12.07.2017

From The Onion:


Dazed Mike Pence Wakes Up 15 Miles Outside D.C.
After Asking God To Deliver Him From Evil

11.26.2017

praying for things

From a letter to a friend today:

I was just reading a similar saying of Jesus this morning (Mt 21.21-22):

Jesus answered them, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive."
It seems to me the key is "if you have faith," or asking in faith. Your Mark passage (11.24) uses the term "believe." And I think it should be obvious it's not about believing in ourselves, or having faith in the power of our own prayers. It has to be faith in God, in other words believing that what we pray for is what God wants. Not insisting on it, but believing, submitting to what God wants. And if it really is what God wants, then we can be sure it will be done.

This brings us back to "thy will be done." Which is really the right attitude, of course. But we don't need to just leave it at that. I don't think the best we can do is just pray "thy will be done" in some general sense, like "Just do what you want, God—you're going to anyway!"

I believe Jesus showed us that we can pray in faith, praying that God's will be done, while learning (as you said) to hear more clearly what that will actually is in our circumstances. So we can begin to pray more specifically and with more confidence as we learn to hear and know God better. And Jesus wants us to understand what God is doing and consciously will it with God (Jn 15.14-15):
"You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father."
Yes, "thy will be done" is good. But it's better when we can pray with understanding and agreement for the good that God is doing, freely and consciously willing the good with God. I hear Jesus inviting us into that.

10.22.2017

the chief axiom

Watched an interesting movie, Experimenter, based on the authority experiments of Stanley Milgram. Here's a bit of it:


And from Milgram's book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View:
As soon as the child emerges from the cocoon of the family, he is transferred to an institutional system of authority, the school. Here, the child learns not merely a specific curriculum but also how to function within an organizational framework. His actions are, to a significant degree, regulated by his teachers, but he can perceive that they in turn are subjected to the discipline and requirements of a headmaster. The student observes that arrogance is not passively accepted by authority but severely rebuked and that deference is the only appropriate and comfortable response to authority. The first twenty years of the young person’s life are spent functioning as a subordinate element in an authority system, and upon leaving school, the male usually moves into either a civilian job or military service. On the job, he learns that although some discreetly expressed dissent is allowable, an underlying posture of submission is required for harmonious functioning with superiors. However much freedom of detail is allowed the individual, the situation is defined as one in which he is to do a job prescribed by someone else.

While structures of authority are of necessity present in all societies, advanced or primitive, modern society has the added characteristic of teaching individuals to respond to impersonal authorities. Whereas submission to authority is probably no less for an Ashanti than for an American factory worker, the range of persons who constitute authorities for the native are all personally known to him, while the modern industrial world forces individuals to submit to impersonal authorities, so that responses are made to abstract rank, indicated by an insignia, uniform or title.

Throughout this experience with authority, there is continual confrontation with a reward structure in which compliance with authority has been generally rewarded, while failure to comply has most frequently been punished. Although many forms of reward are meted out for dutiful compliance, the most ingenious is this: the individual is moved up a niche in the hierarchy, thus both motivating the person and perpetuating the structure simultaneously. This form of reward, “the promotion,” carries with it profound emotional gratification for the individual but its special feature is the fact that it ensures the continuity of the hierarchical form. The net result of this experience is the internalization of the social order—that is, internalizing the set of axioms by which social life is conducted. And the chief axiom is: do what the man in charge says.

9.07.2017

8.16.2017

psalm 37

"Yet a little while..."

7.30.2017

7.12.2017

"so your faces shall never be ashamed"

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and be glad.

O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him,
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the LORD is good!
Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!

O fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no want!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
(Ps 34.1-10)

6.16.2017

you again

Difficult changes here, that are hard to talk about. The community has decided to dissolve and turn over the property to another ministry. There's so much uncertainty about our future now that we don't even know what to hope for, much less what to do.

I've been reminded again and again of the difficulties we had in early 2007, as we were coming here. So similar to now. It's helped to read my journal from then. And yesterday I came across this, which seems like just what I need right now...


(Mt 14.26-31, 2 Cor 3.17-18)

5.28.2017

"the winds blew and beat on that house"

Jesus said:

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.

"And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!" (Mt 7.24-27)

5.15.2017



4.09.2017

the prodigal

We had a good retreat this past week, and Ian had a great time with the guests. Here's part of the story Heather wrote for it, a meditation on the story of the prodigal son, from the older brother's perspective:

Well, the awful thing played itself out, as I could have predicted. The bad friends, the drinking. The women. I won't speak of that. Until the day he came to my father and demanded his portion—to his face—and my father let him take his bites out of our farm, out of his heart. I thought at first he might want what I wanted—to be rid of him, even at so steep a price—until he told me he hoped for him back. And then I was afraid.

Because I knew what Levi was. I saw how he ate, and did not plant. He would run through the money; it was plain as day. He would run through the money, and then he would look to his chances, and realize where his best chance lay.

He's home now. Came in rags. I'd like to search that little pack he's got, see if he hid his real clothes in it. Father's put the best robe on him, and killed the fattest calf. He's got half the village out in the courtyard now while it roasts, and he's giving them the good wine. I can hear them laughing, I hear women singing. I can't stand it. There's nothing I can say to Father that he'll listen to. There's no way I can stop him from letting Levi eat the rest of his heart.

He sent for me. Father did. He sent Judah, his senior servant, with a message. I expected “Come right now” but it wasn't that. It was “Do you not want to see your brother?”

The whole story is available here: "Prodigal". Also on Heather's new blog: Gravity & Grace

3.14.2017

3.06.2017

the truth we don't want to hear

I’ve read a lot recently about how fractured our modern society is becoming. How the internet and modern media have allowed people to isolate themselves more and more, surrounding themselves with like-minded people and only the “news” they want to hear. And how more and more people have lost faith in the institutions that held our society together in the past: government, churches, scientists, news organizations, etc. The apparent result of this is that people are more easily duped by “fake news.” Because they are increasingly isolated from mainstream views and trustworthy institutions, they seem less able to discern the truth.

There seems to be obvious evidence of this trend. But then I wonder whether the institutions that people trusted in the past were really all that good at delivering the truth. Maybe that’s a big reason why they have lost people’s trust?

And is “the truth” really what people are most interested in now?

Or ever?

It seems to me that the development of new technologies has simply allowed people to find easier, more direct ways to affirm the particular “truths” they want to hear. Before, they had to rely on political institutions that would tell people what thy wanted to hear (because that’s how those institutions survived). But now people don’t need those so much. Now they can just find a group online to agree together, and so give almost anything a feeling of truth. As Simone Weil put it, “The power of the social element. Agreement between several people brings with it a feeling of reality.”

It may be that isolated people are easily duped. But people in big united groups are also easily duped (sometimes even more easily). History has demonstrated that. What is necessary to maintain contact with the truth is not a connection with large groups of people or their institutions. What’s necessary is a connection with God, who is the Truth.

And that requires the humility to submit and listen to what God is saying, in the myriad ways God speaks, rather than only listening to what we want to hear.

2.28.2017

1.30.2017

the welcome table

This morning the boy and I were dancing to Dan Zanes & friends' version of this old spiritual: