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September 2007 Archives

September 4, 2007

Weekend in Fontucky

NASCAR07_fellas.jpgThis past weekend I was privileged to spend at the California Speedway where I serve as the volunteer chaplain for the track. NASCAR was in town for their traditional Busch/Cup weekend. That means my MRO buddies, Billy Mauldin (MRO President - picture center) and Tim Griffin (MRO VP/Association and NASCAR Tour chaplain - picture right) were in town. Its always great to hang out with them, especially Billy whom I've know since we graduated from college. Labor Day also means the hottest weekend all year and this year was no exception with track temps around 110 degrees!

NASCAR07_melissa.jpgMy big job during the weekend is to give the invocation just prior to the national anthem and the start of the race. During the Nextel Cup race, I was on the stage with Grammy Award winner Melissa Etheridge (picture right). It's always different meeting these celebrities during the awkward minutes we're on stage together prior to the event. Some are cool, some are not...Ms. Etheridge is cool; very approachable and engaging. Despite her politics and lifestyle, our interaction was really enjoyable. I hope there was something of Christ's life in me that was in contrast to much of her documented interaction with the larger Christian community. I also met Chris Cron, the lead singer for Melee, a newly released band on Warner Bros. He's from Orange and lives there still. I also found out that his dad is the music pastor at a church in Fullerton. He sang the anthem for the race on Saturday. I wish him the best as a local artist. More importantly, I hope he uses this opportunity to shape the culture through his art and faith.

NASCAR07_stand.jpgOver all it was a cool weekend. Mark Kriegle, an author and national columnist for Fox Sports, thought so too - he wrote about his first experience at NASCAR this weekend. I love his first sentence...maybe I need a publicist :-)

You Version (by Jeff Hamilton)

I just got my invite to be an alpha user for YouVersion - I'm stoked!

To read about the project, click here. I think this has the potential to be one of the most revolutionary projects ever for the church.

September 5, 2007

No Privacy

Joel 2:12-18 (NIV)
12 "Even now," declares the LORD,
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning."

13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.

14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the LORD your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.

16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.

17 Let the priests, who minister before the LORD,
weep between the temple porch and the altar.
Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
'Where is their God?' "

18 Then the LORD will be jealous for his land
and take pity on his people.

Fasting is an awkward subject. The scripture seems to give different reasons for different kinds of fasts and different practices for each one. The one Joel calls for in this passage is a desperate one. It is marked by a "torn" heart; the tearing of pride and exposing of one's insufficiency. In fact, the people are called to forfeit even the most intimate moments without regard for one's privacy. It seems to be a matter of life or death. And it has to do with the subtle deception of self-sufficiency that gives place to idolatry and spiritual adultery.

Even in a time of spiritual renewal, as Judah was experiencing under young Joash's rule, not all the "high places" were removed. This didn't seem to cause any problems immediately. But when faced with circumstances that were beyond their control (the invasion of the locusts and eventually of the foreign armies), they were left asking questions if God had deserted them. It appeared to be so, but was it really that they had deserted Him?

True worship requires a humility that acknowledges one's complete dependence upon God. Any place we give to self-sufficiency or in-dependence exposes us the the circumstances of our life's choices and even things beyond our control. When life "happens," and we can't solve it, what do we do? Maybe we leave our pride behind and expose ourselves to declare once again dependence upon God. He is jealous for about his people, and will respond to our humble return to life centered on Him.

Lord, let my life remain centered. Help me to see when it is not. And let fasting produce it's work in me and have pity on me.

September 6, 2007

Kind of Cool: A Conversation on Faith
Between a Theist and a Non-Theist

For the last 6 years, I've played basketball with the same core group of guys almost every Saturday. One of my favorite guys (and the de-facto ringleader of this motley crew) is a professor in the Logic and Philosophy of Science Department at UCI (and has a Lex Luther type-endearing quality about him). We get to have some great conversations between banging each other around on the court. I thought I'd share a recent email exchange...it was cool:

KS:

From today's NY Times Editorial on the new book of Mother Theresa's letters (last two paragraphs):

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, the Roman Catholic author whose stories traverse the landscape of 20th-century unbelief. “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.”

O’Connor suffered from isolation and debilitating illness, Mother Teresa from decades of spiritual emptiness. But — and here is the exemplary part, inspiring even by the standards of a secular age — they both shut up about it and got on with their work. Mother Teresa, sick with longing for a sense of the divine, kept faith with the sick of Calcutta. And now, dead for 10 years, she is poised to reach those who can at last recognize, in her, something of their own doubting, conflicted selves.

My Reply:

Wow.

You and I both know Kyle that many people use "religion" as a crutch; a modified behavioralism (I'm not sure that's even a word, but you know what I mean) by which they earn points with "god" and obligate him to change their life's circumstances. Faith is quite different. If I can paraphrase a verse from the New Testament, Faith is the choice that makes the promise of what we believe to be true, real (maybe not the best paraphrase, but works for me). That choice comes with a cost that O'Connor correctly identifies.

Faith and doubt are the two sides of a coin. That tension creates a conflict that most "religious" people are uncomfortable with, but it is the reality of authentically spiritual people. Self-sacrificial service gives substance to one's faith, even as it is occasionally exercised in the vacuum of doubt.

K, your thoughts? Jeff

KS reply:

This sounds right to me, Jeff. What I liked most about O'Connor's remark is that it counters the tendency among non-theists to think of theists as just kind of uncritical in their thinking. Serious theists feel the same reasons for doubt that non-theists do, and are affected by them--this is part of what makes faith ennobling, rather than a willfully blind or cowardly response to existential crisis. Self-sacrificial service isn't paying the admission price to heaven for sophisticated theists, but a manifestation of faith itself.
Best,
KS

I love this kind of discussion. What are your thoughts?

September 22, 2007

Yom Kippur, rebirth, and a late night conversation...

Last night I was privileged to attend the evening Yom Kippur service at my rabbi friend's temple. Even as a pastor I didn't have much more understanding about the "high holidays" than the average "gentile" in the US. My friend described it from a clergy perspective by saying "it's like Easter or Christmas for Christians - when people who don't attend church regularly attend for these services." The first is Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year. It's the day that the Jews believe the world was created on. Then there are 10 days of contemplation ("Aseres Yemay Teshuvah"), much like the time when one waits for his trial before the judge. Men are encouraged in this period to reflect, repent, and "seek God when He is to be found" (Isaiah 55:6).Yom Kippur, "the Day of Atonement" (Leviticus 16:30), is not only the day of forgiveness, but of restoration. Well, that's some basic background.

I didn't know what to expect, but I went to the service anticipating it to be a little like Good Friday; contemplative, reflective, somber. In a sense, it was and the service did include some of those elements. But it was also like Easter - celebrative, thankful, and light. The point of my friend's message was that Yom Kippur provides each the opportunity to once again discover the beauty around us and in doing so, finding what is beautiful that God has placed in us. But the theme that stuck with me from the evening, in the songs, the prayers, seemingly the the whole evening was about rebirth...hmmm.

On my way home this idea of rebirth kept tumbling around in my head. It bounced off a memory of an opportunity I had to interact with rock star Marilyn Manson who once described a recent reinvention of his image/music was "like being reborn." Then I remembered a conversation Jesus had with a religious man named Nicodemus late one night about the same topic.

Recently I started looking into the Talmud and started to learn about Rabbinical thought. Much of what Jesus taught has a foundation in this way of thinking, but then He flips it and it becomes something different, something that opens up one's understanding. With the topic of this late night discussion with the Pharisee being re-birth, or being "born again," I wonder...it's just my own speculation, but I wonder if they were having this discussion around the time of the Yom Kippur holy-day. This same religious leader later protests Jesus' trial. I wonder if he had a premonition that this was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world...He who imparts justice and imputes righteousness, He who is our advocate and who has made atonement possible as the propitiation for our sin.

I haven't even scratched the surface of this topic. I did want to take a quick moment to record my thoughts. I'm also interested in doing a little more study on the subject. Mostly, I hope to have some evening conversations with my friend.

About September 2007

This page contains all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in September 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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