A Prayer

I found this prayer in the novel I'm reading by Susan Howatch, Absolute Truths. Tell me that this isn't your prayer, as well as mine.

Oh God, save me from myself, save me from myself…this masterful self which manipulates your creation…this self which throws the thick shadow of its own purposes and desires in every direction in which I try to look, so that I cannot see what it is that you, my Lord and God, are showing to me. Teach me to stand out of my own light and let your daylight shine. __Austin Farrer, Warden of Keble College, Oxford, 1960-1968__

shalom, matt

Faith in Man

The great problem in the life of man is whether to trust, to have faith in God. The great problem in the life of God is whether to trust, to have faith in man.

The central issue is not man’s decision to extend formal recognition to God, to furnish God with a certificate that he exists, but the realization of our importance to God’s design; not to prove that God is alive, but to prove that man is not dead; not to prove him, but to prove ourselves. __Abraham Joshua Heschel__

Everybody Here Is a Cloud

Amazing lyrics from one of my favorite bands, Cloud Cult. The song is called, you guessed it, Everybody Here Is a Cloud.

And everybody here is a cloud

And everybody here will evaporate

You came up from the ground

From a million little pieces, have you found where your place is?

Have you found where your place is?

Have you found where your place is?


You've been spending your time

Thinkin' about why you think so much

If there ever was a time

Now would be the time to see your time here is limited


Everybody here is a crowd

We all walk around with a million faces

Somebody turn the lights out

There's so much more to see in the darkest places

In the darkest places

In the darkest places


And everybody here is a cloud

And everybody here will evaporate

You came up off the ground

From a million little pieces, have you found where your place is?


Everybody here is waiting for the next creation

They say oh-oh-oh-oh

Everybody here is waiting for the next creation

They say go-go-go-go


Everybody here is a crowd

We each walk around with a million faces

You came up from the ground

From a million little pieces, have you found where your place is?

Have you found where your place is?

Have you found where your place is?

What Are We Going to Name That Kid?

My wife and I are expecting our second child sometime towards the end of October. We’re doing what most parents do during the months of incubation where the former zygote assumes a more human/less tadpole form inside my wife’s ever-expending-but-still-dead-sexy-stomach—we’re trying to name our forthcoming tax break. With our first son, Elijah, we pretty much had his named picked from the start. This bipedal poop factory is turning out to be more difficult to name, especially in the girl’s names department. The difficulty is not so much in finding names we like, but in finding names with meaning (that we like). This is important to us. We want our children’s names to be a declaration of belief. Our son Elijah’s name means, “YHWH is God” or “YHWH is my God.” This is a declaration of our faith. But we don’t want their names to be declarations of our faith only.

We want it to be a declaration of their faith as well. When Elijah is old enough to understand I’ll explain to him that every time he says his name, writes his name, or sees his name, that he is speaking something about his very nature, about his roots and his faith. My only hope is that his life will be a reflection of his name. Names in Scripture defined who you were. Today we define ourselves by what we do, not by who we are, by our accomplishments, not our character. I’m not horribly concerned with what our children do with their respective careers. If they want to work in a diaper wipe factory then so be it. While I of course want the best for them both, all I ultimately care about is that they live up to the names that they are given.

Now do you see why it’s so difficult to pick out a name? 


Unlike the admirer who stands simply aloof, the follower of Christ strives to be what he admires. Without this essential condition all attempts to be a Christian are fruitless. __Soren Kierkegaard__

I’ve probably written about this at some point over the last couple years, but it bears repeating nonetheless. The slow decline of the American church into irrelevancy is due largely in part to the very problem that Kierkegaard points to above. The admirer stands aloof, stands apart as Christ draws near, lauding his message and life, his death and resurrection and the highest of ideals, the loftiest of achievements, but never deigning to enter in and be overcome by them as a follower. It is a false piety, full of flowery language, lofty ideals, academic knowledge, and, perhaps, even a rabid involvement in the programs of the local church. But there is little resemblance to the Christ. This malady is not to be confused with those who genuinely desire and attempt to follow Christ yet struggle and fail to do so more often than not. Attempts to follow that are met with failure in the form of sin are part of the following process, part of our discipleship. Peter may not have been the leader of the Church that he was without his denial of Jesus. Paul’s effectiveness came from acknowledgement and acceptance of his past and present failings. You’ll find this shocking (probably not), but I’ve too often been an admirer of Jesus. I read ravenously, inhaling books and knowledge, like Michael Phelps with a bong (cheap shot, I know). I ooh and aah at the life of Jesus, at his teachings, at the insights of others into his teachings, but I often fail to begin the process of entering in to those teachings, into the life of God-in-flesh. And this life of Jesus is LIFE itself. There is not other life outside of Him. My attempts to be a Christian apart from living the life of Christ are pointless, aimless, and “fruitless.” There is no Christianity without following Christ.  

