Mindless Christianity May 11, 2015Posted by needinc in emPulse.
Tags: acceptance, Bruce, christian, Church, Davis, Dr, fleeing, Gary, Jenner, mindless, thinking, U2
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Now imagine that you are a part of that religion and see no evidence of this in your churches. Worship services are great, the pastor’s sermons hit the nail on the head every week, the average age of the congregants is 35-45, the building is paid off, and you enjoy your Christian life in the midst of friends & family.
What you don’t see are the people who are not there. They are long-gone— playing golf, enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning at Starbucks, at home, boating, or simply sleeping in. The thought of going to church on a Sunday morning never enters their minds.
Too many of us have become mindless about those whom we never see. They are just “them,” or “non-Christians,” “the unsaved.” They are non-entities. We organize commando raids, evangelistic thrusts, into their midst and then regroup to “debrief.” Really!?! Whatever happened to being part of our society, our community, having neighbors we actually know and enjoy?
Actually, whatever happened to meaningful engagement? It feels as if the majority of our Christian community has ceased functioning, at least when it comes to clear, mindful thought. We find it so much easier to simply sit there and have someone who is an authority tell us what to think, believe, and DO. Then it slips out of our brains by that afternoon or evening.
With all the great minds of our past who launched the amazing movements of our faith past— the Cistercians, Augustine, Anselm, Francis of Assisi, Benedict, the Moravians, the Sacred Heard of Jesus, even those pesky Protesters, Calvinists & Huguenots, Pilgrims & Puritans— All made deep intellectual, yea academic, contributions to the history of Christian thought.
Today, not much thought is taking place in our churches. It has been replaced by a casual intellectualism and glancing references that support our personal perspectives. Even books are written for those with no more than an 8th grade reading level. Really?!? That’s it!?!
Ergo, please try to learn to think more deeply about your faith. Read some richer books than simple personal testimonies, or “sweet-Jesus” stories. Read books you cannot understand. Learn the differences between Christianity & Islam, between Catholics, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals. Learn the issues surrounding the emerging/emergent church. Think through possible loving responses to Bruce Jenner, One Direction, and the challenges put forth in the music of U2.
None of us were born brainless, mindless automatons; but there is ample evidence that we have striven doggedly to move in that direction.
For what it’s worth,
Bathed in Yellow April 27, 2015Posted by needinc in emPulse.
Tags: christian, Christianity, Davis, Dr, Gary, God, Painting, Starry night, strength, Van Gogh, vincent
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It is not an unknown fact that painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), used yellow in his art to signify the presence of God. In many of his self-portraits he was bathed in hues of soft gold and yellow.
Vincent lived a troubled life. Though he was the son and grandson of Dutch Reformed Church ministers, his own faith was tumultuous; he was constantly plagued with doubt, low self-esteem, and depression. So much so that at age 37 he took his own life with a single gunshot.
His paintings reflected his life— vague, obscure images, dark & brooding; yet with that thread or point of golden yellow burning through somewhere on the canvas. Whether point or thread, it is always there.
His art reflected his own life, to be sure; but it also mirrors so much in our own lives as well. The Christian life is not a glorious, joyous road to travel. Like van Gogh, we too find ourselves in places of darkness and confusion more often than not. Sometimes, the yellow glow of grace is totally lacking— or, at least it seems that way. At other times it feels like a distant star we can barely make out in the heavens. Or, as in Starry Night, we are engulfed within it— “the glory of God shown ‘round about them.”
This is the way it was meant to be. Our faith is worth very little if we only bask in the glory of God’s golden hues. But this world is a complication of darkness and light. It is in those dark times, in turbulence & testing that the steel of our trust in Christ is proven.
But you already know that. What you must constantly keep before your vision is the reality that your strength must come from God and not merely from within (II Tim. 2:1). In times of deep tribulation, our strength will eventually give out, fade, and collapse. Therefore, it is much easier to rely on Christ’s strength from the very onslaught of trouble rather than to tack it on after our own wears out.
For what it’s worth,
Response: The Science is IN: God is the Answer April 3, 2015Posted by needinc in emPulse, Faith in Culture, Journey, Relationships.
Tags: acceptance, Christians, Clueless, Davis, Dr, Gary, God, religion, spirituality
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For people within the sphere of religion, any religion, Brian Bethune’s & Genna Buck’s article The Science is IN: God is the Answer (McCleans, 30 March 2015), comes as no surprise. People raised in secure loving religious homes tend to have greater skills at facing the realities of adulthood. Children raised within this kind of environment tend to be better equipped at re-defining themselves when they reach both puberty and that “ah-ha” moment we now define as “individuation.” i.e. that phase in life wherein a child ceases to define his/her-self in terms of their parent’s values and creates their own value system, beliefs, and life priorities. Granted, this can be a time of trial & error run amuck; but, hey, that’s what growth and transition are all about. If you get it right the first time, you’re holding on way too tight!
That being stated, I have encountered a LARGE number of twenty-somethings, who come from religious families— conservative Christian, liberal Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim (Sunni/Shiite), and others, who are a psychological mess. Their lives have no borders or boundaries; they can’t make a decision about anything; commitment to anything is terrifying; and their ties to any belief system change hourly. “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”
I’m sure Lisa Miller’s (the researcher who studied this topic for 18 years) efforts yielded factually supported data. But I wonder if she ever actually met an adult child from a conservative Christian family? Or Catholic family? Or modern-day Jew? There is very little faith left to their religion. They are, in effect, practical “religious-atheists” who call upon their religious roots in times of disorientation or trouble and then quickly return to their lives as really nice people.
Our societies search for spirituality outside of faith has only yielded a feel-good-faith; certainly not one that will hold up under the pressure of postChristian non-presuppositions about why it’s not all about me. It is, ya know.
What a difference a “mindset” makes. W April 2, 2015Posted by needinc in emPulse.
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What a difference a “mindset” makes. When we make room for other points of view we open the door for God to work.
Getting lost February 9, 2015Posted by needinc in emPulse, General, Journey, Perspectives, Relationships, Wisdom.
Tags: change, christian, Clueless, Davis, Dr, fear, Gary, journey, life, Lost, reflection, risk, Thoreau
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Most of us, at some time or another, will get lost. It may be as simple as getting lost on back roads or forgetting where your glasses are; or, more seriously, getting lost in life; that is, losing your sense of direction, purpose, and/or identity. In short, you no longer know where you are, who you are, or where you are heading.
A dead stop.
In the midst of that empty confusion certain questions start to arise—
How did I get here? What could I have done differently? How do I start to dig out of this mess? More importantly— How do I find myself again? Who am I now? What do I do next?
Anxiety starts to immobilize your spirit; you cannot take any action for fear of further failure. But you have to do something. Anything! Here are some of the things I’ve done when I’ve gotten lost.
1. I start taking small steps. What are the little things you can definitely accomplish that will bring some semblance of stability or order to your life? Do that. Then do another one.
2. Keep in mind that when you are lost everything is a risk. Things you used to do as a simple matter have now morphed into insurmountable monsters. Nonetheless, you must face those monsters to overcome them. I had to. And I corralled a cadre of friends to stand by me as I faced them.
3. Don’t ask God to do for you what you must do yourself. He is definitely in charge. But we are not mindless robots. He expects us to act responsibly with the time He has given us.
4. God can’t direct a parked car. Start moving. If it’s in the wrong direction, He’ll redirect you.
5. Establish NEW points of reference for your journey. The former points of reference are gone; you’ve already passed them. If you want to find your way again, you’ll need to discover a whole new set of reference points to guide you. I find I need to cut back on my activities to give my mind, and heart, time to process the mental & emotional shift. What will most likely be the next sign along your path that you are getting back on track?
With all the variables we have to juggle these days it’s easy to get lost along the way. You have to work hard to get back on track. So get to it. Drive! You will not stay lost for long. [Proverbs 16:3.]
Honor God, honor people…, make a path,
New Year’s Warnings December 29, 2014Posted by needinc in emPulse, Journey, Perspectives, Relationships.
Tags: 2015, christian, Clueless, Davis, Gary, new years, Warnings
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Now that our world’s financial situation is more secure, given the amount of consumer spending that took place at Christmas/Chanukah, we must rush to plan our New Year’s Eve celebrations in less than a week. And, frankly, I love the way we have come to say good-bye to the last year and WELCOME! to the new year.
The celebrations set forth the expectations of hope and accomplishment in the weeks & months to come; with the exception, of course, of weight-loss. Let’s not get the New Year off on a bad foot.
In keeping with this theme, allow me to offer some of the life-long-learning precepts I’ve stumbled upon along the way.
1. Plan for your summer family vacation within the first two weeks of January.
2. Take a New Year’s Day hike somewhere…, anywhere; except over fields of landmines.
3. Look at next year’s financial picture while you watch football. IT mixes the serious with the sublime. You can decide which is which.
4. If you are married, ask your wife/husband how you can love them MORE next year.
5. Set personal goals for your work-performance. It is not about getting that promotion: it is about making a difference in your workplace and in the lives of your fellow employees.
6. Plan to give $$$ away this coming year—lots of it. You will have more $$$ if you do. Don’t ask me how this works; it simply does. Trust me on this.
7. Eat out at a nice place once a month. It will remind you of your aspirations; and oh, tip big.
8. Avoid death, but take some scary risks in the New Year. You need to remind yourself how precious yet fragile life really is.
9. Face some of the BIG questions. “Where did all this stuff come from?” “Do I have a place in the grand scheme of things?” “What is it?” “How do I show love?” “How do I receive love?” “Am I ready to face my Maker?” “Who will win the Superbowl?” “Describe “God.”
10. Remember to breathe. You know what I mean.
There…, that should give you some things to think about during commercials. Forget making New Year’s Resolutions…, just DO this list.
Happy New Year!
Loving Others December 9, 2014Posted by needinc in emPulse.
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Troubled November 10, 2014Posted by needinc in emPulse, Journey, Perspectives, Rejuvination, Wisdom.
Tags: christian, Clueless, Crisis, Davis, despair, Dr, Gary, macbeth, Troubled, Troubles
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What troubles you? Money? Family? Relatives? Competition at Work? Feelings of failure? Emptiness? Mistrust? The list goes on. There are so many things that can get under our skin and irritate us without let-up. Some of us live our entire lives in frustration, crisis mode, turmoil. Nothing is ever settled. Nothing ever seems to work out. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) put it best—
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
In life, troubles will come; that’s a given. The issue is how we face them when they do come. Some people ignore their troubles, believing if they don’t address them they will go away. They won’t. Others put their troubles out of their mind, pretending they don’t exist. They do. Still others face their problems but have little hope of overcoming them alone. Yet they push on, commiserating with no one.
Most of us are troubled about something-or-another most of the time. Something is always troubling us. So please forgive me if I offer this sound, if risky, advice.
1. Start with a thoroughly gut reaction! Cry, yell, sulk, hit something (not someone). If your emotions are raw, let them be raw. When something is eating away at your core you need to address it first at a primal level of gut reaction. Then, walk away. Get over it! After some time has passed, even within the same day, regain your composure and start to think clearly, peacefully. Address the issue head on. A true friend may be needed to give you honest advice..
2. If you are an external processor, talk with a trusted friend who has some wisdom. If you are an internal processor, get alone for an extended time period; ruminate. Drink tea & remain calm.
3. DO SOMETHING. What should be done first to solve this problem? What RESOURCES can be drawn upon to help you?
4. Evaluate if your actions made a difference. To what degree did they help toward a solution to these troubles?
5. What’s next?
6. Pray for God’s wisdom and insight. You are not in this alone. If you do not believe in God or prayer, do it anyway. There might be a big surprise in the light at the end of the tunnel. (NO, not a train.)
7. Learn to ask the questions that need to be asked; even if it turns out that YOU are the problem.
There are very few troubles that come our way that do not have a solution. Whether it comes from private pondering or picking the brains of our friends, or turning to God, these are always ways to face our fears and our foes, and to overcome them. DO NOT give up!
For what it’s worth,
Death with Dignity November 4, 2014Posted by needinc in emPulse.
Tags: Brittany, christian, Clueless, compassion, Davis, death, dignity, Dr, Gary, Hemmingway, Maynard, NEEDinc, suicide
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(CNN)— Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who said she had terminal brain cancer, took medication to end her life under Oregon’s ‘Death with Dignity Act,’ advocacy group Compassion & Choices said Sunday.
“Brittany chose to make a well thought out and informed choice to Die With Dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness,” a post on her website said. “She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland.”
In a statement, Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy group that has been working closely with Maynard, said she “died as she intended – peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.”
Brittany Maynard was an incredible young woman. She lived her life as she saw fit. And she ended her life as she saw fit; not enduring the agony of a terminal brain cancer, but rather choosing to die with dignity, foregoing further deterioration and suffering.
Some years ago my friend Tom faced the same choice. At age 24 he started feeling like something was very wrong. It was. His body was spotted with all kinds of cancerous cells. Like Brittany, he too made it almost to his 29th birthday, dying just 3 days before. Unlike Brittany, Tom chose to endure the pain and suffering, the loss of mobility and, eventually, mind. His death, too, was surrounded by family and friends.
