Daily Journal 5/28/2015

How long has it been since I wrote one of these? Quite a while. I played golf yesterday and had some very interesting theological conversations with a pastor from Dallas. That was an unexpected bit of fun on the course. I’m going to post something later about some of our conversations. I also ran a half marathon since the last time I wrote. That was a good time. And the school semester is over. And some changes at church that do not thrill me. Such is life I suppose. Through what lens to we interpret scripture into the modern context? That’s an interesting question that came out of my conversations yesterday. Something to consider. Peace be with you.

Psalms and Proverbs Reading List

I have finished the Psalms and Proverbs reading plan. I decided to not do a simple “5 Psalms a day” plan because I thought that would make for some very long days, and it would have. Also, I am going to “front-load” the Proverbs reading so that the end of the month can be easier. Also, I decided to do two proverbs in a day twice so that on the day that we read Psalm 119, that will be all that we read. For the “extra” Psalms, we’ll read them on Mondays, it made sense to do that given that there are 5 Mondays in June. One other thing, look at the chapters each day since a few of the Psalms are read out of order. I will be posting these every day with a couple questions about the readings for thought and possibly discussion. Enjoy.

Monday June 1: Psalms 1-8, 151; Proverb 1

June 2: Psalms 9-16; Proverbs 2-3

June 3: Psalms 17-19; Proverb 4

June 4: Psalms 20-24; Proverb 5

June 5: Psalms 25-30; Proverb 6

June 6: Psalms 31-34; Proverb 7

June 7: Psalms 35-37; Proverb 8

Monday June 8: Psalms 38-41, 152; Proverb 9

June 9: Psalms 42-47; Proverbs 10-11

June 10: Psalms 48-52; Proverb 12

June 11: Psalms 53-58; Proverb 13

June 12: Psalms 59-64; Proverb 14

June 13: Psalms 65-68, 70; Proverb 15

June 14: Psalms 69, 71-72; Proverb 16

Monday June 15: Psalms 73-77, 153; Proverb 17

June 16: Psalms 78-79; Proverb 18

June 17: Psalms 80-85; Proverb 19

June 18: Psalms 86-89; Proverb 20

June 19: Psalms 90-95; Proverb 21

June 20: Psalms 96-102; Proverb 22

June 21: Psalms 103, 105; Proverb 23

Monday June 22: Psalms 104, 106, 154; Proverb 24

June 23: Psalms 107-109; Proverb 25

June 24: Psalms 110-117; Proverb 26

June 25: Psalms 118, 120-127; Proverb 27

June 26: Psalm 119

June 27: Psalms 128-135; Proverb 28

June 28: Psalms 136-139; Proverb 29

June 29: Psalms 140-145, 155; Proverb 30

June 30: Psalms 146-150; Proverb 31

Mad Men Series Finale “Person to Person” Review

So, I’m no movie or TV critic. I write about spiritual things. There was some of that here. I think spirituality, though perhaps not religion, is the key to where Don Draper winds up when the episode ends. But what do we know about Don Draper up to this point in the series? We know that he was born Dick Whitman. You’d better believe that plays a key role here. In fact, looking back, I think when he took that turn towards Pennsylvania a couple episodes ago, he became Dick Whitman again for a little while.

Do I really need to say that there are spoilers beyond this point?

I think he’s been on that journey for much of this season. Something that I only picked up on a little later, and I think it’s critical to the story, is his shirt. Earlier this season, we saw Don wear a blue shirt for the first time I can remember. At the time, I thought this was just an evolution in fashion for him, moving away from the buttoned up 1950’s. Don has had no real change in fashion through the series, which is not the case for most other characters. I think this was because the suit and white shirt was all that he knew.

So, he went from white to blue then to plaids and flannels. He was still in white when he went to Wisconsin, but that was the last of it. After that, he started shedding off Don Draper and all the layers that surrounded that. To start the finale, we see him wearing jeans and a jean jacket. A far piece from how we’ve seen him dressed through the entire series. And his hair was out of place. Then he makes his was to Los Angeles, still not wearing white and still with messed up hair. We move forward to see him wearing a green polo shirt and well kept hair. It’s almost like this was something of a false start. In golf terms, I’d call this a false-front on a green. Something to make folks think that it’s really the target but is not. This is not Don Draper, not yet. This is still Dick Whitman. He tries to get Anna Draper’s niece Stephanie to forget about her past life and move on. The same thing that he did, the same thing he told Peggy to do. But she doesn’t. Or maybe she does. We don’t know. She leaves. And here comes the final, real Dick Whitman. He’s wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, looking like something absolutely out of the 1970’s. His hair is messed up and he’s an emotional mess. He talks to Peggy and I think this the beginning of his final transformation.

The relationship between Don and Peggy was always interesting. Being a bit of a nerd like I am, I think this relationship was a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, though this does not hold exactly true because Obi Wan did not have a single mentor. Peggy has always had Don. When they started, Peggy was just like one of the younglings from Star Ways, she had a great deal to learn. Eventually, she grows and grows before eventually taking her place among the best in the business, just like Obi Wan became part of the Jedi Council. But who is Don? Is he Qui Gon Ginn or is he Yoda? Perhaps both, I am not sure. But Peggy starts out from nothing and becomes a Master. She becomes someone who is absolutely equal to Don. She’s the only person he cared enough about to say goodbye to. While there was never a romantic relationship here, I think the emotional connection between the two was greater than the connection between any other two characters on the show. So it comes as no surprise to me that Peggy sparks his final transformation, as I see it. She makes him finally look inside and realize that he really does have a home and that people really do care about him.

After the conversation, after fully confessing everything that he did, to a point, to someone close to him (again), he’s a real mess. This is Dick Whitman at his weakest. He’s wearing flannel still. Don Draper never wears flannel. He realizes during the confession that he doesn’t want to be a nobody. He wants to be somebody. I think the hug was the final part of the shell coming off and his realization that he can shed everything and move forward.

What do we see at the end? A white shirt. Groomed hair. A clean shave. This is Don Draper. He’s back. Did he write the Coke commercial? Absolutely he did. Did the smile indicate he’d thought it the pitch? I don’t think so.

What does all this have to do with the spiritual? Well, whether one believes in God or not, I think the vast majority of people will say that there is “something” that needs to be satisfied in order for us to be made whole. This is beyond the physical and the mental. It’s the internal, the spiritual. Don takes us on a spiritual journey. To put into Christian terms, he had a definitive born-again experience. He hit rock bottom. I think that happened as he was on the phone with Peggy. He was completely exposed and had nowhere to go, literally and physically. He confessed to her, something that is key in the Christian faith. Baptism? I think the baptism was when he cried while hugging the man. That was his baptism. The next time we see him, he’s standing up, looking like Don Draper again. Completely reborn. Then we see him sitting there with a white shirt on and great hair. He smiles because he gets it. He understands whatever it is that he needs to understand. Then we cut to black. I think he found the whole part of his spiritual existence and that allowed him to return to the job that he loved. He’s now been made whole. The rest we can figure out however our imagination suits us. To me, this ending (and the whole series really, considering the age of the characters) is a great example of Hemingway’s Iceberg.

**On another note, I found it interesting that they went to a retreat in California. It seems to fit the description for the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. I picked up on this pretty quickly, though I had to look up the name, because the Institute was founded by Michael Murphy who wrote Golf in the Kingdom which is a pretty fantastic golf book, at least the first half of the book. Being the golf geek that I am, this stood out to me.

What else do we have? Betty was still around. I was wrong in that I thought she’d commit suicide. I honestly thought the note last week was a suicide note.

Don’t conversation with Sally was interesting because he said that these decisions were for grown-ups. She is, sadly, more grown up than he would like to admit. I think we see that by the way she’s dressed in this episode. She’s no longer dressed like a school girl but like a grown woman. Part of Don doesn’t want to admit that, though he might also be too blind to see it at the time of their last on-screen conversation.

Pete got a happy ending. To be honest, that disappointed me. I wanted him to get hit by a bus.

When Roger had issues with Marie and then Joan had her break up with Richard, I thought these two would get together. It wasn’t meant to be, I suppose. I guess Roger took his piles of money and retired.

Don sheds off the layers of himself, facilitated by his last tie to Anna Draper, the only person who really knew him, as he said. I remember a literature teacher telling me once that if you put a “gun” in a book, you’d better pull the trigger before the end. Stephanie was not the gun folks saw coming back in the final episode, at least I didn’t. I was surprised. But she helped Don find himself. Helped him be made whole mentally, physically, and spiritually. He’s made his confessions and I think we finally saw a total integration of Dick Whitman and Don Draper. He’s made whole.

Daily Journal 5/13/2015

I need to get back into a daily habit of doing these….So, tomorrow is the celebration of the Ascension according to my Lectionary calendar. Hopefully I can find time tomorrow to record a video devotional for that. That weekly video idea went away fast, sadly. Quite like many of my great ideas. I’d like to get back to those. I was listening to a podcast tonight, one of the phrases in there was something like “the only thing we know about God is that we do not know anything at all” or something to that effect. I wonder how true that might be. I certainly do not think that we can adequately attempt to define God because anything we might do to define God would be limiting of what God can do and isn’t God all-powerful? That’s an interesting thought. I’m not yet decided what I think about it. I need to finish my theological statement for class. This thing is incredibly difficult to write and I guess that’s the point. How often do we really think about what we believe? We just believe it. But writing it down is much harder. Actually finding justification for beliefs in scripture and scholarly works can be difficult. Or at least time consuming. Not that it doesn’t need to happen though. I’m ready for this semester to be over. Peace be with you.

