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I recently read The Old Man and the Sea and am glad for many reasons. First, I am certain the last time I read it was high school as an assignment with a test afterward. All stories are better without a test afterward.

I like how Ernest Hemmingway is able to convince readers of relationship with just a few words. Santiago, the old fisherman, has a relationship with the boy, with the sea, with the bird at sea, with the marlin. I like the way Joe DiMaggio is written into the story. And DiMaggio’s father. Who knew the father of the great DiMaggio was a fisherman? I am sure the Yankees would love to have more fans like Santiago.

I like the images in the story that one might expect a preacher to like. I am fascinated that Santiago is at sea for three days and nights. I am fascinated that Santiago “shouldered the mast and started to climb… at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder.” I am fascinated when I read that Santiago felt “the nail go through his hands and into the wood.”

I like the explicit spiritual discussion Santiago holds with himself. “I am not religious… But I will say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys that I should catch this fish, and I promise to make a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Cobre is I catch him. That is a promise.” I enjoy the brief discussion about sin.

But mostly I enjoy the adventure of the story. I enjoy the backstory that helps us realize Santiago’s tenacious spirit. He once won a 24 hour arm wrestling match in the tavern at Casablanca before he was an old man. I enjoy that he shows a similar tenacity throughout the book. This is a survival story. Battling exhaustion, hunger, and thirst, Santiago is making decisions that really matter. He is constantly adapting to the next danger with a new plan. He is living on bare essentials, with what he was carrying with him when he left for fishing. He is well aware of his surroundings, even the stars and the winds. Santiago is able to catch, gut, and eat a fish all while he is fighting the giant marlin.

Many have considered Old Man to be fable like, symbolic, or allegorical. I suppose it is possible. However, we want to at least consider Hemmingway’s own words to critic Bernard Berenson on September 13, 1952. “There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse.”

In Old Man, Hemmingway introduces us to an old down on his luck fisherman. And he takes us on a voyage into the soul of a man that is disguised as a routine fishing trip. Whatever the meaning, I am very glad to spend these three days and night with Santiago.


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Time for a Big Salad

My life seems to have been a bit serious lately, I am trying to lighten it up. So I go out for a salad, as in a big salad. I love greens and the right toppings for greens. Come to think of it, I am serious about salad. I like greens with color and crunch. Presentation and texture do make a difference. If you argue that the best place for a salad is in your own kitchen, I will not argue. But it is also true that The Susquehanna Harvest Seasonal Grill is also an excellent place for a salad.

This place is comfortable, service is excellent, the iced tea is served right (and they refill it generously). They call themselves a local farm to table establishment and will tell you the local farms they work with. They claim most of the items on the menu are under 500 calories. They change the menu four times a year to reflect the seasons. They use the tag line “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.” Come to think of it, the only thing that would make this more fun is if the farmers were actually present, checking in to see how much I am enjoying their harvest.

Anyway, I had the Grilled Salmon Salad (autumn version). It is the kind of salad that once you finish it you want to eat another one just like it. Of course, you can’t because this is a big salad. The greens are baby spinach. It is topped with roasted beets, thinly sliced apples, dried cranberries, candied pecans, and feta cheese. And of course, there is a tasty portion of salmon. Get the honeycrisp apple vinaigrette on the side. The textures and flavors combine to make it seem more than just a meal.

Only one warning, this may be the most expensive salad I have ever had. If that keeps you from trying it there, try this salad in your own kitchen. You will be glad you did.

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True Colors

It is a good time of year to carry a bow into the woods. I can hear sit com character Barney Stinson now, “Ghillie suit up.” Walking through the forest it’s as if a fire has been lit. Colors burn at the top of the trees. Leaves fall like sparks to the ground. If one lands on my head, will I be able to understand other tongues? They crunch under my feet as colors are unveiled. Sounds like autumn to me. I walk through various shades of red, orange, and yellow. It is as if the fire is catching. The true colors of the leaves only begin to show as they begin to die. Is that what it takes to reveal our true colors?

From Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, pp. 135-136

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I suspect any of us could come up with a significant list of positives and negatives for social media. No matter how many of each, it may not matter much what we think about social media. Perhaps more interesting are the ways we choose to use it and what it says about us. For instance, it reveals our spiritual deficiencies. This is most evident when it is used as a platform to discuss polarizing issues. Culture thrives in the arena of instant critique. And the church seems to join right in. We don’t have to look far for evidence, just let Rob Bell write a book, Eugene Peterson get interviewed, or Donald Trump do anything.

I suspect we sometimes respond with “cyber rage” because we think others expect us to protest certain things. Maybe we fear silence will be viewed as agreement. There are likely any number of reasons we do what we do but anxious reactivity will always reveal something about our spirituality. Our words and other responses will impact our witness. We need a spirituality that refuses to rush to judgment. Among other things, the cyber age reminds us how easy it is for grace and truth and thoughtful response to be replaced by messages that are not part of our message.

One of the dangers of social media is that we can speak without looking at others. This is not the fault of social media. In this way, social media is like driving a car. During proper navigation, everything goes ok. Yet sometimes when we feel safe enough, out of reach, or that we have not been recognized we think we can get away with words and gestures we might never say or do if we were in closer proximity to those we communicate with.

I sometimes wonder if we believe condescending comments are acceptable if our theology is good. The fact is, our behavior reveals more about our theology than any verbal report. If we behave in hateful, hurtful ways our theology is bad. It is ok to disagree with others. It is ok to disagree with others publicly. It is not ok to become part of the larger problem to fail to love others.

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Happy Birthday

There has been an osprey hanging around at Wildwood Lake. It has attracted a lot of photographers. It’s the kind of thing Dad would have liked. Today is Dad’s birthday. We have often went out to eat to celebrate birthdays and we often would wind up at the Olive Garden for Dad’s. Dad would always order spaghetti and meatballs. I am not sure if we ever liked the Olive garden or if we liked hearing Dad order his food. Spaghetti please, sauce on the side. Meatballs, also on the side. Soup or salad? Salad please, dressing on the side. Sometimes we would add. Garlic bread please, garlic on the side.

I will miss this. I will miss the way he would record conversations and play them back for people later. (True story, if you have spent time with Dad, there may be a recording of you lying around somewhere). I will miss the story about slicing fresh pineapples in the field with his knife while stationed in Hawaii. (This is actually a story protesting the taste of canned pineapple). I will miss him thumping his chest and saying “170 lbs., same as when I got out of the Marine Corp.” (A story we have not heard him tell in recent years). I will miss the story about lassoing a groundhog. (I am still not sure this is a true story). I will miss the way he tried to act like he didn’t want us to tell how he lost his teeth while swimming in Dominica. (This is a true story).

I think I might stop by Wildwood Lake today and look for the osprey. And then I might just go out to eat spaghetti. Maybe I should order my sauce on the side.

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Most of us have probably heard by now about the fourteen articles known as the Nashville Statement. Endorsed by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, each article contains an affirmation and a denial regarding gender and sexuality.

This statement has been met with a lot of passion – both for and against it. Those who agree with it have opportunity to sign it online. To encourage more signatures, one can find a list of religious celebrities who have already signed it. Those who are opposed can also point to prominent names who share their opposition. The mayor of Nashville even chimed in by saying the statement “is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”

The content of the document focuses on gender and sexuality. But the discussion has included things like eternal subordination of the Son and complementarianism. If these terms are unfamiliar to you, here are the short definitions; eternal subordination of the Son – Jesus is a subordinate to the Father. And complementarianism – females are subordinate to males. While we can debate whether these things are woven into the document, we do know that those behind the document are influenced by such ideas. Scot McKnight is one convinced these things influence the statement. His response, “Those we can’t trust for orthodoxy on the trinity can’t be trusted when it comes to morality.”

Gender and sexuality are addressed in the bible, sometimes in significant ways. Yet they have never been mentioned in one of the historical creeds. Even if it were appropriate for a creed-like statement like this, many will protest the timing of this document. At a time when many are looking to the church for unity, is this one more thing to divide us?

Creeds have historically addressed essentials of the faith, written to counter strong heresies. We remember them because they affirm things like Christology and Trinity and Incarnation and Resurrection. Yet I suspect that many who feel the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed are unnecessary have already signed the Nashville Statement. I find it concerning that the Nashville Statement communicates a message that suggests agreement with it is necessary for Christian faith.

The Nashville Statement seems to rehearse what has already been said multiple times. To frame it this way comes across as cognitive and impersonal rather than pastoral or relational. Perhaps a helpful question to ask is “does this statement help the local church in its ministry to people spoken about in the statement?” I am not sure it does, in fact it may hinder.

The fact is, statements like these make me nervous. They suggest we have things figured out. They tend to position themselves in a place of authority where they do not belong. Instead of a statement drawn up in a back room I would prefer something more incarnational, something that looks people in the eye when we are talking to them.

The danger is that even when the Nashville Statement speaks the truth, it falls short at speaking the truth in love. Style cannot be separated from substance. Message cannot be separated from medium. Public statements like these are often written for those already in agreement with them and do not serve a pastoral purpose. That seems to be the case with the Nashville Statement. What we need is a church that is serious about loving those we meet along the way, not another statement.

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On Tuesday, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released The Nashville Statement. In case you are out of the loop, this is a series of affirmations and denials about what they claim we should think about human sexuality. To commemorate this event, I offer the following multiple choice quiz.

Which of the following will we no longer be talking about in fifty years?

A) Creed of Nicea, a.d. 325.

B) Nicene Creed, a.d. 381.

C) Chalcedonian Creed, a.d. 451.

D) Nashville Statement, a.d. 2017

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