I had the privilege of being in Mexico this weekend with some fine individuals, in Puerto Peñasco, outside the city, in one of the barrios de los pobres. The trip itself was delightful, I watched strangers and foreigners become a small community oriented around a singular purpose, building a modest home for Maria.

We spent a proportionally large amount of time on the foundation and labored intensely, mixing the concrete by hand, leveling and smoothing it until it was just so (a truly anal retentive process). Of course just as we were leaving one of the vagabond perros that roam the neighborhood ran right across.  Grinning, perhaps gritting, we again smoothed it down and headed back to camp wondering what would happen to it in our absence.

I lead the devotional that evening, inspired by our sandy surroundings to turn Jesus’ longest sermon in the Gospel of Matthew.  I spoke briefly about worry; if God takes care of birds, grass and dogs in the barrio then perhaps we ought to be less concerned. The first century Palestinians  listening to the sermon had a great deal more in common with homeless Maria in the barrio than with us.  She has a greater cause to worry than I do.  My list of worries ranges from money, to the future, the trip we were currently on and even, perhaps especially, for Maria. Being told to focus on the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, remains difficult for me despite my comfortable circumstances.  The real insight for the evening came from one of the many remarkable women on the trip.  She commented on our investment in the foundation and the reason for this: if the foundation was sound the rest of the house would follow suit.  Our lives are indeed like houses and the foundation upon which we build them, though it may not be as obviously important as the paint and trim, is nonetheless crucial.  We would have had a miserable time plumbing walls and handing our door if the bedrock on which they stood wasn’t perfect.  We are told that God cares for us and if we focus on our response to him then perhaps the rest will indeed follow.

An American Pastor in Paris

It is a surreal experience to be a minister in a non-christian environment and hear gospel songs.  I enjoy it but I am always surprised.  Alongside Kanye, The Roots, and others, comes Lauren hill belting out “Oh Happy Day.”  It reminds me of being in Paris and hearing American music.  The sound is immediately familiar, even comforting but at the same moment strange, because it is unexpected.

I know the people in this coffee shop enjoy the music, and are paying little attention.  However it is difficult to hear “He taught me how to walk, walk and pray/ Oh happy day/ when Jesus walks/ he took my sins away” without wondering what, if anything, people think about the song.  “Do they know what they are listening to” I wonder?

There is a man named Phillip in the bible who is by the side of the road and hears a man reading aloud the words of a prophet
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”(NRSV)

Phillip can’t resist asking the man “Do you know what you are reading?”  Hearing these songs makes me feel the same way, I want to have a conversation with all the people around me, just to ask what they think about the music, if they like it and why.  I know what it means to me but I want to know what it means to them.

Rationale for the rational

It seems to me that I need more practice in the writing department.  In grad school I spend a great deal of time thinking but I don’t always have to concretize these thoughts or ideas.  Essentially I was poetic but with little accountability to being certain that what I am thinking about is coherent.  The only exception to this is, of course, in the occasional sermon or speech that I give.  This blog is an attempt to force myself to practice the long lost art of having something to say and saying it well.  I will likely post edited papers, sermons, notes, or random thoughts on particular items.  Stay tuned.

the infamous lp