How to KEEP Your Church FROM Vitality & Fruitfulness

There are conferences, seminars, articles, books, curricula telling us how to grow a church. It’s high time the other side of the issue be considered. While I don’t guarantee these easy-to-apply steps will always keep your church from health and vitality, they will, with proper application, certainly increase the chances of stagnation.

1. Change Pastors Every Few Years.

This will assure that no pastor gets too much “power.” It will also discourage members from committing to any long-term goals or growth efforts. And those brought into the church by the pastor’s personal ministry will feel insecure because “their” pastor may not stay more than a couple of years.

2. Don’t Allow New People to Serve.

This applies particularly to those who have never been a church member before, or who were recently converted. These people tend to identify strongly with the group from which they came and offer many unwanted suggestions for reaching others from those groups. By insisting that they serve a proper and lengthy “probationary period” before participating in church decision-making, they can be stalled until they lose their enthusiasm and relationships with the un-churched.  Once this happens, THEN they can be used for church work.

3. Split Up Small Groups & Ministry Teams Regularly.

This will greatly frustrate the people who are most active in the church. They won’t have a chance to build and strngthen meaningful relationships; and they will not develop any deep sense of belonging, ownership, or empowerment.

4. Try to Reach Only People in ‘Stable’ Situations.

Since people are often more responsive to the Gospel following geographic, social, vocational, or life-situational changes, concentrate on people in stable circumstances to minimize contacts with the kind of people that often lead to responsiveness and change.

5. Don’t Send Your Pastor to Conferences or Encourage Him to Read Books on Evangelism & Mission.

If he insists on attending such a workshop, make sure no other church leaders go with him. Enthusiasm for outreach and mission can be easily squelched as long as the pastor is the only one who gets enthused.

6. Emphasize “Quality not Quantity.”

This one almost always works!

Make it sound like those who want to see new people join the church are playing the ‘numbers game’.  The myth that numerical growth automatically and spontaneously comes as a result of spiritual growth – without actual outreach and evangelism – is believed by many, so take advantage of it. 

Also, point to unmet needs of your own people as the only real concern of the church, and the primary concerns for the pastor.

7. Don’t Be Friendly to Visitors.

If this seems too extreme, be friendly to them at first – THEN ignore them! Don’t visit them.  Don’t invite them to church activities.  Don’t talk to them during the week. Above all: DON’T become friends with them!

8. Don’t Invite People to Visit or Join Your Church.

 We can justify this by saying: “We don’t want to force church membership on anybody.”   To neighbors and guests it says: “You don’t belong here.”  But that’s all we need. 

One variable to this is to allow the pastor to be the only one to do the inviting and relationship building.

 9. Try to Reach Everyone In Your Community the Same Way.

Ignore racial, social, economic, linguistic, and cultural differences. Assume all people are like you – or they should be. 

A  church out to “reach everybody”, without considering even subtle cultural differences, using the same old strategies used in the past, often reaches nobody. Churches are effective when they recognize these distinctions, and develop relevent strategies to serve the different segments of their community.

If you don’t want to grow, don’t aim at a target.

 10. Make Growth Entirely Dependent on the Holy Spirit.

 This not only encourages prayerlessness and evangelistic laziness on our part, but it gives us a convenient excuse if growth doesn’t occur.  We can always blame God.

 11. Don’t Staff & Don’t Budget for Outreach & Mission.

Our resources are precious and limited. Staff and budget for Christian Education, Youth Ministries, etc. first.  Staff and budget for outreach & mission ONLY after these priorities are perfectly met.

 12. Insist on Using Evangelistic Methods That Were Used During the ‘Good Old Days’.

 Don’t consider methods that God may be using today.  Stick with crusades, simplistic tracts, and answering questions no one is asking.

By all means avoid meeting actual needs.  A church that adresses the needs of the poor – like Jesus & Paul said we should – might be accused of Liberalism and promoting a Social Gospel.

13. Don’t Set Goals.

Say that goals produce frustration. Discourage measurement of any kind. Label statistical analysis as ‘worldly’. If that fails, label it ‘demonic and destructive’.   Though that may be unfair, and UNTRUE, it will certainly discourage goal-setting and statistical analysis as a diagnostic tool.

 14. Say that God Doesn’t Want the Church to Grow.

 Though this statement may be false, you can dig up enough proof-texts to make it seem believable.

 15. Don’t Advertise Your Church.

 Any advertising should be avoided. Especially don’t let newcomers to your community know where your church is, when services are held, and what ministries might be most beneficial to them.

If you must advertise, put the ad on the church page where only those already churched are likley to see it. And put a picture of the pastor or the building on it, not something that would be of interest to anyone outside your church. And never put a picture of people enjoying themselves together in Christ. Never promote something that might connect with the un-Churched.

 16. Don’t Pray for Kingdom Advancement.

 Pray for people in hospitals and on sick lists. Pray for generic “spiritual blessings”.  Pray for missions, but not specific prayers for individual missionaries; Not prayers informed about the challenges missionaries face in their particular locations and work. Pray only for un-named people who you will never meet.  Pray only for people to be healed.  NEVER pray for un-churched neighbors and friends. NEVER pray for God to change you and/or your church to become more godly.


This post is satirical and sarcastic.  I have edited and adapted it from a chapter titled: 17 Way to Keep Your Church from Gowing.  from a book by Mike Grogan, then-pastor of the Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH.  I don’t know if he is still the pastor there. Nor do I recall the title of the book.

That’s Christmas

The resounding cry of this season seems to be: “Remember what Christmas is about.”   I think I’ve heard people say that, and seen people write and post that, and similar sentiments, more this year than ever before. At least, I am aware of it more this year.  And I concur.

The above video, from the UK, takes us through the wide range of perspectives people have about this holiday, and presents the viewer with a penetrating proposition: Christmas is about Jesus – God becoming man, miraculously conceived in and born of a virgin, to remove all the guess-work from quizical and philosophical minds about what God is like and how God feels about humanity.  It is the first observable stage of God’s plan to redeem humanity and reconcile with those that had rebelled against him and neglected to give him the honor he is due.

Christmas is not really about time with the family. It is certainly not about the gifts.  It is not about a quiet day. It’s certainly not about the hubub that leads up to it.  It is a time to be still and know that God is God, and he has made his dwelling among us, to deliver his people from a bondage of our own making. It is a time for reflection.  (See Psalm 46.10; John 1.14)  Above all it is a time to worship the God who is able and who was willing to do this for us.

In short, Christmas really points to something more. To paraphrase one writer: Christmas is God’s Good News – BUT only because we know the story of Easter.   

So to all who want to remember the meaning of Christmas: Happy Easter!

Averting Worship Wars

There are many fights in churches these days over what kind of music to use, but I am convinced most of those fights could be avoided if we faithfully reflected upon the questions given to us by [Colossians 3.12-17].  Instead of asking what kind of music will appeal to the world around us, we must ask:

  • What will enable us most deeply to dwell in God’s Word?
  • What will best express the Word?
  • How will the Word’s beauty and mystery, its infinity and generosity be best conveyed?

Marva Dawn, A Royal “Waste” of Time

We Wish You a Merry X-mas

I knew better. I should have gone with my first instinct. But I didn’t.

Several Decembers ago I was summoned for jury duty in Walker County, Georgia.  Overhearing other prospective jurors engaged in various religious and low-level theological debates, I vowed to myself to remain quiet and not get involved in these discussions.  For most of the morning I kept to my plan.

Not long before lunch my opinion was solicited by the ring-leader of the discussion group – an un-schooled, self-proclaimed Baptist “preacher”.  Apparently he had taken note earleir in the day when a judge made mention that I was a Presbyterian minister. 

 “Do you believe in the doctine of Once-Saved-Always-Saved?”

Trying to minimize my words, I replied:

“I believe most of what you mean by that, though I am not comfortable calling it by that name.”

What do you mean?”, he asked.

“I believe the Bible teaches eternal security for the believer. I just think that describing the doctrine as you did a moment ago leaves an impression of cheap grace.”

I am not sure he understood what I was actually saying, but apparently he was satisfied. He even seemed to sense a kindred spirit. He nodded his head approvingly. 

Then he asked:

Why d’ya think so many people deny this doctrine?” 

Here is where I started down the wrong road:

“I suspect because people don’t bother to read the one source that defines doctrinal positions (- the Bible)”, I replied a little too flippantly and smuggly. 

Again, my answer apparently satisfied him. Again he nodded his approval.  Then he observed:

Yep. People are tryin’ to take God and his Word out of ev’ry-thang. It’s just like people tryin’ to take Christ out’a Christmas.  Santa Claus instead’a  Jesus.  And all these signs that say Merry X-mas…  They’re tryin’ to X-out Jesus.”

