Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 6: Divorce

Scripture: Matthew 5:31-32

Focus: Divorce

Reflection: Jesus is on to some of these guys. They knew adultery was wrong, but they still wanted to have sex outside of their marriage. In the previous verse Jesus exposed their hearts and went inward. Now Jesus goes the other way and deals with sexual sin within their social practices.

They were using a seeming loophole in divorce law in order to have a different woman. It was a sort of serial monogamy running under cover of divorce law. Jesus totally busts them on this one. In essence Jesus tells them that this practice of divorce and remarriage does not get around the sin of adultery. In fact, it is promoting it. When you use divorce as a way to go from one woman to the next, then you are committing adultery, the very thing you are using legal cover to back up that you are not doing.

The take away message here is not specifics about how divorce and remarriage should happen in our modern day context. The important issues of domestic violence, threats, oppression, and addiction are not what Jesus is addressing here. He was confronting a specific practice. The principle here is that people when take legal cover to get away with their selfishness, evils desires, and sin it does not actually make it any less selfish, evil, or sinful. Using legal cover does not change a person’s heart and does not change the pain that can be caused to another person. Tapping into a legal narrative may seem to give legitimacy to a practice or behavior, but it doesn’t. There are laws higher than humans laws. There are principles, that transcend anything that can be articulated in human language.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 5: Trumping Plato

Scripture: Matthew 5:27-30

Focus: Tear it out and throw it away

Reflection: It was the location of sin that Jesus was getting at. Sin was not just what the body does, but the body was simply where the sin comes out. Yes, the body sins, but the heart sins first. There is a sin of the soul that is connected to, infused within, integrated in the body. These cannot be separated

Plato had made some ideas popular among the people of his day. Plato asserted that the body and spirit are separated. Thus, the body could do one thing and the soul another. There was a sense that body and soul were separate entities, that the body was a lesser and temporary copy of something else, some other body. Thus, what happened with the body was not all that important. Those ideas were in full swing in the days of Jesus.

Jesus trumps Plato with hyperbole. In a sense, Jesus was saying two things. First, that the body and soul are not just connected, but integrated. Second, if you buy into Plato’s philosophy that the body is not all that big a deal, that it is a shadowy copy, then act on it. What would it matter to partially destroy something that was of little consequence in the first place? In short, Jesus said that if you put your faith in Plato you are at risk. Plato would say that imperfection can only exist in the body, but Jesus takes it a whole farther than that.

By using hyperbole, Jesus makes the point of how important the body is. But he also makes the point that sin is not simply located in the body, but necessarily in the heart and in the soul. The eye and the heart are not two mutually exclusive things, but are integrated and mutually serving characteristics of humanity.

So, Jesus ups the stakes with the audience. He calls out their hypocrisy. There was the idea that if their bodies were not actually doing the sinful thing, then it was impossible for there to be sin at all. They were free to entertain any sort of lustful, greedy, hateful thoughts and feelings, but as long as they never acted on them, all was good. Jesus drills down and again gets to the seed of sin when everyone else focused on what sin looks like when it is full grown. 

In short, Jesus was saying, here is what adultery looks like when it is a seed. Look about the field of your souls, people, the very seed I am warning you about has been sown in your own field. Look. When you take comfort that sin is not full grown, you are at risk for it taking root. Sin is a problem when it is a seed. Take care of that. Is it tedious work? Yes. But there is no other way to go about it. Sin starts before you think it does.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Half a Decade of Grief

Five years ago today I stood over my father as he lay dying in a hospital bed in the ICU at Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville, Minnesota. It was a crisis. My sister, brother, and I had control over decisions about whether to “pull the plug” if my father were not able to communicate. He couldn’t.

One day prior we had decided late in the night that the next day we would stop all extraordinary efforts to keep him alive. We did this because it is what the healthcare directive. We read over the healthcare directive like it was scripture. We were going to follow our father’s wishes with honesty and integrity. We succeeded. He was unconscious, kept alive by machines and heavy drugs, and was unable to communicate in any way. The doctors gave us so little hope that he could make it through this that they left it to the realm of miracles.

