Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This week's sermon...

Not from this past Sunday, but from September 2007, but one that I liked, especially as I prepare for communion this week at our church.

Full study guide online here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Quote of the week...

Here's a good one for this week. A long one from Barbara Brown Taylor, but well worth the read.
”Several summers ago, I spent three days on a barrier island where loggerhead turtles were laying their eggs. One night while the tide was out, I watched a huge female heave herself up the beach to dig her nest and empty herself into it while slow, salt tears ran from her eyes. Afraid of disturbing her, I left before she had finished her work but returned next morning to see if I could find the spot where her eggs lay hidden in the sand. What I found were her tracks, only they led in the wrong direction. Instead of heading back out to sea, she had wandered into the dunes, which were already hot as asphalt in the morning sun. A little ways inland I found her, exhausted and all but baked, her head and flippers caked with dried sand. After pouring water on her and covering her with sea oats, I fetched a park ranger, who returned with a jeep to rescue her. As I watched in horror, he flipped her over on her back, wrapped tire chains around her front legs, and hooked the chains to the trailer hitch on his jeep. Then he took off, yanking her body forward so fast that her open mouth filled with sand and then disappeared underneath her as her neck bent so far I feared it would break. The ranger hauled her over the dunes and down onto the beach; I followed the path that the prow of her shell cut in the sand. At ocean's edge, he unhooked her and turned her right side up again. She lay motionless in the surf as the water lapped at her body, washing the sand from her eyes and making her skin shine again. Then a particularly large wave broke over her, and she lifted her head slightly, moving her back legs as she did. As I watched, she revived. Every fresh wave brought her life back to her until one of them made her light enough to find a foothold and push off, back into the water that was her home. Watching her swim slowly away and remembering her nightmare ride through the dunes, I noted that it is sometimes hard to tell whether you are being killed or being saved by the hands that turn your life upside down.”

I love that last sentence...it is just so true.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The spiritual benefits of diabetes...

This week I had my lab work done, specifically my hemoglobin A1-C test. I have to have it every three months to monitor my sugar level. As much as I hate it, it's a good thing for me. Most days I check my sugar at home. I do the old finger poke and the machine tells me if I'm eating right or just fooling myself. If I work at it, I can manipulate this daily routine. I can choose to test my blood after not eating for a bit, or just after exercise. In short, I can often make it say what I want it to say. Not so with the dreaded A1-C test. It reports on the average level of sugar in my blood over the past three months. It easy to play games for a daily check, but the A1-C takes a hard look at what's been going on inside over the long haul. The problem is that this tends to make me want to put it off. I find great excuses to not get the blood work done. After all, I have a busy job, four kids, a yard to keep up, etc. But finally I run low on medicine and need to go back to the doctor, or the guilt overwhelms me and I give in.

My numbers this week were okay. Could be a bit better, but could also be a lot worse. That's good. But it has started me thinking. What if there was some way to have the condition of our soul tested...kind of a spiritual hemoglobin A1-C? What if every so often all the illusions we present to ourselves and those around us were pulled back so that someone could see what's really been happening inside over the past three months. I think for all of us that would be a bit scary. Nobody wants others to see what actually happens in the depths of our heart and mind. But it's in that openness that we actually begin to find the power to change. The truth is that the A1-C forces me to watch what I eat, even though I don't want to. I know my cheating will eventually show up in my blood. So I eat better. Not perfect, but better than I would if I knew I could hide it.

In the same way, maybe the opening up and exposing of our soul to another on a regular basis, no matter how humbling it can be, would do wonders for our own transformation into Christlikeness. The forced acknowledgement of what is inside to another who loves us and wants the best for us pushes us to be honest with ourselves. It lets the light shine into the dark corners. It doesn't let us play games with matters of the soul. And just like ignoring my blood sugar will eventually kill me, ignoring what is actually going on in my heart and soul can have even nastier implications - for myself AND for those around me.

So here's to the development of a spiritual A1-C. I think it's already there and we call it authentic living within a community. But maybe this blog is a call to not avoid it, but to embrace it. We need it to survive...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"I'm way too close..."

From the "Dumb things that I will never do" Department...

Any reason that He keeps driving toward the storm?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This week's sermon...

I Samuel 15:1-35.  Tough text...it always is when God endorses genocide...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quote of the week...

As much as I don't really like this...it appears to be very true.  So much for easy decisions when it comes to living a life that counts...
"No great deed, private or public, has ever been undertaken in a bliss of certainty."
--Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Word Creation Wednesday

Ever stepped out of your comfort zone? While what stretches me may not seem difficult to you, you have to appreciate the fear I face tomorrow. This week's word expresses what awaits me in the morning...
"agefright" - The fear of interacting with a specific age group for an extended period of time. One example (purely hypothetical) might be going along as a parent volunteer with a class of third grade children on a field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium. Agefright is often prompted when a tremendous love for your own child (who is in the class) collides with a glaring lack of skill in working with children that belong to anyone else. Symptoms include sweaty palms, disaster scenario dreams, and an occasional slap to the forehead while exclaiming, "What was I thinking?"  

Monday, June 08, 2009

Quote of the week...

Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business.
--Henry David Thoreau


So I finished reading Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess by Will Samson.  I have read Will's blog for some time (although he hasn't posted in a while), and have always found his writing to be insightful, incisive, and practical.  Enough was even better.  Will takes on our culture's obsession with stuff, pulling back the blinders that we usually use to hide it, and not only points out the dangerous implications of living this way, but also uses Eucharist as a model for a different type of life.  His points are well researched, his suggestions are clear and very practical.  His own words will give you a clear inclination of what it is he is attempting with the book.
Is there enough for everyone? This is an important economic question, and in our discussion here I am certainly going to try to address the question from an economic perspective. But it is not just an economic question, is it? In fact, the question of whether there are sufficient resources in this world may be one of the most important theological questions of our time. How we answer it reveals much regarding our belief about the character of God: who we think God is, how we think God provides for the creation, and what role humans play in that work—this all relates directly to our understanding of God.

In this book I hope to narrate two distinct visions. The first is a vision of people and communities whose lives are out of whack and who are consumed by stuff. Our view of God and our understanding of the way we participate in God’s work in the world have become distorted, and we have transformed ourselves into unthinking consumers of products, ideas, and cultural narratives about what will bring us happiness.

The second is a view of people and communities who are guided, and even made more whole, by a vision of God and God’s work in the world by which they are consumed. Our decisions regarding what resources and how many of those resources we use are not rooted in oversimplified categories of “more or less,” but instead are nourished by a story of a God who is sufficient, active in the world, and forming a community of co-laborers to manage the created order.
This book is so worth the read.  Will challenges assumptions that we aren't even aware that we have.  And he presents a way forward that is faithful to what God envisions in the renewal of all His creation. There's a lot of stuff that we don't need, but this book is something that we do.

Want to read more for yourself? Go here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Word Creation Wednesday

Actually posted on Friday...you'll see why.
"Absilence" - The act of abstaining from saying anything because you have nothing to say.  A scary practice for preachers and bloggers (or maybe most of us), but one that might just be necessary. Sometimes when we say too much it says too little. Less is more, as my friend Wes keeps telling me.

Worth the read...

"War is Sin" by Chris Hedges...
The crisis faced by combat veterans returning from war is not simply a profound struggle with trauma and alienation. It is often, for those who can slice through the suffering to self-awareness, an existential crisis. War exposes the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves. It rips open the hypocrisy of our religions and secular institutions. Those who return from war have learned something which is often incomprehensible to those who have stayed home. We are not a virtuous nation. God and fate have not blessed us above others. Victory is not assured. War is neither glorious nor noble. And we carry within us the capacity for evil we ascribe to those we fight...

The Rev. William P. Mahedy, who was a Catholic chaplain in Vietnam, tells of a soldier, a former altar boy, in his book Out of the Night: The Spiritual Journey of Vietnam Vets, who says to him: “Hey, Chaplain ... how come it’s a sin to hop into bed with a mama-san but it’s okay to blow away gooks out in the bush?” “Consider the question that he and I were forced to confront on that day in a jungle clearing,” Mahedy writes. “How is it that a Christian can, with a clear conscience, spend a year in a war zone killing people and yet place his soul in jeopardy by spending a few minutes with a prostitute? If the New Testament prohibitions of sexual misconduct are to be stringently interpreted, why, then, are Jesus’ injunctions against violence not binding in the same way? In other words, what does the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ really mean?”

Military chaplains, a majority of whom are evangelical Christians, defend the life of the unborn, tout America as a Christian nation and eagerly bless the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as holy crusades. The hollowness of their morality, the staggering disconnect between the values they claim to promote, is ripped open in war.

I'm not trying to minimize the heroics of soldiers who lay down their lives for others.  I just think there are a lot of questions that we refuse to ask.  And to ignore those questions both hinders true patriotism and dishonors the troops we send to risk their lives on our behalf. Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

This week's sermon...

We really want to take control of our lives...but the dilemma is that in taking it we lose it.  Here's last Sunday's sermon on I Samuel 8.

Full study guide online here.

Torture and the Eucharist

This is a long piece by William Cavanaugh, writing about the use of torture today.  It's really worth reading.  Here's the crux of his point...  
“Torture” and “Eucharist” denote two different types of enacted imagination. Torture and Eucharist are not imaginary, in the sense of being unreal, but rather are ways of seeing and narrating the world that are integral to ways of acting in the world.  Torture is both a product of—and helps reinforce—a certain story about who “we” are and who “our” enemies are. Torture helps imagine the world as divided between friends and enemies. To live the Eucharist, on the other hand, is to live inside God’s imagination. The Eucharist is the ritual enactment of the redemptive power of God, rooted in the torture, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
...but I would encourage you to read it all here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Quote of the week...

This week's quote is one that has a bit of bite to it...
"Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer."
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes