Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve

The community is the place where God dwells. "Do you not know... that you [plural] are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you [plural]?" 1Cor3:6 To read this last sentence as though it spoke of the Spirit dwelling in the body of the individual Christian would miss the force of Paul's audacious metaphor. The apostolically founded community takes the place of the Jerusalem Temple as the place where the glory of God resides. (Richard Hays in The Moral Vision of the New Testament, page 34)
I'm thankful, at the end of 2017, that the Lord has given us little example of that "community" to be a part of in this season of our lives. Now Toni and I need to decide if we're going to go to a winter retreat with some of the people who are part of that community, at this time. I'm inclined to go, even though some of those from our small group won't be at the retreat. We'll see.

Tonight we had a couple from the small group over at our home. It was nice. Again, thank you, Lord, for continuing to be faithful to us in providing people with whom we can share life, and you.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Eager

It's a little before 6:30. I've been chatting with a couple of other drivers here in the "Drivers' Room" here at Heywood, that is, at Metro Transit's Heywood Garage.
I wrote that yesterday morning at about this time. Normally I'd have been driving Minneapolis Public School trips on routes 5 and 19 in the morning, but this is winter break. I and several others need to come into work anyway. We just sit (or whatever we want) and get paid all the same.

Just as I wrote that sentence about chatting with other drivers, Glenn, one of the dispatchers, came on the PA and asked if one of us would be willing to fill in on a route where the driver didn't show up for work. I jumped at the chance. Not only did I enjoy the challenge of driving a route that I hadn't driven recently, I was was able also to leave my morning shift of work a little early.

Though I did say yes, and drove those two extra trips yesterday, there was no change what I'd be paid. And as always, the risk that something might go wrong. It's always risky to go out with the responsibility of driving. That's probably why there was no one else who leapt at the chance to go out in the cold. Lots easier to sit in the driver room, right?

Ever since 1980, when I surrendered to the Lord, who had rescued me from a overwhelmingly painful life situation... Ever since that time I've been filled with Holy Spirit eagerness to do whatever it is that the Lord has put before me. It's not that there have been no battles with the "flesh" since then, but there's a lot better chance now that I will leap into action when God calls. My life changed. I am so thankful to God.

That's all I'm going to write now. I get to go back to bed for a bit. It's Saturday!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Christian Community of Moral Deliberation

In Richard Hays' book The Moral Vision of the New Testament, the author follows the New Testament in its community or group focus. He would commiserate, I think, with me in my desire for "significant conversation aimed at transformation" as I wrote yesterday.

On page 305-6 he insists on "the embodiment of the Word" in "the body of Christ," that is, in the community or group or " church" of people who are seeking to know and live the ways of God.

Hays cites Nicholas Lash: "the fundamental form of Christian interpretation of scripture is the life... of the believing community," that the interpretation and application of God's Word is a "communal activity," and that that "it's no more possible for [an isolated individual to know and do God's Will] than for him [sic] to perform a Beethoven quartet or a Shakespearean tragedy."

Mays concludes:
Knowledge of the will of God follows the community's submission and transformation. Why? Because until we see the text lived, we cannot begin to conceive what we are reading. Thus, the most crucial hermeneutical task is the formation of communities seeking to live under the Word.
I long to be an active part of such a community in these days.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Shaped More By Jesus

We just came through the first part of the Christmas-New Year season. We had a great time as a family, gathering here on Sunday and at my brother and sister-in-law's home yesterday. We ate a lot, gave and received gifts, played some games, and had some good conversations. Toni and I were among the first to leave for home last evening, mainly because it was important to get home and let our dog out. I knew too that it was good to get home so I could get to bed early, as usual, so I could get to work this morning. My work life doesn't give me extended breaks now-a-days, and sometimes that's a little sad.

During one of the good conversations yesterday, my nephew Jesse gave me a book. Jesse is a senior this year at Columbia University in New York City. The book he gave me doesn't connects with his studies and with his life, as he majors in "sustainable development" with a deep interest in theology. The Moral Vision of the New Testament is longer than I'll probably read cover to cover, but I did start looking, today, at chapter 13, which aims at offering "normative proposals about the most faithful and fruitful approaches to shaping a Christian ethic in response to the New Testament's witness."

I'm interested in the New Testament because it's formed around Jesus, and I'm interested in Jesus because he's "the exact representation" of God on earth. If human life is going to be all it can be, in a positive sense, it's going to be shaped by God, its maker, as God is revealed by Jesus, who's life shapes the "moral vision" of the New Testament." So this book by Richard B. Hays might be helpful. I think it is.

Oftentimes, I get discouraged because it seems that fewer people than I'd hope are wanting to conform their lives to Jesus and His ways. When that happens, I am called by God to remember that I don't know other people's hearts, nor God's plan for their lives. I'm redirected by the Holy Spirit at those times to what God is doing in my life. I need to let go of any expectation that other people's walk with God will be recognized by me. I'm usually able to let God be God in the lives of others, and just "live and let live" when it comes to other people.

What's harder for me to let go of my desire have more significant conversation, conversation that's aimed at transformation, conversation with people who say they want all the areas of their lives to be shaped and moved by Jesus. I long for those deep conversations, whether in person or by other means. We have some short conversations of that sort at family gatherings, but there's rarely enough time or enough good focus on serious topics of faith and life. I hope that, in the days and weeks to come, that I'll find a way to have more of those conversations, conversations that I think are very important if our lives are going to be shaped more by Jesus than by anything else.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Eve Eve

6 AM - Good morning friends! It's Saturday, the Day before Christmas Eve, and I'm at home, about ready to go over to Snap Fitness to do some sort of workout, perhaps running instead of my regular circuit training routine. I'm never quite sure just what I'll do before I get there.

Click here to visit or friend me on Facebook
Since the last time I wrote we in the "Amalgamated Transit Union" settled our contract dispute with Metro Transit, so there'll be no strike during the Super Bowl. Click here for an article from the Star Tribune about that. I'm glad. The contract is a lot better for workers, including "operators" like me, than the one we rejected in November, and it's good to know we won't be off without pay in February.

I continue to post many items and have good conversations -- posting on Twitter and conversations about those posts on Facebook. I think my time on there is well spent -- a part of what I believe God is doing through me in the world.

That's all for now. Maybe I'll write more during the day.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Winter's Start

Winter arrived this week in the Twin Cities. On Monday, on his "Updraft Blog," Paul Huttner called it "Instant Winter." And that it was. We didn't get much snow but we did have ice all over the roads. Such a change from last week. I'm so glad that Toni suggested that we do the last of the outdoor "fall" chores on Saturday. We put up the Christmas lights and got the lawn furniture covered before the ice and snow came. Toni is a great one for making sure some of those practical things get done. So good.

