Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Supplication - The Hearts We Need

O God, you have called us to love you with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Help us to remember, as Jesus said, that everything you’ve commanded us to do is summed up in loving you and loving others. Give us the grace and hearts we need to be people who are truly able to love.

You know our weaknesses and you understand our limitations. Thank you for the forgiveness, hope, and redemption you give.  In the same way, help us to forgive, to encourage, and to bless others. You are gracious and merciful to us, and we ask you to make us gracious and merciful to others.

Thank you, Father, that we can come to you with our requests and needs. Thank you that you can be found, that your door is open, and that you are generous. Grant us sensitivity toward the needs of others around us. Help us to be available, approachable, and generous.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Food - State Fair Food

The Minnesota State Fair has announced dozens of new foods that are being added to this year’s offerings. They include bacon-wrapped grilled shrimp on a stick, Cajun pork rinds, peanut butter and jelly malts, and pork belly sliders, made with thickly cut bacon. Selections also include chocolate chili ice cream, deep-fried bread pudding and deep-fried olives, a grilled glazed doughnut, and macaroni and cheese with lobster.

The one thing on the list that I'm planning to try is Comet Corn, a caramel corn snack made with liquid nitrogen. The State Fair website says...
This icy-cold popcorn is crispy, crunchy, sweet and salty and leaves a trail of comet dust when exhaled out of the nose and mouth, creating a tingly, bubbly feeling. Find it at Blue Moon Dine-In Theater located on the corner of Chambers St. and Carnes Ave.
Only 55 more days until this year's fair. Start the countdown!

Check out the complete list of new State Fair foods.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday Thinking - The Development of Doctrine

Yesterday, on the First Things Blog, Ron Belgau posted a helpful essay on why current questions about homosexuality are a challenge to the thoughtful theologian. He begins with this...
For almost 20 centuries, there was little controversy over Christian teaching about homosexuality. For the last few decades, there has been an extraordinary amount of controversy. How should Christians respond to this changing situation?
He then explains how the theological and cultural questions of Paul's time influenced the amount of attention and depth Paul gave to developing or not developing doctrinal positions. Some of the questions important to the people in Paul's time hold little interest for us today. Some of the questions important to people today would never have occurred to the people in Paul's time, including Paul himself. And so we are left with the challenge to develop and explain doctrines that engage contemporary questions, even when the scripture available to do so is scant. Current questions about homosexuality are in this category.
The core truths of the Gospel never change (Hebrews 13:8). However, each generation of Christians faces its own challenges in sharing the good news of God’s love. Different cultures ask different questions and require different approaches to preaching.

This can be seen even in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul’s approach to spreading the Gospel changed according to the needs of his audience.  Whether he spoke in person or by letter, he did not say the same thing in every situation. When he wrote, he crafted individual letters to each church, praising their unique gifts and addressing the particular challenges that they faced. And when he preached, he adapted his approach to his audience.

Some readers will be uncomfortable with this, afraid that different emphasis for different audiences smacks of relativism and situational ethics. This, however, reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of truth. Paul preached the truth because he loved the people he preached to. And because he loved them, and wanted them to understand, he tried to present the truth in ways that responded to their needs and which they would be able to understand (see 1 Corinthians 3:2).

For example, when he spoke with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on the Areopagus in Athens, he spoke of their religious devotion to their many gods, including the temple with an altar dedicated “to an unknown god.” Then he spoke of God as the unknown god whom they worshiped, quoting Greek poets to illustrate his Christian beliefs in words they could understand (see Acts 17:16-34). On the other hand, when he came to Corinth, he used a very different approach. Here, he did not come to philosophers. Not many of those he spoke to were wise by worldly standards, or powerful, or of noble birth (1 Corinthians 1:26). Instead of using the approach he had used on the Areopagus, he focused entirely on preaching about Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23, 2:2)—a topic that he did not mention at all in his dialogue with the philosophers as it is recorded in the Book of Acts.

Both in his preaching in Athens, and in his preaching in Corinth, Paul explained key elements of the Gospel. In both places, some of his listeners received his message and followed Christ. But he did not take a one-size-fits-all approach to sharing the Gospel. Instead, he tried to make wise choices about how to start where his listeners were ready to listen. When he spoke to the leading intellectuals of his day, he spoke to them of the quest to understand the unknown God who is the creator of all, and quoted their own poets to help illustrate his points. On the other hand, when he spoke to those who were weak and despised by the world, he spoke of the God who had taken on their weakness, and been willing to submit Himself to death on the cross. The good news that he invited his audiences to hear was the same in Athens as it was in Corinth, but the approach he used shifted as the needs and opportunities of his audience shifted.
While it is a challenging task to develop doctrine that adequately addresses twenty-first-century questions while remaining faithful to the whole of scripture, Belgau concludes with this encouragement...
It is easy to become frustrated with contemporary debates about homosexuality. However, I believe that if we seek to understand why Paul saw homosexual acts as radically contrary to God’s design for human sexuality, we will come to understand both the Gospel itself—and that design—much more deeply. In order to do so, however, we must take time to reflect, trying to offer the more in-depth response that Paul would certainly have offered if he had written to an audience, like our own, which was deeply confused about these questions. Although this may seem like an audacious goal, we know that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:13).

We should not be afraid to admit that the Bible’s very brief treatment of questions related to homosexuality does not say enough to answer the questions raised by our culture. But we should be confident that if we reflect more deeply on deeper themes connected with the Gospel—creation, providence, marriage, celibacy, sin, redemption, resurrection, etc.—we will find the resources for understanding Paul’s teaching on homosexuality, even though Paul himself does much less than many of us would like to explain the reasons behind the prohibition.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday Words - Summer Swings

One of the fun things about summer is watching my grandsons enjoy the swings I built in the backyard. It makes me remember how much I loved it when I was a kid.

The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Tomes - Flannery O'Connor

I love the writing of Flannery O'Connor. My favorite of her short stories is "Revelation," which appears in the collection, Everything the Rises Must Converge. In fact, the name for this blog, Altered Faces, is taken from a phrase in that story.

A few days ago, I was pleased to discover there are a number of recordings available online of Flannery reading her own work. Below is a recording of her reading "A Good Man is Hard to Find" before a live audience at Vanderbilt University in 1959. Hearing it her own voice adds another dimension for experiencing this story. It's also amusing to hear the reactions of her audience. I would recommend that you listen to it with the text of the story in hand. If you don't already have the book, A Good Man is Hard to Find, you can find the story here.

From “On Her Own Work” in Mystery and Manners -
Much of my fiction takes its character from a reasonable use of the unreasonable, though the reasonableness of my  use of it may not always be apparent.  The assumptions that underlie this use of it, however, are those of the central Christian mysteries.  These are assumptions to which a large part of the modern audience takes exception.  About this I can only say that there are perhaps other ways than my own in which ["A Good Man Is Hard to Find"] could be read, but none other by which it could have been written.  Belief, in my own case anyway, is the engine that makes perception operate.
From “On Her Own Work” in Mystery and Manners -
I often ask myself what makes a story work, and what makes it hold up as a story, and I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies.  This would have to be an action or a gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both the world and eternity.  The action or gesture I'm talking about would have to be on the anagogical level, that is, the level which has to do with the Divine life and our participation in it.  It would be a gesture that transcended any neat allegory that might have been intended or any pat moral categories a reader could make.  It would be a gesture which somehow made contact with mystery.
From “On Her Own Work” in Mystery and Manners -
Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violence which precede and follow them.  The devil's greatest wile, Baudelaire has said, is to convince us that he does not exist. 

I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace.  Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work.  This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considered cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.
From “Writing Short Stories” in Mystery and Manners
 I prefer to talk about the meaning in a story rather than the theme of a story. People talk about the theme of a story as if the theme were like the string that a sack of chicken feed is tied with. They think that if you can pick out the theme, the way you pick the right thread in the chicken-feed sack, you can rip the story open and feed the chickens. But this is not the way meaning works in fiction.

When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning, and the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you experience that meaning more fully.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Music - Psalm 5: In the Morning

Psalm 5
Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my sighing;
Listen to my cry for help for to you I pray.

My King, Give ear to my words, O Lord,
My God, Consider my sighing;
My Lord, Listen to my cry for help for to you I pray.

In the morning, you hear my voice;
In the morning, I lay my requests before you;
In the morning, I wait in expectation--
Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Give ear to my words, O Lord.

© Copyright 2013, Dave Burkum (

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Bind Us Together

Almighty God, we thank you for Your church and the strong foundation you have given us through the Scriptures. We thank you for the prophets and the apostles and most of all for Jesus Christ who is, himself, the chief cornerstone. As followers of Jesus, we ask you to bind us together in unity of spirit that as your people we might be a temple filled with your Spirit.

Thank you for your promise to forgive and purify us. Thank you for being the one who saves. Forgive us our sins. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

May our love and devotion to you, O God, result in goodness and grace to everyone around us. Help us to walk so closely with you that our lives become a beam of light that gives witness of your goodness and grace to the world.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Smile - People My Age

Tomorrow is my 57th birthday. Here's a song from John Gorka that is a little too true for my own good. Might as well laugh about it!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Friends - Fishing with the Guys

Today, I'm enjoying a fishing getaway with three of my friends from Valley. We're having a blast and we're even catching fish! Thanks to Terry Madsen for inviting us all up north to the cabin. Thanks to Terry Madsen, Dan Siemens, and Mark Howells for making the trip such a wonderful time.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Numbering My Days

I've got a birthday coming up in the next few days, so this week I'm thinking about getting older. Actually, at this point in my life, there's usually something almost every day that makes me think about my age.

The years sure do go by quickly. May God, grant me a heart to be thankful for the days I have and the wisdom to number my days and to make the most of them.

'100' (from 0 to 100 years in 150 seconds) from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Psalm 90
A prayer of Moses the man of God.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
4 A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.

7 We are consumed by your anger
    and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Words - Scandal

A Scandal in the Suburbs

We had to have him put away,
For what if he'd grown vicious?
To play faith healer, give away
Stale bread and stinking fishes!
His soapbox preaching set the tongues
Of all the neighbors going.
Odd stuff: how lilies never spin
And birds don't bother sowing.
Why, bums were coming to the door—
His pockets had no bottom—
And then-the foot-wash from that whore!
We signed. They came and got him.

by X.J. Kennedy, from In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems, 1955–2007. © The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Following Jesus

For Father's Day, I gave my dad Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship by N. T. Wright. It's a wonderful little book of pastoral instruction and I'm sure dad will enjoy it. My dad and I both enjoy a good sermon, and I'm guessing that each of the twelve meditations in this book were first written as sermons – very good sermons. Wright is one of those rare academics who is also a gifted pastoral teacher. He is able to take big ideas and challenging texts and serve up something rich and helpful for everyone.

Though it's been awhile since I've read this book, but I still remember that chapter eight, "The Mind Renewed," was my favorite. In it, Wright uses the Old Testament story of Naaman and Elisha (2 Kings 5) to illustrate the difference between stumbling toward God or away from God. He contrasts the misunderstandings of Naaman (a Syrian military leader) with the self-deception of Gehazi (the servant of Gehazi). Great stuff!

The book is only 115 pages long and easy to read. If you're looking for something to encourage you in  following Jesus, I think you'll find this to be a worthwhile book. Reading one chapter a day for a couple weeks would be a good way to take it in.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Music - Pinehaven Camp Song

It's high-school week at Pine Haven Camp. Here's a song we recorded there in the old lodge. Have a fun week kids!

(Philippians 3:12)

I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

I press on through thick and thin
I press on every day
I press on through the lose and win
For I know He's the Way

I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Fireside: Worship & Scripture Songs,
written and arranged by Dave Burkum.
© Copyright 2006 by Dave Burkum (

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Hearts that Love and Worship

O Lord, give us hearts that love and worship you faithfully each and every day. Help us to remember that you are faithful and constant in your love toward us. Help us to trust that you care for us, that you provide for us, and that you will sustain us through every need and circumstance.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Help us as we extend that same forgiveness to others who have sinned against us. Help us become a community called grace. And help us to have a redemptive and healing impact on the world around us.

Help us, O God, to see you for who you really are, and fill us with a sense of hope as we worship you. Show yourself to us in new ways today. Encourage us, by your Spirit, through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Treating People with Dignity

I've been a big fan of This American Life since it's very first show. Ira Glass is a wonderful producer, journalist, and storyteller, not to mention a lovable, compelling, and decent human being.

This interview excerpt says a lot about him and epitomizes one of the core reasons I enjoy his work so much. I think that giving others the benefit of the doubt is one of the best ways to live out Jesus' admonition to treat others the same way you would want them to treat you.

Take a few minutes to watch this and let me know what you think?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wednesday Words - Blue Water

To go fishing is the chance to
wash one’s soul with pure air,
with the rush of the brook,
or with the shimmer of the sun
on the blue water.

It brings meekness and inspiration
from the decency of nature,
charity toward tackle-makers,
patience toward fish,
a mockery of profits and egos,
a quieting of hate,
and a rejoicing that you do not
have to decide a darned thing
until next week.

And it is a discipline in the equality of  men –
For all men are equal before fish.

“Fishing” by President Herbert Hoover.

Thanks to my friend, Kris Pierson, for sharing these words with me on our recent fishing outing. I'm looking forward to lots of good time on the lakes this summer.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Living Things

Here's a lovely little book I'd recommend for summer poetry, Living Things: Collected Poems, by Anne Porter.  I first read through it a couple years ago. Many mornings, I would start the day with this book and a cup of coffee. I'd go outside to one of the Adirondack chairs by the front porch and read one or two poems.

These poems have the simplicity of bread and wine, but are filled the nourishing depth and wisdom of Porter's life – the fields of grain and acres of vineyard from which they are harvested. They are as austere as a plainsong melody, but resonate with the echos of a vast cathedral. They are never preachy, yet move the reader toward faith and kindness.

From The Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2006, by Lucette Lagnado, "A 95-Year-Old Poet Finds Her Muse and Literary Praise."
Mrs. Porter was 83 years old when her first volume of poetry, "An Altogether Different Language," was published in 1994. The book was named a finalist in the National Book Awards. A judge of the awards, David Lehman, a poet and professor at The New School in New York, subsequently decided to include Mrs. Porter in the Oxford Book of American Poetry, placing one of her longer poems alongside the works of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot.

"Anne Porter is a marvelously talented poet who has not yet received the recognition that is her due," says Mr. Lehman, who praises her work for its "literary simplicity and directness."
Asked why she keeps writing poems through her 80s and 90s, Mrs. Porter responds that art may be the only pursuit that old age can't wreck:

"You can't sing anymore, you can't dance anymore, you can't drive anymore -- but you can still write," she says.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Music - Prodigal Song


500 Miles
If you miss the train I'm on
You will know that I have gone;
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.
A hundred miles, a hundred miles,
A hundred miles, a hundred miles;
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

Lord, I'm one, Lord, I'm two,
Lord, I'm three, Lord, I'm four,
Lord, I'm five hundred miles away from my home.
Five hundred miles, five hundred miles,
Five hundred miles, five hundred miles;
Lord, I'm five hundred miles away from my home.

Had to have my day;
Had to get my way;
I thought I'd take the world by the tail.
Had to search for me-
Break away, get free,
And I found I'm free to fail.

Not a shirt on my back,
Not one penny to my name;
Lord, I can't, I can't go home this-a-way.
This-a-way, this-a-way,
This-a-way, this-a-way;
Lord, I can't, I just can't go home this-a-way.

More and more each day,
My thoughts steal away
To the place where I belong.
A still small voice inside
Says, "Lay down your foolish pride,
And just admit that you were wrong."

So if you hear the train I'm on,
You will know that I have gone;
You can hear the whistle blow-
You can hear the whistle blow-
You can hear that whistle blow a hundred miles.
A hundred miles.
A hundred miles.

