upper room daily devotions

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

when life is discordant

Each day I begin with giving thanks for the peacefulness of my home. Peace in my home is something that I prize above almost everything else. I know that I don't have a chance of maintaining any balance in life or any kind of healthy spirituality if my home is wracked with chaos, conflict, or strife. Because of this awareness, I work very hard at having a peaceful and joyful home. And, by and large, I am blessed with such a home. Something happened a few days ago that has thrown my domestic bliss into a tailspin and I can feel the effects rippling through my whole experience of life. I am more stressed, less attuned to God around and in me, more apt to be snappy and short with people, less compassionate toward others, and, frankly, a bit sad. Right now, life is discordant.

On Saturday evening one of my pets was taken to the vet. For some time I've been giving him an anti-anxiety pill to help his "inappropriate elimination" problem. It's worked marvels and Georgie hasn't been peeing outside of his litter box. However, the vet wanted to draw some blood before renewing the prescription. When Georgie (George Weasley for those who care) returned home, his brother Fred smelled the vet on him and reacted as one might expect. He hissed, growled, and took an aggressive posture with poor Georgie. While I expected this response, I didn't expect it to last as long as it has or for Fred's behavior to be directed toward the humans in the house.

Fred and George have been separated for George's safety and Fred's sense of safety. Georgie cries and paws at the door behind which he knows his brother is hiding. Freddie, not understanding that the cat on the other side of the door is his litter mate and life-long sleeping pal Georgie, hisses and growls, and George slinks away dejected. It's now Monday evening and neither animal understands what's happening. I am sleeping on the sofa to keep George company while Fred sleeps in my bedroom where he feels secure. I hope this doesn't last until I leave town on Thursday, but I expect that it will.

This is just a little every day kind of event, but things like this can tear us out of balance and put us - at least me - out of whack for a while. Order and peace are important parts of a healthy life. How are we supposed to respond when order isn't possible, when the place we rely upon to be peaceful and life-giving becomes trying and difficult? My heart also breaks because these two wonderful creatures made by God who have always slept together, groomed one another, and played together are torn apart. They both know it. Neither understands it. How is it possible to keep a home steady and calming when confusion and fear have come across the thresshold?

This may seem like a trivial post. It is, after all, not about church leadership, the environment, issues of national importance, or even deep spiritual conviction. It is, however, a reminder to me of how important home and peace are for my spiritual well being. This post brings to the fore the struggle to maintain balance when home and hearth are conflicted and chaotic. I have a blessed life; my home is typically quite happy and I am generally very content. I wonder what others do when life is discordant and home feels no longer like home - even if just for a little while.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

god's kingdom? - four gorillas shot to death

Today in worship we read Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer. Each time we pray the Lord's Prayer we ask for our daily bread and for God's kingdom to come. As I pack this week to leave for Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I wonder how much my daily bread really is and whether I mean it when I pray for it. My life is built upon much, much more than me taking only my daily bread. I also am forced to think about how serious I am when I pray for God's kingdom to come on earth. In theory this sounds really marvelous. In practicality it has great implications on my life and on the witness of the church. Over the course of the next month reminders will be all around me of how much I take for granted in my every day life, and how that "taken-for-grantedness" is part of a life lived in excess. Additionally, I will be shown again and again how God's kingdom does come...as well as how it doesn't.

For those who read this blog, you probably know by now that being a good steward of the earth and of non-human animals is a primary call in my life. When I think about how over-consumption in the United States in general and in my life in particular affects the air, the soil, the seas, and the animals, I find myself convicted of a life filled with great sin. I use immensely more than my daily share and I desire to have more than my daily portion. The lifestyle into which I was born and to which I have become addicted is crammed with too much food, too many gadgets, and too much ease. I do mean it when we pray in the Lord's Prayer, "forgive us our tresspasses," but I hope God forgives me more readily than I seem to be able to forgive others.

This month an article was written about the slaughter of four mountain gorillas in the DRC. They may have died as a by-product of the push to mine the wealth of resources in the DRC. They may have been victims of trophy hunting. I doubt they were potential food sources since they were left behind. Mountain gorillas are amazing creatures - proof of God if ever there needed to be one. When will we be able to look upon God's world and see as God does and value the beauty and magnificence of God's creations? When will we realize that our desires - when turned to action - have serious and lasting consequences? When will we and our churches become living witnesses to the the God of life and stand resolute against killings such as this? When will we finally say "no" to the bloodshed - human and non-human - that is happening all around the world, but especially the bloodshed in places like the DRC? When will we finally mean it when we pray for God's kingdom to come and then to see it all around us? When will we treat this world as God's home filled with God's wonders?

