Monday, April 21, 2008

Tunnel Vision

This is the third in the Vision-Impairment series of posts.

Tunnel vision is a narrowed field of vision. The loss of peripheral perception of tunnel vision limits activity and accuracy of actions. Things might hit us literally from the blind side, because there is so much blind side.

Narrowed field of vision...
Jesus said, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." Matthew 6.22-23

So often we focus so tightly on the limited world that is our life. We do so to the exclusion of others around us. We actually get more moved that an accident on the highway will make us late for our shopping than we are that one or more human beings quite possibly have suffered loss or physical hurt.

We see how things affect us and seldom realize how things might be affecting others. Our vision has veen diseased with "You deserve a break today!" mentality of entitled America.

We tune in to hours of "reality" TV where folks cry because they have lost weight, are trying to win the "love"of some personality or survived. The family next door might be facing autism in a child, the declining health of an aging parent or the raw anguish of gambling addiction. We might see it, but even then do little more than wish them well out of our car window on the way to some store.

Ever watch a funeral procession in the Middle East. Those folks are wailing--and with good reason. Someone they love has just died. They are at least in tune with what is happening around them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

From the lips of children...PRAISE!

E. has a Shout to the Lord CD recorded live at Northside Baptist, Atlanta GA (Andy Stanley's church.) It features the children of Northside. It really touches me to hear the kids praising God. He has taken a liking to track 3. He, like his momma, is a little OCD and wants it played over and over and over and over...

On the way to school, it was playing. I became aware of a child's voice in # 3 that I hadn't noticed before. Suddenly, I realized it was E. singing at the top of his voice.

"...and I delight myself in You...Your praise is always on my lips...when I'm poor, I know I'm rich,'cause in the power of Your name ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE, all things are possible..."

While the sound of my own son's voice ringing in abandoned worship was enough to tear me up and cause me to join in the praise song, the reality of the words literally took my breath away and cracked my voice.

You see, there in the back seat of my car, singing at the top of his voice, "All things are possible..." sits the empirical evidence of the words.

For years we had hoped and tried to bring children into our life. We had consigned ourselves to the adoption route when along came E. then J.G. Through His mercy we now have that dream fulfilled.

With God, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. Play it again and crank it up this time, boy-o-mine!

Monday, April 14, 2008


Some time ago, I posted about my nearsightedness problem, both visual and visionary. Today, I will expand on that with a second edition of vision issues.

Farsightedness is the opposite condition of nearsightedness. It it the inability, or reduced ability, to see what is nearer and have clear focus at a distance. This is often remedied with "reading glasses" to be worn only for up close activities.

I think the church often suffers from farsightedness. We focus our sights on eternity to come and cannot see the existence that is. That explains why we do not take better care of our selves, our neighbors or our world. For, you see, it will all be better in the sweet by and by.

We abuse our bodies with practices like overeating, poor food choices, overexposure to UV and lack of exercise. We will have a new body at the resurrection, so we run this one into the ground--literally.

We will cross oceans, mountain ranges and deserts to bring Africans, Asians or others to Jesus. Yet, we won't cross the street to bring our neighbors who are of African, Asian or other descent to our church.

We will donate our used-up things to the needy but rarely donate ourselves in actual time and contact with the needy. By acting so impersonally, we further diminish the persons we seek to serve.

We claim "dominion" over the earth as a license to remove the mountaintops, pollute the drinking water and fill the ground with disposable everything to satisfy our desire for convenience and profit. We forget that humanity's dominion was a charge to tend (manage like a steward) the earth.

Like a farsightedness condition in the eye, such church farsightedness can be corrected. The usual prescription is "reading glasses."

We need to re-read the Word and the world around us. We need to return to God asking him to teach us what is blessed and stop asking him to bless what we have already determined to do. We need to stop offering advice and answers and resources until we first discover what the problems, questions and challenges are. We need to reconnect with our neighborhoods, our homes and our world.

Think of the humility and wisdom of Jesus to ask an obviously blind man, "What do you want me to do for you?" May his life refocus the living of his body, the church.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Infant Baptism

My parents expressed their commitment to raising me in the Faith by a ceremony known as Dedication. They made a series of promises and literally dedicated my life to the purpose for which God created me.

However, our church (The Wesleyan Church) also practices infant baptism. It was not the tradition of my home church or my home district of this church. I have always suggested the Dedication ceremony to avoid the issues involved in it.

I was recently asked to baptize a new baby. I finally had to find a better reason to do so than, "My church says so." Or else, I would need to decline the invitation.

Some years ago, I was involved in a debate at United Wesleyan College concerning the merits of the baby dedication tradition. I was on the side affirmative. The leading debator for the negative actually said, "There is more scriptural warrent for infant baptism than this made up dedication ceremony."

So I began reflecting on the scriptural and historical underpinings of both. My reflection revealed a pattern in the New Testament of all in a household being baptized when a leading member came to faith (Acts 1615, 16.33, 18.8., 1 Corinthians 1.16.) While this does not expressly command or mention the baptism of infants or young children, it does not exclude it. The scenes of baptism in the NT almost always center on those who have come to faith as adults. They form a description not a prescription.

Paul discusses baptism in close connection with circumcision (Colossians 2.11-13.) The Hebrew nation was commanded by God to circumcise all male babies when they were 8 days old. This marked them as one of God's covenant people. Then they were to be instructed in the faith, values and behavioral norms associated with the Law God had given them. At age 12 they assumed full rights and responsibilities as a member of this group of God-followers.

It seem likely that this pattern would apply to the new Covenant community. Believing parents would present their children for baptism, our identifying/initiation ceremony, and then instruct them, with the help of the church. Then at the age they can choose to affirm this act as a symbol of their personal faith, they would do so publically. Those who come to faith as adults would be trained first and baptized second after coming to personal faith.

This is how I will approach baptism in the future and it is consistant with scripture, the practice of the church from the earliest records we have and my own Wesleyan heritage.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Well...Happy Birthday to Me?!?!

Today I reached my 39th birthday. This is, for the most part,an insignificant birthday year, typically. I still feel like a kid, though I can see gray in my beard.

Eli was home sick, so he helped Momma make me a cherry-chip birthday cake. As SOON as I came through the door, we had to eat a slice of the cake. He had been anxiously awaiting this all day long.

Suddenly it hit me. I am as old today as my dad was when he left our family and home. I was stunned. There is nothing about my life that I would want to leave. I would actually fight to stay. I seriously miss my wife, son and daughter even when I have to go to work or some other activity without them. How different was my dad's life experience that he ran away when he was 39?

He had been married 21 years. I've been married 14. He was in a marriage with a cycle of relationship and financial stress. I've a great life with an awesome partner and have only known joy with Lisa. He had been a father for 19 years. I've been for 3. He had 4 sons. I have a son and daughter. His oldest child was beginning adult life away at college. My oldest is beginning potty training. I feel so young and life is so good. I remember him as being older somehow...and life was not so good.

Still...I feel ill at ease being 39 now.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Foundational Questions

I recently heard a rabbi say that the central question Christianity asks is "Have you saved all the world, yet?" He then suggested the central issue for Judaism is, "Have you sanctified all the world, yet?"

Those words struck home to the heart of this Christian raised in the holiness tradition. I think the second question moves past the Evangelical emphasis on beginning a personal relationship with God toward the traditional holiness emphasis on the restoration of imago dei in the believer. Evangelicalism sees salvation as a past, completed action while traditional Wesleyan/Arminian holiness theology sees salvation as a present, progressing action.

I am asking myself, my local community of faith and my denominational connection, "Have we sanctified all the world, yet?"