I wrote a book

Thanks to many who read this blog and to those who have curated this community, I've been encouraged to go a bit further with some ideas. I even give a shout out to Conversant Life in the Acknowlegments.

This brief post, though, is simply to say that i wrote a book.

It's entitled "A Time to Question Everything" and it's notes, observations, and reflections that explore whether grace (and it can) hold the weight of our messy life?

Currently you can pick it up here...more details to come. 

A Time to Question Everything

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What are Your Ground Rules?

 What are your ground rules?

 

Watching the news cycle is increasingly difficult not only because we’ve elevated opinion over fact, but we’ve also allowed vitriol and anger to run unchecked. As a person of faith, sacrificial love is the mark of the Christian. So much so, that the late Francis Schaeffer made this observation:

 

“I have observed one thing among true Christians in their differences in many countries: What divides and severs true Christian groups and Christians - what leaves a bitterness that can last for 20, 30, 40 years (or for 50 or 60 years in a son's or daughter's memory) - is not the issue of doctrine or belief that caused the differences in the first place. Invariably, it is a lack of love - and the bitter things that are said by true Christians in the midst of differences.” (emphasis mine)

 

The church as a whole, in the U.S., is failing this test. Observable deeds of love have been replaced by self-justifying words and deeds of anger, hatred, and defensiveness.

 

In recent meetings with international partners, I have heard that fewer international students feel that the United States will help them grow in to the people they want to be. This is indeed sobering.

 

Yet, part of that truth is related to the unrestrained nature of the commentary. The unwillingness for many to simply stop when something awful comes to mind before sending that tweet, that social media post, or that snide remark out in the world. Let me put it another way: are you violating your own ground rules? Do you have lines drawn that show you where your descent in to hatred and bitterness starts?

 

As a human being, I have had to take the news and tweets in smaller doses. The lack of love combined with the lack of restraint is toxic and acts like a stain that is increasingly difficult to wash out.

 

So, a few weeks back, I jotted down a few ground rules for myself and to put barricades up on the side of the road, that allow me to travel within the lines on some things. There are five of them and they are as follows:

 

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Tags | forum | Grace | listening | world

The Benefits of Going Deeper

Nicholas Carr’s ground-breaking bookThe Shallows, describing the effect of the Internet on the way we learn and Interact, was first published in 2011. In the seven years since the book was released, we have come to better understand the meaning and implications of the book, because “the shallows" aptly describes the place where so many people dwell in this era of instant information and constant connection.

Despite greater access to knowledge, the virtually unlimited reservoir of information the Internet provides has dampened the quality of our interactions with one another as well as the way we take in and process content. To summarize Carr’s conclusions,

  • Breadth of knowledge is not the same as depth of knowledge;
  • An abundance of facts and data does not equal wisdom; and
  • The ability to connect with an unlimited number of people does not lead to deeper relationships.
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thoughts on change

 So, I am sitting here in the waiting area while I wait for the mechanics to finish changing the oil in my car. That’s right. I’m paying good money for scheduled change. I have thought about driving my car without an oil change for as long as driving my car without an oil change would work. I shelved that idea after experiencing a shredded tire on a highway part way between Omaha and Kansas City several years ago. Turns out that being stranded by yourself at night, on the side of the road, with a shredded (not flat) front tire, in nowhere Missouri truly does feel like a horror film.

That’s revealing, though, isn’t it? We are fine with scheduled maintenance, but not so crazy about change. Why? Because scheduled maintenance is about control and it’s on our timetable.

When Art Invades an Ugly Space


The Hilton hotel in the south 700 block of Chicago was the largest hotel in the world when it was built. Over 3000 rooms when it was first built in 1927 and the location is still pretty amazing. Views of Lake Michigan in some rooms and walking distance to many Chicago landmarks. Yet, in 1927 the economy was about to collapse. We were in between two world wars and gangsters, prohibition, and poor labor conditions also grabbed headlines at the time. And connecting dots has always been fascinating to me. 
In 1927 the first film with synchronous sound was released. The Jazz Singer, which was that film, was later redone (or remixed if you will) in 1980 with Neil Diamond and Laurence Olivier in the leading roles.In 1927, Buster Keaton was a film star as well against a backdrop of new technology and new discovery. Art, in other words, does something when it shows up.

Better Off With(out) Jesus

No one likes to be abandoned. It’s a helpless, hopeless experience. Yet that’s exactly what the disciples of Jesus were feeling on the night he was betrayed.

They were gathered in a private room, Jesus and his 12 closest followers, having dinner. First Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, something that made them more than a little uncomfortable but spoke volumes about how much he loved them. Next Jesus predicted that one of his close followers would betray him, while yet another would deny him three times.

Picture yourself in that room, surprised to hear that any of you would betray and deny Jesus. This is your friend and teacher, someone you have come to love and respect, a spiritual leader you have watched perform miracles. Why would he think any of you would turn your back on him, especially after he washed your feet?

