Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ

05
Mar
21

The Cosmic Surfboard

Wednesday here in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, was an absolutely gorgeous day! Not a cloud in the sky… temperatures pleasantly nestling in the high 60s for most of the day… and a very light breeze stirring the leafless limbs of the trees.

In a word, idyllic.

And I couldn’t help but notice that I was peppy, focused, and productive from morning to night on Wednesday. I worked out, I took care of some nagging (and overdue) tasks around the house, I knocked out another thousand or so words on my spiritual memoir, and even did a little cooking that evening! The dogs were walked twice, the spousal banter was brisk and engaging, and the glass of wine I drank with dinner was especially flavorsome.

Then came yesterday.

Yesterday was cold. It was overcast. Light drizzles of rain periodically punctuated the gray. The wind blew hard and strong; in other words, it was Seattle. 

And lo and behold, my entire demeanor transformed to become a semblance of a flannel-shirted character from The Walking Dead. I was slow, sluggish, and sullen. I sat down to write something and gave up after one sentence. My guitars sat in the corner, untouched. I snapped at my wife for no good reason. I couldn’t muster an iota of motivation for even the simplest task. I started to read a book and promptly fell asleep.

Which leads us to today; another bright, sunny FoCo day, full of vim, vigor, and profuse WORD PROCESSING!

All of which prompts me to ask, “What’s up with that? Am I THAT much of a prisoner of circumstance? Am I that guy who gets blown from pillar to post by every shift of the prevailing winds, utterly unable to ‘rise above’ whatever the climate, let alone any other factors, happens to be doing at the moment? And if I am that guy, how did I become such a suggestible wuss?

It is then I recall the words of Jesus’ brother James when he says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6, NRSV).

I really do deserve all of the scorn I am heaping on myself here, but I suspect I am not the only one who suffers this affliction. Changes in the weather, the seasons, the political climate, our health, our financial security, or even our hormone balance can all throw us off our game. 

And in these times when, in addition to everything else, we are all trying to navigate the effects of a global pandemic, our moods are even MORE susceptible to the ebbs and flows of our circumstances… like waves on the ocean.

When those waves come crashing toward us – as they always will – we can either be swamped… or we can surf. 

So I remind you – but I am really saying this more as a reminder to myself – that there is a Cosmic Surfboardavailable to each one of us. That surfboard is the eternal Word of the loving God who made us… who offers us an anchor point in every storm and a safe harbor in the hurricane.

When Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish builder he said, “… everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25, NRSV).

Time for me to become a little more wise and a little less wind-blown.

Well, I need to hit “Publish” on this missal and get out and enjoy the sunshine! Who knows how long it will be here?

Happy surfing, friends.!

Abundant blessings;

01
Mar
21

I Totally Missed It

Here it is, the first day of March.

Which means, I missed it completely.

What I mean is, I missed the chance to say anything in this space during the month of February about the fact that it was Black History Month.

I missed the chance to pay homage to one of either the sung or the unsung African Americans who made important contributions to our American experience.

I missed the chance to reflect on the fact that in spite of the landmark victories in the civil rights struggle won by people like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis, and Medgar Evers, and Rosa Parks, and Bayard Rustin, and Fannie Lou Hamer, racism still casts a long and dark shadow over our land.

I missed the chance to stand silently in humble awe of all those who stood nonviolently and endured fire hoses, attack dogs, Billy clubs to the side of the head, bullets, nooses, firebombs, and hateful words screamed in their ears, and then came back the next day and faced it all over again.

I missed the chance to reflect on all the ways that I – an aging white, middle-class male – have personally benefited from the uneven playing field that racism has created. 

I missed the chance to pledge my energies to interrupting racism whenever it rears its malevolent head in my presence.

I missed the chance to remind you (and myself) that diversity – in race, gender, faith, outlook, ability, or any other human characteristic – is a gift to cherish and not a problem to be solved. 

I missed those chances – and more – because I didn’t think Black History Month had anything to do with me… because, you know, I’m not Black. 

I thought this was your observance, not mine.

