Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sometimes life gives you fish.

Sometimes life gives you things you don’t particularly want. Today, life gave us two fish.

We had a fun afternoon at a local splash park celebrating a friend’s daughter’s birthday. The birthday party was Elmo themed and featured a lot of Elmo’s favorite things. So, as a party favor, we got a bowl with two goldfish. Real fish. Living. In a bowl. With water.

This presented a variety of problems. The first (and most obvious) problem – the fish didn’t have names. Rylan quickly named one of them Devo. We named the other one Siggi after a friend of ours who is also small and orange.

The second problem was that we had to transport the fish all the way home without spilling the water or the fish. This dovetailed nicely with the third problem. We weren’t going straight home. We were going to “outside church,” as our son calls it. Our church has a Saturday evening service under a tent in the middle of 200 acres of land that will one day be built upon. We weren’t going home for several hours.

Do we take the fish to the service with us? Do we crack the windows in the car? Will these things boil?

On the way to church, in the midst of me showing people next to us at stoplights that I had a bowl of fish, we realized our fourth problem. We had to feed these things. Or euthanize them. OK, we decided on feeding them. We stopped on the way home and Elizabeth bought some fish food. I learned something today. Walgreen’s sells fish food. And, it costs $4.25. That’s like…a dozen goldfish. We could just not feed them and keep replacing them…OK, we decided again to feed them. Don’t call PETA.

Now, here’s the fifth problem. The fish WILL die. At some point, we are going to have to tell our not-quite-three-year-old son that his fishies died or moved out or went to the store. I’m not ready for that yet.

On the way home tonight, I was thinking about unexpected responsibilities. I thought about when the Samaritan woman ran in to Jesus at the drinking well in John 4. She had no idea he would be there. In fact, she wasn’t expecting anyone to be there. When Jesus approached her, he asked her to get him a drink. She tried to politely point out that Jews and Samaritans didn’t typically hang out. Jesus began to tell this woman about her own life. Jesus knew she had five husbands and was living unfaithfully. At this point, the woman thought he was just a prophet, but he was so much more.

(v. 25) The woman said “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

This lady was simply out to get some water. She was thirsty. Maybe she was going to make dinner and needed water for the pot. She never would have guessed that she was about to encounter the Son of God. She never would have thought that she was going to have her life changed that night. It was supposed to be another ordinary walk to the well, just like the last one, or ten or fifty.

The woman had a choice to make. She could have gone about her business and not have spoken to the Jew that she normally would have avoided. She could have left the well and ignored the conversation. But instead, she was so overwhelmed and convicted about what just happened that she immediately went back to town to tell her friends. She was so overcome that she actually left the water jar behind – the whole reason she was there to begin with.

I’m 164% sure that when I woke up this morning I did not think I’d be coming home with more pets. Our fat, loud cat, Gilligan (who is immortal), is enough. But, now that we have Devo & Siggi, we can embrace the teaching moments. As soon as we got home, we put the fish on the table and we showed Rylan how to feed the fish. In the morning, pending these things are still alive, we will do the same thing again. He will start learning how to care for others. One day (maybe Monday), these fish will die and Rylan will learn a lesson about death. I’m not looking forward to Rylan being sad, but I am looking forward to explaining more to him about God’s love for us.

Until then, meet Devo & Siggi.

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You matter. (For reals.)

Recently, Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti did a photo study on children around the world posed with their favorite toys.  His series, Toy Stories, spans several continents and children from a variety of cultures.

Three thoughts came to mind while I was looking through his collection.

1. This is brilliant.

What a great idea for a photo study.  The toys were hand-picked by the kids and in a way, they represent their society, their hopes and their dreams.  I have a passion for photojournalism and telling stories.  I wish I came up with this idea first.  Seeing how these kids meticulously arranged and presented their toys, like this one from Noel in Texas.

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

2. What would my selections have been?

First, I’d probably pick my M.U.S.C.L.E. Man collection.

