31 August 2009

Define Yourself

by Tessa Caroline Belding, 17. . . a young friend who is also the daughter of my oldest friend. I got it from her blog.

Why are there labels? Why do people talk about each other when they honestly have nothing against that person? Why are girls so darn dramatic and boys only looking for one thing? Because we all want to fit in right? When a girl starts to like a guy, why do her friends get set aside? Same for guys too. Why do all these struggles happen? Because life happens.

Really. Think about it. I’m a senior! Its awesome, but then with that awesomeness a lot more things come. Like holding better study habits, focusing harder than ever in the last week of school and staying close with the people that matter and ignoring the ones who only make fun of you. High school is about finding yourself. Wanting to be a better person and needing to be complete.

Drugs, alcohol and sex come in and take over. A lot of teens think that’s the way to go but no! Why? Because everyone’s doing it? I’m not doing it. My best friend isn’t doing it. My sister isn’t doing it. So no, that is a lie. If everyone were doing it, I would be too. That simple little phrase means so much and yet so little. It manipulates people into a curse that is destined for destruction. Destined for sadness.

Why do you do things that will only cause you harm? Because you look for danger? Nahh, hunny, you’re looking for attention! You’re looking at a lot of people hating you when you screw them over, because you know you will. Everyone gets screwed over at least once. That best friend who secretly betrays you with your own secrets. The boyfriend who cheats on you. Or the people that disappoint you because all they ever care about it getting high, getting drunk, getting popular, getting attention, getting what they want.

Think again. Make some real friends. Kids that won’t leave your high five hanging. That will be with you every step up the way. Every struggle, every challenge. You want back-up! You want support. Who doesn’t? But if they support you then are you going to support them when they need you?

This is the time to choose who you are going to be for the rest of your life. Do what you love? No. Be who you are. Be true to your friends. Your parents. Your siblings. Yourself. Define yourself.

So hey, I’m Tessa. I’ll be 17 on Tuesday, senior on August 12th, and happy for eternity.
Who are you?

30 August 2009

Putting Words in God's Mouth?

  • "Well her kids are telling her she has no faith if she thinks he's really going to die."
  • "If you are faithful and truly believe, then God will heal you!"
  • "Why would God cause such a thing?"
  • "Why me?"
People make all kinds of comments and ask all kinds of questions when faced with the hard realities of life, and death. Who is making the comment or asking the question has a lot to do with my approach to answering or responding.

My encounter with a malignant melanoma late in '08 gave me an interesting perspective, a different one than I might get reading the "What to say in Pastoral Care Situations" books. Besides, I always found the section on "What NOT to say" more helpful.

Well intentioned and generous people told me that I'd done too much good in this world and that God wasn't done with me yet, so surely I wasn't going to die of cancer.

I gently responded that cancer is no respecter of persons and that we are all going to die of something. I quietly suggested that they should not claim promises God had not actually made and that it really had little to do with my faithfulness, my faith or whether I held potential for more good if I should remain here.

My responses were greeted with all kinds of shock, rebuttals and tut tuts. I'd imagine some went away praying for my faith too, which is not at all a bad thing.

My experience was nothing like being opened up, radiated and flushed with chemicals that we hope will do more good than harm. My ordeal was relatively simple, though my surgeon would chide me for speaking in the past tense as I have years of tests and close monitoring before he'll give me the all-clear.
If one of those tests someday returns unwanted results, will I change my tune and my tone?

This week I was informed of a friend with lung cancer, a man with a brain tumour and a dear friend's sister's battle. Recently I celebrated the life of a good friend who's body was riddled with cancer and I know of another diagnosis and battle that has totally changed the focus of a family.

Q: What did these people do wrong to deserve such suffering?
Q: Where is God in all of this?
Q: Does He still heal?

A: Nothing. No cause & effect.
A: In the middle, or as much in the middle as we'll allow Him to be.
A: Yes.

Q: Not that simple?
A: Yes & No.

God does not promise His followers that life will be simple, easy or without the same corrupting influences every other human being faces. Who do we think we are to try to live above the suffering common to man?

God does not promise we will never die or, if we do, that it'll be pain free and dignified.

Look at Jesus, for logic's sake, or at His disciples, or His faithful followers in developing countries. Reconcile our comfy and coddled approach with that of the Suffering Saviour, with that of His martyrs who died courageously to entertain or light the gardens of the Romans, or of the missionaries who suffered from malaria, dysentery or misunderstanding in remote places around the globe.

Those of us who believe should claim God's promises and look to Him as Healer, but let's claim only promises He's actually made to us. It's not really fair to Him to do otherwise.

Besides, what happens to the faith of those who anticipate God's physical healing here on earth only to find that their loved one still dies? What happens to those who are frustrated by dodgy distorted theology that does not deliver because it is not backed up by God in the first place?

It's really not fair to frustrate people who are suffering and then pull the rug out from under them in Jesus' name.

Comments? I welcome the conversation, even we don't agree on it all.

29 August 2009

Leadership requires choice & focus





“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

Max Lucado

Blue three?



28 August 2009

Locally Owned & Operated

Locally owned establishments are becoming extinct. Whether they are drive-in root beer stands, pubs or family owned Italian restaurants, they are rare.

An example is an Indiana icon named Welliver's Smorgasbord where my mom worked when she was in high school.

In 1946, young entrepreneur Guy "Willie" Welliver, was fresh from serving his country in WWII and eager to enter the business world. Experienced in retail clothing, he sought a suitable location to open a haberdashery in Hagerstown, Indiana. The only available location was a small restaurant. With a small amount of family borrowed money, he bought it. Through the first year, he planned to close the restaurant and open his haberdashery. "I knew nothing about running a restaurant," he said. After enjoying a "thrasher" style dinner at his nearby mother-in-law's home, his idea changed. He said, "She has two or three main dishes, many side dishes, salads and deserts--plenty to eat and select from!" The idea was born!

The next Sunday evening at his little restaurant, he offered a similar meal. He called it his smorgasbord. Patrons immediately recognized the uniqueness, and the satisfying, well prepared food with unlimited choices. Within a few months, they lined outside the door to get in during his Sunday offering. The rest is history!
Willie knew times were tough for my mom's family at the time, so he paid her full wages and then paid her taxes too. Their generosity may not have been good business sense, but it was typical of the Welliver's small town approach to their community. Recently, it paid off in a deal that got them out of tax trouble. As reported by CNBC:
HAGERSTOWN, Ind. - The new owner of Welliver's Smorgasbord plans to keep the name of the eastern Indiana landmark and hopes it will grow while sticking with its traditional roots.

