Mushrooming Hope

Since moving my blog from the church site ( to my own private site ( I have once again been consistently blogging. It is the last day of 2017 and therefore I should follow stereotype and blog about one of two things: 1) the past year, or 2) my hope for the coming year. I choose number 2.

Last night I began reading Rebecca Solnit‘s “Hope in the Dark” and she referenced mushrooms. Solnit wrote:

After a rain mushrooms appear on the surface of the earth as if from nowhere. Many do so from a sometimes vast underground fungus that remains invisible and largely unknown. What we call mushrooms mycologists call the fruiting body of the larger, less visible fungus.

Andy L is my local friend who hunts mushrooms. This is one of the mushrooms he found this fall.

The mushrooms sprout up from a fungus that has been doing all the work unseen underground. The fungus has formed a healthy underground foundation from which the mushroom fruits. That fruiting fits with how I understand hope.

Hope works in such a manner that it leads to behavior that encourages the hoped for outcome. Hope isn’t just day dreaming. “I hope ‘something’ happens” is not the same as “I wish ‘something’ happens”. Wishing is day dreaming. It comes out of a desire to have something happen with no cost or personal effort. Hope isn’t Pollyannaism. It isn’t optimism, which is basically just a positive version of determinism. “It doesn’t matter what I do, everything will just work out in the end.”

Nope, hope is like the fungus under the ground. It leads to action and behavior that will make sure everything is ready for when the rain comes and it is time for the mushrooms. We can’t control the rain and thus we can’t determine when, or if, our hope will ever “mushroom”, but hope leads to us “preparing the ground” for when the rain comes. Hope leads to planning, effort, and sacrifice. As I say at Tapestry every so often (I said it this morning), for the Christian hope involves us living out the future (that we believe God will bring about) in our  present. Hope leads to practice.

Pam talks to her students all the time about “best practices“. I know this because Pam, Adam, and Noah, who are all in the same field of study, use the term in about 3/4s of their conversations (a lot of the Terrell conversations are about Speech Language Pathology – No, I’m not bitter). Anyhow, I know many fields of study focus on “best practices”.  These practices are behaviors and actions that are generally accepted as producing better results than the other comparative practices and behaviors. I believe that hope should lead to us living out “best practices” in our lives. We do the things that are most likely help us to produce the best underground foundation to be ready for the rain and the fruiting (by the way every time I say the word “fruiting” all I can think of, thanks to Pam, is Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire). Not to do best practices has more in common with wishing.

Hope and best practices go hand in hand. We hope to be closer to God, so we begin to practice what is best for spiritual growth. We hope to be closer to our families, so we learn the best marital, parenting, and family practices and begin to live those out. We hope to grow in our friendships, justice, intellect, education, peace, finances, careers, hobbies, and other things, so we learn the best practices that help in such fields and try to practice them. Thereby, we prepare for the “fruiting”.  That “fruiting” may be beyond our control, but preparing for it isn’t.

So that is my hope for myself, my family , and all my friends, that we would live out mushrooming hope in 2018. If we do we will be ready for when the rain comes and the fruiting begins.

Pop Faith Is Posturing

Thanks to The Companion Shop Clive now has purple feet for our winter walks.

Today while walking Clive I was listening to the latest podcast episode of On the MediaThis episode, “The Feelings Show“, is their end of the year episode, and consists primarily of some of their favorite interviews from 2017. One of those interviews was with Radiolab co-host Jad Abumrad, and Jad’s brother-in-law Eugene Thacker concerning Nihilism in our modern culture. Tacker wrote a book on the horror genre and confronting the unthinkable of our world (i.e. Nihilism) titled “In the Dust of this Planet“. Tacker made the following statement that had me thinking during the rest of Clive’s walk (Clive was too busy sniffing things to be distracted by the quote). Tacker said:

Yeah, I would go with that. …I think that that is nothing more than a posture…. and that’s why it’s in pop culture because that’s what pop culture is.

