Sunday, November 27, 2005

Admittedly, my recent entries have been short and bereft of theological insights. I have been in survival mode but I am seeing some light in my adjustment period to having two kids. This afternoon, my wife and I received a break from parenting and we went to see the new Harry Potter. Most people love Harry Potter. As for me, I fell asleep... Nothing against HP but I guess my body was able to relax and that led to an automatic shut-down. Hopefully that won't happen tomorrow in class....

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This sign describes my world right now. I think that I went to bed around 3:57 AM last night. I was just woken up by a screaming baby at 3:57 PM. I looked at the window and I thought "Wow, daylight savings time is out of control! It is light outside at 3:57 AM!!!" These are not deep theological thoughts but these are the thoughts that I am having. I am reading some of my class reading but mostly my mind is occupied by the upsidedownness of life right now. Maybe Paul Tillich can correlate that existential question with a traditional belief in a new "baby-twilight zone" interpretative matrix... There is a thought...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Is this the graph that describes your day when you come to my blog? One of my favorite things to do is to locate crazy images through Google. I put in the word "thanks" in order to find a potential image for a lesson and I found a directory of hilarious pictures. This graph was one of them...

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Humiliating Experience (in the truest sense)

Every moment has been both a challenge and a joy since Avery came home from the hospital.

The changes in my life are innumerable and all of my daily/nightly patterns have been blown up. Intense life changes like this reveal how selfish I am. I can't even begin to count how many selfish, childish moments I have had in the past 2 weeks. I have realized how much I really do not look out to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4) but only to my own. I took some time tonight to step away from being a husband, a dad, a student, a friend, and everything else. I picked up The Way of a Pilgrim again and I read this "confession of an interior man leading to humility." I will write the first part in this post but the others may come later. These words capture much of what I feel often. It is a long read but it worth it...

A Way of a Pilgrim - pp. 113-115

Turning my gaze at myself and attentively observing the course of my interior life I am convinced, through experience, that I love neither God nor my neighbor, that I have no faith, and that I am full of pride and sensuality. This realization is the result of careful examination of my feelings and actions.

1. I do not love God. For if I loved Him, then I would be constantly thinking of Him with a heartfelt satisfaction; every thought of God would fill me with joy and delight. On the contrary, I think more and with greater eagerness about worldly things, while thoughts of God present difficulty and aridity. If I loved Him, then my prayer communion with Him would nourish, delight, and lead me to uninterrupted union with Him. But on the contrary, not only do I not find my delight in prayer but I find it difficult to pray; I struggle unwillingly, I am weakened by slothfulness and am most willing to do anything insignificant only to shorten or end my prayer. In useless occupations I pay no attention to time; but when I am thinking about God, when I place myself in His presence, every hour seems like a year. When a person loves another, he spends the entire day unceasingly thinking about his beloved, imagining being with him, and worrying about him; no matter what he is occupied with, the beloved does not leave his thoughts. And I in the course of the day barely take one hour to immerse myself deeply in meditation about God and enkindle within myself love for Him, but for twenty-three hours with eagerness I bring fervent sacrifices to the idols with passions! I greatly enjoy conversations about vain subjects which degrade the spirit, but in conversations about God I am dry, bored, and lazy. And if unwillingly I am drawn into a conversation about spiritual matters, I quickly change the subject to something which flatters my passions. I have avid curiosity about secular news and political events; I seek satisfaction for my love of knowledge in worldly studies, in science, art, and methods of acquiring possessions. But the study of the law of the Lord, knowledge of God, and religion does not impress me, does not nourish my soul. I judge this to be an unessential activity of a Christian, a rather supplementary subject with which I should occupy myself in my leisure time. In short, if love of God can be recognized by the keeping of His commandments - "If anyone loves me he will keep my word," says the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:23), and I not only do not keep His commandments but I make no attempt to do so - then in very truth I should conclude that I do not love God. St. Basil the Great confirms this when he says, "The evidence that man does not love God and His Christ is that he does not keep His commandments."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Agape or Not...

I have heard 3409830498304982 sermons/messages/talks/lessons on agape (unconditional love).

The reality of this is like many other aspects of Christianity in that it fades in and out of focus. All relationships include times where different aspects fade in and out. The addition of Avery Ruth to my family has opened my eyes in a fresh way to characteristics of unconditional love. Avery has nothing to give me in terms of approval or agreement. She may stop crying when I pick her up or simply make eye contact. Overall, however, she cannot "give" me anything. On the other hand, Cambria who is almost 2 1/2 years old can run to me and say "Daddy" or laugh at my stupid voices or make me feel good by saying "I love you Daddy." At points, Cambria's love is conditional and I can provide the thing to which she responds. I have been disturbed by how much I can sense in my spirit this difference. In fact, I can sense that I want to get a response from Cambria when I only get cries and some more cries (at this point) from Avery.

