Category Archives: Faith

Always the More Beautiful Answer Who Asks the More Beautiful Question

There is a gentleman in this world who some say is a shaman.

Some people say he uses coyote tricks for his own purposes in our culture that he picked up in other lands.

Some say he’s the son of a Baptist preacher, therefore his perspective of faith is understandable.

Others say, only because he studied healing cultures in other lands did he come to the faith treasured by his family of origin.

He’s recounted things I can’t imagine. I sat in the audience one day where he was sharing metaphysical secrets of Eastern mysticism he had been granted after being anointed as someone special.

He detailed a story where he visited an indigenous culture in a remote African area only to hear that the tribe received visions while around a fire. They told of a rope descending from heaven, a man in white descending the rope and delivering the message to all who were around the fire that there was One God who had One Son who came to save the world…and that they should have joy because of this news

It’s no wonder that one of his many books is entitled, “The Bushman Way of Tracking God: The Original Spirituality of the Kalahari People.”  He’s a psychotherapist, an ethnographer and a cybernatician.

In other words, Bradford P. Keeney is an interesting character.

And, today after a long week of work, and a long day of faculty meetings, I retreated to my office.  I began to search the collection of books on my shelves and finally found what I was looking for.  I needed to read a bit of Keeney because I was struggling with a way to help influence change in a stuck system.  Finally, on the fourth shelf I checked, lodged between “The Kite Runner” and “Primal Leaders,” I found it:  Aesthetics of Change, by Bradford P. Keeney, 1983.

Yes, I was in need of some coyote tricks, and I knew just the writer to help me.

So I opened the volume, but I never got past the preamble of pages that come before the text.  I had what I needed and I never read a word he wrote.  There on a blank page, resting high center were two quotes.  The first was by Jorge Luis Borges and read, “I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths.”

Okay, THAT quote was filed in the safety deposit box of my right brain and flagged for follow up.  I wasn’t ready to talk about gardens.  I needed to talk about people…who can be gardens, but who were not currently considered that way in my present state of mind.

The second quote was by e.e. cummings and stopped me short: “Always the more beautiful answer who asks the more beautiful question.”

When my brain reads grammar that doesn’t come easily, it goes into a loop.  And that’s what happened with cummings’ words.  I read the quote thrice more.  Then I decided I needed to study the nature of questions, answers, people and beauty…so I began to do research.

And when I found the following excerpt I quit looking.  Some beautiful soul had done thinking long before me about questions and answers and come up with enough thoughts to shift my focus from change that needed to take place in others…to the more relevant “change that needs to take place in me.” Continue reading Always the More Beautiful Answer Who Asks the More Beautiful Question

FROM THE VAULT: A System Worked and a System Failed. How Illness Impacts our Dear Friends…and Us.

Editor’s Note 1/30/12: Dear all…I was so pleased this weekend to read a “Caring Bridge” entry re: my friend Sammye.  To even begin to share the challenges she’s experienced since this post was written 1.5 years ago would be impossible.  If you’re interested, you can check on her entries here.  But most importantly, I read this paragraph early this morning:

“HIP HIP (left hip, not right one) HOORAY!  PET scan taken at the end of last week shows no malignancies!  Dr. Hollen is as happy as he can be and of course I was relieved, happy, grateful, prayerful, thankful, and every other positive emotion one can think of!  All is well…inside and out!  My visits with Dr. Hollen will continue every three months with scans every six months.  The hip (right one) is still no fun but I’m getting around and focusing on all the things I can do, rather than the things that are still tough.  I’ve lost weight and as more comes off (sounds easy, huh?) I am sure that the hip will show even more appreciation! “

This post was well-read 18 months ago, so I’m sharing it again “from the vault” to remind us that personal things…even haircuts…have histories much bigger than just a word. Love, RDK

***

Editor’s Note:  We have two “impact of illness” perspectives to share with you this morning.

♥  One comes from Sammye Cravens, CFO-COO of Public Strategies, Inc. in Oklahoma City.  On June 4, 2009, she was diagnosed with Malignant Lymphoma, Diffuse Large B-Cell Type.  She used a wonderful tool called CaringBridge.org to communicate with her friends, family and supporters. What a day of celebration there was when her body said “yes” to the treatment and she got through every step of the process.  She has opened her journal, now, to the public and recently wrote an essay on the “chronology of her hair” to share with the community.

