Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How v. Why

The important questions are about “why,” not “how.”

When Tom Kroc was a young physicist, he visited Russia. On his return, he said, “The Russian physicists are much more creative than we are.”

Creative? Science isn’t supposed to be creative. It’s supposed to be accurate, mathematical, factual. Isn’t it?

In fact, it was mathematics that allowed science to advance. When physicists and others stopped using physical models of the universe and started using mathematical models, all sorts of breakthroughs happened, like the “creative” thinking of E=MC2.

Science is now past even mathematics, though. String theory and chaos theory as well as particle theory have come out of creative thinking, going beyond “how” to “why.”

Christian Fundamentalism is stuck in Enlightenment thinking in a post-Enlightenment age.

Enlightenment thinking is about factual accuracy. It is important in scientific application, like the clinical trial I was on as a cancer patient. Scientists, however, in order to advance, including in cancer care, go way beyond factual accuracy. Creativity and imagination allow all sorts of advances that simple accuracy, sticking with known facts, do not allow.

John Polkinghorne, the eminent British theoretical physicist turned Anglican priest/theologian, reminds us that the factual accuracy of the creation of the world or the virgin birth or original sin can answer the question of “how” but not of “why,” which is much more important.

The Bible does not try to answer the questions of factual accuracy. The snake in the garden is not about how original sin came to be, but why.

The “how” questions are important, but the “why” questions are more so, and they are answered only by faith, which is the province of theology.

If theology gets into a shoving match with science about “how,” it will always lose. When science gets into a shoving match with “why,” science loses.

Fundamentalists are stuck on “how.” It doesn’t mean they’ll lose at the polls or in the text book committees. It does mean they’ll lose the answer to “why.”

Why is there something instead of nothing?

Facts can answer “how.” They cannot answer “why.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Closer to Perfect

Continuing to go on to perfection re: what it means to go onto perfection…

Raydean Davis says: I believe we get into trouble with this “perfect” stuff when we forget that the word has roots in two languages. One is Latin, which means “without flaw.” The other is Greek, which means to do the job something was designed to do. I had a perfect junker truck—perfect in the fact that it could haul things, which it was designed to do. Now it was not without flaw—Latin. And of course the New Testament was written in Greek. Which gives insight into this “going on to perfection.” {I always knew Raydean is a linguist, but I thought his two languages were Little Egyptian and Pingpong.}

Clayton Daughenbaugh and Bob Parsons both note that “perfect” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” It can mean “total,” as in “perfect mess” or “perfect excrement exit.”

Clayton, close to perfect in putting faith into practice, says that it may be that he never became clergy because “…I never dreamed any of us could possibly become perfect—well, perfect mess maybe—much as we might strive.”

Bob Parsons, close to perfect in integrity, which is no small feat when you live in TX and drive a school bus, says: I always rationalized the word “perfection” in the since of “being perfected” or “finished.” … “I do expect to be a finished “Bob Parsons” in this life time…not Jesus Christ, God, or even John McFarland… I just expect to be “me.” … I think I am pretty good at being a perfect me. Some people look at me and say, “Look at that arrogant excrement exit”… even they can identify me for who I am… a perfect excrement exit. One of God’s finest examples.

{The author has “perfected” some of Raydean’s punctuations and some of Parsons’ words.}

Bob Butts says that when he was ordained in the North MS Conference of The Methodist Church, several of the ordinands balked at the “perfection” question. The bishop called them together and asked: “If you aren’t moving on toward perfection, what are you moving on to?”

Bob says, “We agreed. Moving on is one thing…arriving at perfection is another.”

Bob also notes that in those days [50 years ago, give or take a few] there were no questions about “faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness.” There weren’t any questions about drugs or booze, either. I think it was taken for granted that clergy were supposed to be physically “pure,” in all circumstances, including sex and booze. I mean, if you vowed to go on to perfection in this life, didn’t that cover everything? Well, not totally. There was a question about abstaining from tobacco, which we noted, when I was a student at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, the southern conferences did not ask, even though it was in The Discipline. [Duke Divinity, after all, was built on tobacco money.]

