Tuesday, August 03, 2010

guarantee

I noticed on my Charmin today this guarantee; Charmin will given a complete refund ONCE to any family whose Mega Size Charmin does not fit the toilet paper roll in their home.

Do we not have anything better to do than make sure that toilet paper rolls fit on spools?

Did someone file a lawsuit so that a corporation had to spend millions of dollars to advertise their intention to refund money so people could purchase the correct size of toilet paper?

Do we need LIVES !!!

(Do I need a life since I am mentioning this in a public place?)

A. I.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Seeing the unseen...

We went to the field on a Sunday afternoon. We had been thinking about it for years. What would it look like? When would it begin? How long would it take? Who would see it? The usual questions.

It was really hot but it did not seem too bad as we gathered. Maybe the expectation of the moment and the fulfillment of hopes made us immune. But it was still hot...one person had trouble getting to the location we had chosen.

The field was larger than I expected. It did not look this large from the road...or on the plans...or in my head. As we stood there...maybe a dozen of us...it looked huge. God's plans are like that. They do not look impressive or perhaps our expectations are too small. We whittle God down to the size of our expectations. Then He shows up.

We walked around...it kept getting bigger. Then we stopped, gathered and began to talk. We prayed. It was not a long prayer...it was too hot. But the prayer was about God; the usual things...thanks, hope and promise. We were beginning to see His dream, His property...His promise.

We got in our cars and drove away. The property had not changed. But we could see now...it HAD changed. We could see the promise.

A. I.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Optimism !!! Reality !!!

It is clear that NO ONE has any idea how bad this disaster really is. Bruce Catton warned us 40 years ago that our "reach" had exceeded our "grasp." Politics...technology...they are useless against the the greed and stupidity of the human race. The story of "Humpty Dumpty" was an UNDERSTATEMENT !!!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Offensive or truthful...is there a difference?

"Ain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a majority in any town?"

Mark Twain

A. I.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

New Rumors !!!

Did you know that resorts and motels on the Gulf of Mexico are offering a new option with their vacations...FREE OIL !!!

A.I.

Monday, February 08, 2010

A good and interesting question...

Submitted by Russell Rankin...If a mortgage is collateralized into a CMO then sold to an investor; then the investor purchases a credit default swap; then the CMO drops to zero value on the over the counter market; doesn't the issuer of the CDS have to payoff the owner of the CMO? If so, isn't the mortgage, in effect, paid off? If the owner of the CMO collects from the CDS and also the originator of the mortgage loan keeps collecting mortgage payments via the company hired to service the mortgage, isn't the mortgage being paid twice?

A. I.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

for those who are paying attention...

Just a few words from our sponsors....

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

Thomas Jefferson

I think this would earn him a visit with the "thought police" and the Secret Service.

A. I.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Which of these statements do you prefer?

That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

That which does not kill me makes me stranger.

That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

Vote now...avoid the rush...

A. I.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Patients & Customers....

I was taught to be a reader. I read everything. I read books. I read instructions when I am forced to. I just read. I also analyze what I read. I think about what it means or what it could mean. This is my "bent;" my disposition. I did not learn this. It is hardwired into my DNA. Most of the stuff I read is simple. Occasionally it burns through my filters; the ones I erected to shield me from the boring nature of most reading material.

I was in a hospital elevator 10 years ago. I was reading the "mission statement" of the Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, IL. What I was reading was odd; different from what I expected. It was a "customer's bill of rights." It was about things the "customer" should expect from the hospital; the corporation. It bothered me.

It reminded me of an experience at the University Of Utah Medical Center. My wife’s rheumatologist, Dr. Dega (who was quite good) sent us there for a consultation. She was having a very bad Lupus flare. She was extremely ill. The doctor at the Medical Center (mercifully, I do not remember his name.) was an insincere low-life. He had not even read the file. We left with no answers but a really bad attitude about the UUMC in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I called and complained. They connected me to a doctor who was in charge of "Customer Service." It did not go well. I was left with a really bad feeling about the process.

Fast forward to the elevator at the Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, IL:

I suppose a "patient" and a "customer" are interchangeable...grammatically. But not existentially. A "customer" is a person who wants an item or commodity. They are prepared to purchase these things. A "patient" is a sick person who needs a service. Wanting something and needing are very different experiences.

It made me realize something about modern medicine.

Everything is about business. Everything is about efficiency. Nothing is about people anymore. In hospitals you are customers; not patients. This does not mean all doctors are insincere low-life’s but it does mean they have to function within a system that sees patients as customers; consumers. They are not sick anymore. They are less than people. They are account numbers. They are liabilities to insurance companies. No matter how hard the doctors and patients try the "system" makes them adversaries. Patients get all the time they need. Customers get the time available or the time allotted.

Most doctors I have met are trying to fix this. They are tired of being providers. Most patients want it fixed. They are sick of being customers. Insurance companies and hospitals do not care...they are businesses; they are in it for the money.

Health care is too critical to be left in the hands of investors, politicians and bureaucrats. It is too important to be a game played for profit by investors.



A. I.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Word in Season...

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark , broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled and wrought, and thought with me ---
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads --- you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes, the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the Western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not that strength which in old days
Moved heaven and earth, that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

A. I.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

i stole this from another guy...who stole it...you get the idea...

There was once a minister who loved nothing more than relaxing on a Sunday afternoon by playing a round of golf. However, so as to maintain his reputation and ensure some peace and quiet, he would pretend to everyone that he really helped out with a charity after church. So, every Sunday while his friends, family and congregation thought that he was busy helping the poor, the minister would be secretly enjoying a leisurely game of golf.

After a year or so some of the angels noticed what was happening and, in their monthly report, informed God of the deception.

‘This is indeed a problem’ replied God as he put a note in his dairy, ‘I shall have to teach him a lesson’.

