Comfort: Listed and Lost


If I had to describe in 2 phrases how I find comfort, this is what I’d say:

  • I make lists
  • I get lost

When I make to-do lists, I establish exactly where I am and where I expect to go. My father, who would probably be diagnosed today with OCD instead of acknowledged as “eccentric”, kept lists of his music and video collections. In the late 20th century, that meant he typed, on an old manual typewriter, 3×5 index cards for each video title, each recorded song. By his death, these filled 10 card file drawers 18 inches deep.

My own “eccentric” list, in this age of “grace-filled” Christian living, is a catalog of what God expects from us. It starts with the 600-plus commands that Jewish people locate in the Pentateuch alone, then adds more than 2000 more from only about 2/3 of the books of the Bible.

The list would be much longer, of course, if I included not just direct orders (of the “Do this, not that” variety) but also the many ways that God tells us God will change our lives.

List-making actually comforts me. It creates a safe, well-ordered framework for whatever it is that I’m thinking about.

But when even adding to a list is more than I can manage, I get lost … usually in a book. So I found it entertaining when I discovered this one in a used book bin. And I promptly got lost in this light, and very funny book.

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This post is part of this week’s Five Minute Friday blog linkup. This week’s prompt is “Comfort.” Check out what others have to say!

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Would the Buddha Eat a ‘Buddha Bowl’?


The “Buddha Bowl” is really popular right now. It’s an easy way to put all the evening’s nutrition in one convenient dish that is hard to spill and carries readily to the recliner for a night of TV viewing.

I’m guessing it gets its name from the “Laughing Buddha” that graces so many Asian restaurants — the image of the Buddha that suggests he has been eating too much dinner too many nights for a great many years.

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What I wonder is: Do Buddhists find it offensive to have dinner named for the founder of their faith?

We don’t name food after our God. We don’t even name foods after religious leaders. Sure, there’s “Ezekiel Bread,” but that just references the Scripture passage where the “recipe” is found.

Ezekiel_Sprouted_Grain_Bread

I know I wouldn’t be happy if the coffee team at church served me “Jesus Java” (“A boost for when your spiritual energy is flagging”) . Nor would I choose that blend at Starbucks.

I don’t follow Buddha. But I don’t think I’ll win a Buddhist’s respect — much less win a Buddhist to Christ — by casually using the Buddha’s name as the description of my dinner.

If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” Rom 14:15

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What do you think? Do you find this name disrespectful or do you think I’m overreacting?

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‘Here for a good time’ — Ecclesiastes, Pt. 2


I don’t always play enough. Here are 4 ways I sometimes remember to play:

  1. I play with food to make pretty plates and party treats …

A Peep s’more, just before the microwave … Peep swimming in hot coffee.

2. I play with my camera to make pretty pictures …

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Spare parts waiting assembly into whirligigs by the late Vollis Simpson of Lucame, NC, a mechanic whose intolerance of waste turned him into an acclaimed folk artist.

3. I play with plants to make pretty gardens, pretty decorations (and even some yummy fruit) …

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A blue hydrangea shrub is the base for lots of summer bouquets.

4. I play with beads and wire to make pretty jewelry.

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My own Wonder Woman “cuff of power,” stacks and stacks of bracelets I made.

I don’t often just get silly. At the same time, when I read the obituary for Maine schoolteacher Peter Brawn a couple weeks back, I remembered (again) that play can be the center of anything we do.

Brawn taught, fished, guided, and lobstered. One of his lessons about Alaskan native culture involved carving up an entire seal in his middle school’s gymnasium. His friends remembered as a favorite phrase: “You’re not here for a long time. You’re here for a  good time.”

'You're not here for a long time,you're herefor a good time.'

Robert Frost said it differently in one of my favorite poems about New England living, “Two Tramps in Mudtime.” The narrator is splitting wood when two tramps arrive and one wants to be paid for the job. The narrator is unwilling, not because he can’t pay the man, but because he wants to enjoy his own skill by splitting the wood himself:

Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

Or, as the author of Ecclesiastes tells us:

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor — it is the gift of God.” (Eccl. 3:12-13)

Rejoice.

Do good.

See good in and from my labor.

Have a good time.

And whether you’re cutting loose with abandon or cutting a silly joke at work, remember to play.

