Monday, December 28, 2009

vacation sabbath.

Yesterday was Sunday. Generally viewed/treated/participated in as a "Sabbath" by most of the contemporary Christian world. Approached a little differently by me, simply because of the "work" (that I love) it sometimes involves. Nevertheless, I still try to approach the day differently from the other 6.

This time, I was on vacation. Far from home in Decatur, IL. Surrounded by people loading up into their mini-vans with tucked in shirts who have no clue I'm usually with them in a church on Sunday. Being seen by those others who generally spend Sunday morning relaxing in bed, or at a nice breakfast out. a.k.a - today, I didn't attend a church, though I did spend time in Sabbath, and in worship.

Yes, I missed/miss my church family. Being where our lives connect purposefully, rubbing shoulders just in case we've not had a chance in the past week. Looking for ways we can become the Kingdom proclaiming/building community God enables/calls us to be.

Here in Orlando, there are plenty of other people on vacation. I imagined some of the others around me having similar thoughts. Missing their church back home. Or perhaps, relaxing while not having to get the kids ready and hoping they don't interrupt the preacher's sermon at inopportune moments. Maybe for many, vacation Sabbath is more Sabbath than most.

In any case, it was a good day all around. We ended the day by rubbing shoulders with a fast-paced visit to "CityWalk" at Universal Studios. A free, outdoor shopping/eating center basically...with some fancy hype to make it feel theme-park-ish. It was fun. One of those goosebump-ish moments where you pray in the beginning "God, give me your love for these people, even the strange ones who dash in front of the stroller I push", simply to survive.

But God responds, by randomly filling you with a "Whoville" type of experience where you want to just grab a random stranger near you and hug him because you're experiencing just a sliver of God's immense love for each of these people. Yup...it was neat. :)

In the end, I didn't hug any strangers, but I didn't get too upset when they cut in front of me either. :) And caught just a glimpse of the (creative/energy/joy/experience/taste/smell) Kingdom in the midst of commercialized a-musement (non-thinking). :) Shalom Shabbat.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

tourism & self-awareness

One of the things that used to be great about vacations seemed to be the ability to "let go" of yourself in many ways. After all, most of the people around you in this faraway land are either locals whom you'll never see again, or travelers from other distant lands, also looking to get away from the routine of their lives for a bit.

Sure, you're expected to be cordial. Practice an adequate level of hygiene that says "you can sit next to me", but not quite "you'd desire to sit next to me". And what you wear? Who cares. As long as it covers you legally, and you feel comfortable in it.

I remember coming to Disney World when I was a kid. Gaudy clothes, fanny packs, bad bed head, and mismatched socks seemed to be the "I'm on vacation" uniform. Perhaps it's an unfair statement to make, reminiscing as if those were the "good old days", when actually it's quite possible that the images I remember WERE actually the style of the day.

But as I've walked around the crowds of people, with each individual seemingly walking as if the world was created for THEM, (never mind other people and strollers, and 3 year olds walking, thank you very much) I've noticed a notable difference. PEOPLE SEEM TO CARE WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE. Seriously. WAAAAAY too much. You've paid way too much money to walk around staring at fictional cartoon characters, the popularity of which goes up with how silly they talk and how many talking inanimate objects their movie contains. And you're still going to try and act tough/sultry (not sure what "sultry" means really, but couldn't think of a good female version of acting "tough").

Meanwhile I've got a pretty good shiny patch of drool on my shoulder, courtesy of Ruby. I've got an even shinier and hardening patch of snot and something else, courtesy of Sophie. At any given moment, I can be seen making a pretty ridiculous facial expression, courtesy of Addison.

All of that to say, I think more people need to experience being a parent. Not simply "having kids". But actual parenting that becomes a practice in letting go of self. Not in a way that I become nothing, but in a way that my meaning and worth come from somewhere other than me, and what advertisers have conditioned/sold me on.

Now if only I could remember all this in the moment....:)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Magical Kingdom-ing with 3 little girls...

# 0 - ask my wife. She was pretty much awesome at researchin' and planning it all out. But for real, if you only have one day, and wanna fit as much as you can/care to into it....and with a 3 year old, an almost 2 year old, and a 7 month old....this is how you do:

#1 - In line at 8am, board mono-rail at 8:45, head straight to Dumbo. Seriously...don't get distracted by all the stuff they throw at you when you walk in. Even the picturesque etc. etc. Take a split second to laugh at families getting their pictures taken with stuffed animals...seriously.

#2 - After Dumbo, you have options. Several kid-oriented rides surround you. If you opt for Snow White, take caution that the word "Scary" IS actually in the title. Seriously...not a ride for 3 year olds really. But they can survive it. :) Enjoy being able to drop your stroller off with all the others outside nearly EVERY ride! (don't leave valuables, so you don't worry)

#3 - After 2 or 3 kiddie rides, and maybe a trip through the Haunted Mansion, you may wanna take a break. Both the Philharmagic and the Country Bear Jamboree (if your kids would rather clap and laugh than sit and stare with glasses on) are in walking distance.

#4 - You're probably hungry by now, and the kids ask for a snack in EVERY line....so get something here. No need to be fancy, just fuel for the tank. Go cheap and fast. :)

#5 - Head to Toontown. In just a couple hours you can: 1. play in a pretty nice, contained toddler play area. 2. tour Mickey's house and get a private picture audience with Mickey & Minnie. 3. Have an audience with Cinderella, Belle, and Sleeping Booty all in a row at the Hall of Fame!!!
#6 - Leave the park and get a nap. Blasphemy, or wisdom? For us...it was definitely wisdom.

#7 - Head back in time to see the (around Christmas) lighting of Cinderella's castle. Pretty sweet. Then lock a spot for the parade while you alternate shopping, snacking, and dinnering. Make a few friends with other parade-waiters. Watch the parade, and catch the fireworks from the mono-rail back to parking. :) You've survived!!
ps. Try and go with a ridiculously awesome family who helped make it all happen, and happen more smoothly than I would ever dare to try on my own. Who sacrifice time spent in other places doing other things....thanks everyone. :) It was "Magical".

Friday, December 25, 2009

Luke 2:1-20

1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, F9 the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, F10 praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" F11 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

John 1:15-31

15 (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' ") 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, F5 who is close to the Father's heart, F6 who has made him known.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." F7 21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." 22 Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord,' " as the prophet Isaiah said. 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, F8 nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" 26 John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, "After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bonhoeffer & Purpose

I've been reading a biographical, yet fictional book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "Saints and Villains", by Denise Giardina, for fun over Christmas break. I've just scratched the surface, but it seems written very well. It takes a few liberties, to make for a great story, but I don't think it's too out of character or unbelievable to have been how many things may have happened. Even the internal dialogue for Bonhoeffer himself she captures in a great way.

In an early chapter, Bonhoeffer is called upon to deliver the Reformation Day sermon before President Hindenburg and other members of government before the Nazi take-over. He had been contemplating the issue of the "Nature of the Church", and delivered a difficult message to a crowd he knew wanted nothing more than to "digest their breakfast in peace". No great applause or response outwardly it seemed. Most of the people left as planned to prepare for the meal. Only Elisabeth, the young woman he was "courting", remained.

But her words of encouragement caught my attention. Simple, short, and yet something we all long to hear. Not just in our occupation, but in moments where our hearts are tapped into, and we pour out our efforts. The excerpt from the book:

"She caught him as he left the church alone. He stopped, bowed his head, and she grabbed his hands. "What you did today," she said, "was what you were put on earth to do." (pg. 93)

I like that. And I don't think it's as hard to accomplish that as many people make it.

Although, I think it's a lot more challenging/painful than what quite a few people make it also. :)

But in any case, may we be those who encourage others when and where we see them fulfilling God's purpose in New Creation. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Revelation: 1

Recently I downloaded the podcasted lectures of Dr. M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. from Asbury Seminary. Or, at least, I got the first two to see if they were good. I was unfamiliar with Mulholland, and as lectures on Revelation go.....well, it's easy to stumble on something you don't want to listen to much. :)

I'm pleased to say (after only having listened to the first so far) "sweeeeet". Seriously, his ability to communicate well combined with knowledge/understanding of the scriptures makes for a great listen. I was driving while listening, but took mental notes....so here's a quick synopsis of lecture one:

Mulholland believes that readers of the book of Revelation (& eschatology in general) most often fall into one of 4 main categories. Obviously, some use more than one, and some are completely out of left field, but most fall somewhere in these broad categories:

1. Preterist - roughly, that the events described in Revelation were events that occurred in the ancient history of the church. We can interpret the symbolism (much like historians thousands of years from now will need to interpret "donkeys and elephants"), but as far as we take it, it will only offer a better understanding of what happened "back then".

2. Historical - in short, that the book of Revelation is a timeline, in which most everything we read has already taken place (using much of the same symbolism from the Preterist camp). A historical approach generally finds us located today toward the end of the book of Revelation. They watch for "signs", and "things that match up", (i.e. the pope being the anti-christ during the protestant reformation), etc. It can be a helpful view, in that it keeps us "watchful" and "vigilant", having followers like Martin Luther and even John Wesley. But the downside (i.e. its' proponents claiming many different points where the world is coming to an end....and yet we've continued) is pretty obvious.

3. Futurist - seems very similar to Historical in some spots, but usually sees us located around the 3rd or 4th chapter of Revelation. The rest of the book "will happen" at some appointed time, and they watch for the signs, etc. Mulholland noted that most dispensationalists find themselves in this camp, which I think is still a large portion of the church. The benefits and shortfalls to a solely Futurist view are very similar to the Historical approach.

4. Idealist - Mulholland talked about how most "liberal" theologies today would probably lean with either this, or the Preterist view. That the book of Revelation is full of allegory and symbolism of what trials and forces the people of God will face in any and all generations. A sort of "cycle" in the forces of good and evil that has been going on, and will continue to happen until Christ returns. The positives of this view offer to make Revelation relevant again to ALL Christians, since whether on large OR small scale these are things we are being prepared for/warned about. The negatives include how detached this may make us from John's original message, and something something something (the girls started to wake up here, so I got distracted).

Obviously, you have people in each of these camps who realize that ultimately it is a "Revelation of JESUS CHRIST", and so Christ becomes the main focus. But his goal here seems to be to simply lay a foundation for four main camps of thought, not a precise index of all approaches. In closing, he talks about taking the strengths of each of these approaches, while avoiding their weaknesses. Again, a great lecturer, and I look forward to the rest of this series. They're all available by going to iTunes store and searching for "Asbury, Mulholland".

Monday, December 21, 2009

seven.

"..and may we have 70 more"

That's about the moment that I remembered that humor and Bible references don't always hit home as intended. For my wife and I, who are both in our mid-late-twenties...we've been married 7 years, & "70 more" seems like I'm planning on us both passing in our 90's.

Which would be awesome...but a bit shy of the "romantic" things people generally say. Usually it's raised glasses clinking to things like "here's to a hundred more!".

When really, my statement was more romantic than "a hundred more", using a reference to the King James translation of Matthew 18:22. Jesus was asked how many times someone should forgive their "brother" when they are sinned against. His response was "not seven times, but until seventy times seven". Which doesn't mean "490 times"...but rather with the number 7 being a symbol of completion/perfection/the infinite...and 3 being the most extreme form of something (i.e. "Holy, Holy, Holy" meaning "Holy, Holier, Holiest")...Jesus uses the number 7, 3 times in a row here to create more than just a large number.

Basically saying, "until you lose count of the count. infinite. always and forever. etc...and illustrating that to live in such a way is associated with perfection, with God, etc.

All that to say, it was a bad joke.

But seriously, I love my wife. I look forward to many many many more years of life together. Glad she chose me. :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Boo yah Roy. (pronounced "Wah")

Ha...eat that again Colorado. Yahoo.com recently voted this play as the #3 most embarrassing moment of the past decade...



Here's the description, from the article:

" In May 2002, during the Western Conference finals, Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche felt he had stoned Steve Yzerman on a close shot. To taunt the Wings about his utter invincibility, he raised his glove in what's been called a "Statue of Liberty" pose ... only to have the puck drop out and Brendan Shanahan poke it home.

If St. Patrick's ego was bruised, he wasn't about to show it after the game. From Jim Kelley of Sportsnet:


He was "putting a little mustard" on a good save, but it was a devastating miscue, one that gave the Detroit Red Wings new life and, eventually, the Stanley Cup.

The night of that Game 6 loss in Colorado, no one in media expected to see Patrick Roy. Yet he came to his locker, answered most every question with a steely gaze at the questioner and a rock-solid belief that he had done no wrong.

He talked about how he played to win and dismissed criticism of his miscue as if it didn't even happen. "What goal," he asked when a questioner asked him to recount the circumstances. "Which one do you mean?"

The Wings would go on to hoist something of their own later that postseason.

I'd still argue that Roy's "measure Hasek's stick" mistake officially destroyed the myth that Roy was unbeatable and nearly infallible, but the Statue of Liberty save ranks as a very, very close second."

Dang straight. And with such an injured team STILL winning (some) games this year, our 2nd and 3rd lines are getting plenty of development. Around Olympic time, we WILL be the TOP team in the NHL...and WILL take the Cup again this year. I'm a fan, and I say so. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Russian Coffee

Viennese, really.

I recently finished reading "Ground Up", the first novel written by Michael Idov. It was surprisingly good, and I say that more like you would say a Cedar-Plank Salmon with capers and fresh spinach was surprisingly good...not like you would say a certain pizza place was surprisingly good. Get it?

If you enjoy coffee (read "enjoy actual coffee, the rich aromas and flavors, and history, and roasting/brewing techniques, have a favorite bean origin or at least know how to describe the type of black coffee you enjoy; not "oh yes....I absolutely LOVE a good frappocino"), enjoy literature (read "GOOD literature - intelligent, entertaining, provoking, and have read at least 2 or more books that were translated INTO English, bonus for it being Russian"; not "oh yes, I really enjoyed that recent best seller mentioned by Oprah or Dobson"), and see the humor in just a proportionate amount of pretension...you'd love this book.

I probably just ruined it for a lot of you with the amount of wordy pretension in the previous paragraph, but seriously....good book alert. It's the journey of a married couple in New York as they begin their dream coffee shop in the Lower East Side. The challenges they face economically, relationally, and beyond...more than fit the title of the book well. If you've ever thought how awesome it'd be to run a quaint little "anti-Starbucks and Walmart" coffee-shop with someone you love - you'll enjoy this book.

I will give a brief warning, simply because my blog is often read by parents of teenagers - this is not a book to recommend to teens. Although I was pleased that the few scenes that were a bit over PG-13, could be quickly scanned passed...as opposed to some books that would require a few page turns.