Which brings us to the issue of sexual perfection v. tobacco perfection. Seymour Halford and I went together to a N. IL Conf. symposium a few years ago that featured Scott Jones, the newly elected bishop in KS, and Ted Campbell, the Pres. of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary.

Campbell, an historian, told of the preacher/denominational executive, Four-Square Church, I believe, who often went from Los Angeles to Chile to oversee mission work there. The folks back at the home church began to suspect he had a mistress there. [Even though he told them he was walking the Appalachian Trail… oh, wait, that’s another story…] They sent someone to spy on him. That person noted that he went into a hotel with a woman. When they both came out not long after, they were rumpled and disheveled, and he was smoking a cigarette.

That told the home church folks all they needed to know. They threw him out. No, not for the affair. For smoking the cigarette. They said: “All men are subject to the temptations of the flesh. We can forgive you for succumbing. But smoking the cigarette is an individual CHOICE, not a universal urge.”

Is that perfection, or what? If you just say “No” to tobacco…

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Imperfect Technology

Several people have emailed to say that they have tried to “comment” but were unable to. I would like to be able to help with that, but I have no idea how that works. Some folks are able to become “Followers,” but Blogger rejects others who try to “Follow.” Some can “comment,” but Blogger won’t accept the comments of others. There are lots of bells and whistles at the bottom of each blog, even a chance to email it to someone else if you wish, but I don’t know if that works, either.

However, you can read it even if you can’t Follow or Comment, and you are always welcome to email me with a response or idea, and I’ll be glad to pass it along. []

Don Survant is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We used to cat around in high school in his dad’s… hmm, 1932? Dodge? I know the car was a lot older than we were, anyway. He asked if he could use stuff from the blog in the newsletter he puts out for his church. The answer is “Yes,” not only to Don, but to anyone else who wishes to share from this somewhat suspect source, from either Christ in Winter or Periwinkle Chronicles, but it’s hard to imagine how anything that happens in Periwinkle County would fit into a church newsletter, despite the frequent appearance of Pastor Patty.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the several emailed comments on “Close to Perfection.” Oh, wait a minute. Tomorrow I’m driving down to Milwaukee to see the Reds beat the Brewers. [Sorry, Walt.] I’ll post more on perfection on Thursday, when I shall have ingested that most perfect of all foods, a ballpark frank. That should get me very close to perfection, or perhaps the ER.

Shh, the twin fawns just showed up behind our back deck where I’m sitting. Must stop the clatter of keyboard…

Monday, July 26, 2010

Close to Perfection

All Methodist ministers, at ordination, are asked the same questions John Wesley started asking prospects for the ministry in the 18th century. One of those is: “Do you expect to be made perfect in this life?” Like every other ordinand since Wesley, I said “Yes,” because the only acceptable answer is “Yes,” even though neither the questioners nor the questioned really know what that means.

There is one thing I do know, though: Since I am getting close to the end of this life, and I vowed to become perfect “in this life,” I must be getting close to perfect.

So I’m looking at myself with a careful eye, figuring out what it is about my old age that is making me perfect. I think I’ve got it…

Jesus said, recorded in Mt. 5:48, “Be perfect, even as your heavenly father is perfect.” Obviously, there is not some standard of perfection outside of God, to which God must adhere, some yardstick of morality or harmony or love. God IS the yardstick. God is perfect by always being God.

So we are perfect by always being human. When we try to be God, as in the Garden of Eden, or when we sink below the standard of humans and act like animals or germs or parasites, that is sin, brokenness, diverging from the wholeness of perfection that comes by being true to our identity as humans.

I’m acting more human these days. It may be that I just don’t have enough energy to try to play God or be a parasite anymore. If so, that’s a gift of old age, the gift that allows us to be only human, to go on to perfection in this life.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Helen says you know you’re old when your sleep wrinkles stay all day.

When I was young, I used to practice laughing, so that my mouth wrinkles would turn up instead of down.

Lincoln once said that he would like to appoint a certain man to a cabinet position but that he didn’t like his looks. Someone remonstrated with him: “A man isn’t responsible for his looks.” [Probably thinking of Lincoln’s own looks.] Lincoln replied, “After forty, he is.”

A little child once asked Kathy Roberts if she were a grandma. "You're wrinkled enough to be one," he explained.

You know you’re old because of the wrinkles in your soul, the ones that stay all day, the ones you started working on long before you were forty.

The trick is to look into the mirror at any time of day and say, “Yep, that’s me.” [Some may wish to say, “Yes, that is I.”] If you can’t do that, don’t get wrinkle cream. Start laughing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Women in Church

Nina Morwell quoted Jurgen Moltmann on her FB page today: If women really did keep their mouths shut in church, we would never have known about the resurrection."

Preparing to Die

Re: preparation, or lack of same, Lutheran Pastor Rebecca Ninke, [Not Retard], wonders about preparing for our own deaths.

[For the Pastor, [Retard], reference, see for T, 12-15-09.]

I thought about that quite a bit when my first oncologist suggested I would be dead in a year or two. Some of that thinking is in section 5, “When the Night Frights Come,” of NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them.

At that time, one of the things I did was say “goodbye,” to a few people, but more often to places. It gave me a chance to think through all the events and people of that place and to say goodbye to them within myself, to gain integrity instead of despair for my life there by accepting what had been. Sometimes that included asking forgiveness for faults and brokenness that occurred there.

I did not say goodbye to people with whom I was in daily contact, family and friends, because I did not want to suggest, either to them or to myself, that our time together was over. I thought there would be time for that when the final days did come. In the meantime, I thought it best just to enjoy them and to tell them that I love them.

One of the advantages of a disease like cancer is that you usually have that “saying goodbye” time. In many ways, a quick death, especially if it’s painless, like a massive heart attack, is easier, but you miss the chance to say goodbyes.

One of the things we are usually told if our death is imminent is to “get our affairs in order.” Emotionally, that often entails trying to make broken relationships whole.

I am in favor of trying to repair broken relationships. Jesus reminded us that if our brother has something against us, we should leave our gift at the altar and go and make it right with the brother before continuing our worship. I think that applies to other altars than the one in the church building.

But one needs to be careful. I have seen death-bed confessions to spouses and children and parents and friends that made things worse. Sometimes a dying person’s greatest gift is to take to the grave, alone, knowledge of hurtful events or thoughts. Honesty is not always the best policy, especially at a time when emotions are so raw anyway, and when there is no time to follow up.

One weekend I was on call as the volunteer hospital chaplain. An old woman from a church other than mine was dying. I went to call on her. Her whole family was in the room. She indicated to me that she wanted to talk to me alone. I asked the family to leave. They all did, except for one son, who got right up next to the bed and refused to go. I asked him several times to leave us alone, that his mother wanted to prepare to die. He simply refused. She finally gave up and told me to give up on it, too. She died without whatever confession she felt it was okay to give to a stranger. I admired her for refusing to burden her family with it, even though that one jerk son refused to let her unburden herself.

Some folks tell us to live each day as though it is our last. If I did that, I’d spend all my time telling my friends and family that I love them. After a while they’d get terribly bored with that, and so would I. They’d say, “Don’t you have grass to mow, or something?”

I think I subscribe to the “get prepared to die by living each day to the fullest” theory. Then, regardless of how or when death comes, you’re prepared. You’ve also had a good time, which, after all, is the point of life. [John 10:10.]

Friday, July 23, 2010

On Not Being Prepared

John Shaffer retired as late as possible, at the mandatory retirement age for UM pastors. In the words of a famous Alaskan, the state in which John spent most of his ministry, he “refudiated” retirement. He has found that it’s not so bad. He does, however, still write about a dozen sermons a year, even though he preaches only twice or thrice per year. It’s good to be prepared.

