Live and Let Die

I read a biography of Jim Elliott today.  It was deeply encouraging.  I was struck by the wisdom of these words, "The enemy specializes in three things: hurry, noise and crowds."  I wonder if we surround ourselves with such things as a distraction from the sobering truth of our mortality.

I was struck by Elliott's tendency to finish things that he started.  I on the other hand, am a great starter of things, a great dreamer of dreams, a first-rate idea man but a poor finisher.  I pray that God will grant me discipline and endurance to amend this.

I recommend "In the Shadow of The Almighty" heartily and without reservation. 

Guided by Voices

I'm back to the blog.  Everything I know about blogging suggests that a two week hiatus is a bad idea. -- starting a fight with Chuck Norris bad.  But, what's done is done.  In the two weeks since I wrote last, I've  done some yardwork, read some books, and done a bit of jourrnalism.  I've also played a prodigious amount of guitar.  But all of this pales in comparison to the meeting of a man who claims to hear the audible voice of God.  I thought I'd seen everything.  This man is not some unfortunate homeless man;  he has a job and a college education.  He is not obviously mentally ill, yet he claims God speaks audibly to him about specific life decisions.

The theologian in me wonders about what the practical implications of audible, personalized revelation from God would be.  How does church work if God speaks privately to everyone?  How does church discipline work if the clear revelation of God in Scripture is supplanted by that of this audible voice?  How does one know that God has spoken?  What's to keep us from doing what we want and claiming that God has spoken and He justifies our behavior?  Would we employ some sort of honor system?  Perhaps we'd meet together and promise not to lie about what God has told us.  

I don't wish to be caustic or unduly sarcastic in my attempt to discredit this bizarre notion.  This series of rhetorical questions is not designed to castigate this poor guy.  His position is regrettable and very nearly hopeless in that he has chosen to attempt to follow Christ without making proper use of two of His greatest gifts to us: Scripture-God's revelation of himself to us, and the church-God's instrument for reaching the world for his honor and praise.

My church is a huge safeguard for me.  We've all agreed that Scripture is authoritative for us in our daily lives.   When I don't live that way, there are people in my church who point me to the Scripture in love and expect to see change.  There's a whole protocol for that established by Jesus in Matthew 18.   I'm grateful that God continues to provide people in my life who aren't afraid to call my sin what it is.  I shudder to think who I would be without the grace of God and thee protection he offers through other Christians.

I'm glad indeed that I'm not guided by voices(There's the obligatory pop culture reference).
I've been neglecting this blog.  I was on vacation last week in thee majestic vegas of the Ozarks--Branson Missouri. Expect a longer post tomorrow

This American Life

I love This American Life.  I am conservative and evangelical, so in theory, I have no business listening to NPR, but I love TAL.  Week in and week out Ira Glass and company present compelling stories about extraordinary people.  Obviously, it's important to listen critically and realize that every contributor brings a set of preconceived notions to every story.  With that understanding in place, the show is a valuable storytelling tool.

TAL is a constant reminder that everyone has a story to tell.  It could be for example that your neighbor was Noriega's pen pal when she was a schoolgirl in the '70s.  It could be that the man sitting next to you on your last flight was originally from a small town on the coast of Alabama in which, once a year, thousands of fish and shrimp wash up on shore only to be collected by hungry townspeople armed with buckets.  They call this bizarre event a "Jubilee".

Both examples are true and taken from TAL episodes.  Everyone has a story.  The storyteller's job is to find it.

Memorial Day Post

So sorry for the delay between posts.  I was on vacation.  In any event, I would like to offer a heartfelt thank you to the men and women of our armed services.  We have asked much of you.  We've asked you to kill and to die far away from your families.  To add to this heavy burden, we've asked you to be ambassadors for us to the civilians around you, to display all of our best qualities amidst the horrors of war.  

Somehow, every day thousands of you manage to fulfill the monumental task set before you.  The truth is that I can only speculate about what a soldier's life is really like, and despite my best effort, this post is surely an inadequate description of the difficulties thereof.  With that said, I am grateful.

Thank you all.  My prayers are with you.

Protestant Monks?

Yes, there are protestant monks.  On some level the thought of eating protestant gruel and wearing protestant robes, checking out of this messed-up world and dedicating my life to serving God in peace, quiet and contemplation is very appealing, but I don't think that we get that option.

I don't think we have a choice but to live in the real world.  That doesn't mean that it is our Christian duty to have a subscription to Us or Cosmo( If you must read Cosmo, just one will suffice.  They're all the same.)  It does mean being in  the world that we are not of.   

I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light" -- John Keith Falconer


Christian Fiction?

I think God cares about quality.  This is part of the reason I generally avoid Christian fiction.  I'm not sure God is glorified by a shout-out in  a mediocre historical romance or the presence of angels in a mediocre supernatural thriller in which the protagonist is a deacon at his church.

I think that God is glorified in excellence-- in using the talent he has given to the utmost.  God is glorified when our artistic work reflects his nature: his holiness, his justice, his strength, his love and concern for the weak and poor and oppressed.

I am not saying that there is no place for fiction for and about Christians.  However, there is no place whatever for bad Christian fiction.  There is no place whatever for stilted dialogue, ridiculous plotting and bad pacing.  It is not enough, brothers and sisters, to write inoffensive novels.  It is not enough to create one-dimensional characters with ridiculous problems who happen to be Christians.

It is enough to become "poured out as a drink offering"--to offer every iota of skill and talent. It is enough to offer every work of art as an act of worship to the living God.

God is worthy of the best art that we can create, and I confess that in my case, he doesn't always get it.  I will remedy this henceforth with his help.