Sunday, February 29, 2004

satisfied suffering servant

Ok, I don’t plan to keep this up, but I’ve got to finish a Sunday that was hard to prepare for and exhausting to experience. Of course it started in preparation for the weekend after the congregation had seen the movie. Sermon: “Why did Jesus have to die?” The perception that the movie was out-of-context sparked a quick explanatory book from John Piper and apparently many sermons across the country to bring it all into perspective and fill in the missing information. Knowing the context and the end of the story, I had planned a worship time that reflected on Jesus’ sacrifice and culminated in the celebratory embracing of new hope, life and forgiveness. As the week went on, I struggled with fitting this sequence together in the service without getting in the way of the atmosphere of the sermon, but still presenting a picture of the context and its fruition. I couldn’t make it happen. I was stubborn, but after seeing the movie, it was clear to me that this wasn’t the appropriate approach. Driving home from the movie, I kept thinking about the scourging and brutality. Though it had affected me completely differently than I might have expected, I still dealt with feelings that visually, it had been too much for the movie. The gospels, after all, seem to only reference it. As I was pondering these thoughts, I began to hear words in my head. “See my servant, He shall prosper and be raised high, greatly exalted. So were many greatly amazed that He was marred beyond all mortals.” Isaiah said He was marred beyond recognition, so that He no longer looked like a man.
But wasn’t it His death that paid for our sins? Why all the beating in the movie? “With His suffering, He shall justify.” “He was wounded for our transgressions.” “By His stripes we are healed.”
So yesterday morning, the deadline for the service details having passed. I set about changing this morning’s service to match my new convictions. DanD was patient, gracious and understanding. I learned a song yesterday afternoon and sang it this morning with guitar, keyboard and percussion. We read Isaiah 52 and 53 as a congregation. We sang. I prayed a deeply heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving. I think God blessed these last minute adjustments. The service was tightly knit and focused and the sermon was strong and poignant. I came home utterly spent. I received phone calls.
Tonight, I took Jack to the church early so he could go to West Columbia with his amazing and deepening community of twelve-year-old brothers led by Pastor Ted to go about the Kingdom with love and a paint brush. Jack and Jason, Ben and Ben, Victor, et. al. These guys might get it before we do. “Hey dad, next week we’re going back over there where we painted to play with little kids.” Ministering to Jesus. What better way to show gratefulness for His sacrifice?

After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied.


Saturday, February 28, 2004

minister to Jesus?

Despite all my reactions to all the pre-release responses and agendas to the movie, I think my response to the movie is quite different. Even now, I don’t want to talk too much about it, but some things just won’t leave me alone. I tried unsuccessfully to go to the movie twice before I followed through and actually went. In the car, down the road, turn around and drive home. A hundred voices in my head. I had nearly decided to just not go until everyone had stopped talking about it. But I can’t avoid the discussions, and I can’t discuss something I’ve not seen. So I went. I spent a couple hours trying to empty myself of all the commentary and bias and agenda that was pervading my thought. I think I succeeded in getting to the point that I could allow the movie to do what it was going to do. I didn’t know how I would react to the graphic violence inflicted on Jesus. Would I be reduced to a slobbering mass of snot and tears? I experienced a vivid understanding of a strange paradox that I am sure I can’t talk about. Furthermore I am leery of the language I’ll need to say this. I don’t want it to sound like I think highly of myself or that I think salvation ends at this point. Ok, you don’t know what I’m talking about, so here:
I am a forgiven man. Here is the paradox. It was my guilt that caused all that physical and spiritual suffering Jesus endured; but because He endured it, I am not guilty of it. No man can get his mind around this one. It is not for me to understand, it is for me to accept and believe. At the brutality, I winced. I felt thankful. I expected to be crushed with feelings of guilt. But instead, I felt forgiven. It is not lightly that I make that statement. I still sin, but He died once for all. I repent, He forgives.
So having been forgiven, what now? Simon of Cyrene symbolized that to me in the movie. I’m sorry if you’re bothered that his role was embellished beyond the biblical account. I believe that if he had done no more than obey orders and carry the cross, I still would have derived this feeling. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow him. That is obvious to me in Simon’s role. No doubt we’re supposed to ponder his involvement. His name is given – we know where he is from. Either he was already a disciple, or he later became familiar to the disciples. So how do we take up our cross? The embellishment here had Simon ministering to Jesus. He bore Jesus’ weight, he encouraged Him, he literally shared His burden as Jesus carried ours. I too can minister to Jesus. He explained this throughout his teaching career painting a picture of Kingdom living for us. We are all complaining that the movie nearly completely ignored Jesus teaching, but Simon’s embellished role embodied the whole of it on the road to crucifixion. Jesus said,
“ Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

So having been forgiven begins the process. Living in the Kingdom and obeying Jesus teaching continues the process. Much is expected of those to whom the gospel speaks. This depiction of Christ’s passion is a kick in the pants for me.


Thursday, February 26, 2004

random access, non-linear, glob

It’s winter again. Snowing. This has been a very wintry winter. If I live here for another 30 years, there’s this thing I’ll forget every year. I’ll never remember that we actually have winter. Sure it’s no Maple Leaf winter, but y’all don’t have to deal with 15 consecutive 105º days in July. 91º at midnight. Probably feels cooler to y’all any way because you’ve got fewer degrees up there. It’s a lot different down here. You have 0º, down here it’s a balmy 32º and we’re still freezing just like you. Every year in December, I think, man its great here – 60º Christmas. Then January blows in and I might as well be up north.
So it snowed this morning, early. Patches of snow stayed on the ground all day, about a half inch deep. That in its self is an accomplishment ‘round here. A couple years ago we got about 8 inches in less than an hour but it took it less time than that to melt away. This evening, Allison decided a fire would be nice. We finally got our fireplace inspected, so I dashed off to Lowe’s through frigid temps and spitting snow, sleet and ice, to get a grate for this evening’s cuddly warmth. Fireplace grate? We put those away already. If we had any, they’d be over there with the tiki torches, bug zappers and patio furniture. Home Depot. No honey, those are seasonal. How about snow tires then, ‘cause I’ve got to drive seasonally back to my house in this weather.
When I got home, Bing and the kids were going nuts. “Dad, Bing has never seen snow fall.” What? I guess winter in Honolulu is even better than Columbia. So it seems that she’s seen snow on the ground, even been sledding; but has never seen it fall. She called her parents to tell them about it. “What’s it look like? Take a picture.” Guess winter in Manila is pretty good too.
So we turned on the lights outside and sat in the warmth behind the glass and watched it fall. Watched it try to decide between tiny, hard crystals, and big fluffy flakes. Finally, it gave up. A sixteenth of an inch all over the yard.
I sat and practiced a while and thought about sledding without ever having seen snow fall. Because I’m so weird, lots of metaphors came to mind. Enjoy freedom, never fought for it. Reap the harvest that someone else has sown. Aftermath of revival, without having seen the spirit move. I want to be in on the stuff. How does one get to see the flakes fall? Ya gotta put yourself where it is happening. Kinda like getting rebounds. Gotta know where the ball is going to be and get there.
So I’m sitting here with a rifle and a basketball, eating sunflower seeds, looking out the window at the white lawn. Just kidding.
I’m going to go slide under the warm covers. Supposed to be 70º by Saturday.


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

raising the bar

I’ve been reading Greg’s convergence post over and over. I’ve read it from its written perspective and from my own perspective, inserting meaning as it applies to the goings on in my growth and process. Seems a lot of people are thinking lately about the ambient noise in our lives and its drowning and swallowing of the divine whisper. I attended a seminar with Matt Redman on this very topic. All around us, noise vying for our attention. We miss the still small voice.
I don’t think I suffer from that. I’m more likely to hear the voice and disobey it. Truth is, I’ve always been one of those Greeks who attribute all my thoughts to God. Well, most of my thoughts. Surely you know things go through my head that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for the thoughts of God. That’s probably why the Greeks had so many gods – so many conflicting thoughts – surely the gods must also have trouble getting along. Certainly makes a good case for the existence of Aphrodite. Apollo and Dionysus. Paul’s flesh and spirit. C.S. Lewis’ natural man vs. the Spirit of God, our little red man on one shoulder and the angel on the other.
But ideas, fleeting thoughts, I’ve always attributed them to God’s desire for me. And prayer – honestly even as a child, my prayers were usually responses to these “thoughts”. In high school, I was a regular Martin Luther, bowing my head over every little thing, riddled with guilt over stray thought and wandering eye. Confession. I’d consult silently for the most common decisions. In my heart of hearts, I don’t think I’ve often missed God’s whisper because of ambient noise. My problem rather is that having heard, pondered, even prayed over it, I’ve often disregarded it.
Greg’s blog speaks of prayer. One has to be very careful of prayer. If you don’t really want to know how God feels about something, you shouldn’t ask him. Of course that’s silliness, if you’re aware that God does have a will, then you’re just as responsible for seeking it as taking action upon knowing it. In the past week, I have felt strongly several times that God was asking me to do something, say something, take action - and I’ve not done it. Amidst the stuff of everyday, I still hear the voice, feel the tug and go on about my stuff.
In our little sphere, we’re asking the questions. How is this accomplished? How does one…? I’ve heard some of the answers. In many cases, its time to stop asking for direction that I’ve already been given, and start asking for guts to follow the direction. Boldness. Courage. You know what? Some of these things aren’t even the big deal you think they are. They are little things. Little everyday kingdom living things. Walking in the Way things. I’m just too selfish, too busy, too much a spiritual pansy to engage in the normal activity of a kingdom living, way walking, normal, Jesus follower.
Pierce my ear, paint my forehead, gird my loins. I’m praying for guts.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

cyberdeck dialogue

It was colder than I thought it was going to be. But, at least for the first few hours, no one wanted to go inside. We just kept huddling closer to the fire. The physical multi-blog. The cyberdeck unneeded because the physical deck is occupied.
I’ve got the best wife in the world. I’ve got the best friends in the world.
I’ve got all kinds of strange thoughts and emotions about this weekend. I feel proud that when Allison went down the list of perfect gifts for a 40th birthday, she arrived at “surrounded by friends”. I am humbled that I was deemed worthy of the sacrifice of an evening, let alone hours of travel and a whole weekend. Thank you Jolie and little C. Thank you Esther. Thank you Brenda. Thank you Jenny. Thank you Allison. Te amo.
It will take a long time for this to wear off. Even the communal fork and cake at 3:00am. So there will be no need to remember my birthday from now on. Savvy? I’m headed down the hill. Chris and Greg and Mitchy… take your time coming up, ok?


Saturday, February 21, 2004


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Somewhere a way off down the ribbon of time, He created you Will, and you’ve reflected His creativity everyday since. You waited until the very last minute, then decided to find a creative way to exit the birth canal. You spent the entire day on this, your 10th birthday creating. Stuff for everyone in the family. Handmade, personally dreamed up, individually meaningful.
I know you’re an artist, because you’re the only one who doesn’t realize it. Humility. Nothing you do is ever good enough, but only for you. I’ve learned from Dallas Willard’s commentary that you are “pure of heart”, perfectionist, always striving. You will see God. I see Him in you everyday.
You see the beauty in every little thing that God infused with beauty. You brim with the knowledge that king Solomon in all his glory was never clothed like one of these flowers. Everything takes on a deeper meaning for you. The damp smell of morning, fog on the river, bird songs, junk piles. You remember people and places with all your senses. You smell the cranberry river. You see Cherokee. You feel camping.
I’ve heard you many times wonder over another unknown sense. A sixth sense. What would it experience? You are prime “ears” for the whisper of God. Prime nostrils for the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. Eyes to see His glory. Taste the goodness of God. Touch the lives of everyone around you. You are the best hugger ever born. You make everyone feel like your favorite person.
You are a walking encyclopedia of scientific facts about God’s creation. You know every strange detail about every exotic creature that most of us have never heard of. Yet, you are one of the most unique, quirkiest, fascinating creatures that I’ve ever experienced. I am quite sure that some day, college students will study your unique visual perspective, vantage point, use of light and color, shape and form. Some generation of pre-schoolers will squeal with delight at the rhymes and lessons of “Uncle Willby”. Someone’s everyday will be made a little easier by some invention that I can’t even fathom. Someone’s spiritual insight will be deepened by your ability to tell a story.
All our lives are made richer because of you.
So… to a wordsmith.
You’re double digits, a face card, little Indians, a dime.
Perfect ten.
May God give you more than three score more.
Happy Birthday, most important reindeer


Wednesday, February 18, 2004

they named him "given by God"

I’m amazed at how your personality has developed. I’m amazed at your deep understanding of difficult concepts. I’m amazed at your solid beliefs. I’m humbled at your genuine sense of compassion. I’m encouraged to witness you struggle with normal pre-teen emotions and conflicts and come to the end of the day with your “stuff” intact. Teetering on the brink of attitude, you reach inside, find the truth and claim it as your choice of the stuff of which you will continue to be made. You are truly a gift.
Last night as Mom and I mused at your turning twelve, Mom said, “remember that tiny baby that you used to roll up in the blanket and put him in your lap and lean on him while you rocked him?” Sounds like a “Mom” thing to say, doesn’t it? She asked if I thought you remembered that. After Mom went to bed, I started thinking about some comments I heard about teaching and speaking yesterday. I was made to think again about the notion that in order to be judged successful, the listener must be able to verbalize back to you what you had just said. My thoughts are of course that this does not indicate internalization, assimilation, or any kind of concept understanding or changed behavior. I’ve discussed this issue on this blog recently. Then I went out and read some Willard. Lo and behold, he’s talking about the same thing. How Jesus’ teaching caused learning that could only be assessed by watching the lives of those who heard it. This is much greater than information dump. I’ve said before that teaching can change someone’s life regardless of whether they can verbalize it or regurgitate the information that has changed them. I thought about Mom’s question again and how my answer illustrates this belief.
I answered, of course you don’t remember – you are only months old. But you were shaped by it. Only minutes before our conversation, you got ready for bed and then came back downstairs and climbed up in my lap and just sat there with your head on my chest like you did last week when we read the “blesseds” from Matthew. This lap time before retiring is a need that you don’t even know where it came from. But I do. I taught you this without even realizing I was teaching you anything. I calmed your screaming six-month-old fears and frustrations in this very same way. Now all these years later, we still find peace and comfort in the lap moments. Please don’t ever stop this. In no time, you’ll probably be overwhelming to my lap, but sit down beside me. My chest will still accommodate your head. Things will change quickly now. Let this stay the same. I’m man enough to feel comfortable with this. I pray that I can teach you to be man enough to be comfortable as well. Someday, when I’m gone, I hope you’ve been made to know that there’s still a Daddy on whose chest you can lay your head.