shalom, matt

Jon and Kate

At one point in this interview the woman being interviewed seems actually happy that Jon and Kate might be in trouble (around 1:22). I don't watch the show because I have a life, but when a potential divorce involving 8 kids is suddenly entertaining and we "can't wait to see what Kate does to him" we have sunk to a big time low.

shalom, matt

Meditational Thought #2

I found this a very interesting thought. I hadn't ever thought of the Resurrection in quite this way before.


How is the Risen Christ Seen as Subversive and Hidden?

Jesus is among us now in a new way as the Risen Christ, the Christ who is everywhere, beyond all limits of space and time. On Good Friday we saw the relationship of all humanity to God: We kill what we should love. On Easter Sunday we celebrate Jesus coming back into a world that rejected him.

Jesus knows we didn't like what he had to say the first time. We weren't ready for that much freedom or that much truth. Humankind can't bear that much reality in one moment of history. So God had to come back in a disguised form. God had to come back, as it were, secretly, as a subversive, hidden—the Risen Christ.

Meditational Thought #1

Recently I've started receiving daily meditations from Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation. Rohr is the author of several ridiculously good books and a Franciscan monk. I thought that instead of always sharing thoughts of my own I would share on occasion some devotional thoughts from Rohr. 


How is belief in Jesus different than belief in Christ?        

Christ is not Jesus’ last name. Christ is a much more inclusive title, which we so consistently tack onto the name Jesus that we think Jesus Christ is his full name! There is a wonderful and correct phraseology in Peter's first sermon after the Pentecost event; he says "God has made this Jesus whom you crucified into the Christ" (Acts 2:36). That would probably be the correct way of starting to understand what we mean by the Cosmic Christ. Most of us have believed in Jesus, but we have not necessarily believed in Christ.

When we believe in Jesus CHRIST, we’re believing in something much bigger than just the historical Jesus. The entire sweep of the meaning of the anointed one includes us and includes all of creation. Many people have a personal relationship with Jesus, but have almost no relationship with what we had relationship with—which is the full Christ Mystery! Maybe this is the major reason that so much Christianity is so individualistic and sometimes even petty. We know and love Jesus but not Christ.

On Forgiveness...Part Two

Now, I can hear you up in the balcony section hollering about the Lord’s Prayer and how it isn’t wrong to ask for forgiveness. If you will pipe down for a minute I’ll get to your argument.

First, let me say that out of habit I still ask for forgiveness and I don’t believe God preps the lighting bolts for us when we ask Him to forgive. I don’t believe it’s wrong in the sense that sin is wrong. I believe it is unnecessary and would love us to come to a place of deeper trust in the atoning death of Jesus. I think we ask for forgiveness because it is our way of confessing to God that we have fouled up the works somehow. It is our way of alleviating some of the guilt that comes as a nasty by-product of sin. By asking God to forgive me I’m acknowledging that I’ve sinned. What we are dealing with here is a misunderstanding perhaps of a proper confession—simply telling God what we’ve done and moving on with our lives. Partly I believe we ask for forgiveness because it makes us feel more contrite somehow, more repentant and sorry for what we’ve done. This is why I’ve done it and continue to do it.

