I Can’t Handle the Truth

Isn’t there just a small part of you (or maybe you feel it with ever fiber of your psychosis) that fears that if God would answer your prayers out loud, immediately, His response would sound a lot like the classic Jack Nicholson rant from A Few Good Men?
No matter how closely we snuggle up to God, we will never approach equality with Him. We can’t do what He can do. We can’t put ourselves in His place. We cannot know what He knows. So if we, like Job in the 7th chapter of his eponymous book, ask God, “Why have you made me your target?” we ought to be prepared for a response that shocks us.
Job, though, was probably better prepared than anyone ever has been. He understood his smallness on the universal landscape, which is why he asked why God would even pay attention to him. He cringed under the gaze of the Almighty, wishing he could escape into death. Twice he anticipated his disappearance from the face of the earth and the sight of the Lord . . . he predicted that he would cease to be.
Something fascinating and troubling I noticed in this chapter: Job, a man at the rock bottom of suffering and loss, echoed almost verbatim the sentiments in Ecclesiastes from Solomon, a man at the pinnacle of human achievement, wisdom, pleasure, and flat-out existence. Um . . . if that doesn’t show us middle-class folks the need for something more than this world offers, nothing will.
God, I need you. If the man who lost everything and the man who had everything both felt life was meaningless, I need something more, please. Complaining about or reveling in the circumstances that surround me gains me nothing. The only thing that is pure is you. You are not a corrupt colonel, you are my almight, all-loving God who knows infinitely better than I do that You alone can please me.

I Can’t Handle the Truth

Isn’t there just a small part of you (or maybe you feel it with ever fiber of your psychosis) that fears that if God would answer your prayers out loud, immediately, His response would sound a lot like the classic Jack Nicholson rant from A Few Good Men?
No matter how closely we snuggle up to God, we will never approach equality with Him. We can’t do what He can do. We can’t put ourselves in His place. We cannot know what He knows. So if we, like Job in the 7th chapter of his eponymous book, ask God, “Why have you made me your target?” we ought to be prepared for a response that shocks us.
Job, though, was probably better prepared than anyone ever has been. He understood his smallness on the universal landscape, which is why he asked why God would even pay attention to him. He cringed under the gaze of the Almighty, wishing he could escape into death. Twice he anticipated his disappearance from the face of the earth and the sight of the Lord . . . he predicted that he would cease to be.
Something fascinating and troubling I noticed in this chapter: Job, a man at the rock bottom of suffering and loss, echoed almost verbatim the sentiments in Ecclesiastes from Solomon, a man at the pinnacle of human achievement, wisdom, pleasure, and flat-out existence. Um . . . if that doesn’t show us middle-class folks the need for something more than this world offers, nothing will. 
God, I need you. If the man who lost everything and the man who had everything both felt life was meaningless, I need something more, please. Complaining about or reveling in the circumstances that surround me gains me nothing. The only thing that is pure is you. You are not a corrupt colonel, you are my almight, all-loving God who knows infinitely better than I do that You alone can please me.

February 25, 2009 question

Sorry about the mass trivia confusion on Monday and into Tuesday. I gave the email machine a swift kick, and it seems to be doing alright now. You be the judge.

Anyway, here’s the scoop on odd couples: Oscar Madison shacked up with Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, a story that created a formula for an entire genre: the not-really-buddies buddy movie. Tommy Boy, Twins, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and the entire Lethal Weapon series all owe their success to Felix and Oscar . . . although, I’m pretty sure none of them ever won an Oscar. Here’s who knew:

Karen M (the M stands for Madison Actually Drafted The Monroe Doctrine)
Karen H (the H stands for Huh?)
Stephen K (the K stands for Knock The Monroe Doctrine At Your Peril)
Heidi
Steven F (the F stands for Frazzle Razzle)
Larry
Steve J (the J stands for Just Kidding, Okay?!)
Nancy K (the K stands for Knock It Off, You Seven!)

