2014 Blog Favorites

Hard to believe that 2014 is at an end. To celebrate I am listing some of my favorite posts.
January :: Note to My Younger Self

February :: Miracles - All or Nothing?

March :: Fonzi Scheme

April :: Absolute Relativism

May :: Remembering Ellen

June :: Religious Schism

July :: Chasing Francis

August :: Silent Sufferers

September :: Politics and Church Attendance :: Which comes first?

October :: When they are not sorry

November :: Hysterical Bob

December :: The Bible Isn’t a Magic Book
Thanks for reading my blog. Wish you the happiest of New Years.

The Bible Isn’t a Magic Book

I recently came across a thought provoking post titled: "5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible"
(read it here). Here are the bullet points with my commentary.
  1. The Bible Isn’t a Magic Book. We all know this. We understand that the scriptures were never meant to be used to pronounce blessings or curses. Yet sometimes we do seem to focus on things miraculous and mystical when we read it. In doing so we tend to make infallible popes out of the authors instead of seeing them as inspired men.
  2. The Bible Isn't as Clear as We'd Like It To Be. Hard to argue with this one as there is so much diversity in what each of us believes that it says. Some hold dogmatic black and white views about it while some embrace a grayer view. Many divide over the way that they read the bible while others see it as a means to love, peace and unity.
  3. The Bible Was Inspired by God, Not Dictated by God. I love the idea that God inspired people to write the scriptures. He certainly could have written it, as he did the Ten Commandments, in stone tablets. Yet he chose to write it in a less perfect manner using fallible people. This helps me to appreciate the complexity of the bible.
  4. We All Pick and Choose the Bible We Believe, Preach and Defend. All of us disdain the ways that the Bible was once used to defend things like slavery. Yet knowing that those folks held an erroneous view many of us seem to hold fast to our interpretations and choose to divide rather than unite on common ground.
  5. God Is Bigger Than The Bible.
 Bibliolatry is defined as the worship of the bible. None of us believe that we do that yet many of us do not see a difference between God and the Bible. In contrast, some see the Bible as a book that reveals both the Creator in Jesus Christ and the ones that He created and loves.
Care to share a few thoughts? Perhaps we can learn from each other? Maybe even find a bit of common ground?

The Beggar at the Door

I resonate with this quote. When I hear "God with Us" or "God loves You" I think of how God is with me through the presence of a friend and how He loves me through the compassionate people in my life.

I am that beggar at the door. I am the one in need of your presence and your love. I am not in need of a religious meeting. I am in need of you. I am the beggar at your door. And you are the beggar at my door.

How you respond to the beggar at your door says so much about you and whether you see yourself as a fellow beggar. Jesus agreed with this idea when he told us that great love comes from great forgiveness.

O Holy Night

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

Good News in any Language

Joyeux Noël

Mele Kalikimaka

Nizhonigo Keshmish

Meri Kirihimete

Chag Molad Sameach

Wesołych Świąt

Crặciun Fericit

Nollaig Chridheil

... extra Credit if you know the Israeli phrase. Answer is here.

Matching Socks

“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” -J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

“When I was young I found out that the big toe always ends up making a hole in a sock. So I stopped wearing socks.” -Albert Einstein

“Granny always said finding justice was as tough as putting socks on a rooster.” -Jessica Maria Tuccelli, Glow

“I buy all my socks with holes in them. Otherwise, how would I get my feet in them?” -Jarod Kintz

“Women speak because they wish to speak, whereas a man speaks only when driven to speak by something outside himself-like, for instance, he can't find any clean socks.” -Jean Kerr

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

My long time blogging buddy, and Middle Earth expert, Bill Baugher wrote this great review today on Facebook.

