Friday, August 24, 2007

"Like all true believers, I am truly skeptical of all that I have said" - The World Can Wait by Over The Rhine.

"We've got to stop equating Christianity with a smile." - singer/author Charlie Peacock, after a bandmate took his own life.

In the church, it seems like we fall into a few destructive habits:

1) We love stories of people who have it all figured out.
2) We love buying DVDs, books, and seminar tickets from or about people who have it all figured out.
3) Too much doubt and uncertainty from someone we thought had it all figured out will likely send us looking for someone else who has it all figured out.
4) We think good Christians aren't tormented by their questions and doubts.
5) We think there's such a thing as a "good" Christian.

A new book about Mother Teresa's spiritual darkness is coming out soon, and Time has an article about the response to some of the revelations. Some are cynically pointing to this to show that she was a closet atheist, others are comparing her to St. John of the Cross. Others have a hard time seeing the woman who took a vow of poverty and spoke of seeing Jesus in every person she cared for begging the same Jesus to return to her.

I'll probably have to check this book out in the future. I'm not always clear on the Catholic views of intimacy and experiencing Christ (although it's clear the view of the Eucharist is quite different than in the Baptist/Reformed circles I've lived in), but from the samples I've read it appears we sometimes suffer from the same problems: We believe in a God we cannot see, a Jesus who was on earth centuries ago, and a Holy Spirit we are told lives in the Christian. We are told the evidence is around us, and the stories of God's love are documented in the Bible.

And yet, few (if any) can pretend to not sympathize to at least a small extent. Part of the faith is the questioning. I don't know how there can be belief without doubting at first. King David wrote accusatory Psalms to God, demanding to know where he went. While we all love a happy ending (and our music and Sunday School version of Bible Stories tend to emphasize only the happy endings, sometimes at the expense of the actual story), David's story does not end with what would be considered "happy." One son dies in birth, another is killed, his best friend is killed in battle, and ultimately his other son would be the downfall of his great kingdom. We like the stories of the child killing the giant, the older man opting not to kill Saul out of respect for his God, even the repentant man caught in murder and adultery. But the other side of David, the side we see when we read the whole story, is one of tragedy and times of emptiness.

If we're honest, none of us have it all together. Searching the history of the Christian faith or even our own friends and family should show plenty of examples of this. If we know beforehand that we're not immune, we can plan ahead and look for hope beyond tangible evidence.

"Love Never fails, mercy will prevail - I want to swear it's true, but it's so hard to defend it" - Mercy Will Prevail by The Choir

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Show and tell time:
Getting to the Black Hills really is half the fun, provided you do it right. Sure, there are tourist traps every 10 miles on the highway, and the drive is absolutely boring as a child in the back seat (as I can attest to many times over). However, if you don't get suckered in at every "world famous" hamburger shop and trinket saleman, you can really make the most out of a 350 mile drive from Sioux Falls to Rapid City.

I always like to stop at the Chamberlain Rest Stop right before the Missouri River. The view is the best on the first half of the trip: The wide part of the Missouri (technically it runs through Lake Francis Case), with a view of both the I-90 bridge and the old railroad bridge. This is then followed by the abrupt change in landscape, as flat farmland filled with corn and beans is replaced with wide open spaces and rolling hills. Towns are more sparse, as are other people. Abandoned silos and barns dot the side of the road, and you really are hundreds of miles from the nearest sizable city. This is a great place to stop, stretch, and prepare yourself for the change.

This time on my trip I stopped somewhere I'd never stopped before: Okaton. I found a webpage that explains some of the history, but the short story is that it's basically a ghost town along the side of the Interstate. Some people decided to make it a tourist spot, which has had mixed results. Still, there's a gas station and a Post Office still there along with the invitation to check out some of the abandoned buildings provided you watch out for snakes.

Main street Okaton, South Dakota -

The other side of the street is endless prairie grass and hills. You really get the feeling you're in the middle of nowhere. For some reason, I'd love to explore more of the area next time.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Rule one about having a blog: Do not blog about work.

So I won't.

That being said, I'm told I get my worrying streak from my father, who inherited it from his mother. When things are going right, being content and full of hope is easy. When things are uncertain, and may stay that way for awhile, it's a different story.

I know I'm watched, loved, taken care of, and guided. If I need to, I'll search the evidence daily.

2100 miles later, I've been to the Black Hills, the Badlands, the backroads of South Dakota, and a motel in Winner. It was a wonderful week where I got a chance to visit my sister and spend the time out in some rather amazing country.

I don't think I'll log the entire trip like I did Ecuador (and attempted to do with Michigan), but I might still summarize some pictures a little later as I go through them. This one is from the Badlands, near a Northern boarder of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation - about a 20 mile from from Hermosa, SD. It was a hot day (112 according to one thermometer), but a memorable one of taking backroads and gravel into the badlands. I highly recommend taking a day to do this if you are ever near the Black Hills and want a trip that will take out far away from the usual tourist destinations.

Other pictures and short stories are on the way, later.