your life with her. It’s out of your hands at that point. No season two if she says 'no'.

The world looks so much easier on television, crying out to us that this is the way it should be and these are the things we should aspire toward. And we buy into it hook, line, and sinker. Supposedly in love with several people at the same time with a purpose of selecting the right one in a world of tropical paradises and (sigh) overnight dates. I’m no prude, but some things are better left for after the marriage ceremony, and swiftly lose their charm when rushed to the forefront of a relationship. But maybe things are different in the modern, fast-paced world we find ourselves in today while the convictions and beliefs I hold strongest and dearest to are now fatally outmoded and obsolete.

John writes: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

I seriously need to consider (or reconsider) what I am watching on television these days. Thank goodness Monday Night Football is on the not-so-distant horizon.