Monday, December 29, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Especially for older couples without significant income, it seems that our laws encourage cohabitation rather than marriage. Unless there is a law that a person cohabiting cannot receive a deceased spouce's social security, there truly is a "marriage penalty" particularly for the elderly who are widow(er)s and may be financially fragile. Has anyone else experienced this? What are your thoughts?
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
What my not quite 2 year old daughter heard was, "The dogs do not get food." She was very distraught by this and sadly repeated--"The dogs don't get food!" She then began trying to remedy the situation by making sure our dog got food. She spent a significant portion of the day grabbing handfuls of dog food laying it on the floor in front of the dog and waiting until the food was gone, then grabbing another handful.
I think I am glad that the idea of not feeding the dog bothered her, and am a little proud that she took it upon herself to make sure the dog got fed.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
In setting up his explanation for how he came to an orthodox faith in God, Chesterton describes the materialist who relies ultimately on logic as a mad person. One example is that a mad person might claim to be God--and the way one would work with such a person is not to deny that they are God but to point out that if they are indeed the creator of the universe, then what a small and insignificant universe it must be. Similarly, a non Christian who is worried that all truth claims meet the rule of logic limit truth possibilities to a small circle. The basic argument, which is too complicated for me to work out in a blog, is something along the lines that Christianity is more creative, less limited, and therefore more sane than materialistic rationality.
Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it. In the first case the road is open and I can go as far as I like, but in the second, the road is shut.
Chesterton's argument is not that the rational skeptic is not rational--rather rational skepticism is infinitely rational, it just happens to be a small and limited infinity. "Their position is quite reasonable, nay, it is infinitely reasonable, just as a threepenny is infinitely circular... [it is] a base and slavish eternity."
All this is to set up what I believe to be the best use of the image of the cross that I have ever encountered.
For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed forever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms forever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox at its center, it can grow without changing.
This image of the cross having a collision and paradox at its center is why we can know things to be true that may not fit our limited reason. Like, "The one who loses their life for my sake will find it." This is not a rational statement, but in the cross it makes sense. Which is true that God is sovereign over all and knows everything before it happens or that God has given humans free will--they are both true. Sure it is paradoxical but it can be the case in the cross. Do we seek righteousness or surround ourselves with sinners--both, are we holy or imperfect--both are true, that is the shape of the cross.
"The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything becomes lucid." I love this image.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I suppose once you decide the right thing to do, it doesn't much matter how impossible it is, you just continue doing it, convinced that it is simply the right thing.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
However, like anything that is repeated, Will is right that any recycled word or phrase begins to make unwanted impressions. I notice in the news media certain words that become trends. During the 2006 political cycle, it seemed that someone was always being "slammed" by one person or another. As we head into another intense cycle, I will be looking for new verbs and adjectives that come up. One I have heard talked about already is the phrase "thrown under the bus."
It has occurred to me that in addition to the potential wear a repeated word may cause, it is equally possible that the same form of prayer may become a bad habit.
For instance, I don't like long prayers, so I typically get right to the point--for grace before a meal, I might say, "Thank you God." That is all we really mean to say at a mealtime grace, isn't it? I am cautious that if I say more, particularly in a formal setting, I may be praying in such a way that I will be heard by others rather than speaking a prayer to God. The problem is, ever since seminary, I have somehow become the designated grace-sayer at almost every meal I eat. How many times can you pray "Thanks, amen." before some come to believe that you are insincere in your prayer?
Perhaps the real question for me is whether or not being the spiritual leader of a community requires a change in prayer style. I have always been fairly informal in my prayer habits, and yet it seems my role calls for times of more formal prayer. My fear is that if I, an informal prayer, work to hard at offering more formal prayers, do I sound disingenuous, or worse, become disingenuous?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I thing it is great that she is so compassionate, but how am I supposed to feel special when she kisses me if the kiss is something that she also freely gives to bugs?
Perhaps this the one of the maddening things about grace. God's love is special, and it is wonderful to know that God loves you. But it can be hard to remember that one of the reason God loves us is that God loves even the bugs--the most annoying apparently useless creatures (both bugs and humans) are loved by God; and perhaps that makes us feel less special. But perhaps it is also comforting that in our most honest times of self-reflection, when we see all that would make us unloveable, we can know that God even loves the bugs.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
The competing values are freedom and equality at all times. Conservatives tend to favor freedom and are willing to accept inequalities of outcome from a free market. Liberals tend to favor equality of outcome and are willing to sacrifice and circumscribe freedom in order to get it.
i think this accurately describes the nature of the debate in our country, but the problem is it assumes that freedom and inequality can coexist or that vice versa, freedom and equality cannot coexist.
All of this ultimately depends on how we define freedom. American independence (freedom) is at its roots freedom from british rule, also perhaps freedom from being ruled by any other nation-state. However, when we occupy Iraq at least in part to "spread freedom" it doesn't occur to us that people living in Iraq may not want to feel as though they are being ruled by us. Nor, in our commitment to free-market economy, do we consider that we are bound to and limited by our need to endlessly grow the economy. And perhaps most troublesome is in our freedom, how often is inequality the result of not being free from sin, the cruelest master of all. Regardless of policy, sin is often what stands in the way. Trickle down economics may make sense academically, but it will never work if the people at the top believe their freedom is to keep as much as they want, making the trickle a very slow drip. Likewise many social programs are in good heart, but may be abused by some who believe their freedom entitles them to work the system rather than use it to get their life together.
For me the question is not a balance between freedom and equality, but one about the source and nature of freedom.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Through a series of effective illustrations, she showed modernity to be a struggle between conservative and liberal, both of which rested on a core precept of modernity--that right belief is important and truth can be known. Likewise she showed postmodernity to be a cultural phenomenon in which authority is questioned, and truth is obscure and unimportant. In postmodernity, there is much access to knowledge and many claims to truth, but what is important is right actions. (I am sure I am not doing justice to her sermon, but this was the gist of a small portion of the sermon).
The call in the end was for the church to become postmodern in its ways -- a speaking the language of the new culture; a kind of modern (or postmodern?) pentecost.
As I reflected on the sermon, a few things struck me. The first was that Christianity is ultimately a claim to a particular truth. What would it mean to preach the gospel (the truth that Jesus came to die that we might have life and have it abundantly) in a postmodern way? The second was that by the time the church could effectively make such a conversion, we will be into the beginning of the next era and we will be trying to shed our postmodern ways. A final reflection was that projecting postmodernity as a path the church needed to travel runs against the postmodern assertion that there are many claims to truth none of which may be valid. The claim for a need to become postmodern is in itself a truth-claim that should be questioned by a true postmodern.
It seams to me that the least desirable moments in church history have been times that we have too closely reflected the cultural moves of the day. We can explain dark and gory depictions of Christianity with the mid-ages. The corruption of church leadership that led to a need for reformation was a time the church too closely resembled the feudal system in Europe. During the early/mid 20th century in America, Christianity became so entwined with American patriotism that it has become difficult for some to distinguish between the two. In short, perhaps the church is at its best when it simply is the church and doesn't worry about adapting to the ebb and flow of the surrounding culture. That isn't to say that the church doesn't engage culture, or that there is no overlap. Only that I don't know that we should be constantly trying to "catch up" only to find ourselves always behind a changing world and increasingly confused about our own identity.
Perhaps postmoderns are disillusioned by the church's claim to truth in part because we have become cloudy about what that claim is as we have tried to keep up with previous shifts in culture. The enduring 2000 year old story never ceases to be relevant unless we make it irrelevant by devaluing it every time there is a sociocultural shift.
(These are not researched thoughts, only my first reflections. Please feel free to correct me on the details of postmodernity or point out flaws in my rough thoughts on history).
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Tonight as I experienced this phenomenon, I recalled St. Augustine's reflection, "Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you, O God". I have always thought of this image as a general reference to our need for God--the creature in need of union with its Creator. I have not considered the image in terms of sanctification or holiness. But tonight as I watched my daughter sleep in my arms, she was not only at peace, but she was also, if only temporarily, completely holy. She was not being selfish, she was not testing rules or her parents authority. She was deeply resting in the arms of one whom she trusted.
So often I have considered Christian growth in terms of increasing participation in justice ministries, turning from past sins, and going deeper in prayer and bible study. All of these things are clearly part of Christian growth, but they are all action based ways of thinking. I wonder if we are at times called simply to "sleep" in the arms of God--to "find our rest" in the one who created us.
A couple of years ago, I presided at a funeral of a parishioner. As I met with the family, one of the stories they told me was how his daughter always liked falling asleep in her father's arms. I retold the story at the beginning of the funeral, noting that there are few better places to be than resting in the arms of a loving father. At the end of the service, I referenced the story commenting that the deceased is "now resting in the arms of a Loving Father--and there is no better place to be."
As I reflect now on the holiness of my daughter sleeping in my arms, I wonder if resting in God's loving arms is a sanctifying moment. A moment where all of our sins melt away and God's love wells up for us as we lay limp and docile, fully trusting that the one who holds us will keep us from falling.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I plan to reference memorial day in a very positive fashion this Sunday, but I decided against patriotic hymns. I received a note from the choir director this morning reminding me that it was Memorial day and I might want to include patriotic music; though the choice was mine to make. I looked at the bulletin and noticed that each of the prelude pieces were patriotic, as was the introit, the anthem, and the recessional. I figured we were covered and sent a note back that we would keep the hymns as I had originally chosen. This evening at choir practice, this became a big issue. So this evening, I received a call from my Senior Pastor pleading with me, "after you leave, I still need to have a relationship with my choir." After some conversation, I decided to honor his request--"America the Beautiful" it is. For the sake of the flow of worship, it will be the first hymn--that's right, for fellow liturgy followers, that is the place we typically sing a hymn in praise of Christ. I began looking at the words for America the Beautiful to review what exactly we will be singing. The first half of each verse is a praise of something American, the people who serve America, etc. The second half is a brief prayer to God on behalf of America. I can appreciate the second half of each verse, but I remain troubled that in the place where we typically sing praise to Christ, we instead sing praise to America. Nothing against America--I love this place in many many ways--It just isn't Christ.
In a sense, I feel like I am giving in--compromising. But I hope I am doing so without compromising my integrity.
Moving is always bitter-sweet--saying goodbye to one place and anticipating new relationships in a new place. This move is particularly that way. I have only been in my current appointment for one year. But back in February, I began talking with my superintendent about the possibility of changing appointments. The reason for this is a long story, bits of which can be gleaned by reading some of my wife's blogs. But that is not the point. Leaving so soon feels awkward, and on some level not right, though I remain convinced that it is ultimately best for all parties.
In the midst of this awkward good-bye, I cannot hide that I am very much excited about my new church. The people I have met so far are absolutely wonderful. As I continue to learn about the ministry environment and the challenges and opportunities ahead, I am energized to see what God will do in this new setting.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
One of the points about reflections on the contemplative life that really struck a cord with me was the idea that just because contemplation and meditation (finding times of silence in which to be more fully aware of God's presence) may be difficult for some of us (me as much as anyone) doesn't mean we don't need it, and even desire it on a deep and perhaps unknown level.
