Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring speaks.

Spring speaks.

First came the shy, perfect stutterings of narcissus and hyacinth. Forsythia followed with an unabashed soliloquy. And then entered the beautiful but immature boldness of the Bradford pear, bloomed and greened, turning verse awkwardly.

But now, now enter the sovereigns of song: redbud and dogwood.

Redbuds sing praise with purple pastorals, filling valleys with their wild Lenten hues, pulling hearts toward Pascha. Dogwoods float along hillsides like clouds. They are sweet processions of speech, gladdening crucifers. Theirs is a romantic conceit, whispered in a lover's ear. Their limbs are twisted under the weight of proclamation, bent and sprained with Teresa's beauty. Tender petals, perfect and pierced, unfold from crooked hard wood.

On creation's lips is Christ.

The earth erupts; bright choruses of tulips sing hallelujahs, sweet antiphons.

Blue-Light Special

I find it utterly humiliating to be pulled over by a police officer. In Saturday's case, it was for speeding ... and having an expired registration. Now I was going 69 mph in a 55-mph-zone, but it was late, there were no cars on the road, it ought to be 65 on this highway anyway, and everyone goes between 62 and 65 mph through there. I was hoping he wouldn't give me the ticket. I have a flawless record. Excuse me, I had a flawless record. I just wasn't paying attention. And the registration thing is a problem, but my wife sent the state a check about five weeks ago - we just haven't heard back from them yet.

So there it is. Now you know I'm a sinner just like you. Cheers, you dirty bastards.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Belief, Brainwashing, or Both?

"Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand." - St. Anselm

For this past week's meditation, I want to do something different. I want to know what you think about this quote. I know how it has intersected my life, and I might share that tonight or tomorrow. But I want to hear what you think of it and why.

What does it say about apologetics? What does it say about belief and conversion?

What doesn't it say?

What does it say about prayer and patience? About love?

Church Signs

Please, if you're going to invest in a sign for your church, restrict its use to information or Scripture, preferably something that raises readers' hearts toward heaven.

I saw each of these signs in the past 24 hours. The spring weather is making for some frisky pastors:

If God Had a Refrigerator
Your Picture Would Be on It


If You Want to Make
A Monkey of Yourself
Believe in Evolution


Was the Boss
On the Cross


If God Is in Your Heart
Please Notify Your Face

Friday, March 23, 2007

Irresistible Revolution

The following quote is from Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution: Living As an Ordinary Radical. In Chapter Seven, he describes an encounter he had with Iraqi Christians while visiting Baghdad:

One of the most beautiful worship services I've ever experienced was just a few days before I headed home. Hundreds and hundreds of Christians from all over the Middle East had gotten together - Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox - they read a statement from the Christian Church directed to the Muslim community declaring that they loved them and believe that they are created in the image of God.

Then we all sang together ... we said the Lord's Prayer in several languages. ... It was a holy time.

Afterward I was able to meet with one of the bishops who had organized the gathering, and I explained to him that I was shocked to find so many Christians in Iraq. He looked at me puzzled, and then gently said, "Yes, my friend. This is where it all began. This is the land of your ancestors. That is the Tigris River and the Euphrates - have you read about them?" And I was floored at my own ignorance, at the fact that the ancient roots of our faith lie here - this is the land of my ancestors. Christianity was not invented in America - How 'bout that?

This bishop went on to tell me that the Church in the Middle East was deeply concerned about the Church in the United States. He said, "Many Americans are for this war." And I nodded. And he asked, "But what are the Christians saying?"

My heart sank. I tried to explain to him that many of the Christians in the United States are confused and hope that this is a way that God could use to liberate the Iraqi people.

He shook his head and said, very humbly, "But, but we Christians don't believe that. We believe Blessed are the peacemakers. We believe if you pick up the sword, you die by the sword. We, we believe in the cross." Tears welled up in his eyes as he said, "We will be praying for you. We will be praying for the Church in the United States to be the Church."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lumpy McLumpypants

So I'm standing in the underwear aisle at Wal-Mart, Sophie and Anna in tow. As I'm examining all my choices, Sophie points at one of the models in skivvies and says, "Daddy, what's that lump?"

"A potato," I reply.

She screws up her face and says, "Huh?" I hurriedly grab a package (of underwear) and scurry off to another section of the store.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Turd Herding and More

Warning: The following post contains scatological references that humorless adults will find immature and offensive.

