Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Read the Bible Badly: A Primer

How to read the Bible badly: A primer

If you want to make a mess of the Bible and hurt a lot of people while doing so, I have a few tips that are going to really make your work a whole lot easier. Put these into practice and I promise you will completely ruin any chance of getting the point of scripture.

Therapy manual. Use the Bible as a therapy manual. Select scriptures out of context and then apply them to people’s legitimate mental disorders and relationship suffering. This way you can almost certainly make matters worse.

Hammer. There are some really harsh passages in scripture that have some specific contextual meanings. However, if you take them out of context you can make someone feel really bad and maybe even coerce them into doing things your way.

Science book. Make sure that you make specific scientific claims from the Bible, especially about how the world was created. The more specific the better. If someone pushes back, just say that the Bible was the first book science and it is the last book of science. That should open up their eyes.

Literalize everything. If the Bible has any truth in it at all, then everything in it must have happened. No room for story, poetry, narrative, parable, history, law, perspective, and human participation.

Act like you aren’t interpreting it. It is really important to be honest while reading the Bible. And the best way to be honest is to pretend that you are not the least bit influenced by culture, family of origin, 2000 years, translation, other people’s interpretations or any other thing. You are 100% completely objective.

Me-ify it. Make sure that every bit of scripture was written with you and only you in mind and that everything in scripture, someway somehow, applies to this moment in your life, right here, right now.

Hammer II. Use scripture to back up every belief you already have, especially beliefs that make you more powerful than anyone else. Start in Joshua to justify violence and then dig up a few scriptures to justify how God hates the people you hate. It’s much more convincing when God hates the same people you hate.

Metaphor it. Make sure that the stories in the Bible are merely stories and that none if it really happened. Jesus raising from the dead is a great metaphor for making a big come back, but it flies in the face of all common sense.

New Israel. Always apply everything about Israel in scripture to the United States today. Be offended when other people compare the United States to Rome.

Leverage Hell. Make sure that the Bible is used to identify who is going to Hell and who is going to Heaven and then keep maintaining the boundaries, but tell them God said it.

Don't Know What To Say In A Prayer?

Don’t Know What To Say In a Prayer?
An Introduction To Prayer

Prayer is a conversation with God. It is that simple. And yet talking to the God of the universe may leave you wondering what to say. What could I say that would matter to God? Doesn’t God know what I am going to say anyway, so why bother? And a bunch of other questions may inhibit.

Here is the truth: God is deeply interested in what you have on your heart and mind. God is ready to listen all the time and is eager to connect with you, hear from you, and talk with you. Every good mother or father not only wants to know what is on the minds of their children, but eagerly awaits the conversation that will reveal it, even if the parent already knows. 

But what do I say to God?

Here are several ideas:

 Thanks. Just voice your gratitude for the good things in your life. This has the added benefit of actually spending some time to focus on the positive in a world that either focuses on the negative or numbs itself because of the negative. Giving thanks to God is good medicine – for you.

Ask. Explore the desires of your heart and ask for them. Wait a minute, isn’t this selfish or self-absorbed? Well, it can be, but there is a huge difference between “God, let me win the powerball” and “God, fill me with great wisdom and humility.” Seeking virtue in order to help you become your best self is never selfish.

 Intercede for people you love. Knowing the struggles and hopes of the people you love (family, friends, neighbors, co-worker / other students etc) and sharing these with God is a generous act. It also has the added benefit of increasing your empathy for those people.

 Intercede for people you do not like. Genuinely seeking the good of others and asking God to be good and generous to those who bother you, hurt you, mock you, take credit for what you did, accuse you, embarrass you, wrong you, etc is beautiful and humble. It also has the added benefit of developing empathy better than just about any other thing.

Intercede for the world. There is a lot going on this world that could use some intervention. Hunger, disease, terrorism, war, scandal, oppressive systems, various kinds of human trafficking, all manner of discrimination, etc. Pleading to God for intervention on these matters is powerful. It has the added benefit of helping you find your place in being part of the solution.

 Pour out your heart. Expressing your hurt, worries, fears, pain to God in an honest and vulnerable way can build intimacy between you and God. Yes God knows it, but sharing it makes the relationship closer and more intimate. it may also feel good to cry with God. 

Confess. Sharing secrets, especially sinful or even shameful secrets, with God is one of the most power kinds of prayer. Confession is not about giving God new information that would have otherwise remained unknown, but rather about having the humility to “look God in the eye” and say it while having the trust that God’s response will be loving and kind and forgiving. Confession has the added benefit of great emotional relief.

Repentance. Seeking ways to change unhealthy or sinful ways of living and asking God for the courage to change and the strength to maintain the change is about as humble as it gets.

Listen. Sometimes prayer is about just listening. Being quiet in a room alone, in nature, in the car etc  can provide a rest for the mind and heart. Sometimes the rest itself is enough. Sometimes God provides thoughts that would not otherwise have come or feelings that had no space to emerge otherwise.

