December 29, 2008

A Span of Events

Well since I've last posted, quite a bit has happened. Being on the road for the holidays has been conducive to posting, so here's a short summary of things happened. December 19th I walked across the stage at Truett Seminary where I received my Master's of Divinity with a 3.97 (and no they don't recognize degrees with honors at Truett). It was a great event, a marker, milestone, and place in my life. More importantly on that same day my beautiful wife and I celebrated 5 years of wonderful, hard, transforming, and wonferful life together.

The day after graduation I drove to my home town out in West Texas, Big Spring where we stayed the night. Then with my wife's side of the family we caravaned up to Ruidoso, NM for some skiing and relaxation in the mountains. We skiid Monday and Wednesday, tubed Tuesday, and celebrated Christmas on Thursday with gifts for the children (my niece and nephew) before heading to eat at Wendell, a restaurant at the Inn of the gods Casino, where I ate Elk among other things.

Finally, Friday we drove back into Big Spring where we celebrated Christmas with my side of the family. The larger family exchanged gifts "Chinese" style where Charlotte and I recieved a sweet bowl and knife. Then we all played a hilarious game of Taboo. I really enjoyed my time with my family this break. We got to share many memories, games, food, meals, and good times, as well as gifts. This year my side of the family bought some chickens, goats, rabbits, and bees for the Heifer Project.

Now Charlotte and I are back at home trying to recover and get settled back in. Hope you had a good Christmas and have a wonderful New Year.

I'll post up a link with pic's if I ever get it up.

December 18, 2008

Some Words on Marriage/Counseling

Here's an interesting post from a blogger on marriage and marraige counseling (which I believe is his profession or a part of it) where he says:

I would be very happy if they would forget about what it means to be a husband and wife and just begin by thinking about what it means to be a human being, and how one human being relates to one another.

I really like alot of what he says and I think it can apply to many areas that Christians or anyone tend to struggle in. Instead of focusing solely on greed, violence, or lust it might just be more beneficial to focus on being more human.

In the beginning God created two human beings and put them together in a partnership to rule over creation. They were to be in partnership with one another, each helping the other fulfill the creation mandate, and they were to have dominion over the animals and rule over them.

Almost every serious marital conflict I get involved in eventually becomes a contest of wills, and the struggle is over whose "will" will prevail. This is a contest to rule. Mind you it is usually all presented in the most spiritual of ways, with husbands pointing out the woman's responsibility to submit and women pointing out the husband's responsibility to be like Jesus, and both remaining defiant till the other submits to their understanding of God's word for the other.

This makes marriage about dominion rather than partnership and not only undermines the marital relationship, it undermines our identity as humans. Humans are to rule over animals, not each other.
And some last words:

I think I think that many Christian marriages could be enormously more happy if the spouses would put aside the fact that they are married to one another and just treat one another as if they were Christians. Galatians 6:10 tells us to do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. In other words, of all the relational duties we owe to each other as humans, as neighbors and as enemies, we are to be especially careful to fulfill these duties to fellow Christians.
Maybe many of our problems in life and marriage arise from our perception of how others should be and the roles they should fulfill. Instead of focusing on the box we think others should be in, we need to focus on changing the source of the box, ourselves.

Eucharistic Anticonsumption

If in consuming the Eucharist we become the body of Christ, then we are called, in turn, to offer ourselves to be consumed by the world. The Eucharist is wholly kenotic in its form. To consume the Eucharist is an act of anticonsumption, for here to consume is to be consumed, to be taken up into participation in something larger then the self, yet in a way in which the identity of the self is paradoxically secured.
-William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed.

December 17, 2008

Life in Reality, the Church's Economics

I love this quote from Levitt, the author of Freakonomics:
“Morality…represents the way that people would like the world to work- whereas economics represents how it actually does work.”
Beyond all that we'd like to think about the church, more then what we believe about our faith or dogmas, above all we think we'd like to be...who is the church really?

According to (not just how we spend or deal with money) the church's economics, how does it really work? Sure, there are ways the church is supposed to work and be, but in reality according to our view of supply, demand, scarcity, abundance, allocation, savings, givings, spending, interest, debt, budget...i.e. economics, how does the church really work?

In other words, is the church by its very organization and life counter-cultural or embracing of the evils of consumerism, capitalism, and a broken, worldly economic? Does our life look more like Jesus' and the early church or like our unchurched neighbor who buys and spends their money in any way they see fit?

More to follow as I blog through W.T. Cavanaugh's Being Consumed, which I finished this week and highly recommend. In the mean time, share your thoughts.

December 16, 2008

Church, Mission, & Transformation

A wonderful quote from a friend, Ashley:
The collective blessed ones, the people of God, are known as the church. The mission cannot be separated from the identity of God’s people. Mission is who the church is, not what the church does. It is God’s mission, however, and not the church’s mission. The mission of church is to actively and faithfully bear witness to who they are and to their God. God has a church for his mission, and not a mission for the church. Through the participation in God’s redemptive and restorative mission, both the church and the world are changed. via.

December 9, 2008

Last Day Of Seminary Work Ever!

And what a day it was. I finished putting together my mentoring folder to finish the last of my work and now I'm officially done with everything for my Masters. So to tie up all the loose ends and get ready for graduation, I headed up to Waco to turn in my folder and get ready for graduation.

Not even five minutes on the highway, I get pulled over by a bike cop. Yes, I got a ticket on Interstate 35 for going 71, apparently the highway speed limit is 55 around downtown. Too bad I was going as fast as everyone else.

Then, just south of Belton, this happened:



Well the good news is I'm done with school, I got four new tires and while waiting I got some Jalisco's burrito, and I get to take defensive driving and sharpen my driving skills ;)

December 7, 2008

Not Business as Usual

I have really appreciated Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch who have co-wrote and individually wrote a few books worth your perusal. The Shaping, ReJesus, Forgotten, & Exiles. Check out Frost's defintion of "missional below."



Oh yes, that good old buzzward, "missional." I have interestingly enough found a strang dictohomy within my church. We are a moderate/progressive (and liberal at times) church as far as theological thought and intent, but still very ecclesiologically conversative. What I mean is that much of our thought and life is very experientially driven and the theology that backs it is experientially driven (liberationist, feminist, activist, progressivist theology). So we are progressive in thought about how we read Scripture, view women, gays, etc. But, we still "do" church. Church is still the building that we come to and church is what we do when we're together.

I'm not assigning positive or negative remarks about this, because honestly I'm not sure if they are there to be assigned. I am though pointing out that where our theology has been and is traditionally experientially base, that experience has not lead the congregation away from an attractional, business like institution to a more missional institution.

Yet, I feel that the experience is leading us toward an inkling, a desire for something new and that something I believe will be a reorganization, restructuring, and reformation around mission.

December 4, 2008

Apocalypse, Advent, Hope: An Advent Sermon, Mark 13:24-37

I have a confession. I struggled, I mean sincerely struggled with tonight’s message. I began reading, studying and praying this text about 4 weeks ago, and up until yesterday I couldn’t figure out how to make this stuff coherent, I’m not sure if I really ever got there.

Most of my struggles revolved around two issues I kept having. First, I didn’t choose this Scripture, nobody would choose this Scripture; rather in a way this Scripture chose us
…Mark 13 is the first Advent reading from the lectionary.

And did you hear the Scripture?

Okay, here we are entering into the Christmas season of joy, peace, and love. This is Christmas for God’s sake, where most of us have already broke out our trees, decorations, and hung our stockings. We’ve uploaded our Christmas playlists, made shopping lists, and figured out our travel arrangements.

…but this is what Jesus says:

"But in those days, following that distress,
" 'the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light; -

Apocalypse.

We don’t need to read any further, “But in those days, following that distress” see, we fortunately didn’t read the entire chapter where Jesus talks about insurmountable violence, wars, famine, natural catastrophes, false or Anti-Christ’s, and how his followers would be hated for Jesus’ sake.

I mean this is embarrassing material, doesn’t Jesus know, didn’t somebody tell Jesus what Christmas was about.

But it doesn’t stop there, Jesus then talks about his 2nd coming:

"At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

Then Jesus, the God we worship, admits:

"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Then what are told what to do in light of this impending Apocalypse:

“If he comes suddenly”,. Jesus says… “do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!' or “Be Alert.”

Be Alert- I don’t think we have any problem with being alert in our caffeine addicted culture!

Hopefully you can see why I had a hard time with this text, doesn’t quite line up with the expected warm, fuzzy feelings of Christmas. As a matter of fact, it’s just plain confusing and discomforting.

But you know what, our culture loves this stuff. We are an Apocalyptic culture…we obsess about the end of the world…how will it end, what great war, meteor, or global crisis will ruin the earth.

A quick search of the Internet Movie Data Base, IMBD reveals in titles alone, not plots and storylines, but just in names there are over 350 movies of Apocalypse including Apocalypse Now, Apocalyptico, The Matrix trilogy, the XMen trilogy, and Children of Men, all these movies…WallE is centered on Apocalypstic ideals.

Alternative rock band, the Muse devotes an entire album, “Absolution” to Apocalypse with titles like “Apocalypse Please, Time is Running Out, and Thoughts of a Dying Atheist.”

Iron and Wine almost always carries their songs forward with an apocalyptic undertone found strongest in, “Our Endless Numbered Days.”

Nas raps about it and Rage Against the Machine rifts about it.

One of the greatest selling pieces of Christian fiction is the Left Behind series which narrates the end of the world through the perspective of its authors, not the Bible. You can go to almost any Christian book store and see shelves full of titles about the End of the World, prophecies, and Christ’s return.

So, is God to blame for this obsession with a violent, catastrophic hope for the world?

Is it God’s fault that Christian Zionists like San Antonio mega-church pastor, John Hagee pushes for war and genocide in the Middle East because he believes it will usher in the 2nd coming of Christ?

Does Jesus words here mean we have to compile lists of potential Anti-Christ’s like the Nazareth Association of Prophets who 2007 list placed: (I have to share some of these with you)
1)Al Gore
2. Hilary Clinton
3. Tom Cruise (new to the list)
4. Vladimir Putin
5. Barak Obama (new to the list)
6. Osama bin Laden
7. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (president of Iran)
8. Pope Benedict XVI
9. Bill Clinton
10. Stephen Colbert (new to the list)
11. Rosie O'Donnell (new to the list)
12. Pervez Musharraf (President of Pakistan, new to the list)
13. Nancy Pelosi (US Speaker of the House, new to the list)
14. That guy from the Verizon Wireless commercials
15. The United Nations
16. Mikhail Gorbachev
17. Bill and Melinda Gates
18. Saddam Hussein
19. Spongebob Squarepants
20. Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II (tie)

Is that what Jesus means in this Apocalypse in Mark 13. If so, I’m embarrassed to call myself a Christian…I want no part in a god who warrants destruction for the sake of peace, an amoral deity who runs amok in his own creation, that creates co-conspirators with god enabling global disasters and mass genocides.

But let us step back and realize,
Apocalypse simply means “to reveal.”

What then is Jesus’ strange words here about destruction and suffering revealing to us?

Never mind the fact that the listeners of Mark’s Gospel lived under the oppressive power of the Roman empire and witnessed the most disturbing and violent image a Jew could witness, the destruction of the Second Temple. “No stone would be left unturned.”- Jesus said.

Never mind that Jesus words here aren’t revealing the future 2000 or even 200 years from his time, but instead were directed at the 1st Century Christian community.

Jesus here is revealing “the world’s peace and so called order” for what it really is: disorder and violence.

Civil Rights Activist, William Campbell write in his autobiography, Brother to a Dragonfly and shockingly reveals how we often mistake the disorder and violence of our world as the exact opposite.

He tells of a conversation with Klu Klux Klansman, where asks the Klansman:

"How about telling me what the Ku Klux Klan stands for?"
It was as if he had been waiting for me to ask.
"The Ku Klux Klan stands for peace, for harmony, and for freedom."
"... Now one more question. What means are you willing to use to
accomplish those glorious ends?"
"Oh. Now I see what you're getting at. The means we are willing to use are
as follows: murder, torture, threats, blackmail, intimidation, burning, guerilla
warfare. Whatever it takes."
And then he stopped. And I stopped. I knew that I had set a trap for him and
had cleverly let him snap the trigger.
But then he started again. "Now, Preacher. Let me ask you a question. You
tell me what we stand for in Vietnam."

For me, this question still carries its force, echoing into the halls of what we stand for in Iraq, Afghanistan, South America, Free Trade, a globalizing capital market, and Consumerism.

All I can hear are singer songwriter, Derek Webb’s words:
“Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication,”
It’s like telling someone murder is wrong, and then showing them by way of execution.”
[pause]

And this brings me back. Remember, there were two reasons I had a hard time with this sermon. The second of which is that I wrote and rewrote at least 5 different introductions because every single one of them came off as Grinch like. BAHUMBUG was the tone. And nobody wants to hear that, not even me and I’m preaching it.

Here’s the deal, I don’t hate Christmas, all right. You come over to our house and you’ll see a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. I’ve been listening to Christmas music for 3 weeks now, that at least a week before Thanksgiving, all right.

But for the last few years, I’ve felt an uneasiness, a weird tension over the Christmas holiday. Growing up in a nonChristian home and having spent most of my churched days in places were Advent was minimal or absent, this dissonance with Christmas began in seminary where I was introduced into the intentional season of Advent.

And for the first time in my life, I felt jaded with Christmas.

Why, because in the crib of the manger lay not a baby, but a piece of merchandise competing for our consumeristic foolishness.

Look. There is nothing with gift giving, with receiving gifts, or even bargain shopping. But there is something wrong when we justify our disorder as order, our greed as necessity in the same way Klansman justified his broken actions.


It’s foolishness that on Nov. 28, (commonly referred to as Black Friday), a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death, and a young woman miscarried in the rush of the same mob to save $50 on a plasma TV or $10 on a sweater. Or that 2 people were shot dead in a Toys-R-Us.

It’s foolishness that no one will speak up against this type of marketing, which is allowed because it pushes the market out of the red, into the black. The bottom line is the bottom line.

It’s foolish that our identities are found in what we own, and that we betray our conscience for a deal’s sake.

It is foolish that the American dream creates such disparities that CEO’s, who only made 40% more then their workers in 1980, now make 500% more.

It is foolish that Americans make up 5% of the world’s population but consume over 40% of its resources.

If there were ever two United States, that would leave 20% of the world’s resources for 90% of the world’s population.

Somehow, Christmas has become the season of justifying our greed and need for more and bathing those desires in Jesus.

It could… just be… that we’re just not satisfied with Advent. I mean that’s the point of good marketing and consumerism, this is what Christmas has really become: to make us unsatisfied so we are always hungry for more, for something new.
We don’t buy, we shop for new jeans to replace the perfectly, less hip pair, a new camera with more megapixels, Ipod with more memory, a purse for your collection, or whatever gift we “need.”

Maybe this is why our culture loves Apocalypse. As the great preacher Fred Craddock said,

“Maybe people are obsessed with the Second Coming because deep down they are disappointed in the first one.”

[pause]

Apocalypse is revealing what Advent is about: Christ coming! God with us!

“O come, O come, Emmanuel (God with us) and ransom captive Israel.”

The Hebrew hope for Captive Israel meant a Messiah would come and upset the status quo, that the oppressor, Babylon or Rome would be overthrown and Israel returned to its glory. But in fact, the hope of captive Israel was the promotion of the status quo, the promotion of the world’s order in a violent and destructive overthrow.