Anyway . . . President Obama addressed the nation last night. I missed it, but I heard the rumblings. I no longer feel the need to watch the Pres on TV because he emails me like twice a day. Ugh. Like I have time for that. I have more important things to deal with, Mr. President . . . it’s called trivia. Here’s today’s question, in honor (sort of) of the 15th anniversary of Nancy Kerrigan’s silver medal performance at the 1994 Winter Olympics:

Who clubbed Nancy Kerrigan’s knee at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, just over a month before the Olympic Games?

A. Shawn Eckhardt
B. Jeff Gillooly
C. Tonya Harding
D. Shane Stant
E. Jeff Stone

Dude

If Eliphaz had delivered his response to Job in the 21st century A.D. instead of B.C., Job may have responded with a deadpan glare and an understated, “. . . Dude.” But Job was old school, and he said quite a bit more in Job 6, the first half of his response. I’m taking a lighthearted approach, still, because I don’t know what else to do. It’s hard to read about suffering when I’m not suffering, even when I know others who are. And humor and/or sarcasm have always been my chief coping mechanisms anyway.

Job took a different tack. He reiterated his desire to die and expressed his deep disappointment with the level of support he was getting from his friends. He had no explanation for his suffering, no way out of it, and no love from his entourage.
. . . 
The main conclusion I can draw from this is that when things go bad, I can’t expect a reason, an end, or a helping hand. Sure, sometimes I might get all three–but other times I might get none. Am I ready for that? Um . . . I don’t want that. I definitely don’t want that. I think it’s time to be grateful for what God has given, because I’m no Job and I deserve far less than what I got.

Dude

If Eliphaz had delivered his response to Job in the 21st century A.D. instead of B.C., Job may have responded with a deadpan glare and an understated, “. . . Dude.” But Job was old school, and he said quite a bit more in Job 6, the first half of his response. I’m taking a lighthearted approach, still, because I don’t know what else to do. It’s hard to read about suffering when I’m not suffering, even when I know others who are. And humor and/or sarcasm have always been my chief coping mechanisms anyway.

Job took a different tack. He reiterated his desire to die and expressed his deep disappointment with the level of support he was getting from his friends. He had no explanation for his suffering, no way out of it, and no love from his entourage.
. . .
The main conclusion I can draw from this is that when things go bad, I can’t expect a reason, an end, or a helping hand. Sure, sometimes I might get all three–but other times I might get none. Am I ready for that? Um . . . I don’t want that. I definitely don’t want that. I think it’s time to be grateful for what God has given, because I’m no Job and I deserve far less than what I got.

February 23, 2009 question

Kevin, Joe, and Nick are the brothers Jonas, and they were born in that order. Charles knew this. Usually, sole trivia glory is a status symbol worthy of boundless pride, but I’m thinking Charles might be wishing he had company atop the trivia podium. Sorry, Charles, you’re all alone in the spotlight today.

Perhaps the Oscars were enough to wash away any Jonas-related shame. I found it to be one of the best productions I can remember. For me, the very best part was seeing the winners of past acting awards salute the performances that earned this year’s hopefuls their much-deserved nominations. Normally the acting awards are presented by a past winner reading trite character allusions from a teleprompter, followed by random 10-second clips of each performance. This year, though, the nominees were treated to personal, heartfelt praise delivered by their friends, contemporaries, and/or heroes. It was brilliant. The announcement of the winners in these 4 categories were almost anticlimactic (for the audience at least) because the real prizes were the 20 indelible moments captured on screen. What is typically a time of awkward anticipation and intense nerves was turned into something meaningful and unforgettable. I hope they do that every year, but if not, I’ll always remember this one.

Okay, here’s some Oscar trivia:

What is Oscar’s last name in The Odd Couple?

Everybody Hurts

It’s interesting to me that the toughest day so far in this virtual commitment to spend a little time alone reading the Bible was Sunday. Go figure. But today I’m back on track with Job chapters 4 and 5, not because I want to make up a day, but because those two chapters form one continuous bit of poetic advice from Job’s friend Eliphaz.

