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Big Little Acts

While listening to a “To the Best of Our Knowledge” podcast I heard the segment “Life Inc“, which is an interview with Douglas Rushkoff. In this segment Rushkoff talked about the history of corporatism and made some specific small recommendations for changing some of the negative effects of what he sees happening in our present economic situation – i.e. not paying off debt by creating value but paying off debt by convincing other people to go into debt. He focuses on specifically small acts.

I believe we tend to perceive important things as usually being big. Big acts are impressive. Big acts talk about being movements, and movements look good and make the people in them feel like they are doing something important. Big acts have cool graphics, logos, catch phrases, and good looking leaders. Big acts have their own insider vocabulary. Big acts spawn t-shirts and other merch. Big acts look good on resumes. Big acts lead to their leaders talking at conferences and getting book deals. The church loves big acts and the people who have a “vision” for them.

I’m tired of big acts because I feel like they usually don’t usually last, though they do create a large number of t-shirts and other swag. They last just as long as they are cool and then are quickly forgotten when the next big movement comes along. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a place for big acts. That place just doesn’t have the prominence that I believe we tend to give these “movements.”

I like small acts. I think Jesus does too. Many of His miracles were small (personal) acts. A wedding runs out of wine and Jesus provides more wine without anyone but the servants and His mom knowing about it. Many, if not most, of His healings were “small” acts. They weren’t spectacles. They were huge in their impact but small in scale and the fanfare around them. When you really get down to it few of Jesus acts were big.

Actually it might be cool to write a theology of little acts versus big acts. I think it would be come apparent quickly that Jesus was much more about little acts than He was big acts. His big acts seem to flow from lots of small acts. i thin that’s another post.

I realize there is a danger with small acts. Sometimes we can think that small acts mean there is little, if any sacrifice, involved. For those of us who claim to be followers of Christ we can pervert the idea of small acts into just being nice. I believe Jesus wants us to be nice to people, but that isn’t what following Him is all about. Jesus calls us to follow Him, and He sacrificed Himself for others. He did this in some big ways, and lots of small ways. Jesus’ little acts were big in sacrifice. They cost Him a ton. I believe He calls us to act in little acts that are big in sacrifice. Small acts toward our neighbors that are more costly than most people can imagine. Little tasks for those who hurt us, that are huge in their grace and impact. Little acts that leave your worn out at the end of the day because they took every bit of energy that you and I have.

Francis of Assisi had huge impact on the church, but that impact began with what I think was a relatively small act. He believed God was calling him to rebuild His church. Francis took that very literally. Not in some grand scale, but an actual, local run down church building. He gather stones to rebuild it. One stone at a time. One little act after another.

The prayer typically called The Prayer of Saint Francis (though he probably didn’t write it) is full of such little/big acts. Here it is:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Those are little/big acts.

These little/big acts don’t result in t-shirts, books, logos, or movements. They do result in God being glorified. Our culture loves big things. It loves movements. So when the church does them we are actually just doing what the culture already does. Little/big acts are counter-culturally. Little/big acts reflect living in the kingdom of God.

This week I will try to do little things that are big in sacrifice.

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Fear of Death

I wish I could remember where I either heard or read Jürgen Moltmann describe the relationship her perceived between our fear death and our city planning. Unfortunately I can’t remember the source so as to cite it. I will briefly describe what I remember and then add the fascinating info I learned from the wonderful podcast “Backstory” (which you should listen to if you are a history buff).

150 years ago if you were close to a non-accidental death you would probably be at home and die at surrounded by loved ones. Once you died your body would be taken care of, washed and prepared for burial, by those same loved ones. You would would be left in your, or a family member’s, parlor for a wake, and then be buried in the center of the community next to the church, where your loved ones who pass by you regularly. You would be dead and yet still a part of the community.

Now if you are close to a non-accidental death you are most likely in a hospital surrounded by professionals. Actually, if you are really close to death you will most likely be pushed away from the regular hospital population to a special hospice area, almost like we are afraid your death will spread to others who are supposed to get better. When you die your body will then be handed over to other professionals who will clean and prepare your body for burial by pumping you full of chemicals. These chemicals will allow your spread out family members to make it to the funeral home for a your funeral, which will most likely be held in a funeral parlor. You will then be buried on the outskirts of the city in a cemetery that will require your loved ones to make special trips in order to see your grace.

When I read/heard this I was amazed by the point that was being made – a connection between a fear of death and our city planning. Then this week I listened to the “Backstory” podcast “Grave Matters.” This podcast episode is a history of death and mourning in America. One of the segments deals with the amazing amount of influence that the massive death toll of the Civil War has had on American culture. Much of modern ritual around death and burial is shaped by the Civil War and the understanding of the “good death” at that time. The basic understanding of a “good death” was to:

  • to be ready for death
  • to died at home
  • to die surrounded by loved ones
  • to die at peace

The Civil War made much of those four goals impossible for many. Death happened suddenly, away from home, surrounded by enemies and strangers, in fear. Thanks to better development in chemical embalming the funeral industry tried to jump into the breach. Embalming meant that a chemically preserved body could be shipped back to the family. Professionals then encouraged people to no longer hold the wake in the family parlor. Instead, they created funeral parlors for people to use for their wakes. American culture reacted by disassociating the word “parlor” from the home. If parlors were now a part of the funeral homes, then to avoid the idea of death we would change the name of that room in our homes. So we picked a new name that would be the most opposite possible of the parlor room that we used to use for wakes. We picked “living room,” which ironically is still where the least amount of living in most homes takes place.

