Friday, March 30, 2012

Arthur

The third book in the Pendragon Cycle series of Stephen Lawhead is Arthur. The story begins just a few years after the end of Merlin. The godly and strong high king of Briton, Aurelius, the long sought leader who would save the Island of the Mighty, has been murdered through the highest of treachery. His brother Uther takes over to ensure that the gains made through the blood of his many countrymen are not lost. Yet Uther is also struck down. The remaining kings and lords then morph into petty and underhanded politicos to lay claim to Aurelius' throne. The strength, presence, and wisdom of Merlin is all that remains to tentatively hold chaos at bay.

As the divisions in the land run deep, no high king can be chosen at council. Yet the wise Merlin begins to understand the old prophecies regarding the kingdom of summer, a glorious time of peace and prosperity in Britain, led by a king far greater than any who had come before him. That prophecy was to be fulfilled by Aurelius' son Arthur, even though Arthur was still just a young boy. Merlin knew that he had to use all of his powers and cunning to protect the future king and act as his tutor and guide.

The story of Arthur then follows the path of Arthur from his youth, to his leadership of the nation's warband, to his coronation as high king, to his leadership of Britain into a nation of strength, peace, and honor unheard of in its long history. This was the kingdom of summer. Yet, treachery still remained lurking in the shadows for its time. Just at the peak of his realm, Arthur is suddenly brought down and the vacuum created by his sudden disappearance is of an unprecedented power that leaves the land in complete shock. When the light is suddenly doused and darkness takes over, the people finally begin to appreciate just what they had and what they had lost. Now, onto the next book in the series, Pendragon.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

South Beach

It always seems to be the case that just when we reach the pinnacle of our own haughty, inestimable self-worth, something humbling comes along to knock us off our lofty pedestals. Reeling, we then fall back to the cold, hard ground where cruel reality rules with an iron fist. Let me lay out a few embarrassing situations from my own life.
  • The time I thought that two women were interested in me at the same time. I treated them both like crap and ended up with neither. (Actually this scenario has played out twice in my life.)
  • The time I thought that I had won a prestigious undergraduate award, which I used to pronounce my greatness, only to find out that the selection committee ultimately decided to go in a different direction.
  • The time I was an NBA free agent and let my ego drive me to come across as the biggest princess on the planet.
O.K., so the last one wasn't about me, but you get my point I think.

So, the key question is this. When you are chopped down and land on your hind end, what do you take away from the experience? Well, if I judge by my own track record, apparently nothing. For it seems that once brought down to size, I immediately start to climb right back up the mountain with my eye toward the top. So the better question is this. When you are chopped down and land on your hind end, what should you take away from the experience? For if you don't learn the lessons of history, you are doomed to repeat its mistakes over and over and over again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Venue

There are a couple of preachers that I know (P, S, and R) who have consistently amazed me with how they approach delivering their Sunday sermons. They always seem to be filled with passion, purpose, and mission. One might expect this when their buildings are full and it is standing room only. However, the thing that has made an impression with me is how they teach when the room is mostly empty. Nothing seems to be any different in their attitude or in their body language. I have never sensed that a small attendance service frustrated them or made them feel the least bit awkward.

To me, it seems that these moments where the sanctuary is nearly empty could give rise to feelings of self-doubt, or anxiety, or loss of focus. It could cause them to slip off their game or to phone it in. Yet I have never seen even the slightest suggestion that they were the least bit bothered. They went about their business.

While this post has focused on a specific scenario, I think the consistency that has been demonstrated by these men of service in season or out, is a wonderful model for all of us at whatever we do.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Working Class Dogs

Today's post is about them. Today's post is about us. It is about anyone and everyone who finds a way to consistently not give their best effort in their labor.
  • The service technicians who drive as slowly as possible when out on the road to minimize the actual time they spend on the job.
  • The workers who leave every day at 3:30 p.m. because they claim they arrive at 6:30 a.m., yet come scurrying in most days at 7:45 a.m. just before their boss arrives at 8:00 a.m..
  • The workers who spend half their day chatting and gossiping with co-workers.
  • The workers who are on cigarette break 15 minutes of every hour.
  • The workers who try to claim credit for the big projects but are never seen to be doing any real work.
  • The workers who spend hours every day surfing online.
  • The workers whose output depends on whether their boss is away or sitting in his office.
This is not about the person who struggles through an occasional bad day or bad spell. It is about the person who systematically schemes to get out of doing their job or working a full day. Whether it is laziness, feelings of entitlement, thoughts of my boss is a jerk or everyone else goofs off, or any other of a hundred excuses or rationalizations that we could make.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.", Colossians 3:23

