Showing posts from February, 2019

If God Feels Far Away, Who Moved?

Many years ago, I read the following question that was posted in some sermon or another and eventually made its way to the internet:

"If God feels far away from you right now, who moved?" 

I admit that I've used that question in the past during sermons or talks.  It's a pretty church-y question, but there's some depth to it, despite that fact.  The question implies something about the unmoving and annoyingly present presence of God all around us. 

It also implies that whatever we perceive as the absence of God is most likely formed and informed by our own inability to see God at work around us. 

And so many Christians spend all of their energy trying to perceive God on their own terms.  They lift up all sorts of man-made doctrines, dogmas, rules, and regulations that they falsely believe will usher them into the presence of the Divine somehow--as long as they can adhere to them. 

Some Christians spend so much time doing things in order to experience God that they lose…

Blobs Of Glue & Perfectionism

Artist Stefan Sagmeister once reflected on how in his hometown in Austria there was an annual event called the Bregenzer Festspiele.  The Festspiele featured the performance of operas, concerts and theater productions, which were presented from a floating stage on Lake Constance. 

One year, an Italian production company designed the stage set for a performance of Mozarts Magic Flute.  The designers created a scale model of the stage, along with the drawings and instructions, and then left for Italy. 

When they returned, the Italians discovered the set was perfectly created as they had specified, with one exception.  They were flummoxed by the presence of several large "blobs" on the stage---none of which were part of the original design. 

What they eventually realized was that the contractors had so meticulously followed the plans they were given, they actually recreated the blobs of glue that were visible in the model. 

After I read that story, I couldn't help but think abo…

Some Steps To Forgiveness

Yesterday I shared the importance of always being able to move toward forgiveness as a more excellent way of living and moving in the world. 

I also shared that because we have been forgiven (repeatedly) by God, we are in turn called to share that same mercy to others--even to those who continue to wound us. 

Today I'd like to share some steps that you can take in order to make forgiveness a reality.  I originally discovered the basic idea for this from the work of Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., and I modified it a bit. 

First, don't let the offense come between you any longer.  Whatever has happened is in the past, and it needs to stay there.  It has no place in your present.  The truth is, you may not ever laugh with this person again... or they may never be a part of your life going forward, but it's done.

Second, make a promise to yourself not to use the incident against them. Resist the urge to constantly rehash the incident with friends, or to bring it up in public for the pu…

490 Moments Of Forgiveness Is A Good Start

There's this moment in the Gospel of Matthew that I wish wasn't there.

Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness--specifically about how many times you should forgive someone who continues to wound you.

Peter thought he was being generous when he asks and then answers his own question:  "How many times should I forgive?  Seven?"

I'd like to imagine that Peter is thinking what most of us would think:  "Seven times is pretty much the absolute limit when it comes to forgiving someone who's wronged you... Three is my limit, but seven... now that's downright holy.  You'd have to be a saint to forgive that many times."

And then Jesus says, "Yeah, here's the deal... You should forgive up to seventy times seven times." 

There it is.  The moment I wish wasn't there.  

Jesus takes what Peter thinks is a holy number and then multiplies it so it becomes a number that is completely out of reach when it comes to those who have wounded us or the peop…

Why Did God Allow That To Happen?

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.  - 2 Cor 4:6
Some years ago, I had a church member make an appointment to see me in my office.  During her visit, she struggled to keep her composure as she shared how she was struggling to deal with a traumatic event in her life. 

At one point, she blurted out through her tears, "I don't know why God allowed this to happen to me!" 

She quickly qualified her comment by affirming her belief that God was all-powerful and all-knowing and that she believed God was inherently good, but then she paused for a moment and whispered: 

"But I still don't know why God allowed this to happen to me."  

In the newly released book, God Can't, Thomas Jay Oord takes on the issues surrounding my church member's statement--issues centered on the idea of why (if God is good) God would allow…

Everybody Who Is Honest Is Interesting

I recently read a wonderful quote from Quentin Crisp that sparked my imagination. 

Crisp, the late British author, actor, and raconteur was addressing a group of reporters once when he said, "Everybody is interesting." 

One of the reporters pushed back by saying that he quite disagreed with Crisp on that point and that there were, in fact, lots of boring people in the world. 

Crisp thought for a moment, and then amended his statement: "Everybody who is honest is interesting."

Come on!  How fabulous is that? 

Crisp's quip (say that five times really fast) got me thinking about how far too many of us Christian-y types live out our faith in uninteresting ways, simply because we aren't being entirely honest about it.

I like to imagine what it would be like if Christians everywhere started being completely and incredibly honest about their faith-- especially the parts of their faith filled with struggles, doubts, fears, hang-ups and wrong-headed notions that have led …

When Being "Smart & Special" Isn't Enough

Awake, I beseech thee, O my soul, and let the fire of a heavenly love be kindled in thy heart, and wisely consider the beauty which thy Lord God hath bestowed upon thee... Anselm of Canterbury

Once, many years ago, my wife and I were enjoying a rare night out together that included dinner.  The restaurant was jammed that evening, and so we had to sit at the bar, where an energetic and personable young guy waited on us.

