Capturing the Unexpected

Life. It’s full of the unexpected. Sometimes horrible, sometimes great. Mostly just weird. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up, right? Well, you can. But who would believe you?

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Celebrate Yourself!

Those who’ve read my past posts will know I’m not a fan of the self-esteem movement. Nevertheless, I do believe that, just as acknowledging our failings is important, there are times and ways in which self-appreciation is equally wise, healthy and necessary.

1978cIt’s my 40th Journalversary! Say what? I’ve just discovered that I wrote my first Journal entry 40 years ago, and have continued journaling (with a few lapses) ever since. Apart from the beard (recently re-grown and a smidge whiter), I’m a different guy from that kid rowing on the Thames River. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’re family—closer than brothers, actually. But I’ve grown in ways he didn’t. Beard2Then again, I think it’s safe to say I’ve grown because of him. I’ve read his journal entries and learned a lot from him–about what to do and, especially, what not to do. One thing we have in common: He loved God. And so do I. Only my love for God is less naïve, more mature. Thanks to him.

In the past I might have said, “Well, that’s cool” and pushed on. But not anymore. I’ve learned—and I know this sounds suspiciously narcissistic—to celebrate myself. What I mean, actually, is to celebrate significant personal milestones by entering them in my online Calendar as “Repeat every year” events, and then taking the time to celebrate them when they pop up.

And since Journaling has been a key component in my growth as a “spiritual being having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), I choose to celebrate it. I do the same with my Renewal, the moment 5 ½ years ago this month that I began memorizing, meditating upon and praying Scriptures, a practice that has resulted in a dramatic rejuvenation of my spiritual life.

I think of these events as private holidays, by which I mean I celebrate them only with myself (although my wife knows about them). Unlike public holidays, I don’t take the day off, or send flowers. But I do take the time to thank God and celebrate the milestone.

Personal accomplishments matter. They remind us that, while our lives are, as the idiom goes, “a work in progress,” there has been progress. Most of our days, weeks, and months are (to borrow another idiom) “three steps forward, two steps back.” Personal milestone celebrations can encourage us by reminding us that at least it’s not the reverse! Or if it is, they can remind us that it has not always been so, and encourage us to empty the trash and reboot!

So, keep it in balance, but if there’ve been personal milestones in your life—and I know there have—schedule a few annual events. Then take a moment when each comes up to…

Celebrate yourself!

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

Are You Here?

Autumn is coming and we’re almost 2/3rds of the way through 2019!

How’s your Plan for the Year going so far?

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“The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft astray.” ~Robert Burns

“Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.” ~Allen Saunders (often misattributed to John Lennon)

    “Spontaneity is one of the joys of existence, especially if you prepare for it in advance.” ~Alan Dean Foster

“Imperfect action beats perfect planning.” ~Sharon Pearson

        “You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”      ~Gordon B. Hinckley

“No matter what the work you are doing, be always ready to drop it. And plan so as to be able to leave it.” ~Leo Tolstoy

“When things don’t go according to plan, plan according to how things go.” ~Kayambila Mpulamasaka

       “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you       live near him.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien

“It’s a funny thing, how much time we spend planning our lives. We so convince ourselves of what we want to do, that sometimes we don’t see what we’re meant to do.” ~Susan Gregg Gilmore

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When little people get ugly

012My Featured Blogger this week is Meg Clift of the blog site Megspot. Meg doesn’t blog often, but when she does it’s a worth-the-wait installment in the continuing adventures of a bemused and oh-so-human humorist.

Meg’s Bio: “I live in rural Victoria with a small mini-me, long-suffering husband and two narcissistic, psychotic cats.”

Meg also posts these rave reviews:
“She’s a bit weird.” ~Comment from boy in grade 7
“You’re a bit weird.” ~Husband
“Don’t worry Mum, you’re not that bad.” ~Daughter
“Can you stop staring at me?” ~Random man on train

Jump off the Meg Clift today! (Yeah, I know, that was lame.)

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When Molly was in grade two, her teacher called me aside to tell me that she and her BFF had been in a bit of an argument, but neither girl would talk about why. The teacher went on to say that the other girl had said that Molly called her a B-word.

A B-word?

