Monday, December 31, 2012

Things that I’m just tired of…

It’s the end of 2012. Ok, big, fat, hairy deal. Qoheleth was right when he wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. But, as this year ends I’ve been impressed upon to blog about things that I’ve grown tired of. Things that, although unchanging, have caused a change in my perception and in my heart. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about things that I do look forward to.
1. Scholars kicking dead horses. I follow several blogs written by biblical scholars. These folks represent many positions; evangelical, progressive, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, etc. Two of the biggest issues that seem to be consuming these scholars are issues of Biblical inerrancy and Adam. Now, I realize the emotions that get involved whenever these are discussed can get quite heated. But, these issues do not further the Kingdom, nor do they bring edification. They are contentious and divisive. I think that we can live together in God’s love and still hold diverse opinions.
2. Public figures who think that it’s ok to use their celebrity to tell everyone what God thinks. I have in mind two people in particular. One is a well-known politician, the other a well-known media host and psychologist. Neither of these men are theologians. Neither of them, as far as I know, holds any kind of advanced degree in Biblical studies. Yet, they both feel quite comfortable speaking out on these issues. I promise not to tell the one how to be a professional politician nor the other how to analyze people psychologically. I would love to have them and others like them, do likewise and shut up about issues that they really know nothing about. God does not hate fags and is not pouring out retributive judgment.
3. White men who are leaders of the church talking about ‘training up the next generation.’ Yeah, it sounds good, but there are more things wrong about this statement than I can state. First, what is the next generation? From what I see in the scriptures any generation includes all those who are living at any given time. The idea of  “generations” really came into vogue in the 1960s when the “younger generation” was taking the “older generation” to task over socio-political ideas. These became the “boomers,” followed by “busters” and Gen Xers and…well, a whole host of other names that do littlie other than divide and classify people. Also, the so-called next generation always seems to be thirty something white males. That just smacks of discrimination. And, these guys really have no intention of turning over the reins of control. But, it looks good to say it. If they really want to make a positive and inclusive move, they should include people who are in their teens and up in leadership, both female and male. Stop with the spiritual sounding platitudes. No one’s listening.
4. I’m tired of printing. I’ve been at this trade for over 40 years and I never have liked it. It is leeching the life out of me.
5. I’m tired of copping out. When I express my displeasure with my vocation many people tell me to quit. My stock response has been that I can’t because I’ve grown accustomed to eating. Meaning, I need the money. Simple fear and distrust have held me to this life for too long. More on this later.
5. I’m tired of fear driving my life. In one of my journals I listed things that I fear. They are many and they paralyze. John the elder wrote that perfect love casts out all fear. I am beginning to learn that. But, that road is a long and difficult one. It can generate more fear. With God’s grace, that is going to change.
6. I’m tired of living my life according to everyone else’s definition and expectation. I say and do things in order to please everyone at the expense of my own calling. I am who God, the Gracious Creator, made me. If I can’t be true to myself in that calling, I can’t be true to anyone.
Oh, well, I guess that’s enough for now. Thanks for letting me vent a little.
Oh, and…Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Just for the sake of discussion

Over the years as election time rolls around, a lot of folks, primarily conservative evangelicals, begin to talk about each candidate's or party's position on abortion. All of the issues and questions are distilled into that one position. As long as a candidate holds a position that is in favor of repealing Roe v. Wade, she/he gets my vote. It would really be interesting to have all of the candidates on the same side of that issue so that we could actually consider other planks in their platform. But, alas, that's not the case in 2012. The lines have been etched in stone and for any self-respecting evangelical the question is already answered. As one pastor said a few years ago, "I can't tell you how to vote, but if you ask me after the service I can help you decide."
Well, here's a new wrinkle. What if our concept of being 'Pro life' is too narrow? What if this, like any other ethical question, has ramifications far beyond the simple 'yes' or 'no'; 'black' or 'white' that so many of our evangelical leaders would have us believe? I found an interesting article from the New York Times oped that addresses questions that should be asked by people who truly want to be 'Pro Life.'

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Just a thought

I just read the following blog:
Much of what is contained in it resonates with me. I, too, was indoctrinated under the western, white patriarchy that is so pervasive in our culture. I remember sitting with the pastor who was going to perform my wedding and telling him that, as the man, I was going to be the head of the household and my wife would submit. He disagreed, but did not try too hard to dissuade me. Of course, over time the reality of my statement proved untenable. But, I continued to preach the conservative evangelical position as true orthodox doctrine.
It took rubbing elbows with a variety of cultural influences at seminary to remove the scales from my eyes. As I studied with and learned from African American men and women, Anglo women and men who truly understood the cultural contexts of those who wrote and compiled the scriptures I found that the so-called orthodox position was merely a cultural expression that had little support from the scripture that they claimed to live by.
Now, I find that I must live to respect others, especially those who live at the margins of the patriarchal culture of the West.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Just something to think about for a Friday!

