27 November 2013

Thanksgiving Eve Communion Meditation

Take a moment to consider what you are thankful for tonight. Is it family? Friends? Food to eat, clothes to wear? A warm place to stay?

You probably didn't say, "The gruesome execution of an innocent man." In fact, though, that is precisely what we are here to remember, to celebrate, and to give thanks for.

Tonight, we remember our abject failure, both individually and collectively, to do things God's way. We remember our willful treachery toward a loving Father. (And let us not deceive ourselves: ours was a betrayal every bit as vile – and every bit as permanent – as Judas Iscariot's.) We remember the dark, despairing night of our sojourn among the hopeless dead.

We remember, too, a blameless man who loved, healed, and forgave as freely as He breathed. He was the obedient son, a perfect foil for Adam’s rebellious race. He gave of himself with an intensity greater even than our self-seeking greed. Everything he did was perfect, since he followed in his heavenly father’s perfect steps.

And this faultless one, this perfect son, was the man who stood in our rightful place under the wrath of a just judge. He bore our iniquities and the punishment for our sins without a word of complaint. He drank the cup of God’s wrath down to the last bitter dregs.

Isaiah wrote this about the suffering servant:

1 Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the [k]living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the [p]anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

So, tonight, we remember this prince who died the ignoble death of a slave on our behalf. We remember the one who willingly braved a dark, deadly path to redeem the lost souls of his straying people. And we are thankful, more than words could express, that he was willing to be utterly broken so we might be made whole again. Only God’s matchless mercy could have achieved this. Let’s thank Him for the provision of such a marvelous savior.

28 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 14

326. Sutton Hoo
327. Grendel
328. Grendel's Mom
329. Dragons
330. J.R.R. Tolkien
331. "The Hobbit"
332. "The Lord of the Rings"
333. Peter Jackson
334. Film Reviewers
335. Newspapers
336. Coffee
337. Diet Dr. Pepper
338. String cheese
339. Juicy pears
340. Apples
341. Grapes
342. Oranges
343. Cuties
344. My Cutie
345. Diamonds
346. Tires
347. Brakes
348. Gas
349. Asphalt
350. Concrete

27 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 13

301. Toddlerspeak
302. Sweatshirts
303. Washing machine
304. Homemade laundry soap
305. Fabric softener
306. Coffee mugs
307. Coffee
308. Photographs
309. Camera phones
310. Light
311. Digital storage
312. USB ports
313. Glasses
314. Optimism
315. Poems
316. Iambic pentameter
317. Shakespeare
318. "Titus Andronicus"
319. William Faulkner
320. Flannery O'Connor
321. "A Good Man is Hard to Find"
322. Marilynne Robinson
323. "Gilead"
324. E-mail
325. Spam filters

26 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 12

276. Typewriters
277. Calligraphy
278. Steampunk
279. Cyberpunk
280. Cell phones
281. Magnetism
282. Gravity
283. The book of Isaiah
284. Prayer
285. Prayer rugs
286. Handicrafts
287. Loud keyboards
288. Quiet keyboards
289. Idiosyncracies
290. Spell check
291. people who ignore spell check
292. Grammar
293. Warm stew on a cold day
294. Family prayer time in the mornings
295. Teaching my little boy to read
296. First-time obedience
297. Glue
298. Thread
299. Needles
300. Hammers

25 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 11

251. Paint.NET
252. Audacity
253. People who share their talents with others
254. Haiku
255. People who mock haiku
256. Poetry
257. Poets
258. Ezra Pound
259. T. S. Eliot
260. Emily Dickinson
261. Walt Whitman
262. e. e. cummings
263. Langston Hughes
264. The idea of revolution
265. Economists
266. Logic
267. Political science
268. History books
269. Historians
270. Museums
271. Music
272. Musicians
273. The "Amen" cadence
274. Gilbert and Sullivan
275. Charles Dickens

24 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 10

226. Language
227. Writing
228. Different-colored pens to take multi-dimensional notes
229. The Silo Saga by Hugh Howey
230. Sunlight
231. Snowflakes
232. Sweat
233. Lips
234. The Internet
235. Buses
236. The Liberty Memorial
237. Running
238. Not having to run
239. www.rabbitroom.com
240. Peacemakers who sow in peace
241. Caedmon's Hymn
242. Muscles
243. Bone
244. Skin
245. Sinews
246. Nerves
247. Smell
248. Touch
249. Hearing
250. mp3 codecs

