Tuesday, December 31, 2013

God, in 2014

"God the Father is my Father; I am in union with the Son; and
I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
This is not just meant to be doctrine; it is what I have now."
Francis Schaeffer, from his book "True Spirituality", pages 270-271

Christian salvation means we get God; but we don't get God in general; we get the Trinitarian God of the Bible - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He becomes more real to us than anything else there is.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christians Should Kill Santa

The Bible tells us to train up our children in the way they should go, and to instruct them, and to tell them what to believe and what not to believe. We see this in a text like Dt 6-7 which shows us that biblical parenting means having lots of conversations about God with our children. In these conversations we rehearse His character, His ways, His acts and His commands. We also show the connections between Him and all of life. Or consider the Proverbs, which are largely one-sided instructional talks between parents and children. And of course there is Ep 6 which commands us to raise our children in a particular way under particular recognized realities. One thing central to each of these texts is Truth. We can't parent well and therefore do our children good apart from our own understanding of what is, and is not, true. So we should kill Santa, because any other act falls short of the Truth.

Not only do countless Christian parents continue to lie to their children about the source of Christmas gifts, they do it by ascribing God-like powers to an effeminate fat man with an affinity for reindeer. They tell their precious and gullible little ones, who should be receiving sound instruction, that there is an eternal man who "sees them when they're sleeping and knows when they're awake; who knows if they've been bad or good," etc. Really? Is this a notion that honors God as the giver of all good things, and His Son on the day we celebrate His birth, and the Holy Spirit as the One at work in that divine conception? Of course not. Instead, it honors the devil, whom Jesus calls "the father of lies". And it helps the devil; for certainly he delights to distract the youngest souls from Immanuel via false meanings ascribed to the Christmas holiday (holy day) set aside in honor of the Son.

Many parents say they can do both, teach Christ and have fun with Santa. All the while the Bible is asking, "What harmony has Christ with Belial?" (2 Co 6:15) And I am asking why those who do hold out this idol to their children believe themselves obligated to do so. Why is Santa so treasured and his lack of existence so guarded? Why are the parents disappointed when their little ones finally become unbelievers in regard to this fantasy? This is truly upside down. Satan must be so pleased.

As bad, and as wrong, and as damaging, is the teaching that this eternal gift giver does us good by rewarding us strictly according to our works. The Santa of Christmas is a Pharisee, while the Christ of Christmas is a Savior who gives according to grace, meaning without regard to our works. Now, God will one day reward us according to our works. But that reward will be permeated with grace. For if He were to give strictly according to our deeds, attitudes, intentions, and motives, then we would all be without reward. For there is no purely good work except His own work.

A week before Christmas we had guests in our home. One of them, assuming we preach Santa, asked my five year old who was coming to visit her the following week (meaning Mr Kringle). Her answer was, "Grandpa and Grandma". Oh how I loved that moment, when I heard truth reign in my daughter. May it reign in all of us, and in our children.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Chistmas Is About Curse

"He comes to make His blessings flow 
far as the curse is found."  
From the hymn "Joy to the World" by Isaac Watts

On this Christmas morning 2013, more than ever I want to understand, and have my family understand, all that the Father was doing when He sent the Son by the Holy Spirit. (Redemption is a Trinitarian enterprise). And one of those things was reversing His curse ("Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'" - Ga 3:13). One day He will finish what He has begun ("Then He showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God, and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads" - Re 22:1-4).

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Courageous Preaching

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest expression every portion of the truth of God except that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
Martin Luther 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Time Travel . . . If Only

The Kingdom Notes

NOVEMBER 19, 2013

 Ask RC: If you could go back in time, what would you tell 18 year old you?

We all have regrets. We look back at forks in the road behind us and wonder where we might be now had we chosen more wisely back then. Every misstep, however, is an opportunity to learn, to follow more faithfully in Jesus’ footsteps. How gracious that our Lord not only covers our folly, but is able to grow wisdom out of it? Below are ten things now me would seek to impress into the stubborn mind of then me.

