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Overthinking

Overthinking

20160502_083329I sometimes tend to overthink things. I know this will shock my family and friends. I just experienced the downside of this.

Our yard is full of trees. I have nowhere to park my car that doesn’t result in it being covered with tree sap. Now doubtless friends by the dozens will know how to wash this off. I, on the other hand, had to go complicated. I have tried different car washes. Then I tried a pressure washer, which started to damage the paint.

Today I decided (finally) to just get the water hose I use for the garden and a rag. I intended to have some soap, but forgot to buy it. In 15 minutes with the rag and the hose, the car looks just fine.

Overthinking … I could have done this last year and saved time and money on car washes. It hardly takes as long as running through the machine!

Why I Believe in Courtesy

Why I Believe in Courtesy

Loud-Speaker-Detail-300px
Louder Is Not Truer

(Image Credit: OpenClipart, )

It seems that many people believe that in order to be firm in one’s convictions, one must be arrogant, loud, and generally rude. Rude and angry speech is praised as telling it like it is. Courtesy is often ridiculed with the incredibly overused term “political correctness.”

I object to political correctness when it is politically enforced, when the law mandates the use of one term over another. Let’s see, perhaps like Florida state employees being ordered not to use the term “climate change.” Not what you were thinking of? I believe it’s the same principle.

I believe in referring to people as courteously as possible, not because I am unsure of my beliefs, though I think uncertainty is certainly appropriate in many cases, but because I believe that is the best way to communicate what I believe. Shouting loudly may impress people who already agree with me, but it turns off those who are in opposition.

If you truly care about communicating your ideas and about persuading others, you need to learn to practice a firm sort of courtesy. This may involve using labels for others that they can accept. It may require you to drop cute one-liners that impress you.

One of my objections to speech codes is that by forcing people to be courteous (sort of) when they would not do so on their own initiative, it’s harder to identify those who can safely be ignored, i.e., all those folks who think their point is to be made by loud, obnoxious presentation.

Courtesy, friendship, and openness to dialogue are not enemies of the truth. Rather, they are essential to communicating it.

When My Father Was Healed

When My Father Was Healed

1893729222_adI was talking recently with a friend who commented that there are certain events that serve as anchor points for our faith. For me, despite all the drifting I’ve done since it happened, one of those points was the time when my father was healed. I alluded to this briefly in a comment on the Energion Discussion Network, and was challenged (or so it felt) to retell the story more often. You can get another perspective on this story from my mother’s book Directed Paths, which includes many other stories of God in action. I was 14 years old at the time and will tell this as I remember it.

It was 1971 and my parents were called as missionaries to Guyana, South America, where my father was to become medical director of the 54 bed Davis Memorial Hospital in Georgetown. Shortly after we arrived my father required emergency surgery. This took place during the night. The surgeon persuaded my mother not to wake me up, so anything about the surgery is not from my memory, but rather from what I was told. The surgery was on the large intestine and during the surgery there was considerable contamination. In addition, at one point my mother, who is an RN, was left alone as the entire team had to go to an emergency with a delivery in another room. Overall the surgery lasted for four hours, if I recall correctly.

Nobody wanted to tell me in the morning, so I was successively directed from room to room until I arrived in my father’s room in the hospital where he was connected to various tubes and devices. It was quite a shock.

He continued to be weak for some time, and his digestive processes and intestines would not restart their function. The surgeon said that he would never work again and would not live more than another 10 years. The mission board began to plan to bring my parents back to the states.

My parents, on the other hand, did not agree. They said that they had gone to Guyana to perform a mission and that they had not yet performed one. Their choice was to follow James 5, and call for the elders of the church. The elders anointed my father with oil and prayed for his healing and that he would be able to carry out his mission. I was actually quite disappointed with the results that day. It seemed that nothing happened.

But from that moment, my father’s recovery began. Within two weeks he took over as sole physician for that 54 bed hospital and was on call 24 hours/7 days per week for the next year before any relief came. He served there for seven years and still worked after he returned to the states. He has now gone on to be with the Lord, though since he was a Seventh-day Adventist he would say “to sleep in Jesus.” I have come to not see a lot of difference there. One breath here—the next breath there. Time won’t matter! But he lived into his late 80s, much more than 10 years and he continued to work through to a normal retirement. He was active as a Christian witness up to the time of his death.

