Devotion: “Santa Left Nothing”

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Scripture Reading:  (Isaiah 11:1-9)

My sister and I awoke one Christmas morning, rushed into the living room only to find that Santa had left us nothing, Nothing!  After my Dad had a little fun teasing us, he suggested that Santa may have decided to drop off the presents at our new home that was being built just beside our trailer-home.  We rushed over to the new house, flung open the door to the living room, and found that a tree had been erected beside the fireplace. It was glowing and twinkling with Christmas lights, and beneath it all, Santa had deposited our gifts.  Our Christmas joy had been saved.

 

The Israelites had known the favor of the Lord, but that was all in the past.  At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, they were like children rushing into the living room hoping to find a miracle of salvation only to realize they were stuck in exile and bondage.  Isaiah’s words; however, speak of a new hope. Maybe salvation did not completely miss them? “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”  There was to be the coming of a Messiah, the Christ, the miracle of all miracles bringing salvation to all.  Through Jesus, our Christmas joy has been found.

 

Thanos & Apples

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Have you ever heard the term “exponential growth”?  Exponential growth is defined as growth whose rate becomes ever more rapid in proportion to the growing total number or size”.   An easy way to conceptualize this multiplying effect is through apples.

Let’s say I gave you an apple today, and told you that each new day I would give you an additional apple for each one you owned.  On day two, you would receive one new apple to go with the one you were already given. On day three, you would receive two new apples to go with the two you now owned.  On day four, you would be given four apples to go with the four apples you owned. By the end of the week you would end up with 64 apples!!!

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If you’re a fan of apples, you have now become a wealthy and happy person.  

What if we looked at exponential growth in terms of human population.  Take a look at this chart

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Are you beginning to see the problem?  Let’s say you’re still a person who loves apples, and the resources of our planet are finite (which they are).  This means the Earth can only support the growth of so many apples. If human population continues to grow at this accelerated rate while the supply of apples cannot, eventually some people must surrender their love of apples.

This conceptual, albeit very real dilemma facing Earth and its human population, is the heartbreaking issue that drives Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.  In the movie we learn that Thanos intends to wipe out half of the Universe’s population, and we are led to believe that this desire is based on his lust for death; however, the movie gives us a compelling backstory.  We eventually find out that his home planet, Titan, was once a flourishing society that grew beyond its means, and did nothing to turn the tide before it was too late. Thanos offered the logical, but difficult solution of arbitrarily wiping out half the population.  This price was deemed too high and the planet collapsed.

imagesWhen I was in grade school, my biology textbook explained ecological balance by using hawks and rabbits.  The population of hawks and rabbits naturally regulate one another. If the rabbit population sees significant growth, there is more food for the hawks.  This increase in nutrition allows the hawks to have more offspring, and in turn, causes an increase in the population of hawks. As the hawk population grows and feeds on the rabbits, the rabbit population drops.  The food source for the hawks then decreases causing them to have less offspring and creating a regulatory balance.

Now, if the hawks are completely removed from the equation, the only things left to regulate the rabbit population are scarcity of food and disease.

The beauty of the human race is that we have made incredible technological and medical advancements.  We can mass produce food and heal ailments of all kind. We have essential pushed beyond our natural limits.  But what happens when we reach the point of critical mass?

The warning of Thanos is “Do Not Wait!”  As humans, we have allowed our intelligence to drive us.  We are always thinking “What’s possible?”, and then we shoot for it.  We neglect to ask the question, “What is reasonable”, or “What is sustainable”, or “What benefits us all”?

My hope is that we wake up to the eventuality of what is before us, and we do so before it is too late.  That we are able to move beyond intelligence and into the area of wisdom. As we do so, may we look to create a sustainable and beautiful future; not a future that finds the human race trapped and in need of desperate decisions.

“Make it Real & Relevant” (Mentor Tip)

Mentor-Relationship

Make it Real & Relevant

As mentors, by default, students will react to our words and actions.  The trick is getting them to react in a positive way that influences them for the better.  A key ingredient in making this happen is to “Make it real & relevant”.

Have you ever had someone give you an analogy based on a subject area that you cared nothing about?  (i.e. someone uses football to explain the benefits of working as a team when you neither know nor care anything about football?)  Was it an effective method of communication? The answer is probably, “No”. This is why making it real & relevant matters.

 

Here are two steps to help make it real & relevant.

#1 Make it real to them.

People are not impacted unless they find meaning and purpose in what they are doing, and meaning can not be forced upon a person.  In recent research concerning teaching strategies, Chris Hulleman, Director of the Motivate Lab at UVA, said, “It’s important for teachers [mentors] to allow students to find their own meaning in their school work.”  Mentors have the opportunity to help guide students in discovering their own meaning in topics and allow them to see how it is important to their life.  

For example, if the topic of money comes up in a conversation, ask open ended questions to find out how they feel about money

  • Do you think you should give to help others, or a cause?
  • Is it important to save money?
  • Do you think prices in our country are reasonable?
  • Do you know someone (family or friend) who has been impacted by financial struggles?

Once they have made the connection to how money matters to them, your words will make a greater impact and have a chance to take root.

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#2 Listen first; don’t lecture

“Resist the temptation to lecture,” Hulleman said. “You’re trying to get students to discover the personal meaning for themselves. Teachers [mentors] can give examples from their own personal lives, but just as an example.”  

Have you ever heard the old Chinese Proverb, “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.”  To be more applicable to our situation, the proverb needs to be tweaked a bit, “Force feed a person fish, and they will neither like fishing nor the taste of fish.”  In other words, if we help students to discover meaning before telling them how they should feel or think, we have awakened purpose from within.  A person must feel compelled from the inside out and not from the outside in.

 

In summary, I’ll borrow the words from James (1:19),

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

CLICK HERE for full article quoted above.

The Full 1000

IMG_6436When asked about the song, “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)”, Craig Reid of the Proclaimers said, “I reckon I wrote the whole thing in 45 minutes”.   It is rather ironic that a song expressing extreme commitment, And if I grow-old, well I know I’m gonna be.  I’m gonna be the man who’s growing old with you,” was written in less than an hour!  At first glance, it seems almost unfair, like a God-given miracle, but in reality, Craig Reid did not write that song in 45 minutes.

Craig, and his twin brother Charles, were born on March 5, 1962.  During their adolescent years they dove into music forming several punk rock bands prior to the advent of The Proclaimers in 1983.  The song “I’m Gonna Be” was not written until 1987. Craig had been writing and performing music for years in preparation for a moment of incredible creativity.  Technically, the song was written in 45 minutes, but in reality, all of the experience, preparation and practice set him up for this moment in time.

We live in a Hollywood culture where the struggle can be glazed over in a montage in order to move the audience to the moments of elation.  These moments of amazement are more often than not portrayed as some sort of transcendent epiphany that can only be obtained by people with almost supernatural giftings.  It leads us “common folk” to throw our hands in the air and say “Oh well”. Or worse, we blame God that he didn’t create us with such talents and giftings. What gets left out of the movie adaption, or the romanticized version of the story, is the long journey that lead to the “miraculous” point of discovery.

In reality, the chorus of Craig Reid’s masterpiece is most fitting and rather apropos to the real journey of life.  A worthwhile discovery takes time, effort and a certain level of grit. In order to get to the mountain top, we must walk the 500 miles and then 500 more.  And if we don’t, well, we will never truly know what might have been.

The Bandwagon Effect

bandwagonartPeople are fairly bifurcated when it comes to their view on bandwagoners.  Either you are a bandwagoner, or you hate bandwagoners. Or the worst case scenario, your child is torn away from your beloved team by the newest, shiniest bandwagon and you just happen to be a person that hates bandwagoners.

Okay, let’s begin with a little history of the “Bandwagon”.

The original “Bandwagon” was exactly as it sounds, a wagon that carried a band during parades, the circus or promotional events.  The term was uncomplicated and non divisive until a man by the name of Dan Rice, a former circus clown, began to use it for political gain.  His campaign was so successful that other politicians followed suit.  Not long after, the phrase “jump on the bandwagon” came to be used as a derogatory term for voters being drawn to success while neglecting to consider the views with which they were associated.

Okay, time to turn the mirror on myself.  Am I a bandwagoner?

Let’s face it, bandwagoners exists wherever fads and trends exist, but one genre that can get very heated is the world of sports.  Here are my favorite sports teams in order of fandom.

 

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Georgia Bulldogs – this one is easy.  I’m from Georgia, I’m named George, and most of my family is a huge fan.

Does this count as a bandwagon?  I’m gonna go with a big NO!

 

cavs-generic-1718-758Cleveland Cavaliers – This one is more debatable.  I started following the Cavs at the beginning of my NBA experience. They were an underdog team drafting this no-big-deal player named Lebron James.  Since then, I’ve stuck with them through the goods and bads (Lebron, post-Lebron, Kyrie Irving, post-Kyrie, the block, the shot, the 2016 Championship, post-Lebron again, Kevin Love gets paid, and enter the Youngbull, Collin Sexton)  My case against this being a bandwagon team is helped by the fact that my wife is from Cleveland and we visit there all the time.

Does this team count as a bandwagon?  I’m fully invested over many years. Still saying no.

 

23658432_10156445529358484_1395203057940058631_nLA Rams – I live in Pasadena and the Rams came home.  Not only did I like their mascot and helmet as a kid, which doesn’t count for much, but they had two first round draft picks from my Bulldogs, Todd Gurley and Alec Ogletree.  They had a good year, I loved it. They had a crap year, I stuck with them. Then they had an incredible season, I’m hopeful.

Does this count as a bandwagon?  To be determined.

 

62372-cleveland-browns-dessert-plates__91781.1492709989Cleveland Browns – I really did not want to become a Browns fan.  There known as the “factory of sadness” for Pete’s sake! But, my first and only live Browns game just happened to their one and only win of the 2016 season.  I was hooked. Then they had an 0-16 season. Sadly enough, I was still hooked.

Does this count as a bandwagon?  Seeing as how the band is non-existent and the wagon is currently in flames, probably not?

LeBron James becomes L.A. Bron James

We have our first little one on the way.  The child will hit the scene around Thanksgiving.  We are a mixture of nervous excitement and nervous fear.  We don’t even know if the little one will like sports, but exposure to the above teams is a given; however, our child will not have the same experience we’ve had.  They will grow up into a world where LeBron James is an LA Laker rather than a Cleveland Cavalier!

What if the Lakers remain relevant and he/she becomes a Lakers fan, or God forbid, the Golden State Warriors remain relevant and he/she jumps on that bandwagon.  Can we survive such a mutinous action against the family? Probably so and here is why.

The problem with being a bandwagoner is the blind allegiance to group think and following the new fad.  If we can teach our little one to think critically and make rational, intelligent choices, then maybe, just maybe I’m okay with them jumping on the bandwagon for a little fun.  After all, parades can be a blast.

Having said that, I will be praying that, at the very least, our child ends up being a Georgia Bulldog.

Go Dawgs!!!