Friday, October 31, 2003


I have spent the day wondering why it is that we respond to the death of someone like Mike Yaconelli as if we knew them personally. Some of it is the quickness of it, of course. But I think of a few of the wonderful saints that we have lost and my reaction to their deaths. Henri Nouwen's death was a real shocker. I had always wanted to be in Nouwen's presence. That wouldn't happen in this life now. I always enjoyed Mike Yaconelli's writings (way back to the Wittenberg Door). I wondered what it would be like to meet him. No, that won't happen in this life now.

Earlier this year I lost at least three of the people who had been mentors for me- a Bishop, a former district president, and a seminary professor. I am still grieving their deaths.

But mentors are not just people we connect with personally- in person. People like Nouwen and Yaconelli were that for many people over the years by their ability to convey in writing a deep sense of the calling of God in their lives. In so doing they were able to cause their readers to stop and pay attention to what God was doing in the reader's life. There was the incredibly profound lessons of Nouwen in The Wounded Healer that continue to shape my ministry 30+ years after reading them. There is the Messy Spirituality that Yaconelli wrote so passionately about that says that my failings and daily struggles are part of the journey, the pilgrimage, that will, I pray, continue to move me closer to my God.

As I surfed the blogosphere tonight, and checked back at Youth Specialties website, I realized that I am not alone in my feelings of loss. Many of us have been touched by Mike and his excitement. Many of us have done youth ministry- and stayed in youth ministry- because of the example that Mike gave us (as well as the goofy ideas in the books he and YS published.) Many of us will continue to be caring and compassionate beyond our jobs, because Mike showed us that it is not a job that we do but a calling. It is a dangerous one. It is one that can overcome us with details and the desire by parents for "safety" and status quo for their youth. But it is one that can be very rewarding and exciting.

California Fires

When you have been somewhere and you know what it looked like, things like the California fires feel like they are close to home, even when you live in Minnesota. Last February I had the great fortune to lead a men's retreat at a conference/retreat center in the mountains by Lake Arrowhead. We also spent part of a morning off-roading around there. I remember the manager of the center telling us about the fire evacuation plans and how if it started near them how much devastation would occur. Well, it is occurring. The power of nature is incredible. The natural world is not a benign place. Many of us learned that in some harrowing sequences in Bambi. Perhaps that is why the fires strike a chord. Even when the fires start by natural events (lightning), they are just as devastating. Then there are earthquakes, or floods, or hurricanes, or tornadoes, or blizzards, or.... We are but small parts of an incredibly powerful and uncertain universe.

Which always takes me to Psalm 8. I can imagine the Psalmist standing beneath the stars, but also aware of the potential of so many other natural disasters. I imagine the words of awe, humility and praise singing forth:

1 O LORD, our LORD, the majesty of your name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
2 You have taught children and nursing infants
to give you praise.
They silence your enemies
who were seeking revenge.
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you have set in place—
4 what are mortals that you should think of us,
mere humans that you should care for us?
5 For you made us only a little lower than God,
and you crowned us with glory and honor.
6 You put us in charge of everything you made,
giving us authority over all things—
7 the sheep and the cattle
and all the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.
9 O LORD, our LORD, the majesty of your name fills the earth!
New Living Translation

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Mike Yaconelli, R. I. P.
Well done, good and faithful servant of God!
We will miss your humor, insight and faith!

This from Youth Specialties this afternoon.


 Early this morning, Thursday, October 30, we lost a friend, a father, an inspiration. Co-founder and owner of Youth Specialties (YS), Mike Yaconelli, was in a fatal car accident in northern California late Wednesday evening.

The number of lives touched by Mike is beyond what we could even estimate. He is the father of modern youth ministry in many minds. Through his books, speaking engagements, and YS events, he has ministered to untold thousands all over the world.

Mike dedicated his life to what God had called him to do. He believed in youth ministry, and did all he could to equip youth workers to change the lives of students. He lived with a passion that was unmatched. He was the incarnation of his book titles, Dangerous Wonder and Messy Spirituality; he lived a life of wonder and amazement at God’s grace. He never claimed to be perfect; he just lived as he was­a man after God’s own heart.

In this time of grief and confusion, as we all deal with our loss, it is the hope of the YS family that you will reflect on how God used Mike to touch your life. Please keep Mike’s wife, Karla, his father, Ernie, his children and grandchildren, and the YS staff in your prayers, as we deal with this painful loss.

There is more information on the YS site.
As more information is available regarding services, we will update you on the site.

Youth Specialties staff

For a bit of Mike's writing go over to Re-Imagining Youth Ministry. It's called "What Would Jesus Say?" Here's part of it:

Jesus: "They think youth ministry is about making young people nice?"

Me: "Well, yeah. I mean, they think you're a nice guy and everything-and they want their kids to be like you."

Jesus: "Look, these parents think I'm a nice idea. They think I care about what they care about. They want me to be an enhancement to their lifestyles-and they don't want me making their kids uncomfortable with their lifestyles. Basically they think I died on a cross to help their kids get good SAT scores, be captains of football teams and cheerleading squads, and have nice lives. They think I want to help their children become good Americans. Yuck!"

Me: "I didn't think Jesus would say 'Yuck!'"

Jesus: "It's a Greek word."

Me: "Oh...but aren't Christians supposed to be nice?"

Jesus: "You think I died on a cross to make people nice? You think I want to be relegated to the status of motivational speaker? Listen, I don't even like football, and I definitely don't like nice people. Look at my
disciples! Talk about loud, obnoxious, rude, flaky-hey, these guys were anything but nice. Remember when 'Mr. Nice Guy' John wanted me to send fire down on a little Samaritan village because they wouldn't let us stay for the night?
  "Start telling parents that their sons and daughters should take a year after high school and do missions in South Africa and see how long you last. Tell them it isn't a good decision to make their kids go to soccer camp
instead of church camp and see how supportive they'll be. Truth is, I came to ruin people's lives-just like I ruined yours. I came to turn people's lives upside down. Remember all that stuff I said about being a sword and turning parents against children? I wasn't kidding."

Just When You Thought Reading Was Safe
From the Washington Post:

Aside from Lord Voldemort, the Forbidden Forest and the Dementors, young fans of the wildly popular Harry Potter books apparently have one more thing to worry about: "Hogwarts Headaches."

Howard J. Bennett, a pediatrician in Northwest Washington, was alerted to the peril when three patients, ages 8 to 10, complained in June that they had been suffering from headaches for two or three days.

"The presumed diagnosis for each child was a tension headache brought on by the effort required to plow through an 870-page book. The obvious cure for this malady -- that is, taking a break from reading -- was rejected by two of the patients, who preferred acetaminophen instead," Bennett wrote, referring to the painkiller sold as Tylenol and other brand names.

October 30 in History
This from Working for Change

1270: Eighth and last crusade is launched.

1922: Benito Mussolini becomes prime minister, Italy. Invented the term "fascism" to describe an authoritarian government controlled by corporations. Hmm.

1938: Martian UFOs land at Grover's Mill, New Jersey, as reported by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre in a network radio adaptation of the H. G. Wells novel, causing a national panic.

1986: Attorney General Ed Meese urges employers to begin spying on workers in "locker rooms, parking lots, shipping and mail room areas and even the nearby taverns" to try to catch them using drugs. By and large, they've complied.

Whose God is Bigger? Does it Matter in Foreign Policy?
The history dates were actually part of the tag of a very good article analyzing what the author sees as the real issues behind the recent statements about Muslims by General Boykin.

The first is whether the "my god is bigger" contempt of Boykin for a Muslim enemy is leading Boykin, as head of intelligence and a key military planner for current efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq, to underestimate the resistance being put up against American forces. This week has been the bloodiest yet in Iraq; in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are quietly making a resurgence, two American ex-CIA officers were killed in a firefight yesterday.

But if public officials are going to go around sneering at Islam, what about the Americans who are also Muslim? Their voices have been notably absent.

Those Americans, in case you're wondering, number somewhere around six million -- now making Islam by far the United States' second-largest religion. ... Islam -- which has more adherents in America than Judaism, and as with Judaism has shared historical roots with Christianity -- is widely seen as a foreign, "other" religion. This was true well before 9/11, but the sense that America has enemies and this is their religion today permeates many Americans' views of Islam.

This is, of course, both unfair and preposterous. The majority of America's past wars have come against Christians -- Germans, Spaniards and Mexicans, Brits, our own civil war. We don't take it out today on Lutherans or Catholics as a result, any more than we do on followers of Buddhism or Shintoism for our experiences with Vietnam and Japan.

If anything, instead of marking our differences, Boykin's "my God is bigger than yours" line sounds remarkably similar to something bin Laden himself would say.

Regardless, both the views of Boykin and other evangelicals and of many of his critics seem to ignore the fact that Muslims make up a significant and fast-growing part of our own culture. It's one thing to disparage the religious beliefs of an enemy. It's another to disparage the faith of six million fellow Americans -- and that, above all, is what makes comments like those of Lt. Gen. Boykin both offensive and dangerous.

Very good insights. We can easily lose our perspective on the conflicts around us. We can demonize a group because of their religion (or other issues) and hence turn what we do into an unofficial "holy war." That is dangerous for a country that presumes religious freedom and to be beacon of light for the world as we often claim to be (and have been at many times.) The issues of which religion(s) are right and which are wrong is not a public policy discussion. Such things cannot and should not be legislated by ballot, congress, or the point of a gun. They are in the hearts and souls of people and it is in our witness as members of a particular religion that the truth of the religion is seen by those outside. We live what we truly believe.

Which is why Islam has received such "bad press" and is working hard in America to maintain a better image. bin Laden et. al., have muddied its name (just as Christian terrorists in other countries, the Crusades, etc. muddy the name of Christianity.) They are rightly afraid that what bin Laden and others have done will be projected on to them. That would be grossly unfair and would do more to tarnish our American image than anything.

Let me close this post by quoting again from the Dalai Lama as Alan Brill posted at The Right Christians. It is an excellent understanding that we need to at least pay attention to:

I am Buddhist. Therefore, Buddhism is the only truth for me, the only religion. To my Christian friend, Christianity is the only truth, the only religion. To my Muslim friend, Mohammedanism is the only truth, the only religion. In the meantime, I respect and admire my Christian friend and my Muslim friend. If by unifying you mean mixing, that is impossible, useless.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Some Thoughts Inspired By Backyard Missionaries

Spent some time reading over at Backyard Missionaries today. An interesting series of posts about the church that really hit me strongly.

First a post from Oct. 25:

At the residents committee meeting last Thursday, the local Anglican minister was there. Dave is a great guy and I have enjoyed the time I have spent with him. The president of the meeting asked us if we saw our selves as competitors...


We're all on the same team - kicking the ball in the same direction!

A great metaphor (or whatever it is) that is such a necessity to begin to make into a reality in our ever more diverse and non-Christian world. When the society was Christian, we separated ourselves (wrongly, I think) from other Christians. We are supposed to be on the same team!

Then in a post on Holy Communion from Sunday:

'this is my body broken...' 'to be a disciple you fellas are gonna need to put your body on the line!'

'this is my blood - shed for you...' 'actually its not just your body. When you follow me you put your life on the line'.

Today I remembered that when I chose to follow Jesus I gave up my life to do whatever he calls me to. No point complaining when it gets tough. Its supposed to tough!

Do this in remembrance of me, we say. But we should also remember Him. That means to live as He lived- or at least be willing and working in that direction. I know I don't think about that in Communion very often.

Then in a post about church:

I was explaining our concept of church to Mick today (the bloke across the street) ... 'ahh you mean a place where people can come and open up and share their lives and not be judged?..'

I didn't realise I said that... but that's definitely a part of it! Maybe he'd enjoy that kind of community...

Enjoy isn't the right word- he probably wants and is looking for that kind of community. Does that describe most of our "churches"? What a wonderful image!

The clincher though comes from a post on Monday, Oct. 27 when reflecting on what he had been reading on other blogs:

what is striking me and giving me some cause some for concern is the amount of time spent focussing on 'what we do when we meet'.

I wonder if this communicates what we feel to be at the heart of 'church'? I believe our ecclesiology follows our missiology and once we get a focus on mission we will form up our church structures (or unstructures) and gatherings appropriately. As one in a new 'church' I don't think our meeings are ever going to be whiz bang affairs, but they ought to sustain us in the mission we re called to. I guess I'm really saying who cares what we do when we meet if it renews and nurtures us to be sent out again. (just to clarify - i do see a place for prayer, scriptures and the whole one another stuff happening)

A number of the emerging church blog chats have had this focus also - now its not bad - don't hear me say that - but i sense we spend too much energy trying to get the meeting 'right' and in that focus risk creating nothing more than a smaller version of what we have all come out of - a meeting centred ecclesiology.

A real quandry for all of us as we move into a 21st Century understanding of church. We see in Paul's letters in Scripture that the issues of what happens when we get together is not a new one. How and why we do what we do when we gather as a community are real questions. Perhaps if we could combine the community that Mick was looking for (openness, honesty, support) with what we do when we get together in prayer and worship then move outward with a mission! Ah. Then the ecclesiology will develop differently. Too often we get stuck on worship as the mission. It is the visible "structure" when our mission should be our structure. "By this the world will know that you are my followers- if you have love for one another." That is an ecclesiology based on relationships and one that can grow in a society looking for meaningful relationships. So, Hamo, THANKS for these posts! Keep on being that missionary in your own backyard (which, thanks to your blog, is quite extensive!)

How Time Flies

It has now been 15 years. On this date in 1988 I went to a Church retreat and admitted to myself and God that I was an alcoholic. My life has never been the same since.

Thank God.

I had just finished a weeklong seminar on "Ministry to Alcoholics and Their Families" run by the Milwaukee Episcopal's diocesan committee on alcohol and drub abuse. I went because a local pastor had spoken well of it and he felt that the more pastors in our community were aware of the depth of alcoholism the more effective we could be in our ministries. Coming from a family where alcoholism seemed to be a problem, I decided it might be a good idea.

Between Monday evening and Thursday afternoon I had heard more than I ever thought possible about the problems connected with alcohol abuse and addiction. I learned how the family is affected. I learned about the symptoms. I learned about denial and he games alcoholics play to maintain their addiction. I sat through an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I heard about God doing for the alcoholic what they could not do for themselves.

No, I wasn't uncomfortable. I didn't even see through any denial up to that point. It was interesting and I could certainly see how I could use this in my ministry.

It never dawned on me that this might be about me. Denial is incredible at protecting the alcoholic from their disease and keeping the disease active…
    -- I didn't think about it when I said to a recovering alcoholic in the group- "I sometimes drink more than I should, but I'm not an alcoholic." [What normal drinker says that?]
    – I didn't think about it when one of the speakers mentioned that every alcoholic eventually gets to vodka due to the mistaken thought that you can't smell it- and I said to myself – "Now there's an idea I hadn't thought of."
    – I didn't think about it when I had to drive home to put together a packet for mailing and, as I drove by the liquor store, I thought- "Maybe I should stop in a get something and show them I can drink."
    – I didn't think about it when I heard someone say that they didn't understand normal drinkers who stopped after one. Why would anyone want only one drink, they said, and I thought- "Yes, that's true."
    – I didn't think about it when I looked at a self-assessment form that I had already seen 4 or 5 times that week and decided to fill it out "Just for the hell of it."
    – I didn't think about it when I answered only 11 of the 26 questions thinking – "That's less than half!"

I did think about it- hard and heavy like a train running over me- when I saw at the bottom of the assessment- If you said yes to any one of these you might have a problem with alcohol. If you said yes to three or more you are probably an alcoholic.

One week to the day later I was in treatment at the McBride Center for the Impaired Professional in Milwaukee and my life was about to be turned forever around.

In between those Thursdays was Saturday, October 29. I admitted in my prayers that day that I was an alcoholic and my life was unmanageable. I wrote it down in my journal. I had taken the First Step of the 12-steps of AA. I had much to do before treatment- like telling my closest friends in the church, my family, and my church board. I sat and cried for hours. The pain of life that I had been hiding for years was finally coming out. I had no idea what life was about to give me. I did not expect to remain married. I did not expect to remain in the church. I didn't know what to expect.

Again- Thank God- He did. After 15 years I am still married to the same wonderful person. I stayed in the same congregation for another 11 years after sobriety and am still in parish ministry. God has done for me what I could not do for myself. I have made incredible friends and sponsors, too numerous to mention, that have helped me stay sober- and just as importantly- happy, joyous and free even when things are tough.

In the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous there are a series of promises. They are real! I have experienced them- and continue to experience them each and every day. Let me close this post with deep gratitude for my life today and the ongoing hope of these promises:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self - seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them. Alcoholics Anonymous, AA World Services, pp. 83-84

Real Business of Clergy

From The Dying Church- a quote worth holding up to every preacher and seminarian and church member:

If all you desire in a pastor is someone who entertains and provides people with good, happy, relaxed, cheerful feelings, then what you want is someone who's been out in the world and who knows how to provide customers with what they ask for.

But the real business of clergy is to train people in worship and service of God, and we must learn that from the Scriptures. We need more than tips and techniques, which is our modern way. We need Bible study, and real learning of God's truth. -J.I. Packer, from an interview with Peter Moore in Seed and Harvest.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Some Early Moravian History

It has been a while since I posted anything about the Moravian Church. Here is a little more of our early history.

    Long before Count Zinzendorf and the German pietistic movement defined the Renewed Moravian Church, it was followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia that defined the early reformers. In 1415 Hus, standing before the Council of Constance, had refused to "recant," admit errors, in his teachings and writings. Caught in the politico-religious struggles of his time and place, Hus was a threat to the establishment. People liked him for his preaching and reading the Bible in the vernacular. He believed that it was possible to pray directly to God- no human mediator was needed. He felt that communion in both kinds was important for all believers. He even had people singing in church.

    When you bucked the establishment in those days, things got really rough. Even the king's promise of safe passage was overcome by the threat to the king of losing his place in heaven. Hus was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

    In 1457, in the midst of the ongoing Hussite wars, one of the groups of Hus's followers gathered in Kunwald to form their own community. The Unitas Fratrum was the Latin name they chose- the Unity of the Brethren.

    The chalice became one of their symbols- communion in both elements. Music was an important part of their worship and they produced the first "Protestant" hymnal. They wanted to be a community and sang "join we all with one accord, praise we all our common Lord."

    Later they would get the nickname "Moravians" because of their original homeland.

    Later they would face persecution and be led into exile in the 1600s by their bishop Jan Amos Comenius, a father of modern education.

    Later they would find renewal in Germany and come to America to be missionaries to the Native Americans.

    But they started in those years before Martin Luther as an oppressed persecuted minority seeking only to be faithful to their Lord and the Word He has left all of us. They would simply seek to be disciples.

    There aren't a lot of Moravians in the world. Only about one million worldwide, mostly in Africa. Many never heard of us. The missionary heritage has kept us small even in our homelands. It was more important in those days to send the workers to the ends of the earth. It still is, although I have a hunch that today those "ends of the earth" may be just down the street.

Monday, October 27, 2003

The War Continues

Today seemed to be a signifcant day in the ongoing war in Iraq.

A rocket attack on the hotel in Baghdad. A Lebanese leader stating that he hoped next time they would get Wolfowitz. Critics of Mr. Bush using the incident to add to their criticism of his policies.

They bombed the headquarters of the International Red Cross. They are killing those who have historically been the helpers and comforters. It is clear that the terrorists in Iraq do not want help or to have the pain of the people eased.

No. The issues and death are not going away. I am not willing to lay blame on George W's doorstep. Nor am I willing to say that the some of the problem isn't of our own long-term making back in the mists of the past few decades. I don't believe that we can just pull out tomorrow as if nothing has happened. I am afraid that our staying any longer than we have to will only inflame the passions. I am deeply saddened and worried by what I see happening. I am worried for our men and women- military, NGO, volunteers, etc.- who are over there in harm's way.

You cannot defeat terrorists with pacifism or logic. You cannot win the hearts and minds of people whose hearts and minds are firmly set against you. You cannot negotiate with people who see you as nothing less than Evil Incarnate and Apostasy in Flesh and Blood.

That leaves us stuck. In a quandry, although not a quagmire. How do we provide for the best we can give to the Iraqi people while being systematically attacked by those who would want them to remain in the Middle Ages morality and dictatorial subservience they have been in? How do we show the people- and the world in general- that we are not the mean ogres some have made us out to be? That a willingness to work together can give all of us a better world?

Everything I read from the troops over there would indicate that they are doing an excellent job in a difficult if not impossible task. They are holding up well and making all of us proud of them as our sons and daughters. War is hell. War sucks. May we continue to pray for the right answers for all involved, for protection for all people in the combat zone- innocent bystanders and soldiers. May we as a nation continue to maintain the high moral understanding of our role and place in all of this. War can turn anyone into something they don't want to be. May we all be protected and learn again the ways to maintain our freedom, democracy, and ability to stand and talk and support each other as a nation.

I have no easy answers or quick solutions. There are none. The true answer and most promising for all is for us to maintain our dignity and intergrity in these difficult times. It is for us to remain true to our values and hopes for all people. We often have difficulties living this way. After all we are human and live in a less than perfect world. But we must not allow the ways of war to become our only ways.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Around and About
I discovered some interesting posts in my leap-blogging tonight.

Hadn't checked in with Martin Roth recently. Found first a great collection of quotes from Chosun Journal that Martin posted. Here are the first five:

1. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

2. There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come. - Victor Hugo

3. He who saves one life saves the world entire. - Babylonian Talmud

4. If your opponent is of choleric temper, irritate him. - Sun Tzu

5. We can't all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by. - Will Rogers

Martin also had a challenging and disturbing post about alcohol use among teenagers and the newer drinks on the market that are to appeal to them. His conclusion:

It’s dreadful that it is, apparently, not overly difficult for young people to obtain alcohol, though I don’t think that’s new, and, anyway, it’s probably pretty inevitable in a free society.

I think to me the outrage is that we have given our kids so little to believe in, that, when they get to a party, about all they want to do is get blind drink as fast they can.

As an alcohol and drug counselor Martin's information doesn't surprise me. It is a truly difficult and dangerous situation that continues to escalate in many areas. Teen alcohol abuse is real and a significant problem.

Another Way of Describing the Split

Midwest Conservative Journal has been keeping us the posting on the ongoing problems of the Episcopal/Anglican Communion. With the consecration of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop still scheduled for next week, the tension and interest will be high this week. Today, MCJ had a post on the two different Anglican churches. Will this be a description of most mainline churches in the coming years?

I really think the time has come for us to recognize that there are two quite distinct creedal communities within our Episcopal Church. They are no longer compatible. Take just the following:

Of Scripture: one community believes it presents man's best efforts to capture the human experienced of God, the other that it represents God's best effort to capture our attention as his Word enters our experience.

Of Christ: one community stops short with an affirming loving presence of a Christ "enabling" us to be the people we by nature are, the other still includes the "tough" love of Jesus' death and sacrifice that promises re-creation into the 2nd Adam of Christ.

Of the Church and the Holy Spirit: one community views the church in federalist terms, needing from the Spirit merely a leading and recognition of indigenous theologies, local options. The other community still holds to the idea of koinonia, with the Spirit leading the church into oneness of mind ever faithful to one holy catholic and apostolic church.

No matter which side of the issue you are on, it is clear that the issue is divisive. This post gives some perhaps overly simplistic statements about the different views, but it is a very good starting point. (Thanks to Ecumenical Insanity for the link.)

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Summer Has Ended

They were the wild card team. They averaged 16,000 in attendance in a small-market.

In mid-season no one would have thought they had a chance.

They called in a new manager out of retirement... and thus began the saga that ended tonight.

In Yankee Stadium and the Boys of Summer ended the season.

Marlins defeat the Yankees and take the 100th World Series, 4 games to 2.

We head into winter with memories of a truly wonderful baseball October.

My Job

"My job isn't to build the church. My job is to follow Jesus." (Andy Stanley)
  -- Thanks to Darryl at The Dying Church

A Thought That Came to Me Unbidden

Isn't it sad, the thought came, that we spend so much time and energy trying to attract people to a new idea, a new worship service, a new lecture, a new attention-grabbing event. Isn't it sad, the thought continued, that we exert so much of who we are trying to convince people that they should try us out, come see who we are, when who we are is often not what is to be seen in these events.

Isn't it more likely, the thought added, that if we were simply going about our business of being the people of God in our daily walks, that the Word made flesh in us might have an impact? Isn't it more like what the Lord Himself did, the thought pushed on, when we heal the sick, release the captives, visit the poor, and point to the Kingdom?

Perhaps thoughts like that are unwelcome because they point to the waste of time and energy we all place into promotion of ourselves in the name of Jesus, when what we should be doing is simply being Jesus in action. That might attract more than we realize. It might even be worth trying.

