Don Hartness

A scribe in an alien world

The key to success

“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.” – Victor Frankl, Preface to Man’s Search for Meaning.

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Ask (Part 1)

Nothing in life is gained without first asking for it. Dwell on that for a moment.

From the moment you first came from the womb, you acquired food, attention, and the changing of your soiled underwear by crying for it. You learned to ask for assistance. As a child, you amused your parents with your first requests. As you grew, you refined your requests, transforming your parent’s amusement to exasperation.

As you continued to grow, you discovered an entire world begging you to ask for its secrets. So, you began to ask, to inquire, to poke and probe into your world, exploring all that it had to offer. You learned to ask for knowledge (information, wisdom, etc). As you found puzzles you could not solve, you began to ask your parents for answers, furthering their exasperation.

This dynamic continued into adulthood. Regardless of what you asked for, two things quickly became clear. First, you realized that some things would always need asking. As a child, you asked for things until you were capable of acquiring them without help. You now realized that you would never be capable of acquiring some things, whether due to time constraints, ability, or desire. Hence, you learned to ask the doctor, lawyer, chef, and banker, rather than learn medicine, law, culinary arts, or finances.

Second, you also learned that who was just as important as what when asking. You learned this when you discovered that the smart doctor, as intelligent as she was, proved to be a poor source for legal advice.

For most, this was enough. However, some of us reached higher, asking questions for which the answers were more opinion than certifiable fact.  Before, the validity of any answer was verifiable by observation and/or simple testing; now, few (if any) of the answer(s) were of this nature. The harder you tried, the more elusive the answer(s) became.

You became frustrated. You began to lose hope. You became cynical. You traded asking for receiving, questions for answers. You settled on a best guess. You even began to defend your answers in the face of questions and answers submitted by others, refusing to reopen the original questions to scrutiny. You stopped asking. On that day, part of you died inside.

What went wrong? Your error is contained within this axiom, an axiom you can deposit in your account. Read the rest of this entry »

He who has ears, let him hear

Each Sunday before service, I meet with a men’s group that I have come to love. The group is filled with seasoned veterans of the discipleship journey, not all of which have a gray head. We talk, discuss, argue, laugh, and love. Most of all (as I’ve stated elsewhere in this blog), disagreement is not only allowed, but encouraged. Regardless of our views, we all agree on one thing: none of us has ever been involved with a group like this one. Read the rest of this entry »

The Christian Madman

“…the whole basis of civilized life is a vast, complicated, more or less gilded-over system of murder. We find it more conducive to human welfare not to murder men outright, we do it by a system of competition. It is ingrained in our thinking that competition and rivalry are essential to the carrying on of civilized life; that is why Jesus Christ’s statements seem wild and ridiculous. They are the statements either of a madman or of God Incarnate. To carry out the Sermon on the Mount is frankly impossible to anyone but a fool, and who is the fool? The man who has been born again, and who dares to carry out in his individual life the teaching of Jesus. And what will happen? The inevitable result, not the success he would otherwise have. A hard saying, but true. ” – Oswald Chambers

The only question to ask

After much thought and oscillation, I’ve decided to take a few weeks off while I prepare to take my GREs. What a way to liven up the summer, eh? (If you have an interest in finding out how I did, sign up to the comments on this post, and I’ll let you know).

Before my hiatus, I wanted to share a quote from a blog I follow regularly. Frank Viola is a vanguard of the new grassroots Christian movement forming online in response to both the new atheist challenge, and the egregious theology and doctrine of fundamentalism. If you are looking for a fresh perspective on Christianity, one that does not abandon the central tenants of the faith while illustrating tolerance, patience, and love, then his blog is a good place to start.

Recently, Frank posted a quote from Bono’s new book that I think was worth sharing. All of Christianity boils down to just one question: how each person answers it will determine their position on everything else. Many have posed the question; Bono’s response is just one more way to put it.

For the rest of the quote, along with ordering info, click here.

No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher.

I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this.

So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched (emphasis mine).

If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.”

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