Friday, December 31, 2004

More quotes for today

The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children--
Chesterton

One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of shore--
Andre Gide

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm--
Thoreau

Those who are quick to promise are generally slow to perform. They promise mountains and perform molehills--
Spurgeon

A man with courage makes a majority--
Andrew Jackson

To have what we want is riches. To do without is power--
George McDonald

The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide--
Longfellow

If there is a job to be done, I always ask the busiest men in my parish to take it on and it gets done--
Henry Ward Beecher

Thursday, December 30, 2004

More quotes for today

It is unnatural for Christianity to be popular--
Billy Graham

Be great in little things--
Francis Xavier

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds--
Francis Bacon

Man is what he believes--
Checkov

We trust not because God exists, but because this God exists.
C.S. Lewis

The honest man takes pain, and then enjoys pleasures, The knave takes pleasures and then suffers pain--
B. Franklin

The idle man does not know what it is to enjoy rest--
Albert Einstein

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire--
W. B. Yeats

Greatest tranquility of heart is his who cares for neither praise nor blame--
Thomas a Kempis

The world does not need more Christian writers, it needs more good writers and composers that are Christians.--
C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

What Counts as "Church"?

It seems like all of our effort in churches and church growth is driven toward worship attendance. At youth group, even if we are having several elements of worship in our group (singing, prayer, Word) there seems to be an emphasis on "getting them there" for Sunday morning worship. The reverse is also true. If youth are involved on Sunday mornings we need them plugged into a "youth fellowship" during the week. Lately I have been wondering if all this is not more culturally bound than we have realized.

Lets pretend you are a person looking for a spiritual connection, and you come to a mid-week small group Bible study. You grow in your faith, you grow in your love for the other people in the group, and you feel truly connected to your faith and the church. Why is this less important or spiritual than the congregational worship service? Why is Sunday morning what we "count".?

As a youth pastor I have always been under this pressure that if you cannot get kids who come on Sunday morning to come to the youth program you have failed. Furthermore, if you cannot get the kids who come to youth group to come to THE SERVICE you have failed to disciple them properly.

The argument goes on that when they get older that they will not settle for the boring, flat "adult" service if they don't get disciplined to it when they are younger. Although I do think worshipping is a spiritual DISCIPLINE, in many ways I am not sure we should always settle for what we get on Sunday morning anyways.

It seems to me that there are many meaningful levels and ways that people could be involved with Christian community. The crux of our growth strategy should not be for people to tie in to a particular thing we call the worship service (as if nothing else counted as "real worship", but to connect with Jesus and with others.

More quotes for today

A lie goes half way around the world before the truth can get its pants on.--
Winston Churchill

Some are more concerned that they might be noticed than that Christ might be seen--
Richard B. Bass

Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it takes a very fine nature to sympathize with a friends success.--
Oscar Wilde

The best thing about the future is it only comes one day at a time--
Abraham Lincoln

Man's extremity is God's opportunity--
John Flavel

I am never better than when I am at the full stretch for God--
George Whitfield

A man of quality is never threatened by a woman of equality---
Jill Briscoe

(from Patches of Godlight collection--Jan Karon)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

More quotes for today

There is nothing that makes us love someone so much as praying for them.--
William Law

The Lord sends no one away empty except for those who are full of themselves--
DL Moody

Lord, make me see thy glory in every place--
Michaelangelo

In commanding us to glorify him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him--
C.S. Lewis

When I get a little money I buy books, and if I have anything left over I buy food and clothes--
Erasmus

If a man cannot be a Christian where he is, he cannot be a Christian anywhere--
Henry Ward Beecher

I have been tortured with the longing to believe...and the yearning grows stronger the more cogent the intellectual differences in my way.--
Dostoyovesky

A comprehended God is no God at all--
Gerhard Tersteogen

Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, it is the greater work--
Oswald Chambers

Remember that when you leave this earth you can take nothing that you have recieved...but only what you have given.
St. Francis of Assisi

Many things I have tried to grasp and have lost. That which I have placed in God's hands I still have--
Martin Luther

There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.--
Chesterton

There are three stages in the work of God, impossible, difficult, done.--
Hudson Taylor

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future--
16th century poet


The ReasonS for the Season

This morning I read Tim Yenters blog about the Christmas debates, and wanted to write a little about the same thing myself.

(For my response to Tim's thoughts as well as Tim's thoughts go to inessentials.com/blog)

I think I spent half of my Christmas stressed out trying to get enough things and the right things for my family and friends for Christmas. I shopped on the internet, on the strip malls, and in the glorious Home Depot. After a while you begin to wonder, in this what Jesus had in mind?

I believe the current debates about whether to say Happy Holidays or Christmas demonstrate the wrongheadedness of Christians in the public square. We want to be wealthy. We want to be powerful. So we yell and scream and demand our rights. Meanwhile the baby Jesus comes to a third world country, under an oppressive regime, he is born in a barn, and he is placed in a feed trough.

Maybe Christians should take more time living Christmas in the public square than they do demanding people to say the word Christmas in the public square. Maybe if we spent less time shopping for clothes, DVDs, and jewlery for our loved ones and spent a little more time visiting shut-ins, or reaching out to children without parents, or buying the wino down the street dinner and a beer we might have people seeing Jesus in the Christian community. Maybe then, when we celebrate Christmas people might not be so shy greet us in a more traditional manner, because they will have seen Jesus at work on earth year around.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

More quotes for today

Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you.
Annie Dillard

It could be that our faithlessness is a cowering cowardice born of our very smallness, a massive failure of imagination... If we were to judge nature by common sense or likelihood, we wouldn't believe the world existed.
Annie Dillard

You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.
Saint Bernard

Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.
Saint Basil

Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence.
Saint Basil

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.
Thomas A. Edison

Boredom is the root of all evil - the despairing refusal to be oneself.
Soren Kierkegaard

During the first period of a man's life the greatest danger is not to take the risk.
Soren Kierkegaard

