Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Chosen Debt

My own spiritual journey has been through twists and turns as God has opened my eyes to the broader work of the Church outside of my own local congregation and denomination. Part of my story is my exposure to Reformed Theology at the end of high school and on into college. Although ultimately I didn't choose to stay within those circles (please note the irony) I do owe a great deal to the people I met along the way as well as the influences of that brand of theology own my own, though I do not consider myself to be a part of reformed thinking. This was a great post about the role that reformed theology has played in many people's lives like mine.

John Calvin, above, shouldn't ever be confused with Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes) below in terms of their importance in shaping popular thought and culture. Both are equally indispensable! In actuality, Calvin and Hobbes is based on John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Listening for God

Exodus 3 (The Message)

Exodus 3
1-2 Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn't burn up.

3 Moses said, "What's going on here? I can't believe this! Amazing! Why doesn't the bush burn up?"

4 God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, "Moses! Moses!"

He said, "Yes? I'm right here!"

5 God said, "Don't come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You're standing on holy ground."

6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob."

Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

What was your burning bush encounter with God like?

Preachers I Follow....

I am teaching at class this term at Guido Bible Institute in Metter, GA on Church History. I was asked last week by one of the students who are some of the preachers I follow or listen to podcasts of...I paused for a second and rattled off one or two that I've listened to before, at least one of their sermons, but truthfully I don't listen to a lot of other preachers for a couple of reasons:
1. We have an old iPod shuffle so to put a podcast on it is hard to find and it takes up all the space that my music needs.
2. The CD player in my car doesn't work so that's not an option.
3. I could listen in my office more, but usually I am doing things that require more attention and focus so I can't listen too intently.

Truthfully, my favorite preachers to listen to and or read from aren't ones that most of the people I interact with would appreciate for different reasons, but here are a few:
1. Frederick Buechner: I haven't heard him preach, but his books (mostly collections of sermons) are among my favorites in my library.
2. Barbara Brown Taylor: Amazing, but since she is a woman most people look at me like I'm crazy when I cite her as one of my favorite preachers.
3. Calvin Miller: My preaching professor in seminary, truly a gifted artisan when it comes to the craft of preaching.
4. Walter B. Shurden: I actually haven't heard Buddy preach too many times, but I receive his preaching journal e-newsletter that is insightful and thought provoking for anyone doing a lot of teaching and preaching.
5. Cyd Pagliarullo: She is by far my favorite preacher to listen to...truth be told (I have said this before) she is the better preacher and teacher in the family. Passionate and insightful with a keen ability to speak right to the heart!

Truthfully, the "preachers" I listen to the most are gifted singers/songwriters who have an uncanny ability to dissect the human heart and shed the light of the gospel or the need for the light of the gospel in our fallen world. I love the lines from a Bill Mallonee song that seem to capture my sentiments about my favorite preachers,

today's djs on the radio say
you gotta buy this one it's a must
but the tunes that were old and beat up and wise
well they're the ones that I learned to trust
the ones all full of liars and lovers
robbers and murders and thieves
the ones all full of saints and sinners
a lot like you and me

Some of my favorite "preachers" include:
Bill Mallonee
Mark Heard
Bob Dylan
Johnny Cash
The Allman Brothers Band
Drive By Truckers
Dave Matthews Band
Patti Griffin
Indigo Girls
Nancy Griffith
James Taylor
Harrod and Funck
Waylon Jennings
and many more


A great post over at Internet Monk about Ancient-Future stream of the post-evangelical world. The more I search, read, think, and reflect the more I am drawn to the thoughts behind Ancient-Future rhetoric. A dear friend told me last night that if he wasn't Baptist, he would be Anglican...a sentiment that I have heard time and time again from others, myself included. Perhaps the biggest need in the church is for a renewed passion for what is good from the history of the faith (Hebrews 12:1-2) as we live out our faithfulness in our own traditions.


For more on Ancient-Future Faith check out: http://www.ancientfutureworship.com/index.html

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thoughts from Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton was a Trappist Monk who heavily influenced the spiritual life of many Christians (Protestant and Catholics) in the 20th century and into the 21st century. I have a couple of his books that I have picked up through the years but they have sat idle on the shelf in our home...always beckoning me, but their voices overshadowed by others. At the beginning of the summer I began working my way through No Man is an Island by Merton. It is a deeply engaging book, one that is best read in bits and pieces because of the magnitude of his wisdom and knowledge of the devotional life.

Here are a couple of thoughts that resonated with me over the last few days...

"God who is infinitely rich became man in order to experience the poverty and misery of fallen man, not because He needed this experience but because we needed His example. Now that we have seen His love, let us love one another as He has loved us. Thus His love will work in our hearts and transform us into Himself" (291).

Don't misunderstand him to say that the only reason Christ came as a man was for a moral example for us. We know from scripture that he came to rescue us from the power of sin and death and that God sought to triumph over those things through the power of the cross. Lest we forget that the death of Christ doesn't just free us from sin but it frees us to live fully in Christ. Part of this means becoming instruments of God's grace and love in the world around us because we have been fortunate enough through God's free mercy to experience his love and grace!

"Every man becomes the image of the God he adores. He whose worship is directed to a dead thing becomes a dead thing. He who loves corruption rots. He who loves a shadow becomes, himself a shadow. He who loves things that must perish lives in dread of their perishing" (322).

