Thursday, February 16, 2012

Does Anyone Think?

Once, in a meeting with top-level executives I heard the following statement:

"There are no absolutes in this life."

Now mind you, this meeting consisted of executives of one firm discussing a potential business relationship with executives of another firm. Would I want to do business with someone who thinks there are no absolutes? How could I rely on his word? How could I rely on his signature on a contract? How could I rely on any representation he or his firm made?

But beyond that - how can I rely on someone who thinks in a self-contradictory fashion? After all, he made an absolute statement that there are no absolutes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Westminster - Lily's Half-sister

As you may recall from a year or two ago, Lily's grandpa won Best of Breed twice. At the recently concluded show a half-sister won Best of Opposite Sex. Her name is Heiress.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Noise Please


“Hi, this is Pete with XM radio, congratulations on the purchase of your new Hyundai automobile. Are you enjoying your new car?”

“Yes, thanks.”

“As you know your new car came equipped with XM Radio for a free trial period. Since that trial period is expiring in the next few weeks I’m calling to offer you a great deal on continuing to enjoy all the benefits of XM Radio.”

“Thanks for calling but I’m not interested. I’ve got enough noise in my life and I don’t listen to radio that much.”

“We have some great pricing incentives for you to continue to enjoy XM Radio.”

“You’re doing a nice job, but I’m not interested. I’ve got enough electronic cocaine in my life and I don’t need anymore.”

“What do you listen to in the car?”

“I like to think in the car and I pray for people.”

“What music do you listen to when you listen to music in the car?”


“We have some great classical music stations and can extend your enjoyment of XM Radio for six months at only $4.95 per month.”

“I know you’re just doing your job. But I’m not interested – goodbye.”

It would be nice to get my hair cut someplace without what passes as music intruding. It would be nice to shop without electronic noise intrusion. It would be nice to sit in a waiting room and actually “wait”; not having to block out uninvited television noise. I’ve got a dental visit next week and it just occurred to me that the last time I was in the “chair” that a television was starring down at me; the news anchor no doubt peering into my molars.

What does this produce? Here’s an example of another recent conversation:

“Hi Susan,” says I, “you didn’t email me about getting together for premarital counseling.”   

“Oh, I guess I should have,” says she, “but Frank didn’t think he could do it.”

That’s it for the conversation. But here is what I could have said:

“That’s too bad. Here the two of you are getting ready for what will hopefully be a lifetime commitment and you are unwilling to invest the time to provide your marriage with a firm foundation. If Frank is unwilling to spend the time on premarital counseling now, what does that say?”

Perhaps the fact that Susan was getting ready to cut my hair discouraged me from saying anything else. Perhaps the knowledge that the wedding is shortly to occur also influenced me (I would have required post-marital counseling in addition to premarital counseling in this case). Or perhaps the fact I knew that with all the noise in this couple’s life that it would be a stretch to make it from Point A to Point B to Point C discouraged me from the attempt – I mean how much can you accomplish in a public hair salon in a few minutes?

Of course they found a clergy person who doesn’t require serious premarital counseling – and I wanted to say a few things about that too – but again, what’s the point?

No, I really don’t need XM Radio, or any other constant noise for that matter – including Talk Radio (couldn’t resist that one!).
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is loveable and gracious, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, ponder (dwell on, think on, meditate on) these things.” Philippians 4:8

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Playing Chess, Knowing the Bible, and Relationship with our Father: II

As I mentioned in the previous post, during Andrew’s visit with us last week we played a few games of chess. In the last game we played Andrew’s first eight moves were all pawn moves, moving each pawn forward one square. The rest of the game was really not a game of chess, not really – just moves here and there for him, exchanging a knight for a pawn, losing a queen for a bishop – moves that didn’t make any sense. Mind you, the boy is smart, so this isn’t a case of him not being able to learn the game.

I said, “Andrew, let me teach you how to play chess.”

“I already know how to play chess.”

“Not really, you know how to move the pieces, let me help you understand the game.”

Indignantly Andrew replied, “I already know how to play.”

I first learned chess from my mother’s step-father. I recall sitting at our dinning-room table in Kensington, MD looking across the board at “Uncle” Frank; I can still see his smile – a retired Army sergeant who lived by himself at the Old Soldiers Home in Washington, D.C. (my grandmother died of cancer when I was too little to remember her), visiting his stepdaughter and her family for a day. How young was I? Six? Seven? Eight? I don’t think as old as eight, maybe six. I was pretty young because I can see through the mist of young impressions sitting by Mom at Arlington National Cemetery at Uncle Frank’s funeral, I see the soldier in dress blues presenting Mom with an American Flag; had I been older than six or seven the military funeral would be in high definition.

Those who play chess, especially at my not very high level, know that you never “learn” chess; there are Masters and Grandmasters, so I suppose they’ve “learned" the game in one sense, but in another they are always learning, always preparing, always studying – that’s what makes them Masters and Grandmasters; that’s what makes a concert musician a concert musician; that’s what makes a disciple a disciple. Chess can be a lifelong relationship, a context within which to think and solve problems; you don’t need a physical board and physical pieces to think about chess or apply chess to other areas of life. Someone who has played enough chess can “see” the board, can “see” the sixty-four squares.

In NASCAR auto racing there is something called “seat time”. Drivers who move up from one racing division to another need “seat time” in the new higher division in order to get a feel for the cars used, the racing style, the race tracks, and the strategies. (Yes, there really are strategies.) In the first year a driver moves into the highest division, the Sprint Cup, a stripe is placed across the rear bumper of the “rookie” driver’s car to warn the other drivers that they are behind a rookie driver and to watch out – for he is unaccustomed to racing at the Sprint Cup level and he just might make a mistake. When you’re travelling at close to 200 miles per hour mistakes are not good.

