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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

“Do not be conformed to this world.”
– Paul to the Romans

“That I may know him, and the power of his ressurection, and the fellowship of his suffering, that I may be conformed to his death.”
– Paul to the Phillipians

What does it mean to be conformed to Christ, to be conformed to his death rather than being conformed to the world? If I am living– really living– as I ought to be living, as someone who has died to self and lives to Christ, who is transformed instead of conformed, who knows nothing but Christ and him crucified… then the myriad “I’m a Christian…” conversations I’ve been having in the last week are stating the overly-obvious. And if it’s not obvious, then I’m missing it. Again.

Why is it so easy to be conformed to the world, and such a challenge to let go and let myself be conformed to the image of Christ? Why, even knowing the greatness of the riches of God, is it such a continual struggle to let go of myself, my dreams, my way of doing things? Why do I hold so tightly to the things of this life that I know are of no lasting value, instead of reaching out to the One who is greater than this life?

And of course there’s a part of me that wishes it were just that easy, that just doesn’t understand why I struggle so much with what should be simple, obvious choices to die to self and conform to the will of God… why I have such a hard time making the leap of faith that faith demands. That the commitment and surrender and death to self were a one time deal instead of a day by day and moment by moment choice to make. And then, of course, I have to laugh at myself for thinking that following the Crucified should be easy. And of course it’s not… self doesn’t die easily or quietly. No, it begs and pleads for its life… making reasoned arguments and emotional ones, and arguing against being made a fool for Christ. And I listen. Far, far too often I listen and become Judas, betraying my Lord for own desires. But my desire is to be transformed and conformed, not to this world, but to the suffering of Christ. “I do not think that I have yet laid hold of it, but this one thing I do: forgetting everything that is past and stretching toward what lies ahead with my eyes fixed on the goal I push on to secure the prize of God’s heavenward call in Christ Jesus….” Thank God for grace.

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In the beginning, God created… and God said “Let there be light. And there was light.”

I think sometimes we forget how vital and life-sustaining light is. I know I do. Our society is one in which light is readily available… my bedroom, for example, contains an overhead light (4 lightbulbs), 4 lamps, and at least 2 flashlights at all times. I can fill the room with light without any appreciable effort on my part… and I have a tendency to take for granted those things that don’t require much thought or effort. Thanks to Oklahoma’s recent catastrophic ice storm, I spent 9 days without power over the last week and a half. No light, save the inconsequential flashlights and later the floodlights of police helicopters patroling for looters. No light in my house, no light on my street, and no light in my city. My day began to revolve around the light… more or less ending when the light ended. The world was cold and dark, and I was anxious for the sun to rise in the morning. And as I drove from house to house checking on the families I work with, I began to appreciate the light. Over those 9 days, I began to read the Biblical passages on light in a new way.

And God said, “Let there be light. And there was light.”

Have you ever thought about how amazing that is? What the light must have been like, cutting through the primordial darkness? What the world’s first glimpse of light looked like? And then Jesus, being the light, shining in the darkness and the darkness not understanding. Christians, being lights.

 In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Through him, all things were created, and without him nothing was made which has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

There is a starkness in the difference between light and dark. Instantly noticable. Unmistakable. There is no confusing the two. In Christ, there is life… a life that is light to the world. As we enter winter, with short dark days and cold nights, let us remember our source of light and life.

During the power outage, many of those who regained power before their friends, neighbors, or family stepped out to share: a warm bed, a warm meal, or even an extension cord. The message, from many, was “I have light. You can come here.” In the most basic sense, that’s what we’re called to do as followers of the light… to share the light we have so others can benefit from it. Love the light. Share the light. Be the light.

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Now behold, the Lord was passing by, and a great and mighty wind was rendin the mountain and shattering the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire the sound of a gentle whisper. Now as soon as Elijah perceived it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him, saying “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 I’ve been living with the possibility of silence for three years now, but have only really experienced it in the last few months as my life slowed down– I slowed down– enough to hear it. Silence, true silence, has an engulfing presence of its own that must be attended to in order to be felt. I have finally begun attending to it, and experiencing the rather unique presence silence has. Silence breaks down barriers and– given enough time unchecked– forces self-examination and a unique honesty within the self. Finding silence is a rarity in our time… a few moments of silence are more likely to inspire music or tv or a phone call than contemplation… and I’m finding it to be precious.  I’m finding myself reading about Carthusians and Trappists and studying contemplation. I could do with more silence.

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I was organizing my yarn stash tonight. I have way, way too much yarn… not only my yarns but a friend’s mother’s stash as well, one of the neatest gifts I’ve been given in a long time. Going through her stash is always neat… and I always find myself wondering what project each yarn was inteded for, and where they came from. Several are labeled: “Hawaii” or “Special Silk” or have foreign-language labels. These had to be the special yarns. I think every knitter has special yarns. The extra-expensive or special-trip purchases that we’re saving for some undefined “later.” Only this yarn never got its later, and now it’s passed on to me.

 Why do we save our special things for later? I do this with all sorts of things, not just yarns. I have special candles, special clothes, special shoes even… special tableclothes, special dishes…. all the things I really like, but rarely use. Why? Life is short. Why don’t we use our favorite things, our special things, now? Why don’t we enjoy what we have now instead of waiting, thinking some other day will be better for enjoying? What’s wrong with today?

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Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.                      – C. S. Lewis

A friend of mine and his wife lost their baby this week. He was born early, lived all of 12 hours, spent several of those in surgery, and is gone. And now they’re left to cope with the loss, back up the dreams, and find some way to carry on. They are believers, and in the end that will help them find meaning and purpose in the loss, and provide them with a community to suffer with them. But faith does not smooth over the hard realities of life, and all the faith in the world doesn’t change grief, for all that it changes how we interact with grief. That is, of course, the thing that so many people don’t get. Faith doesn’t make their pain go away, or make the loss dissapear, or change the frustrating grappling-with-God they will do as they come to terms with all the dreams and hopes they had wrapped up in this child. Faith just changes how we interact within that context. And in the months to come, they will find comfort in that… in the knowledge that death is but a momentary passing, that they will see their child again. And, eventually, they will be comforted. This is what God does. He comforts us in hard times so that we can turn around and offer authentic, understanding comfort to  others when they come to similar points in their own life. But that is for later. For today, there are again the first fresh pains of grieving and the shattering reality of loss.

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(George Rodrigue: Joe’s Boat)


Over their heads the towering and tenebrous boughs of the cypress
Met in a dusky arch, and trailing mosses in mid-air
Waved like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals. (Longfellow) 

I’m in an unusual mood tonight, and really missing Louisiana. This is unusual because I’ve been gone from there for several years now, and tend to think Tulsa when I think “home” now. But tonight I’m in the mood for humidity thick enough to be a blanket, a little Jolie Blonde, and some fresh boiled crawfish with fat potatos and spicy corn sitting in the middle of it. And at just this moment, I’d give quite a lot for some Cajun accents, someone to two-step and waltz with, and a little joie de vivre. Some days, there’s no place like home… even when more than one place fits the title.

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Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t.  You cannot shirk this and be a man.  To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.  ~Mark Twain 

The state of Oklahoma has passed a new law, HB1804. This bill is touted as an anti-immigration bill, designed to cure the “economic hardship and lawlessness” that is supposedly caused by illegal immigration. Now, while I’m in favor of immigration reform (the current system just isn’t  working), this isn’t it. I’m still trying to figure out what the authors of this law were thinking, and what it is they think this is going to accomplish.

Among other things, this law new law makes transporting or sheltering an illegal immigrant a felony… yes, really. So do be sure and ask about immigration status before you let anyone into your car, or your home, lest the State of Oklahoma treat you to a minimum year in prison.

 Other notable points include denying access to all but the most minimal of emergency health care, and denying access to “programs, services, or assistance” unless they meet a certain set of criteria AND are specifically deemed accessible in the “sole and unreviewable discretion of the United States Attorney General.” If you find this as offensive as I do, please, speak out!

  Now, I love Oklahoma. We have some really great things going here (Educare, the Family Safety Center, the Child Abuse Network, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, to name a few) and I was proud when I moved my citizenship here. But right now, I’m ashamed of my state. I’m ashamed that such a bill would be passed by our elected officials, a bill that seems to promote fear and separation instead of understanding and commmunity-building. Considering the implications of this bill, I can see lots of people being hurt but I have a hard time seeing what good could possibly come of it. I just hope that the people of this great state… and every other state, for that matter, will stand up and protest this. Loudly.

 We are still a democracy. We will always be a country who was built largely on and by immigrants. Let us consider the implications of this new law, and then let us consider carefully what we will– and won’t– tolerate. Let us consider what kind of nation we really are. And if that’s not enough motivation for you, consider this: When we’re done scapegoating illegal immigrants, which group will be next? 

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.
(Commonly attributed to Martin Niemoeller) 

And if this law is not repealed or deemed unconstitutional, what will you do? How will it effect you, and the people in your life? Would you refuse to give someone a ride until you’ve verified their immigration status, deny shelter unless someone can produce the appropriate documents? Would Christ?

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.  If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.  ~Bishop Desmond Tutu

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