And perhaps among my favorite recent quotes, "The teaching and miracles of Christ were not meant simply to draw the attention of men to a doctrine and a set of practices. They were meant to focus our attention upon God Himself revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. Once again, theology is essentially concrete. Far from being a synthesis of abstract truths, our theology is centered in the Person of Jesus Himself, the Word of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (249).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Q & A: Anne Rice on Following Christ Without Christianity | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

A while back I posted a review of Anne Rice's autobiography of her conversion and reconnecting with the Catholic church she grew up in. She has recently publicly renounced Christianity as her religion, although not her relationship to God as a believer in Christ. Her actions remind me that there is much about the institution of the Christian church (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) that rubs me the wrong way (our history, stance on different issues, even some of the people) but it's still the one place that sinners "a lot like you and me" as Bill Mallonee says join together not in our own strength and purpose but united in our confession of the Triune God who has redeemed us and is at work in the world to bring about his kingdom...that is what keeps me hanging on to the church with all of it's faults and failures. Rice makes some valid points, but she misses what I believe is one of the essentials of faith, unity through the power of the Holy Spirit. Q & A: Anne Rice on Following Christ Without Christianity | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Clark Pinnock Dies at 73 | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

It would be safe to say that Pinnock has been one of the most influential theologians of the late 20th century, into the 21st century. He is revered by some and despised by others depending on where they fall on issues of Biblical inerrancy, Open-theism, spiritual gifts and other key areas in the church. While I agree and disagree with him on different points of theology...the thing I admire most is his willingness to always learn and grow and sometimes that means that one's theology will shift and change through one's journey. Perhaps I admire that aspect of Pinnock the most because I find myself in the same category when it comes to my own journey. Clark Pinnock Dies at 73 | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hell on Earth

I'm still working my way through No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton and this week I came across two selections that have been gnawing on me. My previous post dealt with the business that is life lately for us.

There are times, then, when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform: and often it is quite beyond his power. (166)

Jesus established a pattern of regular periods of rest for himself. A pattern that is necessary for anyone to truly be human...in the fullest since of the word. I find in my own life that regular periods of NOT doing, what the Bible calls Sabbath rest are necessary for me to be the Christian, husband, father, friend, and minister that I am supposed to be.

The Eagles have a song that says "I was thinking to myself, this could be heaven or this could be hell." What I have been reminded of is that if I don't take time to simply BE rather than DO then I cheat myself and God out of my best. In addition to that I create my own prison in which I feel the need to do stuff all the time based on pressure to constantly look busy and feel busy and a drive for productivity. What I really need to do is break that cycle and find contentment in periods of non-doing.

Merton also had this to say, "Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filling all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life's leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succeed in producing a hell on earth" (171).

Are you helping to create heaven on earth or hell on earth?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Week in the Life...

Since August started it feels like we haven't even had time to...well I think you get the point...Crazy, intense, madness, busy, those are just a few words that could describe the last couple of weeks for the Pagliarullos! Both of the girls are in school and we are beginning to get a handle on the schools being 20 minutes apart too! Dance started back up this week and I started teaching another class at Guido Center for Christian Training. In all of this, we as a family are learning that
8 PM can't come soon enough for the girls some nights (parents too). We are also learning to cling to a few minutes or a few hours together as a family as we invest in each other.

Spending time with people we care about has been a blessing this week. Last night we got to spend time with Mamanon, Grandmother, and Mimi...helping us gear up for Cyd's birthday and Claire's birthday that are just around the corner. Today we spent the first Saturday in a long time as a family without projects, schedules, agendas or goals. We went to Daylight Donuts, T-B-M (a feed and seed store), and the grocery store. We could dinner, complete with a peach pie with fresh peaches, and some boiled peanuts (1st time Cyd or I have ever boiled peanuts). What a great end to a great but full week!

May You Be Filled With Joy

Colossians 1:9-14 (New Living Translation)

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

I read this passage about a week ago and was reminded of a couple of things:
  • I need God's strength and power so that I can have patience and endurance
  • I long for my life to always be filled with joy, which it usually is
  • I was once a slave to sin and the powers of darkness but now I am set free by the power of the cross
  • I always want to grow and push others around me to grow
  • No matter what we go through or experience God is always with us and at work in our lives as Christians
The interesting thing is that I have had literally countless conversations and/or encounters this week with people and this passage would pop into my mind. It's almost as if God has made this my prayer for people this week...I can't seem to move past the thoughts that Paul has in mind here. I can't believe how God breaks through the ordinary and mundane of our lives to give us a glimpse of his goodness and glory!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marriage and Parenting Conference

First Baptist Church Statesboro hosted their first Marriage and Parenting Conference this weekend with Jerry and Bayne Pounds, professors at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It was a great weekend for Cyd and I to get to know other couples better, learn how to improve our parenting skills, and work on our relationship with each other. We were truly challenged and blessed by this weekend! We topped the weekend off with dinner at Vandy's BBQ, a Statesboro tradition!

Help! My Little Girl Started Kindergarten!

I can't believe that Claire started kindergarten this week! She is at a great school with a great teacher, but I still can't believe my little girl is old enough to do the whole real school thing. It scares me to death to think about how she will grow and change over the next 13 years...and thrills my heart at the same time. She has been so excited to start school all summer! The kicker was that she got a stomach bug and had to miss two days of school the first week! The bad thing about this is Monday will be like starting over for her. I pray that God will continue to grow and develop her into the woman he has created her to become!