Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Uni and I like to watch movies at home.  At times we have difficulty determining which to watch out of the nearly infinite selection available.  Lately we've been watching some movies of the type often labeled "chick flicks" - those with some sort of romantic interest - no shoot-em-ups, no car chases, but lots of sad faces, tears, kisses and occasional bedroom scenes.
What got me to thinking as I watched the last three was the common depiction of the female lead as having some sort of weakness or need that the male character in some way attempted to meet.

The Notebook - She is an elderly woman who suffers from dementia - loss of memory - which her husband tenderly attempts to recover by reading the story of their romance from her notebook/diary.

Labor Day - She is a single mother, living with her preteen son.  Her husband has left her for another woman because of her depression over her inability to have more children and she feels she can never love again.  But she finds love from an escaped convict who chooses to hide out in her home.

Seven Pounds - She is dying from congenital heart failure, when the male character, trying to find personal atonement for his past, literally gives her his heart.

I'm not trying to make light of these movies.  I cried along with Uni through the pathos, perhaps even more than she.  But I was struck by the common theme.

My first thoughts were of how old-fashioned and outdated these stories seemed to be.  We live in an age of feminine empowerment.  In our lifetime we've seen women's roles change dramatically - women taking on activities that were not long ago thought of as only the province of men.  The women in these movies seemed weak by "modern" standards.  (Of course, the men had their weaknesses too.)

But a passage from the New Testament kept coming to mind.  "You husbands likewise, living together with them in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, granting your wives honor, as fellow heirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).

This verse is packed, but it is the phrase "weaker vessel" that stands out to me, especially after watching these three movies.  And it is this phrase that has caused much debate in various Bible studies that I have led or been involved in.  There are those men who take this as somehow granting them license to dominate.  There are those women who question the description of them as "weaker".  Arguments from traditional male dominance; arguments concerning relative body strength, upper and lower body strength, child-bearing - I've heard them all.  But is this what it's all about - physical comparison between the sexes?

A little context might help:  Peter is addressing believers who are scattered in a hostile environment.  He addresses his readers as "strangers and pilgrims."  They appear to be recent converts from paganism with all its vices.  They have to live among people who are suspicious of their behavior.

Peter exhorts them to live lives of exemplary behavior as a witness of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  One of his recurring instructions is to "submit" in their human relationships - "to every human institution" (2:13); "slaves to masters" (2:18); "to their leaders" (5:5); and most importantly in our text, "wives to husbands," especially if the husbands are unbelievers (3:1).

So when Peter urges husbands to do "likewise," he is urging that same submissive spirit on them as on their wives.  It is to be a characteristic of every follower of Jesus.

This passage is not making a comparison between the relative strength and weakness of men and women.  It is an exhortation addressed to men - husbands - about how they are to relate to their wives.  The burden is on us!

Because this verse has been misinterpreted and misapplied in so many ways, I feel it's necessary to say a little about what it does not say.  It doesn't say that the wife is the weaker vessel.  Nor does it say that she is the husband's vessel.

The husband and wife are two "vessels" in the household of God.  This is an analogy that is used elsewhere in Scripture.  They are called "fellow heirs" - two members of equal importance to God.  Because the society of Peter's day was relatively patriarchal - male dominated, there was a need for stressing this equality of the wife and the husband.

And then note this:  he is to live together with her and grant her honor (or value) as with a weaker vessel.  That "as" is important.  It speaks not of the physical condition she is in but of how she is to be treated.

It means that I am to regard my wife as something special.  I am to handle her with care.  This can mean many things and can be carried out in many ways, but it always means that I owe her special treatment.  I must protect her from danger.  I must take note of her actual weaknesses.  I must listen.

I must handle her like fine China!

At this point it would be easy for me to make a list of the various things that I do or have done in this regard and tell every husband reading this that these are his oughts.  But that would end up in frustrating legalism.  My advice:  get to know her.  If you think you already know her well enough, you're doing better than I am after over 60 years with Uni` (57 years of marriage).

And be gentle; don't be afraid of embarrassing her or yourself.  She'll let you know what she likes and what her needs are.

This past Friday Uni and I attended a wedding of a young couple.  Though most of the ceremony was traditional, there was one surprise, one thing we had not seen before.