All three of us believe in miracles, but none of believed this was going to be the time for one. Dad had burned through a few miracles in his life already. This seemed like the end.

Then, the next day, the doctors told us to come into the room as dad was conscious. This changed everything. He could communicate. He could be informed of is condition and asked his wishes. This would make the healthcare directive go to the back burner.

It was so good to talk with him and know he could hear me, see me, know me, know I was there for him…that I loved him. I did love him. My dad had been dying for years, really. His soul had been dying. His body had been falling apart. So much of the man’s potential never even got addressed by life. I had always loved him. Even though the collaboration of life’s cold mastery over him and his own self-destructive decisions had brought on the onset of death too early, I loved him. He knew that. But at death’s final blow, I got to be there and kiss his forehead and utter the words, “I love you.” Oh how I ached. Oh how it was sweet. I had a lot more relationship I wanted to forge with him, but it wasn’t going to happen.

He didn’t want to die, but he knew he couldn’t stop it. He was so afraid. I had never seen that look in his eye in all my 36 years of life, but I knew it to be fear mixed with helplessness. He was hoping for one more miracle. But the one he was hoping for was not going to happen. What did happen was that my brother told a joke. It was a very funny joke. I had not heard that one before and it got me laughing. It got my sister laughing. Mostly importantly, it got dad laughing. At well over 450 pounds on a 5’8” frame, when my father laughed, there was lots of body to move around. His body quaked on the bed. Hooked to machines that beeped a lot and with tubes down his throat, he laughed. It was his last act of defiance. Literally, my father laughed in the face of death. Afraid, helpless, and weak, he laughed.

There are times when laughing and crying at the same time is the only sane thing a person can do. This was one of them. My mix of emotions was intense. How could I feel some many things so intensely all at once? I knew my life was in transition and there was nothing I could do about it. I would never be the same again. It was as if God were saying, “from this point forward, your life as you knew it is over. Here is your new life.” What can a person do in that moment but cry and laugh? There is no point in trying to change the inevitable. All a person can do is to interpret it. It is our only defense.

Laughter was a defense our family had against the difficulties of life. It was the one theme in our family that could be traced back to the beginning. Laughter was a gift. There was so much conflict and pain in our family life in many areas, but there was always laughter. It was our medicine. And the last act of my father’s conscious life was to laugh. Within two hours after the joke, he was unconscious and fading fast.

And then he was gone. I know this because the nurse looked at me as I held his hand listening to the frequency of the beeps decrease as she said, “He’s gone. Any beep from this point forward is just residual electrical charges, but he is gone. I’m sorry.” And there I stood, over my dead father. Crying. Powerless. The man who gave me life was dead and there was nothing I could do about it.

Five years later, I still cry. I still ache. I still go to the ICU room in my mind and stand there with him. I have bursts of grief that just overwhelm me when I don’t expect them. There is a pain that will never leave me. Grief is not something that gets closure. Grief is a strange friendship. Well, it is a relationship at least. Grief shows up and never leaves. I must choose what sort of relationship it will be. I do not like being sad, but it is a relief to weep. It is orienting in a painful sort of way.

Also, five years later, I have good memories, painful memories, and instructive memories. Five years later I am still making sense out of my relationship with my father as I am developing a relationship with my children as a father. They, in turn, are trying to make sense out of me and their relationship with me.

Five years later, I grieve. Five years later, it is ok to grieve. 

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Sermon on the Mount 4: Little Murders

Scripture: Matthew 5:21-26

Focus: Murder

Reflection: Murder is a pretty big deal. Once murdered, no one gets unmurdered. No amount of forgiveness or revenge brings back the dead. There is a finality to murder that cannot be denied or undone. This is why it was included in the 10 commandments. Apparently back in the days of Moses, someone in authority needed to say, “Do Not Murder.”

But murder does not seem to be the sin Jesus is getting at here. He is not denying that murder is a sin and a problem, but he is getting at the micro-murders people do to each other everyday and don’t even consider the damage it does. In essence, Jesus is saying that waiting until someone is dead is a little late to be coming to the awareness that something might be wrong. Murder is not the beginning of the sin in question, it is actually the end of it. It is the sin fully grown to its full maturity.

