Bob and Weave

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Archive for November, 2016

What Children Teach Us, Part II: Celebrate!

Posted by flyingbk on 11/23/2016

It had been a while. But when I was at my friends’ place on Sunday night, I highly anticipated it as my friend and I got beers and clinked our bottles together. We said “cheers,” which promptly sparked what I was hoping for. When I sit for food and/or drink at their place, their precious 2-year-old daughter will join us and shout, “Cheers!” as she extends out her drink (usually milk). She’s obviously observed us during our frequent imbibing of alcohol, and now follows suit, cheer-fully.

I smile every time I hear her exclamation in my head. We say “cheers” and unite our bottles and glasses as a ritual, stating that we’re glad to be enjoying something tasty (and perhaps tranquilizing) as one. But truthfully, every moment of life is meant to be celebrated, and celebrated together.

Let’s look at Philippians 4:4-5, both in the NIV and MSG translations:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (NIV)

4-5 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! (MSG)

Many of us know this passage in the NIV. But one reason I love The Message is that it functions as an elucidating translation. Often times in the past, I’ve read one translation and wondered what it really meant. And then I’d read the MSG, and find what I was searching for. And it would be accurate; Eugene Peterson really did a great job with it.

What I realized while reading the MSG translation of the verses above: Our rejoicing, our celebrating, our constant reveling in God and in life, makes us contagious. When there is a pure and ever-flowing wellspring of joy coming out of us, people take note. There is a clear connection between the rejoicing in the Lord of verse 4, and the gentleness that is evident to all in verse 5. Rejoicers and celebrators make for great witnesses of the truth of Jesus, who for the JOY set before him (read: you and me, his people), endured the pain and suffering of the cross. Taking time out to consistently celebrate softens others’ hearts and gives them a glimpse of the glory of God.

That’s one reason why we enjoy being around little ones: They remind us of the innocence and happiness of youth. They remind us that there is much every single hour and every single day to be enjoyed and celebrated. A few tips to celebrate well:

Be on the Lookout

I have a friend who finished a big project recently and would now have to wait for about 45 days on the results. When she finished, I texted her, “Let’s celebrate.” Her reply: “I’ll celebrate after the results.” And I’ve told her, that’s the wrong way of thinking! We need to take time each hour, each day, celebrating, savoring, enjoying any accomplishment, any moment of beauty.

I’ve always looking for any excuse to rejoice. When I finish a book. When I finish a chapter. When a student demonstrates that he or she actually learned something from me. When a student simply behaves. When the work day goes well. When the work day is simply over. When I see a bright blue sky. When I feel soft rain. When I enjoy good time with friend(s). When I get home safely from said time. When my sports team wins. When I don’t cut myself while shaving. When I sleep really well. When I listen to good music. You get the picture.

Find People

We are meant to celebrate together. It’s common knowledge among my friends that I love to celebrate my birthday (Countdown: 20 days!). It’s my birthday month, and I milk it as much as possible. I want to celebrate with each and every one of my family and friends, and I’d like to think I use my birthday as an excuse to catch up with all of them. Furthermore, I’m also celebrating each of them and what they all mean to me in my years of existence.

It ought to be that way as much as possible. I went walking around Storm King on Saturday, and I would’ve enjoyed the breathtaking views and perfect crisp autumn weather on my own. But enjoying them with friends made it even better. We’ll all be gathering for Thanksgiving meals tomorrow, and inhaling all the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, lasagna (a Koo Thanksgiving tradition), and apple pie tastes a lot better with family.

So, don’t celebrate alone. Find someone to rejoice with, to savor together, and to be jointly thankful.

Give God the Glory

Each celebration is actually a means to an end. We must remember that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV). God is the one that affords us each moment of rejoicing, and we best recognize the source.

We have come to the principal benefit of celebration: Each time we do so, it brings us closer to God. It provides a better lens with which to see what God is doing in our lives. It turns our gaze heavenward, when we’ve been keeping our heads down for far too long. The City of God becomes more of the reality that it actually is.

Life’s too short not to be savored and enjoyed and celebrated. And looking to do it, and then doing it, keeps us sane and keeps us level. It’s also a tremendous disinfectant against jadedness and disillusionment. So with Thanksgiving tomorrow and the homestretch of 2016 in front of us, let’s seek to celebrate, enjoy, and savor as much as possible.

