Friday, December 16, 2011

Officially On Break

Christmas break has come, and not a minute too soon. I turned in my last homework assignment for the term on Wednesday and officially concluded my penultimate trimester at the Seattle School. Only one more trimester left. Only 3 more classes. Only 6 more credits. Graduation is just around the corner.

The assignment I finished this week was my Integrative Project. This is the comprehensive project that all M.Div. students must complete in their final year at my school. It is a 25-35 page paper that serves to summarize and 'integrate' your entire seminary experience. Mine ended up at 26 pages. I was initially unsure as to what to write about and I changed my topic about half-way into my research, but I am glad I did. My first idea was fine, but was essentially a mini-dissertation. What I settled on was effectively an integration of all I had been learning through the past 3 years.


Throughout the last number of years, I have kept a constantly growing list of ideas that would one day be the foundation of the church I lead. For my project, I collated these thoughts into 5 foundational principals and unpacked each one according to its theory and practice. The five concepts are:
  1. Worship as 'Denouement'
  2. Social Justice/Missional Living
  3. A Willingness to be Evangelized
  4. Holistic Living
  5. The Priesthood of All Believers
Throughout the next semester I will spend some time blogging about what I mean by each of these phrases...but not now, because I need a few weeks off from thinking and writing. I am extremely proud of the work I have done on this and think this document, and the ideas it contains, will be extremely beneficial in my ministry. This is a document that I can pass on to my regional pastor to let her know exactly what I believe and am passionate about. These thoughts will help me be concise and articulate in job interviews when explaining what sort of pastor that church would be employing. And more than anything, I believe that if churches were to take these 5 foundational principals seriously, they would radically transform their neighborhood, city, and world.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fantastic Quote

I'm working on a project for school where I'm collecting thoughts and quotes from many of the books I've been reading over the past 3 years (probably more like 6 or 7) as an integration of all that I've learned in seminary. As I was looking through the book "How (Not) to Speak of God" by the brilliant Irish philosopher Peter Rollins, I was reminded of this enlightening quote and thought I would share it with you. These thoughts seem especially relevant in the midst of our current economic climate. Enjoy!
"For too long the Church has been seen as an oasis in the desert--offering water to those who are thirsty. In contrast, the emerging community appears more as a desert in the oasis of life, offering silence, space and desolation amidst the sickly nourishment of Western capitalism. It is in this desert, as we wander together as nomads, that God is to be found. For it is here that we are nourished by our hunger."

My Last Year In My 20s

Yesterday was my birthday and I had a great day of celebrating. It started with 3 rounds of disc golf, continued with a few hours of rock climbing at the gym, and concluded with the senior recital of one of Mandy's work-study students. It was a fantastic day...but the celebration continues this evening. Since last night was a Thursday night, we had decided to hang out with our friends tonight instead. So tonight we are getting together for dinner with a bunch of friends and then we are all going to the Family Fun Center in Renton for some mini-golf, go carts, and batting cages. Should be a great time.

A co-worker asked me on Wednesday if my last year had been a good one. I instantly replied that it hadn't really been all that great and that I thought the next year would be better. I said this because I still feel like Mandy and I are in this strange liminal space where we are waiting for the next step. I will be graduating in April and am pursuing ordination, so for now we are just having to be patient. While I really do believe that this next year (my last year in my 20s) will be a great year, the more I thought about the year that was, the less negative I was about it.

This past year really has been a great one. The main reason it was great was that we got to spend 2 weeks in Africa visiting our friends Brian and Nicole. This was an amazing adventure that I will NEVER forget, and was truly the highlight of our year. But this last year also included a lot of other fun trips. We spent a weekend in Portland with David and Michelle, I spent a weekend in Squamish mountain biking and rock climbing with David and Matt B., we were in Ohio for Matt A. and Michelle's wedding, I spent a week in San Diego at a conference with some friends, and a group of us were in Whistler mountain biking for 3 days. All in all, a lot of great traveling.

This year also saw us move into a nice, new apartment with a great view overlooking the Cascades (which I am enjoying right now). This larger apartment also afforded us the space for Mandy's sister Kathy to come live with us for a while. It has been great having her here and getting to know her as an adult. What a blessing.

I'm grateful to my co-worker for asking me about my year, because it has invited me to process the year that was and to celebrate, rather than simply lament the frustrations of our future uncertainty. This has been a great year of great adventures with great friends and family. Truly a blessed season of life.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Penn State Scandal

If you have, in any way, been tuned-in to the sports world over the past week, then you have assuredly heard about the breaking news of sexual abuse and cover-up at Penn State University over the past decade. Am I'm sure you have an opinion. There are a million angles a blog post on this subject could explore, but there are two issues I will address in this post.

Firstly, I have been pleased to see all parties involved in this scandal (the president of the school, the athletic director, coach Joe Paterno, & the assistant coach who first witnessed the sexual abuse 12 years ago) removed from their positions. While people losing their jobs is rarely a good thing, and part of me is extremely disappointed and saddened that Paterno's career will end in this way, I feel that these firings needed to take place as an act of solidarity with the victims. I can only imagine the horrors of sexual abuse and cannot fathom the pain that the victims of these heinous crimes are enduring as they relive the traumatic events of their past. I am happy the Penn State board of trustees has taken this first step in siding with the victims, even if the reputation of their beloved coach is tarnished in the process.

The second issue that I deem worthy of discussion is one that I have heard only a few people write or speak about so far. One of the biggest problems regarding this issue is that the Penn State football program (and many other athletic programs around the country) has gained way too much power and been given far too much significance. Despite being just an extra-curricular activity at an institution whose focus is higher learning, playing sports is often seen as being more important than getting an education. Coaches are more popular and powerful that the presidents of schools. Players walk around campus as if they can do no wrong. Teachers are coerced into giving certain privileges to athletes so that they can remain eligible for the big game.

We even see this line of thinking occur in the language we use to talk about these powerful athletic programs. As I was listening to sports talk radio in the car yesterday, an analyst was speaking to the drastic decline that is occurring at Penn State. He described the Penn State football program as once being 'hallowed,' in contrast to their current lowly state. This is a word that is often used to describe storied athletic programs, but this word choice is incredibly fascinating. In normal, everyday conversation, the word 'hallowed' means something that is held in high regard, but in the church we use this word (in the Lord's Prayer) to mean 'holy.' Perhaps this is the meaning, however, that is often intended for these athletic programs. We see them as holy. As perfect. As incapable of disappointing. These coaches and players are gods among men. And when they are in the wrong, we are quick to sweep their transgressions under the rug in an effort to maintain the status appease the gods.

It's tragic...and it leads to an environment where abuses are ignored in order to protect the powerful and sustain the monster that has been created. Perhaps if anything good can come from this horrific situation, it will be a re-examination of the value and significance we place on athletics in our country. As an avid sports fan myself, I highly encourage athletic participation and fan-dom, but I desperately hope we can still see sports as entertainment, as a game. These athletes and coaches are not gods. They are not above the rules. They are not beyond reproach.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We Finally Got It Right

Christians have been trying to capture the 'right' theology for thousands of years, and this quest for absolute 'rightness' has not ended with our current church context. This cartoon is a brilliant way of highlighting this fact. Enjoy.

