Sunday, November 11, 2018

Practicing Dying and Resurrection

"We practice our death by giving up our will to live on our own terms. Only in that relinquishment or renunciation are we able to practice resurrection.”

So said the late, inimitable Eugene Peterson.

The "spiritual disciplines", as we call them, help us live as Christ teaches. We learn to do in secret so we can be free of thirst for human approval; we pray all the time so we are healthy, resilient and ready when the unexpected crush comes our way. Disciplines prepare.

Is giving up our will a discipline that prepares us to die? I reckon so. Yet, death is not the end. Peterson reminds us of resurrection and if I can know the truth at all I know it now: I scarcely know what this means.

But I have hope. Hope that dying with Christ means we rise with Him.

So now, the morning not yet past, I rise and go to prayer, praying for grace to die so I may live in Christ. If this be purely religious sentiment we are most miserable. I dare to believe it is real and will be demonstrated this day in my living, breathing, doing.

That is all.

Friday, October 19, 2018

"Take no thought for tomorrow..."

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

We make plans, we project ourselves in to tomorrow, we envision things accomplished. What exactly are we to make of this Proverb? It is certainly accurate. No one knows the next moment with certainty, and the further one projects, the less certainty there is.

Surely the Proverb is echoed in the words of our Lord, who said, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” And Paul, who said, “Be anxious for nothing.” And Jesus again (paraphrased): “Why worry about the various needs of life. See the lillies and the birds. God cares for them. You are worth more than them.”

Here we have speciesism and it is good! We matter to God more than non-human things.

The lesson, though, is not to worry.

We do not know what a day will bring. We simply can't know, and it does no good to fret and trouble over what may be and “what if”.

So as I make plans for an important project tomorrow that is time-sensitive and long-overdue, I remember. Yes, I may have a wreck, yes things can go wrong – they often do! But I do not mire down in those possibilities either. I make plans, trust for the kind grace of God to order my steps, and do my best. Not in a hurry but going somewhere.

I'm not boasting about what I will do, but I am looking forward to the possibilities!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Should we embrace power?...

...and other rhetorical questions....

From the inimitable Malcom Muggeridge:
"Envisaging the possibility of a good government is a dangerous illusion, and, indeed, virtually ensures the installation of a bad one." According to St. Paul, "all authority should be being ordained of God. Our business is to find God, the dramatist behind the drama, and, having found Him, to follow Him...."

This view of the Lordship of Christ in history and for our individual lives "is now on the point of expiring largely because the dogma that our human condition can be ameliorated by the exercise of power has come to be universally accepted."

Our human condition can be ameliorated by power? That has become dogma? Indeed, it has, or so says Muggeridge.

This is tough medicine in the climate of the last few decades and years. But however you or I may struggle with the premise, this observation about the illusory value of power seems spot on.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Yes, I know...

...FB is where it's at and only the best blogs get much traffic. I write here because...well, because it is hidden somewhat and only the occasional passer-by or spam bot stops in.

Twitter has its game, too, but from what little I see I'm glad I never went there. These tech-driven formats lead us about by the nose. As "to someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail" so now days "to someone with access to social media, everything needs to be spoken".

No. It doesn't. And so I give myself a pass by saying what needn't be said where it won't be read much.

Of course there are many needs for speaking, not least the need to muse, or to think something out. This speaks to the meaning of essay, which I liken to pushing a rope. You are going somewhere with an essay, but you don't know where exactly. The best essays begin with a thought or shadowy question, poke around the various related ideas, then push and test to tease out any real insight that will help the writer believe the inquiry matters.

This is far from a good essay, but it is doing some of what essays do. I followed one thought with the next, letting order be random, and wind up saying something that helps me, at least. What did I say? Let me look....

I said blog commentary is intrinsically self-oriented and so is essay writing. It comes from within, not trying to prove anything but the need for free discussion of life. And in that discussion real joy is found.

That's all I have. It is free, and worth it! :)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

$ .019

Zeitgeist mean 'spirit of the age': the prevailing ideas, the norms, that which blows with most favor upon the winds.

The zeitgeist applies to this Supreme Court business. Here's what it is.