Where does murder start? How does it grow? What does it look like when it is just a seed? These are the questions that lead us to the place where Jesus wants us to go. This is actually the place the 10 commandments anticipated centuries before, but needed to take an initial step.

According to Jesus, murder begins with anger or unresolved antipathy. Unreconciled relationships seem to have little murders as a part of their everyday ebb and flow. Jesus wants this sin addressed. What he trying to do is to make us aware that the sin begins early and looks like this. He even makes a specific reference to something people were saying all the time. He called out their use of the term, “Raca,” which means, you fool. The modern use would be referring to someone as an “Jerk,” “Idiot,” or “A-hole.” Each direct affront, each mumbling under our breath, each thought of this kind that we suppress out some form of decency is still a little murder.

Jesus wants us to intervene on little murders before the grown up murder actually takes place. The antidote to violence is not a stronger police force or stricter laws. The antidote to violence is early detection in oneself. It is knowing what the little murder is and doing something about it at that time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lies You Might Be Told

I believe in God as a living entity of goodness. I also believe in Satan as a living entity of evil. God and Satan exist and are active in this world of overlapping physical and spiritual realities. There are angles and there are demons active as well. As humans we are free to believe what we will. There is a battle over what we will believe, where we will locate our allegiance – toward good or toward evil. Good and evil are sometimes obvious, but much of the time one is not clearly differentiated from the other. We are told truths and we are told lies. We must be wise in order to tell the difference. What follows is a way to describe some of the challenges of this life with my own children in mind.

The life we live on this Earth is filled with all sorts of freedoms. God wouldn’t have it any other way. We have the power to choose all sorts of things. We can choose behaviors and what we do with our bodies and what we say or do not say. We can choose our thoughts and where to place our beliefs. And we can even choose how we feel to some extent and we can choose what to do with those emotions.

The ability to make choices in our lives is an amazing power that is also a vulnerable power. Wise choices with your life are a blessing to this world while unwise choices are not a blessing to this world and could even be a detriment to this world. Our lives are like a secret formula for incredible things to happen, but if that secret formula were ever to get into the wrong hands…, well, that great power could be used for evil.

God was wise to create us with so much freedom. It might seem risky for Him to give us this much freedom because we might not choose Him with the freedom. It is a huge risk. We look around see a world that has a lot of people in it that look like they are not choosing to love God or other people. It’s true, many people are not. However, many people are choosing to love God. Many people are choosing to love people with their lives. Many people are choosing to make their lives about loving God and others, which happen to be what God desires the most. In fact, He created us for love.

However, since there is freedom, there is the chance that people may not choose to love God and others. Satan, the force of evil in the world and the scriptwriter of lies, has noticed that freedom has some vulnerabilities to it. Satan believes God is stupid. He believes it was stupid for God to risk so big by giving freedom. It is Satan’s goal to make a fool of God by exploiting the freedoms God has given.

Now, where God has chosen not to violate human freedom, Satan would if he could, but he can’t. However, he can lie all he wants to. He has the freedom to try to convince people that they are not free. It is sort of ironic. So, Satan is a liar and will use all sorts of lying strategies to get people to be bad. If he can’t get people bad, he will lie to get them distracted or busy. He will do whatever it takes to steal people away from God. And if he can’t steal them from God, he will do whatever he can to reduce their usefulness or their range and depth of impact of goodness in the world.

Make no mistake about it, Satan is out there to make this world as miserable a place as he can. His appetite is for the humiliation of and destruction of God and is willing to use up as many people as he can in order to accomplish his goal. To Satan, people are disposable units that are created for his consumption in order to kill God and people. Satan hates God and is bent on destruction and does not care how many people are used, hurt, tortured, and exploited along the way – the more the better.

