Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Advent Reflection

The following link will take you to an mp3 file from Peter Rollins, a brilliant Irish theologian I have spoke of on here before. He calls it a "political reading on Advent." It is a brilliant commentary on the true meaning of the Incarnation that we celebrate on Thursday. I hope you take a few minutes to listen and reflect.

HT: Peter Rollins

Interesting Thoughts...

Interesting thoughts...not quite sure what I think! What do you all think about these?

HT: ASBO Jesus

The Last Few Days

A ton of stuff has happened in my life over the past few days, so I thought I would briefly give you a glimpse of what I've been up to. We are currently in North Dakota at Mandy's family's house and are enjoying our time with them. We haven't seen her family since May, so this time here has been a huge blessing. So...here is my last week in a nutshell:
  1. A Missed NBA Game -- I had tickets to the Blazers v. Suns game in Portland this past Thursday but was unable to go because of bad weather. I sulked on the couch at home watching the game, especially when Brandon Roy (of the Blazers) scored 52 points in the game, which was the 2nd highest point total in the NBA for the season. I should have been there.
  2. Terrible Road Conditions -- Mandy and I left Seattle at 6am on Friday and turned the 10 hour trip to Bozeman, MT into a 13 hour trip because of terrible roads. We had to traverse 4 mountain passes that first day and each one left us in dangerous conditions. We stayed with our dear friends Shad and Patti in Livingston, MT that night and loved seeing them and their 3 amazing boys.
  3. Tons of Food -- The Christmas holiday is only just beginning, but already I feel like I've gained a few pounds. I'm not sure how the birth of the Messiah came to be synonomous with overeating, but I'm definitely not an exception to this cultural norm.
  4. A Fantasy Football Championship -- For those of you who read this blog often, you've no doubt read about my addiction to fantasy football. A few weeks ago I won the regular season of our league, and just last night I secured the championship of the playoffs as well. I would be content enough with just "winning", but in our league we each threw in $100, so winning the regular season and playoffs also means winning a lot of money, which is never a bad thing around this Christmas season. Merry Christmas to Me!

This is all you get for now, but I look forward to more academic posting after we get home from Christmas break. I desperately hope this season is one of ultimate celebration over the savior of the universe bursting into our lives in the radical form of an infant child. Merry Christmas to you all. God Bless. Grace and Peace.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Altered Plans

We have quickly got accustomed to mild, snow-less weather here in Seattle, so these recent snow storms across the country have caused huge changes in our holiday travel plans. I was suppose to drive to Portland today with some guys to see a Portland Trailblazers v. Phoenix Suns basketball game, but that trip was canceled due to terrible road conditions. I was pretty bummed about not going because I've only been to one NBA game ever and am still living in the disappointment of the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City. I'm currently watching the game on tv and sulking about not being in the arena watching the game live.

Then, tomorrow we were planning on traveling to Moscow, ID to visit our friends Jaisen and Jennifer Pester. We were already considering changing our plans to not visit them due to poor road conditions, and then got a call from Jaisen today saying they are stuck in the Denver airport and wouldn't even be home when we came through town.

So our new schedule is to leave tomorrow morning at around 6am and try our best to make the 10 hours trip to Bozeman, MT. You can definitely pray for us as we travel over the next day. We are hopeful that roads aren't too bad and we can get on with enjoying our Christmas vacation with family and friends. Merry Christmas to you all. Blessings on your holiday plans.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Finally Winter!

It's been really strange living here in Seattle lately because it doesn't feel like winter when there is no snow on the ground. Today it was 66 degrees warmer here in Seattle than it was in both Mandy and my hometowns. Of course we don't mind the warmer weather, but it is a little harder to get into the Christmas spirit while you are wearing shorts and no coat outside in December.

Last night it snowed here in Seattle, though, so I thought I would share a few pictures we took to celebrate our non-liquid precipitation.

For the Bible Tells Me So

My new friends from the previous post recommended a movie that they thought I should watch called "For the Bible Tells Me So". After hearing their synopsis and watching the trailer I am really excited to see this film. Being in Seattle has forced us to think through issues that we never really thought through in the past, and homosexuality is definitely one of those issues. Here is the trailer. Enjoy!

Open to Conversion

One of my professors, Dr. Dwight Friesen, often speaks of how when engaging someone of a different faith in conversation, to truly engage them in honest dialog, we must listen so intently and ask such genuine questions that we, ourselves, are open to being converted. This idea has really stuck with me and I have been processing whether I agree with it throughout this semester, but following a conversation I had on Saturday afternoon, I definitely believe these words to be true and freeing in engaging another in genuine encounter.

Mandy and I were volunteering downtown at the YWCA yesterday and I had the opportunity of serving alongside two amazing, intelligent women whose heart for social justice astounded me. They were two homosexual women who were serving because of their Unitarian faith. I was truly blessed in the conversation. I asked them a myriad of questions about their beliefs, their alternative lifestyle, how being gay had impacted their relationships with family members, and how they had been treated by the Christian church because of their sexual preference.

My heart was broken as I listened to story after story of ways in which their Christian families and other Christian churches had failed to put grace on display, but had instead reacted in a spirit of judgment and condemnation. The one lady said that when her brother had told his mother he was gay, she responded by saying it would have been easier to hear that he was dead than to hear he was gay. That story crushed me.

As I continue to think through this amazing encounter, I truly believe that I was "open" to being converted. Now was I converted? No. Was I worried about being converted? No. But I approached these woman with such openness, honestly, and humility that everyone involved was impacted for eternity. They could sense I had no agenda and was not looking to preach. I was simply trying to be the good news of Jesus, that grace, peace, and reconciliation have come to this world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ...for everyone.

