I Bought A Pocket Sundial

pocket-sundialI bought a pocket sundial. I bought it because a lot of my recent reading has caused me to question my assumptions about everything, including time. You see, the Christian Bible has many instances where man’s conception of “time” is kind of poo-pooed. And with many of you sensuous heathens being incapable of listening to words that follow, “The Bible says…”, I needed to find a different way to get you to the Word. Now, with my sundial in hand, I finally can demonstrate what the biblical writer’s were saying in a non-threatening manner. Here’s how.

Suppose I have my pocket sundial. And suppose after a leisurely midday meal I set the device correctly and the sunlight passes through the hole and I read the time to be 2:45. Now, suppose you check your phone and it reads 2:52. Well, you know me; I’m stubborn as a mule and I insist that I’m right. And I know you; you’re arrogant as Icarus and you insist that you’re right.

Who is right? By what measure can we agree?

In the end, I have a piece of pretty metal upon which a spot of sunlight shines and you have an electrified screen upon which an Arabic numeral appears. All we’ve demonstrated is that time is a convention. I’d feel smart if my namesake didn’t express the exact same truth nearly two thousand solar-Gregorian-calendar years ago when he said that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day–without pocket sundials or portable electricity at his disposal.

But noooo. I couldn’t just listen. So I bought a pocket-sundial. And on the seventh day of owning it, I found my thirty-five year old self expressing to a friend, “Did I tell you I wrecked my car the other day? Sometimes I feel like, ‘if I can just make it to forty’…” as if I hadn’t learned a thing.

Christ is all and in all. Don’t give an inch.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign

lost-history

I used to think it was Christians who were virtually mindless robots, all saying the same thing. Since receiving the Holy Spirit, I can report from the inside that Christians are certainly not robots and moreover we are certainly not nearly close to saying the same thing about anything. It’s like part of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation in a person includes suspicion of everyone and everything–often including what the heck the Good News of Jesus Christ even is. We’re the most disorganized, freewheeling “people group” I can imagine. (Though, we are rightfully sure that we’re on our way to glory!)

But you non-believers, whether Deist,  Atheist, Muslim, Agnostic or any other heathen flavor, you all are robots. After listening to your first five words I find I can accurately forecast your entire train of thought–especially if one of those words is “Trump.”

Or maybe it’s just that you all watch the same shit and I read books.

(Seriously, turn off the television.)

****

One of those books, pictured here, is not a must read. In fact, do not read it (unless you’re a Muslim feeling like the world is out to get you). It’s depressing. I just wanted you to see the title and maybe begin to consider that the last Christian in a region/society has already died many, many times.

****

With the Quebec Mosque terrorist attack, the West is officially back in the game–and playing to lose.

****

Christ Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

****

I don’t know what to write.

If Thunder walked into your life, could it convince you to turn down the volume? How about if you met Lightening? Would you look up for Lightening?

Ah, but let’s not kid ourselves. You and I, we need the rain. We always have.

****

Despite the above, I believe there is hope. I see the peaceful way forward. And I am working on concrete projects which encourage us to challenge our assumptions, which can lead to peace. Specifically, I’m working on re-tooling how we teach our children math. (Speaking of children, pray for our children, especially H-. I don’t imagine too many six year old’s find themselves forced to work through Euclid’s Elements as their dad works on a Master’s thesis in New Testament.) But I need help, so contact me if you possess the rare trifecta of time, hope, and the Holy Spirit. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I must believe there is time.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Then He Prayed Like A Sinner

After falling flat to his face, he did not stay down. He would not stay down. The voice was unmistakable. He knew where he had to go and he knew he must run.

The door tried to stop him but failed. Once outside he ran unbridled. First the parking lot then the field then across the river that was too wide.

Nimbly dodging any cars that refused to slow, he made it past the last man-made obstacle. Only one voice could stop him now.

Beauty was unable to keep pace.

Like the periphery that faded with focus, his memory too was stunted by his remarkable speed.

He did not hear the cheetah give up. He did not feel the eagle miss.

Eyes fixed onward and upward, he did not see the blades of grass become shards of rock or the blood with which his path now painted.

His shirt lost to the wind. He welcomed the new freedom and speed.