23 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 9

201. Friends who bring me Starbucks unsolicited
202. Headphones
203. Squeaky hinges
204. A toilet flapper that works
205. A three-year-old who asks me to tell the story of Ruth (Every. Single. Night.)
206. "Can we hear about Ruth again in a hundred years?"
207. Iterative techniques in programming
208. Tears
209. Humility
210. Humiliation
211. Pain
212. Wisdom
213. Noam Chomsky
214. XML Data
215. Relational Databases
216. WYSIWYG editors
217. Chaotic systems
218. The wind
219. Thunderstorms in June
220. The yearly cycle of death and rebirth
221. The communion of the saints
222. Forgiveness of sins
223. Confession
224. Repentance
225. Grace

22 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 8

176. The smell of ancient paper
177. Old English
178. Beowulf
179. A frothy pint shared with fellow Beowulf enthusiasts
180. "The Final Sacrifice" (Rowsdower!)
181. A younger brother who lives his own life
182. Art for art's sake
183. Landscapes that look like a Thomas Kincade painting, but without the snarky art snobs
184. Talking about child-rearing with my favorite person
185. Panera
186. Penicillin
187. Hospitals
188. The Birth and Women's Center
189. Hearing my little one's heartbeat
190. Seeing my sweet baby moving in my wife's tummy
191. Banjo music
192. My whistling two-year-old
193. Tricycles
194. Skinned knees
195. The park
196. Fixing things with the "help" of my manchildren
197. Hand-made gifts
198. Sleep
199. Mucus
200. Mucinex

21 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 7

151. Vector velocities
152. Lists
153. Retroactive blog posts
154. Making up for lost time
155. A clean-shaven upper lip
156. Water
157. Wine
158. Bread
159. Weight Watchers
160. Loving the wife of my youth
161. Peace
162. Freedom
163. Sight
164. A path to the top of the hill overlooking my office
165. The trails near the governor's residence
166. The completion (at long last) of our capitol renovation project
167. Ad astra per aspera
168. Stalks of wheat
169. Combines bringing in the harvest
170. Not having to grind my own flour
171. Diapers to change
172. Fall decorations
173. Old buildings
174. People who love old buildings enough to restore them
175. Rare books

20 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 6

126. 300 posts on this blog (if you count the 5 unpublished draft posts)
127. The word "no"
128. Learning how to say "no"
129. Toddlers who say "no, thank you" instead of "no"
130. Our quirky furnace
131. The instructions on said furnace (two sets: both in French, both identical)
132. That the word "explosion" is the same in French as in English
133. Teleconferences
134. Meetings that don't last as long as they were scheduled to
135. Date night
136. Error handling
137. A warm house on a cold night
138. A playground within walking distance
139. Two little boys who love being with their daddy
140. Playing music with my sons down by the river
141. Razors
142. The Amish
143. Books on World War I
144. The Treaty of Versailles
146. Python
147. Pong
148. CodeSkulptor.org
149. CourseEra.org
150. Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock

19 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 5

101. Benevolent "kidnappings"
102. Two date nights in a row!
103. The Ecclesiastes 4:11 Principle
104. Old T-shirts
105. Blankets made of old T-shirts
106. My mobile phone
107. Mail merges
108. Libraries
109. Game night with friends
110. Sleepless nights filled with thankfulness
111. Carbon monoxide detectors
112. Opportunities to excel
113. To-do lists
114. Checking things off of said to-do lists
115. Owls calling to each other in my yard at 2 a.m.
116. Distant train whistles
117. Hot chai lattes
118. A headset for my work phone
119. Good corporate training sessions
120. Logic
121. Decision-making skills
122. Remote login
123. SQL
124. Massive Open Online Courses
125. Strong laptop cases

18 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 4

76. Laughter
77. Music
78. Toy guitars played by toddlers
79. Empty boxes
80. Scented candles
81. Computers
82. Find and Replace
83. PDF files
84. Hu Hot
85. The following joke: "Hu Hot? My wife!"
86. Decaf coffee
87. Hair clippers
88. Soap and water
89. The light of a harvest moon
90. Clean water
91. Indoor plumbing
92. Milk
93. Maps
94. Old books
95. 8-bit graphics
96. Plans
97. The utter obliteration of plans
98. Moments when my 3-year-old still needs to be cuddled
99. A working heater
100. Pajama pants

17 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 3

51. An employer that gives good parties
52. Karaoke
53. Dancing with my nearly-2-year-old
54. Winning!
55. Old friends
56. Faithful servants of God
57. Date night
58. Hobby Lobby
59. Memory
60. Memories
61. Memorials
62. Memorization
63. Memes
64. Membership
65. Ebeneezer Scrooge
66. Jack O'Lanterns
67. The Irish
68. Irish whiskey
69. Irish whiskers
70. Laundry detergent
71. Clean sheets
72. Red, green, and yellow tree-clothes
73. Football
74. Bonfires
75. Gift Cards

16 October 2013

Thanksgiving: Day 2

26. Great co-workers
27. Wi-fi
28. Godly leaders at church
29. Shoes that fit
30. Clean clothes
31. Someone else changing my oil
32. Two pairs of glasses
33. A full tank of gas
34. Healthy blood in my veins
35. A comfy bed
36. Literacy
37. Forgiveness
38. New windows in my house
39. Punctuation
40. Video conferencing
41. A digital watch
42. Toothpaste
43. A dishwasher
44. Citrus scents
45. A belt with lots of holes
46. Light bulbs
47. Almonds
48. Shampoo
49. Pre-emptive Strikes Against Baldness
50. Sesame chicken

15 October 2013

40 Days of Thanksgiving

It has been a hard couple of months for me. Busyness has consumed me, followed closely by a couple of deep dives into depression and occasional panic attacks. Taken together, it has drained me further than I knew was possible.

Yesterday morning, I looked in the mirror and was struck by how unhappy my face seemed. I normally have a smile, or at least a pleasant expression, but yesterday, my countenance was cast down, hollow, empty.

I think there are a lot of reasons that I'm feeling (and looking) the way I am. For many reasons, I need to sit down and rethink my life - what I'm spending my time on, how I'm interacting with people... everything. But for now, the best thing I can think of to transform my doleful heart into a happy one is to give thanks. Intentionally, purposefully, genuinely.

So, for the next 40 days (until the week of American Thanksgiving, coincidentally enough), I will do exactly that. My goal is to get to 1,000 in those 40 days. You're welcome to come along for the ride, but this will be mostly for me.

So, here goes...

Things I am Thankful For:

1. An alarmingly hott wife (like, FIRE alarmingly!)
2. Two sweet sons who always love to see me
3. Chuck Norris-strength kicks from my unborn child
4. Cuddling with said wife
5. A car with a radio that works
6. "Carry On, My Wayward Son," by Kansas
7. Seeing old friends at work
8. Knowing exactly what I have to do each day
9. Good health
10. The ability to walk
11. Daily standup meetings
12. A really nice computer at work
13. Really fast internet at work
14. Two HUGE monitors at work
15. Admin privileges on my work PC
16. A climate-controlled place to work
17. Free coffee at work
18. Reading Proverbs to my family at breakfast
19. A wife who loves patterns and order (see below for an EGGsample of this)
20. Microsoft Excel
21. My iPad
22. A Bible always available, whenever I want it
23. Prayer
24. Birdsong
25. An umbrella covered with smiley faces

27 July 2013

Things I Want at 3 a.m.

1. To go back to sleep.
2. Someone to understand my inner turmoil.
3. Understanding of my own inner turmoil.
4. To undrink that pot and a half of coffee I had during Les Miserables tonight.
5. To make something beautiful that will last beyond my fruitfly lifespan.
6. A life full of grace and meaning, and devoid of fear.
7. An empty inbox.
8. Reassurance that I matter to someone. (Anyone.)
9. Deep, reliable relationships.
10. Did I mention sleep?

Insomnia is cruelest when it happens on the one night in the past month when it would be OKto sleep past 8 a.m. :-(

11 July 2013

Some Thoughts on Heroes

Our culture tells us that a hero is someone who pulls a child from a burning building. Or perhaps someone who single-handedly foils a bank robbery. Or even someone who scores 50 points in a basketball game.

I don't think that these feats begin to scratch the surface of true heroism.

A hero is someone who consistently sacrifices his own ambitions, dreams, and sleep for  the good of others. A hero is someone who stays when it would be much easier to leave. A hero is someone who serves even when it is costly or unrewarding.

When a father chooses family time over Halo, that is heroism. When a mother chooses to bake cookies with her daughter to the neglect of her Pinterest boards, that is heroism. When I choose the well-being of my wife and sons over another hour at work, I like to think that is heroism, too.

I started writing this post on June 16, which was Father's Day. I guess that my mind turns naturally toward heroics on that day, since my father is one of the most heroic men I know. His whole life has been poured out in service to his wife, his children, his church, his students -- in short, anyone who needed help.

Dad is a kind, thoughtful, sympathetic man. He loves to do good work, to solve problems, and to give his family what they need. He is intelligent but not puffed up, skillful but not proud, and full of wisdom without giving an air of superiority.

