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What you can learn from a cheesy motivational speaker

This week, while I was at a conference with my husband, I was invited to attend some of the final sessions. I went to the last one, which was supposed to be about "servant leadership." The speaker was apparently a "leadership expert" of sorts. 

He had an interesting approach. He talked about how "love" is "good business." He talked mostly about loving the work one does, and working to serve the customer so that the customer would love us. Of course, I knew that the word "love" would not mean what I take it to mean, but as I listened to him talk, it was clear that love in his context was a means to an end. Curiously, he finished off his talk by singing to us. Apparently, in his past, he wanted to be a musician. It was kind of weird.

It hit me at that moment that my husband spends his entire day in the world. Of course, I knew that. But, being there alongside him, impressed it further in my mind. This is my question: how do Christians in the work world, inundated by worldly thinking, cope? Further to that question, here are others: How hard it is to shed that mindset when one comes home at the end of the day? And how difficult it is to avoid incorporating -- unconsciously, of course -- worldly thinking into our daily lives?

In my thinking, love comes into our work through our attitude to others, our co-workers and our employer. The love comes from God's call to love others and a recognition that they are worthy of love because they are created in God's image. There is no "pay off" as a result.

In the work world, especially the business world, the dollar is the bottom line: productivity, profits, sustaining the business. That is to be expected, and it is how it must be. But that cannot be the bottom line in Christian ministry, whether is is personal ministry or organizational ministry. 

I left the conference feeling very thankful that I don't have to live in that kind of environment daily. Outside my home, when I go to school, I'm surrounded by theological thought and discussion. I am so thankful that my husband manages to survive where I surely could not. I came away also determined that I need to pray for his work life. It can't be an easy place to be as a Christian.


Historians know the downside of Twitter

I just returned from four days away in Ashelville, NC. My husband had a conference, and I joined him. It was a gorgeous resort, and we did some fun activities in the afternoon after the meetings were over. We went on a hiking tour in Dupont Park and I got some great photos of waterfalls. We also drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell, which is the highest point in NC. I had the opportunity to use the excellent fitness centre. And of course, I read. The whole place was filled with rocking chairs and views of the mountains, so I had a great environment to read.

I'm almost finished the very large tome Scotland: A History From Earliest Times. The author, Alistair Moffat made a really interesting observation. In a discussion about the fading influence of printed newspapers, he says this:

The omens are not good. Professional journalism of the sort fostered by newspapers and TV and radio cannot be replaced by the chaos of the internet with all its partiality and inaccuracy, as objective reporting becomes increasingly indistinguishable from comment. If newspapers begin to close in Scotland, much will be lost that is difficult to replace. Twitter is no substitute for reliable reporting.

That last phrase is simple, but profound. And it isn't restricted to the impact of Twitter on news. Twitter is no substitute for good theology; or effective debate. Twitter is good for sharing information, venting, and firing up the masses, but the "chaos" which Moffat refers to means it will have serious drawbacks.

And no, making comments in a Tweet thread is not journalism. it is not literature. It is pixelated speaker's corner. 

Sometimes, historians have the most significant observations.


Good Friday

Am I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the sun and moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon --
I, only I.

Yet give not o'er,
But seek thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock. 

Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)


Do we have FOMO?

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.

When I was visiting my brother last fall, my niece told me that her sister has FOMO. She explained that her sister was such a social butterfly because she fears missing out on something. She hates to miss a gathering in case she misses out.

Yesterday, while I was relaxing with my knitting after dinner, I listened to the Mortification of Spin podcast. It was entitled "(Anti) Social Media."  The hosts discussed the angry, censorious tone of Twitter. After Todd Pruit and Aimee Byrd discussed Twitter, Carl Trueman asked the obvious question "Why use it?"

That is a question I have asked myself a lot when things have become really unpleasant online. When my husband comes home from work and I share with him my disgust at something in particular, he always tells me "You don't have to read it."

Why do we return to Twitter like picking at a scab? We know it's going to make us annoyed and irritated, but we return anyway. I'm guilty of this far too often. Is it because we fear we are missing out on something? I believe it can be. Unfortunately, we do want to know the dirt, the controversy. The side of us which wants to slow down as we pass by a car accident wants to see people in verbal parley on the internet. There is something kind of thrilling about watching a famous pastor waste his time . . . er, I mean, take the time to debate online. We want to keep score to see which side is winning. Some people don't like sports, so it's fun to watch this kind of battle.

And, of course, if we blog ourselves, or use social media a lot, we want to know what the issues are so we can participate in the dialogue.

In the Mortification of Spin podcast from Wednesday, Todd Pruit made repeated reference to a famous pastor who was on the Gospel Coalition advisory board who had been fired from his church but was now preaching again. He took great pains not to say the person's name, but if you're 10 years old and know how to use Google, it's a simple matter to figure out who he was talking about. I was totally in the dark about the matter. I don't read Christianity today, and I don't follow Ed Stetzer on Twitter. Was I missing out on something? 

Recently, when the Toronto Raptors were playing the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, basketball was a big discussion at our church. We have a lot of Raptors fans. One Sunday, someone asked my husband and I if we were going to watch the upcoming came so we could participate in the discussion "around the water cooler." I didn't laugh out loud, but inside I did. Water cooler? Is that why I would watch basketball? So I could be "in the know?" I try not to have too many pet peeves, but one I have are sports fans who never pay attention during the regular season, but become rabid fans when the playoffs begin. 

It's okay not to know what's going on in sports and popular cultre. Truly. It isn't an indictment against our virtue.

The solution to social media angst is simple: look away. If we feel like we're missing out, we can relax; the shelf life of what's "in" is very brief online.


For All the NIV Haters

I'm reading Grant Osborne's The Hermeneutical Spiral. My first question about forty pages in was "Why haven't I read this sooner?" My second question is "Why haven't I been reading Grant Osborne before this? This book is not a book for a beginner. It's more of an intermediate hermeneutics book.

In a chaper on syntax, Osborne provides a brief excursus on inclusive language. In his evaluation of the issue, he points out that hermeneutics is about clarity and not form. He does not object to gender inclusive language, pointing out a concern that linguists have:

"Linguists point out that we must understand how the gender system functions in both the original and receptor systems and then translate accordingly."

I'm always grateful to theologians who pay heed to linguistic matters. I think we forget such things in our rush to get to the meaning of a text.

With regard to functional equivalence translations, such as the NIV, Osborne says:

"I am not arguing that only functional equivalence is viable, but that both types of translations [formal and functional] are needed. But I am arguing that in reality functional equivalence is more accurate, for it communicates the meaning of the Word in such a way that the original intentions are communicated with greater clarity for the reader."

In fact, Osborne sees functional equivalence as an overflow of hermeneutical theory itself:

"But I now see how hermeneutical theory in reality supports functional equivalence, for the goal of all interpretation is clarity and accuracy rather than preservation of form."

This is something to mull over. A lot of people disdain the NIV because it is "interpretive." We need to be reminded that all translations are interpretive. Every single translation involves a group of individuals who make decisions on how to interpret a word in its context; they interpret.

My version of choice is the NASB, a very formal translation. But I also read the ESV and the NIV. Since going to seminary, I have come to appreciate the NIV more. I also refer to the NLT. Interpretation is not a task for the loner; it involves many interpreters, because no one person can do such a complex, crucial task. If one is not going to study the original languages, they are fortunate to be able to rely on both formal and functional translations.