Secondly, I would like to quickly address the portion of the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus tells us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” It has also been translated “forgive us our sins,” which would seem to blow apart my entire train of thought. Honestly, it might do just that. Let me say two things and then I’ll wrap up this overly wordy, two-part post: 1) I’m always a little weary about constructing theological arguments based on one isolated text, instead of looking at the whole of Scripture. Proof-texting  doctrine has caused more problems (a lot of them) then it has solved (which is none). Basing an assumption that we need to ask in order to be forgiven by taking one part of one prayer out of context is sketchy at best. 2) Here’s my admittedly unproven, possibly inaccurate, opinion: I think this part of the prayer is about asking for the capacity to forgive others as God forgives. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer, above all other subjects, about asking God for daily needs. It is a daily need that we ask for the capacity to forgive. I’m no Greek scholar (I actually got a C+ during one semester of Greek in college), and perhaps “forgive us our debts” means exactly what it says. However, I’ve been around the Bible long enough to know that our English translations don’t always convey the whole intent of the writer.

Listen, I don’t have all the answers on this, nor do I pretend to know the mind of God, “whose ways are not our ways.” My point in bringing this up is to make us more aware of the totality of God’s forgiveness. You’ve been forgiven whether you ask for it or not. The confession and repentance of sin is of vast importance because we recognize that a problem exists, that a wrong has been committed and we can begin the process of healing, repairing broken relationships, and living in the bright reality of the forgiveness that was ours before we asked for it. 

p.s. props to my brother for the original thought for this post.

shalom, matt

On Forgiveness...Part One

Few of Jesus’ teachings carry a higher degree of difficulty than forgiveness. This is due mainly to his insistence on, and example of, forgiving the people we would rather curb-stomp and groin-punch. Forgiving people you like is a piece of cake. Forgiving people you despise and who despise you in return is a whole different matter all together.

It’s not a new idea that forgiveness is more about the forgiver than the forgivee. In forgiving, in truly letting go, we are freeing our self from the need to hold on to parasitic bitterness and anger, the need for revenge, and the need to control the outcome. The response of the forgiven is not of the utmost importance (read that last sentence again…I’ll wait…). They may choose to reject that forgiveness, to not live in the freedom of a forgiven reality, but they nonetheless remain forgiven. This is crucial. The value of forgiveness is not based upon the acceptance of the receiving party; it is based upon the character of the offended or injured person.

Let’s examine this in terms of God’s forgiveness. If we hold to the belief that Jesus is the image of God in human flesh (John 1:14); that he is everything God is, a perfect reproduction (Col. 1:15); that, as he told the Apostles, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), then we have to believe that Jesus’ actions, attitudes, emotions are those of God. So it stands to reason that how and who Jesus forgives is how and who God would forgive also. The following passage is interesting:

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. __Matthew 9:1-8__

Nowhere in this passage do we find the man asking for forgiveness, yet Jesus gives it to him anyway. In fact we can assume that the man was brought for healing, not forgiveness—he receives both. On one level we can take this as our way of forgiving others: completely, totally, without condition or need for response. On a deeper level this gives us a picture of how God works in the world: unasked for, undeserved forgiveness. Look at the cross, the supreme ugliness of the world’s sins against God and man placed upon one innocent man. On that cross we hear Jesus pleading to God for his executioners, and, I believe, for the world: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Could there be a less deserving group of people than the Roman and Jewish authorities who killed Jesus? Yet, he implores God to do just that: forgive. It was not asked for and we don’t even know if it was received, but it was granted nonetheless.

As disciples we are expected by Jesus to forgive completely and unconditionally (Colossians 3:13), keeping no record of wrongs done to us (1 Corinthians 13:5), and forgiving a limitless number of times (Matthew 18:22). For some reason though we don’t believe that God acts under that same standard. We teach that we have to ask for forgiveness in order for it to be granted by God. Our standard is to forgive without being asked. Doesn’t it stand to reason that God would forgive by the same standard He set for us, or, even exceed that standard? Against logic we have placed a double standard on God, only allowing Him the capacity to forgive when we ask Him. While I don’t have the direct quote on hand, I believe it was Oswald Chambers that asserted our asking for forgiveness shows a tremendous lack of faith in God and is, in effect, an insult to God, who, in His gracious love forgave us through the blood of Christ. Asking Him for forgiveness shows that we don’t really believe the sacrifice of Christ was enough to forgive every freakin’ sin we commit, nor that it dealt with Sin as a whole.

...to be continued...