Don’t Ignore–Forgive

This morning as I was driving my four-year-old daughter to preschool, she taught me a valuable life lesson.  Laura Marie was telling me about a boy who had said some mean things to her and some other girls.  In response, I pulled out the old time-worn parental adage, “When he says something mean to you, you can ignore him.”

She corrected me, “When he says something mean to me, I can forgive him.”

Wow.  I stand corrected.

Once a hurtful remark enters a person’s ears, it’s too late to ignore.  Usually when we say to ignore someone who is being mean, what we really mean is to not react.  Following this idea to its natural conclusion, it means to internalize cutting remarks, to pretend they don’t exist while in reality they boil and fester.

The solution to someone saying mean things is not to ignore them, but to forgive them.  To forgive an offense necessarily requires that we do not ignore an insult or criticism.  Once we’ve heard it, it’s really too late for that anyway.  At that point, it’s a matter of how we process it.  To ignore it means to let it pierce us to the heart while we perpetually deny that it affects us.  To forgive means to absorb the blow, then release the offender from guilt so we are not weighted down by bitterness.

Children who forgive mean comments show up at high school with strength and confidence.  Children who ignore mean comments show up at high school with guns and knives.

Let’s not teach our kids to ignore hurtful remarks.  After all—let’s be honest here—it didn’t work for us.  Instead, let’s teach them to forgive.  If we had been taught to forgive, we may have been released decades ago from some of the pain we still carry around—pain stemming from comments that we allegedly ignored.

Don’t ignore.  Instead, forgive.

Published in: on November 6, 2013 at 9:26 am  Comments (1)  

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Watching Ballet

Last night I went to the Freeman Stage to watch a ballet with Carolyn and Laura Marie.  It was my daughter’s first ballet, but I’ve actually been to several.  In my experiences with live ballet, I’ve learned a few lessons about enjoying this particular form of fine art.  Since Laura Marie is really into ballet, I intend to pass on these lessons to her as part of fulfilling my duty as her father.  In the meantime, I would like to share them with you so that you, too, can enjoy your ballet experiences to the fullest.  So here are ten things I’ve learned—from experience—about watching live ballet:

(1) Ballets don’t always have machetes.  Don’t be deceived like I was.  My wife was very strategic in getting me to go to my first ballet with her.  It was some kind of cultural thing where a few guys danced around while flashing machetes.  They scraped them together, shooting sparks.  It was pretty cool.  I decided then and there that I was a big fan of ballet.  All these years, and I didn’t even know what I’d been missing!  Sadly, however, that was to be the last time I ever saw machetes in a ballet.  In every subsequent performance, they’ve been replaced by ribbons and flowers.

(2) When enjoying a ballet, you’re supposed to clap whenever a dancer spins like a flicked nickel on a table.  This also applies if the ballerina does big leaps in a circle around the stage.  Upon completion of the circle, you can also whistle if you happen to be in an outdoor venue.

(3) Apparently a male ballet dancer is not called a ballerino, though I’m not sure why.  It would make sense to me.  I should warn you, though, if you insist on using the term anyway, not everyone (ahem ahem your wife) will always find it as amusing as you do.  For lack of an alternative, however, I will continue to use the term ballerino here because “male ballet dancer” gets cumbersome after a while.

(4) If you’re a ballerino, it’s okay to grab a ballerina’s butt.  Just being present at a ballet will not qualify you—you will get arrested.  But when a ballerino hoists the ballerina up by her southernmost cheeks, you are not to gasp or snicker.  That is considered indelicate.  Acting as though you don’t even notice will make you appear more highly cultured, like a real veteran ballet-goer.  Try your best to appear unfazed.  The ballerinas themselves are obviously unfazed.  I suspect it’s less awkward for them because the guys holding them by their butts are wearing quite a bit of makeup.

(5) When the male ballet dancers do dainty leaps while tossing their hair, it’s not supposed to be funny.  Don’t laugh.  If you do, you’ll be the only one.  I learned this the hard way at the Kennedy Center.  Unfortunately they have great acoustics there, and a laugh really carries around the theater.

(6) If you truly cannot help laughing—and in fact laugh so hard that you’re actually crying—you have two choices.  Assuming you’re not in an aisle seat, in which case you can feign a sudden need to use the bathroom, you can pretend to have an allergy attack.  Don’t let your fake sneezes be too loud, though—just put on enough of a show to explain why you’re shaking and gasping for air and tears are running down your cheeks.  Another option is to shake your head with great wonder and appreciation, as though you’re moved beyond expression and carried away emotionally by the performance.  Concealing laughter at a ballet is an essential skill.  If you’re not able to control your laughter and can’t sufficiently play it off, you could really embarrass your wife and in-laws at a D.C. performance of The Nutcracker.

(7) If you feel inspired to clap but you’re not sure if it’s the appropriate time, play it safe and wait for others to clap first.  This is especially important if you’re sitting in the middle of the front row.  In that situation, clapping at the wrong time might distract the prima ballerina.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

(8) Don’t get too close to a ballerina.  Evidently they’re like the wild ponies at Assateague—they might not bite, but they will definitely kick.  Why else would the male dancers wear those giant cups?

(9) When a ballerino walks out onstage wearing bright purple pants and a yellow shirt with sparkly pink flowers, pretend this is normal.  Any other reaction will expose you as a false ballet enthusiast.

(10) After a concert or play, the performers take a bow and the audience claps.  It’s a little different with ballet.  After each dance, the ballerina will bow while the audience claps.  However, she’ll keep moving around like her head, arms, and legs are flowing in a light breeze, and apparently you’re supposed to keep clapping until she stops fluttering around.  It’s possible that she might stop moving if the applause stops; but to the best of my knowledge, this theory remains untested.

When viewing ballet, it won’t be hard to find yourself surprised by how impressive the dancers’ finely tuned skills are.  But don’t forget yourself and lose sight of these important guidelines.  Then you, too, can maximize your ballet enjoyment.

Published in: on August 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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“Sometimes it hurts us more than dying/ To give up what we thought we knew.”

That’s one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands.  The band is Unsearchable Riches and the song is “Jericho.”  (You can find it in iTunes.)  It’s a powerful song, lyrically and musically, about what happens when our fortresses collapse.  It points out that sometimes the things that give us a sense of security are really the things that hold us in bondage.

The song has really resonated with me for several years, but more so the past few months.  When I look back at my last blog post (before yesterday’s), it’s startling to realize how much has changed since then.  Some things still don’t seem real… and change never seems to rest.  Walking in a new reality often seems more like a dream than the real world, as though I could wake up any moment and I’d think, “Ah, of course it was just a dream.”

And yet it was God who shook Jericho’s foundations.  The walls crumbled and fell at His bidding.

I have defined the place that I exist
In terms of everything that I resist
These city walls let nothing harmful through
They are my fortress and a prison too
It’s like the very thing that’s killing me
Is somehow my security

‘Cause I just don’t know where to go
If I lose Jericho
But I can feel it crumbling in the wind
Jesus come and free my soul
Overthrow Jericho
I don’t want to see these walls again

There is no beauty here inside this place
There is no freedom where there is no grace
Inside these walls my heart cannot pursue
The all-consuming well You call me to
Sometimes it hurts us more than dying
To give up what we thought we knew

‘Cause I just don’t know where to go
If I lose Jericho
But I can feel it crumbling in the wind
Jesus come and free my soul
Overthrow Jericho
I don’t want to see these walls again

Oh Jesus, come and free my soul
Overthrow Jericho
I don’t want to see these walls again
I don’t want to see these walls again
I don’t want to see these walls again…

Published in: on July 11, 2012 at 6:27 am  Comments (1)  
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Beauty and the Beast: The Gaps

Beauty and the Beast sure does leave a lot of questions unanswered:

– How old was the prince when the enchantress cast a spell on him?
– Whatever happened to the enchantress, anyway?
– Did her supervisor file a complaint charging her with entrapment?
– How many years went by before Belle came to the castle?
– Why didn’t Belle ever ask the Beast how he became a beast? I mean, she was a reader and thinker.  Wasn’t she the least bit curious?
– If the spell had not been broken, would  the Beast have lived forever or just a regular human life span?
– Why couldn’t the Beast/prince read?
– Were charges filed in the incident of Gaston’s death?
– What kind of relationship did the Beast have with his new father-in-law, whom he had cruelly imprisoned?