Even before I began reading, a thought hit me about Job: I care more about Job’s suffering because he had it good for so long. The injustice of his suffering seems far more monumental than that of someone who has suffered all his life. And I can say whatever I want about Job being a picture of American culture or my own callousness toward the poor and suffering in the world, but I’m just going to leave it at that. I know it’s sad. I know it’s wrong. Maybe my heart will beat differently now that I realize how my slanted compassion favors those with whom I most closely identify. I can’t force it. But still . . .
Anyway, Job’s friend’s soliloquy only deepened my convictions, because he describes this very simple understanding of the very complex problem of human suffering. I realize I’m simplifying it even further, but the gist I came away with was this:
Look, Job, you’ve helped people out of trouble before. You’re a godly man, and that should be enough to pull you out of your misery. Good people don’t get destroyed, evil people do. But nobody’s perfect. God is just disciplining you. If you let this present suffering embitter you, you’ll be ruined. If I were you, I’d ask God to make it better–you know he will. . . . Oh, and I had this weird dream about an angel or something flying by me. Gave me the chills. Whispered something. Weird, huh?
Some things I take away from this:
  • I am not the center of the universe. Not everything that happens in my life is a carefully orchestrated plan to send me a message.
  • They say the flapping of a butterfly wings can trigger a chain reaction that results in a hurricane halfway around the world. I don’t know about that, but I do know that huge changes can result from small variations. The things in my life that I am most sure about and place the most security in can fall apart in an instant. God’s love will never fail. (I believe you were looking for this verse, Bill.)
  • I need to be careful not to oversimplify life or God. Phrases like “Good people don’t suffer” or “you reap what you sow” don’t account for the complexities of being a tiny part of a gigantic universe. Not everything I experience in life is the result of my actions. And God isn’t a calculator; you can’t just plug in the numbers and predict what He’ll display. You can’t just tell someone, “Ask God to make it better, and He will.” I should turn to God, but I shouldn’t expect Him to conform to my trite understanding.
  • Job didn’t ask God to heal him. At least, it’s not recorded here. He was suffering, yes, but he didn’t adopt the attitude that God should operate at his beck and call. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but I am noting that Job seemed to have an uncanny sense of humility.
  • Job’s heaviest mourning came during his own physical suffering. It was probably torture. It can be somewhat easier to think through and reason your way toward coping with emotional loss, but it’s hard to even think straight when you’re in physical pain.

En vs. Em


I was recently asked what the point was to the “em dash vs. en dash” argument. And although I’ve found the Internets don’t take kindly to the finer distinctions of dash-hyphen relations, that won’t stop me from posting my answer for you here.

The difference between an en dash and an em dash is like the difference between a medium Slurpee and a large Slurpee; the Ethan Hawke/Gwyneth Great Expectations and the PBS miniseries Great Expectations; the 50-yard dash and the 100-yard dash. They are of the same essence, but they are not at all the same.

An en dash conveys continuity. The party will be 10–?. Kids 4–6 may attend. The season finale of Lost will be on 8–10. The en dash connects, it bridges, it slides, it moves. On a tombstone, the en dash between the year of birth and the year of death represents those precious years that constituted life.

An em dash signifies a break. It is the dramatic pause, written. Obi Wan never told you—I am your father. Amy Grant—the fairy godmother of contemporary Christian music—is right here with us tonight. I’d like you to do something for me—drop dead. The em dash lets the reader know something big is coming. It introduces that parenthetical phrase that carries too much weight to be considered a side note, and it bows out that golden nugget of truth with more flair than a closing parenthesis but without the casual subtlety of a pair of commas. It stops the eye in its tracks for the delivery of an important message in a way a colon could only hope to do.

And then there’s the hyphen, which indicates rapid-fire succession of words. It’s what happens when two words hook up. If they stay together long enough, they might just get married and become a new word all their own. Birth and day hitched up to form birth-day and became birthday long ago. In the world of words, it was bigger than Prince Charles and Lady Di.

Everybody Hurts

It’s interesting to me that the toughest day so far in this virtual commitment to spend a little time alone reading the Bible was Sunday. Go figure. But today I’m back on track with Job chapters 4 and 5, not because I want to make up a day, but because those two chapters form one continuous bit of poetic advice from Job’s friend Eliphaz.

