Forty Years of Gratitude

gratitudeOn May 31, I spent some time reflecting on four decades of life. Gratitude quickly became my dominant feeling, and I determined to form a list of suitable length. Items started in a somewhat logical order, but eventually a bit of randomness took over. And then it took a few days to finish! 🙂

1) God
Everything is from Him, and everything is for Him. He is the source of all we see, and a whole bunch more that we don’t. I praise Him as the giver of life, marvel at Him as the Redeemer of all, and seek Him as the guide who hasn’t failed me yet. And if He were not, the rest of this enjoyable list would quickly fade in its beauty.

2) Wife
This lovely woman pledged herself to journey with me before either of us had any clue where we were going! She has enriched my life more than I could calculate, and it gives me pleasure to know our forever-road is a shared one. She was full of beauty when we met, more when we married, and now full of still more as the candles on our cakes increase. Being loved is a good thing, being loved by Shannon is a great thing.

3) Daughters
These three young ladies have added more delight to my life than I could have imagined. A week after our oldest was born, a friend sidled up to me at church and asked knowingly, “So are you feeling things you never felt before?” The answer was yes on that day. The answer is a repeat — but louder — on this day. Loving children is a good thing, and loving these children is a great thing.

4) Parents
I have often counted the first great gift of my life as that of landing in a loving and nurturing family. One wishes this were the experience of every child, but one knows better. Our family has as many quirks as any, but I can truthfully say that care and encouragement and affirmation and support have always being marks of my parents. And four decades in, they continue to love me – and now my own family.  I’m grateful for you, Mom and Dad.

5) Sisters
One of my sisters factors in to the majority of my childhood memories. The other arrived after most of those had occurred, instead sweeping in to my teenage years. Both of these women are intelligent and gifted, caring and powerful. Both of them could likely achieve whatever they set their minds to, and both of them mean more to me today than they did when I first met them. 🙂

6) Extended Family
Mine was a childhood where extended family was spread over many years and many miles. In that sense, my experience of extended family lacked the tightness of some. Still some of my very special and fun childhood memories link back to Christmas holidays and family reunions, fun around card tables and presents around trees. Each of these relationships has evolved over time, and I suspect some of them will become even more special in the future than they were in the past. Family is a good thing, this is something to remember.

7) In-laws
Countless folks live out the jokes that comedians make about in-laws. As much as I laugh at those jokes, I don’t live out any of them. For over 20 years, my in-laws —even before they were my in-laws – treated me with grace and kindness and generosity. I’m certain both the Bandura family and the Tucker family could provide sufficient fodder for an observant comedian, but it’s my blessing to report that Shannon’s latter has been a great addition to my former.

8) Nieces and Nephews
Aiden, Sydney, Mareesa, Jesse, Kalum, Klaya, Deacon, Ryley —  Every one of these kids is special, from the oldest – now driving cars and working shifts – to the youngest, with crawling still on the horizon. Uncles and aunties can play really special roles; I hope that in some way we will play that spot for this growing group.

9) Church
Many church circles use family language to speak of their relationships. That is no stretch for me. There are many for whom church has been an environment of hurt or disappointment. To be sure, my lifelong association with churches has involved experiences that should’ve been better, but the vast majority of mileage that I’ve logged with churches has involved environments of grace and gentleness, where love has been lived out and life has been shared well. Some traditions speak of God as Father and church as Mother. Beneath those “parents”, I have been well nurtured for many years.

10) Gravelbourg
If one must choose a nation in which to live, I nominate Canada. If one must choose a province in which to dwell, I vote for Saskatchewan. If one must choose a community in which to grow up, I’d have been hard-pressed to pick a better one than Gravelbourg. Beginning at age 8, this little town was a sweet place to be raised. I hope it enjoys a bright future for many generations to come!

11) Teachers
I always loved school. Much of that was likely due to good teachers. To the best of my memory, I think I’ve got the near-full roster here, right from Kindergarten through College. I have fond memories or everyone on this list!

K-7: Klassen, Labas, Specht, Moquin, Beaudoin, Léost, Dauphinais, Harbus

8-10: Marchand, Piché, Legault, Bell, Stringer, Loiselle, Bandura (yes, my Dad taught me!)

11-College: Olson, Husband, Husband (again), Muller, Close, Kirkpatrick, Roberts, Bolton, Hart, Perry, Deal, Buchanan

Good teachers are gifts, and I received many of them. Heck, I’m still receiving them!

12) Dakota Preacher
When I was 18 years old, I was touring with a singing/drama group through North Dakota and South Dakota. Each night, the dozen of us were billeted out to stay with families of the local church that was hosting us. Around that time, I was determining my career path. One night, I was hosted by an old preacher and his wife. I’ll never remember their names, and I’ll never recall the city. But he gave me two sentences in a late-night conversation that helped me discern that the Lord was nudging me in a direction that I’d best not ignore. When people speak of “calling”, that’s what was unfolding in that season. And that’s what I prayerfully said “Yes” to that night. Every time I recall the story, that anonymous old gentleman makes me smile all over again. Bless you, Dakota Preacher!

13) Writers
It would be no exaggeration to state that my values and worldview have been forcefully shaped by a multitude of people I have never personally met. From the moment I could sound words out, books have been a vital part of my life. Set me in a library or bookstore, and you can leave me for the day if you like. Leave me a sleeping bag, and you can pick me up in the morning. At this point, it’s impossible to formulate even a Top Ten list of authors who have impacted me; there are just too many. The names on that list would range from theologians and scholars to economists and comedians, from jocks and journalists to kings and apostles, from professors and prisoners to monks and mystics, from poets and preachers to fathers and friends. Words can create worlds, I know this full well.

14) Musicians
Words are powerful; I just said that. Words set to music — those can be even more. Part of that is simply that words-with-tune lock into our minds like few other things! I still know a couple tunes by the Oak Ridge Boys, from the radio stations of childhood car trips.  The first album (on cassette) I ever bought with my own money was Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet”. A bargain-bin demo tape by the Langley Vineyard in the mid-1990’s introduced me to worship music that awakened my soul. A double-disc CD by Delirious a few years later continued that journey. Albums — many of them no longer fresh — that I will still hold dear years from now may include some by Steve Bell, Caedmon’s Call, Third Day, Shane & Shane, Steffany Gretzinger, Bethel Music, with some Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, Genesis, and Beach Boys thrown in for way-back-when variety. 🙂

15) SESPU
For over 10 years, I’ve been a member of the unofficial South East Saskatchewan Preachers’ Union. The acronym long ago outgrew its geographic accuracy, and its sound-similarity to “cesspool” serves to keep us steadily humble, while also encouraging great hygiene practices. More importantly, this group — while its members have changed multiple times in the past decade — has been a steady source of encouragement, camaraderie, and friendship to me. Many pastors I know generate facial expressions of envious longing when I describe to them what we’ve created together. It’s been a pleasure, gentleman, and I look forward to reconnecting and building more!

16) Seminary
I completed my graduate studies in 2003, basically a lifetime ago! It wasn’t long after that that I determined the point of a Master’s degree had nothing to do with the courses or the content. Rather, it had everything to do with altering my processor, in order that every thought from that point forward would be better than it might have been otherwise. I like to think that’s been true. I’m sure there’ve been exceptions! Regardless, those three years were precious, during which I received the gifts of many more wonderful teachers: Ralph, Carter, Janzen, Boda, Kenzo, Friebel, Remin, Cummins to name but a few. The list of classmates would be longer still. Thanks CTS community — you were a gift to me. Still are!

17) China Years
In 2003, we owed and owned nothing. From that place of freedom, we determined to spend a year teaching English abroad. One year turned into three, and I have often stated, “ When we are old and grey, recalling the ‘good old days,’  some of those days will be China days.” There have been many special days since then, but those three years were definitely formative and fun and unforgettable for this once-younger couple. 🙂

18) Bible Camp
Reflecting on my childhood generated a thought: Some of my greatest memories are from Bible Camp. ClearView Christian Camp became an annual highlight for me around the age of 8. Over 30 years later, I still spend a week there every summer, long ago joining the volunteer side of the equation. The time of my children attending is not likely far off. Recent years have seen our entire family richly blessed by LifeLinks Family Camp in Montana as well. Kind friends invited us into “their world”, and I now doubt whether they will ever successfully push us back out. 🙂   What can I say? There’s just something special about Bible Camp.

19) Guitar
I was the least musical kid you’d ever have met, aside from singing at church and rocking along with whatever was playing from my ghetto blaster (there’s an 80’s term for you) — always in the privacy and safety of my closed-door bedroom. Our family didn’t have a musical emphasis, and even if my parents had pushed me in that direction, I would have balked. Sports was all I wanted. However, when Shannon and I married midway through her university years, I determined that I needed a hobby to fill my wife-has-homework hours. Encouraged by a couple friends who were teaching themselves at the time, I brought my first guitar home in a wedge-shaped cardboard box because we didn’t have enough money for the case. I then purchased a small coiled book of worship songs and proceeded to begin with all the ones built on only three chords. My main goal: Learn to strum steadily and speedily enough that I could enjoy singing in my living room. I did. And I still do. 🙂

20) Sports
As just mentioned, I’ve loved sports since I was born. Hockey, baseball, badminton, basketball, volleyball, and swimming all provided fun and pleasure for spans of my life. For all its benefits, exercise in itself doesn’t allure me nearly so much as when it involves ways to score or strategy and skills to hone. While that passion has found a different place within my adult list of priorities (anyone else notice those aren’t the same as in high school?!), I still follow enough sports stories to roll Shannon’s eyes on a good day. And I’m happy to do so!

21) Milkshakes
Who doesn’t love milkshakes?! I’m also grateful for their cousin ice cream. They both make the list. And if you treat me to either in the year ahead, you might even make the list.

22) Health
I’m grateful for a healthy 40 years! I’ve had more injuries than illnesses, mostly from the sports mentioned above and mostly healed up. But health has been a blessing, so much so that I often joke (only partly) that I’m aimed at living until 120, meaning my “over the hill” experience won’t be arriving until around 2062.

23) Faith
Without hesitation, my spiritual journey is the richest dimension of my life. That doesn’t mean I’m a guru on a mountain-top. It doesn’t even mean I have more answers than questions — quite the opposite actually. What I mean is this: I have often mused over how very impoverished my life would feel without spirituality, particularly the path I have discovered in Jesus. The pursuit of knowing and trusting and loving and following God has been central to my existence for well over two decades. Every other piece of my life is interwoven into it, stemming from it. My greatest intellectual stimulation, emotional development, relational depth, character formation, and gut-level satisfaction has all been found there. Well over 1500 years ago, Augustine expressed it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” I have found this to be true, and rest is wildly better than restlessness!

24) House
We have lived most of our past year in a rental property, and it’s served us well. We furnished it as basically and cheaply as we could, treating the year as an extended camping trip. And it’s worked. But would you believe that our house back home is looking pretty sweet in our imaginations right about now? A space of one’s own is a privilege and pleasure, and we’ve had both in owning three different homes through our marrieds lives. They’ve all been more-than-adequate and well-suited to our seasons of life. A house of one’s own — a gift to be stewarded and enjoyed for sure!

25) Bed
Sleeping on a cheap, secondhand mattress on the floor for the past nine months has reminded me well: Never underestimate the value of a good bed!

26) Vehicles
In 1993, I took my drivers test in a 1976 Chevy Nova.  The first few cars I might have called my own were Mercury Topaz. The first car I felt some pleasure in was a Pontiac Grand Am. We now own a Pontiac Vibe and a Toyota Sienna.  It is not a blessing lost on me to own reliable vehicles that require only reasonable and occasional maintenance. Yay for this!

27) Technology
For all the struggles that technology has added to the world, I confess to significant gratitude for the inventions of computers and Internet, GPS and PVR. I love my iPhone, and I marvel at Facebook’s ability to both reunite long lost friends and to assassinate helpless hours who were certainly created for nobler purposes.

28) Down Ancient Paths
Less than a decade ago, I had two separate opportunities to travel the Holy Land through this organization. While I have likely blurred into his memory, I will forever count Charles Nienkirchen as a friend, as well as one of my all-time favourite teachers. Travelling portions of Israel, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, and Turkey with him was a rare privilege, which I will never forget. If you ever wish for a first-rate, faith-centred travel-learning experience, check DAP out. You’ll be grateful you did.

29) Sandwiches
Such a simple and perfect meal! Shannon and I have spent an inordinate portion of our marriage bickering over whether normal humans pronounce the word as it looks phonetically or rather more like “samwich”. Regardless of how the syllables are uttered, the world is a better place because of stuff stuffed into bread.

30) Arrow Leadership
From 2011 through 2013, this leadership course enriched my life in ways I’d never have imagined. The relationships were rich, the facilitators were exceptional, and the contacts made there continue today to bless both me and many within my sphere of influence. I’m grateful for the extraordinary community experience that this was — indicative of the grace, wisdom, and power that Christ-centered relationships can really wield. If you’ve ever longed for “more”, I guarantee you, friend: It can be had!

31) Fruit
Poorly-informed tradition views the fall of humanity revolving around an apple. Truthfully, it was more likely to have been a number of other options in that lured in Adam & Eve. And stupid them! But if it had been a mango or a cherry or a raspberry (or a few others favourites of mine), I’d have been likely to have plunged all Creation into a Fall as well.

32) Laughter
If there’s a better sound than a child laughing, I’ve not heard it. If there’s a better feeling than gasping from a tear-causing bout of the funnies, I’ve not felt it. Whether it’s stirred up by a stand-up comedian, a witty friend, a clever story on an audio book, a wildly honest word from the lips of a child, or the latest viral prank video, humour is something I’m quick to say thanks for. A world without laughter would hardly be a world at all. Gratefully, I’ve not lived many days in any world like that.

33) Science
Though any formal “science classes” ended for me in high school, I think I’ve actually been wired to love science since birth. So I have great appreciation for those who devote their lives to being driven by curiosity to discover new technologies, to answer age-old questions, to improve the human experience, and make the world a better place. Those who undertake such endeavours with intelligence and integrity, humility and wonder are always some of my very favourite folks to learn from.

34) Nature
Imagine a world without a world! No… wait: Don’t bother. What I mean is: Nature is good! Trees, water, animals, air, sky, sun, fields, flowers, bugs, rainbows, stars, clouds, soil, wind. No exhaustive list could be formed! I read a study recently that said claimed quantifiable results that people are healthier when they spend time with trees. I don’t doubt it’s true, and I do doubt it’s limited to trees. Goodness and life pour through Creation. Enjoy it and treasure it.

35) Conversation
Minds and hearts turning thoughts and feelings into words — this has long been fun to me! Not just fun, but feeding. As I’ve aged, I’ve also discovered more of my introverted nature that reveals itself at times with a strong inner sense that it’s time for all conversations to stop. Because for me, there are moments when it had better be silence or stillness in a hurry. But lives are made to intertwine, and conversations with special people factor into many of my most precious times through four decades.

36) Sabbatical/BSSM
This list is something of a close to four decades of life. It’s also something of a conclusion to a very special nine-month period for our family. We’ve been richly blessed by churches in both Regina (for sending us) and in Redding (for receiving us). I’m well aware of the inability I currently feel to concisely or even coherently answer the upcoming question, “So how was BSSM?” For a guy who just admitted his love of conversation, that reply may be one requiring groanings that the Holy Spirit then interprets! This opportunity has been rich and rough, fun and full, exhausting and refreshing all at once. And in a decade from now, I’ll still be unearthing things that were initiated here.

37) Work
I’ve always had a job when I wanted or needed one. Some were mundane, some were more interesting. Either way, I always gave my best, enjoyed my coworkers, and learned what I could. For over a decade, I’ve served with the Glen Elm Church of Christ. It’s had moments of all over the spectrum, but overall, such a privilege and pleasure. My pad answer when strangers ask me about my work is that “I love most of it most of the time.” And typically, they reply to me, “I’d take that!” I would too! And I do. 🙂

38) Showers
One of the simple pleasures of life, without a doubt! Coincidentally, it’s also where most of my best thoughts take place. If I could put one in my office, or rig up a desk space and waterproof computer in my shower at home, I dare dream that I’d get productive enough to sweep a few Nobel Prizes in a given calendar year. That may be an overstatement, but I would be mighty clean!

39) Travel
The world is a glorious place! To be sure, it’s full of struggle and hardship. At times, the beauty and the heartbreak are holding hands beside one another. However, the point here is that the opportunity to travel and be shaped by such discoveries is a luxury, one that I have both enjoyed and cherished. Nineteen nations and counting have impacted me — some for days, others for years. To be sure, there are many ways to travel — it may be commonplace for people to trek and take. But I’ve never tried to be that type of traveler. Going and giving seems more appropriate, and as if by supernatural mathematics, one ends up receiving even more in return! It would be near-impossible to list all the ways I’ve been impacted by lessons learned in other lands, but it is a certainty that I am a different man today than I would have been, had my feet never wandered off.

40) You
If you’ve slugged it through this whole list, then there’s definitely a spot on it for you! You’re obviously an individual of grace and care, and I’m grateful for such folks! I’ve needed such folks for 40 years. And I don’t suspect my need has worn out yet. Thanks for being you!

JOIN IN: Your comment makes this post better!

  • How about your list?
  • Any obvious or obscure gratitude items pop to mind as you read the list?
  • What did I miss? 

Phil Robertson and the Lost Art of Nuance

[Embarrassing confession: The following post was begun in December 2013. No joke! It has sat pretty much untouched in my Drafts folder since its birth — a neglected child, orphaned by its maker. Most of that is forgetfulness; some of that was fear. I determined it was likely time to send it out of my Drafts box and move on. :-)]

duck dynastyI have never watched a single minute of Duck Dynasty. Prior to recent weeks, I could not have given you the name of any of the bearded fellows.

But now I know Phil.

Allow me to sketch a few things about myself:

I have been blogging here since 2007. Besides the occasional link in a Six-Pack, I have never posted about homosexuality.

If you enjoy labels, I suppose that I would be considered a conservative Christian from a mostly-Evangelical heritage.

People I know personally and value deeply would claim positions on multiple sides of this multi-faceted conversation. Some of them would even defend those positions well.

Perhaps more than any other conversation topic currently crossing my radar, dialogue around the topic of homosexuality highlights one word for me: nuance.

 

NUANCE IN MOUTHS AND EARS

Literally defined, nuance is “a subtle difference of or shade in meaning, expression, or sound”.

Nuance is the intellectual and linguistic ability to pick up individual grains of rice with a pair of tweezers.

As a speaker, this requires crystal-clear thought processes along with a finely tuned command of language (and one’s tongue). Within any bowl of rice, there will be some whose only utensil is a wooden spoon. These people should never be nominated as spokesmen for potentially explosive conversations.

As a listener, this also demands graciousness, displayed first by a tendency to reply inquisitively rather than insultedly. Such a listener will live with the acknowledgment that numerous views exist upon spectrums that contain more points than  “right” and “ridiculous”. Many of these points will only be discovered as nuanced speakers (mentioned above) enlighten us to perspectives other than our own. Listeners whose ears register only the frequency of their own voices will make as much mess of the rice ball as the wooden-spoon-speakers mentioned above.

 

RELUCTANT REFLECTIONS

As was indicated earlier, I have never posted on the topic of homosexuality. It’s not that I have no thoughts on the subject, but I confess to questioning the value of adding one more voice to a dialogue that seems destined to be hijacked by the opinionated extremes of the discussion. Would it be too simple to say that this post awoke me in the night, and as a father with small children, I’m only typing so that my mind will allow me to go back to bed? 😉

Some random reflections, in the spirit of nuance:

 

ILLOGICAL

Duck-man Phil’s comments about the illogical nature of gay relationships are hardly shocking. His phrasing, containing blunt mention of male and female anatomy, certainly engaged ears. But his basic point is hardly controversial: We cannot imagine what we cannot imagine. I have friends who anoint every dinner in burn-your-face-off hot sauce. My mouth does not enjoy the fire or the flavor of such a condiment. I have no trouble declining their every offer. In fact, I cannot imagine desiring that sensation as part of my meal. To my mind, it is illogical. To Phil’s mind, some other things are illogical. And when nuanced speakers are heard by nuanced listeners, then it doesn’t seem outrageous to imagine that many heterosexual men and women likely share Phil’s sentiment, albeit their expressions of the thought might come out through a different sequences of words and images.

 

TANGENTS APLENTY

As a student of Scripture, the piece of this large conversation that most interests me is the discussion of how we interpret the Bible’s teaching on the subject. I am not so out of tune with reality as to assume that every participant in this conversation gives a rip about the Christian faith or the words of our sacred text. But for my part, that is the strand that grabs my first level of interest. Everyone has a first strand of interest; now I have identified mine.

By its very nature, the more specific discussion about gay marriage demands nuance. The Bible-believing, God-fearing faith-folks will require nuance to keep from the turning this conversation into something else.

It is a separate topic to discuss whether Christian values should govern one’s nation.

  • Who gets to determine this?
  • On what historical or biblical model are you basing your concept?
  • Are you speaking of the Christian equivalent of what we see in Muslim states where Sharia Law governs, or are you envisioning something else?

It is yet another topic to consider what the role of government is within a democratic country.

  • What does it mean that public servants represent the people, when the opinions of the people are all over the map?
  • Shocking as this may be, democracy is not a biblical teaching despite the fact that some of its foundational thoughts might be a rooted in biblical concepts, such as the value of every individual as an image-bearer of the Creator.
  • How are the elected officials within a given democracy expected to protect or provide the privileges described in their Constitution to every stripe of citizen under their care?

In the handful of articles I recall reading, which provided commentary on Phil’s remarks,  the majority of writers and journalists expressed bewilderment at a string of words within his opinion. The particular string of words were an impressively accurate paraphrase of Romans 1:21-27, provided below.

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

As acknowledged earlier, some could not care less about Romans 1, or the apostle Paul, or the fact that Romans is one of the most profound texts in the entire Bible. But for some of us participating in the conversation, these are substantial facts.

(An aside to journalists, bloggers, and social commentators: When someone who professes to love the Bible, inserts mid-speech a string of words that don’t sound entirely like their own, the odds are reasonable that they have determined that Scripture expresses their next thought better than their own words. Google will typically decode this mystery, if help is needed. There is no sarcasm present here, as I’m fully aware of widespread biblical illiteracy. I just found it surprising how many people published pieces that expressed mystification over the most un-Phil-flavoured phrases of his whole spiel, despite these words and wordings having been spoken and respoken for two millennia. Tangent complete. 🙂 )

And it is words like those, with 2000 years or more of mileage, that intrigue me most.

 

SEEKING CONSISTENCY

This portion of the conversation is typically framed by the following thoughts:

Critics of the “traditional interpretation of the Bible” (This phrase gets used – sometimes for distinguishing, sometimes for dismissing – by people with a wide range of views on Scripture) point out that the Bible’s explicit mentions of homosexuality are few, with most references coming from the Old Testament.

Bible-loving individuals, whose theology lacks nuance, often attempt to throw down their “God says so” trump card before anything of value is on the table. Even if one believes wholeheartedly in a holy God who governs the morality of the universe, calls for nuance go out one more time. Your cause is not served well by flippant phrases or careless commentary. If the Kingdom of God is as central as you say it is to the reality of the universe, surely there are wiser ways to dialog — even disagree — with those holding opinions not your own.

In speaking of the Bible, it’s a fairly simple concept that not every portion of Scripture is equal in weight. The Bible is not a flat text, with every word dwelling at equal elevation. For some, this concept is shocking. For some, this concept is enlightening. I am not even implying that the Scriptures referring to homosexuality are insignificant. I’m simply pointing out that a lack of theological nuance can cripple any conversation centered upon Scripture.

Bible-bashing individuals, whose un-theology lacks nuance, frequently employ a feisty-while-funny line of reason, particularly when dealing with Old Testament verses that include the word “abomination”. The dismissal can be summed up in one witty line: “Well, God forbid shrimp too!”

Ah, and He did. 🙁

The argument appears an enlightened, humorous indictment of the brainpower so obviously lacking among the Bible-believers. Make no mistake: there is a worldwide lack of brainpower, and some of the shortfall is among the people of faith. But a serious irony dwells here, for the Bible-basher has just displayed the same error so common among Bible-believers: He is treating the Bible as a flat text, where every word is equal in value. (With clarity and conciseness far beyond my own, Timothy Keller breaks this concept down for anyone who cares to learn how to handle Scripture, regardless of their faith convictions. His brief piece is especially about why Old Testament application can seem inconsistent to some. It’s short and helpful to this and other discussions.)

 

OVER AND OUT

Mark McKinnon, an American political advisor, gives mostly-sound advice to any person in any discussion: To pull off successful attacks in debates, you have to execute with nuance and subtlety. It has to be artful.”

Going beyond McKinnon’s strategizing for “attacks” and “debates”, the art of nuance is more than a battle scheme. It’s a good life skill for expressing care toward others and for learning from those unlike ourselves.

It’s a move of grace. It’s a method of wisdom. And it’s not always modeled best by folks whose lives revolve around bird-hunting. If Phil strikes your chord, that’s your choice.

But as for adding nuance to this, or any other potentially dicey conversation, that’s your duty.

So go for it… carefully. 🙂

[One ancient Draft cleared out. Next up: A rousing piece on Y2K! I never claimed to be trendy, at least not in any timely fashion.]

 

 

 

Larry Bird Can Trash Talk

[In my January 1, 2015 post, I christened this the “Year of Learning” here on the blog. Each post, I’ll aim to share something recently discovered (or re-discovered) in the hope that you might add my learning to your own discoveries and make double-moves forward and upward this year!]

Dominique Wilkins dunksI used to love watching Dominique Wilkens dunk a basketball. His explosive vertical and his wild windmills always made me think he was the best at that particular hoops skill. Wilkens recently sat down with CBS Sports to share a memory from his rookie season, from the first time he played against Larry Bird:

“One of the first times I ever played against him, I went out for the opening tip and I went to shake his hand. He just stood there and looked at me stone-faced with his hands behind his back,” Wilkins said recently.

“I was like, ‘Whoa.’ Then we were getting ready for the tip and he says to me, ‘You don’t belong in this league, Homes.’ I couldn’t believe it, but it happened so fast, I didn’t know what to think.

“Then they had the ball and I was on him and he said, ‘I don’t know why they got you guarding me, Homes. You can’t guard me.’ Then, whap, he hit a 3. Then he came down again and said, ‘They made a mistake putting you on me, Homes,’ and he took another 3.”

Getting into the story, Wilkins began to act things out with his facial expressions.

“So now I’m hot,” he said. “I’m hot. I mean, I’m steaming.

“Then a little while later, I came down on a break and he was backpedaling. I just went right after him. I jumped up and he tried to challenge, but I took that right through the rim. He fell and hit the basket support.

“He got up and said, ‘I like you, rookie. You’ve got(guts).’ I was happy for a second, and then he said, ‘But I’m still going for 40 on you tonight.’ ”

He then paused the story, stepped back and smiled.

“But I got him,” Wilkins said. “He only scored 39.”

Smile.

So today’s lesson: Don’t expect graciousness anytime soon if you’re asked to guard Larry Bird at local pick-up game. 🙂

 

 

 

Maps are Cool

[In my January 1, 2015 post, I christened this the “Year of Learning” here on the blog. Each post, I’ll aim to share something recently discovered (or re-discovered) in the hope that you might add my learning to your own discoveries and make double-moves forward and upward this year!]

I have always been a bit of a map geek. I can recall browsing through atlases and other such books as a child, simply intrigued at the details in the diagrams presented.  I am reminded of this strand of nerdiness every time I encounter a map presenting information in some unique fashion.

For example, consider this map that depicts each nation appropriately sized to its population:

population map

[See full-sized version HERE.]

Or this one that informs us what each nation leads the world in:

lead world-map

[Read more HERE.]

Or how about this one? It’s called the Human Ooze Map. Far less gross than you might imagine, it utilizes a unique style to depict population density.

World Ooze

[Find explanation of this map HERE, if you like.]

So there is our learning for today: Maps are cool, particularly the weird ones!

 

Holy Spirit’s Marvelous Ways

[In my January 1, 2015 post, I christened this the “Year of Learning” here on the blog. Each post, I’ll aim to share something recently discovered (or re-discovered) in the hope that you might add my learning to your own discoveries and make double-moves forward and upward this year!]

One strand of the past few years has been a desire and effort to increase my familiarity with the Holy Spirit. Taken wrong, that sentence could suggest that I’m doing a report on Him as subject. I know He wants different treatment than that! He wants intimate weaving of His life with mine, a mingling of deep with deep. Toward that end, there is much for this fellow to learn. Some of it comes through means far removed from traditional study; some of it involves books.

flame of loveFrom the realm of books, I recently finished a most enjoyable volume on the Holy Spirit. Clark Pinnock was a Canadian theologian and professor, who passed away in 2010, at the age of 73. I never met him, but from a distance, I’ve always loved his gracious spirit and pressing mind. Pinnock often took criticism for views that bordered on unorthodox, but he was always measured and loving in the questions that drove him and in his responses to such critique. I alluded to him back in a post last year as well.

“Flame of Love” is the book I recently completed. In one section, Pinnock gathered from other authors a summary of metaphors from Hildegard of Bingen, born in the 11th century. This list features some of the stream of thought that used to help Hildegard consider the role of the Holy Spirit.

“In a profusion of images, Hildegard of Bingen depicts Spirit in marvelous ways: as the life of creatures, as a burning fire that sparks, ignites, inflames and kindles our hearts; as a guide in the fog, a balm for wounds, a shining serenity and an overflowing fountain that spreads to all sides. Spirit is life, movement, color, radiance and a stillness that restores, bringing withered sticks and souls alive with the sap of life. The Spirit purifies, absolves, strengthens, heals, gathers the perplexed, seeks the lost, pours the juice of contrition into hardened hearts and plays music in the soul, melodies of praise and joy. The Spirit awakens mighty hope, blowing winds of renewal everywhere in creation.”

Who doesn’t need some of that?!

Surely every human being can find a phrase within that paragraph that stirs something within. Pinnock points out that this universality is one of the most wondrous things about the Spirit. Whereas the New Testament image of Jesus locks our focus — appropriately — on a specific man with a specific body in a specific time and a specific place, the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture in ways that unlock that specificity. His efforts are around-the-world and around-the-clock to bring redemption and renewal to all of Creation’s faces and facets. He is not far off from where you are this moment. He is incapable of being far off, and he is incapable of being uninvolved.

He is with you, and he is for you.

As God breathed His Spirit into dust-Adam and brought about entirely new dimensions of life, so He is eager to breathe into His people today. Seek Him, my friends. There is fresh breath for you.

 

Airplane Mode: Apply Liberally

[In my January 1, 2015 post, I christened this the “Year of Learning” here on the blog. Each post, I’ll aim to share something recently discovered (or re-discovered) in the hope that you might add my learning to your own discoveries and make double-moves forward and upward this year!]

airplaneWhen I was younger, I was always amused at creams or ointments that would include in their instructions the phrase “Apply Liberally.”

It was permission — more than that, an urging — to be generously free-wheeling with the application of their product. Don’t cheap out. Don’t fear side effects. Go for it. If a bit is good, imagine what more might achieve!

I’ve learned that Airplane Mode might be treated the same way.

In case you need a catch-up, Airplane Mode is a setting on electronic devices like cell phones and tablets that provides a one-click cutting-off from all external signals. As the name suggests, it was designed with air travel in mind, so that we could all respond in a split second to the flight attendant’s request that all transmitting devices be shut off. This great feature provides the compromise humanity has longed for: We can now appease the flight attendant and keep playing Angry Birds.

My discovery: Use Airplane Mode more liberally than that.

Nights: I flip on Airplane Mode right before I determine it’s close-my-eyes time. Who needs a sound sleep interrupted by even the vibration of a not-quite-silent phone?

Meals: If you’ve ever determined that family suppers are being compromised by texts or tweets, treat your dining table as an airliner. Your spouse will love you, and you may well rediscover the pleasure of a beep-free meal.

Visits: Rediscover the luxuries of speaking with and listening to the people your Facebook page claims you love most. When anyone can interrupt any moment for any reason, something has been lost — mark that down. This available-at-all-moments access, once reserved for brain surgeons and rulers of nations, now proceeds to thin out every moment in which all of us live. Hit Airplane Mode for an hour, and re-establish your skills at attentively caring for one person at a time.

Movies: Theaters already warn customers to turn off their phones so as to avoid being pummeled by angry film buffs during the show. If powering off seems too extreme, use Airplane Mode to fully engage in your entertainment and save your skin.

Thinking: There are some tasks that can be achieved with the fringes of one’s attention. But there are other tasks (particularly creative work or focused study) that demand our uncompromised A-game. Why self-sabotage by holding or wearing a buzz-bomb through which any time-terrorist can detonate the device and blow your hard-earned train of thought right off the tracks? In the name of efficiency, use Airplane Mode. Flip it back when you need that mental breather later on, and grant yourself freedom to ride every wave of inspiration or concentration as far as you can.

Airplane Mode: Start applying it liberally. You may be surprised at its healing benefits!

 

 

Fist Bumping with the Bruins

I don’t personally know any Boston Bruins fans. I do personally know a handful of people who hate the Bruins. Even those folks might soften a touch when they meet this young fan.