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Showing posts from July, 2020

A Different Drum

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Perhaps the book that we all should be reading right about now is Henry David Thoreau's WaldenWalden was a reflection on living simply in a natural setting.  God knows we could all use some fresh air and a few miles between us and COVID.  

Thoreau lived for two years, two months and two days in a cabin he built himself on Walden Pond near Concord Massachusets--growing his own food, fishing, and spending all that time in relative isolation.  

His book has long been a bible of sorts for those who are bent on self-reliance.  But while Thoreau did spend over two years alone---he didn't stay that way.  In the end, he came back to his community, to family, and to his work.  

One of the many things that our shared forced isolation has taught us is just how much we do need one another, despite any beliefs we might harbor that we can make it on our own.  However, I do think that there are things to be learned by what we've experienced.  

I recently read a quote from Walden that reso…

Keep Dreaming

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I have this recurring dream that I usually will dream right as I am drifting off to sleep.  It's nothing elaborate---just a head-on car crash... that's all.  
When it happens, I will awake with a jolt, typically with a feeling of falling forward.  Also, I almost always have that dream when I am feeling stressed, tired, worried, or just harboring a feeling of impending doom.  
Which is pretty much how I feel every other day right about now.  
The other night I had this elaborate dream where I ended up driving my car off the edge of one of those really tall on-ramps that we have in Austin.  As the car was sailing over the side and into oblivion, I  turned to my unknown passenger and said, "I'm sorry."  
I know--it's messed up.  
There's so much that I feel right about now---feelings that have been difficult to put into words.  There are days when I've had just enough bad cable news, just enough encounters on social media with angry, frightened people to feel

Live In Defiant Hope

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It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. - George Orwell, 1984


The quote above is the first line from George Orwell's classic novel, 1984--a dystopian parable that addresses the consequences of government over-reach, totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviours within society. 

Now some of you are probably starting to tense up a bit.  Relax... this isn't going to be a politically charged devotion.  

However, I am going to talk a bit about religion and how within religion, totalitarianism is often disguised as "tradition," and repressive regimentation of all persons is often disguised as "biblical interpretation."

These are important conversations to have because there's a lot of misguided people out there in our culture, claiming to speak for God.  

And not to put too fine a point on it, but ultimately they end up sounding more and more like people who are claiming the clock i…

Imago Dei

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I was driving home the other day when I saw something that struck me, and I've been thinking about it ever since.  
I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green when I noticed a car opposite me, making a turn.  There was a huge flock of birds in the street they were attempting to turn into, feasting on a bunch of bread someone had dumped there.  
The driver slowed down to a crawl, moving forward at a snails' pace to give the birds time to move.  Once they scattered, he proceeded to make his turn and then drove off.  
I found myself wondering about the impulse that the driver felt to slow down so that he didn't hit any of the birds.  
He could have easily just driven at a normal rate of speed, but it was apparent that he didn't want to harm any of them---these little creatures on the road, just trying to eat.  Instead of just driving through them, he slowed down to ensure their survival.  
As I thought about this, I remembered a line from a poem I'…

Gut Feelings

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Bishop Desmond Tutu once wrote about the importance of having compassion for others, even those who are difficult to forgive and to show mercy to.  He wrote: 
When we are uncaring, when we lack compassion, when we are unforgiving, we will always pay the price for it.  It is not, however, we alone who suffer.  Our whole community suffers, and ultimately our whole world suffers.  I got to thinking about this, and I realized something.  It is in our very nature to default to compassion.  We just deny it.  

I don't often do word studies here, but I was reading Jurgen Moltmann's latest book The Spirit Of Hope, and in the course of his exploration of the concepts of compassion, he discussed the Hebrew word rachamim.  

To put it bluntly, rachamim is compassion that goes so deep that the intestines tense up.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "That's kinda weird!"  Let me explain.  

The noun rachamim is feminine and points to the pain a mother feels at b…

There's A Lot Of Room In The Circle

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From time to time people ask me about my thoughts on God's grace, and how big I  actually think God's grace really is.  

It's generally a loaded question because embedded in it is a deeper question that goes something like this:  "Who do you really think 'gets into heaven?'" 

Now I'm not going to completely unpack what I believe the meaning of the word "heaven" is here in this devo, but suffice to say "heaven" is quite simply where God is, which is somewhere on the other side of our perceptions of reality.  

But here are some thoughts on my ideas of just how big God's grace is... 

