Monthly Archives: January 2015
The person you speak to the most is the same person you listen to the most: yourself. It’s a strange phenomenon. In the course of an average day we agree, disagree, argue, correct and (mostly) approve self!
We see examples of this throughout the Bible. Sometimes we tell ourselves we are joyful “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord'” (Luke1:46). Sometimes we are sad, “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.'” (Mark 14:34). And sometimes it’s just coming to what seems a reasonable conclusion, “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19).
Most of the time conversation is good enough if it’s close enough. One can get by with “Cold out.” No need for “In other words, 9° F, -12.7778 C.” But this is only for most of the time. When you talk to your doctor, lawyer, or accountant they want to hear the weather in degrees.
When describing our outlook on life or our frame of mind it might be helpful to be precise. Words like “blue,” “depressed,” “despondent” are common enough but perhaps have become too common. They have a way of becoming transparent and meaning nothing more than what we want them to mean.
Erik Raymond is a pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He also blogs on “the gospel and how it intersects with my life.” Back in 2013 he asked and answered the question “Is it OK to drop OMG’s (Oh, my God!)?” His answer, in light of Exodus 20:7, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,” is “No (with some qualification).” He writes,
“Some may say, ‘This (dishonoring God) is not my intent. I’m not thinking like this.’ I can understand this. But this is precisely the problem. God does want you to think about this. If you are carelessly and thoughtlessly using God’s name then his significance is not gripping your mind and heart.”1
It’s a tough time to do church. Granted, it’s not as bad as it’s been, it’s not outlawed and we’re not being persecuted as in other parts of the world, but something is happening that is not great news for the local church.
In their new book, Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,1 authors George Barna and David Kinnaman point out that the number of churchless adults in the United States has grown by nearly one-third in the past decade (and the numbers were already pretty high back then).
There was a time when people said the two things they don’t talk about are politics and religion. The situation today makes one long for those good old days. In recent years politics and religion have become part of everyday conversation. The problem is that not a lot of thought goes into the conversations, just words.
While I am no authority on politics and don’t really know that much about religion, I have tried to understand both. This is no small task. Both politics and religion are complicated. It takes some effort to get beyond soundbites and clichés to find out what someone really believes. What they really think.
The balance between being dependent upon someone and being independent is tricky. Consider the child learning to walk. He wants you to let go and you want to let go so he can learn to walk. At the same time when he needs you you want to be there to give him a hand.
And on it goes: learning to dress, eating with utensils, riding a bike, catching a ball, driving a car. He wants you to let go, and you want to let go. When he needs you you want to be there.
It’s a nice feeling to have “one on hand.” Flashlight battery, lightbulb, can of gas, gallon of ice cream. Being able to take out the last item in the cupboard and see another full container right behind it is satisfying. I’m set for a while.
Too bad it didn’t work that way in other areas of life. How comforting it would be when you get cross with someone to say, “Look, I have some patience here I did not use yesterday. You take it.” And they say, “Sweet! But you know, I’m good right now. I’ll put it aside. I may need to use it myself tomorrow.”
“Have you seen the news about ___________________? Isn’t it horrible?”
It’s getting so we can ask these two questions every morning. It’s just a matter of filling in the blank with the name of the terrorists, the country, or the number of dead. Tragedy all around.
Some people say the human condition is growing worse. Others make unhelpful comparisons that miss the point, “I know twelve were killed in that incident, and it is tragic, but do you know how many are killed on our highways every minute?” And still others say things have always been bad only now we can get bad news from all over the world with the touch of a button.
Somewhere the late Dr. Joyce Brothers observed, “Being taken for granted can be a compliment. It means that you’ve become a comfortable, trusted element in another person’s life.” I’m so glad she said it.
I confess I take a lot of people for granted. To thank everyone everyday for everything seems silly. There has to come a point in every relationship where you are unique, just like everyone else.
It’s ironic that in spite of how in touch with our “feelings” we profess to be over earlier generations we still struggle with public expressions of grief. Uncomfortable with the way humanity has dealt with death for millennia—by mourning and grieving—now we are told we need to “celebrate” their life. Who knew?
This is all well and good except for the person who wants (needs?) to grieve. This poor person is, paradoxically, awkwardly out of place at the very service for one they loved and lost. When I sit down with a family to prepare a funeral I occasionally have to respond to the comment “I would like to say something but am afraid I might lose it.” But isn’t this the place to lose it?