The next time your dad yells at you about putting grease down the drain, listen to him. For goodness' sake, listen to him. I just spent three days trying to unclog my kitchen sink. I finally found the clog (about twenty feet from the sink) and cleared it; I discovered that it was mostly grease. Like a clogged artery running from the heart of my home, our house came to a grinding halt. But Hallelujah! The water is flowing again.

Only two days before, I had to tear up the toilet to dislodge some uber-turd from the backside of the trap in my toilet. Indeed, it was so magnificent a turd that, every time I spotted a child, I would yell at him or her about flushing toys down the toilet. But I discovered it was only crap, which forced an apology. I would like to claim the glory, but we, all of us, are grandiose crappers. We like to live large. (My girls will sometimes close tight their little sphincters and, in a week, in their lower intestines, grow turds that make mine look dainty.)

This toilet, by the way, is the third toilet I have had to take up in the past year. Apparently I need to learn to better manipulate my closet auger, which works sometimes and other times, sadly, comes up clean.

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

There is an excellent post on the right interpretation of Scripture on Fr Stephen's blog today (Glory to God for All Things). And if you're not a regular reader of Fr Stephen's, I would encourage you to become so. His writing has been a blessing in my life.

Oh, and he is an Eastern Orthodox priest, so please do not let my Catholicism dissuade you.

Monday, March 19, 2007

We Are Lyons

My family is ramblingly huge. We keep track by counting rather than by naming. We are learning to share with one another, learning to sacrifice for one another, learning to submit ourselves to one another for Christ's sake. It is difficult, and we fail.

We are messy and loud.

Some are daunted by this leonine pride. They are used to small, well-ordered things. They are quiet. Their furniture and floors are spotless. They display fragile, valuable mementos on end tables, on low bookshelves and Christmas tree branches. When we visit, their pretties lie there before us like old antelopes.

Our furniture is old and second-hand, our walls dented and dingy. Our Christmas trees are top heavy. We have nothing of any great value ... except one another.

And I am happy.

The View below Five Feet

Whenever we pass a cemetery, the yellow-haired child points and yells, "Dead people!"

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Faith Consists In ...

"Faith does not mean accepting a certain number of abstract truths about the mysteries of God, of man, of life and death, of future realities. Faith consists in an intimate relationship with Christ, a relationship based on love of him who loved us first, even to the total offering of himself." - Pope Benedict XVI

In this small quote by Papa Benedict, there is a lot to unearth, especially about what faith is not. But I'm caught up so much by the quote itself. I suppose because it is so ... catholic, as true for the Pope as it is for me. And, I suppose, because it says the very thing that evangelicals so often tell me the Catholic Church does not believe.

Our faith is not a simple litany of doctrinal affirmations. It is not merely a creed. Faith is being known by Christ and seeking to know Him. This quotation does not deny that there is such a thing as heterodoxy. But it rather shows the faith for what it is - it is God reconciling the world to Himself. And through that relationship, not through a proper understanding of the Trinity or of justification or of creed, that one is reconciled to God. Papa Benedict here makes me think of the simple (seemingly evident) idea I first heard from Tom Wright that shook how I viewed my world: We are not justified by our belief in justification by faith. We are justified by faith. Therefore, regardless of the doctrinal nuances and differences we have concerning the doctrine of justification by faith, our diversity is unified by our faith in Christ, not in our belief in the specificity of my or your understanding of the doctrine.

That being said, there is heterodoxy. And this concept is perhaps best understood under the umbrella of "To whom much has been given, much is required." Just because our faith is about relationship with Christ does not mean that we can dismiss the Church's doctrine of the Trinity, or say that orthodoxy is unimportant, or to say that orthodoxy is heterodoxy. But, that being said, the thief on the cross understood who Jesus was, but he probably did not have any knowledge of the Virgin birth or of the Trinity - perhaps no understanding of the Incarnation itself. (And who among us truly understands these things?)

As a Catholic, those are truths the Church holds and as a part of the Church I hold with her. But they are not for me measuring rods by which I go to judge another's kingdom status. There is too much I do not know about the other. And there is too much I do not know about God. So I humbly accept the orthodoxy of the Church, and while I explore ever more deeply the truths of her teaching, I try not to entertain heterodoxy.

