August, 2010 Archives

31
Aug

I had a life but my job ate it

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


I had a life but my job ate it bumper stickerThis was the uplifting message on the bumper sticker on the truck I followed through downtown Dallas this morning.  Most of us know the feeling.  Our culture says we are what we do, or what we wear, or what we drive, or where we live.  Our identity becomes consumed by our calendar.

Fortunately, I had already read today’s installment of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest.  This spiritual genius reminded me: “The full flood of my life is not in bodily health, not in external happenings, not in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the communion with Him that Jesus Himself had. The first thing that will hinder this joy is the captious irritation of thinking out circumstances. The cares of this world, said Jesus, will choke God’s word. Before we know where we are, we are caught up in the shows of things. All that God has done for us is the mere threshold; He wants to get us to the place where we will be His witnesses and proclaim Who Jesus is.

“Be rightly related to God, find your joy there, and out of you will flow rivers of living water. Be a center for Jesus Christ to pour living water through. Stop being self-conscious, stop being a sanctified prig, and live the life hid with Christ. The life that is rightly related to God is as natural as breathing wherever it goes. The lives that have been of most blessing to you are those who were unconscious of it.”

So I’ll  define success today as staying close to Jesus, and trust him to use me as he wishes.  He came to give us “life to the full” (John 10:10)–let’s settle for nothing less.  As Jim Elliott, the martyred missionary, testified: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

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31
Aug

A frozen corpse, a chimpanzee and Simon Cowell

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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ice climbing at Montmorency Falls in Quebec“He was basically in a deep freeze for the last 21 years.”  That’s how a public safety expert described the corpse of William Holland, an American mountaineer who fell 1000 feet to his death in the Canadian Rockies in 1989.  His body had been preserved by glacial ice; when it thawed, hikers found him earlier this month.  Today’s BBC website reports that more bodies are out there—at least two other climbers missing in Jasper National Park since the 1970s have never been found. Read the rest of this entry »

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30
Aug

Katrina and the tears of God

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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Angela Perkins cries for help after hurricane Katrina

photo by Ted Jackson/The Times Picayune

I am writing this morning from Shreveport, Louisiana, where I have been privileged to lead a spiritual renewal weekend.  It was sobering to be in this state yesterday on the fifth anniversary of Katrina.  As you know, the hurricane was the costliest natural disaster in American history.

At least 1,836 people died when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.  Economic losses are estimated at $125 billion; 80% of New Orleans was flooded.  Many neighborhoods remain desolate and abandoned.  Read the rest of this entry »

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29
Aug

A strange sight at the lake

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


White Rock Lake bridge near dog park

courtesy of user:Eapender at en.wikipedia.org

I was hiking around White Rock Lake in Dallas last Friday morning when I came upon something I’m still trying to understand.  There were the requisite joggers half my age who passed me like Ferraris racing a Model-T.  Some people were walking their dogs while other dogs were walking their people.  Bike riders whizzed by; a man was setting out in his sailboat, waiting for a gust of wind on an uncharacteristically calm day.

Then came a man standing astride a contraption I’d never seen.  I looked it up when I got home–he was riding what appeared to be a Segway PT, a two-wheel motorized personal transportation (hence the PT) machine.  They’re used most commonly by police, military personnel, and people with walking disabilities.  The machine wasn’t what surprised me–it was the way its owner was riding it.  He was dressed just like the other runners and bike-riders I’d seen–form-fitting cut-away top, athletic shorts, wraparound sunglasses and running shoes.  He looked like he was engaged in a full workout, except he wasn’t doing any of the work.  All he had to do was stand there while the machine churning and whirring beneath him carried him down the road.

Like all the runners, hikers and bike riders out with us last Friday morning, he could say that he circled the nine-mile lake.  He did, but he didn’t.  I thought of the Russian folk tale about a flea sitting on the nose of the ox at the end of the day, proclaiming to the village, “We’ve been plowing.”  And I wondered how many times I thought I did something God really did through me.

Human words can’t change human hearts.  Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1).  If these words help you in any significant way, it won’t be because I wrote them but because God used them.  “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

Here’s the good news: if we’ll just hang on, he’ll take us where we need to go today.

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27
Aug

Bullets, jellyfish and Windows

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison


the Pacific sea nettle jellyfish

courtesy of Anastasia Shesterinina

I hope you’ve finished your breakfast before reading this: a Sri Lankan maid complained about her workload, so her Saudi employers hammered 24 nails into her hands, legs and forehead.  She has undergone surgery to remove the nails; authorities are deciding how to respond.

Continuing our theme: a Polish man living in Germany was shot in the head five years ago but didn’t know it.  According to Reuters, the man went to doctors last Friday to have what he thought was a cyst removed.  How did the bullet get there?  The man was at a New Year’s party in 2004 or 2005, he says, where he received a blow to the head but forgot about it because he had been “very drunk.”  Police theorize that someone shot a gun into the air to celebrate the New Year, and doctors just found the bullet. Read the rest of this entry »

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26
Aug

A cure for the crowded life

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


Man kneeling praying in the forestMark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  I read this morning a commentary on that text which I found very helpful.  It was written in 1951; I can only imagine what the author would say in our context.

Here’s his statement: “Prayer is the highest activity of mind and spirit.  True activity is never rightly measured by noise or motion.  The flower or tree, on a quiet summer’s day, when nothing seems to be happening, is busy in the highest degree.  It is opening itself to the unseen forces of its environment, having commerce with the sky in the form of sunlight, air, and rain, and is thus fulfilling its destiny.  That, for Jesus, was the secret of sustained life and power, that opening of his soul to the unseen force of his environment—God.  It is for man the secret of the sustained life of the spirit.

“There can be no fulfillment without a lonely place.  Lacking it, life lacks the dimension of height.  And that is precisely the case in multitudes of lives.  The very physical conditions of existence seem often enough to make solitude impossible.  A woman put it picturesquely to her pastor: ‘You tell us that Jesus said to enter into your closet and close the door.  In our apartment there are no closets and there are no doors.’  Life has become so public and gregarious.  It is hard to shut our doors against the insistent intrusions of the outside world, of the radio, and of all the other constant invaders of the lonely place.

“We must make a lonely place.  Nothing that enriches and empowers life ever just ‘happens.’  It is made.  Jesus never ‘happened’ to find himself alone.  He went out to put a stout fence around some corner of time and space.  The crowded life which never does that has no means of renewal, of cleansing, of fortification.”

Halford E. Luccock, Exposition on the Gospel According to St. Mark, The Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 1951) 7:665.

Thoughts?

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26
Aug

Captain Kirk and free toilets

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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the famous luminous LED toilet seat Of all the devotionals you could read this morning, I’m willing to wager that none will begin with the subject of free toilets.  You may know that Arlington, Texas is home to Cowboys Stadium, the $1.3 billion spaceship where Tony Romo plays, as well as the Texas Rangers baseball club and Six Flags Over Texas.  Of lesser historical interest is the fact that Janet and I lived there when we were married in 1980.  I drove by our duplex the other day, but didn’t see historical markers anywhere on site.

Now local news is reporting that the city is giving away free toilets.  When I heard the story I wondered why a city would do such a thing.  Turns out they’re trying to save water.  Old toilets, we’re told, consume as much as 30% of a household’s water during a typical day.  New high-efficient models will apparently save more money in water bills than they cost. Read the rest of this entry »

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25
Aug

Expendable Salt

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison

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The Expendables and Salt the movies combined wallpaperOne of my most significant contributions to Western culture is the founding of the Stupid Movie Club.  We have two ground rules: we don’t go to anything our wives want to see (not a hard standard to meet), and we’ll see anything with Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Thus I found myself last Sunday night at “The Expendables,” a film which must have been shot on location at a 1980’s action-heroes retirement home.  Mr. Stallone directs and stars, along with a myriad of other card-carrying AARP members.  Our heroes are the only people who survive the multiple explosions and assorted mayhem; whether they survive the plot is another subject entirely.

Last night our club mounted up for another foray into the world of critically-despised movies.  When our wives went to the latest Julia Roberts emotional drama, we went to see her antithesis–Angelina Jolie beating up the world.  “Salt” is not a comedy.  After our heroine saves the day, the director all but announces that the sequel is on its way.  I’m sure our club will be there to watch Ms. Jolie kill another few hundred people.

As you might guess, I’m a frustrated movie critic.  I have long believed that cinema reveals more about popular culture than any other art form.  What people want to see at the movies says something about us.  Julia Roberts movies say we’re looking for meaning in life.  Sylvester Stallone movies say we like watching bad guys get atomized.

I can’t see Jesus in a Stallone film, but he is the ultimate superhero: “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Why is that reminder good news for you today?

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25
Aug

Rats, worms and Albert Einstein

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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Albert Einstein in Vienna 1921

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921 (age 42)

If you’re doing something else while reading this email, your brain would like you to stop.

Today’s New York Times tells us that technological multi-tasking hinders the learning process hard-wired into our memories.  Scientists working at the University of California, San Francisco discovered that rats whose brains were constantly stimulated did not create a persistent memory of their experiences.  Theorizing that rats and people have neurological commonalities (a thesis I prove numerous times a day), they suggest that the same thing happens to humans.

A University of Michigan study likewise found that people learned much better after walking in nature rather than walking in a city.  It seems that you and I need downtime to let our brains solidify their experiences and turn them into permanent long-term memories.  Reading this essay while watching the news, listening to music and climbing on a Stairmaster may seem like an escape from the rat race, but rats would apparently disagree. Read the rest of this entry »

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24
Aug

The nine-day traffic jam

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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nine day traffic jam beijingIt takes me at least 30 minutes to drive to my downtown office each morning.  I once left at 4:30 in the afternoon and got home at 6:15.  But I’m not complaining any more—drivers in China have been stuck in a gridlock for nine days.  Not hours—days.  Today’s CNN website tells us that thousands of trucks are stuck between the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the capital city of Beijing, where I spent a memorable week last May.  We met some of the four million taxis in the city, but nothing like this. Read the rest of this entry »

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