October 24 '98
Signs Of Taste The Good And The Bad
ndoubtedly, it was not intentional, but directly across the street from one another, not necessarily straight across, meaning a line connecting the two would not intersect the street at right angles, are a couple of contrasts relating to taste. Within the past few months, each of these contrasts was erected. Each are located on North Main Street, Pontotoc, MS. One is a tribute to good taste, while the other is bad taste run amuck.
The tasteful one is a "Pontotoc - Land Of Hanging Grapes" sign that is located directly in front of Pontotoc City Hall (avec Fire Station/ Police Department). The wrought iron sign is intricately wrapped in just the right amount of grapevine, grape leaves, and clusters of grapes which are all shaped from hammered iron and copper tubing. The letters forming the message are flourished and appear to be cut from thick plates of iron.
I believe the sign was hand-crafted by Johnny Wilder, who now runs the welding business which was begun many years ago by his father Everett Wilder. He has created a large open sign, approximately eight feet tall, that allows the dark brown brick wall of the building to be viewed through the attractive sign.
Multiple strands of copper tubing are cleverly wrapped, beginning at ground level below the first section of the framework and rising in realistic appearance to the main section of the sign, whereupon smaller sections of tubing are bent and wrapped around the frame to create the illusion of an actual grapevine. The grapes are purple, the leaves are green with golden highlights, the copper tubing is burnished making it lifelike, and the words are a shade of lavender that deepens in hue from the top of the letters to their bottom. Finials adorn the tops of the vertical poles that hold the sign upright.
You may miss the three dimensional aspect of the sign if you view it from the street, but if you stand alongside the sign, you will notice the sign is horizontally convex as if bursting with pride with its elegant appearance. Whenever you are in the neighborhood of City Hall, the sign is worthy of your stopping long enough to admire it.
Pontotoc High School occupies a relatively new building. Architecturally, the design of the school building is too modern for my personal tastes, but I find the design less annoying than the marriage of the gymnasium to the main building. I prefer high school gyms to follow the pattern set by football fields and tennis courts, disconnected and removed from the academic center.
To me, the building is still brand new, even though I remember that Rayanne's Senior Class was the first to graduate from the facility in 1989. This summer, something new was added to the front lawn of the High School building. It is a lighted, electronically controlled sign capable of displaying graphical and textual messages via a remote computer. The technology of such is not new. You've seen these around for years. Historically, they have been quite popular devices for merchants and bankers. I have seen more of them in use by banks than any other form of business. Usually, the time and temperature are alternately displayed and some banks go a step further, posting interest rates or other notices.
The origin of the monolithic sign (stands upwards of 15 feet, possibly as high as 20 feet) in front of Pontotoc High is something of a mystery in that there has been little publicity, but having seen it I can state the lack of publicity is understandable, even desirable. Perhaps, one of the graduating classes from Pontotoc High saw fit to donate the sign to the school, but I consider it unlikely. If a class did donate the sign, there is no plaque or marking on it which bears the year of the honoring class. About the only indication of its origin are the two commercial logos for Pepsi and Mountain Dew that blare down from their heights near the top of the sign. The commercial logos, while a daytime distraction, are especially noticeable at night.
Admittedly, part of my disapproval of the sign stems from my life membership in the "Coke Only" club. We, drinkers of Coca Cola, are particular about our carbonated beverages. For us, any brown-colored carbonated drink must be measured against The Real Thing, and nothing comes close. For me, the new sign at the High School is an imitation, a cheap imitation of a more dignified and refined contribution left Pontotoc High School by the Class of 1922. The Class of '22 provided a stately Roman arch to welcome all students to the P.H.S. campus. Of course, that arch became a part of the campus of Pontotoc Junior High School when the new High School was built across the street from its old location.
Intuition tells me the electronic sign was donated by PepsiCo, Inc., or the area distributor, and while the sign itself is not entirely unattractive, it is certainly distastefully positioned in front of Pontotoc High School. It is nothing short of a monument to crass commercialism.
If, in fact, the sign were donated by a beverage distributing company, I would have much preferred a like amount of money be spent on a new sign for the new school be toward something as artistic as the sign across the street in front of City Hall. For that matter, would not a wrought iron "Warrior Head" be a more appropriate symbol for present and future students of P.H.S than a Pepsi promotional?