Merideth is always great at connecting with people everywhere she goes.  She will often engage in deep conversations with strangers---cashiers, flight attendants, and bartenders.  I love that about her because I tend to stay in my lane when it comes to those kinds of interactions.

At any rate, she began talking to our bartender, and he opened up to share a bit of his life's journey with us, and why he had decided to back to college in his mid-thirties.

He said something I never forgot: 

"I was told that I was smart and special for so long that I believed that all m…

Lessons from A Disney World Line

I worked at Walt Disney World for nearly ten years in a variety of capacities, and in those ten years, I saw just about every strange thing a person could see at an amusement park... and then some.

There are thousands of stories that I could tell about my adventures working for "The Mouse," but the one that comes to mind today was inspired by the following line from a poem by the poet Dobby Gibson:
The mob didn't know what it had surrounded,yet this became the reason it grew thicker.  - "Since We Last Met"As I read that line from the poem, I remembered an afternoon when I was working in the Magic Kingdom and watched a group of people began to stand near the queue area for one of the attractions.

I guess they thought they were waiting in the actual line, even though they weren't even close.

In a moment, a few others began to line up behind them.  Before long, there was a long line behind the original line-formers.  I stood watching the whole thing--waiting to se…

The God Who Is Not Far Away

When I was a kid, I remember wondering if Heaven was in the sky, just beyond my sight somewhere in the puffy clouds. I would look up at the clouds and imagine God sitting on top of one looking down at me.

As I got older, I began to realize that God probably didn't live in the clouds and I started to believe that Heaven most likely was somewhere in the deepest reaches of outer space. 

But no matter how my perspective seemed to change, and my understanding of God began to be transformed by my questions, doubts and explorations, I still had held to the basic premise that God was not imminent or near. 

In fact, for years into adulthood, I carried with me the notion of God being "out there," or "up there"--basically somewhere, anywhere other than here. 

The notion of God not really being with us here in the down and dirty, grimy, gritty nature of our existence is pretty common. Far too many faith communities not only support such a notion, but they also willingly perpe…

Your Pity Party Isn't Cutting It

So there I was, having a nice little pity party for one---beating myself up pretty hard because I'd said something dumb and mean... again.  It was one of those moments when, as the words were coming out of my mouth, I realized they were hurtful and ridiculous.

But I couldn't take them back because they'd already made their way out into the universe and into the ears of everyone in the room.

Which was why I decided to have a pity party, and it was going swimmingly.  The usual party-goers were there: Shame and Guilt (I've written about them before here). And Self-Loathing decided to crash the whole thing, along with Self-Pity, who heard there was a pity party and just had to come.

The faith tradition of my youth celebrated these kinds of gatherings as a necessary step toward the ultimate realization that you were nothing but pond scum, unloveable, awful and riddled with the stench and stain of sinfulness.

There are times when I find myself still carrying a pretty heavy load …

Re:Solve - Week One: "Discontent"

It's a month after the New Year and I don't know about you but usually by this time I have already broken whatever resolutions I happen to have made in January.

So this year, I decided to life-hack the whole resolution thing by waiting until February to make my resolutions.  Ha!  Take that, January!  And take that, Not Keeping Resolutions!  How you like me now?  

"See you in March, suckah!"...  is the answer I'm getting back.  

Seriously though, so many of us try to fix ourselves every year, don't we?  Hope springs eternal as we figure out all of the ways we got off track in the previous year and we plan everything that we possibly can to rectify it. 

And don't give me that whole, "I don't make New Year's resolutions..."  ALL of us start off the new year with the sense that we have a new start to do something different... to be better.  

For things like dieting, exercise, reading more books, meditating, taking yoga... yeah, we might be able …

Two Ears & One Mouth: Discovering Hope in Listening

When I was a kid, I had a teacher sit me down to discuss my inability to keep my mouth shut during class.  "You have two ears and one mouth," she told me then.  "That means you need to listen twice as much as you speak."  
I remember thinking that I was being asked to listen for a lot longer than half of the time I was speaking, but (for once) I decided to keep my thoughts to myself.  
I do like to talk, though.  That hasn't changed a bit.  It's my way of shaping and re-shaping what I'm thinking.  I like to think that to hear my thoughts and ideas spoken out loud allows me to weigh them against what others are thinking and saying in response.  
So I find myself talking a lot---just like when I was a kid.  But the flaw in my whole process is that when I am talking, no one else can, which means I'm more often than not unable to really measure my ideas through the responses of others.  
I feel like our inability to hear one another is one of the most press…