"We're here to stay," Tony Bucher told the Palladium-Item of Richmond. "It's a legacy of respect for the family and the town in general. I don't want to do anything but expand on the tradition, expand on the brand."

Bucher hopes to grow in Hagerstown, Wayne County and surrounding areas. He hopes to build more of a takeout business and wants to start offering meals daily at Across the Street Antiques.

The business had amassed more than $200,000 in tax debts, and Janie and Mary Welliver said in early June that the restaurant would close unless a buyer came forward.

The Welliver sisters said they are happy that the deal with Bucher kept their famed smorgasbord restaurant from shutting its doors. The Wellivers will continue to greet customers, and the restaurant's 50 employees will keep their jobs.

"We were praying for a miracle," Mary Welliver said. "We got it."

When I travel, I often ask locals for a favourite restaurant or diner that is unique to the town or city. Tonight I ate at Gene's Root Beer stand, a place I frequented in high school. I ordered my usual, though when I was a teenager I didn't even need to order it. My friend Cheryl would place the order to the kitchen when I drove up in my yellow pick up truck.
Hot dog with ketchup, mustard & relish, fries and a chilled mug of root beer.

Another favourite is Art's Pizza which takes me back to childhood. I experimented for months to find the secret to the herbs in their tomato sauce! They've been making it since 1956!

When I'm in Auckland I gravitate toward Zavito's in Mairangi Bay or The Turkish Cafe in Ponsonby. In Cincinnati, OH I'll go to LaRosa's for pizza or Skyline for chili, though I've also found some unique ethnic establishments downtown and near the university.

While any establishment can be under excellent management, I find that a family or personal caretaker will guard the reputation like no hired hand ever could. Take Zavito's for example.
Sometimes I just want to meander down the road and hide out in the corner just behind the pizza overs with my book and have a char-grilled chicken salad with guacamole, brie and all the goodies. Depending o the day, I might find Gavin there at full throttle belting out his recent favourite tune or whatever's playing at the moment. I love chatting with him. He calls me by all kinds of interesting titles since he has no idea what a chaplain is or does.

I asked Gavin once whether he hired skill/experience or good attitude. He responded quickly that he can teach skills, but a good attitude was vital in hospitality. I have to agree and his staff is excellent, or they don't stay long.

Traveling in America has reminded me of how inexpensive food is here and how big the portions are. I can opt for the safety of the chain restaurants, places where I can know what I'll get every time and will not even have to read the menu. Or, I can be adventurous and ask a local where to eat. Sometimes I'll get referred to the nearby Subway or Pizza Hut, but I'll press further and ask about local places. I'll tell you how I get on. I'll also need to remember to tip as the servers in USA are not paid minimum wage with the expectation that tips will give them incentive to provide better service. How does that make a difference, I wonder?

When next in Englewood visiting my dad, I'll ask him to take me to Cafe 776. Their hot tea is probably not worth drinking, but their burgers are amazing!

What about you? Where have you eaten lately that's worth a mention? What place in your travels is worth a detour and a moment of appreciation?

27 August 2009

Journaling: to Improve my Writing or Improve Myself?

Do you journal?
Want to?
Think you should?
Why?

I have intermittently over the years. If anyone were to ever get a glimpse into my life, they'd have to have a team of people trolling through several journals linking together the random threads. Why don't I start and continue in one nice book? Why do I write some in that one and then something else elsewhere? Ahhh. An editor's nightmare! But so are all my InBoxes. Check out my Facebook, Gmail or Xtra InBox and you'll see that I've saved messages to go back and reference things later . . . rather than labeling or filing or copying and archiving properly.

Anyway, enough confessions of chaos o the move. Creative people are often like that and we add variety to life! So there.

Kathryn on Real Words writes this helpful post. The links themselves are a gold mine, but first consider why you might want to journal. That will determine much as you push ahead.

I am someone who believes in the power of keeping a journal. I got my first diary when I was about ten years old and have kept one fairly steadily since that time. Although I’ve gone through bouts of not writing for awhile, I always return to keeping a journal because I believe that it benefits me immensely as both a writer and an

individual.

Some of the top benefits that I’ve experienced as a result of keeping a journal:

  • The many benefits of a daily routine. I believe that having daily rituals helps us to get up and get going in the morning. My morning routine starts my day off right and helps me feel like I’m on track with things. Journaling is one part of that routine for me.
  • The power of self-reflection. I think that all people, particularly writers, need time to reflect on life and on themselves every single day. It’s hard to do that when we have so many obligations and distractions, Journaling returns us to ourselves day in and day out.
  • Unjudged writing practice. I am trying to get in the habit of not judging any of my writing but rather just letting it happen. This isn’t always easy but I’m able to do it with my journal. As a writer, I think this daily period of

    unjudged writing time is important.
  • A collection of my thoughts. It’s been important for me to have this collection of my thoughts. There are memories that I forget but can then access again in my journals. There are patterns of behavior that I only see when I re-read my journals. There are characters and projects that I thought of in passing that I revive when reminded of them by my journals.

I’m not the only one who believes that a journal offers many benefits. Take a look at some thoughts other people have posted on the benefits of journaling:

Surely we can all get something out of journaling. Do you journal? Does it help your writing? What has been the great benefit?"

Just thinking, as I too read through Kathryn's post, is my journaling more a conversation with myself, with those who may eventually read it, with God or . . . ? In addition to improving my writing, maybe journaling could even be a vent for those conversations I'd like to have but can't for whatever reason. All in all, journaling is something I want to do, but I don't think anyone should should us into to doing much of anything.

What influence? What unseen good? Teddy Kennedy

Edward Moore Kennedy, born on February 22, 1932, was the last of four sons and five daughters born to millionaire businessman Joseph Kennedy, who would later be ambassador to Britain, and his wife Rose.

The Boston Irish family combined the competitive spirit of nouveau riche immigrants with acquired polish and natural charm. The sons were expected to mature into presidential timber and were groomed for that starting with the oldest, Joseph Jr., a bomber pilot who died in World War Two.

"I think about my brothers every day," Kennedy told Reuters. "They set high standards. Sometimes you measure up, sometimes you don't."

Like his brothers, Kennedy was known for his oratory, delivered in a booming voice at rallies, congressional hearings and in the Senate.

"One person can make a difference and every one should try."

A 2009 survey by The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, found that Senate Republicans believed Kennedy was the chamber's easiest Democrat to work with and most bipartisan.

Republican Senator John McCain called Kennedy "the single most effective member of the Senate if you want to get results."

In January 2008, Kennedy endorsed Obama, who was serving his first term as a senator, for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many saw the endorsement -- Obama went on to win the nomination and the White House -- as the passing of the political torch to a new generation.

