The best “Best of 2006” list of 2006

I failed to come up with any kind of “Best of” lists for this past year so I’ll point you to the best list I’ve seen so far. Hopefully our Constitution will win the “come back player of the year” in 2007.

Happy New Year!

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Rita

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It’s a very sad day for my family as we had to say good-bye to our dog of thirteen years, Rita. She was an amazing animal who never wavered in her loyalty and friendly companionship. I can remember the day that Rita joined our family. It was 1993 and I was a bag boy at the Bashas’ grocery store on Mckellips and University in Mesa. There was a lady just outside the store giving away a litter of puppies, all crammed in a small box. Rita, at the time, was just two weeks old and obviously unloved and malnourished. Despite her rough start, she grew to be an incredible dog who provided our family with much joy and friendship.

I will always remember how she always waited by the front door for me to come home from being out at night with my friends. I will always remember how she would put her paw up on my leg as I would pet her. I will always remember her spotted tongue.

She was an amazing dog and will be dearly missed. Click here to view some recent photos of Rita.

Journey of the Magi

Journey of the Magi

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T. S. Eliot
———–

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone!

Peace,

Zach

God Laughs and Plays, Entry #3

This is an excerpt from the second chapter of David James Duncan’s book “God Laughs and Plays”:

Why must the Creation enter into the human relationship with God?

Because theologies are man-made, whereas humans and Creation are not. Revelation is a gift, and the body and Creation are gifts, and each helps us unwrap and cherished the other. Without the Creation-gift to inspire and true us, human belief becomes mere human projection.

The Armageddonist’s rejection of the world-as-gift is such a projection: an obsession with the “End Days” is surrender not to God but to men with exaggerated reverence for their own fragmented understanding of holy writ.

We need God in order to love and care for this world, and we need this world to true our love for God. William Blake understood this. Seated, in his old age, beside a little girl at a dinner party, Blake leaned down to her, smiled, and said, “May God make this world as beautiful to you as it has been to me.”

We don’t know this today because William Blake related it. We know it because Blake’s spontaneous words made the world suddenly beautiful to the little girl, and she remembered and recounted his words for the rest of her life.

To every Armageddonist, every earth lover must keep saying with all the sincerity and affection we can muster: “May God make this world as beautiful to you as it has been to me.”

Third Way Faith Podcast

I recently sat down with the mighty Shane Hipps, author of the book “The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture”, to host a few episodes of his weekly podcast “Third Way Faith” for wiredparish.com. In the first episode that has already been posted, Shane asks me some questions, but in the others, I get to grill Shane with questions I’ve been gathering while listening to his previous casts.

If you don’t already have a subscription to Wired Parish, then you can go here and download a previous episode for free. I must say that having a subscription is very much worth the five dollars a month. Other podcasts available on the Wired Parish network include Brian Mclaren, Ivy Beckwith, Leonard Sweet, Reggie McNeal and others.

“Mary Cheney is going to make a fine mom……”

“Mary Cheney is going to make a fine mom and she’s going to love this child a lot. I think Mary is going to be a loving soul to her child. And I’m happy for her.”

–President George W. Bush, when asked about his thoughts regarding Mary Cheney and her partner, Heather Poe who are expecting their first child. Full story here.

This is a very interesting quote, to say the least, given what we know about George Bush’s position on gay marriage and his opinion on the dangers of the raising of kids by same-sex couples. First, I must commend the President, which is a very rare occasion. He has either set aside his personal beliefs in order to voice support for someone he has personal relationship with or he has expanded his previous assumptions on what is indeed good for the culture of strong families and lovingly raising children. In either case, I give credit where credit is due.

It’s interesting what happens to our assumptions and presuppositions when real life confronts our rigidity and callousness. Sometimes our experiences and relationships with others challenge us. They whisper into our ears something we might have not considered or were able to ignore from a distance. When at a distance, it’s easy to vilify and demonize. But then we sometimes encounter the “enemy” and realize that they are not so different than we are. We then realize that our assumptions and accusations may not be as valid as we once believed.

I take people like Mark Driscoll, George W. Bush and James Dobson (just to name a few) to task regularly on this blog and often time my tone becomes sarcastic and mean-spirited. I’m able to do this because I simply don’t see the whites of their eyes. I have no connection to them other than what I read and hear. From a distance, I launch my scud missiles without ever encountering them as real people, living real lives who are trying to make some kind of difference in the world. If I were to have any kind of relational connection with those who I often vilify, empathy could begin to take the place of my anger and resentment. This doesn’t mean that differing opinions can’t be shared and discussed, but that maybe our empathy for each other will allow the discussion to take place with more humility and mercy.

It’s a shame that so much of what drives our actions as a nation and as individuals is void of empathy and understanding. I pray that, as a nation, our hearts will be expanded by our connections to others rather than hardened by the distance between us and our “enemies”.

