October 24, 2020

September odds ‘n ends from IM over the years

September Barn (2018)

If you have a co-worker who is gay, what are you supposed to do? You have options, but acting as if his life is your business isn’t one of them. This is one reason Christians are hated: we are busybodies. We do act as if other persons’ moral convictions or lifestyle choices are our business. We get caught saying “I don’t want a gay in this neighborhood” or “in this workplace” or “around my kids” as if there are no heterosexuals we ought to be wary of.

Maybe I’m an idealist, and there is no possible friendship between gays and Christians who affirm traditional morality, but it seems to me that Jesus did it, and I need to pray that I can do the same. (Michael Spencer, from Sept, 2006)

Two years ago, I was in the hospital with my dying mom, and I needed a pastor. At the time, I didn’t have one. I guess I could have called any number of the ministers that I know. Actually, having been the minister in the hospital before, I was fairly certain of what would happen, and while I wouldn’t have been ungrateful, it wasn’t that important to me.

Walter happened to be in the hospital that day, visiting members of his congregation and the wider community, as was his habit. He found me, my wife and my dying mom in the ER.

Walter stayed with me all day. He found a doctor who would let my mother stay in our hospital and pass there, instead of flying her to Lexington. He helped me talk to the doctors about the course of treatment mom and I had agreed on. He prayed for me. He was a pastor to me. He was Christ to me.

Never once did Walter attempt a theological justification of the ways of God. He never got out the Bible. (Nothing wrong if he’d chosen to, of course.) He was the Bible for me that day. He put flesh and blood on God and hung out with me. He thought for me when I couldn’t think clearly. He knew my heart and he helped me listen to my heart at a very confusing moment. He treated me with love and dignity that brought joy into one of the worst days of my life.

Walter showed me that day that if you are going to measure life by how it’s lived, and not by how people talk about what they believe, he knows a lot more about God than I do. (Michael Spencer, from Sept, 2007)

The real prosperity gospel isn’t the overt appeal to wealth. It is the more subtle appeal to God guaranteeing that we are going to be happy, and the accompanying pressure to be happy in ways that are acceptable and recognizable to the community of Christians we belong to. (Michael Spencer, from Sept, 2008)

The assurance of pardon speaks the word that the Gospel speaks to the people of God. With so many sour, legalistic, moralistic churches in evangelicalism, what a wonderful thing it is to confess corporately, and then silently, but to hear the announcement of God’s forgiveness, personally applied, followed by joyful celebration in song. (Michael Spencer, from Sept, 2009)

September Road (2018)

I never have been what one might call a wild-eyed, hard-edged fundamentalist separatist. I was just a kid who was found by Jesus and thought that meant the rest of my life should be different somehow — lived in a separate category from the ordinary course of human life. Now I know that becoming a Christian doesn’t put a person one step above the rest of the human race, or mean that one should separate from sharing common life experiences with one’s neighbors.

I’m still blown away by the grace and mercy of Jesus.

I still think the church is special, the amazing family of God in all times and places.

I just don’t want this whole “Christian thing” to keep me from being human.

…No longer does “the world grow strangely dim” when I look at Jesus. For some reason, when I’m most focused on him, the world takes on a strange, inviting beauty. And I’m ready every day to move more deeply into it with his kindness and love. (Chaplain Mike, from Sept. 2010)

Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self (Mark 8:35, The Message).

I find nothing in Scripture that tells us we are on our own to improve our lives. Nowhere do I read that it is our responsibility to become better, more moral, people. Instead I see Jesus going to the losers and sinners and dying and saying, “Because of your lostness, your lastness, your death, you will live.” Thus I agree with how Eugene Peterson interprets this verse: “Self-help is of no help at all.” (Jeff Dunn, from Sept. 2011)

I have served in the ministry for almost 20 years now, both as a youth pastor and senior pastor. I’ve never skimmed from the offering plate, gotten drunk or had an affair. But my constant temptation is to have a self-identity focused on my actions for God rather than his actions for me. After all, I am a pastor. Doing things for God is my job and identify. Even on my days off, I am still a pastor. People call me pastor as if it were my name, and my spouse is often introduced as “the Pastor’s wife”. This is not bad, but it doesn’t help me to remember that I am a beggar, not a builder.

I need a season where I build nothing, produce nothing, but simply remember, worship, and pray. I need a season of fallowness, a time where I do nothing but receive the refreshing rain of God’s goodness.

In short, I will be listening to the silence, and, by doing nothing, seek to do the one thing needed. (from Daniel Jepsen, Sept. 2012)

September Fields (2018)

Whatever this “Christian” thing is about, it is about earth. It is about life on earth. It is about life with God on earth. It is about life that begins now here on this earth and extends into the age to come on a renewed earth.

And it is about you and I starting to live that life now. (from Chaplain Mike, Sept 2013)

When it comes to evangelicalism it is a little easier to see our own bias. We have stood within it, and we have also seen it from an outsider’s perspective…. I attend an evangelical church and have done so for my entire life. I don’t want evangelical expressions of Christianity to fail. If anything I am biased towards evangelical expressions of faith. More than anything though, I want to be a follower of Jesus. I know evangelicalism best, and when there are things within evangelicalism that detract or distract me, or even more importantly others, from following Jesus, then those things are going to come under criticism. To quote Jesus (badly and out of context): “Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen.”

This is what I do. I speak of what I know. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. When I hold up a mirror in the morning it encourages me to shave and brush my hair. Perhaps some of my writing at Internet Monk will encourage some change as well. (from Mike Bell, Sept. 2014)

There is always an impulse in Christianity (and other religions) to think those who “give up” more and “devote” themselves to the Lord for some kind of ordained service are better Christians, higher in spirituality and more impactful on the world for God. This is a mirage, and one day we will see the magnificent harvest that will spring from seeds planted by “ordinary” Christians doing ordinary things in everyday life. (from Chaplain Mike, Sept. 2015)

From the Pic & Poem of the Week (Sept., 2016)

Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt

On the rough diamond,
the hand-cut field below the dog lot and barn,
we rehearsed the strict technique
of bunting. I watched from the infield,
the mound, the backstop
as your left hand climbed the bat, your legs
and shoulders squared toward the pitcher.
You could drop it like a seed
down either base line. I admired your style,
but not enough to take my eyes off the bank
that served as our center-field fence.

Years passed, three leagues of organized ball,
no few lives. I could homer
into the left-field lot of Carmichael Motors,
and still you stressed the same technique,
the crouch and spring, the lead arm absorbing
just enough impact. That whole tiresome pitch
about basics never changing,
and I never learned what you were laying down.

Like a hand brushed across the bill of a cap,
let this be the sign
I’m getting a grip on the sacrifice.

By David Bottoms

Finally, it aggravates me to no end that evangelical Christians regard climate change as a hoax. It’s the same anti-science incredulity that causes them not to accept the age of the earth. At the same time they pay big money to go see a display of a supposed Noah’s ark with the proposition that all the species on the planet were on one boat, and when they got off they hopped, crawled or whatever to the ecological niche they are in now. All the kangaroos and other marsupials traveled all the way to Australia from the Middle East and didn’t leave any trace. Why did they all go to Australia? The climate of the Middle East was just as hospitable. Why didn’t they stay there? Or new world sloths that move at 1 mile an hour. How did they cross the ocean, even being good swimmers? But no, climate change, that’s the thing to be incredulous about.

This is why I blog on science and faith. If we are going to present the reality of Jesus Christ to the world then we darn-well better be able to grasp reality—period. (from Mike the Geologist, Sept. 2017)

September Church (2018)

A large part of escaping the wilderness for me was realizing that what I was chasing was just a mirage. If you find a fresh source of water, put up a decent shelter, find a good source of food, and keep warm and dry, all of a sudden the wilderness doesn’t seem so much like wilderness anymore.

And that’s what I am trying to do with Church. It may not be perfect, but if I start making myself at home, then maybe it will start to feel like home. (from Mike Bell, Sept. 2018)

Two people stand in the front of a sanctuary at the altar in front of a minister. The minister asks them questions that have become familiar to us, so familiar that we don’t really grasp how radical and demanding they are.

Joe, will you have Mary to be your wife, to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live? If so, please answer, “I will.”

Joe answers, “I will!!”

And in a few moments, Joe makes the following vows to his bride:

In the Name of God, I, Joe, take you, Mary, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.

Through the exchanging of these lifelong promises, in that moment, two lives are completely changed. The past is past. They find themselves in a new reality. It’s as though they’ve walked through a door and entered a completely new country. A new family in this world has been created. The two people at the center of the ceremony are now in a whole new relationship, and because of that, all other relationships in their lives have changed.

…The old has passed away, all has become new, and who knows what the future will hold? Who knows what changes it will bring? Who knows where it will lead?

…What these two people are saying on their wedding day is this: We want to make a life together. Today it begins. From now on, there is no turning back. Our former experiences have brought us to this new adventure, and now it is time to embrace it fully. No matter where this path may lead us, we’re in it together for the long haul.

…Jesus’ invitation to us isn’t just about forgiveness, as wonderful as that is.

It is about entering a whole new life with him. A life that changes everything. (from Chaplain Mike, Sept. 2019)

September Creek (2018)

Comments

  1. If we are going to present the reality of Jesus Christ to the world then we darn-well better be able to grasp reality—period.

    I have a growing list of relatives and former friends who say they are the realists. And I (and others) just don’t get it. YEC, QANON, etc…

    I’m getting more despondent by the day.

    • Grasping the real world is a social process. When so many people are grasping it in a way radically different from the way it had commonly been grasped before, and in a new way permeated with irrationality, it is only a matter of time before those who are actually still perceiving the world rationally start to experience despondency, or worse, cognitive dissonance that causes them to question their own perceptions and rationality. We are mistaken when we think we can heroically hold onto rational perception of the world as lone individuals; we need a society, or a subgroup of society, to do that; that’s partly why I continue to come here to iMonk.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > We are mistaken when we think we can heroically hold
        > onto rational perception of the world as lone individuals

        And you end up lonely, and ultimately, sad.

      • Life is full of paradox. It is the mark of the rational person that they come to terms with the fact that they are mostly irrational, capable only of occasional bouts of clarity. It is the irrational person who is convinced that all their insights are clear and obvious and to deny them is put yourself outside the community of the acceptable. It is the rational person who has all the doubts and questions just as it is the person of expertise in a field who knows intimately all the blank spaces on their map.

        We live in a culture where saying “I don’t know” is considered a severe character flaw. We crave assurance and confidence. We mistake this for strength.

        • “It is the mark of the rational person that they come to terms with the fact that they are mostly irrational, capable only of occasional bouts of clarity.”

          Or as Socrates put it, there are two kinds of people: the wise, who know they are fools; and the foolish, who believe themselves wise.

          • Someone who has a doctorate in math said they candidates who came out of their thesis defense thinking they had nailed it rarely were accepted. Mostly they had to go back and do a lot more work as they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

            Those that came out thinking they had failed typically passed as it was obvious to the interrogators that they knew what they knew and also what they didn’t know.

        • “We live in a culture where saying “I don’t know” is considered a severe character flaw. We crave assurance and confidence. We mistake this for strength.”

          I once had a woman tell me that she understood that the best doctors were those who believed they knew everything. She was utterly confused when I disagreed, saying that the best doctors knew that they didn’t know everything because they would be prepared to shift course if things didn’t go according to plan and would be much more aware of watching for signs of trouble.
          She stared at me silently for a time and then said, “I never thought of that before.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        it is only a matter of time before those who are actually still perceiving the world rationally start to experience despondency, or worse, cognitive dissonance that causes them to question their own perceptions and rationality.

        Mandela Effect/Fale Memory Syndrome:
        Remembering the chocolate ration as twenty grams instead of ten.
        Remembering oceania has always been at war with eurasia and at peace with eastasia.
        Remembering Two Plus Two Equals Four instead of Five.