The rocks grew bigger as he ran higher. His hands coated the terrain with their own hue as they helped climb.

Above the clouds, the sight tripped him. He tucked, rolled, and landed in stride, not even slowing enough for sound to catch up.

Closer closer, higher higher, he bounded from one boulder to the next, leaving behind more than his mark.

All false summits forgotten, his focus sharpened for the last time. Plans filled the remaining moment.

He saw the rock. He saw color become colors. He saw round become flat. He saw smooth become textured. He saw now become ancient. He saw high become low.

His fingertips reached skyward as he powerfully planted his right foot. All creation below searched in vain to see what he grasped as he pulled himself high into the air.

Chest out, shoulders back, fists balled at the end of arms flexed behind him, his body reached its summit. He cried out one word.

As his blood-drenched toes felt the earth once again, his legs did not have the strength or desire to fight the fall. He heard his flesh smack as he crumpled to his knees.

Covering his face with his pained and bloodied hands, he sobbed.

Then he prayed like a sinner.

Does Three Semesters + Thousands of Dollars = Insight?

The combination of three semesters’ time and many thousands of your dollars  (via the post 9/11 GI Bill–thank you) every once in a while has resulted in some insight which is uncommon. I want to bring these to your attention as a “thank you.” Up for discussion in this post is “belief” vs. “will.”

This has been on my mind because I often ask fellow Americans, “What do you think about what’s going on with terrorism?” The response is often, “Well, we lack the will.”

The first time I heard that, I thought, “Hmm. That’s sounds about right. I don’t think I can argue with the fact that we have no national will.”

But then, forgive me, I was clicking around the news clips and stumbled upon an Imam preaching. Guess what he was dissecting? The need to have stronger “will.” Ruh-roh, Raggy! There is no way Islamic thought and Christian thought match up. And they don’t. Do you know how they diverge?

It has to do with the word “believe.” From the beginning, YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, required “belief” from the Israelites. Then the NT writers pick up the word “believe.” But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? What did it mean to believe in YHWH?

Two analogies ought help us. What if I said, “The walls of the house believe the roof”? Or, “Through breastfeeding, the mother believes in her child.” Can you understand the meaning of the word “believe” in those usages? Good. Because those two uses begin to capture the sense of the word. The Christian believes in Jesus Christ, not meaning that we assent to his existence, but that we uphold Him as Lord of all creation.

The nuance here that is often overlooked is that in the case of the house, the roof stops being a roof without the support of the walls. And in the case of the nursing mother, the child stops being a child (dies) without the support of the mother. This begs the question, “What happens if no one believes in Christ Jesus?”

Well, put bluntly, that is the million dollar question.

The Christian, the man or woman who upholds Jesus Christ as their King, believes He is King of Kings regardless of what people believe. On the other hand, the non-believer believes if Christians recanted en masse, Jesus would fade from history, and also that there is no resurrection or eternal life. (This should not be news to anyone.)

What was news to me, and maybe to you, is that as I did a word-study on “will”, I discovered the only “will” mentioned in the Bible is God the Father’s will. And His good and perfect will is all-powerful. That is to say, while the Bible acknowledges that we have wills, from the beginning we are commanded to align our will to His will. Most poignantly Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. YOUR WILL be done…”

In other words, strengthening our will for our will’s sake is not biblical. To call for a strengthened will is not biblical. Calling for a strengthened will is too worldly, it is too human. It’s similar to suggesting that we all do some push-ups in order to not die. Most starkly, to call for strengthened will is what Islam’s preachers do. Sometimes we’re not stopping the advance of that evil book because we’re preaching bad theology. This is why sticking to the Word is so important. It’s confusing out there.

So I have repented. I have changed my ways. I don’t talk about will anymore. Instead, I call for belief in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Peter said to his hearers in Acts, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 

The Apostle Peter’s words speak to us still, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”

Belief in Jesus Christ is what saves us from our God’s wrath–not a strong will.

It’s Not Over

I fought in Iraq.

