Saturday, December 20, 2014

counting my blessings - perseverance of the podcasters

In 2014 I embraced podcasts.

Some of them give me hope theologically, usually the anabaptistic chaps, orthodox protestants who are not evangelicals.
The peace Christians.
Brian Zahnd at Word of Life Church
Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church
Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House

The liturgical Christians. 
Nadia Bolz Weber at House for All Sinners and Saints.
The Daily Office

Some preachers are no longer at their churches and I miss their podcasts.
Jonathan Martin at Renovatus Church
Ken Wilson at the Ann Arbor Vineyard, I still listen to his associate pastor though, Donnell Wyche.

Some Christians do not speak for a church but podcast about grace, life, and hardships. They talk with each other, scrap with each other, and talk gracefully to those they disagree with and then learn there is very little to disagree about. They also use language not normal in church, but plenty normal outside of church.
Drunk Ex-Pastors
Bad Christian (Great Savior)

I also like stories.
This American Life
The Moth

I like history.
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
The Civil War: A History Podcast

I like commentary.
Freakonomics Radio
Common Sense with Dan Carlin

I listen to a British podcast called Unbelievable? hosted by a Christian who moderates conversations between Christians and non-Christians usually and sometimes between Christians of different viewpoints as well. Justin Brierly does such a good job moderating that he gets accused of not being much of a Christian, which also means that atheists enjoy his show as well.

One other British podcast I listen to discusses green home construction called House Planning Help.

It's a lot to listen to weekly. But I have a bicycle commute, a dog to walk, cells to culture and mass spectrometers to tend. By these, I am blessed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

counting my blessings - perseverance of family movie night

I'm thankful that our family has a tradition of going out to the movie theater together once a month. The theater we go to has $6 tickets on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Sometimes the movies are great, sometimes they don't live up to the hype. Either way, I really like still going out together as a family like we used to when the kids were younger.

We did it tonight. It was opening night for this highly anticipated movie, and our theater does not get crowded, ever.

Great theater. Great family. I am blessed.

Monday, December 15, 2014

counting my blessings - perseverance of public parks

I really like hiking. But there aren't much in the way of mountains here on Connecticut's southeast coast. But we do have great parks. Today, I walked the dog around the big loop of Bluff Point State Park. It was beautiful. I love the coastal forest. I am blessed to have so many great places to take long walks.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

counting my blessings - perseverance of the annual get together

For years, before the kids were all adolescents, we had our first Advent gathering with a couple other families. We ate well, the kids played, we sang carols, and went home happy.

We do this almost every year. We talk about getting old. We talk about our kids getting old. We still eat well, the kids don't "play" anymore though, they hang out, and we sing carols (or not).

I'm blessed to know these friends. I'm blessed that our kids are friends. I'm blessed we do this almost every December.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

counting my blessings - all my cubs are home

I like my kids. I brought the oldest one home from school tonight. Now I get to be with all of them at dinner for a few weeks. I am grateful for my nuclear family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

counting my blessings - the perseverance of the saints at my job

I have worked at the same location for over 20 years now. I have been part of the weekly Bible study there for nearly half that time. As layoffs come and go, as companies are bought and divisions are sold off, the body of Christ has gathered every week to pray together, learn together, and share our spiritual lives together.

Some have a high school diploma and some have Ph.D.s. Some of us are administrative assistants and some are department managers. I am one of the few white males who usually attends; we are Asians and Africans. Many of us learned English as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language. We are Protestant and Catholic. We are male and female. We are new Christians and seasoned disciples. Some of us quit the job to go to seminary. Some took seminary classes in the evenings and kept our day jobs. Some of us are heavily involved in our churches, and for some of us this is our only church. Sometimes one of the local pastors comes to help our study. Sometimes we do it on our own.

We read the Bible. We ask questions about the reading. We attempt to understand what we read. We tell stories about our lives. We pray for each other.

Sometimes we can't make it to the weekly meeting for months. Yet the group perseveres. All are welcome. All questions are taken seriously. All are loved.

The gates of hell have not prevailed at our Bible study at work. For that, I am grateful.

counting my blessings - Christmas carols

I play in a church band. We play once a month and practice once a week. It is fun for me. This month we are working on Christmas carols.

They are older music.
The melodies are more complex.
The timing is different.
The lyrics are often profound.
They take me our of this decade.
They place me in a bigger context.
They enlarge my world.

They focus me on Jesus.

Monday, December 08, 2014

counting my blessings - perseverance of friends

Today, I met with an old friend and told him I was sorry.

He is a wonderful person and accepted my apology. He had never held that offense against me. He recalls the incident more charitably than I do.

I was apologizing for something I did two decades ago. It had been bugging me for at least a year. I finally overcame my shame of apologizing for something twenty years ago that should have been acknowledged back then.

But this guy is a stand up guy. He forgave quickly and easily.

I know a lot of stand up guys and gals.

I have many, many generous friends. They are generous in love for and tolerance of me.

I am grateful for my friends.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Peace officers

After Mike Brown's murder in Ferguson, I wrote here about the possibility of a different response to critical situations by police. Since other countries have far fewer fatal police - perpetrator engagements, there must be another way for the United States to do it. De-escalation is possible. Today, I came across an article discussing this very topic, it's implementation in the US, and its impact so far.

Can Different Training Make Police Officers Guardians, Not Warriors?
Here are a couple highlights.

By January 2014, more than 8,000 Police Academy graduates had been schooled in the new curriculum — which teaches officers to be responsive, impartial, respectful and fair....

“The most common corresponding emotion to fear is anger, and anger does not facilitate ongoing compliance,” he adds. “We teach recruits that when they mistreat people they actually may make that person more dangerous.”.........

In the wake of the Mike Brown shooting, one city, Richmond, California, emerged as the poster child for the police reform movement for going five years without a single fatal shooting by its officers despite the city’s long history of violent crime. Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus credits the achievement to the expanded use of non-lethal weapons and monthly firearms training focused on accuracy and accountability.
           Over the last five years, the Richmond PD has expended just eight bullets on five people. That’s nearly as many bullets that Officer Darren Wilson fired into Mike Brown. (It’s worth noting that Wilson’s grand jury testimony also suggests that Ferguson police are given the discretion over whether to carry non-lethal weapons such as Tasers.)

Go read the rest of the article. It is encouraging.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

counting my blessings - perseverance of the bicycle commute

I bought myself this bike around my birthday in 2009. Wintertime is a great season in New England to find bicycles on sale. I wrote a review on it back then.

I bought another bike a few years afterwards, but this one is my favorite.

I ride in all seasons, as long as the path is not icy, or unplowed, or wet. Wet is no fun, but cold can be dealt with by more layers.

My ride to work is only 6 and a half miles. But it can take me 30-45 minutes, depending on how my legs are feeling. It's all hills. I'm riding in comfort, not speed. Also, I am less about the destination and more about the journey. This journey is my blessing.

I listen to a podcast, or the news, or some music. I get to hear the critters on the parts of the path that are off the road. I see the same faces over the years. Some have nicer bikes than me. Some are older than me. Some are walking. Some sleep in the woods off the path. In the winter, I see fewer people out, mostly those who do not have options. A couple are true believers in year round cycling in Connecticut.

I like the time on my bike to think. Even when I have my earbuds in, my brain will drift from the words, distracted by the views up the Thames River, or pursue an idea mentioned as an aside. I will think about what I will make for dinner or which child I need to pick up from somewhere.

The bicycle commute is a buffer between work and family. The exercise can destress me, except when cars nearly brush me off the road, which happens more often than it should. On those occasions, I consider my mortality.

To choose the harder, slower thing usually ends up as with the greater reward.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

my blessings - Perseverance of the Lord's Prayer

When I'm left speechless, I have this gift from Jesus that keeps on giving.

Our Father who are in heaven......I need someone bigger than the most powerful country in the world, who is above all, knows all, and can bring justice to all.