The Unpardoned Married Only Once
Pondering worthiness is a chore that besets us whenever we are faced with whether or not to accept a place of service. While I believe the statement could apply to any volunteer organization, perhaps it is more readily found applicable if the service relates to church life. Because I am most familiar with life in Baptist churches, this article focuses on Baptists, but portions are likley to be applicable to other protestant denominations as well.
Each year, in the life of a typical Baptist church, various positions of responsibility must be filled if the activities of the church are to continue without undue interruption. Men and women rotate off various committees and others are asked to fill vacancies. Teaching positions become vacant due to persons moving out of the area, failing health, just plain burn-out, or some other reason. In the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, the Bible describes our life of faith as a race. Some have suggested it is like a relay race. In each generation, persons must be willing to accept the baton of faith if the relay race is to continue and thus pass our faith to the next generation.
Those positions of leadership within the Baptist church charged with the greatest responsibility are the ones that call for the greatest amount of soul-searching on the part of the person being asked to serve. Anyone who takes the time to read through the Bible will have no trouble learning that every man is a sinner in the eyes of his Creator. There is no such thing as a little sin or a big sin, or so Baptists believe, based on a theology that declares any sin is sufficient to bar the sinner from fellowship with the Creator and the entrance to Heaven. A person who lives an exemplary, though imperfect life, will suffer separation from God just like a criminal or murderer.
People, today, just like Jesus' disciples question, "Who then can be saved?" for it would seem impossible to live a sinless life. Were it not for the redemptive act of Jesus, none of us would enter Heaven. Jesus made it clear that only through Him could any enter Heaven.
Therefore the criminal/ murderer Ted Bundy is, by his "last hour" repentance, accepted into Heaven not because of the work he did to achieve salvation, but through his trust in Jesus. Billy Graham has the same passport to Heaven as Ted Bundy, but Billy Graham never committed the moral and societal sins of Ted Bundy. Is it fair? Yes, as far as God is concerned, it is assuredly fair, and, personally speaking, I am glad God is no respecter of persons.
Unfortunately most Baptists are respecters of persons, as are most other Christian denominations or other religions of the World. As hard as most Baptists try, they fail in treating everyone the same. Baptists tend to socialize with persons of similar economic status, and in large churches you will find cliques of individuals who share common interest. It may be through no fault of your own, but if you do not fit the requirements of the clique, you are not accepted. If a clique is understood to be a group of individuals sharing several forms of commonality, then in the average Baptist Church, the Deacon Council may be considered a clique. I must grant the council is a duly elected one, but it is still a clique.
In most Baptist Churches, particularly those belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention, deacons are men, just men. I mean that in two respects. First, only men are allowed to serve as deacon, and secondly "just men" is meant to imply ordinary, not extraordinary. Oh, these may be men who have been faithful in church attendance, served on various committees, taught or worked in some phase of the Bible Study, Church Training, or other program and, in general, proved themselves. All of these activities are services which ordinary men perform. I believe I am correct in stating that no woman has ever been a deacon at FBC, Pontotoc. It is not because women would not have made excellent deacons, rather it is because, historically, women were systematically excluded from the process, and because there were too few feminists in the congregation to bend the ear of the Church. If our country can recognize and strive to rectify sexual discrimination in society, why is it that Christian people cannot do the same in the Church?
Perhaps, too many people subscribe to the belief that the Bible disallows women from serving as a deacon. Afterall, Paul, the great first century Christian missionary/ church planter/ letter writer, admonished believers that a deacon should have only one wife. In outlining qualifications a person should possess to serve as a deacon, Paul did not address whether or not women should be allowed to be a deacon. As with so many Biblical writings that spawn divisiveness, Paul's statement is open to varying interpretations. Fundamentalists' view "husband of one wife" to mean "married only once," while Moderates interpret the phrase to mean "married to one woman" as opposed to being a bigamist. Some strict Fundamentalists further refine their belief to restrict deacons to the ranks of married men, thus eliminating a bachelor from serving as a deacon. A strict Moderate might believe it perfectly alright for a bachelor to fill the role of deacon.