    • David Greene says

      I have a growing list of relatives and former friends who say they are the realists. And I (and others) just don’t get it. YEC, QANON, etc… I’m getting more despondent by the day.

      Yeah, me too, and then they tell you “do the research…”

  2. Susan Dumbrell says

    September. Chilling the soul, nature and self.
    September is half way through. The equinox is just past.
    Spring should grab hold more firmly to the promise of warmth instead it shows the prospect of snow in the next few days.
    New roses planted today but must be protected from the weather changing yet again.
    Can I equate this with my heart and soul?
    I call it three steps forward and two back. Little progress is made.
    Bach summed it up in one of his duets. BWV 78
    We strive for a glimpse of the Light of Christ. It is there just ahead but progresses onward with us lagging behind.
    Struggle to lift our feet out of the mud and stagger backwards instead.
    I feel this way about September.
    Garden tries to awaken and is frost bitten instead.
    I see no positives ahead for my body, soul or spirit. Maybe I will improve come November but the shadow of a late Winter blast looms.
    We still have no Church gathering on Sundays and we are losing touch with each other. Will we celebrate Christ’s birth in December? We haven’t gathered together since February.
    Such a cheery soul. I relate to Robert. Though sometimes I feel I have a better grasp on reality?
    May we all be blessed.
    Susan

  3. “if you are going to measure life by how it’s lived, and not by how people talk about what they believe, he knows a lot more about God than I do.”

    That being the case, there are a hell of a lot of non-Christians who know a hell of a lot more about God than we do.

    • AMEN, AMEN, AMEN

      was this not the point of the parable of ‘the Good Samaritan’ . . . . that the one who showed mercy to the wounded man was an ‘outsider’ to the Jews?

      of all the lessons in that parable, that is one that the denominations and faith groups missed, them that practice ‘exclusion’ and declare that many of the ‘others’ are ‘not Christian’ . . . . . they can’t see the teaching of Christ and instead use that ‘bible’ as a cudgel against ‘the others’

      If I hope for one thing for the evangelical faith community, it will be that they begin to have a deep repentance for how they have treated trans people, people who were already suffering. These evangelicals chose to finger-point and belittle when they might have instead ‘measured life by how it is lived’. But they would not. So they chose to add to the pain of people already hurting. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the unkindness shown to hurting people by ‘Christians’.

      It is not without meaning that the political leader of this faith group once chose to create drama for a photo shoot where he held a bible upside down . . . . sometimes Providence gives us a visual that tells us what really is going on.

  4. “…they pay big money to go see a display of a supposed Noah’s ark with the proposition that all the species on the planet were on one boat, and when they got off they hopped, crawled or whatever to the ecological niche they are in now.”

    And Ken Ham’s wealth grows and grows and grows.

    All of which undoubtedly leads many non-Christians to wonder if Jesus was simply another huckster the likes of which modern day Christians seem drawn to. And they do seem drawn to them, don’t they?

    • Fire mist of my life I thought the huckster pastors were the exception. Now I fell they are the standard.

      Did the ratio change or my discernment?

      Or both?

      Or is it the hucksters dominate the media. And thus the money?

      • My guess, hucksters are great at media. As American Christianity/Christians became more media dependent, the hucksters saw their opening and grabbed it. Now, the relationship between the two is so codependent that neither side would survive a breakup.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Now I feel they are the standard.

        Yep

        > Did the ratio change or my discernment?
        > Or both?

        Both. There is more license for being a Huckster now, and as always, when you make something easier – less costly – more people will do it. Sadly that means that many pastors were Hucksters-in-waiting. 🙁

        On the other hand we always have to go back to the reality that a SINGLE DIGIT % of ‘church people’ have any interest in what their pastors believes about X. Which is mind boggling yet has been found multiple times.

      • Fire mist

        Sigh. For most

        I guess commenting from an iPhone is just a bad idea for me.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Lamenting American huckster Christianity is to miss the point entirely. We are, and have always been, a nation of Willie Lomaxes, always a shoeshine and a smile away from breaking through the surface tension of our lives and disappearing forever.

