Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Pro Life Check-Up

This Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Can followers of Jesus find agreement in the value of human life? Not usually.

Picture, if you can bear to do so, these realities.

She walks into the sterile procedure room and prepares herself to sacrifice her child. Whatever her reasons, she is free to do so. And we grieve alongside her.

He shuffles, legs tied in chains, as he enters the chamber to receive the lethal injection. Whatever the reasons, the state is free to do so. And we grieve for his family, and that of his victim.

She holds her husband's hand as she drinks the physician prescribed lethal cocktail--ending her own life. Whatever the reasons, in some places, she is free to do so. And we grieve her loss.

He goes to sleep holding his stuffed animal, not knowing the plane will drop bombs on his house and he won't wake up again. Whatever the reasons, the pilot was sent to do so. We grieve for the boy and his family.

Chances are, depending on your leanings, you have been known to celebrate, rather than grieve two of the four losses mentioned here. Which ones? Well that would depend on your political party.

But may we agree, that each loss above is worthy of our sorrow? May we agree, that life is to be valued? When we pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done..." may we agree that there is a higher way than those of our earthly kingdoms?

I fear not.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Changing 2011? Or, Are You Stuck?

Are you spiritually stuck?

Is change more and more difficult for you to achieve? It's a new year! 2011 is here, and you have already chosen to some degree what you expect from it--and what you will become in it.

I'm a guy who has been known to spin his wheels into some pretty serious ruts. So here is some thinking I've been doing, which has positively effected my praying and my "being."

Have you been framed?
My district pastor recently wrote about a magazine article titled: “Ready to Change? Reaching your goals in 2011”.  Tim Talevich, the article's author interviews J.D. Roth and Todd Nelson, producers of the hit TV series, “The Biggest Loser”, now in its 11th season. 

The article says the series is about  “... people who have somehow found themselves off the track in life, yet tapped an inner strength to change.” 

One of the contestants, a former Viet Nam vet who injured his knees and over time had gained over two hundred pounds, told Roth and Nelson that even though he desperately wanted to lose weight, there were subtle, underlying forces not to. He said, “Most people are like a picture in a frame, never changing. You get comfortable with that picture, because it’s always the same.” 

Have you been framed? Do you look at the picture of your spiritual life and say, I've never been able to pray. I've never been faithful. I've never ________.

The "Thought--Word--Reality Maker."
I've been teaching about "logos" for the past couple of weeks. A guy named John, who was a friend of Jesus, tells the story of creation in the most poetic way. He says that the Logos, which is God, created everything.

Logos means a "word which comes from the thinking process." In reality, most of our words come from our thinking. "Out of the overflow of the mind, a man speaks," said the writer of Proverbs.

So John is saying something like this. Before there was anything, God thought it and then spoke it, and it was created. This matches Genesis' story of creation: "And God said, let there be light. And there was light..."

Does being created in God's image indicate anything regarding the power of our words?
Disclaimer: It is important to remember that we do not create in the way God does. We may fashion, or bring things about. But we cannot make something out of nothing in the way that God can.

However, what we think and speak has power. Does the plant kingdom have this capability? No. The animal kingdom? Not so much. But we, as humans created in the image of God, can think thoughts and fashion new realities. For good. Or for evil.

Like Israel's David: He thinks poetically about a shepherd, then speaks and writes the poem we call the 23rd Psalm. The image has impacted our understanding of God for thousands of years.

Or, he thinks about the beauty of another man's wife, he speaks to his peons about bringing her to the palace, and then commits adultery and murder. The world is changed.

John Kennedy thought, then spoke the space program into hyperdrive. Adolf Hitler thought and spoke hatred into the masses, and created hell on earth. And you own thoughts right now about who you are in relation to God. You're thinking, speaking and fashioning your own spiritual reality.

2011 Prescription
Focus on this for a few mornings and bedtimes, and try believing it.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:17-21 (New International Version, ©2010)

What are you thinking about?
What are you talking about?
What are you bringing about???

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter Wonders Never Cease

I've spent the last month trying to talk myself out of it. The thought keeps presenting itself, and I continually dismiss it as ludicrous. I can no longer. So, I'm going on record. Let it be said, that at least for this year, winter is my favorite season. My reasons:

1) You can see through the trees. I live in a forest, and in the winter I can see beyond the vegetation that surrounds us on every side. Deer, rushing streams and the night sky become visible neighbors in the winter.

2) I own my favorite hiking trails. I hike in the state park adjacent to my property. I hike hundreds of miles a year here, and during this season, I can hike for hours seeing and hearing only wildlife and the wind in the treetops.

3) Sweat-free hiking. Winter provides me the opportunity to pile on the layers, work hard in the hills--huffing and puffing past non-stop beauty without getting hot. In fact, usually I ditch the gloves before I'm finished, even in sub freezing temps.

4) No snakes. I like that too.

5) Snow. On a good year, like this one, there is a beautiful white accent lacing the forest and hills around me. We have been fortunate to have more than the average amount of snow this year, along with a colder than normal winter. These enhance the breathtaking views where I live, work and hike. The white also keeps the trail bright after dark, extending the normally darker season. Though I don't do them all every year, there are many fun things to do in the snow: sledding, skiing, hiking, snow shoeing and skitching to name a few. Ever skitched?

6) The air seems more fresh. Right now it's about nineteen degrees Fahrenheit outside. Perfect. Makes you feel alive. Hot tubs are unbearable when the temperature is above twenty.

7) Night skies. Night time skies are not the same in the spring, summer or fall as on a cold winter night. I can step outside and take a few steps down the hill around my home and be submerged in a sky so inky dark, I feel I can touch the stars.

8) German Shepherd weather. My shepherd is in a great mood all winter. She lays and plays in a falling snow, runs through the woods just for the joy of the sprint; and unless it is way colder than it is now, she'll always greet me between the car and the front door. She's built for it.

9) Wood Stove. My furnace hasn't been on this winter. Around here they say that "burnin' wood'll het you twiced." This means that when you split the wood you get warm, as well as when you burn it. I would say that it will heat you a lot more than that. The wood heats you when you cut it, move it, split it, stack it, move it to stack it again in the carport, move it into the house before burning, when you put it in the stove and it pours out the heat AND when you sit and look at it glow and burn.

10) More family time. Winter holds the "holiday season." People seem to shut down their lives earlier in the evening. I allow myself more evenings at home in the winter, and it's just easier to gather with friends and family. Winter is a "warm" season in so many ways.

Well, there are many more, but you get the idea. I've lived in winter free zones. I loved the people there, and truly love the desert. But life without winter seems to be...well, lacking.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Seeing Stars

The ancient poet sings:

The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of his hands...
(Psalm 19:1)

I've just stepped outside of my cabin to hear the shouting. Raving mad stars are exclaiming God's glory. Brightest white points on solid black velvet sky. Darkness and light equally breathtaking, puzzlingly enchanting. They speak the language of glory--a language of which I know precious little. Is there anyone who studies or speaks this tongue? I want to know them, to learn from them.

My German shepherd leans into my thigh, looking up at me for some answer to her longings. Wanting nothing more than tender words and a scratch behind the ear. I give what I can, but own no glory. Does her soul ache? Does it see stars, and want to know their maker, or can she merely see the nighttime forest of oaks she flawlessly navigates at full speed?

Give me a heart, I pray. Give me a heart that can navigate glory and live to tell it. And give me a tongue able to describe the truth. We need to know that we live in a grander place than we can imagine. Scratch my ears, speak tender words. Just don't leave me alone beneath the glory, then force me to go back inside where it is warm, and I can survive the elements.

My soul sees and longs. Please Night, make noise with your song--form words. Yet even the silent shooting star that seems to linger, frozen in the bitter cold of this night, does not satisfy.

The heavens are declaring the glory of God. O for ears to hear what my eyes can see they are saying.