Monday, June 30, 2003

Am I Out of My Mind?

I am leaving tomorrow morning for five days in Miami. It is our national young adult -post high Convo. I am the Internet/Web coordinator (or as Andrew Careaga called us in a recent magazine article- Jesus Geek). The address is surf on over and see what happens during the week- I wish I knew. Maybe I can introduce blogging to some more people.

But Miami? In July? Leaving the cool (?) comfort (at least the lower humidity) of Minnesota to go to Miami in July. I am looking forward to it and seeing some new ways to use the web to share the Good News. If anyone has any ideas what we might do, drop me a note.

I will try to keep blogging here with insights- if I can come up with any. But will keep you all posted.

What Do I Believe?

Pen at The Gutless Pacifist has challenged the blogosphere to a "spirited conversation." He has an excellent post on his response to a young man searching in his faith. It will be interesting to see what happens next. I'll think about it- and maybe get some of the young adults at Convo to think about it.

The Book of Life

Fred Peatross over at Future Margins had a wonderful post this morning. He talked about all the reams of knowledge that Biblical Scholars have developed over the years. He wondered how some of this intellectual knowledge has any impact on the suffering and the lost. His ending line was a classic:

The church is cluttered with shipwrecked scholars who thought the Bible was written for understanding and didn’t recognize it was written to give life.

What he is talking about is the depth of study and scholarship that, in many ways, is the result of the modern understanding that knowledge is important and even powerful. If we can only know all that we can know, we can overcome all problems. They take the life out of it, though. Modern fundamentalism falls into the same difficulty.

Not that scholarship is bad. It certainly can help us discern depths of meaning in the Bible that we might otherwise miss. But if it is simply for the sake of knowledge, it is not life-giving.

In the end it is all about Jesus. He is in the book. Which is reason enough to read it.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Rest in Peace

Katherine Hepburn, 1907 - 2003.
She made the movies great!

Deja Vu
All Over Again

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. — General Omar Bradley

Got that quote over at Eclipsoul, a blog by Nate Wildermuth who describes himself as Christian - Pacifist - Anarchist - Radical - Skydiver - Harmonica - Faith - Love - Hope - Peace. He has been in the military and at West Point and has come to see himself as a Conscientious Objector. He has even posted his CO packet on the web. Currently he is waiting on the slow process of the military to come to a decision on his application.

Considering that all the way back in March when this blog was born, the theme of the world was the war in Iraq, and part of my posting at the time was my struggle with a war that seemed to be justified, coming across this web site was a real kick in the pants. It took me back to those wonderful days of yester-year known as the Sixties and early Seventies. It was December of 1969 when the draft lottery took place and I was a soon to be graduating senior in college. I had thought little about my own future at that point. Sure, the Vietnam War was raging but it was far away, mentally, physically, emotionally. Sure I thought I was a pacifist. But at that point I had no reason to think about it- other than to protest. Yes, I had supported McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy. Yes, I was opposed to the war and war, but it had nothing to do with me. That changed when I realized that I would be drafted. What was I to do?

Hours were spent in prayer and a lot of discussion with a lot of people. I don't remember any more what all the links and networks were that I followed, if any. All I came to know was that I could not, as a Christian, a follower of God, be a part of the military. I really understood that I was a pacifist.

Fortunately I was granted the CO status, was drafted, and did my two years alternative service, first in a home for the handicapped and then as a youth center director for the city.

Reading Nate's blog and his CO application reminded me of the power of the Gospel when faced with such decisions- literally life changing decisions. Nate thought he had made a choice that was the one for him. He has now discovered a different choice. His struggle, prayer, the wrestling with God (and probably the US Army) reminds me that sometimes when faced with doing what we feel God is calling us to do- and be- we have to make hard choices. They didn't look like that to me as a 21-year old college senior. Seeing them now, in someone else, I can see the power of God at work.

As I said way back in March, my struggle today is not with pacifism. I still am a pacifist, although, like Stanley Hauerwas has been quoted as saying, that is as much so others will remind me of what I say I believe when I am tempted to live another way. My struggle is that I know I am capable of NOT being a pacifist. I am capable of living and acting in ways that are contrary to my stated beliefs.

Thanks, Nate, for your witness that has brought me back to who I like to say I am.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Bedroom or Boardroom
I guess this is a rant....

Okay, I'll add a comment on the previous sex discussion. Found this quote on Chad Canipe's blog.

The Church is uncommonly vocal about the subject of bedrooms and so singularly silent on the subject of boardrooms.
—Dorothy L. Sayers

That about sums it up for me. When Jesus talked about sex-type issues he was putting all of us in the same boat of sin. Don't think you are better than the adulterer because you haven't done that. Remember the last time you looked with "lust" on a woman. That's the same as doing it. Or don't think you are better than the CEO of Enron. Remember the last time you wanted that you looked with "greed" on someone else's house or car. That's the same as doing it. Don't think you are better than that common murdered you saw get arrested on TV tonight. Remember the time you said something hateful about the guy who cut you off on the highway. That's the same as doing it.

I agree that sin needs to be named. I also agree that we are dealing with types of questions that were unthinkable in Jesus' day. And I also agree that we have found ways to sin that can have a greater impact on the whole world than anything even Herod could have done.

Perhaps instead of picking on others who have different understandings of sin, we should listen to each other. I don't see sexual sin as easily as I do alcoholism, for example. I am more sensitive to the presence of addiction to chemicals and the resulting behavior than I am to sexual temptations. At youth camp one year one of the counselors noticed a particularly suggestive top a girl was wearing. The counselor couldn't believe that I, the director, would let that happen. I had never noticed. No one else noticed the Budweiser T-shirt on one of the guys. I did.

So maybe we need to talk together about all the realms of sin that each of us is sensitive to. I need to listen to those who are able to see and name sexual sins and take their sensitivity into account. I need to hear the words of a friend who can see the depth of the sin of gambling and take her sensitivity into account. I need to hear the words of a prophetic type like Stanley Hauerwas who names the sin of violence and war and take his sensitivity into account. I would hope that when I speak words of the sin of other areas where I have a sensitivity that others will listen and take my sensitivity into account.

The danger of elevating one sin or one type of sin to the top of the list is that we can easily let other sinners off much too easily. And the sinner that I am usually ready to let off the hook is myself. I do not believe that sexual sins are the worst. I do not believe that homosexuality is a sin that we should elevate (or denigrate) to some SuperSin status. Nor is abortion or war or greed or lying or dishonoring your father and mother or a parent being so strict that they drive their children away. Sin is Sin is Sin is Sin. And as I remember in a sermon somewhere- right at the center of sIn is I.

I guess the one other thing I believe is that sin is probably not the center of our message. Greg Laurie in his book How to Share Your Faith tells the story of approaching a street-corner evangelist in Hawaii. The guy was raving and raging about the wages of sin being death. Laurie went up to him and told him that he thought that was being unfair to the gospel. Especially since the rest of the verse says that the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus. The man turned to Laurie and told him he was a sinner to.

The gospel is a challenge to all of us to accept the free gift. It is about the love of God. Sometimes we have to point out sin. But I have a hunch that sometimes what we need to do more is offer people our hand and friendship in love and grace and let them know how we have overcome the sins of our lives in Jesus. That is a whole lot more hopeful than talking about how bad someone else is. 'Cause that someone else is me.

So, enough of a rant. We won't get rid of sin. We won't stop sin. All we can do is become a community of brothers and sisters who have found a better way. Then become a community of sinners that helps other sinners find out where the grace is at.

A Love Poem from God

He Asked for Charity

God came to my house and asked for charity
And I fell on my knees and
cried, “Beloved,

what may I

“Just love,” He said,
“Just love.”
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
--from Love Poems from God:Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West by Daniel Ladinsky

Thursday, June 26, 2003

A Spirituality for the Road

Len at NextReformation had a good post on June 25 about spirituality as it relates to the changes and work of the emerging church. Here is part of it:

Ultimately we do need a true spirituality, a spirituality for the road, an outside-the-walls, tested and proven spirituality that goes beyond individuality into purposeful relationships of love and grace and giving. There is a spirituality of the safe places, and a spirituality for the road. There is a spirituality that is good enough for Sunday mornings, and a spirituality that will endure on the street. There is a spirituality that is adequate when we are in large and impersonal gatherings, and another for the face-to-face and open heart encounter.

