Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

There are still ladies who desperately need to touch His garment.

We are working our way through the Gospel of Mark on Sunday Mornings at CBC, so a few months ago, when I saw this article, I made a note of it. Tomorrow I'm dealing with the passage of Scripture that contains the account of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for 12 years, Mark 5:25-34--the lady referenced in the article's title.
We too easily divorce ourselves from the world of Scripture. "That was then; this is now." we too eagerly say. This article brought me up short. Not only does it talk about a group of ladies who are dealing with a horrendous disability--often totally unnecessarily--but it helped me realize in a new way that people haven't really changed all that much in the past two millennia. When it comes to needing the Lord, they haven't changed at all.
Jesus and the Unclean Woman

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Desperately Searching for Balance:

As I get older it is harder to stay balanced.
It certainly applies to me physically. I used to come down stairs in a sort of controlled fall. I could kind of kick my feet over the edge of each stair-tread and let gravity do its work. Now, with the stiffening of joints and the slow-down of my synapses, I tend to have a definite one at a time gait, and I often use the handrail. Staying upright, adapting to rapidly changing conditions and sensations, and doing so without looking like an utter fool has gotten harder--much harder.

What is true about descending a staircase is more-so in regard to mental/emotional/spiritual matters:

  • Part of the problem is I see and have seen the damage that comes from a lack of balance. In the same way that part of my perceived--or actual--clumsiness on a set of stairs results from my awareness of what a fall can do to my old body, my struggle with balance in other areas comes from disasters that I have seen--and caused--over the past decades. How much time do I allow "Joe Waste-a-day" take up in my schedule? I have offended Joe's sister because I didn't take time to listen when he was hurting, and I've shown up on Sunday morning unprepared because I allowed him to cut into study time. Balance!
  • I know that to be effective in ministry I have to be me. I've tried, and failed miserably, to exposit like MacArthur, tell stories like Swindoll, command a platform like Stowell, and administer like Maxwell. Yet I know that Popeye was on a route to failure with his, "I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam." In so many ways "I yam" not good enough. I need to grow, to become, to expand.
  • Everyday I face decisions about doing things that will benefit me, my family and my ministry in the long-term. Often focus on those big-picture matters are crowded out by the mundane. Sunday is always coming. There are always people with current needs. My desk needs cleaning & my grass has to be mowed. I know that if I will invest time and effort into long-range preparation that my right now tasks will be easier to do tomorrow and next year. I can't afford, though, to neglect a "must do" today for the sake of a "need to do" to be ready for tomorrow. Sometimes the urgent really is tyrannical to ignore its siren--as on an ambulance, not in mythology--call is to assure disaster. Yet to let it rule my life is to assure a painful death by a thousand undressed wounds.

I'm trying, but not coming as near to success as I wish I were, to remember, and act on the basis that:

  • People matter. My computer will return to silicon. People will be somewhere for ever.
  • Yet properly used, the computer can enable me to do my job better than I would with just a pencil.
  • I shouldn't flatter myself, I'm not nearly as important or essential as I often think I am.
  • Having said that, if God can use others who put on their pants one leg at a time, He can use me. By His grace and enablement I am significant.
  • Don't spend more time on something than it is worth. A significant part of balance is proportion. For instance, I figure I've spent enough time on this. . . .

Thursday, May 6, 2010

If you agree with me, I'll be glad to listen:

I read a post today on Rod Dreher's blog, that jogged several things in my mind. They settled back in what seems to be a pattern that clarifies some things for me. Maybe this will help you see some things more clearly, as well.
Dreher's post is about epistemic closure--what we mere mortals would call closed-mindedness--and how to avoid it. Embedded in the post is a video by David Logan that is worth watching. It is part of what helped things gel in my mind.
The video is about tribes--not exactly Navajo or Apache, though in a sense these people-groups would fit the definition, but tribes in the postmodern sense--the clumping together of people to protect one an others mutual interests under the pressure of living in a culture where there is no overarching morality that provides security.
There is no need to repeat his stuff, I encourage you to watch the video, but looking at things through his paradigm there are the Timothy McVeys of the world--thankfully a distinct minority--the people who truly love life and bless others, and three other gradations in between. There is kind of a social inertia in these groups. Upward mobility is hard, partly because of isolation, much of it self imposed.
The video, though, is not the main point of Dreher's post. He gives a summary of a list by Will Salitan about keeping a properly open mind. He has a link to the original list of 10 points. Dreher picks four. Since the list by Salitan was published on SLATE it isn't surprising that it is critical of political conservatives. The point is basically that conservatives choose to only allow input that would confirm what they already believe. Not only is it true about some (many?) conservatives, it is a syndrome that is applies to a great many of us in a variety of realms.
I'll comment on some ways this filter-the-input mentality affects my realm:
We are instructed in scripture to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23, Matthew 15:18, but that cannot mean to never entertain a thought that challenges our mental status quo. The Apostle Paul for instance was knowledgeable of the pagan philosophers of his day. Peter's command to be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope . . . (1 Peter 3:15) implies a dialogue with those who hold another view. Yet, many evangelicals live in a world in which every element of their lives is hyphenated with "Christian." They listen to Christian-radio, shop in Christian-stores, wear Christian T-shirts or ties, etc, etc.
In our fear of not being polluted are we failing to influence? And, just perhaps, are we failing to learn some things that might be good to know?

Some other quickies:
I've read a number of criticisms of John Piper for inviting Rick Warren to speak at his conference. Maybe we should cut them some slack. Could it be that the contact will be profitable?
Many specialists in "discernment" seem to major on rationale that sounds an awful lot like:
We know that buzzards sit on eggs. This activity results in the proliferation of buzzards, an obnoxious bird, covered with germs, declared unclean by the Old Testament. A recent article in a well known periodical documented Daisy the beagle-hound incubating a clutch of eggs. Buzzards were seen circling above Daisy--clear evidence that these were buzzard eggs--at the least, Daisy showed a lack of proper regard for decency by appearing to contribute to the buzzard population. Howard Merrell once owned a beagle. Clearly he is a buzzard-sympathizer--if not a vulture in disguise.

I understand the need for proper separation, but could it be that in our fear of being exposed to something bad that we fail to be challenged to learn something greater?
There is a tendency to ridicule, or be dismissive about that, and those, with which, or with whom, we disagree. I'm somewhat of a fan of a very well-done blog, Front Porch Republic. Reading the thoughts of the ladies and gentlemen there helps keep my epistemic door open. My measurement of the discussion on FPR is "how far over my head is it this time?" Yet for all of the intellect on display, on the site, there is an unfortunate tendency to caricature and make-fun-of folk who hold views that the learned authors there choose to not consider. Sarah Palin is called a sex-pot, and evangelicals are presented as buffoons.
I would be amiss if I did not confess my own tendencies in this regard:
Yesterday I had to stifle an urge. In a magazine I saw an ad for a big gathering of Christians featuring well-known preachers. There on the page was a gentleman who a few years, ago if memory serves me well, did Fundamentalism a great disservice by doing a very good job presenting a very wrong concept. He was one of the best known proponents of the King James Only Movement. There on the same page was a man I admire greatly. I almost went into the guilt by association mode. Thankfully, I stopped--As Barney Fife used to say, "Nipped it in the bud." A practice I hope to practice more.