Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Criticizing Critics

Speaking of the television series Blue Bloods, and we were doing just that just two weeks ago, an episode Beloved and I watched recently included the oldest grandchild of NYC's police commissioner encouraging her grandpa by reading the following manly-man quote from Teddy Roosevelt.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Truth is...in these days when people posture and complain and protest at the drop of a hat; when we think we know the facts of a matter when as a matter of fact we have only been reading a Twitter feed; when The Freedom of Speech is defended only for those who agree with me; it seems this quote is as timeless as it is tough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Still More From My Purpose-Driven Journal

Fifth in a series: Rick Warren (from The Purpose-Driven Life) and me on church...

"Here are seven biblical steps to restoring fellowship:
   Talk to God before talking to the person.
   Always take the initiative.
   Sympathize with their feeling.
   Confess my part of the conflict.
   Attack the problem, not the person.
   Cooperate as much as possible.
   Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution."  -  In other words, the relationship is far more important than the issue at hand.

"The Trinity is unified and God wants us to be unified, too. Our heavenly Father, like every parent, enjoys watching his children get along with each other. Jesus, in his final moments before being arrested, prayed passionately for our unity. And the Holy Spirit is the one who unites us in love."  -  So, if I find myself saying something that emphasizes any disunity, I should stop talking. Rather than point out bones of contention, I should focus on the strengths.

"Nothing is more valuable to God than his church. He paid the highest price for it, and it is worth protecting. Part of your responsibility as a believer is to protect the unity where you fellowship. You need to think of yourself as an agent of unity, commissioned by Jesus Christ to promote and preserve the fellowship among believers."  -  Wow! Imagine what a church would be like if every member saw it as his/her priority to promote and preserve unity. [As it is, most of us just want a church that "meets my needs." Hmm...kind of like the difference between infatuation and love.]

Truth is..."Sometimes you'll have to do what's best for the body, not yourself, showing preference to others. That's one reason God puts us in a church family - to learn unselfishness."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

An Unfunny Funny

Lio is one strange kid.

GoComics.com has an accurate description of the comic strip, LioThe world of Lio is filled with the extraordinary - monsters under the bed, wild reptile pets, robot inventions, weird science - but it's all commonplace for this most uncommon first-grader. Mark Tatulli renders this pantomime strip in pen-and-ink style, giving the artwork a dark, spidery feel to match the strip's dark humor. Lio explores the twisted realm of a kid's imagination - at once bizarre, creepy, and fun.

And in a recent Sunday installment, you could add Good Example to the list of descriptors. It starts with a television set that seems to have become self-aware...and very, very honest.

And then little Lio shows amazing maturity in how he responds to this Truth.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...even with the lack of advertisements on Netflix, it's a little disingenuous for me to hold this up as a good example when I'm typing this between binged episodes of Blue Bloods

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

More From My Purpose-Driven Journal

Fourth in a series of posts based on annotated quotes from Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life

Talking about love:

"Since God is love, the most important lesson he wants you to learn on earth is how to love. It is in loving that we are most like him, so love is the foundation of every command he's given us. God wants us to love everyone, but he is particularly concerned that we learn to love others in his family. This is the second purpose of your life and it's called fellowship. Jesus said our love for each other is our greatest witness to the world."  -  This is how men will know we are Christ's disciples: if we love one another. If I have not love, I am a crashing cymbal (and quite possibly, a crashing symbol.)

"The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God's family. It is a lab for practicing love. Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship, and experience the New Testament truth of being connected and dependent on each other."  -  How sad when people throw a hissy-fit and leave a church - either to go somewhere else or nowhere at all. They don't learn anything.

"Jesus summarized what matters most to God in two statements: love God and love people."  -  Faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love. Why? Because it's the only one of the three attributes that we share with God.
     Does God have faith? If so, in whom or in what? No - God is the object of our faith and He does not exercise faith Himself.
     Does God hope? No - He stands outside of time and knows the end of all things. There is no need for hope. In fact, we will not hope when we get to heaven. There, all our hopes will be realized; the time for hoping will be over.
     But love? Ah - there is the one eternal attribute that not only we will always practice, but so will God.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...it's not that God loves, but that He IS love. (1 John 4:8)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Keep Swinging!

