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Bloged in apprenticeship, worship by rod Sunday July 31, 2005

Last night, Al and I drove up to Charlotte to see James Taylor at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. On the way up, we were listening to The Lost Dogs, “Gift Horse” CD. There is a song on there that closes with the words, “… and after you’ve been broken, you may not realize that you are grace to the brokenhearted…”
No doubt, at some level or another, we’ve all been broken. Some haven’t yet realized it. Some of us bask in it, and refuse to be mended. But all broken. It occurred to me that those last lines depict what God did for us. He showed his grace to the brokenhearted by becoming broken.
Forgive me, but that seems like a very good summary of the salvation story. Jesus himself spoke of this often. This is my body broken for you. The strange thing is, that the salvation story seems somehow like a coin that has two sides. Of course we can do nothing to help write the story, as we often try to do by construing it to help us become what WE want to be, but we are called to participate in the story. It is has been written for millennia, and believe it or not, isn’t completed yet. Yes, the provision has been made and finished, but salvation is still unfolding all around us every minute of everyday. We are being saved.
On this side of the auction block of redemption, at which Christ made and paid the highest bid, the salvation story is written in the process of discipleship and growing toward becoming more like Christ.
In the discipleship side of the salvation story, we are called upon to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. We are encouraged to participate in and identify with Christ’s suffering. This is an all-important concept that we seem to obsess on to the point that we try to help write the salvation story rather than simply participating in its unfolding like we’ve been asked or invited to. We somehow forget that he only asks us to participate in his suffering because he participated in ours. He participated in our brokenness so that we could be healed. In participating in the healing, we must be broken.
We are broken to become grace to the brokenhearted because Jesus was broken to become grace to the brokenhearted. This was spoken of in Isaiah, and then Jesus quoted it to refer to himself. “He has sent me to bring good news to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted.” Of course, God could identify with our suffering without physically participating in it, but he chose to write the story by participating in and identifying with our suffering, and became a literal sacrifice according to the law.
Jesus became grace rather than justice by being broken. We too, when broken, minister to others who are broken in ways that a whole person, unbroken, could never do.
This seems to me to be one of the most important ways that we participate in the story of salvation as it writes itself in the lives of others. When we identify with Jesus’ suffering that he endured to create identity in us, we also begin to identify with the suffering of those around us, and in turn, they are changed through our ability to identify with them.
So once again, I realize that I’m not left here to deal with the junk of life on my own, nor am I merely encouraged by a God who understands my suffering because he is omniscient and has created me, but I am held up by a God who chose to participate, even physically, in my suffering and is here to help me as I participate in his.

unseen perspective

Bloged in life, poems, worship by rod Saturday July 30, 2005

God give us strength and gratitude,
for whatever miniscule good we perceive is
more grace than we can fathom, and
whatever ill we endure is
but a brush of the tail of a deadly viper.

the owning of a daddy’s heart

Bloged in parenting by rod Friday July 29, 2005

“dad, what time will we get home? Can we stop for a drink?”

…ten minutes later:
“…dad, I can’t wait to get home.”
“you stayed away too long, huh?”
“long enough to have parts of me taken and left there. Dad, as many when-I-was-a-kid memories as you have, it’s no wonder parts of you are scattered all over those hills.”

… ten minutes later:
“dad, why are you such a good parent?”
“I don’t feel like a very good parent. What makes you say that, Will?”
“I can’t really explain it, you can’t really be explained - it’s just how you are.”

…”dad, why is your right bicep square? (with cartoon voice) ‘I am Mr. Square bicep.’”

…ten minutes later:
“dad, wanna know when I don’t mind riding in the car? When it is raining.”

…ten minutes later:
“dad, if I’m your hero, what does that make you?”
“less heroic than you, son.”

…dot dot dot… like the broken white line down the middle of the dog-gone road


Bloged in family, life by rod Thursday July 28, 2005

I drove back to West Virginia today, to pick up our lost middle kid. When I come home from work in the evening and Will greets me with his heartfelt smile and animated, “hi Dad!”, it is as if all is right with the world. He hugs with every part of his being and just melds with the recipient of the hug. So if this is what I get daily, imagine the joy of lighting up his face after two weeks. This makes all the all-nighters 11 years ago worth every minute.
So here I am spending the rest of the day and tomorrow morning with my peeps before heading back to the deep heat with the prodigal.
Back in November when I was here, I became more intellectually and emotionally connected to my forefathers on my dad’s side of the family. This evening, I became more linked to my mother’s side of the family.
My sister bought my mother’s old home place from my uncle just a couple months ago, and has been remodeling the house. We spent this evening there inspecting her overwhelming challenge, reminiscing, and being ministered to by all that refuge had to offer sitting under the darkening sky and brightening stars.
My mom’s baby brother is only 2 years my senior, so we were close, and as a kid, I spent a lot of days roaming those hills, exploring the creeks, and climbing the rocks with him, and I spent a lot of nights lying in the dormer of that house being lulled to sleep by the whip-poor-wills and screech owls. Life moves at a different pace when you’re among family, your source; and in this place, with family, it slows to half-speed and all sensory stimuli is contemplated, pondered, processed and blessed. An hour with repays years without, and gaps are filled with memories and sated longings.
While I sat on the patio of the old house, I wished you could be there to experience it with me. Noticing that you never showed up, I decided to take some pictures so you could see what you missed. Click them for a larger look.

…I’ll carry the songs we learned when we were kids, I’ll carry the scars of generations gone by…

…this is the sound a mourning dove makes…

…this is the sound a whip-poor-will makes…

…this is how a boy listens to a mourning dove…

…naiveté is cute, but innocence is beautiful…


Bloged in apprenticeship by rod Wednesday July 27, 2005

May I muse a bit about the craftiness of the enemy? The secular world views him as an ugly demon with horns and a pitchfork going about scaring people to death. The Christian community views him as someone who tries to convince us to sin by tempting us with money, sex, and all sorts of other things that are on our lists of things to avoid. When we think of him causing us hardship, it is almost always financial, and when we think of being blessed, it is almost always financial. The bulk of our testimonies of God’s provision is in the financial realm. We are overwhelmed with financial care. But in reality, he never strikes where we’d expect him. We’re always blindsided.
The scripture teaches that he masquerades as an angel of light. I believe that he would actually help us not to “commit a sin” because he knows that the “better” we become the less we recognize the need for Jesus. I believe, and have experienced, that he will spend less effort causing us to “mess up”, than he does to confuse us, with things we think of as God stuff, very worthy, important, indispensable, behavior, mindsets, and pursuits. He’ll help us to get them out-of-order and put effects as causes until we believe that we aren’t because of Christ, but that we are in Christ because we are. Or maybe more understandable, we don’t act and behave because of Christ’s ability in us, but that we can have Christ based on how we act or behave. This is a subtle, crafty, deceptive scheme of the adversary, and we’ve believed it for so long, that it sounds like heresy to contradict him and to reclaim the truth of God’s revelation in Christ.

I’m sorry if my rants sound like I think morality is something to be avoided. By no means! But morality apart from Jesus’ provision and a relationship with him is worthless. And we are not making that clear when we market God-product that delineates methodological righteousness by behavior and avoidance of bad stuff.
I will try to be ultra careful when I espouse the dangers of the idols of missions, theology, church programs, the act of worship, the bible, the scripture as God rather than the revelation of God…

