Daily thoughts on aesthetics and theology, and the entire world in between.

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Different depths at different times

At different points at different times, the words of the Word have different depths.

The ink on paper makes them readable.

Their infinite depths make them dependable.

They rhyme with the depths in a person; different depths at different times.

Echoes of deep calling unto deep.

Yesterday this one hit deeper than others:


Psalm 130.3-4 If you, Lord, should mark iniquities ... who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared.

So here we are, amidst the challenges of life

The forward momentum of the kingdom of God through history encounters difficult and complicated challenges. Just from my morning readings today:

Solomon represented the height of the kingdom of Old Testament Israel. He built the temple of God that his father David was unable to build. But Solomon later sinned, his heart drawn away by many wives.

Solomon's mother was Bathsheba, a woman with whom David committed adultery. It produced a child that died. Solomon was the second child of the union of David and Bathsheba. And it says that God loved Solomon.

Of Solomon's brothers by David, Absalom, after rebelling against his father, was killed in battle; Amnon was killed by Absalom; and Adonijah was put to death after he failed to wrest the kingdom from Solomon.

At the close of the book of Acts, Paul was under house arrest in Rome. When he called for the Jewish leaders of the city, they told him that everywhere the “sect” Paul was involved with was evilly spoken of. Acts closes with Paul saying to the Jewish leaders: "it has been prophesied that you have eyes and ears that will not see or hear ... therefore the Gospel will be opened to the Gentiles." That is how Acts closes.

In Mark’s gospel, when Jesus was apprehended, those of his followers who were with him all ran away. A young man -- probably Mark -- was among them. They grabbed his robe, and he ran away naked.

So here we are, amidst the challenges of life. And the kingdom pushes on.


1 Corinthians 16.9 (Paul speaking): For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

The hidden art of the transfiguration

While on earth, Jesus did many miracles; but he was only transfigured once.

This was when he took three disciples up to a mountain and..."his face shone as the sun, and his garments became white as the light..."

So extraordinary was this event it has been noted that even the resurrected Jesus did not look like how he looked atop that mountain. Many of his friends didn't recognize Jesus when he rose from the grave, and we can speculate richly as to why this was. But one thing is for sure: it was not because he was glowing like the sun.

Something else was extraordinary about the transfiguration.

While Jesus' miracles were performed publicly, only three disciples were permitted to see his transfiguration. You would think for such an important event Jesus would have invited CNN; well, at least Fox News.

But Jesus didn't even invite most of his 12 disciples.
And even the three he did bring along were charged to keep quiet about what they saw.

There is a hidden-ness to the transfiguration, and Jesus wanted to keep it that way.

It had to be kept hidden, for this reason:

The transfiguration goes to the heart of the mystery of how the God of the entire universe can be contained in the personage of one human being. To be able to pull this off, really, is the miracle of miracles.

And for this miracle to actually work -- and keep working -- it must be hidden.

Otherwise the sheer glory of God would simply blow everything away.

To say again: If not hidden in countless different ways, the sheer glory of God dwelling among men would simply blow everything away.

And so God appearing in our history, in our lives, in our circumstances, needs to be hidden so that we are not blown away.

To do this, God hides in Nature, in Manners, in the Laws that keep societies operating.

To do this, God hides in a Baby in a manger in a roadside inn.

To do this, God hides in Language that makes things understandable; in Health; in Holidays that give us hints of the sacred.

To do this, God hides in parents and families; in friends and neighbors.

To do this, God hides in Art.

So when you see a beautiful sunrise; when you enjoy your neighbors; when you feel at home in the rhythm of the seasons ...

... when you see or hear beautiful art, be reminded of the transfiguration.

But you don't have to tell anybody.

Just remember not to build other altars.


Matthew 17.1-9, After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Luke 9.36(b) ...The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.

Matthew 13.44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, volume VII: Theology: The New Covenant (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 341-348.

Sixteen options

Our blender has 16 -- count them: sixteen -- different settings for chopping something up.