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Revisiting Global Heroes

Author Brad Meltzer is quoted as saying this: "“We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.”

 

Yes, the films “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” will wash over the imaginations of movie watchers this year, but heroes need to last longer and grow bigger. Our politicians are not heroes as of March 2018. They are growing smaller and are creating divisive narratives that will not last. Our first responders can be heroes, but many will say they are ordinary and that it depends on the day.

 

Heroes, though, come near us when things seem out of control. Since love is not just an idea or an emotion, but a physical action, people who truly care deeply for us help to shape and frame our understanding of eros or agape or philos or good, old-fashioned love stories. I want someone to slide their hand in to mine and take on the world with me. If lovers lie with one another, make love, and each knows that the world may not understand them, but damn it, the world will need to deal with them. A connection has been made at a deeper level. Love is that thing that elevates us to act like heroes to one another and sometimes to the watching world.

To love the world is to confront it and this will sound and look heroic. To love the world with another is to confront the insecurities in each and draw ever closer. If you know me better or more intimately, will you love me  We now live in the tension of knowing far more than we have ever known about the world, with access to information across the globe coming to us at broadband speed, so we cannot plead ignorance. We can only act or not act. In the midst of Hollywood’s recent explosion of films dedicated to superheroes and comic book figures, Roger Ebert, in reviewing The Dark Knight, observes: “Something fundamental seems to be happening in the upper realms of the comic-book movie. “Spider-Man II” (2004) may have defined the high point of the traditional film based on comic-book heroes. A movie like the new “Hellboy II” allows its director free rein for his fantastical visions. But now “Iron Man” and even more so “The Dark Knight” move the genre into deeper waters. They realize, as some comic-book readers instinctively do, that these stories touch on deep fears, traumas, fantasies, and hopes.”[2] And in an age of globalization, our “deep fears, traumas, fantasies, and hopes,” are shared across cultures, generations, and mediums at breakneck speed. If it’s true that we are increasingly becoming interconnected and interdependent on a global scale, then can it be true that we are now in search of heroes that will connect and rescue us all? Our heroes, now, must be people or figures who can not only transcend their context, but cultures as well. In other words, our heroes must be part of something bigger than themselves and challenge us to values that are shared beyond our own immediate context. Our heroes can't just save us, they must act like they care.

Can we draw ever closer to one another and still love more, not less?

Can we face the darkness of the world and love more, not less?

The heroes we become or the heroes we need will remind us that sacrificial love is the life we want to stick around after our storms have passed.

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Stephen Hawking's Last Words

Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, prompting the expected outpouring of laudatory expressions and tributes. Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary the famed astronomer Galileo's death, and now he has died on the anniversary of fellow theoretical physicist Einstein's birth, causing many observers to look to the cosmos for some kind of scientific significance.

What we do know is this. In the 30 years since the publication of his landmark book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking has stood above all others when it comes to explaining the universe and its origins. So it is fascinating to realize that his "last words" on the subject were pretty profound, and they came just a few weeks ago on StarTalk, the popular science program on NatGeo hosted by astronomer and bestselling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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Billy Graham's Literary Legacy

The life and legacy of Billy Graham is front and center as national and Christian media report the passing of the world-famous evangelist at the age of 99. Over the span of his 70 plus years of ministry, Graham always characterized himself first and foremost as an evangelist. As he wrote in the preface to his 1997 memoir, Just As I Am, “an evangelist is one sent by God to announce the Gospel, the Good News.”

Billy Graham will remembered most for announcing the Good News of the Gospel through his crusades. Over a span of nearly six decades, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. It is estimated that Graham preached in person to over 200 million people.

As important as the crusades were to the life and ministry of Mr. Graham, there’s another dimension to his legacy that will continue to carry on his life’s work, and that’s his writing. Graham was a prolific author with 34 books to his credit, many of them best sellers.

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First and Second Things

In the Olympics as in life, coming in second is nice, but it’s nothing like being first. We remember gold medalists but quickly forget who took the silver. Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights speaks for all those whothink first is best when he says, “If you ain’t first you’re last.”

If there’s an exception to this “It’s Best to Be First” principle, it’s one made popular by the outstanding “I Am Second” campaign—currently featuring Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton—where the message echoes the ubiquitous HE>i slogan from a clothing brand based on the Bible verse John 3:30: “HE (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.”

Which is why it’s puzzling that so many of us who call ourselves Christians put second (that would be us) ahead of first (that would be God). To be fair, it’s not like we think we’re more important or better than God, but that doesn't stop us from taking a shot at first place. So we trumpet a passion we have for a cause and make that our first priority. You know, good causes like caring for the poor, helping the disadvantaged, giving voice to marginalized voices, those sorts of things.

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