According to The Selling of the Babe, by Glen Stout, the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, did more than hit his way to a long-standing home run record:

It wasn't just the home run that Ruth was popularizing. He was also taking the stigma out of the strikeout. Even before the pitching distance settled in at 60 feet, 6 inches and pitchers started throwing overhand, the strikeout had been considered the ultimate embarrassment, the batting equivalent of tripping over a base or throwing the ball over the backstop; something to be avoided at almost any cost. Guys like Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, and others took pride in keeping their strikeouts down to only 20 or 30 a season. It was considered better to ground out, pop out, or fall prostrate over the plate and fake a heart attack than strike out.

Not anymore. Fans found Ruth's strikeouts exciting -- and he didn't much care if he struck out, either. Ruth figured it was all part of the process, one that might result in a home run the next time. Every swing and miss resulted in a correction in the following at bat.

No one paid closer attention to that than Ruth's Yankee teammates. He was conducting a clinic in a new way of hitting every time he picked up the bat. Not worrying about strikeouts gave them license to swing and swing hard. And they did. As a team, even without Ruth's contribution, their strikeouts would skyrocket in 1920, but so would their power and number of long hits. The same would hold true for almost every other team.

Truth is...sometimes, you learn what works by learning what doesn't. Besides, you miss 100% of the swings you don't take. So keep swinging!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Son of My Purpose-Driven Journal

Rick Warren and me, on worship:

"When we worship, our goal [should be] to bring pleasure to God, not ourselves. Worship isn't for you. It's for God."  -  We must come to God to compliment Him - not in order to feel better about ourselves. Now, when I praise unreservedly, it always results in me feeling better, too; but that's a by-product, not the goal.

"Like a proud parent, God especially enjoys watching you use the talents and abilities He has given you."  -  This is especially encouraging to me. At times I feel like I am showing off or that I might be trying to get attention for myself (really, it's more like I'm afraid that others will think I'm doing that) - and the real deal is not "Look at me!" but rather, "Look at what God has enabled within me!" Like Eric Liddell saying, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."

"When we completely surrender ourselves to Jesus, we discover that he is not a tyrant but a Savior; not a boss, but a brother; not a dictator, but a friend."  -  Slavery to Christ is freedom from sin's stranglehold.

"You know you're surrendered to God when you rely on God to work things out instead of trying to manipulate others, force your agenda, and control the situation. You let go and let God work. You don't have to always 'be in charge.' Instead of trying harder, you trust more."

"Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God."  -  Is it possible that my life is having more impact as an elder than it could have as a youth minister? And every change of direction along the way has been an attempt to follow Christ. So, it's all good.

"Intimate friendship with God is a choice, not an accident."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...To a certain extent, me "getting to know" God is like an ant getting to know the Internet. There is no real comprehension at all. Yet, there is real appreciation, gratitude, awe, love, wonder, respect, joy...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Day in the Life

The 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has been making a few waves in pop culture recently. Detractors will want to say it's just a Baby Boomers thing...a desperate grasp for relevancy in a culture increasingly dominated by Millennials and beyond.

Maybe so, but I've got video evidence that it's a little more than that.

Thanks to editor Tom Compagnoni and the Australian arm of Huffington Post, the following 50 Covers... video suggests it's not just old codgers that appreciate creative composing and performing...and music can bridge a lot of gaps that many would say are insurmountable.

Truth is...there's not necessarily anything to be excited about in the lyrical content of A Day in the Life, but this video is a testimony that the world is not as divided and hateful and "us vs. them" as a browsing of headlines would suggest. People of all ages, nationalities, genders, economic standings, and political opinions are more alike than they are different. And if a fifty year old song can help point that out, then crank up the turntable, because I'd love to turrrrrrn youuuuuuuu oooooooon.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Bride of My Purpose-Driven Journal

More annotated quotes from Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life:

"The closer you live to God, the smaller everything else appears."  -  ♪♫ And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. ♫

"Death is not your termination, but your transition into eternity."

"...eternity with God...like trying to describe the Internet to an ant."

"Our culture says, 'If you don't own it, you won't take care of it.' But Christians live by a higher standard: 'Because God owns it, I must take the best care of it that I can'."  -  I wonder sometimes if I am using all my abilities and talents in a "stewardly" manner. Am I sitting on some of my talents because of false humility? Lack of assertiveness? Fear of rejection? Love of security?