To quote from Ecclesiastes, "this also is vexation of spirit."

Who needs sixteen different settings to chop up a carrot?

I mean, aren't we forgetting that our stomachs (not to mention our teeth) do most of the chopping anyway?

It raises the matter of design: There is always elegance to simplicity.

Sixteen options for chopping up veggies is not elegant.

It's not even understandable. When Valerie pointed this out, she wanted to know in plain English what the differences are between Blend ... Stir ... Mix ... So On.

What the blast does Frappe mean? Where do we think this is, France?

When God created the world, he made four -- count them: four -- seasons. We have two hands; not sixteen. There is up and down: that's two directions. (You know: as in what goes up must come down).

Okay there are twelve months. But each one is so distinguishable from the other. One of these days I'm going to paint twelve paintings, each for a month of the year.

Good grief: there are only two genders. Can you imagine if there were sixteen genders? What would Oprah do with that?

It raises the matter of psychology: We always think more is better. More money, more house, more options -- like sixteen of them.

Here is the moral of the story: if you really need sixteen options for something, it simply means you have no idea what you want.

If you really need sixteen options, you probably have no idea who you are.

(So why did we buy the stupid blender?)


Matthew 5.37 Just say a simple, `Yes, I will,' or `No, I won't.' Your word is enough ... (New Living Translation)

Ecclesiastes 1.14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit ... (Similarly at 1.17, 2.11, 2.17, 2.26, 4.4, 4.6, 4.16, 6.9)

Rest in peace, YoYo

After a month long struggle with an enlarged kidney and related ailments, I made the difficult decision to put YoYo down.

He struggled to get better and we struggled with him. But he didn't get better and his life seemed miserable.

We tried everything: from antibiotics to overnight stays at the hospital, to ultrasound, to enormous litter boxes, to special food, to paying neighborhood kids to care for him when we were away for a day.

In the end, in consultation with the veterinarian and with several neighbors, we felt it was the humane thing to let him go.

YoYo was a great cat, in the long tradition of great cat friends our lives have been enriched by. He was no genius. But that's what made him so endearing, because he reminded me so much of my own vulnerabilities.

It raises again the poignancy of existence in this world, where the best of experiences lead to the same end as the worst of experiences: death.

For those who belong to faith, like me, the only way any of this makes sense is that our present condition is not the ultimate one; that there is, indeed, a future beyond the grave the Bible speaks of, but tells us ooh so little about.

If you are like me, you get more and more interested in that future as the years go by.

When my last cat Boris died (he was taken by a wild animal), a friend loaned me a book written by one of the old Brethren theologians -- and those guys were pretty serious stiffs -- about how we would see our pets again in heaven.

Last night I had a thought -- some would call it a vision, but in the religion business it's good not to exaggerate. Mine was a thought. But it was a vivid thought with a visual image:

When I entered into that future, my cats were there to greet me: Kitty, Balak, BooBoo, Boris, YoYo ...
And as they welcomed me, they were all talking, and reminiscing about their various homes we had on earth.

I reacted to this in two ways. One was to reject the whole thing as ridiculous.

But then I thought:

I wouldn't put it past a loving Father who created it all.


1 Corinthians 2.9
But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

1 Corinthians 15.55
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" ... 58 Therefore ... be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

On sermons and zucchini boats

When you have a garden in full boom and you don't check it every day, one result is enormous zucchini.

The only recourse is to make zucchini boats: slicing a gargantuan zucchini into halves, gutting the insides, and baking it with the filling of your choice. Yesterday the filling of choice was chopped pork mixed with pasta and a medley of fresh herbs, also from the garden.

Valerie and I ate one boat; the other one I walked over to my neighbor's house.

There is a near jamboree going on over there with Nutri-Systems friends she had met on line. They're from all over the country. A camper is parked on her front lawn.

This month I also preached two sermons on "be holy as He is holy." I recently read that it takes about 15 hours to prepare a sermon, to which I said, yep, that's about how long each of those sermons took.

The zucchini boats took less than two hours. (Of course, growing them took all summer).

These days I'm having trouble explaining to myself what church life really is. That was 30 hours of sermon prep I did. Did it make a difference?

I don't know.

But ... sharing that zucchini boat with the folks next door.

All theology aside, I suspect church starts with having walked that zucchini boat over.


Matthew 22.36-40 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Among other things, they discussed justice ...

When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Judea, the Roman governor of that region was Felix. Acts 24 records that Paul was summoned before Felix several times during this incarceration.

We are given many details of these meetings, but one phrase is not elaborated upon: During the second meeting, it says that they "... discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment ..."

I was taken by " ... as he discussed justice ..." What did Paul and Felix talk about in regard to justice? We are not told.

Nowadays "social justice" is a powerful rallying cry -- so much so that, in some circles, the phrase is shortened simply to "justice." When "justice" is mentioned, it is taken for granted to mean social justice.

In university settings, for example, if you are not outspokenly for "justice" in this sense, well, there's something wrong with you...

So far as I can determine, social justice is a vague but vast domain with two levels of meaning. One involves various actions in which those who have are to help those who have not: giving to the poor, volunteering in soup kitchens, helping underprivileged peoples in underdeveloped countries, the like.

All of this is motivated by the second, deeper level of meaning: the idea that the playing field of life must be leveled out for all people; that, somehow, not doing your part to level this playing field is the equivalent of selfishness, if not evil itself.

The challenge for Christians is that the more mainline churches, the ones that are usually liberal in theology, tend to be more active in social justice causes. In contrast, Evangelical churches, the ones that are less liberal -- and holding to the inspiration and authority of the Bible as God's Word is one sure sign of being "less liberal" -- these Christians tend not to be as active in social justice causes.

The one side looks down on the other as fundamentalist holy rollers.

And for their part, Evangelicals look down on the mainline churches as preaching only a "social gospel," by which is meant that righteousness through Christ alone is substituted by righteousness via works of social justice.

As with much of the political divide in this country, the mutual opposition seems irreconcilable.

But whatever it was that he said, Paul was at least able to bring Felix to holy fear.

What was it that he said?

Perhaps it had to do with the second topic they discussed not elaborated upon: self-control. Evangelicals need to exercise the self-control in setting aside their comfortable lives so as to help the less privileged, one of the true measures of sincere Christian faith.

Perhaps it had to do with the third topic they discussed not elaborated upon: the coming judgment. Mainliners need to reconsider: aside from good works, there does come a judgment at the resurrection of the dead.

At the resurrection of the dead.

How do we know? Because the Word of God says so.


Acts 24.15 (Paul speaking): ... And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust...

Acts 24.25 Now as he reasoned about justice (righteousness), self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away..."

James 1.27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Nature, Nature on the Wall

Once upon a time, Nature was regarded as a window through which God's personhood and character could be seen. The object of sight was God, not Nature.

Even though Nature was a beautiful window, it never occurred to anyone just to stare at the window. Windows were meant to be looked through.

In the development of ideas in the West, the window of Nature gradually became a mirror. It became more and more opaque. Rather than seeing God, man began to see -- look! -- a reflection of himself.

It was thrilling, to see yourself as the boss of the cosmos.

"Who is the fairest of them all?" we asked.

"YOU!" said (our) mirror.

"Urrrrgh Yes!" we intoned, "and what do we do about all those writings that say otherwise?"

"Call them literature!" said our mirror.

And so it came to be.


Psalm 36: 5-6 your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep ...

Psalm 147.15-18 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down hail like crumbs - who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow ...

Immanuel Kant in 1790: "The human imagination, "in its role as a productive cognitive power, is very mighty when it creates, as it were, another nature out of the material that actual nature gives it..." Critique of Judgement, Section 49.

Roger Lundin on the post-modernist philosopher Richard Rorty: "... by the end of the nineteenth century, some of the more enlightened among us came to realize such a being -- God -- does not exist. And in light of this fact, we can only conclude 'the world does not speak; only we do...'" in The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts, eds. Daniel Treier, Mark Husbands, Roger Lundin (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2007), 199.