We love Christ. A fuller understanding of the many doctrines of the Church will not make us any holier. It is in our loving Christ, in knowing Him through prayer (pray always) that we are made holier. It is His Spirit working upon ours, and our spirit responding and working with and through His.

Faith is a response to God's activity and mercy toward us. A response that requires from the responder, if one is to respond, the kind of offering that has been offered. It is not just belief, but belief expressing itself, working, through love.

When my wife offers herself to me totally, there is only one proper response: For me also to offer myself completely to her. And I'm not simply speaking sexually here - though that is a picture of what I am speaking of - I'm speaking of surrendering ourselves to one another and to Christ because he has surrendered His life for us.

Love is not simply received. If we are not changed by it, if we are not drawn into it, then we have failed to understand it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Evangelicals, On Catholicism

This morning I read a quick review by Ben Myers, over at "Faith and Theology," of Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom's book, Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism. Noll and Nystrom examine the teaching of the Catholic Church.

The book’s theological analysis centres on Chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 4 reports on the various evangelical-Catholic dialogues that have taken place since the 1960s—dialogues which have fostered not only theological understanding, but also attitudes of personal respect and affection, thus helping to displace the polemical attitudes that have been so deeply ingrained in North American Protestantism (although, alas, “in the world of ordinary, unlearned evangelicals, atavistic anti-Catholicism remains as colourful ... as ever” [p. 187]).

In Chapter 5 the authors analyse the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church. They praise its devoutness, clarity and theological content, and they highlight remaining areas of contention between evangelical theology and the teaching of the Catechism. On the basis of the Catechism, they rightly conclude that “ecclesiology represents the crucial difference between evangelicals and Catholics”—and they point out that evangelicals will never understand Catholic teaching without first grasping the Catholic doctrine of the church (pp. 146-47).

Obviously I need to pick up a copy of this book and read it through. I've been interested since its publication. As a convert to Catholicism from evangelicalism, and from what I understand of the book and their conclusions within it, I think their judgment is exactly right. The glaring difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is ecclesial. (Of course, this is no little thing either: All of Catholicism's theology is informed by her ecclesiology.)

But as I began to read the comments, an ornery Catholic made a comment about Protestantism and the bickering began. And it made me sad and ornery myself. And I need a quiet place to pray.

There is more at work here dividing us than just ourselves.

To quote a great contemporary theologian: "A little less talk if you please / A lot more loving is what I need / Let's get on down to the main attraction / With a little less talk and a lot more action." That's applicable here, isn't it?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wicked Witch of the West Makes Good on Threat

I've never had strong feelings about Toto's classic "Rosanna." That being said, whatever the song's shortcomings, it did not deserve to be bastardized into "Hosanna."

The world doesn't deserve it.

Now I'm not sure if these people will end up in the ninth circle of hell, but they'll certainly reach circle seven.

I mean, *Blech!* Isn't there enough cheesiness in contemporary Christian music without this kind of excrement? This isn't redemption, people; it's dissipation.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Writing through Sex God, 3

Chapter Eight: Johnny and June

God is one. Man and woman are one. Same word in Hebrew (coincidentally in English as well), one. Therefore, we see the sharing and unity of God in a growing, beautiful marriage. And it is our purpose to bring more "oneness," more unity to our world.

It strikes me at this moment how much about Eden there is in this book. Rob draws greatly from the Creation poems/stories here and throughout.

Chapter Nine: Whoopee Forever

What more can I really say that the chapter title doesn't?

If marriage is a picture of the shared in the life of the Trinity, what becomes of sexuality and marriage when we are actually in His presence? Rob's view is that it is all sublimated into the Consummation of Relationship. I suppose it is what Peter and the fathers have in mind when they talk of theosis - of sharing in the Divine Life.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Sex God, though not as much as Velvet Elvis. Rob is an engaging guy whose heart is transparent in its desire to live Christ in our world. I would encourage you to read the books. But also, listen to the MP3s from Mars Hill. They're cut of the same cloth. And in the sermons you get to hear and see this faith he speaks of put into action in Western Michigan and around the world. It's not just another mega-church. Exciting stuff.

The Penitential Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. Instead, give to me, Your servant, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, for You are Blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hypothetically Yours

Imagine a son approaching his father and saying, "There are problems between us. And most of those problems are my fault. Please forgive me. And perhaps the biggest problem between us is that we believe differently. But I love my faith. Can we begin to have an amicable conversation about those differences?"

And then the father says, "There are problems between us. But I haven't changed - you have. So please don't ever talk to me about your beliefs again." Then imagine that same father putting his arm around his son and saying, "I love you more than you can possibly imagine. Nothing can change that."

If such a scenario was an actual scenario, wouldn't there be something wildly dysfunctional, riotously incongruent, about it? Can a relationship exist between two people when one person denies the very heartbeat of the other? Or is that all just bullshit?

Pray that that hypothetical son would authentically love that hypothetical father. Pray that he would want to.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sacrament of Love

Published today is a wonderful exhortation concerning the Eucharist from Papa Benedict. It is titled Sacramentum Caritatis, the Sacrament of Love. I would encourage especially my Catholic brothers and sisters to read it.

It is instructional and devotional - here is a taste:

True joy is found in recognizing that the Lord is still with us, our faithful companion along the way. The Eucharist makes us discover that Christ, risen from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his body. Of this mystery of love we have become witnesses. Let us encourage one another to walk joyfully, our hearts filled with wonder, towards our encounter with the Holy Eucharist, so that we may experience and proclaim to others the truth of the words with which Jesus took leave of his disciples: "Lo, I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Mt 28:20).

Amen and amen.

This is why I am Catholic.

Writing through Sex God, 2

Chapter Three: Angels and Animals

This chapter is an interesting chapter on living within the tension between our physicality and our spirituality (which is a tension that needs to be understood in more than simply the context of sexuality). We are not mere spirit (angels), sexuality is an important part of who we were created to be. On the other hand, we are not mere body (animals), sexuality is not all we were created to be, but should be mastered.

Now while Rob talks about the good of mastering our desires he doesn't give us any methods of doing so (the book isn't a book of methodology so much as meditation). The furthest he goes here is by saying that, yeah, lots of us struggle with being pure. Or the way I like to put it, "Good luck, suckah."

A good chapter, however, if only for us to be continually reminded that we are human not animal, not angel.

Chapter Four: Leather, Whips, and Fruit

This chapter deals with the issue of lust and its failure to deliver what it promises. A lot of Edenic references here. So if indulging our lusts doesn't satisfy, then, Rob contends, we must find our passion and let it.

Chapter Five: She Ran into the Girls' Bathroom

Rob gives this illustration from his own life of being 14 and crossing the empty dance floor to ask a girl to dance with him. In response ... the chapter's title. Now, what I want to know in the rest of this chapter, and what Rob never says, is how the hell do you get over something like that? I'd need serious counseling. Anyway, I don't even know what the rest of this chapter is about, I'm so shaken. Something to do with the riskiness of love - even for God.

Chapter Six: Worth Dying For

A good chapter on submission. And apparently it's not just for women either. (That's a joke at the ladies' expense. My apologies.)

Chapter Seven: Under the Chuppah

There is some good criticism by Scot McKnight about this book today. Some of which (concerning Rob's use of Rabbinic literature) I just am not qualified to give. And most of that scholarly criticism concerns this chapter.

Now I enjoyed this chapter, even taking into consideration Scot's criticism of it. While perhaps Rob should not have used the Rabbinic literature as he did, the point he makes is obviously valid. The chapter discusses what must take place under this controversial(?) prayer shawl (HOO-pah) and how it is a picture of our relationship with God. God and us, bridegroom and bride - that's the basic image here and will be more powerful for some and less for others depending on where we are on our faith journeys and what we're looking for in Bell's book.

I'm going to finish writing through Sex God tomorrow. In the meantime, this book is Rob. Some people won't get it, perhaps, but this is him and his heart is evident in it. It is a poetic meditation on agape more than eros, after all is said and done. And I enjoyed it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

On Being (ir)Relevant

Fr. Dwight Longenecker:

"To the outsider I know this seems arcane, irrelevant and difficult to understand. To many Catholics it seems the same. They wonder why worship cannot be more 'relevant' and more easy to understand. Perhaps they wonder why the worship cannot be more joyful, more upbeat and more 'with it'. I cannot explain.

"I cannot explain in the way I cannot explain a Mozart aria, a Beethoven quartet or a Raphael Madonna. I cannot explain the lift and surge of liturgy as I cannot explain the heft of a poem or the fullness of the silence in the rest of music. I cannot explain the transcendence of beauty, the knowledge of eternity electric in the frail physical things. I cannot explain the connection with the infinite in the interstices of the psalms, the intimacy of goodness in the rapt face of a child in worship, the contact with reality in the smoke of incense, the deep rumble of the organ, the delicate dance of light or the poignant harmony of plainsong. I cannot explain the certainty of sanctity known in the wrinkled hands of an old woman in prayer, or the certainty of grace in a teenaged boy kneeling in silence - a smile of joy impressed upon his face as if by an unseen power.

"I cannot explain any of these things, but I can invite you to the feast."

HT: Amy Welborn

Writing Through Sex God, 1

Introduction: This Is Really About That

The introduction outlines the book: the powerful reality of symbols and how symbols are deeply and profoundly ingrained in our lives. And sex, because of its source, is ultimately a symbol of our desire to connect with God.

We've lost a proper understanding of what a symbol is. We've watered it down. We've weakened it. And while Rob doesn't ever use the word symbol, perhaps because we have bereft the word of its power, his illustrations of how moments connect with other moments in our lives clearly demonstrate the power of symbols in our lives.

Chapter One: God Wears Lipstick

Rob Bell talks about how humanity can be dehumanized (his example is excerpts about behavior in a concentration camp), and that that dehumanization is anti-human and, therefore, anti-God.

It is hell.

He then writes about how in the objectification, sexualization, of women by men, we dehumanize them. And not only do we dehumanize women, but we dehumanize ourselves. The same is true in a concentration camp. The same is true in torture. And war.

We humans can bring either heaven or hell into our worlds. And to be a Christian is to work for a new creation, a new humanity - to bring heaven to earth.

This chapter powerfully speaks of the connectivity we share with all humanity and the connectivity we share with God. And that those relationships demand this new humanity we have been given.

It's one of my favorite chapters, and the last illustration in the chapter brought me to tears.

Chapter Two: Sexy on the Inside

Chapter two is about all the ways we are disconnected: Things are not as they are supposed to be. We are disconnected from one another (think wars, hypocrisy, and argument). We are disconnected from creation (think living in tiny manufactured bubbles as opposed to sleeping under the stars). In this chapter, Rob explores where this disconnection comes from - the Garden - and then speaks about how sex may be related to the Latin secare, which means, "to sever, to amputate, to disconnect from the whole" (dissect, sect, section). Therefore, our sexuality is (1) an awareness (think Eden) of our disconnectedness, and (2) "all the ways" (Rob's words) we try to re-connect. And here he begins to blur/erase the line between sexuality and connectivity that I'm not altogether on board with. But if he leaves it at connectivity, I'm jibing with it.

In his discussion of sexuality as connectivity, he briefly discusses celibacy as a vow to "universal love," which he explores briefly here, and more later.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Interreligious Dialogue?

For some, my meditation this week may seem to contradict how the Scriptures speak about salvation, especially understood in light of passages like the following: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved." (Acts 4.12, NRSV). But does it? Let me place the quotation in the context of the article it came from, and then make a few brief comments.

"Remarkable is the greater openness of the Catholic Church towards people of other religious traditions and persuasions. The development has not been without problems, since some people have resisted it and others have pushed openness beyond the desirable point."

Cardinal Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican, offered reflections on how the Church sees herself and other religions, and "whether a friendly attitude towards other religions undermines the necessity of preaching Jesus Christ or puts Catholic identity at risk."

"With reference to other religions, the Church sees a great difference between them and herself," Cardinal Arinze said. "The other religions are expressions of the human soul seeking God, with some beautiful spiritual insights, but also not without errors. Christianity is rather God seeking humanity." Noting that "Vatican II declares the Church ... as necessary for salvation," the former bishop of Onitsha, Nigeria, added that people who do not know Christ are nevertheless included in God's plan of salvation.

"There are, however, conditions. They must be sincere in their seeking of God. They must be open to the secret but real action of the holy Spirit in them. They should follow their conscience in all matters of right and wrong." A human's religious response to God should be free, he said, a principle the Church has not always respected. But he also said, "To say that every individual has the right to religious freedom is not to condone religious indifferentism or irresponsibility, nor is it to promote the installation of a supermarket of religions."