Not often, but sometimes while I was there I felt a unique-to-me sensation which I later determined to be my body’s response to feeling afraid-for-my-life. For me, this kind of fear feels similar to run-o-the-mill crying. But whereas everyday crying feels localized to my face and eyes, afraid-for-my-life doesn’t leave any part of me untouched–plus it is many times more intense. Put another way, I might say crying cuts like a scalpel, afraid-for-my-life cuts like a semi-truck.

That said, as I keep reading about these attacks, I hear the interstate. What about you?

****

Maybe you don’t think you’re smart enough to see what is going on. It’s not that difficult. If you can read, you can get it.

Here’s what I could track down as the formal response of some of the West’s leaders. One formal statement is different from the others. Can you discern whose it is and how it is difference? Or do you need pictures?

Germany – Merkel: “We have to assume it was a terrorist attack.”

Russia – Putin: “This is a shockingly cruel and cynical crime committed against peaceful civilians.”

America – Trump: “Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying terror attack in Berlin.”

America – White House Spokesman: “…we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”

Poland – Szydlo:  “…with pain and sadness we received the information that the first victim of this heinous act of violence was a Polish citizen..”

London – Khan: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the awful suspected attack on Berlin last night…”

Can anyone explain to me what Khan means by “suspected”? Does he not know what “an attack” is? Does he not know that even if it turns out to be the equivalent of a Columbine or Sandy Hook mass-murder that it is still an attack? Is he really asking us and expecting us to withhold forming an opinion?

What about you? Are you with Khan? Am I being silly? Does he seem reasonable to you? Should we put our ability to match like-with-like on hold? Also, who is he praying to? Allah? The same god that the “suspected” attacker prayed to? How does that work?

****

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is only path to victory. For H-‘s sake, do not believe the lie that the war is against flesh and blood.

Our God’s Word–the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who loved the world so much He sent His son Jesus the Christ to die for us and whom He resurrected on the third day, this God and no other–could not be clearer: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Do not send our children to fight flesh and blood. Instead, turn off the television and fulfill your calling and proclaim the Gospel. In our day this looks like ensuring and insisting the people in your life know that Our God is not their god. This begins with you knowing this is the case. Do you know this? Do you know our God? Do you know Jesus? Really know Him? If you have any doubt, then track down a “Christian” and ask them to remind you what the Gospel is. If they don’t seem to know, or if what they say doesn’t sound like good news, thank them for their time and find another one. (Christian churches are a good place to start…)

When You Say ‘Radicalization’, What Do You Mean?

The 1910 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica uses “Mahommedan Religion” to describe what we now call “Islam.” Times have changed so much that my 2016 spell-checker thinks even the spelling of “Mahommedan” is wrong–both times. Here’s how the entry opens,

“The Mahommedan religion is generally known as Islam–the name given to it by Mahomet himself–meaning the resigning or submitting oneself to God. The participle of the same Arabic verb, Muslim (in English usually spelt Moslem), is used for one who professes this religion. The expression “Mahommedan religion” has arisen in the West probably from analogy with “Christian religion”, but is not recognized as a proper one by Moslem writers.”

(As a grammar refresher, a participle is a verbal adjective. In English, it is usually an “-ing” word: running, walking, or in this case, in Arabic, Islam (“to resign/submit [verb] to Allah”) becomes Muslim (“resigning/submitting” [participle] to Allah”).

Before getting to radicalization, I want to take one moment to call your attention to the name change–or how no one says “Mahommedan Religion” anymore. My point is not to romanticize the past, but instead to suggest that we can benefit from the admission that there has been a change. And not just a change in names, but in the way we write–a change in our methodology. That little paragraph is very observational. The writer merely recorded what was going on. The writer was very honest. He admitted, “We say ‘Mahommedan Religion’, they say, ‘Islam’.” (period)

I cannot speak for you, but to me that kind of honesty feels as refreshing as a new pair of wool socks on a snowy winter morning in the Rockies.

On the whole, though, like the American prize-fighter Muhammad Ali demonstrated, I fully support letting each person decide their name. This should be no surprise considering the theme of my last two posts. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to swap stories and ask what you mean if I become confused.

And I am confused these days.

See, we hear the word radicalization more and more. In my social circles, I seem to be the only who is confused by this word.

By my thinking, radicalization is a distinctly non-Christian word. By my thinking, radicalization implies some form of neutrality at an earlier stage. And by my thinking, followers of Christ–those of us filled with the Spirit of the Living God–know that there is no such thing as radicalization. Instead, we believe that there is redemption. For we believe that all have sinned–even the terrorists.

There is no neutral–not in our story at least. I certainly was never neutral. I have only ever been in motion. And I think no matter what story you have believed up to now, you have only ever been in motion too.

I have been moving forward or backward or left or right my entire life. It was never a question of “should I move?” or “should I grow?”, but “which direction?”

Cars have neutral. People–not so much.

You want to use the word radicalization? That’s cool. But can you please tell me what it means? Because as of this moment, I can’t seem to ground your word except in relation to redemption. And redemption only comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.

If The Walls Could Talk

When I consider that I thought it both wise and beneficial to use my last post to explain how talking works, and when I further consider that I thought this at age 35 while in graduate school pursuing a so-called “masters” degree, I have to admit that I chuckle.

The other day H- pointed out that I’m in 18th grade. 18th grade and I finally understand talking. Nice.

Given that post’s unexpectedly pleasant reception, though, I figure I might as well keep sharing the results of all my schooling. On the docket today is one observation about education. Specifically, I’m intrigued by how, when discussing the recorded events of antiquity, we note that the assertions go like, “Aristotle was Plato’s student.” Less frequently they might say, “Aristotle went to the Academy.” And yet, even then, there is still some tacit agreement to add, “…where he studied under Plato.

Today, however, we don’t talk like that. Over the millennia, we’ve changed the way we talk about education. We now assert some generalization like, “I went to college.”  Or, “He studied recreation management.” Or, “She got her degree from KU.” On some level, these statements make clear and defensible claims; but on another level what they communicate is unclear and indefensible. This other level is the one I want to draw your attention to; this other level is the one that I believe the walls might talk about, if the walls could talk.

If the walls could talk, they might say, “Trust me, if there’s one fact I’m certain of, it is this: I have never taught you anything–nor will I ever be able to. I’m a wall.”

Put another way, I am half-way through 18th grade and I am happy to report that I have learned that walls do not talk.

Hereafter, then, if you announce that you ‘went to college’, then I’m going to ask who you studied under. If I don’t know your professors, I’m going to ask if you actually did. If you say you didn’t, then I’m going to ask how many more years of schooling you think it should take to learn to consider whether being educated by strangers in the name of “a better job” is wise.

I’m going to start asking these questions because after 18 years, it is clear that 18 years is entirely too much time spent learning what any six year old can understand.

But that’s just me. What about you? Do you understand?

 

On Talking

I’m wearing down. I’ve been studying Hebrew nearly all day. I figure I have one more round of flashcards in me after I write this. Then the big final is in the morning.

This wraps up my third semester of studying ancient biblical languages (though, unlike Koine Greek, Hebrew is alive and well). I love it. Really, I do. I even switched my degree program and concentration so that I take more languages. But I have one big beef with the way the material is being presented. Often times we are told something like, “So because of this, then, we know we’re working with a nominative noun, and that’s how we know he meant ‘ship’.” Or what have you.

That’s flatly wrong. Grammar does not give words their meaning, we do. Grammar is a tool we invented to help communicate meaning, but at the end of the day, we give words their meaning–you and I.

Words are not transcendent. They are here. They are mine and they are yours. They are me. They are you.

Do you understand my words?

We are each responsible for our words’ meaning. It’s not like there are a bunch of words floating around and we just grab them out of the air and order them in some aurally or visually pleasant manner–no. We have something to say (or not) and then we begin to utter the words within us. Where do we get new words? People. How do we know what the new words mean? People tell us.

Looking for fun in unexpected places? Join me in telling “men of letters” that they give their words meaning. Sheesh. It’s like I was arguing for flat earth or something. It is quite frustrating. The more “educated” someone is, the more they desire, perhaps unwittingly, to turn words into numbers. Folks want each word to mean one thing and only one thing. This desire and the attempt to manifest the desire is selfish. By calling it selfish, I do mean to communicate clearly that I believe it is downright evil.

