Thursday, December 28, 2006

My TREE experience: Desiring God, part 1

When I was single and living in Richmond, Virginia, I was
riding in the back seat of a friend's car one day as we
drove around the area known as "The Fan"... This area is
so named because the streets "fan out" in a westerly
direction, all beginning from the campus of Virginia
Commonwealth University (VCU), particularly from a small
park in the center of the campus...

As we drove West on one of those streets, I turned and
looked back toward that park, and I saw a very stunning
and beautiful sight: The late afternoon sun seemed to be
shining directly on a very large oak tree in the center of
the park, and the Fall colors of the tree were absolutely
brilliant in that light... Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, and
a number of variants, together with the thick, dark Bark
of the tree, contrasted against the pastel Blue of the sky
beyond the branches...

The view was so breathtaking that I couldn't help letting
out a small "Wow", whereupon the other guys, thinking I was
referring to some college girl, began asking what I had seen...

Now, if I had gotten back to the park at that moment and rushed
up to the tree, snatching off some of its colorful leaves and
rubbing them in my face, or running my hands over the rough
bark, I would, of course, failed in my attempt to immerse
myself in WHATEVER it was that impacted me by the sight of
that glorious tree in the height of the Fall season...

So it seems clear, then, that the Tree itself was only a
"carrier" of the WHATEVER it was that struck me; we can
assign the word "Beauty" to it and act as if that is the
end of the discussion; but it is the DESIRE itself, very
real and very poignant at that moment, that raises
an interesting question: A "desire" for... What? ...

Have you ever had a Desire for something -- it could be anything,
it doesn't matter -- that was so deep and so strong that it
caused you a kind of "pain" in the wanting? You can probably
identify the Object of that desire: A woman, a promotion, a
baby, a prize, the completion of a philanthropic effort...

But what do we do with the Desires we (some of us, sometimes)
feel when we cannot necessarily identify WHAT it is that we
desired?? What was it that I felt, what was it that I desired,
when I was awed by the "Beauty" of that Tree? After all,
"Beauty" is a human word used to describe something we perceive
in the physical world, and yet, when we are free to (more or
less) "consume" that thing, we find we've missed whatever it is
(or was) of which the Physical was just a "medium" for...

Anybody who has read Lewis will recognize the concept immediately,
this Desire for we-know-not-what... Human Beings throughout all
of history have experienced just these sorts of desires, and
we have written poems and songs about them, done Art as a kind
of homage to them, and celebrated them in every conceivable way.


While not a logically air-tight "argument" for God's existence,
we have to wonder about the nature and origin of these desires,
and very few of us would deny their existence; we feel compelled
to EXPLAIN them, or, to explain them AWAY...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Winning by Losing

In the movie, "White Men Can't Jump", Rosie Perez's character
tells her boyfriend, "Sometimes when you win, you really lose,
and sometimes when you lose, you really win...
" Jim Elliot,
a missionary to Ecuadoran Indians (and who was later murdered
by them, along with others on his team), put the same thought
in more serious and profound terms: "He is no fool who gives up
what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.

So yesterday's mid-term Elections were taken as a "defeat"
by many voters, especially some conservatives and quite a few
so-called "evangelicals"... With abortion bans voted down
in South Dakota, Stem Cell research voted IN, in Missouri,
Democrats winning back control in Congress, and other signs
of danger to (what many believe to be) the underpinnings
of American morality, Wednesday morning's results may, for some,
foreshadow some dark days ahead...

"America will cease to be great when she ceases to be good,"
we hear some preachers tell us; but exactly what role does
America being "great" play in the marching orders we have
as Christians? Loving God with all our hearts and souls and
minds and strength, and (as a way of putting FEET to that)
loving other people with hands-on, servant love -- this certainly
includes being good and responsible citizens, but would that
mandate be any less binding on us if America becomes a
nation filled with openly gay couples, abortion-on-demand, corrupt
Democrats in power, rampant Inflation, and even the censoring
of all "traditional" Christian speech, gatherings, and displays?

Revelation 2:4 warns us about leaving our "first love" even in
the midst of "serving the Lord", and other Scripture passages
caution us about "turning to other gods"... Given the mandate
to LOVE, and the SIN of dividing ourselves into "Us" vs."Them"
groups (especially along political, economic, ethnic,and
sexual lines), it is perhaps important right now to leverage
the "defeat" of this election as a reminder that eternal values
are the ones Christians should remain primarily focused on,
exchanging Labels for LOVE and Politics for PEOPLE.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
-- Mathew 6:21


Friday, November 03, 2006

...and the Moral Confusion continues...

A story on CNN's website today gives us all yet another
example of the rampant confusion in our times over what
is "moral", what is "immoral", and who gets to decide
which is which...

The situation with Colorado Springs pastor Ted Haggard
and his accuser, Mike Jones, is a sad situation, no matter
what the eventual outcome is; but what caught my attention
about this story was Jones' quote on WHY he came forward:
    "I cried many nights; I got sick tormenting myself
    about whether I should do this," he said. "I finally
    had to come to peace with myself. ... I had to do
    the moral thing."
Mike Jones has been identified as a drug-dealing, gay,
male prostitute, and is presumably these things because
he chooses to / wants to be; hearing him invoke some vague
moral imperative is like seeing violent street gang members
taking part in a Peace rally...

Make no mistake, Jesus passionately loves Mike Jones, as He
does every single one of us, regardless of our "brand" of
Sin; and even in his sinful state, Mike Jones (like the
rest of us) demonstrates hope for his own redemption by
even supposing that one thing is "moral" and another thing
is not (though many of us disagree, of course, with his

But -- and as I have said here before -- the fact that ANYONE
in modern times openly invokes the Moral imperative with
one breath while disparaging any absolute standard of Morality
with the next breath is, to me, an indication that many people
in our time are too lazy to think and too confused as to
where to begin...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why is it Wrong?

A song that I like very much, by a Christian group,
has as one of its primary lines, these words:
"...and I have found that the Answer is to Love You
and be Loved by You..."

