Zachary Bright

The Wonder of it All


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Jack and the Misdemeanor

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:30-32, NRSV)

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I have some more recent photos of Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog (BSD), like the one above and throughout this post. Jack and I are both getting a bit crazy waiting for the Thursday Night Bible Studies (or, someone reminded me, the MOABS, the Mother Of All Bible Studies) to begin again. Did you ever hear about how Karl Barth’s prodigious writing of the “Church Dogmatics” slowed to a halt after he retired from teaching? The questions and discussions with students had entered into his massive production of words each week. Something similar has happened with my blog. When I am not constrained each week by the people I try to be salt and light for, and the biblical texts that we are trying to live into, I find that I do not know what to write about sometimes, among all the themes I could write about.

Jack and I are plotting our way back to the Bible Study Life, which we both enjoy so much, though for different reasons. We will probably be able to arrange the living room in an inviting way, even before I am able to leave the house without a wheelchair. Jack can already sense the energy and excitement in the air, since I have become partially weight-bearing, and Terry has been home this week on vacation.

Here is the BSD ‘in the middle of things’ at the MOABS:

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And here is Jack Lewis at prayer:

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And here is Jack resting in his doggyness before the Lord:

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You might be wondering why I placed misdemeanor in the title of this post. I did that just to get your attention. As I considered the word to use for Jack Lewis’ misdeed I liked the sound of the word felony, but a little research revealed that in English Common Law, felonies are serious crimes indeed, while misdemeanors are less serious crimes. Then I noticed that in U.S. law, misdemeanors can involve punishment too severe for our dear BSD. Therefore I have settled on the least serious category of crime: the infraction. Admittedly Jack Lewis is a repeat offender; but lacking any premeditation or evil design, an infraction it is.

One morning this last week, I failed to move the roll of paper towels out of Jack’s reach before I went to my office. Predictably, Jack stole the towels and spread them across our lawn, leaving the mess for our neighbors to clean up. When I came into the front room, a couple hours later, I found Jack Lewis sitting in my chair with his head hanging down, with his attempt at meek, kind eyes, and an ingratiating manner. Something was wrong. I looked around: just a few papers knocked onto the floor. And then it hit me! Where were the paper towels? Catching the gravitas in my voice, the BSD sunk even lower, if possible, unusually swung his ears back, wagging his tail. Since I never really punish Jack, why would he behave this way? In contradiction of an earlier post, Jack Lewis retained some memory of this kind of situation and wanted to please me and not displease me.

Of course, I thought of my own relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I want to please God and not displease God. However, I know that I can’t be justified or good in God’s sight by obeying his laws or rules. The more I know of God’s law the more I know that I sin. I think of verses like this: “For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20, NRSV) However, even before we become Christians, God loves us (Eph. 2:4-5, NRSV). And so “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9, NRSV)

God loves, accepts and rescues people apart from anything they can do. Christians are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ in God’s sight, that is, clothed in the ‘active righteousness’ of Jesus Christ, so that everything Jesus did in his earthly life is credited to us in God’s sight (Jesus’ ‘passive righteousness’ is his death on the cross as our substitute for our sin and his resurrection and ascension). But nonetheless, since God loved me first, and I am learning to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength, I want to please God, not out of obligation, but out of love. If you need a refresher on this check out my post, “What Is Reformed Coffee?” of 9/23/14.

And now let’s roll some more of those beautiful Jack photos.

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None of these fairly recent photos show the just-in-time-for-Halloween loss of the BSD’s hair on the top of his head (though you can see a little thinning on the temple in one photo). I was encouraged by this tweet from @desiringGod: “What if we walked in faith, rather than fear, this Halloween?” But I’ll probably read “All Hallows’ Eve” by Charles Williams.

This post was powered by “Eighty Eight” (1991) and “When Numbers Get Serious” (1999), both by The 77s, and my first hot beverage from Starbucks in many weeks, provided by my beautiful wife Terry. I fear, though, that the beverage did not contain my customary 4 shots.


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Jack

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Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog (BSD) has been quite sweet to me the last few days. He is eager to lie down with me whenever I get into my recliner chair. He wedges himself in tightly beside my leg. This afternoon, while my cell phone was charging in another room and Jack Lewis was sleeping on my lap, I just could not disturb Jack to answer the phone. Jack Lewis catches a ball, sometimes in the air, when I throw it around the kitchen. Today, the BSD, rolled over for me to rub his stomach, which is very unlike Jack. He also came in to my office and laid down on his office bed while I was working. The amazing symbiotic relationship between dogs and humans, that God has provided, was on full display.

