Martin Luther King and Encouraging Dreams

A Belittling Dream

Last night I dreamed of a little dog. Not mine. Someone else’s. They took offense when I called their dog little.

“Don’t call him little,” they said. “Just say he’s a dog.”

There was a lot of vehemence in their tone of voice. Why, I don’t know. There is nothing more I recall of the dream except a dog and me being called out for calling it little.

When I awoke I tried to figure out where the dream came from. As my psychology 1A professor from junior college taught, dreams are the brain’s way of dealing with things we weren’t finished dealing with before we went to sleep. What hadn’t I finished thinking about? Was there someone I had belittled during the day, perhaps on line or in person?

No one came to mind. Then I looked at it the other way around. Did I feel belittled yesterday? Bingo. I’d posted something on line and – just before I went to bed – I saw that one commenter had disagreed with my take on things. That part was fine. The way they expressed their disagreement wasn’t fine. It was sarcastic and dismissive, with a strong sense of self-superiority at having figured things out while suggesting I was too stupid to have considered their view. In a word, the way they presented their position was belittling.

The dream of the little dog was my brain’s way of continuing to deal with what I’d been thinking of just before falling asleep.

Encouraging Dreams

When Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of his dreams, he spoke of the little ones among us.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Wikipedia)

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification”, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. (Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream, 8/23/63.)

King dreamed big, and in sharing his dream he encouraged others to do the same. Dreams that encourage goodness and right are dreams worth sharing, and it is worth encouraging those dreams and the dreamers who dream them as well.

Dreaming of righteousness and proclaiming goodness is a Godly act:

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams. (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17.)

  • When you dream, are you encouraging or belittling?
  • When you dream, do you hope for encouragement or belittling?
  • When others share their dreams with you, do you encourage or belittle those dreams, those dreamers?

Dreams are matters of great substance. Encourage one another in dreams of goodness and righteousness.

Have a dream.

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Is There Life in the Spirit and Death in the Ten Commandments?

Paul wrote:

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” (2 Corinthians 3:7-11.)

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632)
(Wikipedia)

Some gleanings of what he possibly meant in that passage:

1 – The ministry engraved on stone (referring to the Sinaitic covenant represented in the Ten Commandments) is glorious.
2 – The ministry of the Spirit (in the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus with his death and resurrection) is more glorious.
3 – The ministry engraved on stone brought condemnation.
4 – The ministry of the Spirit brings righteousness.
5 – The ministry engraved on stone is transitory.
6 – The ministry of the Spirit is eternal.
Discuss …
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The Best Way to Share Writing on the Internet – a Lesson from Jane Austen on Plagiarism and Encouragement

Have you ever read someone’s blog or Facebook post, or perhaps even a short tweet, and thought it good enough to share? Please follow through on that thought. We appreciate it. But please do it in a way that encourages.

How might it not encourage? Read on.

Bits of Ivory

Jane Austen labeled her work “the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour” in a letter to her nephew Edward. (Letter of December 16, 1816.) Ivory miniatures were actually held in high regard in Austen’s day.

A miniature of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington, by Richard Cosway 1808 (Wikipedia)

She knew her writing’s appeal, as she’d published Pride and Prejudice along with other novels, yet encouraged her nephew’s early writing with her “bit of ivory” comment. He’d recently lost two and a half chapters of a novel he was working on and she jokingly assured him she had not stolen the pages from his desk: “What should I do with your strong, manly, vigorous sketches, full of variety and glow?  How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Her ivory comment in comparison to her nephew’s work no doubt encouraged him, but I think it goes beyond that. She recognized the value of his writing even if he had not (and never might) match her abilities and successes. In the Internet age, a blogging Jane Austen probably would have invited Edward to write a guest post for her site.

Creating and Preserving the Writing

Jane Austen knew people shouldn’t steal other people’s writings. That’s why she joked around with her nephew about it. She also knew writers should encourage each other, as she proceeded to do with her nephew. I hope to encourage writers, too, whether bloggers who write for themselves and a small audience or published authors who have tens of thousands of readers.

