my books: friends & counselors #10

John W. Frye’s poetic reflection on relating to God as we relate to others made “in his image” speaks deeply to me every time I read it. The wonder of relationship!

Wrinkles at the corner of the eyes,
a softening inflection of the voice,
a sigh, a slight turn of the head,
a friend speaks to me.
A sacred entity in wearied body
bearing the Image –
priceless, deep imprint of the Other.
Gesturing, fumbling hands,
awkward silences and jump-start
phrase
coming from inside a being,
from a silence unknown to me
except for this series of sounds.
Conversation is a miracle,
a treasure hunt
for meaning, acceptance;
an audio map
Out of the complex wilderness
for two simple, broken wanderers
who drink hot coffee.
Are those wrinkles in the corner of the eyes
or are they branches of the burning bush?
What is this space, other than holy ground?
How is it that our feeble, speaking voices
usher us into the Eternal Silence
where words cannot convey this exact moment?
Holy, holy, holy is this moment almighty!
Two brings, coffee on their breathes,
with puffs of air exchange their souls
on wispy sounds, from very deep to deep!
I walk away from the moment
with a new limp
and
with a new hope,
for I have wrestled with God
in another whom I call
“friend.”

Liberate Your Praying Heart by John W. Frye (Credo House Publishers, 2017); p.42

links to 10 items worth your time

1. Can Israel and Jordan cooperate to save the dying Dead Sea

“… the Jordan River isn’t the only biblical-site-turned-environmental-disaster.”

2. America’s New Religions

“Seduced by scientism, distracted by materialism, insulated, like no humans before us, from the vicissitudes of sickness and the ubiquity of early death, the post-Christian West believes instead in something we have called progress — a gradual ascent of mankind toward reason, peace, and prosperity — as a substitute in many ways for our previous monotheism. We have constructed a capitalist system that turns individual selfishness into a collective asset and showers us with earthly goods; we have leveraged science for our own health and comfort. Our ability to extend this material bonanza to more and more people is how we define progress; and progress is what we call meaning.”

3. How N.T. Wright Stole Christmas

“As it turns out, Wright is no Grinch. He didn’t steal Christmas. What he stole was a false Christmas, a de-contextualized and apolitical Christmas. But we shouldn’t have bought that Christmas in the first place, and should have been embarrassed to display it so proudly on the mantle. Good riddance, and Bah humbug.”

4. Gun-shy About Committing to Church

“Surviving spiritual abuse means I’ve had to learn to balance my wariness (especially if I sense a leader is practicing those familiar old power games) with a commitment to remain vigilant about allowing bitterness to take root in my soul. I don’t try to silence my internal critic during a church service or gathering, as this voice serves an important role in helping me to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. However, I work to listen for the things that harmonize with that critic by seeking to worship God in community, be present with others he’s placed in my path, and serve without feeling the compulsion I once did to say ‘yes’ to every request.”

5. Becoming Poor and Finding Friendship on the Margins

“We assume God’s friendship is enough as we seek to make friends with God’s people: the poor, the suffering, the lonely, and all those who cry out from their hearts for mercy. This is how we live out Christ’s good news on the margins.”

6. Resilient Kids Come From Parents Who Do These 8 Things

“… resilience is a behavior learned through explicit lessons and examples, one that teaches kids how to, among other things, better handle stress, understand that rejection is not a comment on their entire existence, and view setbacks as things that don’t need to sideline them for good.”

7. ‘A Witness That They Were Here’: Los Angeles Honors 1,457 of Its Unclaimed Dead

“They are the forgotten people of Los Angeles — 1,457 people, to be exact. Old, poor, homeless, babies born premature and abandoned. They may have died alone, but they were buried together, in a mass grave, and were honored together this week in an interfaith ceremony that has been an annual ritual in Los Angeles for more than a century.”

8. Attention is not a resource but a way of being alive to the world

“… conceiving of attention as a resource misses the fact that attention is not just useful. It’s more fundamental than that: attention is what joins us with the outside world. ‘Instrumentally’ attending is important, sure. But we also have the capacity to attend in a more ‘exploratory’ way: to be truly open to whatever we find before us, without any particular agenda. …

“So, as well as attention-as-resource, it’s important that we retain a clear sense of attention-as-experience.”

9. Millennials experience work-disrupting anxiety at twice the US average rate

“Nearly one in five US workers are debilitated by anxiety or depression, and the rate only climbs when you zoom in on younger generations.”

10. How Modern Technology is Bringing Ancient Writings to Light

“Powerful imaging tools are enabling researchers to see inside scrolls too fragile to unroll and recover texts too faint to see, making thousands of illegible manuscripts readable again.”

links to 4 helpful posts

1. C.S. Lewis and Aristotle on Civic Friendship

“Civility is one of those virtues that you don’t need when people are singing the same tune. A husband and wife getting along swimmingly don’t need to be civil, nor do best friends in the best of times. Civility is by definition exercised only when it’s needed, and that’s when we disagree about what is good and what we love. Perhaps we need to add a fourth type of friendship to Aristotle’s scheme, that of civil friendship. This form of friendship could be useful and perhaps even enjoyable, but most importantly it partakes in the good of the other because we can agree that one component of our good is respect for others with whom we disagree about other fundamental aspects of the good.”

2. Why Are You Afraid of Losing Your Privilege?

“Lord, forgive us for being afraid of losing our privilege.”

3. Things to know–and not to know–about Bible prophecy

“I used to know a lot more about prophecy than I do now.”

4. The Health Benefits of Hugging

“There are three types of people; touchy-feely people who always hug you hello, special occasional huggers and those who find displays of affection uncomfortable. Interestingly enough, your touchy-feely friends may also be happier and healthier, as recent research is beginning to identify the hug as a viable mental and physical health boost.”

a prayer of thanksgiving for the distant, but very close friend

 

Father God, thank you for my friend who is especially dear to me, but who is far removed from me in terms of place. And that you know their name and care for them even far, far more than do I, I am very thankful.

Though we rarely speak, when we do so, we pick up the conversation as though we have been together every day all along. I know this is a great and precious gift from you, Father. Thank you.

It has been many years since we have been able to simply be in each other’s presence, but Father, I sense that we are ever present with each other in ways that far transcend geography. This is your work, Father, not mine, and I thank you.

Though we were made of very different material, long ago you wove our lives together. In that apparent weakness, somehow you made great strength. Thank you for gifting us so.

Decades distant you bonded us to each other, closer than brothers. And decades later the bond remains, undiminished, yes, even stronger than ever. Such kinship is rare and so, I know you have given us a special grace.

You have spared their life all this time, given them all of the time they have enjoyed, and so I pray, Father, for them, and I confess for myself, give them still yet much more time here on this earth. Thank you for every drop of time, every ounce of time we know that we are not alone, Father, and remind so with such friendship as this.

You still powerfully speak to me through the memory of their ways that were good, even though I remain ignorant of many of their good ways are today. That you continue to use them to carve indelible marks into my mind through the instrument of yesteryears, well Father, I am deeply indebted to you.

And so, in the name of your Son, Jesus, I would ask. May you give them every good thing that you would give them in your love, Father; lavish your goodness on them. May they always seek you and grow to know you better each day; may their gratitude for you swell with the years. May we never leave each other, Father, and may we ever be grateful, together, Father, for what you have done, and are doing, and will do. Give us this grace and mercy, Father, to spend forever together in your presence.

Amen. And amen.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Alzheimer’s, communication, compassion, respect & sensitivity: 5 Things to Never Say to a Person With Alzheimer’s

“When relating to a person with Alzheimer’s, there are many guidelines to follow. I’m going to discuss five of the most basic ones here: (1) Don’t tell them they are wrong about something, (2) Don’t argue with them, (3) Don’t ask if they remember something, (4) Don’t remind them that their spouse, parent or other loved one is dead, and (5) Don’t bring up topics that may upset them.”

Attitude, admiration, behavior, character & emulation: Five People I Admire [required reading]

“1. I admire people who are respectful and gracious in their speech. … 2. I admire people who are quick to say ‘I’m sorry.’ … 3. I admire people who build up instead of destroy. … 4. I admire people who don’t have to be the center of attention. … 5. I admire people who spread joy instead of cynicism.”

Awkwardness, friendship, generations & vulnerability: The Silver Lining of Awkwardness [required reading]

“An opportunity is buried inside each of your awkward moments. … Awkwardness is an invitation to vulnerability. And vulnerability is where friendship is born.”

Hispanics & politics: Finding a Place: Hispanic Faith, Work and Identity

“It’s the middle of another election year. And while midterms historically draw a smaller crowd of voters, they bring to the forefront of political conversation a variety of issues intended to energize voter bases and solidify party candidates. Predictably, one of those issues is once again immigration.”

Maps: 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World

“Hopefully some of these maps will surprise you and you’ll learn something new. A few are important to know, some interpret and display data in a beautiful or creative way, and a few may even make you chuckle or shake your head.”

Marriage & relationships: Eight Things Healthy Couples Don’t Do

“It’s often harder to see the good relationships, because they aren’t out slamming doors and stomping around and airing grievances on social media. Here are eight things healthy couples don’t do …”

Reflection, silence & spiritual growth: Screwtape and Silence

“Why we need times of quiet reflection — and why the devil hates them.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Application & moralizing: Moralizing Scripture…the Rush to Application and Misappropriating the Text

“…  let us be careful when we moralize scripture and rush to application that we don’t, in the process, undermine the text and the power of God to do greater things than make us nicer people.”

Capital punishment & death penalty5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked

“In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.”

Children, church & parenting: Let the Children Come to Me…Unless They’re Too Loud, Distracting, or Difficult

“The church in America has raised a whole generation that has never really been spiritually formed by the larger church gathering.”

Cinema, film, movies & Noah: * To See or Not to See the Movie Noah? [required reading]; * What’s Really Behind Christians’ Rejection of Noah?

* “Art often needs to speak honestly about evil, and I hope we don’t sanitize the Bible to the point where we forget just how well it does that. I get the pushback about Noah going off script, and being concerned about disinformation. But I think our real problem is that, unlike Christians of earlier centuries, we no longer understand what art does or how it works.”

* “This week Christians will have the chance to see Noah. And in an ironic twist, Paramount Pictures and the director find themselves defending their film against strong criticism from Christians, the audience they assumed would be the first in line to see this biblically epic story. In what has become a reversal of roles, Hollywood has heard the cry of Christians for bible based films (and the allure of their money, no doubt) and produced an epic picture and now Christians are the ones rejecting it. And in this case, it’s Christians who may not be completely honest about their reasons for rejecting it as we’ve formerly accused Hollywood of being in rejecting bible based films in the past. And the only public leg we have to stand on is the presence of biblical errors in the movie.”

Friendship, Jesus & sinners: Setting the Record Straight on Jesus, ‘the Friend of Sinners’ [essential reading]

“… does it matter that we correctly understand Jesus’ social habits? It does actually. Because Christians believe they must “live as Jesus did.” If the faithful only build relational bridges with those who are open to converting, they will find it increasingly difficult to exist in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture.”

Ministry: * Dear Churchgoers …; * The Friendless Pastor

* “Now I understand you might think I should know all the things that are happening with you. I really do want to. Most of my fellow pastors would agree. We love to know the things that are going on in your life. We want to hear all about it. But there’s a good chance that we won’t know if you never tell us.”

* “It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. … We have too many relationships and too few friends.”