Driving was a challenge. It was better by Thursday, but Tuesday and Wednesday, were especially slow. A car slid into my bus on westbound 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis, just as I was waiting for the light to change to cross Hennepin Avenue. Just a dent in the side of the bus -- no one hurt -- but the driver left the scene before we could exchange information. Whether Metro Transit will pursue her is something I don't know, but I'm sure it was at least partly caught on the bus's audio-video recorders.

There were no other events of note in my work life -- except that I, and the rest of the drivers, pulled into the garage significantly late Monday through Thursday. The ice on the side streets stayed pretty much until Thursday. Then it got better, but not before the driver's Union and Metro Transit made an agreement to allow us part-timers to stay on the job beyond our contracted 30 hour per week maximum. That temporary agreement wasn't happily received by many drivers, but I was fine with it--for this one time.* I'll get paid a little more for this past week's work. I don't mind that a bit.

Did I mention on this blog that I've started learning Somali? Emphasis on the word "started." I've attended 3 class sessions at Language Central and studied a little on the side. At church, two weeks ago, I had a chance to share a bit about how I came to do that. If you're curious I could upload a little recording of what I said. Let me know.

I also continue to study politics and history. It's been troubling to me that some Christians seem to be so enthusiastic about President Trump and his "America First" and "Make America Great Again" plan. I hope I can find time to share more about that later, but part of the reason I'm learning Somali is because I believe God calls us to welcome strangers, not exclude them.

I'm going to stop here. God bless you all.

---------------

* A new contract proposed last month by Metro Transit would have taken away the 30 hour maximum limit for part time drivers. That would have been a giveback, since it's the 30 hour maximum protects full time jobs. That's one reason the contract was rejected. Such changes need to be negotiated, not just declared unilaterally by management.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Contrasting Clergy Privilege -- then and now

Good morning friends! It'll be time to hit the road in a couple minutes. It's 5:37 AM right now and my alarm will go off at 5:42, telling me to stop doing other things and get my jacket on so I can make it to work on time.

Oftentimes I think about how much our life has changed in the last 10 years. Beginning when Toni and I moved to Ladysmith, Wisconsin in 1984, I was supported as a member of the clergy. Toni and I moved from St. Paul, where I'd been a seminary student, to the place where I'd serve as associate pastor of an established church. Most of our married life, and all the years during the time Toni and I were raising our children, we were privileged and well supported. Now things are different.

I wrote the item below as I was thinking about how different my younger son's life is. It's kind of a mish mash because I didn't go back and edit it.

Jon is also serving as a pastor, but the church is very small. He's needing to have a second job and even so he and Breanna are barely "making it" financially. They trust God and they are fine, but it does make me consider how privileged I have been. My older son, Dan, is at a more established church. He, I think, shares in a bit of the privilege that I enjoyed in years past.

OK... my alarm went of 2 minutes ago. Got to run.
++++

Written on Saturday, November 18

Toni and I are out in Cokato tonight, at our younger son's home, caring for our granddaughters while Jon and Breanna are at a wedding celebration. Another of their high school friends was married tonight. I imagine it'll be late before they get back. (It's 9:30 now.)

I'm glad they can have the night out. I can't imagine how exhausting it must be to do everything they need to, with the church they're leading, their three daughters (a 3 year old and year-and-a-half old twins), and doing everything with far less financial support than Toni and I had when we were in a similar position. At least they have Breanna's parents in town here. What a blessing they are!

When our children were small we lived in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. I was associate pastor of an established church, and, as Breanna and Jon do, we did a lot together with high school age young people. Jon & Breanna's work is more challenging though, because they don't have a lot of parents who are eager to have their middle and high school age children involved in youth activities. They're starting from scratch, in many ways, though they do have a great core of spiritually mature adults who are standing with them. There are so many reasons to give thanks!

Last night (Friday, November 19) our older son, Dan, and his wife Shatera, were at our place in Roseville making lefse with Toni. They were well on their way with the project when I got home from work. Dan & Shatera are involved in church work also, and one of the things we talked about with them is the possibility that they may have an opportunity to rent a large home (with another couple) for a reduced rate starting sometime next year, thanks to the generosity of people from Dan's church. They're expecting their first child in January, so obviously that's a great thing considering that they're now living in a one bedroom apartment.

Now that I'm working a "regular job" I'm more and more aware of how our ability to do what God calls us to do, even our ability to come out here (to Cokato) today to be with our grandkids, depends on having a regular, steady and "fair" income.

Last night Dan and Shatera and Toni and I were talking a bit about my work, and, specifically about my work schedule. Shatera asked what I would have done if I had started working as a bus driver when our kids were small. At that point I would have needed to be working full time. Hours are so crazy when a person starts. I know it's hard for bus operators who are parents today. I'm sure it would have been for me back then too. I told Shatera that I'd probably have looked for other work back then, even if it paid somewhat less money.

Though that's true, it's hard for me to even think about or imagine, that is, that I would have had to think about work and income differently. I've been privileged. As I said, I was a part of an established church, called to serve there, though that wasn't my plan. We were well taken care of. Somehow, though, it was God's.

++++
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trusting God

I went to bed at about 9. Toni thought that was mighty early, but I reminded her that I do get up at 5, so if I had slept straight through that would have been 8 hours. That's about what I need to feel well. I usually don't sleep straight through though. So I get good naps during the day. One at some in the morning after my first work shift, another just before I go back for my second shift in the afternoon.

It's good, and important, for me to trust God -- not only in the abstract, not only in general, but also in the particulars of life, trusting that He has my best interests in mind even as he guides, in some ways that I can't fully understand, the daily and weekly pattern of my life, my comings and my goings, my waking and my sleeping, working and resting, my time with others and my time alone. It's good for me to trust God for all of that, to believe that He has, in some rather mysterious way, appointed certain activities and situations for me to "live into" each day. It's good for me to believe that, not only because it gives me peace, but because God does actually do that providential work in my life. And in yours too.

It's time for me to go back to bed now. More about this at another time.

Here's quote from a book I read earlier this year:
We do not learn to dance by watching our feet. Dancers do more than contemplate moves; in the dance they enjoy the partner. To follow in the dance of life is to look for, be thankful for, and pray for God's love, mercies, and providence. We may not know which events... display[] God's providence. But we can justifiably believe that the unlikeliest rock even may turn out to be a treasured jewel, that some events are miracles, and through them we can see along and encounter God, and in everything give joyful thanks. - Bruce Reichenbach in Divine Providence (final paragraph)

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Live, Work, Study

It's so great to have a warm place to be on a cold night. It's wonderful to be able to do worthwhile things. My job is a delight. I LOVE my family. It's so great to have a clear mind and a strong body and, more than anything else, to be absolutely secure in the unconditional love of God, love I know about because of Jesus, love that I know is for everyone everywhere.

from Democracy In America Part 1, Chapter 13
Sure, I can still complain. I can say, like I did in my last post on this blog, that I don't have enough time to do everything I want to. I'm one of those who, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, is "constrained to work in order to procure the means of physical subsistence." And even though I mostly enjoy my work, especially when my bus is full of people, those hours do keep me busy, and, when I get home, there are lots of practical chores to do, and different sorts of "good things" that it's "good to do" with and for my family and friends.

