Friday, July 27, 2007

it figures ...

So, this afternoon I noticed there was a yellow light on on my laptop that I'd never noticed before. It turned out to be a little switch that enables the computer to detect and connect to a wireless network. As it turns out, all the time we've been living here, we could have connected to a wireless network for free, and instead we've been using a slow dial up connection.

Man. Ignorance is not bliss. Oh, yes, and of course, we are leaving on Tuesday. Well ... 4 days to enjoy wireless internet is better than none.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

idol worship

People often say that idolatry in modern times means “putting anything in the place of God”--and people talk about how their career or their spouse or their own comfort becomes their “idol.” This makes the term “idol” very useful for thinking about sin in our lives.

But I think the original, intended meaning of the term is lost that way. When the Hebrew Scriptures talk about “bowing down to Baals” they mean paying obeisance (praying to, offering sacrifices to, and literally bowing down before) a carved image.

I think the carved images people were worshipping typically were meant to represent some awe-inspiring force in nature--like the cycle of the seasons, birth and death, sex, life-giving rainfall, sun and earth. The idea of worshipping any of those forces is foreign to Americans.

It may be because we are so far removed from the physical processes whereby such natural forces sustain life. The sun, rain (or rivers) and dirt are still responsible for giving us food, but we don’t feel that reality with our hands (sowing seed, turning soil) nor with our stomachs (full in times of plenty, empty during a drought)--instead, we go to the grocery store. We never worry about the grocery store running out of food. We’re not part of the process of food being grown and harvested or slaughtered.

We’ve even separated the act of sex from the cycle of birth and death. Nowadays, with birth control and modern medicine, sex is no longer necessarily an activity which is likely to result in birth and/or death for the woman and/or her child.

So, in 21st century America it would seem that the awe-inspiring forces of nature have been reduced to abstractions, trivialities (“I hope it’s sunny so I can go to the beach Saturday”) and inconveniences (“Oh darn; it rained, and the parade was canceled”). So, we don’t really have a problem with worshipping idols.

Of course, our way of life leads to problems of its own. It seems that part of what the Hebrew Scriptures teach is that instead of worshipping blocks of wood or stone that we ourselves carved into images, we should recognize that the true creator and author of the earth and its fullness--the person who’s actually responsible for sending the life giving rain and the terrifying snow storm is YHWH, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac and Jacob.

So, it would seem if we’re not even inspired to worship of nature, we may have a hard time giving God the worship that is his due. I don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe we just are more inspired by intellectual, interpersonal or cultural stuff that gives God glory, since that’s what our lives revolve around.

I only slept for 3 hrs. or so last night. My insomnia was probably due to anxiety/excitement about our impending move. Ack! So much to do, still!

Saturday, July 14, 2007


This was going to be Blog Sermon #2, but it’s not organized and concise enough for that. So, it’s just my rambling, lengthy thoughts on patriotism.

Independence Day was a little more than a week ago. I had occasion at that time to think a little about patriotism.

Of course, one aspect of patriotism is appreciating what’s good about our country. There are lots of things. Freedom of speech, for example. It’s nice not having to worry about the secret police showing up to murder you because you bad mouthed the current president. And freedom of religion. It’s also nice not having to worry about your Uncle Leo “disappearing” because he was caught trying to convert someone to Christianity. There are lots of nice things like that which (as the cliché goes) we take for granted. Part of patriotism is being grateful for stuff like that. And naturally patriotism may mean, for some, taking up arms to protect the inhabitants of our country from violent invasion. Those two things are the typical version, I think.

But I think the attitude we hold toward the nation we live in (that is, patriotism) ought to take into account not just the good things about our country, but the evil as well. And as I see it, there are basically three attitudes one can adopt toward the wickedness of America:

-We can ignore it, pretending it’s not very important.
-We can wash our hands of it, condemning it as if from the outside.
-Or we can admit that we take part in it and work to change it.

When we talk about it in an abstract sense, it’s easy to see which attitude reflects genuine love for one’s country. But what do these attitudes actually look like?

People who ignore America’s faults may never actually say that we can do no evil, but they act as if it were true. They may decorate their house with American flags, and sing loudly along with the national anthem at baseball games, enjoying the rush of exuberance springing from their patriotic pride, and they may just not happen to think about people who experience a different side of life in America. Neighborhoods ruled by street gangs and children being beaten and treated as slaves by their drug addicted parents--it’s not exactly the “America” which such “patriots” are so proud to be a part of.

And on the other hand, there are people who act as if they are not Americans at all, who want to wash their hands of the whole thing. They may be grateful for the good things about our country--freedom, prosperity, etc.--but bring up the war in Iraq or the over-crowded prison systems and what do they say? It’s all our idiot president’s fault. It’s all because of those bureaucrats in Washington and the ignorant Christian Right and so on and so forth.