I think we need a prequel.

Published in: on September 16, 2011 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Old Testament Gospel

This morning I was reading Leviticus and discovered something pretty interesting.

When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, He actually gave two: love God and love people (see Matthew 22:37-40).  He cited Leviticus 19:18, which says to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Looking at that phrase in its context provides some insight.  Leviticus 19:18 in its entirety says: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Since we’re coming out of a three-week series on forgiveness at CrossWay, this really jumped out at me.

Sometimes we tend to categorize biblical truths as Old Testament or New Testament, as though they’re not consistent with each other.  The whole concept of forgiving others because God forgives us seems very New Testament.  But it’s right there in Leviticus in the Old Testament!  We’re not to carry grudges or seek revenge.  If we do, we’re not loving our neighbors.  And we’re to practice this kind of love because Jesus Christ is the Lord.

It’s stuff like this that reminds me why I love the Bible… and even more than that, why I love the God of the Bible.

Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

And So He Finished the Work

“And so Moses finished the work.”  This statement from Exodus 40:33 jumped out at me this morning.  In the second half of the Book of Exodus, God gives Moses a lot of detailed instructions on building the Tabernacle (a tent that was like a portable church sanctuary) and all the tools and instruments that went along with it.

We’re told that Moses carefully and diligently obeyed God and did everything just as he was supposed to.  And then near the end of the book it says: “And so Moses finished the work.”

I love that statement!  Something I pray for is that God would help me to finish the work, to complete the plans and fulfill the purposes for which He created me.  Although I sometimes fear failing to finish the work, a couple passages in the Bible tell us about tools God gives us to help:

Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  I’m not left alone to finish the work.  God prepared these “good works” long before I was even born, and He has “created (me) in Christ Jesus to do” them.  He is shaping my character and He gives me His Spirit so I can finish the work like Moses did.

More specifically, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  God gave us the Bible so we would be not just ready, but “thoroughly equipped” to complete the work He’s called us to.

Maybe this is one of those things that can’t be explained in a way to convey the “a-ha!” moment.  But when I read this morning about how “Moses finished the work,” it hit me what an enormous statement that is.

I think that’s what I want my tombstone to say: “And so Nathan finished the work.”

Lord help me!

Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 10:46 am  Comments (2)  

March for Life 2011

Yesterday I went to my first March for Life in D.C.  It was a pretty awesome experience which really deepened my appreciation for three groups of people:

(1) Catholics.  A local Catholic Church, Saint John Neumann’s in Ocean Pines, invited me to go to the march with them.  They chartered a bus and let everyone ride free.  I was impressed with that.  I was even more impressed with how warm and welcoming they were.  Usually my experiences with Catholics are with ex-Catholics who have fled from Catholicism, so I didn’t know what to expect.  What I encountered was a group of friendly people who bent over backwards to make me feel at home among them.  Sure, we’ve got some irreconcilable theological differences, but they also showed a genuine interest in Mennonite theology, doctrine, and practice, which I thought was pretty cool.  (Plus it was their bus, so it’s not like I was going to stand up and shout, “Well, actually….”)  It was kind of weird waking up this morning with Hail Marys running through my head like a power ballad leftover from the ’80s, but at least it was educational.

One of the things that really stood out to me was the community on the bus.  People were constantly passing around goodies and sharing everything with one another.  Pretzels, water, Gatorade, homemade cookies, wristbands, fliers, rings, M&Ms (plain and peanut)… it just went on and on.  I’m convinced that if we’d gotten stuck on the side of the road, someone would have opened their bag and pulled out a pot roast.

As much as I enjoyed spending time with the Catholics on the bus, I was absolutely floored when I got to the actually rally and saw an endless sea of Catholics filling the mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument.  (I don’t know how many people were there; last year’s tally was estimated between 250,000 – 400,000.)  I really didn’t know what to expect, but I guess I thought I’d see a lot more Christian groups other than Catholics.  I’m sure there were Protestants there (like the handful from our bus), but the thousands of signs with church names on them all appeared to be Catholic.  It gave me a deeply disturbing thought: What if the Catholics were not so passionate about this critical issue?  WHERE IS THE REST OF THE CHURCH?????

