Why the Journey is still important

Now, I must preface this with a notation. I sometimes cry at movies. This isn’t a confession, rather it’s a fact, kind of like saying that I have greenish eyes and am right handed. When the writing, acting, cinematography, story, and score all come together in the right way, at the right time, I cry. But, I can’t remember being emotionally moved at the beginning, middle, and end of a film, until recently.

Recently, I sat in a giant, stadium seat theatre and watched The Way. There was only me and one other couple at the screening on a Wednesday night, so right away you’ll note that it’s not a summer blockbuster type or Disney flick. The Way, though, struck me on several different emotional levels all at once and for that reason, it’s one of the more emotionally moving and satisfying films I have seen in a long time.

An Examined Life over Morning Coffee

I am sitting alone, in the morning with my Starbucks instant coffee (Via) brewed and properly laced with skim milk, no sugar. I am wearing a sweater and jeans, both from second hand shops (which is where most all my clothing comes from nowadays). No radio is on, no stereo, and no television. It’s quiet. The violent noise of the modern world is just not there. I can hear myself sip my drink and I can hear the chair creak when I shift to turn the page in my book.

I can’t decide if I want to read Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot or Henri Nouwen’s Can You Drink the Cup? Both books are on my ‘to read’ list. Yet, I may finish an escape novel (lately it’s Bruce DeSilva’s Rogue Island) and give my brain a bit of a rest. But, the rest doesn’t come.

Instead, I feel a sense of loss that surprises me and frankly it hurts a bit. The loss begins with the retiring of the band, REM. They have been my favorite rock band for more than two decades. I have listened to all sorts of music, but I have lived with REM. I don’t know exactly why, but their retirement hurts a bit. It reveals not simply my love for certain music, but also my own identification with what REM stands for and has artistically produced. And I am driving quite a bit lately for work splitting my time between two cities, so I decide to spend some time creating a post-REM playlist that will both accompany me on the road, but will also describe where I am at in life. An hour later, my playlist is done and ready to be unleashed on the open road. For the record, here’s the playlist, in order:

    1. Lake Michigan—Rogue Wave
    2. Losing You—Boxer Rebellion
    3. Semi -Automatic—Boxer Rebellion
    4. Cities of Night—Blaqk Audio
    5. Blinding—Florence and the Machine
    6. Hurricane Drunk---Florence and the Machine
    7. Princess of China--Coldplay
    8. Amor Fati—Washed Out
    9. Where Once I Feared to Walk—Jason Clark
    10. Run in the Night—Jars of Clay
    11. If You Run—Boxer Rebellion
    12. Broken Glass—Boxer Rebellion 
    13. Open Your Arms—The Editors

I think to myself that thirteen is a good number and strangely, I am now looking forward to sitting in the car alone. This is a bit weird because I am already alone and suddenly my thoughts are back to feeling loss. I decide to check email, partly out of habit, partly because I really want connection. I like solitude, don’t get me wrong, but I also want to share things and explore ideas, maybe pour someone else a coffee, and sit, listening not to his or her voice, but heart. So, I open up my inbox and see several updates from the Washington Post and New York Times. I sometimes forget what I have subscribed to in my inbox, so I am surprised at the headlines about Iran and the threat of nuclear war.

I also see a note about a kidnapping in Latin America, a suicide blast in the Middle East, and borderline panic about the global economy. When did the international landscape become part of my morning coffee? Who dumped all of this news in to my inbox? Then, it hits me.

I am more connected than I often think and I don’t mean the plugged in version. I am part of an international community, a global economy, and a worldwide humanity. Not to mention the fact that this is just the visible world. I am also part of an invisible, spiritual world, a supernatural world, and an emotional world. The loss I feel turns in to all sorts of things as I think about friends in Africa searching for food, friends in Asia searching for dignity, and friends in Latin America searching for their parents.

Forget email. So, I shut down and go back to my cup of coffee and my books. I refill my mug, relocate my page, but I can’t recapture solitude. A new day has already run me over and I didn’t see it coming.

