Monday, July 10, 2017

Applying Bible Verses To Every-Day Life

When Jesus says, in Matthew 11, "Come to me, all you who labor..." and "Take my yoke..." etc., how does that connect with work, as in our every day work-for-a-living that we do except when we've got a day off?

Tomorrow I'll go back to my work at Metro Transit. This week "Bus Operators" like me will pick the routes we'll drive from mid-August through early December. It's a decision I make in consultation with my Lord.

When we come to Jesus with our burdens, when we adopt his attitude toward life, we receive Jesus' promises: "I will give you rest." The "yoke" we take on, that is, the duties that we "do" day after day--they become better fitting for us. Jesus says: "My yoke is easy (well fitting) and my burden is light."

I've experienced joy in my work for many years. I attribute that to Jesus and give him thanks.

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I started this post yesterday -- late Sunday morning -- when I was here at the cabin alone. I began it as follows:
Toni and I are up at her parents' cabin again this weekend. She's been here all along, I came back yesterday afternoon.

It's very quiet right now. The rest (Toni, her parents, her brother, Kelly and Abigail) went into town for church. I didn't want to go there again this week, last week I went with Toni's parents (Dick & Jo) last Sunday while the others stayed home. Now I'm here while the others are gone. Charlie's sleeping on the couch. It's only me and him here.

The church Dick & Jo go to in Hayward is one they served (as pastor and wife) back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. That church reads scriptures on Sundays following what's called "The Revised Common Lectionary." So, as I often do when I with people who are going to churches that use a pattern of readings, I looked up and read what they'll hear. I asked Toni and David if they would remember  also went online and listened to the "Sermon Brainwave Podcast" for today - a podcast that's part of the "Working Preacher" website that I looked at quite often when I was preaching from the lectionary, back when I was serving ELCA churches (until August 2010).
Also (writing now on Monday morning), I asked Toni and others who went to church yesterday to take some notes on the sermon. The reflection at the top of this post came out of time spent with the scripture texts those family members heard and the notes my brother in law David sent to me.

How will you apply the Word of God to your life today? Let me know if I can help.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Demolition Update

Written Tuesday:
It's about 11 AM on the fourth of July. I'm about ready to go back out into the demolished kitchen. One thing I need to do is to continue to cut the wire mesh that runs along the length of the soffit -- where it meets the ceiling and wall. All of that needs to be carefully taken out. Thankfully I've got a "multi tool" -- Bonita Garthus gave it to me when we were in Cokato -- that will do the trick.
Before I do that though, I'm going to start the process of moving the temporary wall that I put up between the kitchen and living room. I don't need to move it far, just a few inches at the top so I can get to the edge of the beam that runs through the length of the house. We have a very nice cove ceiling in the living room and we want to preserve that. So I'll need to get more plastic out -- I've got a lot stored up -- to make a second line of defense against the dust.

I'll work on that for most of the rest of the day. Kelly and her daughter, who are staying downstairs during these days when our renter is gone, will be going up to the cabin to join Toni and her parents and brother. When she goes I can begin work to take out the low (at the level of the soffit) ceiling over the back door.

Our contractor was here this morning for a half hour. I got some advice and encouragement from him. I also was reminded how long it will take to get the kitchen done once he starts his work. That will be about 5 weeks.
Now it's Thursday evening. When the contractor was here on Tuesday he told me I needed to remove some 2x2s and 2x4s that were running along the wall and ceiling. They were what the soffits were attached to. I got rid of those yesterday and today, so now I'm ready to tackle the one remaining soffit near the back door.

I thought I'd go out and do some more demolition tonight but I'm weary. I'll wait until morning. Tomorrow I'm off from my bus driving job.

If you want to see more, take a look at the video posted at this link.

Good night.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

God's Arrangements

It's the end of another good day. I'm home. I drove my regular morning and afternoon routes. Tomorrow, July 4, I've got the day off.

Toni and others, including our three kids and four grandchildren are still where I was over the weekend, at my in-laws' Durphee Lake cabin. One of my kids asked if I was sad that I had to come home last night, but I wasn't.

The Lord arranged things so I would be here, at home, for most of this week so I could continue, and, hopefully, finish, getting this house's kitchen area ready for the contractor to begin his remodeling work. He used my tardiness in asking to use vacation days today and two other days this week so I could do this. I'm thankful that He's in control.

Our contractor will come by tomorrow morning so I can get some advice and get a good idea of when he'll be free of his other projects so he can start putting our kitchen back together (in a new way). I'm confident that it's all in God's good timing. I'm not anxious at all.

(See tomorrow's utmost.org for some scriptural wisdom about "worry.")

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Too Tired To Write

It's 10 o'clock on Thursday night. I'm tired after a long day. It's actually been more than a long day. I didn't sleep well last night or the night before. I need to head to bed. I'd like to write about the 2 year safe operator (safe driving) award I got at work, the crazy traffic that ended up having Metro Transit informing the union that part time operators like me were going "over our hours," something that the union contract doesn't allow. I'd also like to write about the work we're doing in our kitchen. This week I started ripping out the soffits... and learned to partly disassemble and reassemble the sawzall my brother loaned me... and how thankful I am that the weather was cool this week for that work! And I'd like to write about which things in my life are governed by my high standards and which things aren't--the My Utmost for His Highest devotions for today and tomorrow are about that discipline and the urgency of not putting off what the Lord calls me to do--and I'd write about how judgmental I can be of others who aren't interested in being "blessed" by discipline like I am--and of myself when I don't meet my standards. (Lord have mercy on me.)  Finally, I'd like to write about the insight God gave me this week as I was thinking about the sense that we human beings have that we "deserve" something, like, for example, a break after a long day, and that somehow we start believing that we earn things by our hard work. So much to say. But I'm too tired. Good night.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Still Praying and Considering

Good morning! It's Saturday! I'm up at my usual time, about 5AM, but I have the luxury of knowing I'll be able to go back to bed in a little bit.

This is a quick follow up on what I wrote in No Answer Yet.

Just what is it that Jesus accomplished (as God) in his death and resurrection?

I agree with the piece I quoted there that "Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. It didn’t need changing: God has organically, inherently loved what God created from the moment God created. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God."

But does that mean that NOTHING occurred from God's point of view at the Cross? Some, including the author of that piece, seem to say "yes," that Jesus actually did not need to die and rise again EXCEPT as a way of changing humans minds about God. I struggle with that idea. I'm trying to understand.

In No Answer Yet, I spoke of Oswald Chambers's point that the Cross (i.e. the "atonement") is "the way the Spirit of Jesus is put into me." I thought, at first, that O.C. was writing about something that occurred on the Divine side of the human-God relationship. But now, this morning, I'm wondering if O.C. could be using the word "cross" here as a symbol for our own self-surrender to the Lord (as O.C. has done in other places in My Utmost for His Highest).

Perhaps what O.C. is referring to my turning away from self-centered ways. Perhaps the Cross that "allows" (is that the right word?) the Holy Spirit to come into me is my own personal encounter with Jesus, as when the Apostle Paul encountered Him on the Road to Damascus. Maybe the Cross O.C. is referring to is the "tak[ing] up of [my own personal cross] and follow[ing]" Jesus (Matthew 16:24),  giving Him preeminence, acknowledging His Lordship, giving up my resistance to the Lord's ways. Perhaps that's the way that the Holy Spirit "is put into me."

If so, I'm no closer to an answer than I was.

Still praying and considering. Feel free to comment as you wish.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

No Answer Yet

In the day before yesterday's My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says:
The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by way of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.
It's the first full sentence of the devotional, and O.C. doesn't dwell on it but uses that line as a point to start from. Still, the day before yesterday, when I first read it, I've been wondering why O.C. says that.

What is it about the atonement specifically, or about "the Cross of Christ" that makes the Spirit of Jesus to be "put into me?" What does the atonement have to do with the Holy Spirit. How does the Cross bring God's Holy Spirit into "me" (and you)?

It's just one line in O.C.'s devotional reading for yesterday, but I want to understand just what the connection is between what Jesus did on the Cross and the action of Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. I want to know it partly because there's an idea that I've heard recently that some Christians view the incarnation, that is, the entering into human flesh of God Himself, when Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary," is more important than the atonement, that is, the bringing together of God and fallen humanity through what Jesus did on the Cross.

See below for the "email devotion" that I received (forwarded to me) that first introduced me to this "incarnation" over "atonement" idea.

This (above) is from a devotion by Richard Rohr;
as of June 16 it was available at this link
When I first heard read that, I did a little study. Like Rohr, I'm critical of the penal substitution theory of the atonement. But unlike Rohr, I do believe that something really happened through the death and resurrection of Jesus. I don't know just what it was that happened there, but without it, that is, without the death and resurrection of Jesus, there's no way we would have known there was an incarnation at all.

