Monday, January 02, 2006

End of Sabbatical 1

While classes don't begin for another week, the fact that it is 2006 essentially means my sabbatical has ended. What follows is my first attempt to summarize my experience with a sabbatical.

I am looking forward to getting back in the classroom. I'm not looking forward to the day to day grind of the semester. It is probably better stated, I'm not looking forward to the pace of the semester. I have so enjoyed being able to determine the pace of my day. Though I am capable of living a fast-paced life, I don't feel it is beneficial, and perhaps even God honoring.

I did get much work done on my dissertation, but I continue to have much to do. The challenge for me now is to work through the tedium of data analysis.

An unexpected benefit of my sabbatical is the spiritual refreshment I have experienced. I have had the time to read books that have stretched me as well as challenged me. In many ways, this spiritual refreshment began last academic year with the reading of Colossians Remixed. The focus on more of a post-modern hermeneutic went well with my dissertation focus on information. Along with that I began to read Brian McLaren's books A New Kind of Christian and Generous Orthodoxy. Because of our guest lecture series I also read Lauren Winner's books Girl Meets God and Mudhouse Sabbath. Her books challenged me to focus more on a liturgical rhythm to life and worship of God (After a frustrating experience with the Book of Common Prayer I now am using The Divine Hours). The common thread with these books is the willingness to look beyond the cultural boundries of my faith in order to live with a stronger focus on Christ. I know that is not an adequate description of what I've learned. I suspect I'll be blogging on all this for most of the upcoming semester.

In another post, I'll discuss other books I read that contributed to spiritual and academic refreshment. The bottom line: the sabbatical was wonderful! It is a shame that American companies don't practice sabbaticals (I am grateful academia does) since it is such a refreshing experience.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Final Advent Thought

I noticed something in the prayers of people over the Christmas weekend that helped me to realize how short-sighted my view of Christ's incarnation has been. The prayer goes something like this, "thank you Lord for coming to this earth to die for us." While that is certainly something to be thankful for, it seems to miss the point of celebrating His Advent. And that point is: God LIVED among us! Yes, Christ came to die for us, but he chose to live among us for 33 years. He became fully human while maintaining full diety to live as an example of redemptive living. To fail to see and appreciate this, is to deny the value of creation and I suspect is a bit of a gnostic approach to life. God created this world for us to live in and enjoy. His creation reveals Him and that revelation comes as we live. When Jesus says we can live life abundantly, He set the example as a result of His incarnation.

As we enter the new year, may we fully embrace life as God has created it as well as seeing His incarnation for what it is: living completely human as God intended.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Advent 3

During the third week of advent I focused on the mercy of God. I was drawn to this because mercy kept surfacing in my fixed hour prayers. Mercy must be talked about at advent because the act of incarnation was an act of mercy. Inherent in the meaning of mercy is the notion of rescue; specifically, rescuing the distressed. Jesus taking the form of human was without question an act of rescue. The hope he provides also implies rescue.

That which disturbs me though, is how it appears to me grace is the more emphasized attribute of God. Doing a quick Amazon search revealed few books with mercy as the focus. My guess (and this is mere speculation) is that American evangelicals like grace more because it is in keeping with the American dream. I'm not so sure we really like the notion of needing to be rescued. Christ's advent is about rescuing all aspects of creation not just our souls. May God grant us the eyes to see and appreciate His mercy as well as the humility to acknowledge the need for all of us to be rescued.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Advent 2

Week one of advent I posted on the significance of candles representing the light of Christ. The second week of advent I reflected on how there is not a single aspect of Christ's advent fits the expectations of any longing for His coming. From using an unwed woman as mother, a righteous Jew as father, outcasts shepherds as messengers, a silent male religious leader, women leading in praise, the place of birth . . . none of these things met expectations. This causes me to wonder if there are times I have missed Christ because it didn't meet my expectations. We have to be so careful not to put God in a box (this has been said so often it has become cliche'). My prayer this advent season is that I may be so in tune with the Holy Spirit that I not miss Jesus when He doesn't meet my expectations.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Blogging Experiences

I have a couple of observations after having been blogging for just a few weeks. The most intriguing thing to me is that blogging, the internet, newer digital technologies are suppose to be the great leveler. Certainly that does happen, but name recognition still matters. For starters, I have had very few commenters on my site; disappointing, but OK. But as I visit many people's sites, I see they also have few commenters. The sites that have the visitors are those run by people with name recognition. I may change my tune over time, but it appears who you are still matters!

Within Christian blogdom, I am already tired of the endless debates regarding the emerging church. Those who are opposed appear threatened. Fear is an amazing thing. Those who support it appear disparate for any positive thing written. What is needed is a far less emotional dialogue on both sides. Disagreement is fine, but it needs to be done carefully. Reading some blogs on the emerging church has made me glad I live in a rural area in which this is FAR from people's thinking.

This leads to my final observation: good communication is very difficult in blogging. Unlike books or articles, there are expectations regarding the immediacy of response that cause people to be impatient. The elimination of physical distance is a positive thing, but it takes a good moderator to keep good discussions on track and fruitful.

Your observations?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

NPR and Redemption

One of the things I love about NPR is the opportunity to hear from various people on numerous issues. Sometimes, I agree with what I hear, sometimes I don't. Penn Jillette stated his belief in no God a couple of weeks ago, and then a week later, John W. Fountain told how he believed God embraced him. Today on All Things Considered, Desiree Cooper challenged listeners to consider what it would be like if any one of us had to prove our redemption.

This seems to get to the heart of the challenge of living the Christian life: what does a redeemed life look like, act like, talk like, think like. People can't see our heart, and in our behaviorist and pragmatic society, we look to the actions. This can obviously lead to a form of godliness but missing out on real Godliness. Perhaps Desiree is correct with her idea of a jury. We certainly wouldn't want to have a jury within our churches, but we do have (or we should have) community. I really struggle with whether or not it works.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Advent and Candles

As we complete the first week of advent I have come to a new appreciation for the role of candles. I have typically viewed candles as a gender specific preferance and found them useful solely for power outages. Reading scripture this week on Jesus as light as well as hope has helped me to appreciate what candles can symbolize: the LIGHT of the world. This has also caused me to reflect on how difficult it must have been for Jews to believe the Messiah was coming after 400 years of silence from God. For those who believed, how exciting to realize the Light of the world was come.

I desire this Advent season to feel both the despair of the silence of God as well as the exhiliration of the incarnation, and I will light candles to remind myself and family that Jesus is the Light of the world.