Monday, March 26, 2012

Vacation Daze

I read a story the other day about a trend that is gaining traction among some of the more avant-garde companies. Namely, a requirement that all employees must use all of their vacation days each year. This is not done mainly for accounting or bookkeeping purposes. Rather, it is done to help promote employee satisfaction and to refresh and maintain positive attitudes, which studies have shown leads to long-term retention of individuals. Further, this helps to minimize costs associated with training and orientation programs for new employees, as well as ensuring continuity of skilled and experienced personnel.

While I understand the reasoning and logic behind this approach, forced vacations have always had a negative affect on me. A taxing source of frustration that does anything but help to refresh me or maintain in me a positive attitude. Each year the place where I work has a week-long winter shutdown. Employees are not allowed to report to work and must take vacation days. Even if I wanted to work in my office, I would not be allowed to enter the building, as typically this week is reserved for heating/AC maintenance and the buildings are without power. However, my job is not just a vocation, it is also my avocation, my passion. It is an outlet for my creativity and energy. It helps to maintain my sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Oh how I hate being forced to take time off. There is nothing relaxing to me about the prospect. Of course, I likely lost my sanity years ago.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Closed

There is a street near my house that over the years has been populated by a variety of family-owned stores and shops. Hardware, car repair, boating equipment, restaurants, crafts, tanning and hair salons. Just a few years ago, a for-sale sign was a rarity that represented an opportunity, a host of possibilities and promise. Now nearly half of the properties sit vacant. Shuttered ghosts. Each for-sale sign silently marks the death of somebody's dream, their can't-miss idea, their daring pursuit of a passion, their golden future.

Did they fail because they didn't fully plan out their strategies? Listened to the wrong people? Not enough capital to last until the receipts could grow? A poor economy? A rush to embrace an ill-advised product or plan? It matters not. Each empty storefront represents a failure. A roll of the dice that lost. Bank accounts emptied, homes mortgaged, borrowed funds defaulted on. Bankruptcy is likely the lesser of the two pains compared to the death of a dream.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grind My Gears 27

Let's face it, some people out there are just plain annoying. My guess is that they are completely unaware of just how utterly distasteful they are to the rest of us. Their demeanor and way of life just make everyone around them want to retch. They fill the room with an intense feeling of malaise, almost like a freshly opened bag of jasmine-scented potpourri. If you go out in public, it likely will take you only a moment to spot one of them. In the mall parking lot. At the grocery store. Even at your neighborhood cemetery. These buckwheat kernels betray themselves because they feel compelled to flagrantly back their vehicles into their parking spots instead of just pulling straight in like a normal individual. Nope, not these buttered scones. I mean the excessive craning of their necks as they ceaselessly snap their pin-like heads from their side mirrors to their rear-view mirror and back again, the exaggerated hand-over-hand pawing at their steering wheels, the eighty-five times they switch between drive and reverse on their gear shifts as they inch back and forth and back and forth. Do they think they are somehow saving time with this inane practice? Are they in training to be the get-away driver for some planned bank job? These people really just grind my gears.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Windows

They have been shut tight and locked down for so long, that it somehow seems as if the barriers could never be lifted again. Like rusted nuts at the end of an old steel bolt left out in the yard. Seized up and bound tight. Yet the other day, as the temperatures finally began their slow and intentional crawl from the whites and blues to the reds and oranges, after a lasting season of ever-present darkness and chill, I pushed the locks open and those frames slid up with a satisfied sigh. Finally, after holing up in my den for what felt like an unnaturally lengthy spell, I could once again invite the outside in. I could air out the rooms and feel that warm, healing breeze blow across my face. After all of these years, it's amazing how this seemingly simple and benign exercise helps to drive away the shadows and brings back life and hope and promise.