[I suspect John does it more just because he gets ideas and needs to express them. That’s a major problem for the years of winter, getting ideas and having no outlet for them. If you write them down, at least you’ve gotten them out there, even if no one else sees them.]

Preparation isn’t always a good thing, though. It’s becoming increasingly clear that if you have something, you want to use it, and sometimes even manufacture a reason to use it, whether it’s a hammer or a gun or a bomb or a joke or a ginned-up video clip, whether or not it is appropriate.

Fifty years ago, birth control was a hot topic in the same way that abortion or gay marriage is now. Gene Simon wrote a sermon on birth control. He didn’t get to use it, though. He was an associate pastor in a large church, and especially back then, young associates got to preach only once or twice a year. But the senior pastor got sick at Christmas, and Gene was called upon to preach the Christmas Eve service. Naturally, he pulled out his birth control sermon. After all, it was ready, and he was just itching to use it. But Christmas Eve is not the best time to preach on birth control!

I don’t prepare anymore, sermons or anything else. It’s my father’s fault. When Mother died, he was 89 and moved to a senior citizens’ apartment building. When it was learned that he was single, he became very popular. Soon he was “keeping company,” all the time, with Betty, who lived next door. One day, he called and said, “When you come to visit, get here early. I’ve got something to discuss with you before Betty comes over today.” We thought, “Oh, no, he’s going to marry Betty.” So we got on the phone and spent all day working out what happens when two old people on Social Security, etc. get married. When we got there, he said, “When your brother and I sell that house we own together, I want to pay you that money your little sister owes you.” We were astounded. “You want to pay what she owes us?“ “Yes, she’ll never be able to, so I’ll do it.” “You don’t want to marry Betty?” “Hell, no. Why would I want to marry Betty? What part of ‘I want to give you money’ don’t you understand?” A whole day wasted getting prepared for something that wasn’t going to happen.

So Helen made plans to put a porch on the back of the house, and I started looking at red pickup trucks. Naturally the house deal fell through, and we didn’t get the money, so another whole bunch of time wasted getting prepared for something that wouldn’t happen. [Somehow the porch got built anyway, but that’s a different story. I’m still waiting for the red pickup.]

I have found out that the things I prepare for don’t happen. It’s the stuff for which I’m not prepared, that’s what happens. I wasn’t prepared when the doctor told me I had cancer and only one to two years to live. I wasn’t prepared when I learned that our daughter or my wife or my grandson had cancer. I wasn’t prepared when my older sister’s youngest sons were killed together in an auto crash. I wasn’t prepared when our para-son’s little boy, in some ways our first grandchild, was murdered when he was ten. The list goes on…

I think of Jesus and his disciples in the boat, crossing the lake, when that sudden storm came up and caught them unprepared. UP here on Lake Superior, we call those “white squalls.” They are strong enough to capsize an ore boat. On Galilee, the storm probably wasn’t that strong, but the boat was smaller, and despite the best bailing efforts of the disciples, it was about to be swamped. They looked to Jesus. He was asleep! Of course. He wasn’t worried. If the boat went down, he could walk on the water. But they couldn’t. They woke him up. “Don’t you care if we perish?” He raised his hand and told the wind to blow off and told the waves to calm down. He said to the disciples, “What part of ‘have faith’ don’t you understand?”

You can’t really be prepared for the white squalls of life, but you can be sure you have the right guy in the boat with you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Retirement Speeches

In my retirement speech, I quoted Jesus, in John 10:10, “I’m here. Let’s party.” [The New Reversed Standard Vision] That summed up my career, at least for me.

[23 young people entered the ministry because, they said, I made it look like fun. They all hate me.]

That sort of career summing up is important. I was given only 2 minutes for my speech before the annual conference of the Central Illinois Conference, in which I had pastored for 40 years, but it was important to have those minutes.