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I had (have) over 250 of these guys. I’d love to come across some more.  They are all in a Tupperware in my storage unit.  I used to spend hours playing with them as wrestling figures.  I can still remember their signature moves, rivalries and which ones held championship belts.

I’d also include my basketball.  I seemed to wear out one every few months.  I had plenty of these old indoor/outdoor leather ones chipping and fading away in my garage.

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3. These kids matter.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I think I’m getting soft in my old age.  I was looking at these kids and their toys and definitely got emotional.  Some kids had tons of toys.  These kids didn’t have enough hours in the day to play with all the stuff in their rooms.  But, then there were kids like Chiwa from Malawi.

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Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

Chiwa is living in a block house, held together with mud and brick.  Chiwa sleeps under mosquito nets to prevent malaria and other diseases.  Chiwa’s clothes, bedsheets and legs are filthy.  But, look at the toys.  The little white dog is pristine.  It looks like it just came out of the shopping bag.  Chiwa took great pride in keeping the toys clean and desirable to play with.

This little girl is Kalesi from the Fiji Islands.

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

Look at the joy on her face!  She loooooves her backpacks and her dolls.  She even looks like a baby doll.  There’s not a lot in the photo so I’m only assuming that the rest of her home is relatively bare.  I can see Kalesi sitting on the hard floor taking care of her dolls.  She feeds them with the pink bowl and blue cup.  She carries them around in her Transformers backpack.

Viewing these photos made me want to go and just hug these kids and tell them that God loves them.  The same emotion and care they had for their toys is the same love and caring that God has for them.  I wanted these kids to know that they matter.

To this kid I photographed in a park in Asia where Christ is not allowed – you matter.

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To these kids enamored with boats and ducks in a lake in Spain – You matter.

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To this little kid in North Africa, whose family may never tell him about Jesus – You.  Matter.

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To these kids who had their portrait taken at a church in the barrio of Caracas, Venezuela – You Matter.  God has a great plan for your life.

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To these students who heard the Gospel during English club at their university and can make a difference in a socialist community – You Matter.  Place your faith in Christ and worship him instead of saints.  Show your city God’s love.

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To anyone who thinks they are too dirty, too broken, too messed up, too beyond repair, too unworthy, too old, too young, too confused to get on your knees and respond to a living God who is calling you to him – you matter.  You do.  You are God’s favorite possession.  He wants to shine you up and show you off like the kids showed off their toys.  He wants you to love him.  He wants to hear your praise.  He wants you to matter, because when you matter to the world, you matter to him.  It’s time to respond.

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Ron Burgandy is kind of a big deal. I am not.

I am not notable.

The only signature I pass out to people is the one at the bottom of my work email.

When you call my phone, you actually get me.

I do not have an assistant, handler or agent.

I drive myself places.

I can go out in public and go unrecognized.

I do not have merch or swag.

No one has ever lined up to see me.

These are all facts.  But, I did grow up with a bunch of people who are pretty famous now.  I’m from a small beach town in south Florida called Vero Beach.  It’s about half way between Daytona Beach and Miami.  I lived on the beach side of town, about a 5-minute walk from the river and the ocean.  I spent much of my youth hanging out on boats or at the beach.  Vero Beach, for generations, has affectionately been referred to as “Zero Beach” by bored high schoolers.  Not a lot usually happens in Vero Beach, which is why it’s particularly exciting when you can turn on the television and see people you know.

— This begins the name-dropping portion of the blog —

Jake Owen and Mardy Fish

Jake Owen and Mardy Fish.  Photo by Sam Wolfe

I used to play basketball with country star Jake Owen (@jakeowen) and tennis star Mardy Fish (@mardyfish). These guys do regular charity work to raise money for kids from the Vero Beach area.

Tilky Jones

Tilky Jones

Rising actor, musician and Nashville heartthrob Tilky Jones (@tilkymjones) used to come to my birthday parties.  He wasn’t born in Vero Beach, but we went to elementary school together where he rapped an original song “Get Busy, Not Dizzy” (a very Saved by the Bell-esque anti-drug anthem).  On Nashville, Tilky had a recurring role as Hayden Panettiere’s love interest, Sean Butler.

Tiffany (Simons) Corr

Tiffany (Simons) Corr

Tiffany Simons, NBC Sports & NBCSports.com talent, and I went to high school together.  She had a love for photography and is an awesome person to be around.  I don’t think I can remember her not smiling.  I’ve seen her interview pro athletes and cover the Mountain Dew Tour of action sports.

Sam Marine & Scott Stapleton

Sam Marine & Scott Stapleton

Sam Marine (middle) and Scott Stapleton (far right) both play in the successful indie rock band, Phosphorescent (@phosphorescent).  They have recently appeared on several late night talk shows and their new album, Muchacho, has gotten lots of great press and gets plenty of play on my speakers.  I became pretty good friends with Scott throughout high school, mainly during lunch trips to Miami Subs while blaring Pantera or Type O Negative on the way.  I photographed a couple of Scott’s concerts during his days with Dark Angel Divine.

—  This now concludes the name-dropping portion of the blog —

There are plenty of others that are making their mark as notable fashion designers, bloggers, Army Special Forces and lots of other amazing careers as well.

In addition to these former classmates, Vero Beach is also proud to have writers Carl Hiaasen and Stuart Woods associated with it, other musicians like Alison Mosshart and apparently MLB superstar Prince Fielder even went to private school for a couple years in Vero Beach (I had no idea).

Seeing these people on TV is fun, it’s exciting to hear their music or see them on SportsCenter.  You naturally want to cheer for people from your hometown or the college you went to.  It’s nice to celebrate the famous people who walked where you walked and ate where you ate.

I’m completely content with not making anyone’s list of “people I once knew.”  I have no jealousy or desire to have people drop my name.  But, what I do have aspirations to hear one day comes from Matthew 25.

The subject of the parable is a man who is going on a long journey and entrusts some of his money with his servants.  He gives one servant five talents (several years’ wages), another servant two talents and the last servant one talent.  The man receiving five talents invested his money and ended up with five more talents.  The man receiving two talents did the same thing and got two more.  But, the third man buried his talent in a hole.  When the master finally returned home, his servants brought him the talents.

To the servants who invested and increased the money, the master said “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”

This is exactly the type of recognition I’m seeking.  See, we are all in different places and have different talents (the skill kind).  Some were born in to wealth, some were born in to a manageable life, some were born in to little.  Some were born into loving homes, some broken homes.  Some were born in to free countries, others were born in to countries fill with war, discrimination and conflict.  Jesus points this out in the parable and emphasizes that it’s what you do with your situation that matters.  It’s about how you respond to what you have and use it to serve your master.

I struggle when I’m around a lot of other mature Christians.  I grew up believing in God, but I wasn’t “saved” until I was 22 and even then, I didn’t start really growing in my faith until 2007 or 2008.  When I’m around other Christian men and women who are constantly quoting Scripture or recalling Bible stories, I feel quite tiny.  This topic came up at a men’s Bible study recently.  A friend of mine confessed the same feelings of inadequacy.

By being faithful to the master, the servants received great praise. “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  How cool is that?  How great would it be to hear the Lord greet us with that when we run through the Pearly Gates.  Despite not having any celebrity status or very public platform, we still have that opportunity.

This is OK.  Perfectly OK.

I’m never going to be a pastor with many published books or with a speaking tour.  I’m not going to have people tuning in to see what I will do on TV this week.  I’m not going to sell tickets to anyone to see me perform. Despite all this, I still have talents that I am called to use in my circles of influence.

My prayer is that I will use the gifts I was given to completely serve and glorify God.  I want God secretly cheering when I’m being obedient in my service.  I want him to look out at my life and say, ‘Way to go!  I knew him back when he was in elementary school,’ or ‘Hey, I created that guy!’  I want God to be proud of how I love people and how I show God’s love to people.  Love is something you share, not something you keep inside.  If I give enough of it out and make it compound in to more love, maybe then God can say ‘Well done, come and share my happiness!’

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My childhood heroes were shiny men in underwear

Confession.

I loved wrestling when I was a kid.  I had a subscription to WWF Magazine (before they were forced to trade in the F and become WWE).  I took out all the posters and wallpapered my room with them.  I had shirts.  I had Wrestling Buddies.  I had Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart replica sunglasses.  I had all the action figures and the ring.  I checked out all the old Wrestlemania VHS tapes from Video Express and watched them over and over.  I tuned in to TBS at 8:05 or 7:35 or whatever weird time they wanted to put on NWA/WCW.

Below are my top 10 favorite wrestlers as kid.  For you wrestling purists out there, keep in mind, this is not a ‘best-of-all-time’ list or a ‘best-technical-wrestler’ list.  This is just the guys that I loved the most.  When you’re a kid, you gravitate toward the heroes (or ‘faces’ in wrestling-speak) or the guys that were really unique.

First, a few guys that were honorable mentions: Bam Bam Bigelow, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, “Flyin” Brian Pillman, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka.

Here’s the list.

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10. “The Red Rooster” Terry Taylor.  OK, OK.  This one is really a stretch.  I didn’t actually love watching this guy (but, wrestling fans know how good Taylor truly was).  He wasn’t exciting and his gimmick was a complete joke.  There was nothing threatening or heroic about The Red Rooster.  But, he was from my hometown of Vero Beach, Florida.  I loved hearing the announcers say our city name.

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9. The Rockers.  Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty were high flyers and had a ton of synchronized moves.  They were very fun to watch.

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8. Arn Anderson.  He might be the least glamorous person on this list, but I loved “The Enforcer.”  Even as a kid, I could see how good he really was.

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7. “Macho Man” Randy Savage.  Look, if you pretended you were a wrestler, the elbow drop was definitely in your pretend repertoire.

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6. Jake “The Snake” Roberts.  I actually hate snakes, but I did love his DDT.

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5. Ric Flair.  The second Four Horseman on my list.  “The Nature Boy” could talk the talk and walk the walk.  I think I mainly just loved how he would flip completely over the turnbuckles and then fall flat on his face.  Side note.  I met Flair a couple years ago at a Charlotte Bobcats game. Wooooooo!

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4. Hulk Hogan.  It was impossible to be a kid and NOT love the Hulkster.  I used to take the dry cleaning bags my mom would bring home and pretend to rip them off like Hulk ripped off his shirt.

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3. The Road Warriors.  OOOOOOOOhhhhh whaaaaat aaaaaa ruuuuuusssssshhhhh!  They were big, they were bad, they were the best tag team around.

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2. Sting.  He was the epitome of a hero. He was colorful, he yelled a lot.  Sting always played the underdog when he was fighting Ric Flair, Vader and others.

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1. The Ultimate Warrior.  This guy was awesome.  Especially when you’re 10-years-old.  His entrance music was exciting.  The Warrior sprinted to the ring and his arm tassels flew along behind him.  He wore face paint and he was completely ripped.  I loved the Ultimate Warrior so much that my parents named our Boston Whaler after him for me.  Looking back today, I can see that The Warrior was not a very good wrestler and he was completely bat-crap crazy.  Want proof?  Here you go.

Confession.

I still like wrestling.  I record Monday Night Raw each week. I read wrestler biographies.  I read the dirt sheets (websites & blogs that talk about industry info, behind the scenes gossip and speculation).  I’m a geek.

The difference between now and then is perspective.

I had a childhood friend who was trying to tell me that wrestling was fake.  I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) accept this reality.  I also didn’t understand how it was fake.  To me, fake meant that it wasn’t happening.  I knew that Santa Claus was fake.  But, I didn’t realize that by fake my friend was telling me that it was scripted or pre-determined.  I thought because they were actually throwing each other around, it mean that wrestling was real.  I had no idea that these guys were pulling punches and helping each other land correctly as they suplexed the other guy into next week.

Here are a few other differences from then and now.

Then: It was real.  Don’t tell me it’s fake, you’re wrong.

Now:  Yes, I know it’s fake, just let me watch it in peace.  It’s just as scripted as “reality” shows.

Then: Ripped dudes were battling other gladiators for glory and a gold belt.

Now: Yes, I realize that it’s a little weird that these shiny, hairless guys in their skivvies are aggressively holding each other.

Then: It is socially acceptable to wear face paint, stuff $100 bills in an unconscious person’s mouth, settle disputes in a cage or talk your parents into paying $50 for you to watch a pay-per-view.

Now: It is socially acceptable to privately look at wrestling websites, have in-depth conversations with your three other friends that still “believe” and talk your spouse into letting you pay $50 for a pay-per-view.

Then: The heroes were the guys that everyone cheered for.

Now: My modern-day heroes are becoming as taboo to talk about as a grown man watching wrestling.

Walk up to a stranger in the park and ask them who their favorite Royal Rumble winner of all-time was and see what their reaction is.  Now, walk up to a different stranger and ask them who their favorite Biblical character is.  The reaction is quite possibly the same.

My heroes are the people who obey God.  They are the missionaries that serve in hostile countries.  They are those Christ chose to follow him all the way to the cross.  In fact, it’s Christ himself.

I would spend hours with my friends trying to emulate our favorite wrestlers.  With enough practice, I could get the moves down.  I could recite the catch phrases and replicate the mannerisms.  Now, I strive to model my life after Christ.

I want my son to have authentic heroes.  I want him to understand that the wrestler he might root for are simply characters.  They are personalities that were meticulously vetted and practiced in order to elicit the biggest response from the crowd.  I want my son to feel comfortable with his own personality and that he doesn’t have to appeal to the masses.

In order for him to understand this, I have to be the best dad I can be.  I need to be a real person, free of face paint, costumes and facades that I might feel pressured to hide behind.  I need to be the same Christian in public as I am at church or at the dinner table.  I need to be the same disciple using the same language praying before bed as I would cheering at a Dolphins game.

One of the bad guys (‘heels’ in wrestling-speak) I despised the most was “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.  The Million Dollar Man’s gimmick is that he was above everyone else because he had all the money.  At one point in his career, DiBiase was so frustrated that he couldn’t win the championship, that he just had one made…out of diamonds.  The Million Dollar Man’s most famous catch phrase was “everybody’s got a price.”

Indeed, I had a price.  I had a price for my sins and luckily for me, that price has already been paid.  Christ died on the cross so I can be forgiven.  He took the pain.  He felt the wrath that I deserved.

My kids (heck, my friends, my family, my coworkers, everyone) need to understand that our hero should be someone far greater than we are.  Our hero should be someone that we are comfortable not truly comprehending.  Our hero should be someone we’re willing to root for even though it might not be popular to do so.  Our hero should be Christ (plus, he’s pretty ripped in most images and could probably force Satan to submit with a mean figure-four leglock).

Who were the wrestlers you loved the most as a kid?  Who are your heroes now?

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Artists: the original hipsters.

You’re in a city with tons of sites to see.  The whether is beautiful.  There are landmarks all around.  You can eat great food.  You can go to a trendy microbrewery or sample expensive wines and pretend you can taste the hint of oak.  Or, you can go to a museum and stare at old paintings or weird sculptures that you don’t understand.

I’ll take the museum, especially if I can be by myself.  Some indie music, my headphones, an art museum and a couple hours to burn are the makings for an afternoon of relaxation and inspiration for me.

