Wednesday, January 06, 2016

What I learned from the much maligned Dale Carnegie and from others

Stay positive in relationships with other people and in one’s attitude toward oneself.
Minimize or eliminate all criticism, complaining, and arguments.
When you have to choose between being right and being kind, choose kind (Dyer).
Always admit when you are wrong, biased, and limited in your own view.
When disagreements are important, not over trivial matters, seek for common ground.
Emphasis what you have in common with others and what is praise-worthy.
Take a genuine interest in other people.
Remember and use the other person’s name.
Listen more than you talk.
Encourage people to talk about themselves and their interests.
Treat people with respect and consideration.
Try to see things from the other person’s point of view and empathize with their concerns.
Stay in the interrogative mode: what if . . ., could we . . . how would it work if . . .?
Find a way to win-win, avoiding win-lose (Covey).
Praise every improvement or positive change.
Encourage people as often as you can. Catch people doing well and say so (Blanchard).
Do not ever criticize your spouse or your friends in front of other people.
When there is trouble, ask what is the worst case scenario, and improve on that.
Cooperate with the inevitable; it is what it is.
Stay in the present as much as possible.
Avoid bringing up the past or speculating about the future.
Never seek revenge; leave what you think needs to happen to God.
Be thankful all the time and, as much as possible, for everything.
Have the attitude: how can I help you? See yourself as a servant of others.
Keep an orderly work area, free from distractions.
Prioritize and work on the most important things first. Avoid the tyranny of the urgent.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A 2015 Christmas Thank You from Tom and Michele Johnson

This was the year of the anniversary - our fiftieth - and we celebrated all year. The official date was March 26th, but we didn’t let that narrow window of time stop us from enjoying the whole year with each other, our family, and you. 

So, thanks to the people we love, who have included us in their love for a wonderful 2015, esp. to our children: Jason, Amy, & Sarah, their spouses (Helen, Peter, & Matt), and our three grandkids (Nina, Nathaniel & Sam). I guess you all meant it when you said to us last Jan, 1, “Happy New Year!!” It was indeed.

Thanks to friends at St. Augustine’s and St. Stephen’s Episcopal churches, and at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church with whom we prayed, sang, planned, studied, retreated, ate, and talked.

Thanks to all the people with whom we got older, grieved the loss of friends, read books, and shared coffee, beer, meals, a second annual (may there be a third, Go Seahawks) Super Bowl Party at our house, weekly pinochle, fantasy baseball (the George Fox University [GFU] league) and live baseball (nine Mariners and Tigers games), and just time together, listening to one another’s stories (more often now, medical) and enjoying with gratitude the lives God has given us.

The actual week of our 50th anniversary, we vacationed at Eagle Crest in Redmond, OR, and in June the family came to help us re-pledge our vows in Bend, OR at the Inn at Seventh Mountain. Our grandson, Sam (13), came out from Colorado for a week in July to party with us, fishing and crabbing. Thanks to Melahn and David for sharing their boat and crab-whacking expertise!

Other celebratory travels included a week with grandchildren, Nina (9) and Nathaniel (6.5), in Rockport, MA and a week with Michele’s family in Ludington, Michigan in late July-early August. In Newberg, OR, we celebrated with our friends, Dave and Melva Brandt, at GFU at the dedication of the new residence hall named in their honor, and then came back to GFU in November for a dinner honoring Michele for her role in founding the Accounting major there.

But the big event was our long-planned, three-week, Mediterranean trip cruising to Venice Italy, Dubrovnik Croatia, Athens Greece, Ephesus Turkey, Split Croatia, and the Greek islands of Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, and Katakolon and the third week in Assisi and central Italy, capstoning our year-long anniversary celebration. We will cross the finish line of this marathon of partying when the whole family comes out to Whidbey Island for Christmas at our house.

Footnotes to the year’s non-stop revelry
Tom taught a Bible study and biblical Greek class on Mondays and a seminar on the Minor Prophets, served on the boards of Whidbey Island Theological Studies and the Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship, co-authored a book Healing Church Strife in the New Testament and Today, assisted two authors in the editing of their new books, lectured for the GFU Leadership Forum, and helped to inaugurate the Johnson Leadership Forum at the University of Sioux Falls. 

Michele continues to do taxes (January through March) as a volunteer for the AARP free tax-prep service, serves as treasurer and volunteer for Island County Habitat for Humanity, participated in BeachWatcher environmental programs including detailed (e.g., species-counting) beach-monitoring, does the books and helps distribute food twice a month for the Coupeville food bank, known as Gifts from the Heart, went to Michigan in the fall to spent three weeks with her mother, Jane, in Ludington, and has recently taken up knitting.  

We thank you all for your part in these joys, and we are grateful for all the blessings and challenges that draw us closer together. 

