Reawakening Manners and Morality in Men

Who Goes There, Part 2

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Christian author Rick Morgan.

In the previous article, we looked at the qualities of integrity, righteousness and truth that define the man who abides in the presence of God, taken from verse 2 of Psalm 15. This poem written to the denizens of heaven deserves another look, and we’ll start at verse 3:

Ps 15:3
He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

This man of God, who has woven the qualities of godliness into his life at every level, is now described in terms of how he treats others. These are the visible attributes of the character described in verse 2. The first three clauses are negatives, stating what this man does not do: he does not slander, he does no evil to his neighbor, and he does not attack the character of his friend.

The word that is translated by “slander” is the Hebrew word “regel” which means, oddly enough, the foot. In the original language this word was used as an idiom for traveling or patrolling through an area, placing the feet in a place to indicate discovery or arrival. We might translate this passage as: “He does not walk through the life of another with his tongue”, or more literally, “He does not set foot with his tongue”. There’s an interesting picture. We could imagine a man who verbally explores the life of another by conjecturing about his life with gossip; leaving trash and muddy footprints all through the character of someone for the sake of entertaining small-talk. Its like sneaking into another man’s orchard to steal some apples and then carving initials into some of the trees to pass the time. Doing harm out of boredom.

The fact that this man does no evil to his neighbor (the next clause) seems rather obvious- Jesus summarized all the law and the prophets under the heading of Love, and doing evil overtly contradicts all that love teaches us. We don’t really need to ask whether or not we should do evil, even the pagan understands that position; bad is bad. However we could ask what evil is. This is really what so much of our moral debate is about today. Many in the secular world shy away from applying the term “evil” because it implies a moral judgment that they find offensive. For the Christian, however, this question is easily defined. Evil is whatever God says it is. Not only that, but evil can be understood as the antithesis of good. In verse 2 of this psalm, we saw godly goodness defined as integrity, righteousness, and truth. Thus, evil would be hypocrisy, unrighteousness, and dishonesty. Jesus’ axiom of love is that whatever is unloving is evil. Not tolerance, but love. (We will discuss the vulgar abuse of the term “tolerance” by our culture some other time.)

In the third statement, to “take up a reproach” is an awkward term in modern English, but the sense from the Hebrew is to cast scorn upon, or to defame or dishonor another. Much more than gossip as mentioned above, this is to impute blame in order to harm the character of someone. Here, the goal is to urge others to doubt the moral fiber of the person. This is the worst of the three ideas in this verse, being an attack on the very core of another; trying to intentionally damage them in the forum of public opinion. The idea of “taking up a reproach” suggests to give ear to such things. We must never be eager to listen to these attacks any more than we should be willing to repeat them.

In these three statements there is an ascending order of harm. Gossip or tale bearing hurts by speculating on their lives, and generating innuendo. Taking some evil action hurts more by placing someone at a disadvantage in their lives. Scorning hurts most of all as it viciously attacks the soul of the person. We have not only chosen to entertain ourselves at the expense of others, we have a variety of flavors to keep it from getting dull. Sometimes we indulge in the milder forms of this character assassination and then celebrate our restraint.

That wind of conviction that you feel blows upon us all. These things ought not to be. Are our lives so devoid of interesting things to talk about that we must casually vandalize the integrity of others just to fill the air with our petty noises? Jesus said that we will be judged for every casual word we utter. In a culture filled with talking heads spewing endless chatter, perhaps our greatest Christian witness might be to just shut up. We could proclaim the Gospel in silence by living holy lives and refusing to be caught up in the endless diatribe; that would make us really stand out among those who don’t know Christ. Then, when they ask, we will finally have something to say that is worthy of the air in our lungs.

There is another phrase in this psalm that is one of my favorite statements of the Old Testament.

Ps 15:4
He swears to his own hurt, and does not change;

This also deals with the wagging tongues of men, but calls us to consider the promises we make. I am convinced that if this axiom was consistently applied to our lives, we would, on this basis alone, be known as men of integrity. Keeping the promises that are easy is no measure of character. Everyone shows up when the task is easy or fun. But what do we do when the obligation is greater than we anticipated, or we would rather be somewhere else? How enthusiastic are we when we realize that the pledge we made will become a real sacrifice?

