Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Consuming Consumer Christianity

The more I am a part of the church, the more I feel like its consumer-driven qualities are clouding the central message of the faith. And it hurts.

Take my job for instance. I have 4 years of college education, and three years of graduate school education focused toward ministry. Yet, what did I do tonight? I basically arranged a play date for middle school girls. (Ok there were a few guys and a few high schoolers, but you all get the point). What do I do tomorrow? Lead a fundraiser for our mission trip, come up with games and a lesson for youth group, go to a "welcome" class where I sell the church to perspective members. I spent years learning the intimate details of vocabulary words like eschatology and soteriology. Yet, what am I doing? Volunteer recruitment and development, recreational leadership, raising and managing budgets, developing a new, less formal worship service to reach out to our younger members and people outside of our church. None of these things are bad things. Yet, I feel like more of a middle manager than a minister of the gospel.

Furthermore, much of what we do in the church is about developing and maintaining constituences. In our church here, people who have the greatest voice and places of leadership are constituencies that are either well-monied or have made other "collateral" investments.

The local church is not the only place where Christianity and marketing are yoked. Everytime I turn on the TV James Dobson is pushing the values vote, lobbying for support and influence in the media. Of course, part of his visibility is to market the Colorado Springs religious right behemoth known as FOCUS ON THE FAMILY. An intentional decision to keep the ministry financially healthy was to make Dobson more visible on the national scene on shows like "Larry King Live". Thanks to THE PASSION, Christian media has become more marketable. So, there are going to be all these "faith-friendly" TV shows. TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL TIMES 10. God help us. (I mean that literally). It has become fashionable to have a copy of the PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE on the bookshelf right between the Bible, and all the Harlequin romance novels.

The fact is, after the election of 2004, it has become fashionable to be a Christian in many circles. Yet, this is the opposite of what the movement of Christ was all about. Churches spend millions on state of the art sanctuaries designed to compete with other churches to bring in middle class families with financial resources. Jesus walked on the earth as a homeless man, depending on the handouts of women. Jesus said the greatest will be the least, while the church has stiven to take on worldly power and lord it over people at every possible occasion. The early church grew through suffering, while today we try to grow the church through making people as comfortable as possible. The church is about being a worldly success, while Jesus suffered the scandal of the cross. And when people walk through the doors of many of our churches, they sense that something is not right. They love Jesus, but shake their heads at the church, because intuitively many people know it just does not make sense.

Don't get me wrong. I am PRO-CHURCH. Especially when it at least in part embodies the movement of Jesus. And, truth be told, I am a registered Republican, who voted for many of the same people as the religious right wanted in office. I am not after a perfect church full of perfect people, because I would not even come close to being welcome there.

What I long for is the church as a counter-cultural movement of Christ. A church that is less interested in what celebrity converted to evangelicalism and more interested in the single mom with a toddler in tow in their neighborhood. A church less interested in being powerful and more interested in being faithful. A church that listens to God before it makes decisions instead of sticking its finger in the winds and playing the polls of the popular opinion. A church that loves homosexuals, but does not necessarily feel they have to adopt a "gay-rights" or "family first" political agenda to do so. In short, I long for a church with strong convictions, and humble grace. A church not driven or led by market schemes, even if they are marketing schemes of a large Christian organizations or political parties.

OK, glad I got that off my chest.
A Latin American Creche scene Posted by Hello
Another Garden of the Gods Picture Posted by Hello

Annotations of my recent reads

I made my way through three new books this week:

A Living Reminder--Henri Nouwen--A very short very good book about bringing the story of Christ alive in your world by the way that you live your life.

Plan B--Anne Lammott--Apart from the regular mini-crisis about her thinking George Bush is ruining the world, and the obviously feminine aspects of the book, it was a compelling spiritual memoir.

God is Closer Than You Think--John Ortberg--A book about recognizing the presence of and listening to the voice of God. A good partner book to HEARING GOD by Dallas Willard.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A picture of a church on the border of NM and CO, about 3 hours away Posted by Hello

The Man (or woman) in the Mirror

On Don's blog (link in sidebar) he announced the forthcoming release of his African-American preteen calandar. He got a comment on his blog who acted like a victim of sorts because being intentionally proud of your culture is ok if you are black, but not ok if you are white. Although on some political extremes he may be right, in general the sentiments he expressed were a passive-agressive way of expressing latent racism, in my opinion. Here is what I said:



I don't think people necessarily get mad when you are confident in who you are and where you come from. Even if you are a white guy who listens to country music and has a pick up truck. (I am listening to country music as I write this, and am the only adult male in my family not to have a pick up).

