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November 5th, 2014
09:38 am
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A call to humility and grace on the day after elections
Today, the elections are over.   In my social media feed, the winners are gloating, and the losers are crying "we are doomed!".

And so, I call on all reading these words to act with humility and grace towards one another.

If your candidates won last night: mute your celebration with sober judgment.   Now, your candidates must do more than win votes: they must lead.  Another national election will happen in two years; if your candidates fail to lead, they will be replaced just as easily as they came to power.

If your candidates lost last night: mute your sorrow with sober judgment.   The tougher task now falls to you.  It is not enough to say "you are all wrong"; it falls to you to say "here is a better way".   You have two years to make your case.

And to all of us, I say: we are citizens of one country.   Those who voted against your candidates are your brothers and sisters, your mothers and fathers, your sons and daughters.   They may disagree with you, but they are not your enemies.   They are your family.   Let us treat each other accordingly.

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November 3rd, 2014
10:02 am
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A call to prayer on Election Eve: pray for your "enemies"
[I wish I could take credit for this idea ... but I first heard this idea from Karen Byrne six years ago.]

Tomorrow, the United States holds a national election.   All members of the House of Representatives will stand for election, plus about a third of the US Senate, many state governors, and untold numbers of state and local officials.

This year, for whatever reason, I've been struck by how bitter this election cycle has been.   The airwaves have been filled with bitterness, rage, hatred, half-truths, guilt by association, and generally a focus on "winning" and "losing" rather than ideas.   Sitting down with my ballot on Saturday was a uniquely painful experience.  I will be very happy when Wednesday rolls around.

But before that happens, there is tonight.   Election eve.

I call upon you tonight to take some time and pray.   But not in the way that you might think.

Don't pray for "your side" to win.   Don't pray for "God's will to be done", while implicitly thinking that "God's will" is for "your side" to win.

Instead ... pray for the "other side".

I'm not asking you to pray that the "other side" will win.  I'm asking you to honestly pray for them.   Pray that God blesses them.   Pray that God gives them wonderful, unexpected, glorious gifts of grace.   Pray that God gives them wisdom and peace.

Why?   Because it's right for us to do so.   And because many of those on the "other side" will lead us.

  • "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."   (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

  • "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5:44-45a)

And, perhaps, because if we all start praying for those with whom we disagree, perhaps we'll quit seeing them as ... well, as "them".   

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October 4th, 2014
11:23 am
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Merry Christmas ... but on MY terms.
On my Facebook feed, one of the common items I'm seeing is lately folks commenting on the arrival of Christmas displays in various retail outlets.   Usually, the comments are uniformly negative ... something similar to "it's way too early for Christmas", cloaked in the usual condemnation of businesses treating Christmas as yet another profit-making opportunity.   This will continue on for the next couple of months ... especially in November, when one of the local radio stations switches to all-Christmas music in November, much to the public distress of folks who need their daily Kings of Leon installment.

And then, once Christmas season "officially" begins on Thanksgiving morning (that irony has been lost long ago), many of the same folks will start complaining that those Christmas displays aren't orthodox enough --- especially as it relates to actually to wishing customers "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays"  or "Season's Greetings" or whatever.

It strikes me that, as happens in so many ways in our culture, we are welcoming Jesus into our world --- but only on our own terms.   Jesus is welcome, but he can't arrive before we say so.   When he does arrive, we can only use selected words to talk about him.   And once January rolls around, we need to put him back into his box as soon as possible, so that we can get on with our well-ordered lives.

It would be too easy to condemn our culture for the way it treats the coming of Jesus.   But this is hardly new.   The first coming of Jesus was accompanied by hundreds of years of prophecy, a unique astrological event, and extraterrestrial contact with humanity.   And the only people who noticed were an unwed couple, some migrant farm workers, and a group of professors from some foreign university.   Once the establishment did notice, the official reaction was to commit an act of genocide --- because the arrival of Jesus didn't fit into the official narrative.   (Not that the adult Jesus fit into the dominant narrative any better.)

In August, when I was substituting as music director at our church, our lead pastor preached a sermon on joy.   I decided to end the service by having the congregation sing "Joy To The World" --- even though it was decidedly out-of-season.   After the service, one of the congregants came up to me and said "You know .... that song really doesn't really have anything to do with Christmas, does it?"   Ah, but we can only sing carols during Advent.

Come, thou long expected Jesus ... but only when I say so.    

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

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August 23rd, 2014
10:04 pm
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Scriptural thoughts on the "Ice Bucket Challenge"
So, like everyone else on social media these days, I've been watching the explosion of videos surrounding the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.   It's been a remarkable phenomenon.   Remarkable enough, of course, that now the backlash against the Ice Bucket challenge has started; people are starting to argue that one shouldn't participate in the challenge, for a whole host of reasons.   And now, of course, the backlash against the critics has begun, again for another host of reasons.

But ever since the whole thing got started, I've had this nagging feeling of discomfort about the whole thing.   And I think I've finally figured why I'm uncomfortable with this.
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April 14th, 2014
01:57 pm
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My Spring 2014 Manifesto: get some rest, dude!
Okay ... this blog entry is going to be long and self-absorbed.   Mostly, it's me thinking about my place in the world, personally and professionally.  If you want to bail out at this point, please do so ...

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Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

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October 12th, 2013
05:04 pm
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On the coming of Winter: a public challenge to you

As I sit here on this beautiful Fall afternoon, with just a slight chill in the air, I am reminded of the changing of the seasons and the upcoming arrival of winter.

Winter, for those of us who live in the northern US, is a long, cold, dark season.  And, not surprisingly, it often brings an accompanying change in mood ... especially for those of us who have lived through northern winters for most of our lives.  The dark and cold brings about a long season of whining and complaining, as folks yearn for the coming of summertime once again.

Mark Twain once said "everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it."  In recent years, this statement has come to my mind more than once.  We Northerners often view complaining about the weather as our birthright --- complaining about shoveling snow and defrosting cars and heating bills and precious little daylight is an ordinary part of life.  But complaining about the weather does nothing; it doesn't make it easier to endure, and it doesn't make it easier for anyone else to endure it, either.

As an evangelical Christian, it's also seemed terribly weird for me that Christians complain about the weather.  We read verses like "Every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17).  We sing hymns like "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" that celebrate the seasons.  And then we read other verses like "Do everything without grumbling or arguing" (Phillipians 2:14) ... right before we leave church and complain about having to scrape the snow off our cars.  The cognitive dissonance hurts my brain.

So, last fall, I made a secret resolution.  I resolved that I wasn't going to complain about the winter.  It's not like I'm some hearty "winter warrior" who resolved to go running naked in the snow, or ride my snowmobile to work, or build the world's largest snow fort.   But I decided to choose not to complain about the cold and the dark and the snow.  And I decided not to join in when others complained about those same things.

I didn't do this to make a political statement, or a social statement --- or any sort of statement at all.  I didn't tell anyone I was doing this.  I simply decided to do this for my own benefit.

And you know what?  I had a better winter as a result.  It really wasn't that hard to stop complaining, and to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  And because I wasn't complaining, I had a much better mood through the whole winter.  I spent my time outside enjoying the gifts given to me rather than focusing on the gifts I didn't have.

So, as I see the seasons changing once again, I have a challenge for you.

Join me.

Resolve this year not to complain about the cold weather.  Instead, resolve to give thanks for the weather that is provided for you.  Seek out the good in what you have, not in what you don't have.

I've created a Facebook Group called the Winter Anti-Griping Society (https://www.facebook.com/groups/winterags/) for those of you who would like to take the pledge with me.  Membership is open to anyone; feel free to invite others.  (I'd also love it if those of you with artistic and/or Facebook talents would volunteer to spruce up the group page.)

It's time to stop talking about the weather and do something about it.

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July 22nd, 2013
08:23 pm
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On the opening and closing of schools
Times in Michigan are interesting these days.  The state is balancing its budget; Detroit is filing for bankruptcy.  Lots of good news if you look for it; lots of bad news if you look for it.

Today's news was more in the "bad news" category.  The State of Michigan is closing the Buena Vista and Inkster school districts, due to financial distress.  Current students will be sent to surrounding districts. Read more...Collapse )

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December 18th, 2012
11:47 am
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On Christmas shopping and gender biases --- even for those of us who know better
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Current Location: Starbucks, Flint, MI
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

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10:40 am
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RadioLab: "What's Up, Doc"
What's Up, Doc? (from RadioLab)

RadioLab is one of my favorite podcasts.  Their programs range from modestly stimulating to absolute brilliance.  This is one of the latter.  It deals with a wonderful story about the life of Mel Blanc.  (I'd tell you more, but it would spoil the surprise.)

My wife does research dealing with the electrical signals in the human brain.  She tells me often: the more we learn about how the brain works, the more we discover we have absolutely no freaking idea how the human brain works.

"Fearfully and wonderfully made", indeed (Ps. 139:14).

Current Location: Starbucks, Flint, MI
Current Mood: impressedimpressed

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December 7th, 2012
09:55 am
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The science of waiting in line
What To Do When The Bus Doesn't Come (from NPR)

This is utterly fascinating.  Note the quotes about "occupied time":

The basic notion, says MIT researcher Richard Larson, is that time goes by if you are doing something — anything — that occupies you; even if that something is stabbing your finger onto plastic bubbles. "Occupied time" just feels shorter than "unoccupied time." People doing nothing in a line typically overestimate their wait by about 36 percent.

This explains some of the things I've read about queueing theory. 

Current Mood: impressedimpressed

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