Saw this at my daughter's Facebook homepage. I LOVE IT! Being, as one of my dearest friends has called me, "a sensitive musician," this really resonates with me. Think about it the next time the person next to you is singing out of tune or when your kids want you to play that song, "Just one more time, mommy"!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Counter-culture or counter human nature

     In the early/mid 1970's I was a part of what has become known as the Jesus Movement. We were a bunch of young people who, having been brought up in the 60's, had the silly idea that we could change the world. And, we had the zeal to match. For our part, we decided that the best way to reveal the grace and life that we shared in our new-found faith was to build a counter-cultural movement. Some folks got together and moved into a large house in our very middle-class, very white community. Others of us moved in with them and we had our lighthouse. It was a beacon of hope and faith right smack-dab in suburbia. We were convinced that if people saw the hope and joy that we had they would come flocking in to join with us. We had a common purse and one bathroom. Imagine! Married couples, children, young men and women all living under one roof in peace and mutual respect. It was just like the early church that Luke wrote about in the book of Acts. (Or, at least we thought it did.) We believed that be providing a model of love and peace in a world that was dominated by war and hatred we were living as Yahweh desired all of humanity to live. Well, the world did not beat a path to our front door. We found ourselves marginalized by the very people we sought to influence. It seems that hope, faith and love were not commodities that were in high demand.
     Over the ensuing years many of the members of that community and our friends have moved on to buy into the very systems that we tried to contrast ourselves with. Money, power, greed, and self-service have taken up residence where selflessness, poverty, and humility once lived. Others have maintained a living faith in Christ by aligning with others who are like-minded. Evangelize and care for each other. Seems good on paper. But, even this has proven a tool that can be used to hold the "other" at arms' length. Instead of a house with 15 or so people living in it, they are part of a larger 'community' that is still trying to be counter-cultural. By standing against what they see as dangerous and immoral practices they hope to show other people how wrong they have been. They hope that these outsiders will see and taste and find that the faith they have is good. And, still others of us have continued to search and dig and cry and try to find out why the counter-cultural approach that held such hope failed so miserably.
     Over the past year I've spent a great deal of time reading and reflecting on the gospel accounts in the Bible. This has led me to look at the antecedents to the gospels, including the prophetic writings and some intertestamental material. I have also had to take a closer look at those who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Most recently, the pastorals, Peter, and James. I've come to realize that contrary to what many think and believe about Jesus and the early church being a counter-cultural movement, they actually seem to be a counter human nature movement. Counter-cultural movements seek to change existing systems. Power systems, economic systems, political systems, etc. These don't change because, while they have humans actuating them, working within them, they are actually outside of human control. Now, I know that opens up a metaphysical discussion that I'm not going to address here. But, these systems survive regardless of who is at the helm. Communism, socialism, capitalism, in fact any kind of 'ism' that is out there still has these various systems that take on a life of their own. In many cases devouring everyone in their paths. But, that's a story for another time.
     The biblical text reveals folks who are encouraged to prefer others' interests over their own. Who are to "rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ." The Master said to turn the other cheek when struck and to seek to love those who hate you. In many places Paul wrote that those who follow the Yeshua-do, the Way of Yeshua, must work to not feed the appetites of our human nature, but must allow Yahweh's Spirit to be our Guide. II Peter records that through/by the promises that have been made to humanity we "may participate in the divine nature." Ah-ha! The divine nature! So, it's not about changing things that are outside of ourselves. It's by our own nature, the human nature that we all come into this life with, being set aside in favor of Yahweh's divine nature. I'm still ruminating on this whole idea. But, it seems to me that what God desires for all of humanity, what all of humanity really needs, is a shot of this nature so that our internal systems can be transformed. Then, with all of the creative genius that Yahweh has gifted humanity with, maybe we can, in concert with Yahweh, begin to see the external systems transformed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

One more thing...

Just so that no one misunderstands my desire to post on politics...
I am not so politically minded that I think that the upcoming election is a 'be all and end all" for our society, culture or way of life. I am simply offering a point of view that I have spent much time reflecting on. As far as this election is concerned, it is important, but not of ultimate import. I am providing a link to a blog by Dr.Peter Enns. I think that the piece is well-written and presents a balanced approach to politics in our culture. BTW...I agree with Dr. Enns' on this.

Thoughts on ethics, justice and the upcoming election

I know that there are many who take issue with my politics. That's ok. This is America. I must, however, give a bit more clarity to my position. I don't want folks to think that I'm simply being "contrary." I apologize in advance for the length of this post. But, there are issues that I think are deserving of thought and reflection. Especially, as we are presented with such disparate positions as we are in the current campaign. So, I hope that you are provoked to think and discuss openly and respectfully about things. I don't presume to think that this will change anyone's mind about which party or candidate to support. But, hey, why not stir the pot a little?