Hallowed be your name........all other names are corrupt, the United States of America, the justice system.

Let your kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven......bring to earth the ethos of love of neighbor, of justice, of mercy.

Give us this day our daily bread....because in weeks like this, our food is tears, where justice is denied to minorities, where men of color are presumed guilty until proven innocent, if they survive to be proven innocent. Without hope in you our souls will starve.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.....Forgive us of cynicism, despair, nihilism, self-righteous anger, selfishness, and forgive those who murder out of fear and selfishness, cynicism and nihilism. Because if we don't forgive, who will?

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.......Some of us are tempted to take vengeance, a role that belongs to you. Lead us away from subtracting what little good is left and towards the path that can only be seen with eyes of faith. Align our hearts with yours and not with the accuser.

Hebrews 11: 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

my blessings - perseverance of the gay saints

Keeping with my commitment to count my blessings this Advent season of 2014 I raise my glass to the gay saints in America. This group knows how to persevere despite the buffeting from the wider culture as well as the smaller church culture they don't quit on. When I want to quit, I think of their struggle to see Jesus when his people, their brothers and sisters, represent him as hateful and bigoted, as I have in the past.

This blessing stood out to me yesterday as I listened to an interview with Jennifer Knapp, a Christian singer/songwriter who lost her very large church fan base when she came out of the closet. Her interview appeared on the BadChristian Podcast # 48. Two things in this interview lodged in my memory. The three guys interviewing her asked her how she felt about them believing homosexual activity is a sin. (To be fair to them, they think elevating sexual sin over any other is wrong of the church, and they all admit to their own sins.) She responded with so much grace and confidence. With grace she told them she's fine with them being where they are on their faith journeys. With confidence I think she knows she stands in the place of love, and that well meaning people seeking true love will end up near her. She did not sound threatened at all. Her peace encouraged me so much.

The second thing in the interview is a story she told about a friend who she initially avoided. She describes an evangelistic pentecostal guy, who leads people to Jesus and is open to the supernatural encounters with God's Spirit, who is a gay drag queen. He kept showing up at her shows until she stopped fearing him and got to know him. His life is much more complicated and confrontational of our culture's norms than hers, but both of them have not given up on Jesus as he has not given up on them.

There are other gay Christians who love Jesus and want the church to know how great is the love of God for them and the world. I am blessed by them.
Blessings on
Jennifer Knapp and the crew at BadChristian
Vicky Beeching
Justin Lee
Matthew Vines

Monday, December 01, 2014

my blessings - perseverance of the black saints

My personal challenge for the Advent 2014 season is to count my blessings.

I saw on Richard Beck's blog today a post on counting our blessings as the cheapest form of therapy. I tend to see the shadows instead of the light that makes them possible. Thus, I miss the light and the ensuing joy.

Today's blessing is the perseverance of the black saints. I am not speaking in Calvinistic terms though. I'm speaking of the black american saints, who persevere despite the social opposition they endure daily. The opposition that has come to the forefront of a national conversation sparked by Ferguson. Many of their white brothers and sisters in the church, and some of their non-white brothers and sisters, are not interested in their painful stories. But they persevere.

Jesus talks about them. They are the proof to Jesus' sermon on the mount in Matthew 5.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Christena Cleveland wrote a beautiful advent reflection this week which helps me so much.
Advent is an invitation to plunge into the deep, dark waters of our worst world, knowing that when we re-surface for air we will encounter the hopeful, hovering Spirit of God. For when we dive into the depths of our worst world, we reach a critical point at which our chocolate and pageants no longer satiate our longing for hope – and we are liberated by this realization. Indeed, the light of true hope is found in the midst of darkness. 

So, this Advent season, let’s engage and lament darkness as we seek the Light. In doing so, we participate in the ancient longing of the coming Messiah — a longing that began when the earth was still formless and empty, persevered in the hearts of Anna and Simeon, and continues today.

Advent/Fatherlessness...[go read the rest]
I'm thankful for a sister who has shown me how to not drown in despair over our society's inhumanity to it's less privileged members.