I have a few things to say in response to this:

1.) The problem is that every movement of "white pride" that I have heard of seems to be about putting other people down that are different, instead of building up their constituencies with opportunity and support. When white pride brings opportunity to the poor in Appalachia and to the chronically poor or their ilk in the inner city instead of burning down churches and lynching people of color, and standing at the border as a self-appointed border control in states (yes I am more liberal on immigration too.) that were historically Mexican and had nomadic people groups...well then I think they might get more support.

2.) When you are a majoirty of a population, you have much of your nation pushing images that are positive and look like you. Especially in America.

Case in point, look at most pictures of Jesus on display in America. Now we all know that Jesus was Middle Eastern, so why don't we have pictures of Jesus that look more like Saddam Hussein than a Norwegian underwear model?

3.) Aren't there lots of ethnic white pride movements? What is St. Patrick's Day if it is not a expression of pride of certain white people? Columbus Day (although there are protests of that every year in Southern Colorado)? What about President's Day? Or, more recently, the wave of the Blue Collar Comedy tour? Isn't that an expression of "redneck" culture without the racist connotations.

Ok......enough of my rant.

Fear Factor

What if?

What if something bad happens? What if I fail? What if I am wrong?

If we are not careful these questions can haunt us. They can control us. And we come to the end of our lives and ask another set of "What if?" questions. What if I tried? What if I had done that? What would my life look like if I lived it with strength and with courage?

A lot of things I have done because of fear and guilt. I look back on those things, and although there are some exceptions, I don't necessarily look back on those decisions with glowing pride. As a matter of fact, some of the things I most deeply regret were done because I was afraid. Afraid I was not good enough. Afraid I would miss out. Afraid I would be rejected. Not only am I regretful about some of the decisions I have made, I look back and am sad at the attitude I had at that time. Living guided by fear and guilt is not the life that God intended for us.

On the other hand, the decisions I have made with courage I often regret much less. Even if they were awful decisions in retrospect. I can look at them as character forming at the very least. And, even if things do not work out in retrospect, I learn that I can have faith in God and myself by exercising courage.

At least until the next time I wimp out.

CS Lewis quotes

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep in humility, thankfulness and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely higher state than one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride.
C. S. Lewis

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is... A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.
C. S. Lewis

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.
C. S. Lewis

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
C. S. Lewis

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
C. S. Lewis

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
C. S. Lewis

Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers "Please will you do the job for me."
C. S. Lewis

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
C. S. Lewis

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.
C. S. Lewis

Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.
C. S. Lewis

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
C. S. Lewis

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
C. S. Lewis

Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.
C. S. Lewis

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one!"
C. S. Lewis

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
C. S. Lewis

How incessant and great are the ills with which a prolonged old age is replete.
C. S. Lewis

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
C. S. Lewis

If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
C. S. Lewis

If we could know which of us, darling, would be the first to go, who would be first to breast the swelling tide and step alone upon the other side - if we could know!
C. S. Lewis

If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reasons.
C. S. Lewis

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.
C. S. Lewis

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
C. S. Lewis

It's so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see one.
C. S. Lewis

Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere.
C. S. Lewis

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.
C. S. Lewis

Long before history began we men have got together apart from the women and done things. We had time.
C. S. Lewis

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
C. S. Lewis

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
C. S. Lewis

Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.
C. S. Lewis

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.
C. S. Lewis

Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.
C. S. Lewis

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith [but] they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ.
C. S. Lewis

Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey 'people.' People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war... Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest...
C. S. Lewis

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
C. S. Lewis

The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of evil that Dickens loved to paint but is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.
C. S. Lewis

The real Oxford is a close corporation of jolly, untidy, lazy, good-for-nothing humorous old men, who have been electing their own successors ever since the world began and who intend to go on with it. They'll squeeze under the Revolution or leap over it when the time comes, don't you worry.
C. S. Lewis

The safest road to hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
C. S. Lewis

The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind only so long as we are subject to one law. But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.
C. S. Lewis

Thirty was so strange for me. I've really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult.
C. S. Lewis

This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.
C. S. Lewis

We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
C. S. Lewis

We are what we believe we are
C. S. Lewis

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.
C. S. Lewis

What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God's eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.
C. S. Lewis

With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere.
C. S. Lewis

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
C. S. Lewis

You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.
C. S. Lewis

You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
C. S. Lewis

You play the hand you're dealt. I think the game's worthwhile.
C. S. Lewis
Another Scott Mutter surrational image Posted by Hello

I'd rather have two quarters

Ok a lame title for a rant against that marketing phenonmenon that is 50-cent.