I think this can be a step in the right direction toward true devotion to one’s country. God himself certainly “talked trash” about the nation he had chosen and loved. In the books of the prophets especially, God laments, God rages over the sins of Israel and Judah. But God does more than complain. First, God sends prophets; then he disciplines. He does not despair of ever redeeming his disgraced “holy nation”; he does not destroy the lot of them. When he does destroy, it is for the salvation of those remaining.

And of course, after sending messenger after messenger, and using one foreign nation after another to teach the Israelites a lesson, at last God sent his own Son. Again, my point is that God never overlooked the faults of his beloved nation. He never said, “Well, all the idol worship and bloodshed is not what I had in mind, but they’re my country, right or wrong.” Certainly not. But God also never gave up on the nation that he loved. Instead, he actively engaged with Israel, as a nation--he struggled against Israel in order to redeem them.

We have been set an example--not to wash our hands of evil, and not to overlook it, but to charge into the breach. We are to engage with our nation’s political system; it is our duty as devoted and loyal citizens to struggle to overcome America’s evil.

The first step is recognizing America’s faults--saying “Yes, our culture is driven by greed; yes, our economy exploits third world countries; yes, our lifestyle is creating unfathomably gargantuan heaps of garbage. I acknowledge all of these things. And I acknowledge I am part of the problem, but I will work to make it better.”

And again, this is what makes a true patriot different from a mere cynic. Someone who loves their country will not just complain about how bad things are. He or she will acknowledge that it’s not just “America’s problem”--it’s my problem, it’s your problem.

And I am part of the problem. Whenever I wear skimpy or revealing clothing--or if I were a man, ogling at a bikini beach--then I am contributing to America’s sexual addiction. Whenever I turn on the t.v. instead of, say, having a conversation with someone--I am supporting America’s interpersonal isolationism. And when I fondly dream of owning a nice car or getting a new stereo system--as advertised on the commercials, of course--I am buying into America’s culture of greed.

It is my duty, as an American, to be part of the solution. To be informed. To be aware of the portion of the nation who live in fear of drive-by shootings and gang rape, for example. It’s my duty to seek out opportunities to do something about it--to mentor a middle-schooler who lives in Compton. To find “green” ways of living. To support a free clinic for people who can’t afford health insurance- --anything, something, whatever--but the point is to be part of the solution--cause if I’m not … then I’m part of the problem.

Praise be to Christ Jesus, through whom all things are possible, including making a real and lasting difference by living out God’s redeeming love for our neighbors here in the country we happened to be born into. May God be glorified in our struggle to reform and redeem America.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Minty Fresh

I don't know if anyone else has had this problem, but more often than I'm happy about, I have accidentally sprayed tiny bits of toothpaste into my eye. It is interesting how the experience of minty freshness translates from the sense of taste to that of pain. The sharply stinging feeling of minty freshness in my eye brings horrible new meaning to the toothpaste manufacturer's invitation to "experience a whole new dimension of freshness." Perhaps I should say "brings meaning to" since ... well ... it didn't really mean anything to begin with.

Experience a whole new dimension of freshness--in your eye! Ha-a haha haha! (maniacal laughter)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Furniture Store Extravaganza!

Those of you who have been to IKEA are familiar with the idea that going to a furniture store can be an adventure. Jordan’s Furniture takes this experience to a whole new dimension.

Yes, it is a furniture store. You step in the door, and straight ahead is a candy store made of jellybeans, in the shape of Boston’s capitol building. Beyond, a giant fuzzy green monster (Fenway Park icon) is popping out of the wall, eating a manikin dressed as a baseball player. To the left is a burger joint/bakery/butcher shop that would put a little Swedish concession counter to shame. To the right are more jellybean sculptures--giant flowers--and on top of the ice cream parlor, a banana split being assembled by a crane. Across from the ice cream parlor, children swing from a trapeze and beyond that “Liquid Fireworks”--water jets spotlighted in shifting brilliant colors--dance to dramatic classical music and pop hits like “I Will Survive” and “It’s Raining Men.”

My favorite part was the “Sleep Lab”--where customer service representatives wearing white lab coats help you discover your “Sleep Number” so you’ll know how to program your adjustable mattress to relieve back pain and allergies.

We were not there to buy furniture but to take advantage of a couple coupons. One for the burger joint and one for the ice cream parlor--where got two cones, each piled high with 3 big scoops of super premium (that’s 16% or more butterfat) ice cream--for a total of $3.75. I was thinking some new words to that old poem:

Savor ye ice cream while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying;
Before your metabolism fleets away
It’s no time for denying.
Come lads and lasses, munch today
On foods made crisp by frying.