In these chaotic and uncertain times, when so many things we depend on are changing or have ceased to exist, we long to see something new revealed. And we long to be part of the of something that is truly life giving, truly God centered, and truly liberating. We want to see His kingdom come.

But it will only be born as we let go of fear, as we let go of our own addiction to control, and as we learn to embrace insecurity. Only as we release our hold on the things of this world can we embrace the new thing that God is doing. Letting go of the old things will bring fear if we are not deeply rooted in a different reality. And if we walk in fear, we won't even recognize the new thing when we see it. Fear is a binding and blinding force that causes our sight to turn inward.

I like how he contrasts the spirituality that most of us are used to on Sunday mornings and the spirituality that can survive on the streets of the postModern world. I wonder if that is why so many of us can fall into the trap of compartmentalizing our lives. We have never learned how to develop a spirituality of the street or of the face-to-face and open heart encounter. We have made spirituality a nice pious thing that has to do with saying your prayers and being good. Nothing wrong with that. It just doesn't hold up well in the daily light of life.

Which made me think of a book I read a number of years ago. The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. I have to dig it off the shelf and do some re-reading. Basically the authors took the spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Step programs and put it together in a book that is full of insights and stories. Reading Len's post brought that to mind because if you work the program of the 12-steps you will develop a spirituality for the streets. It is a spirituality that moves beyond fear as a blinding force and not only causes us to look inward, but also outward to the others still suffering.

With all the stuff around here about sex and Harry Potter (just one more attempt there to get noticed by the search engines) it is easy to get sidetracked away from our basic purpose as Christians- to make disciples and to make one you have to be one and that takes discipline as Len also points out. The spiritual disciplines are the foundation of being disciples. I keep blogging away so as to find new insights. I leap around the blogosphere seeking stories of spirituality and find myself growing in my disciplines. What I am finding cannot be held within the Sunday morning ghetto or just be found in world-renouncing Quietism. It begs to be let free, exploding from the church with power and hope. Maybe we are getting somewhere after all.

Sex Sets Record
No Film at 11:00

Just a quick note with more comments to come later...

I think yesterday proves Richard's point about sex. Thanks to his post on sex that I linked to, there was a record number of visits to this site and a record number of comments for any post. Gee, Richard, maybe we've found the secret to getting people to visit our web sites. :>)

A Trinity Poem

Jonny Baker linked to Steve from Small Ritual who wrote this poem on the Trinity last Sunday.

three is the magic number
calling us out of individualism
insisting on relationship
i to you
we to another
trinity seeding networks
until all the cosmos joins in

one to create
one to save
one to sustain

one to author
one to fight
one to enliven

one to conceive
one to die
one to resurrect

one to plan
one to act
one to explain

one's sufficient
two's company
three's community

trinity expose our self-reliance
trinity break open our exclusivity
trinity seed our joining tonight


Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Jesus and Sex

Have to at least jump in with a thank you to Richard over at connexions. In a series of excellent posts starting with a tongue-in-cheek statement, he has brought all of us up short with his insights into our Christian sexual obsession. Here are a few quotes to get you interested...

--with tongue in cheek-- A careful reading of the gospels makes it plain that sex and sexual morality was at the heart of the ministry of Jesus. His absolute condemnation of sexual sin, the many parables and stories he told about sexual behaviour and the way that he refused to have anything to do with those whose sexual lives were anything less than totally pure all point to the priority of sex as the lodestone of Christian morality. Twenty-first century disciples of Jesus will want to emulate his priorities, and Christian pronouncements about morality will reflect this. permalink
If sex was not a priority for Jesus, why does it occupy so much of the churches' (and bloggers') time? I'm convinced that part of the answer lies in our continuing "conformation to the world". Western Christians may claim to be in Christ, but we still share the world's obsessions: sex and wealth.
We talk about sex the most because, frankly, sex is interesting. Exciting, even. There's no thrill in listening to a condemnation of greed, or pride, or gluttony. In any case, condemning those sins leads us to condemn ourselves.
So I have a suggestion to make. Let's give the same priority to sex that Jesus did -- you know, like, none at all. Remember Jesus' words about specks and planks? Let's take them seriously and work on the planks in our own eyes before we trouble about the specks in other peoples. Or we could just continue in our sin, smugly ignoring the greed and covetousness most of us are a part of. But I hate to think of the consequences of that. permalink

Thanks, Richard. My thoughts exactly. Perhaps we are also afraid that if we don't condemn all those sexual sinners people will think we are like them. Or perhaps we all are as a culture still stuck in those adolescent years when bodily functions of all kinds are the center of jokes, cruelty, or just plain embarrassment- at least for the boys cabins at camp.

As to those filled with greed and lying, well, they may only be helping to better the economy or get rid of evil dictators or... (oops, I have a hunch I just started meddling.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

A Great Deal of Prayer

And this was in the latest edition of Internet for Christians newsletter..

An Awful Lot of Knee Hours

How long does prayer-meeting last in your church? Do the fidgits set in after ten or twenty minutes of prayer? We'll estimate the average prayer meeting at an hour. How much longer do you think the world's longest prayer meeting lasted? Multiply an hour by 24; then multiply that by 365; and then multiply that by 100. That tallies up to 876,000 hours. The longest prayer meeting in the world actually lasted longer than that! It began this day, August 27, 1727, in Herrnhut, Germany, when Moravians under Count von Zinzendorf commenced an around-the-clock prayer chain that lasted more than 100 years!

The result of that prayer was the beginning of the Protestant Mission movement, a deep faith that in its witness influenced the Wesley brothers and the development of the Moravian Church, and a world-wide Christian fellowship that, while remaining small (and often unknown), continues to have an impact. One of the places that considers itself a spiritual descendent of Zinzendorf is the 24-7 Prayer Movement in England. It is truly inspiring and exciting to to see this happening.

The world-wide Moravian prayer watch still continues, by the way, in different parts of the world each day.

As a Moravian, and a Christian, I often in prayer wonder what would happen if we would take that kind of bold step again. Maybe watching the 24-7 Movement will give us all some new ideas.

(The above info on the Moravian prayer meeting is from CHI NOTES: A JOURNEY BACK TO OUR CHRISTIAN PAST. CHI Notes, newsletter of Christian History Institute, offers interesting "morsels of courage, faith, hope and love," and a glimpse into our rich Christian past--20 centuries of church history. Subscribe at the address below and start enjoying this informative and inspiring newsletter now! Be sure to visit the CHI Web site to find daily updated stories, key church events, "Glimpses" bulletin inserts, Early Church video scripts and more. Chi Notes (subscribe online): Subscribe by blank email: Christian History Institute:

God Over Country Flag Flap

This came through in my daily email from Crosswalk Religion Today Summaries.

A Christian businessman in Pennsylvania is causing a flap in his community for flying a Christian flag above Old Glory. Greg Podlucky, the owner of the Le-Nature's beverage company, has been flying the flag for months now, irritating some residents of Latrobe, located in Westmoreland County, local TV station WTAE reported.
The United States code reportedly states that the American flag always comes first on the flagpole. "Nothing flies above the American flag," said veteran Dick Johnston. "But this guy just don't want to cooperate with us."
Another Latrobe resident Steve Semnisky added: "In my estimation, it's a contempt for the city of Latrobe and contempt for any citizen. He's doing it and he knows that it's not right and why he won't change it. I have no idea. It's sad."
But Podlucky said his flag move wasn't meant to offend anyone. He said his inspiration was a Bible distributed by President Roosevelt right before World War II. In that Bible, there's a picture of the U.S. flag being flown under the Christian flag, Podlucky said.
The American Legion has tried to convince Podlucky to switch the flags, but Podlucky reportedly said it's "God over country." "That's a fine statement to make," Semnisky said, WTAE reported. "But that gives no one the right to fly the flag above the United States flag." Semnisky said his family plans to boycott the popular Le-Nature's, and many others in Latrobe said they'll do the same. from Charisma News Service

As one who tends to be patriotic and who still gets goose-bumps and takes off my hat when the National Anthem is played, I continue to be saddened whenever the flag becomes an issue of who is first- God or country. We call ourselves "one nation, under God" but often only when God is on our side. We certainly are afraid of anyone who would actually believe that we are "under God." Instead of boycotting and villifying someone like Greg Podlucky, we should thank him for reminding us of the true meaning of the American flag- freedom, even the freedom to be religious, to live out one's own interpretation of the pledge of allegiance or just to disagree.

