Monday, October 30, 2006

Do We Have Souls?

About 10 days ago, I was returning home from a business trip to the Bay Area, and spotted this article in U.S.News & World Report in the airport newsstand. I grabbed the magazine (paid for it, yes) and then hurried to my flight home, weary from a long day.

It was a breathtaking fall evening, as I flew home about 7PM. The sunset out the window seat was every color imaginable of orange, yellow, gray and blue. I was reminded of this verse, as I opened the article on "Science and the Soul", my eyes filled with tears of thankfulness for what God had created right outside my window at 41,000 feet.

After reading, I can only advise every pastor I know to spend some time, and look this article over. Warning: it is not an endorsement of Christian orthodoxy. However, this piece is wonderfully well done, and presents a number of interesting perspectives about developments in the science of consciousness.

I found reading about the competing ideas concerning present understanding of the human soul to be almost a form of a spiritual exercise. This article mentions quantum physics, Buddhism, Platonism, Augustine and Calvin, all together. Another resource mentioned is the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, at the University of Pennsylvania. I also remembered how a psychiatrist friend told me recently, "the things we know now about the human brain, were largely unknown even 10 years ago".

In retrospect, there are lots of new ideas here, and many different brilliant minds trying to grasp the inner workings of the mind, even at the microscopic level. For some more conservative Christian folk, all this thought and science might seem too theoretical and threatening. Not so for me; I love reading and learning. My favorite bit about Oxford physicist Roger Penrose:

"....Penrose proposed that consciousness was a quantum computation within the brain, and infinitesimal collapse of quantum information into classical information that takes place at the level of the neurons."

And people say there is no God.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

TLC - The Monastery

This looks like it might be good television! I just spotted this series yesterday, and will be watching the second episode tonight. Here is the TLC web site for the series; lots of good information.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Golfing For Jesus, First Presbyterian Honolulu

I have found my calling. I have heard the voice of the Lord! And I am bringing my clubs.

Pictured at left is the Koolau Golf Club in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Located just northeast of Honolulu, Koolau is an 18 hole course known as one of the toughest courses in the nation.

And now, to my glee, its a CHURCH too, baby! I am not making this up.

It seems that First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu
has just purchased this golf course. This is just about the best news I have heard in years. Its a golf course, a club house, a restaurant, a catering business, and a place to deepen your faith. Its in Hawaii, for heaven's sake! Could things possibly be any better than this?

I heard this story from a good friend at my church, who just visited the new and improved First Pres Honolulu. My friend, who is in her "golden years" said she heard a wonderful sermon and enjoyed meeting the warm people of this congregation. She reported that after the Sunday service she went to find the ladies room and discovered, on her way back that, "the clubhouse bar was really rockin'!". This is my kind of place.

Astronomers tell us that wormholes in space may lead us to a parallel universe. Given this, I am convinced that somewhere on this golf course there exists a wormhole leading directly to Heaven. This is too good to be true!

I plan on finding the portal to Glory; I think its near the 12th green, in the rough.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

If You Love Me...

Friends, family members, sycophants.

If you love me, you will buy me this for Christmas; a Dwight Shroot Bobblehead (from The Office).

I don't ask for much.....

Still in the Healing Business

One week ago, our church had its annual retreat weekend. I wrote about attending this event a year ago here.

Our church has had a tough go of it over the past 18 months, suffering a most painful split, resulting in the resignation/dismissal of two pastors. It felt like living through the most embarrassing moments of Christendom; a modern version of the Crusades, with all the drama but no dead bodies. Certainly some very wounded souls, though.

After last weekend though, I have been reminded of something elemental to my faith. God can, and does, heal even the grossest of scars. I am very thankful. He is beginning the process of healing in our hurt souls, if we will let Him.

Over the course of two days, we heard from a young couple with two little children who have, in the past year, found in our church a place of welcome, belonging, and home.

We heard from a Korean seminary student who as struggled with depression, who has found our congregation of place of grace and support and love.

And then, we listen to the gentle voice of a woman who has been a part of our church for more than 50 years. Her husband has passed now, but she continues, in her "third trimester" of life to love, and care, and serve and laugh, and life.

Our speaker was this guy, who is a good and faithful man.

Amazingly, God still heals, still involves himself in our pathetic, self absorbed lives.

Still. I am thankful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Huge Answer - What People Really Want

“All people really want is God”. That was the answer to the question posed by my friend. That is all. And yet,there is so much more to that answer.

God. The Lord.

Images come to mind of a giant bellowing figure, suspended in space, waiting to smite us all. Or perhaps a somewhat bemused and detached Santa Claus-like fellow, slightly amused at the folly of our lives. Or maybe a tired and haggard old celestial fellow, who is too tired, detached, or fed up to communicate with his Creation. We all have different images, for each one of us, they are unique. Perhaps images of long-ago Sunday school Bible figures with flowing white beards, wearing brightly colored robes and bad looking sandals.

What image do you have of God? Is it from your childhood, standing inside a cathedral and being awed at the color, and smells, and somber expressions of those around you? Or maybe a few years later, from when you were a teen or in your twenties and discovering the richness of the world; and found yourself in that same sacred space, and saw the same things, smelled the same smells, and then thought to yourself, “this religion is all a load of crap”.

The Lord. Maybe what comes to mind is nothing. A void. The blackest of nights. The feeling in the pit of your stomach that comes when you loose someone dear, and there is no replacement. You are suddenly more alone than you were just a short time before. Darkness.
Maybe you have felt these things. I have felt them all. And yet, there is more than just this. More soon....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Huge Question

I heard this question asked today, by a dear friend, who I have known for many years.