Merry Christmas and a truly Happy New Year in 2016 from our house to yours!
Michele and Tom Johnson

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why I Support Gay/Lesbian Marriage

My View of Gay/Lesbian Marriage
First, a little context. I was asked to write this essay by good Christian friends, people I love and respect, who do not understand my support for gay marriage. How can a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, as they and I do, hold this viewpoint? Well, here is a personal account, not a logical argument, for how I came to hold my outlook on this issue.

I have come to the views I currently hold on gay and lesbian marriage, on the basis of a long period of reflection on biblical texts (authoritative for Christians), reason (what seems logical or rational to me in the light of evidence), and my experience with friends and relatives who are gay or lesbian. All these factors shape my understanding of homosexuality and gay marriage.

I never believed that homosexuality itself was wrong, immoral, or unethical. But I did believe, at one time, that the practice of it was wrong for Christians. It seemed to me that certain passages in the New Testament forbid sexual acts between persons of the same gender, Romans 1:26-28, in particular. And that opinion was primarily before I knew any gay or lesbian Christians.

Over the years, I have become good friends with many gay and lesbian people, most of them Christians, including family members, church members, and colleagues at work. This experience has deepened my understanding of the issues involved and caused me to think again about my understanding of that Romans text. 

Science also has played an important role. This is part of the role reason or common sense plays in the outcome. There is no doubt that people are born with genetic predisposition to heterosexuality and homosexuality. How you were treated as you grew up in those earliest years also plays a role. But, no one chooses to be gay or straight. This disposition is a given; it is pre-choice.  To me, that translates to: “God made me the way I am.” Personally I am glad to be what I am. But that also means that I want gay and lesbian people to be happy with their sexuality as well. “Do unto others . . . ” applies.

I suppose you could say, as I used to, before I knew the scientific data, that, “OK, you are gay. You just have to act celibately. You do not get to practice your sexuality. I do, but you don’t.” But now, that position seems irrational, unjust, and uncaring. I used to think that way, though, because that’s what I thought the Bible taught. 

Then I read again those biblical texts that appeared to ban homosexual conduct. The more I read them, the more I saw that Paul was writing about sexual abuse. Homosexual abuse of boys was common in the Greco-Roman world, and Paul believed that it was wrong in God’s eyes. He also observed the flaunting of one’s homosexuality in terms of irresponsible, unrestrained sexual expression and its unhealthy consequences. That too he believed was against God’s good purposes for human well-being. But Paul was not writing about (for or against) healthy, committed, natural attraction and affection between persons of the same gender. 

I believe now that the same moral rules should govern both homosexual and heterosexual conduct. Lustful, promiscuous practice is harmful to everyone, gay or straight. Faithful committed love is good for all partners, gay or straight. My experience may be unusual, but none of the dozens of gay and lesbian people I know personally think unrestrained sexual practice, sleeping around, is a good thing. That is not what healthy people desire. In fact, there is far more sexually abusive and irresponsible conduct (rape, incest, spouse abuse, adultery, pornography, etc.) by heterosexuals than by homosexuals. 

Which brings me to gay marriage. You can see where this train of thought and experience is leading, and, rightly so. If one wants gay and lesbian people to act morally, responsibly, and  in a way that is healthy for them and for society, how can we, how can I, be opposed to gay marriage? Marriage is the socially responsible, God-intended means of faithfully exercising one’s given sexuality and building a home. It is inconsistent with all that has been said above to proscribe marriage to gay and lesbian people. This is the view I hold, not just as a reasonable human being, but as a Christian. I believe this viewpoint is more consistent with what Jesus and the New Testament teach, about love and justice, than other responses.

But I didn’t get here over night. So, if you do not hold this view, I am in no position to judge you. Think it through, pray it through, for yourself, and see what seems right to you, in the light of your understanding of the Bible, your experience, and the best use of reason and the evidence.


Tom Johnson

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Our Christmas Letter 2014

At Christmas 2014
This is a rambling account of our year. Please feel free to stop reading at any point. There were pictures in the .pdf version. Ask me and I'll send you that version as well.

On January 4, the day the family left after a wonderful Christmas time together here in Coupeville, we were in the airport ready to leave for San Jose del Cabo, when we noticed a hemorrhage in Michele’s eye. Checking it out, we discovered that it might be serious, and so took the shuttle back to the Island and had an emergency appointment with an ophthalmologist. Canceled the Mexico trip. Eventually, we found the cause, no surgery needed, the bleeding stopped, and eventually the floaters became less visible.

Michele kept busy all year working as a volunteer with the Lighthouse Environmental Project, accountant for Habitat for Humanity, tax preparer for the AARP free tax prep service, and at our local food bank, Gifts from the Heart, where she is the treasurer and distribution helper.