It will make you thirsty for a good cup of coffee, and to know a bit more about where it came from. It will make you thankful for your spouse if you're married...and perhaps make you thankful you don't have one if you're not. :) You'll be glad you never decided to launch your own coffee shop, or perhaps it will entice you to jump into that journey after putting it off for so long. In any case, the characters are well developed, dialogue captivating both internally and externally, and all around a refreshing book. I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Idov.

Although, seeing how this was based (however loosely) on his experience...here's hoping he can simply write next time, without having to endure being ground once again (ground = verb). :) If he's listening - thank you sir...for sharing your experience in such a way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

fathering.

"she's worse."

The only words I caught before our 30 lbs. 3-year old was plopped on my lap at 10:50pm. We'd just finished a movie, and I'd thought were both getting ready for bed the way we do (I stoppin' by to check NHL scores and glimpse the e-mail, she washin' her face all proper-like). But Sarah had, mother that she is, peeked in on Addie, who wasn't feeling well earlier.

Sure enough, it was like holding a human furnace. The thermometer told us "103.7", which is pretty stinkin' high from my experience. While I was thinking about what we should do, Sarah was launched in doing things. Cold milk, ice water, and putting our shaky little girl into the tub while I dialed our poor Pediatrician. The fever relented a little.

In retrospect, I'm able to relive those moments with more appreciation...and fear, at the same time.

Holding our fragile, 30 pound, weak and trembling sick daughter in my arms....burning and groaning with fever...I felt without control. I remember being a teenager, or even a young adult...and having circumstances where I felt out of control. I'd take gettin' dumped/rejected by a girl, or denied a job ANY day, over this feeling. It's the kind of powerful, compelling fear that brings me as a parent, broken before God....and asking for His help with this whole thing. Scary stuff.

But it's also amazing. Seriously. This has meaning. Taking care of this little girl, this future young woman, this future woman, this future mother and grandmother....whoa. Encapsulated. Pregnant within this 30 pound 3-year old is a life full of potential, hope, and Future. The infinite number of possibilities I comforted, held, and offered ice water to this evening....whew. And I have three of these girls.

Lord, be with me as I aim to be Faithful to all of the awe that continues to fill this home, and our family....(even when the girl talked about above totally napped so much during the late day/evening that she didn't want to go to bed at ALL after the above moments. :) )

Thursday, December 17, 2009

virtual presence?

"In the name of Jesus....Amen"

Those were the words at the end of an important prayer in our family's life. Many of them, actually, but one in particular for this post. It was the prayer spoken when we moved into our very first house that would become our home. Praying that God would bless it for His Kingdom, and protect it from any kind of evil. That it would be a home, with Christ as a foundation, source, and direction. That the people who enter would sense something different about the very way "existence" happens within those walls, something intangible and from God's Spirit.

I've always been a fan of "thin places" in Celtic traditions. Even with the post-modern movement of de-emphasizing physical locations and the "holiness" of places or objects. Not that I believe my house is a thin place, but I believe in the power of prayer, and consecrating something to God's use...setting it apart as "Holy".

The question I've been thinking about/praying about lately, is when and how this topic collides with a virtual world. Personal computers and laptops are a bit like "spaces" that we spend a lot of time these days. Especially when we bring the aspect of the "internet" and the fact that you can "visit" other people's "spaces", and even spend time "with other people" in those spaces.

Unfortunately, Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and even NT Wright haven't done much writing on the topic of God making virtual locations "Holy". Maybe I'm missing it, but there doesn't seem to be much theology worked out on God's "virtual" (online) presence, or interaction. Maybe that's okay, because this is all silly nonsense.

And yet...I pray. I enter the page you've created....your "space", and see how you've decorated it. What you've "hung on the walls". What words you've given to those who visit. I visit your facebook, and pray. I visit your myspace, and pray. I visit your blog...& pray. Not only for you, your family, your life....but also for that page. For your interactions with it. For those who visit it. That God's presence would collide with that "space".

Again..maybe it's all silliness. But I guess my faith is that if God doesn't function in a non-existent "virtual" space....then He'll understand the heart of such prayers is for His presence in your life. And my own life. Perhaps using social networking tools that offer to cheapen relationships and deteriorate the very fabric of actual human interaction, as a participatory and active way of staying involved in what would normally be a list of names to pray over. To be praying as we move through the virtual spaces of others, for their lives and beyond. May God offer redemptive interactions with these things and more....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a bit of advent haiku:

christmas comes, seemingly
with shouts at shopping mall sales
buying for children

becoming children
while children sleep and wonder
"Santa doesn't stress"

because why would he
all of the elves to help him
while we cover it

quietly happens
spreading like deadly virus
where death brings new life

Community: New
brought to life by a baby
who cried, lived, and died

now we exist: Free
from prices, credit, pressure
gifting has been done

our gift comes daily
hello, or conversation
relating from love

So wrap your presents
But remember this also:
"Jesus is coming"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

decorating with heresy? :)

Luke 22:11 "...Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" The word for "guest room" here is κατάλυμα which is also used in Luke 2:7 "laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the (kataluma)."

As opposed to Luke 10:34-35, where the "Good Samaritan" takes the beaten man to an inn (πανδοχεῖον ), and pays the innkeeper to care for him.

Implications here? That it's likely Mary and Joseph were visiting one of his relatives in Bethlehem, not a hotel, and they'd simply arrived too late to have room in the guest room. Others were already visiting, no doubt, with the census being taken. But it probably wasn't too hard to have them stay in the place already considered "unclean" due to the animals, since Mary would soon be unclean (Leviticus 12).

Of course, you have Christian Apologist Justin Martyr who in the 2nd Century AD, identified a specific cave as the birthplace of Jesus. Justin seems to be a bit closer to the action than I was...so I'm inclined to give his opinion some weight. That has now become the "Church of the Nativity". I was able to visit the Church of the Nativity back in high school, and I would agree that it seems like a pretty special place. But not because of the location or materials (for a smile, here's an example of "sacred places" taken too far) but rather what is celebrated there.

Call it a hotel, call it a guest room, or call it a cave for the pigs....say it was on this street, or that road, or a few houses down, in the basement. Ultimately, the source of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love that we celebrate throughout Advent, and at Christmas...is Jesus the Christ. God becoming vulnerable man, and doing some pretty super-naturally incredible things simply by existing. Not to mention the life, words, actions, death AND RESURRECTION of that man. Whew.

So we'll keep letting our daughters play with a fancy barn, complete with it's picturesque qualities, and open wall that allows the world to worship with the angels and shepherds, and lets my daughters easily take characters out, and shove 'em in. Not because it's historically accurate, but because it's one of the best qualities of the Jesus story - it is inviting. :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

More than...

So the level of cuteness occurring within the confines of my home continues to rise on a daily basis. I'm pretty sure we could begin selling it in packages, and never even get close to scraping the surface. Unfortunately, child labor laws being what they are....we'll probably never quite take full advantage of it.

But for our friends and family, it's a pretty sweet deal. Just to share a few from our oldest, Addie (simply because she's the most verbal = easiest to describe. Sophie and Ruby are equally cute in their own ways, but one consists of mostly half-words that would be tough to spell, and the other seems to generate enough cuteness simply by giggling):

- Addie is fully aware of the "waiting for Christmas" concept this year. She sees Christmas lights everywhere we drive, which makes for cheap entertainment as we "hunt" for them. To quote Addie, "oooh, they surprised me!!!?"