A Year Has Passed

One year ago today the political climate was altered by a small plane crash in northern Minnesota. Senator Paul Wellstone, a remarkable human being and tireless advocate for all that is right and moral and hopeful in political llife, was gone. Matt Zemek has kept the vision alive over at The Wellstone Cornerstone. He had this to say today:

But you can't take this away from Paul Wellstone: he had a gut-level identification with the beaten-down and broken the likes of which no other United States Senator has ever achieved in recent times.

And when you get down to it, that is really the source and summit of what we, as Americans--all too individualistic and in need of returning to the communal ethos our Founders envisioned for our nation--need to rediscover.

Wellstone was a man of vision and action. His was a vision of a nation and a world where people were respected and upheld in their basic humanity as creations of God. He could be wordy, or over-the-top, but he was always likable and highly respected. He was a man of conviction.

His death reminded me that none of us is perfect- or immortal. We have a responsibility given to us by God to live out our vision and to care for those who are not as fortunate as we are. We have the calling to be witnesses to the possibilities of life lived with meaning and hope for all. As such, his death reminded me that I need to be about that mission in all that I do. Life is too short to get caught up in the trivialities and fears that can paralyze us. Rather we are to move forward with our vision always guiding us.

In relation to the first two sections of this post that means for me:
<>< Follow my Lord and HIS vision.
<>< It's not about me or even us. It's about HIM.
<>< Always walk the walk AND talk the talk.
<>< Move forward with hope, never allowing the fear to keep us from being who we are called to be.
<>< As the church, BE Jesus' Body as He intends us to be.

Friday, October 24, 2003

The Real Challenge

From Anthony de Mello's book, Taking Flight:

"Prisoner at the bar," said the Grand Inquisitor, "you are charged with encouraging people to break the laws, traditions, and customs of our holy religion. How do you plead?"
  "Guilty, Your Honor."
  "And with frequenting the company of heretics, prostitutes, public sinners, the extortionist tax-collectors, the colonial conquerors of our nation—in short, the excommunicated. How do you plead?"
  "Guilty, Your Honor."
  Also with publicly criticizing and denouncing those who have been placed in authority within the Church of God. How do you plead?"
  "Guilty, Your Honor."
  "Finally, you are charged with revising, correcting, calling into question the sacred tenets of our faith. How do you plead?"
  "Guilty, Your Honor."
  "What is your name, prisoner?"
  "Jesus Christ, Your Honor."

Some people are just as alarmed to see their religion practiced as they are to hear it doubted.
    -- p.126- 127 Taking Flight- A Book of Story Meditations by Anthony de Mello, S.J.

One of the things about stories- they don't mince words and the stories de Mello found often hit you up the side of the head. This was one of them along with his italicized postscript.

How sadly true in all ages when the faith, any faith, becomes the status quo. How sadly true when those who are the leaders of the faith participate in the status quo to the extent that creativity and the possibility of the working of the Spirit is stifled. De Mello hints that the actual practice of religion may be more dangerous, alarming, and therefore stifled than doubt or opposing religions.

May we always live on the edge of that dangerous and alarming understanding that leads us to truly live our faith.

Ooops Update
On Wednesday I goofed. Andrew Sullivan is senior editor with the New Republic, not the National Review. All I had in my head was NR and got the wrong one. Guess that's my error for the year. (I'm up to errors for 2189 by now.) (Thanks to Athanasius from Ecumenical Insanity for catching the error. By the way, he has a good post on a controversy in Philadelphia about a "Messianic Jewish" congregation in the Presbyterian Church. I will probably post on that in the next day or two. Again, thanks for catching my error.)

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Really? Left Behind?

Thanks to a really in-depth post and link at Electrolite. He points to Slacktivist's numerous post on the publishing empire that is the Left Behind series. (Go to the Electolite link and follow the links there.)

Christians, in the words of the Nicene Creed, “look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” We believe, in the words of the Apostles’ Creed, in “the resurrection of the body.”
L&J are not interested in resurrection. Resurrection is something that happens to dead people, and [LeHaye & Jenkins] don’t want to die. Death scares them. And that, more than anything else, explains what rapture-mania is all about.

Christianity is about death and resurrection, not about the denial of death. Not about “Jesus coming back to get us before we die.”

This escapist fantasy of a gospel isn’t just bad theology. It’s cruel. Consider the poor souls clinging to this hope who get the big bad news from their doctor. Consider those who have lost a husband, wife, mother, father, daughter or son. Consider all those who have died and all those they have left behind.

I agree with both Electrolite and Slacktivist. I have the hunch that every generation has its apocalyptic thinking. The Scofield Bible-inspired dispensationalism of the Left Behind world-view is one that has managed to be an unfortunately continuing thread in fundamentalist Christianity. Somewhere in every generation is a need to see the world as us-vs-them and the only way that "we" will overcome "them" is through a combination of both intelligent understanding of the signs of the times and a divine intervention.

The Y2K scare was a technological apocalypse that conservative Christians also bought into. Those in the know would be ready for the shutdown that was to occur on 1/1/2000. The others, the less informed, would be out in the cold.

I personally don't entirely understand the overwhelming desire to figure out the ways, means, and methods of the Second Coming. I personally don't understand how people who claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture could ignore Jesus words that no one knows when it is going to happen and try to figure out when it is going to happen. I personally don't understand a lot about this whole phenomenon. It reminds me of the publishing phenom that was The Late, Great Planet Earth. It made millions in the 70s for a man who said the world would end in 1988. I guess he kept his millions and revised the book.

I have read four of the books and have given up. I have gotten tired of their black and white script and the lack of understanding of the depths of the grace of God. I truly enjoy sci-fi, fantasy, and apocalyptic-type fiction. That's what this is, but it isn't even good at that.

Someone will always buy into these things. Just put the word Christian and it makes no difference whether it is any good.

On Syncretism

Thanks to Alan Brill at The Right Christians for the following quote from The Times of Tibet on the Dalai Lama's world travels. It speaks to his concerns about syncretism:

I am Buddhist. Therefore, Buddhism is the only truth for me, the only religion. To my Christian friend, Christianity is the only truth, the only religion. To my Muslim friend, Mohammedanism is the only truth, the only religion. In the meantime, I respect and admire my Christian friend and my Muslim friend. If by unifying you mean mixing, that is impossible, useless.

These are truly wise words. Too often we are unwilling to admit that we have differences or make statements like the Dalai Lama makes about "only truth and religion." We have come to understand tolerance and acceptance as some kind of bland mish-mash of platitudes about life and God. True dialogue happens when we know what we believe and are willing to stand for it while being open to hearing what others believe and have a strong sense of companionship.

Syncretism is often what we see in these non-denominational, cross-religion worship services. They have their place in the development of dialogue and cross-cultural understanding. But they are not worship as any one of us would call it. Thanks to the Dalai Lama for this wisdom.

The Marlins Lead

The Yankees were tough, they came back, but not far enough. Marlins lead 3 games to 2. To Yankee Stadium for Saturday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A View from the Outside
Jordon has posted a quote from Andrew Sullivan. It is interesting to note what this mega-blogger/The National Review columnist has to say about the Pope and his choice of who he will sit down and talk to. [Update: oops. Sullivan is senior editor with the New Republic.] Here's what Jordon posted:

In an appeal to the growing fundamentalism of the developing world, this is a shrewd strategy. In the global context, gays are easily expendable. But it is also a strikingly inhumane one. The current pope is obviously a deep and holy man; but that makes his hostility even more painful. He will send emissaries to terrorists, he will meet with a man who tried to assassinate him. But he has not and will not meet with openly gay Catholics. They are, to him, beneath dialogue. His message is unmistakable. Gay people are the last of the untouchables. We can exist in the church only by silence, by bearing false witness to who we are. I was once more hopeful. I saw within the church's doctrines room for a humane view of homosexuality, a genuinely Catholic approach to including all nonprocreative people - the old, the infertile, the gay - in God's church. But I can see now that the dialogue is finally shutting down. Perhaps a new pope will change things. But the odds are that hostility will get even worse.

It is always, always, always easier to sit down with "enemies" or "antagonists" from outside than with brothers and sisters who disagree with you. To sit down with the gay catholics for discussion, they would have to admit that they were within the faith and might, even remotely, have a point. To sit down with those outside the faith would show tolerance, even while not admitting they might have anything important to say.

Was it a Test?

James Lileks had a seemingly throw-away paragraph in today's Bleat.