Like language, architecture and local customs, Cardinal Arinze said, "Religion is one dimension of culture, a transcendent element of it." Thus the Church encourages "inculturation" of the Gospel, embracing the positive elements of each culture while challenging the negative ones. And, in the last analysis, the Church also encourages interreligious dialogue. "The answer is that interreligious dialogue, properly understood and faithfully carried out, helps to show how complementary this element is to proclamation and how the Catholic Church is committed to both."

I'd like to hear your reaction about this quote and this teaching of the Catholic Church, if you have the time. It is a teaching that is easily misunderstood and pushed too far (Universalism comes to mind) or too quickly resisted, as Cardinal Arinze himself notes in the first paragraph of the article. It does, however, reveal some fascinating thinking about God - views that have emerged in emerging circles, some of which go to that Beyond the Desirable Point that Arinze mentions and some that fit quite comfortably within Catholic teaching.

What is this particular teaching of the Catholic Church not saying? It is not saying that Christ or His Church is unnecessary in the plan of salvation (John 14, and certainly we must also take into consideration the implication of Romans 1 and St Paul's teaching on natural revelation). Just the opposite, in fact. The Fathers always speak of the necessity of the Church in the plan of salvation, even saying, "Outside the Church there is no salvation" (St Cyprian). The Catechism restates this belief positively: "All salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church, which is His Body." Sections 847 and 848 of the Catechism say the following:

"This affirmation [Outside the Church there is no salvation] is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

"Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."

The Catechism then proceeds to begin speaking of the Church's missionary mandate.

The question, it seems to me, is what effect did Christ's sacrifice have on this world? Not, "Not a bit, because of Limited Atonement." (Some have resisted it.) Not, "All are saved because of his sacrifice." (Some push it beyond a desirable point.) But, "Christ has redeemed the world, but not all are saved." And while I'm not keen on splitting connotational hairs, that's where I am right now. And I believe that it is true to the story of the scriptures (John 1.29). What that means for interreligious dialogue, and the question of who God will save, is, I imagine, all part of the conversation.

St Alphonsus Ligouri's Stations, Station 12: Jesus Dies Upon the Cross

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how Your Jesus, after three hours of agony on the cross, is finally overwhelmed with suffering and, abandoning Himself to the weight of His body, bows His head and dies. (Kneel)

R: My dying Jesus, / I devoutly kiss the cross on which You would die for love of me. / I deserve, because of my sins, to die a terrible death; / but Your death is my hope. / By the merits of Your death, / give me the grace to die embracing Your feet and burning with love of You. / I yield my soul into Your hands. / I love You with my whole heart. / I am sorry that I have offended You. / Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Let me mingle tears with thee
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

More Sex God

In Rob Bell's new book, Sex God, the thing that initially struck me is how much much of it reminded me of Papa Benedict's encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love). Benedict mixes it up with eros and agape - how each kind of love informs the other.


Rob Bell's writing style is, well, different. He breaks up single thoughts into multiple paragraphs until the entire book takes on a kind of




What he is indeed going for with this kind of departure from the normal rules of written expression, I have no idea. He's never discussed it with me.

His writing style aside, there is one other thing that Rob does with this book that rubs me the wrong way. He talks about how sexuality is about connectivity, which I totally agree with, but then he veers off into reversing this understanding, somehow, into connectivity being all about sexuality. So that music is about sexuality and our relationship with God is about sexuality (and while our sexuality may have much to do with both, it's putting the proof before the horse - or something like that), and how some of the most sexual people he knows are celibate. All of which, again, may be true. But the ordering of it all seems off somehow.

Which brings me to my next point: This book is less about sex than I had hoped, er, expected from the title. The book is about relationships. And while he covers sexuality and marriage and how they are icons of our relationship with God, he ultimately is concerned less with sex and more with relationship.

It's all rather postmodern. Which I like and dislike simultaneously (you can do that in postmodernism). It abandons linearity for something more circuitous and, in my opinion, less cohesive.

But these are all minor beefs. The book is good. I give it four stars. (Out of how many I'll never tell.)

I'm thinking about actually writing through this book, a couple chapters at a time, beginning on Monday. I've never done that before, but keep thinking it could be loads of fun. Or would that just ruin the book for all of you? Here are the chapter titles:

  • Introduction | This Is Really About That
  • Chapter One | God Wears Lipstick
  • Chapter Two | Sexy on the Inside
  • Chapter Three | Angels and Animals
  • Chapter Four | Leather, Whips, and Fruit
  • Chapter Five | She Ran into the Girls' Bathroom
  • Chapter Six | Worth Dying For
  • Chapter Seven | Under the Chuppah
  • Chapter Eight | Johnny and June
  • Chapter Nine | Whoopee Forever
  • Epilogue | More Balloons Please

Let me know what you think.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sex God

I read Sex God tonight, Rob Bell's new book. It was quite good and I plan on discussing it to some degree. But not tonight; I have a headache.

