God Uses the Imperfect- Lenten Lesson #1

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory… Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may… know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ” –Ephesian 3:16-19

Lenten Lesson #1: God uses the imperfect.

So today is my day off.  And before 11 a.m. I’ve already made 9 loaves of Communion bread…  I know, I know:  I need to get a life!

But, I enjoy making Communion bread.  It’s almost a “Zen experience” for me.

As I made the bread, some loaves came out nearly perfect; others quite imperfect:


But thankfully, God uses the imperfect!

Sacramentally, Lutheran Christians say that through God’s Word and Promise:

  • The ordinary is capable of containing the extraordinary, and
  • The finite is capable of containing the infinite

This is how ordinary, everyday drinking water, connected with God’s Word, can become the life-giving waters of Baptism.  This is how ordinary every day loaves of bread and wine, made by the hands of hard-working women and men, when connected to God’s Word, can become the very presence of Christ in Holy Communion.

When God’s Word fills the imperfect… the ordinary… it has the potential to become extraordinary.  And this includes you and me!

My prayer for you today is that you, who are imperfect and ordinary, may be filled with the extraordinary love, power and promise of God!

Astonishment- a 2012 Christmas Message


“The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.”  John 5:20

Astonished.  Mary was astonished with the news of her pregnancy.  Joseph, too, for that matter.  Elizabeth and Zechariah were astonished in their old age, and the shepherds were astonished at the angels’ pronouncement and what they found.

Christmas is a time of astonishment.  That the Creator of the Universe would deign to come down is astonishing.  That this God would take the form of a helpless peasant baby born in the most dire of circumstances is astonishing.  That the good news of this God-coming-down isn’t initially shared with kings and lords but rather stinky shepherds working in a field is astonishing. And that this is how salvation is brought to the world is astonishing.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you would be astonished by God in the miracle of the Incarnation.

+pax et bonum

It’s time for a frank talk about guns

gunMy week started out with a funeral.  It was the first funeral our mission congregation has held in its five-year history.  And it’s the first I’ve presided at in over 5 years (although I’ve presided at a couple of graveside committals).

It was a tough one, too.  Not that funerals tend to be fun, exuberant, etc.  But the details of this particular funeral, which was actually a double-funeral, were tragic.  A mother and her daughter.  A mother who died rather suddenly due to complications with pneumonia.  The daughter, a single mom, who ended her fight with cancer.   Their deaths left behind children: a 9-year old daughter and a 16-year old son.  Like I said: tragic.

That’s how my week began.  And it has ended with national mourning at the massacre in Newton, Connecticut.  An elementary school.  20 children dead.  6 adults.  And the shooter.  27 lives ended.  Needlessly.  Devastatingly.

And of course, it’s almost Christmas.  It’s hard to imagine the parents, many who probably already bought Christmas gifts for the children they will never again get to hold, to laugh with, to scold, to help grow up into responsible adults.  Tragic.

This massacre follows several other recent shootings, and points to a growing national crisis.  It is time to begin having an actual dialogue about guns.  No, like most people, I am not calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment.  Discussion about gun control is not the same thing as repealing the Second Amendment.

But think about our First Amendment right to free speech.  Although I have the right to speak my mind, this right is legally restricted.  For example, I am not free to threaten the President.  I am not free to publish untrue things about another.  I am not free to yell fire in a public space if there is not a fire.  My speech is free, but it’s not unlimited.

And it’s the same with my religious freedom.  Although the First Amendment is explicit that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”, Congress has actually prohibited my religious freedom from encroaching on the life of another.  For example, religious freedom doesn’t allow someone to sacrifice human babies and eat them.

So, therefore we can- and actually have a moral imperative to- develop reasonable gun control laws in this country.  No “regular” citizen needs semi-automatic weapons.  No one needs 100s of guns in a stockpile.  It is rational to require regular criminal background checks and psychological evaluations, and to prohibit certain violent individuals from owning guns.  We should develop stiff criminal penalties regarding guns, and require people to register their guns on a regular basis.

And we should be able to discuss this rationally as a nation, without knee-jerk reactions that stifle the conversation immediately.

And I’ve heard the defenses.  “Banning guns doesn’t stop criminals from having guns, just like banning drugs doesn’t stop drug-users from getting drugs.”  True, but statistically we know that laws curtail behavior.  When seatbelt laws went into effect, supported by the “Click it or Ticket” campaign, seatbelt use went from 69% to 88% since 1998.(*)   But, some will still not wear their seatbelts.  So should we just give up on having it as a law?

And since 1982, when drunk driving laws became stricter and Driving Under the Influence became more publicly denounced thanks to Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD), we have seen a 52% decrease in drunk driving fatalities (76% decrease for persons under 21).(*)  But there are still some who will drink and get behind a wheel.  So should we just give up and let them?  Of course not!

Rational gun control laws does not ultimately infringe upon our right to bear arms.  Instead, it provides a framework in which we can live out this freedom and at the same time “insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare”(*) for ourselves and others.

Am I a Socialist or a Capitalist?

I believe the means of production should be owned by individuals and not by the government.  I believe in a mostly free-market economy, and in a strong private sector.  I guess this makes me a capitalist?

I also believe that the military should be publicly supported, well-regulated and government-run.  I believe that we should have roads, schools, hospitals and health care, libraries, airports, utilities, police and fire departments that are publically supported and government-run.  I also believe certain industries should be regulated (USDA, FDA, etc.) for the health and safety of our citizens.  I guess this makes me a socialist?

But even if we have public schools, hospitals, libraries, and police departments, I support the right of those who want to go to a private school or hospital, who would prefer to buy their books at Barnes and Noble, or who feel the need to hire a private security firm for their own protection.  I’m back to being a capitalist?

I believe, as the Declaration of Independence reminds us, that everyone should have the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  This doesn’t mean everyone deserves to succeed or deserves to be rich.  It means everyone has the opportunity to find success, to make wealth, to strive for work.  The problem becomes when these inalienable rights are not made manifest for all.  I believe, then, it becomes our prerogative as a people, and of the people’s Government on behalf of those who elected it, to level the playing field so that everyone has the chance at the right to pursue happiness.  It doesn’t guarantee they’ll find it.  But at least there’s now the opportunity.  Now I’m a socialist again?

I guess, in the end, I am a strong proponent of a Social Market Economy.  The extremes and excesses of both socialism and capitalism are dangerous.  There is a balance we can strike between the two that I think provides for a robust economy, private ownership, healthy regulation, and a strong publicly supported Commons.

pax et bonum!

un día en la vida (el último día)

Today is my last day in Playa del Carmen.  And I’ve learned so much that my head is spinning (in a good way).  The people are friendly.  The school is amazing.  And I’ve met so many awesome people and I’ve seen so many wonderful things.

The last two days I’ve had a touch of Montezuma’s Revenge.  But it didn’t stop me from diving into a local cenote…

Cenote Jardín del Edén

Cenote Jardín del Edén

visiting a place to see dolphins, manatees, and sea lions…

Sea Lions

New Friends!

and then to Akumal, to snorkel with the large tortugas (turtles)…



Tonight was Hora de Cócteles at the Residence, where we made Mojitos… a great end to a great trip!


Un día en la vida (día 9)

I’m the only American attending this language school at this moment.  There are amazing folks from Australia, England, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Korea, Canada and Scotland.  And there’s me.

It’s been a truly interesting experience to listen to how others see and experience the world.  It’s even more fascinating to hear how others perceive America and Americans.

Some look at us as novel, almost eccentric.  Others can’t believe or understand how we allow 40 million Americans to be without access to affordable health care (join the club of disbelief!).  Others have told me they were shocked and delighted at the election of Obama, believing it signaled a new era of global cooperation and a step in the right direction for America, perhaps even beginning a peaceful revolution of ideals in the United States.

More important than what these people may think of America or Americans is the great fact that we are a diverse community filled with wonderful conversations and new friendships here in Mexico.

Today, I had two cooking lessons after class.  Between the two classes I had the opportunity to pop over to the beach with some new friends for a little beach action (it was a beautiful day).

During the cooking lessons, I learned how to make fish (rojo imperial) and tostadas de res.  I’m not a fish-eater, but this fish was very tasty.  So were the tostadas.

tostadas de res

pescado (rojo imperial)











So this is day 9 of a day in the life… in Playa del Carmen.

Hasta luego

Un día en la vida (3-7)

So the week went by fast!  Once settled into the right class, I really enjoyed every moment of group time.  We focused primarily on verb forms: the preterite, present perfect and imperfect.

I continued with my cooking classes in the afternoon, making enchiladas rojas, fajitas, chiles rellenos, and tacos dorados (i.e. taquitos).  I really enjoyed the lessons, but enjoyed eating the food even more!

Enchiladas Rojas, Chiles Rellenos, Fajitas y Tacos Dorados

One night I also took a salsa lesson that was offered for free through the school.  I was the only one who showed up for the lesson, so I got one-on-one attention from the teacher!  And it was so much fun…

In the late evening, I went out a couple of times with folks staying at the residence center to enjoy live music and drinks.

On Friday, after a happy hour with fellow students, I checked into a local hotel on Quinta Avenida.  It is so hot, and I really wanted to swim in a pool.  So Friday and Saturday I enjoyed a more vacation-like experience.

Our Happy Hour

It’s now Sunday late afternoon, and I just got back to the residence center.  I’m planning to go to mass at the church across the street this evening and then get some church work done.

I’m really looking forward to this coming week of study!


My view at breakfast at my hotel



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 665 other followers