I went to see the new Hobbit movie last night. I was going to wait to see the movie on my birthday or Christmas but I couldn't resist the temptation to see the movie on the opening day. I rationalized seeing the movie last night by reminding myself that I generally go see these movies multiple times...I wouldn't say I was disappointed but this film is my least favorite film, by far, of the entire LOTR and Hobbit series. I'm not disappointed because I do appreciate and understand the Herculean efforts by the director Peter Jackson and all involved to bring these books to the big screen...and...I do realize how difficult, maybe impossible it is to follow up on Jackson's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings....I don't think my disappointment is due to unrealistic expectations but rather I found the script/plot really weak. From what I understand Jackson was working with material that had gone unpublished by Tolkien so I suspect the unpublished material was unedited, thus, Jackson probably had to wing it and I think it showed... The film is dominated by CGI special effects with one fighting scene after another which bored me in the end. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan/geek you will probably appreciate one last victory lap by the cast of Bilbo, Legolas, Gandalf, Galandriel, and others but if you are a film critic type who isn't wowed by special effects you will probably be bored out of your mind. It grieves me to say such things but in the end a hobbit must be true to himself and I'm sure Peter Jackson and Bilbo would agree! PS, despite my lack of enthusiasm for this film I did really like the way the film ended and I'll always cherish many great moments and experiences from this series of films and for that I am grateful at the end of the day.

Catch my mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Theme Park Builder wants your Tax Dollars

Always interesting to talk about how religious groups are under attack by the US government. I recently had a Facebook discussion about tax breaks for a religious theme park in Kentucky. According to Charisma News:
"By letter on Dec. 10, state officials told the theme park's developer, Answers in Genesis (AiG), that the only way AiG could participate in the rebate program is if AiG would agree to two conditions: 1) waive its right to include a religious preference in hiring, and 2) affirm that it will tolerate no "proselytizing" at the theme park."
Some religious folks are upset because they feel that the government of Kentucky is persecuting the theme park builder. Here are a few comments and responses that I made about this on Facebook.
In my view, a tax rebate is not a right or entitlement. If a religious group takes funds from the govt they should be aware that strings come with those funds. Best that religious groups steer clear of govt funds/entitlements and rely on the generosity of religious people instead of govt tax breaks.
I am not a fan of 501.c.3 groups that use tax deductions for things that are not charitable in nature. Many of these groups spend huge amounts of money on ornate buildings and inflated salaries. In contrast other 501.c.3 groups help the least of these as they minister to the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the imprisoned. So it is hard for me to have empathy for a theme park builder who is wanting tax-funded monies to offset his costs to entertain religious folks.
I am all for "the furtherance of the Kingdom" but struggle to see how most of the things that go on in religious groups have much to do with the kingdom that Jesus preached. Instead of inspiring humble compassion some religious groups seem to breed arrogant self-righteousness. It is time that folks stop whining about tax breaks and begin to passionately help the least of these in our country.
What do you think about non-charitable religious groups who want your tax dollars?

The Reality of You

Saw this on Facebook this morning. Made me think. Think about how much I love the idea of unconditionally loving "You" but struggle with the reality of that idea. Perhaps, as the image indicates, it is all about maturity. I do seem to be more accepting of "You" than I once did but often struggle with the reality of you.

Can you relate to this struggle of loving in general and loving in specific? How do you deal with loving the reality of you? Do you find ways to embrace the imperfection in others or simply close your eyes to them? I have no answers but know that I often struggle with the reality of unconditionally loving "You".

Remembering My Parents' 9/11

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the nation of Japan. It was to my parents' generation what the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11 were to our generation. Looking back to that day I am amazed by the way that our relationship with Japan and Germany has evolved to where it is today. My hope is for a similar future reconciliation with the countries who supported the heinous acts of 9/11. I look to a day in which we are friends and not enemies.

... originally posted in 2012

I used to think I was a "Morning Person" ...

This image has me wondering if it is good to be a "Morning Person".

    Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at
    such an inconvenient time of day. -Glen Cook

    I'd say I'm not a morning person but I'm really not sure
    I'm an evening person either. -Tony Tran

    I'm a dog person and an evening person because people and
    mornings had their chances to win me over and blew it. -Unknown

Quotes aside, are you a morning or evening person?

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for so much but I am most thankful for the love I feel each day from my wife Ann, my family and my friends
(yes that includes you) and from the Lord Jesus.

So, on this special day, I wish each of you a blessed day filled with love that is shared with the ones who love you.

... Snoopy image lifted from my blogging friend Wanda.

Is it always bad to be a workaholic?