(Here is the height of my error. Having been lulled into feeling comfortable by the eager reception of my previous simplistic responses…)  I interjected:

“O, no. That is not x-ing out Jesus from Christmas. The letter “X” is the symbol of Christ, taken from the  Greek letter “Chi”, the first letter for Christ in Greek.”

Silence, followed by a shaking head instead of a nodding noggin. Finally, still shaking his head, he told me:

You are educated beyond usefulness

Then he walked away.

Like I said, I should have stuck with my original plan. I should have remained quiet, done my time, and gone home.  But since I didn’t, I guess I had it coming.

This old memory came to mind when I read a post by R.C. Sproul on the Ligonier blog: Why is X Used?  I am glad to have someone of Sproul’s stature covering my back. But two new questions come to mind:

  • What are the chances that guy will read Sproul’s post?
  • Where were you, R.C., on that day years ago?!

Pure As the Driven Snow

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who enjoys “old” snow – you know, the snow that has been around a few day, has blackened from plowing, is choppy from people playing in the yard.  I know that’s not the type of snow my duaghter enjoys looking at.

After the snowstorm this past Friday night, that dumped 3/4 of a foot all around us, my daughter was concerned that her brothers “messed up” the yard. She likes looking at the pure smoothe snow, untouched by human hand – or boot. 

That started me thinking. There is a methaphor there somewhere.

I think we all have have an innate appreciation for the beauty of purity. Unfortunately, because of our sin, purity does not seem to last long in this life. Sometimes it is corrupted and turns black and ugly. Sometimes it is just messed up by us as we go about our work and play.  But fleeting as it is, while it is here it is something to behold.

This all reminds me that God is on a mission, not simply to “save” a bunch of individuals but, to restore and recreate that which has been corrupted and messed-up.  As beautiful and peaceful as it is to look at the pure snow on the pastures outside my living room window, a beauty is coming that is both incomparable and incorruptable. And that will really be something to see.

Ecstasy & Delight

Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote sanctification.

We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God. The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones…

The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers…

By the enjoyment of the love of Christ in the heart of a believer, we mean an experience of the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Romans 5.5)… because the Lord has made himself accessible to us in the means of grace, it is our duty and privilege to seek this experience from Him in these means till we are made the joyful partakers of it.

– John Flavel (1630-1691)

2009 Heisman Trophy


For the first time in years there is no clear cut candidate who will win the Heisman Trophy. For that reason alone the race is interesting. And for the first time in years I may be seeing glimmers of hope restored in my attitude. 

Like other sports fans, I have my opinions each year.  Sometimes my opinion matches that of the “experts”. But even then it is not enough to override the disappoitments of years when the results seem to be a sham; when it appears the fix is in; when networks like ESPN have more to do with choosing the winner than players’ performances on the field do. 

But I am hopeful this year will be different.

Below are my top 5 picks, with number 1 being who I would have voted for had I been given a vote.  I know that some of my choices can’t win – not all were even invited to the party in New York. But that doesn’t matter. These are my slections:

1. Ndamukong Suh – DT – Nebraska – Senior

A dominant player in the trenches; the best player in the country this year. PERIOD.  And in this year when there is no clear cut QB or RB, a defensive lineman can win.  (I know a defensive player was once given the trophy, but this time Suh should legitimately “win” it.)

Watch the video: Suh

2. Toby Gerhart – RB – Stanford – Senior

It was tough not voting for Gerhart. He is equally deserving for both his stats and his style.

3. Mark Ingram – RB – Alabama – Sophomore

It is hard to believe no Tide player has ever won the Heisman.  Ingram may go home with it. If he does, there is no injustice, he is a great back.  But I wouldn’t give it to him this year.

4. Tony Pike – QB – Cincinnati – Senior

While it is over used hyperbole, Pike is the driving force behind the Bearcats’ undefeated season.  His backup played well in periods Pike was injured, but without Pike Cincinnati would be good but not great. 

5. Colt McCoy – QB – Texas – Senior

The Maxwell Award winner should have won the Heisman last year.  His numbers were down a little, but McCoy’s performances still shined.  He has Texas playing again for the National Championship.

The Christ of Christmas


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.     – John 1.1-4, 14a

This Christ of Christmas shines down through the ages like a gem with many facets. Each facet (or Hebrew name) reveals a different aspect of His personality, love, and provision for humanity.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. – Proverbs 18.10


In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heaven and the earth.”    – Genesis 1.1

  • El = Mighty or Strong
  • Him = plural (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); Total Power and Might

This Christ of Christmas is the Creator, mighty and strong. he saw us in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139) He createde us and has a special plan for every life.


