A Man and His Dog

Out on a walk

IMG_3429ME: What are you doing?

WATSON:  Mmm…Wha…hmmm?

ME: Are you eating goose poop? You’re EATING GOOSE POOP!!

WATSON: No, I’m not!

ME: Yes, you are! I just watched you do it!

WATSON: Ok, so…I’ve had a bit…a bit.

ME: That’s disgusting. Do you ever wonder why your breath is so bad?

IMG_3430WATSON: Give us a kiss, then!

ME: Get out of here!!

WATSON: Hehehehe

I’m an Atheist Whose Faith in God Is Stronger Than Ever

Atheist who believes in GodYesterday, I posted something on Facebook that I feel needs some clarification. In a small fit of frustration with the state of religious affairs in our country, I said that I was an atheist that follows Jesus. While I still believe that to be true, I’m afraid I wasn’t clear. What I meant to say was that I am, as writer Frank Schaeffer puts it, an atheist who still believes in God.

First of all, let me begin by saying that my problem with Christianity has to do with a very specific evangelical, fundamentalist view of what it means to be a Christian and even more specifically, what we are talking about when we are talking about God.

Over the course of time, I am going to be exploring not only the language we use to talk about God but what this language means when we look at the Christian life as a whole. The evangelical tradition that my family came to when I was thirteen had an effect on my worldview, my marriage, my relationship with my own children, and my self-worth that was and continues to be monumental.

I have had friends suggest that I chuck the whole “religion thing” and just love my neighbor since that is the core message of the namesake of my faith. But I cannot do that. Religion, for me and for so many, is a language that I use to try to make sense of that which is more than me. I know that there is something beyond me, and what that is continues to reside in mystery. What I do know is that the “mysterious more,” as the late writer, teacher, lecturer and theologian Dr. Marcus Borg puts it, is not what American Christianity has made it out to be, namely, “God.”

I put God in quotes there because I want to emphasize the problematic way in which many Christians in the United States refer to that mysterious more that cannot be named.

Western Christianity sees God as a Being, a being with a capital “B” who is “out there” somewhere, intervening or not in ways that never make sense and must be understood as mysterious, yet mysterious only because it is not ours to ask why.

For western Christianity, God and the Bible function as idols in the exact same way in which the Jews of the Old Testament gave in to foreign idols and were blinded by their false worship.

When we talk about God in this way, as a Being, we are talking about God as a bigger version of ourselves—if we are finite, God is infinite; if we are mortal, God is immortal; if we are limited in our knowledge, God’s knowledge is infinite. Swiss theologian Karl Barth says when we talk about God in this way, we are talking about ourselves with a megaphone.

Thinking about God this way is a way of legitimizing our world and our system of beliefs. If we have the correct system and follow the rules of that system well enough, God will be happy with us and will let us into the place out there where “He” dwells. This God justifies our wars, our discriminations, our treatment of the Planet, and our ways of life.

When God is seen as a being (or, as Peter Rollins has said, a super being) God is a projection. We project a bigger version of our understanding and measure our worth and worthiness against that projection.

I have come to understand God in my life not as a projection but as a projectile—a force that is constantly, and not always gently, smashing ideas of who is right and wrong, what is good and bad, what is just and unjust.

For me, as a follower of Christ, I see in Jesus what a life filled with God looks like. I see a man who was called the Messiah, but who, at the time, was one of many, many men who was called by that name. The difference was in how he ruptured the system in ways that didn’t make sense. He loved the poor, healed the sick, and counted the lowliest of the low as the most important among all who lived.

When I reached the crossroads of my faith, I knew I could no longer continue to see God through the lenses of my former evangelical spectacles. At the same time, I could not give up my quest to know God more fully and live according to the ways of Jesus. I am broken and beaten, but I am also valuable and useful. I am also worth it and so are you.

If you would like to stop in from time to time on my journey to understand what it is we are talking about when we are talking about God, I invite you with my arms wide open.

My desire is to help as many people as I can who are searching for a different understanding of God than the one that no longer makes sense to them. That is my quest for myself, and I hope you will join me along the way.

I implore you to not give up. Continue to follow the ways of love and heed the tugging at your heartstrings by the one who is as close to you as the air you breathe.

More on this next time as we look into other ways to articulate and attempt to name the unnamable.

Peace to you

 

 

 

 

I’m a Fan Fridays!

Recently, I came across this little gem from 1988. The Calgary Olympics gave Canadian-born musician/producer David Foster an opportunity to show his skill as a composer.

This fun instrumental really epitomizes the Foster sound that influenced so much of pop music in the mid to late 1980s, specifically with the band Chicago, among others.

It’s just a ton of fun. Enjoy!

A MAN AND HIS DOG

TAKE ME WALKING?

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WATSON: It’s walk time, isn’t it?

ME: Not now, but we’ll go later.

WATSON: I want to go now, and if you don’t take me, I’m going to get my magic blanket!

ME: Your magic blanket, eh?

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WATSON: That’s right! It gives me…SPECIAL POWERS!!!

ME: You’re hilarious. Now, go lie down.

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WATSON: Take. Me. To. The. Park.

ME: Hey, buddy! Wanna go to the park?