And you see that last statement may well be the biggest of all of my “missed chances” of the past 28 days. Because you see, when White people decide that Black History Month doesn’t have anything to do with them, they only succeed in adding more brick and mortar to this country’s towering Wall of Racial Isolation.

When we fail to grasp the deep intertwining of Black History with White History in these United States, we actively cultivate the perpetuation of the state of US vs. THEM. 

White people can indulge in that kind of subconscious omission and not think twice about it. Because that’s the way it works when you are a member of the majority class. 

So, I beg your forgiveness for my blindness, brothers and sisters (though I don’t really deserve it).

Black History Month may be over. But Black History lives on.

Abundant blessings;

16
Feb
21

Something from Nothing

For some time now I have had a soft spot in my heart for entrepreneurs.

Take Frederick W. Smith, for example. While a student in the business school at Yale University, Smith wrote a paper that outlined a wacky idea for an overnight package delivery service. 

Smith got a “C” on the paper, along with his professor’s gentle reminder that the assignment was to write about a business idea that actually had a chance of being implemented.

Undaunted, young Mr. Smith decided he really believed in what he had written and decided to go out and make it happen. The business Smith described in that “C” paper turned out to be the blueprint for the company that is known today as Federal Express… the company Smith still serves as chairman and CEO.

Through my undergraduate years, I remember hearing the stories of the steam engine stoker turned insurance salesman turned filling station operator named Harlan Sanders who – in his spare time – tinkered around with different combinations of herbs and spices and a method of pressure-frying chicken that eventually took America by storm under the brand name Kentucky Fried Chicken

I was fascinated by the tale of the milkshake mixer salesman named Ray Kroc who helped a couple of brothers named McDonald franchise their simple-menu hamburger stand concept that ultimately created an entirely new category of restaurant.

As I began to study them, I noticed that most entrepreneur stories seemed to follow a similar arc. They each seemed to begin with a restless spirit and a curious mind trapped inside a dull, one-dimensional job. That mind asks – and keeps asking – “What if…?” somehow impervious to all of the voices of reason that counsel the safe path. 

Bold leaps are taken… usually with disastrously disappointing initial results. Nevertheless, the Restless Spiritsoldiers on. He or she makes major and minor adjustments to the vision before hazarding the climb back up the ladder to the high dive platform. Friends, family members, distant relatives, all offer The Restless Spirittheir sincerely considered advice, saying that it is probably time to discard the pipe dream and get back to work on something proven and practical.

But then, in a scene reminiscent of the movie Castaway (starring Tom Hanks), the tinder of that ridiculous idea suddenly begins to smoke… we see a tiny flame somewhere down there at the bottom. That tiny flame grows and grows until it finally becomes an epic bonfire of business success. 

Or maybe it doesn’t. Ever.

But as is the case with most entrepreneurs I have ever met, the lack of a tangible result does not stop or even slow them down. They just keep plugging away.

In that sense, the instinct to entrepreneurism seems to have a lot in common with the instinct toward art. Somewhere, somehow in the deep recesses of the mind of the artist (and/or the entrepreneur), a seed is dropped. There our little seed finds fertile soil, moisture, warmth, and an energizing spark. The seed coat is broken and the radicle, the plumule, and the cotyledons (yes… I Googled all of those words) begin to unfold, gasping hungrily toward the rays of the morning sun. 

The artist/entrepreneur nurtures the tender shoot, strategically clearing its path of obstacles and threats until it begins to demonstrate a more robust grip on its surroundings. 

And in the process, each of these experiences the sheer joy of creating SOMETHING out of NOTHING. 

But you know what else? It is also the joy that motivated God to create YOU and ME and our amazing WORLD in the first place. It is also the joy that God planted within the breast of every one of us. It is the joy that we are each invited to experience… whether we see ourselves as artists or entrepreneurs or not. 

When the Bible tells us we are made, “… in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), it means that we are endowed with the same core traits as the One who made us. It means that if God is love, WE are love. It means if God is about relationships, WE are about relationships. It means if God creates, WE create.

What will you create today?

