20 June 2012

God's fresh earth policy

Yesterday I drove through a thunderstorm. The streets were flooding as they do during a hard rain in Houston. Lightning strikes lit up the dark sky just above my car. I felt discombobulated but managed to make it home.

This time last year there was a terrible drought here. The grew was brown and dead. The ground was parched. There was talk off a prolonged dry spell. Environmental apocalyptics came out of the closet to proclaim the end of the world as we know it.

Then, finally, it rained. People stops outside just to smell it. Water never felt so good. Maybe the psalmist had a similar experience of God's fresh earth policy. Thankful hearts abound. Green hills beckon.

"God covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills." -Psalm 147:8

16 May 2012

Celebrating Senior Sunday at St. John's

This is a video of my sermon for May 6, 2012.

Here is the mindmap I used for the sermon for this sermon. Click the "+" button a few times to make it bigger so you can read it or use the other buttons to adjust the view.

This was the Sunday when we recognize our graduating high school seniors. Here Mary and I are pictured with the 4 young men who are graduating high school at the reception in their honor after the service. I was a bit dismayed to find myself looking up to these guys. I remember them when they were just starting Junior High. They were my first confirmation class at St. John's. Now they are graduating high school. Wow. Time flies.

It was a bittersweet day as we congratulated our graduating seniors and sent them forth into the world to prepare for greater service in the world.

Your sending and sent friend in faith,

08 May 2012

Let the Sea Roar

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 

          the world and those who live in it. (Psalm 98:7)

Who wouldn't want a family beach vacation this summer? I would. Wouldn't you? It would be nice to smell the musty, salty air and feel the gentle breeze of fresh ocean air. It would be nice to walk along the beach and hear the rush of mighty waves time after time.

TheBlu is  a new social screensaver. It is billed as the world's first social digital ocean to download, explore, and share.  You may download it for free here. TheBlu is the work of thousands, possibly tens of thousands of artists around the world. It is a digital representation of the sea.

The original sea was created by God. You may envision God creating the sea over millions of years through evolution or however you wish. The Bible is not so concerned with the how question as with the why question. According to the Bible, the reason God created the sea and all the life therein was to provide a place, space, and opportunity to express God's creativity and to enjoy fellowship with God's creation. 

According to the Westminster Confession, the chief purpose of humanity is to love God and enjoy God forever. We do that as humans when we create digital representations of the ocean and when we visit the sea and put our toes in the cold salt water. We humans are creative in many clever ways. We are like our Creator in our inclination toward creative expression. 

Yet is it not just the sea that is called to praise God. Everything in the sea and the world and those who live in it are called to acknowledge the glory of God. To love God and enjoy God forever. That is the chief end of humanity. How will you do that today? Perhaps you may take some lessons from the sea. Notice how it changes yet seems to remain to the same. The sea will show you how to go with the flow. It will demonstrate how to work around obstacles. It will make you wet with new life. Let's go for a swim. 

Your looking forward to the beach buddy,

07 May 2012

Life as a Love Lab

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:9-12

God's love is perfected in us as we love one another. Think of life as a laboratory for learning to love. Focus today on getting better at loving others. See what kind of energy that gives you. 

Which persons are the most challenging ones for you to love? Consider them your master teachers.

06 April 2012

TODAY you will be with me in paradise

Today I presented a homily at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas. The text was the second word of Jesus from the cross: "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) This is a great Tre Ore (three hour) service divided into 20 minute segments of which I was the speaker at the second segment. Pastor David Rothscke at Salem Lutheran does a great job of organizing this service for the community.

Here is a video of my homily this morning mightily enhanced by the artwork of my friend, +Gari Hatch, a great artist. I appreciate Gari letting me use his artwork in this way. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you have a meaningful Good Friday.

Jon B.

