Category Archives: Uncategorized

In which I notice how Starbucks looks like Jesus

Dear brothers and sisters at American Family Association,
     Thanks for taking the time to share your dissatisfaction with Starbucks’ position on diversity when it comes to same sex marriage. It’s clear you care about marriage, and I believe you want to see families and communities thrive.
     That said, I respectfully disagree with your insistence on a boycott of Starbucks. Maybe they don’t have all their theology perfect about marriage. Then again, can you blame them? They’re not a church. But despite that, they do seem to daily live out a few things that look a lot like what the Bible says God requires of us.
     They are using their resources globally to provide fair and sustainable livelihoods for the people who grow their coffee beans. They insist that every store take responsibility to be a good neighbor in tangible ways to its unique community. They are committed to making each of their shops a haven, a safe place to slow down and belong. They treat everyone who walks through the door with respect and kindness. They insist that coffee is only a means to their real business – human connection. And even in their position toward dissatisfied shareholders, they show that human relationships are more important to them than financial profit.
     In the first century, Christianity began to flourish, according to some scholars, because it offered radical hospitality along with the simple gospel. This phenomenon caught the eye of one Roman emperor who urged his governors to study and emulate the hospitality of the Christian communities in their midst so Rome, too, might thrive.
     What happened to us?
     Brothers and sisters, if we are truly committed to the well-being and restoration of the broken people God loves, we could do far worse than to befriend Starbucks and humbly seek to learn from them. The truth is, we are broken too, and there are many things God can teach us through this coffee company. Maybe, down the road a ways, they’d become genuinely interested in asking us to share a few things we believe. Maybe we could have an impact on them. But even if that never happened, we just might be better followers of Jesus for showing them the same hospitality they show everybody else.
 Sincerely,
Nicole

The Hour of Lead — Holy Saturday

Poem #372 by Emily Dickinson

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious like Tombs –
The stiff heart questions ‘was it He that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before?’

The Feet mechanical, go round –
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go-

Untamed Kingdom

So much of what the media and American culture considers “church” feels safe and cozy to those on the inside, but it’s not really a force for good in our world.

Church should never be confused for Kingdom, though. And the Kingdome of God is like C. S. Lewis’s Aslan — good, but not always safe. It’s a wonderful, wild, unexpected, risky place.

As Howard R. Macy wrote: “The spiritual world cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier. And if we would live in it, we must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.”

The question is, how ready are we for the adventure?

Winds of Homecoming

Today I remembered some lines from Rilke:

Ah, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner — what is it?
if not the intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.

I don’t know if Rilke knew he was talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, but what else could be so transcendent and immanent, so intimate and remote? What but our truest home could be expressed in language so true?

And today, I am hurled through with the winds of homecoming. I pray my life will only become less cut off.

Old Treasures New

I have been reading through my old journals, returning to glimpses of a self I started to become before I detoured into long, desolate distance.

Tonight, this beautiful gem was uncovered from 1996 — written by an old literary companion, Wendell Berry:

“Care…rests upon genuine religion. Care allows creatures to escape our explanations into their actual presence and their essential mystery. In taking care of fellow creatures, we acknowledge that they are not ours; we acknowledge that they belong to an order and a harmony of which we ourselves are parts. To answer the perpetual crisis of our presence in this abounding and dangerous world, we have only the perpetual obligation of care…

“And so we see that we must be whole ourselves, for the good solutions must come from wholeness, our affection and reverence, not from our sense of duty, much less from desperation.”

~Another Turn of the Crank

So simple a thing as care, so deep an effect.

There is no better place to begin again. If “the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness,” today I give my whole heart to the care of the Kingdom that cannot fail.

Turning my Chevy into Sacred Space

I’m not converting to catholicism, but I have been deeply touched by Ignatian spiritual discipines of late, especially the daily audio prayer/scripture meditations created by the Jesuit Media Initiative.

For the past two months, I’ve downloaded them onto my whimpy mp3 player and listened to them on my drive to work.

Maybe it’s the exotic accents of the readers. Maybe it’s the soaring beauty of the music. Maybe it’s the quirky knack of the Holy Spirit to turn ordinary routines into acts of worship. But no matter what the reason, these short reflections have been good for my soul during what used to be a chance to get fightin’ mad at the day ahead.

If you’re looking for something new in the new year, you might want to take a look.

