Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

Posted: April 14, 2017 in Life, religion
Tags: ,
Christ's_Crucifix

The Crucifixion of Jesus

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? which is translated, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34]

At a glance, this passage from the crucifixion scene seems to show that Jesus is accusing God of betraying him to this horrorshow of an execution. But there are a two details about first-century Jerusalem that make this verse much more meaningful to our twenty-first-century ears.

First, two thousand years ago the average Jew in Galilee could recite the scriptures from memory; most children had memorized the entire Torah by the age of six. The written word was rare and usually available only in the local synagogue. Radically honed memorization skills were a crucial ingredient for the integrity of oral literary traditions, and the communities themselves, to survive. If anyone got a detail wrong, everyone else in the village was obligated to correct him.

Second, Jesus is conveying much more than a single statement of anguish; it was a common technique for a rabbi of the era of Jesus (or any other devout Jew) to relate the meaning of an entire Psalm by quoting only the first sentence. A full reading of David’s prophetic Psalm 22 sheds some light about why Jesus quoted it and what it really meant, especially these verses:

1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. 3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

8 He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. 19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

And verses 22-24 are the opposite of an accusation of betrayal:

22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. 23 Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

Casting LotsBy quoting the first verse Jesus is quoting the entire Psalm, and in doing so is making an enormous statement: this prophecy is fulfilled today (in shockingly accurate detail), Jesus surrenders to the Father who keeps his promises, and the whole world will praise God for what He has done this day.

The nuances of Jesus’ dramatic words would have been obvious to first century Jews and Christians. This Holy Week, take a minute to challenge our assumptions and look closer at the context for those things that at first seem difficult or contradictory. There are riches to be found when digging into the holy word of God.

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cabin-sm

Like many of my fellow patriots I had no wish to watch the slow-motion train wreck of the Presidential election, so since October of 2016 we have been hunkered down in our SHTF “bug-out” cabin in an undisclosed wilderness waiting for the post-American fallout to clear. We assumed we were well supplied and prepared to outlast the inevitable Hillary Clinton presidency (and the subsequent loss of liberty, freedom, and the collapse of our once proud nation) but SOMEBODY seriously miscalculated the pop-tart inventory. Also, I’m out of beer already (no surprise) and our DVD collection is wearing thin.

Since I am making this trip to pick through the ruins of civilization to remedy those “basic needs” shortages, I decided to charge up the old electronic devices on a lark and was surprised to find the Wifi and cell-phone coverage is still functional. How odd.

Well, now. It seems that even the Internet is still up and running. Let’s just scroll through some old headlines here to see how bad things got before the end of Western civilization.

This can’t be right…

He… he won? How the hell…

Well, even so, he’ll never keep those outrageous promises he… wait just a friggin’ minute. He’s done what? Huh.

So. There you are. I’m speechless. And, frankly, giddy with relief. I guess all I can do now is quote the late Gilda Radner: “Never mind.”

P.S. What am I going to do with a room full of MREs and a metric ton of toilet paper?

Occupy Best Buy?

Posted: November 24, 2011 in Life, Politics
Tags: , , , ,

I found myself driving to Best Buy on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving because my printer had run out of ink, and Best Buy has a regular Wednesday printer ink discount. This in itself is brings up an annoying memory. The last time I had to buy ink was on a Tuesday about a month ago. The under-educated teen at the register was friendly enough, and chirpily informed me of their weekly Wednesday ink specials – but not until after she had already rung up and bagged my purchase. File that under “information I could have used five minutes earlier.”

So in this distracted state of mind I approached the store and found these occupiers camped out on the sidewalk in front. Three thoughts flashed through my mind in a second: a) store display – Best Buy sells camping equipment?  b) the occupy movement hates Best Buy because the evil corporate profits and the quasi-religious holiday pandering is fully embodied in their “Buyer Be Happy” slogan?  c) there are people with nothing better to do than to camp out for two days to save $50 on a crappy made-in-China television set?