HT:  St. Thomas the Doubter

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This is NOT My God

Faulty thoughts about God can adversely affect the way that one behaves as a Christian in the world, and especially how one pastors. This cartoon is quite enlightening about one way that corrupt theology can become toxic.

We are not "sinners in the hand of an angry God," like the early-American preacher Jonathan Edwards so boldly proclaimed. Rather, we are loved unconditionally by an incredibly merciful God. When I look at scripture and the world, I see a God who created the world as 'good' and not as 'evil.'

At my school we talk a lot about the first two stories of the Bible. The first story, found in Genesis 1 and 2, declares that humans are the beautiful, good, pinnacle of creation. We were created exactly the way God intended and we are loved just the way we are. The second story of scripture, found in Genesis 3, is often referred to as the 'fall.' It is the story of human sinfulness, of Adam and Eve purposefully disobeying the will of God. It is a story about broken relationships and separation from God.

While both of these stories are immensely important in the Christian narrative, generally Christians choose to operate fundamentally out of one story or the other. We either see humans as good or evil. We either see God as a God of love and creativity, or as a God of judgment and anger. Deciding which of these two stories is going to frame your ideas of God, humans, and the world will drastically impact the way you live. I choose to give priority to the first story of scripture, that humans are the beautiful, good, pinnacle of creation, rather than the second story, that we are an inherently corrupt, sinful lot. There are plenty of Christians, however, that choose to see the world as inherently evil and corrupt. They fundamentally see God as one who curses rather than blesses.

I pray that we would once again see God for the incredible lover that God is. I pray that we would celebrate God's beautiful creation for the goodness it is capable of, rather than defining it by its periodic (or even frequent) moments of evil and brokenness. And most of all, I pray that we would begin to see humanity as 'children in the hands of a loving God.'

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Year of First Steps

This year is proving to be one of great transition in my life. As my seminary training is coming to an end, this culmination brings with it a multitude of decisions that must be made. What should I do for work? Pastoring or church planting? Which denomination? Where should we live?

I could keep going, but that is probably enough to give anyone an ulcer.

While Mandy and I are definitely a little stressed about our future, we are simply trying to stay consistent with how we have handled other big changes in our taking one day at a time. This is tough for us because both of us are huge planners, but we are trying our best to live in the moment, enjoy the journey, not worry too much about the future, and trust that God will lead and guide us into our next adventure.

One 'first step' that I have been needing to take is finally happening this Wednesday when I meet with the Pacific Northwest Regional Minister for the Disciples of Christ, Sandy Messick. I have felt for a while that the Disciples of Christ denomination is a great fit for me theologically and practically and am excited to finally be moving down this road in a more official manner. I have contacted the Regional Ministers for the Pacific NW and for Colorado so far, but have not heard back from the Colorado person. Hopefully that happens soon. As for now, I am thrilled to be meeting with Sandy, and excited to learn more about the Disciples and what my next steps will be as I pursue employment and ordination. I'll let you know how that meeting goes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Summer Is Over

It's been a good summer, full of travel, adventure, and rest, but I fear it may be drawing to a close. Although the good weather has not disappeared quite yet, as the title suggests, it seems like summer has essentially come and gone. I was reminded of the temporal nature of our outstanding summer weather yesterday during a mountain bike ride, when I suddenly realized that I was riding over fallen leaves.


The biggest signal of the conclusion of summer, however, has been the beginning of fall classes. This past week I officially began my fourth and final year of seminary at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology (formerly known as Mars Hill Graduate School). This will make eight years of post-high school education. That's too much! I need to be done! My pre-graduation tasks remaining include a few classes and a huge writing/research assignment. This fall I only have one weekly class, on Paul's letters to the Corinthians, but will be spending a huge amount of time reading for and writing a 35-page capstone paper, my integrative project.

I also hope to re-establish a rhythm of blogging throughout this coming year. This craft has been quite important to my intellectual and spiritual growth at various times of my life, including the first two years of seminary, but I have let the practice of blogging slip from my regular routine of late. I both miss it and need it as a part of my life. As this next year brings a plethora of change and difficult decisions in my life, blogging will be a helpful part of the discernment process. I am sure I will write about a myriad of themes this year, but you can definitely expect to read about two specific topics: my research for my integrative project and my progress in securing employment post-graduation. Here's hoping that most of my writing will include good news of much success.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts on Prayer

To speak about prayer is indeed presumptuous. There are no devices, no techniques; there is no specialized art of prayer. All of life must be a training to pray. We pray the way we live.
~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Random Thought for the Day

Some people spend their whole life saving up for a rainy day. But what happens if the rainy day never comes and you've wasted all the sunny days?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

More Brilliant Cartoons

There are a number of sites I frequent that feature cartoons that often make think about my faith in new ways. One is The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus and the other is Naked Pastor. I often post cartoons from ASBO Jesus on here, but I don't often pass on the greatness of Naked Pastor. So here are a few recent examples from Naked Pastor of the brilliant use of art, humor, and wit as a prophetic voice in our current age. I think you'll find that each of these sketches preaches a sermon all by itself. So powerful.

Can We Just End This Lockout?!?

This was a pretty funny spoof video. I hope you enjoy. Go Team Jacob!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jesus as Radical Social Activist

I came across these words from the brilliant Greg Boyd today with the help of my good friend Matt Allen. Over the past few years I have found myself disinterested with the whole game of politics. I bought into the hype of the Obama campaign, but have since repented of my naive hopefulness, coming to see the political world as relatively fruitless and unhelpful for the common person. Boyd's thoughts so beautifully encapsulate my own in a way I could have never written myself, so I thought I would pass them along to you. I hope you enjoy.

In my view, followers of Jesus are to be concerned with everything Jesus was concerned with – and Jesus was obviously concerned with more than people having a relationsip with himself.

Jesus was a revolutionary on social issues, so his followers are to be revolutionaries on social issues. Jesus entered into solidarity with the poor, so his followers are to enter into solidarity with the poor. Jesus revolted against racism by the countercultural way he treated and spoke about non-Jews , so his followers are to revolt against all forms of racism. Jesus revolted against classism by the way he embraced social and religious “rejects,” so his followers are to revolt against classism. Jesus revolted against sexism by the counter-cultural way he treated women — even women of ill-repute — so his followers are to revolt against sexism. Jesus revolted against legalistic religion that oppressed people, so his followers are to revolt against legalistic religion that oppresses people.

Jesus was a radical social activist, so his followers must be the same. It’s just that Jesus never once placed any trust in the government of his day to address social issues. He rather just addressed social issues by how he lived and taught. So too, we who are Jesus’ followers are to place no trust in government to address social issues. We’re simply called to address them by how we live.

