Some welcome news...

British scientists have created functioning liver cells from stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood. Once again the cures are to be found in science that respects life at all stages.

And therein lies a point. The promise of "embryonic" stem cells has been touted over and over again even though to date I am not aware of a single illness that has been helped, let alone cured, by thier use and there are already documented deadly side affects like cancers. Meanwhile people are being helped on a daily basis by the use of adult stem cells (bone marrow transplants) with other treatments already under way and further research showing real hope.

If this was actually about science the money, the research, and the flow of inquiry would have long ago left the moribund world of embryonic stem cell research to focus on that which has already proved itself, namely umbilical and adult stem cells. But it's not about that at all. There are political elites who fear the humanity of the embryo and fetus because it challenges their world view on so many levels. Many elites in science believe only in science, it is thier religion, and they wish to practice it without moral constraints put on them by people they feel are thier inferiors, especially those who continue to embrace traditional and orthodox faiths.

How ironic that actual science is arguing for morality and against scientists! But why should that be suprising to those who seek the Creator?

A little thought...

Satan always uses just enough worm to cover the hook...


Something to look into...

A few days ago an Orthodox Christian at another parish was speaking about the murder of an Iraqi Christian Priest at the hands of Islamic radicals and wondered why this story hadn't made the major news outlets.

There are a number of reasons, some of which may be as basic as a fear among reporters over antagonizing people who really will cause mayhem and death if they feel insulted, for this lack of coverage but there are sources that do cover the news of the jihad (holy war) that is currently underway in many locations around the world and victimizing people of many religions, including Islam.

Perhaps the best is JihadWatch.org, whose director, Robert Spencer is a scholarly and courageous man committed to providing news, information, and insight on this very real but very under-covered and under-explored aspect of our times. Some caveats, though, are in order.

First while Mr. Spencer himself is very much committed to being scholarly and fair some of those who post comments can be thoughtless. Whatever jihad may mean for the rest of the world "*&%$ the Muslims.." and comments like it are never helpful and frankly give ammunition to those hate.

Second, because the sight focuses exclusively on jihad, the issues behind it, news of it, and examination of its sources one can get overwhelmed and microfocused on this aspect of Islam, which is real, but not the whole of Islam or the whole of Islamic reality. Mr. Spencer, I believe would be the first to admit that but again readers need to take that in to consideration.

Finally be prepared to have some very bright lights shown on the Islamic world and the role of Islam in the history of the world and how this affects the present. For many centuries the Islamic world, and indeed Islam itself, has lived in the West in a shadowy world of scholars and historians and the "laity" as it were have had little knowledge or insight into it all. A visit to JihadWatch.org will change all of that. You may be suprised at what you learn, angry at what has been covered up, and thankful for what you have, sometimes all at the same time.

Above all visit the site and others with the idea of learning, becoming aware, and using what you have come to know to make the world a better place. Knowledge is power.

Some wisdom from David Warren...

On the recovery of joy...

A blessed moment...

It's true that as a general rule people shouldn't base thier faith on mystic or emotional experiences. The potential for instability and deception is high and the desire for the experience itself can become a kind of addiction. There are millions of Christians who wander from parish to parish, from one "move of the spirit" to another, like spiritual frat boys seeking the perpetual buzz. When the thrill is gone little is left.

Yet submitted for your inspection is this past Sunday morning.

I woke from a pleasant sleep with a profound sense of the presence of God, a very sweet and restful thing, that brought me to tears. Heaven and earth seemed to be very close and there was a bouyancy in things that followed me all the way through Divine Liturgy and continues today. It's different then just feeling good (which has much to recommend it) because it feels holy as well.

Now I can only guess as to why this happened. But I'll try not to take it for granted. Spiritual and emotional dryness is an occupational hazard in ministry and moments like this are often hard to come by. And perhaps there is no purpose in this at all, just God blessing for its own sake and quite frankly over-analyzing it all would only ruin it. After all the best post mortems require something to die and I want to hang on to this for a while.

But one thing is certain. Even though the substance of faith doesn't lie in the journey from one ecstasy to another my prayer is that others who seek to follow Christ would have, at least once, a precious morning like this last Sunday when it felt like this world and the next had only a step between them and all of life was near to its Source.

Because its true when Jesus said "Come unto me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest..."


What can't be taught...

Saturday morning I'll be on the road again. Two days to take care of things and then back home.

I wish it wasn't this way, but the budget numbers don't lie. We've given somewhere just above half of what we need to survive as a parish and by the end of the year the trend should be confirmed. If I had come to live in LaCrosse would there have been enough to keep food on the table or would I be calling the Bishop even now asking for someplace, anyplace, so that my wife and I don't have to eat ramen noodles?

The people of St. Elias are good people, in fact very good people, who have had to endure thier parish being started, abandoned, restarted, and held together by the mighty efforts of a few. Those who desire convenience or need to be carried by others have long since faded away. Being a small parish, like being a family, is sometimes hard work and not for the timid.

So what we have on Sunday morning are the survivors and a few who, swimming against the tide, have made it to our shores. Again, good people all but probably very tired. Only a kind of love keeps them from going down the street to the more glamorous churches with beautiful facilities, hip music, and a ton of programs. My guess is that some of them are also just hanging on.

But I am waiting.

Because everything in the life of the church can be taught except for one thing. There is an intangible move of the Holy Spirit that cannot be finessed, coerced, or manipulated, a move that can only be caught and is essential if tiny churches are ever going to break out to become self-sustaining and then vibrant. If God does not stir hearts then all the programs and appeals and sermons in the world will mean nothing.

If just for one moment the Holy Spirit can find a crack in the accumulated debris of self-doubt, sadness, loss, futility, and struggle that cover the souls of these people and touch the tender part of them that still desires to hope and believe and want something better the world can change. If but for one moment they can have the eyes of faith and see themselves as God sees them and want to be what God wants them to be a fire will start and hell itself will not be able to put it out.

Oh God please...

And until then I will wait.


A little stem cell wisdom from Michael J Embryo...

An interesting response to the controversial Michael J. Fox political ads...



I was in the Assembly of God once...

A Pew Forum survey of the growth of the Pentecostal / Charismatic movements discovered while reading GetReligion.org .

Bottom line? Pentecostal / Charismatic Christianity will remain a challenge for Orthodoxy to the extent we do not recover the biblical and personal nature of our Faith.

I presume there is a plan...

October 27th may be a very hard day.

It would have been my brother Paul's birthday, his 45th, but its been changed into just another painful milestone as we ponder his death and our loss.

I was in my car driving home when I heard that he had died. I had planned to go home, get the keys to St. George Church, and spend some time there in prayer for him (I only knew at the time that there had been an incident and the paramedics were with him). But time had run out. When I called from my car to check on things and all my mother could say was "Paul is with the Lord, and I need to be with his wife..." Then everything faded to black.

Since that time I have been mostly numb, focused on doing the right thing and helping where I could. There are moments, of course, but the whole thing still seems like an illusion. This Friday will remind us all, again, that it isn't so and nothing will be the same again.

And I will light a candle somewhere for him and for me. For Paul it's a sign of the light of Christ which never fades and a kind of existence we can only imagine, a freedom and rest from the struggle that marks this broken world. For me it is a light of hope, that somehow, somewhere this all makes some kind of sense.

I presume there is a plan to this all, that somehow in the eternal scheme of things this must happen and that its effects, so terrible and painful for us, are even now working out some greater but invisible good. But as to the specifics I remain totally and utterly without a clue and probably will for the rest of my life. There's not much I can do about that as I am me and God is God and there are things I will only know when I myself follow my brother.

Until then a candle will have to do.


Welcome news from the Islamic world...

An open letter from senior and prominent Islamic leaders across the world in response to Pope Benedict proclaiming, among other things, the incompatability of terrorism with Islam.

Worth the reading.


Not showing up is not an option...

There is a part of me that hates politics and what has become of the political system in the United States. But I also know that its not holy, or right, or good, to pretend to be above it all and not try to transform even a broken system with whatever goodness is at our command.

There is no political party that encapsulates the Christian vision of a just society, sadly often the Church itself fails to do that. Every politician will be a mixture of things good and bad as we all are and history fluctuates which means nothing human is forever written in stone. We will always be faced with imperfect choices but to not seek to be salt and light because of it is sin.

All across the political spectrum there are people who have good ideas, good positions, and even if they don't have everything we may want they will have some and perhaps more than thier opposition. We must, as people with Christian values, seek these people out and support them wherever we find them. Even if we are distressed at the shape of things we must still make every moral effort we can to make things better. Being sullen, angry, and uninvolved is not an option.

So vote, not as a beholden to one party or person, but as a thoughtful Christian soul seeking to bring out the best in this country even if the best is only a little nudge in the right direction. To despair and withdraw only ensures the triumph of lesser things.

We are not our sins...

Part of the attraction of Orthodoxy, and why I remain Orthodox, lies in the very real and practical wisdom that flows through this faith like gold threads in a larger and beautiful tapestry. To the unaware all there is ritual and esoteric quotes and a strange attraction to beauty for its own sake that seems so out of sync in a culture which values function above all. But within is wisdom for the very real world of hard choices and human struggle.

These past days have focused my mind on that interweaving of faith, scripture, canon, council, liturgy and thought that is the Tradition and the anthropology of it all as it addresses the way we see ourselves, how we proclaim our identities to the world.

The spokesman for ex-congressman Foley stated what many feel when he identified his client as a gay man and an alcoholic. I'm sure some of it was to garner sympathy for a person disgraced by sending sexual messages to teenage boys, but within this lies a mania of our culture, the identifying of ourselves by our struggles, labeling ourselves by our sins.

To this the Orthodox Tradition points us in a radically different direction because it calls us to see ourselves as we were meant to be by God, not a wildly fluctuating mass of pathologies and misdirected passions but children of God designed for communion, even union, with our Creator. While we certainly acknowledge we sin, and sometimes often and with intent, we are never allowed in Orthodoxy to let those dark parts of us define us and doing that is in itself a kind of darkness. We identify our sins not because they define who we are but because we know what we should be and see our sins as things we must face and overcome to be what we truly are.

Orthodoxy is puzzled when someone would say "I am a gay man" as if that is the center or the focus of identity. There is no such thing as a fornicator among us, or a liar, or a violent man but rather a collection of people struggling to be as we are supposed to be who in our struggles have to face and put to flight enemies within us seeking to destroy the image of God even as we seek its restoration within us and the whole world. Our sins are that which is inauthentic within us, that which is contrary to God's design, that which diverts us and keeps us from fulfilling the destiny implanted in us when God breathed a unique kind of life into us at the dawn of time.

Our sins are never who we are or were meant to be unless we make that choice and its only when we finally and completely give in that we are lost. Until then there is hope.


Moral people and politics...

The elections are in earnest here in the United States and it looks, for now, that the Republicans may be swept from power in one or both houses of Congress.

When the tally is done the winners will claim a mandate, the losers will lick thier wounds and vow to fight on but the truth is that little will change. "But can't you see the scandals of the Republicans...?" some will say and I will answer, "Of course I can and I'll even vouch for the fact that a party that swept in to power promising to change the status quo has done nothing of the sort and frankly has become the very kind of people they complained about when they were the minority"

And amid all the talk of a "new era for the American people" and the "restoration of the integrity of government" that will flow from Democrats provided they win in November one thing is certain. When they held power they had episodes of corruption and mismanagement that were every bit as bad as anything they pointed out in the Republicans. And after a brief honeymoon where wonderful statements will be made they, too, will return to business as usual except, of course, it will be thier constituencies gaining from the ear marks and back room dealings.

The truth in these things is simple. There will not be a better politics until there are better people.

Toadyism, in dealings, corruption, greed, lust, pride, all are part of human government regardless of its shape and probably always will be. Place people in those positions without a sense of transcendent morals, without a structure for knowing truth and practicing decency and the result will always be the same. A mere change of faces in the halls of power will make not a single difference.

Sadly the one institution with the power to transform people has failed the mark. Either we in the Church have retreated into the pretense of a holy isolation, caved in to our culture's various pathologies and baptized them, or chosen to play the political game and lose ourselves in the process. Our preachers have gone wobbly in the knees, our teachers love the approval of the tweed jacketed more than God, and our leaders desire to rub shoulders with the powerful more than walking with the Crucified.

The good thing in all of this is one day it will get so bad the Church, or what's left of it, will emerge from its addictive daze and begin, again, to be what she was meant to be in the world, real salt, real light, savory and pungent, a yeast whose life transforms what it touches and a mustard seed that grows into a tree of shelter.

If you go to church regularly and don't recognize those images you'll understand why things are the way they are.


Shadows fall...

For most of my life, as I can remember, dysthymia has been my companion, a shadow falling.

