Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is not here

He is not here.
                   Devised a plan.
Do not be afraid.
                   “They’ve stolen the body away.”
He is risen.
                    They paid a bribe.
You will see him in Galilee.
                    We have no king but Caesar.
Strips of cloth by themselves.
Their eyes were opened.
Look at my hands.
Feed my lambs.
                    We have no king but Caesar.
Care for my sheep.
Feed my sheep.
                    We have no king but Caesar.
Go and make disciples.
                    We have no king but Caesar.
I am with you always.

He is not here.
He is risen.

Illustration by David Wagner via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Good Reads: Slowing Down

This week didn’t start out in Frantic Mode – we first had to dig out from a 12-inch snow that arrived Sunday. (A huge thank you to the young man who knocked on our door Monday and asked if we needed our driveway shoveled.)

Then on Tuesday, as if to prove exercise is bad for you, I was riding the stationary bike at 6 a.m. prior to my workout with the personal trainer when a partial bridge in my mouth decided to relocate. So – it was pray that the dentist had some space to squeeze me in (he did).

And at work, a situation that had started the previous week was continuing to build, and build some more, until the tsunami arrived on Thursday, and ebbed only slightly by Friday afternoon. I finally had to stop Thursday night (Friday morning?) about 12:15 a.m.; I decided the crisis would be waiting for me when I woke up. It was.

What helped was watching a few Netflix videos and finding a few oases of calm in the online world, like the Saturday Good Reads below.

First, four poems.

Two by Steven Marty Grant at Urbanality, whose poetry always seems to transport me to New York City: Winter in Midtown and God Looks Down.

One by Chris Yokel, whose music I like as much as his poetry: Green Arms (A Good Friday Poem).

And one by Brian Miller, whom I first met at One Stop Poetry when it was going gangbusters and who’s now one of the movers behind dVersePoets: I’ll have the usual.

Am I the only person who reads poetry when things get crazy?

Then over at Slow Church, John Pattison posted a reflection on the novel Silence by Shasaku Endo, in honor of Endo’s birthday. I had read the novel three years ago (and even blogged about it a few times). Pattison’s article is well worth reading.

David Mathis at Desiring God did something unexpected and truly beautiful. He visited and interviewed the 96-year-old theologian Robert Duncan Culver, and came away with The Old Man and His Big Book.

I was rather awed by Culver and his razor-sharp mind, and I was also awed by something slightly older – a graffiti found during a 19th century excavation of the Palantine Hill in Rome. Tim Challies at Informing the Reforming wrote about it in The History of Christianity in 25 Objects: the Alexamenos Graffito.

I learned something new on Friday. Lyla Lindquist, one of my colleagues over at Tweetspeak Poetry, has more than a slight interest in the Spanish language, and wrote about it in The Poetics of Learning (and Loving) Language.

And then John Blase at The Beautiful Due wrote one of the most original articles I’ve seen about Easter: What Do I Know?

Finally, Greg Sullivan at Sippican Cottage posted a short video the likes of which I’ve never seen. Well, I take that back. I’ve seen the actor Kenneth Branagh do it, but I’ve never seen the “We Happy Few” speech from Henry V by William Shakespeare performed like it is by this young actor.

Photograph by Jean Sander via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Matt Appling’s "Life After Art”

Important things can often come in small packages.

Physically, Matt Appling’s Life After Art is a small book – 142 pages. Thematically, its size belies the important message it contains.

We are made in the image of God. And because we are made in the image of God, we are designed to be creators.

For some reason, most of us left that creative spirit behind about the time we left 6th grade. We out grew it, encouraged by peers, parents, adolescence. Creativity, like art and music (and even writing), didn’t fit our ideas of “useful” or paying occupations. The further we drifted from childhood, the more those days of joyful creativity were left behind.

Appling is not arguing that we should all become artists. Instead, he says we should “peel away” the layers of paint lacquered on our creative spirits, and discover, or rediscover, what God intended us to be. Or, to use the present tense, to find what God intends us to be.