Words & Music by  Hedy West, Atzal Music (ASCAP). © 1970 Warner Bros. Records Inc. Additional  Break Words and Music by Dave Burkum.  © Copyright 1994 by Dave Burkum.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Lead and Keep Your Church

O Lord God, lead and keep your Church by your steadfast grace and love. Help us to proclaim your truth with boldness. Help us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you.

We see our sin and we recognize our need for forgiveness and transformation.  We are thankful for your promise to forgive us and purify us as we confess our sins. So hear each of us now as we confess our sins and look to you for forgiveness.

As you have forgiven us our sins, help us to be quick to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Help us to know you more and more each day as we follow Christ, listen to your word, and surrender ourselves to your Spirit. Lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen us, that we might delight in your will, and walk in your ways to the glory of your name.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Friday Friends - Let's Go Fishing!

Last year, my friend, Kris Pierson, caught this 5 lb. muskie when we were fishing on Crystal Lake in Burnsville. Saturday, June 8, I'm fishing on Crystal Lake again with Kris and a number of other friends from Valley Christian Church. We'll be fishing all morning and then having lunch together at one of the park shelters. Here's a link to information about where we'll be and what we're doing. According to the forecast, it should be a perfect day.

CLICK HERE if you'd like to join the fun.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Thursday Thinking about Friday Friends

Click Here for complete information.

Thursday Thinking - Mouths and Hearts

Jesus said, "Good people have good things saved in their hearts. That’s why they say good things. But those who are evil have hearts full of evil, and that’s why they say things that are evil. What people say with their mouths comes from what fills their hearts."

I know Jesus was certainly talking about a lot more than profanity or course language here, but profanity and course language must certainly be included. The importance of our words and what they reveal about our hearts is something Jesus calls his followers to take seriously.

On her Wrestling with Angels blog, Carolyn Arends recently posted a thoughtful piece about Christians and cussing. It was also published in Christianity Today magazine. It's worth reading and provides some humble and practical ideas worth considering.

I especially appreciated her insights about how profanity is often an expression of anger or contempt harbored in the heart.  Read the Complete Post: The Trouble with Cussing Christians.
Here is an excerpt:
All language is a kind of social contract. We agree—as heirs of centuries of etymological development—to call the pointy thing in our arm an elbow, just like we agree to label things we find despicable with words we identify as profane. The words themselves hold only the power we give them. But curse words tend to be powerful indeed, because to linguistically reduce something or someone to the level of biological functions (and their resultant products) is almost always an act of contempt. And contempt is toxic.
In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes the work of psychologist John Gottman. In Gottman's lab, spouses were asked to discuss something mildly contentious while sensors recorded their physiological responses. After years of studying the nuances of these exchanges, Gottman became startlingly successful at predicting which couples would divorce. The most telling indicators, he claims, are expressions of contempt. An eye roll or a mildly disdainful put-down was more worrisome than outright conflict. In fact, the presence of contempt in a marriage affects not only the survival of the relationship, but even the immune systems of the parties involved; spouses who live with chronic contempt get more colds than those who don't.

Contempt is a mixture of anger and disgust, expressed from a position of superiority. It denigrates, devalues, and dismisses. It's not hard to understand why even subtle levels of contempt are damaging—not only in marriages but in all human interaction.

If profane language has a privileged place in the lexicon of contempt, then Christians have a unique mandate to avoid profanity. It's not that abstaining from pejorative language outfits us with some holier-than-thou halo. It's that we are called to live with a servant's heart, affirming the dignity of every human and the sacredness of existence.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Wednesday Words - You Want to Know the Truth?

Nobody in the hospital
Could tell the age
Of the old woman who
Was called Susanna

I knew she spoke some English
And that she was an immigrant
Out of a little country
Trampled by armies

Because she had no visitors
I would stop by to see her
But she was always sleeping

All I could do
Was to get out her comb
And carefully untangle
The tangles in her hair

One day I was beside her
When she woke up
Opening small dark eyes
Of a surprising clearness

She looked at me and said
You want to know the truth?
I answered Yes

She said it's something that
My mother told me

There's not a single inch
Of our whole body
That the Lord does not love

She then went back to sleep.

From Living Things, by Anne Porter, published by Zoland Books, an imprint of Steerforth Press of Hanover, New Hampshire. Copyright © 2006 Anne Porter

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Tuesday Tome - The Skeptical Believer

One of the books I'm currently reading is The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist, by Daniel Taylor. You may recall that I recently read and posted about his earlier book, The Myth of Certainty, which I found to be very helpful and encouraging.

The Skeptical Believer covers a lot of the same ideas presented in The Myth of Certainty, but this time through a collection of short and winsome essays arranged into chapter sections: 1. Definitions and Diagnosis; 2. A Profile of a Skeptical Believer; 3. The Story Nature of Faith; 4. Objections to Faith; 5. Arguments for Faith - All of Them Resistible; 6. The Faithful Skeptic - Living the Story; 7. My Story within God's Story; 8. Joy, Risk, Adventure, and Love - Just the Right Kind of Story.

I'm only about half-way through at this point, but I've been enjoying what I've read so far. I'll post more about it once I've completed it. In the meantime, here's an excerpt from the first essay in the book:
But if you don’t feed him [my inner atheist], he’s not so bad. If I decide to hear him out rather than drown him out, he kind of deflates down to a manageable size. He’s a bit of a Wizard of Oz figure: “I am Skepticism, the Great and Powerful!” But in fact, he’s just a little man behind a curtain playing with knobs. Having looked behind his curtain, I sort of like him. My inner atheist still talks trash now and again, but once you see through him, he’s almost entertaining.

I’ve also noticed that he gets quiet during stories. I think, in fact, that my resident atheist may like stories. He doesn’t complain nearly so much during story telling as when I feed him propositions and facts. He tends to sit in the corner and listen, not affirming but not protesting much either. Sometimes he’ll say, “That’s just a story,” hoping the word “just” will [frighten or irritate me] and diminish the story a bit. Or he’ll grouse, “Well other people have their stories, too,” as though stories cancel each other out. But he really doesn’t know what to do with stories and so he mostly shuts up.

So, here’s the deal we’ve struck. I let my inner atheist have his say. I let him ask his question, express his doubts, roll his eyes, vent his spleen, pass a little cynical gas–whatever he feels the need to do. I even compliment him occasionally when he makes a good point. (He hates that.)

Then I go on believing. I go on trying to live my part in the story.

I’ve thought about this a lot. I don’t think this is stubborn belief despite the facts or glorying in irrationality (what some would call fideism). I think it actually quite a rational response to the limitations of reason and the rewards of belief. The upside of believing, of being part of the story, is enormous. The only downside is the possibility of being wrong. I can live with that—maybe forever.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Monday Music - Shelter from the Storm

Save the date and get your tickets for a good show for a great cause. Music by Haley Bonar, The Cactus Blossoms, and The Roe Family Singers.


June 22 at The Amsterdam Bar & Hall
Doors @ 7, Music @ 7:30 | $15 advance | $18 at the door

Haley Bonar

The Cactus Blossoms

The Roe Family Singers

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sunday Supplication - All Good Gifts

O God, we acknowledge that every good thing comes from you.

Fill us with good thoughts and a love for the things that are right and good. Lead us and strengthen us to do those good things you have in mind for us to do.

Jesus, each of us has our own struggle to be obedient to you. Help us all to remember that everyone around us has similar struggles. When others sin against us, make us as charitable toward them as you are to us. Help us all to find our way back to you.

When any one of us is sinned against, give us understanding and forgiving hearts. Make us willing to forgive because you have forgiven us.

Holy Spirit, when we become downcast, strengthen our hearts to hope in you. Give us faith to trust in you and to praise you all our days. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Saturday Smile - Prancercise

So excited about my new exercise program. It's fun, but after twenty minutes or so, I'm as hungry as a horse. It also stresses me out a bit because I heard that if you sprain your ankle while doing this, the doctors don't have any choice but to put you down. More Here.