Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When Christianity Confronts Culture

I’ve posted before on how much we as Christians often allow (especially our western, American) culture to affect our interpretation and understanding of Scripture. I was reminded of this today as I read some thoughts by one Robin Dugall who writes for a daily online devotional service.

Robin took her thoughts in a good direction, but I’d like to contemplate a different slant on her topic from the book of Matthew. What struck me, again, was how much we in affluent America tend to understand spirituality from our myopic entrenchment in our culture..

We think, for instance, that success, self sustenance and independence are important goals as human beings (Christian, or not). We want to be able to provide for ourselves and our families and not be a burden on anyone. Certainly seems noble, right?

Well, the late, Dutch Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen, who wrote some 40 books on living out our faith, thought otherwise. (Photo is Rembrandt’s version of Nouwen’s reflections in his short book, Return of the Prodigal Son.) Consider this statement by the famed author: “We are called to be fruitful – not successful, not productive, not accomplished. Success comes from strength, stress, and human effort. Fruitfulness comes from vulnerability and the admission of our own weakness.”

Jesus said this about fruitfulness in Matthew, chapter 7: “Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits”.

So, apparently, Jesus looks on us by what we are accomplishing for him (fruitfulness), not by what we’ve accumulated for ourselves and/nor for our future. Yikes.

As my wife and I contemplate further steps into our retirement, I hope we’ll be more sensitive to the scriptures than to our culture – though, admittedly, we must live in our culture.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Music That Touches the Soul - All on Black Notes

We got home late last night from Oregon where we enjoyed three super days with our three granddaughters and their mom. Dad was at a Pastor's conference on the Oregon Coast until yesterday afternoon.

Last evening we enjoyed a belated 40th birthday "pizza and ice cream" celebration (his two favorite rarely indulged foods) for Gregg before heading for home.

When I was catching up on emails this morning, I found this YouTube performance sent to me by my long-time California bud, Jim Buchfuehrer. Just click on the "play" arrow below and let it speak to your soul.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Granddaughter Is A Track Winner

Today my wife and I went to an Oregon Middle School Track Meet to watch our granddaughter, Talli, 13 and in 8th grade, take part in an after-school triangular meet at the local high school.

Talli WON the 1500 meter run, then an hour later WON the 800 meter run, and then, to cap off the day, ran the anchor leg of the 4 x 400 meter relay as their team came in SECOND.

Now THAT’s a day of athletic competition!

In the photo Talli is approaching the finish line (where the guy at the far right is holding the tape) in her 1500 meter win. She was "pushed" down the stretch but had just enough left to stave off her challenger. The rest of the field was far behind and out of the picture. Click on the pic to see a very large image.

Talli’s time in the 1500 meters was 5:38.4, her best time ever in the event. She’s improving daily and hopes by the end of the year to get under 5:30 – a remarkable accomplishment if she can pull it off.

She now runs a mile in well under six minutes. I MAY have run a mile NEAR six minutes ONCE in my life in high school when I was in shape for Spring sports. That gives you an idea of how much better my granddaughter is. GO TALLI!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Baseball Instead of Taxes

I went to a Seattle Mariners game last night, compliments of my son, even though it was the day before taxes are due.

What a marvelous contrast to previous years, when, on April 14, I’d be frantically trying to get my return off to the Feds. Because I’m a procrastinator.

This year, I finished the taxes two weeks early and was able to totally relax and focus on last night’s game. And that was in spite of the fact that the M’s lost to the Kansas City Royals, due mainly to one person – pitcher Zack Greinke. It seemed like all the M’s could do off of Greinke was hit ground balls to Royals second baseman, Mark Grudzielanek, who fielded 10 of them successfully, one short of the team record.

If Greinke continues to pitch the way he did last night (and in his two previous starts), look for him to be starting for the American League in the All-Star game in July. He gave up just one earned run over nine innings, and his ERA went UP!

EX-Mariner Miguel Olivo hit a 409-foot home run to add insult to injury. That just might be one more round-tripper than he hit in his two seasons with the Mariners.

All in all, however, for true baseball fans, it was a great, well-pitched game on both sides. One bad inning cost Jarred Washburn a chance for victory. The photo shows the Mariners' Ichiro in his famous “vertical bat stretch” just before each pitch.

The best part was that my son, Doug, provided the tickets to the game. He has a 10-game, two-seat, select season ticket package in the club level, and last night was my turn to go. What a fabulous place from which to watch a ballgame. The seats are somewhat sheltered from wind and weather (plus, the roof was closed last night due to inclement conditions), and even if you get chilly, you just walk a few feet back into the warm club facility and watch the game from there. Plus, you can order food right from your seat, and they bring it piping hot in just minutes.

THIS is the way to watch Major League baseball! Thanks, son.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

If You Think You Knew the Meaning of “Resurrection,” Think Again (Or Read This Book)

I just finished reading the greatest book I’ve ever read on the Christian faith. C.S. Lewis, for me in the past, did a wonderful job in providing perspective on many Christian beliefs and practices. But I think he’s been “one-upped”.

N. T. Wright, in his new book Surprised By Hope – Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, does an absolutely incredible job in providing enlightening early church views about the title topics and packaging them wonderfully in a message of hope for the future in which we can immerse ourselves today.

Here are a few things from the book that have refreshed my faith:

● I should be looking forward to a new resurrection and re-creation of heaven and earth where we’ll thrive with Christ, rather than anticipating some sort of a dis-embodied existence in a far away “heaven”

● Everything we do in our bodies that eventually will die (good works) will become part of God’s future and ultimately will be part of his new creation. (This certainly gives fresh meaning to life itself.)

● Christ’s resurrected body was our first glimpse of the promised new creation and the Kingdom of God. It was the beginning of God’s reign on earth (just as we pray for in The Lord’s Prayer) that will culminate when God finally “brings together” heaven and earth.

● The mission of the church is a mission of hope – “that the genuine Christian hope, rooted in Jesus’ resurrection, is the hope for God’s renewal of all things, for his overcoming of corruption, decay, and death, for his filling of the whole cosmos with his love and grace, power and glory”.

● The sacraments are not just “remembrances." Communion, for instance, is a celebration of the presence of the living Lord who has gone on into the new creation as its prototype. In a real sense, through the eucharist, we experience Christ’s resurrection in a tangible, powerful way, in anticipation of the new creation and the marriage supper of the Lamb.

And there's much, much more. I highly recommend Wright’s book. It has for me changed forever my understanding of Christ's resurrection and the very purpose for my existence.