In May 2008, Edward Kennedy collapsed at his Cape Cod home and was flown to hospital in Boston, where he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. Brain cancer kills half its victims within a year. Read his comments on Health Care reform from Newsweek. JFK was a major force behind Medicare, but didn't live to see it established as the norm for so many Americans today.

Kennedy's illness kept him from attending the funeral of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a leading advocate of the mentally disabled, who died on August 11 at the age of 88.

Senator Kennedy's Chowder from his senate website.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs. fresh haddock
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 2 oz. salt pork, diced
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large potatoes, diced
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPARATION

Simmer haddock in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes. Drain off and reserve broth. Remove the skin and bones from the fish. Saute the salt pork in a large pot until crisp. Remove the salt pork and saute the onions in the pork fat until light golden brown. Add fish, celery, potatoes and bay leaf. Measure reserved fish broth plus enough boiling water to make 3 cups liquid. Add to pot and simmer 40 minutes. Add milk and butter and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or until well heated. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 5 to 8.

26 August 2009

The Mairangi Bay: Who Knew?




Mairangi Bay is the name of the burb in Auckland where I live.
On a good day, it's a super place to live, to walk or to sit and look out at Rangitoto and be thankful I wasn't here when last she erupted.



I didn't know it was also the name of a container ship launched in 1978 and scrapped in 2002.



The ship was one of two identical sisters built by Bremer Vulkan shipyard in West Germany and owned by Overseas Containers Limited, the other being the MV Resolution Bay.

Small Town USA: A Glimpse

As I travel outside the US, I am often asked about the country of my birth. More often assumptions are made about the US and conversations proceed from false premise.

I wish I could take all of those who are curious about America to Mt Summit, Indiana.

I was driving through there a couple of weeks ago on my way to Springfield, OH. I had an envelope on the seat next to me to send to my dad in Englewood, FL. I could have driven out of my way in Anderson, IN to find a post office, though they do tend to move things around during my long absences overseas. I decided instead to just post it from the first P.O. I came across that was easy to get to.

If you go East across Indiana on St Hwy 36 you'll pass through Mechanicsburg, IN and then my niece & nephew's high school and then in to Sulphur Springs. You'd think there'd be an Earthcache there at an artesian well, with a name like Sulphur Springs, but they only have four traditional geocaches, NONE of which I've sought out yet. I digress.

Back to the corner of Church Street and St Hwy 36 and the Mt Summit Post Office. Across the street is the the Summit Mart. the only other businesses I saw were a Pizza King and a Gas Station. The Pizza King had an ATM machine.

I pulled up o the side of the highway and parked, wondering if that was okay. Then I crossed the highway on foot as a lady with a baby was just entering the building ahead of me. The building seemed to serve as the town hall, P.O., community centre, etc.

As I entered the P.O. area another lady was giving and receiving some local news with the lady behind the counter. The quote my dad used to use popped in to my head.

Two old guys were out gossiping over the back fence.
One guy said to the other as his story wound down, "Tell me more!"
The other guy said, "I already told you more than I heard!"
When my turn came I was given a stiff envelope to slip mine into for extra protection. As I stepped aside to address it, a young farmer stepped up to do his business. He was asked to take off his hat so they could check his I.D.. The thought crossed my mind that the lady probably knew his mother or grandmother, but still wanted to follow procedure.

I bought stamps for letters within the US and some for postcards and letters via Airmail to the South Pacific. That of course caused questions and conversations as to who I knew there.

After I finished my business at the counter, I asked if there was a public restroom I could use there. The lady fished her keys out and escorted me down a hall and asked me to lock up when I came out. I love small town America. I like small towns most places. They still provide personal service and treat people like people. I don't know that I'd want to live in a small town. I like the arts and events and options of the city, but some of my fondest memories are of Hagerstown, IN where my mom grew up and I visited often in my childhood.

About the time I was crossing State Hwy 36 to get back to my car, a train came through. Some people probably checked their watch to see if it was on time.

25 August 2009

MacGyver Type Thinking

Lifehacker has some great, and some silly, ideas. I like thinking outside the box. I'm sometimes called Miss MacGyver and not always sure if they are taking the mickey or glad to have me around in case of emergencies.

But think about it. MacGyver is synonymous with creative solutions with common things we might have on hand. Some shows or products reshape our culture, niggle their way in to the fiber of our language and garner a respect that outlasts the program or product.

Read LifeHacker's recent Ode to MacGyver in full or just accept my selection as the best of the bunch.

Pack a lunch in a CD spindle

Bagels, with their central fitting holes and wheel-like shape, are an engineering student's kind of sandwich. Rodrigo Piwonka's Flickr stream shows off a CD spindle bagel holder MacGyver would totally dig, and it might just inspire you to reuse your own Memorex/FujiFilm/Kodak spindles for culinary transport purposes. Angus would probably also note that, turned upside-down, the round plastic cylinder that caps the spindle works great for holding your salad. (Original post)

For more about MacGyver.

Or check out The MacGyver's Guide to Creativity from Tapping Creativity

If you are old enough to remember MacGyver, the first thing that comes to mind is his amazing ability to fashion new devices from just about anything. (Okay, maybe the amazing hair is the first thing that comes to mind, but that device thing is a very close second.) It's this ability that made the character of MacGyver a television legend.

At the core of every conflict was MacGyver's ability to use his creativity to solve a problem. Really, the guy could make a detonation device from a shoelace, some nail polish, and a can of green beans. One of the points I talk about a lot on this blog being able see everyday objects in a new way. MacGyver had an innate ability to see those everyday objects and create new relationships between with them.

What Would MacGyver Do?
As writers, relationships are the foundation upon which everything we write is build. Because characters exist in real world scenarios, the potential for the unexpected relationship exists in every environment in which a story is taking place.

If you were given seemingly unrelated items, could you fashion a coherent narrative from them? For instance, what would you do with a firefighter, a case of candy canes, and an impending tornado? Could you create a story from these three elements? I bet you could. And what's more is that the story I create from those three elements would be very different from the story that Kimberly might. And those would both be very different from the one that Kathryn would create.

This is the difference that is established by the inner creativity we bring to each relationships. Going beyond our normal patterns of perception and looking for relationships in everything is the first step in tapping creativity. And it doesn't matter if you are a writer, musician, painter, interior decorator, or programmer. It's when you find new meaning in relationships that your creativity flourishes.

Next time you find yourself in a creative rut, ask yourself: What Would MacGyver Do?

24 August 2009

It's rough out there!


Rocky up ends Richie.
Can you figure out the tangle of arms and legs?

But the All Blacks came away with The Bledisloe Cup and a chance for the Tri-Nations by beating the Australian Wallabies 19-18 in Sydney.