But tonight I do have some time -- and I'll use it for this. I'll use it to write a bit, since I've done so reading, or better said, "listening" to audio versions of books, in recent days. That possibility of listening as I do other things, instead of just needing to sit and read, it's so wonderful! It might even be a partial solution for busy people to become better informed member of society. I believe that's a part of our calling to love our neighbor as ourself.

It's possible to be listening to a variety of educational materials while we do chores, and while we commute to and from work, and at other times when our hands might be busy but our minds aren't. That's how I managed to continue with the "Political Theory" study. I "checked out" an audio book from the library and was able to listen to The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli- that didn't take too long. Now I'm about halfway through Part 1 of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. I found that book for free online -- both in virtual "print" and in an audio recording.

One of the things de Tocqueville lamented in his book was how few of the "common people" were well informed about what's going on in their country, even though they could, "strictly be said to govern in the United States." The people are supreme here, so it's sad when they often ignorant of anything other what their political party says, or what they read in the newspapers, or what their friends are saying.

In the 1830s, at the time when de Tocqueville was writing, very many of the people--at the time white men only--were involved in political decision making, at least at the local level. Most of those decisions, he said, were wisely made. However, when it came to situations beyond the areas where they lived, for example, things going on with the Federal Government, they were not well informed. The "common people's" work left little time for reading and writing and study.

This was a problem because it's the people, writes de Tocqueville, who "may strictly be said to govern in the United States." It's an evil thing, and a harmful thing, when such opinions, the people's votes, and the influence of the people's representatives, are driven along by "incessant agitation of parties" and whatever was printed in the newspapers. He was also aware of the simple power of crowds, noting the common observation that our "emotions in the midst of a sympathizing crowd are far greater than those which [we] would have felt in solitude." Ain't it the truth.

The same is true today, though now it's not just parties and newspapers that drive the people's thinking, and it's not just being physically present in crowds that amplifies our feelings. #socialmedia On the other hand, we do have a technological fix available to us. We can both work and study. We don't need to choose.

So it's good to spend time learning, as deeply as you can, so that your thinking can be clear. I wonder what would happen if people in general were to read more, and study more, instead of just being entertained, even by the news. Perhaps we could find solutions to some of our national and local issues, and stop shouting so much.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Back to the 70s

It's the end of another weekend. My, my, how time flies. It's been a good weekend, but, as Jim Croce sang in 1973:
There never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do

Once you find them
And what I want to do is some writing. Specifically, I want to write about something I've been studying this past week.

Political Theory.

Yup.

Strange but true.

I was led to listen to some lectures on the topic this past week when a young friend said that Alexis de Tocqueville observed, in the 1830s, that "the reason why religion, mainly Christianity, was so prevalent and strong in the U.S." had to do with "avoidance of politics and holding strong ties to public office." That got me searching for an actual quote on the subject by de Tocqueville, and that led me to the lectures.

Why care about this? Partly it's because I've been concerned that some of us (Christians) are so connected to political parties or ideologies--or even political candidates and office holders--so dedicated to them that they're known more for those ties than for their dependence on Jesus.  

I wondered if public political positions of Christians make a difference to others, specifically, to non-Christians, as we speak about Jesus and His love?

I found an article written just after the election quoting various Christian leaders who were concerned that Trump's win would "harm the church's witness." I couldn't find any followup to that article, but then my young friend brought up the de Tocqueville quote.

That's how I was moved to study his work and the work of other political theorists during this past week.

It's interesting and important stuff. (After all, political science was my first college major.) Political theory is interesting and important because politics and government affect all of our lives, especially, perhaps, the lives of those who have the least power of their own.

Interesting, important, and often, nasty, corrupt, full of compromise and impure alliances. It's been a long time since I dropped that poly sci major (in my first college semester -- fall of 1974), but I haven't lost interest -- because somehow we need to work with others to do that "love of neighbor" work... work that brings us alongside sinful and self-interested and idealistic people (and parties, etc.), each of whom have their own reasons for being in the politics game.

This week, by the way, we'll be having elections in Minnesota -- and an election in our "Amalgamated Transit Union" local. I do tend to vote... so I'll need to do some looking into the issues and candidates in the next couple days.

And maybe I'll have time to get to the meat of Political Theory. We'll see.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Public Christianity

The conversation I mentioned yesterday has continued, with someone else chiming in:
Steve, actually I've seen atheists and those of New Age thought blaming "All Christians" in a lump sum for Trump's election or call them the "hard Christian right." You say you are a Christian to these folks and they scoff or turn up their noses. Some of my friends on FB are very anti-Christian, so much they won't even listen or believe a real Christian.
I replied:
Hi ____. I've heard "reports" of such things but I've never seen research into such anecdotes. I'm hoping to write more about this topic (of "damage" to evangelism etc.) that results from such "identification" of [white] Christians with Trump.
But there's an even bigger question. What's the relationship between "the Gospel" (the good news of God's grace given through Jesus) and any given Christian's support or opposition to particular governmental officials (or their policies, statements and actions)?

I hope it's obvious that Christians won't want to just decide who and what to support or oppose based on what's popular, but should they at least consider what effect their positions will have on their ability to evangelize? I think I was initially drawn to the good news of Jesus because of the compassionate, racially sensitive and environmentally conscious actions of the leaders of my "home church." They supported generally conservative moral values, but those values weren't trumpeted or pushed out on those who weren't part of our church.

So I wonder, as someone who grew up in a Christian home, whether I would have been drawn to Jesus if I hadn't seen Christian faith and love in action, or if my home church leaders' had seemed mostly "negative" toward the world. And, beyond that, I wonder what I would have thought if I hadn't grown up in a Christian home and the main things I hard about Christians was that they were supporting nationalism, working against widely available health care and governmental aid to the poor and trying to impose their moral standards on others (while being led by a candidate to doesn't seem to care about those same morals).

Last Sunday, at the church that Toni and I are connecting with now, we heard a message that's part of a series on Paul's Letter to the Galatians." In it Paul challenges the idea that Christianity, like Judaism, is a sort of cultural movement, that is, a group that wants to distinguish itself from others through certain patterns of behavior. Instead, Paul says, the only distinguishing feature of Christians is their dependence on Jesus, Jesus who accepts and loves us just as we are. Our preacher quoted someone who said: Jesus "plus" (anything) is no good news at all.

So I ask: Do the public positions of Christians matter? How should our political opinions connect with our primary business of loving as Jesus loved and letting others know who we depend on? Should we hope and pray and work to make our government do "good works" for others? Or should we limit those things to what individuals and non-government groups can do?

Some conservative Christians put such a high value on "limited government" that they don't think that government ought to be in the "loving" or "caring" business in any way. Should we care what non-Christians think about this position?