- She notices Nativity scenes wherever they can be found these days. The most famous is the one in our home. Even though it's some schmancy Italian collectible what-not, it is obviously meant to be a toy nativity set, duh. It's not odd to hear the exclamation "Daddy, can I play with Jesus!??" at any point in the day. Although it was rich in irony to hear her say, "daddy,, I saw a WHITE Jesus?" when we drove past one of those white shadow cutouts of a nativity recently. She was a bit confused.

- Addie has the magical "big sister" connection with both of her younger siblings. With Sophie, it comes in moments where Sophie obviously wants to copy her older sister in whatever she does. She'll line right up feet to feet, and watch her every move and word....and attempt to replicate them when possible. With Ruby, it comes in the ability to make her laugh even when mommy and daddy can't do it. Just a smile, and a bit of peek-a-boo, and our 6 month old is wrapped around her finger.

- Having our daughters at the age where Addie, and Sophie a little, can participate in "Advent" discussions each night as possible. Lighting the candles, and eating a small chocolate. Each week has an emphasis for each night, which we keep at an age-appropriate level: Hope (oh boy), Peace (ahhhh...), Joy (whoo hoo!), and Love (awwww)...and finally, Jesus.

- Having contests where we begin the sentence with "I love you more than...." and fill it in with whatever comes to mind. Today, Addie loves me more than Christmas Lights, Princess hair, and groceries. :)

Maybe I'm still just riding the "thankful" wave from Thanksgiving...but I'm loving this stuff. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Imperfect Ideal

Recently, I've rediscovered a small book by Thomas Merton. Inspiring, challenging, and encouraging all at once; it offers quiet moments of reflection. Recently our small group had a discussion on why the followers of Christ have become more of a "culture" as opposed to a "movement" or "force" in our world. I think he speaks a bit of it here:

"It is unfortunately quite possible that a superficial religiosity, without deep roots and without fruitful relation to the needs of men and of society, may turn out in the end to be an evasion of imperative religious obligations. Our time needs more than devout, Church-going people who avoid serious wrongs (or at least the wrongs that are easily recognized for what they are) but who seldom do anything constructive or positively good. It is not enough to be outwardly respectable. On the contrary, mere external responsibility, without deeper or more positive moral values, brings discredit upon the Christian faith." - Thomas Merton, "Life and Holiness"

Merton isn't the only one who has recognized that Holiness is much more than living a life of "avoiding sin", and does not lead us to a life of a monk, separated from the temptations and toils of the world around us. Even though, ironically, he spent over 20 of his final years in monastic living...he wrote of holiness bringing us into relation with the needs of people around us. His Catholic beliefs led to a portrait of those who chose his path as a great resource for those suffering, in case it's hard for many of our protestant souls to swallow.

John Wesley & B.T. Roberts, men whose faith has given birth to the movement we find ourselves within, both also believed in a very real and practical holiness that was supernaturally resourced, and experienced within community/relationships. It leads us to a love for others and draws us out of ourselves, and into the lives of those who suffer. It is justice, and righteousness (love and activity toward God's "making things right").

May we be members who are active in a movement. People who are caught up in the activity and direction of God's Kingdom. May we be transformed and empowered by a Spirit who leads us into areas of suffering and presence, and come together regularly to celebrate and lift each other up. Amen.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The problem w/ "Obama vs. Obama"

In President Obama's acceptance speech for the Nobel prize this week, we see a common illness of the church. He quoted Martin Luther King, in reference to non-violence - "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." He remarked that "I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive - nothing naïve - in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King."

And then directly went on to say "But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone...A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms."

I don't want to get bogged down by the argument about pacifism, that's not the focus of this post. The focus, rather, is that we are led to believe Obama the individual can be separated from Obama the president. Brought into illustration in our lives, it's to believe that (your name) the person can be separated from (your name) the (your occupation/role in the family/etc.).

"Who we are" must be who we are. Obama believes that violence toward peace is sometimes unfortunately a justified way of stopping violence. Not just Obama the president...but Obama the father, husband, and friend.

The Kingdom of God NEEDS followers of Christ who live differently (Matthew 5-7) not simply in our personal lives (as if they can be separated), but who's work and social life also flow from and reflect such a transformation of His Spirit. I suppose this is easier said than done, and easily said from a vocation of ministry. To truly follow Christ in many jobs these days may end up with losing your job.

The Kingdom needs more people who will approach their job/school/career/place of service/professional life/etc. with the same values of Christ they're already swallowing on Sunday mornings and with their families. The values that women aren't objectified. The values that the "least of these" are ridiculously loved by God. That giving sacrificially is blessed. To genuinely put others before ourselves. To love our enemies, and those who make our work difficult, more than ourselves.

To live ONE identity, "Follower of Christ", no matter where we find ourselves....may be difficult. You may not get that promotion. Might not get invited to as many drinks. You may not rank well when it comes to being "cut-throat" professionally speaking. But maybe that's okay...

Friday, December 11, 2009

John's Barbershop - Wick Award

We grew up getting some pretty short haircuts. Whether it was lice, cheaper to cut ourselves, or the actual facade of a well-behaved boy simply because his hair is shaved tight...it was done.

Nevertheless, when I became a teen, I branched out. Which led to a horribly awkward phase of growing out a pony tail (which never amounted to much more than a rat tail, with gelled up hair to make it seem it was one long mass of well wrapped hair). Sure, I pretended it was cool, had it in dread-locks a couple times, and even had one odd instance of "fish-braid?".

But as much as I made fun of them for looking like little girls, I envied the long, straight hair of Hanson (mmmbop), and those like them. My long hair was wavy. And not Hasselhoff wavy, more like...well....the kinda hair you'd look at in the morning and would promptly yell "shove off!!" back to you (if it was British).

Take that past, and add it to the fact that I'm very much thinning a nice bald circle toward the back. It's presence is amplified as the hair around it thickens. All of this, plus simplicity, leads me to a nice short hair cut. One that I've never thought worth paying someone to actually do. Until I met John. His shop is located at 2645 N. Oakland St. at the Tru Temp Plaza, Decatur, IL.
John has been cutting hair for over 40 years. 40 YEARS! Take that, you Supercut novice who smells of cigarettes and talks about your boyfriend drama. He cut hair for the Navy quite some time, before opening his own shop right here in Decatur, IL.

One annoying thing about getting your hair cut, is the itchy neck feeling that usually requires a shower afterwards. John uses a buzzer with a vacuum, leaving NO itchy neck. And towards the end? Shaving cream around the edges, and a nice clean finish with a straight razor. He'll talk weather, sports, economy, or whatever the other elders in the waiting chairs bring up. Bring your kids, too, and John's got a sucker for each of 'em. No appointment necessary, just walk right on in. If you got one or two in front of you, it's usually a great time to hear/participate in discussion on what's going on in the world. You may even find yourself letting the next guy go ahead of ya'!!!

So if you're gettin' a bit long on top, give John a try....tell him I sent ya'.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

how to properly whiten your elephant

(reposted from Dec. 14th, 2008)

..because I've seen it done oh so wrong...I figured I'd share this with the general public.
(from our friends at Wikipedia)

Gifts are wrapped, but are not labeled to reflect a specific sender or recipient. Gifts are typically inexpensive, humorous items or used items from home and sometimes, they are just plain trash; the term white elephant refers to a gift whose cost exceeds its usefulness. While the first use of this term remains an item of contention among historians, a popular theory suggests that Ezra Cornell brought the term into popular lexicon through his numerous and frequent social gatherings, dating back to as early as 1828.

All participants draw a number (from a hat, perhaps) to determine their order.

The participant with #1 unwraps any gift from the pile and then shows it to everyone. Each successive participant, in the order determined from the drawing, can either 1) "steal" an already opened gift (if there's one they really like) or 2) be adventurous and go for a wrapped gift from the pile. If the participant chooses to steal, the person whose gift is stolen now repeats their turn and either 1) steals another person's gift (they cannot immediately steal back the gift that was just stolen from them) or 2) unwraps a new gift.

This cycle of stealing can sometimes continue for a long time, until a new gift is chosen, at which point the turn is passed to the participant with the next number from the drawing. (An alternative to the drawing is to sit in a circle and take turns in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.)

Since items can be stolen, the item in your possession is not yours until the game is over. However, this is often amended with a rule declaring a gift "dead" or "safe" after it has been stolen a certain number of times (usually two or three). This helps the process go more smoothly (avoiding, for example, the hypothetical scenario of the same gift being stolen by every successive participant) and limits the disadvantage of being among the first to choose gifts.



(I particularly like that they created links to explain "clockwise" and "counterclockwise" :) )

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Revolution of Spirit

I've been chiseling through some essays in honor of Richard Shaull, who was an author and missionary largely to South America. It's a book I purchased a long time ago on a clearance rack, and never actually read until recently I was stuck without a book for a day or two.

The essays focus on "Ecumenical Theology in Global Context", 1998, featuring authors who approach the hope of Jesus Christ as it relates to many different disenfranchised communities around the world. It's been a good read for sure. I'll leave with you a few quotes from Maria Marta Aris-Paul's essay, "Latin American & Caribbean Immigrants in the USA: The Invisible and Forgotten".

"One of the things that confuses us when we come to this country is the notion of freedom. We confuse being free with doing only what we want. We forget about responsibility and moral principles. This is where our spirituality comes in."

"Many go to church on Sundays, where they expect to receive spiritual comfort and where the priest is supposed to supply whatever it is that will provide that support. When a community is physically and emotionally drained from daily living, how is it going to learn to be that new model of church which requires of its members time, commitment, responsibility, and more hard work?"

"I believe that to reconstruct the church we need to have small projects. We need to gather in small groups, in mutuality, forming small communities of faith who can look at our own lives and see where the Holy dwells among us. Our small communities can have a ripple effect on the larger society."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

walking...

It began with expectation/desire for something extra-ordinary, after all, I was giving up much more than the usual time for silence. I was apart from the everyday. I wanted something of substance to take back into the week with me, an insight or experience with God that would "wow" anyone who heard. I was spending time in His creation, with the words of Psalm 40 and the Beatitudes on my mind...



It wowed me, for sure. The way that I was wowed when taking a walk with my wife when we were dating. No giant "happening". No experience to take back and brag about. Simply, soaking in the time we were able to spend together. I walked with God. :) Looking forward to more....

Monday, December 07, 2009

like a well-intentioned car wreck....

So I've twittered a couple times about Focus on the Family's annual effort to get upset over retailers who don't use the word "CHRISTmas" enough. I didn't think it deserved much publicity. But some of this is so painful to believe is out there...it's almost entertaining.

Under the "comments" posted for why a particular business might be viewed/boycotted for being "Negative" towards CHRISTmas:

for GAP: "Made 2 purchases at the GAP yesterday and I was wished happy nothing."

"Very offended by the recent advertisement. How dare they suggest we celebrate what we want?"

for Banana Republic: "Since you are only selling "Holiday Gifts" and I only buy "Christmas Gifts", there will be no need for me to shop in your store."

for Best Buy: "Used Christmas music without Christmas words." (hehe...my favorite)

"I've spent my last dollar at Best Buy. ...We have to start standing up for what we believe in ... Best Buy - you lost a good customer!"

Oh man. For real. Retailers are here to....(drum roll please) MAKE MONEY. It's unfortunate, I know, but it's there. It's precisely the reason God has called us to be a light in the darkness, not a light in a room even dimly lit. We cannot place expectations of Christ-like-ness on those people and entities not transformed by Christ.

If anything, continuing to personify retail locations....perhaps those who have removed the word "Christ" from advertising or who are (gasp) celebrating other religious holidays....should be the stores we frequent the most often, and with the most amount of Love.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

pax


As a fan of pacifism, especially lately, I'm excited about spending a week focusing on peace in our home. We definitely live in a world that needs more Christians who stand out among a natural pace of reaction and defense that seeks to prove, establish, or defend one's position or rights in so many ways. You see it in the 2 and three year old children in my house and the friends they play with. You also see it in the much older grown ups who play with countries and businesses, instead of toys.

In a large sense, seeking to live humbly helps us in our pursuit of peace. Sometimes when we strive to do this, we simply focus on the needs of others. But that may only work so far as others and their needs remain our focus. When we've met their needs, or are moved to a new environment, it's very easy for our attention to shift back to ourselves.

But when, in pursuit of humility, we practice the emptying and letting go of our "selves"....we make room for Christ. We prepare for what is to come, and we live in reality more than ever before. The reality of a God who has created us in His image....a God who's identity was always to give up Godself and Gods' rights for us.

Philippians 4:7 tells us that the peace that comes from emptying and letting go of ourselves for the sake of Christ and His reality - brings with it a peace that is beyond understanding. Living from such a peace will lead us to a life that others, and even ourselves at times...do not understand. I pray that my life, and the life of my family, continues to become less understandable....

(knowing full well that it's BOTH those who are following Christ, AND those who are quite far from what He is about....who may be praying that prayer.)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jesus = Reality


"Action in accord with Jesus, is action in accord with reality"
- Stanley Hauerwas

I remember standing on the edge of a large natural amphitheater, with the Sea of Galilee very close in view. Green rolling hills, birds overhead, and imagining the words of Jesus from the "Sermon on the Mount" being spoken.

Specifically, the "Beatitudes". I will post those verses at the end of this post, because I think it's important to think of them, along with these words. It's important to realize this is not a list of "actions & rewards", such that we might strive to be (poor in Spirit, mourning, meek, etc.) in order to be Blessed.

Jesus was not speaking these words as a way of "transforming" or even "offering a new or alternate" reality. Jesus was revealing what actually IS reality. He was doing this with his entire life/being/death/resurrection/etc. To live for myself, or for many of the things this world has to offer offers a "false" sense of reality.

In His message to the crowds, He was describing reality in a way most of them had never heard before. He was also telling them what life may be like for those who recognize this reality. It will probably lead you to a place where you find yourself poor in Spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for things to be made Right, etc...and if so, "Good!!!"

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely F31 on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Friday, December 04, 2009

expectation in sports and worship

An interesting connection was made in comments to a recent blog post of mine (on Facebook, even if none of ya'll commented here). The reference to what expectations one brings to a sporting event, compared to the expectations we may bring to a worship service.

I've been to both a worship service AND a major sporting event in the past week, so I figured I'm qualified to make a few comments. I agree that there are interesting things to note.

The obvious one would be participation versus consumerism. "Liturgy" literally means "the work of the people". I think it's important that we as worship leaders find ways to integrate response and active participation in some form of those we are leading. I also believe when I come to worship, I come wholly expecting to participate as actively as possible in the context provided...possibly even outside the lines a bit. :)

But maybe not so obviously, how often do we actually "expect" God to do something extra-ordinary in our worship time together? I think it often falls into the "ah....another worship service just like last week", or possibly even the "WHOO HOO, ANOTHER WORSHIP SERVICE LIKE LAST WEEK!!"....depending on your approach. I think both extremes can miss out...although I think I like hockey more than basketball.

I desire the healthy expectation that comes from regular movements of the Spirit in our times together, much like the ebb and flow of a basketball game. Being able to accustom ourselves to how and where the Spirit is moving in our lives, and through us in our community.

But I also desire the random, out of nowhere, unexpected in occurrence and/or method, bursting forth uncontrollable moments of the Spirit, much like a goal being scored in a hockey game. Being completely surprised and taken off guard by the offensive and overwhelming presence and urging of the Spirit, both in our lives and through us in our community.

Ah well...as I've said before....our prayer is that we would reflect the worshipers God is looking for in John 4:23...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

X-ian during X-mas

In listening to a message by Stanley Hauerwas the other day, he used a similar phrase over and over again. He was emphasizing the call of Christians and the Church to stand out...to live differently....to exist in ways that obviously contrast the way of the world toward the direction of Christ.

He mentioned several ways this can be done. Obviously, since the talk was not only from Hauerwas, but about Bonhoeffer & Yoder; Pacifism & non-violence were discussed. I have to say I find my being nodding in agreement with much of what was said in that regard. And not to be pigeon-holed in a "I'm against war" mindset, but in every area of life...to sacrifice ones assumed "rights" and show love, forgiveness and grace to the other, even when that means suffering. Not something I'm inherently good at, but something I'm working on.

But this concept of being a "light in the darkness", or a "city on a hill" really become quite difficult during the Christmas season. We have displays that involve angels and stars - so does Wal-mart. We have productions and songs that involve a baby Jesus - so do half of the televised Primetime Specials. We remind people to be of good cheer, filled with hope, and emphasize good will above selfishness and materialism - so does, ironically, much of Christmas advertising.

And before the "War on Christmas" people get started, I don't believe the "light in the darkness" comes in the form of forcing stores into plastering the word "Christ" in all of their commercialism. That may actually be simply making noise in the darkness.

Nevertheless, God has called us and has given His Spirit to enable us to LIVE DIFFERENTLY during every season of our lives, including Christmas. What will that look like in your family?

What patterns have your celebrations taken that are rooted in the world? What new patterns could you begin with your family this year that are grounded in Christ and His Kingdom? Where are you crossing the line between "feel good Christmas-ish actions" and "sacrificial, making no sense except to Jesus-ish actions"?

I write this to myself as well...gonna have to be praying on this.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

i am married. :)

1 Corinthians 7:32-34 "I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband."

It is tough sometimes, when most of the Biblical writers we spend our time reading, and most ancient and modern theologians we enjoy spending our time in....were not only without children, but remained single. If only Jesus would have married, and had three little girls so that I could have a more distinct pattern to follow.

It's helpful to realize that the "freedom to not get married" was a large pill to swallow for most ancient Jews. The fact that Jesus grew older without getting married would have seemed rather odd for most in that culture that strongly emphasized leaving generations behind you. The people receiving words like the ones above, needed encouragement that it could actually be a "good" thing to not get married. That freedom in Christ could actually mean freedom even from cultural norms and expected patterns of life.

I would agree...I probably divide my attention/love/energies/etc. in ways that someone without a wife and kids would not have to worry about. But I would also say that I have an understanding of God's Love for the Bride of Christ, and God's Love for us as children....in a way quite unlike anything I would've had, if I'd remained single.

We understand that Paul was not saying it's better for all people to remain single. Nor would the Bible say that it's better for everyone to experience marriage and children. But that God would be the focus, honored, experienced, and proclaimed by the life we live. Devotion to a life of celibacy and devotion to a spouse/kids can both become idols. Or they can become paths of being wholly devoted to God.

I pray that as years roll into decades...my life will be a living testimony of a husband and father who loves God faithfully and wholly. I love the praxis of it, that's for sure...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

FlashForward

I've just finished reading the book "FlashForward" by Robert Sawyer. It was a good read, and the book has inspired a television show by the same name. I will say that you can enjoy both the book, AND the television show without having too much of the plot revealed. The book is told from the perspective of people for what happened. The television show is from the perspectives of the people trying to figure out what happened. There are other major differences too, but I will let yo discover them.

In both the show and the movie, every person on the planet passes out for a little over 2 minutes. During those minutes, they experience visions of what their life will be like in the future. In the show, it's almost a year into the future. In the book, it's over 20 years. A lot of imagination goes into both the book and the show as far as what things may be like...how they become that way, etc.

A large portion of thought/discussion in both the show and book is: Free will. Specifically, is the future everyone saw something that is fixed....or is it something that can be changed?

Another portion of both stories, and a reason I enjoy both and think they're great catalyst for good thought/discussion/prayer is this: How does seeing a potential future change how we live in the present?

For many of the characters, seeing a potential future does HUGE things to who they are, and how they exist in the present. I think this is a great illustration and encouragement for Christians today.

1. Just KNOWLEDGE of a potential future (i.e. the coming fullness of God's Kingdom) offers radical transformation and freedom for how we live today. Our perspective, our hope, our goals, etc...can all be changed simply be realizing even a small part of what God has in store.

2. God goes beyond that, and actually has poured our His Spirit. Life-giving, redeeming, transforming, loving, calling forth, etc etc etc...an ACTIVE FORCE.

May we as the Church continue to speak knowledge of God's more than potential future into the lives and creation around us. May we depend on God's Spirit to be poured out to begin and continue that future even now...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Transformed by Grace

Chapter 8 of The Holiness Manifesto is "Transformed by Grace: The Beauty of Personal Holiness" by Cheryl Bridges Johns. Johns is a professor of Christian Formation at the Church of God Theological Seminary.

She talks broadly about John Wesley's approach to a transforming (sanctifying) grace, as well as the types of grace we experience/receive. She then goes on to list and briefly discuss each of the "Instituted" means of grace (those we see in the life of Christ), and the "Prudential" means of grace (fulfilling social and relational aspects of the gospel).

I think she does a great job in each of the means. She discusses prayer in a way that makes you hungry to spend some time in genuine prayer before/with God. She talks about fasting in a way that makes you hungry to experience hunger. She reminds us that Scriptures can be very moving and literary, rather than simply studied. She takes us through Wesley's appreciation for the Lord's Supper, and Christian community - including the high emphasis he placed on small groups.

She closes with some more comments on the prudential means of grace, such as charity and mercy. She takes a close look at what occurs when we experience a "crisis" moment in our life, and how it can lead to growth in grace. The way she presents it really challenges the norms of how we handle crisis today. Especially we masculine types.

We're encouraged to be tough. To be solid. But if we follow Wesley, and many other Christian theologians (including Paul himself - Romans 5:3-5)....to not allow ourselves to fully experience crisis, is to short change a potentially very transforming experience of God. To pretend too quickly that "we're okay", or to swallow our emotions so we can live as if we're "beyond that already", could be missing an incredible opportunity for our very soul.

May we continue to seek such means of receiving transformational grace....both the ones we look forward to...and the experiences we may not have chosen....God offers to redeem/use both areas...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy New Year!!!

Today marks the beginning of the Christian New Year (Lectionary Year "C"). No countdown, no ball dropping, no kissing at midnight. Just a simple realization of the Advent season beginning. The quiet lighting of a candle. We've spent the previous week saying "Thanks" for the previous year, and here we are beginning the journey together again.

I'd admit...even though I've used the "Book of Common Prayer" for personal devotions here and there since college....I've not paid much attention to the actual "New Year" for the Church beginning on the first Sunday of Advent.

I like it.

We begin our year in a season of preparing/waiting/anticipating the arrival of Christ. Of course, we are celebrating the original arrival. But we are also collectively living towards the anticipation...."is this the year?" that Christ will return to complete what He has begun? We live from/toward what Christ will bring to completion.

This also marks an important year in the Anderson home. Being parents, and thinking about wanting to have "traditions" in our home that allow what God has done/is doing/will do to be more than just something we talk/sing about..but something we live. This is our first year of doing an "Advent Wreath" at home (where they were always done, traditionally). Looking forward to all that this year of serving Christ as a family offers...both to us...and the Kingdom. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

pentecostal silence

You don't have to attend many Midwestern Protestant Evangelical services to recognize we're not exactly people who "color outside the lines". Much of that might be attributed to beautiful tradition and ritual. But much of that might also be attributed to atrophied abilities to worship freely. As much as I love our church's worship, both services; I would confess my "freedom" usually comes in the form of bouncing a bit on my toes when I sing. Maybe even bobbing my head.

When I'm worshiping God by dancing with my daughters, I run around the house, spin in circles in the kitchen, sing LOUD and quiet, and make noises both natural and unnatural. :) When you compare that guy, to the man I often become in a worship service.....you may wonder what sedative I'm on.

So many pressures collide when wanting to worship in Spirit and Truth in a public arena. I admit I'm not as completely released from them as I'd like to be. What would people think? Would they think I'm trying to get attention? WOULD I try to get attention? Would a bar be set that I'd have to then meet again and again every service?

So I end up standing there. Bouncing on my toes. Except, of course, when I've gotten to join the band by playing the jimbe/bongos lately. Totally digging that....and even feel a new type of freedom there.

But I will say this: Alone in silence...in my car sometimes, but better when in nature of some sort - I worship freely. I talk (to myself, to things, to God), I sing, I pray, I make noises, I imagine. I smile open-eyed, in awe of simple things. I'm filled with His Love for others, and for His creation.

I want the man I am when enjoying an afternoon with my daughters, or when walking through a quiet afternoon forest.....to be the man that comes to worship service Sunday morning.

That might take practice. I think a good step may be to attend our Monday morning service as much as possible. We do a prayer service, that is mostly attended by families who will be coming to our food pantry that day. Admittedly, the ethnicity shifts significantly from Sunday morning...and the balance is shifted from those who keep quiet...to those who can't hold back the "AMEN!!" welling up inside.

That...and spending more time purposefully being the man who dances with princesses and shouts Hallelujah in the silence...:)

Friday, November 27, 2009

before you blacken your friday

Not to keep you from shopping, because we all need to save some money this year. But to help you breathe slower and easier if you have to make sacrifices in your shopping list because Black Friday deals are spread across a city and you can't shop everywhere at once:

Matthew 6:19-21 "
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. "


Philippians 4:11-12 "
Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need."


Matthew 19:21 "
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."


Remember to smile, and love others gracefully while you shop. Be thankful you've been set free from the chains many of them are walking under. And cross something off your list without buying it....just for fun. :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

εὐχαριστῶ

I am thankful.

For Ruby Anne.

For another year with my wife, and Addie, and Sophie.

For blessings beyond what I deserve.

For friends who I can share life with.

For really really good coffee.

For food and drink on a daily basis.

For a home that is so much more than a house.

For the Word of God that becomes new daily.

For freedom from who I was "yesterday".

For a Hope-filled tomorrow that exists today.

For YOU for taking time to read this.

For the beauty of a creation made by God, and being made new.

For Love. For Loves. :)

For God....the bits I can talk about, and the bits that escape me.

I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm an eye guy.

I'd have to say, one of the first things that caught my eye about my wife = her eyes. I don't think it's a huge coincidence that the eyes are often referred to as "windows to the soul". Her eyes still have the power to communicate wildly to my heart....whether to motivate me to help with a crying baby, or to send the message that I'm loved. :) Both are pretty effective.

But a new realm of optical appreciation has hit me lately. The power of my daughters eyes. It's ridiculous, and illustrates well the "Weak Force of God" as Caputo would put it. My daughters cannot force me to do anything, physically. Okay, so Sophie can sometimes grab my soul patch with a death grip...and yes, I would have to give in to her demands.

But with one look of their eyes, our older two girls have learned they can send a vice grip deep into daddy's heart, and twist it whatever direction they want. Okay, maybe that's not true. They're still pretty innocent in this area. But it suuuure seems like it sometimes. Happens on a daily basis....sometime between 5 and 7am.....we wake to the words "I'm huuuuuungry." We look over to see Addie standing there. As long as I keep my eyes closed....I can respond "get back to bed". But one look into her eyes, even in the half-lit room...and I'm toast.

So am I saying the "Weak Force of God" occurs magically when we "look into His eyes"? Nope. But I think it's a related kinda power sometimes. Jesus didn't come into town with trumpets blasting, blazing crown on his head, and a list of "how things were gonna' change" (said with a thick western sheriff accent).

He came as a baby. He lived towards the lowly. He loved unconditionally. He called "freedom" into the lives of humans who desperately needed it. He stood in the half-lit room, calling out to people who were hungry/sleeping, offering nourishment beyond the imaginable. Infinitely compelling.

We serve a powerful...powerful God....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

κενόω

"Jesus had some choices. He was not born into the worst possible condition. He would have had far fewer options had he been born a woman, or even worse, a woman with a crippling disease. The issue was not how far down on the pyramid he was born but the direction of his gaze." - T. Richard Snyder

As a week of giving Thanks for all that we have, and all that we are collides with the birth of a new advent season...many of us have already begun speaking of baby Jesus. This past Sunday night my wife and I took our oldest daughter on a drive through a live nativity. The nativity took us from prophecies of Jesus, to his birth, through his life, crucifixion, and even the empty tomb. The narration spoke of Christ's humble beginnings.

We often emphasize that, and then act as if that was the path Jesus was on. A humble one. Of course he was humble, he was a human from Nazareth, etc.

But Snyder reminds us of an important not-so-secret: Jesus CHOSE to associate/love/relate/"gaze" toward the lower rungs of the socio-political-economic ladder. Why is that important to remember?

In today's world, we "gaze" toward the higher rungs. We want success, fame, health, fortune, power, prestige, etc. Snyder points out that the power of those in the "middle class" (he admits it's a very fluid/flexible definition for a group, but nevertheless) is essentially the "power to consume". That even if/when someone may achieve large success, as the case with many professional sports players, they do not make it to the "top of the pyramid. They can merely buy more toys."

Philippians 2:7 uses the word "κενόω" (ken-ah-oh) to talk about Jesus "emptying" Himself. What if this year's Thanksgiving was also attached to our anticipation of Jesus Christ, and all that He brings/announces/transforms? Let me put it more practically:

What if this year, as we spend time listing off each thing we're thankful for, we also use that as a list of things we want to consciously "release" our possession of towards God? As we thank God for each thing/being we have, we receive a burden for those without it?

May we "gaze" with God's love, and move toward where that Love is moving...

Monday, November 23, 2009

into return...

One of the aspects that couldn't be captured well in this film, but I would have liked to see, is the film-makers' return to his normal life. A life of traffic, cell phones, fast food, internet, and half-naked women in every advertisement. After spending 6 months sharing life in such simple, quiet, and holy ways.

In the Celtic tradition, there is a belief in "thin places". Actual physical locations where the pursuit of God has occurred so often, or in such grand ways, that the veil between "Heaven" and earth are worn thin. If there is any such place, it seems the monastery from this documentary would be one. Life, ritual, and liturgy happening in very much the same way for almost a thousand years. To spend 6 months in this place, participating in this liturgical way of living....wow.

But then to return, not to a life and arena that one would consider "unholy".....but rather, a creation that God is already involved in creating anew. Holiness breaking out all over the place. But still, very different from past 6 months in space and time.

Anyone who watches the film has a similar, albeit smaller, experience. Heck, anyone who attends worship services with a church family should probably have regular similar experiences. Many have had those moments....those experiences that make us want to stay doing whatever it is we're doing because of how we are participating in God's activity.

But we...we are not called to be monks. We are not called to sit and stare at video of a simpler life and drool over such freedom. We are not called to exist within the context and walls of a worshiping congregation. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) to live amidst a creation being renewed as people who have spent time in the presence of God. Who spend time in the presence of God. There is a similar "brotherhood" among us, as seen throughout the men of the Grand Chartreuse. When one joined their "family", the new member would walk to each individual in the circle and they would embrace as kin.

Then the senior members would accompany them to their cell, and sing/pronounce blessings over this new one, and welcome them to a new way of living.

God is. We experience the presence of God. We experience the abandon that comes as both freedom and sacrifice. We are infinitely compelled by a Love that defines love. And we live from these, in and towards His Kingdom...."on Earth as it is in Heaven"...

I guess...all of that to say....it was a pretty good movie. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

into seduction...

Setting the concepts of "eros" aside will do the following thoughts well:

One of the lines repeated over and over again throughout "Into Great Silence", is the line "Lord, you seduced me, and I was seduced." from Jeremiah 20. Here are a few other translations:

NRSV: "O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed."

NLT: "O LORD, you persuaded me, and I allowed myself to be persuaded."

Douay-Rheims: "Thou hast deceived me, O Lord, and I am deceived."

The NIV also chooses the word "deceived."

The Complete Jewish Bible: "You fooled me, ADONAI; I have been your dupe."

The Message: "You pushed me into this, GOD, and I let you do it."

It's an interesting concept, and one that fits well with the "Weakness of God" wrestling I've done in recent months. God's power is very much a "infinitely compelling"type. To think of why someone might live simply, or follow the thousand-year-old liturgies these monks live out. Or why someone today may choose to live counter-culturally and towards the way Christ has revealed His Kingdom to be.

It's not because God has a giant finger on a cosmic "send you to hades" button. It's because when we experience God....when we are faced with His presence, or new knowledge or revelation of His Spirit....or possibly even His words become flesh...powerful seduction may be a very appropriate way of describing how we are led to being transformed by His Spirit.

May we find ourselves seduced by the infinitely compelling presence and Hope of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that is always active, and in whose presence we cannot help but be transformed from.....and to.....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

into abandon...

It's one of those verses that if you're reading online through some sort of "internet bible", you desperately want to click the "read in context" link above it. Luke 14:33, "So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. "

So there you have it. The word for "give" here doesn't emphasize so much the action of giving, as it does the letting go of. The "renounce, or bid farewell to".

What is it that you have a hard time "bidding farewell to"? The word for "possessions" here can also be translated as "substance". What part of our identities would be the hardest for us to hold before God, palms up? What desires/motivations are we moved by in our daily lives that we would have a tough time letting go of?

I think marriage and family are great practices in this area, but also complicate the whole thing. In a marriage relationship, we (in theory, not always in practice) are giving up ourselves for the other. We desire to put the other before ourselves, and love them as Christ loved the Church. Each day offers new opportunities (whether we take them or not....I should more often I know) for us to let go of ourselves, for the sake of the other. Then come children. We parents would sacrifice anything for our children. To provide for them. To protect them as we see fit. Even as they are newborn, we begin the practice of letting go of ourselves (and our sleep) in order to give ourselves to them.

But this also complicates things. Our spouses, and our children....in Luke 14:26 Jesus speaks about these challenges to being a disciple. To make decisions towards Christ that may offend my family...my wife...my children...would be a bit harder to do than just anyone. To hold these relationships, palms up, before God on a daily basis....trusting His love for them is beyond anything I can bring to the table. Difficult...but at the same time, freeing.

I can see why monks vow to a life of celibacy. Any new familial relationship is another relationship to offer God on a daily basis...and can be very tempting to hold onto tightly as a possession.

May we practice Holy abandon of our possessions, relationships, and even our own "substance"...even as we move towards a week of Thanking God for these things...

Friday, November 20, 2009

into presence...

The original cynics in the ancient Greek world were against the materialistic society. They advocated the pursuit of virtue via a simple way of living. Ironic then, that I would be cynical when approaching "Into Great Silence". But I was.

We live in a world where we are being sold something constantly. So even when a movie experience that is advertised to transcend such aspects of culture, it can seem like another sales pitch. This movie has been recommended in several places of my life over the past year, so finally I caved and got it. Over 2.5 hours of experiencing the ancient monastic order of the Grande Chartreuse. That the film maker intended this be more than a movie about a monastery, but the film actually offers space and time of Holy silence...an experience of God.

Of course, if I'm expecting all of these things, and moving into it as if God "has" to respond...it won't happen, right?

As the movie begins, the opening production credits are bold and noisy. The dryer in our basement is on overhaul. A train is passing by outside, and decides it's a great time to announce its' presence by whistling. I whisper a quick prayer, "Lord, make this more than watching a movie so I can say I finally watched it. Let me sit with you."

The dryer stops. The whistle fades. The film illustrates 1 Kings 19:11-13. It was a goosebump moment for sure. But not in a "I'm watching a scary movie.", or even in a "rush of a giant worship concert". Simply, "God is here."

Even in the midst of guiding our teens into "Downtime" lately....I may have overlooked simple silence. I enjoyed it, to say the least....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Die Große Stille

Decided something today in a conversation on fasting....I wasn't ever going to get a chance to watch "Into Great Silence" unless I fasted sleep. I've owned it for a few weeks now. So far I'd only been able to watch all of the "extra features", which included the evening services in Latin....a pretty neat thing in and of itself. But it's not a movie I could "fit neatly" into any daytime rest period...whether at work or with the girls.

So here I am, 1am. Having spent nearly 3 hours being taken through daily routines of one of the worlds' oldest monasteries, nearly untouched by time. I stayed awake by typing random thoughts/notes while journeying through the monastic experience. I definitely recommend it. And recommend fasting sleep in order to create time and space to take it in properly.

I have many thoughts, and some of them will probably come as I continue to process all that the film contained, and all that God spoke while watching. For now I'm simply still in awe, and grateful to have shared this experience. Those involved in creating the film really did achieve their goal "to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one."

To share in liturgy that has been taking place for over 1,000 years. To see the purposefully simple way of life....to be jealous of much of their simplicity. To have quiet spaces built into the film, allowing for reflection and meditation on the Word, and God's Spirit. To be reminded of that moment in 1 Kings 19, where God passed by Elijah. It was not in the wind, earthquake, or even the fire, but in the sheer silence.

I'm Thankful....for having spent time in such silence.