Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ever taken a spore print of a mushroom? It's pretty easy. You just cut the stem off and put it on a piece of paper for an hour or more. The first time you move it, it becomes readily apparent if you waited long enough for a good print. Waiting too long, you don't get any definition from the ribs.

I remember the first time I had a mushroom with white spores. I put it down on regular paper, and when I checked it later, there was nothing. I figured that maybe the spores were white, and I moved the mushroom to black paper. The results were striking.

Below is an example. The print got injured slightly on moving (I don't have a good fixative), but not too much.

Mushroom experts use the spore color as one factor in making an identification. And you can't judge spore color based on mushroom color. Sometimes they correspond, but not always. It's a surprise each time.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Cursed be the tie that binds us.

You would think that Christians from different denominations and churches would be like Americans from different states running into each other overseas. That if circumstances turned them into acquaintances, they would find their commonality the most significant thing between them.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem to happen that way. The Christians I meet in my job and other places I frequent too often act as if there’s nothing common between us other than being humans—and even that appears to have trivial or dubious value.

I belong to a denomination with a pretty conservative theological tradition, depending on how you want to define “conservative”—let’s just say I’m a long way from Unitarian. So I think it is significant when even I find myself wondering whatever happened to the whole “one Lord, one faith, one baptism—one God and Father of all, who is over all and in all and through all” concept.

I don’t think it is solely a Christian phenomenon to act so isolated. I think it is a general trend in society in our current day—chalk one win for the devil. The parable of the Good Samaritan doesn’t apply anymore, because we have no neighbors. Just a television, a computer, and a modem.

Now we recognize when a person becomes a believer, they have infinitely more reason to recognize the connections between all of us: first among all humans, because we all have souls that will one day be called to reckon; and on a higher level between all fellow Christians.

But we haven’t been made perfect yet, and our flesh doesn’t like this new situation we find ourselves in. We also have this unseen enemy, typically acknowledged as an abstract, philosophical reality but seldom thought about in our everyday lives. This enemy doesn’t want strong relationships among us, and works against it constantly, perennially. So perhaps at times we’re only back at status quo level, matching everyone else around us. Why get involved? I don’t want to put my family at risk, and things could turn ugly. Other people are ugly, nasty, and ultimately—boring.

On the spectrum of attitudes between “doctrinal issues never matter, however large” and “even the most trivial doctrinal differences are crucial,” I wonder sadly if we end up adopting the worst of both sides. We’ve stopped exercising the discernment to identify when doctrinal differences truly should separate us (assumption: never), and simultaneously live as if smaller differences do prevent us from meaningful fellowship. Perhaps we have come to see every church as more or less the same, just placed in different colored packages, and yet with our prejudices and lack of love allow a wall to exist between all others, even at times those within our own group.

I include myself. I can’t remember the last time I addressed an acquaintance or coworker with words that would have been different if the person they were addressed to did not happen to be a fellow disciple.

Would that we could change.
Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

--Luke 10:36-37

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