30 November 2010

Feelings Fail

Like most people, I'm desperate for intimacy with God, so my instinct is to glom onto prayers and songs that make God seem close. But when I begin here, I am tempted to identify God with the warm feelings such prayers and songs generate. I sing a "worshipful" song, and I get "worshipful" feelings--and I assume that's God. Do this habitually, thoughtlessly, prayerlessly, and it's easy to end up with a relationship with a glorified self.

But the liturgy puts a brake on narcissism right up front. When we are forcefully reminded that we are not worshiping an idealized form fo the self, but a God, "in heaven," a "holy" God, a genuine Other.

Mark Galli, Beyond Smells and Bells, p. 43

This has been a great read so far, and Mark hits several points that are "draws" to me to Anglicanism as antidotes for what I see as weakness in contemporary spirituality.

God is not like us. If he were, there would be little reason to worship him. We are made in his image, but he is holy. That, all by itself, sets an impassable gulf of difference between us.

Yet, by his mercy and grace, he sent his only Son, to be called Emmanuel--God with us. To span the divide and pay the debt we could not pay. If Jesus only had done what we could have done, again, what would be the significance?

But God does what we cannot. He saves us from sin and death. He delivers us from ourselves and from guilt and shame. He is both holy and wholly "other." Therefore, we worship him. Therefore we long to know him more, and in this context we gain intimacy.

Deliberate liturgy delivers us from a slide to narcissism and creating God in our image. It raises our vision to heaven.

31 August 2010

Pondering Anglican Chaplains

I know 4 Army chaplains who used to be affiliated with other evangelical denominations and are know Anglican. I know one other who is seriously considering the switch. While it may be providence that I know all of these, it seems interesting that there are so many.

I have conversed with many of them about the reasons behind their movement. I can't help but wonder if one of the contributing factors is Army culture. You see, there is a way prescribed on how to do almost everything in the Army. That is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your temperament.

Ceremonies, operations, how to wear your uniform and when to wear which uniform. They are all covered somewhere in an Army regulation. If you think about it, the Book of Common Prayer, used by Anglicans worldwide, is regulatory in nature as well. It prescribes services, readings, prayers and other elements in the life of the believer and the church.

Is part of the draw of this type of deliberate liturgy--to the military mind--the comfort of knowing their is a "manual" to appeal to? I don't know for certain. I do know, looking at the Anglican tradition, the freedom from the tyranny of having to be novel (while not changing anything, pastor) sounds very inviting.

29 August 2010

Positives of Evangelicalism

I just finished reading Evangelicals on the the Canterbury Trail by Robert Webber. Very good, easy read. It confirmed a lot of what I've been realizing about where I am at on my sojourn.

One thing that was good, at the end of the book, was his snapshot of the strengths of evangelicalism. He writes:

In sum, evangelicals bring to the liturgical tradition these strengths--the sense of personal conversion, a deep concern to be orthodox, an attachment and love for the Scripture, and a sense of mission. Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, p. 170

I agree with, and confirm all four of these. It was refreshing, because I have been looking a lot lately at the weaknesses of evangelicalism. I have gained something for my time on this fork of the path. These are things that will continue with me, these are things that drive me, curiously, toward a more liturgical tradition.

I don't know if I will go all the way to Canterbury or not. But this section of the trail has had some interesting sections, some inspiring vistas and some challenging hills. Whatever may come, I can't help but feel that I am better for having traversed this way.

25 August 2010

Some Thoughts on Prayer

As I was laying in bed last night I was thinking about prayer. I was ruminating on what I have known for a while now, at least in my experience. That is that prayer is much more about me being reminded of God than of me bringing request to Him.

Yes, I ask for things in prayer all the time. But I find that more and more the things I ask for are things He promises or at least offers to us in the scriptures. In this manner, I think I am more being reminded that God will give me this day my daily bread.

Prayer is approaching God's throne. Just that "walk" helps recalibrate and refresh my spirit. I thought last night that in a sense, bringing request to God is like holding the thing desired up in front of myself in God's presence. It either casts a shadow on me, or His glory shines through it. If His glory shines through it, then I should hold onto it. If it casts a shadow, it should be set aside.

For these insights and the gift of prayer, I thank You, O Lord.

14 August 2010

Words Mean Things

Click the title to go to a very insightful and penetrating article that was shared with me today.

The phrase, "Words mean things," caught my eye and led me to read it. It has been a mantra of mine for several years, on various fronts, theological as well as other areas.

04 April 2010


So we keep hearing about "carbon footprints" of various things and activities. The only thing I get about this is it has something to do with perceived "environmental friendliness." This lead me to think about another footprint....

What kind of footprint do we leave? I'm not concerned with "carbon" here. Is the world around us a better place for us having been there? Sure, some things are pretty concrete. We pick up a piece of trash we didn't drop. But what else? Are people blessed by our having been near them or drained?

08 February 2010


I have been increasingly aware of time lately. It is a limited resource. None of us can get any more of it. We all receive a ration of 24 hours each day. 8,760 hours per year. 1,440 minutes a day.

Somewhere in the past several years I crossed a threshold. Silently. I now have more money than time. I would rather pay for something than take the time to do it, or make it work. An hour I spend fighting with the plumbing is an hour I'm not spending doing something else--talking with my wife, sitting on the deck or reading a book.

I think of the parable of the talents. I cannot help but think we will be held accountable for the way we used the time granted to us by our Master. I hope the 60 seconds you spent reading this wasn't a waste....

02 January 2010

Macro Mode Meaning

I believe that this way of living . . . , this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in your own garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal. --Shauna Niequist (quoted in Gary Thomas, Pure Pleasure.)

This quote touches on something that has been floating around in my mind. I've been considering the effects of the internet and other media on our lives. The effects are multitude to be sure, and some are certainly positive. (I would not have had the book to read and get the quote were it not for the internet!)

But this ability to be so much a part of the whole world...I am not sure this is a good thing. I think it limits us far too much. What I mean is this. Say I find myself interested in, well, almost anything. I can research it online, find out where to buy whatever it is I need to do it. How to do it. Opinions on it, and who the best are at it. All of this before I have ever picked up the paint brush or tennis racket or guitar.

This can be quite demoralizing and keep us from even trying. It can also leave us perpetually dissatisfied with our efforts at our chosen pursuit. We feel the need to compare ourselves (for whatever reason) and the internet allows us to compare ourselves to the entire world. This is not fair. It is akin to a 40-year old who decides to take up jogging to shed a few pounds trying to compete in the Olympics.

There is pleasure to be had in a myriad of pursuits. In some ways, the internet helps. It is much easier to network with and find resources for others who share your interest. Especially if it is something a little less main stream. But this networking can quickly lead to comparing which can lead to dissatisfaction.

The same can be true of our kids and our spouse, our pets and our house. If we compare them...I am pretty sure God said something to Israel about that through Moses on a mountain...

I came upon a profound quote on a "de-motivational" poster once that has stuck with me.

"If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly."

Underneath the sarcasm and the picture of the skier wiping out that graced this print, I think there is some truth. So what if I can't play piano as well as someone else. I still enjoy sitting at it and plucking out some of my favorite hymns on occasion. I'm not a 5-star chef, but I enjoy preparing a meal for my family that they appreciate and enjoy. I may not be a master carpenter, but I can make some stuff that has proven useful for my family and me.

Our job isn't to compare what God has blessed us with with His blessings to anyone else. Not my neighbor across the street or on Facebook or anywhere else. We should learn to say "than you" more and "I wish" less. I think we would all be more content. I know I am when I live this way.

01 January 2010


Continuing to process my experiences in Iraq.

From my journal last year--

Lord, I know fear-it's that tight feeling in my chest when I hear a rocket come in. This is different. I think this is dread-it's like a heavy blanket upon me. There is value in fear. I'm not sure dread is good for anything.

In a quick look in your word, it falls on the animals after the flood, and it falls on your enemies. Doesn't seem like something I should have to deal with.

I was reminded of this morning in Psalm 64. "Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers. (verses 1-2)

There is only one we should fear. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28

Learning this truth helped me hang on in Iraq. It helps put a lot of life in perspective.