As we were cleaning up and preparing to leave, the women came up to me and asked for my contact information. They said they had loved our conversation and would be interested in continuing the dialog. I look forward to how our relationship might unfold and I pray that God would grant me the strength to stray from judgment and condemnation and continue to put the Kingdom on display through a message of grace and peace. Enough of the religiosity that only leads to people feeling estranged and bitter toward Christians. In the words of Meister Eckhart, "God, help rid me of God."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Quick Update

This is just a quick hello to all you out there in the blogosphere. I've been crazy busy lately with the end of the term (thus the lack of writing recently). I've got one more paper to write that I am hurriedly pumping out as I write this post, and then I will be done with my first trimester here at Mars Hill Graduate School. It has been a great fall and I will write more about that later, but for now, just pray for me that I can finish this trimester well. At 6pm tonight I will be a free man for the next month. Can't wait for Christmas Break! -- Grace and Peace

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peter Rollins

For those who frequent this blog, you've seen me write about Peter Rollins before. He is a brilliant theologian from Dublin, Ireland who is offering a much-needed theology for the 21st century. I am half-way through his first book, "How (not) To Speak of God" and am mesmerized by his brilliance. He recently spoke at my seminary and his words have strongly encouraged and challenged me. I recently came across an interview he had with Brian McLaren and was impressed with his thoughts. I thought I would pass his words along to you. Enjoy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Green Bible

Usually when I hear that some publishing company has come out with a new version or paraphrase of the Bible, my cynism instantly takes me to thoughts that this world has enough Bibles to go around and I wonder if that company is just trying to make a quick buck. Over the past 20 years we have seen an onslaught of paraphrases, translations, and every kind of study Bible imaginable and usually my thoughts are "enough".

I recently came across information about a new Bible called the Green Bible that I am actually quite excited about. The main thing that they are doing is that they are, similarly to the red-letter versions, putting all passages of Scripture that refer to creation in green ink. In addition, the pages, ink, cover, and spine of the Bibles are all made out of "green" materials. Their website says that Scripture speaks of heaven 490 times, love 530 times, but speaks of the earth and our care of Creation over 1,000 times. Christians have not traditionally been at the front lines leading the charge to better care for our world. We claim to worship the Creator, but we often don't care for what the Creator has created. I am glad this group is taking it upon themselves to do something about it.

Their website has so much more information and a great video for you to watch. I strongly encourage you to check it out for more information HERE. I think you will enjoy what you read and hear.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Random Quote

I am totally checked out in class right now, busily checking in on my fantasy basketball and instant messaging my friend, but I did manage to catch a random quote from my professor. I have no idea what the context was for this quote, but it made me laugh.

"Suffering and conflict are bed pals."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

Over the past few years, Mandy and I have begun to shift our ideas about material gifts around birthdays and Christmas. This year we have decided to not do gifts at all for each other, and we are spending far less on everyone else in our family than we have in the past. Ultimately we would like to not do gifts at all, and instead donate all the money we would have spent on gifts to a worthy cause. My friend Nate recently made me aware of a ministry that is attempting to make this possible, called Advent Conspiracy. Here is a video that has convicted my heart. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A New Personal Best

I'm sure you are all well aware by now, but I have a deep passion for rock climbing. It has become quite an obsession for me and has absorbed much of my time over the past year and a half. Today I reached a new height in my rock climbing resume, as I climbed at 5.11+ on lead today. I realize that this data may not mean much to many of you, but it really is quite an accomplishment for me so I thought I would share my joy and excitement with my blog community. Thanks for indulging me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I hope that you all have fantastic weekends with friends and family. Mandy and I will be at our cabin in Glacier National Park for the weekend, so we are excited for a weekend away with my family and a chance to hang out at one of my favorite places in the world. Blessings to you!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Totally Exhausted

As the title details, I'm completed drained from a weekend of rock climbing. A group of 10 of us traveled to Vantage, WA on Saturday morning to rock climb yesterday and today. Amidst terrible rumors of nasty Pacific Northwest weather, we have had relatively good conditions and this weekend was great. I did freeze my butt off last night, though, as it still is late November. All in all it was a fantastic weekend of connecting with old friends, making new ones, and spending time on the rock. I'm already looking forward to the next trip, whenever that may be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thoughts on Scripture

Last night in class, my professor, Dwight Friesen, quoted his mentor in saying, "We can never understand Scripture until we are willing to stand under Scripture" (emphasis mine). This is such a brilliant thought that I am continuing to process today. For too long the church has attempted to 'master' Scripture, to seemingly make it our slave, when the real call is to fall under its authority, wisdom, leading, and inspiration. How can we take serious the words of our sacred text and learn to stand under it rather than either standing over it or seeking to understand it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cows & Economics

Here is a post that I came across today on Brian McLaren's blog. He didn't write it, but I appreciated the humor today. Enjoy a brief lesson on our diverse global economies with the help of bovine. Here is the LINK.

Doing What's Worth Dying For

I realize that I don't often write about the things I'm learning in my classes. Its not that I'm not learning, but its more that I'm learning so much and it is such difficult work of processing what I'm learning that it is tough to put all my thoughts into a brief post. I'll try to be more frequent in filling you in as to the great education I'm receiving at MHGS.

One idea that my professor, Dan Allender, speaks of often is the idea of only doing that which is worth dying for. Dan even says that if his class is not worth dying for, then it is a waste of our time. He speaks of how you could get in a car accident on the way to class and life would be over, so if you are going to take that risk for anything in life, the reward of the activity or relationship had better be worth losing your life over.

The flip side of this is that if you are going to choose to do something, you had better make it worth dying for. Although morbid, the truth is that any of us could suddenly choke and die during a meal, so you have to ask yourself if that meal is worth dying for. Have you surrounded yourself with the people you love most? Has your conversation been filled with life-changing content? Was the meal, or any activity for that matter, really worth the risk?

