Monday, July 22, 2024

Canyons and Crannies in the Bible

This is (sort of) the third post in a series. 

The First Post: Geometry and How to Think

The Second Post: Canyons vs. Crannies Theology

I am sure that there are a few people who've had their toes stepped on from my posts. If not these two, then any number of previous posts I've done, may have stepped on toes. I can admit that from time to time I've posted some things with the express purpose of toe-stepping. I can admit that. Though it was never meant to be overtly mean, I can admit that there have been a few times where I phrased things knowing that whether or not it stepped on any toes, it would still be received about the same way that a stray Lego piece is when encountered on the floor in the middle of the night... when barefoot. I could argue that some people just need to put shoes on (i.e. not be so sensitive), but that wasn't my main concern when typing these things out. Even though I can admit this with some previous posts, I want to stand by my claim that these last two posts, specifically the previous one, was not meant at all for an insult to anyone. The topic that I began to cover, I believe, is one of the most important topics that needs to be addressed in our American Church.  I believe this for two reasons. 

Friday, July 12, 2024

Canyons vs. Crannies Theology

Please don't be offended by this post. If you read anything here that you find offensive, please just talk with me. 

Anyone and everyone that believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, is a theologian on some level.  I absolutely believe this to be true. A person doesn't always have to be a professional theologian to be a theologian. Theology is simply the study of God, so one could be a professional theologian, investing their time and energy into this study, but they might also be a lazy theologian, deeming the study of the Word to be not all that important, at least not as important as Sports Center or their Facebook feed, but both ends of the spectrum depict theologians none-the-less. If a person believes something... anything... about God, they are a theologian. And if they also believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, then to some degree those beliefs are shaped by their reading, or their lack of reading, the scriptures. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Geometry & How to Think

I know that anyone that comes across this will most likely find it a bit on the boring side. I get that. I'm not trying to build an audience here, I gave up on that dream long ago. At the same time, what I am going to say, I believe has relevance. I believe it is important. I believe that it borders on essential. And so I write it, not thinking that it is a statement that will sweep the nation or the educational system or even the 5 people I know online. I write it instead, as an actual exercise in thinking, which is the core topic of this post. So I encourage you to read it, to think about it, and to communicate with me about it, not for social media hype, but for community and dialogue and for thinking... 

Geometry

The longer I teach Geometry, the more I believe that the real purpose of Geometry is not how to find angles and identify shapes and compare congruent triangles... No. All of those things are secondary to, what I believe is, or ought to be, the real purpose of a Geometry Course. Don't get me wrong, all of those things, along with slopes of lines and right triangle trigonometry and the surface area of spheres is all important: amazingly, exceptionally, actually important. The more technical our world gets, the more these things are drastically important. And even if I go another way with Geometry... the "Geometry in Construction" way, which is another course that I teach, these things are still really, really important. Houses still need to be built with the proper pitch of the roof. Rafters need to be cut, doorways need to be square, and floors need to be level. Again... all important stuff... but... But the longer I teach Geometry, the more I believe that the real purpose of Geometry is not necessarily any of these things. The real purpose may be... ought to be... probably should be or at least could be... how to think. 

I guess that if I am going to talk about this topic in this format, I should probably attempt to accomplish a few things in this "talk". I most likely need to say something about the need for our youth to be taught how to think. You wouldn't think that this would need an explanation, but it might. From there I should try to show you why I think that the Geometry classroom is the proper delivery vessel for students to be taught how to think... I think. Let's start with the need for thinking by thinking about thinking, you think?

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Just an Old Table

This is just an old table. 


At some point in the fall of 1986, I sat at an old table in an art class at Hope Christian School and scratched out a message from God to my future self. 

I was a freshman in high school. My teacher's name was Mrs. Clingman. Since it was already an old table at the time, it was covered with scratches, indentations, stains and drops of paint. I can remember scratching the bubbles out of the dried paint drops. You can see that in this picture: 


I also remember sitting at the other end of the table and noticing a little indentation that looked like an eye. I was probably supposed to be working on some other project or listening to my teacher give instructions on the next project we were to be working on or an art technique that I was going to need to use, but instead, I was doodling on that eye. And I can actually remember thinking to myself, I am going to write "I see you!" for someone else, someone who would come along after me and see this little eye and its little message. 

...

This morning I swung by our little church on my way to teaching summer school. My father had pulled these old tables out of our storage shed to toss into the dumpster we had rented. He had texted that he needed help getting them into the dumpster the previous day. He had been able to pull them out of the shed, but with the heat, he thought it best not to attempt tossing them into the dumpster by himself. I volunteered to meet him after my school day and help him throw them in, but decided on my own that I would just swing by there in the morning and throw them away. These tables had been in my life for as long as I could remember. I had probably sat at them during a vacation Bible school when I was 6 years old. 

