11.07.2017

Psalm 137

A painting by Fugel that captures the despair of the Jewish exiles in Babylon; a despair that turns to rage by the end of the 137th Psalm.



Here is a rendition of the first lines of lament from this passage.






Here is a link to another version with voices only.


11.04.2017

10.21.2017

Christian Politics?




Politics is the squabbling over who gets to polish Caesar's throne.

We are called to serve a different King and embody the ethic of a different kingdom and in so doing we will largely ignore Caesar and his throne.  Perhaps the greatest critique of all for those who bluster and swagger is to simply ignore them and get on with the business of life.

This isn't necessarily a call for a retreat from political engagement (although that might be appropriate at times) but rather a clarification about what we should hope for, and where we should turn for justice.  The irony is that those (on both sides of the aisle) complain about Caesar's past injustices, while simultaneously expecting Caesar's future justice.  Those who hope in Caesar for justice ought not be surprised when Caesar delivers.

Here is what Roman justice looks like:





-----

...our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Philippians 3

10.18.2017

Fighting Injustice: An Alternative Vision

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an un-uprooted small corner of evil.
Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”


― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

5.10.2017

Teenager?!

In case you wanted to know what one of these rare creatures looks like, you can see a picture above.  This particular image is of a teenager in its natural habitat.  The gesture this teenager is making is a defensive posture that typifies the behavior of many of these strange creatures...

It's official, I have a teenage daughter.

2.26.2017

Chicken Feet




A few years back I spent a week in the Dominican Republic.  We stayed with a family.  One of the meals they served us a Dominican "delicacy."

          Chicken Feet.

I did my best, and I did eat my fair share, but I did not enjoy it.  After all, where I come from, that is the part of the chicken that we throw in the garbage.  Which got me thinking...

          One culture's delicacy is another culture's refuse.

Years later I invited a friend to come and share at a class I teach.  This friend is someone I respect, he has lots of wisdom, and experience.  He is, however, from another culture.  I shared with him the background of the people in the class, I shared the content of the class up to that point, and I gave him a topic to share on.  The class was horrible.

As I reflected on the mess, I realized that he had brought us some ideas and practices that were very helpful and powerful within his own culture.  However, they were ideas and practices that we had explicitly rejected as unfit for our use.  At least in this case, his culture's delicacy was our culture's refuse.

Which of course, got me thinking about how much of what I think of as a delicacy would be seen as refuse in my friend's culture.

2.08.2017

Coaching for Non-Athletes



I've spent a good chunk of my life in the athletic arena.  As a competitor in various sports from the age of 5 all the way through college as a division I wrestler.  And after college as a coach at every level of competition from youth programs to college athletes, primarily in the sport of wrestling, but also in soccer and baseball.

There is something I have noticed about the relationship between a coach and a competitor that has a great parallel to leadership in general.

A coach has the ability to offer tremendously pointed critical feedback to their athlete.  In point of fact it is essential to their job as a coach to offer this criticism without softening the blow.  But most athletes don't feel this criticism as an attack, but rather as a help.

What is going on here?

What lessons can we learn for mentorship in other venues?

1) A coach is trusted to be completely invested in the success of the athlete.  In point of fact, the coach loses when the athlete loses, and wins when the athlete wins.  This trust is inherent in the relationship.  What does it look like to build this kind of trust in coaching relationships outside of the athletic arena?

2) A coach is trusted as an expert on the sport they are coaching.  This is usually because of two important facts: the coach has had a successful career in that sport far surpassing the level of those in the program, and the coach is able to defeat those he is coaching in direct competition.  What does it look like to demonstrate this level of mastery in an area of expertise other than athletics?

3) A coach doesn't simply offer criticism, they offer a practical vision of success.  The coach is a walking example of victory.  The coach can demonstrate successful techniques and strategies for the athlete to watch and learn.  The coach offers stories about what victory feels like.  How can a compelling vision be offered outside of the athletic arena?

4) A coach doesn't simply point at the objective and say, "get to work."  The coach also provides the strategy for success.  The coach offers a clear pathway to accomplish victory.  The coach leads the athlete through a process that is designed to end at the success of the athlete.  What does is look like to advocate for productive strategies in areas other than sports?

5) Criticism is offered within this larger framework of vision and strategy, coming from a trusted expert.  This criticism is focused on specific details, and designed to motivate the athlete, not to demoralize them.  This criticism is usually balanced by equal amounts of praise.  A good coach is always happy when the athlete is hard at work, but a good coach is never satisfied.  What does it look like to offer this kind of constructive criticism in other endeavors.

2.02.2017

Sex Education

I had a conversation recently with an administrator at our kids school about sex education that got me thinking about the messages we have taught our children over the years...

We teach them that sex is good and powerful, uniting people emotionally, and creating new human beings in the process. Sex, sexuality, and our sexual parts are not shameful, but rather, they are personal and private. It is something to be shared with the right people; trustworthy people. Obviously this includes parents and doctors in appropriate settings, and eventually it will include a wife, or a husband.

We have given them a full understanding of intercourse and the reproductive cycle. But we have not talked with them about specific sexual acts other than intercourse, except as those questions arose from our children's conversations with other children.  This is because those are things that are properly explored within the context of a wife and husband who are bound together for life.

We have taught them that all good things can be abused, including sexuality. We have taught them that our personal desires are often the enemy of our own health, and that this is true in the realm of sexuality as well. Sexual irresponsibility is destructive to the individual, and to those they are in relationship with. It is emotionally destructive to self and others, and it can be physically destructive to self and others.

We have explained to them that our culture enshrines the pursuit of personal desire as the highest ideal, and that this leads to much confusion and experimentation in many areas of life, particularly sexuality. Most of their peers will be having sex before marriage, and many of them will be experimenting with their sexual behaviors, their sexual identity, and even their gender in ways that will cause unnecessary pain.

We have taught them to be respectful of the choices, behaviors, struggles, and identities of other people, and that all people are to be treated with reverence simply because they are people. But we have also taught them that many of those choices, behaviors, struggles, and identities aren't healthy, and that they should avoid those behaviors personally.

We have talked with them briefly about sexual addiction and pornography. We have also explained more exhaustively how sex outside of marriage builds intimacy with someone other than your spouse, and that this will cause pain and confusion later on in life.  Extra-marital sex can also lead to unwanted pregnancy, disease, and even death.

We have taught them explicitly to wait until they are married to engage in sexual behavior, but we have also interacted with them quite a bit about the messages they receive from peers and cultural figures that contradict that wisdom. We have shared with them some of our own personal history with sexual behavior (both our mistakes and our successes).

We have also talked with them about grace and forgiveness, and how one mistake, or even a long pattern of mistakes, can be forgiven and overcome, no matter the consequences.