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Filtering by Category: Eric Muhr

A good game is like the gospel

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

A good game is like the gospel. In the imaginative world of play, people perform foolish acts for no good reason. It’s fantasy that teaches us something about reality: what it is to live without inhibitions, what it means to be real together.

Imagine a six-year-old girl teaching adults to wriggle around on their stomachs like snakes. Imagine two friends on a road trip, reading billboard messages backwards, pretending to speak in a foreign tongue. Imagine a group of students using dictionaries and a long cafeteria table to create a schoolhouse shuffleboard.

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The Question of Suffering

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

I’ve been thinking about the Bible. I’ve been thinking about the book of Job.

Because the story of Job is the oldest book in the portable library we call the Bible, I’ve wondered if maybe this story might be THE story. I’ve wondered about whether the other books could be commentary – a working through and a working out of the themes introduced in this first story, the story of Job: a story of suffering.

Unexpected. Undeserved. Unexplained.

Why is there suffering? The book of Job takes up quite a bit of space discussing the problem. Each of the friends introduces an idea as to the source of suffering and how we should respond. Job argues. The friends argue back. But it seems that suffering is not the moral – only the motivator. Without suffering, Job – a stand-in for humanity – might have no reason to consider his existence.

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The Places People Go

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

There are places people go when life gets rough — separate places, safe spaces, sanctuary. I have a rock in the Owyhee Mountains. Just up the hill behind the Catholic church in Silver City, Idaho — past open mine shafts and sage-brush clumps — lies a red dirt path. That first time, I followed it because it went up, and I wanted to go to the top. I wanted to see. What I found was a rock. I climbed up on top and sat at the edge, and I could see for miles down the creek to Jordan Valley, up the creek to Silver City, along the road to Murphy. I was alone.

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On Efficiency and Ants

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

The institutional church, as it grapples with cultural change in the form of declining attendance and giving, tends to preserve the status quo. Members take actions toward a stronger system — earthquake-proofing, a new roof, remodeling the foyer to let in more light. Incremental improvements. New efficiencies. Streamlining.

But what if it’s time to move to a new neighborhood? To leave the old building behind and start on a journey into the unknown?

People don’t like the unknown.

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Mistake of Genre

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

I think I’ve finally figured it out. Found the answer. Placed the puzzle’s last piece.

All this bad religion out there, it’s a mistake of genre.

Doing-oriented American culture tends to think of scripture in terms of prose (especially technical prose). We like to have a resource for easy answers, quick fixes, little pick-me-ups.

But scripture is poetry.

Poetry doesn’t give up its answers so easily. It has to be digested bite by bite. Slowly. Repeatedly.

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On Church and Brownies

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

I got sick one morning not so many years ago, thinking about going to church. I suddenly felt dizzy and tired. Incredibly tired. I sat down on the couch (with a plate of brownies for sustenance).

“What’s this about?” I wondered. Church had been my life. I volunteered for hours every week, attended services at several different denominations, read just about anything I could find regarding what it means to live a God-centered life, what it means to know God. But I realized, while I was thinking, that I didn’t much like church. It felt like a waste of my time. I resented having to go.

I took another brownie and asked myself, “Is there anything wrong with church?” I knew that I believed in an active, living, present God, and we were spending a lot of time talking about God. I wondered if maybe that’s the problem. We talked God to death every Sunday. But when did we experience God’s presence with us in corporate worship? Did we ever feel God or hear God? Did we know God?

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On Silence

Eric Muhr

by: Eric Muhr

Sunday morning services serve as space-less places. We fill them up with songs and sermons and passings of the offering plate (with background music, of course). What we really need is silence—space to listen. Why are we afraid?

Maybe it is because the openness of unprogrammed worship—in paring away the outside noise—leaves us no choice but to face the noise within: hypocrisy, phoniness, the false self we project (a fragile image).

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To Travel a Different Road

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

Lightening our load of possessions brings a lightness of spirit, even freedom.

Not so many years ago, a friend of mine left for California on an early spring morning. He was working there for the summer. He was supposed to have everything packed up and ready to go by 6:30 that morning. Of course, he put it off until the last minute. Of course, his alarm clock didn’t go off. And he wasn’t able to finish his laundry. And he didn’t have room for even half the stuff he wanted to take.

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Examining Our Foundations

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

A friend wrote of his struggle to figure out what is truth and what is trash in popular belief. But his efforts to wrestle with issues have won him few friends among his Christian peers.