Following Jesus’ example, we’re to place our trust in the power of the cross – the power of self-sacrificial love – not the power of the sword. We’re to trust the power of Calvary, not Caesar. And this is why I believe those who spend their time and energy trying to control the political arena “in Jesus’ name” are profoundly missing the point. Our job is to love, serve and sacrifice for sinners – not argue about passing laws against them. For we are to know that, whatever sin we see in others, our sin is much worse (Mt. 7:1-3).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Climbing as Spiritual

For those who know me well, you know that my am addicted to the drug/sport of rock climbing. It has consumed me and I doubt I will ever kick the habit. Climbing has even become a type of spiritual practice for me. I could say more, and I eventually will, but I don't have time now. So for now, I will let this paragraph from the climbing magazine Rock and Ice suffice in capturing a part of why climbing is so important in my life.
Boulderers know that the sport transcends mere amusement when you find a line of holds that you simply cannot climb unless you change in some meaningful way. You have to be better--physically, mentally, or even spiritually. Transformative problems like these are more than climbs. They are thresholds between existential planes. To borrow a term from anthropology, these complex problems are liminal states complete with the "ritual death" of repeated failure, the "strictly prescribed sequence," and the "post liminal rites" where you feel like a new being--if only for a moment.
--Jeff Jackson, editor of Rock and Ice

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Nation of Haters

As an avid sports fan I am fascinated by the current hatred being spewed out in the direction of LeBron  James. We are in rare territory here. I'm not sure we've ever seen the best player in a sport also be the most disliked player in that sport. LeBron may be the first...and I don't really understand why. Now I must first begin with a confession...I actually like LeBron James. I have for a while. I don't have a team I cheer for, I enjoy LeBron's style of play, and I slowly found myself cheering for him. I didn't intend for it to happen, but it happened anyway. I cheered for him when he was a Cavalier and I'm cheering for him now as a Heat player. Sorry...I know that's not popular to hear, but there it is.

As I "witness" the barrage of criticism aimed at LeBron, I feel I need to make a few comments. Firstly, I'm with the rest of America in HATING the way he made "The Decision." That was just a terrible way of announcing his decision to sign with Miami...just terrible. That said, however, I don't think his actual decision was wrong. He had given Cleveland seven good years of his career and they had 'thanked' him by giving him NO legitimate teammates. I would leave too if in seven years the best they could do was a Shaq well past his prime and Antawn Jamison. Really? That's it? In seven years? No wonder he bolted. No one in the league could have done better than LeBron with the supporting cast they gave him. The fact that he led that team to the league lead in wins two straight years, in addition to a trip to the Finals, is a miracle in itself.

Along those lines, I don't really have a problem with how Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James orchestrated their current roster. Every championship team has more than one superstar player. You have to. Kobe didn't win until he got Shaq, then had years of bad teams again until he got Pau Gasol. Boston was terrible until they somehow got three future hall-of-famers to join forces. David Robinson couldn't win until Duncan came along. I could go on and on. And while its usually the General Manager of the team that is putting together the roster, I don't really see a problem with the players making it happen, especially if their respective GMs aren't getting the job done (as with LeBron).

And finally, a few thoughts regarding this current NBA Finals and LeBron's inability to close games. Firstly, we are such creatures of the moment, constantly asking the question "What have you done for me lately?" If you can remember back to a couple weeks ago, LeBron DOMINATED the Celtics and the Bulls, carrying his team into the Finals with relatively little help from Wade and Bosh. He was phenomenal in most of the fourth quarters of those series, but yet we continue to think of him as someone who cannot close out games.

Secondly, I will freely and openly admit that LeBron has not played as well in the fourth quarter during the Finals. That's obvious. But the way the commentators are talking, you would think he's the worst player in the league. I watched every minute of the fourth quarter last night and I think LeBron is getting unfair criticism. He is getting killed in the media for only having 2 points in the fourth quarter last night, but I actually thought he played really well. He was really aggressive with the ball throughout the period, but just didn't score much because he was constantly finding his teammates for wide open shots. He finished the game with 10 assists, but I think 5 or 6 of them were in the fourth quarter alone. He also scored a huge basket and got fouled, only to have it taken away on a terrible offensive foul call. The defender (Tyson Chandler, I believe) was clearly within the circle where you cannot take a charge, and his feet were not set anyway. LeBron also had a huge block that saved a layup, and he altered a number of other shots that weren't blocked, but were definitely missed because of LeBron's defensive presence.

LeBron and the Heat by no means lost that game last night, the Mavericks just won it. They played great, hit clutch shots with Heat defenders right in their face, and deserved the victory. I don't think that means that LeBron can't close out the fourth quarter. I would hope these basketball 'experts' that we see on TV would have more sense than to judge someone's performance based solely on points scored. That simply isn't a true and accurate representation of quality of play. Should LeBron have scored more? Yes. Should he have made some of the shots he missed? Of course. Did he play up to his potential? By no means. But is he some terrible player who shrinks under the spotlight and can't finish a game strong? Definitely not. He finished the game with a triple-double for goodness sake. But what can you do...haters gonna hate!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tim Tebow On The Daily Show

As much as I would like to dislike Tim Tebow, I am finding it very, very hard to do so. Trust me...I've tried! As someone who is trying to follow Christ, I want to hate him because of his over-the-top Jesus-talk in every interview and press conference he gives...but yet, he actually seems to be legitimately faithful and a genuinely nice guy. I want to hate him for how the Conservative Right has latched onto him as their poster child, but it's tough when he's frickin' running and sponsoring orphanages in the Philipines. It's like trying to hate Oprah!
In the area of football, as a lifelong Denver Bronco fan, I was crushed on draft day two years ago to watch our idiot coach throw away three draft picks to trade up and take Tebow in the first round of the draft. While he had been a very successful college quarterback (perhaps the greatest ever), most football experts were convinced he would never amount to much in the NFL. I agreed with them...and perhaps still do. He had thrived in college on his speed, heart, and will to win, despite his terrible throwing mechanics and inexperience in a pro-style offense. Those kinds of players are fun to watch in college, but typically do not transition well into the NFL.

But nevertheless, my team has invested much of its future into this young man, so I am trying to be supportive and hope for the best with Tebow as the leader of the Broncos. And so far he's doing all the right things to win my approval (not that he really needs or wants it). As last season was drawing to a close and 'missing the playoffs' was a foregone conclusion for the Broncos, Tebow was given the opportunity to start 3 games and actually played pretty well. And now, during the lockout of this terrible offseason, Tebow has taken the intiative to fly his receiving corps down to Jacksonville (where he lives) and put them up in a hotel so that he can practice with his guys and begin to develop report and timing. As a fan, you've gotta love that!

All that to say, it felt appropriate to write a few thoughts on Tim Tebow in the wake of him appearing on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show last night. I thought Tebow did a great job. He was witty and sharp and sarcastic. He didn't allow Stewart to bully him around, but also didn't try to fight back with Stewart as many guests do, which doesn't go over well because 1) the guest ends up looking mean, and 2) Stewart is brilliant and will most likely win any debate he is in. So congratulations Timmy Tebow: congrats on your new autobiography that was just released, congrats on probably winning the starting quarterback job for the Denver Broncos, and congrats on beginning to win me over to your side. The latter may be the most difficult of all.

P.S. It is pictures like this that make it hard for me to like Tebow as a Christian. And it's not even Tebow's fault. Come on people...I'm positive that Tim would not endorse you making this kind of weird picture, trying to turn him into some sort of messiah figure. Unbelievable. Just quit it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jesus is Coming

With all the hype of Jesus' apparent return this Saturday, this cartoon was helpful in illuminating the lunacy of predicting the return of Jesus.

HT: Naked Pastor

Friday, May 13, 2011

All Truth is God’s Truth: Finding Wisdom in Places You Never Thought to Look

I think I grew up assuming that when Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” this meant that the only place that we can find truth is in his actual words, the Bible. While I have not strayed from believing that the Bible is an incredibly wise, helpful, truth-filled text, I have come to see that truth and beauty and wisdom can be found in a myriad of other places as well. And when we arrive at this truth, we can know that God is involved...because all truth is God’s truth. With this in mind, we can honor these other places of truth, rather than fear or avoid them. Regardless of where this truth arrives from, if it allows us to better live into the way of Jesus, it can be freely embraced without fear or xenophobia (fear of the other).

