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.