What’s in a NAME? A couple more ThoughtFormative books (pt.2), & other musings…

12 years ago, theBean had a dream – to start a preschool in our church. With the help of a dear friend & a lot of hard work (& through too many twists, turns, & versions to mention,) it is thriving & is functioning far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. She (& her team) rock. About 2 weeks ago, most/all of the Kindergarten-age kids transitioned out of the preschool & into “the Real World;” at the same time, the school has had an influx of kids (babies through age 5) that has not only kept our enrollment up where it was at the end of the last school year, there are actually more kids currently attending than at any other time in our school’s history. Very cool to see.

What’s also cool is that, through the school, we get to reach people from all over the world, right here in our town. Currently,(in addition to the U.S.) we have kids from:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Mexico
  • Syria
  • Nigeria

It stands to reason, we’d have our share of interesting names… & we do…  In that vein, I’ve noticed a baby name-trendSee if you can pick up the pattern – we have:

  • Jackson
  • Jaxon
  • Jaxson
  • Jaxzyn (also pronounced JACK-son)
  • Axton
  • Paxton
  • Daxon
  • (STACK-son)

True story. (Mom of Staqxson said she had invented the name. I believe her.) No judgement from me. It does make me wonder, however, what do people consider, what do they think about, what is the process for picking a name for their baby? In Bible days, kids were given names specifically because of what they meant, because of the significance. Take for instance the name –John it means, “the grace/mercy of the Lord” & “God’s gracious gift.”  I can totally get that (named my own kid that. Makes sense in the case of Zechariah & Elizabeth too. And in the instance of Hosea’s kid, the name given served as an object lesson from God to His people – the boy was named Lo Ammi” which means, “not My people,”  (Sorry kid. God told me to call you this. Nothing personal.) People could end up naming their kid after a favorite movie character like Edward. Jacob. Bella. The Twilight Saga.)  or after a favorite TV channel, like ESPN, (there are estimated to be 93 kids named ESPN in the US.) Made me giggle a little bit to see that there is even a web page dedicated to the topic, “How To Pick A Baby Name” which includes helpful insights like “5 Pitfalls to avoid when choosing a name.”

For me & theBean: we wanted all of our kids names to mean something significant to us & them. We named all of the kids after loved ones. We (mostly I,) also used a couple of tests to screen names. They were:

  • The SCREAM IT FROM THE BACK PORCH test – (patent pending). It’s pretty self-explanatory. You yell the full name, out loud, outside & then listen to what you said. Many things in life can be avoided by simply Saying Them Out Loud before you do it. Think on that.
  • The KINDERGARTEN FRUSTRATION test – I figured when my kids were in Kindergarten, they probably had enough issues to deal with other than trying to spell out a long, unusual, elaborate name (esp. if it was something many adults couldn’t spell.) We avoided this with my daughter because she went by Weezer, Weezie, or theWeez for the 1st 12 or so years of her life.

Anyway – should be an interesting school year.

ThoughtFormative Book List, pt. 2 (pt. 1 can be found HERE.) 

  • The Monday Morning Church: Out of the Sanctuary, & Into the Streets – Jerry Cook – in a nutshell, this book explores what it could look like if every person who follows Christ would pray, think about, & then act as if they were doing what Jesus would be doing, if He were walking in their shoes, in their world. Because, in essence, that is EXACTLY what our mission is. And we are all little pieces of JesusEphesians,, & we all know how much the people of our world need that. It’s also a study through the letter to the & it is a (30 years later) sequel to Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness.
  • A Long Obedience In the Same Direction – Eugene Peterson – this ThoughtFormative gem is a breath of fresh air & a slice of real-life Christianity on the topic of discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ. Life w/Christ is NOT all emotional, “on-fire,” mountain-top experiences where it seems God is SO close, all the time. Many times, it feels like God gives us an encouragement, a direction to head in, & then… nothing (real or perceived.) It details the need for perseverancea never give up, never surrender , a stick-to-itiveness, life outlook (ala, Isaiah 50:7). The clincher for me is the quote Peterson used for the name of the book: The essential thing in heaven & earth is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction, there thereby results, & has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil. 

Enough for today. Look for opportunities today to BE & DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING in your shoes. Because He is. And you’re it. #BeTheGood

A partial list of my favorite ThoughtFormative books… & other musings… pt. 1

Sitting in my office at the end of the workday, waiting for myBean to get off so we can grab some dinner… And I’m thinking about the things that have shaped many of my thought processes & formed a bit of who I am/am becoming. And I coined a new word: ThoughtFormative. I’m looking into trademarking it, but feel free to use it royalty-free for the time being. Try doing that with “3-peat.” Pat Riley (C’mon ! Really?)

Anyway, one of the ‘things’ that have been so ThoughtFormative in my life are books. Books have always been my 1st “free time” choice… & I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pass some information (or a point of view, or a new idea, etc…) & I’ve done it by giving someone a book. If you’ve ever gotten a book from me, you can know it is one of the Best ways I can think of to say, “I love you. I care about you. This has helped me, & I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”

So, I’m going to do a very, very, partial list, 5 or so..(consider it part 1?) of the most ThoughtFormative books I’ve ever read… (or of the books that have read me. Dr. Evil face with my pinky curved by my mouth*(I wonder how pretentious that sounds. In my head I picture it more as a little bit funny way to say something & then make a , which would have been preceded by an imaginary mic drop. But I digress.) DISCLAIMER: I am not going to include the Bible on my list. For a similar reason that I wouldn’t include Jesus Christ on a list of “People From History I’d Really Like To Meet:” I KNOW Him. I HAVE met Him. And I talk to Him all the time, & a part of me *double-facepalms  every time I hear a well-meaning follower of Christ say, “I’d really like to have met Jesus…” Maybe it’s that we’re such Thomas’ that we want to SEE, in the flesh… which would make it like really MEETING Him. But I usually keep those thoughts to myself, because when I say stuff like that out loud, I am inevitably misunderstood & thought to be a Pagan & a Judger (both of which are not true. Mostly.) The Bible IS my list – & all of the books on my list point to or remind me of, or illustrate something beautiful, some Scriptural concept, some life-giving way of ThoughtFormative-ness. (Not saying I’m equating my list with the Bible, or claiming these titles are God-breathed. Felt I had to say that.)

The plan is to list a book with one of the reasons I believe it is/was so ThoughtFormative to my life… or a something (or 2) that I immediately think of when I see the book’s title. So here goes:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis – These kids classics from CS Lewis were the 1st real books I can remember reading through. I immediately think of a quote from the 1st book, The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, in reference to Aslan, Lewis’ Christ figure:  “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about SAFE? ‘Course he isn’t SAFE. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Reminds me that Christ is NOT a Christian bookstore bumper-sticker version of Himself, easily grasped, understood, & known in His entirety. He is fierce. He is gentle. He’s not safe & life following Him is anything but… But He is GOOD.
  • The Space Trilogy – C.S. Lewis – I’m struck by how the main character, Elwin Ransom (referred to as “Ransom” 99% of the time,) finds himself in situations not of his own making or choosing where he gets to stand for good & against a malevolent evil. Standing firm is a big theme for me & my life. (Finding out Ransom was based on Lewis’ dear friend Tolkien only makes me love this more.)
  • A Wrinkle In Time – Madeline L’Engle – A phenomenally written book (series) with a conflict of good & evil, where power, intimidation, & hate are overcome by love.
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien – I didn’t read these books until I was in my 30s. Now I try to read through these once a year – esp. when I’m traveling. My lot in life, my calling reminds me a lot of Frodo, & is summed up in an exchange Frodo has with Gandalf about WHY he, a small, seemingly inconsequential hobbit, is the one that will carry the One Ring to Mordor to destroy it in the Cracks of Doom: “Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
  • Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness – Jerry Cook – This book transformed my (warped/undeveloped) view of Church & the purpose for her existence. It isn’t about building a big gathering. It isn’t about celebrating a few talented individuals. It isn’t a social club. The Church are Jesus’ ministering representatives on earth, meant to guarantee His love, acceptance, & forgiveness to EVERY person encountered. Sometimes people had an issue with this stance, believing the Church instead was supposed to take a STAND for righteousness, making sure to “love the sinner & hate the sin,” etc…  What gets missed in that kind of a STAND, is that people will fall through the cracks because they don’t measure up to be able to enter such an institution. That kind of a STAND makes the Church a little more exclusive, a little more ‘holy’ than Christ intended it to be. (By ‘holy’ I mean the Church not associating with the kind of people with bad reputations & obvious sin issues… the very people Christ came to save.)  Jerry said: “Love is NOT license. Acceptance is NOT agreement. Forgiveness is NOT compromise.” This book started a life-long journey for me, a life of practical, applicable, LIVED OUT Christ-likeness. And one of my life highlights happened on my birthday a few years ago, Jerry told me in front of the church I pastor, “You, Louie, are a little piece of Jesus. And you live this love, acceptance, & forgiveness as good as anyone I know.” I will never forget that. And it inspires me to keep living it.

What books have been the most ThoughtFormative to you in your life?

