Discomfort

Discomfort is the price of admission for a meaningful life, I was told recently. I wish it weren’t true, like we all do.  But it is true, and I choose to accept it and embrace it instead of denying it.

        Anything significant is not only going to be worth pain, it is going to cause pain. 

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Praying for Parkland, and For Us All

Without trying to take sides in the gun vs. anti-gun argument, allow me to cautiously make the following observations: one, a gun tragedy is guaranteed to bring people out of the woodwork, quoting outrageously misleading statistics and claiming that all gun advocates are essentially guilty of murder; two, gun advocates will try to “put things into perspective” by saying the problem isn’t actually as gigantic as it is made out to be, and essentially come off like jerks who think a dozen or so dead children is not that big a deal. In short, everyone still believes what they already believed, they’re just louder about it. 

I find facts a lot less argumentative than rhetoric, so let’s look at some facts.

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Bringing Down the Wall

The Berlin Wall has now officially been down longer than it was up.  That’s astonishing.  I remember 1989 quite well.  The Cold War that had dominated my childhood was officially over.  The dreaded symbol of oppression had been toppled.  It was the end of an age.  For my entire life I had thought of geopolitics entirely in terms of the United States vs. the Soviet Union.  And suddenly, it wasn’t.  The tearing down of the wall was the biggest symbol of that transformation. 

 

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Don't Blame the Dice!

Most games have some element of luck to them.  Random elements make the game somewhat unpredictable.  It forces the players to be adaptable in the event of unforeseen circumstances.  One of the most common of these elements is dice.  Rolling a pair of dice does not produce a completely irregular pattern; a seven has exactly one chance in six of coming up, while a two or a twelve each have one chance in 36.  Considerably worse, obviously.

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Ducks

The deer, birds and squirrels weren’t enough wildlife for my mom and dad, evidently.  Now the creek behind their house is a duck habitat.  With the waterways full again, ducks seem to have found their way to the Texas Hill Country again.  (Calm down, all you hunters out there; my mom’s back porch is a strict no-hunting zone.)

Ducks have long served as a metaphor for certain people’s behavior.  On the surface they seem to be at complete peace; beneath the water’s surface, though, they are a flurry of unseen activity. 

I think churches are a lot like that, too.  The average member — somewhat stable in attendance, somewhat lax in activity — is lulled into complacency by the seemingly effortless way the church functions.  In truth, they just don’t have a very good insight into the actual goings-on.  The elders are meeting with morally compromised teens.  The preacher is counseling a couple on the verge of divorce.  Three couples are conducting home Bible studies with friends and recent converts.  Deacons are smoothly slipping “volunteers” into the various slots for public service.

The efficiency of the machine is no excuse for various parts leaving themselves out, though.  It can always run cleaner, quicker, and quieter.  “What every joint supplies” (Ephesians 4:16) is the key to the body’s success.  More to the point, each individual part is required to work; or else, why be in the body at all?

“The church doesn’t need me,” says the inactive Christian.  Well, if you mean we’ll get on fine without you, I’m sure that’s true.  But we get on better with you.  And you with us.  So get in the water and start paddling.  You’ll catch on soon enough.

Selfies

I am channeling Jude today.  The epistler famously wrote of feeling “the necessity” to write how his readers should “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).  His plan had been to write regarding their “common salvation.”  Similarly, though not by inspiration, I was feeling the urge to write regarding the strange compulsion toward selfies in our culture (a less noble topic, granted).  But amidst my angst, I think I may have found some sympathy.  And I find myself writing something quite different from what I had planned.

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Football

After spending five football seasons in the heart of SEC country, I have a few suggestions for my brethren.  I think they will give you a great deal of peace — and I guarantee they will give your brethren a great deal of peace.  And let me beat you to the punch by saying I have been accused of being “as bad as anyone,” so these points are as much for me as for you.

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Thanksgiving

The problem with having a day on the calendar specifically dedicated to the giving of thanks is twofold: one, we are tempted to save our expressions of thanksgiving for “the day”; two, when that day arrives, we wind up repeating ourselves.  How can something so sacred be ignored and cliché at the same time?  And how do we avoid them both?

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Allegations

I have no particular ax to grind against either Harvey Weinstein or Roy Moore.  I’m sure they both have their positive aspects.  And I despise the degradation of anyone — young and female or otherwise — being perpetrated by people in power, regardless of where that power is wielded.  But I don’t want to write about that today.  I want to write about hypocrisy.

 

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Firing

What is with college football fans, media and administrations with regard to the firing of coaches?  It happened again recently, as Florida residents know.  Yet another coach let go before his contract expires — before Halloween, even.  You’d think no one had ever lost to their biggest rival by more than five touchdowns before.

I will confess to a bit of bias in the other direction.  It’s easy for me to wince a bit when a disgruntled population grows fed up with the status quo and lashes out at the one behind the microphone.  Been there, done that. 

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Know

Mathematician David Hilbert had inscribed on his tombstone, “Wir mussen wissen. Wir warden wissen.”  He was German, in case you thought this was going to be a note about typographical errors made in granite.

“We must know.  We will know.”  That’s the translation, and a powerful commentary on mankind’s need — mandate, even — to advance the boundaries of knowledge. 

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Excuses

Why do women cheat on their husbands?  Several of them “confessed” in one of those slideshow testimonial things I keep saying I’m not going to click on.  Just say no to Facebook, Hal.

Anyway, the responses varied.  I was in a bad marriage.  He cheated first.  I was lonely.  I was confused.  I was unappreciated.  I was drunk.  I was sick.

Here are some things I did not see.  

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War

Hans Island is a half square mile rock, essentially, in the Kennedy Channel north of Baffin Bay, just northwest of the Greenland coast.  It lies directly on the border of the territorial waters of Greenland (which technically is still part of the kingdom of Denmark) and Canada.  The two nations have argued for decades about who actually owns the island.  In fact, they have been at “war” over it since 1984.

The nature of the “war” will explain the quotation marks. 

 

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Preconceptions

A wonderful satire website with which I have become acquainted this year beat me to the punch.  They said, in far more witty fashion than I could, how tragic events such as the Las Vegas shooting serve as excellent opportunities for us to blame even more the ones we already blamed for the problems we already were whining about.  Who’s your bogeyman?  Terrorists?  The NRA?  Minorities?  Immigrants?  Trust me, you can find a way to blame them.  And you probably have already.

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Nervous

Coach Gene Stallings (who was a Texas Aggie long before he hooked up with the University of Alabama) likes to tell the story of a young kicker who was struggling in practice.  “Coach, you make me nervous,” he said.

“Son,” Coach Stallings replied, “I’m going to be at every game.  If you’re nervous now, you’re really going to be nervous on Saturday.”

 

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