Living in the Mystery

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It has been quite a while since I read The Shack  by Wm. Paul Young. I recall being touched by it when I first read it, and was kind of excited to find out that it was being made into a movie.

I am not going to say that either the movie or the book is the answer to many theological questions. I do believe that it has the power to relate the Trinity to people in a way that they may be able to understand. Quite often we will try to equate the Trinity to different things in our lives that come in threes; such as ice, water, steam. These analogies quite often fall flat. How can we have relationship with ice, water, and steam, or any other analogy that we may make up in our mind.

The personification of the Trinity is wonderful, as God is portrayed as a woman mostly, and a man at one time. Jesus is a relatable loving character, and the Holy Spirit is represented by a woman that seems to radiate God’s love in all she does. Together, the great I Am.

The Shack takes us on a journey of whom God could be. Does it say that this truly is without a doubt who God is? No, it does not. One line in the movie from Papa (God), is “I am who you need me to be right now.” God is present with us in everything, and may just perhaps be with us in the form that we need most at the present time. If we need a little tough love, then God is there to give it. If we need to be loved unconditionally, then God is there with love that overflows.

The question of theodicy (why does God let bad things happen) is discussed, and within a right frame of mind. God does not allow the bad things to happen. We live in a world that is full of sin and evil happens whether we want it to or not. God is present with us and weeping with us the same time that we are.

Forgiveness is a major theme of the movie and book as Mack encounters the evils of his past as well as the evil of his present as he learns to live with the death of his youngest daughter. To forgive is Christian and if more people would learn to do so, the world would be a much better place. If we would not be so quick to react, and more patient to forgive, love would grow and the gospel would be proclaimed.

Be on the lookout for other themes in the movie as well. From resurrection, to baptism, and communion. Who wouldn’t want to sit around the table having a meal with the Trinity?

I believe that it is truly worth the two and a half hours to sit in the theater and watch this incredible movie. Better yet, invite some friends to join you so that you can have a great conversation afterwards.

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Old Scratch: a Review

A Review of Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubter and the Disenchanted by Richard Beck.

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Before I picked up this book, I had never heard of the term Old Scratch when referring to the Devil. Richard Beck, a psychology professor, introduces the term after being reminded of it while leading a Bible study in a prison. The appearance of Satan, or the Devil, or Old Scratch, is alive and well in the prison system. It comes in the realization of the crimes that one has committed. It also comes with the fear of turning your back to some of the fellow inmates. It is also found within yourself.

The thought of a physical devil has always seemed to turn me off. While there is sin and brokenness that persists in our world, I believe that the “devil” is present in that and at times we fall to it. Beck appears to back up this understanding to some point, while not disregarding the fact that some people do truly succumb to demons within their lives and perhaps even need to be exorcised. Becks says, “a satan is more of a relationship than a person. Anything that is facing you in an antagonistic or adversarial way–working against you as an opponent or enemy–is standing before you as ha satan, as an adversary, as a satan” (pg. 8).

His whole thesis is that we need to get to a point where we are at spiritual warfare with those forces within our lives that are satan. While we are surrounded with the negative, God’s presence is also constantly around us, giving us comfort and support. It is true that the world is suffering, and has been from the time of creation, “and in the face of that suffering Jesus went about doing good and healing all those under the power of the devil” (pg 83).

It really comes down to the point that our world in counter-cultural to the one that Jesus brought into view with the Kingdom of God. At this time in our country, this really speaks to our current political state and the division within. “All of this is simply to say that the confession that Jesus is Lord of all turns the world upside down. But much closer to home, that confession turns my world upside down. Idolatry isn’t just about the nation-state. the kingdom of God uproots all the idols of my life, petty and great” (pg. 170).

The spiritual warfare he speaks of must be more than just saying we are going to pray for something. We must be called into action, to live and be with those that are struggling, and realize our own inward struggles. We must be up to “angelic troublemaking,” and provide a resistance to whatever gets in the way of the kingdom of God. Spiritual warfare is living the kingdom of God.

Beck takes the reader on a great history of thoughts on the devil and comes to a conclusion that speaks to the wholeness that God calls us to as God’s children. While his call to action may not be entirely new, it speaks to the greater need for humanity to be in touch with the greater spiritualness that surrounds us in our lives. It is a call to resistance to speaks to us in a bold prophetic way in our current time.