"2 Corinthians 4:18 - 'We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.' When life gets tough, when you're overwhelmed with doubt, when you see evil prospering, or when you wonder if living for Christ is worth the effort, remember that you are not home yet. At death you won't leave home - you'll go home."  -  I remember walking down the dirt "sidewalks" of David, Panama and trying to imagine what it would be like to actually live there...not just be visiting for two weeks. I figured almost anything was bearable for two weeks. Maybe I could get that feeling about life on this side of the grave  -  undesirable conditions are nothing to fret about, because it's only temporary. Almost anything is bearable when you know it's not permanent.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...It IS all about God. Why were we created? So God's glory would be multiplied. (Isaiah 43:7: "They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.") Why did God free the Israelites from Egypt? So the honor of His Name would be spread throughout the nations. Why did Jesus die? So the volume of heavenly praise would be deafening.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Purpose-Driven Journal

Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life and all its ancillary products are kind of the Barry Manilow of Christian publishing: wildly popular in its day, but now hardly anyone admits to having been a fan except old ladies.

I certainly understand some of the second-guessing that has been done since its publication, and I'm particularly NOT a fan of how Bro. Warren bounces around translations until he finds a phrase that fits his outline, still, as evidenced by some notes I made in my journal, there was definitely some food for thought within those pages.

"You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not your using him for your own purpose."  -  Which is exactly the opposite of popular culture today: God can help you reach your full potential. Or even: If believing in a god makes you happy, then that's great  -  for you.

"If there was no God, then we'd all be 'accidents,' the result of astronomical random chance in the universe. But there is a God, he made you for a reason, and your life has profound meaning! We discover that meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point of our lives."  -  Woe to those who have faith only in randomness and time. How can they face each day, knowing that they are just a happenstance - an accidental configuration of DNA that is just as much a result of circumstances as a snowflake?

"Your value is not determined by your valuables....Real security can only be found in that which can never be taken from you - your relationship with God."  -  Let my driving passion be to live as God's man - wherever that may take me.

"Everyone wants to be remembered when they're gone. Ultimately, what matters most will not be what others say about your life but what God says about you. How will you answer God when he asks, 'What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?'"  -  I loved Jesus with all my heart and carried Him to others/carried others to Him.

Truth is...as I look at my fervent responses and ardent desires; as I think back to the long-gone years as a youth minister, the sweetest words I've ever heard are "You made a difference."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Best Sellers Aren't Always Best

Dan Piraro's comic strip, Bizarro, usually lives up to its name...in spades.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that; especially when the humor also includes a big, heaping helping of Truth like this recent panel did:

Truth is...The time will come [and is now here, IMHO] when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3, NIV)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sacrificial Love

Mark 14:3-9 (The Message)
Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. “That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.” They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me. She did what she could when she could — she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.”

From My Journal: February 1, 2001
I ought to be able to relate to this woman. I know what it's like to spend what you can't afford in order to express love. I've done it with Beloved more than once.

Lord, have I done it with You? Have I truly sacrificed in order to say, "I love You, Lord"? Have I been lavishly extravagant in my devotion to You?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Truth is...He has been more than lavish showing His love to me. "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (I John 3:1)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Can We Talk?

I've been reading a book by Richard Zoglin, Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-Up in the 1970s Changed America. Each chapter either profiles a specific comedian (e.g., Lenny Bruce or George Carlin) or subject (e.g., New York comedy clubs or improv).

In the chapter about female comics (and how few of them there were in the 70s), there's a nugget of truth hiding in a paragraph about Joan Rivers.

Rivers struggled for years, driving in from the suburbs in her broken-down Ford, lugging a Wollensack tape machine to record her act. She watched contemporaries like Bill Cosby and George Carlin, whom she worked alongside and got to know in the Village, break through on television, while she continued to plod along, undiscovered. She was past thirty, and agents and managers were giving up on her. "You're too old," said Irvin Arthur, the agent for whom she had once worked as a secretary. "Everybody's seen you. If you were going to make it, you would have done it by now." Some of the few words of encouragement came from Lenny Bruce himself, who saw her act at Upstairs at the Downstairs and left her a note: "You're right and they're wrong." Says Rivers: "That kept me going for a year and a half."

Truth is...You never know whether what seems to you like a small word or act of encouragement might feel like the weight of the world being taken off someone else's shoulders. So pass out those encouraging words with abandon. You have the power to keep someone going for a year and a half.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pornography on NPR

Well...if THAT title doesn't get this post a few extra clicks, I don't know human nature at all.

But it actually happened.