I wonder if I lived in a tropical environment, where it was warm and sunny and green all year long, where there was no need for a regular, forced separation between nature's domain and ours, would I lose my appreciation of the approach of spring? Would I become hardened and jaded and unappreciative, taking it all for granted? ... Likely yes, for that is the way of human nature. But, oh would I like to give it a try!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bob's the Name

I have always been pretty bad about remembering names, especially for people I rarely interact with or those to whom I have recently been introduced. I believe this to be the case because I am naturally shy and ill at ease in most social situations. I suspect that the troubles that I have today stem from how I learned to handle the standard "introduction ritual". Here you shake someone's hand and then exchange pleasantries and names. For me though, I just wanted to get this whole uncomfortable encounter over and done with, so I just went to the happy place in my mind and never heard more than a mumble from the other person (I always just heard the Peanut's teacher talking). Phew, thank goodness that was over with.

As I have gotten a bit older, I am not quite as awkward and uncomfortable socially as I once was, but I am still afflicted with poor technique when it comes to introductions. Most often the person's name is just a quick flash of sound and then disappears. Of late, I have countered this shortcoming with a more utilitarian approach. If the person that I have met is someone that I will likely never come upon again, I don't worry too much about the situation. However, if it is someone that I will be in and around, I have learned to simply ask them for their name whenever I encounter them again.

However, sometimes, even with someone whose name I can normally recall without pause, I lose their name just as I need to use it. I try to get by with "pal", "buddy", or "cap'n", but I just feel so awkward and my profuse sweating just adds to the tension. Other times, I can get the name wrong altogether ... "Your name's not Bob? Well, you look like a Bob". You can imagine how this wins people over.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Merlin

The second book in the Pendragon Cycle series by author Stephen Lawhead, entitled Merlin, picks up soon after Taliesin leaves off. This story is told from Merlin's point of view as he grows from a boy into a man. As he distinguishes himself, we bear witness to his developing legacy. We see as he is kidnapped by a primitive by wise group of hill folks, but spared. He spends several years with these people growing and learning. He then is allowed to leave to head back to his own people. Along the way he meets a young woman and falls in love. He then earns his own kingship with his wisdom, his heart, his compassion, and his singular strength as a warrior. His fame and renown spread across all of the lands of Briton as he gives of himself to unite the factious bands of petty kings and lords into a unified front. It is the only way that Briton will survive the hordes of barbarians raping and pillaging the lands.

One high king after another is elevated into that glorious purple throne, only to be unseated through treachery or greed after just a short time. Yet Merlin, who could make a claim to the seat of the high king, renounces this calling. He has been given a sign of a mighty leader who will rise up to be the savior of the lands, the king above all others the land has ever known or will ever know. That leader is a young boy named Arthur, whom Merlin has hidden to protect from the tyranny that would be sure to befall him had his identify been known. Now, onto the third book in the series, Arthur.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ashes

I have a couple of boxes buried in the back of my bedroom closet that have the words "kid stuff" written on them in bold black marker. They contain some assorted keepsakes from my childhood. They had been hidden away for such a period that I had long since forgotten about them and lost track of what they contained. A few weeks ago, I was purging some junk that had collected around my house. It was during this exercise that I stumbled upon these boxes.

I removed them from their shelf and laid out the contents on my bed. There was an old camera, a Rubik's cube, a shoe-shine kit, a program from a 1975 Red Sox game, a recorder, a few prize ribbons, some old letters and cards, a few photographs, some drawings that I made as a youngling, two ballpoint pens, a couple of decks of time-worn playing cards, and a few yellowed grade reports from school.

I think most folks tend to hold onto stuff like this and dutifully drag it with them through life. Likely they open the boxes every decade or so with some pagentry and fanfare, feeling the contents hold some magic and power from times long ago. Some even think that these items contain some part of themselves. Myself, I tend to be a bit of a hoarder and too often fall under the spell of nostalgia. However, as I looked over this collection of stuff spread out before me, it gave me neither joy nor melancholy. It stirred nothing within me whatsoever, almost as if I had no connection with any of it any more. None of it held any power over me. It felt right to get rid of most of it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Entitlement

Several years ago I wrote a piece entitled Common Tragedy that described a dilemma known as the "Tragedy of the Commons". Basically this amounts to a situation in which individuals, acting independently and focusing on their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a critical shared resource, even when it is clear that this is not in the best long-term interest of anyone.

Today, my focus is on a similar topic but goes to the notion of entitlement, where multiple individuals have convinced themselves that they deserve special treatment and support from the community resources when they already have sufficient resources to begin with. This type of thinking borders on delusional and can ultimately do great damage to a society faced with many different individuals already clambering for access to the finite available resources.

