A sinner saved by the grace of God given to those with faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Period.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Buckeyes Face First Big Test of 2007 Campaign Tomorrow
There are reasons for concern. I know that the Buckeyes are presently ranked 10th. in the country. But early season polling means little. (Just think of Michigan, now 0-2, ranked 5th. as the season began.) And, the Buckeyes haven't faced major opponents or been away from Ohio Stadium.
While OSU's defense has been fantastic so far, the offense, decimated by the graduations or early departures of great players, has been sketchy. If the Buckeyes can pass this early away-game test, we OSU grads might even hope for a share of this year's Big Ten title.
Molly Yanity, who works the Huskie beat for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer though, sees things a bit differently from that. In her P-I blog today, Yanity unflinchingly picks Ohio State, after a defensive faceoff, to win. Here's the text of her entire post:
With Washington's run-stopping ability shining of late and the Buckeyes' dangerous linebackers, this should be a defensive struggle.
I believe, though, that the Buckeyes have an edge when it comes to big games – every time they play, it's before a huge, loud crowd. Even beyond that, their rivalry games are intense, they go to bowl games, everyone they play puts a target on them.
That experience will pay off as the Huskies haven't played in a game with a ton of meaning. Let's face it -- this games MEANS something in Seattle. A top-10 team is coming to the Huskies' house and the air will be electric.
Buckeyes win, 17-7.
This pick has nothing to do with the fact that I was born and raised in Athens, Ohio, which is about 90 miles from Columbus. Honestly! In Athens, you root for the Ohio U. Bobcats and roll your eyes at the bully cousin in the middle of the state. Trust me, an upset in Seattle would send my family into cartwheels.
For a more cautionary perspective, check out what Tim May and Ken Gordon, The Columbus Dispatch reporters who cover Ohio State football have to say about tomorrow's game.
[Above picture: Yahoo.com]
UPDATE: Yanity looks pretty smart. The Bucks won 33-14. (By the way, check out the great Columbus Dispatch headline here. Perfect for a game won by Ohio State in Seattle.)
"I'm ok with knowing that you're not going to like me for the next 20 minutes -- or 20 years..."
- Unconditional affection
- Firm discipline
With affection, parents convey to their children just how worthy their young ones are and they give children confidence to deal with life. Home and family become safe havens.
With discipline, parents acquaint their kids with the fundamental fact of the universe: "God is God and you and I aren't." Kids learn that there are limits to what they can and should have and that their desires aren't always more important than those of others. We all have to share this planet; discipline teaches kids how to share, not to mention preventing them from becoming insufferable bullies, first, with their parents and families and later, with others.
You might enjoy the way Jill Hudson Neal puts all of this in perspective in an article in today's Washington Post:
Life is sometimes unbearable for a two-year-old, you understand, and my sweet thing has taken to falling out (literally) whenever he confronts the many injustices in his world: having his Binky taken away, not being brought a snack whenever he wants one, having to watch the 6 o'clock news rather than "The Backyardigans," and his older brother's existence. He also regularly glares, pouts and screams like a dolphin trapped in a tuna net, which makes me both furious and nearly suicidal.I know a man in his early thirties who, several years back, went through the breakup of his marriage. Although, it takes two to make or break any relationship, this fellow was the biggest contributor to the demise of their union. Both before and since, he's seen the beginnings and ends of a procession of romantic relationships.
Something has to give. So I've pulled my Mean Mommy cap out of cold storage.
It's not as scary as it sounds. It doesn't have to be worn with a scowl or sneer, and it's not meant to frighten the kids into a lifetime of Freudian analysis. I don't want my children to be terrified of me, but having them know that I'm a tough mom can't be a bad thing. I hope they know I'm a firm, loving caretaker who always has their back. But a little fear might go a long way.
And it also sends an important message: "I'm ok with knowing that you're not going to like me for the next 20 minutes -- or 20 years..."
That's primarily because he's an overgrown brat, always catered to by his still-doting parents, perpetually stuck in the Terrible Twos. (By the way, my wife and I found with our kids that the Threes were more challenging than the Twos.) Extended family members tell the same story: Ned initially charms people. But eventually, the real person emerges. "If he doesn't get his way," one relative tells me, "he flails his arms and breaks things." Break enough things and eventually, relationships are broken too.
Of course, Ned is old enough to know better. You can't blame his parents. He's responsible for himself. But his gutless parents, unwilling to be unpopular for even twenty minutes, unfortunately set a pattern in Ned's life from which he may never break free. He simply can't imagine not getting his way. Ever. That's a prescription for a lonely, bitter life.
