mindGrazing

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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Lent is Almost Upon Us

Posted by Jason on February 23, 2009

Ash Wednesday is coming up in a couple of days, so I thought I’d share this little blurb I was asked to write for our church’s Lenten devotional that they put out every year. I was assigned a little reflection on Psalm 135. Wifey says I should be a pastor. I say sure, another few years of school to move to a different career where wages are low and workload is high… sounds awesome! Anywho, maybe this will help someone get in the mood for Lent. Enjoy…
“Psalm 135 calls us to praise the Lord for all He has done. The Psalmist recounts a series of acts through which the Almighty has shown favor and faithfulness to the people of Israel. Lent is a time of anticipation and of praise. Even in difficult times, we know God will be faithful just as He has been time and time again. Lent provides for this because of the palpable anticipation of Easter, God’s most perfect act of love and faithfulness toward all humankind.
In our lives, Lent is an excellent time of year to evaluate ourselves and our walk with Christ. It is a time for thankfulness and reflection. Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going? Perhaps through this reflection we will find that the culling of unfruitful things is not necessarily what will get us to the place with Christ where we want to be. Perhaps we need to add things to our lives that are righteous and that further our growth in the Spirit.
This year during Lent, let us heed the message we find in Psalm 135. Let us praise the Lord and give thanks for all He has done in our lives and the life of our church. Let us also not forget that our faithfulness in trying times is as important as the Lord’s.”

Peace.

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Posted in Musings, religion, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I have faith, now what?

Posted by Jason on February 4, 2009

Wifey and I have been taking a Methodism 101 class at church, and I must confess that I really didn’t know how Methodist I truly was at my core until Wifey came along and started going to church with me. We had a good conversation on the way to the farmer’s market after our class this Sunday, and I started reading Wesley’s “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection” this week. Throughout our conversations and my reading, I finally have something to write about on this blog. It’s been a while.

One of the things we always hear Christians say is that so-and-so is having a crisis of faith, or that somebody has a faith that can move mountains, etc. For me, my faith in the grace of God is a non-question. I know in my heart of hearts, without any doubt whatsoever, that His grace is given freely to me and ALL humans without any precondition, without any worthiness on our part, without any action on our part. Our confession of faith is our personal belief, acceptance, and realization of this grace, and that’s what makes us Christian instead of Buddhist or Muslim or whatever. Knowing that grace is given freely, not because of anything we do, really liberates us as Christians to stop worrying about whether or not we will be saved or if we’ll end up in heaven or hell. It also frees us from worrying whether other people are going to heaven or hell. We don’t have to hound people to get their acts together in order that we may end up in heaven together.

Now, having received that grace and having accepted this wonderful gift into our lives, our response should be to live out our lives in gratitude for that which has been given to us. Most of all, we must be instruments of that freely given love and grace in the world. We do good things not to get ourselves into heaven or to gain the Lord’s favor, but rather BECAUSE these things are already ours.

That being said, I came to the realization last night that my daily life has not included as much thankful living (meaning being a living example of God’s grace) as it could. I think the major reason is that I have not internalized the practice of living thankfully as an adult. I’ve internalized the faith, and it’s a part of me forever. It is welded to my being. However, I need to consciously practice the “living it out” part. Now, I think the feeling will always be that I’m not doing as much as I could. The tendency is to reciprocate the gift that has been given to us. How many people have thought around the holidays, “Shoot, this person’s gift to me was super expensive: I better get them something about as good as what they gave to me?” The problem is that it is impossible to give God or humankind a gift as amazing as that which was given to us. 

As with anything that we want to learn or incorporate into our box of skills or behaviors, we have to practice a lot. this practice must be focused and it must be repeated over and over. Eventually it will become a habit and then it will be internalized as something that we just do. Now, some people will make excuses for me, saying, “Oh, well your act of kindness, Jason, is that you teach music to poor, underprivileged waifs every day,” or “You’ve done such a nice thing by giving  two shelter dogs a good home and a happy life.” Those are great, but they’re not really daily, radical, and intentional manifestations of God’s grace within me. There needs to be more. I need to find some way to consciously and systematically do good in this world each day, perhaps multiple times per day, so that it will eventually become a basic internal function of my existence.

I might try to incorporate one of Wesley’s Means of Grace (Works of Piety; Works of Mercy) each day and see if I can do that. Or I’ll just try to do at least one nice thing each day that I normally wouldn’t do. I’m still formulating a plan of action but the goal is to take action in the world to bring God’s kingdom here, rather than merely look forward to the next life.

Onward, Christian soldier…

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Poll: What Kind of Christian Are You?

Posted by Jason on January 8, 2009

I know there’s a million types of quizzes that can show you your spiritual leanings or what religion/denomination you should be. I’d like to offer a chance for self-reflection here. John Wesley talks about our relationships with God being a balance of four areas of our life. It’s been dubbed the Wesleyan Quadrilateral by many a theologian. The four things, according to Wesley, that make up a spiritual relationship are Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience.

