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Book #2 Released

February 1, 2011

Valley of Praise: ReMixed Prayers and Confessions based on the works of Augustine, Luther and CalvinI’ve been working on a second book over the past two summers, which was just released by Createspace this past week.    It is a book written in the style of the Valley of Vision with entries based on works by Augustine, Luther and Calvin.  All these works are in the public domain, but I have taken them a step further and moved the prose from an Old English into a more modern and poetic version.   This trend in Hymnody of updating melodies and lyrics to make tunes more accessible for the modern worshipper should be able to translate over well to these classics.

The Augustine works are based mostly on “Confessions”, Luther is based on his Larger Catechism and prayerbook, Calvin’s comes from a series of prayers and confessions imbedded in his Commentaries.  I hope you enjoy.

I am working a second installment which includes works from the Christian Scientists Issac Newton, Robert Boyle and Blaise Pascal inthe same vein.

Let me know what you think….

-Rob

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The Church as Helpmate

November 21, 2010

Heard a great sermon this morning on the role of the church.   God has put a lot of images in scripture about the church.   We also gather a number of extrabiblical images from our society as well … which are just that extra-Biblical and therefore often not helpful. (Restaurant, Mall, Entertainment Venu, Hospital)

In Scripture we see the images of a Bride of the King, and Body of Christ as two helpful images.   I want to delve into some assumptions about these though … often we see these images as distinct and ourselves in an unfinished state, like a bride that is waiting for her groom, still in the room with her attendants awaiting the big moment.

However the work of Christ is complete and we have work to do as the church.  Likewise in the body, we are focused on the needs of the body, and often the assumption and roles defined for that body are often seen as merely taking care of feeding and caring for itself.  However to be a true body, a body needs outwardly focused significant work to do.

I want to propose a third metaphor that really is a combination of a corrected view of these first two concepts (which is similar to the role of the original design as proposed for Eve…) that of a helpmate.

We are the Helpmate of Christ.  We bring Glory to our husband, and elevate Him.   He has work to do, and although He doesn’t need us in it, we need Him, and He invites us to partner with Him in the restoration of all things, as both a participant and witness. Our focus is not merely ourselves.  It is outward and brings honor and meaning to those who are welcomed into and nurtured within our family, infusing their lives with meaning as well.

Long Live the King.

Being Sorry vs Repenting

October 20, 2010

There was a great Wall Street Journal article on apologies on October 19th by Elizabeth Bernstein noting the differences between men and women in being offended and issuing apologies. I remember earlier in my career, a co-worker giving me the advice “Never admit you are wrong and never ever apologize.” Needless to say he wasn’t a very good team player!

Bernstein says “Odds are your mother taught you that it’s important to apologize if you’ve done something wrong—and to graciously accept an apology when one is offered. The act of making amends is crucial to maintaining harmony in both our personal relationships and the world at large.

Apologies are so important that many hospitals train their staffs to say they are sorry to patients and their families following a medical mistake because they’ve found it deters malpractice lawsuits. Economists have shown that companies offering a mea culpa to disgruntled customers fare better than ones offering financial compensation.

But apologies can be complicated. They’re not always forthcoming, or even sincere. Making matters worse, there’s a gender “apology gap”: Men and women have different approaches and different expectations when it comes to acts of contrition.

Conventional wisdom says women apologize too much, and men don’t apologize often enough. Women are good at nurturing relationships, the thinking goes, while men are too egotistical to say they’re sorry or have a different take on social graces. Yet there’s no proof that women are better than men at apologizing—they just do it more often, sometimes for inconsequential offenses.

Two small studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, published last month by the journal Psychological Science, indicate men are just as willing as women to apologize if they think they’ve done something wrong. Men just have a different idea of what defines “something wrong.”

In the first study, 66 men and women kept daily diaries and recorded each time they committed—or were on the receiving end—of an offense. They also noted whether an apology was issued. The outcome: Women were offended more often, and they offered more apologies for their own behavior. Yet men were just as likely as women to apologize if they believed they’d done something wrong.”

So it seems that the real power (behind both an apology and within any sort of conflict) is the ability to have empathy.   Empathy requires you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and to perceive how your actions affect the other party.  Jesus said in what is often proclaimed as the “Golden Rule” that we should “Do unto others as we would have done unto us.”  In some senses this is a corollary to what is known as the Great Commandment of Loving God and Loving others.  By recognizing and knowing how God loves us, we are better equipped to love and care for others.

Yet in many ways even apologies and empathy fall short if we commit the same sins over and over again.  The real power in a ‘true’ apology is the ability to recognize our failure (moral or otherwise) and to turn or repent from it … desiring to change in such a way that we would not want to repeat the same failure.   If apologies are not heartfelt we should dig deeper to understand what is going on within us.  Are we merely sorry we got caught? Then perhaps we shouldn’t apologize until there is a desire to change.   This can only come (as implied in the Great Commandment ) by bringing our offense to God and then to men.

The next time you apologize, examine how you do it and consider what repentance might look like before you open your mouth to declare your guilt.

For more on the Discipline of Repentance consider reading “Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.”

“David Brooks: The American Dream is Changing” or Bigger isn’t always better

September 8, 2010

In the last couple of months as I have listened to the pundits decry that this generation is not doing as well as their parents, I have felt what David Brooks said so well in his column this past week.

Perhaps they in many cases are doing better, but they are not measuring their lives and their success in the same way. When I was a kid, if you had told someone that there would be this thing called the internet, it would have gotten incredulous stares, as being something of science fiction. But the future is here now.

Microwaves, multiple screens and access point to information, in every household. In many ways today’s poor are better off than yesterday’s middle class. People, in part because of the economy and the green revolution are living and choosing differently. In some cases the young adults of today – having lived through the divorce, workaholism and bad choices of their parents are making different I’d dare say “better” choices. Their houses and incomes may be smaller, but in many ways their lives are richer.  In many cases they are opting out of the long hours and driven-ness of their parents generations. Whatever happened to the generation who would have a four day weekend because computers and robots would be doing our work for us?  It is in some ways now not only possible, but a coming reality if  the culture begins to change lifestyle habits.

Brooks says …

“Maybe the first decade of the 21st century will come to be known as the great age of headroom. During those years, new houses had great rooms with 20-foot ceilings and entire new art forms had to be invented to fill the acres of empty overhead wall space. People bought bulbous vehicles like Hummers and Suburbans. The rule was, The Smaller the Woman, the Bigger the Car — so you would see a 90-pound lady in tennis whites driving a 4-ton truck with enough headroom to allow her to drive with her doubles partner perched atop her shoulders.

When future archeologists dig up the remains of that epoch, they will likely conclude that sometime around 1996, the U.S. was afflicted by a plague of claustrophobia and drove itself bankrupt in search of relief. But that economy went poof, and social norms have since changed. The oversized now looks slightly ridiculous. Values have changed as well.

Today, savings rates are climbing and smart advertisers emphasize small-town restraint and respectability. The Tea Party movement is militantly bourgeois. It uses Abbie Hoffman means to get back to Norman Rockwell ends. In the coming years of slow growth, people are bound to establish new norms and seek noneconomic ways to find meaning.”

This brings up a great question for all of us. Why is it that you work. Is it for more and better toys, a lifestyle of leisure, life and job security, power, passion or something else. In the end even the best of motives, if they are not tempered by faith will let us down and lead us astray. It is only in finding meaning outside of ourselves, from above in the Creator’s purpose, design and direction that ultimately we can work or even live for the long haul.

We need to be tempered by faith because we are bent people, and the rising generation should serve us as prophets about our sin and proclivity towards serving the wrong masters.  For more on the meaning and motivation behind work consider reading “Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.”

Labor Day thoughts from Tony Blair Memoir

September 3, 2010

An OpEd piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning captured some pretty interesting thoughts about stimulus packages and recoveries by Tony Blair.   I think he is able to captivate an interesting tension not present in the polarizing United States debate on the effectiveness of stimulus packages and economic theory.

The journal piece which characterizes Blair as “Getting to the Heart of the Matter” quotes Blair as stating:

Ultimately the recovery will be led not by governments but by industry, business, and the creativity, ingenuity and enterprise of people.   If the measures you take in responding to (a) crisis diminish their incentives, curb their entrepreneurship, make them feel unsure about the climate in which they are working, the recovery becomes uncertain.

I guess clarity comes from being out of office to rest and reflecting awhile on the past.   With that said on this labor day weekend take some time to rest, reflect, and give thanks for the skills, gifts and work we often take for granted  – whatever it is – paid and unpaid, manual, skilled white collar, pink and blue collared.   And after that give thanks to the Creator that gives great gifts to his people everywhere – whether they acknowledge Him or not.

