Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Non-Prophet BBQ



Actually, Non-Prophet neither looks like this or is from KC. But I thought it was a cute pic nontheless.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a wonderful party put on by Mr. Non-Prophet at his residence. Even though it rained while we sat on the porch most of the time, there was good company and good food and beverage.

It was an interesting experience for me. Why? First of all, I am rarely if ever invited to parties, much less parties where I know nobody. I throw a lot of church parties for teenagers, but that is a little bit different environment and different social skill set.

As most of you know, I am a fairly introverted person. So I was a little nervous going to a place where the only interaction I have had with people in theological and philisophical debate online. But Non-Prophet was a hospitable host, and I soon found a few people to visit with. And I have to say I enjoyed myself a lot.

What was suprising, challenging, stressful, exhausting, and enlightening all at once was not that the environment was much different at the BBQ, but that the environment was much the same. Not to long after arriving and people finding out what I do for a living, I was inundated with questions about my faith commitments, my thoughts on theology and philosophy, and my journey on how I came to do what I was doing. So for around 3-4 hours I was standing on a porch, drinking a beer or two, and explaining my core beliefs and life commitments to folks that I had met five minutes ago. I was glad to discuss with them. It was a great opportunity. But I was a little saddened that I couldn't just talk and down a couple of the brats and beers I brought and just get to know people and make some friends and be normal. I left a little early cause I was intellectually exhausted.

And this exhaustion reminded me of a couple things. First of all, I was very thankful to be included in a circle of people that are so different from me in outlook of life and experience. Second, even though I believe I am a very down home, non-churchy guy, in this circle I felt like I was in a whole different cultural context right here in Colorado Springs. And third, I am not as smart as what I think I am most of the time.

Finally, as a minister it seems no matter where I go, I cannot escape being a minister. On the plane, in a home, at a restaurant, I am somehow marked by my call to ministry. Which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse.

Of course, there are also some things that did not surprise me.

First of all, despite what most conservative Christians may think, most of our neighbors around us do have a deep spiritual hunger. They want to connect with God. They want to have a life changing spiritual experience.

As I talked to a couple of the guys, it was very clear that they were not as much against Jesus as they were the church and church people. Which is totally understandable. I often feel the exact same way. But as I talked and listened to my new friends talk about the shallowness of materialism and greed, the importance of simply loving your neighbor, and their passion for an "authentic spiritual journey", I could not help thinking that many of the people in my church would be surprised to be in this situation and having this conversation.

What stands in my new aquaintences ' way is the same thing that stands in most folks way. What is that? The three S's

sex--Most can't relate to a conservative Christian sexual ethic. Even more, they have a hard time relating to the people in church that seem to carry such judgement around these issues. So they stay away.

substitutionary sacrifice--Most people can relate to the resurrection and the teachings of Jesus. Most people have a hard time with the Cross. The cross is always the stumbling block. It is fine to agree with Jesus. It is hard to believe that the cross is the only way to salvation.

surrender--Christians have put themselves in a battle for culture. Many non-Christians avoid Christianity because they feel they will have to surrender to a conservative ideology.

So, often I am left to go back to my study and my closet, and ask myself again, what things as a part of my faith are non-negotiables, and what things are simply preferences. Which makes me think about something else. As much as Christian people ask spiritual seekers to come and learn from them, how many Christians are willing to let the Spirit teach them through spiritual seekers? And if we are lot willing to learn, how can we be asking other people to learn from us?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Quotes from Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor


When I first saw this book I picked it up in the bookstore and started reading away at it, and I could not put the book down. So I ordered it from Amazon and am now almost through with it. It is a brilliant book about a persons call from the world into ministry, from ministry into church, and from the church into the world as professor and a chaplain to the world. Strange as it may seem from the title, I have felt more of a tug into vocational ministry after reading this book, not less. Although, it does arouse my latent dreams of someday being a professor and a writer.


Does anyone ride in a car without one day wanting to steer it? (xiii)


The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself--
William Faulkner

I distrust people who know well what God wants them to do, because it always coincides with their own desires--Susan B Anthony

The effort to untangle human words from the divine seems not only futile to me but unecessary, since God works with what is (p. 26)

I went to seminary the way some people sail around the world. On no particular timetable I let the wind carry me. (p.31)

Strange travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God--Kurt Vonneget

When I wake up in the morning, I can't decide whether to enjoy the world or change the world. It makes it to plan the day--EB White

I do not know how male clergy begin their jobs, but I begin mine by cleaning (60)

You never enjoy the world aright until the sea floweth through your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars; and percieve yourself to be the heir of the whole world..."--Anglican Priest Thomas Traherne

They eye with which I look at God is the same eye with which God looks at me--Meister Ekhart

True bliss is never more than a hair away from sorrow (97)

People of the Book risk putting the book before people (Arun Ghandi)

God is not found in the soul by adding anything but by subtracting--Meister Eckhart

If you are serenely to bear the trial of being unpleasing to yourself, then for Jesus you will be a pleasant place of shelter--121--Terese of Lisieux

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake--Wallace Stevens

The world for which you have been so carefully prepared is being taken away from you, by the grace of God--Walter Bruggemann

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

back on the wagon



I have gotten a little bit out of my fitness routine of late, and I am starting to feel badly about it. With trips around the country with kids, and lots of catch up work to do when I am not around, I have put exercise and eating right on the back burner. Darn it! Now I feel like I am having to start all over.