Drawing upon his experiences as an art teacher for schoolchildren, his own childhood and life, and his understanding of the creative urge and what happens to it, Appling concisely walks us through where we were, where we are, and where we could be. His case is compelling.

“Today,” he says, “most things we consumer are cheap, unimportant, and disposable. The things we create have an exceptionally short shelf life and a rapidly approaching expiration date. We consumer, we repeat. Consume, repeat.

“We accept this, and lower our expectations.”

What we create says much about the people who do the creating. Our creativity, or lack of it, reflects the deprivation of our souls.

If we peel away the paint and find our creative spirit again, what it is that we are to create?

Appling has an answer for that, too.


Beauty that expresses the spirit of God.

It could be in art, music, writing or any of a hundred other creative endeavors. But we have the capability to create beauty.

If you doubt that, then perhaps you should sit in Appling’s art class, brush in hand (and it’s a brush, not a hammer, so don’t pound the paint on the paper), and listen to him explain why rules and confinements are important, that it’s not about painting with a disregard for the lines but using the lines to master and direct the creativity within you.

Life After Art is thought-provoking and desire-provoking. We recognize what Appling says as true because the creator image within us responds to it as true, and responds powerfully. It’s an important book, every page filled with what we have forgotten, what we need to know, and what we need to do.


Matt blogs at The Church of No People.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ian Rankin’s “Standing in Another Man’s Grave”

Ian Rankin is one of the best authors of police procedurals writing today. A few years back, he retired his chief protagonist, Detective Inspector John Rebus, Rebus having reached mandatory retirement age. Fans mourned. Rankin kept writing, just not about Rebus.

Rebus is back, and Standing in Another Man’s Grave is a grand story.

Rebus is not the most sympathetic of heroes. He’s always disheveled, looking like he slept in his clothes (and he often does). He somehow manages to subsist on a diet of cigarettes, alcohol, and “crisps” (chips). He’s in trouble with his superiors more often than not, and manages to remain politically incorrect in an era of political correctness run amuck. He often consorts with organized crime figures. Even he recognizes what a dinosaur he is.

The problem he, Rebus gets results. Rebus solves crimes. And it’s hard to argue with success.

The mandatory retirement age has changed, and Rebus finds himself back in police service, assigned to a dead-end department for unsolved crimes. He’s hoping to return to regular police work; rumor has it that he’s applied for a position.

A teenaged girl has gone missing. Her family has ties to organized crime elements. Rebus thinks the disappearance may be similar to others from years before. Subsequent events in the investigation probe him right, and he’s “attached” (temporarily assigned) to the main investigation. Non-orthodox police work ensues.

Part of the enjoyment of reading an Ian Rankin novel is to watch Rebus resist approved police procedures, maneuver around his superiors, flout the rules, make mistakes, overlook the obvious, and discover what others don’t see. A Rebus novel is often less about a crime being investigated and more about how John Rebus in involved in a crime being investigated.

The investigation of the missing girl moves forward, aided and abetted by the internet. When bodies are found in a mass grave, the investigation becomes surrounded by a media circus. And in spite of the opposition of everyone he’s working with, and being ordered off the team, Rebus begins to close in on a suspect.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave is tightly written and fast-paced. The often cited Scot names, places and words don’t distract (a good map of Scotland will help). In the hands of a lesser writer, all of the Scot references might have been troublesome.

We end the book as we begin it – watching John Rebus, recognizing and understanding his all-too-obvious flaws, and cheering him on to prevail over villains, his own police department, gangsters and thugs. We admire his iconoclasm, his natural tendency to resist authority, and his impatience with bureaucracy. John Rebus is us.

And we’re glad he’s back.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mardi Gras Beads and Brennan Manning

When I was a child, my father owned a printing business in downtown New Orleans. His office was two longish blocks from St. Charles Avenue, which among other things was the main drag for all the parades on Mardi Gras Day. For the family, and a lot of friends and relatives, the office location was a perfect spot for enjoying the day. Watch a parade, walk back to the office, have access to bathroom facilities and food, go back to the parades – it was close to ideal.

I was something of a Mardi Gras “rat” – I loved the parades, I loved the crazy people dressed up in crazy costumes (or lack thereof), and I loved all the beads, trinkets and doubloons thrown from the floats. And I could scramble with the best of them. I’d usually arrive home with a big bag, or bags, of loot.

One year, our next-door neighbors (Yankees from Illinois) had friends visiting (also Yankees from Illinois). And the two children of the Yankees from Illinois did not how to scramble for Mardi Gras loot. The kids were devastated – they’d seen all the largesse flung from the floats, and had come away with two pairs of beads, courtesy of a lucky catch by their father.

I had had an unusually good haul. In other words, I was loaded – beads, doubloons, plastic toys, trinkets of every size and variety. It had been a good haul, one of my best, in fact.

At breakfast the morning after Mardi Gras, my mother mentioned the distraught visitors from next door. And then gave me a questioning look.

That afternoon, after school, I brought a bag of loot next door. (And by “loot” I mean what was usually thrown from floats – the bag might have had a monetary value of 39 cents.) I explained that we had heard about what had happened, and we had plenty to spare. (Yes, I was in 9-year-old agony at the thought of giving any of my loot up, but, well, it was making my mother happy.)

You would have thought by the visitors’ reactions that I had just brought in a haul from Tiffany’s. Let’s just say they were effusive in their thanks, so much so that I ended up embarrassed.

I learned something that day. Grace could take the form of cheap Mardi Gras trinkets. I had given up some of my priceless “treasure” and had experienced a blessing – how looks and feelings of disappointment could change into excitement and joy.

The Yankees had done nothing to deserve it, had not asked for it, and didn’t even know up about, until I showed up at the front door.

It was a bit like faith, and salvation. We do nothing to deserve it, and yet it comes, often unexpectedly.

“Our religion never begins with what we do for God,” Brennan Manning writes in The Furious Longing of God. “It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus.”

No, a bag of Mardi Gras beads isn’t the same thing. And it probably wasn’t even the beads that were the real cause of the excitement, at least for me. I learned what a gift could represent.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing The Furious Longing of God. To see more posts on this chapter, entitled “Giving,” please visit Jason’s site, Connecting to Impact.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

He turns his face to the city

He turns his face to the city,
fusing its past and future
in one weeping moment,
an immediate joy,
an undeniable sadness.
He enters with acceptance,
not resignation or foreboding.
He walks the streets, canyons
of darkness and fear.
He walks the streets, forested
by voices  rising not in hope
but desire, seeking what
he will not offer, refusing what
he freely gives.

This poem is submitted to Open Mike Night at dVerse Poets. The links will be live at 2 p.m. Central time today

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

Poetry at Work: Workplace Creativity

I’m about to share the secrets of how I work.

My work takes almost entirely in the digital world: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, web sites, email, online news and trade publications, webinars, online meetings, phone conferences. I am in virtual Mumbai one moment and Marshall, Missouri, the next. It’s rare for me to physically see many of the people I work directly with – people in offices in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Brussels, London, Washington, Calgary.

It’s fast-paced work, often hectic, sometimes resembling the frenzy of Wall Street or the Chicago Board of Trade. Most times it’s straightforward work, with a rhythm and pace to it like most other work. A few times, it’s like wading through a swamp, dealing with the dark side of the human condition; people will say anything, reveal anything, and sometimes threaten anything
that they would never dream of doing face-to-face.

This is when I turn to poetry, in three different ways.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Follow Me – into Persecution?

Early on in my faith, I spent a fairly considerable amount of time reading church history. I was even able to take a seminar in early church history as part of a masters degree program at Washington University in St. Louis. While it was more than 20 years ago, what I remember most about the course was two things: the professor’s deep admiration for the late 19th and early 20th century church historian Adolf von Harnack (a leading proponent of what was then called “higher criticism”) and my research project on forms of government in the early church.