 

Pushing It To The Next Level

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Here we go!!!

A funny thing happened along the way as I look towards turning 40. No, I am not there yet, but it is less than a year away! I started running about 9 years ago, and at that time it was more of just something I thought I would try.

This is after growing up and participating in sports where running was the punishment. I played one year of football when I was in fourth grade and because I did not hit properly the coach made me run around the entire area where we were practicing (which was at least a 1/4 mile). That was enough of me playing football! I played tennis all four years in high school and of course some running was involved but I did not think anything about it. I had friends that played soccer and ran cross country, and I thought that the distances they were running were just insane.

So, here I find myself now. Approaching my 40th birthday with a new goal on my mind. That goal is to complete the Detroit Marathon on October 16; my first full marathon before I turn 40! No, I just did not decide to do this on a whim. Since 2009 I have ran 5 half-marathons and a 25k. So much for the boy that grew up detesting running.

My official training started this morning with an easy 4 mile out and back run that felt pretty good. I am motivated by many things while I look towards race day. They are, not in any particular order:

  1. Setting an awesome example for my children.
  2. Maintaining my health and losing weight (Can I get down to 170 by race day?).
  3. Running the Marathon with my sister (and perhaps beating her). A little sibling rivalry is healthy right?
  4. A sense of accomplishment that I have truly pushed myself to a new level.
  5. And many, many more…

Running for me is a sense to connect with God and is a time of contemplation. For this reason I usually prefer to run by myself. I do listen to podcasts usually while I run and the one that I listened to this morning was true motivation. Runner’s World has just started producing two podcasts that are wonderful and the Human Race  podcast that I listened to this morning feature a conversation with 85 year old Sylvia Wiener, who has completed 75 marathons and thousands of other races after surviving the Holocaust. Stories like this are great motivation as well.

I encourage you to listen to yourself and by chance even to where God may be calling you to push in your life. I know that as I push towards this next goal that I am not alone as Jesus is right along side me and that I can count on all of your support and love. I’ll be sure to keep you updated about my training and other opportunities.

 

 

Ground Control to Major Tom

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Those were some of the first words that I recall hearing while attending U2’s 360° Tour a few years ago. If my memory serves me right it kicked off the wonderful evening that was about to ensue as Bono, The Edge, Adam, and Larry took the stage to commence in an incredible concert.

I have to admit that I have followed David Bowie very little throughout my life. I am of course familiar with some of his top songs. I truly enjoyed the article that Rolling Stone released yesterday following his death. This offering from Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo Music also was incredible and highlights some of Bowie’s best videos. Both of these reminded me of some his great songs as well as some that I were not quite familiar with and will be added to my playlist.

My first impression that I had of David Bowie was from my older brother who included him in the constant mix of music that came from his room. It is the image that leads off this blog that is the first image of Bowie that comes to my mind because it was from an album my brother owned.

Bowie was never afraid to reinvent himself and step beyond expected boundaries. What an example for people that feel as though they are hemmed in. Throughout his music career he was constantly changing his persona and truly was an incredible musician and actor.

There are also parts of the spiritual that resides within much of his music from the very beginning with Space Oddity to the release of his last album just a few days ago, Blackstar. There was something about the title track that moved me when I viewed the video after it was first released. The lyrics speaking to a solitary candle that reminds me of the light that is within us all.

His swan song, Lazarus, is even more moving after his death on Sunday. It definitely could be seen as a prophecy of what was to come. He knew his time was short and the message that he leaves with his listeners is one of hope. The late night shows all touched upon his death last night and I really enjoyed the clip that Trevor Noah shared on the Daily Show in which David Bowie speaks to pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. May you rest in peace David Bowie.

“If you feel safe in the area that you are working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you are just about in the right place to do something exciting.” ~David Bowie

Confirmation Celebration!

What a wonderful day we had this past Sunday. Of course we had the opportunity to sing A Mighty Fortress is Our God, because after all it was Reformation Sunday, but we also had the opportunity to celebrate with six confirmands whom had the opportunity to affirm their faith!

I did not have the chance to lead these six youth through confirmation classes as I have not been in my call for even two months. Through reading their faith statements though, I have a sense for what they have learned and the challenges and growth that have already come to them.

It is my prayer that as they continue in their walk that they strive to learn more about themselves and to discern where God is calling them in their lives.

This is a great fun picture from Sunday afternoon!