But God is not in the business of supporting our human status quo’s. The Advent, the coming of God is the exact opposite.

Mary was found pregnant with the hope of the world. And God came down not in a fiery day of judgment, but burst forth from the womb: weak, frail, helpless, relying on his mother’s breast for nourishment.

Apocalypse. Revealing. Advent. Coming.

In God’s coming to us in Incarnation, we find that the peace and love of God is so radical, that the world purges and mistakes Christ’s love as a chaos.
When true peace is revealed in our culture’s disordered order, when our world’s violent peace is ruptured by Christ’s apocalyptic arrival, we find that our most human of actions become the gateway to paradise. Our means become the end.

In the sharing of a meal, words of forgiveness, a conversation of love we find that God’s future Kingdom is present.

[pause]

Does anyone else find it odd that “Industrial strikes” where people are fighting for a fair and livable wage while CEO’s are making an incredible amount of money are called “disturbances of industrial peace.” Peace. Peace? Peace is somehow equated with the unjust gap between the rich and poor.

Imagine if our nation all of a sudden found itself content. What if we were all satisfied with our belongings. What would happen?

Imagine if outsourced workers of transnational corporations were paid livable wages instead of the slave like 33c or 15c’s an hour?

What would our lifestyles look like?

The implications of Advent are radical. True peace and love feel like a rupture in our societies’ order.

But that is why Christ leaves us with the command, “Awaken, Be Alert!”

Reveal, Come, Awake!

As Jesus warns:
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back- whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone, Watch!”

Later that evening, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples betrayed Jesus in their sleep while the fear of death hung over his head.
At midnight, the disciples betrayed Jesus in their shame leaving him alone at his trial, and at the rooster’s crow, Peter betrayed his friend by a fire disowning him completely.

But at dawn on the 3rd day, a new possibility of Awareness entered the world. With Christ, the beginning of the end had begun, the new possibility of Resurrection life started.

SO, between the Resurrection and the 2nd coming of Christ, a new Heaven and new Earth is made possible. It is made possible in a church pregnant with the new possibility for real hope, real peace, and real love.

Advent and Apocalypse alike impregnate the church with the imagination we need to break endless cycles of hate, fear, and injustice.

The gateway to paradise happens not through violent wars and insufferable famines, but through the church’s birth pains of ordinary, radical peace and abundance the face of violence and scarcity.

You and I are given new possibilities to invert violence with love, hate with forgiveness, dissatisfaction with contentment, brokenness with wholeness, and pain with comfort.

This journey toward the sacred in the midst of normal daily routine is a journey of suffering, just like pregnancy. In discovering the hope of resurrection, part of us must die, the part of us that can sleep in the midst of chaos and disordered order.

“Here death is a part of life, and failure is a part of victory. Opposites collide and unite, and everything belongs.” As Richard Rohr says.

Reveal, Come, Awake!

Apocalypse, Advent, Hope.

In the midst of our violent, selfish, greedy, and broken order Christ makes new possibilities, even for the church. Where do you need hope against hope? Imagination in the face of order and structures?

When the world tells you to place your hope in slander or a grudge, may you find that real hope is the uncomfortable work of forgiveness.

When our culture tells you that hope is found in spending on unneeded goods, may you find hope in the giving to those who suffer in the production of those goods. Advent is a time to experiment, find an orphan to give monthly donations to, get your family together and donate a calf or goat through the Heifer project, give half or a quarter to the poor what you spend for you family.

And Awaken to the disordered order of this world. Hope against hope.

In Advent and Apocalypse alike, we find that waiting is no longer our passive celebration of Christ’ birth, rather in God’s intrusion into the world, he awakens us to new possibilities for real love, hope, and peace in the wars within your hearts and the wars around the globe.

Apocalypse, Advent, Hope.

December 2, 2008

The Vulnerability of a Forgiving God

For me, the utter powerlessness of God is that God forgives. I hold myself in a position of power by not forgiving myself or others. God does not hold on to that position of power. God seems so ready to surrender divine power. God forgives the world for being so broken and poor. God forgives us for not being all that we thought we had to be and even for what God wanted us to be. That is probably why we fall in love with such a God. Why shouldn't you? Why wouldn't you? You would be a fool not to- and you will be a "hole fool" if you do.

Richard Rohr, The Gift of Contemplative Prayer

December 1, 2008

Advent Day 2


Okay, so I completely missed posting yesterday on Advent, day number 1...the day of hope. Oops.

Yesterday our pastor spoke about hope (the sermon will be up before long). He used the John 1 text. Much good was said, give it a listen.

I'll preach on the lectionary text Thursday at Beresheth, an alternative worship experience. I'm preaching on the wonderfully 'embarrassing' apocalyptic text from Mark 13:24-37. I've come to find out I love preparing for sermons for several reasons. Unlike research papers, information is more seemless and can be arrange or disarrayed in many ways, linear or non. I enjoy the dedicated time of study to a single passage of scripture, especially one like Mark 13, which is not a favorite text but full of meaning for Advent. I enjoy trying to arrange the information and what the text is saying so that the message can be heard. I love reading texts that I used to read in one way and seeing them in a new, refreshing light. I enjoy how the text and sermon preparation changes me.

So in reflection for this semi-first day of Advent what has been on my mind is the word "no." Christmas is about consuming and saying yes to whatever we want, even going as far to create things we want just so we can ask for them. Advent though is about saying no, no to the distractions, stress, silliness, and disgusting spirit that can fill the gluttonoues holiday season.

As we wait upon the revealing of all things new, so no to those things that frustrate God's love, justice, and grace.

November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Elected Officials Flunk

Are most people, including college graduates, civically illiterate? Do elected officials know even less than most citizens about civic topics such as history, government, and economics? The answer is yes on both counts according to a new study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI’s basic 33 question test on civic literacy and more than 1,700 people failed, with the average score 49 percent, or an “F.” Elected officials scored even lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent and only 0.8 percent (or 21) of all surveyed earned an “A.” Even more startling is the fact that over twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
via
Wow, that's incredibly lame for our nation, especially the elected officials.

What's you score? I scored an 82.8. Take the quiz here.

Freedom is impossible without responsibility, and for that reason I believe democracy can at any moment collapse. Democracy needs a populace of informed and responsible citizens. If the American project fails, it will not be the loss of freedoms but the loss of responsibility by the people.

November 26, 2008

Generosity that Converts the Church



What does it mean to give, when everything we need is given to us?

Real generosity occurs when the gift leaves not a hand of joy, but a hand of heartache. The joyous giver is loved by God, but the one who gives in the midst of pain, tears, and heartache reflects God's love. The cross reveals this reality.

We give not to build nor restore. Our gifts in the machinations of the church do not reflect the Kingdom movement of love, rather the Kingdom movement of love makes possible the radical conversion of the machine by our generosity and love, a transformation of the microcosm, alternative people named church by the Gift(s) already received.

If the church is to be Christ this holiday season despite its budgets and buildings, it must allow Christ to convert it by accepting the gift. Salvation, life, justice, love. All gifts, all free.

It's time to trust and by trusting we make ourselves vulnerable to the capacities of generosity so that we give not to build nor restore, but to convert the church and find that God is not done with us no matter how done we are with ourselves as if a building, budget,program, or ministry means that we have arrived.

When we are generous we gather up within ourselves the ability to share our lives and the things we love with others, thus making ourselves richer then any amount of money. But when we are greedy, we close off ourselves to others for fear that what we love will be diminished and thus become poorer then any homeless person.

November 25, 2008

Vocation

You have to die to enter into a vocation. Profession summons the best of you, and vocation calls you away from what you thought was the best of you and promises to make you into someone or something you are not.

Roger Paynter, pastor of FBC Austin

November 23, 2008

Patriotic Listening: Kill the Drug Dealer?

Twelve. Twelve juveniles.

