Monday, March 30, 2009

No Free Money

I have joked occasionally over the last several weeks about applying for bankruptcy so that I can claim my share of government bailout money. After all, I figure I can’t mismanage it anymore than these companies that are getting billions of dollars. But realistically, I find this whole bailout thing quite discouraging, even depressing. Daily I get little advertisements in Facebook inviting me to claim my share of government bailout money. It’s as easy as clicking on their website. From what these ads claim, I could have several thousand dollars in no time and with no effort.
Beside the fact that I think these websites are making fraudulent claims, I am appalled by the mentality creeping through American society that believes that people are entitled to something for nothing. I don’t believe I have a right nor a need to “free” money from the government. Where exactly do people think this money is coming from anyway? It’s not like the government just has pots of money ready to hand out to any and everyone. Maybe we need to all take a basic lesson in civics combined with a lesson in basic economics. Governments cannot create money. When they do just create money, you get inflation. They get money from taxes, which means from you, me, businesses and others. When the government spends more than that money, it is basically borrowing it from someone and will have to repay it at some point. That means that this trillion dollars the government is going to “pump” into the economy is really borrowed at the expense of ourselves and our children and possibly their children as well. So if I were to receive a bailout from the government it would really be at my own expense, or worse still at the expense of my children. Or it would be borrowed from someone else, which isn’t really any better since I would not be responsible for repaying him or her. There’s no sense of taking responsibility for oneself. Instead it seems a lot of people have the idea that they are entitled to this “free” money. Get real. There’s an old saying that “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Apparently we believe there really is.
It seems to me that American society is exhibiting more and more the basic sin of greed and self-interest. We don’t care what impact it has on others now or in the future, as long as we can get as much as possible for ourselves now. I realize that there are still many Americans who believe in the value of hard-work, taking responsibility and making the best of what one has. But that portion of the population seems to be shrinking. Maybe I’m wrong. I certainly hope I am. But that’s not the impression I’m getting from the news and ads around me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour

Did you miss the latest environmental initiative--Earth Hour? If you have no idea what it is, check out this story on the BBC. According to the article, the aim of this event is to "create a huge wave of public pressure" to bring about a new climate treaty at a meeting in Copenhagen later this year.

I generally consider myself relatively friendly to green movements and try to keep an open mind on the whole question of global climate change. (Perhaps I'll write more about that another day.) But I have to agree with the critics on this one. Earth Hour strikes me as a meaningless gesture. Its effectiveness seems to me similar to that of those efforts, circulated routinely by email, to get people to not purchase gas on a specific day, so that we can "really show" the oil companies that we're serious about high gas prices. Gee, do you think they really feel the pain, when they know that we'll just have to refill our tanks the next day? Similarly, are we really making a powerful impact by turning off lights for one hour? Sure it saves some electricity, but does it really make a difference in the way we live? We're still going to use electricity. Modern society is utterly dependent on it. I know of situations where people live for months without electricity. I don't imagine that most of us in the modern world are eager to return to those conditions, because they are difficult and unpleasant. Progress is not turning off our lights. It is using them in a conscientious and economical manner.

Far more effective would be an initiative to get people to reduce energy usage on a regular basis through exchanging incandescent for flourescent light bulbs, or by implementing other energy-saving features. In fact there are movements promoting precisely such actions. But they aren't as high profile and headline-grabbing as "Earth Hour." How exactly is Earth Hour going to create a huge wave of public pressure anyway? Will politicians or energy company executives really be swayed by people turning off their lights for an hour once a year? I hardly think so. Maybe they are right, though, because modern political leaders seem to be far more easily influenced by large public displays, meaningless though they may be, than by the small but significant actions that don't garner headlines and public attention. I found it interesting that the BBC's story invites people to blog about their experience. Wait a second--doesn't blogging require computers and internet connections, all of which require electricity? Ironic, isn't it?