Jehovah my Shepherd (Psalm 23)

This Christ of Christmas is our Shepherd. He desires to lead us through paths of righteousness.

Jehovah-Rohi says:

I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”  – John 10.11


Jehovah who sanctifies. (Exodus 31.13)

Sanctify = Consecrate, dedicate.

This Christ of Christmas desires to set us apart to walk in holiness, because He is our God.  

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.”   – 1 Thessalonians 4.3a


I am the Lord who heals you.” – Exodus 15.26

This Christ of Christmas is our healer; body soul, and spirit.

He himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases.”   – Matthew 8.16-17


“The Lord our banner.” (Exodus 17.12b, 13, 15)

The Christ of Christmas is our banner (Victory)! Lift Him up.

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”  – John 12.32


“The One who  is more than enough.”

This Christ of Christmas is more than enough to meet our needs in every situation.  What seemingly impossible need can we bring Him?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen   Ephesians 3.20-21


Jehovah Our Righteousness  (Jeremiah 23.5-6)

This Christ of Christmas is our Righteousness.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”   – 2 Corithians 5.21


The Lord will Provide” a sacrifice – Genesis 22.13-14

This Christ of Christmas is our Lamb of Provision! All may partake of His free gift of eternal life.

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”   – John 1.29

Let Us Bow Before Him! Continue reading

The Baker’s Dirty Dozen Stagnant Church Types


At a time when potential epidemics may be on the horizon the wise person is on the lookout for the signs of disease. The hope is that early detection will enable more effective and less severe treatment.

Such a time surrounds the American church. It is widely reported that 85% of all churches are in a state of stagnation, if not serious decline. 

Jeff Gauss, of Rurality Bytes, summarizes the Baker’s-Dirty-Dozen stagnant church types.  At least one of these 13 types, taken from Ed Stetzer’s Comeback Churches, probably characterizes almost any struggling & stagnant church:

  1. Institutionalized Church – More committed to the forms and programs of ministry than to the work of God; activity has choked out productivity and “good enough” has become the enemy of great.
  2. Voluntary Association Church – This church models itself after democratic government rather than New Testament principles. It is a church for the people, rather than for God. “Whenever one group seeks to make a positive change in the church in one direction, the opposing factions begin to whine, complain, and gossip… This type of church will not change until they change their value system.”
  3. “Us Four and No More” Church – This church doesn’t want to get any larger for fear that it will lose its family feel.
  4. “We Can’t Compete” Church – This church has simply given up, deciding that it can’t compete with other churches so they’re not even going to try.
  5. “Decently and in Order” Church – High regard for process, but lack passion. “They run everything by the book; unfortunately, it’s not the Bible.” All matters great and small must meet the approval of various committees.
  6. “Square Peg in a Round Hole” Church – People are enlisted for service, not based on passion and gifts, but because of need. The mindset is “We’ve got to fill this position. Whose turn is it?”
  7. “Time-Warp” Church – This church has managed to preserve the positions, practices, and appearances of days long gone. They expect others to accept and adapt to what they’ve grown comfortable doing over the years, and give no thought to change. “If it’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for them,” is the prevailing attitude.
  8. “My Way or the Highway” Church – This is usually a vocal minority who, no matter the issue, won’t be satisfied unless it’s done their way.
  9. “Chaplaincy” Church – The church views its pastor as a hired hand and expects him to meet all of their needs. They want a chaplain, not a leader.
  10. “Play-it-Safe” Church – Has little faith that God will provide. Instead of enabling ministry and evangelism, it hinders them by safeguarding what it has. “As much money as possible is placed in a certificate of deposit” for safekeeping.
  11. Unintentional Church – Good intentions, but little action. Rarely follow through on what they hope to do.
  12. “Tidy” Church – Members take pride in the church building and make sure that everything is well-kept and meticulously organized. New growth – especially children – is seen as a threat because they are messy. 
  13. The “Company” Church – The church is more focused on the denomination than the community. They fill up the calendar with denominations meetings and things at the expense of ministering to their community. 

I suspect traces of most of these traits can be seen in almost any church, ailing or healthy.  But a good prelimnay self diagnosis may hold the ecclesiastical undertaker at bay.

Tim Tebow’s Tears

“There’s no crying in football.”  That paraphrase of a Tom Hanks movie line is the apparent sentiment of many in the world of sports media today.