I realize that this thought is a bit extreme, because you can't always do "only" things worth dying for, but it has at least become a guideline to help hold me accountable in my actions. This thought can help keep me from straying into activities of dissociation and help me focus on life in the real world that can be a blessing to me, others, and the Kingdom.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stuff Christians Like

I must be in a "blog-promo" mood, but I just had to draw your attention to a blog that I've been hooked on in recent weeks. I discovered this site called "Stuff Christians Like," a site full of brilliant, hilarious, and enlightening writing that daily entertains and convicts me. The author, Prodigal John, regularly comments about strange and amusing things that Christians seem to enjoy that don't make sense when you really think about them. I encourage you to check out his site, and I guarantee he will have you laughing out loud by the end of the first post you read. Click HERE for the site. The following is the first paragraph from his newest post.

#438. Refusing to let people borrow your pen in church.
I like to think I’m a kind person, that deep down I have some degree of compassion bubbling in my heart like a holiday themed flavor of coffee. Perhaps a butternut toffee or peppermint stick swirl. But then something major happens and my true colors come out just like Cyndi Lauper promised they would. An economic downturn? A job loss or relationship crumbling? Nope, I'm talking about a major event, like someone asking to borrow my pen.

A Prophetic Voice

Here's another prophetic cartoon from the brilliant Jon Birch, calling the church to a higher level. If you're not reading "The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus" regularly, you should be.

HT: ASBO Jesus

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Seriously...That's Awesome!

So I'm at work right now and someone just called in to volunteer for us who had the craziest name that I've ever heard. I really can't believe her parents did this to her and I'm glad mine didn't do that to me, but I still think it is the coolest name. Ready...here it is:

Destination Sunnyday

No joke. Real first name is 'Destination'. Real last name is 'Sunnyday'. I don't think that will ever be topped for me in all-time greatest names. Good luck trying.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What if you truly loved...

mhgs what no. 2 from blaine hogan on Vimeo.

The content of this video is the reason that Mandy and I packed up all our belongings, kissed our friends goodbye, and left all that had been comfortable for 8 years to move across the country. We honestly believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ really can be 'good news' to the world. We truly believe that the life, death, and resurrection of the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, can radically change the world in all areas...in economical and social and spiritual and political ways. If we didn't believe this way, we would be foolish to give up all we had for this life of the unknown. We have no idea where this crazy journey will take us and we invite God to move and shape our path.

So far I have had 2 of these people as professors in class, Dan and Dwight. This video only captures a glimpse of the depth, intellect, and passion that the professors at MHGS have for the ministry of redemption and reconciliation. I am truly blessed to be studying here in Seattle at this school. I thank God each day for this opportunity.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Honk of Redemptive Violence

Scholars much more intelligent than myself have brought to my attention that our world operates on what they call "the myth of redemptive violence." This premise maintains that our tit-for-tat culture is under the assumption that the next act of violence will be the last act of violence. We believe that that next comeback or harsh word or name called or bomb dropped, will finally settle the score for good, bringing about redemption through these means of violence.

It is obvious that this is a myth. Just look at antics on the elementary school playground. One kid says something mean to another and the other responds. Now the bar has been raised and there is an expectation of something worse than the previous comment. We've all been a part of these escalating engagements, and we realize that they never end civilly. They always end with someone being hurt irreparably, but never redemptively.

I witnessed an example of this while downtown a few weeks ago. In a big city you are constantly inundated with sounds, one of them being horns honking as impatience levels rise in the midst of heavy traffic. Usually, however, this honking is one-sided (one person is mad at another, and the other feels shamed for their poor decisions). That day, though, I heard my first "double honk". One car honked at another and immediately the other car honked in response. It was definitely the sounds of the myth of redemptive violence. There's no way that the second honk was going to let the first honk have the last word.

I was so keenly aware at that moment of the idiocy of this quest to settle the score through upping the ante. The message of Jesus, and a few others who have followed (i.e. MLK, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Oscar Romero), has shown for us that the only true redemptive comes through non-violent resistance. In the words of Jesus, it is the willingness to "take up your cross" that shows the world the true beauty of the redemptive process, the life of turning the other cheek, loving your neighbor, and ultimately carrying the burden of the cross of calvary upon your back. The hard part is that the cross is heavy and may cost us everything, and many of us (myself included on most days) aren't willing to bear that load. May we be people who lean into the life of ultimate sacrifice, a life of submission that leads to redemption.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let the Issues Be the Issue

A scary picture, but an even scarier reality...that in 21st Century America, supposedly the most civilized culture in human history, we would still allow race and gender to be deciding factors in the election and support of our leaders. Shame on us.

HT: Marko

I Voted...Saturday

When Mandy and I registered to vote in Washington, I don't remember telling them that we would prefer to vote absentee, but regardless, our voter ballot arrived in the mail last week. So, Saturday evening we sat down to vote. I am really glad that we were able to vote in the comfort of our own home with no time restraints or the claustrophobia of those tiny booths (not to mention not having to wait in line).

I am constantly reminding myself today that regardless of who wins this election, my ultimate allegiance cannot be to any power of this world but I must fix my gaze on the Ruler of the Kingdom of God. I love America and am glad I live in this country, but we must remember that any kingdom of the world will always pale in comparison to the Kingdom of God.

A Derek Webb song has been running through my mind all morning so I thought I would share it with you today. The song is called "A Savior on Capitol Hill" and is a great commentary on not putting our trust in politics or any person. The lyrics can be found here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Different Voice

I recently saw this picture on a blog I frequent, and was inspired by it's use of Photoshop to make a prophetic statement about God and how we ought to speak on God's behalf.

God's message is definitely meant to be heard, but God's voice is never one of judgment and condemnation, and ours shouldn't be either. Too often the 'Good News' of the church to the rest of the world has failed to actually be good news. We must continue to present the truth of God to a world that desperately needs God's saving grace, but we must find a more creative way of voicing that truth, one that actually becomes 'Good News' to a broken and hurting world.

This Is How I Pray

I had forgotten how funny this clip was. Enjoy!

HT: The Corner

Funny Comics from ASBO Jesus

In case you don't know, you need to know about "The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus". This is a blog by Jon Birch, a resident of England, who uses comic strips to lift his prophetic voice to the body of Christ in our current situation. Here are a couple of great examples from this past week:

HT: ASBO Jesus

A Climbing Video from this Weekend

This is a collection of videos and pictures from 3 out of the 4 days that David and I climbed while he was in Seattle visiting us and the University of Washington's Graduate School. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Last Few Days

David flew out of Seattle yesterday afternoon, but it was a great weekend having him here. We did a lot of climbing, a lot of sight-seeing, and a lot of laughing. It was so good to see my good friend again as I've missed seeing him over the past few months. We won't see each other again until February, where we will be going skiing together in Montana for a long weekend.

I am so appreciative of the friends in my life that are lasting despite the long distance. I look forward to seeing how my relationship with my Sioux Falls friends will endure even though we don't see each other often. Thank God for weddings each summer that will allow us to return to the Midwest.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

David's Trip So Far

My best friend, David, is in Seattle visiting this weekend, so needless to say, I've been a little too busy to blog over the past 3 days. David was my climbing partner back in Sioux Falls, so we've been doing a lot of climbing while he's been out here. We climbed for about 3 hours on Friday at the climbing gym where I work. I thought that David would really love that style of climbing, and he did. I also accomplished a feat that I've been working on in the gym for quite some time. The following video is one of my finally getting this huge dyno (jump from rock to rock). I've only ever seen one other person get this.

Friday night we met some friends downtown on the waterfront and took a ferry over to Bainbridge Island. Once there we walked around for a while and then had dinner at a mexican restaurant and enjoyed great ice cream for dessert. The last time Mandy and I were on a ferry was in November when we were visiting Seattle and the seminary and trying to decide whether we should move half way across the country. It was so fun to be back on that boat and to see how far God has brought us in the past year. What a ride it's been!

Yesterday, David and I spent the day rock climbing outside at this place called Exit 38, cleverly titled due to its location along I-90. It was so fun to be in Creation and see the changing leaves and enjoy a day with David like old times. We had a blast. I'm sure there will be much more to report later, but that's all for now. Peace.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Failed Campaign Slogans

These were a couple of campaign slogans that didn't quite make the cut for our 2 major presidential candidates.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Almost Peed My Pants

There are few authors on this earth that truly stir my soul and lead me down the path of a revolutionary lifestyle. Shane Claiborne is one of them. His book "The Irresistible Revolution" has radically changed the way I see the world, and his book "Jesus for President" really opened my eyes in the area of politics and empire and how the church succumbs to the pressures of the empire.

Having said that, the reason I "almost peed my pants" is that Shane will be coming to speak at our church, Quest, on November 9. Since the smoke of the election will not have settled, I am in eager anticipation of his words, especially in light of our country's new-found knowledge as to who our next president will be. I had heard rumor that Shane was going to be coming to our church to speak about "Faith & Money", but I just didn't know he would be coming so soon. The following are a couple of links about the conversation he will be having that evening in our sanctuary. The first is our pastor, Eugene Cho's, blog about Shane coming to speak. The second is the link to the Quest Church website which speaks more about the evening with Shane.

Eugene's Blog About Shane's Upcoming Visit

Quest Church's Information About the Conversation with Shane

Monday, October 20, 2008

Funny Pic

I ran across this picture on another blog tonight and just had to share it 'cause I got a kick out of it. Enjoy!

Construction Worker Sabbath

Right now where I work, at Stone Gardens Climbing Gym, we are undergoing a huge construction project. We are enlarging our weight room and adding a new bouldering area on the second floor. Thus, each day I spend a decent amount of time with the crew who is doing the work. I've been really impressed with that team. They are hard workers and do a great job as well. They don't mess around or spend their time chatting with each other. When they are supposed to be working, they really ARE.

The thing that has really caught my attention, however, is their willingness to take breaks. They work hard for a while, but when it is time to take a break, they really know how to rest. They enjoy each other's company and are often seen taking walks together to the local coffeehouse, steeped in conversation.

I think this is such a good picture of what Sabbath is meant to look like. We are designed to work hard, but at the same time called to rest, and rest well. I fear that we, as Christians, fail in this area in a number of ways. We either don't rest at all and find ourselves succumbing to a workaholic spirit, rest too much and fall into laziness, or as we try to rest we still end up filling our schedules with busyness that doesn't allow us to be replenished. May we be people who understand the rhythms of life we were created to live into and be willing to follow this God-given cadence.

A Mixed Weekend

For those of you who frequent this site, I promise that I have some deeper thoughts about life and faith that I am excited to get in writing, but for now I'll just include a quick synopsis of my weekend. Yesterday was a fantastic day of rock climbing. Climbing has become quite an obsession of mine, and Saturday was especially good as it was spent with great friends and I was able to learn and try a new type of climbing that I had never done before. I am trying my hardest to relish the final good weekends we have here in the Pacific Northwest before the rainy season (i.e. the next 6 months) begins.

Today got off to a great start with a morning spent at church. The worship was good, the sermon was fantastic, and it was special to celebrate the Eucharist with our church family. My day got worse, though, upon my return home from church. When I started up my computer and connected to the internet, I was surprised to see that I was getting demolished in fantasy football. I try not to talk about fantasy football on this site because it could easy absorb my blog life as it has my real life, but I can't help but be disappointed by my first loss of the fantasy season. I was 6-0 and in first place in the league, and just got blown out by a guy who was 1-5 (ouch!). Hope my guys (as if we're friends or something) will bounce back next weekend and return me to my elite fantasy status.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Palin or Fey?