beyond thunderdome

‘round here I’m intrigued by a totally different observation on Mel and the movie. Not only are we striving to make the movie something it was not intended to be. We’ve put our T-shirt on someone who hasn’t claimed to be one us, and are shocked when something comes out of his mouth that is different than what might come out of our mouths. I’m still impressed with what he’s got to say because I think I’ve had him in decent perspective. I’ve known Mad Max for 24 years. I read an article in the New Yorker (“Mel’s Passion” Sept. 15, 2003) about this movie. The article made known some of Mel’s motivation, history, and theology. The movie was huge news out there in the secular and “religious” world a very long time before it entered the evangelical radar screen. Now the movie is on the radar screen, has been stamped by evangelicals and we’ve dunked Mel and put his picture on the new members board. Pretty quick huh? To have your newest member in the global spotlight speaking theology to millions of people. Evangelicals are confused. What did he just say?
We thought that only we could portray an accurate picture of the historicity of the Gospels. Therefore this movie must be made by one of us. The world has now seen us renting the theatres. Putting up the posters. Listening to Mel address us via DVD on Sunday morning. It all goes beyond the movie. Out there (and it seems, in here) Mel is equated with the movie. Now we are linked to him via the movie. He is the spokesperson for the machine we’ve adopted. I have seen fear and trembling result from hearing voiced some aspects of his theology. Wait a minute, I thought…
Our surprise at some of the theology betrays our thought that exposure to gospel leads one to believe as I do. We are awakened by the realization that some of Mel’s theology is different from our own. I wonder if some of our own might be broadened by this experience? How can someone who doesn’t sound like an evangelical make a resource that evangelicals tout as one of the most important evangelical tools to come along? Maybe we haven’t got it all figured out after all.
So again, I pray that we are open to what God intends to happen in hearts when the gospel is known. I pray that we realize that these twelve hours are what make the gospel available to us. Does salvation begin and end there? In some ways are we asking too much of this movie? In others, too little? Will it cause them to pray the prayer? Will it change our lives? What did the crucifixion and resurrection accomplish? Does the scope of significance that we’ve given Jesus’ death match the scope of His teaching?


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

dear diary,

these are the goings on and how they keep other goings on from going on.
Never since I started blogging have I had so much I wanted to say, and absolutely no time to sit down and write it. This week is killer. I did set aside a bit of time tonight to finish Willard chapter 4. I sat down at the kitchen table across from Allison with a cup of coffee and got carried away telling her about chapter 3. I ended up re-reading that chapter, mostly aloud to her, rather than finishing chapter 4.
I spent MOST of the night last night preparing for Chapel this morning. I lead worship in a wonderfully integrated service. Of course, there is always going to be more or less response according to preferred style and presentation (sometimes more than content and quality), but I much enjoyed being a part of something that was thought through, prayed over and planned start to finish. This morning’s chapel popped up in conversation all day simply because it was obviously intentional.
After chapel, quick lunch and then continuous teaching until 5:30. Home, supper, kitchen cleanup, kiss the kids, read Willard to Allison, up the stairs to work on this weekend’s church stuff and tomorrow night’s rehearsal. Oh yeah, I’ve got a stack of papers to grade. It’s late and I’ve heard the clock strike 3:00a two nights in a row.
It sounds like I’m complaining, but really I’m not. Just voicing life as of late.
No day is different. Tomorrow straight from work to church. I’ve got a job and a church that matter to me. Give thanks with a grateful heart. Remind me.
I’m going to go lie down in bed and feel God in the atmosphere all around me.
Goodnight people everywhere. Goodnight moon.


Sunday, February 15, 2004

desire of the childish

On the guitar listserv, to which I belong, the most recent thread deals with teaching children guitar technique. A simple request for advice on choosing a published curriculum, elicits infinite conflicting posts on teaching philosophies. An amazing observation is that many of the ideas that are submitted are backed up by decades of teaching children and observing what brings about the desired results. Of course the next round of posts invariably are an argument that you are mistaken, because I do it quite differently and my way brings about the desired results. What very few ever seem to recognize is that the reason differing teaching techniques are preferred to by different teachers is that differing results are desired.
Does one start a child with rest-stroke or free stroke? Of course you start with rest-stroke because it is easier to produce a good sound and a good sound provides positive feedback for the child and he will be more motivated to continue. Of course you start a child with free-stroke because it is more versatile and a student can be quite successful with it if it’s introduced in the context of diads and triads. But children aren’t interested in harmony, they are essentially melodic. And it goes on and on.
Of course if you’ve stayed with me this far, you’re saying, “c’mon Rod this is non-sense and I’m not the least bit interested in this stuff.” Of course, that’s my point exactly. Are we trying to teach a child to play rest and free strokes? Or guitar? Or to make music? What child comes to the guitar to learn free-stroke and rest-stroke? What child deserves to be data collected for some teacher’s argument in an on-line forum? It is my experience that children respond to music and are drawn to an instrument to learn to make music. All that stroke stuff is just something that’s got to be done to get the music made. Or maybe it’s that once the child begins to make music, he will gladly embrace the practice of the details that make the music more beautiful.
What causes us grown-ups to get hung up on something short of the goal? What should be a means becomes an end. The end is ignored or forgotten about. Those under our tutelage or influence lose interest and we set about finding a new approach to the means that will recapture their attention.
This must be a basic human quirk. But how can we feel so passionately about something that we eventually lose sight of it? How can we be so caught up in technique and methods and procedures that we forget what end they serve. Often we so completely lose sight of our purpose that we institute procedures that have nothing whatever to do with the purpose. Then we judge the outcome based on performance of the procedures rather than the desired results.
Of course, I’m not talking about guitar teaching here. I so rarely rant about guitar playing on this blog.
Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom

Matthew 18:4 the message


Saturday, February 14, 2004

upon meeting the 100% perfect girl one fine august morning

Once in a lifetime, for the briefest of moments, the 100% perfect girl happens into one's life. This is a window of time upon which one's companionship and contentment for the rest of life depends. The hustle and bustle of any given moment may obscure the gravity of so important an occasion, allowing the moment to pass unnoticed, never to return. The attentive heart, however, will, beyond observation, feel the moment. He'll reach out and take hold of the 100% perfect girl. His reward is the ability to turn a fleeting moment into a lifetime of happiness.
She, who could have gone by with a kindly "hello", becomes his soul mate. She, without whom he could have lived for the rest of life, becomes one without whom he can't live even for a day. The taste of her lips lingers in separation, her smell imprinted forever in his nostrils, the feel of her skin imprinted on his fingertips, all emblazoned in memory like the lingering taste of chocolate that demands that one take another bite.
All the while, he prays that his lingering scent will be pleasant, his lips, desirable; his fingertips providing tenderness and strong security. He prays with all his heart that there may be one tiny iota of a chance that he could be the 100% perfect boy.