As we know, hair can be a fairly precarious concept when getting through cancer treatment. I hope you are endeared by Sammye’s history of hair.  I know I was.

♥  The second came in my mailbox at home, and now I’m sharing it with you.  Holly Foote grew up in Oklahoma and attended my church until she graduated from high school.  She earned her Masters in Nutrition at Columbia University and recently finished medical school at Touro College; she’s now wearing a white coat.  Her best friend Amy, also one of our former “church kids,” contracted Type I diabetes when she was only nine.  She died in May of 2009 and the events surrounding that tragedy were medically incoherent.

You can read about the “broken system” that misdiagnosed and mistreated Amy in Holly’s blog entry, “Failing Heart.” The card I received explains a bit about her grief experience and was a way to touch back those who had tried to reach out to her during her difficult time.

I thank both Sammye and Holly for sharing their funny and/or vulnerable real lives with their friends, and for giving permission to post their thoughts here at the RDC.

Sincerely, Red Dirt Kelly

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

TOO MUCH TIME ON MY HAIR

by Sammye Cravens Continue reading FROM THE VAULT: A System Worked and a System Failed. How Illness Impacts our Dear Friends…and Us.

God, Grace and Tomato Guy

"Tomato Guy"

What does God need?  Does He need workers for the fields that are “white unto harvest?” Perhaps He needs companionship, or maybe he needs worship. Nah.  It stands to reason that the Absolute does not need anything. Consider “Tomato Guy.”

In Oklahoma there are lots and lots of Tomato Guys. If you live in Oklahoma I’m sure you are familiar with your own local version of Tomato Guy.

Tomato Guy is an autonomous member of an adventitious cult of Oklahoma gardeners.  Typically they purchase a cluster of very small tomato plants (3-for-the-price-of-1 deal just too good to resist).    If conditions are only mildly favorable, and when the plants are appropriately watered, you can expect a bumper crop of tomatoes. Tomato Guy is very proud of his bounty and he rarely appears anywhere without lavishing sacks, boxes, or plastic bags of tomatoes.

SIDE NOTE: For purposes of food tariffs the Supreme Court has ruled that tomatoes are vegetables.  Yes, I know, you watched some game show where some guy said they are fruits. I’m going with the Supreme Court; let’s keep this nice and legal, okay.

Growing up in Apache, Oklahoma I first learned about Tomato Guy.  My dad was the town barber and we very rarely went without gifts of fresh tomatoes. Of course we encountered Okra Guy and Green Peppers Guy too.

Um, is there a point here?

Yes. Picture this. If I go to Tomato Guy’s house and offer him a couple of puny tomatoes, I’m going to look silly. His wife is canning tomatoes, there are tomatoes galore on all windowsills, and dozens are bagged, ready for delivery at Sunday school. Tomato Guy is all-sufficient (regarding tomatoes).

So too we must consider the All-Sufficiency of God. He is perfect. He is the very essence of completeness. Creation itself cannot add to God, and neither can our moral goodness. I need, you need, but God does not need.

Because God is all-sufficient, complete, eternal and perfect the truth is this — God needs nothing.

Not only is it important that we wrap our faith around this concept, we must understand this — our failures cannot detract from who God is either.  And who is God? The Scripture says that God is love (I John 4:8), and God offers grace upon grace (John 1:16). For illustrative purposes I’ll compare God to Tomato Guy (yes, awkward). Continue reading God, Grace and Tomato Guy

Are You an Insider or Outsider?

THE OUTSIDERS

I was in junior high standing a few feet from a group of guys wearing their football letter-jackets. Some were seniors in my high school and a few were recent graduates (or least I think they graduated). They were cracking jokes, talking with bluster, and demonstrating proficiency with cussing. Several had a sizable amount of chewing tobacco cuffed in their jaw.

