Friday, October 18, 2013

Who Stole "Halloween" from Whom?

When I find a good read, one that speaks to rather pertinient issues, I'm happy to share such finds with others.  In the link below, I have finally found a voice of reason that speaks to the issue of Halloween.  Better yet, the author is from outside our American culture, so he doesn't come with all the biases and blather that our own tend to bring to the topic.

The article is a little on the long side (over 1000 words!)--not a quick, fluff read.  But, if one truly wants to be an educated Christian who can speak intelligently to these kinds of issues, we sometimes just have to do a little work...or, as in this case, reading.

"The idea that Christians "stole" [Halloween] from pagans, therefore, seems pretty far-fetched.  In fact the evidence seems to point the other way: the neopagans seem to have unintentionally "stolen" it from the Christians...."



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Saying 'Yes is Saying 'No'

Let’s see…8663 days ago my life changed forever.  I woke up that morning—with an initial feeling of uncertainty—got to my feet (I was sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor at that time), set my mind, and faced the day with joy and expectation.  In the mid-afternoon, I met up with friends and family at a local church (in Louisville, Kentucky)…and there, and then, I said “Yes” to the most amazing and wonderful woman, Jeanne Lee Herrin.

“Do you take this woman…?”  “YES!  I Do!”  And while I said the ‘yes’ with all joy and conviction, I’m not entirely sure that I was aware at the time that I was also saying ‘no.’  I was saying ‘yes’ to love, to passion, to commitment.  I was saying ‘yes’ to a life together with my wife.  I was saying ‘yes’ to hopes of family and adventures.  I was saying ‘yes’ to no more lonely nights…no more empty apartments.  I was saying a resounding ‘yes’ to so many things.  But, I was also saying ‘no.’

In saying ‘Yes’ to my Jeanne Lee, I was saying ‘no’ to every other woman in the world.  No more ‘new girlfriends’ (thank goodness!)  I was saying ‘no’ to doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  ‘No’ to writing cheques down to negative balances the day before pay-day.  ‘No’ to the concept of “my money”—it was and is forever now ‘our money.’  ‘No’ to a lackadaisical attitude towards my health—I was no longer just impacting my life; my health impacted my wife as well.  In saying ‘yes’ on that amazing day, I was also saying ‘no’ to so many things for the rest of my life.

In my classes, I always set aside time to talk about this as well.  As my students grapple with studies, families, work, and any other number of responsibilities, I strive to remind them (or show them) that when they said ‘yes’ to college, they also said ‘no’ to a lot of things—free time, parties every night, last-minute road-trips, and many more things that were once part-and-parcel of their lives.

When we say ‘yes’ to a spouse, ‘yes’ to a job, ‘yes’ to a home-purchase, ‘yes’ to an educational program, ‘yes’ to a television show we want to watch, ‘yes’ to Facebook, ‘yes’ to the latest technological gadget, ‘yes’ to cablevision—whatever ‘yes’ we agree to…when we say ‘yes’ to one thing, we say ‘no’ to something else.

As Christians, we must also recognize that when we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, we say ‘no’ as well.  ‘Yes’ to Jesus means ‘no’ to our favorite sins.  But, it’s more than that.  I think Jesus was getting at this when he said to his followers, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  Saying ‘yes’ to Jesus is saying ‘no’ to me… ‘no’ to what I think is right… ‘no’ to my crafty rationalizations… ‘no’ to my preferred worldview. 

Yet, saying ‘yes’ to Jesus is also a whole lot more than just the ‘no’s’ I’ve mentioned above.  ‘Yes’ to him is ‘yes’ to a full and joyful life; ‘yes’ to a community of faith and a family; ‘yes’ to hope and grace and possibility!  In the life of faith, as in my married life, the 'yes' far outweighs the 'no.'

Friday, September 13, 2013

Preaching as a Response

(Some thoughts especially  for my co-laborers in ministry.)

I began doing a study on preaching in the New Testament some eight years ago.  My quest was to really understand the content of those early sermons—the sermons/teachings of the disciples in the Acts of Apostles.