As you may have read - not in newspapers, heaven forfend - a large portion of the blogworld has been crippled by attacks on the company that hosted a pro-Israel website, and the attacks are coming from servers that host Al Qaeda groups. This makes me uneasy; there’s something else going on here, I think. It’s like hearing reports from Alaska radar stations of peculiar blips on the screen. Someone’s testing something.

I don't know whether I would go that far, but it does make sense. To choose one hosting company for a denial of service attack- and succeed- is ominous. I would agree that there is something more here than meets the intitial awareness. I hope that the powers that be in Homeland Security are doing their thing in this new cyber-terrorism.


I have discovered The World According to Chuck. I think he may be in the same league as Real Live Preacher as a storyteller. Here's a quote from Tuesday's post:

We've diluted our mysteries and miracles until they seem common. The birth of a beautiful baby or a walk-off home run are both subtly attributed to the hand of an intervening God, working wonders in a mundane, ordinary world. And maybe so; I have no inside information.

But I suspect that for every Virgin Mary manifestation, for every episode of stigmata or angels in the outfield, there are a dozen ordinary lives that change when there is no earthly reason they should, and I know about one.

A dream. A vision, a hallucination. I have no idea, and in the 25-odd years since I last heard the story the details have dimmed, but Mac saw something in his cell that night, and he said it was Jesus.

It was part one of the story of Mac. Let's see what it's about when the next post comes up.

Now That's Baseball
Bottom of the 11th, Home Run barely clearing the fence, Marlins Win.
Series tied at 2 each. Game lasted 4 hours, 3 minutes.
Even for a Yankee fan, this is what baseball post-season is all about.

Update: Ooops. It was the bottom of the 12th.

Another One of Those Tests

Once a sucker, always a sucker....

Anyway, at the IQ test I find out that my intellectual type is a

Facts Curator.

This means you are highly intelligent and have picked up an impressive and unique collection of facts and figures over the years. You've got a remarkable vocabulary and exceptional math skills — which puts you in the same class as brainiacs like Bill Gates.

That explains why I am so good at Trivial Pursuit. But not why I haven't made the billions that Bill Gates has. Anyway, the test is here. Thanks to Bene for the link.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Building on a Solid Foundation- Luke: 46 - 49

:: On the flood plain in my home town are homes that have stood for over a century and more. They have been wracked with flood waters numerous times. They have been cleaned, refurbished, repainted. And they still stand. There are other places where houses used to be. More poorly built, perhaps. Built on a more fragile bend in the river where water raged more powerfully. Empty lots where homes used to stand. Will my house remain standing? Have I built solidly behind the protective dike of God's love in Jesus?

46 So why do you call me ‘Lord,’ when you won’t obey me? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then obeys me. 48 It is like a person who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who listens and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will crumble into a heap of ruins.

I just noticed that this teaching begins with Jesus' question- Why do you call me ‘Lord,’ when you won’t obey me? I would guess that this is one of the requirements of being a "disciple"- to obey the One we call our Lord.

A Good Question

LT posts the following question:

I'm not sure I understand the reasoning behind the idea that church should be open to everyone. Everyone needs a place to belong. However if you flood that place of belonging with people who really don't want to follow Christ don't you dilute the community to the point where belonging becomes meaningless?

As usual with his posts, LT has raised more questions than I have answers. Which is good!

Perhaps the question is really- "Should there be such a thing as church 'membership?' " Or "How can we find ways and means to lead people to deeper relationships with Jesus in order for them to become committed to obeying? Or "Isn't this what the dichotomy with 'seeker-sensitive' worship tried to solve?" Lots to struggle with here as LT and his house church will continue to struggle with these questions. I look forward to hearing their discussions and directions.

Not in the Rain

Somehow or other I have the built-in understanding that baseball is not to be played in the rain. Unlike tonight's ball game. At least it was in Miami where the temperature was in the "steamy" 70s.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Functional Agnostics
An agnostic is one who is not sure about the existence of God. So goes the definition. I was struck the other day in speaking of some of my own personal experiences that many of us are in reality "functional agnostics" even though we may "say" differently.

Let me explain. I believe that a functional agnostic is unsure about how or why God would work in their life. They have this block about the work of God, not the existence of God. Deism, the form of Christianity that some of our American Founding Fathers practiced, believed fully in the existence of God. He made all that it as an old clockmaker, wound the springs and set it moving. Beyond that the action of God was unnecessary. It was all up to us. That is functional agnosticism because it moves God away from the center and replaces his actions and movements with the possibility of ours.

In other words, God has no active place in our lives. God "did." He doesn't "do." The result is a lack of connection with God. It leads to hopelessness when things don't go the way we think we are able to make them go. Or it leads to more pressure, power, violence to make it happen. If God is not a participant in the daily activities of His creation and cares about the lives that we lead, God is not God any longer. He may have been the Creator, but he is not a Higher Power that can bring about salvation or any other thing of substance.

We humans, I am afraid, fall easily into this functional agnosticism. It is the natural extension of that high mythic moment explained in Genesis with the serpent and the couple in the Garden of Eden. Their sin- what we often call Original Sin- is still our basic sin and the source of our Sinfulness. We seek to replace the Higher Power of God with our own power and wisdom and desires. We seek to be like God. It never works. It is our classic insanity… millennia of humans trying the same things over and over expecting that this time this time we will get a different result.

Sure God uses us and others. Sure God wants us to use the power and wisdom and desires we have been given to help ourselves. But not without first looking to him for the power to do more than we can, the wisdom to know what it is we can do, and the desire to live a life guided by Him and not us. Thank God for being God- and I'm not. Amen.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

A Great Day
I have had the most wonderful weekend. I have spent the past day and a half with my brother at his place. It is the first time I have been back in the old hometown in 19 years and the first time to just sit and be with my brother in as long. It is easy to forget how powerful family can be when you are open to the possibilities of just being yourself. It is sad it has taken me 55 years to truly realize that. I will be posting more about the past few days in the next week. It has been neat.

The Humility Award
Goes to Joshua Claybourn. His was a shameful appeal for votes at the Christian Blog Awards 2003. There is no doubt in my mind that Joshua's blog deserves the votes in his category. His humble requests to ignore him and his fine post stating he won't participate in such shameless activites was worth the vote.

I am humbled that the Wanderings of this postModern Pilgrim has been nominated in the most introspective blog category. I will make no such promise of not participating. As an introspective blogger, I am aware that this introverted types are in deep need of support and acclimation from outside. All that time in the deep darkness of introspection is a lonely business that can get in the way of normal human relationships. Affirmations and support are so essential to such as do these. Especially in the postModern Pilgrimage where we have lost all moorings and places of stability. So, in order to help rebuild the foundations of this person on a postModern Pilgrimage, you are more then humbly invited to go at your nearest convenience and vote for me. Ganns is such a perceptive web-master.

The World Series
So far the World Series hasn't been all that exciting- almost anti-climactic after the Division and Championship Series. But it is now 1-1. I expect more excitement when they get to the warmth of Miami. I will go with the Yankees in six, but would not be surprised if the energy of the youthful Marlins did to the Yankees what they did to the Cubs. But the pinstripes will probably prevail.

It's All in the Pinstripes
Which reminds me of the segment of the movie Catch Me If You Can where Leonardo De Caprio as Frank Abegnale explains that the "winning" is all in the outer appearances. His example was the Yankees and their pinstripes. The pinstripes dazzle you. You are awed by their polish and class. It is the pinstripes that make the team. There is "class" to the Yankees. Their uniforms and personal appearance in general give you that impression. Of course even pinstripes can't give David Wells that kind of polish. Hmmm. Maybe that's why the Marlins won the first game.

Such is a common mistake, however. The same one glorified in the song from Chicago- Razzle Dazzle. It is the common error of our modern culture and perhaps of all human endeavors. It may even be the fatal flaw or Achilles Heel of we sinners. As long as we believe it is all in the appearances, the dress for success, then we will ultimately believe we don't have to have talent and ability. We can rely on our class or polish. The barbarians can't possibly win- we are their superiors. Just look at us.

The Pharisees were like that. The religious leaders of many generations can be like that. The holier-than-thou types can be like that. The result is disaster. Yes, class and looking good and the book's cover can be an attraction. But if that is all there is- the Yankees would never have won 26 World Series Championships, pinstripes or not. It is what we do with what we have been given, how we live out our trust first in God, and our admission of our own personal shortcomings and sins that will make all the difference.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Not Much New

A day and a half of meetings with intense discussion brings me to the end of the day with not much energy to say a whole lot. Sometimes I think I would rather be out moving around and getting physically tired than to sit in meetings. This was our church planting strategy committee which I always find energizing. The problem becomes it is intense at time. We end up dealing with issues that affect church planting and seek to find ways to address them in positive and healthy ways. We seek to discover and develop methods and models that we can share and learn ourselves. We become aware of the need to use language that doesn't put us into boxes or lock us out of other boxes.

I need to be thinking, praying, pondering, and meditating on this over the next weeks and months. But one thing I know is that above all else I dislike these labels with a passion. If you put me into one of them I will rebel. If you insist that I am in one, I will get upset. I am a firm believer in sticking to as consistent an approach to life as I can. Sometimes that means that I will even take positions that are not politically or theologically correct as far as the language police are concerned. I think we do ourselves and our churches great disservice when we finagle, fiddle, and finesse language until it loses its power to motivate and excite. We also close ourselves to great opportunities for relationship and hope with brothers and sisters.

I know we all do it. I know it is impossible to avoid. Yet, I work for the opportunity to speak and be heard and then to listen and pay attention to brothers and sisters of all stripes and persuasions. That, I am sure, will be a significant contribution of the thinking of the postModern world. If we take nothing else from these cultural changes, I pray that we at least take the opportunity to learn from our diversities.

The Post-Season Continues
It is the top of the ninth on Saturday night. Fla- 3; NYY-2. I will probably turn this off, watch the rest of the game and go to bed.

Perhaps I will find the energy and interest in my mind's working to get back to some real blogging tomorrow or Monday at the latest.

Friday, October 17, 2003


What can I say. A homerun, extra innings, Yankee Stadium. I don't know whether I would call it a curse on the Red Sox or the old Yankee magic. All I know is it is baseball at its best. What a wonderful post-season this has been! Even if my Twins lost, the Cubs are still waiting for the end of the Century, and the Red Sox are looking for a new Babe Ruth, it has been great. Who would have thought that it would be the Florida Marlins.

Only In America


Caterpillar Inc. has sued to block next week’s U.S. release of Disney’s “George of the Jungle 2,” alleging that the direct-to-DVD movie damages the heavy equipment maker’s reputation. The Peoria-based company’s trademark infringement lawsuit contends the movie ties Caterpillar to an “evil attacking army” of industrialists seeking to destroy the jungle, a central theme of the Disney sequel.
Caterpillar contends the scenes will have a negative effect on children and could affect the company’s line of children’s products, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Peoria against the Walt Disney Co. and Buena Vista Entertainment.
“While we have great respect for Caterpillar, we consider this without legal merit and we expect the audience will view these sequences for their comedic value and not take them seriously,” a Disney statement said.

It’s only a movie! Next thing you know gun manufacturers will be suing the movies for showing their products being used in illegal activities.

Trying to Blog

It's amazing how we get used to broadband. I have been trying to get on and stay on the Internet from a dial-up and keep getting knocked off. It is frustrating when I have so much to say of great importance and I can't stay online. (That and my humility will get me somewhere sometime.)

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Buying Time

The Anglican Communion special meeting has been held and nothing of any consequence has yet occurred. Midwest Conservative Journal has a review of the statement. Ecumenical Insanity has a post based on a BBC report. Here's the whole statement.

A quotes strikes me from an outsider's point of view:

If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).

It is vague, yet carries an undertone of grave concern. It does not come to the breaking point, but tells all concerned that the breaking point is near.

Another significant quote:

Therefore, as a body we deeply regret the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church (USA) which appear to a number of provinces to have short-circuited that process, and could be perceived to alter unilaterally the teaching of the Anglican Communion on this issue. They do not. Whilst we recognise the juridical autonomy of each province in our Communion, the mutual interdependence of the provinces means that none has authority unilaterally to substitute an alternative teaching as if it were the teaching of the entire Anglican Communion.

On an international scale this may be the paragraph that will speak for most world-wide denominations. What one Diocese, Synod, Province, Conference or Distirct does can have world-wide impact. In connectional/denominational systems we are not a bunch of independent entities. We have roots and branches. As the scope and center of world-wide Christianity moves clearly to the "south" (Southern Hemisphere/Developing World) we will find increased concern over these issues. The Moravian Church faced a similar situation last summer and the world-wide Unity did something quite similar to what came from England today. Bought time. But it may not be enough for any of us. I am told by many on both sides of the issue that it will not go away. We have perhaps moved beyond the point of no decision. We may perhaps be on the edge of some major realignments along theological lines instead of geographic or historic lines.

At least for the next two weeks, the greater Anglican communion has spoken. Will Gene Robinson become a Bishop on November 2? That is the next question. The ball is back in the ECUSA's court.

As always may we pray that the will of God be done for His glory!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

What the Blogosphere Needs More Of

Dave Pollard of How to Save the World has posted an update of his list of things that blog readers and blog writers want to see more of in the blogosphere. Here is part of the list:

:: What the readers want to see:
a. original research, surveys etc.
b. original, well-crafted fiction
c. great finds: resources, blogs, essays, artistic works
d. news not found anywhere else
h. personal stories, experiences, lessons learned

:: What the writers want to see:
a. constructive criticism, reaction, feedback
b. 'thank you' comments, and why readers liked their post
c. requests for future posts on specific subjects

I like his thoughts. When I started this blog back in March it was an impulsive move. I knew little about the blogosphere. It looked like something to jump into and give me a chance (and reason) to write about things that interest me and see who responds. I then starting leap-blogging and found an incredible world of pundits and prayers, anger and compassion, and lots and lots and lots of opinions. I decided that I wanted to be part of that world in my little way. (My sitemeter reminds how little. What a humbling tool that is which is supposed to keep my ego growing. Oh, well!)

It has been fun- and remains fun. I have found that I have more to say than I often put down. I think more about writing and what I might write. That gives me new perspectives on life that help me.

I have also come to appreciate the community of bloggers whose blogs I read and who will often comment briefly on mine. There is a cross-feeding going on that many of us may never know about.

I'm having fun... So, as Bene Diction reminds me daily- Blog On!

A Brief Limbaugh Thought or Two

I am probably now about to give something the blogosphere doesn't need- an opinion about Rush Limbaugh's current situation. Not original, not even profound, but, hey, it's my blog...

Addiction is cunning, baffling, and powerful. It can sneak up on you, grab you by the neck and other places and pull you down all the while convincing you that you are great, wonderful, in charge, and above all else, always right. It doesn't matter whether you are a conservative talk-show star, a liberal Hollywood actor, a star athlete, just your average college graduate hooked by the chugging contests at the frat or... anyone! In the addiction field it is often referred to as the "equal opportunity disease."

It is a disease. It is not a moral weakness. It is not a sign of being a wuss or unable to get any will-power. It is real and will kill you! It can be OxyContin or heroin, Valium or the granddaddy of all- alcohol. It changes the way you think, act, react, relate to yourself and your world. It is a disease of body, mind, spirit, soul. It is a big black hole ready to suck you away.

Sometimes those who rail the most about something are themselves the victim of the same thing they rail against. Enter Rush Limbaugh. No, he as not being a hypocrite when he spoke out against addicts. He was trying to hide himself from himself. He truly believed it and the addiction was there at work.

One thing Rush was right about was that personal responsibility is important- essential- in recovery. As long as you "blame" your problems, actions, and reactions on the addiction and say the "devil made me do it" you will not find health. You will stay sick.

So, for the moment, Rush is in treatment. Congratulations! He needs to listen, surrender, open himself up to the possibilities that are now ahead of him. He needs to look inside himself and find where he has given up responsibility to the disease which convinced him otherwise. He needs to make himself open and honest with himself so that he can see how this all affected him and others.

Will becoming clean make Rush into a quiet, bleeding heart liberal? I doubt it. But it may make him more willing to see the part he can play in making the world a place where addictions are less common and become an advocate for treatment of all kinds for as many as possible.

I am reminded of Chuck Colson who changed from a Nixon henchman in Watergate to the founder of Prison Fellowship after he saw the problems with the prison system. He became a force for change and growth. I hope that Rush does the same. Politics aside, no one- no one- deserves the hell of addiction.

The Wrong Post
The Other Guys Didn't Read the Script

No, this is not the one I wanted. I had another one all ready. One that celebrated a win at Wrigley's friendly confines to finally get THERE!

Is there a curse? Is there something about the air and water in the Windy City that just takes all the hope out of life for those destined to live there?