As the American election season continues to move forward to its climax in November I felt an uncomfortable urge to throw in a bit more of my slightly, (?), biased opinion. I have made it fairly clear that I do not support the GOP platform nor its banner-bearer, Mitt Romney. This has made many of my Evangelical sisters and brothers look at me suspiciously. After all, isn’t Christian ethical and moral identity tied to a politically conservative position? Isn’t it for the sake of a “Christian America” that we contend vigorously with the evils of progressive and liberal thought? I think that there is more to consider in this run-up to November than the current economic conditions in this country, and the world at large. I don’t think that we can separate economic issues from issues of justice and ethics. However, both political parties would have us believe that just such a position is not only possible, but proper. Let me take a quick look at some of the issues I see.
Mr. Obama has, at the very least, been a mediocre manager and administrator. However, I believe that his naiveté and lack of consensus in the other branches of government have been mitigating factors in this. The statements and policies emanating from the current White House have had, if nothing else, an egalitarian flavor. Look at the positions on Mexican immigration, rights for the marginalized, i.e. gay/lesbian, Muslim, and other peripheral groups. While many on the so-called political right see this as a threat to the American ethic, others see this as the practical working of Paul’s view that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Greek nor barbarian. All are equal in the sight of Yahweh and have inherent worth as eikons of God. I think that his desire for equal healthcare availability for every citizen is praiseworthy. However, I’m not convinced that the current method is the best. What is good, however, is that something other than talk has actually been implemented. They say it’s easier to steer a vehicle that’s moving than one that is not. Hopefully, the conversation will continue toward policies that are just and equitable.
The GOP, on the other hand is championing the right of the American people to be free from government interference so that they can move forward and achieve their share of the elusive, if not mythical, American Dream. In promoting this they have become, in my view, ethically utilitarian. In a nutshell, utilitarianism is “The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”[1] This is long-winded way of stating that the ends justify the means. In the New Testament, Caiaphas stated this idea clearly when he said that it was better for One to die for the benefit of the entire nation. Or, for the trekkies in the crowd, Mr. Spock’s declaration that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.
How does this pertain to the current political campaign? The GOP has taken a stance that what benefits the many, namely the white, middle class majority, is the direction that government must take. In their view that is to create policies that make it easier for businesses and entrepreneurs to function. Thus, in theory, this will create job opportunities and an environment for the marketplace to flourish. This is wonderful! But, it is an end that has consequences along the way. Consequences that the GOP thinks are worth the final “good.” Let’s take a look at a few.
Mr. Romney made a statement in Feb. of this year that caused the first red flag to be flown in my mind. He said, “I'm not concerned about the very poor," Romney said. "There's a safety net there, and if it needs repair I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the heart of America, the 95% of Americans who are right now struggling."[2] This is as utilitarian a statement as anyone could make. By alluding to a non-existent safety net Mr. Romney can justify putting the concerns of the very poor on a back-burner. So, after 4 years of a Romney presidency, he can conceivably state that the goal of helping the 95% may be successful, but we never got around to fixing the net…it was not the expedient thing to do. Yes, I am speculating here. But, it is a valid question for people to consider.
In response to this I would like to quote one of my professors, Wyndy Corbin Reuschling. She wrote, “this emphasis on the greatest good for the greatest number and what serves their needs is in contrast to the scriptural obligations to care for the least of these, for the minority and for those on margins of social and political power. This is especially problematic if one has even a cursory view of human history, and even church history, and the tyranny of the greatest good defined by the majority and their tyranny over the minority. We know that the majority can be wrong and often have the resources to muster the ideological power and political support to enforce the view that might makes right and the majority always wins.”[3] The case for working for the happiness of all, especially those who have little or no voice in the process, is of paramount importance for those who claim allegiance to the text of Holy Writ. The God of the Bible mandated that it was the responsibility of those who would follow the Way to care for the widows, orphans and aliens among them. Jesus, in his first recorded message to those in the synagogue, quoted the prophet Isaiah saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[4] It seems that there is a kind of ‘entitlement’ that has been proclaimed by divine fiat that we who choose to follow Christ must consider seriously.
Mr. Romney is also on record in favor of the construction of what is known as the Keystone Pipeline. This is a project that will allow oil extracted from Canadian oil sand to be transported across the U.S. to refineries and export facilities. Much ink has been spilled on this issue. Most of which, I fear, most Americans are utterly unaware of. Allow me to share a couple of concerns. While many still think that global warming is simply a political ploy to add regulations and burdens to business and industry, the evidence is mounting to prove it. The extraction of oil from Canada may very well add to the problem of increased greenhouse gases in ways that boggles the mind. One source states,
“The oil sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of GHGs,” said the document. It estimated that the industry’s annual greenhouse gas emissions would rise by nearly 900% from 1990 to 2020. By the end of that period, the oil sands — with an estimated annual footprint of 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases in 2020 — would exceed the carbon footprint of all cars and SUVs on Canadian roads from 2008, according to the Environment Canada document.
The document also warns of other rising air pollutants that could cause acid rain or other forms of acidification to damage lakes in Saskatchewan and Alberta, along with particulate matter that could be toxic to rivers, the landscape and wildlife.”[5]
Besides the atmospheric threat, there is the threat to the environment from the path of the pipeline itself. It has been the plan of the developers to build the pipeline across the largest fresh water aquifer in the U.S. This link will allow those interested to read just one of many articles that voice concern for this major source of drinking water and irrigation, Yet, those who favor the project state that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Jobs will be created and money will be made, (at least by those at the top of the investment food chain). There is reason to pause and consider this, though. There are some who would contest the optimistic view of the project. One such sources states,
“According to the U.S. State Department the pipeline would create at most 6,500 temporary construction jobs, and would leave only "hundreds" of permanent jobs, according to TransCanada, the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline. Claims that the pipeline would employ tens or even hundreds of thousands of people are simply not true. A Cornell University study concludes the pipeline would kill more jobs than it would create, by reducing investment in the clean energy economy”[6]
(On this issue I think that Mr. Obama has taken the prudent position to deny the project’s access and to encourage further study and conversation.)
Utilitarianism is a normative ethical position that may help people when making moral decisions. It is not, however, the best way to proceed. What constitutes the ‘good of the many’? Who is able to render that position for all concerned? Pope John Paul II had concerns about the tendency for utilitarianism to make people, individuals and groups, objects of use. He wrote, “Utilitarianism is a civilization of production and of use, a civilization of things and not of persons, a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used.”[7] It is this philosophy as espoused by the GOP that causes me concern. It does not seem to matter to them what happens to the few, as long as the many benefit. In civilized society we are, in fact, our brothers’ keeper. For those of us who accept as normative the admonition of Scripture, we have a mandate from Yahweh to care for the marginalized in society. And, I feel, that the government that is elected must share in that mandate. To not do so evidences a considered disregard for justice for all.
So, what does that do for my personal position? Well, none of the choices available are ideal, or even really good. However, when presented with a choice between a well-meaning, yet naïve incumbent who seems to be clear on what is just and a challenger who is equally clear in what is unjust, I must choose justice.