These thoughts arise out of the class that I am current taking called ‘Our Religious Impulse’ (basically a world religions class). I was reading about Buddhism this morning and came across some beautiful thoughts from Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Zen Buddhist thinker and writer. When I have approached world religions in the past, it has typically been a quest to know a plethora of data so that I can disprove that faith tradition, thus validating Christianity. I have come to see these actions as quite fruitless, however, so it is exciting to study these other forms of spirituality with the intent of learning from my brothers and sisters around the world. If my primary posture as a Christian is to love my neighbor, then this sort of interest in, and curiosity about, my neighbor seems like a healthy undertaking. While I still see Christianity as the best possible way of living, and Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life, I want to maintain a posture of openness and invitation, a freedom to absorb the truth of God wherever I may find it. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy these words of wisdom from a Buddhist brother.   
There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, "Where are you going?" and the first man replies, "I don't know! Ask the horse!" This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don't know where we are going, and we can't stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has become a habit. We struggle, all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within our selves, and we can easily start a war with others.

We have to learn the art of stopping--stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace. We turn on the TV and then we turn it off. We pick up a book, and then we put it down. How can we stop this state of agitation? How can we stop our fear, despair, anger, and craving? We can stop by practicing mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful smiling, and deep looking in order to understand. When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Tragic End to a Great Sunday

Yesterday was a great day that was capped off in a sickening way. I had heard about Osama bin Laden's death while we were at our small group, but was greatly troubled to come home, flip on the tv, and see the celebration and revelry taking place around our country and world. OVER SOMEONE'S DEATH!

Now I realize that posting these thoughts will make me seem unpatriotic, which is really is not the case. I love my country (most of the time) and am grateful to live in a nation that holds freedom, liberty, and opportunity as its priorities. Killing bin Laden may have been the right thing to do in this situation. I'm not sure. What I am most troubled with in this whole issue is the joyous celebration we are seeing over the loss of life and the perpetuation of the cycle of violence. Sing and dancing in the street?? Really??

This situation reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's dilemma over whether to kill Hitler in the midst of his reign of terror. Bonhoeffer willingly participated in a secret plan to assassinate Hitler, but never felt justified in his actions. He wrote of seeing murdering Hitler as a sin, but was willing to stand before God in judgment in order to do what he felt needed to be done. I wish we would have seen the attitude of Bonhoeffer shine force yesterday in the midst of this tragedy. I wish Obama would have said something like, "We regret that killing Osama bin Laden was the decision that had to be made today. While taking another person's life is never ideal, we felt that this was the lesser of two evils, the only way we could find to keep him from doing more harm to innocent people around the world." I could respect a statement like that. At least it would own the tragedy of the loss of life, rather than celebrate it.

I pray that we will begin to see the lunacy of thinking that one more act of violence will finally end the cycle of violence. I pray that we will become people who choose non-violent resistance as an alternative to violence. I pray that we will have the courage and creativity to find subversive ways of non-violently turning the other cheek, rather than blindly gouging out another's eye. In the strong words of Jesus to a room of cowering, hurt, vengeful disciples, "Peace be with you."

Friday, April 29, 2011

A New Name for the Same Great School

For those who didn't know, I am about a year away from graduating with my Master of Divinity degree. Yesterday it was officially announced that I will graduate from a different school than the one I began at, all without ever transferring. I began my graduate education at Mars Hill Graduate School, but we have now changed our name to the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology.

I find myself a little ambivalent about this change. On the one hand, it was DEFINITELY time for a name change. There is a mega-church here in Seattle that goes by the same name, so it has been incredibly confusing to explain to people that my school is in no way connected with the church. Mars Hill Church is undoubtedly doing many good things here in Seattle, but their theology is very, very different than ours and I don't always agree with the things they teach or the actions they take, so it has been frustrating to constantly be connected with them. I find myself repeatedly defining my school based on what we are not, rather than being able to gush about the things that we are, the real reasons I love my institution. It will be refreshing to tell people what school I attend and not immediately need to qualify that statement.

On the other hand, I LOVE our old name (and am not crazy about our new one). I love what it stands for. I love that Mars Hill was a place that Paul went to engage genuinely with his culture, a place of knowledge and wisdom and philosophy. I love how cool Mars Hill sounds. Maybe that sounds trite, but I don't care. Mars Hill Graduate School just rolls off the tongue a little better than the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. I love that the initials don't sound like a sexually transmitted disease. SSTP sounds like I've caught something just one step down from chlamydia.

So I begin my time at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology with both joy and resistance, both excitement and hesitation. I am sure it will take me a little while to adjust to the new name, but I am excited for what it means for our institution. It definitely feels like a new chapter in our story, one I am glad I get to be a part of. The following videos were produced by the school, and were both incredibly helpful for me in this time of transition. The first was just released last night following the official name change, a look forward to life in a new era. The second is a video from our founder and former president, Dan Allender. It is a helpful look back at why Mars Hill was chosen as the first name and why it will always be special to me and so many others.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Wedding Annoyance

Maybe I just don't understand why everyone is so excited about the upcoming royal wedding between William and Kate, but I find myself annoyed at all the coverage. Just yesterday we had dozens of people killed in terrible storms in the South, and yet this dumb royal wedding was still monopolizing the news stations. I appreciated waking up this morning to this funny, cynical commentary on the royal nuptials. Enjoy!

HT:  The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Crazy Couple Weeks

The past couple weeks have been incredibly busy. Two weeks ago we flew out for Bismarck, ND to see our family. Mandy's sister just had another baby, Savannah Grace, so we were excited to spend a few days getting to know her. We also spent 2 days up near Winnipeg, celebrating with my sister-in-law at her college graduation. It was so great to see her school for the first time, to see the place that she has spent the last 3 years.

We flew back to Seattle last Wednesday and were instantly inundated with Holy Week. We traveled out to Maple Valley on Wednesday night for choir practice, Thursday night for the Maundy Thursday service, twice on Friday for Good Friday services (which I preached at), and again on Sunday for Easter. Crazy. When you add in that I spent most of the day Thursday mountain biking in Bellingham, WA and all day Saturday rock climbing at Gold Bar, it makes for a crazy couple weeks. While I do get a bit of a break, it doesn't last long seeing as though I am attending a conference all day Friday and Saturday and preaching again at church on Sunday. Wow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Leaving Town for the Week

Tomorrow is my last day of class for the semester, so after I turn in some last-minute assignments I am a free man for about 2 weeks. The first week will be spent in North Dakota and Canada. Mandy's younger sister, Kathy, is graduating from college this weekend, so we are flying out to see her big day. She goes to college near Winnipeg in Manitoba and we have never had the chance to go visit her, so this will be our last chance.