Friday, February 13, 2004


Tuesday night while I waited for the wee ones to get teeth brushed and jammies on, I sprawled out on the bed. Jack came in and we started to talk about paradox. I know, we're a weird family. He turns 12 next week. I picked up the remix and began to read to him as he laid across my chest. "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are, no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."
I was sobbing embarrassingly as I read aloud through Matt. 5 to him. I said, when you turn 40, you're alowed to cry when you read Jesus' words. Jack cried with me. Guess you can when you're 12 too. We cried together, me not feeling I have to pretend that I'm the spiritual giant in order to help lead him on his spiritual journey. Just another traveler, a little further along, willing to be honest with my protégé about what I learned at his leg of the race and what I'm learning now. Willing to listen and sympathize when I don't have the answers to his questions. Let's just be baffled together, pray together, await the answers together, seek God together.
I thought a lot that evening about a lot of things. I thought about how you can erroneously be content with just who you are. How Jesus' words could be misunderstood. Surely I can't be content with just who I am if it doesn't mean simply that I'm content with what God is doing in my life. With the speed he's making me. With allowing him to shape me. With the face and body he's given me. So I can't be content with stagnation, just with what He's given us to work with.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

differing theologies for differing gods

If you and I were discussing Harold, and Harold was a tall man with white whiskers and rather expanded mid-section, and I described him as a short man, clean shaven and svelte, though I said I was talking about Harold, it would be obvious that I was describing a different man altogether. I guess my guy could also be called Harold, but surely you would recognize that my guy was not the same man as your guy. Suppose we thought we were talking about the same guy and therefore began to argue over who’s description was accurate, all the while unwittingly describing two separate individuals. For that matter, my guy could be called Lenny, but I thought his name was Harold, so I’d argue that Lenny’s description was an accurate portrayal of Harold.

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard states that he’s come to believe that many people who believe in Jesus don’t actually believe in God. Of course, Willard can unpack this statement quite well. But it occurs to me that it makes sense on its own.
I’ve said Before that I think a lot of “Christians” don’t believe anything – that Christianity can become a lifestyle rather than a faith. Tonight I shared Willard’s quote with a friend. As you might guess, the reaction is, how can you believe in Jesus without believing in God? Of course. Your theology won’t allow that. Everything you believe about God is made manifest and finds fulfillment in Jesus. The very Jesus in whom you believe, said that He said nothing on His own, but only what He was told by the Father. My belief in Jesus will not allow me to believe in Him but not the very Father of whom He testified. Surely it would be a conflict to imply that I believed Him, but not what He said aobut Himself. He did also say, You have seen me, so you have seen the Father.
On the other hand, we find no problem accepting that many people believe in God, but not that Jesus was of Him. Why one and not the other? My theology allows that these persons are two simultaneous manifestations of One God. My belief system is such that if one part falls apart, my entire faith would crumble. This is not a weakness of faith, but a requirement that all that I believe to be true, to be true in order for my faith to remain. Even Paul said that if Christ was not risen from the dead, then we (who believe) are, above all, to be pitied. For we would have hung our entire beings upon a lie. That would be pitiful. Any one thing that God said is true, requires for validity that everything He said be true.
So I think that our ability to accept one of these scenarios and not the other is that we do not recognize that the god who can be believed without belief in Jesus, is NOT the same God in whom I believe. For that matter, the Jesus that can be believed without the God who He says sent Him and gave Him power, authority, and teaching, is not the same Jesus in whom I believe.
If I believe in a Jesus that would lie about His Father, my Jesus is really not worth believing – and the God of whom He testifies is not really much of God if He’d send us a liar as savior. Of course it's cyclic. And wrong. My theology requires that Jesus told the truth, therefore, believing in Him implies that I believe in the God to whom He pointed. I can’t get my mind around any other possibility.
My challenge then is to encourage others to believe in my God, not to encourage them to believe about their god what I believe about mine. That may not get them anywhere at all.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

song day 2

May the good Lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
surround you when you're far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you'd have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you'll always stay Forever Young


song day

I'll carry the songs I learned when we were kids
I'll carry the scars of generations gone by
I'll pray for you always and I promise you this,
I'll carry on


how long?

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song?

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and fear

I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song?


Monday, February 09, 2004

we now join our friend's prayer, already in progress

Folks who read this blog also read a passionate prayer for conversion

Last year, I had a profound moment when I was talking to someone about something very personal to me and about which I am very passionate. This person had said something that made it obvious that the full extent of what I was saying was not understood – that it was still be filtered through preconceived notions and motivations that had never been evaluated. I made what I thought was a sneaky, but obvious, remark about our need to explore our shallow understanding. My conversation partner agreed that a lot of our students needed to think along those lines. It seems that our greatest enemy of hearing what we need to hear is the notion that it is being said for someone else’s benefit.
I’m reminded of Nathan confronting David with the story of David’s own sin. The king was appalled at hearing of this atrocity, but didn’t realize that he was the perpetrator. A few years ago, Bruce Waltke was our Staley Lecture series speaker. He was doing a series on Proverbs. I was convicted to my core for three days of sermons. Each day people left the building discussing shallow issues of presentation, etc. never hearing the magnitude of what God is asking of us. I felt convicted about things that never even came across my radar screen. I feel convicted now about a judgemental attitude towards my friends and colleagues three years ago.
I remember reading about an incident in the house of a man named Simon. Simon was asked who would be more grateful, one who’d been forgiven much or who’d been forgiven little. Sounds like Jesus was complementing Simon on having had so little to be forgiven as opposed to the sinful woman. But I’d imagine that Jesus was trying to make him understand just how incredibly sinful he was. What he thought were little things cost the same price as the sins of the prostitute. Furthermore, what he thought were little things were not small at all. It was this realization that Waltke showed me.
What kind of sins have you had forgiven? Adultery? Promiscuity? Drug addiction? Alcoholism? Theft? Lies? Racism? Plagiarism? Short-changing a customer? Undeclared taxable income? Profiting by causing someone else loss? Cutting someone off in traffic? Gossip? Walking on by while Jesus huddles cold and hungry in smelly, torn clothes on the corner?
It is my pride that keeps me from recognizing sin as sin. It is pride, itself a sin, that causes sin to go unconfessed because I am unwilling to examine myself and see my filthiness. It is pride that allows me to examine myself with the instrument of comparison, rather than allowing God to show me how I rate on his scale.
It is pride that will allow us to watch “The Passion of The Christ”, and pray that it will impact our friends. I pray that every little ongoing, selfish, sinful attitude and self-serving behavior in my life will be exposed to me in the depicted suffering of the Messiah and that I will be reminded that the same act that is revealing it to me provides for it to be forgiven.


let me tell you about my password

I’ve been infected. I guess it’s the new system. I’ve been content for a long time running the old system. Sure there was a faint desire to upgrade. There’d be a cool new version of some software I was running that I couldn’t use because of the old system. I’d think about it and go on with the old stuff. Finally, though, I reached the end. I couldn’t even get stuff I needed anymore without the new system. I’d gone as far as a man can go with the old system. So I gave in. Submitted to the call of progress. Zip (unzip) bang boom error repair schlam restart and I’m back in action. New and improved.
But what’s this? I turn my back and my computer logs on to the net. Goes about blabbing everything. Always wanting to upload some secret information to someone else’s system. I guess with the old system I was immune to such urges. Now all kinds of cyber bugs are worming their way into my cyber sanctum. Compelling my computer to cry out, “hello, here is Rod’s secret password to happiness and riches”. I don’t know whether to disinfect this thing or be inspired by it.


Sunday, February 08, 2004

sunday morning

My friend just received copies of his nth publication. When he told me the name, he got a disappointed look on his face. It’s a collection of Blues/Jazz piano arrangements of hymns and the like. “Hymns for a Jazzy Sunday Morning” was not his first choice of titles. He told me that he’d submitted “My Blue Hymnbook” as his title, but they didn’t even consider it. There are layers to that title, but I guess publishing companies aren’t interested in layers.
I tried to console him by telling him how much I liked the phrase, “Sunday Morning”. I’ve always been a sucker for songs, etc. with Sunday Morning in the title or lyric, or as a theme.
Sunday morning. There is something serene about the words. It must be association. To me it implies hope, peace, life, tranquility. That’s why I’m easy, I’m easy like a Sunday Morning. I play a guitar piece called “Sunday Morning Overcast”, by Andrew York. I always liked the sound of that title as much as the music. It implies permission to behave as we’re supposed to on Sunday. Even the sky is quiet with its eyes closed.
I always enjoy hearing a portion of St. Paul Sunday Morning on the radio on my way home from church. I always wished it was on Saturday night, but with the same title. Bill McGlaughlin’s voice sounds like Sunday Morning.
Then I thought of what was probably the first “Sunday Morning” song I’d ever heard. Yes, it’s that infamous year, 1973 again. It’s that giant with a scar in the black suit. “Sunday Morning Coming Down”. I had no idea what that song meant, but I felt the pain and loneliness without understanding it. “There’s nothing short of dyin’ that’s half as lonesome as the sound of the sleeping city sidewalk and Sunday Morning coming down.”
Its seems that for some, Sunday morning serves as the first coherent thought after an evening given to thought curing chemotherapy. The Saturday Night, a living, active metaphor for all that has gone wrong in life. As the song says, “echoes in the canyon like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.” Can you imagine facing a day made for joy with nothing but guilt, pain, abandonment?
But somewhere in the created memory of everyman is the faded, torn, recollection of something lost “somewhere, somehow along the way.” We may have never had it, but we do have a memory of it. Somewhere across the millennia, across time itself, it was there. Some seem to have found it again. It’s elusive but can be found. Cry out for it. It remembers you, your voice. The writer of that song found it again. Found Sunday mornings easy, once more. Found an easy yoke and light burden. Died 30 years later on a Friday morning and spent the weekend resting with the One he’d lost somewhere, somehow along the way.
That's the magic of Sunday Morning. Rise to life. New Day. Brand new creation. Hope is born.
I am resting.


Friday, February 06, 2004

the errant evangelical

Once upon a time there was a little boy who was always tossing things into other things. Wads of paper across the room into the waste basket, coins into his shoes while he sat on the couch, anything he could toss, into anything that was there to toss it into.
One day he was walking down the street and he saw some kids playing on the playground. They were tossing a ball into some sort of ring bolted up high onto a piece of plywood. “As I live and breathe,” he exclaimed to himself, “that’s what I’ve been looking for all my life. Its as if I were made for this!”
So the little boy made friends with the other kids and began to play with them. He learned that what they were doing was called “basketball”. Over time they became quite accomplished at the game, joined a league and played a regular schedule with other teams. Who knows why? but by and by, they began to change the rules of the game a bit. First thing they did was to change the number of players on each team from five to nine. This seemed like a good change because now more could participate. The more the merrier. The people who had come along since the advent of the nine player teams had no idea what it was like playing with five. Remembering the success of the first change and the newfound excitement injected into the game, they began to make other changes. At one point, they stopped changing possession of the ball after a goal was scored and allowed the same team to stay on offense until they had been stopped on three scoring attempts. At another time, they changed from a rather large, inflated ball, to a very small hard ball. Change after minor change took place until they added designated areas on the playing surface where the player was deemed safe and wasn’t subjected to defense while he remained there. Eventually the surface was changed from floor to field, they added a stick with which to hit the ball, and finally they no longer tried to throw the ball into the hoop, but instead hit it with the stick so that while it was in play, they could advance through a series of the designated safe areas until they arrived back at where they had started, and thus a goal was accorded them.
This last change was what did it for the boy. He realized that the very thing that had drawn him to the game was no longer even a minor element of play. He announced his dissatisfaction to his teammates and said that he thought he was going to quit. They were very upset. “How can you quit?”, they asked. “Basketball has always been the most important thing in our lives, you can’t just walk away.” “How will you live without Basketball?” But the boy turned and began to walk alone back toward the old playground, tossing bottle caps and gum wrappers into trash cans along the way.


Thursday, February 05, 2004

road hog

People who read this blog also read “Darth Vader’s Daughter-in-law”

I wonder if I have a problem with "middle way" terminology. I think there is a difference between "all encompassing" and "compromise" (or moderation). Which issues are ignored to bring us toward the left and which issues bring us toward the right. What about those issues? Are there all that many “either/or” issues? Or is it more a matter of what is important to us? What is our motivation? Politically, if a person is labeled moderate because a particular conservative issue is relatively unimportant to him but I find it of ultimate importance, he will seem very liberal to me. Vice versa.
It’s not that, it’s this. No, it’s not this, it’s that. Well it must be a little of both. Sometimes it’s ALL of both.
Which is more important, your heart or your brain? Physically. Spiritually.
Cisco’s blog points out the danger of community that just hangs out and the danger of completely goal-oriented community. Is the better approach a little of both or all of both? Is the broken white line, or the whole two lanes? Our little community has had some ‘just talking’ times when I came home feeling that I’d been a part of intense corporate prayer. Dave has responded with, “too bad you can’t manufacture that.” We must admit that we’ve set about discussing a specific issue or looking for a specific something that has eluded our efforts. On the other hand, I’ve showed up for lunch before with a specific need that couldn’t be coaxed out of me, but left having had my need met.
So in the context of community, authentic authenticity and vulnerable vulnerability provide for an all encompassing purpose. Comfort, encouragement, fellowship; growth, sharpening, correcting; teaching, empowering, equipping.
It’s our purposes that cause things to be one or the other and short sighted. God’s purposes require us to have the trusted authentic support of those with whom we’ve sat and ‘wasted time’ and have purposefully gathered to meet goals, to seek wisdom and discernment in recognizing His will.
I would like our community to overhang the shoulder on the left and scrape the guard rail on the right and thus cover the broken white line in the middle of the road. Sit around and talk to secure our target, our goal. Organize a board meeting to lock and load.


Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out

You know those girls who dance at strip clubs? Neither do I, but that’s beside the point. Has anyone ever called them artists? Or even musicians? Then why do we call people who do the very same thing outside the strip club artists? Why do we pretend that this has anything to do with music?
What motivates these people? Today I read a quote from America’s hero, “Hey man, we love giving you all something to talk about.” Well I’ve got a novel idea, how about some music? Aren’t you supposed to be a musician? Give us some music to talk about. What if you were an actor? Would we talk about your acting or your real life attention getting antics? What if you were a writer? Somehow I thought singers should be known for their singing. I guess I’m not so torqued that you exposed JJ, but that that’s all you’ve got to give us to talk about. It must be a terribly insecure feeling to get on stage in front of millions of people and to know that what you’re there for is not enough to hold their attention.
I used to get mad because I thought the industry believed this music was what I wanted. Now I realize that’s not at all what they believed. Why else would they put one girl on stage lip syncing to pre-recorded music while a gaggle of half-naked girls writhe around and make provocative faces? Even if the music was all being performed live, the majority of the people on stage had nothing to do with the music.
Ok, so that’s all. I’m sorry that I lapsed into a childish tirade that I hope is not exemplary of my normal rants. I’m just practicing being old. I’m betraying my age by thinking that music is supposed to be about music. According to the news today 18-24 year-olds didn’t bat an eyelash. I guess they didn’t realize that these were being advertised as singers. Would you be scandalized if you went to a strip club and all the girls started singing?


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

text, bribes and packaging tape

A friend and I were talking Sunday after church about bribing the children to memorize scripture. I have mixed emotions about it. I have strong opinions about bribing my own children at home for any desired outcome. Why would I feel any different with scripture? I was certainly bribed. I had a whole collection of Eisenhower Silver Dollars when I was kid; earned from committing the memory verse at Sunday School. I don’t know how Mr. Black could afford to do that. Anyway, all this made me revisit some things I ranted about way back at the beginning of my blogs. I just got it all off my chest and left it until Dr. Willard and some conversations brought it all back to the surface.
Jesus certainly offered us smaller things that were representative of larger possibilities. He performed miracles that showed His power, but were not meant to be the end. Might He have thought, “I want them to understand and receive abundant, overwhelming, joyous eternal life starting today. I want them to get to know Me so that I can work in their lives and teach them and spill out and all over everyone they come into contact with. But they’re all so satisfied as it is, to get their attention, I’ll need to tell them about how it continues after this, how the consequence of not accepting it will be even greater than missing it.”
And so we’re offered something bigger than we realize in terms of something that we know we’d want, but are content to look forward to it because we don’t see our need of it now, or even that its available to us now. I sit here with a bag of Silver Dollars that are worth nothing but the promise of what I could have if I’d spend them. I don’t use the knowledge and promise that was made known to me in the task I performed to earn them.
Jesus forgave us our sins so that we could begin to live. We’re content with having been forgiven. We understand Jesus’ gift to us like the birthday present from Uncle Bob who lives 500 miles away and made our day with a welcome package through FedEx. We’re grateful, but it really doesn’t affect our relationship with Uncle Bob. If we’d open the box, we’d find boarding passes for a journey with Uncle Bob.
Its baffling that we could be so rightfully grateful for the forgiveness and never open the life that was the reason we’re forgiven. Never spend the dollars. Never use the tickets.
The ramifications of this shallow understanding and missed opportunity go far beyond ourselves. It directly affects our ability to carry out the great commission. We can only share and offer what we’ve come to understand has been offered us. Jesus offered eternal life; we accepted avoidance of death. He offered living water; we offer fire insurance. He said, “all who are weary, come to me and I will give you rest;” we say, “turn or burn.” Jesus showed us something positive to be gained. We show something negative to be avoided.
Our study of God consists mostly of trying to understand how it is that we’re forgiven, rather than how He lives in us. We concentrate on avoiding abusing His grace rather than letting His grace permeate every cell of our physical and spiritual beings.
Its time to wake up. The Kingdom is at hand. An hour is coming, and NOW IS when true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth. We worship a God that lives in us, not one who lives abroad and remembers our birthday.


Monday, February 02, 2004


Alrighty then. Sorry the socio-political diatribe had to stay up top for so long. Hope I didn’t lose any friends over that. My absence yesterday wasn’t caused of lack of subject matter. Actually, overwhelmed by it, but no time to talk.
So today at lunch I was involved in a conversation in which “beauty” came up again. I presented my usual speech on this subject including our bias, assumptions, prejudices (what? I haven’t posted that here yet? I can’t remember. I’ll check and remedy that if needed, but for now, its not actually required for this thought process.) At the end of my monologue one of the others at the table said, “well, you are interested in ‘educating’ the students rather than just uploading data.” He went on to say that I was causing the students to ask themselves why they believe what they believe.
So I began to think about this ‘educating’ idea. I responded to that last comment with a slight correction. In reality, what I’m trying to do is not to directly cause them to ask themselves why they believe what they believe, but to cause them to ask why I believe what I believe. I feel that if they ask me, it will cause them to do the same for themselves, even if it is only to refute what I’ve said. If I only cause them to ask themselves, then I’ve not really given them anything new with which to grapple.
All this seems very important to me at the moment. What will the emerging culture tolerate from us professor types? I guess what I mean is, will a culture that wants just to look at all the stuff and then decide for themselves what to do with it, what to make of it, tolerate being given the prof’s opinion? In the past, this has meant being told what to make of it all, what to do with the info. Here’s the conclusion to which you should come, now, here’s why.
It’s my desire to make them curious about what I’ve done with the info. I feel if they ask me the question, they’ll listen to the answer. It’s ironic that my job to educate must also include helping them to arrive at the question that needs asking, rather than simply to provide the answer to a question that has never occurred to them.
The new paradigm seems to be to toss out all the stuff but never have it dealt with personally – it never affects behavior or beliefs. The other end of the scale tosses out the desired results, but never claim ownership of the reasons. It seems to me that these are both approaches to “teaching”. One teaches behavior without conviction and one offers information without conviction or affected behavior or belief. Is it possible in our changing climate, to “educate” people to formulate questions that lead to answers that affect what we believe and the way we behave?