I found my ink, went to the registers and asked the cashier (not the same one as before, but her spiritual twin) about the squatters.

Cashier: Find everything?
Me: Yeah, I –
Cashier: Are you a Best Buy Rewards member?
Me: No. Did you –
Cashier: Would you like to become one?
Me: Uh, no. Are those kids out front waiting for Black Friday?
Cashier: (nods amicably)
Me: Is there anything in the store on Friday that isn’t here already?
Cashier: (shakes head amicably)
Me: So, why are they out there, exactly?
Cashier: (shrugs amicably and hands me my bag)
Me: Thanks. Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend.
Cashier: ‘K. Bye!

I have had more stimulating conversations with store clerks than that (I’ve had more stimulating conversations with my cat, now that I think about it).  But I knew that she was an intellectual giant compared to the concrete campers out front. That’s a given if they were actually “occupiers”, but even if they were shoppers it becomes quickly apparent. Being a cashier, she can presumably do this sixth grade math (and I’ll be very generous with the numbers in this example): $150 savings divided by 30 hours equals $5/hour.

So I have the same question for them whether they are there to “occupy” or for Black Friday: Isn’t there anything more useful (or as some would say, profitable) you could be doing with yourself?

October has been getting the best of me, quite literally.

Every year it seems that my October calendar is filled with obligations and events, and this year was no exception. I was prepared for it this year, and intentionally limited my efforts to the major, most important things. I think I was able to give my best this way; looking back, I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride over the (slightly) smaller list of significant things we’ve done, instead of regret that I tried to do too much and screwed up half of it.

How effectively do you edit?

Unfortunately, one of the things that got jettisoned was my focused attempt at keeping up this blog. But I still gave it some thought during this brief hiatus even though I wasn’t actively writing. In my writing, like my calendar, I’m going to cut things back a bit.

Many of the posts on this blog are around 650 words, which works out to about a page and a third printed out on ordinary paper. That’s pretty lengthy in this ADHD world. Sometimes it’s by design (a 5-part series covering the 5 biggest topics in a complex book, or a 9 point essay on life – one topic per golf hole). But for the stand-alone, single-topic blog post, usually it’s just because that’s how long it takes to make my point.

The least obvious thing about my writing (or anyone’s, maybe) seems to be how much pruning goes on prior to publication. My best guess as to how much was left on the “cutting-room floor” would be around 40%. I know, doesn’t look like it when there’s still 650 words left, but there you go. It makes it all the more heart-breaking when the response I get is “TLDR” – Too Long, Didn’t Read.

No one has literally responded that way. (Well, one person has, but she went back and read it later. Thanks, sweetie.) But I can usually tell that it’s what they’re thinking. There’s just so much a person can write before the next shiny object distracts the audience’s gaze.

So let me be as reassuring as I can be – I promise to keep it short and sweet, and there will be a darn good reason when it’s not. And for the record, today’s total is 381.

🙂

What’s your storytelling style – short & sweet, instructional, funny, verbose, strictly factual, a grammatical mess? Does it change depending on the listener/reader? Share it in the comments below.

There are connotations about the word “success” that differ based on who hears it. Some hear it and think, “Admirable goal! Top of the game, target to shoot for, best, achievement, purpose, triumph!” Some hear it and think, “Forget it! Over-achiever, out of reach, lucky, brown-nose, snob, locked out, blocked!” And still others think, “It depends,” or, “I’ve made it!” or, “Success in what, exactly?” You’ve probably had a thought pop into your own head while reading this – take it out and examine it a moment.

Isn’t it true that the first images you think of when trying to define success are the superficial stereotypes: money, fame, fancy homes, important career? Erma Bombeck noted the same thing: “Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.”

So you go a little deeper, and you add things like good friends, happy family, good health, strong marriage. Bet even those things are only the outside appearance of success.