The biggest fella in the group launched into a story that I only wish I could forget:

     “The other night we was all up on main street shootin’ the *!@ when we saw `em drive by. They was three of ‘em. So I said, ‘What the h*!! do they think they’re doin’.’ They drove up and down the main drag a couple of time and then they pull up and start talkin’ to (he names the girls). Then they had the nerve to get outta their car. Can you believe that? Them three soldier boys from Ft. Sill thought they could ride into town with their skint-head haircuts and talk to our girls!

     So we walked on over there and kinda circled around ‘em and asked just what they thought they was doing. This one little doggie (“affectionate” local name for army privates stationed at Ft. Sill Army Base) says they don’t want no trouble and that they was just wantin’ to meet some people. What a load of bull @*#! ! They was trying to get ‘em a gal. 

     Right then old Jack stepped in and spit a  chaw of tobacco right in his face, he said, ‘Ya’ll better get the h*!! outta town and take yer sorry doggie butts back down to Lawton while you still can.’ By then there was about ten of us and we had ‘em surrounded.” Continue reading Are You an Insider or Outsider?

I Love The Story — Hunger Games

I love the Gospel story. It is the story of a broken world, a place where darkness, suffering, pain, and fear wreaks havoc on the human race. The people cry out, “Why God, why must we suffer?!!!” The people wonder if God knows about the situation down here. Oh, He knows about it alright. We have a Christmas story to tell because not only is God aware, He has come into the mire. The Son came to earth because we need a Hero, we need a Savior.

 

Andy's redemption, Shawshank Redemption

Can we even begin to count the number of stories there are about suffering and struggle and protagonist who overcomes? I love stories like Shawshank Redemption, The Wizard of Oz, and Saving Private Ryan. I love stories that involve sacrifice and redemption. So did J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings who said, “There cannot be any ‘story’ without a fall – all stories are ultimately about the fall – at least not for human minds as we know them and have them.”

It was Tolkien’s friendship with an atheist friend and a shared passion for story that was instrumental in turning that friend to the Gospel story. C.S. Lewis, the friend, came to believe that all great stories have elements traced back to The Story.

J.R.R. Tolkien

In 2011 I decided I should pick a book I had oft seen around the campus where I work. I settled down on a windy afternoon in the early fall and opened to page one of The Hunger Games. Within a few days I had read all three books in The Hunger Games series and MAN! I loved the story!!!

C.S. Lewis said, “Christianity is the story of how a rightful King has landed and is calling us to His great campaign of sabotage.” The Hunger Games trilogy is definitely a story of sabotage, and gives us a character that refuses to be a pawn in someone else’s story.

I’ll stop there. Stop reading this article and start reading The Hunger Games. You will love this story and perhaps reflect soulfully about The Greatest Story Ever Told. And if you’ve already run the gaunlet with Katniss, I would be very interested to hear your insight or Gospel revelation in the story.

More Books for the Soul

-“When Jesus comes back everything sad will become untrue.”  From Tim Keller’s book, The King’s Cross

Books that Fed my Soul

I tried to read a book per week last year. I didn’t quite make it. But along the way I discovered some real gems. In fact, I didn’t want to finish some of them. I wanted to make them a friend, a steady companion… and I’m sure that I’ll get back to a couple of them for a re-read.

Last week I submitted three books that touched my soul. And I promised to tell you about three more books that fed my soul.

Actually, there were several. So I will make this a contest that I will refer to as “The Caldys.” The Caldy goes to my favorite book of a genre.

The second runner up is…  The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders

Have you ever known something, I mean really understood it in your heart, but found yourself unable to explain it or put it into words? That’s how I felt about the doctrine of the Trinity after I read the Bible the first few times. That is to say, I got it, but I couldn’t explain what it was that I got.

How the Trinity Changes Everything is “readable,” and by that I mean it’s not so heavy that you have labor in order to soak in a “deep thing of God.” I liked this book because Sanders strips away all that might be intimidating or theologically technical. He brought my focus to the triune God, and he inspired my wonder and awe in who God is. Reading this book I experienced the beauty of the Trinity.

As stated in the introduction, “this book shows us why we ought to embrace the doctrine of the Trinity wholeheartedly…”  Sanders notes that, “The good news of the gospel is that God has opened up the dynamics of the triune life and given us a share in that fellowship”. You will see in this book how the harmony of the trinity is the harmony of the gospel. There is community, tranquility, and relationship.

My first runner up is …The King’s Cross – The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus  by Tim Keller

Too often I read books that are targeted at the Christian audience and find that after the first two or three chapters, the thesis and best parts of the book are well in hand. From there I can read the last couple of paragraphs in each chapter and be good-to-go. What I love about this offering from Keller (and his other books) is that chapters remain salient to the purpose of the book, and every bit as valuable, and fresh, as the first chapters.

In King’s Cross Keller takes the life of Christ, as told by Mark in the Gospel of Mark and walks us through its major themes. In a clear and simple exegesis, Tim Keller unpacks the Gospel of Mark and offers the reader both a valuable lite-commentary and a hefty devotional work (it’s two, two, two things at once).  That’s it! It’s a devotional commentary.
This is Tim Keller doing what he does best, he is reasoning with skeptics and teaching the faithful. I loved this book because it just made so much sense. Here’s a guy that will make you want to be a better Christian for all of the right reasons. Here is a sample: Continue reading More Books for the Soul

Soulful Books of 2011

BOOKS

I actually thought about something “devotional” and / or inspirational for the New Year. But I was not devoted and / or inspired to write it.

So, I give you books! Books make great companions. What a great way to hang out with make believe people, or past presidents for that matter. I ran into a few people I didn’t like being around, but overall, books were my 2011 passion.  Each book brought a particular passage of Scripture to my soul and I share the verses herein.

Three Novels (or close to) that Touched My Soul

3. The Brothers K by David James Duncan

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else,

for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself,

because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1  

 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this…Romans 14:13

This is a huge novel about family, and families can be complex; it’s a book is about life, all of it. I found the magic of The Brothers K in watching six children of Hugh and Laura Chance grow, and I fell in love with the family, not because I could relate to them, but because Duncan made me care about them.  Parts of the story made me smile and parts were agonizing.  Papa Hugh Chance, a ‘coulda-been’ baseball all-star and his devout Adventist wife, Laura raise six kids that couldn’t be more different. More than once I found myself becoming extremely emotional as I fought alongside members of the Chance family trying to resolve conflict. It was life, existential and moving. I found myself empathizing with each character especially when they were at odds with one another.

This story struck me as authentic, no kooky plot twists or author’s indulgent inventions.   We see the four Chance boys grow up before our very eyes, watch as their characters age and become…  it’s a life experience and death experience — and we see the birth of hopes and dreams, and we see death, or worse.  This book is a big`ole juicy steak. Cut it up and savor each bite. This is not “book-lite” — This is book weighs in at nearly 700 pages. Who has time for that? I’m thankful that I made the time and highly recommend The Brothers K. (I’ll throw in a PG rating because I did  find that many novels ought to have some kind of classification — e.g. I read Water for Elephants and enjoyed the book, but um…R!) Continue reading Soulful Books of 2011

A Christmas Story… gone wrong?

Christmas 1962 - I was in the first grade

Looking Back on Christmas

December, 1962 – It was cold, but we played outside anyway. Playing indoors seemed like punishment. We had a routine; we under estimated the cold and over estimated our fortitude. Running, climbing, and making up games was the good life — right up until our ears and fingers hurt too much to play on. My little brother and I would reach our breaking point and go back inside, but not to stay. Mom would rub our fingers and put her warm hands on our ears. Then she gave us another layer and let us go right back outside.

In December of 1962 I was six years old and don’t remember a whole lot. But the memories I do have are quite vivid. My dad was in a job transition. He was attending Barber College in downtown Oklahoma City. He had moved us from the oil fields of west Texas through a short layover in Kingman, Kansas. Dad, Mom, my little brother Darren and an 8 month old sister, Danyne and I all lived in a tiny duplex around 50th and Lincoln. The little place had one bedroom and that’s where we all slept. My Uncle Bob, a gregarious, 6’5″ 20 year old, slept on the couch. The small, temporary home might have had 750 sq. ft. of space. That’s a stretch.

We ate beans a lot, I liked red beans. Still do. Mom or Uncle Bob could make cornbread and we often had fried potatoes. I loved my life. My whole family got to stay together in one room and the most entertaining person I had ever met was out on the couch. My world was perfect. Continue reading A Christmas Story… gone wrong?