*****

Here’s the intro and Part I of this “What Children Teach Us” series.

No weekend links this week, but here are a few good reads regarding Thanksgiving:

-Tim Challies on the link between thanksgiving and joy.

-Yes, we are broken, but we can be thankful still.

-Now’s a good time to evaluate our generosity: Does it come with expectations?

-If you’re struggling with ingratitude, read this.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone! Thankful for all of your support!

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The Weekend Is Here! 11-25-16

Posted by flyingbk on 11/18/2016

1. I’m not much of a movie guy anymore, but once in a while, a movie comes along that I know I need to see. The last one was The Hateful Eight simply because my favorite actor, the great Walton Goggins, played a prominent role. (As expected, he was excellent. Need a  TV show to binge watch this holiday season? I highly recommend The Shield and Justified. Goggins plays the main supporting actor in both, and he is brilliant.)

 

But now, I’ve found the movie I MUST watch this holiday season. That would be Martin Scorcese’s Silence, based on the seminal 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo. A friend of mine let me borrow his copy a couple years back, and it’s a book not to be missed. The plot follows two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who travel to 17th century Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson), but end up in the throes of persecution. Scorcese claims that he’s been trying to make this film for 28 years!

 

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Scorcese is actually planning on showing the film to 400 Jesuit priests in Rome. The movie will be given a limited release starting on Dec. 23 before going wide in January. I’ll be counting down the days till I get to see it.

 

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2. I believe that if you are a pastor in America who preached this past Sunday, there was an obligation to express balanced and biblical thoughts on the results of the presidential election. My pastor did, and I greatly appreciated his viewpoints. (Bonus: He was going through the book of Jonah, and Jonah 4 fit perfectly with his postmortem. Expository preaching FTW!) Also, Mark Dever, who preaches in the heart of Washington DC, eloquently expressed how we are not a Republican or Democratic church.

 

Also, props to the Harvard Crimson editorial board for encouraging more ideological diversity on campus. That was not a reaction I expected.

 

3. A few quick hits:
-I loved this story from The Guardian about “The Church of McDonald’s.” There’s a Wendy’s nearby where I live, and I recently went there alone to sit down and eat dinner. I was floored by how many older Koreans resided in that place; it was like their second home. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised since I know that my mom likes to go and hang out there (senior discount on the coffee!). This piece reminds us of the power of simple social presence.

 

-Here’s an entertaining piece on the history of the cheese curl, which is basically repurposed animal feed. I’d have to think that a show featuring Chester Cheetah would be allowed and even popular today, given the variety of platforms available. Alas, it was an idea that was not fit for that era.

 

-Trevin Wax writes about two reminders he learned from observing the Church in South Korea. Both are important, but the second one was especially a good reminder about the need to pray more spontaneously, especially when I’m with others.

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

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103rd Psalm Part 5: From the Pit

Posted by flyingbk on 11/14/2016

First, a plug for the Scripture Typer app. I use it regularly to memorize Bible verses. It’s awesome. I love it. Try it. It’s free!

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103, NIV)

We continue our look at Psalm 103 (Past entries: Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 3, Part 4). We’ve been looking at this psalm as a progression that gets better and better. We are now at verse 4. God forgives all our sin, and then heals all our diseases. Now we get to the pit.

In his brilliant book The Good Soldiers, David Finkel tells a story that well encapsulates the types of challenges soldiers faced during the Iraq War surge:

Still, on June 5, Kamaliyah was a long way from having sewers, which meant that the trenches were filled to their rims as a convoy pulled out of the COP on a lights-out mission to rendezvous with an informant.

“Go right! Go right!” one of the soldiers in the last Humvee yelled to a driver, who was fiddling with his night-vision goggles, or NODs, as they rounded a corner, but it was too late.

The Humvee began to slide into the trench. Then it flipped. Then it sank. Then it began filling up.

Four of the soldiers scrambled out a door and got out of the trench relatively dry, but the gunner was trapped inside. “He was yelling,” Staff Sergeant Arthur Enriquez would remember afterward, and if there was any hesitation about what to do next, it was only because, “I didn’t want to jump in the poo water.”

We’ve all felt like that gunner throughout the seasons of life. Trapped by despair and our insecurities. Wondering why we have to suffer, and if there’s really any meaning to it. Feeling like we’re sinking little by little, with hope slipping away.

Sometimes, it’s other people’s fault. So we make them easy scapegoats and blame them for all of our problems. But if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of where we’ve ended up is our own doing. I’m reminded of a quote I once shared before, concerning the Old Testament Israelites in exile:

In the case of the chosen people, who for nearly seventy years had been strangers in a strange land, and had drunk the cup of bitterness to is dregs, there was thus added weight to their sorrow–the conviction of their captivity being the result of their own impenitence and transgression. This is the bitterest of all–to know that suffering need not have been; that it had resulted from indiscretion and inconsistency; that it is the harvest of one’s own sowing; that the vulture which feeds on the vitals is a nestling of one’s own rearing. Ah me! This is pain!
-F.B. Meyer, Christ in Isaiah

(I actually shared this quote back in college for my school’s Christian newsletter. Yup, it’s still available online. Not crazy about my writing in that article, though.)

So then we feel stuck. We feel like we’re in the poo water (ew). But thanks be to God. He’s the one who can deliver us, and willingly does so. Finkel continues:

And then?

“I jumped into the damn poo water.”

Down he went, into the crew compartment, where the gunner was stuck in his harness straps, his head partly in the sewage water, which continued to seep in. Enriquez got one arm around the gunner and lifted his head higher, and with his other hand began cutting away the straps. Now he and the gunner were nearly submerged as he pushed the straps away and began pulling at the gunner’s body armor away. He squeezed his eyes shut. He wondered how long he could hold his breath. He felt for the gunner’s waist and began pulling. Everything was slippery. He tried again. He got the gunner to the door. He kept pulling, and slipping, and pulling, and now they were out the door, out of the Humvee, out of the sewage, and up on the bank, and that’s how this month of hopeful signs began for the 2-16, with two soldiers wiping raw Iraqi sewage out of their eyes and ears and spitting it out of their mouths.

That’s what Jesus does for us. He got down into the poo water, and emerged victorious. He paid the price that we couldn’t pay, he endured the physical suffering and relational severance that we couldn’t bear, he descended into hell so that we would never have to dwell there. He went down into the deepest, darkest pit so that he could forever lift us up: from literal hell, but also from the pit of hopelessness, of meaninglessness, of helplessness.

But, but, wait… there’s more! One way the devil attempts to discourage us is by saying this: “Well, so you got out of the pit, you got out of the burned-down house. But where you gonna go now?” So we immediately get down all over again, thinking about the next steps and the so-called uncertainty that lies ahead, and we fall back into anxiety and worry. But hello! We just got redeemed from the pit and saved from hell!!!

We actually have so much to look forward to, but instead we choose to ruled by fear, bemoaning what we can’t control. The good news is that not only does God save us, he also then crowns us… More on that next time.

*****

I finished Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star last night. I absolutely LOVED this book. The two main characters are Daniel, a Korean high school senior whose parents want him to go to Yale, and Natasha, a Jamaican who is trying to fight off her family’s impending deportation. They happen to run into each other on this fateful day (the novel basically spans only one day). Daniel is the poetic, sensitive type while Natasha is the already jaded, science-driven one who is all about the data. So yes, it can be a cheesy opposites-attract story at times. But Yoon interposes her narrative with delightful historical and cultural insights, and her ending is pitch perfect. Certainly, if you’re Korean, you’ll enjoy it even more (they spend quality time at a noraebang, naturally). There was a big smile on my soul, mixed with a tinge of pathos, as I read and finished this book. I enthusiastically recommend it.

*****

Pete Carroll became my favorite NFL coach last night. With 4:24 to go in the 4th quarter last night, the Seahawks took a 31-24 lead on the Patriots. I have been waiting for a coach to do the bold, right thing by going for 2 in that situation. Why? If you make the 2, you take a 9-point lead and the game is basically over. If you miss it, you still have a 7-point lead (Contrary to what Jack del Rio did in Week 1, almost no team is going for 2 when an extra point means overtime). The 2-point try especially makes sense when you consider that the extra point is no sure thing anymore (look what happened earlier yesterday!), and usually reliable Seahawks kicker Stephen Hauschka did this a couple weeks ago:

Bravo, Pete. Perhaps he learned something from that kick (the look on his face as he watches the miss is priceless), and there may be hope yet for NFL coaching.

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The Weekend Is Here! 11-11-16

Posted by flyingbk on 11/11/2016

1. The older I get as a sports fan, the more I realize how much more nuance there is. Sports is a zero-sum game; there’s a winner and a loser. So it’s easy to make declarations like “that guy just wanted it more” or “that player’s just got no heart.” We rank players based on how many championship rings they have, even though it’s a team sport and there are a myriad of factors that go into one single title run. We make sweeping declarations based on a final score, when the game really could have gone either way.

It’s the same for politics. As Nate Silver notes: If Hillary Clinton had won, there would’ve been all these grandiose statements about how America was ready for its female president, how the Republican party is in complete shambles, and how Trump was justly handwaved away by the American public. If just 1 in every 100 voters had gone the other way…

My advice: Don’t ever believe the post-mortem hype, whether it be sports or politics. There’s always much, much more going on underneath the hood. And instead of just assuming, let’s seek to understand why people voted the way they did. Calling a basket of Trump voters racists isn’t helpful, and it’s also wrong because many of those voters opted for Obama in the past. Nate Cohn from the NY Times notes:

2. More election reactions: My favorite website, Mockingbird, nails it per usual. Thomas Frank writes, “Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.” I don’t agree with everything in Thabiti Anyabwile’s piece, but appreciated his perspective as a black Christian. Russell Moore, who’s been a key voice for me in this election cycle, also shared his post-mortem.

And Ernie Johnson’s perspective is rightly going viral:

Like Johnson, I also wrote in a candidate. I have to admit, it was quite exhilarating checking off a different column and using the small inset keyboard. But yes, let’s pray. Pray for President Trump, and pray for everyone (all demographics) in our already great nation.

3. A few weeks ago, I heard Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” blaring through the store’s speakers and it brought back fond memories. I love that song (I used to sing it as loud and emotionally as possible, usually in the privacy of my room), and I especially loved the accompanying music video:

So I was stoked to read this feature on “The Lost Children of Runaway Train.” The article explains how the idea for the video came about, and how the video had to be re-cut every single time one of the runaways was actually located. It also notes something I didn’t know about the missing-children-on-milk-cartons phenomenon:

The milk carton campaign, the origins of which are murky, fell by the wayside after Dr. Benjamin Spock and others suggested it needlessly scared children.

 

I always wondered why that campaign ended, and I guess that reasoning makes sense.

4. Quick hits:

-College basketball begins today! College hoops is my second favorite sport after baseball, and it’s perfect since the two sports combine to span the full calendar year. I’m a Georgetown Hoyas fan (you can follow me on Twitter to experience my agitated rants), and things may finally be looking up for us. Here’s a good primer on the college hoops landscape. Oh, and how about the sports year we’ve been having? An epic NCAA basketball final in April, an epic NBA finals in June, and an epic World Series just completed. Pretty awesome.

-Sad news in Met-land: The Braves, the purveyors of the worst cheer in professional sports, have signed BOTH R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Le sigh. Dickey has written my favorite sports memoir (his book is 1, while Andre Agassi’s is 1a). And of course, Colon is Mr. Big Sexy:

He will be sorely missed.

-Keith Law just released a new ranking of his top 100 board games. I’m way behind on trying out his top ten games, but I am a Dominion junkie and recently started playing Pandemic (great game!).

-A late congrats to the Cubs and their long-suffering fans. “Long-suffering” is one of those overused words, but it certainly applies here. This science piece notes why I started using “we” and “us” as a sports fan, oh, about 13 years ago. I used to be one who chortled and say, “WE?!?! What, are you a part of the team???” (You may have thought the same when I wrote “us” in regards to the Hoyas up above.) But the ‘we’ is poetic.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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All the Rage

Posted by flyingbk on 11/09/2016

I’ll have a few thoughts on the election results tomorrow, but today I’d like to share a devotional I wrote for my church this past February. I think it’s quite fitting, whether you’re currently an angry American, or you’ve experienced anger during this year’s election cycle (so yeah, probably all of us).

—–

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In our culture today, it’s become en vogue to become outraged about any little thing. If some news item is deemed “rage-worthy,” scores of people on Twitter, Facebook, etc. gang up on said person(s). It’s like a flash mob that’s competing against each other in regards to who can spew the most venom and vitriol towards somebody who, you know, just totally deserves it and had it coming.

Rage has become all the rage.

