Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wanna online Bible Study?

For my birthday, my girls got me 'The One Year New Testament for Busy Dads: New Living Translation (NLT)'

It's been a handy way to get back in the habit of spending time with God. Before we had kids, even when we just had one I could read some Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, New Testament and some Christian author or devotion and spend all kinds of luxurious time in prayer or meditation. Now a days it's harder to set aside time like that. This One Year NT is perfect, night or morning and then I try to set aside either shaving & shower time for prayer and save NPR news for the drive to work.

Every so I get a chance to comment on that I read that day on GoodReads:

Whether you're reading the One Year New Testament, the One Year Bible, or any other Bible, feel free to leave your comments there on GoodReads too. Let's share. Iron sharpens iron.

Here's today's example:

The editors had challenge questions asking who we say Jesus is (based on Lk 9:18-20) but what struck me most this morning was 9:25, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?"

Respect, prestige, accomplishment, achievement, money, toys, a big house ,a big SUV? Authority, control, weight loss, sex? What good does it do to get your way or to get what you want, but lose your soul. To loose sight of whose you are? To have your identity tied to what you do or what you have or what you've done instead of who loves you.

It would be easy to sound smug about this, but this is a hard verse for everyone, myself included. It seems simple, but it certainly isn't easy.
GoodReads is an amazing website where you can share and talk about all kinds of books, post your own writing and see quotes and trivia quizzes too. You can also join or create reading groups like a book club (or a Bible Study group) only online instead of in somebody's living room.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Talking to God

As sometimes happens, the morning was hurried and harried. We discovered that our oldest had a math worksheet which she'd forgotten till Monday morning. We instructed her to complete her homework before leaving for the bus and we each somehow managed to get out the door and to our vehicles on our ways to work.

I had our youngest and loaded her in the passenger side of my pickup to shuttle her to the babysitter.

"Daddy, you know your struck is stinky?"
"Oh, sorry honey," I acknowledged her as I fiddled with the little bag of vanilla hanging from the rear view mirror.
"Daddy, I'm thinking about a nice new truck with a back for us kids," she told me. When I pick up all three girls from the babysitter's it can be a little crammed in the cab of my 1995 Chevy S-10.
"Yeah, well, you're gonna have to talk to Jesus about that one, 'cause I can't afford one," I told her, using a perhaps more cynicism and sarcasm than necessary, especially for a four year old.
"Okay," she said, and proceeded to bow her head and whisper a private prayer.
Isn't that cute, I thought to myself, not expecting any more to come of it.
"He says not right now," she explained to me not long after she'd begun.

Well, hmmm, okay, that figures. Many's a pastor and Bible teacher who's told us that God's answers to prayers are usually yes, no, or not yet. The sinful, selfish part of me thought, well, hmmm, does that mean maybe that's a possibility off on the horizon? Thanks God, I didn't even figure it was worth asking about in the first place. Of course, the skeptical adult in me figured maybe she just has an active imagination. But the believer in me knows that God loves children and listens to all our prayers.

Perhaps in their tender youth, unjaded by the weight of life, they are more sensitive to His answers to prayer. I decided to "strike while the iron was hot" and take advantage of her leverage with the Lord.

"You know, maybe you should ask Jesus to help your big sister Gracie to do better in school," I suggested.
"Okay," she said and went right to work. A beautiful thing. We adults tend to tell people that we'll pray for them and then tuck it away as a mental memo that we hope to remember in the evening, the next morning or eventually on Sunday, whenever we finally get around to it. But at four, Annamarie gets right to interceding in prayer as soon as the request is made.
"He said YES to THAT one!" came the immediate answer.

Lord, give me the faith of a child. And thank You for our prayer-warrior baby girl. And DO, please help both her big sisters to do well in school and help us to help them.

In Jesus name, Amen


"Look up, not down- Look out, not in- Look forward, not backward-
and lend a hand." ~Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rush to judgement

What's wrong with Rush Limbaugh? How about James Chapter 3.

He's been involved with under-aged prostitutes on sex tours in the Caribbean, and of course the illegal procurement of prescription pain killers he's addicted to. For me, that disqualifies him from being the voice of the religious-right and "traditional values," morality etc.

He's a businessman, he gets people riled and emotional about issues to boost his own ratings to make money. He's entertaining and opinionated- nothing wrong with either of those, but people confuse him with a legitimate, objective news source. That can be misleading.

Ah, then there's whether he has the best interest of the nation in mind, or his own; Back during the primaries he organized listeners to re-register as Democrats and vote for Clinton and protest Obama rallies in hopes that she would be the Democratic nominee because he reasoned that she would be easier to beat than Obam in the general election. Sounds a lot like voter fraud to me.

Then there was the time he played the "Barrack the Magic Negro" song on his show. Racism? I'm just reporting, YOU decide.

The latest fiasco was when he said to a group of Republicans that he was wishing Obama failed. I'll stipulate that what he meant was that he opposed many of the President's positions and policies, and that it's natural for a partisan to want voters to have cause to choose their candidates in the next election- but the broad interpretation of much of the general public was that he rooting for things to get worse. Millions losing their homes and jobs and he hopes WE as a country (although he named Obama) fail?

When the Chairman of the RNC, Micheal Steele (an African American) denounced Rush's comments, reminding people that he, not Limbaugh is the genuine leader of the Republican party (silly man, why would he assume such a thing? Because it's his office?). He said that Rush's show is often an "incendiary" and even "ugly" form of entertainment.

The very next day, under pressure from party leaders he withdrew his comments and apologized to Rush. Smooch, smooch.

Now, I know I'm "liberal" and therefore biased. And I know that it's up to God to judge, I have no real right to because I'm chief among sinners. But if you asked me what I thought was wrong with Rush, I'd probably say that he exhibits AND promotes "hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Galatians 5:20)."

But this is just my opinion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The mess we're in

"Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages; who says, "I will build myself a spacious house with large upper rooms," and who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar, and painting it with vermilion. Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord."

- Jeremiah 22:13-16

Yeah, that's in the Bible, THE Bible. Yeah. Conspicuous consumption, giant McMansions and huge SUV's. Not necessarily WWJD when you think about it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No line on the horizon, full of grace

I really like U2's new album, even though it seems like all the pop radio morning drive time DJs think that it's not as BIG of a hit as their past work. Maybe that's okay, maybe U2 has mellowed with age and so have I. Whatever. I think it's great, and here's at least one positive review:

U2’s Sacred Pilgrimage: ‘I Found Grace, It’s All That I Found’

by Cathleen Falsani 03-06-2009

As he has for years, but not as explicitly so since 1991’s “Achtung Baby,” Bono, the band’s chief lyricist, has laced No Line on the Horizon with the language and images of his humble Christian faith.

The result, however, is a work of gospel music — “gospel” in its literal sense as “good news” — for people of all faiths and none. The ecstatic language and imagery Bono evokes throughout could have been penned by the Hebrew King David or Sufi Muslim poets Rumi or Hafez, as much as by a latter-day Christ-follower from Dublin.

One of the most eloquent examples is “Moment of Surrender,” which says in part:

My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back
Begging to get back to my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

Read the entire article at SOJO.net

Sample some of my writing

Here is a collection of things I've written that I've posted on http://www.goodreads.com
GoodReads is a sort of a social networking sight for readers. You can write book reviews, join reading groups and discuss your favorite authors. I really recommend it to anyone who loves reading or writing.

Max Nix (Poetry)
description: Years and years of bad free-flow-of-consciousness poetry. No meter, no rhyme, no reason.