The Value of “X” in Xmas

The X Factor in Christmas / Xmas

Here’s a little game we can play. I’ll give the abbreviation and you name the person or character the abbreviation stands for . . . ready?

J Lo      _________

FDR     _________

Dr J      _________

Ike       _________

007       _________

CP3      _________

__________

 

Several years ago I was writing notes in a Bible class I was taking. I  copied what the professor was writing on the board. Typically he would use the Greek letter theta instead of writing the word ‘God.’  The use of an O with a line across the middle was our shorthand abbreviation for God. I learned that Theos is the Greek word for God. (Theology: the study of God)

As class went on and the lecture unfolded, he referred to Jesus Christ. The teacher used the Greek letter chi (x) as an abbreviation for Christ. None of the other students questioned it; neither did I. Through my theological educational I learned that there was a long standing history behind these abbreviations.

We Christians often lament the fact that Xmas has become associated with the commercialization of Christmas.  For some, ‘Xmas’ is an offensive four-letter-word that pops up earlier and earlier each year. One friend of mine said, “We need to stand up against the secular system that wants to X-out Christ.”

But ‘Xmas’ is a modern conspiracy to secularize this Holy season. The abbreviation actually belongs to the church.

X has a long and sacred history

There’s a long and sacred history regarding the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ. Plenty of articles and information already exist that are just a ‘click’ away. Hmmmm, should I cut & paste? If only I could create one of those cool internet blue-words that magically takes you to a relevant site. Sorry, I do not understand the strange magic of technology and therefore dare not attempt such things. My point is, you don’t have to take my word for it. Or was that my point? Continue reading The Value of “X” in Xmas

Know Your Directions

Directions

Are you good at giving directions? A lot depends on the orientation of the person you’re giving directions to. That’s my experience.

Are you good at receiving direction? I have given perfectly good travel instructions and clear directions to family members and I knew at the time that they weren’t getting it. My wife and I are very different direction receivers. I’m visual and she is linear; I can picture movement and she can follow the steps. Both ways can work.

Directions

In western Oklahoma you can say, “Go down to the intersection, drive a half mile west, then go three miles north. You’ll see a big-ole, green mailbox. Turn back east and it’s about a quarter mile up the dirt road.” And that works, if the person knows their directions — north from south.

If you’re in Apache, Oklahoma you know that 13 miles west and 14 miles north is Carnegie. Growing up I gained orientation to travel by asking, “How many miles is it?” I could figure my travel time by number of miles. But that changed once I became a ‘city-guy’. I’ve traded reference to miles for Continue reading Know Your Directions

Princes, Paupers, and Black Friday

Thanksgiving is about perspective and proportion.

I sat before a Thanksgiving meal this week and surveyed the sumptuous spread. I couldn’t really get my brain around it all. The easy drive down the four-lane interstate to my in-laws’, the warmth of their home, the antacids at my fingertips for post-meal relief—the ease of my life is vastly beyond comprehension.

I imagined what it would seem like if I had the ability to pluck most any person from history and insert them into my day. I imagined Abe Lincoln watching us talk on cell phones to friends and family, using dishwashers, coffee makers, refrigerators, microwaves, and two-ply toilet paper.  There would be an absence of smoke from coal ovens and fumes from kerosene lamps; the clothing would be washed free of horse smell and hair products and deodorants galore. I could show Abe the football games on television, download the Gettysburg address, or Google the medicines that would have saved his son Tad.

Princes and Paupers

We live as princes, we do. But we shop like paupers.  Need proof?  Looming behind the bountiful Thanksgiving table is the frugal frenzy of Black Friday….

After the Dallas Cowboys squeaked by the Miami Dolphins, the Black Friday sales circulars were spread out on the table.  There were deals on tools and ladders, televisions, clothing, toys, and gadgets. An hour later I was catching the fever. I was being overpowered by two strong feelings: Continue reading Princes, Paupers, and Black Friday

11/11/11 I Hate War

This is a re-do.  I submitted basically the same piece for Memorial Day.   

When I was young, I cut my teeth on WWII movies where war was glorified.  John Wayne in The Green Berets made me zealous for militarism.

On 11/11/11  I remember — again — the day I learned that war was not the glorified world of the movies.  The very first funeral I ever attended was for a son of Apache, Oklahoma.  PFC James McClure was killed on May 2, 1967, the day before my 11th birthday. He was 19.

Once again I reflect. I recall the message I delivered to an over-flow crowd of mourners in the early spring of 2008.  The governor of Oklahoma sat on the front row, along with a  young widow and her toddler son, Gage.  As I stood before the men and women gathered at that funeral, I found myself confronted with the very real issues of honor, duty, courage, and sacrifice that Veterans Day represents.

The following is the text from that day’s message. Continue reading 11/11/11 I Hate War

Barbershop Theology: Ritual of Preparation

Spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation.”  Roger Staubach

I looked at the clock and mercifully it read, 5:35. Dad would end his day by putting away his scissors, resting his clippers, counting the cash in the drawer, and writing something in his ledger. But he would do that no earlier than 6pm.

I knew I could make closing much faster if I would begin the Barbershop Closing Ritual. That meant all the dirty towels had to be placed in a hamper, the floor had to be swept, ash trays cleaned, lather dispenser filled, and magazines organized. It meant being alert to any signals from Dad pointing me to a detail I had missed, (a nod, a glance, or a subtle point with a comb).

The final act of the day was watching Dad slightly open the door to the back of the shop, reach behind the wall and turn off the lights. Turning the Open/Closed sign was a quick trick and I hustled to jump into his pick-up truck parked just around the corner. If we hurried I could catch the last episode of the Flintstones or maybe shoot some baskets before dark. Continue reading Barbershop Theology: Ritual of Preparation

That’s a ‘Head Scratcher’

Why I’m Usually Confused

I “googled” something the other day, hmmm, or did I Google? I never used to google, but I google a lot lately. —Anyway, on my computer screen there appeared these three words, Christian Wrestling Federation. I don’t know how I got there, but I did.

In honor of that wacky German philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel, I started to think. Why is this Christian wrestling thing a really good idea and why not. Hegel’s version of thinking, the Hegelian Dialectic, is to ponder the best possible reason for a something, then consider the worst reason. His method (I’m over-simplifying here) helps find a middle truth, sort of a new truth.

Hegel's Dialectic

The thesis, best reason for a Christian Wrestling Federation, is their evangelism catch-phrase, “They come for wrestling, and they stay to be saved.”  Sincere, noble, well-intended and I assume it works. The fundamental defense  is that we should do whatever it takes (short of sin) to bring people in and give them the Gospel. “If one soul is saved then it’s all worth it.”

 The other side of this argument questions this man-centered, shallow adaptation of Christianity. It’s a version of gospel-lite that inoculates people to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Much like a small pox vaccination, it offers a dose that is authentic, but serves to produce immunity to the Gospel. It’s a far cry from deny yourself, take up you cross and follow Me (Luke 9:23).
"Who's Your Spotter?"

So, here I sit, pondering variety of “baptized” activities. Continue reading That’s a ‘Head Scratcher’

Barbershop Theology — God Almighty

“Good God Almighty!” The words were as emphatic as they were profane; those three words seemed to be the natural and uninhibited expression in the moment. I looked to the entrance of Dad’s barbershop to see a soldier in his dress greens framed by the doorway. He was grinning ear to ear. I think he was home on leave or perhaps getting ready to ship out to Viet Nam . . . or perhaps not. Why I remember that heartfelt exclamation I do not know, but it was joyous and offered with a knee slap and tobacco stained grin. The old man in blue Oshkosh overalls couldn’t help himself, he was surprised and pleased. It brings me to a couple of thoughts about cursing, profanity, and the pseudo-therapy we find in using expletives to express our passion. Continue reading Barbershop Theology — God Almighty

Barber Shop Theology – To Cuss or Not to Cuss

I’m a hypocrite in more ways than I like to admit. In fact, I’m a hypocrite in some ways that I won’t admit. Wait, maybe it’s not so much that I’m a hypocrite, I just tend to have double-standards here and there. In particular…

Sometimes Expletives Make Me Laugh

     Most commonly, folks would define an expletive as a cuss word, vulgarity, or profanity. But the actual dictionary definition is “a word without meaning added to fill a sentence; serving to fill up, merely for effect.”