The problem is that we separate what we claim from what we do. We make a promise and then fail to keep it because the terms were not what we anticipated. This is not a failure of circumstance, it is a failure of our character. When we obligate ourselves, that verbal pronouncement becomes a contract. To go back on our word is to devalue all that we say or claim; it reduces the significance of all our words. If we do this enough times no one will take us seriously, nor should they. Our words are the currency of our conversation, and the gold behind that currency is our action. Without the weight of action, the currency of our speech becomes useless for any exchange, and our only hope becomes a career in politics. God forbid.

In many cases we are guilty of simply saying “yes” too quickly. It is pleasing to respond with an enthusiastic affirmative when some great idea comes along, but then reality sets in and we wish had not volunteered so readily. If we connect action to word before we speak at all, we would be forced to count the cost of what we are about to say before our words commit us to a potential loss. When the phrase “swears to his own hurt” is used, it doesn’t mean we make promises that we know will harm us, it means that once the obligation is discovered to be more than we bargained for, we don’t back down. We have committed the weight of our character to the task, and the commitment is based on our promise, not our later regrets.

Once again, it seems the best policy is to just shut up. Stop and consider what will be involved before saying anything. This is not to say that we should never step up to an obligation, but we should realize that once we say it, its as good as done. There is no turning back.

The Rubicon is a river in northern Italy which marked the southern border of Caesar’s province of Gaul. When Julius Caesar crossed that river with his army in 49 bc, that event was considered an act of war. Since then, the term “crossing the Rubicon” has become a metaphor for passing the point of no return. When we open our mouth and promise something, we have crossed the Rubicon. We are completely obligated at that moment, and nothing less than our integrity is on the line.

On wings of deeds the soul must mount!
When we are summoned form afar,
Ourselves and not our words will count-
Not what we said, but what we are!
Wm. Winter

Throughout Psalm 15, the integrity of the godly man is the subject; connecting confession to obligation, and obligation to action. If our beliefs are evidenced by our words and our words are perfectly connected to our actions, then we are living as those who will abide within the tabernacle of God.

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Rick is on staff at Calvary Chapel Tucson where he also serves as an elder, and writes to keep his rabbits fed. Fortunately they don’t eat much. Favorite pastimes are watching cheesy movies with his patient and understanding wife, and expending ammunition at inanimate objects. He hopes to have his book “So Excellent a King” published soon, an exposition on the kingship of Christ. Rick has been a Christian for almost 30 years, and in that time has developed an acute sense of his own ignorance and Christ’s truly astounding grace. Aside from writing, he is waiting expectantly for that next big break as a roller derby referee or pin monkey at a bowling alley. Pray for him.

Who Goes There? – Psalm 15

tforward view of what a real man looks like in the eyes of God. Thomas Jefferson famously called this psalm: “The portrait of a good man by the most sublime of poets, for your imitation.” Huzzas all around.

Psalm 15:1-2
O LORD, who may abide in Thy tent?
Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.

It starts by asking a question, and giving a response. Question: Who is the man who will abide with and dwell in the presence of God? Response: it’s the guy who has woven integrity, righteousness, and truth into the fabric of his life. This quality of life is expressed in the walk, works, and speech of the man. Extending this fabric metaphor a little, we see the biblical qualities of godliness are nothing less than an essential organic part of the man, just as each thread of fabric combines with the rest to form the whole. We should never think of these things as additions to our lives, but indispensable and necessary components of our person. The life of a godly man is not what he does, but what he is. These characteristics are the very substance of the man, composing the personality of the individual to such an extent that he has no form of expression or conversation without them. They cease to be choices, and become aspects of personhood itself.

God Himself is understood in much the same way. When we look at the characteristics of God we see that He is just, merciful, holy righteous, loving, and so on. These are not optional distinctives that God is exercising at any given time by choice, these are the core realities of God Almighty. He cannot be known without these characteristics, as they are absolute properties of His existence. However, we have the dubious privilege of being able to choose whether or not to follow good or evil- (this is a consequence of the dietary indiscretion recorded in Genesis 3). Possessing this option, we tend to perceive all moral categories as things that we do out of habit or practicality, and not as qualities of personality. This is a fundamental mistake for the Christian.