The groom got down on his knees, carefully removed his bride's shoes and washed her feet!

Monday, June 16, 2014


Those who follow political events in our country know that a miracle occurred this past week in the Republican congressional primary in Virginia.  At least, this is what we're told.  Representative Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, the second most powerful Republican in the United States House of Representative, lost the nomination to a relatively unknown Tea Party candidate, David Brat, a college economics professor with little, if any, political experience.  Cantor had spent huge amounts of money on his campaign while Brat had spent very little.  Cantor had allegedly spent more on steak dinners alone than Brat had spent on his entire campaign!

What was the reason for this huge upset?  The winner made it clear:  it was, he told the cheering crowds, "a miracle of God"!  His followers apparently accepted this explanation, taking no credit for their campaign work or even their vote.

We hear the word "miracle" thrown around quite frequently.  Many people attest to witnessing or experiencing miracles in their lives - some on rare occasions, others frequently.  It seems that God is actively at work in the lives of His people.  And this was one of those times God was clearly at work in a congressional primary.

The talking heads, of course, did not accept this explanation of the huge electoral upset.  In fact, most seemed to ignore it.  They suggested that it had to do with immigration reform.  Cantor had actually taken a position on this issue and even talked of compromise with the President!  In one discussion, a pundit questioned whether there might have been possible ethnic/religious reasons for the vote.  After all, Cantor is Jewish and his district is heavily Bible-belt "Christians."  The other pundits disagreed.

No one seemed to see the irony in the description of the upset by some as "David versus Goliath."  That particular "upset," as I recall, was of a Jew defeating a Gentile.  The Virginia upset was a Gentile defeating a Jew.

I have a couple of problems with the claim made by the primary victor.  The first is the sloppy use of the word "miracle."  We need to define this term.  The New Testament uses a number of words to describe acts that we would term miracles:  "signs," "wonders," "works of power."  All speak of extraordinary and unusual acts, usually accredited to God.

Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary defines Miracle as 1:  an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.  2:  an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.

The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology gives this definition:  "... the biblical concept of a miracle is that of an event which runs counter to the observed processes of nature" (page 723).

So by these definitions, was the primary upset a miracle?  Well, only if we stretch Webster's definition #2 and leave God's name out of it.  Even David's defeat of Goliath doesn't quite qualify.  I know that some folks see a miracle in every unusual occurrence.  This is just part of the "Christianese" that many use.

But if everything is a miracle, then nothing is a miracle!

But my second problem with the claim is that this was "a miracle of God."  Seriously?   I believe this is a violation of the Third Commandment.  "You shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain" (Exodus 20:7a).

Who does this guy think he is, enlisting God's special intervention?  "What are you up to, quoting My laws, talking like we are good friends?" (Psalm 50:16 - The Message)  Is God really against immigration reform?  Is God in favor of T.P. economics?  Or did God perhaps want to replace a Jew with a pious professing Christian?

"The LORD will not clear of guilt the one who uses His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7b).

Monday, June 9, 2014


I watch the TV news - not the 24-hour cable channels, but the three major network channels plus BBC and PBS.  It's very enlightening.  I can find out what's going on in our nation and in our world - usually from BBC and PBS.  From the local news I find out about the local crimes and the weather.  From the network news I find out a few things that are going on, but primarily I am informed about the things that really matter - the latest adventures of Prince Andrew and his lovely bride, the Kardashian wedding, and of course, the latest important political issues and gossip.  Occasionally there is really good coverage of real events, such as the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  From what I've seen of the 24-hour networks, they simply cover the same material; they just repeat themselves more, plus they give much more opinion and speculation.
One event that has occupied all these media is the release of a young soldier who had been held prisoner by the Taliban for five years.  The first news of his release was exciting.  All the talking heads appeared to rejoice.  President Obama made an announcement in the Rose Garden, accompanied by the young man's parents, who had apparently been grieving and praying for their son all these years.  His home town was planning a huge welcome home celebration.  Welcome home signs sprang up all over.
But it wasn't long before matters started to unravel.  Complaints were coming from Republican leaders:  the President had exchanged five terrorist prisoners from Guantanamo for the young American.  Even worse, he had not properly notified congress of his actions beforehand.  I realize I should have expected their complaints.  But then these were joined by Democratic congressmen as well.  A lot of righteous indignation!
And the news media gobbled it up, giving plenty of time for the complainers to air their grievances night after night, along with defensive remarks from the Administration.  Commentators on one of the 24-hour news networks (let the reader figure out which) even wondered aloud if the President had committed an impeachable offense.

And with every bit of "news" we were made to witness the face of a frightened confused young man - a young man who had gone through five years of who-knows-what kinds of terrifying experiences.  And we saw the faces of his hurting parents.

And then rumors that this soldier had deserted his company, accompanied by accusations from (supposedly) his fellow soldiers.  Night after night on the news we heard further details and speculations.  He was tried and convicted by the news media before he had even reached America's shores.  And, as usual, we got to see the same pictures of his frightened face.

His parents too were tried and convicted, not only by the news media, but also by the opinions of some of our great American "patriots" (probably most of whom had not served in the military).  They have even begun to receive death threats.

The home town decided to call off the planned home-coming celebration.  The signs began to come down.


Here is a young man who has suffered for five years at the hands of terrorists, who served in the army in combat before that.  Here are parents - young people themselves - who have had to pray for their son for five years and wonder if they'd ever see him again.  None of us knows what these people have gone through or what they are still going through.

If this soldier has done wrong, it is not the responsibility of the news media or self-appointed "patriots" to try, convict and punish him.  Neither is it anyone's responsibility to do the same to his parents.

I can only pray that these three will know the love and comfort of friends and loved ones and especially the love and comfort of Christ.  And if this young man has done wrong, I pray that he will know Christ's love and forgiveness and the love and forgiveness of his friends, community and fellow soldiers.

See the letter from a former family pastor:
This was our corporate prayer of confession at First Presbyterian Church, Edmond, this Pentecost Sunday:
"Heavenly Father, You send us the Spirit of courage, but we choose to remain afraid. You send us the Spirit of truth, but we cling to our comfortable lies. You send us the Spirit of reconciliation, but we refuse to forgive. Holy Spirit, Lord of life, come to us in power: shake our hearts, set our souls ablaze with Your love; send us out into the world, rejoicing as You lead us. We hand over to You all our particular burdens of guilt and sin, and we ask for You to help us live in the way of Jesus, for the praise of His name."
It  was because of the circumstances mentioned above that this prayer hit me so hard.   Uni


Friday, June 6, 2014


Recently we received in the mail, a bright pink postcard which Uni placed on my desk with a sober look on her face.  It had the startling headline:


Dear William Eunice I:

          This notification is to inform you that your factory warranty expires based on mileage or age.

This was a bit startling - so startling that I failed to notice that it got my (our) name wrong.

As I read on I realized that it was speaking of my automobiles and not of me personally.  As our two PT Cruisers are 13 and 11 years old respectively and their factory warranties had long ago expired, I recognized that this was simply a scam.  But the notification didn't say that it was my vehicles' warranty that expired, but ­mine.  Of course, at our age something like this is always a matter for discussion.

Moses in Psalm 90:10 makes the following claim:  "As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years."

Uni and I have often joked that our seventy year warranty ran out quite a while ago, that we are now in the ten-year extended warranty, and that it's only a few more years till that one will expire.  That's why this card caused quite a chuckle.  (See:  SEVENTY YEARS.)

These are good years.  Though we're not quite as physically active as we used to  be, (It's been 10 years since I last rode in the MS150.) we still get around pretty good.  And we have time - time to think, time to read, time to talk to each other.

And there are special assurances given to us in the Scriptures:

"Gray hair is a crown of beauty; it is found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31).

"The splendor of old men (and I suppose, women) is their gray hair" (Proverbs 20:29b).

"Even when you grow old, I am the same, And when you turn gray, I will carry you" (Isaiah 46:4a).

And being old is sort of like having a time machine.  This morning walking in the mall (That's what old people do.) we met a young couple.  He was 18, she was 17.  Immediately we were drawn back nearly 60 years to our "courting" days.

It just don't get no better than this!  Thank You Lord!