While it is well known that God hates sitting though church, He made a point of going to the Ministers service the next Sunday so that He could witness what would transpire afterwords. Sure enough, once the service was completed the minister announced to everyone that he needed to go serve at a charity for the remainder of the day. Then he jumped in his car, waved goodbye to his family and drove straight to his favorite golf course.

But this Sunday was different for God had decided to quietly help the minister. As a result each stroke he made was flawless and every ball found the hole with one shot. Only when the game was finally over did God silently withdraw.

All the while the angels watched the game in disbelief.

‘We thought you were going to teach this man a lesson’ they shouted, ‘but instead you helped him to achieve the greatest golf score in the history of the world’

‘True’ smiled God, ‘but ask yourself this, who can he tell?’

A. I.

Monday, June 15, 2009

location, location, location...

I was reading Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions today and she wrote about "your mind being a bad neighborhood that you should not visit alone." I wonder if this is one reason for fellowship and confession?

...or maybe it is a good reason for ME not to visit MY mind alone?

A. I.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

this is so true...

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.“ -Author unknown

A. I.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

T. Boone Pickens is at it again...

The link below is really good.

I have been calling my congressmen every week since January. I do not care if they are in or out. They are hearing the word. A resolution is before the House, H.R. 1835. It is about Natural Gas. They need to hear from us.

I sure you have noticed that the price of Gas has gone up 1.00 since December. This means we keep paying Venezuela and Saudi Arabia vast sums of money to financially rape us. It is time to let it rip.Call, write, email...do whatever it takes.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/t-boone-pickens/time-is-money-about-half_b_212588.html

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hello folks...

For all of you who are still asleep out there...time to wake up.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/192583

A.I.

Friday, May 08, 2009

National Day of Prayer?

I went to a National Day of Prayer meeting yesterday. It was a little strange. We spent about an hour listing to people speaking about various things. We only spent about 7-10 minutes actually praying. I wonder if this is what God has in mind. I do not really care what the politicians want or what the churches want.

Is God impressed by our gathering if we only sound militant about how He is being marginalized in our culture? Is God impressed if we struggle to maintain our cultural standing in the current social and political climate? Is He at all impressed if we talk to ourselves and others about how "bad" things are?

Prayer is our call to Him; our declaration to Him, that we need His help. I am still hoping a group of Christians will become desperate enough to simple pray. We have some great spiritual examples of men and women who simply prayed and asked for help. I do not think we are desperate enough yet. I do not think we know the depth of our need yet. 7-10 minutes is not a cry for help. It is a declaration that we know more than God. God help us.

A.I.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Worship

This is the day that Yahweh has made...Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

A.I.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Polite Warning

“For if once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begin upon this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time.”

Thomas De Quincey

A.I.

Easter

Have you ever wanted a "do over?" A 2nd chance? A shot at a new life?

A.I.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April 1

Could it be that April Fools' Day is the real antecedent of "Preachers' Day...you know...that "fools for Christ" thing?

A.I.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When I Was Young...

When I was young I used to pray for a bicycle.

Then I realized that God doesn't work that way.

So I stole a bicycle and prayed for forgiveness.

A. I.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Choices and Consequences...and Blessings

A good friend made an observation the other day. I have profound respect for him...for the way he has conducted himself in difficult circumstances. He wondered how things might have been if people had made different choices in a circumstance which involved both of us. This was my reply to him. The names have been changed to protect the guilty...and the innocent.

"This (to change the circumstances) was a choice we were never given. The best thing we can do (for ourselves) is simply walk away. I still wonder sometimes if I did the right thing... But at certain moments in our lives we have to trust God to work out things that are beyond our understanding.

We make choices and choose the consequences and God works out the details. I wish there was a better system. Maybe Jesus wondered the same things when he saw the disciples run for cover. But he chose the stay the course…which is ALWAYS the most difficult path. I am sure you will make a good decision. I always respected the choices you made and saw that your family was better for it. Sometimes, when we look at the choices people make, we just have to walk away.

Jesus could not help everyone…not out of inability but out of a profound respect for their choice. I wonder about the father of the prodigal son…why did he not just stop him. Lock him up in the barn…No. He had to let him go. Had to let him fail. Had to respect his choice and hope he would come to his senses. That is why we are told to bless our enemies…they still have choices…and they can choose the path of regret and repentance. We have to let them go and choose our path. But you already know that."

A. I.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Postmdernism and the "Truth"

Postmodernism is NOT a destination. It is a transition to a new way of thinking and experiencing reality. It is an appropriate rebellion against Modernism which claimed too much; it claimed it could explain everything and settle matters once and for all.

Postmodernism served notice upon Modernism that all matters are NOT solved by argumentation. Truth is often more complex that rational formulas. We are called by a reality beyond ours to think in deeper and more organic ways about complex matters. For instance; How can God be absolutely sovreign and man be absolutley free at the same time? It transcends logic. It defeats reason. It is beyond explanation. We are called to think in deeper and more organic ways about such complex matters.

Postmodernism may not be the destination but it challenges the arrogance of Modernism and sets us back on the path of humility; listening, hearing, observing. We are here to learn.

A. I.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thought Question

If fire fighters fight fires and crime fighters fight crime, what do freedom fighters fight?

A.I.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

the "unchurch"

I have been reading "unchristian." It makes me wonder if we should pursue a new paradigm for church/assembly. This is NOT a new Gospel but it is a new way to think about our meetings. They seem so inbred, so insulated...so suited to our needs. What would they look like if they were directed to the needs of the unchurched...or the "dechurched?"

A.I.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Are We Living in the "Days" of the Famine?

Amos 8:11-12

"Behold, days are coming,"
declares the LORD God,
"When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
And people will stagger from sea to sea,
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the Word of the LORD,
But they will not find it."

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Query

What do you think the largest religion in the world is?

