Sunday, December 6, 2009

To the earth below

Last week I heard this song that I just loved. It's been a while since a song like this has hit me and made me want to just keep listening to it over and over. I shared it on my facebook profile as a "slow, soulful Christmas jam." It's really nice. The song is called "Winter Snow" by Audrey Assad. Click on this link to go to Audrey's myspace page and play "Winter Snow" in another window, then keep reading this post.

Sometimes different events, conversations, and experiences weave together and form a nice, neat bow. I feel like that happened this week with this song and few other threads in my life. On Wednesday night I was talking with some friends about the real meaning of Christmas compared with what Christmas has become. We took a look at something called The Advent Conspiracy. Click on this link to check it out and just read the text on the front page of the site. There are also some cool videos to check out, but if you've been following my directions then you should still be jamming to Audrey so wait on those videos. Just read the text on the homepage.

Christmas, at least originally, is about Jesus. And unfortunately, unless it's in a church, Jesus doesn't really get a lot of play at Christmas, especially for how huge of a holiday Christmas is. As the advent conspiracy puts it, the Christmas story is one of promise, hope, and revolutionary love. It's about how this Jesus who would change everything came into the world not with huge fanfare but in a manger.

That's kind of what this song is about. Jesus could have come into the world like a hurricane or a tidal wave. But he didn't.

I started writing this blog post about two weeks ago. I didn't post it because it seemed unfinished. Part of me wanted to look into how I have bought into and contributed to this consumer Christmas. Part of me wanted to look at how as a follower of Jesus I'm called to a life that is radically different from the culture I live in and yet I am so much a product of my culture and I fit in so well here. There is a part of me that is really sad about that (but maybe too comfortable to do anything about it).

But, previous paragraph aside, I'll just leave the post with the lyrics of the song. If you haven't listened to it yet, go ahead and click on the link and check it out. Read the words, and consider what really deserves to be celebrated and worshipped this Christmas and every Christmas.

Winter Snow by Audrey Assad

Could've come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could've come like a forest fire
With the power of heaven in Your flame

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

You could've swept in like a tidal wave
Or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things we've scarred

But You came like a winter snow (Yes, You did)
You were quiet You were soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Oh, no, Your voice wasn't in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
It was still It was small It was hidden

You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below Falling (Oh, yeah) To the earth below

You came falling From the sky in the night To the earth below

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Keep In Touch

Over Thanksgiving weekend I had the great pleasure to see a good friend of mine who I have not seen in probably over ten years. How crazy is that? That's the last 40% of my lifetime in which I have not stood face to face with this person. I think most people who it's been that long since seeing for me are pretty much out of my life forever. But thankfully, not Dan.

Dan and I were good buds in elementary school. We used to ride our bikes to school together and he introduced me to Heroquest, one of the best and nerdiest board games you will ever play. We talked about the girls we had crushes on together and navigated the strange new world of middle school together.

Somewhere in the 8th/9th grade area of life Dan moved to Indianapolis, which was a bummer. As an adult who can drive, Indy does not seem far away now, but as a middle schooler it might as well have been the middle of the Indian Ocean (which is as far from Columbus as one can get on Earth). Dan came back to visit once and I went to visit him once (which I guess was a bit easier than it would have been if he really had moved to the Indian Ocean) and we talked on the phone a few times, but we pretty much lost contact.

Fast forward to college and enter Facebook. Dan and I reconnected via FB and have kept in a little better contact since then. This past weekend Dan happened to be in Columbus and he stopped by.

We caught up on life, he met my wife, and we reminisced about old times. It was great.

But that is not the norm. As of right now, I know more about Dan and how he is doing then any of my friends that I went to high school with, most of the ones I went to college with, and probably some of the ones I've made since graduating. Keeping in touch is hard. Why is that?

Some people are really good at it. I am not, I don't think. Admittedly, many of my high school buds probably keep in touch more with each other than me. There are only a few I think who would maybe call me up when in town and try to meet up (this isn't a blame-game or pity-party, keeping in touch is 100% a two-way street, it's just the reality). My wife and her high school friends have a reunion every year, but I don't see that happening with my high school friends.

I do have a reunion each year with my college friends and typically see many of them throughout the year at various times.

The friends we made from Oregon we actually have a big email chain that goes around where we take turns updating each other on our lives with short bullet point snippets from our lives. That's fun. And so far someone in the group has gotten married every year since then (two years total) and so the wedding serves as a nice reunion.

