The Fruit of the Spirit: Waiting on the Harvest‏

Fruit tree with all 9 Biblical Fruits of the Holy Spirity

As a self-described “mature” Christian, I’ve nonetheless taken to skipping over Paul’s description of the fruit of the Holy Spirit whenever my Bible readings take me past it.

If you don’t recall, the verse goes like this:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23

Reading this list is an indictment on my soul-life; it’s like reading the quizzes in the men’s fitness magazines, but instead of asking about my exercise or sleep habits, this quiz asks: “How full of the Fruit of the Spirit are you? Take our quiz to find out!”

Using a scoring system from 5 = “Always” to 0 = “Never,” here’s how I self-assess:

Love: 4
Joy: 3
Peace: 3
Forbearance (What the Forbearance?!): 3
Kindness: 4
Goodness: 4
Faithfulness: 5
Gentleness: 2
Self-Control: 3

With about a 3.5 score, I’d probably rate as “Full of Life” – somewhere between “Full of the Spirit” and “Full of Crap.” Certainly I’m no barren fig tree (Matthew 21:18-20), right? But it’s enough to make me question my only 5 on the scoresheet. Why am I not bearing more fruit?

To cope with my spiritual insecurity, I’ve oscillated between over-obsessing about it and simply pretending the verse is apocryphally non-canonical – and thus does not apply to me or to anyone. Thankfully, I recently had an epiphany about it all (epiphany being a Greek word meaning “the Spirit smacked me silly straight”).

Here’s the gist of the breakthrough I had: In circa 2016, when I think of fruits, I think of the rainbow cornucopia of large, fresh, in-season selections at my local mega-grocer. All kinds, always available, abundant for picking … from a display.

In Paul’s day, however, fruit came to us in a much different fashion. It took time to grow, and it took close tending and hard work and a learned and respected agricultural process to grow it. Conditions had to be ideal, problems had to be caught early and headed off, and steady sustenance of good stuff needed to be fed throughout the seasons of growth.

And so it is with our Spiritual fruit; my first-world, modern expectations of large and abundant fresh consumer fruit – instantly available at the point of my salvation – was not in keeping with the metaphorical spiritual fruit Paul described: fruit that has seasons; fruit that takes growth and development and time and nurturing and learning to produce . Via a process performed by the patient, steady hand of its grower.

Tending to my spiritual life has happened, and has been necessary for any of the growth, blossoming and good fruit bearing that I’ve attained over the years – though as the quiz scores show, it all seems so modest. I’ve arguably provided a good plot for the seed of faith, the first necessity; but I also on the daily need to tend to the many fast-growing weeds of worldliness and worry that easily sprout up in my garden, lest they take over my faith life (Matthew 13:1-23).

What I learned after my smack aside my head is this: If we have sown well, and if we keep fertilizing, pruning and watering our growing faith, then assuredly the abundant fruit of the Holy Spirit will continue to show – and increase – in each of us. Amen.

All verses from The Holy Bible, New International Version.

Copyright 2016


The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”

This is 40? Meh.

I’m not so ignorant to think that 40 is the new black; “meh” sums up the experience quite nicely.  #40Meh.

License plate on sports car reads "MANOPOZ"

A few months ago, in anticipation of my 40th anniversary of living, I set out to write a commemorative blog post: to riff on the significant meaning of this significant milestone.  I didn’t have a thesis going into the project, but I was confident something profound would come to me.  And why wouldn’t it? We have a pop culture pantheon of promises; of discovery, of self-awareness and of meaning at mid life.  However, as the birth day approached, and then passed, a finished blog post didn’t — the passing of time and the process of introspection brought nothing.

Despite the onset of prescription eyeglasses and a rotator cuff injury, the mundane that I’ve found in the few weeks since joining the ranks of the middle aged is that not a lot is different between 40 and most of my 30s — if not the whole of my adult life.  Sure, I feel like I’ve gained some wisdom in proportion to grey hairs, but for the most part, the advent — and passing — of 40 has been more lamb than lion; more “meh,” than, well — it was just meh.

Deep thoughts? I have none — but I still need 500 more words.  What follows, then, is the best can offer:

Forty (not-so-)Profound, (hopefully) Entertaining-if-Not-Edifying, (suitable-for-Tweeting?) Thoughts on Turning 40:

1. My life thus far: bought with 4 easy payments of 10 years each.

2. This is the age of knowing … that a Soft tail will get your engine revving a whole lot faster than a blue pill.

3. When I was growing up, there was only Rock music. Classic Rock hadn’t been invented yet.

4. Cut my teeth on Pong. Dictated this to Siri. Can’t wait to see what tech I get at 80.

5. 40 is the new 25 … 40 is the new 25 … 40 is the new 25 …

6. The pace of the passing of time picks up the pace past 40.

7. Sometimes I miss my dad something fierce. Then I look in the mirror, and there he is.

8. They say the eyes are the windows to our souls. Maybe because they are the first to fail us, ushering in old age and eventually death.

9. Condiments — it’s like I’ve discovered a whole ‘nother amazing dimension within our own world.

10. New vocabulary word: Analgesic.

11. My generation is the only to have seen Star Wars episodes 4-6 in our youth; episodes 1-3 with our children, and will see 7-9 with our grandchildren.

Original Star Wars poster

12. Corn. Not just a food. Or a band.  Now, a sore on my foot.

13. I was a teenager when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were born.

14. All of a sudden, I can be a victim of age discrimination. Wow.

15. On the Air Force Fitness Assessment, a “Passing” score at 39 becomes an “Excellent” score at 40.  Best. Gift. Ever.

16. On a road trip, I’m that guy that pulls over every hour for a comfort break.

17. Surprise parties: Awesome for 6-year-olds. Not so sure at 40.

18. I’ve developed a telescopic, go-go-gadget arm for extending my phone far enough away that I can read what’s on it.

19. I’ve finally matured into the hairline I’ve had since 28.

20. I’m 42 already and I just turned 40 last October. What’s happening?!

21. Obsessed with the 2015 Ford Mustang. Not a midlife crisis; I just hope I look that good when I’m 50!

2015 Ford Mustang in red

22. We were so spoiled back in the day: there used to be a special phone number dedicated to providing citizens with the time and temperature … Back when there were telephones, of course.

23. Crows feet, laugh lines and greying temples. Entering the “distinguished gentleman” phase of life.

24. Knowing is half the battle.

25. Deny all you want, but when Metamucil starts posting ads to your News Feed, you have to concede that you are over 40.

26. Ye shall know them by their socks: 40-somethings = white ankle sport.

27. Stayed out ’til the street lights came on.

28.  Can no longer be a fast food dumpster.


29. Wisdom = Smarts + Experience + Time.

30. My hairline turned 40 a full decade before I did.

31. Black crepe. Not cool.

32. In the gym every day. For physical therapy, not physical fitness.

33. Big Bird. G.I. Joe, Pete Parker, Obi Wan. Characters who shaped my character.

Duke from G.I. Joe action figure illustration

34. After 40 years, I’ve gotta have at least 10,000 hours toward expertise in something.

35. So let me get this straight — a new motorcycle, hobby or sports car in my 20s is cool, but now it’s a mid-life crisis?

36. I saw a red minivan with Sublime and Beastie Boys window stickers on it. Talk about my generation.

37. All the best songs of my youth were novelty songs. Top 5:

5) Abracadabra / The Steve Miller Band

4) Mr. Roboto/ Styx

3) Whip It / Devo

2) Rock me Amadeus / Falco

1) I Wanna be a Cowboy / Boys Don’t Cry

Mr. Roboto Album Cover

38. If I don’t know myself yet. I think I might not ever.

39. Into weed: obsessed with getting rid of the crabgrass in my lawn.

40. The only things that’ll make me give a double take today is a shiny fender, a spoiler or pipe noise.

There could be more things to say, but I’ve hit 40 of them, and I’m supposed to be ready for a nap now.  So here’s to deeper thoughts at 50, 60 and beyond.

A well done if more colorful list for the sisters:  40 Effed Up Things About Being 40.

Copyright 2015


Worldly Thoughts features a number of essays on topics or ideas that aren’t necessarily church-related or of a Christian perspective. They’re shared here to the extent that they might be of as much interest to readers as other Church Deconstructed content.

Resolving to Read the Bible Through — Part I

Baby New Year quipping about the challenge of reading the Bible all the way through in a year.

It’s January 5 — do you know where your New Year’s resolution is? Only 75 percent of you will by the end of the week!

If your New Year’s resolution is to read the Bible through in 2015, you’re in good company.

It’s not in the top 10 resolutions list for 2015.  Nonetheless more than 500,000 around the world have resolved to take part in just one organized read-through — Episcopalian minister the Rev. Marek P. Zabriski’s annual The Bible Challenge — with many multiples of that participating in church-size, small group, family or personal journeys (with that, I humbly say, “Stuff it!” to all of the post-Christianity, religion-is-dead” myth-mongers).

The numbers of people who have attained that goal, whether as a New Year’s resolution; all within a year; or simply ever, is respectable — 61 percent of evangelicals report having done so. So they say.

I’m skeptical — that number is way too high for the reality I’ve encountered. Maybe it was a study done in the 1940s when parochial schools and Sunday Schools were more ubiquitous and rigorous — when Bible reading was more compulsory (y’know, back in the the good ol’ days when people knew what words like ubiquitous and rigorous and compulsory meant). Heck, only 71 percent of today’s ‘Merican population possesses more than a “basic” reading level, and wholly 14 percent of us are illiterate — although the CIA Factbook credits our Great Nation with a 99 percent literacy rate.

I think maybe the 61 percent mean the bible, not THE Bible:

Pollster: “Have you ever read the Bible?”

Man on the Street’s Thoughts:Fisherman’s Bible of Sport Trophy and Game — that’s gotta count!”

Man on the Street: “Oh yeah. Sure I’ve read it!”

Or, maybe the response is aspirational. Recent studies have found that when asked how often they attend church in polls, people tend to heavily skew up their responses when compared to actual attendance counts — anywhere from double up to five times over. Researchers attribute this to aspirational bias — the desire to be the kind of person one wants to be, versus the kind of person one really is.  Whereas according to the study It’s likely that Bible read-through respondents are similar in this respect — and the real number is likely lower, and possibly much lower.

If you’re amongst the “39 percent” who presumably wants to but who hasn’t got it done yet, please set aside the Dan Brown self-flagellation kit and put the task in perspective:

  • The modest completion numbers speak to the difficulty of the task — if it was easy, more people would have done it already.
  • Reading all 807,361 words of the Bible is on par with reading the entire Harry Potter series. (Well, leave The Deathly Hallows‘ 198,227 words out of the total of 1,084,170 to get closer parity). How long did it take you to do that?  Excluding, of course, time spent waiting for the next book in the series to be published.
  • Alternatively, it’s really more like reading the 37 collected plays of William Shakespeare (at 835,997 words, also similar in length to the Bible) given the differences in language, setting, culture contexts between then and now, etc. Like Shakespeare, while the Bible also has mystery, drama, intrigue, supernatural happenings, suspense, sex and betrayal, even the best translations aren’t highly readable.

So with those encouraging comparisons, set yourself up for success against the formidable task.  Come back soon for Part II, which offers links to reading plans and tips for keeping this resolution!

Copyright 2015


The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times biting and borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”

Feedback: The Perfect Gift


Businessman shakes present to figure out what's inside.

Didn’t get the gift you really wanted under the tree this year?  Or from your boss or a co-worker?  As New Year’s comes around, make a resolution to ask for the perfect gift — the gift of feedback!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – a time to run around stores late into the night, looking for the perfect gifts to give to family, friends and even co-workers.  Workplace holiday gifts can be the most problematic – there are all those ethics rules, hierarchy sensitivities and office politics to consider.  How do you decide the perfect gift for an office colleague?

Though it’s somewhat of a management and leadership trope, for colleagues, arguably the best gift you can give – for the holidays or anytime – is the gift of feedback.  Maybe they’d rather have a coffee shop gift card or, “hint, hint,” maybe a promotion.  But feedback truly is the “bestest” gift you can give them, ever.  Here’s why:

