Friday, June 04, 2004

Cynicism about the church

One of the advantages of being new to blogging is that I get to go out and find the juicy posts that others have probably already read. Here's one I particularly enjoyed by the Real Live Preacher.

It made me remember an eye-opening experience of my own... I recall talking to a pastor, a young, energetic pastor who is perhaps to date the best I have ever known. He said he had recently been "taken down a notch" by the district superintendent because he (the pastor) suggested that it was time to go through and "clean up" his church's rolls. You know, delete the names of people who had moved away, left the church, died. "No, no..." he was told, "...it's all about numbers." So they cook the books to maintain "numbers."

I left that conversation wondering whether anyone on the planet really knows with any degree of accuracy the number of active church members. The hierarchy is so caught up in the numbers game-- what a strange place to focus one's energy.

Is it any wonder that people outside of Christianity are cynical? Organized religion can create some real PR problems for the faith.

In the immortal words of Monte Python...

"And now for something completely different..."

We all need a bit of humor. All the better if it requires a bit of current events knowledge. :) These are really funny parodies of Diebold ads for voter machines.

Thanks to slouching toward urschleim, via bloggedy blog.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Powerful spiritual experiences...

Have you had power spiritual experiences? I'm not one to have them often, but I've had one recently. What do you do with that? In my case, I wanted to share it with someone. It occurred to me that the last place I really felt I could do that was my church. We (the church I belong to) are too caught up in our individualized weekly "worship experiences" to actually take the time to listen to one another, or (God forbid) share life-changing experiences with each other.

That strikes me as perhaps the most bizarre thing in the world. What does it mean to have a church where people do not share their spirituality? I fault myself as much as the church... and I was immediately aware that others had likely had similar experiences in my presence in the church.

Why are Gog-blogs a good thing? Because I would IMMEDIATELY discuss such experiences in this format. The difference? There is something dysfunctional about the way we relate to one another in "real churches," at least in the churches I've experienced. Something that drives us to carefully filter the face we present to others, the conversations we have, the information we share... the kind of baring of one's soul and true sharing that could take place simply doesn't. But this kind of sharing is commonplace in God-blogs. Thank God.

I'm ecstatic I've discovered this medium.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

In need of sleep

The world looks a lot less friendly when I am seriously short on sleep... and I suspect I am less friendly in return. I'm not sure there is a solution to that one, other than getting more sleep.

And it tooks YEARS for me to arrive at those self-evident conclusions. :)

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Taking the time...

Two things that made me think about time and priorities today...

1) I've been working on my ability to quietly discuss my faith with others. Not a strong suit-- this blog is a bit of an experiment on that score. At any rate, today I ran into a woman whose child "C" is in my son's class at school. Apparently C came to school recently and told his class that his Dad has cancer. Yikes.

Well, for reasons not worth going into, I'd had a bit of a run-in with C's dad last year. No big deal, but our last conversation wasn't pleasant. Somehow the word "cancer" made me rethink that petty difference of opinion. And it made me pray, both for him and his family, and for help with my pettiness. Life is indeed too short for that sort of thing.

So when I saw this guy's wife today, I told her that I'd been praying for her husband. I don't think I've ever told someone that face-to-face. Her face lit up, and she spent the next 15 minutes or so sharing her family's ordeal with me. I'm SO glad I took the time to say those simple words, it clearly made a difference. It was clear to me that she needed someone to talk to about the issues she's dealing with. And it felt really good to be able to share my faith with someone.

2) I'm reading Bene Diction Blogs On this afternoon, and my first thought is "Where does Bene get the time to gather this information?" I'm so thankful that others have taken the time to put together blogs like this... it is such a great service to the rest of us.

Concern for others means taking an active interest in their lives, keeping up with world events, making one's voice heard. But it can be a bit overwhelming keeping up with the sheer volume of information coming down the pike. Thanks for what you do, Bene!

In praise of eBibles

I'm a Palm user (well, actually a Sony Clie user). If you too have a PDA, or personal digital assistant, you might consider eBible software for it. I'm using BibleReader software by Olive Tree. I have two versions loaded, Today's English Version and NRSV. I tend to read the TEV, but it is nice to be able to bring up the same verse in the NRSV with the click of a button. What is more, I constantly use the searching feature to locate verses. It is also far more easy to navigate the Bible... I can find chapter and verse quicker than most people can find the right book. :)

And hey, you never know where you'll end up reading your Bible. Think long waits in the doctor's office. Think long waits for trains to pass...

Monday, May 31, 2004

What is THE message?

I'm not a theologian (and I don't even play one on t.v.). But if I had to choose two main themes in the New Testament, they'd be 1) follow Jesus, He is the one true way, and 2) love others. Those roughly correspond to the two Great Commandments, right? There aren't many of them, just TWO. And they aren't Great Suggestions, they are COMMANDMENTS.

Love, love, love.

Love our family and friends, of course. But Jesus clearly said that that is NOT what He had in mind (even the tax collectors do that, He said).

Love who? Our enemies... the least of His followers... I'm guessing He meant everyone. And He meant all that goes with truly loving someone. That means caring for them spiritually and physically, meeting their needs. That means practicing forgiveness (ouch). And Christ demonstrated love for those who seemed hardest to love, didn't He? Sinners, people with physical afflictions, societal outcasts...

So who seems hardest for ME to love? Oh boy, let me count the ways. The store clerk who doesn't know the answer to my question. The person who took my order at the fast food restaurant and put the wrong food in the bag. The person who almost hits me in traffic because they don't use their signals. Unfortunately, the list is really endless, and seems to grow by the hour.

It is a journey. One step at a time. But I keep telling myself, there are TWO Great Commandments. Keep them both. Being a Christian doesn't make me perfect, but it means that I have taken on a solemn vow to give it all I've got, to keep those commandments.

Of course, we all stumble along the way, but then there's the corollary to message #1: Christ died so that our sins would be forgiven. So while I have to work like crazy to follow those two commandments, I know that in the end He didn't really expect us all to be perfect. And that's o.k. "Love each other, and forgive them. I'll forgive you."

In the beginning...

Well, here it is... my first dive into blogdom. I have gained a great deal by "lurking" and reading what others have written, so I'll give it a shot.