Christians often approach the Bible the way my grandson approaches chess; they think because they can find chapter and verse that they know the Bible. They think because they can recite a verse here and a verse there that they know the Bible. They think because they can relate what they consider to be the main tenets of their particular slant on Christianity (often expressed without reference to the Bible) that they know the Bible. That is like my sweet grandson thinking that because he knows how to move individual pieces that he knows how to play chess. Most Christians no more “see” the Bible as a whole than my dear grandson can “see” the chess board as a whole, or see the relationship of the pieces to each other.

But of course where people are today is less of a problem than in what direction they are headed – we all start somewhere. The sad thing is that many of us in effect say, “I already know the Bible. I already know what the Bible says. I can find the Gospel of John.” (Though they probably can’t find Obadiah!) We teach the Bible piecemeal, when we teach it at all, and we learn the Bible piecemeal.

How many sermons, Bible studies, and small-group sessions have I sat in that have not related the text to the context of the Biblical book in which the passage is found – let alone related it to the context of the entire Bible? Instead it is this piece of data and that piece of data and what does this data say to us today – never mind what the text means in its immediate and broader contexts. Moving the pieces is not understanding the game.

No matter how many videos or books one reads on chess, chess must be played to be learned. No matter how many NASCAR races a person watches, you’ve got to actually race, to actually have seat time, in order to learn to race. Many high-level racers today got their start in go-karts; and many still enjoy a go-kart race now and then. No matter how many sermons or radio programs we listen to, no matter how many books about the Bible we may read, we’ve got to read the Bible to know the Bible – and we’ve got to have a relationship with the Bible to “see” the Bible.

Can we “see” Philippians? Can we “see” Exodus? If we read Revelation can we “see” through the text of Revelation into Exodus, Zechariah, Daniel, and Ezekiel? Do we see the overlays and interconnectedness of Genesis to Revelation? Can we tell the story? If we were on the proverbial desert island with our children or grandchildren with no written Bible could we tell them the story? Can we touch the texture of Ezra? Can we smell the Song of Solomon? Can we climb the mountains of Romans and Ephesians? Are we awestruck by the IMAX theatre of Revelation? Is our skin parched and lips chapped walking through Numbers? Are we hungry with the crowds in Matthew? Do we sense the foreboding of John and at the same time rejoice in its hope? Are we walking on the road to Emmaus? And wherever we are in this grand cosmic-earthly and time-eternity sweep – do we see Jesus, do we see Him, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last? For seeing Jesus, loving Jesus, beholding Jesus…that above all else…is having an “eye” for the Bible. Anything less than seeing Jesus is just moving the pieces.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Playing Chess, Knowing the Bible, and Relationship with our Father: I

Our ten-year old grandson was with us for a few days last week. Last year he learned the basic moves of chess. In addition to giving him a chess set for Christmas, I tried to engage him in an online game of chess, one which uses a board hosted by a website; after one player moves the other player is notified of the move via email so that player in turn can login and make the next move. Since each player has ten days to make his next move there is time to think and analyze and learn.

During visits to his home prior to his recent visit to ours I’ve played a few chess games with him, as with many young players just learning the game he has been moving pieces just to move pieces and taking pieces just to take pieces – while I’m sure there is some method to his moves it is a method that will hopefully be left behind sooner rather than later.

My reason for inviting Andrew to an online game of chess wasn’t to play chess with him, but rather to have some grandfather to grandson communication; the online chess board has a box in which players can “chat” with each other, so I asked Andrew questions about what he was doing at school, church, Cub Scouts, etc. At first Andrew was pretty quick to play his next move, usually within a day or two, and with some prodding by me he started answering my questions and even asking me some. I tried to prolong the chess game by making moves that didn’t make “chess sense” but that did make grandfather sense – after all, my goal was relational. However, after two or three weeks the interval between his moves got longer and longer. His family went on vacation, and prior to vacation he had gone two weeks without a move; he was on vacation for one week; after he returned from vacation we went another two weeks without a move – finally I reluctantly claimed a win based on him exceeding the ten-day move limit. This has been over a month ago and he has never said anything to me about it – not even when he was here last week and we played a few games of chess – it’s as if our online game never happened.

(If you’re wondering why I claimed the win it was to see if Andrew would notice and also, should Andrew notice, that I could talk to Andrew about commitment and follow-through and wanting to play chess with him. It would have been a low-key talk and then hopefully we would have started another game).

I wonder how often I have been like my dear grandson in my relationship with my heavenly Father? I’ll enter into a season of rich morning devotions…but then my focus will change to pressing work issues. I’ll begin a learning or writing project in the evening but then will use physical fatigue or mental or emotional weariness as an excuse to engage in diversions. Why yesterday evening I was reminded that a couple of weeks ago I was impressed to study a Biblical book, and while I began with purpose and intention I realized last night that I had gone over a week without pondering this particular Biblical text – even though my Bibles and study material were gathered together and hence easily accessible. (Prior to writing this today I was back into the Biblical book).

Andrew may never realize that playing the game was not my goal, but rather relationship. Do we realize that our Father and Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit desire intimate relationship with us – and that whatever the “game” may be that God’s desire is for it to be played in relationship with Him? We were created to relationally know Him, individually and together.

To be continued….