August 19, 2010

This morning has been a useful time of creative spiritual churning. And if feels natural to come to this blog and tell you that.

Releasing oneself through the helplessness of prayer is such a good start.

Published in: on August 19, 2010 at 9:31 am  Comments (3)  

Opening Thoughts for July 2010

In an effort to further prime the pump for blog writing, here is my latest installment for the church newsletter:

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Most of you have been going to the grocery store long enough to know that “Contents May Settle.” As a result of this settling, there are so many more raisins at the bottom of the box than at the top. Raisin Bran is what I’m talking about, in case you didn’t know. (Yes, here’s another opening ramble from the breakfast musings of your pastor.) And these aren’t just regular dried grapes; they’re raisins that have been sweetened to the point of rendering them almost candy. Wow! What a difference there is between both the taste and the nutrition content from the top and the bottom of the cereal box. Could somebody check my blood sugar, please?

You’ve probably noticed the same thing with other products. When you buy potato chips, you get half a bag of free air as a bonus. The chips huddle at the bottom and scrape their salt from one another, creating an oily, salty slick of crumbs that could cure meat.

This type of gravity-induced retreat from the mouth of the eater happens in many products, including some which aren’t even food, like laundry detergent. That’s why dry contents are measured by weight, not by volume.

What method, would you say, do most Christians use to measure their contents? …by weight, or by volume? That’s a throwaway question really, because talk about “most Christians” does not help us get to a point of personal faith impact. What we really need to consider is how we measure our own content. Weight is a matter of substance, how much stuff is really there. Volume is a matter of how much room you take up. Volume, also, is a matter of how loud you get (another way of filling space).

How are you measuring the contents you carry? And has the shelf life of your contents caused a settling that maybe compromises the real value of what is there? It’s just a question…I need to go brush my teeth.

Published in: on June 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm  Comments (4)  

Sermon-Planning Retreat

Today I go to the North Carolina mountains for several days of sermon planning. The goal, as it is each year, is to begin enough sermons to carry me through twelve months of pastoral ministry. I usually go to the coast for this event, but the mountains have a different music, and the change might be refreshing for me and my church. As I drive away in just a few minutes, I am grateful for your friendship and your prayers. Listen with me for something important that God has to tell us.

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 1:24 pm  Comments (2)  

Opening Thoughts for March 2009

A scene stays in my mind from the movie Dances With Wolves. Lt. John Dunbar was a white man. He became friends with a group of Sioux and went with them on a buffalo hunting expedition to gather food for the community. Before they found the herd, however, they found the carnage left by white hunters who had dishonored the animals and themselves by only killing for greed and sport, not for sustenance.

There was tension in the party, now. They kept riding. No one spoke. They acknowledged the grief of the terrible scene by not distracting each other from it with words. In his heart, he felt that he was seeing the acts of “a people without value and without soul”, “with no regard for Sioux rights”. He and everyone with him knew that what they were seeing was not the work of native peoples. What could he say?

His journey that day was to ride silently with those hurt by his own kind, feeling remorse without attempts to deny it, excuse it, or claim his own personal innocence. He didn’t ramble on about how not all white people are that way. Silence would demonstrate that better than explanations and defenses. There are some situations in which every denial uttered convinces your listeners one degree further of the opposite of your point. Silence is valuable, then. As much as I love words, words might serve to obstruct the justice of silence.

But my original point in starting to write all this comes from the next scene, when Dunbar is lying down to sleep that night, some distance off from where the Sioux are gathered. His thoughts: “It was hard to know where to be. I don’t know if they understood, but I could not sleep among them. There had been no looks, and there was no blame. There was only the confusion of a people not able to predict the future.”

Is confusion not one of the vines of grief? It tangles our feet and holds us in a place we would rather not be…until the movement of friends nearby invites our own struggle forward. The season of Lent has found us, now, in a confusing time, and we are unable to predict the future, and some of us do grieve losses. As you lean into your journey, may your movement be joined by the hoofbeats of friends who do not blame, but who have the grace of practical silence.

Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 11:59 pm  Comments (4)  

Happy Christmas!

Holy beyond the hype, let quiet exaltation harmonize this day’s portion of your life’s movement. This, and the next eleven, are days for the outlasting of what noise has been.

In 2007, I spent the last week of October on Ocracoke, resting, writing, playing. This year, I will do it in the last week of December. Which is now. I do anticipate that drive.

Published in: on December 25, 2008 at 8:52 am  Comments (4)  

Where God Is

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Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 9:42 am  Comments (3)  

Will You Walk With Me for Just a Bit into the Field out Back?

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For some reason, I thought of Isaiah 40. Abundantly, we are surrounded by the power of beauty, the laughter of our chaotically brilliant and loving God. Did you not know?

Published in: on September 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm  Comments (3)