This post is part of today’s Five Minute Friday linkup, “Play”

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A Little Book of Reformed Gems


Little books are like jewel boxes. You open them in the hope of finding tiny treasures of great value, even while you know that you’ll never make an entire outfit from the contents.

And will you find gems in this little book, “Never Settle for Normal,” by Jonathan Parnell? Absolutely. Here’s a sparkling reminder of who you are:

“Just like images [art, for instance] exist to point beyond themselves [to an idea in the mind of their creators], we humans exist to point beyond ourselves, to God.”

And here’s one that explains, in crystalline beauty, how God makes us fit to serve God:

“The Spirit is the One who swallows up our little lives into the grand story of God’s salvation by swallowing up our lives into Jesus himself.”

The brief and sparkling treasures in this volume will inspire any Christian reader. For those who want to understand the contemporary Reformed doctrine of God, Parnell has written an excellent primer. (He trained at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis under John Piper‘s leadership, studied at Bethlehem seminary, and has written extensively as part of the desiringgod.org blogging team.)

Parnell Book
As you must expect from a small book, you are likely to find yourself with questions that he doesn’t have space to explain in full. Those desperately in need of the “proven path to significance and happiness” promised by the subtitle – nonbelievers in particular — are likely to find Parnell too brief and perhaps a bit of an “insider” in his point of view.

So one of the keys to understanding this little book is knowing that Parnell expected his readers would find it incomplete. He refers us to additional little books, written by some of his co-pastors, in the Epilogue.

* I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for reviewing it.

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Eat, Drink, and Shoot Fireworks (Ecclesiastes for the 4th of July)


The constant refrain of “meaningless!” gives Ecclesiastes a reputation as a particularly dismal book of the Bible. As I read it today, I hear the Teacher offering a particularly contemporary counsel: Be grateful. Enjoy today. Celebrate every good thing you can see.

Ecclesiastes is typically attributed to Solomon, the wealthiest and wisest of Israel’s rulers in the Old Testament. He’s a man who has seen it all, done it all, owned it all — and then been obliged to record it all in volume after volume of the chronicles of his rule. He can, perhaps, be forgiven for feeling a bit worn and cranky in his old age.

But cranky isn’t enough to drive his paradoxical assessment that everything we try to achieve in this world is “Meaningless and a striving after wind!” while everything we possess or experience in this world is to be enjoyed.

Solomon had tons and tons of gold and silver in his treasury and required, at one point in his rule, many tons of flour each day to feed his household. Still, he counted all he had achieved as Israel’s greatest ruler to date as “meaningless.”

What’s “meaningless” to the author of Ecclesiastes is everything that distracts us from celebrating what God has given us now. It is meaningless to:

  • Work so hard at gaining wealth that we fail to enjoy what God has given (Eccl. 6:1-9)
  • Be so determined to provide for a particular person that we despair when the fruit of our labor goes to another (Eccl. 2:17-26)
  • Strive after pleasure
  • Seek after wisdom, imagining that full understanding is within our compass (Eccl. 1:12-18)
  • Seek fame that will outlive you, when humans lack power to guarantee any future
  • Work so hard to leave an inheritance that you never enjoy what you have
  • Seek to get what your good work deserves, resenting the success of wicked people (Eccl. 8:14-15)

Even the “good” advice often seems dark:

“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.” (Eccl. 11:8)

Since rewards in this life are unreliable:

“… I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat, drink, and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in all their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” (Eccl. 8:15)

July 4 cake

Eat, drink and be “berry” glad this July 4!

 

Ecclesiastes won’t turn up soon on Oprah’s book club list, but the guidance is surprisingly in line with our 21st century teachings: Be grateful. Enjoy what you have. Eat and drink good things. Dress to express happiness. Enjoy marital relations. Work hard at whatever work you have. (Eccl. 9:7-10) Blessings are. Pay attention. Value them.

In other words: Blessings are. Pay attention. Value them (and the God who gives them).

So this July 4, I will eat hotdogs, celebrate my friends, and enjoy fireworks. Because in this world, I know no greater blessings than friends and sparklers. (Well, there’s chocolate. But that’s another story).

Eat, drink and shoot fireworks! “Then joy will accompany you in all your toil all the days of the life God has given you under the sun.” (Eccl. 8:15)

Happy 4th of July.

This post started on its own but actually fits this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt “Blessing.”

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