(HT: Andrew Sullivan)

God Laughs and Plays, Entry #2

0977717003.jpgAn excerpt from the first chapter of David James Duncan’s book “God Laughs and Plays”:

Wonder is my second favorite condition to be in, after love– and I sometimes wonder whether there’s even a difference: maybe love is just wonder aimed at a beloved. Wonder is like grace, in that it’s not a condition we grasp: wonder grasps us. We do have the freedom to elude wonder’s grasp. We have the freedom to do all sorts of stupid things. By deploying cynicism, rationalism, fear, arrogance, judgmentalism, we can evade wonder nonstop, all our lives. I’m not too fond of that gnarly old word, sin, but the deliberate evasion of wonder does bring it to mind. It may not be biblically sinful to evade wonder. But it is artistically and spiritually sinful.

Like grace, wonder defies rational analysis. Discursive thought can bring nothing to an object of wonder. Thought at best just circumambulates the object, the way a devout pilgrim circles Golgotha, the Bo Tree, Wounded Knee, the Kaabah. Wonder is not an obligatory element in the search for truth. We can seek truth without wonder’s assistance–but seek is all we can do: there will be no finding. Until wonder descends, unlocks us, turns us slack-jawed as a plastic shepherd, truth is unable to enter. Wonder may be the aura of truth, the halo of it. Or something even closer. Wonder may be the caress of truth, touching our very skin.

Don’t get close me! You’ll lose Spirit Points!

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If there is one thing that I want for Christmas, it would be that the “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” video game is made to be compatible with my Mac. In all seriousness, I desperately want to play this game. I’ve searched high and low online for some news or rumors that would hint that they would release a Mac version of the game, but no luck…..so far. Your prayers are appreciated.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan, I came across this very interesting article from the San Francisco Chronicle that highlights the fact that there are some Christians who are speaking out against the game and its violence. Apparently, as a player in the game, you either convert non-believers or else you have to kill them with a gun.

An excerpt from the article reads:

Left Behind Games’ president, Jeffrey Frichner, says the game actually is pacifist because players lose “spirit points” every time they gun down nonbelievers rather than convert them. They can earn spirit points again by having their character pray.

“You are fighting a defensive battle in the game,” Frichner, whose previous company produced Bible software, said of combatting the Antichrist. “You are a sort of a freedom fighter.”

And…..

Jeff Gerstmann, senior editor at Gamespot.com, an online publication, said the game sn’t popular. The game itself, which Gamespot rated 3.4 out of a possible 10, has lots of glitches.

“And it’s kind of crazy,” Gerstmann said. “One of the evil characters is a rock musician. … If you get too close to him your spirit is lowered.”

But Plugged In, a publication of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, gave the game a “thumbs-up.” The reviewer called it “the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior — and use to raise some interesting questions along the way.”

Frichner said that is precisely his company’s ultimate goal in offering the game: to bring parents and kids together to talk about the Bible.

Man, I’d love to sit down with my 5-year-old daughter while I’m playing this game and talk to her about the Bible and why I need to kill all the non-believers on my computer screen, but if she gets too close to me, she’d lose all her “spirit points”. Bummer.

God Laughs and Plays, Entry #1

0977717003.jpgRecently I was asked to review a new book from author David James Duncan titled “God Laughs & Plays – Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamentalist Right”. I’ve been trying to put into words how I would go about writing my review and it has been a failed effort. This book is one that I’ve connected with at a deep level and my only response is to share some passages of this wonderful book here throughout the rest of this month. I can only hope that if you resonate with the passages I share here, you would be moved to seek out this book for yourself.

—————-

Excerpt from the Author’s Preface – xxv

Evangelism as embodied by Jesus does not remotely suggest the close-minded zeal of proselytizers claiming that only their interpretation of scripture prevents eternal punishments and pays eternal rewards: it implies, on the contrary, the kind of all-embracing love evident in Mother Teresa’s prayer, “May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.” Not just her fellow nuns, Catholics, Calcuttans, potential converts. The whole world.

It gives me great pause to realize that, were such a prayer said by me and answered by God, I would afterward possess a heart so open that even hate-driven zealots would fall inside. There is a self-righteous knot in me that finds zealotry so repugnant it wants to sit on the sidelines with the like-minded, plaster my car with bumper stickers that say MEAN PEOPLE SUCK and NO BILLLIONAIRE LEFT BEHIND and WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?, and leave it at that. But I can’t. My sense of this life as pure gift—my sense of a grace operative in this world despite, and even amid, its hurts and terrors—propels me to allow life to open my heart still wider, even if this openness comes by breaking. For I have seen the whole fall into a few hearts, and nothing has ever struck me as more beautiful.

The whole world, for example, seemed to fall into the heart of Mahatma Gandhi, not only on the day he said, “I am a Christian, I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim, I am a Jew,” but on the day he proved the depth of his declaration when, after receiving two fatal bullets from a fundamentalist zealot, he blessed that sea lot with a namaste before dying. For the fundamentalists of each tradition he names, Gandhi’s fourfold profession of faith is three-fourths heresy. But it is also a statement that makes livable sense of Jesus’s “love thy neighbor as thyself” and, for me personally, a description of spiritual terrain in which I yearn to take up residence. If, because of this yearning, these pages are found offensive by some, how can I not feel honored by that very offense?