I remember riding into town with Dad when I was an undergrad at the university where he taught. We would park a couple of blocks off campus and walk together down side streets toward his office. As we went along, I would talk about all of the exciting new ideas I was encountering in my classes. Dad always listened carefully, treating me as though my unoriginal thoughts mattered immensely.

I still remember one of our exchanges very vividly. I was talking excitedly about Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, which Dad didn't have a lot of use for. After patiently hearing me out, he said, "Son, I can tell you love to think about these ideas, and that's great. Just remember this: People are always more important than ideas."

To say that people are more important than ideas is noble. To consistently live it, even when the people are ugly and ungrateful and have serious problems, is heroic.

I'm very thankful that this particular hero is my father. I can't imagine a better one.

10 July 2013

Beauty Within the Mess

This morning, I was in a hurry to get to work. As I opened the car door to put my laptop case inside, I noticed that my lawn was looking a little shaggy. Or, to be precise, a lot shaggy:

I will be the first to admit that I am a terrible groundskeeper. My grass is always the longest on the block, and every August, it's one of the first to die from the overwhelming heat. (Just between you and me, I would kill it off earlier than that if I could.)

It's not that I wouldn't like to have a nice-looking lawn; it's just that I normally have better things to spend my time and money on. Nonetheless, that doesn't stop me from feeling just a wee bit ashamed when my yard looks like this. I mean, who likes having a constant reminder of his failings every time he steps outside his door? Not this guy.

So, with my daily dose of yard-guilt successfully internalized, I was ready to rush off to work, hopefully not arriving too late for my first meeting.

Then, as I was putting my laptop case and lunch bag into the car, I saw something that stopped me cold. I have probably looked at my front yard a dozen times in the past week, but I never noticed this: 

 Or this:

 Or this:

Lovely, no? They have been buried within that messy yard for a long time, but I never had the eyes to see them until this morning. What's more, I wouldn't have even gotten to see them if I weren't such a negligent homeowner.

Suddenly, I didn't care how late I was going to be. It seemed much more important to take a little bit of time to intentionally enjoy these blessings that my gracious Maker left in the most unexpected of places.

The New Testament book of James says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

My experience this morning made me realize that I am perhaps too hasty in deciding what those good and perfect gifts are -- or aren't.

I'm glad the Giver has a better imagination -- and a farther-reaching vision -- than I do.

24 March 2013

Love, Weakness, and Repentance

Note From the Blogger: I found this in my Drafts folder. I started it in April 2009, and just got around to finishing it today. Sorry and you're welcome.

I've always been uneasy about observing church festivals. This is probably because I am not from a very conservative liturgical tradition.  In the churches of my youth, we were "Bible-believing Evangelicals" who followed the doctrine of sola scriptura to the point of iconoclasm (and sometimes anticlericism).

To my ilk, Ash Wednesday had a dangerously Roman feel. We had read Jack Chick's tracts; we knew Catholicism was a slippery slope. One day you're smearing ashes on your forehead, and the next you're sprinkling water on babies and buying  papal indulgences. Who knows how far you'll go once you take that first step toward idolatry?

So I suppose it's strange that I have been practicing intentional self-deprivation since Ash Wednesday. And that I intend to do so until Easter Sunday. Almost sounds like... Lent.

How did I get here from there? What changed my iconoclastic mind about the spiritual value of ancient liturgical traditions? I attribute it to two main elements.

Firstly, as a history major in college, I became enchanted with monks. I loved the idea of a life devoted to purity, piety, and praise. At one point, I briefly considered trying to live my life by the Rule of St. Benedict. While I didn't take the leap, I am still fascinated with the idea that pious practices can help to mold my mind, heart, and life to be more like Christ.

Secondly, in recent years, I have come to believe that it would be a grave error to ignore two millennia of church tradition. I don't believe that tradition has the same weight as scripture. However, that doesn't mean tradition is worthless. To observe the seasons of the liturgical calendar is to join with billions of other saints, both present and departed, in their faith walk.

In my mind, Lent is one of the most beautiful and valuable observances in the church year. Traditionally, Roman Catholics give up meat during Lent.However, common practice today (especially for vegetarians or those who don't eat much meat anyway) is to simply give up something that matters to you. (In case you want to read more, here is an excellent post about Lent, written by a friend of mine who is an Episcopalian priest.)

So, what do I hope to gain from this commitment to self-denial? Here are a couple of lists I made to clarify for myself why I was (and wasn't!) observing Lent:

Observing Lent Will Not:
  • Increase God's love for me. Since before the foundation of the world, He has loved me with an immeasurable love. The person of Jesus Christ is the inarguable earnest of that love.2
  • Enhance my worthiness. By myself, I am an unholy, rebellious, sinful person who deserves no more chances. Out of His great love, God chose to call me from death into life. He didn't do this because of anything I have done or could do; He did it because He was pleased to do it.3
  • Make me more righteous. My righteousness comes from Jesus Christ's substitutionary atonement for my sins on the cross.4

I Pray That Observing Lent Will:
  • Increase my love for God. As I focus on Him and what He has done for me, may my gratitude and love overflow in response. 
  • Remind me of my weakness. When I fail to keep my commitment, either in letter or in spirit (as I have many times during this season), I am reminded of my frailty and need for a savior. With the crowds in Jerusalem, I cry out to Jesus, "Hosanna - Save me now!" How desperately I need His power to pull me out the terrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock. 
  • Make me more repentant. I am surrounded by sin. So often, my concept of Christianity is to avoid sin, rather than actively turning away from it and going the other direction. I have not been called from darkness into nothing; I have been called into the glorious light of God's son. I pray that this Lenten season will help me to wholeheartedly reject my sin and fiercely pursue an active, positive righteousness.
So what about you, dear reader? Are you Lenten, or Un-Lenten? Any thoughts to add to mine? I'd love to hear about liturgy's role in your faith walk.


1Why meat? And why is fish OK? If you're going to make people give up things they don't want to give up, why not make them give up alcohol, for instance? I'm glad you asked. As he so often does, St. Thomas Aquinas has an appropriately hilarious answer for you:
[F]asting was instituted by the Church in order to bridle the concupiscences of the flesh, which regard pleasures of touch in connection with food and sex. Wherefore the Church forbade those who fast to partake of those foods which both afford most pleasure to the palate, and besides are a very great incentive to lust. Such are the flesh of animals that take their rest on the earth, and of those that breathe the air and their products, such as milk from those that walk on the earth, and eggs from birds. For, since such like animals are more like man in body, they afford greater pleasure as food, and greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust. Hence the Church has bidden those who fast to abstain especially from these foods ...

Three things concur in the act of procreation, namely, heat, vitalspirit, and humor. Wine and other things that heat the body conduce especially to heat: flatulent foods seemingly cooperate in the production of the vitalspirit: but it is chiefly the use of flesh meat which is most productive of nourishment, that conduces to the production of humor. Now the alteration occasioned by heat, and the increase in vitalspirits are of short duration, whereas the substance of the humor remains a long time. Hence those who fast are forbidden the use of flesh meat rather than of wine or vegetables which are flatulent foods.
2 See Rom. 5:6-8.

3 See Rom. 3:10-12.

4 See II Cor. 5:21.

12 February 2013

More Ash Wednesday Thoughts

This from Father McKenzie (no, not the one from that song by the Beatles):
Keeping Lent is designed to make more room for the Holy Spirit in your life. Keeping Lent may or may not lead to feelings of joy, sorrow, happiness, or anger. You may or may not alienate a friend, have a spiritual experience, lose weight, or feel grouchy at work. Keeping Lent will not make you more holy or beloved in the eyes of God. Keeping Lent will not save you. 

Keep Lent anyway. 
All these Lenten thoughts are making me think I should dust off a Lent post I started 4 years ago and never finished. We'll se if that actually happens...

Ash Wednesday: Thoughts From a Friend

So this is great.

My Hutch-friend Jen has some great thoughts about Ash Wednesday - the liturgical celebration as well as the poem by T. S. Eliot. Here's a snippet.

Lent begins again this week. I’m going to give something up. I’m probably going to fail too. And yet, I still want to come, ash marked, to lay my own tiny sacrifice on the altar of grace. 
This is the tension. Teach me to care and not to care.

Read more over at Greener Trees.

10 February 2013

Real-Life Heroes

These people are very dear friends, and also some of the most heroic Jesus-followers I know.

Check out the first post on their blog: http://schummexplosion.blogspot.com/2013/01/2-411-1-1-1-5-schumm-family.html.

That is all.

02 January 2013

Ha Ha! to the Old Year

Eric Peters's BiRDS OF RELOCATiON might very well be the perfect CD to celebrate the passing of an old, worn-out year and the beginning of a new, hope-filled one.

I have had this on Repeat all day and am still not tired of it.

Here are the lyrics.

Here are some snippets of reviews and stories behind the songs.

This album is deep, thoughtful, and extremely catchy. If you don't have already have it, you need it. Get it now.