Life, a Lake, and a Lesson in Grace

Earlier this year, our District Superintendent, John Tucker, sponsored an essay contest around the question, "What is your understanding of humanity, and the human need for divine grace?" The idea was to address this question without a lot of theological jargon, and to develop new ways to address this question that are more accessible to the average person on the street, or in the pew.

My essay was not chosen, but I'd like to share it with you anyway. Let me know what you think about it.
Life, a Lake, and a Lesson in GraceI sit on a rock at the edge of Wallowa Lake. It is a perfect rock to sit cross-legged on and meditate. It is a huge granite boulder, scraped out of the Wallowa Mountain Range by the glacier that covered this area during the last Ice Age, and deposited by the northern edge of the glacial gouge in the earth that became Wallowa Lake. It has a gentle indentation that perfectly fits my butt cheeks when I sit on it, sort of like those old seats on my grandfathe…

Components of Culture 2: Arts

I have renamed this blog, "Pastor Craig's ConSpiritu Blog" for a very specific reason. I have adopted the name "ConSpiritu" as a symbolic shorthand for talking about the collaborative creation of culture. ConSpiritu exists for me in an imaginal realm at the moment, as a container or, better yet, a crucible for awaiting the right ingredients, i.e., collaborators, to be brought together and catalyzed into creating various cultural artifacts and events. 

Here in the second decade of the new millennium, there are overwhelming indications that we are not only on the verge of undergoing sweeping cultural changes but that it is imperative that we undertake the work of intentionally changing culture. There is potential and great impending need for this to happen.  

Deep Ecologist and Systems Theoretician Joanna Macy refers to this time as the Great Turning - a time in which our society reorients its priorities and behaviors in order to live sustainably and harmoniously, …

When Our Plans Turn to Ashes

Starting Over with IntegrityLent begins on Ash Wednesday this week. People from all walks of life around the world will make their way to church to receive the mark of the cross in ashes on their foreheads. That is, they will do that if their particular faith community observes that ancient Christian practice. It can be a powerful service to attend, because it reminds us in spite of all our greatest designs and most meticulous planning, things can quickly turn to ashes before our eyes. 
Why Ashes? Ashes are an ancient symbol of how our human cleverness, schemes and dreams all too easily go awry, and end up as a pile of ashes. People in ancient times would smear ash on their faces as a sign of mourning or in response to something terrible they had done, for which they were asking forgiveness.

In spite of all our good intentions and hopes, things still fall apart. How about you? What plans or dreams of yours have turned to ashes? What does it take to start over, but this time with integrit…

Rubik's Cube Reality

Over the years, I have had many conversations with people concerning God's Will. Usually, these conversations have been couched in terms of trying to discern what God's Will is for their lives, sometimes in broad general terms, but more often in terms of specific decisions or directions they should take.

I have always been able to relate to these questions, because for many years in my youth I wondered the same about my own life. What did God want me to do with my life? Should I become a biologist or an actor? Did God want me to go into the ministry instead? (That decision won out, but I have never been certain that it was God's absolute and immutable will for my life.) For years, I told people that I was waiting for God to drop a golden scroll at my feet that would lay out in clearly defined terms just what I was supposed to do. Until then, I perceived that I was stumbling around in the dark, following my own best guesses. 

Of course, the problem with that line of thinking …

Inscripted Land

During the ten years I  lived in Eastern Oregon while first serving a church in Heppner and then a church in Joseph, I traveled frequently alongside the Columbia river while traveling to and from Portland.  Usually I traveled by car, but occasionally I caught the bus.  When I rode the bus I had the grace-filled privilege to look out and ponder the landscape.

Columns of basalt line the crests of hills like so many battalions of foot soldiers forever awaiting the sound of the trumpet. Deep gullies and canyons have carved their way into these witnesses to an earlier era of geological activity.  Each canyon and valley has its own creek or stream, swelling with the spring runoff and dwindling during the hot, dry summers. Deep gorges split the rock in two, while a forest of oaks and sumac spring up out of the cleavage.  Sagebrush and an occasional juniper gradually make way for Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Sumac, Ash and Poplar.  It is a sculptor and painter’s paradise.

There is a starkness t…

Components of Culture 1: Earth

In my previous post, I wrote about culture happening in the overlap and intersections between four main arenas: 

natural/environmental, spiritual/value-oriented, social/organizational, and aesthetic/expressive. 
In this post, I want to begin with a look at the natural/environmental arena, or the Earth, to put it simply. I put it this way because the earth is foundational to our existence. We are creatures of the earth, along with every other living and non-living thing. There is no escaping this basic fact. Whatever happens to the earth happens to us. 

Perhaps the greatest crisis facing the whole of humankind is environmental.  Ever since the publishing of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, in the early 1960’s, public attention across the world has been drawn to the dangers of pesticides, pollution, hazardous and nuclear waste, the degradation of ecosystems and the accelerated rate of species extinction.  The scientific community is virtually unanimous in declaring that global warming …

Culture Happens

In my previous blog, I talked about "creating culture." That probably sounds a bit strange to most people. After all, one might say, isn't culture simply a given? Something that simply happens? How does one "create culture?"

Good question. Perhaps it might be helpful to first look at the word "culture" itself. The
English word is derived from the French culture, which in turn is derived from the Latin cultura, which is the past participial form of colere, which referred to the practice of tilling the soil. The American Heritage Dictionary traces the etymology to the (putative) Indo-European root kwel- and the related form kwel-, which means "to revolve, move around, sojourn, dwell."  A cluster of words derived from this root that include colony, cult, wheel, cyclone, cycle, pulley, cultivate, culture and bucolic.

From this, it is interesting to notice the close association between tilling the ground, dwelling or sojourning, and cyclicity.  Whe…