Saturday, June 15

Congratulations to the Raptors

Since I'm a Jeremy Lin fan, I became a Raptors fan when he got traded there for the playoffs. Unfortunately, he didn't play much, I think because he had some problems with back spasms and Fred VanVleet played out of his mind.

Anyway, I had fun following the Raptors during their run and it's nice to see a team win that hasn't won before. I like Stephen Curry and Steve Kerr, but it's nice to see a change.

A few thoughts:

  • I didn't know Nick Nurse is from Iowa (Carroll) and played at UNI. That's fun.
  • If you stretch it, Steve Kerr also has an Iowa connection: he played for Lute Olson at Arizona.

Saturday, June 8

Abortion Opinions and the State of the Non-debate

From a personal Facebook post.

Poll: Majority Want To Keep Abortion Legal, But They Also Want Restrictions

I've been thinking a lot about abortion. But I won't be sharing my nuanced views here at this time because of the likelihood of being attacked. (That is, I don't think expressing my views would be helpful enough to risk the negative near-certainty of attack.) Culturally we have moved away from the possibility of reasoned debate in public (including online). What 'wins', in the short term, is extremism. But the extremists on both sides are playing a short game that often damages their own long-term interests (which they're willing to do in their sense of self-righteousness).

I'm afraid politico-cultural polarization is a horse that's out of the barn and can't really be stopped at this point. But I do ask you, my friends, to contribute to reasoned debate and not to the shouting match that is not dialogue but just scoring cheap points among like-minded people (and further alienating those on the other side).

After that preamble, the point of this post is to share an extensive article on the results of a poll on abortion opinions. The results show a lot of degrees in US opinion. Then I'm interested in discussing the possibility of dialogue.

Obvious assumption (to me): public consensus does not equal or determine what is right.

A few quotes:

+ Three-quarters of Americans say they want to keep in place the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, that made abortion legal in the United States, but a strong majority would like to see restrictions on abortion rights.

+ "The public is very reactive to the arguments being put forth by the more committed advocates on both sides of the issue. The danger for Republicans is that when you look at independents, independents are moving more toward Democrats on this issue. ... When the debate starts overstepping what public opinion believes to be common sense, we've seen independents moving in Democrats' corner."

The most-strongly held opinions (as I read the analysis) are by women who identify as Republican and pro-life or Democrat and pro-choice. It makes sense, of course, that women would feel most strongly about this issue.

What conclusions do you draw about the variety of opinion?

And is there any way for us in the US to find some political common ground here and step back from a polarized culture war with nothing between us but a World War I-style 'no man's land'?

Disrespectful comments will be deleted.

Sunday, April 7

Spending the day with Jesus

If you haven't read Life without Lack by Dallas Willard, Chapter 8 is about spending a day with Jesus. And in it's most basic form, Dallas means 'to take ten minutes or so every two to three hours during the day to lift your heart and mind to God in praise, thanksgiving, and sharing the concerns on your heart.'

I tried this a number of times before it worked for me, at least five. I gave it up for most of a year. But then I had the chance to try it again and something clicked and I'm on a 38-day streak. :-)

I basically just re-read this section of Dallas's book every day and think and pray through it.

My selections from LwL below are somewhat random. If it's not a quotation, it's probably a paraphrase. I share these with you in case they might help you. Otherwise, please mark and make your own guidelines.

Rest in Faith
As you retire to bed, commit to meet with God first thing when you wake, and go over in your mind how that will be. This is a wonderful way to fall asleep in prayer. You can also use the simple prayers of childhood, the Lord’s Prayer, or Psalm 23 to lead you into restful sleep. Whatever you choose, let it include this simple prayer of faith: “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8). If you approach the evening in this way, you will awaken with great anticipation of your day with Jesus.
The Day Dawns: Rising with Praise, Petition, and Planning

Praise

'Thank you, God, for this new day. Thank you for this new beginning.'

'Seek seclusion, and if you are able, kneel for five or ten minutes and welcome the presence of Jesus. You may not think it will make any difference to kneel when you pray, but try it anyway. Then consider the difference it may have made.'

Lord God, I give my day to you. Please be with me each moment.

Petition: Casting Your Cares on Him

'Having risen in praise and thankfulness, then you pray for yourself, for the people in your life, and for the things you are facing that day.'

Lord, part of the reason for spending the day with You is to depend on You. Through this practice, I am depending on you. Please help me to depend on You. I need You and I want to see You doing more in my life than I can.

'And the effects of your efforts will be vastly greater than what could result from your abilities alone.' Who Is Your Teacher?

Please remove all fear from my life and fill me with Your love for my life and all that enters it. Please help me to love the life You have given me. Help Your love come through me to everything I deal with today. Help me to carry You through my day in this way.'

'If you have specific concerns, call them out, lay them before the Lord, and submit them to his care.'

'Cast “all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).'

Lord Jesus, please give me the faith, death to self, and love that make Your Shepherd’s sufficiency my own.
Remember, these are the marks of Jesus himself. To be with him is to become like him. His life is contagious among those who are susceptible to it, who desire it. Let him know that you want to be infected! Pray, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace!” It is truly an expression of the heart of Jesus.
Lord, please help me to become like You by spending my days with You. I want to be infected and infectious.

Planning: When Will I See You Again?

We must plan times through the day to turn our minds to God.

Lord Jesus, I turn my mind back to You.

'I would suggest planning to take ten minutes or so every two to three hours during the day to lift your heart and mind to God in praise, thanksgiving, and sharing the concerns on your heart.'

--I tried coming up with my own hours based on the monastic hours of prayer. But I eventually switched to just having an alarm on my phone labeled 'Spending the day with Jesus', and I just set if for the next good time that's 2-3 hours away. This has worked for me pretty well. Functionally, my times are basically: 7:30, 11:15, 2:30, 5:15, 8:30, 11:15.

--When my schedule is a little bit open and there's a choice between starting the next thing that might run into my next session or just starting the next session early, the latter has worked best for me.

Honing Holy Habits

Each session may consists of:
  • Lord Jesus, I turn my mind back to You.
  • Praise and Thanksgiving
  • (Confession earlier in the day instead of just during day-end assessment)
  • Petition and Prayer -- esp. for coming people, events, activities and tasks
  • Planning -- next meeting
I am going to rely on You to realize Your presence with me as the day proceeds. I want you to do more in the lives of my neighbors and me than I can do by myself. I thank You in advance for what will come.

--If you feel like you run out of things to do in these times, you can also try:
  • Going outside and looking at the beauty of a flower or the magnificence of the sky.
  • Listening to beautiful music.
  • Bringing to mind the Lord’s Prayer, an image of the cross, or simply a thought of the Father who is over all.
  • Re-reading the Closing Prayer and the Appendices
  • Reading Scripture
  • Reviewing memorized Scripture (a favorite discipline for Dallas)
  • Re-reading Life without Lack
  • Reading the rest of Andrew Murray's Humility (which Appendix B is one chapter of)
  • Reading The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence or The Game with Minutes by Frank Laubach
  • Journaling
Lord, help me to move beyond wanting things to go smoothly to wanting Your will to be done.

The Day Unfolds

Psalm 33:13–22 (adapted from the ESV)
13 Lord, You look down from heaven;
    You see all the children of man;
14 from where You sit enthroned You look out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 You who fashion the hearts of us all
    and observes all our deeds.

     Lord, You see everything that we do and know our thoughts and feelings.

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
    and by its great might it cannot rescue.

     Lord, we confess that the power of this world will not save us.
     Instead, You have the power to save us and provide for us as our Shepherd.

18 Lord, your eye is on those who fear You,
    on those who hope in Your steadfast love,
19 that You may deliver our souls from death
    and keep us alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for You, Lord;
    You are our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in You,
    because we trust in Your holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in You.

Lord, please help me to learn to pray and bless each time the people, events, tasks and activities in my life change...

'so that mere change becomes a signal to turn your mind back to God. Do this and you will shortly master the secrets of praying without ceasing.'

--I conclude that Dallas did this and mastered it.

Lord, please help me and others to notice very positive differences.

When I get to take a nap, I generally include thanks at the beginning and then review memorized Scripture verses until I fall asleep and count that as a session. :-)

The Day Concludes . . . with Grace-Drenched Reflection

Lord, please help me to understand and do better tomorrow.

Lord, please help me to become Your vision of me.

'Lord, I need help with this. Please forgive me.'

Thank You for being such a good friend.

'This time of reflection should also include thanksgiving for all the ways the day went well.'

A New Day Begins, and a New Life

Good Shepherd, please help me to better understand the the sweetness of walking with You in Your sufficiency.

'As you practice living your days in the sufficiency of the Good Shepherd, you will make tremendous progress in experiencing the Psalm 23 life that Christ came to provide.'

--Here's a prayer Dallas used to pray for people. I think this version is a little more polished than the version in LwL.

'My prayer for you is that you would have a rich life of joy and power, abundant in supernatural results, with a constant, clear vision of never-ending life in God's world before you, and of the everlasting significance of your work day by day, a radiant life and death'

--Here's a version you can pray for yourself:

Lord, please give me a rich life of joy and power, abundant in supernatural results.
     (Where You do more through me than I could do by myself.)
Please give me a constant, clear vision of never-ending life in Your world before me,
     (I am an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God great universe.
     And I will not taste death!)
a clear vision of the everlasting significance of my work day by day,
     (Especially to carry your love to my co-workers and customers.)
a radiant life and death.

Lord, please fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
please help me to walk worthy of You, fully pleasing You, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of You;
please strengthen me with all might, according to Your glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
I thank You, Father, that You have qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the
light. (Col. 1:9–12 adapted)
     This inheritance starts now and it's such Good News it demands our praise!

My (not Dallas's) final thoughts

Something I wondered about: does Dallas differentiate between addressing God and addressing Jesus and spending the day with Them? I haven't detected any noticeable difference in his usage.

A big part of the positive result for me of spending the day with Jesus is simply a higher baseline of well being including peace, joy and confidence. For example, I still fell defensive, but not as much. If someone says something that I might feel defensive about, I can shake it off more easily. My baseline level of anxiety has gone down.

If you made it this far, you might be interested in my adaptation of Psalm 23 in iambic octameter: My Shepherd, an adaptation of Psalm 23. You might also be interested in my version of Psalm 16 with specific comments on God's presence and spending the day with Jesus: Psalm 16 for Spending the day with Jesus.

Saturday, April 6

Psalm 16 for Spending the day with Jesus

Lately, I have been focusing on spending the day with Jesus as discussed in Dallas Willard's Life without Lack. Since spending the day with Jesus is to a great degree about being in His presence, in the tradition of Brother Lawrence (Practicing the Presence of God) and Frank Laubach (The Game with Minutes), here are some notes on Psalm 16 with a focus on God's presence. (For additional notes on Psalm 16, see my earlier post Praying Psalm 16 (and a couple of other notes).)

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge
-'in You', that is 'Your presence'

I confess that You are the Lord. I have no good apart from you.
-apart from Your presence

Please help me to delight in the saints.

I confess that my sorrows multiply when I run after other gods. Please help me not to pour out their drink offerings of blood or take their names on my lips

Lord, I have chosen the portion that you have chosen for me.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.
-especially in You and Your Kingdom
(To what extent is 'the Kingdom' Your presence?
'The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.'
In other words: 'I am here.'

Bless You, Lord. Thank you that You counsel me and my heart instructs me at night.
-I think there's presence here, too (but it could be a stretch ;-) )

I have set the Lord always before me; when You are at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
-Now this is about presence! Setting the Lord before me and Him at my right hand are being in His presence.

Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices, my flesh also dwells secure.
-My heart is glad and my whole being rejoices in God's presence.
(In the OT especially, the normal experience of salvation includes physical safety, though it is not universal.
In the same way, the normal experience of salvation in the NT brings persecutions for Christ's sake.)

Thank You that You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

God, You make known to me the Path of life, which is Jesus and is in Jesus.
-Jesus said He is the Way. And part of that is His presence, walking with Him, following Him.

In Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
-Your presence, Lord, is when I put You at my right hand and You put me at Your right hand and I stay (remain) there.

Wednesday, March 27

My Shepherd, an adaptation of Psalm 23

Because You are my Shepherd, Lord
I don't lack any thing I need.
You settle me in lush, green grass.
You lead me by clear, quiet pools.
You bring me back for Your name's sake
to guide me by Your holy paths.

Although I walk beneath the walls
of death's dark threat, I will not fear
because Your presence keeps me calm.
I trust Your rod and staff to guard.

You feed me in a hostile land
anointing oil pour on my head.
Your blessings overflow my cup.

Your goodness and Your mercy sure
will follow me for all my life.
And I'll return to live always
within Your house forever, Lord.


Notes

  1. I planned on this adaptation being iambic pentameter, but it fell into iambic octameter.
  2. This adaptation includes ideas from Kenneth Bailey's The Shepherd Psalm. On this subject I have also read Phillip Keller's A Shepherd Looks at the Twenty-third Psalm and Tim Laniak's Shepherds After My Own Heart. Some ideas come from my own attempts to make the best sense of this ancient prayer.
  3. What was third person has been changed into second, not least for purposes of prayer.
  4. I have some reservations about line 11 begin only one line and not two.
  5. I tried to keep my wording close to normal speech (v. poetic diction). Therefore a lot of lines start with 'You' or 'Your'.

Sunday, February 3

Praying Psalm 16 (and a couple of other notes)

Note: some of this departs from strict exegesis and begins to become subjective application.


Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
-especially from the world, my flesh and the devil.

I confess that You are the Lord. I have no good apart from you.
-I'm sorry for the times I look for good other places.

Please help me to delight in the saints.
(And, therefore, to be influenced by them in contrast to the idolaters we read about in the next verse.)

I confess that my sorrows multiply when I run after other gods. Please help me not to pour out their drink offerings of blood or take their names on my lips
-especially with the idolatrous sins that have become unconsciously habitual in the last 47 years.

Lord, I have chosen the portion that you have chosen for me.
-Please help me to actively, repeatedly choose it.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance
-especially in Jesus and His Kingdom and specifically in Christine, Elizabeth and Wil.

Bless You, Lord. Thank you that You counsel me and my heart instructs me at night.

I have set the Lord always before me; when You are at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
-Please help me to set You before me.

Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices, my flesh also dwells secure.
-Please help me to be glad and rejoice.

Thank You that You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
('Holy one' was for David, the King, and especially for Jesus, but I am holy now in Jesus and can live forever in Him.)

God, You make known to me the Path of life, which is Jesus and is in Jesus.
(He said 'I am the Way' in John.)

In Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
-Please help me to experience your joy and the eternal pleasures of Your presence.


Just a little recap of the benefits of choosing God ('a beautiful inheritance') in this psalm:
  • My heart is glad
  • My whole being rejoices
  • In your presence there is fullness of joy
  • At your right hand are pleasures forevermore

Remember that old bumper sticker 'God is my copilot'? Then there was a counter-bumper sticker that said something like 'If God is your copilot, switch seats.' That's a false dichotomy according to this psalm. We all have decisions to make and actions to take that only we can. We all have a 'right hand' where something or someone has to sit. There is a valid point to be made in saying God should be our Pilot or 'let go and let God', but it will never change the fact that we are ultimately responsible for our choices and we have to keep making them, even if we want to be guided or led by God.