John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Church

jyb_musingsAwkward whispered conversations with my wife at church during service after driving separately and arriving at same time.

Me: (under my breath) “Did you have your cell phone on?”

Rebecca: (Under her breath) “My phone died. Why?”

Me: “I texted ‘L-O-V-E’ and didn’t get a response from you.”

Rebecca: “Oh.”

Me: “Not even a “L.”

Rebecca: “Shh”

Me: “Is something wrong?”

Rebecca: (Shakes her head exasperated)

Me: “If your phone hadn’t died would you have written back ‘L-O-V-E’ or at least ‘L’?

Rebecca: “Shhh”

Me: “Because if your answer is ‘No,’ I’m retracting my earlier ‘L-O-V-E’ text to you. I’m serious. I’ll do it.”

Rebecca: (trying not to laugh and still talking under her breath) “No.”

Me: “It’s retracted then. Officially.”

Rebecca: “I mean, ‘No. I would have written back L-O-V-E.’ Now be quiet.”

Me: “OK then. I will reinstate my ‘L-O-V-E’ text. It’s officially reinstated now. Are we good?”

Rebecca: (Smiles and rolls her eyes)

Me: “Good. I’m glad we cleared that up.”



I just talked to God while praying this morning and, although He didn’t come right put and say it, I got the distinct impression He was bringing His A – game today.

Just a feeling I got and wanted to relay if you are going to church today. You may want to reach for that new sports coat or dress. Just a heads up out there.

(P.S. It also could be that I feel this way because Ann Fleming is leading our Sunday school class this morning. After God, Ann is one of the people I try hardest to act good around when she is present. They both bring put the best in me, but still make me nervous.)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Dear God

jyb_musingsDear God,

When you invented shaving every morning for men, what were You thinking? I know it was a long time ago and there was a good reason for it at the time. Just help me to understand.

P.S. I have lost 29 lbs this year. Since you don’t follow me on Facebook, you probably hadn’t heard. Pretty good, huh?

Hope the shaving question didn’t make You mad. Not questioning you. I am just curious. I think losing weight has given me more confidence and allowed me to be more assertive. And ask questions I wouldn’t have asked last year when I was heavier.

Let me know on the shaving thing.

And good job on most everything else.

P.P.S. I noticed in pictures of you at church you are carrying a few extra pounds than you probably should at your age. Do you know your BMI? I know we are all very busy, especially You, but we still have to take time to take care of our health. And that goes for You too. Since you don’t shave, maybe you could take those 5 minutes every morning the rest of us guys spend shaving and try running in place. Or doing jumping jacks. You will notice a difference pretty quickly.

Not judging. Just notice others wieght issues more than I used to. A more slimming and darker colored robe might help too. Just a thought.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Jesus Sighting!

10686801_10154681573975515_4512682668680005549_nI just stopped for gas and the ATM at the Thortons on Shelbyville Rd and a guy who was driving a red pick-up truck with a concrete mixer in the back walked in behind me. He had long wavy dark hair and a mustache and beard and looked about 30 years old.

I thought to myself, “We got Jesus in the house!” and looked around for someone to tell. But I only caught the eye of a police officer who was watching me and simply nodded hello. I didn’t say anything to him about Jesus being in the back of the store in the soft drink section for fear of arousing suspicion.

But I stalled for time by buying some Tic Tacs I didn’t need so I could catch another glimpse of the man who looked like Jesus. As he walked peacefully toward me I smiled at him (Him?) and he serenely smiled back. I couldn’t help it, I said, “When you walked in I almost shouted at you, ‘Jesus? Is that you?’ and wanted to introduce myself….I have seen pictures of you at church.”

jyb_musingsHe grinned broadly and started chuckling like I would imagine Jesus would grin at being recognized. I asked “Do you get that a lot?” He said he did and had someone stop him at Home Depot last week and ask if he would be interested in playing Jesus in a play.

Really nice guy. I told him I wish I had some fishes and loaves with me for him to multiply. He gave me a blessing sign with both hands and we said goodbye and I told him to have a nice day. (That’s right, out of habit, I told Jesus to “Have a nice day.” Like my wish for a good day would have any impact. What can I say? I was nervous.) He was just so approachable and seemed so kind.

Back inside my car I watched him drive away and, again, couldn’t believe the resemblence. Then as I looked at the pic I snapped with my phone I noticed a bright light aglow that seemed to project from his face.

I am not saying Jesus was really at Thortons off Shelbyville road this morning. I am just saying that if He was, He is a really cool guy.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Theological Questions

jyb_musingsTheological question:

If you say something to someone at church that is supposed to be humorous –and only moderately inappropriate –and the other person sighs, shakes his head, and says he will pray for you, is it OK to tell him you prefer he didn’t because “I don’t want God to know we are friends”?

(Note: I did not say this. But thought to afterwards and may try out the line some time. I tend to get this comment a lot.)


Remember when you felt as excited about the iPhone 5 as you do today about the iPhone 6?

And thought you always would?

Will Meyerhofer: Encountering Vishnu

Will MeyerhoferSpectating upon the atom bomb ignition at the Trinity test site in New Mexico, Robert Oppenheimer was reminded of a scene from the Bhagavad-Gita – an encounter between the prince and Vishnu, the latter apparently in a cranky frame of mind. The scene culminates in Vishnu, who is attempting to persuade the prince to do his duty, assuming a multi-armed form and intoning:

I have become death, destroyer of worlds.

There are lawyers out there who remind me of Vishnu in his multi-armed form. No, they don’t sprout extra limbs, or destroy entire worlds. These Biglaw-inspired incarnations of Vishnu merely assume the form of senior female attorneys to become career-death, destroyer of junior associates.

Behold the Biglaw Vishnus! (And trust me, within their personal sphere of destruction they give the real thing a run for his money.)

One of my clients fell victim to a Biglaw Vishnu – and his story is, as they say, far from atypical and so merits recounting.

He went, if not to a first-tier school, then to a first-and-a-half tier school, and by some rare stroke of fortune managed to locate a job, (if not at a first-tier firm, then at a first-and-a-half tier firm.)

It’s fair to say this guy was riding high – and gloating appropriately – when he happened to notice a problem: The firm had no work. His response was the same as everyone else’s around him – he twiddled his thumbs, wondering if he somehow smelled funny, or if, in fact (as it appeared) everyone else was twiddling their thumbs too (all while studiously pretending to be busy busy busy.) That situation endured for a year and a half, until my client was rudely stirred from this idyll by a partner, who delivered to him an awful review of the obviously-staged variety. (My client can’t remember if the problem they identified was that he asked for help too often instead of showing initiative or asked for help too rarely and wasted time by being too independent. He hadn’t billed an hour for months so he could hardly blame them for making something up.) As they say in California, “whatevers.” There was, however, a modicum of “fall-out.” Icarus-like, my client found himself plummeting in the unmistakable direction of every lawyer’s ultimate nightmare (at least officially): Unemployment. We all know the rules of this profession – five minutes of unaccounted-for time on your resume and it’s game over; you’ll never work as a lawyer again (well, maybe a staff attorney or doc reviewer but that hardly counts, does it?)

My client had three months to drum up a miracle. Following the world’s most intense job hunt, something came through at the eleventh hour. But there was a catch: He had to work for Vishnu.

Read the rest of…
Will Meyerhofer: Encountering Vishnu

Saul Kaplan: This Is Why Religion Is Just a Technology

Saul KaplanIrwin Kula is an eighth-generation rabbi known for his fearless attitude about change — a rare quality among religious leaders who tend to adhere closely to tradition.

Kula, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL) in New York and the author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, has dedicated himself to opening up the wisdom of his 3,500-year-old faith to be in conversation with the world.

Kula preaches the “highest possible institutional barriers between church and state,” with the “lowest possible communication barriers.” He welcomes intermarriage and interfaith dialogue. He recognizes God not as a “Seeing Eye,” but in “experiences of love, caring, and connection.”

Many consider Kula progressive; others, disruptive. But Kula maintains that institutionalized disruption is essential to adaptation and growth.

Rabbi Kula looks like the wise man of children’s books. He has a handsome widow’s peak, and speaks with homiletic pauses and animated hands. When asked about how his beliefs developed, he answers in stories.

At 14, Kula was thrown out of the private parochial school he attended for challenging the Torah. “I would ask a class of 25 students questions which were probably a touch ‘teenagerish’,” he recalls. “I’d ask, ‘You don’t really believe this — God splitting seas? Come on, this is not what this is actually saying’.”

This rebellious streak would come to define his practice.

The problem with most religious leadership, Kula claims, is that its mission is to convert the non-affiliated. “Religion is not about creed, dogma, or tribe,” he counters. “We need to stop judging our success by membership dues — this isn’t about how many hits. First and foremost, religion is a toolbox designed to help human beings flourish.”

Kula claims that he finds himself often at odds with the concept of “God” as commonly invoked in the American public arena. To him, this is the God of touchdowns and wars, an intervening God who “casts out” unless one “buys in.” “No religious or political system has a hold on being moral,” Kula says. “Systems are only as good as their people.”