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
forever. Amen.

Here is the article:

"Four Gorillas Found Shot To Death In Congo

July 28, 2007 11:46 a.m. EST

Nicole King - AHN News Writer
Democratic Republic of Congo (AHN) - The shooting death of four rare mountain gorillas has prompted the United Nations to send a mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Park rangers found three females and a male silverback shot to death in the southern part of Virunga National Park earlier in the week.

Residents said they heard gunshots and alerted park rangers, who found the dead gorillas the next morning. Patrols are being increased and guard shacks are being built to provide 24-hour surveillance.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced it will send a mission to the country as soon as possible to offer support. The agency said it plans to work with authorities to find out the reasons behind the killings and to prevent any more in the future.

The four gorillas were part of a group that was frequently visited by tourists. Experts are concerned that the death of the male, who would traditionally act as the leader of the group, will now leave the group disoriented. Two other gorillas that belonged the group, a female and an infant, are missing.

Flora and Fauna International, a society that works for the conservation of threatened ecosystems and species, said just over 700 mountain gorillas survive in the wild. The group said seven gorillas have bee killed in the park this year so far."

A baby gorilla has been found alive, although her mother was among those shot to death. Read more...

Monday, July 23, 2007

debates and faith

Tonight YouTube and CNN hosted a debate among the Democrats vying for their party's nomination to become President of the United States. As a Christian, it is important to me that those who lead my nation do so in such a way that cares for the disadvantaged, lifts people from poverty, seeks peace rather than war, protects and conserves the environment, values individual liberty, provides for the wellbeing of all Americans, welcomes the stranger, nurtures the "widow and orphan", educates the young, and creates a just economy. These are the values of my faith. I was delighted that many of the videos submitted by YouTubers got right to the heart of the matter (and I was slightly annoyed at some of the sillier videos selected by CNN).

Too often I hear people in my church and in other places say that they do not participate in the political processes of our country because of a sense of overwhelmin cynicism. Simply put, they just don't expect real and significant change to come through the system currently in place. And, since they also don't expect a new system to arise, they have chosen to step away from the tumble and fray of the political process. While I can certainly understand their skepticism, I find hope in the stories of my faith. They tell me that change is possible. From the stories of the Exodus to Jesus' movement toward Jerusalem, the stories of my faith instruct me that God will use outsiders, the disenfranchised, the despised, "aliens," women, and minorities of all kinds to bring systemic change to structures that have grown stiff and fat with corruption. No candidate - not Democrat, not Republican - will be able to do all that any one of us would like, but that doesn't mean that there aren't better and worse candidates from which to choose. It also doesn't mean that there isn't a candidate out there who might be able to bring significant change, even if it is incomplete change.

Listen to some of the debate questions on CNN.

it's here...harry potter and the deathly hallows

I'm beat. My copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrived in the mail on the 21st at about 1:30 PM. At 1:00 AM - 11.5 hours later - I finally finished reading the tale.

My thoughts (without spoilers)? It's the best book of the series even though she leaves a number of questions hanging. The Christocentric/Christological message that has wound its way through all of the books rises to the fore. Rowling manages to do this without being "preachy" or making the book feel too much like a morality tale. I cried at one death. There were a couple of characters that didn't return that I wished could have. Parents may need to get kids younger than 14 y/o to read the book slowly in order to manage their reactions to the deaths. It's a wonderful exploration of death for adolescents...and adults, actually. It is also a great introduction for kids, but they will probably need some help with their emotions.

Main themes? Love, Power, Death, Grieving, Love of Mother for Child, Choice and Free Will, Loyalty and Fidelity, Good v Evil.

I have to start reading it again in order to write something coherent (I also need to get some sleep!).

UPDATE: Listen to JK Rowling read the first chapter!
Part 1

Part 2

Monday, July 16, 2007

solar power, politics, and funding

There is an article in the New York Times today about the struggle that solar power faces in securing necessary funds to advance technological advances needed for it to become a major energy source.

Some people have commented to me that this blog seems more environmentally focused than religiously focused. It is my deep conviction that as a Christian it is part of my call and obligation to be a faithful steward of God's good creation. Further, it is also my belief that our dwindling resources and flailing environment are symptoms of a spiritual problem. We use too much, consume too much, demand too much. Do we do so because we are trying to fill a spiritual void? Have we lost sight that we and all of the earth belongs to God and not to humankind?

This article brings to relief the challenges that exist in moving Americans beyond the reliance on any single supplier of energy. It also shows how the power of the dollar influences this process. Currently, the funding for technological advances in solar power are outpaced by nuclear, biofuel, and coal by substantial amounts, up to three times the amount. How do we want to make stewardship choices...by the power of the lobby?

looking for purpose and meaning

Recently a parishioner told me that she thinks people don't attend church because people don't really have a deep spiritual hunger. Her reflections (and she's a generation older than me) didn't seem to reflect what I see going on in the world, especially among the people of my peer group. As I listened to my parishioner, I couldn't help but think about the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last week and the upcoming release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this week. Stories like these - and all hero quest stories - seem to be tapping into a great spiritual hunger. I see people looking high and low for meaning and purpose. What I don't see, though, is the church helping in these quests. We have become so entangled in doctrinal disputes (often about what I would consider non-essentials), embroiled in clergy sexual misconduct scandals, and engaged in political conflict that the effort required of people to participate in our church communities isn't worth exerting...at least for the non-churched people I know.

As I listened to this parishioner, once again I realized that there exists between the "Boomer" generation (I hate generational nomenclature) and Xers/Millennials a great divide. One of the differences between these generations is that Boomers believe in their own agency/power to change the world and the Xers/Millennials maintain skepticism of this ability. However, it seems the younger generations hold a hope for our skepticism to be dispelled. When I look at the prevalence of television shows, movies, and books like Heroes, Lost, Kyle XY, Harry Potter, X Men, and many, many others I see a generation searching for meaning in existence and the power to change the world. We want someone to tell us that change is possible and that we have some agency to bring it about. We are trying to find that iconic and archetypal story to which we can cling and from which we can find empowerment.

As a Christian I believe that my faith is grounded in a story of the greatest import. It begins with a people with no meaning and no identity being claimed by the greatest of gods. This God leads them from oppression to freedom, charges them with a sacred duty to be a light to all nations, and calls the misfits from among them to bear again and again the word of this God. Eventually there rose a man who could embody the grace, love, and power of this God who lived among the people sowing seeds of change and nonviolent revolution. Because of his choices, his life, and his works he was killed, but the powers and principalities of this world still could not beat him. Death could not defeat him. Furthermore, my story tells me that the same power that coursed through his veins lives in mine. The same message of justice and mercy that he brought to the world needs to be brought today. The same power that raised him from the dead will raise the entire world, liberating all of creation from the powers and principalities that push down, oppress, ensnare, and disempower. This story is greater than all of the superhero stories and more empowering than all of the hero quest narratives.

Can the church regain our voice to tell this story? Can we leave behind the squabbles that hold us down? Can we re-present the gospel in a world that clearly does want a story not only to hear, but a story in which we all can participate? In essence, can the church be a place where people come in order to find purpose and meaning?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

live earth...all day today!

"The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.
Throughout the country that you hold as a possession,
you must provide for the redemption of the land."
~Lev. 25:23-24.

Today is 7/7/7. This day does not only mark the anniversary of the attacks on the London Underground two years ago; it also is a celebration of and a call to action for saving our planet. Today is Live Earth!

For twenty-four hours, the world will celebrate the wonders of our planet and call humankind to responsibility for caring for it. PSA's, performances, and broadcasts will be sent out from all seven continents throughout the day, with the main broadcasts originating in New York, London, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Sydney, Hamburg, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo. You can watch all day.

Live Earth is brought to us by a wide selection of partners, but it is the brainchild of Al Gore and his organization The Climate Group and Emmy Award Winner and Live Earth Founder Kevin Wall.

Live Earth asks people to commit to making changes at home, at work, while getting around, while shopping, in their communities and to urge changes by their governments. Through its “Answer the Call” campaign, people can make their commitments and find solutions against the climate crisis at liveearth.org, LiveEarth.MSN.com, or by sending a free text message of “SOS” to 82004.

This is Live Earth’s 7-point pledge on the climate crisis and you are asked to sign it at Live Earth's website:

• To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

• To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become “carbon neutral;”

• To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

• To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

• To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

• To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

• To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

The names of people making commitments and signing the pledge through their computers or cell phones on July 7th will be shown on the Live Earth web site, on the screens at the concerts, and on the global TV broadcasts.

Watch, participate, and save the planet!

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