Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bison Spirit

In the days of covered wagons and wide open ranges, an old farmer riding his horse over the prairie discovered a newborn bison calf next to its mother that had died giving birth. He took the calf home and raised it with his pigs. The farmer’s neighbors used to come by and watch the young calf as it played with the pigs and rooted around in the dirt. As it grew it became a real sight, this huge bison bull weighing nearly a ton wallowing in the mud with the pigs, content to eat from the same trough and live within the confines of the sty in which he wasted away his hours and days.

Until... One day as he stood above the water hole from which he drank, something caught his eye high on a hill that overlooked the pen in which the bull had spent its entire life. In the distance the bull caught a glimpse of movement, a cloud of dust, and rumbling like thunder. With newfound intensity, he beheld the sight of a herd of bison running. They were magnificent creatures. Noble. Strong. Free.

Cool wind rushed in and stirred the water before him and he gazed at the image that began to emerge as the ripples quieted. As if for the first time he realized the image reflected was his own. Staring back at him was the very image of those magnificent, noble and free creatures he had seen on the hill. Looking back at the herd of bison on the hill high above his sty, his spirit stirred within him and for the first time he knew and understood.  He was a bison.

The bull began to stomp and claw at the ground. His muscles quivered with excitement. His breathing became deep and measured.  His nostrils flared, and he shook his massive frame free of the dust and filth and the stuff of his past, then suddenly leapt forward ran at a speed he had never before believed possible. He easily cleared the hobbled fence of thin-stranded wire strung between short wood posts—nothing more than sticks really—that had restricted his movements his entire life. Free at last, he comprehended who he really was and realized he was meant for a life of nobility, of strength, of freedom.

Too many of us are content to wallow with the pigs when we were created to live a life of nobility. Too many of us have not yet fully understood who we really are, not yet realized our full potential. We have not yet fully comprehended that we were created in the image of God, created for a life of freedom and fellowship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Take another look at the reflection in your mirror, then gaze back across history at the cross of Christ. Take another look at Christ.  Noble. Regal. Royalty. Realize that you are made in His image, designed, created, and intended for a life of nobility. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2.9–10).

As followers of Christ we are to help others see themselves through the eyes of Christ and help them realize who they are in Christ. Like the story of the farmer’s bison, we are called to inspire others to break out of their sty and begin living the life for which they were designed, created, and intended. We are privileged to share with others that they are better than that for which they’ve settled, that they were created and meant for greater purposes. May we be faithful to help others get out of the mud, away from the swine, and be free from the hobbles that restrain them. As God’s redeemed, we are called to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Harolda and Lenny

When I entered fifth grade, I started the year as the new kid.  Though terribly uncomfortable, I was used to it.  I had entered kindergarten as a student at Rancho Village in Oklahoma City. Midway through the year I transferred to Wayne Elementary where I also attended first grade.  I began second grade at Kingfisher Elementary then moved midyear to finish at Central Elementary in Moore.  Third grade found me starting as the new kid at Northmoore Elementary in Moore where I also finished fourth. Finally, we landed in Wayne again where I eventually completed high school.

Never did I enjoy being the new kid in school, but everywhere I attended there were friends and teachers who helped me assimilate and who instilled in me a lifelong love of learning.  That process continued through college and graduate school.  Teachers like Mrs. Neva Nemechek, Mrs. German, Miss Baker, Mrs. Troyer in elementary, and Mr. Dawson, Mr. Cail, Mrs. Klepper, Mr. Lucas, Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Martin, and so many others in high school made a difference in my life.  In college, I was influenced by Dr. Gold, Mrs. Engles, Dr. Eggleton, Mr. Walker, Dr. Norris, Dr. Hazell, Dr. Robinson, Dr. McRory, Dr. Green, Dr. Udell, Dr. Fox, Dr. Sharp, and others.

And this brings me to Harolda and Lenny, my high school English and Math teachers, respectively.  They ended up marrying each other, a merging of Browning and Pascal, of language and algebra.  Harolda guided us through the Scarlet Letter and Great Expectations, Poe and rules of grammar.  Lenny and his long hair taught algebraic formulas and geometry and how to use the sine and cosine tables printed on our desktops (I dreamed one day of a desk with built-in calculators that would have four functions).  She was a cool but demanding teacher. He was as laid back as any person I had ever met to that point in my young life. Both took kids from a rural agricultural community and guided them through their classes with the belief and expectations that we would get it, enjoy it, and that their subjects were worth knowing. 

I've often wondered where they went after Wayne and how they were doing.  I just received an email from Mrs. Gibson (calling her Harolda still seems so unnaturally familiar), and we've begun catching up.  She had attended OBU's summer academy as a high school student.  Lenny had studied and received his bachelor's degree from OBU. Now that I too am at OBU, I'm reminded of how small the world really is, and I'm thinking of what a difference my teachers made in my life.  I look forward to seeing them in person sometime soon and saying thank you in person for their influence.

Think about those whose lives have intersected yours, about the persons who invested their life in yours.  Chances are you'll think of parents and relatives and friends. But I imagine that the names that spring to mind in greatest numbers are teachers. I'm thankful for the teachers who have invested themselves in me and instilled a love for lifelong learning; I'm thankful for Harolda and Lenny.

I'm just saying....Maybe you ought to make a phone call or write an email or send a card to a Harolda and Lenny who made a difference in your life.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Whole Note

A favorite activity growing up (in the days of network sign-offs with the National Anthem and before 24-hour news channels, Internet and YouTube) was playing my dad's old LP albums--Herb Alpert, Mitch Miller, the Beatles, the Statler Brothers, the Righteous Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Henry Mancini, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin--and listening to the carousel of 45s on our jukebox stocked with Elvis Presley, Jeanie C. Riley, Roger Miller, Johnny Cash, and the like. On Sunday mornings my mom often tuned the television to the show, Gospel Singing Jubilee, and I heard groups like the Florida Boys and Blackwood Brothers.  

When I got my own hi-fi stereo system with 8-track (then later a cassette deck), my speakers beat with the sounds of the Eagles, Seals and Croft, Simon and Garfunkle, Jimmy Webb, America, Don McLean, the Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Kim Carnes, and Chicago, as well as Willie and Wayland, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty (yes I know...), Ed Bruce, Crystal Gayle, Eddie Rabbit, Kenny Rogers, Ann Murray, and Glenn Campbell. After becoming a believer, CD purchases of Keith Green music began to make its way into my collection (Green had actually been a pop star in rock and roll before his conversion and dedication to distinctively Christian music).

Occasionally, I will read something about the artists I listened to in my youth and who I still enjoy when I can catch them on the radio or use my iPod. I'm always interested when I discover that some of them have made professions of faith in Jesus.  Here are just a handful of my all time favorite artists who have stated their own  faith in Jesus.

Bob Dylan. Know for his folk, rockabilly, and even jazz, Dylan's music often is interlaced with a biblical worldview.

BW Stevenson. One of my all time favorite singer songwriters who died young years ago, I only recently discovered had become a believer and actually recorded a Christian album before he passed away.

Ed Bruce.  Singer songwriters are among my favorite artists and Bruce like Stevenson has many hits you would recognize but that were probably made famous by other artists. I recently read that some time ago he too has become a believer and begun recording Christian music.

Johnny Cash. A favorite singer of iconic reputation, he is well known to have been a believer having appeared with Billy Graham to share his testimony and sing.  His gospel albums are among his best.

Glenn Campbell. Another iconic star and favorite, his music is easy on my mind, and his songs of faith are outstanding.  Not a perfect testimony but who among us doesn't have regrets.

I'm just saying...I'm looking forward to the concerts that will be held across Jordan....  Of course we'll also be able to enjoy concerts by none less than George Frederic Handel, Ludwig Van Beethoven, and Johann Sebastian Bach!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Summer 2010 Book Reviews


Bryan, Patricia and Thomas Wolf, Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland. This real life murder mystery was later used as the basis for Susan Glaspel's short story, "A Jury of Her Peers," then later her play, "Trifles."  

Douglas, Frederick, The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglas. Every person who has ever struggled to understand the sad history of slavery in the world should read this narrative, which is both a sad commentary on America's history of slavery and an inspiring story of an individual's ability to persevere in the face of persecution and rise above the indignities of others. A must read.

Edgar, William, The Face of Truth: Lifting the Veil. This scholar from Westminster argues that "it is always wise to seek God above all else," in his plea for readers to give biblical faith a hearing. 

Eichwald, Kurt, The Informant. The book on which the Matt Damon film was based, this is the account of a complete breakdown in ethical business practices and the problems with too much of modern commerce. The story is told against the backdrop of an informant who himself is complicated and sometimes comical. Caution: language/transcripts of actual testimony and witness accounts very foul.  

Flacco, Anthony and Jerry Clark, The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders. A haunting story of brutality and redemption, this is an emotionally difficult read that provides the back story of the Jolie/Eastwood movie, The Changeling. Warning: graphic descriptions of the horror that took place in the life and murderous rampage of the chief antagonist.

Jones, Larry, I Lost My Ball and Found My Life. Mr. Jones graciously gave me this book on a flight out of Dallas. A very brief novella, the book outlines the harsh realities of poverty in "third-world" nations especially its devastating effect on children. The title is awkward if not descriptive, but I would have chosen the title of "Slice."

Phelps, M. William, The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer. If you've ever seen the old Carey Grant movie, Arsenic and Old Lace (ironically a comedy), you might not know it was inspired by a real-life woman. Her name was Amy Archer-Gilligan, and this is her story told against the backdrop of the newly emerging business concept of caring for the elderly and infirm.

Preston, Douglas and Mario Spezi, The Monster of Florence. Having visited the famous city with Dana a few years ago, this book caught my attention. Set in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy, the authors weave the city's rich history and culture with the cold, hard realities of modern Florence and its pockets of crime and mankind's baser instincts. Caution: graphic depictions of the crimes and rough language.

Ritenour, Shawn, Foundations of Economics: A Christian View. This book by a close friend of mine is very readable even for the non-economist. Dr. Ritenour is a brilliant scholar of the Austrian school of economic thought, and presents economics from a biblical worldview. A must read.

Stott, John, Your Mind Matters. Embracing the life of the mind and the virtue of intellectual pursuit among evangelicals, this brief work by Stott is excellent. This should be on the shelf of all students and faculty engaged in distinctively Christian higher education. A must read.

Winchester, Simon, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the most significant accomplishments undertaken in the English-speaking world. Who knew that one of the major contributors was discovered to be an inmate in an insane asylum, convicted of murder?

On the nightstand: 

Moreland, J. P., Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul.

Raley, John Wesley Raley, et. al., (1935) Why Christian Education?