Saturday, December 29, 2007

For the Holy Innocents

This is from a sermon by Quodvultdeus, Bishop of Cathage, on those slaughtered by Herod, who in some ways were the very first little martyrs to the faith.

"They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their little limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mary the Dawn

I love Mary, and my feelings for her lie somewhere between the extremes expressed by some of my Catholic friends and by too many of my Protestant friends. This devotion (from the Dominican Sisters of Summit) I think rightly navigates the extremes, presenting Mary's right position as the great herald of her Son.
Mary the dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!

Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!

Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!

Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!

Mary the temple, Christ the temple’s Lord;
Mary the shrine, Christ the God’s adored!

Mary the beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!

Mary the mother, Christ the mother’s Son
By all things blessed while endless ages run.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Movie Review

Bella (2007), PG-13. Producers include Stephen McEveety, a producer on The Passion of the Christ.

Tag line from the poster: "True love goes beyond romance"

A tragedy ends the career of an up-and-coming soccer star Jose' (Eduardo Verástegui) on the way to sign his million-dollar contract. Years later, working in his brother’s restaurant, Jose' and waitress Nina (Tammy Blanchard) discovers something that Nina is unprepared for. An impetuous act by Jose brings them together during an extraordinary day. Nina is facing a tough decision and when Jose' shares a tragedy that changed his life and how his family helped him cope, Nina also transforms.

Bella is strongly pro-family and pro-life, but both in such subtle and organic ways that there is never a hint of the film being pushy.

And I dare you to not weep at the ending.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A hymn for the season

By Josiah Holland

There's a song in the air! There's a star in the sky!
There's a mother's deep prayer and a baby's slow cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

There's a tumult of joy over the wonderful birth,
For the Virgin's sweet boy is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! The star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

In the light of that star lie the ages impearled;
And that song from afar has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame, and the beautiful sing,
And we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Terrific Musician

I hereby make Bruce Cockburn the offical musician of the Itinerant Iconoclast site. He is a man who deals with real world issues and sings about them from a persepective of one who knows there is a God. He has never been a part of the "Christian" sub-culture, which allows him to sing about hard issues and air his struggles in an honest way. The above-referenced site includes comments by Cockburn about his songs, tour info, etc . . .

BTW, Cockburn's album "Christmas" is simply the best seasonal album out there, a combination of original, traditional, and obscure Christmas songs.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Life in Europe?

This is a (lightly edited) column from the Wall Street Journal this weekend.
The Well Spring

Old ladies sitting in otherwise empty churches. That's the picture most of my American friends have of spirituality in Europe. How is it, then, that a guy like me, Bible Belt-born and -bred, lifetime churchgoer, has found spiritual renewal in this pit of secularism? And am I the only one?

The hard data show that Christianity remains in long-term decline here. A 2004 Gallup poll found that 15% of Europeans attend a weekly worship service of any faith, compared with 44% of Americans. And the spiritual gap between the U.S. and Europe is actually "worse than people think," says Philip Jenkins, author of "God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis."

But the light is not yet out. Those remaining believers and the faith communities they form are what Prof. Jenkins calls "white dwarves" -- because "they're smaller than the sun, but they shine brighter." I'm no astrophysicist, but it seems to me that such intense bodies are more likely to expand than to contract.

This is certainly true of the church in which I'm involved here, which has grown to 120 members -- larger than the average church in Belgium -- in just a couple of years.

My wife and I began to look for a church soon after moving to Brussels three years ago. It was almost a reflex and initially may have amounted to little more than the search for the familiar. After trying an Anglican church that resembled the Catholic one she grew up in and a Scottish congregation that seemed like the Methodist one I was raised in, we came upon a new church called The Well that had been planted by missionaries from the U.S. It's a mix of the familiar and the foreign. The leaders speak with American accents, but rather than deliver a sermon, they encourage attendees to hash out the week's topic in small discussion groups.

