Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years Since

Tomorrow will be a big day for me, so I post this on the eve of 9/11. Franklin Roosevelt said of another deadly day that it would "live in infamy." I wonder if anyone held a special remembrance on December 7, 1951? Maybe not because by then the US was involved in another conflict, this time in Korea. Over 50,000 Americans died in that war then ended in an armistice that has never turned into a peace treaty. As I look back over my 53 years, I find few years when the shadow or reality of war -- hot or cold -- hasn't been there.

It will soon be ten years that the US (and other nations) have been fighting in Afghanistan (and later, Iraq). Days after the planes hit our leaders were urging us to continue life as usual, "lest the terrorists win." I don't believe the terrorists have won, but life has never been the same since. None of us have been untouched by either the military, economic, or political consequences of 9/11.

Tomorrow I will teach a Sunday school class at my church on Matthew 24:1-14. Jesus announces to the disciples that a day would inevitably come when their society, symbolized by Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, would come tumbling down. In those days the love of most will grow cold through exposure to increasing and seemingly unrelenting "wickedness." This prophecy was immediately fulfilled in the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, but it has application to any age characterized by "wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes." Sounds a lot like the last ten years to me.

What does Jesus counsel his people to do? Escape to a bunker? Take over the government? Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die?

No. He counsels two things of us:

1. Remain a people known for love. During the fall of Jerusalem and the later collapse of Rome itself, the Christians engaged in amazing works of self-sacrifice that helped preserve some manner of order as western culture fell back into barbarism.

2. Remain a people known for hope. Keep proclaiming the Gospel. In today's sectarian environment, this is crucial. This is not proselytizing. This is simply telling the story of human history from the perspective of the Jewish and Christian Scripture. The theologian Robber E. Webber died in 2007. His last book was titled "Who Gets to Narrate the World?" His answer? Whoever tells the better story. These days, Christianity is known more for shouting moral advice at the world rather than sharing good news. In bad times like ours, people need a reason to hope.

I'll finish tomorrow at a prayer meeting. I hope it will be a service that is careful to keep the "stars and stripes" lower than the cross. I hope it full of personal repentance, not political tantrums. I hope it is a moment when Spirit of God casts down our temples and warms our hearts to each other.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sacred Ground

This is the title of the Star Trek: Voyager episode I watched on Netflicks the other night. Please don't stop reading if you are one of those who consigns everything Star Trek to the cosmic wastebin (i.e. gehenna). There's wisdom here.

I thought about calling this post "The Bottom Line" because when you are face to face with your own bottom line or that of another person's, you're on sacred ground. In the episode, Captain Janeway is helped to experience the paradox that is faith. While faith exercises itself to some degree through reason, it is based upon something that transcends reason. She discovers that faith is not pre-rational or irrational, but what some theologians terns transrational.

She wants to save the life of a crew member and sets about to scan, research, and otherwise cogitate her way through the mystery that is called "speaking to the ancestral spirits" by the natives of the world on which her crew member got in trouble when she acted like a tourist where holiness was required. Janeway's motivation is pure: she is ready to do "whatever it takes" to save her crewman's life.

A "guide" is provided for her and tells her that she already has what she needs to secure the healing. Janeway comes to the end of her ability to "understand" and steps into the normally deadly energy with nothing more than a beginning trust that the spirits are really there. She literally puts herself at their disposal, prepared to live or die with her crewmate.

Being a Star Trek episode, it all ends well, especially for Janeway who has a taste of life that is based not on prideful rationalism, but on trust in another realm that cannot be measured, quantified or turned into a formula.

Whether one is modern, post-modern, or prehistoric, God's invitation remains the same: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He shall direct your steps." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Salsa Day!

Today is our annual salsa making day at our house.  Nearly everything in it comes form our garden.  Nadine and I have made salsa for years and each batch is good while a little different from the others.

Life is like crafting salsa from scratch-- you expect the best but you never know what you're gonna get.

Every "Mexican" restaurant offers you salsa and chips.  I reflect on the salsas that have been set before me --   the salsas of my life.  Many were unremarkable, a predictable combination of sweet and heat.  However, I remember two salsas that represent the bookends of life experience of sad disappointment and surprising life change.

The former happened several years ago when the server set down a basket of freshly fried chips and a cold squeeze bottle of red paste.  Enjoying salsa and chips is not supposed to remind the diner of preparing to brush one's teeth.  This low point of my salsa experience was seared into my memory as I smeared a crimson bead across an otherwise worthy chip.  Oh well -- make the best of things until my fajita order arrives.

Years and bowls of salsa later came the moment in a little Colorado Springs cantina when the waiter brought us a bowl of something I had never seen before.  It was as much white as red and boy was it chunky!  My wife and stared at it for a moment before one of us tentatively dipped a chip and took a bite.  Cilantro, tomatoes, onions, and slivered cabbage.  Surprisingly delicious!  I broke chip after chip in my enthusiasm while Nadine scribbled an ingredient list onto the back of a Kroger receipt.  Since then it has been our privilege and joy to bring a bowl of "Ambrosia Salsa" to family gatherings.

But then there was the time in San Antonio when the cook added guacamole to his salsa recipe.  I believe that Guacamole could qualify as the tenth fruit of the Spirit.  Guacamole is good for you. The oil contained in avocados ranks among the healthiest types of fat.  The other ingredients in guacamole are highly alkalizing and loaded with phytonutrients.  Learn more at

Life is like a batch of salsa.  Whether life brings disappointment or ecstasy, look to God to stir in a special ingredient of His own and turn everything into something that is good for you.