Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jesus - on Facebook?

     Would Jesus have a Facebook page?  How many friends would he have?  What sorts of things would he post?  “Interesting interaction with a leper this morning.”  “Instagram photo of me walking on water.”  “Check out my blog bashing the Pharisees.”  “Any advice on what to say when on trial before Pontius Pilate?”  “A dozen guys coming for dinner tonight; I’m serving lamb.”  “I’m back.”
     I have Facebook, and a startling number of friends.  Sometimes I post serious stuff; sometimes it’s just something fun I did.  Jesus was no stick-in-the-mud; I doubt he smugly chides us for Facebook; I believe he chuckles over some of the humor and cute pix.
     But I wonder about a few things, like How much time do I really spend on Facebook?  I read a study that says every person asked this question grossly underestimates how much time actually rolls by as we scroll about, like, comment, and post.  Not that Facebook time is evil.  If anything, it demonstrates our deep need for community, our craving for connection.  God made us this way.
     What sort of connection do we make on Facebook?  Much is fine, but more of it is trivial, shallow.  Maybe we need to get together, and share in depth.  I’ve somehow garnered hundreds of Facebook friends – but do I have even 12 like those Jesus had?
     I also fret a bit over the nature of photos people post.  Everyone is smiling, having a terrific time – and I believe the studies that suggest the omnipresence of all our friends looking as if life is perpetual happiness can lead to a sneaky depression.  Does the “norm” become the composite image of giggly, scenic life posted on Facebook? and therefore something must be wrong with me because I haven’t been happy for quite a few days, and wasn’t included in that witty video of the party I didn’t get invited to.  How many “likes” did my contribution get anyhow?  None?  Just two?
     How do I narrate my true self?  How do I measure my worth? or what my day is like?  Can I dabble in Facebook, but still remember to go deep, maybe to use some of that ticking Facebook time to pray?  What’s my “status” with God?  What do I “like” about God this day?  What would I share from my heart that matters – either an item of joy, or a plea from sorrow?
     What if Jesus had posted photos of his journey?  Not all smiles and parties, that’s for sure.  Does Facebook whittle away at our ability to grasp the depth of Jesus’ suffering love, or of the sorrows of our world?
     “What a friend we have in Jesus.”  We might have to trim some Facebook time to know him a little better…

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Think like Jesus - the Bible....

Avid reader or not, you probably have some books where you live - and increasingly people find their reading material on a laptop, Kindle, Nook or even your phone. What do we read? and why do we read what we read? What is the big picture impact of the varied diet of what I read? Am I getting smarter? or being entertained? or more aware of the real world? or even closer to God?
In Sunday's sermon I spoke of the great gift of the Bible in the most compelling way I'm capable of... Watch it here!

My primal thoughts were 1. Any time we read the Bible, God is pleased. I like that: if I can do something that I know will please God, I want to do it daily. And 2. The way to think like Jesus is to read what Jesus read and talked about all the time, namely the Scriptures.

The Bible is itself a library of 66 books, wildly divergent in style and tone, best read in sips than in huge gulps. You benefit from having a plan, or a guide, or being in a group. I once had a lawyer tell me he couldn't understand the Bible. I snickered a little - as attorneys devise complex documents only other attorneys can comprehend. My grandfather, with an eighth grade education, wore out a couple of Bibles, reading, understanding, adoring, obeying.

Where to begin? Go to this page and click on Year Through the Bible, a series I did highlighting the key passages you need to be familiar with. There's more info on that page as well. Or ask around, research it a little - or just start reading Mark, or John, or the Psalms, or Philippians: every page beautiful, moving, helpful, and holy. This is the way to think like Jesus.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Think like Jesus - at the grocery store

     Armed with my list, I get my basket, take to the aisles, nab the items I came for, and try not to indulge in too much impulse buying. I don't think much about Jesus, or anything at all except replenishing my refrigerator and pantry, securing dinner, and nosing out a few bargains.

     Jesus wasn't a farmer, so like everybody else he stopped by little markets with his mother and then his friends, studied the produce, made his purchases and took the haul (meager as it may have been) back home. What was on his mind? He spoke directly with the farmer who'd grown the chickpeas. We miss that part - but might think about it. The food is in the cans, but what's canned is God's goodness, the long chain of rain, sunshine, fertile earth, a farmer's gritty determination, pickers (many of whom are the immigrants we debate politically!), factory folk, and shelf stockers. I might pause, think of God and all of them, and marvel with gratitude.

     Jesus had precious few choices. We have too many. How many types of cereal does humanity really need? Why is it Lisa sends me to get something simple like stuffing mix, but then there are a dozen types of mix, and multiple brands of each type? My temperature rises - but I might calm down, and humbly confess to God how spoiled and picky we have all become, and plead for mercy, and some simplicity.

     I might, as I make my way down the long aisles, remember those who have few or no choices, or no food at all. I've had Third World guests before, and they aren't sure whether to laugh, moan or weep when they survey our stores. I can pray for them - and I can also develop simple habits, like if I get a can of beans, I get another can to drop off at church.

     Other grocery store questions loom. Can I be patient with the shopper who thoughtlessly crashes her basket into mine? Can I be kind to the harried checkout person? or grateful to the bagger? Paper or plastic? or those green bags Lisa gently suggests I use? Lord Jesus: I need some help in the grocery store!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Praxis - Think like Jesus - Exercise

     The world says get fit, look good, stay trim, live longer.  I suspect Jesus nods, and maybe says “Amen” – but it’s interesting that Jesus never “exercised.”  In fact, the whole notion of “exercise” only makes sense in a comfortable society where you sit all day and thus need exercise.  I know a woman in Haiti who walks 5 miles carrying her woven goods to market – and 5 miles back home, where she also carries water, on her head, about a mile uphill for her family. 

     Paul recalled Olympic games he had observed, and thought of the Christian life as running a race, “to obtain the prize…  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. I do not run aimlessly… I pommel my body and subdue it” (1 Corinthians 9:25).  And, “I press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14).  And “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day” (2 Timothy 4:7).  I wonder if we might exercise, not only to feel or look better, but as a chance to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20)?

     Can we think like Jesus while at Zumba, while running, walking or biking, lifting weights?  I’m not merely staying fit, but pressing on toward the prize of fitness for Christ’s Kingdom.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Praxis - Look, a rich person!

     Oh, look:  there’s a rich person!  Maybe it’s you in the mirror… but let’s say it’s somebody else.  He seems so cool:  chic clothes, cool car.  She probably doesn’t have a care in the world, is jetting off someplace hip, knows all the right people.  If only I had what he has; if only she were my friend.

     Jesus says Look if you’d like, but don’t gawk.  Under the veneer there’s a child of God, with wounds, craziness, goodness, but with the complication of having enough money to fall for the lie that he’s independent, that what she needs can be purchased. 

     Jesus says Look at the rich person, and remember I asked them to part with their wealth for the good of their souls.  I warned them (and you too) about Laying up treasure on earth instead of in heaven.  One of my best stories was about a rich man who did nothing for the poor man on his door step – and he wound up separated from God by an unbridgeable chasm (Luke 16:19-31).
    So say a prayer for him, shed any twinge of envy you might feel – and remember that Jesus came to make each one of us unfathomably rich, people with purpose, the inheritors of eternal life, those destined to dwell in the mansions of God’s presence forever.

Praxis - Look! a Poor Person.

Oh, look: there's a poor person. Bless her heart. Avert your gaze; don't stare! If children should be seen and not heard, the poor should be neither seen nor heard.

The world gives us 2 options when the poor do appear. (1) Pity: oh, it's so sad they have so little. I feel sorry for her. Maybe I even feel sorry enough at Thanksgiving to donate to the food drive, or if it's winter, I have an old worn out coat I don't want any more, so she can have it.

But increasingly Americans choose option (2) Blame: it's her fault she's poor, she ought to get a job, I'd never let myself get in that mess, she's a drain on society, handouts deepen dependence...

Jesus, interestingly enough, was poor, homeless, convicted as a criminal. In his last sermon before they killed him, Jesus spoke of helping the poor, hungry, homeless - and said that when we love them, we love Jesus, and that our very salvation depends upon it. However we respond to the poor = our response to Jesus.

So if I avert my gaze, I look away from Jesus. If I blame the poor for being poor, I find fault with Jesus. If I do nothing, I do not love Jesus. The political drift in our country is away from sharing what is mine with others. But for Christians this simply isn't an option.

We speak of taking responsibility. Here's what Mother Teresa said about people she was trying to help: "We do not ask why they have AIDS. We simply love them. It is not what they may have done that matters. What matters is what we do."

Our programs that work with the poor are geared toward sustainable responsibility. The Praxis question you and I have to answer is Do we pity, or blame? or do nothing? or do we love Jesus and get active in his endeavors with his people?

Look - a poor person.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Praxis - Think like Jesus - my calendar?

     Although my smart phone, my laptop, and my secretary all have calendars, I still carry a little black pocket calendar on which I scribble things I need to do.  What’s the meaning of all this ink?  Is it an albatross? or evidence that I must be somebody, since I have so much to do?

     What makes it onto my calendar?  Things to do?  Things I fear I’ll forget?  Who decides?  Am I a victim of what barges into my schedule?  Am I the controller of my own time – and destiny?

   Do I ever jot down, Be still and pray? or Block out time to find a service opportunity? or Reach out to the person nobody else likes?  If a stranger performed an analysis on my pocket calendar, would they discover any evidence of God? or holiness? or humble service?  How do I account for the time God has given me?

   For the final 57 years of his life, Wesley kept an “exacter diary,” in which every hour of every day he jotted down little notations of how he had lived during that past hour with respect to the grace of God.  Have I been faithful? or grateful?  Did I harbor dark thoughts? or pass up an opportunity to do good?  Imagine this kind of stellar devotion to God, working as diligently as possible to live a life that in some way was appropriate to the immense glory of God’s grace!

   Wesley understood, and would teach us, that religion is not “the mere saying of a few prayers, something superadded now and then to a careless or worldly life,” but rather “a constant habit of soul, the renewal of our minds in the image of God.”

   This Sunday we’ll be handing out simplified “exacter diaries” you may use during the week.  Try this!  It will take a little time, of course – but it might be the one truly valuable entry into your calendar, whoever keeps the thing.  Click here to view, download or print the short, simplified version to use each day; and here is the fuller, week-long spiritual diary.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Praxis - What we believe about the Holy Spirit

     Here’s something wonderful, and baffling, yet essential about God:  We are invited to think of God as Creator – but that God is so unfathomably gigantic, cradling the vast expanses of the universe in the palm of God’s hand… and then we think of God come down to earth in the human being Jesus – but he didn’t travel far, he died fairly young, and that was centuries ago.

     God also is God the Holy Spirit.  God the Spirit is as close as the breath you just took.  God is in your head, whispering faint messages.  This Holy Spirit won’t let Jesus be forgotten, but keeps Jesus alive for us right now.  God the Spirit makes things grow – including you and me.

     There is only one God, but God is too complex and magnificent to be merely one; God is love, and the primal love is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, eternal love, inviting us into their holy circle.

     Some Christians confuse the Holy Spirit with a rush of emotion.  Lots of emotions gush that are not of God; and the Spirit is richly present if you ‘feel’ nothing at all.  The Spirit isn’t something a few possess, and the Spirit isn’t in one place but not another.  The Holy Spirit is God right here (and over there), right now, active, delighting in praxis, making us attentive to everything as a manifestation of the divine.  This Spirit was there when the world was made, and when you were conceived – which is why the Spirit is sad when we miss out on God’s presence in simple things, and happy when we notice God in our routine, and choose to do small (or big) things for God.

     The Holy Spirit inspires, and urges us to action.  The Holy Spirit convicts and judges us, exposing our sin, forgiving, and even fixing our souls.  The Holy Spirit provides flashes of insight when we read Scripture or pray, and teaches us what really is true.  The Holy Spirit comforts us, and carries us when we can’t stand up on our own.  The Spirit prays for us and even in us when we can’t, or won’t, or don’t know how:  “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

     The Spirit stays busy striving to make us holy, so we might be cleaner, purer, our thoughts, words and actions more pleasing to God.  The Spirit is God in our time – and tomorrow we’ll look closely at the praxis of how we budget our time…

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Think like Jesus - in line.....