We will also get to see our newest niece for the first time. Mandy's older sister, Summer, just had her third child in January, Savannah Grace. We are excited to meet her and to hang out with the rest of Mandy's family. Needless to say, I probably won't be blogging for a few weeks as I will be busy traveling. I will be reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry and Free for All by Tim Conder during the next few weeks. I'm excited to finally be able to read whatever I want. Talk to you all soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Pain of Honesty

Most of you know that I am a huge fan of Rob Bell, have had him as a seminary professor, have read everything he has ever written, and have been listening to his podcasted sermons for about 8 years. At some times over the past 8 years he has even been more of a pastor than anyone else in my life. It is painful for me to watch him be criticized by part of the theological world, usually by people who have not even read his book(s). This newest cartoon from the always-brilliant Jon Birch of ASBO Jesus is stunningly intelligent commentary on the current situation. Enjoy!

HT:  The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rob Bell's Confession of Faith

Many of you may know that the pastor, speaker, and author, Rob Bell, has taken incredible criticism over the past month for his latest book, Love Wins. The unfortunate fact, however, is that much of the critique was offered prior to the book's actual release, by people who had not yet read the book. Many assumed that Rob was going to say something heretical and claim to be a universalist, which he did neither. I know this because I have actually read the book, which is a great introduction to healthy conversation about heaven and hell.

The following video is a statement he made at his church on Sunday. I hope you enjoy it. I hope others will stop slandering this brother in Christ. At least read the book first before you do it!

HT: Homebrewed Theology

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Amazing Double Play

Baseball is back and I couldn't be more excited! I'm a huge Mariners fan and have been anticipating opening day for months. The Mariners are not expected to be very good by most people (myself included), but won the first 2 games before losing the next 2. So now, sitting at 2-2, I am a bit confused about who this team actuallyis, but still hopelessly pessimistic.

The M's lost last night to the Texas Rangers, which was disappointing. One incredible defensive play made the game for me though. With the bases load and no outs, Texas hit a ball up the middle of the infield that Jack Wilson turned into a double play. The play was the most athletic, artist play I've seen in a baseball game in quite some time, so I thought I would share the video with you all. Seriously impressive, Jack. Kudos. Now hopefully you guys can start swinging the bat the way you're flashing the glove!

Click HERE to watch this incredible play.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taking Sides

"Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
 -Elie Wiesel

This seems incredibly important in the midst of my transition into a more postmodern, post-Christendom ideology. Postmodernity can often be accused of moral relativism, failing to ever take a stand on difficult issues, which is a fair criticism. I feel like we are trying to be a listening voice that offers grace far before we ever offer judgment. But this does not mean that we need to be wishy-washy about injustice and oppression taking place in the world. 
Christians must be vigilant about standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. We must give always give voice to the voiceless and support the marginalized. I love this quote from Elie Wiesel, reminding me to stand strong against the oppression and victimization that can easily take place in our world. I hope you'll stand with me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Being a Therapeutic Presence in a Multi-Cultural World

I am currently in a class called "Developing an Intercultural Competency." Last week we had 4 guest speakers in class who are all doing multi-cultural work here in Seattle. They were fascinating to listen to, but I was most intrigued by what was said the waning minutes of class. Our professor asked them to each make a few closing comments on how one might go about becoming a therapeutic presence in a multi-cultural world. These are their responses, which I thought were brilliant.
  1. Immerse yourself in uncomfortable learning communities
  2. Don't do anything out of guilt
  3. Become a part of a community - let the neighborhood teach you
  4. Ask "How can I be sustainable in this community?"
  5. Be okay with who you are
  6. Be bold in what you can offer that community
  7. Be comfortable with chaos
  8. Create liminal space for conversation and learning to happen
  9. Be proactive in learning about other cultures

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Decision Making Questions

The other day, in my Life Together class, we were using a case study from a church to discuss pastoral ethics. This was a really helpful exercise and conversation, one that I hope we have more of in the future. My friend Jev had some very insightful thoughts at the end of the discussion that I thought I would share with you. These are three questions he tries to ask himself when he is making a decision, especially one of an ethical nature that involves other people. I always appreciate Jev's wisdom, and I hope you do too.

Decision Making Questions
  1. How can I treat this person (or these people) as real people?
  2. How can this work out to be a transformational experience for everyone involved?
  3. How can this issue be an opportunity to learn to love God and love our neighbors?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More of My Journal from our Journey, Part 2

The following is the conclusion of my journal entries during our trip to Tanzania. Most of this is from our time on safari in the Serengeti.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Friday was great.Yesterday sucked. Our travel on Friday was pretty minimal. We took the dala dala to Dodoma where we caught a bus to Morogoro. It was hard saying goodbye to Chamwino, and especially to Pastor Daniel and Nasson. They have been with us every day in Chamwino and are great new friends. We will miss them dearly.

Our time in Morogoro was short, but amazing. We have an acquaintance in Seattle named Yonah, and we stayed the night at his mother's house. She is a college professor and is quite wealthy. Her house was immaculate. We had a great meal, a nice bed, a clean bathroom, and we all got to sit outside and enjoy a fantastic lightning storm. Couldn't have been a better night.

Yesterday was not good though. We had a 10 hour bus ride on a terrible bus. There was no leg room and it was incredibly hot. The bus company had said there would be AC, but it just blew out warm air the whole trip. And worst of all, once we got to Arusha, we realized that gasoline had spilled all over our bags that were under the bus. Now our bags smell awful and most of our clothes are stained and smelly. Looks like I will be wearing the same shorts for the next 6 days.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Well, our 3-night, 4-day safari is over, and was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Absolutely incredible. On Sunday we took off for the Serengeti. While we were driving all day, it wasn't tiring or boring because we were seeing animals for most of the trip. After driving past the Ngorogoro Crater, you enter the flat lands of the Serengeti and start seeing more animals than you ever thought existed. We would come to areas where there were thousands and thousands of zebras and wildebeests, stretching as far as you could see. Truly awesome. We also saw a lot of giraffes. At one point we got off the main road onto some side trails. We didn't know where we were going, but what we would see was incredible. We drove over to a tree, and under the tree, basking in the shade, were 2 cheetahs, no more than 10 feet from us. After leaving the cheetahs we saw a bunch of jeeps sitting by another tree. Underneath was a lion that had recently killed and eaten a zebra. She still had blood all over her mouth and was stuffed to the gills with zebra meat. That night we camped out in tents in the middle of the Serengeti. AWESOME!

Monday was the day for lions and elephants. We got up early to be out driving as the sun broke the horizon. Soon after, we came across an area of rocks where 9 lions where hanging out. That was so awesome. Two were male and 7 were female. Some were walking around, some were sitting up tall, and some were laying in the sun. Then a really special thing happened. We drove a little ways down the road and came across the head hauncho, the king of the jungle. Perched about 15 feet up on a rock, sat a massive male lion, overlooking his kingdom. He was enormous, with the big, round mane surrounding his face. He looked so majestic and regal upon his throne. This might have been the coolest thing I saw on safari!

After lunch we started heading back toward the Ngorogoro Crater. We had been seeing elephants here and there, but when we got to the rest area at the border between the Serengeti and Ngorogoro, we got to see elephants up close and personal. There were about 10 elephants hanging out at the rest area, no more than 100 feet away from the people. It was so fun to watch them up close, and to get some great video of them. Since it was really hot, the girls decided to go sit in the shade by the bathrooms. All of a sudden the elephants decided to move, though, so they took off running toward the bathroom. Mandy and Nicole had their backs turned, but heard a rustling and turned just in time to watch the elephants run by just 10 feet from where they were sitting. They were scared in the moment, but now have an experience they will never forget.

