Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Gender and the Church

I can't figure out how to write this post.

A few days ago I read the book Gender Roles and the People of God: Rethinking What We Were Taught about Men and Women in the Church by Alice Matthews. And right now, I'm listening to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Harper Perennial where today I heard the chapter of the book about gender roles in history.

The Matthews book is an amazingly clear, concise and readable review of gender in the Bible from Genesis through the New Testament. It addresses and reviews so many interesting points, people and encounters as it is not possible to list them here. She addresses several of the key statements in the New Testament involving Jesus, Peter, and Paul in a very clear and thoughtful fashion.

Here are some wonderful quotes:
When God created the woman in Genesis 2:18, he called her an ezer kenegdo, a particular kind of helper to the man, in a vein similar to God’s help to his people. An ezer helper is not a subordinate to the one being helped. Instead, an ezer helper brings aid that the recipient badly needs but cannot provide for himself. In eight of the twenty-one times the word is used in the Old Testament, this “helper” is a “savior”; in the remaining occurrences, this help is a “strength.” So the woman as ezer kenegdo is a strong counterpart, brought to the man as fully his equal. God made for the man a power or a strength that would in every way “correspond to him” as his equal.
and with Jesus:
He[Jesus] showed his followers a radically different way of relating to women. Watch him, for example, in John 4 as he deliberately planned his journey in order to encounter a despised woman in Samaria. He shocked the woman at the town well by speaking to her and then by actually drinking water from her cup. When his followers returned from town with some food, they were astonished that he would talk to such a person (verse 27). But even though the woman was an outcast in her town, her testimony to town leaders was so powerful that they also came out to meet Jesus. Ultimately, at their invitation, Jesus stayed for two more days to teach the people, many of whom became his followers. Jesus empowered a despised woman to become a vehicle for evangelizing that community. 
Or think of the shock to his followers when Jesus not only allowed Mary of Bethany to sit at his feet and learn (in the posture typical of rabbinic students), but even encouraged her to do so (Luke 10:38–42). Rabbi Eliezer had declared “If any man gives his daughter a knowledge of the Law, it is as though he taught her lechery” (m. Sotah 3:4).3 Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem had taught, “He who talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law and at the last will inherit Gehenna” (m. Avot 1:5). In the eyes of many Jews, not only was teaching theology to a woman not necessary; it was downright wrong.
and finally
Compared to other literary works from the first century, the gospels have a relatively high number of references to women. What is even more remarkable is that in Jesus’ actions, there is not a single case in which a woman is put down, reproached, humiliated, or cast into one of the lewd stereotypes of that day.
and of course, the book investigates the Junia statement as well as Paul's admonitions for women to keep quiet.

The third section of the book reviews church history from NT times to modern times and I found that most disturbing. Early church fathers and others throughout history putting down women, downplaying their value, silencing them, etc. was just heartbreaking.

Much to process here. I highly recommend the book.

I have to say that there are numerous women that I've known and know today that if they were to share their life experiences, teach a class, or give a lecture, I'd listen and be there.

PS.   Read this post too.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A New Place, An Additional Place Actually

I'm starting a new blog at https://sugarhill.blog/. I've mentioned before that I had another blog on IT but I'm semi-retiring that blog and starting the new one. Stop by sometime.

My first post over there was about a new experience working with an Ipad and the Apple Pencil.
I will still be here too.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Passing and Lessons Learned

My uncle died a few weeks ago. He went into the hospital on Christmas Eve with severe abdominal pain. In the following days, many different specialists saw him and after 12 days he had a rather minor surgery done that was to help with the core of the problem. Unfortunately, his blood pressure would never stabilize, he had three more surgeries in 36 hours and he passed away on the operating table while the last surgeon was out talking to us and telling us that surgery went well and they had fixed the root problem of his blood loss.

We never realized we were about to lose him. In fact, the day before he passed, all three of his kids were out of state and we didn’t call them to get here. Fortunately, they all came of their own accord and were here the last day.

I learned some lessons.

Medical Advocate A friend of mine has talked about having a medical advocate involved in complicated health matters to act as an agent or an unbiased, unemotional, uninvolved person who is taking notes, asking questions, following up on issues and helping a family navigate the medical process in a hospital. I think he is right.