10. Cultivate gratitude, put to death grumbling. I am persuaded the path to future blessing follows on the trail of giving thanks for past blessings. We, like our fathers before us, are given to forgetting, to taking grace for granted, to believing we are due more than we have been given. Like our fathers before us we are wrong. Gratitude is its own reward, as no one has ever been truly grateful and truly unhappy.

9. Worry about your sanctification rather than your standing. This, I suspect, is central to what it means to seek first the kingdom and His righteousness. Just as Jesus warned, we tend to worry about what we will eat or wear. In a context as richly blessed as ours we don’t lose the worry, but inflate it. That is, we don’t worry about having enough to eat. We worry instead about how well we are doing, how much we are respected or envied.

8. Master your temper. Not many of my emotions can get the best of me. Anger, however, often seems to have my number.

7. Encourage yourself and your circle of influence to find your and their satisfaction in Jesus. I am now a professional persuader. This is what I wish I had been laboring to persuade people of from my youth.

6. Learn to like vegetables and be leery of carbs. Bad eating habits, like any other habit, are tough to get past, especially in middle age.

5. Relax, wind down, recreate by doing rather than watching. Reading is better than television. Talking is better than reading. Learning to play music is better than listening to music. Making is better than buying. Those who can rest while still exercising dominion are not only more productive, but more rested.

4. Seek out and read those rare books that both tell you something important and do so beautifully. Read fewer theological controversies, more Lewis, Chesterton; fewer spy novels, more Jon Krakaur, Paul Johnson, Ian Murray. Read people whose insights flow less out of what they have studied, more out of what they have lived.

3. Never stop playing baseball.

2. Listen to and honor your parents. This, according to the Word of God, is how you have a good life. Plus, they were telling you all this stuff I’m now trying to tell you. They were right, and you, 18 year old RC, were wrong.

1. Hold Denise’s hand every chance you get. Tell her you love her every time she enters the room. Let the tears well up every time you think of her, and never stop thinking of her. Make sure that her last thought on this earth will be, My Lord loves me forever, and my lord loves me forever.
 For more from RC Sproul Jr, go here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Martin Luther, on Reformation Day, for those that Suffer the "Whippings and Beatings" of their Heavenly Father

October 31 is Reformation Day. It is also, in a sense, Luther's Day. Below is something Luther once said over dinner.

    "God deals strangely with the saints, contrary to all human wisdom and understanding, to the end that those who fear God are good Christians, may learn to depend on invisible things, and through mortification may be made alive again; for God's Word is a light that shines in a dark place, as all examples of faith show. Esau was accursed, yet it went well with him; he was lord in the land, and priest in the church; but Jacob had to fly, and dwell in poverty in another country.
    God deals with godly Christians much as with the ungodly, yea, and sometimes far worse. He deals with them even as a house-father with a son and a servant; he whips and beats the son much more and oftener than the servant, yet nevertheless, he gathers for the son a treasure to inherit, while a stubborn and a disobedient servant he beats not with the rod, but thrusts out of doors, and gives him nothing of the inheritance."  -  From Luther's Tabletalk, #77.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Gospel Too Small

In one of the books I'm reading on the Trinity ("The Deep Things of God"), Fred Sanders attempts to communicate the scope and depth of the gospel of the triune Godhead of the Bible. He "struggles to frame thoughts big enough to accommodate it." In this effort he writes,

"A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small. A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small. A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small. A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small. A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small." (p106)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sitting Up with the Trinity

It's 3:48 AM. I've been out of bed for about 45 minutes, sipping Wild Turkey and decaf coffee, listening to George Winston's "December" and reading Fred Sanders' "The Deep Things of God." Good alone time. Below are a few lines from Sanders' book, Chapter 2 - "Within the Happy Land of the Trinity."