WATSON: (sweet)

On a Quest for a Personal Lenten Journey

lent_desktopAs a young boy, living in the South Philadelphia suburb of Tinicum Township, I spent a good deal of time at St. John’s Lutheran Church serving as an acolyte.

I loved being an acolyte.  We got to wear robes like the clergy; we got to light the candles with a super cool lighter/extinguisher thing; we got to assist in the distribution of the communion elements; and, the coolest thing of all got to ring the church bells!  I can barely put it into words how important being an acolyte was to me at that time.

When I was nine years old, we moved to New Jersey and my parents left the Lutheran tradition behind.  After a few years with a non-denominational, community church, our family settled itself in with the local Church of Christ– an evangelical, fundamentalist tradition born out of the restoration movement.

To say the very least, the Churches of Christ disagree with the worship practices of the mainline denominations, and my services as an acolyte were not needed in my new church home.  This secretly broke my heart, but I lived to accept the fact that things were going to be different.  The old ways of my young faith were to be set aside, and I would simply have to learn the new ways of God, which were actually the old ways of God.

Confused yet?  Yeah, so was I.

My maternal Grandmother, who lived across the street from us in that South Philly, suburban row home, continued on with her faithful participation in the Lutheran tradition, and, because of and with her, I secretly kept some of the traditions of her faith in my own practices.  A very significant practice for me (not every year, I’ll admit) was the practice of observing Lent.

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What I remember about my observance of Lent was that it began 40 days prior to Easter and that I had to give up something; that was about it.

As I grew older into adulthood, I pretty much gave up the practice entirely.  I don’t have the time to give up anything.  I’m good without it.  Besides, I don’t worship that way, anymore.

About fifteen years ago, I re-examined my faith and was led to a different way of seeing God, faith, and religious practice.  I now identify as a Christian who worships in the United Methodist tradition, and Lent and Easter once again play a very significant role in the practice of my faith.

This year, in an effort to grow, I determined to seek out a Lenten journey that was more personal for me than giving up caffeine, which has become my go-to item to chuck.  This year I thought that instead of giving something up, I would seek to find something to do, a path to walk that would bring me closer to God and my fellow humankind.

I was led to the House For All Sinners And Saints, where I felt invited and called by God to participate in this Lenten practice.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, whether you believe in God in your own way or reject the notion of God altogether, no matter where you are on your journey in this life, I want you to know that I am going to participate in this Lenten practice as a way to lift you up.

I don’t need you to be like me, to worship like me, to practice a religion like me.  What I do need you to know is that you are so much more than you can ever imagine, more valuable than you can ever realize, and loved beyond all measure.

During the Lenten season as many around the world reflect on where they are in relationship to God, I want you to know that you are as close to God as the air you breathe.  God is never away from you and you are never away from God.

You are loved and cherished by God because you are God’s beloved creation.  You are loved and cherished by God because you were created. Period. You are worthy because you are God’s beloved child—redeemed and whole and brilliant.

During this Lenten season, I want you to know you are loved, and I will try my best to show it.

I wish you peace!

I’M A FAN FRIDAYS

big-fan

Hello, friends and welcome back to I’m a Fan Fridays!

I got to doing this every week a while back, and I’m excited to start doing it again. It is really something I love doing–sharing a great performance or a moment that really altered me. It is what the arts do at their very best.

For our first Friday back after a long time away, I want to share with you someone I know you are just going to be in awe of and fall head over heals for.

It is truly a rare occasion when one can say they were alive when the “greatest there ever was” at something is living among them. We can all say that about this individual.

I first saw Chris Thile play the mandolin with his two “Nickle Creek” bandmates at the Pennsylvania Folk Festival in 2001. I surprised Malisa with tickets, and we had the most wonderful day. Arlo Guthrie closed the show that night, but after those kids burned down that stage, there wasn’t much left for old Arlo to do.

Chris Thile is the greatest mandolin player I have ever heard. His range is unreal. He’s not only an amazing virtuoso in any style, he is also a very gifted singer/songwriter.

Today, I’m going to give you a two-for-the-price-of-one type deal. To show both Chris’s range as well as his singing and songwriting ability, I’m bringing in two different examples.

The first is a glorious interpretation of a Bach work for violin (the mandolin and violin are tuned identically, though obviously require two completely different techniques) and the second is an original song Chris has played as an encore for his solo concerts but plays here on the radio show “Prarie Home Companion,” which he is currently hosting every Saturday night.

If you enjoy his work as much as I do. Share away!  ENJOY!!

A MAN AND HIS DOG

LATE WINTER AFTERNOON

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WATSON: Can you turn the channel? Pleeeease?

ME: You change it! The clicker’s right under your left paw.

WATSON: Come on, man! Caesar is going to be on in, like, two minutes.

ME: Caesar Romero? They doing a BATMAN marathon on Cartoon Network or something?

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WATSON: No…the “other” Caesar.

ME: That’s just hurtful. Now you can definitely change the channel yourself because you know I’M not changing it!

WATSON: I never said you weren’t a good trainer. I just wonder sometimes…

ME: I wonder if he’s going to take you for a walk, today? hmmmMM!?!? If he doesn’t, I guess you won’t be going out.

WATSON: You wouldn’t!!

ME: Wouldn’t I? Who’s your daddy, now?

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