To be sure, if you’re ever confused about what I meant, just ask. I will tell you what my words mean. If I’m confused and ask what you meant, then you tell me what your words mean. This back and forth is called talking.

Welcome to Erff.

Being Dogmatic Is Not Giving Up

Receiving WordPress’s latest auto-reminder email that suggested I need to renew this blog made me feel like WP was growing impatient and about to put another persuasive turn into the vice. That said, I gave in, spilled the beans, forked over the cash–however you want to think of it–I succumbed to the belief that my words might matter. Here is an overdue post to mark the occasion.

My Evangelical, protestant, Christian seminary might just embody the most defeatist attitude I have ever seen.

As some of you know, I began to notice this after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando (which occurred after 9/11, which occurred after the first attempt to knock out the Twin Towers in 1993).

As well-read academics, the professors and most of the students are aware of the English language’s five letter word “dogma.” But I am convinced they do not know what it means. Do you?

All I would like to suggest here is that dogma has nothing to do with giving up. Here at school, dogma is treated as the thing at the end of the argument. The fail-safe. When all else–when all logic, when all argumentation–fails, the Christian simply declares, “dogma.” Come to think of it, it’s almost used like saying “uncle” when wrestling around with older siblings or cousins. (Or Uncle Bob).

This approach, dogma as the fail-safe, is a grave, grave mistake. Ohio State was another data point.

The Christian knows we have the victory in Christ. That’s primary and ever will be. Start there and end there. Never stray from there.

The tangible way to do this is with Christian love. With the only real love. With the love that is rooted in the Cross.

The conversational way to do this is asking questions until you demonstrated that you actually are listening and curious to discover what he or she thinks. Don’t stop when he repeats Wolf Blitzer or Obama or Trump or Clinton or Megyn Kelly (why is she in the headlines so much?) or John Stewart or Trevor Noah or John Oliver or whoever. I don’t even watch TV and I can’t help but hear what these people think. And I don’t care what they think. I don’t know them. Neither does the person you’re talking to. Keep questioning. Become an expert in listening.

It is our Christian duty to restore dignity to people. It is our Christian duty to announce the available redemption. This starts with Christ, not fails with Christ.

Being dogmatic does not mean giving up. It means honesty. It means integrity. It means that from the ‘get go,’ you proclaim, “I know my assumptions. Do you know yours?”

One final way I can offer to help re-frame ‘dogma’ in your mind is by comparing it to confidence. Think of any person you would call confident. Then ask yourself, “Would anything meaningfully different be communicated if I called them dogmatic?”

Michael Jordan = confident or dogmatic? Trump = confident or dogmatic? Obama = confident or dogmatic? Your pastor = confident or dogmatic? Your military members = confident or dogmatic? Joel Osteen = confident or dogmatic? Moses = confident or dogmatic? Muhammad = confident or dogmatic? Paul = confident or dogmatic? Martin Luther = confident or dogmatic? Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, any A-List Actor or Actress etc.

Confident living is not silent. Dogmatic living is not giving up.

Being dogmatic is not giving up. Christians, don’t give up.

Reflection

H- answered, “Officer Judy is from Zootopia.”

“Zootopia, eh? When were you watching that?”

“Before school.”

“So you wake up early enough to watch movies before school when you’re at your mom’s?” I asked.

“I wake up when my alarm goes off.”

“What time does your alarm go off?”

“Seven ten.”

“Then what?”

“I go down stairs and eat breakfast and then I change clothes.”

“You change clothes downstairs? Why downstairs?”

“Well, my mom throws down my clothes, and then I put them on and watch tv until it’s time to go.”

“I see. Where is your mom while you are watching tv?”

“She’s upstairs with C-.”

“Oh,” I said, cutting myself off quickly. Unable to resist the pull to follow inquiry further, I rejoined with, “What is she doing with him?”

“I think they play with each other.”

“Hmm. What do you mean? Like play games? Maybe play video games?”

“No,” she held the note, “not video games.”

“I don’t think I understand, H-. What are they playing?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

As if Truth’s gateway, the rear-view mirror reflected that her searching eyes did not notice mine.

Finding no satisfaction, H- concluded, “More like wrestling, I think. I don’t have the word.”