More than one person has seen one of my short posts on Facebook or Twitter and thought I was passing along something I must have seen somewhere else and merely reproduced on my feed, and then they do the same. I’m both flattered that they think what I wrote worthy of sharing and nonplussed that they think I wasn’t talented or original enough to write it myself.

The general rule is: if I put it on my blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed, I wrote it. If I am quoting someone, I use quotes and cite the person. If I am relaying another person’s idea, I credit them. If no one is credited with something in a post, then I hope readers assume the words are my own and treat them accordingly. Blame me if you don’t like them, appreciate my efforts if you do, and credit me either way.

Sometimes I write short posts on Facebook or Twitter that I put a lot of effort into. I think that’s something people might miss. They see a one-liner and think it’s written off the top of my head and took almost no effort to create. No, I spend time drafting those, reworking the words and structure to make them sound just the way I want them to. But even if they were effortless, they are still my words and not someone else’s. And as the letter from Austen to her nephew suggests, stealing someone else’s words is not encouraging. In fact, it’s discouraging. I’ve experienced this discouragement firsthand.

Facebook comments often contain the word “Stealing.” Just the one word. Facebook even provides ready-made gifs to use when telling someone you like their post so much you’re going to steal it, like this:

Cute, right? (Source)

The first time I noticed a comment about stealing a post on someone else’s Facebook page, I thought it was just another way of showing how much the reader liked the original post. I soon saw it in a response to one of my earliest posts years ago, too. I went to the commenter’s page to see if they shared my post. They had, but no mention of me appeared.

I left a comment under their reproduction. “Hi, _____. I’m glad you liked my post. Can you put it in quotes and add my name?”

“Nope, I’m just stealing it. Ha-ha!”

“It would be better if you attributed it to me.”

“No. Adding your name would be too many characters for the special formatting I’m using here. It’s better this way.”

“Seriously, please add the quotation marks and my name.”

“Fine! Maybe I should just delete it completely.”

“Good idea. Thanks.”

Happily, this has not happened recently. Usually when I ask someone to correct the oversight they are more than willing to do so and to give me credit for the writing. I truly appreciate those readers and sharers. They encourage me.

The blog post, the whole blog post, and nothing but the blog post

You’d think no one would commandeer a whole blog post, though, and most certainly they wouldn’t try to pass it off as their own, right?

It’s happened.

They copy and paste the whole blog post onto their site. I then have to ask the person to remove the post from their page, which is awkward. The response has never gone well. I’ve been told that everything I write is fair game because: a) I’m a Christian and they’re a Christian and it’s all for God so they don’t need my permission to use it, or b) once I put something on the Internet it’s public domain and they can use it without my permission.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful when people share some little thing I wrote. Thank you. Quoting a portion with a link to the whole on my site is wonderful. But if someone appropriates my writing I ask them to rectify it. Why? Because I wrote it. If someone wants to express themselves, they can write their own words. If they want to use my words as part of their expression, the time-honored method of using quotation marks works quite well. To paraphrase my words above: if quoting me or anyone else, use quotes and cite the person; if relaying another person’s idea, credit that person.

There’s another reason I ask people not to appropriate my writing as their own, and this may be even more important. If I wrote something, I want to be responsible for it – good or bad, the writing is mine to defend or to rectify. That is a responsibility I have to my readers, and even more a responsibility I have to God. I can’t do that if someone puts my entire post on their site without my permission (with or without attribution).

All I ask is that you help me carry out my responsibility. Thanks. That’s encouraging.

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Writing Like a Girl – one man’s aspiration

I’ve been told by more than one commenter over the years that I write like a girl – or words to that effect – and they’ve not intended it as a compliment. Too bad for them, because I took it as a compliment anyway.