". . .the Trinity is not ultimately for anything, any more than God is the purpose for anything. Just as you wouldn't ask what purpose God serves or what function he fulfills, it makes no sense to ask what the point of the Trinity is or what purpose the Trinity serves. The Trinity isn't for anything beyond itself, because the Trinity is God. . .God's way of being God is to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit simultaneously from all eternity, perfectly complete in a triune fellowship of love. If we don't take this as our starting point, everything we say about the practical relevance of the Trinity could lead us to one colossal misunderstanding: thinking of God the Trinity as a means to some other end, as if God were the Trinity in order to make himself useful. But God the Trinity is the end, the goal, the telos, the omega. In himself and without any reference to a created world or the plan of salvation, God is that being who exists as the triune love of the Father for the Son in the unity of the Spirit. The boundless life that God lives in himself, at home, within the happy land of the Trinity above all worlds, is perfect. It is complete, inexhaustibly full, and infinitely blessed." (pages 61-62)

"When evangelicals lose their sense of proportion, they begin to talk as if they no longer care about the character of God unless they get something from it. The best defense against this has always been the doctrine of the eternal Trinity itself. Pondering the eternal, essential Trinity is the most concrete and biblical way of acknowledging the distinction between who God is and what he does." (pages 69-70)

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Untamed Bill Poore - Paying Honor to Whom Honor is Due

My friend Bill is dead, and forever alive. He's finally face to face with the One he so loved to learn of (Mt 11:29). I used to sit with Bill in his den and sip homemade scuffydine wine and talk about God and His Word and His people. Now Bill drinks with Jesus, (or will after receiving his new body - 1 Co 15; Mt 26:29, etc), which is far better for him. The thought is surreal. And today I resurrect this blog to pay honor to whom honor is due (Ro 13:7).

I loved Bill because, frankly, Bill loved me. He seemed to understand me more than most. We were two like souls. I met Bill because, while in seminary, my friend Dwight, who was a member of the church Bill shepherded, said to me that I should attend one of the church's gatherings. The reason Dwight gave for why I would enjoy myself in the gathering was that his pastor, Bill, was me at age 50 (I was in my mid 20's at the time). An older version of me -- this I had to see.

I immediately liked Bill's preaching (It was much better than my own). He clearly wasn't out to win friends, but at the same time he definitely cared for people, cared that they know the real Jesus, the one revealed in the Bible who in turn reveals His Father and gives His Holy Spirit. Bill, perhaps more than anyone I've known, loved to study God's Word. He was a gifted preacher with a terribly small audience. He was not the sort to be invited to address larger crowds. He was much too uncontrollable for that. Bill was not a tame man. And rarely are men untamed by the denomination considered assets by it.

Bill was the most comical person I've ever known. No one could make me laugh more deeply, or more happily, than Bill Poore. He had an unusual and intelligent wit, and observant sarcasm, that I can't help but admire.

Few folks near to me emotionally have died. Bill is the most near. I am sad over his going, because he was my friend, and because he was so good for the world.

Brother Bill, if you can read this from where you are, many deep thanks for your kindness to me. Your influence lingers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Watching the Ways of God

Martin Luther died yesterday, 467 years ago. His last words were, "We are beggars. This is true." If we are normal American Christians, our pride and sense of self-importance doesn't allow us to say such things. But Luther wasn't proud or American. I imagine this contributed to his usefulness. And his existence has been a chief means by which any of us in our lifetimes have heard and understood the Scripture's good news. You should pay attention to this man, read him, read about him, and imitate him. Let's not be ignorant of our heritage and the church's history. When we learn these we are watching the ways of God (Ps 119:36-38).

Upon my death, when I sit down to rest in heaven, I want to do so next to Martin Luther, my favorite theologian with no inherently divine nature. And having read him regularly, I am sure he is also among my favorite people. I'd like to have him here now so I could take him to my favorite high end bar, the one with the high back leather chairs, in which we would sit and sip and muse and talk and laugh. And I would be a little surprised if we didn't share some tears too; tears of pain mingled with celebration. I don't get to do that in the world as it is now. But perhaps on the new earth I will.

Now that those two deaths have been mentioned, I move on to mention the death of this blog. "Sons of the Baptizer" began with death, on July 23, 2010 . How fitting then that it should end on the same subject. Perhaps it too will be resurrected. Time will tell.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Get Wisdom - Post 29

Proverbs -- Chapter 29

1. On the value of humility, discipline, and repentance (I believe these are related inter-working parts) in any life, but particularly the lives of a parent and child: vs1,15,17,19,21,23.