The Betrayal of the Christ:
Judas, Peter, God, and You

Sculpted Textural Painting:

11" x 14" in 17.5" x 21.5" mat and frame under glass, 
Acrylic on wood & fabric imbedded in sculpted plaster

The painting above by my friend +Gari Hatch conveys a feeling of the betrayal of Jesus that happened on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Here is Gari's poem that accompanies this painting:

They Formed a Crown
At night along the fence line row,
below the moon the thorn vine grows.
 The quills aglow, the slender spikes,
its nettle way claims the dike.
It guards the rail, it circles the post,
a prick, a pierce, the blood, it boast.
Upon His head, they formed a crown,
a jagged ring as His head bowed down.
A symbol of the Savior’s pain,
His willingness to bear the stain.

Holy Thursday and Good Friday are days when we remember how Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Peter, the crowd, and even God. As Jesus said to his disciples: "You too will desert me." And so do we. We betray Jesus when we give in to our animal nature instead of our Godly nature, when we fail to recognize the Christ within others, and when we fail to honor the Christ within us. Our goal is not to connect to a remote sky god somewhere in heaven but to connect to the Christ that is already within us.

Here is my sermon outline for last night's Maundy Thursday service.

Here is a video of the sermon I preached at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas on Maundy Thursday, April 5, 2012. 

May you have a blessed holy week. May you rediscover the Christ that is within you.

Jon B.

03 April 2012

An April Fools Day Dilemma:
Two Kings, Two Kingdoms, One Choice

Gari Hatch, "Between the Stems" 03-24-2006 (Archival Collection)

I preached this sermon from Mark 11:1-11 on Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012, at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. The sound quality is not good on this video. While I work to improve that, you may prefer to listen to this better audio recording when you click on the orange play button.

Here is my one page of sermon notes before I added the last two stories about Jesus descending into hell.

Below is a copy of the sermon text from Mark 11:1-11. This is the copy I used in my lectionary study group.

Below is a sermon illustration about the level of love that makes a positive impression upon God.

The story above as well as another illustration in this sermon is taken from this excellent book that I highly recommend. Click the image of the book below for more information or to purchase. If you purchase the book through this link, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase,
and you will receive a powerful and potentially life changing book.

Here are some keywords from this sermon: King Herod, Caesarea Maritima, Jerusalem, temple, Christ, Jesus, Satan, hell, universal salvation, cross, donkey, April Fool's Day, Caspas, St. Anthony, vision, spirituality, love, salvation, vision.

Thanks for your time in considering my work last week in regard to this sermon. May God bless you as  you continue to seek God's will and God's way in your life. In all things, look to the Christ within you, the hope of glory, for answers and direction.

Let us continue searching for the April Fool's Day joke in all of the absurdities of life, my friend.

Jon Burnham

31 March 2012

Ode to the Holarchy

One of my favorite book titles: "The Exuberant Years" about working with Junior High kids. The song below reminds me of that book. Driving rhythm guitar screams: "Energy! Life!! Now!." Lots of energy. The sound is consistent with the lyrics which are also on the Junior High level. Heh. We can't expect each thing to be everything. Each song will not contain a holon of the entire universe. Yet, paradoxically, each song does. Even this one. And so does each person. Even you. You, too, are a crucial aspect of the holoarchy. Rejoice, be glad, and sing.

Jon B.

21 March 2012

SERMON: Snake-bit by the Gospel:
How to Fall in Love with the World

Above is a video of the sermon and below is the sermon outline, sermon texts, and a quote.