I find that story challenging and encouraging. It’s challenging because my parents refused to leave and give up when everyone else was saying the situation was hopeless. It’s encouraging because when they stepped out in faith on their mission, God was there with them.

The Importance of Little Things

The Importance of Little Things

Source: OpenClipart.org
Source: OpenClipart.org (thenanobel)

I’m working on a programming project for the IT side of my business today and I was reminded of the importance of little things.

When I’m programming and something goes wrong, my tendency is to look for big things. For example, there was a problem in this program with handling time zone data. Time codes were coming out different processed through different systems. My first thought, which I followed, was to look for bad settings in the overall system, and then for subtle differences in the way different functions handled this data.

But no, none of the above was correct. The actual error was a one character problem in the way I was formatting some text—the simplest element of the code involved. Because I was looking for the big things, none of which were causing the problem, I wasted considerable time. Once I saw the actual problem, a couple of keystrokes fixed it.

Might this not apply to our lives at times? We’re looking for the big changes when we just need to change something small, but which will have a big result?

Gardening: A Small Encouraging Result

Gardening: A Small Encouraging Result

I have in my aging mind this idea that a younger me—say early teens—was a reasonably good gardener. Present activities do not support this, unless I have lost all the talent over the years. My garden has been very good as relaxing activity. It has gotten me out of doors more so that I get more exercise. What it has not done is produce much food. I did get some radish greens to add to my salads when I thinned the radishes, but thus far my actual radishes are not looking that good.

Today, however, when I went to water the garden, I was greeted by this:

20151116_081416That’s one of my lemon cucumber plants and it’s the first blossom. I planted these in four groups. Three of them are doing some good, and this is the best one. It looks like I may have a few more blossoms soon. Who knows if there will be cucumbers?

I found that little yellow flower encouraging this morning, way beyond any objective value or importance. I’d like to encourage the encouragers: It doesn’t take major, earth-shattering activities to brighten up someone’s morning. So many of you have just spoken the right word at the right time, and I truly appreciate it.

The Testimony of Becky Lynn Black

The Testimony of Becky Lynn Black

Dave and Becky Black
Dave and Becky Black

Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of Becky Lynn Black’s homegoing. Dave has been posting some testimonies on his web site. I never met Becky, so I can’t relate personal experiences. But there is a way for me (and others) to learn from her.

I’m going to post my publisher’s foreword to her book My Life Story. I rarely write a foreword to a book as a publisher, but I am always delighted to publish a book that gives someone’s testimony. Theology is interesting. I consider Bible study to be of great importance. But sharing our experiences is, I think, of the greatest value.

A publisher’s foreword is intended to tell you why I published this book and why you should read it. I’m going to skip that. I want to tell you why you should act on it.

Becky Lynn Black was not the sort of person normally recognized in an autobiography. She wasn’t the head of a ministry. She didn’t lead a church order. She wasn’t a celebrity. But by the way God counts importance in His kingdom, she was extraordinary. She found the one thing that counts, her place as a servant. She said “yes” to Jesus Christ, and she knew that “yes” meant more than a ticket to heaven. It meant a life of service in answer to God’s call.

Toward the end of her pilgrimage (and she knew she was a pilgrim!) here on earth, she took the time and energy to tell her story, the story of God working in and through her to change many lives all over the world. She gave her witness to her creator and redeemer. The psalmist challenges us not to hide God’s great deeds from generations to come (Ps. 78:4), and Becky obeyed. I’ve spent a great deal of time reading and thinking about Hebrews 11, the honor roll of faith, as it’s often called. If you read the stories of these people, you’ll find they’re quite a varied lot. But they have one thing in common: When God called, they answered. In the end, it could be said for that one reason that “[t]he world wasn’t worthy of them” (Heb. 11:38).

Of course I want you to read this book. But what’s most important is that you act on it. And when you have acted, bear witness, whether to one or to thousands.

Will you answer God’s call?

