Balancing Precision and Fluidity

You never know what you’re going to learn by reading a book. Such was the case while reading chapter three in The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.

Chapter Three, “Tools of the Mind,” shares the history and impact of maps, clocks, and language on intellectual development. Carr includes these three in the same technology category, the intellectual technologies. He wrote that maps expanded man’s spatial technology. What maps did for space, clocks did for time.

To describe life before the creation of clocks, Carr quotes French medievalist Jacques Le Goff who said life was “dominated by agrarian rhythms, free of haste, careless of exactitude, unconcerned by productivity.” Hard to imagine such a life. Thinking about it presents a mixture of envy and gratitude.

Carr then shared this bit of history relaying how and why clocks came to be:

Life began to change in the latter half of the Middle Ages. The first people to demand a more precise measurement of time were Christian monks, whose lives revolved around a rigorous schedule of prayer. In the sixth century, Saint Benedict had ordered his followers to hold seven prayer services at specified times during the day. Six hundred years later, the Cistercians gave new emphasis to punctuality, dividing the day into a regimented sequence of activities and viewing any tardiness or other waste of time to be an affront to God. Spurred by the need for temporal exactitude, monks took the lead in pushing forward the technologies of timekeeping. It was in the monastery that the first mechanical clocks were assembled, their movements governed by the swinging of weights, and it was the bells in the church tower that first sounded the hours by which people would come to parcel out their lives.

Like Carr, I don’t share this to make a slam, but to make an observation. Balance is a tricky thing. Some would even say it’s an impossible thing. But like holiness, it’s worth pursuing.

When it comes to time, we can get imbalanced by rigidity and carelessness. We can get lost in the black and white as well as the disregard for parceling and regimentation.

As those seeking to walk in the Spirit, may we follow his lead in the moments when precision is best and when fluidity is lifegiving.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

6 Signs of a Great Dad

Yesterday, I heard a dad make two comments in response to things said to him about his children.

The first was about his preschool-age son. Apparently he wasn’t feeling well. When asked about what may have caused the sickness, the dad basically said, “You never know with him.” He didn’t say this with disgust; more like, “He’s his own man.”

The second was about his elementary-age daughter. In talking about how they chose to sit where they were seated, she was given credit for the choice. Dad’s response: “She’s a natural leader.” He didn’t say this with pride; more like, “I can only imagine what’s in store for her.”

I don’t know this dad that well. We’re at the acquaintance stage. But these two comments tell me some things about him.

  • He loves his kids.
  • He respects his kid’s personhood.
  • He’s parenting with the future in mind.
  • He’s not a control freak.
  • He’s pursuing contentment.
  • He’s got a pretty good grasp on his identity.

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Discovery Run

I did myself a favor. I stuck around another night in Jacksonville after the wedding last Saturday.

What do I have to show for it? For starters, Peterbrooke (well, I did…it didn’t last long), a good movie, and a great dinner.

But the best was my Sunday morning run. I got in 3.8 Saturday morning before meeting friends for breakfast before the wedding. But Sunday morning was what weekend running is all about. No time limits. No expectations. Just exploration. A chance to discover.

The little running I did when I lived in Jacksonville (’90-’02) was all neighborhood (Arlington, Mandarin). I never ran downtown. So I was excited to run around the AirBnB in Springfield and, since it was only a few miles south, Downtown.

There’s a vibe when you run downtown in any city. It’s not the isolation of the country or the ease of a neighborhood. There’s an energy. Even in the absence of traffic, there’s a sense of life unlike anywhere else. And I like it. Especially in the early morning hours.

From running the Main Street bridge, to hearing church bells ring, to discovering Henry J. Klutho Park, it was one of the most pleasant runs in recent memory.

Thank you, Jacksonville! You put a smile on my face every time.

Love Is All Around

I have nine nieces and nephews through the marriages of my three sisters. As of last Saturday, five of them are married. Niece Emily married Connor-the first opportunity I’ve had to be present as an uncle.

The word blossom was used often by the minister and others who voiced words of blessing and prayers over Emily and Connor. Surveying our family, those there and those elsewhere, I like to think the blossoming of love in our family has already happened. What continues to happen is the pollination of love.

Their parent’s love blossomed over 25 years ago. The result of that love is more than a fuller flower. It is a field of flowers. It is love multiplying. Some of those flowers may be still little buds waiting to blossom into marriage. Yet they get to experience the love from all the other flowers in the family field.

The view from this bachelor’s flower in the field is unlike the rest of the family’s. Like any other unmarried person, I’m tempted to believe the whispered lie that I haven’t found love yet. To that I say, lift up your eyes. There’s love all around. The widowed great grandmother and the yet-to-be-married have love.

In their maids of honor speech, Emily’s two sisters joked the three have become two. They also said they welcomed Connor as a brother. They haven’t lost love; they’ve gained love. They aren’t without love; they have received more love.

You Are The House of the Lord

It’s Saturday, which means I’ve listened to another episode of Being Known, specifically episode “Dwell” from season three.

In it Dr. Thompson made a reference that those who place faith in Jesus become indwelt by the Holy Spirit, making them a house of the Lord.

My lyrical brain immediately thought of Phil Wickham’s song by that title. I paused the podcast and listened to that song through the lens that any reference to the house of the Lord was to a believer, not to a building. That was impactful.

In that listening I also considered that perspective suggested a more personal choice of pronouns in the song. So I began changing all the “we’s” to “I.” Even more impactful.

You may not know this song. Here’s the official lyric video. Take a few minutes to listen to the song several times.

First, to familiarize yourself with it.

Then listen from the perspective that you are the house.

Then a final time changing the plural pronouns to singular.

Have a Joy-filled Day!

Stuck on Saturday

During the Easter season the last few years, I’ve been drawn to conversations around not rushing to Sunday. We’d rather not sit in the pain or silence choosing to skip ahead to resurrection. Lucky for us in this century, that’s an option.

Sorry for those that lived Easter weekend in real time. Not an option for them. And although it feels like an option for us each Easter weekend, the reality is that much of our life experience feels a lot like waiting for resurrection. Like it’s a really looooooong Saturday.

  • An unraveling marriage
  • A family feud
  • A wayward child
  • A terminal diagnosis
  • An unfulfilled promise

In many biblical accounts we find company with others stuck on Saturday:

  • Abraham’s years of waiting for the promised son
  • Jacob and Esau’s rivalry encouraged by their parents that caused years of generational pain
  • Joseph’s journey through multiple betrayals, even prison time
  • Esther’s quest to save her people
  • Job’s turmoil of loss, grief, and disease
  • David’s numerous interpersonal relationship challenges that seemed unending

Their stories may be so familiar that we forget or fail to see how much we have in common. Their resurrection took much longer than a weekend…weeks, but mostly years. They had to find a way to live stuck on Saturday. Truth is, until eternity is our norm-the ultimate resurrection, we’re all stuck on Saturday. The how-to-live-on-Saturday list is long, but here are my top three, Easter 2022:

Stop trying to make it happen…that’s what Abraham did. What a mess! It’s better to wait for the promise keeper to move the stone than to derail your life attempting to do his job for him.

Remember whose you are…that’s what David did. What a heart! It’s healthy to blurt, wail, lament, and even curse in order to create the space for praise from a sheltered, created, purposed, and everlastingly loved child.

Keep the communication lines open…that’s what they all did. What examples! It’s freeing to lean not on your own understanding by trusting that what is coming on Sunday is something only possible from higher ways and thoughts.

Stuck on Saturday? It’s not fun. Yet the forced gaze on the stone mover is worth it.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Reading to Understand the War in Ukraine

Last month The Atlantic published an article Nine Books to Read to Understand the War in Ukraine. It moved me to expand my knowledge, to educate myself, and to better respond to other’s opinions on the current crisis.

Any of the recommended books sounded interesting to me. I decided to take a trip to the library and see what I could find. I had my favorites selected, but the reality was I was at the library’s mercy. Unfortunately, they didn’t have copies of most of the books. The book that most interested me that they did have I decided was too long of a read. So I browsed other books with related topics and checked out this one by a professor and former foreign policy analyst, Constantine Pleshakov. Turned out to scratch the itch.

One could certainly read this book faster than I did, but I wanted to sit in it more than just do a quick read. Truthfully, I would probably need to read it several times to fully grasp all the history and political nuances addressed. Yet, I’ve gained so much from this read that otherwise I wouldn’t possess.

My one trip to that area of Europe was ten years ago. I went to Belarus as one of several ESL teachers for a week-long schooling. That glimpse was a blink, but an excellent thumbnail into the mindset of those who face the dilemma between holding on to their past or ferociously determining their future. An individual making that life choice can be stuck for much of their life. Imagine the nth degree reached when it’s an entire nation or region.

For anyone facing that dilemma but more importantly for the leaders and citizens of Ukraine, I share this blessing from Numbers 6:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The vast majority of us base our thoughts about this war on what we read online or hear on the news. I encourage you to do yourself and the Ukrainians a favor-take the time to do your own digging. You’ll benefit more from conducting your own dig that looking in someone else’s hole.

Photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash

Branch Living

Tonight I was reminded of sharing a message based on John 15:1-17. I told my friends I’d look up my notes. Unfortunately, I only have a hard copy of them, so I’m going to take care of that now.

Introductory Truth Statements:

  • God the Father is the gardener (His chief job is pruning).
  • Jesus, the Father’s Son, is the vine (The vine relies on the Gardener. He’s our example for reliance. Chief job=provide life, strength, and connection to the Father).
  • All who place their faith in the Son are the branches/shoots (Chief job=produce fruit).
  • Non-fruit-bearing branches are cut off (They have no worth or glory).
  • Fruit-bearing branches are pruned (Vines require pruning. The Gardener watches over every branch, yet he gives you the choice to remain).
  • To bear fruit, a branch must remain.
  • Apart from the vine, a branch cannot bear fruit.
  • The Gardener works to increase the fruit of the branch.