John 3:14-21     And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Numbers 21:4-9     From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lordsaid to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

 Gari Hatch "Watch Our Birds" 04-13-2008 8" x 10" (sold)
Richard Rohr was helpful in thinking about this material. In particular, I resonate with this quote about the importance of faith and trust from his book Falling Upward.
Falling upward is a “secret” of the soul, known not by thinking about it or proving it but only by risking it—at least once. And by allowing yourself to be led—at least once. Those who have allowed it know it is true, but only after the fact. This is probably why Jesus praised faith and trust even more than love. It takes a foundational trust to fall or to fail—and not to fall apart. Faith alone holds you while you stand waiting and hoping and trusting. Then, and only then, will deeper love happen. It's no surprise at all that in English (and I am told in other languages as well) we speak of “falling” in love. I think it is the only way to get there. None would go freely, if we knew ahead of time what love is going to ask of us. Very human faith lays the utterly needed foundation for the ongoing discovery of love. Have no doubt, though: great love is always a discovery, a revelation, a wonderful surprise, a falling into “something” much bigger and deeper that is literally beyond us and larger than us. Jesus tells the disciples as they descend from the mountain of transfiguration, “Do not talk about these things until the Human One is risen from the dead” (by which he means until you are on the other side of loss and renewal). If you try to assert wisdom before people have themselves walked it, be prepared for much resistance, denial, push-back, and verbal debate. As the text in Mark continues, “the disciples continued to discuss among themselves what ‘rising from the dead’ might even mean” (Mark 9:9–10). You cannot imagine a new space fully until you have been taken there. I make this point strongly to help you understand why almost all spiritual teachers tell you to “believe” or “trust” or “hold on.” They are not just telling you to believe silly or irrational things. They are telling you to hold on until you can go on the further journey for yourself, and they are telling you that the whole spiritual journey is, in fact, for real—which you cannot possibly know yet. Rohr, Richard (2011-04-01). Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life . John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition. 
Here's hoping you get snake-bit by the gospel and fall in love with the world.

Jon B.

15 March 2012

SERMON - God's Temple: Not for Sale

The sermon moves from Jesus anger at the money changers in the temple to Paul's observation that YOUR BODY is the temple of God and then wonders what we can do about those would use the bodies of other humans as a cash machine as is the case with human trafficking. You may listen to an audio version of the sermon here and see how well I followed the sermon outline below.

The sermon text is taken from John 2:13-22, which reads as follows:
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (New Revised Standard Version)
This outline above is from the March 11, 2012 sermon I preached at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. 

14 March 2012


When I sang in the Belhaven College choir back in the day, we ended every concert with an Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your faceand the rains fall soft upon your fields.Until we meet again, until we meet again,may God hold you in the palm of His hand.May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I have a recording of us singing that song if you'd like to hear it.

Here is an older Celtic blessing on a home from the 6-8th century:

The Sacred Three, my fortress be encircling me, Come and be round my hearth, my home.     
Fend Thou my kin and every sleeping thing within from scare, from sin. 
Thy care our peace, through mid of night to light's release.

Blessing goes back to the very earliest times. In the morning of Creation, on the completion of each day's work, God blessed the living creatures that came from God's hands, bidding them increase and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1-2). 

God blesses. That is what God does. God invites you and me to be blessed by God and be a blessing to others. May you and those you love be blessed and be a blessing today. 

10 March 2012

Human Slaves in Houston

Solitude by Gari Hatch. Used by permission.

The startling truth is there are more human slaves alive today than ever in history. Houston, Texas, where I live, is a hub for human trafficking. Here are a few sobering bullet points:

  • There are over 6,000 runaways in Houston and 1 of 3 children who run away is lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home.

  • The Texas border is North America’s number one supply site for young children used in sex and labor trafficking.

  • Texas houses the I-10 corridor, which the Department of Justice designated as the number one route for human trafficking.

Unfortunately, few victims escape alive, but recently I heard about one such girl. You can see her video interview on Fox News Houston. Here is an excerpt from that source.

FoxHouston Reports:
In Mexico there aren't many opportunities for girls like Maria except the promise of love.

"A man made me fall in love with him in Mexico. I was in love with him. I loved him very much because he was my first boyfriend," she said through a translator.

Three years ago that boyfriend, a man twice her age, smuggled the then 16-year-old from Mexico to a home in Houston. He told her dreams come true here. But in Houston her nightmare began.

"I would cry out of desperation," she said.Maria's so called boyfriend put her to work almost immediately as a sex slave at apartment complexes and inside cantinas. It happened she says:

"Everyday, six to seven days a week. Depending on the day I'd have sex with seven to ten men a night during the week and on weekends 20 to 30 men a night."Maria earned up to $5,000 a week.

She says she got to keep nothing.

"It used to be a daily routine. When I woke up he was always there. He would take me to work in the afternoon, and he would pick me up from work. It was always the same. The day I was off I would spend it with him."

At night Maria dreamt of running away, but the climate of fear was enough to keep her mentally tied down.

"He used to tell me he was going to beat me up if I would talk including that I could not call Mexico because he was always there checking up on me, and sometimes he really beat me up."

Three months later, with help, Maria was able to reach out to family who contacted law enforcement. She was rescued.

Thank God this girl was saved. Her story fills my heart with anger and shame. I am glad she was rescued but why did she have to endure such crimes against God and humanity. The more pertinent question is what can we do? The first thing we can do is pray. I say that with all seriousness. I know prayer is counter intuitive in this instance. This problem is so huge, so entrenched, and so lucrative for the perpetrators that it seems impossible to solve. That is why I say prayer is the first step. Out of serious and sustained prayer we may be given a direction to take. Doing nothing is not right. We must start somewhere. I say start with prayer on our knees. After we get good at that we will begin to pray with our feet. That means we will take action. You tell me what that strategy looks like. I'm listening. 

08 March 2012

Are We Headed for a Cashless Society?

Used by permission

Are We Headed for a Cashless Economy?
The Wired Word for March 11, 2012

In the News

One word in the news recently caught our attention: “unbanked.” Perhaps it’s because we’re used to hearing the term “unchurched” to refer to people who do not belong to or participate in a church, but we knew immediately that unbanked referred to those who don’t have bank accounts and don’t participate in the banking system. The word caused us to playfully wonder if those who used to have a bank account could be the “debanked” and former church attendees could be the “dechurched.” Then, if they return, are they the “rebanked” and the “rechurched” respectively?

Carrying the analogy in a more serious direction, we noted that as church people ourselves, we often consider the unchurched to be missing out on something important. Should we think about the unbanked as missing out on something important as well, or are there some advantages to not using a financial institution?

The word “unbanked” appeared in a couple of news stories about the trend of society toward becoming “cashless,” meaning that instead of transacting purchases with actual paper currency and metal coins, we would all use some form of electronic transaction, even for such minor purchases as a candy bar or a subway token, with there being no option for paying with cash.

Obviously, with credit and debit cards as well as checks, many of us are already participating in cashless transactions, but the projection is that using technology known as near-field communications (NFC), even your local morning coffee vendor would have a payment device at which you would simply wave your enabled card or smartphone to pay for small-value purchases, which wouldn’t require even the inputting of a PIN or signature.

Even loans to friends will be able to be made using your smartphone. (“There’s an app for that!”)

What’s more, many of us are already used to using “virtual currencies” which require no hand-to-hand exchange, such as frequent-flyer miles, rewards points, Bitcoins, Ithaca Hours and Facebook Credits.

Among the benefits of a cashless economy are the big savings to governments (which no longer have to print bills and mint coins), the elimination of currency counterfeiting (but likely replaced by computer-currency counterfeiting), the removal of the risk of carrying large sums of cash (replaced by the risk of account theft or theft of the currency card or app or whatnot), and the speeding up of checkout lines where consumers no longer have to enter PINs or sign invoices and where clerks no longer have to make change.

