Saturday, January 30, 2010

as a result of a writing exercise

I find myself surprised
noticing what's hidden
even within my own heart
hidden from me
until pried out from
somewhere deep
by the accidental,
though self-compulsory process
of intentional accidental writing

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

shifting ground

I'm at a theological conference this week, and (of course) there's conversation in the big room and in the hallways and at the dinner tables and everywhere else about sexuality and (of course) about the decisions made at the ELCA churchwide assembly last August.

I understand that there are lots of people, good and faithful people, who aren't happy about the new possibility that pastors who are in same-gendered relationships might still be able to serve as pastors in our congregations. And when I talk with these folks, it sounds to me like they believe the rug of faith has been pulled out from under them. It sounds to me like folks believe that the ground is shaken, or shaking, and they feel like there's no way to get their footing. This thing they've believed for their whole life, and that's (supposedly) been proclaimed by the church for a couple thousand years is all of a sudden changed. "If this is different, now, then what else (that I've believed for my whole life) is also going to change?"

The thing, though, is that sexuality isn't the foundation of our faith. No matter what we believe about sexuality, whether we think the assembly made good decisions, or whether we feel like the assembly made an error of biblical proportions, the foundation of our faith is the grace and mercy of God that we see in the cross and resurrection.

If our ground is shaken by these decisions, maybe we're standing in the wrong place.


Monday, January 25, 2010


I have an i-pod, a personal music player. I appreciate the wonders of technology that allow me to store the music I like on a computer, and then to carry it around much more easily than we used to carry around a suitcase full of cassette tapes. I appreciate being able to plug the music player into the speakers that we have in our kitchen and listen to music while I'm fixing dinner. I appreciate being able to listen to music that I actually enjoy while I'm driving in the car. I even enjoy listening to podcasts while I'm working out at the gym or running around the park.

But it seems to me that there's a downside to personal music players. For instance, today I was getting a quick cup of coffee before driving to a conference. While the barista was pulling my espresso (or at least letting the machine pull my espresso), I noticed some fantastic music coming out of the ceiling speakers. I have no idea who it was, but it was good. I wouldn't even mind having whatever it was on my i-pod. Then, as I was leaving, I noticed someone sitting in the shop, reading a book, his head bobbing to the music coming up the white wire directly into his ears.

He completely didn't hear the house music. I'm sure his own music is great, but what if he missed what he'd been seeking his whole life just because his music had become so very personal. Which compels me to recognize, once again, that for the whole of human history (or at least for the millenia that passed prior to the introduction of the Walkman in 1979), music was a communal experience.

I may be wrong, but it seems obvious to me that we're losing something intangible, but still valuable, as we turn more and more inward as we use our personal music players (and laptop computers, and cell phones, etc.), especially when we use them in public places.

The irony, of course, is that I'm writing this post while using my laptop computer in a public place. I have, however, refrained from listening to my i-pod as I write.


Sunday, January 17, 2010


in the midst of pain
we sing
and as we sing
we pray
and as we pray
we listen
and as we listen
we hear
God's voice

in God's voice, we recognize
our pain

So we listen
and pray
and sing

into Hope

Thursday, January 14, 2010

different places

I was running the other day, the morning after we arrived in San Diego. As I was running, I noticed a couple things. First, the plethora of oxygen available for my lungs ~ I felt like I could run forever. But I expected that. What I didn't expect was the smells ~ all of which seemed different from what I'm used to. There was the salt air blowing in off the ocean. But more than that, I noticed the sweetness of the plant life.

Things are so lush and green there, and there are so many different smells; so much that's hard to identify for me, and of course then there must be so many smells that don't exist in Colorado.

It seems like what's unusual is appealing, and what I'm used to is drab and boring (grass is greener, right?). I wonder if there just aren't as many things in Colorado that have strong aroma, or if I'm just used to it here and don't smell what is in the air. If I moved to San Diego, would I get used to that so much that I could smell the smells that are here when I come to visit Denver?

And beyond just our noses, do we look too much to what's unusual or exotic at the expense of noticing how much that's right in front of our nose that's worthwhile?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

photos on the cruise ship

I just came off vacation with the family. We took a cruise ship out of San Diego that stopped off in Ensenada and came back. This cruise seemed to do two things very well: advertise services (for an additional fee), and encourage partying (of course, with liquor purchased at the bars on the ship). The thing is, most of the people who were partying, and most of the people who chose to pay extra money for this or that, (and most people on the cruise ship, for that matter) seemed quite happy.

In fact, I spent some time browsing the photos taken on board by the cruise ship photographers. There were hundreds of these photos, and we had to work pretty hard a couple times to not have our photo taken. There were elegant dinner photos, photos with the dancers, photos getting on and off the ship, photos at the dinner table, photos around a captain's wheel by the pool, and many others.

It seemed like most people I saw in the photos were pretty happy. But I found myself wondering if they're as happy as they look. I'm sure they were enjoying themselves, but I wonder if they're really happy. And I found myself wondering if most of us really know what it means to actually be happy. It's not that I think these two things, enjoying ourselves and being happy, are mutually exclusive, or that one is necessary for the other to occur.

It seems, though, that so much of our time and energy is spent pursuing pleasurable activities. We want perfectly delicious food, amazingly high-adrenaline adventures, entertainment that is better every time than it was the last time, sex when we're 80 like we had at 18, and whatever else brings pleasure ~ and I think we've unknowingly and unwittingly forgotten how to be happy.

Have we attempted to gain pleasure at the expense of happiness?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The Holy Days, and holidays, are great ~ we get to celebrate this and that, whether it's a faith thing or a civil thing, or just an excuse to take the day off. The trouble, though, is that Holy Days tend to be busier when you have a leadership role in the life of a faith community. So, while many folks get a break, pastors tend to be a little busier at Christmas and Easter. Plus, those three-day weekends, where the regular Saturday and Sunday have a Monday added on ~ we still end up working in the middle of all that, and then taking our regular day off the following day.

Sometimes it feels like we don't get the same breaks that other folks get. I know that there are many other people who have it worse than I do, but still. I guess it gets balanced out because most weeks, we only work that one day a week, and it's a half-day.

The upshot is that we get to go on a vacation in a couple days. We're going to hang out in San Diego, where it's warm, for a couple days. And we're going to hang out where we can eat whenever we want to for a couple days ... on a cruise ship. The kids are really looking forward to this ~ they've never been on a trip like this ~ it'll be a lot of fun to experience all this with them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Salvation ???

In the ELCA congregation I'm part of, there's been some conversation in response to the recent (August, '09) Churchwide decisions regarding sexuality. Particularly, there have been folks who have expressed differing opinions on the issue of homosexuality. At our upcoming annual meeting, we may or may not have congregational members who bring a motion to the floor that our congregation take a stand against decisions made at the assembly.

The argument being made is that if we who are Christian don't take a stand against homosexuality, and that if we who are Christian don't tell people who are in same-gender relationships that they are sinning, we jeopardize our own salvation.

This argument is made based on scripture, and I have to take it seriously. Bear in mind, I disagree ~ but I have to take the point of view seriously, even as I hold a different position (based on scripture, as well). I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. I don't believe the issue of homosexuality, or our response, is unto salvation. But I have to allow for the possibility that I may be wrong.

I want the faith community I'm part of to be ridiculously welcoming of all people, because I believe that the welcome I see in scripture practiced by Jesus, and the grace and mercy that I've experienced in my own faith journey, trump all law that we find in scripture.

Today I came to a realization. Even if I'm wrong about all of this ~ even if my desire that the church welcome queer folks is wrong, and that by failing to point out sin and error I cut myself off from eternal salvation ~ my opinion doesn't change. If by welcoming some now I cut myself off later, I still say welcome now.

I honestly feel like it's selfish to be concerned only about what I get out of my actions. If what we do is only about our own reward, then we miss the point. If our concern is only about ourselves in the afterlife, and not about others right now, then we miss the point. Even if our concern is only salvation, we still pray every week (or day) your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ~ which makes me think that the love and forgiveness we will experience in heaven ought to begin with forgiveness and mercy and welcome and grace and love here on earth right now ~ that we shouldn't wait 'til later. I'm willing to risk being cut off later for the sake of others' inclusion now.

All that being said, I still think that the ratio of energy the church expends on sexuality compared to the energy we expend on alleviating poverty ought to the be the same ratio we find in scripture ~ and I don't think we spend 300 times as much energy on poverty than we do on sexuality.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's

new year's season
a chance to start again
just enough reason
to think we can win

the struggle we're in
against our foolish nature
tugging us to sin
or indulge in vices baser

it seems somehow safer
to restart once a year
than to embrace the grace to savor
the daily rising, for we fear

frequent new beginnings
that baptism promises

Friday, January 1, 2010


I remember day-off-holiday-family-get-together-type-days from when I was a kid; and as today is such a day, I was thinking about what I remember, and about what I miss. Here's the official disclaimer: These are my memories ~ they may or may not accurately reflect what you would see if there had been a video camera set up.

I remember we'd either get together with extended family, or we'd just spend time at home. First, if we had nowhere to go and nothing to get to, we'd sleep in. Or, if we were traveling to meet up with family, we might sleep in a little, but we'd get our stuff together and get on the road. Once everyone had arrived, we'd have dinner. The table was always full with delicious, feast-day foods. It was nice to sit together with everyone for dinner, but it wasn't long after we finished that folks got up. Sometimes, the kids would run around outside. Almost inevitably, though, the grown-ups would participate in one of two activities (you can guess who was where). Some would clean up the table, wash the dishes, store the leftovers either in the fridge or on the counter for grazing, and make to-go bags for each family unit. Others would camp out in front of whatever game was on, usually football.

I realized in the middle of the day that I was at something of a loss. Since our TV isn't located in the middle of our ordinary family activity, and the football games aren't on, I had to actually make conscious decisions about what to do with the day. The default would have been to stuff my face with corn chips and whatever else I could find to eat, while I flipped between whatever games were on. But I didn't, and I kind of miss that.

We have a television in our house, and once in a while we even watch television. Mostly we watch movies, which is tough because movies are better in widescreen, and our television came out before screens were very wide. Once in a while, I start to feel a little superior to families who spend a lot of time watching television. And sometimes I even feel like gloating just a little bit about how I don't know this show, or haven't seen that commercial. But is sitting in front of a computer really all that different from watching television? I work, I watch movies, I watch television shows, I relax, I shop, I waste time ~ all in front of a computer screen.

At least at the family gatherings I remember from when I was a youngster, we sat around the television together. We could cheer together, or root against one another. We could pass snacks back and forth, and fetch each other a drink during the commercials. We could have little pieces of conversation during breaks in the action. When three people are sitting in the same room, but looking at three different laptops, it's much more difficult to do those things. We don't want to spill on a computer, and heaven forbid we'd talk to one another for fear of interrupting whatever important thing the guy at the other end of the couch is doing.

I know I'm not the first to realize this, but I'll say it anyway. Technology has certainly made our lives easier, but I'm not sure it's done anything to improve the quality of our relationships with one another.