You can’t read anything about church history for very long without coming into the subject of persecution. I originally understood (likely thanks to a lot of movies) was that the Romans spent 300 years avidly persecuting the church before finally throwing in the towel. In fact, it didn’t actually happen that way. Persecutions tended to be local or at most regional, with a few notable exceptions, such as the empire-wide persecution under Diocletian about 300 A.D.

The major charge against the Christians wasn’t that they believed in Christ; it was that they wouldn’t worship the emperor as a god.

Not long after receiving my degree, I was among a small group of corporate speechwriters asked by a national PR association to write a short article on a speech I deeply admired. Most of the group selected speeches like the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, or “Blood, Sweat and Tears” by Winston Churchill. I selected Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin, the one that ended in his death by stoning and the persecution of the church in Jerusalem.

My article wasn’t used. I was asked to write on something “not religious.” I declined, pointing out that the articles that would be printed actually had religious underpinnings and even direct references to God, while mine didn’t refer to God. They declined to print mine, an indication of what was already happening in American culture more than 20 years ago. I don’t consider this a form of persecution, but it was an example of anti-Christian discrimination.

Things have not gotten better since then.

What I said in my article was that Stephen’s speech and death, and the persecution of the church in Jerusalem that followed, had actually resulted in the first great wave of Christian evangelism, scattering Christians from Jerusalem to cities all over the Mideast and perhaps all the way to Rome. Paul, a leader in the persecution effort, was on his way to Damascus to extinguish the church there when he had his roadside conversion.

This became a pattern for the next three centuries. Persecute the church – and watch it grow. In fact, whenever the church has experienced persecution, it has grown. Today, in places where Christians face imprisonment and often death for their faith, the church is growing.

“We often think persecution is horrible, and certainly in many ways it is,” writes David Platt in Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. ”But persecution is often a sign that the gospel is progressing. As long as the gospel lies dormant in a country or amid a people, and as long as no one is coming to Christ, then no one cares about Christianity. It’s only when the gospel spreads and people are converted to Christ that opposition begins to arise against Christianity.”

Persecution is a terrible thing, but for Christians, it is also a sign.

We’ve been reading David Platt’s Follow Me as part of a book discussion at TheHigh Calling. Today Marcus Goodyear concludes the discussion. Please visit the site to see his comments and the discussion.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I stood before my enemy

I stood before my enemy;
he struck me, stinging
my face. I turned
to the left to offer
my other cheek. He raised
his hand, and then
stopped. I saw the fear
in his eyes. He saw
the love in mine,
a reflected mercy.

      (From Luke 6:27-36)

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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Good Reads: Two Videos

A friend sends a link or two, you click, and walk into a world of wonder.

That happened to me this week, except it wasn’t one link: it was two. The links are to videos produced by This Is Our City, an outreach of Christianity Today Magazine.

This first is about imagining, or forging, the future with pen and ink, and linking it to the past. One of the 11 master penmen in the world talks, and pens, and it is fascinating.

The second is about Detroit, that perennial basket case of American cities, and gardening. And how to make beauty out of blight.

And we are struck with wonder.

(Hat Tip: my friend Marcus Goodyear.)

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mark & Amy Sutherland’s “Being a Blue Angel”

I’m not exactly sure when the Blue Angels first appeared on my radar scope, but I know when I became a fan. From 1960 to 1961, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron was the subject of a television drama.

I was 9. I watched it.

Every episode.

And the reruns.

To be a Blue Angel – now there was the almost perfect dream for a 9-year-old boy.

So to find a book on the Blue Angels aimed at children is to go back in time (just a bit) and remember. Being a Blue Angel: Every Kid’s Guide to the Blue Angels by Mark and Amy Sutherland tells the story of the squadron in words, photographs, and short letters from some of the Blue Angels themselves.

The book is not so much a history of the Blue Angels as it is an explanation of what it is to be a squadron member and what they actually do, often day to day. It’s cool flight demonstrations and air shows, yes. But it’s also outreach, communication, lots of travel, and lots of time away from home. And it’s not only those sleek jets they fly in air shows, but also a plane called the Fat Albert, a cargo aircraft that transports support staff and equipment to the shows. And ground crews, and support crews. And fans.

Fans like 9-year-old boys. And 9-year-old girls.

Being a Blue Angel is a delightful children’s book, and even allows a few adults to remember a time when they, too, wanted to perform intricate flying patterns in one of those jets.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dave Harrity’s “Making Manifest”

I’m sure someone must have had the idea before, but if they had, I hadn’t found it – a writing exercise and meditation book for writers who happen to be Christian (note I didn’t say “Christian writers”).

But there’s now Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand by writer and poet Dave Harrity, and it’s a good one. And it’s more – far more – than simply a series of writing prompts.

The book includes 28 readings and exercises (designed to be covered in a month). Some are simple; some are more complex. Some simply ask you to write down your thoughts about a meditation. Others ask for a poem, or more. All are designed with one purpose: “…to help you ‘re-vision’ the way you understand and interact with the kingdom of God.” That doesn’t mean that its purpose is to help make you a better writer, although I suspect that will one of the unexpected benefits of reading and completing this book.

While the temptation is great to skip right to the exercises (okay, yes, I peeked), I discovered the meditations to be insightful and thought-provoking. They’re written from the perspective of a writer and a poet. They’re about words and language, but also faith and belief. Some are meant to be explications of Scripture, to stimulate thinking and possibly even prayer.

Like you might expect from a writer writing for writers (and that’s writers in the broadest possible sense, not just professionals), Making Manifest is what I call “a quiet book,” the exercises best undertaken is solitude, preferably in a quiet place. But once an exercise and a reading are done, they can be used for group discussion as well, and Harrity includes a section for group discussion as an appendix.

Another bonus is also included in the appendix, a short article entitled “Five rules for believing writers.” My favorite is Rule #3: “Remember that what you create is something close to holy.”

Harrity has a volume of poetry being published in 2014. He leads workshops about faith and imagination across the country, and helped found the online publication Antler. He and his family live in Louisville, Kentucky, and he’s taught creative writing courses at Asbury Theological Seminary. He’s not partial to capital letters, but he does use them in Making Manifest.

If you want to use your writing (and poetry) to gain a deeper understanding of the Kingdom of God in a deliberate, focused way, Making Manifest is a fine and insightful way to do it.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An Easter Book for Children

I reviewed it here two years ago, but if you’re looking for a children’s book on Easter, one of the best I’ve found is Why Do We Celebrate Easter? by Mark Sutherland and illustrated by Julie Hammond. It’s aimed at children ages 3 to 7, and it’s a delightful story (with engaging pictures).

It’s available in both paperback and Kindle versions (as well as Nook).

Brennan Manning: Fire

I was a contra when it wasn’t cool.

From a cultural perspective, my transition from high school to college was jarring, dislocating – and often bewildering. It wasn’t because academics were harder; I actually found college to be overall easier than high school (except for chemistry!) in the academic department.

No, the disconnect was cultural. I had been born and raised in New Orleans, which was (and is still) a lot different than the rest of Louisiana. Despite the rather more, ah, freewheeling culture of my hometown, I found myself pitched headfirst into the college culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Yes, even in Louisiana.

And, weird clothes and hairstyles aside, the single greatest difference between high school and college was drugs.

Of the 24 of us freshmen in the wing of our dormitory, five of us were not into drugs: marijuana, speed, sometimes harder stuff. By accident, one of us five discovered that drugs were stashed throughout the wing – mostly closets in the rooms but sometimes other places. The uncool five got together one night and said, what do we do about this? If some legal authority suddenly did a raid, we would be scooped up with everyone else.

So we called a meeting of our wing, without the two counselors. We asked the other 19 to remove drugs from the premises. We didn’t lecture them on the evil of drugs; we didn’t make any veiled threats; we just asked them to remove it.

I have to say that I didn’t act out of my Christian faith and beliefs. Faith was three years in the future. I did it out of self-preservation and (to a lesser extent) concern for two of three of the people caught up in using drugs. They were spiraling downward and fast.