It’s similar to the schoolyard taunt about throwing like a girl, which I never understood because one of the best athletes at my elementary school was a girl in my grade and she’d wipe up the court in basketball and dominate the infield in kickball. And then there’s this:

I’ve played volleyball with women who competed at the national level. Do not tell me that spiking like one of them is anything other than impressive, let alone way beyond my athletic skills.

Why would someone leave a comment on my blog attempting to denigrate my writing by comparing it to a girl’s writing? I suspect it has to do more with the subject matter than writing style. I write often about things that some men might eschew: recognizing women working effectively in ministry, supporting women who are the subjects of cultural or church marginalization, endorsing treatment of girls that will help them grow up with the same opportunities boys have. And if I point out that men should not contribute to the oppression of women and girls, I get told I write like a girl, or a woman, or a sissy.

Being a Woman

Nancy Kwan sang about her enjoyment in being a girl.

Nancy Kwan, The Flower Drum Song (Source)

At the age of 22, I was offered the opportunity to find out what she was talking about.

We were Resident Assistants training at UC Santa Barbara for our duties in the dormitories. I was assigned one of the few co-ed floors on campus. The facilitator at one of our training sessions took us through a string of binary choices. If you chose one way you stood to the left side of the room and if you chose the other you stood to the right. It started off innocuously: pizza or taco; rock music or country/western; morning people and night people. Eventually it moved into more serious territory with questions such as: if you see conflict, are you likely to engage immediately or wait to see how it plays out? No matter what the choices, there were at least a few young women and men on one of the sides, while at other points the room was fairly evenly split.

Until the facilitator presented the last choice: “If you could change sex for six months and then return to your present sex, would you do it?”

There was some nervous laughter, a couple of loud voices saying “not a chance” and everyone moved to the no side of the room. Except one person. One person moved to the yes side.

Me.

A friend of mine called over to me, “Tim, are you serious?”

“Sure,” I said. People stared. “I’d get an understanding of women that I could never get any other way.”

“But becoming a woman?” His tone was somewhere between incredulity and disgust.

I confess that one reason I felt comfortable with my choice was because I’d never have to follow through on it. There was no magic elixir that would turn me into a 22 year old woman for a six month period. This was purely an academic exercise. But the other reason I was comfortable with my choice was I truly wanted to understand better. I got the impression a few of the other RAs did too, but none of them crossed the room to join me.

Aspiring to Girlhood

What’s so wrong with writing like a girl, anyway?

Anne Frank, 1940 (Wikipedia)

Anne Frank’s writing inspires people year after year – girls and boys, men and women – with timeless observations like these:

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Joan d’Arc, Albert Lynch 1903 (Wikipedia)

Joan d’Arc inspires as well:

I am not afraid … I was born to do this.

One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.

And then there’s the most famous teen in the Bible, Mary. Her words are timeless and inspiring gospel truth.

Mary and the Annunciation, Eustache Le Sueur ca. 1650 (Wikipedia)

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors. (Luke 1:46-55.)

The words of Anne, Joan and Mary are what it takes to write and think like a girl. I hope I could do as well, but I’m not there yet and may never be.

Still, I aspire to write like a girl.

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Why Does Shoe Shopping Make Us So Happy?

I saw a gallery of old photos that included this happy boy:

Shoe HappinessShoe Happiness

Look down at his feet and you see why he has that joyous smile on his face as he clutches his new shoes to his chest.

According to the article, this photo was taken in Austria in 1946. With all available resources going into the Nazi’s efforts to fight World War 2, the child had probably never known a new pair of shoes in his life. Now he has some. Now he has a reason to be glad for his feet’s sake.

Feet, don’t fail me now!

The Bible talks about good looking feet and nice shoes too.

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7.)

Look, there on the mountains,
    the feet of one who brings good news,
    who proclaims peace! (Nahum 1:15.)

Feet are the carriers of the one bringing good news, but feet on mountains can stumble. You don’t want to stumble in the mountainous wilderness of ancient Judea. Being sure-footed is the way to go.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:19.)

