Saturday, October 26, 2013


October 26, 2013

Dear friends,

The process of replacing my worn-out computer is now physically complete.  A good friend took the aging remains from the garage and the upstairs study and carried them off to their final rest.
Their departure generated an interesting observation, however, particularly in the context of my thinking about the DELETE key and the whole business of erasing things. 

My friend, thankfully computer savvy, said, “I’ll clean out the memory before I dispose of the machinery.”  Says I, with airy nonchalance, “Oh, I have erased all my files.”  Then said my friend with a grin, “But you don’t understand. You can’t just erase the traces of the stuff you’ve put in there. What I’ll probably do is remove the memory, place it on the sidewalk, and smash it with a sledge hammer. May soak it for a while in gasoline after I’ve hammered it. That should do it.”  

Gay: “Oh.”

Pause. Thought. Much thought.


As individuals, there is one significant sense in which our inner worlds resemble a computer. We may instruct memory to DELETE, and, while the process is neither instant nor effortless, eventually memory will file the experience in the conscious trash bin. But in a deeper sense, what we do and think, what we feel and the meaning we make of life remains in ineradicable evidence in the person we become. I cannot by choice “un-happen” an event. My inner machinery like the computer carries the evidence of the activities in which it has participated. In the context of the computer analogy, what I have done is my life, whatever ambivalence I (or William Stafford) may feel about the matter. 

But there is another profound human truth that asks for recognition at this point.

Unlike machines, living systems create themselves, then re-create themselves, and then re-create themselves still again. In ways that remain beyond even the most sophisticated computer, living systems re-engineer themselves into new and distinctive “wholes” larger and more complex than the composite parts from which the “whole” was assembled.

The crucial elements in this mysterious “becoming” process for people as conscious living systems are two-fold: first, a willing awareness of possibility beyond present experience (indeed, possibility that may contradict present experience), and, secondly, the choice to risk the change required in living out this new reality.

I cannot DELETE what has been. I can, however, do something more than replicate or reposition or redefine these experiences. I am free to do something beyond conservation. I can participate in a transformation process.

Thinking with you, gratefully, that while change may entail loss, it does not require destruction. No matter the content of my life experience, God’s grace continues to provide a TRANSFORM key. Unfortunately, however, this valuable function does not operate automatically. I must choose to use it. And--sometimes to my initial discomfort---I must then live with the reformatting that results.

See you next week at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. This week required a slight galaxy detour.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Zaphod Beeblebrox?

October 20, 2013

Dear friends,

Books—a large number of very interesting books—lie all over the house this morning in various stages of being read. 

I am rereading Phyllis Tickle’s work, Emergence Christianity, and finding it well worth the re-read. In conjunction with this I am re-reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s fine small book, Speaking of Sin: The Lost Language of Salvation.  In the context of the massive change Tickle describes, I am revisiting Brown’s idea that some words that are common coinage to Christians cannot be replaced by “new” vocabulary. What do you think?

 I have two of Alister McGrath’s work in progress—Surprised by Meaning, and The Passionate Intellect. Both are carefully reasoned, beautifully written, and a renewed challenge for me to love God with all my mind (or at least with what is left of it—smile.) How do you express stewardship of your capacity to think?

Intervarsity’s new Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets is on the kitchen table. I am tackling cautiously selected entries broadly related to what is referred to as Second Temple Judaism by the scholarly folk. I find the story of Israel’s exile and return an unending source of insight about God’s willingness to “do a new thing," and a personal challenge to be a mindful participant in God's process. What new things are you and God doing in your life?
I am still working on McKelvey’s Pioneer and Priest: Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews. I have just started N.T. Wright’s Romans for Everyone.  No information is more important than knowledge of the text.

Several of the individuals whom I am mentoring are using the Enneagram as a guide to increased self-understanding so I am reviewing Rohr and Ebert’s work, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.  It’s a good read.

I am using Frederick Buechner’s Listening to Your Life and William Stafford’s The Darkness Around Us is Deep to keep me aware that paying attention to life—in me, and around me—is  my first responsibility each day. 

