Lesson from a 3rd Grader

Yesterday I made my weekly trek to South Euless Elementary Schoolsouth euless 2where I mentor a couple of boys.  One of them is in 3rd grade, the other in 6th.  This week, I met only with the 3rd grader.

As usual, I checked in on social media. This time, I checked in with this statement: “What will I learn from a 3rd grader today?”

And my bluff was called. So, what did I learn from a 3rd grader yesterday?

That I don’t always communicate what I intend to communicate, and that if I don’t pay attention, I’ll miss something.

He and I have been meeting together over lunch most of this school year. Each time, he seems eager to sit down with me and start talking.

I learned early on that we are better off if I don’t force the conversation where I want it to go.  When I do, I quickly sound like just another older person dispensing advice and wisdom.  I know this because I see it in his eyes, and I hear it as he gently mocks me.  Sometimes he’ll parrot my words back to me. Sometimes he just says, at increased volume, “You tell me that every week!”

I don’t believe I do tell him the same think every week, but if I argue with him about that, then I’ve lost the battle for relationship before I’ve even started.

It is a challenge for a 52 year old to meet a 3rd grader on his own terms, but if I want this child to respect my experience and the wisdom and insight I’ve gained along the way, I owe it to him to try my best.

We only have 30 minutes together each week. Sometimes this will be filled with significant conversation. Sometimes it will be mostly his making faces at his friends at other tables.

But he still looks forward to my meeting him at lunch. That’s something I’ll take any day of the week.

Lesson from a 3rd Grader

Measuring the Love of God (Book Review)

I want to know what love is! I mean, who doesn’t want to know what love is?  Love is a word offered to describe anythingOord - Uncontrolling Love from one’s preference for food to the foundation of an eternal relationship.

I have recently read a book which provocatively suggests we reconsider common understandings of love, and Thomas Jay Oord does not mean the kind of love one means when one says “I love fish tacos.”

He means the kind of love understood in the statement “God is love.”

For Christians, and likely for many other people of faith, God’s love is the benchmark, the standard by which all other accounts of love are measured.

As with any other standard, this benchmark deserves to be reconsidered from time to time. Don’t hate on me for the reference to Subway here; the claim made to a sandwich being a foot long is analogous to any other and every other claim that anyone makes.

The Uncontrolling Love of God is Oord’s newest book, and, I think, worth the read. I read it as a follow up and deeper fleshing out of the position he stakes out in The Nature of Love, a Theolgy.  I reviewed this book here.

In The Nature of Love, we are introduced to the premise that God’s love is kenotic in nature. Kenotic means self-emptying; Christians know the idea primarily from the early Christian hymn in Philippians 2, where, in verse 7, it says that Jesus “emptied himself….” Oord suggests that kenosis has come, of late, to explain how Jesus revealed God’s nature, rather than as Jesus showing God’s nature.

Oord argues that kenosis, “self-giving, other-empowering love,” is God’s nature.

In that previous review, I shared that what I found most refreshing in this understanding was the freedom it offered from our bent to circumscribe God by our own philosophical limits and parameters.  We have, for instance, swallowed whole claims that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, though these are philosophical categories rather than biblical ones.

In The Uncontrolling Love of God, Oord deepens and strengthens his argument with an account of providence.

How and when does God act?  How and when, and especially why(!), does God not act?

Sadly, Christians are too often left with some version or another of this:thenamiracleoccurs

He opens with a variety of tragedies that are next to impossible to explain without making God out to be calloused, indifferent, conniving, or sometimes downright evil. If, that is, God is all powerful and indeed, in active control of everything; sitting outside the universe directing things, as it were.

Oord offers another account of providence; and it is one that fits better with prevailing scientific understandings of the way the world works.  There are, in fact, “random, chance, and accidental” events. Science recognizes this. I appreciate Oord’s presentation of current science in language that I can grasp, though I haven’t taken a single science course since 1980. There

Oord summarizes his position, called Essential Kenosis, with this statement:

God’s loving nature requires God to create a world with creatures God cannot control.

Kenosis, self-emptying, other-empowering love, is the essential nature of God.  Because this is so, we can identify things God cannot do: God cannot foreknow or prevent evil.control, God cannot coerce creatures to conform to certain behavior. Because this love is God’s essence, God does not, and cannot, override free choices of creatures.

Oord’s account of providence is at least as coherent as any account I know.  He presents several others and engages them fairly, though the serious thinker would consider a longer, denser engagement with each helpful.

I found The Uncontrolling Love of God an accessible and readable yet academic presentation.  I believe any Christian would fare better in engaging the culture around him or her having read Oord’s newest book. After all, our categories and the ways we measure them deserves a fresh look every now and again.

The Uncontrolling Love of God can be pre-ordered here.

Here is a video with more about the book.

Measuring the Love of God (Book Review)

Who is holding up your trampoline?

During the day of our big annual event, a Lord’s Acre, this past Saturday, I received news that one of our youth had run away the day before.

Our Director of Student Ministries jumped on it, contacting folks and catching up with family members.  I interspersed prayer into the other events of the day I to which I was committed.

