Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's you name? - Part 2

(See Part 1 here.)

I never will forget the day my boss changed my name.

It was my first week on the job and I was filling out the info for a business card. Getting a business card - man, what a big deal that was for me! I was stoked. So I filled out the card, "Donnie Manis," and took it to his desk.

And he brought it right back to me.

He shared that my name was a little informal for the workplace. The card would read "Don Manis." And since that day, almost 27 years ago, I have been Don.

Donnie to my good friends. Don to my business associates. Bubba (and later, sometimes, "Bubs" for short) to my sisters and their children. Names - different names for different roles. And each one of them speaks to how I am seen by the one using it.

Yes, the name reflects how we are seen. And that is why name changes in the Bible are so significant.

The forefather we know as Abraham was named Abram at birth. Abram means "exalted father," which probably started to seem ironic as he aged without children. But God's vision for him was even bigger, so he changed his name to Abraham - "father of many." So many they would outnumber the stars! That is how God saw him, and of course, that is what he became.

A conniving youth named Jacob ("supplanter" or "deceiver") grew up always looking for ways to exalt himself. But after wrestling with God and learning his weakness, his name was changed to Israel - "he who prevails with God." God now saw him as one who would carry out the purpose for which he was intended, rather than his own selfish desires.

In maybe the most significant name change of Scripture, Jesus met a young man called Simon and immediately gave him a new name, Peter. The name "Peter" meant "rock" and so Jesus was giving giving him the name to reflect that he was to be a completely new person. Instead of the wishy-washy personality of Simon (to which he relapsed often during Jesus' ministry), through the power of knowing Jesus he would become a rock of leadership in the church.

And then of course there was the persecutor and murderer of Jesus-followers who went by the name Saul. But after encountering the living Messiah Jesus, his name was changed to Paul, signifying a new beginning.

And so I ask you the question that was asked of me Sunday morning: what's your name?

Are you still living an old story, one wracked with misery and frustration? It has a name, and until you break free, it is your name. Insecure? Doubter? Hoarder? Pleasure Addict? There are so many names.

Or do you have a new name, one given to you by God? One that reflects all he intended for you to be. A name that is written in heaven and reflects the fact that you belong to your Creator and will live your life for his glory.

Abraham. Israel. Peter. Paul……and _________.

How will you fill in the blank?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What's your name? - Part 1

When I was in 7th grade, I got a new name. I never really took to it, because it was always spoken with a splash of mockery and derision. That name was "Mayonnaise."

It doesn't look much like my last name, Manis, but when you pronounce it it's pretty close. A bully who shall remain (ironically, given the topic of this post) nameless started using it. Before long, my football coaches picked up on it and were yelling it at me at practice after practice. No, I never liked it.

Names are powerful things, more powerful than we realize. I got to thinking about this during a message from our teaching pastor Sunday morning, where he was talking about how Jesus gave his disciple Simon a new name, Peter. More on that in Part 2 (to be posted tomorrow). But in the wake of that talk, I thought about how often we see the power of the name. For example,

  • In Romeo and Juliet, the names of the two young lovers' families - Montague and Capulet - drive a wedge between them that they could never overcome. From the balcony Juliet tried to deny it ("What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" - Act II, Scene II), but by the end of the play, we saw that there was indeed a lot in a name.
  • While not universal, it's customary in our society for women to take the name of their husband when they get married. This has rich symbolism, because if two are going to become one, having a common name says so to the world.
  • In Ethiopia (at least the part I visited), a child's last name is the name of his father. So, if I lived there, instead of Donnie Manis, my name would be Donnie TJ. The name identifies one very strongly with the father.
  • In a recent episode of Revolution, the former President of a vast empire called the Monroe Republic finds his 25-year-old son in a forgotten hole-of-a-town, and reveals that he is his father. The son is not impressed until he reveals his name - Sebastian Monroe. Because of the name, which was well known, the son's whole attitude was changed instantly.
  • When Moses encountered the burning bush and God was calling him to lead his people out of slavery, Moses insisted on being given a name. The name he received, YHWH, was basically the same as the Hebrew for "I am." The most powerful name ever given.
Throughout history, in popular culture, in just about every society,  the name has extraordinary significance. Your name is who you are. It matters. And that's why some name changes in the Bible tell us a lot about what God was doing in the lives of his people. People like Abram. Jacob. Simon. Daniel. Saul.

And Jesus.

Coming tomorrow: Name changes through history - why?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The best revenge

Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Romans 12:17,19,21 

It's a sign of trust, a huge sign of trust. All of us have been hurt. Hurt deeply. People have wronged us, mistreated our loved ones, made our lives miserable. It's natural to want to get back at them. But Jesus called his followers to be different. We are to overcome evil with good, and trust God to take care of justice. And that takes a lot of trust.

But even greater, Jesus showed us that love and mercy is a powerful force that can change the world. His people, the descendants of Abraham, expected the Messiah to come and bring his kingdom with military might. But he surprised them. Instead of wrath, he came with love. Instead of power, he came with sacrifice. And in doing so, he changed the entire course of history.

How powerful is that message? Check out this scene from a popular TV show, Person of Interest. The cop in this scene, Lionel Fusco, has found the person who murdered his partner and friend. Furthermore, he has in his past a tendency to take justice into his own hands without any effect on his conscience. Everything about him screams that he will now take his revenge. Watch what happens:

Mercy is a powerful force. This man's friend Joss Carter changed him before she was shot down in cold blood. She showed him a better way. And because of her influence and example, he was able to walk away.

I submit that this is the power of God's kingdom permeating our world. Because of one man who lived, died, and was raised from the dead, the things he taught us are resonating throughout society, even in places where they don't acknowledge him as Lord.

So, when I am mistreated or someone does something terrible to me or those I love, I need to remember two things. First, Jesus calls me to show mercy, trusting our Father to take care of it. And second, when I do that, I unleash the power of God into the world. Like Fusco, there may be someone somewhere who is changed because of that mercy. And it grows, and grows, and grows.

Good springing forth out of evil. That is the best revenge of all.

What would you have done in Fusco's situation? Do you think mercy and forgiveness really changes the world? Or do you think it just let's people get away with stuff? Why?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Richard Sherman: Between the lines

By now you have probably heard about all you want about Richard Sherman's explosive post-game interview Sunday.

You've heard the discussions about whether or not he's a thug. You've seen posts where people rushed to judge him based on one 30 second interview. You've seen posts where people defended him, pointing out his Stanford education and all the good he does in the community. You've even seen discussions of whether the reaction is symptomatic of racism.

But there's one thing he said that gave me pause. And made me think about my life. So, if you'll indulge me, just a few more words.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, here's the interview:

So, the day after the game, in reaction to a social media explosion, Sherman took the initiative to write a piece explaining himself. There was an apologetic tone, and he made some really good points about his character, who he is, and the nature of football. I think he's mostly a good guy who got caught up in the moment. But there's one quote from him that still haunts me:
(D)on't judge a person's character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.
There is some truth to that. Character is determined by the totality of your life, not by one segment. But here's the thing: every segment is important. Including what happens between the lines. No, don't judge just by what happens between the lines. But don't leave it out either. It matters.

Every day I spend about eight hours "between the lines." I work with my own team, people from other parts of the company, management, and others. And how I treat them is important. If I lose my temper with an underwriter or a marketing rep because I don't like what they're telling me, that matters. I can't say (with any credibility), "Just judge me by my work with my church…my trips to Ethiopia…the love I have for my family and friends. Ignore the fact that I treat you like dirt. This is just work. This is just between the lines."

Uh uh. Doesn't pass the smell test.

Yes, Richard. All the other is great, but between the lines is important too.

And that goes for me too. I need to let Jesus shine through me everywhere…especially work.

Are you a different person at work than you are at home? In what way? Do you think that needs to change, or is it necessary to succeed?

Monday, January 20, 2014


Starting today, it will be much easier to get here.

Get where?

Here. This blog site.

Up until now, you probably found this site by searching for a topic or following a link I left on facebook or twitter. I hope that continues. But it recently occurred to me that it was pretty hard to find this place on your own. I mean, yeah, I thought I was pretty clever with the name "bubsbanter." but it's not easy to remember, and then when you have to add the blogspot part, it can be pretty daunting to find.

So now, if you can remember my name, you can remember the site. As simple as that.

Why did I decide to make it easier? Well, I think I first considered it when our teaching pastor Patrick Quinn was sharing last week. He was teaching about John the Baptist and made the point that every person on earth needed to find their voice. Each of us has a sweet spot where life is really humming along in tune.

So I realized I've been trying out the idea for about three years that part of my voice is using this blog to share my life with friends, family, and anyone else who will join in. Am I right about that? Who knows, other than God. But if I'm going to try to see, I'd like to make it easier for you to join in.

So come by often. Leave comments - let's have some dialogue.* And maybe together we can find our voice and become all God intended us to.

Y'all come back.

* - I'll respond to comments if it looks like you want me to. Answering a comment like "I enjoyed this" would just be feeding my obsession about closure. :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Taking a chance

Somewhere, deep in a closet in my house, is a stack of VHS tapes. Haven't pulled any of them out in years. And on one of those tapes is a pair of episodes from the 1980's sitcom Family Ties. Just two episodes, parts 1 and 2. Why did I keep them?

I loved the show anyway. It was funny, clean, and captured the 80s so well. But these episodes...

Despite the unbelievably corny promos (sorry for subjecting you to them), there was something about them that was real and struck a nerve with me at the time. It wasn't just a funny story, with funny characters. It resonated with me, almost like a musical instrument in tune with my soul.

Two themes, really.

  • One, Alex (Michael J. Fox) was portrayed in the series as a superficial character who was all about money. But when he thought he could find love scientifically, this girl Ellen saw a lot more than that. A lot more than we, the viewers, ever really saw. Love can do that. It can bring out who we really are - the best in us.
  • Two, when Alex realized his feelings for this girl, he chickened out of telling her. Several times. He was not willing to risk rejection. I think this was the part that really grabbed me, because I have been in Alex's shoes. And I am so not a risk taker. When given a choice, I usually opt for safety and security.
But he finally did take the risk, driving 350 miles to head her off at the train station and tell her how he felt. (Sorry, but 29 years after the episode aired, I think the spoiler statute of limitations is up). One of my favorite TV moments.

[Side note: Ellen was played by Tracy Pollan, whom Fox met as a result of this show and eventually married. They will soon celebrate their 26th anniversary.]

Why am I writing this tonight? Well, I was surfing around Netflix titles and came across Family Ties. And so then, of course, I had to find these episodes. And I did. And I enjoyed watching as much as the first time.

Somewhere in my closet is a videotape. If I find it, I may want to keep it.

Are you a risk taker? Do you think you need to be? What might God be called you to step out and do, but you're afraid?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Finish line

"As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work."    - Jesus, in John 9:4
As the middle of January is upon us, I can see the finish line approaching. Every year in January, as an actuary, I am part of a small team that has to estimate the reserves needed for claims that have not been reported - it's an important item on the financial statements and the timeline is tight. (More about that here.)

Well, there is a big meeting tomorrow and another one Friday and after that things should be back to normal. Still working hard, but on a more normal schedule.

Have you ever had something that you just wanted to get past? A trip to the doctor, a test, or yes, a big deadline at work can be like that. Or maybe an unpleasant conversation. You just want it to be over with.

Well, even though I do enjoy this work, I don't necessarily enjoy the long hours necessitated by the short deadlines. so this morning I found myself thinking, " I can't wait 'til Friday!"

But then I thought, life is short. God has put us on earth with a very limited time frame to love people, shine a light in this dark world, and bring glory to him. Amazing things for the kingdom of God could happen in the next three days. If I'm rushing through just trying to get them over with, what will I miss? And at the end of my life, will I wish I had those days back?

So, as tempting as it is to just get it over with, I'm going to try to relish these next few days. Because, relatively speaking, there aren't that many left.

Food for thought: What is it that you try to just get past? Have you ever regretted speeding past it?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

You were made for this

Came across this tweet today:
It's not so my life can be better.

It's not so I can have comfort in my troubles.

It's not so I have a sense of meaning.

And no, it's not so I can go to heaven.

All those are true.* But they are not the reason.

It's simply so my life can be lived for the glory of the One who created me. He made me, he redeemed me, and he has a specific purpose for me in his master plan for the universe. He has given me a choice, and the only choice that makes sense is to do what I was created for.

So I want to be part of calling you, my friends, and the world to something greater than themselves. I don't want to call you to make a decision out of fear or self interest. I invite you - if you haven't already - to get to know the Messiah and be part of his kingdom.

Because it is what you were made for.

* - With the clarification that really God's ultimate plan is to bring heaven to earth and for us to reign with him here - but I digress.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It can't be easy

Last night, I was over at my friend Clark's house and somehow the subject of parenting came up. Of course, this in itself may be a little puzzling, because there is no reason for me to be talking about that subject. But, it did. And unlike me, Clark is an expert. An expert by experience, thanks to his three beautiful children.

Anyway, as we were talking, it came up how his oldest son relates to Clark's brother-in-law and some other adults. And Clark made the point that his role as Jackson's father is different than that of an uncle. (As an uncle, I can attest to this. And if you read this blog a lot, you know all about that.) He has to make hard decisions and his kids are not always going to like it. And sometimes, he may not even be able to tell that they like him.

Fairly obvious stuff, right? But then came a very wise observation. Paraphrasing, he said, "We do things for our kids because we love them, not to make them love us."

That is awesome. Because it applies to both the fun stuff and the hard stuff. When parents give their children gifts for Christmas, it's because they want the kids to enjoy them - not so they will be flooded with thanks. And when they have to do hard things, well, they do them - because, popular or not, it's the loving thing to do. All from love.

What a wonderful picture of our heavenly Father. The Creator of the universe loves us so much;  and it is behind everything that he does for his children.

When we experience gorgeous sunsets, good food, fellowship with friends and family - all of what we would call the good things in life - he's behind it. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming from the Father of lights (James 1:17). He gives them to us out of love.

But the hard times also come because he loves us. That's hard to accept sometimes, but it's true. When Clark has to discipline his children, he is trying to shape their character. Well, if that's true for a human father, how much more the all-knowing, all-powerful Father of us all. He knows what we need, and he will do even though we may not always like it. As it says in Hebrews 12:7,
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
Truly, he is not doing it to make us love him. He is doing it because he loves us.

I don't know personally, but it can't be easy being a father. I'm so glad we have a perfect Father who doesn't need an Easy Button.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The mark of evil

You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race.
- Psalm 12:7-8

I came across this verse in my reading Sunday. It falls at the end of a Psalm where the writer is praying about his frustration with the wickedness he sees around him. What struck me about the verse was this:

It is call for YHWH to protect the needy. Like so much of the Scriptures, it emphasizes the importance of being on the side of the poor and the oppressed, while calling on God to protect them. But then, who do they need the protection from?

The wicked. And who are the wicked?

According to this passage and others like Romans 1:32, the wicked are those who honor what is vile. The mark of wickedness is a lack of understanding of what is good and what is evil. When a person or world system gets mixed up and can't recognize the difference, that's when there's real trouble.

There are so many issues today where God's standard for good and evil is being replaced by the logic of man. When it comes to those things, I think Psalm 12 would give us this warning: Be absolutely sure that you are not honoring what is vile. That you are not calling evil good and vice versa.

Feed the poor. Proclaim the good news to the lost. Love the unloveable. Love your enemy. These are all marks of good.


Ignore the fact that the lost have something to be rescued from. Ignore that repentance is necessary. Treat all points of view as equally valid. I would be careful there. Because the mark of evil - honoring wheat is vile - is lurking.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Alabama football 2013 - closing thoughts

As we close out the 2013 season and savor our final 48 hours as reigning BCS champions, just a few random thoughts on Alabama football.

First, what an incredible group of seniors. Over the course of five years, they were 60-7, won three BCS championships, two SEC championships, and were ranked #1 for part of all five years. Maybe most remarkably, they have been favored in 54 consecutive games. All seven losses were upsets, meaning that the established such dominance that every time they lost, it was considered a surprise. Well done, seniors!

Second, with coaching stability that we have not enjoyed since the early 80s (an eighth year with the same head coach - Coach Bryant was the last one to do that) and maybe the best recruiting class ever coming in, the Tide is poised to continue this amazing run. We ended the season with a bitter taste in our mouths, but that has happened before during the last six years. Each time, Bama rebounded with a vengeance, and I expect that trend to continue.

About that bitter taste. Congratulations to Oklahoma! They played lights out on Thursday night, executed flawlessly, pressured our QB all night, and did everything they needed to do. They outplayed the beast of college football and deserve all the credit. Sometimes we get fans get tunnel vision and  think that every loss is just a failure on our team's part. I prefer to give the Sooners credit for an amazing game, instead of focusing on what Bama did wrong. Both teams played their hearts out; OU just played better.

Looking back on the season, I think this team had some holes from the NFL draft that coaching and effort covered up for most of the season. The pass rush needs to improve and we need to strengthen the edges, especially at cornerback. If I count right, due to inconsistency and injuries the Tide started five different players at CB this year. That will be remedied.

I also think that there was a repeat of 2010, where the mental toughness suffered from so much success. It's easy to forget how you got there. The lessons of 2013 will pay dividends in 2014.

And so we look to 2014. If you look to the upper right of this page, you will see a countdown clock. Before we know it, we will be kicking off the season in the Georgia Dome. Lots of work for the players and coaches to do before then. I believe they will get it done, and be prepared for the first ever College Football Playoff.

The road to 16 continues. Roll tide.