On the other hand, other Christians
think that the government should reflect what they think of as a basic Christian commitment to the poor and to those who don't have the resources to stand up to evil by themselves. There has been a movement in the United States, and in the world, in that "human rights" direction--at least since WWII and the Holocaust.

I need to go off to work now. Maybe I'll get back to this later tonight.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Christians Identified with Trump?

It's almost 8 o'clock in Roseville. I got off work a bit earlier than usual; in fact, I didn't "work" at all this afternoon. When I got to work and tried to scan in a message popped up saying I couldn't... and the dispatcher told me just to go sit down in the driver room and wait. Soon they called my driver number, a manager met me and led me back to where a "DOT certified collector" was waiting. It was a random drug test -- the third since I've been at Metro Transit -- and that "test" made me just a few minutes too late to do my afternoon routes. I couldn't leave work though, so I waited there until dispatch gave me permission to go. So I came home, did a couple chores, had some supper, and now I (finally) have time to write, something I'm often wanting to do.

At right you'll see an excerpt from a facebook conversation. Writing on facebook (fb) is one of the ways I enjoy writing and communicating because it's a way to interact with others, some of whom I know well. The conversation at right was found on the fb "wall" (a.k.a. "timeline") of a pastor who is living in a distant part of the USA, someone I interact with fairly often. (It's great to stay in touch!)

The topic of THIS particular conversation is the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and the comment I'd like to highlight is the one I've circled.

After someone else wrote "not my poster boy" (meaning they don't particularly care for President Trump), my pastor friend wrote:
Mine [n]either. But since we are both Christians, people identify us with him, since so many Christians support him. The damage to the Gospel is immense.
I wrote back:
[Name], do you know for sure that non-Christian people identify Christians with Trump?
The same "someone else" who said Trump wasn't their "poster boy" wrote that they hope not, saying that "45 is [the] opposite [of] Biblical justice and Christ's inclusiveness." And while that may be true (we could have a long debate about that!), that's not what I asked. I really want to know if "non-Christian people identify Christians with [Donald] Trump," whether most non-Christians somehow connect Donald Trump, his positions and/or way he speaks, with "Christians" in general.

Is it true that, as my pastor friend wrote, "people identify us with him"?

It's probably not a question that can be answered with any precision, but the answer is probably yes. Here are some reasons for that:
I'm still wondering what my pastor friend will say. And then I'll go on to ask what influence that "Christian-Donald Trump" connection has on the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Learning By Leaning

"Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting."
- A.W. Tozer via Bryan Lowe at brokenbelievers.com/2017/10/23/endure-without-murmuring/
Spiritual "perfecting" isn't somehow becoming "good," "better," and "best," or becoming so strong that there are no longer moments of stress or worry or dissatisfaction. Spiritual "perfecting" means I end up leaning, more and more often, on the grace and mercy of God, so that I no longer trust in myself. Sometimes it means that I will have to deal with even more trouble of my own making -- so that I'll learn where my strength really is.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

What Will I Care About Really?

Toni's in Cokato tonight, with our granddaughters. I'm home with Charlie the dog and our renters, who are downstairs in their apartment. After church this morning, I started trimming dead a big spruce in the backyard. I pretty much finished that, managed to attach and program a new thermostat to the space heater our renter uses and did a load of laundry. Yesterday was all about family, so I didn't mind taking care of business today.

While working on things today, I listened to some history, news and political theory. Yup, that's often what I like to do... often I listen to different faith-based recordings, but I didn't do that today. Today I heard a speech given last spring by Michael Goodwin that was given at a Hillsdale College "National Leadership Seminar", a piece on the second amendment on a podcast called "More Perfect," and a fascinating civil war story that I'd never heard.

As I was trimming that tree this afternoon, carefully only getting rid of dead branches, I mistakenly cut a live one off. This big old spruce tree doesn't have many lower branches so I'm sad about it. It's gone, it bothers me. It bothers me partly because I made a stupid mistake that can't be undone, and partly because the tree now, to me, is kind of empty on the side facing the house. As I was over-reacting to that, a verse from the end of the Bible book of Jonah came to mind.

At the end of that book, Jonah is depressed. He's sitting outside the city of Nineveh where he'd been preaching judgment to. But God had changed his mind and decided to be merciful to the people there. Jonah, the preacher, still is sitting there, waiting to see what would happen. As he's there, God had caused a big spruce tree to grow -- no -- just a "plant," but big enough to give Jonah shade. And then God "appointed a worm" to attack the plant, which then withered.

Now Jonah is even more depressed--even angry. He's angry because his favorite shade tree (a "plant" I should say) has died and now he's sitting there in the hot sun and wind. God says, Should you really be angry about that plant? Jonah says "Yes, I should." And then the Lord says this:
“You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
In my little backyard, I can get torn up about a stupid mistake I made, and the way the tree will look, while there are so many tragic circumstances out there in the world, some of which I can make a difference in. Will I let myself get upset over little things like cutting off a branch that should have been left in place? Or will I turn my attention to what the Lord is doing in the wider world, praying and grieving and doing what I can to help, letting others know about the mercy of God through Jesus.

Tomorrow early I'll get up and go back to work. I can make a difference there. That's where I'll turn my attention. Lord, give me wisdom about what I will care about in the days and weeks to come.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Start with Jesus

I'm up and out of bed on this Saturday morning. I think the digital clock read 5:18 when I first woke. Now I've had a bit of breakfast and a cup of coffee. I'll probably go back to bed soon. Saturdays are the best.

A couple days ago I took a stab at saying some things about Richard Rohr, a spiritual teacher who is much appreciated by at least a few of my friends. I tried to introduce him based on a 2010 interview I found online, and what I learned there about his connection with St. Francis of Assisi's insights. I just scratched the surface of that, and then brought up a "problem" that I have with what I see in Rohr's teachings, that he "doesn't start with Jesus."

This morning, before I go back to bed, I just want to say that the same critique could be made of many if not most Christian teachings in the world. Either Christians don't start their thinking about God with what has been revealed specifically in Jesus of Nazareth*, or they quickly move away from that "self-revelation" of God in Jesus Christ and get caught up in other issues, including legalisms or anti-legalisms (varieties of antinomianism).

yesterday on facebook - click here
I think, though I maybe wrong, that Richard Rohr and many of those who appreciate his teachings, are reacting against those "non-Jesus-centered" messages that they hear in the Church and then flee the Church for their own spiritual paths. What's good about Rohr is that at least he's somewhat connected with Christianity. If Rohr's disciples dig a little, they might find that the basis of Christianity is found, not in a philosophy of life, but in a specific Person: Jesus.

It's the direct proclamation of the gospel, the good news of Jesus, that we need -- much more than any other sort of spiritual teaching. As I read the "Sounds True" interview transcript, I was dismayed to see that Rohr seems to prefer to speak of "Christ" or "Christ-consciousness" more than he speaks of the historical Jesus. There is truth to what he says in the interview about the incarnation, that "when history was ready for it" that there was an incarnation, that is, a coming of God into human flesh -- though, at least in what I've read so far, Rohr doesn't speak in terms of GOD becoming human in a unique way.

If I could substitute the word God for "Christ-consciousness" in the interview, I'd love what he says about the incarnation as he speaks to Tami Simon, a non-Christian:
We, in the Christian tradition, believe that in a moment of time when history was ready for it, that [God] became incarnate (that's what Christmas means for us) in one human being so we could fall in love with [God]**, see [God], and touch [God], as John's letter says. You can't fall in love with a concept in the Christian way of thinking.
I need to admit that I haven't read much anything of Rohr's own writings. What I know about him is just what others have told me, plus what I've read in his Sounds True interview. It could be that he is more "Jesus of Nazareth" focused in other teachings and writings, and if so, please let me know.

excerpt from interview with my comments
In any case, because Rohr does not begin with God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, he descends, it seems to me, into mystery and philosophy, instead of giving sure and certain, solid, absolutely true hope that does not come from anything inside me, including the way that I happen to to be thinking at any given moment. Jesus isn't about "consciousness." Jesus is a person who meets me at the moment of my deepest need. Jesus is the "Christ," that is, the One all of us hope for, the one who can save us from despair (now) and from fear about what might happen after we die. And Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus rose from the dead, and so shall we.

Does Rohr teach that the resurrection, historically and physically speaking, is literally true? If so, great. Like I said, I haven't read his work. But if he doesn't preach the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, historically and physically, his teachings are, at best, a dangerous distraction from what we really need. I need solid hope, hope that doesn't depend on me or my fallible brain in any way.

I've sat here long enough. Time to either get moving, or go back to bed.
from Philippians 2

Let me know what you think about this or anything else I write. I hope we can learn together.

equalsharing.com

* Other references to "Jesus" here are about the same historical person, who is God made flesh.

** Rohr uses the word "it" here, referring to the aforementioned "Christ-consciousness." He's quoting, more or less, from chapter 1 of John's Gospel, where it's clear that the "Word" (Rohr's it) isn't an "it" but is a Person -- Jesus.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rohr's Way

from Sounds True
I was glad, last weekend, to have extra time to do some study, and one of the things I studied was the transcript of an interview by "Sounds True dot com", a website that says it is "for those seeking genuine transformation," and that it is a "trusted partner on the spiritual journey, offering diverse, in depth and life changing wisdom." Sounds True's tagline is "many voices, one journey." Sounds True says it is:
"a multimedia publishing company with more than 80 employees, a library of more than 1500 titles featuring some of the leading teachers and visionaries of our time, and an ever-expanding family of customers from across the world."
I found the interview (at this link) with Richard Rohr as I was searching, on line, for a summary of his teachings. I wanted to know about those teachings because I've come to know, over the last year or so, that he's an influential teacher of the "spiritual wisdom" sought by many in recent years. Richard is a Franciscan priest and, as the Sounds True interviewer says, a "prolific author." He's produced many more books and has taught many more people since the interview was given in 2010.

This spiritual teacher is one of hundreds that capture people's attention these days, but Richard Rohr is of particular interest to me because some dear friends and family members have spent time with him, appreciating, I think his open hearted wisdom and his self-identification as a Christian (a Roman Catholic who is somehow connected with Saint Francis) makes him attractive to Christians who are discontented with the teachings of the churches that they've been connected with in the past. In the interview Rohr speaks of his growing up years in Kansas -- in a part of that state that was overwhelmingly Catholic, and how serious questions arose for him when he was "already in vows as a Franciscan." He says that then, in the 1960s,
I had to do my searching, my experimenting and learning, asking the question, 'What does this all really mean.'"
That questioning is something that a lot of Christians, and, I'm sure, people of other faith traditions, can relate to. Rohr and his theological outlook are very open to questions and searching. I'm sure that's one of the things that attracts some people to him, including some friends and family.

Some of the things that are intriguing about Rohr are the same things that Rohr himself found attractive as he learned about St. Francis of Assisi.

Here's a bit of the interview's transcript. TS here is the interviewer, Tami Simon, the founder of "Sounds True." RR is Richard Rohr:
TS: What do you think in Saint Francis’ life and message is really relevant for us today, outside of the romanticism, as you call it? What is the actual pith or core of it that is relevant for us now?

RR: I think that probably the most relevant piece is his universalism or ecology, which didn’t just include the Earth and the animals but people beyond Christianity and Catholicism. His vision wasn’t a tribal vision. It was a vision that even included the non-humans and that’s why the church made him the Patron of Ecology.

TS: But by non-humans you mean animals? How far are we going to take that?

RR: He addressed Sister Wind, Brother Fire, Brother Sun and Sister Moon. It was even the physical and vegetative universe that was part of the mystery of God for him. For much of our history we call “pantheism.” Now we’ve refined our language and we call it “Panentheism.” He was able, as all mystics are, to see God in all things. And that seeing is probably what we desperately need if we’re going to survive this six billion people on this one planet, especially when you see the rising fundamentalism between the religions, not just on the earth level but on the religion/biological trust level. [transcript corrected by Steve Thorson]

("Panentheism" is the the belief that the divine pervades and interpenetrates every part of the universe and also extends beyond time and space [definition from Wikipedia]. I think I agree with that position, except instead of the vague word "divine. I'd use the word "God" as in the One True God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, as we know Him uniquely in Jesus. It's that One True God that pervades all that is--as Paul quotes in Acts 17:28 "in him [God] we live and move and have our being. Christians know who God is.
Many Christians today would agree that we need to see God in all things, or at least see everything as a gift from God, if we're going to survive on this planet, instead of just using people and things to make ourselves comfortable. Rohr's teachings in this way are just what we need.

But there are some problems with Rohr's teachings and I'd like to share a bit about that here.

First of all, Rohr doesn't start with Jesus. That's really important because Jesus is the only one who has ever seen God. Jesus is the only true and unique representation of God that human beings have ever encountered. Unless you begin with the once-in-a-world incarnation of God, and God's self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth, you end up just guessing about God, and getting super mysterious and mystical in your beliefs. Also, and Rohr clearly does this, you end up having a theology that requires you to do something to encounter God, rather than, as the incarnation reveals, having God meet you -- just as you are.

The Christian message is NOT about anything you need to do to get in better with God. The Christian message is that God has already done everything necessary to get "in" with us. There's no preparation needed. There's no "purgation," "illumination," or "perfection" that we need to "do" in order to somehow experience God's love. God simply comes to us, and by His Grace we are lifted into His perfect presence, just as we are. If Rohr had started with Jesus, and looked at how he dealt with broken people, he would have seen that. As it is, he makes it so much work. It looks like another very spiritual form of "works righteousness" to me.

There's more I want to write about this, but I want to lie down for a few minutes before I head off to Heywood Garage for my second shift.