I am tempted to write and distinguish between obscenities and profanities; there is a difference between foul language and a curse word. Etymology is one of my favorite areas of study; I love to look at the history  and origins of words, and how the meaning of a word can change over time. Swear words, “off-color” words, and vulgar words — there is a difference, you know.  Continue reading Barber Shop Theology – To Cuss or Not to Cuss

Deconstructing My Christianized Self, Part 1 (republish: “Best Of”)

Editor’s Note: This was one of our top 20 most read essays in 2010. We’re republishing it as we continue through our “revisiting 2010 the ‘best of’ series of 2010.” Thanks.

Like so many others born and raised in the buckle of the Oklahoma “Bible belt,” I was Christianized from an early age. My father was a pastor, and as a PK (Pastor’s Kid), I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Flannel boards, K-Love, VBS, purity rings, Precept Bible Studies, DC Talk, and potluck lunches – all of this just came with the territory.

Somewhere early on, I absorbed the basic Calvinistic idea that the material world, like the material body, was colonized with eeeeviil. Most importantly, I was hard wired for eeeeviill. Every thought, impulse, feeling, and desire contained latent Dionysian energies roiling within them.

I distinctly remember attending a youth bible conference where the speaker confronted us on masturbation. Gulp. Blanch. Awkward. Stare at the floor. Crickets.

Continue reading Deconstructing My Christianized Self, Part 1 (republish: “Best Of”)

Barbershop Theology – God the Father

A Father’s Words at Quittin’ Time

As we locked the front entrance to the barber shop, a half hour an hour have normal quittin’ time, I would say something like, “Wow, that was a really long day.” Dad opened the shop at 7am and closed at 6pm. When we didn’t leave until 6:30 or near 7:00 I could see my father’s exhaustion.

I must have heard Dad say it twenty times. It was distinct when he said it, and he meant it.  “I’m just thankful I can work and take care of my family.”

As he turned the key on his work day his response was authentic to his soul. He remembered being a young man with a wife and two little boys. He remembers lying in a hospital bed, down in his back and wondering if he would ever be able to work. Continue reading Barbershop Theology – God the Father

Simple Sabbath & My Little Victory Garden: Thank You, God, For Our Food

I learned quite a bit while in China.  For example, the Chinese don’t have a custom of wearing wedding rings to signal they are married.  Therefore, if someone wants to know your marital status, they ask, “Have you solved your problem?”

Our guide also told us that while some time ago their citizens used to greet each other with basically, “How are you?” like we do in the U.S., that custom changed as difficult times were encountered.  They now ask, “Have you eaten?”  And, the answer, in order to protect the friend who is asking so they won’t worry, is always “yes.”

Even if you haven’t eaten for days. Continue reading Simple Sabbath & My Little Victory Garden: Thank You, God, For Our Food

I Am The Best: No Brag, Just Fact

A man walks into a barber shop and sits in the chair. The barber asks, “How do you want your hair cut?” The man says, “I want it short on one side, uneven on the other side, crooked in the front and a hacked up in the back.”  The barber shakes his head and says, “I don’t know if I can do that.” The man replied, “I don’t know why not, you had no problem last time.”

I like jokes. I happen to know one of the world’s foremost and talented joke tellers. His name is Robert “Uncle Bob” Caldwell. He lives is Granbury, Texas. I love that guy. I always wanted to be able to tell jokes like Uncle Bob. He could sure deliver a punch line.

One thing I’ve learned about punch lines, they don’t necessarily have to be in the context of a joke to be humorous. Sometimes a good punch line is simply the “pay-off” in a story.

NO BRAG. JUST FACT

It was a typical day in the barber shop— Dad was cutting hair, and his customer was resting comfortably with his eyes closed.

The front door opened, and Dad glanced up to say, “Morning.  Come in, you’re next.”

What happened next amused my dad to no end, and his retelling of the story over the next few days was his delight … Continue reading I Am The Best: No Brag, Just Fact