Flip Books

J’s been making flip books in art class and her teacher shared videos from Andymation as examples.

This is super cool.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to artifacts, things that we make and leave behind. I have a collection of notebooks that contain journal entries, sketches, photographs, collages, hand written notes, ticket stubs, and the like. I’m hanging on to J’s flip books, too, and other artwork the kids have made.

For the Many Good Things

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Thankfulness is a feeling. It’s also a discipline, habit, or choice. You can be thankful without feeling thankful. You can express thanks because it is right. But the giving of thanks is sweetest when you feel it and choose it, when you perceive that an expression of gratitude is proper, and, without hesitation, you say the words, make the gesture, bow your head low, and wonder at the fullness of joy that has flooded your heart.

This year has been one of transition and change. Molly and I are in new roles and new jobs. Our children have grown and changed. We continue to be blessed by friends and neighbors, and to experience the ongoing wonderment that comes as relationships deepen and change in ways that only do more to sweeten and enrich the lives we have been given.

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving with my side of the family this year. It has been a while since our group has seen cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. The kitchen will be busy tomorrow, the house will be filled with good smells, and before the day is through I will have eaten far too much. I’ll have watched more football tomorrow on television than I likely have in the preceding two years combined. I’ll delight in small things, like telling silly jokes or playing a game or assembling a puzzle with a niece or nephew.

For the many good things this year has brought, and for the many more good things to come, I am thankful.

If you’ve been a reader of mine for years, or for only a short time, I hope you will take stock of things for which you can be thankful. Number a piece of paper from one to ten. Then, fill in the list. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Some circumstances are more conducive to the keeping of this command than others, some things are easier for us to be thankful for than are others. Nevertheless, there are always things, small or great, for which one can give thanks.

We can give thanks for things like our next breath, or the cognitive capacity to philosophize concerning whether present circumstances warrant the giving of thanks. I don’t want to take the former for granted, and I don’t want to miss the significance of the latter.

As human beings, we have been given some capacity to evaluate whether or not we find a thing praiseworthy or good. Sure, there is a subjective element to such a judgment. But, as a believer in truth, I think there is an objective good there that can be discovered, rooted ultimately in God, the giver of every good and perfect gift. If you chase thanksgiving far enough, you’ll find yourself in praise.

So I’m thankful this year, once again, for the usual things. I’m thankful for faith, fellowship, and for Jesus. I’m thankful for family, church, community, employment, and good health. I’m thankful for coffee and books and the natural world. I’m thankful for those nearest to me, who for these next few days will be my family, but I am also thankful for those who are “far.”

As years have passed and settings have changed, I’ve been amazed to reflect upon the many friendships that have been made, how many wonderful people I’ve had the privilege of knowing. While I’m thankful for “things,” I’m most thankful for people. Which is amazing, because at one time of my life, I can recall not liking people all that much. God has changed me. There has been a mutation, and for the better.

I’m thankful for being thankful, for feeling and choosing thanks, not only because it is commanded, but because thankfulness is in and of itself a good, a doxological reaction, an offering, a blessing in response to blessedness, a sign. Good gifts point to a Giver.

Give the Giver thanks this Thanksgiving. Give glory for the glory. It’s what you’re made to do.

Forming Followers

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I’m not inclined to hire a graduate from one of America’s elite universities. That marks a change. A decade ago I relished the opportunity to employ talented graduates of Princeton, Yale, Harvard and the rest. Today? Not so much.

R. R. Reno in The Wall Street Journal, “Why I Stopped Hiring Ivy League Graduates

Reno argues that while elite institutions may graduate many fine individuals, these campus environments do not “add value” to job candidates who may want to write for Reno’s publication, First Things, a religious and socially conservative magazine and online outlet, even if the graduates of these institutions identify as religiously and socially conservative thinkers and writers.

Reno opines that on elite campuses, “Dysfunctional kids are coddled and encouraged to nurture grievances, while normal kids are attacked and educationally abused. . .Deprived of good role models, they’re less likely to mature into good leaders themselves.”

Absent conservative perspectives and a healthy campus environment where a vigorous discourse is fostered and encouraged, religiously and socially conservative students often choose instead to go along in order to get along, keeping their head down and doing what’s needed to get by. Why speak up if it will only earn you further marginalization, ridicule, and exclusion?

This means conservatives often cede the field, acquiesce, and steer clear of trouble. Reno observes that this is not good, and that over time this choice has a formative effect. He states, “I don’t want to hire a person well-practiced in remaining silent when it costs something to speak up.”

Reno concludes:

A few years ago a student at an Ivy League school told me, “The first things you learn your freshman year is never to say what you are thinking.” The institution he attended claims to train the world’s future leaders. From what that young man reports, the opposite is true. The school is training future self-censors, which means future followers.

In a few years my children will likely consider a college education, and as they explore their options our primary evaluative factors will not be the prestige or social connections a given institution may secure by way of attendance and/or a degree. Rather, we will be asking about the quality of education and the type of person the institution has as their formative end. We won’t only focus on things like post-graduate job prospects or overall campus climate, but what the institution views as their understanding of human flourishing and how they encourage students to pursue “the good life.”

Clint Patterson on the Baylor Mascot Program

Here’s Joy, one of Baylor’s mascots, in my apartment back in 2002.
The Tires Plus shirt? Thrift shop purchase.

My friend Clint Patterson was on the Waco History Podcast and spoke about the Baylor mascot program. This is a direct link to the episode. Clint is a Baylor treasure.

I’m mentioned a few minutes into the podcast, a pleasant surprise. Back when I was a student I got to be around the mascots. My roommate Ryan Fitzhugh was the Bear Coordinator, my friend Tyler Sellers was the Bear Trainer at this time, and I was a member of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce who served on the Bear Committee.

One of the other roommates in the apartment was willing to make their space available for the first couple of months Joy was on campus. We decorated with scrap carpet and cinder blocks.

I don’t think I was around most of this summer. I had an internship back home at Green Acres Baptist Church in the children’s ministry. But I drove back over to Waco a few times to see our new mascot. Such a cool experience.

“Why do I like it? You made it.”

We recently did a family tie-dye project. My kids had made me a shirt a few months ago. I wanted more gear.

I asked my daughter, “You know why I like this stuff?”

“Because it’s art?” she said.

“Yes, that,” I replied, “Also, every thing we made, there’s not another one like it in the world.”

“But you know what else?” I asked.

“What?” she said.

“I like it because you made it.”

A Grammar for Forgiveness

My kids had a fight back in December.

Molly did not hear the exchange. She only knew that feelings had been hurt.

“Work it out,” she said.

Later, we found a letter exchange.

A great start. Here’s the reply:

Where did my children learn this grammar, this way of negotiating hurt feelings and pain? Where did they learn how to seek, grant, and extend forgiveness?

Home, sure. But anything we’ve passed on at home we learned first from Christianity.

Joy says she is sorry. She admits to having done wrong. She names the transgression. She asks for forgiveness. She expresses love.

David, likewise, admits an error. He says he is sorry. He grants forgiveness. He asks for forgiveness. He expresses love.

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

The grammar of forgiveness is learned.

Once learned, it must be practiced.

When practiced, it is wise to remember the grounds for forgiveness, the work of Jesus himself.