There is nothing really right or wrong, but thinking makes it so.
Political power is everything.
If you interfere with my political power, you are bad, really bad.
There is no way out of this mess.
There is nothing really right or wrong but thinking makes it so.

Jesus speaks into all of life with this central dictum:
Love God and your neighbor.”

Love God – all of us are equally subject to Him, made in His image, broken and needy. All we do, think or say only makes sense as we consider it in relation to God as Creator and Lord, the one who always works to make all things new.

Love your neighbor, especially those who suffer. Both are suffering here.
If Dr. Ford is truthful, her pain is great.
If Kavanaugh is guilty, his pain is great.
If Dr. Ford is lying, her pain is great.
If Kavanaugh is innocent, his pain is great.

Do you know how to grade the pain or gauge the brokenness or know the truth? I don't. Lord, have mercy. How many broken people have you known who masquerade in countless disguises? As many as have ever lived. Privilege and power on all scales mask the human reality of the soul and heart. This is true no less of Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford.

All should grieve for Dr. Ford if she suffered so. All should be free to wonder about such things, because there is reason to do so.

All should grieve for the presumed innocence of the man in the chair. What culture is strong enough to guarantee such a thing in law? Few.

The prophet said: “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly.”

Justly: Burn the guy. He did grave wrong.
Try to calmly determine truth.
Mercy: Be compassionate of the accuser. The alleged act is grave indeed.
Be compassionate of the man in the chair. He could be innocent of a grave charge.
Humbly: Live quietly in this world, weep for those who must judge such things. 
Look in the mirror and remember who does not.

I don't know anything else. Lord, have mercy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Ministry Remnants: Sermon Preparation

Most churches have a sermon on Sunday morning, an effort by the Pastor to speak from Scripture in a way that helps the understanding, guides the actions and inspires the lives of church-folk. This message serves the vital role of helping all in attendance give attention to thought and spirit for a designated time each week.

How does a preacher prepare for this?


After this, pondering. One great preacher whose name escapes me said, "I have to brood. I must have time uninterrupted to think deeply about the subject at hand so thoughts and feelings will develop into the shape and substance of something I can offer my people."

The best book I have read on the subject was by one H. Grady Davis called Design for Preaching. I need to read it again. And of course E. M Bounds and Dennis Kinlaw join a host of others who have written helpfully on the question.

I find preparation takes several steps:
  • pray
  • ponder and brood
  • study
  • develop notes
  • shape thoughts into an order that aids presentation
Getting from brooding to organized notes is difficult, but the most difficult is this: arriving at a thesis statement that says in one sentence the whole thrust of the message. When one has that clear all else is secondary; until that is clear, all else is muddled.

Enough for now. Sermon preparation awaits me.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

On Abiding the Contrary

A dear friend gently offered the counsel that I tend to posture myself in a way that "cannot abide the contrary." Perhaps preachers, those who often have a gift of 'forth-telling', are prone to this. We know what we know and we know it is right and pity the person not likewise enlightened! (I am thinking of signing all correspondence with the acronym moniker CAC.)

I know this can be annoying. OK, I know it can ruin dialogue and even friendship. As is our human wont, the things true of we ourselves are often the things of which we complain in others. Thus, when friends speak self-assuredly of things 'I know to be wrong' I tend to think they are guilty of CAC and need to be corrected and instructed. "If only they would tone down a bit they'd see the error of their ways. Why won't they listen for a change?"

Can I be free of such confidence in my outlook? Probably not, for thinking requires confidence in one's opinions. Yet, I long to be able to speak peaceably with those whose ideas I think are nuts; to listen well and dialogue without judging.

Here's my partial prescription, offered with the necessary dose of CAC:
  • Offer ideas to think about, not conclusions ripe for attack. (Opinions are for sharing, not imposing.)
  • In perfect Stephen Covey style: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
  • Attempt to disconnect ideas from feelings and personal identity.
There is more I suppose, all offered with the smiling caveat 'of course I know there is more -- don't imagine you knew it first!' Alas, CAC is omni-present, the blushing and stubborn pride born of painful insecurities.

But I am glad my friend is still my friend. He is able to overlook this flaw and love me anyway.

I'm learning!