Quotes

Thoughts on Jogging...

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

I’ve looked far and wide to describe my disdain for jogging.

Here’s a little help from Frederick Buechner:

IT IS SUPPOSED TO be good for the heart, the lungs, the muscles, and physical well-being generally. It is also said to produce a kind of euphoria known as joggers' high. 

 The look of anguish and despair that contorts the faces of most of the people you see huffing and puffing away at it by the side of the road, however, is striking. If you didn't know directly from them that they are having the time of their lives, the chances are you wouldn't be likely to guess it.

 -Originally published in Whistling in the Dark

Art Is For Paying Attention

pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

Literature, painting, music—the most basic lesson that all art teaches us is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things. -Frederick Buechner from Whistling in the Dark

Malcolm Muggeridge on Fame and Faith

Creative  Commons

Creative Commons

“I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets–that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue–that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions– that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time–that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you — and I beg you to believe me–multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing–less than nothing, a positive impediment–measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.”

– Malcolm Muggeridge

(source)

Kurt Cobain on Identity

“I don’t blame the average seventeen-year-old punk-rock kid for calling me a sellout. I understand that. And maybe when they grow up a little bit, they’ll realize there’s more things to life than living out your rock & roll identity so righteously.”
 — Kurt Cobain, 
Rolling Stone

Living and getting older is a great gift. Young people only see the world in small windows and incomplete frames. Everything is black and white and complexity isn’t a thing. Years allow us to be more gracious on things we simply didn’t understand in our youth. Unfortunately Cobain didn’t learn this soon enough.

pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

Jackson Pollack's Letter to His Teenage Son

A Jackson Pollack painting (Public Domain)

A Jackson Pollack painting (Public Domain)

Well Jack I was glad to learn how you felt about your summer’s work & your coming school year. The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life.

(Source: American Letters)

What advice will I give my sons and daughter?

Stay awake, pay attention, the world is bursting with the glory of God. The more you “see,” the more joy can be had.

Abraham Lincoln Says Goodbye to Illinois and Hello to D.C.

Wikimedia Commons

Our families, communities, and the places we call home, shape us for ill and good. No one’s an island or a “self-made man.”

Abraham Lincoln gives a powerful speech on a train before heading to Washington D.C. to become the sixteenth President of the United States of America. 

His humility and dependence on something bigger than himself is refreshing in our day of self-sufficiency and self-glory.  

“My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.” – Abraham Lincoln

(Source: https://historicalsnaps.com/2018/07/16/abraham-lincoln-farewell-address-at-home-before-his-inauguration/)

Are We a Bunch of Overprotective Sentimentalists? (and a case for Biblical love)

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The men in our church are studying 1st John. A short letter written by one of Jesus’ closest disciples, John. Much of the themes in the book are centered on love. 

John writes about loving God and enjoying fellowship with our Maker and Redeemer. And he writes about love for the church, and our neighbors. But what is love? How does the biblical sense of love differ from our cultural understanding? Are they the same or different? 

I find this Frederick Buechner quote helpful:

“In the Christian sense, love is not primarily an emotion, but an act of the will. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he is not telling us to love them in the sense of responding to them with a cozy emotional feeling. You can as easily produce a cozy emotional feeling on demand as you can a yawn or a sneeze. On the contrary, he is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our own well-being to that end, even if it means sometimes just leaving them alone. Thus in Jesus' terms, we can love our neighbors without necessarily liking them. In fact liking them may stand in the way of loving them by making us overprotective sentimentalists instead of reasonably honest friends.” --Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

Love in the biblical sense is not cozy and sentimental. It’s not primarily a feeling but an act of the will. Love more often than not will include feelings. But feelings are not the primary driver of love. 

John in his short letter didn’t say if we love God we’ll have strong feelings for him. No, he said, if we love God we’ll express it by obedience and doing what he says, and loving our neighbors:

“3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him…” -1 John 2:3-5

To say we love someone and dismiss everything they say is indifference. It’s an arrangement. If I say I love my wife, and never listen to her opinions, or pleas to put up the toilet seat and take out the trash. That’s not love. Love involves acts of the will and expression. 

Love involves sacrifice and commitment to another for their benefit. With God, we can’t add to Him, or make him more worthy by our love. But with neighbors, we show love by actions, and considering their needs more vital than our own. 

Jesus modeled this for us in the greatest act of love in the history of the world. 

“16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” -1 John 3:16-18

Jesus laid his life down unto death. He sacrificed for his enemies. Did he feel love in this act of redemption? Sure. 

But the act of love showed on the cross was not for sentimental reasons. It was not an act of heroic love for the sake of illustration and example alone. The action of Jesus accomplished something. Mainly, redemption of sinners for all who trust in Him. The atoning work of Jesus made fellowship with God possible.

We could say: Jesus didn’t just say he loved the world, he showed it. He gave his own life for her redemption and restoration. 

 As much as our culture spouts out the need for loving all people. I think most of what we’re talking about is a form of tolerance and what Buechner describes as: “overprotective sentimentalists.” 

What our society needs is a reimagining of love. Not a sentimental and tolerant love which only puts up with others to a point. Our culture needs a kind of love with backbone and heart and action. A love rooted in service, commitment, and sacrifice. 

I think only the biblical version of love can create a people who consider the needs of others more important than their own. Only the biblical sense of love with a crucified Messiah at the center has the weight to compel someone to consider loving others, the way Jesus has loved them.

The church needs to be a community of Light where they not only say they love God, but demonstrate love by listening to what their Father tells them, and includes loving their neighbors as themselves.

I’m enjoying this study in John, because it’s much easier for me to love in “word or talk” and not “deed and truth.”

Consider me challenged…

G.K. Chesterton on the Problem with Progress

Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle.

-G.K. Chesterton: Wells and the World State, What I Saw in America

What Makes a Good Children's Book and Writer?

I finished reading one of my favorite books, James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl. I’d read the book for the first time when I was eight or nine. Reading it to the kid’s too.

Dahl known for such classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and BFG. He is a fantastic storyteller and deserves kudos for his canon of work. The books hold up even if he uses a plethora of exclamation points!!!

I found this quote from an interview where he explains what makes for a good children’s writer/book:

What makes a good children’s writer? The writer must have a genuine and powerful wish not only to entertain children, but to teach them the habit of reading…[He or she] must be a jokey sort of fellow…[and] must like simple tricks and jokes and riddles and other childish things. He must be unconventional and inventive. He must have a really first-class plot. He must know what enthralls children and what bores them. They love being spooked. They love ghosts. They love the finding of treasure. The love chocolates and toys and money. They love magic. They love being made to giggle. They love seeing the villain meet a grisly death. They love a hero and they love the hero to be a winner. But they hate descriptive passages and flowery prose. They hate long descriptions of any sort. Many of them are sensitive to good writing and can spot a clumsy sentence. They like stories that contain a threat. “D’you know what I feel like?” said the big crocodile to the smaller one. “I feel like having a nice plump juicy child for my lunch.” They love that sort of thing. What else do they love? New inventions. Unorthodox methods. Eccentricity. Secret information. The list is long. But above all, when you write a story for them, bear in mind that they do not possess the same power of concentration as an adult, and they become very easily bored or diverted. Your story, therefore, must tantalize and titillate them on every page and all the time that you are writing you must be saying to yourself, “Is this too slow? Is it too dull? Will they stop reading?” To those questions, you must answer yes more often than you answer no. [If not] you must cross it out and start again. -“The Writer” Magazine in October, 1975: “A Note on Writing Books for Children”.

Theodore Roosevelt on Cynicism

WikiCommons

Theodore Roosevelt gives a deft perspective on the problems of cynicism and complaint:

“The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities — all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.”

Roosevelt then gives solutions to cynicism and complaint:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat… The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.”

-Quotes appeared on BrainPickings and are taken from the book: “Roosevelt’s Writings” (public domain). 

Some Thoughts on Evil, Suffering, and Hope

Yesterday, my sister-in-law lost her mother to cancer. A horrible disease which took a sweet person way too soon. In times of sorrow and suffering the question of why is always on the forefront of our minds. Why now, why her, and why did she have to die from this horrible disease? 

In 2009, my wife and I lost our second child, Samantha, to a rare genetic abnormality. She was four days old. Why so soon? Is God punishing us? Children are to outlive their parents, right?

These moments of uncertainty and pain are times when we ask the big questions of life. When life is good, bodies are healthy, and we’re walking in the calm before the storm, the concerns of immortality are not the burning existential conversations front and center.

And yet, when cancer, sorrow, suffering, loss, and death comes knocking on the door, answers most often fall flat. Times of rumination and reflection on the existence of God, and tight apologetic arguments on suffering, and eternity, and why a good God can’t coexist with evil, rarely help in the midst of the storm. 

Apologetic arguments didn't help my wife and I as we grieved the death of our daughter.

But what I do know, or know in part, is that suffering and evil are real. Live long enough and will come in different shapes and kinds. Death is real and no one can outrun it. 

And what I know, again, in part, there’s hope in the storm. Not hope in a life where suffering and sorrow and death are avoided. That world doesn’t exist. Yet, I know a hope for walking right in the middle of the pain and loss. Hope with a steel spine. 

A couple weeks ago I ran across a quote that described this “steel-spine” hope. When I meditated on the words, it gave me hope in a season where many people in my life are walking through hard times. Experiencing much sorrow and the dark night of the soul.  Maybe you know a few. 

Here is what Frederick Buechner said about evil and suffering:

God is all-powerful.
God is all-good.
Terrible things happen.
You can reconcile any two of these propositions with each other, but you can't reconcile all three. The problem of evil is perhaps the greatest single problem for religious faith.
 There have been numerous theological and philosophical attempts to solve it, but when it comes down to the reality of evil itself, they are none of them worth much. When a child is raped and murdered, the parents are not apt to take much comfort from the explanation (better than most) that since God wants us to love him, we must be free to love or not to love and thus free to rape and murder a child if we take a notion to.
 Christian Science solves the problem of evil by saying that it does not exist except as an illusion of mortal mind. Buddhism solves it in terms of reincarnation and an inexorable law of cause and effect whereby the raped child is merely reaping the consequences of evil deeds she committed in another life.
 Christianity, on the other hand, ultimately offers no theoretical solution at all. It merely points to the cross and says that, practically speaking, there is no evil so dark and so obscene—not even this—but that God can turn it to good. -Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

The cross of Jesus is where evil was ultimately disarmed, given an eviction notice, and an expiration date. On the cross, Jesus winked at death, sin, hell, and Satan and said: nice try, it is finished. 

The steel spine hope we need is not found in what our intellectual minds can muster or hearts can feel. Hope is found in a person, Another, and in historical realties and events in time and space.  

Cross and Resurrection says: no life is too far gone, nobody too ravished by cancer, no sin too deep, mind too warped, relationships too shipwrecked, or death knocking on the door, to have hope. 

God had an eternal plan through the death and resurrection of Jesus to restore all that was lost, and all that is unjust, and all that is dark, and all the messes we’ve made because of ignoring our Maker and Redeemer. 

We don’t have to have tight answers to existential questions to have hope. The problem of evil and suffering is difficult even for the most devout disciple of Jesus. But, there’s always hope. 

The realities of life under the sun expose three truths: God is all-powerful, God is all-good, and terrible things happen. The cross helps us live with the tension that evil and sorrow and pain can be turned to good. We need not ignore, minimize, or pretend evil and suffering is easy, or try to find destructive ways to avoid it.

But thanks be to God a victory has been won on our behalf in Christ Jesus. Thank God, we still have a steel spine hope afforded to us.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Jimmy Walker on Choices and Responsibility

Actor and comedian Jimmy Walker, popular for the hit show Good Times, explains his philosophy of life from his memoir Dyn-O-Mite!:

What I have understood my entire life is that I am an individual. Each of us is an individual. Each of us makes choices in life, and we are responsible for those choices. Blaming our race, our parents, our economic status—whatever—is common today. But they are all excuses for not coming to grips with our own lives and our freedom to choose. 
I had a violent father and grew up in the ghetto, but I did not become a drug addict. I was the son of folks from Selma, Alabama, but I did not hate white people. I was a child of the 60’s, but I did not put flowers in my hair. I enjoyed enormous fame, but I did not do a celebrity crash and burn. Why not?
Because of the choices I made. I believe that, ultimately, every one of us is free to choose. Even though I am black, I am free. I believe that each of us is free, free at first and free at last. -Jimmy Walker, pp. 3.

It’s easier to blame our situation, family of origin, God, government, or race for whatever seems to be wrong, or lacking in our lives, instead of taking responsibility. I appreciate the simple truth: Each of us makes choices in life, and we are responsible for those choices. 

I know life is more complex, and situations vary, but taking responsibility for the choices we make is important for whatever our plight is. Thanks Jimmy for the reminder, that was DYN-O-MITE!