Abundant blessings;

11
Feb
21

Successful Musings

It’s funny, the way it happens; I hear a random word on the radio and ZIP! ZAP! ZOOM! the wheels start their wild spinning, leading me off into strange and interesting (and hopefully productive) places. 

The word I heard yesterday was SUCCESS. I don’t even remember the context I heard it in. But then, off I went, wondering…

… “Am I a success?”

… “Have I succeeded?”

And finally, “Just what IS success anyway?”

Clearly the first two questions are two VERY different questions indeed, requiring two VERY different analyses.

I can tell very quickly and clearly that – though the day is yet young – I have personally succeeded at many things already; I succeeded at getting out of bed… at making coffee… at taking my car in to the shop… at working out… at cleaning up and getting dressed.

Answering the first question, however, – “Am I a success?” – is a much slipperier proposition. The question seems to be asking me to stand back and dispassionately evaluate my entire life in the light of some objective, universally understood yardstick… a yardstick I may or may not subscribe to.

I mean, are you asking if I am a financial success? Or a spiritual success? Or an emotional success? Do you mean, am I a success in maintaining the health of my family relationships? Or maybe you’re wondering if I am a success in the measure of beneficial impact I have had on the world around me?

What do you mean by SUCCESS, exactly?

Dictionary.com defines the word success as, “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals…” a definition which I find extremely interesting! It seems to be saying that success can only be measured at the END… once you have stopped trying. 

So, yes, I have stopped trying to succeed in the NBA. HOWEVER… since it was not a FAVORABLE termination of my endeavors, I can’t really say I succeeded as a professional basketball player, can I?

Maybe a better question to ask is: WHY do we devote so much time and energy to the subject of success? What causes some of us (certainly not ALL of us) to worry so much about how our lives stack up… either against the lives of other people, or against some kind of external, artificial, culturally imposed standard?

How much misery has been caused by our striving after success? How much suffering has one person inflicted on another in the pursuit of success?

Please don’t misunderstand me: I believe goals are good… STANDARDS are laudable… Life is richer, deeper, more textured when it is ABOUT something and has PURPOSE and DIRECTION. 

Maybe the issue has more to do with WHOSE standards of success we are trying to attain? 

How about instead of allowing People magazine, HGTV, or the latest internet influencer to set our standards, we turn and ask God what GOD’S standards of success are?

Jesus helps us “get our minds right” on this question right there in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NRSV). And I don’t know about you, but for me it is refreshing to be reminded that aiming for success on God’s terms doesn’t depend on my level of athletic ability, my intelligence, my innate problem-solving skills, or my boyish good looks. 

WHEW!

It only depends on my willingness to SEEK God’s kingdom… and to receive God’s forgiveness when I fall short. (Which, incidentally, I do EVERY SINGLE DAY). 

So… am I a success – in God’s eyes? 

Are you?

02
Feb
21

Should we be nice?

Today, while taking the dogs for a walk in the park, I saw a hand-painted sign leaning against a fence. It was big… probably four feet high and six feet wide. Every letter on the sign was painted a different color, and it said:

“BE KIND.”

As the dogs and I finished our walk, I looked at the minivan across the parking lot and saw a message there in white letters across the back window. It said:

“I HOPE SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS TO YOU TODAY.”

“Wow!” I thought to myself. “How cool is THAT! I go out and find myself surrounded by positive, uplifting messages. With everything going on in the world today, those people have decided they are going to be positivity evangelists!”

“Well done, y’all!” (In case you are not aware, “y’all” is the plural of “you” in many parts of the country.)

There was nothing complicated about either message. They weren’t inviting me to join a club. They weren’t trying to sell me on a complex doctrine. They didn’t want me to give them a percentage of my income every month. They didn’t have a sneaky pyramid scheme that required me to enlist friends and family members. 

They were just putting the good juju out there in the atmosphere, hoping it connected with someone.

And then I had to stop and wonder, “Why can’t the Christian faith be simple and straightforward like that? Why do we have to muddy it up with all those convoluted theological dogmas and ‘rules of engagement’? Don’t we want to entice people and not repel them?”

“I mean, couldn’t Christians just say we are part of the ‘BE KIND CLUB’ and let it go at that?” 

For a lot of folks, it seems like a pretty big leap to say they believe in a deity who became a human being, died, and then came back from the dead three days later. But it is not hard at all to encourage them to say, “I believe in being kind to other people.”

So, what’s the problem? Why are we (Christians) so hung up on whether someone speaks the exact “phrase that pays” instead of just worrying about what they DO?

In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that I am trolling you here a bit. I actually DO believe that confessing Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of one’s life DOES make a qualitative difference in that life. I also believe that a person’s actions and words are much more important than their professed systems of belief… even though those actions and words flow directly FROM those systems of belief. And I ABSOLUTELY believe that there is much more to the Christian faith than just being kind to other people.

In fact, would it surprise you to hear me say that I don’t believe that the Christian faith has much at all to do with being nice to people?

Loving them? Yes. Absolutely. Unconditionally, even. But as Jesus demonstrated over and over again, LOVING another person doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with BEING NICE to them.

Jesus gave a very succinct summary of his mission on earth in John’s gospel when he said, “… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NRSV). 

In other words, he came to revive relationships, break cycles of addiction, lift up the downtrodden, snap chains of injustice, bring hope, infuse possibility. In short, he came break down every barrier that separates people from the abundant life God always intended for them (us). 

If being kind, gentle, and sweet to a person helped connect them with that “abundant life,” so be it! Jesus would be like, “Bring on the kind, gentle, and sweet.” If, on the other hand, bringing about abundant life meant employing the proverbial “swift kick in the pants” approach, he would not hesitate to administer that.

So yes, let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s offer a smile to a total stranger on the sidewalk. Let’s make eye contact and give a kind word to the cashier at the convenience store. Let’s pay for the person behind us in the McDonald’s drive-through. Let’s call someone on the phone, “just because…”

But let’s also join Team Jesus and help bring the abundant life he was after. 

Abundant blessings;

28
Jan
21

It’s Excavation Time

My friend chuckled. “Sure, I’ve been wrong before,” he said. “I think the last time was in 1993.” He then winked and added, “… but I could be wrong about that.”

And although he meant it as a joke, I wasn’t entirely sure he was kidding.

Many of us – your faithful correspondent included – often have a barnacle-like attachment to a foundational set of Life Truths. Those truths inform our actions, shape the way we receive information, color our relationships with the people we meet, and guide our emotions.

And when a person has attained a certain, shall we say, maturity level, they have a tendency to hold on to those anchors even more tightly. They (we) say, “HEY! I’ve lived a lot of life here… I’ve seen hypotheses come and go… I’ve sorted through a lot of chaff to get to the wheat… I’ve weathered a jillion different trends. I think I have earned the right to plant my flag RIGHT HERE and say loudly and proudly, ‘THIS IS WHAT IT IS!’”

 But… what if they’re (we’re) wrong?

Are we even willing to entertain that possibility? Or is our entire campaign now dedicated to proving the iron-clad soundness of our position? Or, as my friend’s T-shirt proudly declares, “I’m not arguing… I’m just explaining to you why I am right.”

If any of this sounds familiar to you, it is probably because I have just sketched you a picture of the political terrain of the U.S. in the year 2021. 

But it actually goes a little deeper than that. It is not just, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It is more like, “I’m right, you’re wrong, and your wrongness is an ominous threat to my personal safety and well-being.”

There are many well-qualified historians who will explain for you – in detail – how we got to this place. Their analyses are worth paying attention to. Likewise, there are baskets full of sociologists who will describe the mechanisms that help encourage and maintain our current state of political and philosophical Balkanization. 

But you are smart enough already to know that widespread, indiscriminate use of social media is a primary culprit. It is a sad truth that most forms of social media thrive on the silo-ification of the populace.  

The real question today is, “What are we – the people on the street – going to do about it?”

And while it might seem massively unfair that WE should have to be the ones to shoulder the burden of reconciliation, it should be clear by now that our political leaders aren’t going to do it for us… no matter how much they bloviate about things like “unity” and “bipartisanship.” 