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.
Soren Kierkegaard

It seems essential, in relationships and all tasks, that we concentrate only on what is most significant and important.
Soren Kierkegaard

Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wander whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid.
Soren Kierkegaard

Once you label me you negate me.
Soren Kierkegaard

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.
Soren Kierkegaard

The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.
Soren Kierkegaard

When you read God's Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, "It is talking to me, and about me."
Soren Kierkegaard

As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.
Vaclav Havel

Isn't it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity...
Vaclav Havel

There is nothing impossible to him who will try.
Alexander The Great

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.
Martin Luther

God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.
Martin Luther

If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there.
Martin Luther

Nothing good ever comes of violence.
Martin Luther

Pray, and let God worry.
Martin Luther

The fewer the words, the better the prayer.
Martin Luther

The reproduction of mankind is a great marvel and mystery. Had God consulted me in the matter, I should have advised him to continue the generation of the species by fashioning them out of clay.
Martin Luther


War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity, it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it.
Martin Luther

When I am angry I can pray well and preach well.
Martin Luther

Who loves not women, wine and song remains a fool his whole life long.
Martin Luther

Friday, December 24, 2004

More Quotes for today

"If we only have the will to walk, then God is pleased with our stumbles."--
C.S. Lewis

A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but a lot of faith will bring heaven to your soul.--
Dwight L. Moody

"Be brave and dare with a holy boldness."--
Teresa of Avila

"The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation."--
Corrie Ten Boom

Churches don't need new members half so much as they need the old bunch made over.--
Billy Sunday

There wouldn't be so many non-church goers if there were not so many non-going churches.--
Billy Sunday

Going to church doesn't make a man a Christian, any more than going to a garage makes him an automobile.--
Billy Sunday

The reason you don't like the Bible, you old sinner, is because it knows all about you.--
Billy Sunday

I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man.
Dwight L. Moody

A person wrapped up in himself makes a small package.
Harry Emerson Fosdick

I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.
Harry Emerson Fosdick

Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.
John Wesley

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.
John Wesley

The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.
Charles R. Swindoll

We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
Charles R. Swindoll

It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God.
Thomas Merton

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.
Thomas Merton

The very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God's mercy to me.
Thomas Merton

Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.
Frederick Buechner

A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.
Billy Graham

Churchgoers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.
Billy Graham

If we had more hell in the pulpit, we would have less hell in the pew.
Billy Graham

Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections.
Saint Francis de Sales

True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.
Saint Francis de Sales

It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.
St. Francis of Assisi

Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
St. Francis of Assisi

Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.
Saint Augustine

Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.
Saint Augustine

If two friends ask you to judge a dispute, don't accept, because you will lose one friend; on the other hand, if two strangers come with the same request, accept because you will gain one friend.
Saint Augustine

Love, and do what you like.
Saint Augustine

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.
Saint Augustine

Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.
Saint Augustine

Thou must be emptied of that wherewith thou art full, that thou mayest be filled with that whereof thou art empty.
Saint Augustine

There is no possible source of evil except good.
Saint Augustine

The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.
Saint Augustine

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.
Saint Augustine

The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences.
Saint Augustine

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More Quotes for today

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.--
G. K. Chesterton

All slang is a metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry.--
G. K. Chesterton

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.--
C. S. Lewis

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.--
Sir Winston Churchill

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.--
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them -every day begin the task anew.
Saint Francis de Sales

You cannot slander human nature; it is worse than words can paint it.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.--
Albert Einstein

Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.
Albert Einstein

Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.
Isaac Newton

What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

More Quotes for today

Christianity began in Palestine as a relationship, moved to Greece and became an idea, went to Rome and became an institution, then came to America and became an enterprise.--
Richard Halverson

Tradition is..democracy extended through time.--
Chesterton

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot help the few who are rich--
John Kennedy

Catholics know how to party..Can you imagine Lutherans or Presbyterians or Baptists creating Mardi Gras?--
Brian McLaren

The bible knows nothing of solitary religion.--
John Wesley

Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.--
John Wesley

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.--
Pascal

God loves with a great love the man whose heart is bursting with a passion for the IMPOSSIBLE.--
William Booth

Enthusiasm is as good a thing in the Church as fire is in a cook stove--
Billy Sunday

Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow, and to love Him as they love their cow - for the milk and cheese and profit it brings them. This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth or inward comfort. They do not rightly love God, when they love Him for their own advantage. Indeed, I tell you the truth, any object you have in your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost Truth.--
Meister Eckhart (1260?-1327?)

There is nothing that we can see on earth which does not either show the wretchedness of man or the mercy of God. One either sees the powerlessness of man without God, or the strength of man with God.--
Blaise Pascal

I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am. --John Newton (1725-1807)






Healthy Communities and Healthy Conflict

On the way out to the OC for Christmas, I have been reading Reading Lolita in Tehran. I first I was amazed that I was brave enough to read it, because when one reads the pages upon pages of acolades for the book, one does not find a single identified male reader (Those who know me know how I avoid girly stuff in both movies and books-though I make exceptions for things like When Harry Met Sally and Ursala Hegi books). But, after picking up the book, I see I have made a wise choice. It is an excellent book that has really made me think.

One of the things that has come to mind is the American quest for a conflict-free church. This fall in our church in Colorado Springs, our budget was approved unanimously. In the middle of the meeting someone seemed to question the wisdom of some of the budgeting. People were visibly unnerved that someone might spoil their unity through questioning the work of the 3-4 people who put the budget together.

I say this not to badmouth my church, but because I think it is typical in churches across America. And there is good reason at times to really press for a lack of dissent when the people of God are moving forward on something. It seems to me though that even in those times people should be able to say, "I trust where we are going in this and I am onboard with all of you but I am really concerned about...."

Unlike fundamentalist Islam,which violently enforces uniformity of thought, dress and culture, we should respect that God works through and speaks through each of us. Whats more, even in the early church we see that God works through honest conflict.