I missed my dad a lot growing up, even though we were together as a family.
My dad was really a workaholic. And he was always working. -Steven Spielberg

I can relate to having seasons of my life where the balance of work and family was missing. I remembering the ways that I used to rationalize my bad behavior.
Oddly, I do not think that this pejorative view of being a workaholic is a shared by everyone. Consider how these folks seem to brag about it.
You know, I'm kind of a wild crazy workaholic guy. -Randy Jackson

I'm a workaholic. I've been doing my job for a long time. -Gisele Bundchen

I have always been a workaholic. -Jewel

I'm a workaholic. I love every movie I've been in, even the bad ones, every TV series, every play, because I love to work. It's what keeps me going. -Karl Malden

I'm a workaholic. I could easily work 300-plus days of the year. -Michael Chiklis
So what do you think? Is it always bad to be a workaholic? What if you need to work two jobs just to make ends meet? Or what if your company regularly requires you to work sixty hours a week to meet deadlines? What do you think?

If you wanna be happy ...

"Perseverance towards problem-solving versus complaining over circumstances is a symptom of a happy person. Unhappy people see themselves as victims of life and stay stuck in the "look what happened to me" attitude versus finding a way through and out the other side."
"I won't argue that healthy discernment is important, but most happy people are trusting of their fellow man. They believe in the good in people, versus assuming everyone is out to get them. Generally open and friendly towards people they meet, happy people foster a sense of community around themselves and meet new people with an open heart."
"There's a difference between control and striving to achieve our goals. Happy people take steps daily to achieve their goals, but realize in the end, there's very little control over what life throws their way."
"Happy people live in the now and dream about the future. You can feel their positive vibe from across the room. They're excited about something they're working on, grateful for what they have and dreaming about the possibilities of life."

... these sentiments are excerpted from 7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People by Tamara Star

Interstellar | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

I thought that this movie had little to do with Space and everything to do with what makes humans human. I loved the many subtle (and not so subtle) messages about how people prioritize their lives and the sacrifices we are sometimes called to make.

The main plot is about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity. It paints a dark picture of our future and explores how different people react to the pressures of life.

Interstellar is a long movie (almost 3 hours) and moved slow in a few parts - perhaps the film's editors wanted us to experience the monotony of space travels? That said, I found it to be a very enjoyable story - I even chuckled at the way that the lead character tried to explain a strange twist of fate and not even consider a divine explanation.

Overall, I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Civil Law ≠ Moral Law

The Libertarian Party has a great article on immigration - you can find it here. One interesting aspect of the discussion is the one that centers on the idea that our laws in America have sometimes changed - the example given is how Prohibition was law until it was repealed. Here is a clip from the piece:
"When large numbers of otherwise decent people routinely violate a law, the law itself is probably the problem. To argue that illegal immigration is bad merely because it is illegal avoids the threshold question of whether we should prohibit this kind of immigration in the first place.

We've faced this choice on immigration before. In the early 1950s, federal agents were making a million arrests a year along the Mexican border. In response, Congress ramped up enforcement, but it also dramatically increased the number of visas available through the Bracero guest worker program. As a result, apprehensions at the border dropped 95 percent. By changing the law, we transformed an illegal inflow of workers into a legal flow."
I say all of this to simply caution us from relying on civil law when we interpret events in our world. Many who argue for enforcing immigration law might advocate for overturning abortion laws in the US based on what they might consider a higher moral law. Some feel the same way about immigrants that break US law when they cross our borders.

So, in the end, I think my allegiance is first and foremost to the moral law of love. The Ten Commandments are rooted in this law and the Golden Rule speaks it concisely. Every other law can change but this one law will always be true.

The Deepest Level of Worship

I can so relate to these words.

Knowing God has made a difference in my life.

Loving God has changed me so much.

Listening to His voice has transformed me.

Feeling his presence when I hurt comforts me greatly.

He is the rock and anchor of my life.

Can you relate?

Hysterical Bob

I chuckled when I saw this cartoon this morning.

That said, I find all of the hysteria surrounding Ebola, ISIS and Elections to be disheartening. This hysteria seems to be a vehicle of "news" and pundit vehicles, as well as social media outlets, to garner higher ratings and publicity. Like the mudslinging political ads of this season, "news" vehicles seem to be tapping into our worst fears and darkest expectations.

In spite of all this, I still naively hope that we in America will one day wise up to the dark motives of this sort of fear mongering and put Hysterical Bob in isolation.