But tomorrow...I have said it here...I am back to the eliptical trainer and no more fast food or pop (except wednesday and sunday).

And that is final!

Links to the Outside World

Amy's New Breakfast Recipe

Guess Who Got a Job!!

A Birthday Wish for Me

A Man you cannot trust

Brotha Bucks multicultural experience

Quote from Kim

Mark Driscoll's rant against mainline churches

A professor talks about a student cheating in Bible class

Heaven as a BIG POD


I was reading Colossians for my Bible study and I once again read about storing things in heaven. I think this is a very interesting concept.

Is there a special section of heaven that has PODS just for storage of all our good deeds, or is it more like a hard drive? Or is it maybe the lock box that Al Gore got everyone so confused about in the 2000 elections? Or is it more like a social work case file?

Who knows, but it is good to think about already having lots of investments on the other side cause I dont seem to have a lot here! :)

Hand Me Downs

As I was thinking about giving certain things away in my home, I started to think about how many things that I have are really hand me down gifts.

The microwave I have is from somewhere in the 1980's, when they built them almost as large as a bus. It was a hand me down from an inner city elementary school teacher's lounge when they decided to update their microwave about 10 years ago. I am wondering if I will be fertile after using that microwave for the last 10 years or so.

The kitchen table was a gift from another pastor in Montana when her and her hubby (now Provost at Montana State University) decided that they needed to get a new family table.

Much of my golf clubs are hand me down clubs. I have one club that I have bought in my bag, a putter that I recieved in trade for my junior clubs, some clubs that I was given by my mentor in the Big Brother program that are probably from the early 70s, and some other clubs that a friend had a hard time selling at a garage sale so they were given to me. I think I could take a stroke a hole of my golf game with better clubs.

My endtable, nightstand/dresser, and tv stand are all hand me downs from churches I served that were trying to clear out storage space.

I dont drink coffee at home, but many of my coffee cups, and cooking utensils were hand me downs from Bethel neighborhood Center when I served there. When I graduated many of them did not have money to buy me gifts, but wanted to give me something, so they gave me things like can openers, wooden spoons, etc. I still have many of them.

And lets not talk about all of the books that are gifts from retrired pastors, from people I serve here to Eugene Peterson's garage of junk books or dual copies (I have a Hans Kung book from there).

What is the point of this? I dont know? Maybe that I spend a lot of time redeeming the junk that other people had that they cannot use?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A huge fear of mine


I HATE, fear and loath doing phone work and making phone calls. I will spend a whole day doing unimportant tasks in order to avoid talking to people, especially strange people, on the telephone. This is especially true in ministry. I feel whenever I call someone I am asking them to join something, participate in something, or do something. Thus, phone work in ministry makes me feel like a sanctified telemarketer.

And, when I am calling to talk to students, that is not all that easy either. Especially junior high boys. A lot of the boys I work with are not all that verbal.So trying to spark a conversation with them one on one is difficult, but trying to start a conversation with them in on the phone is near impossible.

However, I cannot put the phone phobia directly to ministry duties without considering how my phone phobia drives other parts of my life. For instance, I will drive across town to talk to a business face to face instead of talking to them via phone. I will also stew and stir about talking to a woman on the phone, even if I think that she might like me. And I would much prefer to text someone if it is only going to be a brief conversation.

The notable exception to this is talking with close family members and good friends. If I call you on the phone just to talk, know that I consider you a trusted friend. And, if I can talk to you for more than an hour, know that I really treasure our relationship.

Part of this stems from adolescence, and talking to girls I like on the phone and going into panic mode because I did not have anything fun or witty to say. I avoided phone conversations then too. Part of this has to do with my reliance on non-verbal cues in conversation. Having a small hearing deficit, and a larger one when I had allergies as a kid, I had to work on reading body language and facial expression as much as listening to the words people would say.

Anyway....I survived calling kids about this Sunday's activity. But not without sweating it out in the back of my mind for most of the day.

The Lord and His Prayer quotes


"Heaven and earth are to interlocking arenas of God's good world" (24)

"How can the Prince of Peace defeat evil if he has to abandon Peace in order to do so?" (27)

"Thy Kingdom Come: to pray this means seeing the world in binocular vision. See it with the love of the creator for his spectacularly beautiful creation; and see it with the deep grief of the creator for the battle-scarred state in which the world now finds itself. (31)

Jesus waited until his followers asked him for a prayer; and the reason they asked is becuase they saw what he was doing. Something tells me there is a lesson there. (35)

Scripture is full of stories of people who brought their deep natural longings into the presence of God, and found them answered by being taken up within his purposes. (43)

Instead of forgiveness, our generation has been taught the vague notion of "tolerance" (50)

Jesus was called to throw himself on the wheel of world history, so that, even though it crushed him, it might start to turn in the opposite direction (69)

Strength in my Weakness


I am not a handyman. I am not even a skilled day laborer. In fact, in our work in Gulfport, many of the youth were better at the jobs that we were doing than I was. When I paint, I end up getting as much paint on me as I do on the wall—literally. So, the week we were in Gulfport I put myself I the place of a utility man. Monday I was the gopher for two groups on the trip that were sharing one van. I spent more time in the halls of 84 Lumber, Home Depot, and Lowe’s than I had the rest of my life combined. Tuesday I helped in hanging sheet rock ceiling on one site. Wednesday and Thursday I went to help paint bedrooms and clean a fridge at another site. On Monday, I had the opportunity to sing Johnny Cash songs at the top of lungs with the resident of one home named Helen. Tuesday I was standing spread eagle in backyard of Harry and Gail’s home with Harry hosing me down to get all of the paint on me that I had accumulated everywhere. Most of the time I wondered if I was more of a burden than a help on the work projects we were trying to accomplish.


On day two, the day where I had to be hosed down by Harry in his back yard, I was exhausted and discouraged as I ended my day. When the youth were asked to share where God showed up for them during the day, one of the youth shared that they had seen God at work through me, the work I was doing, and more importantly by the way that I did the work that I was doing. I was shocked. Somehow, almost because of my vulnerability and weakness, Christ was shining all the stronger.

That evening we went and visited a church in Biloxi named Prince of Peace Baptist Church. When we pulled up the church campus looked like part RV Park., part campground, with a small church building added on. The pastor went on to describe how God had used their church to be a center of mission to hundreds of children, feed thousands of people, house medical missions, and provide homes for dozens of people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He described how they had been about this ministry non-stop for about a year, and that the kinds of post-Hurricane recovery ministries still have a lot of work to do helping people who have lost everything. This pastor shared with enthusiasm miraculous stories about how God has provided in ministries that he and his church carried out. Then, as he closed in prayer, he shared something that amazed me. “Please pray for us,” he pleaded “we only have eight members and we are getting tired.” It seemed that God had used this church’s smallness, weakness, and vulnerability to do more than he or we could think or imagine as well.
All of this got me to thinking. Maybe what God needs more than fantastic skills and abilities is a servant heart, and willing hands. And maybe instead of worrying how worthy and competent we are to do the ministry set before us, we should simply make ourselves available to be used and let God handle the results.
Of course you might have to remind me of this on the next mission trip when I have a hammer or paint brush in my hand……

Preferences and The Passion


The other day I was in a conversation with someone about worship, about different people’s personal preferences with worship. In the process I blurted out, “In order to truly worship, there has to be a part of the worship service that you hate.” And, I got the same quizzical look that I always get when I make that statement. (Which to a certain extent is exactly the point...to get people’s attention). But generally as I explain what I mean, people understand, and this person did as well.


Recently, I have also been studying the book of Colossians for our churh's CHOW Bible Study. The book of Colossians is a book about the sufficiency of Christ, and the truth that Christ is worthy of first place in our lives. And as I was reading the authors of the book Colossians Remixed states that one of the faiths that competed for the Colossians attention and in our time is faith in a global economic system. This faith produces an attitude that we should demand what we want when we want it for the lowest price possible. And this all consuming consumer culture not only has sway when we shop for some bananas and detergent (bachelor shopping list...can ya tell??), but it also creeps into the church unaware. Which makes us put the same expectations on a worship service that we do a deli sandwich—that it will be what we want when we want it.

The call to take up our cross and follow Christ, to be an apprentice of Jesus, asks something different of us. It calls us to stop demanding what we want when we want it, and to set aside Christ as our master and role model. This is especially true in worship, because the focus of worship is giving back to God time, thanks, and praise in response for all that he has given us. That is not, nor should it be an
easy task. Which brings me back to the discussion of our personal preferences and feelings about certain styles of worship.


For me, part of worship is joyfully participating in those elements of worship that I are not in my preferences for worship. For instance, if I ordered up worship like I ordered up a meal at McDonalds I would ask that we hold responsive readings and the prayer hymn in our worship service, among other things. I would also order up an extra helping of gospel songs, and these gospel songs would have bluegrass or country gospel accompaniment with lots of hand clapping. The thing is, worship is NOT about me. It is NOT about getting everything I want when I want it. Worship is NOT about making me feel good.

There is a sense, in my understanding, that our worship services on Sunday morning is about going to the Cross of Jesus and remembering his sacrifice. So I read along with the responsive readings, and I make them a part of my worship. I do it because it pushes me out of where I want to be and where I am comfortable. I tell myself, if Christ can go to the cross and die for me, then part of worship is dying to my preferences and what feels good for me. Even if that is only for a few minutes. So I try and lift my voice in empassioned expression, and read with my full attention. I find that my attitude changes my outlook.

If you watch me during the worship, you will notice that I am always looking around. This is because part of my life’s worship is loving others in the name of Jesus. This is as true on Sunday morning at 10:30am as it is Friday night at 11:59pm. So, especially in those moments in worship where what we are doing does not make sense to me or align with my preferences, I focus on loving others.

I don’t particularly like the hymn “Faith of Our Fathers” at all. When I was facilitating worship at a retirement community on a bi-weekly basis, there was a woman in my congregation that loved that hymn. So I learned it, and we sang it about every other month. The fact that it spoke to her heart and the heart of others about God’s faithfulness and goodness made it worth singing. Even if I thought it was a poorly-worded, somewhat sexist hymn that was almost impossible to sing to. I could never say I loved singing that hymn, but I could say I loved Rosie in Jesus’ name by singing it.

Since I have arrived here, we have identified ourselves as a family church. Coming to worship is sometimes like coming to a family dinner on Thanksgiving. We have younger members and older members of our family. Some of us occasionally invite visitors. We want them to feel like part of the family while they are with us. At a family dinner, there is always something that I really don’t like eating on the table. I hate sweet potatoes. Grandma makes the sweet potatoes with mushrooms on top. I take a tiny bit and eat it, because I know she will feel appreciated and loved if I do. And I feel good because I have made her feel valued and special. Sometimes we need the same attitude in worship. We need to put aside our preferences about elements in worship, from the music to the preaching, from what someone is wearing to whether or not we did everything in the right order in the bulliten. And, as we close our eyes to having what we want when we want it, I pray that we will see Jesus anew.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ambition and the Gospel of Downward Mobility

I have been wrestling a lot with what it means to be called. What it means to be called to the Christian faith. What it means to be called to ministry. In other words, what it means to be an apprentice to Jesus in the very specific context of my life.

Part of the reason is that I have been trying to understand what is next in my life. I know that there is something next, that there needs to be some sort of change, but I do not know what that is right now or where that will lead me.

There is part of me that wants to make a next step UP. What I mean by that is that I feel like my next move should be in some way an improvement from my present situation. It should (hopefully) pay better, be closer to family, be a place where I can be more sucessful, and feel better about my life and its direction.

The problem is, I am not sure this attitude is the attitude that an apprentice of Jesus should have. When I came here, I came to a place where I felt like the Kingdom of God needed me. I came to a place where people needed my leadership, and I felt that I could make a real difference. Colorado Springs presented a new challenge...and it seemed like God was calling me to a place that needed just what I had to offer. It was not a step down in salary, but coming here was a step down on the ladder of success, in noteriety among my peers, and in number of youth attending our church.

At first I was a little excited by the challenge, but soon later it became clear that the Colorado Springs challenge was a bigger challenge than I anticipated. The youth group was smaller than I was told it was, the people were less willing to support the ministry than I was led to believe, and my job description was changed about 2 months after I decided to come here. And, after trying and trying, I am about ready to shake the dust from my sandals and move on to a place that will be more receptive to me and my ministry.

At the same time as I am continuing to feel led to look, I feel that my present circumstance is teaching me something. Specifically teaching me something about the Cross, and how to take up my cross daily. I don't equate my present hardships with the hardships of Jesus or Paul. Their experiences are unique to them. Yet, at the same time, I sense that my soul is in a very good place as I am allowing the awful ways I am being treated to somehow be formative for me in the long run. I don't really know the lessons I am supposed to take from this point in my life yet, but I do know that is has something to do with understanding that these hardships and heartaches at this present time are somehow making me more like Jesus..who suffered so much more than my current frustrations, and whose call was an infinitely greater burden to bear.

As I look, I try to be open to whatever God is calling me to. I have checked in on a number of different kinds of positions and places. Yet there is a part of me that wants to look for something "better" careerwise than where I am at, and there is another part of me that feels that I again need to be open to going where I am needed. And going where I am needed may not be easy or comfortable or fun. It might even be a lot like here, God forbid.

Right now....I am hoping for all of the above.

Becca's book meme

1. One book that changed your life: (tie) Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider and Prayer by Richard Foster and Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen--All came at important times in my life, and helped me begin to answer my questions about how spiritual formation and growth are related to personal and social ethics ( I have yet to arrive to completely articulated answers).

2. One book you’ve read more than once: In the Name of Jesus by Howard Thurman--an easy one day read that continues to shape how I look at Jesus and the gospels

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

4. One book that made you laugh: Anything by Douglas Coupland makes me laugh and then go hmmm. Waiting for the new one to come out on paperback.

5. One book that made you cry: There might have been one or two but I cannot think of them.

6. One book you wish you had written: To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller.

7. One book you wish had been written: How to get skinny eating everything you want and as much as you want without exercising

8. One book you wish had never been written: Can't think of one

9. One book you’re currently reading: One?? I will give two. Death by Meeting by Leconi and Simply Christian by NT Wright

One book you’ve been meaning to read: Silas Marner by George Eliot

Thursday, August 10, 2006

19th Century spin doctors

The other night I saw something interesting on CSPAN. It was about the Civil War era of United States History. As this historian talked, he shared about the Lost Cause Writers of the American South that were the spin doctors of the Civil War for the South. In particular, he was often answering questions about the character of US Grant, who later became the President. Both in his presidency and in his military career, Lost Cause writers tried to disparage Grant as "a drunk and a butcher". In fact, Lee ended up having a higher casualty rate, and Grant by most accounts was not the drunk that the Lost Cause writers and tabloids made him out to be. Nor was his presidential administration as corrupt--this was another way of the Southern former slaveholding elite tried to disparage him.

There is much more about the lost cause writers that is notable, including the attempt to spin all of the civil war around states rights and minimize the importance of slavery as an issue in the civil war. All and all, this account was very interesting.

Some of the main tenets of the Lost Cause movement were that:

  • Confederate generals such as Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson represented the virtues of Southern nobility, as opposed to most Northern generals, who were characterized as possessing low moral standards, and who subjected the Southern civilian population to such indignities as Sherman's March to the Sea and Philip Sheridan's burning of the Shenandoah Valley in the Valley Campaigns of 1864.

  • Losses on the battlefield were inevitable due to Northern superiority in resources and manpower.

  • Losses were also the result of betrayal and incompetence on the part of certain subordinates of General Lee. (The Lost Cause focused mainly on Lee and the eastern theater of operations.)

  • Defense of States' rights, rather than preservation of chattel slavery, was the primary cause that led eleven Southern states to secede from the Union, thus precipitating the war.

  • Secession was a justifiable constitutional response to Northern cultural and economic aggressions against the Southern way of life.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Quotes from Books: Which do you like best?

From Eat this book by Eugene Peterson

To know much and taste nothing---of what use is that?
Bonaventure

You can't hear God speak to someone else, you can only hear him if you are being addressed
Wittgenstein

From Beyond Foundationalism by Grenz and Fackre

Most human beings, of course, are not able to stand the message of the shaking of the foundations. The reject and attack the prophetic minds, not because they really disagree with them, but because they sense the truth of their words and cannot recieve it.
Tillich

From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present. The eschatological is not one element of Christianity, but it is the medium of Christian faith as such, the key in which everything in it is set, the glow that suffuses everything here in the dawn of an expected new day.
Moltmann

From a Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer

Do not speak unless you can improve upon the silence
Quaker saying

I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place
Rufus Jones

From Transforming Leadership by Leighton Ford

He was made like we are, that He might make us what He is Himself.
Iraneus

Managers want to do things right, and leaders want to do the right thing
Warren Bennis

My greatest fear for you is not that you will fail, but that you will succeed in doing the wrong thing
Howard Hendricks

Visions are the shapers of our thoughts
Thomas Sowell

Charism without character leads to catastrophe,
Peter Kuzmic

As weather shapes mountains, so problems make leaders
Warren Bennis

From Desiring God by John Piper

There is a kind of happiness that makes you serious
CS Lewis--The Last Battle

In some sense the most benevolent, generous person in the world seeks his own happiness in doing good to others, because he places his own happiness in their good
Jonathan Edwards

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. I saw that the mosti imporatnt thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and meditation on it.
George Mueller

From Wild at Heart Field Manual by John Eldridge

The place that God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
Fredrick Buechner

Beauty is not only a terrible thing, it is also a mysterious thing. There God and the Devil strive for mastery, and that battleground is the hearts of men.
Dostovestky

Yet we must be watchful, especially in the beginning of temptation; for the enemy is more easily overcome if he is not sufferend to enter the door of our hearts, but is resisted with the gate at his first knock.
Thomas a Kempis

If we would endeavor, like men of courage, to stand in the battle, surely we would feel the favourable assistance of God from heaven.
Thomas a Kempis

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Inspirational Quotes: Which do you like BEST and LEAST????

from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced that we will never be anything but beginners all our life--Thomas Merton

True contemplation is not a psychological trick but a theological grace.
Merton

Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon him in yourself--
Teresa of Avila

Learn the lesson that if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.
Bernard of Clairveux

True confession of evil works is the beginning of good works--
Augustine

The Christian should be alleluia from head to foot.
Augustine

From traditions of the ancients by Marcia Ford (a must buy for me sometime soon)

The Lord be with you always, and you be with him always and everyplace.--Claire of Assisi

Test all things; hold fast to what is good.