Insanity of the Perfectionism Demon

Anne Lamott wrote in her classic book Bird by Bird:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

Perfectionism is a demon of the worst kind. Not only for the  writer, but for any human, anyone trying to be a decent friend, partner, spouse, brother, sister, artist, or business owner. 

Every day is an opportunity to make, create, invest, and build something for the benefit of others. But every day the perfectionism demon unlocks the back gate and rips into our lives with his talons in full view. 

Perfectionism is the enemy of done, completion, and finishing what we start. When the enemy of perfectionist lies speaks, we freeze, and like Lamott suggests: we go insane. 

The perfectionism demon affects all. Keeps the artist from creating, dad’s from parenting, and pastors from preaching. Mom’s from being okay, with being okay. Perfectionism puts relationships in a sphere where angels fear to tread and make them impossible to enjoy.

Perfectionism keeps us from living inside the walls of grace, where failure is expected, and forgiveness is available. The demon of perfect is what Satan uses to suffocate any attempts at holy living, taking risks, and starting something, that needs starting. 

The perfectionism oppressor is crafty. Many people assume that perfectionism is not their problem and vice. But in reality, the reason we don’t start stuff, finish stuff, struggle to have healthy relationships, and talk a good game about all the things we want to do, but never do… is because of perfectionism. 

We are more cramped and insane than we’d like to admit. 

But the answer and remedy for destroying and laying to rest the Enemy, is not mere will power, and brute strength. The answer found in knowing the whole universe runs on grace, we run on grace.

We aren’t everything we should be. The world is not everything it should be, and walks with a limp. There are no perfect conditions, perfect timing, perfect people, and ideal situations. 

Everything and everyone is a mess. 

When we know our situation the power of grace has room to run.  When perfectionism identified as the enemy of the people, we can turn away, and just put one foot in front of the other, knowing it will be messy, but worth the time and effort. 

Perfectionism always submits to grace, and grace keeps us sane. 

 

Walking Contradictions and the Humor of Christ

Though we don’t know the ultimate secret of laughter, even laughter at ourselves, we can see that contradiction, or at least apparent contradiction, has something to do with it. Man, whatever else he is, is a double creature, who in one sense is an animal, but in another sense is not one, for no animal recognizes his animality. Man can see the difference, always, between what he is and what he ought to be, between the positivistic fact and the ethical norm. Every man is therefore something of a hypocrite, because no one lives up to his pretensions, yet we realize that we should be even more degraded if we were wholly without such pretensions. The fact that we are hypocrites is the source of most of our hope and also the source of most of our anguish. But the hypocrite is always vulnerable to ridicule! This is why it is easy for us to understand the meaning of Christ’s wit when He directs his barbs at the religious. He is talking to us! But the purpose of all of the Gospel, even of its jokes, is redemption. -The Humor of Christ by Elton Trueblood, pp. 40.

On our best days we can’t live up to our own standards, let alone God’s. We are walking contradictions wearing masks and pretending all is good in the world. 

Jesus throws the barbs of whitewashed tombs, brood of vipers, and people who wash the outside of cups, but forget the inside, to remind us of our contradictory ways, and our need for grace and salvation. 

When the laughter dies down, we are left with ourselves. The ones wearing the masks. 

Do the Work

“Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.” -Steven Pressfield "Do the Work"

What is the key to all success? Do the work. What separates the pro from the amateur? Do the work. 

Weekly I hear about the next aspiring novelist. How many words did you do today? Crickets.

Weekly I hear about the aspiring pastor. Who are you pastoring now? What training are you pursuing? What pastors are you being mentored by? What are you reading? Crickets. 

The pro doesn't wait for inspiration or the Muse. They do the work. Make the ask. Find the help.

The pro doesn't consume endless amounts of content and media. They are too busy doing the work. Twenty hours of Netflix a week is the barrier between starting the ministry, finishing a book, or deepening a relationship.

Pros are warriors in protecting their time for what matters most.

Everyday is an opportunity to get a little better by doing the work. Everyday is another opportunity to hone your craft by doing the work. Everyday is a chance to deepen that relationship by putting in more work. 

You might not be the best in your area of expertise, field, or discipline. But those who put in the work everyday, don't make excuses, serve those around them, and give more than take.

These people will be truly successful. Pros.