Twelve young men under the age of 18 have been detained under American control in the infamous torture camp of Guantanamo, one of which committed suicide. A boy cannot endure the rigors of torture.

To be an American means that we are not simply free, equal, and in power; but to be an American means we must be responsible for the load we carry is great.

Politics is a matter of using and manipulating language to create a reality so that people remain ignorant about reality. Check out my post on how the USA has been intervening in S. America in many wrongful actions for a long, long time. This last month the Bush administration has denied long term trade negotiations with Bolivia for its "failing to cooperate with the war on drugs."

This means that the first indigenous president of Bolivia suspended the USA ambassador and DEA from his country. His reason, put in my own words is that the USA DEA is not cooperating with the war on drugs. Let me explain. First, let's bring back this idea of responsibility. Bolivia is the 3rd largest producer of cocaine. Yes, this is wrong and Bolivia must fight to fix this problem. Yet, the USA is the largest consumer of cocaine in the world.

If you were addicted to drugs, what would be the better solution: A) quit doing the drugs, thus putting the dealer out of business or B) kill the drug dealer?

Bush's answer is B) go and kill the dealer, for this is exactly what a trade embargo would do to Bolivia since we have so much sway on their economy. For God's sake America, when will we stop pointing our damn fingers at everyone else and try to fix our own problems. Quit scapegoating the victims!

Also Morales, the Bolivian president calls for a different type of change. His reasons for kicking out the DEA from his perspective is a very good reason. According to Morales, DEA agents were encouraging the drug trade. If you find this hard to believe then I would argue that you need to speed up on our corrupt dealings with Latin America.

Furthermore, Morales and others who have no voice in the G-20 summit because of their powerlessness in world finances and power argue that the recent summit was awash controlled singularly by the voice of G.W. Bush.

"Morales said developed countries have provided more money to help distressed banks than they have committed to poor countries to improve health, education and development.

The so-called consensus of the G-20 continues to emphasize market principles and free trade,'' Morales said during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. ``To get out of this crisis we have to break with the neo-liberal economic model and the capitalist system.''

Democracy is not tied to capitalism and the way we do world economics must change. The USA cannot continue living this lifestyle of consumption with no repercussions while so many nations fight for survival, food, and development. To simply bail out failing businesses is to ignore reality and the future.

Morales points "to abandon the `neo-liberal and capitalist system' and allow all of the 192 UN member governments to contribute to a restructuring of global trade and financial regulation."


November 20, 2008

Marriage & Spirituality

Tim Keel, founder and pastor of emerging church Jacob's Well has some very helpful words for couples who are seeking to practice some kind of spiritual practice together. I know for myself his words are helpful and wise, because we have failed in so many areas to have a consistent discipline that is "super" spiritual. Here's the meat of his post:

"That is a good question, and not one that I am sure that I have a good answer for. Most couples I know have struggled to find a good way to answer this question. I do know a few people that have navigated these waters successfully, but I know many more who have tried and wounded one another significantly. Mimi and I do not have common devotional practices, besides sharing public worship and service to our children. I once had a pastor share with me that doing such things is very difficult because we are often attracted to someone who is very different than we are and as a result the way in which we experience and practice the presence of God, and express it in our personalities, is likewise different (at best) and threatening (at worst). That can be good or bad, but it is always challenging emotionally because our spiritual lives are such a place of intimacy and thus, vulnerability. That is not to say it shouldn't be undertaken but rather to say it should be attempted with gentleness, low expectations, and humility. I do think the spiritual practice of conversation can be a really good one to develop, especially if you will listen to one another as you talk about your own journey, what you are learning, and how you experience God, etc. Also serving God by serving others together can be a really healthy way to engage one another, and it also sets the relational precedent that you are focused not just on your own inward life in God, but how that inward life gets express outwardly as well. Reading a book together can be good, but likewise challenging if one is a reader and the other is not. Anyway, I guess my counsel is to try a few things, have fun, laugh, and do it all with a recognition of God's presence among you. I hope that helps."

November 18, 2008

A Real Patriot Would...


There are many avenues for expressing one's patriotism for their country. I for one though would not be classified into what seems a very traditional and narrow view of being an American. There is this strange, dogmatic stance in some circles that believes the USA can do no harm and the greatest gift a person can give their country is their life. While this may be the greatest sacrifice, I'm not sure it's the greatest gift our nation needs, for right now at least.

To die for one's country means to protect what one believes to be more right, better, and correct over and against another (amonst other things). While I'm for protecting democracy, I'm also for pushing, moving towards, and birthing democracy, which we have not acquired. Did you hear that, our country, the "greatest" nation on earth does not live up to its own dream, we are failing, short, and empty in areas.

I for one do not believe that the United States of America is the greatest nation on the world, even in light of our recent election where we voted in a minority whose life represents the real "American struggle." My version of patriotism is to call into mind that our country is wrong and has been wrong in several of our stances and actions, not because I'm against the USA but exactly the opposite. To be an American means not to live in a place of privilege, but a place of responsibility being that much of the world's economies depend upon our own.

Therefore I will not go to war for my country and die for someone else's greed, hate, ignorance, and zeal; but I will call my country to repent. A true patriot is one who will denounce the atrocities of Guantanamo, the killing of civilians in Iraq by our people, or the abuse of the elected officials to our constitution and dream.

So while I admire men who give up so much to go to war and fight battles that their only investment is their birthplace, I must say to all my fellow country men and women that we must look at the gaint Oak Tree growing from our own eye before we try to pluck the tiny sprout from anothers. We cannot continue to be the problem and try to fix everyone elses. We must listen to those countries who are calling us to change, those who we've had a hand in oppressing for far too long (much of S. America).

To be continued.

November 9, 2008

Open Letter to the President-Elect

The author of "The Color Purple" has written a brilliantly beautiful and wise open letter to the President-Elect, Barack Obama.

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

November 6, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

“He who loves the dream of a Christian community more than the community itself, often does great damage to that community, no matter how well-intentioned he might be.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in David Bosch, Transforming Mission, 387. via.

November 5, 2008

The Missional Conversion of Christ


NakedPastor has a helpful reflection on Matt. 15:21-28, one of the harder texts of the New Testament for myself. Since reading Christopher Wright's The Mission of God (which you should read), my hermeneutic for reading the Bible has become very missionally driven, but there are some texts including this one that don't "fit." The fact that there are texts that don't fit is a good thing for me, keeps me from making my perspective THE perspective.

If you cling to a very high Christology then you might not like his approach. I tend to move toward a high view through a low Christology perspective.

Here's some exerpts:
This passage has been of interest among many New Testament scholars because it shows Jesus possibly being outwitted by a foreign woman. Does this passage advance the Gentile mission or embarrass it? What does this mean for women in the early church?
and
I love this story because it exhibits his humanity… a man forced to come to terms with truth foreign to what he is already certain of. He has to adjust, or amend, his theology because of the arguments of this woman. Here, many scholars agree, is the seed of the early church’s mission to the Gentiles.
Much like the Peter and Corneluius story, what we find here is that participation in God's mission means that both parties will be changed. Mission is not about us going to save them, but mutual deepening and mutual conversion of faith toward the work of God in the world.

November 4, 2008

In Honor of Election Day

Church, please don't forget who you are and where (read: who) your hope comes from.

"Jesus...did not come to the people as their political and religious
master to put them in their place, subjugated and quietly resigned.
He did not force his own rule upon the people. Neither did he force
his own form upon a formless mass. He heard the call of the people
and called them out from their position as objects of the manipulation
and rule by others to be subjects of the new history of God with the
human race. The "folk movement" which Jesus enkindled is the movement
in which the people itself becomes the subject of its own new history
in the liberation movement of God. (107)"

Moltmann, The Passion For Life: A Messianic Lifestyle, translated by
M. Meeks, 1978.

November 3, 2008

New Home

We are officially in our new rent house! With some help from some friends (5) we were able to move making only two trips in one day. Moving out of the 3rd floor was much easier then moving in. Everything went without a hitch.

We are somewhat unpacked and getting more and more settled. We made the dining room the living room and vice versa & put out bed in the smaller room instead of the master. The smaller room is off the street and stays in the shade in the evening, so it'll be cooler come summer. The dining room is also in the back of the house and shares the area with the kitchen. We like doing things together so at least when someone is doing something in the kitchen the other can be proximal.

The garage here will work. I had to sweep a bunch of leaves and junk out of it. It smells like possible mouse urine or maybe its just the smell of the fertilizer that was left in there. The yards in okay condition. The back needs some work just so I don't have to worry about Smokey. The front has pretty good landscaping, but I'm afraid the yard is dead.

The bedroom, the living room, and the bathroom are all set up. We're working on the kitchen, which we've had to get pretty creative with since it's much smaller. I believe the home was made in the 50's.

Once we get settled I'll post some pic's up of our new place...and maybe have you over some time.

October 29, 2008

G.K. Chesterton Hymn

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.

- Gilbert Keith Chesterton via

October 26, 2008

Counseilng Introverts

An interesting look at Introverts and Extroverts juxtaposed and counseling introverts.

Thriller A Cappella

Check out this video of a guy singing M. Jackson's Thriller A Cappella. He records his voice 64 times to get all the sounds, it's pretty neat.

François Macré - Thriller (reprise A'cappella 64 pistes)

Sacramental Mustang Update


I know it's been quite a while to say the least, but I found some motivation this weekend and decided (with the help of a friend) to replace the head gaskets on my 5.0 Mustang. This project has been alot about learning the hard way (screwing things up to be precise), so when I built the engine the first time I left out a crucial washer that steps the outside diameter of the head to the same size as the head stud.

Garrett, my local buddy, knew more about 5.0's then me so he helped replace the gaskets as well as set the roller rocker lash. Now Sacramental Mustang runs really good. I could tell as soon as I pulled out of the garage that I had much more power to the wheels. The only bad part is that the new gaskets didn't seem to fix my oil leak problem. I think I'll run it for a while and see if it's a seal that just needs to seal and oil up. (Maybe there'll be paint in the near future).

LIFE UPDATE: If you've made it this far, then I'd thought I'd let you in...we're moving! Yes, my wife and I are moving to a nice little rent house in a fun part of Austin. It helps that the house also sits rights across the street from the school Charlotte teaches at. So come this weekend, we're moving.

October 22, 2008

Free Roland Allen Books

What? One of the most important missiological thinkers and innovators has two books online for free...oh yeah baby!

The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours?

Update: brett g found Allen's journal online, thanks brett g!

October 16, 2008

My Sermons

I preached tonight at our alternative worship service. I broke it down into two shorter sermons. The first introduced the theme on loving your neighbor and the second is my rehashing of Matt. 25:31-46. Check them out below. I really enjoyed preaching these sermons. The night went well overall except for some minor technical difficulties. Worship was lead by the frontman of Austin's The Infinite Partials. Also, Ann created a great responsive reading from an Arundhati Roy's quote:

"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget."

Love is learning to see GOD in people

We all know what love is. Love is the central tenet of Christianity, the very ethic the church is built on. Love is the goal. You’ve probably recently been in a class, listened to a sermon, and even talked about the importance, and need for love.

For love is all the rage right now. We are to be a loving church. We are to love our spouses. Love is the remedy to the ills of our culture, to war, to hate, to racism. Love your friends, love your enemies. Love. Love. Love. Certainly if the Beatles sang about it then we must need it. We all know how good, how right, and how loving love is. For God so loved the world, love your neighbor, God loves you, Jesus loves you.

The fact is, we love to love love.

But enough with that nonsense.

Jesus boils down all the commands into two laws: love God and love your neighbor. But we like to take these commands and make them sequential. First I’ll learn to love God and spend all my time doing the things that I think are loving to God: spending time in church, praying, reading my Bible. Then I’ll learn to love my neighbor and maybe spend some time doing it.

So we often get bogged down in the steps of love, spending our time not in the actual doing of love, but in the study of it. For anyone who has made themselves vulnerable in love or sacrificed time and comfort for the sake of love knows that it’s much easier to talk about and ask questions who are neighbors are then to be a neighbor. We do this because the idea of love is much prettier and romantic then the reality.

I’ve seen this point more clearly in my own life recently. Charlotte and I thought for a while that we’d move to East Austin, so we could live a life of love where we resided. So we could live in a place of real need and share our lives with those different from us.

A few weeks ago we began looking for a new rent place. A couple times in our search we talked about being in a neighborhood with need, but in the end we found a place where the niceness of the rent home and the convenience of its location won out to any preconceived ideal we had. When it comes to the actual work of love, it seems life and reality get messy.

The reason I believe Jesus places these two commands together as he does, is because they are inseparable from one another.

I’ve heard it said that “the way we love others is the way we love God.” The writer of 1 Jn says that if “we say we love God , but hate our brothers and sisters then we are liars.” I like to reword Jesus’ commands to read:

"Love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as if they are all you have.”

We simply cannot separate our love for God and our love for others. There is simply no separation between love we get to study and think about and love we get to live out.

Jesus reveals this fact with a story in Matt. 25:31-46, where he tells about when he will return and judge the nations, including us. In this story, Jesus separated the crowd not based on what they believed about love, but how they practiced it. And in practicing love for the prisoner, the hungry, the poor, the outcast of their society, the sheep were actually practicing love toward God but didn’t even realize it.

By loving the most unlovable, the sheep were getting to know and spend time with their Creator, their redeemer, with Jesus himself.

Now I don’t mean for this sermon to be a guilt trip or to make us feel bad for how much we don’t love,
But rather awaken us to the truth that love lives not in our Sunday school rooms, but in our, offices, and jobs and classrooms;
not in our thoughts and dreams, but in our daily routines,
and not simply in our study but how we live towards our enemy.

If living out love were easy, then Christ had no need to die for the love’s sake, but exactly because God suffered and took on our burden, he has made the life of love a real possibility.

Matthew 25:31-46 Remixed: Martha the Goat, Mary the Sheep

Allow me to share this experience I had with a few weeks ago visiting Martha and Mary.

Now let me tell you, these two woman are from worlds separate. Martha a southern bell spent her entire life working in the ministry. Martha’s presence was like you would expect it to be, warm and welcoming. I found conversation with Martha easy for she knew the religious jargon well and could spin a story with the best of them.

Mary on the other hand, well, let’s just say she was a little rough around the edges. She spent most of her adult life working with people that our society had long ago forgotten.

When she coughed the entire room shook so hard that I thought an earthquake had hit. Direct and to the point, this northerner told me all about her life working with prostitutes, inmates, the homeless, HIV/AIDS victims, and the dying. Although uncomfortable in her presence, I was awestruck by her life and stories.

Now to the unbelievable part. I feel like I have to prepare you, because of what both of these women shared with me. Mary called it a parousia experience. Martha, being southerner said it was a par-oui-sia. Either way, both of them told me that, get this, Jesus had visited them.

While visiting Martha the minister, I would have never of guessed it though. Upon crossing the threshold into her home I was overwhelmed by this sense of darkness. The outside of her house was gorgeous, and the inside even more beautiful. Her kitchen table sat overwhelmed with a feast, untouched and unchanged since it had been set. Gray engulfed the entire home though.

I don’t remember her home being like that the first time I had visited her.

I found Martha’s demeanor morose. You would’ve never been able to tell she was surrounded by such beauty by the way she moped around, dragging her feet as if the entire world sat upon her shoulders

She told me that she was broken hearted, surrounded by such goodness but unable to enjoy it.

I myself was utterly confused,

“what happened” I investigated.

Apparently, a man came to visit her, and upon his arrival everything around and in her experienced a renewal. Martha herself was in rapture over it all, until the man came closer. She said she slightly recognized his face, “uncomely and dirty” she put it.

There was no placing it though, for all she knew, he could have been the street beggar she walked past every day on her way to church. He might have even been the child who she had given money to through a compassion ministry. The closer the man got to Martha, she said the more confused and uncomfortable she felt.

When the man finally spoke, the cloud was lifted from her eyes.
“Are you?” she muttered,
“I am.”

With those words, the realization sprung forth of who this man was. Martha’s head fell into her hands. She was ashamed she couldn’t recognize and in actuality felt at unease in the presence of the Son of Man. Her entire life devoted to understanding him, but never being with him it seems, so in the end, come to find out, she hardly knew Jesus.

She told me she struggled to find conversation and to even look at Jesus, because he felt like such a stranger to her, she told me she felt like,…I think it was… a goat or an ass.

I left Martha’s home overwhelmed with a sense of dread. It felt as if that place would have been better burnt to the ground then to sit in such hellish despair despite its beauty.

In the midst of trying to think through Martha’s story, I decided to go see Mary.

Her place too though, seemed oddly different. It was as if Extreme Makeover had taken Mary’s home and made it glorious. Unlike Martha’s, the door to Mary’s home was open so I just welcomed myself in.

I was taken a bit off guard by the party and the noise coming from the kitchen. People of all kinds sat around her table feasting on the bounty. One would have thought Thanksgiving had come early

Mary, in her direct way came over to me and simply told me, “he had come.”
“I’m sorry,” I retorted, “ who had come.”

“Well at first, I wasn’t sure. I thought it was Ed from down at the HIV clinic. Then I just knew it had to Jacky, my friend who lives underneath I35. But, I assure you, he wasn’t either, and he was both.”

She went on, “and as surely as you are confused by that, well, I know it was Jesus. “





“When I first saw him, I started making all kinds of noise thinking I was yelling out to one of my friends, but the closer he got the more I felt like I knew him, but not quite. You know I had seen and talked to him everyday on the streets of this city, so when he told me his name was Jesus, well I just figured that it was Jacky…see because she thinks she’s the Messiah.”

“You should have seen us, there I was talking to about 4 different people I thought I knew from off the streets and just couldn’t place it…and there Jesus was trying to convince me that he wasn’t really any of those people, and yet he was.”

Well, it wasn’t until I realized that I hadn’t coughed since the man showed up, that I began to notice what had happened. See, these old bones and this old house took on a new life. And with that revelation, well, I just believed. Jesus had visited me.”

I myself, still don’t know what to think of all this, but I do wonder if I would recognize the face of God if he begged for my attention.

October 12, 2008

The Unfairness of Death & Grace, a Funeral Eulogy

Today, we come to celebrate, grieve, and remember a family member, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and a simple man, T___.

Although I knew T___ little apart from our family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve learned in the past week that he was an ordinary guy who would loved an ordinary game, baseball much like his own nephews he used to love to play as a child. And his joy was found in the most common situation of owning his own home and caring for his garden and little or not so little dogs. But he was also willing to do the extraordinary, to give his shirt of his back, to be a friend and father like figure for some.

Some us here are filled with memories of T___, and those that he spent his time with remember his jokes, his laugh, his gentle touch, a genuine relationship. Others here are filled with smaller memories of his presence, his smile, or for myself, buying a flannel T-shirt for him for Christmas for the last 20 years, or so it seems.

One of life’s gifts is that we get the opportunity for our inner selves, our souls to be filled by others.

It seems as a child that we are born with the whole world before us, so much to learn, so many people to meet, a family to grow into.
And so we grow up and are filled with memories, filled with the joy of relationships, filled with the love of our children, our parents, our uncles, our aunts, and our families. We grow up to being filled and made full.

But there exists in life this paradox, that as we grow up and are filled, we experience unfairness, unfairness that seems to shortchange our being filled with life and love. Certainly, in a time of loss such as this we are reminded that although one’s life may have filled us with joy and memories, we are also left with holes.

And this is why death is unfair, we miss our chances to be filled completely.

Today, we are grieving more then just the loss of a family member, but we are also grieving the missed chances to be with and get to love T___ better. We are saddened and angered by the fact that we’ll never get to offer a helping hand again, we’ll never get to tell T___ we love him, forgive him, we’ll never get the opportunity to know him better or invite him over for lunch, or watch a Cowboys game together again.

While we are filled with the presence, and memories of T___, we are also left with the unfairness of what we didn’t have with him. Death is unfair. It is unfair that those J___, D___, and those closest to him have lost a friend at the age of 55, it is unfair that the hospital couldn’t do all that we would have liked, it is unfair that we have a family member who we could and should have been closer to, but weren’t.

But while there is this tension in life of being filled and being left unfilled; there is also this strange tension between the unfairness of death and the unfairness of hope that God offers us.
On the heels of his journey to the cross, Jesus stops along the roadside with a huge crowd gathered around. In this crowd were people of all different kinds and types, from the poorest and unrighteous, to the rich and priestly.

And as usual, Jesus takes the norms of the day and flips them on their head, revealing how unfair God’s grace and hope really are for us in this world. Unfair because Jesus opened the doors to everyone.

In Matt 19 & 21 there are 3 stories the Gospel writer uses to show the unfairness of grace that Jesus always taught about. These 3 stories work like a sandwich with 2 outer slices of bread supporting the inner meat and cheese.

The first slice comes at the end of Matt. 19, there’s this story: popularly titled the “rich young ruler,” where Jesus takes a fair and normal teaching and flips it. See in that day, if a person was rich it meant that they were blessed so of course they’d be first in God’s kingdom, I wonder if we don’t sometimes think this way still.

But Jesus shows how ridiculous this folk wisdom is by making a ridiculous comment about how its easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

This statement is of course confusing to his disciples because it seems so unfair, so they ask if a rich person can’t be saved, then who can. If the person who they thought for sure was in, but wasn’t then who could be. And Jesus answers saying, “with God all things are possible.” “With God all things are possible.” Its by God’s hand that we enter into any kind of healing, it by God’s sacrifice and broken body that we are made whole, and it is by God’s grace that we live fully.
The other piece of bread to this sandwich is a story about two of Jesus’ disciples who are vying for power. They want so much to have the highest place of authority when Jesus rules, they ask their mom to ask Jesus to be made number two and three. Immediately Jesus flips what real authority and power are. “For in this world,” Jesus says, “people ruler over others with authority and manipulation, but in God’s kingdom it is the servants who are the leaders. As Jesus says, “the first shall be last, and the last first.”

The meat and cheese of these 3 stories is an incredibly offensive parable that Jesus tells. It’s a story that defies not only his crowd’s sense of fairness, but our own modern day sense of what is fair. In this parable, the landowner goes and hires workers all throughout the day, hiring the first crew in the morning, then another crew around lunch, and a few other crews all throughout the day up until a few hours before its quitting time.

Seems harmless. Certainly hiring workers who need work is fair. Fairness in this culture and our own, always means that those who worked the longest get the most pay. The first will get the most, the last the least.

But in this story, the landowner pays everyone the same amount: one day’s wages. So no matter where the workers were at, no matter how far ahead they thought they were or how far behind, the landowner’s generosity shocks the idea of fairness. “For the first shall be last, and the last first.”

Paul writes that nothing can separate us from God’s love, he even goes as far to write a poem about the unfairness of death in light of the unfairness of God’s grace and he says, “O Death, where is your sting!” The sting of sin is death, but thanks be to God who gives us victory through Jesus Christ.”

For what Paul and Jesus knew is that in God’s kingdom, the shadow that overcasts itself in death and leaves us with unfulfilled wishes for a family member, the unreconciled relationship, the holes we are all left with whether we are grieving not only what we had in T___, but also what we didn’t have:

That in God’s kingdom, we find Christ’s light bursting through the shadow. The holes left by the unfairness of death, filled by the unfairness of God’s grace, hope, and love.

So, here we are, left full of memories of T___, full of his love for us, full of our love for him and one another, but left with the holes from the injury of his death. It is not only normal, but good for us to cry, to be angry, to live in this brokenness, but it is not good for us to continue living this way among one another when God offers such love that not only may he, but Christ can heal our anger, Christ can forgive where we can’t, Christ can offer hope to the situations we cant.
So today, I hope we remember T___, and in remembering both what we had and didn’t have and will can never have, that in light of God’s unfair grace offered to anyone, that we take the time to be unfair to one another.

Be unfair in your love. Be unfair in your forgiveness. Life is too short to keep living in the light of what could have been, life is to grand to not offer a relationship to those we don’t spent as much time as we’d like.

In the midst of our grief, in the valley of our anger, in this broken place, it may not seem that love can conquer; but this is exactly the paradox. Grace, hope, and love in God’s kingdom are unfair: made available to anyone no matter how deserving or undeserving we think they or we are.

Thus, I pray that you will allow these tensions to work themselves out. And May you allow the unfairness of love, conquer the unfairness of death.

October 10, 2008

BreathingEarth

An amazing real time simulation of CO2 & death/birth rates of all countries.

This site is worth your time.

October 5, 2008

Toy Story Dark Knight Trailer

World Communion Sunday

This morning, churches across the world celebrated communion as part of World Communion Sunday. I love this symbol and idea that Christians gather not around dogma and doctrine, likeness and homogeneity, but the broken body and blood of our servant and Lord.

I had the opportunity this morning to share with my faith community, a new way of envisioning the elements and ritual of the Lord's Supper. While in India this summer, we practiced communion using a very Hindu/Indian form: the coconut. The use of the coconut by Hindu Christ followers comes from a Hindu practice of sacrifice, where a person takes a coconut to a Brahman at a temple where it is broken for that persons sins. Also, not only is bread and wine a foreign element, but pretty scarce.

So this morning, I took a coconut and broke it open during worship. The imagery brought a fresh and engaging perspective to a very important ritual within the church. The rough outer skin representing not only the human form that Christ took on in his descension from heaven, but also the sin and brokenness of the world that he took on when nailed to the cross. Then I took a hammer and with some loud cracks to the coconut, the milk poured out into a bowl, representing the shed blood.

This is such a powerful image and a great way to re-envision communion.

With that I leave you with a clip from Arandhna, contextual sitar musicians we met at the ReThinking Forum before heading to India.

October 3, 2008

VP Debate Follow Up

I thought both candidates did a good job of holding their own. I was pretty frustrated with how Palin came across with many of her answers. She often side stepped a direct question with a different answer to an unrelated question...seemed sort of canned to me.

Also, Biden came across as one who has spent one too many times debating on the Senate floor. This isn't necessarily bad, but when your opponent's main appeal is "hockey mom America" then you can be cerebral.

Anyways, here's the FactCheck sheet on last night's debate. Check out the site for the full analysis.

"Summary
Biden and Palin debated, and both mangled some facts.
  • Palin mistakenly claimed that troop levels in Iraq had returned to “pre-surge” levels. Levels are gradually coming down but current plans would have levels higher than pre-surge numbers through early next year, at least.
  • Biden incorrectly said “John McCain voted the exact same way” as Obama on a controversial troop funding bill. The two were actually on opposite sides.

  • Palin repeated a false claim that Obama once voted in favor of higher taxes on “families” making as little as $42,000 a year. He did not. The budget bill in question called for an increase only on singles making that amount, but a family of four would not have been affected unless they made at least $90,000 a year.
  • Biden wrongly claimed that McCain “voted the exact same way” as Obama on the budget bill that contained an increase on singles making as little as $42,000 a year. McCain voted against it. Biden was referring to an amendment that didn't address taxes at that income level.
  • Palin claimed McCain’s health care plan would be “budget neutral,” costing the government nothing. Independent budget experts estimate McCain's plan would cost tens of billions each year, though details are too fuzzy to allow for exact estimates.

  • Biden wrongly claimed that McCain had said "he wouldn't even sit down" with the government of Spain. Actually, McCain didn't reject a meeting, but simply refused to commit himself one way or the other during an interview.
  • Palin wrongly claimed that “millions of small businesses” would see tax increases under Obama’s tax proposals. At most, several hundred thousand business owners would see increases.
For full details on these misstatements, and on additional factual disputes and dubious claims, please read on to the Analysis section."

September 30, 2008

Rattle Canned Car




Here's my car, all these places you see here used to be rust pots. It's already dirty, the flat black is still pretty gritty so it attracts dirt. It looks much better then it used to when it was rusty and faded black.

September 29, 2008

Check Your Facts Pundits

I believe this election is very important for our nation, that is why we must pay attention to what is being said, how its being said, and what is not being said. Hopefully you are watching the debates (the VP: Biden/Palin is this Thursday), and then checking the facts. Which brings me to my point for posting. Check out FactCheck, a site "holding politicians accountable."

ACL Fest '08


My first thought is why haven't I been to more of these! Even though there were alot of complaints about the lineup not being as strong as in past festivals, I really enjoyed my two days in Zilker Park. So apparently this is one of the reasons to love Austin and overall I thought it was great.

Here's a list of the bands I saw (I missed Friday completely):
Saturday:
Man Man/ CSS/ Erykah Badu/ City and Colour/ MGMT/ Spiritualized/ ConorOberst and the Mystic Valley Band/ Iron and Wine/ Robert Plant & Alison Krauss/ Beck
Sunday: Flyleaf/ Against Me/ Colour Revolt/ Okkervil River/ Raconteurs/ Gnarls Barkley/ Foo Fighters

I had a blast at the Foo Fighters venue. My wife and I crammed in with the first clump of about 150 people near the stage of about 60,000, which made all the difference. I also really enjoyed Plant/Krauss, Iron and Wine, Colour Revolt, Spiritualized, Beck, Raconteurs, and City and Colour.

September 21, 2008

Ended up Nicely

This weekend was pretty productive for some "around the house" type duties. Although we still need a new vacuum cleaner (ours of 5 years died a violent and smelly death)...(I guess this is what happens when you own a husky), I did get a few things done I've been meaning to for a while.

1) I made several hundred dollars from cleaning out some spare parts from the garage and posting them on ebay. Now I have a cleaner garage and some cash in my pocket.

2) I put a new speed control sensor and o2 sensor in the 5.0. I drove the beast around for about half an hour. There are still some kinks to get worked out, but with some new cash in my pocket I think I'll finally just put it in a shop.

3) My favorite and most ghetto activity of the weekend. Dropped about 80 bucks on a brand new paint job. That's right 80 bucks! Well, my 4 banger Mustang is a piece and has (no wait, had) many rust spots. These cars keep their value, but their only worth their body and chassis shape. Thus, I spent several hours sanding and grinding off rust from the car. With the bare metal exposed, I rattle canned some Krylon Rust prevention primer with zinc, then some Krylon semi-black paint. My entire afternoon and evening was consumed by this job, but now I must say that the semi-flat black Mustang looks much better then the rust and faded black (pic's forthcoming). You can take me out of the ghetto...

September 20, 2008

Rollins & Bonhoeffer in Coversation

"The argument can be made naming church is never really naming church but only our understanding of church." *I have taken the liberty in the quotations from Rollins to replace "God" with "church" in light of Bonhoeffer's discussion on the church as revelation.

The funny thing about revelation for Rollins is that although it may be the opposite of concealment, it still has concealment built into it. He tests his case by showing the various and even contradictory forms of God revealed throughout the testimony of the Scriptures do not paint a complete or clear picture of God for every case. "Hence, revelation ought not to be thought of either as that which makes church known or that which leaves church unknown but rather as the overpowering light that renders church known as unknown."