2. On the value of righteous leaders who do not impose high tax rates, mistreat the poor, or listen to liars; and do keep God's law, walk in humility, and seek the LORD: vs2,4,7,12, 14,16,18,23,26.

3. On the value of the happy freedom only God gives: vs6,25.

4. On the value of a calm spirit and its fruit: vs11,20,22.

5. On the value of the Giver of understanding, our only hope: v13.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

One In My Likeness: Offering Praise for Joah

"When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image. . ."
Ge 5:3

Joah on his 2nd birthday, and sporting his mother's Raiders cap
Joah prefers a big boy cup
As Adam was made in the image of his Father (Ge 5:1-2), so our children are made in the image of theirs (v3). There is a covenant connection between children and their parents. Adam was in a covenant with God (as his Father), a covenant with Eve (as his bride), and a covenant with his son (as his offspring). This last covenant binds us to our children in deep ways and with profound power. I think it is the reason our little ones naturally want to please us, and be like us. It's the reason they naturally love us, trust us, and imitate us. And it has to do with our own natural affection for them, and our consequent natural duty to raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ep 6:1-3). They are, after all, gifts from Him (Ps 127:3).

Birthday relaxation
We recently celebrated both Joah's birthday and his adoption finalization. On these occasions I am reminded of the gift that he is and am compelled to thank God afresh for him. My relationship to him does not run parallel to my relationship with my daughter. For one, he is a boy and she is a girl. Contrary to the foolishness fueled opinion of some, there are multiple genders, and that matters much. Also, Joah is two years old while Tess is five years old. This also matters. While there are similarities in how I relate to each of them, there are also stark differences. But let me talk about Joah for a few moments.

A younger Joah dominates his prey
One of the most fun and revealing aspects of my relationship to Joah is how much he enjoys showing me what he can do. Just this week he's begun regularly jumping over things -- toys mostly, and sometimes the cat. But before doing so he will often find me, beckon me to follow him to the toy, say "watch this," and then take the leap. Then he laughs in celebration. I laugh with him, and sometimes offer the over used "high-five". Good times. As my friend Chris says, "Shared joys are double joys."

The Joah Tree
Joah loves on me with hugs, kisses, waves good-bye when I'm leaving the house, and warm greetings when I return home. Sometimes his affection is revealed in sadness, like when he cries at my absence. He's also beginning to offer me his best drawings and other creative ventures, like yesterday when he adorned a decorative tree with toys and then eagerly sought me out to show off his work with enthusiasm.

As for me, my favorite activity to share with Joah is the wonderful experience of being still. He is so active and energized and so full of life and zest. As impressive as these qualities are, what I appreciate most in him is his desire to simply sit with me. When he crawls up on my lap, and nestles down to rest, in a secure place, that's the highlight. I am sincerely glad for his precious desire to share his achievements, his hugs, and his tears. But what I treasure most is his desire to rest on Daddy. I'm sure there's something in that, pointing me to the Father of enduring and saving rest (Ex 14:13-14; Dt 7:7-9; Ps 46; Mt 11:27-29; He 4; Re 14:13).

This blog is named in memory of the prophet John the Baptizer. The prophet Malachi tells us that one aspect of John's ministry was to "restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers" lest God come and smite the land with a curse (Ma 4:6). May it please the Lord to bring about such a restoration in our cursed day.

"Let Your work appear to Your servants, 
and Your majesty to their children."
Ps 90:16

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Post for Shepherds

Brothers, you are not saviors. You are just men, with the very limited powers of men. Please hear Russell Moore say how Jesus seems to be one of the few shepherds without a Messiah complex.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aim Low

"But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place. . ."
Jesus, Lk 14:10

". . .If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."
Jesus, Mk 9:35

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus, Mt 23:12

"I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 
with all humility. . ."
The Apostle Paul, Ep 4:1-2

"Humble yourselves before the Lord. . ."
James, Ja 4:10

Aim low.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- The Gift of Relief

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another."
Author, Charles Dickens

"I relieved his shoulder of the burden, 
his hands were freed from the basket."
Yahweh, Ps 81:6

"Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."
The Apostle Paul, Ga 6:2

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friendship: It Flows from the Humble

Several weeks back I was asked to consider blogging my thoughts on friendship, specifically, "What do you think is the essence of 'friendship'? Why do you think some people end up being better friends than others? Do Christians have to be good friends with each other? How might you counsel a believer who often feels 'lonely,' acknowledged by many but pursed by none?"

