Tuesday, March 29, 2011
In most surveys, a majority of Americans believe they are above average. I will freely confess that, asked the same question, I would probably consider myself above average. Meaning that I am, well, average. Strange...
And yet, in the eyes of God, I am perfectly unique, treasured and secure. I am not seen as another faceless entity in a sea of humanity--I am known by name, created with a purpose. I am loved, because my Creator is love, and can be nothing but love.
I do have to remind myself of this from time to time, when I get down on myself and beat myself up for all the idols I create. God loves me not because of what I do but because of whose I am.
At this point you may be wondering, that's great, Keith, but what about the baby? I'm getting there, I promise.
By now, our child has its own unique set of fingerprints.
That's right--it is now possible for our child to leave evidence behind at the scene of any crime. Just imagine those fingerprints all over freshly washed windows!
No two sets of fingerprints are alike--and so our child continues to develop as an individual, unlike any other (and obviously above average!). Its heart continues to beat, it continues to grow and develop as a beloved child of God. It is my prayer that it will never doubt God's love.
Per day, there are between 300,000-400,000 babies born every day in the world.
Each one is knit together in the mother's womb by God, and each one is treasured, perfectly unique, and beloved. Christ rose upon the cross, stretched out his arms and died for every single one of them, and all are rose for them, too. I cannot imagine or understand how God can love each one uniquely, separately, but I'm not God, so I don't have to figure it out. I just have to be grateful that I worship a God who can and does love like that!
Monday, March 28, 2011
I will freely confess that one of the things my heart longs for is for my life to be remembered. To be known. I think this desire falls safely into the realm of idols, for I cannot say that I am always hoping to be known so that I can bear the light of Christ to others, but I often wish, to be truly honest, to be known simply to be remembered, to feel like I matter.
I could probably go on for pages about this desire and modern society, how the number of twitter followers and facebook friends and pageviews are so easily calculated and compared in our often narcissistic society, but it really doesn't matter how I compare to the rest of the world and how it might be society's fault--what matters is that it's an idol that needs to be torn down and replaced with something of God.
And God seems to be trying to do that, both in the message from Hauerwas I came across in some devotional reading, as well as in the beginning of Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy, which I have recently begun, with great anticipation.
While being 'known' in the eyes of the world is, perhaps, pleasing for a while, God keeps reminding me that what truly matters is that I am known, treasured and beloved, in the eyes of my Creator, who will remain forever, far beyond the length of time the kingdoms of this earth will reign. My eternal God holds me in the palm of his hand, and I matter immensely to Him. I will not be forgotten, even in my darkest hour. Somehow, through the miracle of Christ, all of my sins are forgotten, but I never am, and for that reason alone, I matter.
So perhaps I can get off this treadmill of worry about being forgotten by the world after I am gone, and remind myself that in the eyes of my Lord and Savior, I shall never be forgotten, and that is all that matters.
I imagine that Jesus would then suggest that I take all that energy I put into worrying about this and invest that in spreading the Good News of God's Kingdom.
"...we can live with the hope and confidence that the only remembering that matters is to be remembered by Jesus." (Hauerwas)
The child is now roughly the size of a peach, nearly three inches long and 4/5 of an ounce. Hopefully there's no pit!
Do you know how, whenever you eat a peach, the juices run down all over your hands and wrists, forcing you to go wash your hands afterward? Even with the mess, though, you're still thrilled that you got the chance to enjoy that peach.
I think having a child is somewhat like that. You go into the process really excited about it, and then just as you begin you realize how messy and unprepared you are. It's invading every corner of your life, and you realize that, if you had known everything you now know, you might have tried to be more prepared going into the process. But it is so joyful, such a sweet process, that you are so glad you did it, so certain that your life is enriched, that you don't mind the mess. You're simply grateful that you have the chance at all.
That's where I am--just grateful for the chance to be a father, to celebrate the gift of life and pray for the wisdom and courage to try and be the kind of father my heavenly father is to me. I will fail, but I will strive, and that makes all the difference.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011
Lewis' tale is a far different read than Bunyan's--I found Bunyan's easier to understand. Lewis had fewer characters in his story, and the conversations were deeper and more philosophical. Lewis' tale was enjoyable, but if I had to recommend one or the other, I'd probably lean toward Bunyan's, simply because the lessons were plainer, though similar.
Both remind me that the life of faith is a quest. While the cover of Lewis' book is an epic picture of a knight fighting a dragon, most of the book is comprised of a psychological battle against the temptations to stray from the course, and I find that lesson to be far more pertinent to my situation--the constant, niggling distractions lead me from the narrow way bit by bit, step by wayward step, rather than big, dramatic battles. I need to be reminded that my life of faith is a quest, one that demands my energy and commitment, one that asks much of me. I need to be reminded of what a grand adventure this life is, and I should not forget that my goal is the glory of God, rather than the 'success' that the world so often elevates as our goal. I am not striving for a kingdom made of worldly things, but rather one filled with light and glory that belong only to God.
How easy it is to forget that we are on a grand quest! The world's comforts, I believe, so often soften our resolve and lower our defenses. We grow comfortable, and while many comforts are a gift from God, they also ensnare our souls and entrap us into believing that comfort itself is a goal. Lewis and Bunyan both long for Christians to live unfettered and free to live boldly for Christ.
How might we live if we viewed ourselves on a quest, on an adventure? How might we view each day differently if we remembered that we have a goal, and it is God's kingdom, not the enlarging of our own kingdom? How might we make decisions differently if our goal was life with Christ, not our own glory.
I will be praying that I see myself as journeying towards life with God, all the while remembering that God is with me every step of the way.
Here's an old video of an old song, but it captures the spirit of both books.
Friday, March 25, 2011
The book is subtitled The Healing Gift of a Father's Love, and its appeal to me was that it would be a book focused on the relationship between father and son. And while this relationship was certainly evident in the pages, I felt like this was mostly a book about Jim Nantz and his friends, many of them very famous, where he squeezed in moments about his father. The book was entertaining, and many of the stories were fascinating, especially ones that involved George H.W. Bush, but it left me wanting more from the aspect of the father-son relationship. (In a sign of how quickly the world changes, perhaps having Don Imus quotes on the back of the book is not viewed the same as it once was, just as Nantz's view of Tiger Woods towards the end of the book reads somewhat differently in light of recent events)
I grew a little frustrated at this, but then I realized that I do the same thing to my heavenly Father--I try to make my story about myself, squeezing him in a little around the margins and when it is convenient. Is my life truly about Him and His glory, or is it centered on me and what I can accomplish?
I know what the right answer to that question is, but my self-centered worldview gets in the way, and I live my life in casual ignorance of the grace that sustains me every moment of the day. I continue to pray for the strength to focus upon God, making him the center of my universe, so that every thought and every action is in orbit around God. I believe this is possible, and I pray for the courage to empty myself, that the grace and love of God might be my strength and my nourishment.
Below is a politics-free interview I found with Jim Nantz by Sean Hannity.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Text for this Week
Ten minutes ago, I had no idea who Christian de Cherge was. I cannot pretend to have a complete grasp on who is. But I can say that his testament, written in anticipation of being martyred, is worth reading and can be found here.
When we think about those who oppose us, can we do so with the same grace he does?
Can we recognize that we all play a part, we all share the blame, for so many things that are twisted and distorted in this world?
Can we focus on what truly matters with the same intensity?
In related news, (All news in my life at this point is somewhat pregnancy related...it's interesting that in every conversation I have, the second question is always "How's Rachel?" She's great, by the way.) Rachel is starting to notice the child growing inside her. I suppose this is a good thing, as this is a visible reminder of the impending change in our lives. I can't imagine what it's like to deal with this change--my body doesn't change a bit, and there isn't too much I can do for her, to relieve any struggles with a changing body.
I continue to pray for the child. I wish I could know that it would make every proper decision for its life. I think every good parent wishes that for their child, all the while hoping they make slight stumbles along the way, in order to gain character as they grow. (If I had a nickel for every time my mother said 'it builds character', let's just say that the numbers on my recently completed income tax return would look a bit different!) I know that kids are resilient, and I believe that they learn as much from how we handle mistakes as they do from our care put into not making them, but I simply want to do everything in my power to live in a Godly way, in the hopes that this child will grow into a relationship with God from the first day. I long for them to have an intimate relationship with their Maker, with the One whose love is infinite, who cradles them their entire life, and to live out of gratitude. I continue to pray. Once I have done all I can, it's the only thing that's left!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
"I am giving you these instructions [...] so that by following them you may fight the good fight."
In scanning through the first chapter of 1 Timothy, I'm caught by this phrase.
I think about how we are blessed for a purpose--not simply to enrich our lives, but with the goal that our blessings might go forth into the world, so that Christ might be revealed through us.
So that the world may know Christ.
So that the world might know God's love.
So that the church might not be filled with empty actions to enrich ourselves, but rather be busy occupying ourselves with the proclamation of God's Kingdom.
So that every thought, word and deed might be an offering to God, in the hopes that the passion with which we live shows how much we love the world, because we love Christ, who made the world.
What are your gifts, your blessings?
And how are you using them to bless others?
Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad, is one of those books. I don't know where it came from or how it appeared on my bookshelf, but being short, and non-churchy, I decided to dive in.
And how complicated it is. Not that I expected anything else, but I was surprised at the theme that arose--our inability to forgive ourselves.
Lord Jim is based around Jim, a sailor who commits a massive mistake, abdicating his responsibilities in a time of need. Jim is never able to forgive himself, and spends the rest of his life fleeing from this mistake, allowing it to haunt everything he touches in the future.
How often do we live like this? I have long believed that the hardest part about forgiveness isn't asking for it, but accepting it--we believe that the blood of Christ has made possible our forgiveness, and yet we are singularly unable to forgive ourselves. We can forgive others almost anything, but when it comes to accepting the cleansing and renewing power of forgiveness, we seem to clench up, unable or unwilling to accept the grace that is offered.
How differently we might live if we allowed the things of our past to remain there, and we were free to live unfettered and free, far from the transgressions of long ago, deeds we have asked forgiveness for, deeds for which we have been forgiven. May we live as sinners who have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, free from our sinful pasts and free from a fearful future!
So there I was...
I was working out in the Y yesterday and HGTV had a show on about nurseries. I usually keep an eye on HGTV, mostly because the televisions in the Y have, well, interesting channel selections. One has that show on where the guys make the motorcycles,the history channel always has something odd on (lots of apocalyptic stuff, and yesterday a show about a mass murder), ESPN is tuned to some obscure baseball game, and FOX & CNN all make HGTV look pretty good.
So the lady visits a couple that just had their second child, and I realized that someday, soon, I'd have to design a nursery.
I kinda panicked. Maybe it's because the reality began to set in, the total change. Maybe it's because this is the first real way that the child is imposing on our life, that we have to change for the kid (Well, except for the fact that Rachel doesn't change the kitty litter anymore). Maybe it's simply the fact that I'm about as prepared to put together a nursery as I am to assemble a fully working cold fusion reactor.
I know that I won't be alone in this step, and that the nursery will come together (although I have no idea what will happen to most of the stuff that is currently occupying this room), but for some reason a typically harmless, entertaining show suddenly made life seem a lot more real yesterday.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Unreal. And yet so very real, all too real for the tens of thousands who perished, for the countless more who mourn, who weep, who cry out for meaning in the depth of night.
Weeks later, life in the United States goes on as normal. Bombings in Libya have pushed the tragedy from the headlines, and how easily I forget about my brothers and sisters on the other side of the planet, suffering and trying to find a way forward, day by precious day.
I feel as though I have no words to say to bring meaning out of this. I have no explanation, no grasp of how complete this tragedy is.
God can speak over watery chaos. God's words have creative power, are filled with love that knows no depth, offer grace and mercy in times of need.
In Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal takes the church to task for spending so much time in prayer for ourselves, for those in the pews. Are we praying for the world, for those in our community, for those we'd love to see the light of Christ? Are we spending time lifting them up before the throne of grace?
I watch that wave, over and over, sweep over the car. (The driver is ok, amazingly enough) I think of my baptismal promises, to trust in the grace and love of Christ, to follow wherever he might lead. Am I willing to invest time on my knees in prayer for Japan, that God might show me how best to serve them?
Or am I too interested in returning to 'life as normal'?
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Game Night—this Sunday night @ 6! Bring your favorite board game to share.
Habitat For Humanity—this Saturday morning. Call me if you’re interested.
No Wednesday Night—that’s right—next week, Wednesday night will not occur, but just be skipped and we’ll go straight into Thursday morning.
Session Meeting—this Sunday @ 12:15.
The people of Japan. Those in charge, and the nearly ½ million living in temporary shelters.
Wow—this is incredible—Before & After photos from Japan
Food for thought—one man’s opinion on the difference between Christianity and other religions
A fine point—you can’t eat an iPad
Text for this Week
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
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Put the lime in the coconut, you drink 'em both together
Put the lime in the coconut, then you feel better
Put the lime in the coconut, drink 'em both down
Put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the morning
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
In other news, the baby can now open and close its fist. Stop for a moment and picture a child, two inches long, opening and closing its hand.
I have been stuck on this image for a while, and I continue to pray that the child comes into the world with an open hand.
How much time do we spend with our fists clenched, grasping, holding onto the promises and blessings we have received? We hoard, out of fear or insecurity, and our tunnel vision narrows to the point that we cannot view the world around us as beautiful and wondrous, only as intruders, trying to take what we have.
When we live with open hands, the blessings that pour into our hearts and lives are then poured into the hearts of others, and the world is a more beautiful place because we are in it. We are passing on our gifts to others, and living the Gospel as I understand it. It's not about our life and amassing gifts--it's about enriching the world and the others with whom we share it.
So I pray for a child with open hands, that it might not spend its life grasping, but rather giving.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The Pastor's Ass
The pastor entered his donkey in a race and it won.
The pastor was so pleased with the donkey that he entered it in the race again, and it won again.
The local paper read:
PASTOR'S ASS OUT FRONT.
The Bishop was so upset with this kind of publicity that he ordered the Pastor not to enter the donkey in another race.
The next day, the local paper headline read:
BISHOP SCRATCHES PASTOR'S ASS.
This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the pastor to get rid of the donkey.
The pastor decided to give it to a nun in a nearby convent.
The local paper, hearing of the news, posted the following headline the next day:
NUN HAS BEST ASS IN TOWN.
The bishop fainted.
He informed the nun that she would have to get rid of the donkey, so she sold it to a farmer for $10.
The next day the paper read:
NUN SELLS ASS FOR $10.
This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the nun to buy back the Donkey and lead it to the plains where it could run wild.
The next day the headlines read:
NUN ANNOUNCES HER ASS IS WILD AND FREE.
The bishop was buried the next day.
The moral of the story is--Being concerned about public opinion can bring you much grief and misery & even shorten your life.
So be yourself and enjoy life.
Stop worrying about everyone else's ass and you'll be a lot happier and live longer!
Monday, March 14, 2011
11 weeks down, 28 to go.
"The Israelites came to know God through his Word. In this case Moses brought it, and he brought it right into the middle of Israel's trouble.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Friday, March 11, 2011
I just finished reading Sidney Poitier's The Measure of a Man. I don't think I have much to say about the book itself--I guess the practice of it is what I would recommend. Poitier explores his past, in the hopes of learning something about himself, and offers this to the world, in the hopes that we, as readers, might learn something about ourselves, about life, through his experiences. It's a generous effort, one for which I am grateful, for it forces me to think about my own life, to examine myself and my motives, the things that lie deep beneath the surface and bubble up in various ways. I'm not sure that Poitier's experiences captivated me, but the willingness to set it out for the world just in case it might benefit the cause of others is a risky and generous move, and perhaps it might lead us to consider how we might offer our experiences to the world. What have we learned, and how can we share that with others?
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Movie Night—We’re watching Toy Story this Sunday night at 6. Come and join us as we talk about spirituality in the movies! It’s free to come, but a $1 donation to Newton Center is appreciated, if possible.
The Gifts of Women—On display in the Narthex—stop by and see how talented the women of New Hope are!
UTC workday—If you’re interested in being involved with the campus ministry, stop by the house tomorrow morning around 9 and lend a hand to some of the work being done there.
The people in Wisconsin. All of them.
John & Peggy as they travel home.
The Samaritan Center has a new website
Text for this Week
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them,“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
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