These are drippings from as long ago as twenty years ago and as recent as days ago. I don't claim to be a very good poet, but sometimes words can do what even drawing, painting, and photography can't. Here is my humble offering. Maybe you can relate to some of them.

chapter 1: Where am I going? (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 2: Your escape (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 3: My Grandpa's Farm (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 4: 3,000 feet over Prescott (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 5: Loveland (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 6: Being told to shut-up (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 7: Metapoem (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 8: Who I see in you (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 9: Potter to the pot about the wheel (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 10: Grey hair (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 11: Run aground (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 12: Unrealistic expectations (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 13: The last day of November, 1993 (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 14: Tell zombies goodbye (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 15: I wish I had known you (added 03/12/09 )
chapter 16: False start (added 03/12/09 )

Pappa Bear (Sports)
description: How a nonathletic, middle-aged, heterosexual male became a middle school/high school cheerleading coach and the lessons it taught him about life, teamwork, confidence and fatherhood.

Once upon a time I thought about using a blog as a jumping off point for eventually writing a book about being a male cheer coach. Never have seemed to find the time or the self-discipline. But at least one journalist told me that they thought I'd make a good feature story because there are so few male cheer coaches and that maybe I should consider writing a book about it someday. Not much to it yet, but here's a start.
You can see pictures of my squads at http://www.cheercoach.blogspot.com

chapter 1: I was a teenage werewolf (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 2: Don't look down (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 3: Thanks, I needed that (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 4: Loud and Proud (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 5: Purpose Driven Cheerleading (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 6: A funny thing happened on the way to the game (added 03/11/09 )

Ted's Column (Humor)
description: Self effacing humor and common sense from the pages of a small town newspaper.

'Ted's Column' has appeared weekly in the Charter Oak-Ute NEWSpaper since 2002, and then in the Schleswig Leader and the Mapleton PRESS, a regional paper serving several communities in western Iowa.

I wrote about all sorts of things but always tried to infuse the column with humor. My motto was "Sex, Politics, and Religion; not necessarily in that order."

I went on an indefinite hiatus late in 2008, but continue blogging right here!

chapter 1: What the snow-blower taught me. (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 2: Murphy's Law & Order (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 3: The existential angst of an ameture editorial cartoonist (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 4: The first Thanksgiving football game (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 5: Labor Day is a lot of work (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 6: Corny Concerto (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 7: Obscure holiday leaving you a basket case? (added 03/12/09 )

Me ka pule; Pirate prayers and prophecies (Religion & Spirituality)
description: Bible studies, devotions, prayers, and essays on God, faith and spirituality. A former church youth counselor and Bible study leader writes about how God can become real in your everyday life. You can read more religious commentary, at http://malloryprayer.blogspot.com

chapter 1: Fruit of the Spirit; You reap what you sow (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 2: Fruit of the Spirit: Pray for good fruit (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 3: Fruit of the Spirit: Bad fruit and sour grapes (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 4: Fruit of the Spirit; Don't be a scurvey dog (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 5: Fruit of the Spirit; Praise and criticism (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 6: Armor of God; Lighter is stronger, alloy composites (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 7: Armor of God; Spiritual warfare (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 8: Armor of God; Belt of truth (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 9: Armor of God; Breastplate of Righteousness (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 10: Armor of God; Shoes of readiness to share the Gospel of Peace (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 11: Armor of God; The Sheild of Faith (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 12: Beattitudes; Peace Out! (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 13: Beattitudes; Are you salty & luminous? (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 14: Beatittudes; Revolutionary (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 15: Beattitudes; 8 ways to be blessed (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 16: Lord’s Prayer; In our own words (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 17: Lord's Prayer; Praying the Lord's Prayer for someone else (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 18: Prayer of Jabez; Bless us indeed (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 19: Prayer of Jabez; How to Bless Your Neighbors Through Prayer (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 20: Prayer of Jabez; Enlarge my territory (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 21: Prayer of Jabez ; that your hand would be with me (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 22: Prayer of Jabez ; keep me from evil (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 23: Fruit of the spirit; True Love (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 24: Fruit of the Spirit; Joy (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 25: So, what does God want from me anyway? (added 03/13/09 )
chapter 26: Why I'm a priest but not a pastor (added 03/13/09 )

Politics & Religion (Religion & Spirituality)
description: Thomas Jefferson once said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." I feel like Christianity has been Shanghaied by people who say they love Jesus, but act more like disciples of Machiavelli.

So, like Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door in order to incite critical thinking and provoke discussion and debate about the hypocrisies of the church in his time- I started posting things here that may challenge Christians to question their motivations and positions on things in our society and politics.

I don't mean to undermine anyone's faith or to promote heresy, but when I read Jesus' Words, especially in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, I see something radically different than what televangelists, radio prophets and Republican politicians espousing. Scurvy, bilge-sucking, sons of biscuit-eaters!

This all makes me feel like a mutant, a freak, and an outcast. Conservative Christians fear for my eternal salvation whereas secular liberals see me as part of the problem and not the solution. So in the so-called "culture wars" I'm caught in the cross-fire because I think that both sides are wrong and neither side wants to hear it.

Most of these were either columns or posts on this blog, but you can read my prayers, devotions, and religions rants on http://malloryprayer.blogspot.com

chapter 1: What the Fourth is for (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 2: Middle East untangled (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 3: History repeating (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 4: Why Republicans should be proud to be liberal (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 5: Be thankful you didn't live in the past (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 6: Pastor Marty (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 7: Raiders of the lost R's (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 8: Christian Nation? (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 9: Crass comment cuts off debate (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 10: Need for non-profit prophets (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 11: Don't be afraid to just knock (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 12: You'll know a tree by it's fruit (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 13: Sermon on the mount (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 14: Discussing "wedge issues" civilly (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 15: What would Jesus email? (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 16: Judas betrays Christ again (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 17: WHat would Jesus talk about? (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 18: Radical Middle (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 19: Birthday present shopping (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 20: The Gospel according to Nashville (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 21: Hell is a Gilligan's Islans marathon (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 22: A conscientious objector in the war on Christmas (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 23: Wrong man for the job (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 24: Sad to be an American? (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 25: Must have touched a nerve (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 26: If I were a Supreme Court Justice (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 27: Son rise (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 28: Attitude of gratitude (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 29: Republican translation (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 30: 'Magic Negro' makes strange bedfellows (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 31: Christian Democrat? Hell yes! (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 32: Veteran of the culture wars suffers PTSD (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 33: Jesus a 'Socialist?' (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 34: Strange fruit and sour grapes (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 35: When will the truth finally set us free? (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 36: Jefferson Portrait (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 37: A problem 30 years in the making (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 38: Gambling with other people's money (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 39: Dog eat dog (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 40: This is our moment (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 41: Romney will be whatever you want him to be (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 42: Too many sides to too many issues (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 43: Wedge issues a problem (added 03/11/09 )
chapter 44: Advice on your 228th Birthday (added 03/12/09 )

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The truth is somewhere in the middle

"It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes." ~Ecclesiastes 7:18

This is exactly why I love how Lutheran theology stresses a balance of both law AND gospel. Too liberal and you either think that all roads lead to Heaven and you don't need Jesus, or that He's just a social reformer or great teacher but not God. Too conservative and your doctrine and dogma or "traditional values" start to become your god instead of letting Jesus be God and you scare people away who might otherwise find His mercy and grace.

I love how at least Mike Huckabee and Obama started to get Evangelicals thinking that hey, maybe unprovoked war and poverty and good stewardship of the environment can be Christian issues too, there's more to faith that these never ceasing "culture wars."

I also hope that Lutherans, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, AME, Quaker and everybody else have started to figure out that the so called "Evangelicals" (whoever that is anyway, Baptist & Assembly of God, I think) are not the only Christians in the United States and they shouldn't be the only ones who get to drive the national conversation about faith let alone get to be who gets to define what a Christian is to unbelievers and people of other religions out there.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Right makes might, not vice versa

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."
~ Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Christian Nation?

For decades now, religious right-wingers have been telling us that we need to be a "Christian Nation," and that God is punishing us for permitting abortion and homosexuality. I've always held that America was founded on commerce, specifically mercantilism and imperialism dependent on slavery- not on the Bible or mighty, idealized Christian principles. I also have the philosophy that a "Christian Nation" begins at home- in other words, we all need to work on producing good fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. etc.) rather than trying to impose or legislate a religious morality.

But in the wake of yet another stock market dive and almost daily revelations about CEOs', Madoff, and the Bush Administration's abuses and misuses of money and government- someone said to me that we seem to be a LONG way from being a "Christian Nation," and that we seem to be a society based on greed , lobbying, deregulation, loopholes, off-the books accounting, mortgage-backed securities, schemes, plots, and getting richer quicker without any consideration of the impact on others. And Rush Limbaugh warns that the Democrats will take away our liberties. What he means is that they'll demand accountability and transparency so that the fat cats won't have the liberty to rob the rest of us blind anymore. We've already seen out privacy and Constitutional protections revoked by the Cheney/Bush government who eliminated habeus corpus, tortured and secretly listened to us.

I may sound like a liberal, even a (gasp) "socialist," and people may accuse me of inciting "class warfare," but the Bible I read says that it is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25). I think that if we were to truly become a "Christian Nation," we would have to become our brothers' keepers. We should not just return the tax structure to what it was like under Reagan, but pre-Reagan (the middle class grew most robustly between 1932 and 1980). The Obama administration is finally starting to talk about the cost of health care and insurance, and it's high time.

The Republicans had control of all three branches of government under George W. Bush. Supposedly, their "base" are conservative-Christians. Not only did we lose our standing in the world in terms of foreign policy, but the current recession (some suspect depression) created by the supply-side, laissez faire economic faith worshiped so devoutly since Ronald Reagan began deregulating markets and busting unions, rhis recession is pulling the entire world's economics into crisis. This isn't God's divine retribution, but it IS direct result of our collective, corporate sin. The sins, not of homosexuality or abortion, or teaching evolution but the sins of greed, arrogance gluttony and avarice.

Gays and illegal immigrants aren't the problem. Iran and Iraq aren't the problem. Muslims and foreigners and Hollywood and high school and college science teachers aren't the problem. We're losing jobs and homes and insurance and benefits and maybe we want to blame Bernie Madoff or George Bush, but let's face it, as the cartoon character Pogo said back in the 50's, "we have met the enemy and he is us." Matthew 28 is important, Jesus did die for our sins so that we can join Him in Heaven someday, but you know what? Matthew 25 is ALSO important. If we aren't feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting those in prison, loving the unloved and unlovable- loving our neighbors and even our enemies- if we aren't caring for the poor, the aliens, the widows and orphans- if we are more intent on protecting our profits and avoiding taxes than sharing the fruit of our labor with others in need, then how DARE we call ourselves Christian, let alone a "Christian Nation."

"Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?" ~James 2:5-7

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Through the Fire

I didn't write this, it was one of those emails that goes around. I tend to just delete them, even the ones that try to guilt trip you, you know, "if you're not ashamed of God, you'll forward this to everyone on your email address list," and "if you send this to 10 people, a miracle will happen." Junk mail is junk mail, even if it has a positive Christian message. But I REALLY appreciated this one. Romans 5:3-5 says to rejoice in our sufferings and James 1:2-3 says to consider it joy when you face trials. These seem like really depressing verses. No one wants to have to face hard times, but this email forward reminds us that God is with us right through the worst of it and He uses the challenges to make us reflect His love.

Holocost survivor psychiatrist Viktor Frankl would say that it's not about finding life's answers- it's how we answer what life deals us. Put another way, "why do bad things happen to good people?" is the wrong question, "What can I learn from this? How can I grow through this? How can I use this to help others later on?"

Malachi 3:3 says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says:
"He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.

The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"

He smiled at her and answered,

"Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it."

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Pass this on right now. This very moment, someone needs to know that God is watching over them. And whatever they're going through, they'll be a better person in the end.