Daily Journal 5/9/2015

Sometimes life really sucks. I sit here writing after having a great day in Dayton and having just read a post from a friend of mine who is going through almost unimaginable struggles and having just had a brief conversation with another friend who is going through some different struggles. It’s a difficult question to ask…why do some people get dealt such a bad hand while others get the good one? Kusher tried to answer that question. He had to redefine God to find an answer that was adequate to him. Sometimes I wish I could go to a find establishment with these folks and order 2 Old Fashioned’s, one for each of us. Sometimes I really think a good drink would be quite cathartic. It’s kind of strange, I find myself growing stronger in faith, but wondering if certain things matter. Would I abandon my relationship with God if I had a drink? Probably not. But I won’t have one either way. Some people just get dealt a tough hand. I think it’s OK to be angry with God sometimes. God’s a pretty tough customer, I’m pretty sure he (or she or it or whatever) can handle our anger. Peace be with you.

Psalms and Proverbs Reading for June

So, this comes from something that I read Billy Graham used to do, so I wanted to do it myself with some other folks sort of in agreement to all do it together. I’m currently in the process of modifying a reading plan to fit how I want it to fit. While it would seem to make sense that we just read 5 psalms a day, that doesn’t seem very efficient when some psalms are really long…like 119. I’m pretty sure I won’t want to read 4 more psalms and a proverb that day. So I’ll see if I can get it to work.

I might also try to read through them and make a few questions to ask to facilitate a small discussion, or I might just appropriate the questions from elsewhere. This would be a way for us to be together and thinking as we read through the psalms.

Something else I want to do, if there are no objections, is to include the Greek and Syriac psalms, 151-155, in the reading plan. These could just be spread out here and there since they are all very short (all 5 of them could be read in not much more than 10 minutes). I think it’s really cool to read books that are in other Christian canons. (It’s a really interesting question to ask WHY they are in some canons and not others).

I will try to have this plan up in a few days. Peace be with you.

Daily Journal 5/8/2015

Well, I find myself in Dayton this week. The Student Council offered to fly me out to be the Student representative on the Board of Trustees, so I took them up on the offer. I had hoped to meet some friends out here this weekend, but it seems that will not happen. I find it very interesting the way God works here. I’ve gone from being just another person in the crowd to now being the voice of the students on the governing body of the Seminary. That is quite an unexpected happening. It is really amazing the great things that God can help us do if we are willing to take that first step into the unknown. For me that was the step into Seminary and then following that small revelation to join the Student Council. I hope that I can be a quality voice on the council. I’m incredibly thankful for everything my wife does for me and the kids. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this. She is willing to watch the kids by herself while I go on my semi-annual jaunts to Dayton. I feel bad that I can’t think of a gift to get her for Mother’s Day. I must just not notice things. Sorry dearest. I’ll get her something cool, though.

Daily Journal 5/6/2015

Today was good. Good day at work, not much strange happened. Although The Queen managed to squall her way through 12 hours of watch. But whatever. I’m actually happy I get to go to a different work section. See how long that lasts. I get to travel this weekend. I’ll be back on Sunday. I’m happy to go, it will be a cool experience, but it sucks that I have to be away from the kids. I want to sit down with Camille and do a Rule of Life, it’s something we did in class. I think it would be great for us to have something like that. Help us spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, everything. Peace be with you.

Daily Journal 5/3/2015

Interesting day at work, we had a little potluck lunch because we couldn’t order anything. Sadly, I/we could probably afford a Ferrari on what gets spent on food and snacks each month. I should probably be better about that…I ran 8 miles tonight, the first time I’ve ran that far in probably 5 years. It felt really good. I think I could have easily gone longer, I wanted to run 10 miles tonight, but I started too late and I wanted to get back in time to watch the 11pm replay of Mad Men. How much like Don Draper are we as a church culture? In the ten years that have gone by in the context of the show, he has not changed. The world has changed around him, methods have changed, people have changed. But he has not. And he’s become less effective and less relevant over the years. Has that happened to the Christian church? We’re still dressing like Don Draper yet we’re living in a world that has long passed him by. This is not to say the message of church should change, surely it should not. In fact, it must not. Folks are looking for the same thing today that they have looked for in years past. They are looking to grow in their relationship with God. They want churches that help them grow in that relationship. Yet, often times, we do not give them that. We give them lame music, uninspired sermons, and who knows what else that’s bad. We act like if anything about the total product changes, the entire product changes. Yet, we know that is not the case. Look at the products we see every day. I can think of at least three different logos used for both Pepsi and Mountain Dew in the last 20 years. Yet the product in the bottle is still the same. Why don’t we think that’s possible within the church? Change the logo on the bottle, make it so people are more willing to come to church, but don’t change the product in the bottle. But that would get a lot of pushback. All the old codgers hate change. Peace be with you.