That said, keeping in touch is hard. Are you good at it? What is your main method of keeping in touch? Who do you keep in touch with the most? Is it important to keep in touch with people? At what point is it okay to stop feeling bad about feeling like a once friend is pretty much a stranger?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Honesty

So when I'm in the car by myself, I'm pretty much a two-station kind of guy. I flip back and forth between two radio stations. If both stations are on commercial, I might try a third or just go for a CD but that doesn't happen very often.

My default station is 97.1 The Fan: Sports Radio. I like sports. I'm not a crazy sports fan who has the uniform and can't miss a game and gets his week/month/year ruined when his team loses. I don't know every latest headline from every major sport. I don't have strong opinions on sports-related controversies. I'm not that guy. But I do like sports radio.

I like sports radio for several reasons: First, it's talk radio. Don't get me wrong, I love music, and I'm only half-ashamed to admit that it pretty much made my night when Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA" came on the radio last night. Music makes me feel good. But talk radio...I really like. I think maybe because it feels a little more useful. I like that. The station I flip to when 97.1 is on commercial is the local NPR station, which is kind of nerdy, but I'm kind of a nerd, so that works out. But I digress...

Sports radio is fun because typically the radio personalities are funny. A lot of the time it's two guys who make fun of each other and make fun of other people together and get really upset about really unimportant things. It's kind of like listening to these two college friends of mine, Brett and Tim, bicker with each other.

The one drawback of sports radio is that it can get old and annoying. When people who have really strong opinions just rant on and on and exaggerate about how bad something is, that's not fun. Sometimes it seems like the personalities are just that: a personality and not a real person. It has the ability to feel very fake.

However, yesterday, when I turned to 97.1 I heard something very different, and it was very refreshing.

Chris Spielman is a former OSU linebacker, and a great one. A two-time All-American, Chris went on to have a very successful pro career, mostly with the Detroit Lions. When his wife, Stefanie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 Chris took a year off from the NFL to be with her and his family. Since then, Chris and Stefanie have both done so much to raise awareness, support, and funding for cancer research.

Sadly, after a long battle with cancer Stefanie died last week. Yesterday was Chris' first day back on the job after her death, and I happened to be in the car to catch the very beginning of his show.

Chris took a few moments to honestly address his thoughts, feelings, and speak to his listeners about his own life. He acknowledged a sense of not-knowing what it would be like to do this show, especially this first show since his wife's death. He thanked his listeners for their support. Also, he asked that his listeners not go easy on him. A big part of sports radio is jawing at each other, listeners calling in and disagreeing with the hosts. And Chris didn't want that to change. Something about this statement just stuck out to me.

I liked how Chris acknowledged the relationship he has with his listeners. It's something I've never thought about before. Even though Chris has never met most of his listeners, he values the relationship he has with them.

I also liked how Chris took time to be honest and speak some truth out of his life. I'm not sure anyone would have blamed him if he just took a minute to thank his listeners for their support and that's it. But it was more than that.

As I continue to ramble I sense a lack of a sharp point to this post, so let me wrap this up. In a world where most of us are used to putting on masks and hiding the truth, where honesty is really difficult, it was especially refreshing to get it in a place where it's not expected. Thanks for sharing Chris.

And a question to pose, for those who like to think: Why is honesty so hard? Why is it hard to let people see and know the truth about us?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tidbits

Today I pulled up to a car blasting "Take my Hand" by Shawn McDonald, which is a very catchy tune, check it out. Anyway, the people in the car were singing it at the top of their lungs and since I knew the song I started singing it and they saw me singing and it was fun. I love sharing moments with strangers.

I saw on the television set today one of those surprise interviews, you know, where the reporter ambushes someone who has done something wrong or doesn't want to talk. The guy was going to his car trying to avoid the reporter and as the guy opens the car door the reporter sneaks in the way of the door. I have no idea what any of it was about, it was just entertaining to watch.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Value

Bernard Madoff, a 71-year-old man, has just been sentenced to 150 years in prison. Dang.

For those of you who haven't heard about this, Madoff ran a "Ponzi scheme" which apparently is not as cool as it sounds. Here's some background info from Cnn.com:

Madoff orchestrated the scam by masquerading his investment firm as a legitimate business. But the business became a front for a Ponzi scheme, in which the scammer uses fresh money from unsuspecting investors to make payments to more mature investors, creating the false appearance of legitimate returns. Madoff sent statements to victims claiming that their investments had grown several times over, but in actuality he had stolen, not invested, their money. Investigators believe that he had been running his scam since at least the 1980s, bilking thousands of investors until he finally ran out of money in December 2008.

