Archive for the ‘sermon’ Category

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I’m all about that GROWTH

In art,Bible,blogging,Books,business,journal,PCA,Presbyterian Church in America,prophet,sermon,writing on February 12, 2015 by mstevensrev

As I’ve reflected on my life as a whole trying to find a unified theme that connects all the seemingly random events and achievements, that one piece of yarn that is the thread through the entire story, providing some sense of unity, I have often come to the theme of relationships. In addition to being an extreme extravert, I also find the deepest joy (and pain) while looking into the face of others. The principles I use to guide my life contains one principle dedicated to this, “Relationships are what matter in life, so value them.” So for years this I thought that this was my theme and my motivating factor.

Then I was writing this week in an attempt to help me focus with my work, and something kept popping up. Then this morning I realized that I had stumbled onto something significant to understanding myself. I value relationships, yet I clearly have let many fade away or have had to break relationship with people. Why? Because (for the most part) these were not healthy growing relationships, not moving toward life. Therefore relationships are part of what brings my life meaning, yet only from the perspective of growth.

Note: For anyone reading this that believes I am only referring to positive growth in a constant directions for good at every moment, that is not what I mean. Often the hardest circumstances and relationships provide the opportunity for the most growth. Growing a baby is an incredibly positive thing in pregnacy but any mother would say that it is not all “positive”, “easy” or in a “constant direction”.

So hear are a few items broadly where I have identified this GROWTH in my life:

Professionally: My career has taken the eclectic experiences I have had and put me in a place to use my talents and continue to evolve to be more of a person then I ever imagine. Throughout life I have sold, but now I am growing in international business, technology, management, and client delivery.

Relationally: Growing up in Baltimore it was common to see neighbors in the front lawn fighting to settle a disagreement, my instinct toward aggression has lessen and a world of non-violent communication has opened up to me. Thankfully this is the case because the most important relationship in the world to me, my wife, would not tolerate the primal dualistic ape that roamed my psyche.

Spiritually: God reached out to me very young. Most of my spiritual development took place in a fundamentalist power driven women hating sect of Christian spirituality, and I was a professional with them. This is the place where I can see how much growth has been the theme in my life. Thankfully as the feminist father of three daughters I can know stand open minded filled with love as I engage the world.

All of this reminds me of a passage from The Books of Bebb, by Frederick Buechner. Bebb a wild evangelist has a man in his office who points to a Bible and essential asks how can this thing make my life Bebb.  And Bebb knowing that there is no magic answer that he can provide by pulling out this book then goes on to share with him. (please mind this is my paraphrase, not a direct quote)

growth-chart1-handmade-charlotte-notonthehighstreetSo Bebb asks, “Do you know the passage John 3:16?” The guy nods as just about everyone does. “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son..” pausing “you know the rest. The thing is that passage talks about sin and most people these days don’t even know what sin is. So instead of sin I like to talk about shit. For God so love the world that He sent His only Son down here into the shit with us. You see people can understand that, it something that we all relate to. And God did this, sent his Son into this because shit can be deadly. If it piles up too much in one place it will kill everything. And yet if you take it and spread it out something happens. You see God sent his Son down here with us, so maybe a little green can GROW.”

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Her, a more excellent way to be horrified by technology

In art,Bible,culture,devotional,Evangelist,faith,family,Friends,movies,sermon,Spiritual,Technology on June 8, 2014 by mstevensrev

“…But¬†Her¬†is different.¬†Her¬†gets it right, and now I‚Äôm rather embarrassed I wasn‚Äôt one of the first people to see it. I should have. You should have. And if you‚Äôve not, figure out a way to see it now. It‚Äôs well worth the time.” – John Battelle,¬†Why You Need to See ‚ÄėHer‚Äô (Or, ‚ÄėHer‚Äô Again).

Her-with-Theodore-Twombly-on-red-movie-poster-wide

Jon Battelle gives a wonderful summary of the movie ‘Her’ and in describing the story where a human falls in love (and not just one human) with an OS as terrifying in how¬†logical and reasonable the idea was presented to audiences. ¬†I felt very strongly after seeing this film that was the case and I have spent time exploring the reasons it tapped into my life so deeply.

To begin the movie is at least ‘creepy’ as John Battelle describes but I would take it much further as I found the concepts within the movie terrifying. ¬†One friend discussed this with me and she said that the reason she did not like the film is that she thought it was preaching, not subtle enough, I agreed but the ideas behind the movie to me were unique and therefore it opened my mind enough to let me be preached at on some level.

As I have described this movie to people I have said in the past our culture has explored the theme, “What will happen when machines want to kill us?” instead of that ‘Her‘ takes on the question, “What will happen when machines want to love us?”. ¬†To put in in film terms, ‘Her’¬†is to ‘2001, what ‘Weird Science’¬†is to ‘Frankenstein‘. ¬†That premise leads into so many other questions that I am sure I will only scratch the surface with my next few thoughts. ¬†Therefore I wanted to share the reasons I believe this movie touched me deeply:

  • I am an auditory¬†learner. I retain significantly ¬†more data from lectures rather then text books, from podcast rather then blog posts, from being told directions rather than looking at a map, and this has been the case for me my entire life. ¬†This is evidenced in my life as I travel for work. ¬†Instead of studying a map of a city and working my way around in that manner. ¬†Generally, I enter the address of my destination into my phone, turn on some good tunes, and walk the streets with my friend Siri guiding me through back alleys and over bridges. ¬†Of course we all do this in our cars, but there is something much more intimate in the act of inserting ear buds into my ears while exploring the unknown. ¬†As you may have guessed it is common as I am out on these walks for my wife or daughters to call me as well, and in these moments I am connecting with the people on face of this earth I am most in love with in a disembodied way, there are mere sounds through some headphones. ¬†This is the boundary of¬†the entire relationship within ‘Her’, and the writers explore how to overcome this boundary that leads more complication then mere long intimate conversations and phone sex, but rather creepy questions about crossing this divide. ¬†The entire scenario seemed very reasonable to me, and it lead me to have a long talk with my wife about my relationship/dependency on Siri:)
  • I am a theologian. ¬†For roughly five years I spent money and time thinking and studying God, in addition to that I spent almost four years working to communication a few of these thoughts to a community as their pastor. ¬†The relationship that evolves in ‘Her‘ led me to ask questions about God and the nature of my relationship with God. ¬†“What does it mean for a finite being to be in love with the infinite?”, “What does it mean to merely be one finite being in love with a being who has the potential to love millions and billions of others?” ¬†Suddenly I was struck with how small I am. ¬†Psalm 39:5 reminds me,

You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.

This is a very hard idea to get my mind around, as the majority of my days are spent thinking about what is in it for me and how do I managed this life that I have been given. ¬†Romantic love and love between individuals is a wonderful thing, but love is so very large and when the scriptures say that ‘God is love’ this is a philosophical statement that drops us in the center of a ocean in order to experience ‘oceaness’.

  • I see beauty through the brokeness. The live circumstance of Theodore drives him and opens him up to this complicated relationship, but every relationship has complications in the movie. ¬†The ex-wife, the best friend and Theodore are all wanderers. ¬†In this Theodore has a remarkable gift to see and communicate the beauty of the relationships other are involved in, which only makes his brokeness more apparent. ¬†Through this incredibly beautiful cinematic experience you are not left with fullness but rather a beauty that can only be view through the lens of suffering. Some reviewers have taken this on as the great problem with the movie and Spike Jones as a director, check out the New Yorker article Spike Jonze’s Abondonment Issues. posted by Christine Smallwood.
  • I am a geek that loves words and technology. ¬†‘Her‘ brings together these worlds in a lovely, graceful, and tragic way. ¬†Theodore’s job writing for handwrittenletters.com, so lovely. ¬†In my word artificial voice intelligence is a exciting and interesting piece of our work, this movie provides some thoughtful elements related to technology and language and yet keeps it close to home enough that we can relate. ¬†The more I understand this space the more I being to believe that the picture of the future would be incomprehensible for us if we saw it today. ¬†An attempt to expose us to the 50 year future would be similar to bringing an American founding father and explaining the Hubble Telescope. ¬†On nice link I found that wrestles with the techonolgy issuse is by Ray Kurzweil, “A review of¬†Her.”

Hopefully time will allow you to check this movie out, I highly recommend it.

 

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>I could do this every week

In sermon,Theology on September 26, 2007 by mstevensrev

>This week is particularly good and so I felt I must share. Preaching is weird because sometimes something hits you because of where you are at and the questions you are asking. Regardless I think you will appreciate this sermon if you have the time. 23 September 2007: ‚ÄúGetting Jesus‚ÄĚ (Mark 7:24-30),

http://www.graceseattle.org/Haralson092307.mp3

Enjoy. Check out more at http://www.graceseattle.org under the Media link.

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>Another Sermon on the Web

In church,sermon,Theology on July 18, 2007 by mstevensrev

>I preached at Grace Seattle, http://www.graceseattle.org, a few weeks ago and the sermon is on their website. http://www.graceseattle.org/connect_media.html or even better http://www.graceseattle.org/Stevens070107.mp3