[1]Mill, John Stuart, Utilitarianism, in The Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill, (Modern Library: New York, 2002). Qtd. In Corbin Reuschling, Wyndy, Reviving Evangelical Ethics: The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality, (BrazosPress: Grand Rapids, 2008).
[3] Corbin Reuschling, Wyndy, Reviving Evangelical Ethics: The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality, (BrazosPress: Grand Rapids, 2008).
[4] Luke 4:18-19, NIV 2011.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's the use?

A couple evenings back I met with my spiritual director. We meet about once a month. I tell him what I'm experiencing and thinking. He gives a different perspective on that which usually challenges me. This week I shared how I am moving toward a more unified view of humans. We in the West have inherited a Platonic dualism that affects pretty much everything we do, including relate to Yahweh. We perform mental and theological gymnastics that allow us to separate ourselves into various compartments. I guess that helps some people organize their lives. But, as I read scripture, I see a more in a more Semitic way. God formed humans and breathed the Ruach Elohim into them. They became living souls. Not living dust and breath. Anyway, I digress. As we were talking I told him that I was finding it increasingly easy to see Yahweh's love as it is directed toward me. I don't see God keeping a running tally of my many shortcomings and mistakes. For anyone out there who knows me, that would be a very long list. Rather, I am coming to realize that God knows what I'm made of. I'm dust. God is not surprised when I act like dust. I see God smiling at me as I try to come alongside the Spirit and cooperate. My feeble attempts amuse the Almighty. So, my director's response to this was to ask if there was any way that I could see God writing, not a list of sin and mistakes, but a love letter to me. I had to stop a moment, but I said 'yes.' He then challenged me to take this to God in prayer.
I did that. And, I felt God's smile. I confessed to Yahweh that I could not understand why I had been chosen out of the billions of souls on this planet. God's response? "So that you can enjoy Me."
Not so that my sins would be forgiven, even though that's true. Not so that I can preach and teach. Not so that I can live a godly life. But, so that I can enjoy God. I can experience God's love and acceptance. I can, in a word, be free to love God and God's very good creation.
Thank you, Yahweh!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Might makes Right?