I hate it when there's a line at the store, or frankly any place. Typically, I just leave if I can, or I tap my foot impatiently and feel pressure across my forehead - or I fume in my mind, and calculate all the ways I could make the line move faster if they'd put me in charge. In elementary school we had "line monitors," to be sure nobody elbowed their way to the front, knowing the pushy guys would if they could.

I suspect Jesus doesn't mind lines. A line is a lesson in courtesy, in deferring to others. If I imagine standing in line with Jesus, I might even yield my place to the person I notice behind me who's stressed.

If I am in line, I might reminisce about my grandparents, who stood in lines during the Depression just to get a little food. In many places in God's world, people still stand in line for necessities, to see a nurse, for a chance at a job.

Church delights in lines. The choir processes in a line; we queue up for Holy Communion. These one-after-another movements remind us we are not just meandering aimlessly through life. We are part of something magnificent. We are going somewhere.

And in good company. A line reminds me I am not alone. In Jerusalem we encountered a massive crowd pressing in to see where Jesus was crucified. We were tempted to feel put off, until we thought, What if no one was there? I am glad many came to the place that makes us one. When I am in line, I can imagine the great procession of God's saints through the ages, gradually inching toward God's throne.

When I'm in line, I can think like Jesus.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Praxis - Think like Jesus - the shower...

So you're into the morning routine - which for me must begin promptly with coffee or I'm grouchy all day. Bowl of cereal, skim the paper, check email and Facebook, brush your teeth, get in the shower... Nothing of consequence here, just the rote pattern of getting ready for the day.

Jesus started his public life by taking a quick bath in a river. Maybe when I first splash water on my face, or when I step into the shower, I might actually think about Jesus - who said "I am the living water" (John 7), who bathed the feet of his friends (John 13), who healed with water (John 8).

We baptize with water - either a little on the forehead or full-bodied dunking! - and it's not cute, but the power of God descending. Martin Luther wrote that our greatest comfort on earth is recalling that "I am baptized."

At our church on Sunday, we gave out plastic tags for folks to hang in the shower that say "Lord, as I enter the water to bathe, I remember my baptism. Wash me by your grace. Fill me with your Spirit. Renew my soul. I pray that I might live as your child today, and honor you in all that I do." We hope people will pray that each day during their morning routine; I believe if we do, our day will be anything but routine!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Praxis - Think like Jesus - the Menu

The waitress hands you a menu. So many choices... and there are specials too? I think, What do I feel like eating? What is the chef's reputation? Or maybe I'm dieting, so I trend toward the broiled fish... What are my fellow diners ordering?

How to think like Jesus when scanning that menu? I can recall that the Bible says my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), which either complicates or enriches things as I think about putting food into myself. I think about the goodness of God, creating the vast array of foods and flavors. I pause and recall those who cannot afford such a meal, or any food at all, and I'm not prideful but humbled.

I remember how many of Jesus' memorable moments were when he was out dining. Accused of gluttony, he ate with people others despised. At one lovely dinner party he said "Don't invite those who can invite you back to a dinner, but invite the poor, lame, and blind" (Luke 14) - and I wonder why I always eat with people pretty much like me. I recall that Jesus chose to spend his last night on earth with his friends over a long, sumptuous meal (Mark 14).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What we believe about Jesus - in 500 words...

The epicenter of all we believe about God - and ourselves, our purpose, actions and destiny - is a single human being. Ridiculous, too small! - and yet how fitting. God, the one that flicked a wrist and galaxies came to be, wanted nothing less than a personal relationship with each person; how better to connect that by becoming... a person?

A long time ago, a child was born - named Yeshua, Jesus, meaning "Lord help!" His mother Mary probably cried just that during childbirth; and he is the one who can help. God wanted us to know God's heart, and decided to come down here as an infant - tender, lovely, vulnerable, beloved. God said, I'll do that, I'll be that, and perhaps they will then know me, and even love me.

We know about him because Gospels were written - not unbiased biographies, but sales pitches, testimonials from people who gasped in awe, and risked life and limb to follow him. They believed he and God in heaven were so very close that they were One - with no space between them like we experience, but total intimacy, a union of wills.

The DaVinci Code and a rabble of critics have tried to trash Jesus - and that's precisely how he was treated in his own lifetime! He taught, but never fed egos or endorsed the comfy status quo. He touched the untouchable people, and was unimpressed by the rich, or even pious people. How else would a good God act?

He healed, he loved - so unflinchingly that they tried to get rid of him. This Jesus died a horrible, premature death - which was God's way of saying we never die alone; our suffering, however awful, is folded directly into the agonized heart of God - and yet redeemed. He bore on his own shoulders all that was wrong with us and the world; there really is divine forgiveness.
They buried this Jesus, but he didn't stay dead. Want proof of the magnificence, truth and deity of Jesus? Other "messiahs" and even great heroes attracted huge followings back in those days; but when each one died, their fans trudged home, dejected. When Jesus died, his closest friends plunged out into the world and swore he was alive, God come down to save us all.

Jesus was the one. But not in any exclusive sense; his life mission was to make us brothers and sisters in his close-knit family with God his Father. Jesus tells us, and shows us everything we need to know about God: compassion, transformation, goodness, a welcoming spirit, a holy posture, courage, and immense hope. And thus Jesus shows us our true selves, and why we exist: to be like him, to follow him, to trust him, to be saved by him.

We call Jesus "Lord" - but the world has never seen such a lord. No groveling required, no cowering in fear, no fretting over being good enough. Jesus humbly served, and sacrificed himself joyfully so we might have life. He loves you, and yearns for your love. He's going somewhere, the only place that matters - and he puts his arm around you, and beckons you to join him. We believe in Jesus.

My conversation with David Chadwick on the essentials of what we believe is on YouTube!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Praxis - what to pray?

     Several of you have asked me, OK, pray while doing the dishes, pray in the closet – but what do I pray?  Whatever may be on your heart, of course, and whatever you suspect might be on God’s heart.

     I’ve not read her newest book, but Anne Lamott’s title provides a simple outline; in various forms we say 3 things to God:  Help! Thanks! and Wow!  That could keep you busy praying for quite a while.  Ask for God’s assistance; express gratitude; and be awestruck by the wonder of God.

     I might add 3 more.  Ask God to make you holy, and more like Jesus.  Ask God for wisdom, for a mind that thinks and understands like God’s.  And when we pray for those in need, we might add Lord, show me how I might be the answer to my own prayer.  That is, ask for marching orders…

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jesus in my Clothes Closet! - Praxis - Think like Jesus

At least once a day, I walk into the tiniest room in my house: my closet. I survey the lineup of shirts, pants, jackets, suits, shoes, and make a selection. My skills are limited - so I fret a bit: Do the colors work? Did I wear this yesterday? Whom will I run into today? What's the "image" I hope to project?

If I imagine Jesus stepping into that closet with me.... Wait: now I remember. Jesus said, When you pray, go into your closet, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father will reward you (Matthew 6:6). Wow. Every time I step into the closet, I have the rare guarantee that (1) I can do something right now that Jesus told me to do, and (2) I can get a reward. I want to think more about that - but I also plan to do it every time.

Maybe the very act of dressing can be a prayer. Paul must have thought about this when he wrote, Put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forgiveness and love (Colossians 3:12), or Put on the armor of God... gird your loins with truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, shod your feet with the gospel of peace, take the shield of faith (Ephesians 6).

In the earliest centuries of our faith, converts symbolically took off their old dirty work clothes and were wrapped in a new, white robe. Can I make my daily ritual of buttoning my shirt, buckling my belt, pulling up my socks and tying my shoes, and slipping on a jacket into a prayer, a vesting of my self as a person planning to serve God when I'm out there in these clothes?

What else? Whom am I dressing for? and why? Am I dressed in a way that might pose a spiritual problem for somebody else? Why do I own so many shirts? or shoes? Can't I donate some of this?

After this brief encounter with Jesus, we can happily "come out of the closet."

Praxis - Think like Jesus - when I'm out and about

So I am driving through my neighborhood, or walking down the sidewalk toward my office, going wherever it is that I routinely go. Where am I? Whose house am I passing? What's up in that house?

