Lord, You hear my thoughts and feel my feelings.

When my thoughts are false or unbalanced, replace or brace them with truth.

When my thoughts are true and my feelings are the flesh’s rebellion, lead me through that hard and narrow way and back into Your will.

When my feelings lash me, apart from any thought or act of mine, grant me relief. Until then, help me to think of them as fellowship with You in your anguish, and persevere, and find some joy in that.

May Christ be formed in me, and seen by those along my path. Amen.

I didn’t major in something that ended in “Studies,” so I’m confused.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo assassinations in Paris, one cartoonist responded with a hand rising from bloody paper, middle finger raised in a universal gesture, “F— you!”

It’s a predictable response from a cartoonist. However, something about it struck me, for the first time. It’s graphical sexual violence. Isn’t it a rape metaphor?

When someone screams, “F— You,” they aren’t seeking consent. When the global climate is “F—ed up,” something’s been done to it, and we now have to live with the consequences, and they’re never good. We’re not exactly drifting off to sleep in the peace of loving intimacy.

The same is true of the F-bomb’s older, and hence less shocking, ancestors in American slang. It’s pretty screwed up, if you ask me. That sentence has become so detached from its original connotation that it doesn’t even register with most people. The same is happening with the F-bomb. It is now an F—cracker, on its way to becoming an F-sparkler.

What will take its place? R-pe You? That would be offensive. But don’t they all mean pretty much the same thing?

I’m confused.

I’m assuming you heard that Sony Pictures’ computers were hacked, and their contents strewn all over the internet. A lot of people have been ashamed by things they said in emails and other documents. Some have even made public apologies.

A portion of their inner lives was exposed, and it didn’t match who they told themselves they were, or who they wanted us to think they were.

Imagine a hack that exposed everything about every one of us, including our spoken words and even our thoughts. How would that change things?

Consider the possibility of human-caused climate change with serious consequences.

Consider the possibility of the return of Jesus Christ.

There’s evidence for both. The evidence isn’t of the single proof-point variety. It’s in patterns in the past, and in predictions, and prophecies. It takes an open mind to see it, and a courageous mind to consider the implications for very long.

Overstatements and failed predictions by true believers have emboldened and hardened the scoffers. The more level-headed believers admit they don’t know exactly how it will play out, and that has emboldened and hardened the scoffers, too.

By the time the evidence is sufficient for the scoffers, it will probably be too late.

What used to be the focus of our lives, even as believers, will no longer matter.

A Plague on the Earth

Posted: 2013/02/16 in Stories

A couple of weeks ago, I read that David Attenborough called humanity, “A plague on the earth.”

At first I bristled, and then I said, “He’s right.” In most matters, I am less of a plague than many people, but as a moderately prosperous member of a still-affluent society, I’ve emitted much more than my share of CO2 and have profited, if even indirectly, from the unsustainable production and consumption of food and material goods. And the earth is groaning.

When I said, “Yes, I am a plague on the earth,” it wasn’t a cheerful thought, but it was a freeing one, in the way that confession is freeing. Heretofore I’d been chipping away at being less of a plague, held back by priorities, convenience, and the already negotiated thermostat setting. I will continue to chip away at it. But I will probably always be a plague.

Maybe it also felt freeing because I finally got something. What do I do when I find out I’m wrong? I either try to say that there is no such thing, or come up with a justification, or rationalize that I’m not as wrong as a lot of other people, or now that I know, I’ve no excuse not to be perfect (a personal favorite). But this is a case where I’m stuck. I really am contributing to something that grieves me very much, yet I know that I probably won’t ever really stop and will certainly never be able to make restitution.

Now, being a Christian person, I always think about the atonement, but it always seems to be accompanied by these other things. But this morning, I felt love afresh.

I have been charged with multiple counts of being a plague on the earth and committing crimes against humanity, some of these charges being for acts yet uncommitted. I have confessed, and am unable to make restitution. Then I find out that Someone has impersonated me, legally. He paid my fines and did my time. He as also declared His intention, at some point in the future, to make restitution on my behalf. He has also entered into the court records a document listing all of my charges, past, present, and future, the sentences, and fine paid or time served. This document further states that anyone, including me, who brings charges against me for any of these counts of being a plague on the earth or committing crimes against humanity, is themselves engaging in double jeopardy—trying a man a second time for the same offense—and will not be heard in court.

I imagine that I then met up with Him on the court house steps. He said, “I want you to stop being a plague on the earth, and stop committing crimes against humanity. However, seeing as how you are a habitual criminal, I don’t think you will get very far with that by yourself. So here is my offer to you. I want you to go to work for me. Understand that I run a pretty tight ship, but rest assured that the jobs I give you will be within your abilities, provided you avail yourself of the training and other assistance I will provide you. These aren’t make-work tasks—they are genuinely useful. Plus, they will sometimes be things about which you are genuinely passionate. Yes, I know. I have a complete file on you.”

“Oh, and one other thing. You don’t have to do this, but I think it will help. You can stay with us, in My house, any time you like. You’ll have to bunk with other people like yourself, and eat common meals. The accommodations are simple, but I think you’ll find it restorative, especially if you’re upset and confused by the rest of your life. Which, by the way, I would like you to keep living. Just don’t forget all about Me when you’re in the middle of it. Here’s my cell number. Call anytime you like, seriously. I’m not all that busy, and I get by on a lot less sleep than you think, so never let the fear of interrupting something or disturbing me stop you from calling, even if you just want to talk. Especially that. Some of the jobs I give you to do won’t be as clear-cut as they seem at first.”

“Finally, here are some business cards, and a security card. The security card will get you through both gates. Don’t lose it.”

I looked at the business cards. The title didn’t fully make sense. My name was different, too.

“Excuse me, Sir. I cannot thank You enough for all You have done for me, and the opportunity to work for You and live with You. But I think you might have gotten my name wrong.”

“No, it’s right. While I was at the court house, I filed papers to adopt you. ‘What’s one more? One can never have too many children!’ I thought. Don’t be afraid to use My name. It opens many doors. And I appreciate your courtesy, but I prefer ’Papa’ to ‘Sir.’”

He shook my hand, and said, “Now go.”

Emotions and Change

Posted: 2012/12/17 in Change

Four days after yet another massacre of schoolchildren, this time in Newtown, Connecticut, it feels like “this time is different.” I hope that’s true. But I’ve seen this pattern before. For about six weeks after September 11, 2001, I lived in a different country. The desires and pressures of everyday life had been put in perspective. People were more polite on the roads and more careful in their speech. But it wore off, and we got back to “normal.”

When we draw our power to change from emotion alone, it can’t be any other way. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s the morning after the Newtown, CT school shooting, and I’ve just been on Facebook. People are “talking” about firearms.

I’m not going to share my own views on the Second Amendment, gun control, and other possible enablers of such horrors. Then you could put me in a category, and feel a little more, and think a little less.

No, what I want to talk about is how we talk about things. The day before yesterday, it was about the fiscal cliff and “Freeloaders!” and “Greedy (Straight White Male) Rich People!” (Did your pulse just change?) Give it a week, and it will probably be about a decorated conifer on public property.

Today it’s firearms. We all have a point, often a valid one. But when we talk about it, so many of us attack the intelligence, character, and even humanity of those who disagree.

And then, what amazes me most, we’re then “shocked…SHOCKED” that the other side won’t “engage in dialogue” or “have a meaningful conversation.” We stir up emotion with our words, and then wonder why “they’re” acting like cornered bears. Or, we don’t even wonder any more. It just reinforces what we already think about The Other Side.

Jesus says that the root of murder is in the heart. Continued anger and insults are warning signs. If you take the name of Jesus’ follower and then cultivate these attitudes and words, consider this, from Matthew 5:21-22, Amplified Bible.

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court.

But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.

If you don’t give a rip about Jesus, pay attention to the latest brain science. Read “Crucial Conversations” and learn about what anger and insults do to dialogue.

For your own sake, please.

For the sake of my self-destroying country (taking our kids’ future on this earth and maybe ours too down with it), please. The heat from your words is causing the wax to melt even faster.

Groups and Love

Posted: 2012/11/19 in Thinking Tools

They’re at it again.

The Palestinians in Gaza did something. The Israelis did something back. A couple of weeks ago, we Americans were arguing about what the government ought to do, and what the corporations have done.

Legally, these words make sense. Governments enter into treaties, and corporations have free speech rights.

But we start down a slippery slope when we say things like, “The Israelis are oppressors” or “The Palestinians are terrorists.” Read the rest of this entry »

How to keep your heart intact

Posted: 2012/09/26 in Quotations

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.

~ C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

My church has joined in a year-long discipline to read the Bible daily, using a reading plan called “Eat This Book” which goes all the way from Genesis through Revelation, with a daily Psalm.

The summer of 2012 is a time of heat and drought in my region. Coincidentally, the reading plan has us passing through the prophets, who preached and wrote to the Hebrew people during their Time of Icarus—the destruction of their already-divided nation at the hands of first the Assyrian and then the Babylonian empire. The prophets heard from God why these things were happening and warned the people to repent, literally, to turn around, before it was too late.

I haven’t heard directly from God like a prophet, but I find my own thoughts and prayers influenced by them.

Sovereign Lord, may Your purposes for the present drought be accomplished, both in the hearts of those who are children of your Kingdom, and those who are not. May my heart, and our hearts, be soft and not hard, that we may learn what You have been trying to teach us, and return, or turn, to Your path of love with a deeper and clearer understanding of what that is all about. May Your purposes be accomplished quickly and fully, and may You in Your mercy, which is new every morning, soon relent and send rain. I ask this in Jesus’ name, meaning that this is how I believe He would have me pray. Amen (so be it).