We had multiple doctors involved and they each seemed to be looking at my uncle’s situation and symptoms through the lens of their specialty. There didn’t seem to be anyone who was holistically looking at the whole. In hindsight, the blood pressure problem that was happening before was problem 1, 2, and 3 and even before surgery, that needed to be understood and perhaps dealt with appropriately. I think the family couldn’t see this despite hints in the conversations with doctors, the actions the nurses were taking, and his ongoing bleeding problem. Someone other than 'family' might have asked harder questions and connected the dots better than the tired, non-medical family members who were there.

The Whole Along the lines above, every detail matters and it is important to understand everything you are seeing, hearing and being told. You need to understand who is the doctor with overall responsibility for the health of the patient.  Take notes every time a doctor appears or every time you hear a development from anyone involved in the patient’s care.

These Doctors Are Not All-Knowing They are doing the very best they can, but understand that they don’t know everything, they are busy and popping in and out, and you may not have their full attention. The patient’s advocates have got to be thinking, listening, asking and challenging if necessary.

Take Care of Yourself And finally, I re-learned the importance of taking care of myself. Take care of yourself when younger to minimize issues when you are older. See the doctor regularly. If you experience some problem, talk to someone about it. Don’t put it off.

Reach Out Every Time. Jerry was my closest uncle growing up. He lived nearby. I grew up in his house and he and his kids in our house. We went to church together.

I made three posts on Facebook about my uncle going to the hospital and asking for thoughts and prayers. The first post told he was going in on Christmas Eve and asked for prayers. The second a few days later was an update as things were getting more complicated and that we were hoping to get things stabilized so he could have this surgical procedure done. The third a couple of days later said he was better and was heading to surgery on Tuesday.

I got the usual and expected ‘praying’ comments on my Facebook posts.

Strangely, and I’m still having a hard time processing this, I heard from very few friends in the following days to ask how he was doing, to see if we needed anything, to just tell us that they were thinking of us and the situation. I can count the number of unprompted contacts I got on one hand over the 12 days that elapsed.

I’m still trying to process this.

Posting a ‘praying’ comment on Facebook is great, but perhaps the next day or 3 days later a touch might be well received by the family dealing with the issue? It is a trivial matter to post a ‘praying’ comment on Facebook. It is a completely different thing to message someone the next day and say something like “Praying for your uncle and you now,” or “How is your Uncle Doing? Do you need anything,” or “We are bringing food over tonight,” etc.

Some say a text message is not meaningful but I disagree.  A message from someone means that person is purposely reaching out to tell you they are thinking of you. They are spending time and effort and they remember. That is meaningful and appreciated.

Turns out two families were messaging with my wife for updates and I didn’t know about this happening.  One dear family brought over a lot of food after he passed. (My uncle’s kids were staying with us so we had a full house then).  One friend who I don’t see much any more messaged me twice during all of this. One person I barely know messaged me on Facebook. Several people ‘replied’ to emails I sent with updates to people at church. There were a couple of other messages.  Others sent messages or said things to me after he passed.

I’m going to be more purposeful in connecting with family and friends who are going through such experiences.

I’ve deleted Facebook off my phone again.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Some Recent Reads

A few recent books and recommendations:
  1. WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us by Tim O'Reilly. It is a great book about trends in technology and markets that are shaping our future. O'Reilly is a well respected 'futurist' and his work is always interesting. This is his latest.
  2. I'm still working my way through the book, Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies which is simply unbelievable and a lot to process. I've shared this recommendation with some other friends and all who have started it are really equally impressed with the book.
  3. Damocles by 47North which is about an encounter with aliens and the long and difficult task of figuring out how to communicate without any starting points of commonality. Reminds me of the movie Arrival which I loved and wrote about earlier.
  4. 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King. I continue to be amazed at his storying telling ability. In this book, he had his character move through the plot of one of his other stories, which he does in other books too. Common places and characters crossing paths. So interesting.
  5. What Doesn't Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength by Carney is about how stressing ourselves can result in increased performance and results. There is a lot of material about the cold and how learning to run or compete in the cold can result in better performance. Most interesting.
  6. Ready Player One: A Novel: is a great fast read about gaming and the future. Great sci-fi.
  7. Artemis: A Novel by Crown is the followup to The Martian. Loved The Martian but didn't think as much about Artemis.
Before these books, I re-read the Nicolas Taleb books again. Might have to keep doing that periodically. He has a new book coming out next year.