But that brings me back to the question with which I started this blog post. What is it about the atonement that has O.C. claiming that "the Cross," shorthand for all that occurred in the atonement (via the death and resurrection of Jesus), is the means by which the Holy Spirit comes into me. I know I'm reading way more into this one line of O.C.'s devotion than was intended, but I have a sense that it's important.

Maybe something did happen at the Cross that allows for the filling of "me" (and you) with the Holy Spirit. What is that something? I don't have an answer. Not yet. But it's time for me to go back to sleep.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Running Buddies

When I first got up on Saturday morning I had some thoughts that I wanted to get written down, but only an eternal optimist like me would even let it cross my mind that I could write even one intelligible sentence in the few minutes I had before I needed to head out the door. My twin nieces and their parents had invited me to be a "running buddy" for a 5K "Girls on the Run" event. It was an honor to be asked and I didn't want to be late.

I've been doing moderate exercise for years, but I've never gone running. I started a bit last year when my son in law and his church were in pre-training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I stuck with them for a month or so but then stopped. Marathon training is too time consuming. But when my nieces invited me for this 5K, there was no question that I'd do it.

Having partners, or buddies, is a really good thing. Having others who walk or run or study or pray together is a great incentive to start and keep going at whatever. I wrote about this last weekend in "Standing Apart Together," but it's not just the relatively small individual disciplines that benefit as we do them together. Praying, and working, with others, and challenging one another to stick with major goals -- I think overcoming big deal challenges requires some sort of buddy system, some sort of partnership, and some agreements to keep moving instead of giving up.

Toward the end of Saturday morning's race, as I was running up a long but very gradual incline on France Avenue, heading toward West 98th St., I could have stopped running and started walking at any moment. But my 4th grade nieces, and their dad (my fit brother in law) were ahead of me. They were going to make it. And because they did, I could too.

What I was thinking about Saturday morning, and what I wanted to write down before the run, a few words from a conversation that I'd had online about President Trump's decision to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that aims to limit human caused climate change (a.k.a. global warming). I was actually thinking about the conversation, not about the choice to withdrawal from this particular agreement. I was thinking about the conversation because in it someone had said that there's really no way to stop the process of warming because, among other things, "no one is going to eliminate the comforts they have."

Here's the comment that I quoted from above. That "friend of a friend" wrote:
"...If you want to reduce human caused climate change, you have two choices. Reduce the human population, or eliminate the industries that support the biomass. Unless people are willing to turn off the lights, return to little house on the prairie AND eliminate roughly half the population of the earth the argument and discussion is nothing other than mental masturbation. No one is going to eliminate the comforts they have, and no one is going to suggest exterminating 3 billion people." (underline not in original)
[I'd never heard anyone refer to humans as "biomass," though I have, at times, wondered how many human beings this earth can support. I remember reading about the so-called Population Bomb back when I was in junior high, but I've heard, through I haven't studied, that population growth has not been as great as was feared back then, and that advances in technology are allowing the earth to support more people. I was shocked by what this "friend of a friend" said, and I asked the person who wrote that if he knew of "a scholarly publication or someone with credentials who has done research or has an analysis to support your point that there's no way to reverse it," that is global warming, short of such draconian measures. I told him "I'd like to see that for my own study and prayer." He said there were "papers he could reference," but I haven't heard from him about what they are. I messaged him on Sunday. Hopefully I'll hear.]

So what I was thinking of, Saturday morning before my race, was that line "...no one is going to eliminate the comforts they have." I know that's not literally true, since some people do choose to go without comforts in order to be good stewards of God's creation and the resources that come from it. But it is true that it's not very likely that people voluntarily giving up comforts for the common good, in order to be more frugal with energy consumption, or to change what we eat (I've heard beef and dairy are major sources of greenhouse gases), in the numbers it would take to really make a difference in global warming. We -- "all" (or almost all) of us -- are wedded to those comforts. It would take a lot to get us to change.

And that's where running buddies comes in. We need "running buddies" if we're going to make any sort of positive changes in our lives, especially changes that make life more difficult. Running is hard, and without my nieces invitation, and without their inspiration -- they are doing so well - on Saturday I barely matched their pre-training pace -- they finished at least a minute ahead. As I was going out to train, in the weeks before the race, the thought that they were doing this gave me enough inspiration to not stop and walk, as I almost always wanted to do. The fact that we were "buddies" got me going, even through we never trained side-by-side.