More later.

equalsharing.com 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Rainy Morning

The bird clock sang 7 a few moments ago. I've been up and out of bed for awhile; I woke just after 6. The rain has been coming down all night and still is as the sky lightens up. Toni's dad got up at about the same time. He's at the dining room table making careful modifications to his plans for a new garage - hoping to make enough space out there for sleeping bags. The extended family that gathers here at the cabin will probably need that space, especially as more children come into the world.

I'm glad to be up here and I'm glad it's raining. I love gloomy wet weather. Not more than other sorts, but it's sweet to be "forced" to stay indoors for a time. I love walking in the rain too. I'm sure I'll be doing that later. Maybe I can get Toni to go out with me, or maybe Dan.

Toni and I got here after 10 last night. Dan came first, arriving sometime on Thursday. Dick & Jo came yesterday. It's just the 5 of us here now, and Dan goes back for work later today.

I'm hoping to "get some things done" today. I texted Toni that I was looking forward to being here so that I could do some "non-house project" things. Some practical, like balancing financial accounts, some spiritual and intellectual, reading & studying & just not needing to be on a schedule, and some productive, like writing, writing in a way that, perhaps, will include you.

God's peace to you on this blessed day, wherever you are. Love, Steve

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Back to Self

Last evening Toni and I were at the home of one of the other couples that participates with us in a small group, a small group organized through the church that we've been involved with for a little over a year now. It was good to get together again; we haven't met together as a group since summer began, but, for me, the best part of the evening was when we decided what we'd be studying together this fall.

I made two suggestions and the group decided to accept one of them. It wasn't the one I first thought of, but that's okay. I'm sure we'll benefit by going through Dutch Sheets little book God's Timing for Your Life. (I actually found my copy of this little book as I was searching for my first choice. Maybe finding that other book, and the groups choice to study it instead of the other was an example of God's Timing. We'll see.)

As I think of this now, I realize that both of the books I suggested, plus the other two that I had in my bag but didn't suggest, were about the self. Neither of them go into the more common topics of conversation that Christians, and others, engage in: studies of doctrines or Biblical books or religious practices or church denominations. All of them had as their purpose the work God is doing on our own lives, and, specifically, on the areas of our lives that we have some control over. I think that's good.

Too much of my own mental energy is spent on things beyond my control. It's true that there are some things out there in the world of others, near and far, that the Lord does want me to pay attention to, but when I focus out there too much I get distracted from the work God wants to do in me. I will pray that others learn to focus on themselves too. Perhaps studying and meditating on God's Timing for Your Life will help in that process. But mostly I need to allow God to continue the hard work in me that he is desiring to do, letting go of what He's doing in the lives of others.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Good Mistakes?

What if mistakes and errors are a part of God's good creation? What if the problems they cause are necessary to God's plan? What if God's not interested in "perfection," at least not in the way we normally think of it. What if those challenges have always been a part of the "good," as when God said "it is good"?

I'm hoping to find time to study this in depth. Soon.

equalsharing.com

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sadness and Encouragement

Happy Saturday! It's a beautiful day here in Roseville, and, I'm sure, in the rest of the upper mid-west*. I've got a pretty long list of projects to take care of here, including picking apples and replacing my bike's front tire tube. (Toni and I are starting to plan a long weekend to go biking and camping, and maybe canoeing too, later this month.) Before I get to those and other thing I wanted to take time to share a bit of encouragement that I received from the Lord earlier this week.

For a long time I've felt melancholy and sad about the ways that our lives have had us moving away from people who mean a lot to us. Personally there are so many that I've worked with and have connected with in other ways in the churches and communities we've served, many that we don't see much anymore. Occasionally we can visit, like we went to visit Ladysmith on a Sunday morning earlier this summer, but, as the saying goes, you can never step into the same river twice. People change and move on. Many I'd like to have seen and connected with there weren't around. And that's just one example of those I miss. ("Saudades" is the Portuguese word for this. Look it up.)

As someone who has worked in ministry for many years, not only do I miss people, I miss seeing the fruit of my/our work in their lives. We've been told, and we've seen, how some people's lives were impacted by our ministry work, but there are many others who we just don't know how it is that they're doing right now. I would love to talk in depth with many of them. That in depth conversation, however, in many cases, probably won't happen. I don't have the time to be together with those individuals and families for long enough to really connect. And some just aren't interested in doing that with me any more. Again, it's sad for me. It's a sadness that overlays a lot of what goes on in the my mostly happy day-by-day life.

That's why I was so thankful earlier this week to read the following spiritual meditation by Oswald Chambers. Maybe it will be encouraging to you too. It was based on a verse from John 7:38 where Jesus says: "He who believes in Me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

Here's the first part of the devotion:
A river reaches places which its source never knows. And Jesus said that, if we have received His fullness, “rivers of living water” will flow out of us, reaching in blessing even “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) regardless of how small the visible effects of our lives may appear to be. We have nothing to do with the outflow— “This is the work of God, that you believe…” (John 6:29). God rarely allows a person to see how great a blessing he is to others.
You can read the rest of it here. The devotion goes on about the unstoppable power of rivers. Obstacles will be overcome! O.C. writes: "The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never focus your eyes on the obstacle or the difficulty. The obstacle will be a matter of total indifference to the river that will flow steadily through you if you will simply remember to stay focused on the Source."

That's what I need to do -- to stay focused on the work of Jesus Christ -- the source of all good. When I get discouraged about the lack of contact with people I love, with people I've worked with or been involved in "helping" in one way or another, I will just need to trust that that work of God will not be deterred. It will continue -- in my life, and in the lives of those I have loved down through the years.

God's peace will flow when I trust Him, and when I ground my life in His great promises, like the promises I read in that devotion this week. Time to get to work.

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* This is hurricane season in the southern USA. I've noticed, often, in other years, that it tends to be such beautiful weather when it's stormy down south. Amid all the world's tragedies, of which there are so many right now, there are moments of beauty. I'm thankful for that today. Peace to all of you who are in other situations right now, in Jesus' powerful name. Nothing can stand in the way of His Love -- not even a hurricane.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Response to Nashville Signers

I posted what follows just now on the facebook page for the "Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood," the organization that sponsored the "Nashville Statement." Here's [ a link ] to my post on that page.
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Dear Nashville Signers: Where can I go to have some in depth and careful conversation about the various points in your statement? Like you, I see the biological differences between men and women as part of God's good creation. I even see these differences as scientifically self-evident and necessary for the the continuation of life, so it's obvious to me that God wants those biological differences to be honored. That's true even though I don't read the first chapters of Genesis (and the account of Adam and Eve) as history, at least not in the sense that we understand history "normally." Therefore, much of what you say in your statement is something I can resonate with.

I have some questions, however:

(1) I've read that you affirm, and even insist upon hierarchy in gender relations, and that your Article 4 about "divinely ordained differences" includes that hierarchy. Is that true?
(I would have been pleased to see the word "biological" inserted there, as in "divinely ordained biological differences.")