Changing vision, a hot summer, & other musings…

Last summer, I went to the eye-doctor & found out while my ‘distance’ prescription for contacts/glasses had not changed, soon I was going to need ‘a change’ for my up close seeing. I didn’t really pay attention to what she said, because she said, “SOON” I would need it, not “NOW” you need it. So I went happily on my way… until last September. I was reading (translation: attempting to read) something & found out that my arms had gotten much shorter. Or that my contacts (& glasses too, dangit,) were no longer adequate in less than perfect light to read. Anything. Especially fine print (anything less than, say, 10 pt font.) I panicked & went into the eye doctor w/o an appointment, content to sit & wait through the day until I could see her & she could tell me WHAT was wrong with my eyes…

After sitting down with her & explaining what was going on, she reminded me, “Remember when I told you that SOON you would need a change for your close up seeing? Well it seems that SOON has become NOW.” Great, I thought, & asked what that meant… It meant… progressive lenses. I had no idea what those were. So she explained:

BIFOCALS. I needed bifocals.

It’s not like I was in denial about the fact that I am aging – my mirror tells me all the time that I am not the spring chicken I once was. (BTW: where the HECK did the term spring chicken come from? Who decided it meant a young(ish) person? I don’t get it. But I digress.) But BIFOCALS? I was not ready for them – so I asked, “Is there anything I can do to avoid having to get bifocals now?” The doctor assured me that I could probably buy a pair of 1.5-2.0x magnification ‘cheater’ glasses to wear with my contacts, for reading, & I’d probably be fine. But, for my ‘glasses only’ days, I would need to purchase a pair of bifocals. “Ok,” I thought, “one day I will. But that day is NOT today.” So I walked around the corner, bought my cheater glasses, & went about my business.

Everything was fine until May 1. That is the day my allergies returned… the day my eyes & sinuses & throat rebelled against the constant inflow of pollen into them… & I’ve spent parts of every day since then coughing, sneezing, wheezing, & rubbing ‘gunk’ from my eyes.

And it became really irritating to wear my contacts.

No trouble, really. I could do this. I’ll just wear my glasses. Which worked great. Until I needed to read something. And then I was out of luck.

In my job (& at home) reading is kind of a thing for me… so, when no one but my long suffering Bean was around, I would ‘double stack’ my glasses so I could read. You know, put my regular glasses on first. And then put my cheater glasses on over them. And then I could read fine. But its not like I could go out & about double-stacking my glasses all the time.

Things came to a head a couple of weeks ago. Hanging out with the kids for Fathers’ Day – went to an escape room (check it out HERE. A really good time.) An escape room, for the uninitiated, is a room where you are locked in with clues on how to escape. And you have 1 hour. It was a blast.

Except I couldn’t read the clues. Because the print was too small. Pasty caught me putting the paper the clues were on down on the counter & stepping back to try & catch what was typed on the paper in such an impossibly miniscule font. And he asked, “Uh, dad? You ok?”

And then I knew. The gig was up. I needed to get bifocals.

Years ago in therapy (it was more like conversations where your counselor challenges you to think about & do things that seem so counter-intuitive to the Way Things Have Always Been,) when Chuck, my counselor/mentor/friend said in an aside, “You know, Americans don’t know HOW to grow old. They spend their lives trying to get to an age, then spend the rest of their lives trying to stay at that age.” (Reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote about in “The Last Battle” – Book 7 of the Chronicles of Narnia.) At the time, I just nodded my head & filed away the fact somewhere in the filing cabinet that is my brain. And when Pasty asked me “Uh, dad? You ok?” I was taken back to that conversation… to Chuck’s wise words, & I heard God say something like, “You’re getting old. It happens. And it’s time to EMBRACE it.”

Finally got a doctor’s appointment to get my sentence, err.. my new prescription. My distance vision is holding strong, (“YES!”) but my up close vision definitely requires a change to progressive lenses (so nice & euphemistic to call them progressive lenses instead of bifocals. It is supposed to soften the blow for those fighting the losing battle against time.) Went through the whole ordering process, & they should be ready for use. Wish me luck.

In this process, I have heard God quite a bit talking to me through Scripture, little whispers, & life experiences… the idea of my vision changing is no longer something that I am trying to fight or (vainly) hang on to. It’s an idea that I’m trying to grab hold of, full force. Because as my physical vision fails, & the doctor is helping to correct it, & help me see the world (& to READ, which is oh so important to everyday life,) God is also at work in me, changing & transforming my vision so that I can see the next steps for what’s coming in our lives, & for church, & for ministry. And when He does something, He does it well. So I’m believing in that & contending for that, & trusting that my see-ers (spiritual eyes) are being refined as well. Thank you, Jesus, for never wasting a change to teach, to reveal, & to encourage.

Dang it, it’s hot. I remember less than 1 month ago we had SNOWAnd now we’re on a streak of 95F+ for the foreseeable future. Summer.