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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cruising with Jesus -- Not for the Clock Watcher

Jesus Calls His First Disciples
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20 NIV)


I am a senior citizen and at that time of life when one tells oneself (or is told by others) you’d better do it (fill in the blank) while you still can. If you're ever going to do it, do it now!  For many my age that means travel--perhaps a cruise to Alaska to experience majestic towers of nature.

I can imagine that one day while I’m walking along in Saint Petersburg, Jesus pulls up in a Land Rover.  He asks "How would you like to go with me to Lake Junaluska (a beautiful Methodist Resort/Retreat in the Great Smokies).  I've known for years that a major aim of a Christian is to walk with Jesus faithfully and with perseverance.  Since I daily pray for this "walk with Christ" I am overjoyed by this opportunity to ride with Jesus to may favorite Christian retreat. From my past road trips there,  I know that the journey will take about 10 hours--an incredible opportunity to fellowship one-on-one with Jesus.

In good time we neared Jacksonville and stopped at a little diner for lunch. A small group of people were gathered there including locals and some travelers like us.  The blue plate special of the day was fried catfish (caught locally) served with hush-puppies, fries, and slaw.  Just like in the Bible Jesus loved to connect with others, and our quick meal soon turned into a 2 1/2 hour rendition of parables (we would say, "stories with a point") and conversation that seemed to me at times too intimate and personal.  Yet Jesus never intruded.  The people seemed to sense that Jesus was not there to put them down, but to listen and encourage.  Finally we stood to leave when a local there mentioned that a distant cousin of his in Louisiana was a prisoner of stress and anxiety.  To my utter astonishment Jesus at once ditched our plans to travel directly to Lake Junaluska.  Instead we added days to our journey just to see this man's cousin.  The man, I might add, drove with us from the diner. So my private time with Jesus was extremely short-lived.  While Jesus ministered to the cousin in Louisiana, we learned of a treatment center in Lincoln, Nebraska that was encountering unusual success in treating the mentally disturbed.  With way too little deliberation from my point of view, our plans changed again and were off on a journey to Nebraska.

The gist of all this is that my ride with Jesus to a North Carolina resort was repeatedly preempted by other destinations. While I thought I was going with Jesus on a precious one-day road trip, it turned out instead to be something very different.  I then remembered the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

For Jesus the bucket list is less about places to see so much as people to free.


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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Coming Ideas

My mother was often the engine that reliably imbued family projects with energy and optimism. Sometimes she would pause midstream in our activities and say “I’ve got coming ideas” when a new way of approaching a challenge occurred to her. I thought of this recently when I traded in a 2012 VW Beetle for a new Volkswagen Jetta. My motivating idea was to acquire a new car with virtual bumper-to-bumper maintenance coverage for a good number of years.  It never occurred to me to make any other transportation changes.  Yet on driving the Jetta home from the dealership, it dawned on me…dah…that I would no longer need my Mazda CX-9 for its additional cargo space. The next morning I sold the CX-9 (which action had been the furthest thing from my mind just a day before).

There is a phrase I think well describes much of human behavior – “muddling through”. More often than not we launch a project congratulating ourselves that it has been well-planned. Yet, if we’re lucky – and I really mean that, lucky – we will actually end up with something astonishingly different.  Now regarding my car trades, I could now with dubious intent/effect seek to enhance my gravitas and muster all kinds of claims to wisdom (however factually “alternate” that would be) by saying that weeks in advance I meticulously planned to bestow greater efficiency and effectiveness upon my transportation arrangements through exacting cost-benefit analysis.  I could indeed say all that with dignified sanctimony and would probably do so if there were a ghost of a chance that my readers had not long-since lost their virginity.

Since I associate turgid goals and tedious plans with a will of steel, the French psychologist, Émile Coué (February 26, 1857 – July 2, 1926) comes to mind.  He said: “When the imagination and will power are in conflict, are antagonistic, it is always the imagination which wins, without any exception” (

In way of dedication: Thank you mother for having “coming ideas” and ditching the steel will for something more redemptive. That is why even today I run to you. 


Check this out for a great instance of Coming Ideas:

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gotcha!!! Justice

Human beings are wired to pursue justice and to pursue it passionately for self and for all one identifies with self.  The behavior of toddlers makes this abundantly evident as does the behavior of adults before the Supreme Court.

Within the nature of man is an insatiable thirst for justice: “...let justice roll down like waters/ And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24 NASB). In addition to the felt open-ended dimension of justice, this scripture also recognizes an additional key component of the justice drive--its association with our perception of the ultimately and absolutely right--the way things compelling should--even MUST--be.

It is little wonder then that the pursuit of justice within the diversity of human experiences, interests, and values is often accompanied by violence.  Hostile pursuits can perversely enmesh even the strong and victorious within Pyrrhic legacies of spiritual defeat.  We must be cautious, then, that some twisted pursuit of justice does not headlong morph us into monsters.  Extracted from countless centuries of very real blood and tears is the hard lesson that single-minded drives for justice are traitorous even of ourselves unless alloyed with empathy--a moderating force allowing room for the shared mystery of diversity and the unrelentingly universal character of unjustified pain--with mercy, with grace, and--especially for our own good--with forgiveness.


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Friday, June 2, 2017

Unfounded Optimism

If around at the time the United States government was initially constituted, I might well have been--depending upon "where I sat"--a supporter or opponent of slavery.  Aware of my tendency for optimism, I might well have thought along these lines:  "The opposing point of view regarding slavery is dead wrong.  But given time, the other side will come to align with my point of view.  The benefits will be so obvious, that a broad consensus will develop eliminating any need for strife or conflict."

Of course we know that such optimism would in time have proven to be entirely unfounded.  In my last blog Playtime is Over I suggested that the debate regarding the proper role of government has been seen in something of this rosy light (the embedded video is an excerpt of a debate between William Buckley and John Kenneth Galbraith).  There will be plenty of time for leisurely and friendly--even playful-- debate over the matter (seems to be the tenor).  The proper role in time will come to be so obvious that consensus will pop up overnight like mushrooms.  We are assuredly approaching no precipice or crisis; all ahead will prove to be (to use Churchill’s phrase) “broad, sunlit uplands.”

In fact, we see that quite the contrary appears to be happening.  Each side posits that their approach would have proven hands down its overwhelming rectitude but for the treacherous sabotage of the opposition.  And now cable news intensifies convictions confirming that our perspective is absolutely right, and the other insanely and nefariously wrong.  And since our chosen point of view so greets us in the morning and bids us goodnight, our little gray cells deeply entrench our pet perceptions through regular reinforcement.  If you are like me, you have been astounded that a friend you thought you knew well could so inexplicably and nonchalantly be captured by the totally absurd. Should we ask: Is there a grueling Civil War in our future in which the Mason-Dixon line becomes replaced by multiple bloody and contentious “Streets that follow like a tedious argument/Of insidious intent” (T.S Eliot)? 


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