Yesterday we went to the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. My daughter's college room mate and her son have been staying with us this weekend, so we took them to 'see the sights.' We did all of the things that an inquisitive and energetic 4 year old could want. There is so much to see and do there. I was impressed. But, what really caught my interest was the Cleveland Air Show that was going on next to us at Burke Lakefront Airport. As we arrived in the parking lot, a military jet fighter was giving a demonstration. So, we sat and watched from our vehicle for a while. Later, at the Science Center, we saw people flocking to the deck outside. My wife and I walked out there and saw that the Navy Blue Angels were performing. The pilots were making these multi-million dollar machines dance with incredible skill. It was obvious that many hours had been spent honing their skill. As these huge war-birds screamed across the sky and maneuvered with apparent ease into various loops and rolls; seeming to just miss each other at unbelievable speeds, the crowds clapped and waved. The thing that impressed me the most was the sound. When I said that they 'screamed' across the sky, I was not exaggerating. The noise was incredible. Chills ran down my spine as these 'swords' of the U.S. military flashed and cut their way through the air.
I have to say that I watched with mixed feelings. There was a sort of pride in the fact that these machines were built by humans whom God endowed with the brains to imagine and create them. Also, I have lived my entire life in the U.S., and these are part of our culture and heritage. But, at the same time, they are also weapons with incredible abilities to kill and destroy. I mentioned to my wife after one pass that I wondered what it would be like to be in a small village in a developing nation when these jets howled past them at several hundred miles per hour. The sound and spectacle alone would be enough to panic. Then, there is the destructive capability that these planes carry in weapons payload. In many cases, people on the ground would never hear or see a thing. Their world would simply end.
Yes, the technology and human achievement on display was magnificent. However, I hope to be present when these swords can finally be beaten into plowshares.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

endings and new beginnings

Well, it's Labor Day weekend. The accepted, if not astronomical, end of summer. And, in many ways, I'm glad. This summer has been a difficult one for me. There have been a lot of changes in my life. Not all of them pleasant.
I started in a new position at work. After 36 years as a prepress specialist I am now part of the company's E-Commerce team. This is a challenge in that I am dealing with a particular customer's needs in real time. (Actually, a really short amount of time ;o) It requires immediate action. Sometimes, as old and feeble as I am, that's difficult. I am also charged with integrating the online needs of the customer with our prepress and production departments. The plus is, I'm out of prepress and am getting a tad more money. The downside, it's still printing. While I've been in printing a long time, (41 years), it's not my passion. I've been trained for Christian ministry. I earned a Master of Divinity from Ashland; graduating with high honors, (thanks be to Yahweh). Not that I want to toot my own horn, but it was a pretty significant accomplishment. And, I believe a fulfillment of a calling God made to me 40 years ago. Ok, I'm a slow learner. BTW...if anyone is hiring out there, I'm open to talk about it.
Another thing about this summer has been the difficulty I have had really connecting with God. From about the time I had a heart attack last November until some time in June, I had experienced a dynamic relationship with God in prayer and in daily life. It was good and growing. However, sometime in late June/early July, things became a bit more tenuous. I found that passions and desires I thought long dead were resurrected. Prayer became difficult. Although I slogged through it, the time could be what St. John of the Cross described as the "Dark night of the soul." The ensuing period of time was not just dry, it became a trial of faithfulness. But, Yahweh is faithfulness. I am now, thankfully, finding my way back. Paul's writings in Romans has been of great help and comfort. Maybe I'll write more about that later.
In late June my wife and I received a notice from the I.R.S. They were disallowing a deduction I had taken on my 2010 return for college tuition. Now, no one EVER wants to hear from the all-powerful I.R.S. They said we owed a fairly substantial sum in taxes and penalties. I got out the documentation that I had received from the university and sent a copy back with a form stating that I did not agree with them and was not sending payment. I was, at best, apprehensive about our chances of prevailing. I spent the next couple months trying to figure out how we were going to pay after they decided against us. Such is the fear that this department of the government instills in its citizenry. Anyway, yesterday I received a letter from them. I put it on my desk, unopened, until this A.M. When I opened it, it stated that they thanked me for the additional documentation and the inquiry was now closed. We owed $0. Yes, Yahweh is good! But, it would be easy for me to take the position that it was my answer to the I.R.S. that made the issue go away. After all, what I did was no different that what any other person in the U.S. would have done. There was nothing 'miraculous' or magical about it. I simply did the responsible thing. This is the area that, I think, many people find gray. Was it the grace of Yahweh, or simply the act of a human? Too many Christ-followers would look at this in some magical, super-spiritual sense and totally miss the fact that God inspires people to act like people should. Justice; faithfulness; righteousness. They are all attributes of humans that God desires us to use. I was simply being faithful to God in finances and seeking justice from the government. Welcome to the Yeshua-do...the "Way of Yeshua." If I've learned anything this summer, it's that Yahweh works through the ordinary. We humans are to live in the ordinary and to "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting" (Ps. 118:1).Or, something like that.
I'm looking forward to the Fall. It's my favorite season. I think that the righteousness of God as it has been displayed through the faithfulness of Jesus will continue to reveal itself in my, and my family's lives. In spite of a half-empty Summer, the Fall is beginning to look half-full.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Away for a bit

It's been a couple weeks since I've been here. There's simply been too much on my plate to spend time with this blog. My dad was back in hospital again. It really sux getting old. He's a tough old codger, though. And, I started at a new position at work last week. New stuff to learn and not a lot of time to learn it. Ah, yes! I love it when they move the cheese.
Anyway, I've spent the better share of the last month ruminating on how the Euro-American worldview is simply NOT the best way to live a full and abundant life. I've read a couple books from a Zen point of view. One of them by a Jesuit priest who uses Zen practices to deepen his spiritual life with Yahweh. Interesting stuff that I will comment on later. I've also been studying material written from a First Inhabitant point of view. I have been encouraged to look at this by Randy Woodley. He is an American Cherokee with a Ph.D from Asbury Seminary. Having been following his online works and blogs, as well as working through his newest tome, Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision, has given me much to meditate on. This, too, I'll comment on later. All of this to say, I am in the process of trying to reconcile the Euro-American culture with the Very Good Creation that Yahweh has provided for all living things to dwell in. It's difficult. Actually, it's impossible. We who are of European descent have much to bring to the discussion, but we are not the answer or telos of that discussion.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Reconciled life

Today I was reading in Romans 5. Paul wrote that because of Yahweh's great love we have been reconciled to God. Whereas we were enemies, (by our own doing), we are now friends who are saved from wrath. I began to wonder what a reconciled life might look like. If we are no longer subjected to wrath, how should we live? Honestly, I can't give a good or comprehensive answer to this. What might be evidenced in my life would be wholly inappropriate for someone else. But, I think there are some things that warrant mention.
If we live our lives with an eye to what others may think, even if it is to be a so-called "witness"; that is wrong. Jesus made it clear that any good that we do should be done for the Father alone. Yet, I've heard many good intentioned people state that we must watch ourselves and maintain some kind of piety so that others will see and desire to live in a similar fashion. So far, I've not seen the masses storming the gates to get in.
I think that a reconciled life may allow people to maintain a kind of aloofness, or detachment, from the concerns of the world system and culture. I'm amused at some people who take the markets and politics and other things so seriously. It is the end of the world as we know it now that the Supreme Court has upheld the health care act. Yet, these same people will make profit hand over fist at the expense of this act. We are not affected by this. Ours is not the way of culture and politics.  Ours is the way of reconciliation. Ours is the way of the cross.
I think that reconciled people are reattached to the very good creation. Where we were once cut off, especially in the West, we are put into a right relation with the earth and all that it contains. We experience God's shalom, or as one writer put it, the Harmony Way. According to Genesis, humans were put in here to serve and protect the earth as God's eikons. We are stewards who must answer to the Lord of the Manor. Unreconciled people view the earth as humanity's servant. Something to be used and abused to fulfill our own appetites and greed. Not so, says the scripture. We, being reconciled to God, are also reconciled to the very good creation.
I think that this is a good topic for reflection. What do reconciled people look like?  How does this affect our relationships with Yahweh; others; the cosmos? I don't know for sure, but God does. I trust that we will be led to greater clarity and understanding because of Yahweh's great love.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

36 and counting

Today my wife and I are celebrating 36 years of marriage.
Honestly, I didn't think we'd make it this far.
As much as I tried to mess it up, God's grace and my wife's
committed stubbornness kept it going.
Now, we are doing pretty well and today is a real celebration.
Maybe Carrabba's for dinner...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Advent Ministries

I don't usually plug organizations. Books, yes.
Anyway, Advent Ministries is one of those organizations that works to bring the reign of God into the lives of real people. Please visit their web site and consider either helping through donations or by purchasing one of their products.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kairos Palestine

I debated whether or not to advocate this. However, with all of the poor exegesis running around regarding Israel and its neighbors, I thought it would be good to offer a counter to some of that. Please take the time to read the post from Brian McLaren and take a look at the Kairos link.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