Halloween, Masks, Grandmas and the Royals

Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn't even the star of his own Halloween special. -Chris Rock

A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween. ~Erma Bombeck

There is nothing that gives more assurance than a mask. ~Colette

If human beings had genuine courage, they'd wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween. -Douglas Coupland

Who thought the Royals had a chance to get to the World Series?
It was a treat for KC but a trick to Oakland, LA and Baltimore. -Bob

Positive Fantasizing

Ran across a great NY Times article by Gabriele Oettingen, a university professor of psychology. The title of her piece is "The Problem With Positive Thinking". Here are a few clips from the article.
"In each of these studies, the results have been clear: Fantasizing about happy outcomes — about smoothly attaining your wishes — didn't help. Indeed, it hindered people from realizing their dreams. Why doesn’t positive thinking work the way you might assume? As my colleagues and I have discovered, dreaming about the future calms you down, measurably reducing systolic blood pressure, but it also can drain you of the energy you need to take action in pursuit of your goals. ... Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we've already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it."
I suggest you read the rest of the article here. It is a good read and speaks to ways to balance positive thinking with a dose of realism. If this peaks your interest you might be interested in optimism defined as Proactive Realism.

Happiness follows Contentment

Not sure if it is God or just serendipity that has brought two happiness related images my way this week. I so struggle with being content these days. Difficult to be content with health related limitations. The doc took me off anti-inflammation meds a few weeks ago and I have struggled with pain in my wrists and ankles where I have bone-on-bone issues. Even so, I do understand the challenge to rise above my pain be content in this season of my life. And perhaps challenge is the best word to describe it? Maybe my struggle is not so much with the pain but more about my expectations of happiness that are not connected with being content where I am. So today I will try to focus on being content and see where that takes me. Can you relate?

Happiness as a By-Product

Love this quote from a former First Lady. Reminds me that the pursuit of happiness does not mean that we go after happiness but we go after the things that make us happy.

And by happy, I am not thinking of something that accompanies a superficial appeal to illicit desire or a dalliance in sinful activities. These things do not bring true happiness.

What I think of is the deep contentment and satisfaction that comes when we are following the impulses of our innermost being. Such pleasure seems to come when we are doing selfless acts and loving in a Godlike way. Perhaps it is the only way to really be happy?

When they are not sorry ...

Most of us can relate to the idea of forgiving a person who repents of their wrongdoing. Some of us can even forgive when a person offers a halfhearted apology. But it takes a rare person to forgive when an apology is not offered and the person does not appear to be sorry. Following is the advice that I recently gave a person who was faced with the decision to forgive the unforgivable.

Think of forgiving as an act of releasing the control that a person or their acts has over your life. It is not about saying that what they did is okay (because it was not) but about saying that we will no longer be greatly influenced by them or what they did. And, in the end, forgiveness empowers "us" for the future.

Made for the Valley

“We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life - those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.” -Oswald Chambers

My blogging buddy Andy posted this quote on Facebook today. It is a thought provoking idea. Especially when we travel through difficult places in life. In truth, I do not want it to be true. But in reality, I know that it is. Body builders know that resistance is important in the development of our muscles. Long distance runners believe that the race is often about running when your body is ready to give up. Even so it is so necessary to understand that we need mountaintops and sunrises in our life. Inspiring events and friends are so important because these encourage us to simply hang in there. So if you are walking through a difficult valley today ... hang in there and know that you are made for a place such as this.

God, be Merciful to me. A Senior.

"I don't feel old. I don't feel anything until noon.
Then it's time for my nap." -Bob Hope

"We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to
work its way through Congress." -Will Rogers

"Don't worry about avoiding temptation.
As you grow older, it will avoid you." -Winston Churchill

"Maybe it's true that life begins at 50... but everything else starts to
wear out, fall out, or spread out." -Phyllis Diller

"By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step,
he's too old to go anywhere." -Billy Crystal

Coffee Day Q&A

Today is National Coffee Day supposedly sponsored by Juan Valdez.
To honor the Day I offer you a few caffeine flavored questions and answers.
  1. Favorite Brand? Starbucks by the bag but San Francisco Bay k-cups from Costco.
  2. Favorite Blend?  Verona by the bag but I like French Roasted k-cups.
  3. Cups per day? I usually have one k-cupped coffee in the morning and occasionally a decaf latte in the afternoon.
  4. Cream or Sugar? I do like sugar but can live without it - not!
  5. Favorite Specialty Coffee? Foamy decaf latte in the afternoon.
  6. Favorite Cafe? I like Starbucks but enjoy the Opera House down the street from my place.
  7. Alone or with Company? I enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with the fabulous Ann!
I did this 3 years ago (here) and my answers have changed a bit since Keurig came on the scene.