The Well doesn't gather as one large group in a church building but rather as a few smaller groups in cafés and restaurants. That's in part because we don't actually own a building. But there's a purpose behind this, too: It's far less intimidating for newcomers to visit a public space with a dozen or so other people than a normal "church" with pews and a steeple and a hundred strange faces. In the course of our gatherings, we also meet people who were just going out for coffee and probably wouldn't have wandered into a sanctuary along the way.

This emphasis on the nontraditional is intentional. For many of the Europeans I've met here, it's not God who is dead to them as much as it is The Church -- the official, often state-supported church, be it Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran. Now new life is being infused into these churches by missionaries from America and even

Some of the elements in The Well -- and its sister churches in Madrid, Amsterdam and other European cities -- that are deemed unusual here would seem familiar to American Christians: worship songs that sound like rock 'n' roll rather than 18th-century hymns; discussions focusing on a personal relationship with God rather than a list of do's and don'ts. But other elements would seem out of place even in cool U.S. churches. Holding services in a microbrewery is an effective way to hammer home the point that church doesn't have to be the way it always has been.

The message is getting out. A mostly American and British group at first, The Well now regularly attracts people from Belgium, France, Holland, Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria, Ghana and Lebanon. Some wouldn't be attending church if The Well didn't exist.

There is an added sense of urgency when you undergo such self-examination in a land where being religious is not exactly de rigueur. The data don't yet reveal a similar awakening in the Europeans around me. But I have faith.
Mr. Wingfield is an editorial-page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book Review

Waking Lazarus, by T.L. Hines.

Jude Allman has been declared clinically dead many times, and always returns to life. He tries to live an anonymous life, but his son is abducted and Jude finds he has strange supernatural powers. Taking this as a cue that he has found his calling, Jude commits to finding his son, even it means facing down demons -- not just those of his own past.

A good spiritual thriller, well constructed and executed. Note that it is rougher than most Christian novels - not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Song of Triumph

A 7th Century hymn, from the Latin

The strife is over, the battle done,
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun.
Alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst,
But Christ their legions has dispensed:
Let shout of holy joy outburst.
Alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Lord! By the stripes which wounded thee,
From death’s dread sting your servants free,
That we may live and sing to thee.
Alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Friday, November 02, 2007

To those who have gone before me ....

Today and yesterday are opporutnities for the church to specifically remember those who have gone on to their eternal reward, both as martyrs and examples for us to follow.

Thank you, Lord, for those who have sacrificed themselves for the faith, whose blood has made for fertile ground for the growth of the worldwide church.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Book Review

Flirting With Monasticism, by Karen E. Sloan. It is just your typical "Girl meets boy. Boy joins monastic order" story -- Sloan recounts her friendship (stronger feelings on her part) with a man taking orders as a Dominican friar. A protestant, she recounts her introduction to the order, to monks, to Catholocism, etc ... very interesting read. I learned a ton.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Problem with Protestants

This is a post I made on a thread over at ChristianWriters.Com -- thought it might make a good post here, all by itself.
That's the problem with Protestantism -- we've been conditioned to believe that the believer who doesn't believe like us is "wrong." Maybe gravely wrong. Every denomination (and non-denominational church) was founded because no other denomination or church was doing it totally "right" (in doctrine or practice or worship style or ... ) -- otherwise our denomination (or non-denominational church) would not have been necessary.

I think that this "everybody else is wrong" mentality cripples our fellowship -- we can't seem to get it in our head that it's OK for other believers to not be like us, and not "get" what we're about, and for us to not "get" them.

If we Christians want to make a mark on this world, we need to give our brothers and sisters who don't believe and practice and express like us the grace to not believe and practice and express like us. Maybe we could even bless them in their different belief and practice and expression. Now that would be a radical expression of love.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

From Thomas a Kempis

I don't beleive that life on this plane is promised to be "all good," as the modern slang goes. God's perspective is so much different that ours.

Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.
He has many seekers of consolation, but few of tribulation.
He finds many companions at His feasting, but few at His fasting.
All desire to rejoice in Him; few are willing to endure anything for Him.
Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of His bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His passion.
Many reverence His miracles, but few will follow the shame of His cross.
Many love Jesus as long as no adversaries befall them.
Many praise and bless Him so long as they receive some consolation from Him.
But if Jesus hides Himself and leaves them but for a brief time, they begin to complain or become overly despondent in mind.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A trinitarian prayer

The American evangelical movement is so new, we forget about the controversies of the early church. We take the doctrine of the Trinity for granted, but it was extremely controversial for a large chunk of our history. I remember this whenever I run across an ancient prayer that is specifically trintarian -- these are theological statements as they are petitions. This lovely one comes from our brothers and sisters, the Syrian Orthodox:
Glory to the Father, who has woven garments of glory for the resurrection.
Worship to the Son, who was clothed in them at his rising.
Thanksgiving to the Spirit, who keeps them for all the Saints.
One nature in three, to him be praise.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

From Jean-Pierre de Caussade

This is an interesting take on God's sovereignty. I am not sure that I could say these words myself, but I am intruged by them.

"All that happens to me becomes bread to nourish me, soap to cleanse me, fire to purify me, a chisel to carve heavenly features on me. Everything is a channel of grace for my needs. The very thing I sought everywhere else seeks me incessantly, and given itself to me by means of all created things."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"within your wounds hide me"

From Brother Roger of Taize:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me,
Body of Christ, save me,
Blood of Christ, refresh me,
Water from the side of Christ, wash me,
Passion of Christ, strengthen me,
O good Jesus, hear me,
Within your wounds, hide me,
Let me never be separated from you,
From the powers of darkness defend me,
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come with you,
That with your saints I may praise you
>For ever and ever.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Book Review

Night Light, by Terri Blackstock.

{figure it's about to time to post this review, seeing as how book 3 is out!}

The second novel in the Restoration series, this one picks up right where Last Light left off. The world has been struck by an electro-magnetic pulse, which has made anything with computer-related break down -- which effects everything from modern automobiles, telephones, the electric grid, water treatment facilities . . . everyone is forced to adapt to the new living conditions.

The series focuses on the Branning family of Georgia, and this book focuses on their decision to being into their home four siblings whose mother has either abandoned them or been kidnapped or killed . . . at the start of the novel, we don't know.

Well-written, pretty fast-paced, good characterization, not a lot of surprises. Blackstock started her writing in the romance field, and although there are a few spots where the novel becomes a little too "girlie" for me, it is an ultimately satisfying read.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Grace & Mercy

It is important to keep these two theological concepts distinct, because they represent two separate events. Mercy is the removal of a negative consequence that was deserved. In terms of eternity, this is the freedom from Hell. But that does not automatically mean the provision of Paradise. We tend to think that to be saved from Hell automatically means eternity in God's presence, but I don't think it would have to be that way.

Compared to an eternity in torment, annihilation would be a preferred result, and that would be Mercy that is worthy of praise. But God has gone so far beyond Mercy, beyond the elimination of our deserved eternal punishment.

Grace is the recieving of an undeserved good thing. This is relationship with God, this is an eternity in His presence on a New Earth, designed for that purpose. This is a separate and distinct act of God, a separate act worthy of praise and thankfulness.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The great dance of God

I do not know who to credit this to, but I found this written on a scrap of paper in my pack of stuff from the Cornerstone festival:

The Trinity is the great dance of God, which we have been invited to participate in. All of life flows from a relationship .... a relationship holds the entire universe together.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

To Honor Saint Augustine

In honor of his feast day, I offer this famous quote from one of our church fathers, known to some as the "Doctor of Grace." He is the forerunner of all who have had dramatic conversions from a pagan lifestyle.

"For behold, you were within me, and I outside; and I sought you outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that you had made. You were with me, and I was not with you. I was kept from you by those things, yet had they not been in you, they would not have been at all. You called and tried to break open my deafness: and you sent forth your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness: you breathed fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and I do now pant for you: I taste you, and now hunger and thirst for you: you touched me, and I have burned for your peace."