  • Like Clark Griswold’s 1-year membership in the Jelly-of-the-Month Club Christmas bonus, good feedback “truly is the gift that keeps giving.”  To validate this point, just think back to valued feedback that you got years ago that you still use today.  I recall a senior leader applauding the quality of my work on a project, but advising me that getting it to her the night before it was needed didn’t give her enough time to review it and make use of it the next day.  The lesson – that 90 percent quality early is better than 110 percent quality late – has served me well in the intervening years.
  • Feedback enhances performance, and that’s great fun!  Of course feedback can be positive – praise is great fun to give and to receive, and when given it can reinforce desired performance and behaviors.  But often feedback needs to address a need, and as such, at first it’s going to be like getting socks and underwear from one’s parents.  But once they try it on and wear it, it’s going to feel like a superhero-costume Underoos or like those awesome Spring Shoes they’ve always wanted – it’s going to enhance their performance and agility and speed in the workplace like nothing else.  That’s a lot of fun, for the entire workplace family!
  • If done, right, it’s a perfect fit.  Feedback is like a new sweater – it’s got to be just right for the person getting it – not too big, not too small, not too heavy nor too light, not scratchy and in the right colors and pattern for the recipient.  And what’s perfect for Susie won’t at all work for Bobby.  Feedback is not a one-size-fits-all gift, and if attention to detail and tailoring to the exact specifications of the recipient are missed, it makes for a disappointed, confused and frustrated receiver.  Although you can’t really use a gift receipt to return feedback, if it’s a good fit for the recipient, they won’t want to.
  • The packaging that feedback comes in matters almost as much as the gift itself.  Some people wrap their gifts in the Sunday Comics papers.  Similarly, some managers try to use humor to soften the blow of difficult counsel.  But such feedback is a serious gift and shouldn’t be delivered with jokes, but rather with sober seriousness.  Alternatively, don’t be the one that takes a gift and puts it in three different increasingly larger boxes to trick the recipient into thinking he’s getting something different.  Don’t play games or beat around the bush with your delivery – just give it to them.  A nice, attractive paper with a simple bow to adorn it is best, meaning: keep your delivery simple, straight-forward and pleasant.
  • Give the gift on time.  I’m that guy that misses the U.S. Postal Service mailing deadlines; you’ll get your Christmas cards and packages from me in mid-January.  I’m just not that organized.  But for feedback to be useful to the recipient, you have to have your thoughts collected, and you have to deliver it in the appropriate season.  Cheeseballs and feedback are great when fresh, but once you get past the “best if used by” date, neither is any good for anyone.
  • Finally, like nothing else, the gift of feedback truly says, “I care.”  Surely you’ve been in a situation where you’ve wanted to call a colleague or a subordinate on the Clue Phone to give them some much-needed advice.  If it was someone you didn’t much care for, you probably took a pass on the opportunity.  Why?  Because there’s some risk in giving feedback – risk that it will be rejected, that you’ll hurt the person’s feelings.  There’s a lot of potential workplace drama that comes with those emotions.  So it’s just not worth it.  That is, unless you really care about the person.  For the recipient, it’s worth keeping this in mind, and a help to receiving the gift with gratitude and in the spirit it was given.  If someone’s taking time to speak honestly to you about an area for improvement, embrace the momentary suck and remember that this person is doing it because he or she cares about you.

What’s the best feedback gift you’ve ever received?  How has feedback benefited you in your work?  Why is it difficult to give – or to receive – the gift of feedback?

Copyright 2014


Worldly Thoughts features a number of essays on topics or ideas that aren’t necessarily church-related or of a Christian perspective. They’re shared here to the extent that they might be of as much interest to readers as other Church Deconstructed content.

The Fifth Gospel and Apostasy About the Church

Dan Page, 5th Gospel Fail

“I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord Savior, but I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot. And if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more.”

So sayeth likely soon-to-be-former St. Louis County Officer Dan Page, recently kicked off the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.  He’s a self-described zealot of a number of causes – prime among them the Christian faith, and the co-mingling of bizarre interpretations of scripture and a hateful world view have put him at odds with, well, just about everybody.

It doesn’t matter, though –  the damage is done.  When people not familiar with Christianity hear statements like these, they think they are hearing words from an official spokesman for the Gospel – words that represent the world view of Jesus, the Church and my faith.  And thus, me.  As a fervent, on-fire believer, let me say plain and loud:  THEY DO NOT.

To my frustration and pain, it’s no wonder, then, that there’s a growing backlash against believers in our increasingly pluralistic society. These statements keep people out of churches and away from Bibles. Ironically, that leaves other church people – the ones that people work with and who live in their neighborhoods – and not the ones on TV and quoted in the newspapers – as the only gospel. In this respect, we make up the Fifth Gospel, if you will – after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  But with Bible literacy low even amongst evangelicals, we frankly might be the only gospel that most people will ever encounter.

Witnesses like Dan Page, or like the two or three families that make up Westboro Baptist Church, represent apostasy in the church.  If they are within the body at all – I say that they are not, but their self-professions say they are – it’s impossible to square this circle by the standards set by Jesus.  Standards:

  • that put grace and mercy before judgment;
  • that direct forgiveness; and
  • that encapsulate all Old Testament law in the two commands of “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” — Matthew 22:36-39, New International Version

With new and even more bizarre headlines swirling around us daily, it’s rather a miracle to see true Fifth Gospel examples among us – and even in the national and international media – as witnessed by their deeds and words.  Read on for a few passages from these new gospels:

The Book of James Foley
“We appreciate the tremendous number of prayers we have received and Jimmy received … Jimmy said he could feel the prayers. His strength came from God.” – Parents of American journalist James Foley, following his beheading by ISIS terrorists.

The Book of Dr. Kent Brantly: 
“Through the care of Samaritan’s Purse and SIM missionary team in Liberia, the use on an experimental drug, and the expertise and resources of the Emory University Hospital, God saved my life,” said Dr. Kent Brantly, adding that his recovery is “a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.” – Dr. Brantly is a medical missionary who contracted – and then survived – the deadly Ebola virus.

The Book of the Borderland Samaritans
While our nation debates laws and policies and tries to figure out how to address the issue of tens of thousands of minor-aged illegal immigrants crossing into our country each year, private citizens who live on the southern borderlands each night set out water and nourishment, not to aid and abet criminals, but to show mercy and compassion – and to perhaps save a life – of these widows and orphans and aliens among us.  Human to human, it’s just the right thing to do.  But regardless of your political affiliation, it’s also what we’ve been directed to do.  Plain enough for me.

Praisefully, there are dozens of other examples, though many don’t make it into the media like these have, and thus, it’s easy to see only our fallen world and to miss out on all the miracles that occur within it.  In seeing just these few in the past days, I’m personally challenged to try to be more like these modern-day disciples. Let us ignore the speck in our brother’s eye and work to remove the planks from our own. In this, we might best reach all of the world for Him!

Copyright 2014


The Church in the News offers short reactions and critical thoughts about mass media coverage of matters of contemporary church, faith and culture.

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin? — Christianese


Love all Sinners

All have sinned. Love them all! How can you NOT with a sweet face like that?

You’ve heard it said that you are to “love the sinner but hate the sin.”  This common Christianese phrase has a basis in Biblical truth, and is recited by church people as though it was red-letter text.  But there are some problems with its use:

1) First, it’s decidedly NOT Biblical.  Similarly worded, but decidedly different in meaning — and in bona fide red letters to boot — is the following:  “You have heard that it was said, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” — from Matthew 5:43-44.

2) It’s hypocritical.  ” … He straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” — John 8:7.  ‘Nuff said.

3) It’s divisive and judgmental.  Yes, there will be an accounting for all shortcomings … I will spend a lot of time recounting my own personal sins (ugh!) …  As fallen humans, we ARE our sin, so when we condemn sin, we condemn the lost we are trying to reach with God’s message of grace and mercy.  That turns people off, frankly.  It turns God off, too — in Proverbs 6:16, when the Bible describes seven things the Lord hates, “haughty eyes,” and “a person who stirs up conflict in the community,” are prime among them.  So until His return, we of the church need to try harder to be about His love and forgiveness.

And of course, like most Christianese, using the phrase usually displays a lack of critical thought, and instead is simply something that we’ve heard and parrot to others.


Copyright 2014


Christianese describes the jargon used by church people: those who’ve spent a lot of time in and around churches and seminaries and religious academia.  The postings in this category constitute a “Saint’s Dictionary;” the collection seeks to define and deconstruct, with humor, the foreign language of these so-called church words.

On Becoming A Renaissance Man: The Book of the Life My Dad Lived

Wood block with pencil self portrait ready for woodcut

A Self Portrait of the Artist

My Dad, Georges B. Bishop, died Dec. 20, 2013, at 74 years of age.  Unassuming and sometimes curmudgeonly, he was also a noble gentleman and a scholar who was loved and admired by his family, friends and all who met him.  These sentiments are overdue for sharing, and are offered with love and admiration, in honor of his memory and of his life.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” my Dad would ask me.  I don’t know for sure which of the two of us was so interested in the topic, but for as many times as we talked about it, at least one of us was.

“I dunno,” came my typical kid answer, as I twirled a wood pencil in my hands, trying to think of something cool to draw.  “Maybe a comic book artist?” I offered.  I started to draw something that might have looked like Spider Man.

“That sounds neat,”  he said, taking a draw from a Kent III cigarette.

At that point, my pencil went in its own direction, and Spider Man suddenly had a horn on his head.  In my anger, the drawing became another paper wad, flung hard to the floor with the others sent there earlier.  I thought about breaking my pencil, too, but I knew there’d be other drawings to make later.  So I just threw it to the floor, too, crossed my arms, and turned away.  I’d never be a comic book artist.  I’d never be any kind of artist.  Not like my Dad.

I sat and pouted, but no one bit.  So my mind wandered.

“I think I want to be a pilot,” I said.  I’m certain that I’d seen Top Gun recently.

“That sounds cool,” Dad said.  “You have to be pretty good at math, though,” he added.

“Maybe an architect?” I said.  That trip to our cousins’ in Chicago had made an impression on me.

Dad chuckled and exhaled smoke through his nostrils.

“You have to be good at math to be an architect, too,” he said.  “You want to be a lot of different things, don’t you?”

And then he passed on a tiny pearl of wisdom, borne of inspiration and experience.

“I think what you want to be is a Renaissance Man.”

Indeed, as he explained what a Renaissance Man was, I knew two things: First, that my Dad was already one.  And second: that I wanted to be one, too.


A Renaissance Man is someone who has mastered — and who effortlessly employs — a wide variety of skills,  This was the ideal person of the Renaissance period, which spawned “universities” to train all of its students to this standard: to have “universal” qualifications across many different areas of knowledge.