The real surprise was, the people using drugs agreed with us. And before the night was out, all the stuff was gone from the dorm. Drug use didn’t stop, of course, but not having drugs readily at hand did tend to decrease consumption.

It was my first real lesson in being a “contra” – standing against the prevailing and sometimes overwhelming culture. Three years later, when I did find faith, I discovered another “contra” – Jesus. Jesus was not about conformity. He was not about going with the prevailing wind. He was not about telling people what they wanted to hear. Nor was he about trying to be cool and hip.

He was something else. Something original. And he spoke a language I had not heard before.

“When preached purely,” Brennan Manning writes in The Furious Longing of God, “His Word exalts, frightens, shocks, and forces us to reassess our whole life. The gospel breaks our train of thought, shatters our comfortable piety, and cracks open our capsule truths. The flashing spirit of Jesus Christ breaks new paths everywhere.”

I’ve been caught up in “contra” situations numerous times in my life – school, work, church, the community. What I’ve learned is – right doesn’t always prevail. Not everyone says, “No, keeping illegal drugs here is wrong.” Sometimes The Big Lie wins. People say terrible things about you and what you hold dear. People do terrible things to you and what you hold dear.

But even when you feel like fresh road kill, you know something unbelievably shocking, something that is an integral part of the gospel message.

Those who do the wrong thing, who may hate you for what you say and do, also know God’s Word is right. They can’t help but know it, because each and every one of them is made in God’s image. Sometimes that makes it worse. But they know it.

The gospel message can be – often is – a fire in the soul, and a fire in the heart. And that’s what it was meant to be.

Led by Jason Stasyzsen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Furious Longing of God. Today’s discussion is on the chapter entitled “Fire.” To see more posts, please visit Sarah at Living Between theLines.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

At three in the morning

It awakens him at three in the morning,
first with the flash of anxiety edged
with panic, then the dark, rainy gray
of resignation. He moves his hand,
touching the cold sheets next to him,
cold when he wants the warmth
of what he knew. The laughter
that was has fled, leaving a dismal
silence to create its own vacuum,
its own void of memory. He considers
the possibility that it is he who lies
buried in the white coffin.

This poem is submitted to the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock, and the word today is grief.

It is also submitted to Open Link Night at dVerse Poets. The links will be live at 2 p.m. Central time today.

Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Television Becomes Poetry Becomes Speech

A curious combination of television and poetry helped change and industry.

I was having trouble finishing a speech. And it wasn't just any speech but a rather significant departure for the company. It would have one of two outcomes. Either the chemical company executive giving it would “elect to pursue career opportunities elsewhere” (companies rarely “fire” senior executives), or the speech would change the company and the industry forever.

A lot was riding on this speech. And I was having trouble finishing it. I had tried a dozen different endings, and nothing seemed to work.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Photograph by Petr Ktraochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Has the Culture Captured the Church?

Who sits in the pews on Sunday in the United States? Americans or Christians?

Don’t answer too quickly. I did, and I answered it wrong.

The deeper I get into reading David Platt’s Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live, the greater my discomfort is growing. Not with the book; not at all. My discomfort arises from the growing certainty at how much American culture has captured the Church in the United States.

How much? A lot.

Two major strands of cultural influence have fused in the church today – American individualism and American consumerism. If we’re not toting around our focus on self and trying to discern “God’s plan for my life,” we’re telling ourselves that we’re not “into church” but we are “into Jesus,” and we go shopping for the right church to meet our needs (Platt and others refer to this as “dating the church”). Or we choose to abandon church altogether and stay at home on Sunday’s with our bibles and internet worship services.

It’s not about determining God’s plan for your life, Platt says. It’s about living each day expectantly, knowing that God is going to do something with you, and likely something surprising, and being open and available. A friend of mine (a young pastor) once scandalized older pastors and elders alike when he said that 90 percent of missions was simply showing up.

“So we go to him,” Platt says. “We spend time with him. We sincerely listen to his Word as we walk in obedience to it. As we do these things, God leads us and guides us according to his will, and suddenly we realize that the will of God is not a road map just waiting to be unearthed somewhere. Instead, it’s a relationship that God wants us to experience every day (emphasis added).”

And if you’re truly “into Jesus,” you’ll know that church is not optional. It’s designed by God, and we are all parts. It’s how the work gets done. God’s work. Not by people sitting at home by themselves, but by people in community, who come together with all their hopes and joys and aggravations and dreams and irritations and failures, and somehow God creates something beautiful out of all it.

Church is not about meeting our needs. We’re looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope. It’s not about us. It’s about what God wants us to do in the world.

The church is supposed to be countercultural – that what has given it its strength for than two thousand years. It runs into trouble when it embraces the culture, whether that’s culture left or culture right.

We’ve been embracing the culture for a long time. Too long. We need to stop, and be the church we’re meant to be.

We’re discussing Follow Me over at The HighCalling. Visit the site to see what today’s post is about and what’s happening in the comments.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

River sunset

The green and gray
give way to gold,
a golden canvas
of stone, reaching
high to its crown
of blue, enlightened
by sun. The stone layers,
cracks and fractures
into prominence, no flaw
hidden or disguised,
open to glory,
conceived in glory,
by the hand of glory.

The photograph was taken on Feb. 28, 2013, about 6 p.m., from the balcony at Laity Lodge, near Kerrville, Texas. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Luke Davis at Sacred Chaos Reviews Both Novels

What a great way to start the weekend!

Luke Davis at Sacred Chaos posted a review today, Reading Reflections: March 16, in which he reviews both of my novels, Dancing Priest and A Light Shining.

From the review:

“More than anything, for a novel that grapples with issues of faith, the story in both Dancing Priest and A Light Shining is refreshingly honest…Glynn is a very thoughtful believer, and he refuses to sacrifice quality in a story that grapples with questions of love, suffering, vocation, and wisdom.”

You can read the review at Sacred Chaos.

Saturday Good Reads: A Father's Speech

Of all the things I read and saw online this week, nothing quite affected me like this video of a father giving his daughter away at her wedding. It is simple and straightforward, like, I suspect, the man who made it. It’s heartfelt and funny, but underscored with a serious love. Be prepared to shed a tear (along with the groom).

Friday, March 15, 2013

“A pilgrim of the future”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955) isn’t as well known today as he was 50 years ago. He was a Jesuit scholar, paleontologist, theologian, philosopher, writer, speaker, and archaeologist.  He helped identify and authenticate the fossil that became known as “Peking Man.” He wrote several works, some of which had to wait until after his death for publication – the Vatican always sensed a touch of heresy about his theology, at least while he was alive (and not entirely without reason).

He described himself as “a pilgrim of the future on my way back from a journey made entirely in the past,” and the description is an apt one. His writings challenged the Catholic Church on evolution, among other things, and suggested a kind of pantheism. And yet he was true to the church to the very end of his life, always obedient to his superiors.

In Pierre Tielhard de Chardin and the Cosmic Christ, author Alex Terego has provided a short and concise biography of the man and a summary of his thinking and philosophy. Teilhard de Chardin, Terego says, envisioned the “the whole world as the extension of God,” and his understanding of Jesus as “the Incarnate Being in the world of matter stayed with him his whole life.”

Yes, there were some of what we would understand as pantheistic leanings; Teilhard de Chardin was fusing what he had learned through science and philosophy with Catholic theology. He was concerned that the Church was being superseded by discoveries in science, and he understood those discoveries to be expressions of God. Most importantly, he didn’t see contradictions between faith and science, instead understanding a kind of convergence by both.

He had an important influence on many people, three of whom were the man who became Pope Benedict XVI, who recently resigned the papacy; Rowan Williams, the immediate past Archbishop of Canterbury; and the writer Flannery O’Connor. (In fact, it was in O’Connor’s letters that I first discovered Teilhard de Chardin.)

This is not an exhaustive biography, but it wasn’t meant to be, consisting of some 60 pages. Instead, it is an introduction to the man’s life and thought. Terego has done a real service in explaining his subject’s philosophy and theology – it’s not that simple to follow in the original writings.