Really we cannot escape diversity of thought in an honest community. That can sometimes lead to conflict. Isn't it better in those conflicts to empower people to ask questions and to be heard with love and respect than to have a Christian community full of people repressing their opinions in deference to a local church's power elite? This does not seem to be the way of Jesus or how the Holy Spirit worked in the early church.
Jesus challenged religious authority and the early church learned through their many disagreements.

Furthermore, I think that there are a large group of people out there that want to see a Christian community that can passionately argue with one another and passionately love one another at the same time (within certain boundaries). Where in the world are people going to go to talk about and learn about the most important things in life if they cannot come to a church to do it? And how can you learn and grow and in your understanding of spiritual concerns without an environment that is open to vigorous discussion and debate at times?

Certainly as we look at the world around us we don't see this. We see ideological ghettos closed to questions that threaten the political and economic power. Then these groups, because they will not allow creative open dialogue within their groups, are poised to never resolve issues. As Jon Stewart so deftly pointed out on CNN in the 2004 election, this is not the honest conflict that our country needs. It builds enmity instead of dialogue.

Under the authority of Scripture and leadership of the Spirit the church should be different. We should be about healthy communities that have healthy conflict. We should be about openness and looking to the other while be honest about ourselves, our thoughts and our needs. Maybe then the church would actually be more of the church.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Appetites

Thanks to pastor/theologians Rob Bell and Greg Boyd, as well as writer Kathleen Norris, I have been thinking about the nature of appetites and spirituality. Being on one diet or another constantly for about 5 months, I have at the same time listened to and read what people have said about gluttony and in a more general (as opposed to simply sexual)sense lust. It has been both fascinating and motivating (although I think many thin people wrongly assume extra weight is a simple result of gluttony, when in fact it has many biological and socio-economic factors tied in with it.).

One thing that I have noticed is that when one desire is sublimated, other desires come to the forefront. Since I have started this most recent phase of my diet, I find myself spending more time at work. Kathleen Norris talks about this in monastic life, how people living monastic lives of celebacy find themselves struggling with alcoholism, overeating, or working too much.

All this makes me wonder if part of the reason for a call to discipline in Christian life is more than a call to holiness. Maybe, when we indulge one pleasure too much, we miss out on the variety of pleasures this world has to offer.

This is all just kind of forming in my mind, but I think it makes at least a little sense.

Friday, December 17, 2004

More quotes for today

Love slays what we have been, that we may be what we were not--
St. Augustine

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will most certainly be wrung, and possibly broken...The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and purturbations of love is Hell.--
C.S. Lewis

The man who does not permit his spirit to be beaten down and upset by dryness and helplessness, but who lets God lead him peacefully through the wilderness, and desires no other support or guidance that that of pure faith and trust in God alone will be brought to the Promised Land--
Thomas Merton

The way to love anything is to realize it might be lost--
G.K Chesterton

If you are weary of some sleepy form of devotion, God is probably about as weary of it as you are.
Frank Laubach

Spritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder, but of training wisely--John Ortberg

We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glowworm.--
Winston Churchill

Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone in our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy...He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.--
Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Sin is often an attempt to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way--
John Ortberg

In general, the soul makes the most progress when it least thinks so..most frequently when it imagines it is losing--
St John of the Cross

Purity of heart is to will one thing--
Soren Kierkegaard

Lord, help me to great things as though they were little, since I do them with your power, and little things as though they were great, since I do them in your name.--Pascal

He who has never failed somewhere, that man cannot be great. Failure is the test of greatness.--
Herman Melville

Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives--
Henry Nouwen

I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least--
Dorothy Day

You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do.
Anne Lammott





(most of the quotes found in books by John Ortberg)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Pluralism and Following Jesus.

I was just talking with my friend Brian. He is a pastor at a church in Columbia, MO. Somehow we got on the discussion of pluralism in his community and the struggles that his congregation has with it. Columbia is a university town (his wife is in med school there) and has always been a little bit more diverse than the rest of central Missouri. But these days there are Moslems, Sihks, and Buddhists moving into towns. At the same time the population of the city is growing.

The same thing is happening all over the United States. Small cities and towns all over Western Kansas are becoming more multicultural as immigrants move to the area to take jobs in meat packing plants and the like. At first folks move into the small cities, but then soon after they move into the small towns of 750 people or so that have inexpensive housing that surround these county seats.

The truth is that diversity is coming everywhere. Not only racial diversity, but also worldview diversity. The question is, how are those who profess Christ to deal with that diversity.

Many Christians go into their "faith ghettos" of likemindedness. Despite the denegration of this behavior by many, at certain places and at certain points this has a healthy function. Pluralism is causing many of those of Christian conviction to go to their Bibles, friends and their communities and ask, "What do we believe anyway, and why do we believe it?" In our normally theologically milktoast congregation people are beginning to discuss what Islam says and what Buddhists believe (Although we have yet to realize that there is theological diversity within these faith groups as their is in Christian belief.). We actually have had 3 different groups discussing the topic in different ways in the last year. Who would have thought the intolerance of Osama Bin Laden, in some circles, is being redeemed by God in such a way.

On the other hand, I am beginning to ponder how a follower of Jesus gives voice to their faith in a different way considering this context. It seems to me that Christian people need to both know their convictions, but also hold them with humility. It also seems to me, more than ever, Christian witness is going to happen through the embodiment of God's love and grace in relationships and Christian community more than it is going to happen through education and reasoning. Much like the story of Peter and the centurion, it will challenge us to change our attitudes and perspectives and be learners ourselves in the world community in order to reach and touch those outside of the Christian community.

Like Spencer Burke hints at in his book "Making Sense of the Church", we are going to have to move past the metaphors of Christian witness that are all about either sales or warfare. Those metaphors have defined our attitudes. Our metaphors for the future will have to connote inclusion, partnership, and discovery.

This does not mean we need to compromise Christian beliefs. It might mean we have to be more honest. It might mean the truth of Christ is found more in the authenticity of our spiritual journey with Jesus than it is in having it all together with all the right words and the right answers. It might mean the church will use less of a bait and switch approach with entertainment based programs we call Christian education, and walk and talk in way that makes people hunger and thirst for an authenic sip of the Spirit of God through Christ.

Scarcity and Abundance

LAST RECYCLED ARTICLE FROM NEWSLETTER

Sometimes several events in your life come together to teach you something new about yourself and the world. Such has been the case the last couple of months.
First of all, I have moved from a three-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment. As I began to contemplate moving, and even more as I began to pack I had to evaluate my possessions. What do I need? What do I not need? I found that there were things that were nice to have, and that there were things I held on to just because I might need it someday. I even had to look at some of my books and ask myself whether I was ever going to use some of the books I had. I sent my dresser down the road, along with a computer that was not working that I thought I might try and fix someday even though it was grossly outdated. A lot of old clothes went down the road. I even threw away some old books, and gave away others. I sold some old futons in a garage sale. And, I have found that God has still provided for all that I need.

At the same time, I have been striving to live a healthier lifestyle in regard to exercise and diet. As I strive to eat healthier, I also learn of God�s abundance. The same stuff that is around today is going to be there tomorrow. Oven-bake pizzas can be an occasional treat instead a meal that grocery attendants used to identify as a regular part of my bachelor culinary regimen. As I exercise, I often wonder if I will have time to take care of all of the other things in my life. Again, God provides the energy and the time.

I may never be a thin person who loves to graze on garbanzo beans and runs a marathon, and there will probably always be a new book that I want to read and learn from. However, I am beginning to understand more and more of the truths about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field that Jesus shares in the Sermon on the Mount. And even in mountaintop and desert times in my life, God is teaching me that His word is true when it says, �I have come that you may have LIFE, and have it more abundantly� (John 10:10).

The Treat of Halloween

ANOTHER RECYCLED NEWSLETTER ARTICLE

I grew up in a fundamentalist church that was against almost everything. We could not wear shorts, even in 100 degree weather. We could not listen to any secular music, and even contemporary Christian music was clearly frowned upon. Even in elementary school, you were shamed if you used any other version of the Bible but the King James Version.

I am very thankful for the way many of those people in that church loved me and helped me learn about Jesus, I agree with much of what I was taught; especially when it comes to the authority of Scripture, and salvation coming through faith in Christ Jesus. But, sometimes, with all their good intentions, their zeal for holiness led them to be narrower in their beliefs that the Bible merited. One of these situations was related to the practice of Halloween.

The actual holiday of Halloween was instituted by the early church. Much like the Easter season and the Christmas season, Halloween had pre�Christian roots based on seasons and the calendar. But as it came to be defined, Halloween came to be about how God worked through people that had died before. Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day, which is immediately followed by All Souls Day. It is a season to remember the ones that have come before us and the battles that they have come through. It was not until the witch hunts that people began to associate Halloween with witchcraft and Satanism. These witch hunts that were often politically expedient, and often found later to be founded on unreliable rumor.

But what about all that dressing up, especially like ghosts and devils and such? Isn�t that celebrating evil? I suppose some people could look at it like that, but other people, like myself, can turn that concept on its head. In many ways dressing up as something on a day like Halloween has as much to do with mocking something as celebrating it.
When people dress up and caricature political candidates or those in power, it is rarely because they support them. It is an act of civil disobedience. On Halloween, it is like saying that in Christ, the powers of evil don�t have any power over me that I do not give them. That is a good thing.

The early practice of trick or treating had the function of feeding the poor as winter approached and at the same time, asking those people to pray for those they were grieving. These poor people were given �soul cakes,� and they did not do tricks if they did not get anything. Although, people were sometimes afraid of what may happen to them if they failed to live out God�s command to give to the poor. The tradition of Halloween waned for several centuries, but came to full force in America when immigrants brought the holiday with them from the old countries the moved from.

Much like Mardi Gras before lent, the day before Halloween became known as Mischief Day. People were playing all sorts of pranks, low-income youth were getting into all sorts of trouble, and something needed to be done. So, the Boy Scouts came to the rescue. Early in their history, the Boy Scouts got communities to support these youth
though establishing the practice of trick or treating. The youth got the opportunity to dress up, and get candy. The community got to love on and support their children, and have an activity that kept them out of trouble.

Now a lot of us have different feelings about trick or treat ing. And today, much more than even when I was a kid, safety can be a huge concern as kids wander door to door. So many of us celebrate the season with harvest festivals, or have parties where kids are not out on the street. That is great, and many of these things have the same benefit of the celebrations of old.

As far as our attitudes go, however, let us celebrate Halloween in the spirit of Pope Gregory who instituted it. Let us redeem the day for what is good about it. Even if part of the holiday offends you, celebrate the pro-Christian, pro-compassion, pro-community, griever-friendly, pro-generosity part of this holiday that so many enjoy. Take the opportunity to carry out the golden rule, and love your neighbor and their children with a kind, full, unjudging heart.

More recycled newletter stuff: Grace for greater things

Grace for Greater Things

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God�s grace is an awesome thing. For those who have become a part of the movement of Christ, we know we are lost without it. Grace is, �God�s unmerited favor.� Or, better, God loving us, caring for us, and offering us eternal life even when we have betrayed Him, ran away from Him, and hurt Him. Many of us think about grace in two ways. One is that God�s grace that saves us. That no matter how good we think we are we fall short, miss the mark, or to put it more simply and directly, we sin. As the Ephesians passage tells us, there is nothing we could do to earn our salvation. In our joy over God�s acceptance and God�s grace, we can often get the wrong idea about how to live out God�s grace. Some of us return to living under the limitations, restrictions, and restraints of the law. Our faith then becomes about following all the rules, and often time making sure everyone else follows the same rules. Grace becomes nothing more than a legal transaction, and something seems missing. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This often leads us to the other way that we err in living in God�s grace. We tend to see God�s grace, because we had felt so trapped by legalism or sinfulness, as somehow being permission and excuse for our sinfulness. This is what Deitrich Bonhoeffer raged against in the Cost of Discipleship. Once we turn grace into permission and excuse we have made a mockery of the passion of Christ. We have cast our pearls before swine. This theology of grace leads to shallow living, lack of theological conviction, and at its worse the heresy of universalism. Our salvation is of the same effect as the first error. It becomes a primarily economic adventure, with maybe a little sentiment. The grace of excuse and permission is a cheap grace and a false grace, something that looks good from the outside but lacks the power to holistically change our lives. Cheap grace is like cubic zirconium. True grace is a diamond.

In Ephesians, we always read Ephesians 2:8-9, and we forget v. 10. God has given us His grace for a purpose. God has given us His grace so that He can do greater things through us than we ever thought possible. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. The word workmanship in Greek literally is �poema.� It is where we get the word poem. Your life is a poem, a song, an anthem of God�s grace. Your life is created to be an amazing parable in the work of God. If you don�t think the way of grace is a calling to greater things, all you have to do is look at the Sermon on the Mount. The grace of God allows us to overcome lust, not just adultery. The grace of God calls us to overcome anger, not just murderous rage. The grace of God calls us to love our enemies, not just our friends. Grace allows us to embrace suffering, instead of being shamed by it. Instead of just being here for ourselves, we are here to be a light and salt for the world. Grace calls us to greater things. God calls us to live into what He has created us to be. That means accepting our sinfulness as fact, but grace is not a permanent crutch to keep us from walking again when God is calling us to run.

Finally, as we look to the Book of Galatians, we see the church struggling with the tension between responsibility and liberty in the light of grace. After teaching the Galatians that they are not under the law, Paul begins to explain how grace works. He makes very clear that we are not given grace to satisfy the sins of the flesh. He then goes on to share that our freedom in grace allows us to live with the fruit of the Spirit. To love freely. To be free enough to be self-controlled. �Against such there is no law!� Amen!

Each Person Their Own Journey

Just a recycled newsletter article:

The other night a number of youth and I went to Seven Falls. It was a great trip. The Cheyenne Canon is beautiful in and of itself. Then when you see the falls with their changing colors at night the whole place is even prettier.
We then got to the part where we were to journey up the stairs. Two sets of stairs were in front of us. Each of them with roughly 115 stairs. Two of our crew of four adults decided not to go on the stairs and took the elevator. The boys bounded up the stairs first, waited halfway for some to catch up, and then got up the rest of the stairs with similar enthusiasm. A group of girls also did the stairs at a brisk pace, but not so fast as to interrupt their conversations and their �ooos and ahhhhs.� Then there was the group of us who had as their goal to complete the journey up and down the view of the falls. I was in that group. I decided to break down the trip to 11 sets of 20 stairs. And that is how I got to the top of the stairs�only the first set began with a set of 35 and the last couple sets of stairs taken before stopping was more like 7 or 8. I wasn�t the first junior higher bouncing like Tigger up the stairs, but I had kept up reasonably well. I felt good, as I always do when I set a goal and accomplish it.

Then came the joy of going down the stairs. Going down the stairs you can feel a lot more of the bounce of the stairs and the sway that the wind had. But, I kept a steady pace and was at the bottom of the stairs soon enough.

Somewhere on the way down came the temptation to compare myself to others. I was tempted to see if I could catch up to the person in front of me. I also began to judge myself for not being as fast as some of the other people around me. Then I remembered a truth that a friend had told me earlier. She said, �Each us has our own journeys and trails to walk. Your job isn�t to compare to everybody else�s. Your job is to be true to the walk you have in front of you.� Although this friend said this on another night hike, I believe that this truth is bigger than climbing stairs or hiking the M in Bozeman, MT.

In this life there are always going to be people to compare to. Sometimes when I wonder if I am ever going to get married I sometimes take a seat in front of the Wal-Mart and watch all the couples come in. When I see all the odd couples coming through it takes me about twenty minutes and I can walk away knowing there is still hope for me too.

I am pretty sure that God does not want us to live our lives comparing ourselves to others. He wants us to walk the path before us at the pace He has set for us. Each of us has our own journey. Each of those journeys has different challenges and different vistas. Each of those journeys has a different pace, and even the same journey can have different paces depending on the season of our lives.

So, as you live your life, take advantage of the gifts and opportunities God has given you. Especially those opportunities to love and to serve others. There is no need to compare yourself to that other person who always has more money, or that one person who is so much more charismatic than you are. God is not going to judge you for not being enough like that other person. God is going to look at what you did with the gifts that He has given you though. You would be surprised what God can do with nothing more than open ears and a willing heart.

The same is true of our church bodies and our journey together. We can sit around for a long time and compare ourselves to larger churches, or churches that have something that we do not. We can wish we had a bigger building, a younger demographic, or whatever else the pundits say churches are supposed to be. Or maybe, we can approach our church life like our personal lives above. Perhaps God is more concerned with what we are doing with the opportunities and gifts He has given us as a body than comparing us to the other church down the street. Maybe each church has its own journey too.

So as we head down the path, let us be who we were called to be right here and right now, and let us let the ever-moving God continue to transform us into something new in His way and in His time. May God find us faithful.
Read this article about Christian history in America by NPR:

http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2004/12/09_marty/newsletter-transcript.shtml

A Few Thoughts from the Desert

These are short stories about the desert Abbas from Thomas Merton's WISDOM IN THE DESERT.

1. Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said: Father according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and streched out his hands to heaven and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into fire?

2. Once Abbot Macarius was on his way home to his cell from the marshes, carrying reeds, and he met the devil with a reapers sickle in his path. And the devil tried to get him with the sickle and could not. And he said: I suffer great violence from you Macarius, because I cannot overcome you. For see, I do all the things that you do. You fast and I eat nothing at all. You watch, and I never sleep. But there is one thing alone in which you overcome me. Abbot Macarius said to him: What is that? Your humility the devil replied, for because of it I cannot overcome you.