Rollins states, "Consequently, we do not do theology (church) but rather are overcome and transformed by it; we do not master it, but are mastered by it." We must be willing to give up our talk about God and the church, or hold it loosely for the church to overcome us. I'm concerned that the emerging church conversation has become a place to master church, instead of be mastered by it. We are grateful and appreciated or generous enough to appreciate the ancient church, but too bitter to do the same for the modern church.

In line with Rollins' thinking about God, the church is not an object to be studied, replicated, etc. Rather, she is a subject to be in faithful relationship, understood not through study but experience, an experience with reality that transforms reality, not describes it.

Thus, God or the church as revelation can be met through the a/theistic religious community or church. Instead of a gross fundamentalism that excludes all other interpretations of reality that differ from one's own, "the a/theistic approach can be seen as a form of disbelieving what one believes, or rather believing in church, while remaining dubious concerning what one beleives about church."

September 19, 2008

That was weird

I just checked out Mark Driscoll's new site. Huh, well, it was definitely weird.

September 17, 2008

Bonhoeffer & Rollins in Conversation

In his PhD. dissertation, Sanctorum Communio (SC) Bonhoeffer (DB) writes a sociological/theological account of the church and community. Instead of arguing for a narrow individualism, DB argues that humans exist as communal beings. This does not take away from the uniqueness of individuals, but rather highlights it.
The individual personal spirit lives solely by virtue of sociality, and the ‘social spirit’ becomes real only in individual embodiment. (SC)
DB then explicates a very helpful understanding of sin as both individual and communal so that guilt lies within both realms evenly (which I believe is a very important theological statement to make).

Thus, sin is not a biological problem, but a societal and individual problem. Every individual falls into sin, thus making the human race fall into sin anew. So here is where the church comes in:
It is 'Adam', a collective person who can only be superceded by the collective person 'Christ existing as church-community.' (SC)
The reality of the church is to be either denied or trusted, because it is by nature revelation. By nature man is capable of sin, not church which is understood by Bonhoeffer to be the presence of Christ.
Thus, everyone beomces guilty by their own strength and fault, because they themselves are Adam; each person, however, is reconciled apart from their own strength and merit, because they themselves are not Christ. (SC)
These thought by Bonhoeffer will be helpful when I bring Pete Rollins into the conversation. We'll need to remember that the church when it exists, exists not by the actions of 'Adam', but instead by the revelation of Christ, the church is Christ and Christ is the church. There is much that can be said here, but our focus is that whatever may be said of the church, it is the real presence of God in the world through the revelation of God himself.

Let's Eat Plastic!

This isn't an invitation, but rather a reality. Check out this scary swarm of plastic garbage floating in the middle of the Pacific...oh, did I mention that its twice the size of Texas!!! For those think that fish eating plastic wouldn't effect us, why do you think there are more cancers and more cancer now then ever?

September 14, 2008

Emerging Church Fundamentalism

I wonder if the way the church is talked about in the emerging missional church (EMC) conversation is related to fundamentalism. Because the emerging church can be complex and multifaceted, I'm not necessarily talking about any one thing. As a matter of fact I'm not talking about a thing or doctrine at all, but rather a way of thinking. Truly that's what fundamentalism is, a way of thinking (as noted by Pete Rollins in How (not) to Speak of God).

Rollins describes fundamentalism as holding a "belief system in such a way that it mutually excludes all other systems, rejecting other views in direct proportion to how much they differ from one's own." From my own experience in the EMC conversation, it seems that many who are going through the deconstruction process or are simply in the conversation can be the most excluding group of people when it comes to ecclesiology, writing off in a reactionary fashion any forms of the modern church.

Could it be possible that we've been so careful to have a generous orthodoxy, that we cannot have a generous ecclesiology toward the churches and institutions that have parented our faith. In a forthcoming post I'm going to bring together the thought of Bonhoeffer who claims the church is revelation and thus Christ and Peter Rollins who claims that Christians must be a/theists and "not master theology but be mastered by it." Or maybe that Christians must not master the church, but be mastered by it.

September 13, 2008

Graphic Tax Cuts

Proposed tax cuts from blue and red camps. via.

Check the link out to see the graph in more detail. This tool was helpful for me to see the reality, especially that the top richest few will benefit the most from the dem's. Interesting.

Books in the Political Season

Amazon has a really interesting way of tracking the "redness" or "blueness" of book buying. Check it out.

September 12, 2008

Holistic Christianity: Bonheoffer

Our being Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among humanity.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

via.

September 11, 2008

Theology, please conversate with Science!

When theology, biblical studies, and science are not in conversation (which they must always be to be a responsible theologian), then sites and folks like this do things like this:
Please take the time and read the material provided on this website. We are here to help. If you or a loved one is suffering from Homosexuality don't hesitate to send them our way. Please Email us with any questions or thoughts.
(from godhatesfags.com, their new site lovegodsway.com)
Check out this article on brain development and homosexuality. I'll declare up front I don't know where I stand on the issue of homosexuality, but I can tell you two things. We Christians MUST address the issue in humility and must change the way we have addressed the issue in the past (or should I say present). Secondly, we in our humility we must listen to other voices on this issue. For me, it is important whether or not homosexuals are born gay or not. If they are or at least some are then this is a classic case of our theology needing to listen to science.

What happens when we ignore science? Well, ask Galileo who was thrown into prison by the church for supporting Copernicus' claim that the planets revolve around the sun, not the earth and the pope.

In their study of 25 straight men, 25 straight women, 20 gay men, and 20 gay women, the neurologists at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, found that
Savic was able to demonstrate highly statistically significant differences between straight and gay brains. Gay and lesbian brains more closely resembled the brains of straight volunteers of the opposite sex than the brains of heterosexual members of the same sex.
and
Although Savic admits that her study cannot distinguish between genetic or prenatal intrauterine environmental changes, such as relative differences in sex hormone levels, her studies do suggest that our sexual preferences are, at least in large part, determined by the time of birth.
Interesting indeed. Read the rest.

Oh SNAP

September 10, 2008

7 Deadly Sins

For anyone in politics and the church, I bring you Gandhi's 7 deadly sins:
  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character (interesting, one of my favorite quotes from MLK Jr. is "knowledge plus character equals education")
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice
via

September 5, 2008

Authority in the Church

Following conversation sparked from some thoughts on Bonhoeffer and Adam's thoughts, I've been thinking about authority and pastoral identity. As a postmodern, I'm inclined to distrust and critique the modern creation known as the "pastor." Why? There are many reasons, but here's only a few.

Many pastors hold so much authority that they are held to higher standards than normal people. Catch that, we're even comfortable dislocating the pastor from the congregation, the lay people and the pastor, there again arises the sacred/secular divide. It seems that pastors, because they are given the spotlight can represent all that is bad or wrong with the church or must hold all that is good and right with it. This is simply too much responsibility for an individual, but rather authority must be carried in community.

Here's where I take issue with theologians like Moltmann who over emphasize the democratic nature of the church so much that any semblance of an authoritarian figure is bad. In reality our churches are full of busy people, thus there must be room for the church to appoint certain people to take care of ministerial and administrative duties.

Good Reformationists would say that authority lies in the Scripture, but the question is still who has the authority to interpret the Scripture: the pastor or people? I see a need for a healthy interplay between both. All communities will have leaders that hold more authority in the congregation, and it is healthy only when that person or group of persons is given that authority by the community. Authority ultimately lies in Christ working though the Holy Spirit represented by the whole of the church. Thus, not only must there be interplay between leaders and the community, but there must be interplay between communities of different theological, geographical, political, and socio-economic difference.

What are your thoughts on authority in the church, especially in light of "pastoral" identity?