Monthly Archives: November 2012

Kissing is like Liturgy and/or devotions.

I haven’t been married long.  But one habit Celeste and I have created is that we almost always kiss before we get out of the car.   Even if we just had a heated discussion, kissing reminds us that we are committed to each other, that we love each other, and that despite wherever we are at emotionally at this moment, we are faithful and full of faith towards the other.  It is a habit of commitment which in turn draws us towards each other.

Kissing, like liturgy or devotions (reading a passage and meditating on it each day) is not always a response to a feeling.  I don’t only kiss my wife when I am madly in love with her and have strong feelings.  I kiss her because I love her, of course, but sometimes the kiss reminds me of what our relationship is– sometimes the kiss reinstantiates the commitment, directs me towards what really matters, and keeps me focused.  A kiss is not merely an expression of some feeling– it can at times revive those types of feelings.  A kiss is a habit of concern which awakens in us a habituated direction or directiveness towards (in this case) my loved one– Celeste.  (Who but philosophers could talk this way 🙂

In the same way then, liturgy (or devotions) are habits which direct us towards what matters.  They are not merely expressions of feelings, but they at times help direct our passions towards what can awaken our feelings of love, devotion, and concern.  At times I go into liturgy not entirely ‘feeling’ close to God, but, in the practice, I am drawn back to God and to my first love.  The distractions fade away and again I remember what really matters.    As I say the Apostle’s Creed with other believers, it becomes more real to me, as I sing a song with others, it awakens and reminds me of what I believe, and as I take the bread and wine with others, that solidarity reinforces my belief and commitments.

That is what kissing can do.  It is what liturgy can do.  It is what devotions and spiritual exercises can do.

The next time you don’t ‘feel like’ pursuing God, or spiritual practices– remember that that act of pursuit is often the initiation which can ignite the true passion.  To act when you don’t ‘feel like it’ is not inauthentic rote– it can be soul habit which primes the pump of real spiritual engagement. 

May God have mercy on us all.

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Thanksgiving and the Dust Bowl

Last night we watched a documentary on the dustbowl.  There is nothing like a documentary on the dustbowl to make you thankful– I wonder if they planned it that way?  To see how people continued to persevere despite all the hardships they faced was encouraging.  I cannot imagine having dust storms bring in 3 feet of dust onto my house in a matter of hours.  The thought of having to dig out fencelines from the dust on a regular basis was mind boggling.

One woman recollecting said that as a little girl, she just thought everything and everyone was brown.  She grew up in a brown world– a world covered and infiltrated in brown dust.

My 90 year old father was watching the documentary with me (it was his idea actually!) and he could remember the dust bowl– burning the piles of tumbleweeds that got collected on our fence by the farm, the WPA workers coming out in winter to dig out the giant drift east of the farm one winter, and the grasshoppers who came a year or two after the drought was over.

Its good to see things like documentaries on the dustbowl, because it reminds us that we probably don’t have it so bad.  We have a lot to be thankful for.  Again, last night, we went to eat here in Aurora where my father lives, and we ran into an older couple we know.  The wife told us that their daughter and her husband were about to celebrate their 10th anniversary friday, and that they’d recently taken in her brothers teenagers who he couldn’t care for, but that now at 38 she found she had cancer and would die soon.  How hard it would be to be thankful in that situation.  But hearing about it, made me especially thankful for my wife and father and family, and health, and sunshine.

It is easy to be thankful when you have plenty.  But it seems like its also easy to be ungrateful when you have plenty and have it easy.  In the Bible, being thankful is not just a passive response to situations, it is commanded.  Being commanded, it is something that we choose– an attitude of response, like hoping for the best, or being positive instead of negative, or being helpful, not an idler.

Its always with our lives of relative lives of ease to find things to be thankful for– usually they are just things that we like.  But thankfulness is an attitude of choice and response in the face of things we maybe do not like so much as well.

I am thankful today.  I will be thankful today.

May God have mercy on us all.

Letting Go of Losses

Two weeks ago, my pickup was stolen.  One of my guys, Izzy, had met a guy Albert and his wife Linda who were without a place to stay, and so Izzy invited them to stay with him in the apartment I let him stay at.  Albert did work for me for a couple of days.

Then a week ago last Thursday at midnight, Albert and Linda took Izzys phone and my truck and took off, presumably for North Dakota (although my truck hasn’t been located).  It was frustrating– not only because I’d helped Albert, but because I thought it was a bad decision all along for Izzy to have the couple stay at his place, when we hardly knew them.  It was an old 1992 truck, but we’d just rebuilt the engine.

Having things like that happen can eat at you– the injustice, the ‘what-if-I’d-only’ scenarios, and frustration with Izzy, myself, and most of all Albert and Linda’s apparent ingratitude.   There is a temptation to settle into the frustration itself– the righteous indignation and sense of being a victim which comes along with these situations.  When we lose something, especially if we think it by injustice or stupidity, its hard to let it go.

But letting go of such losses is the best thing we can do.

Forgiveness is usually seen as a great act of self-sacrifice on the part of the one forgiving, and primarily as an act of grace towards the one forgiven.  But there is some sense in which forgiveness can bring relief to the one who forgives as well.  When you forgive and let go of a loss, you are relieved of keeping track of that debt, of tracking down your debtors, of remembering the sourness of frustration and the bitterness of injustice.  Those tasks are eliminated if only you can forgive and forget.

We lose things– time, things of value, even elections– to people who in the moment seem to be unaware of the cost of these things, or maybe even without concern for our losses.  But it is best to it in that moment of frustration for as short a time as possible.  It is not only to the benefit of the one forgiven, but to our own benefit to forgive as soon as possible.

To be able to forgive is a great asset, and those who understand their own need of forgiveness in so many situations are more easily able to respond with real forgiveness.  The world is chaotic, unjust, and without a balanced accounting of sensible adjustments to accounts.  What is needed is a gracious forgiveness-accounting, which does not expect all the ledgers to line up.  An accounting of excess which makes up the difference and fills in the gap when necessary.

We can expect to find plenty of troubles in this world, plenty of irregularities, injustices, and losses.  Fortunately for us as Christians, we can come to this table with excess to help make up the difference.  That is how we can be peacemakers, full of kindness, goodness, and mercy.  But the infinite source of these accounting powers to forgive the differences and debts owed is not in us, but in Christ.  It is natural to seek justice for ourselves.  It is bizzare to lay down our interests, turn the other cheek, and let it be, intentionally.

Of course that sounds mystical, and maybe even a little fanatical.  But the reality of it is found in the responses we have to our losses.

May God have mercy on us all.  -andy

Election Attitudes: Winning, Losing, and Faithful Hope

Despite all the other uncertainties regarding the elections tomorrow, one thing can be counted on– 40-50% of the people who vote won’t have their candidate win, and another 40-60% of people who vote will have their candidate win.  And as people pray that their candidate will win, and that their oppornents candidate will lose, I hope we will also pray for love and understanding, selflessness kindness and hopefulness.

Its easy to get pretty caught up in the passion of this election.  We have some close friends who say Obama is Hitler (yes, that is a quote) because Obama supports ‘national socialism’ they say, and plenty who say nasty things about Romney because of his business dealings.  It seems that there are no limits or rules regarding what can be said about your political opponents when you dislike or fear them.

Some pastors are preaching in favor of Obama (sometimes inciting racial differences), other pastors are preaching in favor of Romney (even explaining that the Bible says that government should not be involved in healthcare…?…)

It is good to be an involved caring passionate public citizen.  Its not good to demonize those who disagree with you and to villify those who have different opinions than you do, or who have different priorities or values.

There are (really) Christians who argue for an against both candidates– and who feel that it is quite difficult to be an authentic Christian and vote for the other side.  Its common to say that the ones on the other side are not really voting with Christian values, but rather, with a political ideology that goes against Biblical principles.  I have heard that argument from people in either camp.

Talk radio and newsreporters aren’t focused on helping maintain unity and civility in our behavior in the face of the election results.   We Christians need to act in a countercultural way and resist the temptation to think the sky is falling, or to gloat if in fact our favorite carries the day.  The way this election affects us and the civility of our country depends a whole lot on ‘us’– how we respond.  It doesn’t matter if you are on the winning or losing side, whichever side you end up on tomorrow night (or wednesday morning) we know as Christians that there are certain ways we should respond– with patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self-control.  Of course these are the ways we should have carried on all election as well…

We can’t expect non-Christians to act in this strange sort of way– with generous kindness and humility– but if Christians don’t, its really a poor witness of the love of Christ.  The election gives us as Christians a great opportunity to be people of hope and faith.  If our favorite loses, we trust that God is in control, will bring goodness to us and all, and will provide for what we need.  But we can also respond with humility and kindness towards those ‘we’ lost to– a difficult bridgebuilding act if ever there was one.  If our favorite wins, we can be thankful for that, but we also have opportunity to act with reconcilliation towards others, with gracious mercy and kindness.

So more than praying for one candidate to win tomorrow, I am praying for kindness and reconcilliation in the wake of tomorrows results, and asking God’s forgiveness for the ways we villify each other in the name of Christ.

May God have mercy on us all.

Examples of the villification from both sides: