Prayer: A Word I Need to Heed

"I try to remember that words do not matter to God as much as many of us suppose. They carry less weight than we think. 
Our culture seems infatuated by words. By the millions they stream from our radios, televisions, newspapers, internet sites, and yes, books. Drive through any metropolitan area, with its billboards, neon ads, and bannered signs, and you get the strange sensation of driving through a phone book or huge dictionary. Words seem essential. But much that is profound can happen in their absence. 
Rather than defining prayer as something solely expressed in words, I see it more fundamentally as being present to God. Sometimes words are eminently appropriate. Sometimes they get in the way. Often they simply don't matter. The important thing is to stand before God without our constant chatter, ready to be in heartfelt relationship with him. Where our whole selves are engaged in relationship with God, there prayer will be, even if words are not used."
- Timothy Jones, The Art of Prayer. pg. 23-24

My response: 
Words matter a great deal to me. Words are tools which enable understanding, communication, manipulation, transformation, and more. Reflecting on this I realize that words are, by and large, my specialty. I have no particular skills with my hands or my body and I lack technical expertise of every kind. As a child I told my parents that I wanted to be a politician, because they get paid to talk. Today I am a pastor, and though this vocation, this calling, is much more than 'getting paid to talk' it frequently relies on the proper use of language. And yet Jones is right; when it comes to prayer words fall away. My 'specialty' has, if I am honest, a way of coming between myself and God. It is humbling to see that I often come to God with ostensibly empty hands, never realizing that I grasp tightly to control through my mastery of language. It is freeing to see that this is utterly unnecessary. God does not need my words for understanding or transformation, and all the words in the world will not allow me to understand God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen. 

O Lord, the scripture says 'there is a time for silence and a time for speech.' Savior, teach me the silence of humility, the silence of wisdom, the silence of love, the silence of perfection, the silence that speaks without words, the silence of faith. Lord, teach me to silence my own heart that I may listen to hte gentle movement of the Holy Spirit within me and sense the depths which are of God.
- Frankfurt Prayer (quoted in The Art of Prayer pg. 44)


Forgiveness: A Good Word from Volf

"Both our transformation and the imputation of Christ's righteousness depend on union with Christ. And so does forgiveness, the fact that God doesn't count our sins against us. Because we are one, Christ's life is our life. Because we are one, Christ's qualities are our qualities. Because we are one, we have died in Christ's death, and our sins are no loner ours but are 'swallowed up' by Christ.
God gives, faith receives. And because God gives even before the hands of faith open to receive, faith never goes away empty-handed. To have faith is to have christ and, with Christ, a new life and forgiveness of sins."
- Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge. 151, 153


The 'Therapeutic' and the 'Psalm-ic'

Today I read:

"The contemporary climate is therapeutic, not religious. People today hunger not for personal salvation, let alone for the restoration of an earlier golden age, but for the feeling, the momentary illusion, of personal well-being, health, and psychic security."

So wrote Christopher Lasch in his 1979 book The Culture of Narcissism. It has, perhaps, never been more true than now in 2012.(1)

Today I also read: 
The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.

         - Psalm 90:10-15 (2)  
Having read both I simply cannot imagine how they might coincide in a single person. It seems utterly impossible that one should pray Psalm 90, requesting God to make them glad for the days in exactly the same sentence as they acknowledge that those days are an affliction and a trouble, and yet also bow to the therapeutic mindset of our age.  One cannot seek the joy of the Lord and also the worlds promises of 'happiness and well-being,' defined as they are in the world. They are contradictory.

Still, how many Christians fall prey to the way of the world in just this area? 

(1) For the record: I read this in The Way of the (Modern) World by Craig Gay, pg. 182
(2) For the record: I read the whole Psalm; you should to :)
(3) For the record: The phrase "for the record" in reference to a blog which will undoubtedly be soon lost to the mists of time seems pretentious in the extreme. In the words of my son Ethan: "I like it." 


"It's 3AM and I can't sleep..."

It's 3am and I can't sleep. I'm all alone. There's no one to call at this hour.

And so, rising slowly and allowing blankets to slip to the floor, I head for my computer. With a half-desperate sigh I log on to my Facebook account. I hope for some activity, some contact with other people. 


I post a status update and wait. Click. Refresh. Click. Refresh. Nothing. 

My brain side-slips reality and I imagine, for the briefest of moments, a different life. 

I imagine being constantly tired but unable to sleep. The heaviness of my eyes growing with each passing moment but nary a moment of sleep. I imagine sitting for hours, days, and weeks with abundant tools of communication at my disposal but having no one to talk to. My lonely desperation growing with each passing moment but nary a moment of human contact. 

Gripped by this image there is only one option. I turn the computer off and go to bed. And as I drift off  I wonder...

I can't help thinking that this imagined life, in some small way, intersects with hell. 


"Daddy, be a monster..."

"Daddy, be a monster." Asks Hannah, my 3 year old daughter.

And so, dropping to all fours, with a savage glint in my eye and a feral grin on my face, I let out a roar. In response Hannah shrieks with delight and runs to her room where she dives under the blankets and waits for the "Daddy Monster." 

I roar down the hallway, crawling slowly so as to amplify the suspense, and, upon reaching her room, say in a deep and growling voice: "Where is my dinner?" 

When I finally catch Hannah she giggles and laughs and after a brief tickle I let her go so that we can repeat the process in the other direction. 

This delight in the face of a 'monster' is possibly precisely because this monster is the 'daddy monster.' 

If only all of the monsters we faced were loved ones in disguise. If only all of the monsters, upon catching us, wanted noting more than to see us laugh and then released us to run again, shrieking with delight, for another round of fun. 

I can't help thinking that this wish, in some small way, intersects with heaven. 


Forgiveness: A Hard Word From Luther

"Those who follow Christ grieve more over the sin of their offenders than over the loss or offense to themselves. And they do this that they may recall those offenders from their sin rather than avenge the wrongs they themselves have suffered. Therefore they put off the form of their own righteousness and put on the form of those others, praying for their persecutors, blessing those who curse, doing good to the evil-doers, preparing to pay the penalty and make satisfaction for their very enemies that they may be saved. This is the gospel and the example of Christ."
- Martin Luther (Quoted by Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge, pg. 161-162)


2012.04.04 Worth Visiting

Forget Self-Improvement - A good word about goals.

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's Nobel Prize Speech - Nobel prize speech given by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn; amazing.

TED Video: The Earth is Full - The earth is full. Literally. Our current economy is unsustainable.

Letter: A Brave New World - Huxley's own take on why "A Brave New World" is more likely than "1984"

Neurons V Free Will - problems in neuroscience?

The $8-Billion Dollar IPod - hilarious video looking at 'copyright math' and the flaws therein.

Culture After the Credit Crunch - Thought provoking look at our reactions to recent financial crisis.

What Isn't for Sale? - Hidden costs in a society where everyone is for sale?

Havel's Specter - reflection on the political and poetic wisdom of Vaclev Havel

The Right Habits - small habits leading to victory


March Reflections

He is Risen! Or so we will declare very soon :) 

Top 3 Posts from March
1. Child Soldiers and Hunger Games - A few thoughts on the recent blockbuster movie and the tragedy of child soldiers. 
2. Children Are Waiting - A word about the Christian duty to care for orphans. 
3. Rediscovering Sin: Pusillanimity - The title kind of says it: I learned about a sin I had never considered before. 

3 Most Visited Posts in March
1. We're Sinking - My reaction to Josh McDowell's "Truth Matters" campaign is quickly becoming my most popular post ever. 
2. Heaven and Hell - But this one keeps hanging on. 
3. Child Soldiers and Hunger Games - It's nice to see a post on both of these lists; it seems to happen only rarely as Google searches continue to dominate my traffic ratios. 

A few key events dominated the last month in my life. The keen observer may have noticed that I was posting at a rate of 1 a day for the first week of March. Then I said nothing for two weeks. Simply put, life got very busy when one of the pastors at our church stepped out of ministry. That was event one. The second event was that Ethan, my son, had surgery. 
My Boy and My Wife

Nothing too serious (removing a cyst above his left eye), but what parent doesn't have a mini-heart attack when his child goes under the knife? Exactly. He has, however, recovered extremely well. Just today, in fact, we spent nearly 2 hours waiting at the doctors office so that the doctor could spend 30 seconds looking at his eye and declaring him well. 

May April be much more peaceful, and uneventful, than March!