To integrate these qualities of moral excellence into our minds is the path that God has called us to pursue. He wants transformed creatures who are renewed from the ground up, not people who exhibit the right behavior on cue. Pavlov’s puppy could be taught to slobber at a bell, but God wants far more than bell-trained heathens. We are called to bear His restored image, to represent Him by our very substance and being. The man who is near to God is not there because of some aspect of locality, he is there because of willful imitation of Christ. Heart determines location, not vice-versa. These things flow downhill with intention at the top and action at the bottom, and God commands us to climb. This is a concept theologians call sanctification, and it is the part of our salvation that we actively participate in every day of our lives as believers.

Religious practice, in and of itself, is ultimately behaviorism; the rote alteration of action through controlling the environment and selective education. It cannot change the heart, only the appearance. Science has gone so far down this behaviorist path that it is now widely believed that education alone can actually cure us of our little “problem”. (The fact that intellectual giants can also be perverted moral midgets has apparently been overlooked.) Moralism argues that man can self-correct by an act of supreme will, and good works alone will render mankind holy and acceptable to God. Secular philosophy has simply surrendered to meaninglessness and crawled into a ditch to die. Humanism claims all moral categories are arbitrary, and dismisses higher moral obligation as a myth. The self-interested practical ethics that arise from this are a conflicted nightmare.

All man’s methods eventually lead to this dead end. Beware of it; its more insidious than you think. Working from the outside by exertions of will, environment,  or discipline can, at best, lead only to self-satisfied displays of affected motion, unconnected to any real integrity. At this stage hypocrisy becomes a way of life, and failure is the rancid fruit upon which we will raise our malnourished children.
We can learn much from passages such as this by looking at what this man is not. In these verses, there is no mention of the Law, or of religion, or social reform. The man who abides with God is not there not because he shows up at church four times a week, helps out with the youth group car wash, or painted the pastor’s house. His proximity to the holy hill of God’s tabernacle is not influenced by the amount he puts in the offering, or the fact that he is the head of three different ministries within the church. Never by what he does, but always by who he is.

In a certain sense, we can say that kicking your dog is the same as spitting on the pastor after the sermon. Treating your wife spitefully when no one else is around is the same as abusing her loudly at the church picnic. These things proclaim the character of the man with equal volume before God. We must abolish the idea that a good front is the indicator of anything but our ability to deceive.
Integrity is the key word here, as this Psalm goes on to connect action to thought without any layovers in pretext. For this man, his real disposition is flawlessly articulated in his every action and mood. Our job is not perfect conduct, as this is only the action without the disposition. Our calling is total submission to the transforming Word of God, which empowers both action and intent. Perfect submission is the only way that this righteous expression can occur, because it is completely beyond our own abilities to perform the action in perfect correspondence with the intention. This impossibility is now rendered possible because we have the mind of Christ and the Spirit of God. Our Savior builds within us the renewed mind and transformed heart that yields real integrity of action, with conduct and intent becoming an indivisible singularity within our life.
Jesus, of course, represents this with precision. He stood before a group of His angry critics and said “Which of you accuses Me of sin?” These men, desperate for any excuse to discredit Him, were silenced. May it be that we would silence our critics with equal conviction.

Here we see that Forest Gump had it backwards. Rightly stated, “stupid does as stupid is”. Or, more suited to our purposes (hopefully), godliness does as godliness is. Integrity consists of a man holding truth to his heart first, and then acting accordingly. Thus, the outer man can be in frictionless harmony with the inner man, and also with God’s character.
His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles;
His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate;
His tears pure messengers, sent from his heart;
His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth.
Wm. Shakespeare

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Rick is on staff at Calvary Chapel Tucson where he also serves as an elder, and writes to keep his rabbits fed. Fortunately they don’t eat much. Favorite pastimes are watching cheesy movies with his patient and understanding wife, and expending ammunition at inanimate objects. He hopes to have his book “So Excellent a King” published soon, an exposition on the kingship of Christ. Rick has been a Christian for almost 30 years, and in that time has developed an acute sense of his own ignorance and Christ’s truly astounding grace. Aside from writing, he is waiting expectantly for that next big break as a roller derby referee or pin monkey at a bowling alley. Pray for him.

How To Give An Impressive Handshake

Handshake

There are hundreds of situations that will require you to introduce, be introduced, and greet other people with a handshake.  In order to have a truly impressive handshake you must understand it’s purpose.  While the exact origin of the handshake is unknown, it is generally accepted in western literature that handshakes were developed as a greeting in order to demonstrate that you were not concealing a weapon in your hand.  The handshake was a gesture of good will toward another person indicating that you meant them no harm.  A modern handshake should similarly convey some of that good will by indicating your openness toward the other person.

Handshakes really come down to two things, timing and technique.  We’ll look at technique first. Your handshake can make a very real impression about your character.  Are you Ivan the KnuckleKrusher, Wussy McWimperson, or Clingy von Neverletyougo?  You are being judged by your handshake, so make sure it’s a good one.

Technique

  • Make sure your hand is firm, nobody likes shaking hands with limp overcooked pasta.
  • While firm is good, hand crushing is not.  Nobody is impressed with your hand strength.
  • Hold their hand for 2-3 seconds.  Less will seem like you are uncomfortable and trying to escape, more and they will be uncomfortable and have to try to escape.
  • A few up down shakes will do, you are not trying to inflate a bicycle tire or bring up water from a mile deep well with a hand pump.
  • If you hands are sweaty, wipe them on your pants nonchalantly first.  If you are prone to sweaty hands, keep them out of your pockets in situations where greetings are immanent.
  • If your hands are cold, keep them in your pocket to warm them up.
  • Make sure your hands are clean.  You want them to remember you, not your lunch.

There is your basic technique and for the most part people don’t have too much trouble here.  It is the timing that can cause the greatest embarrassment in the form of an extended, unnoticed hand.  Many people try to avoid giving handshakes because they are afraid of being left hanging.  The most important thing you can do to avoid this is to make sure you have eye contact with the person who’s hand you want to shake prior to extending your hand.

Timing

  • Don’t extend your hand until you have the other persons attention.  If they are distracted or in a conversation, just wait instead of interrupting.
  • Handshakes should be face to face, don’t approach from the side with you hand extended because it’s difficult for them to see you.
  • Greet the person audibly first, to ensure you are the focus of their attention.
  • If your hand is in the center first, wait for them to fully arrive so you don’t end up shaking their fingers instead of their hand.
  • If you are approaching their extended hand, extend your hand at a slight angle instead of sliding your fingers past theirs, this will prevent them from gripping too early and getting only fingers.

Knowing how and when and for how long to extend your hand takes some practice, and like driving it’s not just about you.  You have to anticipate the other person and do everything in your power to make sure they know where you and and what you’re doing.  Making eye contact and verbally greeting them goes a long way towards making your handshake a successful event.

Other Considerations

  • Don’t pull them close to you when shaking hands, this violates personal space and can trigger a fight-or-flight response in some people.
  • Don’t overextend your reach, go to them to shake hands
  • Attitude matters, be warm, inviting, friendly, and remember to smile
  • Relax, don’t hold your breath while shaking hands
  • Don’t grab their hand with your other hand, or rub their hand, or pat their back.
  • No awkward handshake/hug combos, either commit to the hug, or the handshake, but not both.
  • Do not shake hands if you are sick.  You do not need to apologize, simply hold your hand up in a stop gesture and say “I’d love to shake your hand, but I’m recovering from a cold and don’t want to risk it.”  The other party will not be offended.

