The Stage Set for Easter

Hope on Stage, 2015

Pictured above: the main auditorium stage at our church home throughout the month of March.

It hasn’t been an easy, gracious month ’round these parts. Everywhere we turned, believers and non-believers alike were up in arms. Christians of all denominations, at all levels of faith, at various save points of their walkthroughs with Christ, have had plenty of questions, countless disagreements with others, even debates with each other. Anyone among us who never felt challenged or moved to sincere contemplation all month long wasn’t paying attention.

Easter Sunday is one of those too-rare moments when we collectively set aside our divisions, recognize why we do what we do, remember what our successes mean, realize what our failures don’t mean, and reaffirm why we ought to keep trying to do better.

We’re looking forward to service tomorrow morning. We welcome it. Right now, we need it.

* * * * *

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” — 2 Thessalonians 2: 15-17 (NIV).

My Bible is Ruined but Nobody Wants to Hear Me Whine About It

coffee damaged Bible

I bet the Ninevites brought drinks to church, too. It would be just like them.

See this? Do you SEE THIS?

Few things strike dismay and disgust more viciously in the heart of a bibliophile than the sight of a water-damaged book. The original paper texture is lost. Your book will never close satisfyingly again. The pages make that unnerving tissue-paper sound when you turn them. In extreme cases the ink will run and turn sentences illegible and information irretrievable. If it’s a “classic” book in any sense, any hope you might’ve had of reselling it at collectors’ prices in the future are dashed.

The worst part of this incident is, this wasn’t even my coffee. In an auditorium with stadium seating and no carpeting under the seats, someone else’s morning java escaped them, flowed down to our row, and soaked the back of the laminated folder I’d left on the floor. The folder itself was fine but secretly had coffee adhering to it when I picked it up and set it on my open Bible so I could remove something from it. When I tried to move the folder, then I spotted the coffee, the runoff on the floor, and the damage done.

If you’re like me, and I know I am, this sort of accident spurs a vindictive little voice in the back of your head that wants everyone to know something inconvenient has happened and someone better do some mollifying or else it won’t shut up. But who was I supposed to complain to?

This way for an example of how a snit-fit can turn any writer into an unreliable narrator…

Retreating from Pop Culture with Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers Brunch, Panera BreadAs much as I post about the entertainment options around me, I can’t immerse myself in them 24/7. Sometimes they disappoint or frustrate me. Sometimes they demand more of my time and attention than I care to give. Sometimes the idols among them remind me how their previous versions guided me through childhood. While I grew up and improved in a way or two, too many of those idols lost their luster, descended into mediocrity, or had their Reset buttons punched to turn them into different creatures with the same names. Ultimately they’re undependable as worldview building materials.

Hence my weekly one-man retreat. Every Sunday morning after church I isolate myself from my loved ones and collections, hole up in a local chain eatery that has plenty of loitering space (it’s not too hard to identify if you know the place), clear my mind, and spend an hour-plus with caffeine, snack, Bible, spiral-bound notebook, and a copy of the late Oswald Chambers’ devotional collection My Utmost for His Highest.

For those newer readers who’ve been wondering to themselves for months: I assure you the “faith” mentioned in the site subtitle isn’t a typo.

More about my weekly habit…

A Few of My Favorite Bible Excerpts

Midlife Crisis Crossover pulpit

This 2008 file photo taken at Historic Jamestowne, Virginia, captures a very rare moment of the author in a pulpit.

Easter week continues on MCC! Let it not be said (today) that the mention of “faith” in the blog subtitle is total false advertising.

Confession time: when I launched MCC eleven months ago, I didn’t expect that aspect of my life to receive such short shrift here compared to the other parts of my life. Truth is, writing about my faith is challenging because the majority of examples set before me from other writers, family, and friends (in writing or in simple conversation) are either memorized Bible verses, Christian song lyrics, or common quotes that sound so much like real verses that everyone assumes they are and keeps passing them around. For the purpose of self-expression, I have a hard time settling for that.

Years before my life took a conscious turn toward a new spiritual direction, I was once an English major who had one critical writing lesson drummed repeatedly into my head : “Put it in your own words.” While the Bible contains a wealth of advice more useful to me than Bartlett’s Quotations or Twitter, I’m not sure what I’m accomplishing — either for the Kingdom or for myself — if all my writing and speaking consists of recycling the exact phrases and paragraphs of everyone who came before me. Becoming a living, walking re-blogger holds no appeal to me. I’m hardly the most original guy in the world, but I’d at least like to try to form my own sentences into useful structures. Problem is, all the best wisdom and aphorisms are taken, leaving me to cobble together what I can from my own odd experiences and pale talents in hopes that it doesn’t reek of copy/paste plagiarism. More often than not, my frustrated approach is if I can’t say something different, I don’t say anything at all.

I don’t recommend that mindset to anyone else. I’ll concede that’s me being stubborn. Arguably, I’ve set the bar too high for myself. We’ll see how my thoughts on the subject progress as I age and hopefully keep growing. Until then, here I am, doing the best I can with what I have. That usually means I end up focusing on my other specializations here, those that predate my faith, originated in my childhood, and are sometimes at odds with it. Thus is the conflict that fuels some of the fight scenes in the Midlife Crisis Crossover.

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