To be more to the point, the previous Saturday we had a church clean up scheduled (hence the rented dumpster). Some of us who had been a part of Edgewood the longest, especially those of us who had attended when we were at the previous building, were having a challenging time watching some of the items make it into the dumpster. They were items that needed to go, but each one had a multitude of memories attached to them. For my wife and myself it was especially difficult because it felt like our time in ministry... with the bulletin boards we had made and designed, the things we had kept for a potential future aspect of the ministry, white boards and chalk boards we had put teaching notes on... were all headed for the dumpster. 

So I didn't want anyone with me when I went to throw these tables away. I had thought that maybe these tables might make it into a futue fellowship hall. ... Foolish, I know. Who wants old tables in a new fellowship hall? Especially these old, and might I say, exceptionally heavy, tables. These old discardable tables. These old tables that were only used for loaning for garage sales. These old tables that had been there for countless potlucks, Easter sunrise breakfasts, and various fellowship meals. These old tables that I had griped about their weight more times that I could remember. These old tables that were resigned from ministry and in the shed, but now were going to make their way to a dumpster. Just some old discardable, useless tables, no longer fit for ministry at Edgewood Church. 

But on the very last table I picked up... I knew this table was there, because I wanted a picture of the paint drops I had scratched off... and it was the final table. And then I saw it. As I lifted the next to last table to toss into the dumpster.... as I was contemplating the similarity between these tables and my life and time in ministry... I saw it. 

Oh. I had seen it before and knew that I was most likely the one that had written it, but when I saw it this time, the memory of scratching those words into the table came flooding back, but instead of seeing these words for what my intention had been when I had scratched them into that table in 1986, I saw them ... no... I heard them spoken to me, and my Lord, my Savior, my King, my Good Shepherd said to me, "I see you!"

 


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Clockwork Boy Dreamed



The clockwork boy dreamed. 
To the clockwork boy, it seemed,

That all the books he’d read

With boys and men of whom its said

They dared to reach beyond their state

And out of need, fulfilled their fate

Doing deeds, that were great

So maybe clockwork boy could be

More than clockwork, he would see. 


The clockwork boy waited. 

He dared to dream a time was fated

For him to reach beyond his state

And do a deed considered great

So wait he did for proper time

In meantime reading prose and rhyme

Dreaming big he hoped to shine

So maybe clockwork boy could do

A thing that poets will write too. 


The clockwork boy observed. 

Watched for needs where he could serve

Based not on gifts he bore innate

But hoped that gifts were born of fate

So plunging in when need arose

Not a dipping of the toes

A head-first plunge is what he chose

So maybe clockwork boy could trust

That though he lacked, it’d be enough. 


So clockwork boy acted. 

And gears and springs were all impacted

By strain of acts beyond his scope

But clockwork boy did naught but hope

That maker did have this in mind

When gears installed and springs he’d wind

Crafted as… one of a kind. 

So maybe clockwork boy won’t break

If acts were done all for his sake. 


So clockwork boy functioned. 

Doing deeds with one assumption

That deeds were done, not based on skill

But acts of grace done by his will

For to proclaim the gospel call

When fools and weak give their all

Then wise and strong of world will fall

And now clockwork life exhibits

Sufficient grace in all that it is. 


Then clockwork boy seemed

To fill his hopes and live his dreams

But clockwork parts won’t this strain take

Springs will fail and gears will break

No greatness now like stories old

Deeds unwritten, life untold

Wood hay stubble now unfold

Picked-up pieces moved aside

Pondering now what he had tried. 


So clockwork boy pondered. 

“What went wrong?” is what he wondered

He thought it wasn’t based on skill

Or wits or might or force of will

Weren’t it simply gospel grace

Enabled feeble, take their place

Along with chosen glorious race

Now he huddled, parts in hand

No strength remained to even stand. 


So clockwork boy darkened. 

No longer heard the call he harkened. 

No longer see the light from sky

No longer feel a breeze go by

Now alone in depths of pit

Ridiculous joke, piece o’ shit

Absent hope, this was it. 

No clockwork repairs in the deeps

Utter despair… a miserable heap. 


The clockwork boy looked

For any hope in maker’s book. 

He longed to find a simple word

From voice of him he often heard

Convey kindness when he spoke

Loved with simple lightweight yoke

The laden who were not a joke

But crafted with eternal thought

Into this scheme clockwork bought. 


The clockwork boy was let down. 

It seemed to him he had not found

The things that maker said were true

Of what a clockwork boy could do

Where was he when springs did break

When gears did fail and did not make 

Any difference for his sake? 

Does he stand now so far off

While the scoffers choose to scoff. 


But clockwork boy remained. 

Through grief there was some faith sustained

That maker had not failed at all 

But kept a plan with greater call

Beyond the clockwork boy’s own thoughts

With greater plans and fuller plots

Tying clockwork mind in knots. 

