Who is my Enemy, the Foe I am to “Take By The Throat?”

Who is my Enemy, the Foe I am to  “Take  By The Throat?”
George MacDonald’s reading today in a Diary of An Old Soul talks about engaging the enemy.
“In my own heart, O Master, in my thought,
Betwixt the woolly sheep and hairy goat
Not clearly I distinguish; but I think
Thou knowest that I fight upon thy side.
The how I am ashamed of; for I shrink
From many a blow—am home on the battle-tide,
When I should rush to the front, and take thy foe by the throat.”
In his typically honest way MacDonald acknowledges that when Jesus divides the sheep from the goats, he will find himself sometimes behaving like each of them. He is ashamed of this and prays for boldness so he is emboldened in battle to “rush to the front, and take thy foe by the throat.”
But who is the foe?
In this day of culture-warring where those who differ regarding theological, political or life-style issues are often called enemies, it is reasonable to ask, as a follower of Jesus, what is the war I am in and who is my enemy?
Who is the enemy Jesus has freed us to engage?
First and most obviously, we are war with the ruler of the dark side, that spiritual being, Satan, the Devil and his legions of spirits who are evil principalities and powers.
The apostle Peter warned us, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Be self-controlled and alert.”
But there is another enemy. Jesus is declared to be an exact representation of God, (Hebrews) and as the word become flesh Jesus reveals God as full of grace and truth (John). So is not our second battle the one within ourselves concerning anything that is unloving or untrue? And isn’t the most obvious untruths we are to guard against are contemporary lies about the nature and character of God?
In our pluralistic age, and in light of movements like the Jesus Seminar, it seems our biggest battle concerns who Jesus is, and as Eugene Peterson says in his introduction to Philemon, “Christians have always insisted on the historicity of Jesus—an actual birth, a datable death, a witnessed resurrection and locatable towns.” Even in this issue our enemy is the untruth about Jesus, not the person espousing it.
It is easier to mobilize Christians around political and visceral hotly contested societal issues, but our real enemy lives in the attacks on the nature and person of Jesus Christ, and oddly, that seems a battle most Christians are woefully unprepared to engage.

Posted in Staublog in September 29, 2012 by | 2 Comments »

Replacement Refs and the Kingdom of God

Replacement Refs and the Kingdom of God
Like millions of sports fans I watched the controversial last play of the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. 
It was a Hail Mary pass from Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson followed by what punsters at ESPN are now calling “the inaccurate reception.” Replays show Green Bay safety M.D Jennings intercepting the pass, Seattle’s Golden Tate wrestling it away from Jennings, as one referee signals it an interception and the other calls it a Seattle touchdown. 
It is officially ruled a touchdown and Seattle wins the game.
Commentators immediately began their rants about terrible officiating, followed by renewed calls to get the replacement refs off the field and the locked-out professional refs back in the game. 
I’m a Seahawks fan, but the game’s ending made me feel empty. Commentator Jon Gruden said the game left a “bad feeling in his stomach.” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the call, “Very hard to swallow, I have never seen anything like that in my time in football” and Troy Aikman tweeted, “these games are a joke.”
In this pluralistic age I am unaccustomed to such unanimity and agreement. It made me wonder if beneath this surface issue is an insight into our essential human nature. 
I imagine Jesus telling a parable, “yeah verily I say unto you, there were two men who went up for the ball in the end zone with 5 seconds left on the clock. A terrible call was made resulting in a grave injustice and all people everywhere were vexed in spirit.”
Here are two lessons from the parable of the “inaccurate reception.”
First, humans have an underlying sense of right and wrong. C. S. Lewis argued that there is a fundamental morality (he called it the “Tao”) that resides in the heart and conscience of every human and is therefore shared by all cultures East-West, Christian, Pagan and Jew. 
Could it be that it is also found in the hearts of rabid sports fans!  In sports we see two competing passions, a desire to win, but also a desire to win fairly, within the rules. What made Seattle’s win unsatisfying even for Seahawks fans, is that the referee violated the Tao of football, and fans and commentators are furious about it. It appears that situation ethics doesn’t apply in football. It is no accident that referees wear black and white uniforms. There is right and wrong and the referee’s job is to assure that right prevails.
2) We long for a better world.
Again, C. S Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire, which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
I realize that many of my frustrations in life have to do with this tension between the way things ought to be and the way things are. 
I am nauseated by politics with its quest for partisan power instead of the common good, I recoil at injustices in the world’s economic systems, I am sickened by our culture that elevates celebrity over substance, I detest with equal passion the Muslim violence in the Middle East and the really stupid senseless film The Innocence of Muslims that triggered some of the violence. When I observe a Church culture characterized by hypocrisy, bickering, gossip and hate, I find myself in solidarity with Woody Allen who said, “If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”
These instincts and desires for a better world are released passionately when a bad call is made in a football game.  We’re looking for stable places in society we can depend on. When institutions like government, churches or the NFL fail to provide it we are disheartened!
In Jesus life and teaching we got a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, the essence of which according to British Scholar N.T. Wright is this, “What would it look like if God was running the show?”
Might a failed football call reveal something deeper about our universal hopes and dreams? Could it be we really do wish God was running the show?

Posted in Staublog in September 28, 2012 by | No Comments »

A Morning Prayer

A Morning Prayer
“Lord let my life today be an exquisite blend of devotion to you and love for all of your creation, including but not limited to all my fellow humans, created in your image, who you have placed above the created order, but also in it to steward it.” 
My prayer this morning grew out of two readings that started my day, one from Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov, and the other from A.W. Tozer regarding devotion to God as expressed in everyday life.
“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to understand it better everyday. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.” 
“Fenelon teaches that to make our deeds acceptable to God it is not necessary that we change our occupation (if it is honest), but only that we begin to do for Christ’s sake what we had formerly been doing for our own. To some of us this will seem too tame and ordinary. We want to do great things for God, to hazard our lives in dramatic acts of devotion that will attract the attention of fellow Christians and perhaps of the larger world outside. Visions of Huss at the stake, Luther at the Diet of Worms or Livingstone in the heart of Africa flit before our minds as we think on spiritual things. Plain, workaday Christians like us – how can we rise to such heroic heights? With our families to support, with our lot cast in the dull routine of the commonplace, with no one threatening us with imprisonment or death: how can we live lives acceptable to God? What can we do to satisfy the heart our Father in heaven?
The answer is near thee, even in thy mouth. Vacate the throne room of your heart and enthrone Jesus there. Set Him in the focus of your heart’s attention and stop wanting to be a hero. Make Him your all in all and try yourself to become less and less. Dedicate your entire life to His honor alone and shift the motives of your life from self to God. Let the reason back of your daily conduct be Christ and His glory, not yourself, nor your family nor your country nor your church. In all things let Him have the preeminence.”

Posted in Staublog in September 27, 2012 by | 1 Comment »

Luke historian?

Gospel of Luke and Acts represent 1/4th of the whole New Testament. Luke is a historian who writes literarily, he is a theologian and he is an evangelist. GE Ladd captured the challenge posed by the expansiveness of his vision in reporting what he heard and saw. “The supernatural dimension of the Kingdom of God which has invaded history in the person of Jesus Christ Jesus creates an insoluble problem for the historian as historian, for he knows nothing of supernatural events; he can deal only with purely natural occurrences. The evidence of the supernatural is inexplicable to the historian. That is why the person of Jesus presents a continuing problem to historical scholarship, for the essential fact of his person and mission transcends historical explanation.”

Posted in Staublog in September 22, 2012 by | No Comments »

It shouldn’t surprise anybody that I am guilty of saying things at parties and in social situations that I regret. I’ve been told I’ve got a ready wit and a quick mind, but I also have a tongue that moves faster then my mind. 
The apostle James warned, “the tongue is a small part of the body, but consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”
George MacDonald has advise for a guy like me; it may be useful to you too.
“Why is it that so often I return 
From social converse with a spirit worn, 
A lack, a disappointment—even a sting 
Of shame, as for some low, unworthy thing? 
Because I have not, careful, first of all, 
Set my door wide open, back to the wall, 
Ere I at others’ doors did knock and call.”
My takeaway? Be ready before you head out the door. Open your door to God’s inspection, which should lead to useful introspection, before opening your mouth to others.
Remember the acronym for think before you speak?
T-Is it true?
H-Is it helpful?
I-Is it inspiring?
N-Is it necessary?
K-Is it kind?

