Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ask, seek, knock

"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously desired and constantly desired joy will ever miss it. Those who seek it find. To those who knock it is opened."
~C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce (1946)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Praying for fruit

Galatians 5:22-23 (New International Version)

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

So this morning I was having my regular TAWG (Time Alone With God) and I was praying for some people I'm concerned for and it occurs to me... (perhaps God planted this thought, that's what my charismatic, evangelical, and pentecostal brothers and sisters would say and I tend to agree with them) anyway it occurred to me that what these people needed was what the Holy Spirit nurtures in people, they needed the fruit of the spirit.

So think about it some, meditate on it if you want to, pray about it, ask and consider using Gal 5:22-23 to pray. In the case of the people I had on my mind, they're in a relationship that tends to be full of tension. So, without using names and hopefully not revealing too much about the kind of relationship they have, allow me to pray for them again right here at this computer keyboard, so that you can see an example of how this kind of a prayer might work-

Dear Lord,

Please grant and increase love between these two- genuine selfless, sacrificial, generous love so that they will each seek the well being of the other rather than seeking how they can use the other.

Father God, grant them each joy. Joy in you, joy in living, and right now, especially joy in each other, so that they would each be glad to be with the other and find rest and renewal from each other's very presence.

Lord grant them both peace, there just seems to be so much pain and frustration and competing interests and sometimes defensiveness and hostility. Replace all of that with calm and security and rest and even harmony.

Help them to be patient with each other

Help them be kind to one another, rather than wanting to "win" battles or score points or gain leverage.

Help them want to be good to each other

Help them to remain faithful and loyal to each other, faithful to You and Your will and Word, and faithful to who You created each of them to be.

Help them to be with each other, they've both been through so much, they're each so fragile and wounded, help each of them to treat each other as they themselves need to be treated.

and grant each of them self-control, so that each can protect the other from themselves, so that they don't pull up the kitchen sink so to speak, that they have the reason, wisdom and presence of mind to keep from lashing out, but instead to keep their cool.

In Jesus' most precious Name, Amen.

Of course, you can modify it to apply to whatever individual or whichever pairs or groups as will work for whomever you're praying for. If/when I get a chance, I'd like to write some more about this this or next week. Till then, be fruitful!

Me ka pule,

"Fruitcakes in the kitchen (fruitcakes in the kitchen)
Fruitcakes on the street (fruitcakes on the street)
Struttin naked through the crosswalk
In the middle of the week
Half-baked cookies in the oven (cookies in the oven)
Half-baked people on the bus (people on the bus)
Theres a little bit of fruitcake left in everyone of us

...Stay in touch with my insanity really is the only way
Its a jungle out there kiddies
Have a very fruitful day." ~Jimmy Buffett

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Means or the Ends?

"About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but failing that, as a means to anything- even social justice."
~His Abysmal Sublimity Undersecretary
(demon supervisor) Screwtape, T.E., B.S., etc.

(from 'the Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, 1959

I thought this was a fascinating excerpt. One extreme in theology is the fundamentalist who thinks they alone have the absolute true interpretation of God's Word, the other is the liberal who gets so bogged down in historical-critical analysis that he not only loses the meat of God's message, but imagines that anyone's subjective interpretation is valid. Both fail by putting human interpretation before Divine revelation. One extreme in temporal and civil concerns (politics) is to put too much power in the hands of a select leader, party, ideology or cast at the expense of the rights and liberties of the masses- usually in an effort to protect the privileges and liberties of those holding power. The other extreme is to legislate and litigate the rights and needs of the masses to the point of eroding many of the liberties and privileges of the individual.

In this chapter of his famous satire, Lewis has Screwtape go on to explain to his nephew (a junior tempter) that Hell would want the human to fall in love with social justice first and Jesus second, so that Christianity is nothing more than a means for advancing the end of social justice. True enough, we liberals and progressives need to be careful not to miss the real Jesus by making civil rights or social justice our god. But likewise, I've often seen Christians fall prey to worshiping the pro-life movement, traditional marriage, family values, creationism, and conservativism and utilizing Christianity as a means to advancing the political, philosophical or social ends.

Both Republicans and Democrats need to be careful that we don't make Jesus into either a CEO, director, manager, coach OR some kind of prophet, protester, leader, status quo breaker, or example setter. He is SO much more than either false perceptions. He wants to be our Father and brother and most importantly our savior, the ultimate and final sacrifice for our sins. Yet at the same time, being mindful not to prevent Him from also being all those other things in addition.

What I think C.S. Lewis is warning us against is abusing our Christianity as leverage to get other things that we want more than a relationship with Jesus. We ALL have to guard against using "religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon."

Look it up

"Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age...

...I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11). The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness." ~BHO Inaugural address Jan 20, 2009

In other words, it's time to stop being selfish and short sighted and "Man-up," put on our "big-boy pants" and start looking out for our common best interest, not our personal comfort. High time. I say to this Amen.

Pray this too

Yesterday there were already conservative bloggers who were criticizing this blessing because they imagined that it slighted whites. I think that anyone who thinks that is either looking for something to try to criticize, is REALLY hypersensitive, or totally insensitive to America's collective sin of slavery and racism.

Mind you, pastor Joseph Lowery's style was much more poetic that Rick Warren's. If you're not familiar with the cadence of many black preachers, it may feel a little foreign for you, but just like Warren's invocation, I believe that these are powerful words that we as Christians would do well to pray for our new president and his administration.

So once again, as you read these words, pray them.

Rev. Lowery Inauguration benediction. Transcript.
Tuesday January 20, 2009
Transcript courtesy Federal News Service

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you're able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed -- the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.


REV. LOWERY: Say amen --


REV. LOWERY: -- and amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pray for our new President

There was a lot of controversy when President Obama asked Evangelical writer/pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration because Warren had opposed the legalization of gay marriage in California. As I understand it, Warren and LGBT activist Melissa Etheridge ironed out some of their differences (focusing on Matthew 22:35-40 and Jesus commandment to love thy neighbor). Whether you lean far to the left and aren't crazy about Warren or whether you lean way to the right and aren't crazy about Obama- I think that Warren's invocation was remarkable. Frankly I found it every bit as powerful as the new president's address.

Paul called on us to pray for our leaders in his letter to Timothy a young pastor-

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:1-4 NIV)
With that in mind, regardless of whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, black or white, gay or straight- if you are a believer, please pray this as you read it, because we as a nation and President Obama need this prayer-

Text: Pastor Rick Warren, Inauguration Invocation | January 20, 2009
(Source: Christianity Today)

Let us pray.

Almighty God, our Father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory.

History is your story. The Scripture tells us, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One.” And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now, today, we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hingepoint of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.Give to our new President, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you. We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Prophet, Priest, and Martin Luther King

A Prophet- is one who speaks for God to the people, sometimes it's inspirational or encouraging, other times it's an admonishment, meant to bring contrition and repentance. Always it brings wisdom and insight for our time.

That was Martin, a writer, a speaker, a pundit and political activist.

A Priest- is an advocate and and intercessor on behalf of the people to God. They counsel, they represent us like a defense attorney before God who requires justice. The ancient priests presented the animal sacrifice and the offerings, since Jesus fulfills any and all sacrifice or penitence, we now as a "priesthood of all believers" ( 1 Peter 2:5-9) pray for others and ask God to help others.

That was Martin, a pastor, a theologian, a community organizer, a spiritual leader

Was MLK kind of a Pirate?- Insofar as he broke with tradition and convention. Insofar as he broke unjust laws and stood against the establishment and entrenched and corrupt institutions. Moses, a prince of Egypt, demanded an end to slavery. Jesus exposed the hypocrisies of the religious and political leaders of His time. Martin Luther stood against the corruption, political power and arrogance of the church of the Renaissance. And Martin Luther King Jr. followed suite, using love, logic and nonviolence to resist the passionate anger and ignorance of American Apartheid. A rogues' gallery of pirates, for sure.

Americans tend to think of Kings as figureheads or tyrants, but the Biblical model of a godly King is someone who leads by example and executes God's plans. Someone who is willing to be God's hands and feet, ministering and protecting, shepherding and watching over- all the while walking a walk that others ought to follow. Barack Obama is encouraging Americans to emulate Dr. King's example by volunteering to serve others today, helping the poor and the oppressed. And Dr. King was only emulating Jesus' example, of feeding the hungry, offering drink to the thirsty, healing and comforting the sick, visiting the prisoners, caring for the widows the orphans and the aliens.

This Martin Luther King Day, we can all participate in his dream and make his dream live on, by reaching out to those who are different from us, by not being afraid of them or feeling threatened by them, by seeking to understand them and to share ourselves with them. Maybe it's reaching across gender lines, political party, or socio-economic lines, maybe it's sexual preference or identity, maybe it's nationality or culture, maybe it's race. We should find out how we are alike and try to (as Jesus taught) treat them as we would like to be treated.

