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to the states

to the states_Whitman

Good reading for the Fourth, methinks.
I love to toss this at government students.
Interesting to contemplate within Whitman’s time and context.
Good to contemplate within ours
or any.

Resist much, obey little.

O the implications, applications.
The manner and temper of each is perhaps key.
From a biblical standpoint,
I would see the entire book of Romans as a dissertation on “resist much”
And in the first paragraph of Romans 13 the admonishment to “obey little.”
Like we do with the injunction of James
“Be swift to hear, slow to speak,”
We tend to reverse the order.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2015 in Poetry, Quotations

 

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wandering at morn

A friend recently turned me back to Whitman.
It has been awhile.
Rhythms of Writ, Rumi, Rilke and Rohr always leave me ready to roll.
Dusting you off this morning I see that truly have ! missed you, Uncle Walt,
my eyes first with you wandering at morn.

It’s curious how, depending on which way winds blow, we can sour on country
as quickly as fans over a poorly performing team.
How quickly we can sour on people, period,
screaming “Liar!” until kindly escorted out.
Oh yes, we all could use a bit of wandering at morn…

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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Poetry, Quotations

 

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a book review (of sorts)…David: The Divided Heart

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.24.24 PMMy friend Gina shot me a link to Rabbi David Wolpe’s latest book David: The Divided Heart. I’ve read snippets from Rabbi Wolpe, but never followed his thought through a book.

Glad I listened to Gina.

There’s something to be said for reading outside the lines of our faith and fellowship, outside of our cultural, social and political orbits. One way of doing that is reading old books. Another is reading books by someone coming from a truly different perspective. Perhaps the best of both worlds is occasionally reading something that is both! (Which is perhaps why I spend so much time in Jewish Scripture, ha!)

In this case, considering a Jewish Rabbi writing about a pivotal Jewish ancestor, one might think his perspective might indeed shed some light on that of relative newbie Christian observers looking over their Jewish neighbor’s fence. And so it does.

At any rate, I read half the book in one afternoon’s brief sitting.
It floweth…

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yes! within me. within others. yes.

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you know any book using the word “tendentiousness” is going to be awesome.

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this one left my mouth agape. what an observation!

There will be things that you’ve seen and heard before, sure, but there were enough fresh insights from the biblical text to make me giddy – and to keep going. Perhaps one of the best compliments that can be extended to any book is that you’re sorry when it’s over.

And so I was.

Take and read.

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Posted by on June 13, 2015 in Books

 

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let us not waste the suffering moment…

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It’s been a deepening conviction of mine that a genuine personal exposure to suffering would cure much that ails us in religionland. And beyond.

Of course it’s no slam dunk.

Suffering is wasted on some of us.
Suffering just makes some of us mean and meaner.
But when we’re crushed repeatedly by life, we tend to be not nearly so arrogant and prickly. We tend to shut up more, to listen better, to focus more clearly on what matters most. Whenever I encounter someone young or old that leads with their mouths, I endeavor not to judge them. I do. I just figure, “Abba, they just need to suffer a bit more than they have…”

It’s perhaps the greatest deficiency in our Bible school and seminary curriculums. We have courses in homiletics, hermeneutics, church history, theology 101, 201, 301, but how do you teach a course on suffering? Sure we can talk about it, we can even go overseas or across the street to visit it, to see it. But we can still be self-righteous jerks as we step back into our own domain of comfort and familiarity, looking down our priggish noses at those around us who don’t care as much because they haven’t seen what we’ve seen and because they didn’t cross the street or the sea with us.

It’s when we’re the ones laid up, we’re the ones confined, restricted, and bound; when we’re the ones feeling the anguished cry of “My God why have you FORSAKEN me!” emerging from the bowels of our being that we learn something. That we learn to be quiet. That we learn the unforced rhythms of grace. That we learn to respect any and every human being before us. That we learn to be kind to everyone you meet because everyone you meet is facing a battle.

I’m told it was his personal experience of being a prisoner of war that did the deep interior work, the inner plowing of the soul in St. Francis that prepared him to literally strip off the power structures of this world and to practically and effectively spend his life becoming an instrument of God’s peace, even traveling to the dreaded Saracens seeking peace when the rest of Christendom was crusading off to war. And significantly, in the last two years of his life, St. Francis was the first documented case of one who physically and literally bore the wounds of Christ in his body.

Yes.

Just what might suffering cure in us – if only we not squander the suffering moment?
Just what might it heal in our world?
What diverse cultural and social worlds might be brought together through we who suffer?

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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in haverings, Suffering

 

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God save us from all fixers (if not from the fixes we’re in!)

Sometimes, when I compose an email in response to human need, I discover I just wrote a wee post.no-fixers

To a sister, a friend.
Stuck, tired, weary
of God’s little helpers trying to fix her through prayer.

Facing a situation that refuses to change, a heart that refuses to budge.
To anyone finding themselves in such a place.
My response.

I know precisely what you speak of.

I haven’t borne the same kind of burden, nor nearly so long,
but I know this.
I also encounter it all the time in people who show up
at my door and window
most recently in a man with terminal brain cancer in a six month countdown.
He’s been soaked and soaked and soaked with prayer
(to death!).
He sings our songs,
hears our sermons
and our promises,
and in his thirty years of walking out this Christian thing
he’s never heard God
once,
and clearly
God is not listening to him now.
So I just listened.
I told him we have an unbalanced prayer and worship rhythm
in our public and private life,
one focusing on
victory and
power and
hope
seen through a grid of
circumstances that change,
hearts that bend,
bodies that heal,
pain that skedaddles.
We don’t know how
to suffer with others in silence,
to moan the words of Lamentations,
shout the complaints of Job, or
groan the cynicism of Ecclesiastes.
And then I gave him a ride home.
He said it helped.
I told him I want to be space for him whenever he needs it.
God save us all from fixers, God bless ’em.
I love you, Frank D Fixer. Just stick to my car and my plumbing, please...

I love you, Frank D Fixer. Just stick to my car and my plumbing, please…

I don’t talk about my neuropathy anymore,
because
every time I do, people line up to fix me with
medicinal or
herbal or
spiritual remedies
and I don’t want to be unkind to them.
I don’t pray over the neuropathy anymore.
Haven’t for a very long time.

I groan and grin and dance on it.
Dance for me isn’t a fix,
it’s rebellion and defiance
against the pain I live with
on multiple
levels.
You, my friend, must indeed
find a dance forward, for sure.
And it will come to you.
It may already be beckoning…
 
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Posted by on June 10, 2015 in haverings

 

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the Idol Cafe

Swimming in the waters of 1 Corinthians 8 this week. translate button
Here’s my latest MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version).
I enjoyed the flow of it…

Item number two on your list of hot topics: leftovers from pagan temple offerings – to eat or not to eat?

We all put such a high premium on philosophical discernment and theological understanding when it comes to such issues, don’t we? But typically all that does is make us hot windbags with overinflated egos! It’s love that gets us to the ground floor of this or any issue and then takes us where we need to go. So if you think you’re at the head of the class in this whole “I know” business, do everyone a favor and move to the back of the class because you’re flunking in the attitude department and you don’t know anything yet (at least not the way you should!). And you who are quietly, lovingly serving at the back of the class, move up to the front row because you’re on God’s honor roll – and that’s the only one that matters.

So now that we have our priorities straight, let’s move on to this whole business of eating leftovers from pagan sacrifices. What do we know?
(1) No idol in the world amounts to anything (it’s just a piece of wood or stone!), and
(2) There’s no God but One. End of story.

Yes our religious world is rife with tales and images of gods and goddesses, and our political and popular scene has plenty of human “idols” to go around too! All kinds of “gods” and all kinds of “lords” – take your pick! But for us there is only one choice: the one God, the Father – the Source of everything and everyone, and our very reason for being! – and one Lord large and in charge of everything – Jesus, the Chosen One, the Anointed Prophet/Priest/King – the Divine Hand in all creation, the Divine Hand forming, unfolding our very being.

Here’s the problem: We’re not all on the same page! For some people those empty idols cast a very long shadow indeed. It’s hard for them to see past the wood and stone faces, and so when they see the food, they sense the face, and even though their mind says it’s just a side of ribs, their heart keeps seeing the idol and they feel morally and spiritually compromised.

And here we sit on the other side of the table wondering, “What’s the problem?” Eating ribs isn’t going to affect our relationship with God one way or the other! This is silly! If we don’t eat we’re not missing out on some deep “God encounter” and if we do we’re not suddenly “enlightened” with the visions of God! It’s just a plate of food, people.

Fine. But here’s the heart of the matter: What for you is the ticket to a delectable moment of personal freedom can leave others who haven’t shared your freedom-empowering experiences choking to death on a bone. Don’t. Let. That. Happen.

Imagine this scenario:

There you are, your informed and empowered self sitting in the Idol Café ready to sink your informed teeth into that juicy Idol steak burger because, after all, it’s just a meal! And then passing by outside a fellow believer still struggling with idolatry and thinking about going in sees you pigging out inside and you thereby become his personal tipping point for another headlong fall into an idolatrous lifestyle, your informed liberty becoming the occasion of a brother’s moral ruin – a brother Christ died for as you sit there smacking your lips and wiping your mouth! That might just be food on your plate, but this is a crime against your brother! And when you flaunt your informed freedom like this you turn it into a bully club you then use to beat up on the sensitivities of siblings who aren’t on the same page as you, who don’t understand and aren’t ready to do what you are doing. And know this: when you beat on them, you’re beating on Christ – if you think you’re honoring your enlightened Savior with your informed faith, you’re not, you’re violating him by what you’re doing to them.

Conclusion: If what’s for dinner is tripping up my brother and throwing his spiritual life into reverse, it’s not another bite of meat for me until kingdom come! Never will I be the occasion of another’s headlong fall from God’s mercies. Never.

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Posted by on June 4, 2015 in MAV

 

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speech that scours

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This is perhaps the best compliment/description regarding what it is I think I’m doing and what I think I’m trying to do each time I get up and speak.

And it was such a timely word.

It’s said that when Lincoln finished the Gettysburg Address, he turned to one of his aides (Ward Hill Lamon, as I recall, who was actually more bodyguard than aide) and said, “That speech didn’t scour.” The reference (if he said it) is to a plough that simply won’t “cut it” because so much dirt clings to it that its edge is blunted.

I always walk away from every speech/sermon feeling “that didn’t scour” to one degree or another.

And I suppose that’s the key for every speaker after a speech – especially any pulpit speech:
you have to walk away. But still it’s hard not 71042500_XSto furtively ponder just what kind of furrowed earth you leave behind. Furrows of fear. Furrows of faith. Furrows of self-satisfaction, self-justification, self-bolstering, self-loathing; of indifference, of mere amusement and entertainment. Furrows of true contemplation, of God contemplation, of self-reflection, furrows inviting Life.

I suppose when I started in this pulpit business some thirty-four years ago my purpose was more to inundate any subject with scripture references. I think it was more about burying my audience with whatever knowledge and info I had accumulated in an effort to remove all doubt rather than inviting them into their own internal dialogue with faith and truth.

I suspect most walked away more exhausted and drenched than sparked.

I’ve also been bombastic and iconoclastic, more often than I would care to admit or know; I’ve been more about overturning perceived tables than setting one.

Few approaches will more aptly succeed in whittling down your audience – or building an unhealthy one.

I thank God daily that much of this fare was dished up and out by me during pre-internet days (at least I hope it’s confined to that era!) and I regularly trust in the second law of thermodynamics to take good care of any and all recordings made in those days. To think of the durability of each word spoken in these days…to realize the potential staying power of spoken words whether recorded or not… (((shudder)))

It’s enough to keep any thoughtful speaker awake at night.

And then the furrow shows through Paul’s post.

Free-form and non-concrete.
pourAllows the listener to form his/her own opinion on their own.
Presents the Truth in a way I can grasp it, but must wrestle with it too.
An energetic, non-linear style that is fun but that will take a week of chewing to decide what he really means.

Some of these words would have terrified me when I first started out – especially since I was sure that pulpits were all about pouring concrete then – or about pointing to and stomping on the concrete already poured
and long since hardened.

But it is sower and soil and seed that becomes for Christ the primary metaphor of this whole teaching business, so I’ll stick with plows and furrowed soil with some sermons plowing, some sowing, some watering, some harvesting, some doing all of the above in the same moment.

And while it remains true that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is missing it, it’s perhaps not a bad idea to at least pause periodically and ask ourselves the question – whether it’s concerning pulpit exercises or just life:

Just what kind of furrow am I leaving behind me?

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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Education, haverings, Preaching

 

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