Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tablets of Stone, Tablets of the Heart

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." - Ezekiel 11:19

On Monday the Supreme Court made its wonderfully circumstantial and ambiguous ruling on the display of the Ten Commandments. What I am able to decipher from the arcane documents with their unusually wide margins is that the court ruled the display of the Ten Commandments is not an endorsement of religion if the display is historical. Yet, if the display is a statement of faith then state religion is being endorsed. It will be interesting to see how this is interpreted in the future as opponents argue "historical" versus "not historical." Much will likely depend on how large a chunk of granite the Ten Commandments have been carved into.

I am less interested in the display of the Ten Commandments and more interested in its application. Regardless of whether they made proper notation and citation, the Supreme Court applied the Ten Commandments during this session. In the case of MGM vs. Grokster, (I know, it sounds like a Godzilla movie) the court said that the providers of software that would infringe copyrights of copyrighted material were still responsible for the infringement. In other words, "thou shalt not steal." How many other supreme court decisions can be reduced to one of the Ten Commandments? How many decisions assume the simple truth and logic of the Ten Commandments? Whether it is considered historical or religious, the spirit of the Commandments is in use.

On the same day in another court, Dennis Rader confessed to ten counts of first degree murder. Rader is better known as the BTK Killer. Rader regards the victims of his crimes as projects. He bound, tortured, and killed them to fulfill his sexual urges. Rader broke nearly all the Ten Commandments, yet one cannot say that Rader was unfamiliar with the commandments. At one time in his life Rader was president of his church council. He was a boy scout leader. He was a code enforcement officer, so he knows something about rules that are written in stone. Certainly Rader must have been exposed to a display of the Ten Commandments at some point. It is regrettable for all of us, especially his victims and their families, that the commandments were never written on his heart.

"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." - 2 Cor. 3:3

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hearing the Message in the Song

Who says that children don't pay attention in worship? On the Sunday before last we were worshipping with Karen's parents at their home congregation. Our youngest son was a bit more fidgetty than usual. He is sort of traditional and prefers a church house with pews rather than new-fangled chairs. I felt bad for the worship leader and the preacher because all their hard work was lost on my six-year-old son. He is just too set in his ways. Yet I was amazed when he perked up during one song. The message reached him and he responded with all his heart. The song was the old spiritual "Get Right Church" and as we sang the line "Get right church and let's go home" my son turns to his mother and says "Yes, let's go home!"

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Battle of Bannockburn

It was 691 years ago from today that nearly 5,000 Scots from all walks of life and all social classes were camped out on a hill near a river in central Scotland. Advancing on their position was the English military numbering over 20,000. Included in their force were longbow archers and armored cavalry knights. Most of the Scots were fortunate to have a garden tool for a weapon. What should have been a massacre and simple victory for the English on the field of Bannockburn became the decisive moment in Scotland's battle for independence in the 14th century.

The Battle of Bannockburn and the triumph of the Scots over a force that outnumbered them four to one reminds me of the significance of unity. Scotland had allowed the English to subdue them because they were at odds with one another. They were a house divided and they could not stand. William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce united the Scots, which enabled them to win a battle that by all rights they should have lost.

Six years after the victory at Bannockburn, the Scots declared their independence in a letter to the Pope known as the Declaration of Arbroath. They affirmed their unity and the purpose of their fight in the most famous line from the declaration: It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Homeward Bound

For many years now I have clutched on to a belief that a place really feels like home only when you leave it for a time and return to it. I do not fully understand this sensation. My guess is that when "home" becomes your destination you feel "at home" when you arrive. After all the effort to vacate our house so that we could go on vacation, we finally reversed our energy by packing up, loading the van, driving for hours and passing slow-moving traffic just to get home.

I am sure there is some rich, theological significance to this effort to feel at home. Yet, I am tired and just happy to be home right now. I leave you with the following scripture and ask, as I often do, what do you think?

"For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." - Hebrews 13:14.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Pod Racing on Lake Hamilton

Our family is enjoying vacation this week. Yesterday, we went out to Lake Hamilton to cruise around on a party barge. I still wince when I think about calling this pontoon boat a party barge. A party barge connotes scantily clad co-eds, drunken rednecks, and the inevitable visit from the lake patrol to turn down the music. It makes me grin when I think that my wonderfully mild-mannered in-laws own a party barge.

Of course with the addition of my family and my sister's family, which means bringing aboard a quintet of children under the age of eleven, the party atmosphere manifests. It is not the "party barge" party atmosphere, rather a "Chuck E. Cheese on the lake" sort of party. Again, the nomenclature "party barge" does not fit and I think it better to rename the vessel a play barge or a fun barge. Perhaps I should just settle for calling it a boat.

The children have no problem naming the grand ship. In fact they recreate it in their imaginations many times over. I noticed this when we were towing the giant racing-striped intertube behind us. My oldest son was the first to ride and I was impressed by how excited he was. Having been towed around in an intertube myself I am mystified by the attraction. You bounce around getting water splashed in your face and breathe in gas fumes. Why is this fun? Maintaining a parental watch on my son as he bobbed around on the waves at 12 m.p.h., I noticed that he was moving his hands back and forth on the intertube handles as if he were driving a tank. Every so often he would glance behind him. Putting it all together, I realized that he was podracing. Podracing is the sport featured on Star Wars: Episode I. The podracers are driven by funny aliens and a podracer looks like . . . well it looks a little intertube being towed by a huge pontoon boat.

I sat in the back of the party barge and watched as my son won the podrace on Lake Hamilton. I was amazed to think that a whole world was being imagined out there in that inflatable pod skimming across the water. I remembered the adventures that I created in my own youthful mind when I would swing off a rope swing at the river or paddle across the pond in a leaky boat. These material forms became whatever I wanted them to be. I could name them as I chose. Today when we head out to the lake once again, I will pass up the ride on the party barge. I have an invitation to go cruising on Gasgano's Super-Fueled Podracer.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Speaking of Faith

During the past decade, there has been an explosion of films and television programs containing religious and spiritual themes. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was only the tip of the iceberg. As new generations of Americans work out their spiritual and religious questions, they are increasingly turning to fantasy.

These are the opening words of an issue of Krista Tippett's radio program "Speaking of Faith." I recommend the program to anyone who enjoys reflecting on matters of spirituality and faith. Obviously some topics will be more appealing than others. I receive the broadcast from the Internet. The advantage with the streaming audio broadcast is the additional information found on the website. You can investigate it for yourself at this here.

The show I mentioned above reminds me why I started the Magic Lantern Show. The imagination is a neglected dimension of faith and spirituality in Western culture. We tend to regard it as untrue. Hence, our inability to understand Revelation. Every printing of the Bible should come with a heading before Revelation emblazened with the legend "WARNING: Keep Out of Reach of Engineers." (My apologies to those of you who are engineers. Many of my best friends are engineers.)

Forgive the pitiful humor, but we have favored reason to the point that our ability to discern truth through imagination has atrophied. Reason certainly is important, and I regret that its neglect may soon be upon us, but our spiritual senses require both if we are to be whole. These two capactities of discernment are no more exclusive of one another than sight is exclusive of hearing. So let us hone both our intellect and our imagination. In the peaceable kingdom that is to come artists, philosophers, scientists, and engineers shall dwell together in harmony.

So, let's all go to movies - but take your faith with you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Prayer Lab

One of my favorite activities in Peak of the Week is the Prayer Lab. The name Prayer Lab was inspired by college lab classes. Think about college classes: during the week one sits in science classes taking notes and listening to lectures, but at least once a week there is a chance to put all the theory to work in a lab. So in Prayer Lab we put all of our faith and belief to work in a set of "prayer projects."

It is inspiring to see the people in Peak get up and move into small prayer groups or gather around the tables to write cards of encouragement to those on our prayer list. To see the church busy with the work of prayer reminds me of Oswald Chambers' comment that "Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work."

I was encouraged to be a part of that greater work tonight; not as the leader, facilitator, organizer, or sponsor, but simply as a co-worker. I gathered in a circle of eight men. I noticed how diverse we were but also what we had in common. I sensed the activity all around me. This is the greater work. How wonderful that God listens and his spirit envelops us as we pray together. I look forward to the outcome of our experiments in our prayer lab.

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." - Matt. 18:20

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Our new house is rather old. Instead of a new fangled breaker box, we have a quaint and old-fashioned fuse box. We bought a set of three-pronged adapters for those appliances that have a ground plug, because all of our outlets only have two slots.

None of this helps with our clothes dryer however. It demands the rare gargantuan breed of outlet known as the 220 outlet. For those of you haven't watched a home improvement channel lately, the 220 outlet is the big one that seems to be the boss of all the little outlets. It is the outlet chieftain of the electrical tribe. It is the 110 outlet on steroids. Our house did not have the Schwarzenegger of outlets - until today!

Like a good hunter-gatherer I went on a quest for fire for my family. I would bring them the strange energy so that we may enjoy the blessings of warm fluffy towels. With the help of my reliable wise man (my father-in-law), I braved the perils of jagged steel, high temperatures, and voltage to bring my family fire! Behold what I have wrought! Now dear family I give you the gift of 220 voltage - or maybe it is 240, I really don't understand.

Today I am Prometheus. Pray I do not become too prideful because I don't want to end up chained to a rock with birds pecking on my liver.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Writing Again

I am ready to write again. The last week and a half has been a very moving experience for my family. We live in the same city but we have a new house. The experience of moving has been tiring, but it has been a profound experience of Christian community. We have met God's people at every stage of our move. Everyone has been gracious, generous, and considerate.

One of the features of our new house is an Internet connection as well as the convenience of a wireless connection. So, I am no longer limited to posting at the office or Sweet Bay Coffee Co. Now I can post during the wee hours of the night as I wait for a rather blustery storm to move through town.

There's more to come. Stay in touch and keep reading.