I like rap, but this rapper drives me absolutely batty. I turned on MTV 2 late at night at the gym hoping to catch a few videos during my workout. Instead it was th G-UNIT POSSE on the spring break stuff. I screamed out in a loud burst of agony. NOT 50-CENT again. There he was, oggling all of the women, singing CANDY SHOP. Wasn't Headbangers Ball on about this time on the weekends?

Now I admit, his initial release had me hooked for a while, but subsequent releases as well as his biography have turned me adamantly against his music. Why? First, there is nothing redeemable about any of his music. Wheras with Eminem you can hear him coming from a honest and pure place, bearing his heart, you dont hear that with 50-cent. All is you hear is the "hump-me hump-me" crap stated to varying degrees of explicitness. That and he is still an active member and participant in his gang and their activities in New York, and unapologetically so. His music would have been out on Columbia Records a couple of years earlier if he would not have gotten his rear end shot several times...well his rear end and about half of the rest of his body.

Now, it is not have this element has not always been in rap, but much of rap was somewhat more defensible. Even Chris Rock in his most recent stand up offering for video from HBO said basically the same thing. (That he used to be able to defend rap, but it is getting harder and harder to have an intelligent arguement in favor of.)

Then it has come to me. I am just getting old. That is what I thought when I started watching the SPRING BREAK deal with all these teens jumping all around. I just dont get it...I AM TOO DAMN OLD.

So now if you will excuse me, I am going to listen to some Bel Biv Devoe, Tupac, and MC Hammer.

BABY YOUUUUU GOT WHAT I NEEEEEEEEED. CANT TOUCH THIS!

The Currency of Love

Last night we had an interesting discussion.

One person said, "Sometimes I feel like God's love is too big for me. It is like I reach out to grab it and I cannot wrap my arms around it."

Another person said, "The fact that God and his love are bigger than me gives me comfort. If God were big enough to understand and comprehend he would big enough for me to manipulate, and I know that is exactly what I would do."

I chimed in, "Maybe God's love is not something that you try and grab a hold of, it is something you let flow through you. It is like standing in a river and letting the water flow past you, through you, and all around you. You can't grab a hold of it, the best you can do is flow with it."

I don't know if that made anyone else think, but it sure has made me think about God's love a little differently.
Another Pike's Peak Pic Posted by Hello
Pike's Peak--Both Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods are right here where I live Posted by Hello
Garden of the Gods Posted by Hello
Perhaps the most interesting Scott Mutter picture yet--a revolving door inside a tombstone. Mutter notes that is important to notice that you cannot see what is on the other side of the door. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The way I was feeling for most of the day Posted by Hello

Messiness and Faith

Life is messy. Faith is messy. Church is messy.

I was thinking about all this, especially since my office in directly across the hall from the staff bathroom.

Sometimes it seems all we humans are is a combination of bad smells, strange noises, and discharges of fluids. Most of the most pleasurable experiences of our lives include a combination of two or all three of these. And yet, in polite human company, we try to deny that any or all of these exist. Think of most of the cuss words you know...don't they have to do with the acknowledgement of our messiness as biological creatures?

Why do we spend so much time trying to deny our earthiness? We cover up with things that make us smell good. We get grossed out when someone passes gas. We feel it impolite most of the time to talk about sex openly. We have surgery to hide our bodily imperfections. Not that some of this is not helpful in helping us to relate, but sometimes I think we go overboard. We want to think of ourselves as somehow disembodied in an emotional and spiritual way from our spirits.

The truth is that we have resurrection bodies as well as resurrected spirits. And to be honest, our spiritual life can often be as messy as our biology. Or, at least, perhaps it should be. Maybe we try to segment our selves spiritually from the messiness of life. So we have our little spiritual life segmented off from the rest of us. Biblically, this is called gnosticism. The problem with this is that a spirit only grows when it is exposed to and encounters the messiness of life.

Think of a flower. How do we get a lot of our plants and flowers to grow. Fertilizer. Very messy. Dirt. Also messy. But it is growing through this messy soil covered with even more messy manure that life thrives and grows. Our spirits are the same way. It is through the messiness of heartache, lonliness, stupid financial decisions, anger, and frustration that we find ways to become authentic, real, beautiful, and faithful.

More Anne Lammott quotes

Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life-it has given me ME.

I live by the truth that "NO" is a complete sentence. I rest as a spiritual act.

Rubble is the ground on which our deepest friendships are built.

Its not that I think less of myself, its that I think of myself less often.

The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty

It is good to do uncomfortable things. It is weight training for life

Faith is not about how we feel, but how we live.

This drives me crazy, that God seems to have no taste, no standards. Yet on most days, this is what gives me hope.

Moses led his people in circles for forty years that they could get ready for the promised land, because they had too many preconceptions about what a promised land should look like.

The reason I never give up hope is that everything is basically hopeless.

Hope is not logical. It always comes by surprise, just when you think hope all hope is lost.

Fake doesn't feed anything.

....we live in darkness. People know this by the time they are twenty-one; if they don't they are seriously disturbed.

A few Annie Lammott quotes

These are all from Plan B: Further thoughts on faith

God doesn't expect or want you to get it together before you come along, because you can't get it together until you come along. (132)

When God is going to do something wonderful, He or she always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing He or She starts with an impossibility. (34)

"Help" is a prayer that is always answered. (37)

Friday, April 22, 2005

a cute little cartoon Posted by Hello
Dali's Battle in the Clouds Posted by Hello
Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross Posted by Hello

God sized tasks and God sized dreams

The other day a friend and I were doing a Bible study on the call of different people in the Bible into God's service. As we read it became apparent that everyone had an excuse on why they could not do what God asked them to do. It was very interesting. It was also very interesting that most of them felt very insecure about what God was asking them to do. They wondered aloud to God if they were good enough people to do what they asked, if they were polished enough speakers to stand up in front of groups, if they were they were too young or too old to do what God was calling them to do. Great leaders like Moses, Isaiah, and Peter were scared that if they tried to do what God asked them to do they would fail. God asked them to those things anyway.

It is interesting to note what God does and what God does not say to the people he calls. God does not tell them that they are wrong about their limitations. He does not tell them that they need a little bit of therapy. He does not accept their excuses as valid. How does God respond? Very often, God simply says, "I will go with you", or "I will help you", or "I will make you into the person that you need to be." God does mess with "our reality" about ourselves, but he does not leave in the mess and mire of self-deprecation either.

Part of the reason God does not argue with the great leaders of the Bible when they offer up their shortcomings and inabilities as excuses is that he does not call us to manageable tasks. He calls us to God-sized dreams, and God-sized tasks. Part of committing to the way of Jesus is committing to something that is bigger than yourself. God does not argue with our excuses because he knows that the things that he wants to do in us and through us are bigger than what we can handle on our own. But then, he tells us that he is not going to leave us alone. It is God's presence with us that makes all the difference.

It is also interesting to note when God approaches the people that he calls out to serve him in the Bible. He does this calling in the basic, ordinary moments of life. When Moses is shepherding, God speaks to him through a bush. God speaks to Peter about being his disciple on a fishing boat�at Peter�s run-of-the mill workplace. God comes to Gideon while he is at his second job on the swing shift. God wakes up Jonah in the middle of an afternoon nap.

God does the same for us. He comes to us in the ordinariness of our everyday lives, and he calls us to something bigger than what we are living. We meet someone at work that challenges us to be more open about sharing our faith. We drive by a need in our community and we say, �Someone should help out with that!,� and then we realize that someone is us. We see a need in helping in the nursery, children�s church, or with youth group at church, but we wonder if we are good with children or youth. Listen! God is whispering in your ear, "I will be with you! I will help you! When you go and do on my behalf you do not go alone. I will give you the power and the strength."

In fact, the one clear way that I have discovered to truly experience God�s power and God's presence in your life is to stand up when he calls and say, "Here am I, send me!" Doesn't God�s command to bring his love to the entire world end, "and I am with you always, even to the end of the age" ? (Matt 28:18-20).

The same is true in our church as a whole. God is calling us to dream big. He asks us to see a future that is not necessarily visible yet. Some of these tasks seem manageable. Some of these tasks seem impossible. But thank God as we move forward with God that we serve a God who specializes in the impossible, and yet meets us right where we are at in the ordinary moments of our everyday lives. Let us listen for the God-sized tasks and God-sized dreams that God has in front of us, and move boldly into the future that God has in store, knowing that he will do lots more than we could ever imagine or ask Him to do.

A Funny e-mail from Becca

New Evening Classes For Men -- Starting next month.

Note: Due to the complexity and level of difficulty,
each course will accept a maximum of eight
participants each. sign up early and get a discount on
registration.

1. HOW TO FILL ICE-CUBE TRAYS.
Step by step with slide presentation.

2. TOILET PAPER: DOES IT GROW ON THE HOLDERS?
Roundtable discussion.

3. DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE LAUNDRY BASKET AND THE
FLOOR.
Practicing with hamper. Pictures and graphics.

4. THE AFTER-DINNER DISHES AND SILVERWARE: DO THEY
LEVITATE AND FLY INTO KITCHEN SINK OR DISHWASHER BY
THEMSELVES?
Debate among panel of experts.

5. LOSS OF VIRILITY: LOSING THE REMOTE CONTROL TO YOUR
SIGNIFICANT OTHER.
Help line and support groups.

6. LEARNING HOW TO FIND THINGS, STARTING WITH LOOKING
IN THE RIGHT PLACE INSTEAD OF TURNING THE HOUSE UPSIDE
DOWN WHILE SCREAMING.
Open forum.

7. HEALTH WATCH: BRINGING HER FLOWERS IS NOT HARMFUL
TO YOUR HEALTH.
Power Point presentation.

8. REAL MEN ASK FOR DIRECTIONS WHEN LOST.
Real-life testimonial from the one man who did.

9. IS IT GENETICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO SIT QUIETLY AS SHE
PARALLEL PARKS?
Driving simulation.

10. LIVING WITH ADULTS: BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN YOUR
MOTHER AND YOUR WIFE.
Role playing.

11. HOW TO BE THE IDEAL SHOPPING COMPANION.
Relaxation exercises, meditation and breathing
techniques

12. REMEMBERING BIRTHDAYS, ANNIVERSARIES, OTHER
IMPORTANT DATES AND CALLING WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO BE
LATE.
Bring your calendar or PDA to class.

13. GETTING OVER IT. LEARNING TO LIVE WITH BEING WRONG
ALL THE TIME.
Individual counselors available.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Other quotes from St Francis de Sales and Luther

Those who love to be feared fear to be loved.
Saint Francis de Sales

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

When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.
Saint Francis de Sales

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 on trees, and 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 Lord commonly gives riches to foolish people, to whom he gives nothing else.
Martin Luther

War is the greatest plague that can affect 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

From the "Golden Tongued" Preacher of the Early Church

A comprehended god is no god.
John Chrysostom

Hell is paved with priests' skulls.
John Chrysostom

No one can harm the man who does himself no wrong.
John Chrysostom

Nothing is more fallacious than wealth. It is a hostile comrade, a domestic enemy.
John Chrysostom

Slander is worse than cannibalism.
John Chrysostom

Poor human reason, when it trusts in itself, substitutes the strangest absurdities for the highest divine concepts.
John Chrysostom

Soren's Sayings

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 is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.
Soren Kierkegaard

Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God.
Soren Kierkegaard

Once you label me you negate me.
Soren Kierkegaard

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

Purity of heart is to will one thing
Guess who??

Imbalanced

After reading Heather's post on wondering if she is too busy (a valid concern from the sounds of it), several people started talking about the necessity of balance.

I hate the word balance when it talks to life. It is like the word moderate when one speaks of politics. Both are passionless words. And, passionlessness to me is death.

Now, I am not always the guy to wear my heart on my sleeve. I can be downright stoic and detached at times. But, I have no concept for balancing my life so that my faith is one little segment, and my work is another little segment, and my friendships are another little segment. ICK!

For me life is life, and I throw my self into life with all my heart. And, my identity as person who has dedicated my life to loving others and loving God with all my heart. It is not something that I do with part of my life, it is something that drives my whole life.

Here are a couple of things other people have wrote that better summarize what I have to say:

I am part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed."
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking,
small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams,
chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position,
promotions, plaudits, or popularity.
I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience,
lift by prayer, and labor by power.
My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven,
my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few,
my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought,
compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back,
diluted, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the
presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy,
ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander
in the maze of mediocrity.

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until
Heaven returns, give until I drop, preach until all know,
and work until He comes. And when He comes to get
His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.
My colors will be clear.


From Nelson Mandela's Innaugral Address:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?... Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." - From Nelson Mandela's inaugural speech (1994)-
Korean Nativity Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Another vision of what Pentecost might have looked like. Posted by Hello

Whats left behind by LEFT BEHIND

Have you ever picked up one of the books in the Left Behind Series?

I did at my aunt's house during Thanksgiving Break. Let me tell you, I read it for a little bit and I was hooked. The plot line is compelling, even if in my mind a lot of the theology behind it seems dull and banal.

Now, I know with all 4 or 5 of you that actually read my blog, there are probably 7 or 8 opinions on the end times. Here is my one point for the day.

All of the prophecies and mentioning of the end times are a call to tell us how to live right here and right now. I encountered this once again in the book of James. There he urges us "to be patient" because of the Lord's coming. Even the book of Revelation starts with a letter to seven churches. All of our thinking about the end of days should be grounded in this question....in light of this truth, who is God calling me to be right now?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Where has all the comedy gone

Last night I went to Blockbuster to pick up some movies. Now, the whole day I had been struggling with this political disaster that we have on our hands at our church which I shall affectionately refer to as "The Upskirt Affair." What did I do right? What did I do wrong? I even had one of those nights where I thought about it the whole time I slept.'

I went to the movie store to look for a comedy. Could I find a decent one? No....I could not. All the movies that are coming to video, with the exception of Dodgeball and Anchorman (which I have seen already), were either action flicks or drama.

Then Tim got me thinking about the state of comedy on television. With the exception of the subtle humor of Desparate Housewives and a few reality shows, what do we have for comedy on television today either? I cannot think of much. Maybe the David LaChappelle Show, if you have cable. So I rented a Chris Rock Stand Up DVD, Hotel Rwanda, and the Woodmen.

And I wondered....where has all the comedy gone?

A quote hanging in my office

Blessed are the available.
Blessed are the conduits,
the tunnels, the tools.
Deliriously joyful are the ones
who believe that if God
has used sticks and rocks
to do His will,
then He can use us.


Max Lucado

A quick endorsement--a shameless plug for a product I love

If you have not checked out the new NOOMA video stuff from Rob Bell, you should. Two new videos came out this Spring.

Each of these videos are about 10-15 minute "devotional films" with a little bit of a postmodern flare.

The two that just came out recently are LUMP, and BULLHORN. Bullhorn is a controlled rant about how these hellfire and brimstone street preachers just need to stop.

LUMP is about how "there is nothing we can do in our lives that will make God love us any less". It is based on a story with his son.

RAIN is the oldest of the films, and my personal favorite.

DUST is also good, but not with as much universal appeal as RAIN and LUMP.

So, if you have a chance to sneak into your local Christian bookstore and get them, I would highly recommend it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

From the Heart........

Since last weeks worship service was lost due to a snowstorm, my senior pastor allowed me to do the service over again.

The message was on the "Do you love me?" passage at the end of the Gospel of John, but the core of the message was about the implied question of Peter...what now. I modified this from the time when I asked for your help....so here is the modified version of the sermon notes...which infer that Christ makes for statements that call for four spiritual movements in our lives.

Those movements are:
From SURVIVAL TO SIGNIFICANCE-Love Me
From ENTITLEMENT to SERVICE--Feed my sheep
From POPULARITY to PURPOSE--Follow ME
From CONTROL to SURRENDER---Bear my cross.
Admittedly, a lot of this was based on a book by Henri Nouwen called IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

I got the best compliment after the message. I was told...I just love it when you do the service because it all comes "straight from the heart". What could be a better compliment than that for someone striving to be an authentic, honest, minister-type?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

another interesting and thought provoking picture. What do you think he is trying to communicate in this picture here. Posted by Hello
A moby pic designed to illustrate the lifelessness of many public places, brilliant use of black and white Posted by Hello

Movies and Moby

Unrelated to the previous post.....

Much of what I like to listen to with popular music I listen to for two reasons. One, I like the message of the song....it moved me somehow. Or, it is simply fun!

Generally with movies though, I watch it with more of an attention to what it is trying to say to me artistically. I want it to speak to something in my life. I want the story of the movie to unite to something in my story as a human being. This is why both Napolean Dynamite and Sin City drove me nuts. No compelling story. But it is also why I did not get that excited about Sahara. It was just a funny action movie. Escapism. Generally I want something a little bit more, or I want to laugh at stuff like I have never laughed before (see Dodgeball and Anchorman for examples of this type of movie that I loved.).

