Author: Karl (Page 1 of 47)

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Extravagance

An online dictionary defines extravagance as a “lack of restraint in spending money or use of resources.” Here are two possible examples from two well-known athletes:

Tiger Woods is reported to have earned $1.4 billion playing golf and his net worth is $800 million. He owns a 54 million-dollar mansion on Jupiter Island in Florida, featuring a golf course, tennis courts, gym and pools. He owns a mega-yacht and a private jet and “earns” about 60 million dollars a year. His former wife received 750 million dollars when divorced and custody of their kids. Extravagant?

Michael Jordan is said to be worth two billion dollars (Forbes, 2020) and his “house” is a 56,000 square foot mansion. The settlement of his 2006 divorce remains unknown, but it almost certainly exceeds the amount it cost Tiger Woods in his 2010 divorce from Elin Nordegren. Jordan’s $2.1 billion net worth is greater than the GDP of Belize. Extravagant?

Before we get too carried away by examining other people’s excesses, have a look around you and then have a look at yourself. Don’t all of us (usually) want more? Not mansions, boats, jets and golf courses perhaps, but newer cars and bigger houses, more clothes and shoes, nicer furniture, better paying jobs, or simply things that will make life more comfortable. These may not be extravagant wishes, but they can be excesses. 

I’m treading on dangerous ground here, but think about how much Americans pay for pet food annually ($95.7 billion), lotteries ($72 billion), alcohol ($253.8 billion in 2018, up 5.1% from 2017), horse racing (globally the industry generates $116 billion in revenue each year), and sports in general ($56 billion). Sports lovers also coughed up $33 billion for athletic equipment and $19 billion for gym memberships over the past year. The average cost for a family of four to attend an NFL game is more than $500. Extravagant?

Also consider drug overdose costs: In 2020 It was a leading cause of injury-related deaths, where two out of three involved prescription opioids. The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimates drug overdose costs at $696 billion in 2018 and more than $2.5 trillion for the four-year period from 2015 to 2018.

But, as the common argument goes, it is their (our) money, isn’t it? Never mind the poor countries of the world. After all, Michael Jordan’s enterprises regularly donate to Habitat for Humanity and the Make-a-Wish foundation. Some people with a lot of money do good things with it, so are they extravagant? Does it matter? Doesn’t our society love and promote extravagance?

Now I am going to turn the corner—actually do a 180turn—and look at some examples from the Bible. I find that God is not only extravagant Himself, but he also blesses others and us with extravagant things: Remember that Job had 7,000 sheep, 1,000 head of cattle and 500 donkeys, as well as 7 sons, 3 daughters and a “large number” of servants. He was the richest man in the East. Extravagant? Abraham was pretty well off too, “a very rich man, with sheep goats, and cattle, as well as silver and gold.” (Genesis 13:2) But the Big Boy of the Bible, in terms of wealth, was the “Philosopher” (Solomon), who was greater than anyone who had ever lived in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 2:9), with houses, slaves, silver, gold, vineyards, ponds, and much more. If this is the same man as the Solomon of Kings, when the Queen of Sheba heard of him, she traveled to meet him. She gave extravagant gifts to Solomon: gold, spices, jewels, and special wood. But the gifts that King Solomon returned to the Queen exceeded hers. After all, each year he received five tons of gold and even his drinking cups were made of gold. Someone kept track of his wives and concubines: 700 and 300, but his only wife mentioned by name is Naamah the Ammonite, mother of Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam. Solomon was indeed extravagant, and the Temple he built shows it clearly.

Then I thought about creation: why so many stars and sand? Wouldn’t a few hundred stars have been just as spectacular? What we see is extravagant! Jesus was extravagant too: he appears to the disciples after their night of unsuccessful fishing and tells them to throw their net out again and they found so many fish that they could not pull the net back. Surely that is excessive. He also killed 5000 pigs and the demons in them by driving them into the sea—a terrible waste of pork!

We also read that God can be extravagant in His anger. He is a jealous God, and his anger is like fire: it can be stirred up and flame. He was angry when Kings rejected Him to worship pagan gods and He is angry when people turn their backs on Him. His judgments are sure and, when they come, swift and awesome—extravagant is the word we have been using.

But the most extravagant thing about God is his mercy: when we repent, he keeps on forgiving us. Jesus wouldn’t even give Peter a certain number on how many times we should forgive others. His mercy is as deep as the ocean and as high as the heavens—it cannot be measured. His promises to us are also extravagant: The God of the universe loved us so much that He sent his son to die for us and then welcomed us as friends,

Furthermore, He doesn’t just give us his blessing, but it is “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over,” poured into our lap. (Luke 6:38). Now that is extravagance!

Karl and Joice Franklin
Extravagantly blessed

Dollars and Sense

Christopher Marlowe is quoted as saying “Money can’t buy love but it improves your bargaining position.” Marlowe was an “Elizabethan playwright” who influenced William Shakespeare and the events in Marlowe’s life were as extreme as some of his dramas. He was considered an irreligious reprobate and died a somewhat mysterious and controversial death. He was buried in an unmarked grave on 1 June 1593. (My information is from the fountain of wisdom: Wikipedia.) 

I mention Marlowe because his death was apparently over money, not an unusual cause, but one that provides some reflection.

Money has been around a long time: I read that the world’s first coins appeared around 600 B.C., among the Lydians, a kingdom tied to ancient Greece and located in modern-day Turkey. And coins could be buried for safety, so they lasted a long time. 

There are 113 references in the NIV Bible that mention money. One that many of us will know is 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The context of this verse is about “godliness and contentment” with the reminder that we “brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Despite this warning and many others in the Bible about the “love of money,” we still find money the consuming goal and interest of our society.  Advertisements in our newspapers and magazines, on TV, our i-phone and on billboards shout at us to “spend more to save more,” shop at some gigantic sale, invest in some scheme, buy a lottery ticket, make a wager, get a “better” paying job, buy a brand new truck, car or house—the possibilities to make or save money are not endless, but they are futile.

I started thinking about money more seriously when we went to live among the Kewa people of Papua New Guinea. I thought about it because—at the time—the Kewa people did not have money and did not think about money. Their “economy” (there is no such word in Kewa) revolved around trade and bartering. Of course, people wanted more than what they had. If they owned two pigs, they would like ten; if they had three pearl shells, it would be more prestigious to have five; if they had one wife, two would be better. Pigs, pearl shells, and women is the title of a book that describes the consuming interests of the Highland men at the time when we first met them in 1958.

Pearl shells were traded from the coast and up the Kikori River until they reached the Southern Highlands, where the Kewa people live. However, expatriate gold miners and explorers began to saturate the “market” with them. But even in 1958 a pearl shell was highly valued—five of them would get you a fair-sized pig; 15 would be a good start on purchasing a bride; and dozens of them were necessary for compensation following or during warfare.

I learned something about their value by trading for them. The men wanted me to purchase barbed wire for their new cattle project and I asked them to pay me in pearl shells. Soon I had several, visible to visitors and carefully wrapped in bark. They would see my bank account and be impressed. I wanted to trade them for pigs but Joice was worried that the next step might be for another bride.

Money did come into the Kewa society and with it came many problems. The government began collecting taxes and the newly formed schools wanted fees—neither would accept pearl shells or pigs. The people later had cash crops like coffee and could sell enough to help a bit, but it was never enough. Instead the young men were advised to go to the coast for indentured labor on plantations and then send money back to the village to pay for their siblings’ education and the government’s taxes. The young men had to sign up with recruiters for a two-year stint and soon some villages consisted mainly of women, old men and children. Traditional values were changing, and it was all because of money.

It was often difficult for coastal recruits to get any money back to the villages: most of them could not read or write and were left to their own devices and ingenuity to help their families. At coastal sites the recruits also learned to play cards and gamble, now a persistent activity throughout the Highlands. Debts had to be paid in real money and compensation payments were soon in the thousands of “kina.”

In English we speak of the “almighty dollar” and “top dollar” as if our lives depended on money and, in some respects, it does: we buy food, clothes, cars and commodities with credit cards, our plastic currency. We need it to pay taxes, tuition, and innumerable debts. The sixty-four-dollar question is how we get it and how much it rules our lives.

One thing is certain: you can bet your bottom dollar that we are not going to stop thinking about money. But when we acquire it, does it really belong to us any more than our house or car? Or is everything we have simply “loaned” to us as stewards?

James 4:13-14 is a good reminder of what our attitude should be: “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Karl and Joice Franklin
No longer using shells

Tourists and Pilgrims

If you have been a tourist—which means almost everyone—you have a story. For example, Joice had her purse picked in Paris and also in New Orleans. The Paris picker got away with money and valuable cards, but the Louisiana picker was a loser. He thought he got Joice’s wallet but instead got her lipstick and makeup, making him the prettiest crook in the city.

When I am a tourist, my home is the base of operations from where my next trip is planned. I check off my bucket list, including how many countries I have visited, with pictures and artifacts to prove it. There is a certain amount of pleasure from being a tourist and it is not “wrong” to be one. It is just operating with a different mindset than that of a pilgrim.

When I visit a new country as a tourist, I am a stranger and a visitor. I am not a real part of that culture: I don’t (usually) speak their language or regularly eat their food. I may take pictures, visit tourist sites, sample the foods, and communicate (including bragging) about my experience. I also want protection from pickpockets, dirty hotel rooms, changed flight bookings or reservations, and I may even worry about things and people in the “cultures” I visit. I operate from resources that imply strength: credit cards, hotels, good food, cameras, iPhones, and confirmed bookings. I generally expect comfort and may make every attempt to have it.

Sometimes, when I am a tourist, there are so many good things to see that a second visit is necessary. Should I go on the Caribbean cruise or the Mississippi paddle-wheel boat? (I have done neither.) Such decisions are not crucial, except that one particular avenue of pleasure may turn out to be more important than another. 

A tourist may get tired easily: a six hour ‘walk’ thru Disneyland is accomplished only by means of several trains, buggies, and boats, accompanied by meals and snacks, with final drinks, TV, and a good motel. 

However, pilgrims cannot become encumbered in the same way: they need mobility and flexibility to respond to new situations. They need to often move quickly and make decisions that are not based on the weight of their suitcases. 

Pilgrims must also learn to endure. They condition themselves for inevitable hardship, for to follow the Master to the very end will entail difficulties along the way. A Christian pilgrimage is a journey in the Kingdom of God. The pilgrim may be spiritually poor (impoverished), often sad, humble, yet desiring to do what God wants. God wants the pilgrim to be merciful, pure in motives, working for peace, and unfortunately, persecuted. (Mt. 5) Yet, as a pilgrim, we are confident, expectant travelers, with a different lifestyle than when we are a tourist. 

The roll call of faith in the Book of Hebrews is a list of pilgrims. Some were mocked, poor, persecuted, and mistreated. Some wandered as refugees, living in caves and holes in the ground. They were not sightseers and explorers. In Heb. 11:13 and 1 Pet. 2:11 we read that God’s people are foreigners and refugees in this world, without permanent residence 

Because Christians are pilgrims, they should understand that all privileges, whether social, spiritual, or physical, are transitory. They are transitory because of the general decay of mankind and the environment. Regardless of how strong I feel today, it will not always be so. No church survives for centuries, except as a building. The generations of people preserve the faith, but do not ensure it simply by their presence in the church. Governments and societies change drastically: Rome and Greece today do not reflect their Biblical counterparts, except in a superficial manner.

On the incoming or departure cards at various country airports throughout the world, I am asked in which country I reside. Where do I call home? This question applies equally to tourists and pilgrims. The cards also ask about the purpose of my visit. There are various options, such as visiting family or friends, doing business, having a holiday, etc. There is also a section where the passenger can mark “in transit.” A pilgrim is in transit, regardless of residence, with a spiritual home.

It follows that, whether I am a tourist or a pilgrim, I am to follow a path of duty and responsibility, which is also full of joy.  In Ephesians 4:1-3 we read:

“Live a life that measures up to the standard that God sent when he called you. Always be humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the spirit gives by means of the peace that binds us together.

Karl and Joice Franklin
In transit

Keeping Stuff

The etymology of ‘stuff’ goes back to Middle English, where it denoted material for making clothes. Now more often it refers to keeping clothes, or almost anything.