So last night at 8:30 my lights were on. Not all of them--just those in the rooms being used, with most of the bulbs being low-wattage flourescents. My statement won't be noticed by anyone. But it will, in a small, low-profile manner, contribute a bit to reducing energy consumption. And I can be at peace with that.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I had my first eye exam yesterday in more than 3 years. I figured that after 3 years it was about time to see if my prescription needed adjustment, especially because it seemed to be increasingly difficult to keep my vision focused. My curiosity was also piqued by the vision therapy exercises Dietrich is doing to correct his vision problem. When I try some of them I find that I have as much difficulty as he does, sometimes even more. Yet when my wife or daughter tries them, they don't have any problem at all. Hmmm.

So I went to Dietrich's vision therapist for my eye exam because I knew that she would be able to determine whether there was something more going on than the need for a prescription adjustment. Sure enough, there is. I have a problem called hypertropia. To put it simply, my right eye likes to wander upwards and doesn't really track well with my left eye. Learning this was a bit of an "aha" moment, as I finally understood why I have difficulty keeping my eyes focused. For example, while reading I find that the text often likes to split in two and it can be very difficult to bring it back together. Even now typing this on the computer the screen keeps wanting to separate into two different images. It really increases the strain on my eyes as I try to keep my vision focused. Sometimes I can pull the eyes together. Other times I effectively ignore the right eye and concentrate on the left, as I'm doing at the moment.

Understanding the nature of my problem is a relief. At least I know what's going on with me and it's not just that I'm getting older! But now I'm faced with the question of what I will do about it, if anything. The optometrist feels that she could work with me to improve the problem but did say clearly that hypertropia is very hard to completely overcome. At the moment I don't think that I can afford therapy for myself anyway, on top of already paying for therapy for Dietrich. If only one of us will get treatment, let it be him. At least then he can benefit from a lifetime of better vision, whereas I've already made it nearly 40 years compensating for my problem.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

10 Years Old

Ten years ago today at 12:45AM our son Dietrich joined our family. I find it hard to believe that that baby is now 10 years old! Where do the years go? Dietrich is a wonderful addition to our family and it is impossible to imagine life without him. He is active and energetic, a keen learner with a sharp mind who loves to devour information and share it with you at every possible opportunity.

Being Dietrich's father is a great opportunity for growth. In some ways he is very much like me and in other ways we are quite different. He loves Lego and Star Wars (and the combination of the two) and this weekend we will be hosting a Star Wars birthday party for the young Jedi.

Dietrich is passionate about cars and motor vehicles of any sort. I on the other hand, care very little about them. If I had to repair my own car I could do it, but I would need assistance and would probably not enjoy it at all. Dietrich has yet to try his hand at car repair, but would probably find the whole process fascinating--though he might get frustrated when things didn't go right (which is where he's like me!) Dietrich would probably love to go to a monstor truck rally or a drag race, neither of which appeal to me at all. In this he is more typically male than I am. So the Unguy is having to stretch himself at times. At the same time I try to stretch him as well by engaging him in activities that don't immediately appeal to him. We do enjoy many activities together, like playing soccer, watching sports or racing each other on the GameCube. (This is not always a good thing since it brings out the competitive side in both of us!) Above all I am learning to be patient with him, as our personalities at times clash rather strongly and the sparks can fly.

I thank God that he enriched my life with both a son and a daughter. On this special day though I give particular thanks for the unique person that is Dietrich. He is a joy and a treasure.

Happy Birthday Dietrich!

Monday, March 23, 2009

You're So Vain

I like to ride my bicycle several mornings each week for exercise and relaxation. Most often I ride on a bike path that runs along a dry riverbed not far from our house. Usually I ride on weekday mornings, but recently I’ve been riding Saturday mornings as well. On weekdays the path is mostly empty, with just a few joggers and other bicyclists. On Saturday, by contrast, the path is a very active place with numerous joggers, walkers and bikers.