I've gone over these things on "friendship" in my head (which is the way to go over things). And if I were to write those thoughts it would be a blog longer than perhaps anyone is willing to read. Therefore, I want to say a little something instead ("little"is relative), for whatever it's worth.

Jesus says great love is the love in the hearts of those who lay down their lives for their friends (Jn 15:13). In saying this, Jesus speaks more about love than friendship. But He does imply that being the best kind of friend entails sacrifice. Then the Apostles Paul and John write of laying down our possessions for friends (2 Co 8-9; 1 Jn 3). Actually, they speak of doing this for any Christian. So certainly we must do it for our Christian friends. And while Jesus is our ultimate example of friendship, we do see it modeled, though to a lesser degree, in others, like Jonathan and David, in 1 Samuel 18-20. Jesus connects friendship with love and then with sacrifice (Jn 15:1-17), as does the account in 1 Samuel. So in answer to my friend's question on the essence of friendship, I would start there, with love evidenced by sacrifice. This is basic; "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. . ." (Jn 3:16), to make us His "friends" (Jn 15:1-17).

If we take the above as foundational to friendship, then the other questions can be answered rather easily, at least at the beginning. So yes, Christians do have to be good friends with each other because Christians must love each other. Some of those relationships will be more enjoyable than others because some folks are just more likable than others, more pleasant, easier to be with. And I think there are other factors like common interests, personality types, and simply how someone makes us feel when we're with them. From reading the Gospels, it appears that Jesus, in His humanity, was "closer" to some of His disciples than others.

My friend's final question caught my attention because of the way it describes the lonely as "acknowledged by many but pursued by none." My opinion is that this is precisely where so many of us live, wrongly. We acknowledge but do not pursue. Perhaps the most ignored commandment in the Bible is from Philippians 2:3-5, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind in yourselves. . ." Who does this with any consistency? Answer: only the humble. Love evidenced in sacrifice flows from humility. Humility means counting others more significant than ourselves and looking to their interests. This is the pinnacle of friendship.

I believe that many Christians hear Philippians 2:3-5 and wrongfully reckon that it can't be done; the Apostle asks too much. He asks us to assume the mentality and humility of Jesus, who (if you continue in the chapter), though He is God, laid down His divine rights and privileges and not only condescended to become a creature, but a servant, and then a crucified sacrifice. This is friendship -- humility driven sacrifice rooted in love that puts the significance and interests of others above our own. So instead of reading Philippians 2 as if it contained fantasy commands, we should ask God to make us like His Son -- good for and useful to our friends. Next, we should consider those friends by making a list of their needs and then go about meeting them, sacrificially and abundantly, like Jesus met our greatest need. And if we can't meet them ourselves, let's find someone who can.

We must learn to stop, and to get quiet, and to put ourselves into the situations of our friends so that we can begin to feel the weight of their burdens and the extent of their needs. And then, instead of only praying for them, let us lay down our possessions, our time, and our help, at their feet, for Jesus' sake. In other words, let's love on them in ways that matter.

Consider, if you have a friend who is going thorough marital and/or parental hardship, what do they need? What if their beloved pet has died? What if they're enduring sickness? What if they're children with absentee parents? What if they're injured? What if they hate their job? What if they've lost their job -- what do they need? What if their vehicle has broken down?; their parent has died?; they're moving to a new place?; they're being deployed?; they're changing vocations?; they're depressed?; they're lonely?; they're poor? Think, and pray; and then do something, friend.

The call of this post is for more deliberate, and less casual, and distinctly Christian, friendship.

