Illinois Countryside

I recall once a friend saying to me, "never forget where you came from". And I wonder, where is that for you? The fascinating part is that none of us, to my knowledge, gets to pick where we're from. In fact, we all start as part of someone else's home. Some couple united to give birth to us and we were suddenly a part of another person's home address.

Then, something rather amazing happens. We start to embrace or look for our own home. I truly believe that so much of our own journey in this life is trying to find that place or that person that makes us feel at home.

Because I have received mail in Arizona, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, England, and Hong Kong, I now feel adaptable and pretty flexible. I also feel like my home is rather confusing--at least in an emotional sense. For example, I know London, England, as a city better than I do Minneapolis, even though I grew up a six hour drive from Minnesota. Why? Because for a while, I actually lived in England. I may visit other cities, but truly seeking to make a life elsewhere means something.

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Gotham City

As long as I can remember, I have been interested in the world of Batman. Since I was pre-kindergarten, I used a towel  for a cape and donned a mask and tried to save the city against the likes of the Joker, the Penguin, or the Riddler. The truth remains: I still am a fan of the Dark Knight.

In fact, let me point out a few similarities.

We have the same initials: BW.

We both can point to emotional distress and loss as a catalyst for certain decisions and actions.

We both are more nocturnal than the average person and both have a rather tight inner circle. Oh, and there’s more, but you are already rolling your eyes a bit, so I’ll stop here for now.

Dubai: Reflections on Modern Change

On the way to Africa a few years back, I stopped in Dubai. It's like Phoenix, with way more money. The airport is impressive and the clash between what's modern and what's tradition and what's western and what's eastern is both dazzling and dizzying.

If you've seen the MIssion Impossible: Ghost Protocol film, you'll note that Dubai is prominent as the heroes navigate tall buildings and sandstorms. Dubai encapsulates modernity's rise in a centuries old desert. Os Guinness notes in his book The Last Christian on Earth that "Christians have always shown a curious inability to consider things from a long-term perspective." The latest isn't always the greatest.

How, then, do we hold on to ancient wisdom in an era of restlessness? What happens to long-term or longview leadership in an age of start-ups?

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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.

The Dismantling of Culture

I may be the perfect candidate to muse on the dismantling of culture primarily because I am so culturally compromised.

Ethnically I am 100% German with roots so close to the old country that my mother spoke German as her first language.

But as she came to age during the dawning of World War 2 she abandoned all vestiges of Teutonic culture she was raised with, including ever speaking her native tongue again, enlisted in the military and ended up in San Diego for the rest of her life.

On my father’s side I had a great uncle who fought with the American doughboys in the trenches of the First World War and was gassed. (I met him only once but still remember his odd warbled voice that came from ruined vocal chords due to mustard gas.) In addition I had another great uncle who fought on the German side and, from what I have been told, was shot off the deck of a primitive tank.

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Do you have Cultural Intelligence?

Let me play my cards up front with you, there are a host of 'intelligence' quotients today. I have read books in the past year that deal with our relational intelligence, our right brain, left brain, and our central intelligence (agency that is), but I do believe that one of the more pressing concerns in our globalizing world is whether or not we are culturally intelligent. For some people, being culturally intelligent will be based more on information than experience. Others of you will have traveled widely and therefore, you will have your own perspective. All of us need to understand that neither our culture nor our view of culture is necessarily at the center of anything (other than our own minds).
 
Author and Scholar David Livermore introduces his book on the subject in this short clip.
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Elf and Cross-Cultural Issues

This Christmas season, you will watch the film “Elf” at least 37 times. Or, perhaps the opportunity to watch it will present itself as many times a day. As I write this, it’s playing in the background of my home. And why not? It’s charming, humorous, and a perfect showcase for Will Farrell’s comedy. Great stuff indeed. However, did you know that “Elf” is among the most brilliant depictions of cross-cultural issues available?

No really…and stop laughing at me.

The tension of cross-cultural interaction is this. Two people, from different cultural customs (be they familial, ethnic, or religious customs) live, work, and interact alongside one another. Their cultural norms appear bizarre, or uncomfortable to the other person.  Inevitably, people clash. When things appear “abnormal,” a common reaction is fear, stereotyping, joking, or otherwise harmful behavior. As much as Christianity is about inclusion thanks to the gospel message, we often struggle deeply in this area (our vast number of denominations serving as one of many proofs).

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Talking about Girls with my Son

Recently, my son and I were driving home from my office (actually I was driving and he doesn't work with me; I forgot my phone charger) and we began a conversation about girls. No, not that kind of conversation, hopefully we're several years from THAT conversation, but on this day, my son actually started asking me about the girl he was listening to.

"Daddy, I really like this song, who is it?" 

The song was by Regina Spektor and so he asked if I knew her, to which I replied, no--she's a Russian born singer, who came to the U.S. when she was a little bit older than you. This fascinated him, so I continued. She took piano lessons for a long time and God gave her this amazing voice and now lots of people listen to her. Do you want to take piano lessons?

"No, but can I listen to another song like this one?"

Immediately, I am both excited that my son digs my cd collection, but a bit frazzled as I am playing a compilation and it's the only Regina Spektor song I have on this cd. I don't even pause to be dismayed at his absolute disinterest in music lessons, which upon further reflection stings a bit. So, I click the track over to Ingrid Michaelson. What do you think of this?

"Daddy, this lady can really sing too. I didn't know you liked all these girls.Does mommy know you like these girls?"

Yes, mommy knows, but mommy doesn't care. Mommy only listens to modern worship music and is a walking version of the Hallmark Channel. I have played mommy all these girls and they never seem to register. Finally, someone in our family gets it. Ingrid Michaelson and Regina Spektor have these haunting voices and outside of trying to make a construction site in Manhattan sound more peaceful, they can do little wrong in terms of getting a lyric stuck in your head. Does mommy know about these girls? Ha! You are talking about these girls, right buddy? You are referring to the women in the cd player, right? I am now insecure, so I ask what he means.

"Yes. They sound pretty and mommy might like them," he says in a way that comforts me and excites me again. But, mommy doesn't like them. And I tell my son, that mommy doesn't like them. He is silent. So, I click over to the Smiths on the cd. He says nothing during the whole song. This happens a lot when our whole family is in the car and I play the Smiths. I am still not sure why this happens.

But when Sarah McLachlan comes on, he once again reiterates his support.

"Mommy should listen to this woman too; I like this song."

But, mommy doesn't like this one either. She likes Darlene what's her face and Hillsong and K-Love radio and a host of others I don't really listen to. And in my mind, I am wondering why there is such a thing as listener supported K-Love when I can hardly find the Smiths or R.E.M. or the Editors or Franz Ferdinand on the radio anywhere on planet earth. Satellite radio can't even pick up what I listen to. So, I think Sarah McLachlan and Ingrid Michaelson is pretty mainstream and again, those haunting voices. Even my son hears the beauty in those haunting voices, how can my own wife miss it! And it's at this point in my mind that I will refrain from going any further, because to explain fully why mommy listens to K-Love and why daddy is belting out "all these buildings and mountains...." by the Republic Tigers, will be approaching the fringe of THAT conversation and he's too young for that now. Besides, this is our bonding moment and for this one ride home, we're both smiling while Beth Orton finishes her chorus. Maybe there is such a thing as world peace.

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Why "Biblical" tends to be UnBiblical

Not too long ago a blogger was criticizing contemporary evangelicalism's obsession with the term "biblical." This blogger suggested, if I remember correctly, that seminaries should come up with a degree in Biblical Biblicalness." There is, of course, something to be lauded in this emphasis. But I would suggest the opposite is actually taking place. Terms like "biblical" often lose their meaning rather quickly. Instead, they become storehouses for other kinds of things. When I hear people use the word "biblical" today, more often than not it is a placeholder for: "what I find comfortable in light of my background."

It is usually easy to point this out, in light of the fact that these people's claim to "be biblical in all things" is, itself, extra-biblical. The call to be biblical itself is based on theologizing. That is not to say that the inclination is somehow unbiblical, but that the content of what it means to be biblical is based on a theological development (the Bible never states, for instance, sola scriptura - Scripture alone). I say this because I find that the term biblical is usually used in an unbiblical manner. It is an elitist tendency to write off other people who stand under God's word and to, instead, apply God's sovereignty to themselves. Rather than standing under the judgment of Christ, they stand at his side, pointing out people they think deserve his wrath. They often mimic, in other terms, the Pharisees. 

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Losing One's Life in the Era of Lebron

I am a huge basketball fan, and like many people, I was wildly disappointed about how Lebron James left Cleveland over the Summer. For a while after "the event," there seemed to be an unanimous concensus that his behavior was nothing short of deplorable, and then Lebron played the race card. His argument was that if you look at demographics, the majority of people (we can assume people outside of Cleveland) who thought his actions were wrong were white. Rather than race, I think, it is better to understand this as a clash of cultures.

There is a culture whose motto is: You have to do what is best for yourself. This motto is frequently repeated by sports commentators: Well, he did what was best for him and his family, and you can't ask for more than that. Now, in a broad sense, this seems reasonable. But it is only reasonable when we are talking about putting food on the table, and not, as in the case of Lebron, when it comes to self-fulfillment. But there is a culture gaining steam in America and beyond where "the best for yourself" is simply the ability to self-fulfill (or, to follow Nietzsche, the will to power). "Can" has suddenly come to imply "ought." 

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