If Dad, who passed away in December, had written an account of his life, the book could have the same title as this essay: On Becoming a Renaissance Man.  He’d recount many of his life’s accomplishments, if not also a few adventures, and in doing so, he’d spell out the how-to-do-it that he did.  With only the lessons that he passed on by example, here’s the rough outline of the lessons of his life:

1) Be curious.  That’s how you get started down any given path — you are intrigued by it.  You look into it.  You ask questions about it.  You try it.  You get stuck.  You keep trying it.  You ask for help.  Then you do it.  You’re doing it.  You’ve mastered it.  You are it.  But it all started by FIRST being curious about it.  Dad had an insatiable curiosity, and you knew he was interested in something when he’d say, “Hey, that’s really neat.”

2) Be a lifelong learner.    When I left for college, Dad was at the age where he could get free cups of coffee at McDonalds.  I was the learner, he was the learned, defined as one who has already learned all that he needed to know.

That’s when he took a night class on wood carving offered by the park board.  To my knowledge, all he ever carved was his little version of the Travelocity Gnome.  But while he was there, he found out about a clock repair class.   Look around his home 20 years later, and you know where that took him.  A six week class to learn to carve in the round put him onto a path that arguably led to one of his greatest passions — and areas of expertise.  One curiosity led to another, and learning was the means of satisfying that interest.

3) Be somewhat OCD.  In the trades, they call it craftsmanship.  In manufacturing they call it quality.  In mental health, they call it OCD.  That’s what we called Dad, too.  But I don’t think you can be a bona fide Renaissance Man without mastering the various crafts you choose — indeed, after accomplishing one’s universal education, a medieval student would attend additional schooling where he’d “master” a specific skill — and thus, today’s master’s degree programs.

To be a master requires dedication and focus and continuous improvement.  You must maintain very high standards for yourself and your work and your finished products.  Clambering 25 feet in the air on a rickety aluminum scaffolding in the blistering summer sun, Dad used a heat gun and a putty knife to remove 120 years of layered, accumulated paint from every 2-inch board of siding.  He set and countersunk every nail.  He putty-filled thousands of nail holes.  He used the best quality oil-based primer and paint he could get.  Take a look at his masterpiece 15 years later, and it’s still held up to time.  His own minor Mona Lisa.  For Dad, call it OCD, but there was only one way to do things: the right way.  Which, as he’d tell you, was also his way.

4) Pace yourself.  You can do it all.  But even if you lean in, you simply can’t do it all at once.  Prioritize what you want to do.  Sequence things so you are building on other skills and accomplishments.  And as Dad sought to do, work to get some commercial wins to provide time-and-money capital for other less remunerative pursuits.

Looking back on my life thus far, and comparing it to his — there’s a list of skills, roles and jobs Dad performed at the bottom of this essay — clearly I’m no Renaissance Man like my Dad was.  But the lessons he left are widely applicable to all, whether you aspire to that standard or not.

There’s a final lesson from Dad, which I learned from his life post humously, that is necessary to any who would aspire to follow in his footsteps.  It’s this:

5) Get on with it, now!  While Dad lived a long life, and did some incredible things — created amazing works — there were still so many things he wanted to do.  He told of wanting to finish a few new projects.  At the end of his years, he selflessly cared for others, which was also one of his beloved Renaissance Man roles.  But his cataracts stole his sight, age took the steadiness from his grip, and cancer sapped his strength.  He had some unfinished business that tragically remains unfinished.

The lesson for each of us is clear: sharpen your pencil, get a new piece of paper, and get busy.  There’s a lot of life to live, but if you want to give it all your very best, and if you want to get everything you can out of it, then you’ve got to get on with living it.

Just like Dad did.

A List of Dad’s (Known) Vocations and Avocations:

– Veterinary assistant
– Chicken slaughterer
– Air Force Airman / Korea
— Computer system repairman
— Blackjack dealer
– Fine artist
— Wood block prints
— Watercolors
— Airbrush
— Silversmithing
— Enameling
– Entrepreneur
– Graphic Artist
– Framer
– Salesman
– Teacher
– Cubmaster
– Handyman — plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter, roofer, etc
– Shadetree mechanic
– Wood carver
– Clock repairer
– Collector
– Historian
– Husband and caregiver

And of course:
– Father

Copyright 2014


Worldly Thoughts features a number of essays on topics or ideas that aren’t necessarily church-related or of a Christian perspective. They’re shared here to the extent that they might be of as much interest to readers as other Church Deconstructed content.  Other essays in honor of the memory of my Mom, Dorothy M. Bishop, and of my father-in-law, Jack G. Shannon, can be found at the links.

