Wednesday, April 27, 2005
We applaud for politicians...so why not God?
As you may have noted, before all this Pope business began, I was wandering randomly through this book, which is the latest offering from my buddy, Mark Roberts. Wonderful book on the Psalms. Buy it, use it for your small group.
Mark makes a very interesting point about praising God, versus praising the other things in our culture that we love to praise. What are these things, that garner our praise....and our "Standing Os"?
Need I continue? If we so easily will stand and roar and make fools our ourselves for these things, what not for the Creator of the Universe. Hmmm.....think about it. I am.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
#1 on the list of stupid things to do...
It seems that actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has this to say about the September 11 attacks.
As I always look first to under 30 actresses who major (at Columbia) in Eastern Religion and Literature for definitive opinions on world affairs, I was overjoyed to learn that Ms Gyllenhaal feels that the US was responsible in part for 9/11. How illuminating.
I am so glad that Maggie has sent the record straight. She has my vote to be given a distinguished teaching chair at the Richard Gere Institute of Actors Who Are Unqualified to Speak a Word About World Polictics.
Using the qualifications and logic of Ms. Gyllenhaal, I, a commercial real estate consultant, will soon be offering my thoughts on Brain Surgeries that can be performed in the safety of your own home.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Is this alright to do?.....
Although I am a registered Republican, I am not so sure Jesus is.
So I am driving to work this morning, listening to NPR, and I hear about all the hub-bub going on about he Senate Judicial nominees. I think to myself, "darn Democrats". Really, I did think the word darn....well, this time. Democrats bug me a lot. And they like to take my money from me (ok, so its God's money that I am borrowing for a while, I know).
So, then later today I come across this piece by Michael Spencer about this thing that happened this weekend. Disclaimer, it is going to take a few minutes to read, this but it is so very worth reading. I promise. I must admit, Dr. Dobson has always given me a bit of the willies to listen to. While I appreciate what he has done for the American family, I am not sure I buy all his politics. Particularly because I am not so sure that Jesus' politics and Dr. Dobson's are such a perfect match.
After you have digested Michaels piece, here are my reflections. First, the little I know about Jesus is that he did come to present to us all a completely different paradigm about life here, and the life hereafter. So given this, perhaps Jesus might not be too hot on using the church for political purposes. Now, my friend Rob Asghar would be among the first to remind me that Jesus might have a different paradigm for lots of other things political; how we care for those less fortunate, whether war is really "just" or if that is a convenient form of logic to justify our imperialistic tendencies (spoken by a supporter of the Iraq war), and a host of other issues about our political discourse. We like politics that make our world safe, that keep the bad guys at arms distance. But that darn Jesus, he was a lot more fearless than I am. He was quite a heroic figure, that guy.
There really is a lot more I am not so sure of as I grow older. Maybe Jesus has a "third way", that we might all want to pursue together. What are your thoughts? Does Michael Spencer have a point? Are our paradigms wrong? Lets do some thinking, for the Kingdom.
"Am I holding this guys hand?
Aw, anything for more oil....open ANWAR quick!"
Who says its not rough being President? From the web:
A major thing you should beware of is knowing if a Saudi Arabian likes you or not. If one does not like you he will not touch you (Gestures, n.d., 58). If a Saudi Arabian ever hugs you, consider yourself honored (Gestures, n.d., 58). This is a good thing and means you are well liked (Gestures, n.d., 58). Hugging and touching in Saudi Arabia is condoned between same sex persons, it is very common to see two males walking together and holding hands, even if it is two government officials or military personnel
(Gestures, n.d., 58).
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Not really a nut case....
Cruising around the web tonight got my attention in regards to several issues regarding the new Pope, and how that fits in with what we protestants believe about the centrality of Christ. First, to see the actual words of the Pope in his homily during the Inauguration today, go here. I must excerpt my favorite part here:
So, after reading this, do you suppose the Cardinals have either elected a liberal nut-case, or worse, a conservative weirdo? I think not. But to read the thoughts of some creative-thinking journalists, perhaps the Cardinals are loony. Go check out what Mark Roberts is saying about this, and decide for yourself. I for one, am very tired of relativist pluralism. Please!