Why is Jack so sociable these days? It may have something to do with the reality that I am a little more mobile because my doctor is allowing me now to be “90-10” weight-bearing. Just the higher energy level in the house is stimulating, and yet, comforting to the BSD. The two pictures above, taken when Jack was just a few weeks old, helped to motivate me to rescue Jack (he had been abandoned). These pictures of Jack are the only pictures of Jack I have on my computer. I hope to get some recent photos up, with the help of techie friends.

Jack Lewis is now about two years old (some people say three years, but they are incorrect). He is completely black, except for some white hair on his chin. The vet guessed that Jack is a Dachshund – Jack Russell Terrier mix. Jack has the long body and front bow legs typical of dachshunds and the head, chest and temperament of a terrier. Some people were worried that the Bible Study Dog was gaining too much weight, but at 22 lbs., the vet says he is right on target. Jack is a small dog, but he envisions himself as a large dog, a mighty predator, and a faithful and frightening alert dog. I think he sees himself like this:

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But actually, Jack Lewis looks very much like this:

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And when Jack Lewis stretches himself out on the floor to study me (see my post, “Prayer – Part Dos/Deux/Zwei/Due/Two” of 7/26/14), he looks like this:

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Jack Lewis has a reputation as a sleek, handsome dog. One day as I was coming home, a young man was leaning over our fence. He said, “Is that your dog?” I said, “Yes.” After asking about what breed of dog Jack was, the man said, “That is the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen!” Many people in our neighborhood know Jack. People walking their dogs address Jack by name, sometimes stopping to allow canine greetings. One neighbor lets her large dog into our yard occasionally to play with Jack Lewis. Everybody loves Jack.

However, recently, the BSD has been losing his hair on the top of his head. At some times of day, Jack looks startled or frightened because of his pale cranial pallor. Or he appears for a moment to be a non-canine animal, like a bat or some small creature from the movie, “Jurassic Park”, or some hitherto unsuspected urban prowler. He also seems a little feral (I love that word) or wild. I am reminded that in addition to Jack Lewis’ sociable, domesticated, human-oriented side, Jack also carries his genetic inheritance of the untamed wild dog. It seems easier to see this when he looks a bit strange.

I had a professor in theological seminary who said, “The longer I live, the more God seems weird or strange to me.” I take this to mean that some of the categories we have for understanding God, while remaining true as far they go, seem inadequate for understanding God as we walk with him and see his surprising actions and plans. To learn from the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit we must be open to surprise, paradox and mystery. Someone that you love remains, at least partially, a mystery (“Wow, I never knew that about you!”), while someone that you do not love (are indifferent to) is addressed with box-making, controlling language (“You always…”, “You never…”).

God has revealed himself, especially in Jesus Christ, as our Father, Guide, Provider, Forgiver, Lover, Protector who is all-knowing and all-powerful and always good and loving. He causes all events to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). Jesus does not call his disciples merely “servants” (John 15:15, NRSV), but “…friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15c, NRSV) Jesus genuinely desires our fellowship with him (Revelation 3:20).

And yet, if we are to receive from God that which we do not already think and feel, God must be for us a bit wild (see my post, “Fake Wizard or Awesome God?”, about paragraph 17, of 8/3/14), even strange. Not only is God our Friend and Savior; he is also holy, other. We are made in the image of God and are now being made like Jesus, but nonetheless, we are not God. God is Other or as Martin Buber or Karl Barth or some postmodern theorists would say, the Other (don’t worry, there won’t be a test on this).

Consider these words of God, spoken through the prophet, Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, NRSV)

That’s about as Other as one can get! Part of what we mean by ‘holiness’ is who God is in himself, his difference, his otherness (for explosive and compelling pictures of this look at Isaiah in the temple in Isaiah 9 and Moses before the burning bush in Exodus 3).