(2) Sin is first mentioned in Article 9. What is your definition of sin? Is sin always blameworthy, or is it sometimes a "missing of the mark" as in the Greek ἁμαρτία, an error, a "problem" that can become rebelliousness but can be, in some cases, more of an inherited or culturally inculcated problem that needs gentle care more than "confession and forgiveness"?

(3) I wonder if you believe that it's sin to be cruel toward those who identify as homosexual or transgendered? Do you?

(4) In Article 10, you say that it's sinful to approve of non-"straight" sexual relations or "transgenderism." What do you mean by "sinful"? Do you mean erroneous or rebellious?

(5) Also in Article 10, you say that approving of "homosexual immorality or transgenderism" constitutes an "essential departure" from the Christian faith and witness. I'm inclined to agree with this, but mostly because many of those who approve of these things evidence departure from Christian faith and witness in other ways, and not because such approval is by itself "heresy." There are many other ways in which Christians disagree with one another, and though I agree that the issue of sexuality is particularly serious, because it ties in with the way that new life comes into the world, other things are serious too. Some Christians, for example, deny the full implications of Jesus' command to "love your neighbor as yourself," and his definition of "neighbor" as those who are essentially different (as in the story of the Good Samaritan), Jesus' command to "love your enemies"  and other portions of the Sermon on the Mount) that also may show that same departure from true Christian faith and witness. Would you say the same of those and other "departures" from Christian faith and witness, or are those things in some ways not "essential."

I'd love to talk about these things but don't know who to talk with about them. Let me know please!

equalsharing.com

What Happens When We Know Jesus

There's an excellent and even, dare I say, perfect aspect of life that I've had the privilege of experiencing over the years that I'd like to say something about this morning. This excellence and perfection doesn't belong to me. It's universally available, that is, it can be experienced by anyone who is willing to give up their life and say, in faith, that what is going on with me isn't the product of chance but is a part of God's plan, and that God can use everything about the circumstances of my life for Good. This is a faith-filled position. It's only available when an individual trusts God absolutely. And the only way to trust God absolutely is to know, for certain, that God is Good and that He is personally involved in and interested in every aspect of personal life. And we can only know that when we know Jesus.

Knowing Jesus in this way doesn't mean there will be no problems in my life, but that all those problems are seen, and known, to be ways in which God can and does work through for my good and for the good of others. The frustrations and inconveniences and even the pains of life (not that I've experienced much of the latter) are known to me as tools that God is using to refine and challenge me, making me into more of the person that God wants me to be. Even the sin in my life, both my willful rebellion, the ways in which I choose comfort or distraction over honest character building, and my errors, the ways in which I simply "miss the mark" God would have desired for me--both of these types of sin can and are used by my Lord to deal with me, sometimes harshly, but always in love. But I can only know that when I know Jesus.

I want you to know Jesus too. Jesus loves you with a love that will never stop, a love that is more powerful than anything you or I will ever have to deal with. We know this when we know that Jesus rose from the dead, and that he will work the same resurrection, both literally (in the end) and metaphorically (now). I am praying that He will make Himself known to each and every person that I have known in my life, and to all those I see and deal with everyday now.

If there is any way in which I can come along side you in your journey, please let me know so I can at least pray for you by name, so I can keep you in my mind and heart before the Lord. We are in this together, and someday that's where we will be.

equalsharing.com

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Nashville Statement

The "Nashville Statement" was put together by a group that wants to maintain, or somehow re-establish, the so-called "traditional" roles of men (father and leader) and women (mother and homemaker, etc.), so it's difficult for me to even respond to it. There's too much to say in that regard.

I am interested, though, in a scientific look at sexual differentiation and its role in the conception of each and every human on earth, not to mention all species that reproduce through some sort of intercourse.

I can't personally get past the notion that God's plan for life on earth connects with such differentiation. I don't think the existence of other sexual orientations or the existence of, for example, hermaphrodites, takes away what I think is a logical conclusion that God created sexual differentiation and reproduction as a unique and irreplaceable "blessing."

Do you see this differently than I do? If so, can you help me understand?

equalsharing.com

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Out Flow

Here at the lake the water has been high all summer. At the south end of the lake there's an outlet that only open during summers like this. When the lake is low there's no flow.

Jesus said, as recorded in John 7:38, that trusting in him will allow "living water" to flow out of me and you. When we don't know Jesus, when we don't understand his absolute rock-solid love for us, when we don't know Jesus is God Almighty, then we're prone to worry, and when we worry we're like the lake when the water's low. There's no flow.

When we know Jesus, and when we have the basics of life, many of which are to be provided for us through the community of faith, good will flow from us every day.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

See You Again

Yesterday we said goodbye to Kelly and Abigail. Kelly is someone we've known and loved since we met her many years ago at Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp when she was on staff there. She told her life and faith story the first time we met her, at a campfire, and it was her story that drew us to her. I remember seeking her out right after that campfire. Over time we've become like a second family for her.

After Okoboji, and after some time spent with a production in the Western USA, she came back to serve with Youth Encounter, on staff there, and on a team that traveled to East Africa (not necessarily in that order). Since that time she moved to Africa where she's been working with children, at a quasi orphanage called Neema House. She came to visit us this summer and now is back in Tanzania. We hope to see her and Abigail again in 3-4 years, and hopefully her husband Dixon will be able to come too.

When I get sad about goodbyes, of which I've had to deal with many over the years, I have to remember the promise of the Lord, and of the grand reunion to come. And I still desire, and go out of my way, to make contact with people near and far, with people who have been, and always will be, very important to me. I don't let go.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Brag or Example or Praise God

It was a little rainy when I got up this morning, but after it got light out I decided it wasn't too bad, so I went out for a little run, the same run and route that I used when I was training to be a "running buddy" for my nieces this spring. The doctor I saw yesterday about my arm doesn't want me to do upper body exercises, but she said running was fine.

I'm not fast. Never have been. And slower now that I haven't been training lately. Still, it felt really good. I'm thankful for almost no pain. 5.8 K.

I like to post things like this but I don't want to do it on social media. That would seem too much like bragging. I'll post here though, on my blog, because if anyone wants to see it they will need to do it intentionally. Social media is more like a push.

I do want to set an example for others though, so I hope this is part of that. Plus I want to praise God for giving me the health and energy and motivation to do this. I know how privileged I am.

equalsharing.com

Friday Night Lights

Toni and I went to the State Fair last night after I got back from work. We drove down Fairview to a local church parking lot and took a bus from there. We shared a "Spicy Pork Bowl" from the "Blue Barn," walked through the crowds, stopped in the Heritage Center and the Education Building, tried going to the Fine Arts Center but it was closed at 9:00 PM, stood in line and then rode the "Great Big Wheel" where we saw lightning on the horizon, got 2 cream puffs and got on the bus back to our car before it started raining. A pretty perfect way to end the week.

(Toni had already been to the fair with friends during the day yesterday, so she didn't have to get a ticket. In fact, their tickets were free because they played with a band in the afternoon State Fair parade.)

It's a rainy day today so I'm glad we went to the fair last night. Now I've started a list of things to do today. Great to have a day off.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Muscle or Tendon?

Today I went to see a family practice doctor about my right arm. It was hurt sometime during the first full week of this month. Since then there's been a "stinging" or "burning" sensation whenever I extend the arm fully, especially when I do pull ups. I've stopped doing hard exercises with that arm -- and I'm trying to be good to it. Next Tuesday I'm scheduled for an "MRI of the upper arm to evaluate for a distal biceps or triceps tear."

I'm thankful for health insurance, and for the fact that it doesn't hurt when I drive.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Self

Many times I don't remember what I've written previously on this blog, at least not without looking back, or searching. I did a quick search right now for a particular word and can't find that I've actually written anything on this one word, so I guess I haven't.

The subject isn't "self," but, instead it's the word "self." At the beginning of 2016 God gave me that word as a sort of "theme" -- a central concept or organizing idea, an idea that has held my attention now for more than a year, a word I keep coming back to when I get bothered by things beyond my control.

When I read Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest, I'm brought back to that theme. When I read scripture or hear a sermon I'm called to self-examination, not to being critical of others. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, and find my mind rushing to so many things that I can't do anything about, the Lord brings me back to "self." Not self-ish, self as in "Let God work in YOUR life, and let Him have his way with others in His way."

I don't need to manage anyone else's life, not even those closest to my heart.

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Here are three examples of what I've written on this topic before:

A facebook post from May 7, 2017
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A blog post from the beginning of this year
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The last half of a blog post from 2015
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Off My Work

They took me off my work* this morning so I'm home at this relatively late morning hour. I'll go out in a few minutes and get some exercise, maybe walk, maybe run. I've hurt my right arm so I won't be doing any pull ups. Today I'll go back to the doctor to see what's wrong with the arm.
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*Margie, a dispatcher, sent me a message yesterday early evening telling me that I'm off for this morning only. I'll be back this afternoon. The contract between the union and Metro Transit says that part time bus operators need to be replaced with full timers when part time operators drive more than 30 hours a week. Dispatch tends to take us off before Friday (when we part timers actually would go "over our hours") if it's seen that we've been coming in late on Monday, Tuesday etc. It's a sort of preventative measure because there are fewer full time drivers who want overtime on Fridays.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One August Evening

Right now, at a little after 9 PM, I'm at the desk that Toni usually uses in the little multi-purpose room near the back door of our house here in Roseville. Through the open door I can see the fridge in our under-construction kitchen. It (the refrigerator) had been out in the garage during the demolition and during most of our kitchen project, but now that the walls and ceiling, for floor and cabinets are pretty much done, we could bring it back in. It sure is nice to have it back in the house. We still have no counter tops or kitchen sink, and there's a lot of trim work to do, but we're getting closer to being able to fully use it. The oven is in place, a microwave is mounted above (though it's not the one we paid for... ). We're still doing food preparation and cleanup down in the basement laundry room, but, as I said, we're a long ways along in the project. Paul Currie, our contractor, will be back at it tomorrow after his vacation. I'm glad he could take the time off.


Toni's outside talking with a friend on the phone. Kelly, here with her daughter Abigail from Tanzania, is in the living room while her daughter is asleep in our guest room. Our "renter" Nelly and her daughter are downstairs. And Charlie the dog is where he wants to be, outside with Toni.

There's always a lot going on -- with family and work and all the house projects -- plus the reading and conversations I'm involved in. I don't feel like I have much time for writing these days. I miss reflecting in words, getting things down in a way that are at least somewhat organized. Maybe there'll be more time for that in the future. I still do writing, but mostly in conversations, usually on facebook.

I'm going to get ready for bed. I get up early.

Peace and love to you in Jesus' name

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pastor Driver Connections

Many things connect my life as a pastor with my current work as a city bus driver. Among these are hundreds of opportunities to interact with people of all sorts, lots of great people to work with, more complexity and decision making than you might imagine, and reasons to be grateful for the work of other professionals -- including (again today) officers of the law. And, in both occupations, I have so many chances to treat others with respect, including people who others tend to ignore. I'm more thankful for both of these careers than anyone knows. Praying that Jesus would shine in my work. And in yours.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Focus on One

It's Sunday afternoon - actually, at the moment, not quite afternoon, but we'll pass 12 o'clock in a few minutes. I just got up from an after church nap. Toni and I tend to go to the earlier of the two services at Roseville Covenant Church, so even after having talked with friends and acquaintances after services, there's plenty of time for a rest before lunchtime.

When I got up I took a look at the My Utmost for His Highest devotional for the day, and the topic was "The Teaching of Disillusionment." It has to do with learning, sometimes through painful experience, to have a clear and realistic view of how limited and fallible people are, even those we think of as strong and admirable. This brings us to the point where there will be limits to how much we will expect from other people, and that "there is only one Being" that is reliable in the end "and that is the Lord Jesus Christ."

I'm thankful for how the Word of God continually brings me back to that One. No church, no community, no pastor, no friend, no wife or husband, no son or daughter or grandchild, no mother or father, or, obviously no politician or government, no work/job or financial security, and no health care system is able to truly satisfy any of my needs. They will all fail me at some point. Jesus, the One God in human flesh, the One who we learn of from the Bible, He's the Only One who I can really depend upon. When I trust in Him I will not be disappointed. He will bring me safely through--even when I feel otherwise. It's good to be brought back to Him.

I'm not sure right now what Toni and I will be doing for the rest of the day. My nephew Nicholas Grivna is competing in a state meet of the "Minnesota Swimming" organization -- I might bike down to the University of Minnesota to see him in one of his relays later on. Before that there are lots of projects I could keep busy with here at home.

Then tomorrow I'll be back at work. Join me in asking the Lord to always me (and you) focused on Him and His ways.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

What I Think I Need

I wasn't able to sleep so I got up, after spending quite a bit of time in bed, ate a very early breakfast and read a daily devotional from Oswald Chambers. Then I wrote this on facebook:
What is there that I think I need to have in order to make life worthwhile? When I know Jesus and his love and the promise of resurrection that I share with Him, I can let go of whatever that is and simply love and serve with all my will, with all my deep and meaningful feelings, my mind and all the ways I use the various abilities and strengths He has developed in me. When I keep my focus on Jesus, and as long as I have the basics of life, I need not pursue anything else. This brings freedom and joy to every day. All my actions are guided by His call -- as long as I keep Jesus in the center of my plans. This is a great challenge, something I hope and pray I will allow the Lord to plant grow in my heart as long as I live. (written as a reflection on today's My Utmost for His Highest https://utmost.org/sanctification-1/)
Time to go back to bed! God's peace to you tonight.

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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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