Getting along with my body....

As our staff is presently working through the book of Acts, I'm struck once again by the tremendous flexibility of the gospel and the church. It's supple enough to move out from Jerusalem and its original confines within Judaism to embrace Gentiles, morphing ethically on issues such as eating unclean meat, circumcision, and eating meat sacrificed to idols. In other, words for the Gentiles, the gospel was able to become Gentile, loosed from the legal codes of Judaism.

Paul had a remarkable capacity to flex with the gospel, moving freely between predominantly Jewish and predominantly Gentile communities, effectively communicating with both because he'd learned to contextualize the message.
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Bike to work day? Maybe more...

The Long Emergency is a book about the end of cheap oil. It was published way back in 2005 when gas was cheap; you know - like, $55 a barrel. It's fascinating to read the Rolling Stone review of the book, an article that's now about 3 years old, because the opening paragraphs of the review chasten America for being in hard-core denial about the slow, yet inevitable drying up of this resource. In the subsequent three years, our thrist for oil has only increased as a nation. Throw in the rest of the world, and the increase has become exponential. People in the know are now talking about $200 a barrel.

What does this mean? It's important for us to realize that oil is used for more than just fuel for cars. Food, technology, medicine, military, education... name an industry that doesn't have utter dependence on cheap oil built into its infrastructure. Even 'alternative energy' elements such as wind, solar, or nuclear power, are all dependent on oil for the their manufacture and production. The statistics presently rolling in all point in the same direction - we've passed the peak production of oil, so that major indicators foresee a diminishing supply, year on year, for the foreseeable future.

Demand, on the other hand, continues to rise. Some of this is because India and China have grown wealthy through industrialization. Some of this, though, is because our heads are stuck, deeply stuck, in the proverbial sand (or perhaps oil tar). We're talking about building bigger bridges across Lake Washington here in Seattle. And Los Angeles? Well, don't even get me started. We're boasting about cars that get 30 miles to the gallon. We're thinking about the future as if agriculture, transportation and everything else will require, at best, 'a little bit of conservation', as if "Bike to Work Day" will addres the issue. It reminds me a bit of the church's tendency to forget about the 2nd coming of Christ, operating forever on the principle that tomorrow will be the same as today.

We need to, at the very least, consider the possibility that the oil keg, the beverage of choice at the industrialized world's party, is over half empty, and draining quickly. If this view is even a possibility, then we need to think about what it might mean for our world, because Jeremiah 29 invites God's people to work for the blessing of the world in which they live. What attitudes should we nurture in a world running out of cheap energy?

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Spiritual Consumerism... nothing new

Maybe you already know the story of Rehoboam, Solomon's son, and Jeroboam, Rehoboam's adversary. The whole story, found in I Kings 12, has to do with who will be heir to the throne. The bottom line is that Rehoboam is given the southern kingdom, and Jeroboam the north, thus beginning the era of a divided Israel. This is arguably the birth of denominationalism, competition among God's people for territory, and the era of the personality cult.
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Dude... where's my stuff?

Sure. You might find some points with which you disagree when you watch this (it takes 20 minutes to watch). But I hope you'll watch it with an open mind and consider the possibility that, in fact, the way we're living is unsustainable, and that as those charged to care for the earth, we who follow Christ should be at the forefront of both generous care for those most effected and marginalized by the the global consumer economy, and at the forefront of addressing the systemic changes that are needed to care for both the earth and one another.

That Bush has set a deadline of 2025 for 'halting the increase' of carbon emissions; that he's offered no specific, mandated way of doing so, and that he's making the entire goal voluntary, are revelatory of our president's failure to adequately see and address the realities of just how broken the system is. Most newspapers, conservative or liberal, have decried the proposal as lacking.

As the stimulas checks are in the mail, it's clear to that present administration and the economic powers that be see 'more of the same' as the best solution to our dismal economic situation: WE NEED TO BUY MORE STUFF. That this course of action requires deeper pilaging of the earth's resources on the front, and deeper piles of polluting waste on the back end, and the vaste use of petrolium resources in-between in order to produce, transport, sell, and use the stuff, (thus pushing oil prices through the roof and raising the cost of food for all, but especially for the poorest of the poor), is either not seen becauses of the blindness of this administration, or IS seen and is being pursued anyway. EITHER WAY is sad, but I pray that it's the former, because ignorance is a lesser crime than volitional oppression.

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Hello Dali... and where do you belong?

I'm sitting in the airport, getting ready to board the flight to Great Falls so that I can teach I Corinthians this week in a Bible School there. Meanwhile, the Dali Lama will continue his teaching/preaching tour of Seattle, finding record turnouts everywhere he goes.

What I find intriguing is the response I've receive, via e-mail, from various members of the Christian community. To my right is an e-mail vilifying the Dali, warning me sand mandalas are thinly veiled disguises for labyrinths, which are thinly veiled disguises for eastern monism, which is a thinly veiled disguise for Satan himself. Ergo: sand art = Satan. To my left are friends praising the Dali Lama's teaching as "precisely the right word for our time." If you want to know what he said in Seattle yesterday, you can find that here.
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A bad back, Dostoevsky, and grace

I was feeling good on Monday; good enough to run the 3 mile path around the lake by my house; good enough to carry out my routine of stretching, and even hang a little bit from the climbing wall that graces my attic office, as I search for strength to climb this spring. At the food co-op that day, I'd picked up a free copy of "Competitor", a mag for runners, tri-athelets, etc. Though I'm in none of those categories, I thought that having the magazine hanging around on the bathroom floor would provide both inspiration and motivation, as I'd see the cover story about 'trimming seconds off your mile' and 'becoming more competitive', all offered against the backdrop of a beautiful blonde on the run.

