Friday, September 7, 2012

How are you?

I've written on Brandi's Caring Bridge site about how as Christians we are to run to the Body when in need and how the Body must be ready to help. On that note, I've noticed an area where we can all probably use a little improvement. This is certainly not an indictment on any particular church or person, but just to build up the body as a whole. Unless of course it convicts you, then I am totally thinking of you. ;)

Growing up in church I have heard several times about how we need to be more open with each other. Specifically those that respond with "fine" when asked how they are doing. We are told that those people need to stop hiding behind a false front and take off their mask. While this is true, the general sentiment nowhere near conveys all of the factors that go into opening up to others about what can be very personal information.

Some people have those walls up around themselves because others have feinted interest with well intentioned but ultimately insincere inquiries. Imagine a man walking into church from the lobby with the service starting in about 45 seconds. He hears people greeting each other. "How ARE you? I'm great. How are YOU? We're all just fine." The man gets a sense of dread that this person talking beside him is going to turn to him next. By the time he hears those dreaded words he is already processing what to say. He thinks about his life and how cat choked to death on his his goldfish, he had to ride the bus to church because his wife took the car to run off with another man, he would have brought his Bible but he lost it in the house fire on Friday, and a horrible disease is causing his body to destroy itself. The man looks right at this somewhat random person and says, "I'm fine".
Don't you worry about me.  No sir.  Ol' Gil always lands on his feet.

What is he supposed to say? More often than not, if he says he is doing terrible, he will either get looks of either pity that say "Bless your heart" or confusion that anyone would disturb the delicate balance of proper greeting protocol. If he tells anything close to reality many people will backpedal faster than Ned Ryerson.

Am I right? or Am I right? or Am I right? Right? Right?

So, here is what I am proposing. When we go to church or anywhere really, lets have some reasonable criteria for asking about how people are in case the answer is not just "fine" or "good".
1) Are we asking because you truly want to know or out of habit? This seems like an obvious one, but it's easier than we might think to use this as our greeting out of habit.
2) Is the timing right for them to tell us? If we're are headed into the service or chasing kids out the door, it probably not the best time to ask.
3) Do we have the relationship with the person to warrant a real and high trust answer? Should our friend from before with all of the problems really be expected to open up to someone who only speaks to him for 20 seconds each week? Also, some people are just very private by nature. It's very important to have that trust built up or were just going to annoy them.
4) Are we willing to do something tangible to help them? If they let us in on details there will probably be some way for us to lend a hand. They may not accept the help, but they will know if we're are sincere or not.

If the answer to any of those is no, here is what to do
1) Don't want to know? Then tell them, "Hey, It's great to see you today!" as your greeting instead.
2) No time? Offer to take them to lunch to visit.
3) Not very close? Go to their Life/Community Group. If they're not in one, invite them to yours. If you're not in a community group, get in one and then invite them. If they decline, try the lunch thing. If they still decline, check your hygiene.
4) Don't want to help or just can't for some reason? That's ok. Not everyone is called to do everything. If they open up about problems ask for special prayer request.

Hi, Gil.  I would really like to take you to lunch and spend extended time talking to your face.

Overall, it just come down to the importance of being genuine with people. Disingenuous questions are dishonoring, and if we ask them inside the Body of Christ, we dishonor the whole. Let's learn how to properly love and serve each other inside our churches and have abundant grace when we fail. That way, we will properly know how to love those outside the church, so that we all advance the Gospel instead of hypocrisy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Name Audible

A few months ago I posted about what our son's name would be, and guess what. HE'S HERE, and guess what else. That name was wrong.

I had talked to my cousin, Jack Logan's widow, about the possibility of using the name, and we initially went with it because of the reasons mentioned previously. The longer it was floating out there, the more it only seemed right in my head. Here's what I said before:

"Now for the middle name, it is somewhat of a tradition in Brandi's family for the first son's middle name to be the father's first name. . . we thought about using Stanton, and if we knew we would never have another boy we might have been more inclined to stick with it. While having my son named after me would be nice, my name is far less important than a name with a great legacy behind it."

