Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Should Write a Book

This week I was looking at these amazing graphs about the impact of the Industrial Revolution over at the Atlantic. Basically they show the creation of wealth since the 1800's and how rapidly things changed during this time.  Within the article there is a book that is plugged Guns, Germs and Steel.  I didn't read the book and don't know the extent of his argument, but one aspect of his book is that Europe came to dominate the world partly because of the geography.*  This is a theory that I developed on my own years ago.  I should have written this book!

For me the argument goes like this.  In Northern Europe (and later the American Northeast) it is cold and yet a lot of people live there.  So you have a lot of ideas being passed around with the advent of the printing press.  You also have a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands to think. Especially in the winter when you are stuck inside for month and month.  In Southern and tropical climates it's so beautiful that you are outside all the time its easy to get distracted, you don't have as much time to process things before you go out again. Also because life is so "good" you also don't have as much incentive to improve on life as we know it.  

I fear that today we may be falling into the same kind of lull since we can so easily fill our reflective time with angry birds or TV or whatever your pet interests are that the necessity and opportunity to create are lessened. 

In this line of thought there is also a line of thinking that relates to faith.  In Scripture, observing creation is designed to point us to the creator.  Over and over again the Psalms (8, 19, 29 etc) emphasize how the created world inspires and reinforces belief in God.  Observing creation shows us how majestic this world really is and we confront the brilliance in it. The design. Until recently we all came into contact with God's created world every day.  Today, to escape the city and its confines is a choice. Some don't choose to escape, others can't afford that choice. Creation as a reminder of God's power is often missed. Today as we are distracted, not by the beauty of God's creation (as in warm climes) but by our own creations, we observe the growth in Atheism. We see people no longer awed by God's handiwork, but by their own. This is something to contemplate.
I should write this book!

Or maybe watch another episode of Mad Men...

*(His thrust however is that the lower classes died off due to disease and the poor living conditions and the upper classes with education and a greater stress on integrity and character were the perfect blend for the burgeoning increase in productivity.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Right now I'm reading Bible Gateway's devotional featuring Dietrich Bonhoffer's meditations.

Today's hit home. 

They seek out all those who have fallen into sin and guilt. No need is too great, no sin too dreadful for mercy to reach. The merciful give their own honor to those who have fallen into shame and take that shame unto themselves. They may be found in the company of tax collectors and sinners and willingly bear the shame of their fellowship. Disciples give away anyone's greatest possession, their own dignity and honor, and show mercy. They know only one dignity and honor, the mercy of their Lord, which is their only source of life.

Most of the time when I am merciful it is something that I think enhances my dignity.  What I mean is lots of times I am doing some "great service" at least in my book.  Missions trips, service projects, even my job in an inner city youth center.  All of these things that when I do them make me look good. 

However, there are a couple of experiences lately where I have understood what Bonhoeffer is getting at.  

A while back I was at an event at Gabe's school talking to the parents of his friends.  Gabe's friends are the good kids, with great families that all look and feel like they have it together.  They are like us.  That's where we belong. Life was as it was supposed to be.  

Then I saw a friend of ours whose life is a mess.  I hadn't seen them in a while and they looked bad.   But when I saw this person I left my group of high status people and walked over to this individual to catch up and talk.  But, as I did it I felt my association with her making me dirty in the sight of my peers.  There was a sense of loss, even a slight anger with this person for "doing this to me" at this time. 

All of this to say that it's easy to be friendly to people in the right circumstances, but what about when I have to pay a price?  And that brings us back to Jesus, the one who paid it all.  The one who bore all our shame to give us dignity.  The one who came to hang out with losers like you and me. That's the person God wants us to be.  And the price to be like him really is costly. 

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." Matthew 5:7

  • Why is "renunciation of their own dignity" necessary if disciples are to be truly merciful?
  • How might a church renounce its own dignity in order to be merciful?
  • How is Jesus our model for renouncing dignity in order to be merciful?
  • Is there anyone beneath a disciples' mercy? Why, or why not?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Music Lover

My favorite genres of music are folk and funk. For some reason there isn't much of a CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) market for either, at least that I'm aware of.  I did discover Newworldson a little while ago and they play some excellent funk. 

You should check out Working Man and Empty Heart. If you want more traditional then try here. Listen to Wash Me Clean and Learning to Be the Light. (Which is getting play on CCM radio.)  

Regardless, I love these guys. 

Not only do I have really good taste in music, but I'm also a dad.  And as a dad I've been thinking about my kids and how I get my kids to do the good that they know they should do.

For example, my son picks on my daughter.  Me: "Gabe, why do you do that?! you know better."  
Simone starts her piano lessons then dissappears.  "Simone, you know you are supposed to be working on your piano.  Get back on the bench!"

I have the same problem, and so did Paul in Romans 7:18,19 "I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can't. I don't do the good things I want to do". 

I know what is right good and best, but don't do it.

I just read something that made sense. More than knowers, Christians are supposed to be lovers. Christian maturity is really about what we love, not what we know.  It's easy to teach knowledge, but only God can move hearts to love what he loves.  Don't get me wrong: knowledge is good and necessary, but love powers us to choose the good. 

For people in the church it's easy to appear spiritually mature.  Just say the right stuff.  Speak the lingo.  Know your Doctrine. BUT, the real measure of our lives isn't what we know.  It's what we love. It's who we love.   Do we love others? Do we really love Jesus? Love is shown by what we do, not what we say, right?  

So my question to all of you is how do we love better?  How do we  learn to love what and who God loves?

*All songs played on Grooveshark a free music service that I regularly use and prefer to spotify, pandora, and lastfm. Play what you want, when you want and it doesn't have to be broadcast to all your fb friends.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Christian Athlete. Oxymoron?

Not too long ago David Brooks wrote an article  about sports and faith.  Basically he said you can't be a Christian and an athlete.

He's wrong. But he does highlight how it is difficult to live out a self sacrificial faith in an arena that is based on dominating another person/team.  

As a (former) athlete myself I know there were times where I failed to be loving and gracious and Christlike in the heat of the battle. But I also know that in competition, I wanted my opponent to give their best.  I know that when all parties are trying their hardest the sport is the most fun. The gifts God has granted us are most enjoyed when every possible skill and attribute is maximized. There are times where I have lost that I loved knowing I had given my best effort, and accepted the other team/person was simply better.

Losing, when you know you could have played better, sucks. But you should know that.

Not only that, but there have been times where my opponents haven't given their best, where they really haven't cared to win, the last game of any pickup basketball night comes to mind, and it makes the experience terribly unsatisfying (at best) or insulting (at worst). Sports are a microcosm of life.  Do your best with what you've got, but do it with love.

The recent act of sacrifice and mercy by Meghan Vogel presents this difficult balancing act in perfect alignment. Watch this video She had already won the 1600 earlier in the day.  She's gifted and competitive.
However, in the finals of the 3200 didn't have enough left in the tank to win,  but when another racer collapsed in front of her with about 20 meters left she helped her across the finish line, allowing the other girl, only a sophomore, to finish in front of her.  

Meghan Vogel was able to love her neighbor, even while using the athletic gifts she has been given to her very best. She was able to see the needs in others and place them above her own when needed, but also able to put forth the highest effort in pursuit of her own goals and a desire to be and do the very best that we can.  

All this to say, if you are interested in playing some bball I'll be glad to kick your butt and help you up afterwards.