Now where can I watch the games
live in Indiana???

Change. How?


What does it take to bring about change?

It takes more than a few coins.

How many levels or degrees of change need to happen before there is any real change?

Can we change?
Can we facilitate change?









Banksky

23 August 2009

Conversation between Faith & Popular Culture

Finally we have some sensible conversations taking place. Too many Christians were playing it safe and throwing the baby out with the bath water, not even looking closely enough to see if there was value in Rowling's writing. Paulson, of the Boston Globe writes " . . . the initial controversies over wands and wizardry now largely overshadowed by discussion of Harry’s character and life choices."

I attended some lectures earlier this year at Laidlaw College in Auckland where the writing of Bono was examined in light of life, philosophy and faith. The series continued with a look into The Brothers Karamazov, The Watchmen, Johnny Cash and The West Wing. An odd assortment when looked at in a list, but these are the type of things about which people are talking. Does our faith fit in the real world or is it sidelined? The conversations are good. Thinking and sifting is good.


Read all of the Paulson article here or at The Globe. Comments welcome.

The Book of Harry by Michael Paulson
How the boy wizard won over religious critics
-- and the deeper meaning theologians now see in his tale

The world of religion was not, at first, particularly enthusiastic about the arrival of the Potter boy.

For several years, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series topped the American Library Association’s lists of the most-challenged books (reasons cited in 2001: “anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence”). Evangelical Protestants were skeptical: would the positive depiction of wizardry mislead children? And some Catholics were worried too, ranging from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), who warned that “subtle seductions” in the text could “corrupt the Christian faith,” to the Rev. Ronald A. Barker, a Wakefield priest who yanked the books from his parish school library.

But over the last several years, religion writers and thinkers have warmed to Harry - both Christianity Today, the evangelical magazine, and L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, have praised the latest film. The Christian Broadcasting Network, home of Pat Robertson, now features on its website a special section on “The Harry Potter Controversy,” with the acknowledgment, “Leading Christian thinkers have disparate views on the Harry Potter products, and how Christians should respond to them.”

At the same time, scholars of religion have begun developing a more nuanced take on the Potter phenomenon, with some arguing that the wildly popular series of books and films contains positive ethical messages and a narrative arc that is worthy of serious scholarly examination and even theological reflection. The scholars are primarily interested in what the books have to say about the two big issues that always preoccupy people of faith - morality and mortality - but some are also interested in what the series has to say about tolerance (Harry and friends are notably open to people and creatures who differ from them) and bullying, the nature and presence of evil in society, and the existence of the supernatural.

Scholarly interest in the Harry Potter books began long before the series was finished, and shows no signs of slowing. There have been several academic books, with titles such as “The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary Phenomenon” and “Harry Potter’s World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives.” The American Academy of Religion last fall offered a panel at its annual convention titled “The Potterian Way of Death: J. K. Rowling’s Conception of Mortality.” And there is a raft of articles in religion journals with titles including “Looking for God in Harry Potter” and “Engaging with the spirituality of Harry Potter,” as well as the more complex, “Harry Potter and the baptism of the imagination,” “Harry Potter and the problem of evil,” and the crowd-pleasing “Harry Potter and theological libraries.”

“There is a whole burgeoning field of religion and popular culture, not just looking at what exact parallels there are, does it jibe with religious beliefs or is it counter to religious beliefs, but looking at these stories as a reflection of the spiritual or religious sensibilities of the culture,” says Russell W. Dalton, an assistant professor of Christian education at Brite Divinity School in Texas and the author of “Faith Journey through Fantasy Lands: A Christian Dialogue with Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings.”

“When stories become as popular as the Harry Potter stories, they no longer simply reflect the religious views of the author, but become artifacts of the culture, and they say something about the culture that has embraced them,” Dalton says. “And that is certainly the case with Harry Potter.”

The academic interest in The Boy Who Lived is part of a larger search by religion scholars and writers for signs of faith, and in particular for echoes of the Christian narrative, in culture. The search is not new, though scholars have historically concentrated on high art - like painting and literature.

“We have to be engaged with the conversation that’s going on in the public,” says Jeffrey H. Mahan, a professor of ministry, media and culture at the Iliff School of Theology in Colorado and an early proponent of studying religion and popular culture.

There is also a long history of children’s literature being used as a form of religious pedagogy. Amy Boesky, an associate professor of English at Boston College, says that the use of children’s literature to teach moral values goes back at least as far as Erasmus, who wrote during the Renaissance, and includes children’s classics from “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” published in 1678, to “A Wrinkle in Time,” published in 1962. The best known example is the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, written in the early 1950s by the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, which, in addition to being entertaining fantasy literature, is often read as a Christian allegory featuring Aslan, a heroic lion and obvious Christ figure.

Although some scholars now see Harry Potter as a Christ-like figure, the parallels are subtler, and, undoubtedly, for many readers vastly overshadowed by a dizzying torrent of magical spells, strange creatures, and Quidditch games. Harry is, himself, a complex adolescent hero, haunted by the murder of his parents but at times conflicted about his own role in the world and unsettled, as anyone would be, by his mind’s strange connection with that of the series’s evil antagonist, Voldemort.

“The Potter books are not explicitly religious in the way that C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales are, but there is a strong sense of evil, and issues of good and evil are not only philosophical issues but also theological issues,” says Gareth B. Matthews, a professor of philosophy at UMass Amherst.

Some scholars take the search for Gospel themes in the Harry Potter series quite far. Oona Eisenstadt, an assistant professor of religious studies at Pomona College, offers a particularly elaborate analysis, arguing that Rowling explores the complex natures of biblical characters by presenting two versions of each in the Potter books. Snape and Malfoy, she argues, represent competing understandings of Judas - each seeking to kill Dumbledore, but one because he is serving evil and one because destiny demands it. Eisenstadt sees Dumbledore and Harry, in different ways, as Christ figures - perhaps Harry representing the human Jesus, and Dumbledore the divine. And she posits that the New Testament depiction of elements of the Jewish community is represented by the goblins (unappealing bankers) and the Ministry of Magic (legalistic and small-minded).

“Rather than offering a one-to-one allegory which would shove a theology down the throats of her child readers, Rowling’s role doublings, her one-to-twos, are an invitation to them, and to us all, to think,” Eisenstadt writes.

Some religion scholars seem most interested in the Potter series as social commentary - in particular, they focus on Harry’s refusal to take part in the anti-Muggle bias demonstrated by some pure-blood witches and wizards, as well as the hostility toward giants and ghosts and other menacing magical creatures that some characters in the series evince. “One of the overall themes of the Harry Potter series has to do with race and race-based persecution,” says Lana A. Whited, a professor of English at Ferrum College in Virginia and the author of “The Ivory Tower And Harry Potter.” And Dalton, of Brite Divinity School, takes the argument a step further, suggesting that the series’s association of tolerance with the heroic characters is a critique of fundamentalism.