If you picture the relationship between ourselves
and God as a Father-son relationship (which I think
is the very focal point of the Christian faith),
then consider this analogy, when pondering the idea
of what we commonly call "Moral Absolutes":

Your father is a commander in the Army, and since he
has been away from home since you were born, you've
never really met him; but he has left you a series
of letters in which not only does he declare his
love for you, but which also include a subset of
"guidelines" or "principles" that he wants you to
live by... You've been taught that your father not
only loves you very deeply but that he is also
extremely wise... You're also convinced that one
of these days you're going to finally meet him...

So you decide you're going to be faithful to the
instructions of your father... Some of these are
fairly straight-forward, and their wisdom is apparent:

"Don't hit your sister" (for how would you like it if
she were to hit YOU, for no good reason)... "Don't
stick your finger in the stove flames", and "Don't
play with sharp knives"... Easy enough, right? Nobody
in their right mind questions these "rules", and you
find it easy to obey them...

But what if you develop a friendship with Tom Smith,
down the street, and although reputation and your own
experience show Tom to be a bit of a scoff-law, you
find that you rather like hanging out with Tom, and
you believe those who hold that he is a trouble-maker
to be stuffy, narrow-minded, and biggoted...

And then, right there in the letters, your own father
says, "oh, and stay away from that rebel, Tom Smith!"

And what if you meet other young people who ALSO
think that Tom Smith is pretty cool? And what if
there are enough of them that you begin to believe
that "liking Tom Smith" is not only okay, but what
you were MADE to be like, as part of your "identity",
and you felt a real solidarity with Tom-Smith-likers?

Right then and there, you would have a decision to make:
Do you TRUST that your father loves you deeply, and
has this Rule about Tom Smith because he is wiser than
you and understands the Tom Smiths of the world better
than you, and that his love for you inspired this rule,
or do you decide that your father is out of touch,
old-fashioned, and not "up with the times"?

After all, liking Tom Smith seems to be so pervasive
that how could staying away from him make any sense?

You might go further in saying that your father may not
REALLY be your father after all, OR, that he doesn't really
know you, OR, that when he says "stay away from Tom Smith"
he doesn't REALLY mean "stay away" but only "don't become
like him..." In fact, wouldn't the options for questioning
and even disparaging your father's wisdom be as limitless
as your own imagination and subjective experiences?
Couldn't you ultimately make your father's letters to you
say whatever you WANT them to say?

Well, if you accept that there is a GOD, and that He loves
you -- as His very own child -- deeply and passionately,
doesn't it behoove you to find out if God has communicated
His Will to you, and if so, what that Will is? And can
you not see the very great, and very slippery-slope Danger
that you could make "His Will" really about YOUR wants
and wishes and preferences instead of what He really said?

Christians believe these very same things about what we
call "Moral Absolutes": God LOVES us deeply and passionately,
and He knows what is best for His children far better than
we ourselves... When God calls any particular act a "sin",
we either have to LOVE Him back, and OBEY, or go off in the
profoundly subjective direction of redefining, questioning,
doubting, and finally outright REJECTING His Will...

But at that point, we've lost all sight of Love for HIM
and have really supplanted it with love for OURSELVES...

May God Himself help us to obey His Will, and respond to
His infinite Love for us by acknowledging, in Word and
in Deed, that we love Him in return...

Friday, October 13, 2006

God's Disco Ball

If this analogy strikes you as rather silly, and is of no help
to you in your search for meaning and for the knowledge of
God, then discard it and look elsewhere; but for what it's worth,
consider the idea that each of us has as our ultimate destiny
the becoming of a single mirror on God's cosmic "disco ball"...

Simply put, a disco ball is a sphere made of numerous tiny
mirrors attached to a frame; as the ball spins, the mirrors catch
light that is cast on the whole, creating interesting patterns of
reflected light from the many mirrors which make up the ball...

Each and every tiny mirror on the ball is unique, both in
its position on the ball and its particular reflection of light
at any one moment during the spinning...

Each human Soul was created by God with the potential
to reflect back to God His own Light -- His GLORY -- as we are
someday grafted back into His very being... Indeed, we are most
fully "ourselves" as we reject our own purposes -- being our
own tiny mirrors with our own fulfillment as our primary goal --
and yield to the refining process that makes it possible to
reflect His glory, not so that WE can be noticed but so that
HE can be more completely and gloriously reflected IN us...

Much more depth on this concept can be found by reading about
how mirrors are made; spend a few minutes reading about mirrors
HERE and also HERE...

Jesus said that whoever loses his life for Jesus' sake will find it,
and the broader message of the Gospel is RESSURECTION:
Dying and then being raised to a new KIND of Life, Life that says
"Not my will but THINE be done..."

As each of us submits -- even daily -- to the death of our own fulfillment,
we find Ultimate fulfillment in becoming what we were originally made
to be: Unique expressions of the Glory of God, fitly reflecting back
to Him His own Light...

Every choice we make, every single day, either dulls and smudges
the mirror a bit, or polishes and buffs it a bit (hence the idea of
purification through, sometimes, Suffering), toward the ultimate end
of being either full of own own darkness or full of His light...

There is one important way in which the "disco ball" analogy
breaks down: I said above that God's Glory will be reflected IN us...
Actually, His Glory will be reflected THROUGH us: In God's
"disco ball", the Source of the light comes from INSIDE the ball,
not outside it; in that sense, then, we will be more like PRISMS than
mirrors, and the incredible "light show" that we will enjoy and
participate in and celebrate, for all eternity, will be profoundly beautiful...

The process of "Metamorphosis" (Romans 12:2), condensed and
exemplified for us in the single historical, bodily Ressurection
of Jesus from death, is the entire Gospel in a nutshell: YOU have
Identity and Meaning and Purpose and Value precisely because there is
a place on that "disco ball" which you are -- if you CHOOSE -- destined
to occupy; reject that, refuse to die and be raised, and you will end up
reflecting your own darkness, which of course is no reflection at all;
mirrors (and prisms) devoid of any Light are just useless hunks of rock...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Music as a Clue to Meaning

There was a time in my life when I played the piano
(and keyboards) on a fairly regular basis, completely by ear,
taking a lot of time to "sound out" songs based on what
I could hear in my head... Though I don't play much
anymore, I used to be able to sit at the piano and play
music that I personally enjoyed, and that others sometimes
heard and enjoyed along with me...

Someone commented to me once about my playing that
while other people they knew who had taken years of piano
lessons may play all the notes with technical skill, my playing
(they noted) was MUSIC...

I've never forgotten that. And I think this is a very good
metaphor for the Christian World View: The modern Reductionist
wants us to believe that there IS no real Meaning, that all of
Life, throughout the Universe and across all Space and Time,
is merely "notes", Atoms and Energy doing what they do, and
that none of it has any metaphysical significance at all...

Yet they turn right around and call things "beautiful",
things like Music and a Sunset and a child's face, and they
apparently fail to see the profound Contradiction in their
stated Word View and how it plays out in their Experiences:

There was something about the music I played that distinguished
it from merely hitting the proper notes in the proper sequence;
call it "dynamics" or "soul" or whatever, but the mechanics
of my playing seemed to point to something not found in the mere
"notes" themselves, much the same way that a Song on the radio
is modulated by the radio frequency but not found IN
the frequency itself...

Find any tree during this Fall season, with its changing colors
and striking contrasts, and go up to it and pluck some of its leaves
and carve out a piece of its bark, and feel, smell, and taste
these things; you will only experience Atoms, but NOT the Beauty which
those elements point to... Listen to a piece of music that moves you, and
you will NOT be telling your close friends about a particular
arrangement of "notes" but of the rapturous "state" to which
that music carried you...

This, then, is yet another "clue" as to the Meaning of the Universe.
Observations about FACTS cannot themselves BE among the facts observed, and the mind doing the observing must be outside the Facts...
If I am moved by the sound of a beautiful piece of music, there must be
something beyond the notes that is calling to me, and something
more than just my brain matter that senses that call... And it is the chasing after whatever "IT" is that is the stuff of Metaphysics, not the scientific study
of Atoms and Energy... So much for "Science" explaining God away...

Consequently, the world of the Naturalist/Reductionist is stale,
technical, and spectacularly NOT Beautiful. Once again, the
Christian World View has an answer to this mystery, and the answer
is that we are not only transcendant Beings but beings for whom
NO present Beauty is completely and comprehensively satisfying...

If there really ARE such things as Truth, and Beauty, and Goodness,
they must have their grounding and emminence in something beyond
the mere Facts we experience... And since the only thing that can
transcend Matter is MIND, it would seem that a transcendent Mind
must be the Source which gives us even our first inklings of what
these things are and why they are universally impactful..

Christianity refers to this Mind as a PERSON, the God we worship
and to Whom our internal compasses naturally and unflappably point.

Blessed be HE, who Is and Was and Always Shall Be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Two halves of the Whole

One of the primary realizations I had during my years as a
functional Atheist was that that particular World View only
treated half of what might be termed "the Human Condition";
Consider this:

A Christian and an Atheist are the presenters at some local
college, debating, say, the existence of God... The debate is
intellectually stimulating and lively, and the Q&A session with
the students is interesting...

But then the presentations are over, the students file out of
the building, and the two speakers close their briefcases and
exit the stage through a side door and into the alley,
to their cars...

At that moment, they cease to be "speakers" and go back to
being, well, people: They both have worries and concerns,
children and mortgages, papers to write, email to answer,
dogs to feed at home and spouses who will ask how
the conference went...

Of the two, whose World View easily shifts to the more
personal side of his existence? The Atheist must "console"
himself with his belief that the Universe is a cold, massive
expanse of mysterious matter, and that the emergence of
Intelligence -- complete with Joys, Duty, Pleasure and Pain,
Values, Morality, LOVE, etc. -- is nothing more than a cosmic
accident, an against-all-odds mishap of exponential proportions,
all of which comes to a meaningless ENDING at Death without
the slightest bit of significance beyond what he, in ridiculously
fickle wishfulness, chooses to assign to it...

But the Christian is perfectly free to enjoy the the benefits of
Meaning both beyond as well as within the Universe, and to
appeal to a Mind that gives purpose and meaning and significance
to even the weakest Intelligence among us, and whose very
existence provides the Hope that some of us will not only, one day,
enjoy Him forever, but the satisfaction and Joy of beginning to
enjoy Him here, in this life... The same God for the mind is God
for the heart, the infinite First Cause and the personal Father...

Summarily, the Christian World View engages BOTH sides of what
we yearn for as Human Beings -- TRUTH and BEAUTY -- a
unification of Mind and the Heart, while the Atheist must shoulder
a vacuous and bitter Emptiness here which ends in Annihilation;
and so I found that I could not reconcile this nearly universal, innate
yearning -- our instinctive search for Meaning, even Belonging --
with a World View that is predicated on such Randomness,
and then, Final Despair...

There are 2 caveats for Christians, here:

1. We cannot simply focus on the emotional delights of our
World View and live as if the mind does not matter... We are
to always be ready to give a REASON for the Hope
that is within us, and FACT must come before FAITH...

Indeed, Christians who do not have a solid, philosophical
grounding for their Beliefs are missing out on an
enormous body of material that could profoundly deepen
their Faith and impact their lives; the "I don't need
philosophy, I've got my faith" approach is like ignoring
a birthday letter from your father because you just want
the $20 bill he put inside for you... Faith without
REASON is ignorant and incomplete...

2. We must not live as if the present World is of little
consequence; indeed, the foundational Truth of our faith is that
what we do here very MUCH matters to God, a God who invaded
our present Reality to make access to His world a reality for
those of us who believe... We are told that we are LIARS if we
say we love God (the "sweet by-and-by") if we do not love
our neighbor (the "here-and-now")...

Any World View that does not thoroughly appeal to BOTH
the Mind and the Heart is incomplete; and I have not found
any other beyond Christianity that does so, and in such
a way as to make our LOVING GOD, the Lover of our
very Souls, the focal point of ALL of existence...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Holiness or Love?

Ever since radical Islamic fundamentalists destroyed the
World Trade Center towers in 2001, the West - especially America -
has been characterized as "impure" and "immoral" and "infidels" by
terrorist individuals who claim that particular World View...