Many who know me would be surprised to hear that, those who know me well are not. Over the years I have become skilled in living with shadows, a skill developed in years of experience matching depression move for move, thrust, parry, retreat, and attack. I can smile when I need to, engage when I must, and you'd never know. Only those who see me in an unguarded time are aware of it. Until now.

There are many different kinds of depression and many causes and thankfully most will never have more than an occasional bout of the blues once in a while. Dysthymia is a chronic low grade depression that presents itself in my life in somewhat predictable fashion (usually at the end of summer, around Nativity, and sometimes in early spring) and sometimes just appears. Years of practice have allowed me to know when I am sliding in to what I call a "trough" and the feelings of loss, frustration, and hopelessness of one kind or another begin to emerge. It's hard to sleep but the hardest thing is the feeling of being abandoned by God, the cruelest trick of all because it strikes at my very heart.

This is such a time.

But I'm not asking for pity. I have no idea why, outside of the medical facts, this is happening to me but I've long ago stopped asking the questions as anything other than a symptom. I rarely ever speak of it because I don't want people to see me as my condition, don't want to have to constantly explain things, don't need to have people define me as that "depressed" guy. I refuse to allow this thing, this illness, this struggle, to become me.

And that's why I'm breaking the silence.

I was cautioned by the well meaning to avoid talking about this. What would people think of a Priest who is damaged, somehow less than perfect? How would they handle my secret? What would they do when they discovered there are moments when I am weak? How would they cope with knowing there's a soft spot under my black shirted armor?

But something else matters more.

In the Church right now are many more like me, people who have lived with this quiet pain, these shadows falling, for decades. They have endured. They have cried alone in bed late at night. They have encountered countless well wishers who don't understand. They have moments of profound aloneness, days when they feel God has abandoned them and salvation is lost. They've been shamed into silence by the nature of thier struggle and wonder what it must be like to be a normal person.

In this moment when I feel the night settling in and know the fight is on all I wish to say is "Do not be afraid..." Your mind will tell you that God has left but it is not so. The dark will seem like forever but the weeping of the night does pass. A part of you will wish for death but you must not succumb. Fight for this day, for this minute if you have to. A little while is all you need, one moment to get some help, to take those damned pills, to run for whatever light you see even if the devil himself is trying to pull you down. Go to Liturgy even if every part of you wants to stay at home in bed. Let His precious Body and Blood work it's silent graces. Weep if you must, but never surrender to the fictions in your mind. When morning comes, and morning is more precious to us, rejoice and let God's sun warm your face and dry your tears.

And know that you are not alone.


A Visual Journey through the Orthodox Church...

Just the gears I need...

This past Saturday was the usual trip to LaCrosse and St. Elias, with a twist.

Coming in to LaCrosse and traveling over the Mississippi river I attempted to downshift and discovered that 4th gear was missing, gone, not there, vanished. Turns out 2nd and reverse were also missing which made for quite a scene when I later backed my car out of a hotel parking lot using my foot for a motor (sort of like Fred Flinstone).

Now my car, which usually has been remarkably reliable, had some transmission problems which the dealer fixed and were, thank God, covered by the warranty. But this was new and visions of my being stuck somewhere out in the country with an immovable hunk of metal under me caused a certain amount of concern.

What to do?

There was no way to drive it back to the dealer before closing and it was too much of a trip to have someone pick me up. So the die was cast and all interested parties back home were informed of the situation and preapred to pick me up when I returned on Sunday. As to the car, who knows?

Sprinkled with holy water and blessed by the prayers of the faithful of St. Elias the adventure home began after Liturgy. First challenge, climbing the bluffs to the prairies above, then getting to Rochester, and then making it to the dealer where my wife would be waiting so I could leave the car and get home.

Needless to say it was a prayerful trip with XM radio football scores to fill in the gaps. It turned out to be a minor part that could be fixed in less than an hour.

A day of two later it occurred to me, broken as the car was I had been given all the gears I needed to make it safely home.

I'm still working out the lesson for me in all of that.


The light shines...

In the furnace of these times lesser things are being burned away and a pure focus is emerging.

It's not about a desire for, or a glee at, the shape of things. I look at the world and feel mostly sadness and a certain sense of having the normalcy of the world taken from me by the winds of culture. Rather something is happening, a change is coming, and glimpses of it are already present.

