Wendy and I enjoyed our Sunday afternoon visit with friends yesterday. Young Nathan and Aaron kept us quite entertained as we were reminded how God made boys to be boys, generous infusions of testosterone and all. Be sure to have your volume up around the :50 mark and listen to Aaron’s point-blank announcement: “I have big muscles!”
If you had to choose the color that describes you most accurately, what would it be?
I am navy blue.
Not flashy, but deep, solid, cool, faithful and resiliant. Blue like jazz. Able to pair well with, and compliment, a plethora of other colors while still being able to stand well on its own and improvise in need.
“These are those who came from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon, and Immer. They weren’t able to prove their ancestry, whether they were true Israelites or not….” Ezra 2:59-60 (MSG)
Coming from a “good family” means a lot in many circles. As a child, I remember kids on the playground comparing notes about famous people in their family tree. My Great Aunt worked tirelessly to prove that she belonged in the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.). Even in the little Dutch-American community where I live I know that I’ve experienced a certain amount of acceptance moving in that other newcomers do not simply because I have a Dutch surname.
When reading the Old Testament, it’s important to remember that for Israelites in ancient times, the family of origin was huge. Your occupation and your position on the social pecking order was a all determined by family tree. To fully participate in the rites of the temple you had to prove your genetic connection.
When Jesus came and offered salvation to anyone who placed their faith in Him, Jew or non-Jew, it was a radical paradigm shift for the group of Jewish followers in His inner circle. Saul or Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul, was a Jew of high standing and persecutor of the early Christians until he was personally confronted by the risen Jesus and immediately became a faithful follower. Paul often bragged about his Jewish pedigree when debating with his fellow Israelites about Jesus, but was the most rabid proponent of loving, reaching out to, and including non-Jewish Gentiles into the Christian faith. Paul was the first to fully embrace the truth that in Jesus there is no social pecking order based on your family tree or religious pedigree. Those who follow Jesus are spiritually the same:
So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Romans 3:9 (MSG)
I can only imagine the shame that “those who came from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon, and Immer” felt at being the only ones among the 42,000 Israelites to return to Jerusalem who could not prove their pedigree. I have to believe they felt the condemning looks and subtle prejudice from the “blue blood” Israelites with whom they journied.
Today, I’m glad that my relationship with God has nothing to do with my genetic code or family tree. I’m grateful that God does not have a spiritual pecking order of “haves and have nots.” We are all, every one of us, “have nots” until Jesus, in His mercy, graciously forgives us, redeems us, and adopts us into His spiritual family as a joint heir of God’s rich spiritual inheritance.
If you could own one painting from any collection in the world but were not allowed to sell it, which work of art would you select?
So many great works to choose from. There are so many works by Degas, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Vermeer I would love to have, but my heart always comes back to Grant Wood. Like midwest America itself, Wood is underappreciated. I have always thought that he was able to capture the beauty of the Iowa landscape better than anyone else and I feel an emotional connection to his work because it reminds me of my own connection to this land. Not to mention, his paintings would look great hanging in our home. This particular painting, Fall Plowing, captures one of my favorite times of year when the landscape is alive with everchanging colors and textures.
As I ponder this question, there are a lot of cities that I think I would like to have a home, but I don’t know for sure because I’ve never been there: Rome, Paris, Tuscany, Vienna, Sydney, and Amsterdam to name a few. But, after visiting a few years ago, I know that I would love to have a home in London.
There’s the National Gallery, concerts at St. Martin in the Fields, along with shows at Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre and the West End. Not to mention a seemingly limitless supply of great pubs.
If you could have an elegant dinner along with anyone presently alive, whether you know them or not, who would you want it to be?
Of course, Wendy is on the top of my list for elegant dinners along with my close circle of family and friends, but what interests me about this question is the thought of those I don’t know with whom I would like to dine. The question also says “anyone” so I’m going to take liberty to name a few people with whom I would love to share an elegant dinner:
Queen Elizabeth – I think she’d be a fascinating conversation, and she’s the Queen
Pope Benedict – Would love the conversations of faith and life, seems a fascinating man
Sir Anthony Hopkins – great actor, would love the stories he could tell
Dame Judi Dench – ditto
Bono – love his rock star/world citizen/believer mystique
Leonardo diCaprio – great actor and I imagine an interesting person with heart
Tom Hanks – ditto
Simon Schama – Love his take on art and history, would love to pick his brain
Craig Ferguson – Would like to meet the man behind the curtain of jokes
Bill Hybels – Would love to ask him about his journey
Paul Johnson – My favorite historian, breadth of conversation would be amazing
Okay, so it’s a long list. But, there are a lot of people I would love to know and to learn from and to share a long, elegant dinner conversation.
How about you? Who is on your list? Feel free to share it in a comment to this post!
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—this fulfilled the Message of God preached by Jeremiah—God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement throughout his kingdom. Ezra 1:1-3 (MSG)
As I write this post, the newspaper headlines and 30 second sound-bytes are all depressing. The economy refuses to recover. The government can’t get anything done. Europe is sinking under the weight of debt. The U.S. is not far behind. Young people can’t find jobs even as companies report a shortage of qualified, experienced workers. I just heard about another round of lay-offs locally. It is said that the standard of living of the average American has now fallen to what it was in the 1970s.
I grew up in the 70s. Watergate, Vietnam, Carter, oil embargo, 55 mph national speed limit, hostages, disco and leisure suits.
Amidst all of this depressing news, One is apt to wonder where God is in all of this. I imagine those in exile in Babylon felt much the same way. Torn from their homes, enslaved, and hauled off to live in a foreign land to work for a foreign tyrant. “God, where are you? What are you doing?”