The technology to go cashless already exists, but the unbanked could have difficulty in such an economy. The unbanked include older people who survived the Great Depression and have a deep distrust of all financial institutions and therefore do not use them, young people who may not have established financial practices, those who have declared bankruptcy and are trying to live without credit, low-wage earners who may not be able to maintain the necessary minimum balance to keep a bank account active, the extremely poor who have no need for the banking system as they try to survive their day-to-day lives, illegal immigrants who don’t have the proper identification to open a bank account and criminals who avoid using financial institutions because law enforcement officials can track their actions through their accounts. (We don’t need to accommodate the latter group; they will no doubt find other ways to hide their earnings.)

A fully cashless economy may be coming, but if it is to work, ways will need to be established to include every consumer.

Of course, all of this presumes a government monopoly on currency, which may or may not continue, and could become less of a factor as virtual currencies multiply.

More on this story can be found at these links:
Is Cash Really Going to Disappear? FoxBusiness
The Allure of a Cashless Society. CGAP
What If Cash Sales for Houses Were Banned? Carpe Diem
The Crypto-Currency. The New Yorker (the full article is behind a subscription wall, but this link will take you to the abstract, which is available to all and gives the gist of the article)
Ithaca Hours. Wikipedia

The above comes from Wired Word which is a cool curriculum used by a class I teach on Sunday mornings at 9 am at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 5020 West Bellfort Ave, Houston, TX 77096. You are invited to drop in this Sunday for this interesting conversation. 

In the meantime, let me know what you think about these questions. 

  • Is a cashless society a good thing for you? 
  • Is it a good thing for everyone? 
  • Who are the winners in a cashless society? 
  • Who are the losers? 
  • Does it matter who the winners and losers may be?

07 March 2012

Hold me in the light


Think of someone you love today. In your mind, hold them in the light. That act is a type of prayer Christians call intercessory prayer. That is the foundation and heart of our relationships in Christ. Hold me in the light today and I will hold you there.

06 March 2012

Look at your blind spot

Blind Bartamaeus demanded Jesus have mercy on him and heal his blindness. Bystanders were embarrassed at Bartemaeus' insistence. He REALLY wanted to see so Jesus healed him. Read the story for yourself at Mark 10:46-52.

What is your blind spot? Take some time right now to ponder that question. Do you really want to change your perspective. As the Fleetwood Mac song puts it, "You'll see things in a different way." Is that REALLY what you want?

My blind spot is focusing on the negative people and perspectives in my life. I am going to repent of that by changing my perspective. I am going to turn and focus my attention on the new life God is creating all around me. No longer will I be called Blind Burnhamaues. From henceforth I shall be known simply as Jon, which in the Hebrew means "beloved of God."

04 March 2012

SERMON VIDEO: "How to Carry a Cross"

Sermon text: Mark 8:31-38
Sermon title: How to Carry a Cross

The cross is a plus sign. Notice how the beams intersect just like a plus sign. The only difference in the cross and the plus sign is that the cross is longer below than it is above the intersection. Why? Perhaps the longer below the middle section cross teaches a spiritual truth. What you now know could be considered as what you see above the arm beam of the cross. What you will know is the longer beam below the center beam. Growth occurs beneath the surface. Growth down below is something you can't see. The same principle applies in our spiritual lives as applies for a flower. The flower's growth occurs most significantly long before you ever see evidence that it is even alive. This is how spiritual growth occurs within you. You do not even notice it is happening. You may not see much evidence of the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, self control) in your life. Yet these spiritual fruits may be growing roots underneath the surface of your life.

01 March 2012

Learn, unlearn, and relearn

Add caption

Painting by Gari Hatch

used by permission.

The future has arrived and those who are illiterate in the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ~Alvin Toffler

You see, reading and writing won't cut it any more. They are not enough. Nowadays you have to know how to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Knowing how to unlearn and relearn is more important than what you think you know. 