However, I have bought my first concept music album recently. It is the new HOTEL album by Moby. Read what he wrote about the theme of his album.


the title 'hotel' is mainly inspired by the idea of the temporary, specifically temporary relationships. perhaps you're familiar with the experience of having a relationship that is warm and loving and filled with respect and attraction, but that, in the end of the day, doesn't work? so you're in the relationship but you know that you're going to have to leave. it almost makes the warmth and the intimacy of the relationship that much stronger and that much more intense knowing that it's temporary.

everything in our lives is temporary, including our lives themselves, obviously. but the intimacy of loving, but temporary, relationships was one of the inspirations for the 'hotel' title and idea. we stay in hotels for brief periods of time. they are places where we live but that are not our homes.


Maybe I am getting too serious if I am getting and really enjoying music that makes me think. Then again, Jimmy Buffet makes me think too.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

To be wild or to be in community?!

I have often thought of something a friend said to me last month.

Clint, it is like something is trying to break you, to rob you of your spirit, to tame you somehow. And you know what, I don't like it! Look at you! You used to dress all bright and cheery and fun. Now look at you. Its not right.

(The dress thing is referring to a change from Van's and Rainbows with Beach Shirts to sweater vests with dress shirts, ties, and loafers when I met with her.)

My life is about my choices. The question is, am I allowing myself to be domesticated, tamed and the like. I had laid this to rest...until another person said something to me.

In comparing me to a predecessor in my position, someone had told me that the predecessor was like "a big kid" but that I was a little too serious for my own good. He further went on to say that this other person had gotten a little too serious in recent years.

Now, this normally would not have affected me too much. Except that is what people used to say about me. Oh, Clint is such a "big kid". He is so "jolly". Now I am being labeled as overly serious. I am not sure what to think.

So the question remains, Is my Spirit being broken? Like a horse in training, is the fun, range-roving, wild side of my person and my faith being taken from me? Or am I surrendering it.

I dont know. I think my "big kid" is just a little more hidden these days. I think maybe in some ways I am trying to trade being playful for being respected, at least 9-5 on Monday-Friday and 9-noon on Sunday. Or maybe I am just growing up. Or playing the role I need to play intuitively. I am not sure.

It something I am still trying to figure out, but it is something that keeps flashing through my mind during my prayer time, so it must be weighing heavy on my heart for some reason.
A sign your child may have a problem brewing Posted by Hello

Is wasted time really wasted time

I do not know if I am normal, but in order to function sanely I seem to need at least a little down time no matter how tired I am.

Let me give you an example. On any Sunday, Wednesday, or Thursday night I generally will not get home until between 10 and 11. Sometimes I am just exhausted. Can I immediately go to sleep. Of course not!

I have to do nothing for a couple of hours just to unwind. That nothing often consists of watching Cable News, E, ESPN, or one of the music channels.

I wonder why this is?

Does anyone have any help for me to overcome this?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Latin American footwashing Posted by Hello
Chinese Jesus with woman at the well Posted by Hello
African Jesus taken off the cross Posted by Hello

I hate April 15

Today is the day of the year when I bent over and take it from Uncle Sam.

So as I bend over and grab my ankles to get screwed over on my taxes, I hope all of you are having a bright and cheery day! But think of me and my torment having to pay a load of self-employment taxes with no children, no house, and no other significant write offs.

So to take off the edge from getting ripped a new one by the Fed, I have my orange juice and vodka ready to go--sorry Michael Jackson no Jesus juice for me--I need the hard stuff.

Of course I am joking about most of this. Kind of. Sort of. Maybe.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

East Indian portrayal of Jesus healing the blind Posted by Hello
Chinese depiction of Pentecost Posted by Hello
Japanese artists depiction of Pentecost, notice the different colors on the heads of the apostles Posted by Hello
African Jesus--walk to Emmaus Posted by Hello

Divine Dreams?

The following is something I wrote for my other blog, which I thought I would also post here since I went to the work of putting it together.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
Daniel 1

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, �Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Acts 2

One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, �Cornelius!�
Acts 10

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, �Come over to Macedonia and help us.�
Acts 16


It seems like God speaks a lot in dreams in the Bible, but there does not seem to be an awful lot of people who are hearing God through dreams today. I don't know why that is.