Right before the judge announced the sentence, Madoff made apologies to the victims, many of whom pretty much lost all the money they had ever saved. He also said, "I live in a tormented state for all the pain and suffering I created. I left a legacy of shame. It is something I will live with for the rest of my life."

There are a lot of interesting aspects of the situation.

Although Madoff says he lives in a tormented state, he didn't come clean about the scheme until he got caught. I'm sure that many people doubt the sincerity of his apology. How could a man cheat so many people out of so much money for so long (he even hid this from his wife), never admit to it, and then feel sorry when he gets caught? Part of me believes him, though. There is something about hiding things that causes their reality to be hidden even from yourself. When public light shines on your life, it's easier to see yourself for who you are.

Many of Madoff's victims applauded, cried, and hugged each other when the sentence came through, which struck me. It seemed more to me like the reaction one would have after a murderer or rapist is sentenced. Now I have no idea how much of an impact the loss of this money had on these people's lives, but, money is money. Just having enough money to invest anything at all means you're doing okay. Judgment and justice is a funny thing. Something about a man spending the rest of his life in jail for stealing money (granted, an absolute TON of money) seems weird to me. I wonder what the exchange rate is. How much money would I have to cheat someone out of to get five years in prison? Ten years? When we start equating money with life I think we find ourselves in a strange position.

What intrigued me the most, however was the sentence itself, and what that means to Madoff. Let's be honest: a 71-year-old man serving a 150-year sentence. Unless science does some crazy stuff and soon, this guy is in prison until he dies. I wonder if he thinks about suicide? I mean, I hope he doesn't but I wonder if he does. I wonder if he thinks, "Is life worth living if I'm going to spend it in prison?" And that brings to mind a very important question: What is it that makes life worth living? What is it that gives life value? Can life in a prison have value?

Anyhow, that's what I've been thinking about. I'd love for you to respond to these questions here, or just ponder them in your own head and heart.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Praying in a bathtub

It's official folks, I'm in a blogging drought. Recently several friends have joined the blogosphere, all excitement with their bright eyes and bushy tails. They don't know what it's like. They don't know what it's like to have been blogging a whole six (okay, five) months, to have exhausted every interesting thought in my mind and still have people (okay, one person) demanding more. Well, my friends, I've walked through the blogging desert. I've trudged through the mucky swampland known as "I'd rather watch an episode of Friends I've seen ten times than blog" I've been fooled time and time again by the mirage of "Oh, I think I'll blog...wait...oh yeah, I'm too lazy to even fini..." I've been there my friends. In fact, I cannot guarantee that I'm not still there. But I'm going to try.

So last night I was journaling about prayer. In fact I was prayer journaling about prayer (sometimes writing to God is easier than talking to God for me). So I was writing to God about prayer and about something that I had read earlier in the day. I was reading this part of the Bible where Jesus tells people that when we pray we should go to our rooms and shut the door and then pray. Then I read something not from the Bible but talking about that verse and how we should all find a special, specific place to pray. Not necessarily that we should only pray in one place but that it's good to set aside a time and go to a special place to talk to God.

A little background: prayer is a struggle for me. Always has been. For lots of reasons. Don't get me wrong, I do it, but a lot of times it feels empty, like my heart isn't in it. This feeling comes and goes in waves and perhaps in some ways its natural.

Anywhosey, to whittle this blog to a point, I wondered if anyone out in blogland has a special place they pray? As I journaled last night and thought through all the places in my apartment and at my work where I could pray, nothing seemed to fit. The best idea I had was the bathtub. But then I thought, maybe my journal is my place...hmmm.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Put down your booze and pick up a Bible!"

That's what a ten year old was screaming through a megaphone as I was walking into the Kentucky Derby yesterday. Not more than ten feet after the boy and his hoard of finger-pointing screamers was a man selling dirty t-shirts (by dirty I mean with curse words on it, not actual dirt). I decided that was either the best place or worst place for that guy to set up shop. On one hand, people might not want to buy a dirty shirt in full view of people that have already judged them without doing a thing but walking down the street. On the other hand, I would think some might buy shirts just to spite the screamers. Tough call.

