7.19.2004

marathon
they shout their protestations
they grimace their disapproval
gnashing teeth, shaking fists, hoisting placards,
a frenzied dance of anger
the give and take of hate

cameras catch their faces
recorders preserve their prophecies
and play them back for millions upon millions
who hear the voice of God

but when I listen,
I do not hear your voice among them
and when you speak
they are
out-danced,
out-paced,
out-distanced
by
Grace

7.14.2004


Micah (13) and Asher (16) on a canoe trip with me in northern Wisconsin, just a couple of weeks ago.
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I heard from both of my boys this morning. They are in Panama on a short term missions trip with Teen Mania. They will be gone for a whole month. This is, amazingly, the longest I will have been apart from any of my children.

The other day Kim and I were looking through a CD of pictures of our family that had been scanned into a computer and digitized. There must have been a few hundred of them. What a trip to see "my boys" (or "mine boys" as my daughter used to refer to them) from birth on up.

In some ways I miss some of those days. It sounds so trite, but it is true -- the time flew. I cannot believe my firstborn is 16 years old. In two years Kim and I will begin to send them, one by one, out of the house. It saddens me that I don't have more time with them, really.

On the other hand, while I miss those early days and the cuteness of toddlers and the blossoming of young personalities, I am thrilled to see who they are becoming, now, too. Asher and Micah are two totally different people. And I couldn't be more thankful for who they are turning out to be. They both have a passion for Christ that far exceeds mine or that of their mother's at their ages. Where will they go? What will they do? How will God work in their lives?

Given that the first two decades of this little family have flown by, I think I will take the slow road in finding out what the future holds. I think, hope and pray that we move into the adult lives of my three wonderful children at about the pace of that canoe trip we took a couple of weeks ago. I hope, at the end of the day, we'll look back and realize that, although it felt as if we were moving along rather quickly, we've still got a ways to go.

7.04.2004

This morning, July 4th, we will worship God and we will do so without a single patriotic song. I feel strongly about this and my worship people have backed me up. But some will no doubt be upset. I discovered the following post on Brad Boydston's blog that stirred me and re-affirmed my conviction on this. I quote him at length, with his permission. Thanks, Brad...

It happens every year -- more so in the years when Independence Day falls close to a Sunday -- or even on Sunday, as is the case this year. Someone gets upset because we don't sing patriotic songs during worship. It's seen as a slap in the face of America -- an insult. Some people, I'm sure, think that I'm not very patriotic.

And I try to reassure people that such isn't at all the case. I love America. We as a church appreciate the liberties that we enjoy. We are supportive of our nation and pray weekly for those in public office -- especially the president. We pray for the safety of soldiers and sailors.

However, the problem with patriotic music is that it is -- well, patriotic. By definition it is about country and singing the praises of this great place where we live. In contrast Christian worship by definition is about God and singing the praises of the Creator and Redeemer. It's not that we dislike patriotic music. It's just that it's not appropriate for what we're doing when we gather to worship because it's not really about God. It's about country. And that shifts the focus from where it needs to be during those few short minutes that we give to collective worship.

Even the patriotic music which actually mentions God isn't really about God. It's about country and invokes the name of God to exalt country.

God Bless America.
Land that I love
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America
My home sweet home.


I'm still trying to figure out when some churches started to use patriotic music during their worship. It has got to be a fairly recent phenomena (the last 100 years?). And as far as I can tell it's only an American thing. Canadians won't sing "O, Canada" this Sunday (BTW, happy Canada Day, today). The Brits don't ever replace "O Worship the King" with "God Save the Queen."

The United States is a great place. Patriotism is generally a good thing. And patriotic songs should be sung. But not when we've come together for the purpose of honoring God.

7.03.2004


This was the most surprising sight we encountered on vacation. It looked like the end of the world, but then we saw that they were charging admission.
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My favorite sign while I was on vacation. Wouldn't you like to know what Judy looks like?
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sacraments on vacation

sacred, familiar, strange,
   welcomed more than ever, it seems
the cup lifted high
the loaf broken
   both blessed
gifts of grace offered up,
but they are not offered by my hands
today i receive, thanks be to God

two pews up
a mother with children
   two of the least push and shove one another
she thrusts herself in between them
   they part momentarily
   but resume their wrestling
   jockeying for position
      amid the Great Thanksgiving
they are oblivious to the grace being offered
they push and shove
their mother pushes back and splits them
they shove again
   and again
they whine
   oblivious to the gift
      and the One in whose presence they wrestle

they do not distract me, though
i am amused at these children
sympathetic to their mother
   and then, revelation
      i am one of these children, perhaps both
         wrestling, pushing, shoving, jockeying
            refusing to be still, to recieve, to enjoy, to unwrap,
            so many times

sometimes i am oblivious to the Present One
   to the gift
      to the grace
         to the giver

but not today

today i am on vacation
and the sacraments are not

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Slanty Houses (06.28.04)

The unit in which we are staying seems to slant a bit. Every door in the place, when left ajar, will swing open of its own accord. When the front door is closed, if not latched properly, it will swing open with a slow, rising creak. It seems to be caused by the wind, initially. And then the forces of gravity and the nature of the slant take hold. This is sometimes irritating, of course.

The first night here, as we all sat in the family room area, the door gently swung open. It looked as if we were receiving an unseen guest, so I announced to the entire family that Jesus had arrived and we all jokingly welcomed him. We did this every time the door swung open that night and in the days following. It was our running gag. If the door swung open one of us would light-heartedly say, "Come on in, Jesus" or "Jesus is here again."

I don't know if it's likely that an entire housing unit can sit on a slant, if it's just a matter that the house was not built square, or (more likely) if over the years it has shifted and settled into a comfortable slant, and all those who have stayed here have simply accepted this as reality. All I know is that Jesus seems to walk into our family room quite regularly.

My inner house is on a slant too. Whether it is the foundation itself or simply a lack of "squareness", I don't know. I do know that sometimes I like to push the door tightly closed and make sure it latches, so that it will not swing open. I turn the dead bolt. I may even place a chair in front of the door. By doing this, of course, I deny my slantiness. I pretend everything is square and deny the nature of the way my house sits and the imperfection of the structure. And, perhaps, in some way, I also deny Jesus the hospitality he deserves.

It is on vacation when I tend to see my slantiness more realistically, however. I see controlling behavior, anger, pride and a lack of patience, for starters. I also tend to have time to reflect on these things (once I come to grips with vacation as an opportunity for spiritual growth, not just self-indulgence, that is).

The other day, as we were arriving in town, I was driving the van. We looked at the printed directions, thought we understood them and then headed ten miles down highway 70 to look for Range Line Road. We never found it. So, we realized, we must have misunderstood the directions. Range Line Rd. must be on the other side of town, twenty miles in the other direction. Twenty-five minutes later, however, we discovered that we were wrong again. We turned around (again) on highway 70 and headed east once more. This time we went still further and never found Range Line Road. I was furious. I was silly angry. I was so angry I was shaking. What should have taken us fifteen minutes had now turned into well over an hour. I couldn't cuss because the kids were in the car, so all I did was rant and rave to no one in particular about the stupid instructions, etc. I even threw my hat and sunglasses and tore up the directions we had been provided. I had no patience. I was out of control.

Later, my family informed me that my anger was somewhat humorous and that on more than one occasion they had to turn their heads or cover their mouths to keep from laughing at me. I live in a very slanted house and I see this more readily on vacation, when things should be a bit easier, but are not.

Slanted houses need the wind of the Holy Spirit to nudge the front doors open, I think. Slanted houses need Jesus to come in any old time he wants. And those who live in these houses need to make him welcome when he comes. I live in a slanted house and today I long to hear the slow, familiar, once irritating creak of the front door, swinging open. Come on in, Jesus. Make yourself at home.

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my favorite pool rule:
"Spitting, spouting of water, blowing the nose or discharging of bodily wastes into the pool is strictly prohibited."