Please chime in, answer a few of the questions and share a bit about your caffeine addiction.

Doubt as a Sign of Faith

"When the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said recently that at times he questioned if God was really there, much of the reaction was predictably juvenile: Even God’s earthly emissary isn’t sure if the whole thing is made up! The International Business Times called it “the doubt of the century.”
Archbishop Welby’s candor only makes him human. He may lead 80 million Anglicans worldwide, but he is also a man who knows anguish, rage, incomprehension and the cold bareness of grief. He lost his firstborn child, Johanna, a 7-month-old baby girl, in a car accident in 1983, a period he has described as “utter agony.” As a teenager he cared for an alcoholic father. When explaining his thoughts on doubt, he referred to the mournful Psalm 88, which describes the despair of a man who has lost all of his friends and cries out, “Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?” The psalm reads bleakly: “Darkness is my closest friend.”

Faith cannot block out darkness, or doubt. When on the cross, Jesus did not cry out “Here I come!” but “My God, why have you forsaken me?” His disciples brimmed with doubts and misgivings.

Just as courage is persisting in the face of fear, so faith is persisting in the presence of doubt. Faith becomes then a commitment, a practice and a pact that is usually sustained by belief. But doubt is not just a roiling, or a vulnerability; it can also be a strength. Doubt acknowledges our own limitations and confirms — or challenges — fundamental beliefs, and is not a detractor of belief but a crucial part of it.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell put it best. The whole problem with the world, he wrote, is that “the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Of that at least we can be certain. I’m pretty sure, anyway."

... excerpted from a NY Times post by Julia Baird. Read it in full here.

The Enemy of Humility

“For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.” -John Steinbeck

“Whoever loves becomes humble. Those who love have, so to speak, pawned a part of their narcissism.” -Sigmund Freud

“Even though friends say they are interested in your life, they never really want to talk about you as much as you want them to.” -Charise Mericle Harper

“To focus on how I'm doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism.”
-Tullian Tchividjian

My Way

Have you seen the recent Gatorade ad that showcases retiring New York Yankee, Derek Jeter? You can view it here - it has almost five million views on YouTube. The ad showcases Frank Sinatra singing his iconic song, "My Way". It reminds me how I struggle with the words of that song. As a theist, I bristle when I hear the phrase "I did it my way". And then I remember that the song is not really about having it "My Way" but is more about standing up for what you believe. It is not about refusing to kneel to God but not bending with popular opinion. It is not about having an opinion but about having a conviction. Here is the way that the song says it: "For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels." My hope is that, in the end, I will be remembered as a person who was more courageous than fearful.

On being a Proactive Realist

“People who are too optimistic seem annoying. This is an unfortunate misinterpretation of what an optimist really is.

An optimist is neither naive, nor blind to the facts, nor in denial of grim reality. An optimist believes in the optimal usage of all options available, no matter how limited. As such, an optimist always sees the big picture. How else to keep track of all that’s out there? An optimist is simply a proactive realist.

An idealist focuses only on the best aspects of all things (sometimes in detriment to reality); an optimist strives to find an effective solution. A pessimist sees limited or no choices in dark times; an optimist makes choices.

When bobbing for apples, an idealist endlessly reaches for the best apple, a pessimist settles for the first one within reach, while an optimist drains the barrel, fishes out all the apples and makes pie. Annoying? Yes. But, oh-so tasty!”

― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Transcendence | ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

I wanted to like this movie more than I really did. I think that I have seen better versions of the whole human becoming a computer or computer becoming sentient in other places. The movie was not all that bad but it seemed to be yet another narrative of how people are afraid of things like artificial intelligence and of machines taking over the world.