Can we be "running buddies" for one another as we make the changes that will be needed to deal with climate change? Can we who claim to be Christians get out front and set the pace, being willing to give up some (or even many!) of our comforts in order to reduce human caused climate change? Will we change the habits of our lives first and then invite others to come along?

Christians need to repent, that is, to change their way of life, so that others will learn it's possible.

That's what I was thinking about early Saturday morning as I got ready to run. I ran again today even though I don't have the upcoming race as an inspiration. It's still not easy, but now I know I can do it.

Maybe we can stick to new challenging patterns of life that will help the environment too.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

End of a Day

It's 7:30 PM after a long day. Today I was trained on the work I will be doing (a.k.a. the routes I will be driving) beginning June 19.* Mostly the trainer drove and I watched, listened and took a few notes. When we got down to the Mall of America on route 5 we took a little break. Then I said I wanted to drive, just to know how it feels to get around that busy transit center. Don't forget to stop at the light rail tracks!

I'm home now and I think I'll get outside a bit. It's a beautiful evening. I don't know where Toni is at -- I misplaced my phone this morning and so can't call her. I sent her a fb message so hopefully she'll get that and now wonder where I am.

Peace and joy to you.

* I did my regular work today too, that is, drove my normal early morning and late afternoon routes. The 4-5 hours of training were sandwiched between.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Standing Apart Together

Toni and I are up at her parent's lake home in NW Wisconsin. We got here late Friday evening. Nice to be here--a good part of yesterday and part of today too was spent mostly with chores, including getting the dock in--for the second time this year.

When we were in town for church this morning Toni's dad bought ice cream, and now Toni and her parents are having hot fudge sundaes. I'm choosing not to indulge. I have this desire to stay strong and healthy over the long run, and eating sweet desserts isn't in my plan--at least not very often.

I stand apart from the crowd. This is normal for me. I choose to work out physically. Other's don't do that so much. Contrary to what most people do with their free time, I don't spend a lot of it being entertained. I spend time on the computer but, honestly, normally, online or elsewhere, I'm usually doing something either productive or intentionally restful -- and when I'm not I notice -- and I repent.

I believe these things in my life are parts of what the Holy Spirit is doing in me. But I recognize, and this is hard, that I can seem to be judgmental of those who chose to live more comfortably. When I actually am being judgmental, I catch myself in the act and repent. Or I catch myself soon afterward. Even so, the very way I live can seem to be judgmental of others. Like when I choose not to have a sundae tonight.

I don't know what to do about this now. Back a few years ago I was part of a small group spiritual experience -- technically it was called a "huddle," part of the 3dm program. The purpose of the huddle was to work with others in the process of transformation that I'm now doing pretty much by myself, or, by myself with God. I miss being a part of that small group experience. So much.

Right now I don't know where to find that sort of group. It's a sort of group experience that messes with our lives. I don't think many people want that. But since God is already messing with me, I'd rather do it with others.

It's a subject for prayer.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Older

It's mother's day weekend. I'll be spending time with mom & dad both tomorrow and Sunday, picking them up at their condo tomorrow and bringing them to my eldest niece's wedding shower, and then Sunday going to Edina to meet them at their church. Mom really likes it when I can come by.

I've got a little chore to do for them too, so there won't be a lot of "me time" this weekend. I can feel unhappy about not having a lot of the unscheduled time I treasure so much, but I can if I choose, keep focused on all these overflowing gifts the Lord has given to fill my days. It's strange that, at almost 61 years old, I still need to make that choice. I'm grateful the the Lord mercifully sets me straight over and over again.

Toni will be with her parents too, partly helping them with the process of getting them ready to move to an "independent living apartment" at a large "retirement community" in the smaller city where they've been living since Toni's dad retired more than 20 years ago. Dick & Jo (Toni's parents) hosted Toni and our kids and their spouses and children for dinner on Thursday night, plus Toni's brother and a niece and her children and husband and his parents. Don't try to keep track. It's a big group.

Both of us still have both of our parents living within an hour's drive of our home. And both sets of parents are still together. My mom often expresses her thankfulness that she and dad are still together, now in their elder years. My dad is the oldest of the 4. He'll be 91 this summer. Both sets of parents are dealing with the challenges that come with aging. Those challenges will come to Toni and me too.

