Staublog

Visits with Don.

Visits with Don.

Sometimes people ask me why I moved to a small island.

Don is 81 years old and my visits with him are always memorable.

He’s a colorful character who started showing up at the Community Church every once in a while a few years ago. Sometimes he’d drive his 1924 Model-T Ford truck.  His first time in church a proud grandma announced the birth of a grandchild and Don stood up and announced the birth of some new lambs on his farm.

This is what I often refer to as a Northern Exposure moment. They happen a lot.

Don is unflinchingly honest and is the rare person who thinks less highly of himself than he ought to. Maybe in his younger years he was a ne’er do well, but in the four years I’ve known him, I’ve seen acts of kindness pour out of him like sweet, warm syrup onto fresh pancakes.

Today he shared his struggles about the physical balance issues and unsteadiness that have come with old age. He now rides a golf cart when the dogs herd the sheep and also out to the chicken coop where he picks up the fresh eggs.

We talked about the Apostle Paul’s contentment despite his circumstances and his advice to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Honest Don looked at me intently and said, “that’s nice to hear, but does anybody really live that way?”

We talked for about an hour and as I was leaving I prayed with him and then told him I love him. He said, “I love you too,” adding, “that was not part of my vocabulary until a few years ago.”

I said, “Old dogs new tricks,” as in, if you can change at 81 years of age, it isn’t too late for the rest of us.

As I drove out the driveway he stood on the porch waving and yelling, “I love you.”

Sometimes people ask me why I moved to a small island.

 

Posted in Staublog in June 3, 2011 by | 3 Comments »

Troubles and Triumph Coexist in the Same Space as Faith.

Troubles and Triumph Coexist in the Same Space as Faith.

A few weeks ago a woman shared a vision she had in the wee hours of the morning. It predicted great things about my influence for God’s kingdom, especially on Orcas Island. My immediate response, which I sent her was, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

She felt I was negating her vision. But I wasn’t. I was simply putting it in the perspective of reality. She was saying God is going to do great things through you. I was saying, if God does this, it will be in spite of the fact that I am still a sinner in constant need of God’s grace. The two statements are not incompatible; they could just be two sides of one coin.

Similarly I find some people who categorically deny the results of the fall, opting instead to claim only victory to the point of denying hardship in their life as if it cannot exist in the same space with their faith.

To these, I repeat these words from Sam Shoemaker. “There are those I know, who believe that faith ought to be a kind of guarantee against trouble. If so, Jesus had very little faith, for He faced a great deal of trouble in his life, including final execution.

His verdict upon it all was, “ in the world you shall have tribulation’—that is the simple, realistic fact: ‘but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,’ –that is the extra fact of faith. Tribulation and triumph—triumph on and through tribulation. This is the Christian victory. Jesus gave us no guarantee against this trouble, but against defeat.

 

Posted in Staublog in June 1, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Island Reflections on Important Clutter

Island Reflections on Important Clutter

A few years ago NPR did a wonderful piece on Anne Lindbergh, daughter of a U.S. diplomat and wife of legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh.

Hers was a busy, complicated life. She also knew tragedy. In 1932 her first-born son was kidnapped and murdered. She endured the high-profile trial in 1935, which led to the conviction and execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. During WII when Charles spoke admiringly of German aviation technology, he was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and once again Anne was drawn into the public eye.

At heart she was a writer, and while enjoying a break from the chaos of her very public life, she wrote the beloved classic, Gifts From the Sea on Florida’s Captiva Island.

Most of us have enjoyed a vacation where we have relaxed in a quieter, slower-paced place that affords the opportunity to dream about a simpler, less complicated life. We’ve thought of we could just move there, we would slow down and enjoy the contemplative life for which we yearn.

I know this story well. For over twenty years we vacationed in the laid back San Juan Islands (on Lopez) of Washington State, and I regularly talked with my family about moving there. My family warned about the slow pace not suiting me, that I would go stir crazy in a month or two, that you can take the boy out of the city, but not take the city out of the boy. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Now that I’ve lived on Orcas Island for four years, I’ve learned a thing or two about Island life and myself. One of them is captured in a simple Anne Lindbergh phrase, “It is not merely the trivial that clutters our lives, but the important as well.”

Life on the island has reduced the clutter of the trivial, but being on Orcas has also added new important activities to some important off-island ones already in place in my life.

Some it has to do with my stage in life. Early in your career you work hard to progress from good to better, then from better to best, and it is relatively easy to let go of the lesser to advance to the more significant. But what to do when your life is full of best-best-best?

This is what I am working on these days and it is not easy.

I realize I need clarification on what is truly important. Some of what I think is critically important, my friends and family find easily dismissed. Who is right? Usually they are.

I also realize I need to significantly reduce my own sense of my importance. Other people can do a lot of what I do and I need to release it. This Easter when I spoke about Jesus handing his mission off to the woefully inadequate disciples, the thought entered my wee little brain, if Jesus could hand of his mission to these goofs, why do you think you are irreplaceable? Good question. Let go of some stuff stupid-head.