I’ve always been enamored with artists.  The imagination, the innovation, the creativity, the expression, the interpretation.  I love it all.  I love the feeling I get when I am around art.  It’s kinda like the feeling you might get when hanging out in Barnes & Noble.  We immediately feel cultured and have an instant craving for some French-pressed coffee (I really don’t even know what that means.)

Artists invoking emotion were the original trolls on the internet.  Paint-stained clothes were the original skinny jeansStylistic development was the original meme creation Artist were hip before hipsters thought artists were hip.

In the late 1990s B.C. (before college), most of my friends didn’t care all that much about art.  In college, I was an art major, so for a while I was surrounded by people who also loved art.  But now, most of my friends have a passing interest at best.  Some appreciate the fact that art exists, but for the most part, they admittedly “don’t get it.”

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I took this photo of Mark Rothko’s No. 14 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2012.  I stood the allotted 18 inches from it and was overwhelmed by the piece.  I had seen it many times in art history books, art publications and websites, but its beauty in person was shocking.  The painting is about 9.5′ X 8.75′.  The experience of investigating the piece is quite unique.

First, you enter the room and your attention is grabbed by this monster.  Then you’re drawn to it like a Kardashian to a camera.  As you move in closer, more and more of your peripheral is consumed by the colors.  Eventually, you’re standing directly in front of it, focusing on the brush strokes, on the blending of color and, at that point, questioning your existence altogether.  This Rothko consumes you, just like Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was consumed by Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.  See what I mean?

Somewhere between gawking at the painting and thinking “I could have done this,” you start moving back away from the piece.  Eventually, it dawns upon you that you just became part of the artwork. This is exactly the intent of the artist.  In the photo I shot above, the guy pictured has made himself part of the artwork just as tens of thousands before him did the same. 

My relationship with God has followed the same pattern as my viewing of art.  There are times that I am drawn in to a particular lesson, Scripture verse or sermon and I want to go deeper.  I want to learn more.  I want to do more.  So, as my curiosity piques, I start to engulf myself more.  I move closer and closer to God.  I examine.  I wonder.  I absorb.  I pray.

Eventually, I move away.  Now, I’m not saying that I physically move away from God or try to distance myself from his will in my life.  Rather, I critique and analyze the lessons or revelations I just learned.  I think I do a decent job of assessing what God is doing in my life.  However, I think I do a relatively poor job of breaking down Scripture.

In college, we were taught how to critique artwork.  There were four fundamental steps that we can also apply to how we read Scripture and assess its meaning/application in our lives.

Describe

Art – Who created it?  What is it made of?  What is the subject?  What stands out?  What are the colors?

Scripture – What does this Scripture say?  Who said it?  When did this happen?  Where did the events occur?  What is the context?

Analyze

Art – Look at the colors, shapes, lines, shadows, white space

Scripture – Consider the themes of the passage.  Was the intent to motivate, educate, warn or inspire?  Is the passage positive or negative?  Does it use metaphors or parables or reference other passages?

Interpret

Art – What is the purpose of the piece?  What does the artwork mean to you?  Why did the artist use certain materials?

Scripture – Go deeper into the purpose of the passage.  Look at other translations.  Consider what some of the key words meant in Latin/Greek.  Why was this written?

Evaluate

Art – What is the meaning of the piece?  Does it make you happy, angry, convicted, challenged, offended?

Scripture – How can I apply the lessons of this passage to my life?  How does this make me feel?

This stuff is hard.  I’m not about to pretend that I do this regularly.  I frustrate myself with the amount of time I don’t spend digging in to Scripture.  I assume that I understand the concepts when I read a passage, but moments later I can’t remember any of it.  It takes accountability to consistently analyze Scripture.  It takes the willingness to put in your ear buds and isolate yourself for a period of time.

I can only aspire to be engulfed in Scripture like I was with the Rothko painting or Cameron was with Seurat.  I want to see each word for what its true purpose is in the passage just like I might consider each brush stroke in a painting.

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