Give it some thought and get back to me.

A.I.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hello

Just a short note to let everyone know that I am still alive.


I am still alive.


A. I.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tulsa 1

We face two serious challenges in communicating the Gospel. The first challenge is the cynicism of the unchurched. This is a formidable barrier. These people have a "zero" expectation about anything said by the church or by christians. It is irresponsible and uncharitable to attribute this solely to rebellion or ignorance. The majority of these people professes belief in God but have no use for an institution which does not reflect what it only occasionally proclaims. The second is the ideological paralysis of the church and its inability or unwillingness to actually imagine the "Gospel" as anything other than its systematic, historical formulation which is influenced more by philosophy, politics and morality than theology. The horrific infighting within denominations and between them makes even adherents run for cover and gives these institutions no credibility with those outside. We are called serve these people. We cannot dismiss them because we have made the task more difficult.

A.I.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

World A.I.D.S. Day and Compassion

I went to a meeting last night for World A.I.D.S. Day. It was not very large although I live in a small town. I remember years ago that this would have been scandalous; an evangelist of the gospel at THIS kind of meeting.

Maybe I am getting soft in my old age but I think this is the kind of place Jesus would have gone; a place where hope is almost an illusion. Maybe it was the poignant moments where those who had died were spoken of; no last names...only first names. Who are these people? What were their hope and dreams? What of their families and friends?

Jesus got in trouble for spending time with people in trouble; people who were marginalized, people who were hiding from family, people who were fearful of being found out, people who were still hiding from family and friends. He would search for people with "issues" and marked with social or religious "stigma." He identified with them. He was a victim, in the end, of the same "system" that denied "identity" to those he spent time and compassion on.

Time and compassion...what else do we have? What else expresses the heart of the Gospel and the heart of God? God is present with people in trouble. He is looking for them. And if we hope to show His love we need to be looking for them. It does not take much...just a little time and compassion. Is this too much to ask of followers of the Messiah?

A. I.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Location, Location, Location

I was reading Anne Lamott's "Operating Instructions" today and she wrote about "your mind being a bad neighborhood that you should not visit alone." I wonder if this is one reason for fellowship and confession? Or maybe it is a good reason for ME not to visit MY mind alone?

A. I.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Really Effective Prayers

From time to time people ask me about prayer. Usually it is fairly cynical; why should I waste my time talking to HIM???? What did HE ever do for me? It is good to get away from the adults who have anger issues. Listen to the children.

I have tried to listen to Jesus. He was into really simple prayers. Read Matthew 6 or Luke 11. We call it the Lord's prayer but it is really the disciple's prayer. (The Lord's prayer is in John 17. It is advanced theology so stay away from it until you are grown up...maybe 25 or 63.) Disciples should pray really simple prayers. And these are really simple prayers. "God is great and merciful. God cares about what we need. He wants us to love each other and care for the people in need. He wants us to cheer for Him and the hard job He has."

So I listen to children. They haven't made God a cosmic bellhop yet. They still see Him as someone to be manipulated but they are polite and respectful; for the most part. They have good simple prayers:

Hi !!

Thank you !!

Help me !!

Fix this !!

WOW !!

Some people think this is too simple. I think we have made prayer too hard. Just talk to God and then listen. Pretend he is a grandfather. Grandfathers have all kinds of time to listen and they never judge. They made all their terrible mistakes with their kids and they are making up with the grandkids.

One of my grand daughters was trying to read "The Lord of the Rings." She is only 9. Tough going even for an advanced 9 year old. So I told her about Frodo and the ring. I talked to her about Gollum. We talked about Elves and Orcs. We spoke of Dwarves. She was really fascinated by Ents (walking, talking trees).

"Really !!!"

"Wow !!!"

I think she got the idea. Simplicity is harder for adults but let's try it. Grandpa is listening.

"Hi."

A. I.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Justin in Iraq

I have a grandson serving with the Army in Iraq. He is in the shade since the daytime temperature is about 110. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers. If you would like to email or write him send me an email.

A. I.

The Bible is Tough !!!

The Bible is tough because we always get what we need…we are just unsure we want it.

The Bible is tough because we always hear God’s voice...but we want him to shout, not whisper.

The Bible is tough because we think we need information but we really need insight (it is NOT a “how to” book or “God for dummies).”

The Bible is tough because it is abused by religious Nazi’s to make God terrifying and mysterious but it is used by God to draw near to us and remind us how merciful, forgiving and kind He is.

A. I.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

"Statement" Pets

I have been thinking about pets lately. The trend seems to be toward exotic pets; "statement" pets. I have seen a lady walking a dog. Well...that is not precisely true. I have seen a Great Dane dragging a lady around town. It reminds me of a hat I saw once; "I am my dog's personal trainer." I really wonder who owns who. How does the dog even fit in the house? What if they only have an apartment? I shudder to think of it.

If I had a dog I think I would prefer a Golden Retriever. I want something charming and sweet; a big, dumb dog that would lick you to death. I have had cats. They are mostly nice and clean but they are not pets. They are owners; we are the pets. Cat people understand this immediately.

But I digress. The movement is toward "statement" pets. Purebred pets. Pets with a pedigree. Pets that you pay hundreds of dollars for. They seem to be an investment. They are educated. They need to be sent to school. My daughter had a Jack Russell terrier once. It was the most annoying animal I have ever been around. It barked and then it chewed on things. It once chewed a coffee table in half. Charming pet. It tried to chew my grandson in half. Dog went away. Too high strung. Most purebred pets seem like they are inbred; too many curious and annoying habits.

I think if I went in that direction I would choose something more definitive. I would get a gorilla. No clothes. The statement: enter my house and you will become a plaything for the pet. Keep your distance. But that would really be too much trouble. Perhaps a piranha. Please go over to the fish tank and make a donation to the feeding fund. Tap on the glass and annoy it so that when you put your hand or face close to the water it will leap up and grab you by the throat.

All this sounds too problematic. I think I will get a beta fish. I like beta fish. They swim around looking pretty. They are beautiful, but the beauty comes with a warning. They are territorial. They establish dominance. "If I get a chance I will rip your lungs out. I am not tame. I am not domesticated." It will leave people wondering about me; the person who would keep such a pet. Yes, I really like that. Subtlety.

A. I.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wild, Weird God of the Hebrews

Long ago groups of people began to encounter a God who was very different from the other gods they had heard of or worshiped.

  • He acted in strange ways:
    He made promises; covenants.
    He kept His word even if the people did not keep theirs.
    He did not act like any of the other gods.
    He was not at all like the people He chose to encounter.
    He wanted to be close to the people.
    He was unpredictable and inscrutable in His mercy.
  • He was always concerned about ways to benefit people.
These people began to tell stories about Him. Hebrew is a language primarly of pictures so the names are really pictures of Him; descriptions of His character and actions. They are specific descriptions. They gave Him really strange names to describe His character:



  • YAHWEH “I am because I act.”
    YAHWEH-ROPHE "I am the One who heals you."
    YAHWEH-NISSI "I am the One who goes in front of you and stand above you."
    YAHWEH-M'KADDESH "I am the One who will make you holy just like Me."
    YAHWEH-SHALOM "I am the One who makes Peace with you."
    YAHWEH-JIREH "I am the One who provides; who sees the need."

  • El Shaddai "The One who dwells on the mountain."
    El Elyon "The One who dwells above us."
    El Rohai "The One who is our “Shepherd," who guides us."
    Elohim "The Magnificent One. "
    EL "The First One."

They saw Him as a person. All of these names are ways of describing God in terms of what He does. He is not a philosophical abstraction. He is not a concept. He is alive...He acts.

Many people believe in God. They say they belive God exists. They are looking for the God who acts...who does things. They need help and they are looking for someone to help them. An abstract God is not any good to them or to us.

The Scriptures are NOT primarly concerned with proving God exists. They are concerned about telling us that He does things...that He acts. He was active then and He is active now. He is doing things now.

A. I.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

To be a Saint...

People see a good deal of dishonor in our world. Honor is always being sacrificed (or is in danger of being sacrificed) at the altar of pragmatism. It is senseless. It is too expensive. It is inconvenient. It is not profitable. It cramps my style. (The movie “Wall Street” comes immediately to mind.)

But I have also seen a great deal of honor. I have seen people suffering terribly and still able to be happy; even blessed. You know people who have been terribly wronged and will not become vengeful or bitter. This is honor. It is self respect married to respect for others.

Two movies come to mind; one true and one fictional, “We Were Soldiers Once” or “Saving Private Ryan.” People were brave in the midst of horrible circumstances. They look fragile in the midst of it...as though a breath would blow them away. But they endure. No. They are triumphant (John 16:33). They overcome the uncertainty, the pain, the horror and the hopelessness and they give others courage. They give others life. They give others a reason to live. They make us want to be honorable; to be brave and noble. They tell us that sacrifice and nobility endure and embolden people.

This cynicism; this realism as it is called, is the wrong perspective. It is an ignoble and evil perspective. What happens to us when we have no honor? What if honor becomes a casualty of our culture? What if we decide it is too expensive? We become less than human. Our bankbooks may be full but our souls are barren. We may be alive and well but we are broken and hopeless. And we know it.

Jacques Ellul and T. S. Elliot had much to say about this. But my money is with Albert Camus. He was an atheist. He frankly confessed he could not believe. Yet, he fought the Nazis in WW II. He confronted hopelessness in its most pernicious and despicable forms. He stood against it, wrote against it, spoke against it; lived against it. His writings challenge us to be honorable; to be noble. You may believe his honor was an illusion but he maintained it in the face of a world he could see no hope in. His respect for people would not allow him to give in to cynicism.

In “The Plague” Camus wrote of an atheist, Tarrou, who speaks with the doctor, Rieux, about this honor; this respect. Bubonic plague is devastating the city where they are living. Day after day they wage a quiet war against death. The doctor has a clear purpose; he is a healer. But Tarrou is a mystery. What makes him take on this horrible enemy day after day at mortal risk to his own life? One evening Tarrou says, “It comes to this...what interests me is learning how to become a saint...Can one be a saint without God? ...that’s the problem, in fact the only problem, I’m up against today.” (p.237, Vintage Books)

To be a saint? Maybe it means to respect others. Maybe it means to respect oneself. Maybe it means to have honor in the face of helplessness, hopelessness or uncertainty. “Death before dishonor” say soldiers and they serve and some die. “Honor all men...” (1 Peter 2:17) said the apostle who knew honor and dishonor and made a choice. We call him a saint. Now the choice is ours; can we be saints...with God?

A. I.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hey God !!! We have issues !!!

Over the last month the news has been a little harrowing. Cyclone in Myanmar; 100,000 probably dead and more dying. Earthquake in China; 50,000 probably dead and more feared dead. Africa is the home of more than one "civil war" (read genocide). Add to that the 6,500 a DAY, in Africa, dying from malaria without adding the death toll from HIV/AIDS which is a humanitarian scandal.

If this sounds a little too much or maybe a little unbelievable just Google it or read CNN, if you can wade through the irrelevant election news, and find out this is the tip of the iceberg. Check out this link:

http://www.irinnews.org/

What is God doing in the face of all this misery? This is the short list !!

Do not sanitize it. Do not ignore it. Ask Him about it.



A. I.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prayers for People Who Have "Issues" with God

I like to listen to people who are not believers (and some who are) talk about what bothers them about God. Apparently not too many ministers have the same disposition. I think it is part of my ministry to find out how people are doing spiritually. If things are great then we have very little to speak about.

But if things are messed up then the table is really open for a dialogue. Most of the discussion will revolve around their irritation (or anger) with the way God is managing (or mismanaging) the world.

It is a major mistake to argue or reason with people who have these "issues." Explanations do not solve anything. It does not accomplish anything, it irritates them and it takes away their voice. They need to be heard; especially if they do not think God is listening. These people are not idiots. They are struggling. I they could figure it out for themselves they would not be speaking with you. They would be listening to you whine and moan. Now we KNOW that God is always listening...but very often WE secretly wonder if He is paying any attention to what is really going on.

I will ask people to tell me what God's face looks like at this moment. They will look at me in a strange way; as if I have lost my mind or have asked them to walk across a barbecue pit. But I persist. "Tell me what God's face looks like to you right now." It is really amazing what they will say if they think you are really interested.

REMEMBER: DO NOT ARGUE WITH THEM !!! JUST LISTEN !!! DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PSYCHOANALYZE THEM !!! Just listen !!! Do not take notes. Just listen. This is the moment you have been waiting for. They will tell you what they are struggling with and then you will have earned the right to speak with them. Maybe they will shed some light on dark places in your heart and mind...you know...the places YOU hide from everyone; including yourself.

Be courageous and try it out. Remember the questions and we will find a way to publish them so other people will know they are not alone in asking these things. Remember there is enough loneliness and isolation in the world it is time to break the walls down.

By the way...God likes it when we do this. Read Job or some of the Psalms. He is thrilled when we become curious. It is "Proof of Life."

A. I.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Buildings R Us

I have been paying attention to the moods and pretensions of the church lately and I believe I see a pattern. I have seen it in churches and I have seen it in church universities. It parallels what is happening in our culture.

Since 1991 I have lived in Idaho, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky. I have noticed that hospitals, universities and other businesses are engaged in massive building programs. Every hospital I have seen has been expanded and remodeled (even though the patient load is showing a downward trend). At the same time these same institutions have NOT raised the standard pay of their employees and have actually cut employees and raised the workload of the one left behind. And they have the gall to whine about how hard it is to keep good employees. I am picking on hospitals and universities since their mandate is to HELP people.

I suppose I first noticed it a Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, IL. In 1993 when they changed their Patient Care department to Customer Service. I happen to believe there is a huge difference between a "customer" and a "patient." A few pedantic nominalists will say I am engaged in arguing about words. The next thing I noticed was a shift from patient care to construction. Every hospital in the surrounding areas was remodeled and expanded while the level of health care went down the toilet. "Do no harm" was replaced by "Bill your patients in as many ways as possible and for as many services as possible and make the bill incomprehensible." Getting health care was secondary to getting health insurance.

I then began to notice that universities were dong the same thing. Even though the number of students was declining (and still is) every college spent and is continuing to spend millions of dollars becoming a university and building more elaborate buildings so that the level of education could actually DECLINE.

Now this bothers me since most of the money is tax money (that means it is my money being misspent by bureaucrats) and it will only benefit the egos of people whose egos are already big enough. It is also what happens in a fallen world; PEOPLE who need care and money are ignored while concrete and corporations are expanded beyond reason.

Lately the churches have gotten into the act. Missions are on life support, ministers are STILL victims of a unspoken VOW of POVERTY, education in the church is a mysterious process. But buildings are going up at a record rate. I wonder what the Lord would think of this turn of events?

A. I.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Another Idea

I was reading Mark 3 and I wondered about the story of the man being healed on the sabbath. It says that Jesus was "grieved" at their hardness of heart. The New English Bible says, "...he was grieved at their obstinate stupidity." (I like that translation.)

I wonder if he is thinking of the kingdom as a place where people are supposed to be healed and helped. Maybe the church is like a hospital or an "urgent care center" where people come to get help?

What do you think?

A. I.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

View From the Underside

I have been asked what challenges the church faces at the present time. This is a difficult question to answer without passion so I gave this some time before I posted it.

I would say that churches, for the most part, are reflections of a fearful, self righteous and consumerist culture. They are tools for political and social ideologies that are opposed to the Gospel. This has occurred because we have forgotten or ignored the Gospel and have translated its message to suit ourselves rather than allowing it to challenge us.

I would say that churches are business ventures consumed with the bottom line. They view people as means to an end. They are obsessed with survival, money and attendance. Discipleship is not in their vocabulary in any meaningful sense. They give very little real thought to God or the challenge of the Christ. They have lost their souls.

I would say that we a broken nearly beyond repair. I think Jesus is looking for people who are open to him and He will find them whether they are in what we call the church or in the world.

We are wholly owned subsidiaries of a political and religious ideology which is conservative in the worst sense of the word. We are not interested in transformation but in the preservation of the status quo. We have lost our passion of people in our lust for power and prestige.

We have made the Gospel of God a statement about OUR distinctiveness and OUR values and in doing this we have prostituted the Gospel to serve our interests.

What is the way out of the downward spiral? We must again submit ourselves to the discipline of the Word of God. We must approach it with a humility which recognizes our sinfulness and complicity in brokenness of the world and the church. We must repent and recognize that the Gospel is about God; what God has done, what God is doing, what God wants, what God is calling us to become. It is never about us or our survival or glorification. It is about God's glory and His agenda.

Until we reject our mercenary use of God and his Church we will continue to be largely ineffective and irrelevant and we will continue to wander through the wasteland of our culture as a false oasis. We will continue to be ineffective. We will continue to have an identity crisis.

We must become a compassionate society rather than a competitive one. We must become a giving culture rather than a consuming culture. We must be taken out of ourselves so we can see the need of those around us. Only then can we navigate with clear vision.

And we must understand that the Church is not in danger of failing or disappearing. We are in danger of failing and have virtually disappeared. God can and will raise a new Church. He may even be in the process of doing so as we speak. Let's join him. Let's repent. Let's get on our knees.