Doesn't this whole post show my selfishness? Isn't it amazing how God uses massive changes in a person's life to reveal just how ridiculous the human heart is when a sobering review is made of it...?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Avery Ruth Lee

Avery Ruth Lee was born at 2:09 PM yesterday on 11/8/05 at 7 lbs 13 oz, 21.5 inches. She is currently in the special care unit but she is well on her way to being fully healthy and out of there. Laurie was nothing short of a warrior throughout the intense labor that was an intense 1 hr 15 minutes from hospital arrival until the birth. More pictures will be coming soon. We are grateful for everyone who was praying for us. The miracle of God's gift in the form of life, life somehow that comes from two people and looks/acts like them, has been realized again. Praise God!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Eating alone (at the Lord's Supper???)

Last night, I participated in an alternative Eucharistic worship service. The theme of the 'table of Christ' was repeated but the reality was there was no table (it didn't have to be a physical table). Each person stood up, went alone, received the bread and wine/grape juice, sat down, prayed alone, thanked God alone, confessed alone, and then there was a corporate prayer at the end.

Is the Lord's Supper or communion or the eucharist meant to be a lonely McDonald's experience?

Have you ever eaten alone at McDonald's? You get your food, sit down, eat quickly (maybe with something to read or now some McDonald's have TVs to watch). You are only concerned about yourself and what you are getting from the meal.

My recent experiences would lead me to answer affirmatively to the question "Is the Lord's Supper like a lonely McDonald's experience?". I have been challenged by a reading from Martin Luther where he reminded his readers that the Lord's Supper was not just for individuals. The problem is that many Christians approach the Lord's Supper only with a personal "me and Jesus" mindset in our individualistic world. I was taught as a kid to give thanks for Christ's sacrifice on the cross and to confess my sins while meditating on the cleansing blood of Christ. I still believe that this is a necessary part of the experience but is there more? If the purpose of the Lord's Supper is to thank and confess, then can't I do that at home or by myself somewhere else?

Here are some ironic observations that I (and I hope others) have made...
- we speak of gathering around a table but we 'eat and drink' alone in our thoughts
- we speak about the body of Christ but only in terms of what Jesus did for me while others are sitting right next to me (many of whom I do not know at all)
- we speak of Jesus dying 'for many' but again we only think about individual selves in the many

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." This passage is often overlooked in favor of the "do this in remembrance of me" passages. The focus in 1 Corinthians 10 includes the idea of the body of Christ as opposed to a single member of that body. Martin Luther challenged his readers to also consider the "other" that is sitting right next to you. We need to reconsider how to lift up the prayer "forgive us our sins" with "as we forgive those who sin against us."

Look around the room the next time you 'take' communion or the Lord's Supper or celebrate the Eucharist. Consider those who are around you. Pray for them. If needed, ask forgiveness and/or forgive others. Remember, we are the body of Christ, not a bunch of individuals... Remember, we don't want to look like the guy eating alone at McDonald's...

"I'll take a number 1 = bread with wine via dipping"
"I'll take a number 2 = bread with grape juice via dipping"
"I'll take a number 3 = wafer with wine from a single cup"
"I'll take a number 4 = wafer with grape juice in a cup"
"I'll take a number 5 .....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Catching a leaf

A subject that I come back to over and over is the challenge of living in the moment.

I have had a couple of experiences in the past 24 hours that are helping me to see how to actually do this. Yesterday, I went to Lake Carnegie near where I live in order to get a break from studies, baby-anticipation, and all the noise of life. I sat on a wall overlooking the lake and took a deep breath. I thought to myself, "This is living in the moment." What was different about that moment? I wasn't thinking about any upcoming school assignments or obligations to anybody. My only focus was on the cool breeze, beautiful trees, and honking geese. That was living in the moment.

Another moment occurred last night when my daughter was trick or treatin (is that a phrase a verb?). She came out from an apartment and said, "Daddy, I want to go to more houses!" She was enjoying simply receiving candy. I saw her joy and I paused. That was living in the moment.

Finally, I just went for a short walk. During the walk, I reflected on a sermon that I heard in theology class yesterday based on "For it is by grace that you have been saved." The sermon was by Karl Barth and at one point he focused on having a carefree approach to life that results from living under God's grace. He challenged the audience to ask for grace. I asked for grace on my walk. I asked for help in the area of living in the moment. A few minutes later I noticed a leaf falling. I grabbed it. I realized that if I hadn't been simply living in the moment then I would have missed that leaf. I wasn't thinking days, hours, or even minutes ahead.

That was living in the moment.

I need to be more open to moments like that. What "leaves" am I missing?

Yes, that ending sounded like a bad sermon ending but the question still stands... :)