Monthly Archives: July 2006

Security

People need space and time before they are willing to talk about what’s most important to them. Perhaps even more than that, they need security. Of course a sense of security can only be cultivated over time and with space.

This is particularly true when it comes to spiritual conversations. As a Christian, I see myself as a bit of an exception with reservations. My love for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is on the tip of my tongue. It’s something that I could talk about at the tip of a hat. But there are other topics that I would not delve into without some assurance of goodwill and understanding on the part of the listener. So while I may easily talk about how often I pray and what good comes of it, I may hesitate on a topic such as attending church.

The error many Christians commit is they assume everyone wants to talk on the same level about God as they would among themselves. The bottom line is that some folks have vague beliefs, but may not want to discuss them until they have a feeling of security, just as I’m not quite comfortable with my beliefs about attending church. Before pressing into a spiritual conversation with someone, a necessary step is ensuring that the other person feels comfortable. The topic is too important to recklessly jump into a fragile domain.

It’s a gift to be open with others. When someone is open they also place a burden and responsiblity on the listener to respond with charity and to protect the information that is shared. No matter how off center they may be, it’s generally a bad idea to attack another person’s beliefs. Ask thoughtful questions and raise gentle objections? Certainly. But never, ever violate the trust. Never attack someone’s spiritual thoughts.

They have a value that someone has attached to them, and stealing them away with clever arguments and rebuttals will only cause trouble and a breech of trust. If a person spends his/her time defending poorly conceived beliefs, how will they ever find the time to pick up what is real?

Fragments

Over the past week I have been reading through the Gospel of Mark and more than ever I am impressed with the fragmentary nature of this book. The narrative is a loosely woven together collection of stories about Jesus filled with his essential teachings and punchlines.

While I’m not a big fan of the various theories that abound about the “Q” source with it’s store of pithy sayings, etc., I really do have the sense that Mark was interested in providing his readers with the crucial events of Jesus’ ministry in as little space as possible. It’s the abridged version of Jesus’ ministry.

Since there are always new things to notice every time you reread a book, here are some observations:

1. This is not propaganda for Christianity. If anything helps me believe in the authenticity and sincerity of this book, it’s the stories where the followers of Jesus look like faithless fools. If you remember that line from Jesus Christ superstar, the apostles say something about retiring and writing the Gospels so people will remember them when they die.

Let’s see, they can’t drive out a demon after Jesus is transfigured, they aren’t very nice to children, they don’t believe Jesus can multiply the bread and fish after he’d already done it once, two ask for power immediately after Jesus predicted his own death, one betrays Jesus, one denies Jesus, and the rest run for their lives when the chips are down. It’s not all bad for the apostles, but surely they could have done a better job of promoting themselves.

2. Jesus is one curious fellow. In order to heal some blind people, he spits in mud and rubs it on their eyes. Others just get spit in the eyes. Others just hear the word and they’re all set. Now if I’m the mud and spit guy, I’m following Jesus, and I meet another blind guy, I would seemingly know exactly what happens next. I’d go off looking for a bit of mud to spit in, point it out to Jesus, and let him at it.

Of course Jesus defies formulas, never allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to be confined. Perhaps he only does what the person requires in order to believe. Maybe one man’s faith required spit and mud, while one person had such faith that only a word was necessary.

3. Faith comes up over and over again. It’s easy to sometimes read the teachings of Paul back into the Gospels, if you know what I mean, but in this case faith jumps out of each story over and over again.

After so many spectacular displays of power, Jesus strikes down a fig tree without fruit and then uses it as a lesson about praying with faith. It’s almost an anti-climax, and yet it fits in with the flow of the story. Jesus is always teaching, always building up his followers so that they believe in him, the one who sent him, and the one who is being sent.

Destruction

A link to pictures of Beirut.

The pictures of the destroyed buildings in Beirut are just a faint glimpse into the horrors experienced by the residents of Beirut. Many of those fortunate enough to escape without injury have lost their possessions and are at the mercy of those around them. It’s a horribly sad situation.