Tonight, I’ll vow to be better prepared for tomorrow. I’ll go to bed on time and fight the urge to watch any of the late night monologues or news updates or that one last, quick, ‘it’ll only take a second,’ glance at email or goodreads or linked in or any of those sites. I will simply try to rest, then get up, have my morning coffee and seek to make a difference in the world, unless, of course, I get distracted.

Then, what happens? What if I do get distracted again? What if I feel this aching loss about wanting to see her or talk to him? What if I don’t sleep well and my pillow doesn’t hug me back? What if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and hurt the world before I even have my coffee?

“Relax,” I finally say to myself, “Quit over thinking things.” I agree with my inner voice of reason, but want to qualify it. So, I begin to argue with myself, finally ending it with these words: ‘we’ll deal with this tomorrow.’ Finally, I am back to silence. I can hear the chair creak again as I turn another page.

-bo 

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A Good Reminder from Emergency Sex

So much of the media centers around gloom and doom and economic woes, corruption, war, and scores of problems that plague our world. I fear that our 24/7 news outlets resemble more the voyeurism we find on the freeway, where traffic gets backed up due to people not being in a car wreck, rather lines of cars queue up to simply get a look at someone else’s misfortune.

We’re in danger of becoming a cynical culture that peddles more pessimism than hope and now with the latest and greatest technology, this fascination that pockets of humanity has with the fall of other people, can now go viral. My hope is that with all of the current protests going on, whether it’s Wall Street or Greece, whether it’s in the West or the Majority World, people don’t forget to hope, to point to something better, to say at least a few things that remind us of something beautiful.

Book Review: The King Jesus Gospel

At times, I fear the evangelical world acts like the U.S. Congress where party lines are drawn up and there’s much preaching to already-convinced choirs. And rarely do people seem to be able to cross the proverbial aisle with any credibility or at least enough to be heard on their own merit. Are you in the restless/reformed camp or the emergent one? Are you traditional or postmodern or some of both? Are you for or against denominations? If we can take a break with the labels a moment, there are some people whose works are getting a hearing (or should) across denominational lines. Tim Keller’s A Reason for God, N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian, and Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy come to mind in the past decade, as books that have been able to gain some appreciation inside and outside their ‘normal’ audiences.
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Why are we at the Center of the World?

Two weeks ago, my son and I watched the reports on CNN concerning Somalia together. Afterwards, we had dinner and my eight year old prayed for the children who don’t have food and gave thanks for his own food. This is pretty normal in our house, so that isn’t the part I remember many days later. What I remember is his question during dinner moreso than the prayer before we ate.

 

“Dad, why is all the news about America, when there are so many other people and so many other countries in the world?”

He’s got a point. Why are we at the center of the world? And if we’re not, then why do we act like we are? Now, don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t a rant that smacks of being unpatriotic or hyper critical of the U.

Saving America's Story

Republicans seem to have no cohesive narrative and this seems obvious. Democrats are losing their cohesive narrative and again, this is almost a no-brainer. To anyone who is watching the news or paying attention to the rhetoric floating over the internet and across television screens, it’s rather difficult to understand what narrative thread will actually unify our country. Let me suggest that it’s because the new narrative thread isn’t one of unity, but one of division.

We must pause, though, prior to jumping into the 21st century to consider the unifying narratives that have characterized our country and in fact, these narratives have come to form the core values of the United States. We pause to review the overarching stories, not for nostalgia’s sake, but because in a real sense, we’re in danger of losing them.

Confessions of a Worldwide Spiritual Mutt

Recently, someone asked me to outline my faith journey. In a sense, I am grateful for the question because usually it’s asked in a static manner such as ‘when did you ask Jesus in your heart?’ to which I don’t honestly remember (which disappoints those anticipating a time and date).  The idea of an outline, though, smacks of highlights and turning points and those are things I do actually remember. Yet, as I reflected on my own outline, I kind of smiled at how this was also going to be a bit difficult for some to swallow. But, I took a deep breath anyway and said something akin to the following:

Growing up outside the church, I was sort of turned on to the sacred elements prior to knowing what they meant. I loved reading the Bible, but I also devoured Greek mythology, poetry, and all kinds of stories with a point.