"Heavenly Father, may we get over ourselves, and become a blessing." Jesus will smile.

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
1 Jn 3:18

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Echoes of His Image - Kasey Chambers on the Desire for Order, Comfort, Freedom, Courage, and Meaning

Well I never lived through the great depression  
Sometimes I feel as though I did 
I don't have answers for every single question  
But that's okay cause I'm just a kid  

I've seen pictures of my mother  
She looked exactly like me  
And I've seen all my friends running for cover  
Running from something they can't see

And it's not easy to get a handle on my life 
But I have tried it time and time again

But I still cry just like a baby  
And I answer back to feel a little free  
And I still fly even though I'm gonna fall  
But I'm too far gone to let it get to me

I'm not much like my generation 
Their music only hurts my ears 
And I don't hide my pain to save my reputation  
It's too hard to keep up with these years

And it's not easy to make a habit disappear 
But I have tried it time and time again

But I still cry just like a baby  
And I answer back to feel a little free  
And I still fly even though I'm gonna fall 
But I'm too far gone to let it get to me

Lyrics from "Cry Like a Baby," from her album "The Captain"

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 
Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  
Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. 
 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
Ps 37:3-5, 23-24 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Lessons from a Long Ride North

On my family's recent road trip to Maine, I noticed (and I'll limit this to only ten):

1. There are Subway and Dunkin Donuts restaurants everywhere, at least on the east coast, even in the tiniest towns. Good to know.

2. Delaware has, according to my observation, the most liquor stores per capita in the U.S. Considering it is the oldest state, perhaps it contains the greatest wisdom. I mean, if you have a good product to sell, make it easily accessible.

3. The pie in ME, in seemingly every restaurant, and at my in-laws, is excellent.

4. Myrtle Street Tavern in Rockland; it's "not just for sailors and whores anymore." So I went in.

5. Joah's powers are ever increasing. Here he is relaxing and learning, with his toddler-esque kind of sophistication.

6. Tess adores snow; sledding on it, laying in it, eating it, whatever.

7. Marian adores pictures; mostly taking them. I knew this already but discovered it afresh. While on this trip she took several hundred. I took one; the one to the right there.

8. How good it is to have the proper equipment for a work. I observed this while running comfortably in ME's cold winds; I had good clothing designed for such a task. And I thought of it again while moving lots of snow in a short amount of time due to a shovel suited for the labor. Of course I knew this already and learned it best while trying to work on my vehicles without proper tools. We're not all MacGyvers.

9. Road tolls are unpleasant and disruptive, while road toll takers are quite pleasant and gladsome. I noticed this because we passed over so many toll roads, so I got a larger sample than I have had before. These folks sit in that outdoor cubicle with the window open, repeating the same monotonous task, for what I'm guessing is not great pay. Yet they smile and wish you well on your journey. At least that was our experience. Contentment is a powerful force.

George Washington Bridge, connecting New York and New Jersey
10. That I didn't notice as much as I could have, like this bridge we crossed, twice. It was night on both occasions and I had been driving a long time. So I imagine I was in task mode.

Connecting Leadership and Learning

"A wise leader is passionate, but this passion has to be built on the bedrock of foundational conviction. Thinking and teaching are essential. But, as should go without saying, you don't have anything to think about or anything to teach if you are not a reader."-- Douglas Wilson.

You can read the entire article here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Discoveries via Fresh Exertion: Another Reason to Run (and/or Walk) in 2013

2012 has been, perhaps, the most unusual year of my small life. This is true concerning things that matter much, but also things that matter less. It is true of my inner man; but it also true of my outer man, to use the Apostle Paul's terminology (2 Co 4:16). One of the things that matters less, but does matter (1 Ti 4:8), is my running practice. Here, I want to commend running to you, and also commend walking, by a list of delights discovered during physical exertion, in these cases, while traveling in 2012. I'll count these down in reverse order.

5. Seneca, SC:  I am slow to list this at #5 because in some ways it is #1 (as are perhaps some of the other locations). The way this one is first is its demands, i.e. lots of long and/or steep hills, which I go out of my way to climb and descend. Three of the four other locations offer nothing like the foothills of SC in this regard. Loving hills is not only good for the body but also the mind. Climbing, then, grants a double dose of toughness and growth. But here I list the Seneca runs behind the others for a purely subjective reason associated with the theme of this post - discovery. The Seneca routes were all known to me. I have run them many times. The other routes were all first time excursions. Objectively, and normally, I put Seneca first. But today she places 5th. I ran here while visiting family for Thanksgiving. It was on this stay in Seneca that a friend introduced me to "Duck Dynasty."

4. Salisbury, MD: I left the hotel in Salisbury for a morning jaunt anticipating it being a road run. But a mile into the exercise I found myself on a dirt trail connected to a city park and the city zoo -- a pleasant surprise. I ran here while on a trip to attend my niece's baby shower cook out. Good times, except for the traffic citation I received on the drive home (I was charged with failure to yield to a stopped emergency vehicle).

3. Fairfield, CT: Like the run in Salisbury, I left the inn headed out for a refreshing strain of the body, seeing that I had spent most of the previous day driving. Fortunately, I discovered Old Post Road which led me through a beautiful old New England residential community. The houses were large and distinct. And I ran by a church building built of some sort of stone with which I am not familiar (seen at left). The church sign said the church was organized in 1639. It did not say when the building was constructed. But it looked to be the oldest church building that I have seen. I continue to be impressed with the skills of those who know how to construct beauty in a durable manner. This run came while on a trip to spend Christmas with my parents-n-law.

2. Greenville, SC: The route in Greenville, which I got to run 3 times, could easily be #1 on this short list. It certainly would be if my standard of measurement were uniqueness (in my own experience, of course). The route consists of a network of trails, mostly paved, that belong to a high-end neighborhood into which I was not invited, but was located only a mile from where I was staying. As a matter of fact, the signs marking the trail entrances told me that the trail was for residents only. I get that. The folks of that particular neighborhood do not want their trails over-populated or abused by those who have no investment in them. However, should not good things be enjoyed by those who appreciate them? So I read the warning signs and kept on running. I have never seen such a network in such a place. What a tremendous resource. The network ran throughout the woods all over the beautiful community, by fantastic houses and rushing river waters, along the backside of many immaculately landscaped yards, over bridges, and into a tiny park. It is a fantastic set-up. I asked the Lord if He might grant my family a house in that hood. Time will tell. I got to enjoy this splendor while visiting friends in SC on what I will call a vocationary expedition.

1. Andover, MA: The Merrimack River Trail gets first place today for a couple of reasons: 1 - the surprise factor, and 2 - sheer beauty. I left the Springhill Suites by Marriott expecting to run a previously eyed trail built into a large business park. But while standing outside waiting for my Garmin watch to link with a satellite, I noticed that in the direction going behind the hotel, the trail went into some woods. I love woods. So I went that way soon to come across the sign in the pic next to this paragraph. Behind the sign is a lake around which a dirt trail lays. On this particular morning, snow covered just about everything (I got the pic online. I don't run with a camera. So sorry, no snow in this shot). And in some places the lake was frozen on the surface. I also enjoyed many streams rushing into the lake, and the bridges that cross them. This was so much better than the paved route by the large business buildings. This was just me in the woods in an unknown place already beautiful, but made more so by snow and ice. This grand surprise was given to me on our trip home from our stay with my in-laws in Maine.

Other places I have enjoyed running this year include various cities in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maine. And I also regularly experience the benefits of walking. This is an option for the one who refuses to run but desires the perks of getting outside, as God intends. It's also a good way to pray, which is my use of it.

One of the fun things about a new run in a new place is not knowing what to expect. Another thing is not knowing the roads. In other words, it's good to remember how to get back to the hotel. The simplest way is to find a road and stay on it for half the distance you mean to run, then turn around and retrace your steps. I've done that. This can, however, make for much interference in the discovery arena. So I commend some degree of risk. It's good sometimes to "go out on a limb", as they say; because that's where the fruit is.

Merry New Year.