“I guess what bothers me about religion and a lot of people in religions is that they completely block out what I have to say just because I have different views, and they refuse to listen to my logic.”

People try to argue him out of his way of thinking rather than seriously considering whether he has anything worthwhile to offer.

That kind of Christianity seems foreign to me (and a little bit hypocritical). After all, if we believe that God gave us minds, then why wouldn’t we expect or allow people to use them? How might that possibly threaten our faith (unless there isn’t really any substance to the stuff that we claim to believe)?

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On Disenchantment and Change

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

More and more of my friends have expressed in recent years their disenchantment with the church. They struggle with a deep desire for authentic intimacy within a faith community. They long for simplicity. They feel as if life is not worth living without an experience of God’s presence within community. They are willing to sacrifice anything. But instead of these things, they find Christians who seem to have become wedded to American culture along with its promise of riches and relaxation for those who work hard and live well. And relationships, where they exist, seem shallow.

Please don’t get me wrong. These Christian communities are full of men and women who have spent their lives serving Christ and growing in Him. I’m part of one of these communities, and I know many here who faced similar struggles in their youth. But that was then. Life is much more comfortable now. And safe.

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The Path to Holiness

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

A friend and I discussed evangelical Christianity's focus on the inherent sinfulness of humanity, its claim that people, who experience grace, must be changed into something new. But the prospective pitfall of such belief is the realization that perfection (a worthy goal) is always just beyond our reach. So we become a people impatient with impossible standards, who stop looking forward, start looking back, compare ourselves to those who lag behind.

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The Integrated Life

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

I have often longed for a different kind of life, imagining joy in the simplicity of communal work, worship and service. But is close-knit community the key to an integrated existence? What if my longing for meaningful connection is a symptom of internal rather than external division? If I have learned anything about myself, it is that I too often seek the easy way out of uncomfortable questions.

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Defending God

Eric Muhr

by Eric Muhr

Not so many years ago, I witnessed with interest a continuing debate in my community over Ten Commandments displays. One incident involved removal of a yellow placard from public land at a local airport. Angry letters flooded the newspaper opinion pages. And in further protest, a group of pilots ordered 150 copies of the sign for the sides of their privately-owned hangars.

It’s the kind of thing that happens again and again. And I wonder, how much of the shouting and fist-shaking really qualifies as righteous indignation and how much might be chalked up to plain, old fear. 

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We Never Would Have Been So Bold

Eric Muhr

by: Eric Muhr

I used to work as the education reporter for a newspaper in Idaho, and part of my job was covering spring graduation ceremonies. I attended a lot of commencement exercises. It wasn’t my favorite part of the job. Most of these events felt like little more than a jumble of inspiration about the journey we’re on, about where we’re headed. It was always the same. 

Except one time it wasn’t.

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It's Complicated

Eric Muhr

by: Eric Muhr

There are times when I’m struck by what I read in scripture, challenged to stop for a moment and think about where I’m going, about whether my life is consistent with what I claim to believe. Take this passage, for instance, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person.”

I’ve taken a different path, standing up for my rights, demanding justice when I know I’ve been wronged. And Christian culture applauds. Why is that?

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How to Get There

Eric Muhr

by: Eric Muhr

After my brother finished his first year of college, I drove to Kansas to pick him up and bring him home for the summer. It’s a long drive from here to there, so I’d planned for the shortened week I’d face on my return. There were so many things to get done, and time, as always, was on the move. It was hard. 

Hard to breathe. 

Time was slipping into the future, and I couldn’t keep up. This in spite of how fast I was driving.

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A Profile

Eric Muhr

by: Eric Muhr

I used to help cover politics for a newspaper in Idaho. I interviewed a local man, a profile. He sought a legislative seat, defined himself as anti-tax, pro-jobs. He spoke of education and construction and the elderly. And while I jotted notes, I thought how similar this sounds to all the rest I’ve met. Each one defines his character according to accomplishments. Each list — the same — with clubs and causes, offices, endorsements. The only differentiation comes from what’s been done and what’s opposed. We have fences but no foundation.

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I Pray For Change

Eric Muhr

by: Eric Muhr

I log on to the Internet late at night to play chess. In between moves, I check my e-mail, read the news, and think. 

It’s quiet here at the end of the day. But peering through computer screen — mystical aperture — brings close the noisy conflict of a war-torn world. 

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