The story is about a scientist who dies and has his memories / intelligence digitally captured by his wife. The premise was not bad but I felt the story lacked imagination and was a great waste of Johnny Depp's acting ability. I thought that the flick was much in need of editing - this was really a ninety minute movie that went close to two hours.

I neither hated or loved this movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

These men moved the world, and so can we all.

"Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the thirty-two-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal.

These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert F. Kennedy

Anybody want a Phablet?

A few years ago I would not have considered having a phone as large as my Samsung Nexus 4. These days I wonder if something as big as these phablets might be workable if I had a bluetooth earpiece to make and receive phone calls. What say you? Would you get rid of your phone and tablet for a phablet?

The Upside of Mistakes

"What is it about human nature that makes it easier to dwell on the one thing we did wrong rather than on everything else we did right?"

Read this quote in an mail from Kim Allen and got to thinking about how hard it is to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. Kim goes on to say:
"Mistakes are what they are. They happen. Feeling badly about them is only an opinion based on a limited perspective. That’s because 'beat myself up' thoughts and emotions like guilt, worry and "I can't do anything right!" trigger a cascade of physiological responses that not only wear us down, but prevent us from thinking clearly or seeing the situation any other way. We literally can't remember all we do right."
I have to admit that I struggle in this area. I am prone to sometimes fixate on the negative and not see all of the positive things. Perhaps it is simply a matter of trusting that God is using even my mistakes to make me a better person. And in reality, I think that mistakes, my own and the ones others make, have made me a more loving and forgiving person.

Politics and Church Attendance :: Which comes first?

The religious affiliation of candidates (or lack thereof) is at least a minor point of discussion in virtually every election, and pundits regularly pour over data about the “Evangelical vote,” the “Catholic vote,” and even the “nonreligious vote.” Implicit in all of this number-crunching is the idea that when it comes to a American voter’s political opinions, religion matters. But despite all the attention given to the voting patterns of the faithful, the question remains: does where you go to church (or temple, or mosque, or service, etc.) actually dictate your political views?

That is the way that an article at Think Progress starts. I find the question to be thought provoking. I have always been attracted to churches that have certain political views. Social-political issues like abortion have always been a factor in my church attending decisions. And I think that issues like homosexuality drive church attendance for many folks.

These days I think that I am more attracted to churches that do not take black and white positions on political candidates and issues. I feel that the leadership of the church I attend these days fosters an environment that attracts people of differing politics because they present balanced views of social and political issues. They also present a balanced view of these issues in the scriptures. Great to be a part of a church that fosters cooperation instead of polarization.

So what do you think? Does a church's political positions play a role in where you go to church? Or do you feel that the church you attend takes certain positions on political issues because you (and folks like you) attend there?

Labor Day Reminder

Sometimes I forget that many folks are still looking for work. Others have had to take jobs that pay less than they need. Many are working in jobs that are unappreciated and unfulfilling. So on this Labor Day, I suggest we think about folks like these. And maybe say a prayer for them?

Organized Lightning

“Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

“Electricity is really just organized lighting” -George Carlin

“The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Mirth is like a flash of lightning that breaks through a gloom of clouds and glitters for a moment.” -Joseph Addison

... photo & artwork by Darren Pearson

Opening our hearts to the little children

Reflecting on the humanitarian crisis of vulnerable children along the U. S. border, Rich Stearns – president of World Vision U.S. – writes that, following Jesus, "the best solutions come from a compassionate heart."

“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” -Matthew 19:13-14 NIV

When I read the Gospels, I’m often quick to wonder how the disciples so often got things wrong. Like the time that little children were brought to Jesus for him to lay his hands on them. The disciples heartlessly drove the children away.

Jesus thought otherwise. He famously said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,” he said, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14)

Usually when I’m ready to accuse the disciples for their foolishness, I have to admit that if I were in their shoes, I would have been far more foolish. I’m afraid this is yet another case where you and I might be more like the disciples than we are like Jesus.

Today, little children are coming across the southern border of the United States. They aren’t seeking a spiritual blessing, but a material one. They aren’t brought by loving parents and guardians, but instead they are sent or driven away from home in the hopes of a better life, one free from abuse and violence and with the possibility of a hopeful future. In many of these cases, they are being turned away. As Christians watching this terrible migration of children, Jesus’ words must whisper in each of our hearts. Let the little children come.

