Limited Perspective

I recall once, years ago, stepping onto a hospital elevator. Already aboard was a boy, perhaps 8 years old.  To make conversation, in case he was uncomfortable, I asked, “is this elevator going up?”

He replied quickly that “This elevator only goes up.”

I didn’t argue with him, but, rather, enjoyed the perspective of an young boy soloing on an elevator.

Not long ago, Eliza and I were sitting together on an airplane from Dallas to St. Louis.  As we took off, I realized that I am not so different from that 8 year old boy.  I begin each flight with the thought that everyone on the plane is going to the same place I am.  While this is true in a sense – we were all going to the St. Louis airport.

But some on the flight were continuing on to Newark.  Some were traveling to St. Louis not to visit, but to return home.

I don’t think it is naive to begin with thinking that everyone on a plane is going the same place any more than to assume that an elevator that is going up is the “up elevator.”  Naivete begins when this is the limit of one’s thinking.

One of the challenges we face in overcoming modernity is that of perspective.  To a large extent, modernity leads us to believe that perspective is something that can be overcome.

It didn’t take me long to learn that the other man seated with us was from San Antonio, or that the person across the aisle was returning home from a visit to Dallas to see her grandchildren.  With this knowledge, I gained more perspective than before.  Had I taken the time to learn everyone’s story who was on the flight, I would have had a still broader perspective.

Sometimes modernity tempts us to make statements that are not dependent on perspective.  It is helpful to gain the perspective of others, it is even more helpful to remember that we do not ever get beyond perspective.

Don’t cry for me… Belgium?

The other day I saw Henry Winkler hawking second mortgages (on television).  What a long ways he has come from playing The Fonz. Though he has played quite a variety of roles since jumping the shark on Happy Days, I still believe he may be second to William Shatner in having locked down a stereotype image.

So it should come as no surprise that Fonzie’s picture is used on this report of the “coolest nations,” determined in a recent poll at badoo.com.

The U.S. is still on top.  That is, we were chosen the coolest nation.  Aaaay!

But, can we have a moment of silence out of respect for Belgium, the least-cool nation?

What does it mean to be selected “coolest” nation?  At least this is an international poll, so it is not just Americans voting ourselves the coolest.

But, then, could we do that right now?  Our political “leaders” in both parties fight like toddlers. We live beyond our means and expect the rest of the world to do whatever it takes for us to continue to do so.

Can One Change without Changing?

I just read what Slate says is Tim Cook’s first email to Apple’s employees as the new CEO.  He said, and they choose to pull this thought for their headline of the piece, that “I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change.”

I expect I know (partly from reading the context of the statement) what he meant, and I expect that he didn’t really mean that Apple won’t change.

After all, one of the things that has made Apple the “most innovative company in the world” is it’s ability to change.  Change products, change delivery methods, change the way you and I think about computers, the list is long and impressive.

If Apple is to continue to be the most innovative company in the world, or even one of the most innovative, Apple will indeed continue to change.

On the other hand, in a line not chosen by Slate for the headline, but one at least as important to Mr. Cook’s gaining (or retaining) the confidence of his employees, is this:

 I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA.

Apple’s “principles and values,” which operate at a level analogous to DNA, are what Cook means won’t change.  Whatever change and adaptation is called for in response to the world, to the market, etc., will occur within the same framework that Apple has established.

These days, however, we know that even DNA may not be as fixed as we once thought.  Genes now open or close – adjust – depending on circumstances, surroundings, trauma, etc.  The old (modern) dialectic of nature and nurture is a relic. The two cannot be separated.

We all change; sometimes in an effort to remain the same change is necessary.  As I look back at younger and earlier versions of myself (currently I am on Steve Heyduck 47.10), I can see some stability lying beneath an immense amount of change.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I hadn’t changed over time I would hardly be recognizable as the same person.

But, alas, as Chip and Dan Heath point out so clearly in Switch, we are not opposed to change – we are opposed to change that surprises us or is outside our control.

Apple will change; and so will we all.  What interests me, especially with regard to leadership of and through change, is upon what foundation(s) does one stand to face change, or to bring it about?

Truth

Our theme this year at Methodist Children’s Home is “Truth.”  We launched “truth” this weekend at our annual Day Camp and again Sunday in worship.

I preached John 14:1-7.  In this passage, Jesus says famously “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” I chose this deliberately as our starting point precisely because this verse is usually either weaponized or ignored.

Some cite this passage with the intent to exclude, focusing on Jesus’ “No one comes to the Father except by me.” Some, offended at this use, avoid the passage like the plague.

Whatever else this passage is about, Jesus identifies himself as the truth.  Jesus, a person who is incomprehensibly fully human and fully divine, is truth.

Not Jesus tells us what the truth is.

Not even Jesus tells the truth.

Jesus is the truth.

It is not easy to get to know someone.  To fully, really know someone takes years of effort and considerable focus.

May we all take the time, make the effort, to get to know this person who was, is, and always will be the truth.

Back to the Grind

After a good week at Glen Lake Camp, it is back to the grind today.

Getting back to the office and the otherwise ordinary routine after a week of camp takes some adjustment.  Time and life at camp, or any number of other times away, does not seem particularly well connected to “real life.”

In fact, I heard a camp staffer refer, Friday morning, to exactly that; “the real world,” to which we were all about to go back.

Early on in my years in youth ministry, I really began to notice this. Kids would have a phenomenal experience at church camp or a mission trip, but then lament the end of the experience, as though regular life were to be dreaded.

But it wasn’t until I realized that I was much the same that I also decided something had to be done about this.

You see, I don’t want to be part of system that teaches people, especially young people, that God is only really accessible at special events, camps, retreats, etc.

I happen to believe that God is every bit as present on our daily grind as when we “get away from it all.”

I also believe that until we start teaching and living this way, we will little more than noisy gongs or crashing cymbals.

It is good to be home.

JUST “the way it was…”

This morning’s Waco Trib has an interesting piece about a local project in “church swapping.” (I would share the link, but online access is by subscription only)  The idea is to get people to try a church that is predominantly a different race than their own.

This post isn’t about race or church-swapping, however.  In the opening paragraph one of the participants in the swap gives an example of the difference between the African American church he is visiting and his home church. He says

It’s more praiseful. For example, if they sing ‘Amazing Grace’ they put a different emphasis on the song,” Province said. “The words are the same, but the hints are different, whereas when I sing ‘Amazing Grace,’ I just sing it the way it was written.

Welcome to Postmodernism 101.  Mr. Province’s belief that he sings a song “the way it was written” is presumptuous and fallacious.  Unless, that is, he wrote the song or is good friends with whoever did.

This principle is important to keep in mind not just with songs, but with scripture as well.  Many if us assume that we read scripture the way it should be read, to find the plain or obvious meaning.  When we hear someone interpret it differently, then, we may too quickly assume that they (rather than we) are reading something into it, whereas we are just reading it “the way it was written.”

You don’t read something “the way it was written” just because you have always read it that way.  The assumption that others are interpreting where you are simply reading is unfair to them and to yourself.

Holy, holey, or wholey socks?

Sometimes it seems like every sock I own has a hole in it!

At least, that’s what I thought the other day as I was putting on socks to get ready for a run.  The hole that caused the thought chain reaction that has become this post was not very large and, in fact, does not affect the feel or the performance of the sock in any way.

Right after approximately 1.6 seconds of fretting about my sock, I realized that, indeed; all my socks have holes in them.

Otherwise, how would I get my feet inside them?

(Yes, my brain works that way.  Then it usually makes the theological jump as well)

So; socks are supposed to have holes in them.  It isn’t the first hole in a sock that bothers us, it is the second, then the third, etc., etc.

I thought about how so many of us beat ourselves down for all the things we get wrong.  I’m not talking about the full-on sins we commit; where we intentionally wrong God or another perosn.  I’m talking about the sulkiness most of us have from time to time about how we just don’t always get things right.  Even when we try.

“Nobody’s perfect,” we say.  (All together now….)

While no one is perfect, my socks got me to wondering what “perfect” might be.  If a “perfect” sock has a hole in it (because otherwise one couldn’t get one’s foot into it), wouldn’t even a “perfect” human not always get everything right?

In most people’s understanding, God gets everything right all the time.  Even if this is the case, would not making this (getting everything right all the time) our goal mean that our idea of a perfect human is actually God?

God is God, humans are humans.  To be a perfect human is still to be human.

My sock reminded me that I am – we are – to be wholey human.  That God calls us also to be holy directs us not toward trying to be like God, but learning to be most fully human.