Amanda and I received prayers from Saint Andrew this morning at our Bluffton Campus blessing us as we enter a new phase of life and ministry. Two weeks ago, Pastor … Continue reading Personal Thoughts and Prayers as we Prepare for Transition
By DANIEL GRISWOLD — firstname.lastname@example.org
Since moving to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton area, I’ve noticed something I thought was unique: There are an incredible number of twins in the area.
When I first started as a youth director at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church on Hilton Head, our youth ministry had three groups of twins participating. I even met a family who had adopted twins from Russia. I remember thinking, after meeting quite a few more older sets of twins, that there must be something in the water that natives hadn’t told us about. After some quick Internet research, I became less surprised.
Since the 1980s, twins have become more common and make up about 1 in every 30 births in our country. As is expected, they can be extremely connected to one another, sometimes creating verbal cues and language they alone understand. Despite this, they tend to be very competitive and can push each other pretty hard. And, later in life, it can be hard for the two to separate into adult lives apart.
I mention this because Thomas, the “doubter” of Jesus’ resurrection, has the Greek name, Didymus, which is Greek for “twin.” Twice I’ve read through the story of Thomas, who said he would not believe Jesus had returned until he saw the Lord’s wounds in person. Jesus appears, and Thomas awakens in faith. In the process, this twin has had a lot of bad publicity, but I think he’s gotten a bad deal.
If Thomas was a twin, the Scriptures do not mention the other. It is possible he had lost his twin earlier in his life. In a literary sense, many interpreters speculate that we (as in the readers as individuals) may be the “twin” of Thomas, facing our own doubts as we hear and weigh the gospel. A Gnostic Gospel (written long after the gospels) attributes the twin to be Jesus himself. I read one article that humorously remarked how surprised Mary and Jesus himself would have been to hear that. The first explanation resonates with me, and this has colored my view of Thomas in a totally different hue.
If Didymus was a twin who was separated from someone with whom he’d been so close, his connection to Jesus would have been different from that of the other disciples. Churches sometimes talk today about having a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. Who would understand this more than a twin? Who would have a natural understanding of having a deep and intimate friendship and bond with someone they love and respect? And who would have had the hardest time dealing with the death of their Lord and the relationship with the master?
Previously, Thomas was stout in faith and courage. In John chapter 11, he told the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” as Jesus deals with the death of Lazarus. He then seems to experience some separation anxiety in John chapter 14, “Thomas said to [Jesus], ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?'” when Jesus begins mentioning his own demise in the progression toward Jerusalem and the cross. I’ve read that this also explains why Thomas may not have been with the other disciples when they saw Jesus the first time. Was he in intense grief, unable to bear company or comfort, dealing with the death of his hopes and dreams that had previously been invested in Jesus?
Then Christ appears to him, and he is once again awakened. The connection is unbroken, and the source of life is returned to a broken and hurting spirit. He believes, and from that moment Thomas’s life has a clear direction. He is recorded to have ministered as far as present-day Iran and he died preaching and teaching the good news of his lord, Jesus Christ.
If I were to “go” like Thomas did, and believe with the passion of a committed twin, what could we accomplish? Who would receive the hope that emanates from the light of belief in our hearts? We could turn the love we have received into a tangible expression of goodness for our world. Let’s tell the stories of how moving from brokenness and doubt toward the moment belief transforms everything.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.
Grasping God’s greatness is an adventure of the mind
The notion that God has no beginning and also no end is a mind twister. I remember having the concept of eternity explained to me in my early years this way: A dove holds a feather in her beak and is able to fly from one end of the known universe to the other end. In the middle of the universe, there is an iron ball the size of Jupiter. The dove grazes the iron ball with the feather each time it passes. On the day that the iron ball is completely worn down to nothing by the dove’s feather, that is the day that eternity has just begun.
That last part usually takes a moment to sink in. Understanding that God has no beginning or end, and is the Alpha and Omega of all things in our own universe, is hard to grasp. It takes a bit of appreciation of mystery, and yet the concept draws us in. Those who do good wish to have an eternity, in order to do the most to better mankind and the universe. The evil genius wants an eternity to destroy what the good people build.
The stories of the ancient gods, who were very human in their frailties, seem to be about their longing to go on epic adventures without the worry of one day dying. In wisdom literature, the book of Ecclesiastes says, “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, in a reply to the letter of the child I mentioned previously, tried to respond for God in his own words and simply said, “But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!” The response is quite charming and full of grace and love to a 6-year-old named Lulu.
Grasping the greatness, or “big-ness” of God is a great undertaking. This is an adventure of the mind and a journey of faith. The box we build to put God into continues to break, even as we learn what God has put in the box for us to see. That is why I love the Scriptures. That is why I love the continued action of faith in the lives of people who express the eternity of God by doing great and wondrous things.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.
Ingredients to a Happy Marriage Might Include Bacon
It actually came up this morning as an affirmation of how fast time flies when you are having fun — and working hard.