"We can accomplish nothing until we act." Steven Pressfield

Niccolo Machiavelli on the Pleasures of Reading

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli explains the pleasures of reading:

“When evening has come, I return to my house and go into the study. At the door I take off my clothes of the day, covered with mud and mire, and I put on my regal and courtly garments; and decently reclothed, I enter the ancient courts of ancient men, where, received by them lovingly, I feed on the food that alone is mine and that I was born for. There I am not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their humanity reply to me. And for the space of four hours I feel no boredom, I forget every pain, I do not fear poverty, death does not frighten me.” -from The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs, 50-51.

 

Just the Way It Is...

Zadie Smith, in a review of The Social Network, wrote an article called: Generation Why?

“We know the consequences of this instinctively; we feel them. We know that having two thousand Facebook friends is not what it looks like. We know that we are using the software to behave in a certain, superficial way toward others. We know what we are doing “in” the software. But do we know, are we alert to, what the software is doing to us? Is it possible that what is communicated between people online “eventually becomes their truth”? What Lanier, a software expert, reveals to me, a software idiot, is what must be obvious (to software experts): software is not neutral. Different software embeds different philosophies, and these philosophies, as they become ubiquitous, become invisible.”

Nobody wants to admit the affects of Facebook and Twitter on our souls. We tell ourselves it’s harmless, entertainment, and a way to connect with friends. This followed with the loathsome quip: 

Just the way it is…

You don’t need a sociology degree from Harvard or have developed experiments on social media users to know the “feel,” Smith talks about. 

We’re wounded humans who are fragile and weak on our best days. Life under the sun is tough and the effects of social media on our minds, hearts, and souls is real, and becoming more obvious, as this invention creeps toward its tenth birthday. 

Philosophy professor James K. A. Smith argues in Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (146-148), social media is a cultural liturgy. It’s telling a particular story about the universe, God, me, you, and what’s important. Social media is not a neutral medium harmless for the consuming public. It does something to us. More than we’d like to admit.

Just the way it is…

Maybe I’m the old guy remembering the times when social media, Netflix, email, and the internet, were not a thing. We still had cords on our phones and beepers not only reserved for doctors and drug dealers. Remember when you got a “page,” and had to find a contraption where you inserted coins, and you could talk to people. If not, ask someone older than thirty. 

But, from this old guys perspective, phrases like: just the way it is, are not extremely helpful in the conversation over the shaping and forming affects of social media, discussions on theology, or politics. 

Just the way it is… is the language of dismissal. A cheap phrase we use when something’s a problem, and no one wants to speak up, challenge the status quo, and potentially admit, “Houston we have a problem.”

Social media has created a rift between our private and personal life. Nothing is off limits, everything is shared, and apparently, this is what the Age of Authenticity looks like (Charles Taylor’s phrase in A Secular Age). 

But is it working? Does it deliver on its promises?

Think about it. Imagine a world when you meet a person for the first time because of Facebook you know where they went to school, where they live, employment, hair color, and specie of dog they own.

Mystery, surprise, and wonder sucked out of the relationship because of our ability to stalk others on social media, too strong? 

That’s our world. 

Not only has the mystery and wonder of new relationships and friendships been sucked out, but we have already made judgments on the person. The way they dress says something. What they like on someones page says something. The books they read, and people they quote, have meaning. We’ve made judgments and evaluations on the person before ever having coffee or Sushi. 

Maybe Facebook and Twitter creates a kind of accountability guarding us from saying moronic and hateful things on the inter-webs. A safeguard for securing future employment and romance. 

But with a quick glance on our social media feeds we know that’s not the case. 

Or maybe, just maybe, the Age of Authenticity and the free-for-all that is social media, is doing the opposite. Not creating accountability for putting foot-in-mouth, rather, creating a false self. 

Now because of social media we have to create a self, a self of our own making. Not a genuine self with all the ordinariness, joy, struggle, and pain. A new pressure is building to construct a self that’s culturally savvy, swims on the right side of history, is open minded, tolerant, and never says something is wrong, or destructive, or evil. 

Social media creates a new anxiety, worry, and pressure to not miss out. And, an addiction to post every other minute to make sure the world, whoever that it, knows we’re alive, cool, up with the issues, and doing something awesome my friends and colleagues deem worthy.

Maybe you’re the exception. The cultural liturgy of social media is not doing anything to your heart and soul. Maybe you have access to social media Kryptonite. 

But, if I’m honest, if I could find my most authentic self, the things I post would disturb, likely be lame, and ordinary. 

The epic photo of my family on a vacation overlooking the ocean, replaced with the moments right before, when dad lost his mind and said words making even Jesus blush.

I feel what Zadie Smith is describing in our social media world. We know something is happening, not pinned down, but something is brewing in the cultural ethos. 

Just the way it is… needs removal from our working vocabulary. I hear it from the staunch secularist who has found the religion of science, to the fundamentalist Christian who’s confident the Republican Party is the Messiah. The good intentioned social justice warrior certain of their solutions on racial reconciliation and gun control. The good-willed author trying to explain sexuality in the modern age.

Just the way it is… leaves little room for engagement, dialogue, questions, and turning from what is life destroying, to what might save our lives. This phrase riddled with arrogance and pride and god-like qualities. 

I’m not sure what Facebook and Twitter will do to our culture in the next ten years. But when the best we have is: just the way it is… get on board, or get left behind.

I won’t accept it. 

Maybe we need a new liturgy that tells a different Story. 

Someone outside time and place, One that says: come and hear how its always been… A Story about good news, not dependent on one slice of human history. 

A Story robust enough to endure any cultural moment.

I’d be up for hearing about this…

 

David Foster Wallace, Augustine, and Jesus on Worship

Novelist David Foster Wallace gives insight into the nature of worship:

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.” -Kenyon College, 2005 Commencement Speech

Wallace never professed to follow Christ or adhere to any particular religion. But he gives insight into the nature of worship most theologians and scholars miss. 

The world is not divided into people who worship and those who don’t. Religious and non-religious. People don’t have to be told to worship because it’s the default mode of the human heart. Our seeking for transcendence is a search for God. The longing for identity, hope, meaning, purpose, and happiness is a search for the Living God. 

Our problems with worship (as identified by Wallace), are the things we perceive to satisfy the heart, bring happiness, become traps and snares, betraying the joy they promise. As the saying goes, “You become what you worship.” This is where misguided worships leads to destruction.

Wallace discovered after the success of his books fame couldn't satisfy. When he finally got the notoriety and the thing he believed would give him happiness it was empty, shallow, and dark (See the film The End of the Tour). 

Theologian, writer, and philosopher Augustine of Hippo was another example of misguided worship leading to unhappiness. Augustine spent much of his younger adult years pursuing woman, obsessing over intellectual achievements, and living for whatever he deemed pleasurable.

No amount of sex, woman, intellectual accolades, and pleasure seeking led to happiness. 
Augustine is famous for saying in his personal book Confessions, the result of his searching for happiness could only be met in God:

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” 

Wallace and Augustine knew worship was a human thing and an allusive thing. As did Jesus.  
Jesus’ diagnoses on the heart is enlightening. The heart/soul is full of contradiction, selfishness, and sin. Jesus said from the heart is where our primary dysfunction lies. Our misguided worship is not “somewhere out there,” or rooted in circumstance. It starts within. 

“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” -Matthew 15:17-19


We look in all the wrong places for love and identity and joy in things that are temporal. Like Wallace said… worship, money, intellect, and beauty, will enslave you, not free you.

Jesus wants to deal with our hearts. Not external and circumstances of life. He knows we are worshippers. We are great at it. And he knows the genesis of our misguided worship. It begins in the heart and flows out to the world. The internal to the external. 

Instead of worshiping the Creator we worship the creation (see Romans 1). Instead of attaching our hearts to lasting happiness, joy, and something eternal… we attach them to the temporal, fading, and transitional. 

When Jesus redirects our hearts and worship to Himself something amazing happens. We finally can enjoy God and the gifts he gives like food, sex, music, people, art, work, money, marriage, and children.

When our worship is aimed at the creation, we betray the Creator, and the creation, and can’t enjoy either. We use the creation to be what God is supposed to be for us. Happiness, joy, and satisfaction never can be found in something that is going away. 

David Foster Wallace knew this, so did Augustine, and Jesus paves the way for hearts realigned to true worship and ultimate joy. 
 

Life is Too Troubled, Strange, and Mysterious for ONLY Scientific Explanations

Southern novelist Walker Percy interviewed himself in a book, Conversations with Percy Walker In a piece called: Questions They Never Asked Me, Percy gives his thoughts on scientific humanism:

Q: I don’t understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: It’s not good enough.
Q: Why not?
A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don’t see why anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed aholt of God and would not let go until God identified himself and blessed him.

Life is too troubled, strange, mysterious, humans are deeply flawed, and love is a delight. Hard to chock it up to random chance, aimless hopelessness, and all of it ending in nothingness. A terrifying thought.