But we can also fulfill the dream by, like Dr. King tried to, emulating Jesus' example and fulfill the destiny He gave us by dying for us, by His resurrection, and by sending us His Holy Spirit- to be His sons and daughters, so join Him in His ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) by each of us being Prophets, Priests, and Kings & Queens- and Pirates, when necessary!

Painting by Br. Robert Lentz, a religious icon painter. He comes from a Russian Orthodox background and is now a Franciscan friar who serves at All Saints Church in Houston, Texas. In addition to his painting and clerical work, he writes and teaches on art and spirituality across the country.

Friday, January 16, 2009

God's Politics: A Blog by Jim Wallis

God's Politics: A Blog by Jim Wallis

Racial Reconciliation: A Necessary Conversion

by Lynne Hybels 01-15-2009

In 2001, my husband Bill was jolted out of racial complacency. Through books he read and conversations he had with African-American pastors, he was broken by the reality of ongoing racial injustice in the U.S. He describes it as having a kind of “second conversion,” where the scales fell off his eyes and he suddenly saw with horrible clarity of something that broke the heart of God and ought to break his heart...

...He read the works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and became outspoken about racial reconciliation and our need to intentionally pursue greater racial diversity in our church...

...In fact, the church leadership team decided to “institute” the value of racial reconciliation by dedicating an entire weekend service each January to the values taught by Dr. King....

...our congregation is no longer the white suburban church it used to be. The racial diversity of our congregation now reflects the increasingly diverse demographic of our community, and we are experiencing both the challenges and the blessings that always accompany a journey closer to the heart of God.

Read the entire article on God's Politics

Friday, January 09, 2009

A corollary to yesterday's post about political bedfellows

George W. Bush Bush dumped $848,000 worth of Harken Energy stock back in 1990, two months before the company announced a $23.2 million loss; he was 34 weeks late in filing a form the Securities and Exchange Commission required to record the sale... According to Time Magazine, "...Harken concealed losses by selling most of a subsidiary to an off-the-books entity controlled by company insiders. Bush was on the audit committee, which, at least in theory, approved the deal. It's the same tactic used by Enron—on a massive, more pernicious scale..."

Time reported in the same issue that "Halliburton, while Cheney was CEO, greased the books to boost the firm's flagging fortunes." Creative accounting.

Dennis Kozolowski, Ken Lay, Merrill Lynch, Enron, Andersen, Halliburton, Adelphia, R.J. Reynolds, Tyco, Bristol-Meyers, Global Crossing, the list goes on and on of individuals and corporations involved in abuse and corruption during early part of Bush's FIRST term. It's as if there was no S.E.C. no accountability or transparency or ethics of any kind in business, finance, and government.

The Bush years were a new gilded age or cancer-stage capitalism. A culture of corruption flourished.

Is it any wonder that we're now dealing with the likes of Bernard L. Madoff, Goldman Sacs, Lehman Brothers, the entire mortgage-based-securities, and auto executives flying in on private jets to ask Congress for bailouts?

Obscene greed. Yet Conservative Christians only get worked up about abortion and gay marriage. When I wrote columns scrutinizing John McCain's connection to the "Keating 5" and the S&L bailout scandal of the 1980's and how his role in deregulation of the financial sector may have helped lead to our current meltdown I was raked over the coals as some kind of unpatriotic, America-hating, abortion promoting liberal.

Transparency and accountability, and a whole lot of self-discipline is what America needs now.
Time for Relief, Recovery, and a whole lot of REFORM.

But what do I know? People have labeled me a "liberal" and now I have to wear that label like a scarlet letter.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

If you lie down with dogs, you pick up fleas

I am an idiosyncratic person and I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time defending my political opinions from those who think I should fit in a box (preferably their box). Liberals (which are not bad) think that I am too conservative. Conservatives (also not necessarily a bad thing to be, if you genuinely are and don't just identify yourself as that) obviously think that I am way to "liberal" (especially if they're at all religious) although more often than not, those who identify themselves as "conservative" wouldn't know a REAL liberal if one bit them.

Comedian Mort Sahl once said that if you "maintain a consistent political position for too long in this country, you'll eventually be tried for treason."

Kurt Vonnegut once noted that "Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative."

I want people to know that while yes, I'm a registered Democrat, and yes, I voted for Barack Obama and intend to give him a chance because I believe he is both more intelligent and more empathetic than George Bush, I am who I am, an independent thinker, responsible practitioner of representative democracy, and a deeply devout disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of the one and only living God, but I am not any kind of ideologue and I resent being labeled and compartmentalized almost more than I resent being pressured to conform to anyone's box.

