Saturday, October 31, 2009

Miles and Years...Slowly

So I'm experiencing something interesting that I don't think I've consciously noticed before. It's hard to say it without sounding snobbishly nerdy, so I'll just say it. After reading Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov" and then Caputo's "Weakness of God", reading a Donald Miller book is like eating Peanut Butter and Jelly after eating Steak for a few months.

But it's not. There is quite a bit of substance here, but because my brain can grasp the words he's saying the first time through, the temptation is to read the book. I have to purposefully only let myself read a few chapters a day, and I want to simmer in his thoughts.

If you don't know, the book is about a man who has written a memoir. He was approached about making that memoir into a movie, but the movie-people need to create a more compelling "story" that captures many of the same elements. They want the movie to be not simply a life, but an entertaining movie also. This makes him (obviously) more than a bit introspective about life, spirituality, entertainment, and the intrinsic value of a human daily existence.

I think the temptation for many of us would be "well, not my life. Tell you what, if they made a movie of my life, not much editing/creative license would need to happen. It's dang compelling." Why is that? Our lives are compelling to us, because they are OUR lives, and we're pretty self-concerned people on the whole.

But here I am, a few chapters in, and no one is making or offering to make a movie out of my life. So here I am, reading a book about people making a movie about a book about another man's life. I'm okay with that.

I guess a big part of life is realizing not that our lives are not compelling, but rather gaining an appreciation of why they are Truly compelling...and yet still probably horrible movie fodder.

Friday, October 30, 2009

a peek inside our youth ministry..

So we've settled into a monthly rotation. Not that it's guaranteed to happen every month, and it's probably subject to change without notice, based on events in our community, holidays, needs, etc. But with all those things in mind:

Sunday morning - Sunday School. Pretty obvious stuff here. Looking at scriptures together, usually what the quizzers are studying, to really dive in deep.

Sunday evening - Supper Club. Our experiment in socialism. Everyone brings whatever they can to the table, and everyone eats. Boom. Fellowship and prayer and family.

Wednesday evenings - Each month:

Week One - Gym Night. Some trivia, some sort of mind game or puzzle, followed by either some sort of semi-athletic or goofy game that takes advantage of the gym space we have available.

Week Two - Video Lesson. Using "Bluefish" lately, just finished their series on "God". Nothing is 100%, but when you sift through their stuff, and rewrite it for your group, it can provide pretty solid stuff. Some group discussion and Bible study surrounding the lesson.

Week Three - Small Groups. Generally keeping the focus from the previous week, but getting deeper in discussion and in God's word. Allows for more intimate sharing with prayer requests, etc.

Week Four - Experiments in Prayer. Silence. Intensely focused discussion. Guided prayer. Space. Communion. Experiences that bring prayer and God's presence beyond the prayers we throw out before and after meals and special occasions. Allowing God's Spirit to have it's way in time and space we set aside in new ways each month.

Week Five - Well, there aren't many of these. So we'll see where God takes us. :)

Add on all the random events, and relationships that make a community of youth people within a larger community seeking God together...and you've got yourself a youth ministry. :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Five Iron Frenzy - the DVD?

Growing up, there were a few bands that would get me literally "giddy" with excitement. Their energy, and ability to create an experience that was much more than a concert or an album was uncanny. They possessed raw talent, and entertained well beyond the usual one genre most were getting in their day. Christian, secular, ska, rock, swing, jazz, punk, opera.....hehe...these guys were incredible.

And then they were no longer.

Sure, Roper (who didn't sign autographs, but totally gave me a piece of gum at a show, that I kept on my shelf throughout high school) went on to do multiple projects, and is still kickin' it from what I hear. But FIF was no more. All has been silent.

Until now.

FIVE IRON FRENZY - THE DVD!!!


Yup, be very....very...excited. And tell your pets it'll all be okay.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

the Bible: God-Breathed and Messily Human

Relevant Magazine had a pretty decent article online recently, about how we approach the parts of the Bible that don't seem to match up. Normally, when you hear this issue discussed, it's either an Atheist throwing everything out the window, or a very conservative believer defending against such heresy.