To mildly paraphrase Tacker – Pop culture postures. Pop culture tries to convey deep meaning without the work necessary for actual meaning. So it strikes a heroic pose while avoiding the actual sacrifice of true heroism. It tells love stories that focus on the intense, emotional feelings while avoiding the hard work of genuine commitment. It puffs itself up and tries to look much bigger and more meaningful than it actually is. As I paraphrased Tacker at the beginning of this paragraph, pop culture postures.

I meet lots of people who like to posture meaning. As a teen I loved things that looked deep. Of course, I just wanted to look deep, not actually put in all the time and effort necessary for actual depth. Real meaning takes work. Posturing meaning would be one thing if just teens did such posturing. Unfortunately, many of us adult continue to strike poses instead of actually becoming people of depth. Doing things that look meaningful is so much easier than doing the hard work necessary to actually live meaningfully.

This is part of what bothers me with pop spirituality, it postures significance. Whether it is Christian pop spirituality or pop spirituality from other faith backgrounds I believe it generally postures significance. I’ve written more about this in two previous posts (“Sentimentality vs Faith” and “ARGH! Sentimentalism“) so I won’t write about it again in this post.

One of my favorite parts of Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is how things are “Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike” something. Pop faith is like that with real faith.

In my opinion, the danger of posturing faith/pop spirituality is two fold. First, since posturing only merely looks like the thing you are poising like it, but isn’t actually the real thing, it doesn’t really hold up when times are difficult. Pop faith is built on sand and can’t stand through storms, Storm facing faith takes digging down and building a solid foundation, and that requires effort, sacrifice, and most importantly trust (Matthew 7:24-29). Trust takes time and experience.  Secondly, pop faith is dangerous because it looks just similar enough to meaningful faith that it can keep us from actually developing the discipline of meaningful faith. After all, if you don’t have to work at real faith and can just get if from posturing, why would you choose effort and sacrifice?

We only have one more day of 2017. In 2018 I hope each of us is able to give up whatever postures we tried to maintain during the past year.

It’s The Thought That Counts

Pam, Adam, and Noah seriously kick butt when it comes to gifts. More than a decade ago we as a family started following the 4 goals of Advent Conspiracy for our guidelines for gift giving. Then when we got to be a part of starting Tapestry we led the church in those guidelines. The 4 advent Conspiracy goals are:

  • Worship Fully
  • Spend Less
  • Give More
  • Love All

So when we give gifts to each other as a family we really try to focus on the thought behind the gift. We want our gifts to each other to reflect something of ourselves and to reflect that we truly know the person we are giving the gift to. To be honest I am nowhere near as good at this as Pam and the boys are. They each amaze me each year with their ability to find simple gifts that do an amazing job of reflecting who they are and who the recipient of the gift is.

I thought I would quickly share their gifts because I think they are great.

First, Pam’s gift to me.

The hat you see on my head is a Stormy Kromer. Pretty much the quintessential Mid Western Winter hat. I have wanted one for years but I simply could never bring myself to spend $45 on a hat. Forty-five dollars is not a ton of money, it isn’t really an extravagance, but I am a very cheap person. Therefore, $45 is more than I could ever convince myself to spend on on a hat that probably won’t keep my head any warmer than a $5 toboggan (Wisconsin friends, we Southerners call knit caps toboggans). Pam told me several times to just go ahead and buy one, but I have felt stupid for wanting to spend that much on a hat. So Pam bought one for me. She knows me.

I’ll go with Noah’s gift second since as the youngest child he usually gets mentioned last.

Noah bought me a painted tile of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” with a basset hound in it. Noah knows that Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters and anyone who knows me should have found out early in our relationship that I love basset hounds. Last year Pam had the great idea of making a corner of our den the odd basset hound corner. We put photos and prints in this corner that are weird basset hound images. Like a basset hound with antlers and a civil war basset hound portrait. The tile is a wonderfully odd addition to the corner. Noah knows me.

Finally, here’ Adam’s gift to me.