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees
Victor Hugo

He who does not bow before God will not be able to bear the burden of himself--
Dostoyvesky

The deisre is your prayers; and if your desire is without ceasing, your prayer is without ceasing. the continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer
Augustine

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting--
Edmund Burke

Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest
Book of Common Prayer

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance--
Carl Sandburg

We all write poems. It is simply the poets that write in words.
John Fowles

When the clock strikes, it is a good time to say a prayer--
Jeremy Taylor

Endeavor seven times a day to withdraw from business and company and lift up thy soul to God in private retirement
Adonirum Judson

What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul
Jewish proverb

What a man takes in in comtemplation, he pours out in love
Eckhart

Death practices have a transformative value. People in both the world of the Bible and in the modern world have used death to transform themselves or others.--
Rachel Hallote

Our language rightly sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the world solitude to express the glory of being alone--
Tillich

Secret Thoughts

I recently finished the book The Secret Message of Jesus. It was a fun read, and was more brilliant as it went along. Especially thought provoking was the subversive motif of hiddenness and secrecy. In the acknowledgements he acknowledged Dallas Willard and NT Wright as inspirations for the book. And then I remembered Dallas Willard discussed "hiddenness" and "conspiracy" in his book THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY. Which is something I am hoping to read sometime soon.

There were several other thoughts that McLaren had in his book, or inspired in me. Here are some things that made me think.

Where is our energy going in the church?
Miroslav Volf's book on Christian community talked about the themes of exclusion and embrace. McLaren touches on this a little bit in his book as well. Many churches today work hard at trying to defend their boundaries. When they do this their energy is expended toward EXCLUSION.

It is very difficult to push out and pull in at the same time. Your momentum either moves out or moves you and others in. Often times the evangelical church relates to the world around it like an inexperienced sumo wrestler. We wrestle around thinking we are trying to keep ourselves and our churches centered. To do this, we think it best to try and push the opposition out. And soon we find that we have spent so much time at the periphery of what our faith is about that we are stumbling just to stand still and keep grounded.

Instead, in churches, we need to keep returning to the center of our faith. The most important and central things in following Jesus. What would happen if we spent more time focusing on sharing God's grace, living in love with our neighbor, passionately apprenticing ourselves to Jesus? What if our energy was spent pulling people into the family of God, instead of defining who is in and who is out by theological tidbits?

Narrow exclusion and naive inclusion

McLaren uses these two terms to discuss how people misunderstand the way of Jesus. More conservative folks want to draw boundaries tighter and tigher especially when it comes to who is a part of the family of God. This is part of the reason I am not a part of the churches of my upbringing. I had no room to think or grow and learn.

But liberal churches err on the other side with naive inclusionism. Assuming that everyone is on the Way, that everyone is ready and willing to get on the path to God at one point or another. This is also not consistent with Scripture or love. Some people want to get as far away from doing what is right, from truly loving, from being connected to God as they possibly can. And there comes a point when God's love and God's grace means nothing if we are not free to reject it.

Promises and Prognostications

In speaking of eternity, end times, and salvation and the like, McLaren finds it helpful to distinguish between promises and prognostications. Promises are about God being faithful in a relationship with us, and vise versa. God keeps his promises to us--especially the promises which are clearly stated in Scripture. But often we try to make God's promises prognostications, especially in regards to the end times stuff. We do this by making the Word of God into an instruction manual, or make the book of Revelation a book of history in fast forward. God's word is about his love and faithfulness, but that doesnt mean we need to turn the raw, poetic, untamable Word into a farmers almanac.

As you can tell from my writing, I am still thinking on some of the things in the book. David Cho, does this help answer some of your questions?

What thoughts do you have?

ee cummings quotes

Unbeing dead isn't being alive. e. e. cummings

America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn't standing still. e. e. cummings

Be of love a little more careful than of anything. e. e. cummings

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. e. e. cummings

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. e. e. cummings

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. e. e. cummings

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lyrics to DMXs new release LORD SEND ME A SIGN

In the name of Jesus
no weapon formed against me shall prosper (preach)
and every tongue that rises against me in judgment thou shall condemn (preach)
Lord give me a sign
For this is the heritage of the servant of the lord (preach)
And that righteousness is of me says the lord (preach)
Amen
Lord give me a sign

Verse 1 I really need to talk to you lord since the last time we talked the walk has been hard now I know you haven't left me but I feel like I'm alone I'm a big boy now but I'm still not grown and Im still goin thru it the pain and the hurt soaking up trouble like rain and the dirt and I know only I could stop the rain with just the mention of my saviors name in the name of Jesus devil I rebuke you for what I go through and trying to make me do what I used to but all that stops right here as long as the lord's in my life I will have no fearI will know no pain from the light to the dark Imma show no shame spit it right from the heart This is life from the start cause you held me down and ain't nothing they can tell me know Lord give me a sign

Hook (x1) let me know what's on your mind let me know what I'm gonna find it's all in time show me how to teach the mind show me how to reach the blind lord give me a sign show me what I gots to do to bring me closer to you cause Imma go through whatever you want me to just let me know what to do lord give me a sign

Verse 2 Please show me something I'm tired of talking to him knowing he frontin Crying bout life ain't nothing Cause you either be the one mad cause you trapped or the one huntin Trapped in your own mind waiting on the lord Or huntin with the word that cuts like a sawthe spoken word is stronger than the strongest man carries the whole world like the strongest hand with the trial and tribulations you never let us down Jesus I know you here with us now Jesus I know you still with us now keep it real with us now I wanna feel show me how please let me take your hand guide me or walk slow but stay right beside me devils tryin to find me hide me hold up I take that back protect me and give me the strength to fight back Lord give me a sign

Hook (x2) let me know what's on your mind let me know what I'm gonna find it's all in time show me how to teach the mind show me how to reach the blind lord give me a sign show me what I gots to do to bring me closer to you cause Imma go through whatever you want me to just let me know what to do lord give me a sign Lord give me sign (3x)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A tidbit from Leadership Magazine

Since 1970, the percentage of people who live with their parents increased 48 percent, from 12.5 million to 18.6 million, accourding to the US Census Bureau.

(Note from the Friar: this is even more significant since 1970 was the baby boom generation, where as most of the 25-35 crowd is the baby bust population...thus there are less people in that age demographic than there were in 1970...which makes the percentage of the population that is doing this even higher than the insight that statistics give us.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Half-Content

Contentedness is a fickle thing with me. Sometimes I am very comfortable in my little job in my little place. Other times I struggle because I am antsy for something different, but I do not know what that is.

I admire stable people. People who are deeply rooted in their community, and who have lived in or near the same place most of their lives. I admire people who work in the same line of work doing admirable work for a humble salary their whole life. I envy people who have had the same friends since they were children or teenagers. Those folks that worry when they buy a new house after their kids leave home. The problem is, I am not sure I am one of those people.

I am not sure most people see this. I am the goofy, overweight youth pastor who has a mean Chris Farley impression. I am the bookworm who has always read something insightful or interesting. I am the storyteller whose eyes light up when I share something that happened to me, or a theory that I have about something I have observed. I am Friar Tuck, the minister with a little bit of an ornery streak.

But I doubt I have ever been content. The thing is, I am just beginning to own this truth. I have always thought I was meant for more than where I am and what I am doing. That their is something huge and powerful just beyond the horizon. That someday I was going to have the white picket fence with a wife and several children. That I was going to write a book that changed the world. When I was in 5th and 6th grade, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be the President of the United States. And to tell the truth, I meant it. I thought it was possible. And I had this plan that I was going to go home and be a Congressman until I was 35, and then around my 40th birthday I would run for President.

I guess part of what I am saying as well is that I have a hard time living up to my own dreams and my own expectations. And I expect to get to these exalted places by doing everything right. And I expect that by doing all of the things that I was supposed to do or told to do that I would have somehow found success and high achievement by this point in my life. Instead I am a nearly 33 bachelor living in a one bedroom apartment, and struggling to keep a youth ministry afloat and my job in good standing.

And in those moments of discontent, I pray and I wonder, when is MY moment going to come? When am I going to find the love of my life, have the growing church, have lots of supportive friends that I can count on, and write that great work of writing that will change the course of history? When will I live up to my standards? When will I be able to hold up my head high and be proud, and know that my family and friends are proud of me? When will I emerge from being on the perpetual brink of failure to a rousing success as a human being?

It is really those things I am most concerned about. Most days I am happy living in a small place, having a decent car that runs, and being able to pay the bills. Deep down, though, there is this lurking feeling at the pit of my stomach that I am meant for something more, this hunger that my life has a lot of potential for a greater impact, and that I am failing. I tell myself (and others)--John Calvin wrote the Institutes at 26, Martin Luther King Jr. had already delivered the I HAVE A DREAM speech by the time he was my age, and the list goes on, and what have I accomplished? Nothing. No big splash. Just plodding along griding out ministry in struggling and/or dying churches.

And I wonder....am I alone in feeling this way? Am I being selfish? Am I setting myself up for failure?

Thursday I had a conversation with a former boss of mine. He was asking about my future. And I was telling him my dreams about the hope I had of leaving here at some point, and finding a church that would not require me to work at Walmart on the side to support myself. I went on that my coming here I feared had been this huge dowturn in my career that I might never recover from. He agreed that this might be possible from my perspective, and that he might feel the same way, and then he said, "Of course, when you think like this you are forgetting the Holy Spirit and how God can lead and what God can do."

Of course I tried to explain how I did include the Holy Spirit in my plans, until I got the realization that my life is not to be as much about including God in my plans as much as it is God including my life in his plans. And my job is to be the faithful servant of the King, the good soldier of the Lord of Hosts, the plodding farmer in the field. That the Holy Spirit is like a wind that blows where it pleases (John 3), and that my job is to hoist my sail to wherever that wind may drive me.

And I remembered what I tell people so often but forget for myself. That no failure is beyond redemption. That no dream is beyond fulfillment. That today has enough to be worried about. And that I can trust God with my todays and tomorrows, even when I cannot figure it out.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

NT Wright Quotes from "The Lord and His Prayer"

That is why calling God 'Father' is the great act of faith, of holy boldness, of risk. Saying 'our father' isnt just the boldness, the sheer cheek, of walking into the living presence of the living and almighty God and saying "Hi Dad'. It is the boldness, the sheer total risk, of saying quietly 'Please, may I too, be considered an apprentice son.' It means signing on to the Kingdom of God. (pp. 19-20)

When we call God father, we are called to step out, as apprentice children, into a world of pain and darkness. And we will find darkness all around us; it will terrify us; precisely because it will remind us of the darkness in our very own selves....the temptation then is to switch off the news, to shut out the world, to create a painless world for ourselves...But if, as people of the living creator God, we respond to the call to be sons and daughters...then we are called to be the people through whom the pain of the world is held in the healing light of the love of God. (p.21)

This, then, I dare say, is the pattern of Christian spirituality...it is the rhythym of standing in the presence of the pain of the world, and kneeling in the presence of the creator of this world; of bringing those two things together in the name of Jesus and by the victory of the cross...and of calling God "Father". (p. 22)

Mission Trip Rankings

One of the kids in my youth group asked me how I would rank certain mission trips and conferences I have led youth on after just finishing my 10th big event in the last 8 years. Neither of the conferences were bad, but I am not big on conferences and both conferences I had other things on my mind that I was struggling with. Here is how I would rank them:

Professionally

#10 1999 trip to Kansas City
#9 American Baptist Youth Gathering at Estes Park (2004)
#8 DCLA (2003)
#6 San Diego (2004)
#6 Martin, SD (2005)
#5 Kansas City (2006)
#4 Fort Apache (2000)
#3 San Francisco (2001)
#2 Gulfport (2006)
#1 Tijuana (2002)


Personally

#10 1999 trip to KC--logistically, planning wise, and help wise this was a nightmare
#8 DCLA--great conference...but dont like youth conferences
#8 ABY Gathering---same as DCLA
#6 San Diego---great time with kids....site not put together ideally, and adult ldr problems
#6 Martin--ok. First trip with all middle school girls and one boy. Lots of drama
#5 Kansas City 06--Flowed well. Good leadership. Some kid attitude issues.
#4 Tijuana--This trip has grown on me through the years. Saw a whole new world.
#3 Fort Apache--My mistakes and vulnerability taught me and helped others know and trust me.
#2 Gulfport--A very affirming time for me in my ministry gifts and such.
#1 San Francisco--Doors to growth in compassion openned wide for me on this trip.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Meadowlark Lane

Moist tears
escape
fickle eyes
and
one almost trickles
down
his
black
face
as
he
looks
down
at his
shoes

Up
in the
sky
he looks
thankful
for
shelter
friends
blessings
given
and
recieved

Calling

No fireworks
No waters
parting
to point
to
what's next

No voice
from heaven
giving direction
like a
divine
traffic light
telling me
when to
turn
and
where

Just a
hunch
a
sense
that keeps
me
stepping
and
hoping
for
sunlight

Tessa's Choice or Half-Hearted Discipline
















I take
a breathe
and hide
beneath
a
book
as
infatuated teens
try to
steal kisses
adults
unaware

They take
a
breathe
and try
to hide
behind
magazines
thinking
I
won't
see
them peck
and
giggle

I scold,
wag my finger,
smile,
and laugh

Trying to hide behind a book on the plane

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East side of Ship Island--our saturday outing

East side of Ship Island....looks like a postcard doesn't it?





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At least the sign made it

A picture of the golden arches and what was left of the restaurant...about 100-200 yards inland from the beach Posted by Picasa

Still Standing

A picture of the devastation in one house that survived the storm along the beach Posted by Picasa

Sheila on Tuesday with Miss Helen...the woman we were working with to fix her home

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The group I worked with on Tuesday

Mike, Ian, Emily Craig, Kayleigh, Emily Chapman, and Zach Posted by Picasa

I've got a great pair of legs and it shows

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Colorado Springs Pics

This is a pic of the two churches from Colorado Springs on the mission trip to Mississippi.
On the left is Shelia and her daugher Paris. Then there is me in the middle. On the other side is Bill and Ben in back. Then Emily and Regi in front. Regi is the youth pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church. Kayleigh missed this picture. Posted by Picasa