      To say that Americans made a business, or better yet, a pyramid scheme, out of Christianity is a testament to the tensile strength of the religion. The English turned it into a system of class-centered etiquette, the Spanish weaponized it, the Welsh set it to incomparable music, the Romans turned it into system of governance, the Russians into something else to be depressed about, the Greeks into a philosophy.

      It hasn’t been a religion since the Jews ran it. 🙂

      • I think you nailed it, Burro!

        • Burro (Mule) says

          “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman (!!) took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” Luke 13:21

      • Maybe it’s past time to put the Jews back in charge, then. :p

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Yep. Our Founding Fathers were Hucksters, Smugglers, and “entrepreneurs” who saw the ultimate way to Go-Legit: Become The Government!

        We’ve always been this. Evangelical Christianity is American Christianity, all that is needed is a slice of Apple Pie.

      • Tensile strength? But if it’s so easy for us to change Christianity and so hard for Christianity to change us then what does that say about Christianity? Or about us!

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Point.

          Counter point: it did change me. It changed me, for the better, so much so that I needed to leave it. That’s not nothing.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          Tensile strength, according to Wikipedia, is the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking. So I did use it correctly.

          If Christianity is capable of such deformations, even to the point of being used to justify torching people, and can still snap back to something recognizable, then, yes, it has remarkable tensile strength. As for what it says about us, I seem to remember a saying from the Gospels that whoever the stone falls upon will be ground to powder.

          • I’m not questioning your definition of “tensile strength” but your definition of “being stretched or pulled”. I always thought it wasn’t Christianity that needed to be stretched. And when did it snap back to something recognizable?

      • That’s because Judaism is a down to Earth practical religion, and not so much concerned with the ethereal and gossamer other.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Very, very succinct. Every now and then you say something profound Mule. 🙂

      • ‘this Christian thing’ – we all have our perspectives, sure;
        here’s an extremely interesting one from the author Heidi Neumark:

        ““The future of the church is in cages with children. The future of the church is profiled and choked and left dead on the street. The future of the church is hiding under a desk and in a nightclub bathroom as bullets fly. The future of the church is with a Black, transgender woman mocked and shot in the heart. The future of the church is in the belly of a whale stuffed with plastic garbage and lying lifeless like the body of a dead migrant child washed up on the shores of the Rio Grande. If the church is not in these places of crucifixion, the church is not with Jesus, and if the church is not with Jesus, we are lost and have no future””
        (Author: Heidi Neumark)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And Ken Ham’s wealth grows and grows and grows.

      Before long he’ll be up in Kenneth Copeland country.

    • thatotherjean says

      May I suggest Fred Clark (of Slacktivist)’s pamphlet, “The Long March of the Koalas,” essays on Young Earth Creationism and related subjects, written in 2015, but still available on Amazon:

      https://www.amazon.com/Long-March-Koalas-creationist-adventures-ebook/dp/B0176W6SL4

      It’s definitely worth a read.

    • thatotherjean says

      May I suggest Fred Clark (of Slacktivist)’s pamphlet, “The Long March of the Koalas,” essays on Young Earth Creationism and related subjects, written in 2015, but still available on Amazon:

      https://www.amazon.com/Long-March-Koalas-creationist-adventures-ebook/dp/B0176W6SL4

      It’s entirely worth a read.

      NB: sorry if this is a double post. Disqus is insisting that it already posted, but I can’t find it.

  5. Michael Bell says

    Nice to know I have occasional moments of lucidity! 😀

  6. “ The real prosperity gospel isn’t the overt appeal to wealth. It is the more subtle appeal to God guaranteeing that we are going to be happy, and the accompanying pressure to be happy in ways that are acceptable and recognizable to the community of Christians we belong to. “
    As my old pastor used to say, “That was hatched out of the pits of hell.” Such a gross, destabilizing theology.

  7. Today’s article… what a great idea!!! I loved re-reading these short snippets written in the past by several of this site’s contributors!

  8. MENDACITY

    GREEEEEED

    $$$$$$$$$$$

  9. (reply is to Headless)