That is a hatchet that is presently on my wall. Actually it isn’t just any hatchet, it was my dad’s hatchet that he kept hanging in his shop. It was covered with dust and grim from decades of work. Adam took it from Dad’s old shop when we were there to help Mom pack up stuff for moving. I was with him in at the time and was glad that Adam wanted the hatchet. What I didn’t know was that he was going to put some serious work into cleaning it up, bringing out the patina of the metal and the wood, sharpening it to a very fine point, and then finish it off for me as a gift. It is wonderful. Adam knows that such nostalgic items matter to me because Adam knows me.

These gifts weren’t real expensive but each one reflects a great deal of thought by the gift giver. They didn’t simply go out and buy a gift that cost a certain amount. They thought about who I was and what type of gift would reflect that they knew me. Like I wrote earlier Pam, Adam, and Noah kick butt at this.

SIDE NOTE – I regularly listen to a podcast about serial killers (The podcast is titled simply enough “Serial Killers“). Thanks to this podcast I now understand that the main reason that there were lots of people killed by serial killers using hatchets in the past and not now is just because every house had a hatchet for cutting kindling for their wood burning stove. The hatchet was a handy weapon that was usually found at the house. Obviously it isn’t a handy weapon anymore and thus you don’t hear of modern day hatchet oriented serial killers. I assume Adam’s gift doesn’t put us at risk. 🙂

Two Of The Multitude Of Reasons That I Love Tapestry

Tonight was Tapestry’s regular Place of Peace (PoP) meal. As usual it was wonderful and now that I am home and I have eaten a little jambalaya I want to share a couple of photos that reflect some of the multitude of reasons that I love Tapestry.

First, the Glazes. I posted earlier about the fact that there have been a few guys at PoP asking each week about tuna casserole. The Glaze’s (specifically Natalie but rumor has it that Eric helped too) took over Project Tuna Casserole and made tuna casserole for the first time ever. They brought it tonight only to find out that, most likely due to the cold temp and snow, the guys who had been asking for tuna casserole didn’t show up tonight. The Glazes’ response? “Well we know how to make it for next time, then.” Just so you know our next time to serve the meal is March 29th.

The next photo is of Elizabeth and her harp (actually this is her travel harp). She brought it to the PoP meal tonight to play background music during the meal. Yep there is a harpist that is a part of Tapestry and Elizabeth plays beautifully. During all the conversations, laughter, and eating that were going on during the PoP meal, Elizabeth was playing soothing  background music. I greatly appreciated Elizabeth playing during the meal. She helped make the evening wonderful.

These were just two of the many reasons that I was reminded of tonight concerning why I love the “threads“.  I am so honored to be a part of these wonderful people. Y’all are the best.

Jambalaya Paddle

You know the scene in the movie “A Christmas Story” where the kid gets his wet tongue stuck to the very cold flag pole? Well I have recently learned from a “friend” that it is also not a good idea to go inside your house and wash off your hands because you have breakfast sausage grease on them, and then walk back outside and grab your very cold stainless steel jambalaya stirring paddle while your hands are still moist. My “friend” may or may not have lost a fair amount of skin on his hands trying to remove the frozen paddle. The good news is that I should be able to remove the bandages by the evening. 😉

SIDE NOTE- Jambalaya may be tasty but it is definitely not good for you. I was reminded of this by the amount of congealed grease in the pot that I store the cooked meat while I am waiting for the next step of the jambalaya process. That grease is tasty, but gross when you see it congealed by the 5° snowy weather.

That has to be good for your arteries. Probably lubricates them. 🙂

Arthur Schopenhauer Quote On The Limits Of Our Field Of Vision

Arthur Schopenhauer – You Know You Can Trust A Pretty Face Like This.

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world. This is an error of the intellect as inevitable as that error of the eye which lets us fancy that on the horizon heaven and earth meet. This explains many things, and among them the fact that everyone measures us with his own standard – generally about as long as a tailor’s tape, and we have to put up with it: as also that no one will allow us to be taller than himself – a supposition which is once for all taken for granted.

Arthur Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism: A Series of Essays, p. 69.

Spectrum of Sexual Misconduct at Work

Listening to an NPR Marketplace episode (a show/podcast that I would highly recommend everyone listen to) and they talked with Dr. Kathleen Kelley Reardon concerning an old and a new article she had written. The old article from 1993 is “The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk” and the new article is “Spectrum of Sexual Misconduct at Work“. Both are good but I want to briefly mention the later article on the spectrum.

I think it is very helpful for the current much needed conversation concerning sexual harassment that our culture is experiencing. The term sexual harassment is just too vague, covering behavior that ranges from awkward to criminal. All of the behavior needs to be addressed but that doesn’t mean it should all be addressed in the same manner. Obviously some of the behavior demands criminal charges and prison time, while other behavior needs to be addressed by termination, and still other by reprimands.

Dr. Reardon’s spectrum is as follows:

  • Non-offensive
  • Awkward/Mildly Offensive
  • Offensive ( Not necessarily or overtly intentional)
  • Seriously Offensive (Intentional lowering of women’s value)
  • Evident Sexual Misconduct
  • Egregious Sexual Misconduct

Obviously I am not an expert on this subject nor am I someone who has to deal with much sexual harassment. Though as a husband, friend, pastor, chaplain, and human being I do worry about the sexual harassment of anyone. Someone being sexually harassed should be the exception rather than the norm. Personally, I think Reardon’s spectrum is a good addition to the discussion and hopefully the discussion will reduce the amount of harassment people, especially women, face.

Christ the Mediator

Jesus is referred to as the mediator in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Paul states that Jesus stands in between us and the Father . When the Father sees us He sees Jesus, and we see the Father through Christ.

In his classic work “The Cost of Discipleship” (or the more accurate title “Discipleship“) Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that because of His role as mediator between God and man, Jesus is also for the Christian the mediator between that person and all other people, things, and experiences.

Bonhoeffer writes:

He stands between us and God, and for that very reason he stands between us and all other men and things. He is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality. Since the whole world was created through him and unto him (John 1.3; I Cor. 8.6; Heb. 1.2), he is the sole Mediator in the world. Since his coming man has no immediate relationship of his own any more to anything, neither to God nor to the world; Christ wants to be the mediator. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, p. 95.

In other words, the one who professes Jesus as Lord no longer has any direct access to anything. We are to always relate to the everything by viewing it through, interacting with it through, and responding to it through Jesus. Here’s my crude attempt at drawing out what this looks like.

So for me as a follower of Christ whenever I see the one who has hurt me I should be looking through Christ (i.e. mediating my experience with the one who hurt me) and respond first with my love for Christ rather than the pain of my hurt. Or whenever I see resources that I might be tempted to put my trust for security in, I should see those resources through Christ and thereby see His desire to use those resources to help those in need. As a Christian Jesus stands in between me and everything  else and thereby I should see everything and everyone through a “Jesus lens”. Followers of Christ no longer have any direct experiences because we have confessed Jesus as Lord and He mediates all our experience.

When we realize that Christ is the mediator between use and others the love we feel for Christ overflows onto the others that we see through Him. It helps us to forgive because the hurt and anger we may feel for our enemy is changed by seeing Christ first, because we realize that any “punches” we might throw at our enemy will be felt by Jesus first. Jesus is our mediator.

Still it can be difficult to realize that Jesus stands in between us and everything else. It can be an easy and convenient thing to forget. Still I try.

I’ll end with another passage from Bonhoeffer.

… the God given reality of the neighbour with whom I live is given me through Christ; if not, my relation to him is on a wholly wrong basis. All our attempts to bridge the gulf between our neighbours and ourselves by means of natural or spiritual affinities are bound to come to grief. There is an unbridgeable gulf, and “otherness” and strangeness between us. No way of his own can lead one man to another. However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology, however frank and open our behaviour, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul. Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbours through Him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbours.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 81.