Sunday, August 31, 2008

If only...

I wish I could crash like the waves
Or turn like the Autumn leaves
In an effort to praise You.

I wish I could smell like the forest.
The fragrance lifting a mighty chorus
In an effort to praise You.
In an effort to praise You.

But I'm such a limited creature
And my words can only paint so many pictures.
But somewhere I think I read that I am treasured over all creation.
So I know that I must try.

I wish I could roll like the thunder
to leave the earth below in wonder
In an effort to praise You.

I wish I could fall like the summer rain
and every drop would sing Your Name
In an effort to praise You.
In an effort to praise You.

But I'm such a limited creature.
And my words can only paint so many pictures.
But somewhere I'm sure I read that I am
treasured over all creation.
So that I know that I must try

I must try.

Glory in the highest.
Forever I will hide myself in Thee.
O, Gloria!
Glory in the highest.
Forever I will hide myself in Thee.

Every breath that I breathe.
Every moment in my history
Is an effort to praise You.
An effort to praise You.

Gloria, glory in the highest.
Forever I will hide myself in Thee
O, Gloria!
Glory in excelsis deo.
Gloria. Gloria. Gloria.

-Gloria, by Watermark

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

one man's trash...

A story appears today on CNN's website about a torture chamber that was discovered in a Baghdad mosque. Read the story at your own risk. It isn't pleasant. Local residents admit to hearing the screams of some of the torture victims.
Local residents also say that a Shiite militia group known as the Mehdi Army is responsible for the existence and use of the torture chamber.
The scene is described as "horrific".

Cut to the following story about the United States' little-talked about policy of extraordinary rendition. A policy that allows people with suspected ties (note... **suspected** ties...) to terrorism to essentially be kidnapped and "transferred" to countries like Egypt and Afghanistan where torture is a known method of extracting information from prisoners.
U.S. officials call extraordinary rendition a "necessary measure" in the fight against terrorists.
I wonder, though, if any of them have stopped to consider.... what's the benefit of fighting against terrorists if, in the process, we become just like them?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

different fruit

I've spent the last couple of days at Willow Creek's Leadership Summit and have a myriad of thoughts running through my head as a result. But there's only one that I'm ready to blog about.
My eyes were opened to a mistake I believe we, as followers of Jesus, are making in our judgments of our own lives.
One of the speakers was telling stories about some of the "messy" people that come to his church's weekend service. His stories all centered around people whose lives reflected distance from God and disinterest in His suggested ways of living. I'm paraphrasing the pastor's follow-up comment to all these stories: he essentially said that, while it may be uncomfortable for us, as believers, to have such "messy" people in our church services, that we should welcome them with open arms because these are exactly the kinds of people Jesus hung out with.

The moment he said that, it hit me... we're comparing apples to oranges. We're comparing modern-day church attendance to Jesus' personal life. People who are far from God may, in fact, attend our church services, but that doesn't mean we're living the lives Jesus commanded. If His focus had been church attendance, I think He would have set the example by inviting non-God-followers to the temple. But He didn't. He didn't approach the Samaritan woman and say "hey, come to the Synagogue with me." He sat with her. He talked with her. He got to know her and her story.

Jesus didn't invite people to structures and services. He invited them into relationship. So if I'm pointing to church attenders as evidence that I'm following Jesus' example, my idea of "following Jesus" is very, very wrong.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

no words...

Several months ago, I watched and blogged about a documentary called "God Grew Tired of Us". It follows the lives of several Sudanese young men who had been re-settled in the United States after spending nearly a decade in a refugee camp as a result of the country's violent civil war. They were given the collective name "The Lost Boys"... by whom I don't know. Though the documentary told the stories of only six boys, nearly four thousand were re-settled in the United States.

Tomorrow, one of these Lost Boys will carry the American flag and lead his team in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. My breath caught in my throat when I saw the headline. His name is Lopez Lomong. I highly recommend that you read his story, and - if possible - watch the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow night, if for no other reason than to see a young man who survived horrors worse than we could ever imagine, and has now been given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to proudly represent both his countries.

Friday, August 01, 2008

what I meant to say was....

I've recently begun reading the book "The Reason for God" by Tim Keller. One of the things I appreciate most about Tim Keller is his ability to reason. I've often thought that, while emotion and passion are good things, they can hinder our ability to see truth, or reason in any way.

Throughout the book, Tim says things that give voice to my own ambiguous thoughts and feelings. He articulates what I have believed to be true but have been unable to explain. You can expect me, I think, to post a lot of quotes from him in the coming weeks. Here are a few of my favorites so far.

"Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as he thought) but alive. He cries, 'I though you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue?' The answer of Christianity is - yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost."

"Any community that did not hold its members accountable for specific beliefs and practices would have no corporate identity and would not really be a community at all."
(This is part of his response to the complaint that Christianity is "exclusive". The point he makes is that all communities are - to some extent - exclusive, having rules or a set of beliefs that bring people together.)

"Biblical texts such as Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21-22 depict a renewed, perfect future world in which we retain our cultural differences ('every tongue, tribe, people, nation'). This means every human culture has (from God) distinct goods and strengths for the enrichment of the human race."

This one is actually C.S. Lewis, quoted in Tim Keller's book:
"But you cannot go on 'explaining away' for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on 'seeing through' things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too?... a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To 'see through' all things is the same as not to see."