Thursday, January 13, 2022

Michael J. Fox On Gratitude


If you're aware of Michael J. Fox at all, you probably remember him as the star of the successful sitcom Family Ties and the three Back to the Future films. You may also identify him as the amazingly optimistic actor who has been fighting Parkinson's for three decades.

You may not have heard that in 2018, he had surgery to partially remove a benign tumor that was coiled around his spinal cord and that four months later he fell at home, resulting in a shattered left arm that had to be stabilized with a metal plate and 19 screws.

At this point, let me quote from an article by Andrew Corsello published in AARP The Magazine:

"As he dropped into what he says was a prolonged 'dark patch,' Fox began questioning everything  -  even his own optimism. Is it still possible for me to be optimistic and realistic at the same time? he asked himself. In other words, had the price of keeping up a good face, of striving to remain the playful, glass-half-full guy audiences had always loved, of being 'Michael J. Fox,' become too steep?"

Perhaps not surprisingly, he did indeed find a way to become optimistic again, and shared his secret in answer to the question, How did you pull out of that dark place your surgery and fall had plunged you into?

"For one thing, I am genuinely a happy guy. I don't have a morbid thought in my head  -  I don't fear death. At all. But as I came through that darkness, I also had an insight about my father-in-law, who had passed away and always espoused gratitude and acceptance and confidence. And I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable. And if you don't think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don't just receive optimism. You can't wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You've got to behave in a way that promotes that."

Truth is...If you're worried and you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep, and you'll fall asleep counting your blessings. (Irving Berlin)

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Are We Spinning Our Wheels?


You've heard the phrase "spinning our wheels," right? It refers to having a vehicle sitting in mud or snow or on a patch of ice and being able to supply power to the drivetrain and turn the wheels, but with no traction, not being able to move the vehicle forward.

According to the following quote from The Body by Bill Bryson, something similar can happen in the practice of medicine:

We have reached the decidedly bizarre point in health care in which pharmaceutical companies are producing drugs that do exactly what they are designed to do but without necessarily doing any good. A case in point is the drug atenolol, a beta-blocker designed to lower blood pressure, which has been widely prescribed since 1976. A study in 2004, involving a total of twenty-four thousand patients, found that atenolol did indeed reduce blood pressure but did not reduce heart attacks or fatalities compared with giving no treatment at all. People on atenolol expired at the same rate as everyone else, but as one observer put it "they just had better blood-pressure numbers when they died."

It makes me wonder if sometimes the church might be guilty of the same thing. A group of people who all believe basically the same things about Jesus meet together and pray and study the Bible and sing. They have a sign out front and parking out back and pay their bills consistently. They "do church" just fine, but seem to have no effect on the neighborhood they're in other than making the restaurants busy for Sunday lunch.

Truth is...I sometimes wonder if the same can be said about me.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Jesus Rarely Lives Up to Expectations


Having just spent a month focused on the first coming of Jesus, I've started thinking about the second one that is yet to take place.

I wonder what kind of similarities to the first coming it will have?

The political leaders of the time were upset at the news of Jesus' arrival...not only in Bethlehem but 30 years later in Jerusalem as well.

There were a few religious experts who knew where to look for the Messiah's birthplace, but the rank and file were probably clueless. And as for 30 years later...Jesus was NOT what they were expecting. Everyone was certain the Messiah would violently get rid of the oppressing outsiders and restore the Jewish nation as dominant owners of The Promised Land. Who would have thought that the Son of God came not to condemn the world, but to save it?

And today?

  • As always, political leaders are most concerned about retaining their seats of power.
  • Religious experts delight in arguing eschatological viewpoints, each differing view being held in absolute certainty with underlined Bible verses and best-selling books.

When folks start talking about the Bible like it's some kind of clear roadmap of the future ("Well, this verse is obviously referring to..."), I am reminded of the following quote from Rich Mullins:

"The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart -- it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice -- it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I think most people will be as surprised at the second coming of Jesus as the Pharisees and Sanhedrin were at the first coming.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Prosification of "Angels from the Realms of Glory"


Heavenly angels, spread yourselves throughout the world. Once you sang about the creation, but now you're going to tell everyone about the promised Messiah being born. Here's what you should sing: "Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ, the newborn king!"

Hey, you shepherds out in the pasture, watching your sheep on the night shift! God is now living with us! See the baby's holy glow over there?

Hey, you wise men! Forget all your deep thinking. There are better things for you to see if you do some traveling. You need to seek the person that all people everywhere are longing for. I mean, you've seen his special birth-star, so hop to it!

And you believers, praying and fearfully watching and hopefully waiting...the Lord is going to come down, bringing his place of worship to earth; suddenly and without warning.

So sure, we see him as a baby now, but later, he'll be rightfully sitting on God's throne, bringing together people of every nation, tribe, and tongue as they all submissively worship him.

Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ, the newborn king!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The story of the birth of Jesus is wonderful, but the end of the tale will be beyond words.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Calvin & Hobbes Find Treasure


Today, we discover intrepid explorer Calvin on an epic adventure.

Hobbes asks for a report on his preliminary findings.

And now, the O. Henryesque twist ending...

Truth is...It doesn't matter whether the glass is half full or half empty as long as you find joy in whatever's in it.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Oz Is Strong in This One


The young farmboy from Tatooine got off a lucky shot at an exhaust port and now he thinks it's his destiny to become a mighty Jedi..."like [his] father".

He travels to a steamy swamp of a planet. (Why do we assume the whole planet is like the small part of it we see at any one moment of the story?) He searches for and finds the Jedi master, Yoda, and convinces the small, green creature to train him in the ways of the Force.

The farmboy, Luke Skywalker, eagerly drinks in the instruction of the...well...the puppet.

Yes, the future mighty Jedi who will bring down the evil galactic empire is getting his understanding of the "energy field created by all living things" from a piece of foam and latex.

If it weren't for Frank Oz, the Muppet performer behind Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Bert, Grover, and countless other personalities, Yoda would be nothing more than a lifeless prop.

In the same way, without the Holy Spirit empowering us to be Christ's ambassadors, we would have no spiritual vitality whatsoever. We would be of no use to anyone seeking after Truth.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! - Colossians 2:13 (The Message)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Black Hole of Greed


One of the things I like about science fiction is its ability to make a strong, moral statement with very few words.

And in this words at all.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth may have seen the ending coming from a mile away. We're good at that when it comes to other people. Lord, help us to monitor ourselves with as much foresight.