So, as someone who- believe it or not-is fairly conservative on many issues and a deeply committed Christian, may I present the following cartoon critique of the Republican coalition:

This cartoon is how I see the Republican Party. Not all Republicans themselves, mind you. Many of my closest friends and best loved relatives are Republicans, and they are basically very good people with pure hearts and the very best intentions. But let's face it- as the cartoon points out, those religious and social conservatives are "in bed" with corrupt corporatism, and plenty of other unsavory characters.

Friends, readers, neighbors, and relations- if you are passionately identifying yourself with the Republican party or if you are zealously judgmental, intolerant or even just over enthusiastically skeptical of Democrats, Progressives, and Liberals of any stripe- beware. The conservative movement, Right-wing talk radio, and a few false prophets on TV want to continue to use wedge issues to make you think that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Think for yourselves instead. Evaluate policies, projects, proposals and people individually on a pragmatic, case-by-case basis. Be skeptical. The Republican Party likes to "use religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon."

Hey, I believe in a balanced budget and reducing deficits and the debt. I believe in protecting American industry and American jobs. I love Jesus and attend church every week, I don't condone drugs or promiscuity. You'd THINK that that would make me a "conservative." But I believe in the little guy and the small town, the mom and pop business, and the family farm. I believe in oversight and accountability (AKA regulation) and it seems that in this day and age, at least in the area that I live in, I'm considered a "LIBERAL Democrat." As if that were some great sin.

I don't believe in abortion- makes me conservative, but I recognize that rape, incest and life threatening complications ought to be exceptions to any prohibition of abortion. Besides, human nature being what it is in a sinful world, people will still seek abortions if they were outlawed, and the idea of going back to a time of coat hanger abortions makes me cringe. So I can life with permitting clean, safe, legal abortions in the first trimester. For some people that makes me an unforgivable godless liberal monster.

Interpreting the Constitution in such a way that "reproductive rights" and more importantly, a right to privacy is implicit may not be "strict construction," but by most definitions, Washington, Jefferson, and even more so Lincoln were liberal.

I believe that by definition, marriage involves one man and one woman. You can call a coup a sedan, but it still only has two doors. This makes me conservative, some would even call me a bigot. On the other hand, I believe that constitutionally, we cannot deny anyone equal rights and opportunities under the law. If two consenting adults have been living in a monogamous, committed relationship, we cannot legally and should not deny them insurance benefits, tax status and spousal rights. That, no doubt makes me a "flaming" liberal.

Sorry, but neither my marriage or my faith are in the least bit threatened by permitting homosexuals their civil rights. Frankly, that's a VERY "strict" interpretation of the Constitution and while people may thing it opens up the door for a more permissive society, it is actually a very conservative approach to civil matters.

So think about it. Do we really put "Country First," before our party or political affiliation? Do we put God first and Country second? Can we be bi-partisan? Can we live in a post-partisan time?

Maybe I'm not being fair to the Bush or the GOP, but watch and listen over the next few months- how fair is FOX and O'Rielly and Limbaugh to the Dems or Obama?

Is it eye-for-an-eye? Or Turn the other cheek?

My Jesus speaks to us in Matthew 5 in a sermon on the mount, not from pamphlets and voter guides or from a microphone on TV or talk radio. He speaks of love, forgiveness, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control- not anger, exclusion, rendition, deportation, shock and awe, retaliation, illegal surveillance and controlling others.

Maybe I'm wrong, and you're entitled to think so, but aren't I entitled to be wrong too?

Think about it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Interesting "verse of the day" from Sojourners

"As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?"

- Ezekiel 34:17-19

Says a lot to me about social responsibility, relationships, community, and even environmental stewardship. Like God's telling us, "be grateful for what I provide for you, and while you're at it, don't ruin it for everybody else, will ya?!"

Saturday, January 03, 2009

We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
~Martin Luther King Jr.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Gospel (actually Law) According to Dilbert

Recently, I've been reading a profound piece of theology, "The Dilbert Future" by cartoonist Scott Adams. Why does he see the future as bleak at best?

Immutable Laws of Human Nature
  • Stupidity
  • Selfishness
  • Horniness
Those are the things that will never change, no matter what else does. People don't change their basic nature, they just accumulate more stuff upon which they can apply their stupidity, selfishness, and horniness. From this perspective, the future isn't hard to predict.

This may sound either cynical or smart-alecky, but let's face it, this is what theologians call "original sin," and this is why we all need Jesus, because no matter who we are, where we come from or how good we try to be, we all suck.