I started to realize that using Stanton would not just be following a family tradition or simply naming him after me. While continuing the same Old Testament study as before, I have been leaning about the importance God puts on family legacies and the necessity of passing blessings to children. (Abraham, Issac and Jacob are always mentioned together as The Patriarchs, the tribes of Israel have had and will have again very specific roles, and David and Solomon did some amazing things as kings, but raised horrible horrible children.) Having Stanton as part of Jabob's name links him with our Christian family legacies and how that has blessed both our lives before either of us were born. The issues behind this conundrum are more complex than I want to get into now, but here's the bottom line.

When I saw Jacob for the first time, my spirit said, 'That's Jacob Stanton". I thought, "Is he Jacob Logan? Umm. Is he Jacob Stanton? Yeah."

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Well let's start the insanity.

For what was going to be my first blog post I'm following the not so gentle prompting from Brandi to just start. I have some past drafts I never finished, and I'll get to those eventually, but my first "assignment" is to "share five things you are obsessed with, and then pass the award on to five of the most fabulous blogs you read!". First of all, that second part won't happen. The word fabulous has never originated in my head and any blog I might read has already been sent this award. (I don't know how this is an award, but I didn't write the directions.) Second, what does it mean by obsessed? Brandi said it's stuff you're interested in or think about a lot, but apparently world views, why people often put so little thought into eternal matters, how people get the political views they have, etc. is too serious. She's right. Those all have too many complex layers to do justice in this post. So, after spending a day or two writing down the interests my brain wanders to when I'm not paying attention, I have a list.

1) Football - That would be American football.A sport I find it to be an amazing combination of one-on-one physical battles, groups functioning with one mind and purpose, strategery, instinctive decision making, mental toughness and intestinal fortitude.I prefer college to professional because of both the competition level, diversity of playing styles and the electrifying atmospheres on campus where the players on the field are members of the student bodies and represent by choice their school and the thousands of students and alumni that love their schools, pack the stadiums and create those atmospheres. I love my job, but if my job was something else, it would involve football.

2) Arkansas Razorbacks - Speaking of loving your school, mine is the University of Arkansas. I went to my first games to watch my cousin kick and punt. I got hooked on the student section in high school after spending amazing basketball games with the most electrifying fans in college sports entertainment. For me, it was the best combination of academics, location, sports programs and payout. I highly recommend getting an undergraduate degree from a major school that will pay you to attend. I follow Razorback sports closely, especially football, and have very strong opinions about certain . . .uh . . issues.

Nope, definitely no issues here. Move long. There's nothing to see.
3) Seinfeld - Its weaving of story lines, grossly exaggerated characters, phrases and commentary that’s been integrated into my daily vocabulary put Seinfeld on the list. The first episode I ever saw was The Marine Biologist, and when George finished his story, that was it, I was hooked.
Our favorite phrases are still used regularly around our house and were even integral in Brandi's naming of my blog. We got the Seinfeld Scene-It game for Christmas one year, but we rarely play it because neither of us miss questions. They never ask the tough questions like, "Who was George's "It girl"?". This quote remix video had about a 50% hit rate of things that can be heard in our home, and it even had this post's title at 0:18.

4) Wiki sites - If you haven't noticed already, I like wiki sites as references. Most everyone i know is a nerd about something, and nerds are fanatical about correct information on their specialty. This includes user created data bases. Although they can be vandalized, such as Less Miles being labeled functionally retarded after certain LSU losses, the nerds who play meticulous watch guards of their realm keep most misinformation at bay.