“To Dumbledore and Harry and his friends{hellip} it didn’t matter whether you were Muggle-born, or whether you were a giant,” Dalton says, “whereas clearly the Death Eaters, the evil ones, were intolerant of people who were unlike them.”

But not all scholars are quite so enthusiastic. Elizabeth Heilman, an associate professor of teacher education at Michigan State University and the editor of “Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter” says that, unlike Hermione, who adopts the cause of the house elves, “you don’t see Harry Potter ever taking up a cause for the sake of the downtrodden. He’s really a reluctant hero, and I’m not convinced the narrative has him effectively going beyond personal motives.”

The interest of religion scholars in the Potter series has intensified in the wake of the much-anticipated seventh and final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which was published in 2007. The question of whether Harry would die (Spoiler Alert!) was much debated before the book was released, and it doesn’t require a divinity degree to see the themes of sacrifice and resurrection in the resolution of that question.

“I remember anticipating book seven, and having conversations with my kids about whether Harry Potter would die, and a lot of that conversation was about to what extent Rowling was going to make this a Christian book: was Harry going to die and save the world?” says Stephen Prothero, a religion professor at Boston University.

The denouement (really: Spoiler Alert!) is the starting point for many religion scholars, because in the final scenes, Harry realizes “that his job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms,” Rowling writes. Harry allows himself to be killed - or at least struck by a killing curse - in order to save the wizarding world, but then returns to life, egged on by a vision of Dumbledore that tells Harry, “by returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart.” Harry then vanquishes Voldemort, and is described in the book as being seen by the crowd that witnessed the final battle as “their leader and symbol, their savior and their guide.”

“At the end of the last book, we have a dying and rising Potter - he has to be killed to deliver the world from the evil personified by Voldemort,” says Paul V.M. Flesher, director of the religious studies program at the University of Wyoming and the author of an article about Harry Potter for the Journal of Religion and Film. “There’s a Christian pattern to this story. It’s not just good versus evil. Rowling is not being evangelistic - this is not C.S. Lewis - but she knows these stories, and it’s clear she’s fitting pieces together in a way that makes sense and she knows her readers will follow.”

Rowling herself, in the wake of the final book’s publication, says she thought the religious themes had “always been obvious,” and scholars note there were at least two unattributed quotations from the New Testament in the series, one on the tomb of Dumbledore’s mother and sister (“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” from Matthew), and one on the tomb of Harry’s mother and father (“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” from I Corinthians).

Harry’s ultimate struggle with death has cemented the romance between religion scholars and the Potter series, the initial controversies over wands and wizardry now largely overshadowed by discussion of Harry’s character and life choices.

“Rather than decrying as wicked certain elements of the series - as far too many Christians have done - we ought to be inviting our communities into deeper appreciation of both the similarities and the contrasts between the stories and our Christian faith,” Mary Hess, of Luther Seminary in Minnesota, writes in the journal Word & World.

Sure enough, Leonie Caldecott, writing in Christian Century a few months after the publication of book seven, opines, “As is revealed in ‘Deathly Hallows,’ far from trying to cheat death, Harry willingly embraces death when he comes to understand that this is necessary to save others, and not just those he particularly loves.”

Dumbledore, early in the series, makes clear his own views on this subject, saying, “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

At the American Academy of Religion conference, panelists mined the final scene, as well as other depictions of death in the Potter series, for meaning. Paul Corey, a religious studies lecturer at McMaster University in Canada, rhetorically asked, “What is the difference between a Christian and a Death Eater?” as a starting point for thinking about how Voldemort’s quest to conquer death might differ from, or resemble, the desire of Christians for eternal life in heaven. And Lois Shepherd, a bioethicist at the University of Virginia, said she found in the series an argument against prolonging physical life at all costs - a rejection of what she called a “quest to avoid death” that she said was played out in the real-world debate over Terri Schiavo.

“Death, in the philosophy of the series, is not to be feared,” Shepherd says. “It is in fact those who fear death the most - Voldemort being the supreme example - who engage in unspeakable acts of evil.”

Michael Paulson is the Globe’s religion reporter. E-mail him at mpaulson@globe.com.

22 August 2009

What Teachers Make

Comic, profound, contemporary poetry that is as much a story as it is social commentary. That's possibly a good way to describe Taylor Mali's poetry, better spoken aloud than merely read silently.

Taste and see. He may offend you, but you'll get over it. If you choose to click on the link and read more of his stuff, don't complain to me. I didn't send you there, but I hope you'll go.

What Teachers Make, or Objection Overruled, or
If things don't work out, you can always go to law school

By Taylor Mali www.taylormali.com

He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"
He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about teachers: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests that it's also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.

"I mean, you¹re a teacher, Taylor," he says.
"Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that (asked me to be honest) because, you see, I have a policy about honesty and ass-kicking: if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won't I let you get a drink of water?
Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven't called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?"
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?

For more about Taylor Mali

21 August 2009

Danger!

Wind took out the power last night, leaving me in the light of a
candle and an oil lamp. Later a lightening strike took out the water
pump. It's good to be reminded of the things anyone able to read this
blog probably takes for granted.

Some of my readers live in danger of huge bush fires, others are in
earthquake or tsunami zones. My dad watches for hurricanes and my
brother for blizzards. Volcanos shaped, and could reshape New Zealand.

I think the greatest dangers lie in complacency, ingratitude, and
entitlement.

Olives, anyone?

Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Mental Decline

The finding, published in February in The Archives of Neurology, tracked the eating habits of 1,393 people with no cognitive problems and 482 patients with mild cognitive impairment, a preliminary state of mental decline that can sometimes signal the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The patients were then grouped based on whether they were low, moderate or consistent followers of a Mediterranean diet. People were considered to be strong adherents to a Mediterranean-style diet if they regularly ate large amounts of fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes and monounsaturated fats like olive oil, while at the same time consuming moderate amounts of alcohol and only small quantities of meat and dairy products.

After nearly five years of follow up, about 275 people in the healthy group developed mild cognitive impairment. People who closely adhered to a Mediterranean diet had a 28 percent lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, compared to those whose eating habits were the least like a Mediterranean diet. Moderate followers of a Mediterranean diet showed a trend toward a 17 percent lower risk than the lowest-scoring group, although that finding wasn’t statistically significant.

