Author Archive

Drawing God into the World

August 5, 2021

Martin Buber wrote, “Once they told Rabbi Pinhas of the great misery among the needy. He listened, sunk in grief. Then he raised his head. ‘Let us draw God into the world,’ he cried, ‘and all need will be quenched.’ God’s grace consists precisely in this, that he wants to let himself be won by humanity, that he places himself, so to speak, into human hands. God wants to come to his world, but he wants to come to it through men and women. This is the mystery of our existence, the superhuman chance of humankind.”

Martin Buber entered my life through his book I and Thou (Ich und Du) when I was yet in high school. That was my introduction to Jewish thought aside from the Christian interpretations of Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament).

The Associate Pastor of the church we left when we moved last year has a favorite phrase about being “the hands and feet of Jesus.” Same idea.

Which raises today’s challenge for living life with-God. How today am I bringing the grace of God into the world around me? How are you?

Shave Off Unlikely Explanations

August 4, 2021

When the Apostle James tells us to listen quickly and speak slowly, there are several applications that come to mind.

One could be a tendency to jump to a conclusion too quickly and speak too soon only to discover how wrong we are.

That makes me a fan of “philosophical razors” that “shave off unlikely explanations.”

For example, try:

Occam’s Razor: Simpler explanations are more likely to be correct.

or…

Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. (I find that one useful when scrolling through social media threads.)

or…

Hitchen’s Razor: What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. (Useful for avoiding arguments that will go nowhere.)

Some philosophy for staying out of trouble.

Asking

August 3, 2021

I wrote yesterday about how I need to learn to ask better questions.

There is another type of question. “What should I do? What is the best path I should take? Where should I go?”

I reflected on a few of the decisions I’ve made. I see where there were people to whom I could have gone to ask advice. Most of our personality derives as a reaction or defense to our early childhood. Certainly circumstances from my early family life drove me to the defensive posture of looking inward and being a bit of a loner. For other people, there are other reasons not to ask for help.

We moved to a new city last year. Even during the pandemic we would see neighbors at times. Asking for advice on shopping, doctors, restaurants, and the like constitute a natural response.

A saying in the book of Proverbs in the Hebrew scripture tells us to make use of many advisors to become wise.

Many times, I have been the advisor. But sometimes, I must seek for advisors of my own.

Another way to ask.

Asking Questions

August 2, 2021

I am remarkably poor at asking questions. I remember chemistry class in high school. Instead of asking “will this be on the test?” I asked “how do they know this?” The former question gets you on the path to an A. The latter sets up a path toward learning, but not toward a good grade.

Later in life, I became a magazine editor. There would be press conferences. I didn’t learn much about asking questions. There were always those who asked the obvious question that had actually already been answered in the presentation but the presenter was thrilled to have the opportunity to expand. There were a couple of people who answered the question they were about to ask (surely an art form). I, if interested, would want to dive deeper into how the new product worked. And…I didn’t want all my competitors to hear the question. So, I kept my peace.

I still have a problem asking good questions.

So, I heard about a book which is now on a delivery truck heading to my house, The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock.

And I will answer your question. Yes, when I receive it and digest it, I will share it.

Now, I have two interviews with CEOs this afternoon about manufacturing topics. Can I come up with some questions before the book arrives?

Church Can Hurt

July 30, 2021

Three social network apps reside on my iPhone/iPad. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter found homes in a folder marked social. I open them perhaps twice per day. Most days, I browse at most about five minutes each. LinkedIn is (mostly) business, so I may get into a conversation there. I block all political opinion mongering on Facebook and mostly look at “Pictures of a Beautiful Life” and notifications of birthdays and the like.

I have three Twitter streams–technology/manufacturing, soccer, spiritual life. Oh, and that’s where I get my local news.

They all want me to visit and stay. They will “promote” a couple of new people or relevant posts to suck me in. Because I follow some national church leaders, I’ve been seeing “tweets” from people who have been greatly damaged from the fallout of the demise of some prominent church leaders. These are painful stories of hurt, bitterness, unkindness, personal attacks on them.

You have to wonder how an organization that was supposed to be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, making disciples, loving one another get to such a sorry state?

Has any DMin or PhD researcher ever looked into the ration of people helped versus people hurt by churches?

Then I turn to the Christian Bible–the letters from Paul, James, Peter. Within 20 years of the beginning of the movement, people were bickering, hurting one another, discriminating against one another.

I guess it’s not a church problem. It’s a people problem.

A people problem means our problem. We must search into our own hearts from whence all good and evil flow. It lies with each of us to decide–am I someone who heals or someone who hurts?

I can’t fix the world. I can work on fixing me. And then trying to be a healer.

But my heart still aches for all those I see on Twitter and elsewhere who have been so torn apart by the people in a church.

Running From and To

July 29, 2021

We often run toward solitude and away from people when our soul suffers provocation. Rather than confront and resolve, we run and hide. We wallow in self-pity fanning the flames of anger, jealousy.

When our soul is stirred by lust, rather than flee we run to groups of people. Perhaps we seek the solace of another body or encouragement in the pursuit of that which we lust for.

Famous people have observed that we are drawn to do that which we know we don’t want to do or don’t do that which we know we should.

How much better to run toward reconciliation to quell harsh emotions and to flee quickly that which draws us into doing what we know harms us.

[Thoughts upon reading from Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos.]

Thinking About Thinking

July 28, 2021

For some reason unknown to my consciousness, I was thinking about my neighbor teaching math to 8th graders (14-year-olds). Math should be taught as a way of thinking, not just memorize how to manipulate numbers, letters, and symbols (or even cymbals).

Then I thought about the challenges of teaching 14-year-old boys how to think. Or even 17-year-olds. I guess the brain doesn’t even get on par with testosterone until maybe 25. Some women tell me that 35 is a more likely age for male adulthood and ability to think.

How is your thinking going these days? Can you quiet yourself to think about a problem long enough to maybe even solve it?

My current book for thinking is from Nassim Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.

On our trip this past week, we stopped in at the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, OK. He stated the principle almost 100 years before Taleb (without the math).

Live your life so that whenever you lose, you are ahead.

Will Rogers

Most of what I think about here is about just that. Physical and emotional life is fragile. Easily broken. A robust spiritual life is antifragile. It helps us weather storms. We could even say that whenever we lose, we’re ahead.

Freedom To Live

July 27, 2021

Some parents are quite controlling. Once called “helicopter parents” and now sometime I’ve heard “snowplow parents”, they want to make everything smooth and painless for their soon-to-be uber successful kids.

If the kids acquiesce in this through adolescence and early adulthood (which for the past 20 years has been the same thing), I know a good therapist.

I always told my kids that the role of a parent it to set guidelines and the role of an adolescent is to push against them. It’s a dynamic tension if done in love yields healthy adults on both sides. Unhealthy adolescents never get over that “nobody’s gonna tell me what to do” attitude.

The funny thing (not funny “ha ha”) about this adolescent attitude is that you wind up missing out on things that will in the long run result in the freedom to live longer or better. Currently the debate is over vaccines, but there have been others in the past (seat belts in cars?) and will be others in the future.

It’s a dynamic tension.

I think that is similar to the dynamic tension Paul was trying to explain in writings such as the letter to the Galatians. It’s weird. You have the freedom to live in the spirit, yet by living in the spirit you wind up following the law–at least the big ones (maybe not the don’t eat bacon one, but that was different, you can’t be nomadic and raise hogs).

Some of us can live in this dynamic tension. Some need to resolve the tension by opting either for complete libertarianism, while others resolve it by seeking a new authoritarian “father” to tell everyone what to do.

I like dynamic tension. It’s creative.

Nice and Friendly People

July 26, 2021

My wife and I are wrapping up a road trip. I wanted to attend a memorial for one of my aunts. She was a great blessing to my mother. She also tried to teach the town’s geek (me) some social graces. (note “tried”). Once the pandemic cleared enough to have a gathering, the family settled on last weekend in the rural Arkansas area that had been her home before Ohio.

I had this brainstorm. I’ve visited 46 of the nation’s 50 states. Three of the four remaining were almost contiguous–Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Today, we’re in Tulsa wrapping up a week of travel and vacation.

We’ve been in rural areas and small cities along the way. The church where the memorial service occurred was in the middle of the countryside several miles from a town. We accidentally arrived quite early. There was a man giving food boxes to people in need when we arrived. He let us in to wait. First of about 50 people from the area we met all friendly and helpful. The same everywhere we went.

We were close to Little Rock, so we visited the President Clinton library. We’ve been to a few of these. Always interesting to remember the conflicts and successes and failures of the times. I was struck by the many displays of letters from people in the various conflict areas. They expressed wishes for peace. I thought about how (well, almost) all of us want peace.

We can choose to see friendliness, smiles, wishes for peace, and live much the better for it.

Strike a Pose

July 23, 2021

We’re taking a little vacation. The end point is to attend a memorial service for an aunt who was a special blessing to my mom. That’s in Arkansas. We’re visiting three states I’ve never been to: Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Got an early start from Huntsville, AL this morning. So, a late start on thinking.

I began noticing huge billboard advertisements for personal injury lawyers in the greater Chicago area some 20 years ago. On this trip I’ve noticed the same style through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and into Alabama. The photographer has the lawyers pose (always two) with a look of angry determination. They are showing teeth and pointing aggressively. They will go make money for us.

Side note: this is an American phenomenon. We have an oversupply of lawyers. They need to find a way to make a living. Then they prey on our human desire for unearned sudden wealth at some other person’s expense.

What I notice about the billboards is that while driving at 70 miles per hour on the expressway that face just as often looks like a toothy smile rather than gritting one’s teeth in determination.

When we strike a pose in a group or meeting or just a conversation, are we showing what we think we are? Or, maybe we’re showing our inner feelings we thought well hidden. Maybe that attorney really is smiling–all the way to the bank.

What is in the heart reveals itself through our eyes and expression. We try to mask it. We fail.