The suggestion was that as we intentionally allow for time to be intensely present to God, we also grow in our ability to do so as we experience it feeding us in ways we previous did not know was possible. In particular this can be difficult for those of us who have grown up in a highly stimulative environment. One example given was how the experience of going to a baseball game has changed. Baseball has a methodical pace. There is time between each pitch. A good at bat might take several minutes before a ball is hit into fair territory, and long periods of time can go by between runs scored. Not too many years ago, this pace meant that there were times of silence when watching a game--If you were at the stadium, you might have opportunities to appreciate a beautiful sky, the bright green grass, etc. But now any lull is filled with loud music and sound effects. There is constant noise which only subsides for action in the game. Our presenter said the experience can feel as if the game is an interruption in the otherwise constant noise. As we become accustom to this level of noise, we are increasingly distracted from being able to appreciate times of solitude and silence as opportunities to become aware of God's presence. Such times of silence and solitude come to feel like uncomfortable interruptions in a busy noisy life.
SO WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH PRINCE CASPIAN?
I went to see Prince Caspian with our youth last night. Okay, another stimulative noisy event, but it is C.S Lewis, and, by Aslan, that has to be worth something!
The movie has many redeeming features and has many wonderful things that can be said about it--but I won't share any of those! I was bothered by a decision in how to portray the way in which Lucy is the first to recognize Aslan's presence while the others believe he is not around to help. In the book, there is a great scene where Lucy insists on following Aslan down an incredibly dangerous and unlikely trail. The others think she has gone mad but finally follow Lucy who claims to be following Aslan who the others are unable to see. As the unlikely trail begins to show promise, some of the others begin to see Aslan's shadow, and eventually are able to see him just as plainly as Lucy. It is by following Lucy who is better in tune with Aslan's presence that they come to be aware of Aslan's presence as well. (A great image for what it might mean to grow in our ability to become more aware of God through the practice of contemplation).
The movie does not have this gradual scene. Lucy sees Aslan, but does not follow because the others will not go with her. This happens once in the book and the second time she follows. It happens twice in the movie, and she never has the opportunity to stand up and insist that the others follow her. Instead, she is alone with Aslan for several scenes, then at the end, Aslan appears to everyone in an instant. The sense of a journey that depends, at least in part, on the assurance of a sister daughter of eve is lost in the movie, and I find that unfortunate.
But still, if you get a chance to see the movie do (but don't expect any moments for silent contemplation during it).
Friday, May 16, 2008
The first truly provocative thing he shared was that the development of intimacy within relationship requires time be spent in the presence of the one with whom you are in relationship. Okay--not so profound, but it is something I find easy to forget when it comes to a relationship with God.
I remember my first "real" date with my wife. Okay--we were seminary nerds, so the evening began normal with dinner, then we were going to go see NC State's production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." But we never arrived. I guess you might say a funny thing happened on the way to "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"--Our directions took us to the wrong theater and we never found the correct one. So we returned to Durham talking all the while about theology, how we experienced God, and ultimately the role of the church in ministries of social justice (like I said, "nerds"). As we talked, we purposefully drove through some of the more dangerous parts of Durham. Once we settled the issue, we went for ice cream. We had been talking nonstop, and were having a great time. By the time we sat down with our ice cream, it seemed as though there was nothing left to be said. And so each of us sat there with nothing left to say--our first silence. So we just ate ice cream. Later we reflected on the moment and agreed that being okay with silence in the presence of one another was a good thing.
How often are our times with God as rushed as the rest of our lives. Most of us feel as though we do well if we can sit down and breeze through a couple of scriptures, quickly confess a few imperfections then offer a laundry list of things we would like from God. It occurs to me that no other relationship works this way. Imagine a typical prayer time--can you imagine what kind of relationship you would have with someone if that was how you communicated with them?
Heres hoping to getting lost with God--just meandering without a destination for a while--looking to be in the presence of my creator--not so that something will be accomplished, but so that through intimacy with the holy I might come to better reflect the image of the one who formed me.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Not ten minutes later, another guy came out of the store and handed us a bag of groceries. We noticed a nice bottle of wine included in a bag full of canned and boxed food. The lady with me at the time grabbed the bottle and said to the man--oh, did your wine end up in the wrong bag; he looked at us astonished and said, "What? Poor people drink wine too, don't they?"
