Staublog

Michael Card Laments. Part One.

Michael Card Laments. Part One.

Michael Card is a friend of many years. We shared a mentor in common, Bill Lane. When we chose the theme of Turning Mourning Into Dancing for KindlingsFest 2011 , we thought of Michael immediately because of his work on the place of lament in the spiritual life. His meditations kept us from any glibness on the theme, because lamentation is and always will be a fundamental part of life’s journey. I just posted the podcast of his meditation in lament.

Listen to Michael Card’s KindlingsFest meditation on lament Part one.

 

Posted in Staublog in September 8, 2011 by | No Comments »

The Power of Conscience. Then and Now.

The Power of Conscience. Then and Now.

Today I was sent a link and asked to preview a documentary short titled The Power of Conscience.

It starts with this line from Victor Hugo, “Conscience is God present in man.”

Conscience was certainly evident during the Holocaust in a small French village of Le Chambon-sur-lignon, where 5,000 Christians heroically sheltered 5000 Jews. But fast forward to contemporary life when humans no longer invite God’s presence in daily life and ask, what might happen today?

This short, The Power of Conscience, (click here to watch it) demonstrates the unsettling power of exploring important ideas through the arts; simple yet profound, artistically done and well worth your time.

Written and Produced by Stephen Burks. Features David Russell, Anne R. Belk Distinguished Professor Of Music at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Photo is the diary of Peter Feigl. In his diary of life in hiding in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, Peter Feigl included his only photographs of his parents, who unbeknownst to him had been deported to Auschwitz and killed. In 1943, Peter’s security conscious rescuers confiscated his diary. He regained possession of it some 40 years later.

 

Posted in Staublog in September 7, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Oh to be knowledgeable and wise

Oh to be knowledgeable and wise

I’m sorting through books and finding it a gloomy project. At one time the gloom would have been about parting with my beloved books. I so love books. Now my gloom is centered in the weighty reminder that to whom much has been given, much is expected.

This is another way of saying, if I’ve learned so much, why am I still so ignorant?

I pick up book after book, asking myself if I ever read it, only to find the vigorous highlighting and margin notes crying out, “Dick Staub was once here.”

Part of what I’m realizing is that I’ve moved from hungering for knowledge to hungering for wisdom. I’m simply confirming what the ancient literature already makes clear; wisdom is applied knowledge. I don’t want to be living proof that there is no wisdom without knowledge, but there is a lot of knowledge without wisdom.

I’m struggling with the weight of knowledge and the patience required as I wait for more wisdom.

In my youth I was an exuberant, voracious learner and I was also pretty confident that I was wise, “beyond my years.”  (A gracious way of saying I was overconfident).

In my advancing years I am overwhelmed by the imbalance of what I know compared to the wisdom I need for everyday life.

Gloom  and overwhelmed might be a tad too strong. I am actually  pretty content, but when I think about being a 21st century follower of Jesus, a husband, and a father and one of the shepherds on Orcas Island of a small portion of God’s precious flock, a lot of knowledge is good, but no amount of wisdom is sufficient.

 

 

Posted in Staublog in September 6, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

Bad Boys Forgive

Bad Boys Forgive

Each week I look forward to meeting with the bad boys. This is a small group I started with what I guess some would call outliers.

One or two of the wives were concerned when they learned the name of the group. I explained to them that all boys are bad, and speaking theologically (or soteriologically) all girls are too.

This is why I love the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” It puts my life succinctly. But I digress.

Bad boys is a high point of my week.

Right now we are studying Mere Christianity.

Yesterday we talked about forgiveness, something it became obvious we bad boys have a tough time with. To protect the bad boys privacy I won’t get into details, other than to say it is a good thing we have not done what we wanted to do to our unforgivable enemies. Had we acted on our thoughts, and as far as I know none of us have, Bad Boys would be held in prison. But again I digress.

This morning I came across this in C.S. Lewis’s, Weight of Glory and it summarizes this difficult teaching on forgiving even our enemies. “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Now that is something bad boys and girls should be able to relate to, don’t you think?