Thankful to Those Who Would Stop to Thank a Uniform

I’m proud to serve as a public affairs officer in the Missouri Air National Guard, and experienced the following during my recent annual tour of duty. This Worldly Thoughts* blog post originally appeared July 2, 2014, on the 131st Bomb Wing website and in the June 27, 2014, Whiteman Warrior newspaper.

It’s 6:15 p.m. at the Wal-Mart in the small central Missouri town of Warrensburg. Aisle 17, Health and Beauty. A woman pushes her cart toward me; in the seat, a young child – perhaps her grandson – squirms; he’s had his fill of shopping. The woman tries to catch my eye. When she does, she smiles and says, “Thank you. Thank you for serving our country, Soldier.”

I smile back, a bit embarrassed and maybe a little ashamed, before replying with an obligatory, “You’re welcome.”

You see, she doesn’t know that I’m a new Guardsman; I’ve only been back in the uniform for about a year. I’ve never deployed in it, haven’t yet pulled state emergency duty in it. I drive across the state, train and go home. I work hard, but most of the time it doesn’t feel like I’m serving my country or my state.

Being in the Guard, the minimum standard calls us to wear the uniform one weekend per month, and two weeks per year. My identity, therefore, is more often associated with my day-to-day job than it is with this part-time job.

And right now, my co-workers back home are carrying my load while I serve.
And of course I’m not a Soldier, I’m an Airman, but that doesn’t matter – camouflage makes everyone look like a Soldier. I’ve learned that Soldier is simply short-hand for Servicemember.

These are the thoughts that cross my mind as I accept what feels like unwarranted gratitude. She doesn’t see that I don’t necessarily feel like the well-starched, “capital-A” Airman that she sees before her in Aisle 17.

But maybe she does. Maybe she correctly sees me as I am.

Maybe she has a nephew or a daughter serving in uniform. Maybe right now, while talking to me in the Wal-Mart, she’s worried about a husband deployed to Afghanistan, doing a job that I might find myself doing in only a few months.

Maybe her home was once spared from a flood by thousands of sandbags stacked by others who also wear my uniform.

Or maybe she has a more abstract understanding of that uniform; an abstract appreciation for the value the uniform represents. Maybe for her it represents security and freedom – rights that Americans enjoy and that we strive to provide to others around the world.

I honestly don’t know why she stopped to say thank you. That probably doesn’t matter, though. I would do my job with integrity, excellence and service, with or without a thank you in Aisle 17. To do so is simply my duty as an American Airman serving in uniform in the Air National Guard. It’s the standard we all keep.

But the thank you is rejuvenating, like a big bottle of SportzAid on Aisle 12. It’s a fuel booster in my tank from the Automotive Department. It will help propel me forward, and will help me to do it with good cheer.

Ma’am, wherever you are right now, you are quite welcome. And in turn, to you and to all American citizens, co-workers and community members who loyally and unflinchingly support our nation’s Citizen Airmen and Soldiers serving in uniform at home and abroad:

“Thank you.”

Copyright 2014


*Worldly Thoughts features a number of essays on topics or ideas that aren’t necessarily church-related or of a Christian perspective. They’re shared here to the extent that they might be of as much interest to readers as other Church Deconstructed content.

Been Couraged


I might have misunderstood the assignment …

Our associate pastor recently said for many of us what we’d all been thinking and feeling: the rancor and overexposure and pettiness of social media — heavier than ever, and as often from Christ followers as from others — was getting him down.  The message certainly resonated with me, as I’d been sucked into exchanges with friends, family members and distant associates alike over the recent Supreme Court decision for Hobby Lobby.  Confused, bitter and hurt, I wanted to withdraw, lick my wounds and perhaps never return …

Also tempted to quit, Rev. Troy instead challenged himself, and the congregation, to turn up the dimmer switch on our lights instead of retreating from the darkness.  The rules of his challenge are simple: At least once a day, use a social network to be humorous-but-tactful; to encourage others; to share scripture about God’s goodness; or to share the Gospel.

So at risk of explaining the joke, here’s a go at what tickled me as funny that will maybe encourage you: when I first read the instruction to mark each post with the hashtag #cc-beencouraged, I read it as “been couraged”” instead of “be encouraged!”  On reflection, though, I think there’s every bit as powerful a Gospel message in the mis-read as there is in the original.  My faith has driven fear far away, replacing it with courage that comes from the confidence of being in His eternal care.

While I’ll have to work harder on being encouraged this summer, I’m pretty blitzed to simply have been couraged right now.

Watch for the hashtag #cc-beencouraged for more, and feel free to give the challenge a try yourself!