We cannot deny that there are portions and verses in scripture that don't seem to make sense, in the light of history or in the light of each other. So how do we respond? Is all scripture God-breathed (yes), or is all scripture assembled/remembered/written by humans (yes)? Can we trust the word of God as a resource for Truth, even if we can't always trust it as a source of truth?

Or should we just assume it all makes sense to God, and the reason some things seem to not make sense is some larger message that will all fit together when God finishes all that He is working towards? After all, who are we humans to try and understand all of the divine this Book contains?

Is there a way to study the truths found in scripture, and the Truths found in scripture, and still faithfully proclaim the message about Jesus Christ and God's Kingdom found throughout? YES!!!!

Barna's new study shows that our current approaches to Scriptures are not doing a whole lot of good in view of how they are being related to by the next generations. We need to be Christians who are knowledgeable, not only on the blunt facts and histories and obvious Truths found in scriptures....but also believers who are wrestling and honest with the truths and more difficult Truths found throughout. This is a word meant to be active and alive, becoming flesh through us as we're transformed by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

God is calling us to proclaim the Truths of His Word so much more than the truths found in scriptures, yet they needn't be considered separately. We can honestly say "I'm not sure", and may God's Spirit guide us to a better understanding and living out of the Word He has breathed, and brings to life each day.

Granted, Barna has his own notions I'm sure influence how such stats are reported....choosing home cells over a congregation any day. But may we be a Church that lives out a hunger for scripture as something that is Sacred, Accurate in the Truth it proclaims, Jesus-centered, God-breathed, and engaging the world around us....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Holiness in Postmodernity

It's been a while since I last posted a review of a chapter from "The Holiness Manifesto", but I've finally finished Caputo's book (amazingly provoking), and figured it would pass the time until Donald Miller's newest book arrives in my mailbox.

Chapter 7 is entitled "Holiness and the Five Calls of God: Holiness in Postmodernity" by Howard Snyder, another ridiculously educated and intelligent author employed by an educational body. This chapter begins a new section of the book, which focuses on "Holiness in Ministry". The title of this chapter turned me away a bit, simply because I'm a bit weary of authors who are still writing about how "postmodernity" is changing things. But I suppose there are some out there still being impacted by the first wave of postmodern concepts, while most of us are riding some sort of "post-post-post-modern" wave, thanks in large part to the internet.

He talks about 5 concentric circles, starting with the outer ring, and moving towards the center. Starting with the outer circle as he sees them, they are calls to:

1. Earth Stewardship (not just tree huggers)
2. Covenant Peoplehood (community)
3. God's Reign (Kingdom citizens)
4. Specific Ministry (for every believer)
5. Holiness (which he mentions could also be the outer circle)

I do like that here we have a discussion on Holiness that involves both how we relate to creation, others, systems of the world, and ourselves in response to God's Spirit within us. To end with a quote from Snyder:

"Thus holiness is community - koinonia with God and with one another in a new kind of fellowship, the church, which simultaneously lives in two worlds - the one we now see visibly around us, and the one which is to come and which in fact is constantly, invisibly, penetratingly around us right now."

Monday, October 26, 2009

from the retreat....

"God's message for me was "to be new" each day"

"I loved that I could get away. God is simply wanting me to get away from daily routine"
"God has done lots in me this weekend....gave me a big boost in my spiritual life."

"God gave me a total reality check...I remember sitting on the dock, and on the trails....I've learned to laugh at the past, live in the present, and love the future."
"I heard God when we did our silent prayer time...it got me thinking."

"God talked to me more like a giant hug""..amazing. I learned how to pray by myself. (God) showed me that I was new. I love God."

Friday, October 23, 2009

retreat.

As I'm preparing to leave on a weekend "Fall Retreat" with our youth group, the news is filled with drama from another "Spiritual Retreat" that happened in Arizona last week. You've most likely seen it on the news, but in case you haven't - here's a brief synopsis:

James Arthur Ray, famous author and spiritual motivational speaker, was leading over 50 people on what he calls a "Spiritual Warrior" retreat. It's a 5-day retreat, costing "Only $9,695 Per Person", where:

"You'll become privy to techniques (many kept secret for dozens of generations) that I searched out in the mountains of Peru, the jungles of the Amazon (and a few other places I don't care to recall)."

