Daily Bread

29 07 2009

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
– Jesus of Nazareth, John 6:35

my first loaf of bread!

my first loaf of bread!

One of my ongoing life goals is to become a baker of bread. There’s something wonderfully familiar and appealing about the smell — and taste! — of homemade bread. Last weekend, I came a little closer to my goal as I tried out the Farmhouse White sandwich bread recipe, which was advertised as beginner friendly and foolproof. Not to mention, delicious!

the first slice

the first slice

Finding Our Way

25 07 2009

For nearly a year I resisted getting a GPS.  “It’s just another expensive gadget,” I told Jordan, over and over again.  “Why bother?  Between mapquest and google maps, I think we’ve got all that we need.”

Never mind that I am quite possibly the most directionally challenged person on the planet.  For nearly a year I made it work as I navigated my way around the backroads of north Louisiana.  Getting lost was never a problem, I reasoned: instead, it was an adventure, a challenge.  I always allotted a few extra minutes to account for the inevitable wrong turn, and I was never too proud to ask for directions.

But when we decided to move to Atlanta, we had to re-evaluate.  Atlanta is a lot bigger and a lot more confusing than Ruston.  There are a million angry drivers on the road.  There are giant, terrifying, eight-lane, one-way streets.  There are at least 10 streets/roads/avenues called Peachtree.  Not to mention, “rush hour” lasts at least half the day, and it’s best to avoid driving anywhere during this time.

So, two months ago, we bought a GPS.  And the funny thing is, having a GPS does not keep us from making wrong turns.  But whenever we do skip a turn or find construction blocking our way, the GPS doesn’t even skip a beat.  “Recalculating…” she says in that annoying voice (or maybe we’re just already annoyed by our own stupidity?), patiently turning our screw-up into a detour.

(By the way….yes, we are those people. We talk back to the computer voice and even call her by name: Samantha)

Last night, we celebrated our first anniversary by going out to dinner at a Lebanese bistro.  We thought we knew how to get there, but after we entered the address into the GPS, Samantha sent us in a different direction, through an unfamiliar and busy part of town.

The remarkable thing was, we didn’t doubt her route for one second.   After all, she had the computer chip, the satellite reception, the mapping technology.  She knew the destination and the best route to get there.  And we trusted that she would tell us about every turn we would have to take.

We just drove, one road at a time.  And sure enough, we soon heard her say, in triumph, “Arriving at destination…on right.”

Psalm 23: A Modern Version

The Lord is my GPS.
I will never need another map.
He makes me drive on busy roads
And leads me beside quiet subdivisions.

Even though I drive through unfamiliar territory
I will not fear, for You are with me.
Your “recalculating” comforts me.

You prepare the way before me where I do not want to go.
You take me down this route, one turn at a time,
Until I find myself “arriving at home” with You forever.

Quote: C.S. Lewis on God’s creativity

25 07 2009

Last night, I found myself re-reading part of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be created in the image of God, but Lewis describes it much more eloquently  than I ever could:

“A statue has the shape of a man but is not alive.  In the same way, man has (in a sense I am going to explain) the ‘shape’ or likeness of God, but he has not got the kind of life God has.  Let us take the first point (man’s resemblance to God) first.  Everything God has made has some likeness to Himself.  Space is like Him in its hugeness: not that the greatness of space is the same kind of greatness as God’s, but it is a sort of symbol of it, or a translation of it into non-spiritual terms. Matter is like God in having energy: though, again, of course, physical energy is a different kind of thing from the power of God.  The vegetable world is like Him because it is alive, and He is the ‘living God’.  But life, in this biological sense, is not the same as the life there is in God: it is only a kind of symbol or shadow of it.”

Lewis goes on to explain that even though humanity is the closest resemblance to God that we know of (in that we can create, love, reason, etc.), we still are part of the natural world and cannot possess spiritual life on our own:

“A man who changed from having [natural life] to having [spiritual life] would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man.

And that is precisely what Christianity is about.  This world is a great sculptor’s shop.  We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of use are some day going to come to life.”

(from Mere Christianity, book 4, chapter 1)

The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 6

25 07 2009

Click here to read the text of Genesis 6.

I have a really hard time believing in Nephilim. Angels make sense to me most of the time. Devils even make sense to me a good bit of time. But Nephilim? Not so much. They tend to fall in the same category as fairies and nymphs and gnomes.

But, here it is in the Bible — “the Nephilim were on the Earth in those days” –written out as uncontrovertible fact. So what do you do with that?

Option 1. Dismiss it as legend. The Israelites were undoubtedly influenced by neighboring cultures in the Ancient Near East. Somewhere along the line, they swapped stories over a campfire, and BAM! Remnants of this fantastic story pop up for a few verses at the beginning of the Bible. Fast-forward several thousand years, to a time when we modern folk have a much more enlightened theology, and it becomes easy to just overlook them.

Option 2. Revert to traditional theology/angelology explanations. The “sons of God” were actually fallen angels who contributed to the immorality of the era by having sex with humans. The flood was actually God’s chance to wipe out the Nephilim.

A doctored photograph, commonly used as naturalistic evidence for the existence of Nephilim

A doctored photograph, commonly used as naturalistic evidence for the existence of Nephilim

Option 3. Search for naturalistic evidence that the Nephilim once existed. Giant humanoid skeletons prove this point especially well. These verses are actually an etiological explanation for an actual race of giants. Alternatively, use ufology to understand the Nephilim as aliens.

Somehow none of these options quite satisfy me. So instead, I choose Option 4: Continue thinking about it,wondering, imagining. And, if I ever make it to the Book of Numbers, revisit the issue when the Israelites meet up with the descendants of the Nephilim.

But here’s the thing. Nephilim are described as the “heroes of old, men of renown.” And yet, they are inextricably tied up within the greatest wickedness that the Earth had ever seen. (It doesn’t ever actually say that the Nephilim themselves are evil, but the implication seems to be–and traditional theology follows–that the Nephilim were not exactly on the up-and-up with God)

And this etymological explanation concludes that the word Nephilim can be interpreted to mean both “the Fallen Ones” and “the Marvelous Ones.”

Sometimes ungodly things are pretty. Sometimes – often, in fact–sin feels good. And so in a sense, this chapter begins yet another very human trend: we revere the wicked, lust after that which is most harmful for us, and marvel at what is fallen.

(originally posted 6/7/08 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)

Meditation on Faith

24 07 2009

(I know that this is formatted differently from most posts.  It was inspired by a creative journal entry that I wrote last year, and I tried to convey the imagery of the journal using colors, indentations, and font styles.  Think of it as a work in progress…)

You of little faith!    – Matthew 6:30b

Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”
– Matthew 17:20

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval…

Abraham believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
– Genesis 15:6

By faith we understood that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which were visible…

I say, faith is a burden.  It’s a weight to bear.  It’s brave and bittersweet.  And hope is hard to hold to.  Lord, I believe!  Only help my unbelief!
– Andrew Peterson, No More Faith

“…God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  – Romans 12:3

“Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit…to another [is given] faith by the same Spirit…”  – 1 Cor. 12:48

Preach faith until you have it.  Then, preach faith.

So what, then, is this faith thing? An assurance, a conviction?  A burden?  A gift?

It’s hard to understand the fact that God has given people faith in different amounts, and yet the world testifies to that very fact.  There are people who struggle as they search for a faith that they don’t really feel, and others who can’t help but believe,  as though that faith was programmed into the core of their soul.

Everywhere there are people who claim that even the “best” non-believers are still living in sin because they do not believe.  But Scripture teaches that faith is a gift, just as teaching is a gift, and healing is a gift.  And exercising any one of these gifts without love is nothing: a clanging symbol, a noisy gong.  In other words, useless.

But what happens when you exercise one of these gifts without faith?  Surely no gift is greater than the other; in the body of Christ, there is room (and necessity) for each person to exercise his or her unique gifts, in proportion to God’s allotment.  And so, I can’t help but wonder…is there room (and necessity) for the non-believer to exercise his or her unique gifts?

I am reminded of a conversation that I once overheard between a Christian and a rabbi.  The Christian asked, “Don’t you get tired of having to live up to an unrealistic standard of righteousness in the laws?”

The rabbi answered, “I’d rather ask myself, ‘Am I doing enough?’ than have to always worry, ‘Do I believe enough?'”

…Because what happens when you can’t measure up to that standard?  What happens when you find your soul devoid of faith? Is the advice passed on by John Wesley enough: can you preach faith until you have it, and hope that by doing enough, you will train yourself to believe enough?

The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 5

22 07 2009

Click here to read Genesis 5.

This is the boring stuff of the Bible: lists, ages, chronologies, genealogy. Details, details, details.  Begat upon begat.

Maybe I’m weird, but I like this stuff. In fact, I’m devoting a whole (albeit short) entry to this one chapter. One fascinating thing that I learned in Hebrew Bible class is that Genesis 5 is thought to be a “doublet” (or, repeat) of the previous chapter’s genealogy.

Genesis 4 lists: (Adam), Cain, EnochIradMehujaelMethusaelLamech
Genesis 5 lists: Adam, Seth, Enosh, KenanMahalalelJaredEnochMethuselahLamech

So the question remains: why was this stuff important enough to write down? And, why was important enough to write down twice?

I think one answer lies in the first two verses of the chapter, which recap the creation story. But here, instead of drawing out an epic picture of the deity’s triumph over primordial chaos, the biblical authors pare it down to three essential elements: the creation of mankind (in God’s image), the blessing of mankind, the naming of mankind.

“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man.'”

The naming of mankind. Over and over again, we will see how important names are to God and to his people. Everyone in this lineage was created, blessed, and called by name.

This isn’t filler material. It’s not just a nice little transition between stories. We can’t skip over it impatiently and say, “Adam….blah blah blah blah blah…Noah.” It’s important for us to know these names. To know that each of these people had a role in this story that God prepared for us. And most of all, to connect to a heritage that shows us that we, too, have been created, blessed, and called by name.

(originally posted 6/7/08 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)


22 07 2009

Without  a 9-5 desk job to occupy my days, I’ve had plenty of time lately to think and brainstorm and vision for the future.  Here are some highlights:

1. Yesterday … I had lunch with the pastor of a local Methodist church about the call of God, with the end result that I am reconsidering my own path and will be embarking upon a more formal discernment process.  And depending on how that goes, I may be applying to Candler School of Theology this fall (incidentally, they have a really unique “Theology in the Arts” concentration for MDiv students)

2.  Last night … I had a great conversation with my mom about the new arts ministry that is in the works at Noel UMC in Shreveport, LA.  It sounds like a great time to be in the church, and I only wish I could be there as it starts up!  As we looked for ideas together, we found several neat ministries in action across the country.  (I’m slowly adding these to my “links” pages; leave a comment if you have any other cool websites to share!)

3. This morning … I began preparing for my new violin students: compiling ideas for games, exercises, lesson plans,  techniques.  And I headed back to the basics, perusing my old Suzuki Book 1 for insights written onto the page long ago by my own violin teacher.  Jordan must have thought I was crazy, though: when he woke up, I was in the living room, demonstrating the old “rest, zip, step” routine!