Thank You Dumitru Staniloae

There is a sweetness in the writings of Dumitru Staniloae that draws me into the love of God. This precious Orthodox theologian opened the gift of relationships within time and space for me. I was struggling to understand the problems of the West and the modern world in the way we articulate and understand time and space when I first discovered Staniloae.

Instead giving me the answers, he caused me to raise more questions. And I am grateful for that holy stirring in my soul. Like Heschel, Staniloae suggests that the modern world tended to spacialize time and invert the proper order of time over space. When writing about time, Staniloae says that time is the interval between the offer of love and the reciprocation to that offer.

But maybe I better back up a moment. Staniloae introduced me to another aspect of Maximas the Confessor beyond the four hundreds texts on love. He develops the creational vision of Maximas in his writings. Staniloae suggests that when God chose to create humans (in his image), God created time and space as to planes where humans could move (in differing ways) towards love. Thus time and space provide a plane of motion for movement toward love in relationship with God and with other humans.

At first this may be a little difficult to wrap around, but I encourage to let it simmer in your thoughts and heart. It will unfold riches of the beauty of this creation. As a way of offering some glimpses into Staniloae’s writings, I am posting a segement from his little pamphlet “The Victory of the Cross.” This 20 page treasure opens in the riches of the cross in ways that most of us completely miss.

Here is the opening paragraph from this meditation on the cross of suffering in our lives:

The world is a gift of God, but the destiny of this gift is to unite man God who has given it. The intention of the gift is that it should be continually transcended. When we receive a gift from somebody we should look primarily towards the person who has given it and not keep our eyes fixed on the gift. But often the person who receives the gift becomes so attached to the gift that he forgets who has given it to him. But God demands an unconditional love from us for he is infinitely greater than any of the gifts which he gives us; just as at the human levels the person who gives us a gift is incomparably more important than the gift which he has given and should be loved for himself and ot only on account of his gift. In this way every gift requires a certain cross, and this cross is meant to show us that all these gifts are not the last and final reality. The cross consists in an alteration in thie gift, and sometimes even in its entire loss.

I am planning to put some notes on his themes on the cross soon, and I’ll post them. But I’ll pause now simply to say thank you for the gift of writing you gave. May I move beyond the gift to love God and others more fully.

The Browser War….It's ON Baby

Per Jeremy’s prompting, I spent the weekend playing around with the beta Firefox 3.0. While Firefox is a beloved old friend, I must admit that Flock and Seamonkey have been my mainstay browsers. But FF3 is faster, leaner and ready to take the battle of the browsers to the next level. NY Times today reports that Firefox, IE and Safari and all set to launch a new round in the browsers wars.

Orientation

I fear that our generation is like a ship of sailors lost at sea who stare at the water day after day to try and get their bearings. Looking out from their boat in all four directions, they see water. They don’t lack water. But the endless fields of water cannot show them where they are or where they are headed. Without some orientation, they cannot navigate through this ocean of chaos.

Our generation enjoys news twenty-four hours a day both on television and on the web. We can know virtually anything about anything with a click on the computer. We can download sermons in every style and flavor. We can hear music, watch movies, see college courses and learn almost anything through our computers and TVs, and yet we grow more foolish, more blind, and more deaf.

We are stumbling in the dark and we cannot see what makes us stumble. We are a dis-oriented and we live among dis-oriented people. So how do we regain proper orientation? I thought I’d look up that word to try and understand what it really means.

The root of the word orientation is orient (meaning east, rising sun), which comes from the Latin oriri (meaning to rise, rising sun, to be born, to appear). The root of the word makes me think about my beginning, my birth. I had a starting point. I haven’t always been here. As Bruce Cockburn says, I’ve “never seen everything.”

The Scripture reveals that I’ve been created in the image of God; that he formed me in my inmost parts; that he knows me inside and out; that he created for His good pleasure and glory; that in Him I live and move and have my being. So this root of orientation makes me consider properly my beginning.

Orientation comes from orient and it is an architectural term that originally indicated the way churches were built facing East (Jerusalem, Rising Son). The medieval world looked to Jerusalem as the center of the world and the east provided proper orientation. Their maps reflect this believe as east not north is the top of the map (and Jerusalem is in the center of the map).

Medieval churches were built so that the altars faced the east. Thus every time the people of God gathered to hear the Word of God and break the bread and drink the wine, they faced east toward Jerusalem.

Eating the bread and drinking the wine was remembering the covenant of God with His people made in the body of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s table was a way of looking back to His death on the cross and looking forward to a meal that was to come: the marriage supper of the lamb when all God’s people from across the ages would be gathered together in a city of love. Their worship physically pointed them toward the end of all things: New Jerusalem.

As I consider the rich history of this word orientation, I come to realize that proper orientation requires us to understand our beginning from our end. John the Apostle reveals this orientation point only in Jesus. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

In his gospel, John also writes, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” So we look to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.  Only then can we discover an orienting point.

So when we try to make sense of our lives and make decisions about the future or even try to understand the past, we cannot ignore Jesus as the center point. To ignore Him is to misunderstand. To ignore Him is to stumble in the dark.

I realize that this must sound insane to those who reject Him. Paul suggested that it is foolishness to the world. So I will be a fool in this world by orienting my life according to the fixed point, the person of Jesus Christ.

It is not the newspaper or the web or even the latest Christian book that will give me bearings in this ocean of chaos but the slow, intentional turning of my mind and heart to Jesus. By His Spirit, the Bible becomes an ever fuller unveiling of Jesus. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I am gradually learning to see and hear my Savior.

And just as the sailor who uses longitude and latitude to move through the sea, I turn my eyes to Him in His Word, His commands, His people. Most of my steps forward still appear unclear like walking across choppy waves as far as the eye can see. But I rest that He is leading the way, and I will arrive at the New Jerusalem in time for the feast.

Thank You C.S. Lewis

I just finished The Last Battle, and my heart was stirred afresh by the cries, “Further Up and Further In!” My fourth grade teacher introduced our class to C.S. Lewis by reading portions from the Chronicles of Narnia each day in class. Then I read the books myself, and it was the first time as a youth that I had any longing for the kingdom of God. I didn’t know what I was longing for until I was older, but Lewis’s words awoke this yearning that only grew as I grew older.

Recently I listened to all the audio books again (and realized that I think I somehow skipped the Silver Chair as a youth). After all these years the stories still worked their magic. I felt foolish driving down the road blubbering at various transcendent points in the tales.

So thank you C.S. Lewis for you gift of another world. You helped to train my eyes to see glimpses of the kingdom around me and my ears to hears echoes of a new creation song.

Brands as Tags

Last year I gave a presentation to group of businessmen on tagging and why it had the power to change the way we think about information, categories and even people. I suggested that we could have a tagging profile for members of congress the might paint a clearer picture than simple left/right divisions. In fact, I thought and still think that tagging could be an interesting tool for 360 profiles on how people (friends and co-workers) perceive us.

Looks like has got the ball rolling with their brand tagging tool. Brand tags is great for brand researchers and fun for the rest of us schmucks to brand the companies we don’t like with words like

Emusic Wants Your Poor, Your Tired, Your Huddled Cell Phones

Don’t throw out your discarded Cell Phones and MP3 players. EMusic is offering cash, paypal and even charitable donation options. That charitable idea is great, and I’m glad they’re offering it!

Anybody who offers Larry Norman downloads is already rocking in my book!

Microsoft Office is Now Open

Or at least the door is cracked! A couple years ago I wrote a post about online software and pointed to Boing Boing’s piece on Open Office running ads on the buses back and forth to the evil empire.

NY Times reports that the the intense ad war may just have worked! Microsoft is releasing an open document format in the updated Office 2007.

I'm So Generation Joneser and I Didn't Even Know It

Every so often I find myself in the middle of a group of people discussing Gen X and Baby Boomers. Then the inevtiable question: “What are you?”

“Well, as it turns out I’m sort of an in-between. Depending on what I read, I either am grouped with the boomers or the X-ers.”

As the chatter continues, my middle child syndrome exerts itself and I think, “Yeah no pictures of me in the “boomer or x-er photo albums!”

Today at work the “x vs boom” convo started up, and before I knew it, Don had sent word from the all-knowing authority on everything knowable: wikipedia. Turns out, I’m a Generation Joneser!

Or so says Jonathan Pontell. Jonathan has identified a whole group of us born between 54 and 64 as Jonesers. I guess those “in the know” already knew this, but alas it’s news to me. Nice to be part of a new group!

How Does the World Come to An End?

Well, it can blow up. Poof. Bang. Boom. All gone.

Some worlds ends suddenly. Our church caught fire in February, and suddenly that world was over. Permanently. The things we salvaged now sit in storage, awaiting the new world. Then again a sudden lay-off may bring a sudden end to the world. In 1992, I was in graduate school and working full time to pay for it.

One morning I went in to work, and suddenly I didn’t have a job. I dropped out school for the next seesion, and when I did return, everything had changed. I was no longer studying film. My focus had changed, and I was planning to return to ministry. When the world ends, those who survive go about starting a new world.

Another way the world might end is through decay. Stand amid the ruins of ancient Greece, and you can see a world that is gone. The Parthenon may impress but it is just a shell. A reminder of a world that once was. Oddly enough, the structures of a world remain long after the world has died. Some organizations survive from generation to generation but the world is dead. There is nothing there but the machinery that causes people to keep the skeleton cleaned.

A series of disasters can bring the world to an end. The medieval world suffered one devastating blow after another. The crusades, the great famine, the black plague and other disasters brought this world to an end. The survivors who remained built a new world that laid the foundation for the modern world.

Then again, a new world can be planted in the middle of the old world. Like yeast it can work its way out through every fiber of the old world, creating a new world in the midst of the old. When Jesus goes to the cross, he talks about a seed falling into the ground so that it can die, and yield a great harvest. A harvest that overtakes the old world and makes all things new.

Whether it’s a business, a dream, a project, a community, a country, or a civilization worlds end and new world are created. Who creates the new world? Created in the image of God, we create new worlds through our words and actions. Even as He works in and through His people to create a new world in the midst of a fallen one (but more on that later).