Shin Dong-hyuk: Lessons about radical gospel freedom, from Camp 14

  Shin Dong-hyuk is the only person known to have escaped from Camp 14, a horrific concentration camp in North Korea where the prisoners are incarcerated, not as individuals, but as families;  parents, grandparents, siblings, and children, are all arrested in an attempt to wipe out the scourge of rebellion.  They will work long hours on starvation rations and, if they're obedient, generally die by the age of 45.  Children are born inside the camp and live their entire lives … [Read more...]

Ordinary Time – the Days that Matter the Most

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People who follow the "Christian Year" know that the Bible readings from December through Pentecost are designed to cover the story of God's restorative plan for the cosmos revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Today begins the long stretch in that same calendar called "Ordinary Time". Ordinary is a word we don't use much at all, and nearly never in a flattering way.  "It was an ordinary day" means that nothing exciting happened.  "Just another day..." we say, to describe the … [Read more...]

Old Testament God: Angry fundamentalist, or loving friend? And why it matters!

In my Bible reading this morning, I came across the phrase "put away the foreign gods" and realized that it comes up over and over again the Old Testament.  Instead of creating and arrogant and judgmental provincialism, pondering what it means for us today could lead to a whole new way of living: Thoughtful people sometimes have a hard time reading the Old Testament because the Old Testament God as mean, judgmental, violent, utterly other than the God of the New Testament, where Christ is … [Read more...]

The Hygiene Hypothesis: How fear and anxiety are creating a toxic faith

Every March I'm reminded of the reality that allergies are a big deal in our culture.  This is the season when people are carrying around inhalers, getting shots, taking drugs, and drinking all kinds of juices in order to combat their body's own overreaction to harmless substances.  This time of year it's pollen, but for some it's not just pollen; nuts, animal hair, dust, milk, wheat, year around.  Yuk. This article explains the theory that allergies are on the rise because of our … [Read more...]

Redeem Everything: Learning from St. Patrick

As the weekend of green beer and cabbage approaches, it's appropriate to consider the rich heritage most of enjoy without even knowing it, passed down from the Celtic Christian communities of Ireland and Scotland during the dark ages.  You can learn about through a favorite book of mine, "How the Irish Saved Civilization", whose thesis is that when the Roman empire collapsed and the west was plunged into centuries of barbarism and fear, the bastions of sanity were the Celtic monasteries.  This … [Read more...]

The best question to ask when you are overwhelmed and stressed

Standing at the base of something as big as Mt. Rainier can seem overwhelming and impossible, but lessons learned there can help us navigate the realities of life and leadership because you don't climb a mountain with a leap; you climb it step by step.  Here's what I mean: Taxes.  Job stress.  Family dysfunctions.  Broken appliances.  Big decisions.  Illness.  Car problems.  Commuting stress.  World news.  The sum of all this is stress, and unless it's dealt with the stress itself … [Read more...]

Powers and World Forces: Sugar, Salt, Fat, Coke, Kellogs, Kraft, Coke.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness...." Ephesians 6:12 This story on NPR caught my attention yesterday because it came just as I was doing something I rarely do anymore:  stuffing my face with chicken McNuggets from McDonalds while I was driving home from a study day in the mountains.  It wasn't the best of days.  Forgetting the computer cord meant was I done studying (or at least writing my sermon) earlier … [Read more...]

If you fail at falling, you’ll fail at everything.

Eric Fromm, in his classic "The Art of Loving", writes that a healthy environment for growing up would include parents who, between them, would receive both an unconditional love and a very conditional and demanding love.  That sounds controversial of course, and probably is.  But I wonder if there isn't some merit in thinking about it a bit before dismissing it outright.  After all, Jesus, we're told, was full of grace and truth.  He told his followers that they needed to be perfect, and … [Read more...]


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