Monday, December 15, 2008

Possibilities - Revisited!

Last year (June 11, 2007 to be specific) I posted an introduction to Benjamin Zander. Ben is a symphony conductor, teacher, and leader of the finest order. This past weekend, thanks to a circuitous set of circumstances (initiated by no less than the unwitting Christopher Schoppet), I ran across a presentation Ben Zander made last February at the “TED” Conference.

A little about the conference may be informative. According to their web site, “TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference [held in Monterey, California each February] now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

Chris had found a talk about current education and creativity, and posted the link on his Blog. Curious, I visited the site (a TED page), and, over on the side, noticed a link to a talk by Ben Zander. I “dropped everything,” and went immediately to Ben’s talk, where I remained, enthralled, for the next 20 minutes or so. I hope you are too!

(Oh, by the way, I've officialy designated Benjamin Zander as my hero. A position NOT accorded lightly!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Knowing? No... Knowing!

Recently in conversation, Nathan Reginato complained that foreign languages had really messed up English, because, thanks to all these outside influences, the rules are very inconsistent, and it's difficult to keep things straight. And he IS right. But another result of all the outside influences is that English has one of the richest vocabularies of any language on the planet, offering the ability to express fine shades of nuance in many areas to a much greater extent than in other languages (and no, don't come at me with "how many words are there for "snow" in Eskimo...).

Unfortunately, there are also cases where English employs words that do not allow for serious differentiation between concepts, and sometimes this inconsistency has greater semantic implications, causing even bigger problems than the inconsistent rules mentioned above. As an example, the homonym, "bank." Now, no one really has much difficulty in differentiating the meanings of this word... we don't expect to deposit money on a river bank, nor do we really expect to find water when we make a "bank shot" when playing pool... huh. But there's a problem we have when exploring thoughts, caused by another, pernicious homonym... the word "know."

Someone will say, "I know Sally." This usually means that that person is acquainted with someone named Sally, that they have at least met her, and depending on their experience with her, may know her likes and dislikes, foibles, habits, and so on. Likewise, someone may say "I know Algebra." This means that they have studied the subject, and even developed proficiency... but no one would say that they were "proficient in Sally..." So we're faced with this 'knowledge dichotomy,' what are we really saying when we say that we know something or someone? They're really not the same thing. In fact, I'd like to propose that knowing someONE is often a richer, more fulfilling experience.

Experience seems to be key... as an example...

You've just boarded a transcontinental flight to go and visit Sally (remember Sally?), your cousin in Bangor Maine. The friendly airplane Captain comes on and announces: "Hello, and welcome aboard Air Chance Flight 252 to Bangor Maine this morning. Say, before we get going, I just want to tell you a little about myself... I graduated from MIT with a triple major in Aeronautical Engineering, Meteorology, and Systems Management, oh, I was Phi Beta Kappa and Summa cum Laude. I have read not only all the flight manuals for this aircraft, but the maintenance manuals as well... not only how to fly it, but I imagine I could take it apart and reassemble it! Also, I've spent the last two weeks, faithfully using Microsoft Flight Simulator to develop a good feel for the plane... Of course, I've never actually flown a real aircraft before... this is my first flight ever! Oh... and buckle up!"

Anybody want off? You see, there's knowing, and then there's knowing. I'm afraid that all too often we get "head knowledge" and don't follow it up, or "flesh it out" with experience.

I think this is often the case with the church, and, sadly with Jesus. We study, and discuss, and pontificate, and dissect, and cogitate, and expound, but we miss actually knowing, knowing intimately, our Lord and Savior, because we miss EXPERIENCING Him.

It's worth some time to consider how we go about really getting to know someone, how we develop close friendships, and how we learn to knit our lives with those we truly love and care about. Certainly study of the Scripture and consideration of theological disciplines is key, but we really need to take a very pragmatic, personal approach to "knowing" Jesus. And we need to do it now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

With Precision

I think that part of the reason that one can read the same passage of Scripture many times and take something new away each time is that the Bible is written with great precision. The nuances (even in translation), the poetry, the metaphors, the stories, are all compiled and transcribed with great care, precisely as God intended them... specific, intentional, and with great, even amazing care.

Consider if you will, a scene discribed early in the gospels... Jesus is walking along the Jordan River, and comes upon John (his cousin), who is, at the time, engaged in baptizing the local (and possibly some not-so-local) folk. Jesus and John see each other and after some discussion about appropriateness, John baptizes Jesus. When Jesus comes up out of the water, "heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him." (Matthew 3:16, NIV). You know this story... now ask youself what happens next... That's right, they hear a voice from heaven... and what does God say?

About 80% of the people to whom I've posed this question say "This is my son, in whom I am well pleased." The Father's public affirmation of his Son at the Son's baptism. Well and good... but wrong! God is actually taking an opportunity here to expound on the nature of His love for His Son... and by extension, His love for all of us! What God says (Matthew 3:17, NIV) is, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Yes, God says He's pleased.... but that is the SECOND clause in the sentence. The primary clause says" My Son whom I love." First and foremost, the Father LOVES the Son... it happens, at the time, that He is pleased. I think that we can safely say that God loves all of us first and foremost.

Personally, I take GREAT comfort in that, 'cause I think there are (plenty of) times when the Father looks down on me and says, "This is my son Kit, whom I love. In him. I'm really not very pleased today..." But He still loves me... he loves me FIRST, and beyond my comprehension. There is solace, comfort, and strength in than knowledge, and in the experience of that boundless, unconditional, and unfailing love. I'm grateful for the precision with which the Bible gives us the whole truth.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Romper Room Update

A while back, I posted about an experiment our High School small group was conducting, trying to see others as Jesus sees them, and then treating them accordingly. Recently, we took a poll to see how the guys are doing with this project, and candidly, the results were mixed... seems it's pretty hard to do this on a consistent basis. My take is that the enemy plants lots of lies about the difficulty and how hard it is to be successful. And the battle continues!

In March, we modified the challenge to the group: We moved from seeing others as Jesus sees them to seeing OURSELVES as Jesus sees us... and then treating ourselves accordingly. This seems to be a MUCH harder task. It seems we can be more forgiving, tolerant, patient, and objective with others... not so ourselves. It seems we know too much about ourselves to forgive, to understand, to accept... we forget that God knows us even better, and yet He forgives us... he sacrificed His Son on our behalf... we are redeemed and forgiven. How sad... what a travesty that we can't see ourselves as He does. I've renewed my chalenge to look for Jesus in the mirror in the morning; again with mixed (or unsuccessful) results. My counsel, quoting one of my favorite characters (whose image occupies a place of significance on this page), "Look... haaarder!"

Monday, May 5, 2008

Fire at Will!

In one of the Start Trek movies (forgive me true fans, I’m old and can’t recall the specific title), there is a wonderful sequence where Picard is in one starship, doing battle (perhaps a mock battle?) with his loyal “Number Two,” Will Riker. In one of my favorite movie puns, Picard sternly orders, “Fire at will!” I laughed out loud!

Will is an interesting thing though. We seem to spend inordinate amounts of time seeking God’s will… for ourselves. Praying and sometimes even looking to the sky for writing in the clouds, or for a finger to trace the answer we seek on a wall… we implore the Lord to share with us his specific plans for us. Not always altruistically, we often are seeking to understand how OUR needs and desires can be accommodated according to His sovereign plan. I wonder, though, what ‘lenses’ we apply in seeking to find, and in seeking to understand and even align ourselves in His will.

I’m suspicious we don’t even understand just what His will even is. When I think about my “will,” I think about a determination, an intent, a plan, a “roadmap” with specific steps that I’ll take to achieve a given objective. I find myself wondering if this is true of God’s will. Does he in fact have a specifically ordained set of steps that each of us will take exactly and precisely? Is there only ONE pathway or roadmap that will lead us to his desired goal for us?

I recognize and firmly believe he does in fact have a plan… (Jeremiah 29:11), and I know that he expects us to seek his will for us earnestly through that plan (Jeremiah 29:13). I just question how specific and detailed that plan is, in anticipation of its working out. I do believe that He guides and directs each step we take (of our own free will and accord… but I’m not going there…), but as He lays the path(s?) before us, how definite is the map?

My proposition is this: If we ask, seek, and then move in accordance with our best understanding of God’s desire as He chooses to reveal it to us, and if we proceed in faith, then perhaps, just perhaps, he will work His will through our choices, for our ultimate benefit and good, according to His plan (Romans 8:29). Therefore, my purpose is NOT to agonize over discovering His plan that I might function within it, but to rely on the fact that He DOES have a plan, and that in accord with His desire for my best, I can do my best to understand in prayer and in faith, and then (whether I have full comprehension or not) to move forward, secure in His will.