Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Holidays & Holy-days and Halloween

For the most part, I do not "get into" holiday "spirit" - though I love the time to live differently for a day or a few days!  I enjoy fireworks on the U.S. 4th of July, though I rarely buy anything more than a sparkler or two.

Even while I enjoy time with family at Christmas, I really do not care about decorating the house, the tree, and I think gift giving in most cases is a consumeristic-self-gratifying-and-ultimately-unsatisfying quest for the next "thing" that we think will make life "better" or "complete" or "happy."

As I child, I enjoyed Trick-Or-Treating at Halloween and have not restricted my children from participating in community candy events.

And yet, I really do not get how most Christian people invest so much more energy in these holidays, than they invest in holy days!  In fact, most people of faith probably do not realize that our "holiday" is a sub-version of what used to be holy days!  We've even de-sacralized the name from being about holy things - to just "holi" - and most people never catch it!  We've secularized what used to be distinctive about marking holy-days and holy-time!

I am certain that the past decade has seen massive growth in the popularity of Halloween Costumes and Halloween items.  In our local community, where costumes and decorations used to only be available in Big Box stores, now, emporary outlet stores of remarkable size are set up weeks before Halloween.  (At one major intersection near our home, 3 large Superstores for Halloween items and costumes are in competition.  I entered two of the stores and the variety of headless, armless, bloody, prison, vampire-ish, zombie, animal, villain, werewolf costumes and "decorations" astounded me!)

It's curious to me that for most of Christian history, Christian people used to give their focus and celebration to All Saint's Day - November 1st.

It used to be the focus of believers to celebrate and adorn and consider those who were most holy in their midst.

And now, instead, most Christians don't know an All Saints Day exists - as they invest their hard earned dollars not in missions or justice or charity - but in costumes of entertainment that do not beckon us to live differently as holy people in the world.

This makes me wish believers could and would do more to promote peace, love, joy, justice and charity!

May all believers find unique space and time in these next days to consider the best examples of people who lived lives that best reflected the perfect hopes of love & peace in our world.

And may the example of these holy persons in our midst inspire us to have more holydays in our own lives and more peace in all Creation.

After posting this, a few persons shared with me other links to persons who have expressed the same idea - with other data and history.  Here are a couple of other great links that share the same hope!

By K.W. Leslie 

By James B. Jordan

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Meaningful relational time, Yes. Ineffective meetings, No.

Most meetings I attend require no action from the people present.

Most of the discussion is not about thoughtful, evaluative, critical and constructive engagement - nor is it about work needing decisive review - it is simple data delivery.

My honest sense is that 90% of the 60-75 minute meetings I attend, could be summarized in a bullet list of data points that could be read by any person in 2-3 minutes, saving every-single-participant the hour!  Or, alternately, a 3-5 minute video-clip could be sent to all meeting participants in place of the meeting, again, saving everyone the hour!

  • I love effective, deliberate, engaging meetings that have set agenda, deliberate organization and which take decisive action or which give actionable items for clear follow-through!
  • And!  I'm all for meaningful relational time.  I enjoy fellowship with colleagues and partners in pastoral ministry, political issues, peacemaking, interfaith conversation and more where we sit to "just talk" about "ideas" or explore dreams!  I enjoy meaningful relationship!  

But, I do not understand ineffective meetings where people claim the so-called-meeting served a purpose because, "We all needed to get together to talk" or "We always meet on X day of the month."  If it is X day of the month, and there are no action items, then cancel the meeting and plan a deliberate social event for relational value, but don't pretend it's a meeting or run it like a meeting.  Or, if there are only 10 minutes of action items, and the meeting is scheduled for X day of the month, then figure out a way to use technology to get the 10 minutes done virtually.  Or, tell people in advance that only 10 minutes is needed, and if everyone will show on time, then at the 15 minute mark, have beverages delivered and enjoy shared relational dialogue, celebrating an effective 10 minute meeting followed by separate time of shared fellowship when the meeting is adjourned.

I do not understand 60-75 meetings that, more than anything else, drain lives.  It seems like an intentionally poor practice of stewardship!

  • My wish is for thoughtful, credible, action oriented meetings that involve items that need action, or critical players to "vote" and intentionally collaborate together.
  • My wish is also for non-meeting events of genuine conversation, dialogue, getting-to-know-people and discerning personalities, hobbies, life-pursuits.
  •  And . . . ineffective meetings of extended time that require no action and which deliver no social camaraderie of meaningful depth . . . I wish your nonexistence in my future!

Mentoring others - and Meaning in Life

I think about how I can be a better mentor to others nearly everyday.

Today, a friend my age passed away - from a yet to be described heart failure.

Today, in my daily reading I reviewed these "20 Things People Regret The Most Before They Die."  (While the 20 things do not connect to an empirical study that is cited . . . they do have ring of truth to them.)

I noticed how many of the "20 things" are about relational issues.  Speaking the truth.  Being honest.  Spending more time with others.

I find these words as inspirational to me today as I will continue to try to invest in the lives of others for as long as I get to live with the hope that I will empower the life of others!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Don't miss it - Justice and Mercy are not synonomous.

With a clever turn-of-phrase, a blogger I've never met named Megan posted a great entry on how Justice is not Mercy.

I cover this topic in many classes that I teach, since the issue pervades the Hebrew Bible!

I spent about two weeks, more or less, in the past few weeks - in various ways focusing in on this theme with my 8th & 7th Century prophets class.

I always refer people to David Hilfiker's work - and this article:  Justice and the Limits of Charity.

I'm happy that I'll now be able to redirect people to this great new entry - saying the same things, but in fresh ways.   Synon(amiss) - Why our approach to justice and mercy is missing the mark.

(Picture from the Synon(amiss) blog banner page.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bible Dictionary for Bible Work - not "plain" dictionaries!

The last few weeks I've had to direct several learners to Bible Dictionaries.  (Many different Bible dictionaries exist, and are more-or-less the same thing in content, though with unique differences, of course!)

I've told people who are studying the Bible,
"When you're ever needing to understand definitions and terms for Bible issues, you should use a Bible Dictionary as preference in all cases compared to other dictionaries like  Miriam-Webster's or Oxford English language dictionaries."

As an example, note the huge comparative difference in this same single term - in the two kinds of dictionaries:

This link is from the Holman Bible Dictionary on "Oracle":

And it's much more informed and specific than this link from Merriam-Webster on the exact same "search" word "Oracle":

I hope this is helpful to all!