I ran again on Wednesday, feeling so good that I neglected my typical cooling down routine that lets my body settle into sedentary mode. "I'm so healthy I don't need it" I said to myself. Then I was off to teach a class, from which I returned to engage in some tense, thoughtless words with my wife. In the midst of that, I felt a sharp pain radiate through my lower back, causing me to cry out in agony, and render me nearly immobile. Certain movements were impossible and others felt like knives stabbing into my hips and pelvis.

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The Politics of Holy Week: Embracing the LI-AMB

Holy Week. If you're a pastor, your congregants will want to make certain that they're given the chance to sing the right songs on Good Friday and Easter. We'll go to great trouble to make certain that the cross is properly draped in some colored cloth. We'll buy lilies and hams. There'll be eggs and talk of eternal life in Christ, a bizarre mixture of truth and fertility rites. But here's the deal: all of this is meaningless if it displaces the mysterious power and calling of the LI-AMB!

This week, if it is to meaningful at all, is when we recall the betrayal, arrest, trial, conviction, torture, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The thing about this that's so weird is the juxtaposition of Jesus as both a lion and a lamb.
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inhaling the scent of hope

Life can be chaotic at times: bills, traffic, shopping, work, family, romance, are ingredients that, when mixed together excessively, create a ferment that builds pressure into the walls of our souls, as well as the walls of our homes.

It was against such a backdrop of chaos that I found myself with a rare Wednesday off last week, and rarer still for early March in Seattle, the weather was clear - crisp, as is appropriate for early March, but mercifully cloudless. My skis were in the car by 8AM and by 9:30 I was carving some Sabbath healing into my soul, negotiating the friendly terrain, which was still locked in the dead of winter, with temperatures well below freezing.
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It's in Our Nature.... sort of

Have you listened to Jose Gonzales' great little song, "It's in our nature"? You can listen to little of it here. The whole of the lyrics are really simple: A bent towards peace and justice is in us, inside our hearts, in our nature.

Therefore, Gonzalez seems to posit, put down your sword, open up your heart, and let down your guard. This marvelous music is packed with anthropological and theological questions. Here are a few of them, along with my own understanding of answers offered us in the Scriptures.

Is it in our nature? Yes. God has placed eternity in the hearts of all people, so that there's something in us that longs for peace, longs for justice, longs of safety and intimacy. This is why we're outraged at so much that we see in the world, or should be. 30,000 people a day are dying of diseases that are easily treatable. It's in our nature to be outraged because we believe the world ought to be different than this, ought to be a place where sick people are able to get care, and hungry people are able to get food, and all of us can sleep soundly at night without worrying about getting whacked by a gun, or a terrorist. It is in our nature to care for these things.

Tags | Music

Base camp... or Destination: the challenge of church buildings

On any climbing trip, one runs the risk that, for all the packing, training, hauling of loads, and preparation of logistical details, you and your friends could end up doing nothing more than playing poker in the tent, or telling stupid jokes, or singing songs from old sitcoms. If that happens, it's usually because of the weather. Some clouds have dropped in for a visit, reducing visibility so that you can't see the person in front of you on the rope. When that happens, your stuck in base camp.

Sure, cards, jokes, and sitcom songs are fun. But all that other stuff, those long bike rides, weight lifting, running, and cutting back on coffee (and if you want to know about sacrifice, let me tell you about cutting back on coffee) - it all becomes a waste of time. I mean, you can play poker at home.

No, you came here for the summit. You stopped below it and established a place to care for blisters, stretch out your back, brew some tea, eat some freeze dried somethings, sleep a bit, and then press on. But the point is pressing on, not playing poker. The point is summiting, not singing. The weather might have held you back, but your heart was all about getting out.

This 'purpose of the base camp' discussion has been in mind this week because the church where I'm the pastor is now four weeks into our life together in a new worship facility. The end result of much prayer, clear guidance from God, miraculous provision, amazing financial generosity, and talented craftsmen, the space really is a jewel. But you'll need to see that for yourself sometime, if you're ever in Seattle.

But it's just a base camp. The point of the space is to gather so that we can collectively hear from the Master; He has words of hope, healing, challenge. He reminds us of His character through prayer, fellowship, worship. It's a place of fortification, rest, sanctuary, healing, and decision making. All of that, though, is with the intention of getting out, conquering the greed, fear, lust, and complacency that so easily hinder our vision.

Like mountaineering, there are habits that we're invited to nurture as the means for fortifying our lives, gaining strength for the journey. These habits, like Bible reading, prayer, silence, solitude, and celebration, exist precisely so that we can ascend. But too often, we remain in base camp. Too often the habits becomes ends in themselves. Too often, we're doing the right things, but never really achieving the objective. Because you see, the objective isn't to sit in base camp singing songs and telling stories. The objective is to live differently in the real world.

Isaiah 58 captures this masterfully, especially in Peterson's interpretation in the Message:

1-3 "Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They're busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people—
law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?'
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
'Why do we fast and you don't look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'

3-5"Well, here's why:
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The sunny days are fine because clarity allows for freedom of movement, and depth of vision. But don't forget the mist, where waters bless the parched soul, saturating us with grace and truth, providing needed sustenance for the journey.