Friday, January 27, 2012

Dream Poems by Langston Hughs

Next week, I'll be preaching on Joseph's dreams and their impact (Genesis 37).  In my research, I discovered an amazing poet - Langston Hughes.  How have I missed him till now?
For your reading pleasure and edification, three Hughes poems on dreams.


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

I Dream A World

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom's way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus

This "spoken-word" poem has been watched nearly 17 million times since it was posted a mere 17 days ago.  That's a million viewings a day!  It has also started a firestorm of comments, likes, shares, tweets, and video responses (both for and against).
This tells me a few things.
1) The relationship between religion, church, and Jesus is a VERY hot issue in this era.
2) A very well-crafted piece now has the potential to make a huge impact in a very short amount of time, without the benefit of old-school media outlets.
3) He speaks truth - uncomfortable truth.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Me and Abel - Genesis 4:1-16

Today we skip forward in our journey through Genesis.  After the creation of humans, there was the famous “Fall,” when humans first sinned.  Chapter 4 tells us, we kept falling, farther and farther. 

Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 4:1-16
1 Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the LORD’s help, I have produced a man!” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
   When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
 6 “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
 8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Runaway Jury - Review

Every vacation, I read at least one John Grisham book.  This year it was The Runaway Jury.  Once again, it was hard to put down.  There was more mystery than usual for the first half of the book.
The story begins with the selection of the jury for a huge tobacco lawsuit.  A widow of a man who died of cancer after smoking three packs a day for thirty years is suing the maker of his cigarets.  Drama and mystery swirl around the whole process, especially around one juror who seems to be willing to sell his vote and influence on the jury.
The ending is exciting, even if predictable.  I don't read Grisham to surprise me.  I read Grisham for the fun of the story.  However, I have to admit that after several years of vacationing with Grisham, I'm starting to wish he would shake things up a bit more.
The Josh rating: JJJ.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Korea Tip 124: Know Thyself

Know Thyself.
Plato often advised his students: “Know thyself.” But the phrase probably precedes him by many centuries. By Plato’s time, KNOW THYSELF was already etched in temple walls.
This ancient wisdom takes on contemporary significance when we start jumping on planes and flying across oceans. Landing in a foreign land with a foreign language, foreign culture, and foreign foods can be exceedingly disorienting – even if we don’t always feel the disorientation. Culture shock hits everyone who lives abroad – whether we admit it or not.
Knowing ourselves can both ease the tension and cure some of the pain. We can find a measure of healing freedom through simply being aware of where we are in the normal stages of culture shock. However, knowing ourselves goes much deeper.
As one who has lived abroad for seven years, I can testify that culture shock will reveal our darkest parts. Our old wounds will be reactivated. Our old pains and fears will resurface as new incarnations. At this time, the most tempting option will be to  blame all our frustrations and pains on the new culture in which we find ourselves.
This place is so backward.
Why do they do such crazy things?
This stuff is just stupid.
The temptation is always to project our pain outward. It’s their fault. The problem is out there – with these people, this place, this system, this culture. The problem is never in here, with me, my own darkness. It is true that all cultures have weaknesses, and it’s true that some cultures are better at some things than others. However, our greatest frustrations often reveal more about ourselves than about whatever is driving us crazy. So go deep. Ask yourself some probing questions.
What is really going on here? 
Why does this frustrate me so much?
What am I really afraid of with this? 
How does this connect with my own history?
What does God want to do in me in the midst of this situation? 
If you’re like me,you may find that living in another culture teaches you more about yourself than anyone else.

(This blog was originally posted as part of a series on living abroad at:  

The Trail to Seven Pines - Review

So, I'm an addict.  I started reading this book on Thursday, and I'm finished already (Tuesday).  If it's a good story - especially with a lot of action - I get sucked in, and I try to read in every spare minute.
In The Trail to Seven Pines, Louis L'Amour doesn't do anything spectacular.  The plot is basically predictable.  The good guys beat the bad guys.  However, the twists in the details and the nearly poetic landscape descriptions keep it interesting.  Once again, I couldn't put it down.
This book was less reflective than The Ferguson Rifle, but it was still a good, fun read.  Again, he reminds me of John Grisham, only writing about a different time and place.  You pretty much know where you're going to end up, but the journey is still worth the ride.  (Thanks again Grandma and Grandpa!)
The Josh rating: JJJ.

Friday, January 13, 2012

1 : 4 : 7 - Genesis 2:1-3

             I quit.
             A few months ago, I started a sermon by restating Paul’s struggles in my own words.  Several people thought I was resigning.  Before I left for Christmas vacation, I started a sermon by claiming that I was an alcoholic and all kinds of other things. 
             But this time, I’m serious.  I quit.
             I quit because God quit.
             And you should quit, too.
             Because God quit.

             Our Old Testament Lesson for today is Genesis 2:1-3.
1 So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
             The word translated “rested” here is “Sabbath,” and it literally means “ceased” or “quit.”  God quit.  On the seventh day, God quit.  On the seventh day, God quit all his work.  And his blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. 
             God quit, so we quit. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Ferguson Rifle - Review

My grandparents love Louis L'amour.  When we visited them this winter, I asked them to recommend a few of his books.  We also listened to some short stories on tape.  (Yes, my mom's car still uses audio cassettes!)  This has been a good way for me to get a sense for my grandpa's world.  Also, L'amour is one of the best selling American authors of all time - with 101 books and around 300,000,000 total sold.  The reason for all that success is that he tells a great story.
The Ferguson Rifle tells the story of a scholar, who returned ventured westward into the North American wilderness after losing his wife and daughter in a fire.  Told in the first person, the action is quick, but also seasoned with the scholar's reflections on life and on his life in particular.  This is a good quick read.  It reminds me very much of John Grisham's writing, only set in the wild American west.
The Josh rating: JJJJ.