(2) Old people.  Usually this term is thrown around derisively and dismissively in our society.  I can no longer see it that way.  When I refer to old people, I mean it as a term of respect.  I don’t know how many people were on our bus–I’d estimate maybe 40 or 50.  Three of them were younger than me.  Nearly everyone else was in their 60s or 70s, and there were even several in their 80s.  And these were people who met at 7:00 a.m. to go on a three-hour bus ride, stand outside in 20-degree weather for three hours or so, walk around D.C. in a massive crowd, and then ride another three hours back.  What I’m saying, folks, is these guys are troopers.  Most of them are too old to even have had a legal abortion since Roe v. Wade.  But they’re putting their beliefs into action.  That’s what I respect so much: They’re actually DOING something!  It’s like when I go to our recycling center each week.  I’ve seen someone my age or younger just a couple times.  Usually it’s the older folks.  Why are younger people talking about the environment but not showing up to do something as simple as recycle?  Whenever I think of old people, I’ll no longer picture retired folks sitting around drinking tea and reading the newspaper and grumbling about “young people these days.”  Instead, what will come to mind are a sturdy group of dedicated people with such deep conviction that they’re doing what “young people these days” should be doing.  What was my generation doing?  I have no idea.  Probably stuff that seems urgent but is possibly quite meaningless once we look at it from beyond the end of our own noses.  Older people have a perspective that helps them see what truly matters.  And when they do something about it, especially something very inconvenient and uncomfortable, I have a profound respect for them.

(3) Politicians.  Well, some of them.  Don’t worry, I haven’t gone over the deep end.  I have to admit I’m still just as jaded and cynical as ever.  Well, almost.  Three dozen politicians stepped to the microphone yesterday in front of a countless multitude and publicly identified themselves with the pro-life movement, an association which is surprisingly controversial (it’s mind-blowing to think that opposing the killing of children is controversial, yet that’s how perverse our society is).  These were not spinsters visiting a midweek women’s Bible study at the height of election season to try to garner votes with a charming smile.  This is a group of largely freshmen representatives who are riding into the Beltway with a resounding victory at the polls just two months ago.  They were quoting Scripture and speaking bluntly.  Of course that doesn’t mean I bought into all their promises and friended them all on Facebook, but it was pretty cool to see that hey, maybe there are a few people with conviction sitting in that dome of corruption that looms over the capital city.

Next year I look forward to going on my second Catholic field trip!

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

The Worst Deal Ever

Someone please help me understand this.  I looked at gift cards on ebay, and a lot of them are selling for more than the value of the gift cards.

There was one gift card for Amazon that was worth $100, but 9 people had pushed the bidding on it up to $191.50 with three and a half hours still to go.  I’ve tried to come up with some explanation, but with no success.

Are sellers just taking advantage of people who are really bad at math, or what?

Published in: on January 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

You Are God’s Idea

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast featuring Matt Chandler, preacher at The Village Church in the Dallas area.  He said four simple words that are so profound I’ve not been able to stop mulling it over.  He said, “You are God’s idea.”

Of course, I already knew that God made me and that He made me unique.  But I never really thought about the fact that I’m His idea.  I mean, this morning I made a cup of coffee, but I didn’t come up with the idea of coffee.  God not only made me, but my very existence is His idea.  There were already billions of people on the planet, but none of them were me, and in His mind God conceived the idea of me and then made me.  My height, my complexion, the color of my eyes and the shape of my nose… my strengths, weaknesses, the things that make me laugh and the things that make me nervous… all of this was God’s idea!  I originated in His mind.

This insight gives much more meaning to Psalm 139:13-15: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

Think about it: You are God’s idea.

Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

As Good As It Gets

This morning I was standing by the front door getting ready to leave for work.  Laura Marie came walking around the corner, and when she saw me getting ready to leave, she immediately ran over to me and jumped into my arms.

That’s as good as it gets this side of heaven.

You can keep your kingdoms, your wealth, your fame and fortune, your whatever.  I’d rather have my little girl running into my arms.

Published in: on November 11, 2010 at 9:36 am  Comments (1)