Do you have a lot of “stuff”? Stuff can refer to scattered objects (“Pick that stuff up off the floor”), a consumed object (“He used to drink but now he is off the stuff”), subject matter (“The teacher really knows her stuff”), idle talk (“Don’t give me any of that stuff”), what a baseball pitcher does (“He has a lot of good stuff on the ball). We can make stuff into a verb as well: “to stuff someone’s head with facts, to stuff something into a bag,”; or even “ to have a stuffed-up head” (or nose).

Most houses and garages have a lot of stuff. It is hard to classify stuff, but you know it when you have it. Many people spend their lives trying to get more stuff and then worry about places to store and protect it. They keep their stuff in closets, cupboards, barrels, drums, crates, sheds and rented buildings. You may hear people saying:

  •  I need someplace to keep (put/store) my stuff
  •  We have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. (Other words: amassed, collected, gathered, piled up, stored, or even hoarded.)
  •  We are still unpacking some of our stuff.
  •  We have got to get rid of some of our stuff.

Have you ever had to clean up someone else’s stuff? In 1983 we had to “break up” the house where Joice’s mother had lived for over 50 years, so she had a lot of stuff in it. We put a huge pile of it in the front lawn for the Salvation Army to pick up—we didn’t want the stuff.

However, once we have a lot of stuff, we may want to protect it because we get very attached to our stuff. In Mt. 6.25ff Jesus said that we should not be worried about food and drink and clothes, i.e. about stuff. He also said that the seeds sown among thorns were like the worries about life and riches and other kinds of stuff that crowd into our lives and choke out the message. He warned us in Mt. 6.19 not to store up riches for ourselves and be like the rich fool who had so much stuff that he decided to build bigger storage places so that he could store up more of his things, his stuff.

Anthropologists have observed and written about the cargo cults in Papua New Guinea and other places. The cargo is goods (or stuff) carried by ship, aircraft, or vehicles and is anything that could be imagined. Sometimes it led to a millennium mentality because the stuff was supposed to come in the future from an outside source. It could be accessed by having some special relationship with departed ancestors and often involved the use of ritual language. This included spells, magic and prayers that would help the stuff appear.

I once read a book by Paul Little called “How to give away your faith.” Let me suggest another title: “How to give away your stuff.” Which is the more difficult? And do we give our faith or our stuff only to those whom we like? Do we expect something in return? Further, and by analogy, do we store up our faith, like stuff? Do we always keep some in reserve in case we may need it?

Sometimes when I have gone by houses, I have seen signs like “Keep off the premises”, “Beware of the dog” or “No trespassing.” Is our attitude about stuff like that? 

One thing that may make others unwelcome is the stuff in our house: we may want to protect it at all costs—stickers in the window warn others and signs on the street inform them about the “neighborhood watch.”

What kind of stuff do we have that needs protection? People, like homes, are influenced by what is kept in them. In the spring of the year, there is (or used to be) housekeeping rites. Rugs were beaten, floors were scrubbed, windows were washed, and stuff was discarded. In the South (mainly) there were annual revivals where similar sorts of soul cleansings were supposed to take place. In either instance, the house or the soul, there is undoubtedly a need to get rid of some stuff, even if it has been around for a long time.

We all know the saying “You can’t take it with you,” but we have adhered more to “We can store it somewhere.” At least we must have thought that when we moved to Waco from Dallas. We had accumulated a lot, including free stuff found in the mission furniture and “boutique” buildings. Although we gave away loads of stuff, we then moved the rest to our present smaller town house here in Waco. However, there was still too much—our garage was stuffed with stuff. We ended up giving 20 boxes of books to a local high school and van loads of other things to a church sale. What a relief—we could park the car in the garage!

Of course, we can’t completely get rid of all our stuff and live like John the Baptist, eating locusts and honey and avoiding shopping at Walmart. But we can adopt an attitude that excludes the accumulation of “stuff.” At least I think so—now if I can only find that stuff I am looking for in my closet!

Karl and Joice Franklin
With more stuffing than a turkey

Political Parties

It is the year of national elections (2020) and we have received our mail-in absentee ballots. There are five options for president on the document, each representing a particular party: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green and Constitutional.

Political parties are, according to Wikipedia, “organized group[s] of people who have the same ideology or who otherwise have the same political positions.” Their candidates “thereby implement their agenda.”

But why name them parties? The main definition for “party” is “a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment.” A secondary meaning is “a formally constituted political group, typically operation on a national basis, that contests elections and attempts to form or take part in a government.”

Although our elections often seem to favor the primary meaning, “involving eating, drinking and entertainment,” we will assume that the secondary meaning is what is in mind for the ballots we just received. 

But what happens if there is no party that presents a candidate that we like? In this case there is a box we can check for a “write-in” vote, generally understood as one that is wasted. There is no record of anyone winning as a “voto escrito,” even if they spoke Spanish.

The problem, as we see it, is that the “parties” are not truly representative of our great American nation and cultures. We believe that we need another party, one that truly represents our once-great American nation, and that it should be the VEGETARIAN party. You will soon realize why once I outline our platform.

Every party has a platform, which is a “raised level surface on which people or things can stand.” In this case it will be “things,” although vegetables are alive and have feelings. Haven’t you ever been “rotten as a tomato,” or “bright as a peach”?

A plank is “a long, thin, flat piece of timber” that is the fundamental point of a political party. It is often used as the side-walls for raised gardens, which brings me to our first Vegetarian (get used to saying that word) promise:

  1. We promise that every home will have a vegetable garden. America was built on topsoil and it is the most underused and overpriced ingredient sold at stores like Walmart. We promise that gardens will become so common that future generations will have to be told the meaning of words like “cement” and “asphalt.” Two of our slogans will be “It takes a garden to raise a vegetable” and “no vegetable left behind.”
  2. We promise that every vegetable will be represented and that minority ones like kale, rutabaga and spinach will be given every opportunity to grow to their full potential and be sold. Of course, staples like potatoes and corn will always be a solid plank on the Vegetarian platform and symbolize the great vegetable farmers on our planet. The same goes for beans and cabbage—their explosive nature will be dramatized by scenes of cows eating them.
  3. We promise that our children will receive free copies of “Veggie Tales” and that they will be given free apples and turnips at school. But “why turnips?” you may ask. Turnips are one of the most neglected of all vegetables, except perhaps for beetroot, pole beans and sour cabbage. Children will learn to love turnips because we will put a small gummie in each one given out at school.
  4. We promise that we will allow vegetables to grow sideways. Our culture has learned to grow them upside down and right side up, but not sideways. However, it has been proven by psychologists that some vegetables prefer to grow differently than the prescribed, standard way, and that we should let them grow however they wish.
  5. We promise to abolish all greenhouses. These veritable prisons cook the skins and wilt the leaves of many vegetables. It is undemocratic and unconstitutional to imprison any vegetable in such hothouses. We also promise to recycle the glass from greenhouses.
  6. We promise universal care for any ailing vegetable, including free transportation in government owned wheelbarrows to bulb, stem, leaf and tuber hospitals that will be established within a mile of any garden. Infusions of broccoli juice, as well as soybean vitamins will be available. No vegetable with a preexisting condition—like that of mushrooms, okra or pumpkin—will be without affordable medical care.
  7. We promise to promote raw vegetable consumption and digestion. It has been proven by science and Reader’s Digest that cooking a vegetable changes its essence—the very core beliefs that are inherent in its structure.
  8. We promise that the very soul of our civilization—vegetable growth and care—will be re-established throughout our nation. Edible flowers will be optional, but available to plant along the border of any garden. All vegetables will be equal, although, as someone once said, “some will be more equal than others.” In addition, we promise that all vegetables will be allowed to carry vegetable peelers for protection.
  9. We promise that in the next 20 years we will grow vegetables on the moon and Mars. Our platform includes a new “Vegetables in Space” floorboard which will allow all future immigrants and aliens to eat aloft without needing Greencards or Visas. Immigrant vegetables, like Irish potatoes and Dutch stamppot are part of our tradition.
  10. Finally, Vegetarians promise to develop a vaccine that will make the sight of meat revolting. Animals will be safe to grow freely and roam anywhere, except in gardens. One exception may be cats, which seem to be natural predators of vegetables.

Earl Framklin, chairperson,

The Vegetarian National Committee
Waco (sometimes pronounced Wack-o), Texas
October, 2020

Note: no actual vegetable has been harmed in the writing of this essay.

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