I find it impossible to sit so far away from the events and make any judgments on what is best for either side. Nevertheless, this approach to matters seems excessive. I can only think that there have to be better ways of dealing with terrorists than all-out war. The terrorists use civilinians as pawns, while the Israelis disregard the Lebanese people caught in the middle. Dropping leaflets does not cut it after you’ve destroyed the infrastructure.

As a Christian, I believe that the way to healing involves suffering, loss, and selflessness. That has never been a popular policy for nations, the US in particular, or for individuals. With neither side standing down, I can only pray for an immediate cease-fire.

Lake George, A Northern View

< %image(20060720-LakeGeorge 2006 North.jpg|350|262|lakegeorgenorth)%>This picture was taken from Black Mountain, showing the Northern end of Lake George.

I just arrived home from our vacation up at Lake George, NY. I use the first person singular because Julie and her family are still up there, while I had to return to work. I’m having a pity party right now with the rabbits, but they’re lousy company unless you have a bag of carrots next to you. They’re off doing their own thing since the bag is empty, so now I’m left to the blog.

We actually had our best weather yet at the Lake. Clear skies almost every day of the week and temperatures in the 80’s. Sun and high temperatures are what you need when you have a big, cold lake nearby.

Vacation is a curious time. As someone who thrives on routine, I do best on vacation with some semblance of a routine. So before leaving I actually though this through.

I decided that the Divine Hours prayer book needs to sit on the shelf for a little while. I began my day with a mug of coffee, 2-3 mini-donuts, and 2 chapters from the Gospel of Mark. I let my scripture reading guide the prayer time that followed. Then I had breakfast with the family, tucked my latest book, To Rule the Waves, under my arm, and set off for the dock that rests in the lake a very short walk away from our cabin. The day would then become a combination of reading, swimming, loafing, and eating until evening arrived and the board games would begin.

Continue reading

Focus on the Doggie

<%image(20060720-sherman3.gif|227|174|sherman)%>OK, now I may have seen it all. Focus on the Family has cooked up some hair-brained web site called “No-Moo-Lies” that somehow equates the following:

dogs and barking
with
people and heterosexuality

Sherman the dog makes it easy for all of us . . .

The site is done in a fairly insulting manner. In fact, it’s so bad that I could see people making a site like this to mock Christians. Yes, it’s that bad. The cute, barking dog and the patronizing moderator are used to convey a message about voting to ban gay partnerships/marriage. There have to be better ways to bring up sensitive topics. I really hope that people will realize that this site is not representative of all Christians . . . please don’t think it is . . .

And the worst part is that they actually have a few points about homosexuality in general that are worth discussing, but the context of the site makes intelligent conversation untenable. Perhaps groups such as Exodus International can do a better job of discussing the nature of homosexuality than some floppy-eared dog.

Of course, the site did succeed in prompting me to blog about it, but I’m sure that was just an accident. Dang, I’m such a sucker.

via

Lake George . . . Again

After a nice little night at SVAC working the opening reception for Rosita Marlborough, the Dutchess of Marlborough, I’m home getting ready to leave tommorrow morning for Lake George. The last trip was a little bit of work mixed with a little relaxing. This time it’s full-throttle vacation. (On a side note, Rosita is a wonderful lady, full of spunk and spirit. Her paintings are pretty sharp on her web page, but enthralling in person.)

We love Arlington, VT and hate to leave it usually, but the lure of the Lake on a hot weekend has won out. I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging or not next week. We’ll see how the wireless connection is at Julie’s grandmother’s cabin. Yeah, we’re roughing it.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have two rabbits, Eva and Bailey, and are taking care of another one for a friend this summer. If you’ve ever wondered what’s involved with having rabbits as far as care is concerned, I’ve pasted below my notes for those who are caring for our little furry friends. You may get the feel for how quirky each rabbit’s personality really is. Enjoy!
Continue reading