Closing Time

I’ve been thinking and feeling lately that it’s time to shutter “Cracked Virtue”. I’ve strayed far from my original intentions and lately it’s been more about my take on theology than anything else. That’s not a bad thing, just not what I set out to do here.

Over time I’m realizing that blogging, for me, doesn’t create the conversation I’d like to have on topics like theology or pretty much anything else. Some will take offense at that idea. That’s o.k., it’s just my experience – which is what this really comes down to, doesn’t it?

So CV will stay up for a while with no new material but I’ll let my creative outlet go into some other areas, blogs and projects. I’ll continue verbal blogging (live blogging?) on a weekly basis at Community Church and with just about anyone who will buy me a decaf.

Thanks for stopping by and being part of this, whatever “this” is. Peace.

Posted in blogging, coffee, Life, theology, writing | 5 Comments

Default

Despite everything I know and everything I’ve experienced, I am growing more and more aware that my default setting with God is still to think I can earn or lose his care for me and mine. When I slip into prayer for someone I am close to there is still a sliver of assessment that goes on, some mental bookkeeping, to see if I stand a good chance of getting this one answered.

C.S. Lewis described our situation with God by talking about children borrowing money from their Dad to buy him a present. The end result, “sixpence none the richer”, was a warm way of saying that all we have is from God, comes from God, is already God’s. It’s an illusion he allows us to have when we think we’ve got anything to offer God that didn’t come from him in the first place.

So why do I still default to “making his list, checking it twice…”? I know that that’s not how God relates to us. I know the rain falls on the just and unjust, the sun rises and sets for all of us, gravity isn’t random or based on good behaviour.

Yet.

Still.

I wasn’t raised this way. I didn’t have one of those fathers who base their care, affection or approval on performance. Definitely there were expectations but I lived down to most of those and I never felt unloved. No question we had arguments about what I was or was not capable of and usually my bar was set much lower than my father’s and still I was looked after, given gifts, made to feel safe.

And I have history with God as well. He’s loved me when I’ve been a major ratbag and he’s loved me when I’ve yelled at him. He’s given me good things and never once turned off oxygen in my personal atmosphere. He’s been playful with me, kind, faithful, generous and patient.

Yet. Not every prayer I’ve prayed gets answered as asked. Some have. That’s what confuses me sometimes. Was it the wording? Something I did or didn’t do? That’s where I go to. If he never answered I suppose it would be easier. But to sometimes see miracles or massive coincidences, to hear a quick reply or for things to come together better than asked for should leave me confident or o.k. for the other times. But if I’m honest…and that’s an easier way to live…I have to admit that it leaves me confused at times and wondering if I should’ve done something different.

Default.

Why does God answer your prayers? What’s your explanation for why one person gets better and another person gets worse? What’s your default setting?

Posted in Christianity, Confession, discipleship, faith, God, questions, Reflective, Relationship, religion, theology, truth | 4 Comments

Overheard While Preaching

God knows we’re all just babies with dirty diapers trying to figure out how to change ourselves…

Posted in Christianity, Church, Confession, faith, God, Reflective, theology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Limited Love

There’s an old Hebrew story that goes like this: Father Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man’s feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, “Don’t you worship God?” The old traveler replied, “I worship fire only and reverence no other god.” When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his his tent into the cold night air. When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, “I forced him out because he did not worship you.” God answered, “I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?”

I sometimes wonder if the world, forced out of our tent or never let inside, has discovered the truth of love despite us rather than because of us. Forced by the ambassadors of Love to huddle together outside to stay warm and fend off the wild beasts, have we unintentionally done exactly what we were called to do? And yet, in provoking love in that way, have we missed both the depth and the sweetness of loving the stranger who is really Jesus in disguise?

In my 47 years on the planet I’ve experienced more love in the Church than I ever have from the world. But sadly I’ll confess I’ve also found more hurting and hating here in the Church as well. And please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t make any claims to loving perfectly myself. But I do know that’s what I’m supposed to be about and wonder, “What would happen if we made love our guide and let God sort out the judging himself?”

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Church, Fable, faith, God, love, Meaning, ministry, missional church, Reflective, Relationship, religion, theology, truth | 1 Comment

The Times, they are a changin’

Check out this clip from Family Feud and tell me if this is the official death of something…

Surprised?

Posted in evolution, faith, Life, Lists, Meaning, perception, Reflective, tradition, tv, video | 5 Comments

Pop Quiz

For those Bible readers out there (or those willing to give it a try), I could use your help. We’re starting “Blue Parakeet” tonight and I’ll be giving a pop quiz to kick things off. I’d love to get some feedback from you on the quiz. It’s fairly simple and straightforward. A command or example is given from the New Testament. Check it out, check out the reference if you like and then simply tell me if you believe it was a “permanent command” to follow for all time or a “temporary command” that was germane only for that time and culture in which it was originally given.

Check these out and when you’re done, please answer the last couple questions:

Greet one another with a holy kiss.(Rm. 16:16)
P T
Abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols.(Acts 15:29)
P T
Be immersed in water. (Acts 2:38) Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Church, faith, language, McKnight, Meaning, perception, questions, Reflective, religion, theology, tradition, truth | 21 Comments

Collision

Here on the home front we’ve been reading through a short book in the New Testament called, Matthew. Right now we’re working through the “sermon on the mount” that takes up chapters 5-7. I’m using lots of resources for my study but two main ‘helps’ are “A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew” by Keener and the NIV Application Commentary – Matthew by Wilkins. It’s been great fun for me to dig into the text, bunny trails and all. I’m constantly amazed by the simplicity and beauty of Matthew’s record of Jesus. I’m also amazed by the fact that I studied this in Bible College and still managed to miss most of the point.

At the same time, some days literally, I’m prepping for a group I’m taking through Dr. Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking how you read the Bible. An excellent book, McKnight asks us to ask some very basic questions as we come to the text and to see that the sum of the whole is much greater than its parts. I was educated in a “parts” sort of place (at that time), I had a verse for everything and everything had a verse. I had deconstructed the Bible to a “go to” book for all the rules I needed to live by and wanted others to live by. Everything was very clear. Simple even. Had I stopped asking questions when I left Bible College, had I stopped studying, reading or thinking I would likely still see it that way today. But, unfortunately for me, I didn’t.

Here’s the thing, it can be vertigo inducing for me to read a text I’ve read before, preached before, been taught and been preached to about it before and find out that the text doesn’t really say what I’ve told others it says, others have told me it says or even what I want it to say. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Church, faith, God, hermeneutics, language, McKnight, Meaning, perception, Reflective, religion, story, theology, tradition | 3 Comments

The Indiscriminate Parable

Once upon a time there was a man who was given a very important job by his father. “Love,” his father told him, “and do as you will.” The instructions were simple, perhaps too simple. The man thought for a very long time about the task his father had given him. And then he thought some more.

Finally the man began to do. First he made a list. “Surely,” he said to himself, “my father doesn’t want me to love everyone. Some people don’t deserve to be loved and some don’t want to be loved.” And so the man walked through the world compiling a list of all the people he was sure he did not need to love.

Next the man made another list. “Not only would my father not want me to love some people, he would obviously want me to hate some people. He wouldn’t want me to love people who hated him or who opposed the things he stands for.” And so the man, in his wisdom, made another list. An even longer list than the first. He included people who did bad things, people who hurt other people, people who campaigned against his father and said terrible things about his father. On his list he put people who did things his father said his children wouldn’t do and some people who just made the man feel uncomfortable to be around them.

Finally the man made a third list. “Of course my father wouldn’t want me to include those who can’t appreciate love.” And so he compiled a list that included the mentally ill, the mentally handicapped, the people with Alzheimer’s, people who owned cats and people who watch public broadcasting and reality shows.

And the man was proud of himself.

No one would ever be able to accuse the man of wasting the love his father had given to him. In fact, when he was done his list was surprisingly short. And so he did as his father told him, exactly what his father had told him. And he loved the 3 people on his list well. Very well.

One day his father asked him how the loving was going.

“Father,” he said with a big smile, “You would be so proud of me! If you like I can bring all 3 people in and you can ask them yourself!”