By that evening I had received word the youth was safe, and taking some steps toward returning to normalcy.

Whenever I would pause and pray, I kept getting drawn back to a class in seminar. It was my first Joy class.  By “my first Joy class,” I mean my first class with Dr. Don Joy Here is a bio, written by a seminary classmate of mine who now teaches at Asbury Seminary.

trampolineDr. Joy taught us about our trampoline.  Or let me put it this way: he had us all look at our own life as a trampoline. Then we were required to identify the people who served as springs and legs – those who held up or supported our trampoline.
If I remember right, he had us draw a box as our trampoline, and then draw “supports” off each side of it, something like this:  20151026_112127

Then we were required to write the names of people who supported us, encouraged us in significant ways, around each side of the trampoline.

These were the people who held up the trampoline that was our life.

Anyone knows who has ever bounced on a trampoline, that it needs quite a few springs to work well. In fact, one could say, the more springs the better.

The point was quickly clear to me, and, I assume, to the rest of the class. To grow up well, or to live healthy as a person, one ought to have a support system holding up one’s trampoline.

This particular youth, the one who ran away, has quite a few people holding the trampoline up.

Of course, part of adolescence is that it seems increasingly difficult, as one tries to find one’s own identity, to maintain those ties, to accept the support of others.

I not only invite you to pray for this young person, but I ask you also: who is holding up your trampoline?

And, finally: whose trampoline are you holding up?

Who is holding up your trampoline?

On the BTTFDay Bandwagon

Many, many people will be posting about Back to the Future Day ( #bttfday ).

This the day to which Doc and Marty went “into the future” in the second installment of the Back to the Future movie trilogy. So newspapers and website and probably 45% of the blogosphere will offer praise and lament for what the movie got right and wrong about the future.

I’ll echo the greetings of Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), for this day:

“Great Scott, if my calculations are correct it is now precisely October 21, 2015.

“The future has finally arrived.

“Yes, it is different than we all thought.

“But don’t worry, it just means your future hasn’t been written yet. Noone’s has.

“Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.”

Or this.

Maybe you’ll want to spend some time today thinking in the direction of October 21, 2045. That’s the day that is to today what today was to the original story.

On the BTTFDay Bandwagon

Parenting by Hypocrisy

My kids were really noisy this morning.

Perhaps this is better than having to drag them out of bed to get them ready for school.

At one point, though, I caught myself yelling at them to stop yelling.

Reminded me of the time I spanked my older daughter (she’s 26).  She was probably 3, and as I spanked her, in perfect rhythm with the spanks I spoke words of correction:


I didn’t spank her after that.

I don’t think stopping the yelling at my kids will go away so easily.

I am on my way to becoming the parent who looks up from his smartphone to tell his kids to spend less time with their electronic devices and more time with the real world.

For this reason, Rachel and I gave up cell phones (and tablet, etc.) at meals before Eliza was born. We knew that parenting required at least a little credibility.

Jesus identified this challenge when he asked:

Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Hey, fellow parents: Let’s work on our hypocrisy so that we might not only correct our children, but maybe even model for them better ways to behave.

Hey, Jesus people: Let’s try to be a little less hypocritical in our judgment and consternation toward the world around us.

It’s not like we’ve got all our stuff together.

Parenting by Hypocrisy

Praise for Inefficiency

A Smart Car pulled up next to me at a red light on my way to work this morning.

On the other side of the road, I noticed the normal variety of vehicles, mostly with one occupant each, making their way to the normal variety of places.

The Smart Car got me thinking about efficiency.  While we have 2 small children, a two-seater is not a great choice for us. So I think, as I drive my 10 year old car that gets pretty good mileage, about the possibilities of an electric car or a hybrid.

When it comes to cars, some of us are all about efficiency.

For almost 5 years, Rachel and I shared one car.  While it wasn’t the most fuel efficient car available, it was paid for and did pretty well with gas.  We also learned, while sharing a car, to maximize the value of each trip we took.

Because we are all about efficiency.

These last few mornings I’ve been opening windows throughout the house to invite cooler air inside.  I think doing so will lower our need for air-conditioning when the afternoon reaches the mid 90s. Our house is pretty well insulated and we shop for the lowest electricity rates we can find.

Because we are all about efficiency.

But then this morning I read Deuteronomy 24. I am rethinking efficiency.

God’s people are told not to be all about efficiency.  Part of the way they were (we are) to help take care of the “widow, the orphan, and the immigrant,” is to refuse to be all about efficiency.

The agrarian people of God were commanded in Deuteronomy 24:19-22 intentionally not to harvest their fields as efficiently as possible.

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”

I think included in this call toward inefficiency is an opportunity to develop trust.  As we learn to trust God (remember; this command comes from the God who has delivered the people from slavery and is leading them to the Promised Land) we learn to see life as a blessing from God.

The more we come to understand life as a blessing from God, the easier it will be, I believe, to learn to live within our means. Living within our means enables us to become more generous.

May you see today as a blessing from the God who has – or who will – deliver you, and may you learn to live inefficiently in response!

Praise for Inefficiency