A Mediterranean diet also appeared to slow decline in those already diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Among the 482 men and women with mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study, 106 developed Alzheimer’s disease about four years later. But among those who strictly adhered to the Mediterranean diet, risk of Alzheimer’s was 48 percent lower, while risk was 45 percent lower among those who ate a moderate version of the diet.

It’s not clear from the study how long the participants had been following a Mediterranean eating plan. However, the researchers said that older people tend to be fairly set in their ways and stick to eating patterns that have been established years earlier, so it’s likely the habits were established at least in middle age. The average age of study participants was 77.

Because the study was observational and not a controlled clinical trial, the association of better brain aging with the consumption of a Mediterranean diet isn’t definitive and could be explained by other factors. However, researchers note that a Mediterranean diet has already been shown to be good for the heart, and there is no risk in improving eating habits in the hope of improving brain health as well.

“We know it’s a healthy diet for other reasons,’’ said lead author Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center. “It makes sense for people to eat in a healthy way as soon as they can and for the longest they possibly can.’’

Prophetic Troublemakers

At my friend Rick's funeral last week, the minister read out some quotes and notes he'd found in Rick's Bible.

Rick had written on a jagged edged scrap of paper that we needed more trouble makers. We needed more stirrers who would cause us to think again, to rethink who we are and what we are doing.

Rick was like that yet in a very likable way, the over 1500 people who filed past to greet his wife and family were testimony to Rick's good and generous heart.

Quietly and gently, yet with strength of conviction behind him, Rick often asked the hard questions, revisited issues that were unresolved and sought God's heart on decisions or plans for the organisations in which he was involved.

In conversation with some ladies later, they commented that they too seemed to be troublemakers, but that they meant well. I told them that irritants in oysters become pearls. The ladies beamed with hope that their efforts were not in vain.

But we need more than protesters, stirrers and troublemakers.

"Protesters are everywhere, but I think the world is desperately in need of prophets, those little voices that can point us toward another future... Most people are aware that something is wrong. The real question is, What are the alternatives?"
(Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution)

Malcolm Irwin says,
The conversations I'm involved in keep on coming back to what is a false though nagging source of tension ... management or mission... maintaining what we have or prophetically re-imagining what could be... fiscal responsibility or responsive trust... what is the difference? If I could make the call, (and many may thank God I can't), I'd err on the side of the missional and the prophetic... I think that is closer to who God is and closer to who we were called to be...
The prophetic experience is always
bestowed on the individual, usually
unprepared for the experience, by
the Divine, and this often causes the
prophet to undergo travel, and often
privations and persecution due to the
unwelcome contents of the message he
or she bring to those for whom it is intended.

"The prophet is the one who, by use of... tools of hope, contradicts the presumed world of kings, showing both that that presumed world does not square with the facts and that we have been taught a lie and have believed it because the people with the hardware and the printing press (and the official rubber stamp) told us it was that way. And so the offering of ...(hope) is a job not for a timid clerk who simply shares the inventory but for people who know something different and are prepared, out of their own anguish and amazement, to know that the closed world of managed reality is false. The prophetic imagination knows that the real world is the one that has its beginning and dynamic in the promising speech of God and that this is true even in a world where kings have tried to banish all speech but their own."
(Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, emphasis Malcolm's).

Comments?

20 August 2009

Butter or Margarine?

For a good understanding of good fats and bad fats, check out Jenny Bowden's Healthiest Choice: Butter or Margarine?

Jenny provides a chart for comparisons and a bit of personal experience. The way Jenny describes nutrition makes it accessible and interesting. She doesn't get on a high horse and give a list of forbidden fruits. In fact, she's pro fruit, and veg ad exercise, as they all are.

Jenny's a friend and interesting to read, so hop on over to Thinking Nutrition and search for the topics that interest you.

Leaders Listen, or find no one talking to them anymore

Andy Stanley's Tweet was quoted by my friend Larry Marshall on Facebook. I thought I'd include it here on blogger too, not just to be inclusive of various forms of tech comm, but also cause it is true.

A leader who refuses to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing important to say~Andy Stanley RT@catalystleader

I know leaders like this, who do not listen. They often don't even know the names of their people, let alone listen to them.

I also know leaders who lean in when they listen and then give credit to their people when a good idea turns in to a good service or product.

A young friend was going down to Mexico one summer to facilitate short term teams as they built houses. He was second guessing himself wondering if that was the best way to prepare for youth ministry, . . . or maybe he should have found a church to serve in instead.

I suggested he get a notebook and create some categories for observations over the summer.
Each youth minister or leader who brought a team down would be my friend's mentor for the week, without even knowing it.

I suggested he write down the things he liked about the leader's leadership style.
Notice how the team responded to the leader. Notice how the leader delegated, or dumped, on the support team. Notice how the young people interacted with the leader, or not. Notice where credit was given, where affirmation or discipline was given, where there was conversation.

Each leader had an opportunity to teach my young friend what to do or what not to do, in leadership Both are valuable ways to learn, but the negative way is harder on the group, and ultimately the church, the project, the community and the individual.

19 August 2009

Liminal: Between

. . . liminality represents the midpoint of transition in a status-sequence between two positions . . .

from a Conversations@Intersections post on liminality in June last year.

Liminality: threshold, betwixt & between

I could have written this. The concepts are clear to me and my lifestyle. But I did not. Someone else wrote it better than I probably could have. So read him . . .

. . . the word liminality comes from the Latin word “limen,” which means “threshold.” It was used by Arnold Van Gennep (1908) in his treatise on rites of passage to describe that place in between one social state and the next (for example, being single and being married). Victor Turner later expanded on this in his work on the Ndembu of Zambia, explaining that those in the liminal state (during a rite of passage) were neither here nor there, and in fact in between the structure of society.
This concept has since been defined in various ways to suit various fields of study, but I came across it while doing my MA thesis, a comparative study of the North American Indian trickster and the protagonist of the Korean “Tale of the Rabbit.” The trickster has a unique position in society, never staying in one place, always moving here or there, never really belonging to any one class or group—yet he is always able to penetrate the social structure at will, although he cannot remain there. The concept fascinated me, and I argued that it was one of the most important things Rabbit and the trickster had in common.I chose “liminality” as the title of this site because, first of all, I like the way the word sounds. It really just glides off the tongue. More importantly, though, I feel that the idea of liminality applies to my life. As a Westerner in Asia, I am between two cultures, never fully belonging to one or the other, but belonging to both at the same time. As a translator, I occupy the place between languages, engaging in a simultaneous act of deconstruction and creation. And in terms of my faith, I struggle to be in the world but not of it—a citizen of a land I will never see in this lifetime, a wanderer for whom home is wherever I happen to be at the moment. Maybe this is why I was so fascinated with the concept of liminality, why it spoke so directly to me.

. . . liminality represents the midpoint of transition in a status-sequence between two positions, outsiderhood refers to actions and relationships which do not flow from a recognized social status but originate outside it. . .


Using Sartre’s terminology, he states: “I see liminality as a phase in social life in which this confrontation between ‘activity which has no structure’ and its ‘structured results’ produces in men their highest pitch of self-consciousness” (1974: 255).
from Victor Turner “Passages, Margins, and Poverty:
Religious Symbols of Communitas,”
from Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors (1974).

And to read further: What is Liminality?

18 August 2009

Picnic: On The West Side

I went to a picnic today.
Boy, that sounds too much like a Twitter thing!

Anyway, this was a community picnic sponsored by a church on the West side of Anderson, my hometown. It wasn't a church picnic like some might think, for one church. It was for all churches to bring their people together to meet other churches and to include the community. About 20 people from my church came out for it on a hot humid Sunday afternoon.

A stage was set up and various people performed. Hot dogs and burgers were served with chips/crisps and cold drinks including shaved ice/snow cones and cotton candy/candy floss.
The kids were called together for a sack race and other games. I think I saw a bouncy castle.

I met Larry. He was sitting in the back of one of the big trucks that had brought in the tables, chairs and awnings. Larry had always wanted to travel and help people in other places. I told him I took great comfort in knowing that he was right here taking care of things at home. Later I met a guy who worked on the building of the church building I've always known as Bethany Christian Church. I'd never really thought of the workmen who laid the foundations in cement and then did the brickwork. The connection was made by a mutual friend who has worked at the credit union on that side of town for more than 30 years now.

I sat with people I hadn't known; a woman from a nearby black congregation, and her adult daughter and son. Her son was in a wheel chair, interested in the events around him, but sagging in the heat. After a while, we realised we were in the sun, so picked up our table and shifted to the shade again. I was reaching for the end of the table when a large dark skinned man - we were all varying shades today - reached in to take my place. I asked if he thought he could handle it. His arms were big and he coulda picked me up with the table if he'd been so inclined. It was a fun and funny moment. The women of his culture are capable and could lift that table, but at an event like that, it was man's work and not respectful to watch a woman do such a thing.

Oh the suspicions we hold
based only on what we see
with our eyes and don't
understand with our hearts.

It was good to get out and meet with people I have lots in common with, but wouldn't know it from just passing them in the supermarket or at a ball game. It reminded me of going to the Tiki Tane concert in Manukau on Waitangi Day in Auckland. Pakeha ( non-Maori) were in the minority and the prevailing culture was Pasifika.

I find such cultural displacement interesting most of the time. A sunny afternoon in the park is good. An intense encounter or misunderstanding would be uncomfortable.

As I drove over to meet some of my family for my brother's birthday party this afternoon, I passed some churches which would have been predominantly black. I wondered if I'd be welcome if I were to worship with them in one of their regular services. It'd be great to sit down in a Bible study with other woman, of various skin tones, and find our commonalities. The differences are more than skin deep. It would be too simple to categorise on that factor alone. I'm sure we'd find the commonalities would be many.

In a film, The Freedom Writers, a young naive teacher, finally seeing the lines drawn between her Latino, African American, white and Asian students, played the line game in her classroom. She asked questions and had the students approach the line if they could answer affirmatively to her question. Then they stepped back. Eventually it dawned on them, differences notwithstanding, they had many points in common too. All had lost friends to gang violence. Nearly all had been shot at. Etc. The boundaries between people started to fade.

Oh the suspicions we hold based only on what we see with our eyes and don't understand with our hearts. Everywhere I travel, I see, sense or am shown the lines drawn between people groups, tribal boundaries, borders, that include and exclude.

I went to elementary school less than 2 city blocks from the park where the picnic was held, yet I felt foreign in many ways. I made the effort to talk with new people, but it was an effort, not natural. It was worth it and I hope many people went away thoughtfully appreciative and more open minded, but how do we maintain that when we pass each other on the street and know only skin tone and economic indicators?

17 August 2009

Transitions, Change, the Give & Take

Things change. Life changes. People change.
We've talked about that in some posts recently.

Change we have a say in, change we choose, is easier to accept or embrace. When change is forced upon us, we can feel disoriented, at loss, under valued.

Some change we embrace, but in most changes there is give and take.

Kids learn to drive.
You don't need to take them everywhere.
They don't need you . . . in the same way.

Kids get cell phones.
You can call them anytime.
They rarely talk to you when they're with you cause they're texting their friends.

Kids go to university.
You get some peace and quiet.
It's sometimes too quiet.

A friend commented to me this week that the best time in life must be when you're about 5.
At five you can feed yourself and go to the bathroom by yourself, but your only real task each day is to play.
No one is pulling out the back of your pants checking for disgusting stuff or blaming you for bad odors. Just play. Then school starts. Then you gotta get a job.

Maybe soon after retirement is good too, though then there are different bodily functions to be managed. maybe she's nailed it; five is good.

16 August 2009

A Shona Proverb

A new thing does not come to she who sits, but to she who travels.
A Shona Proverb

Mary Lou Moore's Heart

My friend Mary Lou wrote this on Caring Bridge as she watched her husband Rick fight a battle he couldn't win. I think she expressed some nearly inexpressible emotions well.

Friday, August 7, 2009 12:50 PM, EDT

I wish I could tell you what my heart feels. The biggest problem is that it changes before I can finish a sentence.

I saddened as I watch my strong, handsome, loving husband dwindle away. He blue eyes rarely look blue, his smile comes even less. But he struggles to be a part of the gathering that is always present in our home. He hears the voices and sees the many faces that come to share love with him and I know he is frustrated because he can't tell them what he want's to. I know he can feel the love that is ever present around us. Our Hospice nurses are so kind and loving and are working so hard to help him be comfortable.

My heart is happy when I know he has recognized one of the kids and he can acknowledge his love for them. I love that Aubree comes to sit on Memaw's lap every time I sit down. I love that the older grandbabies believe that Papaw will be with Jesus and that he'll be okay then.

I am in awe as I see the out pouring off love from sooooo many people. The calls, the emails, the visits, the prayers, the food, the gifts of everything practical, the "baglady" loves practical! I wish I could tell you all what we needed, everyone says that would help them. How could we need anything else? Your love is straight from the Father and complete!

I am really numb too. I'm not sure how to process all of this, this is hard for a "fixer". I know now how my Dad felt when Mom was so sick.

I am at peace I think, I'm just waiting on the Father for the next thing. I still believe that "they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up on eagles wings, they will run and not be weary, they will run an not faint." I refuse to doubt that because I have risen with the eagles and lived life on the "wings". God was faithful then. He will continue to be faithful now. He never changes!

