I launched out like a sailor of the wind, a pneumanaut, not knowing where the thermals might set me down. No one was worried about my sudden flight. But why should they? I had decent stock. Came from a good, Christian family. I got along with most people. I was the youngest of four boys, and my three older brothers seemed to be sailing smoothly. There was no reason to suspect that I would be any different.
Sometimes everything you know, love, and remember about a poerson can be summed up in one picture. A moment frozen in time that speaks continually throughout eternity. I have such a memory, a picture imprinted on my mind. It is so clear in my soul that if I were an artist I would paint it for all to see. But since I am not that sort of artist I must attempt to paint this picture with words.
It is a dreaded topic. It is probably not preached enough. And when it is preached I rarely leave feeling very good about the overall outlook on things. I am referring to Luke 14:25-34. If your bible has section titles it probably says something like,The Cost of Being a Disciple.
No, this is not a post on fitness. I just could not resist the lovely picture. And besides, the image is not totally disconnected from the content. As part of another conversation I posted yesterday that we are in need of a theology of the body. While this post will not go very far in advancing us toward that particular end, I have been thinking a lot about the idea in Scripture that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
Probably most of us have heard of Jim Collins’ bestselling book from 2001, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. It is an interesting and insightful book. If you have not read it I highly recommend it, irregardless of whether or not you work in the business field. But this is neither a plug for, nor a review of, that book. It is, as usual, a segue to some thoughts on spirituality.
1. the act of progressing; forward or onward movement.
2. a passing successively from one part of a series to the next; succession; sequence.
The path of the spiritual pilgrim is full of both ups and downs, glorious mountain tops and deadly valleys. At times we all experience joy unspeakable (cf. 1 Peter 1:8). But there are other times when, like Much Afraid in Hinds’ Feet on High Places, our constant companions are Sorrow and Suffering. The inexperienced pilgrim arrives at either one of these places and believes that it could be their final destination. However, with time all pilgrims learn that seasons come and go, and that the most important duty on both the mountain and in the valley is to not get so distracted by the surroundings that one ventures off the path.
"The fear of the Lord teaches wisdom, and humility precedes glory."
Emily recently wrote about Mary the mother of Jesus as a type of Christ carrier for all of us to model ourselves after. There are several Mary’s mentioned in the New Testament. Perhaps I am the only one that finds this peculiar. But there is Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:27); Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2); Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus (Luke 10:38-42); Mary the mother of James and John (Matthew 27:55-61); Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12); and Mary of Rome (Romans 16:6). That makes six altogether. The last three are only mentioned in passing, but the first three played very significant roles in the life and ministry of Jesus. Consider those three Mary’s and what they might teach us about our relationship with Christ.
As I have mentioned before, my Grandpa was a gregarious and boisterous coal-miner-turned-Pentecostal-preacher from the Appalachian mountains. There was nothing subtle about him. He would not hesitate to pray for someone in the middle of the grocery store, or any other public space, and he never heard of a prayer that was quiet and soft spoken. And if he started praying you could pretty much bet that he was going to speak in tongues, as well as let out at least one of his trademark high-pitched, Whoops! If you encountered a person in need, no matter the situation, there was really no hope that Grandpa would minister to that person subtly.
Prison is a lonely place to be. It is a place without hope. No hope of escaping those walls that men have built. Yet over time, one begins to depend on the very same walls he once despised. Believe it or not, this is true. With time walls are transformed into something they once were not, something you once would have never dreamed they could have become. And for those who have been there the longest, life outside those walls becomes a very scary thing.
It is mid-November as I write this and I am starting to feel the thrill of anticipation running through my veins even while my heart and my mind are keeping still. Christmas season is not here yet, but I am enjoying the wait…letting the energy build.
I have read many wonderful reflections during this first week of Lent. Unfortunately, I grew up in a faith tradition that largely ignored the Christian calendar, even Lent. The good news is that I have seen that changing in recent years. As for me, it has been nice to read the Lenten prayers, reflections and meditations of others. It is as if they are filling in the gaps for me left by my upbringing. And so, encouraged by these examples, I thought I would chip in my two cents worth. Here is my first ever Lenten reflection.
I was twenty seven years old when I got married. I was not exactly old, but old enough that more of my friends were married than not. And the majority of my unmarried friends followed suit within the next few years. One of the things that has been interesting to me during the last eleven years since I made a lifelong covenant with my therapist is the various ways that romantic boys struggle to become the committed men that they say they will be when they launch into marriage. I am not talking about marital infidelity, but the ability to simply mature into a hard-working, supportive, and caring husband and father who places the correct priority on his wife and children.
It is a strange and sordid tale, which is precisely why it grabs my attention. It takes place in the messy context of tragedy and redemption, which is precisely what makes it so perfect. It is one of those stories that Muslim friends point to as proof that the Jewish and Christian scripture has been corrupted. It is one of those stories that Atheist friends point to as proof that even if God did exist no one would like him. It is the curious story of Onan. His part in the divine narrative covers all of three verses. Yet spiritual pilgrims have speculated about the significance of his actions for thousands of years. This is what we know about Onan from Genesis 38:8-10: