December 27, 2015

Commonplace Monday #14

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:


No ceremonial provision is to take priority over pressing human need.

Fred Gums


December 25, 2015

Nor Doth He Sleep

'Tis the season. The season of what? Well, of Christmas time, you might say. If you are in the mood for elaboration, you may be inclined to continue in such a way: the season for giving, the season for love, happiness, joy and cheer. Family, friends, good food, good drink, presents, a big fat elf, and maybe a little snow. Aaaaannnnddd, probably shouldn't forget that baby in a manger business. That's good too. If you like basketball, you might add the Christmas day games, but who watches the NBA on Christmas? Or ever? Anyhow.

The sense you get from talking to most folks is that this is a season of joy. And of course for many, it is. Amidst all of the stress and the crunch and the rush, there is an undercurrent of I love spending this time with my family or, I love presents-giving and receiving them! or, Christmas Eve is my favorite church service all year or, what makes the Christmas spirit brighter than Fireball and a Backwoods cigar? There are a lot of things to be happy about this time of year. 

But then, we know that not everyone is enjoying all of these things, don't we? Perhaps you who are reading this aren't enjoying all of these things, or any of them. It could be that this time of year is painful for you because of financial difficulties, a break-up, or the loss of a loved one. Or perhaps you simply resonate with the words of H.W. Longfellow
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
 Longfellow wrote those words in the midst of the Civil War. A nation had split in two and was fighting against itself. Peace on earth seemed a far-fetched idea. For many of us enjoying the warmth of family, Christmas cookies, happy carols, or excitement over a baby being born two millenia ago may seem equally far-fetched. But maybe the pain of Christmas, the aching of the season, if you will, is a good thing. I think it can be. For through this aching at the un-met-ness of our expectations, we may be pointed toward this fact: we need to find our joy somewhere else. We need something more solid than this.

The happiness of Christmas isn't meant to simply be caught up in the passing joy that family can bring. Copious numbers of gifts leave us flat. The Christmas spirit does not consist of mere food and drink. And the story of Jesus the Christ isn't about a quaint little family in a barn. We need things more deep, more firm, more real. This is chief among them:


John 1:1-3, 14, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

The thing of most importance at Christmas is the birth of Jesus: but what exactly was the birth of Jesus? The birth of an ordinary child who grew to be an extraordinary man? A fairy tale made up for and swallowed by those of simple mind? I don't think so.

What we see in these opening words of the Gospel according to John is what theologians refer to as The Incarnation. The coming of God the Son, the second Member of the Trinity, into this world and clothing Himself in human flesh. He who is Himself God, who has dwelt forever with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, He who is the Word through whom God spoke all creation into existence: He became a man. He added to His true divinity a true humanity. Ponder with me what a ludicrous idea this is. That He who spun galaxies into existence would take up residence inside of a uterus. That He who commanded the worship of the angels would be laid where ox and ass are feeding, as the old hymn puts it. Who would write such a story? Who would choose such a method of saving sinners? Could God the Father not have sent a mere man, or an angel, or some other form of emissary to bring to us His salvation? 

But our thoughts are not His thoughts, and our ways are not His ways. In times past God spoke in many ways, but in these days He has spoken to us definitively: in His Son, who is the radiance of the glory of God. In the past there was a partial revelation of God, but in Jesus we see the fullness of God dwelling in a human body. (Isaiah 55:8, Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:19-20)

The Jewish people were waiting for a Messiah, the long awaited one to come and save Israel. They mourned under the yoke of oppressive foreign power after oppressive foreign power. Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome. They were looking for someone to restore their kingdom, to sit on David's throne. What many failed to realize is that the true oppression, the true enemy, lay within their own breast: a sinful heart at enmity with God. And there was only One fit to conquer such an enemy: One who would be God, and thus able to pay for all men's sins. However, this One must also be a man, qualified to live the perfect, sinless life that each of us owes to God, who would be tempted in every way we are tempted, who resisted all such temptation, and who could stand in our place. Who could die in our place. You see, God the Son came down to earth not merely to take on flesh and be born as a baby. He did not come merely to live as a man, to "see what it's like". He came to die for our sins. It is in Him, and through Him, and only in Him and through Him, that God was reconciling the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Timothy 2:5-6)

And here is the kicker with this sort of peace, peace with God: it isn't transient. People come and go. They die, they leave, or sometimes we just drift apart, especially in a mobile society like we live in today. Material gifts are often enjoyed for only a short period, and none will mean anything to us when we are laid under. Fairly tales about Santa and Rudolph, or Frosty and his pipe bring nothing but momentary distraction from the reality of this world. Even Bible stories, if separated from their context and significance, can seem to be without meaning. 

But the Good News of the Word taking flesh, of a Savior born in Bethlehem, of God bringing peace to men: this is the kind of truth which, if embraced, will radically alter our outlooks, our lives, and our eternity. Because Jesus has come, and He has crushed death to death by experiencing death-and rising again. Death now has an expiration date, because the Lord of Life has mastered it. And all who place their faith in Him will one day enter His everlasting Kingdom, where peace will not only be an internal reality, something we enjoy with God, but an external reality. There will truly be peace on earth, because of the Savior who was born in Bethlehem. This is Good news. This is a Solid Joy on which we can bank our lives and our souls. This why Longfellow could not stay in despair:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Amen. Merry Christmas. 

December 21, 2015

Commonplace Monday #13

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:


I wasn't looking for someone perfect. I was looking for someone I could love.


Unknown



December 18, 2015

Speaking With Your Kids

How should we speak to and with our children? Realizing that a) I'm no expert and b) I'm mostly thinking aloud, I think we need to ponder these things. That is the intention of this blog, after all. To think aloud, and to invite you to join my thinking.

On Conversing:

Some form of this post has been stirring in my mind for many a moon, but what finally kicked me over the edge to put finger to keyboard was this article in The Atlantic. The focus of the piece, if you have not read it, is on early childhood education, preschool specifically, and the fact that though children are being taught more information than every before, they are in fact learning less. The author, a professional in the field, discuses various reasons for this, but then points to a number of things that provide a genuinely healthy learning environment for children. Here is a section:

As an early-childhood educator, I’ve clocked many hours in many preschool classrooms, and I have found that I can pretty quickly take the temperature from the looks on kids’ faces, the ratio of table space to open areas, and the amount of conversation going on in either. In a high-quality program, adults are building relationships with the children and paying close attention to their thought processes and, by extension, their communication. They’re finding ways to make the children think out loud.
The real focus in the preschool years should be not just on vocabulary and reading, but on talking and listening. We forget how vital spontaneous, unstructured conversation is to young children’s understanding. By talking with adults, and one another, they pick up information. They learn how things work. They solve puzzles that trouble them. Sometimes, to be fair, what children take away from a conversation is wrong. They might conclude, as my young son did, that pigs produce ham, just as chickens produce eggs and cows produce milk. But these understandings are worked over, refined, and adapted—as when a brutal older sibling explains a ham sandwich’s grisly origins.
Teachers play a crucial role in supporting this type of learning. A 2011 study in the journal Child Development found that preschool teachers’ use of sophisticated vocabulary in informal classroom settings predicted their students’ reading comprehension and word knowledge in fourth grade [emphasis added]. Unfortunately, much of the conversation in today’s preschool classrooms is one-directional and simplistic, as teachers steer students through a highly structured schedule, herding them from one activity to another and signaling approval with a quick “good job!”
Consider the difference between a teacher’s use of a closed statement versus an open-ended question. Imagine that a teacher approaches a child drawing a picture and exclaims, “Oh, what a pretty house!” If the child is not actually drawing a house, she might feel exposed, and even if she is drawing a house, the teacher’s remark shuts down further discussion: She has labeled the thing and said she likes it. What more is there to add? A much more helpful approach would be to say, “Tell me about your drawing,” inviting the child to be reflective. It’s never possible to anticipate everything a small person needs to learn, so open-ended inquiry can reveal what is known and unknown. Such a small pedagogic difference can be an important catalyst for a basic, but unbounded, cognitive habit—the act of thinking out loud.
Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early-learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing: One meta-analysis of 13 early-childhood literacy programs “failed to find any evidence of effects on language or print-based outcomes.” Take a moment to digest that devastating conclusion.

The sentence I placed in bold struck a particular chord with me.  How we speak with children matters. In fact, it apparently matters far more for their learning than what sort of reading curricula that we decide to train them with.

My sensitivity to this began, to my recollection, in a doctors office as a rather young child. I have always had fairly sever hay fever, though as a child it was worse than it is now. This of course led to a yearly visit to the local doctor to see what medication was supposed to work magic in that particular year. In the year of this visit I have no recollection of what medication was prescribed, but I do have one very clear memory: being disgusted with the doctor for talking to as if I were a little child. Some of this, I'm sure, had to do with a large of amount of conceit and the mega-sized chip I used to wear on my shoulder. However, the point has always stuck with me, that children comprehend far more than we give them credit for, and it is frankly insulting to treat them, to speak to them, as if they were imbeciles. Children don't need everything broken down into small words or simple sentences. Of course we need to strive for clarity, and understand that many things do need to be explained to children. But how often are we short cutting this process of helping children learn by simply coming up with an oversimplified, "childish", answer?

Children are capable, from a very young age, of high levels of thinking and learning. Obviously this varies from child to child and does grow with time, but how we converse now has lasting repercussions. We need to take the time to listen to our children, ask them questions, and interact with their answers.

I've seen this beyond just small children, and into teenagers and adults. I used to spend most of my Monday nights working in a church youth group. To paint with a broad brush, there are generally two kinds of youth worker: those who genuinely want to interact with students and their questions, and those who want to shut down the questioning and expect students to simply accept everything they have been told. While I thankfully was primarily working with the former, to my great horror I had numerous experiences with the latter (and can slip into that mode myself far too often). Instead of expecting and desiring feedback, push-back, and questions, there were people who would want to spout off a platitude of some sort, and expect that to solve the issue. 

One thinks in parenting of the ubiquitous, "because I said so." Now, let me be clear: the fact that I have said something does mean that my children need to listen. But what if, when my daughter asks, "why?", I answered with the actual reason for whatever instruction I have given? She would not only be learning bare bones conformity to an external standard, but she could begin to internalize the truth behind the instruction. We can discuss (to the degree that discussion with a two year old happens) why it's not okay to push brother, why Mommy and Daddy make rules, and why God gives authority figures to us. On the outside her behavior may not be entirely different than if I had simply told her, "because I said so", but the difference on the inside, where it actually matters, may be profound. She will be learning true obedience, not mere conformity. 

This is but one of many possible examples. But it does illustrate what I think may be the rub: this takes time. Oh, so much time. Why do you think it doesn't happen in many of the preschools laid out in the article? It isn't simply a matter of educational philosophy, though that is surely involved. But how can an overstretched teacher build that kind of relationship with 20 or 25 kids? Pretty difficult, even for the best of teachers. Well homeschool, then! some will say. But this isn't happening in most homes, either, regardless of whether they are homes where public, private, or homeschooling is being utilized. 

Why not? Because we are busy. Oh, so busy. We work. We have church, school, and other community activities. We get home and we want to relax. In front of the TV, in front of the computer, or with our smartphone. And children interfere with this. They come of wanting to play, wanting to talk, and how quick we are to shoo them away. "Go play in another room." Half answers to questions we were not listening to. We wonder why children seem at times incapable of listening, when they are merely following the model laid out for them by their parents. Conversing with your children, like most anything worthwhile, means there will be much saying no to selfish desires for ease, laziness, and quiet. But you know what? You are responsible for bringing these children into the world. You chose them, they didn't choose you. So you owe it to them. So quit talking at your kids. Quit yelling at your kids. Quit ignoring your kids. And start listening to, and conversing with, them. Their future depends on it.

December 14, 2015

Commonplace Monday #12

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:


Church discipline is almost impossible in the era of the automobile.

Carl Trueman


December 07, 2015

Commonplace Monday #11

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:

Most love is not expressed sexually--nor should it be. 

Fred Gums




November 30, 2015

Commonplace Monday #10

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:


Marriage is a pre-political institution. 

Fred Gums




November 23, 2015

Commonplace Monday #9

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:

There would be more real laughter in our churches if there were more tears. 


John Piper


November 22, 2015

No kings

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6


Sounds pretty glorious, doesn't it? No king, do what you want. It's essentially the motto of 21st century America. You are your own god, you determine what is best for you, you determine what is right for you. No one can say otherwise.

It's interesting here that the author uses this phrase as a subtle, yet stinging, rebuke of Israel in the days of the judges. There indeed was no king. Of course this was not, in and of itself, the problem. But the apparent vacuum of human leadership that was created was not addressed as it should have been; namely, by the people turning to God for guidance. Rather, each man, woman, and child simply did what was right in their own eyes. The results for their nation were disastrous. 

As they have been for ours.

If there is no fixed standard, no one may instruct me how to treat my neighbor. No one may tell me it is evil to offer my daughter as a burnt sacrifice. No one may say not to take a concubine, or, having taken one, to not turn her over to my enemies for them to rape her. No one is allowed to say don't murder that baby--nor her 26 year old mom, if we're going to be logically consistent. No, each simply does what is right in his own eyes, for there is no standard to appeal to. No God, no True King, and laws will not stand. Not when the primary "good" we are seeking is personal happiness. Or self-fulfillment. Or self-realization. Such goals dehumanize those around us, as they become simply a means to or obstacle between me and my personal fulfillment.

That's a scary world to live in. And we're there.

November 16, 2015

Commonplace Monday #8

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:


Cultivate a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. 

John Piper


November 09, 2015

Commonplace Monday #7

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:

There's naught so queer as folk.

Unkown


November 02, 2015

Commonplace Monday #6

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:

A church that doesn't know what it believes doesn't know what it is. 

Carl Trueman

October 29, 2015

Bread on the Water: A Perplexing Text

This is a section out of a class I taught a few months back, I thought it might be helpful to you:

Ecclesiastes 11:1-2
11:1 Cast your bread upon the waters,
   for you will find it after many days.
2 Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
   for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.

There is a substantial amount of question over exactly what point is of these verses. I mean, is he talking about crumbling up your French bread and dumping it in the river?

[As a side note, there is a reason I like to bring up when there is discussion over these issues; that is my opinion on the difference in the function of preaching and teaching. If I were to preach these texts I would primarily be concerned with proclaiming them, and thus would most likely (unless it was something very thorny or difficult to decide upon) take what I thought to be the best understanding of the text and preach it. Proclaim it. Exhort obedience to “thus says the Lord.” I think that is the job of the preacher, to proclaim the word of God. I think the task of a teacher in a setting like this is somewhat different, in that I want to help you come to your own understanding of the text. Not that a preacher is unconcerned with that, but there is a difference between coming to the best possible understanding of the text and proclaiming that, as opposed to laying out multiple legitimate understandings and arguing for what you feel is probably the best and most helpful one.]

What are the options on the table for understanding these verses? Well in verse one, Solomon says to cast your bread upon the waters. There is a possibility that he is making an agricultural reference here. Apparently the ancient Egyptians (whose culture and practices Solomon would have been quite familiar with) had a custom of taking their “bread corn” out on the Nile river when it was at flood stage, throwing it out into the water, and then as the waters receded, the corn would be covered in silt and sprout and grow in the formerly flooded area. So they’d be throwing out their bread, as it were, and finding it after many days. That’s possible. I don't think it's real likely, but it's possible. And a very vivid mental picture.

The second possibility, the one taken by most modern commentators, is that Solomon is talking about financial diversity. He was involved in international commerce via ship, and so by sending one’s bread out on the waters he means the shipping of grain over the seas. Invest in this way, and it will come back. But be sure to take into account verse two, and send it out to seven or eight (not necessarily those precise numbers, just get spread out) so that you don’t have all your eggs in the proverbial single basket. The idea would be much akin to investing in mutual funds, rather than placing all your stock in Apple. Or Gateway. That would have gone badly for you.

The third option, held by most of the older commentators, and the one that I think is probably right, is that Solomon is speaking metaphorically here; that he doesn’t have actual water in mind. Rather, he is saying, be generous with what you have been given, give to the poor, and do so in all directions. It will come back to you in the form of blessing (perhaps financial, perhaps only spiritual). And do so to seven, even eight, that is, be liberal with whom you bless, don’t make people jump through hoops to receive your generosity, just be generous: you never know where it’s going to pay off in their life or yours. You don’t know what friends you might make for yourself. And come the day of disaster, those very friends may be the ones who are there for you.


I think this final option makes the most sense because this is Wisdom literature, and a dominate form of communication is that of metaphor. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that Solomon is talking about generosity, but that there is the concrete reference point in his mind of the ships going out to sea, of bread heading over the waters, to come back again.

So what are we to learn? Be generous. We are often tempted to think that we best provide for ourselves and our future by hoarding; Solomon says give it away. Give liberally in the knowledge that good will come of it, either now or in the future.

October 27, 2015

Inside the Walls

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in it's time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.   -Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 
I once watched an interview of Rod Dreher conducted by Eric Metaxas. The topic of this interview was Dreher's book, "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming" (I subsequently read the book, which I commend to you). In the interview they explore the themes of the book, which examine's Dreher's growing up in a small Louisiana town, feeling out of place because of his intellectual proclivities, leaving the small town and living a somewhat nomadic big city life in search of place and meaning, and finding those things as he returned to that same small town. The catch in the story is what brings him back to the small town. His sister is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and as he witnesses her struggle and death in community, he witnesses what community is. 

It was a beautiful picture to me of much of the truth of Ecclesiastes. As Dreher unpacked his ideas on the importance of sinking roots into a place, the phrase he continually came back to was "living within the limits" of a given community. This captures the essence of much of what Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, and chapter 3 in particular. Of course, the scope of Solomon's searching is life "under the sun" and not merely in a single community, but it should be obvious to us that as individuals we exist and live in a single community at any given point. Of course many of us move, and thus the communities we are in are perhaps not the same as those in which we are raised, but we are in a place. A particular place. And like the reality of created-ness itself, the finitude of our existence, being in a place places limits upon us. 

This bothers us. We don't want walls. Especially in the age of the internet, where the world is seemingly boundless. How many of us were told by parents or teachers that we could be anything we desired to be? Yet critical thought will display this to be obviously untrue. I am 5' 10" and weigh 170lbs...I can desire to be an NFL linebacker all my life long, but it will never happen. I might desire and work to pitch in the big leagues, but my 78 mph fastball will probably impede my chances of ever doing so. And those are simply my physical limitations. I have other limitations. Financial. Educational. Intellectual. Familial. Some of these can be surmounted, some cannot. Some could be pushed aside in a rearranging of priorities, but only at great cost. The point is that we are finite beings with only certain capacities. We live inside of walls. Sometimes we choose those walls, and sometimes they are thrust upon us.

What I want to suggest here is that finitude is not a curse. That there are certain walls in our existence that we should embrace and learn to live fully within, rather than attempting to knock down. Walls can be a good thing. Chesterton at one point tells of the walls of a city built upon an immense precipice. When the walls were erect, the inhabitants of the city lived full lives of pleasure and fun. But when those same walls were knocked down, the inhabitants didn't fall off (as I might have expected), but rather huddled in the middle in paralyzed fear. Walls, limits, are part of what it means to be human. And this is a good gift of God.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil--this is God's gift to man.   Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

When we embrace the limits of life, of a given place, of our particular situation, this is when we are free to live within those limits. If I spend all of my time attempting to remove limits or to expand my horizons, I may often find that I have missed the opportunity to live the life that I already have. To embrace the limits of your life needn't necessarily be thought of a a restricting thing, it in fact can be quite freeing. To understand what and who I am not frees me to fully be what and who I am. I fear often times we miss this in our day.

I suppose this has been a long way of say this about walls: live within in them, eat, drink, and enjoy the life you have.
 

October 26, 2015

Commonplace Monday #5

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:

Leavin' money to kids who spend it on gettin' blitzed/what's the point of livin' just to give it up in the end? 

Lecrae




So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.

King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 2:20-21

October 19, 2015

Commonplace Monday #4

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:

Have a healthy disrespect for who [you] are. 

Phil Long

October 12, 2015

Commonplace Monday #3

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:

Ambiguity in art is like piss in coffee. 

Chaim Potok

October 05, 2015

Commonplace Monday #2

Commonplace Monday is a series of post wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's this week's installment:

You can't yell at your kids at the same time that you're feeling gratitude for them.


September 28, 2015

Commonplace Monday

This is the first in a new series of posts. On Monday mornings I will be sharing short quips, sentences- perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. But...sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. Anyhow. Here's the first one:


The logic of truth is so copious that it cannot be exhausted by mere mortals.  
Carl Trueman 


September 26, 2015

When the clock strikes 3:00

Today (I'm sure it will be yesterday by the time I hit Publish) I turn twenty-five. That may not seem like much to many of you, for you passed it up long ago. Or you haven't yet, but to do so is a forgone conclusion. But it feels significant to me.

Maybe it's because I'm the morbid type. Perhaps it's because I've known so many who didn't make it. It could be that I've never been able to imagine myself as being older than twenty-four. Or maybe it's just my megalomania at work blowing every aspect of my life out of proportion.

But I wanted to pause here, and reflect on twenty-five things I've learned in these years. The order is completely stream-of-consciousness, which at this time of night can be...scattered. 


  1. Life is short. Like a mist. Here today and gone...well, today. 
  2. Because life is short, every second counts. Which doesn't mean every second must be filled with frenetic activity, but it does mean that one should pause and evaluate one's actions and activities to see if they are worthwhile.
  3. Rest is an important activity to build into life, especially for those given to constant work. Energy drinks don't work well as a substitute for sleep. Ask anyone who knew me between the ages of 18 and 22.
  4. Reading is important. Thinking about what you read is more important.
  5. Write things down.. Important thoughts. Interesting ideas. Intriguing quotes. Whether you are ever able to find it again after you write it (I'm usually not), the activity of writing it helps to bring that thought or idea more into your life than a passing glance in an article or a fleeting thought in your mind. 
  6. Don't leave things unsaid. Let me narrow that down. Don't leave kind, caring, or appreciative things unsaid. Because you're not guaranteed another shot to say them.
  7. Do leave things unsaid. Harsh, angry, critical things that serve little purpose besides making ourselves feel temporarily better-yeah, those can just get tossed aside. You will never be able to unsay them, and you may never have the chance to apologize. Swallow your pride and let it go.
  8. People count. More than money, success, fame, pleasure, freedom. People count.
  9. Don't be afraid of living. Too many people wait for life to happen to them. Guess what? It won't. Go do something.
  10. There is no sound more heavenly than that of a child's laughter. 
  11. Work hard. I'm not saying lazy people never succeed, because that seems to happen far too often. But I am saying that a good name is better than precious ointment. And a good name doesn't proceed from laziness.
  12. Loving your wife sacrificially isn't a heavy burden laid upon a husband: it is the greatest privilege which God could give a man, To be the living, breathing, representation of Christ to her and the world in your relationship is an enormous responsibility to be sure, but not a burden. 
  13. There really is no fit place in this world for cheap beer. 
  14. On the whole, I don't think there is a genre of music that beats what you'll find in a good hymnal. "Please open you hymnals to..." are some of the sweetest words in the English language.
  15. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Sometimes He will take the proud, and humble them, that He might pour forth His grace. Which means that when He brings us low, this too is an act of grace.
  16. There are two basic models for understanding the origin of life: an eternal, transcendent God created this world of beauty and order; or nothing turned into something that exploded into something else that has since evolved into many something elses. Phrased another way, a beautiful and orderly God created a beautiful and orderly universe; or nothing became something became disorder which evolved into order. One of these doesn't make very much sense.
  17. Stories are really important.
  18. The sin you tolerate is a sin that owns you. Dragons are never killed by feeding them. 
  19. If you are a Christian, the most important 25-60 minutes of your week should be those that you sit under the preached Word of God. Insofar as the preacher is faithful to the text, he is God's own mouthpiece. It behooves us to listen. In humility.
  20. Be willing to listen to people who think completely different from you. You don't own the truth, and you will never fully grasp and particular area of life or knowledge. Which means other people have things to teach you. Specifically, people with a perspective different from your own. The most difficult place for thought to survive is an echo chamber.
  21. In this life you will have trouble. Believe in Christ, He is the Solid Rock upon which you can build a life which will withstand the tribulations of this life, and He is the Savior with whom you can trust your eternity. 
  22. Honesty really is the best policy. 
  23. Go to funerals. Better is the day of death than the day of birth, the day of mourning than the day of feasting, for such is the end of all men. The living should lay it to heart.
  24. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 
  25. God wrote a book. Makes sense to read it.

September 12, 2015

Is He sovereign or do I choose?

The sovereignty of God over all things, the ruling of Christ the Lord over all the universe: these are not facts which negate the responsibility we have as volitional creatures to make rational decisions for which we will be held accountable.

September 11, 2015

Free College

There has frequently, throughout my lifetime at least, been a cry for free (or significantly cheaper) college education. While I'm not sold on that being a good idea, here is a thought that popped into my head one day, that may seem ludicrous to you. It may, in fact, be ludicrous. It's certainly just the beginning of an idea. But here goes.


What if we were to take the money which the federal government spends on education at all levels (pre-K, elementary, high school, college), and funnel that all toward funding universities.


Then take the state money currently heading to education at all levels, and redirect it toward funding and expanding community colleges, perhaps engulfing the final two years of high school (or all of high school?) into that system.


Finally, make k-8th or 10th grade the responsibility solely of parents, local counties, municipalities, churches, etc.


I realize that most people who see this will wonder what I smoked as I typed. But I believe if education in this country is going to catch up with the rest of the world, it will take some pretty outside-the-box ideas, perhaps crazier than this.

September 01, 2015

Ambivalence

Ambivalence. Questioning. Lack of surety. Phrases and words such as these seem to describe many Americans relationship to abortion. 

Look at those videos? Eh, I couldn't do that...Facebook beckons me away...

Well, okay. Now I've watched them...but what can I do? I'm one person, and I can only control me. Not Planned Parenthood. Not the Federal Government. Not the millions of parents who have their children killed every year. Just me. And that doesn't seem like much. 
Image result for defund pp
So many people vacillate over whether they are "pro-life" or "pro-choice," caught in the web of the great American lie: shouldn't women have the right to choose? Who am I to tell someone how to live? 

Allow me to offer a suggestion: it's not impeding upon anyone's rights to insist that killing their child is a bad option. An immoral option. An option which, in the long run (an likely even the short run), they will deeply regret. 

How can our ambivalence remain as the Center for Medical Progress puts out video after video showing the way children are not only killed, but chopped, sliced, and diced to be sold? Or worse still, born "intact" (alive!) and either killed or allowed to die, all in the name of "women's health" and "research." Do you realize that health extends beyond ending a pregnancy? Do you understand that even if we buy into the supposedly great benefits of research on fetal tissue, we are destroying children to benefit ourselves? 

Would it be okay for me to kill my child if I thought doing so would lead to the cure for any potential diseases I might have?

I don't see how we can remain neutral here. How is it okay to swing back and forth, to straddle the fence? Is murder okay, so long as it serves a good purpose? 

Speak out, let your voice be heard. Use social media. Personal conversations. Emails, letters to your congressman/women. Support crisis pregnancy centers. If you know a mother who may be considering an abortion, do whatever you can to help her in tangible ways, so that this precious life seems less like a burden and more like the blessing that they truly are. Pray that God would open eyes and saves lives. 

Quit swaying. Quit being tugged away. 

August 04, 2015

Murder for Hire

In case you have yet to watch any of these videos, I wanted to put all five on here, so that you can simply watch them one after the other, or see any you may have missed. This barbarism must be brought to a halt.
















About Me

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I love Jesus, my wife, and my kids. Writing and teaching are two things I have a passion for. Gardening and fishing are cool, too. I blog @ willdole.com, you can reach me @ contact@willdole.com