Last Saturday I stopped at the end point of my ride to rest and drink some water before heading back to the house. As I stood and drank my water I noticed that in the parking lot behind me a large group of cyclists were gathering, all of them dressed identically in professional biking gear. I’m ashamed to admit it, but the minute I saw them I wanted to shrink away and hide because I was ashamed for them to see me in my humble attire. You see, I don’t have any fancy biking gear. I bike wearing ordinary shorts and a t-shirt and my ordinary sports shoes. Nothing fancy. Next to this group of serious bikers in their fancy gear I felt like the poor country cousin who shows up at the banquet, not realizing it was a formal affair. I quickly drank my water, climbed on my bike and pedaled off, hoping that they wouldn’t notice me. As I rode home feeling somewhat sorry for myself, two other bikers blew by me on the road as I huffed my way along. Before long they were far ahead of me. I felt pretty small and vowed to never go out biking on Saturday morning again.
As I have reflected on this incident the past few days, I am ashamed that I felt so self-conscious about what other people might think about my appearance. I know full well that the outward appearance isn’t what really matters. It’s the heart. But at that moment, standing there next to these well-equipped bikers, I really felt small and embarrassed. I cared too much about what they thought of me, when in fact they probably weren’t thinking of me at all. It reminds me of the old song by Carly Simon:
You’re so vain,
You probably think this song is about you.
I’d like to say that this is the only time I’ve struggled with comparing myself to others, but it isn’t. Sometimes I compare myself and I feel pretty good about the results. At other times I compare myself and feel ashamed. But I know that neither the one nor the other is good. I need to grasp with all my heart and mind the truth that the song—that is, this life—isn’t about me at all. It’s about God. The question isn’t whether I look good to others. The question is whether I am striving to live a life that brings honor and glory to God. And the wonderful thing is that when God looks at me, he sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ. So although I am a vain, self-conscious, often weak person who struggles with identity and a host of other issues, God doesn’t see that. Keith Green had a song about this that I really love. Speaking from the perspective of the Father he sang:
When I hear the praises start, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart. I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me,
To me you’re only holy.
Nothing that you’ve done remains
Only what you do in me.
God himself stated it even better speaking through Paul:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17)
I don’t want to be vain, thinking that this life is about me, always worrying what other people might think of me. But although I am already a new creation, I’m still learning how to live as one. I’m thankful for grace along the journey. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll work up the courage to ride again on Saturday morning and not worry what others might think of my unprofessional attire.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Remember the Sabbath, part 2

(Continued from yesterday's post.)

There was a time when I felt strongly that we should not eat out on Sundays, that this was a violation of Sabbath principles. Now, although we don’t eat out routinely on Sunday, I feel the freedom to do so on occasion, especially if we are doing it with friends so that relational time becomes the focus. One reason I changed my thinking on this was realizing that my desire to rest on the Sabbath by eating at home forced my wife to work on the Sabbath by coming up with something to eat. I do try to balance my Sabbath day with periods of rest, periods of time in personal activities and periods of time with the family and occasionally with friends. Of course participating in worship is a key part of Sabbath as well.

Because I do not want Sabbath-keeping to become legalistic, I’m hesitant to say that there is anything specific that we must or must not do to observe it. Even the idea of never doing anything out of duty or compulsion shouldn’t become for me a law in itself, because there may be times that I find myself in a position where I simply MUST do something on that day. I try to avoid being in that position, but since I am not omnipotent, I cannot guarantee it will never happen. Also, by saying to myself that I will NEVER do a particular activity, I may create greater stress for myself than if I simply did it and got it out of the way. An example of this is taking care of dishes, which Marva Dawn advocates not doing on the Sabbath. I like the idea in principle, but I find that I can relax better if at the end of the day I load up the dishwasher and wash up the remaining dishes. Otherwise they bother me every time I walk by the sink. But I try to allow myself the freedom to do them or ignore them until the morning.