All children need to be welcomed as Jesus welcomed them. They need mothers and fathers who love and care for them, families who embrace them, and communities who will nurture them. When children face such terrible circumstances that they are willing to risk their lives and leave their families and communities, our hearts must break …

Guest blog by Rich Stearns, President, World Vision U.S. Read more and find out what you can do here.

Film and TV Trivia

Who Is The Most Widely Portrayed Literary Figure In Film and Television?
  • Hamlet
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Dracula
  • Moses
Think you know the answer? Click here to see if you guessed correctly.

The most terrifying thing ...

I came across this image this week attached to a park bench.
It reminded me of how love is a two way street. Many of us focus most on loving other people but have a difficult time receiving love from others. I sometimes wonder if it is because we find it hard to love and accept ourselves. Carl Jung put it this way:
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
Interesting that Jung does not tell us to accept what we do but who we are. I think that it is difficult to do this because people identify more with what they do than who they are. When we meet a person they ask us what we do. And if we have been raised in abusive families we sometimes take on the identity of the abusers. So it is really hard to see ourselves as people created in the image of God. I think that is why the scriptures tell us to love as we love ourselves.

Seek to Understand our Hearts

Pastor Bryan Loritts
We will never experience true Christian unity when one ethnicity demands of another that we keep silent about our pain and travails. The way forward is not an appeal to the facts as a first resort, but the attempt to get inside each others skin as best as we can to feel what they feel, and understand it. Tragedies like Ferguson are like MRIs that reveal the hurt that still lingers. The chasm that exists between ethnicities can only be traversed if we move past facts and get into feelings.

Basically there are five levels of communication: 1. Cliché; 2. Facts; 3. Opinion; 4. Feelings; 5. Transparency, with “cliché” representing the most shallow form of communication, and “transparency” the deepest. I will never know what it’s like to be a woman, but I do know that when my wife comes at me with level four (feelings), and I stay in lawyer-land at level two, this never is a recipe for intimacy. I am not denying facts, but I’ve had to learn the hard way that if I am to experience oneness with my bride, I must drop down to level four in an attempt to understand, before I resurface to level two. Facts are a first and last resort in a court of law, but when it comes to human relationships, let us first stop and feel, before we go to facts.The communication pyramid offers a revolutionary paradigm in our journey to understanding.

If you sense exasperation from we African-American’s over yet another news story of a black man slain at the hands of a white man, this is a wonderful opportunity to grab some coffee and seek to understand our hearts. I need my white brothers to know how I felt as I sat in the preaching classes in Bible college and seminary not once hearing examples of great African-American preachers. I need you to know how I felt when I was forced face down on the hard asphalt of Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, 1993 all because I was nineteen and driving my pastor’s Lexus, a year after the Rodney King riots. I need you to ask how I felt when I walked into a Target recently behind a white woman who took one look at me and pulled her purse tightly.

However, as much as I am an African-American, I am even more so a follower of Jesus Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior demands that I subjugate my cultural hermeneutic to my gospel hermeneutic. In other words, my Jesus-ness, must trump my blackness. As Dr. Tony Evans says, “Black is only beautiful when it is biblical”.

Excerpted from a great article by Pastor Bryan Loritts at Christianity Today. Read it here.

Favorite Sports Underdog Movies

Ann and I recently watched "We are Marshall", a movie based on a true story about the horrific loss and subsequent rebuilding of a college football team. I much enjoyed the story and the acting. The movie speaks deeply about the differing ways that people grieve. On a scale of ten I give eight stars. Here are a few of my favorite sports underdog movies:
  • Rocky :: Hands down the best boxing movie and perhaps the best underdog flick.
  • Hoosiers :: Another great underdog story about a small town basketball team.
  • The Natural :: Robert Redford hits it out of the park as an aging baseball player making a comeback.
  • Chariots of Fire :: Loved this story of Olympic runners and the inspiration of faith.
  • Rudy :: A football movie about heart, overcoming and the underdog.
  • Tin Cup :: Kevin Costner is great as a washed up golfer with a few great putts left in him.
  • The Karate Kid :: Loved how an older man influenced the life of a bullied boy.
So many more I can think of like 42, Miracle and others. What are you favorite sports underdog movies?