I wondered what people think about these crowds? How do you react? Avoid eye contact? Offer high fives? Yell back and start a shouting match? What do you think about these groups of people? Share your past experiences and thoughts.

Just for fun, I'll share one of the highlights from the Derby. You should know I was sitting in the infield. While the folks in the grandstands are all formal wear and class, the infield is like a state fair condensed into a tenth of the space and doused with alcohol. You know how at places like this there are rows of port-a-johns? Well, at the Derby folks would climb on top and try to get all the way to the other end while the crowd throws full cups and bottles of beverages at them from below. You wouldn't believe how entertaining this is to watch.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Can I get a witness...?

So today I witnessed this moment which struck me as profound, but I'm not quite sure why. I'd like to try something out. I'm going to take my best shot at why it may be profound to me, but I'd like to see what this moment speaks into other peoples heads and hearts. So here goes:

This weekend there is this huge garage sale at the church where I work. All week I have been driving the ol' church van around collecting peoples' old junk they don't want so we can sell it. While picking something up today, I noticed something that has happened a few times this week. This woman was donating this plastic tub that is used to create a pond in your yard. You dig a hole, insert the pond, add water, etc. Anyway, the pond was sitting in her garage and as I picked it up to put it in the van, she realized that it was dirty, and she would not let me take it until she cleaned it. It really wasn't even that dirty. It had a few leaves in the bottom, a little dust, no big deal. But she was so worried about donating something that was dirty. Now, I do understand that we are trying to sell these items so people want them to look good, but it's a garage sale. You see this same phenomenon with people who hire maids to clean their house but actually clean themselves to prepare for the maid to come over. What gives? What is the point?

So why did this strike me as profound? The best thing I could come up with is that we, as people, like to hide our dirt. We like to pretend like things aren't so bad. We like to hide our struggles away so we don't trouble others. We like to put on masks (or "a front" if you will) and pretend our lives are squeaky clean. Why do we do this? Why can't we be honest with people? Why can't we admit our messiness to each other and just be comfortable in that? I don't know.

So there are two directions to respond from:
1. Answer any of the questions from that last paragraph. Are people really like this in your experience?
2. What about this story is profound to you? Perhaps it raises other questions in your head/heart? What say you?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Shock the senses!

Okay, I've made a big change to my blog and I need your honest input. If you can't tell what the big change is by now, one of four things has happened:

a) You have gone deaf (sorry)
b) Your speakers are off (turn them on)
c)What I tried to do has not worked (no surprise there)
d) You started playing "A Movie Script Ending" by Death Cab for Cutie at the exact same moment you arrived on this page (wow)

There are probably more reasons out there, but hopefully you are hearing some sweet tunes right now. What do you think?

I know that sometimes music can be distracting while you're trying to read or think but I also love music for it's ability to set a mood. That's what this post is about.

Music is so great at setting a mood. So I thought it might be fun to add a playlist to the site and change the first song on the list for each post. Kind of set the mood for each post. That is the goal anyway. Who knows if I will follow through.

The song you are listening to right now is "A Movie Script Ending" by Death Cab for Cutie. This song takes me back a certain place and time and creates a certain mood for me. I first heard this song in the apartment of a friend of a friend. A handful of folks had gathered, some I knew well, some I hardly knew. The room was dim, there were candles, we were just hanging out playing games and having a good time. When this song came on I just realized how good life is and especially how complete great people make life. It was a glimpse of fellowship to perfection for me. So every time I hear this song, that's what I think of.

What songs take you back to a certain time or place and create in you a certain feeling?

Also, what do you think of the music? Should I keep it? Lose it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In heaven you can eat steak and cows don't have to die.

So I'm reading this book about Heaven by Randy Alcorn, which is pretty interesting. The book takes all its ideas straight from the Bible, which I'm a big fan of. However, he only writes down the references so it takes me about an hour to read a ten page chapter because I'm looking up all the verses. I do admit that the author really stretches some of the verses to end up with his guesses about what heaven will be like so some of the topics are still an "I just don't know" in my mind.

From what I've heard from people in sermons and on cartoons I've always pictured heaven as...well...boring. I think in the back of my head I've always figured heaven would be better than anything I could imagine, but I just can't help this idea that heaven will be this eternal church service, and for a guy who works at a church, services for eternity does not sound appealing to me at all. It's not that I hate church services, it's just that I connect with God best in other ways. But this book paints heaven in a different light. Basically, it says that heaven will be like earth but without sin. Imagine our world with only love and no hate. With only kindness. With only peace. I love it. There is still creativity, discovery, play. Just no bad. I'm pumped!

