Out with the old, in with the new

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Happy New Year!!

To be honest while I feel 2006 was one of those years that will stick with me, and I’ll remember how crucial it was in my life, I am happy to have it over and done with.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I’m very much looking forward to 2007, and am excited to see what it brings.

Begone 2006! Begone!

I bid you welcome 2007.

Christmas Treats

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For this Christmas my ice cream making was exercised in two new ways.

Vanilla Bean (yes, with vanilla beans). Well, I call it more Christmas ice cream, because of the dashes of nutmeg and cinnamon I added that definitely brought out some Christmas spirit:

Vanilla bean

And then there’s the Peppermint (with bits of candy cane mixed in):

peppermint

Not shown — I just happened to get a waffle cone maker as a gift, and so these scoops were dished out into wonderful vanilla flavored cones.

mmmm…. good!

Found it

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I’ve found some old journals, from my college and pre-college days. These aren’t really personal, as much as spiritual explorations. Honestly and earnestly said, to be sure, just tending towards the religious rather than the daily wanderings through my life.

One religious moment has long stuck in my mind, and while I could place the year, I didn’t know the exact time. It was when I came across Philippians 1:21 and couldn’t let go of it. It stuck out to me and grabbed my brain.

Sometime that day, my junior year at Wheaton, January 19, 1996 I wrote:

To live is Christ, to die is gain. I understand that second part. Heaven. But what does the first mean? It seems grammatically wrong, yet… to live is Christ. All that life is, does, or desires is Christ. Life is not fun, sad, or anything but Christ. What a statement. I know that this is a statement which I cannot call my own. Yet, I think that it is what Christ wants of me. I pray that I might someday be able to understand this.

Now, a little more than a decade later, I think I understand this verse. I’m not quite at the point I can call it my own, but I’m closer.

I certainly had no idea what this prayer meant at the time, for my time.

My suggestion? Get a commentary rather than praying such a prayer. 🙂

I know, I know

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You don’t have to say it. Frankly, I’ve been boring.

Yeah.

No real reason, though it’s likely the lack of consistent input is a reflection of my mental state. Just been reading my Moltmann and wandering my way through the holidays, with little sparking my interest enough to note.

Hopefully this will change soon. After the new year I’ll be starting one and maybe two classes, both stretching in different aspects of my spiritual life, and so both pushing me to engage plenty of material, launching me out of the doldrums.

Hold on until then, and see what happens.

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Merry Christmas!

On this Christmas Day

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An article I wrote this past month, shared here for the Holiday. Have a very Merry Christmas!

On This Day

A little more than two thousand years ago a baby was born. We throw parties in his honor. We give gifts. We feast. We sing. We make merry, yearning for that spirit of his birthday to infuse our souls; if only for a season, if only for a day.

We celebrate this particular birth because of what this birth means to this world. We honor this baby for the miracle of being born, for the life he lived, for the death he suffered and for being reborn from the dead to embrace life eternally. This rebirth from the dead gives us the chance to be reborn as well, moving from death to life and from darkness to hope.

On December 25 we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

The birth of this man is the glory we celebrate on Christmas. Pageants, musicals, songs, decorations, gatherings of family from across the nation, all because this man was born.

What if he had not been born? Where would we be today?

How would we live? How would we worship?

We would be without a way to encounter God directly. We would be without an ever present hope and without the peace of trusting God who works. Instead of being free, we would all be slaves. Where would we look for our salvation? To gods of stone and wood? To patterns of philosophy? To rules and laws? To ourselves and our own abilities to conquer this world?

Without the birth of Jesus we would be caught in a web of insecurity, never knowing how the vagaries of the gods might move in our lives. We would be looking for something, for anything, to bring us some security and hope and light.

Where would we look?

What if the Holy Spirit waited and didn’t come upon a young woman until this year?

If Jesus was born today I wouldn’t even notice. He wouldn’t be born anywhere I was looking.

The details of his birth likely wouldn’t be too much different. He would be born to Jewish parents, as the delay of two thousand years wouldn’t change the Old Testament prophecies. He’d likely even be born in the Middle East, where the strife and terror and chaos of our current era is shockingly similar to the strife and terror and chaos then. Instead of traveling because of a census, Joseph and Mary might make an untimely trip because of a UN mandate or an agreement with Lebanon to close a northern Kibbutz and move the families back within the settled boundaries of Israel.

I would be looking at powerful leaders and charismatic prophets. I would keep my eyes on New York or London or Beijing. I would be following the lives of great people and care about the children they have. In my library would be books by men and women detailing how to interpret the symbols of the age.