When I first began consciously trying to observe a Sabbath-rest, I found that Sunday evening became a point of stress because I felt the need to get ready for the coming week but at the same time felt the burden of keeping Sabbath. Some friends helped me break this conflict by their example of observing the Sabbath more Hebrew-style: from sundown on Saturday through sundown on Sunday. I like this because it fits with the biblical pattern and because it allows me greater flexibility on Sunday evening if I need it (though I try to maintain the period of rest through Sunday evening when possible.)

Because I want Sabbath-keeping to be a freely-chosen activity, I also try to not impose any expectations on the rest of my family concerning what they should or shouldn’t do with their Sabbath. For example, I would prefer that my children complete all their school work on Friday evening or Saturday and have Sunday free. That was my preferred pattern in school anyway. But I realize that they have different approaches and I want to allow them freedom to do what they feel is right. I do encourage them to observe a day of rest, in part by inviting them to participate with me in various fun activities on Sunday.

Some people may find it necessary to work on Sundays because of their jobs. In such cases, I think it would benefit them to choose another of their days off to observe a Sabbath. I don’t think the specific day of the week is the most important factor. I think it is more important to maintain the principle that God laid down for us: to rest every seventh day and to make it holy to God.

What about you? How do you observe the Sabbath, or do you observe it at all? What principles guide your choice of activities on the Sabbath? Do you think the principle of keeping Sabbath is even applicable in the modern world? Let me know your thoughts and let’s learn and grow together.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Remember the Sabbath Day

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11, NIV)

Some years ago a friend of mine gave me a book entitled Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn. I recommend it to you. Around that same time I read an article which I can no longer find in my files, but which I remember being by Eugene Petersen (though I’m not certain of that), called “Confessions of a Sabbath-Breaker.” Both of these readings challenged me to think deeply about what it means to keep the Sabbath. My understanding of Sabbath-keeping continues to grow and develop, but my general principles are simple. First of all, maintaining some type of Sabbath observance is important. It is commanded by God and it benefits us as people. God did not create us to work endlessly without rest. I think this message is more essential in our busy world than ever. Secondly, Sabbath-keeping means taking a break from the routines of our lives. Dawn in her book speaks of four activities: ceasing, resting, embracing and feasting. My current approach is to do nothing out of compulsion or duty. Instead I want to rest by doing that which is enjoyable and which brings me closer in relationship to God and others.

The challenge in determining what it means to observe the Sabbath is that anytime we begin trying to determine a list of what is allowed and forbidden, we end up becoming legalists and destroy the very notion of the Sabbath. Our activities or lack thereof becomes a measure of our spirituality, rather than a freely-offered response to God’s goodness. This is what Jesus attacked when he pointed out that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. Some argue that one should never watch television on the Sabbath. Others say we should be certain to enjoy the natural world. Still others … All of these can be valid arguments. But to elevate any of them to rules which we must observe is, in my opinion, to violate the very nature of Sabbath by making it into a duty and making ourselves slaves to the law of Sabbath.

At one time I felt quite strongly that I needed to observe the Sabbath by not using my computer in any manner. This was in part a response to the fact that I spent a large portion of my work week and even my leisure time on the computer and I felt the need to step away from it for a time, to free myself from the tyranny of urgency that comes with electronic communication. However, of late I’ve felt freedom to use part of my Sabbath to correspond with friends. Most of the time this is by e-mail and therefore involves using the computer. There was also a time when I felt quite strongly that I should not watch television on the Sabbath. Now, although I try to leave it off most of the day, I don’t feel that I am in the wrong if I choose to watch my favorite football team or play video games with my son. In keeping with my basic principle stated earlier, if I began to feel like I must do any of these activities (either out of internal or external compulsion), I would want to release them and not engage in them for a period of time. For example, if I find myself thinking that I absolutely MUST write to any particular person on the Sabbath, I usually will choose to delay writing until another day. I want my Sabbath-day correspondence to be freely chosen.

Because this post is getting rather long, I will end here for today and continue my thoughts on this tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I found myself on my hands and knees yesterday morning scrubbing the kitchen floor following a small spill of sticky mandarin juice as the kids packed their lunches. This prompted me to think about the whole idea of men’s and women’s roles in society. Some people would say that these roles are quite distinct, while others would say there aren’t really any distinct roles for men and women. Rather it’s all just culturally based. I fall somewhere in the middle. I do think God made men and women different and there are certain things that we each seem to do better in general. But I think we must be careful about prescribing any role for either men or women, because God also makes each one of us unique and our gifts and abilities are not determined by our gender.

Here in the West we have moved a long way toward eliminating the prescription of certain roles as “men’s” or “women’s” and I think that overall this is a good thing. I’m not saying that there is perfect equality, but compared to many other cultures men and women here are far more balanced in their roles. I imagine that most American women are happy to have husbands who actively help with household chores. (Ladies, correct me if I’m wrong.) My wife certainly doesn’t object when I scrub the floor as I did this morning, or when I clean the bathroom or wash the dishes. Are there women out there who would object to this or see it as somehow “unmasculine?” But I’ve lived in other cultures where the men still would never dream of demeaning themselves to do such labor. Interestingly enough, in those cultures I see that most of the time women work far harder, often working outside of the home during the day, then returning home and doing all the housework as well. One day I was sweeping the walk in front of our gate when our neighbor, another American living there, came out and informed me that I was shaming my wife before the neighbors. Apparently only women should sweep around the house and my doing so made both myself and my wife look bad. In other situations I’ve heard of, people must haul water some distant from a well, lake or river. The full pails are heavy, but this too is always women’s work. When the husband of a foreign family living in the community carried water for the family they received a lot of criticism for this.

In such situations I really struggle with my response. I desire to serve my wife and my family by helping around the house. I believe that this is what a godly man does. But what should I do when my desire conflicts with the cultural understanding of what a man should be like? I personally try to discern in each situation what is best, but I hope I err on the side of being a servant rather than being a “real man.” I usually cannot directly challenge the cultural norms. But I believe I can offer a different model for them to consider and, when the situation allows, defend that model as a godly one. I am not claiming that our Western model is inherently better or more godly. But in terms of the balance between roles, I think that the model of a man who is a servant to others is certainly preferable and consistent with God’s teaching.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Global Food Crisis Day

One of my favorite descriptions of God found in the Scriptures is the phrase: "The Lord is gracious and compassionate." (Psalm 145:8, among numerous references.) I love that word "compassion." It's a great word. It derives from two Latin roots meaning "to suffer together." How cool is it that we have a God who is not distant and uncaring, but who suffers with us, who feels our pain and cares about our sufferings.

One of my favorite organizations chose this word for it's name: Compassion International. Compassion is dedicated to one thing, releasing children from poverty. That's a cause I can support with all my heart. Today Compassion promoted "Global Food Crisis Day," a day to call attention to the millions and millions of people around the world who cannot afford even a most basic food supply. We think times are tough in the US right now. In some ways they are. But our tough times would seem like paradise to so many people in the world. Food prices have been rising sharply around the world, which affects all of us. But it affects you far more if you only have $1 a day or less to live on and the price of flour, bread or rice just doubled. That's what happened in the last year we were living overseas and we saw the impact it had on families. Most of us as Americans can economize and still get plenty to eat. Not so for many in the world. They have no room to economize, so they do without.

God calls us to have compassion, just as he is compassionate. How can we show compassion to those who are less fortunate than us, especially when they live in far-away countries? One way is to sponsor a child through Compassion. By giving a mere $36 a month you can provide a child with food, an education and a chance for a better future. Or you can give what you are able to help provide food to the hungry. Visit Compassion's website at to find out more. There are other good organizations doing similar work, but I can vouch for Compassion's integrity because I've supported them for more than 20 years.

Check out this blog (there are several posts following this one) for a first-hand account of some sponsors visiting their Compassion children in the Dominican Republic. Their stories are powerful and moving.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Frivolity of God

I dislike making decisions. I've made progress in this area over the years, but at times it still creates an enormous amount of internal tension. This is especially true in regard to financial decisions, not only with large, weighty ones but often the small, seemingly trivial ones as well. This is because anytime I am confronted with the decision about making a discretionary purchase, I find myself questioning whether this purchase is really necessary or worthwhile. I also feel guilt, thinking that the money I might spend on said item could be better used to do something useful for the poor and hungry in the world. For example, sometimes on the way home from school or while we are out running errands the kids will ask me if we can get ice cream or something. This simple question plunges me into an internal debate about whether we have the available funds and whether I can justify to myself using those funds for this frivolous purpose. The internal debate that goes on in my mind can at times be paralyzing. Unfortunately it often produces a sharp answer to my children as well, which is not deserved.

I was sharing about this dilemma with my counselor Heather recently and she shared some really helpful thoughts on the matter. First and foremost, she encouraged me to bring the question to God each time I find myself beginning a mental battle with myself. Allow God to tell me what to do and in that find peace, whatever the direction. She also helped me to see that my quandry stems in part from a belief I have developed that it is more godly to live simply and that to use my God-given resources in anything other than the most frugal manner is sinful. I do believe that God desires us to use our resources wisely, but I had developed a mindset of God as stingy. God gives me a certain set of resources and, if I don't use them wisely, His purposes in the world will somehow be left undone. My understanding of God was too small and too limited.What Heather helped me understand is that a stingy frugality is no more godly than unbridled spending on one's wants and desires. In fact, she pointed out, the Scriptures show us a God who is at times downright frivolous. Consider the instructions for building the tabernacle and the temple. This is not the design of a God who is stingy and frugal. This is a God who is lavish and frivolous. Consider the vast diversity of his creation. He provided animals with colors and appendages that go beyond utilitarian into the realm of the downright flashy.

This idea of the frivolity of God has been quite freeing, as has the practice of praying over decisions I face, no matter how small. God is not a harsh accountant, demanding a strict accounting for every penny. God delights in beauty and joy and giving. He delights to give to us and to see us respond to his giving with delight. It's not as if God is on a tight budget.

God may direct some people to be more frugal and to give more generously to those in need. For me, understanding his frivolity has released me to be freer in using the resources he has given to me. Ultimately the key is to be in relationship with him so that we know his leading each and every moment.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Women's Day

To all you wonderful women out there, Happy Women's Day!

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you have probably never lived in Europe or the former Soviet sphere. In Russia and many other countries, March 8 is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate women for being women. It's not like Mother's Day, which is fundamentally about celebrating mothers (and which they have in Russia as well, but for some reason celebrate it in late November and it is much less significant than in North America). Women's Day is a day for all women, whether they are mothers or girls, married or single, young or old. It's a big day and no man in his right mind would forget it. Of course given that the other 364 days of the year in Russia and other places I've lived women carry the heaviest burden of labor and really keep society functioning, recognizing them for this on a single day is the very least that can be done. I bet many women there would be happy to give up women's day if in exchange they could have men who were more engaged in household activities.

So dear ladies, enjoy your day and please know that at least some of us men truly do appreciate you, not just for what you do but simply for who you are. You enrich our lives and our world. Some men might dream of a world without women. I for one think that such a world would be a pretty sad and uninteresting place to live. I'm glad I don't have to.

And to my beloved wife and precious daughter--I love and adore you both!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Standard Time?

Tonight most of America will switch to daylight savings time. In Arizona we don't observe this quaint tradition. I guess it's because we have plenty of daylight and don't feel the need to save any. Besides that, it's powerful hot during daylight hours in the summer anyway, so let's just leave them as they are and not try to stretch them still later into the evening.

Since daylight savings time now begins in early March and extends through the end of October, I calculate that the country spends almost a full 8 months out of every year on daylight savings time. That being the case, why do we continue to call those other 4 months "standard" time. They aren't standard at all. In fact they are the exception. Of course calling the summer months standard and the 4 winter months "daylight shortage time" or something like that doesn't exactly sound very appealing.

