Friday, March 31, 2006

A Weekend to Remember

Linda and I last weekend were at "A Weekend to Remember," which is a seminar created by Family Life, which is in term on the ministries of Campus Crusade for Christ. It's designed to help marrieds live well together. I'm ready to recommend it for any married couple, even with as many years of married experience as Linda and me (34 years). I wish we had done this decades earlier.

Key points? Perhaps these: understanding the concept of "oneness," communication, forgiveness.

Are we there yet? I keep thinking this good and delightful union of which I am a part cannot get much better, but it does. Still, we find places of recently as 3 hours ago. So, we keep working on it, and finding ways to make it better.

Thank you, Father for proclaiming marriage and the joy of life together!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Capitalism and the environment

In Wired News today is a provocative story about saving the planet. Among other things mentioned by the author and Lester Brown, who was being interviewed:

There's a quote by Oystein Dahle close to a decade ago now, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was for many years Exxon's vice president for Norway and the North Sea. He said, "Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth."

Seen at a distance, the problems of socialism are many. The problems o f capitalism, seen up close here in America, are not as visible. We fish have trouble describing what water is like, as the saying goes.

Our society is constantly pushing economic costs into the future. The SuperFund sites all around the United States are just one example. We don't often pay the real costs to society of products we purchase.

And it is not only ecologic truth that is not being told. Social truth is sometimes covered over as well. I see it here in Anchorage: subdivisions are built with little regard for people movement, for example. Where are the sidewalks and bike trails and pathways to bus routes, grocery stories, libraries and so forth? It's easy to think that they have been squeezed out by the desire to squeeze in one more lot for sale. Maybe there's more to it than that. I hope so.

I miss the pedestrian access of Uppsala where foot and bicycle traffic was a priority in the community. We may be maximizing the profit of a few, and minimizing the taxes of the many, but the time will come, I predict, when many are wishing for better foot traffic possibilities.

I'm far from wanting to toss out capitalism. But we ignore its problems at the peril of our environment, our health, and our souls.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Break this heart of stone

As I listen to Annie Herring's Heart of Stone, I was reminded again of Pastor Richard Irwin's moving sermon last Sunday at Anchorage City Church about grace.

The sermon was about grace. If we could really get our hearts and minds around the concept of grace, and apply it to others as the Lord applies it to us, the impact on our communities would be stunning, he said. Out of 100 people, one reads the Bible, and the other reads the Christians. When we who are Jesus' disciples fail to extend grace to others, we are sending a wrong message. We are sending the message of the Law.

But it's easy, right? I just need to be nice to people.

Well, here I am a Christian now two decades, and here's the measure of my grace: this morning, I growled at my gentle, sweet wife over some inconsequential issue. At the time it seemed so important. I had been wronged!

Instead of extending grace to her, I growled. What if God did that to me every time I failed even a little bit?

Pastor Robert Ekh said one time we expect others to treat us based on our good intentions, but we instead treat others based on their behavior. In other words, we expect grace from others because our hearts are "good" but we judge others under the law when they fail at something or another, or cause us some hurt.

When people who are not yet believers look at the church, what do they see? People who extend grace to others? Or do they see people who hold laws in their heart by which pre-Christians are constantly measured?

Pastor Irwin's point is if he can change, and if I can change, and our brothers and sisters who are under grace can change and extend that grace to others, the doorways to salvation will be seen to be wide open, rather than held by those constantly checking for adherence to the law. God's Kingdom will advance.

Break me of my lack of mercy and grace, Lord.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

On praying enough

My wife and closest friend, Linda, has been struggling for about two weeks with an ear infection that has left her with a plugged eustachion tube. Naturally, I have asked God to heal her and "spoken to the mountain" (the ear). Twice.

But yesterday, I understood that I was essentially 1) being prayerless and 2) assuming that since nothing happened the first two times, nothing would happen. But Jesus told us we should always pray and not give up. I gave up. we will pray and not give up....and we wait expectantly for the Lord's reply.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Sephardic vs Ashkenazi

I have generally thought of Jews as simply....Jews. But Jews see themselves as being part of one of at least two large groups, Sephardic (seh-far-dik) or Ashkenazi (ash-ken-ah-zee).
The Ashkenazi are mostly from Eastern European stock. They are, in North America, a much larger and better organized part of Judaism. Sephardic Jews are in North America "a minority within a minority." In a Jews for Jesus newsletter, I read that everying from language and food to religious observance differs from that of the Ashkenazim.

The Sephardim come from a much larger area: Spain, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Israel, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Iraq and India.