But what is this good news that God enables us to carry through the wilderness, over the mountain crags, and into the places where people need to hear it?

Isaiah and Nahum give an idea of the good news: peace and salvation and the kingdom of God. The faithful in Israel looked for these in their daily lives and in the Messiah to come. We know now that all of this is found in Jesus, who once visited a synagogue and was asked to speak to those gathered there.

He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21.)

This is the good news we can share too: Jesus is the Savior of the world, the one who brings healing to the sick, freedom to the oppressed, rest to the weary, and peace to those who live embattled lives.

This is the good news of Christmas, and we have been given new shoes for our feet as we bring this news to others. This is what it means to have:

feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15.)

Just as Nahum and Isaiah praised the feet of the one who brings good news through mountain wildernesses, and just as Habakkuk recognized that it is God who strengthens our feet and makes our footsteps firm on the mountains’ heights in this world, we are also told that it is the very gospel of Jesus that is identified with the need to be sure-footed and equipped for our journey in life.

Does God’s present – these gospel shoes that enable you to scale the heights – fill you with joy that makes you smile like that little Austrian boy clutching his new shoes to his chest? I’m glad Jesus has taken my old worn out shoes and given my feet a new pair of shoes that will never wear out.

Who knew a new pair of shoes could fill a person with that kind of joy?

***

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The Simplicity of Radical Obedience to God

A recent Twitter post quoted a nationally-known pastor saying, “My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him.”

Is that what believers in Jesus are to fear most? There’s a good discussion to be had on whether there is reason to fear anything at all, once you belong to Jesus. Both sides can be argued reasonably, and their validity rests in part on the definition of “fear.”

A more important point from that quote is which words of Jesus did he himself tell us are the main thrust of obedience? There are a couple passages where he seemed to bring everything under one overarching point.

Loving God and People

One time when Jesus had silenced one group of critics, another group sent a representative to test Jesus:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40.)

So when it comes to commandments, these two subsume all others. Any other command is a detail that is fulfilled by loving God and those he puts in your life. If an action does not love God and others, it is not an action in response to a commandment of God.

Radical obedience to Jesus and his words is found in loving God and others.

Believing in Jesus Isn’t Optional

Another time the crowd wanted to pin Jesus down on what it took to do God’s work:

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29.)

No list of tasks to perform. No list of actions to avoid. One thing and one thing only constitutes the sum total of God’s work: believe in the one he has sent. Jesus went on to make it clear he was talking about himself, so according to Jesus the work of God – the radical obedience to him – is believing in Jesus.

Believing and Loving

Much later, John wrote to some friends about the importance of loving God, loving people, and believing in Jesus.

Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist – denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22-23.)

Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3.)

The antichrist? Teaching that Jesus is not the one God sent makes a person the antichrist? That seems extreme, but if anyone should know it would be John. He was with Jesus for three years as a young man, and had been telling people about Jesus for decades by the time he wrote this letter as an old man.

And he also told his friends that the point of believing in Jesus is to follow his commands, which as Jesus said decades earlier meant loving God and people. John reiterated it this way:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. … We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
(1 John 4:7, 19-21.)

In repeated passages replete with affirming that Jesus is the one sent and his command is to love God and others, there’s an interesting conclusion to the letter.

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21.)

After a long letter repeatedly encouraging his readers to love God, love people, and believe Jesus is who he said he is, there is a lone reference in the very last line to avoiding idols. How on earth does that conclusion fit the letter’s themes?

Trusting in idols means not trusting Jesus, not “believing in the one God has sent” as John put it in his gospel account of Jesus’ life. Idolatry takes attention away from God and focuses it elsewhere, which interferes with loving God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” as John also recorded. Then, once a person moves away from trusting Jesus and loving God, there is an interference with loving others; God, as John wrote to his friends, is the source of love itself, and we best love others when we focus on Jesus and love God.

Idolatry is not restricted to praying to statues. Modern day commonplace acts count as idolatry, too:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. … But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:5, 8.)

Such idolatry interferes with your ability to love those God has put in your life, like this:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14.)

Which brings me back to identifying how simple radical obedience to Jesus really is: believe in Jesus, love God, and love others. That’s it.

Simple and radical.

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Ha-la-loo-wah! A Child’s Song of Praise

The young couple had a young child, a little girl barely past her infancy, wriggly and just learning her words. Her father held her as they stood with the rest of us, singing the songs led by the musicians, following the words cast upon the screen hanging over the stage.

The little girl wasn’t looking at the words, of course. In fact, she wasn’t facing the screen or the stage. She faced her father and stared at him as she wriggled in his arms. Then, as the congregation moved from the finish of one song to beginning the next, her expression changed. Staring at her father, eyes widening, she burst forth with “Ha-la-loo-wah!”

She’d heard a word she knew in the song sung by all around her.

“Ha-la-loo-wah!” she said again.

“That’s right!” her father said back to his little one. “Hallelujah!” And they beamed at each other for the rest of the song.

This is a word spoken much in their home, I imagine.

In the arms of a loving God

Jesus told his friends to let small children come close to him, even putting a child up on his lap in one of the stories we read of his teachings and travels.

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37.)

Jesus Blessing the Children, Bernard Plockhorst (1825-1888)
(Wikipedia)

Consider how protective Jesus is of the child, and – by extension – of all children. He holds the little one in his arms. In his arms! Can you imagine the child’s response? Was this a toddler? Older? Younger? Did the child beam at Jesus – a beam even brighter than the one the little girl I saw had for her father in church – as she or he somehow recognized Jesus’ love?

You, too, are a child of God.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God … . (John 1:12.)

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (John 8:14.)

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith … . (Galatians 3:26.)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1.)

As God’s children, loved as infinitely as Jesus loved the little one on his lap, do you beam at the thought of him holding you close? He does hold you close, you know. He is not only with you; he is in you. (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27.) And when it comes to God’s presence, Darrell Johnson says, “You can’t get closer than in.”

Face to face with Jesus and his love for you

Hallelujah is a good word to speak to your heavenly Father. It’s a transliteration of the Hebrew for “Praise you, Yah” where “Yah” is short for “Yahweh” or “YHWH,” the name God gave identifying himself as “I am that I am.”

The little girl knew this word as one that her parents spoke with love and enthusiasm. She spoke it with love and enthusiasm, too, even if she did not know its full meaning and significance. Your heavenly Father loves to hold you close and hear you as well, even if you do not yet know the full meaning and significance of your relationship with him. As John went on to say in his first letter, and Paul in one of his:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2.)

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12.)

The Holy Spirit, who is God and is the Spirit of Christ, is in you even now. Yet one day you will see Jesus physically, face to face. Can you imagine doing anything but beaming in reflection of his glorious presence and saying words of praise to him, thankful for his grace and love, reveling in being part of his family, in being a child of God held in his arms?

Ha-la-loo-wah, indeed!

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8 Things God Knows About Me and You Don’t

Be careful who you friend on Facebook.

Dana Tuttle dragged me into some Facebook frivolity. All I did was comment on her list of six things people might not know about her and – BAM! – I was tagged with the task of coming up with things about myself. Some friend!

Then I started thinking I should give it a shot. No one but me knows all these:

1. I was a disc jockey. My first stint was a top 40 slot at a small community station when I was a teen. Later I spun records (although by then they were tapes) for a small Christian radio station during law school. I can still do the radio voice when I have to.

2. I watch The Disney Channel. Phineas and Ferb are hilarious, and Wizards of Waverly Place was practically must watch TV for me. No I don’t watch them with my kids. They’re in their 20s.