Indeed, cultural "corruption" in many countries around the world has,
for years, been blamed on Western influences in music, clothing, movies,
dating customs, and other Norms formerly dominated by strict
religious oversight. The extent to which this is true has helped engender
a deep sense of disgust and hatred for (especially) America in the hearts
and minds of those who now judge their societies to be
"steeped in wickedness"...

What about American Christians? There are, in fact, several notable
places in Scripture where believers are commanded to be "holy", and to
keep themselves "unspotted from the World"... There are enough such
passages to convince many Christians that so-called "personal holiness"
is the over-arching theme of the Faith and the primary structure upon
which all else about the Faith is built.

This emphasis on Holiness very easily amounts to a growing list of
what things a Christian "ought" or "ought not" do or say or think, as if
the rejection of some outward activities and the embracing of others
necessarily yields increasing degrees of purity of the soul... This in turn
most often leads to pharisaical segmentation into "Us vs. Them" groups,
with those inside the group condemning the bit of sawdust in other
people's eyes while ignoring the log beams in their own...

"The heart of Man is desperately wicked", the Scriptures tell us; surely
this is equally applicable to both the "saved and separated" Christian
AND to the radical Islamic jihadist who chants "allah akbar"("god is great")
as he kills another American soldier?? Both think they're on "God's side"
and that God approves of their "Us vs. Them" view of the other party...

In contrast to the angry, judgemental, condemning spirit which so often
accompanies a focus on strict religious dogma and on "personal
holiness", the Scriptures -- indeed, the words of Jesus Himself -- make it
abundantly clear that ALL the "Law" hinges on the priority of LOVE,
and that if there is any over-arching "theme" of the Christian faith, it is that
we are to BE LOVING God AND (if our Love for God is genuine) to
BE LOVING those around us.

If we wonder at all, then, what Godly LOVE is all about, 1 Corinthians 13
gives us a detailed description; in that letter, the apostle Paul wrote that
of ALL the things a Christian could focus on, LOVE was the greatest; and
in one of the epistles of John we're told that we are Liars if we say we
love God yet harbor anything less than LOVE in our hearts for those
around us. The fact that we have access to God at all, through Christ, is
(according to John's gospel) because He first loved us; we've been given
Salvation not primarily because God hates sin but because
He LOVES us...

Does God desire purity ("holiness") in believers? Certainly, but it's critical
to ensure that our priorites match the priorities of the broader message
of the Scriptures; and in many of the portions of Scripture which refer to
"holiness", a more careful translation discusses WHOLE-liness, Maturity,
Completeness... "Be Being Made complete..."

Jesus warned the "holy" of His day that they were "whited sepulchres"
(Mat 23:27), "pure" on the outside but "full of uncleanness" on the inside...

There is a danger here for both the Islamic extremist and the
judgemental Christian: To magnify as a major focus what is intended
by God to be an emergent result of LOVE is, to our shame, putting the
cart before the horse...

As we honestly look in our hearts, if we see anything there that would say,
"I may be a Sinner but not as big a Sinner as THEM", then we have the
true Gospel turned inside out...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It's OKAY to Cry

There are two emotional experiences (among others) that
we humans sometimes have, which differentiate us not only
from the animals but also from machines (which today's
computer scientists are trying to make more "life-like"):

Weeping and Laughter.

When was the last time you wept? What was it about?
There is a big difference between being an Emotional person --
someone whose automatic, knee-jerk reaction to most of the
circumstances in their life is primarily an emotional one --
and being someone who regularly and deeply experiences
contextually-appropriate Emotions related to the things they
are thinking about or going through...

As these thoughts are applied to the Gospel, and to World Views
in general, I'll ask a more specific question: When was the last
time your World View moved you so deeply and profoundly
that you found yourself weeping over it? You might respond
that you're not "an emotional person", but, given the distinction
made above, does this then mean that you don't experience
Emotions at all? Or does it mean that your World View doesn't
stir you to any profound level? Perhaps it means that you've
just not thought out your World View to the extent that it
reaches you, emotionally??

From time to time, I have the experience where I'm relaxing
somewhere (often late in the evening, after hockey, as I'm
kicked back with a cold one or two, outside enjoying the
evening air), I'll be listening to some worshipful Christian tunes
on my iPod, and then a sermon from someone who speaks from
a Grace-saturated perspective... The music relaxes my mind
and softens my heart, and then the sermon touches on my
World View, and then one more Christian song to finish it...

I am not at all ashamed to admit that sometimes, after the sermon
and when the first few bars of the last song begin to play,
I do weep, and here's why:

One of the strongest reasons I hold the Christian World View
has to do with its Beauty: It is comprehensive, complete, reasonable,
and also extraordinarily beautiful, and it satisfies both the
Intellectual as well as Emotional sides of my being... Remember
the scene from the movie "Contact", when Jodie Foster's
character sees the beautiful Worlds in deep Space as she flies
toward them in the capsule her team built? She absolutely weeps
over how beautiful they are, saying, "they should've sent a Poet"
(as opposed to a Scientist - herself - on this mission...)...

The Gospel is like that: Once you actually SEE it, in all its Beauty
and Grandeur and Grace, how can anyone who understands it
and has any Emotions at all not be moved to tears by it?

Of course, the challenge is to then let the Gospel infuse every
aspect of my life and accelerate the process of Change in me,
for the glorification of God Himself, the very point of becoming
a Christian in the first place... I'm no good at that part, at all, but
I'm workin' on it...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Christianity and Global Warming

Thanks in part to Al Gore's documentary on climate change
("An Inconvenient Truth", now in theatres nationwide),
there is a renewed and recharged public discussion buzzing
around the country concerning the effects of greenhouse gasses
on the planet, generally referred to as "Global Warming"...

Think what we will about Al Gore, this is a conversation
worth having: Even if the growing mountain of Science
which outlines the impact of Global Warming is wrong,
at the very least, it is in the long-term best interests of
the entire human race to discuss and manage how we are
consuming the Earth's limited resources, and to what degree
we (especially Americans) are damaging the only planet
(that we know of, so far) that can sustain human life...

Having been a part of the flag-waving, pro-Reagan, cold-war,
Religion-is-Politics era (Jerry Falwell and his so-called
"Moral Majority" were prominent in those days), I can attest
to the fact that All-Things-GREEN were treated with quite
a bit of derision in those days: Environmentalists were
characterized as "ex-hippies", "tree-huggers", "Liberals",
"wacko's", and sometimes even "pot-smoking Anarchists"...

But an even broader and far more dangerous Trend has
remained, and deepened, for much of the West since those
days, and perhaps is only now being brought to light:

Globalization (due mostly to the computer revolution of the
90's) has made the planet a very small neighborhood, and
as developing countries have charged full-steam ahead in
building their infrastructures and economies, the sheer
VOLUME of waste products dumped into the oceans and pumped
into the atmosphere has been accelerating. The problem
with this is that the very same water and air being polluted
by those who HAVE is the same water and air needed by the
smaller and poorer countries who HAVE NOT.

Never before, in the history of mankind, has it been easier
to actually SEE the harmful impacts of the HAVEs on the
HAVE NOTs; pick any contemporary Science journal that
treats these issues, and you will find data that seems to
reveal how the COMFORT of some of the world is tied to
the CALAMITY of the rest of the world...

Christians are commanded to "Love Our Neighbor as Ourselves";
so here we are, Americans, the "last stop" in the "spread of
Christianity Westward", educated, comfortable, wealthy,
free, healthy, etc. (comparatively speaking), and to a great
extent (still), Christian... But are these benefits being
enjoyed at the expense of the people of other countries, our

Some Christians think so: Click HERE and begin to understand
the connection a lot of Christians are starting to see between

I'm not sure where this will lead, but I am beginning to look
for ways to "GO GREEN", myself; more on this in future posts...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Geometry, Philosophy, and 2D Christianity

Part of what it means to "father" someone is to encourage
a healthy, pervasive sense of Self-Worth in that individual;
to help them overcome feelings of inadequacy and to
prepare them to move into Life as a well-grounded,
disciplined, emotionally-stable and intellectually mature
Adult who skillfully uses his/her talents and abilities...
Nobody does this perfectly, of course, and many of us
do it badly...

From the early age of 4, beginning in Pre-School for most,
children move through our educational systems and there
experience the lion's share of their development; some kids
"take" to school seemingly naturally, while others struggle
with the numerous academic and social challenges, and for
a wide variety of reasons...

I was in the latter group, mostly doing my best to "survive"
the scholastics in order to get to the more interesting and
fun parts of School: Art, Music, lunch, recess, field trips,
doodling, sports, girls and (in later years) mostly sports
and girls...

The very first glimpse I ever had at what kind of student
I could be came during my Sophomore year in high school
(if I remember right): It was in Dick Swanson's Geometry
class... For some reason, though it was listed as a "math"
class, Geometry just "made sense" to me... It was all about
how this set of formulas were used to determine the size
and shape and volume of those pictures, and there was a
certain element of Drawing to it, etc... For the first time in
my life, I myself understood that I could do well, naturally,
at certain subjects, because (as I would later learn in much
more detail), I was naturally "wired" to be good in that area...
It felt good to see a glint of approval in Mr. Swanson's eyes
when I did well in the class... I think I remember him even
giving me props for my work, in front of classmates...

The "I can be a good student" lesson was followed up years
later by the, "Gee, I have a decent Mind and I can think"
lesson, which I experienced when I minored in Philosophy
at Liberty (one of its more outstanding departments).

It was these two major milestones in my life that helped me
(albeit long-time-coming) to begin to develop a certain sense
of Self-Worth... More lessons have followed in the years since,
having to do with things such as Emotional Strength, and
knowing when to Stand Up and when to Defer to others, etc...
I trust there will be more lessons, in the years ahead, on through
the end of my natural life...

So what does all this have to do with God, and the Faith, and
World Views, the typical subject matter of this Blog??

Just this:
The gradeschool and high school that I went to was a strict,
Fundamentalist Baptist outfit, really just an extension of the
church we went to; this was the kind of place where mantras
such as "the Bible is our only Textbook!" were taken seriously...
And as I have moved out into life, I have, from time to time,
encountered Christians who ONLY want to read the Bible,
who see an absolute CHASM between the Secular and the
Sacred, and for whom the call to so-called "personal holiness"
is the highest pursuit of their faith...

These are the folks who, if they speak to the "unsaved" at all,
do so only to quickly present the "plan of salvation", shove a
tract at them, and move on to their cloistered life with its
4-times-a-week Church activities...

It is my very humble opinion that this 2-dimensional version
of Christianity is nowhere near what God intends for us;
I believe He is profoundly interested in whether or not every
child develops a healthy sense of Self-Worth, and whether or
not that child finds out what he/she is naturally good at, and
whether or not they become emotionally and intellectually
strong individuals... the kind of GOD we worship is One who
is acutely concerned about these and other seemingly "secular"
issues, who approaches us as a Father, who desires a relationship
of Love with us, who knows far better than we do what is best
for us, and whose great Joy is not in what we DO for Him but in
what He can make of us, if we'll let Him...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hockey Season is over

The 2005/2006 season of the NHL is finally over; the players
get about another 90 days or so to rest and heal, and then we
crank it all up again as 30 teams launch new campaigns to win
the Stanley Cup, the most prized trophy in all of pro sports...

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I am a huge fan
of the Dallas STARS, so I'll be keeping an eye on what they do
during the off-season; and I know that Edmonton already has
a "Prospects Camp" scheduled for later this week... I, too, play
hockey on a weekly basis (I have a tournament coming up this
weekend), so my mind is never far from the ice...

I've really enjoyed this post-Lockout season: The Rules changes
have made the game faster, and the new CBA has helped create
an environment where Money is less of a factor in winning...
The "NHL Center Ice" package, and my 42" plasma TV, have
made it possible for me to enjoy hockey just about every night
of the week this year, giving me a much better picture of what
was going on around the League as the season moved along...

So a big THANK YOU to the Owners, the Management, the
staff of each club, and the Players, all of whom continue to show
us fans -- through hard work, sacrifice, determination, and skill --
why Hockey is the greatest sport in the world...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Memorial Day as a kind of "Thanksgiving"

There are a pair of bumper stickers, one of which reads,
"To a Vet: Thank You", and its counterpart, "From a Vet:
You're Welcome." We already have an American holiday
known as "Thanksgiving", but perhaps Memorial Day can be
seen as a "thank you" holiday, too, this time not to God,
per se, but to those who have lived and died in helping all
of us to have all that we have...