A. I.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Proof of Life

I am happy to have a forum to address things going on in my world. I will try to be a little more deliberate about updating this particular blog.

I do wonder about the kind of church I belong on a "macro" level. I think from time to time it is dead and ready to be buried.

But the assembly I actually attend is very different. They are becoming curious about things and they have lots of questions. This makes my life very interesting. It means I actually have to prepare for classes since I never really know what may be coming up in our discussions. This is a good thing for me since you cannot be bored when people are curious. I saw a movie once and I loved the title: Proof of Life. This guy was kidnapped and held for ransom and at a certain point in the process of getting him back they wanted "proof of life;" evidence he was still around. Questions are Proof of Life. They mean people are still living and breathing... and thinking.

Is there Proof of Life in your existence...in your assembly?

A. I.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another Challenge

I am a very non-political person but I was convicted recently by a printed version of a speech by Bono in 2006 at the National Prayer Breakfast.

"There is a continent--Africa--being consumed in flames. I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did--or did not do--to put the fire out in Africa."

"History, like God, is watching what we do."

I have a link to a website on my blog, ONE.ORG. I would urge you to take a look at the entire speech which can be found by a Google search and check out the web site I mentioned and keep this scripture in mind:

"Is it a fast like this which I require, a day of mortification such as this, that a men should bow his head like a bullrush and make his bed sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this what I require of you as a fast:
to loose the fetter of injustice,
to untie the knots of the yoke,
to snap every yoke and set free those who have been crushed?
Is it not sharing your food with the hungry,
taking the homeless poor into your house,
clothing the naked when you meet them
and never evading a duty to your kinsfolk?
Then shall your light break forth as the dawn and soon you will grow healthy like a wound newly healed; your own righteousness shall be your vanguard, and the glory of the Lord your rearguard."

Isaiah 58:5-8

I think we are being called to something more...by a rock star.

A.I.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Last Observation on the Election of 2008

The Haircut

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill and the barber replies, "I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week." The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber goes to open his shop the next morning there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, "I cannot accept money from you. I'm doingcommunity service this week." The cop is happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then, a Congressman comes in for a haircut and when he goes topay his bill, the barber again replies, "I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week." The Congressman is veryhappy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the members of our Congress.

A.I.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A View of Politics

For those of you who wonder about my choice of presidential candidates; a moral from Douglas Adams.

"The major problem (one of the major problems, for there are several) one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize; it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no accout be allowed to do the job."

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, p. 201

A. I.

Smiley's Last Homily

I read this a few years ago but I think it may still be appropriate with all the demagogues on the left and right clamoring for attention in an election year. It is the final homily of a spy who was on the "winning" side and what guided him through the confusion of those days and what may guide us through the confusion of our days.

"I only ever cared about the man. . . . I never gave a fig for the ideologies, unless they were mad or evil. I never saw institutions as being worthy of their parts, or policies as much other than excuses for not feeling. Man, not the mass, is what our calling is about. It was man who ended the Cold War in case you didn’t notice. It wasn't weaponry, or technology, or armies or campaigns. It was just man. Not even Western man either, as it happened, but our sworn enemy in the East, who went into the streets, faced the bullets and the batons and said: we’ve had enough. It was their emperor, not ours, who had the nerve to mount the rostrum and declare he had no clothes. And the ideologies trailed after these impossible events like condemned prisoners, as ideologies do when they’ve had their day. Because they have no heart of their own. They’re the whores and angels of our striving selves. One day history may tell us who really won. If a democratic Russia emerges, why then Russian will have been the winner. And if the West chokes on its own materialism then the West may still turn out to have been the loser. History keeps her secrets longer than most of us."

Smiley's last warning about the real enemy:..."It’s the over-mighty modern State we’ve built for ourselves as a bastion against something that isn’t there any more. We’ve given up far too many freedoms in order to be free. Now we’ve got to take them back. . . . So while you’re out there striving loyally for the State, perhaps you’ll do me a small favour and lean on its pillars from time to time. It’s got a lot too big for its boots of late. It would be nice if you would cut it down to size."

from "The Secret Pilgrim"
John LeCarre'

A. I.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ONE

I discovered a new web site. It is very compelling. Everyone should take a look at it.

http://www.one.org/

And while you are at it take a look at this link...and if you are not convicted then you need to repent...right now.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-02-02-bono-transcript_x.htm

Peace

A. I.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Radical Resolution

What do you think would happen if every christian decided to do two things in 2008:

1. Pray every day for God to be present and active in their lives.

2. Determine to examine again the meaning of the Gospel by the way it is presented in the Scripture rather than trust their traditional understanding of it.

A. I.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Provocative question...

Jacques Ellul in The Subversion of Christianity framed the challenge we face in the 21st century quite well and no one seems to want to address it. Are you up for the challenge?

"The question that I want to sketch in this work is one that troubles me most deeply. As I now see it, it seems to be insoluble and assumes a serious character of historical oddness. It may be put very simply: How has it come about that the development of Christianity and the church has given birth to a society, a civilization, a culture that are completely opposite to what we read in the Bible..."


A. I.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Healthy Assembly



What would be needful to create an assembly where the major focus would be on the people rather than the logistics that we find necessary to keep a group of people together? We are trying to do this.

If you feel compelled to weigh in on this have at it. Every comment will be added to the blog unless is obscene or abusive and I promise to be fair.

A. I.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Chess


This is the symbol of the chess team I belong to on www.gameknot.com and it is helping me develop patience and discplined thinking. My handle is "vhhsawb" so look me up and challenge me to a game. Your chances of winning are fairly good although I am improving.

A. I.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why Solzhenitsyn Fell Out of Favor.

“But should I be asked, instead, whether I would propose the West, such as it is today, as a model to my country, I would frankly have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through deep suffering, people in our own country have now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just enumerated are extremely saddening.”

“A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human personality in the West while in the East it has become firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. The complex and deadly crush of life has produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting personalities than those generated by standardized Western well-being. Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant points.”

“Of course, a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to stay on such a soulless and smooth plane of legalism, as is the case in yours. After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced as by a calling card by the revolting invasion of commercial advertising, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.”

“All this is visible to numerous observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model. There are telltale symptoms by which history gives warning to a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, a decline of the arts or a lack of great statesmen. Indeed, sometimes the warnings are quite explicit and concrete. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.”

“But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive. You can feel their pressure, yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?”

Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn


A. I.

The Challenge

"Our task as men is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks men take a long time to accomplish, that's all."

Albert Camus

A. I.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Logan



He was seven months old when this was taken. His was a very good baby for Nana and Papa when we kept him in Gatlinburg. His father was a very good baby. Brian threatens to come through and drop Christopher and Logan off for a few days so Freida and I could babysit and Amy and he could so skiing. I told him to go ahead because 2 or 3 days would be long enough to spoil them hopelessly.

A. I.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

MaKenna


This is MaKenna with her papa. She is 7 months old and she gets more beautiful every time I see her. She definitely has her own mind and does not hesitate to inform you about her likes and dislikes.

A. I.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Garrett


This is Garrett and so far he is the "quiet baby." That is surprising since his mother hardly ever stops talking. He is about a year and a half old. He has recently decided to start walking and this picture is the best one I have of him alone. He is getting a bath in our sink.

A. I.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Christopher


This is Christopher. He is 2 years old and he is teaching his parents the meaning of patience. He is a very good boy but that may be misleading. Grandfathers always think the grandkids are "good."

A. I.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gregory


I call him Greg. He is my buddy. He will be 5 on his next birthday. We share a love of singing and of building things. He loves to help his mother and is always full of energy.

A. I.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Michaela


This is Michaela. She was my first grandchild. Her birthday is only two days earlier than mine so every year we celebrate our birthdays together. She is almost 7 years old. She reads her bible every night and loves her "God songs."

A. I.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Logan Mattthew

Exactly on his due date, Logan Matthew was born.

7 lbs., 10 ozs., 18 in.

Born at 4:10 AM, December 13, 2006 in Pensacola, Florida.

Pictures are coming.

Peace

A. I.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sorry but "would you like to hear about my grandchildren?"

I know it has been a while since I posted anything but I have been really busy. I am also waiting for the birth of another grandchild. This one will be number 7. I think it will be a boy but I do not really know yet...but I have heard hints and slip ups that lead me to believe it will be another male child.

One day I will do a blog about my grandkids...all at one or one at a time.

Peace

A. I.

Good News in Hebrews

The earliest christians were being warned that they were in danger. One of the dangers they faced was described in Hebrews 12:18-24. They were falling into fear; fear of loss, fear of God and fear of failure.

The Hebrew writer reminds them that they do not stand before a God who is defined by a fearful, smoking mountain or a blood soaked temple. He reminds them that they now stand in the presence of holy angels, holy men and a holy God who through Jesus Christ has made it possible for them to inhabit the "heavenly Jerusalem" with joy and gratitude.

The good news for them and for us is that our service to God, our worship, and our service to others is motivated by gratitude rather than fear. Thankful for what we have received we openly confess our allegiance to a Father who has openly confessed His allegiance to us. Who we stand before and why we stand there makes all the difference in how we stand.

A. I.

Monday, October 23, 2006

All Saints' Day

Next Wednesday is “All Saints Day.” It comes around every November 1. Halloween gets all the press but in the liturgical calendar it is totally eclipsed by a day set aside to remember saints; holy people, extraordinary people. All the regular saints are mentioned; Augustine, Aquinas, Peter, Paul. We even have a new one in Indiana. “All Saints’ Day” is for all them. Or is it?

What does is mean to be a Christian? This question has many answers. We believe certain doctrines. We go to church on certain days. We perform certain rituals. If we only pay attention to outward rituals there are a lot of Christians in the world. But what if it means more?

Does it mean that we are “marked” people? It meant this for the early Christians in the book of Acts. They were singled out for abuse and persecution. Does it mean we are “called” people? It meant this for Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. Does it mean we are crazy people? If we behave in odd ways, take odd directions and insist we are following God we can look nuts. Think of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: burn us but we will not relent.

In The Plague, by Albert Camus, Tarrou has a conversation with Dr Rieux. He says that the only problem he is up against is how to be a “saint.” Rieux is incredulous. He points out that Tarrou is an atheist. Tarrou concedes this makes the point difficult. But it is the only concrete problem he is concerned with. “How can one be a saint?”

If we are Christians we do not have Tarrou’s problem but we share his calling. Being a Christian means we are “saints.” It does not mean we are perfect. It does not mean we are spiritually or morally superior. It does not mean we have supernatural abilities. It does not mean we are crazy. It simply means that we are committed to a way of living that shows the character of Christ. It means our behavior is guided and sustained by God. It means we are His people. In the New Testament the most common word for Christians is “saints.”

So this Wednesday is our day. We are called, we are set apart, and we are peculiar. We are odd. We may be crazy. We are saints.


A. I.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Stress Management #2

The other thing one must do to deal with stress is find a harmless hobby to occasionally occupy one's mind. Mine is chess. Feel free to email me with a challenge...and I will feel free to accept or decline according to my work load. Remember, in chess the worst thing that can happen is that you will make a terrible mistake and the game will continue.

A. I.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Stress Management

Just in case you've had a rough day here is a stress management technique recommended in all the latest psychological texts. The funny thing is that it really works.




1. Picture yourself near a stream.

2. Birds are softly chirping in the cool mountain air.

3. No one but you knows your secret place.

4. You are in total seclusion from the hectic place called "the world".

5. The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.

6. The water is crystal clear.

7. You can easily make out the face of the person you're holding under water.

8. See! You're smiling already!!!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You think I did what?

Significance of Dating the New Testament

Those familiar with reading commentaries and doing research into the history of the Bible have to read about dating. When was something written? Who wrote it? Why was it written? To whom was it written?

It struck me once that all this research is necessary but I wonder if we have approached it correctly?

Every commentary or set of commentaries on the New Testament takes it for granted that the Epistles were written before the Gospels. It is NOT that simplistic but the effect is the same. We are led to believe that Paul, Peter and John (among others) wrote their instructions and then others found the time to put together the books we call Gospels.

I had not realized how preposterous this entire group of assumptions appeared until I read J. A. T. Robinson's Redating the New Testament. Then it occurred to me: how incredible that the early christian community would be nurtured upon the stories of Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord and would only record His words as a secondary source.

Why not rather assume that the Gospels were the primary source, rather than some elusive Q, and that all of the Epistles were derived as expressions of the meaning of the Gospel. Further, if one honestly studies the structure of the Gospels, using all the insights of modern research, it becomes clear this is a very possible conclusion.

It also makes sense that the early christians would have recorded the words of Jesus as soon as possible since the original witnesses were under duress and subject to all manner of threats including execution.

To make a modern parallel; if someone makes a comment about the latest book by John Grisham we will not consult Mr. Grisham's twelve best friends. We can contact Mr. Grisham himself and determine the meaning of anything he has written. It would be madness to do otherwise.

Similarly, it would be madness to let the witness of this unique life and His unique words linger in memory longer than necessary before they were committed to paper. It was NOT the habit of the Hebrew mind, as familiar as it was with oral tradition, to let the Word of God remain unwritten but to commit it to a written form as soon as possible. If we honestly read the Gospels, particularly Luke and John, we will see that this is precisely what was done.

A. I.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stress

Stress is the confusion created when the mind overrides the body's primal desire to choke the life out of some idiot who desperately needs it.

A. I.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Prayer

We could spend a lot of time talking about prayer. Prayer is necessary. Prayer is commanded. Prayer is valuable. I could use a lot of scriptures to talk about it. In the end we will pray. We will pray badly or well. We will pray morning or night. We will pray for all kinds of things and all kinds of people. But we WILL pray.

We pray because we cannot help it. Things will happen that are beyond our understanding. We pray. It will not look like prayer but it is prayer. I saw a picture of a man looking at the rubble in Manhattan with tears in his eyes. I think he was praying. His eyes were open and he was praying. He was asking himself or God why this awful thing happened. I have seen people in hospitals standing in hallways or by beds with anger or pain in their eyes. I think they were praying. They were trying to have a dialogue with God about someone or something.

I have watched people in the assembly. I am sure they were praying. It was the expression on their face or their posture. Their eyes were not closed but I am sure they were praying. We pray when the confusion is too deep or we think God is silent. Maybe we hope that if we are quiet enough God’s voice can be heard. Maybe we think that if we yell loudly God will hear us. We pray.

It is useless to argue about the necessity or usefulness of prayer. People pray. People pray all the time. Believers pray. Unbelievers pray. Prayer is dialogue. It may sound like monologue but we talk to God hoping He will answer. And we expect an answer. We expect a dialogue.

Sometimes prayer is a question? Why? When? How long? Sometimes it is a proclamation. We believe: help our unbelief. Sometimes it is a paradox. We want to go but we are told to wait. (Acts 1:4-9) Sometimes it is an argument. Read Job or Psalms. It can be impatient or submissive. But it is still prayer.

What do you think prayer is? What does it look like? How does it sound? Hold that picture in your mind...and pray.

A.I.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gospel of God

I have decided to create a place to discuss the most important event in human history; the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Gospel of Mark 1:14-15

(14) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, (15) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."

A. I.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Listen

I read this one by Anne Lamott in "Traveling Mercies"

"Hope is the ability to be cheerful when things are pretty desparate."

She also quotes this poem:


"Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin is shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cites growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is"

W. S. Merwyn

A. I.

Reading the Scripture with Imagination and Insight

One of our challenges in reading Scripture is getting to know the people. We have read them many times. We know how they begin and how they end. Do we know the characters? Do they have an identity?

God tells Abraham to take his “only son” (Genesis 22:2) and “sacrifice him.” Let's imagine that we are Abraham. He is very old. He thinks all his serious choices are behind him. He is relaxing into retirement, expecting to hand the family business to Isaac. God made a promise to Abraham. He told him that he would become a “large nation.” He has a son: Only one son. (Ishmael does not count.) And he trusts God. Then he gets a message: “Kill the boy!” The message is clear: “Kill the boy!” Abraham is silent. The silence is deafening.

I have a son. Many of us may have children. I would die FOR my son. You would die FOR your children. But kill them? Isaac is alive because he is the embodiment of every promise God made. He is the promise!. We expect an argument. We would argue. We expect Abraham to argue. This is all monstrously wrong.

He does not say one word. He packs for the trip and leaves. Isaac asks about the sacrifice. “God will provide…” and on they go. He ties the boy up so he can kill Him. Not a single question. No argument. No hesitation. Compliance…from the father and the son.

We know it is just a test. We know he gets the boy back. We know Isaac lives a long life. We know…but Abraham and Isaac do not know. It is a terrifying reality to them. Do we know the struggle that produces such a faith? Here is a trust so radical it sees the invisible face of God and says, “Here is the boy. Here is the promise. Here is my life. I trust you.” This is not mental assent. This is not “blind faith.” Abraham's eyes are completely open. Open to the terror. Open to the glory. Open to the voice of God. Maybe if we open our eyes enough we can see the vision that guided Abraham.


A. I.