Then I read that God, as prophesied by Jeremiah, moved Cyrus the King of Persia to rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem and send people and materials for the task. A small gesture, maybe, but one that gave life and hope to a depressed and hopeless people.
Today, my heart is lightened by the reminder that God is not idle. Times and events, kings and kingdoms, leaders and movements, are still in His hand. This journey is continuing toward a destination of His grand design. He bids me not to be anxious about tomorrow, but to be content and faithful in this one day that I’m given.
He’ll take care of the rest.
If you could transport yourself to any place in the world at this moment, where would you go?
The key to this question, for me, is “at this moment.” With autumn in full swing and the chill of winter not far behind, I think I’d like to escape somewhere warm. And, while I’ll never have the opportunity to instantly transport myself again, I might as well take advantage and go someplace I’ll likely never get to again.
I think I’d like to go to an island in the South Pacific. Wendy has always wanted to go to one of those places where the doors on your suite open up right on to the beach and you can walk from your room to the ocean (the question didn’t specify, but I’m going to pretend it’s like a port key in Harry Potter, I’m insisting on grabbing Wendy when I’m instantly transported and taking her with me). I think a place like Fiji would be nice. Wendy and I sleep each night with a sound machine making the sound of ocean waves breaking on the shore. How cool would it be to sleep to the sounds of the actual ocean outside our room? And, eating a fabulous meal on the porch like in this picture?
How about you? Where would you want to be transported?
“Note well: God’s Judgment Day is on the way….” Zechariah 14:1 (MSG)
As a child, there were fewer words that hung in the air with such ominous, impending doom as “Wait until your father gets home.” Growing up in a pretty traditional household, my dad was the provider and the strict disciplinarian. My mother, you should know, was no slouch. She handled the daily policing of children deftly, and she could mete out her own effective forms of parental judgement. But, when mom made a point of deferring judgment to dad, you knew it was serious and you knew there was going to be trouble for the perpetrator (and the satisfying opportunity for the victim to see justice handed out).
The threat of impending judgement had a powerful effect. We don’t often think about, or talk about God’s judgement. At least, it’s not talked about much in my community or circles of relationships. Judgment is an uncomfortable subject in a culture that likes to look on the brighter side of life. Spiritually speaking, however, we have to know that we are all waiting for our Father to come home. God’s Message reminds us over and over and over that there will be Day of judgment, and a Day of reckoning.
As a child, I lived my day knowing that I wanted Dad’s daily homecoming to be a moment of joy and not a moment of justice. Am I doing the same now as an adult, in view of God’s promised judgment?
Am I ready?
On my 35th birthday, my daughters gave me a little book called “If… (Questions for the Game of Life)” by Evelyn McFarlane & James Saywell. The book is filled with interesting and provocative questions that begin with the word “If.” The book became a popular meal time conversation starter for family and friends, and to this day it gets pulled out at the lake when we have a table full of interesting individuals and an evening to sit, eat, drink, and talk for hours.
So, for my own 30 day blogging challenge I have pulled 30 of my favorite questions from McFarlane & Saywell’s book. By the way, this book spawned several others with different categories and themes. I highly recommend them for your own meal time or family time conversational adventures.
Starting tomorrow I’ll be blogging through the questions. If you have a blog, I invite you to take up the challenge in your own posts. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to post your own answers in a comment on my blogpost and further the on-line conversation. Props to the authors and thanks to Taylor & Madison for one of the most enjoyable gifts I’ve ever received.
- If you could physically transport yourself to any place in the world at this moment, where would you go?
- If you could have an elegant dinner along with anyone presently alive, whether you know them or not, who would you want it to be?
- If you could inherit a comfortable home in any city in the world that you could use but not sell, where would you want it to be?
- If you could own one painting from any collection in the world but were not allowed to sell it, which work of art would you select?
- If you had to choose the color that describes you most accurately, what would it be?
- If you could possess one supernatural ability, what would it be?
- If you could have any single writer either current, or from history, write your biography, who would it be?
- If you were on trial and someone you know (who is not an attorney) had to act as your legal representative, who would you want to defend you?
- If you could have a dinner party in any room in the world (without having to clean up), where would you want to have it?
- If you could host a dinner party inviting four people from history, who would you invite and where would the party take place?
- If you were to receive a letter today from anyone you have known during your lifetime, who would it be from and what would it say?
- If you could steal one thing in the world, other than money, without getting caught, what would you take?
- If you had one piece of music softly playing in your mind for the rest of your life, what would you want it to be?
- If you could run any single company, institution, or organization in the world, which would you choose?
- If you could choose any historic figure to read your eulogy, who would you want to do it?
- If you could dance any one dance perfectly, which dance would you choose?
- If you could be a guest on any television talk show, which would it be?
- If you could teach your children only one lesson in life, what would it be?
- If you were to choose a musical instrument that best describes your character, what would it be?
- If you had to pick the worst movie in history, which one would get the dubious honor?
- If you had to choose the worst work experience you’ve ever had, what would you pick?
- If you learned that you were to die in exactly one hour, what would you do?
- If your own ashes were to be kept in an urn, after you die, where would you want the urn kept?
- If you could have any view from your home, what would it be of?
- If you could have the world’s largest collection of one thing, what would it be?
- If you were to be given an acting role in a current TV show, who would you want to play?
- If you could have a servant come to your house every day for one hour, what would you have them do?
- If you could choose the very last thing you would see before you die, what would it be?
- If you could make a film from any book never produced as a film, what book would you pick?
- If you could visit only one more place in the world that you have never been, where would you go for this final voyage?