I ride my bicycle daily - and there are homes I pass where I know someone is ill, or facing a challenge, or a child has gone off to school, or there's been a divorce. As I pass, I say a prayer. These prayers matter to God. And they humble me, and remind all of us of our common humanity, and our shared need for God.

I could just drive mindlessly, or find myself rankled by talk radio. I could also think about a family's situation in a gossipy kind of way. But I want to think like Jesus.

I drive past the courthouse - and pray for judges, and the people in prison Jesus told us to be concerned about. Through the windshield I see a hospital, and pray for someone I know who is sick, or for doctors and nurses in general. I pass my church, or any church, and give thanks to God, and pray for the clergy and leaders.

Perhaps I even change my route a little to go by a particular house, or take a slightly longer way home to be sure I behold places and people in need - and instead of shuddering, I pray, and ask God what I might do to help.

Running, biking, driving, walking: all holy moments, chances to pray and love.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

the Sandy Hook rules

    We shudder over the shooting deaths of 20 children and 6 teachers at the Sandy Hook elementary school.  And yet I’ve been to the movie theater four times over the holidays.  Each time, my fellow movie-goers, who surely gazed sadly at the Newtown massacre’s coverage on their TV sets less than 3 weeks ago, now gaze wide-eyed, and full of anticipation, as the previews titillate with – gunfire, slaughtering a dozen, forty or more.  Don’t miss this next thrilling action-packed adventure!  Shoot ‘em up! 

     I learned a few years ago that it’s risky to talk about guns:  I penned a column asking if Jesus would join the NRA, if he would go to a gun show and drool over the quality of the firearms.  I didn’t even answer Yes or No – but merely raising the question elicited hate mail, and threatening calls to my home. 

    But it is riskier for us, the people, and for the next round of victims, to let the memory of executed children in Newtown slip from our attention, or become yet one more casualty of powerful lobbying and political timidity.

    I wonder if we could agree to a modest proposal:  let’s call it the Sandy Hook rule.  If a movie or TV show displays the killing of 26 or more people, the show is banned.  Different from banning guns, right?  Or, assuming we can’t get that done (as a bevy of Hollywood lawyers would shoot that down swiftly), what if we, the good citizens who shed a tear or two when we watched the news from Newtown, simply turn off the TV when the firing begins, or don’t plunk down $10 to watch a movie we’ve been fully informed well in advance is in fact about mass murder, which we just shed a tear or two about on December 14. 

    I mean, if a film exhibited the shooting of 25, or 17, or 3, maybe that’s really more than we should be able to stomach.  But the shootings in most successful movies number in the dozens – or you just lose count.  Last movie I went to, people near me giggled and actually clapped when a gunman mowed down 15 or 20 people in just one scene.  The glamorization of violence.

     I can get people to nod if I say There’s too much violence on the screen!  But if those of us who were sad last month would (in memory of the Sandy Hook children) turn it off or refuse to purchase movie tickets for films with dozens of gun killings, they wouldn’t show it, or even produce it.  It’s in our power to clean it up.

     And the mentally ill wouldn’t be able to see it either.  There’s a topic for another day:  what are we willing, and even eager to do to help the mentally ill and their families?

     After the Newtown executions, I said in my next sermon that perhaps we can agree on another modest proposal, based on something I’m 100% sure is correct:  Jesus does not like automatic weapons – so let’s not tolerate them any more:  the other Sandy Hook rule, in memory of the children.  I won’t waste our time by venturing an opinion on guns in general.  The droning of the gun lobby is boringly familiar, making me yawn, or grow ill.  The 2nd amendment!  Guns don’t kill, people kill!  We need more guns, not fewer, to defend ourselves!  Let’s arm the teachers!  I interviewed a dozen teachers after this crazed notion got traction last month, and to a person they said they would quit before they would agree to manage a gun every day with children in the room.

     The NRA has said they won’t budge an inch – and they declare this within hours of a brutal massacre.  This strikes many of us as obscene.  We must have rapid fire weapons! or we won’t be Americans! or We won’t vote for you! or We won’t contribute! or We’ll get mad!  Please.  Is this good citizenship?  Must gun rights be all or nothing?  I’ve yet to hear anyone explain how automatic weapons contribute to the good of society.

     The time has come for some baby steps, like my Sandy Hook rule, and the other Sandy Hook rule, before we lose more babies.  Remember the children rule.        

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Praxis - Think like Jesus - Doing the Dishes

     One of my professors (and the dean) when I was at Duke was Tom Langford – from Dilworth here in town.  A brilliant scholar, he also could communicate with the unscholarly.  I read a little book he wrote called Prayer and the Common Life, in which he portrayed the rhythms of work, play, chores and rest as opportunities to connect deeply with God.  Ordinary moments can become “peepholes” into the vast panorama of the heart of God and a fruitful life.

   A simple suggestion Tom made?  “Washing dishes:  allow the washing of each glass or dish to become a prayer for someone.”  I did that actively for at least a year, but then I forgot about it.  Writing this series has reminded me, and so I begin again, washing a plate, placing a cup in the dishwasher, a prayer for you, a prayer for my mother.

   Praxis is like this.  Some habits you engage in for life.  Others are useful for a time, and may be picked back up later.

   Maybe in your house dishwashing is somebody else’s job.  Get your hands wet, and learn the virtue of this humble service, the godliness of simple labor for the good of the household.  In a restaurant, when they clear your dishes, say Thanks, and look for a peephole back into the kitchen and say a quick prayer for the people who just served you.

Praxis - Think like Jesus - God made that

All the historic Christian creeds (and I know some people don’t care for them) begin where the Bible begins, and where God clearly began.  I believe in God… Maker of heaven and earth is the way we affirm In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). 
   Is science a problem?  Why should it be?  God left volcanic ash, dinosaur skeletons, nebulas and DNA lying around so inquiring minds would be baffled, then amazed, then lost in wonder, love and praise over how magnificently huge, creative, powerful and yet tender God must be. 
   God made the incredible brain of Stephen Hawking, who has explained how we don’t need recourse to God to explain how the universe came to be.  I don’t think God minds – because God doesn’t want to compel us to believe.  God wants us to choose – and more importantly, to love.  I vote for God as Maker.  The alternative is frankly much harder to believe – that all this, and my life, happened to occur just randomly? and then there’s no meaning or purpose?

   But how to love this Maker of heaven and earth?  By loving what God made, admiring the eagles, sunrises, wildflowers, meteors, and hummingbirds, and by what often is much harder:  loving the people made in God’s image, made in such a way that they show us something about God.  Every one of them, even the prickly, difficult, challenged.  Look at anybody, and you see love, dreams, feelings, abilities, goals, exasperation, tears and laughter.  Through what God made, we learn God is like that.

   So how to think like Jesus?  Look at a tree waving in the breeze, the squash on your plate, the money in your account, the way you know how to make a soufflĂ©, a squirrel scampering by, the time you have this evening, the child who buffaloes you, and especially that familiar stranger you see in the mirror:  stammer over the beauty.  God made that, God owns that, God has a reason for that, God makes me responsible to take good care of that and figure out what our purpose might be.  You belong to God.  Repeat that, whisper it to yourself, jot it down as #1 on your calendar every day.  Think like Jesus.

   This is the beginning of all we believe.  Next in Praxis, we will look at some utterly simple things we encounter day to day, and reflect on how to think – and live – like Jesus:  the dishes, the alarm clock, your clothes closet, and driving around.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Praxis begins!

     Praxis: Think like Jesus, Live our Faith has begun!  In last Thursday’s email I defined Praxis as the way we take theory and knowledge, and apply it, and make it real in daily life.  We will consider in some depth the essentials of the Christian faith – and in utterly simplistic ways ask how and why all this matters when folding the laundry, driving through your neighborhood, paying bills, and much more.

     One email each week will try to cut to the marrow of what we believe about God.  This coming Monday, 7pm, my friend Dr. David Chadwick of the Forest Hill Church will join with me in conversation about the essentials of belief; then on February 11 I’ll have a similar conversation with another good friend, the evangelist Leighton Ford.

     Then we’ll hedge those emails and conversations with utterly simple ways to help us be mindful of God throughout the day, and how to be as faithful and helpful to God as possible. 

     I’m excited – and hope you’ll commit to this series, not only in reading emails but also in thinking deeply and trying the real life suggestions.  If we do we’ll be blessed in 2013!