Because it's a pretty great thing to be an American: Sure,
there is much in our history to be ashamed of, and things
in the present that need addressing; but if you think not in
terms of politics or philanthropy or "causes" or nationalism,
but in terms of what we HAVE as Americans, it begins to
become clear how good we've got it:

-- Unlike countries such as Congo, we've not had civil war
in more than 140 years
-- Comparatively speaking, our economy is stable
-- We (like many Western nations) are a nation of laws,
not burdened by Theocracies or tied to Royalty
-- Nearly anyone can find a job if they so desire, and many
Americans have their own businesses
-- Every single one of us can go into any public place and
find clean water, a restroom, and electricity
-- Geographically, we live in a climate that is generally
conducive to comfortable living
-- Every single one of us is free to speak and write as we
choose (generally), without fearing our government

The list goes on and on... We take SO MUCH for granted,
every single day... Food, water, transportation systems,
peaceful streets, decent schools, employment, freedom to
worship as we choose (or not at all), breathable air (for the
most part), local, city, state, and national Law Enforcement
organizations, technology and media, sports, entertainment,
colleges and universities by the hundreds, etc. etc. etc...

Sometimes, when my government does or says something
that causes dismay and disappointment, I'm not necessarily
"proud" to be an American, but I am always extremely GLAD
and profoundly thankful to be one...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Oprah as a TV preacher?

There's that darn WORD again!

An article appeared in "USA Today" this past week entitled,
"the divine Miss Winfrey?", talking about her prominence
not just as a talk-show host, but as (in some people's minds)
some kind of modern "guru"...

The key phrasing comes early in the piece:

"Over the past year, Winfrey, 52, has
emerged as a
spiritual leader for the
new millennium, a moral voice
authority for the nation."

MORAL ???! defines "moral" in these two ways, in the
context of this article:

1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or
badness of human action and character
2. Conforming to standards of what is right or just
in behavior; virtuous

The obvious question is this:
What "morality" does Oprah represent? Whose standards
of "goodness" and "badness" does she preach on her show,
in her magazine, books, and public appearances? By what
authority does she promote what is "right" or "just"?

In a pluralistic era in which the idea of any "absolute truth"
is shouted down, can *anyone* be said to be any kind of
"voice of moral authority"?? By whose estimation??

Later in the article, Oprah is compared to Billy Graham;
the comparison could not be more inappropriate:
Reverend Graham has unequivocally preached the authority
of the Bible and the deity of Jesus for nearly 60 years, and
his altar call is the same as that of John the Baptist,
2,000 years ago... to repent of one's sin and accept the
atonement of the cross and the hope of eternal glory.
Graham's message is the simple message of Christianity:
Self-denial, not Self-Realization, is the first step
toward the Truth...

With her "I have my truth, you have your truth" World View,
Oprah Winfrey is certainly no Billy Graham; and her
Relativism disqualifies her as an "authority" in matters
of morality...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Why the STARS lost

Well, it's May 1, 2006, and the STARS are not playing
any more hockey this year; there will be no Stanley Cup
for our beloved Dallas hockey club this season...

Even before the final goal in OT in Game 5, the analysis
along the lines of "what happened??" had already begun.
Clearly, the team that showed up for the Quarterfinals against
Colorado was NOT the team that had finished a record
year with 112 points, second in the West, and a number of
other significant statistics. It was NOT the team that
we STARS fans have been pumped up about since the
middle of October last year. It was not even the team
that the players themselves knew they were...

Even in the last 12 hours, with post-game interviews,
analyses by sports writers, and features on the evening
news, a mound of "breakin' it down" has already grown.
I've watched and read just about all of it, and while it
is all sadly interesting, it all comes down to just one thing:


Coach Tippett was very succinct: "We just didn't get
the job done." While "Desire" doesn't, of course,
guarantee a Win, you cannot win without it. Being an
amateur hockey player myself, I can say first-hand that
when a team comes out on the ice and plays with DESIRE,
you can SEE it: Forwards forecheck hard; players race
to the loose pucks; the physical guys lay hits on the other
team and your skaters find open ice; your grinders dig
it out in the corners and your Defensemen push people
off the puck and keep the slot clear; your shooters find
the open net and your goalie comes up with those
amazing saves... In short, DESIRE causes each player
on the team to play with reckless abandon...

Indeed, Hockey is a TEAM sport, and just like an engine,
the TEAM is supposed to operate in harmony; when any
one part does not do its job, the whole system is thrown
out of whack.

There are (among others) 2 important "sayings" in
hockey: 1) The harder we work, the luckier we get;
and 2) Our best players have to be our best players.
Who's to "blame" for the puzzling flop that the end of
this year turned out to be for Dallas? The whole team.

When a hockey club comes out from the first puck drop
and plays with DESIRE, it's obvious; it's equally obvious
when they do not. While Colorado did enough things right
to win the series, they certainly did NOT go up against
the very best that the Dallas STARS have to offer, at
least, not until it was too late.

So have a great Summer, boys. We'll see you in the Fall.
Thanks for a GREAT year; we will always love our STARS.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Addicted to Oil??

With all the "pain at the pump" these days,
the price of gasoline in this country is on everybody's mind;
Oil has blown past $75 per barrel, and with the instability in
Iran and Venezuela, and the war in Iraq dragging on and on,
it doesn't look as if prices are going to drop any time soon...

Amidst all the rhetoric over this situation comes an interesting
sound byte from George W. Bush himself: He says Americans
are "addicted to Oil", and that that "addiction" has to stop,
because the "security of the American people" and "our way
of life" are at risk, blah blah blah...

I have a real problem with Bush's phrasing of the issue
in this way, for 2 reasons:

1. The Bush family has made a FORTUNE from the
Oil industry (COPY and PASTE these links into your Browser)...

... and some people have speculated that there may in fact
be some very suspicious, under-the-table connections
going on between the Bush family and powerful Middle East
oil barons...

... but if Americans are "addicted to Oil", then doesn't the
fact that the Bush family has profited from that "addiction"
make the Bushes something along the lines of "Dealers"
or "Pushers"??

It's just a tad hypocritical to amass wealth by helping to create
a dependency on a certain substance and then to turn around
and tell your Customers to get over their "addiction" to it...

2. Americans are NOT "addicted" to OIL; they're addicted
to FREEDOM, to personal INDEPENDENCE... I sat at a
stop light the other day and counted all the cars going by
(large and small cars) that had only one person -- the driver,
of course -- in them... I quickly got to well over a hundred
before I stopped counting...

The fact is, the only REAL option for going where and when
and how we choose is the automobile (imagine going to
Sam's Club, or Home Depot, or out to a nice dinner,
on a bicycle); the only REAL option for automobiles
(and by "real" I mean mass-produced enough to be relatively
inexpensive) is the gas-powered engine; and the only
REAL system of distribution (to get a Fuel option
to cars that need it) is the current Gasoline infrastructure...

So in order to live our lives as Freely and as Independently
as we want/need to, gas-powered cars are the only CHOICE
we all have! If America is "addicted" to Oil, it's because
the CAR COMPANIES are not providing Americans with an
affordable, practical ALTERNATIVE... Don't BLAME American
drivers for oil consumption when no viable alternative exists...

A trashed environment, the deaths of thousands of soldiers,
strained relations with countries to the East and South of us,
spiraling gas prices... all so that a relatively few companies
and those connected to them can enjoy tremendous fortunes...

It's a shame.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Mind-Brain Problem

A central point of the Scientific Materialism view
is that the Brain and the Mind are one and the same,
that the Mind is merely the emergent result of the
physical processes going on inside the Brain...

In the "reality" conversation between Morpheus and
Neo, in the first Matrix movie, Morpheus sums up
this view by telling Neo that what we can see or feel
or touch -- what we tend to call "Real" -- is merely
electrical signals being interpreted by our Brains...

"Interpreted..." by whom? The ACT of Interpretation
seems to indicate intention and purposefulness, things
typically associated with a Mind; but the things that
a Mind DOES cannot BE the Mind itself... Thoughts don't
"think" themselves, and eletrical connections in the
Brain don't "interpret" themselves... Something ELSE
must be doing the interpreting... So according to
Morpheus' statement, the Brain is doing one thing
(carrying on these electrical connections) and
something ELSE, the Mind, must be "interpreting" them,
assigning to them Meaning and Value and Context...

The reality of this "something else" seems
inescapable and immediate. Those who say that the
Mind vanishes when the Brain dies have absolutely
no proof that this is the case, and are assuming, a priori,
that the Brain is a necessary condition for the Mind;
it is just as possible that the Mind is "released" when
the Brain is dead, and indeed, many people have reported
what are called "Near Death Experiences" in which
their Minds have indeed seemed to be disconnected from
their clinically dead Brains...

The Scientific Materialist will staunchly refuse to
accept these cases, however, choosing instead to defer
to the "mysteries" of Mind that we "still do not
understand", which, of course, sounds much more like
a FAITH statement than a scientific conclusion;
and his refusal to even consider the possibility of a Mind
which may exist beyond the Brain just may well be a
non-scientific mixture of Fear and Rebellion...

But the real trouble with saying that the Mind and the
Brain are the same, and that the Mind vanishes when
the Brain dies, is that this position reduces all
Human Beings to mere animals; the only "reality" is

We may speculate about the SOURCE of the Perception,
but NOTHING can be said to be "real" beyond the
machinery that is my Brain; not Truth, not Beauty,
not Love, not Justice, not even YOU.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Christianity is Different

The celebration of Easter by Christians around the world
affords us the opportunity to consider, once again, why
Christianity is different from every other "religion"
known to the human race:

Basically, religions fall into two broad categories:
Those that are MAN-centered and those that are GOD-centered.
Like other major religions, Christianity, of course, falls
into the latter; but even in that category, Christianity
is extremely unique:

1. Christianity maintains that the chief end of Man is to
"glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (so say the ancient Creeds)...

2. Christianity asserts that Man has chosen his own will
over the will of God, and in so doing, has separated himself
from the God who made Man...

3. Christianity revolves around the Incarnation, God
invading Time and Space, debasing Himself by taking on
the form of a Man -- Jesus -- in order to clearly manifest
Himself to the human race...

4. ...Indeed, the historical figure Jesus of Nazareth,
according to the records, traveled throughout the region
claiming -- in explicit terms and to the disgust and outrage of
the religious establishment of His time -- to literally
BE God, and history records numerous miracles (i.e., a
stunning command over Nature, including Death) to prove it...

5. "The Dying God", in Jesus, was the first and only instance
known to Man where MYTH became FACT (instead of the other
way around)...

6. In allowing Himself to be killed, Jesus spurned any notions
of a political agenda and instead made it clear that His mission
was to be the sacrificial Lamb of God, taking away the Guilt
of Sin, once and for all...

7. Witnesses tell of the miraculous, bodily resurrection
of Jesus, and (some months later) His incredible Ascension
up into the sky and out of sight...

Every other religion, world view, and philosophy known to
Man wants to convince you either that Man must do something
to "earn" favor with God, OR, scrapping that altogether,
emphasizes "enlightenment" or "balance" or "Nirvana",
renaming Evil as "negative energy" and even going so far
as to say YOU (we ALL) are "god"...

Believe what you like, and take the profound RISK that
you may, in the end, be horribly mistaken; but what you
CANNOT do is maintain that Christianity is simply one
among MANY world religions.

It is, quite simply, in a category all by itself.

So I ask you, on this Easter, where is YOUR God?
Mine left behind a strip of grave clothing, an empty hole
in a Jerusalem hillside, and a charge to believers
to go make Disciples...

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Matrix Generation

If you have not seen "The Matrix", you may not be aware
of how the Future is changing right before our eyes...
In fact, "The Matrix" is actually a trilogy of movies which
(in a nutshell) explores the idea of "Man over Machine",
and in the process, reveals more about what it means
to be Human...