First of all, if the sermons and teachings recorded are accurate and complete, not a sermon lasted more than 12 minutes (that’d be the Sermon on the Mount, read slowly).  Then, we’d also note the lack of powerpoint, bulletin outline, and light show (not that these are bad thing—just obviously not necessary).  And, one other thing we might notice is the variety of response—many times, there was an overwhelming response to the sermon or teaching.  At other times, there was an underwhelming or negative response.

Perhaps the most important realization that came to me as I studied Peter’s, Phillip’s, Steven’s, and Paul’s sermons/teachings is that their preaching or teaching is always…ALWAYS…a response to the situation around them.  Preaching in the book of Acts is an act of response.

What about today?  Is preaching still an act of response?  Do we teach and preach as a response to what is going on around us in the life of the Church or in the culture?  Is our preaching and teaching actually responding to the questions that are being asked?  Or, has preaching too often been reduced to an academic exercise of theological or literary exposition?  Has teaching in the Church been transformed into a dramatic, literary performance?

Before we go another step, I want to affirm that good expository preaching and dramatic teaching may very well be excellent, appropriate forms of responsive preaching.  The key is to make our teaching and preaching a responsive activity.  If we’re preaching and teaching as a response to the questions and events around us, the people will respond without our having to somehow nudge them into some sort of response.  If not, at best we may be raising good questions people have not thought to ask, and at worst, we may be answering questions no one is asking and no one really cares about.

In the face of some of the most tragic events of our times—9/11, the tsunamis of 2004 and 2011, the Haiti earthquake of 2010, Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hooke Elementary School Shooting, and more—we have had opportunities to respond with meaningful preaching and teaching that really shows how we as Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, can live through such times and minister to a world that doesn’t understand why these kinds of things happen.  In the same way, we can teach and preach in response to any and all the things that impact our lives and our communities.  We can show how the Scriptures provide a path for each and every one of us—not always an easy path!—to come through the struggles, difficulties, celebrations, victories of life…all the while maintaining our walk of faith.

May we who stand in the pulpit, lecture hall, or classroom be always aware of what is going on in our world, in our communities, in our churches so that our preaching responds to real needs and concerns in the hearts and lives of the people.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Meaningful Mission Teams

On a recent Sunday, the pastor led the congregation in praying for a mission team headed to Costa Rica.  As I looked at the group of 10-12 people gathered on the platform, I was reminded of all the teams that came to work alongside us in both Venezuela and Mexico.  Those were wonderful, exhausting, life-changing events…and I enjoyed every team. 

We set up our mission team events/experiences like most others: We stayed in ‘adequate’ housing, wanting our team to be close enough to the reality of the land in which we lived, but comfortable enough so they could rest and would want to return someday.  We provided local transportation—an experience often more exciting that Six Flags!  We made sure our visiting team could enjoy enough of the local food to say they had really experienced life in our country.  And, we made sure to take half a day or so for the team to see a little more—to do a bit of the ‘tourist thing.’  After all, some would never be back, and they’d want to have some visual reminder in their homes of that adventure ‘way back when.’  But, we also did something differently with our mission teams in Venezuela and Mexico. 

What did we do differently?  It begins here: I believe that Jesus came in the flesh because it was important to be like us and to be with us.  In fact, there are many times in our lives that our presence is the most important thing.  There are times that we simply need to “be” there.  Our words are not as important, our skills are not as important—what matters is that we are there.

This belief led us to do that ‘something different’.  After the usual ‘mission team’ discussion with the local congregation, I would then announce two things.  First, we would insist that for every mission team member coming from the U.S., the local congregation would need to provide someone from their group.  If the US team was eight persons strong, the local congregation would need to provide eight people to come be with the team each day.  If the US team was 14 strong, the local congregation would need to provide 14 people.  Some of the nationals would just pass out water bottles, some would carry off trash and refuse, and some would work side-by-side.

(Yes, I usually got the same reaction from them that I’m probably getting from you—But what about the language?  We don’t understand their language!  What about the project—they’ll only get in the way?)

That’s when I would announce the second thing:  The project is not the most important thing; relationships are more important than projects.

I recall one afternoon in Venezuela sitting under a tree with a fellow from Georgia.  It was looking like we were not going to completely finish the project.  He said to me, “Jon, I've been on half-a-dozen mission trips in Latin America.  I've always done these construction projects.  We'd go in, execute the project, leave--mission accomplished.  But…I have to tell you, this is the first time ever that I've actually gotten know the people.”  He was quiet a moment.  “I don’t care that we can’t finish this project—this has been the best experience of my life.”

Mission Team:  Americans and Venezuelans working together...dirty, tired, and completely happy!
I've come to believe those mixed up, people-intensive mission trips really are what being the church is all about.  People on both sides quickly learn enough from each other to communicate—it always happens.  People on both sides learn to do things in new ways—everybody enjoys some good take away.  And, people on both sides end the week with new friends from half a world away.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lunch in the Park

I’ve started taking my lunch in Retama Park on Maple Avenue.  It’s a three minute walk from my office…and few people are ever there in the middle of day.  This park has become a delightful escape from the technology, air-conditioning, and straight lines of the office.

Today, as in other days, I sit on a bench towards the center of the park, the only bench that’s actually in the shade.   A large water-oak spreads it limbs to block the harsh south Texas sun.  In the shade, the constant breezes making their way from the Gulf make the spot perfect for reading, thinking…or dozing.

I’m reading a novel—Tony Hillerman (The Walking Wind).  Out of the corner of my eye, a person comes into view…a boy…a young boy…a BIG boy…maybe 10-years-old?  He has his basketball.  He makes his way onto the concrete courts where the netting is half torn away from the baskets.  He begins to dribble and shoot—duip, duip, duip, duip….plunk!...duip, duip, duip….

I return to my novel.  Shortly, my mind begins to wander…and the sun is slipping through the leaves making the pages bright…hurting my eyes.  I lay the book down, lean my elbows on my knees to escape the sun, and rest my chin on my loosely balled fists.  About 25 feet away, a Mexican ground squirrel scurries, haltingly, through the scrubby grass.

“You bored?”

I hadn’t noticed that the dribbling had stopped.  Turning to the voice, the lad stands ten feet away looking at me, ball in hand.

“No, not bored…just sitting here thinking.”

“I’m bored.”

“Well, at least you have a park to play some basketball in.  Do you live close by?”

He points across the street to the public housing for the elderly.

“So, you get to come over anytime you want.  That’s cool.”

“Yeah…but I’m bored…I’m SO bored.  I can’t wait for school to start back.”

“Well, don’t wish away these summers!  I remember when I was your age that summers dragged on forever.  Now, I don’t get summer breaks…and I miss those days."

“Well, I just know I’m bored."

“What grade are you in?”

“I’m going into sixth grade!”

“Oh…so, is that middle school?”

“I’m not from around here.  I’m just visiting my grandma.  I live in Elsa” (a small, rural town some 45 minutes from where we are.)

Not really an answer to my question…but, I guess he thought ahead to cut off the next inevitable question.

“Ah…just spending some time with Grandma?”

“Yeah.  You wanna play some ball?”

Laughing a bit, “Uh…well, I have to go back to the office here in a minute, and in this heat, I’d be a sweaty mess if I played ball.  So, I can’t this time….”

“Oh…yeah, okay.  You work at STC?”

“Yes, I work at STC.”

“What do you do?”

“I work in Institutional Effectiveness.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, I make sure everyone in all the programs and departments stay on track.”

“Oh…sort of like ‘school monitor’?”

“Yeah…kind of like a ‘school monitor’.”  I laugh.

My lunch hour really is up, so I stand.

“Well, I need to get back to work.  Have a good time shootin’ hoops.”

“Okay…I will.  See you later.”

“See you….”  And, off I go, back towards the office.

There are good kids in this world.  He talked easily with me, an adult.  He allowed himself to be curious, to ask questions.  He was kind…and didn’t cuss (kind of rare for our neck of the woods.)  He had no devices visible of any kind—no phone, no tablet—nothing to distract him from his surroundings…or from our conversation.