 

 

 

Posted in Staublog in September 1, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

This Present Darkness

This Present Darkness

The other day I was talking to a reasonable, well-educated man whose journey is bringing him back to God. When I asked what precipitated this pilgrimage his reply was interesting, “The darkness in the world and what I perceived as a real, intentional force behind it.”

George Lucas did us all a favor when in Star Wars he drew out the theme of the “dark side.” (See my book Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters). Most religious use a similar metaphor. In Christianity it is clearest in the Apostle John. (See below)*

When I hosted a daily talk show, I read 5 newspapers a day, 30 periodicals a month and received a multitude of online news services. A pattern of darkness emerges from the rubble of the daily news, and it is not unreasonable to ask if these things just happen, or if there is a dark force behind them.

When you begin to think about the idea of a dark force seeking to do you harm, it can get overwhelming. When Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” was released, people freaked out. It featured a battle between dark forces and the light in a small American town and it seemed real.

In his Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis warned about an unhealthy obsession with the dark side saying, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

I find encouragement in this thought from A.W. Tozer, “The soul that lives in God is surrounded by the Divine Presence so that no enemy can approach it without first disposing of God, a palpable impossibility!”

Greater is He who is within you, than the evil one who is in the world.

* The Apostle John on Darkness

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John 3:19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

1 John 1: 5&6 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

1 John 2:9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

 

Posted in Staublog in August 31, 2011 by | 3 Comments »

Probability, Faith, Polkinghorne and You.

Probability, Faith, Polkinghorne and You.

The Rev. Dr. Sir John Polkinghorne is a brilliant scientist and theologian. He believes in God. He also believes in probability over certainty.

One of the few sermons I remember my dad preaching was later published as an article. It was titled, “A Good Word for Doubt.”

I am grateful I was raised by a father whose faith was certain, but who honored and experienced doubt as part of his faith journey.

I thought of that when I read this really interesting exploration of probability and faith.

You can also listen to an interview I did with John Polkinghorne. This link takes you to part one of a four part interview. Enter Polkinghorne in the search engine (www.thekindlings.com) to get the rest.

Enjoy!

Posted in Staublog in August 30, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

The Bright Clean Lines of Wholeness.

The Bright Clean Lines of Wholeness.

I was raised in a conservative Christian tradition that took holiness and sin seriously. The lines were pretty clearly drawn and just about everything I thought fun was on the wrong side of the line.

I resisted this easy black and white formulaic view of the world and reality, and lived in the nuanced tensions fully in the world, while determined at the same time to follow Jesus. My calling became clear ~ to understand faith and culture and interpret each to the other, and I have, for the most part, enjoyed that calling.

I am now fully engaged in a local church, and in listening to broken, wounded people’s stories, I would say a recurring pattern is our failure to take seriously the dark side and the ease with which we have been led little by little through our own choices into terrible, awful messes. Over time these choices grow into a tangled web, a mess of jumbled strands, a congealed glob of goo, an oozing mess where whatever was once healthy is slimed with the rot of decay. Sometimes it is hard to find the person in there. (As gruesome as this imagery is, it is why Tozer said, “The first act of faith is to believe what God says about sin.”)

Each decision we make moves us closer to God or farther away; each choice we make moves towards humanizing us or dehumanizing us. The wages of sin is death, but the sickness that gets us there is the daily tarnishing of God’s image, bit by bit, act by act, unkind word by unkind word. Like Gollum we are eventually emaciated and bear little resemblance to the person God intended us to be.

So now I live at the crossroads of fallen culture and a flawed faith community and long for… the bright, clean lights of wholeness, what the ancients called holiness.

My appetites are changing. This is not a legalistic thing. I am free to eat what I want. But I am hungry for goodness and mercy all the days of my life and I want to travel with a company of friends who share that longing, who want to pursue God, become all God wants us to be, and to benefit the world around us.

(Today’s art is by Linda Nardelli and is titled “Holiness”).

 

Posted in Staublog in August 25, 2011 by | 7 Comments »

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Contentment was a popular notion in ancient Greek philosophy. To be accurate, contentment is an almost universally appreciated virtue as stated in these pithy maxims.

