Sunday, December 31, 2006

Could it be, could it be winter?

It appears that this streak of the world's lamest winter has perhaps been broken by a beautiful New Year's Eve snow. It is gorgeous. One of the things I love most about Minnesota is the snow. Having to wait until New Year's Eve in order to get our first measurable snow fall is like waiting until July for the daffodils to bloom. It's all wrong.

My kids, who have spent most of their lives suffering in a practically winterless Arkansas, could not wait to get out and sled. When the snow had merely frosted the grass, there they were in sleds. We're supposed to get up to 5 inches.

The first snow of the year makes for ugly snowmen. Unless you let it snow a lot, the rolling of the large snowballs presses into the grass underneath the snow and it picks up all loose grass and the leaves you should have raked back in October. However, the novelty of it all overshadows the ugliness.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

To Own A Dragon

I like the book called, To Own A Dragon. Donald Miller discusses life without a father. It's a great complement to Wild At Heart by John Eldredge. The books are verydifferent angles at the same kind of topic - the longing for boys to be fathered.

I have especially recommended this book for single mothers raising sons on my Smart Single Parents Blog.

The following quote was quite penetrating for me, especially since I am a natural born introvert.

Relationships unlock certain parts of who we are supposed to be.

That's rich. Let it sink in. Lying within each of us is this package of something wonderful, beautiful, and powerful - and yet the key to unlocking that potential does not lie within ourselves, but within another person. This is part of the beauty of marriage, friendship, raising children, being part of a church, inv iting neighbors over for cards etc.

Relationships are the context in which the very best in us can be released. We are gold mines waiting to be mined. Unless we let people in, we may never bless the world like we were inteneded to.

Friday, December 29, 2006

New Years Is A Relief

I take the changing of the year seriously. For me, it is an opportunity to start over. It is opportunity to change. It is an opportunity for redemption, forgiveness, and healing.

Healing. Ah yes, healing. When I am beaten down, tired, and sore, it's a good time for the new year to come. When I am broken, I need the new year to show up.

The new year is so close. I can taste it. I can see it. I need it. I am grateful to God for creating the cycles of seasons, months, and days.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

2007 Has Got To Be Better

I was griping to my wife that 2006 was not exactly the greatest of years. Much of it centered on the death of my father and major life transitions. It was the most stressful year in many.

And then there is perspective. Comparison always gives perspective. I could compare my 2006 with someone whose life was perfect and I would feel worse. I could compare my 2006 with a kid who lost his parents to AIDS and lives in abject poverty. Then I might not feel like my stress is so bad.

Or, I could compare myself to myself and avoid the false sense of being OK and a false sense of guilt. So, that is what I am going to do.

Compared to 2006, I want 2007 to be better.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Koran Blog On Its Ways

I am blogging through the Koran in 2007. I have some posts called, "Before I Get Started," that are fun and insightful. Please check them out - #1 here and #2 here.

I hope you will join me in learning about the sacred book of the religion of Islam. Go ahead and mark your bloglines to this address.

Expanding Mission

So long as the church equates mission with evangelism, people will continue to suffer.

For many, perhaps most, churches of Christ, mission is evangelism. That's it. Everything else is secondary. Yes, hunger and war, environment and AIDS are important things, but those will be dealt with once they are all saved. Salvation first, social justice second.

This false dichotomy is not only misguided, the hierarchy hinders both efforts.When eternal salvation is parceled off from current salvation, the good news is ripped in half. Jesus did not with hold healing until people accepted Him as the savior of the world. He did not even require acceptance of eternal salvation in order to heal.

The church must do the same. Mission must become more than evangelism. Mission must become more than a portion of the gospel.

Gospel is good news. When someone is healed, that's good news. When a marriage is saved, that's good news. When emotions are healed, that's good news. When AIDS is treated, that is good news. When hungry people are fed, that is good news.

Yes, evangelism is important, but when it is the only definition of mission, then people are not going to get the help they need today. When the church does not help people with their needs today, why would people believe that they have anything for them for eternity?

Mission is more than evangelism, therefore, church should be structured that way.

Missions clusters should be organized to focus on a specufic cause. This is not the missions committee. This is more like small group cause clusters. Each group should do the following:

0. Meet regularly
1. Pick a cause (local hunger)
2. Research the problem (who, what, where, when etc)
3. Research what is already being done toward solving the problem
4. Develop a workable way toward contributing to the solution
5. Report findings to the congregation
6. Plan events that contribute to the solution

Topics ideas:

Hunger local
Hunger global
AIDS orphans
Mental Health Issues
Environment/global warming
Health food/exercise

Add your ideas here

Monday, December 25, 2006

Godfather of Soul Dies

James Borwn passed away on Christmas eve. He was 73. We have lost a man whose soul made a difference. He had a kind of presence that brouht freedom and a sense of the spontaneous to the music world. even if you weere not a big fan, you'll miss him. He was anything but boring.

Yahoo brief story here.

BBC photos here.

List of James Brown's hits.

James Brown had some influence.

James Brown Official Website.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Blogging The Koran

In 2007, I blog the Koran. My Koran blog is here.

I am a life long Christian who has tried to keep the the teachings of the Bible and follow the God of the Bible.

I also live in a nation that can no longer ignore or disrespect Islam. In an effort at listening, learning, and an attempt at honest inquiry, I will read through the Koran.

What I am doing:
1. Learning the sacred scriptures of a major world religion.
2. Appraoching the Koran from my current religious situation.
3. Sharing my personal insights, bias, and enlightenments from the study.

What I am not doing:
1. Proving the Koran wrong. I will not test or question the claims to authenticity of the writings.
2. Trying to cause trouble. I do not intendt to insult the religion of Islam. I apologize in advance if I do.
3. Trying to be converted to Islam. I have no intention changing religions.

Please join me in this investigation at Blogging the Koran.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Mystery of Celery

I have heard that you burn more calories eating celery than you ingest.

So, that being true, how many stalks of celery does one need to eat in order to disappear?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Many, Many Blogs

Take a look over to the right. Go ahead, it's OK. You'll notice that my blog list is growing. Feel free to browse my blogs.

I have started a political blog - 2008 For President - we'll see how that goes.

There is also a photoblog - Nature, Art, and Architecture - feel free to rip these photos - just give me credit.


Wednesday at 3:30 PM I will be done with my first semester of doctoral studies in Family Social Science.

As it stands, I figure I'll show up next semester and see what happens.

Monday, December 18, 2006

1st Christmas Without My father

A week from today is the first Christmas without my father. I am sad, but not for the reasons you might think. Yes, I miss him. But Christmas and my father never did mix very well.

Half of my Christmas memories of my father came after my parent's divorced while I was in college. That meant a split Christmas. It was not split evenly, though. Most of post-college Christmas time was spent with my mother and the host of people she invited over, mostly, but not always, comproised of relatives. Dad was alone in his apartment.

I would take a dive over there, to his lonely place, and we'd eat a pizza and watch TV - maybe talk politcs. Yes, it was time with my dad, but it wasn't what the wonder of Christmas was supposed to be. It was sad. It was this reminder that my parents were divorced - really divorced. My hopes that hrey might work things out were crushed with each visit. Those feelings of fading hope were most reinforced over Christmas at dad's place.

So, this Christmas I don't really miss any of that. I don't miss those sad times. I am sad this Christmas because of the emtpy spot where there are supposed to be happy memories with my father. There really aren't any. Then I look at my children. I have got to make sure that have something happy to remember when they look back on their childhood.

I must allow my past to inform my present in order to create a better future.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Church of Christ and Christmas

Thankfully a formerly popular Church of Christ christmas practice is waning. The practice was that of not celebrating Christmas.

There was a time when preachers in the Church of Christ would intentionally avoid preaching sermons out of the first few chapters of any gospel during the month of December. Elders would ban hymns honoring Jesus' birth. There was to no mention of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.
It almost sounds cultist to me to even think about it.

Of course, it was all based on pricinple and truth. Since the Bible itself does not mention a specific date of Jesus' birth, there was not cause for celebration. Until we unearthed (from the bible) the real birth date of Jesus, any celebration was wordly. Yes, the Church of Christ practice was to label the celebration of Jesus' birth as worldly. That's insanity.

The practice and critique was not based on the overcommercialization, excessive consumerism, or self-indulgence associated with the season. No, it was nitpicky, theological, molecules which were over-reacted upon and thus robbing families of something sacred and holy and beautiful.

