Monday, June 29, 2009

Attendance: the spiritual discipline

Peggy Senger Parsons' ( new book is out! Ordering information in the June 6th blog (You need this book. If you doubt me, read a few of the "So, there I was.." blogs from the archives).

The second story is about the spiritual discipline of attendance, or paying attention on two levels, and I wish to talk about an instance (all too rare for me) where I was able to participate in a sort of double play. While our team was in Baja we were able to visit a Campesino facility to play with the children. I would like you to note that these places are the ones OUR campesinos leave in order to improve their lives by coming here. All the kids were beautiful, and lively and happy to see us..... except one. A boy about 10, and he was miserable, refused all the advances the other kids made to him and was not coming near our team members. I happened to come face to face with him about 10 feet away and smiled and greeted him. For a moment his eyes seemed to light, but then he was having none of it. I sat down on a bench nearby to enjoy the play, a viejo a little too tired for the piggy back rides and activity involved in a field of energy that would have powered a city it seemed to me. In a short while, our young miserable came and sat beside me and leaned up against me. I just acknowledged his presence and shared my bench with him. It turned out that he had a bad cough, and I, unfortunately, shared that too for the time, though I was nowhere near as miserable as he was. After awhile he wandered off and I watched the kids, greeting, smiling and refusing piggy back rides. Shortly, I became aware of two small boys a little distance away who were squaring off and I decided quickly to meddle. As I got closer I saw the look of fear and of grim determination to put up the best fight he knew how on the face of one boy. As I got near enough, that boy was the one closest and I scooped him up, turning him practically upside down in the process, and took him back to my bench. God alone knows what he thought was happening to him, but I tried to let him see my smile. I sat him on my lap at the bench and hugged him briefly, hoping to let him know that he was not going to be punished and he was free to go or stay. He stayed. I don't know whether I did right or not, but i do know that my miserable friend came back, smiled, patted me once and sat down beside me again. The other little boy came by, trying to torment the boy on my lap, and when i would not let him do so punched and kicked me, refusing attempts to show friendliness to him. This went on for a little while, and awhile after that the boy on my lap left. Another young lady whgo spoke Spanish appreciated the quietness on our bench and sat with us, conversing wth my friend and closing that language gap. Before we left, my friend was smiling and telling his friends how we had scratched his back for him.
I guess part of my reason for telling you this is that I need you to help me pray. Not so much for all the beautiful children, though they could sure use it. Nor for the boy on my lap; I think he has a lot going for him even in his situation. Not even for my friend with the cough, though it was a bad cough. But for the little boy who seemed to know no way to relate but in anger and dominance; he has a hard, hard life to live.

Return and a question

I am back from Baja and I have a question. While we were visiting the orphanage in Vicente Guerrero (,3.html ) we learned that their fire department had been dispatched to a house that burned very near the house we had built last year, and that two of the five children had died in the fire and two more were in intensive care. The fire started because of a candle burning in a window and catching the curtains on fire, something that hapopens all too often. As it happens, one of our team members had spent a great deal of time and effort working on solar energy collection and utilization for our house this year and for the one we built last year, but the systems are fairly extensive and expensive. We did have some small units that collected energy during the day and could then be use inside at night for awhile, and one of our team administrators asked about them for use by a family he wanted to help. It occurred to me that a great deal of good could be done by finding or designing a unit that would use a solar collector to run a smoke detector that distinguished between cooking smoke and woodsmoke and at least one light. Even just a light would help a lot by reducing the risks of candle or lantern use. I asked Roger about this and he is going to be looking into it, but I am soliciting any knowledge or advice from anyone else who may have knowledge. Expect updates on what we find out and maybe hints about how we can all put such information and resources to work.
In His Love,

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I'm just back from 3 days with my sister and her husband in the Marble Mountain Wilderness area of Northern California. What a beautiful world we live in!
Now I'm ready for a ten day luxury vacation to beautiful Baja California! We leave tomorrow morning at 6:30 (THIS is luxury?) Well, hey, the whole trip only costs $400 so I guess a little early rising isn't TOO bad.
We finished "The Truth Project" last night, and it may well have been the best session; a call to action actually not tingedwith political bias.
I'm not sure I'm quite ready to write up the last three tours before I leave, so at least some will have to wait.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"The Truth Project" The State