The entire issue gets rather complicated and some rather complex sets of rules and regulations have been adopted by various churches to govern the selection of deacons. Is it okay for a man to serve as a deacon if his wife diesif he later remarries? Does "husband of one wife" mean a divorced man cannot serve as deacon, regardless of whether he remarries or not? If a woman, has a sex operation, becomes a man, and marries a woman, can this person be considered for the role of deacon? Can a man who is married to a man who had a sex change operation to become a woman, serve as deacon? I guess the last question is simply, "Which gender of the spouse is binding, the former or the latter?"
Historically, FBC, Pontotoc, has used a democratic process to select deacons. Occasionally, a man would receive enough votes to qualify for the role, but would disqualify himself, based upon his personal convictions. There are known instances of deacons that consumed alcoholic beverages, of others who were unfaithful to their wife, and still others were unfaithful in fulfilling their responsibilities of the office of deacon. Use of the democratic process did not always result in the election of the best qualified individuals, but over time the church, at large, learned who to reelect for the office.
There are a number of men in the congregation of FBC, Pontotoc, who are disqualified from the office of deacon based upon the present set of bylaws. Among these are men who have divorced and remarried. Never mind, that many of these men are very active in all aspects of church life, never mind the fact, these men are as worthy as any to serve as a deacon, never mind that God, in His wisdom and love, has forgiven these men their trespasses, be assured First Baptist Church will not forgive in like manner. No, First Baptist cannot do so, simply because several years ago she adopted a discriminatory policy with regard to the selection of persons to serve as deacon. (The reader is expected to understand all references to FBC contained, herein, are collective or corporate in nature. Individual members of FBC may have beliefs and opinions that are not reflected by the church as a whole.)
The Bible speaks of an unpardonable sin which most scholars believe refers to a willful act on the part of an individual that blasphemes the Holy Spirit. It seems First Baptist, Pontotoc, with regard to the selection of deacons has its own definition of unpardonable sin, DIVORCE. In this respect First Baptist is not alone, for there are many churches that punish divorced individuals by refusing them the opportunity of service as a deacon.
Divorce is an issue that many churches and individuals are going to have to come to grips with sooner or later. Given the statistics gleaned from marriages this century, we know that roughly fifty percent of today's marriages will end in divorce. Of these who remarry, a large percentage will opt for a second divorce. In view of such alarming statistics that grow more depressing each year, it is reasonable to assume the pool of still-married "married only once" individuals will effectually dry up. Persons who are soaked in self-righteousness must understand that their righteousness is made possible by the same God who loves and cares for every soul on this planet, not merely the "married only once."
Bodock Beau Humorous Happenings
Beau received the follow stories via the Internet. While none is original to the sender, Beau sends a thank you to Malcolm Lindsey and Bob McGehee.
One beautiful autumn day, a Park Ranger discovered a man sitting in the woods chewing away on a dead Bald Eagle.
"Hey mister, the Bald Eagle is a protected species, and killing one is a punishable offense", said the Park Ranger.
The man was swiftly arrested, and ushered before the judge.
In court, he pleaded innocent to the charges against him, claiming that if he didn't eat the bald eagle he would have died from starvation.
"I was so hungry" complained the defensive camper, "the Bald Eagle was the only food I could find!"
To everyone's amazement, the judge ruled in his favor.
In the judge's closing statement he asked the man, "I would like you to tell me something before I let you go. I have never eaten a bald eagle, nor ever plan on it. But I'd like to know: What did it taste like?"
The man answered, "Well, it tasted like a cross between a Whooping Crane and a Spotted Owl."
One night, Bill Clinton was awakened by George Washington's ghost in the White House.
"George, what is the best thing I could do to help the country?" Clinton asked.
"Set an honest and honorable example, just as I did," advised George.
The next night, the ghost of Thomas Jefferson moved through the dark bedroom.
"Tom, what is the best thing I could do to help the country?" Clinton asked.
"Cut taxes and reduce the size of government," advised Tom.
Clinton didn't sleep well the next night, and saw another figure moving in the shadows. It was Abraham Lincoln's ghost.
"Abe, what is the best thing I could do to help the country?" Clinton asked.
"Go to the theater."
A minister was seated next to President Clinton on a recent flight. After the plane was airborne, the flight attendant came around for drink orders. The President asked for a whiskey & soda, which was brought and placed before him. The attendant then asked the minister if he would also like a drink.
The minister replied in disgust, "Ma'am, I'd rather be savagely raped by a brazen whore than let liquor touch these lips!"
The President then choked and handed his drink back to the attendant and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't know there was a choice..."