courtesy of Arathon

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

since I still have my two front teeth

This year, someone actually asked me to do this. I may have to awkwardly send everyone a link for anyone to know that I have done this, but what else isn't to love about publicly revealing the things you want people to buy for you?

Things I could use (and I don't mean toilet paper):
  • A non-cracked and subsequently recycled Chimay goblet (or similar container for finer beverages). I wish the story of how it died were nearly as spectacular as the one about Matthew's first goblet is.
  • a rice cooker. they apparently can also double as lentil cookers? MAGIC.
  • scissors. Especially the kind that last forever and actually cut things well. I would then be able to stop using my kitchen knives (which my wonderful sisters bought for me last year) to cut pieces of paper.
  • a hoodie. though I think I've already asked a master hoodie-purchaser for this one.
  • I am down to absolutely no Tennessee gear other than baseball caps and a hoodie that is unfortunately about two sizes too big to wear outside the house. I'd love to have a long-sleeved t-shirt or some other sort of outerwear for game days.
Of course, I am always open to gifts of carefully-selected beer. Especially if it's something I haven't tried but that you know I'll like.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

stuff I want

Hey there, deep pocket...

I am tired of buying things. Really, really tired of it.

I'm good at buying them. When I get something, it almost always ends up being useful and long-lasting. This is why I prefer buying things for myself to receiving them as gifts.

But I'm so sick of buying things for myself. I'm sick of spending the money, and I'm sick of burning Amazon's logo into my retinas. So, who wants to get/give/procure me some things that I need?

namely?

  • kitchen knives. preferably a couple, in different sizes, but not a set with 20 knives. Who really needs that many knives?
  • a rug. 8x10. they're expensive, and obviously I'd love to have some input into the selection, but a clean rug that looks decent will do.
  • wall tapestry/covering(s). there's a pointless door in my apartment that should be hidden. additionally, there's a circuit breaker panel in the kitchen that could stand to be covered as well.
  • little table. maybe i could put it in the middle of my room and set my laptop on it?
  • lounge-chair-type thing? I'm not really sure where I'd put it, but if I had one, I'd find a spot for it. So that visitors would have somewhere to sit other than on my bed, which is awkward, right?
I'll add to this list as necessary. And in the event that anything becomes unnecessary, I'll remove it.

If you're asking yourself why I posted this, let's be honest: it was an exercise in honesty. And in determining if anyone, including myself, ever bothers with this blog anymore.

I can hardly wait for Christmas!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

a train of thought

Today's sermon was on Matthew 5:27-30, which is part of Jesus's famous declaration that our murderous, adulterous, idolatrous thoughts themselves are sinful. This particular part is dealing with adultery, but also throws in the sweeping and disturbing declaration that we ought to have regular body-part-chucking competitions (if you're a guy and this sounds like the coolest sport you've ever heard of, please, please, please... don't think the ladies will be impressed at the next church picnic by your holy combo of unmatched arm strength and zeal for the Lord).

Now, I'm not an exegete. I did take a look at a number of different translations, including some Portuguese translations, and I will say this: every one I saw used some form of the word "make" or "cause" in verses 29 and 30. Which is to say, it seems that whatever words Jesus actually used, the thrust of His comment can probably be safely summarized as "if a part of your body causes you to sin, get rid of it."

So, the first car on this train (and remember, once a train gets started, it's pretty hard to stop, so if your car stalls on the track, grab the baby from the backseat and run - don't spent those thirty seconds praying that God will refill your gas tank like He did the widow's jar of oil!) is my (perhaps not all that novel) interpretation that Jesus chose the word "cause" for the very reason that it invalidated right off the bat the idea that He intended anyone to self-mutilate. Jesus makes it pretty clear at other times that the fault for our sin lies at the feet of our idolatrous hearts (okay, terrible metaphor, sorry!), not at the doorstep (again, I apologize) of circumstances, other people, or our raging hormones. When Jesus says "if your eye causes you to sin," I suspect He intended to subtly remind us that our hands are NEVER the cause for our sin.

Okay, so if you'll grant that interpretation (or if you won't, but will agree that He didn't mean it literally, or even if you disagree entirely but are a masochist... or if you just really like trains?), move with me into the business class carriage. Here we find ourselves wondering, gosh, haven't there been people over the years who have actually sliced off parts of their bodies (guys, don't tell me you didn't have at least one moment of terror as a teenager over this verse) because they believed this was a literal commandment? Now, none of us would accuse Jesus of being careless with words, and yet... do we not generally consider that love for one's neighbor involves taking a reasonable amount of care that what we say will not give occasion for anyone else to be confused or to commit sin? How much more so if you are the Lord of the Universe, knowing full well the foolishness of humans, and even knowing the future itself, so that the effects your words will have are already written in your mind before you say them? You may argue that, no matter what He said, Jesus was bound to be misunderstood, and He could not simply remain silent on that account. But that is not a valid reductio ad absurdum - certain things Christ said cannot be misinterpreted but by the hardest of hearts, while others frankly beg for the budding convert to seize upon incorrectly, foolishly, and with greatest zeal.

Then what? On to the coach class, where most of us spend most of our time. Shall we agree with the Catholics that "the fuller sense of the Bible can be found in the authoritative interpretation of [the]... authorities" - i.e., that it best to check with the Church before coming to a final conclusion about what the Scriptures mean? This seems insufficient - the apostles and prophets, not to mention Jesus Himself, are recorded as speaking directly to the common people on a regular basis, and we should not assume that this was done merely as a convenience, or for the sake of 'the public record.' If not that, then what?
It certainly seems to me as though this passage can only be rightly interpreted in the light of the rest of Scripture (whereby we learn that our hearts are the issue, and that constantly reorienting ourselves - loving - our Creator is the only way to live a good and righteous life that is free from all sin). This is an ideal that gets bandied about a good deal these days within the circles in which I run (ha, take that, sneaky prepositions!), but I don't think we take it all that seriously, because it posits a frank impossibility that we're reluctant (or entirely unwilling) to acknowledge - namely, that no matter our wisdom, brilliance, learning, and love for God, we will never be 100% certain about what all of Scripture says, because to know any one part of it requires that you know all the other parts. This is, at the very least, an impossibility within a non-infinite lifetime (it's really a study in mathematical limits, if you think about it - and don't you go inventing a theological calculus!).

Also, because coach is usually cramped and longer than the other parts of the train, I want to come back to the question of how we use words. I have often thought that part of our imperfection was our inability to accurately gauge how our actions will end up affecting our world. That is, if I were wiser, more careful, etc., I would have known that using that particular word would cause someone to think my tone was negative, thus encouraging them to respond negatively, etc., etc., usually spiraling into rage and violence about whether or not D minor really is the saddest of all keys. This passage, however, seems to indicate otherwise. Jesus knew that some people would be foolish (I don't mean this pejoratively) enough to cut off body parts in order to keep His commandments, and though this isn't what He intended, and probably brought Him no pleasure at all despite their well-intentioned attempt to obey the letter of His law, He chose His words carefully, with nothing but love for His hearers (both present and throughout the ages). And yet, it was not His intent to somehow choose His words in a such a way as to manipulate the hearers into following a certain path. Though He could, no doubt, have said exactly what was necessary to manipulate each individual hearer into doing His will, He never attempted any such thing.

We have arrived at the caboose - which indicates to you that the end is near, and is one of the most fun words in the English language (go ahead - say it out loud a few times! I can wait). Manipulation is a way of life for us. Whether in malice or in love, we nearly always choose our words and actions based on how we believe others will react to them. Sometimes it is blatant - I figure that if I offer to wash the dishes in front of the guests, my sister will choose to be gracious and offer to do them herself, allowing me to both look good and get away without having to do any work. Other times, it is a less selfish calculation that determines that the best way to invite someone to talk about Jesus is to pretend as though He isn't really that important to me, so that they won't be scared off by my crazy religious fervor (ha!). Whatever it is, though, it's never done out of true love - God Himself never gives us any indication that His communications with us are intended to fool us into doing what He wishes. What's more, any manipulative actions are performed with, at the very least, the (self-absorbed, and therefore not necessarily conscious) belief that we are (in at least some small way) mentally superior to and/or more crafty than the one we're manipulating, and usually also 2) an idolatrous attitude toward the desired goal and 3) a lack of trust that whatever we can bring about through a more honest and transparent approach to our neighbors is going to somehow be sufficient to accomplish God's (or our) purposes.

There's a lot more that could be said about who and how we manipulate (children -> parents, parents -> children, woo-er -> woo-ee, spouse <-> spouse, etc.), not to mention my proposed solution to my manipulative ways, but this train of thought is already too long to even leave the station, so I'd better get my fat butt off so that those of you who actually needed to get somewhere can be on your way!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

We've Been Down This Path Before

...and we always seem to end up getting tired, coming back, and forgetting that we ever tried.

But productivity is an elusive goal, these days. The pursuit of productivity is marred by laziness (the under-utilization of attention capital, e.g., I have this extra time - I'll watch some TV), procrastination (the over-utilization of attention debt, e.g., "I'm too busy, so I'll learn/do that tomorrow" -- and yes, it leads to attention deficit, as you already guessed), perfectionism (e.g., "I can't do anything else until I'm done with this" -- or, just as bad, "I won't start this, because I'll never be able to do it well enough").

I don't have time to write this blog post. I won't write it well, and in the process I'll probably spend too much time trying to polish it into something 'worth' posting. Still, it's time to do something.

Gmail just introduced Priority Inbox. At first, I was inclined to ignore it - after all, I have my system, and it works well enough. But, being susceptible to the allure of the latest, greatest technology (especially from the G-people), I decided to see what it could do. As it turns out, I like it. I have, for a long time, consistently maintained fewer than ten read emails in my inbox at any given time, with those ten basically representing whatever things I've received that will eventually require some sort of time/effort to deal with. However, these things do tend to pile up, and the more important ones get lost at the bottom of that stack just like everything else. Also, I generally have Starred emails in order to provide a special visual reminder that they're important, but this tends to lose its impact fairly quickly.

This is probably where I should mention Inbox Zero, the strategy a very process-savvy friend of mine> uses and brought up when I started talking about this today over Buzz. I think his flavor of this strategy makes a lot of sense (using Stars for followup/future reference but always Archiving immediately after reading), and I wish I could use it myself, but the reason this is not currently a possibility for me is that I don't have consistent access to anything but pen and paper during the workday, meaning that I either have to manage my task list in my brain (with help from whatever emails I may or may not have in my Inbox regarding those less-pressing tasks that I would be prone to forget), or use pen-and-paper or some solution equally undesirable because of its incompatibility with the digital age that I live a large portion of my life in.

Inbox Zero and its arguable brilliance aside, here's my strategy for configuring (and then USING) Priority Inbox to increase my productivity.

What I do not plan on getting out of Priority Inbox: Time savings later on. Why? Email in an inbox is inherently hard to scan, and even when properly categorized, you have to rescan each email individually for it to remind you of anything. Just because my inbox is now divided into
  1. Important AND Unread,
  2. Starred,
  3. Important, and
  4. Everything Else
doesn't somehow magically let me know what email I should be re-reading right now in order to inform me what my next efforts should be directed toward. Often, an email gets a Star and sits in my Inbox precisely because I know I won't be able to do anything about it for at least a week, and I figure I'll forget about it if I don't leave it there to remind me later.

What I do plan on getting out of Priority Inbox: A reason to ask my brain to do more of the work as soon as I receive the email. When an email arrives, Gmail will do its best to decide if it is Important or not. If it isn't, the email will fall all the way to the bottom of my Inbox, even though there are read emails sitting above it. If I can trust Google to guess correctly, I can now safely ignore that email entirely until such a time as I choose to go through my unimportant email and deal with it. If, on the other hand, the email is marked as Important, I should probably read it now. If the email was indeed worthy of my immediate attention, I will leave it marked as Important - otherwise, it will be marked Unimportant. If the email requires a response of some sort that I am unable to provide immediately, I will leave it in my inbox - otherwise, it will be Archived. If the required action is of considerable effort, I will Star it (thus providing a visual indicator of how many heavy-duty items are on the list).

The other thing I want to discuss here is Gmail Labels - something I've used because they were like folders (and because Filters made them easy to apply automatically) but have applied poorly and used very infrequently. Today's thoughts about Priority Inbox have helped me decide on a better use of Labels. Again, the theory is that it is best to ask my brain to manually categorize an email as soon as it arrives (using, of course, keyboard shortcuts to make the process bearably fast). The categories, though, are the issue - what rises to the level of a category? I have decided that my life is focused around certain basic desires or pursuits, and these should correspond directly to my Gmail Labels. Previously, I had labels like Commerce, Bank, Internet, and Church. Not only do I have no need for a view that shows me all Bank-related emails, but it really doesn't help my brain to classify an email as having to do with banking. When it comes in, I already know all I need to know about it from the first line, and the vast, vast majority of those emails aren't interesting in the slightest. An email from a friend about Photography, however, or an email to a flight instructor about my next lesson - these things are worth categorizing, because it is worth reminding myself regularly what my priorities are, why, what order they fall into, and that each of them requires some regular effort in order to maintain (if, indeed, I want to maintain each one).

This leads me to a question, which may be better addressed in a subsequent post. Around what do we organize our lives? If we're organizing them around anything other than our basic pursuits, I suspect we're fooling ourselves into a false organization that serves mostly to exalt the stated rather than the actual purposes of our lives. Let's talk about this soon, shall we?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Long Distance Runaround

I heard two excellent sermons on Sunday. My very own pastor is preaching through the Beatitudes (helpfully distracting me from his point every time he reminds us how inadequate the phrase "the attitudes you oughta be at" is), and this week's verse was:
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Tom pointed out various things that meekness isn't, including being the guy who sits in the back of the room, trying not to be noticed...or the guy who sits in front of his computer, day after day, bothering no one. To be meek isn't to be a shrinking violet - it's to be the beautiful violet itself, which has no eyes to admire its own beauty.
To offer a more tried-and-true explanation of his excellent sermon, I'll quote C.S. Lewis. Tom had a similar quote from someone else, but that quote reminded of this one by Lewis, from Mere Christianity:
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you'll think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him... He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
This rings very true, of course. I know that I think about myself far too much. Scarily, my cognizance of this indicates that there was probably a point in my past when I thought about myself so much I didn't have enough time to think about how much I thought about myself.

Honestly, though, that's not what scares me most. Want to know what does? You're still reading, aren't you? Well, what scares me most about this... is how heartily we'll agree with it. So heartily (as it often is with Truth), in fact, that I am led to suspect that there must be something in the practical application that we're missing completely.

I'd suggest that what we're 'missing' is our ability to completely reconstruct our personalities in a way that allows us to believe we're no longer thinking about ourselves.

Huh-what? Let's take this one step at a time. When I am reminded that I think about myself too much, what is my first reaction? Generally, it's to (gasp) think about how I shouldn't do that. That, of course, is more thinking about myself. Fine, we all get that, and we often eventually realize we're doing this. Next step? For some, we remind ourselves the great Truth about putting off sin, and putting on Christ, or good works, or what-have-you. Fair enough. So now we're thinking about Christ, or how, because He loves me, I ought to love my neighbor, and that if I love my neighbor, maybe she will see how good Christ is, and love Him, and love her neighbors, and then maybe this world won't be such a terrible place - oh, but wait, remember that the world will always be a terrible place 'til Christ returns, and of course, it's not just my neighbors' fault, it's mine too, because I don't live like I should...anyway, it's still Good to build the kingdom of God, and it's lovely that He allows us to participate in that, and I wonder what I can do better tomorrow to love Him and love my neighbors? (This is usually the point where I fall asleep, of course, since I've been thinking while lying in my bed - but that's an issue for another time.) Some of you may have better luck in having those thoughts on a regular basis than I do - some, perhaps, less. Other times, or perhaps all the time with some people, maybe the thoughts are more general - how can I improve my community/environment/world/galaxy/local playground?

All of these are fine - nay, necessary thoughts to have. What concerns me is what we do next. This, by the way, often takes a whole lifetime (this pearl coming to you from my extensive experience with lifetimes), or at least many years to come to fruition, making it (again, from my experience) very hard for us to see in ourselves. What we often do next is, over time, teach ourselves to think about ourselves less, and the goal more. Whatever that goal may be - starting schools, building churches, feeding orphans and widows - we start pouring ourselves into it. When someone makes a comment in church about how many inner-city folks are poor because they refuse to work, my mental militia is marshaled immediately ("But they've been deprived of every social advantage you've ever had! In the city, there's no work to do! When's the last time you actually talked to one of these people, anyway!?"). If an actual discussion ensues, I am often deeply offended or annoyed (on behalf of the important cause I am defending, of course!) by the very real blindness that my brother or sister is displaying.