3. Abbot Joseph said to Abbot Pastor: Tell me how I can become a monk. The elder replied: If you want to have rest here in this life and also in the next, in every conflict with another say: Who am I? And judge no one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More quotes for today

Any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate, for real love has always ended in bloodshed.--
Chesterton

There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square foot of space is contested--Eugene Peterson

I do wish all Christians would become followers of Jesus, but perhaps this is too much to ask. After all, I am not doing such a hot job of it myself.--
Brian McLaren

THE WORLD IN JOHN

I am working on a study of the "world" in the Bible; especially the gospel of John. Growing up I heard about the world as well "worldly", which is a positiion that can be derived from the Bible. What I see in the gospel of John however, and recently throughout much of Scripture, is that God sees not just individuals, but "the world" as having infinite worth. God does not just love individual people that he wants to pull out of the world at the appointed time, God loves THE WORLD. He is going to make of this old world a new world. God is about redemption not abandonment.

Why this strain of "the world" as being bad? Well, because the world is contested ground. The devil is not in hell, he is on earth as "a lion seeking whom he may devour". He is in the gospel of John, the Prince of this World, but Jesus is sent from the world above to take back for God what is his. Furthermore he calls us to love the world on his behalf. It is as we love the world and those in it that we move in the name of Christ. For Christ did not come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). And he saves it by his love. His love on the cross. His love through the Holy Spirit moving through his disciples.

Does anyone have anything to say or to add to help me with this study?

Monday, December 13, 2004

More quotes for today

God never mends, he creates anew--
DL Moody

Pray not for lighter burdens, but for stronger backs--
Theodore Roosevelt

Give me men who love nothing but God and who hate nothing but sin--
John Wesley

It doesnt take much of a man to be a Christian...it takes all of him--
Dawson Trotman

Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks--
Phillip Brooks

Nothing could more surely convince me of God's unending mercy that the continued existence of the church on earth--
Annie Dillard

Before a man can do things, there must be things he will not do.--
Menicus

There is something morally repulsive about modern activistic theories which deny contemplation and recognize nothing but struggle. For them not a single moment has value in itself, but is only a means for what follows.--
Nicolas Berdyaev

True knowledge of God is born out of obeidience.--
John Calvin

All actual life is encounter--
Martin Buber

From Movement to Institution to Movement

It is hard to think of a movement which has not been quantified, compartmentalized, and turned into an institution. The civil rights movement has become a special interest group run for the most part by a power elite. The evangelical movement has become a market niche. Churches more and more are religious social clubs.

Think of the early church. It thrived until it became an institution. Then it became tied in with government and ecclesiatical authority. Once that happened, we plunged straight into the dark ages.

I am a Baptist. In my own particular tradition, we began as a non-denominational, back to the Bible movement in the Enlightenment. Our worship was based on free worship. Now I am in a Baptist church that has 2 responsive reading a Sunday, and which gives siginificant sums to denominational coffers. Our Baptist forefathers would roll over in their grave if they saw this. To them this would simply not be baptist.

The question is, once something has went from an institution to a movement can it go back again, or do we keep needing to go off and to do new things? Even locally, can a new movement of Christ happen in a old institution? Maybe within it I think. But does the aphorism of new wine requiring new wine skins as Jesus said apply to this situation?

I am still thinking on it.


More quotes for today

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best,now, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who never knew victory or defeat.--
Theodore Roosevelt

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are--
Theodore Roosevelt

"What is the most important thing to do for a man to become a champion?"
"Fight one more round"--
Prizefighter James Corbett

"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never in nothing, great or small except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never give in.
Winston Churchill

I don't know what the secret to sucess, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.--
Unknown

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sleepwalking

I have been thinking a lot about the passage "Could you not stay awake with me one hour...for indeed the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:40-41).

Part of the reason for my thinking about this passage is my own struggle with sleep apnia in the last year. I have fallen asleep in church in the last year than I have the rest of my life combined. It was like 5 years of 1 day off a month and 60-70 hour weeks all came crashing in on me at once. Although, to be honest, I really don't think I missed much in all of my falling asleep in church. It is Norman Vincent Peale who complained that people were so serious that he hadn't seen someone fall asleep in church in years and that "is a darn shame". But I digress...

As I think on this passage there is another issue that comes to mind is that it is one of the few times in Scripture where Jesus really asks for something that he needs, and when he asks he does not get what he needs.

It makes me wonder when Jesus has needed me, and I have totally missed it. One of the great dangers of the church is that we get so busy about religious activity that we blink and miss the spiritual opportunities that are around us. Opportunities to love God and to love our neighbor, which is what a community of faith is all about moving us toward. How many times have I been so intent on being right that I have forgotten to be loving? How many times have I been rushing around doing a whole bunch of "good things", only to realize later that someone was communicate something from their heart and I missed it? When have I needed to speak up boldly, and blinded by fear I walk away to a security blanket of people-pleasing? How often have I been so focused on the snowstorm that I miss the beauty of a snowflake?

Its possible that you or I could sleepwalk through years of our lives. So consumed with our own selves, and blind to the world around us, we stumble and trip through life until something shakes us awake. Startled, we wake up and wonder, how did I get here? What did I miss along the way? We realize that those people who we thought were close aren't anymore, because we have wandered down the street for blocks in our underwear far away from God, and those people and things we love.

Let it not be so. Let us open our eyes to the people to love, and the opportunities to make a difference in the people and the world around us. Just as much, let us open our eyes to the beauty and the blessings that surround us.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Bible, soon after it talks about forgiveness, talks about a process for confronting someone who has done something wrong. It says that we should talk to them one on one, then with a group of people, then with the whole church, and if they do not respond we should remove them from Christian community.

On the other hand there is a parable about wheat and tares. It says that the wheat are like those that are faithful, and that the tares are like a weed. It goes on to say that if we pull out the weed, we will lose a lot of the wheat too, so we should let God sort out who belongs in Christian community and who does not. Both passages are found in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapters 13 and 18).

How do we resolve this apparent difference between these two passages? How does this relate to the community issues that are dividing the church right now?

Would love to hear some input...

Einstien Quotes

There are two ways to live your life. On is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.--
Albert Einstein

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity--
Albert Einstein

Friday, December 10, 2004

More quotes for today

The Lord did not call the church to model perfection, he called the church to model redemption.--
T.F. Tenney

God calls men not to a new religion, but to a new life--
Bonhoeffer

Quotes for today

Christianity is this wild religion that has always been more concerned with following Jesus than following the rules of Jesus--
Mike Yaconelli

Abandon yourself to the one who will never abandon you--
Mike Yaconelli

You called, you cried, you shattered my deafness. You sparkeled, you blazed, you drove away my blindness. You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath, and I pant for you. I tasted and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me and now I burn with longing for your peace--
Augustine

Most people think following Jesus is about living right. Not true. Following Jesus is about living fully--
Mike Yaconelli

The sould should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience--
Emily Dickenson

Detachment and Christianity

We had a discussion in our Wednesday night group (CHOW) about God and emotion. Basically the question was does God act on reason or logic. One in our group said that God has a plan and he basically sticks to it. That God does not act on his emotions.

Bonhoeffer says a similar thing in Life Together, "God is not a God of the emotions but a God of truth."

So according to this line of thinking, God is like Spock. Which then makes God more of a machine than a living being. Yet throughout Scripture it says that God is angry, frustrated, jealous, compassionate, and tender. Are these just anthropomorphisms that help us to empathize with what it would be like to be God and thus motivate us to worship? Is God so wholly other than us that he cannot have feeling like we do?

No..if God is an emotionally detached diety than all of faith decends into functional Buddhism. Our goal would be detachment. Yet a primary metaphor of the Christian faith is to be immersed into it. And although our emotions need correcting, God does not call us to be Stoics. God calls us to love him with "all" of our everything, and that includes both our hearts and our minds.

Although in the past I have tried to live a detached Christianity, I now believe that the only way I can live the Christian life is with my heart on my sleeve. The Christian faith is not meant to be lived with detachment, but with complete and utter abandon and passion. At least that is my journey....

Youth Ministry and the Incarnation

As a youth pastor, I have at times occasion to visit schools for things like soccer games, plays, concerts, and the like. I enjoy it a lot, but as a single 31 year old minister, it soon becomes apparent to me that I am a stranger in a strange land. I am not a parent and I am not a teen, yet I am there to share Christ�s love with both. Early on in my ministry I have tried to practice being prayerfully present in such situations when the occasion allowed. What I mean is that as I am present at the ball field, the school or wherever else, I ask God to help me have a glimpse into the teenage world and the parent world in that particular context. Sometimes that puts me in a place where I wish I was in their place (all the youthful energy, lots of people my age, or when you see a couple in the middle of their first true romance). More often though, I am moved by compassion. Would you want to be a junior high girl and have other girls size you up and find fault with your hair, your weight, the brand of clothes you wear, and your complexion among other things? Would you want to be the freshman boy who feels like he is low man on the totem pole at his high school because he is still under 5 feet, and the seniors that all the girls like are muscular, athletic, and over 6 feet tall? Our youth are tougher than we think. Many of us would be reduced to tears if we had to return to the sixth grade version of ourselves in today�s world.

I have been reflecting on how these experiences tie in with my understanding of Advent. Specifically, I have been meditating more on the Gospel of John�s version of the coming of Christ into the world. It must have been strange for Him. He was not exactly like every other human�because he was fully God. Eugene Peterson�s translation says that God �moved into the neighborhood.� Literally in the original language the Bible says Jesus �pitched his tent among us�. And the Gospel of John makes it clear that Jesus did not stay emotionally detached. He felt compassion as he entered our world. He hurt at the way we hurt one another. We can say, and be correct, that Jesus came because he had a plan. Even more than that though I think Jesus came because he can�t resist coming and showing us love in a world that can be so unloving. No wonder we worship Him.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Books I am reading

I am not entirely sure why, but people often ask me what I am reading. Maybe it is because I often ask people the same. Anyway...here are a few of the books I am reading. If you are reading any of them I would love to discuss them with you.

Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgement to the love of God be Gregory A. Boyd

Hurt by Chap Clark

Leadership Wisdom from Unlikely Sources by Dave Flemming

Practicing Passion by Kenda Creasy Dean

Life of Pi by Yanni Martel

Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind by P.T. Forsyth

Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jahn Calvin

Generous Othodoxy by Brian Mclaren

A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law

Out of the Question....Into the Mysteryby Leonard Sweet

Ok these are a few I have my finger in. There are more. I have an ADD style of reading sometimes.

Tell me what you have been reading in the comment section!

Why are Christians Known More for What They are Against?

At the risk of being a hypocrite, I wonder when the Christian faith became more about what we are against than what we are for.

Last week there were two times when the Christian community in the United States made the news. One was when a Methodist church defrocked a recently married lesbian woman. The other was when the UCC had a commercial banned for being too controversial.

The week before we had a panel of well-known Christian leaders discussing the tie between faith and politics in America and they put on show attacking one another worthy of the Jerry Springer Show.

Some Christians are anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, anti-Moslem and anti-liberal. On the other end of the spectrum we have Christians who are anti-fundamentalist, anti-conservative, anti-development, and anti-military. Then the world becomes anti-church, pro-party, pro-football, and pro-fun. And we wonder why we see less and less people in worship in our churches on Sunday morning.

Its time we stand for something. For compassion. For serving one another. For Loving God and loving others.

What did the early church have a reputation for? Loving one another. Adopting abandoned children. Forgiveness. Nonviolence. Courage of convictions. And, most important, they were head over heels in love with the Jesus we see in the Gospels. They may not have been perfect, but they stood for something instead of against everything that was different than them.