For more on various types of work and work culture, as well as challenges in different work spheres in integrating your faith with your work – take a peek at Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.

Calling divorced from the Caller … again.

September 3, 2010
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The reporting on the Hawking story today is interesting because if you look at the fine print,  the media is trying to inflame the faith/science controversey once again, to divorce faith and render it obscure and the stuff or private morality.

CNN themselves states in the opening statement

“God did not create the universe, world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book that aims to banish a divine creator from physics.”

Hmmm …. sounds like the notion that has been often kicked around by scientists and rationalist ever since the ‘enlightenment.’   Sure enough if you read on the argument is familiar, but told with greater precision and elegance by the world class physicist, with similar caveats.

Read the fine print that follows in the story. Hawking does not necessarily claim the fact or thesis stated above (much like the scopes monkey trial long ago.)   He says instead that the “natural laws” present in the universe were enough to allow the universe to be created on its own.   What is interesting in Hawkings own statement and book title is that he uses the term “design.”  It is an interesting term because design always implies a designer, just as creation implies a creator, story an author, etc.  CNN says …

“Hawking says in his book “The Grand Design” that, given the existence of gravity, “the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” according to an excerpt published Thursday in The Times of London.

“Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” he writes in the excerpt.
“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going,” he writes. His book — as the title suggests — is an attempt to answer “the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”

Well in the fine print you’ll note that Hawking doesn’t actually say God doesn’t exist or prove that God doesn’t exist.   What he implies (at least in the sound bite) is that it once again the reality is that God’s presence and existence comes down to faith and revelation … it cannot be proven rationally.  Science will always tell us how, never Who or Why.  It just can’t.

For more of the history of culture stripping and divorcing faith and meaning from work and fields of vocation (like the sciences) take a peek at Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.

Etymology of Called Out

August 30, 2010

There was an interesting article in the Winston Salem Journal today about a “newly” coined phrase  – ‘Call them Out.’   When I was a kid I remember ‘calling people out’ or getting ‘called out’ on the playground, which meant you wanted to ( or someone else wanted to) pick a fight.  Maybe it was a northern thing which is why it is hitting the airwaves down south just now.   Richard Creed, the local op-ed columnist says of the term

… you are bound to encounter it. “Call them out” means to call attention to people whose statements or actions, usually political, are deemed untrue, unfair or contrary to the public good. Sometimes it implies that offenders should be scorned and that a public outcry is warranted.

I don’t have any documentation to show who inspired this “call them out” … Last September, in his speech to Congress, (President) Obama said “If you misrepresent what’s in this plan, we will call you out.”

That was the speech in which, moments later, Rep. Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie!” One commentator observed that Wilson’s outcry demonstrated that the caller out can also be called out … publications have been quick to pick up on the phrase.

For instance, last September a column by John P. Hannah in The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, said that President Obama should stand up for the Iranian people and against the Iranian regime at the U.N. The headline said, “Call Them Out, Mr. President.” …

A few more examples … “If we don’t call them out, how will people ever know the truth?” “Will the religious call out the religious right? Will the religious right call out the far right extreme fringe?”… Whatever the political stripe of those who use it, “call them out” has spread so fast and so far that it may be at the top of my list of clichés for this year.

Well the etymology goes back a lot farther and I think in many ways what is alluded to in the phrase is the idea of “Calling” as it was originally meant by the reformers ( and before that the more prophetic overtones of people ‘called (up)on’ by God ) to specific relationships and tasks.

In the Old Testament whole cultures and societies were called out (by prophets) to repent of their wicked ways and worship the one true God.  I think specifically of Moses who the Bible says “God called to him from within the bush.”  God spoke and Moses listened, Jonah called Ninevites, God called to Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, encouraging all to repent and become His children.

Likewise God calls men and women today.  He calls them first to Himself and then to tasks and lives that live out His purposes in the universe.   He equips them for such and allows them to succeed or fail based on where He has foreordained history to head.   It is ultimately God who “Calls” we can only in turn “call” others to His purposes (or perhaps our own.)  So when we call others out, we need to perhaps examine our own log first, lest we incriminate ourselves.

May the gift of repentance to follow the Caller be yours today.  For a more complete understanding of the phrases calling, vocation, and profession see chapters 1-4 of Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.