Archive for August 2011

Things I learned from Irene

August 29th, 2011 — 11:16pm

Composed with pen and ink on Monday afternoon, August 29:

As I write this, thanks to storm Irene, we are nearing thirty-six hours without electricity (except what can be run in the window from our van). What’s odd about this little episode of inconvenience is that I’m actually dreading its coming to an end (the Long Island Power Authority assures us it eventually will). I’ve learned – and remembered – some things about the world during the past few days, things that seem valuable enough to record.

Time has slowed to a crawl in the hours since early Sunday morning. The reason isn’t far to seek: I have much, much more time at my disposal. People can’t reach me on either land line; neither is working. They may be trying to email me, but I’m oblivious. Even our cell service has been spotty. The net effect is that I’m not tied to my phones and computer. There’s no way to watch TV or a movie. As in, I suddenly have hours and hours available that would ordinarily be eaten up by a machine. I have stuff to do, but there’s more than enough time to do it all in. I’m briefly removed from the acceleration and omnipresence with which the last two decades of digital technology have blessed us. It brings back memories of a youthful world I once knew, years ago (many years, it seems).

Wonder of wonders, with more time has come more connectedness with people. Yep, it’s true: Dad has more time with his kids when he isn’t sending emails and they aren’t watching a movie. We’ve raked the yard together (twice!), played dominos together, read books, and – shockingly! – enjoyed three meals a day together. My five-year-old commented particularly on this last phenomenon: “Dad, how come you’re eating with us all the time?”

Or let me speak of time with my wife. Deprived of the never-ending voyeurism of Facebook, away from the mental burps of the Twittersphere and the relentless incoming surges of email, we have found ourselves face-to-face – and not out at a restaurant, in our own home! After the kids were in bed last night, we danced by candlelight to 1930’s music (played on a battery-operated radio) in the living room. That would never have happened if the Internet was working.

The connections have been more than just domestic. No one from the church could get a hold of us yesterday, so a family actually came to the house last night to check on us. I can’t express how moving that was. Not a text, not an email, not even a phone call – an unannounced visit. It meant the world. So have the kindly visits since then, dropping off packs of ice for our food supplies. Real-life, real-time, face-to-face community. I mean, it’s not quite the same as a poke on Facebook, but we’ll get all that back shortly.

Did I mention that I met my neighbor? Ran into him out on the street last evening (I haven’t seen this many people out walking in our neighborhood since the block party), and he needed a three-prong adaptor for a pump he was trying to run in his basement. I happened to have one, we struck up a conversation, and by today we were raking our lawns together while our kids played in the leaf piles rained down by Irene. For a moment or two, it was like living in a real neighborhood, where people across the street know each other by name and have something in common besides a ZIP code. Why? Well I, for one, had the time. Nothing else more urgent to do. My brain wasn’t plugged into the data-force that is the modern world. I was . . . available.

So anytime now, the electricity will come back on, and when it does, I’ll rush to post this on my blog, check my email and Twitter accounts, and read the latest avalanche of news. Life at breakneck speed will resume. And I wish it wouldn’t. I wish I could just sit here writing with pen and ink, while my wife sits on the couch near me reading, and my kids play in the yard. I wish the hum in my ears could be the katydids I hear right now, instead of the white noise that usually drowns them out. I wish I could look up through my skylight every night and see the stars the way we did last night, when there weren’t a million lights to push them out of view. I wish the quiet in my soul could go on and on, pouring out in prayer and meditation, study and observation, unhurried love for my family, and unrushed availability to my neighbor. I wish I had the fortitude to live in a world of digital speed and not lose composure. I wish I could ride the storm of hurry and not end up with hurry sickness. Ready or not, the storm’s coming back. Maybe that’s why the Lord sent me these lessons from Irene.

Comment » | Things Come Lately

Tenth Sunday after Trinity

August 29th, 2011 — 11:03pm

A day late, for reasons which shall appear in a following post:

“Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Comment » | Grace and Life

Worship evangelism

August 24th, 2011 — 2:58pm

“One of the most effective evangelistic methods a church can use is exposing the unchurched to the authentic worship of God.” (Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches, p. 263)

Comment » | Of Worship and Work

Ninth Sunday after Trinity

August 21st, 2011 — 7:00am

“Grant to us Lord we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful; that we, which cannot be without thee, may by thee be able to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Comment » | Grace and Life

Eighth Sunday after Trinity

August 14th, 2011 — 7:46am

“God, whose providence is never deceived, we humbly beseech thee that thou wilt put away from us all hurtful things, and give those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Comment » | Grace and Life

Shame, projected

August 10th, 2011 — 12:42pm

Shame is basic to our human condition since the Fall. We’re all experts at sewing fig leaves, trying to conceal our nakedness.

A waste product of this shame is that we often project our own self-loathing into the hearts of others. If it’s hard to believe God looks on us with favor in Christ, it’s perhaps equally hard to believe others do. This would explain our wretched tendency to put nearly everything said or done to us by another person in the worst possible light: “Oh, she did that just to spite me . . . .” “See, I wasn’t included again, which just proves . . . .” “How dare he ask that of me! If that doesn’t show how little I’m valued . . . . ”

Of course, it may be that other people actually think of us much worse than we imagine – it is certain that they see our faults more clearly than we do. But if the gospel means anything, it means we can lift up our heads before God even when no one else will allow it; and it means we have power as His people not only to extend grace and favor to each other, but also to receive and trust this favor from one another. Love doesn’t assume another person sees me through my own graceless eyes, any more than it assumes the other person sees me through my own rosy spectacles. It believes, rather, that God’s truth and grace are at work in the heart of the other who names His name, and that He intends me to be the beneficiary of both.

to us

Comment » | Life Together

Website launch!

August 8th, 2011 — 12:10pm

It’s been a quiet summer on this blog. Part of the reason can be found here:

Very excited about this launch!

Comment » | Things Come Lately

Seventh Sunday after Trinity

August 7th, 2011 — 8:13am

“Lord of all power and might, which art the author and giver of all good things; graft in our hearts the love of thy name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Comment » | Grace and Life

Technology and Christian love

August 4th, 2011 — 4:14pm

From Brian Brock’s recent weighty work, Christian Ethics in a Technological Age (pp. 378–79):

“Technology assessment has only one inviolable prohibition: Thou shalt not undermine the survival of the institution, or stated positively: Thou shalt protect your own institution by tirelessly expanding those resources under your control. The Christian community has one inviolable claim upon it that can only be stated in positive terms: Thou shalt love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself. The promise of Christ is that collaboration with his love frees humans from the compulsions to expansion driven by fear of a world bound to securing its own well-being.”

Comment » | Science, Theology, and Priestcraft

Political worship

August 3rd, 2011 — 3:50pm

Bernd Wannenwetsch on the idea behind his book title, Political Worship: Ethics for Christian Citizens:

“The expression ‘political worship’ takes into account the fact that in the proper sense every public service of worship in which a Christian congregation engages has a specifically political character, since it is the assembly of ‘Christian citizens’, ‘fellow-citizens with the saints’ (Eph. 2:19), in praise of the God who, in the words of the hymn, ‘ruleth on high’. Christian ethics recognizes that it is political when it considers the forming of the congregation in worship as the formation of ‘a public’ in its own unique sense: the particular political form of life which is determined by ‘the law of the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:2).”

He goes on to say (all of this is found on p. 7):

“In my view, the political understanding of worship holds the key to an understanding of its meaning for Christian ethics in general.”

Comment » | Of Worship and Work

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