Now, I tend to have a pretty cerebral view of religious things, and I’m real big on grazing on ideas, no matter if they oppose my own beliefs, in my head or with friends. I don’t really care for the Christianity that is all about feelings of blessedness,etc. (experience), or all about infallible scripture. Obviously, my strongest side in the quadrilateral would be the Reason side. 

If you had to pick the most important thing to you and your faith, would it be 

Scripture, Tradition, Reason, or Experience?

Posted in religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Silly Stuff People Say in Prayers…

Posted by Jason on January 7, 2009

Do you ever notice people’s linguistic idiosyncrasies when they offer an extemporaneous prayer for a group? I love to listen to what people say when they pray. Maybe since I’m not big on prayer myself, listening to silly ways people talk to God helps to keep me focused during someone else’s prayer. Here are some of my favorites, with commentary:

  • “Dear God…” What, are you writing a letter out loud or something? Is Jesus your diary? Do you have to let God and others know that He is dear to you?
  • “We just…” I like to think of this as “Jesus Wejus” because that’s what it comes out sounding like a lot of times. In addition to the funny sound of this, people use the word “just” for way too many things. “We just want your peace to come over us…” or whatever. As if the only thing that we wanted was that. “We just love you so much…” It sounds silly, especially when you start out every sentence with “We just…” for an entire prayer.
  • “Lord, we know you love us Lord and Lord, we thank you so much Lord for…” It’s not like anyone has forgotten that we are talking to God, right? Did God forget His name? Is He some sort of inattentive child that needs you to constantly say His name over and over to get Him to pay attention? It doesn’t have to be Lord; it could be God or Jesus or Lord Jesus or Lord God or whatever. 
  • “You are holy.” NO $%IT!!! Of course He knows that!
  • “Dearest, most precious, loving, holy, awesome, wonderful Lord…” Really? Ease up on the adjectives, people.
  • “Be with us, today.” In Matthew 18:20, Jesus says “…because where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them.” Cross that off the list of supplications then, I guess…

So these are just a few things people say in prayers that seem silly to me. Don’t worry if you do this when you pray: I’m not calling you an idiot or anything. I rather enjoy it, to tell you the truth. I know that a lot of these little things are verbal placeholders, kind of like “Um” or “Like” or “Uh”, but it really does help me stay focused when someone offers up a prayer. For me, the best way to get rolling with a prayer is, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Jesus says keep it simple 😉

Leave comments if you think I’m a jerk and a horrible Christian, or if you have any more to add to my list.

Posted in religion | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young

Posted by Jason on January 5, 2009

 

by William P. Young

by William P. Young

 

So I finally read it. It came highly recommended by several people, mostly wifey’s family. This book has certainly made waves, from what I hear. Several people I’ve talked to said it was one of the best books they’ve ever read. I’ve read that several churches have forbid their parishioners to read it, calling this book heresy and the devils work. Other churches have lifted it up as a must-read for any Christian who wants some answers the  difficult questions of our faith.

I know that there is doubt as to whether or not this is a true story or not. Sure, the author says all this really happened to his friend and tells the story his friend tells, but who knows? My feeling is that it’s somewhere between fiction and truth, as much literature is. If this story is in fact a completely invented work of fiction, then Young did an incredible job making quite a few people believe in its veracity. I suppose many would say the same about the Bible or the Torah or the Qur’an. 

True or not, this book did provoke quite a bit of thought within me, unlike other “Christian” books such as Jabez or Purpose Driven Life, etc., which just made me sick. I like Young’s interpretation of punishment being sin itself. Sin is not an act, but rather a separation from God. This separation and all the awful things it entails is a punishment that we inflict upon ourselves. Because we are forgiven through Christ, there is no need for God to wield great thunderbolts of divine justice and smite us when we screw up. 

I’m also in agreement when God tells Mack that He (God) is not religion and does not care for religion in the least. According to Young, institutions are means for power structures and subjugation, and the God of love and community is not about that.

Young provides quite a smattering of ideas about the nature of God and the relationships we have with that God. Most of these views, while not directly antagonistic to those of conservative American Christianity, fit into a fairly liberal schematic of the Christian faith. I can definitely see why many Christians around the country and even around the world would find this book revolutionary or perhaps heretical. To me, it was neither, and this is not because I’m some theological genius or anything. Most of what I read worked just fine with my Methodist/Weslyan world view.

I wasn’t really shocked or appalled at any of Young’s ideas, but he did open up quite a bit of thought in me. I thought a lot about relationships in reading this book, and it has been a great avenue for self-examination of my not so many years living on this wonderful Earth. The presentation of the Trinity was a little gimmicky for me, but the ideas behind that presentation were fine. 

Overall I thought this was an interesting book. Not life-changing, but a great way to get some think-juices flowing in my whacky head. I think it’s one of those books that, read at several different points in a person’s life, will provide many different perspectives and little gems throughout the years.