Next time, I’m going to shoot some hoops.  And, I plan to have a book to give him in his season of boredom.  Next time, if God gives me a next time….

Sunday, April 28, 2013

No Fences

How many times have you heard the parable of the lost sheep? It was one of the stories from my earliest memories. When I was a child, my parents bought me a set of delightful books, Arch Books, that presented some of the greatest Bible stories in full color. The shepherd in the story-book was named “Jon”…just like me!—Jon and the Little Lost Lamb. I believe I read that book over and over and over.
As an adult, I still love to hear the story of the lost sheep (found in Luke 15:4-7 in the New Testament):
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
The parable is lovely…the rescue wonderful.
As an adult with good, modern leadership training, I can’t help but think things through to the next step—I’m a ‘problem solver,’ so let’s solve this! Okay, so the Shepherd has a problem with wandering sheep? The answer, of course, is logical—build an enclosure. With a simple fence, the sheep won’t be wandering off. The Shepherd won’t have to waste important time chasing lost sheep who knows where. The 99 need not be abandoned for the foolishness of the one who doesn't know his or her place. I mean, there is already a night enclosure; why not a day enclosure as well? No more lost sheep. All’s well that ends well. End of story.
But wait. The Shepherd once recognized every sheep…knew the spots and peculiarities of each sheep. Before, He knew the bleat and baa of each ram, ewe, and lamb. He counted and recounted the sheep…slept among the sheep…played His lyre or flute for the sheep. If the sheep ran off, He knew where they probably were…and went after them until He found them
Not anymore. What happens to the Shepherd now? His real concern now becomes the fence. His work becomes maintaining the fence. The attention is now on the fence…the quality and solidity of the posts…the integrity of the wire…the possibility of holes. Time is spent replacing posts, repairing fencing. Instead of walking among the sheep, the former Shepherd-turned-‘fence tender’ is walking the perimeter, eyes on the fence, back to the sheep. If he’s strolling the outside of the fence, the sheep are just something in his peripheral vision.
So, the Shepherd in Luke 15 never considers a fence. He rescues the lost sheep, returns her to the fold. The next day, He again takes the flock out to the green pastures where He watches them…and watches over them. He gives His sheep the freedom to wander, to roam…and to return. He focuses His life on His sheep…to know them by name…to recognize them from afar. He looks for one lost sheep after another so they can have the freedom of a fence-less life and the joy of knowing their Shepherd. The sheep know their Master’s voice. They go to Him, and He scratches their heads, behind their ears. He pulls out His flute and plays that same simple tune they've grown to know and love. They feel safe with Him. Yes, they place their trust in their Shepherd…not in fences.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are We Born Good or Bad?

Often times in my classes, we begin to discuss those questions that deal with ‘worldview’ and ‘ultimate reality.’  The questions usually begin to surface when I suggest that our perspectives and understandings of the world are built on the foundation of our ‘presuppositions’—those underlying beliefs that we bring to every situation or question.  For instance, we have all have presuppositions about humanity.  I ask my students, “Are people, humans, basically good or basically bad?”

How we answer this question will inform how we deal with others, what we expect of people, how we raise our children, etc.  If I presume humanity to be basically good, then I’m horrified at the Columbines, Auroras, Newtowns and city buses of New Delhi; if I presume humanity to be basically bad, then I’m not terribly surprised by the horrors of humanity (or at least I shouldn’t be!)

But, is there another option?  After we have debated and fleshed out the good or bad perspectives in my classes, I raise a third perspective (presupposition)—humanity is not good or bad; people are born selfish, self-centered.

Anyone who has ever had children will recognize it in a moment.  Children really aren’t morally good or bad until they are old enough to make conscious decisions regarding themselves in relation to others.  BUT, from the moment they are born, they are absolutely self-absorbed, self-centered, selfish.  They want milk…and they want it now.  Then, they want attention.  They want praise.  They want…want…want.  The children don’t just ‘grow out of it’ – just take a three-year-0ld up and down aisles of Toys-R-Us or even just a local grocery stores and you’ll hear it—“But I want….!  Waaaaaaaa!”  I even hear it from teenagers…and, lamentably, from adults as well….

