Friday, February 27, 2015


God is not pigment.

God is light.

Think about that.

God is not found by excluding the world around us; the divine is found through our experience.  The more joy, pain, happiness, and loss we encounter, the more we understand God.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

NYC: Bears!

Last week we went to the zoo.  Not the big, fancy, over-priced one in the Bronx, we went to the small, fancy, over-priced one in Central Park (yes, there really is a zoo in Central Park).  We have been several times, and it is always a fun place to explore.  What made this visit extraordinary was the new addition--Grizzly Bears!!!

I really like bears.  A lot.  I know a ton of things about bears: they are big, they eat honey, they like to cuddle, they all want to be my friend.  The two bears are older ladies named Betty and Veronica!  How awesome is that?

We saw some other animals.  Seals, birds, monkeys, snow leopards, and various reptiles were all on display.  Of course my favorite thing is just hanging out with the family (and the bears).

Zoo Crew Making the Rounds

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Trouble With Talents

I like Jesus.  He has some pretty cool stories.  I like the ones about helping people and the ones about forgiving.  Of course, his parables are open to interpretation, and that is when the trouble starts.  One parable that has troubled me most of my life is the parable of the talents.  This post is not intended to be a Sunday School lesson, so I will not get into the details.  If you have questions about the parable, Google it.

The trouble I have with this parable is the definition of a talent.  As a younger man and through most of my adulthood, I sat through the same classes that echoed the importance of talents from the parable as modern talents (like dancing, singing, and playing the damned piano).  I don't have many fancy talents; I don't dance, sing, or play the piano, so I often felt this lesson didn't apply to me.  I always felt bad for the last guy.  He only got one talent (cooking maybe) and didn't want to lose it, so he just focused on the one talent and kept it safe.  Why should he get in trouble when he kept his talent?  Makes.  No.  Sense.

Unfortunately, when something doesn't make sense to me, it keeps percolating through my brain until it finally rings true.  My answer: A talent was an extremely large sum of money--enough to take care of a household for several years.  Talent=Great Worth.  Something of great worth in a spiritual story is a Truth.  Talent=Truth.

Now tell yourself the story using truth for talents.  Three people are given huge amounts of truth and knowledge.  Two of them use those truths to build up their understanding of the cosmos and explore their world (art, poetry, chemistry, biology, history, philosophy, astronomy, architecture, religion) --adding to their initial truths (good for them).  The third person is also given a tremendous gift of truth, but chooses to ignore the rest of the world around him.  He sticks to what he knows because he believes learning anything else might take away from what he was given (not advisable).

The thing about Truth is it's everywhere.  Don't limit yourself to just one book, church, country, philosophy, religion, god, dance, song, or piano.  We all start out with the basics.  What do you do with yours?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


A few months ago I listened to a fantastic podcast.  Krista Tippett and Joanna Macy discussed a variety of topics but mostly focused on the work of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke.  I confess that I had not heard of him before, but I was enthralled with their discussion and his poetry.

The poem "Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower" captured my attention, and I listened to it several times.

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29

Rainer Maria Rilke

We are bells in the darkness. The harder we are hit, the louder we ring. What I love most is the final stanza. We are told to claim our space. We must affirm our existence and not leave it to chance. The world may ignore us, but that does not diminish our value. We may feel lost, battered, and alone, but we are connected to the earth, to each other, and to the Creator of us all.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


The Egbert family likes nachos.  A lot.  We continually try, and are disappointed by, various New York establishments that serve nachos with chili or mozzarella cheese on top of stale tortilla chips.  I am not looking for artisan nachos; I am happily satisfied with the cheesy gloop at Del Taco.

Today we went somewhere new:

And were blessed with these:

Were they good?
Oh yes.

We went on a little stroll through one of my favorite places and headed home for a nice winter nap.

 Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I Believe

I believe in God.

This seems like a simple statement, but it is not.  Perhaps I am over thinking the importance of words, but belief and God carry different meanings to different people.  When I believe in something it means that I trust it to be true, and I trust it.  When I say that I believe in God, it means that God is real, and I trust God.

Defining God is tricky.  As a life-long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I share many of the traditional Mormon ideas about God.  Mormons believe that God is an exalted being that once experienced his own mortality the same way we live today.  I find comfort in this theology as it shows that God is capable of change.  I like that God can grow and become better tomorrow than he is today.  I suppose that gender pronoun also reveals that I think God is male.  But I don't think that he is alone, and the divine attributes of creator, comforter, and nurturer seem like there must be more to God's personality than an angry, white bearded man floating in the cosmos.

