Where are you from?

Usually, the question “where are you from?” is not a “microaggression” but an honest effort to meet a new person. For either party to interpret it otherwise is foolish, selfish, and reduces the possibility of a relationship that could bless them both.

A stocky, white, middle-aged man stood behind the counter at the fencing school as I approached. “I am looking to take lessons. Do I sign up here?”

“Yes,” he said in a thick Russian accent.

I love to get to know people, the studio wasn’t very busy, and I knew nothing about “microaggressions,” so I asked, “Where are you from?”

“Minnesota,” he replied.

“No, where are you from originally?”

“Baltimore,” he answered.

“OK, where is your accent from?” I persisted, eager to learn about his big life adventure.

“Russia,” he said.

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Words Limited

Words are not enough to encompass life. To experience the universe only through words is to miss life itself, and fail to enter the kingdom of Heaven

I was waiting for a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last weekend, and doing what I often do at airports…watching people. Thousands walked by, from flight crews with their impressive leather jackets and epaulets, to children with their troll pillows and Disney backpacks. Many adults were stooped, with shoulders rotated in and necks craned forward looking at their cell phones, which they typically held in their left hands. Single women cruised with short steps and a hippy gait, especially those in high heels, and single men sported their shouldery saunter. Mothers pushed strollers and fathers carried car seats and other luggage through crowded passageways.

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Communication Conflicts

Assumptions, Emotions, Perceptions, Conditions, and Facts color our communication with ourselves and others. We must learn to manage them.

A wise man once said that the hardest thing about communication is the illusion that it has occurred. I have been involved in hundreds of medical, military, and public safety operations, and the after-action reviews of each one cite communication as a problem. Whether in business, relationships, or anywhere else, avalanches of academic papers and mountains of media articles bemoan our inability to effectively talk to each other, and propose ways of fixing it.

Several factors are present in every communication event, including assumptions, emotions, perceptions, conditions, and facts. They change the communication, often without the participants realizing it.

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Open Windows

How to keep our hearts and our lives open to the people and experiences that God has put around us.

It was a three-car accident, with three distraught drivers walking between their disabled vehicles and the flashing blue lights of police cruisers drawing attention to the scene. Traffic was slow, with hundreds of bypassing drivers craning their necks to see what had happened. Though I have long disparaged such “looky loos”, I found myself drawn into the action. I gazed for a second too long, turned forward, found a car stopped just a few feet ahead, hit the brakes, and swerved into the shoulder to avoid a crash. I barely made it; with no harm except to my pride.

After thanking God for saving me from this close call, I considered why it happened. The morning temperatures were in the high forties but road conditions were good and visibility clear. On leaving home I had opened my driver’s window, and had noticed that of the thousands of cars on the road, only two had their windows even partly open. It was easy to see why – it was cold, and the wind chill made it worse. Still, opening the window made me much more aware of my surroundings. Instead of just seeing the activities on the road, I could hear them, and to some degree even feel them. I had gotten cold and closed the window just before my near crash. The traffic opened up, but several minutes and several miles later I saw another emergency vehicle about ¼ mile behind me. He moved closer and I pulled over, seeing rather than hearing him from a distance. Others didn’t pull over at all.

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How was your day?

My wife Nancy and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary last week, and I have been reflecting on our years together. She works from home, raising our five children, and caring for her high-maintenance husband. She is utterly precious, and I value her more than diamonds or rubies. Almost every day throughout these years, Nancy has greeted me at the door when I get home from work. Her smile is warm and her embrace warmer. She is genuinely glad to see me, and always follows a hug with “how was your day?”

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The Power of Repetition

Over and over and over again is the only way to learn, to work, and to grow in God. Our attitude controls whether we get bored or get better. 

Multnomah Bible College professor John Mitchell was renowned for having vast swaths of the Bible memorized, including most of the New Testament and much of the Old. He denied having more than average ability and wasn’t even trying to memorize Scripture. Dr. Mitchell absorbed so much of God’s Word because while preparing a sermon he read each passage aloud fifty times before preaching it. The key to learning the Bible is repetition.

This morning I read the story of Demetrius the silversmith in Acts 19. I do my daily Bible study in German and Spanish, checking my interpretation in English. In so doing I improve language skills and get a different perspective from reading the English alone. It is good work but sometimes slow, especially when I run across a new word or phrase. By about the fifth time seeing a word or phrase, I know it. At work I converse with a Spanish speaking lady every day, and talk in German as often as possible. The key to learning languages is repetition.

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Christianity as Seen by the World

How do leaders and influential groups in the world view Christians? How do Christians view themselves? How does God view His people?

As a leader, a seminary teacher, and a medical professional, I keep abreast of events throughout the world. To do so, I review news on many websites every day (see the Virtual Business and Intelligence Center), and read the Economist, a highly regarded British news magazine, every week. The 18 September 2015 cover story was an article entitled “Two Mexicos”, but what struck me was the cover image, contrasting the two Mexicos. The upper half of the image showed a man playing a guitar, three cactuses, a well-appointed factory, and a smiling statue. The lower half of the image showed a man holding a rifle, three crosses, a ramshackle house, and a frowning statue.

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