If we were born bad, that would explain some of the horror we see in the world…but not the good we see.  If we were born good,…then the world should certainly be a much better place than it is!  But, if we are born selfish…then, well, that would explain a lot about the world…the good and the bad.

If individuals are selfish, then groups of individuals would develop a “group selfishness”…and we see that as corporations seek market control, political parties push for their party line, as governments push for patriotism and nationalism.  In fact, if we look at many of the problems today—from the small and local to the big and national, we can trace the origins of the problems back to good, old-fashioned selfishness and egoism.

I believe that the Christian Scriptures recognize self-worship and self-importance as the greatest problem with humanity…and call for self-emptying as the highest act of faith.  Jesus taught his followers, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (TNIV).  The very greatest love one can have is to commit a selfless act. Jesus even 'walked the talk'...right up to an agonizing death on the Cross.  If that is the greatest love, then the opposite—the worst thing one can do—is to pursue selfishness.

So, if we ‘buy’ this idea—humanity is first and foremost selfish—what does that mean for us?  It means that before or as we teach our children to be ‘good,’ we have to teach them to think of others, to act on behalf of others, to live for the benefit of others…and not just unto themselves.  It means that as adults we must be willing to set aside the pursuit of our personal gain and recognize that we must help others to achieve and gain as well.  It means that our institutions, companies and corporations must look beyond themselves and the bottom-line profits.  It means that our nation and all the other nations must do more than help themselves.

Are people basically good or basically bad?  No…we are basically selfish, and the great human task is to train the coming generation—and move ourselves—to look beyond ourselves, to think of others.  The life of following Christ is the only way that takes us there.  Through Him, we learn to lay down our He laid down His own.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind;
it is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity….
Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old only by deserting their ideals. 
Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. 
Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair—these are long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.

Whether 70 or 16, there is in every being’s heart the unfailing childlike appetite for…the joy of the game of life. 
You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt;
as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear;
as young as your hope;
as old as your despair. 
So long as your heart receives messages of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What We Do & Who We Are

In a perfect world, what we do and who we are fall into a beautiful alignment. Even in our imperfect world, there are those who find this alignment…some for a season and a few for a lifetime.

My job title is “Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment Analyst.” Seeing my title, you might actually think that I am an analyst. But, you’d be mistaken. You see, in my heart, I am a teacher, an educator. A set of circumstances in the last year moved me into this position, but I’ll save that for another time. Suffice to say, what I do is not in line with who I really am. I don’t love that, but it is what it is.

However, in my position as an analyst, I do have the freedom to teach a course each semester at our college. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment ‘owns’ me for eight hours a day, but before or after those eight hours, I am free to do as I wish. And, thanks to a wonderful English department chair and a constant need for adjunct instructors, I get to teach an evening course each semester.

Now, I could have taken an attitude of “all or nothing”—I want to be a teacher, or I want nothing to do with it. But if I did that, I would miss out on knowing the 18 wonderful students I have this semester, students whose lives I’m entering, with whom I’m sharing my life. I’m teaching them writing…and—hopefully!—a whole lot more. Since I need to work to support my family, I’ll take the analyst job and make the very best of it; since my soul burns to teach and be with students, I’ll take whatever teaching opportunity—large or small—that comes my way.

I have a feeling that this same disjunction happens in the life of faith. What we do and who we are spiritually often doesn’t line up either. So many followers of Jesus want to spend their lives in service to God…but there’s work at banks, firms, restaurants, etc. Many, I’m sure, would enjoy spending day after day losing themselves in Scripture, song, or prayer…would prefer to be far away in a distant land sharing the faith through friendships…would rather be constructing a house of worship or training young Christian leaders. But, what they do and who they are just don’t line up.

What to do? The same thing I do—take every opportunity large and small that comes along to live that life of faith. If there is a mission trip, jump on it! If there is a project in the community, latch onto it. If there is a chance to spend 20 minutes in Scripture, song, or prayer, enjoy those 20 minutes. If there is a short-term trip to a distant land, save your money and take the trip. If there is a mission team going to build a church or going to help train and encourage new Christian leaders, go for it! Don’t “wait for retirement.” And for goodness sakes, don’t take an attitude of “all or nothing.”

Yes, I wish that my work and my passion were better aligned, but they’re not…for now. Just another reminder that we live in a ‘broken world.’ But, I don’t have to let that ‘brokenness’ break me. I will do the work I have to do in order to be the provider I must be as a husband and father. But, I will also keep my eye on the dream…I’ll keep the passion alive…and work in that direction. And, every time I get a chance to take a step towards my true self, my passion, my faith, I’ll take it…and enjoy it…and make it count. We aren’t what we do—we are who we are…with the call and passions that God has placed in us.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ever Changing…Yet Unchanging

Yes, there is something rather contradictory about such a title, but I have come to find this seeming paradox quite true.  In our culture at large, we come to value the unchanging, the steady, the constant.  I have heard someone say of another, “Oh, Mr. So-in-So…he is as steady as they come; you count on him like you can the sunrise.”  That’s a pretty high complement…one I’ve often wished to overhear being said about me…but probably never will.  That’s because I’m not in the ‘steady’ or ‘constant’ crowd.  I’m more likely to hear something like, “Oh, Jon…there he goes again…so fickle...chasing another dream….”

I am a human…alive...and that means change.  Yet, in the midst of change, there ARE some constants.  For example, one unchanging aspect of my life is the love I have for my wife.  But, how I EXPRESS that love is ever changing.  At times, this love is expressed in a very physical way, through a closeness that I experience with no one else in this world.  At other times, this love is expressed through a glance, a quick look filled with meaning and depth that brings a subtle smile.  We have “off” days, bad days.  On those days, my love for her may be expressed by silence…by saying nothing…by taking three hours at the local library or coffee shop to give her (or me) needed space.  Yet, underneath the surface of multifaceted expression, the love remains…unchanging. 

Another unchanging aspect of my life is my faith in God.  As with my love for my wife, my faith in God is expressed in many different ways.  On Sunday mornings, I gather with ‘Jesus people’ in a large group where I sing loudly and passionately…where I sway a bit to the music…where I join in group study and reflection on the Christian Scriptures.  During the week, I don’t do those things too much.  (I think my office mates are glad I don’t.  I believe if I did that, I’d probably be fired.)  So, my faith—though unchanging—will be lived out and expressed in different ways depending on the situation, the context.  Some days I identify with the 1st Century Christians as I read the letters of Paul to those early groups of ‘Jesus people.’  Some days, I identify with the Desert Fathers of the 3rd Century…or with the Celtic Christians of the 6th Century…with the Reformers of the 16th Century…then with the new ‘radicals’ of the 21st Century.  At times my faith has me focused on our Creator God…at times on God the Son…and at other times on the Spirit of God.  I’m all over the place—in my expression, identifications, and foci.  But, the underlying faith is unchanging.

One of the tenets of the Christian faith is the unchanging God, yet God is always changing.  In Scripture, we find God changing His mind, changing His plans—just read the powerful, emotion-packed interchanges between God and Moses…or read through the Psalms.  Then, 2000 years ago, God changed—God experienced something that He had never before experienced.  The Creator became creation; God became human. (Think of it this way:  The man who makes the oak rocking chairs somehow becomes one of those rocking chairs—that is almost mind-blowing!)  Yet, our God is unchanging as well—forever Creator and Sustainer of all things; forever Author of love and of our salvation; forever Emmanuel—God with us.  But, how God interacts with us may change and does change.  How God reveals Himself to us may vary from day to day, and certainly from culture to culture—He meets us through a song, in a reading, in a sunset, in a stranger, in silence.  So, WHO God is never changes.  God is “the same yesterday, today and forever.”