3. An Italian passenger ship once gave me a first class room for third class passage. When I was studying in England I took some time to travel and found myself on an overnight ferry from Greece to Italy. I’d booked third class but asked if they had a second class room available. The officer called over a steward and said something in Italian, and the steward told me to follow him. We went upstairs to the top deck and he ushered me into a stateroom with plush carpeting and a full bath. I asked what class we were in, and he said “This is First Class.” Being nobody’s fool, I dropped my bags on the bed. When I went to pay for the upgrade the next day, they waved me off.

4. I got one single job offer when I graduated law school. At the time, my friends were getting multiple offers of jobs to choose from. I interviewed with the same number of law firms, but no one wanted to hire me except this one firm. I took the job. It was a great fit.

5. I can eat pizza every day of the week. Seriously, if I’ve had pizza for lunch and my wife asks about pizza for dinner, I don’t even hesitate. The answer is yes!

6. My resume includes being a night club singer. I was with my aunts, uncles and cousins back in 1983 ringing in the New Year at a small club. The band was three old men in gray suits. They were good, very good. I told my cousin she should see if they’d let her sing. She said I should. So I did. Stormy Weather in the key of A. I was a hit with the audience. I was also related to half the audience.

7. Band Geek is also on my resume. By the time I was a senior in high school I was playing in the marching band, concert band and jazz band, plus I was the drum major and student conductor. Big time band geek.

8. I left part of my ankle in a canyon in Utah. We were rafting the San Juan River for a few days and came to a switchback in the river. The river bend went around a spit of land 300 feet up one side and down the other. The guide asked if anyone wanted to meet him on the other side. I jumped out and started climbing fast, because he said he wasn’t going to wait for me. Half way up my ankle dragged along a sharp rock. When I got back in the boat, I saw that I’d left a goodish portion of my ankle skin behind. Totally worth it.

God Knows

I said up there that I’m the only one who knows all eight of these things. That’s not quite correct. God knows. He knows all this about me and more.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. (Psalm 139:1-4.)

I was able to come up with eight things I know about myself, but isn’t it amazing that God knows all these events even better than I do myself?

As David went on to say:

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:6.)

God knows me and loves me, and that is wonderful.

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Top Year End Lists and Faith by the Numbers

Long ago while still a callow youth I told a seminary student interning at the church I grew up in that I was thinking of reading through the Bible.

“Don’t start at Genesis,” he said. “You’ll get bogged down in Leviticus and Numbers and all those lists and give up!”

Not only did his words keep me from getting bogged down in Leviticus and Numbers and giving up, they kept me from reading through the Bible at all. I didn’t give up because I never started.

Eventually

I finally read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in my 20s. He was right in that Leviticus and Numbers can be a bit daunting. They didn’t stop me, though. Since that first read-through I’ve repeated the process many times. Including the lists.

What lists?

  • Consider the laws in Leviticus 19, where prohibitions against robbery and slander stand alongside prohibitions against cutting the hair along the side of your head or clipping your beard.
  • There are the tribal lists of Numbers 1, where each is presented in the exact same wording as the preceding and the repetition can become soporific.
  • Even in the opening pages of Genesis you find chapter 5 with its list of one descendant after another with each coming to the phrase “and then he died.” Except for Enoch. Keep your eyes peeled for Enoch.

It’s that bit about Enoch that convinces me to read every list every time I go through the Bible from cover to cover. That plus remembering what Paul told his young friend:

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

Which leads me to the thought that the entirety of Scripture is authoritative. Some is prescriptive authority and some is descriptive authority. Gideon’s fleece, for example is descriptive. (Judges 6:36-40.) The Golden Rule is prescriptive. (Luke 6:27-31, Matthew 7:12.)

The lists are part of that scriptural authority, and so they must be in there for a reason. What it is can be elusive at times yet it has led to some wonderful insights, such as catching the brief mention of Sheerah in 1 Chronicles 7:

The descendants of Ephraim:

His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah.