I saw this quiz on another blog and thought I would share it with you all. Visit this link for a quiz to see if you can tell the difference between Sarah Palin and Tina Fey. They really look strikingly similar, accounting for me only getting 9 out of 10 correct. Here's the link:


Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Gang Member Friends

Last night I was privileged to have one of the most special conversations I've had in quite some time, and it happened to be with 2 gang members. I was meeting Mandy downtown to have dinner but I arrived early, so I walked across the street to wait for her in a park. I sat down next to a few guys and within seconds I was fully engaged with them in conversation. Within minutes they had proudly announced to me that they are in a gang. What ensued was an amazing experience with 2 intelligent, nice, loyal men.

Being from the Midwest I am naturally ignorant to gang culture, so I bombarded them with a barrage of questions as to the nature of being in a gang. They said that they were a part of the Southsiders, which is the biggest gang in America. There are Southsiders in every state and there are 13 times as many members as any other gang. They said that there are Southsiders from every profession, including police, politicians, judges, and pastors. They said that there is a ministry in Southern California that is totally run by the Mexican Mafia, so when it eventually came up in conversation that I am in school to become a pastor, they thought that was great. My new friend (not that we are having coffee anytime soon though), Keo, said that he tries to live by the Golden Rule. I think he has some really messed up theology, but it was interesting to hear a gang member speak so highly of faith. He also talked about how Southsiders see themselves not as criminals, but as outlaws. He said that they don't take from those who have little, but instead, they steal from the rich and give to the poor. He never said that he and his friend have personally killed people (although I think they probably have), but he was clear that the gang takes justice into its own hands when necessary, their own form of vigilante justice.

These guys spoke a lot about the community of gang life. There is pretty intense initiation into the Southsiders, and once you are a member there is much expected of you, including paying 10% of what you make to the gang (too bad we can't get church members to give in this way), attending regular meetings, and regular participation in gang activities. They talked of it as being a family, a tight-knit group that constantly supports each other, looks out for the best interest of their brothers and sisters, and has a well established system of mentoring new members toward fuller participation in the life of the gang.

Keo went on to ask me if I knew what the biggest gang in the world was. He said that it was the Catholic Church. He spoke about the fact that everyone is in a gang. He noticed my wedding ring and commented that I'm in a gang with my wife. He talked about politics, families, and religion all being forms of gangs, of cliques. I think I agree with him. What would the church look like if we based our fellowship on the model of our brothers and sisters in gangs, or all of our community pastors were former gang members? How would the way we care for each other look different? How would our fellowship change? How would our giving increase?

Now I know that some Christians out there would criticize me for not taking the time to share the 'gospel' with these men. I feel, though, that I was able to be present to them in some way and I just pray that my non-judgmental, non-condescending language gave them some picture of the gospel of grace and mercy our God has to offer. I count my blessings that I live in a place where I can engage the hurting and broken of this world, recognize my own brokenness in those situations, and seek to bring healing to us all through the life, death, and resurrection of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Freeway Church

As I recently navigated the mess that is Interstate 5 here in the Seattle area, I was suddenly aware of the numerous ways that the freeway is similar to the church. The main way that I saw this idea unfold was in the way that the cars on the freeway are ultimately connected with each other, as the actions of one vehicle has such drastic impact on all the rest. It only takes sitting stopped in a traffic jam on the highway to realize this truth. The same is true for the church. What those around us in the church are doing greatly affects our lives. As Paul illustrates so beautifully through imagery of the body, we are all spokes in this cosmic wheel of life, where we each naturally and metaphysically impact each other in ways we may never even realize.

Another thing I was thinking about was the way in which people getting on and off the freeway impacts our own journey. If you think about the interstate near you, it is the on and off ramps of the road that cause the most congestion as cars must adjust to their new fellow journeyers. The same is true on our voyage of life and faith. As new people come and go from our lives, we must constantly make adjustments to the way we are traveling as we invite them into our space and we are thrust into their space as well.

A final thing I was pondering was the idea that as we journey through life we must be humble and aware enough to speed up and slow down depending on the circumstances. As we travel in our cars we know that sometimes the best thing is to speed up and "go with the flow" of traffic, while at other times it is necessary for us to slow down and be patient during that stretch of the road. The same is true of our faith journey. We must constantly be aware of who we are journeying with and whether we should move forward with quickness, beckoning those behind to pick up speed, or when to be patient, as we wait for those we journey with to gain ground so we might travel together.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thoughts on Church

While I'm still years from the day when I will humbly begin leading a congregation as their lead pastor or church planter, my head already rattles with thoughts of what that might look like on that scary day. I recently had some new thoughts about church that I am still processing, so as I share these with you, please offer me much grace as they are not fully developed.

When wondering about what it means to 'be the church' and be 'part of a church', I think that the church fails to be the body of Christ when it fails to embody Christ. We fail to be the church when we fail to put on the ways of Christ and actually embody his life in the world around us. The "body of Christ" is not simply the name of a group, but instead, the definition of a lifestyle. The early church was refered to as Christians, or 'followers of the Way', not because they signed the weekly attendance roster at their house church, but because they put on Christ's skin in a physical, tangible, earth-changing way for the world's sake. Christians tend to treat Church participation as something to put on their spiritual resume, rather than treating their faith life as the resume itself.

With that in mind, my thoughts on church membership are beginning to change. The church is different than any group or club because it is never about membership, but only about action. I fear that churches look no different than your local Elks, Kiwanis, or Rotary Clubs, when the church was always meant to be so radically counter-cultural that it couldn't help but stand out. Church membership seemingly goes against this idea because it allows people to think they are being the body of Christ even if they are not embodying Christ. Membership also puts some people 'in' and some people 'out'. It creates an "other", when the message and life of Jesus was all about destroying those walls of separation.

Rather than membership, I wonder what it would look like for churches to covenant together toward Kingdom purposes. Rather than focusing on simply being at worship gatherings, what if all those in attendance were committing to one common cause of being the Good News to a hurting world? Here's where my humility comes in...I have no idea what that looks like, but look forward to journeying with others so we can lean into God's fullness together, so that we might make heaven a reality here on earth as a covenanting group.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Our Apartment

Mandy and I finally bit the bullet and bought a video camera yesterday. We had been wanting one for quite a while, especially for when I go out rock climbing, and I finally found a good deal on Craigslist for a lightly used JVC camcorder with a 30gb hard drive.

Mandy and I have lived here in Seattle for about 3 months now, but I realized that most of you probably don't know where we live and have never seen our home. So I thought I would use our new technology to show you a quick clip of our new dwelling here in the Emerald City.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Great Weekend

I told you I would report on how this past weekend was, but I didn't think it would take me a week to getting around to posting. Mandy and I spent the weekend with 6 other people near Vantage, WA. Vantage is located right where I-90 crosses the Columbia River in central Washington. It is one of our favorite views in Washington so far, as basalt cliffs rise majestically above an enormous river basin. It is breathtaking.

We climbed on Saturday at a place called Frenchman's Coulee and had a great time of physical activity and Christian fellowship while enjoying God's creation. We camped at a beautiful campground on Saturday night before enjoying another half day of climbing on Sunday, returning to Seattle that afternoon.

On Sunday I took a fall while climbing a route. The rope was caught between my legs and when I fell (only a few feet) the rope burned my ankle and the back of my knee pretty bad. Other than that, we had a fantastic weekend climbing, camping, and strengthening relationships with some great, new friends.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Too Much for Words

I realized that I was starting to give people a hard time for not writing enough on their blogs while I had failed to post in about a week. Sometimes my lack of writing is due to not having much to say or write about, but that is not the case for me at this season of my life. I am constantly inundated with new and challenging ideas in class and with my classmates that it is hard to instantly put these thoughts to words. I feel like I would be doing these ideas an injustice to quickly resolve them here with words, so I pause for a few days to think but then often fail to come back to write about these triggered thoughts. I'll try to improve in that area in the future.

For now, I'll just report that life has been great. I am loving class (not really loving homework though) and am really growing in knowledge and depth of character. This weekend I am going rock climbing at a place called Frenchman Coulee near Vantage, WA. Vantage is right on the Columbia River and is absolutely gorgeous, so I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures and let you know how my sabbath (weekend of climbing) went. Peace.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hourly Work

After 6 years of salary-based work, where when you have nothing to do, you leave work, I find myself struggling through this transition to hourly-based work. As I write I am 15 minutes from the end of my shift with nothing to do but write a blog post. There is no one in the gym (I really should just leave) but yet I know that by staying I mysteriously make more money, which is much appreciated.

I don't particularly like this feeling, but I will persevere over the coming 4 years, keeping in mind that I have a long, salaried career ahead of me. Well, enough of my incoherent rambling when I should be working. Bye for now!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Real Communion

As I was walking to the bus stop from class this evening I passed a man and woman who were holding hands and obviously a couple. The thing I was struck by was the fact that each of them was listening to their own iPod and not communing or conversing with each other in any way.

Tonight in class we discussed the role of the reader of any text (literature, music, art, etc.) as someone who communes with the soul of the author. In this case, I would say that each of these people were communing with the soul of their respective musicians, while failing to commune with the soul of the one they gripped palms with.

I was instantly reminded of a meal I shared with my wife a few years back where we sat in Applebee’s and watched as five consecutive women walked into the restaurant with phones to their ears and proceeded to continue their phone conversations for the next 15 minutes. Why is it that we can’t simply “be with who we’re with”?

In the words of Rob Bell, we need to be “fully present” with who we are with. Both of these occurrences serve to remind me to fully engage the people around me when they are in my presence and I in theirs. Our culture has glorified the “art” of multi-tasking, but I think this “skill” has caused us to poorly handle all the situations and relationships we face. May we be people of intention, not neglecting any situation that God has provided for us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Funny Button

Please don't see this as an attack on Palin. I think she is just fine.
This was just too good not to share.

An Update on Me

I just thought I'd write a few quick words to let you know how I'm doing, what I've been up to, and why I won't be writing on here until next week. Here's my life in bullet points:
  • I'm really, really busy (trying to juggle school and work and family and fun has been exhausting)
  • School is great but really challenging (classes are fantastic, I'm learning a lot, but it is so much reading and writing)
  • I'm already behind in my homework (I've only had 4 classes and I'm already needing to play catch up--not a good sign)
  • I get the privilege of being in Sioux Falls this weekend to usher at my friend Dan's wedding (I fly out tomorrow morning and fly back to Seattle on Monday)
I can't wait to see all of my friends back in Sioux Falls and enjoy a great weekend with some amazing people. If you are one of those people, see you soon! If you aren't, see you back on here next week.

Holy War

Last night in "Introduction to the Hermeneutical Task", we briefly discussed the holy wars found in the Old Testament, primarily in the book of Joshua. This was not the main focus of our class, so very little time was devoted to this subject, but my professor, Dr. Dwight Friesen, cited a controversial quote from Walter Bruggeman that I still can't get out of my head.

Bruggeman, one of the world foremost experts on the Old Testament, with much credibility to lose in making a flippant remark that he really wouldn't support (thus, he must really believe what he said), was quoted as saying, "God is a recovering abuser." I'm really not sure what to make of that comment, and am more excited to look at that quote in context and to wrestle through those horrific passages of Scripture in the future, not as a way of getting the answers, but as a way of better understanding my God.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

An Interesting Question

In class last night we were discussing the questions of "who is God?", "who is Christ?", and "who the hell are you?" As we continued on in discussion, our professor made a passing comment that took much of the class by surprise, and then proceeded to not unpack the statement any further. So, I ask you the question that was raised to us (I have no idea what the answer is)...

Does God need us?

Let me know what you think. I really don't know what to think about this idea.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Appalling Speeches

It is probably no secret that I plan to vote for Barack Obama in our upcoming election, but at the same time, I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a Democrat or a Republican. Thus, I tuned in to the Republican National Convention tonight to hear the other side of the debate.

When I turned on the tv I was alarmed to hear the incredibly negative words coming from the mouths of both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin. I don't mind a small amount of showing why the opposition isn't as qualified as the person you are supporting, but I hate the frequent use of cruelty and anger in an attempt to decimate the character of the opponent. Giuliani was simply mean tonight, attacking Obama unashamedly, and Palin wasn't much better. The following is an excerpt from the Giuliani speech.

Obama, Giuliani said "is the least experienced [presidential nominee] in the last hundred years. He was a community organizer ... What do they do? .. Then he was in the Chicago legislature, no the Illinois legislature, no the Chicago machine ... [The Democrats] have got their experience at the bottom [of the ticket] ... Joe Biden, Joe's got a lot of experience which he'll tell you about ...He's got a lot of experience talking ... talking ... talking," Giuliani said at a luncheon at the New York delegation's hotel. As a state senator, Obama had "an interesting record," Giuliani said, noting that Obama voted "'present' almost 130 times. I don't remember having that vote when I was mayor of New York City ... You're supposed to make a decision."

I would love to simply see a clean fight, a good series of debates where the candidates focus more on the issues than on slamming one another personally. I'm not sure that's too much to ask for.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quotes from Obama's Convention Speech

I honestly believe that tonight, August 28, 2008, will be seen as a night where Barack Obama really started to seal himself as the future President of the USA. His speech tonight was breathtaking, as I had chills run down my spine for half the speech and was riveted by his words of inspiration. Here are a couple of great quotes from the speech:

"The greatest risk in this election is to use the same old politics and the same old players but to expect different results." -- Barack Obama

"In this election, change is not going to come from Washington, but to Washington." -- Barack Obama

My Fantasy Football Team

Last night I participated in my 2nd ever fantasy football draft. I am in a league with a bunch of guys from Sioux Falls, SD, so I had to do the draft via speaker phone. I had a great time, though, and now can't wait for the season to start. I thought I would share my team with you all so you can help me in rooting them on.

Quarterback 1: Drew Brees (Saints)
Quarterback 2: David Garrard (Jaguars)
Running Back 1: Brian Westbrook (Eagles)
Running Back 2: Thomas Jones (Jets)
Running Back 3: Matt Forte (Bears)
Wide Receiver 1: Marques Colston (Saints)
Wide Receiver 2: Roy Williams (Lions)
Wide Receiver 3: Brandon Marshall (Broncos)
RB/WR: Jerricho Cotchery (Jets)
Tight End 1: Kellen Winslow (Browns)
Tight End 2: Heath Miller (Steelers)
Defense/Special Teams 1: Seattle Seahawks
Defense/Special Teams 2: Philadelphia Eagles
K 1: Mason Crosby (Packers)
K 2: Robbie Gould (Bears)

America's Stranglehold on Sports

If you continue to read, you will quickly realize that the title of this post is meant to be sarcastic criticism of America's superiority complex when it comes to most things, including athletics. Somewhere in the course of our mere 200-year existence (nothing in the scope of human history), our arrogant nation has come to the conclusion that we are THE world superpower and can enforce whatever regulations we want, can invade and control whatever country we please, and can generally do whatever the hell we want without much regard for the remainder of the human race. Obviously, I have issues with our arrogant, colonial, and totalitarian approach to global relations.

The most recent occurrence of this phenomena is in the world of women's golf. The LPGA has recently passed a rule that, beginning next year, all of it tour members must be proficient in the English language or face suspension. The LPGA has recently been invaded by a slew of incredibly talented foreign players, especially from the country of Korea. This new rule will drastically change their approach to the game and will no doubt rob them of precious practice time required to achieve professional ability, while they work on honing their linguistic skills instead.

I'm just not sure what the LPGA has to do with the English language. It's not the "American Ladies Professional Golf Association." It's golf. It's a global sport. And now we are punishing people and affecting their careers, their livelihoods, based on their country of origin. That ain't right!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dare to Dream

Over the past year or two I have started to come to grips with one of my worst flaws, my failure to dream. Over the course of my life I've the constantly been the one to stifle people's hopes and dreams with pragmatic thoughts like "how will that actually work?". I almost feel like I've gone through the 12 steps as I repent and struggle with my addiction to the status quo. It's been a long journey but I feel like I'm protruding through the darkness as I experience days where my dreams run wild with reckless abandon in a flurry of imagination.

A few weeks ago I was the typical husband as I waited impatiently outside Jo-Ann Fabrics for my wife to finish shopping. While I was waiting I walked across the street to watch a young boy repeatedly drop into a bowl of a skateboard park. The boy was probably 7 or 8, a mere 4' tall or so, and the bowl he was tackling was probably 10-12' tall. I couldn't get over how daring this young man was, but even more striking to me was how encouraging his parents were as they looked on. The boy would fall sometimes but always got right back up and tried again. But even as their son was endangering himself, the parents remained calm and seemed to keep encouraging him to take chances and keep trying.

I deeply desire to be a person who encourages the people around me (including my own future children) to be daring, to take risks, and to try things out of their comfort zones. I want to dream of a new way of living and I want to empower others to do the same. In the words of Shane Claiborne, I want to "dream big, live small, and love loudly."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Denouement [dey-noo-mahn]

In the book "To Be Told" mentioned in the previous post, Dan Allender spends much of the first section comparing our life's story to the elements found in any other story. He speaks of characters and plot and how in all good stories, shalom is shattered and their is a quest for redemption. These same elements present themselves in our own stories.

The final element he mentions is one called "denouement". This is a French term that refers to the point in a story when redemption occurs and peace is secured, if but for a brief moment. It's that time in the book or movie when the plot twists and brokenness of the story unfolds into understand and resolve. This is what Allender says about the denouement of our own story:

"Tragedy mars shalom, but denouement invites us to remember our innocence and dream of a day of even greater redemption. Denouement is an ending that serves as the prelude for a new beginning; there is always the next turn in the road. A new story begins the moment the old one ends. But a denouement is a respite that calls us to stop the journey for a brief interlude--to eat, drink, sing, dance, and tell our story to others."

Unfortunately we fail to celebrate well. We get so caught up in life that we fail to enjoy it. Rather than celebrating with our family at the end of a long day, we turn on the tv and watch fictional characters celebrate with each other in a fictional story.

The church has failed to celebrate as well. For a year or so I have been thinking that Sunday worship services should be more about celebration that anything, and this idea of denouement is enforcing that idea. After a long week of writing our own story, the church must come together for a brief respite to share with each other how God is writing each individual story and how we have co-authored the tale.

Good Quote from a Good Book

One of my text books for this fall is a book called "To Be Told" which was written by Dr. Dan Allender. Allender is the professor of the class and the president of the school. I have heard him speak before and was amazed, so I am incredibly excited about his lectures each day of class.

I began reading this book to get a jump start on the semester, and so far am really enjoying the read and think I will learn a lot. The premise of the book is that we all have stories worth telling, and are ourselves, a story written to the world to tell the story of the Author of life. Allender claims that we must learn to read our own stories so that we can become co-authors with God in writing the future of our stories.

Plan on hearing much more about this book and others as I progress through the seminary process. For now, here is a great quote that captured my heart as I continue to process the idea of dreaming:

"A dream without suffering is little more than a fantasy" (pg. 48).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Free to be Patriotic

I have to admit (go ahead and criticize me like Michelle Obama too) that I consistently struggle with patriotism. I find it hard to be proud of my country's accomplishments when most of those feats come at great expense to others around the world or to nature itself. We brag about freedom while oppressing others. We boast of financial success on the backs of underpaid and overworked overseas laborers. How can I be proud of this kind of country? How can I be proud of a country that most of the world views as a terrorist nation? I struggle.

Every four years, though, for a period of two weeks, these thoughts are pushed aside as I become a raving lunatic in support of the Stars and Stripes. The Olympics are a beautiful expression of world harmony and peace. For two weeks the world can come together under one roof and celebrate the hard work of each nation, competing with skill and agility rather than guns and bullets. I love it!

It feels so good to support my nation and I pray that the world would come to its senses (especially my own homeland) and start working for peace and justice in the world rather than domination and control. What would the world look like if it behaved the way it does for these 2 weeks during the other 206 weeks of the quadrennial?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What Is Sabbath?

This is a question that Mandy and I are wrestling with. We both have been raised to think that "spiritual" activities are the exercises that involve loading the family in the station wagon and heading over to the church building for prayer, Bible study, worship, a pot luck or some other "churchy" practice. We are expanding our definition.

Today, for the first time of many in the future, we attended church in the evening rather than in the morning. It was great to be able to spend the day in communion with each other and nature before communing with our church family tonight. We spent the normal church hours climbing at the rock climbing gym I work at and it was a beautifully, spiritual activity. After that we toured the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks where we watched the salmon make their way up the fish ladder to the other end of the lock.

Sabbath has always been about setting a day apart to spend with family, friends, and the Creator. We have always been people who filled our sabbath with a ton of activity though (especially while I worked at churches), so we are trying to change our ways to better appreciate God's gift of a day of rest. I'll let you know what we are doing to enjoy this special time of the week.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Great Weekend

It seems like I'm writing about a lot of personal stuff lately, but life is just so new and crazy and fun that I can't help but share it with those closest to me. We are REALLY loving Seattle and had a fantastic weekend!

On Friday after work we had dinner and then played tennis at this awesome park where you had to traverse down these switchbacks of trails to get to this little hidden court at the bottom. When we had tired we drove a few blocks up the hill to another park and watched a beautiful sunset over Puget Sound. Honestly...an amazing view, and right in our neighborhood.

On Saturday, Mandy and I headed down to Qwest Field to watch the annual Seattle Seahawks Scrimmage. We figure we might not be able to afford to go to any regular season games, so for $12 each we were able to see the team in action. What a blast. That night we headed down the hill to Seattle Center to watch "Juno" on a huge, jumbo screen in this outdoor amphitheater at the base of the Space Needle. We had so much fun and are planning to trek down there this coming Saturday to take in "Batman Begins."

Friday, August 1, 2008

Forced Conservation

I definitely don't want to be someone who is forced to care for God's creation, but I can say that I don't mind being required by Washington state law. Mandy and I needed to register our car in Washington following our move here recently, but prior to that registration, we needed to have an emissions test done on our car. I guess now that I think about it, I haven't noticed too many old, junker cars, spewing smoke and fumes into our fragile atmosphere, which is refreshing.

In addition to the mandatory emissions test, we have been glad to have our hand forced in the way of recycling. We had desired to be people who thought more about the environment, but it has been surprisingly easy due to Washington regulations. We end up recycling twice as much as we throw out.

I almost can't believe that I didn't live a more eco-friendly existence for the past 25 years. I claimed to worship the Creator, but didn't outwardly show much concern for the creation. I can't believe the church isn't leading the way in the effort to be 'green'. Why aren't church leaders at the forefront of these conversations? Why aren't followers of Christ spearheading movements toward alternative energy and fuel? How can we be people who take as active an interest in the creation as we do in the Creator?