If Satan could kill us all off right now, he would. Think about it, each human is an image of God. Right now there are nearly 7 billion living images of God on this planet, more than ever in the history of the world. There is not a single image of Satan on this Earth. Every last one of us, even the most vile of us humans, looks more like God than he or she does look like Satan. God can look across the Earth and see so many images of Himself and Satan can’t find a single one. Satan hates God and there are 7 billion God look alikes. Everywhere Satan goes, there’s a whole bunch of us.

Did you know your very existence exposes Satan for who he is? Rather than be in awe of God’s love and generosity in the freedom He created in producing a world that could love, that could be free, he despises it. He hates it. God created a way for there to be even more love and more freedom (creation) and rather than being happy for there being more love and more freedom, Satan despises it. More people means more love and more freedom and it exposes Satan for who he is, someone who values neither love nor freedom. God has expanded His own goodness through creation.

So, Satan looks about the world of humans and hates us all. He wants us dead. And since he does not have permission to just kill us all off, he will seek to exploit our freedom to choose as much as possible and as in many ways as possible. Ultimately, Satan has one strategy – lie. His lies come in many forms and are about many things. He lies about who God is, who he is, about who you are and who other people are. He lies about the church. He lies about feelings, thoughts, behaviors. He lies to get you falsely feel bad, falsely feel good, to be too distracted too busy, too insignificant, too good for everyone else. He will lie about anything to anyone to make this world a worse place.

What follows are some lies I have either experienced myself, witnessed in someone else, or heard about thought other sources. These are only a few of the lies Satan tells, but they are some of the more commons lies. Since Satan can take any real thing and lie about in a number of ways, there would be no way to catalog all of the lies and make them readily available in a book. Satan is inventing new lies all the time. However, He seems to use a select few lies over and over again, probably because they have worked so well. Here is the beginning of the list:

You’re worthless.

You’re ugly.

God wants to keep you from happiness.

Happiness is found in pleasure.

Life is a battle between who loves you more, God or Satan.

God doesn’t care.

You make dumb decisions.

Hiding your mistakes will make them go away.

You’ll always feel depressed.

Guys/Girls will not like you unless…

You’re not good enough. You have perform to be accepted.

Nobody cares.

Nobody understands.

You are alone.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Believe

Humans have the power to believe. Is there anything else in the world that believes things? Dirt doesn’t believe anything. Plants don’t believe. Animals don’t believe. Animals have instincts and they can be conditioned, but they do not believe (as best as we can know).

Humans believe things. It is an amazing reality. It would be nice to say that we humans believe things based on evidence, but we don’t in general. We want to say that we are objective and given the same evidence on this or that each of us would come to the same belief about this or that. It hardly ever (never fully) happens. Instead, we disagree and do it a lot.

We’ve developed systems and methods and disciplines in order to help us come to a common belief, but these systems fail and these methods are flawed. Religion has sought to form correct beliefs, but it has had a difficult time succeeding in bringing us all toward one belief. Science has made efforts to create systematic ways of making observations we could come closer to believing the same, but the great experts all critique each other’s results and methods and even integrity at times.

No, neither religion nor science has determined beliefs for all humans. 

It is an amazing thing that humans can choose to believe something even when the evidence points in another direction. It seems reckless and dangerous that such a situation could exist.

You can believe whatever you want to. So…

How will go about deciding what to believe?

What is your threshold of evidence to move you into belief?

Who could say a word and your belief would change?

Which comes first evidence or belief?

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Do you come to believe things in the same way?

These are not small questions. You have a power in this universe that is rare. Not only that, it is full of consequence. No belief goes unnoticed. Belief ripples. And amazingly, you cannot not belief. Even someone claiming to be agnostic on any topic believes something, even if it is in their own uncertainty. Having the ability to know what you believe and why is one of the greatest privileges and powers in the universe. 

What will you do with your power?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 3: The Law and the Prophets

Scripture: Matthew 5:17-20

Focus: Fulfill

Reflection: Perhaps it came as some reassurance for those listening that Jesus was not go make an attempt to abolish the law. Maybe there was a rumor running about that he had some plan or was making some effort to do away with the law. It would make sense since he was often accused of breaking it.