Silent Sufferers

This image appears in today's edition of the Kansas City Star in an article about folks in KC that are experiencing unspeakable debilitating chronic pain and suffering in silence ... my wife is among those who suffer in silence ... I write as an advocate for her. Interesting, how I just shared about the topic yesterday. I suggest that you read the Star article here. A few responses to yesterday's linked article.

"I refuse to allow the rows of medications on the window sill to obscure my view of the sunrise." "Living with these diseases and disorders is a full time job."

"It is meant to be comforting to those who can relate and eye-opening for those who cannot." "Being chronically ill is, for the most part, definitely not a "blessing."

"I find it ironic that people are attacking you for the exact reason you wrote the article.....no sympathy or understanding." "People have a hard time showing compassion for something they can not see."

What It’s Really Like To Be Chronically Ill

The worst part about being chronically sick isn’t the physical pain, it’s the emotional pain that goes along with it. You reach a point where you can’t hold back the tears any longer and suddenly you’re breaking down in the middle of a doctor’s office. You think you can escape the emotional torture; your disease is purely physical, right?

The worst part is that there is no escape. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no happy ending. There is no way to make the incurable go away. We learn to tolerate the physical pain. You have to. But it’s the overwhelming emotional burden that makes you feel like someone is holding your head down in the water. You can fight it, but you can never overcome that crushing feeling. How are you supposed to get rid of an emotional suffocation when the source of it is never going to go away?

Being sick is being stuck in the eternal clutch of the unknown. Any day anything could go wrong, or at least more wrong than it already has. It’s so hard not to feel anxious or depressed or completely lost when all that lies ahead is a giant question mark. You rarely seem to get answers when you are sick. And when you do, they’re often the answers you wish you hadn’t heard any way.

There’s one thing every single sick person wishes for, but rarely gets. Hope. Hope that one day things will get better. Hope that there will finally be a day when your pain is a zero on that silly little scale. Hope that one day you’ll get a glimpse of normal."

Excerpted from an article by Lauren Anne. Read more at thoughtcatalog.com.

The Dehydrated Brain

The title sounds like a SciFi horror movie doesn't it? In truth, the idea is a bit scary. Here is the introduction to an article titled, Your Brain On: Dehydration:
Call it “dry brain.” The moment your noodle feels even mildly parched, a bunch of its most important functions tend to go haywire. From the way you feel to the power your mind has to process info and memories, dehydration does immediate damage to your mental abilities. It even shrinks your brain, research shows. [read more here]
I have a tendency to forget to drink water. The author says that if you feel thirsty, you’ve already waited too long to drink some water. Ouch. He gives us a few hints about how to know if we are getting dehydrated. Read the article and please, do not stay thirsty my friend.

We really do like to hear ourselves speak. ツ

Today marks my 6th Twitterversary. I have to admit, I do not tweet much. I seem to post more here and on Facebook.

Interesting how this cartoon seems applicable to all forms of social media. Guess we all like to hear ourselves speak. ツ

I try not to blog about nothing but I think that I sometimes do.
Perhaps this post is an example of posting about nothing?

Can you relate? Do you write to hear yourself speak? ツ

Chasing Francis | ★★★★★★★

Ever wonder what a religious outsider thinks about Evangelicalism? This book, written by Episcopal priest Ian Cron, came across that way to me. The book is a fictionalized account of the pastor of an evangelical mega-church as he loses his way then finds it again with a group of Roman Catholic monks in Italy. The story presents a somewhat idolized account of St Francis of Assisi and an equally dumbed-down version of Evangelicalism. I like much of the ideas presented in it but felt a bit insulted by the narrative as it presented Evangelicals as mainly superficial and materialistic. And, in contrast, it showcased Francis, and his followers, as the real deal.

All that said, I did enjoy reading a bit about the namesake of the current Pope. It gave me a sense of his identity as a Christian and why he is such a winsome leader. Like the man of Assisi, Pope Francis tends to work within the constraints of Roman Catholicism choosing to lead more by example than by religious words and dogma.

Overall, I liked this "Pilgrim's Tale" and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Sometimes there are no words ...

... but these words seems appropriate: Awesome. Inspiring. Amazing. Challenging.

What words might you add to my list?