At the moment it was asked, I felt as if I had experienced something very elemental, very deep, and strangely, sometimes hard to answer.

His question: “What is it that people really want?” This question was far bigger than it seemed. As big as the universe, really. And astronomers are still undecided on the answer to that one.

It was not a question about physical needs, or possessions, nor about one’s place in life, or the acceptance of peers, or of emotional security. This question lies at the very core of who we are. Why we are here on this beautiful blue planet floating in space, and what our lives really mean. This question, of what we really want is, at the same time very existential, and yet real, very earthy. Very vague, and yet so tangible. You can almost feel and sometimes even see this question, there at the core of every person.

Its there, just below the surface, this need. So we do our best to hide it, to make ourselves look like we don’t have any questions, and that our lives are nice, and clean, and put together. But, there is this longing inside us all. Deep down. Inside.

“What is it that people really want?” We spend so much of our time avoiding and repressing this question. We don’t want to deal with it at all. Its like this enormous mess in the basement. Its been there for years, and we just don’t want to deal with it. Its large, and tangled up, and cleaning it up would take far too much time and emotional energy, because inside that pile of basement stuff are things about our past, present, and future that we just don’t want to deal with. So we ignore it. We never go down to the basement, its dark, sort of cold, and feels like a forgotten place. We avoid it.

More soon…..

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Which Church Would You Pick?

My wife and I just finished watching "Is God Green" on PBS. I have one primary prevailing thought, and its not about the complicated intersection of global warming, Christian ethics, and political conviction.

Its about which church I would want to go to. I believe in the Missional Church, big time. Given this, it is my conviction that people who have never been drawn to the church will often be drawn by what we do in the world, rather than within the walls of the church.

Now, from what I saw, I would rather be a part of what is happening with the folks of the Vineyard Church in Boise, than with the folks from ICES. You see, I don't spend my weekdays with church folk, the types at ICES (who seemed to have genuine thoughts and hearts, but, as a group, seemed to me to be rather, well, constipated). Instead, most of my days are spend with all kinds of people from the real regular world and business world, many of whom never darken the door of a church.
To me, this PBS show was, in part, about the warmth and contagious nature of a congregation.

If some of my friends who are not "churched" found out that my church was going to "tend God's garden" by planting trees or cleaning up the city park or some such thing, I think they would be much more interested in coming along, than they would be in coming to church.

And maybe, just maybe after meeting some of my believing friends (many of whom are a blast to be with and damn funny), they might, someday, want to come spend time with us all at our church. And maybe after, even come over to our house for dinner. Then, we could debate the merits of global warming, while drinking something smooth and warm.

Just maybe. Maybe this is what the church needs to be more like.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Alright, The Truth

Its time I confessed. Last week, I posted that I was on a business trip. Some of you might have been suspicious of the timing, given recent world events.

I guess I should tell the truth; see photo at left. Its me and the Dear One.

Thanks, Eric.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Clear the Streets!

Today, our lives entered a new phase. Our 15 year old, began driving.

She went down to the Costco parking lot tonight with her mom, to practice just putting the van in gear and trying out the gas and brake. It was a thrill-seeking task for my wife. Apparently there were several close calls involving inanimate objects, such as parking bumpers and the exterior concrete wall of Costco itself. I am thankful that my wife and daughter did not make the evening news... "Teenage driver goes on first-drive rampage! Film at 11!"

Soon, before we know it, she will be driving off...away from us, to a new life, college, career, and the path in life she chooses for herself, hopefully with a bit of guidance from Mom and Dad. May we be parents full of grace, love, and hope. May we listen well, speak seldom, and not get coronaries teaching her to drive.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I Love My Job

On a quick business trip.

I could tell you what I do for a living, but I would have to kill you afterward. Or maybe kill myself, and then take your camera from you.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Echo of Genesis, A Modern Icon of Faith

This is an image taken by the COBE satellite, which portrays the background radiation from the Big Bang, or Genesis, if you will (I may have just ticked off scads of biblical innerantists, but I will sleep well tonight). This photo has been dubbed by the press as "the face of God".

Today, there was a wonderful editorial in the Wall Street Journal, entitled "Echo of Genesis", which discussed the history of the theory of the Big Bang, and the recent award of the Nobel Prize in Physics. The author of the article, Michio Kaku, a professor of physics at City University of New York pointed out:

" 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were scanning the heavens with the huge Holmdel Horn Radio Telescope in New Jersey, which picked up a pesky background "noise" that filled the sky. They were mystified, and even thought this annoying static might be due to bird droppings on the telescope. Later, it was pointed out to them that this spurious noise was probably the residual radiation from the creation of the universe, predicted by Gamow. (Remarkably, this echo from the Big Bang makes up a significant fraction of the static you hear on the radio. You literally pick up signals from Genesis itself every time you spin the radio dial. And if we somehow had eyes that could see microwave radiation, we would see this radiation come out every night, filling the night sky with a soft, faint glow.)"

And then, right after I read this editorial, I turned on my laptop and found this web site, which I have mentioned before here. These things are connected, in a strange and mysterious way - physics and faith, the Big Bang and being better and more genuine as evangelists, listening with gigantic telescopes and the simple act of listening in prayer. And each night, as we step outside, we don't know it, but we are, all of us, every last one, bathed in the invisible glow from Genesis itself.

If only we would allow God to show us new ways to explain this amazing story, so that it might become real to those around us who have not yet experienced the glow of Genesis, in the person of Jesus.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Free Hugs and The Church

Showing below is the latest Internet craze, the Free Hugs video.

I just have one question. What would our churches look like if we offered a lot more free hugs; particularly we Presbyterians?

Free Hugs

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