(I'm such a tease.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Rethinking Church

“Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”

— Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.

HT: Ben Myers

Monday, March 05, 2007

helluvanexpensive Band-Aid

So the leak ends up being under Scott's house and not under Scott's lawn. And Scott shells out a couple hundred bucks for a band-aid solution to his increasingly corroding iron pipes. And his couple hundred gets Scott two things: (1) "Your pipes are irreparable," and (2) a slow dribble from an arcing leak. The complete fix, so Scott is informed, is bound to run upwards of $3,000.


Scott tentatively asks how long it would take to replace all the pipes and Paul the Plumber, with great emphasis, says, "A good day." And then he says it again with even greater emphasis: "A GOOD day."

Scott quickly does some mental math - the "band-aid solution" took three and a half hours - and figures that a day unto Paul the Plumber is like a thousand years unto Scott and his pipes.

So pray for Scott and his old leaky pipes if you ever think about them again. And if you know a publisher who pays good money for some top-notch, Dyn-O-Mite! hella good, short fiction, let me know. Or if you know anyone who badly needs a kidney. (Or, and this is just between the two of us, if you need somebody whacked.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Who You Are

“Who you are before God, that you are and no more”
– St Francis of Assisi

And no less. Therefore, love one another deeply from the heart. Judge no one. Pay no attention to position or wealth, to race or religion, to male and female. But serve one another humbly, for Christ has washed you.

We were at a park yesterday; we picnicked and then played. It's a nice park and is always busy. It has a carousel and a train ride, some animals and other activities for kids. The park also has three play areas. The first area is wide open. The second play area - the area for the littlest ones - is completely fenced in except for where we sit to watch them play. The third, bordering the second, is for bigger kids and is completely fenced in just as the second one. Except the third play area has an open gate in the back that leads to the bathrooms and the parking lot.

So my wife and I were watching them and talking while she held Baby Jack. A young couple were standing nearby watching their two and the man began smoking. He was upwind of me, my wife, and our new baby. He eventually moved on. And when he did, I made some acerbic comments to my wife about how frustrated it made me when people lit up in public areas around children. A few exchanges and judgments of their parental abilities later, we were on to another topic.

We would occasionally do a spot check and count the four pirates we call children. The last spot check produced the three girls, but not the boy. I got up to walk the length of the area, but was unable to find him anywhere among all the slides and ladders and chaotic equipment. I walked by the second play area. My wife was up and looking by this time as well. Unable to spot him in the second or third play areas, the areas we had been monitoring, I went out the back gate near the bathrooms and parking lot and began praying as I walked toward the first play area. Will was nowhere. I tried to remain calm, and I continued to pray. I decided to walk over to the carousel and train - Will loves choo-choos. I was quite anxious by the time I got over to that end of the park, and kept looking back toward the bathrooms and the parking lot as long as I could. Soon, the trees blocked my view. I rounded the carousel and saw a park employee standing near a bench with a family. It looked like Will's head from a distance, and two fingers were shoved into the boy's mouth. As I got closer, I realized it was Will and my heart began beating normally again. The park employee looked up and caught my eye.

"Your son?"

"Yes," I said, breathing with ease again.

"This family found him. He was pretty shaken up." And there Will sat on the lap of the man, of all the people in the park that day, that I had so quickly judged. Though I had not known it, they were the most beautiful family in the park. We chatted briefly and I thanked them profusely.

God is funny. And I, I can do nothing better than to be silent before Him. To clap my hands over my mouth and to work, with the help of His grace, to say less and to love more.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I'm Leaking

I've got a water leak somewhere on my property and it's driving me nuts. As of today's bill, my monthly water bill has quadrupled in the last three months. We're talking water bills of Noahic proportions: I could save money by turning the water off and bathing in Aquafina. So I'm calling in the professionals tomorrow.


I've already fixed the leaky toilets, and I've been unable to find any other leaks in or under the house. Any suggestions of what else I could do would be welcome.