My 61st birthday is coming up. I need to pause and think about that because I don't feel any older than I did 20 years ago. I'm training right now for a "5K" run that I was invited to do with my sister's daughters. Pretty much all of me still works pretty well. I've gotten over the migraines I used to have and the elevated blood pressure I suffered during some stressful times in 2009 and 2010. I have no disabilities or ongoing health issues. I rarely suffer any pain. I often feel like I'm in my 30s. One of my bus passengers, a teenage boy, said I looked that age. I asked him if he noticed my grey hair. He said that could be "a mutation." Even so, time does march on and things will change. I say now that I'll choose to look for the blessings in that too.

An older friend once told me, when he was entering his 80s, that every decade in his life was getting better. That's true for me in many ways, even though there is grief in seeing the older generation getting more dependent on us youngsters. I'm sure the time will come for me when I need care too. We don't live in this broken world forever. So even when things are going pretty well, it's good to keep my eyes focused on the Lord and His promises, promises that are there for EVERYONE who the Lord loves, meaning you too.

Peace and joy in Jesus to all who stumble upon this little reflection tonight, or whenever. God bless you now and always.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Another View of Government

Written Monday late morning:

It's going to be a busy day here in our Roseville home. Our neighborhood contractor is here to attach the plumbing to our renter's sink and Jon & family are about to arrive here from Cokato, coming in on the spur of the moment, or at least without much advance planning. Toni's busy getting food ready for them -- our daughter Naomi and her son will probably come by for lunch too.

Last weekend, 8 days ago, Toni & I were up at her family's lake cabin, and while we were there a book grabbed my attention, a book that was jammed in with others above the built in firewood box. I'm not sure why it was there; I asked Toni and she said that maybe it was given to her parents. It's a rather new book -- looks like it was written by a Minnesota Legislator.

This book espouses such a different outlook on government than other things I've been reading over the past few months. Instead of government limited to "bringing wrath on the one who practices evil" and protecting citizens' freedoms, this book's author says that it's good for government to provide some things that "build and maintain an enduring middle class economy."

I haven't finished the book yet, but here are the "five foundations" that David Bly says are good for the government to help with:
  • Quality Education for everyone
  • Health Care for everyone
  • A world-class transportation system
  • Energy systems that maintain a clean and safe environment
  • Living wages for all working people
I can't accent enough how different that vision is from the limited government ideas I've been digesting over the past few months.

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I didn't finish writing this until almost 10 o'clock in the evening. When I was at home I mostly played with Jon & Breanna's girls. So much fun.

I need to head to bed now so I can be fresh to help with the transportation system we have in the Twin Cities tomorrow morning, world-class or not.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Taking Care of Our Home

It's raining in Roseville so maybe there'll be a little time to do some writing. I've got a chore to do downstairs, but I need to wait awhile. The chore will involve some sawing and it's naptime for our renter's 2 year old. We need to do some measuring too. It's time to make final decisions on the cabinets we'll be putting in our kitchen when it's remodeled this summer. It's a privilege to own a house but many times I remember our renting (and parsonage) days with some fondness. Less focus on these "house" things. Yuck.

Yesterday Toni and I went to the People's Climate Solidarity March in Minneapolis. Toni made a sign for herself, saying she was marching for her grandchildren (with pictures) and on the other side it said "Creation Care is Pro Life" and a hymn title: "This Is My Father's World."

I didn't make a sign, so when a call came for volunteers to carry signs the march organizers had made, I selected one that said "Governor Dayton | Protect Our Future." The republican legislature is making choices that will negatively impact our state's environmental quality. I'm hoping our Governor, who I haven't always agreed with, will stand against what they're doing when it comes to protecting God's good creation. Part of that is our need to be investing more, not less, in public transportation. Our growing population demands it, unless we want more and more and more traffic.

Human beings are responsible for what we think of as "the environment." God gave us responsibility for it, and its creatures, when we were created. Human governments need to help us take care of the creatures God has made, wisely and carefully managing the environment they depend on. The government needs to help us with laws and regulations, controlling our humanity's selfish and short-sighted behavior. I think that's pragmatically and theologically true. Pogo's "We've met the enemy and he is us" is true. Read the Bible to see how.

Now I'm willing to talk about these things. I'm willing to be proven wrong. I'm regularly studying more conservative points of view, just so I can learn what I'm missing. Please don't be shy about commenting or contact me so I can be set straight. You'll probably learn that I'm not as dogmatic as you think.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

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