Wisdom, Age and Suffering

source: mythoto via Flickr

source: mythoto via Flickr

Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?
Job 12:12 (NIV)

Wisdom is, indeed, found among the aged.
Still, I’ve known many an old fool.

Long life does not necessarily bring understanding, Job.
But, it seems to me that suffering does. If it doesn’t break you.

I just can’t always perceive the increase of understanding when I’m still in the midst of the pain.

Press on.

Posted in Chapter-a-Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Wonder if Love Isn’t the Best Defense

Superman Band-AidOh, how I wish that God would speak,
that he would open his lips against you
and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
for true wisdom has two sides.
Job 11:5-6a (NIV)

I remember a young man with whom I went to school. It was the 1980s. While most of us were accenting our permed mullets with parachute pants and Forenza sweaters as we carried our Jansport backpacks to class, this well cropped young man was wearing a three piece suit and carrying his Samsonite briefcase. He was a firebrand. Always speaking from a well entrenched position of know-it-all-ness, he seemed to have assumed the role of God’s attorney. His truth was God’s truth and he was ready to make his case whether you wanted to hear it or not.

I thought of my classmate this morning as I read the treatise of Job’s third friend, Zophar, who finally speaks up. He’s heard Eliphaz and Bildad have a go at Job, and he’s heard Job’s responses. Zo’s soliloquy starts off like a boiling pot blowing its top. Zo seems to feel the need to defend God from Job’s word. Like my friend from school, he takes on the role of God’s attorney, speaking on behalf of the Almighty.

What I find most interesting in Zophar’s message is that he is at once chastising Job for assuming he knows the mind of God and making the same assumptions about Job. Like his other two amigos, Zo speaks from an assumptive position of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Job has done something sinful to deserve God’s wrath and punishment.

I have to be honest. When I ponder Job’s friends, I not only think of my briefcase toting friend, but I also see shades of myself 30 years ago. The further I get in my own personal life journey the less passionate I feel about defending God with my words and the more passionate I feel about simply representing Him with my loving actions. Zophar asks Job if he thinks he can fathom the mysteries of God, and I am increasingly comfortable with the fact that I cannot.

This morning, I’m thinking about what I would do or say if I were one of Job’s friends, sitting with my buddy on the ash heap. The truth is, I’m not sure I would try to make sense of it. I would tell Job I love him. I’d admit that I don’t get it either, and I would apologize that I don’t have any answers. Then, I’d ask if there’s anything I can get him to ease his suffering. A cup of cold water, perhaps. Some Superman Band-Aids for those sores? Maybe telling a bad joke or two in an effort to coax a smile. It still falls short of meeting the depth of Job’s need, but I feel like it comes closer than what I’ve seen from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.

Posted in Chapter-a-Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Capturing The Process Behind the Performance

A Christmas Carol RehearsalI love the process of theatre as much as the performance. It is also one of the things about the stage that I love to capture with a camera. Most people attend a play or a musical at some point in their lives, but few see the process of rehearsals, character development, set construction, make-up, and lighting. It’s such a fascinating thing to be a part of, and to watch taking place. The magic of theatre is the culmination of an amazing amount of human effort, and it creates so many opportunities for interesting photos.

Wendy and I have bit parts in this holiday’s production of A Christmas Carol and the other week I had my camera with me at rehearsal. In this shot, Lonnie Appleby (playing Scrooge) is sequestered in fear on his four-poster bed which at this stage of the production is nothing more than a bench with a couple of posts screwed on. I’ve loved watching Lonnie play with and develop the physicality of the role and I liked the way this photo catches the contortion he’s both developing and which is being forced upon him by the set piece.

 

Posted in Tom's Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Assumptions, Miscommunication, and Conflict

source: loonatic via Flickr

source: loonatic via Flickr

“But this is what you concealed in your heart,
    and I know that this was in your mind….”
Job 10:13 (NIV)

A couple of weeks ago I sat with my daughter and we had a very frank discussion about life and relationship. We talked about a myriad of things. It was one of those intense and emotional conversations that, once it is over, is hard to recall in anything but bits and pieces. It was time to clear the relational air over which a fog has existed for some time. I recognized that it was a conversation that happens to provide clarity and definition between parent and child when a child is transforming into an adult.  It wasn’t a pleasant conversation, though I believe that it was both healthy and necessary. Clearing the air is sometimes a prerequisite to making progress in life. It provides necessary focus to answer the questions:

  • “Where have I/we been?”
  • “Where am I/are we at?”
  • “Where am I/are we going?”

In the midst of this event I was reminded of a truth I’ve come to realize and embrace along life’s journey. Most conflicts can be traced back to miscommunication. The miscommunication can be an incorrect assumption about what another person thinks, believes, or perceives. The miscommunication can be confusion over the meaning and intent of something that was said. The miscommunication can be confusion over what was said and what was heard. Conflict can almost always be traced back to miscommunication.

I was struck this morning as I read Job’s diatribe how many assumptions he makes in his conflict with God:

  • “But this is what you concealed in your heart” (I know what God thinks)
  • “I know that this was in your mind” (I know the mind of God)
  • “If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion” (I know God’s intention)
  • “You bring new witnesses against me and increase your anger toward me” (I know that my sufferings are an execution of your misdirected justice)

That’s a lot of assumptions to make, especially about the Almighty.

Today, I’m thinking about my own penchant for making assumptions about what others think, believe, intend, and feel. I am seeking forgiveness for my foolish pride, which motivates and is at the root of such assumptions. I am seeking to make a little progress in the area of actually communicating with others rather than assuming I know what is in their hearts and on their minds.

Posted in Chapter-a-Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chihuly at the Denver Botanical Gardens

Yesterday I posted one of my photos of Dale Chihuly‘s gorgeous glass artwork from an exhibition at the Denver Botanical Gardens. Here are several more that I shot last week at the exhibition (you can click on any photo to see a larger image). I can’t get over how beautiful and thought provoking I found the juxtaposition of the glasswork within the natural surroundings of the gardens. I’m only sorry we couldn’t have stayed until the evening when the glasswork is illuminated. I can only imagine how enchanting it is.

Photos taken with Canon EOS 6D
Posted in Tom's Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Mediator

source: eulothg via Flickr

source: eulothg via Flickr

If only there were someone to mediate between us,
someone to bring us together,
someone to remove God’s rod from me,
so that his terror would frighten me no more.
Job 9:33-34 (NIV)

There is a line that exists somewhere between despair and self-pity, between honest expression of negative emotion and the self-centric surrender to it. The former is a sincere processing of the emotions in an effort to progress through to a place of understanding. The latter is stagnation and wallowing in the emotions as a means towards self-gratifying pity of self and others.

In today’s chapter, Job is sinking deeper into despair. Job feels condemned and judged by God, but I find that he himself has already tried, judged, and condemned God in his own mind:

  • God is so great as to be inconsiderate.
  • God is so lofty as to be unconcerned.
  • God is so aloof to the point of injustice.
  • God has already tried, judged, executed perverted justice on Job.

Job feels shunned, alienated, and condemned by a distant and impersonal Creator. In his despair he laments that he has no mediator to stand in the gap, to bring he and God together, and to remove God’s rod of wrath and condemnation. In this cosmic plea Job ushers us all to the universal human point: we someone to reconcile us to God. Job’s cry now lifts us out of the momentary circumstances of human suffering into the eternal theme of God’s story. Job speaks out of the depths of recorded human history for all of us who have despaired and felt alienated, shunned, and condemned by the one we perceive to be a distant, uncaring God.

If we are willing to progress through our pain and despair to a place of understanding, we discover God’s answer born in a manger, subjected to unjust suffering, condemned to an unjust death, executed on a cross, and raised to Life. The one who bridges the distance and stands in the gap to bring us and God together.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

Posted in Chapter-a-Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blue of the Sky Meets the Green of the Trees

Chihuly 035

Last week when Wendy and I were in Denver we had the opportunity to visit the Denver Botanical Gardens where there was an exhibit of the glass artwork of Dale Chihuly. It was my first real exposure to his work, and what fascinated me was the way that the works were displayed amidst the natural surroundings of the botanical gardens. The glass sculptures both complimented and contrasted with their surroundings in beautiful ways. I loved the way this stack of boulder-like blue glass pulled in the blue of the rocky mountain sky down into trees. It reminded me of a friend of Wendy’s whose favorite color is “where the blue of the sky meets the green of the trees .”

Posted in Tom's Photos | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment