Saturday, July 23, 2011

safe from the snipers

It's been a flat of those seasons where everything is bland and there's seemingly nothing from which to be inspired (about which? for which? who knows). I fumble with the settings of my complicated camera trying to squeeze out technically "good" photos with results as uninspired as the effort.

Then my girls come to the office for lunch. Isabella finds a place to nest among the skyscrapers where she's "safe from the snipers". What does that mean? Who knows, but it's pure Isabella and essentially beautiful. All that's on hand is a cheap cell phone with a sensor the size of a peso and no controls--not even a real shutter button. But there it is, a moment of essential beauty captured. Maybe not perfectly, but effectively captured, and--whatever it does for others--while part of me may pine for "better" equipment, that part is overwhelmed by the memory of beauty that resonates from the captured moment. It was a beautiful moment observed and communicated without complication.

Maybe it's easier to see essential beauty when not distracted by technicalities. Surely it's more effectively communicated without complication. But inspired work from unpracticed hands is myth. So is communication without competence.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CS Lewis on our problem being that we desire too little

From “The Weight of Glory” Chapter 1, Paragraph 1:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?

No, this isn't an article answering that question. Rather, it's an attempt to foster that question in you. Let me put it another way, who would your children say that he is?

"Someone who helped African Americans."
Not wrong, but inadequate.

"Someone who fought for civil rights." 
Broader beneficiary audience but still short of the mark. Bonus question: ask your kids what the term "civil rights" means.

"A huge contributor to Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism"
Really? Your kids said that? AWESOME!

My point is that while the effects of his efforts are huge and clearly visible, and I'm very thankful for those changes he affected, to allow such a man to slip into a slot as primarily an advocate for racial parity or even a crusader for social justice is a loss. To allow him to slip into an excuse for a Monday holiday is tragic. I suppose it's a mentality born from laziness rather than malice, but sad nonetheless. I don't want to make less of the benefits of his life and actions. I want to realize them more by making more of who he was. I want to learn more about the character and ideas that caused such force of life. He was an amazing philosopher, theologian, leader, and thinker. He was a man whose conviction, determination, diligence, intellect, and heart expressed itself so powerfully that from the expression precipitated revolution. I mean that the things we normally ascribe to him overflowed from the power of who he was--his character. I think I fail his dream when my thoughts of him are founded otherwise even if my actions are conditioned by his legacy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

missed opportunity

Tuesday night I ran into someone on the street I hadn't seen for several years.  We weren't friends or even associates--we had only met once.  But I remembered his name...Daniel.

He approached me with purpose.  I thought he looked familiar, but wasn't sure, and I wasn't really looking for conversation.  Undeterred, he interjected into my thoughts with, "Hi, can I ask you a question?"  "Of course, Daniel." was my reply as I shook his outstretched hand.  He looked shocked, and justifiably so.  As I said, we had only met once under unremarkable circumstances, and I am terrible with names.  Those two factors combined made my recall near miraculous.

"You remember?" he asked.  "Yeah, Daniel, I met you two years ago, and you said then that you had six months to live."  You see, when I met Daniel, he spun a well-rehearsed pitch about an inoperable brain tumor, etc.  In case it isn't clear, Daniel was working me, and he had every intention of trying again if he could.

"No, no, I never said it was inoperable.  I mean there was always the chance of remission."
"Awesome!  I'm really glad to see you doing so well!"
"Well, really I'm not..." and he proceeded to tell me about his current challenge.

Without doubt, Daniel has difficulties that a few dollars can't fix.  He happened to catch me at a time when I didn't even have that to give; so, I was little help to him that day.  As we parted company, he said, "...thanks for the warm reception."  It made me think.  I had welcomed him warmly.  I'd remembered his name (miraculous without doubt).  I'd shaken his hand in a friendly gesture, stopped, looked into his eyes, and spoken to him.  But then I fell short (smart mouth).  I missed my opportunity.  The air had changed because of my disrespect.  I didn't have any money on me, and I really didn't have much time, but I should have followed through treating him like "Daniel whose name is to be remembered" instead of "some guy trying to con me" even if he was trying to con me.  What threat is that to me?  And what would it have cost me?  Not much.

I hate missing opportunity.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Great Thoughts from Don Whitney on Change

Don Whitney:
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.
  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
Whitney writes:
The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question.
Whitney also offers an additional 21 questions to help us “consider our ways.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No Time for the Meannesses of Life

(Repost from Kevin DeYoung) No Time for the Meannesses of Life:

"Paul Johnson on one of the reasons for Winston Churchill’s greatness:

Fourth, Churchill wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meannesses of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas. Having fought hard, he washed his hands and went on to the next contest. It is one reason for his success. There is nothing more draining and exhausting than hatred. And malice is bad for judgment.

Churchill loved to forgive and make up. His treatment of Baldwin and Chamberlain after he became prime minister is an object lesson in sublime magnanimity. Nothing gave him more pleasure than to replace enmity with friendship, not least with the Germans. (Churchill, 164-65)

The six pages of the Epilogue are the most memorable six pages I read all year."

Friday, November 12, 2010

frog flatulence

My daughters and I argue.  A lot.  To be clear, we don't argue much about chores, homework, or attitude.  I'm thankful to say God has blessed us in that regard.  Rather, we pick things at random to argue about, and it drives Letha (mom) crazy.  We'll argue about important things, and we'll argue about immaterial things.  We currently have several on-going arguments, the most heated and protracted of which is whether or not frogs fart.  Isabella is contending that they do not, but she has yet to overcome my arguments to the contrary.