I'll post more soon.

Running Again

Ran a marathon last weekend in Dallas at the BMW Dallas Marathon. Ran 37 minutes faster than my previous best. My running partner PRd by 14 minutes. Very pleased.


Learned some things about timing and pacing this time. Marathons are 26.2 miles but because you can't run the straightest, shortest distance on the streets. You always run longer. On this day we ran 26.62 miles in 4 hours and 44 minutes. Our real pace on the road was 10:42 per mile. But since the marathon is 26.2, we have a reported pace of 10:52. 

Beth, Mark Thompson, and Darci Thompson followed us around cheered us along the way. The weather was beautiful. It was a fun day.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Think only on those things...

“The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts.

Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day.

The content of your character is your choice.

Day by day, what you do is who you become.

Your integrity is your destiny — it is the light that guides your way.”

Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Our Leaders - North Korea and Other Thoughts

This mess in North Korea is getting worse and could really spin in a bad, bad direction. The latest missile launch, which is now called an ICBM because of the longer-range, was unannounced and flew through commercial flight paths. Imagine being on a 777 flying from Seattle to Tokyo and seeing that out your window. Imagine being a pilot on that 777 and seeing that out your window.

The NY Times reported yesterday how a conflict might unfold on the peninsula and it is not pretty and there isn't a happy ending.

Kim Jong Un is just another egotistical leader who thinks it is all about him and his ideas and not about the people around him. Rodman going to visit him and the country fits perfectly with the incomprehensibility of the whole mess.

Kim Jong Un doesn't realize that he could be a hero in his country if he took a different path. Can you imagine how the people of North Korea would respond if the borders were opened up, commerce was allowed and encouraged, jobs were created, food was available, the lights worked, infrastructure was improved, etc?

He could change the whole path of his country and the future by just turning a different direction. The whole narrative of him could change from a reckless, child dictator following prior dictators into a statesman who changed the path and course of his whole country. In one generation he could completely change the course of North Korea. Few leaders get that kind of opportunity.

There are other leaders around the world who are thugs, egotistical and self-serving. Countries seem to elect these leaders and most dictators are this way already.  And we seem to allow a lot of bad behavior by our leaders who are then not held accountable by anyone. This happens at the local, state and national levels.

Malcolm Gladwell's podcast called Revisionist History (Recommended) in Season One had a story called The Lady Vanishes which talks about the behavior of men towards women as they advance in offices and states.  The material and interview with Gilliard, the first women Prime Minister of Australia, is particularly heartbreaking.

I can't solve the North Korea problems or any of these problems around the world. I can decide how I'm going to vote and what I'm going to consider where I live. I think we need to:

  1. We need elected leaders who are not career politicians. We shouldn't allow people to stay in office long. We need term limits everywhere.
  2. We need teachers, engineers, doctors, business people and the like in elected offices.
  3. We need to elect more women into senior offices in organizations and in government. We need their views and insights more than ever.
  4. We need more diversity of ideas in leadership. It can't just be a two-party, white man's club in government anymore. 
  5. We need to hold anyone in leadership roles accountable for their behavior, their actions, their words. Remove them if necessary and certainly don't vote for them again.

Just some thoughts from my corner of the universe on this Thursday AM.

Hope you are well.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Going for a run...

My running friend challenged us to run 100 miles in 10 days starting July 1st. This is the 3rd day and here is where I stand:

I am 36% of the way there as of today three days into the quest.

This is an amazingly hard thing to do.

Running 10 miles is not a big deal by itself. But we are doing this in July and the temps have been hot for some of the runs and the humidity has been 85-90%. That makes it hard. I'd prefer to do this in October or November, but we are doing it now.

There is a huge toll physically, but there is probably a bigger mental load. This spans so many days and there is always more running to do and all of it needs to fit into the days around whatever else. And when you are done for the day, there is tomorrow. I'm ahead now, but many miles remain. 10 per day.

I've managed to get ahead a bit but unfortunately, my right foot is signaling that this must/could/should come to an end. I'm worried that I'll have to stop. Today I saw a PT and got the foot and ankle KT wrapped. We'll see.

If you run marathons, you hate to give up and you must learn to continue through misery. However, you also need to listen to your body when things don't feel right.

I'm ahead by 6 miles of the needed pace but worried about the foot.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friends and their Kids

Years ago, we were in a small group Bible study whatever with some families that had kids around the same age as ours. We met on Sunday night and gravitated towards doing Bible studies for our kids. Over the course of time, all those families drifted different directions. Some moved away and in fact, we moved to another country. Some we still see from time-to-time.

However, I've continued to pray for those kids.

They are now married and I have no idea, in most cases, what is going on in their lives, but they are still on my prayer list. Occasionally, I see one of them or I see their parents, and at different times, I've told them or their parents that I still pray for them, or their kids. We've attended several of their weddings. Across the years, I still think of those families and those kids. And, whether they know it or not, I'm still here for them.

I have added other kids to my prayer list over the years. I now pray for people I don't even know because their parents asked me at some point in the past to pray for their kids. I can't decide if these people want to know that I'm still praying for them or not. I tell some of them at times and I always get mixed kinds of responses. Someone asks you to pray for their kid and then they are surprised months/years later when you are still praying?

Today someone told me he was praying for me because of a work I'm doing. I know of one other person who is praying for me. I tend to believe it makes a difference. Of course, I believe there is a creator, that he stepped into history 2000 years ago, and that he is 'out there' and listening and acting and still working.

I think that life is hard. That hard things happen. That evil happens, and that pain and hurt happen.

And I believe we need to look out for each other.

A few weeks ago a friend asked my wife and me to join he and his wife on a trip. The date happened to be a date where I had committed to a friends daughter that we'd attend a fundraiser event for something that was important to her (and now me). Declined on the trip because we had committed to someone that we'd be there.

This past week my wife and I coordinated a VBS session for grades 4 and 5(worthy of another blog post as that is not in my wheelhouse). A 4th grader that we know came in and casually said 'Hi Mark' as he slid into his seat and began talking to his friends. That is what it is all about. Being there for our friends and their kids. Boom.

Life is hard. Be there for your friends and their kids.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Funny Shipping Experiences

I wrote on my other blog about some funny shipment problems I have had in the past year and a half. Three times when I've ordered something and received 2x what I ordered. In all three cases, the companies just told me to keep it.

I had a related yesterday when I wanted to return something to a well-known company and exchange it for another at a different size. In this case, the person on the phone couldn't find my order at all. Did not exist. I had a paper shipping document in front me of and I found the original email from the vendor both of which had the ordered number but it didn't exist in their systems. Perfect.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Learning to Swim

I had swim lessons when I was a kid, but never really learned how to swim. I have always done that keep your head above water and dog paddle while looking cool approach whenever I had to get in the water. I've had two events in my life where I was in jeopardy while in the water which have shaped me to not be comfortable in water.  Well, there actually are three events. I tried to snorkel while on vacation once and couldn't do it, couldn't do it, couldn't do it and panicked and returned to the shallow water and took off the fins, mask and snorkel never to touch them again.

Since I'm this runner person and I want to get better at running I added some spin classes to my training a while back. Now I want to add swimming. But I can't swim.

The gym where we are members has 2-3 pools and they will give adult swimming lessons so I signed up.

After demonstrating my advanced level of swimming skill to the coach, she promptly had me paddle with a float board, while wearing fins and just practice breathing. Now it wasn't quite that simple. We are in an indoor pool and there are other adults around some swimming in other lanes very nearby. She proceeds to go up and down the lane beside me as I demonstrate my inability to swim. And all the while she is saying rather loudly for all to hear, blow air out your mouth, keep going, you are doing great!

You know that voice in your head that is always talking to you? That voice was laughing its a** off, on the floor, rolling in laughter at how ridiculous I looked and about how I felt. A grown adult, taking swimming lessons, with a coach hollering at me with tips loud enough for all to hear. I felt like a little kid learning to swim.

I have to say that I have kept smiling and laughing about this. I have been back to the pool 5 times practicing on my own and the last time I managed to swim free-style the length of the pool without stopping. That was my near term goal and I met it earlier than expected. Pretty pleased with myself if I do say so. I don't think the US Olympic team will be calling on me any time soon.

