Thursday, April 27, 2006

Taken On the Wind

This morning's dawn marked both the passing of night and the dawn of a new day. I learned of a baby's birth that has formed reflections deep within my soul. The births of two babies have left me breathless on this still and cool morning.

Two babies were born five days apart. Each was born to different parents; one was born today and one was born on Saturday. They both have the same name. The boy is named Evan and the girl is named Eveyn. Today one is alive and breathing and the other is breathless on her birthday.

If life were only about breath, then I could say that one is alive and one is dead. However, life is about more than breath. It is also about wind. What I can say and I believe is that baby Evan is here breathing. The other baby Eveyn is gone breathing only by the Spirit of God. Indeed, they are both alive, and they live with the same breath - the wind of God.

Neither of these parents knows each other. They do not realize that their babies were born five days apart, nor do they realize one Evan lives here while another Eveyn lives elsewhere. These parents live separate lives and distant experiences. One set of parents knows life turned into breathless joy. The other set of parents knows only the promise of joy emptied into a hollow pain.

There is not much to say when a new life is taken from sight. A life removed from us as quickly as it is seen. We will now not be able to see how this life will grow -– that is until we are breathless also. When the breath in our lungs is taken for the last time, then we can go to the place of reunion where lives exist forever by the eternal wind of God.

And now, what I have this morning is breathless sorrow for two sad breathless parents. I, too, am gasping to know these two new little babies. May the wind of God fill our lives and be our comfort when we have no reason to go on breathing. Dawn awaits.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Da Vinci on Screen

In some ways, it was the book “the Da Vinci Code” that began this space. Not that it was the inspiration. The book'’s only inspiration is fictional doubt. Several summers ago, I spopubliclylly about the Da Vinci Code fiction novel by Dan Brown. Now, it will soon be in theaters for what they hope will be a blockbuster summer movie.

Already churches are beginning to boycott, websites are being established, campaigns against the movie are being waged. I have a campaign of my own. It is much more modest and its goal is a little odd, but it is one I believe in. Here are three thoughts that I offer in the form of requests.

I ask that you look at the copyright page of this book. Notice how it is categorized: Fiction. It is not based upon truth. It is a clever and creative work of fiction that blurs the lines of reality and imagination. This is what good fiction does - blur what is real and what is illusion to the point they appear the same.

I could only hope that the uproar with James Frey's memoir “A Million Little Pieces” would be a prelude to a similar uproar about this book of viction. If you remember Frey wrote what he said was truth about his life, but in fact it was embellished to make him appear tougher and meaner than he is or was. People were outraged to realize that he had deceived us.

No such luck with Dan Brown. He has lied, but unlike Frey he has properly catalogued his book as fiction. Do not forget it is fiction for a reason.

My second request is that you not go see the movie. When any of us go to a movie we are casting our dollars as votes in favor of a movie. I would encourage you not to vote for this movie. This is not some form of a strong boycott, which just gives this more publicity. My hope is that the movie will do poorly. I do not think that will happen because Christians run around picketing or complaining or damning people to hell who go see this movie. That just makes people want to go.

Instead, I am asking you not to go see it. If you must see it, then go see it when it comes to a discount theater, check it out from your library when it is on DVD or rent it sometime later. There are many other movies you could see (maybe they are not worth voting for either). My campaign is to get people to spend their money on something other than this movie and their efforts and emotions in another direction. This brings me to my final request.

If you have read the book or eventually see the movie, then I ask you to read a book like Ben Witherington'’s book on the Da Vinci Code. Get some more information before you allow an artistic piece of fiction to be the basis for belief or disbelief.

Here is one brief example of the fiction of Da Vinci. Brown doubts the authenticity of the biblical texts and manuscripts. Because there are differences and there are no "original" or "“signed"” copies of biblical books, then they must be untrue. Lets do a quick comparison with some other ancient texts. Homer's Iliad was written in 800 BCE and the earliest manuscript we have is from 400 BCE and there are something over 600 copies of it. That is 400 years after it was written, which is a long time. Or maybe you'’ve heard of Plato'’s works which were written in 400 BCE, but the oldest manuscript we have is from 900 A.C.E. That is thirteen-hundred year gap and there are about 7 manuscripts.

How do these manuscripts (we could use many, many others) compare with the evidence for the Bible? The gospel of John was written between 50-100 A.C.E. and our earliest copy is 130 A.C.E. and I have actually seen this fragment. That is a distance of 50 years to the original work! There are manuscripts of the entire New Testament that date from 325 A.C.E. which is about 225 years removed from the originals. IsnÂ’t it interesting that the manuscript evidence for the Bible is so strong. This is only one thing to consider, books about the Da Vinci Code can unpack many more.

So, here are my simple requests: remember the Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction, wait to go see the movie and read a book about the code. At bare minimum, I hope this book and movie can be a coffee discussion between people of Christian faith and people of other faiths. Learning will take place for everyone and God will be made more real.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

One Holy Place

This is an important week. What makes it important is remembering what happened during this week. For me it is another busy week. It is easy to "forget" the meaning of Holy Week even as we busily try to "remember" it and honor Jesus.

Yesterday in staff meeting, I read from the prophet Isaiah and shared this passage. The quote came via the Upper Room email. I do not know the author nor the book, but the words communicated deep meaning to me. Read through this a couple times (italics are mine).
THE REVEALING of the Holy One is what we need to transform our lives. We need to know that the ground on which we are standing is holy ground. When we have found one truly holy place, then all places become holy.

-- David Adam
This week I anticipate unwrapping Jesus from the tomb. This week I anticipate entering the sadness of Jesus death. This week, I need Jesus to be unwrapped so that I can be different.

What I forget is that I am standing on holy ground. Wherever I am located is holy ground. It is not holy because I am there. The ground is holy because God is at work if I will but see it. Will I be alert enough to recognize the holiness of each moment he gives me.

The holiness of changing a diaper, choosing my words with a friend, eliminating my words in the car, stopping "to listen" instead of hurrying "to do" the holy. May you find holy ground everywhere you go this week.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Three Feet of Wisdom

My little man is quite attentive and wise. He is only three feet tall, watery blue eyes and dusty-blond hair, but his heart flows with spiritual wisdom.

Within the last year, the dinner table was my sounding board for frustration. I was talking about a problem with a person. Donna and I were speaking in the artful parental code language. Do you know the parental code of mixing Pig Latin, spelling key words and leaving out the names to protect the innocent?

Clearly I was downcast. Frustrated. My best friend Donna was the woman I wanted input from. However, this time the wisdom came from my little man with white hair and the blue eyes.
"Daddy, you seem down."
"Yes, son. I am trying to figure out what to do about this person and how to help."
"Daddy, I will tell you something. Here is what you need to do. Tell them Jesus loves them. Tell them Jesus will heal them. And pray with them."
All I could do was look eye to eye at the table with this little man and smile. It was clear to me that the One we sometimes call "the big man" was speaking through this little man. Could it be much more clear?
Jesus expresses God's love perfectly.
It takes a God outside of ourselves to save us.
It takes humility of the soul to bow before God and submit to being saved.
Three points flowing out of three feet of wisdom. So may you love, listen and learn that God still speaks.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

April Fools Party

Last weekend we celebrated one year of life with Lizzie. The gathering was a huge success bringing together both sides of our families.

The party favors were not so . . . favorable. Lizzie, Donna and I all had fought this "24 hour stomach virus." The virus was the "party favor" that we passed it to everyone except two people who came for the party. This was one contagious virus. One bad treat.

A virus can affect people in an instant. Common things like a touch, a hug, sharing food, or sharing the same air can spread a virus. In the same way, you and I affect people in an instant. Common things like a handshake, an embrace, mealtime or conversation. Love, hate or indifference can be passed in a moment. Oh, if only love could be genetically created to be passed like a virus. Contagiously passed through kind courtesy or warm conversation or in the generosity of a gift.

One problem is that many disciples of Jesus are so thoroughly insulated, disinfected, and protected from any form of doubt, disbelief or trouble. We disciples are often times hesitant, resistant to enter the very world that God created, loves and has entered. The fullness of God entered the limited space of flesh and bone. God in a body. . . is a bizarre concept to understand.

Rather than fear infection, Christ-followers must become infectious. Spreading, contaminating, multiplying the love of God out in the world. "And the world will know that we are followers of Jesus . . . by our inescapable love." (click the gospel of John 13:35)