Saturday Six-Pack (25)

Welcome to Wandering & Wondering!

Here it is–the final “Saturday Six-Pack” of 2012, with one last dose of the best online offerings I’ve found before the calendar runs out.

As usual, if a half-dozen options paralyzes you, begin with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) Why Discomfort is Good for You
Michael Hyatt makes the counter-intuitive (and counter-cultural) assertion that comfort is highly overrated.  Here is why I think he’s right.

2) Narrative Numbness (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
The language of “story”, significant as it is, has almost been sapped of its power by overuse. That said, this piece from Relevant Magazine nails squarely the key component that cannot be missed as Christians consider their roles in carrying the Jesus-story. Insight is sharp in this brief offering.  Thanks for sharing, CJ Casciotta.

3) 50 Motivational Quotes That Will Put Your Motivation on Overdrive
With January 1, and its spoken or silent resolutions, perhaps one of these fifty quotes, served up by LifeHack, will be just what you need to make that change stick in the year ahead.

4) The Death of a Child: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
In light of the recent tragedy in Newtown, this piece, by a parent who tasted loss, will offer some insight to any pastor or friend who ever has to walk this road with someone.  Read it, and then pray you never need it.  But if you do, walk that road as well it can be walked.

5) 4 Things I’ve Learned about God through My Baby Who Was Born Blind
This article opens with this: “It’s not often that you get the opportunity to empathize with God; I recently experienced that bitter-sweet insight when I found out that my eleven-week-old baby girl was born almost completely blind.” And on it goes from there.

6) Work Less and Do More by Applying the Pareto Principle to Your Task List
The Pareto Principle says that in most situations roughly 80% of effects come from only 20% of the causes.  Translation: There are a few things in your life that can make all the difference.  Are you aware of what those are?  Lifehacker wants to know.

Happy New Year, my friends.  May the year ahead be unusually full of an awareness of God and how very close He is to you.

Blessings on you, my friends.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff with a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

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“Dad, What’s a Funeral?”

funeral flowersA few Sundays back, I was upgrading my wardrobe from the shirt and pants that I had worn to morning service to a full-blown suit and tie for an afternoon funeral. My four-year-old asked me why I was dressing up. I told her that I was going to a funeral, and in vintage four-year-old fashion, she asked the perfect question…

“Dad, what’s the funeral?”

Is it wrong that I wanted to provide her with a definition that made no mention of death, for fear of not knowing how to answer the next inevitable question?

Thoughts around mortality have rolled through my head more lately than usual.  Some of it is involvement in recent funerals. Some of it is the experience of raising small children and noting how very quickly time seems to pass.  The math doesn’t lie, nor do my joints.  Time is marching on.

Andrew Peterson, on his fantastic new album, says it this way:

And we just can’t get used to being here,
Where the ticking clock is loud and clear,
Children of eternity,
On the run from entropy.

Whatever the specifics, a couple observations linger:

1) Dust to dust is indeed the human reality, and my someday-dust-but-not-yet mind can hardly fathom the concept.  How can it be that friends I enjoyed only weeks ago can no longer exist in the form which I always enjoyed them?  We spoke and laughed and hugged, yet today, all physical traces of that speaking mouth, laughing voice, and embracing frame have vanished.  And my head shakes.

2) My struggle to grasp our own ends pushes me to consider the greater mystery of God’s endlessness.  The Bible portrays the reality that the my bookends of birth and death are merely tiny points upon the infinite shelf of God. Before me and after me, He is the sea in which my life floats.  As Scripture describes it, He goes before me and follows behind me, all the while His hand is upon me.

At times, the sting of death can seem very real.  It cuts through any veneer we have layered on.  It can unnerve us, even undo us.  Andrew Peterson’s lyrics above are affirmed as true: We do not know what to do with death, so much so that one wonders if our original design truly included this wretched feature.

pauseBut as we know, loss feels plenty real.  Sorrow can strike with staggering force.  There is no evading this enemy.  That said, perishing carries a unique perk.  This is why a friend of mine calls death “the great interrupter”.  Nothing hits the pause button as forcefully as death.  Assessments occur; inventory is taken.

In those painfully still moments, sometimes we step back from the canvas just enough to observe the frame on the painting.  And it is then that we observe that life–even in its dust-to-dust nature–is encompassed by One larger than the cosmos.

Surrounded by such loving grandeur, one can indeed walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear.

YOUR TURN: How have/would you handle discussing death with kids? What have you learned from your run-ins with mortality? Your input makes this post better!

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Finding Life within Lament: How the Bible’s Bitterest Book Breathes into Our Souls

Last week, our church’s Scripture schedule walked us through Lamentations, a killer of a book whose editors in today’s market would surely have chosen a different title!

Whatever the case, through this prophetic piece of piercing poetry we plodded.  (Use of alliteration: Check.)

Unbeknownst to the casual Bible reader, a famous excerpt of Scripture comes from Lamentations.  Chapter three, to be exact.  Recited or sung alone, these well-known words are inspiring and hopeful.  But found within their devastating context, they are nearly other-worldly.  In an exercise that often assists my Bible-reading efforts, here is my re-phrasing of Lamentations 3:19-33:

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the choking bitterness on which I gag.  My soul cannot forget; I am bent and broken within myself.  Yet one thing I call to mind, and hope breathes.

Yahweh’s love remains, steadfast and without ceasing. His mercies never end, renewing with every dawn.  Great is Your faithfulness!  My soul declares, “Yahweh is my allotted and sufficient portion; I will steadily hope in Him.”

Yahweh’s goodness is tasted by those who wait for Him; His presence is perceived by those who seek Him.

It is good that one should quietly await Yahweh’s salvation.  It is good to bear His life-giving yoke.  Even if the yoke arrives with suffering, sit in silence and feel its weight. Despair not, for hope is here.  If the yoke arrives as a blow, offer your cheek to your striker, for Yahweh will not endlessly rebuke. Though He grieve you, His compassion is complete, according to His plentiful and steadfast affection.  He is not eager to afflict or grieve the children of men.