Tom continued all year to teach the Gospel of John to a growing (now 25-30), ecumenical group, and Greek to four fearless senior adults. He also serves at two churches (Episcopal and Lutheran) in a variety of roles (worship leading, committee chairing, teaching) and serves on the Boards of
Whidbey Island Theological Studies (WITS) and Whidbey Island Community Education. He also had a couple of dysplastic nevi removed from his back with more to come.

We hosted a Super Bowl Party in early February, and with a lot of shouting, beer, and snacks, we celebrated the Seattle Seahawks win. Not sure about their fate this year, but there is still hope.

Amy and Tom finished their translation of Sophronius’ Life of Mary of Egypt, which will appear eventually in a book Amy is writing on this saint who lived from about A.D. 344-421. Tom is also co-writing a book on “Strife in the New Testament” with a friend who is a professional conflict mediator and fellow Presbyterian pastor.

We saw about ten Mariners games this year, including the 3-game series with Detroit in May-June. We missed the playoffs by one game, which will be easily made up for by the acquisition of Nelson Cruz, right? I am not talking about the George Fox fantasy baseball league, where I dwell so close to the cellar perennially that there is mold on my bat and glove.

Jason, Helen, Nina (8), and Nathaniel (5.5) visited us for a week in April, and we spent a week with them and the rest of the family in July at their beach house in Rockport, Mass. Hiking, boating,

and relaxing. Helen also ran her first marathon this year! We are all very proud of her. Jason works for Merck as a VP for “scientific informatics.” 

In March we spent a week at Eagle Crest, and we are planning to do the same this year to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. That celebration will be extended in the fall, God willing, during a three-week trip to Venice, Italy, cruising the Mediterranean and to Assisi.

Michele spent a week in Michigan in April with her Mom and sisters, who live north and east of Grand Rapids in Remus. We will both go there this summer as well. Jane is 94 and doing well.

We just got back after Thanksgiving from a short week with Sarah and Matt at their new house in Roseville, MN. It is near Sarah’s teaching at St. Thomas University (psychology dept.). Matt commutes several days to Rochester, MN, where he works for the Mayo Clinic designing new software for patient/staff interface. Basenjis Ruby and Momo were glad to see us too.

Grandson Sam (13) came out here for a few days of fishing and crabbing this summer. He caught his first salmon. We shipped it back on dry ice to Colorado, where he also had a thriving crepe business in Leadville. His crepe cart pulled in up to $200 a day! Peter’s new business, crafting models of the CO mountains (and other spots), is going well. Amy continues to be an associate editor for The Christian Century magazine, but doesn’t have to travel to Chicago monthly anymore. She travels too for speaking at and attending writing and spirituality conferences.

Our friends from college days and beyond, Dennis and Sharon Eicher came for a few days in August, and we have stopped in at their place in MN the past two Thanksgivings. In October we went to Kauai with our friends Dwight and Judy Smith. We really enjoyed exploring this beautiful Hawaiian island.

It has been an eventful year. If anything, we feel that it has been too busy, but for us that is way better than the opposite. We both like to stay active in service and enjoying with thanksgiving the lives we have been given.

Grace and peace at this joyful Christmas season, 
Tom and Michele Johnson 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

BOOKS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE - rev. 9/11/14

GENERAL:

*ADLER, MORTIMER, HOW TO READ A BOOK
*BENNIS, WARREN, ON BECOMING A LEADER
*COVEY, STEPHEN, THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE

THEOLOGICAL:

BONHOEFFER, DIETRICH, LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON
*BRUNNER, EMIL, THE WRITINGS OF, ESP. TRUTH AS ENCOUNTER
CALVIN, JOHN, INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
LADD, GEORGE E., A THEOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
*LEWIS, C.S., THE WRITINGS OF, ESP. SURPRISED BY JOY 
LUTHER, MARTIN, THREE TREATISES
NIEBUHR, H. RICHARD, CHRIST AND CULTURE
PINNOCK, CLARK, THE OPENNESS OF GOD
STOTT, JOHN R.W., BASIC CHRISTIANITY
TALBOTT, THOMAS, THE INESCAPABLE LOVE OF GOD
TILLICH, PAUL, THE WRITINGS OF

PHILOSOPHICAL:

BUBER, MARTIN, I AND THOU
CARNELL, E.J., A PHILOSOPHY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
COPLESTON, FREDERICK, A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
HOLMES, ARTHUR, ALL TRUTH IS GOD’S TRUTH
*PIRSIG, ROBERT, ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE

DEVOTIONAL/SPIRITUAL CLASSICS:

*BIBLE INCLUDING THE APOCRYPHA, THE
*BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
DE MELLO, ANTHONY, AWARENESS
*JULIAN OF NORWICH, THE SHOWINGS, OR REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE
KEATING, THOMAS, OPEN HEART, OPEN MIND
KELLY, THOMAS R., A TESTAMENT OF DEVOTION
*LAWRENCE, BROTHER, THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD
NOUWEN, THE WRITINGS OF HENRI, ESP. THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON
*PENNINGTON, BASIL, CENTERING PRAYER
ROHR, RICHARD, (MOSTLY HIS DAILY BLOGS)
SMITH, THE WRITINGS OF HANNAH WHITALL
WHISTON, CHARLES, PRAY

PSYCHOLOGICALLY ORIENTED:

CARNEGIE, DALE, HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE
*DYER, THE WRITINGS OF WAYNE, ESP. THE LATER ONES
FOWLER, JAMES, THE STAGES OF FAITH
FRANKL, VIKTOR, MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING
PECK, M. SCOTT, FURTHER ALONG THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
*PECK, M. SCOTT, THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
ROGERS, CARL, ON BECOMING A PERSON
*TOLLE, ECKHART, THE POWER OF NOW

FICTION:

BERRY, WENDELL, THE NOVELS, ESP. JAYBER CROW
*LEWIS, C.S., THE NARNIA CHRONICLES AND THE SPACE TRILOGY
TOLKIEN, J.R.R., THE HOBBIT AND THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Why Learn New Testament Greek?

                      REASONS FOR LEARNING NEW TESTAMENT GREEK
         
There are many reasons for learning New Testament or Koine Greek. Some people just don't have anything better to do with their time. Bored of TV sports, reality and game shows, and video games, they say to themselves, "Gee, I think I'll learn Greek." Now, I will grant you that this doesn't happen very often, and some of these people are institutionalized. The Nielsen ratings for New Testament Greek are also pretty low compared to Monday Night Football and Wheel of Fortune, the last time I checked.
         
Other people learn New Testament Greek in order to speak it conversationally. They are usually very disappointed to discover that it is a dead language. It used to be pretty popular around the time of Jesus. But now, not even Greeks speak it anymore, and New Testament Greeks are all dead. 
         
The friends and relatives of people who have learned New Testament Greek are amazed to find that Greek students often just stare at them blankly when they are asked to “say something in Greek.” This occasional problem can be solved, however, if the Greek student will memorize some simple sentence or phrase, such as, ᾽Εγώ ἑλλενίζω, σύ ἰδιώτε!, which translated means, “I am speaking Greek, you idiot!” (It may be better to leave the phrase untranslated.)                           .
         
We move closer to discovering the real reasons why people learn New Testament Greek if we observe the unusually high correlation between people who learn Koine Greek and people who go into some Christian ministry. When Americans were asked in a recent Gallup poll, "Do you know Koine Greek?," over 50% of those responding affirmatively were Christian ministers. The majority of the others were seminary drop-outs. Here are the complete results:
         
GALLUP: Do you know Koine Greek?
              
ALL RESPONDENTS:

NO: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . .  20.0%
YES:  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1%
WHAT IS KOINE GREEK?: . . . . . . .79.9%
         
AFFIRMATIVE RESPONDENTS' LIFE STATUS:
         
     Christian minister:                         51%
     Seminary dropout:                         29%    
     Retirees with nothing better to do: 10%  
     TV Evangelist:                                 5%                     
     Life burnout:                                    5%
         
These results are significant. They show that if you learn New Testament (Koine) Greek, you will be in the elite, not 1%, but in THE ELITEST .1%. Further, there are undoubtedly strong correlations between those in this group and their spiritual depth and heavenly reward. (The data is not yet available for these correlations.)


In short, these are the main reasons to learn New Testament Greek.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Instead of T.U.L.I.P.

In a recent Koinonia blog (http://www.koinoniablog.net/2014/05/tulip-is-so-20th-century-proof-is-a-modern-framework-of-dort-and-gods-irresistible-grace.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2FpQHu+%28Koinonia%29), Pastor Jeremy Bouwma, cited, but did not recommend, a revision of the traditional Calvinist T.U.L.I.P called P.R.O.O.F. If this stuff interests you, check out the link above.

Let me offer my alternative to both of these, a version that emphasizes God's grace:

Instead of Total Depravity
     1. Sin - it affects all aspects of our humanity. We cannot turn to God without God’s saving GRACE.

Instead of Unconditional Election
     2. Salvation - it is entirely by God’s GRACE that we are saved and come to know God. We do not merit or earn salvation.

Instead of Limited Atonement
     3. Sacrifice - God in GRACE and mercy accepts the the death of Christ as a perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world and for all humanity.

Instead of Irresistible Grace
     4. Spirit - by God’s GRACE, the Holy Spirit creates in us the desire and moves us to accept God’s forgiving love in Christ.

Instead of Perseverance of Saints
     5. Steadfastness - God’s GRACE holds us fast and will never let us go. We will be loved and kept secure in Christ unto the end.