The Beauty of Mornings – Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and haunted by the various kinds of concerns they face during the working day. The Lord stands above the new day, for God has made it. All the darkness and confusion of the night with its dreams gives way to the clear light of Jesus Christ and his awakening Word. All restlessness, all impurity, all worry and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, in the early morning hours of the day may our many thoughts and our many idle words be silent, and may the first thought and the first word belong to the one to whom our whole life belongs (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 1121-1125). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.)

I love getting up early in the morning, way before anyone else in the house.  First I let Skip out, then pour a glass of orange juice while I wait for the coffee to brew.  Then I read a bit of the Bible and a few other things.

I think having a kid has made me appreciate mornings more.  If I don’t get up early enough and thus Junia wakes up shortly after me it seems to mess up my whole routine!  Of course, when she was younger this happened pretty frequently.  Now that she is on a normal schedule I know, more or less, when she’ll be up and I take full advantage of those early hours.

Do yourself a favor – get up and enjoy the morning.  Every new day is a gift from our Creator.

 

Recent Reads – A few articles for your afternoon…

Is Christian Apologetics Secular and Unbiblical?

“Penner’s thesis is thoughtful and provocative. He argues that the modern apologetic enterprise is no longer valid, in that tends toward an unbiblical and unchristian form of Christian witness and does not have the ability to attest truthfully to Christ in our postmodern context. Christians to need change their well-entrenched but ineffective vocabulary and move toward a new way of conceiving the apologetic task, characterized by love and grounded in God’s revelation.”

I had (and still have) loads of questions about Christianity, faith and God.  Apologetics, providing answers to questions about faith, has been helpful to me over the years if for no other reason then I realized I did not need to turn my brain off to be a Christian.  That said, I want to read Penner’s book because I do think that some Christian apologists and apologetic organizations are coming at things the wrong way.

The Irrelevance of Jesus to Congressman and Food Stamps

“It is astonishing to me that politicians who are eager to identify themselves as Christians so readily declare the irrelevance of Jesus. Not that they claim he is totally irrelevant. They are perfectly willing to acknowledge his importance in the fenced-in territory of private life. But when it comes to public life, the influence of Jesus is simply not welcome. Yes, he can have an unsubstantial ceremonial role. These politicians gladly appeal to his name while on the campaign trail and at public events they might fondly speak of him. But that’s about it.”

What I found most compelling about this article is that while some say there is not enough money to help those most in need in our country, there is still more than enough money to build more tanks even though the Army said they don’t want or need anymore tanks.  To me, that is a microcosm of the problem with our government today.

Dear Churches: This is How to talk About Clergy Sex Abuse.

Yes!

Sex Part 2: Why Wait?

“We’ve made virginity the goal, when it is purity that we should be aiming for; They’re not the same thing. Sexual purity is a life long spiritual practice that doesn’t begin or end with a single sex act, just as it doesn’t begin or end on a wedding night. So when we are asked, “Why wait?”, we should have an answer that empowers and prepares people to choose wisely for a lifetime. We should be teaching people something they can carry with them beyond their first roll in the hay. Why wait? Um. Because you need to learn some freaking self-control. That’s why.”
Yes again!

Listening When Others Speak a God Word – Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic work on community, Life Together:

Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them.” (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 715-719). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.)

Their own hearts are uncertain; those of their brothers and sisters are sure. At the same time, this also clarifies that the goal of all Christian community is to encounter one another as bringers of the message of salvation” (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 722-723). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition).

Listening is hard.  May we learn to listen to the good word spoken by true friends, brothers and sisters.

The Four Loves by CS Lewis (Review)

What is love?

CS Lewis’ great little book, The Four Loves, examines love from a variety of angles.  There is affection, friendship, eros (romantic love) and charity.  Each of these types of love has a proper place and each can be twisted into something rotten.

One of the best lessons from this book for contemporary audiences would be Lewis’ description of need-pleasures and pleasures of appreciation.  Need pleasure is, as could be expected, rooted in our needs.  We have a desire for something – a glass of water on a hot day – and are satisfied when the need is met.  On the other hand are the pleasures of appreciation, things that do not merely gratify us but “claim our appreciation by right” (13).

I think a lot of us have a skewed view of love today because we never get to the appreciation stage.  When we first fall in love with a person we talk in terms of how the other makes us feel.  The emphasis is on me and my needs.  The goal is to move beyond this, to learn to love (appreciate) this other person as a person of worth.  When the focus remains on me and my needs it is much easier to move on to someone else who meets them.  I suspect this is the cause of many broken relationships.  When the focus moves to appreciating the other, loving her even when I don’t feel like it, the love has matured.

Lewis comes back to this, or at least what he says later reminds me of this, in the chapter on Eros, romantic love.  He says, “sexual desire, without eros, wants it, the thing in itself.  Eros wants the Beloved” (94).  True love desires the other person as more than just a sex object, false romantic love simply desires the sexual release.

Moving on, I especially liked the chapter on affection.  I think this chapter forced me to not see the four loves as simply moving from lesser to greater and instead to see each as having value in itself.  Lewis talked about how the best part of affection is that people who would never get along find themselves together through the circumstances of life, whether family or job or simply living near each other.  When we learn to find things to love in such people who we would not normally choose to be friends with, we are doing something admirable.  Lewis even remarks that there is nothing admirable about having a great many friends, for this may just indicate you enjoy the company of a lot of people just like you.

As I read this, I thought of friends I had made at jobs I have had, in college and seminary and other places.  Lewis provides a valuable lesson here: learn to find things to love in all these sorts of people.

In regards to friendship, Lewis again offers thoughtful words of wisdom.  He wrote, “those who cannot conceive of Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a friend” (61).  When we wonder whether any friendship will become sexual, it simply shows a problem with our culture in not understanding friendship.

