Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Winter in the Northwest can get me down. I miss the sun. Then it seemed one bad situation after another was happening or being brought to my attention. Police being shot. Children be solved into sex slavery. Immigration rights or lack there of. Parents loosing children. Children loosing parents. Hunger and disease that are preventable putting people into a tailspin. You get the picture. All of that and no sun put me in a sour mood.

But then I remembered Advent. I think it is brilliant that Christmas and the Winter Solstice come at the same time. I may celebrate both. I'm not worried about Christians stealing the holiday away. It makes sense to use it and embrace the very real part of this time of year when the darkness shifts. That is what Christmas is. That is what is happening in the seasons. It all fits together. Jesus is the light that breaks into the darkness.

It can be helpful to remember the solstice is coming in these dark days when cars have their lights on at 3pm. We are looking forward to the shift in light. Longer days. More sun. Bring it on!

It also fills me with hope when I get stuck in a place of thinking of all the bad happening around me, that Christ breaks into that darkness. The Kingdom is breaking in all around me. There is light and there is hope. It doesn't get swallowed up even if seems like it some days.

This Advent Christmas season we should spend less time worry about what holiday season it is and embrace them all as we speak a word of hope for the light that shines in the dark and does is not overcome by it.

Enjoy the Holidays of Light.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I don't think Jesus had to die. It was the obvious outcome of him living, but not what needed to happen. Just don't tell my congregation I think this, or I may have to go into another line of work. Now let me flesh out what I just said.

I have struggled with the concept of Jesus dying for my sins for years. Finally, I have just given up on it making any sense. There are several theories and interpretations of what happened, but none of them really click with me.

There is the ransom idea. Jesus paid a debt to the devil for me. So I belong to the devil and not God, and Jesus paid him off. Not wait, I belong to God, but the devil stole me, and Jesus paid to get me back. I'm getting passed around a lot without my knowledge. I suppose this is fine for a metaphor, but I could never buy it as actual. Why does God need to buy me back with dying anyway. Just kick that devil's butt without making me feel guilty.

Anselm interprets the cross differently than Origen. He says that sin is dishonoring God and we owe God honor. In order to fix the problem we either need to be punished or satisfy God. We deserved to be punished forever because we are just so awful, but God is merciful and decides to satisfy God's own honor by having God's son die instead of us. Perhaps this made sense as an explanation in the time of Anselm, but I think it makes God sound a little crazy. "You have dishonored me and must die, but that would not be merciful. I will kill my son instead to satisfy myself. " Can't God just get over it and move on? And would God really feel satisfied by killing God's son? God, you're freaking me out a little.

Then we move to the moral theory of Abelard which I barely understand. If I understand it correctly, Jesus shows us how much God loves us by dying on the Cross, and then we feel bad for what we have done wrong and repent. This one I can buy into a little more. Jesus was showing us a better way to live and was rejected and killed him. I can even relate this to how I respond to others. I reject that which is life giving more than I should. I feel bad about and try to repent. But where this breaks down for me is the I killed Jesus idea. No I didn't; I wasn't even there. Would I have killed Jesus? Oh, I'm sure I would have been in the crowd shouting for his death. It's an ok metaphor, but not based in reality. My life style helps kill people or at least doesn't do much to save them. I feel bad for them, but not Jesus. I try to change my life to hurt less people. I find Jesus my guide in this not my victim. (This theory makes some pretty cheesy camp skits.)

Then we have your friend and mine Calvin. Calvin talked about God being a just judge. We have sinned and need punishment. Someone has to pay the price for what we did! Really? Why is that again? Doesn't someone pay the price for what I do without Jesus dying? This is just ladling on the guilt. Now I'm depressed.

So, did Jesus have to die? Well, yes and no. Jesus didn't have to die in order to save me, but Jesus had to die because of the way he lived. You can't go against the established system as much as he did and expect to live. What saves me is the hope God gives us through Christ. There is hope is the Kingdom Christ proclaimed and ushered in. There is hope in the Resurrection that sin and death do not get the last word.

This post is getting way too long, so I'm going to stop. I'll end by saying that the event of the Cross is still very important to me personally and theologically even if it doesn't sound like it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My first theological thought

I was thinking about how I would describe my personal theology today walking home from buying too many books at Barnes and Noble, and a thought popped into my head. I had my first theological thought at approximately age 4, and it was probably my best one ever. That isn't meant to sound arrogant or make me sound like a wise little kid. I think it was my best one because it is still my life's struggle and because it was so straight forward. I've used this story before for different reasons, mostly because its easy to reuse stories and not come up with new ones. So if you've heard this before, I apologize for my lack of creativeness.

When I was fourish I saw my first person who could not walk. I don't remember the details of it, but I do remember being shocked that this little girl, who was near my age, couldn't walk. She kinda scared me. I saw her on my way into the sanctuary. I remember being stunned and not sure what to think of her or how to respond. But then, and I remember this very clearly, I thought to myself "But God loves her too, and so should I." God's love seemed really big in that moment. God loved everyone, even little girls who scared me because they couldn't walk.

That's it. "God loves her too, and so should I." Gosh, those hard words to live by. God loves that annoying politician, and so should I. God loves the theologian that drives me crazy, and so should I. God loves (insert whoever scares me or upsets me), and so should I.

Now if I could only figure out how to love all those people that I don't feel very loving towards.

Faith like a child doesn't seem so childish when I think about it this way.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Oh balance, how we love you. We (as in the great "we" of common wisdom) talk about how our lives should be in balance. How we should carefully balance between all the things we love to do and need to do. It is about finding the right balance between what should be doing and taking care of ourselves or find the balance between work and fun or being a parent and having a social life. Oh balance, you drive me crazy.
Instead of balance, how about passion! If we balance all the little things that we "should" be doing, we can loose passion for what we could be doing. The people who really make a difference aren't focused on a little of this and a little of that, like some well balanced meal. They are passionately living out their life's call. Perhaps they don't do all the things they "ought" to do, but who made that list anyway. Perhaps, sit down for this, they even had a dirty house because they weren't in balance and chose to work an extra hour or volunteer an extra hour or play with their kids or whatever it is their calling to do.
Some people may be concerned if we give too much, we won't have enough time for ourselves, enough "me time" to recharge. If what you are doing doesn't give you energy, then maybe you shouldn't be doing it. I'm not saying don't have down time, but if you schedule is full of draining activities that you have to get through so you can have the "me time" you want, then maybe you need to reevaluate your schedule. Or, change your attitude about what you are doing.

Get out of balance and live with passion.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Have to

Recently I decided to give up "have to". Like I have to do the dishes before I go to bed. I have to brush my teeth three times a day. I have to be in a good mood when I see my friends. I'm not giving up a lot. I'm not a big have to person anyway. Well, so I thought. It really changes how I think about things. I don't have to do the dishes, but I am going to do the dished because I like a clean kitchen. I don't have to call someone, but I enjoy hearing what is new. I don't have to do the laundry, but I would prefer to wear clean clothes. Sometimes I prefer to just put on the dirty jeans.
What has happen is finding the joy behind some of the things I thought were "have to's". And finding the freedom to just let things go. Usually the consequence won't be that bad, which is another freeing thought.
Another mind game to play with this is "what if" . What if I try blacksmithing? I may be bad at it. What if I'm bad at it? Then ...the other kids will, probably not that. I am bad at blacksmithing, btw, but after a few frustrating classes I'm really starting to enjoy benind metal. Mine doesn't look at nice, but I'm not doing it to compare myself with other people.
So, in case someone out there is wondering why I'm not talking about theology with this post, I am. If Christ sets us free, then we should live in that freedom and not bind ourselves with new laws and rules and worries. It all comes back around to God.
Claim your freedom! Well, you don't have to, but you might like it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Communion: The welcome table or a meal for insiders

Different churches has different policies for who is allowed to commune. They all have statements about why certain people are allowed at the table and while others aren't. But why should anyone be left out?
If Communion is the "foretaste of the feast to come" then everyone should be invited. Like the parable says invite everyone you see and go out to the streets and bring them in. It is a meal of Grace, undeserved. If Jesus is the host, then why are we putting regulations on it. Aren't we attempting to undo what Jesus was trying to do? Jesus came and shared meals with everyone.
It seems more natural to invite someone to a meal then to have then go through an initiation process (baptism) before they are allowed to eat. This makes communion a meal for insiders.
I've been baptized, and I'm a Christian, but if you want to evaluate my current level of faith before communion there are days I wouldn't be allowed. As I sit in the pew, I'm not sure what I believe or if the word Christian would accurate describe me, but I always take communion because I believe God is bigger than my doubts and the my neighbor has faith for me when mine is lacking.
So, when someone new walks into a church and feels compelled to participate in communion, even if they don't completely understand what it is about, I do not want them to be turned away. God is working in them, and we shouldn't let anything, our rules, misgivings, or tradition, get in the way.
Afterall, Christ is the host of the meal and is present, so let him decided who can come and eat. As far as I can tell, Jesus ate with lots of people and you didn't have to jump through any hoops to be invited.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I don't believe in Santa God

I remember very distinctly when I did believe in Santa. Santa was this amazing person who knew things about me and all children. Santa cared about me. Santa knew my Christmas Eve schedule, so that the presents would be delivered each Christmas Eve while we were at church. Santa knew me well enough to know what presents to bring even though I never wrote a letter.

But then there was Jesus. Jesus seemed like a good man. He told great stories and healed people. For a short time I even believed he told these stories every Sunday at my church. After all, there was a guy up there in a white robe telling stories everyone listened to, he must be Jesus.

I struggled for a while about the difference between Santa and God. Both seemed to know a lot about me and preferred when I acted good, but could overlook some minor bad behavior as long as I was sorry. When my Sunday School teachers asked what the meaning of Christmas was REALLY about I knew the answer was Jesus. (Being me, however, and never wanting to give the answer I just sat there while the other kids said Santa and the teacher go annoyed that none of knew it was Jesus.)

I stopped believing in Santa, finally. And my concept of God has changed from when I was little and confused the two, but this has been a slow process and still is kinda confusing. Santa and God just seemed to become one person. All those years I heard about Santa it really seemed like I was hearing about God. Eventually, the two concepts became one, and old habits tend to die hard.

I'm sure I am not the only one who got confused. Think about these images of God. Old man in the sky watching over us. We pray for things and God delivers. God brings healing to the sick who are prayed for, but only sometimes. This is Santa by another name.

I no longer believe in Santa, and I no longer believe in Santa God.

(You'll have to wait to hear what I believe in.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Proverbs of Ashes

Last summer I read the book Proverbs of Ashes. I'm finally getting around to writing something about it. First, I only recommend this book to those who do not mind reading about abuse. It is graphic and haunting and disgusting. It deals with the pain and suffering of abuse of women, especially those who have been told that it is their cross to bear.

I can only half believe that women are told that being beaten will bring them closer to Jesus and their suffering is a good thing. I say half believe not because I don't believe it happens, but because it is so far from how I relate to Christ and abuse and people that I can't put my head around it and figure out why someone would say it. It is just so far from anything I would think.

The book explores the messages of suffering we give people in the church and how it can be twisted into something so hurtful. So what to do with "take up your cross and follow" and "Jesus suffered and died and we should be like him."

It finally comes down to the question: "Is it life-giving?" Not all suffering is bad suffering. Sometimes suffering does bring life. But abuse doesn't fall in this category because it is not life-giving to either person. When Christ suffered and died, that wasn't the end of the story, there was Easter. Is there and Easter to this Good Friday should be how we look at suffering. If what we are doing brings about life then the suffering may be worth it.

Also, we are called to take up our cross and follow, not to hand out crosses. We can't justify making other people suffer, so that they can experience life later. We empty ourselves, so we can help someone else. We say in those moments that it isn't all about us, and I'm going to put aside my problems and worries and baggage so I can help you. I won't hand you a cross, but I will help you carry your load.

Unrelated Extra: I learned this week that both wood and fire are life-giving. Thanks for the insight.

Good Suffering

It's good to have bad things happen to you because it allows you to experience greater joy and happiness. You need to experience the opposite to really experience something great. Since some people are left out of the suffering loop perhaps I can help them out with this so they won't be left out of feeling the great joys in life. How could I bring about more suffering in the world and thereby bring about more happiness? Hmmm....

Where did this idea even come from?! And why is it so popular? Is it just one more way of trying to explain why bad things happen? I have not found any compelling reason for this line of thinking. It breaks down too easily, and seems like one of those cliches people say when they don't know what to say. It ranks up there with "everything happens for a reason." Really? Everything? What was the reason I had a late lunch today? What is the reason other people didn't have lunch today? (Wait, that is perhaps a different post.)

My experiences in life will be different than yours and will be colored with the lenses of my past, but the level of past pain doesn't necessarily equate with present pleasure and present pain doesn't mean I will have greater joy later. There is no one to one correlation, nor is it onto. (What's onto? It's one to one. What's one to one? It's onto.)

I could go on, but people give me a hard time if these posts get too long.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"I'm yours, save me."

Last Sunday I watched Luther, the newer movie about Martin Luther. The part that has really been sticking with me for the past week is the simple prayer "I'm yours, save me." Well, simple in the fact that it is just 4 words, but there is just so much packed into those words.

I'm yours. Confession that I belong to Christ. Promise that Christ has claimed me. Remembering that I am a child of God.

Save me. Cry for being made whole. Hope for what is to come. Hope that this moment will pass. Promise that Christ is with us in this moment and every moment.

When Luther is tormented this is the prayer he is given and repeats over and over. Last time I blogged that I was afraid of my prayers, and this one is not less scary but it is a prayer of trust. I don't know what my life will look like in the next moment, but I do know who I belong to and Christ has died to save me. So, I'm asking in it to be reminded of this promise at the same time I am remembering that to save me, God will change me.