In contrast to the fleeting nature of celebrity weddings and relationships, I recall the romance and love in the Scriptures: “How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice!” (Song of Songs 4:10).
There is a deep appreciation for the “other” in the relationship and a delight that can last throughout the years. I see those who have been together 50 years or more as the heroes and heroines of marriage. Often they say that they had some “best years,” but there were also some very hard years. They continued to invest in their love through the years, though, and found deep happiness in each other’s presence. That is the everlasting love, a love we can emulate. It continues to ride strong through the storms of life and builds a stronger unity.
As a husband, I hope to live out the biblical ideal that Paul spoke of: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25-28).
To fall deeper and deeper in love each and every day is not a fairy tale, but rather a choice, an honor and a great adventure. Christ gave himself for the church and gave it all, certainly, so we can emulate that great and sacrificial love that gives and gives and gives in our marriages.
A heart filled with the love of the spirit will always overflow.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.
Amanda and I are marking 9 years married today. We woke up and wished each other a Happy Anniversary and planned a nice lunch together (it is a work day after all). Also, in a splurge of celebration we went to our favorite Coffee Shop in Bluffton, SC: The Corner Perk for Raspberry White Mochas, and stopped in at The Surgary bakery next door for a breakfast treat. As a symbol of the deep goodness of our 9 years of marriage, I picked ‘the Homer’ donut. It is a rich Maple Donut covered with bits of Bacon. Oh yeas – lots of bacon my friends. Marriage – Great. Life – Great. Bacon on Maple on donut….tasty. Love you Amanda, and thanks for the Donut ;D !
More Wisdom, Less Pain
By Daniel Griswold
This is the original. A version is published in The Island Packet’s Bluffton Edition
In my usual perusal of Internet blogs, I stumbled onto an article titled “Religion is Going Nowhere”. I like to peruse opinion, so I clicked and began to read a particular atheist’s thoughts on theism and the irrationality of religion. It was a user-generated section of a news site, so it wasn’t a reporter, just another guy or gal like me who had some thoughts to share. I bit, and read on because the messiness of opinion and reality intrigues me.
There wasn’t a central idea, but several assertions were made. (1) Religion would be around much longer than most atheists think. (2) Real atheism is hard to accept, because it assumes a mechanical universe, which is probed for truth by science. (3) Many theists cling to their “Bronze Age Soap Opera’s” and refuse to face reality. (4) Atheists must fight theists who seek world domination.
It is a hard thing to look at a critique of our identity and not become angry, but I think it is a worthwhile exercise. The most poignant point here is that the believer is seen as an Enemy rather than a Friend. That should send us into a deep moment of asking “Why?” From a Christian perspective, how can the faith that had an early historian exclaim, “Behold, how they love each other,” and whose sacred texts admonish us to “Love God and Love others” be seen as the great enemy?
The first issue is a relational one. Love in our culture has become so twisted, that I think even Christians have forgotten what it means to reach out and care without any pre-conditions. Love means risk. We can realize that reaching out beyond our comfort zone, to those who do not see the world as we do, there will be struggle. And to do it not to convince the other of anything, but simply to be a friend – that is even harder. Our current context, being a follower of Jesus, when so many people have been abused by people who certainly were good pretenders, and who committed injustices against the defenseless and the young – that also takes guts to say, “Jesus is love” while taking a scalpel to the evils in the institution and cutting away the rot that created an atmosphere of abuse. Evil is evil, whether you believe in God or not, and across the board, this is a common ground for the future.
A second issue is philosophical and theological in nature, and seems to provide a large divide. There seems to be an assumption that all religious people are irrational. Certainly, there are irrational people in all groups and certainly across all religions there are those seeking a world of rational faith. The argument that religious people cannot be rational seems to be based on this logic. (x) Theists trust scriptures, (y) scriptures are myths, thus (z) theists are morons. The basis of this idiocy seems to be that there are many religions, all with sacred texts, all claiming absolute truth. The fallacy: Because there are many, is that all the sacred texts must be wrong, and this leads to (z) theists are deceived or ignorant. My issue is this: Having varying texts all purporting to be from God does not immediately preclude that all of them are wrong. One, or even two, if looking simply with logic, have the potential to be actual sources of truth – if there is a God. A decision still has to be made. It seems to me that a rational person would be the one who studies all the texts, and considers all the data they know from the sciences, all they know of humanity, all they know of the cosmos, and makes a call. There needs to be discernment either way.
I’m not writing to be argumentative, but to bring all people to think more with their minds and their hearts. Many things said on all sides are meant to hurt others rather than to heal – and that is wrong no matter where you’re coming from. The book of proverbs opens with this:
“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the walls she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery an fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.”
This is a good message for all the people of the world. Seek wisdom, find the way.
Daniel Griswold is the Director of Youth, Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC. His email is email@example.com and his twitter name is @dannonhill.
(Please read this whole article and interact with my whole argument)
I recently heard that a casino has been proposed for a community that is literally down the street from where I live. There are pictures, proposals, and a bit of media blitz revving up. I immediately tweeted @NikkiHaley and asked her not to promote the new casino. Today, I am happy to have read, that Haley has state on Facebook that she will not support the casino or approve expanded gambling in South Carolina, and she continued to emphasize that her administration will promote manufacturing and industry jobs to the state. I clicked “like” immediately.
The comments section immediately lit up, and the most common arguments for gambling in South Carolina are, “Its more jobs,” “It will bring more money into the tourist economy,” and “You can do it online and in Vegas, why not here? North Carolina will get all the money,” etc, etc. The same arguments are made in New Hampshire and Massachusetts about the Connecticut casinos that draw people in so I’m familiar with them, but I am still anti-casino, but also anti-gambling.
I don’t believe that gambling, in the big picture, benefits anyone.
It is a form of entertainment based on the adrenaline rush of possibly losing your money. In fact most people do lose money, and that is what goes to pay profit to those who run the operations, as well as pay out the rewards to a select “few” who beat the odds. Very rarely do the numbers work out that people gain more than is taken. I’m not a math man, but I assume that these places wouldn’t exist if the odds weren’t heavily in their favor. So basically, more people lose than win. Applying basic Pavlovian psychology to this situation, and you have an atmosphere for highly addictive behavior. In studies, when a reward is applied sometimes, but not always, it is more addictive than if the reward is always applied. At the slot machines, you win some and you lose some, so people widdle away the hours thinking “one more, and I’m done…one more and I’m done.” Its a system designed to draw you and and get more and more serious until you lose big. While addictions are a part of life (caffeine being one), this one is literally giving away money. The impracticality of it, in my opinion, makes it wrong for the individual. To go in knowing that you will likely lose, allotting a certain amount to give away, but hoping that you will win big.
(1) Our hope should not be placed in money. Gambling places the dollar on too high a pedestal. Getting more dollars won’t solve your problems, it won’t solve societies problems. “More money, more problems” in other words.
(2) Our entertainment should not have the possibility of loss of income that could be used for better use. We should be wise with our money. Giving it away to the glowing lights is not wise and by the odds is not going to produce good fruit.
(3) Some entertainments grow us as people and make us more capable as human beings. Gambling does not improve you physically, spiritually or mentally. It is a behavioral adrenaline rush in which you play with risk and hope not to be wiped out. It is a waste of our potential, our talents, and what we could be giving to our world.
(4) These buildings close people off from society and many leave thinking of only of their next return – where they will only lose more time and more potentially more money.
(5) Lastly, to address the biggest justification for a casino, to give money to something good. This is to create a money tube. People bring money, they game, they lose money willingly, that money is given to a cause (ex. education). This looks great at first. People don’t like taxes, but they’ll “game” in a casino. Need money for education, get a casino, cash flows to state who pays for education – problem solved. Not so! A good society needs to value education. Indirect funding of education through gaming brings people to value the gaming rather than the end result – a well rounded educated society. You fund something good (educated young people for a brighter tomorrow) with something that teaches unwise investment of resources (gambling), the opposite of what you would teach in a classroom. Unless you want to teach that Gambling is good because it funds education – which is false. Education is good because it gives people the tools they need to be productive members of society. Gambling can only be argued as being good on its own two feet. What good, on its own, does gambling provide? Adrenaline? Risk? Fun? But weigh that against its own down sides. Loss. Addiction. Broken Relationships. Distraction. How does it stand on that alone? My argument is this: Education should be funded. Gambling is one way to do it, but it is not the best way. If we really value Education, we would make a good case to the public of what we need to educate the next generation on Education’s merits alone. Not, in what the individual can get out of it. This thinking makes our society more selfish than it needs to be, and it is distasteful to me.
Some people say that it is your own money, and another person has no right to say what the other will do with it. That would be a good argument if we all didn’t live together in communities where we all interact and we rise and fall on the strength of the whole. As a person who lives in a community with many others, I do expect that everyone is being wise with their time, their money, and their talents. I expect that they use their money to produce actual products, ideas, and dreams. I would hope that their entertainments would make them better people (by interacting and growing through reading books, informing television, physical competition and world growth challenges, expanding the mind and doing service that helps others and that grows the heart and mind).
I don’t know the statistics about how much of an economic impact this would have, nor do I know how much of it would go to education, or other tacked on provisions to make it “worthwhile”. I do know that there are better ways for all of us to use our money. I do know that people should be giving to education anyway – and we should be ashamed to say we would only give that money if we are “entertained” for it. I know that the world sometimes works in the wrong ways to try and achieve the right outcomes, but I prefer to try to attain both. The right means to the right goals.
So I’m thankful that a casino is not supported, and I hope that it will be seen as a positive safe guard of our treasure, our time, and our good work. Let’s focus on better things.