The Sounds of Silence

One of the (few) good things about being unemployed is that you are afforded a certain flexibility in your schedule that wasn’t available when you were working a 9 to 5 job. In the last several months, I have taken the opportunity to do things like get back into shape, catch up on some reading that has been stacking up on my nightstand, and to spend some more time with the kids during the daylight hours. It has also afforded me the chance to do a little refocusing on what is important, and to do some self-evaluation that I have too often tried to avoid.

My devotional nook.

For the last couple of weeks, I have initiated the habit of spending an hour or so at a local park for some daily devotional time. The routine usually entails me setting up camp at a picnic table overlooking a creek, reading from a daily devotional and Scripture, and spending some time seeking God’s guidance through prayer.

But a good deal of the time spent is me simply looking out on my surroundings, appreciating God’s creation. And the more time I spend looking out at what’s around me, the more I find that God is revealing Himself to me—sometimes in unexpected ways.

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Of Blood, Soil, and a Kingdom Worth Defending

By now, pretty much every political pundit, social commentator, or dude with a computer and a Facebook account has commented on the violence that surrounded last weekend’s rally/riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.* I’m not sure there is anything that I can add to the conversation that hasn’t been stated more ably or eloquently elsewhere, but I still feel that I ought to say something—if for no other reason than to get myself on the record, and to sort through some of the things about the events (and the aftermath) that have been cluttering my mind.

The violence and identity politics on display in Charlottesville should be deeply disturbing to all who observed it, regardless of creed, politics, and ethnicity. For a county “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” what happened in central Virginia must remind us all that those values need to be actively preserved and defended, especially when challenged by those who claim superiority simply because of their race or heritage.

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Finding Joy in Uncertainty

Recently, during a fit of spring cleaning, Beth and I were going through a stack of books and notebooks, trying to determine which were worth keeping and those that would better serve not taking up valuable shelf space. In one of those notebooks, I came across the following—a reflection written by a younger, still-single Steve (circa. 2007) who was contemplating marriage and the future. It reminded me that there is joy in uncertainty when you trust the One who holds the future in His hands. ‘Tis a lesson worth repeating—mostly for myself, but hopefully it speaks to others as well.

It dawns on me that I often view uncertainty or lack of future knowledge as a detriment. I see it as a lack of faith on my parta result of the Fall. “If only I were more committed to seeking God’s will through prayer and devotions,” I reason, “then God would make his plans known to me.”

But faith is not the result of knowing what lies ahead, but rather in the knowing of Him who knows the future. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for,” but not necessarily a certainty that God will bring these things about in the time and manner we expect, if at all.

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Becoming Dust

Lutherans love Lent. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case, but it has been my experience that when compared and contrasted to Christians of other stripes and flavors, those in the tribe of the Great Reformer seem to have an odd affinity for the season of reflection preceding Easter. Perhaps it’s because we appreciate having a chance to simplify our lives for 40 days and to focus singularly focus on God’s redemptive work. Maybe we like convincing ourselves that making superficial sacrifices reflects well on our personal spirituality.  Maybe we’re just sadists that enjoy self-flagellation and denial. Whatever the case, it does seem to be true that Lutherans do embrace this season in a way that most others do not.

ash-wednesday-crossI was reminded of this fact as I attended the Ash Wednesday service at my church. Attendance for the evening service was good—maybe not as high as it had been on Sunday morning, but still significant, including a number of families with small children. It was actually one of those very rare instances where I was attending alone—Beth had decided that it would probably a bit of a push to get all of the kids fed and to the church on time, but granted me a special dispensation to attend, knowing my weird affinity for having ashes placed on my forehead. Still, I found myself sitting in the back of the sanctuary with the other families with small children out of sheer habit.

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(Not) About Me

When I was young, my parents gave me a Dr. Seuss book entitled My Book About Me. In typical Seussian fashion, the book pairs simple rhyming patterns with some fill-in-the-blanks, enabling the book’s owner to create a sort of time capsule, revealing the likes, dislikes, and insights of a six-year-old mind.

book_about_me
Yes, my hair has always been this color

I still have the book, and I recently pulled it out of my collected effects to do a little reminiscing. There weren’t any major revelations—I was a serious football fan (alas, I still am); my eating habits were apparently more porcine than avian (hopefully that has improved); my “best friend” was Essex Johnson (read here for that sad tale); and apparently I had a severe aversion to salad that I have largely overcome.* Oh, and I wanted a bear as a pet.

My trip down memory lane was actually initiated after reading a recent article in Christianity Today examining the most highlighted verses in 88 different countries using the YouVersion Bible app. (Really. Hang tight—the connection will be revealed in a bit.)

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Running Toward a Different Goal

A version of the following post originally appeared on the Prison Fellowship blog (a/k/a, my day job). Check it out sometime!

Tim Montgomery has always been fast.

A track legend in his hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina, Montgomery established himself as a sprinter from an early age. In college, he ran a sub-10-second 100 meters, only missing out on setting a world junior record when it was discovered the track was three centimeters too short. He competed in two Olympics, winning a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta for the 4×100 meter relay, and following that with a gold medal in the same event in Sydney in 2000.  In 2002, he reached the pinnacle of his sport, setting a world record in the 100 meter dash with a time of 9.78 seconds and earning the title “Fastest Man in the World.” He even had his own Nike commercial.

And then everything fell apart.

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The Great Trump Debates of 2016, Part Two

The following is a continuation of an ongoing email discussion between my cousin Mark (semi-reluctant Trump supporter) and me (unabashed Trump basher). (For part one of the discourse, click here.) In this week’s installment, we delve deeper into the repetition of past failures of the Republican Party, and the general competence of one Donald Trump to serve as chief executive of the United States.

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Exchange #3

Mark (via email, 6/29/16)

Where to begin?  Well, let me start here.  I’m just happy that I can have this discussion with you, and that we can share our viewpoints.  It rarely happens anymore.  In fact, I think it is part of the reason for the fractures we are seeing in races around the globe, elections around the globe, and in the two major parties here.  Let’s start with that.

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