And because laughter is a great attitude adjuster, I am reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. This is the outgrowth of a delightful hour spent talking with a friend who quoted Zaphod Beeblebrox: “I only know as much about myself as my mind can work out under its current conditions. And its current conditions are not good.”

Isn’t that a great line? And underneath its semantic acrobatics lies a great question: To what degree does my environment limit—determine?—my knowledge of myself? What does “free will” mean in this context?

If you have not yet met Zaphod Beeblebrox, I would suggest you do so even if only for the delightful pleasure of repeating the nonsense of his impossible name.

Next week to continue the joy of serious thinking in foolish terms I plan to read The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Stop by for coffee if you can find the time.

Meanwhile, thinking with you that Zaphod Beeblebrox can be unsettling. What happens if the person that “current conditions” tell me I am is not the person my Inner Monitor describes? Who is the authority?

See you next week. 


Sunday, October 13, 2013


October 13, 2013

Dear friends,

No more snow—yet. Trees are busy changing the landscape to gold and red and brown, however. Each day larger flocks of jittery noisy birds appear on the power lines. Twilight is cooler and sunsets come earlier. This morning sunrise and the clock face appeared to be in odd disagreement as well.

I am not distracted by autumn’s drama queen behavior or yesterday’s beguiling seventy degree temperature, however. I sense something in the air and I think I know what it is, so I have moved the begonias in from the porch.

I thought I overheard them complaining among themselves about the crowded window corner where they must spend the winter. In their defense, the porch does provide more comfortable living quarters. Nonetheless, I suspect that in their own knowing way they are relieved to be inside. Today the autumn sun is glorious and a warm lazy day is promised again tomorrow. But I wonder—do you think plants remember? 

Now.  Pause.  Think.  Time for the DELETE key? How to decide?

Last week I considered with you the possibility that ease of erasure (that trusty DELETE key) might encourage careless thinking, a pattern of self-talk in which I say to myself, “Oh, don’t stop to think—just write. You can always delete what you don’t like.” In my experience with myself, anything that reinforces writing without first taking careful thought poses at best the risk of increased foolishness and, at the worst, danger of serious error.

But last week’s opening paragraphs, like today’s, poses another question regarding the DELETE key. Mistakes are not the only issue. Not all relatively error-free copy merits saving. 

It is true that earth moves on in its ceaseless turning, and the seasons change. In these beautiful Colorado days I watch that change, I sense its power, its subtle beauty, and in it sense as well the changing seasons of my life.

Is there value in committing that truth to screen? Having reviewed what I wrote and approved it for accuracy (at multiple levels) shall I hit the SAVE key?

And, supposing I choose to SAVE, shall I SEND?

In my experience, the dilemma of the DELETE key is more than matched by the challenge of the SEND key. The DELETE key forces me to ask, “Is this true? Is it accurate?” The SEND key insists upon an even more difficult question: “Is this of value? What is its worth?”

Value is not a simple matter. Facing a computer screen, people often hit the REPLY, REPLY ALL, or SEND keys rather than deal directly with issues of worth. 

The question, “Is this interesting?” doesn’t help much with the issue. An accurate account of moving the begonias in from the porch is not likely to prove either entertaining or amusing for any of you patient readers. But the absence of interesting content is not in itself evidence of lack of worth.

Low entertainment value does, however, underscore the potential embarrassment of taking oneself seriously. The common activities of life are more often than not mundane and unexciting. I cannot expect that any of you will find it entertaining nor, in fact, interesting that I moved the begonias.

However, it is also true that having moved the begonias, I experienced a moment of sensed wisdom as I rested in the porch swing. Beyond language, I understood again that life is fragile, that the seasons of life pass quickly, and that protecting life is a worthwhile thing even if only for a brief time. Do I dare risk taking that moment seriously, and risking, in turn, that some of you will find value in that as well?
I think that is worth saying—it merits the SEND button. But here is my difficulty—will sending you the accurate account of moving the begonias insure that you receive the message that from my world view is the thing of value?

Wishing today for a wisdom-check program that I could use before I push the SEND key.

See you next week.