deceiving appearances

Bloged in church, culture by rod Tuesday July 26, 2005

At the end of May, when I finally started going to the gym regularly, I ran into a man as we were working with the same machine. We decided to work together. I had been working out for hardly any length of time when I hurt my right shoulder. Not really badly, but a good bit of pain everyday. So I was trying to strengthen this, and my new acquaintance was doing therapy for rotator cuff surgery. In the next weeks, I saw him almost everyday and we usually said hello. I began to think that he looked familiar to me, but by that time, I figured that it was just because I’d seen him so much at the gym.
Tonight, Allison showed up much later than I did, and so I got finished long before she did, and kinda just piddled around with some different exercises while I waited. My gym acquaintance happened by as I was doing shoulder/deltoids, and we struck up a conversation again. Eventually, I asked him what he did for a living. When he told me, immediately I realized that I’d seen his face all over town, and on television on the news, in the papers, etc. Sheesh, out of context, your mind just doesn’t work all the time. He holds an elected state-wide office, and I voted for him. But when I voted for him, he had on a suit. Not this Nike shorts and muscle shirt stuff of the gym. So he had to ask me what I did for a living. When I told him, he acted honestly taken aback. He said he’d attended our school for two semesters back in the ‘60s. I was 3 years old at the time. Things have changed a bit. He was so surprised, that he had to introduce me to his friend and make him guess what I did and where I did it. Naw!
He later told me that he had told his wife about me before we’d actually even had a conversation. He’d told her that there was this rough, scroungy looking guy at the gym, but he was pretty sure I was a Christian – he could see it in my eyes. He just never dreamed I was a prof, and certainly not where I work. I told him that I’d thought he was a Christian too, but I never dreamed he was a politician.
It was fun thinking about how we’d come to be acquainted in this way, completely out of context of our day-to-day. How we’d formed pictures of one another without any knowledge of who we were outside the gym. But the greatest part was, once knowing, to apply what we’d learned from the impressions that we’d made. I had to reconcile what I’d come to see in this man with the bias many of us have with political leaders. He had reconcile a visual image he’d had at first with what he came to see in me, and then learn the extent of it.
It is exciting to see Jesus in someone before you’re supposed to. To see who they are apart from what they do. To see how outward appearance betrays our prejudice and cultural bias and shallow thinking. To have these things shown to us in such a gentle exposé, can really change our thinking for good. We live and work and operate in culture. We respect that culture and take shape that will allow us to impact there. When our superficial cultures collide in the commonality of Christ, it is certainly an eye opening experience.

wisdom and stature

Bloged in family, parenting by rod Monday July 25, 2005

Will has been staying with my parents for over a week now. Whenever, you don’t see an 11 year-old kid for a while, you can expect to be surprised at how much they’ve grown. Even if they haven’t. We tend to remember kids as smaller than they actually are, so when we get a glance at reality, it always takes us by surprise.
So imagine my surprise when I received this photo of Will sitting upon my cousin’s Clydesdale. The Clydesdale is a majestic draft horse that dwarfs even the wagon of Budweiser it is so famous for pulling. So you can imagine my fear/pride at seeing what a week of fresh mountain air has done for the stature of my pre-teen, he-man son.
When he was a wee baby, I would always look at his huge hands and say, this kid is going to be a horse. Well, seeing him on a horse, certainly proves that he is not a horse, but he is clearly as big as one.
Ride on Willby. The Roharrim are envious. You are my hero.

dico castimonia

Bloged in apprenticeship by rod Sunday July 24, 2005

I hope it is obvious that all my talk of the inadequacy of a culture of morality and my blogs last year about being known for what we don’t do, and my talk to the high schoolers called, “escaping the trap of morality” doesn’t mean that I think morality is bad. It’s just that I think it is the number one idol being worshipped in the contemporary church. There are others, but this is the biggie, I think.
Of course we all know and preach that there is no such thing as a salvation by works. That is, nothing you can do to obtain salvation. But what we seem not to realize is that there is nothing that you can “not do” to obtain salvation.

The way in which it becomes an idol is that it becomes the thing we do to feel like we are good, or that we are Christians. This attitude leaves one with no need for the gospel of Christ, and therefore he doesn’t allow it to apply to his life. He becomes like the Jewish converts that tried to teach that circumcision was necessary to be a Jesus follower. It is easy to understand how this happens – it is something tangible, a behavior that distinguishes one from the other. But it is entirely insufficient. Even in the old testament, circumcision wasn’t a means to a relationship with God, it was the sign of a relationship with God.
Jesus didn’t teach us what to do and what not to do, he taught how to be after he had taken care of how bad we are. So striving only not to do bad things denies my need for him and distracts me from being who he wants me to be.
Eugene Peterson differentiates morality from moralism. Of course morality is a good thing, a result of the work of God in our lives. But moralism is an idol, and disallows God’s work in our lives. Oswald Chambers notes that we often confuse ignorance with innocence, and innocence with purity. The confusion of innocence with purity is of the utmost danger. This is what I was most concerned with in my talk to the high schoolers. Purity is what we strive for, but it can’t be obtained by innocence. This is directly contrary to the teaching of scripture. So why do we even indirectly hint that purity is something we have until we mess up? We use word groups like, “stay pure.” One doesn’t become impure from losing his purity, one is impure by not being pure. There is a difference and I don’t think it is subtle. Purity is not something we had and lost. That is innocence. Purity is something we never had and have to become.
We have a short list of things required to stay pure. The one thing that eclipses all others is sexuality. Namely virginity. As if purity is in your pants rather than your heart. Of course lost virginity can never be regained. But one can always strive for purity. But we are raising up a generation of teenagers that equate virginity with salvation. And we perpetuate this heresy with hundreds of “God Product” books aimed at convincing teenagers not to do many things, including even dating, while we are sadly lacking in spiritual growth and relationship teaching. This, no doubt, is because we must be spiritually mature and relational in order to teach our children these things. But we are too busy polishing our lifestyles, thinking that is the way.

belated 2

Bloged in family, life, poems by rod Saturday July 23, 2005

Won’t you get hip to this timely tip,
When you make that life-long trip
Get your kicks at age sixty-six.

a ride through the old south

Bloged in culture by rod Friday July 22, 2005

In the past week, I’ve ridden the windhorse on back roads from the South Carolina mountains through the piedmont to the midlands, and from the midlands through the sandhills to the low country and the coastal islands. Like I said last week, South Carolina is very beautiful if you get off the interstate. It is amazing that a state so small, could be so different from one end to the other.
Riding through the sandhills just below Columbia, one thinks that if it rains too hard the entire southern half of the state should just wash out to sea. Then you turn a corner and cross a county line and you step back in time. The tiny towns along route 321 are seemingly untouched by time. Tiny mainstreets with hardware stores and tobacco and cotton warehouses running parallel to the train tracks across which are the grain elevators. Every town has a barbecue joint equipped with an old oak under which a dozen men loiter and talk about the heat wave of ‘51. “this ain’t nothin’ like that summer was.”
On the outskirts are the montrous houses of yesteryear with their dilapidated slave quarters in back. Drive on out of town under oak limbs canopied over the road from miles of evenly spaced century-old trees trimmed perfectly to accommodate the exact height of a semi trailer.
Out from under the trees, the July sun beats down so hard that your tires strain under its weight and you look out over the fields and weep for the slaves that labored under that midday sun, and you hear their songs of hope echoing through the fields - songs of hope that have yet to be fully realized a hundred and forty years later. You feel the stark contrast of the freedom of riding a motorcycle through those same fields on an oppressively hot day.
These are the thoughts of the day as I ride back north through the low country of South Carolina on this hot July day, away from the ocean and a contemplative morning in the surf.
There is still so much slavery and oppression even today as I celebrate freedom in the wind. I wonder how many people I can pile onto my windhorse and invite them into the breeze and lead them along this road that leads to a very different kind of oppression, and looks far back on the suffering they once endured. Can songs of hope long forgotten still be re-learned?

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