Even before I began reading, a thought hit me about Job: I care more about Job’s suffering because he had it good for so long. The injustice of his suffering seems far more monumental than that of someone who has suffered all his life. And I can say whatever I want about Job being a picture of American culture or my own callousness toward the poor and suffering in the world, but I’m just going to leave it at that. I know it’s sad. I know it’s wrong. Maybe my heart will beat differently now that I realize how my slanted compassion favors those with whom I most closely identify. I can’t force it. But still . . . 
Anyway, Job’s friend’s soliloquy only deepened my convictions, because he describes this very simple understanding of the very complex problem of human suffering. I realize I’m simplifying it even further, but the gist I came away with was this: 
Look, Job, you’ve helped people out of trouble before. You’re a godly man, and that should be enough to pull you out of your misery. Good people don’t get destroyed, evil people do. But nobody’s perfect. God is just disciplining you. If you let this present suffering embitter you, you’ll be ruined. If I were you, I’d ask God to make it better–you know he will. . . . Oh, and I had this weird dream about an angel or something flying by me. Gave me the chills. Whispered something. Weird, huh?
Some things I take away from this:
  • I am not the center of the universe. Not everything that happens in my life is a carefully orchestrated plan to send me a message.
  • They say the flapping of a butterfly wings can trigger a chain reaction that results in a hurricane halfway around the world. I don’t know about that, but I do know that huge changes can result from small variations. The things in my life that I am most sure about and place the most security in can fall apart in an instant. God’s love will never fail. (I believe you were looking for this verse, Bill.)
  • I need to be careful not to oversimplify life or God. Phrases like “Good people don’t suffer” or “you reap what you sow” don’t account for the complexities of being a tiny part of a gigantic universe. Not everything I experience in life is the result of my actions. And God isn’t a calculator; you can’t just plug in the numbers and predict what He’ll display. You can’t just tell someone, “Ask God to make it better, and He will.” I should turn to God, but I shouldn’t expect Him to conform to my trite understanding.
  • Job didn’t ask God to heal him. At least, it’s not recorded here. He was suffering, yes, but he didn’t adopt the attitude that God should operate at his beck and call. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but I am noting that Job seemed to have an uncanny sense of humility.
  • Job’s heaviest mourning came during his own physical suffering. It was probably torture. It can be somewhat easier to think through and reason your way toward coping with emotional loss, but it’s hard to even think straight when you’re in physical pain. 

Abbreviated Osc.

I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow commentary on the Oscars, especially since I missed the first eight minutes of blowing. But I will say what I’ve loved so far (and, although, I haven’t seen everything just yet, I’ve loved just about all that I’ve seen . . . a very well done show).

  1. I love the five past winners of the acting awards introducing the performances of the five nominees. I don’t know who wrote the introductions. It certainly appeared natural enough to me that I’m allowing for the possibility that the presenters themselves wrote them. I wouldn’t mind seeing it done that way every time. Seems to take the sting out of not winning when you have a past winner telling the world how great you are. Love it.
  2. I loved the way they introduced the documentaries . . . with a mini documentary consisting of interviews with the directors and clips of their films. Just a brilliant way to package a group of films I (honestly) wouldn’t care anything about otherwise. Loved it.
  3. I’m loving the fashions, especially Addison’s critique of Penelope Cruz’s Cinderella-esque gown: “That sure is a jumbo dress.” There’s just something about seeing stars dress like stars . . . it’s pretty much the best and fanciest they can ever hope to look outside of a Baz Luhrmann production. For my money, the best-dressed presenters thus far: Daniel Craig and Sarah Jessica Parker (also the hot presenters most likely to have real-life people resemble them without being remotely hot).
Okay. That’s all. I did catch a bit of the musical number and wondered how many years will go by before we see an awards show that doesn’t feature Beyonce. Not that I’m complaining . . . and not that I’m not. I’m just sayin’, that’s all.