Because when it comes right down to it, politicians’ daily bread is buttered by a hostile and divided public. 

That is why I am here to suggest that a simple starting place might be for each of us to develop the willingness to utter the phrase, “You know… I might be wrong about that.”

Oooo! Yuck! It stings my fingertips a little just to type those words out! Imagine the pain of actually SPEAKING them out loud! TO ANOTHER PERSON!!

It’s tough! Because saying those words – and MEANING them – requires us to first do a little excavation. Step One involves unearthing each of the Truth Pillars beneath our life’s foundation. Step Two is pulling them apart and examining each of them with a piercing, objective microscope. And then finally, if we discover that one of those Pillars contains serious structural flaws, we have to summon the moral courage to abandon it… sometimes without even knowing what we are going to replace it with. 

As you can see, this is not work for the faint of heart…

… but it is perfect work for the truly humble of heart. 

The Apostle Paul knew – over 2,000 years ago – that you could be trusted with this vital work. That is why he wrote these words, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NRSV)

And so, if Paul trusts you to do it, why shouldn’t I?

Abundant blessings;

25
Jan
21

My Coffee Cup

Before I saw it with my own eyes, I would have told you it was not possible. 

But then it happened. I shifted my own paradigm. 

Just so we are on the same page here, the dictionary.com definition of the word “paradigm” is: “A framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a… community.” 

In other words, a paradigm (PAIR-uh-dime) is the picture I carry in my head of the world and how it works. 

All of us operate with paradigms – or maps of reality – that help us make sense of the seemingly random events in our day. Most of the time, they are reliable reference points for us as we navigate through the world.

Reliable, that is, until they are blown to smithereens by something that just doesn’t fit our map. 

The morning in question started innocently enough. I got up, went to the kitchen, let the dogs out, and made coffee. However, this time, instead of putting Joan’s coffee cup on the right and my coffee cup on the left, I switched them. And then, because the cups were in the wrong places, I poured the sweetened almond milk creamer into MY cup instead of Joan’s. 

And because I consider anything other than black coffee to be an abomination (I think you can find that somewhere in the book of Leviticus, actually), I was forced to drink my coffee out of THE WRONG CUP that morning!

It was horrible. For starters, Joan’s cup is too narrow.  It is NOT made of clear glass but rather opaque pottery. It holds far too big a serving. The handle is the wrong shape. But mostly, it is NOT the cup I have been drinking coffee out of for AT LEAST the last 25 years. 

As you can tell, I have become quite attached to that coffee cup. You can’t see it now, but on the outside of my coffee cup there once was a map of the world. The cup is sort of globular in shape and once had all the gridlines and continents visible there on its surface.

Drinking coffee from that cup every morning provided me with a tangible reminder that I am part of a vastly wider human community… a human community that encompasses languages, skin tones, beliefs, topography, and weather that do not bear the slightest resemblance to mine.  

My Nescafe “World Mug” has helped me remember that MY paradigm is not THE paradigm. It is one map of reality, jostling for recognition alongside a gajillion other maps. 

As shocking as it is to imagine, for example, the Kansas City Chiefs are not EVERYONE’S favorite football team! Some people also seem to insist that there are OTHER pies besides key lime to consume and enjoy… other cars than the Nissan Altima to drive… other TV quiz shows than Jeopardy to watch… and othergrandchildren than my eight to be doted over and spoiled. 

Can you imagine

Fortunately, all is not lost. When we encounter – as I did and as we all eventually will – those jarring events that upset our personal apple carts, it is good to remember that we can each have access to THE Paradigm.

It is God’s paradigm. And it is helpfully laid out for all to see, right there in the pages of God’s eternal word. 

When the Psalmist looks up in the night sky and rhapsodizes like this: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4, NRSV), it is to remind us of our smallness and God’s grandeur… simultaneously. 

And to reassure us that in God’s paradigm, we each occupy a sacred, unmovable spot.

When I am able to stop for a moment and remember that core truth, my heart skips a beat, then settles down a little.

I hope yours does, too.

Abundant blessings;

21
Jan
21

My Prepared Self

As we sat yesterday watching the inauguration speech of Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., 46th president of the United States, Joan leaned over and asked me, “Is he reading from a teleprompter?”

It sure didn’t look like it. Uncle Joe, as I like to call him, was looking straight into the camera, making piercing eye contact with everyone who tuned in, including Joan and me. His words were direct… heartfelt.

“Pretty sure he is,” I replied. “They all do in situations like this.” 

As I thought a little more about it, I realized there was a question behind Joan’s question. I think what she wanted to know was, “Does he really mean what he is saying?”

If you watched any of the Inauguration proceedings, you know there were stirring words aplenty… from the signed-and-spoken Pledge of Allegiance, to the oaths of office, to the acceptance speeches, to the soaring, magical, heart-stirring poetry of young Amanda Gorman. 

And the same question – I suppose – can be asked of each: “Do they really mean what they are saying?”

What we saw yesterday were the PREPARED versions of each of those people… their very best selves on display. Each one of their words had been carefully crafted. Their clothes and grooming meticulously assembled. Their postures and gestures all a matter of intense forethought.

Nothing left to chance.

That caused me to think: wouldn’t it be awesome if the people around us were only able to see the PREPARED versions of each of us? 

I mean, what would it be like to speak to people as if carefully scripted, reading from an unseen teleprompter… reacting perfectly to the questions and events we encountered throughout our day? 

What if NOTHING ever took us by surprise or made us stammer and hem and haw or bumble awkwardly the way I (often) do? What if there was ZERO degrees of separation between my PREPARED self and my IN-THE-MOMENT self?

Wouldn’t the world be a much better place? 

I think the sharp-eyed observers among you already know the answer to that question.

While there might be a whole lot less friction in a world populated by impeccable automatons, there would be absolutely zero need for GRACE.

You and I would never have to exercise our forgiveness muscles, realizing that our neighbor’s silly gaffe (“I’m sure he meant it as a compliment, sweetie!”) was neither intentional nor malicious. 

We wouldn’t ever need to periodically stop and look into our own hearts and assess whether we just now acted out of spite, resentment, jealousy, prejudice, or plain old garden variety stupidity. 

And we would certainly never experience the need to humble ourselves before God, go to our knees, and ask God to – in the words of King David – “Create in me a clean heart… and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10, NRSV). 

No, as alluring as that “polished, prepared” vision might be, I think there is a really good reason God only lets us see the rough drafts of one another. 

The words of that old hymn by George Beverly Shea says it best:

“Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Or, in the words of Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Abundant blessings;

20
Jan
21

Do it now? Or do it later?

One of the people in this house (not naming names) likes to do things RIGHT NOW! Action is his (or her) middle name.

The other one likes to sit with it a bit… let it marinate… wait for additional information to materialize before leaping into action. He (or she) is studious and thoughtful.

Do it before you forget about it!” argues A. “No time like the present.”

What’s the rush?” B asks calmly. “We might not have considered all the angles.”

“Do you want to order pizza tonight?” B asks idly.

Sure,” A replies. “Let me pull up the Krazy Karl’s menu and get our order started. Do you want the combo again?”

“Hang on… hang on. That’s just my first thought. No need to jump right on it. Let’s see… what are some other options?” comes the languid reply from B.

Does this dynamic sound at all familiar to you?

A dispassionate sociologist might observe this interesting blend of personalities and see a healthy tension… one that allows both action and circumspection to vie for supremacy, creating a beneficial blend. 

The people living in the middle of that dynamic might see it as something a lot more discordant… a source of friction and annoyance.

The question we all want answered is… so who is right? Is it better to be the Action Jackson person? Or is the Studious Stewart superior?

Both approaches, of course, have their distinct downsides. Leaping before you look can result in mis-steps, miscalculations, and mistakes. Spending too much time in probing, in-depth analysis can cause you to miss the moment altogether.

As the Bible so wisely tells us, the real answer is, “Both.” The Teacher (and much later, Roger McGuinn and the Byrds) told us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal…
 (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3, NRSV).

But instead of “both,” maybe the real answer is, “Sometimes it’s one, and at other times, it’s the other.”

Which makes me wonder: would that be a preferable answer to other dichotomies we face in life? In this highly fraught moment of mid-January 2021, my thoughts naturally skew in the political direction. 

As we look on from the cheap seats, we see the advocates of conservatism insisting that, “The conservative approach is the only valid approach to governing,” while liberals and progressives loudly and emphatically assert exactly the opposite. 

What if sometimes it was one and at other times it was the other? What if we were to become a people less concerned with defending our TRIBE and more concerned with defending the TRUTH? What if there was a way for us to lift our eyes above the immediacies of our narrow, self-interested cost/benefit analyses and to instead think in terms of the WIDER well-being of the WIDER human race?

What if?

Well, as it turns out, dear friend, there IS a way. And that way is GOD’S way. 

King Solomon in his legendary wisdom writes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NRSV). 

 What would happen if we all did exactly that?

I’m not sure it would resolve a lot of disputes about what to have for dinner, or where to go on vacation (that is, when we get to go on vacation again), but it would certainly help us figure out where we go from here as a society.

And you know what? I think that would be a pretty good place to start. 

Abundant blessings;

15
Jan
21

Certain Uncertainty

I may have said this before, but I just LOVE Google!

Questions which, in bygone days, might have floated off into the ether unanswered, can now be resolved in the blink of an eye, thanks to Google.

Just yesterday, for example, I idly wondered what the shape and size of the 970-telephone area code is. I wanted to know what other towns besides Fort Collins it includes, what its total area is, what other area codes are nearby… you know – important, life-changing questions like that.

Being decidedly OLD, I can vividly remember the work it once took to answer even a question as simple as that. I would have started by pulling down the big white page version of the phone book and then thumbed through the front of it looking for an area code map. Failing that, I might have taken a trip to the local public library and posed my question to the research librarian. 

Today? I just hit the button and say, “OK, Google; show me a map of the 970-area code,” and BINGO! There it is, before you can say “Jack Robinson.”

And guess what, kids? You can do the same thing with ANY question at all! Curious about how many ounces are in a pint? Ask Google! Want to know the racial make-up of your county? Ask Google! What if you HAD to know George Brett’s batting average in his rookie year? In less time than it takes you to ask the question, you can have the answer, thanks to Google.

In fact, it is hard to imagine a question that could not be answered in the twinkling of an eye by the miracle of the Google Machine.

Welcome, my friends, to the age of CERTAINTY where NOTHING is unknowable.

As accurate as that description might be, I have to wonder if that is entirely good news. I mean, is certaintyreally the end-all, be-all we make it out to be? Does the elimination of all mystery and uncertainty really mean our lives are quantitatively BETTER? 

In asking these questions I am not advocating a return to a stone age understanding of the world… the one where people cower in fear in the belief that the moon swallows the sun every time a solar eclipse happens. 

My question more has to do, I suppose, with how we think about FAITH in an age of certainty. Here in GoogleWorld 2021, does faith become more like a passive placeholder, as we wait for greater certainty? That is, do we say, “Well, until the science comes along to either prove or disprove this proposition, I will just have to have faith”?

If that is how we see faith, I can’t help but be a little sad. I have always been encouraged to see faith as something ACTIVE rather than PASSIVE… as an intentional choice we make about the metanarrative we live out of. 

I have lived a lot of years and learned a lot of things during that time. A lot of uncertainty has been vanquished with the help of education, connections, and the miracle of Google. And yet somehow, at the very same time, the scope of what I do NOT know about the universe seems to be expanding at an even greater pace. 

How is that possible?

But ultimately, it is FAITH that assures me that it is OK to just stand here in awe… drinking in the sheer wonder of the world around me, trusting that the Unseen Hand behind it all loves each of us completely and unconditionally.

And that brings me peace.

[Incidentally, in case you wondered, George Brett’s batting average in 1974 – his first full season in the bigs – was .282. Not bad for a kid.]

Abundant blessings;




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