15 August 2009

Inheritance: Wisdom?

What will you inherit?

Paul Lytle's thoughts from The Christian Pilgrimage blog.

“The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.”
-Proverbs 3:35


"Today I’ve been thinking a little about what the world puts up as wisdom. And, honestly, the line of thoughts on this subject makes me very sad. I see people in the grocery store looking at the magazines, trying to find the sage advice that will fix their lives. I see people flocking to Oprah and Dr. Phil, hoping they will say something that will mend the mistakes. We turn to politicians, the great wise leaders of this age, for ideas to fix the problems other politicians created. And then we reelect those politicians when they only make things worse. We ask celebrities their opinions on everything, hoping some manner of wisdom will be gleaned. We turn to horoscopes and fortune cookies. We all bought into the great lie that we need to live for our own pleasure, our own greed, and then we desperately search for wisdom to fill us up when money and sex do not.

Those who come forward as “the wise” very rarely are. They spout axioms and encourage more greed and selfishness. Concentrate on yourselves, they say. Somehow, a change in job or spouse will solve everything.

In religion, the great thinkers tell us everyone is okay, that surely we’re just fine in God’s eyes, which may be the silliest statement of them all. And yet when someone points out that we’re not okay, and that we probably should start looking to God and living for Him, he is mocked as intolerant and narrow-minded.

Scientists are absolutely sure there is no God. Which is quite a bold statement, considering that we’ve only experienced a short sliver of time compared to the history of time, and that we’ve only seen a tiny slice of earth, which is a tiny slice of the Solar System, which is a tiny slice of the galaxy. Quite a bold statement to say that we can know for a fact that there is no God when we are not omniscient to know that for sure. (And if we were, we would be God.)

Wisdom in God’s eyes is not like wisdom in the world’s eyes. They can sometimes be as different as night and day, which is why Paul wrote of others, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). Sometimes, the most amazing statements the world can offer (such as, “There is no God”) collapse under the weight of God’s understanding.

Is it wise to ignore the counsel of the truly wise? Obviously, it is not. So when the author of wisdom, God Himself, speaks to us, the wise will be silent and listen. That’s another part of wisdom the world does not understand – silence. The wise of the world tend to speak much more than listen.

The spiritually wise seek the ways of God, for those ways are unfailing, straight, and true. They lead to life." Read more of this post by Paul Lytle.

14 August 2009

Minimise the falling potential.

Don't like failing? Don't like falling? Most people, in most situations, don't either, so let's take more of the risk out of new experiences.

Read what Seth Godin has to say. The reason riding a unicycle is difficult

...is because it's sudden.

All the time you're practicing, you aren't actually riding. You're falling. Then, if you don't give up after all this failure, in a blink, you're riding. No in-between. Failing...riding.

Learning things that are binary like this is quite difficult. They are difficult to market because people don't like to fail. They're difficult to master because people don't like to fall. "You don't get it, but you will," is a hard sell.

Here's a great parenting tip: the best way to teach your kid to ride a bicycle is to wear Rollerblades. I can teach just about any 7 year old to ride a bike in ten minutes using this technique. The reason? For ten minutes, they are riding the bike while I hold them up. Once they get over the speed and steering hump, it's easy. The hard part was the falling.

If your goal is to have a mainstream service or product, then your opportunity is to create non-unicycle moments for your customers, employees and students.

So how does that apply to you?

I think about how awkward or scary it can be when someone goes to church for the first time.

It's scary enough to go to a new church, to a foreign church, one where you don't know what to expect. What about if you've never gone to church before!! How scary could that be?

If you are a church goer or a church leader, look at the experience from the outsider's point of view and make it easier for them. Consider how or when in a church event, an outsider might feel foreign, in adequate or stupid. How can you accompany them, possibly on rollerblades or whatever is appropriate, so you can take more of the potential for falling/failing out of the equation?

A friend told me of a co-worker on his staff who accompanied him and the sign maker through the new wing of the church. They were discussing where to put signs and how to word them. My friend's co-worker finally gave them the perspective they needed in suggesting that the signs weren't for the church members, the regular attenders, but for those who were visitors, those who might feel lost.

If it's not too junior high-ish, I think that was a smack yourself in the forehead and say, "duh" moment. It was for my friend, though he's more the type to just shake his head in disappointment with himself wishing he'd been as perceptive. At least he's a learner and open to ideas and advice.

Caption?

13 August 2009

"We cannot not change." Chittister

I've had several meaningful conversations this week.
Many of them had to do with struggle and growth, struggle and heartache.

A friend lost her husband several weeks ago. Another friend will bury hers on Thursday.
A mother prays for her daughter, another for her son.
One daughter is in an endless seemingly pointless relationship. Another daughter is out of a destructive relationship.
Another young girl was caught texting inappropriately. Another mum worries that her son has no friends and hopes he will text.
A boy didn't do well on a vital exam. A girl was caught cheating.
A daughter is packing to move on campus, her first year at university. Another child is not going back, calling a halt, if not an end, to formal education.
A family moves, again. "Why unpack? Why make friends?"
"Start looking for another job."
A marriage ends. Custody battles loom. Transitions affect everyone, but especially the kids.
An engagement upsets the kids.
"It's too soon!"
"For whom?"
Your insurance is canceled.
A suicide begins another chapter in a struggle a family has with a beloved child.
What could anyone have done differently?

My readings in Joan Chittister's book, Scarred by Strggle, Transformed by Hope, and a conversation amongst some ladies tonight brought out the fact that change happens and we often do not embrace it.

"A living thing is distinguished from a dead thing by the multiplicity of the changes
at any moment taking place in it." Herbert Spencer, Principles of Biology (1865).


"We cannot not change," Chittister says. If we resist change, we risk "becoming spiritual corpses of a creative God who goes on endlessly creating, in as well as around us." Now not everyone would consider all of the above scenerios as creative. In the midst of uncomfortable situations, we often think someone is conspiring against us for destructive, not constructive, ends.

Yet, what usually causes us to JUMP out of the nest or the boat or the familiar comfy zone we've loved if not some discomfort?

Change we initiate is often change we are comfortable with. It might be calculated, planned for and strategic. Change thrust upon us by unforeseen circumstances or by the choices of others is often change we resist or resent.

Negotiating the road ahead, whether as a parent, a spouse or a young person, is not easy. Sometimes the very road seems to change, destinations become fuzzy illusions and disappointments dog our steps. Is growth, wisdom, maturity worth the struggle, the journey, the feeble steps ahead into uncharted territory?

Octavio Paz said, "Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two." Times, London, 8 June 1989

Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Sometimes a companion on the journey makes all the difference and the conversation that much richer.