And yet, there is an irony, and exposing irony that resides in the need to make a claim that he was not going to abolish the law. The irony is that he was living the the law as the law was meant to function in the life of a person. And when he did that, it looked like he was breaking the law.

It begs the question: What had people done to the law such that when a person actually lived the law it appeared as though he was breaking the law?

Jesus not only had to claim not to be about subverting the law, but also had to make the claim that he was fulfilling it. This could have meaning on more than one level. On one level it could men that he came to practice it in the way that it was meant to be practiced. As if to say when someone lives by the law, their life looks like this life that I am living. This was revolutionary enough since so many people didn’t’ recognize his law abiding life as such.

Another level of meaning to fulfilling the law is potentially more exciting/troublesome. When something is fulfilled, it is brought to its intended completion. Was Jesus saying that he was going to bring the law to its natural and intended completion? If so, then how is that different than abolishing it? I wonder, did this sound like double speak? Does fulfilling the law cause the same angst as abolishing it? It may feel the same to anyone who is not interested in change. Jesus was interested in nothing else but change.

Jesus makes a radical claim here, one that could only be made by a legitimate figure, notably the son of God. The challenge for Jesus was that merely being the son of God did not give him son of God status with most people. But how else do you make known your identity when you’re in flesh and blood like everyone else? You say things and then you do them.

In making the fulfillment claim, Jesus is starting something.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Can live Without Her


A lot of people seem to have a techno-crush on the Ipad2. I have to say, she is cute, really cute. I like that she’ll look me in the eye with face time…and that I can see myself in her eyes. Bonus. I like that she is so connected – internet everywhere in the world pretty much. Nice. She is one fine item. But I am not interested in her.

You see, I am already in a relationship – with a PC. It’s a good relationship. My PC does not walk the red carpet and isn’t famous. There were not big announcements about her arrival. In fact, no one really notices her. That’s Ok. The reason I am with her is that I am in love. I don’t think I need face time and I don’t think I need all that connectivity. I also don’t need to start a hot new relationship that is only 6-12 months away from being in trouble. Some people like living from one soon to be obsolete relationship to the next, but I am not one of them.

So, Steve Jobs, thanks for the all the work you did to make her pretty, but I am going to let her walk right on by and not give a second glance. I can live without her.

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Sermon on the Mount 2: Salt & Light

Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16

Focus: “Trampled”

Reflection: For some reason wit this passage in the Sermon on the Mount, I have had to get over the idea that this passage was some sort of justification for showing off. Here is it, Jesus says we have to demonstrate our greatness in front of other people. We have to show off. Or worse yet, this is the passage that says that Christians are better than others. Furthermore, there is punishment for not being better than everyone else.

Only through a distorted lens could I ever come to such a conclusion. The Christian life is not meant to prove to everyone, especially non-Christians, that Christians are better than everyone else. It is not a lesson plan for a spiritual superiority complex, though that has been taught that in various places. It is something much more humble than that.

Salt makes the thing that already exists taste better. Salt on its own isn’t all that great. Jesus is saying that God placed within each person the ability to highlight the good that already exists. Christians can make things better by being a presence of goodness, civility, kindness, and hope.

Trampled is the word that comes to mind in this passage. Is trampled a punishment? Well, not really. It is simply the natural result of a thing not fulfilling its purpose. If a thing has lost its function out of lack of use, then it will not have any attention paid to it. It will be moved to the margins because other, more useful, things will get the attention of people. The rusty hacksaw I have in the garage just gets left in the garage because the sharp one is the one I choose every time. I am not mad at the rusty one and I am not punishing it. I might even choose it in a pinch, but it is not my go to tool for cutting things. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 1: Beattitudes

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12

Focus: “Pure in heart”

Reflection: What is purity? Where can it be found? My heart yearned for a purity as I read the passage, a known purity, like a faint memory of a time long ago. Purity for me feels to me like it can be found in an archeological soul dig, a thing buried, but still present. I have felt pure and I like the feeling, but it also felt uneasy. It was innocent, tender, and vulnerable. I could be shaped, but I felt somewhat out of control. I trusted, sometimes with little information to go on, sometimes in ways that would forever alter the trajectory of my life. I was like a child…I was a child. I know that purity is still there - there is at least purity potential in me. I want to be pure in heart (again).