To begin with, I believe God's grace is waaaayyy bigger than you or I could ever imagine.  That.  Is my theological opinion.  You're welcome. 😁

That's not saying a whole lot, though.  Most of us can't really bend our minds around the kind of inclusive, radical grace that would include even us... 

It's typical for us humans to want to be…

There Is A Crack In Everything

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I'm going to nerd out a bit about music if that's okay with everyone.  Actually, I have no idea whether you think it's a good idea or not because you are reading this, and I'm writing it hours before you do so. 

Let's assume then that you have nodded in assent, and I'll move forward.  I feel better now, so that's something.  

I've been listening to my Essential Leonard Cohen playlist a bit and it's been serving as some inspiration in moments when I've needed it.  If you aren't familiar with Leonard Cohen, you probably are and you just don't know it. 

Several of his songs have been reworked by artists who made them into big hits.  Rod Stewart had a hit with Downtown Train, and Cohen's song Hallelujah has been covered by Rufus Wainright and a host of other people as well.  

But it's his song Anthem that has been speaking to me lately.  Incidentally, Anthem was recently masterfully covered by Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) in an EP he…

The Shadow Always Proves The Sunshine

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For the past many weeks our church has been working through a sermon series entitled "Focus: Take A Closer Look."

The idea we keep coming back to each week is that even though it's hard in these circumstances to see Jesus at times when you take a closer look and get to know Jesus more fully, you learn "to trust in what you can't see because of what we can see."

It's a simple and powerful way to get the point across about how important it is to look more closely at the world around us and to have open minds and hearts to see where Christ is present, and then to go and meet Christ there.

But there's also another way to think about seeing clearly---one that is based on being able to see more clearly because of what you can't see. 

In other words, sometimes the empty spaces and the dark places around us provide a sharp contrast to what is good and beautiful in the world, which is often what we are not seeing when we are so focused on what isn't goo…

Hurting People Hurt People

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The politician on the video I was watching on a news website was shouting above the reporter who was trying to follow up on the question she asked.  

I found myself focusing on his demeanor---his battle-ready posture, the fury in his eyes, the way his voice rose, and rose until it roared in the room, taking everyone there aback.   

I added it to the long list of news stories I'd ingested over the last week where people were angrily protesting mask mandates, restrictions on restaurants, bars, church gatherings, and the like. 

It makes you tired to watch this stuff, doesn't it? 

I was reading from a book of poetry by the incredible Irish poet, Brendan Kennelly, and came across this poem that struck me as so appropriate for our times:  

The Loud Men
And how O God shall we learn to cope
With the loud men?
Why do they shout, I  ask myself. 
Because 
Under the noise 
There is nothing. 

Because 
The loud always win attention 
For a while. 

Because 
They are afraid of silence. 
Because 
They proclaim t…

Ubuntu

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Over the past week, most major retailers across the United States finally took measures to require face masks in order to enter their stores.  

It was without a doubt a good business decision in addition to being the right thing to do.  

These retailers took these measures to ensure the safety of their employees, first and foremost, but they've also calculated that the faster we are able to reduce the spread of COVID, the faster we can truly "re-open" our society, they can truly get back to business.  

However, the move was a wake-up call for many people, and it absolutely shed light on the fact that the simple act of wearing a mask drastically reduces the possibilities of spreading COVID.  

For my part, all it took was one trip to the store where I forgot my facemask and had to cruise on back home to get it, and now I have facemasks stashed all over the place---in my car, in my backpack, in various parts of my house.  

Recently, I watched a spate of videos where people enter…

Focus: Week Seven - Shipwrecked

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Today we are going to be continuing the sermon series "Focus: Take A Closer Look." 

It's hard sometimes to see where Jesus is at work in the world around us, especially when things are so chaotic and uncertain.  But when we take a closer look we learn to trust in what we can't see because of what we can see. 

And when we begin to see Jesus more clearly, we can learn to know Jesus more fully as well.  Throughout the month of July, we have been exploring the idea that when we get to know Jesus, we can then show Jesus to others.  

Today we're going to be talking about showing Jesus even when life is challenging and we face hardships.  Good timing, right?  The world feels like it's falling apart around us some days.  

How do we live out our faith, and show Jesus to others when we are going through such crazy times?  

I think the answer lies in Grey's Anatomy.  Don't judge me on this, I've been watching a lot of Netflix lately.  And I forgot how awesome Gre…