Are you kidding me?  It makes me wonder how many of these guys ever played the game – or played any game.

Tim Tebow is taking a pounding from pundits because he shed some tears as the 2009 SEC Championship Game came to a close with his Florida Gators on the short end of the scoreboard.  These sportwriters, and sports radio hosts, seem to think Tebow’s reaction was somehow sub-manly.  Granted,this is not a universal attitude among those in sports journalism – and maybe not even the majority opinion, but I’ve heard enough to realize this perspective does not belong just to a few isolated idiots.

Much has already been written about Tebow’s exploits and exceptional character. There is nothing I can add to that. There is no need to re-make those cases.  But I do want to chime-in on this conversation with a couple simple points.

1. Absolutely there are tears shed on football fields.  It is almost as much part of the game as is sweat. It is physically demanding game. It is also mentally and emotionally exhausting – perhaps especially for a quarterback.  Players prepare for hours upon hours for 60 minutes of competition.  At the end of the competition a player who has give all he has to give, physically, mentally, and emotonally, is drained. He is reduced to raw emotion. Tears are often shed on both sides, especially in a championship game – tears of joy for the victors; tears of frustration for the one whose all was not quite enough.

Frankly, as an ex-player and former coach, it is the guys who are not on the verge of tears at the end of a hard fought game who always bothered me most. 

2. Tebow demonstrated the epitome of character and sportsmanship.  Having been reduced to raw emotion; having watched year-long – if not life-long – dreams coming to an end, Tebow was nothing but gracious and effusive in his compliments and congratulations to his opponents. No excuses. No finger pointing. No sour grapes.  Tebow just said: “Alabama was better than us today”.  

Impressive. Which is more than I can say for Tebow’s naysayers.

Lord Dissolve My Frozen Heart

Lord, dissolve my frozen heart/ By the beams of Love Divine;/ This alone can warmth impart/ To dissolve a heart like mine.

O that love, how vast it is!/ Vast, it seems, though known in part;/ Strange indeed, if love like this/ Should not melt the frozen heart.

Chorus: The love of Christ passes knowledge./ The Love of Christ eases fear./ The love of Christ hits a man’s heart;/ It pierces him like a spear.

Savior, let thy love be felt,/ Let it’s power be felt by me,/ Then my frozen heart shall melt,/ Melt in love, o Lord to thee.

Source: Red Mountain Music

No Christmas Without Easter

Now is the time to sing, envision, enact, and retell a story of God coming unexpectedly in the worst of times as a baby born poor, born homeless, born to die that all human life might be transformed and dreams made real.

It’s God’s Good News — but only because we already know the story of Easter.

– John H. Westerhoff III, A Pilgrim People

Wobegon Laws

For parents with small children, order sometimes comes from laying down the law.  The following are household rules patterened, in style, after Levitical Law, taken from A Prarie Home Companion

Laws of Forbidden Places

Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room.

Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein.

Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.

Laws When at Table

And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were.

Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke.

Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away from my presence.

When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck: for you will be sent away from my presence.

When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you.

Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is.

And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why.

And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that is why.

Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.

Laws Pertaining to Dessert

For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert.

But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert.

But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof.

And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.

On Screaming

Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault.

Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming.  Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat it myself, yet do not die.

Concerning Face and Hands

Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your head, there is rice thereon.

And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner beyond comprehension.

Only hold yourself still; hold still, I say. Give each finger in its turn for my examination thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go hence until I have done.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances

Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of the bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub your feet against cars, not against any building; nor eat sand.

Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not the humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.

Complaints and Lamentations

O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out, and hit and kick. Yes, and even sometimes do you spit, and shout “stupid-head” and other blasphemies, and hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you are sent to the corner. And though the law teaches that no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day, so mighty am I in anger. But upon being sent to the corner you ask straightaway, “Can I come out?” and I reply, “No, you may not come out.” And again you ask, and again I give the same reply. But when you ask again a third time, then you may come out.

Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before.  For our health, that we may be covered, I give six hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year; but even this covers not the fifteen hundred deductible for each member of the family within a calendar year.  And yet for ordinary visits we still are not covered, nor for many medicines, nor for the teeth within our mouths. Guess not at what rage is in my mind, for surely you cannot know. 

For I will come to you at the first of the month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills and a great whining and moan. And when the month of taxes comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and mourn with wine and ashtrays, and rend my receipts. And you shall remember that I am that I am: before, after, and until you are twenty-one. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.