Jack Uldrich in his book Higher Unlearning, offers this definition: 

unlearn: v. [the act of unlearning; verbal n, to unlearn]      

1. the act of releasing old knowledge      

2. to see the world not as one would like to see it, but as it really is      

3. to be un-uninformed      

4. to acquire wisdom either by replacing old information that has been supplanted by new knowledge, or alternatively, by relinquishing known falsehoods

Uldrich, Jack (2011-07-28). Higher Unlearning: 39 Post-Requisite Lessons for Achieving a Successful Future (Kindle Locations 205-212). Beaver's Pond press. Kindle Edition. 

For example, you need to know how to use Google to do research. This video is one little nugget on the way to learning how to learn online. 

For more about "unlearning education," see this excellent blog post and to find out more about unlearning, and why it’s so important, visit schoolofunlearning.com.

Your learning, unlearning and relearning friend,
Jon B.

A digusted Jesus heals a leper

What makes Jesus so disgusted he wants to throw up and so mad he starts shaking? The answer has something to do with praying with your feet.



In the story of Jesus healing a leper Jesus wants to throw up. What makes him so disgusted he wants to throw up? Was it the awful way the leper looked or was it something deeper? Later in the story he is raging mad. Is he angry at the leper or the way the leper was treated? Why is Jesus acting out? This sermon from Mark 1:40-45 shows us a Jesus who is disgusted and angry. Listen and hear why he felt that way and what it means for you and me.

The original Greek version of this story shows a much more passionate side of Jesus than is portrayed in the English translation shown here from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible. 
Mark 1:40-45
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
This is a bland rendering of the original text as explained in the sermon above.

29 February 2012

What Are You Seeking?

Original painting by Gari Hatch used with permision of the painter.

Wandering in the fields; the man asked him, 
"What are you seeking?" 
-Gen 37:15

What are you seeking? Good question. For what you are seeking is what you will find. Joseph was seeking his brothers. He found them and they threw him in a pit.

Later in this story Joseph finds his brothers under very different circumstances. To paraphrase a Dylan lyric, "They were lonely and it was his world."

The key seeker in the Joseph story is the LORD who provides protection for Joseph and his backstabbing brothers. The LORD has the same desire and intention for OUR protection.The hound of heaven seeks us and finds us. That is the good news for today.

"The Hound of Heaven" is a 182-line poem written by English poet Francis Thompson. Here Richard Burton reads this poem.

Here's hoping the Hound of Heaven finds you today,
Jon B.

25 February 2012

Cure for common anxiety

Gari Hatch "A Blur of Tulips" 12-02-2007 
(Archival Collection)

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
          and why are you disquieted within me?
     Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
          my help and my God.

My reasons for being cast down are the usual suspects: wars and rumors of wars, personal worries and anxieties, and fear of the future.

The shift suggested by the psalmist is to hope in God and praise him. Are all, there was that one time I recall when God brought me out of my own captivity in Egypt and mothered me through the wilderness and fathered me in the promised land.

I am not alone in my struggle and neither are you. Our wilderness wanderings wear us out. We get bogged down. The cure is to look up. As we shift our attention from the brown mud below our feet to the blue sky above our head we notice the sun yet shines.

Psalm 43:5 presents a cure for our anxiety. God has not forsaken us. We are not alone.

Your fellow traveler who speaks encouragement in your innermost being,
Jon B.

16 February 2012

A Journey to the Temple of Apple (and more) in Houston

Yesterday I dropped by the Apple store at the Houston Galleria to pick up a holy relic for a colleague in ministry. It sounds like a simple task but as you will see it was quite an adventure.

My first challenge was to seek a place to park my vehicle. It was a dank and rainy day and I was glad to find a parking spot underground so as not to get wet walking into the Galleria. In order to remember where I parked I took this photo. This sign: "Blue Garage / LL1 / Zone B" was the first of many signs I would see on a mystical journey that had already begun.

When I stepped inside the Galleria, which is massive with many entrance points, I saw that I had entered via the Rainforest path. I felt like I was entering into a mountain from an underground cave. See above the woman with hands uplifted in worship. Notice the sign of the cross in the light in the photo above. This was a good sign that my journey would be blessed with success.

