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The anatomy of a fast.


7 days.
Just under 160 hours.
There was an earthquake. There was an election.

Then, the world seemingly felt the earth move.
And I had little to publicly say about it. Little I could say, that is. Few words to say, and even fewer voices in my ear.
At the prompting of “Preacher Phil”, I launched a “Facebook fast” last Sunday afternoon. I even sent Instagram and Twitter packing. I’m glad he prompted, and I’m glad I responded. It’s made for an interesting week.
Time seems to move more slowly when it’s not filled quite so idly. Your mind processes things, and when you can’t act on the impulse to rapidly share them, they grow more slowly within the psyche.  
The fast can end this weekend. While I wonder all that’s been discussed in my absence, I’m not sure how badly I want back in.   I guess time will tell.

Big Brother/Big bother?

Big Brother is a stalker.   

It’s only Tuesday, and before sunrise at that.

It’s not even been 48 hours, and yet he’s asking: “Where you been?“.

It’s a little creepy.  We’ve heard for years to watch out for “Big Brother” watching you, but I now suspect he was invited into my digital living room long ago.

At our preacher’s prompting, I’m taking a Facebook fast for a week.   He called it “Digital Detox”.

No posts.  No reads.  No app.

That’s right: I deleted the app from my phone.   Let’s call it “temptation takes a holiday”.   It can join Nostalgia over there.  Perhaps they can keep one another company while I give the remaining five days a try.

I hope I learn something new about myself in the process.    If so, I might tell you all about it later.

Or, I might not.  And, therein might lie the point…

There’s an old saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

The noted philosopher, Toby Keith, said it with a twist: The less things change, the more they never seem the same”.

My job, my car, my dog being buried in that back yard…but I digress.

It was time to immerse in the memories of hometowns gone by this past weekend.   Hometowns, homerooms, and the relationships that went along for the ride.

I was discussing it all with one of my few active ongoing relationships to come from this hometown of days gone by, and how so much seems so different.  

 As we stood at the base of a large group of pine trees pointing skyward, I noted how those trees seemed to have been as large then as they are today.   His reply?   “I think they don’t ever stop growing”.   Touché.

We returned to his home a few short hours later, and the story charicatured above captured my attention.   It was printed on a byproduct of trees that indeed have stopped growing, as has the industry this “newspaper” represents.   I don’t digress: it has to do with the more things change.

The story spoke of three great quarterbacks gone by, and how things changed abruptly before they were ready.   But, change they did, and each man has moved on in life.

Which brings me back to our reason for being back in this former home gone by: relationships.

When you’ve not seen someone in 30 odd years, it is amazing how much things change.  It’s equally amazing how much of your respective later lives can seem the same.   I spent an extra couple of hours on the trip visiting one on one with an old friend, and the similarity of life experiences was strangely familiar.

We both married our spouses two weeks apart in date.   We both had oldest daughters a couple of years later.   We both have twins, one boy, and one girl.   We both know the pain of an earthly father’s battle with cancer.

Another noted philosopher, Jon Bon Jovi, crooned these emotions just so:

Ah, is it just me or does anybody see – The new improved tomorrow isn’t what it used to be – Yesterday keeps comin’ ’round, it’s just reality – It’s the same song with a different melody …

My old friend reminded me, however, the artist from days gone by to indeed quote is John Waite (former lead singer of “The Babies”):

We always wish for money – We always wish for fame – We think we have the answers – Some things ain’t ever gonna change 

It doesn’t matter who you are – It’s all the same (change) – What’s in your heart will never change

It’s only change

It doesn’t matter who you are – It’s all the same.

Just like those majestic pine trees, we’ve kept growing, and the more things have changed, the more they indeed seem the same.

Epiphany: XYZ

Epiphany:

– a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.

– a moment of sudden revelation or insight.

Have you ever had an “epiphany”? I remember the first time as an adult when I heard that word and it’s definition.   
So many small past experiences were now cast in a whole new light. They were not just odd encounters. They weren’t just uncomfortable transitions, they were no longer just embarrassing moments. They were epiphanies. I could see things in a whole different light.
I had one of those moments just this past week. I’m currently teaching Sunday morning Bible class to a group of middle aged adults at our church. Just waking up one morning to acknowledge that you are middle aged can be an epiphany of sorts, but I digress.
So, we are studying the gospel of Mark this quarter, and I had just finished the lesson for the day and dismissed the class when I had an epiphany. I looked down to realize that the fly on my pants had been unzipped the whole morning, and I’d been walking to and fro between the podium and the white board in front of a group of fifty men and women for a solid thirty five minutes.
It was a moment of sudden revelation or insight, indeed. And no one said a word about it. More on that in a moment.
How many times has that happened to you in life?
You think you know everything there is to know about a situation, a condition, a person, or a cause, and then something new comes into your frame of vision. Perhaps it changes everything you thought you knew about a subject. Perhaps it causes you to question what you believe. Or, perhaps it causes you to see something that was there all along, hiding in your blind spot.
We all have blind spots.  
Just like the ones you experience while driving, all are different, and all are influenced by our surroundings, our speed, and our attitude.
The apostle Peter had blind spots, and they led to epiphanies. We are studying about one of those this week in Mark chapter 8, where Jesus asks who the disciples say that he is, and Peter says “you are the Messiah”.
I would suggest, however, knowing Jesus’ true identity was not Peter’s epiphany. It was learning what “Messiah” truly meant, and what would be asked of Peter for the rest of his life. It was Jesus subsequently saying “get behind me, Satan”, to Peter, thus revealing a blind spot that he would have to keep checking for the remainder of his ministry for Jesus.
There’s a good aspect to blind spots when those we love and trust help us see into them. Paul did that with Peter, but it probably wasn’t easy. If only someone in my class last week could have done that before I stood before the crowd.
Which brings me back to epiphany. Sometimes others can’t, or won’t, be able to tell you how things truly are. That’s why you keep your eyes open, and your mind attuned to understanding that all may not be as you once thought it was.
That’s when you zip up, and move on to the next opportunity for epiphany.

“Ryan? James Francis Ryan, of Iowa?”

Popular film and literature is filled with redemption stories.

Some are feel good stories; others, not so much.

Some are true.  Others?  Let’s just say they involve a healthy degree of fantasy.

Regardless, or irregardless (I digress), the theme of one redeeming another at great cost always rings true.   That, and the hero always knows who he is out to save.

“Bootstrap?”

“You know my name?”

“I know your son.  He’s coming to save you…”

This exchange of dialogue from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series strikes me as poignant.   A man is lost.  He is held captive.  His identity is slowly fading away.  And yet, someone who cares pays the very high price to ensure his salvation.

The quotation at the start of this post today is from Saving Private Ryan, a Hollywood depiction of a true to life story in which a small group of men are asked to set out to rescue another, with great personal investment and risk on the line.  

They know his name, but little else.

Such is asked of us, in real life, today.

In a series of less than random occurrences, from before sunup till long past sundown, my day yesterday was filled with messages of discipleship, friendship, redemption, and going outside your comfort zone for the good of one other than yourself.

I hope I got the message.   My appetite had already been whet, so to speak, for a number of days.

So, what to do now?

Set out on foot.   Brandish the right weapons.

Board a ship.  Brace a storm.

Call out to another.

Their response? “You know my name?”

My response: “I know His Son: He came to save you”.

Memes, themes, and schemes


Welcome to 2016, where almost everyone has something loud to say.   Or, is it only something, but to say it loudly?   Parsed words, minced words, and hashtags seem the order of the day.

Truth be told, the shouting is likely only getting started in some camps.   This is an election year, and those who find political action committee television commercials repulsive need only look to “The Twitter” for a new measure of repulsive vitriol.

There have been disagreements among us dating back to the first fruits moments of life on this earth, whether between man and wife or quarreling brothers, where “Mano a Mano” took on a different kind of meaning.

But, to quote some of the lesser minds of our meme obsessed society, why can’t we all just learn to get along?


Don’t get me wrong: some people have good things to say online.   In fact, I know a dog who even has her own Instagram account, and she is a hashtag producing beast, no pun intended.   They say dogs are people too, but I digress.

In closing these thoughts today, I won’t produce any comparisons of people to candy, or politicians to baskets of other things, I will simply call on us all to think before we meme, or type, or speak.   We should do so before we listen, read, or judge, as well.   I stand convicted and will attempt to serve out my paroled sentence as one seeking to live a reformed existence.

I have a confession to make: I almost wore the same shirt to work today that I wore on Monday.

This near commitment of offense is understandable.  The shirt is a favorite, and it seemed hardly worn due to a healthy combination of starch and a gentle  environment experienced on Monday.  

More so, in my mind’s eye, Monday was an eternity ago.   Such is life.

I consider myself a climber.  If you look on my social media sites, in my closet, and in my garage, you will find supporting evidence to my climbing prowess in the form of pictures, stories, clothing, and gear.

Truth be told, I am a climbing novice.  I’ve only done this a couple of times a year dating back to 2012.  And yet, it feels as if I’ve done it forever.   

I’ve been up six different mountains.  I’ve been in sunshine, and I’ve endured my share of storms.  I’ve been to the summit, and I’ve been turned away before I reached the top.  I’ve had trips I treasure, and I’ve had trips cancel at the last moment.

Such is life.

I climbed, and summited, my first peak in 2012.   It was exhilarating.  It was addicting.  It was hard.

When I returned from said mountain, I found out my dad was ill.   I only climbed twice more before he died almost two years later.   I’ve only climbed three times since.

In my mind’s eye, that first climb was an eternity ago, and yet, the years since represent only a small percentage of my years.  Such is the vapor of this life.


I would suggest the compression I exert in my backpack, trying to squeeze in more things that carry less weight,  is much like the compression of moments we all experience in life.   

I try to squeeze in more.   The moments passed feel like days.   I consider myself experienced in the craft of life.  I’ve been in sunshine, and I’ve endured my share of storms. I’ve been to the summit, and I’ve been turned away before I reached the top. I’ve had memories I treasure, and I’ve had objectives cancel at the last moment.

Truth be told, I am still a novice in this climb of life.   And, I am eternally grateful that the LORD is on the trail with me all the way.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”‭‭Psalm‬ ‭121:1-8‬