And me?  I’ll still chase dreams.  I’ll have my ups and downs.  But, below the multiple layers of expression and the swirl of human emotions, yes—I find a solid, unchanging core…and that unchanging aspect—I must believe—is directly related to my faith in and the presence of the Unchanging One.  I’m ever changing…yet unchanging.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Still Constructing “Babel”

The story of the “Tower of Babel” is well stamped in my mind.  When I was a child, my parents gave me The Children’s Living Bible…a delightful rendering of the Scriptures, complete with full color, impressionistic-sort-of illustrations.  As a child, I didn’t pay much attention to the sermons from the pulpit—I looked through my Bible at the illustrations, wondering what life would have been like in that Biblical world.  The Tower of Babel was right there…one of the first two or three pages of illustrations—a tall ziggurat, climbing into the clouds…abandoned.

As I got older, I actually read the story from Scripture…how in the early days of humanity, men and women came together to construct a tower to reach the heavens…to reach God.  This is when God ‘confused their tongues’—created languages.  The project screeched to a halt…and humanity divvied up and went their way, everyone according to their own language groups.  The Tower was stopped and humanity never reached God.

Many years later, I realize that we are still striving to build that tower.  Babel is a human construct—a way of putting things—reality—together in our own way.  The tower is our insistence on doing things our way, on creating our own world, of making our own way to God…of reaching the heavens.  The Tower of Babel is about living in a human-made reality in place of the God-made reality. The Tower is about living in our own creation rather than in God's creation. We insist on living in a world of our own making. 

Our creations are supposed to be steps forward as we reach for the heavens.  Our human technology has produced a plethora of ‘labor-saving devices'.  But, there’s a problem—with all of these labor-saving devices, we should be the best-rested creatures on the planet, but what we find are the ‘tiredest,’ longest-working, least-vacationing people in the world.  We work and work to build this grand Tower, to create our ‘amazing’ reality…but we are no closer to God or the heavens than were the mono-lingual people of the young earth.

Likewise, we’re trying to build our own forms of community—virtual ones.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—I’m a part of them all.  Yet, they all leave me wanting.  In the end, I feel that all that happens in these ‘communities’ IS babble.  I have two Facebook accounts—one for our ‘missions’ side…and then a personal one for ‘Jon.’  I find that I have two personas—or at least I did until today.  Finally, I’ve come to realize that those FB accounts were places where I tried to create a comfortable reality, where I made my own realities that were convenient to my own ends or to the perceived expectations of my readers.  What’s missing here in all this paragraph??  God.  I was wrapped up in my own reality rather than living in God’s reality.

This immersion in our self-created worlds is part of our difficulty in connecting with our Creator.  So, how do we escape this massive human construction project?  How do we connect with our Creator?  In some way, to come degree, we have to walk away from the Tower.  Some how, we have got to move towards God’s reality, God’s creation, God’s rhythms.  Perhaps that is what Paul means when he writes about “walking in the Spirit”.  Perhaps that is why Jesus was off in the ‘wilderness’ to pray and spend time with the Father.  Perhaps that is why we find so many of the “leaders” in the Scripture out in God’s reality—creation—to recharge their batteries, to commune with God.  Babel may be under construction again, but we don’t have to join the project.  Perhaps today is the day to lay down the hammer…and seek a living God in His living Creation in community with living people. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

What I'm Reading....

Reading, reading, reading!  Can't stop...won't stop--got to keep learning and keep the mind active.
My present intellectual diet:

Under the Unpredictable Plant - Eugene Peterson
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast of the 21st Century - George Friedman
Brother Roger of Taize: Essential Writings
Experiences in Translation - Umberto Eco

I hope that you are reading also.  If you've found a really good book, share the title with us in the comments below.

Hoping you all are off to a good New Year!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all!  I hope that you are as happy to see this year beginning as I am.  2012 was a pretty good year…but this year will be even better!

I wish you and yours the very best in the days, weeks, and months to come.  May we live well, live to the full, and live lives that impact others.

More to come…!

Feliz año!!  Espero que también estás muy contento ver el inicio de este año como yo.  El año 2012 fue bueno…pero este año será aun mejor!

Les deseo lo mejor por los días, semanas y meses por venir.  Que vivemos bien, que vivemos con abundancia, y que vivemos en una manera para impactar las vidas de la gente alrededor.

Hasta pronto…!