Bake The Cake

Bake The Cake

A cargo ship crossing the ocean came upon what seemed to be a deserted island. A line of smoke told otherwise. Maybe someone was stranded. The captain went ashore in a smaller boat and found three huts. A ragged-looking man appeared in the doorway of one.

Tropical island landscape“Are you and others stranded here?” asked the captain.

“Nope, it’s just me,” said the man. “I live here.”

“I see.” The captain scanned the other two huts. “And what’s this second hut for?”

“Oh, that’s my church,” the man said.

The captain eyes grew wide as he slowly nodded. “And the third one?”

The man shifted his feet in awkward silence. “Well,” he said in hushed tones, “that’s my former church.”

My father told me that joke. What a laugh we had! Often, our discontent with church has something to do with us!  Who knew! No fellowship of believers is ever going to be perfect.

Black and white grunge image of a teen girl cryingHere’s another take. A young man I know felt deeply frustrated with the dating scene. He’d gone out with several very nice girls. After the initial electricity of a new relationship, the girlfriend became too dependent, making the young man her entire world. Expectations felt suffocating. He didn’t have freedom to do things with friends without a pouty girl giving him the silent treatment. These girls weren’t bad partners—just undeveloped in their sense of personhood.

In the same way, we can put heavy expectations on the church and our pastors, priests, and ministers, creating a black hole that can never be filled. Many who serve in pastoral positions try hard to be all things and end up bone weary. Menschenmenge beim jubelnPeople with unmet needs shift from church to church, and some actually work the system.

It comes down to our own relationship with God.

Is it underdeveloped? Are we fledglings in our capacity to know God?Continue reading

Playing Scrabble With God

Playing Scrabble With God

Almost, Later, Better, Already. We say these words all the time, but to a three-year-old they have complex meanings. As language forms in a child’s brain, how do these kinds of nuances develop?

In reference to a stoplight, my three-year-old granddaughter said, “Yellow means it’s almost time to stop.”

In her longing for warm weather she said, “We can run through the sprinkler later, when the snow is gone.”

Toddler girl playing tea party with a dollAfter I suggested several ideas for lunch she said, “I have a better idea.” She wanted to have a tea party.

When saying goodbye after a fun day of play she said, “I miss you already.”

The mystery of language has always fascinated me, particularly the progression from concrete thoughts to abstract ideas.

Linguists for many decades believed that our “mother tongues” held us captive. If you grew up in an equatorial climate, your language might not include a word for snow. Would that limit your belief that snow existed at all? Probably not. One can imagine the idea of snow by looking at photos in a National Geographic.

Asian winter fashion man in snow mountain landscape. Wearing white hoody sweater with furry hat and gloves.On the other hand, if you were an Eskimo you’d have over fifty words to describe snow. You’d understand the difference between wet snow, powdered snow, crystalline snow, falling snow, fallen snow, snow that’s been on the ground for a week, not to mention sea ice, which is altogether different. Snow would be your world, and so you’d know its many facets and forms.

But what if there was no word for “grace” in your language. Would it be inconceivable? Would it affect how you dealt with offenses? Would there be alienation in relationships? Could you understand the centerpiece of Christianity?

In the late 1700s, Moravian missionaries arrived in northern Canada and discovered that the Inuit Eskimos had no word for “forgiveness” in their vocabulary. How could the Moravians explain such an profound idea to this people group?

Hands reaching for the skyThe missionaries ended up creating a phrase for the concept of forgiveness—ISSU-MAGIJOU-JUNG-NAINER-MIK. This odd sequence of words meant: “Not being able to think about it any more.” They formed an association between “forgive” and “forget” using Jeremiah 31:34— “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Thus the Eskimos grasped the meaning of the Cross and reconciliation with God.

Abstract meanings form because known words build upon other known words. And so people from different cultures can communicate.

IbiliBut language evolves, and maintaining connection with others requires constant learning. If you’ve ever felt left out in a conversation between teenagers, you know what I mean. Words like bromance, chillax, hashtag, and selfie are among 5,000 “millennial generation” words  recently added to the fifth edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, published by Merriam-Webster.

If we aren’t growing in language and communication, relationships suffer. And so it is with God.Continue reading

Creating Space

Creating Space

Headache“People, especially men, hate being alone with their thoughts,” said reporter Rachel Feltman in The Washington Post.[1] Humans would rather be distracted than endure solitude, according to a recent study. What’s really baffling is we’re talking about a fifteen-minute experiment!

“People usually think of mind-wandering as being a bad thing, because it interrupts when you’re trying to pay attention,” stated Timothy D. Wilson, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia and lead author of the study. “But we wanted to see what happens when mind-wandering is the goal.” The results showed that “people didn’t like it much and found it hard.”

That article amazed me. It’s not how I feel about solitude, but in a way, it shouldn’t be surprising. The modern world has morphed into a culture of distractions with the Internet, smartphones, and social media.

So what? Why does that matter?

Because, as Feltman pointed out, “the ability to let the mind wander has been linked to greater working memory and increased creativity.” A lot of creativity is about forming connections between things in an unfolding sequence.

In another study, MRI brain scans confirmed that certain parts of the brain’s cortex are wildly active when people rest, daydream or allow their minds to wander.[2] It makes sense when you think about dreams. The brain is awake, though our bodies are asleep. In the same way, our minds can work in a different way when Continue reading