But written by a loving hand

He trusted now the makers plans. 


So clockwork boy picked up 

Broken pieces all messed up

Worthless now it seemed to him

For anything he might have been 

Tomorrow is an unknown thing

Miseries or joy to bring

Letting go of everything

He clung now to this only thought. 

His life by shed-blood had been bought. 







Friday, April 5, 2024

To my wife on our Anniversary

To my wife on our anniversary
I loved you when
Our journey began.
I love you now and
I'll love you then.
And when this journey comes to its end,
I'll listen to the story told
Of love...
... and love again 

Friday, March 22, 2024

I found a carving in the wood

I found a carving in the wood,
   a pedestal where something stood. 
A statue must have been right here,
   its placement had been very clear.
But now this pedestal was bare
   and statue which was carved with care
was now cast off and on the ground
   under leaves and grass around
its form so it was barely seen. 
   I stooped down now and tried to clean
debris away so I could see
   what had been and what will be.

Dead leaves, wild grass, pulled and plucked
   brushed away so I now looked
at stone now in the light of sun,
   its lines and grooves forming some
image now in my mind
   of fingers that were intertwined. 
I brushed off more and saw an arm,
   its wrist embraced with carven charm.

The form now clear a woman lay
   framed by grass and roots that stay
clinging to her female form
   in ways that seemed now to adorn,
like woven garments, nature made
   now for my eyes in woods displayed.
but something did but seem awry
   twists and contorts caught my eye
should a real arm lay this way
   what did this artist seek to say? 

Those fingers still were intertwined
   I cleared some more so I could find
what lay beneath nature's shield
   in hidden wood, in long-lost field. 

I grabbed a mass of root and vine
   and once pulled back I saw the grime
from mud and muck and trails of worms
   which slid across these carven forms. 

What I now saw seemed grotesque
   as if the artist did detest 
these models from which he must have carved
   these two hideous and starved
creatures which now before me lie
   did the artist even try? 
Or was this the point for which he sought
   to twist and deform as he wrought
and carved and chipped away at stone
   to make an image that was one
in which I stood in horror now
   beholding scene of painful bow
beneath a weight of unseen trial
   that crushed these two beyond denial. 

The dirt and grime I brushed aside
   worms and mud, old roots I plied 
away from stone so more I'd see
   of what this spectacle could be. 

As I cleared nature away
  revealed now stone to sun's bright ray
and plucked away those final twigs
   I pondered now something big.
Could I now with all my might
   set these two back up aright? 
and place them on their pedestal
   restored, returned before their fall? 

I plotted and I then heaved to
   with levered strength in what lead to
a twist a turn and then a grunt, 
   drops of sweat, give up I won't. 

And one last surge of strength divine
   these two were back, but now I find
one more thing that I must do
   to finish task and make things new. 

I turned now to a fountain near
  water trickling down so clear
from ancient stone which had been struck
   to sustain life while on a trek
to promised land so long ago. 
   A rag I dipped beneath the flow
and dripping with the water clear
   I turned and cleaned off the first ear
then a chin and down that arm
   around the fingers and the charm. 
Across a back and down to feet
   between each toe my rag did meet
every crease and crack and nook
   I stood back now to take a look
and what now did my eyes behold
   a different story than I'd told. 

What seemed to me as pain before
   now looked like love that each had for
the other one it now was plain
   that though some trauma did remain
these two weren't wretched as it seemed
   but now revealed as I'd cleaned
my view had changed from before
   and now I saw what it was for.

The pedestal in ancient wood
  was granite hand on which they stood,
when cast off from its firm embrace,
   it looked like pain upon each face,
but now returned within that grip
   each now appeared with word on lip
that seemed to say by artist's skill
   "I love you now, I always will, 
because he loved us from the start,
   and in his grip, we'll never part."

In awe I stood at artist's hand
  that could with skill and careful plan,
create a scene that untrained eye
   would perceive dread and want to die, 
but with an eye trained by His book,
   a better eye could take a look
and see the beauty held within,
   though a tragedy had been
and the art did not ignore 
   these tragic things these faces wore
the end result was very clear
   these two knew Jesus and held him dear. 


 


Monday, February 19, 2024

Post Pastoral Thoughts Number 2: The Church and A Church


Not an Ideal but a Divine Reality (pp. 26-27, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. 

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to a genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

They Don't Get Him.


I don't have a lot of fight in me. I just don't. ... hence the break from preaching. So there is some hesitation in bringing this up. I know that my comments won't be able to measure up to my actual concern regarding this topic. I also know that I won't have the endurance to battle any naysayers who want to critique my critique. Well. I am still going to try and say something. 