All of us belong to the communion of Saints, we who have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we who draw life from the gift of Christs Body and Blood, through which he transforms us and makes us like himself. Yes, the Church is alive this is the wonderful experience of these days. During those sad days of the Popes illness and death, it became wonderfully evident to us that the Church is alive. And the Church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future. The Church is alive and we are seeing it: we are experiencing the joy that the Risen Lord promised his followers. The Church is alive she is alive because Christ is alive, because he is truly risen. In the suffering that we saw on the Holy Fathers face in those days of Easter, we contemplated the mystery of Christs Passion and we touched his wounds. But throughout these days we have also been able, in a profound sense, to touch the Risen One. We have been able to experience the joy that he promised, after a brief period of darkness, as the fruit of his resurrection.
I spend some time this morning with Mark at his church, and I can tell you, it is a wonderful place of welcome and grace. Go visit.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
"The money made everything so much harder"
Alright people. I am not a big movie goer, given most of the fair that Hollywood seems to churn out these days; the last movie I saw in the theater was "The Incredibles". Call me a dud. So be it. Come to think of it, this is the first movie review of this Blog.
My wife and I went tonight to see Millions, which has been released by Fox Searchlight films, and was made in Great Britain. Maybe we have to go that far to find a good movie these days. This is a very good movie. You must go see this movie. This is the sort of film making that deserves our money. Tell your friends.
What if you happened upon $250,000, and wanted to give it to the poor, but there were no poor where you lived, because they had been priced out of the housing market (sound familiar)? And you have only 10 days to spend the money, because the UK is converting to the Euro, and after that, the money will be useless. Add to this a boy of about 10 years old who has frequent visions that he is conversing with the Saints of the church.
Imagine the combination of a crime thriller, a father and two young sons trying to rebuild their lives after the loss of the mother of the family, mix in major ethical and moral questions about money, combined with an other-worldly interplay of heaven and earth; and Saints of the church who move mysteriously through the periphery of the movie, and you have Millions. I have never seen anything like this. Wonderful. Thought provoking. Beautiful.
Now people - get up out of your chairs, and go see it.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
And they came running....
I did not know it, but when the bells of St. Peters began to ring on Tuesday, the citizens of Rome, came out of shops, and offices, and homes....and ran to St Peter's Square. What for? For an answer....see this. And then, take a look at this. People running, again. Modern and ancient, brought together.
Beautiful. I love Peggy Noonan.
And might I add a personal reflection? Is this not the world we, those of us who follow Christ, are trying to build? A world where all of us, young and old, rich and poor, lovely and plain, burst forth from out offices, shops, and homes to run to see the King. Jesus. May it be so Lord, help us to see the way.
The many contradictions in our lives - such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts - can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us. They make us feel that we are never fully present. Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed.
But there is another response. These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy. Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Welcome Benedict XVI
A couple of thoughts on the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. First, see the previous post, which features the words of encouragement from Cardinal Ratzinger to his brother Cardinals prior to the Conclave. In particular:
How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires."
And then we have Benedict's words upon announcement of his Papacy:
Dear brothers and sisters,
after our great Pope, John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard. I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools, and I especially trust in your prayers. In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help. And Mary, his most beloved Mother, stands on our side. Thank you.
Might we all aspire to be simple and humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord.....
Monday, April 18, 2005
The Conclave Begins
I promise, I am not yet Catholic. Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent. Stay the Protestant course. A thousand points of light.
Please, please, if you feel any animosity toward the Catholic church, go read this, it is the message given to the Cardinals, prior to the beginning of the Conclave to elect the next Pope.
I think these Cardinal guys may have it right.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
I have this habit. Whenever I get in the car, I turn on the radio, or its already on when I start the engine. I would guess that 95% of the time, the radio is on, feeding me important news, relaxing classical music (to counteract my teenage daughters), or perhaps some jazz or rock to slightly (mind you) exceed the posted speed limit by. Schedule to keep, appointments to make, people to see, things to do. Do! Produce! Achieve! I am an American!
And then we have, well, um, the character and call of the Lord. He calls us to something different. Are we capable of slowing down, shutting up, and being quiet? In No Holds Barred, Mark Roberts offers us a taste of change.
We desperately need some quiet; a time to reflect. To be still before our Creator. To think, to feel, to heal. And perhaps, as Mark Roberts suggests, quiet may be a prerequisite to hearing God.
And if we think about it, some of life's most profound moments come out of silence. We all have experienced this. Perhaps the most recent vivid image of profound silence for me was the struggling silence of the final blessing of John Paul II, from his apartment window in the Vatican to the faithful below.
The sign of the cross, the struggling painful face. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Without words. Amen.
I invite you; join me. Be still.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
I wonder if my dog can remember?....
We have a chocolate Labrador retriever. Her name is Cindy. My younger daughter named her after Cinderella from Disney fame, when she was 4 years old. I wonder how it is that dogs actually remember things. Can she remember the first walk we took her on, when she was scared to go around the block when she was a puppy and we had to nearly drag her on her little leash. Can she remember when I may have been unkind to her, because she was eating out of the dishwasher again? Can she remember her mother, her siblings at the great house in Rolling Hills?
Remembering. It frames our lives, doesn't it? In his book "No Holds Barred", Mark Roberts talks about the Psalms as a source of remembering. Our world today leaves us disconnected. Adrift. Set alone to figure things out. Families are separated by thousands of miles, and even farther emotional distances. Everything around us clamors about the instant. The now.
We have forgotten where we come from, and are not sure at all of where we are going. In the midst of this, however, we can remember together Gods faithfulness in history, and in our own lives.
As a final thought, Tim Thompson has printed the words to a wonderful and touching Sara Groves song, "Remember Surrender" here. Take a look and think about Remembering......what God has done for you.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Do all bloggers look thusly?
Each day, for perhaps 6-8 hours, in order to make a living, I spend much of my time in a seated position. After spending several days in the great outdoors, breathing cold air, and enjoying what God has created, and NOT sitting on my hiney, I have begun to wonder.
Do most bloggers secretly look like Homer? Food (no pun intended) for thought.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
No Holds Barred
Alright skiing fans, we are back from Mammoth. The snow was wonderful, the weather great (two days of sun and 50 degrees, one day of snow and 35 degrees), and the laughter abundant. We ran into about 15 or 20 different friends from South Pasadena, and had a generally stupendous time. Thanks be to God for the beauty of His Creation around us, and the precious gift of friends and family.
While on our trip, I finished reading Mark Robert’s latest book, “No Hold’s Barred”, a candid look at the deeper meanings found within the Book of Psalms. By way of a disclaimer, Mark has been a dear friend for more than 20 years. He is a follower of Christ, a husband, a father, pastor, friend, outdoorsman, and perhaps one of the most pathetic golfers I have ever seen. That is ok though, Mark has not yet seen me ski. Pathetic is a relative concept.
On to the book. Have you looked through the Psalms and found them to be difficult to fathom, obscure in terms of our modern world, and perhaps written in a way that doesn’t connect to the places where you live? And yet, do you long for a deeper relationship with God, or maybe even find yourself wondering if He exists in the first place? And when you pray, do you find yourself using the language you used in church as a child; not sure how to express your longing, or whether you can be really honest with the Creator of the Universe? Is all of this just too confusing, too unreal. Can you be mad at God, can you really confess to him the saddest, most tragic and lonely parts of your life? In short, can you, can I, can we be real in our relationship with God?
Mark Roberts takes us on a journey of discovery in “No Holds Barred”. This is done via a variety of ideas and concepts found within the Psalms.
Asking – being unafraid to approach God with our needs.
Remembering – using the Psalms to remember God’s faithfulness
Silence – what, you mean no noise??
Physical Expression – using all of who we are to praise God
Desperation and Doubt – where God comes to be beside us
Vengeance – is it ok to be really mad at others in front of God?
Thanksgiving – living lives that reflect profound thanks for God’s grace?
Praise – what does it mean to give God praise?
Confession – ut oh, telling God about our “dark places”!
Worship – using the Psalms as a source of worship
Without boring you to tears (I have heard that many readers of this blog weep frequently upon reviewing its contents), I will share with you the portions of this book that resonated the most with me, in hopes that you will get a copy, and find parts that will resonate with you – drawing you closer to the heart of God, and in turn, deepening your love for him, and adding joy and grace to your relationships with others.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Tomorrow morning our family heads to Mammoth Mountain. My wife and I have not been on skis for about 20 years, and our girls (aged 11 and 14) have never skied.
So, a family adventure in the making. A late spring time to make some memories together, and hopefully return home together with all of our bones intact. We are thankful for this time together, in the midst of our busy, noisy, and full lives.
I plan on taking this book along with me on the trip. In the few moments of silence I am allowed, I would pray that God might meet me anew, and refresh my busy soul - so that I might know more of his presence and mercy.
Until next Thursday or so.......
These words were the first scripture chosen for the funeral mass of John Paul II:
Acts 10:34-43 (New International Version)
34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached– 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen–by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
How fitting. We protestants may have our differences about Mary, but our Catholic brothers and sisters know what is the essence of our shared faith. Also, I found it wonderful that the things of the Kingdom of God; hope, redemption, the sacrifice of Christ were being discussed and given great audience on every last major television outlet.
Now, may our individual lives be so filled with grace, love, and mercy, that the Kingdom of God becomes personal to those around us, our neighbors, our friends and those we work with.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Alright, everyone stay calm, I am not becoming a Catholic. But the older I get the less I know for sure. I do know for sure that Jesus is Lord, and has transformed my life. I know for sure that I have been graced beyond measure by my wife, my children, and my friends. I know that The Simpsons is just about the funniest thing on TV, most of the time. And I do know that some of the finest, most joyous, dear, thoughtful, good, and faithfully devoted people I know are.....GASP...Catholic! I love them dearly.
However, there is lots of stuff I am not so sure about. One is this, which I find interesting (HT to Hugh Hewitt). Read, and ponder, good people.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Gosh darn Christians!
In the span of 24 hours, this and this appear on separate blogs, both by men who love Jesus. I swear, we Christian folk must drive those looking in on us completely nutty.
I have to admit that I agree more with Michael Spencer than I do with Al Mohler, and I find it highly ironic that Michael Spencer is a graduate of the school that Al Mohler is now dean of. Can you imagine?
While I agree with some of what Al Mohler says, I can hardly imagine using it to THONK some of my dear Catholic friends over the head with; such as "High there Sue, sorry to hear about John Paul, but did you know that his ideas about Mary as "Co-Redemptrix" are just WRONG?! Oh, and have a nice day!" And here is a shocker, my Catholic friends, they actually really do love Jesus!
This type of theological one-upsmanship makes me cringe. I am sorry, Dr. Mohler, but I want to actually get along with my Catholic friends at the city little league field. I wonder if Al has kids that still play little league, or for that matter, if he ever ventures outside of his theological world?
Surely there is a better middle ground to find.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
John Paul II 1920-2005
If ever it could be said, "Well done, good and faithful servant!", it has already been said, in Heaven, just over the past 36 hours, with the arrival in Glory of Karol Wojtyla.
This was a life well led indeed. On the news last night, I heard him speaking, years ago, to a crowd in Central Park; "look to Jesus Christ". Shall we not all follow this example, and in each task we do, each person we meet, every relationship we have, look to Jesus Christ! May our gaze be constant.
I also heard it said that some of his final words to his close advisors were to the effect of, "Do not be sad, should you not be happy? I am going to be with my Father". This was a weekend mixed with sadness and loss, but strangely, with great hope and rejoicing. As a middle aged father of two, with a bit of a spare tire around my middle, I have begun to think more about my own mortality. Perhaps it is because my own parents, both of essentially the same age as John Paul, are slowing down and life seems more fragile for them. I must admit it - I am scared of death. I have not had much experience of it. Sad things, things of death were simply avoided in my family as I grew up. And, after college where I met Christ, I knew that as a Believer, death is not an ending. However, from my side of the eternal fence, it sure does look like it. Its scary, man. The lights go out. You are alone.
In a mysterious way, John Paul has taught me something very good about death. It is not all sadness and sorrow. It can be filled with such grace and dignity. Karol Wojtyla has shown me that approaching the end can be good, is such a part of living, and can be so very much a part of knowing Christ. For me, over these past days; with a feeble and frustrated attempt to speak to the crowds, with lighted windows over a darkened Rome, with simple words of hope and promise, John Paul has preached his final and perhaps greatest sermon.
I commented on this just recently here, and it all seems to fit together so well now. Enjoy the company of Jesus and the Saints, John Paul....good and faithful servant.
Friday, April 01, 2005
Jesus Christ. Relevant.
I came across this website the other day, on a hat tip from Hugh Hewitt. This concept is wonderful to me. Part of the thematic of Veritas is:
Imagine that. Jesus Christ, relevant to all of life. In a University setting. As a UCLA alum (back in the days when they would let just about anybody in) I find this ministry exciting.
Veritas Forums are university events that engage students and faculty in discussions about life's hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life.
Check them out.
Oh, and if you think a college education is not useful, check this out; the obvious result of a person without the benefits of thoughtful university discourse informing their worldview. Remember, you cannot "enforce a burger". Thanks Rob Asghar, I nearly wet my pants.