The Coming


Advent is the season of anticipation and arrival.

Remember the ancient Israelites, yearning for freedom, awaiting a promised Messiah? Remember the miraculous coming of a Savior ~ A tiny child, born to an ordinary girl, in a barren stall, greeted by angels and livestock.

Do you recognize your own yearning for freedom, awaiting the return of our promised Lord? Anticipate a second arrival and an eternal kingdom ~ A rider on a white horse, like blazing fire, restoring creation, and gathering us in His arms.

But most of all, look for the Christ who came as an infant and who will come again as a King, and see that He is coming right now, right here. Look and listen and feel and know all of the ways Jesus is alive and entering the world today ~ into your heart, through your hands, always already among us.

Dangerous Calling

Way back over Labor Day weekend, we took a drive out to Teller County to walk some land. I didn’t realize that we’d be brushing up against anything so dangerous as a llama ranch until we came across this sign.

While it seems completely ridiculous to me, I imagine it wasn’t funny for the victim of the first llama injury or for the rancher who got sued, thus prompting such conspicuous labling.

That same weekend, a friend wrote about his encounters with far more obvious dangers, along with the vocation that had him face-to-face with stuff that doesn’t carry the polite, legally-correct signage of the llama ranch. There are no tidy answers for his questions.
The world is fraught with pain and uncertainty, whether it’s inflicted by spitting llamas or drug-crazed murderers. A victim is a victim is a victim. Danger abounds. When Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble,” he wasn’t kidding

Nobody wants this trouble; no one wants the pain. We cover our butts with legal-ese, lock our doors, and participate in Bible studies all in an effort to keep the ouchies at bay, as if there’s really anything we can do about it. Jesus spoke that line about trouble just a few hours before he was arrested, tortured, crucified. But his trouble started long before Passion week. And he was perfect. If he didn’t escape, why do we think we will or even should?

But if we can’t escape, then what? Do we fight back? Become paralyzed? Put up signs?

I don’t know exactly, but a recent encounter with Ezekiel 8 is making me wonder if our first response should be to simply listen, see, recognize. It makes me wonder if we (at least some of us) might not actually be called to be witnesses.

Ezekiel 8, in short, goes like this:

As I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord GOD fell on me there. … He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven … Then He said to me, “Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north…do you see what they are doing, the great abominations…But yet you will see still greater abominations.”

…And He said to me, “Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here.” So I entered and looked, …Then He said to me, “Son of man, do you see? … For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land.'” And He said to me, “Yet you will see still greater abominations which they are committing.”

Of course, God goes on to punish these evil-doers. And Ezekial goes on to see even more horrendous abominations. But mostly I’m struck by the force with which the Lord “calls” this prophet to witness the darkness — to see what is detestable — to feel what breaks God’s heart in such visceral and unrelenting ways.
In a Christian sub-culture that mostly buries it’s head in the sand in order to stay untainted, this is a striking picture.

I’m no theologian. I can’t claim any authority to really interpret this chapter, but it doesn’t seem too far of a stretch to say that God may call and equip some of His followers to see, to bear witness, to stand in the presence of hard violence and suffering — and to testify to its darkness, because the darkness is not the end.

“I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” ~ Isaiah 42:16

Transformation

Autumn has come to the West, and the leaves are turning. Outside my window, an aspen tree is just beginning its transformation. But beyond our back fence, the foothills of scrub oak are surrendering to shades of muted red, orange, and yellow.

I’ve been able to enjoy fall twice this year — remarkable considering how busy I’ve been at work. Three weeks ago, Mike and I went to the Tetons to flyfish with my dad and do some hiking. That far north, the cottonwood and aspen had already started their epiphany, and by the end of our week there, they had hit their color stride on cloudless, crisp days.

This in-between season is my favorite: the release of summer heat, the rising smell of earth, the visibility of change in beautiful, relenting ways. I soften too. I become aware. I open my arms to mystery and it transforms me.

In his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson writes:

We are dealing with something that we cannot pin down, we inhabit mystery, we can’t be cocksure about anything, we cultivate our attentive and reverent expectation before every person, event, rock, and tree. Presumption recedes, attentiveness increases, expectancy hightens.

This is the season of transformation. May my heart be like the turning aspen: blazing bright in warm discovery, willing to let go of all that has ripened, resting vulnerably through cold days, trusting in spring.