Tag Archives: faith

dear god

dear god is somewhat like a post secret for prayers. people write in prayers to god (these are unedited, btw), and categorize them into one of about a dozen tags (confession, belief, etc). there are a couple unique things about this: first, the length of the prayers is quite a bit longer than a post secret note, and allows for more depth. but another uniqueness is that, like a blog, comments are allowed, and each prayer seems to get dozens of comments. most of these are very shallow advice or rebukes, but it still seems to add a dimension that’s different. kind of an anonymous, communal, voyeuristic/exhibitionist confessional booth.

the year of living biblically

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, by A. J. Jacobs

i bought this book, well after the buzz about it had subsided, because i’d heard such good things about it. and i was not disappointed. it was one of the more fun and thought-provoking non-fiction works i’ve read this year.

the author is a self-described secular jew, and has lived his whole life in new york. he’s an editor at esquire magazine. and, previously, he published a best-selling book about read the entire britannica encyclopedia, called The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (which i just ordered for my kindle). while reading through the encyclopedia, all the post about judaism and christianity caught his attention, and he thought it might be interesting to try a little experiment: live an entire year – as the subtitle says — with as literal an interpretation of the bible as possible.

jacobs spends 8 months of his year trying to live by the entire old testament, and his final 4 months trying to live a literal new testament interpretation.

of course, one person’s literal interpretation is another person’s heresy (or, at least, wackiness). so jacobs spends a good deal of real estate sifting through which literal interpretation to try to live by. the results are almost always interesting, often insightful, and occasionally hilarious.

here’s the thing that really surprised me: i expected this to be a book that would make me wince. it did — but for different reasons than i expected. i expected to wince as he mocked christians and observant jews. but jacobs turns out to be beautifully gracious. in a sense, that’s what caused me to wince! here was a non-believer, seriously trying to live “our way” (well, some of it is “our way”), and treating the entire thing with much more respect and grace and serious inquiry and thoughtful mind, heart and soul pursuit than a major slice of those who actually call themselves christians! ouch!

we also get a glimpse into jacobs’ own spiritual journey, as he genuinely tries to be open to the potential reality of god and the jewish/christian story of reality. and there is some movement, which he rejoices in and expounds on.

no, there’s no big conversion story at the end. but it’s a great romp through both the follies of literalism, the challenge of scripture, and the sometimes-positive implications of the book of God.

incidentally, i just noticed last week that jacobs is doing a seminar on this book at the national pastors convention in san diego, next february. i might have to try to check that one out!

the bible looks different

ed noble, the teaching pastor at my church (and my friend of almost 20 years — he hired me in omaha in early 1989), turned the big five-oh a few days ago, and blogged a random list of thoughts from his new “older” perspective.

i was nonchalantly reading through the post, until i came to this comment about the bible, which just blew me away:

The Bible looks different than it did 20 years ago. It looks less manageable yet more real. Less consistent but more true. I used to marshal arguments for the inspiration of Scripture (they were good ones too!) and I still do. It seems however lately that the story itself is so self-authenticating that this seems almost redundant. It’s like convincing people that the sun is hot as we are sweating outside on an August day.

yes! ah, yes. so pickin’ good.

i’ve been thinking quite a bit about the role of the bible in our lives (both practically, and in terms of god’s intent), since the CORE is focused on this subject next spring, and i’m writing (and re-writing, and re-writing again) the opening session. this is so in line with what we’re hoping to communicate that day.

aspiration & ebenezers, with additional definitions of a personal nature

as·pi·ra·tion (as-puh-rey-shun), noun.

1. strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition: intellectual aspirations.

2. a goal or objective desired: The presidency is the traditional aspiration of young American boys.

3. act of aspirating; breath.

4. Phonetics.

a. articulation accompanied by an audible puff of breath, as in the h-sound of how, or of when (hwen), or in the release of initial stops, as in the k-sound of key.
b. the use of an aspirate in pronunciation.

5. Medicine/Medical.

a. the act of removing a fluid, as pus or serum, from a cavity of the body, by a hollow needle or trocar connected with a suction syringe.
b. the act of inhaling fluid or a foreign body into the bronchi and lungs, often after vomiting.

6. when marko attends church, as in this morning, and finds that — even though he loves his church and the people there — he experiences no connection (with people or with god); and, as a result, finds himself ‘practicing’ the practice of worship and engagement, without the experience thereof, with the intent that the experience and knowledge and belief will, at another time to come, seem once again real and authentic. in this sense, every action and many ‘beliefs’ practiced by marko this morning were done so with aspiration.

Eb·en·e·zer (eb-uh-nee-zer), noun.

1. a male given name: from a Hebrew word meaning “stone of help.”

2. male proper name, sometimes also the name of a Protestant chapel or meeting house, from name of a stone raised by Samuel to commemorate a victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh (I Sam. vii.12), from Heb. ebhen ezar “stone of help,” from ebhen “stone” + ezer “help.”

3. what marko draws on during mornings like this one, where attendance and participation at church feel hollow and fake (not that anyone else there was being hollow and fake — marko was the one who felt hollow and fake). in the midst of choosing to sing some of the songs about god and jesus and stuff, marko remembers that only last week he was in argentina, explaining to a room full of latin youth workers, the value of viewing spiritually intense moments (which are inevitable in youth ministry), when not manipulated, as ebenezers: spiritual markers of “god met me/us here” in the journey of adolescence. this memory, which came during a particularly hollow and fake moment of participating in singing a chris tomlin song — so much so that marko just stopped singing and stood there — caused marko to reflect back on the ebenezers in his recent journey, the recent “god met me here” moments. interesting that the sermon was on the old testament joseph, a dude who certainly would have had his share of “god met me here” moments interspersed with long periods of some opposite experience (what we might call the “inverse-nezer”).