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; -


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.”

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.”


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.


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.