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.

equalsharing.com


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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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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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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