So you go even deeper: real happiness, a rich spiritual life, finding your soulmate. Many would think, “Ah, at last we have come to our true definition. After all, we can’t go any deeper.” But I don’t know if these are quite it. All wonderful evidences of success, yes; but not success itself.

Maybe the English language has failed us here. Or maybe the meaning has become diluted, muted and polluted. I know I want success, but I couldn’t convey it to those around me without risking their prejudiced ideas about what that means. Even in my own mind, I sometimes wondered if my efforts at success weren’t somehow self-aggrandizing.

Then someone used another word in the same context, a similar one in content and value, one that hasn’t yet been bleached of its richness:

Significance.

Significance is the place where real, non-superficial success fetches up. Every single example of real success that I can think of boils down to becoming significant. Making a difference. Being someone or doing something that matters. What a goal! Who wouldn’t aspire to that? And isn’t that what I always meant in my heart when I described success to myself?

These words are not typically found together in the thesaurus; that is, they do not share an identical definition. But I think they point in a parallel direction, except that I don’t know of any negative cultural undertone attached to the word “significance”. The meanings of the two words are close enough that some historic quotes gain fresh new life when you take out “success” and use “significance”:

Some people [succeed/are significant] because they are destined to, but most people [succeed/are significant] because they are determined to. (Henry Ford)
Action is the foundational key to all [success/significance]. (Pablo Picasso)
One secret of [success/significance] in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes. (Benjamin Disraeli)

Significance seems more important, more noble than mere success.

One last note: if you are a lover of language, you might have already noticed that the verb form of success is “to succeed”, which indicates action. There is no popular action verb form for significance. To succeed is to do, and to be significant is to be (or become). If only the English language had a word for “to become significant”! “I will strive for becoming significant” is far too clunky and even changes the meaning a little.

But even without the help of the exactly correct words I have begun updating my mindset to accommodate this new outlook, and have incorporated it into the efforts I make to reach my own level of success significance. I may not always succeed attain significance, but I will have given it significant effort.

What does success mean to you? Do you have friends or family to whom success a dirty word? Share it in the comments below.

Lyrically, Darius Rucker has become quite family-oriented since his Hootie and the Blowfish days. One gets a sense that his music has become very auto-biographical, and as any marketer these days will tell you, “Story sells.” And if you can draw someone into your personal story like Rucker does, well that’s just golden. He has done that with me, more than once.

The song that inspired this post is “It Won’t Be Like This For Long”.  And like any good storyteller, Darius directs me to introspection, especially where it concerns my beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter:

“…when he drops her off at preschool, she’s clinging to his leg
The teacher peels her off of him, he says, “What can I do?”
She says now don’t you worry, this’ll only last a week or two
It won’t be like this for long
One day soon you’ll drop her off, and she won’t even know you’re gone
This phase is gonna fly by if you can just hold on
It won’t be like this for long
Some day soon she’ll be a teenager, and at times he’ll think she hates him
Then he’ll walk her down the aisle and he’ll raise her veil
But right now she’s up and cryin’, and the truth is that he don’t mind
As he kisses her good night and she says her prayers

… And just watchin’ her it breaks his heart, ‘cause he already knows
It won’t be like this for long.”

Now, my daughter was seven years old when I met her. So recollecting our history together leads to a bit of pining for missed chances, daydreaming about what might have been, and sadness about the lack of early birthday photos together. I never even got to see her head off to preschool. I get the teenager years, but missed the earlier things. I would have loved to have been her Daddy when she was that cute little squirt I never knew.