The season ends. There will be another one next year. There has been almost a century of "next years" on the north side of Chicago.

I guess it is important to close the Cubbie's season with a quote from the one and only late Harry:

"I'll tell you what's helped me my entire life. I look at baseball as a game.
It's something where people can go out, enjoy and have fun. Nothing more." -- Harry Caray

And Now for the Good News in All That

David Pinto at Baseball Musings had some good for even a Cubbie fan in a post at the end of the game:

A small market, low attendance team makes the World Series. Bud Selig must be fuming, which makes me very happy.

He's At It Again!

Real Live Preacher is about to meddle again. I can feel it in my bones. Here's the closing paragraph of a post that appears to be at least a two-parter:

And it IS a trap, because I got news for you, preacher. You ain’t Jesus, and you better figure that out right quick.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Jesus Casts Out a Demon- Luke 4: 31 - 37
I was struck by this in my postModern Journaling tonight...

31Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in the synagogue every Sabbath day. 32There, too, the people were amazed at the things he said, because he spoke with authority.
    33Once a man possessed by a demon began shouting at Jesus,
35Jesus cut him short. “Be silent!” he told the demon.
    36Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him and flee at his command!”

:: Authority belongs to Jesus. Even the world of the spirits knows this is true. The sign of the power of Jesus amaze people. When was the last time I was amazed?

After I wrote that last line I thought of something that happened earlier this evening when I saw that power over demons and evil and disease at work. I heard the story of an acquaintance who is a recovering alcoholic and addict. I heard the story of this person who could never hold a job, never make it in this world, always be drifting and losing because of their drugs and alcohol. Then I heard what happened recently- with some clean and sober time under their belt- they got a job promotion and high marks from their boss for honesty and morals.

When I heard that I knew that here was the power of God at work. I am saddened to say that it was not through the work of the church that it happened. It was through Twelve-Step groups. No wonder that George Hunter in Radical Outreach spends a whole chapter on the Twelve-Step movement as the paradigm for healing and outreach in our postModern World. There is where the power of God is being seen among the poor or captives or oppressed.

Thank God for His work no matter where He may be working.

All About Fear

From The Life of Pi:

I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life…. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy…. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons of technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. p. 161

Over twenty years ago now I had an 18-month experience of this overwhelming power of fear. The details are now not important. For a year and a half I lived in a constant state of dread. There was nothing that reason could do. Nothing that logic could overcome. It haunted my waking hours almost continually. It kept me tossing and turning as my mind wouldn't stop thinking about when I went to bed. It was a dark night of the soul.

When I read this incredible description in what is an incredible work of literature, I knew its power and truth. It is the power of fiction to express truth in ways far more profound than in a true story. Put this chapter back into the book with Pi floating in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger as his only companion and you know fear and that fear connects with your own.

The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. p. 162

I don't know where Pi is going to end up with all this. In my life several things happened. First, mine was a time-limited fear. At the end of that 18-months was what I was fearing- and it never happened. Reality trumped it. Second, I wrote about it- often in my journals of the day. Third, I spoke of it to my wife (after 14 months of keeping it to myself because I knew that if I said it aloud it would sound silly.) Fourth, I kept taking it to God.

Further in the book:

Despair was a heavy blackness that let no light in or out. It was a hell beyond expression… The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point of light in my heart. I would go on loving. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. p. 209

I still struggle to remember the lessons from then. And daily I seek to keep God as that shining point of light in my heart that Pi speaks so wonderfully of.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Back On-line
Well, I got back and my mind has not yet gotten back into Blogging-mode. I was sitting here at the keyboard and my mind didn't want to say anything. I could talk about sports- the Red Sox just evened the series at 2-2. The Cubs are one win away from giving them a once every-other lifetime possibility. The Badgers ended the Buckeyes 19-game college football win streak and the Packers almost ended the Chiefs unbeaten record.

I did see some wonderful fall colors in Beautiful Door County Wisconsin. We had good meetings and the administrative side of my mind didn't implode. I even got the chance to travel within two miles of the Center of the Universe- Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

I forgot my digital camera. Oh well.

So, back to blogging and leap-blogging.

Amateur Clergy!
Andrew Careaga had a great post on Saturday about amateurs-vs-professionals in journalism and ministry.

The best ministers I know are bi-vocational "amateurs" who have learned their craft through personal study and practice

Got a Crush?
Darren at Living Room bared his soul about blogger crushes. I admit that I have one- James Lileks. He's my hero with his great ability to take simple words and fill them with power. Last week, for example, he spoke of the "hole in the sky" in lower Manhattan. I also have a crush on Real Live Preacher. To have their abilities with words is great. Now, if someone will remind me which of the commandments is about covetousness...

Bene Diction Blogs Again
Welcome back to your own home blog, Bene.

Thinking of New Things
Thinking about starting a PhotoBlog. Not sure what to use, so I'm surfing around looking for ideas. If anyone has any input, let me know.

Now This Feels Better
Isn't it amazing that now, a few minutes later and a few words, some of which are simply stolen linked from other blogs and I'm back in practice.

Friday, October 10, 2003

A Brief Blogging Hiatus
Life- or at least all day meetings- is about to trump blogging. So, I will let my blogging mind take a break and replace it with my administrative one for the next 48 hours. I won't even have my trusty laptop with me. But have no fear, I do have a keyboard for my PDA in case I get the urge.

Be back here on Sunday night or Monday morning.

In the meantime
I leave you with a link to a post on a blog I discovered today. The World According to Chuck had a post last week called Loaves and Fishes. A brief snippet:

But we were talking about addiction. It can be anything, of course: drugs and alcohol, sex, chocolate, "Will and Grace," anything. And we talked about reasons why: grief, pain, loneliness, etc.

"And sometimes," she said, "it's simply a hunger for God."

Maybe you know this. It was news to me.

I know about this hunger. We all do, probably. I suspect we're hardwired to search for God, for spiritual sustenance, a genetic compulsion to phone home. [..snip..]

I've gone to lots of churches. No one ever asks me if I'm hungry. No one ever asks me if I'm seeking, if I'm looking for something. Maybe it's because my wife is a Real Live Preacher. Maybe they assume.

   >Go Read the Post< and see you the other end of the weekend.

Yesterday's Final Jeopardy Question

Yesterday I posted the Final Jeopardy clue:

On the American Film Institute's 2003 list of favorite heroes and villains, this character was on both lists.

The correct question:

Who is The Terminator!

(I would guess that this answer remains the same this week as well!)

Sign of the Times
The following was in USA Today earlier in the week:

Civil marriage on rise across USA
By Cathy Lynn Grossman and In-Sung Yoo, USA TODAY
Fewer American couples who marry today see the need for religion's approval. The rate of civil marriage is on the rise coast to coast, a USA TODAY analysis of marriage license statistics suggests.

The trend is that more than 40% of all marriages are civil marriages. In some states that goes has high as 60+%. Utah is the lowest in the nation with the strong Mormon presence there.

I admit that I was surprised by the figures, even in the Bible Belt. It is one more sign of what many commentators, bloggers, and others have been saying about our postModern 21st Century life. The role of religious institutions and the religious foundations for institutions like marriage is diminishing. While many of us still get the people who want a church wedding even though they have little or no personal connection to the church, that is declining. We don't know the numbers who don't come to us. It looks like it is around 40% of all marriages!

This gives credence to the assertions of many postModern observers that we are in the second generation of non-churched people. The first generation would still go back to church for a wedding to please the family. The second generation is beyond that. They know that no one really cares. Sure, some will wish they had done a church service, but most won't care as long as the reception/dance is a good time for all.

It may actually be a good movement. Perhaps someday clergy will cease to be agents of the state in performing what is a legal action surrounded by a religious ritual. Perhaps someday all people will need to get their legal status done by a secular authority and then go to church for the blessing and covenant that we in the church hold up as important.

In the meantime, though, we in the church need to wake up to the change in society that gives us hints about the future. We need to be working – and working diligently – on developing outreach and evangelism and ministry and openness in our communities. We need to get out of our religious ghettoes to discover the world that Jesus came to save and love.

I have the hunch that God's Spirit may already be at work "out there" so let's follow.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Thanks, James. A Great Trip
Lileks' Bleat has been in New York City this week. His trip from Midtown to the World Trade Center and back is worth the price of admission. Thanks for a great read!

BibleJournal Going Again
My other blog- the postModern Journal Bible journal is finally back and going. Will be looking at the Gospel of Luke over the next 8 weeks. It's good to get back to the journaling from scripture. Let's see if I can stay on target through the ups and downs when life trumps blogging.

The Birth of Jesus Foretold - Verses 26 - 38

28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.”

:: What a wonderfully true and powerful insight. To be the Lord's servant is to accept whatever he wants.
:: Will it take a visit from Gabriel for me to be willing to say that?

A Final Jeopardy Answer
Today's Final Jeopardy clue:

On the American Film Institute's 2003 list of favorite heroes and villains, this character was on both lists.

For those who have not seen today's Jeopardy yet, I will post the correct "question" tomorrow.

Is Liberty Needed to Spread the Gospel?
In today's Religion Today's Summaries was an article about best-selling author, political columnist and lawyer from Missouri, David Limbaugh. He has a new book about discrimination against Christians in the US to follow-up on his previous one on the Clinton Administration. In general, I would disagree with the theme of discrimination. I think that the culture as a whole is generally less tolerant of Christian faith, especially when lived out in political and other arena. I think that this holds true for both liberal and conservative Christians who will increasingly find that the culture is at best apathetic about what we believe. We no longer hold the "most-favored-religion" status.

But I'm not disturbed about that part of the article. What got me was the following quote..

Limbaugh says if Christians do not preserve their political liberties, they will not be able to obey the Great Commission and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Well, then, why are the most obedient and successful evangelists working in China and India? How in the world did Christians ever manage to obey the Great Commission in the Roman Empire? Let us not forget the Eastern Europeans after WW II, or the Soviet Union. Our ability to obey our Lord, preach and live the Gospel and spread the Good News is never dependent on the religious liberties of whatever nation-state we happen to live in.

Yes, I guess this is a rant since this has been one of my pet peeves about us American Christians ever since I met people from East Germany and South Africa (blacks) over 30 years ago. Everyone I have ever met has pointed out that Americans get their freedom as American citizens all mixed up with their freedom in Christ and Jesus is usually the one who suffers. Now I agree, as an American, that our democratic government should not make discriminatory laws against any religion. I also agree that I am immensely grateful to God for the good fortune (grace?) of having been born in the United States where I do have freedom. And, I pray that I will never have to find out if my faith is strong only because I am allowed to worship as I please or if it would stand under real persecution.

No, discrimination in the United States will not keep us from worshiping. It may put limits on us that we disagree with or don't like. It may be less tolerant of us and ignore more and more of what we have to say. But none of that can ever keep us from truly obeying our Lord.

    To subscribe to these news summaries go >here<.

Baseball and the End Times
In the latest Sojourner's mailing was a wonderful article by Jim Wallis...

There are certain Christians (of the religious right variety) who sincerely believe the apocalypse (the coming of Christ and the unfolding of the end times) will be prompted by events in the Middle East. In order to create the right conditions for the Second Coming, these believers take a one-sided political stance (pro-whatever Israel does and ignoring all the consequences for everybody else - even ignoring the existence of Palestinian Christians, for example). This is not only bad biblical theology (as revealed in the recent Sojourners article, "Short Fuse to Apocalypse?"), it perhaps more importantly misses other events that might truly prompt the eschaton. Of course, I am referring to a possible match-up between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox in baseball's World Series. A World Series with truly eschatological implications is now possible after the surprise play-off victories of two of the most long-standing underdogs in baseball - or maybe in all of sports..
    >Read the whole article<

Like Jim, I went to seminary in Chicago and have a special place in my heart for the Cubbies. And as Jim points out we must not forget the BoSox who last won a World Series ten years after the Cubs, which was still 85 years ago! But the best of seven in a League Series is not yet a sign of the End. We continue to wait patiently, with our lamps lit and extra oil put aside. It could still turn into another "wait-until-next-year" year.

    To subscribe to Sojo Mail go >here<.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Jarvis on Lileks
Jeff Jarvis does a wonderful job of explaining James Lileks. Well, maybe not an explanation- but a neat profile of our Minnesota mega-columnist. Both are daily reads!

HIV/AIDS Becoming a Young Person's Disease, U.N. Report Warns
This in from the Associated Press via ABC News

LONDON Oct. 8 — Young people are increasingly responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS around the world because of poverty and a severe lack of information and prevention services, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Every 14 seconds a person between 15 and 24 is infected with the virus. They now account for half all new cases of the disease, the U.N. Population Fund said in its annual State of the World's Population report.

"We will have a global catastrophe if we ignore young people and ignore their needs," said Thoraya Obaid, the agency's executive director, told a news conference in London.

The "Making 1 Billion Count" report cautions that there is now the biggest generation of adolescents in history 1.2 billion of the world's 6.3 billion population are between 10 and 19 and many are facing deadly diseases, unwanted pregnancy and poverty.

HIV/AIDS has emerged as one of the greatest threats. Aside from the high infection rate, the epidemic also has orphaned 13 million children under age 15, the report said. >More<

A reason for prayer, resources, education, mission, and more prayer.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

UPI Analysis: A rift worse than schism?
I wrote the next post on The New Denominations on Sunday evening after a discussion in our Purpose-Driven Life group that morning. This morning there was an analysis essay on UPI. Part of what it said in the lead:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The crisis in the Anglican Communion seems to foreshadow a rift worse than a schism for world Christianity. It does not only divide denomination from denomination. Worse, its fault lines cut straight through many branches of the body of Christ.

Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, is reported to have been shaken by his encounters with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, last weekend in Rome.

   > Here for whole article <

I guess I was closer to on-target than I even realized.

The New Denominations
In reflecting on the meltdown that seems to be approaching in the Anglican/Episcopal communion, it would appear to me that this is the first "test case" of a major denomination facing the new realities of the 21st Century. We may be about to witness the birth of a new denomination out of their struggles. In so doing they may become part of the first moves to the realignment of denominations as we know them.

In most of the European world, denominations were essentially national churches. In Germany there was the "evangelische kirche" (Lutherans, to us Americans). Scotland was Presbyterian, England was Anglican, etc. Yes, there were other groups such as Mennonites, Moravians, Methodists that sprang up in some places, but in general the State Churches were it.

As they moved to the New World and then into the developing world, they took their national churches with them and then split and founded new ones, etc. In America, then, denominationalism rose to its heights in a free religious atmosphere. While there were splits along theological lines, most of the denominational loyalty remained based on the old system of once a ------- (fill in the blank) always a ------. Admittedly this is a much oversimplified description of the denominationalism we have in America, but it will suffice for the discussion.

Now, in this early 21st Century, things like theology, style of worship, style of leadership, style of mission are beginning to take hold as having more pull (and potentially push) than the old semi-national loyalties. The Anglican communion, which an Episcopal clergy friend of mine insisted was a national church, even in the United States, is showing the signs of the strains that diverse- wildly diverse- theologies can have on an association based on no longer essential boundaries.

You see, in many ways, our denominationalism is just that – boundaries. They define me against you. They define turf in a Christian world. This turf belongs to Denomination A, that to Denomination B. In a Christendom world, that was essential to tell us from each other and to set forth who we are in relation to other Christians!

We have moved into a word where those boundaries are going to become more irrelevant. Another friend of mine who is heavily into the emerging church once confided that the real religious story of this century is going to be the major realignment of denominations and such loyalties.

It may not come to full visibility immediately in the Anglican/Episcopal controversy, but it will be the start. People already are moving from church to church, denomination to denomination based on how they react to theological issues. We are only at the start.

This will be seen by some as a disaster for denominations. It will be that only if the ethno-national-historical roots of the denominations are important. What we will see will be a growth of cross-denominational activity as Christians. Some of these will align with the National/World Council of Churches and others with Evangelical organizations.

So watch the news from England in the coming weeks. Watch as the small (as a percentage of world Anglicans) American church, which is not in accord with world Anglican opinion, seeks to defend itself. Watch to see if they can find a common ground to keep the old alignment together. Read between the lines on both sides, though, and you will see the signs of the realignment I am speaking about. Listen as the ideas that Philip Jenkins has outlined in The Next Christianity about the shift of world Christianity to the Southern Hemisphere begins to show its strength.

Above all, remember that no matter what we may think about ourselves and our churches, they are human institutions seeking to embody God's work in Jesus' Body. They can fail, fall apart and even be replaced. God's work and will is still being done and will continue to be done in spite of us, yet through us. For that I am humbled and bow in thankful prayer to my Lord and Savior who will guide us through this transition.