For most of his rabbinic appointment, Kula kept these views to himself. Only after the September 11 attacks did he begin to more openly preach what he himself practiced.

“I was very unnerved, knowing the religious impulse compelled that,” Kula says. After the tragedy, he shut down his teaching for three months to reevaluate his role as a spiritual leader. When he returned to the synagogue, he had made the decision “never to teach Judaism again simply to affirm the group’s identity.”

In 2013, Irwin Kula recounted the narrative of his spiritual conversion to a packed theatre of global business leaders at the Collaborative Innovation Summit, an event hosted annually by the nonprofit Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence, RI. On stage, the rabbi made an ambitious appeal to his audience, whom he knew to be composed of astute tinkerers and serial entrepreneurs: He asked them to join him in his mission to innovate religion.

Kula is a fervent believer in accessing insight beyond the religious tradition. “It’s really important to speak to non-incumbents,” he maintains. “The less you speak exclusively to your own ‘users,’ the better shot you have of keeping your own practices from becoming incredibly distorted.” His CLAL runs a program called Rabbis Without Borders, dedicated to fostering open dialogue across cultural and religious barriers.

Stories of innovation often feature “two kids in a garage.” Kula’s goal has been to tell an innovation story from the cathedral. “Religion’s just a technology,” his BIF talk began. “How the hardware of humanity gets used will depend on the software.”

His talk covered how the rapid advancements of the digital infrastructure age demand that we broaden our ethical horizons: What are the new crimes? In this new order, who is included and what are their rights? As we redefine morality, the need to innovate faith becomes especially pressing.

“The most interesting businesses ask ‘impact on society’ questions, which are more complex than ‘killer app success’ questions,” Kula reflects in hindsight. “At BIF, I asked, ‘What would happen if we applied innovation theory to religion, to compress the resources it takes to create good people?’”

Kula looks forward to returning for BIF10 in September.

“If a homily is 15 minutes in church, it’s 18 minutes at BIF,” he says. “As conferences go, BIF embodies total equality between the storytellers and their audience. In many ways, it’s the best of what a spiritual community is — we’ve got to bottle that.”


This is the second of a 10-article series of conversations published on the Time website, authored by myself and Nicha Ratana, with transformational leaders who will be storytellers at the BIF10 Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI, on Sept. 17-18.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Dear God

jyb_musingsDear God, 

Don’t get me wrong and please know I am just trying to help.

I appreciate you keeping up the regular supply of much needed water to us. But splashing us every few days with water everywhere with these rain storms just makes it seem like you aren’t keeping up with the times. Nobody down here is saying anything yet about your old fashioned water deliver methods but I worry they eventually will–you know how we are. And who needs that?

For example, I was at a Thornton’s early this morning (the one off Shelbyville road in Louisville, KY across from the Starbucks) and out in front there are, like, 50 cases of bottled water all lined up in neat rows. (I think it’s that fancy water that comes from the French Alps. And if the French can transport tons of water in neat little bottles, I know you can come up with something even better than that!!)

Look, it’s 2014 and there are all kinds of ways to deliver water to us that are way more efficient than the old way of just raining it down on us every few days without notice.

If you want me to ask the bottled water guy at Thorntons for some ideas for you, I will but won’t tell him I’m asking for you. We can keep it between us.

Just trying to help,


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Saturday Morning Prayer

jyb_musingsSaturday morning prayer

“God, thank you for all you have given me; thank you for all you have taken away; and thank you for what you’ve left behind.

Please give me the strength and guidance to do Your wil always.

And Lord, even though this may seem a little off-topic, if you would help me get a good parking space at the mall this morning, that would be really great. Totally Your call and just mentioning as kind of an afterthought. Just something to think about.


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Kentucky in Springtime

jyb_musingsKentucky in late springtime is about as beautiful a place on our planet as you can find. 

Especially early to mid-morning on a mild but sunny day when the foliage seems to be in 3-D and bubbling over itself. 

Kentucky, at this time of year, feels like a sublime combination of an upbeat John Cougar Mellencamp song that is an old favorite coupled with serving as irrefutable proof of God’s existence.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Whole Bible

jyb_musingsGoing through the whole Bible in Sunday school.

I would never say this to God, but I sometimes think He made the Old Testament a little too long –and was trying too hard to impress us by using really complicated names.

The Old Testament is great and all but I feel like God really didn’t hit his stride as a writer until the New Testament. It just flows better and gets to the point faster.

And, best of all, starts using more regular sounding names like Mark, Luke, John and Mary.

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