Monthly Archives: August 2011

Uniform-ity

Americans Love Uniforms

Americans love uniforms, all sorts of uniforms, from military to cheerleaders, men to children – you name it, they’ve got a uniform for it.

Men love uniforms and women love men in uniforms.

The uniform, particularly military, is revered in the States.  Men and women in uniform, for instance, get priorities in travel.  And no body minds, far from it, as people respectfully stand aside, quietly reverent – even if only because they are profoundly glad someone else is in the firing line.

Doormen at some establishments are smartly uniformed, pilots still secure our trust by wearing uniforms, marching-bands wear ‘schmick’ uniforms, cops wear uniforms and, that is where the uniform is on a uniform slide.  Buttons appear optional, cut matters not, cleaning is an art long forgotten, and the footwear is definitely, well, lets just say it isn’t helping the look.

I saw a security guard sauntering through an airport who appeared more like a walking ill-fitted tea-cozy.  His uniform was two sizes to large, his hat, resembling a police officers hat (resembling), was thrice his head size, and his shoes were collapsing to the side so that his walk was, the drift of the drunk.  For reasons obvious he commanded little respect – least of all from me.  He seemed distracted and was hardly a secret weapon, unless security has become a joke, which I assure you it hasn’t in US airports.

But the point is – he had a uniform and nobody was going to take that away from him, although I wish someone would – take it away that is, clean it and put it on someone else, someone it was actually made for.

Can you imagine though if pilots wore shorts, tee shirts and bare feet.  We’d be less likely to entrust ourselves to their expertise.  We might well accord them the constitutional right to wear what ever they are comfortable with.  But we’d be less likely to join them at 38,000 feet whilst they express their right to individuality.

Uniforms speak of authority and respect.  It is in the uniform.  For all our insistence on the right of the individual, the right to appear as we will, we still look to a man or woman in uniform. Their uniform is a safe place.  It creates respect even on the wrong person.  I might protest police brutality but they are the first people I call when someone is being brutal to me, or mine.  ‘Damn you, but make sure you help me!’

The authority is in the uniform, not the wearer.  If I stood at a busy intersection in the city with little on aside from tee-shirt and shorts or even a business suit the traffic would not obey my gesticulations for any other reason than not wanting to be responsible for running me over.  Put me, same person, in a police uniform and suddenly my signals would have all the force of the law behind them.  I may even be mad but the uniform isn’t.

We all know the authority behind the uniform, not the wearer, unless we are anarchists or worse.

It isn’t just Americans who love uniforms.

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Grumpy Old Men

GRUMPY OLD MEN

What the Old Testament Prophets Can Teach Us

 

By Valerie McIntyre

I’ve always been strangely attracted to the Old Testament prophets. Strange, because what would a fairly sophisticated NYC (now London) gal have in common with a group of apparently grumpy, sometimes reluctant, mostly old men? Let’s take a look… The mighty prophet Elijah had just decimated the priests of Baal in a miraculous show of fire that was so potent it turned a collection of water soaked wooden altars into smoldering ash. 400 Baal priests died that day. And yet, when faced with the threat of a woman, Elijah literally picked up his flowing “skirt” and ran. Stubborn Jonah finally made it all the way to evil Ninevah where he camped out under a God-given vine for shelter while he awaited the total destruction of this ancient capital. But when God sent a hot wind to wither the vine (and refused to destroy the city), Jonah was so upset he wanted to die. Honestly, he had just survived a few days in the stinking belly of whale, what was a little sunburn? And then there was Moses. He said no so many times to God’s call that by the time he said yes he had basically given up his “right” to speak, that privilege being given to his brother Aaron. The list goes on. Poor, long suffering Jeremiah was such a pariah to the king they threw him down a sewer pit to shut him up. Eli was a drunkard, and a bad father. Hosea married a prostitute. So, what do I find so alluring? What is it about these prophetic men of God that attracts me? Their humanity. They were human. Even after a major success they felt deeply afraid. Even when they had stared death in the face (or in the bellybutton) they were desperately disappointed. They served and still found all their dreams dashed. You would like to think that they all triumphed, and some did, but not all (at least not on this earth). They were human. Humanity matters. When God wanted to reach us he had to send Himself as a man because how could we ever trust Him if he didn’t know, firsthand, how tough it was to live here, in this world, doing this life. These Old Testament men, they knew what it was like to have a message that could save and still be shut out and shut down. They might have been able to bring fire down from heaven, but they still needed water when they were thirsty and a friend when they were lonely. A human friend. A hand they could hold. I like these men. I love these prophets because they were real. They help me feel better about myself because with all the power they had going for them they still “had their moments.” Just like me. But when push came to shove they didn’t lose their faith. They had their eyes set on a future place, a heavenly place, a city where God lives. And so do I.


Wine-ing

The drinking of wine can, not inevitably though, lead to strange behavior, and equally not drinking wine can lead some to strange conclusions. And I’m not sure which is worst – a headache or forced exegesis?  One goes away in the morning but the other stays all day, all life-long.  One is certainly regrettable, the other rarely repented from.

It is alleged Sir Winston Churchill replied to a woman who told him he was drunk, that She was ugly but in the morning He would no longer be drunk.  Now, I am not making a case for being drunk anymore than others should make a case for being ugly.

The prophet Joel had a lot to say about wine, among other loftier matters.  No doubt he enjoyed a cup with his bread.  If you’ll read through his book it leaves little doubt that wine and food ‘withheld’ was viewed as God’s judgment on the nation, and food and wine ‘restored’ was God’s favor and goodness shown to Israel.  This is hardly convenient to those that howl against any consumption.  They would have missed the party and the point.

He begins by saying, “Awake, O you drunkards and weep; and howl, all you drinkers of wine …” At this point I digress, because this is where some people stop, their proof text (not full-proof) firmly under their arm, and proceed to rail against, as they suppose Joel is doing, all drinkers of wine.

On the contrary, and if context can have its way, he was saying that a sign of the judgment of God on the nation was drought and famine. These are the very conditions that preclude a harvest and blessings – wine and food being the chief ingredients in that harvest.

Joel was both spiritual enough and worldly enough to know that people require God’s bread and the bread of this world to be satisfied, whole and holy.  Food and wine were always at the core of community and connection.  A table, with a glass, is what created an identity and shared joy. A meal with wine is at the heart of covenant faithfulness or, as the case was, an occasion for great treachery – ‘take this bread … take this cup’ and, ‘he that has eaten with me will hand me over in an act of betrayal.’

When you separate these three elements you always get less than bargained for.  Wine by itself leads to brown paper bags, food by itself leads to enlargement, and being by yourself leads to a diminished life, which adds up to being drunk, fat and lonely.  Put all three together however and you have community, love and life.

Joel didn’t condone drunkenness, but equally, he didn’t condone artless living.  Withdrawal and excess are sired from the same stable.

Paul had some sage advice for a young and apparently nervous leader, Timothy.  It may not suit tea total-lers who always water down the wine but didn’t Timothy have a problem with digestion, something water was insufficient for?  Wine helped him, whereas the local water probably didn’t.

Paul told him that God had not given him a spirit of fear and timidity – on the contrary.  Timothy needed to hear and digest the promises previously declared over him.  He also needed to drink some wine for his weak stomach that appeared to give him indigestion, possibly fuelled by anxiety.  He needed the wine of heaven and the wine of this world – both.

You can have your cake and eat it too; in fact we may need to have new wine and old wine, heaven’s bread and a fresh baked loaf.  We may have our head in the clouds but our feet are still mired in the clay, that rich mother lode that contains hints of blackberry, chocolate and nut.


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