Forget Oprah: Some of my Favorite Things

When Oprah Winfrey was doing her talk show, she became famous for giving scores of things away. She gave away cars, trips, trinkets, and even counseling sessions with Dr. Phil. On several shows, she highlighted her favorite things and they were all something material, something that could be given away. 

Since this is a blog about ideas and how we express ideas, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things this week in no particular order. Some of them will be quotes, some references or allusions to idea-makers, but all of them will hopefully entertain, enlighten, and even brighten your day. Of course, these are my favorite things, not necessarily yours, nonetheless, welcome to a little bit of my world.

1—"In the end, coming to faith remains for all a sense of homecoming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long been vacant." Malcolm Muggeridge wrote the previous sentence and let me recommend his work. In many respects, the way he has articulated his faith journey, which took him around the world, is still something I return to often. He is imminently quotable and I just finished his autobiographical works entitled Chronicles of Wasted Time, which made me lose track of time, which is the sign of good writing.

2John Lynch on Grace—I am not sure anyone articulates the message of grace better and I believe if we understood, grasped, and experienced more of the truth of this brief message, we’d all change. This idea understood and expressed effectively will change us all. 

See the brief video here:

3The Influence of Francis Schaeffer  Did Francis Schaeffer get everything absolutely right? No. He’s human and he’d be the first to admit it. But, for me, his example and his legacy has been remarkably impactful. Perhaps, this is just one of the better anecdotes: A Life of Humility - Blog by Randy Alcorn. If you’re convinced after that anecdote to read more check out True Spirituality and/or No Little People (they are not the most famous of Schaeffer’s works, but again, these are my favorites).

4‘Oh my Heart,’ by REM—My favorite band just released their best work since Automatic for the People. I have the CD virtually memorized by now and this song captures my own memory of being in  New Orleans after Katrina, my love of music, and the ache in my own heart for people I want to see more than I get to. This video comes with a bonus intro from Michael Stipe about what happens when art suddenly clicks. See it here:

 

5Christopher Nolan films  I am a Batman fan and have been all my life. When I was very young (less than 7 years young), I went to an auto show with my uncle and sat in the Batmobile and I was hooked; so when Christopher Nolan took over the helm, it was manna from heaven (Tim Burton was great, but Joel Schumacher’s version(s) made me cringe and get angry). In addition to the Batman films, though, Nolan has also done Memento, Insomnia, and Inception. Dark Knight Rises is currently filming, they added Anne Hathaway (strike up some heavenly choir) and others to the mix. Anyone want to have a Nolan film festival? I am willing to host if you bring the snacks and drinks?

So, we’ll see how this goes. Again, these are some, not all, of my favorite things. Feel free to check them out.

-bo 

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Ideas and Elections

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”

The preceding sentence was said by the late President John F. Kennedy and in many respects it’s the theme of this blog. My desire is to explore the power of ideas as well as the expression of those ideas. Why? Well, because I believe I am a work in progress (and maybe I am not alone) and that I live in a world that is trying to make progress. Undergirding all of this progressive optimism are ideas.

Many Christians call the systematic formulation of these ideas a ‘worldview’ and that’s not a bad phrase. But, some ideas, if we’re honest, aren’t always that clear in our head and so it’s difficult to organize them neatly and label them effectively.

Some Thoughts on Taste

Chicago pizza, where you truly have the option of either an uncut sausage patty or more commonly seen, sausage pieces, covering your pie, is something I can eat most days of the week. I have fond memories of sitting in Uno’s downtown or at Gino’s East a couple streets over or at Giordano’s. In our world of health conscious, obesity fighting, fitness crazed professionals, why then do I like it?

The answer is simple: it tastes really good.  Think then how incredibly powerful our sense of taste is and how incredibly influential our appetites are. If you’ve traveled at all, you’ve tasted different things and some agreed with you, while others did not. Mind you, taste is something very important to us and I dare say, it feeds our subconscious (pun intended) in ways we haven’t thought.

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About
As a University director of study abroad in Central Texas, ideas and stories matter. These reflections are for pilgrims making progress.


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