[My computer doesn’t understand pastoring at all, and consistently changes pastoring to pasturing. I try to change them, but if one slips through…]

Wes Wilkey and other members of that conference [It’s now part of the IL Great Rivers Conf] have been discussing retirement speeches on FB. In recent years, apparently to save time for arguments on the conference floor about gay marriage and parsonage standards, retirement speeches have been shunted off to the retirees’ luncheon or even just recorded and put on line.

Summing up is part of the work of integrity v. despair that is required of the years of winter. Everyone needs to be able to give a retirement speech, live, to the whole hoi polloi.

Of course, one of the chief reasons for retirement speeches is so we can make fun of our colleagues. One story I like is of the retirement speech at conference in which the minister said, “Those of you who have heard me preach over the years know that I had only two themes.” One of the other ministers turned to the friend beside him and said, “You mean there was a second one?”

When I was a grad student at U of IA, David Belgum told of the retirement of the president of the Lutheran seminary where he taught before coming to Iowa City. Ministry was his second career. He had started in his family’s lumber business. But he went to seminary, then graduate school, went on the seminary faculty, eventually became president. At his retirement banquet, when it came his turn to give his retirement speech, he said, “If I had known then what I know now, I would have stayed in the lumber business,” and he walked out. Talk about despair!

Contrast that with another seminary president, John Bennett of Union. He did not get to give a speech. At the time of his banquet, he was in jail. Earlier that day he had been arrested outside the UN, protesting the treatment of Hatian refugees. What a great retirement speech!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dying With Warm Feet

It is said that as we age we become more like ourselves. That is either a good thing or a bad thing, according to who we have been before.

But I like the story of the church historian who was dying, his family gathered around his bed. They were not sure if he were still alive. Someone said, “Feel his feet. No one ever died with warm feet.” The historian whispered, “John Hus did.”

True to himself and his calling, all the way to the end.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Facing the Storm

Yesterday's post was incredibly boring. I should have just stopped with the William James quote. I had nothing to add to it, but I did not know that I had nothing to add to it until I read again what I had written. More is not necessarily more.

With that in mind, today I'll share this one quick story:

John Buchan, the Scottish author, was hiking in the highlands. A big snow storm was in the offing. He watched sheep come up from a gorge, up onto the hillsides, and face into the increasingly bitter wind. He remarked to the shepherd what incredibly silly animals sheep were, to leave the shelter of the gorge. On the contrary, the shepherd said. If they stayed down in the gorge, the snow would get too high for them and they would founder and die there. Their only safety was up on the hillside, facing into the wind.

I have often found that to be true of life, but I was not always as smart as a silly sheep.

[The original meaning of "silly" was "blessed."]

Monday, July 19, 2010

Will & Imagination

Williams James said that “Where the will and the imagination are in conflict, the imagination will always win.”

It is clear, if you look at our political and religious leaders, that humans are not rational creatures, but we are always rationalizing creatures. [It’s also clear if we look at ourselves, but that’s a bit more difficult.]

Educationally, we probably should worry less about “the basics” of “the 3 Rs,” and more about emotional education. I used to tell Helen that she was the most important person at Charleston [IL] HS because she was the only one who taught family relations, child development, etc. She was the only one who taught emotional education. Knowing how to read and write and how to “do your numbers” doesn’t make you a rational or logical person. If you are not rational, some demagogue [or drug dealer or boyfriend or used car salesman] will always manipulate you into acting against your own best interests.

Most people act and vote with their emotions, not their intellect. Indeed, we disparage intellect, as something that keeps us from expressing our true feelings, which usually have to do with shouting our hates and fears at persons different from ourselves and claiming that it is either patriotic or Christian to do so.

Paul Unger used to do marriage counseling by trying to get people to think five years ahead: where do you want this marriage to be in five years? He said it never worked; men would paint a rosy picture of their marriage five years hence and walk out of his office and run to the homes of their mistresses. The imagination trumped the will.

Some would say that sex is physical, and it certainly has that component, but it’s primarily emotional. We say the brain is the most important sexual organ, but only a small part of the brain is mental, the rest is emotional. We usually talk about emotions as being heart or gut and obscure that fact that emotions are really in the brain, the emotional brain.

Many people have very good brains that they use to make bad decisions because they respond to the emotion of the moment instead of the long view of what is best.

Perhaps we need to do away with the myth that we are the rational inheritors of The Enlightenment and deal with the reality—we are emotional creatures who do what feels good at the moment, even if it will destroy us and all we hold dear tomorrow or next year.

The irony is that the surest way to destroy the self is to be self-centered.

We don’t need salvation from the devil or any other evil outside ourselves. We need salvation from ourselves and our own self-centered emotions.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Kind of People

An old preacher story has it that a man new to town went from church to church looking for a spiritual home. None seemed to fit. At one, he arrived a little late and heard the congregation intoning the words of Paul: "The good I would, I do not, and the evil I would not do, I do."

He slipped into a pew with a sigh and said, "My kind of people at last."

I don't suppose that would happen today. Hardly anyone uses a prayer of confession anymore, in either private or public worship. But whether I acknowledget it or not, those are my people.

Finally, A Hymn That Begins With X

[I do meditations by starting with any letter of the alphabet and singing a hymn, what I can remember of it, that starts with that letter, and working all the way through the alphabet that way. I have never been able to find a hymn that begins with X, though, so I decided to write one. Feel free to sing it if you have a tune…]

X marks the spot
of the greatest treasure yet,
buried ‘neath the sand of sin and pain.
X marks the spot
where the treasure was revealed,
where the tears of the sinners fell like rain.

[Verse 1]
God is Alpha and Omega,
X reveals the in-between,
the simple mark upon the page or soul.
God is the complex One in Three,
X is the Story heard,
the simple One that makes the broken whole.


[Verse 2]
God is Holy and Transcendent,
X walks with us all the way,
making holy every foot of land.
God is Creator and Provider,
X is a nail-pierced hand in mine,
the one who with me always takes his stand.


God is Sovreign of the Kingdom,
X is of a peasant born,
hallowing the body and the blood.
God is the mighty hand of judgment,
X is a shelter in the storm,
the one who pulls us from the ‘whelming flood.


Keeping the Faith

I was talking with a former graduate school professor from the university where I did work in Religion. We are both retired now. He is one of my dearest friends, not just because he flunked me on my PhD qualifing exam, thus saving me from a miserable life for which I was not suited nor to which I was called, but because of the quality of his soul and mind. We were sitting in front of a nice fire.

I said, “I have been reading Romans. About the thousandth time I have read it, I guess. You know, this time I understand that I don’t understand a thing Paul is saying.”

He smiled and said, “I’ve never told anyone this before, but I don’t understand a thing he’s saying, either.”

He did more to help me hold onto my faith with that simple statement than he did in two years of class work.

It’s the people who are so certain that they understand the Bible, even the mind of God, who are trying to take away your faith.

There was an ancient bishop who used to claim, “I know God better than he knows himself.” Not many people say it out loud that way, but there are lots of people who think that way. Those are the people who are trying to take away your faith.

When I announced that I would attend Indiana University, people warned me about the godless state university. “They’ll try to take away your faith.” Instead, D.J. Bowden in Religion and Bob Ferrell in History and Joe Sutton in Political Science made me face the questions that required me to have faith.

When I was trying to decide what theological school to attend, more folks warned me against going to Perkins or Garrett because “they’ll try to take away your faith.” I went to both. H. Grady Hardin and Albert Outler and Philip Watson and Ernest Saunders didn’t take away my faith; they made me face the questions that required me to have faith.

The people who want to shield you from the real questions are the ones who are trying to take away your faith, because they want you to live by fact, by certainty, not by faith.

If we know anything about God for certain, if we are thus, by fact, because there is no possibility of doubt, required to love God, that is not love, that is rape. Love is never based on certainty. It is based only on… Love. Forced love, even if it is forced only by certainty, the impossibility of doubt, is rape.
There can be no faith without doubt. Anyone who tries to take away the possibility of doubt is trying to take away your faith.

Erik Erikson says there are eight stages of life. The final one is Integrity vs Despair. In these last years, are we able to look at what our life has been and accept it, or do we despair because it was a loss and it is too late to start over?

The way we deal with Integrity vs Despair is by working back through the first seven stages, in reverse order: Generativity vs Stagnation; Intimacy vs Isolation; Identity vs Identity Diffusion; Industry vs Inferiority; Initiative vs Guilt; Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt; Trust vs Mistrust.

Ah, there’s the key… Trust. We have to get to trust, because we’re too old for anything else. We can’t trust in the facts we have about what comes after this life, because we have none, regardless of how many people tell us there is a heaven and that its streets are paved with gold and that “it’s a land where we never grow old,” or even where “the circle is not broken.”

We don’t know any of those things, nor are they objects even of faith. The faith that is trust is only in God.

Don’t let anyone take away your faith.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Old Cary Grant Fine

Back in the days of telegraphs, before one could check anything and everything on the net, a film magazine writer needed to be sure of Cary Grant's age before finishing an article. He sent a telegram to Grant's agent: How old Cary Grant? [One paid by the word, so telegrams started the Twitter/texting language of today.]

Grant himself was at his agent's and telegraphed back: Old Cary Grant fine; how you?

Or, in the language of the hymnal: Is it well with your soul?

Socializing With Your Own Ideas

Steven Johnson says Joseph Priestly was so successful both as a scientist and as a theologian not only because he shared his ideas freely with others, including Ben Franklin when he was in England, where both were members of a coffee house discussion group called The Club of Honest Whigs, and thus got feedback from others that allowed him to advance his ideas, but that he "had a knack for 'socializing' with his own ideas." [The Invention of Air, page 74.]

Brain scientists tell us that our brains actually change physically to conform to our thinking patterns, which is how that socializing with one's own ideas takes place. The more Priestly thought about air and its properties, the more his own thought sparked new ideas.

Or as that old brain scientist, Paul of Tarsus put it: ...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. [Philippians 4:8.]

The Third Base Coach

I like baseball. I played first base the first 50 years of my career, the natural position for a tall, slow guy. When I joined an old guys league, though, our team , The Fossils, had a member who was even taller and slower than I. Since no one wanted to play third, and I was the new guy, I played there until I was 70.

I learned a lot playing third, including an appreciation for third base coaches. They don't really tell the runner anything s/he doesn't already know. Oh, the runner may have temporarily forgotten how many outs there are, or whether to "run on anything," and it's good to be reminded.

The coach is there primarily, however, to remind the runner that although s/he is in hostile territory, where there are few islands of safety, s/he is not alone.

Third-base coaches and preachers have a lot in common.

The Place and Years of Winter

I am continuing my Periwinkle Chronicles blog. It is intended to be humorous, in a thoughtful way, and sometimes it is.

There are thoughts I'd like to write down and share that do not fit in PC, however, so...

"Christ In Winter" is intended to be serious, specifically theological, although I believe that God gave us theology for fun, and that the main cause of sin is an absence of humor.

I am in the winter of my years, and I live in the place of winter. Winter defines life in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, even in summer, when people live intensely summer lives, trying to use the short summer season to the fullest. Paul McFarland, my cousin, who now lives in FL but spent most of his life in OH, says that in the UP winter isn't just something to get through, it's a world unto itself. He is right.

Now I live intensely the winter of my years, a world unto itself, not just a season to get through, but an opportunity to pull it all together, whatever "it" is. What does it mean to be a follower of Christ in winter?