Scripture. Open up Psalms or Proverbs or one of the gospels and read through part of it, but read it as a prayer. Sometimes there is no better way to connect with God than through the Word of God filtered through you and back to God.  

There are more ways to pray than these, but when those moments come when prayer is difficult or you are overwhelmed and just can’t think of how to talk with God, maybe these can help. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Big Empty

I am a thimble
Yearning for the ocean
Longing to be a bucket
Yearning for the ocean
Longing to be a hole
Yearning for the ocean
Longing to be a canyon
Yearning for the ocean
Longing to be a crater
Yearning for the ocean
Longing to be empty enough
To be filled with the ocean

Friday, June 12, 2015


A scoop of sand
Held as tight as can squeeze

Sand of hourglass
Sand of desert
Sand of sea

Gravity, wind and wave
Conspire to regain
All sand

From this moment
Of held sand
Till it is
Wisped away
Fallen to earth and
Swallowed by sea

My fingerprint 
On every grain

The Parable of the Sculptor and the Saboteur

The Parable of the Sculptor and the Saboteur

The Kingdom of God is like a great sculptor who hammered and chiseled at a large stone. The sculptor alone knew the image that was contained within the stone and therefore knew how to release the image by eliminating unnecessary pieces of the stone to reveal the image. Day after day the sculptor chipped away at the stone and eventually some semblance of an image began to emerge.

One night, when the sculptor was away, a saboteur approached the stone with hammer and chisel in hand. The saboteur neither knew the image within the stone nor cared whether there was an inherent image. Instead, the saboteur began to chip away at the stone in some other way. Some of the chisels were random and harsh, damaging the image while some of the hits with the hammer were intentionally damaging. Still other efforts of the saboteur were carefully crafted attempts to make the inherent image in the stone into something that the stone was never intended to be, something much less.

“This is your real image,” the saboteur said to the stone, “this is what you were really meant to be.”

When the great sculptor returned to see that the stone had been sabotaged, never once did the thought of destroying the stone come to mind. Rather, the sculptor loved the stone so much that the damage done inspired an even more creative impulse in the great sculptor.

“I will take each wrong hit and make it right again,” the great sculptor said, “for so long as there is stone the image remains within it.”

When it came time for the great sculptor to reveal the finished sculpture to all the world, the saboteur was in the audience. A sheet covered the sculpture with everyone waiting in anticipation to see what the final work of the great sculptor would be. The saboteur sat smug and eager to humiliate the great sculptor. Yet, when the sheet was pulled down and the sculpture revealed, the crowd cheered in great joy as this sculpture was even more beautiful and glorious than they could have imagined.

“I can see myself in this,” said one person.

“It is like the sculptor knows me,” said another.

The sculpture was the exact representation of the inherent image imagined by the sculptor all along, with each mark made by the saboteur creatively and masterfully worked into the final product as though it had been anticipated all along. Every jagged chip crafted into a clever angle; every ugly mark made beautiful.

The saboteur sat shocked and humiliated, whispering in disbelief, “That’s impossible. I made irreparable damage. I destroyed that stone.”

“My chisel of redemption,” said the sculptor, “is sharper than my chisel of creation.”

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Yankee? Lessons on Moving South

1. When you move to the South from the North you're going to hear and see some strange and perhaps even offensive things. Grow a tolerance for difference. 

2. Only people in the North believe Texas is in the South.

3. There are many Souths in the South. Learn the difference between Georgia and Mississippi and you're on your way to a much more pleasant experience.

4. Not all things that look alike are alike. For example, in Texas cowboy boots and a cowboy hat are for work, but in Tennessee they are for style.

5. They're going to call you Yankee. It doesn't matter if you've never thought of yourself in that way. If you must correct them, do it in a self deprecating and funny way, like you don't really mean it. But it's probably best just to let it pass because you run the risk of offending their entire sense of history. 

6. They will know in much greater detail the history of the Civil War than you do.

7. About 30% of their knowledge of the Civil War is incorrect or biased, but because you don't know anything about the Civil War, you won't know what they are wrong about. Either read up on the Civil War or let it go.

8. The pop versus soda versus Coke debate is not one worth having, but if you do have it, enter into it in a self-deprecating way such that you do not appear to be coming across as superior. They already think you think you're better than they are, so no sense in proving them right. 

9. If you think you have nothing to learn from someone from the South you are every bit the fool they think you are.

10. . Don't let your longing for home degrade into comparisons of how much better home is than this place. Just long for home and visit there when you can.

11. When you start hearing how the SEC conference is a better football conference than your football conference, just smile and nod and let it go. It is useless to offend another person's religion. Plus, boasting about your pro team when the topic is college football is like sneezing in the pudding. 

12. There is beauty in every place and there is worth in every person. If you spend your time looking for those things you'll have spent your time well.