The "Matrix" trilogy is a deeply philosophical treatise,
really, on the Nature of Reality and the Metaphysics
with which such a study is concerned. I have a copy of
the entire 10-CD set of the "Matrix" productions; on
one of the CD's, a number of prominent philosophers,
writers, and thinkers talk for over an hour on the
philosophical and religious implications raised by this
trilogy... The conversation is fascinating, and it
has had a direct impact (along with other things I
have been reading and studying for almost 3 years
now) on Reality, God, Truth, and the Beginning and
End of All Things...

There is no easy way to encapsulate all the material
and themes presented in the "Matrix" trilogy;
You simply MUST see the three movies; open your mind,
ponder what you see and hear, and think deeply
about the basis of everything you say you believe,
indeed, the very makeup of the entity you call YOU...

Those of us -- Christian or non-Christian, religious,
agnostic, or just plain ambivalent -- who fearlessly
embrace that journey are being referred to by many
sources as "The Matrix Generation", as compared to
"The Baby Boomers" or the "X-gen'ers"...

It is WE, and most certainly our KIDS, who will usher
in the next paradigm shift in Humanity, developing
and assimilating such things as molecular
nano-manufacturing, genetic engineering, and
massive robotic automation at the atomic layer.
The science behind these profound changes is
already underway, with products already appearing
on store shelves based on GNR (Genetics,
Nanotechnology, and Robotics) technologies...

Where is GOD in all this?
THAT, my friend, is the question of the millenium.

If you'd like to participate in a CHAT with me
on this subject, go ahead and click the "Comments"
link, below, and let's talk!

Friday, January 20, 2006

AMWAY Christianity

Before I became a Christian, I used to wonder what the point of becoming a Christian was; and with so many World Views out there to choose from, why would any thinking person choose one that seemed to place so many restrictions on them, once converted?  Aside from apologetic arguments, WHY would someone become a Christian?  What does "being a Christian" even mean, anyway?

I still wonder that, or, at least, I wonder what it must look like to someone who watches Christians, and the Church, and what might be termed "popular Christian culture"... 

People "get saved" and then... what? Join a local church? Okay, and then... what? Start "spreading the gospel"? Reading the Bible? Praying? The lines of specificity begin to blur not long after the "praying the sinner's prayer" and getting "baptized" at the local church, or so it would seem...

The most common answer you're likely to hear, though, is surely the call to Evangelism:
Go out and "share the Good News" with others! But.... toward what End??  If Christian faith is, as they say, "more than just 'fire insurance' ", then what IS it?

This evangelistically-minded approach of "signing people up to sign people up to then go out and sign people up" strikes me as resembling one of these "pyramid schemes"... I half-jokingly call it "Amway Christianity", where you are likely to hear, "come to our meetings and learn all about the 'program'...!"  But from that point, what to do -- how to go about this -- is much less clear, and the new Believer is more often than not left to fend for himself as he attempts to discover what the Christian life is all about...

The one constant he is impacted with, though, is the mission to go out and get more people to the meetings, so that they too can be signed up!

Well, that assessment is admittedly somewhat satirical, but the question remains, what is the STUFF of Christianity? What are we all doing here?  There was a Microsoft commercial on TV awhile back, showing a group of office workers gathered silently around the conference room table, and someone finally pipes up and says, "Who called this meeting?"


It seems clear that the broader theme of Scripture regarding the reason to become a Christian - indeed, God's design for each of us - is summed up in Romans 12:1,2...  Here we are told to present ourselves to God for the process of METAMORPHOSIS, quite literally, a complete and total TRANSFORMATION from one kind of being into a wholly different kind of being.

This CHANGE is fundamental, disruptive, and often counter-intuitive (at least at first). And the wording of the original text -- so say the scholars -- conveys the idea of "Present Progressive", so that it really should be read as, "be BEING transformed..." You get the idea that something like Character Change should be what we are all about, daily, as a primary Focus...

As I have thought about this for a number of years (since becoming a Christian), a systematic view of the nature of this Change has emerged; these are the Changes that are supposed to be going on INSIDE us, and coming out of us, and this Change is, itself -- ultimately, displaying the Glory of God -- the POINT of becoming a Christian at all:

This is the bedrock. It is the reason there is a Universe at all; it is the reason why Jesus took on human form and subjected Himself to the profound humiliation of the cross; and it is the ONLY motivation for, and guide for, being a Christian in the first place.  If we are not daily, passionately, profoundly all about Love, real Love toward the real people in our lives, then we are liars to call ourselves Christians.

Love is not a feeling; it is a verb, and Love is far greater than "Faith" and more important than "Hope".  One might think we should be hearing far more discussion among Christians about what Love looks like and how to do it, in practical ways, every single day of our lives...

Being put back into a right relation with God -- which then necessarily forces us to work toward right relations with those around us! -- Forgiveness is the difficult practice of giving up our desire to "put that guy in his place"... Because he, like me, is a sinner and frail and weak...

...because we will not be forgiven, ourselves (of our many and egregious sins) if we do not. A long, hard look in the mirror, and a keen awareness of our OWN depravity, makes Forgiveness SO much easier...

Daily living requires decisions, and wisdom gives those who have it the ability to make sound decisions. A proper respect for God is, we're told, the beginning of wisdom; and we are instructed to search for wisdom as if we were searching for hidden treasures.

We spend so much time in our Bible studies, prayer groups, church activities, home lives, political causes, work, recreation, etc., and amid the bustle, it's critical to ask ourselves, "Is there CHANGE going on inside me?"

--Do I really LOVE God?
--Do I really LOVE the people closest to me, and people in general (ALL people)?
--Have I really forgiven So-and-So for what he/she did/is doing to me?
--Have I ever really been broken in half over my own horrible sins? Did that experience
result in reconciliation, or just self-soothing?
--Do I study the Bible, and supporting Christian literature, in order to acquire
Godly wisdom? Am I a Fool, instead?

So enough with signing people up to sign more people up... The actual "program" of Christianity is mostly about the really TOUGH road of Character Change.  It's going to be a struggle, and painful at times, but in the end, that METAMORPHOSIS is the only reason to become a Christian at all.

Everything else is just Religion.