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It seems our home is a breeding ground. Workrooms are apparently getting together late at night. Next day, voila, more workrooms.

It’s the season, I think. There’s something about Christmas that demands space for stuff, hidden and lounging about. Stuff to be wrapped. Stuff to wrap with. Stuff to “conspire, as they dream by the fire.”

The wife is in the middle of all this, managing the workrooms like different fronts on a battlefield. Right now, all’s quiet on the Western Front, but the Eastern one is aglow with frenzied activity. I can hear Christmas music and rattling paper, smell candles burning. Things are happening there that will delight grandchildren and bring smiles to daughters and daughters-in-law. The men involved will grin in a manly man sort of way. I know, I’ve been there, done that.

The wife, the Grandma, you see, is the conductor and soul of the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas symphony. She signs off on the right tree to cut, I erect it, and she decorates it. Actually, she bedecks two, one real, one artificial. Used to be three when the kids were home: one real—the big one, one artificial—the artistic one, and another real one—the smaller one adorned with kids’, traditional, and sentimental family ornaments. Whatever, she is seen in them all.

The wife is the one, too, who actually works in the workrooms. I make forays in and get out quickly, like a medic on a field of battle. She stays in the line of fire and directs the action. She wraps decoratively. I tape paper around purchased items. She is the one, of course, who envisioned, found, purchased, and carried home the stuff—gifts—in the first place. She’s the one who transforms the stuff into Christmas memories.

So multiplying workrooms are a symbol of love not labor. God give us more workrooms.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at

So now you can get ordained online. No fuss, no muss. No theological education necessary. No experience needed. No Ordination Council to survive, and none later to backstop you when you’re thrown your first curveball. No criteria whatsoever really, except maybe a handling fee.

Google “Online Ordination” and you get links like “Become a Minister Today” or “Fast Minister Ordination.” Or the all-purpose “How To Become An Ordained Minister Online For Free.”

I’d laugh, but I don’t know if I can laugh and shake my head at the same time. In my book online ordination is right up, or maybe down, there with online, non-accredited, no-coursework-necessary college diplomas. We’ve endured diploma mills. Now come ordination mills.

A trend is developing nationwide wherein more engaged couples are turning to friends and quicky ordination for friend-led weddings. The idea is that it’s cheaper, more intimate—couples at the altar “feel better” with someone they know as opposed to a clergyman they don’t know. And friend-ordination reduces pressure to be married in a church.

The Universal Life Church claims to have ordained some 18 million people, about 3,000 per month. This is all in the name of religious liberty.

It gets worse. Some of ordination websites assure the would-be applicant he or she will be able to start a church or conduct religious ceremonies. One site suggested ordination is a good way to get a business going, earn extra money, and travel to interesting locations to administer ceremonies.

Why become ordained, for free or fee? Websites proclaim advantages:

--Perform weddings

--Earn respect typically accorded to members of the clergy

--Gain a title, like Reverend, Bishop, Rabbi, or even Prophet

--Earn money

--Garner preferred treatment often given to clergy—like parking spaces.

One online ordination site offers “Clergy Packages,” which is to say if you pay more money, about $40 to $60 more per package, you’ll get more helpful items: new ministers handbook, ceremony templates for weddings, funerals, baptisms, an Honorary Doctor of Divinity, and my favorite, a CLERGY dashboard sign.

Online ordination is important more for what it represents than what it is. What it is, of course, is ludicrous. But what it represents is further secularization of American culture. One more important life event is removed from the experience of the church.

Why doesn’t the betrothed couple know the pastor or want a church wedding? Because they don’t go to church.

But ordination isn’t a game denominations play. Sure, one can always find examples of excess. But this isn’t the norm. Religious orders, Catholic, Protestant, Judaic, and more, which take their beliefs seriously, look upon ordination as an important, exciting, and affirming experience in a young ordinand’s life.

Generally, an ordination involves the ordinand’s statement of a call to service. The ordination is an examination for which the ordinand has prepared, probably for years, gaining theological degrees and experience. It involves the questions, review, and affirmation of a body of denominational leaders who know what it means to be clergy. Ultimately, an ordination means the leaders have examined and attested to the young person’s character, call, preparation, and readiness for religious leadership. And finally, the ordination is a dedication, a high point near the end of the ceremony when some honored person prays for the applicant to ministry, for the future ministry, and for the Church.

To undercut this kind of solemnity with online ordination is to undermine the integrity of the Church and to make a mockery of religious dedication.

So I think online ordinations are shoddy, shallow, and sad.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


Am I the only one who gets the shivers when I open a box only to discover it’s full of polystyrene packing peanuts? If there’s one commercial product I cannot abide it is packing peanuts. And there’re a lot of good reasons for my mania.

Packing peanuts are those typically white, petroleum-based cushioning products patented by Dow Chemical Company in the mid-1960s. They’re used in boxes or other conveyances to protect the object being shipped. Dow Chemical calls their polystyrene product Styrofoam, a word that’s gone into everyday currency for any product that’s remotely similar, like the material in a coffee cup. Scary as it may seem, there’re now different kinds of packing peanuts.

I, for one, despise them all. Nothing is more challenging—or frustrating—than trying to unpack something covered with Styrofoam peanuts. First, they fall apart and small pieces scatter everywhere. Second, these small pieces as well as whole peanuts stick to everything: the product, clothes, hair, furniture, carpet, you name it, they stick, and the more you try to avoid them the more they spread. They get into cracks and crevices of the new product, stick to your couch, and turn up later between your toes. Packing peanuts are, in a word, diabolical.

Styrofoam packing peanuts are 95% air. Thus, they easily blow in the air and float on water, hence the nickname “White Pollution.” They’re reusable and in loose fill fashion, allow air to flow through packaging yet interlock under pressure.

Sound good? But: polystyrene peanuts are not biodegradable (unless you count gradual breakup over 500 years), are not water soluble, give off toxins when they do finally fall apart, and are highly static.

In the United States we throw away about 2 million tons of this stuff per year, most of it ending up accounting for 25-30% of the waste in landfills. It can kill birds or fish mistaking it for food.

Efforts have been made to find a biodegradable alternative to polystyrene packing peanuts. Starch and other food-based peanuts are now used by some companies. Usually they’re green to signify their recyclable, biodegradable qualities. They’re heavier, water soluble, non-toxic, and non-static, but more costly. Nordstrom, at least, is there, having switched all packing materials to biodegradable soy-based peanuts.

A new paper-based peanut called PaperNuts has also been developed. PaperNuts are not made from oil or food materials, aren’t static, toxic, or heavy. They’re made from recycled paper, and are recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable.

Styrofoam packing peanuts periodically steal into our home inside an opaque box, like Greeks hiding in the Trojan horse entering Troy. I consider them the enemy and while the Greeks defeated the Trojans I try to get the upper hand on packing peanuts.

Here’s the battle plan: Don’t touch the peanuts with your hands, use an old towel to wipe peanuts from the product, thus allowing inevitable static to stick peanuts to the towel. Clean the product of peanuts while it’s yet in the box. Do your level best not to let the Greeks, I mean the peanuts, into your house. Keep them inside the horse, er box. Get the box of peanuts outside your house as soon as possible, as in immediately. If you don’t, pieces of will travel and you’ll find bits of static poly for weeks to come.

I say, “Down with polystyrene packing peanuts. Up with paper peanuts.” And if this won’t work, drive to the nearest retail establishment and by your product, specifying no packing peanuts allowed.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


My good and generous wife has taught me many things, not the least of which is how to be more compassionate toward others. While I’m still a work-in-progress, caring oozes from her. If anyone has the gift of spiritual hospitality, she’s one.

But two eminently practical things my West Virginia flower taught me stand above all others: how to build a fire and how to handle wrapping tape.

Now perhaps you don’t think these skills are anything to write home about. But not me. I know these practical proficiencies make life immensely more livable and for years they’ve saved me time and preserved the thimble of sanity God gave me.

Building a Fire: You’d think that anyone with a brain could build a fire. I mean the capacity to do so is one of the attributes scientists tell us distinguishes man from beast. Yet I reached the legal age of 21 without really knowing how to build a fire from scratch.

I could light fires with a match in the trash drum in the back yard, an experience now almost gone from urban life. I could strike matches all day long. But I didn’t know how to build a wood fire in a fireplace because I grew up in a house that didn’t have a fireplace. Only the well-to-do in mansions or the homeless under the bridge had fireplaces in my town. So when we arrived at our cabin in the woods to begin our honeymoon at Babcock State Park, my fire building trouble was nigh.

It was August 12, 1974. Nixon was three days out and Ford was three days in the presidency. We were living the second full day of our marriage. We walked into this beautiful log cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1937, complete with fireplace. Fantastic, so much so we came back for summer vacation, kids in tow, for the next thirteen years. But back to the story.

Later that evening—it’s our honeymoon, remember—we decide flaming logs might be romantic, so in my macho glory I build a fire. Actually, I piled huge chunks of wood in the fireplace, doused them thoroughly with kerosene, and tossed in a match. Sometimes this method eventually created a real fire, usually it didn’t. Either way, it created an overpowering kerosene stink in the cabin. This episode repeated itself until my new honey, with sinus issues to begin with, said, “Enough”—or more new-wifey words that meant the same thing.

Sarah built a fire as I watched in nonplussed amazement. She started with little wads of paper, piled small sticks than larger sticks, built a teepee of smaller pieces of wood around the core, and finally stepped back to survey her handiwork. After a sigh that said, “I’ve got this, Bub,” she struck a match at the bottom and watched with no small satisfaction as the teepee burst into a real live ongoing fire. After a few moments when she graciously (remember, she’s compassionate toward the needy, which in this case was clearly me) did not gloat, she gradually layered larger pieces of wood on the now raging fire.

Wow, what a woman. To this day, I make fires properly, ones that do homage to a pretty young bride.

Handling Wrapping Tape: On several occasions I’ve tangled myself in wide-band wrapping tape while failing to get a single strip of tape affixed to the box in front of me. The tape always seemed to double-up on itself, thus making it impossible to apply. Either that or it stuck vigorously to my skin, taking with it decades of hairy growth when I pulled it off.

I was ready to pitch the tape roll and concede that some tasks were beyond my mental and physical dexterity. But then Sarah interrupted my mania with adult insight.

She said, “Stick the roll of tape to something like the edge of your desk while you work with the cut piece. Then the main roll won’t turn back on itself. When you’re finished bend the end of the tape back so it sticks to itself, thus preventing it from adhering again to the roll and making it nearly impossible next go round to pull up the end.”

Her technique worked scary well and has ever since. It took the “dys” out of my dysfunctional wrapping tape machinations and made me once again a productive member of society. Who knew common sense could be so sensible?

God knew what he was talking about when he looked at Adam and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18).

Without my helper I would have by now either frozen to death trying to make a fire or mummified myself in wrapping tape.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


I was once a red kettle bell ringer for The Salvation Army—for about 20 minutes.

The story begins several years ago when Sarah and I decided to go to Chicago for our annual Christmas get-away, shopping, see-the-lights-n-sights day.

We started this practice when the kids were young. It gave us one sometimes two days without munchkin distractions. It provided a break in our schedules, and still does, for us to amble through retail America looking at whatever tweaks our fancy, enjoying a long lunch in a nice restaurant, and in general having a good time. It may not sound like much, but I look forward to it every year. We both put on bright green or red holiday sweaters, think festively, and take off for a day of hot coffee (me) or tea (her) and wondrous displays of Christmas decorations.

We drove south to Chicago early in the morning, gained an hour crossing into Central Time, and were walking Michigan Avenue by 9:00 am.

Now here’s the thing: we love doing this together, but we shop differently. She’s a slower, few specific stores, mine deep for the gold kind of shopper. We may be at a mall all day and she’ll have visited five or six stores in one wing. I, on the other hand, am a case-the-place, traverse the entire mall or length of Michigan Avenue, surface kind of shopper. In fact, it’s not fair to shoppers everywhere to call me a shopper at all. I buy things once in awhile, but it’s because I was looking for it, went to that store to get it, found what I wanted, and put down the dough. My “shopping” might more appropriately be called “exploring.”

So, what do we do? We get to the mall or in this case the Magnificent Mile, pick a time to meet, synch our watches, and split up. We actually did this when we were dating. It’s a method that still works. In the days before cell phones, if she wanted to find me before the appointed time, she’d check the nearest Barnes and Noble where I’d be ensconced in the Starbucks café reading and sipping a cup of joe. It’s a given. Like a natural law. But this day that bookshop coffee was yet to be.

This is how I came be standing by myself in The Windy City in front of the John Hancock Center. That’s the tall building that looks like a smaller, squeezed version of what was then called the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower: who thinks up these kinds of nonsensical changes? People despise the new name and it’s disrupted the social fabric of an entire city. Anyway, there I was.

I was just beginning my reconnoiter when I heard to my left the famous tinkling bell of a red kettle bell ringer with The Salvation Army. The older (I’d say elderly, which frankly is how she appeared, but she was pretty sprightly) lady working the kettle was dressed, forgive me for saying, like she needed the funds more than anyone else who might receive them. She was, to put it as politely as I can, raggedy. I don’t know if this was her state in life or if this was a shrewd marketing ploy, but it worked for her. She made eye contact with me and we nodded our heads. We, of course, had never met before and were thus total strangers.

Then, for reasons I cannot fathom to this day, she said to me, “Would you mind manning this kettle for a few minutes? I have to go to the bathroom so badly I can’t stay here, but The Army doesn’t allow us to leave the kettle.”

Now I ask you, how could I turn down a damsel in distress? So I said, “Sure, I guess so. What should I do?” This is when she looked at me like maybe she’d made a mistake, like maybe she’d picked a dunderhead who didn’t know how to ring a bell standing by a red kettle. But she said, “You don’t have to do anything but just stand here and watch the kettle. Make sure no one bothers it. There’s a restroom right down there near the Cheesecake Factory. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” So improbable as it seemed, there I was. I assumed the position and she tore off running down steps like a grade schooler, disappearing behind pillars and me wondering if she’d ever come back.

What makes this more amusing is that I’d chosen that day to wear a sport outfit. I enjoy professional football and had been a fan of the Miami Dolphins since their perfect season during my college years. As a Christmas present one year Sarah bought me the full deal: winter Miami Dolphins coat, gloves, and knit toboggan cap. And did I mention that it was bitterly cold that December day? So here I am standing along Michigan Avenue in a bright light green and orange coat, dark green gloves, and light green hat with a Dolphins logo on the front. I was ready for a football game but not public display in a chic neighborhood. The irony is, every other year we made this trip I’d worn a black fedora with feather and a black dress coat, but this year I went as a rabid fan.

So I rang the little bell. Four or five people passed by. Four or five more put change in the kettle—“Yes! I can do this job.” The lady will be proud of me.

I stand there, I ring the bell, I ring the bell some more. Then I noticed to my right an elegantly dressed couple from Grand Rapids, business owners I knew from my work at the university. Apparently this was their shopping/exploring day too, because they checked their watches, gave the loving nod, and parted company, she across the street toward Bloomingdales and he to points unknown. At any moment I thought he was going to see me, but he didn’t. I don’t know if he didn’t recognize me and kept going or if he didn’t “see” The Salvation Army bell ringer in his haste to move on to warmer locations. I considered yelling a greeting, but stopped and to this day I’m not sure why. Was I ashamed of what I was doing? Why would I be? Or did I not want to tout my good deed in an inappropriate manner? I don’t know. What bothers me now is that ego was probably involved in either motivation.

Finally, after at least 20 minutes, the kind lady returned with a smile on her face, thanking me effusively for this wonderful thing I had done. I didn’t think I’d done all that much, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d had second thoughts and hadn’t identified myself to a person I knew. So I didn’t think my record was a good one. She, however, seemed to think I was a knight who’d rescued her from ignominy.

And maybe I was, a Knight in Miami Dolphins green and orange. One thing for sure, my respect went through the roof for people who stand by red kettles in the cold elements and ring bells for The Salvation Army.

I said, “Goodbye,” and she said, “God bless you,” and I went exploring for that bookstore and java.

Someday I’m going to call that business couple and tell them this story.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


Each US President's signature is etched in the wood panels of the entrance hall of the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. It’s an interesting exhibit, which caught my attention immediately not because it was first on the tour but because I’d never seen anything like it.

Like the public, some presidents wrote well or even beautifully; some did not. Some wrote small versus larger letters. Some wrote legibly, meaning some were not easy to read. A few wrote with the proficiency of John Hancock. Some used initials. Some used middle names. Some signed his name with what appeared to be a certain flourish. Some signed his name in what appeared to be modesty, almost timidity. But now I’m interpreting or “reading into” the signature. Interpreting signatures is controversial.

Graphology is the pseudoscientific analysis of handwriting. One of the earliest books on the subject was written in the 16th Century, but graphology in practice if not in name dates much earlier than this. Analyzing handwriting includes signatures, of course. Supposedly, graphologists can predict personality traits and identify how people will likely think if appointed to, say, a jury. But pun intended, the jury is still out on this one.

I’m not enamored with the idea anyone can deduce anything from a person’s handwriting or signature—except perhaps how accomplished the person’s grade school teachers were in handwriting instruction. But I’ve always found it interesting to consider how or why people sign their name as they do.

I’ve especially wondered what leads people to sign their name in a virtually or even thoroughly un-readable fashion. If you saw their signature anywhere but where signatures are supposed to reside you’d think the signature was simply a scribble mark. What strikes me as odd is that this signature, this scribble, is legally them. It commits them to whatever they signed.

A scribble is generally not distinctive, or at least another person could claim the same scribble. Yet your name and signature belong to you (This thought breaks down, I know—believe it or not, there are a lot of Rex Rogerses in Michigan let alone the US, UK, and Australia. But there aren’t too many Rex M Rogerses). So why do people sign their name like illiterate people did in pioneer days? Just “Make your mark here” someone said and people put down their X. It's not like it's a sin, mind you, but I don’t get this.

Supposedly medical doctors writing prescriptions model the world’s worst handwriting, but I don’t think that’s fair. They just provide examples of their handwriting to a broader cross-section of the population than most professionals do.

Poor penmanship is endemic to modern civilization. We’re in a hurry, and we spend most of our “writing” time on keyboards anyway. Good penmanship is doomed, even in our own signatures.

At any rate, handwriting in general and signatures specifically are different because people are different, whether learned behavior or some mystical thing rooted in personality. I just find signatures fascinating, a kind of fingerprint with words.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at