“3 people?” Asked his father. “But there are billions in the world and there must even be hundreds in your own little world. What about everyone else?”

“Well, I know the kind of man you are and I know the kind of people you hate and those who hate you. I knew you wouldn’t want me to love all those people. That would be like betraying you! And there are hateful people out there who don’t deserve love and…”

His father held up his hand to stop him. “Son, I only ever said, ‘Love’. What I meant was ‘Love’. I wanted to make it as clear as possible by saying ‘Love’ that I meant All. I gave you the simple instruction I did so that you’d never be faced with a person and have to wonder if this person was who you were meant to love. If the sunshine can land on them or the rain can fall on them or gravity can hold them, those are the people I want you to love.”

Posted in Christianity, Church, discipleship, faith, God, love, Once upon a time, Reflective | 16 Comments

Why I Despair

Every once in a while I am reminded that there’s a bigger world out there and I’m glad I’m not in it. Here’s a vid clip advertising an upcoming conference that part of me is attracted to it – like when you drive by the scene of an accident and find yourself drawn to look as you pass by. A bigger part of me despairs over stuff like this.

So why am I sharing this with you? Because somewhere your friends are likely going to see this or something very similar and they’ll ask you one day, with concern in their voice, “So, this is what you’re into…?”

So imagine Jesus, 2000 years ago, talking to a crowd of people who are oppressed by a pagan civil authority that denigrates their sacred places and objects, burdens them with rules and taxes and political structures. They’re also plagued by their own leaders who ought to help them up or help them out but who, instead, pile on the pain and the pressure. And Jesus says to this crowd, “I’ve come so that you might have the truth and the truth will make you free*! *And of course by ‘free’ I mean you’ll giggle, grunt, yell “Woooooah!”, jerk around, spin your head and generally act the fool!”

“We were looking for some freedom from oppression or the weight of guilt or the separation we feel from God in his silence!”

“Um, yeah, sorry, don’t have any of that. But who’d like to randomly double over and yell Woooooah!? Fire tunnel starts to my left!”

And the crowds walked away heavy in heart and said to one another, “Verily, we came looking for someone who teaches with authority but we found one who has been out in the heat too long!”

But in America in 2011…

Posted in charismatic, Christianity, Church, faith, God, ministry, religion, theology, truth, video | 10 Comments

So, Who’s Right?

I found myself in an interesting and frustrating conversation last night. I was meeting with a group of friends and had reserved a room via the internet at a particular location. Another friend who works at that location was there and insisted the room I booked had not been booked. He said he saw the webpage of bookings and we weren’t on it. I was frustrated because I’d just checked that same day and had seen that booking and others that I’ve made for other dates. I was uncertain because it’s a fairly sad little engine that is used by the website to book the rooms.

Coming away from that experience though I wasn’t thinking about the webpage or the booking process or the room, I was thinking about who was right.

And here’s the thing, my friend who works there is absolutely confident that he was right. He had seen it with his own eyes. At the same time, I was sure I was right because I’d seen it with my own eyes too. If he’s blogging today, he’s writing about that exchange with complete confidence that I was making my booking up, after all, he knows I didn’t book the room, he saw the page himself earlier that day.

It reminds me of a few weeks ago when my daughter was possibly not going to get exempted from her final exams because she had an assignment that hadn’t been ‘turned in’ via data transfer over an intranet system at her school. She swore she’d turned it in, she promised, she was prepared to make whatever promise necessary to convince us, and her teacher, that she turned in her work. However, her teacher told her that it wasn’t in the folder it was supposed to be in. They were both adamant in their version.

When I first became a Christian I was taught that, when it comes to the Bible, there is a right understanding and wrong understandings. A book we read for one class explained why people don’t all see the Bible alike (like US, it meant). The reasons were basically: sin or stupid. Truthfully, I still have friends in ministry who see it this way. Everything is black and white with the Bible for some, simple to understand, simple to know how to apply it to life. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, bible college, Christianity, Church, denial, faith, Meaning, ministry, perception, reality, theology, truth | 14 Comments