Feminine Considerations

Be mindful of the fairer sex and always be gentle with their hands.  Reduce you hand pressure by 50% or more, even if the woman is engaging in a solid handshake with you.  It is possible to be firm and still gentle.  Always release her hand in a timely manner so she doesn’t have to pull away.  Do NOT rub her hand or comment on it’s features, texture, softness, nail color, or anything else.  The handshake turned into a hand kiss maneuver should only be attempted by the supremely confident gentleman in the rarest of circumstances.  If you have any doubts as to what appropriate circumstances are, then the answer is no, don’t kiss her hand.

Cultural Considerations

Be cognizant of cultural differences in customs, rituals and greetings.  This applies mainly to those who travel frequently, but it is worth noting that not all people shake hands the same way.  Here are some of the many handshake variations found in our very diverse world.

  • In Japan it is normal to shake hands frequently. Sometimes a bow is included or substituted.
  • In Europe you shake hands whenever you meet someone even if you know them well.
  • Russians tend to shake hands frequently but never while wearing gloves.
  • A strong handshake and good grip are appreciated in South Africa.
  • A vigorous, pumping handshake is normal for the Chinese.
  • Men in Arabian cultures encourage a long and limp handshake along with a specific verbal greeting.
  • People in Panama greet each other with eye contact combined with shaking hands.
  • The French always shake hands in business meetings but all other greetings involve kissing the cheeks.
  • In Kuwait shaking hands is only used for male strangers who meet the first time.  Shaking hands with an unrelated female is considered inappropriate.
  • Residents of India and Pakistan shake hands by grasping your hand in both of their hands and holding your hand briefly.

The Perfect Handshake

Researchers an the University of Manchester in northwest England spent some time working on the perfect handshake problem plaguing our world and discovered a formula for the perfect handshake.

PH = v (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + p{(4<s>2)(4<p>2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(4<c>2 )(4<du>2)}2

I won’t get into the details here, but will leave it as an exercise for the mathematically inclined to analyze.  Or, if you like pictures, Chevrolet turned the formula into a fantastic info graphic. Click on the image to view it in high resolution. It includes an explanation of the formula.

Finally, like anything in life, practice makes permanent.  Ask a brother, sister, friend, co-worker, parent, or somebody else you are comfortable with to practice with you for a few minutes and provide feedback.  Now go make a good impression with an impressive gentlemanly handshake.

Reader Poll – Can You Tie a Bowline Knot?

Tie a Bowline Knot

Welcome to the Tuesday Reader Poll. The way this works is pretty straight forward. I ask a question. You answer. You add comments below if you feel your answer needs an explanation, you don’t like your choices, or you just have something relevant to share.

After voting, if you’ve ever used a bowline in a real world activity, we’d love to hear about it.

Psalm 112 – Obedience is not enough.

Most people know what is required of them to maintain their good standing as a man, a husband, and a father.  They must be faithful to their wives.  They must be successful enough to provide food, shelter, and clothing for their families. They must be men of exemplary character.  Why do men do these things?  What motivates them?  What motivates you?

Psalm 112 opens with a simple but profound challenge to your heart and motivation as a man, and as your family’s leader.  “Happy are those who respect the Lord, who want what he commands.”  This challenge begins with respect for the Lord, which should be the foundation of your motivations in all things.  It goes further than most challenges which ask only for obedience to the commands of the Lord.  If you are the father of a teenager, you are very familiar with the difference between obedience of the rules, and a desire to be obedient to the rules.  It goes beyond doing what your told, to the place where you not only accept but agree with the commands.  You desire to obey, because you agree with the principles, not because you fear the punishment.

What follows is a wonderful list of promises to your family: your children will be powerful, each generation will be truly happy, and in God’s economy, they will be wealthy.  There are even some assurances for you: light in the dankness as a reward for being honest, kind, compassionate and righteous, victory in return for generosity, a steadfast heart, security, and honor.  These are things that every man wants.

What happens in your family is a direct result of the things you stand for.  The challenge cannot be forgotten.  Honor and obey God and delight in his ways.  Want what he wants.  Tell your family that this is what motivates you.  Then watch how it impacts everything in your house.  Don’t take my word for it, read Psalm 112 below and judge for yourself if the blessings seem worth the effort it will take to master the challenge.  As for me and my house?  We will respect the Lord, and will strive to want what he commands.

Psalm 112

1 Praise the Lord! Happy are those who respect the Lord,     who want what he commands.
2 Their descendants will be powerful in the land;     the children of honest people will be blessed.
3 Their houses will be full of wealth and riches, and their goodness will continue forever.
4 A light shines in the dark for honest people, for those who are merciful and kind and good.
5 It is good to be merciful and generous.     Those who are fair in their business
6 will never be defeated. Good people will always be remembered.
7 They won’t be afraid of bad news; their hearts are steady because they trust the Lord.
8 They are confident and will not be afraid; they will look down on their enemies.
9 They give freely to the poor. The things they do are right and will continue forever. They will be given great honor.
10 The wicked will see this and become angry; they will grind their teeth in anger and then disappear. The wishes of the wicked will come to nothing.

15 Fun Super Bowl Facts

Super Bowl

In honor of the American holiday Super Bowl Sunday, I’ve compiled some fun facts that you may not know about the game.  Okay, so it’s not an official holiday, but it might as well be.

  • Good Company: In 2010 106.5 million people watched the Superbowl, making it the most watched program in US history, beating out the 105.97 million viewers of the 1983 M.A.S.H. finale.
  • Preferred Seating: Prices for tickets this year start in the low $2000’s, and go to $179,850 for seats in the ‘touchdown suite,’ a private 29 person catered touchdown suite elevated 6 feet into the air in the end zone.
  • Sell Me Something: The cost of a 30-second advertisement will run advertisers $3,000,000 this year, up from $2,800,000 last year.  That is $100,000 per second or $100 per millisecond.  To put that into perspective, blinking takes 400 milliseconds.  That’s right, if you blink during a commercial you’ve missed $40,000 worth of premium advertisement.
  • Human Depravity: The Super bowl is the largest human trafficking event of the year.  An estimated 50,000 people are trafficked into the US each year, with Texas accounting for a whopping 25% of that figure.  The Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Force estimates an 80% increase in sexual exploitation of young women and children during Super Bowl weekend.  They are expecting some 40,000 people to come to the Super Bowl that do not have a ticket to the event.
  • National Security: In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the Super Bowl has been designated as a National Special Security Event by the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.  Special security measures are taken, task forces brought in, and extra precautions are taken, including banning of blimps and all aircraft flyovers.
  • The Big One: The original name of the Super Bowl was going to be “The Big One” per then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.  Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt proposed the name “Super Bowl” after watching his child play with a bouncy ball known as the “Super Ball.”  The committee agreed to use Super Bowl as a temporary name until they thought of something better.
  • Food For Thought: The Super Bowl is second only to Thanksgiving for food consumption in a single day. Fifteen tons of chips and four tons of popcorn are consumed.  That enough chips span the distance to the moon 1 ½ times when lined end to end, and enough popcorn to ring the earth 5 ½ times.  Twelve million pounds of avocado are sold to produce 8 million pounds of guacamole.  That’s enough guacamole to cover a football field end zone to end zone and 40 inches deep.  The 7-11 franchise posts a 20% increase in antacids sold the following Monday and an estimated 6% of Americans (7 million people) will not show up to work.  Staying off the roads is advised as well.  An estimated 49 million cases (325 million gallons) of beer were consumed during last years super bowl.
  • Warm Enough?: The NFL has a policy of only awarding the Super Bowl to cities that have an average temperature above 50 degrees, or have an indoor stadium.
  • Halftime Entertainment: The halftime show has grown as much as the game itself.  In early years the halftime show consisted of a college marching band, evolving into a group of acts performing.  Michael Jackson was the first solo act in 1993. In 2002, U2 performed a very moving tribute to the September 11th victims.  The most controversial halftime show was 2004’s performance by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake that included a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ which exposed the world to Ms. Jackson’s nipple.  That event, sometimes referred to as “nipplegate” cost CBS almost 1 million in fines by the FCC and led many commentators to speculate on the moral decline of America.
  • Manly Jewelry: The NFL pays for 150 Super Bowl rings to be crafted for the winning team, both players and staff, valued around $5,000 each.  Neal Dahlen owns 7 of the rings, earning five while on staff with the 49ers,  and two as General Manager of the Broncos.  Charles Haley is the player with the most rings, five.  He won two with 49ers and 3 with the Cowboys.
  • Never Happened: These things have never happened during a Super Bowl.  No Super Bowl has gone to overtime.  No team has ever ended the game with 0 points.  No punt return has ended in a touchdown.  It has never snowed during a Super Bowl, no offensive play has gone for more than 90 yards, and there has never been a match-up between two wild-card teams.
  • Big Winners: The Pittsburgh Steelers hold the record for most Super Bowl wins, 6.  They will be trying for a 7th this weekend.
  • Try and Try and Try again: The Los Angeles Rams hold the record for the most Super Bowl losses at 7 losses.
  • Half Time Flush: The legend that some cities have had sewage problems stemming from millions of people flushing all at once is false.  Waste and Water Works does report an increase in volume, but nothing that cannot be easily handled by the system.  The origin of this myth stems from the breaking of a 16-inch waterline in Salt Lake City during the 1984 game, but the events were unrelated.
  • Super Bowl Legends: Other Super Bowl Legends include an increase in domestic violence, false, Disneyland is deserted during the Super Bowl, false, and a rise in auto accidents after the game, true.

So, there you have fifteen new and exciting bits of trivia to wow your friends with during the game.  Enjoy your newly found fame as a Super Bowl trivia fan.  Stay off the roads if you can, and drink responsibly.  This year AAA is offering its Tipsy Tow service for free from 6pm Sunday through 6am Monday.  Just call  800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP) if you need a ride and they will come tow you up to 10 miles free.

Science in the Bible – Unclean Seeds

This is the beginning of a new series highlighting scientific facts found in the Bible.  Why do we care about science in the bible you might ask?  Finding science references in the bible helps to validate the authenticity of the authorship (God) as many of the scientific principles found in scripture were not ‘discovered’ by science until much later.

Leviticus 11 has one such scientific reference.  In Leviticus 11 Moses is going over a bunch of rules to determine if a food is clean or unclean.  Verses 29-38 discuss various types of unclean animals that were not to be eaten.  Should one of these animals die, touching it made the offender unclean until they washed themselves.  It was in this section that I discovered something interesting.  If the animal dies and falls on something, whatever it falls on is unclean until it was washed.  If it dies in an oven, or cooking pot the oven or cooking pot must be discarded as you can no longer eat out of it.

The verses that caught my eye are 37 and 38.  “If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean.  But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you.” That immediately made me wonder why dry seeds would still be safe to plant, but wet seeds were not.  Investigating this led me to something I haven’t looked at since grade school; the seed germination cycle.

Prior to getting wet, seeds are dormant and protected by a thick outer skin called a testa.  These skins protect from parasites, mechanical injury, and extreme temperatures.  Adding water to the dry seeds begins the germination process.  The seed absorbs the water which causes enzymes to become activated, respiration to increase and plant cells to duplicate rapidly.  Once this process has begun, the seed is no longer protected by its testa and is susceptible to external contaminates.   This outer coating can rupture in as little as 6 hours after getting wet.

So, if there is a carcass on your dry seeds throw it out and go about your business.  If however, the critter corpse is laying on seeds that have become wet for whatever reason; the whole mess needs to be thrown out because it’s contaminated or unclean.

We can either believe that Moses, during his free time as leader of the Jewish people in 1500 B.C., studied seed germination or he had some divine inspiration.  Hopefully this is the first of many such articles highlighting scientific facts found throughout the Bible, the only ancient text that has them.

If you study and enjoy the subjects of biology or seed germination feel free to add your insights in the comments below.

Science in the Bible – Don’t Sleep Angry

Sleep

We return to our Science in the Bible series with a look at Ephesians 4:26.  “Be angry and do not sin; let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”  This is a well known verse and seems based in common sense because it is difficult to fall asleep when angry, and the sleep you get is often less restful.  Science, however, has just proven this to be much more than common sense.

Earlier this year neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted a polysomnography study (sleep study using electrodes and computers) with interesting results.

The Experiment:

Here is the experiment conducted.  The study included 106 adults between 18-30 years old, 68 females and 38 males.  The two phase test involved showing participants pictures on a computer screen and asking them to rate each one as sad or happy, and their own response of calm or excited on a scale of 1 to 9.  By using the two rating per picture system, each participant’s emotional value score was unique for the pictures.  Twelve hours later the participants were shown a mix of the pictures they had already seen, and new pictures.  They rated each picture on the two scales again, and indicated if they had seen the picture in the previous test.  Forty one of the participants were tested early in the morning, then later that same day, and forty one were tested in the evening and then the following morning after a full nights rest.  The remaining twenty four were tested with only a 45 minute break as a control group.

The Result:

The researchers found that sleep had significant effects on participants recognition memories and feelings.  Contrary to the popular opinion that sleep will soften a person’s negative emotions, the study found that sleep actually preserved the memories and emotional responses to the images.  Those that stayed awake between viewings did not recall the images as well, and they registered a less negative response to the images, while those that slept retained the memories and negative responses to the images.

The bottom line:

Go to bed angry at your wife, wake up in the morning STILL angry at your wife.  Sleeping on the issue does not help to lower any negative feelings.

Options:

If you can’t go to bed angry, and staying up until oh-dark-thirty yelling at each other isn’t going to accomplish anything, what can you do?  Here are some ideas to help end the fight on civil terms so you can go to bed in a better emotional state of mind.

The Pause Button

The highly decorated sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” has an interesting way of dealing with the long arguments between one of the long standing couples on the show.  They hit the proverbial pause button.  While in pause land they sleep, eat lunch, or do whatever else needs to be done, while being perfectly nice to one another until such time as the fight can resume at a more convenient time.  This is obviously done for comedic effect, but it is not a bad idea on principle.  Instead of arguing all night or going to bed angry, hit the pause button, go to the kitchen and share a late night snack and go to bed on civil terms.  The fight can be resumed with cooler heads after a good non-angry nights sleep when emotions and lower and exhaustion isn’t threatening to make you lose your grip on the mean things you want to say but know you shouldn’t.

The Distraction

Another option is to refocus your brain before going to bed angry, after the fight is over leave your spouse alone, but don’t go immediately to sleep.  Instead of sleeping angry, go watch 30 minutes of something on netflix or read a book.  This will provide your mind with 30 minutes of not fighting to store in it’s ‘preserve-this-feeling-for-tomorrow’ buffer.

The Change Rule

People tend to stick to routines and things that you have done before will be easier to do again.  If your fight is in a rut and you keep going in circles, change one thing to break the cycle and force your brain to start listening and engaging instead of just repeating.  This is easiest to do by declaring a new fight rule like ‘you can only talk about relatives when lying on the floor’ or ‘you can only discuss bad habits while wearing an oven mitt’ or ‘we only discuss financial issues in a British accent.’  By changing one thing about the fight you add a little bit of funny to ease tensions, and force yourself to engage instead of repeat.  This can help you come to an accord or find a good place to stop the fight in a lighter frame of mind, which can prevent you from going to bed angry.

The Own Your Part Rule

One effective method for reducing conflict in a fight is by owning up to your mistakes and apologizing.  Even if you are 90% right, and they are in the wrong, you can always find some small part of the fight to own up to and apologize for.  Fighting isn’t going to change their mind, or resolve the issue, so what you are after isn’t resolution, but simply an end to the fighting.  Solving the issue will be done at another time in a different frame of mind.  It’s hard to continue screaming at somebody who is saying “You know, you’re right.  I shouldn’t have done/said that.  I apologize, and will work on not doing/saying that again.  Will you forgive me?”

Your mileage will vary with these tips as each couple has their own method for resolving conflict.  Some friends of mine resolve their issues with a knock-down drag-out pillow fight.  Figure out what works for you, and find a way to stop the fight on civil terms, or find some way to let go of the anger before putting your head on the pillow.  Failure to obey verse 26 about not going to sleep angry will lead to the consequences of verse 27.  Obey the Bible, Science says so!