I have a much harder time accepting other concepts and definitions.  Many theologians claim that the only God worthy of our worship is immutable, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent.  I don't agree with such absolute definitions of any god.  In an attempt to prove one religion is better than another, humans continually redefine their God to be the best version.  Somewhere along the discourse one person claimed that their God was perfect and basically trumped the rest.  Now we are stuck with this impossible idea of a perfect God.  But what if God wasn't perfect?  What if perfection isn't an attribute but a process?  Would people still believe in an imperfect God?

I do.

When I think of God, I feel something real and tangible.  I don't understand God as some cosmic puppet master pulling on our strings to control our daily lives, but I see him as a guide--a wiser mentor-- urging us forward through the storms of life.  I see God in the world that surrounds me.  I feel God through the love of family, the kindness of strangers, and the compassion of human race.  We are not perfect, but we are getting better.

Monday, February 09, 2015

We Like Chocolate

Do you like chocolate?  We do.  This past weekend we had a magical adventure:

We took a bus to Union Square

Obligatory funny face gif

Behold the Max Brenner

It is a chocolate themed heaven

The waffle fries are dusted with cocoa powder!

The snozzberries taste like snozzberries!

We walked around after to digest it all and enjoyed this store.

He has no clue... in about 10 years he will appreciate it.

He can appreciate a Captain America door handle.

Max, see you soon.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Star Student

When one is the star student of the week, one must read each letter carefully.

What Do You Believe?

I have a lot of questions about God.  Here are a few:

Is God perfect? 

Of course just answering any of these basic questions leads to more questions about the nature of God.  I am not looking for any great theological debates over the existence of God, but I want to know what you believe.  Not what your church/religion/family/nation believes, but what you believe. 

Monday, February 02, 2015

Life as the Reluctant Optimist

This blog had many titles before I finally settled on The Reluctant Optimist.  Some of the titles captured important life moments or just had a quirky pun that made me seem hip.  Every few months I would put up a new title that would revolutionize my corner of the internet.  Eventually I realized that my weblog needed a lasting title, and this one just felt right.

In many ways it seems like some strange contradiction to be a reluctant optimist.  We tend to imagine that an optimist walks around with some goofy grin on their cherubic face happily ignoring the crumbling world that surrounds them.  The optimist is perceived to have their head in the clouds while their counterpart, the pessimist, always seems to be the wet blanket that ruins the party.  While I firmly abhor most every binary system on earth, I make allowance for this one.  A person is either an optimist or a pessimist.  Neither is good, and neither is bad; they just are.  The dichotomy between an optimist and a pessimist is frequently subverted by clever bastards that claim to be realists (a term which I don't understand--we are all realists--no one is pretending to see a dancing unicorn--it doesn't make them seem any smarter--just call yourself a pessimist and get over it).  You can even switch sides if you want, but you can't be in the middle because this concept is all about hope.  You either hope something will happen, or you don't.  You hope for a better world, or you don't.  You feel it in your gut, or you don't.

I am an optimist, and I hate it.

I want to be an ornery man that can grumpily turn my back on all the disappointments in my life, but I can't. A pessimist is rarely disappointed, and when they are it is because something fantastic happened!  I am tired of the disappointments that come from being an optimist, but I cannot change what I feel.

I have hope, and I hate it.  I hope my church will move out of the dark ages and recognize the value of all humans.  I hope my country will move past partisan politics and focus on improving the life of all God's creatures.  I hope this world will realize how we all need each other to survive, and we all live on the same small rock hurdling through space and time.  Even though I will certainly be disappointed by my church, my country and my fellow humans, I still believe in a bright future.

I am an optimist because I want to see the good in people even after they have shown their worst.  I am an optimist because when I hit my lowest points and want to raise my fist to the heavens to curse God, I pause in gratitude because it is a beautiful day and I feel fortunate to be alive to see it.  I am an optimist because no matter how dark the night, how deep the water, how powerful the storm, I feel a better life coming.  I suppose it really comes down to what I have that will always be stronger than life's worst trials:

I have these guys in my corner, and I wouldn't trade them for the world! (I know the picture is blurry on their faces, but I still like it, dammit)