That night we camped on the cliff overlooking the Ngorogoro Crater. It was a stunning view. After dinner our guide pulled us aside to show us something breathtaking. Right outside the cooking area was a large water tank for the camp to use. To our surprise, a giant elephant was drinking from the tank. He was no more than 20 feet from us and I think us and our guide were the only people in camp who knew he was there.

Tuesday we woke up to a beautiful sunrise, and again, after breakfast, our elephant friend visited the water tank. It was cool to see him so close again, this time in the light. He didn't leave right away after he was done drinking, though, but chose to wander around camp a bit. A dog at camp didn't like that, though, and began barking to chase him off. The two animals started a little battle where the dog would try to scare the elephant, and then the elephant would chase him down a bit. One of the times the elephant charged, Nicole was sort of in his path and she got spooked. But she was pretty proud of having that story to tell in the future.

The rest of the day was spent in the Crater. Most of the animals were ones we had seen a lot of already, but it was really fun to see a rhino, which we hadn't seen yet. That afternoon we made our way into a small town where we stayed in a crappy hotel for the night.

Wednesday was our fourth and final day of safari, but was pretty relaxed. We spent about 4 hours driving around Lake Manyara. It was fun to see the animals, but most were repeats. It was fun to see a ton of baboons, though, and to see a lot of hippos actually out of the water. We made our way back to Arusha that afternoon, had a great meal at a nice restaurant, talked with Brian and Nicole in our hotel room for hours, and then hit the sack.

Today we had a ten hour bus ride from Arusha to Dar es Salaam. The bus was the nicest we've ridden so far, but it was so hot out that we were still miserable. I'm now writing this journal entry from a great hotel in Dar. It is nice to have a great shower and a clean room. We are going to spend tomorrow laying on a beach on the Indian Ocean. Should be a nice, relaxing way to spend the end of our trip. This may be my last entry of the trip, since we just have a few relaxing days left, followed by 20 hours of plane rides. We have a 5 1/2 hour layover in Amsterdam, so we will probably leave the airport to quickly see the city. See you soon!

Friday, March 25, 2011

More of My Journal from our Journey, Part 1

The first week of our trip to Tanzania we had pretty consistent internet access, so I was able to post my journal entries almost daily. The second week, however, we were away from electricity, internet, and most modern conveniences, so I was unable to update you all on the details of our trip. Now that I'm back in the States and sort of adjusted back to normal life, I am finally getting around to posting all of these entries. Here are my journal entries from our second week in Africa, where we were primarily traveling and going on safari. I hope you enjoy reading about our incredible adventure.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yesterday started off normal and uneventful, but ended with a bang. We didn't have much scheduled yesterday, but we ended up dead tired by bedtime anyway. We had breakfast at Mama Pendo's hour, which was really good. Mama Pendo is the moth of the Pendo that we know well from Seattle, who is married to Kedmon. We first met Mama Pendo in Seattle a year ago, so it was good to see her again and meet her husband.Our next scheduled activity wasn't until late afternoon, so we came home and hung out for quite a while. It was really great to have some in-depth conversation with our great friends. We miss them so much and can't wait to have them back in Seattle in a few months.

After a few hours at home we headed back to the church for a concert by all the choirs from the church. Music is a huge part of the culture here, so this one church has 5 different choirs. Some of them just sing, while some play drums and other instruments. Some of them play and sing more modern music, while some only perform the traditional music of the Gogo people. The music was so amazing, something I will never forget.  It was truly a worshipful experience to hear their music. I captured a lot of it on video, in hopes of never forgetting.

In the middle of the last group performing, something crazy took place. There is another girl named Nicole living with Brian and Nicole for a little while until she gets her VISA to re-enter Zimbabwe, where she has been living. She woke up feeling awful yesterday, so had been at home sleeping. She wanted to see the music so she came a little late to the concert, but got up to leave because she wasn't feeling well. When she got outside she started getting dizzy and then passed out. Within seconds the concert had stopped and the crowd had rushed out to see if she was okay. Eventually we took her to the hospital where she got an IV and was tested for Malaria. Fortunately she tested negative and was able to come home and not stay in the hospital overnight. By the time we all got home, we were exhausted and went right to bed. While the evening didn't quite end the way we planned, all-in-all it was a great day with great food, great music, and great friends.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yesterday was probably that best day we've had here in Chamwino. We started out with breakfast at Pastor Numbella's house. He was the man who translated my sermon, and has been very kind to us on our trip, so it was great to see his home and meet some of his kids and his wife. They have 10 kids; 8 boys and 2 girls. I am continually amazed at the generosity of the people here, as many of them have very little money but provide a feast for their guests. I am truly humbled.

After breakfast we went to the primary school for a short time to see how the schools operate. The classroom we visited, Mwalimu (teacher) Nora's class, had about 75 students in one room, all sitting on a concrete floor, with one teacher. A little different from America. The students sang for us and asked us questions about ourselves and America.

We then went back to Brian and Nicole's house for lunch. On the way, Brian and Nasson stopped by the hospital to pay the bill for Nicole's time there, her IVs, and the medicine they gave her. Altogether that came out to 7,500 shillings, which is less than $7 in USD. Unreal how inexpensive it was, or how expensive our medical care is in the States.

At 4pm we were scheduled to hear one more music group at the church, a traditional Gogo group with full Gogo attire and traditional instruments like a Gogo guitar, a zeze (violin-ish), and a marimba. Before the concert, Mandy had a short music lesson with Nasson. He is very talented at music, but has no formal training and cannot read music. If he could, he would be able to teach his choir many more songs than he can now. The concert was AMAZING! Their song and dance was spectacular. Afterwards, Mandy and I sang a few songs for them, which they really appreciated. Then, we spontaneously began dancing with the musicians as they continued to play and sing and dance more informally. It was so fun to try to keep up with the dancers. They kept changing their styles so we would get to try dancing to each style they use. So fun.

Last night we had a really special dinner at Pastor Daniel's house, with all the elders from the church. They presented us with some gifts, shared some beautiful words of thankfulness for us visiting, and invited us to share words with them. It was a very special time, a night I will never forget. I will definitely miss the people here when we leave today. I will especially miss Nasson. He has been so kind to us and has a fun, infectious personality. He has taken time away from his other responsibilities to be with us all week, and its hasn't gone unnoticed. Thank you for everything, my friend. We are leaving for Arusha later today, the start of our safari. We will stay in Morogoro tonight, Arusha tomorrow night, and start our safari on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Another Quote from Walter

I know I have been writing a lot about nonviolent resistance over the past few weeks, but I refuse to apologize. This is such a necessary conversation for the church and our world, and I thank God for people like Walter Wink (among others) who are calling attention to the abusive, oppressive, violent cycle in which we often operate. The latest chapter I have read in Wink's book, The Powers That Be, ends with this bold declaration, which I agree with wholeheartedly:
I have come to see that what the church needs most desperately is precisely such a clear-cut, unambiguous position. Governments will still wrestle with the option of war, and ethicists can perhaps assist them with their decisions. But the church's own witness should be understandable by the smallest child: we oppose violence in all its forms...We can affirm nonviolence without reservation because nonviolence is the way God's domination-free order is coming.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How Not To Read the Bible

I've taken about a 3 year hiatus from the Bible...and I think that's fine. I needed some time away from religion (not Jesus) for a little while, so I could come back with fresh eyes and a healthier perspective. It seems that the time of exile is coming to an end, however, so Mandy and I have taken up the practice of daily Bible reading once again during this season of Lent. We have not been religiously dutiful in our goal of reading each day, but I think that is alright. The last thing I would want is for the reading of scripture to once again become a tedious chore that I could check off my daily to-do list (like it once was). I could say more about my goals as I come back to the biblical text (and I probably will in a future post), but I'm not going to do that now. For now, I will simply leave you with some words from the incredible author Donald Miller. He blogged these thoughts today. Enjoy.

