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.
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


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?
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.