This is sin, of course - indulgence in hatred and anger is usually pretty easy to identify once you start talking about it openly. But what motivated the sin? Surely, my sympathies are with the people living in miserable conditions in the inner city, not with my own comfort, wealth, or personal liberty? I would suggest that the sin was motivated by the fact that, while convincing myself that I am tearing down the fortress of my own self-absorption, I have silently rebuilt my personality around 'the cause.' This may sound labor-intensive, but it is really rather easy to do, and tremendously tempting. Why? Let me go out on a limb here, and declare that none of my readers will ever be as wealthy as Warren Buffett. You won't, in all likelihood, end up as President of the United States of America. You probably won't even be on the evening news. Your name will not endure in the annals of history, and even if you DO become President, what will you really be remembered for? How well (or poorly) you managed to implement the great programs that you championed, first as a candidate, and then as the Commander-In-Chief. Your only shot at immortality is to be identified with an enduring system - an enduring cultural good (to borrow from the excellent language of Culture Making, which I recommend more highly than any book I've read in the past year, excepting only The Idiot). Whether you know this consciously or not, this is your instinct for self-preservation - or, if you prefer, your striving to be like God - kicking in behind the scenes to keep you satisfied with a life that is otherwise clearly moving toward its end. "If you will identify yourself with causes, then you can live this life without appearing to be selfish. If you pick those causes wisely, then it's a win-win!"

This evening, I read about Kendrick Perkins, the center for the Boston Celtics, who won't be playing in Game 7 of the NBA finals because he tore his MCL and PCL in Game 6, last night. I don't know the man's heart, but I know my own. In his words, however, this is how I would identify myself with a cause:
"...it's not about me. We're trying to win a championship. It's not about me. And I don't want the focus to be on me -- for my teammates. I don't want nobody feeling sorry for anything like that. We got a game to win. I want them to stay focused. I'm going to be all right. It's an important game. I appreciate my teammates and coaches that they're concerned. But it's not about me. It's about winning a title."
Well, that's great. Obviously quite the team player. Except, if it were me, I know I would say those same words, and the reason for those words? I want a title. I want a championship ring. Sure, I'll be thrilled for my teammates, too. I'll be very happy for the fans. I'll give away my championship bonus (I know nothing about basketball, bear with me here) to the underprivileged kids in Boston. Because I, yes, I, won an NBA championship! If all my teammates will just please forget that I'm injured, so that they can focus on winning (me) a championship, I will be very, very content!

Thing is, there's really no getting around this. We are on Christ's team. When He wins, we win. When the brokenness of this world is defeated, even a little, by the feeding of a homeless man in downtown Baltimore, we do actually win. But as soon as we start buying into the idea that these victories are worth pursuing, we'll also start reconstructing our own personalities around them. It goes from being a cult of personality focused on my very obvious desires (money, sex, power) to a cult of personality built around all the things I've turned myself into (the crusader for human rights, the Habitat for Humanity builder, the retired Marine officer, the bold evangelistic preacher). So it's still about me, and not about Christ.

Jesus came to set us free from ourselves (the sinful 'flesh'). Free to love Him, free to follow Him, free to find our identity in Him. He doesn't expect us to have no personality at all; He does expect that it not be focused on ourselves, whether through sarcastic, grade-school humor designed to exalt ourselves in the presence of our peers, or through clever political satire designed to make the institutions we've staked our lives on look better than those of our adversaries.

If you find yourself offended by someone's comments about something near and dear to you, ask yourself Why? - and don't settle for the easy answer. If you are constantly getting lathered up about politics, or economics, or social justice, or the unity of the Church, ask yourself, Why? There may indeed be something of the driving-out-the-money-changers-with-a-whip in your motives...but there is guaranteed to be something of the cutting-off-the-ear-of-the-high-priest's-servant in there as well. Pray that you will not be so easily hoodwinked by your ability to love yourself by proxy as you are relying on everyone else to be.

Jesus is the only way to be meek. He is the only one who was meek. I must not turn Jesus, or any of the innumerable, good things that He loves, into that beautiful, new, granite pillar that everyone simply must go see, in order that they will be thinking only of how wonderfully meek I am when they finally see the golden statue of me, high and aloft, in the center of the square.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Age After Age

The more I learn about ancient Israel - the more I read what God was saying to them, and try to peel back the layers of my faulty assumptions - the more I wonder...

The promises that God made to Israel were generally along the lines of "obey, and I will make you prosper in this land." I've often, without realizing it, read that as if it were a promise to take them to heaven - I subconsciously decided that "this land" didn't actually refer to that land, but to the heavenly land that all of "Abraham's children" will one day enjoy. That's really a rather bold leap, and one I'm no longer willing to make. When God said "this land," I believe He meant exactly what He said.

On the other hand, I do see a lot of symbolism in this. In fact, I believe that the entirety of Israel's history is meant as a symbol to the world - a symbol of how well we will succeed at obeying God through our own efforts, even when miracles and prophecies and wonders are happening every generation or so, at least! A symbol that clearly tells the one who sees it, "You won't. You will never succeed, because your heart is hard."

Alright, great. So it's a massive symbol to explain to us our own brokenness. Makes sense. BUT WAIT A MINUTE! Why in the world did God need to play with the hearts and minds of 40+ generations of tribal Israel just to prove a point to the rest of the world? That seems a little ridiculous, doesn't it? Couldn't He simply have told us? Why make them go through all the effort, failure, destruction, and despair? Why not just send a prophet to say, once and for all, "YOU CANNOT OBEY. YOU ARE TOTALLY DEPRAVED.* YOU NEED A DIVINE SAVIOR WHO CAN PURCHASE YOUR FREEDOM, BECAUSE YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO IT YOURSELVES." Boom. Done.**

Or what about telling us a story?*** Instead of making all of these people suffer under the weight of ceremonial and religious laws for hundreds and hundreds of years, with only the faint hope that perhaps God would show mercy to them despite their disobedience and failures - why not just tell a few parables with the same message? A few poetic stories about a group of people who tried and failed miserably would prove the same point, wouldn't it?

But perhaps not. Perhaps we, like the ancient Israelites, are just as hard-hearted in the face of what we are told about ourselves. If someone had warned Europe of the coming horrors of World War II, how many people would really have believed that the cold-blooded murder of an entire race was something that the Germans would actually carry out? In fact, if no nation in history had ever murdered the members of a rival nation, who would believe that such an evil was actually possible?

It seems as though God requires Himself to tell us about Himself and ourselves through history. What good is a story, really, if it doesn't mirror actual history in some way or another? Truth, then, is actually worked out through history. It cannot simply be "pretended," or "theorized," or "imagined." It may be that there cannot be something True which has neither happened, nor will happen.

I've heard people say that one of God's reasons for our suffering here on earth is that, having experienced suffering, we will be able to appreciate sides of God's character (His mercy, His healing, etc....) that the angels, who have never suffered, will never really be able to understand. I'm sure that angels have brilliant minds, and I'm sure we could "explain" to them what it is like...but not having experienced it, they will be unable to really comprehend the goodness of God's mercy.

In a similar vein, I've often wondered why Christ actually had to die... If He's now alive, and enjoying the same bliss He was before He came to Earth, what did He actually accomplish? Sometimes it seems a lot like a stage drama - God was obviously trying to get our attention, but He probably could have used a body double for the actual death. Once again, the only answer I can fathom is that, as we have really sinned, so must someone really give satisfaction (make atonement) for our debts. He couldn't simply tell us how much He loved us, or I am sure He would have done just that. He couldn't have truly loved us as much as He does without actually performing an act of love more loving than anything else has ever, or will ever, be.

As a question for further thought, how does this apply to situations where we are trying to help others who are going through a situation we've never been through? How do we interact with them helpfully (or can we even help at all?) despite not having truly experienced what they are experiencing, and therefore on some level being unable understand their suffering?


* Calvin would've appreciated this.
** I am, of course, ignoring the fact that He did actually tell them they were going to fail. But only a time or two, and
obviously He just wasn't being clear enough.
*** Best/most ironic name for a genre of literature, ever? "Religious Fiction."