Monday, June 28, 2010

Silly Dreams

I want to invest in people who sense there's something wrong with the way they're living, people who dream of different lives.

Even the silly dreams.

Even the stupid ideas.

(Especially those.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

we are isolated from
those we love by a failure to communicate
what we really mean

Often, while speaking of God, I will talk in one direction, stop, turn, and stop again, only to find that I've run out of words without completing my thought.

At the beginning, the issue seems clear enough. I'm moving along under a full head of steam, when I suddenly spot a break in the track up ahead. I jump to another line, engine shuddering, as I try to maintain speed. But just around the corner, there's that same break. Except for now, it's a chasm. So I stop, try another metaphor, pull out a different analogy, hoping that this time I'll jump the divide. But there it is again, looming ever larger.

And I wonder at this gift of words that is also a curse. After all, language gives us freedom to relate, to connect and create. What is the Church? It's just a word. But the collection of our shared understandings, of our hopes, of our fears, of our deepest needs has made this word into a physical place of refuge for some, a family for others.

This same language, however, also confines. We are imprisoned in a society held up by words that are not our own, and we are isolated from those we love by a failure to communicate what we really mean, what we truly need.

What then can I do when my experience of God — of the very source of love, truth and life — transcends language? What dare I try when words fail me?

At Barclay Press.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Inner Light

I don't bring God to others. Neither do I bring others to God. I can't. If God is omnipresent, then He's already there — everywhere — and He's already working in the lives of each person He's created — everyone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I haven't yet
become the kind of
person I claim to be

I hate losing, mainly because I'm so bad at it. I yell, cheat, make snide remarks, and when my situaton seems particularly dire, I sometimes find myself whiling away the time between turns, plotting violent revenge against whoever happens to be winning. Last night, that was my sister.

We were playing Risk, a board game in which players fight for world domination. My sister had publicly proclaimed, however, that her only aim was to destroy me, even if it meant letting my dad win the game. This, to my experienced judgment, seemed unsportsmanlike. But my thoughtful advice as to how she might improve her strategic position, coupled with a kick to the shins (subtly delivered under the table, of course), only succeeded in deepening her resolve.

So when Bethany finally lost, I rejoiced, even though I'd already been out of the game for an hour. In the midst of my quiet (and tasteful) celebration, however, I spotted a flaw in my position. During the game, I'd planned and plotted and sulked. I was consumed by my competitiveness, by my anger.

Please don't misunderstand. For the duration of the match-up, I looked and sounded like any other normal adult. I smiled and laughed and held up my end of the witty repartee required when playing parlor games. But it was a farce. Underneath the happy face, I was anything but happy.

It makes me wonder. If I could successfully separate inner experience from outward expression during a game — a kind of social schizophrenia — then doesn't that make me a liar in real life?

This caused a problem for me as I claim to be a Christian. If God is the source of all truth and if all truth is God's truth, then the Christian character must be marked by integrity.

I realized (once again) that I haven't yet become the kind of person I claim to be, and it's beginning to look as though this journey is going to take at least a lifetime.

At Barclay Press.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I thought about buying
a burger when I saw him smile,
but I kept walking.

Back in December 2006, I was thinking about the person of Jesus. Here's what I wrote:

I saw Jesus today. She drove up in front of my house at 6:35 this morning, jumped from her smoking Ford van, and ran over to hand me my newspaper. She wanted to tell me a story about my dog. I listened and nodded without hearing a word. But I remembered to wave before driving away.

I saw Jesus today. He was ringing a bell outside the "B" entrance at Fred Meyer. He had a moustache and a denim jacket. He asked about my day. I walked away.

I saw Jesus today. He stood on the corner of 6th and Burnside, holding a sign: "Visions of a hamburger." He'd grown a beard, and it was graying. I thought about buying a burger when I saw him smile, but I kept walking.

I saw Jesus today, and I was too busy to stop, too embarrassed to care, too indifferent to offer help.

On the day that baby was born, covered in rags and placed in a feed trough, shepherds came to worship. But I went shopping.

Monday, June 14, 2010


If I believe that God loves me and that God is everywhere, then I will not suggest that I need to go somewhere special or do any sort of ceremony in order to meet God. There is nothing especially spiritual about a life with God; he's simply there, wherever I am, no matter what I'm doing.

Friday, June 11, 2010


If I have promised to obey God no matter what, I will not also promise to always obey any other power. I will not say that I will, sing that I will, or sign a document that says I will. God is the only one with absolute call on my life and my allegiance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


If I believe that God is Truth, then I will tell the truth. Always. No exceptions. It is possible to live and work without deceiving others, and if I cannot do this where I live and work, I need to live and work elsewhere, or differently. I will not lie even if it is expected, if everyone else does it, and if it causes me embarrassment or hassle or costs me dearly to tell the truth.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


If I believe that God's kingdom is not made by human hands, then I will be careful to examine the kingdom that has been made by human hands rather than assuming that it must be just as good as God's kingdom. I will not believe any earthly kingdom is God's kingdom simply on the word of others who might say so, even if they do it frequently and with picnics.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


If I believe that God is the Prince of Peace, I will not accept that any effort to wage war on others is anything but sinful. God may have, at times, commanded people to go to war. But short of that direct order, I am to be a bringer of peace.

Monday, June 07, 2010


If I believe in integrity, I will not try to take advantage of someone's error, ignorance, or misplaced generosity. I will not seek favor by offering special favors, nor will I charge others more because I do not like them.

Friday, June 04, 2010


If I believe that all people are created in God's image and that we are charged with loving our neighbors, then I will treat with respect and kindness every person I meet, without regard to color, gender, belief, lifestyle, or legal status. I will not laugh at their expense, will not avoid their gaze, and will not believe they are of bad character before I know them.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Moral Law

it's basic function
might be to encode and
enforce rules of morality

If there are pre-existing laws of morality and truth, then they should apply to all species (the same way gravity applies to both humans and sea slugs). If that's the case, couldn't we study the way life works for the rest of the planet, and, in doing so, start to rediscover, uncover, or just finally notice the rules that we've been flaunting?

Here's an example: studies of several different kinds of apes find that they do have a form of morality, and that this form is generally based on two rules:

1) Choose to help.
2) Choose not to hurt.

If these rules are true, if they are laws, then following them should actually aid a species' survival.

As far as religion is concerned, it's basic function might be to encode and enforce rules of morality. Unfortunately, if it's true that man has exempted himself from these rules, then it would also be true that man has coopted religion, using it to justify rather than to correct his wrong actions.

This new religion, then, no longer serves as a source of truth, but instead has become a means of control and even suppression.

But what if, in spite of this change, there still remains in religion the seeds of truth? Where would we find them? I'm pretty sure we would find them in the first story and in messages from the prophets -- those nagging calls to righteousness that keep interrupting society's comfortable seeking after security and prosperity.