Well, I guess some do!
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
No doubt this is true not only in blogging but in a multitude of genres. In fact as I watched the live streaming of General Conference this afternoon, I witnessed what I knew would be the case. As a few petitions regarding homosexuality were discussed, highly predictable speeches were made in favor of and in opposition to some of the more contraversial petitions. There were occasional comments that offered insight with regard to implications of particular wording in one petition, but largely the most divisive debates in our denomination go nowhere. There are two loudly repeated sides that reiterate the same points year after year and quadrenium after quadrenium. So tired are the arguments on all sides of these debates that we have the equivalent of political parties that organize to bring more people to their side not by theological persuasion so much as political maneuvering. Some have called general conference the church's version of congress, and indeed at times it seems there is little difference.
Perhaps what we need to move forward is to challenge everyone to speak in new and peculiar ways so we can hear anew the variety of perspectives.
I wish we could take a step back from heartwrenching stories about how many have felt descriminated against and have a conversation about whether or not it is ever appropriate for the church to descriminate--if so/if not what would the implications be.
I wish we could take a step back from stories about the occasional conversion of a homosexul to heterosexuality and discuss whether or not it is appropriate for any of us, homosexual or heterosexual to self-identify based on our sexual impulses in a world that is obsessed with sex.
I do not believe there is any hope in a debate that some partisans would have us believe is between Scriptural Christians and Liberal-Elitist Hethans nor as other partisans might see it, between Self-Righteous Homophobes and Loving, Accepting Christians.
I stongly believe that we are in need of new ways of speaking about the most divisive issues. While it may be true there is nothing new under the sun that one could possibly say, we are in need of new and peculiar perspectives even if they are just the resurrection of an old idea.
For example, maybe we could take a cue from Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. From Chapters 7 and 8 we might imagine Paul telling us, "If you can't agree on who is allowed to have sex with who; then maybe no one should be having sex with anyone so we can focus on our commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ." I don't think this would receive very many votes. And as a young father who expects to have more children, I can't say I would be excited about the prospect--but it is a new thought (or perhaps an ancient thought) in a very tired debate. I would like to see more peculiar thoughts; I think that is our only chance of comming to some agreement on such a contentious issue.
Friday, April 25, 2008
After our visit, I got to thinking about the church and General Conference. One thousand people gathered together to speak for our entire denomination--power! The church as an institution is powerful and has multiple power structures. There is a widely assumed "chain" with regard to appointment (both in terms of churches and pastors) there are superintendents, bishops, and, of course, our conferences. On occasion the council of bishops and other representatives even get the ear of the president--power (if only he would listen).
And yet I recall reminded by a 92 year old's weakness with regard to starving children that we are not called to be powerful. Rather we are called to brokenness before God that we might be sent as God's servants.
Perhaps (and this is a note ultimately to myself) we should not obsess too much about about what our church's most powerful body is doing to move our church forward but on what we can do in our local communities to empower the powerless.
Monday, April 21, 2008
At the core of the production is Voltaire's realist attack against the optimist Gottfried Leibniz, whose philosophy is paraphrased in the second song of the first act,
Once one dismisses the rest of all possible worlds /
One finds that this is the best of all possible worlds.
Through ironic misfortunes of grossly optimistic characters, the resolution of the show is the eventual discovery of realism as optimism is made to appear largely ridiculous. In the end, Candide decides that since he can know nothing other than what is, he should just work the day away and find happiness in his daily toil.
The production effectively reveals the folly of the statement, "Once one dismisses all other possible worlds, one find that this is the best of all possible worlds." But it does so by attacking the second part of the line--that this is the best of all possible worlds. The production does not call into question the assumption that all other possible worlds should be dismissed. Similarly, as the show made fun of the church, it made fun of a church full of corruption that blindly proclaimed that all things as they are are for the best. It didn't deal with the fact that the church at its best does not concede the point that all other possible worlds can be dismissed; nor does it proclaim that the world as we know it is the best of possible worlds.