There are many problems with this aspect of our culture, but I’ll focus on two. Firstly, we’ve become a very reactive people. We immediately react to every single news update (I’ve been guilty of this too), and that is not healthy. No wonder Proverbs constantly reminds us: “Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools.” (16:22). Note: That’s a lot of prudence.

Secondly (stop me if you’ve heard this one), we’re all sinners. So even our heroes are highly flawed people. One case in point is what’s happening at Princeton University. Many people desire for Princeton to strip any reference to former president Woodrow Wilson because Wilson was a racist and segregationist.

Now, we shouldn’t minimize racism, and it’s easy to be cynical about the university administration’s response. But I believe it’s helpful here. The administration stated: “We owe a great deal to people who are deeply flawed, and not many people can transcend the prejudices of the times they lived in… We assess ourselves with great humility because we, too, are flawed, and it’s likely that we will also be guilty of sins and prejudices that to future generations who look back on our own legacies will be very obvious.”

The next time we gear up to throw a stone at somebody who has done something wrong or even rage and shame-worthy, let us take a second and pause. Let us consider how deeply flawed each of us are, and always reflect on our deep sinfulness first. Only then will we be able to approach the situation with a posture of gospel-infused humility. (This principle can also work really well in marriages and households.)

Cornelius Plantinga wrote: “Evil always appears in tandem with good… Good and evil grow together, intertwine around each other, and grow out of each other in remarkable and complicated ways.”

In conclusion: It’s complicated. Therefore, let us be wise and also ever gracious. Here’s Proverbs again: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (16:24)

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Thoughts on the Election

Posted by flyingbk on 11/07/2016

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A few quick hitters on the 2016 Presidential Election:

The Forecast

Nate Silver’s team over at Fivethirtyeight.com gives Hillary Clinton about a 70% chance to win. That sounds right to me. (Cue the Clinton supporters who believe Silver is engaging in clickbait, and the Trump supporters who want to focus only on a couple select polls.) Recently, I’ve been saying that Donald Trump’s chance to win is about the same as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ odds of winning game 7 at Golden State. Of course, we know what happened then. But I wasn’t floored when LeBron and Co. won back in June; I would be shocked if Trump is giving a victory speech tomorrow night. It is certainly within the realm of possibility, however.

Even Keel

It’s been an odd election year cycle for me. Usually, I’m very invested in the outcome. In presidential elections past, I’ve attended campaign rallies and prayed fervently for the election of certain candidates. I even prayed regularly for specific Senate races. I used to be super-involved, super-invested in every political outcome. I used to read political news and blogs all the time. I would become happy or get outraged when various things went down in Washington.

But I’ve gone from one end of the spectrum to the other. Now, I’m a firm believer in not spectating or participating in the 24-hour news cycle (more on that another time). I steer clear of political debate on social media because let’s face it: No one changes his or her mind when reading someone else’s post. I very much value my emotional health, and the majority of the ways we discuss politics in our country is not conducive to it.

I did make one mistake while swinging on the pendulum. I’ve joked at times this year, “Well our country is now hopeless. Let’s forget politics and only focus on preaching the gospel.” That’s wrong, too. God is concerned and desires to redeem all fields and institutions, and it’s wrong of me to throw up my hands in frustration with our government and say to hell with it all.

I think the best approach is to have an even keel: a) To focus on people and not get caught up in the hype and rhetoric, but also b) To cover our country and government in prayer, and be a mindful citizen. With this year’s super-duper charged political rhetoric coming from all sides, I’ve instead tried to comprehend why we believe what we believe, and why we support or loathe a certain candidate. More than ever, we need people who can empathize, listen, and relate to each other’s mindsets, and yes, biases.

Let’s Get Ready

Final point: For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, the Bible is clear: We are to submit to our leadership, whether we voted for that person or not. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard fellow Christians in the past refuse to address  Bush or Obama as president. “Well, he’s not my president, I didn’t vote for him,” they’d say. First of all, those statements represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how the American electoral process works. Secondly, that attitude is a direct violation of what the Word of God says:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
-Romans 13:1-2 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 or kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
-1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

Whether it’s President Clinton or President Trump, we are to pray for, support, and submit to her or him. Even if we don’t like it, that person has been installed by God to lead America. We ought to always refer to our new leader as ‘president.’ We are not to speak ill of our president, but rather consistently show honor. We can be respectfully critical of the president’s policies, but we best avoid any personal invectives.

When we honor our president, we honor God. When we dishonor our president, we dishonor God. Mature Christians recognize that there is a God-granted flow of power from God to anyone else with power, and therefore submit to God by submitting to ones who are placed above us.

So, whoever wins tomorrow night (and hopefully it is tomorrow night), let’s get ready. Let’s get ready to pray for our president-elect. Let’s get ready to honor and submit. Most of all, let’s keep praying for our country and align our hearts with God’s, “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:4, NIV)

 

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The Weekend’s Here! 11-4-16

Posted by flyingbk on 11/04/2016

A reminder that you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter, which drops each Friday. This weekend’s links:

1. Let’s begin with NY Times columnist David Brooks’ piece on how we worry too much, especially during this election cycle. When we worry, we become more selfish. And the antidote is to get busy and involved in other people’s lives. Brooks writes:

Furthermore, action takes us out of ourselves. Worry, like drama, is all about the self. As [Francis] O’Gorman puts it, the worrier is the opposite of a lighthouse: “He doesn’t give out energy for the benefit of others. He absorbs energy at others’ cost.”

If you’re worrying, you’re spiraling into your own narcissistic pool. But concrete plans and actions thrust us into the daily fact of other people’s lives.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon at work in my life (including during this week, which was quite stressful): When I get stressed, I feel like doing nothing and vegging out. But that doesn’t usually get rid of the stress; it just pushes the stress to another day. However, if I take the time to create conversation, check up on how other people are doing, take a long prayer walk in which I pray for others more than myself, or get lost in a good book (which makes me more empathetic)… the worry dissipates. And yes, then we can become more carefree.

2. Billy Bob Thornton. William Hurt. Maria Bello. Olivia Thirby. Molly Parker. Even Dwight Yoakam! There hasn’t been such an ensemble of talent since [insert sports cliche i.e. the 1927 Yankees and 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats]. And yet the show that features this group, the Amazon drama Goliath, is severely underwhelming. I finished it last night, and I couldn’t have been more disappointed in the last two episodes (a sentiment that TV critic Alan Sepinwall shares– spoiler alert).

I mean, it’s a courtroom drama, and you’ve got Billy Bob Thornton (I’d watch anything with him as a principal actor)! And yet when it’s time for him to give his rousing closing argument…complete and cliched flatness. So disappointing. The ending made no sense either and was definitely not earned, which made it fit well with the nonsensical romances and the shallow explorations of gender and sexuality and power. Goliath sought to be a hard-boiled legal thriller, but ended up as that disgusting undercooked and overly runny egg.

3. On a better note, I finished Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale this week. I was always amazed at how this book has over 30,000 reviews and still averages 5 stars. I don’t know of any other book that’s achieved such lofty status. But now I see why. I completed the novel around 1 a.m, splayed out diagonally on my bed with tears in my eyes, feeling a bittersweet mixture of sorrow, exhaustion, pride, and… peace.

Sure, there are plot contrivances and cliches. But Hannah writes gorgeous prose and conveys well the full spectrum of the emotions of wartime. The story also serves as a tribute to the French women who served behind the scenes in World War II- the strength they displayed, the risks they took, and the trauma they endured. A couple choice excerpts:

Isabelle glanced to her left and saw Gaëtan coming toward her. For the first time, she saw him clearly. He was lanky, wiry as an apostrophe mark, and dressed in clothes that appeared to have come from a beggar’s bin. Beneath a fraying cap, his face was scruffy and sharp, unshaven. He had a wide brow and a pronounced chin and deep-set gray eyes that were heavily lashed. The look in those eyes was as sharp as the point of his chin, and revealed a kind of clarified hunger. Last night she’d thought it was how he’d looked at her. Now she saw that it was how he looked at the world.

—–
“These yellow stars,” Rachel said, opening her fist, revealing the ugly little flower of ragged fabric, with its black marking. “We have to wear them on our clothes at all times now.”
Sarah [Rachel’s young daughter] frowned. “But … why?”
“We’re Jews,” Rachel said. “And we’re proud of that. You have to remember how proud we are of it, even if people—”
“Nazis,” Vianne [Rachel’s friend] said more sharply than intended.
“Nazis,” Rachel added, “want to make us feel … bad about it.”
“Will people make fun of me?” Sarah asked, her eyes widening.
“I will wear one, too,” Sophie [Vianne’s daughter] said.
Sarah looked pathetically hopeful at that.
Rachel reached out for her daughter’s hand and held it. “No, baby. This is one thing you and your best friend can’t do together.”
Vianne saw Sarah’s fear and embarrassment and confusion. She was trying her best to be a good girl, to smile and be strong even as tears glazed her eyes. “Oui,” she said at last.

It was the saddest sound Vianne had heard in nearly three years of sorrow.

4. A few quick links to close this out:

-The Mets’ minor league affiliate in Binghamton decided to change its time from the Mets to the…Rumble Ponies. I actually dig the name, and I really like the logo.
-Those of us who have frequented the NY/NJ area airports while spending time at others will not be surprised to learn that we have the three worst airports in all of America.

-You’ve probably already seen this video. If not, prepare to feel frustrated and unsatisfied:

Have a great weekend everyone!

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What Children Teach Us, Part I: Carefree

Posted by flyingbk on 11/02/2016

A few months ago, I visited Brooklyn at the abode of a couple with whom I’m very close. They have a 3-year-old daughter who is an absolute joy to be around, and I’m not just saying that because she once scurried the full width of a 20-person dinner table just to give me a hug. (She even once told her mom “I love Uncle Bob,” punctuated with a happy sigh. No, seriously. I’m not making that up.) We finished our scrumptious pizza dinner, and were just lounging around in the living room. The little girl entertained herself by watching one of those Youtube shows in which these girls play with Barbie dolls. Here’s the video on that particular night:

After the video was over, the time drew nigh for her to go to sleep. However, she had one last surprise in store for us. Seemingly out of nowhere, she starts jumping up and down. That part is hardly surprising, but she then follows it up by looking at each of us and repeatedly imploring: “Everybody DANCE!!! C’mon!!!” She continued to lurch all over the place and make her demands even as we simply laughed and spectated. This joyous episode took place for about 10 minutes.

The first lesson I have learned from children (intro here) is the value of being carefree. One main shackle that holds us all back is the fear of man: Worrying and caring way too much about what others think of us. Therefore, we’ve all become much more civilized and dignified, and we’ve honed our words, mannerisms, even the way we smile and laugh. Our image is paramount, and we prevent ourselves from ‘letting go,’ lest others look or think of us as weird or different.

Certainly, there are times that call for professionalism. But I pity those of us who feel a need to hold back when we’re amongst family and friends. The daughter’s carefree dance routine reminded me of King David in 2 Samuel 6:12-23 (NIV):

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

We all have a Michal or two in our lives. The one who frowns upon us and even passes us some Haterade when we do or say something carefree or silly. (Pro tip: If you don’t know who the Michal is in your life… then you might be her. Just sayin’.)

King David was so excited about God’s goodness in his own life and his people’s lives. Thus, he can’t help but rejoice, he can’t help but dance with all that he’s got. He knows that many eyes were upon him, and it didn’t matter to him. He was carefree.

I watched my favorite band twice last week. I saw Red in concert at the famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on Sunday, and at the Highline Ballroom in NYC on Monday. The Jersey crowd was much smaller, but the people were also much more lively. (My theory: NYC’ers are less adept at rocking out because of the need to always act so civilized.) I was so carefree on Sunday night, mainly because I went alone. I noticed the occasional glance at my jumping and headbanging as well as my boisterous sing-along attempts, but I didn’t care. There was such freedom in enjoying the music, the performance, the lighting, the rocking out of fellow men and women Red-heads.

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(A photo by me of my main man Michael Barnes in Asbury Park.)

This article recently made me think, though (aside: Game 7 tonight!!! Doesn’t get much better than this!). Am I as carefree when I worship God? I used to be. But the older I get, the more prim and proper I am in worship services. I still lift my hands and sway to the music; I still worship. But if you juxtaposed me at the Red concert vs. me in Sunday worship, you’d see quite the difference.

Going forward, let’s seek to heed the command of my friends’ young daughter, and call to mind what King David’s epic display. Not just in Sunday worship, but throughout each day. Let’s throw off the shackles of the fear of man, and live our lives with loud and unabashed joy. Let’s not worry so much about how we sound or how we look. And let’s remember that we can be carefree and even be a spectacle at times because Jesus unashamedly loves us, even willing to suffer public humiliation at the hands of haters galore.

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