Monday, November 16, 2009

Starbright

This black and white photo of the sun coming out from the clouds was taken atop a mountain view point in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Doubt?

I have recently read two books dealing with the topic of doubt and whether or not it plays a role in the lives of people who claim to have faith. The first book is titled Doubting by Alister McGrath and the second book is titled Faith and Doubt by John Ortberg. Both books explore the place of doubt in the life of faith. I would highly recommend these books to anyone!
What I have found fascinating in both books and in several discussions with people over a period of several years is that there are divergent views on what doubt is. There are people who say that doubt is the opposite of faith, that if you doubt then you lack faith and therefore need to simply believe more. There are people who doubt everything; they are unwilling to believe even when evidence provides them with quite a good foundation upon which to place their belief. There are people of all different perspectives and views on faith and doubt.
I have had a couple of conversations recently where I came to the realization that some Christians are afraid to question their faith. Some of us who believe that Jesus Christ came to save and redeem humanity are afraid to ask questions, as if by asking questions we believe less. This frustrates me. If we believe (as most Christians would agree) that God created us with minds. Then there must be a reason for reason. We must have been given minds in order to use them. Why should we be afraid to use something God has given us? If we really believe what we say we believe, then I would argue that we need not fear questioning! To ask questions is to glorify God through the use of our God-given minds. Our minds are gifts and we have been given the opportunity to use them to think, question and consider thoughts, beliefs and the meaning of life.
What if Christians were not afraid to ask questions, or to entertain the questions of non-believers? Maybe we would find that we actually grow in our faith and that others would see us as intellectually honest men and women.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ben and Jerry

My wife and I have been thinking about buying a second puppy for quite some time and just a few days ago we took the plunge. Our first dog (Benny) is quite a social dog, as far as loving being with other dogs, so we finally decided to stop in a little shop near where we live and we found the most adorable 3 month old little miniature poodle. Benny is a mix between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Poodle also known as a Yorkie-poo. Our newest addition to the Stanwood Schaar clan is Jerry. Thus, we now have Ben and Jerry! They are quite a pair to behold. Benny has his own personality quirks, and Jerry has, well, all of the trappings of puppyhood (i.e. not yet potty trained, chewing on stuff, and whimpering whenever you are not in his line of sight). At the moment they are sound asleep, Benny on the couch and Jerry in his little doggie bed in front of our warm and cozy wood stove, complete with crackling fire. This peaceful calm and general serenity makes all of the poop and pee clean up worthwhile.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World" by Miroslav Volf

I must begin by saying that if you have not read a book by Dr. Miroslav Volf, than find one and read it! He is a profound theologian with a fascinating mind and heart! And he has written several books all of which have been awesome reads! I am a huge fan!
I first read his book titled: "The End of Memory" while in my second year of seminary. This book has been extremely influential in my life as a pastor and as a theologian. I would highly recommend it to anyone. He discusses the idea of memory in the life of Christian individuals and communities. His own story offers the backdrop along the way and he discusses some profound theological implications of memory and the past.
In this text, he discusses the Jewish Seder and the Christian Eucharist practices. These rituals are described by the use of a specific term: sacred memory. The idea of sacred memory is not simply doing these practices for the sake of remembering the original events in which the ritual was first conducted; but rather, viewing these rituals as a participation in the original event by participants thousands of years removed from the original event! What a profound thought! What if we viewed communion (as Christians) as a true participation in the Last Supper of Christ, rather than simply a remembering of the Last Supper. There are wide and divergent views on the meaning of the Eucharist (real presence of Christ, transubstantiation, consubstantiation and so on and so forth) but if practicing the ritual were seen as participation in the actual original event might Christians find the common ground around the common meal thus reuniting groups that have been at odds for centuries? What happens when we as Christians stop using the Eucharist as a tool for division and see it as a participation in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Think about it...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Prodigal God

I just recently finished reading the small book by Pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. It is a fantastic read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone! I enjoyed reading it so much that I want to use it for a small group and would love to hear what other people thought of the book. I simply found myself gripped by the simplicity, readability, and profound centeredness of this book! READ IT!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Red River Valley flooding

It has been hard to watch the news coming in from the Red River Valley over the past week as thousands of volunteers have laid millions of sand bags in order to prevent the Red River and the Red Lake River from overflowing their levees. It is especially hard for me since I grew up in Crookston, MN, and the threat of river flooding always seems a possibility every spring. I hope and pray that everyone is safe up there and that the flood waters recede.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the future

Well, it is hard to believe that Rachelle and I are nearing the end of our time at Princeton Seminary. I am looking forward to change; however, I must confess that the future is hard to imagine. As it stands I have a conference call with a church north of Seattle (Warm Beach) on April 1st. It is a Free Methodist Church and as far as I can tell it seems like a great church with a lot of potential to be a great first church job experience. I don't know any of the details as of yet or even whether or not they want me, but the Lord has been teaching me to be patient and wait. It is hard. I consider myself a very patient person when it comes to dealing with difficult people, but it is hard to wait and be patient when it comes to future plans. Rachelle and I are trying hard to be open to the options of whether or not we may need to stay in New Jersey for the foreseeable future, or whether we should make our way back west. We could use prayers for wisdom and discernment as we make our way through our options and try to listen for God's voice in the process of discernment!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

a prayer

Dear Lord, I have been profoundly struck by the pain and suffering all around me recently, and I have to say it can be awfully difficult to see where it is you are working. Sometimes I am not sure you are listening when I am talking to you. When I see the suffering, the hurt, and the frustrations of so many people my first inclination is to ask why, but this is a frustrating question. I am often left sitting with that question and never any answers. But then I think to myself, what other questions are there? The "why" question seems to strike at the heart of what I am looking for, but somehow I feel that even if I got an answer I would still not be satisfied. Please help me. I need patience. I need wisdom. I need grace for myself and for others. Please listen to me and speak for I desperately desire to hear your voice....