How Not To Read The Bible
I almost made a mistake the other day of opening the Bible with an agenda. I’d had an idea about a certain “Biblical principal” and I wanted to check a text to see if I was right. Then I realized that’s a slippery slope. There’s not a lot you can’t use the Bible to support. And besides that, if the Bible is designed to be a constitution, it’s horribly organized. I had to put myself in check.
This isn’t an easy thing to do. If you go to the Bible without a preconceived grid through which you interpret it’s meaning, you may in fact find out that your pre-conceived grid isn’t as concrete as you thought, and you may then have to admit that you’re wrong. I wonder if our grids aren’t so solid for this reason, rather than as supposed guardrails to keep us from straying from the truth.
I’ve a friend who reads the Bible not to look for right ideas but to look for something to do. Literally, he opens the Bible, and reads till he sees something that he can take action on, whether it’s loving as friend or confronting a bad guy or bringing some food to somebody who is hungry. He said he got tired of always parsing ideas and wanted some action. He’s one of the most exciting people I know.

If I were the devil, and I’m hoping I’m not, I’d just try to get people to use the Bible to argue about ideas rather than do anything.

HT: Donald Miller

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Not Becoming What We Hate

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Walter Wink uses this quote in The Powers That Be to emphasize the importance of doing our own spiritual work before engaging in non-violent action. He argues that we must learn to battle evil without evil making us over into its likeness. It does no good for us to try to oppose violence and injustice if we are not acting out in ways of peace and justice. Our medium must match our message. No wonder Jesus constantly cautions us to not return evil for evil, because in our tit-for-tat world of redemptive violence and revenge, it is incredibly difficult to stand up against the evils of our world without succumbing to their temptations.

Another idea that must be explored in this conversation is that in the midst of battle, it is easy to lose track of who is the enemy. We, in the church, can so easily get sidetracked in our battle with evil, picking fights with our own team members. Instead of working together toward a more healthy, peaceful world, we get distracted by denominational differences in theology and practice, and we fail to actually be good news to the world. I need to learn how to recognize my enemies, the systemic ways that evil pervades the world. The Apostle Paul is clear that we have enemies, the powers and principalities of this world, but I pray I will learn to know the difference between my brothers and sisters, my allies in the fight, and that which opposes the good news of God going forth in the world.

"You always become the thing you fight the most."
-Carl Jung

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Infamous Quotes from our Africa Trip

One thing I try to do when we travel is to keep track of the funny, random quotes that come out of people's mouths. Every trip involves plenty of one-liners that are fun to look back on years later. Our trip to Africa was no different. The following is a brief list of some of the crazy things that were said during our time in Tanzania, most of which had us doubled-over in laughter. I realize that some of these may not be funny to anyone who was not there, but it's my blog, so I'll share whatever I want to share!
  1. "Hello Snickers. Welcome to my mouth." - our friend Nasson said this just prior to eating his first Snickers ever
  2. "I've basically been wearing pajamas for 8 months." - Nicole said this about assuming she would be out of fashion when returning to America
  3. "You just threw a watermelon at me." - Mandy, when I threw a tiny little watermelon the size of a walnut at her
  4. "I have private parts." - Brian (I can't remember the context here, but funny nonetheless)
  5. "Shut up! If Mohammad were alive, he would tell you to 'shut the hell up, I'm trying to sleep.'" - I said this on the 3rd straight morning that the Islamic prayer service was blaring over loudspeakers all over town at 4am in the morning (not my finest moment of cultural and religious tolerance!)
  6. "I told you he had blue balls." - Nicole, about the Velvet Monkey (aka the Blue-Ball Monkey for apparent reasons)
  7. "Boo! Where's the giraffe porn?" - I said this when the girl giraffe rejected the guy giraffe's advances for the 2nd time

Friday, March 18, 2011

God's Non-Violent Revolutionary

I recently came across some helpful thoughts from Marcus Borg on the non-violent, revolutionary nature of Jesus' ministry. Borg has been an important voice in my life over the last couple years, and while I don't always agree with everything he writes, his thoughts always invite me into further exploration of my own life and the life of Christ. His book The Heart of Christianity was quite good. This was his latest blog post:

Was Jesus a social revolutionary? In the ordinary sense in which we use the phrase “social revolutionary,” yes. Like the Jewish prophets before him, he was passionate about economic justice and peace, and advocated active non-violent resistance to the domination system of his time. He was a voice of peasant social protest against the economic inequity and violence of the imperial domination system, mediated in the Jewish homeland by client rulers of the Roman Empire – in Galilee, Herod Antipas, and in Judea and Jerusalem, the temple authorities. He spoke of God’s kingdom on earth, as the Lord’s Prayer puts it: Your kingdom come on earth, as it already is in heaven. Heaven is not the problem – earth is.

But he was not a secular social revolutionary. He was God’s revolutionary. And God’s passion – what God is passionate about, according to Jesus – is for an earth in which swords are beaten into plowshares, in which nations do not make war against nations anymore, in which every family shall live under their own vine and fig tree (not just subsistence, but more than subsistence), and no one shall make the afraid (Micah 4.1-4, with close parallel in Isaiah 2.1-4). This was the passion of Jesus, and for Christians, Jesus is the revelation of God’s passion.

Violent revolution? No. Non-violent revolution? Yes.

Of course, Jesus and the Bible are also personal as well as political. Of course. But we have not often seen the political meaning of Jesus and the Bible. It is there – and once one sees it, it is so obvious. Not to see it is the product of habituated patterns of thought, or of willful blindness.

Jesus was (and is) not about endorsing the rule of domination systems that privilege the wealthy and powerful. Jesus was (and is) about God’s passion for a very different kind of world.

HT:  Marcus Borg

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rob Bell Interview

I just finished watching Rob Bell's recent interview about his new book, Love Wins. I didn't get a chance to watch this live since I was in class, but it was great to watch. It is a little long, so you may wish to skip through some of it, but I thought I would post the video for you to enjoy. I can't wait to read this new book, which should be arriving at my door sometime in the next few days.

lovewins on Broadcast Live Free

Living in a Multi-Cultural World

Today in my class (Developing Intercultural Competency) we had four guests join us to talk about their lives and ministries. Three of the guests were people of color, the fourth was a young, white woman, and all four are working in intercultural jobs. It was fascinating to hear their stories and words of wisdom about how to navigate the racial, ethnic, and cultural differences we each butt up against every day. As the class session ended, our profession invited them to each share a few words of advice for how we might live into these differences well. Their words were very helpful, so I thought I would share them with you. Hear all of these thoughts within a multi-cultural context. Here are their responses:
  1. Immerse yourself in uncomfortable learning communities
  2. Don't do anything out of guilt
  3. Become a part of a community (let your neighborhood teach you)
  4. Ask "How can I be sustainable in this community?"
  5. Be okay with who you are
  6. Be bold in what you can offer that community
  7. Be comfortable with chaos
  8. Create liminal space for conversation and learning to happen
  9. Be proactive in learning about other cultures

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jesus' Third Way

I am currently reading Walter Wink's book The Powers That Be, and loving it. Wink is brilliant, creative, and prophetic in the way he calls the Christian community to lives that mirror the non-violent resistance of Jesus. We can so easily react to oppression and evil in our own lives and the world with either passivity or violence, but Jesus calls for neither. He instead asks for us to be innovative in our response, ushering a new, alternative reality into the world (what we might call the Kingdom of God). This quote from Wink basically summarizes the book so far:

"Jesus, in short, abhors both passivity and violence. He articulates, out of the history of his own people's struggles, a way by which evil can be opposed without being mirrored, the oppressor resisted without being emulated, and the enemy neutralized without being destroyed."