Posted in Staublog in September 19, 2012 by | 1 Comment »

First Thoughts On the Day of My Father’s Death

First Thoughts On the Day of My Father’s Death
The day began at 5:15 with a dreaded call. “Your dad died in his sleep last night.”
And so I have lost my best supporter and friend, and by far the most interesting man I’ve ever met. Given my years in broadcasting, I’ve met a lot of interesting people.
Dad was ready to go. He was in his 90th year, which meant he was 89 and would be 90 on April 5th, 2013. He always phrased it that way, as if the 9 months in the womb counted towards his years on earth.
I was not surprised by this call. Since a hospitalization this summer he’s been fading physically and in every call he told me he was ready to let go and be with God. And so his prayer has been answered, and it seems he went peacefully, which is the way we all would want it.
AS I got in the shower at 5:20 I thought of the great repository of his mind, now inaccessible to me and others who relied on what he had stored there. He was broadly and eclectically learned. I can’t think of a subject he’d not read or thought about, and his energy was devoted to taking every thought captive and making it subject to his view that God is the author of all knowledge and deserves, maybe demands, his due.
So he was theologically alive and his mind always at work with the integrative work of finding God in every aspect of his life and thought.
Mine is a rich heritage with the combined energy, passion and entrepreneurial drives of my grandfather, the warmth, effusive, inclusive  love of my mother, and the brooding intellectual pursuit of my father, combined with his wit and an ever growing love for all people. He says he was an introvert who was dragged into human contact by my irrepressibly social mom, but I can’t remember a time when he was not actively engaged in loving and serving people.
His breadth of learning, insatiable curiosity and generous heart meant his friendships included the highly educated scholar to the rough-hewn logger in Southern Oregon. 
I don’t remember a time when he could not identify and name every bird he saw, most just by their call. His massive stamp collection was my first introduction to the many countries of the world. His library was a sprawling collection of oft read books and his classical music library second to none (He also loved Jazz…)
Just writing all this makes me cognizant of his life writ large in mine.
Men of all walks of life respected my dad, and as a younger man I could not quite understand why.  He was passionate about things most men could care less about and he was not passionate about the things most men hold dear, and yet his interests extended to everything and his love to everyone. Men saw in my Father a quiet strength and unquestioned character. He had learned how to do the things most men fail at. His love and devotion for my mom and the deeply contented marriage, his wrestling through his failures as a man and father to ultimate victory, his perseverance in faith over his doubts and questions; all these pay tribute to his greatness as a man.
When my mom died he waivered and wobbled a bit in his relationship with God. His love for her was so complete and her loss so grievous, for a while he could not find his way through to trust and hope. I remember sitting on his bed in his small room at Crista Sr. Center and saying, “dad you’ve got four kids and a bunch of grandchildren who are counting you to show us how to finish the race stong.”
And so he did.
Mention four kids and I immediately think of how being separated from our brother Timmy haunted him. Tim was born with a severe case of cerebral palsy and to this day cannot walk, talk or feed himself. He is in a wonderful nursing home in Spokane, receives great care, and visits from people who love him and loved my parents, but dad has never been able to get his head around not being there in person for Timmy. Mercifully he’s now released that unresolvable burden.
I remember my friend poet Scott Cairns saying something like, writers don’t write to tell other people what to think, writers write to figure out what they think.
These are my initial thoughts after learning of my fathers death.
I think he was the greatest of men and the pain of his loss is overwhelming me as much as the knowledge of his being with God is comforting me.
Written 7AM 09/06/12

Posted in Staublog in September 6, 2012 by | 18 Comments »

If Ford Made Computers or If Microsoft Made Cars

If Ford Made Computers or If Microsoft Made Cars

For those who need a good laugh today. If Ford Made Computers; If Microsoft Made Cars

 This from my crazy friend Jim Riordan.
At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, 
“If Ford had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.” 
In response to Bill’s comments, Ford issued a press release stating: 
If Ford had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash………twice a day. 
2.. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
3… Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this. 
4…. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine. 
5….. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive – but would run on only five percent of the roads. 
6…… The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single “This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation” warning light. 
7……. The airbag system would ask, “Are you sure?” before deploying. 
8…….. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna. 
9……… Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car. 
10………. You’d have to press the “Start” button to turn the engine off. 
PS – I’d like to add that when all else fails, you could call “customer service” in some foreign country and be instructed in some foreign language how to fix your car yourself!!!!

Posted in Staublog in August 8, 2012 by | No Comments »

How Do I Look the Part?

How Do I Look the Part?

Has politics and pastoring come down to likability (polls show people “like” candidate Obama more than Romney) and lookability? 

This piece by Diana Reese in the Washington Post caught my eye, particularly because she singled out the dress of ministers (“I’d like my minister, my doctor and yes, my politicians, to look and dress for their parts.”). Speaking for myself, I am a person and as a pastor I am not “playing a part! (Maybe I’ve lived in the West Coast and now an Island too long. FYI today I am wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt-its gonna be warm today!). 

Here’s what Reese said, “ When Palin took to the makeshift stage in the middle of a Missouri farm field, she was dressed more for the part of Hollywood celebrity than serious politician. it was hard for me to take Palin seriously dressed as she was. First, her shoes: Five-inch wedges. Her black capris weren’t quite skin-tight but tight enough, and her t-shirt with its Superman logo (a Steelman campaign shirt emblazoned with “Our freedom. Our fight.”) emphasized her figure. She never once removed her oversized sunglasses. I’m sorry, but I’d like my minister, my doctor and yes, my politicians, to look and dress for their parts.”

What do you think?  

Posted in Staublog in August 7, 2012 by | No Comments »

The Fall.

The Fall.
Sunday night I watched with millions as McKayla Maroney warmed up for her Olympic performance in the vault. NBC commentators described her jumps as a formality given her unapproachable superiority in the event.
After her trademark “Amanar, a tricky twisting, turning maneuver that only a handful of gymnasts in the world even attempt.” The same commentators said to be assured of the gold, all she needed to do was land on her feet in the next vault.
As one ABC report announced, “Maroney’s two vaults on Sunday were supposed to the kind of coronation reserved for the Duchess of Cambridge, who was watching from the front row.”
But therein lies the problem. The reigning world champion, nearly flawless, almost perfect gymnast did something she almost never does, she missed her landing and as she said in her own words, “I landed on my butt.”
It was heartbreaking, totally unexpected, and very real.
The ancients of my faith had a saying, “take heed lest ye fall,” or in more contemporary language, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
The lesson is clear. The person who least expects to fall may be most vulnerable to falling. Pride goes before the fall.
Walk carefully today. It can happen to anybody! (But not likely to be seen by millions!)

Posted in Staublog in August 6, 2012 by | 1 Comment »

K-Fest 2012 to earth, “We’ve got contact…Crabbed Age and Youth Can Live Together.”

K-Fest 2012 to earth, “We’ve got contact…Crabbed Age and Youth Can Live Together.”
K-Fest 2012 to earth, “We’ve got contact…Crabbed Age and Youth Can Live Together.”
Shakespeare (or allegedly Shakespeare) wrote a Sonnet titled “Crabbed Age and Youth Cannot Live Together.”   We got our theme for KindlingsFest 2012 by adding a question mark, “Crabbed Age and Youth Cannot Live Together?” and then tagging the question with a sub-title, Towards Creating an Intergenerational Future.  
The theme grew out of my conviction that the academy, church and arts all have a long tradition of intergenerational synergy that served us well for centuries, and I think it would be good to break out of our recently contrived demographic segmentation and rediscover our need of each other and dare I say, our need of God.
Guest lecturers Dr. Malcolm Guite (Cambridge University)  and Jeff Keuss (Seattle Pacific University) took us on an amazing journey around that theme, and as always, my dear 75 year-old friend, Nigel Goodwin, brought his wit, poetry, irrepressible love and exuberant personality (along with multi-colored socks) to make it a party.
Musically we mixed the mellow sounds of Bob Bennett and classically trained guitarist Jason Carter with a young singer songwriter Eric Miller and a wildly enthusiastic, energetic, loud, talented indie band Friends and Family.
The Sundance films we screened were chosen because they represent the generational divide on issues like Israel and the Palestinians (5 Broken Cameras), young gay Christians (For the Bible Tells Me So) and global warming (Chasing Ice.)
The first night we offered a chance for the various generations to learn about each other. 3×5 cards were distributed and each registrant was instructed to ask a question getting at “anything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask” about the generation older or younger than them. Thursday night we built a Kindlings Muse podcast around that subject with panelists ranging from mid 20’s to their 80’s.
Numerous friends, young and old, took me aside and told me privately how bold and brave I was to take on the important issue of the generational divide in church and culture and to do so in provocative and risky ways. I guess it did not really occur to me to do anything other than what we did, take an important subject and explore it intelligently, spiritually and artistically.
The dust is still settling on K-Fest 2012, but I’ve skimmed the surveys and the results are most interesting.
Young and old alike seem to be saying the same thing. I would summarize it as follows. “I want to be seen by, heard by, loved by and understood by you.”
Isn’t that delightful?  Doesn’t it seem hopeful? What can we do in our lcal settings to make that happen?

Posted in Staublog in August 3, 2012 by | 2 Comments »