Tag Archives: If…

Discussion Question Over Appetizers

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….
Isaiah 61:1-2a (NIV)

I love “If” questions and discussion starters. For years our family used them around the table to kick-start dinner conversations…

  • If you could have dinner with three people from history, who would you choose?
  • If you were only allowed one song to sing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • If you had the power to eliminate one illness from the world, which would you eliminate?

I love “If” questions because the answers can vary so greatly from person to person, and those answers allow you to learn new things about even the closest of friends and relatives.

Having journeyed through God’s Message for many years, it is impossible to read today’s chapter and not connect it immediately to Jesus. Because the record of Jesus’ teaching indicates that He chose this passage for His inaugural sermon in His own home synagogue:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-20 (NIV)

So, Jesus,” I imagine myself saying to the young carpenter from Nazareth as we sit at the table with a glass of wine and an appetizer of freshly made pita bread and hummus. “If you could choose one passage from all of scripture to epitomize your life, what would you choose?”

I don’t have to wonder what He would say, because I know of all the passages He could have chosen for that message in the Nazareth Synagogue, Jesus chose this passage from Isaiah. This was His mission statement. This was His stake in the ground. He didn’t state it as a desire, or a hope, or a goal. He declared it an indisputable fact. Jesus starts His message with Isaiah’s prophetic, messianic proclamation and then begins His sermon with: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Many people think of Jesus as a nice teacher who was eventually deified by His followers. Others think of Jesus as a kind of confused mystic who said a lot of amazing things, but might have been a little deluded. I don’t find anything confused in Jesus first recorded sermon. It was a shot across the spiritual bow. It was declarative. So much so, in fact, that it created a violent reaction among His neighbors:

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.

This morning I’m reminded that Jesus didn’t stumble onto the scene. Jesus didn’t just happen to be at the right place and the right time so as to fall into this teaching gig. Jesus came wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger because, from the beginning, there was a purpose. It was there when Simeon broke into song at Jesus consecration. It was there when Jesus was twelve years old and confounded the elders of Israel with His words. Good news to the poor, healing for the broken, sight to the blind, freedom to the enslaved, this was the mission from day 1.

So, Tom,” Jesus says to me over morning coffee in my office. “If you had one passage from all of God’s Message to epitomize your life, what would you choose?”

chapter a day banner 2015

Top Five Beauties

We have a long standing family dinner tradition at our house. There is a book the girls gave me when they were young called “If…”. It is a book of discussion starters that all begin with an “If.” Last night we gathered to celebrate Suzanna’s 19th birthday (Is she really 19? I thought it was just 18. Where does the times go?) and Suzanna wanted to do “If…” questions.

One of the questions that came up at the table was if you had to choose the most beautiful person in history, who would it be? That’s a tough question because we don’t tend to know a lot about historic beauties other than from artist’s depictions and then the person’s beauty is highly dependent on the quality of the artist. Then there is the subjective definition of beauty. We immediately think of physical beauty, but if we’re talking about spiritual beauty then the likes of Mother Theresa are going to the top of the list. Such are the interesting discussions that the “If…” book raises around a dinner table.

So, here are my Top Five beauties, which has more to do with what I find beautiful than any kind of objective standard of beauty. Four of these came up at the table last night, and I can’t argue with any of them though they are all relatively recent as history goes. They are also all women. There were male names that were bandied about at the table, but this is my list and as beauty goes, there is not a man that can get anywhere near the Top Five, perhaps the Top 100.

(in alphabetical order)

 Laetitia CastaLaetitia Casta


Audrey Hebpurn

Elizabeth HurleyElizabeth Hurley

sophia lorenSophia Loren

Grace_Kelly_1956Grace Kelly


My Own 30 Day Blogging Challenge

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.

  1. If you could physically transport yourself to any place in the world at this moment, where would you go?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. If you had to choose the color that describes you most accurately, what would it be?
  6. If you could possess one supernatural ability, what would it be?
  7. If you could have any single writer either current, or from history, write your biography, who would it be?
  8. 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?
  9. 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?
  10. If you could host a dinner party inviting four people from history, who would you invite and where would the party take place?
  11. 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?
  12. If you could steal one thing in the world, other than money, without getting caught, what would you take?
  13. 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?
  14. If you could run any single company, institution, or organization in the world, which would you choose?
  15. If you could choose any historic figure to read your eulogy, who would you want to do it?
  16. If you could dance any one dance perfectly, which dance would you choose?
  17. If you could be a guest on any television talk show, which would it be?
  18. If you could teach your children only one lesson in life, what would it be?
  19. If you were to choose a musical instrument that best describes your character, what would it be?
  20. If you had to pick the worst movie in history, which one would get the dubious honor?
  21. If you had to choose the worst work experience you’ve ever had, what would you pick?
  22. If you learned that you were to die in exactly one hour, what would you do?
  23. If your own ashes were to be kept in an urn, after you die, where would you want the urn kept?
  24. If you could have any view from your home, what would it be of?
  25. If you could have the world’s largest collection of one thing, what would it be?
  26. If you were to be given an acting role in a current TV show, who would you want to play?
  27. If you could have a servant come to your house every day for one hour, what would you have them do?
  28. If you could choose the very last thing you would see before you die, what would it be?
  29. If you could make a film from any book never produced as a film, what book would you pick?
  30. If you could visit only one more place in the world that you have never been, where would you go for this final voyage?