A Fear of Whales

A Fear of Whales


posted by rgaffney

BraveheartThe lesson in church today was out of 1 Peter, and it began with a discussion question for the tables we were seated at “If you could be free from anything what would you want freedom from, What would that do?”

it was pretty clear where the pastor was headed bless his heart. We were all supposed to name silly things like freedom from weight gain, or

punishment, or busyness, and then he was going to flip it on us and show that what we really need freedom from is our sin.

Would you like some milk with that colostrum?

Meanwhile we at the table were playing the small group game where we go in a circle and each say the same right answer in a different way so as not to make anyone feel like they already answered it because it’s a stupid obvious question. “Temptation” ,no for me it’s “doubt” I’m saying “the flesh”…

But there’s actually something that’s really good here. I don’t know if it was by design or not, but this becomes really interesting when you leverage wish fulfillment.

If you could choose, which would you rather have: Freedom from the responsibility to righteousness or freedom from sin nature?

If God approached you and said “Tell ya what, I’ll give you a free pass, You can love me while doing whatever the hell you want with no moral consequences, or if you’d rather, I’ll take away your old self so you won’t be tempted anymore” Which would you take?

Obviously the correct church answer is the sin nature but would you really rather have that? I for one think a very strong case could be made for the freedom from righteousness!

Knowing God, It’s better to love him and serve him then rebel against the world the way he made it, obviously. But if he was willing to give you a let you off the hook, and say “Don’t you wish I made it this way?” I might be tempted to say “yes I do!”

Put another way: If pleasing God was not an issue, would you rather live in sin or righteousness?
Sin really has it’s advantages!

I still pick righteousness.

I know, I’m sorry I’m landing with the right answer people. But I do really think that’s better. That virtue is it’s own reward if only I could get past this stinking flesh.

I believe that it is a more extravagant gift to free me from what I want than to give me what I want.
Do you believe that?

Don’t just rightanswer me and say you believe that because you’re supposed to, think about it for a sec, there’s more here than meets the eye.

You could have what you want, still worship God, still go to heaven, no guilt. Or you could die to the flesh. Do you want that?

Ok now here’s my next question. Do you think the world wants that?
I kind of think they do.

The Car Accident Incident

posted by rgaffney

A strange thing happened the other night… I was out for a walk late at night, and I found that the intersection by my house was all blocked off in police tape because of an accident, walking by I could clearly see two cars involved, and a body in the street covered by a tarp, somebody had died. I walked by slowly, for once appreciating the opportunity to see how collisions are  handled  without holding up traffic, and noticed one of the parties involved was being questioned by the police with her family. I decided to continue with my walk, musing as I went about the fragility of life and the fact that at the moment this happened, I was less than a mile away telling jokes with my neighbors.
By the time I returned en route back to my house, one of the lanes had been cleared, most of the shrapnel had been cleaned up, and the family was sitting on a bench outside the police line, One woman who had clearly been driving, was bent over in tears. My heart went out to the woman and her family, she had killed a man that night, she knew it, and she obviously felt the full significance of that. I heard someone way "Well, they say we're free to go" and the woman looked up from her tears and choked out the words "You mean, they're not gonna pit me in prison?" almost in unison the family responded "NO! you're okay it was an accident, the police know that" As her they tried to comfort her I quietly and politely walked by, or at least I tried to.
This is probably a good time to mention that I'm pretty skeptical as Christians go, I don't do a lot based on emotion or tradition, I like facts and figures. This translates poorly into certain doctrines and certain spiritual experiences. For instance, I have never been "slain in the spirit". I don't speak in tongues, I hate it when people investigate first dates in terms of "God's will for their life" and I have never, ever, felt supernatural pressure to talk to, pray for, or evangelize a stranger. Ever!…until the other night.
So God and I had this argument in my head that went something as follows. (if you're reading and you're not a Christian, The voice of God sounds to me much like a thought in my head. Sometimes I get the two confused, but in situations like this where I'm apparently thinking things I disagree with it's easier to tell)
So In my head I said  "Boy I sure hope God puts some people in her life that can help her through her grief" and the idea arrived in my head that went something like "I just did"
This all happened very fast, and I'd love to say that at that moment I realized that it made no sense to be arguing with the almighty in my head and proceeded to make the right decision, but i didn't have time to think that through before I retorted back "No I mean like a grief counselor or something, someone who's an expert in this…" and almost as soon as the thought was formed it dawned on me…" You're a Pastor"…
"Shoot, missed opportunity, I'm already passed them now"
"You could go back"
"I can't go back, that's awkward, that's weird, this person does not need another stranger who…"
"What did you think you were on this walk for anyway?"
…Well now that shut me up. I don't know, I had just felt the need to take a walk, It's not normally my style to leave a social environment to go for a walk but sometimes you just need a walk, and now I'm here, and there was this accident and this woman needs someone to comfort her, and I'm arguing with myself that I need to go back and…Got it, I need to go back.
So I turned back towards them, the oldest son caught my eyes and I felt completely creepy, I was a total stranger, younger than anyone there, wearing  jean shorts and a cotton green sportcoat from a thrift store, walking towards them… barefoot…
"Hi… I'm so sorry to but my nose where it doesn't belong, but… Is there anything I can do To help?….I'm a pastor, Can I pray for you?
The man didn't pause "Yeah!" he said nodding "That's okay ma?"
She looked up at me "Yes….I'm Jewish, but…"
I smiled, "That's okay" I said waving my hand
The group gathered around in a circle there was about 8 of us, I put my hands on the backs of the women to either side of me, the driver was across from me, her name was Fran, and we all prayed together, a Christian pastor, a Jewish mother, certainty some people who hadn't prayed in years if ever. It was a simple prayer, lasting no longer than a minute, I called on God as Father, to hold us closer in the wake of this tragedy, and to help us to life out our days in this fallen world, I prayed specifically for Fran to be filled with a sense of his love and forgiveness of her, that she'd know she is always loved and always accepted.
When the prayer was over she looked at me, holding back tears. "Thank you! Thank You….thank you." and she gave me a hug and then headed to her car to go home.
As I left another woman approached me "You're a pastor?…Where do you work." I briefly explained and she said "I mean where can I find you? I'm a lost lamb, I need a church" So I have her my contact info to help her find a place locally.
And that's the story, that's it. No fire from heaven, no spirit descending like a dove, she didn't accept Christ that night, she just prayed with me, and I think it helped.


posted by rgaffney

So I’ve been learning to bake this year, and in my experimentation I found to my great joy that bread is incredible when the 5tsp or so or butter is substituted for ½ cup of Bacon grease. Further proof of the idea that everything is better when you add bacon.
The whole baking experience has had me thinking about the Lord's supper. What with all of the biblical references to bread and leavening that are beginning to make more and more sense now. I wondered if it might be a neat ministry to provide churches with fresh baked steamy loafs to use for communion on Sunday instead of the seemingly expensive store-bought loafs most churches now use, and when I made the bacon bread, I thought about how cool it would be to use that in the sacrament. I could just see the words of the invitation
“At this church we believe that the sprit of Christ is spiritually present within the bread and the cup, we also believe that the body of Christ is delicious so we made it with bacon! Any and all who have accepted Christ as their savior are invited to come forward and eat of this loaf and drink of this cup…”

Unfortunately I think this would probably offend some vegetarians who now wouldn’t partake, so most churches probably wouldn’t be interested. Which is okay, In fact after thinking about it for a bit I’m pretty sure the Loaf is vegan as well. They probably don’t use eggs and use oil instead of butter… And that got me thinking…
Should Jesus' body be vegetarian? Because if so I think it takes us down a slippery slope. If Jesus needs to be made without animal byproducts doesn’t it follow that he should also be low-carb, low-fat, sugar free, gluten free, fair-trade, organic and processed in a bakery that doesn’t contain peanuts? Because that sounds like some really horrible boring bread.
The question goes deeper than the bread of course. When we present Jesus the man at our churches, just what sort of Jesus are we allowed to present? Must we actually offer fourth an unaffiliated, politically uninterested, non-denominational Jesus. Does Jesus need to be depicted as androgynous, independent of ethnic origin and cultural influence, existing without socioeconomic status and secular opinion?
Might that just possibly create an object of worship as safe and bland as a horrible communion wafer?
But otherwise we run a risk that  is not to be scoffed at. That if we don’t, we create a quorum of people who will have no choice but to leave Jesus on the alter.


posted by rgaffney

I finally found my CTR ring again. I’d taken it off for a shower nearly a year ago and thought it was gone forever. While I’m celebrating I thought I’d take some time to explain on the internet what so many people ask me “Why do you wear a CTR ring?”
For those that don’t know, it’s a Mormon invention (hence the controversy) CTR is something of the Latter Day Saints version of our protestant WWJD. It stands for Choose The Right, the implication of which is that in any choice you are offered, It is wise and in keeping with Christian holiness to consistently choose the most righteous option. Pretty simple
So why bother wearing the ring? Well I happen to love it, and I think the CTR concept is superior to WWJD in a number of ways. WWJD or What Would Jesus Do? Is an excellent question to ans, and the book that spawned the interest “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon is absolutely foundational, but it has a few marked weaknesses is assuming:
1: That I actually know what it is Jesus would do in every situation. I get that I should strive to come to know but for the most part the prospect of determining whether or not Jesus would take an extra piece of cake is easier said than done.
2: That what Jesus would do is what I should (and can) do. The fact of the matter is that in some situations what Jesus would do is spit in the dirt to make mud, and rub the mud in your eyes until you can see again. That’s just not always going to work for me
3: (and this one is probably the worst) That there is only one right good Christian response, that being what Jesus would do. I don’t know if Jesus would ever play a video game but I certainly do, and think it’s often right of me to do so. What Paul did is dissimilar to what jesus did in a number of ways and I think that’s to his credit, if he had stayed in Isreal open air preaching we would all be suffering for it today.
CTR has none of these problems, and I find it particularly hospitable to my own personal understanding that when a choice is presented to me, I have not two options, but a plethora of different moral options all representing various degrees of nearness to or distance from the right, and my goal is to pick the rightmost one I can.

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