Is there purity in everyone? Is it fragile? Are some people pure while others are not? Was everyone born pure and some let it go while others kept hold of it? If purity can be released or let go of, can it ever be regained, recovered, or reborn inside someone? I have wondered this before. Since I cannot experience someone else’s experience, I do not know what it is like to be another person. On the other hand, if there is some sort of image of God that comprises everyone, then there must be some sense of purity in everyone. Or at least it was there at once. I suppose being free people means being free to jettison purity and never look back.

Jesus says that the pure in heart will see God. What does that mean? Are these the people going to Heaven? Does it mean that they will see God in the afterlife? I wonder if that is really what Jesus is getting at. Is it really for the innocent who can wait out this life? I wonder if perhaps Jesus is going for something else. Maybe the pure in heart can see God right now. What appears to be the everyday and ordinary to most people, the pure in heart noticed God in it all. Maybe the pure in heart see God everywhere, all the time.

Do they see God in the beauty of nature?

Do they see God in a larger redemptive work, even in pain and suffering?

Do they see God in the timing of things, whether it is convenient or frustrating?

What is it exactly these pure in heart people are seeing when they see God?

Reflections Series: Sermon on the Mount

Lectio Divina is an old,even ancient method of reading and reflecting on scripture. It means, Divine Reading, and has been used as a way to engage in, understand, and reflect on scripture. I will be using a form of Lectio Divina in working my way through the Sermon on the Mount, which is the best summation of the teachings of Jesus collected into a single group.

This series of posts will come interspersed with outer posts about other things, but I intend to link these posts together.

What will be posted are my reflections after reading a short portion of the Sermon on the Mount.

Feel free to follow along, make comment, or even do some of your own Lectio Divina.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The God I’ve Come To Know 2.0: Amazing

Although I do not get specific instructions and a whole lot of indication of what God wants or what I should do, I can’t seem to get away from this God. He never stops communicating. Everywhere I go I can see what this God is up to. At least that is the meaning I have learned to assign to things.

When I ponder the hugeness of the galaxies and the distance between stars or when I explore the smallness of chemical and neurotransmitters between my nerve cells, I am amazed. When I see something grow I wonder how it grows. I wonder why it grows. Science has some responses to all this, but it does not hold the answers. Science does its best with the tools it has, but it fails to get to why things happen. Science is just a way to ask questions.

Being amazed at something is a curious state. Why am I amazed? Even if there is a neurotransmitter that can be assigned to the experience of amazement in a human, what does that matter? Why does it happen? Why am I taken by a sunrise, the clouds pink and orange? Why am I so very curious about the roley poley bug and the little sphere it can curl into when threatened? How does a roley poley bug know it is threatened? Why am I so taken with black holes? Why do I want to know where they lead?

Now, I do not believe the state of amazement is any sort of proof of God. There are all sorts of ways to narrate amazement. But I do believe that God has got to be in play. It is the narration that makes sense to me. Creation, whether through a rapid 6 days initiation or a slow billions of years unfolding, is to me an amazing communication from God. It is not God merely whispering, but God demonstrating in a massive presentation his identity.

When I ask God what do you want? it is sort of like I am interrupting what He was already saying. He was already answering the question before I asked it. I wonder if God is revealing Himself always and His answer is that He wants me to 1) know Him through his intimate revelation of Himself through creation, and 2) for me to be as intimate with Him as He is with me.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The God I’ve Come to Know (to this point)

I look to Heaven, I utter my prayers, I speak to a God I cannot see with my eyes and I ask Him what He wants from me. I expect an answer. I expect to be told. My willingness to be told what to do seems humble enough. And yet the silence is difficult to handle. It is not vacant silence, like speaking into nothingness. It is patient silence. In time I come to understand that God will not be contained in my assumptions.