Friday, August 24, 2007

From Bernard of Clairvaux

Someone else had a reference on their blog to Bernard, so I thought I'd add this hymn. Is it just the old-fashioned translation, or do these older songs and poems just seem more intense than much of what we get today?

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Book Review

Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI.

This book is aimed at the educated masses, with enough academic credibility to be respected in that world, while maintaining a nice level of readability. Certainly not a light read, or an easy read, but an interesting read.

This first volume of the Pope’s study on the life of Christ covers the period from the baptism to the transfiguration. This is nice symmetry, as these are two times where the Father speaks audibly to and about His Son. This slice of Jesus’ life covers much familiar territory, including the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer, two events that are covered phrase by phrase. Very interesting coverage of familiar passages. There is also a nice section of the Prodigal Son, which the Pope prefers to title the Parable of the Two Sons.

If you are a non-Catholic who can look past the couple places where the analysis is specifically Catholic (it’s the Pope, after all), I recommend this.

As a matter of fact, if you are a non-Catholic who can’t look past the specifically Catholic passages, you should probably be the first to read it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Neat prayer

This is in a devotion/prayer book I am reading through. It is credited as coming from the Church of the Province of the West Indies.

Since without you we can do no good thing:
May your Spirit make us wise;
May your Spirit guide us;
May your Spirit renew us;
May your Spirit strengthen us;

So that we will be:
Strong in faith,
Discerning in proclamation,
Courageous in witness,
Persistent in good deeds.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

lo-fi living in a hi-fi world

It’s been about 6 weeks since I returned from Cornerstone, and what has stayed with me is an interest in the “suburban monastic” – perhaps an answer to some who like me were discouraged by the books Death by Suburb and The Suburban Christian.

Two organizations that I ran across at the fest were the Anchor Fellowship and Monk Rock. These guys are trying to live out the monastic virtues (charity, humility, solitude) while not retreating from the world. The Monk Rock guys call it “lo-fi living in a hi-fi world.” This mix of modern and ancient intrigues me.

I don’t know quite how to work it into my life just yet, but it intrigues me.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

God and suffering

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"It’s good to learn early enough that suffering and God are not a contradiction but rather a unity, for the idea the God himself is suffering is one that has always been of the most convincing teachings of Christianity. I think God is nearer to suffering than to happiness, and to find God in this way gives peace and rest and a strong a courageous heart."

amen and amen

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Church in 2050

Sociologist Philip Jenkins has written two books on the changing worldwide face of the Church -- his main thesis is that the nexus of church vitality has moved from the global north (Europe and North America) to the global south (South America, southern Africa, and south Asia). At Cornerstone, Professor Jon Case taught on challenges the church faces in light of this.

a) Although the spiritual vitality is in the south, the resources (money being the most important one) are in the north. Will we be able to support these growing works financially without the paternalism that so often comes with money -- growing churches in the global south don't need our programs, leadership, or ideas. They just need our money!

b) God's movements in the south challenge established denominations in the north. For one thing, these churches tend to be much more theologically conservative than established churches in Europe and North America. This will continue to strain denominations that have adopted moderate/liberal theology. Case reported that some individual Episcopal churches in the US have removed themselves from under American authority and placed themselves under (more conservative) Nigerian bishops.

c) The north will become a mission field -- how will American and European Christians respond when they see this happening?

d) Growth in the global south is largely a charismatic phenomen, including movements within traditionally non-charismatic denominations. Relationships between charismatics and non-charismatics (both individuals and churches) must become more loving and accepting for the southern church to reach its potential. As Case said, "It's a hundred-year-old debate. At this point, both sides need to get over themselves!"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back from Cornerstone!

I spent last week at the grand-daddy of Christian festivals, Cornerstone, in Western Illinois. And boy did I have fun!

I have been to more than a dozen festivals before (Alive, Creation, Atlanta, Fishnet, and others), and have enjoyed them. But there are a few ways in which Cornerstone is different from the others, and why I finally wanted to make it out there.

Cornerstone is visually artsy. I am not artsy myself in that way, but can appreciate the high value the fest places on visual expression. Much of the evangelical church is skeptical of the visual arts, so enjoyed being in a place that puts such a high value on that type of expression.

Cornerstone is an eclectic community. It's where the hippies meet the punks meet the goths meet ...... me!

Cornerstone is not just music. Before it was a fest, it was a magazine of ideas, and this spirit is alive and well in the seminars. I expect to share some of the notes I took, on such topics as the theology of NT Wright, the globalized gospel, and the emergent church.

One stream that I found running through some of the teaching and expression was "the ancient modern," the church recovering worship modes and teaching from ancient Christians. This includes the Celtic monastics, who I started paying attention to more than a decade ago, and have become "in" in the last few years in some circles.

And the music, too. I dug that, needless to say.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Movie Review

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

This 1999 documentary traces the life of Tammy Faye (Bakker) (Messner), from growing up in an Assembly of God family in Minnesota, to meeting Jim Bakker, to starting 2 television ministries from which they were later pushed out (the 700 Club and TBN), to founding PTL, to Heritage USA, to Jessica Hahn, to her painkiller addiction, to the trials, to the divorce, etc .... and shows what her life was like at that point in time.

This is a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a woman who got in way over her head, and then just lost control of her life as the waves swept everything away from her. I confess I never liked or respected the Bakkers, and was never a fan of Tammy Faye, but have mellowed out towards her over the years, and this film made me view her in a different light. I found it a disconcerting film, and I am still digesting it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A great old hymn

I have been reading through a devotional book that includes a range of old prayers and hymns. Not having been raised in the church, I am unfamiliar with many of these. Here is a hymn that is part of an evening devotion that struck me as especially comforting.

Night is Drawing Nigh
by The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924)

Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening steal across the sky.

Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet repose;
With your tenderest blessing may our eyelids close.

Grant to little children visions bright of thee.
Guard the sailors tossing on the sea.

Comfort every sufferer watching late in pain;
Those who plan some evil from their sin restrain.

Through the long night watches may your angels spread
Their wings above me, watching round me bed.

When the morning wakens then I may arise
Pure and fresh and sinless in your holy eyes.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

From St. Teresa of Avila

I thought this was an interesting look at our role and God's role in our sanctification.


"Beginners must realize that in order to give delight to the Lord they are starting to cultivate a garden on very barren soil, full of abominable weeds. His majesty pulls up the weeds and plants good seed. Now let us keep in mind that all of this is already done by the time a soul is determined to practice prayer and has begun to make use of it. And with the help of God we must strive like good gardeners to get these plants to grow and take pains to water them so that they don’t wither but come to provide refreshment for this Lord of ours."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Got my tickets today!

I have probably been to a dozen Christian music festivals over my 20 years in the faith -- Creation East (when it just Creation), Alive, Fishnet, Inner Seeds -- but have never gotten to the big one, the granddaddy of them all. Until this year.

I'm finally going to Cornerstone.

Thanks to the kind indulgence of my wife of (by then) twenty years, I am packing myself off to Illinois during the last week of June, for five days of interesting fellowship, terrific speakers, and eclectic music (including the Friday night 80s metal reunion stage featuring WhiteCross, Bride, X-Sinner, and Bloodgood)

I am stoked.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mystic, Warrior, Leader, Conundrum

Today is the feast day of St. Joan of Arc, and I just don't know what to make of her.

I like to think of myself as a fan of church history, but I spend a lot more time on the church fathers and first few centuries than I do on the dark/middle ages. And one of my big blind spots is Joan of Arc. All I know of her is what I have learned as just a culturally literate sponge. She occupies similar space in my brain as King Arthur, even though I recognize that Joan was a real historical figure whose likfe had real political and military consequences -- but somehow there are legends and myths surrounding her life that I have not made the effort to dispel.

I have even avoided the recent theatrical accounts of Joan's life, and yet ... I don't know why I have avoided her.

I need to educate myself. Soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

One of my faves

Maybe it's because I am a university professor, but I am drawn to the church fathers who were scholars, the early theologians and historians of the faith.