Anyhow the whole thing fascinated me.

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Frog in Boiling Water

I have heard the Frog in Boiling Water story many times but today I heard a podcast that mentioned the science behind it. The story/metaphor goes like this.

If you put a frog in boiling water it will jump out immediately because it feels the pain and senses the danger. Where as if you put a frog in ambient temperature water and slowly raise the temp to boiling it will sit there until it dies.

It is a good metaphor for a lot of things that go on in life. Of course, just because it is a good metaphor doesn’t mean that it is true and that was what the podcast talked about. You can read the whole thing on the wikipedia page concerning the story. My favorite parts are three things concerning the story:

  • One researcher (trying to find a physical location for the soul) determined that a frog with its brain removed would stay in the slowly heated water to its boiling point, while an intact frog would jump out. Makes me laugh just typing it out. Might as well of tacked the frog to the bottom of the pan and then said a tacked down frog doesn’t jump out of the slowly heated water.
  • One researcher pointed out the story most be false because frogs never stay still for experiments, or much of life. Therefore, it would`t matter what the temperature of the water was the frog would jump out of the container if it could because that is simply what frogs do.
  • Finally one researcher pointed out that if you put a frog in boiling water it won’t be able to jump out because it will be dead.

It is still an excellent metaphor for many things that happen in life. We will put up with a lot, even much that is bad for us, if it only happens incrementally.

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Bye Hide-A-Bed

I just put our hide-a-bed out on the street and posted a curb alert on craigslist for anyone who wants to pick it up. If it isn’t gone tomorrow I will take it to the dump. Oh how I hate this thing as a hide-a-bed. As a couch it really wasn’t that bad.

Anyhow here’s the curb alert that I posted.

It’s a hide-a-bed but not just any hide-a-bed but one specifically designed to have its support bar put into the most painful position available for a guest’s back. Really, you wouldn’t believe how perfectly this support is setup for uncomfortable sleep. You might think you know, but you have no idea. Like I said it is perfect.

Why is the perfect? Well because it ensures that your guest won’t stay that long. A stubborn guest might make it two nights on this hide-a-bed. A truly talented leach of a guest might be able to stand three nights on the hide-a-bed. I promise they won’t stay for a fourth night. It is a perfect way to have a guest spend the night and be assured that they will not over stay their welcome. You can pretend like you want them to stay, “No please don’t leave, there is so much more we can do.” It won’t matter what you say because they will be looking for a way to get out of your house and away from this painful hide-a-bed. You’ll never have to ask someone to leave again.

It is said that in olden times people would display a pineapple in public when a guest arrived. 
It was a sign of welcome but also a reminder not to over stay your welcome. When the pineapple began to turn you needed to be out of the house. Well this hide-a-bed is your modern day pineapple. It says “hey you’re welcome here, we have a place for you to sleep” and then it adds “but you don’t want to stay too long.”

It’s your’s for free. Just pick it up and then tell your guests you have a place for them to sleep … at least for a little while.

No holds. First one here gets this beauty.

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Random Music Thoughts at the Moment

  • I bought my phone used off of Ebay for use on Ting and it came with a few musical selections already on it that weren’t mine. The only reason I noticed this is because every now and then when scanning my music I would see something and think to myself “how did I get that.” I don’t usually notice it too much because I am usually listening to specific music rather than a random shuffle of everything on my phone. Today I noticed some music that was too much for me to ignore. An album from one of the Twilight movies has apparently been lurking on my phone for the 8 months I have had it. That was too much and I tracked down all the errant music and deleted it. I am a little ashamed of some of the music that the previous owner left on my phone (two full albums from the Voice) and I now feel like I need to take a shower.
  • While great for running music Rage Against the Machine isn’t very conducive for sermon preparation. On the other hand, Music for Airports by Brian Eno is awesome for sermon prep. Robert Johnson & Etta James aren’t bad for sermon prep either.
  • I pretty much only have three sources of music selection now:
    1. My past – Either the constant rotation of (The Clash, The Police, U2, & Bob Marley) or the rediscovery of (recently this has meant Kansas & the Dead Kennedys) music that I listened to in my younger years.
    2. My kids – Adam and Noah end up introducing me to groups that they listen to that I think are actually good. I try not to admit this to them because I don’t want them to get big heads.
    3. NPR bumper music – It is amazing the number of bands that I have grown to like simply because their music acts as bumper music during certain NPR podcasts that I listen to.
  • Rich Mullins’ A Liturgy, A Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band is one of my favorite albums ever. I have recently gone through a kick of listening to it again and it still isn’t old. All the better with the rainy weather we have had all week long.
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Malachi Collaboration

Hey Ladies & Gents. I’ve missed collaborating with y’all and thought I would start off Google Doc files for the Malachi series so that you can collaborate in the preparation of the sermon. How do you do this> Well you read the text for this week’s sermon and then record any comments, questions, stories, images, etc that come to mind from your reading of the passage of scripture. You will also be able to see my work on the message each week and make comments on what I have been writing.

Below is a screencast of how to operate in Google Docs that I created for those who were helping me collaborate on sermons for my D.Min project. The information in it still works for a basic primer on how we will use Google Docs for collaboration.

I decided to start this a little late this week. Form now on the file for the week’s sermon will be open starting each Monday. For those of you who can be with us because you have gone for the Summer or you are traveling this is a manner in which you can still be involved in the message of Christ to our community.

Here’s the main link page that I will link every sermon prep Google Doc to and here is the actual Google Doc for this week.

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I-It Only Happens With Division

A quote from Martin Buber’s classic I and Thou that is hitting me pretty hard right now.

Martin Buber - Smart man, funny name, awesome beard.
Martin Buber – Smart man, funny name, awesome beard.

Even in the original relational event, the primitive man speaks the basic word I-You in a natural, as it were still unformed manner, not yet having recognized himself as an I; but the basic word l-It is made possible only by this recognition, by the detachment of the I.The former words splits into I and You, but it did not originate as their aggregate, it antedates any I. The latter originated as an aggregate of I and It, it postdates the I.

Martin Buber, I and Thou, p. 73-4.

I’m not sure I could adequately express the thoughts that are running through my head as I struggle with this quote. I am just amazed at the thought of us defining ourselves as “I”s through separation, which those produces an “It” because a “You” requires relation. Treating others as objects/”It”s leads to “I”s and separation, whereas being in I-You relations leads to union and an understanding of each other and ourselves in relation to others. In I-You relations we understand ourselves through a connection with a “You”, while I-It relations to us defining ourselves through separation.

I believe the God Who is relational in His being created us to be relational creatures,
I believe the God Who is relational in His being created as to be relational creatures,

I called Pam to talk through some of this and see then blew my mind (yep that’s right, my wife is as smarter as Martin Buber). She mentioned from her knowledge of child development that babies do not initially recognize themselves as separate from their parents. The infant/parent relationship is so tight that the understanding of “I” in that relation doesn’t happen till later. The “I” in that relation comes out of the initial “I-You” relation. Whereas objects are initially understood as separate. How do experts determine this? That is a question that you would need to ask Pam. She explained a little but not enough for me to be able to describe it adequately.

Struggling with understanding the implication of what Buber has written. How often have I defined myself through treating others as an “It,” rather than my “I’ coming out of and I-You relation?

Buber is brilliant, while I am not the best and conveying his brilliance. See, I think I just defined myself through separation from Buber.

Amazon Used Books

I am a big fan of the company through whom I chaplain for businesses. Corporate Chaplains of America is a pretty cool company. There are lots of reasons that I think CCA is awesome but right now I thought I would share something they just did. CCA has an in-house publishing company, Lanphier Press. This year the new CEO of CCA, Preston Parrish, wanted to make sure that all the chaplains are reading, so the company took the money  that Lanphier made last year and divided it into Amazon gift cards for all the chaplains. I received my Amazon gift card from CCA yesterday.

So I started looking for books.
209182I’m taking my time with the gift they gave me but I did buy my first book a little while ago. Hope within History by Walter Brueggemann. While I have only read a limited amount of Bruggeman’s work I have been challenged by what I have read and heard from him thus far. Thankfully the used books that Amazon sells make it much easier to catch up on what he has written. Thanks to the the used books on Amazon I was able to grab “Hope in History” for $4 including shipping.

Man, I love inexpensive prices on good books.

Feeling Betrayed by the Wisconsin Man

There is a guy who walks in our neighborhood that Noah and I called Wisconsin Man. The reason for this is that rain or shine, cold or hot, sunny or overcast he wears red Wisconsin Badger gear head to toe as he walks all over Plover. Seriously, I can’t see his shoes or socks too well as I see him when I am driving but everything I can see is UW-Madison gear. If I were a betting man I would place money that the socks are Badger socks. Usually it is warmups that he wears, but it can be other things too, as long as it is Badger gear. Seven years of seeing him and I’ve never seen him dressed in anything except red Badger gear. It is kind of fun to see him and Noah and I both point him out as soon as we see him. It’s kind of like a Plover version of Where’s Waldo.

Yesterday he betrayed us. He was wearing black warmup pants. That was a big enough deal but I was at least initially able to assum that they were badger gear too. It was strange enough that I slowed down so I could get a look in for any logos. Oh there was a logo and it was for the RAIDERS!

You have crushed me Wisconsin man. Crushed! Judas!

My Thoughts & Ravings As I Try To Follow CHRIST

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