A case in point, in the news recently, a woman who had won a million dollar lottery yet still felt that she was entitled to receive a monthly support check from the government. When asked if she felt she had a right to collect public assistance money, the lady stated, "I kind of do. I have no income, and I have bills to pay. I have two houses." People seem to slip so easily into denial and rationalization and feelings of entitlement. They have a way of convincing themselves that they are entitled to more than they deserve and more than is fair. They might even rail against someone in the same circumstances as themselves. Yet in their own particular case, they fully believe they are justified and deserving.

Of course, it is easy to point fingers and label others as pariahs and leeches and sponges. Yet a bit of inner reflection will likely show that you and I too have multiple areas in our lives where we feel some level of unmerited entitlement. Oh, but they sure are tough to find on our own.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Water! Water?

I am about to write what may be a most unpopular few paragraphs. My words may even seem cold-hearted or ignorant, at least initially. But I feel strongly enough about the topic that I feel compelled to write. I look forward to your remarks either in agreement or in dissension.

My church recently ran a campaign to collect funds to help bring clean drinking water to those who are plagued with non-potable water. It is estimated that up to 1 billion people in the world struggle with gaining access to clean water. That amounts to 1 out of every 7 people. A significant fraction of these people live in developing or third world nations, such as Africa. Clearly this is an issue of global proportions that we should feel compelled to help with from a purely merciful and humanitarian level. So far so good, right?

Now comes the issue that I struggle with in this. In the United States, the average family has 2.0 kids. In Niger 6.8, Chad 6.1, Ethopia 6.3. I could go on, but these numbers paint a chilling portrait. The lion's share of the world's water problems are associated with one of the most inhospitable continents on the planet, where the average family size borders on the obscene. More and more kids being born into environments that they have no business being born into. Nearly every child brought into families in these parts of the world is given a death sentence, a poverty sentence, a struggle sentence at the instant of conception. Instead of enabling people in these struggling countries to struggle just a hair less, shouldn't we be supporting birth control measures and family planning enforcement? Isn't this just common sense at the most basic level?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

1000

Scientist, father, blogger, and worldly bon vivant, this reporter really had to earn his chow to line up an interview with the man behind the renowned blog site Return to Zero. As I finally sat down with the man in his tastefully decorated study, I was bubbling with excitement and more than a bit nervous, I forced myself to gain some modicum of control knowing the historical ramifications of this moment ...

Reporter - Is that a Courvoisier you are savoring?

RTZ - Huh? No, it's just a glass of lemonade. Let's proceed with the interview as I am a busy man.

Reporter - Yes, sorry. I am just a bit nervous.

RTZ - Fine.

Reporter - You're sure it isn't Courvoisier? It just sounds like something one in your position would enjoy.

RTZ - You're kidding me right? Come on man, get on with it.

Reporter - It was the drink of that dude on SNL. He was always chugging the stuff. It made his women more attractive.

RTZ - I'm quite sure that I don't know what you are talking about.

Reporter - I think I tried it once, back in college. But back then I tried lots of things. Unspeakable things.

RTZ - I really have to go now. Good day to you sir.

Reporter - Yes I understand. ... Wow this has been a great interview. One of my best. But I know that I was here to ask about something in particular. It just has slipped my mind.

(Sound of door closing in the distance.)

Reporter - Oh yeah. I was going to congratulate him on his 1000th post. Oh well, it doesn't matter now. I think it is about lunch time and I am starting to feel a bit peckish.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Otherworld

Back in January, I posted blogs associated with my reviews of Stephen Lawhead's Song of Albion trilogy: I tend to keep a notebook handy whenever I read a novel so that I can keep track of the characters and their relationships, along with plot details that I find noteworthy. Sometimes I come across a word or phrase or observation that I jot down because it stirs something within me that I want to think upon further. Such was the case in my reading of the Song of Albion books.

One of the characters, Simon Rawnson, underwent a radical transformation between the beginning and end of the story. When we first met Simon, he was a graduate student at Oxford University. As we came to know him, we saw him as wealthy and privileged, intelligent, quick-witted, and charming. However, we also saw a bit of an ego and an acerbic bite to his point of view. He was always ready to engage folks either to put them in their place with his depth of knowledge on any given topic, yet he revealed a noticeably jaded and world-weary individual.

