29 December 2017

Beware the Dragons!

Before we jump forward to 2018, let's take a moment to go back in time to 1611 in England and imagine what kind of language they used to celebrate Christmas. Guess what? You don't have to imagine it. We have a written record of it. Here is a taste how people put language to the wonder of Christmas in England in 1611. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word: Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 148:7-14, King James Bible) How would you describe that language? I would say it’s eye-opening. Elegant. Interesting. Startling. Stunning. I especially love the reference to dragons. I wonder what kind of language you would use to describe Christmas? Would you include a reference to dragons in your description? Peace, Jon B. … Image attribution: Fiorentino, Rosso, 1494-1540. Small angel playing (detail from Madonna of Spedalingo), from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55412 [retrieved December 13, 2017]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rosso_Fiorentino_-_Madonna_dello_Spedalingo_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.

25 October 2017

A Chill Out Prayer for You


Making your way in the world today
takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, 
sure would help a lot.

“To find peace."
"To know where you belong.”

That is my prayer
for you today.

I pray
you may
find peace.

I pray
you may
know where you belong.

One of my favorite Bible verses
I return to again and again ...
is this:

“Whether we live
or whether we die;
we belong to the Lord.”
(Romans 14:8)

“With the Lord”
is where we belong.
Now and forever.

Jon B.
P.S. May you find yourself
at peace with the Lord today.
St. John's Presbyterian Church, ACTS FUND
5020 West Bellfort Ave, Houston, TX 77035

03 March 2017

One thing Im not going to tell you

I'm not going to Tell you how GOOD
the cool breeze through the bright sunshine
Feels in Houston right now

and I'm not even going to
Show you a Picture
of how blue and clear the sky Rests
behind the white puffy clouds above

because I really just want you to
Send Me a Positive Vibe NOW
and I don't want to say anything
to distract You
from Doing That

02 March 2017

Why do Evangelicals say JUST so much in public prayer

Have you ever heard someone pray and they repeat the word just so many times it becomes noticeable. For example, Lord, we just ask you to hear us as we pray right now and we just ask that you will be with us and bless us and we just want you to do this and we just ask you to do that and we just thank you and just praise you and we just want to say Amen when the prayer is over.

Why do they use just so much when they pray? Here's a few ideas about that.

"Just" is a term that implies "not much" so it fits well with prayers of petition in helping us convince ourselves and perhaps influence God of the idea that what we are asking for is possible because it's not as big a deal as one might think and so that possibility thinking seeps into our unconscious mind and becomes more likely to manifest.

And yet, all the above may be disregarded as the repeated use of "just" in others becomes a bad habit like a nervous verbal tic in the one praying out loud in front of others as it is used like the repeated use of the word "umm" or "and" by an insecure public speaker.

And yet it has a deeper function, repeated use of "just" serves to subconsciously identify the prayer as being part of our tribe, our religious subculture, our church family, similar to the way people in the Deep South use "y'all" to serve many purposes one of the most important of which is to self identify as a person who is a Southerner, and who is thus more likely to say "just" when she prays and "y'all" to refer to the plural form of "you."

And so you can see that "just" serves just so many functions it would be just dumb to not use it as often as possible especially when leading public prayer in the Southern United States.

01 March 2017

An Ad for Ash Wednesday

Imagine tonight in the sanctuary. We have a 20 year old gospel singing Elvis Presley doing "Where Could I Go but to the Lord?" Some of the sisters faint in their pews. Some of the brothers begin to cry.
You really don't have to be a huge fan of the Hebrew Bible (what we Christians call the Old Testament) in order to realize that our church campus is situated on the edge of perhaps the largest Jewish community in Houston.
I'm not going to tell you the so-called Old Testament is unparalleled in expressing the human condition through story telling. Remember Adam and Eve? Abraham and Sarah? Isaac and Jacob? Dreamy Joseph and his coat of many colors? Moses and Elijah? And the wide range of human emotion and experience from mountain tops of spiritual heights to the valleys and pits of depression. All is exposed in the Psalms of David, is it not?
Speaking of David, the Ash Wednesday Sermon will be about David and Bathsheba and the amazing Psalm that David composed after he was called out by the Prophet Nathan for the sins of adultery and murder for which God forgave him and yet he still paid a heavy price. This story will knock your socks off.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, forty weekdays before Easter. The practice of placing ashes on the forehead symbolizes repentance and contrition. We will engage in that mysterious liturgy in the church sanctuary and courtyard tonight. Will you be blown away tonight at 7:30 PM in the sanctuary? Will you then have that moment and that memory for all eternity? Only if you are present to experience it live.

Jon B.

P.S. And you can attend and enjoy the mysterious Ash Wednesday Service starting in the sanctuary today at 7:30 PM, on March 1, can you not? And if you Mark your calendar and set a reminder now you will be more likely to remember to attend, will you not? That's right.