What I do know is, the few times I have had dreams or visions that I felt were from God, I actually knew they were from God. Sometimes I was awake, but more often than not I was in what scientists call a liminal state (that time where you are not quite asleep but not quite awake either--usually right when you go to bed or wake up.) I can tell you that when I had a vision like this, which I emphasize again was very rare, I just had a sense deep in my heart that it might be God speaking. And there were a few times where that sense was confirmed. At time there was simply a word that beamed through my mind like a neon sign. Other times it was a flash of pictures in rapid succession of a person, and what they said, followed by what I believed was a supernatural insight into their lives. In all these cases I would recommend the following course of action with these visions:

1. If you sense God is speaking to you through a dream, test the dream to see if it
is true. And do so with humility. Just keep the dream to yourself, or talk to a
few mentors or leaders you respect about the dream and how it spoke to you.

2. Test the dream against the fruit of the Spirit. Is this allowing me to be more
self-controlled, more kind, more loving etc.?

3. What action is this dream calling you to? Is this dream consistent with
Scripture?

Any other thoughts or contributions?

Moby's rant

Check out Moby's rant on homosexuality and the Christian right here Then tell us all what you think.

Pictures of God

Well, I recieved an email to bring me out of my funk.

It was a question on my other blog, footnoted as Bubba's Bible Blog below. (Hey that is a four word alliteration...yippee).

The person asked me about the use of images of God in worship. Below is why somewhat all over the place respons:

There are many people who believe that any image of God is a graven image, and thus a violation of the Second Commandment. For a very thorough explaination of this idea I would go to the library and read a book by J. I. Packer called Knowing God.

Basically the idea of this point of view is that when you have a picture of Jesus you have an image of God which limits a persons perspective about what God is like. For instance, look at all these renaissance pictures of Jesus. What do they look like? A white, upper-class bisexual male of the time. Which is what several of the renaissance painters were (well, I dont know everything about their sexual orientation but that was a part of the renaissance recovery of ancient Greek and Roman culture) By nature some might think, any picture of God becomes exclusionary and an instrument of power. For instance, they had this negative space Jesus statue at my seminary, and his biceps were about the size of his head. Thus, the ideal Jesus in this statue looked more like a body builder. The only image I have to relate to is the happy Buddha! HA!

On the other hand, as Arisotle said, "the soul never thinks without a picture". As you read Scripture, you see that God puts all kinds of pictures of himself in our heads. He is bread, he is light, he is a rock, he is a warrior, he is giving birth (John 3), he is a parent, he is a servant, he is a shepherd. Heck there are even a few female images of God in the Bible.

Anyway....it seems to me that we can't help but having images of God in our mind. But it seems important for us to realize that all images and pictures of God are limited. Jesus is not still dead on the cross, he is risen...so even a silver crucifix has limitations. So I believe it is ok, and even helpful, to have pictures of Jesus that speak to us. But we need to keep the following things in mind. In summary:

1.) Images of Jesus are often created to let us know that Jesus is close to us and can identify with us. They should be used for this purpose, but in the back of our mind we should keep in mind nobody has a market on what Jesus looked like. There is a reason he did not pose for portraits.

2.) We should try to cultivate images of God that are also apart from us, different from us, so that we do not get stuck worshipping ourselves and people like us.

3.) We should not worship the images, but allow them to be a vehicle for worship.

4.) If a particular image of Christ allows you to grow spiritually, then use it. Ask, is this making me more loving, more peaceful, etc. (does it produce the fruit of the Spirit)

My particular preference as far a personal images of God goes, with the exception of the $1 Walmart Jesus candles and the Bobble head Jesus stuff I have, is to worship him in ways that display his attributes more than a human image. Although this giant statue of light on SCRIPTURE SNIPPETS that I saw with open arms did speak to me of God's love.

What do the rest of you all believe and think about this?

Sideways has drove me sideways

I watched Sideways. Great movie, but depressing.

If I compared it to another movie, I would compare it to American Beauty, which is why it is so critically acclaimed. It is another movie about depression and midlife crisis from a bunch of overmedicated and overintoxicated self-centered Baby Boomers. O, how I hate baby boomers as a generational set. But then again, that is for another post. (If you are a baby boomer my apologies, it doesn't mean I hate you).

On the other hand, it was a brilliant movie. For the scenery alone no less. And the ending with the sense of crossing a new threshold was perfect. And, the acting of the lead character was brilliant as well. Although everytime I see him in a movie I think of the role he played in Private Parts as Howard Stern's Boss in New York.

I liked it a lot.

But in some way it has put me in a funk of my own.

HopefullY I will snap out of it by the end of the day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Another quote for you Posted by Hello