5) Top down vs. bottom up approaches - While solutions to social problems are important, I'm talking about how how subjects can be taught in the most effecient and effective way. Since I'm a math and science guy married to a math and science gal, we talk about this fairly often. Most math, science and engineering is taught bottom up for several reasons. (1) When starting a new subject, not a whole lot can be said about the histoy without having to explain some of the details. Most textbooks give a token chater or section to the history of the subject and then never return, so thats how the teachers present it. (2) To teach these subjets top-down, it take a tremendous amount of planning and time to guide students though the discovery process. it alo taks a group of students highly dedicated to excellence. However, when this is done, it creates strong students that can then see these subjects "from the top" in later classes that teach bottom-up. My 9th gade honors Physical Science class was that way, and it was the absolute best class I have ever taken. I use principles I learned in there every single day at my job.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Our son's name

There could be no better way to start off my blog than to give the story behind our soon-to-be-here son's name, Jacob Logan Greer.

In 1997, I turned 16 and started 10th grade at which time Brandi and I were already dating. There was a revival at our church, which deserves its own post, and in the months leading up to and immediately after, God began to show me the full extent of what he could accomplish through my life.

In the spring of 1998, I developed a painful swelling in my hip from what I believe to be a long jump injury. It caused an audible pop when I lowered my leg and enough chronic pain to land me on Vioxx.

Later that year in Sunday school, I read the story of Jacob and a particular part, Genesis 32:22-32, caught my attention.

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." 29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon.

The prayerful conversation then went something like this.

God: I'm giving you lessons and blessings that you will need the rest of your life, and your hip will be a reminder of what I have done for you.

Me: That's great, but can it be a reminder without the pain? The enormity of these lessons and the reminder I'll have would make Jacob a great name for a son some day.

God: Sounds good.

However, in my head, I was still thinking the wrestling match with God. In fact, I'm still thinking about it and even though Rembrandt might disagree, I'm pretty sure it looked something like this.

Or this.  It could go either way.

Now fast forward to 2009 when Brandi and I are studying the Old testament and being led to have another baby. Before we got past Noah, Brandi was standing at the sink in the kitchen and said that God told her, "His name is Jacob." Now keep in mind that at this point we did not know we were pregnant yet, but after that we didn't need a stick test. Just like He did with Chaselyn, God gave us both the same name quite independently, so we knew this is the right name. As we got into studying Jacob, Brandi pointed out that since God picked the name he could be quite the little toot. However, strong willed children can be shaped into men that will fight God for abundant blessing and do great things, so if that is the task He has for us then He will surely give us the grace and guidance to do it well.

Now for the middle name, it is somewhat of a tradition in Brandi's family for the first son's middle name to be the father's first name. Now my first name is David which reminds me to tell you to MAKE YOUR CHILD'S FIRST NAME WHAT YOU WILL CALL THEM. Anyways, we thought about using Stanton, and if we knew we would never have another boy we might have been more inclined to stick with it. While having my son named after me would be nice, my name is far less important than a name with a great legacy behind it.

In 2006, my mother's cousin's husband whom I guess would be my second cousin-in-law, Jack Logan, was on a mission trip in Nicaragua when a fishing boat he was in coming back from a worship service capsized in Lake Nicaragua. Jack and the other missionary he was with, Bert Alexander, were able to grab a cooler from the boat. When two boys from the local family were hanging onto the capsized boat, Jack and Bert got them onto the cooler where they drifted for several days before the cooler started taking on water. It became clear that they could not all stay. Jack, having the greatest love possible for these boys, said his goodbyes, gave a final encouragement and message for his wife, and pushed away from the cooler. Bert also push away later when the cooler would not support three.

At Jack's memorial service, when we were supposed to be singing It is Well with My Soul I was literally speechless. I absolutely could not make a sound. Given the circumstances, this hymn inspired by a family's drowning about accepting God plan for life even though it might include drowning was quite unnerving. Just look at this verse.

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Here is press about the search, the service and their legacies. Part of that legacy is the impact their sacrifice has had on so many that knew them, so many more than if they had even lived to be 100. No less than once a week I think about that sacrifice and it refocuses my efforts each day to work in all that I do for His glory and it reminds me that my real job is to do whatever He puts before me this day, no matter what it is. This is the legacy I want my son to share in, to know Jack's family and how it has impacted our lives. A legacy that will grow in him an understanding of true sacrifice that points him and others to Jesus.