When we lived in Russia I came to appreciate sunlight as I had never appreciated it before. At 60 degrees north latitude winter days get REAL short. By mid-December we could sit at our breakfast table looking out the window at 9:30 AM and it would still be dark outside and by 3:30 it was dark again. When you add in the clouds that often cover the skies during those months so that even during the "day" you see precious little sun, you begin to appreciate those few moments when it does shine. I guess that's why Russians will go suntan outdoors even when the temperature is well below freezing. I would take the kids to school in the dark, go on to work in the dark, spend my day in an office with non-natural light and by the time I left to go home or pick up the kids it was already dark again. I didn't enjoy that. Although I don't think I suffer from it, I can understand "seasonal affective disorder." Give me sunnier climes any day.

So for those of you outside of Arizona, "Happy Daylight Savings season!" Enjoy those extra hours of sunlight in the evening. Being a morning person myself, they wouldn't do me that much good anyway, so I'll let you have them. Cheers!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pink is the color of sensitivity

I have sensitive teeth. Does that make me a sensitive guy? In and of itself, probably not. It does mean that I have to be careful what I eat. For example, I really like grapefruit, especially fresh off the tree like we can get here in Arizona. But I have learned that my teeth are not so fond of it. If I eat very much, my teeth will hurt from the acid.

One thing I have done for years to help this problem is to use toothpaste for sensitive teeth. What I find interesting is that invariably the toothpaste for sensitive teeth comes in the pink box/tube. This is true regardless of the brand I buy. Why is that? What is it about sensitivity and the color pink? Usually we think of pink as a quintessentially feminine color and we tend to think of women as more sensitive than men, so maybe that's the connection. Does that mean that men can't be sensitive (and I'm not just talking about our teeth!)? I certainly hope not. I think that one thing my wife has in mind when she calls me an unguy is that I am more sensitive than your average male. I like to think that I am, although I admit that my sensitivity is far from perfect. But I'd rather be more sensitive to the feelings of others than be "masculine" and insensitive. If that makes me "pink," so be it. So I will continue to use my pink toothpaste with pride and celebrate my sensitivity.

By the way, I happen to think that it's okay for men to like the color pink, though you won't find me all decked out in it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What is an unguy?

What exactly is an unguy? (Or should it be un-guy? I haven't decided for myself yet.) Perhaps I should ask my wife to provide a definition, since she was the one who first applied the term to me. I never rejected it, because it always seemed to describe my personality. But rather than offer a nice definition in this first posting, I want to explore the idea (among others) through this blog. By sharing some of my thoughts and experiences I hope to gain a better understanding of what it means to be an unguy, to live as a godly man in a 21st century world. One of my favorite authors is a German pastor, executed at Hitler's orders at the end of WWII, named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In one of his letters written while he was in prison he pointed out to a friend:

"To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself (a sinner, a penitent, or a saint) on the basis of some method or other, but to be a man--not a type of man, but the man that Christ creates in us."

Rather than accept someone's prescription of what it means to be a man of God, I want to understand what Christ asks of me specifically as a man and as a person. The apostle Paul wrote "I want to know Christ." I echo that statement. But what does this mean practically? Recently I was reading in Matthew and came to the section where Jesus calls people to come to him and take his burden on themselves. What struck me was his description of himself: "I am gentle and humble in heart." Wow. These aren't words that we normally use to affirm a man. But if Jesus used them to speak of himself, then they certainly must be qualities I should desire to see develop in myself. I'm not there yet--in fact I'm a long way from being there. But one aspect of being an unguy for me is to affirm gentleness and humility as godly, masculine qualities.

So I invite you to explore with me. Not every post here will be focused on this theme. I want to share what comes to mind when the muses sway me to write. But a lot of my thinking is in this area these days, so it will certainly be a recurring question.