When I had sufficiently recovered from my shock, I asked Molly why she would call anyone a B-word.

“Because she is!” Her chin began to tremble, so I decided to leave it until she was a little calmer. No point in provoking a string of expletives in front of the teacher.

The following day, the mother of the other girl met me outside the classroom.

“So Molly called my daughter a B-word.”

“I know. I’m so sorry – I don’t even know where she would have heard it. I can’t imagine what she was thinking!”

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Facebook Thriller

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A True Story

I logged onto Facebook, but couldn’t get past some weird new game Fb had introduced. Playing was not optional; I know because I tried to quit and couldn’t. Telling Faceook, “I don’t want to play” merely turned out to be Level One of The Game!

Then The Game threw a series of challenges at me. I refused to accept them. Which, apparently, was just what I was supposed to do. Result? I advanced to Level Two. Well, at least I was advancing…wait, no, dammit, I didn’t want to advance. I wanted out!

In frustration, I signed out of Facebook.

But The Game was still there.

So I logged off the internet.

The Game was still there.

So I shut down my computer and walked away.

The Game was still there.

It was then that I realized The Game had been downloaded directly into my head, which meant there would be no escaping it—ever!

Then I woke up. I’d been dreaming! But I wasn’t relieved.

Why?

Because The Game was still there!

I was furious at Mark Zuckerberg and his team of evil droids for commandeering my brain. How dare they do so without my permission!

Then I woke up.

It turned out my previous wake-up had been Fake-Awake: Level Fifteen. Thank God I was truly awake now!

But The Game was still… Just kidding.

It really was gone this time. Only one thing remained: The thought, “I can’t wait to log onto Facebook and tell my friends about The Game!” But then I thought,

Maybe not.

The above dream, and my waking up still playing The Game, really happened. What was it? Some kind of Freudian trance? The premise for a new movie thriller? Proof we really are in The Matrix? Apocalyptic vision of the future of social media? All of the above?

“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Awake, O, sleeper, and rise from the dead.'” ~Ephesians 5:13-14

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The Line of Despair

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I try to balance my posts between God stuff and other stuff. But, because of my passion to speak truth into people’s lives (including my own), God stuff tends to win. For me, all roads lead to God, not to Rome. Nevertheless…

Modern culture is taking the road to ancient Rome, toward two progressive beliefs: pantheism (everything is divine) and paganism (design your own god), leading to the conclusion that: Life is a BYOG (bring your own god) party, and no belief system is any more valid than any other. The cultural milestones on this road (see ancient Rome) look like this:

  1. Previously, we allowed diversity; now we celebrate it, affirming that all beliefs are equally valid.
  2. In doing so, we lose our former understanding of the distinction between rights and truths, i.e. that the right to believe something does not make it true.
  3. We denounce “exclusionists” who disagree with this revised definition of diversity, labelling them judgmental and intolerant, and take steps toward (ironically) excluding them from public discourse.
  4. The jaded intelligentsia, perceiving that if everything is true, then nothing is true, reject all beliefs, crossing what philosopher Francis Schaeffer called “the line of despair.” Or, as one humorist puts it, “Zero times a dozen donuts equals zero donuts. What happened to my donuts?!”

Life without truth is not freedom. It’s despair.

Pontius Pilate, the governor of ancient Judaea, had jettisoned, as had the Roman masses, any innate sense of how to discern truth from lies (the God-given yardstick Jesus called “righteousness”). “What is truth?” he asked Jesus. It was a rhetorical question–Pilate did not believe there was an answer.

He’d crossed the line of despair.

But there is a way out (which, according some to ancient writers, including Augustine and Eusebius, Pilate eventually took). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). “When you abide in my word [when you “live” there], you are truly my disciples [shaped by Jesus]. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Matthew 6:33)

Our world isn’t ready for the exclusivity of Jesus’s words. But, like Pilate, they need them all the more. They need to see truth in action. Need to see what real disciples—people shaped by Jesus—look like. They need to see that they can be free, that there is a way back from the line of despair. Not everything is true, but something is. Someone is.

And that Someone is still setting people free. 

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Our Greatest Fear

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     “Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do.” ~Ephesians 5:15

Posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments