Sunday’s Best: Off the Top

A little “getting old” humor for this beautiful Sunday morning.  Today’s FoxTrot by Bill Amend:

FoxTrot Sunscreen(image from gocomics.com)

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Imitation of Insect Life

Peanuts characters sure do yell an awful lot.  With Sally, it’s panic.  With Lucy, it’s . . . something else.

Imitation of Life(image from gocomics.com)

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The Other Side of Panic

Sally freaks out because school is just three weeks away in her world.  In mine, school has been in session for about three weeks.  Today was our first holiday: Statehood Day.  I spent the morning relaxing and the afternoon getting a bit ahead after being so behind for so long.  I prefer some of the new-year panic ending here.

Three Weeks(image from gocomics.com)

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Team-Up Twist

This week’s WuMo Sunday strip was a nice “team-up” strip.  Finding the common (enemy) denominator is always a challenge.

Birds and Wolf(image from gocomics.com)

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Remembering to Remember

I’ve been oddly and unexpectedly reflective these last few days, mostly due to a conversation I had last week that was a kind of perspective on working with youth . . . and ultimately how it’s changed since I my days as a teenager.

I found the conversation frustrating, even though what was being said was pertinent and powerful.  But I felt . . . still feel . . . that something was missing, like an unnecessary sophistication had taken over.  That joy and happiness and something about a deep knowledge of Jesus through the Spirit was missing.  That something about sin had been psychologized in a way that might help as an adult but maybe not as someone younger with wider eyes (who is utterly aware of the depths of the sinful nature).

Two things in particular have come back to my memory.  One of them was the role that Chuck Swindoll’s teaching shaped me.  There was one particularly series, a short one titled Intimacy with the Almighty, that started by articulating two understandings of intimacy.  First: actual closeness with someone.  In devotional terms, this is time spent alone with God.  Second: a kind of becoming like someone because of that proximity.  At least that’s how I remember it.  And I like the “handle” of it.

The second memory was of going through the youth edition of Experiencing God with the youth group.  I’ve been thinking about the “seven principles” of the series and have found them wonderfully beautiful-yet-packed in their simplicity.  A more complicated me sees them and can easily say “but what about” in the way the principles are articulated.  And yet . . . it is true that God is always at work around you and that He desires a love relationship with you.

Surfing the web today I discovered that Steven Curtis Chapman had penned another song and released it a few months ago.  Not sure how I missed it.  But I am glad that I found it this afternoon after an unexpectedly long and frustrating day.  The guy has aged . . . as have we all.  And that’s okay.  Here’s the video for the song.  It’s a nice blessing at this point in the journey.  I don’t plan on being swamped in nostalgia.  But I want to “remember to remember” and to mindful of the deep joy and gladness to be found in Jesus that kind of feels at odds with the way so many of us now talk about the Christian faith.

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Testing Under Pressure

The first round of tests is happening for the quarter, which makes this recent Sunday FoxTrot strip apropos.

FoxTrot Under Pressure(image from gocomics.com)

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The Question of Cohesion

cohesionI recently had a conversation with a married friend about the routines and habits of the single life.  He had recently spoken to a relative who often lived far away from his spouse; the spouse had been a very real example of the role routines play in helping someone often alone feel a sense of what Comment editor Brian Dijkema would call integrity.  The term is often used of the correspondence between one’s interior life and exterior actions, which is why the concept of cohesion is good, too.

In his upcoming editorial for the journal of public theology, Dijkema asserts:

In many ways, of course, we are thriving. Our lives and our work might look okay in any given moment, but in the quiet of the night, or as we walk out the door in the morning, we sense, as Jonathan Chaplin notes in this issue, “a disturbingly elusive sense of dis-integration.” We feel it when we come home from work and ask ourselves the question: “What did I do today?” Or, when then child doing her homework asks: “What does my physics homework have to do with that beggar I saw on the street?” When the chemist asks: “Should I make this compound?” When we step out of the polling booth, we ask: “Is that it?” Or, as you say your prayers before heading to bed, you look back on your day, and count the ways in which your words, your deeds—your desires—are painfully subluxated from what you want to do. Why did I do that again?

Points for working in “sublimated.”  These are good questions to ask, for sure.  But if we ask them regularly, if we never answer them in the first place, we should admit something is wrong.  They are canary questions in an existential coal-mine.  And Dijkema, as so many others, feels that something is deeply and deceptively wrong with our life together today.  Fragmentation and isolation are words that Dijkema uses . . . and that are words often used by others today.  Dijkema sees this happening on multiple levels.  He continues:

We experience this fragmentation both personally and politically. The individual’s lack of a sense of cohesion has its mirror image in institutional isolation. Given that to live in a modern society is to live in a differentiated society, and given that Christian social thought has articulated the goodness of such differentiation, how can we live well when such differentiation becomes fragmentation, compartmentalization, dis-integrating us as a society but also personally or existentially? We typically understand integrity as living an authentic life—a life where one’s actions are consistent with one’s beliefs. But that is not enough. Indeed, understanding integrity in this purely individualist way leads to the social vision of coherence proffered by liberal individualism. It just happens that this vision ends up leaving the individual lost and disconnected from others, from meaning, and, as Patrick Deneen notes, from both the past and the future. The fractures appear permanent, maybe even eternal.

And so the return to the dangers of the “individualist” way of life, which is something, too, disagree with.  Which can sound frustrating coming from the mouth of a single guy.  I like Dijkema’s use of concept of differentiation, particularly as it applies to cohesion.  But I also witness and experience firsthand that damage that can be done by fragmentation, compartmentalization, and dis-integration.  And I fight against it every day, even when I’m spending time by myself (like now, as I write this at the downtown Starbucks after a busy day at work).

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These concepts and questions will be important for a church or Christian community attempting to make sense of the popular culture.  They will also help us call into question our assumptions about the viability of community amongst between married couples, couple with families, and singles.  I was in a meeting just yesterday where it was clear to me that we have real work in understanding the weird forms of isolation right in front of us (with the isolation of the family perhaps being the weirdest and most-difficult-to-pin-down of all).

You can read all of Dijkema’s editorial here.  It’s a good deposit for what should be another great issue of a great journal.

(image from ieltsonlinetests.com)

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