Copyright 2014


The Church in the News offers short reactions and critical thoughts about mass media coverage of matters of contemporary church, faith and culture.

Becoming a Random Handyman — Testify!

As a kid, I thought Jesus had abandoned me. Left me to my poverty and to my insecurities and to my unrequited desires.

We were less than “Christmas-Easter” Christians; the faith of my elders — in our home — was more of the “Shut up while your Grandpa says Grace!” type.

Because we’d never really been introduced, we were strangers, Jesus and I. But I had an innate yearning to find Him and know Him.

I was on my paper route under overcast skies one day; I might have been 10. I stopped dragging my paper-laden wagon and looked to Heaven.

“God, if you’re real, send down a bolt of lightning over there!” I directed. I waited. Of course I waited. I’m not the boss of God, and as much as I believe that He, too, wanted to know me, it would never be on my terms like that.

Being a good person, I decided to give Him another chance. I wrote Him a letter. I took it to the backyard and buried it. I waited. Nothing happened. Again. ]

Of course nothing happened. I can’t remember what I wrote or what was supposed to happen. I don’t know why I thought that the wretched dirt of our urban garden was a supernatural post office (we didn’t know about owls back then). Kids have funny ideas anyway, but I had no basis of faith to compare my ideas to.

Fast forward a few years — to high school — to find a kid who was too open-minded for God, too good for God, too rotten for God and too smart for God. I did what, to a 16-year-old, felt like an “in-depth and thorough critical inquiry,” into the faith of my nation. But really, it was just superficial rock throwing at the edifice of Christianity:

“How can god be if he’d let the world be so rotten? Why do god’s people rape and pillage and kill in his name? And why is the bible any more legit than any other religious or scientific answer to who and what and why?” I supplied the questions, with a cynical sneer, and then I applied a 16-year-old’s answers. With the process done to my own satisfaction, I made up my mind: there would be no more proof tests, no more letters, no more questioning. I decided, and I got on with living.

Sometimes, meeting Jesus for the first time takes on the feel of a multilevel marketing pitch.

Though I gave up on Him, Jesus never gave up on me. Eventually, I got another chance to meet Him. Sometimes, meeting Jesus for the first time takes on the feel of a multilevel marketing pitch. A friend or acquaintance gets sucked in and gets excited, and she wants to build her network — at your expense. That’s kinda how it was with Tina, my college girlfriend, and I:

“Hey Jeff, get over here!” I want you to meet a great guy. His name’s Jesus! I’m in this great program with Him, and He wants you to get in on it, too!” You approach warily, afraid that by the end of the evening, you’ll have a new water softener, $1,500 less in your account, and a commitment to sell additional units to at least five other suckers in your circle of friends and family.

I remained skeptical, even after she introduced us. But I was into her, so I asked her questions. We went to movies and dinners, and I went with her to church. We debated our different takes on ancient history and interpretations of her faith experiences. But the more time that we spent time together — the three of us — the more I kinda liked having The Guy around.

As things between us — the two of us now — got more serious, they got a little eerie, too. In a good way, of course. As we got to know one another better, we discovered odd coincidences. Or signs. You decide:

– We each came from large families of similar make-up. She has four sisters and two brothers. I have four brothers and a sister

– My siblings and I have identical initials: JMB. Same with (Chris)Tina and her sisters: CLS

– Both our fathers were in the Korean War. And had no other service

There were other eerie commonalities not worth sharing, but beyond a dozen or so supernatural coinkydinks, there was plenty more to our deepening relationship to convince me that Tina and I were meant to be together. They didn’t convince me about Him, though. Not then, anyway.

In respect to the spark that started this fire, I never had that flash-bang-bolt-of-lightning, blinding-flash-of-the-obvious conversion. That Damascus Road experience. That 180-degree U-turn in life. That Holy Spirit fire.

Nope. I simply just found myself more open to faith and truth and history and reality every day. So unlike other testifying Christians, I don’t really know at what point I “became” a Christian; I have no birth certificate for the specific day that I was born again. All that I know is that when I dropped out of college early to head off to Air Force Basic Training, the new dog tags dangling around my neck were stamped:

Jeffrey M. Bishop
O Neg

In turn and in time, Tina and I were married, and we’ve grown our family, our love, and our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every day since.

Today, I’m proud to witness as a fearfully and wonderfully made Random Handyman, simply striving to follow after the Master Carpenter and to build well in His name with the tools and time that I’ve been given.

Copyright 2014


Read the personal Christian testimonies of famous, infamous and not-so-famous people at Testify!  Want to share yours?  Have someone whose testimony you’d like to know more about?  Let me know!