Posted in books, Literature, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Pay It Forward

Posted by Jason on December 23, 2008

I went to the nursery the other day to pick up a bag of worms for wifey’s worm compost bin. I poked around some of the bonsai plants just to see what they had, and then I went to pick up my $15 bag of worms. The manager of the nursery started to ring me up and then just said, “Eh, you’re all set. Merry Christmas. Pass it on.” 

“Really?”

“Yeah, pay it forward.”

“Wow, thanks a bunch. I will pass it on! Merry Christmas!”

And that was it. I got a $15 bag of worms for free. Now I’m going to pass it on somehow. I’m not quite sure how. I did help some friends of ours move for like 11 hours yesterday. But that’s pretty much what friends do for each other. I think it would be a cop out to count that as my paying it forward. Maybe I should just keep doing nice things and not worry about when I’m paid up or not. That sounds like a better plan.

I got to thinking this morning about this whole thing, and I don’t do religious pondering very often on my own, but this whole pay it forward business really encapsulates my views on faith, works, and grace. The nursery lady was ridiculously nice to me for no good reason, and now I’m looking to do good stuff for other people (in addition to continuing my patronage of her nursery) purely out of gratitude for the good thing that was done for me. The gift of grace, given by God through Jesus Christ, was ours when we really didn’t -and still don’t, in my case- deserve it one bit. When we act in accordance with Jesus’ teachings, it’s out of gratitude for that gift of grace. Faith comes in because we believe that this wondrous gift has been given to the world, which includes us. 

Now I know this isn’t fleshed out and it’s not theologically perfect, but the free bag of worms provides a nice little illustration of what I truly believe, in a concise little way.

Merry Christmas, and do something nice for somebody else!

Posted in Musings, religion | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Weighing in on the Rick Warren Pick…

Posted by Jason on December 18, 2008

Seriously people… the guy is saying a damn prayer. It’s not as if Obama is selecting this dude to do anything important. Anyone remember who G.W. picked to say his prayer off the top of your head? Of course not. Why?

BECAUSE IT DOESN’T MATTER!

Everyone is reading way too much into this. Dems are all up in arms and Republicans are thrilled. Heaven forbid Obama does something that isn’t along party lines. Maybe we picked the wrong guy for president, since a churchman he wanted to say a prayer doesn’t like gays and hates abortion. So many crazy liberals see this as a giant betrayal. Guess what? Obama is still going to be the president, and your opinion doesn’t really matter one bit anymore.

You’ve spoken with your vote, now shut up and let the man do his job. I don’t really care who gives the opening prayer. It doesn’t have anything to do with policy or anything. Maybe Obama actually did something that can bring some of his opponents to respect him more? You know, like working across the aisle, showing some graciousness in whooping John McCain’s ass? People say they’re tired of politics as usual and the partisan crap that goes on in Washington. But the second that someone does anything outside the red and blue box, the nation is up in arms.

You asked for it, people. Now let Obama be the president…

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Posted by Jason on December 11, 2008

Here’s a perfect example of religious antagonism that just completely pisses me off:

The Ubiquitous Darwin Fish

The Ubiquitous Darwin Fish

Now must of us know that the original Ichthys or “Jesus Fish” was a Christian symbol for various different reasons, depending on which scholar you ask, and my beef is not about who had which symbol first, etc. This is just the epitome of how people go out of their way to antagonize the “other side,” whichever side that may be. Darwinists or anti-Creationists or Anti-Christians or whatever you would like to call them have distorted a well-known symbol in order to use that for their own message. This is, in effect, a mockery of the Christian symbol and I’m sure it offends a lot of people.

That said, I think that the Darwin fish-thingy is incredibly clever. However, I feel that when it’s displayed on a car or any other public place, it becomes a statement. Why make public statements that mock and antagonize people? The problem is not just with evolutionists or atheists or democrats or any one group. Do I really care that some jackass in his little Mazda Miata thinks he’s intellectually superior to me because I happen to be Christian and he has a little symbol that says his beliefs are more “evolved” than mine? Of course not…

What pisses me off is that people of all creeds and walks of life feel like they absolutely must stick it to the other side whenever possible. Why waste your life with such a petty and stupid agenda? Is it really worth all the stress and anger you create when you write a 2000-word blog post that really exposes the whack-job right wingers or the commy-pinko liberals? Oooo… it’s as if I never knew that Republicans were closer to Fascists and that Democrats were kind of like Socialists. Cmon people!!!

So let’s get real: Stop trying to disprove everything by using the same old rhetoric that everyone’s heard before. If you believe differently than someone else, who cares? Maybe talk to that person to get a better understanding of what they think, but then move on! Write about something that generally interests you; not something that makes you feel smart. If you don’t know anything about anything, then write a blog that posts a bunch of questions about stuff you don’t know. There’s plenty of people out there in the blogosphere that will give you their opinions…

Posted in Musings, politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »