Laughter And The Bible

Frederick Buechner, in his book Peculiar Treasures, writes:

Quantitatively speaking, you don’t find all that much laughter in the Bible, but, qualitatively, there’s nothing quite like it to be found anywhere else. There are a couple of chapters in the book of Genesis that positively shake with it. Sarah was never going to see ninety again, and Abraham had already hit one hundred, and when the angel told them that the stork was on its way at last, they both of them almost collapsed. Abraham laughed “till he fell on his face” (Genesis 17:17), and Sarah stood cackling behind the tent door so the angel wouldn’t think she was being rude as the tears streamed down her cheeks.

When the baby finally came, they even called him “Laughter”—which is what Isaac means in Hebrew—because obviously no other name would do.

Laughter gets mixed up with all sorts of things in the Bible and in the world too, things like sneering, irony, making fun of, and beating the competition hollow. It also gets mixed up with things like comedians and slipping on banana peels and having the soles of your feet tickled. There are times when you laugh to keep from crying, like when the old wino staggers home in a party hat, or even in the midst of crying, like when Charlie Chaplin boils his shoe for supper because he’s starving to death. But 100 percent, bonded, aged-in-the-wood laughter is something else again.

It’s the crazy parrot squawks that issue out of David as he spins like a top in… Read More

The Entire Bible Is A Story Of Immigration

**pictured above: Eliana (left) and Inna (right) before church on Sunday in Kent, WA.

The other night, author and theologian Diana Butler Bass shared a Twitter thread on the subject of immigration and the Bible.

Pastor Brian Zahnd said, “Diana Butler Bass is a scholar and a better theologian than you or me. Read this 32 tweet thread and learn about the Bible and immigration.”

Here’s why this issue is important to me… because it’s not merely about an issue, it’s about individuals. It’s about people I know and love. It’s about my youth pastor’s wife who has DACA status, or I should say she was DACA status.

Eliana was just 1 year-old when she was brought to the USA. She is now 26 years old. Obviously, this country is all that she knows, and she has lived in the PNW her entire life. She is a beautiful woman of God who leads worship in our church, loves young people, and contributes to our community in a significant number of ways. I can’t imagine any scenario where she could possibly be viewed as a threat or… Read More

That Kid Who Ran Across Your Lawn

Dr. Preston Pouteaux is a bee keeper, author, and pastor in Alberta, Canada. His new book, The Bees of Rainbow Falls, is about finding faith, imagination, and delight in your neighborhood. In the chapter on “Awe,” there is a section entitled “People Are Sublime,” which is quoted below…

*     *     *     *

For all the beauty of mountains and space, I am discovering that people are the most sublime.

Yes, strangely I’ve come to believe that boring, frustrating, and annoying humans are perhaps the pinnacle of all that is wonderful and good in the world.

This may be surprising to some; people seem to be so common. An hour stuck in traffic can almost make us feel like other humans are simply a part of the mundane fabric of the world around us, nowhere close to the breathtaking experience we think would be associated with awe.

Give yes mountains and beauty, not people. Stick with stars, birds, and bees. That’s the good stuff. Yet even from space, astronauts stare in awe at both the beauty and the fragility of the people too small to see. These mundane, boring, insignificant people may in fact ignite the highest sense of awe a person might experience.

I’ve often felt that mountains are not the pinnacle of beauty in the world, that they are not the most meaningful source of spiritual awe and satisfaction. Neither are bees, or birds, or stars. I leave the mountains with renewed life, but I return to my neighborhood and city to encounter the most stunning source of beauty in its most sublime form: people.

Eugene Peterson, a spiritual theologian who loves  nature and beauty wrote that “Even a bare-bones human existence contains enough glory to stagger any one of us into bewildered awe.” Just by their very being, people proclaim something astonishing about the world we live in.

Not convinced? Read on… Read More

The Enriques

If you’ve read Father Greg Boyle’s book Tattoos on the Heart, you know he typically travels with some “homies” (guys who are in the program at Homeboy Industries – leaving the life of gangs, drugs, and violence behind in order to build a new life and career). When Father G came to speak at our annual Together Nights in 2015, he brought two homies with him: Enrique and Enrique. The Enriques – as I like to call them.

That’s right. Both guys are named Enrique.

This trip to the Northwest was the first time either man had flown in an airplane. It was the first time either Enrique had been out of Los Angeles. Father G took them out for a day of exploring Seattle.

Father G said the Enriques were… Read More

An Attitude Of Listening

Continuing in this theme of stillness / quiet / silence / listening / hearing… a few more words from Sue Monk Kidd’s book God’s Joyful Surprise:

The aim of silence is to create an attitude of listening to God.

Without listening, silence is just a vacuum. Inside our silence, we seek an encounter, a dialog, a participation with His presence. But learning to hear His whisper is the most delicate miracle of all. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears…”

If. That little word says a great deal to us, doesn’t it? It says God speaks, He knocks, He awakens… but… perhaps we will not hear Him.

Not long ago I stepped outside into the deep velvety darkness of an… Read More

Silence. Quietness. Stillness. Is There Anything We Neglect More?

There’s a gas station near my house that I frequent. When I stopped in the other day, something was different. We were headed out together as a family for an adventure. As I stepped out of the car to fill it up, there was instant noise and flickering of lights… the gas station had upgraded their pumps—the new ones featured little television screens and speakers.

This is not my favorite.

I realized as I stood there waiting for the tank to fill that I had come to enjoy these 2-3 minutes of quietness. And now that space has been filled up with news reports, entertainment, and advertisement.

Sue Monk Kidd, in her book God’s Joyful Surprise, writes…

Silence. Quietness. Stillness. Is there anything twenty-first century America neglects as much? There is no reprieve even in the elevator where music is piped in to cover the silence. We drive to the store or home from work through a maze of billboards screaming more words at us.

All day the roar of technology around us is constant: traffic, planes, phones, dishwashers, television, videos, electronic toys that talk, blip and bleep incessantly. We are buried under a… Read More

Every Event Carries The Hidden Possibility Of A Word From God

*Photo above: Rhythm & blues recording artist Liz Vice at NWLife, May 2017

My little family of three has this dinner-time conversation on a regular basis—it’s usually prompted by my wife… she will ask, “Where did you see God today?” The question could be asked a number of ways: How did you see God today? What experience brought you closer to God today? What reminded you of God today? What did God whisper to you today? 

There is no right or wrong answer. That’s not the point. The point is to share those encounters, experiences, thoughts, and feelings that somehow made us mindful of our Creator.

When Liz Vice came to sing at our church’s annual Together Nights last month, it was one of those… Read More

We Must Not Spend God’s Mercy, As If It Were Ours To Spend

The real meaning of mercy is that it can look on failure and still see a future. —John Claypool

 Catholic theologian Ronald Rolheiser has written…

Shortly after ordination, I found myself working in a church with a saintly old priest. He was over eighty, nearly blind, but widely sought out and respected, especially as a confessor. One night, alone with him, I asked him this question: “If you had your priesthood to live over again, would you do anything differently?” From a man so full of integrity, I had fully expected that there would be no regrets. So his answer surprised me. Yes, he did have a regret, a major one, he said: “If I had my priesthood to do over again, I would… Read More

Getting Over My Hatred For Small Talk Means I Need Better Questions

As an introvert, small talk is my kryptonite. I can literally feel the life draining out of me as I’m hit with, “What do you do for a living?” or “Did you see that Mariner’s game last night?” or “How you doing, Bro?” What usually follows are some quick answers, awkward pauses, and a drummed-up reason why I gotta leave now.

I should probably take a class on social graces.

Even among my own tribe—pastors—I fail miserably with small talk. After every conference, I think about how annoying and predictable the conversations were (How you doing, Bro? How’s the church? You guys growing?)… and then I tell myself I need to come prepared with 2 or 3 interesting things to say.

The truth is, I would love to circumvent small talk altogether and move right into some real, true, deep stuff (How has your theology changed in the past few years? What’s one thing you’re too scared to change at your church but you really wish you could? What hurts in your life right now?).

Of course, I have a weird and goofy side too. Sometimes I want to ask… Read More

I Can Wait, Says God, I Like What I See

When we’ve ignored a thousand invitations, there’s still another one waiting. —Ronald Rolheiser

“Covenant” by Margaret Halaska

 

God

knocks at my door

seeking a home for his son.

Rent is cheap, I say.

I don’t want to rent. I want to buy, says God.

I’m not sure I want to sell,

but you might come in and look around.

I think I will, says God.

I might let you have a room or two.

I like it, says God. I’ll take the two. You might decide to give me more some day.

I can wait, says God.

I’d like to… Read More