What do you think heaven will be like?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

April Fool's Thoughts, Part 1

Though I didn't participate in any Tom Foolery this April Fool's Day I did have a prank played on me. Next week wife and I will be traveling to Colorado for the wedding of a good friend. We will also be reuniting with a bunch of our friends from the year we spent in Oregon. It will be the first time we have seen most of them in a year and a half and we are very excited to see them all. On April Fool's Day one of these friends emailed the whole group saying that he and his wife would not be able to make it due to a volcanic eruption in Alaska (where they live). His wife works for social services in AK and he said the state was pulling employees from all over to help out. Everyone replied back saying how sad they were. No one recognized it was a joke until the end of the day when our friend finally felt so bad about the joke (one girl was brought to tears) that he fessed up. 

This was a good prank, for several reasons. First, there was some serious thought put into to prank. A volcano actually did erupt in Alaska, in fact, it was on the news nation-wide. It seemed plausible that the state would ask our friend to forgo this vacation. Secondly, my friend used the emotion wrapped up in this situation to his advantage. We all have been looking forward to this weekend for months now. We've been emailing back and forth. The fact that we desperately wanted to see everyone helped us overlook the fact that it was April Fool's Day. Thirdly, there was nothing funny about the prank. For some, this may take away the whole fun of pranking. However, because the prank didn't automatically make me feel stupid, I was tricked for longer. Finally, the fact that I'm glad this was a prank makes the fess-up a much better experience. It's much better to find out something isn't true when you didn't want it to be true in the first place. It's a relief! 

My favorite prank I ever played: In college some of my friends had this cardboard cutout of George W. Bush in their apartment. We used to set it up right in front of a door when we knew someone would be walking through it soon. People would freak. out. This one friend of ours (who scares easily as it is) got so rattled that she reflexively threw her keys. I almost soiled myself. Now, there is nothing complicated about this prank, in fact, some may not consider it a prank at all. But it was so fun (except for the person being pranked). 

What is your favorite prank that you have played/have had played on you?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Methinks

Drumroll....here is my last strength: Intellection! For those of you who have no clue what I mean by that, feel free to start at the beginning with my first post on strengths or just figure it out.

A little about intellection:

"People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions. Perhaps you read, write, listen to lectures, experiment, or research selected topics to broaden your understanding of them. You gravitate to discussions where the participants are committed to searching for truth and reason. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths."

Ideas for Action:
-Consider beginning or continuing your studies in philosophy, literature, or psychology.
-List your ideas in a log or diary.
-Deliberately build relationships with people you consider to be "big thinkers."
-Schedule time for thinking
-Take time to write. Writing might be the best way for you to crystallize and integrate your thoughts.
-Find people who like to talk about the same issues you do. Organize a discussion group that addresses your subjects of interest.

Sorry, I went a little crazy on the ideas for action. This is most definitely true and I would say the main focuses (spellcheck didn't like foci...is that only a math word?) of my intellection are people, relationships, and God. I love talking to and about people (not in a "gossip about a certain person" kind of way but in a "what makes the human creature do the things that he does?" kind of way), I love having, talking about, and thinking through relationships with people, and I love talking about God and who God is and what that means for us as people.

As far as the ideas for action go, I am pursuing the idea of taking some seminary classes in the fall. This blog is kind of like a wimpy diary. I do know a host of "big thinkers" but I never organize a discussion time to "think and discuss big." Scheduling time for thinking for me would have to mean scheduling time to write. When I sit down to think without a pencil and paper I usually end up falling asleep or imagining how cool it would be to own a cartoon monkey (real monkeys are filthy animals, but cartoon monkeys are super cute).

What kinds of things do you like to think about or talk to people about into the wee hours of the night?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Haven't Got a Friend

It's great to see people you love do things that they love to do.

Last Sunday some buds of mine were in town playing a show. They are in a band called Husband&Wife and were playing at a club near campus.

We got to the club a little early and after unloading their equipment we walked to Taco Bell for some FourthMeal. Tried the empanada for the first time and it won't be the last.

Back at the club things got started with this guy who was under the influence of a myriad of things and continuing as he went through his set. He sang about all the drugs he did and at the end of his set he dove headfirst into the drumset. Pretty weird.

Husband&Wife was next. The first guy had pretty much cleared the room, but as they began to play, people began to filter back into the room. The guys sounded great and it was so clear that the crowd was into it. People were really clapping and "wooting" after each song. It was great just to sit there and see them rocking and see the people responding.

After the last band performed the crowd told them to come back to Cbus soon. We came back to our place (they stayed with us) and ate pizza, sunchips, crunch bars, mt. dew, OJ, and caught up.

It's great to see people you love.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Oh, a dark room. Want to go in and see what develops?

Okay, if you're like me, you're pretty bored with this strengths stuff. I should have just written them five straight days and been done with it, but alas, you know what they say about ifs and buts. Unfortunately for the both of us, if I had a sixth strength it would be "finisher" because I find it very hard to start things and not finish. If I start a book and don't really like it, I will finish it anyway. The same goes for movies, and food. So here we go. Oh, and if you're just now joining this party you may want to hearken back to my orignial post about strengths. Without further ado, all aboard my fourth strength: developer.

"People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. Very often, in fact, potential is all you see. It's very likely that you may enjoy acknowledging people's good traits or applauding their fine accomplishments. You measure the quality of your life in less tangible but more meaningful ways. You place a higher priority on spending time with family and friends than working overtime to make extra money."

This strength makes sense for me especially because there is no "encourager" or "teacher" strengths associated with this survey, which are things that usually pop up for me on tests like this. I'm not really sure what the priority of time with family over money has to do with being a developer but I thought it sounded pretty awesome so I thought I'd share it. It seems a little redundant or contrary (I can't think hard enough to decide which) to say it's"very likely" that I "may enjoy" something. Kind of makes me feel like I'm reading a horoscope.

On the Ideas for action list it says that I will always be compelled to mentor more people than is possible. This is probably true, although I'm not mentoring anyone right now. It also says that I should find a mentor/coach to invest in me which has been one of my biggest prayers since moving to Cbus. This is one of those prayers where it's like, "Thanks for taking your sweet 'ol time, God" and God is like, "I don't see you doing anything to find yourself a mentor" and them I'm like, "Oh yeah. Dang
." and God is like, "I still love you." Wow, this post took an odd turn.

Question: What would you look for in a mentor and how would you go about finding one?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Go for it! Connect more!

Back on the strengths train. Woo! Woo! If you're just now joining this party you may want to hearken back to my orignial post about strengths. Without further ado, all aboard my third strength: connectedness.

"People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost everything happens for a reason. The sense of being linked to other people means a lot more to you than finishing first or claiming an award. Perhaps you sense there is a force greater than you at work in the world. It's very likely that you sometimes experience an unexplainable yet natural link with some people. Perhaps this is a common occurrence with certain individuals, particularly those whose talents, limitations, interests, goals, needs, or fears are known to you."

Yeah, this is me. What I see peeking out of this strength is my faith in God and how that sets my worldview. I do believe that all people are connected because I think God created all of us. Since I believe that God created and cares for each person specifically I feel that I should care for each person too. Obviously I don't do a perfect job at that. Saying that everything happens for a reason is a complicated thing when you believe in God because it sounds like I'm saying that everything that happens, God wanted to happen for some reason and I don't believe that. However, I do believe that God is present and working in the midst of all things that do happen. I absolutely value being linked to people and desire to know people well, as well as for people to know me well.

A few of the ideas for action that intrigue me are:
1. Exploring specific ways to expand your sense of connection such as starting a book club
2. Change the mindset of those who think in terms of "us" and "them."

1. I love book clubs! I love the idea of hearing what other people think about things. I've found that I can learn the best when I get to hear many perspectives on a single issue/text. Maybe I need to start a blog book club since I have about three friends in Cbus. Any takers?

2. The "us and them" mindset is a tough one to battle. I work with middle school and high school students and if there is a better training ground for this mindset than a school, I don't know what it is. It's also an issue I care a lot about because I think American Christians as a whole have been very guilty of this mindset since I've been alive. When I boil it down, I think it is only natural to see yourself as a part of an "us," in terms of a group of friends, co-workers, teammates, etc. and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is when we see other people as an automatic "them" for some reason instead of a potential "us."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Faith healing

My friend Andy tweeted me a link to an article and asked me to respond. If you don't want to read the whole thing, here is a synopsis: There is a couple from Wisconsin whose 11-year old daughter died from complications of undiagnosed and untreated juvenile diabetes. The couple didn't take their daughter to get medical treatment because they believe in faith healing, essentially, refusing any medical treatment other than prayer and the will of God (to be fair, that is my assessment of what faith healing is based on the article). The couple now faces charges of reckless endangerment and could face charges up to 25 years if convicted.

There is a lot to chew on and respond to from this article.

The first issue is religious freedom, which is what the parents say should allow them to refrain from medical treatment. Wisconsin law, the article states, basically agrees that it's legal to treat a sick child with only prayer until a child's life is threatened, so I guess the question is if the parents were aware of how bad the child's condition was. I'm no expert on the constitution and have no desire to be a judge, so it's tough for me to make a comment on the legality of the issue. My dad's the lawyer in the family.

The angle I'd like to respond to is the spiritual one. One quote in the article was from a woman who once belonged to a community that believed in faith healing (as the only appropriate medical treatment). She said, "we knew that once we went to the doctor, we'd be cut off from God." Later the article quotes an essay from the website of the church this couple belonged to. It said, "Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor or a hospital. Jesus offered healing by one means only! Healing was by faith!"

I guess I can only respond by saying what I would do. I consider myself a person of faith and I just can't imagine having a child and not doing everything possible to make sure my child is healthy. I think the idea that going to a hospital for medical treatment somehow takes God out of the equation is a pretty narrow view of faith, perhaps a narrow view of God. When people I love are sick, I not only pray for them but I pray for the doctors, surgeons, and other professionals who are treating them. And when they get well I praise God for their recovery. And when they don't, I grapple with where and how God is present and healing in the midst of that pain.

I do believe that the power to be healed by faith, in the sense that the Bible talks about Jesus healing people, still exists today, though I can't admit to having ever really experienced that. This whole concept reminds me of a story I heard once:

There was a huge flood in this town and this guy had no choice but to climb on his roof in order to survive. As the waters continued to rise he prayed that God would save him. A few minutes later his neighbor showed up with a rowboat and told him to get in. The man said, "No thanks, I've prayed and God will save me." So the neighbor left. As the waters kept getting closer to the roof a rescue chopper approached the house and when the rescue worker came down to grab him, the man said, "No thanks, I've prayed and God will save me." So the chopper left. Eventually the water overtook the roof and the man drowned. In heaven, the man asked God, "Why didn't you save me?" God said, "I sent you a boat and a helicopter, what more do you want?"

I can't imagine getting to heaven and God saying, "Seth, I'm really disappointed that all those times you were sick you took medicine. I can't believe that you actually allowed the doctors to remove your appendix when it was about to burst. And when you had a heart attack, what were you thinking calling 911?" Let's be serious, if God wants me in Heaven, He can take me right now. Otherwise, I have to imagine that He's got some plans for me down here, and I intend to stay alive long enough to find out what they are.

Do I believe in faith healing? Yes! And when my children get sick, I will, with faith, take them to every doctor on planet earth if that's what it takes to get them healthy.



Friday, February 6, 2009

Yes I Can!

My second strength was positivity.

"People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do. You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation. Somehow you can't quite escape your conviction that it is good to be alive, that work can be fun, and that no matter what the setbacks, one must never lose one's sense of humor. It's very likely that you often declare life is very good. This feeling usually envelopes you after you have given an individual your support and approval. You like to lift the spirits of those around you. You welcome opportunities to create merriment."

Okay, I have to admit, I feel like I'm sort of bragging by posting this strength. The input strength from my last post was pretty much saying I'm a nerd, which everyone knows, but this just feels...different. But honestly, I don't care. Out of all the five strengths the test gave me, I felt this one was most clearly me (or at least how I like to see myself, I guess). So I have my horn and I'll toot it, thank you very much.

There seemed to be two basic components to this trait: A happy outlook on life, and creating happiness for others. I think I have more of the former than the latter. I do have a conviction that it's good to be alive, that life is very good! I hope I have some sort of that impact on others, but unfortunately I fear I may keep my positivity to myself too much. A few months ago a friend was visiting and said one of the worst things I ever had a friend say to me. He said that I didn't laugh as much as I used to and it made me very said. He didn't mean it to be mean and I didn't hold it against him at all, it was just such a bummer thing to hear. I hope I'm laughing more now. I love that it says I welcome opportunities to create merriment. That is cool.

As much as I identified with this strength, the ideas for action section didn't hit me as hard. Maybe that's because I am really positive already so if I were any more positive people might throw up in their mouths a little bit just from being around me. The one suggestion I did like was this: "Because people will rely on you to help them rise above their daily frustrations, arm yourself with good stories, jokes, and sayings." I've always wanted to be a better storyteller. What, in your opinion, makes a good storyteller?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

PackRat of Knowledge

My first strength was input. The following are snippets of the theme description that I felt most applied to me. 

"People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information. You might collect information--words, facts, books, and quotations...If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. These can be acquired and stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful?"

This is most def. me. I love to collect knowledge and to read and I love to make note of passages from texts which I find particularly poignant. I type these passages out and save them on my computer. I've even started a topical index for such striking passages. I love Jeopardy and now I know it's not just because Alex Trebec is such a world beater. 

Along with the descriptions, Strengths Finder offers 10 "Ideas for Action." Here are some that stuck out to me: 

"Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing it with them." 
-This is a great idea! I hope to think more often about who could benefit from what I'm learning. I also think blogging is a great way to start getting a steady stream of output. 

"Your inquisitiveness leads you down intriguing but distracting avenues...Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you'll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action."
-Not only do I struggle with this, but my boss and my office roommate totally called me out on it today as we were discussing our strengths (It's interesting considering yesterday's conversation that SF seems to use strengths to highlight a potential weakness). Sometimes I get so bogged down with collecting info that I drag my feet in making a decision. What good is information if it just sits in my head and "stagnates?" 

This insight has made me want to come up with some way to force myself to put information into action. Any thoughts? Do you find yourself with stagnant info in your brain or do you put a lot of info you receive into action?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Who am I?

So my boss is asking our entire staff to do this Strengths Finder thing, which is kind of like a personality test on HGH (or PTGH I guess). You take this test with a ton of paired questions and then it tells you what your five biggest strengths are.

The special thing about Strengths Finder compared to other similar tests is that it focuses on your (you guessed it) strengths! In our culture we are used to focusing on and trying to improve our weaknesses, which kind of doesn't make sense. If we are naturally weak in one area, we are only going to accomplish so much there. But, if we focus on growing our strengths, we have the ability to accomplish a lot more (this is the philosophy of SF). One nugget from the introduction which pretty much sold me on the idea was that

"Over the past decade, Gallup has surveyed more than 10 million people worldwide on the topic of employee engagement (or how positive and productive people are at work) and only one-third 'strongly agree' with the statement:
'At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.'"

Being able to agree to that statement sounds pretty great to me.

So anyway, I took the test and I thought it'd be interesting to blog about the results and what action steps (SF gives you actions steps!) I'm planning on taking to strengthen my strengths. I'm not a fan of long blogs, so instead of starting with this one, I'll just reveal my 5 strengths and then dip into each one individually in future blogs. So my five strengths are...drumroll please....

Input
Positivity
Connectedness
Developer
Intellection

Yeah, I know. Kind of anti-climactic, that's what I thought too. Sure a few of those words may make sense for me, but some I'm not really sure how to interpret, and spellcheck isn't isn't even satisfied with "intellection" as a word. But after reading through the descriptions, they do describe me pretty well, and the action steps seem like even more fun.

I thought I'd also try to include questions for my vast audience (of 0-2?) to respond to if they so wish. What do you guys think about personality tests? Has anyone done Strengths Finders and if so, what are your strengths? At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

Monday, January 26, 2009

What I learned in Philly

Last week I took a daytrip to Philly to check out the service orgs that we'll be working with for the youth's summer mission trip. While there, I learned some important things about the city and myself:

1. I like my cheesesteaks with whiz (and I like saying "whiz" to strangers and it being okay).

2. I can still pass for a high school student (according to the woman at the airport who asked me if I was doing homework). Someday I'll be able to take the razor the army mailed me for my 18th birthday out of the package...someday...

3. Philly digs murals on the sides of buildings. Seriously, it seemed like every other building I looked at had a big painting on it. Much more fun than looking at brick or stone or concrete.

4. There is a lot of serious need in the world, but a lot of seriously good people redeeming broken and overlooked communities of people.

5. TSA is working on equipment that will enable us to keep our shoes on through security at the airport. I wish they'd take the opposite approach and figure out a way to turn us into a barefoot culture.

6. Always bring a variety of entertainment supplies with you when traveling. Nothing makes me wish for my laptop more than 3.5 hours waiting in an airport terminal.

7. It's not always sunny in Philadelphia (but it's close).