It also points out the power of symbols, like a flag. In our postModern world, symbols will only get more important. We need to know how and when to use them in ways that are healthy and point us to the realities they stand for.

A Day Off

Took a day off yesterday from blogging. It's amazing how guilty I felt. Like I wasn't doing my part to keep the blogosphere filled with words. In many ways this doesn't feel like work (it isn't!) so I just do this each day. But I think getting the other blog set-up and posted with daily journals left me with not much to say yesterday. Next I will probably work on moving this blog to Moveable Type. It sure is a lot easier.

Large Church, Small Church, or...

In the typically roundabout blog way here is a quote that I found from Pen at Gutless Pacifist who got it from Len at NextReformation who got in from an article at

If the megachurch is the legacy of the Baby Boomers, the legacy of the next generations may be just the opposite -- smaller churches designed to feed the need for close-knit, authentic relationships. The trend, if it is one, doesn’t show up yet in church statistics. But, according to consultants and researchers, there are early indications that many new churches are being designed to stay small. “You don't see many church planters today who have their sights set on huge congregations or buildings," says Carol Childress, a researcher who carries the title of “knowledge broker” at Leadership Network, a Dallas-based think tank for innovative churches. "Unlike many Baby Boomer pastors who were set on starting and growing big churches, today's church leaders are not concerned with becoming big but rather with growing authentic disciples of Christ,” says Childress, whose job it is to spot trends in church life.

Echoing Pen, I do applaud the movement toward smaller churches. From an anti-institutional point of view it is a good trend. We have talked often around the emerging church blog world about how becoming institutional is the problem of churches and denominations. Small churches with the opportunities for close personal contact and relational evangelism and discipling can revolutionize the church.


a significant majority of churches today are small and do not offer those opportunities. Small churches in the modern world paradigm are often family-based units that are hard to break into- or out of. Small churches in the modern world paradigm are simply institutions that want to protect tradition, building, and be ministered to. The emerging small churches will have to be careful that they don't become a next-generation of the same old thing. Some more from the original article:

"Smaller is working," says Bill Easum. "That's because it is the way the church spread the fastest in the first century -- organically instead of institutionally." Easum is one of the few ready to predict a major shift: "I believe the megachurch will be replaced by smaller congregations that meet in multiple settings."

As usual, Bill is right on target, I believe. The change I see in the emerging small church is an organic one. It is not based on institution but relationship. It is not necessarily based on location. It is willing to move and adapt as needs change or even to be a house-church movement. It is willing to be non-churchy, and even multi-tasking. It is also, I think, willing to serve as much as to be served. A big shift in the post-modern paradigm. And one more quote:

And the skills required to lead a smaller, more relational church are different than the skills required to preach to the masses, Childress adds. "These churches will require lots of relationship building, lots of leadership skills, perhaps less emphasis on proclamation and more emphasis on teaching Scripture, but in a more conversational, participatory, storytelling sort of way."

Here is where the key to the growth of the emerging small church movement may lie. The skills and passions of the leaders and all participants of the movement. It will not look like church in the modern world, even when it has the trappings of that church. It will be an organic community that has no - or few - "professional" leaders who do the ministry. It may have more bi-vocational pastors. It may often be led by non-seminary trained spiritual friends. It will be somewhat fluid and open to the leading of the Spirit. At least it will start that way. Just like the 1st Century Church did.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

From Discipling to Evangelism

I was pondering my own ministry last evening as I thought about the evangelism course I am teaching at the church. I realized that almost all of my ministry for most of the past 30 years has been in disciple-making. Sure, I have done the ministry stuff- visiting, etc. But my main work has been in helping people who already believe to move beyond simply believing to being disciples. I had been reacting inside to the fact that I have led very few people to Christ, even though I myself was not born and raised in the church. Never was in one until I was 15. But when I got into ministry it was not as an evangelist. It was as a discipler. Then I realized that I have been obeying the Great Commission. I have made disciples as I journeyed through my life. Wow. What a neat insight.

Thanks to the great blessings of God's gifts in my life, I have had a great time leading people deeper into being Christian. Things like mission trips for youth before they were commonplace. Helping develop Cursillo in my denomination and seeing remarkable results as people discovered Christ's call to ministry in discipleship. Sitting with friends and just having the mentoring and caring relationship that allows them to grow. It has been great.

But in the past few years I have been feeling the calling or push into church planting (whatever that may come to mean) or at least some form of relational evangelism. I have been reading and trying to work it out. I have been looking for ways to find out if I can do it. I have been spending a lot of time in prayer. One of the significant things I have realized about being an "evangelist" is that it happens outside the church. Yes, I know there are probably people in the church who haven't yet Jesus as their Lord, even though they may think they do. (Just think about that pastor in the news the other week who claim he didn't believe in God- and his church supported him.) But that is not the mission field. Not in this postModern world.

To be outside the church is a tough thing. After 30 years of being in the church as a pastor/discipler that is a scary idea. The world is different from the one I started in ministry in. How do we convince the church (i.e. the institution and denomination) that evangelism is harder to do from the church now than it has been in centuries. Many posts around the blogosphere in the past month or so, including here, have spoken to the issues and problems of the insitutional church of the "modern" world. It
becomes clearest when we begin to talk about going outside the church to find the people who are looking for directions and spiritual friendships. The church gets scared. It becomes harder and harder to do discipling in the church. Let's not even talk about evangelism. I get scared.

Yet I also get excited. The possibilities are endless and truly life changing for the people out there as well for the church. I will continue to ponder this, seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Acts 2- A Pattern for a Sermon

Working on the Bible Journal that I am doing along with a course on evangelism, I had these thoughts from Peter's sermon in Acts 2. It is the first Christian sermon, or at least the first proclamation of the Christian message. There is a very good "outline" in that sermon.

Step One: Go back to the root, the foundational witness that they already understood as true. Since Peter is speaking to people who already believe in God and the Hebrew Bible, that is where he starts- their foundation. He quotes from Joel - there is no special group that receives the Spirit. Sons, daughters, young, old, even servants. ALL will preach. Nature itself will be shaken by the power of God’s Spirit
He makes it clear that salvation is of God- and for anyone who calls on the Lord. It will take Peter a while to understand that one himself.

Step Two: Then recount the story of Jesus.
It was done within God’s purpose
And God’s purpose is stronger than death!
Peter connects Jesus back to the history and tradition of the people of Israel through David.
This amounts to reading history with new eyes- the eyes of the resurrection itself. It was such a change that everything that came before it is changed as much as everything that comes after. In fact the resurrection rewrites history.

Personal testimony enters here. It is the Holy Spirit that is allowing/giving this
It is Jesus that we are talking about. He is Lord and Christ.

Step Four: Issue the call. This is often a missing piece of witness- issuing the call. We will deal more with that later in the journaling. The call is issued with a PROMISE attached- you will receive the Holy Spirit!

One of the things we all need to do is know the foundation and story of Jesus so well that we can connect it to our witness- how Jesus has worked in our lives. If we are part of Jesus' People, we are witnesses to the resurrection. We just may not be able to put it into words.

Now this 'pattern" is not a hard and fast outline to preaching or witness. It is the order that Peter used because of his circumstances. Since we will more often than not be talking to people we know in our own native language and culture, our witness to the resurrection will probably be the first point of our witness.

In any case, just a reflection on how Peter preached in a pre-modern world.

Friday, June 20, 2003

No, Not Another Harry Potter Post

After reading a truly inspired post on Gary Kotter and the Theologian's Drone over at Living Room, I decided that I will not, repeat not, have a Harry Potter post. Nor will I shamelessly use the name of Harry Potter in hopes that some search engine will link to my blog and send thousands (well, 3 or 4) to read my insights that aren't even being posted.

Unfortunately, this post is 24 hours too late for our blog friend Mean Dean at Blogs4God to have found it for his Compendium of Christian POTter-heads.

So, if you are reading this thinking I am about to say something profound about Harry Potter, sorry.

After all, I still haven't seen Matrix Reloaded, Bruce Almighty, or Titanic.

A Love Poem from God

A Plague

What a cruel act to be untruthful.
Earthquakes happen in the heart that hears sounds
that are amiss.

Havoc is created in the mind that can no longer trust someone
once loved, and schisms devour alliances
that helped support
our life.

Words can enrich and be as wonderful as spices mixed into the days
we imbibe with all our senses.

There are the fields in the soul- lush organic meadows, though sounds
and words that fall there
can be, at times, a

A plague is spread by one
who cannot tell
the truth.
Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)
--from Love Poems from God:Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West by Daniel Ladinsky

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Thanks, Bene

A truly inspiring and courageous post from Bene Diction. Thanks!

More from Leading Dying Churches

Thanks to Darryl for pushing the envelope at Leading Dying Churches. Today he quoted one of my mentors, Bill Easum...

Faithful congregations intentionally go out from the congregational mission post to make disciples; congregations that omit this purpose are unfaithful. No individual, congregation, or denomination is excused from this mandate, because disciple-making is the reason the Church exists. Take disciple-making away and our congregations have no justification for existence. (Bill Easum, Unfreezing Moves)

This adds on top of a post Darryl had earlier in the week..

We have two impediments (at least) to dying churches today. One is the myth of holy leaders. We've made this professional class of church leaders who've become accustomed to pastoral ministry as not only a calling, but a career. I'm not sure the church is worried about our surivival - we come and go anyway - but we probably are. We're not quite ready to get over ourselves...

The other impediment is that of holy places. We love our church buildings. Because most in the church think of the church as a building, we talk about wanting to keep the doors open and we can't imagine giving our buildings up.

Which brings me to another quote from the book from Inter-Varsity Press: Jesus with Dirty Feet: A Down-to-Earth Look at Christianity for the Curious and Skeptical by Don Everts. This is from the chapter titled :: Church-The Tribe ::

All of those steepled buildings you see around town?
Turns out none of them are churches.
(Those signs out front certainly are misleading!)

It turns out that church has never been a building.
Church is all those Kingdom Dwellers put together.

The plural of "Jesus Follower" is "church."

Those steepled contraptions?
Those are just how the church gets out of the rain.
Jesus with Dirty Feet by Don Everts, IVP

Great stuff to make us think. All this fuss over a rain-shelter?

Actually I am enough of an ancient-future person to know that sacred places have power and value. After all the disciples went to the Temple to worship. The difference may be that those disciples also met in the homes on a regular basis. The ate together, prayed, sang psalms and spiritual songs, and helped the poor. When the church ONLY gathers one day a week and ONLY in that sacred place they have lost the disciple-making imperative that makes them a church. When we rediscover the breadth of the church and the myriad possibilities of living as Jesus Followers, we will have died to ourselves and rediscovered the church.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Holistic Spirituality

Darren at Living Room has had a series of posts on Holistic Spirituality. He writes:

The model is pretty simple - and identifies four main ways that people tend to connect with God. We each tend to be strong in at least one area and often are weak in one also.

So far he has posted on the first three quadrants, Truth, Wonder, and Action.

One of the important things we all need to discover is that not everybody thinks (or acts, or prays) like we do. Personality, style, experiences, etc. all play into how we see and respond to the world. That this affects our spirituality and approach to spirituality should be more obvious than we are willing to meet. We often end up thinking that the one we are more comfortable with is THE best and even right way. Thanks, Darren, giving us this introduction into the wide range of spirituality.

Thought on E-Vangelism

Fred Peatross has a review of Andrew Careaga's introduction to his book E-Vangelism 2.0. Here is his closing comment:

There’s little doubt that the Internet has the potential to be a boon for lay Christians to get back to the New Testament roots of ministering to a lost and hurting world. Few look at the world through cyberspace lens. Andrew Careaga does and I’m thankful for that!

As I have been working on the Book of Acts and the evangelism course I'm leading at church, I am also looking into cross-cultural communication and how that affects the Gospel. We are living in an age where we have to do cross-cultural communication even within our own communities. The possibilities of cyberspace e-vangelism are endless, but as Fred indicates in his review, some of that will be in cultures very different from ours. I will be posting some thoughts in this on the postModern Journal blog as well as here over the next few weeks, no doubt.

The Beginning:Follow Me

Came across a little book from Inter-Varsity Press: Jesus with Dirty Feet: A Down-to-Earth Look at Christianity for the Curious and Skeptical by Don Everts. It's purpose is to present Jesus and Christianity in a non-stereotyped manner. Here is a section from the first chapter entitled ::Christianity-Smelly Fishermen::

To really understand
we have to go back to the beginning,
to put first things first.

For starters, Jesus was not a Christian.
never asked anyone to become a Christian,
never built a steepled building,
never drew up a theological treatise,
never took an offering,
never wore religious garments,
never incorporated for tax purposes....

He simply called people to follow him.

That's it.
That, despite its simplicity,
is it.

He called people to follow him.

They believed,
listened to,
talked with,
learned from
and ultimately gave their lives to
this character Jesus.

is Christianity.
Jesus with Dirty Feet by Don Everts, IVP

Can't put it any better than that.

Monday, June 16, 2003

How Would You Vote?

Before I take Barbara Kingsolver’s riveting and disturbing novel, The Poisonwood Bible off the list as having been read. One more post. Some plot information may be disclosed in this post.

There is a chapter where the Congolese village of the early ‘60s decides to vote on whether Jesus should be the village’s “god.” The village chief surprises the missionary preacher by calling for this vote in the middle of one of the preacher’s sermons. With irony and sarcasm, the chief says that they have learned all about voting and democracy from the white men- Belgians who used to run the country and the missionaries. So they vote.

Jesus loses.

Not just because Jesus was white (which was the way He was portrayed by the missionaries) but because, it is suggested, he wasn’t powerful enough…

…He hadn’t prevented the drought…
…He hadn’t brought rain to break the drought…
…He hadn’t prevented the invasion of the carnivorous ants…

Why change “gods” when the old one wasn’t doing any worse than the new one?

How would any of our “villages” vote if a similar poll took place? Polls tell us that almost everyone believes in God. So, they vote for Him in the polls.

The same polls tell us that up to 60% of people are church members. Still a majority.

Up to 45 – 50% actually go to church on any given weekend. Ooops; though probably still a plurality. The vote seems to be changing.

Perhaps in many ways we are like the villagers in Kingsolver’s novel. “God” is our “village god.” We think we know “him” and understand what “he” will and will not do. We don’t ask too much of “him” except in times of uncertainty and crisis. We are content. Sort of.

After 9/11 people returned to the churches in numbers more reminiscent of the ‘50s or Christmas Eve. They didn’t stay long, according to George Barna polls at the time. Why? I have a hunch that they came to find the power to cope, the wisdom to understand, the hope for the future in a now very changed world. They left because they found the church unable to give those things. They voted “against” Jesus as we present and live him.

The story is told of a new Christian attending a church Bible study. The topic was the Book of Acts. The more he read, the more he attended the study, the more excited he got. One day he made an appointment with the pastor.

“So, pastor,” he said, “tell me. When we get to do these things? I can hardly wait!”

“What things?”

“You know, healings, miracles, thousands coming to know Jesus. When do we these things happen for us?

This new Christian had experienced those miracles and healings. But he didn’t see them happening anywhere. This new Christian read the story of the early followers of The Way and expected that the same things should be happening today.

How would any of us vote?

I think the discussions across the Christian blogosphere and in many other places are examples of our deciding to vote for Jesus in new ways. I think we are looking to renew and revive the People of Jesus with the power that is promised in Acts, the hope that Paul talks about, and the fellowship that can develop into more than just friendship. It can become a spiritual bonding of brothers and sisters.

In The Poisonwood Bible the vote is one more event in a series of events that changed the world of the villagers, the Congo, and the missionary family. It was not all for the better as culture and power and prejudice and faith and control and politics all got enmeshed in dysfunctional ways.

How we are “voting” can have just as significant an effect. May we have wisdom to know how to live this faith we have been given in true following of the One who is our Lord.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Sunday Night Bits and Pieces

::. Dan from Signposts commented on the post I had on garage sales. They recently had one that was used to raise money for special ministries of compassion in the community. That is a great use of garage sales (and other fund raisers.) There can be a real sense of comminty develop among the workers as well as an awareness of the church's mission to reach beyond its doors. A church I know had a fund-raising supper every fall. It was used for a different mission project each year. The mission cause was usually publicized ahead of time and that even brought in people who might not have come otherwise. By the way, a couple weeks ago in a post I referred to Dan as "he." I was corrected that Dan should be "she" and I apologize. Just realized I hadn't done that yet. Sorry, Dan!

::. Darryl Dash has started a new blog- Leading Dying Churches. Here's some of his opening thoughts:

The past few weeks, I've been thinking about dying churches. I've read about every type of church - the purpose-driven church, the turnaround church, the naturally developed church, and so on. What I haven't read about is the dying church. Jesus talked about the need for us to die to ourselves, to take up our cross daily and die to ourselves, and that if we wanted to save our lives we'd lose it, but if we willingly died to ourselves we'd really live.

I'm wondering - does this apply to the church? Especially these days, when a church can be so easily consumed by providing great programs, building new and better buildings, growing, etc.? Why is it that so much of my life as a pastor is so consumed with preserving an institution rather than in dying to ourselves and staying on mission?

Sounds like a place to be going!

::. Started the class on training and prayer for evangelism this morning and the daily jouraling starts tomorrow. A good start and a lot of heads nodding when I talked about the need for relationships as the key to evangelism. Most of us in the mainline/traditional church have run screaming from evangelism in the past because we didn't want to be seen as one of those fanatics or holy rollers. We become so afraid of sharing our faith that we don't do it at all. Check out the daily journal over at postModern Journal.

::. There are days that are filled with the glory of God. This was another one of them. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, June 14, 2003

E and Non-E- vangelism

Tomorrow I start leading a time of training and prayer for evangelism at our church. It is another step in trying to develop a presence and witness in our community by focusing on "practical" training and even more "practical" prayer. I noted, therefore, that Andrew Careaga has a revised version of the introduction to his book, E-vangelism online. Here are two quotes I found interesting....

... clergy are using the Net to help them prepare sermons and do their jobs offline. They’re not focused on ministering to the lost in cyberspace. Meanwhile, fifty percent of the spiritual seekers identified by Pew are actively seeking information about another belief system. If we want to influence online culture, we need to lose our old-school view of the Internet as a mere tool for gathering data, and see it as a place for meeting those seekers.

Contrary to the perception of many today, evangelism is not about “forcing unwilling Christians to force their beliefs on unwilling people for the sake of the church because it needs more seats filled.” Leonard Sweet, Brian D. McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer, A Is for Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 114. It’s about – or should be about – engaging people about our faith. In cyberspace, that means entering into conversations to share what Christ has done in our lives with those who don’t know Him. It’s about “testifying” – discussing our faith in the town squares and marketplaces of cyberspace. It’s about making disciples of all nations, or “people groups” (ethne in the Greek) including the people who populate cyberspace. Andrew Careaga - E-vangelism 2.0

Now this is far beyond what the average local church is doing. I realized when trying to develop this evangelism training time that I would be trying to talk at least two languages from at least two cultures from at least two worlds. The modern and the postModern worlds and the traditional and emerging churches. So, while I am starting with some very basic old school "sharing your faith", I hope to be able to plant the seeds that will find fruit in a growing, emergent church. (Is that an oxymoron?) In the end it is about bein faithful to Jesus call to discipleship and the ability to put "my" story together with "your" story and link us all to "God's" story. That only happens in relationship which the old-school, modern church evangelism paid but small lip service to.

Can the modern, traditional church learn this? Can it make a difference in how and who we share the gospel with? I believe it is possible! Actually, it probably isn't. But if it were possible then I could do it without God's help.

Will keep you updated if I discover any new insights as to how to do this.

A Journal Blog

As part of the training and prayer for evangelism, I am asking the group participants to journal daily for the duration of the sessions. We will be reading 2 - 3 chapters of Acts each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. (Might as well start with the instruction manual!) And then several other chapters on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday with Sunday being a day of reflection and review.

This has spurred me to get a second blog up and running (using Moveable Type instead of Blogger). I will be posting to it regularly. If anyone else is interested in following along and sharing insights with our group here, feel free to comment. Not surprisingly I am calling it a postModern Journal. The daily schedule is on a link on the left side of the page.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Some Characteristics of an Emergent Pastor

Mute Troubador posted this before heading to conference and vacation.

Characteristics of an Emergent Pastor

1) Is a "tentmaker;" does not rely on a local church/congregation for financial support. Will accept such support only if freely given, because it is right for God's people to support those who serve the Gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1-21).

2) Is spiritually motivated by Matthew 5 - 7; Matthew 28:20; John 1, 3, and 17; 1 Corinthians 12 - 13; Ephesians 5; and Philippians 2:3-11.

3) Is theologically and vocationally motivated by Matthew 25:31-46; Matthew 28:16-20; and especially Ephesians 4:4-16, and 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

4) Shepherds people to/with Christ by way of the scriptures and sacraments.

5) Christ-oriented, not career oriented. (The very notion of a "pastoral career" is a travesty of the word "pastor.")

6) Understands that love is self-giving, not sacrificial in the sense of "losing" something.

7) Clear sense of self in relationship to God and others.

8) Bound and abandoned to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

9) Serves the demands of the Gospel, not those of people.

10) Understands the difference between church tradition and local custom(s), that customs are expendable while traditions are renewable.

11) Consciously works with the Holy Spirit in serving the Kingdom on earth.

12) Is a servant, not a manager; a servant, not a technician; a servant, not an entrepreneur; a servant, not a CEO, "senior minister/pastor", "coach", or "advisor."

13) Has banished the words "leader" and "leadership" from his/her self-understanding as to the pastors' role among God's people. (See #12.)

14) Has rejected the institutionalized church, but avidly seeks and works with the instituted Church, however it is manifested in this world.

Quite a list. I don't know many who can match all of these. Some are still getting paid by local churches. Others still have a "title" or are in the institutional church trying to help people make sense of the changes and challenging them to move into the new emerging church. But there is enough movement and change and growth that there is hope and things continue to move with God's Spirit.

A Love Poem from God

Otherwise, the Darkness

have a cause.
We need those don’t we?
Otherwise the darkness and the cold gets in
and everything starts to

My soul has a purpose, it is
to love;

If I
do not fulfill
my heart’s vocation,
I suffer.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
--from Love Poems from God:Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West by Daniel Ladinsky

Christians in the Movies

Even though I haven't seen a movie since New Year's week, I am a big lover of movies. I guess I am just a sucker for a good story well told. And after all, sometimes a good story has more truth than the best history - or sermon. Christianity Today has an article online about the best Christian characters in the movies. I would heartily agree.

My two favorites of all time are on the list. My #2 is Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire who lived his convictions and still ran in the Olympics. My # 1 is "Sonny" in The Apostle. Sonny has all the good and bad that any of us can have. He is real and, in spite of his clay feet, can still be a channel for the work of God.

There's even a movie or two I never heard of. Time to get the old VCR or DVD working. Thanks to Blogs4God for the link.

Bits and Pieces

Two posts last week by Gary Petersen caught my attention today. The first was a bit of info from Denmark:

A Danish pastor in the state Protestant Church has been suspended from his job after admitting he does not believe in God.

What a concept. The pastor was suspended, and then refused to comment since he was tired of talking about what he believed (or didn't believe?)
Got this from Joshua Claybourn has more info on this story. From ABC we discover that his parishoners are demanding that be be reinstated. AND the church is threatened with a police complaint that his freedom of expression has been violated.

Sadly, I have a hunch that this is not isolated. I will think more on this one.

The other post was a good quote from columnist Irv Kupcinet.

"What can you say about a society that says that God is dead and Elvis is alive?"

The Emerging Church

Fred Peatross has been posting comparisons between the Modern and Emerging churches from Dan Kimball's book The Emerging Church. One is on evangelism and the other is spiritual formation.

To Exist or Not To Exist

Got this quote from a listserve I am on. This year is John Wesley's 300th Birthday. We Moravians always have had a special place in our heart for him since he found his spiritual strength and renewal through the witness of the Moravians. Now, 300 years later, are we all in the same boat? Here's the quote:

"I am not afraid that people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out." (Thoughts Upon Methodism -- Wesley's Works: Letters, Volume 13, page 258)

Substitute any of us for the word Methodist in that quote and I wonder how it would preach on Sunday morning? People like Wesley were the postModern, transformationalists of their day and were accepted in the established church about as well as any are today. May God raise up more like John Wesley in all our churches in these days of change and uncertainty.

Garage Sales

I have noticed that a lot of churches around here do garage sales every spring. They seem to be a significant fund raiser for many churches. Sure, it is a service to their members who get the chance to clean out their garages and then give their junk to the church for money. Sure, people who may not be able to afford some new stuff will always be able to get very good bargains at the sales. And yes, the fellowship among the workers can be very good.

But here's another quote from Brother Wesley:

"earn all you can;
save all you can;
give away all you can,"

Well, for most of us in the current economy, it is hard to even get one out of three. As churches, should we really need to use fund-raising efforts like garage sales, etc. to fund our buildings and ministries? I have always struggled with that. Perhaps if we use them as 2nd Mile Mission opportunities, then we are on a different path. Perhaps if we would give away our own extra stuff to organizations that help the poor or homeless, or even had our own yard sales for the homeless. Anyway, just a thought.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

There are sins and
There are SINS

As the issues surrounding gay marriage or the election of an openly gay Bishop are going on in the Anglican church, Dan at Signposts reported on the thoughts at their group the other night. Part of the discussion:

we were discussing why sexuality and questions of sexual morality are such hot-points for the church when compared with other sins. In short, why is the Anglican church now in disarray over a gay marriage but greed, injustice, consumerism, pride would have little capacity to divide a church institution?

There are some sins which are clearly more acceptable - they are the open prayer sins. You hear people praying openly and confessing to these sins in the understanding that they will be forgiven - "Lord, we have all sinned in our pride, our anger, our failure to show compassion to those different to us". Why would we never hear someone stand up in church and say "Lord, we have all sinned because we are guilty of murder, sexual immorality, peversion, prostitution"?

They came to the conclusion that we put the sins we commit into one category and the sins of others that we will never commit into the awful category.

Powerful and challenging insights. We humans are always ready to point fingers, hoping that someone else will be worse than us. That makes us feel better about ourselves. We are not as bad as them.

Like Dan et al. I have often wondered about the same issue. I have heard people go to great lengths to justify the idea that sexual sins are worse than others. They will do theological gymnastics to show that to be sexually promiscuous is so much worse than being materially promiscuous. But we all know that SEX SELLS. Are we in the church as guilty as the ads on TV in playing the sex card to get more attention? We know that most people will enjoy the pointing of fingers at others. We know that many will shake their heads at how they are acting. Isn't that just awful?

Well, perhaps not more awful than being unjust or prejudiced or greedy. But we may not keep our jobs if we preach that one.

Good Night, David

David Brinkley has died.

Truly one of my heroes. His style and approach to reporting were unique and set the standard very high for all who have followed. His commentaries were always insightful.

His delivery style was unique and unforgettable. He caught you and took you with him. He (and Linda Ellerbee) had that style that made you think as they spoke. One of the highest compliments I ever received was that my speaking and writing style was a lot like his. (But nowhere near as polished and professional.)

With all the changes in network news and cable and 24-7 trying to fill the hours with news, there will probably never be the opportunity for another David Brinkley. He was truly a national treasure.

Hymns? Hmmmm.

Fred Peatross has posted the following excerpt from a Sally Morgenthaler article...

“I wish they would’ve sung real music.” That was part of the after-service evaluation from Amanda, my non-Christian, dechurched friend. (She was taken to church as a young child, but left when she got into her teens.)

I asked her what she meant by “real music.” There was an awkward silence, as she looked at me, incredulous that I wasn’t following her.

“Hymns,” I said.

“Yeah, those.” Don’t churches sing them anymore?”

Our conversation shifted to the message. The minister talked about our need for silence and reflection in this high-decibel culture. Amanda ruthlessly pointed out that there wasn’t a moment of silence and that—to her—it was all high decibel. “I couldn’t concentrate.”

It was a foregone conclusion that Amanda was going to leave no stone unturned. I began plotting. I’d bring her to our next worship planning meeting. That ought to stir things up a bit.

Amanda’s “church deconstruction” continued. “Why doesn’t God show up like he used to do in the Old Testament? Sure would make this faith thing a whole lot easier.(Where’s a burning bush when you need one?) I think I had some lame response. Wow, am I rusty at this evangelism thing.

Hymns. Silence. Reflection. All the things we’re not suppose to do for people like Amanda. I’m rethinking the rules.

Just when we thought we were getting things figured out.... Go figure.

I Saw the Future

John at Salt has been thinking about "work" and had the following:

I do identify as an Anglican. But last week one of my praishioners had gone to a hip-hop service the week previous. Youth were wating in line to get into the church. They listened to music. They gave testimonies. There was dancing and prayers. "Fr. Gawain, this church is going to die. I saw the future of Christianity, and it moved me.

These kids were liberated by the power of Christ. Jesus." Amen to that. "It wasn't in a church. I might as well have walked onto the set of the David Letterman show."

It seems to be happening everywhere.

Emotionally Tired

We sometimes forget how much emotionally charged times can exhaust us as much as physical activity. I just had an emotional five days. The graduation of the sons of several close friends back in the community where we lived and ministered for 15 years. Seeing a lot of people we haven't seen since we left almost four years ago. Going to church there as a worshiper. Our district judicatory board meeting. The funeral of a well-loved bishop. Six hour drive back home. Sleeping in motel room beds.

When I got home last night I was a basket case. All I wanted to do- and did- was sit in front of the TV and vege out.

More later today, no doubt.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

”Traditional” Church

Went back to a church Sunday morning that I used to serve. It was- and still is- a wonderful church with wonderful people. The Sanctuary is warm and friendly. The current pastor leads a good service that enhances the friendliness and acceptance of the people. It felt good to be among them and to see so many friends again.


You knew there had to be a “but.”

The difficulty I had was that the service was traditional. Good traditional. Warm and friendly traditional. But it was not what I have come to understand as worship any more.

Three things struck me-
<>< Words, Words, Words
Modern worship, traditional or otherwise, is often based on words. Lots of words. It is not a surprise considering the intellectual of the modern world. There is no mystery. It is all clear and laid out. That is often the way of traditional Protestant worship. Even our liturgies are lots of words. Scripture readings are more words. We read them because they are supposed to be read. This is not to pick on one church. This is the way it is in most modern worship services.

<>< Holding a book
This one surprised me that it affected me. I am not used to looking down and reading the music. Looking up, reading them from a screen seems to be able to provide more involvement in the service. It allows me to get into the worship. Holding a book kept me pre-occupied. I was in some way or another intent on doing something other than worship. As I said, this one surprised me. I didn’t expect that using a hymnal would get in the way of worship. Maybe it doesn’t when you’re used to it- and maybe it is one of the reasons why even good traditional modern worship can feel less than worshipful.

<>< Sitting, aka- non-participation
I was not a participant in most of the worship. I was an observer. I only participated briefly in the hymns and liturgical, responsive readings. Communion was the most participatory part of the worship. The sermon, interestingly, was not just watching. Sermons can be for good, internal, interaction. The pastor did that! I learned and was spurred to grow. I got some new images for things. I came away with a deeper understanding of who I am in God’s Kingdom. A good preacher can keep the sermon participatory. This was a good preacher!

Again, let me make abundantly clear that it has nothing to do with the church, the pastor or the people. It is the style of the worship. It did not move me, inspire me to praise God or challenge me to be a disciple. I felt good about what I was doing. I appreciated the fine leadership, sermon, music, and even hymns. If I lived here I would love to be a part of the church community of people who are open and caring and honestly challenging. But I would have a hard time in that particular form of worship. [They do have a twice/month contemporary style worship on a Saturday evening that I was not able to attend. I hear it is as warm and open as the traditional service.]

That is about my needs of worship- not theirs. If it still works for them, I would not want to take it away. But I would have trouble if it were the only way to worship. But it needs to be done well (which this was), with an understanding that worship is of the Spirit.

Sadly, many on both sides (or should I say all sides) of the worship wars tend to think that their way is the only true way to worship. Hence people begin to move around, seeking different worship experiences. I would pray that we can begin to get rid of the Either-Or mentality of the modern world experience and see the Both-And possibilities of the postModern world experience. I have the hunch that in the long run it will be neither and both melding into an even different set of styles. Should be interesting to watch.

And I hope worshipful as well!

Monday, June 09, 2003

A Pentecost Reflection

A friend commented to me yesterday that they notcied the inconguity of the worship service. It was Pentecost, they commented, but there was nothing like the scriptures or the liturgy or the meaning of the day would suggest should be there.

So I reflected:

We sang of wind and fire
And kept the door and windows closed;
Fire extinguishers of dullness at
The Ready.
We prayed for wind and fire to
The People and
The Church
And sat in semi-rigid semi-attention
Wondering if we
Closed our car windows.
We heard of Peter and friends
Souls on Fire
Faith burning
Drunk on Him
At only 9 in the morning.
Running and shouting
Tongues speaking
Speaking tongues
Fears burning away.
Running and shouting and preaching
Jesus is the Christ
Jesus is the Way
Jesus is the Lord.
And we -
We waited for coffee
To keep us awake
To give us energy.
And we -
Go into our days walking and speaking
- not His toungues -
But ours
Keeping the wind from
Entering or leaving
Until we forget that there even is
Except only
In scripture
Except only
In Jerusalem
Except only
For Peter

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Quiz Time

Well, after taking the quiz- which book of the Bible are you

the result is

You Are Romans
You are Romans.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! Amen!

Pentecost, 2003

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful;
and kindle in us the fire of your love.
..: Traditional prayer :..

Outwardly, tongues of fire appeared: inwardly,
their hearts were set ablaze; for when the
disciples received God under the appearance of
fire, they began to burn with a sweet love.
..: Saint Gregory, sixth century :..

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Pre- Wind and Fire

Darren at Living Room has posted some of what he has written for tomorrow, Pentecost, 2003. Here's part of it:

And then, there was me. Simon Peter – the Rock! Yeah Right! More like Simon Peter ‘Mr foot in mouth’. I’d disowned him too. I couldn’t even admit I knew him to a servant girl. What kind of witness was I!?

We had gathered together because he had told us to wait in Jerusalem – but we were scared and confused. Our leader had gone and we felt alone. We were unsure of who we were and what our place in the world was.

I looked out the window at the world we had been called to go to and I was afraid. The streets were filled with people of all nations yet we were not equipped to communicate with them. Our own nation was living under oppression – these were troubling times – how could we make a difference?

We can ask that same question today and every day if we do not rely on the power of God in the Holy Spirit. As we look around us at the world's uncertainties and fears, we must be able to make those first three steps of A.A.
:1: Admit we are powerless over the world around us.
:2: There is a power greater than ourselves that can give us direction and power.
:3: let GO and let GOD.

That is what Pentecost can be all about.

A Delayed Remembrance

In being on the road yesterday and only getting a short post done, I missed the date yesterday. Thanks to Joshua Claybourn for reminding us. June 6 was of course the 59th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied Invasion of Europe. It was a remarkable achievement, but all the fine military planning could not have succeeded without the even more remarkable bravery of so many soldiers. Joshua recommends the HBO series, Band of Brothers. I would recommend the book that the series is based on, as well as Citizen Soldiers, both by Stephen Ambrose. And of course there is that unforgettable opening 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. If we weren't there, we cannot understand the bravery that had to overcome every ounce of fear and terror the day must have engendered.

There are fewer and fewer survivors of that War and that D-Day each year. We are losing the generation. I pray they knew- and know- how much their effort is appreciated. In spite of our human failings, we have a wonderful country. Thank you to those who have served.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Living Sacrifice

Found this posted over at The OOze. Aaron White is responding to a question on Romans 12- How can a sacrifice be living? Don't you have to be killed to be a sacrifice? Here's part of what he says:

A lot of Christians feel that when it comes right down to it, they could take a bullet for God. They could be a martyr. They could die for Christ. But how many, I wonder, are really prepared to live for Christ? To die to themselves every second of every day of every week of every month of every year? To lay down their entire life for the sake of God, while they’re still alive?

This is what I believe we need to be producing in the emerging Church. Living, breathing, walking martyrs. Christians who have died to themselves, so they no longer fear any sacrifice that needs to be made. Young “warrior-martyrs” who would live anywhere, give up anything, love anybody, be ready for service at anytime, because they’ve already let go of everything they had once held dear. It is not the mission that defines who they are; rather, it is who they are willing to become that defines their mission. They have chosen to BE a sacrifice, not to offer sacrifices, and out of that being comes some pretty radical doings. from Living Martyrs: The Walking Dead Written by Aaron White| The Ooze | Thursday June 5, 2003|

A Love Poem from God
If You Love

You might quiet the whole world for a second
if you pray.

And if you love, if you
really love,

our guns will
-- St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)
--from Love Poems from God:Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West by Daniel Ladinsky

Pentecost Weekend

It doesn't get the press that Easter gets, not the commercialism that Christmas has earned. It is simply a birthday- the birthday of the Body of Christ that has been around for 2000 years, give or take. Let us pray that we will receive a renewed sense of the Spirit's power and presence this weekend. Maybe then we can love so much that guns will wilt. What a wondrous thought!!!

That's Better

Amazing what a night's sleep will do.

Blogger seems to be faster this morning.

The comments are back.

I feel better.

Will try to get some posts tonight, including this week's Love Poem from God.

Being a non-Geek

Oh well. I spent hours trying to figure out Moveable Type and getting it on my server.

No luck. So I will let them install.

Blogger was very slow and wierd.

I didn't see the comments tonight.

I'm giving up for tonight. Maybe the Geek Fairies will come in through the night and figure it all out.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Will the Church Lose Its Life?

From Darryl Dash today:

The real question at this point is if, in North America today, a pastor can be more focused on moving beyond the structures and buildings and techniques and lay oneself completely on the table to do what God wants. In essence, I think the call to the church is the same as to each of us individually: to die to itself, to take up the cross daily, to leave all the stuff Jesus calls us to leave. Individually, that's father and mother, husband/wife and children, brother and sister, even one's own life. As churches, it might be buildings and budgets, committees and growth, ambitions and security. Whatever church wants to save its life will lose it, but the church that loses its life for Christ will find it.

We Lose

.: Tall Skinny Kiwi :. has decided to stop his blog now that it is two years old. We are all better for what he has led the way into. And we are the losers as well. We will not have that blog around any more. I hope he keeps us posted of what new blogs he is starting. I will be watching and waiting. Thanks, Andrew!

Finally, You Can Comment

I realized after being so mean to Andrew Careaga yesterday that no one could make a comment on my site- good or bad. Well, email is always a possibility, of course, but the comment line makes it look far more sophisticated. So, as can now be seen below, I have added comments thanks to SquawkBox. So, Andrew, and any one else, go ahead and make all kinds of kind and generous comments.

Baseball Sadness

Sammy Sosa. I am saddened. For whatever reason it happened, mistake or otherwise, a superstar professional like Sammy should be more cautious and aware of what he is doing. If it's more than that, I am even more saddened. But regardless, as a ball player, Sammy remains one of the greats.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Shameless and Self-Serving

In a truly shameful, and shameless, attempt to do what Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly did at the book expo, Andrew Careaga has resorted to getting people to call him names. Just for publicity's sake. I am appalled. (Actually, I think he's truly brave. I would probably begin to believe the comments and go into this deep, dark depression that would keep me in bed till the cows come home.) There has to be an easier way to get publicity. Although I can't think of any off the top of my head.

At least one thing came out of Andrew's self-servingness. I found, a webzine by Kevin Hendricks just up the road a piece in St. Paul. Take a look. I hope it can grow and make a difference.

Bits and Pieces

Sorry to hear that Fred Peatross is out for a few days for surgery today. Prayers that all is well.

Dan at had a hard time buying an NRSV Bible. What's so surprising is that he was in a Christian bookstore at the time.

Thanks to Leighton Tebay for directing us to Kim Fehr and an interesting blog.

Also, surf on over to Leighton's post, I Believe. Call me unrealistic, call me a dreamer but I believe. I believe that God is doing something in our midst, he writes. Good thoughts!

One of Those Days

Seems to be a disease of the week. Sunday must have been difficult. Jordon Cooper had it and Lee Ann Millinger faced it.

Mark Byron spoke about it in his Edifier du Jour on Sunday June 1 (permalink doesn't seem to be working). Part of Mark's comment:

Given the more deistic nature of the mainliner's God, worship seems to be restrained, for God isn't expected to do much. The transformative power of God is thus downplayed, turning their vision to psychology or government programs for help with worldly problems. However, God is more hands-on and more immenent than that. He can change lives. He does change lives, if given a chance.

With the low expections of God brings about a low expectations of man. There is a pessimism there that a touch from the Holy Spirit could help if they knew to seek it. Instead of dwelling on our collective sins, we can begin to overcome them with God's help. A hands-on God can do more healing that group therapy ever can, but that requires thinking in a supernatural manner, one that isn't easy to do.

Maybe it's the time of year. Maybe it's the need for Pentecost to come again. Maybe this next Sunday? Maybe? Let's pray so.

Catastrophe and Its Aftermath

Watched a very interesting program on PBS Sunday evening. It was the first episode of the series, Secrets of the Dead and was titled Catastrophe!. It was developed from the theory from David Keys who wrote a book on the subject.

Beginning in the year 535 A.D. major climatic changes began to occur worldwide. It appears to have been caused by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption around Java and Sumatra. The intriguing question explored by the episode and the book: Did this event of 535 cause the Dark Ages and move the world from the “ancient” world to the beginnings of the modern one.

This was the beginning of major drought- or flood- or famine from significantly colder temperatures.
>> The temperatures allowed the Bubonic Plague to make its first incursion into Europe, decimating Constantinople and the Roman Empire,
>> changing the climate caused political and religious uprisings in Mexico,
>> and Yemen was devastated leading to immigration and movement of large numbers of Arabs into the Medina and Mecca areas, possibly even setting the stage for the development of Islam.

Amazing stuff.

One of the intriguing aspects was the religious one. When the skies darken, the climate changes, the moon turns red, it looks like the end of the world. In Mexico, one of the largest cities was demolished by its inhabitants, including the temples and religious sites. The priests were not able to maintain their position. They couldn’t produce the rain, or convince the gods to give them food. And when gods fail - people move to new ones. Sometimes- often- violently.

Needless to say my mind began to think of the possible minor, but still possible, similarities with the situation in the western church today. As Modernism and it’s sidelines in intellectualism, materialism, and technology struggle in the movement into the more mystical and uncertain postmodern, western religion has found itself in the same boat. It’s not able to produce the “outcomes” people wanted to expect. The institutions have become institutionalized. The Reformation needs to be reformed. The intellectually based thinking needs to find its feelings again. It is a time of transition. The sky may not have turned red, the volcano may not have erupted, but it is a time of upheaval. People will look for the expression of God that meets their spiritual needs.

Again, back to 9/11. The church did not meet the needs.

Or after the Holocaust. The nation that produced some of the greatest culture in western history and sparked the Reformation and many great Christian thinkers also produced the Holocaust. That disconnect may be at the very heart of the spiritual crises of the past 50 years. Where was God? Why would God allow such a thing to happen? When the world seems to fall apart, we look to our gods. And when the gods, as we understand them, fail, we move to new ones.

May we continue to be faithful to God and not wrap God in the cultural baggage. Instead, may we, in our faithfulness, show that the gods that are failing are our human conceptions of God. May we be able to invite each other and others into a new pilgrimage to discover the ways God is calling out to us today. It is a new day emerging. It is a new spirituality emerging. Let is stay near to God and seek the wisdom from on high and then the power to live it.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Back to Roots

John Mellencamp has a new roots music album. Just heard him on Letterman. The band was simply guitar, stand-up bass, and drums. Sounds good.

Speaking of Roots Music

Well, sort of. Just thought I would comment on a wedding I went to the other week. Young couple with an eclectic blend of music tastes. Their "recessional"- When I'm Sixty-Four - the original- by the Beatles. They saw it as a real statement- promise- that they were in this for the long haul.

Now all the wedding purists (and I am not one of those) will say- "Yes, but what about the Wedding March or other such traditional songs. After all it was a church service." Again, the amazing problem of culture. The "traditional" music for weddings is only "traditional" in a cultural setting. There is nothing universal about any of it. Why should we use an operatic song that precedes a bedroom scene or a suicide or murder because someone, somewhere decided that it "sounds" like it should be used? I was impressed by the way the couple wanted to make a statement about their marriage- in their own musical language. It is part of their culture. They were promising to be with each other for the next 40 years. Whether it works or not, well, that is hard to say. But they thought about it and made their statement. And it was fun, too!

On Music

Found two wonderful quotes on music at Dan Johnson's QuotesBlog...

"The greatest moments of the human spirit may be deduced from the greatest moments in music." -- Aaron Copland, composer of "Fanfare for the Common Man"

"Music is edifying, for from time to time it sets the soul in operation." -- John Cage

I have always been a sucker for a good quote. I used to give a colleague a hard time because he seemed to prefer the short, to-the-point bumper sticker theology. I guess I own him an apology. I seem to have the same affliction when it comes to good quotes.

Money, Property, and Prestige

The underlying ideals of the AA-type 12-step groups are based on 12 Traditions that evolved as the ways the groups are to relate to each other and the world around them. They are to answer the question: “How can A.A. best stay whole and so survive?” Through much trial and error (often the errors of the founders) that is told in many different places, they developed these Traditions which, in their long form were printed in 1946. These include:

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority- a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
5. Each group has but one primary purpose- to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose. (Emphasis mine). Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A. World Services, 2001, p. 562.

It is that last one that I emphasized that has struck me recently in relation to the church. We all know that money and property can become the center of our lives. Problems of those (like arguments, control, the color of the carpet, etc.) can often become the primary purposes of our existence. A.A. has found, so far, that the groups work best when they don’t own anything. The money arguments are seriously lessened. (Note: There are Alano clubs in which A.A. groups meet, and even run them. Some of these work well and follow the Traditions; others show why the Traditions were written in the first place.)

What IS our primary purpose as the church? Do we truly believe it? If so, do we live that way? Are our buildings expendable? Maybe a great exercise for many of us would be to figure our how we could keep our primary purpose focused if we didn’t have a building of our own to worry about. Might we even think differently about our primary purpose? Just some thoughts for a June Monday.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Translating English to English
Sort of a Rant

I was substituting for a chaplain friend this morning at the nursing home. Since the last time I was there, they have put a new Bible in the pulpit. It used to be the Revised Standard. Someone gave a memorial, I guess. It is now the King James. Not the New King James- THE King James.

Well, I figured there should be no problem. I grew up on that, after all.


I started to read today’s passage from Acts 1 which was already cut up in the lectionary to keep from reading about Judas’s suicide. (You may not remember it- I didn’t. It has him falling into the whole and having his bowels spilt. NIV calls them “intestines.”)

Anyway, I started reading. And tried to make sense of it. And tried to read it in a sensible way. No way! I started tripping over the words and had absolutely no idea what I was reading. It made no sense. So I did the next right thing. I stopped, looked at the people and said, I’m sorry. I can’t make any sense out of this. I walked over and got a NIV translation and started all over.

What an experience. I had forgotten how difficult KJV really is. And how it makes no sense at time in English. I might as well have been trying to read the original Greek.

Now I know all the “arguments” about using the KJV in a Nursing Home setting- things like it’s familiar, it gives them comfort, etc. But when I couldn’t even read it without making more of a fool of myself, why?

I remember 30 years ago or more, the actor Orson Wells was on the Tonight Show and did a “dramatic reading” from the Bible. King James. He then went over and sat and talked with Johnny Carson and said how wonderful and beautiful the English language is in the King James and how people were ruining the Bible by translating it into modern language.

Even then, long before postmodern thinking and the emergent church I knew that was crazy and wrong. The Bible is not Shakepeare (whose plays I love to see performed). It is a living document that is to open us up to the presence of God and God’s awesome works. Read it as poetry and literature. It is that. But if it is to be read as God’s Word for us today, read it in a language we can understand.

Wisdom and Healing

Another journaling insight from Proverbs..

Proverbs 13:17- The Trustworthy envoy (messenger) brings healing
Proverbs 13:20- He who walks with the wise, grows wise
Proverbs 14:9- Fools mock at making amends for sin
Proverbs 14:33-Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning
Proverbs 15:1- A gentle answer turns away wrath

Healing comes from having received the message from a trustworthy messenger! That is an interpolation of v. 17 but it is implied. In other words, to be an instrument of healing and peace we need to be people of integrity and wisdom. The other verses give some of the guidelines for knowing and being a messenger of integrity that can bring that healing:
.::. Walk with the wise
.::. Be willing to make amends
.::. Be gentle to turn away wrath
.::. Look to your heart for wisdom

If I am to be a person of integrity bringing healing (turnaround to people and churches?) I must walk the way of wisdom as found in these chapters. I must be gentle and discerning, not responding in anger but in the gentle spirit that seeks healing for others. I must stay in and seek the counsel of the wise not the ones I am bringing healing to. (Don't play to their addictions, but to the healing they need.) Be ready to admit my own mistakes and own sinfulness. Take time for my heart.

Lord, heal me that I may be an instrument of healing for others. Guide me heart into the ways of honesty, openness and willingness to be your servant and messenger. Amen.