I know the closer I am to God the more likely it is that I can hear God and find guidance from the divine. It is the sheep that stay close to the shepherd that can hear and recognize the shepherd’s voice. This means more solitude and stretches set aside for prayer and thoughtful reflection. Counter-intuitively, the busier you are, the more you need this.

I now know of the many wonderful provisions Orcas Island, the most beautiful place on earth, has offered me, making decisions for me is not one of them.

 

Posted in Staublog in May 26, 2011 by | 3 Comments »

Harold and Me. Part II.

Harold and Me. Part II.

(An update and rewrite of what I wrote before his predicted end of the world).

Harold Camping’s false prophecies about the “rapture and the end of the world” in 1994 and now again in May 2011 are déjà vu all over again for me.

Harold and I have history.

As a college student in the SF Bay Area in the late 1960’s I read the gospels for the first time and saw the distinction between Jesus and the Christian religion.  I heard about an unorthodox Bible teacher on a local radio station. You could watch the show through a street side window on San Bruno Avenue and a couple of times I went and observed.

I peered in the window and saw an older looking guy, Bible open, rambling on in a sonorous, but resonant voice. It was Harold Camping. I liked that he was a layperson and self taught, because like most in the 1960’s, I was wary of institutional anything, especially religion.

Even back then, he approached the Bible as an engineer, looking for the logic and connections of every verse to every other verse. In his mind the Bible is like a huge and complicated puzzle where every piece fits together if you studied it long enough and carefully enough.

Harold was a civil engineer with a degree from Cal Berkeley and to him the Bible was like a building that was designed, then constructed to fit together, not literature to be understood literarily. Add to that his fascination with dates and numbers and you get an engineer and mystical mathematician imposing his talents on a text written in words not equations.

Pretty early on I realized that the Bible is not a horoscope to be interpreted by secret knowledge and magic decoders, so after this early encounter with Camping, I forgot all about him until 1994 when he convinced thousands of people that the world would come to an end.

I landed a media coup of sorts when Camping agreed to come on my nationally syndicated, Chicago-based talk show to explain his views.

That wasn’t the coup part.

The coup was when a shameless, unapologetic Camping appeared on the show a second time to explain his miscalculations after the world’s end didn’t happen!   He seemed undisturbed by his failure, attributing it to a miscalculation that he was certain he could figure out and get right the next time.

Back to the drawing board, he emerged again in 2011 with his new calculations. The rapture would happen on May 21, 2011 at 3PM PST.

When that date came and went, Camping announced that despite evidence to the contrary, his prediction actually was fulfilled! He explained that May 21st was a spiritual, not physical manifestation of God’s judgment. “The whole world is under Judgment Day and it will continue right up until Oct. 21, 2011 and by that time the whole world will be destroyed.”

Many of his listener’s lives were devastated by Camping’s arrogant folly; they sold their homes, resigned jobs and drained their children’s education funds. But Camping is unconcerned, saying these people made their decisions without his advise or counsel.

Some people resist comparison of Camping to other failed cultish leaders because he is sincere and means no harm, but Camping’s arrogance, errors and lack of concern for those he deceived are dangerous.

“God’s ways are higher than our ways and God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts,” to think otherwise is arrogance. “Pride goes before the fall.”

Camping represents the law of unintended consequences as applied to the confluence of the Reformation and the Gutenberg press. Proclaiming the Bible as authoritative and then printing the Bible so each person can have their own copy was not a bad thing. But Biblical authority is misunderstood when applied to our individual interpretations. The Bible is authoritative; our interpretations are not.

Harold doesn’t agree with that.

He thinks he can solve the riddle and convinced thousands of people to organize their lives around the world ending May 21, 2011. This has happened throughout history when trusting folks have fallen prey to convincing, but false prophets.

The Bible does teach that the world will come to an end. But Jesus also said no one knows the day or hour, not even Harold Camping.

 

 

 

Posted in Staublog in May 24, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

ST052011

Harold Camping is wrong. The world will not come to an end tomorrow. The Bible is a love story told in a variety of literary genres: poetry, history, narrative and at times apocalyptic. We read the Bible literarily not literally. There is a big difference. Read More.

 

Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in May 20, 2011 by | No Comments »

Me and Camping’s World will End Predictions: A Personal Story.

Me and Camping’s World will End Predictions: A Personal Story.

Is the world going to end tomorrow, May 21, 2011?

No.

This is all déjà vu all over again for me.

Back in 1994 Harold Camping convinced thousands of people that the world would come to an end and I got a media coup of sorts. Camping agreed to come on my nationally syndicated, Chicago-based talk show to explain his views.

That wasn’t the coup part.

The coup was when Camping came on the show to explain his miscalculations within days after his date for the world’s end came and went. He was wrong then and he’s doing it again.

For those who have followed Camping, if I recall correctly,  his father was a brilliant analytical mind that played a major role in planning and engineering the first stages of the Los Angeles Freeway system.

The engineering gene was passed on to Harold and it became the basis for his way of interpreting scripture. Harold e earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He thinks of the Bible as one large puzzle in which all the pieces fit together if you just figure out how to organize them.

Add to that a fascination with numerology and you get an engineer and mystical mathematician imposing his talents on a text written in words not equations. The Bible is not a horoscope to be interpreted by the person with the magic decoder, and then applied to specific life decisions of others.

The Bible is a love story told in a variety of literary genres: poetry, history, narrative and at times apocalyptic. We read the Bible literarily not literally. There is a big difference.

Camping’s sincere love for the Bible and God is apparent and his teaching is calm, delivered in a folksy drone that many find mesmerizing. His charisma is not typical but it is real and a lot of people trust him explicitly.

He represents the law of unintended consequences as applied to the confluence of the Reformation and the Gutenberg press. Proclaiming the Bible as authoritative and then printing the Bible so each person can have their own copy was not a bad thing. But Biblical authority is misunderstood when applied to our individual interpretations. The Bible is authoritative; our interpretations are not.

Harold doesn’t agree with that.

He thinks he’s solved the riddle and he’s convinced thousands of people to organize their lives around the world ending May 21, 2011. Homes have been sold, jobs resigned, children’s college funds drained ~ lives will be devastated by Camping’s arrogant folly.

This has happened throughout history when trusting folks have fallen prey to convincing, but false prophets.

The Bible does teach that the world will come to an end. But Jesus also said no one knows the time and day, not even Harold Camping.

 

 

Posted in Staublog in May 20, 2011 by | 4 Comments »

ST051711

We used to think agriculture gave rise to cities and later to writing, art, and religion. Now the world’s oldest temple suggests the urge to worship sparked civilization. National Geographic. Read More.

Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in May 17, 2011 by | No Comments »

Worship Sparked Civilization!

Worship Sparked Civilization!

A fascinating National Geographic article tells the story of a new archaeological discovery in Turkey that makes them think humans have worshipped from the very beginning. “We used to think agriculture gave rise to cities and later to writing, art, and religion. Now the world’s oldest temple suggests the urge to worship sparked civilization.” Hmmm. Makes sense to me! (Think Genesis 1!)

Posted in Staublog in May 17, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

ST051311

“To read the Bible as literature is like reading ‘Moby Dick’ as a whaling manual or ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ for its punctuation.” Frederick Buechner. Read More.

 

Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in May 13, 2011 by | No Comments »

Bible As Literature.

Bible As Literature.

Do you and I really understand the Bible? My friend, singer-songwriter Bob Bennett posted a wonderful Frederick Buechner quote today: “To read the Bible as literature is like reading ‘Moby Dick’ as a whaling manual or ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ for its punctuation.”

Yesterday I visited a web site that celebrated its commitment to honoring all traditions. It went on to describe what that means to them.

“From the Judeo-Christian heritage, we take the teachings of the Bible and Jesus. From Buddhism we take the power of meditation. From Judaism we take the belief that working together we can achieve peace and justice. From Native American and other earth-centered traditions we take respect for the earth and reverence for natural cycles. From Humanism, we take the belief in reason and science.”

Three quick observations: 1) I like the impulse towards respecting and learning from other religious traditions. 2) In this specific instance, all the values this group attributes to other traditions can in fact be found within the Christian tradition (meditation, working together for peace and justice, respect for the earth, the belief in reason and science. 3) Most significantly, I always wonder if people really mean it when they say “we take the teachings of the Bible and Jesus.” Most of the time everybody, including devout Christians, really mean “we take selected teachings of Jesus, or our specific interpretation of Jesus teachings.”

The disciples were with Jesus for three years, heard his teaching and yet, evidently, they didn’t understand what he was saying. In two of the post-resurrection accounts Jesus specifically makes this point.

To the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus he said, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24: 25-27).

Then again, just before ascending into heaven Jesus said to the disciples, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 45-47).

These stories tell us that from Jesus standpoint the summary of the Bible story is not just the revelation of a great moral code ~ it is this: “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Bible IS great literature, but it is way more than that. The inescapable fact of reading Jesus teachings about the meaning of God’s story as revealed in the Bible is this: 1) humans are in rebellion against God (sin); 2) we need a savior (Jesus); 3) receiving this savior means asking for forgiveness and turning your life around and heading in a new direction. (Repent).

The Bible is not primarily a blueprint or how-to manual for building a better life; it is not a playbook for winning the game; it is not just the revelation of a new moral code; the Bible is a love story. God loved the world so much he sent his son that whoever believes in him can enter into a restored relationship with the eternal God right now.

 

 

Posted in Staublog in May 13, 2011 by | 2 Comments »