Monthly Archives: July 2015

Psalm 8: Awe and Wonder

A little reword of Psalm 8 for your waking mindfulness this morning:

God – you blow my mind. From infinite stars exploding in creative grandeur to the tiny cries of a defenseless new born child – the world is permeated with the weight of your presence.

When I try to comprehend it all, the landscapes of life you have painted and molded and breathed into life across the universe… the task is far beyond me.

Why would you even notice the tiny stardust afterbirth of your creative power that is me and my neighbors on earth? How are we even on your radar screen?

And yet. And YET. Not only do you see us. And know us. But you love you. You trust us. And you have empowered us as stewards of all that great mystery in which we know not what we do.

God – you blow my mind. Truly, you alone are worthy of worship, and for you, all creation gives thanks.

Amen, and amen.

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Shutting Down: Computers Teaching us Sabbath Rest

There is an old tech proverb that goes something like this: 90% of a computer problems are solved by shutting down your computer and rebooting it.  (Here is an example article: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/rebooting-computer-fix-many-issues/)

Well I’m getting ready to shut down “my computer” as well.  That is, I’m going on two weeks of vacation.  We often view vacation as a luxury, and in some ways it one.  It’s hard to go on vacation when you live paycheck to paycheck and I’m thankful that I have the ability and the support to be able to “shut down.” But back to my point… it’s not really a luxury.  It’s something we need to do.  We need to shut down now and again in order to be able to “work” right.  Just like a computer.

This is at the heart of Sabbath, it’s at the heart of the science of sleep, it’s at the heart of the 40-hour work week, and having a weekend… at the heart of realizing we are not immortal and inexhaustible fonts of resources that can go and go and go without rest.  When we run our system on a constant load of max capacity… it breaks down.  And even before that we become less efficient at what we are doing.  I think we also become less grace-filled.

When we are taxed… we tax each other.

A friend just recounted a story of having someone going slow in front of him on the road.  He was fine with it.  Until that person made a point of reaching his arm out of the car to ‘flip him the bird.’  The car wasn’t just going slow… the driver was going slow just to try to get my friend angry.  It was a moment of control with intent to anger and frustrate.

But… why?  What is the possible gain?

Maybe the driver in front had a bad day… maybe a bad week.  I don’t know.  But you get the feeling that for that moment that driver was getting joy out of being a jerk.  Why would we want to reach into someone else’s life and make it worse?  Is that a possible solution for anything?  When that happens it’s clearly past time that we need to shut it down.  And it’s also the time to learn that we need to make sure we shut it down before it gets that far.

So I go back to that article I posted up top about computers.  It chimes in:
“How Does Rebooting Fix Memory Leaks?

When you first boot the computer, you can think of it as a clay market place. The clay represents the various resources that are available on the computer, such as memory. The operating system handles the clay (among other things) and distributes it to programs when necessary.  Theoretically, this loop could go on forever without issue. The problem is, some programs waste the commonly used resources…The ideal program would clean up the clay and return it to the computer when it finishes, allowing the computer to distribute the clay to other programs in need. (BUT…) Over time, as flawed programs fail to return all of the clay they’ve been given, other programs need to wait longer and longer for their share of resources. This is where memory leaks, program lag, and runtime errors come from.”

And we all know that when the system slows down our frustration level goes up.  And then before you know it – grace challenged in our exhaustion and inefficiency – we’re flipping the bird to the driver behind us as we pass on our anger and make their life a little worse for our wear.

Shut it down.

I always get to vacation and I know I need to go but I’m also congnizant of all the things I haven’t yet planned for and prepared in my absence.  In other words I try to convince myself how important I am that I can’t be spared.  Whenever I get back I find out two things: 1) life went on fine without me, and 2) I am actually better prepared to answer some of the questions I was struggling with before I went.

The silt has settled and I can see more clearly.  The clay is reallocated and I can work more efficiently.  And more importantly than either fo those?  There is grace in my being.

One of the mantras I keep for myself and have had to repeat a lot lately goes something like this:

  • Life is hard.
  • We are all just trying to get through it the best we can.
  • Let’s not make it harder on each other.

So I’m shutting it down.  And I can’t wait to see you again in two weeks.  And in the meantime: know that I love you and I’m in your corner rooting for you even when you don’t see me there because “my computer” has been shut down.  May you also find ways big and small ways (weekly moments and year get-a-ways) to shut it down and reboot.

A Sacrament of Tears

I’m re-sharing this just one week from when I originally wrote it 3 years ago. I wrote it then in the wake of the shooting in Aurora, CO. I share it now in the wake of yet another shooting… with so many in between. May we not be calloused, may we let tears flow… and may we let go of this hate and judgement and fear that makes us constantly strike out at each other.

Wrestling with Discipleship

On Friday morning I woke to another story of violence – you did too.  A shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, CO.   Many dead, many more wounded, and many many more once again confronted with tragedy.  However I didn’t weep.  I didn’t feel bad that I didn’t weep… in fact if in full confession I would have been surprised at the expectation to weep, stories of violence are absolutely everywhere.  And I’m hardly the first to reflect on our lack of surprise, or the way we have become de-sensitized to violence.  But I received a needed and necessary gift that very night that spurred this reflection…

My family was over at a friend’s house for dinner and conversation.  It was a meal about thanksgivings and good-byes.  As the kids got restless… okay more restless than they naturally are, we decided to turn on the TV and find some cartoons…

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A Parable of Living Inside Out

So I had a conversation leading up to seeing the movie Inside Out with a friend about it’s age appropriateness.  She let me know that the problem wasn’t really about appropriate but whether the message would go over young children’s heads.  After seeing it I will say it’s clearly marketed to kids (and all but our 2 year old enjoyed it and that was no surprise) but it’s clearly messaged to adults and adolescents.

That said: take your kids to it anyway.  We have make references to it almost daily.  “Hey anger is driving the bus right now…” You may find it a helpful tool in talking to your kids about their emotions.  My take away from the movie is that it is a great parable.  The story is good (well, actually I only thought it was okay).  But its power is not in the story, its power lies in what it can reveal and teach us about ourselves.  In that way it is apocalyptic.  It’s a revelation… or a pullback the curtain and see what has been kept hidden.  And because I think those revelations are important I am going to briefly (I could say a lot more but where is the fun in that for you) unpack 4 messages (that’s more a tool to keep me brief than to be catchy with a list) I think it has for us.  There are more message to be sure… why don’t you unpack your favorites in the comments.

  1. Core Memories

We all have foundational parts of who we are that drive our being.  For the character in the movie it is family, friends, hockey, honesty, and goofiness.  These core memories become a basis of a value system either consciously or unconsciously. This whole idea resonates well with the book I’m also reading right now and recommend to you: The Righteous Mind.  It’s a study of moral development and one point the book makes is that we tend to judge people who have different opinions as being wrong than ourselves, or even, immoral.  But they too have a morality.  It just isn’t the same as ours, and it is founded in different core values/memories.  Being in touch with what “drives” us is essential to understanding our conflicts with others who may well be driven by very different and competing values. And sometimes we are, in ourselves, driven by competing values.  What happens when our lived experience doesn’t match up with our core values?  We either double down on our values… or we give them up.  Most of us don’t do the latter, so that means a lot of doubling down – even in the face of messages that tell us that doesn’t make sense.

Know Thyself!

  1. Mixed emotions

In the beginning of the movie the main character has memories that are singular.  A moment of anger OR of joy… of fear OR of sadness.  By the end (developmentally beginning adolescence) her moments and memories are far more mixed.  A memory has elements of anger, sadness, and joy.  Or maybe of disgust and fear that turns towards anger.  We aren’t one note people.  Diversity isn’t just something we seek externally, it’s something intrinsic to our own make up.  So whether it’s the fact that joy and sorrow are less diametrically opposed than sides of the same coin, or that the voices (core memories, emotions, values…) in our own head are often sending us diverse and even contradictory messages an important lesson we have to learn is: there is multiple aspects of our character driving the “bus” at the same time.

The use of the word discernment is often used to talk about how we discern God’s calling.  Or how we figure out something that is external to us: what college to go to, what vocation to seek… where to go to dinner.  But discernment is also an internal process.  We discern our own intentions by separating out the voices and values within us and determine which path we want to pursue.  We are a mixed bag.

Celebrate Diversity!

  1. Goodness of anger/sorrow

This one is really important to me for a couple of reasons.  But basically one of the great journeys of this movie was the discovery that sadness wasn’t bad.  Sadness plays an important part of our emotional make up and even sometimes leads us to good and joy-filled moments.  If we cannot get in touch with how we feel (like being sad) we will not alter the circumstance we find ourselves in that is causing our distress.  Our emotions are not good and bad, they just are.  Joy pursued as an end (goal) in itself can be very destructive.  Building a life unwilling to feel sadness… equally so.

Personally I had to go through this journey with regards to anger.  I had an aversion to all anger.  My experiences of it were bad and therefore I decided anger is bad and I suppressed it.  This, of course, just made the problem worse.  Because suppressed anger has to do one of two things to create an outlet: 1) turn in on itself thus making us self-abusive or 2) build up to a point of explosions.  I call this the tea kettle effect.  But it might also be a volcano.  This is what gets us rage.  Rage was what my problem was from the beginning.  So trying to solve the problem… I was causing it.  Learning to have a healthy respect and expression of anger has been key to my own development out of (I think I’m out) adolescents… just as it is with sadness for the character in the movie.

Embrace Feelings!

  1. Open Book

This is the core learning of the parable of Inside Out.  Yes, learn to know what motivates you.  Learn to identify what parts of your core self are driving the bus with your priorities and values.  And understand that most often multiple aspects of your own inner values are competing for control of the goal.  Yes, gain a healthy respect for all your emotions and feelings (ie resist shame and bottling up and feeling guilty).  But in the end I think it comes down to this: live open.  The great moment in this movie is when the mom turns to her daughter and says (being well meaning and I’m paraphrasing here), “Dad just needs us to be happy right now.”

I think every parent cringed at that moment.  Forget that.  Every person did.  They didn’t cringe because the mom said it.  They cringed because WE have said it.  And it’s such a horrible message to send to others and to our self.  The spirals of hurt that happen when we feel the need to bottle up our own self and our pain and hide it away because someone else needs us to be happy… well we could drown the world in that pain.  One of the things I tell every couple in multiple different ways when I am doing premarital work is this: getting married means you do not have the right to shield your partner from your struggles.  Those hardships are no longer YOUR (individual) struggles.  They are YOUR (shared) struggles.  The same is true of kids to parents, of siblings to siblings… of any kind of community that seeks authentic and shared journey.

If you come away from this movie with no other message than to learn to be comfortable allowing yourself to feel and to be open about what you feel?  Then you got it.  You got the message.

Live your inside world… outside.  Live Inside Out!

Literally Scripture

How many animals did Noah take on the ark?

Not total mind you, I mean how many of each type of animal did Noah take?

Take a minute.  Got an answer?  Did you write it down?  Its reveal time:

Genesis 6:20
“Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive.”

So the answer is 2!  I bet you knew that.  You were right!  Well… at least you were right for three verses. Then we got here:

Genesis 7:2
“Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth.”

Uhhh…. what?  Which one is it?  Did Noah take 2 or 7 of each.  And what’s up the all the cleanliness stuff.  I am sure clean would be good – Noah is going to need a really big liter box!  But seriously.. 6:20 and 7:2 can’t both be right, can they?

So about taking scripture as literal fact… You cannot actually do it.

Let me say it again: you cannot actually take scripture as literal fact. It wasn’t written that way!

If you think you do – you are, to quote scripture, deceiving yourself. Scripture is many different stories written at different times by different people. Inspired? Sure. But not without contradictory materials. God’s word, and the inspiration of the Spirit in its recording, was okay playing loose with the details to the point of occassionally being blatantly inaccurate or contradictory. Its not only impossible to maintain literal facts across books written by different people with different contexts and agendas, it is actually not always possible to do so within the same singular story that is in fact two different accounts written by two different groups with two different agendas that don’t fit nicely together.

One author of the Noah account wishes Noah to make a sacrifice of animals to God after the flood (Genesis 8:20) an so needs there to be more than 2 (one male and one female) of the clean animals so there are some to be sacrificed. One author doesn’t believe you are allowed to make sacrifices away from the Temple so cannot fathom having a story that approves of sacrifice before there is a Temple, and so mandates only two animals to insure there could not have been any such sacrifice.

Two different stories in contrast (and even competition) with each other over TRUTH.

And amazingly, wonderfully, and frustratingly… the tradition that became our scriptures maintained BOTH stories in a single woven together account that enfolded such contradictions into the very fabric of our formative stories.

Truth versus Truth and to their competition the Spirit said a decisive… yes. (Can you hear those two sides yelling, “No! Pick one, tell us who is right!?!?!” And the Spirit shrugs and says something like: Sorry… doesn’t work that way. That’s why this is called faith.)

The claim to biblical inerrancy or literalism is well intentioned. I understand the “fear of the slippery slope.”  But such a claim can only be maintained through lack of knowledge of the full content of scripture… or intentionally maintained blindness to its inconsistencies and our our picking and choosing what parts to pay full attention to on a daily basis.  There are just too many different voices to keep them all aligned all at once.

I find scripture to be a simultaneously flawed human account and a unique and authoritative word of God. The tensions between those two realities is exactly why Paul calls preaching foolishness. It is faith, not fact. And then I come to this maddening and yet alluring point: If God wanted an absolute Truth, historically factual account of God’s Word in our midst we would have one Gospel Account. Not four.

I love Scripture. I love the Bible. But I grow tired of the abuse it suffers by trying to force it into the glass slipper of our making so we might be “married” to the god we wish to worship rather than that God that is.  We wish to worship certainty.  And God, holy other, asks us for trust, faith, and hope.  Not a solid rock after all… but a tenuous, twisting, free fall into love.

God will not be pinned down. And I’m not so clever and right that I can manage to do what God eludes. Thanks be to God.