Finally, charity.  It is not a word we use much nowadays, in regards to love.  This is the love of God, the gift of love God bestows upon creatures.  In some ways I found this the most difficult chapter and thus the most difficult to write about.  The other chapters come across simple, and practical, by comparison.  Here we move to another realm, seemingly.  It is the love from God, the supernatural love in each of us, that enables all the other loves.  It is beauty.  It is…what we need.

The Necessity of Physical Presence – Bonhoeffer’s Life Together (Walking with the Saints)

I just finished reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic work on Christian community, Life Together.  It was fantastic, I wish I had read it ten years ago.  This book should be must read for seminary students (why wasn’t I forced to read it in seminary?).  Over the next few weeks, I plan to share quotes from the book that especially struck me.

The book is about Christian community.  Lest we think this is something merely spiritual, Bonhoeffer emphasizes the beauty of physical presence.  Here is Bonhoeffer on the yearning for the physical presence of another person:

A human being is created as a body; the Son of God appeared on earth in the body for our sake and was raised in the body. In the sacrament the believer receives the Lord Christ in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected community of God’s spiritual-physical creatures. Therefore, the believer praises the Creator, the Reconciler and the Redeemer, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of the other Christian. The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian living in the diaspora recognizes in the nearness of a  fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. In their loneliness, both the visitor and the one visited recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body. They receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility, and joy. They receive each other’s blessings as the blessing

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 675-681). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

God created matter, human bodies, and declared them good.  Bodies, and creation in general, remain a good thing.  Let’s not forget this.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup…Mmmmm….

We get a lot of Sweet Potatoes in our CSA.  I think, with summer setting in, we’ll get less now, but over the winter we got some nearly every week.  I like sweet potatoes, but I am sick of them by now.  So the question has been: what to do with these sweet potatoes?

A few months ago I discovered a recipe for a sweet potato soup.  I tried it on a Sunday night when we had friends over and the reviews were great.  Everyone loved it.  Since then I’ve made it two more times.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup (via AllRecipes)

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and
cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste
1 large roma (plum) tomato, seeded and
diced
DIRECTIONS:
1. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and lime zest. Set aside in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend.
2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add sweet potatoes, and chicken stock. Season with cumin, chili flakes and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
3. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or regular blender. If using a counter top blender, puree in small batches, filling the blender just a bit past half way to avoid spillage. Whisk peanut butter into the soup, and heat through. Stir in lime juice, and salt.
4. Ladle into warm bowls, and top with a dollop of the reserved sour cream, a few pieces of diced tomato, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

I only made a few changes.  First, since we have a toddler in the house who is not a fan of spicy food (not to mention my wife, who is not a fan either), I cut down the crushed red pepper flakes.  On the other hand, my wife loves cilantro.  So in addition to having a small portion on hand to sprinkle on top, I tossed some in while cooking.  Finally instead of pureeing it I used a potato masher to mash, leaving it a little chunky.

Delicious.

2013-06-11 18.15.19

Embracing Nerd-dom

My whole life I have kept two parts of myself in balance – the nerd part and the sports part.

I have always enjoyed the sort of sci-fi/fantasy that defines nerds, especially Star Wars.  I have also always enjoyed watching sports, from the NFL to the NCAA tournament.  I could hold my own in a conversation about who the best Jedi was as well as I could about who the best Quarterback was.

Then something happened: to save money we got rid of cable.  Now my primary means of television was whatever Netflix had available.  Live sports were much harder to come by.

A few other factors played into it.  I spend a lot of time with college students and most of the students who I have been with the last couple years are not into sports, but they are quite into nerdy television.  A recent nail in my sports-viewing coffin came with the change of the local ESPN station to CBS radio.  I used to get my information, what helped me stay on top of sports, from ESPN.  CBS is just not as good so I don’t listen.

What is the result?

Trying desperately to get my wife to like Doctor Who!

Two Book Reviews! (Don’t be that impressed, one of the books is super short!)

After working my way through The Beauty of the Infinite by David Bentley Hart and being incredibly impressed, I sought out more of his books.  He wrote a short book , The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami, on the problem of evil and suffering in light of the 2004 tsunami in Asia that killed thousands.  Hart seeks to defend Christianity from its secular critics, but along the way he also argues against a divine determinism that makes God the author of suffering.  He brings in a lot of Dostoyevsky, which I love!  He argues that God is all good and thus never wills evil.  Evil is abhorent and horrific.  God allows it to happen, though one day God will no longer allow it.

Here is where my one question lies, and where I think the secular critic could make a good point.  Against Christians who imply (or outright say) that God does more than permit it, Hart successfully shows that God never causes evil, God merely allows it.  In the face of all the evil and suffering though, why is God so slow in bringing it to an end.  Is the argument, “one day, some day, God will no longer permit suffering” not somewhat questionable in the face of suffering now?  God could end it now, why wait?  I am sure Hart has an answer, and I would be curious to hear it.

A while back I got into reading a bunch of books about world Christianity and global missions.  One of the best authors in this regard is Lamin Sanneh.  For those who like biographies, Sanneh has published his memoir: Summoned from the Margins: Homecoming of an African.  In it we hear the story of Sanneh’s early life in Gambia and his eventual move from Islam to Christianity despite reluctance to accept him from all the churches he met.  As he documents his later times in the academy, gaining degrees and publishing books, we read a lot of the conclusions from his studies.  One of his main points is that Christianity is unique in translating the message into the language of the people.  So this book is a memoir, but not just a memoir.  For those who enjoy reading the lives of interesting people and for those who want to learn about religion from someone who not just practices Christianity but has a deep respect for Islam, this would be a book worthy to pick up.