Buddha: Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth. Lao Tzu: Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Gandhi Man’s happiness lies in contentment.

Socrates asked: Who is the wealthiest person? The one who is content with the least, for contentment is nature’s wealth.”

Yesterday I spoke on the Apostle Paul’s use of the word contentment, showing that in his view contentment is not circumstantial, it can be learned, and the secret to contentment is the powerful inner presence of Jesus Christ.

My comments were based on what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4: 10-12. “I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it.  11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.  In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.

I commented that Paul’s passion for life led to his contrasting Christian contentment with that of the Stoics who believed reaching the point of “not caring” was the key to contentment.

Stoic Philosopher Epictetus illustrated it this way: “Begin with a cup or a household utensil; if it breaks, say, “I don’t care.” Go on to a horse or a pet dog; if anything happens to it, say, “I don’t care.” Go on to yourself and if you are hurt or injured in any way, say, “I don’t care.” If you go on long enough, and if you try hard enough, You will come to a stage when you an watch Your nearest and dearest suffer and die, you will say, “I don’t care.”

This led church historian TR Glover to conclude, “the stoics made of the heart a desert, and called it peace.

By way of contrast I pointed out that the Christian faith does not require us to detach from life’s passions: we are passionate about life. We seek a full life. We aspire to become the best version of themselves that we can spiritually, intellectually, creatively, relationally and morally.

In one of the services I mentioned that many eastern religions emphasize the cessation of desire as the key to happiness.

I received this comment from an island friend who attended one of our services.

“Hi Dick, I enjoyed the sermon very much today. I think the practice of contentment is very underrated in our society. But as a Buddhist I am wondering what did you mean by Eastern Religions and their practice of non-attachment? I believe you can practice non-attachment and care very much, as did Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and the Buddha. (Don’t get me wrong. I am still very attached to things.) But I am curious, specifically, what did you mean?

So here is my reply.

First, I did not mean to imply that all practitioners of eastern religions would agree with the idea of the Stoics, that the essence of satisfaction is saying in every situation, I do not care.”

Second I know that the eastern ideas of detachment and renunciation are often misunderstood. As one Buddhist explains it, “renunciation” actually means “the determination to be free.”

Third, based on what I’ve seen of you,  ANYBODY should be able to see you are a person of great compassion~you care.

Fourth, I would add that in my observation, practitioners of religions that emphasize non-attachment sometimes do veer into cessation of passion as the beginning of happiness and satisfaction.

Jonathan Horgan, a science writer and acquaintance of mine practiced Buddhism for a while, and wrote an article in SLATE titled, “Buddhist Retreat~Why I gave up on finding my religion.’ He ultimately left Buddhism because the idea of non-attachment struck him as wrong.

“What troubles me most about Buddhism is its implication that detachment from ordinary life is the surest route to salvation. Buddha’s first step toward enlightenment was his abandonment of his wife and child… It seems legitimate to ask whether a path that turns away from aspects of life as essential as sexuality and parenthood is truly spiritual. From this perspective, the very concept of enlightenment begins to look anti-spiritual: It suggests that life is a problem that can be solved, a cul-de-sac that can be, and should be, escaped.”

I hope you know I am an advocate of building bridges instead of walls whenever possible. So I welcome further dialogue on these issues.

Christianity itself argues for a certain kind of detachment from the things of this world.  In the end though, Christians explain pain as the consequence of the fall, and salvation as saving both soul and body. The world and flesh will one day be redeemed, and transformed into a new heaven and earth.

Christian contentment comes when we 1) Rejoice in everything because the Lord God is near; 2) Stop worrying and start praying with thanksgiving; 3) When we concentrate our minds on good things; 4) When we realize the secret of our power in the indwelling Jesus Christ. Finally as the serenity prayer suggests:  God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

In the old Puritan Classic, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, the writer, Jeremiah Burroughs concludes, “To be well skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of the Christian.”

 

Posted in Staublog in August 22, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Brief Encounters of the Friend Kind

Brief Encounters of the Friend Kind

Kathy and I had a really refreshing one-day getaway at Jeff and Susie Johnson’s on Camano Island, which included time with Kathy Hastings as well.