My eyes would be on the things that clearly mattered. An obscure baby, born to an obscure Jewish family, during a this time of great chaos and uncertainty, wouldn’t appear on my radar. Who would think of looking there? Except for the wise men, of course.

I would be obsessed with the looking I imagine, desperate to see the hand of God in the midst of the world’s misery. In the book of Exodus he brought plagues and freedom. In the books that followed he brought great victories to his chosen people and established a great earthly kingdom for them. Wars and rumors of wars, along with miraculous intervention in these wars would be a sign. The Holy Spirit is filled with power so I would look for that power to be manifested in great events that would obviously change my life and bring real order to this present world.

If Jesus was born today I wouldn’t celebrate. I wouldn’t give presents. I wouldn’t sing songs or take time off from work. I would stay obsessed with the chaos and keep my eye on those people I knew mattered to this world

No doubt about it, if Jesus was born today I wouldn’t even notice.

Thank God the Holy Spirit came upon Mary two thousand years ago. Now, after many centuries I build my trust on the faith of millions of others who came before me. I build my trust on those who wrote about the obscure birth in an out of the way Israeli town. I celebrate not because of how Jesus was born but because I know the end of the story. The Holy Spirit worked long ago, so now I know where to look on this Christmas day.

And yet…

The Holy Spirit still works. In much the same way. Jesus is born on this day. No, he is not making another appearance as a defenseless baby destined to be baptized by the Baptist and die on the cross. Still, he is born on this day. This is the ever active work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who came upon Mary comes upon specific men and certain women all over the world. When the Holy Spirit descends, Christ makes an appearance in all manner of circumstances.

I would not have noticed when Jesus was born two thousand years ago, and I certainly would not notice if he was today born to a virgin. However, because of Christmas I have been given an opportunity to believe and look with new eyes. I have been called to notice the present work of Christ’s presence in this world.

I’m going to put aside my magazines, shut off the news, ignore the popular and the great. I’m going to look at the obscure and the troubled and those who are persecuted. I’m going to look around the room at folks who seem entirely average and unimpressive. The Spirit works through such people to bring Christ in this world. In recognizing, honoring, and supporting this work I too can become a wise man.

So, on this Christmas I celebrate the birth of Christ two thousand years ago. I also celebrate the birth of Christ today, a constant birth that changes the world through outlandish people every day until his return. For in all those the Spirit fills, Christ is indeed born.

Will I notice?

passages

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It’s 4:22 PST. The sun is now directly over the tropic of Capricorn.

Have a very merry Winter.

times change

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Pannenberg’s dispute with Bultmann centers on revelation and its relationship to history. To Bultmann, faith and reason are totally separate, as are God’s history and man’s; the divine will is known only through the kerygma (proclamation) —God’s word as contained in Scripture, which is understandable only through faith. Pannenberg argues that Bultmann preaches a kind of “Biblical authoritarianism” of God’s word and, in effect, pushes Christian faith outside the boundaries of history. On the contrary, Pannenberg insists, God is not only the ground of all existence, but all of history is a revelation of his existence. A notable example of this is the history of ancient Israel, as recorded in the Bible. “It was the Jews who first discovered divine reality within the changes of history,” contends Pannenberg. “For this reason they, unlike other peoples, did not try to stem themselves against the new, but continued to see divine manifestations within the changes of history itself.”

Guess the source.

No, it’s not a dusty theological text. Nor is it a journal article. Nor even notes from a lecture.

It is from a religion section.

Time magazine’s religion section, in 1967.

On the back of my Theology of Hope book, first published in 1964. there’s a blurb from Newsweek commending Moltmann’s work.

It is amazing to me how much the coverage of religion has regressed from assessing some of the top theologians in the world to neato articles on the Gospel of Judas (with glossy photos!) and constant re-examinations of managing editor’s personal faith quests, or loss thereof.

Winter gallery

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I kept saying to myself, “I should post that” with each picture I looked at. So, rather than filling this page with assorted snowy pictures, I figured I’ll just add a gallery.

So, for winter scenes wander on over to the brand new Dualravens Winter Gallery.

snow day

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It’s a rare day that the snow really sticks to the ground after a storm, and even more rare it does so while the sun is out and the sky is blue. So, I took advantage and wandered around with my camera, taking a good many pictures that might justify a new gallery.

Of course, there’s a theme going on at this site, and I’m under obligation to post this picture now:

raven