Friday, June 17, 2011

To Puppy or Not to Puppy

It has been five months since my last dog passed away and I have been pondering getting another pet. I have considered a variety of options in the pet area - do I want a cat that is going to shed all over the place? Do I get a poodle-ish dog that does not shed but requires regular grooming? Do I consider another dog, which will shed, though likely not at much as a cat? I've been leaning toward the dog options because I would like one that will force me to get into a regular routine with running.

In looking at all the local animal shelters, though, almost every dog that fits the size and energy level I want in a pet is is pit-bull. While I am not innately against the breed, I have not been able to reconcile getting one from the shelter due to the uncertain background from which it hails.

One friend, on hearing that I was considering a pet, started texting me adorable pictures and videos of a little puppy he is training for some of his other friends. He believes she would be perfect for me. Though she is adorable, she seems more like a house-dog rather than a running partner. Nevertheless, I am going to check her out. How can I not check out a puppy called "MooCow" because of her near perfect Holstein spots?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Summer Reading

The second book I am reading for church this summer is Love Wins, the new book by controversial theologian Rob Bell. After hearing all the vitriolic statements made about the book before it was released, the college group at church decided they wanted to read it to see what it really says and I am going along with them as sometime facilitator.

So far the book has mostly succeeded in giving me a headache. The mix of social justice theology coupled with a reshaping of the commonly held views of Heaven and Hell provides a rich field for plowing into one's own beliefs and why exactly one has them.

While I have not completed the entire book, Bell has yet to convince me fully of his arguments, but I tend to agree with him on the idea that Christianity has been too willing to take much belief from literature and tradition without a deep delving into the Bible for the foundations. Bell demands that we look at what scripture says - from the Old Testament through the New Testament with a close look at what Christ had to say about eternal life when he had the opportunity.

The answers Christ gives are not what we as Christians have been taught to give.

Perhaps we need to read the words of Christ for ourselves a little more often.

My Sunday morning Bible Study class has been reading and discussing books from the Apocrypha. Many of our contemporary ideas about eternity originate in that period in Jewish history (though some of the books were actually compiled in post Roman times based on documents from the period of time leading up to Christ's life). I have enjoyed seeing the connections between the "new" theology in those oft rejected books appearing in Bell's work.

I look forward to reading the book through the rest of the summer, though it is somewhat challenging and I can only handle the book in doses of about a chapter a week since I read each chapter at least twice with passages within it four or even five times. I can easily spend hours reading, stopping and thinking about it, then delving into my personal library to see what else I can find to support or refute Bell's ideas.

Love Wins has become a self-imposed graduate school course in theology.

*Another benefit of the book is that I am becoming much more adept at using the notes and highlighting feature of the Kindle - and now that I can tweet from it, watch out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Reading

Each summer I consider a list of books for summer reading, polling friends, publications' recommendations, and the periodic book review on NPR. Each summer I gather my stack of books and place them on the coffee table so that I see them every time I am in my living room. Since switching to the Kindle for most of my pleasure reading, the devices sits there, plugged in, fully charged, waiting for me to pick it up and start pressing the next page button.

The stack still contains most of the books from five summers ago.

Summer is just too full of life for sitting and reading.

Most of the time.

This summer I am participating in two book studies at church and, well, since I co-leading one of them, I really have to read the book and stay a little ahead of the rest of the readers.

Both of the books are stretching my thinking about the topics at hand. For the Summer Bible Study we are going through Hard Living People & Mainstream Christians. I have always struggled in ministry with "hard living people" as I have never been comfortable in those environments, but the book is causing me to readdress my thoughts about participation in the ministries and has broadened my understanding of hard living. The scripture also gives use firm commands from the Old Testament to the New Testament that we are responsible for all people - even and especially those who fit the category Christ called "the least of these."

For a socially progressive congregation, even using the term, "least of these" or "hard living" proves challenging. Who are we, after all, to label others?

The world labels people and we are naive to ignore that. Recognizing the reality in the world does not make us of the world, but to function in it, we have to adopt an appropriate language, appropriate behaviors, and appropriate attitudes. We have to get real.

We opened the discussion with stereotypes - stereotypes we have about hard living people, and thankfully, with participation of some people who fit the definition of hard living, we were able to get an honest take on the stereotypes they have about people in the church.

The world cuts both ways.

Sometimes it is hard to see that hard living people come in all types.

The same is true of Christians.

Maybe we have more in common than we think. The study so far has led me to believe this more deeply than I have in the past. I'm looking forward to learning much more as we get farther in the book.

The book focuses on hard living people in regards to difficult home situations, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness or under-housed situations. The more deeply I delve into that, I realize that I could be considered hard living. I do not have a difficult home situation, I don't abuse substances, I am not poor or homeless.

I am hard living in that I do not stop running from waking at 5:00 a.m. to bedtime between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. most nights. I find it very difficult to give another person the attention they deserve when I am in their presence because my mind constantly runs ahead to the next thing I need to do. Something occupies my time from the moment of waking until sleep - from mundane chores to intense work, reading, study.

I like texting and online chat because it does not require my full attention. I can do six other things on the computer while chatting with twelve people at once.

I like planning events with friends. I like the many meetings outside of work in which I participate. I like the things I do.

They bring me much joy.

I am always exhausted and more of my personal relationship are superficial than I would like.

How much more joy could I have?

The people the book defines as "hard living" have much joy in their lives too. They just take joy in different things than I enjoy.

So far in the reading and discussions, the commonalities we have far outstrip the differences.

Maybe we have more in common than we think.