Henry E. Neufeld
February 6, 2014

Eating from My Garden

Eating from My Garden

On the scale of cosmic events, this is somewhat less significant than the proverbial one beat of a butterfly wing, but today I ate something from my garden for the first time. It wasn’t planned. I had to thin my radishes, so I saved them and added some of the tops to my salad. I have some more so will use them in a few other things.

Here’s the picture:

radish topsYes, distinctly non-earth shattering. But nonetheless a nice moment for me. The last time I put in my own garden I was about 14 years old.  Hopefully the remaining plants will be able to grow large and juicy in the space I provided for them.

Thinking Things Will Make You Stupid Will Make You Stupid

Thinking Things Will Make You Stupid Will Make You Stupid

Power PointRecently I’ve encountered a seeming avalanche of comments, articles, and posts that claim that some new technological tool will make you stupid. Or possibly lazy. Or immoral. Or something.

Doubtless the first stone knife was similarly received — as the end of manly dependence upon unformed sticks and stones, and the birth of a generation too lazy to rip the skins off their prey with their bare hands.

Amongst the things I’ve been told will make people stupid are cell phones, tablets, laptop computers, PowerPoint presentations, television, and YouTube. These things will make you lazy, destroy your memory, rip out your analytical capabilities, and probably precipitate immoral behavior. Or something.

Thus contrary to the upright nature of previous generations, the current generation is going to hell in a handbasket. And doubtless using cliches and incomplete sentences too.

Besides the myth of the golden age, which seems to infect people around my age, this is simply nonsense. Tools are tools. We will use them according to our character. Any tool can be misused. Television can convey information and be educational. It can also convey abominable trash. A PowerPoint presentation can be boring beyond belief (I’ve made one or two), or it can contain helpful illustrations that aid understanding and memory.

I believe it is intellectual laziness that causes us to blame the tools for the result. The sort of moaning that some folks in my generation indulge in regarding modern technology is enabled by our own intellectual laziness, lack of critical thinking, and unwillingness to examine the facts.

So quit moaning about progress. Learn new things. Make effective use of new tools. Get involved in educating the next generation. Or go ahead and vegetate.

Oh, and about that seeming avalanche I mentioned in the first paragraph. That’s laziness too. There’s no recent avalanche. People have always complained about these things and always will. The only thing that happened today is that I got annoyed enough to write a blog post.

Moving to a New Church

Moving to a New Church

Dave Black preaching at Chumuckla Community ChurchWell, the church isn’t new, except to us. We’re changing our church membership from First United Methodist Church of Pensacola to Chumuckla Community Church (a United Methodst congregation). I want to make sure you know that this is a move to, not a move from. First UMC is doing many things to be a witness to Jesus in their community and to serve others. I have enjoyed my many opportunities to teach while I was there.

Recently I was invited to teach a Sunday School series at Chumuckla Community Church. The first day I was there I started to feel that there was something there that I should try to be a part of. Over the course of the five weeks I taught (and I preached once), this feeling got stronger. I also found that Jody was feeling the same thing.

The problem for me was that there are some things happening in the education department at First UMC that I have hoped to see for a long time. Was this the time to be moving on? Then in succession I found that my very small regular Sunday School class (I’m absent guest teaching frequently, and they don’t meet when I’m gone) would very quickly find roles in the new programs. I also received a fall schedule which showed the abundance of resources at First UMC and how well they were being deployed by the new education chair (Joe Taylor) and the new Director of Christian Education, Lisa Bond.

I hadn’t imagined that I was essential to the new programs, but I had felt that I should support things that I had talked about and prayed for over the years I’ve been there.

So Jody and I are now attending a new church, and we’re hoping to be very active participants in ministry there. This church is about the same distance from us north as First UMC was south, so we still have a bit over a half hour drive.

I had thought that I was unlikely to transfer to another United Methodist congregation. This is not due to the various doctrinal controversies that are occupying everyone’s attention right now. Rather, it is due to polity. If I had my own way, I’d probably join or start a house church and meet with a smaller number of people. But unless I discern very poorly (always a possibility), God has other plans right now.

There are enormous opportunities to be the Body of Christ in the community of Chumuckla and the surrounding area. Pray for Jody and for me that we will find and answer God’s call for us in this church.