Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Last Post until August

Northern Minnesota, here I come!!!!!!!!!!

What so impressed me with Ghandi was his ability to resist power in all of its forms. He could not be compelled to obey nor could he seduced to gain power. I got to thinking about this as I read Messy Ministry and the Joel Osteen article to which it referred.

When I see the life of Ghandi, I see a man who took the life of Jesus seriously. Yes, I very much differ with Ghandi on the conversational, theological level. I believe Jesus is the Son of God and Ghandi didn't. And yes, that's a super-duper important thing. At the same time, when a Hindu does the Christian life better than Christians, you have got to wonder about that.

I am not suggesting that we all wear a loin cloth and walk with a goat for milk. What I am suggesting is to observe power and how it is used. In the USA, money is power. Look at the church and its use of its money, its power. It is used for comfort in many, many ways.

Rarely does a church use money for lifting up the oppressed, for opposing the oppressors, for liberating the slaves, blessing the world. You listen to Joel Osteen and it sounds like the end purpose for "blessing" (wealth and health and comfort) is for the Christian to enjoy them. I'm not saying "have no joy," but I am saying that we are blessed for the purpose of sharing, not hoarding.

Ghandi refused to be oppressed and he refused to be an oppressor. He refused luxury until everyone had luxury. The greatest power Ghandi had was the power of refusal. He would not be oppressed and he would not be seduced.

He took on more burden than just his own. He took personal responsibility for the injustices of his day. No, not that he created injustice, but rather that avoiding it adds to it.

So a couple of you out there might say, "So, is Ghandi in Heaven? Because, in the end, that's all that matters." To anyone asking such a question, I will say this: "If actions speak truth, then I will sit with Ghandi in Heaven." But I will also say, "Unless you have given of yourself like Ghandi did, then you don't even have right to ask the question."

Now that you have gone deep within yourself and pondered Ghandi & Jesus, take some time to read something else that will have a long, lasting impact on your life. This should keep you busy at 650+ page (unless you're under 18 years old, then it'll take 14 straight hours).

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Subject and Verb Agreement

Register for Zoe Conference here.
I just finished wathcing the movie of Gahndi. Amazing. He was more Christian than I will ever be - which is weird as he was a Hindu and all. He had subject and verb agreement. His words of peace matched his actions. Peace was his subject; peace was his verb.

The problem with Christianity is not our subject, Jesus, but it is our verb. Look at church budgets to find their verb. Look at their end "user" of ministry to find their verb. Look at that to which the resources of time, money and education are channeled to find their verb.

In short, a study on how Jesus used his resources comapred to how the church uses its resources will expose no true sense of harmony. Rather there is little similarity whatsoever. When we buy more bricks for ourselves than we do for the homeless, when we spend less than 1% of our budget (if that) to feed to hungry while accumulating expensive curriculums, when we support defining ourselves over developiong freindships with pre-christians...when we spend ourselves into these things, yet say we are all about what Jesus was all about, our subject and verb do not agree.

If we were not so wrapped up, sealed up, and packaged in this problem we would see clearly how ridiculous we appear to those looking for Jesus among the Christians, but not finding Him.

We need to find a way to decentralize everything that is not Jesus. The building is not central. The worships service is not central. The doctrine is not central. Even morality, for as valuable as it is, is not central. Jesus is central or he's nothing.

We need to choose verbs that match our subject. But since our churches refuse to do so, I wonder if we really know our subject.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Empathic Prayer

Have you ever prayed for someone? No, I don't mean, "Dear God, please be with Susie..." What I mean is praying instead of that person or as if you are that person? I did for the first time today.

I prayed for a depressed person as if I were that person. I imagined myself as that person and then prayed from that perspective.

Yes, it was kind of weird, but at the same time, it pushed my imagination beyond any previous point with this close friend of mine. Somehow I understood this person better by, in my imagination, becoming that person for a brief period of time.

Has anyone ever done this?
Is this sane?
What do you make of this kind of prayer?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Psalm 121 (Rewrite)

(A quick side note: Zoe Conference Blogger gathering click here)

Psalm 121 (rewrite)
When I look at the city skyline,
The towers of wealth to which men cling,
Their hope rests in the towers,
But I look at them from the outside;
My hope isn't in them; they are the Enemy.
But where does my hope rest?

My hope rests in the God who lives above the towers.

When I hope in money, I slip, I fall, I am disappointed,
But with God it is easy to stand.
He's got his eye on me - His gentle, loving eye;
Whether I'm awake or asleep, He's protecting me.
24/7 he's engaged and active in my life.

If the sun's too hot, all it takes is Hia hand to give me shade;
He's my light at midnight;
Here,there, and everywhere, I'm covered.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Post-Restoration Bloggers Meet At Zoe?

Hey, if you read this blog, then you likely also have heard of a thing called the Zoe Worship Conference AKA Look To The Hills. The main conference happens in Nashville the first weekend of October.

Wouldn't it be great to know which bloggers are going to be there, and then meet up some time?

So, if you are a blogger and planning on going to the Zoe Worship Conference in Nashville in October, and want to get together with some others, then post a comment on this blog and let's work a time to meet each other at the conference.

Idealism and Acceptance

"The problem with young people, people your age, is that they are too idealistic. Young people need to learn to accept some things are not perfect."

This comment did not come a mean and crotchety old grump. It did not come from someone bent on maintaining the old order of things. It came from a loving and caring person concerned with the future of the church. We were discussing how to help our church grow, improve and be better.

"What I think it is going to take is to completely re-define the word 'church.' A free association of that word would conjure up an image of a church building or Sunday morning worship service. That's not church."

This comment did not come from some punk who wants to destroy the church as usual and reconstruct it in his own image. It came from someone who cares very much about the future of the church. It came from me, as you have probably already guessed.

This was a cross-generational conversation of two people who love God and love the church. We both see trouble, big trouble as the future presses in on us.

How do you get 1000 people to rethink church not just from what they have always known, but from what everyone they know has always known? How do you adjust centurues of inertia to a more functional and healthy track?

I think a consistent experience in small, missional communities of friends is a start. I'm not talking about adjunct small groups that are fit into schedules already obese with too much. I mean this is church. Sunday morning at the building is more like going to the commons that has some good stuff, but the real playing out of the church is in these little communities. Church is word more like "family" or "close friendship" than it is "building" or "worship service."

In the same vein, I think a massive wave of church planting needs to happen - which is actually not all that different from what I said in the above paragraph. Yes, we need to plant churches within our churches in order to make the church accessible to people who do "go to church."

On a side note, we say "go to church," and it sounds normal, but we never say "go to family." We are family, but we go to church. Please, tell me we don't think of church as a building. We do.

We do not need to abandon the large gatherings. What we need to abandon is the idea that what happens there is the definition of church. That's like saying what happens during a Christmas holiday is all that there is to being family, or celebrating a job promotion with a group of friends is all there is to a friendship.

Nope, the essence of family and friend is discovered in the daily, the routine, the common interactions. Special events are great, important, and I would say that they are necessary, but we make a deadly error when we identify and define these relationships only by these events. Community is the daily, not the occasional.

I don't think that this is too idealistic. And even though I don't like to argue on this level, it is far, far, more Biblical than building-centric, event-centric ecclesiology.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Weird and Glorious Clarity

So I'm jogging this morning, suffering badly because something's wrong in my gut, and this thought bubbles to the top.

"My wife is perfect for me."

Now, we're knocking on the door of 9 years of marriage, and I have known from day one that I married the right woman. I have had no regrets, no second thoughts, and no questions. It has been right always. I have had the unusual luxury of a very good marriage. For this I am most grateful. I thank God regularly for this.

So what gives with this "revelation?" I mean, I have known this for a long time. Why did it feel like something new when it was not at all new information?

For right now, my best guess is that I am coming to realize that my wife is the safest place in the world. This is at least part of the answer to the mystery. What a comfort to know that there is a safe place in this world. It's reassuring and humbling. Extravagant safety. How many people really get that?

Oh God, thanks for this wonderful gift.

Any of you married people out there ever get a "revelation" about your spouse after being married a while? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Blue Before Me

My melancholy mood
A simple sadness, blue;
Lake Superior blue;
The world's ships leave
Laden with ore
Carving the blue
Cutting it in two
And disappearing into
The horizon,
Carrying bits of me
They all go home
And I watch them go
Waiting my turn
From this rocky shore
I want more
The Noreaster gathers some blue
And blows it right through my bones
Leaving me alone
Longing for home
As another Winter invites me to wait
Standing ankle deep
Feeling so cold
As far as I can go
Hands in pockets
Don't know what else to do
Eyes glued...

Name These Babies

Below are two babies. Neither of these babies (lists) have names, but they need names. Please help me name these babies.

Baby #1

Sin reduction
Decrease the evil
Being right
Justice = Paying For Sin
Trust is earned
Grace = Forgiveness

Baby #2

Love Proliferation
Increase the good
Being good
Justice = helping the oppressed
Social Justice
Trust is squandered
Grace = Generosity

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Speaking Spanglish

Movie & Theology went great! In all there were 4 couples (many sent their regrets) who watched the movie, SPANGLISH, and stayed around to talk about it. The conversation was enlightening.

What sets Spanglish apart from a typical romantic comedy is that it has depth, it is not afraid to enter right into the tension of real life temptation, but at the same time does not just wimp out and give into that temptation.

Debra (Tia Leoni) plays the wife and John (Adam Sandler) plays the husband. She is a supercharged woman, fully self-obsessed with appearance and health, wondering why no one is "on the same page" as she is. She symbolizes the kind of person you turn into if you let yourself get poisoned by the American Dream. Her existence is a miserable narcissism that demands all of the attention and at the same time feels non-existant.

Although Pat R. is likely to disagree with this (which is perfectly fine), but I think that best scene in the movie depicting how narcissism is pervasive is the scene when John was awared 4 stars for his restaurant and Debra (his wife) comes home to reward him with some hot sex. However, the sex very quickly turns from a praise for his accomplishment to her own gratification, then her own sadness. She bascially forgets John is there and as she falls over on the bed she asks in desperation, "What am I going to do about me?" Some prize for John.

Flor, Debra and John's house keeper (who initially speaks only Spanish), is a beautiful Mexican woman who has an early teenage daughter, Cristina, who Flor fears will be contaiminated by American culture - Debra is her worst nightmare.

When Debra has an affair, John is tempted to have an affair with Flor. They find a way to "keep it real" and ultimately Flor quits in order to provide a clear boundary - marital, cultural and otherwise.

Flor's daughter, Cristina, is furious because she has had a taste of the American gratification, and now is being stripped of it all. Although tempted to give in to Cristina's pleas and accusations, Flor knows what is best for her daughter.

I think that the best line in the movie occurs when Cristina tells her mother that she needs some space and her mother says sternly, "There is no space between us!" I saw Flor as a symbol of God's love. God will give us what is best for us whether we like it or not. He will also not abandon us when we protest. God looks at us and says, "There is no space between us!"

Everyone in our group enjoyed the movies, but the conversation was even better, and infact, lasted longer than the movie did.

Also what I like about this gathering was that it was church. I mean church as it refers to a groups of God-loving friends applying the principles of God's love to real time culture and learning from it. Yes, that's church. It doesn't replace reading the Bible. It doesn't mean prayer is no longer necessary. What it does mean is that church is not merely what occurs in a building. Please, let's get the church outside the building.

I think that this is going to be a good thing. We'll probably have another one in a few weeks.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Movie & Theology

Saturday evening I will be watching the movie "Spanglish" with some friends. We'll eat popcorn and snacks, and drink sodas and coffee - and talk theology. I am really excited for this event and plan to make it a twice per month thing.

In case you don't know, gleaning a spiritual or redemptive message from popular or meaningful movies is all the rage and cool people everywhere are doing it. (emergent wannabe)

I remember as a teen we would have people over to our house and watch movies into the weeeeeeeeee hours of the morning. Big Trouble in Little China, Caddy Shack, Ghostbusters, The Blues Brothers were among my favorites. Certainly these movies were (in my sad, sad opinion) classics. None of this Gone With The Wind crap. Bill Murray is the greatest actor of all time, and frankly, he doesn't give a d***.

But the best part of these movies was laughing with my friends and later quoting movie lines in our everyday conversations. That, my friends, is fellowship.

So, what is happening at my house Saturday evening is taking that kind of fellowship one step deeper and intentionally contextualizing it with theology. "What is God saying in this movie?" "What theme connected with you?" "What does this movie say about human nature?"

I will report later on how this went.

I am interested in what movies you think would be good for my "movie & theology" club.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

40 Days of Fat

Dear friends, many of you participated in 40 Days of Fat for World Vision a couple months ago. We exercised, lost weight, and gave from our hearts. In all we raised over $1000 for World Vision and other charities. It was my great joy to work together with you to accomplosh this goal.

So, with great joy I announce 40 Days of Fat: Samaritan Run. Please check out the new and imporved blog site for this event here. Also notice that you can go to (my new domain name) and bookmark (or syndicate) it and get your daily update.

Officially it starts August 1st, but early birds can begin to day.

Monday, July 04, 2005

MIrror, mirror, on the wall...

A friend of mine who reads my blog says I'm funny (thank-you very much) and that I sound anrgy (thank-you, but in a different sort of way). My brother-in-law wonders why my posts have gotten more "venomous," recently. Donna wonders if I am ashamed of my "tribe." David U tells me I am a great blogger.

Everyone who gives feedback is a mirror. What they offer is a reflection of the person to whom they are giving feedback. At the same time, no one is a perfect mirror. No one person can give anyone else an exact reflection of themselves.

So, getting feedback from people is kind of like walking through the funhouse and looking into those mirrors. Yes, that's really you in there, but it is not exactly what you look like. It's not that it is not you, but it is an interpretation of you.

Yes, all feedback is an interpretation. It's not that it is false or wrong, but that is has been gathered with other information and bounced back to you. It's not necessarily contaminated or unreliable, but it is simply not an exact representation of the person receiving the feedback. This, I believe, is good. It is good because I do not believe people to be static entities. People are dynamic, changing, morphing.

Much of what helps that change along has to do with the interpretations that come from the community surrounding the person. These interpretations are not so much deterministic, but rather they are influential. Favorable interpretations are often absorbed while unfavorable are often resisted. However, even the interpretations that are resisted have influence because they influenced you to resist them. Resisting someone's interpretation is not nothing either, it is an active effort.

This is the reason no feedback should be discarded - for they in fact, cannot be. At the same time, no feedback should be swallowed whole either - for in a way, they all lie. All feedback about you is actually about you, but is also a little autobiography of the person giving the feedback.

I am grateful when people have the courage, wisdom, frustration, generosity, disgust, concern, care etc to even take the time to give me feedback. So, whether I'm lit up with "youre' great!" or doused with "You sound angry," I am grateful for the mirrors I get to look into.