Friday, November 21, 2003

Off to grandma's house for the Thanksgiving week, so don't expect much (if any) activity here. Blessings to all!

Thursday, November 20, 2003

My four year old is really starting to have fun with words. He's always liked to talk, rhyme, and make silly sounding words. The other day, though, he was playing with a little figure he refers to as a knight (it's actually a motorcycle rider). He was soaring it around the room, chanting "the knight flies at night. The knight flies at night." You can imagine how my heart was bursting as I said to my wife, "his first pun!" Shortly thereafter he wrote his first word, other than his name. He drew a circle, then a stick (sort of like a lollipop) and then wrote inside the circle S T O P. It's a word that gets a lot of work in his vocabulary (usually directed at his younger brother), but spelling it is on a whole different level.

Can the pulitzer be far behind?

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The other day, I was reading yet another predictable fisking of prayer in particular and Christians in general. I won't link to it...if you are reading this, you've read it all before: how laughable it is that people credit God for good luck; how blind they must be not also to blame God for misfortune; and how much more enlightened anyone who thinks that way then those poor "souls" stuck in the dark ages.

I sometimes wonder if these people have ever bothered to read the Bible. I'd give even odds that selecting a psalm at random would yield at least one verse--if not a multitude--of complaints to God. The main point of the Book of Jonah is a complaint that God didn't act the way Jonah thought he should. And let's not even mention Job.

The fact is, Christians routinely ask God "why did this happen to me?" We question God all the time. Indeed, that is what a prayer of supplication is: it is a call to God to change the apparent outcome of an event. If, when faced with misfortune despite prayer, we answer "not my will but thy will be done," that is also not a silly naive response to misfortune. Rather, it is a mature response to the difficulties of life. The main difference between such skeptics and Christians comes in our response to deliverance. For if you believe that you only survive an ordeal by luck, what kind of celebration can you have? On the other hand, if you believe you were delivered by a loving God, how can you fail to respond with love and joy?

Saturday, November 15, 2003

The sail of my daughter,
Never broken by the force of foreign clans;
The sail of my daughter,
Unbroken by the conspiracy of Honiti!
Ever victorious in all her fights,
She could not be enticed to drink poisoned waters
In the obsidian glass.
Can my sorrow ever be appeased
While we are divided by the mighty seas?
O my daughter, O my daughter!
It is a vast and watery road
Over which I look toward the horizon,
My daughter, O my daughter!
--poem from Easter Island tablets,
as quoted in The Story of Civilization, Will & Ariel Durant

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Earlier this year, I developed a Bible-reading plan for my morning devotions. During a 12-month period, I will read the OT once through, the psalms and epistles 4 times through, and the gospels 5 times through. My goal in doing this was to emphasize those parts of scripture that seem to be of greatest influence in the Christian tradition and to allow me to better hear the echoes, elaborations, and conversations that occur within the Bible.

This morning, the reason for that plan was re-emphasized, as I read the story of Doeg the Edomite betraying Abimelech to Saul for aiding David. Coincidentally (?), one of the psalms I read was number 52 which recalls that event. What is interesting to me in these passages is how the Psalm expands on the story recounted in 1 Samuel. In Samuel, we hear David take responsibility for the deaths of Ahimelech and his family as he offers to protect Ahimelech's sole remaining son, Abiathar. In the psalm, on the other hand, we hear how David felt about Doeg's betrayal. The psalm thus rounds out the emotions that are recounted in the history. I marvel at the way the Spirit moves to teach us an ever deeper love and appreciation of the Word.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Each morning I read a bit from the OT (I'm in 1 Samuel now), a psalm or two, a bit from the epistles (currently 2 Timothy) and a section of the Gospels (Luke, right now). In between each reading, I go to the Lord in prayer, spending time in confession, thanksgiving and supplication.

Recently, I've been trying to do a bit more "affective" style of prayer by opening my heart to God's presence rather than simply dictating thoughts. This morning, rather than trying to anatomize my various sins, I emptied my mind and envisioned myself being thoroughly cleansed. I began to feel happy, almost giddy as I came out of prayer. I then read Psalm 30--which tells us that "joy comes with the morning"--and psalm 32 which opens "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven." As I moved into my prayers of thanksgiving, I was positively laughing at God's incredible Grace. I poured out my appreciation not for my earthly blessings--of which there are many--but for this assurance of forgivenness. As I read in Luke the parable of the sower, I felt my roots delving deep into the rich soil of Christ's love.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

My uncle ran for the Loudon County Schoolboard for the Leesburg district. Unless absentee ballots change the final totals, he lost by 15 votes.

Another lesson in Democracy: every vote counts (as if we didn't learn that in 2000).

UPDATE: The absentee ballots have been counted. Now he has lost by only 3 votes...

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I rarely post twice in one day. Three times is probably a record.

But I couldn't resist passing on this story about plans to exhume Petrarch. There are no real mysteries about his death, no alleged conspiracies that revolve around his name. Apparently, they are just curious what he looked like.
Just finished exercising my democratic responsibility--voting. Virginia votes in off years, and so we had a State Senator (uncontested), a House of Delegate and school board up for election, as well as a few other local, uncontested options. It's the first time I have voted since moving back to this area, and they use the infamous voting machines that can result in "hanging chads." If someone loses by only a few votes...
Is there a better definition of prayer than Herbert's "the soul in paraphrase"? What is prayer but to heave up our innermost thoughts and feelings and offer them to God to sort out, respond too, cleanse, and order? What is prayer but an offering, pleasing to the Lord? Indeed, what else but a meal, a time to be nourished by the Word?

I can ask these questions and yet fall short of conveying what Herbert says in his wonderful poem, so here it is:

Prayer 1

Prayer, the Church's banquet, Angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;
Engine against th' Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Not to toot my own horn...

At the YMCA where I belong, new members get a "fast 5" fitness check to give a health baseline that I can use to compare my progress. I just had a follow-up "fast 5" check up, and in the 5 months that I've been working out: Nothing like a little success to help me keep motivated!

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