Tuesday, July 30, 2013

They Grow Up So Fast

A recent Sunday edition of the comic strip, Baby Blues, by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, brought home what has got to be a fairly widespread truth for any daddies-with-daughters. It starts with a not-uncommon request:

Any daddy in the reading audience will be abundantly familiar with that kind of minor time intrusion...and with what happens next.

Truth is...you never know when reality...even future reality...is going to take you by surprise and slap you up-side the head.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On Anonymous Criticism

Having spent over 15 years of my life in paid, pastoral positions in a series of local churches...and now a similar number of years in voluntary leadership as an elder...I have had my fair share of experience with people who should be following leaders thinking they need to lead the leaders.

This attempt at leading the leaders often comes, not as a private conversation calmly expressing concerns, but in the form of a written missive...and the worst of those are often not signed by the author.

I was reminded of these things as I recently re-read a passage from John Stott's book, Basic Christian Leadership:

This whole passage (1 Corinthians 4:3-7) emphasizes one main point, namely, that ministers of Christ (whatever form their ministry may take) are accountable to Christ for their ministry. Of course, we must listen to human criticism, however painful it may be, especially if it is untrue, unfair or unkind. But ultimately we are responsible to Christ, and I believe him to be a more just and merciful judge than any human being, committee, council or synod.

This tells us what to do with anonymous letters. They can be very hurtful, but if the author of a letter lacks the courage to divulge his or her identity, we should not take its message too seriously. A story is told of Joseph Parker, who occupied the pulpit of the City Temple in London when C. H. Spurgeon was preaching in the Metropolitan Tabernacle. One day, when Parker was climbing the steps to his pulpit, a lady in the gallery threw a piece of paper at him. He picked it up and read it. It contained only one word: "Fool!" Parker began his sermon with these words: "I have received many anonymous letters in my life. Previously they have been a text without a signature. Today for the first time I have received a signature without a text!"

Truth is...everyone probably has something to gain from hearing their detractors, just keep in mind who you're really working for; and that's an important point no matter who signs your paycheck, because who signs your paycheck is not who you're ultimately working for.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wine Whine

Most of the book excerpts that have been shared in this space haven't come from books I've read, but from books excerpted for me by Delancyplace, "a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came."

That aspect of universal relevance comes into play with the following quote from Gulp, by Mary Roach:

Marc Dornan, of the Beverage Testing Institute, says that rating wines on a hundred-point scale, which is now common practice, is 'utterly pseudoscientific.' Tim Hanni, a Master of Wine, believes that most commentary about wines fails to take into account the biological individuality of consumers; he claims that he can predict what sort of wine appeals to you according to such factors as how heavily you salt your food and whether your mother suffered a lot from morning sickness while carrying you. Hanni has said for years that the matching of a particular wine with a particular food is a scam, there being "absolutely no premise historically, culturally, or biologically for drinking red wine with meat." As a way of illustrating the role played by anticipation in taste, Frédéric Brochet, who is a researcher with the enology faculty of the University of Bordeaux, recently asked some experts to describe two wines that appeared by their labels to be a distinguished grand-cru classe and a cheap table wine -- actually, Brochet had refilled both bottles with a third, mid-level wine -- and found his subjects mightily impressed by the supposed grand cru and dismissive of the same wine when it was in the vin ordinaire bottle.

Keep that in your pocket, and add to it this thought from The Red and the White, by Calvin Trillin:

An urge to refute the notion of expertise certainly seemed to be reflected in the headline of an article from the Times of London about the research Brochet has been carrying on -- "CHEEKY LITTLE TEST EXPOSES WINE 'EXPERTS' AS WEAK AND FLAT." The headline caught the tone of the article, by Adam Sage, which began, "Drinkers have long suspected it, but now French researchers have finally proved it: wine 'experts' know no more than the rest of us." The test of Brochet's that caught my eye consisted partly of asking wine drinkers to describe what appeared to be a white wine and a red wine. They were in fact two glasses of the same white wine, one of which had been colored red with flavorless and odorless dye. The comments about the "red" wine used what people in the trade call red-wine descriptors. "It is a well known psychological phenomenon -- you taste what you're expecting to taste," Brochet said in the Times. "They were expecting to taste a red wine and so they did. . . . About two or three per cent of people detect the white wine flavour, but invariably they have little experience of wine culture. Connoisseurs tend to fail to do so. The more training they have, the more mistakes they make because they are influenced by the color of the wine."

So what's my universal point?

In my conversations with folks who, unlike me, choose to believe there is no god...or at the very least, choose to not believe there is one...I invariably say something to the effect of "Neither one of us can ultimately prove the correctness of our opinions. We are both looking at evidence, and because of our prejudices and preconceived notions, believe our conclusions best line up with that evidence."

Sometimes, that results with a comeback that boils down to, "Yeah, but my prejudices and preconceived notions are right," which usually makes me giggle.

Truth is...I reserve the right to be wrong, but if I am, so what? What have I lost in this life if this life is all there is?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Homo Sapien Husbandry

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:

- Husbands, love your wives (Ephesians 5:25). And by that, I don't mean "I love the way she makes me feel. I love it when we have sex. I love what she does for me." Loving someone "as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" is putting the other person's needs and best interests before your own. It's pulling off the highway without complaint because she needs a bathroom break. It's taking time off work to play nursemaid when she's sick. It's going without a new cell phone or other electronic gadget so she can have shoes that aren't falling apart.

Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10). You've heard about a guy putting a gal on a pedestal...this is kinda like that. This is refraining from public sarcasm at her expense, no matter how funny it is. This is going to the chick flick. This is giving birthday and Valentines and Christmas presents, even when she doesn't need anything. This is letting other people know that you love her. (FYI: When somebody else tells her "it's so obvious that he loves you," you'll be glad you did this.)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). You might be thinking, "What does this have to do with being a good husband?" My answer...there are few things in this world that will foster within your wife such a deep sense of security and safety as when she knows that her husband is a man of conviction and integrity who has his priorities absolutely straight.

Be considerate as you live with your wife, and treat her with respect...so that nothing will hinder your prayers (I Peter 3:7). You see? There is a connection between your relationship with your wife and your relationship with God. How you treat your mate has a direct influence on how God listens to your prayers. 

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Truth is...We should continue to date our wives, treating them the way we did when we were trying to win them. This will convince them that you still consider her a prize...and it might fool her into thinking you're one, too.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why Worry?

Truth is...Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life? (Jesus - Matthew 6:27)