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But here comes a twist…wait for it… God is not worse than we thought or imagined, but better! Look at the verses before our text:

“Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the LORD,
that he may have mercy on them,
and to God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isa. 55:6-7, NRSV, emphasis added)

And then a verse after our text:

“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isa. 55:12, NRSV)

It’s a good thing that God is God and I am not, because he is so much more forgiving than I am. It’s also good that his plans for me are much better than I can imagine. God calls us all to turn from our idols that do not satisfy (see my post, “What We Are” of 5/28/14) and receive the abundant life that is God and that is better than we can imagine. “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen so that you may live.” (Isa. 55:1-3a, NRSV)

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This post was powered by, “The Best of Kansas” (1984) by Kansas and, “Live From The Strip” (1999) by Kate Miner.


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Three Things; No, Four – Numero Cuatro

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“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find until after death… I must make it the main object of my life to press on to that other country and help others do the same.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Our fourth wonder, and the last in this list, is the California ocean wave: a truly awesome thing, not something to turn your back on; complex, yet simple; beautiful; challenging and overwhelming.

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Or more specifically, the way of a surfer with a wave.

Jon Foreman in wave

The surfer in the above picture is Jon Foreman, solo artist and frontman for the band Switchfoot. The band is from Southern California and takes it’s name from a skill in surfing of being equally able to anchor oneself on the surf board with either foot.

I also grew up in Southern California, and visited our beaches summer after summer. For surfing and body-surfing, I liked Huntington Beach. The waves were usually about the right size; Newport Beach and others had smaller waves and some beaches featured complex currents and waves that seemed too big.

One of our sayings back in the day was “He who hesitates is lost.” The saying is related to a bit of counter-intuitive surfing wisdom: when one is out in the waves, one must either ride the wave, if one can catch the crest of the wave just right, or one must dive under the wave, and stay under, no matter how thrashed one is, until the wave goes over. The temptation is to surface too soon or to run from the wave; both are usually mistakes, as one will find out. This must be a metaphor for something, like the paradox of the Gospel: Jesus died that we might live; Jesus carried our sin so that we might be clothed in his righteousness; the way up is down; the first shall be last; one must be willing to lose the world to gain one’s soul; one must die to be resurrected to eternal life; the greatest in the kingdom of God must be the servant of all; and we could go on.

I hope you have begun to see that when one places apparently unlike realities along side each other, one sees fresh and unsuspected meanings. Think of the items on our list from Proverbs 30: eagle, snake, ship in the sea, and the way of a man with a girl. We have laid out four realities in four posts and maybe we might be able to tie some of them together or see some meanings that are new for us when we place these realities along side each other.

Speaking of juxtaposition, I’m not going to spell out for you the connections between the C.S. Lewis quote above and waves or all the other wonderful things that we encounter. Some of my posts seem to be as long term papers. Not this time; no thank you! And besides, Jack is waiting for me to prepare a portion for him of that high-protein diet that his ancestors ate on the African Savannah. By the way it’s amusing to see Jack’s consternation as he watches a TV commercial in which CATS are offered a similar diet. Jack almost said, “That is just WRONG!”

This post was powered by, “Twenty Twenty: The Essential T-Bone Burnett [Disc 1 and Disc 2]” (2006) by T-Bone Burnett.


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Three Things; No, Four – Numero Tres

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“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6, NRSV)

Our third wonder is the human tongue or speech. It is not necessarily wonderful in a happy way; but it is amazing that such a small thing can create such a big mess, amazing in a “shock and awe” sort of way.

James describes the nature and effects of the tongue in James 3:1-12. The speech that concerns James includes: lies (from false teaching to self-justification to lies told out of fear), slander (speaking harmful words about someone or lying about someone), foolish talking that degrades the dignity of humans or the majesty of God, and unedifying speech that tears others down rather than building them up. Here, in my own words, are some of James’ insights about the tongue/speech:

1) the tongue is hard to control, and anyone who is able to make no mistakes in speaking, is able to control one’s whole life, like a bridle with a horse;
2) it is poison, sometimes;
3) the tongue is contradictory – we can bless the Lord (all bright and pious in a worship service), and then curse humans who are made in the likeness/image of God.

This wonder, like the last one, also had the Bible Study Dog’s vote. Jack has been known to steal items like paper towels, toilet paper, exercise bands, my reading glasses and plastic bottles and distribute them across our front lawn. If one catches Jack in the act, his slinking away can be seen as awareness of his misdeed. However, when he hangs his head down, lets his eyes go into soft focus and attempts to appear sweet and pleasing when one speaks to him much later about his misdeeds, I take Jack Lewis to be responding only to the brute sound of my voice. The BSD is hurt in a way. I have found that even a tone can sometimes wound just because it comes after many other words that devalue. Sometimes Jack and I sit together and hang our heads down and wonder about the power of words. Truly, the saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is often false, and almost always cold comfort. Of course I don’t want to give myself permission to indulge in hyper-sensitivity or self-centeredness (See my post, “Thick Skin But Tender Hearts”).

Words can also be life-giving. We can encourage and build one another up. We live on every word from Jesus the Word of God (See my post, “Lack Of Knowledge Is a Compassion Issue”).

At my last church, when I preached or taught on the issue of speech inappropriate to who we are as Jesus’ apprentices, I always received supportive comments. I think that was because so many people in our society feel damaged by others’ speech, but also because some people know their own struggle to control their tongues, and see the damage that has resulted in their relationships. For over a year, I printed this verse in every worship bulletin: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29, NRSV) Someone asked me when I was going to take the verse out of the bulletin. I replied, “When we are obeying it.”

Someone has suggested using the acronym, T.H.I.N.K. to help us avoid gossip:

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No teaching about our speech should be expected to be life-affirming apart from our being an apprentice (disciple) of Jesus, being filled up with the Holy Spirit, living in unity with our sisters and brothers in Christ and growing into all the realities of citizenship in God’s Kingdom.

“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19, NRSV)

This post was powered by the albums, “Vice Verses (Deluxe Version)” (2011) and “Fading West” (2014), both by Switchfoot.


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Three Things; No, Four – Numero Dos

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“The way of a dog with his man…” – Z. Bright “The symbiotic, enmeshed, yet strangely invigorating, relationship of a man with his dog…” – Jack

Our second wonderful thing is the dog water park phenomenon. This choice is what happens when the Bible Study Dog gets a vote. Also, this ‘thing’ brings together two ‘things’ that I find very cool: dogs and water. Here is a fun YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwIMAZ7Mh8s

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Waterford Oaks Water Park Dog Swim event, September 11, 2010

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I offer prayers of thanksgiving for all the people in my life when I think of them, including some of you. I also thank the Father every day for Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog.

This post was powered by “More Miserable Than You’ll Ever Be (Deluxe)” (2014) by The 77s.


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Three Things; No, Four – Numero Uno

Dima Sadeq

“Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
the way of a man with a girl.” (Proverbs 30:18-19, NRSV)

‘Three, no four…’ or ‘Two, no three…’ is a Hebrew literary form for making lists. The last item in the list is usually the main point. You can find other examples of this form in Proverbs 30:15-16, 21-31. I have noticed a trend among our young Bohemian or hipster artists to make lists to communicate or to reflect. The next three, no four posts will each feature one thing that I find wonderful.

The first has a background in Lebanon in the wake of the recent depredations of the Islamic State in Iraq. Let me give an oversimplified overview of recent Lebanese history. Of course this land was once the haunt of the ancient sea-faring Phoenicians. The French had colonies in the area even prior to World War I, but with the break-up of the Ottoman Empire in W.W. I, the Empire’s lands on the East Mediterranean Coast were divided into British and French mandates (the infamous Picoe-Sykes Agreement). The French Mandate in Lebanon achieved Independence on November 28, 1941, with the last French troops withdrawing in 1946. The government in the early years was dominated by the Marionite Catholic Christians. Several other large populations included Shi’ite Muslim Arabs, Sunni Muslim Arabs, Druze, Orthodox Christian Arabs and others. In the post-World War II years, Lebanon was usually a peaceful and prosperous country. International financial and commercial institutions were based there. High-end tourism was a major industry. Lebanon was frequently called the Switzerland (diverse peoples living together democratically, prosperously and peacefully) of the Middle East.

But then after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Palestinian refugees began to flood Lebanon. By 1968, Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was attacking Israel from South Lebanon. You can see what will happen next, can’t you? Of course Israel responded and the various sects were drawn into ever shifting alliances as Lebanon began to slide down into conflict and fragmentation. The Civil War lasted from 1975 to 1990. Parts of Lebanon were occupied by the Syrians, and sporadically by the Israelis, from 1992 to February 2005. A 2006 incursion of Israel into South Lebanon to stop rocket attacks and cross-border hostage-taking and murders, has led some Lebanese to value the Iran-sponsored terrorist organization, Hezbollah, as a counter-weight to Israel.