In an important scene in Remember the Titans, black head coach Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, confronts his white assistant, Bill Yoast, played by Will Patton, for coddling the black players. By doing so, Boone claimed, Yoast wasn't helping the players, he was "crippling them, crippling them for life."
Parents who never say, "No" to their children, who are unwilling to pay the price of being unpopular for a season, and who rarely impose expectations on their kids, cripple them for life. Life doesn't always tell us, "Yes." Nor should it. Parents who fail to let their kids know that aren't loving.
They may be irresponsible.
But they're not loving.
This isn't to say that childhood should be like an extended stay on Parris Island.
Nor should parents impose unfair demands on their kids.
I know a man who was a star basketball player in his high school days. (Or at least through his constant retelling of the myth, he thinks he was.) His son is playing basketball, although his favorite sport is hockey. But, to hear the father tell it, the son never plays well enough. More than a few people have witnessed vicious public scoldings, including threatened punishments, if the son doesn't perform up to snuff.
I'm not even sure that what this father does falls under the heading of "discipline," though from his warped perspective, he may think so. If discipline is aimed at helping our children function responsibly in the world, bullying them into becoming what we always dreamed of being ourselves is of no value.
But discipline--parents letting kids know what is expected of them and enforcing those expectations--is an essential element of responsible, loving parenting.
By the way, what is the most important obligation of parents? I believe it's to let them know, through our words and our lives, about the God Who reveals Himself ultimately in Jesus Christ.
(See here and here.)
Thursday, September 13, 2007
"Christians Aren't Part of the Perpetually Offended"
Refusing to be offended is part of our call as Christians, a call which, I for one, too often fail to heed. I'm often so busy being religious that I fail to be Christian. We need to take our cue (and our orders) from our Lord:
[Jesus said:] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:43-45)See David Wayne's fantastic post and the pieces to which he links.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Thoughts on 9/11
It's one measure of the degree to which the events of six years ago today are seared on our memories that when speaking of them, all we have to say is, "9/11."
No one wonders whether we're referring to a date or an emergency number.
And nobody asks the year.
But I worry about what we're doing with this day. It's being called Patriot's Day by some, celebrated with national songs, speeches, and red, white, and blue bunting.
Don't get me wrong: I believe in patriotism. I love this country and its history and the privilege of being an American citizen.
Somehow though, Patriot's Day doesn't fit with 9/11 for me.
The event most like 9/11 in previous US history was the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. On every December 7, when I was growing up, then as now, the media had small remembrances of the attack and if you prompted them, people who'd been alive then would tell you what they were doing when they got the news. A man of my acquaintance had been stationed at Pearl in December, 1941, and because of my questions and interest in history, told me about his experience of the attack.
But the notion of turning December 7 into a kind of Patriot's Day seems never to have occurred to members of "the greatest generation."
Why has it occurred to us to give such treatment to 9/11?
I suspect it has to do with what we're like in the America of the early-twenty-first-century. We are the generation lurching through life in the throes of attenuated Freudianism, a therapeutic culture of popularized, mischaracterized, and ill-informed psychobabble. We spend lots of time on self-indulgent navel-gazing, asking ourselves whether we're happy and when we discover that we're not, looking for people to blame.
There's nothing wrong with good psychological or psychiatric care. Countless numbers of people have been helped by these disciplines.
But there's something very wrong with the popularization of them that has resulted in a culture that glories in victimization.
This is seen in today's litigiousness in which millions of people, feeling slighted, hurt, or damaged, are suing others in unprecedented numbers.
We see it in juries in civil cases awarding enormous judgments, seemingly out of all proportion to the violations of the victimizers.
We see it too, in the constantly shifting standards of political correctness that have the media trolling for new ogres, people who in the eyes of today's white hat-black hat journalism, deserve to be villified.
If ever there was a person clearly suited to the role of villain, it's Osama bin Laden. He is a genuinely evil man, living a life given over to the devil's work. The movement which he encourages, has financed, and has inspired is one of the most notoriously demonic in world history.
It's true that on 9/11 six years ago, al-Qaeda victimized America and Americans and it will always live in our memories.
But I for one, don't fancy being a victim for the rest of my life. That's why on the evening of September 11, 2001, while most were canceling foreign trips, my daughter and I were among the few that a Delta reservation clerk talked to that day who made reservations for an overseas trek.
You go to the analyst so that one day, you'll no longer need to be under her or his treatment and you can live as a healthy grown-up person.
The alcoholic doesn't celebrate the day he took his first drink, but the day when he took his last.
No person who has been victimized by violence or prejudice commemorates the days of their violation, but the days of their psychological and physical liberation, the moments when hope entered their lives.
