Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Great Week So Far

So far my time in Sioux Falls has consisted of great time with friends, tons of food, and a multitude of fun activities. So far my schedule has included golfing, disc golf, playing hockey, rock climbing, and bowling...with a similar schedule planned for the rest of the week. Let's just say that I needed this sort of week after this past trimester.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Plans for Next Week

I probably won't be writing much on here for the next week, so I wanted to let you know why. Mandy and I fly out of Seattle tomorrow morning en route to Sioux Falls. One of my best friends, Nate, is getting married next weekend, so we will are going back to good ol' South Dakota for a week of spending time with our old friends. After a really long trimester of classes, I can't wait for a week of doing nothing...of just rock climbing, disc golfing, eating great food, and hanging out with my best friends in the whole world. Talk to you all soon. Grace and peace.

Helpful Thoughts on Loving Your Neighbor

Shane Claiborne (author, speaker, & founder of The Simple Way) has recently co-authored a list of 50 practical ways we could better love our neighbors. This list was very helpful to read through I will continue to pray about what things God might be calling me, my family, and our house to in the coming months. The following are the first 10 things on the list:

1. Fast for the 2 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.
2. Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.
3. Ask your pastor if someone on your church’s sick list would like a visit.
4. Join an open AA meeting and befriend someone there.
5. Adopt a child.
6. Mow your neighbor’s grass.
7. Volunteer to tutor a kid at your local elementary school. (Try to get to know the kid’s family.)
8. Grow your own tomatoes – and share them.
9. Ask a small group in your community to meet regularly for intercessory prayer.
10. Build a wheel chair ramp for someone who is homebound.

Click HERE for numbers 11-50.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Needed Way of Thinking

Too often the church glamorizes and idolizes its pastors, serving to devalue the Kingdom of Priests who do the real work of being the hands and feet of Christ in the real world. I cringe each time I see someone serious about their faith pushed by someone else (usually a pastor) into vocational ministry. This is right for some (I plan on making this my career), but not for all. I always used to tell my youth group that we didn't need more pastors in this world, but that we needed more doctors, lawyers, plumbers, teachers, and construction workers to get serious about following Christ. I appreciate this cartoon from ASBO Jesus to once again remind of this often neglected truth.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No Pets Allowed

Last week, directly following the Good Friday service, I noticed this sign on the property of the school across the street from our church. We had just left an emotional service in complete silence, when suddenly I was cracking up with laughter. I didn't think I should snap a picture at that moment, so this morning after church I captured forever this hilarity. I hope you enjoy! I'm still not sure this sign is sincere, but it sure looks like an official warning against trespassing with your pet, regardless of its breed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rob Bell on Preaching

For those who frequent this site, you probably know that I secretly have a man-crush on Rob Bell. I think he's awesome. I would say, without much hesitation, that he is the best communicator (preacher) I have ever heard. He has a beautiful way of digging into the the text while allowing it to come alive for the congregation in ways that make a difference in the world.

Thus, I am incredibly excited about attending his conference on preaching this summer (July 5-7). The conference is called "Prophets, Poets, & Preachers," and the website calls it a "seminar for those serious about reclaiming the art of the sermon." I believe that preaching has a unique way of instilling hope and calling forth change, and I am passionate about learning to become a better communicator of the gospel. I heard one lecture on preaching from Rob a few years ago and it radically altered the way I thinking about sermon preparation, so I am eagerly anticipating the incredible insight Rob will have to offer during the 3-day conference. Click HERE for more information.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reality TV at its Best

With but a few exceptions, I tend to avoid Reality TV, seeing very little entertainment value or benefit in the genre. Every so often, though, this type of programming provides a stage (sometimes literally) for those who have never had a shot. This video serves as a voice for the voiceless, offering an opportunity to shine for one woman who has, no doubt, been ostracized and marginalized her entire life. YouTube has disabled the embed function on this video, but please follow the following link to hear Susan Boyle amaze the crowd, the judges, and the world on "Britain's Got Talent."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Honest Wrestling

I hesitate in writing this post for fear that the readers, especially my close family and friends, will begin to worry about me "going off the deep end" at this "liberal" seminary, but lately I have been honestly wrestling with whether EVERYONE is included in salvation (i.e. everyone goes to heaven). Don't worry, I'm not a universalist--but I do find myself battling the tension between the seemingly endless grace of God and Jesus' periodic messages of exclusion. Its sticky. Its confusing. Its not black and white. And to make it a black and white issue, on either end of the spectrum, is to deny either the radical grace or the extreme justice of our God. As I continue to read through Brian McLaren's book "The Secret Message of Jesus," however, McLaren has begun to give me new language around this tricky topic, a starting point to begin the discussion. He says:

The kingdom of God...seeks a third way: not exclusiveness and rejection on the one hand, and not foolish, self-sabotaging inclusion on the other hand, but rather purposeful inclusion. In other words, the kingdom of God seeks to include all who want to participate in and contribute to its purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose its purpose.

No wonder this third way seems paradoxical: to be truly inclusive, the kingdom must exclude exclusive people; to be truly reconciling, the kingdom must not reconcile with those who refuse reconciliation; to achieve its purpose of gathering people, it must not gather those who scatter.

On the one hand, if you start expanding the borders and working for a God-centered inclusive and reconciling network of relationships, you will quickly find that there are plenty of people willing to insult you, imprison you, torture you, and kill you.

On the other hand, if you try to include those people who oppose your inclusive purpose, then your kingdom is divided against itself, and it will be ruined. So what do you do? If you're Jesus, you take whatever space you are given and let God's kingdom be made visible and real there.

McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, 167-169

These words were so powerful to me as I read, and I look forward to the ongoing thought and discussion that will happen around these ideas. It seems to me that you aren't being very inclusive if you force inclusion upon those who wish to be excluded.

Almost Done...

3 more papers. After an incredibly long trimester, I am down to my final 3 papers before getting a week-long break prior to the summer trimester. I can't wait. Each trimester of seminary we have had one week off as a "reading week" where we can get caught up on our homework, but the reading week this trimester was too early in the term to be useful. So now all the major work has stacked up into the final few weeks, leaving me exhausted.

I will be spending my break in Sioux Falls at one of my best friend's wedding (Nate). It will be so great to see my friends, do some rock climbing with David and Joel, eat some Buffalo Wild Wings, and finally have a chance to breathe deeply again. Nate's bachelor party involves the rental of a sky box for a Minnesota Twins game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis...so fun. It will be such a blessing to get away and relax for a week. But for now...3 more papers.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hope of the Resurrection

"Do not abandon yourself to despair.
We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song."

~Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

The Taming of God

We, in the church, have a tendency toward taming God, making God seem more comfortable and controlled than radical, dangerous, and unpredictable. When we look at the actual words of Jesus, they call his followers to a revolutionary way of life that will definitely leave them outcasted by normal society, and possibly leave them dead. I don't think it is a strange coincidence that all but one of the 12 disciples (John), plus Paul and many others, end up losing their lives for the sake of the good news of Christ. The gospel is dangerous. The gospel gets people in trouble. The gospel speaks a radically political message of rejecting the status quo. The gospel must always lead us toward the end of our existence as a way of experiencing true life. That's its nature.

Yet, we resist danger and uncomfort at all costs. We avoid the chaos of the cross like the plague. Even in a country that generally embraces the Christian faith, we find ourselves terrified at the thought of taking the message of Jesus seriously. It asks all of us. It asks for control of our words and our actions and our time and our money. It demands we re-think everything, that we take up our cross and embrace death as a path toward life. That's daunting.

But what if we did it? What if we caught a glimpse of the fullness of life that comes when the Kingdom of God crashes into this world, into our everyday lives? What if we willingly sacrificed everything, trusting God's word that we'll receive far more in our submission than our resistence, self-preservation, and greed? What if we truly lived into the beautiful paradox that the last will be first and the first will be last, that the greatest in the Kingdom of God are the least? What if we finally took God at God's word, trusting it is good and beautiful and just, capable of thwarting evil and pain and injustice?

Drive-Thru Church

h/t: Naked Pastor

Gettin' in Shape

For most of my life I have been heavily involved in sports, which has constantly kept me in great physical shape since a young age. After graduating from college and having those organized activities come to an end, however, it has been a struggle to stay in shape. In Sioux Falls I had places I could go to play basketball, ultimate frisbee, and hockey, helping me stay healthy. I have still yet to find those places here in Seattle, so for now, I'm resorting to running...ugh.

I hate running...always have. I tried running track for a year in high school but despised it. I never saw the purpose of running, always preferring to be dribbling a basketball or soccer ball while I ran. Last night I ran with my roommates at this lake near our home called Green Lake. We made one lap around the lake (2.8 miles) and I was dying by the end, but it feels good to be getting back in shape. I woke up pretty sore this morning but I hope I can keep up the process...my body needs it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

One Off the Bucket List

Last year, when the movie The Bucket List came to theaters, I took my youth group to the movie and we all made our own bucket lists of things we wanted to accomplish before we 'kick the bucket.' One item that was near the top of my list was to see the band U2 in concert. Well...the ticket is purchased.

U2 just came out with a new CD (No Line on the Horizon) a few weeks ago, and now have begun selling tickets to their upcoming tour. I was initially upset that they were not coming anywhere near Seattle, but have now announced a concert in Vancouver, BC as an addition to the schedule. They just opened ticket sales yesterday and are almost sold out already, but I managed to get one of the last tickets. So, on a Wednesday night this coming October, I will have the fantastic opportunity of seeing one of my favorite bands live, and beginning the process of marking off my bucket list.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Imaginative Missional Dialogues

Tonight I had dinner at Qdoba and stayed in the restaurant for a while to do some reading. I just started Brian McLaren's book "The Secret Message of Jesus", so I was enthusiastically immersed in the text when one of the Qdoba employees, a girl named Mikaela, asked me what I was reading. I wasn't sure what her response would be when I showed her the title, but she seemed quite interested in the topic, and said she had been doing some reading in Buddhism and Islam lately and had some basic knowledge about Christianity from her past.

She went on to ask me if I was a Christian. I responded "yes" but wish I would have creatively 'played with' that question a bit more. In hindsight, I would have said something to the effect of "That depends on what you mean by 'Christian'." We went on to have a few minutes of great conversation around the concept of why we are each interested in questions of a divine nature, and I look forward to the possibility of future discussions, but I am still quite aware of my instantaneous desire to 'have all the answers' when in conversation with another, especially around the theme of faith.

I wonder what it might look like to enter into dialogue without any solid answers, humbly committed to learning from the other in the encounter? I wonder what it might look like to trust the 'good news' enough to let it speak for itself, rather than needing to forcefully impose it upon others? I wonder how a spirit of creativity, imagination, and playfullness might transform my relationship with God and others, as we wonder together about how the Kingdom of God is already here, at work in this world, and how our stories might come to congruently mesh with the story God is already telling?