One fun moment was when Jeff started a sentence with, “I’m like Jesus.”

I stopped him before he finished and said, “It has been my experience that any sentence that begins with the words, ‘I’m like Jesus,’ ends badly!”

I think we all agreed, because Jeff didn’t finish the sentence. (FYI the sentence was comparing Jeff to Kathy Hastings in their crab potting… Kathy was coming out the legalistic Pharisee and Jeff the grace-filled “Jesus.”)

We happened to be there for the inaugural use of the Johnson’s new deck, which is AWESOME.

Our weekend started on the ferry with The Myles-era clan, who were heading out on vacation. (Photo upper left).

Don’t you agree with Plautus the Roman playwright (54 BC – 184 BC) “nothing but heaven itself is better than a friend who is really a friend.”

 

 

Posted in Staublog in August 21, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Lobsterless Lobster Salad & the Riotous Looting in the UK

Lobsterless Lobster Salad & the Riotous Looting in the UK

I love the cartoon showing a hapless customer in a books store facing three shelves of books. One is labeled FICTION, the next NON-FICTION and the third, NOT SURE.

It gets at the impact of relativism in daily life.

For a humorous example that has as a side benefit the simultaneous deflation of New Yorker’s smug superiority complex, read this story about the Lobsterless Lobster Salad at Zabars. (Zabars web site website slogan is NY is Zabars. Zabars is NY!)

Turns out for 15 years, Zabars, New York’s famous fine food purveyor has been selling a lobster salad that contains no Lobster and has been getting $16.95 per pound for it!

As reporter James Barron reports, Saul Zabar, the 83-year-old president and co-owner of Zabar’s is mounting a spirited defense, “selling lobsterless lobster salad, he insisted, is not dishonest.” In  a conversation with Dane Somers, executive director of the Maine Lobster Council, Mr. Zabar said, “‘New Yorkers would not understand what crawfish was, but that it was in the ‘lobster family.’ To Mr. Somers, that was like saying trout and minnows were in the fish family.”

On a more serious note Chuck Colson calls the recent outbreak of violence in the UK an “attack of feral children.” Colson argues that the riots are the evidence of a generation bereft of absolute truth and marinated in a culture of freedom without responsibility.

He quotes British historian and journalist Max Hastings, who in a bleak assessment concludes, “the people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorized communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame…They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped. They are illiterate and innumerate, beyond maybe some dexterity with computer games and BlackBerries.”

Colson and Hastings may be reductionist in explaining the riots, but it is hard to disagree that we are witnessing a widespread deterioration of common moral decency, and that it flows, in part, from a zeitgeist of self-interest and radical individualism in a western world that has abandoned absolute truth.

Prime Minister David Cameron took a more balanced approach, attributing the recent riots and looting to a moral failure of the powerful, for not addressing the issues of the powerless, and of the rioters, for not protesting within the bounds of the law and basic human decency.

“Britain must confront a culture of laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness,” Cameron said.  This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face… Just as people last week wanted criminals robustly confronted on our street, so they want to see these social problems taken on and defeated.”

Today we have lost our common moral ground and are sometimes looking a tad bit barbaric.

It would be good to remember that ancient civilizations viewed the pursuit of commonly held virtues as a path out of barbarism.

The Hebrews aimed for the righteous life and defined it as being “right with God and right with your fellow humans.” Jesus said this is the summary of the entire law. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” A common ancient rule is, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Greeks saw a virtuous citizenry as the bedrock of a democratic republic.  Philosopher Heraclitus warned, “the soul is dyed the color of its thoughts.  Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice.  Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become.”

George Washington, our founding President, organized his life around 110 rules he wrote up in a little book called Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They were based on lists made by French Jesuits in 1595.

The Apostle Paul, following the Greek maxim that you are what you think, advised 1st century Christians, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Our society is unraveling partly because we have abandoned the virtues that produce noble lives. This is true of the rich who lack concern for the poor, and the powerless when they take the law into their own hands.

When a society abandons the common good for radical self-ism, the result is the decline of that civilization.

 

 

Posted in Staublog in August 15, 2011 by | 4 Comments »