This day should be an occasion neither for whining or warmongering.
Leave the raucous flag-waving to other days. Bag the "world is against us" rhetoric altogether. I think that we ought to take our cue from the greatest generation: 9/11 should simply be a day of quiet remembrance.
[THANKS TO: Pastor Jeff for linking to this post. Pastor Jeff's Conblogeration is one of the best blogs around!]
[THANKS ALSO TO: Reader_iam at Done With Mirrors for linking to this post.]
Music So Beautiful, It Nearly Brings Tears
In her post on living an artful life, Yellow Springs, Ohio-artist and blogger Jafabrit asks:
Have you ever listened to music and thought it so beautiful you could cry?Yes, I remember the first time I listened to the entire Born to Run LP by Bruce Springsteen, I cried. I couldn't believe that someone could channel that much passion, that much stirring musicianship, and lyrics so vivid and so beautiful into one album. I not only could have cried, I actually did.
There was also jealousy in those tears. I've always tinkered with composing. But when I heard Born to Run, I thought, "What's the use?" My reaction was a bit like that of folkie Phil Ochs, thought in their Greenwich Village days to be Bob Dylan's chief rival, when he heard Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. Ochs laughed and cried at once, realizing that Dylan had surpassed him and everybody else.
After hearing Born to Run, I wrote a song, the lyrics to which began:
Aimless shuffle, Bruce Springsteen's got me down againSpeaking of Bob Dylan, by the way, my all-time favorite Dylan LP (and my son's) is Blood on the Tracks. The 1975 release is a painful break-up album, chronicling the end of Dylan's marriage. The poignance is palpable as we hear Dylan "singing through these tears." I'm moved to the brink of tears of empathy when I hear Dylan sing, for example:
If you see her, say hello, she might be in TangierOr, how about, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, the words of a man seeing the end of a love at its beginning?:
She left here last early spring, is livin' there, I hear
Say for me that I'm all right though things get kind of slow
She might think that I've forgotten her, don't tell her it isn't so.
We had a falling-out, like lovers often will
And to think of how she left that night, it still brings me a chill
And though our separation, it pierced me to the heart
She still lives inside of me, we've never been apart.
If you get close to her, kiss her once for me
I always have respected her for busting out and gettin' free
Oh, whatever makes her happy, I won't stand in the way
Though the bitter taste still lingers on from the night I tried to make her stay.
I see a lot of people as I make the rounds
And I hear her name here and there as I go from town to town
And I've never gotten used to it, I've just learned to turn it off
Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm gettin' soft.
Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past
I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast
If she's passin' back this way, I'm not that hard to find
Tell her she can look me up if she's got the time.
I've seen love go by my door(I also love it that Dylan rhymes Honolulu and Ashtabula!)
It's never been this close before
Never been so easy or so slow.
Been shooting in the dark too long
When somethin's not right it's wrong
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.
Dragon clouds so high above
I've only known careless love,
It's always hit me from below.
This time around it's more correct
Right on target, so direct,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.
Purple clover, Queen Anne lace,
Crimson hair across your face,
You could make me cry if you don't know.
Can't remember what I was thinkin' of
You might be spoilin' me too much, love,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.
Flowers on the hillside, bloomin' crazy,
Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme,
Blue river runnin' slow and lazy,
I could stay with you forever
And never realize the time.
Situations have ended sad,
Relationships have all been bad.
Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud.
But there's no way I can compare
All those scenes to this affair,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.
Yer gonna make me wonder what I'm doin',
Stayin' far behind without you.
Yer gonna make me wonder what I'm sayin',
Yer gonna make me give myself a good talkin' to.
I'll look for you in old Honolulu,
San Francisco, Ashtabula,
Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know.
But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass, in the ones I love,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.
Of course, Jafa seems to have had in mind songs that derive their power to move us from their melody. In that case, I mention Paul McCartney's melodies. Often described as haunting, they too can also bring me close to tears from their beauty. The final movement of his Standing Stone moves me every time I hear it. I pray that Paul McCartney will be in heaven; not only because I pray that for all people, but also because, selfishly, I would love to hear the music he would compose for God's glory there! (All can be in heaven. See here.)
Then, there are a whole bunch of hymns and praise songs that do that to me. Among them, Amazing Grace, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, Above All, My Glorious, Lead Me to the Cross, and Were You There?. We sing this last one at the conclusion of our Good Friday Tenebrae worship services and it always speaks powerfully about the wonder of God enfleshed giving Himself on the cross!
How about you, any music so beautiful, you think that you could cry?
Monday, September 10, 2007
Pastor Jeff for linking to my ruminations on Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State football so far this season.
Joe Gandelman for mentioning my post regarding the terms lying in state and lying in repose.
About Paul Gillmor
Day In, Day Out...
This Saturday's Game Between Michigan and Notre Dame
That's because both the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish are off to 0-2 starts on their seasons.
Although I'm an Ohio State grad, I almost feel sorry for Michigan. In two weeks, Michigan plays Penn State, clearly the team to beat this year in the Big Ten.
About this week, a little secret: There's only one team I more consistently root against than I do Michigan. That would be Notre Dame. I'm not saying that I'm pulling for the Wolverines this week. I just won't be terribly disappointed if they do win.
A Michigan victory would have the added effect of blunting some of the perennial criticisms leveled against the Big Ten.
But it would be ridiculous to bank on Michigan this week. Their defense has been atrocious so far.
Meanwhile, Ohio State's defense played brilliantly this past Saturday, though the offense was lackluster. The Buckeyes beat the University of Akron 20-2. Clearly, the Buckeye defense is strong. But with the departure of people like Ted Ginn, Jr., Anthony Gonzalez, and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, the offense is in a rebuilding year.
If you have to choose between rebuilding on offense or defense, I'd choose offense. The wisdom in baseball is that homeruns fill the bleachers, but pitching wins the World Series. Similarly, in football, running up points creates excitement (and takes some pressure off the defense), but defense wins championships. In 2002, the Buckeyes won a national championship with a very good offense and an absolutely first class defense.
Will Ohio State win in the Big Ten this year? I doubt it. There's simply too much rebuilding to be done this year.
But I would never bet against Jim Tressel, Buckeye head coach, a guy who has four Division II national championships and one in Division I to his credit. He seems to have a way of grafting his quiet, unassuming confidence and constant commitment to improvement onto his players.
[See here, here, here, here, and here.]
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Those Funny Church Words: DISCIPLESHIP
German Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who opposed Adolf Hitler in the Name of Jesus Christ and lost his life for it, wrote in his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him, ‘Come and die.’”
We began this series on funny church words two weeks ago with a discussion of what I consider to be the most remarkable character trait of God: His grace. Unconditionally--”while we were still sinners,” as Paul puts it in the New Testament--God sent His Son Jesus into the world so that sinners who turn away from their sin and believe in Him can live with God forever. We cannot earn God’s grace! It is truly a free gift.
And it is true that the crucified and risen Jesus calls us to new life. All who follow Jesus Christ look forward to an eternity with God!
But following Jesus also entails a willingness to crucify our sins, even to the point of parting with old ways of thinking and living. Jesus says, “If you save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s, you will keep it.”
When drug addicts, alcoholics, or people suffering from addictions like pornography, gambling, food, purging, or whatever, decide that they must get rid of the addictions around which they’ve built their lives, a kind of daily dying begins. In just the same way, each day, in order to be truly alive, we who believe in Jesus Christ and are addicted to sin, must, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, submit again to Jesus Christ.
We must allow the old self to die so that the new self, the God self, the person God made in His own image, can begin to emerge from the dust and muck of sin and death. This daily dying to self and re-submission to Christ so that His grace can do its work is what the Bible calls discipleship.
There are several major ingredients to discipleship. I want to talk about just five of them today.
To understand the first and most obvious, picture a young couple about to be married. Neither the bride or the groom can know what the years will bring. All they know for sure is that they love one another and want to always be together. And so they make promises to one another. As time passes, they may not always keep those promises. They may hurt one another. Sometimes the broken promises and the hurts will be so large that they can only be healed by repentance and forgiveness. But they can make it as long as they both realize that the marriage only begins with the words, “I do.”
Discipleship involves a similar commitment and understanding. It starts with surrender to Christ and with a commitment to daily surrender every day of our lives.
Once, as we read in one of our Bible lessons for today, the Old Testament leader Joshua gathered the people of Israel together and told them to choose whether they were going to surrender to God or not. Then he told them, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Just as every married couple begins their relationship with one another with the words, “I do,” every Christian begins the journey of discipleship when they make the commitment entailed in saying, “I believe!”
To understand a second element of discipleship, picture a doctor freshly graduated from medical school. She gets an office, fills it with equipment, and hires an assistant and a receptionist. But then, she won’t see any patients, make any appointments, or attach herself to any hospital. She’s a doctor; the certificate on the wall says so. But can she really be thought of as a doctor if she doesn’t practice medicine? Probably not.
In our second lesson, James, the earthly brother of Jesus and a leader of the first century church, said that, “Faith without works is dead.” Discipleship is all about practicing our faith.
It means living in daily communication with God by reading His Word and praying.
It means seeking God’s guidance for our decisions and actions.
It means repenting for our sin and seeking God’s renewal for living differently.
Being a disciple isn’t about holding membership in a church, although every disciple needs to be part of a church. It’s about a commitment to living our faith, however imperfectly we all do that.
Third: Discipleship involves following the God we meet in Jesus Christ exclusively. What would happen to a football player who went out onto the field with chains and two-hundred pound weights slapped around his wrists and ankles? It’s doubtful he’d have a very good game. You can bet that fairly soon, he'd either lose the weights and chains or head for the locker room.
God wants to give us His love and power for today and forever. But often, we can’t receive those things because we’re weighed down. Our weights may be worry, sin, work, obligations, illness, ambitions, or whatever. We can so rely on these things, that we don’t rely on God. But Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Disciples seek to empty their hands of all the things that vie for first place in their lives so that they can cling to Christ alone!
A fourth ingredient of discipleship, one I’ve already touched on, is simply, spending time with Christ. Charles Darwin, famous for his book The Origin of Species, began his life as a Christian. Later, he became an agnostic, uncertain of God’s existence. As an older man, Darwin wrote to a friend that his mind was a “withered leaf to everything except science.” He told this friend that he no longer could even enjoy hearing Handel’s Messiah, the stirring piece about Christ, despite the fact that in his younger years, he had loved it. Darwin had allowed Jesus Christ to be crowded out of his life.
Our lives can be crowded too. Family, work, errands, friends, taking care of our houses and yards, vacations, kids sports, concerts: All these things and more can fill our days. None of them are bad, of course. But to have the energy for them, we need more than just a good night’s sleep. We need to take the time to read God’s Word, to pray, and to let Christ recharge our batteries.
During the Tuesday night Bible study this past week, we agreed that one thing that points to the power of God’s Word is that we often can find the time to veg out in front of the television, work the crossword puzzle, leaf through a magazine, or play video games. But we can’t find the time to include a few minutes of Bible reading or prayer in our busy days. It’s as though the devil, the world, or our sinful selves make it easier to spend time in trivial pursuits and tough to find the time to do the thing we most need and crave: being with God.
Martin Luther, at a time when he was chief administrator of more than ten monasteries, taught at a university, served as parish pastor, and a prolific, if unpaid, best-selling author, told a friend, “I have too much to do each day to pray less than three hours every morning.”
When you pray and read God’s Word and how long you pray and read God’s Word is less important than that, like Luther, you do pray and read the Word each day.
Over the course of this summer, as we’ve been joined by thousands of other Christians praying with and for us, we at Friendship have seen just how much God does through the prayers of His people. As Jim and I were remarking last Saturday, “Whoever heard of a church gaining attendance, members, and giving in the summer months?” But it happened this summer at Friendship! That’s the sort of thing that can happen when disciples spend time with God!
Finally, disciples share their faith with others. Remember the four challenges that Mike gave to us on June 3?
Updating them a bit for this autumn season, I believe that they should continue to challenge Friendship:
(1) Pray for our church, seeking God’s guidance;Disciples want others to know Christ, too. As Rick Warren says, "The church that doesn't want to grow is telling the world to go to hell." My prayer is--and will continue to be--that Friendship will always be a congregation intent on sharing Christ with others, that the people of Friendship will always let the light of Christ shine brightly in their lives!
(2) Maintain strong participation in the church. (Something that needs to continue in the fall.)
(3) Maintain strong giving, giving prayerful consideration to the Biblical model for giving, the tithe, designating the first 10% of our income to God’s purposes; AND
(4) Invite others to worship.
A soapmaker, back in the days when there were soapmakers, convinced that there was nothing to Christianity, approached a pastor, who was teaching a group of children one day. “Pastor,” he said, “how can you say that this church stuff is worth anything when there’s so much suffering, evil, and hypocrisy in the world? What good are all the sermons and books you people produce?” The pastor motioned to a small child, “This is Eric. He’s three years old. I ask you, what good is soap when Eric and hundreds of children like him are dirty? How can you pretend that soap is effective?” “That’s stupid,” the soapmaker responded. “If soap is to be effective, it has to be used.” “Exactly,” said the pastor. “If Christianity is to be effective, it must be used.”
Discipleship is “using” our faith in Jesus Christ in the best sense of that verb. It entails:
- surrendering to Christ;
- practicing our faith in Christ;
- flushing our lives of all that distracts us from following Christ;
- spending time with Christ; and
- sharing our faith in Christ with others.