This is perhaps the failure of traditional liberal theology which rises out of the optimistic enlightenment. We need a way of acknowledging that this is not the best of possible worlds while also realizing that because of grace in Christ we are empowered to, in union with God, work towards a world which more perfectly reflects the Reign of God (the best of all possible worlds--taking into account the rest of all possible worlds).
Monday, April 14, 2008
Today, my mom arrived from Indiana to spend the week with us. We don't see her often, so I am glad when our daughter can spend time with grandma. I am happy to see that she recognizes grandma and enjoys her. But this afternoon when grandma went downstairs for a nap, my daughter proceeded to induct her into the ritual I thought belonged to just us. She offered kisses to grandma in between each of the spaces in the stairwell. "What!" I thought. That is our ritual, that is something that we do!.
I am reminded of a recent post (sorry, I forget whose blog it was and can't find it) about concerns regarding Oprah theology. In the video Oprah referred to reading that God is described as a jealous God in the Bible. Her response was no, God can't be jealous. I have encountered that sentiment among a number of congregants in different churches. It seems to be an imperfect quality. And yet it seems that if something that rightly belongs to you is given to someone else, feeling jealous is quite appropriate.
Now, I don't mean to equate my sense that my daughter's good by ritual kisses belong to me with our affection and desires belonging to God, but this experience has given me a window. That God is jealous is a way of saying that God cares. God, being our creator, redeemer and sustainer is the appropriate recipient of all of our love, affection, and worship. When that affection is directed to an inappropriate place, a caring God can't help but be jealous.
Today I have lost the sense of the ritual with my daughter being something that just the two of us share--and to be honest I am a little jealous. It isn't a jealousy directed against my mom or that wishes my daughter loved no one else, but a jaelousy that seeks a truly special relationship with my daughter. I imagine that my life as a father will be filled with special moments, and with special moments losing meaning. But, I also imagine that this means my life as a loving, caring father will also be filled with streaks of righteous, and perhaps not so righteous jealousy. In either case, it makes me feel pretty good about the extent to which our jealous God loves each of us.
Monday, April 7, 2008
But Seriously... as My Wife and I have continued rediscovering Gary Thomas' Devotions for a Sacred Marriage we came across a chapter on the importance of fellowship in marriage. The chapter begins with with an imagined conversation around one of the author's favorite marital activities--long walks. Parodying pop-cultural post sex talk cliches, Gary writes, "It would never occur to me after [a long walk in the woods] to immediately pelt Lisa with the question,
'So, was that an especially good walk?'
'What are you talking about?'
'Well, was that walk as good for you as it was for me?'
'Gary, have you lost your mind?'
'I want to know! Was that walk better than the last walk? Was it, maybe, the best walk you ever had?'
The point he makes is that such talk could cheapen and ruin any otherwise great experience. I wonder if this sometimes happens with preaching as well. To be honest, I often feel pressure (which I put on myself) to always preach my "best" sermon ever. It is a rush to deliver a good one, and I have to admit, that I would rather have compliments on my sermon than no comments at all. (The first sermon I preached at my first appointment solicited the comment from one congregant, "well, that's one down!)" I think if our church members are honest too, they look forward to good sermons.
And yet somehow it seems that if we enter into a worship experience to encounter God and the sermon is part of the vehicle for that experience--maybe we cheapen the experience by asking the question, "How good was that sermon?" That isn't to say I think it is wrong to put effort into making sermons good--certainly if the sermon is a vehicle which aids our encounter with God, it deserves hard work and reflection. But maybe we (I) do need to be careful not to find ourselves cheapening encounters with God with evaluation that boils down to something not far from, "wow, that was the best I've ever had."
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I don't know if flexible quite gets it, but I tend to emphasize theological aspects and categories that seem absent from whatever my current setting is. In a church full of people who see no problem with ordaining homosexual pastors and fully including homosexuals I tend to emphasize the need to wrestle with some scripture and traditional theological paradigms. In other settings where there is fear of homosexuals being fully included in the church community, my emphasis is on the universal nature of Jesus' message and the challenges to traditional thinking that Christ often offers.
Perhaps at the heart of it, my theology is ecclesiological. I am constantly fully aware of other positions that faithful Christians take and I tend to emphasize the inclusion of ideas contrary to the accepted norm of the culture in which I find myself. Meanwhile I have to be honest with myself that I am one person who does ultimately fall somewhere on the continuum--I think relatively close to the middle.
Do you find that your theological leanings vary based on your setting? If so, do you tend to take on some of the theology in which you are surrounded or do you tend in the opposite direction?
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Regardless of what we might think of the masculine image or fearful image of God here, Gary has a point. So often I think of a personal relationship with God as being between myself and God, that I have to remember that my wife also has a personal relationship with God that she sees primarily as between herself and God. The funny thing is-same God! Therefore how I treat her affects her and so also her relationship with God, then presumably also God and finally my relationship with God. Does remembering that others in our church, at the supermarket, on the road all belong to God--the same God that I sing hymns and pray to--affect the way I treat them? I don't know that I have thought about it much, but perhaps I should.
We always pray the "Our Father," but to be honest, I think I am most tempted to think, even while praying it in the congregation, "My Father." But maybe Jesus taught us to pray in the first person plural for a reason.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
This really bothered us. It seems God made the female body to function in a particular way, and we were medicating it as if her fertility were a disease. We soon learned of the Creighton Model. Instead of medicating to change cycles and inhibit fertility, the Creighton Model teaches couples to understand the signals that the body is made to send during cycles. We chart daily mucus activity (I'll spare details) and are able to know exactly which days are fertile and which days are not. The system has a 99.5% method effectiveness (how effective the model is when used properly), and has a 96.8% use effectiveness (how effective people are at using the method properly). This rivals that of "The Pill" and as soon as you wish to have a child, the same method that prevented unwanted pregnancy turns into a fertility aid.
In addition, the few doctors who are familiar with the method have found that charting the body's activity can help diagnose certain diseases, including ovarian cancer, long before current traditional methods of detection.
The problem is, why would no medical professional tell my wife and I of this model when we asked for a full list of possibilities? It is assumed to be a strange Catholic practice, not unlike the rhythm method. But it is very different. It is much more researched, there is an enormous amount documentation; and yet we continue to be told that medication is the only way to deal with the problem of the female body.
Finally, and sorry for the long post, it seems that this should instigate again the debate about birth control. Here is a natural method that respects the female body, avoids implicitly labeling fertility as a disease, and allows couples to have some control over when to have how many children, while giving women tools to notice something out of the ordinary long before traditional medicine would have noticed. Is it too late for such a method to even be considered? Why has this model been kept secret. It seems that objective doctors, who are indeed "practicing medicine" should at least be familiar enough with the model to let an inquiring patient how to find more information.
Friday, March 21, 2008
On this Good Friday night, I am reminded again, that in so much as Jesus is God, God is dead..
Earlier this week, a boy at a local middle school committed suicide. Parents and youth at my church are trying to make sense of such a tragedy. Another pastor and I had an opportunity to talk with our confirmation class--some of whom were very closely affected by the death. At one point the other pastor asked a rhetorical question of the group. "Knowing what you now know, imagine that you had an opportunity to talk with the boy. What would you have said to him?"
As I have thought about that question myself this week, I am pondering what it means that God has died for us.
A number of people have expressed disbelief that the life of a seventh grader could be so bad to warrant suicide. I am troubled by this reasoning on two levels. On the one hand it seems dismissive of the things that stress teenagers--as if those stresses are somehow less real because they affect young people. On the other hand, it seems to assume that it is unreasonable that a 7th grader would commit suicide and assumes that if he were much older, suicide seems a more appropriate consideration.
Another comment I have often heard is, "There is nothing so terrible that could possibly make suicide your best option." This is undoubtedly true, and a good bit of simple advice to young people. But obviously anyone who has committed suicide thought that they had only one option--and not having stood in their shoes, I wouldn't want to deny their feelings especially since it is impossible to hear them out at this point.
So what would I say?
Lets assume for just a minute that it really is that bad. Maybe the depths of despair can become so great that death is the only thing deep enough to match the pain. In fact, I find it likely that such despair exists for many of us. The good news is that the death has been died for us. God is dead. God has died. And God has invited us to cast our cares, our deepest hurts, our embarrassments on Christ--who has already died that we don't have to.
Maybe those who are contemplating suicide really are in need of death--not the kind of death that you inflict on yourself. Rather, maybe there is a need to die to that which has caused the kind of anxiety that has led the suicidal person to believe death is the only possibility.
We are invited to participate in God's death so there is no need to take our own lives. Rather we can give our lives over to the one who has died; the one who can transform death into everlasting life; the one who takes our anxiety and despair and gives us freedom and hope.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
You're Babar the King!
by Jean de Brunhoff
Though your life has been filled with struggle and sadness of late,
you're personally doing quite well for yourself. All this success brings responsibility,
though, and should not be taken lightly. Life has turned from war to peace, from damage
to reconstruction, and this brings a bright new hope for everyone you know. These hopeful
people look to you for guidance, and your best advice to them is to watch out for snakes.
You're quite fond of the name "Celeste".
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
This concept of allowing the loving Jesus to also be a Jesus who becomes frustrated with his people makes me wonder if Jesus is ever frustrated with me. Do my prayers reveal a lack of understanding about the identity of the God I serve?
Friday, February 29, 2008
I find this disturbing on many levels, but perhaps most troublesome is that this fasting regimen is, I assume, connected to a strive for holiness. And yet it contributed to the teen's impression that they were mean and stingy.
Reading this durring the season of Lent causes me to reflect on our fasting practices. Of course, far from fasting 200 days a year, I think most of us in the US struggle to make it 40 days fasting only specific foods or occasional meals. But does fasting anything at all send a message that we are a stingy, strict, and maybe even an unhappy people? Maybe this is why in the Book of Matthew Jesus makes it clear that fasting should be done in such a way that no one knows that you are doing it.
How do you talk about fasting with youth who are surrounded by the lie that food is all about weight? I think the prevailing thought among teens is that ating food causes weight gain, and not eating it is dieting. Isn't there much more to our food practices than how much we weigh?
Monday, February 25, 2008
What I am concerned about are fairs, car washes, Christamas tree sales, raffles--games of chance, etc. These have often struck me as taking away from the church's message that God provides abundantly and is bringing salvation to the world through Christ in the Church.
I am struck in particular by notions that even secularists in a small town or urban setting might participate in raising funds to "save the church." Is not the role of the church to offer salvation to a broken world? What happens when a broken church turns to the world and worldly means looking for salvation?
Perhaps the first sign of a dying church is not when it starts declining in membership, or even when the youth stop attending. Maybe we can see the church on decline as soon as its membership ceases to be able to maintain and support a vibrant life-giving ministry without relying on funds raised thru the buying and selling of goods. This isn't to say rummage sales are all bad--but what does it say when part of the Church's financial foundation is based on the sale of someone's trash?
Thursday, February 21, 2008
It reminded me of being a third grader who had just received my first bible. I read chapter after chapter that night. I started in Matthew (the beginning of the New Testament). Some unthinking soul must have given me the KJV, because I remember in the 6th chapter reading, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret..." In accordance with the scriptures, I got out of bed, went to my closet, shut the door, and prayed, "Our Father which art in heaven..."
As I was reminded the other night, the closet can be an intimate place. I had forgoten just how special it can be to spend a few minutes with the Father in secret--in a closet.