But I say about the Churches of Christ, "We're bringing Christmas back, baby!"

Let's celebrate the birth of Jesus because he was born, because he came to be near us, because he become one of us, because he loves us to do such a thing, because the poetic beauty of the incarnation, because there is something into which we must be incarnated, because God is with us.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Welcome Back

I am back to blogspot. Thanks for following me here. I plan to be here for a while, so go ahead and change those links.

This new and imporved blogspot is so good it is like they read my mind. Knowing google, they probably did. I like everything about it.

So, please visit this site from now on.

Set this up on your bloglines or other feed reader site.


Latino baby boom next twist in redistribution of demography in New Orleans.

Click here for NY Times article.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Divine Lovectomy

Sometimes I try to look at the world and listen to the world as if I were not a Christian. It's a challenge for me since I have been a Christian since I was a fetus. But sometimes it really pays off.

This evening when I was listening to the radio, I gave it a try. There was this radio preacher preaching about love. He said something like this:

"You do the right thing in relationship with that person because you love God, even if you don't love that person..."

Wait a minute here. This is something I have heard before, but it always sounded so spiritual, so good. But tonight it hit me all wrong. This is opposite of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus did not say, "Love God and be nice to your enemies because God really likes it when you fake them out with fake love." No, Jesus said, "Love your enemies."

This radio preacher just gave his audience to hate their enemy, so long as they are nice to their enemy. He just gave his audience to reject the teachings of Jesus. He just gave his audience permission to disregard the second greatest command. When God said that Christians should love people, he did not say that so God would get the benefit from it. It was so that person would get th benefit from it. I think Christians sometimes got so interested in impressing God that caring about people gets lost.

Here's the deal, God loves that person just as much as he loves Christians, so we don't really get on God's good side by being nice to the person without investing love.

As I was pretending to be not a Christian, this preacher sounded like he was talking to his insiders club who have special access to the Divine and teaching them the tricks of how to hate people without them knowing it, or maybe how to get in good with God without really caring about people. Ugh, the more I think about it the worse it gets.

When I hear things like this the more I realize why Christianity has a bad name with so many people.

Space For Grief

One thing I have noticed since my father died is how many people have lost someone they love. People I have known for a long time are just now telling my about a loss they have experienced. When we get to talking about my father, they feel the freedom to talk about their mother, brother, child, or whomever that they lost.

This has happened so many times that I don't think it is just people trying to connect with me. I think, rather, that it is they are already more connected to me by virtue of this terrible loss. They feel that connection and there is freedom for them to grieve a little more. When I say grieve, I don't mean cry and get sad, though that can be involved. When I say grieve I mean they get this little chance to remember their loved one and honor that person and learn a little bit more about what it means that they are gone.

So much of this life allows no room for grief. It allows room for initial sympathy follwng a loss, but not grief. I spend most of my days feeling OK, or even good at times, but then there are times when I want to find a context that allows for grief. It's kind of hard to find one when you want it.

One friend of mine took me to breakfast. All he wanted was for me to talk about my father. That is a good friend. We concluded breakfast with him saying he wanted to hear more about my father. That is a good friend I tell you.

When I first heard the emerging church folks talking about friendship, I really thought it was a light weight thing to hang your hat on. Yes, friendships are important, but really, isn't church, faith, theology more important? Nope. Friendship is the new family. Friendship is the new church. I am finding out now more than ever that good friends are worth their weight in gold.

Friendships are space for grief - and of course a whole lot more.

Practical Postmodernism

I first leanred about postmodern philosophy in graduate school. I learned it in the context of doing therapy. So, it was both exciting and disturbing.

So, in therapy, what the philosophy of postmodernism does is to loosen the concept of diagnosis, depathologize people, normalize behaviors, contextualize to give meaning, and promote creativity for treatment. There is something very forgiving in applying postmodern philosophy to therapy.

And since all modernism had to offer was diagnosis and specific treatment (which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't) and there you are - good therapy. If the treatment worked, "good doctor," but if the treatment didn't work it was the patient's fault. Professionals were privileged and patients were seen as resistant if they didn't do what they were told. Yes, modernism did give us some terrific treatments for mental disorders, but it is sometimes a little bit like the tobacco companies doing no smoking ads. The same people creating the problem are offering the solution. It's not that mental health practitioners create mental disorders, but onthe other hand, before there was the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manul of Mental Disorders), people were worried or sad or up and down. Now they are Depressed, Bi-Polar, or have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I firmly believe that the mentla health indistry had pathologized some very normal human experience and then offered some terrific treatments. That's modernism at it very worst.

There are dangers in a postmodern view of therapy as well. If there is no psychopathology, then any and all behaviors, emotions, or thoughts are acceptable. Marginal or even dangerous treatment options are allowable. With pure postmodern philosophy, destructive beahviors will be supported as equal.

Where I find postmodernism useful is to create intellectual, emotional, or theological space for creativity. It's useful in the realm of pretend and imagination - as a tool to imagine that the current restraints don't exists so that the God-given creativity can be accessed. It is especially useful right now because modernism has had its terrible grip on people for so long that it offends their inherent sense of freedom. Postmodernism is good in that it can be used as a tool to help loosen up modernism, but as a philosophy to actualize in one's life, the end is quite terrible.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Logan's Run: A Story of Emergence

One year before Star Wars, there was Logan's Run. This 1976 Sci Fi thriller had us on the edge of our seats. With stunning costume & make-up, award caliber acting, and a soundtrack to die for, this movie rocks.

Despite its low budget and weak 20th century concepts of the 23rd century, the story actually gets some traction.

Logan is a Sandman, a cop, whose job it was to kill "runners." Runners were people trying to escape the enclosed world of perfection and pleasure. Logan is a true believer in the system, in the world he lives. He is dedicated to it. It was the perfect world, except for the fact that you die at age 30 - or take you shot at getting renewed throught the fire ceremony. On each poerson's hand was a implanted a jewel that served as a "Life Clock." When it blinks red, you are about to hit age 30.

Logan learns that people don't get renewed - they die in the ceremony (somehow the spectators don't realize these people are getting fried right before their eyes). Some of the people, as they approach 30 years old, do not want to be renewed, so they run. Through a series of events, Logan finds that he can no longer support the system. He becomes a runner.

There is a secret society of people who do not long to be renewed; they long for Sancturay. Sanctuary is this place they have heard of, have faith exists, and know that it is worth believing in since they know what "being renewed" really means.

Logan escapes with a local hottie and sees the sun for the first time. They swim buck naked in a lake. Then they realize their life clocks are no longer blinking red, but are clear. They aren't dying. Then Logan says, "We are free." He doesn't say that they are safe, far from it, but they are free.

Logan's best firned and fellow Sandman follows them out to Sanctuary. A fight ensues. Logan trying with all his might to convince his friend that he is free, too. But his friend refuses to believe him. But the fact is that no matter what his friend says, the fact that he left the city means he is free, whether he wants it or not. Logan beats the snot out of his friend, out of love. Logan's friend dies in his arms. Dead, but freed. Love, oh yes, they learn to love.

Logan gets missional.

"We're going back."

"We can't. They'll kill us."

"I have to tell them the truth."

So, Logan stumbles into freedom and learns a new way of living. Then he decides to take freedom back into the tyrrany. He is not avoiding culture, but he is not embracing it either. Logan engages culture, the culture he knows so well, and seeks to insert change into it.

Logan is rejected and punished, but never hedges on his faith. When Logan can't be turned, chaos reupts in the city. Perfection, as they knew it, could not contain the truth. The city was destroyed and everyone was freed.

And, if you're not hooked yet, look below and see what else you get.

And if you are still with me, casting was done by -and I kid you not - Jack Bauer.

Sinking In

As most of you know, my father passed away three weeks ago. I thought I'd be more up and down emotionally than I am. I mean, I thought I'd cry more, but rather, I am more easily distractable. Concentration is more difficult in conversations with people. For some reason, I can blog just fine, but conversation is tough. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that my computer doesn't care and people do, or at least can.

Anyway, today is one of those days when the thought, "Oh my God, my father is dead," has crossed my mind. It wasn't a sad feeling, but more like a micro-panic, like there is something I forgot to do and now I can't. The feeling doesn't match reality, but feelings seldom rely on reality. I've got my next trip to Minnesota slated and maybe that has something to do with it.

When death crosses your path, it's not a break or a time out. It's over. Yes, I will be with my father, but that reconnection will require either my death, his resurrection, or the second coming of Christ. There is no real certainty about the timing of any of these events.

I guess mentally I ran across one of those million little holes left in a person's life who loses someone they love to death.

Working With Word Press

Since I am in the process of moving over to Word Press, I am learning about blog loyalty. I have to learn a new dashboard, new widgets, and just get familiar with the new system. I like the "categories" option that comes in Word Press. I'm not smart enough to get Blogger to do this. There is a problem though. Now I have to assign categories to 460 blog posts all the wya back to June 2004 - the day of my blog birth.

I do think Word Press is better than blogger because it gives more versititly while remaining free. I may try to get a host for a fee. Webbleyou is looking good right now. But for now, I am turning over a new leaf - Word Press.

Moving Blog Soon

The time has come, as does with many blogger, to change my location. Within 1 week, I will be posting over here at Fajita's Blog. It is a Word Press address. I will be leaving Blogger soon.

The site is working and I will be double posting for a while, here at blogger and there at Word Press. When I make the total shift, I will have one final post here, and then continue my posting there. I hope you'll continue your loyal readership when I move.

Yes, I know it is a pain in the rear to change links and feeds and all. So, I thank you in advance for your patience.

Teens and Sex part II

Many of you responded to the firs tinstallment of "Teens and Sex" post. I wish I could tell you all with certaintly what the rank order is, but I can tell you some of the research done by Dr. Ann Meier of the University of Minnesota. She did a study called, "Adolescents' Transition To First Intercourse, Religiosoty, and Attitudes About Sex."

As a review, I asked people to rank order the following influences that deter teens from having sex:
  1. Parent's religiosity
  2. Teen's Religiosity
  3. Low opportunity for sexual contact (not dating)
  4. Teen's attitude about sex
  5. Being Female

OK, this might seem counterintuitive to some, but a teen's attitude about sex is a more powerful force than their religiosity in influencing having sex fot he first time. Before some of you get all bent out of shape and think that she means God doesn't matter, you ahve to unpack this a little.

Religiosity is seen to be influential in many teens' attitudes about having sex. So, you might say, then it is religion that prevents sex. Not so fast, buster. There are non-religious teens who have attitudes that influence them not to have. So, we cannot conclude that it is religion that accounts for it all. A religious teen with a favorable attitude toward having sex is more likely to ahve sex than a non-religious teen with a favorable attitude toward not having sex.

Now, religious teens are more likely to have an attitude about sex that influences toward abstinence, so religion is important, but attitude is more important. Religiosity does have an impact (more for females than for males), but not as much as attitude.

Conversely, when a relgious teen has sex, this study says that the teen does not lose their religion. What does change, for females (who beging with attitudes favoring abstinence more than boys) when they have sex is that their attitude about sex becomes more permissive. Boys attitudes after first sex do not change.

About opportunity: Dr. Meier's study revealed that greater the opportunity for sex the greater the chance that it will happen. Well, no kidding Sherlock, anyone could have digured that one out. However, when she defines opportunity, it includes long term dating relationships.

About parent's attitudes: When the parent's attitude about sex is expressed in policing their child's behavior's, it is not as import a factor as the parent's attitude influencing their child's own attitude. So, parent's might invest more of their energies in influencing their child's attitude and not as much on their behavior.

And one final question that popped into my head: If more teen males have sex than teen females, does that mean of the females who do have sex have more of it because there is just as much sex going on between the fewer of them?

A Little Something

If you are a regular here, you have noticed that in the past two weeks I have bumped up the number of posts on this blog and have begun linking more. There are linkers and ther are thinkers. I want to be both.

So, from now on, my posts that include lots of links, often times unrelated to each other, these posts will be entitled, "A Little Something."
Dan Kimball recalls, back inthe day, that the term "emerging church" started here.

YSMarko ponders the meaning of "emergent" here.

Wikipedia will give you a little something about the "emerging" "emergent" church here.
I guess me and John Alan Turner are not the only one debating the meaning of the term "evangelical. Look what the New York Times is talking about.
One stop shopping (not really shopping since it is all free) for Gospel of Judas information.
Attention church planters, here is a little something for you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Emerging right before our very eyes

Check out Communion of the Arts and the report of a new church emerging, and here and here. This is yet another exciting new chapter in the story of God.

Want to get a good definition/metaphor for emergent? Of come on, I know you do. Go here and get it. You reall y ought to read the post and then go back and read the above report about the new church emerging.
And, my uncle is blogging and has a good idea for what to do with the Enron dudes.

Some of everything

Curt Cloninger will be at the Woodbury Church of Christ in Woodbury, Minnesota April 27th. He's good and tickets are cheap.

Or, if you happen to be in Tulsa, go watch "Invisivble Children" at the Garnett Church of Christ. TONIGHT at 7 PM.

W gave us a huge, "What the...?" when he mentioned human/animal hybrids at his State of the Union address. Here is more about these hybrids.

News on the emerging church from ReligionLink. Thanks emergesque for that one. At the bottom of the article is a list of emeringing church bloggers, theologians and "diversifiers." This article is a good collection of resources. It even has vocabulary words at the very bottom. And, at the very, very, bottom is a list of articles.

Running With The Lion might be giving us something good as he starts this series of posts.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Teens and Sex

Rank the following factors in teens deciding not to have sex (rank of 1 means it is the most influential factor and rank of 5 means least influential) Feel free to explain yourself.

Parent's religiosity
Teen's Religiosity
Low opportunity for sexual contact (not dating)
Teen's attitude about sex
Being Female

The Last Christian Generation?

Josh McDowell's new book out is called, The Last Christian Generation. I have read the first chapter. You can too right here. I like Josh and respect the work he does with youth. He does have a way of connecting that is powerful. So, I write this critique as a fan, not an enemy.

I think that he does have his finger on the pulse of the emerging culture, but I wonder if he is maybe a little too dramatic with his assessment of it. I don't think he is really trying to use scare tactics, but with the numbers he uses and the way he uses them, I kind of wince every now and again. De facto, he is using scare tactics. The way he portrays the emerging culture in no way, shape, or form leads his readers to find much good in it, nor does it motivate engaging the culture. And if he does at all, it is counteracted by his critique.

My concern is that his lens is so evangelical that the depth of spirituality inthe emering culture is of no value to him. A mistake, in my opinion.

No, the emerging culture is not evalgelical Christianity. I think we call all agree on that. However, does the fact that the emerging culture's divergence from evangelical Christianity necessitate all of the alarm? One would have to assume that all is well and good with evangelical Christianity to have alarm for that reason. And, my friends, all is not well with evangelical Chrstianity.

Despite some of the things McDowell addresses (which need to be addressed), the emerging culture has some significant advantages as well. The emerging (postmodern) culture is willing to self-critique and willing to be wrong. OK, they have their sacred cows as well, but they are fewer, I believe, and certainly different. There is openness, willingness to talk, technological savvy, a love for story, a love for mystery and question, a skepticism of certainty (this is an asset and a detriment), and lots opf the other things that the evangelical world has much, much less of to offer.

I wonder if McDowell might do better in engaging with the culture AS WELL AS critiquing it.

There is at least as much good to be found in a postmodern world as there is in a modern world. That is not to exalt a philosophy to a religious or spiritual level, but let's be pragmatic - if there is good it is worth engaging. No philosophy is going to be the Kingdom of God in this world. Philosophy is too small to contain the Divine.

I do not believe that this is the last Christian generation. In fact, I wonder if there ever was a Christian generation - in America or anywhere. To speak of a generation being of one religion or sliver of religion is just too overstated. I think to equate evangelicalism and Christianity, too, is to make a significant mistake.

Fainlly, every person has the chance to be a Christian person, unique to their God-given creative senses and limitations - even if they are not so evangelically inclined.

40 Days of Fat & Commercial Song

It is that time of year again when men and women who have accrued certain habits and the consequences therein join together for one cause. They unite in the war against fat. For those of you who are not familiar with 40 Days of Fat, it is not merely a "get healthy" physically initiative, but it carries with it a "get healthy" spiritually component. So, 40 Days of Fat encourages people to lose weight, exercise, and get fit with dollar amounts attached to successes. For example, "I will give $1.00 (or whatever amount) per pound lost(miles jogged, minutes worked out, tennis matches played, belt/dress size reduced etc) to _________"

Starting May 1st, 2006, the next incarnation of 40 Days of Fat will begin right here at Straying With The Truth.

On this go around I am supporting church planting. I told you in an earlier post about a friend and colleague of mine who is investigating church planting. His name is Greg Brooks and he is married to Carolyn Brooks. They are working with this organization and this church to go further into investigating God's will for their church planting future.

I would like you to join me in this effort. All 40 Days of Fat posts will appears on this blog. Whereas once upon a time I was in blog expansion mode, I am not in blog consolidation mode.
I am sure many of you are curious about what song is being played on the Chase credit card commercials where the lyrics take the singer through various stages of life following the kinds of credit cards you can get for that stage fo life.

The band is named Five For Fighting. The song is called "100 Years." The CD is entitled, "The Battle For Everything."

The cd is here.

There, now you can quit wondering what that song is.

House For Sale

I really liked this Easter post from the Archbishop of Canterbrury found in The Anglican Communion.

And now, about that house for sale. Would someone please buy my house?

Finally, want a free book? The first 50 to respond are promised Scot McKnight's new book "Praying With The Church."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Can You Speak Emergent?

Slice of Laodicea is going to give you a little help in speaking emergent.

Are you an emergent Bad Boy? Are you a Bad Girl of emergent? Find out here. Hint: Bono and C.S. Lewis are in the crosshairs.

Emergent NO is also Spiritual Formation NO. Hmmm.

More frustration with Stetzer. Stetzer yes, categories no.

And finally, if you want to know where to discuss the DaVinci Code, Stephen Shields links wildly here.

Stepfamilies Don't Blend - they stew

Not only am I marriage and family therapist, I am a stepson. Stepson is a strange and unusual title to hold. I don't like it, but it's growing on me.

My transition into stepsonhood was later in life (meaning not while I was a child or adolescent). My parents divorced when I was 21 years old. I was far from home when it all went down, so I was insulated, in a sense, from watching the thing end. However, I had seen the slow death of the marriage over several years.

In the 10 years after my parents' divorce, my mother met a man who is a pretty terrific guy. They toggled between friendship and romantic friendship over the years. Both my mother and her friend limped out of their previous marriages and were in no condition to remarry - so they didn't.

But in 2001, after 9-11 and after a man at church asked my mother out on a date, my mother's friend asked her to marry him and she said, "Yes." I was privileged to officiate the wedding ceremony. What a treat. At the same time, I was helping to initiate a new kind of relationship between me and this man. He was no longer my mother's friend, he was my stepfather. Weird. I didn't want a stepfather. It wasn't personal, geez, the guy could have been Billy Graham and I still woundn't have wanted a stepfather.

The second Christmas into their marriage, my mother indicated to me that his son had sent her a Christmas card addressing her as, "mom." The indication was that I should do the same thing with her new husband. I didn't want to do that, so I didn't. I still addressed him by his first name in writing. She was trying to blend the family, but I was not interested in blending. It had been two years, but that was far too fast for me.

Fast forward to yesterday. It was my brother's 40th birthday, so the family traveled to Indianapolis to celebrate his birthday. So, it was me and my family, my brother and his family, my sister, my mother and her husband. It was fine. As usually happens when the family gathers, pictures were taken (mom with children---my family---brother's family---mom with grandkids etc). Finally, my stepfather was going to snap a picture of "the family." Then a neighbor strolled on by and asked my stepfather, "Would you like to get in the picture?" She offered to snap the photo.

As if it were supposed to happen, we all said, "yeah sure," and he came into the picture. It was the first family picture he ever in (maybe with the exception of an obligatory wedding photo).

My stomach got a weird and almost nervous feeling. In that photo, my stepfather occupied the place that had always been the place of my father. Not that we took a bunch of family pictures over the years, that's not what I mean, but moreso the emotional sense that that was his place.

As most of you know, my father passed away 3 weeks ago. So, when my stepfather literally and symbolically "stepped into the picture," at the same time that my biological father no longer even had the chance to be in the picture, it was a weird moment.

Part of the weirdness of the moment had to do with the normalcy I felt. "This is really the place where my life is," I thought to myself, "and I am OK with that."

My stepfather does not replace my father - that is an impossibility. He does now have a place in the family, so far as I am concerned. It's been five years. That ain't blending, my friends, that is stewing.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bible Belt Emergence?

Joneboro Sun
15 April 06
Chris J. Gonzalez

What happens when religion no longer assists a person’s spirituality, but instead, gets in the way of it?

This question may confuse some readers and outrage others. Some might simply scream, "Blasphemy!" However, for many readers this is the question that means most to them. For people comfy and cozy in their church life, this conversation might seem meaningless (though it will not be), but for spiritual people who feel the constraints of denominational, organizational, and rule-laden religiosity, this conversation might be what brings hope to their situation.

Let me ask the question again in a little bit different way: What happens when Bible Belt Evangelicalism and the loyal mainline opposition leave little room for the emerging spirituality which is experienced by hundreds, if not thousands, of Northeast Arkansans? What happens when spirituality means more than not drinking, not smoking, and not cussing? What happens when spirituality is less concerned with anti-liquor, anti-gay, anti-abortion and is more concerned with social justice, creative expression, holistic spirituality, and theological discovery? What happens when a new kind of spirituality emerges that is equally repulsed by religion that condemns culture and religion that gets too cozy with culture?

Could it be that there is new spiritual wine in Northeast Arkansas, but no new religious wineskins? I say yes.

How do I know this? In conversations I have with people, the topic of religion and spirituality keeps coming up (not on my initiative) and there is a certain sound of discontent in their voice. They feel a sharp contrast between what they sense deep inside and what they are fed at church, programmed at church, and asked to do at church. The church meeting is no longer adequate to satisfy their spirituality. They want more, but not more of the same.

In conversations I have with teens I sense a deep spirituality, but also an intense desire to ditch their church. How can this be? It might be tempting to conclude that these rowdy teens need to grow up and get with the program. The problem is that year after year, teens like these graduate right out of their youth group and right out of church. So, that could mean these teens never really do grow up (a simplistic and insulting conclusion), or it could mean that there is something happening in our culture that the church is either blind to or unwilling to engage.

What many of these people are looking for is a religious experience that is more interested in difficult questions than simple answers, more attracted to social justice than social posturing, more organic than institutional. They are done with the certainty that lurks in every single corner of the religious world. Rather, they seek to enter the mystery of a God whose creativity goes well beyond a mere human’s capacity to box it in. They want their time and money to go to feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and lifting the poor more than they want to build larger buildings and perpetuate a denomination.

They have had it with hierarchies that oppress people, authority structures that gather enormous power to the elite few, and a church that is almost completely contained within the walls of expensive buildings. They are not interested in slick marketing called evangelism, exciting entertainment called worship, or programmed social events called fellowship. They want authentic friendships, meaningful conversations, mystical (but not weird) worship experiences, and service opportunities.

So, what happens when the available religious structure is unable to carry the emerging spiritual energy of the people? Sadly, the eventual result is a city full of religious museums, which used to be church buildings, marking a time in history when religion used to matter.

Northeast Arkansas, there is a new kind of Christian in your neighborhood. So I wonder, do you have the courage to create a new kind of church?

Related national story here. Scroll down to "A New Kind of Christianity?"

1000 person world

Spiritual Conversations ponders if the world were a village of 1000 people.

Post-Stetzer Emergence

As the emerging church emerges, people are doing their best to get a handle on the thing. Ed Stetzer is one of them. Stetzer has created three categories for emegent-types. Below is my poorly done summary of his categories:

Relevants: Same old church thing with a new church package.

Restructuralists: New church structure for the same church old thing - house church.

Revisionists: Re-thinging the thing.

Stetzer is getting a little nervous about the "Re-thingers."

I like Stetzer. His book on church planting in the postmodern age is informative and helpful in ways, for new church planters. So, I am a Stetzer fan. At the same time, Stetzer makes an errror in his analysis/descritption of the emerging church.

It seems Stetzer, as well as other critics, cannot resist the temptation to view the emerging church through the lens of denominationalism. They are trying so hard to make the emerging church an established denomination and then critique it that way. Read their stuff and ask if they are talking about the emerging denomination or not. They are and that is the problem with their assessments and conclusions.

Look at how Stetzer has already created three branches of the emerging chruch denomination. Look at how critics complain that the leaders of emergent do not have on coheresnt doctrine. Yes, complain about denominations not having that, but not the emerging church. To make that complaint it to completely miss what is happeing here.

The emerging church is happening inside and outside of denominations. It is happening in house churches, in coffee shops, in conversations, and in the hearts of people who don't give a rip about church at all. Thus, emergence is going to appear different in different places. It has to. That is the nature and beauty of postmodernism. Sameness is not a requirement. In fact, too much sameness is cause for skepticism.

The emreging church is not an organization, it is a phenomenon that is spontaneously occuring in many unrelated places. Emergent Village, the organization/gathering/group/friendship, is merely a way of organizing to make any kind of sense of it, to find out where this phenomenon is occurring, and a way to perhaps offer some guidance to this thing that they, and no one else, can or should control. Look to the Tall Skinny Kiwi for more on understanding emergence the phenomenon.

So, if you view the emerging church as simply one more crack at protestantism, the critics have got their critiques and categoires pretty much spot on. However, if the emrging church is a phenomenon, a movement of the kingdom of God which is not under the rule, control, authority, colonization, influence of organizations, denominations, or people in general, then the critics are going to have to accept the fact that what we are dealing with is something new and too young to properly critique - certainly with old categories of criticism.

Community Development 101

Larry James will change your mind right here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Below is an e-mail survey I received today. Can you please tell me what the author of this survey is trying to get at?

I’m wanting to do some simple research and I want to see how far this can go via the internet. I have the addresses of a couple of hundred preachers – if you have even one that I do not and that person responds and has even one – this could go qui t far.

Here is what I need: 1. Answer the questions below. 2. PLEASE Forward this to all the preachers on your e-mail list. Do it now. 3. Let me know if you want the results. (respond to

I am sending this out on 3/31/06 and will accept responses until 4/22/06. Let’s see how many preachers we can get to respond. The results could be very interesting.

1. What is the primary translation of the Bible you preach out of?

2. Does the congregation where you preach have pew Bibles? If “yes” what version??

3. How many adult classes does the congregation there have?

4. What Bible study material do your adult classes use:
a. Just the text.
b. A quarterly type material (which one? GA, 21st, Lambert, other)
c. “Book” type studies.
d. Video materials.
e. PLEASE answer for each adult class.

5. What is your name?

6. What is the name/city/state and Sunday morning attendance number of the congregation where you serve?

Thank you and may God richly bless your work.

And now, for something really different, the flea circus. (HT Believing Thomas)

Asking "Why?" and then looking to the Bible

Malcolm Gladwell, thoughtful author and columnist, reviewed the book, "Why? by Charles Tilly. Since Malcolm went ahead and read the book, now I don't have to. He boils down the book to this:

We employ four kinds of explanations, he says: conventions (social formulae), stories (common sense narratives), codes (legal formulae) and technical accounts (specialized stories). And we get into trouble when we use one kind of reason in a context where another is necessary. (I added all of the special effects here)

Now, let's take a look at Wade Hodge's brief review of Scot McKnight's categories of viewing scripture below:

Sacramental: the Scripture leads us to the Beyond as we read it; heavily shaped by community; not always true. (Marcus Borg) Clarification: “true” in this statement refers to historical accuracy.

Inerrant/Infallible: the Bible is never wrong about anything (science, too); always true.

True: you simply confess the Bible to be true and don’t care to say any more than that.

True Christian story, still ongoing: you see Scripture as Story, and it is God’s true Story, and the Scripture prompts the re-use of that Story in our world today in various ways. (N. T. Wright)

True in matters of faith and practice: the Bible is true on these issues, but can be wrong about science or history or other matters.

Infallible, with Tradition: Scripture is infallible; God’s Word, but it is in need of authorized interpretation and the Church’s Tradition is the work of God.

Historical origins: you see the Bible to be the historical foundation of the Church; it is simply historical; not inspired in the traditional sense that it lifts it out of the norm of writing; Scripture is as human as anything we experience, even if God uses it to lead the Church today.

Let's go back to what Gladwell says is the problem in knowing why? He said:

And we get into trouble when we use one kind of reason in a context where another is necessary.
  • Don't we get into trouble when we believe the Bible to written in one and only one genre?
  • Don't we get into trouble when we ask the Bible questions it isn't even trying to answer?
  • Aren't we skating on thin ice when we believe the Bible was written for me in my time and my social context in my language?
  • Can we really let anyone get away with saying, 'it says what it means and means what it says?'

What we have in the postmodern world that we did not have much of in the modern world (physics, sociology, politics, religion etc) is a deepening awareness that all of life is contextualized within something else - something that, in way or another, is fleeting. Furthermore, not only is everything within a context of something else, which has implications for meaning, everything is context for something else. I am your context and you are mine. I contribute to your meaning and you to mine. And even beyoond that, there is mystery. Where intelligence in modernity strove to eliminate mystery, intelligence in postmodernity seeks out thos places where mystery exists.

Now, certainly there is the construct of power which usually imposes itself and forces its desired meaning here and htere, but where there is power asserting itself, there is usually a countercurrent working in the opposite, or perhaps just another, direction.

This is important for understanding the Bible because denominations are "distinct" because they, as a collective who agree to support similar views, view the Bible differently than each other. They have to do this or else they would not know who is in and who is out.

With the advent of the emerging church, the denominational power structure is (very slowly) feeling the pressure of the emerging countercurrent, which amazingly does not rely upon one or even a few ways of interpretting the Bible. Now, should emergent become a denomination, which some fear that it it will, then there will be a power problem again and they wil have to find ways to figure out who is in and wh is out. That just can't happen. My point is this: emergent makes space for new and different ways to interpret that same Bible and there doesn't need to be conflict in disagreement.

Finally, and I know that this is getting long and boring and I am on a blogmania roll here, it is important to learn how other people interpret the Bible because there is going to be a whole lot more understanding when we know the rules everyone is playing by. You can't just play ball. You have to learn basketball, baseball, cricket, polo, ping pong etc.

The Gospel Of Judas

I'm not going to write anything about this Gospel of Judas, but I would like to share with you what I am reading about it.

John Alan Turner takes an admittedly novice, but thoughtful, view of the TGOJ.

Messy Christian takes a journalistic perspecitve and wrote a piece about TGOJ in her publication. She actually interviewed someone invovled in the National Geographic research.

Scot McKnight of Jesus Creed takes a scholarly perspective starting here, and then going on to here, here, and here.

Elaine Pagels of Princeton offers another scholarly perspective.

Finally, Out of the Depths is just a little disappointed with TGOJ.

Does the church really need to emerge?

So, what do you think, is all of this talk of emergence really necessary? Does there need to be change in the church? Isn't Christianity right where it needs to be?

So, I was talking to a female teen (TeenZ) one day and here is kind of how the conversation went.

TeenZ: I gave my life back to God, you know.

Me: What'd you do that for? Trying to sound almost as if I were opposed to the idea.

TeenZ: Felt like it.

Me: Ok

TeenZ: Because I do whatever I feel like doing.

Me: Cool, how did it happen?

TeenZ: I went out into a field, looked up at the sky and I did it.

Me: Wow, right out there with no one else around.

TeenZ: You probably think it doesn't count becuase it wasn't in a church and I didn't get baptized. You don't have to get baptized you know.

Me: It counts.

TeenZ: I hate church and I hate my youth minister.

Me: Ok.

TeenZ: I play in the praise band at church, but not because I want to show off. Too many people show off. I hate it.

Me: Yeah, fakers are no good.

TeenZ: No one can answer my questions. They always say, "read the Bible." That's not good enough.

Me: What questions do you have?

TeenZ: Where did God come from? Do you know that? I'd really like to know. Don't tell me he always existed because how could that be?

Me: Wow, I really don't...

TeenZ: And how do I know the Bible isn't just a bunch of made up stories? I could have written them.

Me: Well...

TeenZ: How do we know all of the other religions are wrong and only Christianity is right? What if God just chose a different way to talk to Hindus and Jews and Buddhists?

Me: Do you have any easy questions?

TeenZ: Smiles and chuckles a little.

Me: I don't have any answers to any of your questions. I knew everyone else she had asked gave her pat answers that insulted her questions. I wasn't about to do that. I wanted her to know I didn't know.

TeenZ: Looks at me with anticipation.

Me: Look, I don't know about all this who is right and who is wrong stuff. I can't tell you who is going to Heaven, whatever Heaven is, and I can't tell you who is going to Hell, whatever Hell is. All I know is that Heaven is probably the place I want to go after I die.

TeenZ: Yeah, me too.

Me: Cool. You know, I'm not too concerned about being right about everything. All I know is that if I follow God in the same kinds of ways that Jesus did, then I am probably doing something on the right path.

TeenZ: What?

Me: Salvation is not the thing you find when you get all cleaned up and find Jesus. Salvation is seeking Jesus. It is following God in the same way Jesus did. Salvation is more like a direction than a one-timer, or perfection.

TeenZ: My youth minister tells me I don't get it.

Me: I'm sorry for that.

TeenZ: He's always on my case because I don't do everything he thinks I ought to do.

Me: Aren't you glad he's not in charge of your relationship with God?

TeenZ: Yes.

So, I ask you again, does the church need to emerge?

Good stuff on blogs

Preacher Mike addresses homosexuality here.

Brian McLaren has moved over here.

Radical Congruency made me feel good about myself.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

At the speed of emergence

If you ask my mother, not only is the emerging church emerging too quickly, but it is emerging in the wrong direction. (So mom, do you really read my blog :-) ?)

If you ask me, what in the world are we waiting for? Let's get to it. Wherever this thing is going, let's get going before the church ends up like the survivors on LOST - isolated, scared, alone, bickering with each other - and sometimes really comfy with this little bit of power in the lonely forgotten place.

So what is the speed of emergence?

Some people have been emerging for 20 years, while others are just now sensing a shift in the wind.

From one perspective you might say the emerging church has run amuck with blogs, books, conferences, podcasts, personalities, worship innovations, and appearances on Larry King.

From another perspective you might say that it has barely scratched the surface. For all the talk of a deep ecclesiology, there is little movement in denominational cooperation, evangelicals are still carving out little fiefdoms, and a little handful of people who are in these denominations have caught the wind of emergent and it has only intensified their frustration. It's only a conversation for crying out loud.

Only the crazies who have gone off and planted their own churches have the freedom to emerge. Oh, and there is the handful of leaders who have lead their congregation through the painful controtions of emerging from within.

So here is my question, as the church emerges, is it going too fast or too slow, or (Deep, refreshing drink of Diet Dr. Pepper (which I will not have until Easter)) just right ? - ahhhhh

Oh, what ever am I going to do?

As many of you know I am entering into the doctoral program in Family Science at the University of Minnesota this fall. Can't wait. But I have this terrible problem: what area of research do I persue while I am there?

Family Policy?
Interpersonal Relationship Research?

Do I take psychological perspective or sociological perspective?

In light of my recent blog post, should I try to join this professor in her research on religion and the transition to adulthood?

I have a serious problem: I can do more than I can do. Wait a minute, that didn't sound right. I like doing more than I can fit into my life. There, that says it better. Every 'yes' is 'no' a hundred times. That is so hard for me.

Something's abrew

I get this way sometimes. I feel something inside of me - an angst - that is brewing, bubbling up. It feels like fear or anxiety, but I know that there is some meaning to it. It's a bother that won't go away.

I have been thinking about my children as of late, and maybe that is it. They are 6 & 8 years old. One of my fears is that they will grow up going to church and then dump it when they head off for college. Please understand that this is not a commentary on their character, nor is it a commentary on culture. Well, almost not a commentary on culture; it is a commentary on church culture.

When my children realize that some of what the church does is sinful, what are they going to do with that?

When my children ask me why no women are doing anything at worship service, what can I say?

When they realize that it is weird that at school there are children of various races, but there isn't at church, what answer do I have to offer?

When my children realize that time and money are mostly used to perpetuate a denominational structure and little is used to help the poor, what will I say?

Or worse yet, what if my children never ask these questions?

Westerhoff at Children's Spiritulaity Conference

June 4-7 in Chicago there will be a Children's Spirituality Conference. John Westerhoff to speak.

Thanks Jonny Baker

Jonny Baker, famous for his many worship tricks, points us to a great open source site for sharing worship-like videos.

Download their stuff, upload yours.

Monday, April 10, 2006

How To Read A Book

Why do you suppose I am reading a book entitled, "How To Read A Book" ??????????????????

When Command #1 Comes To Blows With Command #2 - Emergent To The Rescue

Command #1 - Love God
Command #2 - Love people

It's so simple that it is almost ridiculous. When Jesus went and boiled it all down for people, he said it like this: "Love God and love people." He then went on to affirm that this has always been God's will when he said, "The law and the prophets hinge on this."

It's all about loving God and people and it always has been. Furthermore, it always will be.

Maybe when people get this right, we'll get some more revelation. The problem is that religious people have found ways to pretend like they are doing this while simultaneously not doing it.

Let me overstate it like this: Conservatives will defend God against people while liberals will defend people against God. Conservatives say, "We will obey God rather than man," way, way too much. Liberals will cater to, coddle, and cuddle people to the nth degree of political correctness bouyed with their self-righteous "socially just" platform.

More often than not, Christians take Jesus' explanation of God's great desire - to love and be loved - and make it into a competing dualism.

I will use 3 examples from the conservative side which are from my experience to make my point.

Example #1: In my fellowship, the Churches of Christ, the use of insturments during worship is banned. Why? Because that's the way God wants it and culture be damned. Although there is significant softening on this point in some locations, it is still the rule.

Now think about it for a minute. When I said culture be damned, I was not overstating it. To many Church of Christ people, to worship God with instruments is to offer up "strange fire" like Nadab and Abihu and the same punishment they received (death) is due to those who worship with instruments. So, here you have a people willing to withhold salvation from other people based on this weird, sectarian issue.

Why? It is their love for God that gets them there. They do not want to offend God and it does not matter how many people they offend in accomplishing their goal. They are willing to defile the second command in order to accomplish the first. Is this what Jesus meant?

Change the religion to Islam and what do you get?

Example #2: In Churches of Christ and in many other denominations, women who are perfectly capable of leadership are banned from leadership. Again, this rule is rooted in a love for God over (not with) a love for people. OK, sure, there are verses in the Bible that, when read as if they were written for contemporary times, would lead one to believe that women are not allowed to lead. Granted. One the other hand, there are a lot of verses and examples in the Bible that don't jibe with those gender exclusive verses. Conservatives err on the side of trying so hard not to offend God that they can offend half the people in the world without any probelm whatsoever. They ahve become experts at compartmentalizing God's will.

God never said, "love me and hate (insult, demean, exclude, etc) people," but when you look around at the church you see that it acts as if that was what God said.

Example #3: About homosexuals. OK, if the first two issues were a no-brainer for you, then this one is more likely to be a challenge. When it comes right down to it, worship style and gender are arguably not moral issues. Few are the people who do not attach a moral value to some perspective on homosexuality.

It seems like this issue forces one to choose to love God or love the homosexual, but not both. And please, let's not be trite and bring in the "love the sinner and hate the sin" crap here. I have yet to see a person who says this actualy capable of pulling it off - at least not very well. People on the receiving end of this statement rarely feel loved and I don't know of one who does.

OK, let's assume that the conservatives are right on this one and homosexuality is a sin against God. Then how do we go about loving homosexuals as God commanded? How do we honor God and homosexuals at the same time?

While you're hurintg yourself over that one, let's go a little further and consider the other side of morality here. There is a moral component to the reponse to homosexuals. This applies to anything (instruments, women, war, politics, lying, abortion etc) where people are involved. The homosexuals are not the only ones dealing with a moral issue here. There is a morality embedded within the attitude of the responder that runs as deep as the one to whom repsonse is given. For example, it is immoral to be unjust to a gay person because he is gay.

It is immoral to be unjust for any reason. It would be immoral to punish men for their persistent refusal to breastfeed their own children. OK, that one came out of left field, but imagine a militant group of La Leche Leaguers came to political and theological power in governemnt and the church and demanded equality, requiring men to breastfeed their children despite their obvious physical inabilities. Imagine these people even jacked up their demands with a scripture or two. Whatever would men do? Being ousted from their positions of power, they would beg for mercy. They would cry out to be loved - in pissed off manly ways, of course, but they would appeal to the second greatest command, not the first.

OK, I am drifting a bit from my point, so let's come back. When Christians say, "Love God and love people," they have already said more than they are capable of doing. Woe to the person who believes he is doing it well, for that person is a dangerous person.

This is the reason why I so much like the efforts of the emerging church. It is a new way of approaching God and people. The fact that the emerging conversation gets so much criticism from the right (too liberal and catering to humanism) and the left (too conservative and catering to evangelicals) may be similar to why Jesus got the same criticism. No, emergent isn't perfect like Jesus, but they are willing to be revolutionary, risky, and pay the price for their efforts. The emerging church is willing to re-examine all assumptions about what it means to love God and love people. Some of these assumptions will remain as they are indeed valuable, some will be fine tuned and tweaked, while others will be completely deconstrcuted and left for waste, hauled out to the dump, and never remembered again.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Emerging with legs

If the emerging church is to be more than an historical anomaly, then the following must happen in denominations, associations, and congregations:

1. Proliferation of organic faith friendworks. What this means is that Jesus followers, whether they are contained within a denomination or not, must develop networks of friends who are different than they are and truly be their friends. Engage with these friends in peer, non-hierarchical, unforced conversations about faith - engage with them in meals, wathcing "24," and child care swaps - engage with them in service, sacrifice, and generosity.

2. Differentiate the Religious from the Godly - and persue the latter. I have yet to see an organized church do this well. In the few places where the talk of confronting religion for the sake of God is allowed, the conversation goes well until the topic nears a sacred cow. It is at that instant when religion reasserts itself and stifles any and all progress made. Many times, just by the mere fact that the sacred cow was for a moment in play, the religious backlash is so fierce that the institution is set backwards rather than forwards. For this to happen on more than a personal level, savvy, courageous, and humble leaderships is required.

3. Overhaul the definition of the follwing word: CHURCH. If the word, "church," is not already an irreversibly contaminated word, then it needs massive redefining. It must no longer be synonymous with building, social club, networking opportunity, the saved, the elect, the elite, organization, and institution, and must come to mean people who love large in service, generosity, inclusion, goodness, and hope. They must do unbelievable things - things that pleasantly confuse the irreligious and make possible the legitimacy of Jesus in their lives.

4. Non-denominational emergents must make space for denominational emergents (and pre-emegents). One of the criticisms of emergent types is that they have this little club, this fledgling movement that is self-proclaimed as exclusive, superior, and enlightened. Frankly, I think most of the criticism is more rhetorical than substantive. Anyone can find a bad example and generalize it to the whole. It's a decent rhetorical technique, but it is not all too honest. At the same time, emergents need to do a better job with their deep ecclesiology - blurring the lines between denominations without writng them off. Their inclusions must be more than rhetorical as well. This will only be done with skill and patience and through mutual meaning-making between peoples from various groups and identifications.

5. Denationalize Christianity. I will address the American church only since it is all the experience I have. Americans have the uncanny ability to recognize opportunity, colonize it, own it, defend it, and make the bar on membership high with many requirements. I short, American aaccumulate power and utilize it to the their own best advantage. The most amazing aspect of this process is that it is mostly, if not completely, invisible to the people doing it. Americans have done this to Christianity. In some denominations and congregations, it is literally impossible to determine where the religion ends and the patriotism begins (or is it the other way around?). However, in others it is not completely overt, which almost makes it worse. Democracy, capitalism, free market, consumerism, individualism are highly valued in most American churches. None of these are the values of the church found in the Bible, in history. These are American values. It's not that they are all bad values, but rather to attribute them to God's will is overstasted and creates unnecessary barriers between people.

More could be said on these 5 points and more points could be added. In fact, feel free to do so.

Friday, April 07, 2006

My Generation - Emergent

I have been listening to the music from my father's funeral - 60's and 70's rock music. There is much to learn about that generation from the music they produced and became popular. There was rebellion to be sure, but there was also this sense of freedom bursting forth out of the restraints of the given context. As crazy and dangerous as much of it was, it took a certain degree of courage to break free with such force.

It must have been an exciting time to live in the 1960's. They must have felt like they were on the verge of something great - even if they didn't know what it was.

Fast forward to emergent. What is happening in the emerging church mirrors the tone and mood of the 1960's, only within theological realms. However, there is one major difference.

The emerging church that I know realizes that it needs the older generation.

"Don't trust anyone over 30," was the mantra once upon a time. Right now emergent seeks to learn from those over 30 while at the same time not being ruled by them. There is a sense of context for emergent - an ancient-future awareness that informs its theology and helps to hedge against the grand self-absorption of the 60's. Oh yes, there is an exaggerated sense of self-importance that wigles out here and htere and every now and again, but that is not the main thrust.

What I really like about emergent is that it is seeking to follow God in the way that they see Jesus following God. That means service. That means revolution. That means respecting no institution over people. That means fearless challenges to repressive authority. That means spiritual practices. That means religion is servant, not master. That means morality is what I do as opposed to what I can get others not to do. Faith is lived more than spoken.

I want to see the the kingdom of God penetrate each and every denomination, congregation and community in the world. I want to see Jeus have a good name in the world - the Jesus that seemed to obvious to Ghandi. I want to be swept up into a community of people for whom this kind of love is the normal flow of their day. I want invest my time and money into more than bricks and denominational self-preservation. I want to be friends with people who are not like me. I want to learn how to respect cultural differences rather than eliminate cultural barriers.

I want to love like Jesus did.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Why I'm Only Sad

Top 10 reasons why I am only sad (not angry, bitter, resentful, lonely, etc)

10. I know my father is free from his weak and tired body
9. He is likely the newest drummer in God's celestial praise band (OK, cheesy)
8. 12 years ago I reconciled with my fahter
7. I got to say good-bye
6. I got to be there when he passed
5. I got to crack jokes at his funeral
4. I have bonded with my brother and sister
3. I know I'll see him again
2. I am having tons of good memories
1. I now have the coolest funeral soundtrack ever and I listen to it every day

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Best Funeral Soundtrack Ever...Period.

OK, so who thinks of funerals having soundtracks?

In 2002, my father was hospitalized and we decided at that time we needed a healthcare directive in case he were ever to need someone to make decisions for him. In the healthcare directive, there were funeral questions, which were kind of weird to work through at the time, but last week, it was essential to dealing with making decisions for my father's healthcare and eventually his funeral.

Anyway, my father specifically requested rock-n-roll music at his funeral - a live band if economically feasible. The Rolling Stones were booked, so we went with a compilation of classic rock. Here it is:

Midnight Rider - Allman Brothers
In A Gaddad Da Vida - Iron Butterfly
Magic Carpet Ride - Steppenwolf
Joy To The World - Three Dog Night
Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin
Roundabout - Yes
My Generation - The Who
The Letter - ??????????
Bad To The Bone - George Thorogood
You Can't Always Get What You Want - Rolling Stones
Can't Get No Satisfaction - Rolling Stones
Born To Be Wild - Steppenwolf
Momma Told Me Not To Come - Three Dog Night
Black and White - Three Dog Night
Celebrate - Three Dog Night
Wild Thing - The Troggs
It's Only love - ZZ Top

Monday, April 03, 2006

Last Laugh

That last thing I know for sure my father heard before he died was the follwoing joke, at which he laughed pretty hard. (Warning PG 13 content)

So a guy walks into a bar carrying a brown sack and sits down next to another guy. They each enjoy a drink when the first guy says, "hey buddy, you want to see something?"

"Sure," the second guy responds.

The first guy pulls out a miniature grand piano from the sack and sets it on the bar. The paino was no larger than a basketball.

"Wow," says the other guy, "that is really a beaituful piano. I am really impressed."

"Thanks," says the first guy, "do you want to see something else that's pretty cool?"

"Of course."

The first guy pulls out a miniature piano bench and sets it right in front of the piano.

"My goodness," says the other guy,"the craftsmanship on these pieces is amazing - so detailed."

Noticing how impressed the other guy is, the first man says," Well, would you like to see something even more amazing?"

"Of course," says the other guy enthusiastically.

The first guy reaches into the sack pulls out a 12 inch man - a real live man who is wearing a formal tuxedo. This little man promptly sits down at the piano and begins to play.

"What in the world?" says the other man in amazement, "I can't believe my eyes. How could this be. I wouldn't believe it if I weren't seeing it for myself. How did you do this? Where did you get this little man and paino?"

"Do you really want to know?" asked the first man.

"Of course, this is amazing," answered the other guy.

The first guy reached into the sack again and pulled out an old oil lamp.

"Is that a magic lamp?" asked the other guy.

"Yes, but..."

Before the guy could finish his answer, the other guy grabbed the lamp and began to rub it saying, "I wish for a million bucks."

After a few seconds they heard an enormous crash of thunder from just outside the bar followed by what kind of sounded like quacking. So the two men went to the door to what had happened. When they opened the door, they saw the streets covered in ducks - one million ducks.

"No, no, this isn't right!" exclaimed the first man, "I wished for a million bucks."

"Yeah right," said the first man," do you really think I wished for a 12 inch pianist?"

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Returning To Grace

I appreciate everyone's prayers and kind words over the past week. I may occasionally post more about my father as I continue to grieve and process losing him. However, I plan on getting back to my regular kind of blogging. Thanks for being there for me. I know that it can get wearing to listen to someone hurt and grieve and there is little or nothing you can do about it. So, your presence here matters.

I learned this week that I am a member of a cult. Nancy Grace was kind enough to let me know that churches of Christ are a cult - well, she got a guest to say it and then took it as gospel truth. OK, this will be my one and only address of Nancy Grace on this blog.

Here is the place where I play the "church autonomy" card. One of my favorite things about churches of Christ is the idea of autonomy. There is no governing body that controls any congregation. I like this. Structuring congregations this way saves from widespread abuses. So, when a cult like Church of Christ emerges - and they do - its influence is limited and usually dies out.

The thing is that any church, when their "essentials" are confronted, can look cult like. In a pluralistic culture, anything absolute can appear cult-like. Too far into any direction, no matter what direction, and cultishness and cult-like behavior and expectations emerge.

What we need to do with Nancy Grace is to love her and not rag all over her. Nancy Grace is not my enemy.

Grief, My friend

This one went into the Jonesboro Sun Saturday

Grief, My Friend

When someone you really love dies, everything changes. Grief visits without invitation and often appears like it wants to overextend its stay. People respond to this kind of loss in many ways, some healthy and some not so healthy. Let’s take a little walk into grief and see what we can find here.

Now, I know that most people reading today are not experiencing significant grief right now. That’s fine. Use today’s column as preparation for when it does pay you a visit. For those of us who are in the throes of grief, let’s work through this thing together.

When the loss of a loved one imposes itself upon you, there is often an initial sense of surreality – I don’t believe it and I can’t deny it. Incompatible feelings crammed into one heart makes one weary, confused, and even angry. Sometimes people choose not to believe that person is really gone, but reality eventually has a way of drawing us back to the facts.

There is a physical sense to grief and it is usually experienced in the chest and gut. It feels like someone reached inside your chest and pulled out almost everything that was in there. There can be physical fatigue and weariness. The need for sleep is increased, but the ability to sleep is often decreased. Appetite abandons you for a while, but there is no less need to eat. There is this pressing sense that something needs to be done, but everything you do fails to satisfy that need.

Then there are the emotional aspects of grief. Besides the wide variety and intensities of feelings that pass in and out of the heart, there is the overwhelming sense that this situation is far too big to handle. Powerlessness can cripple the heart’s hopes that perhaps this was all a terrible, awful dream. Fear sets in because there is nothing that can be done about this gaping hole in your life. Sadness floods over fear because the one thing you want is the one thing unavailable to you – the person who has passed.

On and off, as time goes by, there are moments when the feelings of immense emptiness are held at bay. However, when you catch a certain smell in the air, or when passing by that old house, or perhaps ordering pizza from THAT pizza place happens, grief bursts in out of nowhere. You might even think you’re going crazy because it’s no big deal, right? It’s just a smell.

But the way of grief is not only found in the large, gaping hole in your heart, it is also found in the million little holes that dot the rest of your life – those unexpected yet intense memories associated with the flow of your regular life. So, not only is grief overwhelming for its hugeness, it is also overwhelming for its smallness. Even when the huge hole is reduced or you learn how to live with it, there are all the little holes that surprise you.

There is good news, however. The good news is that although grief seems to enter your life as an enemy, the longer it hangs around, the more you realize it as a friend. Grief changes over time from being only sadness, confusion, and anger to positive memories, meaningful moments, and respect for the one who passed on. The longer into healthy grieving a person goes, the more that grief is depended upon to reorient the heart and mind to where it needs to be, respect and love for the one who is gone. The grief of the living, over time, is the best thing for preserving the memory of the dead.

Friday, March 31, 2006

It is finished

I buried my father today. The funeral was terrific - if you can say that. I said my final good-bye while seeing his body. I wept over the open casket. It was very, very good.

Although there were many tears, there was also much laughter. My dad wanted there tyo be laughter at his funeral. He also wanted rock music played - none of that organ crap or hymns. So, rather then Fanny J. Crosby, there was Steppenwolf, Rolling Stones, and Three Dog Night. He was rolled out to the coach to "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog." I'll make the "soundtrack" list available to you soon.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A poem to my father

Click here for funeral details
In 1994 I was flat broke living in Houston, Texas trying to find my butt with both hands (one of my dad's favorite sayings). I made the trek back to Minnesota for Christmas, but had only enough money for gas and maybe a Wendy's #1 combo meal. In short, I had nothing for Christmas gifts. So, I wrote everyone in my family a poem.

This poem is certainly no piece of literary excellence and will not be gathered into even weak vanity anthologies. What it does have going for it is some terrific hope and love. It was my heart back then and is my heart now. There are also some hidden meanings that I will flesh out some in italics between the verses.

Here goes:

Father, My Father
Father, my father,
To whom could I go
To learn the things
Your son ought to know?

To combat his sense of guilt and failure as a father, I wanted to give him a sense of exclusiveness in our relationship. If it isn't him, then it's no one. He is my one and only irreplaceable father.

No, you're not perfect,
No man can be,
But you're the perfect father,
For God sent you to me,

This second verse continues the first thought and justifies it with Divine authority. It was God's will that he be my father. This makes my claims in the first stanza irrefuteable. My rhetoric makes it such that he would have to take objections up with God, not me.

To teach me specific truths
Through failures and success,
You've been ordained by God,
My life to bless.

This verse serves to give value, not condemnation to his failures. Good came out of what he did, no matter what he did. The word"ordained" is crucial here. Before I was born, he was baptized as a young and newly married adult and wanted to become a preacher. This is actually a little known secret, even to me until I was an adult. He did not become a preacher because the elders of his church at the time said that he was not ready and would need to wait probably two years to mature. Though they were probalby right, he was deeply wounded by this. So, the word "ordained" here touches on the fact that he ministered to me. It didn't matter if her was not ordained by the church, God went ahead and did it anyway.

Father, I love you,
Though I am far away;
A thousand miles is nothing;
You're here when I pray.

This verse closes the immense geographical gap from Houston, Texas where I was living to Eagan, Minnesota, where he was living. It serves to connect us. It also leads into the next verse.

Father, don't stop teaching,
For I'm not done learning;
I'll always be your son,
Though the years keep turning.

Though I was a grown adult, that fact did not mean I had arrived with wisdom, knowledge and was no longer in need of him. He needed to know that his job was not done and that he is always going to be of value to me.

You're a great man, dad,
It's easy for me to see;
I saw it most clearly,
When you bowed and prayed with me;

The use of the words "great man" is deep here, though it sounds shallow. I had been to a retreat earlier in that year where I came to grips with how I had hate and contempt in my heart for my father. I had acknowledged it and came to complete forgiveness. He and I reconciled after that retreat when I shared with him my heart. I apologized for how I had treated him and vowed to love him without condition from that point forward. We wept and hugged and it was beautiful.

Anyway, at the retreat I went through an exercise whereby the end result is an affirming statement about your own identity, generally in the context of God's view of yourself. Most people came up with these beautiful and detailed statements that captured an deep inner truth. Mine was this: "I am a great man." Seriously, I couldn't think of anything else. So, when I called him a "great man" it was more than just a tritte thing you say, it was a deep statement of our collective identification together. There is so much we between us.

Perhaps here on Earth
I'll see you now and then,
But more than in this life,
I want to see you in Heaven.

This is the line that got me crying again when I read it today. Living so far from him, I knew that I might see him once per year - maybe twice. I felt the weight of that distance so often. But the one comfort I had was a desire to see him in Heaven. I knew that was my ace in the hole. Well, that ace is my final play. I will do just that - I will see him in Heaven.