The whole chapter that this quote comes from is astounding. Wink exegetes brilliantly the words from Jesus (in the Sermon on the Mount) where he asks people to turn the other cheek, give their cloak as well as their coat, and go the second mile (Matt. 5:38-41). Absolutely amazing information. I couldn't recommend this book more.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How To Get Young People In Church

This blog post contains an amazing list of theoretical, practical, common-sense ideas about how a church might attract a younger generation. Well done.

Here is a step-by-step plan for how to get more young people into the church:
1. Be genuine. Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip. If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven, by God be proud of it.
2. Stop pretending you have a rock band.
3. Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else. Seriously. Stop it.
4. Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.
5. Stop looking for the "objective truth" in Scripture.
6. Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.
7. Actually read the Scriptures. If you are Episcopalian, go buy a Bible and read it. Start in Genesis, it's pretty cool. You can skip some of the other boring parts in the Bible. Remember though that almost every book of the Bible has some really funky stuff in it. Remember to keep #5 and #6 in mind though. If you are evangelical, you may need to stop reading the Bible for about 10 years. Don't worry: during those 10 years you can work on putting these other steps into practice.
8. Start worrying about extreme poverty, violence against women, racism, consumerism, and the rate at which children are dying worldwide of preventable, treatable diseases. Put all the energy you formerly spent worrying about the legit-ness of gay people into figuring out ways to do some good in these areas.
9. Do not shy away from lighting candles, silence, incense, laughter, really good food, and extraordinary music. By "extraordinary music" I mean genuine music. Soulful music. Well-written, well-composed music. Original music. Four-part harmony music. Funky retro organ music. Hymns. Taize chants. Bluegrass. Steel guitar. Humming. Gospel. We are the church; we have an uber-rich history of amazing music. Remember this.
10. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
11. Learn how to sit with people who are dying.
12. Feast as much as possible. Cardboard communion wafers are a feast in symbol only. Humans can not live on symbols alone. Remember this.
13. Notice visitors, smile genuinely at them, include them in conversations, but do not overwhelm them.
14. Be vulnerable.
15. Stop worrying about getting young people into the church. Stop worrying about marketing strategies. Take a deep breath. If there is a God, that God isn't going to die even if there are no more Christians at all.
16. Figure out who is suffering in your community. Go be with them.
17. Remind yourself that you don't have to take God to anyone. God is already with everyone. So, rather than taking the approach that you need to take the truth out to people who need it, adopt the approach that you need to go find the truth that others have and you are missing. Go be evangelized.
18. Put some time and care and energy into creating a beautiful space for worship and being-together. But shy away from building campaigns, parking lot expansions, and what-have-you.
19. Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7. Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.
20. Listen to God (to Wisdom, to Love) more than you speak your opinions.
This is a fool-proof plan. If you do it, I guarantee that you will attract young people to your church. And lots of other kinds of people too. The end.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Day in Dodoma

Yesterday we spent the day in Dodoma. Dodoma is a pretty big city about 25 miles from Chamwino. After getting ready for the day and eating some ugi (porridge) for breakfast, we headed out to catch the dala dala to Dodoma. The dala dala is basically an old, crappy van which seats about 10-12 people. The only catch is that they usually shove about 20 people in. Each seat is cramped, in and of itself, but gets way worse once you throw in twice as many people as your should.

Our first stop in Dodoma was an ice cream shop called Alladin's. It was really fun to get an American treat after days of eating rice and beans. We then spent time walking through their open-air markets. After running a few errands that Brian and Nicole had, we went to a restaurant called Wimpies to have lunch. I ordered a "beef burger," but what came was far different than a hamburger. It had a hamburger patty and some of the fixings of an American burger, but was smothered in a strange, bright pink sauce. It wasn't exactly my cup of tea, so I ate about half of it, finished my chipsi, and called it a meal.

When we got back to Chamwino we got to be a part of a cool experience. Nicole's dad is a 4th grade teacher in Colorado, so once a week his class will Skype with a class here in Chamwino, and that happened last night. The kids loved asking each other questions and singing songs for each other. The American kids have been learning a few Swahili words and the Tanzanian kids love getting to practice their English. What a great cross-cultural experience!

Last night's dinner and conversation was interesting because it happened in the dark. We lose power here pretty often, and last night was one of those times. We cooked spaghetti over a propane stove and ate by the dim light of a kerosene lantern. It was actually fun, though,  and reminded me of all the luxuries we have in America that we probably don't really need.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Experiencing the Village Life

The last 2 days were great! Sunday was amazing. We woke up early and went to church where they placed us up front to sit in the seats of honor. I preached my sermon, with Pastor Numbella as my translator, which seemed to be well-received by everyone.

After church we had lunch at Nasson's house. Nasson is one of Brian and Nicole's best friends and biggest helpers here, and is an amazing man. He does incredible things for Chamwino and the church. His wife, Mama Jenny, made some incredible food for us, the best we've had thus far. Mama Jenny's actual name is Julia, but all the woman here are named according to their first born. Julia's firstborn is Jenny, so everyone knows her as Mama Jenny.

That night we came back to the church to have Sunday school with the kids. It was so fun to sing and dance with the kids, the watoto. I would guess that about 30-40 kids came out to Sunday school, and they are all so excited to learn the Bible, learn English, and sing together.

Yesterday we had breakfast with Rahema (Mama Pendo) and her husband. They made us a feast of lots of different breads and tea. They made us chipote, which is a flat pancake that you put sugar on. Their house and yard were awesome. The house was really well built and clean, their yard was taken care of well, and their crops were health, which is pretty rare. They have built irrigation to most of their crops, including their pomegranate tree.

After breakfast we walked around the market to see where Brian and Nicole do their shopping. We bought a bunch of fruits and veggies. Next we went and met with the chairman of the village, Joseph Segange. He functions like a mayor does in America, but is much more connected to his people on a personal level. He speaks no English, so Nasson, Brian, and Nicole had to interpret, but he was very nice. He told us all about the history of Chamwino and showed us the memorial and museum for the first president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere.

After our time with the chairman it was time for lunch. We went to this place to get chipsi (fries) and meat shish-kabobs. It was such a treat to have that meal. After an afternoon resting at Brian and Nicole's house we ended the night with dinner at Mama Baraka's house. Her house does not have electricity so we basically ate in the dark, with only the light from one, small kerosene lantern. It was a pretty fun experience.