The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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Great Questions

[Here is a guest post by my friend Jack “Chip” Bishop from Waynesville, NC.   We spent a lot of time talking about writing as a way to express important ideas on our minds.  Here is an idea Chip has been pondering]

In regard to Gilligan’s Island, if the SS Minnow was just going on a three hour tour, why did Thurston and Eunice “Lovey Howell” need all that luggage? That’s a funny question. Not necessarily one that one we would ponder all day, though.

Googling “good questions” yields queries like:

What can I do better today than I did well yesterday?

What would you grab first if your house was on fire?

What do I absolutely love about my life?

What would I stand for if I knew nobody would judge me?

What would I do with a billion dollars?

Good questions, but great?  One of life’s paradoxical experiences is when the best answer to our questions is a question itself. A rabbi friend was asked why he asked so many questions in his teaching to which he responded, “I do?”

Educators credit teaching by asking good questions to Socrates.  The Socratic method involves asking logical questions about current beliefs to determine consistency.   If one believes such and such, then does that imply a further belief …?  Plato echoed Socrates while plumbing the depths of philosophy to help determine consistent moral beliefs.  Such teaching methods give students the courtesy and responsibility that there is something lurking within us already to help resolve dilemmas.  Don’t we all flinch when a teacher or speaker or preacher overexplains a point?

Good, professional career coaches are helping this method gain purchase again.   The coaches some of us had in earlier days berated and chided and invoked fear.  The only questions I remember ever being asked by a coach in high school was, “BISHOP, DO YOU KNOW HOW BIG THAT DEFENSIVE TACKLE IS FROM WALTERBORO IS AND WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO TO YOU FRIDAY NIGHT?!”  and the core corps drill sergeant/coach question, “You thought? You thought? Who told you to think?”

These days, good coaches ask probing questions that show they have been listening carefully to a situation we describe to them and instead of stating a cookie cutter prescription for action, they pull realizations and actions from within us with good questions.  Maybe a good buzz word is “ownership” for a decision and action because we feel like we came up with the answers.

Interesting questions. Good questions. Maybe they’d occupy our minds for a while longer than the Howell’s luggage. But what about really great questions that startle and itch and wrinkle the brow of our souls with intrigue?  Questions that are immediately piercing  with readily applicable truth?

That lay rabbi Jesus asks great questions, doesn’t he?  Some questions clear the air and get to the point right away:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?, Luke 6:34 NIV

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?,Mark 4:13 NIV

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?,Matthew 7:9 NIV

Some questions are great because they open our lives to the length and breadth and depth of life:

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?,Matthew 16:15 NIV

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.,John 11:40 NIV

Some questions are agonizing because Jesus voices how we have felt:

Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”,John 9:35 NIV

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?,Luke 17:8 NIV

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life ? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?,Luke 12:20 NIV

And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ).,Mark 14:48 NIV

The point of all this is like somebody once said, “I still don’t have all the answers, but I’m asking better questions.”

Jack “Chip” Bishop


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May’s Dose of Culture

Here’s a monthly supply of technology changes, culture shifts, and things about life that are happening around us.

What would my grandfather have done on Saturday afternoon?  How would the man who instilled washing the car every week  have handled owning a Nissan that washes itself?


So your financial institution rates your password as “strong?”  Think again.


What 2-letter word limits your future?


This video makes you think twice about wasting food.


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Keith in the press box at Roland Garros

Keith in the press box at Roland Garros

Yes, that's Andy Murray, practicing at Roland Garros the day we were there.

Yes, that’s Andy Murray, practicing at Roland Garros the day we were there.


 Cherry, Marry, and Jane

Cherry, Marry, and Jane

Jimmye, Becky, and Mai Mai

Jimmye, Becky, and Mai Mai

Lots of Rain - here in Avignon

Rain everywhere – here in Avignon

In the gardens at the Château de Chenonceau

In the gardens at the Château de Chenonceau

Together in Château de Chenonceau

Together in Château de Chenonceau


Becky in St. Paul de Vence

Becky in St. Paul de Vence


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Copyright 2014 P.Joel Snider

Looking down on the English Channel from the main German bunker at Pointe du Hoc. Copyright Joel Snider

My daughter came home from her second tour in Iraq eight years ago this month.  We missed her dreadfully while she wae gone and I remember greeting her in the Atlanta airport on her return as one of the most joyous moments of my life.

Her absence,  our worry for her safety while she was gone, and the powerful joy, relief, and thanksgiving at her return have shaped me on may ways over the past decade.  My prayer life is deeper and my patriotism more emotional, just to name two.

As a child, World War II was a memory for my parents’ generation; for me it was only history. I differentiate the two because I was born in 1952, and had no perspective how close in time I was born to the events of June 6, 1944. I was born as close in time to D-Day as we are today to my daughter’s second tour in Iraq.  When I was born World War II was not only recent, its memory was still raw for many people.

This past week I visited Normandy for the first time. I’ve now seen the number of graves at the US cemetery and the height of the dunes at Omaha Beach, the improbable cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and the church at Sainte-Mère-Église. I understand better how the events of that war and that day in particular shaped a generation.

I understand the human psyche.  We shouldn’t remember people now deceased as better than they were.  Humans have always been self centered and self-preserving.   No one wants to die as those young men died at D-Day.  But fortunately for the world, they believed in something larger and nobler than themselves.  They believed in a vision of human freedom that served every person, not simply their personal, selfish expressions of freedom.  Consequently, they were heroic.  Their heroism and sacrifice shaped the personality of America for a generation.

Political discourse today does little to encourage a vision of the world that benefits all people.  The political left advocates advancement without incentive, while the political right advances Ayn Rand’s philosophy of “enlightened selfishness” and dares call it Christian.  The idea of the  greater good, the concept of sacrifice, and the biblical idea of community are nowhere to be found.  Yet, they are virtues we need desperately.

I am glad those young men at D-Day did not succumb to the temptation to think only of themselves.


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