Beth Horon, on the middle left
(Project Guttenberg)

I’d read that passage more times than I can remember and it wasn’t until I was in my 50s that I stopped to consider that a woman is the one who gets the credit for establishing three Israelite cities. (See Sheerah – the woman who led men to victory.)

She’s not the only woman who was given responsibility to lead or teach God’s people, of course. It’s refreshing, still, since so many people claiming to teach the Bible focus on the men found in scripture. It’s as if they don’t understand the part about all scripture in Paul’s letter, and would like to skip the ones about women. I could make a list of passages for them to read. After all, Silencing women of God is a dangerous practice, and some good solid comprehensive reading can alleviate that danger.

Which brings me back to my original point. Reading all of the Bible is instructive. Whether cover to cover or some other plan, it’s all worth your time. You never know what will jump off the page and into your mind and heart and life.

 

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A Twist On A New Year’s Resolution

[Originally posted on New Year’s Eve 2012.]

***

When you get up to run before dawn, it’s dark out. When you run in the dark, you take your chances. I know that, but I still run early because otherwise I wouldn’t run at all. It’s worked out fine.

Until this morning.

I wrenched my ankle good this morning. Actually, I turned it twice on that run. Why, you ask, did I turn it twice? Wouldn’t once have been enough? For most people, perhaps. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you undoubtedly have realized I’m not like most people.

But I digress. Back to this morning. Within the first quarter mile I stepped off the edge of the road, where the pavement drops an inch or so to the dirt shoulder. Only I didn’t step all the way off the road. My foot landed half way between being on the blacktop and the dirt. It rolled outward and I did that little hop-hop-hop one does with a smarting lower appendage.

I took a couple steps rather tentatively.

The ankle felt fine, so I continued. This morning’s run took me onto a paved path that runs alongside a beautiful little creek, trees reaching overhead from each side, meeting in the middle. Some of them are pine trees. Pine trees produce pine cones. Then they drop them.

A little more than a mile from where my foot landed cockeyed on the road’s edge, I stepped down onto a small pine cone, rolling the same ankle the other way. I did the hop-hop-hop. This time I considered turning back home, walking rather than running. But as I stepped around a bit, I noticed that it didn’t feel all that tweaked. So I kept going.

My plan was to do six miles or so this morning. When I got to the halfway point, I noticed that my body was feeling really good. I felt strong and able to keep my breath well. In fact, this was one of my best times out running in a long time. And I hardly felt anything tweaky about the ankle.

So I stretched out the run a bit more, turning up one way instead of going down the other. When I finally got home and mapped the run on my computer, it showed a distance of 6.2 miles. Not bad. Stamina improving and all that. My ankle, on the other hand, was a different matter.

As soon as I stopped running, it hurt. I limped into the garage and then the kitchen. Then I limped into my room and the shower. I could barely stand on that foot when getting dressed. It hurt.

How odd that the rest of my body could feel so strong, so able, on that run. Didn’t it know that the ankle was in bad shape? I would have thought that such an integral component to going out for a run would have been able to tell the other body parts that running should be stricken from the morning’s agenda. But something kept my body moving.

My walk with Jesus is like that. Or perhaps I should say that my all-too-often attempt to walk in spite of Jesus is like that. I can be petty and small-minded. My laziness reaches epic proportions at times. I have to fight against indulging my unwarranted superiority complex. I can speak sharply to people, people who have done nothing to deserve it, who are struggling through their day, who certainly do not need to be subject to my oh-so-wittily vicious tongue. Yet something, or rather Someone, brings me back to moving in God’s direction.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27.)

Living in Christ is beyond my own abilities; Christ living in me is not beyond his. (John 15:4-6.) I look at myself and see things like spiritual wrenched ankles that should sideline me; God looks at me and sees a person he has wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14), a work of art created for his awesome work. (Ephesians 2:10.) The reason I can keep going is because he keeps me going. (Philippians 4:13, 19.) And it’s all to his glory. (John 15:8, Philippians 4:20.)

Twisted ankle or not.

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