Wednesday, March 28, 2007

a little advice, a little tryst

i've just been thinking about loving my wife a lot at the risk of sounding slightly like a sissy i thought i'd throw out some free verse.

it's a reminder for us all
and a peek into my mind for her.

You can never tell your wife too often that you want her.
She is elemental, but you’re the imitation rain.

You would drown in someone else’s pools.

You are desperate and parched
whenever she is not close at hand.

For my whole life I’ve hoped to die while swimming on downstream
holding her hand – a waterfall that daily makes me clean.

She is my aqua vitae.

I am her Samaritan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

meaning: form, process, matter

we're all searching for meaning

meaning, which is the highest aspiration of every individual
in every moment
in every relationship

a fairly significant problem with the church world is that church doesn't mean anything
at least, for most people it doesn't

church has lost it's inherent meaning

it's just become hard to see the point of going to church
or belonging to church
or feeling like going to church is important

but it is

it's just that we've got to be intentional about creating meaningful intersections
at/with/in church

see, it's not the fault of the people who find church meaningless
it's our fault for not caring enough to try and make it meaningful

it's the fault of those of us in the pray-trade who seem unwilling [at times]
to put aside our goofy notions about what the right
or wrong
way to do things
really is

when we ought to be asking ourselves
what cultivates meaning

fritjof capra talks about meaning being the fourth dimension in social phenomena
he says that - in order for there to be meaning - there must first be

FORM - the pattern of organization, or "thing"
PROCESS - the means by which the configuration of relationships brings self-awareness
STRUCTURE/MATTER - the components of the form and their relationship to the whole

in eccleisure land,
this means we've got to take some time to process the spiritual needs
in the world around us
to think creatively about how to address those needs with people skilled and qualified to dream alongside us

it also means we've got to identify some kind of concrete response to these problems
which could be something as crude as an event
or as intricate as a rule of life
or as personal/private as a set of internal exercises designed for spatial and relational distance

but it must also be subject to some kind of structure
that defines how the parts relate to the whole
and why that should matter
and why we think it addresses the original need
for any response on our part to begin with

only when these things work
and work well together
can we encapsulate our experiences in a context of meaning

i.e. when we get how things are supposed to work
and then they work like that
we can begin to observe the changes brought on by those things
and test them to see if they're really helping


we sometimes never get that far
for fear that our 'final product'
will be deficient in some way
that it won't mean anything
and that we'll have failed

we sometimes will

but we'll never figure that out
unless we're willing to risk the meaningless we now experience
for the chance
at being

know what i mean?

Friday, March 16, 2007


during our recent series on the novel "to kill a mockingbird" we tried to make the point that the racial prejudice in the book was only one of the many kinds of ungodly prejudice affecting our world today.

i mentioned that one inexcusable form of prejudice that evangelicals are particularly guilty of is hateful speech and beahvior towards either [a] gays, or [b] muslims
and have received a fair-amount of curious feedback from my remarks.

i've reprinted one set of correspondance here to illustrate:

Dear Dave,

We have some questions regarding your sermon on last Sunday (March 11th).

Were you advocating the homosexual lifestyle? Were you saying that if we believe as the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong, sinful and separates the homosexual from God, that we are racist or have prejudices or that we are hateful?

Instead of focusing on and accepting the 'lifestyle', shouldn’t we focus on the individual and lovingly come alongside them to help them turn from sin? If we are going to be balanced, shouldn’t we address all sexual sin and not single out homosexuals?

How does what you said line up with 1 Cor. 6:9-11, I Tim. 1:8-11, or Romans 1:27?


[names withheld]

hi guys - thanks for your email

for future reference, my personal email is and you can feel free to email me directly. i try to make myself really accessible for conversation, so please don't feel like it would be inappropriate for you to contact me this way.

as to last sunday's sermon, let me see if i can clear up any misconceptions here

no - i am not advocating that homosexuality be considered un-sinful
in fact,
i think the bible is fairly clear on that issue
i am concerned by how hatefully we proclaim it to be sinful

the old adage is 'hate the sin, but love the sinner'
which i find to be a little trite, but also very true

i think this is what jesus did

he never excused sin
but he never responded to sinfulness with sinful behavior
i.e. he never treated a "sinner" with disdain, prejudice, or hatred

and i think the north american church is often collectively guilty of treating homosexuals hatefully

i realize that by saying we ought to be less hateful towards homosexuals [and/or muslims, etc...]
i run the risk of being labelled a liberal
or being boxed into a category of pastors/theologians who seem to disregard the scriptural mandate for moral behavior

but i'm not those people

in fact, i don't believe i made any mention whatsoever of excusing immoral or unethical conduct
including the immoral and unethical conduct of christian people who [through their deep convictions about biblical morality] often get carried away with condemnatory language and behavior

does that help?

your email is the third email i've received about my remarks last sunday
and i want to make sure i respond respectfully
because your concerns are valid

if i was actually dismissing the biblical mandate for moral and ethical behavior
you would be 100% justified in questioning my legitimacy as a bible teacher

but i'm really quite concerned that those standards remain unmoved
and that we all use the bible as the guide for our lives

i'd like to make sure you know that i didn't catch any accusations or "complaining" in your email
it just seemed like an honest set of questions
if my really long response seemed defensive
that wasn't my intention
i'm just trying to make sure that i give you the courtesy of a fuller explanation

if you'd like to talk further about these things then please let me know
i'd like to do everything i can to become a better pastor
and perhaps our conversations can help me in this regard



Thank you, David, for the quick response.
Your email helped clarify the misconceptions for us. The reason we emailed you was that we felt you left us hanging on what you meant when you brought up the topic of homosexuals/muslims...when your sermon was on racism. (which with muslims, would tie into the subject, but we couldn't figure out where in that homosexuals fit in.) When you bring up something like that, which is actually a new subject as it does not tie in to racism, perhaps you could explain a bit deeper. We did not imply that you were excusing immoral or unethical conduct; actually, perhaps you should have said you weren't excusing it and that would have clarified it, at least for us.

We would be interested in a sermon on homosexuals and how to reach them, lead them to Christ and set them free from the sin that has enveloped their lives. Actually, it should be a sermon about sin, and how it can take over one's life, as this is true with any addiction, be it alcoholism, pornography, gluttony, etc. It is the sin that they need to be set free from.

We realize this is not an easy subject (homosexuality) and a very controversial one. And we happen to agree with you that there are many who go overboard with hatred towards the sinner. For instance, we are extremely sold out on 'pro-life'. But it makes us sick when we see protesters yelling "baby killer" in front of an abortion clinic. I am sure Jesus is much more pleased when we make the effort to find a way to help the pregnant woman with her pregnancy; be it financial, moral support, or adopting the unwanted child, and hopefully, counseling her to better decisions that got her pregnant in the first place! (a life-style change?)

Sure, you can post our email on your blog, but as we are 'behind-the-scenes' type of folks, skip our names. Thanks.

Sometimes we trolls need things explained in more detail... (trolls being those who live beneath the bridge...okay, I'll explain that more if you don't get it...)


[names withheld]

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

built in bullsh*t detector

hemingway was recorded as declaring that "everyone needs a built-in bullsh*t detector"

which, to be honest, is a concept that has probably been as formative in my spiritual development as anything by thomas merton or tom wright.

i just see so many people adopt "ways" of being "spiritual" that, in actual fact, seem to divorce them from spirituality rather than help facilitate it.

for example, i sometimes see people trying to practice "being present" with god and with others in each moment [this, btw, is a very noble intention and one that definately honors god]

sometimes people work so hard to "be present" that that's all they think about

so, ironically, by being so intent on "presencing" they actually disengage from what's happening around them

and are not truly present, but are instead "being present"

which often looks like they've become zombies or drones

it's at this point that i feel like hemingway's magical b.s. detector would come in handy

i feel like saying,
"hey - quite presencing and look me in the face, weirdo"

which, i know, sounds harsh
but it just seems so foolish that someone would glaze over in conversation by virtue of trying to be more engaging

there are, of course, a myriad of ways in which people's efforts at being spiritual tend to prohibit them from actually being spiritual, and i gave this example only so i didn't fall into the tired litany of narratives about

1. the prayer-request gossipper, who uses your weaknesses as conversational carpet bombing


2. the friendly-evangelist, who is nice so you'll become a baptist


3. the passionate worshipper/passionate partier, who performs every day of the week but for a different audience


i suppose i'd just like to see more people own up to their shortcomings
without wallowing in them
or reveling in them
or lashing out at others for having them

but instead
demonstrating a willingness to just be who they are
while simultaneously feeling compelled to chip away towards becoming someone of whom
jesus can be more proud

i suppose i really just want this for myself as well

and maybe, to be fair, this is really what the "presencing" people are trying to do.
maybe they're looking at people like my friend randy shafer
who is sick with cancer
and yet maintains a remarkable ability to be present in conversation
and also with god
without falling into the glazed-over-spiritual guy trap
and seeing what it looks like to actually be present
instead of just trying to be present
but the only way to do that successfully is to just try

so maybe [again with the maybes?], i ought to have a little more grace for them in their efforts

but maybe not

'cause maybe we could all get there more truly if we skipped the vernacular
or the "approach"
and instead just did what we felt like the spirit was coaching us to do in the moment

'cause that is different

listening to god
is different
than adopting a mandate of "being present"

the former is a kind of spiritual honesty
the latter feels like a new kind of physical fitness craze that you try out
like atkins
or south beath
until it becomes something you used to do.

and, yes, this post does fall into the category of "useful for no one but me" :)