"Be patient with everyone, but above all with your…

“Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself.”
– Francis de Sales

"In Augustine's view, the incentive for so much le…

“In Augustine’s view, the incentive for so much learning is not then by any means mere mastery of knowledge for its own sake; such ambition “puffs up” the mind and makes it an object of idolatrous worship. What prompts earnest and excellent scholarship in the Christian is “fear of the Lord”. – from James Sire’s Habits of the Mind which quoted David Lyle Jeffrey’s The People of the Book

Happy Thanksgiving.

A Thanksgiving Reflection

From Whom?
by Jill Carattini

The four lines of what is commonly known as the Doxology have been sung for more than three hundred years.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

It has been said that the Doxology, which literally means words of glory, has done more to teach the doctrine of the Trinity than all the theological books ever written. To this day, when I sing those powerful lines, I recall the colorful lesson of my first grade Sunday school teacher. With something like cookie dough and bologna magically falling down on the table before us, she read us the story of a God who made the heavens rain bread and quail so that his grumbling people might live and know that He is God. I was impressed. And when we sung the Doxology at the end of the service, I thought it immensely helpful that I knew a little more of what it means when we sing that God is a God from whom all blessings flow.

Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. once said pointedly, “It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular.” He was commenting on the odd phenomenon of finding, especially around Thanksgiving time, people thankful “in general.” To be thankful “in general” is very strange, he concluded. “It’s a little like being married in general.”

Of course, his words are not dismissing the thought that it is good to give thanks in all circumstances. Rather, Plantinga raises an important philosophical question. Can one be thankful in general, thankful for the blessings that flow, without acknowledging from where or from whom they might be flowing?

In what remains a revealing look at human nature, Moses describes life after Egypt. Rescued Israel was a grumbling people sick of manna, wailing for meat, even longing to go back to the land God had mightily delivered them from. And in the midst of revealing God’s promise for meat, Moses says to them, “You have rejected the Lord, who is among you” (Numbers 11:20).

How revealing these words are to our grumbling prone lips. If being thankful is by nature being aware and appreciative of things beyond ourselves, complaining is refusing to see anything but ourselves. It is refusing to see the one who is among us. Moreover, it is an expression that serves only to affirm our own expectations, whether they are based on faulty visions of reality or not. Certainly the Israelites didn’t want to go back into captivity, but in their grumbling even slavery began to look inviting.

Choosing not to see the glory of God, choosing not to raise our eyes to God from whom all blessings flow is in essence to be content in blindness. It is choosing not to wholly consider reality, choosing to overlook the sovereign God at work beyond us, in all things, in all circumstances.

In one of his own doxologies found in Romans 11, the apostle Paul declares the glory of God and lifts our eyes to the one worthy of our praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken and living before one who is worthy of our praise, let us be thankful. Let us worship God with reverence and awe, always remembering with praise and wonder the one from whom all blessings flow.

Hidden Under a Bushel Sufjan Stevens and the problem of Christian music

I read almost everything I come across about Sufjan Stevens.
The writer of this article, Delvyn Case says a couple interesting things and criticizes Sufjan’s style. Maybe he’s musically right, but still, Sufjan’s music is beautiful.

“…A Michigan native, Stevens was something of a musical prodigy. He attended Michigan’s prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy, where he honed his skills on the oboe. He attended Hope College in Michigan, formed a band, and started piecing together his slightly outsider compositions with a few other sympathetic souls. From obscurity, Stevens has taken the college rock world by storm. His 2005 CD, Illinois—which occupied the number-one slot on college music charts for weeks in the fall of 2005, and has since received wide acclaim—and its recent companion disc of outtakes, The Avalanche, are part of his staggeringly ambitious project for a state-by-state romp through America. Stevens has done two states so far, the first being Michigan. Each release will be devoted to a single state, intended as a sweeping travelogue, a character study, and a window into Stevens’ worldview.

Even a casual listen to Stevens’ work reveals his fascination with Christian themes—creation, fall, and redemption. Take for example these lines from one of the tracks on Illinois, “Casimir Pulaski Day,” a heart-rending exploration of theodicy (via the story of a friend’s death from bone cancer):

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window
All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders, and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes

Certainly an overtly Christian message is a bitter pill to swallow for the average indie rock fan, but in song after song Stevens is open about his faith. As critical acclaim has mounted, though, he’s become much more evasive when questioned about his faith. He routinely brushes aside the matter of his personal beliefs, strategically separating himself from the weird world of contemporary Christian music. He has a “knee-jerk reaction to that kind of [Christian] culture,” he quipped in one interview. “Maybe I’m a little more empathetic … because we have similar fundamental beliefs. But culturally and aesthetically, some of it is really embarrassing.”1 More bluntly, he has said, “I don’t make faith-themed music.”2

Stevens seems convinced that to own up to evangelicalism would amount to professional or artistic suicide, and he is probably right. Though Christian culture warriors are put off by his calculated ambiguity, fans and critics are captivated. The high praise he has garnered from The New York Times and Rolling Stone—let alone thousands of fans around the world—may be the direct result of Stevens’ willingness to grapple, in a suitably cryptic fashion, with issues of faith. Indeed, the secular music press now views the spiritual component of his work as an asset, best summed up by the Village Voice, which called him “the Next Flannery [O’Connor].”… (article linked to title)

I came across this line and for whatever reason, I…

I came across this line and for whatever reason, I am bothered by it.

“And I will say further, that if there exists in a man faith in God joined to a life of purity and moral elevation, it is not so much the believing in God that makes him good, as the being good, thanks to God, that makes him believe in Him. Goodness is the best source of spiritual clear-sightedness.” – Miguel De Unamun in The Tragic Sense of Life

Of course, there is a lot to say about goodness. To me the problem is that the pre-determination (“that makes him believe in Him”) and the subject of goodness implies some kind of free will. Normally, I’d read it, agree, disagree, appreciate it or forget about it, but this one has made itself one of those “splinters”. So, I find myself picking at it and frustrated.

To my blog friends. Thank you for continued kindn…

To my blog friends.

Thank you for continued kindness in checking out my blog.
As you can relate to, time has been so short lately but I hope to get consistent again.
Just wanted to say thanks.

Why Great Men Fall: An Interview with Dr. Wayde Goodall

From the Monday Morning Insight blog

We’re going on two weeks now since the Ted Haggard scandal broke out, and the evangelical world is still buzzing about it. How could something like this happen? How can someone so dedicated to the cause of Christ be living a secret life? And many pastors are asking, “Even though I don’t think it could happen to me, how do I safeguard myself from ever ending up in the same situation?” This week, I had the chance to interview Dr. Wayde Goodall. Dr. Goodall is himself a pastor, and has much experience in dealing with fallen pastors and leaders. He has recently written the book: “Why Great Men Fall”. I think his word will help us all to deal with our feelings on this subject right now…

Todd: There are many pastors who are really devastated over the recent events regarding Ted Haggard. You’ve actually looked at a lot of similar cases, and wrote a book on the subject. What common things have you found to be a part of a leader’s life that could be warning signs to avoid a fall like Ted’s?

(remainder of article linked to title)

"Having reconsidered your kind offer of several th…

“Having reconsidered your kind offer of several thousand dolls last week, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation would like to receive them. We believe that with some effort we will be able to find homes for them all.”

—Retired Maj. Bill Grein, vice president of the Toys for Tots Foundation, in a letter to David Sosha, president of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear, rescinding an earlier decision not to accept a donation of 4,000 talking dolls of Jesus, Mary, David, Moses, and Esther.

No commentary, just found it interesting.

"What I'd have settled for/ You've blown so far aw…

“What I’d have settled for/ You’ve blown so far away/ What You brought me to/ I thought I could not reach.”

Rich Mullins

'We Just Weren't Sure How To Deal With It'

* Innitially when I had heard about the Ted Haggard scandal, I dismissed it because I think we need to be careful how we treat our fallen (Haggard, Gibson, etc)
I am not really sure why I am blogging about the Haggard situation other then I want to partcipate in the conversation with other bloggers I respect.

I find myself agreeing a lot with Todd and I had seen this headline on a different site and had the same reaction. Now, I am not excusing Haggard in any way, nor am I really that emabarrassed by this scandal (our focus is on Christ, not on feeble men. Thus such situations are inevitable), but I am a little surprised by his “friends”. How do you not try to intervene? Not to avoid scandal but to serve and help your brother. Some of the comments on the link are pretty intereseting too.

From Todd Rhoades Monday Morning Insight
“I’ve tried to give a real balanced approach to the Ted Haggard situation; calling people to not to speculate (particularly about Ted’s wife) during this situation. But this caught me a little off-guard; and I’ve seen no one else (other than a Time Magazine blogger) even notice this comment. Over the weekend, the head of the Traditional Values Coalition, Rev. Louis Sheldon, said that “a lot” of people knew about Haggard’s homosexuality “for a while” but just “weren’t sure just how to deal with it”…

I’m not trying to speculate; but I don’t want to ignore Sheldon’s comments either. You see, if “a lot of people” knew about this and did nothing; and have a much deeper situation on our hands.

In his comments to the newspaper, “The Jewish Week”, Sheldon casually mentions the Haggard ordeal amid a bunch of other questions on the election, morals, etc. According to the paper:

Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard’s secret relationship with him, and the reverend’s drug use as well, “Ted and I had a discussion,” explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”

Sheldon’s words sound vague to me. Haggard gave him a ‘telltale’ sign and knew he was covering up. That sounds to me a little different than Ted admitting he is gay (which he still hasn’t admitted). And who are the “a lot” who Sheldon says knew about Haggard’s homosexuality? And why openly admit that, ‘yeah, I knew about it’ but didn’t do anything about it… especially when you’re the head of a ‘traditional values’ coalition? It makes no sense.

When will we stop shooting ourselves in the foot?