One of my favorite of these men is Bede -- now known as the Venereable Bede -- whose lasting contribution is his book The Histroy of the English Church and People. His pupil Cuthbert tells the story of Bede reciting the last sentence of his magnun opus from his deathbed, his young assistant recording the words moments before the great historian's death in 735 AD, on or about this date.

"There it is written," he said. "Good, it is finished. The time for my departure is near, and I long to be dissolved and be with Christ. My soul longs to see Christ my King in all his beauty."

Dissolved and be with Christ. What a beautiful picture of the end of life.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book Review

Paul the Traveller, by Ernle Bradford.

This is a biography of Saint Paul, organized around his three missionary journeys. Very interesting take on life in the first century AD, including the social, political, and religious environments. I found the depiction of the life of the Roman Emperor especially intriguing.

Coming from the perspective of the professional biographer and expert on the ancient world, I found this work interesting and insightful. It moved a little too slow for me at times, but it was worth plowing through.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

St. Catherine of Bologna

Catherine (1413-1463) was related to the nobility of her town -- at 17, she joined a group of religious women and eventually became accepted as a novice. Twenty-five years later she and 15 other sisters were sent to establish a monastery in Florence, Catherine as abbess. She worked hard to preserve the peace of the new community.

Catherine's greatest contribution to the church may have been her book, titled "On the Seven Spiritual Weapons," which deals with how we can battle against temptation. The weapons each believer possesses and must use are: 1. diligence; 2. distrust of self; 3. confidence in God; 4. remembrance of the Passion; 5. mindfulness of one’s own death; 6. remembrance of God’s glory; and 7. Scripture (following the example of Jesus in the desert)

Thank you, Lord, that I can learn from those who've gone before me on this pilgrim's path.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Is God Unfair?

This is one of my little pet peeves, the claim that God is unfair. Maybe this is a paradigm issue, but the thought that God is unfair has never crossed my mind. Maybe I have succesfully avoided that particular self-centeredness that would allow me to think that God has to treat me a particular way. I have plenty of other faults, but this one has never hampered me.

Maybe it is that I came to know God in my late teens, and never got bogged down in the milk and cookies of God . . . I came to know Him when I could handle the meat of deeper, complex issues. God set up the universe and set up the rules . . . it has never struck me as my job to question Him about how He runs things. His ways are so far above ours that it is incomprehensible, and when we try to fit Him into our own frame of reference, we fail miserably. And we think crazy thoughts like the notion that God is unfair.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Book Review

John's Story, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

I read all of the Left Behinds, and thought they were OK, albeit inconsistent. This, the authors latest effort, tells the story of the apostle John, and how he came to write his gospel, epistles, and revelation. I assume we will soon get similar books about Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I have become increasingly interested in the leaders of the early church, and this book includes two of my favorites: Polycarp and Ignatius. Unlike their mentor John, these two great men of God ended their lives, as martyrs, Ignatius in the arena.

This novel captures the passion of the church near the turn of the first century AD, and I found it to be a fun and interesting read.

Monday, April 16, 2007

From Saint Thomas Aquinas

A hymn for Holy Week (a little late)

On the night before he suffered,
Seated with his chosen band,
Jesus when they all had feasted;
Faithful to the Law's command,
Far more precious food provided;
Gave himself with his own hand.

Word made flesh, true bread of heaven,
By his word made flesh to be,
From the wine his blood is taken,
Though our senses can not see,
Faith alone which is unshaken
Shows pure hearts the mystery.

Therefore we, before him falling,
This great sacrament revere;
Ancient forms are now departed,
For new acts of grace are here,
Faith our feeble senses aiding,
Makes the Savior's presence clear.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Cross

by Kate Miner and John Colgin

Jesus changed the color of the cross
From the dark of execution to the light of resolution
Jesus changed the color of the cross

Jesus changed the tenor of the cross
From the sound of cold nails driven to the song of man forgiven
Jesus changed the tenor of the cross

How wonderful my Jesus
O glorious my Savior
Magnificent Redeemer
You have changed the meaning of the cross
You have changed the meaning of the cross

Jesus changed the symbol of the cross
From the language of rejection to the sign of resurrection
Jesus changed the symbol of the cross

You have changed the color
You have changed the tenor
You have changed the symbol
You have changed the meaning of the cross

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I always look forward to those years when Hebrew Passover overlaps with Easter.

This coming together of the Old Covenant's great moment of (temporal) deliverance and the New Covenant's great moment of (spiritual) deliverance speak to me of God's faithfulness, and his ongoing conversation with fallen man. God has spent thousands of years offer mercy and grace to anyone who seeks it -- and is still offering them today.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Book Review

My Struggle With Faith, by Joseph Girzone.

Girzone, the author of the Joshua series of novels, tells his own life story in this book. This spiritual memori tells Girzone's story of his call to the priesthood, his time in the priesthood, and his retirement from the active priesthood, when he embarked upon his fiction career.

God deals with us as individuals, and nobody's faith walk is the same as anyone else's. But I thoroughly enjoy honest recountings of the journey, and Girzone does that well here. There is faith, pain, joy, sorrow, triumph, and tragedy in this book, as there has been in my life -- and yours, I suspect.

This is a neat telling of one man's journey, and how he has answered the questions that we each individually face.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A day late . . .

We know it's probably not historically accurate, but we have selected December 25 as the day to celebrate Christ's birth. Given that, if you do the math, you'll see that yesterday (March 25) was the day to celebrate the Incarnation. What follows is a 7th century (Latin) hymn that speaks strongly to me of Mary's role (I love Mary), but keeps her and her Son in proper persepective.

The Hymn of the Virgin

The Word whom earth and sea and sky
adore and laud and magnify,
whose might they show, whose praise they tell,
in Mary's body deigned to dwell.

Blessed is the message Gabriel brought,
blessed in the work the Spirit wrought,
most blessed to bring to human birth
the long-desired of all the earth.

Lord Jesus, Virgin born, to thee
eternal praise and glory be,
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Spirit evermore.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Now and the Not Yet

I am thinkng about Cana again. In John 2:4, Jesus seems to rebuke His mother for pointing out the lack of wine, by saying "what have I to do with thee? My time is not yet come."

I think that this talk of "time" relates to the "now and the not yet" of the Kingdom of God. We have the opportunity to witness small parts of the Kingdom, such as the miracle at Cana and other wonder-working moments in Scripture and since the days of Scripture, but we don't have it all yet. We don't get it all until the end. The Kingdom in it's fullness is "not yet," but we get to see glimpses of "now" -- as if we reach into eternity and bring a bit of it into our realm.

So in some strange way, even though His time is not yet come, and still has not yet come, the Kingdom of God is nonetheless here and we can experience it's presence in our lives.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More About Cana

The way Jesus answers Mary at the wedding in Cana fascinates me. His answer is not "no," it is instead "wait." God is so like this. There are some of our prayers that he answers "not ever," things that are not appropriate for us, good for us, beneficial to us, etc . . . But there are so many things that he answers "not yet," and wants us to patiently wait on Him. The challenge is to remain faithful in the midst of the "not yet" and wait for Him to answer. I too often lack this patience, and mistake the "not yet" for the "not ever." This takes patience and a healthy dose of discernment.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thank you, Lord, for St. Cyril

Today is the feast day of St. Cyril, a 4th Century man who served Bishop of Jerusalem for more nearly forty years. My church does not honor or celebrate the Saint's days specifically, but I have felt a leading to learn about those giants of the faith that came before (waaaay before) me. And St. Cyril is one of those giants.

Cyril was named one of the three Doctors of the Eastern Church for his great contributions to what we know of today as orthodox theology. He was a major force in the Nicene faction, in the fight against Arianism, the heresy that denied the divinity of Christ. The description of the Lord as being "of one substance with the Father" in the Nicene Creed is a result of the theological battles over this issue. Cyril was an important teacher of the orthodox faith that came from the Council of Nicaea.

In addition to this, St. Cyril introduced the liturgical innovation of celebrating Holy Week and Easter.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Real Saint Patrick

From his Confessions:

It was the over-powering grace of God at work in me, and no virtue of my own, which enabled all these things. I have had to endure insults from unbelievers; I have heard my mission ridiculed; I have experienced persecutions to the point of imprisonment; I have given up my free-born status for the good of others. Should I be worthy, I am even ready to surrender my life, promptly and gladly, for his name; and it is here in Ireland that I wish to spend my remaining days, if the Lord permits me.

In all this I am in debt to God who has given me an abundance of grace with the result tht through me many people have been born again in God, and later confirmed, and that clergy have been ordained everywhere.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

At Cana

Jesus' first miracle contains a fascinating exchange between the Lord and his mother. There are so many ways of reading this passage, wherein Jesus rebukes his mother for trying to control Him, then seemingly honoring her request. Maybe this is the way prayer works -- we can not control the Lord (As C.S. Lewis points out, Aslan is not a tame lion), but he loves to meet our requests when they align with His work and His will.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Romans 14:1-8

Paul talks about allowing different believers to hold different views, "without passing judgment on disputable matters." The Western/American church has always been horrible at this, which is why we have so many denominations.

I think this problem arises from 2 flawed assumptions: 1) That we are capable of fully understanding biblical doctrine; and 2) That if we disagree, one of us must be WRONG. Let's take these one at a time, although they are related.

The idea that we can comprehend the thoughts of God is ludicrous. I occassionally get to be Moses, seeing just a glimpse of His glory. But I can't figure out how to make sense of the Trinity, to understand the mechanics of Creation or the Incarnation, to rightly balance love and justice, grace and the law, sovreignty and free will. And I don't think you can, either -- no one this side of the veil can.

So you and I disagree over exactly what happens in Communion, or how prayer works, or whether Christians should dance or play cards. Does that mean that one of us is right and one of us is wrong, and we can not fellowship? Here's the secret: Related to point number one, any time we disagree over doctrine, we are almost certainly BOTH wrong.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What I Know

This is a reply I made to someone's post over in LiveJournal. I liked it.

Our puny little brains have no chance of understanding the totality of what God is. There are so many things that don't "make sense" to my human mind, the seeming contradictions that I have no hope of reconciling, but that I all put under the heading of "his ways are not mine." And how close are his ways to mine? Only about "as far as the heavens are above the earth."

Faith & works. Justice & mercy. Sovereignty & free will.

And then there is God's vastness & God's care. I don't understand how it can be true that I am dust and my life is just a vapor, yet also that The Lord catches every one of my tears -- and cries them with me.

I just know that it's true.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


In Romans 13, Paul has some interesting things to say about this topic. There seems to be a difference between individuals carrying out justice (i.e., "vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord"), and governments carrying out justice. Paul seems to okay the carrying out of justice by governmental authorities, who have been appointed by God. But then . . . what about the person who actually carries out (or authorizes) the governmental action? Is this person under the strictures of the governmental authority or of the individual? I am sure God knows the answer to this, but I'm at a bit of a loss.

One of the many things about the Lord that causes my head to spin when I think too much about it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Epiphany / Twelfth Night

I am attempting to integrate some aspects of the Church Calendar into my devotions for this year. This is a stretch for someone who: a) never attended church until he was 17; and b) spent the next 20+ years in the ritual-less-ness of the Evangelical world.

So I note that today is Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the Magi, and by extent the revelation of the Christ to Gentiles. As one, that is worth celebrating.

A Martin Luther sermon on the topic makes note of the message inherent in the King of Kings revealing himself to the lowest of the low: "It is both a terrifying and consoling [tale]: terrifying to the great and wise, the self-satisfied and the mighty, because they all reject Christ; consoling to the humble and despised, because to them alone Christ is revealed."

Thursday, January 04, 2007


In reflecting on the last few years, I can now dub 2005 as the year of "Stress and Struggle" and 2006 as one of "Recovery and Restoration."

Instead of waiting to decide what 2007 was after the fact, I am going to now declare my intention to make this a year of "Productivity and Progress."

May it be so.