More quotes from JESUS DRIVES ME CRAZY

"A man needs a little madness or he never dares cut the rope and be free--
Nikos Kazantzakis

"There was a time when one could almost be a fraid to call himself a disciple of Christ because it meant so much. Now one can do it with complete ease because it means so little."--
Soren Kierkegaard

"Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinct;y we see the difference in the colors, but where does one first blendingly enter the other? So with sanity and insanity."--
Herman Melville

"If you see authentic relationship among two people on this earth, you have a glimpse of the Trinity."--
Augustine

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Quotes for the Day

The more civilized men become, the more they bacome actors--
Immanuel Kant

To be odd in the world is God's intention for his people--
Walter Brueggeman

(both from Leonard Sweet's Jesus Drives Me Crazy

The heart has its reasons which reason does not know at all.--
Pascal

Whatever is obvious does not require leadership--
Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett-Packard

Models of Leadership

Recently I have been thinking about the nature of leadership. Specifically, I have been thinking about models of leadership in American life as demonstrated by recent presidental leaders.

It seems like there is one model of leadership, exemplified by Bill Clinton, that sees leadership as being relationally connected to people, trying to figure out where they want to go, and then take them there. This type of leader may stand above the crowd, but sees themself as part of the crowd. This type of person is a pragmatist. A person who uses their connections and influence to find what works.

On the other hand there is the more idealist model. Instead of leading by connection this person leads by conviction. They stand apart from the crowd, and point the way, believing that people will follow. They see themselves as set apart from the crowd to make the right decisions, some which are popular, some which are not. George W Bush is more this model.

Obviously, this is broad generalization. At times Clinton was idealistic and Bush pragmatic. But in general I think there is a vast difference in those two views of what leadership is throughout the country.

The question is, is church leadership, which is more appropriate, generally. It seems that at times you have to be both. But which more often? Just something to think about.....

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

More quotes for today

"A man will abandon other habits more easily than he will surrender his options."--Origen

"To give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
Steve Prefontaine

"There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you have heard thier story."--
Fred Rodgers

"The soul never thinks without a picture"--
Aristotle

"The only way to follow Jesus is by living in the world"--
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"The church is like manure. Pile it together and it stinks up the neighborhood; spread it around and it enriches the world--
Luis Palau

"The virtuous soul that is alone...is like the burning coal that is alone. It will grow colder rather than hotter--"
St. John of the Cross

"Great faith, like great strength in general is revealed by the ease of its workings"
Dallas Willard

Some Quotes for Today

Leave the hollow things for hollow people, but you fulfill those things God has commanded you.--Thomas a Kempis

It is in disordered loves and empty fears that all disquiet of mind and distraction of heart have their orgin--Thomas a Kempis

God is not far away from you.
You, like the inn of old
have been full of other guests
your affections have entertained other lovers
wherefore salvation has not come to your house--William Penn

What is to give light must endure burning--Viktor Frankl

Eros and Faith

WARNING: THIS CONTAINS SOME ADULT ISSUES IN DISCUSSION OF CHRISTIAN FAITH. NOT FOR THE PRIM AND PROPER READER


My friend Dan is a throwback of sorts. He loves hymns and the King James Version of Scripture. Recently he has become more open to praise music, but still dislikes a number of the praise songs that are out there. In particular, we were discussing the semi-erotic language of several praise songs that are out there. For instance the Hillsongs song Here I am says in part,"All you are is all I desire. Your gentle touch helps me survive." Or in partitular he cites the song This is the Air I Breathe which says, "I'm desparate for you, I'm lost without you."(I can understand a distaste for this song, both because of its overplay, and because it sounds oddly reminiscent of a Celine Dion song.)

Strangely enough, as I pointed out to him, his favorite hymn is Come Thou Fount which says in part, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the one I love, Take my heart, O take and seal it..." Also there is a lot of semi-erotic imagery about God throughout the Christian tradition, and even in Scripture. Read Psalm 63 for instance. And although this my sound controversial, even the work of the Holy Spirit is referred to in similar language (i.e. having your hard heart penetrated and filled by the Holy Spirit).

Well, I shared a number of examples with Dan, and I understand where he is coming from. I have similar dislikes, although for me it does not have to do with singing as much as it has to do with the nature of Charasmatic/Pentecostal worship. Much of this type of worship, like primal tribal worship of elemental forces, is based upon human sexual rhythms, where there is a period of foreplay, the praise songs are designed to stimluate you until you suddenly break out in an orgasm of manifestations of the Holy Spirit--most notably through speaking in tongues. Then there is usually a little bit of "pillow talk", followed by a pastor working up the congregration into another more powerful ejaculation of praise.

Then I read Kenda Creasy Dean's Practicing Passion, or Sally McFague's Models of God and I think the erotic imagery makes sense in some way. Even John Donne in the Holy Sonnets asks God to "ravage" him. And what about the Christian mystics and their observations and experiences?

As for my friend Dan, I think it is a more literal thing. And a boundaries thing. I understand where he is coming from. We have had enough Christian leaders that have used the power of faith to fullfill erotic needs. And, the pictures of Jesus with the little lamb over his shoulder do not get me sexually aroused either. But for me, as a single person, it is a little broader than that.

For my faith to be strong and healthy, I need to be passionate about it. I need to "long" for the "touch" of Jesus in my life. I want my relationship with God to be more and more intimate. I need God to be a part of all of my life, even those parts that I keep from everyone else because they seem so private and personal.

As for God's part of the relationship toward me...a lot of time God seems like a celestial stalker. So in love with me that he pursues me and will not let me go. Sometimes even when I want to run away from Him he follows me. He loves me so much he keeps count of the numbers of hairs on my head. God woos me like he wooed the woman at the well to faith (with semi-erotic language I might add.).

What is the issue then with eros and love? I think it is if it ends there. If all our spirituality is about is "getting off" on Jesus, then it is a very shallow faith. I think that is where my struggle with a Charasmatic/Pentecostal model of worship that I criticized earlier. It is often so self-centered and experiencially focused in my experience that the experience of worship becomes an end in itself instead of loving God and loving neighbor.

My other issue with the erotic imagery is that it can get people focused on individual faith at the expense of community life. There is already too much of that going on--especially in the church. If our faith gets too centered on personal wants and needs, it becomes almost auto-erotic--and coorperate worship becomes not much more than mutual masterbation. Then no new life comes and mission dies.

Much more can be said on this issue but that is enough for now.....