Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Random Whining

(Disclaimer: Pay no attention to my last two posts on grace and humility…you’ll find little in this one.)

Okay, I know it’s the week before Christmas, but my Grinchiness is stirring! Here are my random gripes:

Gawkers & Squawkers
Gawkers (aka Rubberneckers) were already a constant danger on our roadways, now we also must deal with Squawkers…or those who insist on talking on their cell phones while they drive. Do they not realize that driving 60 mph on a crowded Interstate highway causes traffic jams of Biblical proportions???

Bumper Sticker Rage
I’m not one for cluttering my vehicle with stickers, but here’s one I’d like to make into a banner that unfurls from the rear spoiler of my SUV:


This would be directed at all Squawkers (see above rant).

Unintelligent Design
I saw a news story this morning on television about the fight in the Dover (PA) schools about Intelligent Design. A local proponent actually used the word “persecution” to describe what Christians in that town are suffering because of a recent court ruling. Now if that isn’t indicative of the problem with American Christianity, then I don’t know what is. A federal judge's ruling against the teaching of what amounts to religious theology in public schools is persecution? Who’s getting stoned or crucified in Dover, PA?

There, I feel better now.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

God is Love, Grace & Humility

I mentioned in my last post about the new book I just started, If God is Love by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland (see jpeg in righthand column). Incredibly, I'm already halfway through it and it is saying everything I've been thinking for the last 11 months! In a nutshell...

We don't know everything...

God does...

Salvation is a journey/lifestyle/process...

God is love...grace...and humility all rolled up in One...

We are to be loving...gracious...and humble, the way Jesus modeled Life for us...

I haven't yet read Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, but I'd bet it lines up in lock-step formation with the book I'm now reading. Interestingly, the authors of If God Is Love are Quakers. I say interestingly, because so much of the influence in other books and discusions in which I've been involved over this time of church detoxification have been Quaker, like Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak and many of my friends on the Ooze (link to it in the righthand column, as well).

I don't quite understand the significance of that--if any--as I don't know that much about Quaker beliefs/orthodoxy. What I do know is that I'm moving more to the left of my traditionalist, evangelical upbringing toward this theology of universal salvation. But I reiterate how limited is my understanding, so I'm not clinging to any one theology. I'm considering multiple points of view. At this time, all I can say is that I'm leaning that way. I still wrestle with the Scriptures that seem to paint an "us" versus "them"/"in" versus "out"/"blessed" versus "cursed" reality.

I'll post some very poignant quotes from the book next time. For now, let me give it a high recommendation to anyone who's grown tired/bored/disgusted with American Christianity.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Finding Grace in an Ungracious World

Okay, I ripped that title from the subtitle of a new book I started last night, If God Is Love. Good so far, but more on that in a later post. For now, I'm chewing on graciousness and humility.

This morning, I was correcting my daughter who had taunted me with a malicious-sounding "HA HA HA" because she beat me to the truck. I attempted to explain to her what it meant to be a gracious winner...and a gracious person in general. She quickly reminded me that I often taunt her in this same manner when racing around the her bedroom, the dinner table...


I humbly apologized to her, then explained that the way she feels when I do that to her is how she makes others feel when she gloats and taunts over others a "meaningless victory." I assured her that daddy was not being a gracious winner when I did that to her. I promised to do better and requested the same from her.

I thought about that all the way to work. The subtitle of the aforementioned book still fresh in my memory, I considered what true graciousness looks like. Soon thereafter, I was confronted with my own ungracious attitude toward others...

An aggressive driver almost caused two accidents within 5 carlinks of me approaching an Interstate on-ramp. His wreckless driving made me so angry because it belied the callous selfishness of the driver himself. It made me want to run him down, drag him out of his SUV and punch him in the head. I immediately thought of the story we know as "The Good Samaritan." What did my angry fantasy bely about me? Would I actually fit the description of one of the muggers in that age-old story of an ambushed traveller left to die along the roadside? Beating a man and leaving him bloodied beside a busy Interstate with at least one slashed tire, so he couldn't drive so wrecklessly on rain-soaked pavement? Yep, that would be me. Pretty gracious, huh?

The more I considered my angry thoughts...okay, it was nearly road rage...the more I could see my lack of humility glaring back at me in the rearview mirror. Seems to me that a gracious attitude comes more naturally when we think of ourselves in proper when we take on the attitude of the Shepherd and clothe ourselves in humility.

Humility...a concept I can't seem to escape no matter how hard I try to execute a counter trap play (football term, sorry). Now, I am left to consider my lack of graciousness, and how it seems that I can't do anything about it without the H-word coming into play. So chew on that awhile.

Monday, December 05, 2005

From My Journal...

It's a sleepless night in early December. I'm up--fully awake--at 11:00 PM contemplating the humanness of Jesus the Messiah. Okay, writing 11:00 PM doesn't seem that late, but I've been averaging a 9:00 PM bedtime the last few weeks. Anyway, I recently delved into the life of Jesus by reading a Bruce Chilton book titled Rabbi Jesus. Before that, I had explored the Mosaic Law to find evidence of grace, generosity and kindness toward aliens/foreigners/Gentiles there. To my surprise, these concepts were abundantly evident throughout the Law, so it is no surprise at all that Jesus expounded on them. The Old Testament states time and again that God's unmerited favor toward Israel was cause for humility, not pride, and that His grace was the foundation for faith (see evidence of the latter in Hebrews 11). The Law taught that Israel was to accept and even care for foreigners and aliens. It also taught that generosity was part of God's plan to bless the nations through them.

Considering all this makes it easy to swallow Jesus teaching these same principles to first century Jews. Interestingly, though, Jesus did not always live up to these divinely-inpsired ideals. I keep thinking about his ungracious response to the Syro-Phoenecian woman in Mark 7:24 (also in Matthew 15)...the Living Bible even calls her "a despised Gentile," while other translations simply say Greek. Either way, where was the compassion and grace toward this woman in need who Jesus compares to a dog?

Tonight was the first time I ever considered this episode as a glimpse into Jesus' own humanness. Now, I realize that it is possible that the prejudice of the gospel writer may have influenced his account of this transaction, but I also acknowledge the possibility that Jesus may have been acting in accord with his upbringing in that environment. If Galilean Jews really did look down their noses at these "despised Gentiles" and think of them as worthless--rather lowly--dogs, then I can totally relate to Jesus' very human reaction. Chilton even emphasizes the fact that the woman's response, her persistence clothed in humility, evokes a compassionate change of heart in the human Messiah. He heals her daughter. His gifts were not held exclusively for the Jew, but were available for the "despised Gentile" even when Jesus' humanness tried to interfere.

This New Testament story encourages me to act more graciously and generously toward those who maybe don't deserve it, at least in man's eyes. May God override my arrogance, stubborness, prejudice and hard-headedness when I'm met with an opportunity to bless others.