The times are rousing me from my sleepy state, that sense of just flowing with things in the space between awake and dreams. I am more alert, more aware, more alive, then I have been in a long time. To use a biblical image the scales are falling off my eyes and vision is beginning to return.

I'm seeing the world more clearly in this time when all seems to be shadows, but more importantly I am starting to see Jesus with greater clarity as well. He stands out more as the darkness seems to grow and glows with a fiery intensity as night falls. It something I missed when my delusions led me to believe that all was well or at least tolerable.

Now I'm certainly no saint. My life is cancerous with sin in ways I don't even know. But I'm beginning, just beginning to see, and what it is I'm coming to know is deep and real and beautiful and right. If I can have just a taste of it I will leave this world a happy man and there is a radiance in it all that cuts through this gray rainy day with the light of a million suns.

As a child I remember the bible camp that filled our summers and the chapel on the grounds with the words on the wall that said "We would see Jesus..." Can it be that after all those decades I finally am? And what I'm starting to see, even in fragments, is so amazing that I can only begin to wonder at it all and barely stand in the face of it.

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overpowered it...

Some wisdom from George Washington...

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure – reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

– George Washington, Farewell Address, Sept. 19, 1796


On the one month anniversary...

On the one month anniversary of my brother Paul's falling asleep in the Lord a copy of the eulogy...

I find myself, with all of us gathered here, in a sad, strange, disconcerting, yet holy and profound place.
I am speaking at my brother’s funeral with the task of trying to capture in small and inadequate words the whole of a life. Thoughts have become elusive in mourning and there are pictures and images and flashes of him circling just outside my grasp. Words fail. How to speak? What to say? What could do justice to this moment? To him?

Yet for the sake of love I will read on.

Paul came in to life too early and left the same way but how remarkably different and better we are because of it all. While for most of us it is the nature of things to live out our lives in a kind of anonymity his was pregnant with good things. Family, friends, faith, love, laughter, some crazy times, and a natural kind of attractiveness that drew people to him and made him the captain of the team on and off the court.

Those of you who only knew Paul as an adult, as an athlete, a project manager, your friend at the campfire, or the tall guy in front of you at church may find it strange to believe he was a preemie when he arrived in the fall of 1961. He was our tiny little brother and we called him "Pauly Mouse" because of his size and quiet demeanor. Our Pauly was a well liked kid, and even as his grade school classmates chose him for a School Safety Patrol trip to Washington DC he was not the first one you’d pick when choosing up sides for neighborhood football games. But something happened about the time we moved to Minnesota in 1975 and while the boyish good looks stayed on he stopped being the size of a kicker and started being the size of a tight end. Our Pauly Mouse became Pauly Moose.

Yet whatever size package he was, he remained a favorite. There was a natural charm and grace that allowed him to easily make friends and keep them as the years moved on. Neighbors from his earliest years as a child in Wausau have called this past week with fond memories and high school buddies who turned into golf partners and compatriots are gathered here. The loss that family, friends, co-workers, and brothers and sisters in Christ feel in this time is real because the attachment was as well.

As a child Paul won a plaque in Sunday School that quoted the scripture "Be ye kind one to another…" It was his favorite, not, as we found out because of the quality of the plaque itself but because he thought, even as a child, that being kind was a good idea. He was a kid in a popular crowd in high school, but it never changed him. He was strong but never a bully. He experienced success in the rough and tumble of corporate life but never succumbed to the predatorial desire to win and take all. What tales could we tell of kindness, of decency, of considerations given in his unsung way. How the child’s thought shaped the man. Some day we’ll sit by a fire, like he used to, and tell the stories and laugh, and cry, and realize that the recollections of these things bless us still.

Yes there were times of sadness and anger and loss and frustration and hurt. No one lives beyond the sad domains of life. But more and above there was an abiding presence of good will, of quiet steadiness, of good humor, of simple yet profound faith, and easy companionship that mark our experience of Paul. Paul was our calm center, our quiet champion, a natural born dad, and all around good guy. In a world of untruths we who knew him could easily and without contradiction say he was a decent man. A high compliment in these times.

Two things yet need to be said.

First on behalf of all the Chagnon family we wish to express our deep gratitude to Jeanine. From that little apartment in Minneapolis and everything that has been to this moment and beyond you gave our brother the greatest human gift of all, a life of love and happiness beyond measure. It is the nature of things that a man and woman should leave their families, the gift of each to the other, and be joined together by God and become something new and more. In the crucible of this time we have seen a depth, grace, and beauty in you in the face of crushing events and we are reminded again why he loved you so and how much we are in your debt for the love you returned.

In the same manner we see that love and faith you shared continue on in Lindsay, Alyssa, and Danny. A man as good as Paul deserves to have his life continue for generations and although you are very much your own personalities we are deeply comforted to know that some of him will live on, and live on well, in each of you. A part of the sadness of this time is the thought of those lost days yet to come, the events that mark the celebrations of life and from which it appears Paul will be absent. But you carry him literally inside you, in how you look, how you feel, how you believe, how you think, how you care, and in your very soul. The years will take you away from this moment and him from your sight but in truth he will never be far away from you. He will always be as close as a thought, as near as a prayer, and you will see his face in your children as we see his in you. And there will be comfort.

And finally we need to be reminded that these few, short, and inadequate words are by no means the end of the story. In the summer of 1967, in a cramped cabin where we spent parts of our summer as bible camp workers, an incredible transformation began when a young boy named Paul placed his life in the hands of his Savior. That moment has permeated everything from that time on, touched his life with joy at the faith and baptisms of his children, gave him grace to face the hard times, nourished the life within, and allowed him to live strong to the end. Even now it fills this room with an incredible sweetness and peace that defies the pain of this day.

It also means Paul’s story is not finished, and in fact will never be finished. Greater and more beautiful chapters are being written even as we speak and the tale of his life continues just out of our sight but as real, even more real, than anything we can imagine. This small chapter is closed and tucked away in our hearts but by eternity’s reckoning in just a short while we will come to know the rest.

So to all of you in your remaining days love God, live well, embrace faith, choose joy, take care of those you love, strive for Christ’s "well done" and cherish each fleeting moment. It all matters. And as you do the memories stirred in these moments, and all of Paul that has touched your life, will transcend time and space and perhaps, even for a moment, touch the very doors of heaven.

Rest now Pauly, and we’ll see you in the morning.

Recipe for a school shooter...

Take one person, marinade for years in a culture of entitlement, consumption, and violence.

Remove transcendent moral values.

Add emotional instability.

Let simmer until ready...


If the people will lead...

Occasionally on my travels I'll listen to the news, but not much anymore because it grows more and more like an excercise in futility with truth as the first casualty.

But the news seems to be teaching one thing. The generation leading us now is a generation of style over substance, emotion over intellect, and selfishness over the common good. They are locked in a permanent childhood and have yet to, and probably never will, transcend themselves. And we're stuck with them.

Until the time the generation that came of age in the 60's passes this Earth and sanity returns we cannot depend on them to morally or spiritually lead us and should not trust thier opinions on anything of substance, and a lot of other stuff as well. The best, perhaps, we can do is pray they will not do so much damage that the years of repair will seem overwhelming.

For now we have to begin to build a new order of life rooted in the very things the hippies turned senators reject, the idea of transcendent truth and unchanging goodness. It will be hard at first because the amoral but powerful have no problem with using force to achieve thier ends when people refuse to bow to thier gods. We'll have to be second class citizens for a while, absorb thier fury, and quietly build behind the scenes and wait.

The demographics are on our side. And so is truth. Already we see the absurdity of a philosophy (if it can be called that) rooted only in the satisfaction of urges. As time goes on the disastrous results we already see will become more acute and the emptiness of people's lives will bear stark witness to the failure of an idea.

When that time comes, and it appears to be soon, there will be something there, deeply defined and already in practice to breathe new life into the corpse of our culture. And it will be beyond mere politics or economics or any of the ways power is manipulated, even thought it will transform them all, because it will be a revolution of the spirit, a reconnection with the wisdom of faith over time, a change in the very heart of people and not just thier environment.

Already every painful headline shouts out the death of an old way of being and a call to something, to Someone who will make all things new.

Take a minute to turn off your TV and you'll understand.


An awkward time...

Occasionally I will get a person or two coming in to my office to talk about the recent loss of my brother. Invariably it's a very awkward conversation.

First there's the initial expression of condolences and a pause followed by whatever seems to be on the top of the comforter's head about death. They had an uncle who died just like my brother, they may say, or they want a detailed report on all of the events. I stare blankly ahead, thank them for thier thoughts and just wait for the spool to unwind.

They mean well but what can they really say? It's the tragic part of dying suddenly and young, the loss of the usual comforting words. They want to help, to make it all go away, but how? It's done, there is no going back and nothing of what brought us to this point can be changed.

Yet the awkward words, the tales of how death touched them, or the need to know all the small details has within its rough shell a seed of good will, of kinship in the face of the mystery of death, and a desire for connection. Even the most eloquent among us are left stammering at the reality of it all so why expect more from the regular folks?

So please don't be disappointed if I don't react to your words in any way you think I should, or in any way at all. Truthfully I've heard it all before so the words themselves are meaningless, the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher. But I will remember that you thought enough to drop in, and that is what matters most. It's so precious to me that I'll even try to pay attention to the story of how your cousin died so you'll know that beyond the words I'm trying to share something with you as well.

Knowledge from adversity...

Whenever you manage to get the carrot there will always be another, on a longer stick.

Count on it.


The new campus rebels...

An article from Terry Mattingly about a campus rebellion still mostly under the radar; young women, Christian and others, speaking out against the party til you puke then hook up realities of college life.

It's well worth the reading.

Some wisdom from David Warren...


Sometimes I wonder...

Everyone has a thing or two that make them wonder.

Recently, and that means within the past few years, something has stuck in my thoughts like a missed fish bone. Something about the finite nature of humanity and the infinity of God.

The world has always been a kind of insanity and the present is certainly no less than the past. Its what you get when limited beings, and the longer I live the more limited people (myself included) seem, are in charge of anything. In the cosmic state of things we are, even the best of us, amoebas swimming about in a sea of emotion, sin, illogic, and animal instincts while charged with the task of caring for this blue dot in space and finding a way to share a common existence.

Frankly, we've screwed it up and the whole of human history is a chain of mistakes strung together with a moment or two of where the soulish beauty of our design shines through. All the poetry on the exalted state of man is a dream at best, a dream that tortures us with the reality of our actual state, and a deceit at worst.

And God knows it.

The Psalmist says of God "He knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust..." (Psalm 103). And it is there that I wonder about things.

I wonder why we humans, who are the scourge of this planet and so very mortal and limited, have been allowed to sink this far this fast. Our leaders and all who follow seem demented on a primal level. We are violent and brutish and given to things that even the animals, who are often our moral superiors, cannot comprehend. What kind of being decapitates another on television or builds a bomb capable of snuffing out all existence?

And I wonder why God doesn't stop all of this, an act requiring a twitch of his will. We need to be protected from ourselves, from the cesspool of our imaginations and the will to evil that pervades our lives. We tiny, finite, beings, so small and yet so filled with darkness are helpless in the face of ourselves. Why does God not choose to keep us from that in the same way a humane person seeks to ease the suffering of an incomprehending animal?

They say it is all about choice and freedom, the desire of God to be in loving relationship with beings capable of deciding for that union. But when is it enough? When will this power, this freedom, have done so much damage that God has to intervene in the same way a parent tries to keep thier addled child from continuously pulling the boiling water on the stove over thier head?

Sometimes I wonder.


There is a place...

There is a place, when your journeys take you into northern Minnesota, where it feels like you've really made the break with the ant hill world of cities and arrived safely on a shore beautiful and foreign because it is so unlike the world you inhabit for most of your days.

Its not a geographical marker, like a dot on the map, but rather a moment when you realize the quality of things have changed, that which is around you and that which is in your heart and soul. Perhaps its putting the suburban mess in your rear view mirror. Maybe its just passing through a small town in that sweet place between farm and lake. A bird in the sky may mark the spot, but so may the first real clump of flaming birches. You just know it when you feel it.

And when we arrive there are moments when time seems to stop and all we know is the sun and sky and the sound of the water and the wind blowing through the trees. A silence is there even if we are surrounded by people, a silence inside rooted in all things properly alligned. It is like a moment of Eden.

What pushes us to leave such a place, to abandon such a state for something we know deep inside is less? The whirling world where all is competition and the beginnings of ulcers. What drags us from the simplicity, the silence, the sounds of wind and water, the voices of children, and the calls of birds unanswered?

Perhaps the angel of that first Eden, the one with a flaming sword guarding its gates and keeping the guilty away from paradise, is also within us. So we feel compelled, by some force, to leave the beautiful, the sublime, the holy, and those moments when all things seem one for the world of cars and sirens and mindless scurrying, and things for the sake of things.

And we hardly ever ask why.