Showing posts from January, 2009

Rob Bell's book, Sex God

I read Bell's book today, and I must say, it was quite a disappointment. I picked it up hoping to find some helpful views on theology of sexuality and sexual ethics for Christians. What I found instead was a hodgepodge of Bell's thoughts on relationships. Even then, most of what Bell has to say is shallow and only marginally helpful for someone looking for concrete help in the realm of romantic relationships.

For instance, at one point Bell discusses submission in marriage. He emphasizes mutual submission between husband and wife ("submit to one another out of reverence for Christ", Eph 5:21). There is nothing shallow about mutual submission. However, Bell entertains the hypothetical question of what a married couple should do when they face a tough decision and they aren't on the same page. Bell sidesteps this situation by pointing out that a really healthy marriage won't get into such a situation. Maybe so, but what about the rest of us whose marriages are r…

Trauma and the parent

We found out that Spencer has a concussion in addition to his broken nose. Even though this is a fairly run-of-the-mill sports injury, it has made me feel strange kinds of stress as a parent. A trauma to your child jars you in ways you can't fully understand. I have noticed that I have felt just a bit more emotional than normal. A trauma to the child is a trauma to the parent. I can only imagine what it is like when something major happens to your child. I hope I never find out.

Spencer's broken nose

Sunday our 12-year-old son, Spencer, had his nose broken in a basketball game. Another player collided into him, driving his forehead into Spencer's nose. In an instant, Spencer was lying facedown on the floor, blood pouring from both nostrils onto the hardwood.

As horrible as it was for Spencer, it was also a strange moment for me as a father. I'm not squeamish, but it feels odd to see that much blood pouring out of your son. When I got to Spencer, there was blood everwhere. All sorts of thoughts went through my mind at the same time. "What is the best thing to do for a bloody nose like this?" "Why didn't that stupid kid watch what he was doing?" "Why did this have to happen to my kid?" "Should I take him to the hospital?" Not all of these are very sanctified thoughts, but in the blink of an eye, they were all there. Some of them were self-centered, others were born of frustration, and the best of them arose out of compassion for my …

Mother Teresa's turning point

Just one or two more posts on Mother Teresa. Her experience of spiritual darkness went on for some 10 years before she established a relationship with a spiritual director who could help her understand it. It became apparent that her feelings of being alone and unwanted by God were essential to her ability to fully identify with the rejects of society in Calcutta. They were unwanted; she felt unwanted in her most important relationship; therefore, she was able to enter into their suffering with full empathy.

It also became apparent that Mother Teresa's feelings of isolation from God did not reflect actual separation from God. Because of the perpetual strength of her longings for God and her unwavering devotion to Him, her spiritual director was convinced that her feelings did not reflect the true state of her relationship with God. In other words, her relationship with God was intimate, but her emotions told her the opposite.

Your theology may hold that God would not do this to some…

Mother Teresa's spiritual darkness

One thing that is brought out in detail in the book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light is the spiritual darkness Mother Teresa walked through for many years. She experienced rapturous union with God in the period before starting her famous mission in Calcutta. However, not long after beginning the work, she was beset by lingering feelings of emptiness and interior loneliness. She felt that Jesus had ceased communing with her.

This prolonged aridity in her relationship with God tempted her to renounce the vow she had taken to refuse Jesus nothing he would ever ask of her. Inner turmoil seems to have tempted her far more than the glory that came to her and the Missionaries of Charity.

It took Mother Teresa several years to begin to understand what the spiritual darkness meant. All of this causes us to step back and wonder: if I were to commit myself to God in this way, would I also allow him to do whatever he wants with me?

Line of the day

Today's line of the day is both humorous and poignant. It comes from a little book by Thomas Keating called The Human Condition:Contemplation and Transformation, which is a collection of two lectures he gave at Harvard in 1997.

Here is the Line of the Day, presented out of context just to catch the humor:

"... instead of drinking your friends under the table as a significant sign of self-worth and esteem, if you enter a monastery, as I did, fasting the other monks under the table could become your new path to glory." I love the combination of ironic twist and self-deprecation!

Here is the Line of the Day presented in context. Because it is both unsettling and true, the line carries a thought-provoking punch.

"The false self is deeply entrenched. You can change your name and address, religion, country, and clothes. But as long as you don't ask it to change, the false self simply adjusts to the new environment. For example, instead of drinking your friends under the t…

Secret plots

Something I was struck by in this morning's devotional reading... Psalm 64 is a commentary on danger and protection. The psalmist presents a "complaint" with God. It is a bit like an attorney making an argument. In this case, the argument is: people have been plotting evil against me; please protect me!

There are two things to notice about this Psalm (probably more than two). First, evil plots are a fact of life. Evil exists in and around us, and evil is not static. It is dynamic, always looking to snuff out good. We should not be surprised when evil plots are exposed, even when the evil plots are aligned against an innocent person. Evil is dynamic and insatiable.

Second, just as evil plots should not surprise us, neither should they terrify us. The Psalmist presents his case to God, but he also expresses foundational trust in God. He asks God for protection: "Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked..." (v. 2). Then he expresses his faith starting in v. 7. Th…

What is lacking in the West...

This morning I was reading a book by Thomas Keating, who is a well-known teacher on contemplative prayer. Whereas I do not necessarily agree with everything Keating says, there were two sentences that really rang a bell in my mind: "The rush to the East is a symptom of what is lacking in the West. There is a deep spiritual hunger that is not being satisfied in the West." (Note: Keating does not advocate adopting Eastern spirituality in any way.)

The "rush to the East" Keating refers to is the great fascination with Eastern spirituality, particularly Eastern meditation, that is so prevalent in postmodern America. There is no denying that in postmodern America, there is a noticeable rush to the East.

I also think Keating has identified something important about the rush to the East. What is one of the great weaknesses of contemporary western culture? We are overly busy and chronically fatigued. We don't know how to stop and rest. Eastern meditation is a method of s…