Monday, September 1, 2014

Keep Calm: Dealing with Upheaval

It was the day before Father’s Day a few years ago and I was planting flowers in the bare spots in the garden. I knelt in the garden alongside our garage, moving the last plant out of its pot and into the ground. I patted the dirt around the new planting.

Smiling, I stood up, and a pain shot through my back that forced me to grab the side of the garage to steady myself. The pain was so severe that passing out loomed as a distinct possibility. For a few moments, I stood with both hands against the wall (think of the “getting frisked” position). Then I moved, but with great pain. I could barely walk, but I forced myself. The pain eased and eventually dissipated, and I thought I had pulled a muscle.

Six weeks later, the pain suddenly returned; this time, even worse than before.

To continue reading, please see my post today at The High Calling.

Photograph by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Has Patience Become a Sin?

The first desktop computer I ever used was an IBM 386, delivered by a cheerful IT technician in 1984. I was mesmerized. Four years later, we bought our first home computer, an Apple IIGS, a few months before Apple abandoned the Apple II.

As impressive as those computers were at the time, the fact is that my iPhone today has more capabilities than those computers did. My iPad is far more portable than my laptop and can do just about as much. In fact, I have two iPads, a work laptop, a home laptop, and a home desktop. And my Kindle.

I’m wired.

And I’m socialized, too. Twitter (a personal account, individual and corporate accounts I manage for work, an an organizational account I manage). Facebook (a personal page and two organizational pages I manage). Google+ (personal).  And a bunch of other stuff I rarely have time to get involved with. And this blog, too, which I’ve been doing longer than social media.

At work, I’m usually living and operating on internet time. Fast. Sometimes frenzied. A crisis or two a day. One day we had six online crises happening simultaneously. The organization I work for has only recently began to understand a glimmer of what’s at stake when you operate in internet time. Many of the people I work with are doing a lot of their work they way it was done pre-internet, and even pre-email.

One of the effects of all of this technological capability is the end of patience. Our definition of fast has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. When I first accessed the internet, about 1993, I was amazed at what I could access in a few short minutes. Today, I am frustrated if anything takes a few short minutes.

Even the way we talk has changed. With the impact of television, politicians (and then the rest of us) learned to talk in sound bites. Now we talk in sound bits, preferably with a seven-second video.

This is a kind of technological madness. Ask my wife how much time she spends dealing with our sound system / cable access / television / internet. It’s quick, all right, when it works.

Our technology has made patience at best seem antiquated, at worst a sin.

In Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, Christopher Smith, John Pattison, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove suggest something different.

“Western culture,” they write, “and increasingly global culture, is built on impatience. The inner restlessness of humanity is nothing new, bur for at least the last two centuries, the quickening march of technology and industrialization has formed us into a culture on instant gratification – which is another way of saying instant dissatisfaction.”

This impatience has permeated many of our churches, and it is the church that should be offering the alternative to it. This isn’t some ethereal theological discussion, but something that impacts us and our churches every day.

And the discussion is important. Patience, the authors of Slow Church point out, “is how compassion is embodied in our lives.” The less room we have for patience (or longsuffering, which is closer to the Biblical concept), the less room we have for compassion.

Compassion comes from rootedness, staying with the same local church body for the long haul, and not flitting from one church to another where our needs “might be better met.” It’s the continuity of being part of a local body where we Christians learn patience and compassion.

I’ve been devoting Mondays on this blog to a discussion of Slow Church, which I believe is one of the most important books I’ve read about the church. This chapter is entitled “Patience.”

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dislocations of Faith

The Apostle Peter’s first letter was written to believers in what is now Asia Minor, or Turkey. We don’t precisely know what they were experiencing, but the sense is that they were suffering persecution for their faith. Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire ran the full gamut—from mild, to torture and death. Most persecutions tended to be regional or local, like the one Peter is referring to.
No matter how mild or severe, what persecutions did then, and what they do today, is to disconnect Christians from the familiar environment and culture they live in. 
To continue reading, please see my Daily Reflection today at The High Calling.

Photograph by Ken Kistler via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

The spirit said

The spirit said
to the bride come
to those who hear, come
to those who suffer, come
to those who lack, come
to those who show mercy, come
to the meek, come
to the hungry, come
to the pure in heart, come
to the persecuted, come
to the peacemakers, come
to the mourning, come
to the poor in spirit, come
to the sick, come

Come, the spirit said
come, to the tree
the tree of life

Photograph by Lynn Greyling via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ten Books, Sort Of

It’s easier than the Ice Bucket Challenge, that’s for sure. Less wet, anyway. And less cold.

Sandra Heska King tagged me on Facebook. And it’s clearly one of those Facebook things. The question: What 10 books have most influenced you?

The easy answer (and the most Christian-ly correct one) would be to start the list with the Bible. And in my case, I would say that’s true. 

After the Bible, one book immediately – and I mean immediately – came to mind.

Although I think it would be more correct for me to list the authors who influenced rather than individual books (ask my wife; I tend to read clusters of books by authors I like).

Here’s my list, in no particular order. And I’ll stick to books. I’ll note at the end which one of them first popped into my head. (And the number of the books in the list are actually slightly more than 10.)
The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

October Light by John Gardner.

The Source by James Michener.

David Copperfield / Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes.
Augustine of Hippo by Peter Brown.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.

The Gulag Archipelago and The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

And the one that immediately popped into my head when I read Sandra’s Facebook post?

Don Quixote.

What about you? What 10 books would you say have most influenced you?

Top photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Where the text goes 2

No words for years
decades, no statement
no explanation the texts
left behind for years
decades, destroyed, buried
transmitted by mouth
imperfectly, parts omitted
forgotten, seeping
into the ground,
spilled blood.

The winds blows foe years,
decades, eons, the texts
forgotten, a few locked
in cupboards and chests,
covered with dust, waiting
for light.

One day

the sun rises.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Where the text goes

He wrote a poem
words on a page
words in a journal
he carried with him
a few words
scattered over weeks
disparate thoughts
varied inspirations
but falling together
in a pattern of birth
unexpected, unanticipated
pieces fitting together
lines adhering
to one another
forming coherence.

Photograph by Karen Arnold via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.