Tag Archives: spiritual journey

Refrigerator Theology

I’m standing in front of the fridge looking for the catsup. It will not show itself to me; I cannot see it. I call to Judy, my wife, “where’s the catsup?” “Third shelf, right side, in the back.” And sure enough there’s the catsup.

The lesson is about presence. God meets us where we are, whether that’s in the fridge (no, this is not a light box), in the garden, or (in my case) up a tree somewhere.

The lesson is about attitude: if you think the catsup is in there, it is more likely to show itself. It is about faith. If you believe the catsup is there, it is much easier to see. It is about the ubiquity and grace of God: God can speak to us through any medium She believes will reach us. If we understand the catsup as a metaphor for Truth, we are assured it’s “in there” even when we have given up hope. We pray “God, help me see the catsup.” The answers are often not what we expect. Grace  overflows: we are not berated for not knowing or seeing. We are gently guided.

There’s a lot of stuff in the fridge besides the catsup, some of it bad, like that bit of 3-week old casserole that has become sentient, has “culcha” (culture pronounced with a Joisey (Jersey) accent) and will have linguistic ability if we leave it another week. Now it is the nature of prayer that we may start by asking God to show us the catsup, only to find that we really wanted the French dressing. It helps to be open to redirection. What we practice is discernment, whether we call it that or not.

In the “Am I a Preacher” essay, I discuss embedded (or intuitive) and deliberative theologies. Embedded “stuff” is largely absorbed passively. Deliberative stuff (for the idea applies to many things in our lives besides theology) requires us to be intentional in our pursuit of whatever. So, we stand in front of the fridge and passively practice discernment.

To actively (deliberatively) practice discernment requires us to take worship (understood as being in communication with whatever you call that which is beyond us) from the meetingroom (church) into the rest of our lives. We are easily confused. We think of our work as doing the chores or how we earn a living to keep body & soul together when in fact the actual work is to take worship from the nursery we call church into the gardens of our lives. We start by asking questions. The Bible is full of people questioning God, sometimes not so gently. Catsup, God? Really? Are you sure there’s not something else that would taste better? Or at least not give me bad breath? And so we ask questions. Clearness (the product of discernment) tells us that yes, indeed, catsup is the answer. Or not.

But how do we know? Some of the questions have to be about ethics, about rightness. Will our proposed course of action lead us towards (closer to) God or away from the Presence as the center of our lives? Does it help our neighbors (whether plants, animals or other humans)? Is it ethical? What do Scripture & other sources of wisdom & Truth have to say about it? By asking questions, we can hope to test the rightness of our actions. One of the places to ask questions is in community. The caveat is that we have to be willing to accept the answer when we reach clearness that the casserole is spoiled (evil) or that catsup is not the way forward.

We also need to be aware that some of the stuff in the fridge is not ours (or intended for us). Those messages are not for us. But sometimes, the burning truth is in some insignificant speck, as perhaps a fleck of jalapeno in the corner of our eye. Just as a weed is merely a plant out of place, evil can be misapplication of an otherwise good thing. Things just /are/, in the sense of absolute value they tried to teach us in math. The goodness or badness then goes back to those questions we asked earlier about ethics and direction in relation to us & God.

Remember all this next time you’re lost in the refrigerator.

Forestry from a research perspective: Conversation with Susan Stout

Susan Stout works for the US Forest Service. That’s right, the Government. The Dark Side. Life is rarely as simple as our assumptions lead us to believe. Here’s a government employee (one among many, I assure you) who cares, has purpose, vision, and idealism. Her wisdom is not of the ivory tower type. It is grounded in love for the forest. Enjoy.


Men’s Group

Men’s group: I was in the middle of writing my final paper for the class I took during Intensives. I got a text from my sister in law: can you speak to the men’s group Thursday evening about treework and logging? The scheduled speaker had a death in the family.

I was planning on going anyway. Judy’s brother, John, is a member there and Dennis often attends. Sure. Why not.

Main points: 4 more years, I’ll have been climbing professionally for 50 years. Today they’d tell me to sit down, shut up, be still & give me a scrip for Ritalin. What we’ve lost in the search for security.

I explained that tree work is just applied vector physics. I said “imagine a pulley on the ceiling. If we run a rope through it and tie it to this end of the table, that end will hang down. And if we tie it to that end, this end will hang down. And if I tie it in the middle, the table will hang flat, balanced. Depending on where the rope is tied on the branch, the same things apply. Now imagine if the pulley is over here on this beam. The table will want to swing so that it hangs directly under the beam. It’s all vector physics. All a vector is, is a force in a direction.


Then I opened to them the idea of being in conversation with the Holy Spirit. Paul entreats us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). It is the glory of God to conceal things; it is the glory of kings to seek them out (Prov. 25:2). Finally, Ask and you shall receive. (Jn. 16:24). Using these statements as practices, the world is transformed. Worship is no longer limited to church on Sunday morning, but becomes a perpetual practice. I have cut trees for several of the men who were present. I said that if there was a grace and ease observable in the way I work, it is a reflection of the Presence in my life, of this ongoing conversation.


Then I showed a video from Youtube about how to cut a tree down. John & Dennis joined in with tips & pointers.

After the presentation a fellow named Dalton approached me. He said I really should consider being a supply preacher. Dennis has noted in our supervisory sessions that he was dragged by the Spirit, “kicking and screaming,” to the pulpit.


That part about being a preacher is eerily similar to my call to seminary. Continual nudges. It has been said that one of the marks of a true leading is persistence. But God, I don’t want to be a preacher. Writing is so much safer. I can hide in the anonymity of my words. OK. So writing is a Kind of preaching. God, You know what I mean. Moses, can you help me out here?