Upon emerging from underground, I was surprised to find I had entered the Galleria near the ice skating rink. I thought I had come in nearer the Apple store which was my destination. In any case, there it was, the big ole ice skating rink. Never in a million years would I put on skates and venture forth into such life threatening frivolity, especially not one week before Ash Wednesday. I am smarter than that, more disciplined and pious.

I walked a quarter of a mile or so through the Galleria headed toward the promised land, and finally, there in the distance, across the way, I saw the city set upon a hill, a very real Apple store just to the right of the Cadillac sign. See the little white Apple logo? Now we are approaching Mecca, my fellow traveler. We shall experience the true religion very soon.

As I made my way across the wilderness of unenlightenment, there, directly across the way was the light of the nations, the white Apple logo, illuminating star in a desert of unknowingness. But how would I cross the rubicon? How would I bridge the chasm of ignorance? Would that I could fly through the air to meet my beloved! But alas, I am a mere mortal and at this point in my spiritual development I am relegated to travel by foot. Fortunately, I found a path around all obstacles and so was able to approach the holy shrine.

Take heart, fellow pilgrim, we are very near unto the temple entrance. You may see standing at the threshold two priests of the cult of Apple. Their desire is to help you fulfill your destiny if you are humble and bold enough to enter in the sanctuary itself. Let us muster our courage and focus our minds as we cross the threshold and enter into the Temple of Apple.

We have crossed the threshold now and find our senses overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of holy Jobsness. This is the very essence of cool behavior. This is the goal of all humankind. Should we remove our shoes? For surely we are standing on holy ground. Up ahead of us is where the priests of the temple gather. They preside over the dispersing of ritual knowledge and receiving of alms for the religion. The congregation sits in awe before the holy shrine, some bow their head in prayer, others sit and stare in quiet meditation of the glory before them.

The priests of the temple are dressed in blue and inhabit a rarefied realm of wisdom and technology. Here are four priestesses standing behind pulpits looking over their notes, preparing themselves to evangelize pilgrims such as us with sermons, praise and music. Let the liturgy begin! After the service, during which no photos were permitted, one of the priestesses assisted me in locating the holy relic I had come to find. My mission here was now complete and I left the temple feeling fulfilled and renewed.

After the service, I stumbled back through the Galleria trying to retrace my path to find my out. Suddenly, I was startled to see a competing cult with a temple under the same roof! This was blasphemy of course and it jolted me out of my ecstasy and engaged my curiosity so that I had to set foot inside this temple to see what kind of false doctrine they may be teaching to the uneducated masses.

As I boldly entered the temple with no regard for the ushers in attendance, I walked straight up to the altar and stared blankly at the priests in attendance. I noticed they wore colorful costumes. Where is the congregation? I wanted to ask them but I dared not insult them. The temple seemed rather empty. The spirit had gone out of the place.

Before I left I took advantage of a brief interlude in order to consult the ancient oracle stone. There I learned secrets that will haunt me for the rest of my life. The priest in attendance was bold but not arrogant. He granted me permission to see into the future. The visions there I witnessed are too marvelous to put into words. Suffice it say that there are glories yet to be revealed to humanity. Some insights are too wonderful for this earthen vessel. Some visions are too glorious to describe. Such was my vision from the oracle stone in the Temple of Microsoft.

It was now time to make my way back home. My pilgrimage was complete. I had witnessed worship in the Temple of Apple but had not been converted. I had visited the Microsoft oracle stone and learned of my future and seen a vision for the future of all humanity. It was not an easy learning and I wasn't sure I could bear the weight of it. As I trudged on back to my car, I felt comforted by the familiar sight of the ice rink. I knew it would not be long until I would be free of the cavernous carnival of the senses called the Houston Galleria. I knew too that it would likely be a long time before I returned to these sacred grounds.