If you're more or less okay, take care of someone

This is quite a word picture; I got it off of my daughter-in-law's blog; she got it from Anne Lamott:

"... the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of an emergency ward and ... we who are more or less okay for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the Healer comes."

This is a word for me as another school year begins. In the university, thinking of life as the waiting room of an emergency ward is probably the farthest from anybody's mind. University -- especially at the start of fall -- is all about new beginnings:

New courses, new friends, new ideas, new season, new paths for the future.

And for some professors in the humanities: new hair-brained theories.

Those reveling in the new don't think they need much help; certainly no need for a physician.

What emergency room?

As for me, I'm not feeling like anything is much new.

I just feel more or less okay.

But I guess it is the more or less okay that need to take the tenderest possible care to help the wounded in the room, until the Healer comes.


Psalm 39.4-5 Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.

Matthew 9.20-21 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed."

Matthew 9.12 But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

The counterpoint of a garden in bloom

For those of us who've seen some years, isn't it always this way?

You wake up one morning and summer is about to say goodbye, it's tales largely told.

And isn't it always this way?

The tales about people are varied: some encouraging, some inspiring, some worrisome, some discouraging.

But against the bricolage of this sordid assortment ...

Is the counterpoint of God's works: always steady, always living, ever dependable, always beautiful.

Always beautiful if you choose to see them;

Like this quiet garden, now in full bloom


Isaiah 58.11
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy
thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

Just how far out do facts go?

"Just the facts, man."

This phrase goes a long way to describing what we think knowledge is.

Knowledge is facts. That's all, man.

But what if that's not all?

Every fact leads to Glory, or it falls short of its intended being.

In this light, we see why, for example, the facts of gossip fall far short of Glory.

The facts of science also do not satisfy. They may at best lead to more Questions, perhaps to Wonder.

The knowledge of a parent for a child may reach to Love.

But facts, all true facts, actually reach far out and touch Glory. In our present condition it is just difficult to see this most of the time.

But that was the original intention for the order of things.


1 Corinthians 13.2
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and
understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Habakkuk 2.14
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the
glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.

2 Corinthians 2.16
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of
darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Job 38.4, 7 Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? ... When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Michael Vick and repentance

One of the great gifts Christianity gave to the world is repentance. My knowledge of other religions is not exhaustive; but I am also not ignorant of them. I know of no other way of relating to God that, at the very heart of it, offers second chances by way of repentance.

Repentance is like spring: when it comes, life is all new again.

It is like summer: the warmth of its light makes the lifeless in us wither away.

It is like autumn: it allows us to reach that rainbow of maturity without regrets.

It is like winter: our sins are forgiven and covered; we are made white as snow.

The cycle of the seasons testify to the effectiveness of repentance: with it, we do not have to relive the last season, or any past season. With it, we can move on as new persons.

The sadness of repentance is that we can never redo what we did wrong; the water has been spilt.

The joy of repentance is that we don’t have to relive it; the Blood has been spilt.

As I write this I have in mind my recent needs for repentance.

But I also have in mind Michael Vick. I do not know where he is with respect to repentance. (Although it is encouraging he is working with Tony Dungy). Our culture has a substitute word: remorse. But remorse is not quite enough.

Repentance is where it’s at.

Because with repenting, there’s more than second chances. There are seventy times seven chances.

And they that wait on the Lord … shall mount up with wings as eagles.


Matthew 4.17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Luke 15.7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

1 John 1.7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Matthew 8.21-22 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Isaiah 40.31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

it is that time again

some of us know it for sure; some don't

a time when nothing has taste

a sluggish time

when you are unconvinced that life's sum adds up to making sense

a time to withdraw

but the seasoned know better times will come

i know this for three reasons, maybe four

there is a time for every thing; that's one

the psalmist says, "i will yet praise God"; that's two

when this time first came years ago, the Egglestons said, "you'll be better again"; that's three

in withdrawing, God is still there, that's four

so long as He makes sense, that's all


Ecclesiastes 3.4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;

Psalm 42.5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.

