Category Archives: Cheap Philosophy

What Jena Nardella Prayed

flag

A few months ago I made reference to my disdain for the American political circus, and I’m afraid that disdain only intensified as the presidential race ramped up. Then … then … the conventions got going, and once the conventions got going, Twitter and Facebook got going too.

The rhetoric is, in my opinion, so exceedingly awful that I can’t stomach it. There’s no truth, no clarity, no empathy, no humility — in sum, no virtue. Clearly, I’m dancing with cynicism in all this. Which is why I needed to hear what Jena Nardella prayed at the close of the Democratic National Convention’s opening night.

She prayed for Obama and Romney. She prayed for red states and blue states. She prayed for character, wisdom, humility, and service rather than victory. She prayed for perspective rather than a platform. Rather than attempt to bend God to our national will, she prayed that our national will might be bent to God’s.

You can read the transcript of Jena Nardella’s prayer on her website or you can watch the video below:

As for me, well, between now and November I’m seeking the courage and conviction to pray what Jena Nardella prayed.

Tornadoes: Disastrous or Divine?

As many as 14 tornadoes descended upon the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex last Tuesday afternoon and evening. If you’ve never heard the tension in your local weatherman’s voice as the tornado sirens begin to wail and the sky turns a sickly green, it’s a terrifying  experience.

We’ve largely subdued and modernized and Apple-fied our lives, so the prospect of something we can’t predict or control (let alone prevent) — a cold, erratic, murderous lynch mob of wind and debris — is the rarest of birds. The tornado gathers its strength and rage, then skips from neighborhood to neighborhood ripping our material goods from their tenuous moorings. The tornado slings roofs and trailers and people and animals as it cuts a winding path across a community. Like I said, terrifying.

It was only three years ago that I ran upstairs to grab my infant daughter from her bed as the sound of the tree in our front yard being broken in half filled the house. We rode out the storm in our laundry room — again, terrifying. It was bizarre, an hour later, to walk down our street and see trees and shingles in driveways and on sidewalks.

The trees and shingles just weren’t supposed to be there, you know? They were supposed to be up, not down. But that’s what a tornado does — it violently disrupts the places and order of things. It’s, like, terrifying.

So, I’ve been thinking about tornadoes this week.

 

Last Tuesday’s storms in Dallas didn’t claim any lives, thank God. But last month 38 people were killed when places like Henryville, Indiana, were hit by monstrous tornadoes. The devastation was shocking, even for a veteran of North Texas storms.

Following the suffering in Henryville, John Piper, in a blog post for DesiringGod.org, asked:

Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?”

I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s what happened because I’d never thought of tornadoes as God’s fierce fingers before. I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve prayed in the midst of an awful storm, I’ve asked God to protect me with His hand, not from His hand.

I don’t know what John Piper prays when confronted with what we generally consider a natural disaster, but he’s clear about the source: “If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command,” Piper wrote.

Although it has been several weeks since I read Piper’s post, I can’t leave it alone (or it won’t leave me alone). In the wake of last week’s weather in Dallas, I’ve been considering whether those malevolent funnels were God’s fierce fingers or not.

I suppose there’s a lot of theological work to be done, navigating hermeneutics and dual wills and cross-references and the Ancient Near East context. Piper has gone through his process, and you can get a glimpse of it in his post.

My process, by comparison, is admittedly lacking.

I’m no preacher; I’m no scholar. I’m a flimsy thinker and a blogger-no-call-me-a-digital-philosopher-instead! I’m a kid who finds himself out of his depth in Big Boy Conversations.

And yet, the next time the weatherman gestures at a red blob on the radar and uses the phrase “hook echo,” I imagine I’ll be asking Jesus to rebuke the storm (Matthew 8:26) not his Father’s fierce fingers.

I mean no disrespect to John Piper, and I hope that’s evident from this post, but we’re opposite sides of this conversation. Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America? I don’t think He did.

Advice from Kerouac

I love this list by Jack Kerouac: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose. His shorthand is odd at times, and a few of the items don’t make any sense to me, but one of them stuck out:

Be in love with yr life

There’s that shorthand I was talking about. And even though it seems as though Kerouac was ahead of the txting curve by a few decades, don’t let it distract you. That phrase, Be in love with yr life, is pretty weighty, right? I mean, if you’re going to commit yourself to that idea, you’re committing yourself to making some changes — how you spend your energy, time, money, and emotions.

Interesting. I’m still chewing on it, but I went ahead and whipped up a hacky little graphic to help me remember:

Buechner on the Tragic Word

At the risk of becoming predominantly  a Sharer of Quotes and Passages, I came across an intriguing thought today and I felt compelled to share it. Here’s a little something from Frederick Buechner’s Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy & Fairy Tale:

The preacher has to be willing to speak as tragic a word as Jesus speaks, which is the word that even if all the problems that can be solved are solved—poverty, war, ignorance, injustice, disease—and even if all the answers the world can give are proved each in its own way workable, even so man labors and is heavy laden in his helplessness; poor naked wretch that bides the pelting of the storm that is no less pitiless for all the preaching of all the preachers.

That, friends, is a sentence.

The Difference Between Me and Saul Bass

Saul Bass was, like, a genius and stuff. So there’s one difference between him and me right there. But check out  Bass’s approach to his work (via Frank Chimero):

“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.”

Well said, Mr. Bass. I certainly aspire to that dedication to beauty, art, and craftsmanship. But I’m not there yet.

If I’m honest, my approach would likely twist those words around something fierce:

“I want beautiful people to care, even if I don’t make anything.”

And there’s another difference between me and Bass. Oops. Time to work on that.

On Being Right

I’m learning — well, I’m trying to learn — that I’m not as smart as I think I am. I don’t always know what’s what. Here’s my manta of the week (soon to be forgotten in favor of something more retweetable):

Just because I feel strongly doesn’t mean I feel rightly

Could such a sentiment redeem American politics? Don’t be silly — American politics can’t be redeemed.

I’m Dadequate

My friend Jason Boyett has himself a fatherhood blog called Dadequate, and he was kind enough to feature me yesterday.

Do I mention this to toot my own horn? Heavens no. I mention it to spread the word about Dadequate — a cool venture for men who are at least partially responsible for the tiny humans living under their roofs.

In the Dadequate post I share my “it’s temporary” philosophy on parenting (and really, life in general):

This might sound weird, but I’ve found it really helpful to view everything my daughter does as temporary. If she has been sleeping really well for a few weeks, I’m thankful, but I don’t get too excited — it’s temporary. Sooner or later, she’ll go through a stretch where she doesn’t sleep well. If she has a week where she has a bad attitude, I don’t despair — it’s temporary. Sooner or later, we’ll work through it together. Whether it’s general behavior, eating habits, minor illnesses, following instructions, etc., I’ve found that the “it’s temporary” outlook keeps me from getting too high or too low. In fact, it keeps me on my toes. Regardless of how things are going right now, something else is just around the corner.

I’ve already heard from a couple people that they like/share that outlook. And the more I think about it, the more it works for me.

There is, however, one struggle for me in embracing the “it’s temporary” philosophy: remembering that while the majority of circumstances are temporary, some things in life are meant to be permanent. I’m convinced that the better I get at treating temporary things as temporary and permanent things as permanent, the better off I’ll be.

The Only Blog Post You’ll Ever Need

Everybody wants to be fit but nobody wants to eat right and exercise.

Everybody wants to get to Carnegie Hall but nobody wants to practice.

Everybody wants to be popular but nobody wants to build relationships.

Everybody wants to be rich but nobody wants to start at the bottom.

Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.

And of course I could go on.

The good news — if there’s something that you want — is that the blueprint is already there. The bad news is that there will always be a part of you that would rather want than do. Your heroes (and probably your bosses) are the ones who favored action.

Personally, I like the idea that success is more about fortitude than good fortune. Now, to do something about it.

Bright White Sheets, Bright White Teeth

Today I wrote a post on the Collide blog about how we’re always tweeting our disappointment with everything. As I mentioned in that post, I wasn’t sure why we’re always disappointed, so I moved on. But as I kept thinking about it, I wondered if two causes are working in tandem.

First, there’s marketing. Most marketing is about over-promising the benefits of a product or service. Marketers get away with this because you don’t know you’ve been had until after you give them your money, your attention, or both. Marketers also get away with this because we don’t learn our lesson.

We see a movie trailer full of explosions and we buy into the premise that these explosions will change our life for just $11.75. Then we watch the movie and we’re disappointed. Later that evening, back at home, we turn on the television so we can find some comfort. We see an advertisement for another movie and conclude, Now there’s a movie that’s going to deliver. Can’t wait to see it!

Grandiose promises — bright white sheets, bright white teeth, lower taxes, and an arctic locomotive carrying bikini-clad women holding light beer — can’t lead anywhere but disappointment. And yet we fall for it over and over until we’re broke and jaded. So there’s that.

I think the other factor is our disposition toward these grandiose promises.

It seems life is fraught with problems, tediousness, difficulties, suffering, mystery, and inconvenience. This doesn’t sit well with me, and I bet the same goes for you. This is why we’re drawn to the notion of the aforementioned locomotive. All one must do to summon it is wipe the sweat from his brow and twist off the cap on a bottle of 99-calorie bread water. (Note: The author prefers the more expensive, more caloric stuff.)

Of course, this notion is completely ridiculous, and yet it appears over and over in-between sitcom contrivances. Horses play football, dogs dance to Kool and the Gang, and bosses are too dumb to take notice of the kegger in the conference room. Every scenario is absurd, but we watch. We watch and we yearn. We watch and we yearn and we purchase. We twist off the cap. We scan the horizon for party trains and party animals and mattresses that will hug us like the fathers who abandoned us were supposed to.

These things never arrive, and you betcha we’re disappointed. At least we have that beer we bought, and we have our televisions. As long we have televisions, we’ll have marketing. As long long we have marketing, we’ll have grandiose promises. As long as we have grandiose promises, we’ll have hope for a better life — just as soon as we can make some room on the credit card.