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Showing posts from 2012

Smart Phones - Not So Smart

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Technology and innovation seem like positive if not innocuous words. By advances in these areas, we've seen illnesses cured, wars thwarted, and standards of living rise. Yet, we've also seen entire cultures become 'couch-potatoes,' a rise in cancer and nutrition related diseases. For all of the so-called “labor-saving devices” that have been developed, we now see a host of health issues that arise in our increasingly sedentary life-styles—obesity, prostate cancer, heart disease, etc. What looked good in the beginning has turned out to be a growing threat to our very lives.
The “Smart Phone” will be numbered among those great technological innovations that seemed like a good idea at the time. These phones seem helpful enough, but peel back the layers, and we find a device that should worry any thinking, smart person!

The “smart phone” is making us dumber. Rather than actually having to know or remember things anymore, we can rely on our smart phones to do that fo…

Some Thoughts on Living...

Back in April 2009, I was enjoying my morning walk around "la cancha de futbol" near our home in Santa Catarina, and the following thoughts began to come to me.  I had been thinking about how to avoid the mis-steps and stumbles of days, weeks, months and years past.  As I contemplated why I had made mistakes in the past, what I had been thinking...and NOT thinking, these 'guiding points' began to come to me.  While I've not been entirely faithful to them, I do return to them again and again...and when I have been faithful, I have been able to avoid a lot of pain, wasted energy, emotional/spiritual 'skinned knees'...and I've been able to make good decisions with positive results--even though others knew nothing of it.  Here goes:

A life of love is the most important thingLive today - in today, for todayDo not make quick decisionsOnly act rashly in love (agape)Take a walk...and talk with the LordBig plans often grow from big egosAn idea to be flouted is …

Some Thoughts on the Church - Carretto

I found this modern "desert father" about seven or eight years ago. He just keeps on pushing me to love and to understand and to grow. Enjoy! Jon

“How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I would like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.

No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, though not completely. And besides, where would I go? Would I establish another? I would not be able to establish it without the same faults, for they are the same faults I carry in me. And if I did establish another, it would be…

Yes, We Might Question Technology….

Neil Postman was one of those writers/educators that I ran into at the right time…at just the time I needed some influencing. I didn’t run into him literally; I ran into him literarily—I found his books: Amusing Ourselves to Death, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, The End of Education, and others. I was a young grad student at U of L…passionate to be a good teacher, a life-changing teacher. Postman gave me a lot to think about. I didn’t buy everything he was selling, but I bought enough to know that he and I were kindred spirits in a way—we were going to question everything.
In March 1998, Postman presented “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change” at a conference in Colorado. I wasn’t there…but I was with him all the way. Even though he penned and voiced these words some 14 years ago, we need to hear them again. Below, I’ve pulled out his five main ideas, in his own words. At the end, there is a link to the full text of his presentation…in case you want to go deeper,…

Sweet Relief...

I’m reading Carlo Carretto again (Letters from the Desert), an intimate work that follows Carretto’s feet and mind into the desert of North Africa. 
He had been very active in the Church for many years, and quite suddenly he hears God call him to leave it all behind in his homeland of Italy and follow God into the desert.
At one point towards the beginning of the book, he is contemplating his earnest, dedicated labors and activity in the church back home, his practice of running “continually from one project to another, from one meeting to another, from one city to another”.  While involved in all of that, he had been operating on a worldview that went something like this:  God created the world and then stepped aside to rest; Christ founded the Church and then disappeared in to heaven to let the Church save the world.  Carretto says he imagined that his frenzied life and work were somehow part of the column that was holding everything up and everything together.
I drew back suddenly…

How to Joyfully Survive an ‘Economic Down-Turn’ (or Recession, Depression, etc.)

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This idea has been swirling around inside my mind for almost two years, so I guess it’s time to put it on paper.  Now, some will say, “Why’d wait TWO years if you have the answer for us!?!?”  I don’t know.  I guess I’m busy…and perhaps a bit lazy…but more than anything,  I really wanted to turn my thoughts over and over in my mind to make sure I wasn’t telling you something misleading or incorrect.  Two years later, I believe this is a big part of the answer.

The secret to joyfully surviving a recession or to living it through it basically unscathed is this:  Decide to live beneath your means.
Now, the first part of that statement is SUPER important.  You (and I) must make the mental decision, must take that intellectual step.  If it’s forced on us—which is what a recession or depression may really do, then there is no joy in the living.  We find ourselves bitter, jealous, on a long-term ‘pity-pot’…if not in debt, homeless or worse.  That is not living joyfully.  That is nothing more …

To Live by the Sword…?

“Gun control” can be a very divisive topic. Just mention it in a group of 15 or more, and you’re likely to find passionate people of various perspectives. If someone says they favor gun control, most folks jump to the conclusion that one wants to make every kind of firearm illegal…and if someone says they are against gun control, folks imagine that one is fine if you want to park an M-40 tank in your drive and sell AK-47’s out of your trunk on weekends. Yes, the issue is usually one of extremes. Opinions grow out of how one interprets or applies the second amendment of the US Constitution as found in the Bill of Rights. One problem is that there were at least two versions floated at the time the bill was ratified…Congress ratifying one version and States a slightly different one: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. (Congress)A well regulated militia being necessary to the secu…

Gathering and Remembering

My wife and I head to the coast to celebrate her birthday. As always, it doesn’t take long for our conversation to turn to our children. As we drive, we talk of their many experiences in life as part of a parsonage family…as MK’s (missionary kids) in Venezuela and Mexico…and now living along the US/Mexican border. As is the way of children, they are growing up and leaving home…. Jeanne, my wonderful wife of 22 years, remarks, “I hope they don’t forget all their experiences….” My brothers, Timothy and Jeph, and I are PK’s (pastor’s kids) and MK’s (having grown up in Guyana, South America and Grenada, West Indies). Whenever we get together—even though we now have our own lives, our careers and our families—we always, ALWAYS, remember our lives and talk about our experiences as PKs and MKs. We remember the Christmas in Guyana when we left all our toys to the side to have crapo (frog) races in the ‘bottom house.’ We remember Dad sneaking up behind Mom in the lobby of the Polynesian Res…

Ode to Espresso...

Tiny cup, demitasse sits, steams…
      Aroma wafts across empty space…
            Dark, bitter life stings my nose.

I reach out—confidently, willing…
      Handle pinched between thumb and forefinger…
            Lifting life to lips.

Black, sweet, steaming elixir…
      Bites my lips, rolls thickly over tongue…
            Slides smoothly into me.

Morning sun ignites the sky…
      Morning espresso ignites my mind…
            ~ So the day begins…!

                               Jon ~ July 2012

Day Breaking

Day breaking during a morning walk,

     Wandering thoughts nudge me towards the islands—

Morning breezes, bringing hints of my own nearby sea

     Enveloping , embracing , carrying me away.

Healing winds setting me gently on white sands;

     A great bay opening before me, calm seas—

Sea grape trees rustling in the caressing breezes;

    Coconut trees rattling softly high overhead—

Whispering waves of crystal waters beckoning me,

    Promising refreshing, cleansing and renewal—

Hot sand massaging tired feet as I’m stepping out

     Moving slowly toward the sea—

Standing now at the edge of wholeness and youth, cool waters rushing to meet me—

     Opening my eyes to my own reality…

          Waiting for the winds to transport me again…

                to my island paradise.

                                                 Jon ~ July 2012

Walking…the Perfect Exercise!

Okay, I know it’s NOT the perfect exercise—swimming is probably the best exercise we can do, but not all of us have access to water for swimming.  And, even if there is water—be it pool, ocean or lake--nearby, the weather or climate is not always agreeable.  So, the next best thing is walking—it doesn’t use as many muscle groups as swimming, but at least it can be done almost anywhere, anytime…and the benefits are undeniable.When I walk in the park (or in our neighborhood), I swing my arms well, feel the roll of the muscles in my thighs, breathe-in deeply through my nose…and I feel that all is well with the world.  Unlike running, walking does not require that pre-/warm-up stretch.  I can just walk out my door or step out of my car and start walking.  I start slow for the first 10 minutes…allowing the blood to flow through my extremities, slowly warming the muscles.  After that first ten minutes, I slowly but steadily increase my speed until I get to the fastest sustainable walking sp…

Towards a Better Self-Understanding

A long time has passed since I’ve written. Much has transpired—not in the surface, visible parts of my life but in the interior, secret places within. I have come through a great darkness…and I know that I’m not out of the valley yet. However, I have come close enough to the light now that I can write again. For that, I am so very thankful! The journey back to the US has been a difficult one. Oh, yes, easy in some ways—what a joy to have our own home, how delightful during winter to have indoor heating and in the summer to have air conditioning. What a blessing to have work that provides all our needs and many of our wants (as long as we keep them in check!) How easy to live in a place where most people speak our native tongue, where folks tend to follow the ‘rules of the road,’ where things generally work as expected. In those things, yes, the move back to the US has been an easy thing, a joyful experience. Yet, there is another side to the coin…. Coming to the US has brought me to q…

Readings in Progress–Umberto Eco

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While I enjoy writing very much, I also enjoy reading.  In fact, my love for writing has probably grown out of my love for reading.  The two are closely related, and I believe the research will bear out the relationship—those who read more will tend to be better writers; when you find a good writer, you can almost bet he or she is a reader.  So, I thought I’d bring it all together here and write some about what I’m reading!Eco has long been a noted author, know best in our part of the world for novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum.  In this particular work, Experiences in Translation, Eco talks about the difficulties of translation, using his own works in large measure to show us that the process of translation is a difficult, multi-layered task.  I first became aware of Eco’s interest in this area of writing when I saw his work in Mexico – Decir casi lo mismo…because that is what translation ends up being—saying almost the same thing.  Two of my favorite lines …

Salvation, Eternal Life: Simply Symptoms of Something Greater….

When we lived in Santa Catarina, Nuevo León, Mexico, we were blessed to have a large sports park about two blocks from our home. Most mornings, you would find me there early walking around that park—exercising and having my “quiet time.” On that hard packed dirt path each morning, I would walk super fast, almost to the point of running, doing what I could to maintain my physical health. What any on-looker would not see was that I was also working on my spiritual health--talking to the Lord, running by Him all that I had thought about, things I had read in the Scriptures, sermons I had heard from pastors, and things I had read in books. That time was so important as I made sense of the world, of my life and ministry, and I as strived to understand our God as best as I could. On one morning, back in September 2009, I had been wrestling especially hard to reconcile some things that I was encountering in the church we attended with some passages of Scripture that “had hold of me and woul…

What does God REALLY Want ?!?

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When my wife laid out the question in the middle of our lunch-time discussion last week, I knew that it grew out of our own frustrations…and gave voice to the frustrations and earnest desires of many, many more.  When we sit in church and hear the preacher…then we listen to various and sometimes competing messages of contemporary Christian music on the radio…and finally we sit with our Bibles in hand, we can at times come away asking that very question—”Okay, so what does God REALLY want from me?  What does He REALLY expect of me??”The question—at least in our conversation—was centered on what the Christian life should look like.  What should our lives look like on a day-to-day basis??  How does God expect us to live??  All too often, we seem to receive these convoluted, complex designs for Christian life.  Some of the recipes for faithful Christian living call the ‘faithful’ to a life of incessant religious work—at the church every time the doors open, mission trips every chance poss…

A New Year...2012

Well, a new year is upon us...2012. I can hardly wrap my mind around the idea that we are already in 2012. When I was a child, I recall seeing, reading articles that predicted what future life would be like. I even remember that show, Space 1999. The idea was that we would be avid space travelers by the turn of the century. Another article I recall from National Geographic proposed that we would have holiday resorts on the Moon...with hotels and shopping malls there. Obviously, none of that has come to pass...and I'm not too disappointed. In fact, it's probably a good thing we're not spreading our tainted humanity around the universe....

But, that is really neither here nor there...not the purpose of this small bit of prose. Here, I simply want to think a bit on the newness that a New Year brings to me, to many. A new year means a chance to start anew...to start over...to get a do-over. Of course, we cannot undo what we've done in the past, cannot escape the …