How To Kill Ungratefulness


I’ll make a confession. When I was still a child I once visited my cousins in Korea. They lavished on me, their American family, with food, gifts, affection. They shared everything with me. I was so blessed. And so ungrateful. One day someone bought a couple of robot toys for us cousins. They were dispersed among us, but came up one short. The last one was in the hands of my cousin Raymond (not his Korean name FYI) and I promptly snatched it out of his hands, took it to myself, coddled it, and turned my back to him. I remember the bewildered look on his face out the corner of my eye. Continue reading “How To Kill Ungratefulness”

Swaying on the Tight Rope of Life: A Spiritual Perspective


Is your life presently characterized by equanimity in the crossing, or by violent wobbling and threat of crashing?

This past Sunday in my sermon (“Discipleship” 1/5/14) I made a reference to the story of Charles Blondin, famous tightrope walker who crossed Niagara Falls, but particularly from the perspective of the man he carried on his back as he did so – Harry Colcord, his manager, and in this scenario, his would-be disciple.

As I shared the harrowing story of being precariously mounted on a famous tightrope walkers back, gripping and clawing like a cat wavering over a huge bathtub, I found myself drawn into the story, not just the telling of it, but even afterwards in fruitful private reflection. And like the previous image of the ship on the waves, this too has become stock image in my catalog of spiritual reflection:


In particular it is the tendency to counter-balance, that captures me. Imagine – being perched on a wavering man’s back – except for him it is not wavering; it is probably a normal part of the process of crossing. Admittedly I am no tightrope walker, but I can imagine that over-compensating must be the demise of the walker, that is to say, swaying to one side and then reactively swaying to the other to balance – this creates volatility. And I think it is almost a rule of nature and life that the more we react, the more volatile a situation becomes.

Swaying to one side is an inevitability. And sometimes we just have to go with it – of course, not to eventually keel over and to fall – but to allow the balance rod to do its work, to place our faith NOT in our over-correcting ability, but in the rope, the balancing rod, the laws of physics around us, trusting that we will sway back – if we wait. And if we don’t try to auto-correct.

And that’s precisely and incisively the point, isn’t it?

It’s intuitive to save ourselves, to sway in the opposite direction of fear, but if the analogy serves us correct, then the mojo is in the middle; lingering in that threshold of allowing ourselves to fall into the hands of Providence, but finding instead that we are righted, brought back to center, and it was the everlasting Arms that did so, not us. It is simply counter-intuitive to do this:

Psalm 37:8 “Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.”

But it is the right thing. And sometimes it is the best first thing we can do; not fret. Not reactively counter-balance. But to trust that God arights. To take deliverance out of our immediate hands, to rely less on our best thinking (which oftentimes got us into this mess in the first place – our “bright” ideas).

Add to it all the more that you have placed your fate in the hands of another, as was the case of Harry Colcord, whose “righting reflex” almost got the best of both of them:

Blondin: “Harry, you are (no longer Harry); you are Blondin! Until I clear this place, be a part of me—mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we shall both go down to our death!”

Perhaps therein is the spiritual principle and application; stop trying to balance yourself with anxiety-driven actions and fretting; sway instead with the elements, the wire, the circumstances; sway with the one on whose back you are perched, trusting the balance pole, trusting his words, trusting Him – ANYTHING… but yourself.


7 Things a Protestant Minister Can Learn at a Benedictine Monastery

St. Benedict Center, Schuyler, Nebraska

I’ve been spending this week at a Benedictine Monastery in Nebraska taking my final class for ordination in the Evangelical Covenant Church. It has been a beautiful week of self-examination, spiritual direction, counseling, and pastoral health. I mean it when I say that churches are the better for it when their pastors are required to go through stuff like this, and surrounded by people like this. Hooking up with old friend and mentor Don Robinson has been sweet, and hanging out with other Covenant pastors from as far and wide as LA, Twin Cities, Colorado, Chicago, Oklahoma, has been really great. During our time here we are each required to individually visit with a “shrink” and in case you are wondering, yes, I am certifiably cuckoo. But all kidding aside, for pastors to have shrinks and therapists and counselors that work in tandem with the denomination’s coaches, spiritual directors, and mentors… this is a tremendous asset, because healthy pastors lead healthy churches. Continue reading “7 Things a Protestant Minister Can Learn at a Benedictine Monastery”

#GODonFILM: HARRY POTTER / DH2 is unmistakably religious, spiritual, and dare I even say “Christian”

This Sunday we’ll be covering the last movie of our GODonFILM series – and boy what a way to go out. Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows 2 is a deeply satisfying conclusion to the decade-long affair, and it consummated a lot of the mystery and the waitings of the series. I, for one, walked out deeply impressed by the undeniable religious parallels in the conclusion, whether intentional or not. And truth be told, I saw it coming. That’s why I planned on preaching a sermon on this movie months back.

Now I am expecting some flak. Certain Christian communities have vehemently opposed the movie for promoting witchcraft in children; I’m not so convinced. While I agree it has taken a darker twist of late, I still find that this series speaks powerfully about good and evil, childhood and innocence, tremendous yet unbridled potential, and the portent (or tremendous hope) of this thing called destiny. These are religiously-infused ideas. Below are those who are of the same opine as me… and of course, read at your caution, for there are spoilers ahead…


Is Harry Potter the Son of God?

When asked if she is a Christian, Rowling answers:

“Yes, I am, which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

Perhaps what she won’t tell is her denomination, but as it is known that she is a member of the Church of Scotland congregation… that information hardly seems illuminating to the Potter story. What else might she be refusing to divulge? When a person states that they are a Christian, they may mean one of several things – “I believe in God,” “I’m not an atheist or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu,” “I go to church sometimes,” “I go to church every week,” or “I believe that Jesus Christ was the incarnate God who died to redeem the world of their sins, and I have a personal relationship with him as my Lord and Savior.”

Do any of these statements have the potential to reveal the ultimate plot of the series? One of them must, as Rowling has said it is so. The only one of the above statements that approaches that potential is the last, which I will henceforth refer to as “Christ follower.” If Rowling is a Christ follower, what might that mean for Harry Potter? I believe that it means Harry is the Christ – of the wizarding world, that is – of J.K. Rowling’s created universe.

Can this be? Can a writer so censured by elements of the religious right, the writer of a book that portrays “good” witches and wizards; the writer of scenes so horrific as the senseless murder of a young boy; a villain who drinks unicorn blood and uses the bones of his father – whom he murdered – and the blood of his enemy to regain a physical body; a writer who uses symbolism from the tarot; a writer blamed for encouraging interest in witchcraft among teens; can this writer be a Christ follower, and actually be writing about Christ? I say yes.


Harry Potter is a ‘Christ-like’ figure

(Theologian Stephen) Holmes said: “What happens gives the strong impression that Harry dies, discovers an afterlife in a place called King’s Cross, a striking reference from a Christian perspective, and comes back to life. The effect of his death has been to render impotent the power of evil. That is a Christian narrative which is almost impossible not to recognize.

So would you agree?
Does this movie undeniably contain religious / Christian themes?
Did it speak to you?
And what about?