Just when I become maudlin, it’s Hootie to the rescue once again – this time from a song called “This” (and the family-centered lyrics are, again, dazzling in their poignancy):

“Got a baby girl sleeping in my bedroom and her mama laughing in my arms
There’s the sound of rain on the rooftop and the game’s about to start
I don’t really know how I got here but I’m sure glad that I did
And it’s crazy to think that one little thing could’ve changed all of it
Maybe it didn’t turn out like I planned, maybe that’s why I’m such, such a lucky man

For every stoplight I didn’t make
Every chance I did or I didn’t take
All the nights I went too far
All the girls that broke my heart
All the doors that I had to close
All the things I knew but I didn’t know
Thank God for all I missed, ‘cause it led me here to this”

Rucker got to savor those very early moments, and I didn’t. But Lord only knows how badly I’d have screwed things up if I’d been there in those early years for my little girl. I am fairly certain I wasn’t the man I needed to be in those days, and my immaturity would have been a bad, probably flammable, influence.

So instead of dwelling on the baby girl I didn’t meet until she was seven, I thank God for the path he sent me on that got me here. When I was in college, I had no idea that this is where I was headed. When I bought my first car, when I spent all those lost weekends following the local Atlanta bands, when I packed up my things and moved out of my folks’ home, when I turned down that one job and took that other one…

Thank God for all I missed, ‘cause it led me here to this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We often think about the paths we didn’t take. What decisions have you made that, at the time sounded like steps backward, but turned out marvelous? Tell your story in the comments below.

 

 

No Cure For My Tree-Killing Ways

Posted: September 9, 2011 in Fun, Hobbies, Life
Tags: , ,

I am a collector of books. Not anything so grand as a “book collector”, which implies a charming old fogey with taste and discernment and possibly a natty old sweater with leather patches at the elbows and a visible revulsion for lowly paperbacks; no, for me, book hoarder might be closer to the mark, and paperbacks make up the bulk of the titles.

I remember fondly the two shelves that held the entire personal library of my childhood. When you factor in the detail that the bottom shelf was almost entirely filled by the Britannica Junior Encyclopǽdia set (with the bright red binding that at first glance made you think you had a set of large-print hymnals), you quickly realize that I owned virtually no books at all. But where my personal library was slim, the Flint Public Library was a gateway to every book in the world.

These days I estimate my shelves hold over 500 books. And a few hundred of those I’ve read twice or more. And while I love having them around, they aren’t what most would call display-worthy. And I no longer have enough shelf space on which to shelve them. I know I ought to purge, but I am reluctant.

Seth Godin recently blogged about the 400 paperback books he uncovered while cleaning his basement:

“The magic of books, something I haven’t found in blog posts, jewel boxes, tweets or old TV Guides, is that they perfectly encapsulate an idea. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. And they have a cover, something that wraps it all together.

Maybe I’m a fogie, but I have trouble visualizing a pile (or a wallful) of Kindle ebooks. I’m going to miss that.”

When he says he’s “going to miss that,” Mr. Godin implies that despite their magic, he will no longer have paperback books, and has said in many other forums that book printing is becoming anachronistic. I imagine I could learn to enjoy having a large library in e-book form, but will likely never completely rid myself of “dead-tree” books. I would miss them far more than Mr. Godin. There’s a tactile aspect to a favorite book that isn’t replicable.

Once or twice I’ve been caught in the act of smelling a book – inhaling deeply with it pressed up against my face. It’s a little silly, sure; but I love the smell of books. They are not all the same, either. Sometimes the scent makes me think of a coloring book, or of the glossy pages of a textbook or magazine. Once or twice I find one that smells like the Children’s Bible I had long ago. Sometimes the smell will remind me of an era, sometimes of a particular childhood book. Stuart Little always smelled like the wet canvas from the tent in my backyard that summer when I was ten, and I get excited to find another book with that exact same scent. Some smell like a phone book (now that’s anachronistic).

How is Kindle supposed to produce that? Isn’t that worth keeping? Of course it is. While I think e-books will continue to become more and more popular, the old-fashioned kind of book will not likely disappear. A real paperback means something that a digital reader does not. Which is probably why I have too many books, too few vacant shelves and the occasional paper cut on my nose.

What do books mean to you? Are there aspects to “dead-tree” books that prevent you from going whole hog on the e-book revolution? Say so in the comments below!