A letter from Cliff

As summer wraps up, I get a letter from my friend Cliff:

"Its been a great summer of rafting, hiking, camping and backpacking. I was glad that nothing was happening this week because I'm exhausted ... Next week I'm going backpacking ... Hope you two are having a great summer too."

This sentence set me to wondering again about friends and friendships.

If I had to spend an entire summer rafting, hiking, camping and backpacking, I'd go nuts.

It would be like doing time.

A few weeks ago Cliff tried to get me to go on a six-day rafting trip. Six days!!?? Getting wet, bouncing up and down, pooping in the wild (how do you do that?), hanging out with a bunch of guys with BO, bouncing up and down, getting wet ... for six whole days!

Okay, there would be nature too.

Wow: all that fun, and nature too...

My problem is that I think about nature -- I think deeply about it. But I don't do nature nearly as well. Might get dirty.

Without my books, cats, laptop and alone-ness, the fabric of my introvert soul would be strained to the limit.

Cliff recently led a men's group through Gordon MacDonald's When Men Think Private Thoughts: Exploring the Issues that Captivate the Minds of Men. Cliff lent me his copy of the book. But I wish I had been part of the group.

Cliff also tells jokes. My favorite one: What does a dyslexic think about at night? He stays up nights wondering if there really is a DOG.

I smile every time I think of that, and I think of it often.

Now that he's retired, Cliff drives a school bus. Those kids don't know it, but years later they'll realize how much of a Kingdom guy Cliff is.

Cliff and I met in college 38 years ago.


3 John 1.14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

Acts 27.3 ...and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.

The homogenization of signs

It is basic to human nature to want to be headed somewhere. And signs are needed to get you there.

In cultures past, signs tended to be few. But what signs a culture had were precious.

In medieval times, folks had signs of the Church to tell them where to go: the cross, the holy days, the paraphernalia of the clergy. Set aside what you might think about all that stuff; the point is that the signs of the Church -- or more to the point, the
sign of the Church -- was all a person had to tell him where he was headed.

One consequence of our cybernetic culture is the infinite proliferation of signs. Each sign, as it were, takes you in its own direction. The choices are many; they in fact seem infinite.

Once it was freedom of choice to worship God.

Now it is just freedom of choice.

Rather than one Road we all go down, each of us go down many roads.
Rather than one Road for a lifetime; our roads last minutes or seconds.

We change them with a wave of a finger or a click of a mouse.

There are so many signs, the very nature of sign-as-direction has been homogenized out of signs. Direction has changed to titillation.

Rather than one precious sign arranging the furnishings of our lives, we arrange
them -- countless little signs on a screen -- as we muse and fascinate about one-minute titillations.

With a wave of a finger.


Luke 12:55-56
You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?

Matthew 12.39-40
But He answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Birthdays and water on the ground

When young, it seemed like you had to wait a whole year -- an entire year -- for your birthday.

But now, birthdays come and go so fast they seem like, well, wasn't the last one just a month ago?

When young, you looked forward to all the great things you're going to do.

But now, the days seem to have seeped out between our fingers like so much water onto the ground. We can never re-gather water. In fact, even if we could, it wouldn't be there; it's evaporated.

This also is one of the great sadnesses of life.

So on what basis can we wish "Happy Birthday?"

Well, that water may be evaporated. But if we know anything of God's ways, that water is not gone. It is in other forms: in the life of others, in their moral compasses, in showers of blessing.

Happy Birthday, Valerie


2 Samuel 14.14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up. But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from his presence.

John 15.16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

What is it about Trader Joe's?

After my post yesterday, my friend Doug asked me to identify my favorite item at Trader Joe's.

Since Doug is also my doctor, I don't know if this is a diagnostic question -- and at my age you don't take any chances. So I'm thinking this one through.

It's amazing how many experiences in life are indescribable.

Come to think of it, what experience is "describable?" The minute you describe an experience with words, you've reduced that experience to a caricature of itself. If you're good with words, you may have "captured" -- what? -- maybe 10% of that experience? Well, let's be more generous: maybe 50% of the experience?

But this much is for sure: the "itself" of that experience is gone, poof, evaporated.

This is one of the great sadnesses of life.

This, by the way, is why we say "the book was better" after seeing the movie version of Gone with the Wind, or The Hunt for Red October, or Fill in the Blank. When have you ever heard someone say "the movie was better?" Never. Why? Because they would never have made the movie. They made the movie because the book was so good it was worth the hassle of making the stupid movie.

And the book is always better.

Why? Because the book gave you first-person experience in your mind's eye; it filled the invisible spaces of your heart. The movie, on the other hand, is the "report" of that experience. In this sense, the movie is the "words."

And the best words capture 50% of the experience.

So for me, Trader Joe's is an experience, not words -- and not a specific item. It may not be worth making a movie over, but they should at least think about opening up a store in Spokane. But they may be too edgy to do it, those turkeys.

OK -- it's the 3-buck wine.


2 Corinthians 12.3 ... And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Isaiah 29.11 And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”

1 Corinthians 2.9 "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

What does "edgy" mean?

Joshua came home from Seattle for the weekend and we got right down to figuring this one out. Seattle, you see, is "edgy," so I wanted to formulate a theory with someone who is on-the-ground over there.

1. Edgy is being a post-modern relativist ... but absolutely convinced that your view of the world is right.

2. Edgy is driving a Toyota Prius to do your part in fighting global warming.

3. The University of Washington is edgy; Washington State University ain't.

4. Edgy is thinking that the next happenin' place east of Seattle is New York (City).

5. Republican? What's that?

6. Mars Hill Church in Seattle, where Joshua attends, is edgy; for some reason the sanctuary is painted black and has strobe lights.

7. The Starbucks brand used to be edgy; now it's just pricey.

8. Edgy is not Yuppy; in talking to Josh I found that Yuppy is now about 55, has kids in college, and plays Scrabble. You can be yuppy and edgy at the same time -- it's possible. But you would at best be on the fringes of edgy; you would more likely be an edgy wannabe. Didn't you just get a membership application from AARP?

Meanwhile, in Spokane, we're just on edge about when Trader Joe's will open up a store in these parts. But they're probably too edgy to do it, those turkeys.


1 Corinthians 9.22b-23 I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

How arguments mature

I can now see a history of the nature of our arguments over thirty years of marriage.

Early on it was like war between strangers. That sounds weird to say because of course we were not strangers. Until you argue. Then, as the decibels increase, you're basically asking yourself "who is this person?"

About 3 to 5 years into it, arguments become attempts at self definition. The wars are essentially about "I am not going to give up who I am for her" -- all the while you're trying to figure out "who am I?"

Then there enters a stage -- and a pretty precarious one -- when arguments are often fueled by the WHAT IF. What if I never married her? What if I had married so-and-so? What if this was just over with?

But the grace of God (which you don't always see) and the example of godly people (some of whom you don't really like) keep you at it.

Through all of this jobs change, houses change, children come -- diapers, birthday parties, soccer, music, emergency rooms, sleep-overs ("you're not going there if they have guns in the house," etc), graduations ...

... acquaintances, vacations, lawn mowers, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush ... come and go and come and go.
And now we've got change you can believe in.

At some point arguments become shaped by a spirit of detente: This is me and mine; That is you and yours. We negotiate boundaries. Even sexual intimacy is dictated by a spirit of detente.

Plugged drains, depression ("I know how you feel...here, let me do this..."); more relocations, more problems at work, and successes too...kids off on their own ...

Cancer ("... I just wish it was me and not you ...")

It occurred to me yesterday that we had had something like an argument about two weeks ago. But I need to figure out if I can call it that, because it felt more like having an honest discussion with myself.


Ephesians 5.25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it

Colossians 3.19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

runt of the litter / head of the house

I was the runt of the litter: younger sibling to my can-do sister; youngest of four cousins under one roof.

Once everybody got new stamp collecting albums -- except me; I got one of their used ones.

The pain lasts a lifetime.

The runt of the litter. At birth, they thought I was stillborn, so they tossed me aside to tend to my mom. That's what they did. So, hey, every day is a miracle.

My only point here: all my life, I was never in a decision-making role. I was always on the receiving end of other people's decisions.

Part of me likes that. Even now when we're driving two cars, I'm comfortable following Valerie home.

Another part hates it. I'm probably more resentful than I should be of how other people's decisions affect me.

Put that together now with this: decades later I'm the head of a household. The head; that would be the Biblical view.

And that would be my view: I am father to three sons; husband to one wife; spiritual covering to them all.

But I am sensitive to this: it is tough making decisions.

The other day over greasy onion rings Valerie said this about her surgeon: "Boy it was so good for Dr. Oliva to have just said, 'Now, here is what we're gonna do.'" She was referring to the time she had post-op bleeding at 2am. A call to Dr. Oliva: "Valerie, what's going on? ... yes ... how much flow? ... right ... hmmm ... Okay, here's what we're gonna do..."

I wish I can be like that: Here's what we're gonna do.

What's it like to see life in that way? To handle it in that way?

Here's what we're gonna do about YoYo.

Here's what we're gonna do about buying a truck.

Here's what we're gonna do. Here's what we're gonna do. Here's what we're gonna do.

Me, I tend to see possibilities rather than propositions; perambulations rather than precisions; I write on how the aesthetics of the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar can be adapted to Reformed Theology. I see that pretty clearly.

They shoulda gotten me a new stamp album too.

But that's not what they did.


1 Samuel 16.10-11 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all the young men here?" Then he said, "There remains yet the youngest ..."

1 Timothy 3.5 ... for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?

YoYo with a few marbles short

So yesterday I get the news that my cat YoYo is having serious problems; he’s been at the vet since I last blogged about him.

Let’s just say we’ve always regarded YoYo as a special-needs cat:

When he jumps up to the table, for example, he doesn’t always make it. Often he goes flop!! back on the floor, taking papers and dishes with him if they are in the way.

When he poops, he doesn’t cover his (enormous) turds – if those turds make it into the litter box at all. In our house you’ve got to watch where you step.

He has an enormous tail. In fact I’ve not seen such a tail on any cat before I saw it on YoYo. It’s so thick and wide you can cut it off and wrap it around you like a fur. It would be fashionable, somewhere.

YoYo came to us as a kitten with KoKo. As kittens, KoKo was the bigger of the two. That changed quickly as YoYo ballooned into an enormous cat. He had to; he had to grow a body to match that tail.

In the sketch, the large one would be YoYo. We should have named him Tundra (as in Toyota Tundra); he is that big.

YoYo is a few marbles sort of normal.

I hear it will cost a hefty sum of money to address YoYo’s illness: ultra sound, surgery -- followed by … no assurances.

What to do? My heart is heavy. I talk to the vet in about an hour.


Nothing comes to me, but Valerie says we should help the weakest among us.

In preparing a sermon you need to come empty

The temptation is to come full, or half full. To come having something to offer.

You don’t really think of it as a “temptation.” You think of it as expertise.

Or at least you think of it as the reasonable thing to do.

“Here is my idea,” you say. And you develop it. And you craft it. And you craft it some more.

But in preparing a sermon you need to know when it just sounds crafty. It is the first sign towards realizing that coming half full is like coming half cocked.

By midweek, you need to know when the wind is not blowing.

And to stop and wait for the wind.

For me that means going back to the passage I am preaching on – now there’s an idea -- with open hands and open heart.

What do you see?


Go back until you see something.


1 Kings 18.43-44 "Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there," he said. Seven times Elijah said, "Go back." The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." So Elijah said, "Go …”

Raspberries and blueberries

It is now late summer and here is what anchors her: picking the raspberries and blueberries.

Now that they are ripe, harvesting them is something like the north arrow of her day.

I mean, I'll build those
raised beds and blog about covering them.

But it doesn't occur to me this time of the year that, hey: get out there and pick those berries!

But for her, it's a kind of homing call. After a long day at work, she comes back and has her dinner (which I make -- remember: I'm just a professor with no
body of knowledge, so I'm home earlier).

And then she goes out with a metal bowl ...

... and picks those raspberries and blueberries.

Afterwards they are spread out atop the butcher block counter, and she sorts them like little jewels into bowls of red and blue.


Mark 4.26-29 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. (For) the earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

It was just a man and his dog

It was just a man and his dog.

When I drove up with my cat YoYo, they were sitting in his truck. It was 7.50am, and the vet's office hadn't opened. So we parked in the lot and waited.

He looked like the tough macho kind. Big thick hands. Maybe a construction worker. He wouldn't make eye contact with me when I smiled at him through our windshields.

His dog was a little yippee-yappee sort of thing. I'm not good with ID'ing dogs.

I wasn't in much of a mood either. YoYo hadn't been eating or pooping. Two days ago he started peeing brownish stuff all over the floor. Lethargic. Losing weight. Not good.

My heart was heavy for him.

Also heavy because for sure my wallet was about to get lighter. How much lighter? This was on my mind.

In the vet's office, I let the man go first.

He had come to drop Yippee-Yappee off to be put down.


"Will you be staying with him?" the receptionist asked.

"No" (manly, gruffly).

On the drive over YoYo had peed that brownish stuff all over his hind quarters, matting his long hair. Yuck. So I'm sitting there holding him and thinking, "I should have just worn a junky tee shirt; this stuff is getting all over me."

Next thing I know the man comes out of a back room without his dog.

He was crying uncontrollably.

And I was once again amazed at just how intricately God had designed the human heart.


Proverbs 12.10 A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

And there he was, just as he was

So having left the crowds, they took him into the boat, just as he was.

That’s what it says: they took him into the boat just as he was.

Well, just how was he?

Well: he was ... just as he was.

What an odd little blurb?!

But it is a little window into the profundity of the Scriptures. Care is taken to make note of the fact that ...

... He was, just as he was:

Without pretense. Without defense. Without apprehension. Without ambition. Without depression, but also without excessive elation. Without title.

Without any of these costumes.

Having left the crowds, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.

Ah to have the gift of being just as I am in any situation.


Mark 4.36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. (καὶ ἀφέντες τὸν ὄχλον παραλαμβάνουσιν αὐτὸν ὡς ἦν ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ).

Isaiah 53.7 ... like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Hymn by Charlotte Eliot: Just as I am, without one plea / But that thy blood was shed for me / And that thou bidd’st me come to thee / O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Have you reached verse 12 yet?

By verse 3 it was a done deal: They had inaugurated him King of Israel.

But it was not until verse 12 that David perceived he was King of Israel.

What took him so long?

There was no doubt pomp and pageantry at verse 3. Official agreements were transacted. The historical clock of his administration started ticking at that juncture. So it was official, right? It must have been the right thing to do.


It was not until verse 12 that David perceived he was King of Israel.

It speaks of a rich interior life, where communion with God takes place, where the green light of God is finally given, where the true lineaments of external events are seen for what they really are ...

... or are not.

Before they are perceived in this way, external things (titles, positions, ownerships, commitments) are not really ours even if they are ours by pomp or public appearance.

They are only ours when -- and if -- God allows us to perceive ourselves in that role, or that ownership, or that commitment.

Happy is the man who lives only by what he has perceived, and is free from the pomp and circumstance of mere external appearances.

So, where are you today? Have you reached verse 12 yet?

Or are you still closer to verse 3?


2 Samuel 5.1-12 1 Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. 2 Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah. 6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinkinga, David cannot come in hither. 7 Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David. 8 And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house. 9 So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward. 10 And David wentb on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him. 11 And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masonsc: and they built David an house. 12 And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel’s sake.

James 4.1-4 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?