For any who have read some of my ramblings, I just want to say that these are mostly intended to be food for thought. Little observations and feelings that I put out here to help me think through things and find out what I really think.
With that in mind, this A.M. I found myself reflecting on failure. This lead me to the story of the garden. Now, there's a lot in the story recorded in Genesis 2 & 3. More than I care to get into now. But, one thing that did jump out at me was the idea of 'grasping.' Let's recap. Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to care for it, to cultivate it, and to serve and protect it. It would be ok to think that they, in their own way, farmed the land. We are lead to understand that the land willingly gave up its strength so that whatever crop was planted grew up healthy and full of fruit. During the times when they were acting in their role as stewards, they probably had lots of time to think and discuss their lives and relationships with the very good creation, with each other, and with God. It appears that somewhere in the course of their lives they began to speculate about how God related to the very good creation and to them, in particular. The reason I say that is because when they were confronted with the choice of following the known will of Elohim or not, they seemed to have already formed a positive opinion of God's role against a more negative view of their own. When the serpent offered his opinion that they would certainly not die if they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they accepted his opinion. The text reads, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it" (Gen. 3:6a&b, NIV2011). She saw that eating the fruit would allow one to grasp at the things, the attributes, of God. Not content to fulfill the role intended for humankind, she coveted that which was intrinsically divine.
Now, let's contrast that with another person. Yeshua ben Yosef, of questionable birth, (i.e., Yosef was not his dad), came on the scene. Throughout his life he learned a trade and he learned about Yahweh from his family and friends. He grew strong in the Spirit and was especially close to his heavenly Father. He did not need to speculate about God's role in the very good creation. He was intimately aware of it. He was also intimate with the barriers that humanity placed on one in relation to Yahweh. Of anyone in history, he was the one who could properly 'grasp' at the things that were in the purview of God. Yet, one of the earliest hymns of the fledgling ecclesia reads, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage" (Phil. 2:6). Jesus did not grasp at that which was not his to have. In this Kenotic hymn we have a glimpse into the proper position for humankind. He emptied himself and took on the form of a servant; a slave. Like the story of the garden, Jesus confronted the same temptation: to become 'like God.' In his case, he was God! But, he willingly and humbly chose not to grasp at that. He laid it down. And, in so doing has provided the example by which we, as his followers, should emulate. Yes, we are by adoption daughters and sons of God. Yes, we have rights as children and heirs. But, our place in this life is to take the form of a servant. A servant to God, to humanity, to the very good creation.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Just a couple of random thoughts...

When folks think of the eschaton, the new heaven and new earth that God will establish, they picture Jesus sitting on a throne. This throne is located in some 4-walled construct; a temple or something. Jesus, parked on this throne, awaits the arrival of people who seek his judgement and counsel. Sounds all prim and proper, yes? Today I saw a different image. When  Jesus lived among people, he really lived with them. He walked and talked with them. He ate and drank with them. He was present among them. Even after he was raised from death he sought out his disciples. He ate with them, even prepared food for them. He spent about 6 weeks present with them. I think that this will be closer to reality in the future. The Lion of Judah will be loose, not confined in some building. He will be bounding throughout God's good creation seeking out people with whom he can spend time and be present with.
As I sat to pray this A.M., there was a bird making a noisome racket outside the window. I mentioned to Yahweh that even the birds were singing to glorify God. Then, I closed the window to quiet the noise.A short time later it got pretty warm in my room. So, I opened the window again. The bird was still nearby. In fact, there seemed to be a whole herd of various voices out there. The Lord prompted me to stop and listen. Yahweh bade me to be present to the chorus of praise being raised. It was a glorious moment! We too often inject our own agenda into all aspects of our lives, including what we think we must do when present with God. I think that most of the time God would have us simply stop and be present.
A couple weeks back as I was running in a nearby park I came upon a young fawn. It was days, perhaps hours old, lying between a couple of fallen trees. As I ran past, it raised its young head to look, but did not try to get up and run. It seemed quite content to let this feeble old fart pass by. I thank Yahweh for this.
Recently, my daily prayer has included the word 'maranatha.' Maybe I'm getting old and I desire to see the culmination of history. I desire to see the coming of the new heaven and the new earth. How cool will that be?!? But, I am also prompted by something else. I feel the oppression and suffering that is present in this world. People dying from hunger and thirst in a world that has the technology to ease these things. But, because of greed and selfish desire, these things are withheld. I see people being used and abused by the rich and powerful. People stolen and sold into slavery. People murdered for a few coins that are used to feed addictions. Relationships between family members severed over perceived hurts. War. Wall Street. Insecurity. I think that if El Elohim would just stop this and let the renewal of all things come how good it will be. Order from chaos. Peace from destruction. All things in right relationship with all others. Including humankind. We would have the proper authority, not the authority that we have usurped for our own pleasure; our own destruction. Just as the oceans have boundaries that they cannot cross, humanity will live peacefully within its own boundaries. Boundaries established by Creator/Yahweh who will walk among us.

Friday, June 15, 2012

God's Relentless, All Consuming Love

As I continue to contemplate Yahweh's love for the good creation in general, and humanity in particular, I am brought back to something I began to get a glimpse of many months ago. That is, that God's desire and love for us is relentless. No matter where we wander in life's forests, deserts and meadows, Yahweh will pursue us. I caught a bit of a picture that, while imperfect, does reveal a little of how I see God's pursuit of us, God's beloved.
Presently, there are several wildfires burning out of control in Colorado and New Mexico. These fires are driven by wind and fueled by dead growth and litter. The fires are relentless in their advance. Nothing escapes the lick of the flame. All is consumed. In the process, the pine beetle that has destroyed trees is consumed. The governor of New Mexico mentioned that in some places the pine needles on the forest floor is as deep as 4 feet. This, too, is consumed opening the ground to the sun and rain. The dead wood is removed. All of this creates the possibility for new growth; new hope.
This metaphor, like all metaphors, has limitations. But, I see God's relentless, all consuming love burning in our lives. It consumes everything. The good, the bad and the ugly. Yes, some things will be caught in the process. But, the hope of new life is present in the ashes. The good and healthy seed will germinate and grow. The soil, rich with new nutrients, will be able to receive the sun and rain without the litter that has fallen to block it. Those pests and parasites will be destroyed. Those creatures that escaped will be able to return. The forest, like our life, will not be the same. Yet, God will bless. God will be present. God will continue to love us...relentlessly.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