Now, the wonderful thing. The major television network, Lebanon Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), responded in an imaginative way to the confiscation of Christian homes and then the driving out of Christians from Mosul, Iraq by the savages, Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). The savages, of course, beheaded people, buried men, women and children alive and sold some women into sexual slavery. And then painted the Arabic letter for N, pronounced ‘noon’, on Christian buildings to be confiscated. The letter looks a bit like an ‘u’ with a dot over it, and exactly like my current avatar. The N stands for Nasrani (“Nazarenes”), a pejorative for ‘Christians’. This must remind us of the Nazis placing yellow stars on Jews. Many people around the world began to say ‘WeAreN’ in solidarity.

Back to LBC. Management changed their logo (which you can see above) to include a ‘noon’ and they gave t-shirts to their broadcasters with the letter ‘noon’ on them, somewhat gutsy moves considering the above history. At the height of the terror in Mosul, the lovely Shi’ite news anchor Dima Sadek came on the air wearing the ‘noon’ t-shirt and began to speak with these words: “From Mosul to Beirut, we are all Christians.” Wonderful! Perfect! Classy! Cool!

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This post was powered by the albums, “The Late Greats – 2014 Summer Mix” (2014) and “More Miserable Than You’ll Ever Be (Deluxe)” (2014), both by the 77s.


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Lack of Knowledge Is a Compassion Issue

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I have seen posters several times with these words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel wherever you go, and when necessary, use words.” I can see why people find the words attractive. They think that Christians talk too much and that they should focus on meeting people’s physical and material needs. The love of God in our lives is to overflow so that we feed the poor, rescue the lost, befriend the lonely and meet the practical material needs of our “neighbor”. But if one means that meeting material needs is essential, while meeting needs for knowledge and wisdom is optional and of less importance, I energetically disagree! I just startled Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog, who was lying on his bed that he had dragged into my office. I stamped my weight-bearing foot and pounded my fist or Stamped My foot, Scared Jack Lewis (SMFSJL). I have been taught in college about Abraham Maslow’s (1908-1970) “Hierarchy of Needs”, that people cannot attend to “higher” needs until their material needs are met. Nonetheless, I’m still stamping my foot and pounding my fist and the Bible Study Dog (BSD) is slipping out of the room.

If one believes that God exists and people will live forever, then the knowledge and wisdom, communicated through words, that we have, is shaping who we will be for eternity. We are even now moving step by step closer to Hell, a miserable life without God, or toward Heaven, a life of overwhelming joy in God’s Presence where we are one with beauty, truth and goodness. Eternal happiness is at stake, not just the happiness of 75 or so years. It would not be loving to meet people’s physical needs and then leave them without crucial bits of knowledge that might be important for the humans who will live forever. If what I believe is true, then the latter is more important than the former and to leave people without something that I have learned, perhaps with great difficulty, that they need, is not loving but hateful! I recognize that my experience does not equip me to communicate knowledge to every person equally well, but surely all Christians have been made to refract some different truths because of our different experiences, temperaments, abilities and the wisdom and knowledge that we have acquired.

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However, even in our journey through this life on earth, knowledge and wisdom have a lot to do with how well we will live. Jesus met the devil’s temptation (when Jesus was very hungry, having fasted for forty days) to turn stones into bread with this quote from Deuteronomy: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4b, NRSV) Deuteronomy in turn was the record of what Israel had learned wandering in the wilderness over forty years. In other words, we need words, God’s words, every one of the them, the knowledge of God, wisdom about living in trust (think of the water from a rock, the manna and the quails) at least as much as we need food. As for Jesus, “The Hierarchy of Needs” wasn’t working very well that day.

God intends for us to have knowledge, not just opinions or faith. After all God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6a, ESV) not “My people are destroyed for lack of faith“. Lack of knowledge can lead to severe results in our embodied existence. Just ask Isaiah. God through Isaiah spoke of Israel going into captivity: “Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst.” (Isaiah 5:13, ESV)

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I sometimes view knowledge as a mental map of the world. The map tells us what kind of beings exist, how the world usually works and the relationships of things to one another. If the map is inaccurate, the consequences might be painful. For instance, Terry, my wife, might move the furniture around, so that coming home in the dark with an inaccurate mental map, I might go flying over a couch to a painful landing. If you believe that God and other supernatural beings affect the world, you will tend to live in a certain way. If you believe that humans are basically good, and only need a tad of instruction, you will be in for a shock. On the other hand you may hold beliefs that cannot account for the dignity and value of each human being. Whether you believe that the humans that you love or don’t, live forever, will affect how you treat them. You also might want to have accurate knowledge of other creatures nearby; where I grew up these included mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, owls, deer,¬† gophers, bats, lizards, rattle snakes and bears.

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Now Jack tends to focus on his material and culinary interests. The lower levels of needs are obviously very important to him. But even Jack Lewis finds that certain informational cues are worth interrupting his typical focus for. For example when the BSD is attempting to play with a guest (say untying shoelaces just like the next bloke) I can merely wiggle my fingers over his kennel and he will willingly go in, knowing that there is a sense of relief from being released from temptation. Or I can say this magic sentence, “Jack, remember we are the non-whining pack”, and he will immediately cease to whine. If I saw a sign that said “Bridge Out Ahead” or “One Way Street” that’s important information for me.

In Orlando, FL., near Lake Hart, my mother has a small body of water named after her. It’s called Lake Vonette and is surrounded by manicured lawns and flowers that slope gently down to the water. There is a prayer garden there and a raised platform or gazebo. But here is why all of this is of interest to us. At the edge of the water, near the prayer garden and gazebo, are little signs, black on white, that say: “WATCH FOR ALLIGATORS” or something like that. Now if you were praying there, wouldn’t that be important information to have? I might pray with at least one eye open!

These reflections have led Jack, the Bible Study Dog, and me to reflect on different kinds of signs or ‘signage’ (see the post “Chance of Awesome Today: Extreme”). For instance, there is the sign with a flattering message. If you agree with it, you feel superior. For Jack an analog would be, “Food, Your Reward For A Sensitive Nose”.

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There are surprising signs, like the one that I have called Bono On America. And speaking of Bono, here is a surprisingly straightforward and orthodox take on Jesus Christ, miracles, the Resurrection and more on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-OR5Ors23M

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Or then there are self-referential signs which create the danger of which they warn. For Jack this includes any sign that gets in the way of his lightening fast locomotion.

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This one is an example of everything it opposes. It is deceptively simple; “Kids, don’t try this at home.”

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There are signs, like this one, that are not always true. I mean there are books that lie aren’t there? And yet amazingly, true so often! For Jack Lewis, this is like the signs that say “High Protein Canine Food On Sale Here”.

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There are signs that suggest engaging in hitherto avoided attitudes. The BSD doesn’t need a sign for this; he is the sign! I have written about how when Jack suspects something ominous is outside or just wants to have a little fun with us, he lets out huge, bass, deafening barks until he is completely satisfied that he has seen signs of panic from everyone in the house.

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This one is frank about the source of the (admittedly exotic) danger, if a tad non-specific about the actual danger. It also has the advantage of being in a picture with my son, Chris, and a friend, calling attention to the sign; signs of the sign, so to speak. Let’s also give this one an honorary mention in the nepotism category.

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Clear goals, and perhaps some tragic experience, lie behind this one.

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This one warns that politics is not everything, or as Andrew Breitbart used to say, “Culture is upstream from politics”, which is why I am writing this blog.

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This one, from Iraq or Afghanistan, is from the “Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” category.

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This sign announces the unavailability of a mind for new or corrected knowledge. This one is truly depressing, even terrifying. Jesus often found that people felt so threatened by him, that they refused to see what was right before their eyes. On the other hand, of course, one might be too “open-minded”. Witness all the foolish and contradictory ideas that people will entertain. G.K. Chesterton said something like, “The purpose of opening one’s mind is the same as the purpose for opening one’s mouth: to close it on something.”

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I must include this one. Living well is the best revenge. I saw CSN&Y live three times!

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Finally, I leave you with the most important one. Ingratitude takes us away from God (Rom. 1:18-23) and reality and sanity (Rom. !:24-25, 28-31). Thankfulness opens us to appreciation and then worship and finally to God, reality, sanity and joy.

always something to be thankful for

This post was powered by the album, “Young Oceans – Collection” (2014) by Young Oceans, the album, “Endless Years” (2012) by Will Reagan & United Pursuit, and the albums, “The Late Greats – 2014 Summer Tour Mix” (2014) and “More Miserable Than You’ll Ever Be (Deluxe)” (2014), both by The 77s.