Ultimately, Simon made his way to the Celtic "Otherworld". Initially we were lead to believe that this was some crazy mistake, however, it eventually became clear that he made his way to this realm with a particularly dark and calculating plan. A plan that lead to untold chaos, rebellion, death, pain, and suffering. A plan that nearly lead to the destruction of both that parallel dimension as well as our own. Lawhead provided the following description of Simon that really stuck with me:

"In Simon we see where cynicism, egotism, and rebellion lead once the humor is gone. When we first meet him, he is an amusing guy whose jaundiced view of the world is quite entertaining. But at some point the stakes get high, and the question is: how will this person respond?"

Now, whether or not you are familiar with the Albion trilogy books or not, I think that I have provided enough background to make this question relevant as a general query. When the stakes get high, whether they be in demanding honesty, loyalty, duty, consistency, or integrity, how will you respond? Will you think outside of yourself or will you remain ever mindful of the needs of others?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Taliesin

I have just completed my first step of the five-part series by Stephen Lawhead called The Pendragon Cycle, a series billed as an "addition to the ranks of Arthurian legend". The first book is entitled Taliesin. The initial two thirds of the story takes us back and forth between two opposing worlds. One is the gleaming jewel of Atlantis, with all of its grandeur and beauty. The other is a small holding in central Briton during the downward decline of Roman control. Initially, Atlantis is a model world of peace and brotherhood, however, beneath the surface lies treachery and betrayal. This upheaval portends the utter destruction of this world and its peoples. The Cymry people in Briton are a proud people, a people of tradition and strength. A people that must constantly remain vigilant to the barbarians and raiders all around them.

The two main characters in this tale are Charis, a strong-minded princess of Atlantis who helps to save a remnant of her people just before her land sinks into the sea. The other is a young Briton prince and bard named Taliesin. The story of Taliesin is designed to provide the background of who these people are and what has shaped them. It also sets the stage for how they ultimately find each other and fall in love, leading to the birth of their fated child, Merlin.

The thread that runs behind and within the pages is the rise of the Christian beliefs in the main characters and how it affects their individual views of the world. A very enjoyable bit of fantasy work by Lawhead that foreshadows his development as an author and storyteller in his more recent works. Now, onto the second book in the series, Merlin.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Paradigm

It's easy to be in and around your friends, to enjoy their company and the time spent with them, and somehow still not fully appreciate them for what they can bring to your life. As a Christian, I have long struggled with putting my faith into action. It is easy for me to study the Word and wrestle with it on a purely intellectual, literary level. Yet a faith that is confined solely to abstract metaphysical approaches, is not a rich or ingrained set of beliefs. Furthermore, it doesn't take a great amount of study of the Bible to see that this sort of approach is clearly not a life of obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ. A quick reading of the New Testament book of James is a great place to start.

However, I have interacted with several couples over the past few years who have modeled for me in a very practical way, how our faith can be lived out, how it should affect our thinking, our interactions, and how we handle our finances. ... B&H ... D&A ... R&S ... R&M ... real people, who have had a very real impact on my life, in a way that I hope can be witnessed from the outside looking in. Perhaps, they have helped me to develop to a level in which my behavior can serve as an example to others and help shape their behavior.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fragile




Sometimes I can feel strong, complete, and protected in one breath and weak, broken, and exposed in the very next.

A butterfly
   A house of cards
     A snowflake
       A moment of silence
         An accord of peace
           A soap bubble
             A trust
               A bird's egg

The lightest pressure dooms the butterfly. An anguished sigh brings down the card house. A spark of anger vaporizes the snow. A wayward syllable eradicates the quiet. A breath of challenge subverts the peace. The slightest nudge from equilibrium pops the bubble. A whisper of betrayal eliminates a trust. A minor fumble shatters the egg.

For you see, the subtlest hint or unchecked emotion can bring me to my knees. Yet, perhaps, this is not so much an indication of my fortitude, but more so a measure of the power we each yield in our interactions with others.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Both Sides Now

Oh but now old friends are acting strange.
They shake their heads, they say I've changed.


It's funny how idealism and strong opinions on issues that seem so black and white when one sits on one side of the fence, become so entirely reversed when we find ourselves repositioned on the other side of that same fence. Consider the rank and file worker who gets promoted into a position of management. How quickly their opinions and outlooks can change. The once loud din of equity and fairness for the little guy can so easily become muted when they start to see things from a different perspective. The hard bottom line of profitability. The concerned grumblings of the share holders. Their own take-home pay.

I thought of this recently as I perused the sports page. The Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA have the worst winning percentage in the league at about 11%. The principal owner of this team is the legendary player Michael Jordan. In his playing career, Jordan railed time and again against his team's owner for not spending the money to bring in the appropriate supporting talent to keep his team in the hunt for a championship. Now, as an owner over the past several years, Jordan has traded away his brightest talents in the effort to reduce payroll to maintain profitability. I can't help but feeling that Jordan the player would not have recognized Jordan the owner, and, in fact, would have abhorred his approach from top to bottom.

Monday, March 5, 2012

R-E-A-D-N-O-W

videoSometimes the sweetest memories of times long ago, though hidden for stretches within some recess of our mind, can unexpectedly drift back into our consciousness. Oh how they can warm the soul and bring a beaming smile to our faces. Such happened to me the other day.

My daughter used to love for me to read to her. In some ways, I think it was the high point of her day. I only have to glance at her bookshelf or the boxes of books in her closet to be reminded of all of the adventurous roads that we have traveled together. As my eyes look over those spines, I can quickly get lost in those moments from years ago. Whether we would read together outside on the porch, or on the couch, or as I readied her for bed each night, our beginning ritual was always the same. She would use her palm to tap out the letters R-E-A-D-N-O-W. Usually she would be ready for me before I had even gathered our book, and her rhythmic tapping would be my signal that she was in place and eager to begin.

Now my daughter is reading through "Young Adult" novels up to 500 pages long and poring through them in short order. While I miss our time reading together, I know that I have passed onto her a love of reading. This will serve her well in life. When she reminded me of our ritual the other day, it brought to both our minds a sweet fragrance.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Space Between

These fickle, fuddled words confuse me ...

I recently read the book The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel. He related the real-life anecdote about a legal squabble between a pastor and the owner of a local watering hole that was funny on one level, but also kind of thought provoking on another. The pastor had asked his church to pray that God would shut down the bar given that he felt it was not a Godly venue. At this request, the whole church gathered for an evening prayer meeting, pleading with God to rid the area of this amoral den of iniquity. A few weeks later, lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.

When the bar owner got wind of the church's prayer crusade, he moved to sue the church. When the court date finally arrived, the owner of the bar leveled his passionate charge that God struck his bar with lightning because of the prayers. The pastor squirmed on the witness stand, trying to dance around the issue and to brush off the accusations. He admitted that his church had prayed, but he quickly added that nobody really expected anything to happen. At this the presiding judge revealed a measure of amusement and confusion when he said, "I can't believe what I'm hearing. Right in front of me is a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer and a pastor who doesn't."

This reminds me of a similar story told by pastor Mark Batterson in his recent work The Circle Maker, where he and a team from his church went and laid hands on a local auto shop praying that God would drive it out of business because they considered this property an eyesore. In relatively short order, it did go belly up. Makes me wonder if a lawsuit is on the way and how Pastor Batterson would respond in court.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Message

Some years ago I did a complete read-through of my NIV translation of the Bible from the first to last page. Against the advice from my pastor at the time and some Christian mentors who cautioned me away from approaching the Bible as one would a novel, I stubbornly moved forward and read the Bible in my own way. In retrospect, I am satisfied with how I approached that season. As a new Christian it just made sense for me to see what this "Christianity thing" was all about. If God was really calling to me, I wanted to learn first hand everything that I could from the beginning to the end.

Since that time I have read a series of books on the Old Testament patriarchs (e.g. Charles Swindoll's Great Lives series) and a number of focused studies on the books of the New Testament (e.g. Charles Swindoll's New Testament Insights series). I have also pored through textbooks on the Old and New Testaments. Through all of my studies I have found that I gained additional insight and understanding by considering the words through different translations of the Bible. One translation that I have enjoyed time and again is a contemporary offering by Eugene Peterson called simply, The Message.

Recently I decided that I wanted to go through the entire Bible again from stem to stern. Accompanying me on this year-long journey will be my new copy of The Message. My goal is to read and learn and savor from a different perspective than what I have come to know. My personal ground rules are simple. 1). I want to read not as an assignment or a duty, but to grow in God's word. 2). To read with an open and relaxed mind, not just to check off a box on a to-do list. 3). To read with purpose and consistency. I look forward to the journey ahead.