God's Furious Love

I just finished Brennan Manning's The Furious Longing of God. I have always enjoyed reading Manning. He showed me that I am a Ragamuffin. That was a great help to me. It's amazing how that kind of insight can help to do away with pretensions.
This book had as its underlying theme a verse from Song of Songs. It reads, "I belong to my Beloved's. His desire is for me" (7:10). As I reflected on this I was taken back a few months to when I really began to realize Yahweh's relentless pursuit of me. Yet, it has been so easy for me to slip into the notion that God is enthroned in a heaven that I cannot reach. God is attentive to my prayer, but somewhat aloof. We pray for God's grace and wisdom. We pray for God to win our battles. We pray that others will see things clearly, (code for 'My Way'). But, the Lover of our souls desires us. The Creator/Yahweh has walked among us because of that desire. Jesus, the one and only Son loved enough to change water to wine and to heal lepers. He, the true Image of God, went willingly to the cross because of Yahweh's great passion for us. 
Yet, we debate about subjective genitives and whether Adam and Eve were actual people. We take the life, death, resurrection and ascension and call it 'the Christ event.' People debate about justification and sola scriptura, making these what the good news is about. We have to think and believe certain ways or else we are sliding down some slippery slope. (I don't know about you, but sled riding is Fun!)
And, all the while God is still relentlessly pursuing us. The more I consider this love of God, the more I am being convinced that this other stuff doesn't really matter. Frankly, it does not matter to me if the creation story is a factual news story or if it is Israel's story written as a result of the captivity. God loves me. I am not going to get into discussions with people who think that they understand any of the so-called laws of thermodynamics. It simply is not important when one considers that "love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10b). John the Elder wrote that God is love. We are under compulsion to follow Jesus' command to love one another as He has loved us. We are the recipients of Yahweh's unrestrained and furious love. The rest is just fluff.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Enter: Holy Spirit

From my last post, you can glean that I'm currently searching for somewhere to fit in. This morning I visited a local Anglican church. This is a church I've visited in the past. The rector was gracious to me while I was in seminary by granting an interview that was required in one of my pastoral care classes. Today's service was a confirmation service. There were new confirmands welcomed into membership as well as other new members being received. The diocesan bishop was there officiating. Now, I'm not usually a high-church kinda guy. Yes, I appreciate the liturgy. But, all the pomp and stuff sometimes gets in the way.
As the bishop spoke and gave the sermon, I was impressed with his attitude. He seemed to really enjoy what he was doing. Unlike some of the 'messages' that I had experienced at other churches, you know, the ones where the speaker cries or has some kind of 'hard word,' this bishop was actually happy. That was good, but I was not prepared for what came next. As the folks who were being welcomed into church membership came forward, the bishop prayed a short, pre-written prayer asking for God's blessing. This kind of thing is typical with churches that have written worship forms, like the Book of Common Prayer. After he spoke these 'proper' prayers, as he laid his hands on each person or couple, he prophesied over each. HE PROPHESIED OVER EACH PERSON!! I was not ready for a charismatic experience in this Anglican church. To make it even better, as communion was about to begin, the bishop's wife stood up and shared what most charismatics would consider a word of knowledge about healing. As the service concluded I watched the platform. Because of the special service there were several clergy present. Besides the rector and his 2 assistants, there was a minister from Kenya and and another priest that I did not hear from whence he came. They were all on the platform singing the final hymn, hands upraised, the too-big sleeves of their gowns giving one the idea of several rather large white birds getting ready for flight. The rector was swaying with song, "Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise." The only word that came to me was Celebration. The entire service had been a celebration in the presence of Yahweh. I was blessed.
Does this mean that I am leaning toward this church? No, not really. I don't know enough about the Anglican tradition. I am going to visit more. As I think back on the other times that I have visited this church I have to say that each time was celebratory. Whether I find a home in this environment or not, I have seen what a Sunday gathering should be. It should be a time to raise hands, voices and hearts to the Creator/Yahweh who lives within us. We should express the joy and thanksgiving that is natural for people who have been freed from sin and death by the faithfulness of Christ. We should share in the remembrance of Christ in the koinonia of the ecclesia. It's not too far off to say that we should have fun and enjoy one another in God's presence.