I have another lessons with my coach on Monday. No cameras are allowed.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Warning

Two years ago I read a book about the opiate problem spreading across the US. There are several documentaries on Netflix and HBO and everywhere about the problem and the local and regional impact this is having on communities. I saw a show a few weeks ago that said whole communities are being affected.

This week I had a procedure done on my foot called Orthotripsy which is a shock wave therapy to the foot to deal with some soft tissues problems. The procedure has to be done under general anesthesia as it can cause a lot of pain at the time of the application.

Immediately after the procedure and just after waking up in the post-op room, I was told that they were writing me a prescription for pain as needed in the next few days. And they were going to give me two right then to get that process started. I had never heard of the medication and I took it because, well, they told me to and I was just waking up.

I asked my wife on the way home if she had heard of it and she hadn't either.

The post op instructions were about 7-8 pages long which began with resting and stretching and in the back were some notes about acetaminophen and hydrocodone mixed together and a whole list of cautions. Turns out that medication had hydrocodone in it, an opioid, and they wrote me a prescription for 30 of these.

The very thing all these books and movies talk about is how people have surgery, are given variations on opiates, and then they get addicted.  They gave me this at the hospital without any prior conversation about risks or concern whether or not I had any history with this. It is just so hard for me to get around the fact that this was given to me without any dialog.

Two in the hospital and one that night and then they have been thrown out of my house. Gone.

You need to be cautious about these drugs yourself and you need to warn your family and friends to be careful.  Please warn your family and friends and watch out for those close to you. Read up on this.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Throw it Out

I read that book on Tidiness a couple of years ago and I've continued to think about it a lot. A few minutes ago, I opened a drawer and saw a zip lock bag of old FitBit bands that I no longer wear. I kept them in case I might need them. Can't imagine ever in this universe needing those bands again. Why do I still have them? Inertia? Fear of needing them if I throw them out? Not sure.

I've been on a wave of throwing things out lately and I think I'm about to accelerate that effort.

I subscribe to Blinkist which provides condensed summaries of interesting books. I just read the 'blink' on Stuffocation where part of the summary says:

Yep, that is it.

I've cleaned out my garage recently and done another purge of papers in my house. Time to do more. I just don't want this stuff around filling up space, worry and time.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Serial and S-Town

If you've not listened to Serial Podcast (at least season one) yet you need to stop what you are doing and go get it on your phone. The podcast resulted in multiple new podcasts about similar cases and many of these are most interesting with several podcasts followed up on the Serial case. Serial did a 2nd podcast season which was interesting too.

The same team has split off a new podcast (involving some of the same people) called S-Town which you can find here.  S-Town is about a person and people in a town in Alabama and after listening to all of it, I'm still trying to process it.

Listening to podcasts is a great alternative to audiobooks while driving and I find myself going back and forth between the two. I've about given up on the radio and in particular sports radio.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

All Hang On These Two

Lots of reflection and interesting conversations lately. And lots of things on my mind.

I've read the following four books recently which have informed my thinking:
  1. The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight.
  2. Junia Is Not Alone by Scot McKnight.
  3. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns.
  4. The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs by Peter Enns.
This coupled with events around me, conversations with friends, email correspondence with others and current events has caused a time of reflection for me.

I believe there is a story unfolding and that there is a creator who stepped into history 2000 years ago. 

I believe that those who encountered this creator 2000 years ago had profound experiences that impacted their entire lives, changed the direction of their lives and accordingly changed history from that point onward. They were so profoundly impacted by what they saw, felt, heard and experienced that couldn't help but tell others of what they had seen. They wrote of their experiences, insights, believes and practices. Many of them reportedly died difficult deaths because of their beliefs.

I believe this 'story' for two fundamental reasons. First, everything I see in the world runs down, not up. Something had to get everything started. Call it a big bang or a creation or something else, but something or someone started all of this we see and experience. Second, the core parts of their story, the brokenness of the world (which we see everywhere), the felt need for some kind of restoration/rescue/redemption and the principle that loving one another is of most importance rings deeply true to me.

Organized religion seems to have put much tradition, rules and boundaries around lots of things that sometimes help and sometime confuse and hinder us. 

If you accept the hypothesis that the story is true, then we must be careful to not confuse the rules and traditions with the core elements of the story.

From the written words of one of the eyewitnesses, Matthew:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Much to consider. Trying to get it right. Or at least trying to discern my way...

Blessings to you on your journey.