THIS one is raw, kiddies, from start to finish. Del starts by comparing the State to a gang of robbers taking away half the farm recently inherited by some kids, but they do it with taxes. Interestingly enough, he ends by saying that the (State) is the agent of God for carrying out the duties of the state, and for that reason we are to pay taxes. I guess I got lost. We may argue that taxes are unfair, but it sure doesn't look like the "Christian worldview" would see the state as robbers. Del tells the story of Ahab, Jezebel and the vineyard she obtained for him by using the power of the state to murder the owner and confiscate the property for Ahab's personal use. Was it Louis xvii who said that he was the state? Is it true that the king IS the state, or is he the agent and head of the state, but not to be identified AS the state? Can "the State" steal, or is it individuals misusing the power of the state for their personal purposes that was the problem? Is that something we see today, and is that confined to non-Christians, or does it seem to be carried out primarily by those professing to BE "Christian?" What was the public so upset about recently in the insurance bailout crisis? I think the State is often much more concerned about taking back what has been "legally stolen" than it is with doing the stealing itself.The second part of the presentation was concernend with "separation of the spheres," and an elaborate story of King Uzziah I think it was. making a sacrifice in the temple against the express commands of God as to who was to do so. Del says this was about blurring the spheres, and maybe it is, though I don't think that is primarily what it was about. Let that go. The main point Del is making is that the State gets too big for its britches and tries to rule in all of the spheres and therefore is out of control. I think arguments could be made that the State needs to interfere is some measure with all the "spheres" in order to insure that it performs those obligations required of it. Perhaps not, but Del's argument that the State should not be telling us "What marriage should look like" seems fairly ridiculous when his parent organization is spending tremendous effort to get the state to declare that marriage is between a man and a woman. What's wrong with this picture? Del even said that we require more government when we are not internally governed and that has most clearly been shown to be the case when unregulated business (read greed) puts the whole economy in dire jeapordy. I totally agree with Del: I would LOVE to see far less government, but not until such government is no longer required and I don't see that happening in the near future. Del ends by saying that we have the opportunity to participate in deciding how our government is to be run and that we will vote in accordance of his picture of the proper place of government, but I gotta tellya kids, don't vote thinking that we have reached the point where it really is NOT needed.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"The Truth Project" Union with God

Unio Mystica is the focus of this "tour" and it is almost entirely well handled from short study on union between man and wife to a fairly intense study of the union between God and man. One of the elements of the union of God and man discussed is the nature and extent of the change this makes in a man, but no mention of the application of this union in guidance by the Spirit for the individual's life, apart from an indication that he will be more willing to follow the "rules." To me this seems like a glaring, if not unexpected shortcoming.
Del goes on to an exposition of teaching on the desired unity of the church with it's many members, each with particular abilities and....... ooops, Del uses the word "roles" and I would prefer to see "jobs," or "duties," or best of all, "functions." Why? Because "role" seems to me to emphasize structure as opposed to the stuff that needs to be done, and emphasizing structure seems to me to tend toward valuing one function over others. Maybe I'm nit-picking, and the point is made that there are several things that we are to do for "one another."
Del then goes on to ask what keeps us from unity and proceeds to discuss what he calls a "hunger for significance" that is part of how God made us, explaining the need for approval or esteem by men as a misdirection or even a perversion of this need. This is seen in Jesus' teaching about people who do things "to be seen of men" and how that is all the reward they will receive. I think this is an area that those in leadership positions need to be particularly careful about. The ultimate perversion is jealousy of the esteem in which others are held, viz. Saul's jealousy of David. Del doesn't use the term, but I see the difference as a need to be of value as opposed to a desire to be recognized, but the point is well made that "God has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Him."
A few points for development in discussion, but overall an outstanding lesson.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"The Truth Project" Sociology

Here I find myself in nearly total agreement with the presentation.... ok, one cavil and a coupla points that I think should have been developed that were not. BUT I would say that this is the best "tour" in the series except that the next one is even better, and we still have one lesson to go in our class.
First, the cavil: Del reads from Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone and asks whether that is a judgement of quality or a moral judgement. He then develops from his speculative theme of Gods "nature" reflected in His "system" that God is a relationship and being alone is contrary to God's nature and therefore it is a moral judgement. He emphasizes marriage and family and the inference is that it is immoral not to be married. He didn't check with Paul.
For further development: Del notes that "submission" is a recurring theme and simply states that it is good and not the jaundiced perception we hold in society. I would like to suggest that there is a lot more to the social use of "subission" in the New Testament than society normally thinks of, and that it is based on a sort of contract situation. I like the Weymouth translation of Ephesians 5:21; " and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ," and my point is that, if the "submission" spoken of is like that viewed normally, then how could I submit to one who is busy submitting to me? SO, we look at other exhortations to "submit" and find that they are accompanied with the point that the one being submitted to has the best interests of the one submitting very much at heart; husbands, elders, leaders or whomever. I was talking with a pastor whom I greatly respect in a class, and I asked about the Quaker practice of "eldering." She said that there were a few people she would grant that she would just do it if they said to back off. Of course that practice must be done in love and consideration for the best interests of the party being eldered. I submit* that it is no virtue to "submit" when one knows darn well that the "authority" has its own program and not the interest of the one supposed to "submit."
The second point is closely related and that is that the nature of authority bears a heavy responsibility to be sure that the leadership or authority is handled for God's purposes and in the best interest of the people being led, not for the leaders purposes or as an exercise of power.

*ok, really bad pun. I'm ashamed

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"The Truth Project" History according to whom?

I should take the time to reiterate that a focus on constructive criticism should not be taken as denigrating the whole program, but at the very least bring up subjects that should be included in discussion during and about the series.
The Isaac Group discussed inconsistencies and/or misrepresentations of factual information by Del in this section, noting that with a title like "The Truth Project," the producers should hold and be held to an extraordinary standard of truth. The whole idea and even the presentation of this section is good, though slanted toward a conservative perception, and we need to be aware of the fact that presentation of history is selective by its very nature; you can't tell all the factors involved in any one event. The problem for Del is that this is a very "post-modern" perception. Doggone it we need metanarratives. Unfortunately for Del, the way it works, for example, is that you have a metanarrative about the brave pioneers who wrested a great nation from the wilderness, and then someone like Dee Brown comes along and points out that in the course of that wresting the Native Americans were treated despicably, to the dishonor of those brave pioneers. "Revisionist History." Del defines "revisionist history" as something like reconstructing the past with things that are not true, or at least selecting for a determined slant. In fact, Del uses the technique in presenting a selected part of the statement by Marjorie Agosin on the allegations of lying by Rigoberta Menchu.* The term is better defined: "Historical revisionism is the reexamination and reviewing of the stories told as history, with an eye to updating them with more recently discovered, more unbiased, or more accurate information."
Broadly, it is the approach that history as it has been traditionally told may not be entirely accurate and may be subject to review
Del's is a fairly common error, at least among those who wish to indicate that any change to orthodox presentations of history are fallacious, but it is not valid. What Del is talking about is "didactic revisionism."
The good side presented in the "tour" is the idea that people who have a sense of purpose, who view themselves as "stepping stones" for others bring a lot of energy to their vision. True, and valuable, but they need to be sure that their actions are as noble as their purpose. "Stepping stones" is a great self-perception as long as they don't use other people as doormats on their way.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"The Truth Project" Science

This is where I came in..... Well, I came in on the second section and have not watched the first, since I feel no need to catch up on bad science. Aside from pointing out that Del conflates evolution and abiogenesis (the beginning of life) and makes arguments about abiogenesis, which is at a very iffy stage of development, stand for arguments about both. For those interested in the science aspect I would suggest logging on to and for those interested in a few capsule videos about why evolution IS good science, check out
My concern is entirely different: that all the hooraw is in support of a failed doctrine. Yes, indeed kiddies, I am talking about inerrancy, and especially the idea within that failed doctrine that Genesis should be read as history or it has no value. Even if inerrancy is true that approach to Genesis is not required or even very fruitful, and there are other forms of literature where Genesis shines as metaphorical explanation of the human condition. But back to inerrancy, which I am not even denying is true: What I AM doing is stating that as a doctrine it does far more harm than good. Why? Because it places the emphasis, the burden for guidance on the Bible instead of on the Spirit we were promised. The point is that while we emphasize inerrancy there will always be those who, in the words of Jesus, "search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (John 5:39-40) Once again the question arises as to why, using the Bible as guide, we have thousands of different denominations, some of which are very Bereans for searching scripture with a fine toothed comb.
Now I have mentioned that scripture describes itself as "useful" and can be seen as a great tool.... for the Spirit to use in our guidance. I would also like to mention that "the church" is described as " the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1Tim 3:15). Now I see "Sola Scriptura" as an overreaction to the abuse of the latter idea by the Roman Church, which made the deliberate error of defining "the church" as the government they had put into place and making their edicts sole authority. The more valid description is the literal translations of the Greek "eklesia" which means those called out. The assumption of course is that it is those called out of the world to follow Christ and the church has been described as those who have gone before us as well as those currently following Christ, so that we should take into account their description of the leading of the Spirit from the New Testament to the current time. There may be a question as to what materiels from the past are Spirit led, and examination according to the fruit of the Spirit is necessary. We also have the members of our current body of Christ who can help us determine whether our leadings are of God, and Quakers have developed a set of "tools" for doing so that are well worth looking into. Last, but not least is our informed reason. We are warned against relying on reason alone and/or on the wisdom of men, but the use of reason is assumed when any rational presentation is made. Therefore, we have for guidance the Spirit and three tools for use by the Spirit. My plea is that we use the structure outlined for us IN scripture and not just scripture for guidance.

In His Love,

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Truth Project 4: Theology

The main thrust of this section is about God revealing Himself to man, and Del concentrates almost entirely on scripture and the revelation there. I don't see Del as Sola Scriptura in a hard line sense, but I think he comes close. For one thing, he seems to confuse "the Word" with the Bible, reading "scripture" whenever he sees "word"...... except John 1:1 (not mentioned) where it would be a little off to think it could read, "In the beginning was the Bible and the Bible was with God and...." if you see what I mean. My point is that scripture is a part of the revelation of God's Word, but it is not "the Word." Del even cites John 5:39-40 "39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." But he does not apply what the meaning of a relationship with Christ or putting on the mind of Christ means as far as guidance, and does not approach the fact that Jesus promised a "comforter" for our guide. This is fairly common for those who require concrete authority; something written in stone. I always think of someone with that kind of requirement as asking God to show how to live in a way that brings him close to God. God says, "I will give you a guide," and the guy says, "Hold on, you don't mean this 'Holy Spirit' do you? 'Cause I have heard about this 'Spirit;' He tells you to turn left without warning or explanation and never gives a description of the complete route." God says, "Well, yes, that's what I had in mind," and the guy says, "Tellya what, I've got this set of directions worked up from letters by people who have gone that way some time back, how about if I just use that?" God says, "Well, if that's what YOU want, but I have to tell you that a LOT of people have missed the path that way." Please note that the famous citation from Paul to Timothy describes scripture as "useful." Think of them as a tool for the Spirit, but not as our "guide." We say that interpretation of scripture requires the Spirit, but we don't seem to start with the Spirit when we need guidance.

One thing that Del did explain well, and a new thought to me, was that God as a "Jealous God" is not jealous as we normally think of jealousy, but hates anything that stands between us and a relationship with Him. That would include ANYthing that we make into an idol.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Truth Project: Anthropology

In the study of Anthropology, Del makes the Calvinist emphasis error of saying that man is "evil," and opposing it to the humanist idea that man is basically good. This is another instance where the "us versus them" mindset makes talking to concerned, but not convinced people just that much harder. No one likes to think of himself as "evil," and yet we all know that we've got our problems. If we mute the hyperbole to something like "basically self-interested," I think we have something we can all relate to. I also think it might help point out the reason many of us professed Christians carry some "logs in our own eyes." People to whom we talk will recognize the conflict between our self-interest and our need to operate within society and maintain meaningful relationships. Del notes that "fallen man" still carries the image of God, so I think what I am talking about is tempering the rhetoric and making it more accessable both for those who do not share our faith and for us within the faith in relating the ideas to our own lives. I really did like Del's point that "redeemed man," one who has chosen to follow Christ, still carries the "sin nature" in the same way that "fallen man" still carries the image of God. There are some "Holiness" perceptions which say that the Spirit should wipe away the "old man" so that we no longer have the desire to sin, but I think it is dangerous to count on it. That may say more about me than it does about the doctrine, but I'd say that the "new man" is more about a new direction than about a new nature. My biggest problem with the "tour," though, was what looks to me like a complete misrepresentation of Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs," in which Del indicates that Maslow claims that "self actualization" is what is most important to man. It is easy to see how Del could make this egregious error, since the term "hierarchy" is used and that indicates the most important at the top. On the other hand, Del is using the same foundational image for the whole series, in which the most important perception is the basis for the rest. Maslow clearly indicates that the "lower" needs must be met before "higher" needs are considered. I think the "us and them" outlook has betrayed Del into the failure to see value in any perceptions that are not based on scripture. As to scripture and self-actualization, isn't the point of "losing ourselves in order to find ourselves" that we find our greatest "self-actualization" in conforming to God?I guess my main objection here is that Del's presentation fails to give us the basis for dealing with secular humanism and enlightened self interest as really viable foundations for human interaction.

In His Love,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tour 2, Philosophy and Ethics

Last night, our study group had a most exhillerating discussion! But it was on "The American Experiment" and I gotta catch up on the series......... so wait.
The basis of the tour is Col 2:8 concerning being taken captive by philosophy and vain deception. One point that needs clarification is that philosophy will often confirm principles that are part of the experience in Christ, so we should not do the "us and them" thing here either, just be grounded in the values we learn in the Spirit and the fruit of that Spirit. Del does mention the point made by, I believe he said Augustine, that true religion and true philosophy must ultimately reach the same point.
Del gets off on the wrong foot in that regard with a presentation of Carl Sagan stating that the cosmos is all there is, was or will be. Del takes this as saying that there is no God and uses the box analogy as a presentation of the physical universe. The problem is that, as I read it, Sagan is defining "cosmos" which would include whatever exists, putting any god or such matter of "spirit" inside his "box." That's ok, the analogy works for naturism, which is essentially saying that there is no god, and that is an element of some human philosophy, it's just that the application of "the box" analogy is more limited than Del would allow.
There are presentations of various schools of philosophy which are less than accurate, but not altogether unrecognizable until Del gets to "Post Modernism," which is less a philosophy than an attitude. Del says that Post modern thought claims that there is no truth, that everything is relative. Likely there are post modern thinkers that state such a thing, but I doubt we would find concensus on that. There would be concensus on the idea that it is not all that easy to get to. In fact, my perception of Post Modern thought is that it could be summed up by saying "It just ain't that easy." Ecology, with all its nuances may well be the ultimate post modern discipline. To apply that principle to Del's line of thought would go something like this: you say the Bible is "truth," but using that basis we have thousands of different warring denominations claiming to be the only ones who are teaching that "truth." What gives?
I think the point needs to be made that it is not a question of empirical "truth" or "right doctrine," but of following the "guide" Jesus promised, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If a philosophy leads to that, it is a good "point."

Monday, June 1, 2009

"The Truth Project," Tour 1

In the introduction Del Tackett says that the goal is to transform us through an encounter with God, and the transformation should make us a world changer. That is a worthy purpose when most of us are somewhat less than avid in our application of our beliefs in our lives and in our contacts with others. I would like to have seen something about "be the change you want to see," but a spark is struck here.
The first "tour" is about the question, "What is Truth." Del starts by asking why Jesus came to earth, and for his purpose will accept only the answer given in one verse, "to testify to the truth." Good answer. Not the only one though, and I kind of see a tone being set in which the lesson is held to a narrow scope, but Del only has 45 minutes to get his point across, so let that go. The basis for the series of "tours" is set when Del says that there is no area of life in which God has not spoken, therefore making "revealed truth" the focus. The theme of the series is also set as Del indicates that "the world" has set itself up against the truth of God, making it a case of them against us. I have some serious trouble with that since "us" is nowhere near monolithic on some of the issues covered, but I guess that would be explained by indicating that those who don't toe the line are not really "believers." Truth is defined as that which corresponds to reality. Fine. The problem is that there are sometimes disconnects between "revealed truth" and "observed truth," and Del does not note in any way that there can be any reaction to that disconnect other than refusing to acknowledge "observed truth." The possibility that observed truth is "reality" makes it imperative that we be in a position to acknowledge that our understanding of "revealed truth" is in error, somewhat in the manner of the adjustments made to the church's teaching after Galileo. The idea that "now we see in a glass darkly" appears to be anathema to Del's worldview as he appears to be in the business of absolutes. There is a lot to be said about "the world" setting itself up against the things of God, but it isn't as clear cut as Del would have it...... on either side.

In His Love,