Job #1 = Remain in the Vine

  • Remain = don’t wander, stay, invest, pay attention, give up control, continue, cling, linger, abide, dwell, live, stand, stay connected
  • Test your remaining by your fruit
  • Test your remaining by your love

Job #2 = Value Pruning

Pruning is not the removal of weeds or thorns or anything from outside that may hinder the growth. No, it’s cutting off the long shoots of the previous year, removing something that comes from within that has been produced by the life of the vine itself, a proof of the vigor of its life. The more vigorous the growth has been, the greater the need for the pruning. It is the honest, healthy wood of the vine that has to be cut away.

Abide in Me by Andrew Murray and Bo Stephens
  • Test your valuing by your attitude toward the Gardener
  • Test your valuing by your reaction to circumstances
  • Test your valuing by your response to the Gardener’s Word

The great things God will do through you are going to grow in the soil of persistence, prayer, obedience, and sacrifice. That means there will be plenty of plowing and pruning. That’s the way living things grow…God has to work in us before he can work through us…when we want what God wants for the reasons he wants it, you’re unstoppable….When you ask God to do the impossible, he usually instructs you to do something uncomfortable. And inconvenient. (For church attenders, re-read this quote and replace the bold words with “a church.”

Sun Stand Still by Stephen Furtick

Closing Prayer: “By your grace, Gardener, no matter what it costs me, I’m going to remain. I’m going to take you at your word. Even if it seems like you don’t know what you’re doing, I will trust that your pruning knife will cut away what’s not good in my life. I will trust that you work all things in my life together for my good and your glory. Cleanse me through your word. Cut away any roots that will hinder the Vine from finding me wholly free to receive life. I desire to love and to bear fruit in my life for you alone.”

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

Whispers to a Hot Minute

A hot minute about anger.

This morning I was angered by a social media post by a friend. This post, without a doubt, did harm. That in itself causes anger. This post, without a doubt, did harm to a mutual friend. That causes more and deeper anger.

And the reality is, social media posts can cause us anger just about every minute of the day, giving us the opportunity to feel like the whole day is one hot minute. These posts don’t necessarily have to be by people we know. Unfortunately, we are leered into getting hot from posts by people we don’t even know. We can believe the lie that we know their intentions, but reality is that’s impossible.

This morning, I had the same impulse most of us do. “Why don’t I point out the harm and basically put my friend in his place?” Thankfully, I refrained. Then my hotness said, “Well, sure, don’t put it out there for everybody to see. Just send him a private message.” Very tempting, but thankfully I still refrained. So what did I do? I went for a run.

So let me explain. Rarely do I run at 1PM. And rarely is going for a run a solution. But I know myself enough to know that one way to keep me from doing something stupid is to do something good. And some of my best thinking is while I’m running.

Sure enough, the hot minute subsided and the angry rebuttal left the front of my mind. Some call that regulation or de-escalation. In spiritual terms, I’d say it’s dropping your ego in order to let God have a say.

So here are God’s whispers while on my run:

  • “One person’s lack of turning their cheek doesn’t give you the right to do the same.”
  • “A fool is better left alone. I don’t need your help setting them straight.”
  • “Offer forgiveness rather than advice or judgment.”
  • “Consider how Jesus approached the harm Judas created.”

And that’s how I’ll be able to go to sleep tonight. Listening and following the whispers cooling my hot minute.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Even in the Silence

Recently I was introduced to artist Makoto Fujimura. In exploring his works, I discovered his love for another artist, novelist Shusaku Endo. This admiration led to Fujimura becoming an advisor for the movie production based on Endo’s book Silence, a movie directed by Martin Scorsese. With all this overlapping of creativity, I decided I would read the book and then watch the movie. Today I finished the book and managed to find the movie on demand to watch this afternoon.

First, let me say what a joy it is to receive the creative gifts by these three artists-a contemporary artist, a novelist, and a filmmaker. Not only are they masters at their craft, but they engage all of who they are into their work, including their faith and beliefs. Unafraid of transparency, they allow you into their wrestling and therefore make it acceptable for you to acknowledge yours.

Endo’s Silence is set in seventeenth-century Japan. The tale challenges your commitment to your faith as you follow two Portuguese Jesuit priests encounter the forced renouncing of beliefs by their Japanese Christian brothers and dialogue with a silent God. You are forced to acknowledge persecution has always been a part of Christian history and will always be, something we prefer to forget Jesus told his disciples to expect.

Such stories produce various responses. Responses usually focus on what ifs and reminders to not forget those currently experiencing persecution. My biggest response today is this: I am the sole guardian of my faith. It’s not up to the church, a pastor or priest, or anyone close to me to secure my faith. In decisive moments where I have to live out my faith, it’s entirely up to me. When my mind tells me I’m alone and God has abandoned me, my faith reminds me that he said “I am with you always,” even in the silence.