I was running some errands...well...driving around doing some errands on a recent Saturday, and had NPR playing on the radio. It was an interview with the outgoing (as in leaving his position, not as in gregarious and extroverted, though he kind of appeared to be both...but I digress) cartoon editor for The New Yorker, Bob Mankoff. And he used the word pornography, so there you have it...pornography on NPR.

But you're wondering, I hope, what the context was and why it was "important" enough for me to write about.

It was just one sentence, but it was all I could think about the rest of the afternoon:

"Jokes are the pornography of humor."

Truth is...Mr. Mankoff wasn't trying to make a profound point. In fact, the line was just kind of mumbled at the tail end of a longer thought, and the interviewer didn't respond to it at all. But for me? For me, it deepened my understanding, not only of what a sense of humor is, and its relationship to a go-for-the-guffaw joke, but also my understanding of pornography's relationship to sexual intimacy...how it cheapens and spoils the concept of romance, turning it into a commodity instead of a relationship.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Wright Brothers Go Wrong

I have not read the book by Lawrence Goldstone, Birdmen, nor do I ever intend to read it, but I am grateful to DelanceyPlace for the following introduction and excerpt.

After their historic 1903 breakthrough in flight, the Wright brothers were granted patents on their invention that were overly broad -- both by the standards of their time and the standards of today. The Wright brothers' vigorous attempts to enforce these patents (especially against their arch rival Glenn Curtiss) created enormous resentment and left a trail of rancorous litigation. More importantly, the brothers, especially the older brother and design genius, Wilbur, pursued this litigation to the neglect of pursuing improvements in their technology, and soon found themselves trailing other pioneers in the aviation industry:

"In pursuing damages over technology, the Wrights had rendered themselves anachronisms. Their lack of moderation was equally self-­defeating. Wilbur and Orville thought anyone who did not see things their way was either ignorant or duplicitous; anyone who overtly disagreed with them was either a liar or a cheat. The fact that the performance of their competitors improved while Wright airplanes remained substantially unchanged was, according to the brothers, only because the rest of the aviation community were a bunch of craven patent in­fringers. ...

"By the end of 1911, Wilbur's frustration had begun to gnaw at his health. He had by his own admission worked harder and for longer hours pursuing the case against Glenn Curtiss than he had developing the Wright Flyer. He drove himself to exhaustion traveling around the country, meeting with lawyers and giving depositions, and grew so thin as to appear cadaverous. Family members began to express concern about the crushing pace he insisted on maintaining.

"In January 1912, Wilbur wrote a singular letter to the Hungarian anthropologist Guillaume de Hevesy. 'During the past three months, most of my time has been taken up with lawsuits,' he began. ... Then Wilbur made an extraordinary assertion. 'When we think what we might have accomplished if we had been able to devote [the past five years] to experiments, we feel very sad.'

"There is little question that the patent wars were devastating American aviation. By January 1912, France boasted 800 aviators a day making flights to only 90 in the United States. As early as July 1911, Aeronautics ran an editorial whose opening line read, 'What is the matter with aviation in America?' The journal lamented that 'in three short years' after the 'epoch-making flights of the Wright brothers in France and at Fort Myer [that] electrified the world,' America had 'changed places from the head to the foot of the procession.' The magazine blamed a combination of a fear of innovation, an unwillingness to spend money, and a desire by the government to sit on the sidelines and wait to see what Europe came up with. Nowhere did the editorial mention that America's two greatest designers were either spending a good part of their time (Curtiss) or all of their time (Wil­bur Wright) trying to best each other in the courtroom."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...looking backward will seldom get a person ahead. If we spend all our time trying to recapture, protect, or fix the past, we will miss out on enjoying the present and preparing for the future.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nixon's Henchman Speaks Truth

To many, Richard Nixon and Watergate and erased tapes and all that are ancient history; relegated to a section of the brain alongside Washington crossing the Delaware and One Direction being popular.

Earlier this week, Christians around the globe celebrated another piece of ancient history...the resurrection of Jesus.

Whoa! Wait...what do those two sentences have to do with each other?!!?

The connection is the following quote from Charles "Chuck" Colson, who served prison time because of his role in the administration of Richard Nixon and Watergate and erased tapes and all that.

Truth is...this single line of reasoning may not be enough to convince the skeptical that Jesus really did raise from the dead, but it's a fairly solid rung on that ladder.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Troubled by the Truth

The normal phrase is "the truth will set you free", but sometimes the truth will get you in hot water.

Mark 12:1-12 (The Message)

Then Jesus started telling them stories. “A man planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, erected a watchtower, turned it over to the farmhands, and went off on a trip. At the time for harvest, he sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect his profits.

“They grabbed him, beat him up, and sent him off empty-handed. So he sent another servant. That one they tarred and feathered. He sent another and that one they killed. And on and on, many others. Some they beat up, some they killed.

“Finally there was only one left: a beloved son. In a last-ditch effort, he sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

“But those farmhands saw their chance. They rubbed their hands together in greed and said, ‘This is the heir! Let’s kill him and have it all for ourselves.’ They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him over the fence.

“What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? Right. He’ll come and clean house. Then he’ll assign the care of the vineyard to others. Read it for yourselves in Scripture:

That stone the masons threw out
    is now the cornerstone!
This is God’s work;
    we rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it!”

They wanted to lynch him then and there but, intimidated by public opinion, held back. They knew the story was about them. They got away from there as fast as they could.

From my journal, January 22, 2001

"They" knew the story was about them, but instead of repenting in tears and agreeing, "Yes! We have rejected God's claim on our lives and lived our own way. Dear God, forgive us!", they get angry and seek out revenge  -  revenge for Jesus having told the truth.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...if I find myself getting angry at the truth about myself, I just may be standing on the wrong side of the issue.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Any Given Sunday

I remember the first time I got absolutely gobsmacked with the world-wide nature of being The Church.

Beloved and I were on our first cross-cultural mission experience. On Sunday morning in David, Panama, we sat in what was used as a lottery office the rest of the week. We sang songs. (Well, we hummed along to songs that were sung in Spanish.) We prayed. We read Scripture. And as we ate the bread and drank the juice that reminded us of the sacrifice of Jesus, I happened to glance at my watch and realized that folks back in the church in Indiana where I was serving at the time were eating and drinking at that very time as well.

And an overwhelming sense of unity with all Jesus-followers across the expanse of both space and time burst my heart wide open.

And now, years later, Yahweh brings to my attention a little ditty by Carolyn Arends called Any Given Sunday. It reminds me of all the things people are missing out on when they decide they don't need to be part of a church family.

Truth is...I've been tempted to get depressed lately at seeing so many get so comfortable in NOT gathering together as a church community ("as is the habit of some" Hebrews 10:25). There is a pervasive take-it-or-leave-it attitude that reveals our consumer orientation toward corporate worship. Granted, there are many a local congregation that fall far short of the goal of true fellowship and mutual encouragement, but it will NEVER happen if people who desire those things stay away. If I'm not part of the solution, then I'm part of the problem.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Just One Person

It was a funeral unlike any other.

Which is only fitting, because Jim Henson was a person unlike any other. Out of a desire to get into the fledgling television industry, Henson morphed into a pioneering puppeteer who understood and used the medium like no one else. From a local, five-minute program that mostly consisted of lip-syncing to crazy records, through the iconic characters he created for Sesame Street, all the way to a worldwide entertainment phenomenon, Jim Henson was a gentle-spirited, soft-voiced powerhouse of creativity.

Almost everything Henson and the Muppets ever did began as an idea in Jim's head, which he would share with his associates, who would catch the vision and eventually make a positive contribution to the world.

But about the funeral...

People were encouraged to dress in brightly-colored clothes. Big Bird walked up the center aisle and sang "It Ain't Easy Bein' Green". There were tears and laughter and a Dixieland band ending it all with "When the Saints Go Marching In".

And in the midst of it was a performance of a song from the musical Snoopy!!!. It was written by Hal Clayton Hackady and Larry Grossman and titled "One Person".

If just one person believes in you 
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you... 
Hard enough, and long enough 
Before you knew it, someone else would think, 
"If he can do it, I can do it." 

Making it two whole people, who believe in you 
Deep enough, and strong enough
Believe in you. 
Hard enough and long enough 
There's bound to be some other person who 
Believes in making it a threesome, 
Making it three..... 
People you can say: believe in me.

And if three whole people, 
Why not four? 
And if four whole people, 
Why not more
and more
and more.... 

And when all those people believe in you
Deep enough, and strong enough, 
Believe in you... 
Hard enough, and long enough 
It stands to reason that you yourself will 
Start to see what everybody sees in 

And maybe even you, 

Can believe in you... too!

Truth is...What begins with just you CAN spread to others. Whether it's self-respect or a creative impulse or a sense of family within a church, let it start with you and infect everyone around you. If a bunch of felt and ping-pong-ball eyes can bring you to tears (the way the above video does me), who KNOWS what wonders can be wrought because of your unique qualities?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Unsocial Media

We have visited the comic strip, Sherman's Lagoon, before, and it's time again to thank Jim Toomey for this bit-o-truth.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...while this is funny, it's also not funny.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Glimpse of "A Glimpse..."

Allow me to present an appetizer platter of worthwhile nuggets from Brennan Manning's book, A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-hatred.

  • [Quoting Bernard Bush] I hope it is clear that feelings of guilt, accompanied by anxiety, fear and restlessness, arise from deep within ourselves and are not an accurate gauge of the state of our souls before God. We cannot assume that he feels about us the way we feel about ourselves, unless we love ourselves intensely and freely.
  • Salvation cannot be earned or merited but only humbly and gratefully received as a loving gift from the Father's hand.
  • As in any lovers' quarrel, the making-up not only absolves the past but brings a new depth of trust and security to the relationship. There is more power in sharing our weaknesses than in sharing our strengths....The sinful and repentant prodigal son experienced an intimacy and joy with his Father in his brokenness that his sinless self-righteous brother would never know.
  • I heard Jesus say, "For love of you I left my Father's side. I came to you who ran from me, who fled me, who did not want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched and beaten, and fixed to the wood of the cross."
  • Because the mystery of iniquity lurks on the landscape and the power of sin waxes strong within us, we may come to the Lord bucking, screaming, and kicking. The self dies a slow death; the resistance to the Spirit remains real. The readiness to relinquish everything is more a painful process than a mystical zap. "We are accustomed to imagining the experience of conversion or sudden call to grace as an 'Oh, joy!' phenomenon," write Scott Peck. "In my experience,...at the moment we finally listen to the call we may say, 'O thank you, Lord', or we may say, 'O Lord, I am not worthy', or we may say, 'O $#*!, do I have to?'"
  • Recognition of the problem is not the answer. Action is.
  • The Word of God calls into being a faith-community characterized by unity without uniformity. Jesus is the way, but his light is refracted in myriad ways by multiple personalities.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...one final quote sums up the whole book: "The first step in liberation from self-hatred is to move from the darkness of self-delusion into the daylight of God's truth."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


I was recently struck with the realization that I am totally egocentric when it comes to the pop culture of my upbringing.

What I mean is, I don't recall being 25 or 30 and having people express shock and dismay if I didn't have a working knowledge of Glenn Miller's discography or couldn't recall a particular Milton Berle routine. And yet, I find myself surprised when I have to introduce Jim Croce or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to some young adult today.

And then, while I was in the midst of contemplating this phenomenon, I read an article by Scott Riggan titled "Are We Not Entertained?" The gist of its focus goes like this:

We approach our selection of a church with the same criteria we approach everything else: does it meet my needs? It seems like a reasonable metric, right? After all, if a restaurant doesn’t offer food to your taste, you don’t go back. If you can’t find the clothes you like at a particular store, you won’t shop there again. So it’s not a stretch for us – as consumers – to expect our church to provide programming that clicks for us. A preacher that we agree with – and whose teaching style appeals to us. Music that we like. We expect our church to conform to our preferences.

Riggan says a lot more, and does a good job of balancing the challenging and empathizing aspects of his concept. It's a short article, and I encourage you to CLICK HERE to read the whole thing.

Truth is...Beloved has been trying to get me to see my personal culture-centric issue for quite some time, and I owe her an apology, but the bigger issue here is remembering that worship is not about me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Do You Still Not Get It?"

Sometimes, a question is just a question, but other times, it's a swift kick right where you need it.

Mark 8:16-21 (The Message)

The disciples were finding fault with each other because they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus overheard and said, “Why are you fussing because you forgot bread? Don’t you see the point of all this? Don’t you get it at all? Remember the five loaves I broke for the five thousand? How many baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

They said, “Twelve.”

“And the seven loaves for the four thousand—how many bags full of leftovers did you get?”


He said, “Do you still not get it?”

From my journal, December 21, 2000

Jesus put the question to His closest followers: "Do you still not get it?"  -  And He can ask me the same thing today, I'm sure.

"I've fed thousands from just a little, and had more leftovers than I had to begin with. I've walked on water. I've stopped a raging storm dead in its tracks, just by saying so. I've rekindled lost passion. I've moved you from comfort and familiarity until the new became comfortable and familiar...am I not capable of managing your every need? Both now and into the future?"

Truth is...Of course You are, Lord. You are able. I need only to trust and obey.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When E. F. Hutton Speaks...

Am I the only one here old enough to remember the E. F. Hutton commercials?

The scene would be a busy restaurant or a tennis match. Two people would be having a semi-private conversation, and one would say to the other, "Well, my broker is E. F. Hutton, and he says-" at which point, all other activity and noise would immediately stop and everyone's attention would be focused; intent on hearing the sage advice of E. F. Hutton. "When E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen."

I had an E. F. Hutton kind of moment recently while reading A Glimpse of Jesus, by Brennan Manning. When one of your favorite writers chooses to pass along a lengthy quote from "the most important book [he's] read outside the Bible"  -  a book that "has revolutionized [his] understanding of Christ and the meaning of Christian discipleship"  -  it might be a good idea to pay attention.

Hence, this excerpt from On Being a Christian, by Hans Kung.

The church of Jesus Christ is a home not only for the morally upright but for the moral failures and for those who for a variety of reasons have not been able to honor denominational teaching. The Church is a healing community proclaiming the Father's indiscriminate love and unconditional grace, offering pardon, reconciliation and salvation to the down-trodden and leaving the judgment to God.

A Church that will not accept the fact that it consists of sinful men and exists for sinful men becomes hard-hearted, self-righteous, inhuman. It deserves neither God's mercy nor men's trust. But if a Church with a history of fidelity and infidelity, of knowledge and error, takes seriously the fact that it is only in God's Kingdom that the wheat is separated from the tares, good fish from bad, sheep from goats, a holiness will be acknowledged in it by grace which it cannot create for itself.

Such a Church is then aware that it has no need to present a spectacle of higher morality to society, as if everything in it were ordered to the best. It is aware that its faith is weak, its knowledge dim, its profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which it has not in one way or another been guilty of. And though it is true that the Church must always dissociate itself from sin, it can never have any excuse for keeping any sinners at a distance. If the Church self-righteously remains aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God's kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.

Truth is...forgiveness and grace are a messy business, and it's good to have close companions along the way. That's what I call Church, and that's what I wish for each person reading these words.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Ah...Valentine's Day...chalk-like hearts with two-word phrases, boxes of chocolates, bouquets of flowers, infinite opportunities to disappoint...

Yes, there are a lot of traditions associated with today's festivities. And if a fellow feels like he has to live up to expectations, there's a lot of pressure.

Well, here's a little more.

What does or doesn't happen today...or on ANY single day...is not nearly as important as how you treat your spouse throughout the whole year. Which is why I've chosen today to direct you to a post from July 8, 2013 titled Homo Sapien Husbandry.

It started like this:
You've heard of animal husbandry, I'm sure. Well, this is like that, only specifically about being a human husband. There are certain things that I think every man who is married ought to know and do. Just in case you were wondering, here they are:

To read the rest, CLICK HERE.

Truth is...perfect love casts out all fear (I John 4:18), but only God's love is perfect. I still have to work on mine and how I show it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

5,000 People; All Glad I'm Not Jesus

It's been said before..."There is a God, and you're not Him." Well, I just read a journal entry of mine from December 2000 that indicates what a good thing it is I'm not.

RE: Mark 6:30-44
So...the apostles get back from their preaching tours and Jesus wants to get away with just the 12 for a restful break. They sail across to the other shore and are met by a crowd of thousands.

The next phrase is a telling truth that points out a major difference between Jesus and me: "At the sight of them, his heart broke  -  like sheep without a shepherd they were."

Had it been me, I would have felt exasperation bordering on anger...anything but compassion. And they definitely would have been on their own for supper!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Truth is...If the truth were known, all would clearly see I've still got such a long way to go.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

When You Don't Feel Like It

This isn't the first time this blog has quoted Radio Free Babylon's Coffee With Jesus, and it probably won't be the last. Sometimes they make me a little uncomfortable (which isn't always a bad thing), and sometimes the "comic" resonates to the point of shattering fine glass goblets.

This is one of those times.

We begin with a generic greeting...

...which is followed by a generic response...

...and then an awesome truth sweeps in and makes itself at home in our minds and (hopefully) our hearts.

Truth is...Feelings should always be the LAST things consulted when deciding what to believe, say, or do. Just make yourself available to Jesus, be real, and see where He takes it from there.