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Post Pastoral Thoughts No. 1: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

For those who are new here: 

If you are new here, then you may need a slight introduction to this post. I'll start with the basics. My name is Matt Harmless. I have been a math teacher for 24 years (with a short stint as a disciplinary dean, but that's another story). For the last 14 1/2 years I was also a bivocational pastor.  For those unfamiliar with the term, a bi-vocational pastor is one who normally would be a full-time or part-time Pastor, but would then have another job. This second job could potentially be full-time but its primary purpose was to help make ends meet. I, of course, got that backward. I had a full-time job as a school teacher and then decided to try to take on pastoral work. This inevitably led to what came next. 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

A Rant.... ish.


First a disclaimer: 

(I am placing this disclaimer at the beginning of this post, but I wrote it last.) 

This is a rant. One definition of a rant (from a Google Search) is "As a verb, "rant" means to speak or shout in an angry, impassioned way. It can also mean to complain in an unreasonable way."  Notice that it is impassioned, but it can also mean unreasonable. I readily accept that what you will read is truly a rant. Here are a few disclaimers if you choose to read my rant: 

  1. As a rant, this is not personal. If there is something in here that you actually do think is about you, it isn't. It might resemble you, but the reality is, there isn't anything in here that I reference that I haven't seen and/or experienced from multiple people. So... This isn't about you. You know who you are. You are the one who thinks everything is about them. This isn't about you. If you contact me and say, "Why did you write that about me?" I'm going to say, "You didn't read the disclaimer did you?"  
  2. As a rant, this will cover several different topics, and none of them in-depth. If you read it and think that I should have been more clear, I'm sorry. I am not trying to be very clear. It is a rant.
  3. As a rant, this will be primarily negative. I hope you don't read this and think that this rant is what I am usually like. I think that I am usually fairly positive. But I also don't think that I should entirely avoid these topics I'm ranting about. I think they are rant-worthy. If I strike a nerve, I  want you to know that I didn't have my crosshairs on you, but I did have them on these topics.
  4. Since this is a rant, I won't be sharing this link on Facebook. This means that the only people who see this will be people who actually follow me or seek me out. If I record this as a podcast, I won't be sharing that link on Facebook either. 
  5. Even though this is a rant, if you read anything here or listen to this and feel the need to say something to me, either through Facebook, Twitter (X), e-mail, phone, or in person... I will be more than happy to actually listen to you before I even think of defending myself. I am sure that ... because it is a rant ... my words will be full of inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and all manner of unreasonableness.  

Let the rant begin: 

Monday, January 1, 2024

The Household and the War for the Cosmos - Review

 The Household and the War for the Cosmos by C.R. Wiley

If you have not read this book, I will begin this review by saying that I highly recommend that you do that now. Seriously. Click the link above and purchase a copy of it and start reading. If the title seems odd to you, I would like to double my encouragement to get a copy of this book. There is a cosmos. There is a war for it. And the household, your household is playing a part in this war. 

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Matt is a Hand Tattoo Person now... There is no going back.

Well, I'm a guy with a tattoo on my hand now. There is no going back. Tattoo number 5 is done and in the exact place I want it. 

I went with the Hebrew word, Shalom, which many know means "peace".  It was the topic of my final sermon (which I will include a link to, once it has been uploaded) before I stepped down as a pastor of Edgewood Church.  It is also a word that exemplifies, not only what I've aimed for in my life, but also what I long for the most in the next. The Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Dictionary defines this word as:  

1) completeness, soundness, welfare, peace (a) completeness (in number), (b) safety, soundness (in body), (c) welfare, health, prosperity, (d) peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment, (e) peace, friendship, (e1) of human relationships, (e2) with God especially in covenant relationship, (f) peace (from war), (g) peace (as adjective)

In other words, it is the making of everything right in a world where everything is wrong. 

A Christmas Sermon for Pagans

Strand Magazine published this Christmas Sermon by C. S. Lewis in December of 1946. The title: A Christmas Sermon for Pagans.


Saturday, December 9, 2023

Farewell Old Friends

 


Farewell old friends. 

I thought many of us would make it to the end together, but so few are remaining on board and so many are jumping ship.  More and more every day. 

And unlike so many others... I cannot... I will not... jump ship with you, thinking that Christ will come with me.  There is not a relationship on this planet that I would bend the law of Christ to maintain. Not a one. 

And it is not simply my love of Christ that compels me. I will also seek to maintain my lack of Christian / Familial fellowship with you, my fallen brothers, out of the vague but essential hope that this visible, tangible broken relationship with me, as you cling to your sin, might help you to see the invisible, but more real and more broken relationship with the Father before it is too late. 

Oh, if only other believers would but take the same approach, hoping to make it clear to all that friendship with the world is enmity toward God. 

Farewell old friends. I hope you know that when you return to the Father, I will be running down the road with him to greet you and not sulking in the fields.