I assume God wants to tell me what to do. I assume this because I have read about Moses and the burning bush. I assume this because I have read about Abraham. I assume this because I have read about Noah. I have documented proof that God tells people what to do and then they do it, perhaps with some resistance at times. So, I follow the pattern with a promise of compliance. And yet every bush I see is a normal bush. There is no sense of impending flood. I do not get a word from God about what I should do.

I look to God and ask Him what He wants and all I can figure is that He is looking back at me and asking me the same question. It is a most unsettling question. Really? Is this a test? Is there such a freedom in living with God? And if so, what is the responsibility that is joined with it? No. NO! Tell me what to do. Then I can know what to do. I can be certain I am doing the right thing.

And then I am confronted with the reality that God wants to relieve me of my lust for certainty. If God were to tell me exactly what to do, then He would be feeding my lust for certainty, He would feed my idolatry. For God to obey my command for exact commands would be for Him to accept my request for Him to no longer be my God.

Yes, I know to love people and to love God is the general command. It is a command because it is how this world best operates. Genuinely loving God and people is to make this world a better place than it is. But everyone gets that command. I want a Moses type of command. One with clear instructions. And still I get nothing. The more I want it the more silence I get. My soul rages with lust for certainty and God will never give it to me because He loves me too much to quit being my God, which is what He would have to do in order to answer my prayer how I want Him to.

It is a complicated prayer that I pray, ironic and self-defeating. The pray looks honest enough, God, what do you want? but it is selfish in its core. At its core it denies the freedom, creativity, and abilities that have already been placed within me. It denies my sense of agency, initiative, and courage that cannot be expressed in robotic compliance. In short, my prayer is for God to help me deny being made in His image. My prayer is really, God, help me be less like you.

The God I have come to know loves me too much to put forth efforts to help me self-destruct in this way. He answers my prayers by refusing to answer my prayers.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

If There Were No Hell…

Would Heaven be any less Heaven?

Would you change your moral character?

Would God be any less just? Any more just?

Would you lose your faith in God? Consider having faith in God?

Would you be disappointed in God if someone got Heaven that you believed deserved Hell?

Would you lose your desire to make the world a better place?

Would you increase your desire to make this world a better place?

Would you lose your evangelistic leverage?

Would you be motivated differently to do good things?

Would it be a relief? A threat?

Would you have different conversations about God, spirituality, Christianity, and faith?

Would you have to answer to someone who believed there was a Hell?

Would it confuse you?

Would it clear some things up?

Would it take away your point?

Would it give you a point?

Would you find friends where you once found enemies?

Would you find enemies where you once found friends?

Would you have to hide it from your grandparents?

Would you have to change churches?

Would you be any less saved?

Would you be any more saved?

Would there be a down side?

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Storying Toward Discovery

I am writing some stories of my life and learning a whole lot by writing them rather than telling them. I’ve told many of these stories to many people and often at family gatherings. Some of them have never been told. None of them have ever been told in the ways I am writing


Originally I wanted to write these stories as a way to self-disclose to my therapy students about my own course toward becoming a therapist.  I wanted to demonstrate my own self of the therapist work I was doing. It is possible these stories could still work that way, but they have evolved quite a bit from the original intent. They’re turning into a love story, but not a romantic love story. They’re turning into a love story between me and my father.

One thing I am realizing in writing these stories with the trajectory of redemption is that I don’t really know these stories that well. It is not until I reflect on them and work hard to select the right language that I begin tom know these stories. I am also learning how connected these seemingly unconnected stories can be.

Another thing I am learning is that these stories change as I recall them. They change on their own, but I can change them as I write them. My memory is suspect and that is certainly permission for interpretation. How cold, how hot, how much rain fell, how much it hurt, what I knew, what I didn’t. It is all important to tell it right, not factually.

Finally, there is a lot of meaning to these stories that I could not possibly have been aware of when I was living the stories. Only in recalling the stories is it possible to even begin to unpack the meaning. This has been the most amazing and rewarding part of this. When I sit at the keyboard and think, what did that mean, I find “that” could mean lots of things. I have context to view myself.

Writing is perhaps the most healing thing a person can do.

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