Why did Tom make his decision to suffer to the end, rather than to end his life with dignity? Tom trusted in God for his life and did not believe he had a right to tamper with the decision to end it.
So, what is it to die with dignity? In Brittany’s heart and mind she believed she made the honorable, dignified decision. Tom made a different decision. Was his death any less dignified than Brittany’s? This comparison raises a serious philosophical question. Death is a complex issue. Who is the final arbiter of our passing? Soldiers sacrifice their lives for the lives of their comrades-in-arms; family members willingly put their lives on the line to save a brother, a sister, a child, a wife. But giving your life for another is not the same as taking your own life. The first is sacrificial; the second is self-centered.
The question is— Do we have the right to make the decision to end our life? In many ways I can understand Brittany’s decision. In so many other ways, I cannot. It benefited her tremendously, I suppose. But it also deprived those she loved the experience of processing her death with her; through pain, suffering, disorientation, and the end. But can we truly call it death with dignity when her death was actually assisted suicide? She believed she was dead already. I believed she deprived those who loved her from their responsibility and joy of caring for her to the bitter end.
Determining the morality of Brittany’s decision is something we need to discuss in this culture. Her choice should give us pause about our own ethic, or lack thereof, when facing our own mortality. We really do not want to think about such things until our own life is at stake.
If the truth be known, we chose not to think much about anything smacking of ultimate realities. It is simply much easier to let life carry us on from one event to the next. This is not very smart. Sooner or later we will all have to face the tougher questions in life— some sooner than later. But if we do not face them, life will seem very cruel when it takes us by surprise.
If we accept Brittany’s choice to take her own life (suicide) then we have progressed (?) to the point of convenient functionality in our society. If your father is failing, help him end his life. If your child is dying, do the same. Or maybe we need to establish a maximum age, say 70, beyond which the elderly are deemed non-productive and useless in contributing further to our society.
We have finally fulfilled Earnest Hemmingway’s social prophesy—
“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
~For Who the Bell Tolls (1940)
Trick or Treat – an Opinion October 31, 2014Posted by needinc in emPulse.
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Early this morning I came across this post—http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2002/11/Tract-Or-Treat.aspx . It reminded me of how ridiculously out-of-hand and warped our perspectives can become.
When I was a young trick or treater I groveled and grabbed all the Halloween goodies if could. No discrimination, just grab! Upon my return to the warmth of our kitchen to sort out my loot, I found one of those “Chick-Tracts©” among my booty. I glanced at it briefly and dove back in to produce my own delirious, personal sugar high.
Now older I’ve come to believe many Christian evangelistic efforts at Halloween to be offensive. We seem to be quick to condemn this “pagan” festival that was once a Protestant Christian celebration— Reformation Day. But just how “pagan” is it NOW?
In our culture at large Halloween has risen to little less than a dentist’s dream! Our God took a pagan festival and turned it into a candy fest for kids…, ok, and their parents.! Now…, do we have a creative God or what!?!
But for those of you who still want to use Halloween for evangelism, allow me to offer some more appropriate ideas.
1. Join in the festivities with other parents, freezing together as you trek alongside of your kids.
2. Gather back at your place for the kids to sort out their loot and to swap their goodies.
3. Gather the adults in another room for hot mulled cider and cider donuts. Build relationships. Let the conversation flow where it will.
4. DO NOT use Christianeze to explain your faith! Normal people have no clue what these terms mean— sin, salvation, saved, born-again, redemption, etc. Find culturally appropriate phrases to translate Christian faith into a language people can understand. Like— “We need to reconnect with the God who made us.” or, “Jesus Christ can sustain your life and give it meaning.”
5. ASK QUESTIONS. Do NOT try to get YOUR point across. Learn to LISTEN to other people’s view on life…, and Halloween…, and criticisms of Christianity.
6. Shift from mulled cider to wassail. This will deepen the level of conversation. Mostly.
7. END EVERYTHING in under an hour. Kids gotta sleep; so do we.
One of the criticisms of too many of us Christians, is that we are no fun. Making Halloween an evangelistic event is one more piece of evidence that we are truly out of step with the world around us. Tracts and the like may be good in some parts of our society, but I’d be hard pressed, in this postChristian culture to find the place.
We are admonished to “Be in the world, but not of it.” (-John 17:15-17) So, in all the festivities surrounding Halloween (All-Hallowed-Eve) let us not partake of all its rituals and pagan roots. But, please, be in this world, at least as much as it involved entering a cultural celebration of family & candy. You will surprise your friends, and delight your dentist. Selah.
For what it’s worth,