Month: June 2012

Unbelievable Factoids from The Presidents Club

Who did Republican Gerald Ford ask to give his homily at his funeral?  None other than the man who prevented him from being re-elected in 1976–Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Who did Democrat Bill Clinton call late at night to ask questions regarding foreign policy?  None other the man who resigned in shame after Watergate–Republican Richard Nixon.

Who did the Republican Bush clan refer to as the “Brother of Another Mother”?  Democrat Bill Clinton.

Who did Democrat Harry Truman call “one of my closest friends”?  None other than the man Truman’s predecessor FDR blamed for the Great Depression–Republican Herbert Hoover.

Hard to believe, but true.

To hear the full story behind these unbelievable factoids, you’ll need to read The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (Simon and Schuster, 2012).  Gibbs and Duffy are editors at Time.  The April 23, 2012 edition of the magazine included an excerpt from the book, and guaranteed a trip to the NY Times bestseller list by putting a photo of Obama (44) with his arms around Bush (43), Clinton (42) on the cover (click here).

I mentioned the book in an earlier blog on Missional Presidents and Missional Partnerships, where I give a call to Christians to follow the example of these presidents and work together with Christians from other faith traditions.

The Presidents Club tells a story involving compelling history, fascinating research and bizarre politics.  My only critique is that after describing many powerful cross-party partnerships involving shocking friendships, Gibbs and Duffy could have got on a soap box and delivered a message to the highly politicized world of Washington gridlock in 2012: “Work together to accomplish great things for the nation.”  Bump, Set, but no Spike.

Still a great read.

If you’ve read it, what did you think? 

If you haven’t, why not? 

Following the leader (Psalm 119:35)

Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it
(Psalm 119:35 ESV).

“We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader.  We’re following the leader wherever he may go.”

It’s been a few years since I’ve heard this song from Peter Pan (I’ll never admit to singing it), but it’s embedded into my memory banks.  Silly?  Yes.  But appropriate for this verse which focuses on following our leader.

But who wants to follow these days?  Leadership courses are taught everywhere (including my seminary, Biblical), but no one teaches courses on Followership.  People want to be leaders, not followers.  Being a follower even has negative connotations.

Yeah, but following the leader is a big theme in Scripture.  What’s the first thing Jesus says to his disciples, “Follow me!” (e.g., Mark 1:17; 2:14).  The tag-line of Biblical is “Following Jesus into the world.”  My brother Rich wrote a book, Following Jesus in the Real World (IVP, 1995).

The psalmist here understood that following God’s lead is crucial for people who are in relationship with him.  It’s clear that following is similar to obedience, but following is more relational than obeying.  Following suggests the follower is going the same direction, along the same path as the leader.  That certainly seems to be what’s happening in this psalm as the psalmist asks God for leadership in the path of obedience.

In the Hebrew, this verse begins with a Hiphil imperative, which begins with the Hebrew letter He (pronounced “hey”).   Seven of the eight verses in this section (33-40) begin with a Hiphil imperative.  When a verb appears in the Hiphil stem it usually makes the verb causative.  The Hebrew verb for “come” in the Hiphil stem means “cause to come”, or “bring.”  So the word translated here as “lead” could be translated literally as “cause me to march” in the path of your commandments.  Sounds like a forced march.

The psalmist requests help to go on a forced march in the path of commandments.  That doesn’t sound very attractive.  And yet, the psalmist delights in this path.  Delighting in God’s laws is a huge theme of this psalm.  The word “delight” appears 10 times in English versions of this psalm (119:14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174).  The psalmist understands that God is leading the way and even though the way is hard, it leads to blessing and to deeper relationship with God.

God, help us follow your lead and give us deep delight in you and your word. 


Mourning Randall and Missing Nathan

Randall Trout, my wife Shannon’s younger brother, passed away yesterday.  He was 47.  Randall struggled with health issues for the past decade, his life full of pain and medications.  Since he lived in Scottsdale (AZ), we didn’t get to see him often.  He had a relationship with Jesus, but his physical pain prompted many questions about God.  My family is grieving this tragic loss.  Shannon leaves early Sunday morning to meet her parents in Scottsdale.

Since I have syllabi to work on and writing projects to focus on, I still went to work this morning.  I got nothing done.  I spent long periods of time staring out my window.  For someone who frequently teaches the Psalms of lament, I know surprisingly little about mourning.  Writing this blog post is the only thing I’ll accomplish today.

God, be with us, particularly with Shannon and her parents. 

My son Nathan leaves early Saturday (tomorrow) for a 10-day missions trip to Haiti.  He joins 8 other high school-ers from our church (Calvary Church of Souderton) to work at an orphanage just outside Port-au-Prince (see Map).  While I’m excited about this opportunity for him to depend upon God and see what God is doing among the poorest of the poor, I am devastated to be separated from him for two weeks.  I leave to teach a two-week intensive course (Genesis) for Fuller Seminary on June 30, and he returns from Haiti on July 1, so I won’t see him again until July 6.  Yeah, I know, “Get over it” but since we’ve moved a lot, it’s made our family close, and we don’t like to be apart.  Noah and I will hold down the fort.

God, bless Nathan’s efforts to bless Haitian orphans and teach me how to be a good long-distance father. 

While we’re in CA, it will be good to see my brother and his family in the Pasadena area, Shannon’s parents in Orange County, and friends in the SF Bay Area.  Besides teaching for Fuller, I’ll be speaking and teaching at 3 churches while in CA (see Speaking schedule).

Image from Wikipedia, “Haiti”.

Humorous edification and a talking donkey: Luddite Chronicles 5

My last Luddite Chronicle argued that real books are like the Energizer bunny (click here).  It elicited an interesting comment from Simon: “To be honest, there’s no spiritual edification in this blog post.”

First, I commend Simon for commenting on one of my posts.  I’d love it if more folks would comment.  Even if you disagree with me, feel free to follow his example. (I assume Simon thought the absence of spiritual edification was a bad thing.)

Second, to be honest I appreciate his willingness “to be honest” in a way that’s gracious.  Other commenters have expressed disapproval less graciously.

My response to Simon’s comment are below in italics:

Simon, I believe humor is edifying.  (Although, you may not find any humor in my post.) 

I firmly believe that humor is good for the soul, and the God who spoke to Balaam through his donkey (Num. 22), I suspect, agrees with me on this point.  (Although, one could certainly argue that my Energizer post, in fact, lacked humor.)

Also, I firmly believe technology is one of the biggest idolatries of our time.  I’m trying to defame this particular idol, to make us question why we always need the newest and best (and most expensive) technology.  Sometimes I make my attack on technology explicit.  Sometimes I try to be more subtle.

One of the things I’m trying to do with these Luddite Chronicles (here’s Post 1 (Intro), Post 2 (Newspapers), Post 3 (Smartphones are dumb)) is to get people to think about how the latest technology is both a blessing and curse.  I’m focusing on the curse side because too much is made of the blessing side.

I can’t speak with confidence about the idols of others, but I would assume that people who frequent the blogosphere are more susceptible to techno-idolatry, than the non-blogging community.  Sometimes idolatry needs to be bashed directly (see Judg. 6 and this post on Bulls and Baals), but other times it can be defamed with humor, parody and trash-talking (see 1 Kings 18 and this post on Baal’s bowel movement).  I hope my attempts at making fun of techno-idolatry cause people, including myself, to reflect on how nothing (not even a new iPhone) other than the God of the universe will ultimately satisfy us.

What do you think–was the energizer bunny post edifying?  Is humor edifying? 

Image from