People were crammed inhumanely into a sweat lodge, many had to be hospitalized, and 3 died from the experience. I've done a sweat lodge once, as a teenager at a YMCA camp. They aren't typically things you die from.

Just in case it's easily misinterpreted...let it be known that this retreat, and James Arthur Ray's efforts as a whole, are NOT Christian in their nature. Read this article from Christianity Today back in 2007 to hear a few nice reasons why.

But the whole event exposes something quite important. It's unfortunate that anyone was injured, and horrible that people actually died under such negligence and bad leadership. But it brings into the spotlight the simple fact: These Retreats Exist.

Seriously? Paying $10,000 for 5 days in Arizona, in hopes to become rich/successful/powerful? There is an illness here that goes far beyond something that can be purged in a sweat lodge. The illness of being human. Of desiring something "other". The innocent trust that if someone offers you an "otherly" experience, we are so desperate sometimes that we will make great sacrifices to try and force such an event.

As I said, we're leaving on a retreat where teens paid $60 each (if they could afford it, if not they simply come). Every person gets a t-shirt and food/lodging for the weekend. We'll do some stuff together that will help build relationships and we'll spend some time purposefully being silent in the presence of God and His creation. No promises that this will make anyone who comes more successful. But I promise if offers to be a transformational retreat, not because we force it to be, and not because we've discovered some ancient secret, but simply because it's the nature of the Spirit who meets us there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

re-emphasizing the prophetic

I read an interesting line of thought in a book this morning. The author was talking about how much we emphasize the "sacrificial" elements in the event of Christ on the cross. He mentioned that there is something to gain from re-emphasizing the early church's understanding of this event not so much as sacrificial (a whopping blow to an economy of something being "owed" to begin making things right with God), but as a prophetic occurrence.

As we move away from an economy, things don't have to make quite as much sense. Not that they make a lot of sense to begin with, even though it usually takes a teenager to point it out. God forced his son to die a horrible death in order that some sort of economy of salvation was paid so that we wouldn't have to die ourselves? What kind of all powerful God is subject to such a cosmic equation?

Instead, it becomes a prophetic event. Jesus Christ, in his entire life, and death, AND resurrection was living prophetically a new way made possible by the Holy Spirit. He was living it so completely that the powers of this world, and the structures and economies that were threatened - decided to kill him. How does Jesus Christ respond to that? He dies. His living prophetically moves right into dying prophetically which leads to the Holy Spirit accomplishing in Jesus Christ something beautiful that has been promised to each of us as well....a resurrection. A new way of living....a new way of dying....and a new way of being resurrected. All found through the Spirit in Jesus Christ, and offered to each of us...

May we recognize, and be transformed by the prophetic good news Jesus Christ brings to our lives yesterday, tomorrow, and TODAY....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Andy and the Bridge

You've probably heard of Andy Stanley. You may have heard many of his inspiring talks, or read one of his many books on church, leadership, and following Christ. They remind us of all the great things Jesus challenges us to do. Feed the hungry. Give to the poor. Care for the sick. Lead humbly, and serve sacrificially.

Which is why his newest move as a Pastor is confusing so many...or at least...me. Even after reading his explanation and call for his own people to contribute financially. I don't get it.

The issue? Traffic around his church is bad. Like....having to wait 20 minutes in the parking lot because of the jams after church bad. So how are they calling their people to respond? Staggering service times? After service small groups that meet for short times of prayer? Other creative ways of lowering traffic levels? Nope.

Building a bridge that connects their area to better traffic of course. How much are they asking their church to help raise??

$5 Million.

Seriously. Not even sure adding words that would seem obvious to many of us here are worth it. 5 Million Dollars to build a bridge so congested post-church service traffic will flow better. Could it be that there are many other useful things in that area that the public would be HUGELY benefited by this new bridge to help them reach other destinations? Nope.

This could be a silly thing to get riled up about. I'm sure large churches spend ridiculous amounts of money all the time on "necessities" like man made ponds with fountains, etc. etc. So what's wrong with a 5 Million Dollar bridge? Isn't it just like building a giant parking lot that serves even more purpose?

I think it's the fact that he's actually presenting it as being "missional". As if, when Jesus gave His disciples the Mission of the Church, doing something like this was on his mind. Tell them it's about traffic. Tell them it'll help the flow of cars. Get the richest people to donate. But c'mon Andy, to plead with your congregation that Jesus desires you to build this bridge in order to fulfill the mission of your church???? Really????

I'm sure it took them a long time to decide this, and with the amount of press it's getting they're going to continue to have to respond to people questioning and wondering. Stanley says it's all part of "getting to most use of a building we're already using", etc. I guess I'm glad I don't have to make decisions like that on such a grand scale. Then again, we just spend a couple grand from a grant on some new chairs for the youth room. Same disease?

I don't think so. Mainly cause I'd be honest. The chairs are for sitting. Their for the comfort of butts. The mission of the church is not about the comfort of our rears. But it's nice to have decent chairs....and I'm sure there will be some impact on overall atmosphere.

"Glee" Syndrome

Maybe you've not heard of it, but the new TV show "Glee" is becoming mildly popular at worst, and has a cult following at best. It's on Wednesday nights, but thanks to our friends at Hulu, I've been able to catch an episode. It's a comedy/musical/show that looks at life within the fickle hierarchy of high school life, both from the student and faculty perspectives. The show shouts loudly "FREEDOM!!!" where teenagers feel imprisoned to perform their roles.

What's humorously ironic, however, is how popular the show has become even among some actual high school students. This fact in and of itself reveals how easily we can detach ourselves from what we should be engaging in, and how consumerist even our entertainment is these days.

Example: "Teenager A" is one of the popular/unpopular kids at school. They watch Glee one night, and the show makes fun of the whole division between popular/unpopular and reveals the human worth behind both sectors, leveling the playing field quite well. They hear the call "FREEDOM!!!!" and their mouth waters. Teenager A returns to school the next day and picks up right where they left off, relating to Teenager B through the lens of a high school caste system.

Ironic as it is, I think it also presents a snapshot of an issue we face in the church. Consumerism. Approaching the church merely as something here to entertain me, inspire me, challenge me, and give me something to do....even towards God, allows it to remain about me. It's very easy to approach a Sunday morning service, hear the shouts of "FREEDOM!!!!" take it in the same way we'd take in a tv show, and return to our lives of serving the systems and patterns we find ourselves in. The same systems Jesus Christ proclaimed our FREEDOM! from.

May we live as people who are engaged with the things we experience....whether it be a TV show that offers insight/reminders about life....or a Spirit-filled Sunday morning before the throne...

Monday, October 19, 2009

a neglected "Good."

I've got to confess, I've made an error. Probably on more than one occasion. I've summarily gone against God in what seems to be minor, but could also be a fairly grand mistake on my part. When telling the story of Genesis, we breeze past God creating, etc...and pronouncing His "Good, Good, Very Good" over all things. Then we bring up the fact that we humans "messed it all up" by allowing sin to enter the world, and that God has been moving towards bringing things right-side up again.

Sound about right?

Only, from there it's very easy to go down the dispensationalist avenue. God will return someday, dump this whole creation in a metal bin and burn it. Of course, even along some healthier bits of theology, we see thoughts of creation needing to be healed...which can easily lead to overlooking something very important and hope-filled...

We are living in a creation that God has pronounced His "Good, Good, Very Good" over. It is a "Good" that God has spoken/proclaimed. One that couldn't possibly be annulled/destroyed/skewed by our choices. Sure, much has happened....things that have motivated God to work towards healing and bringing His justice, and making all things new.

The "Good, Good, Very Good" has become covered over, muffled by all the talk and noise we've filled the world with. But it's still there, underneath it all. God chose a people, Israel, and attempted to help the world listen to his "Good" once again. He continued to proclaim His "Good" through Jesus Christ, and has sent us His Spirit so that we can be part of His work, amplifying his "Good" to the world, and clearing away the noises that have somehow gained sound over time.

May we live this week as people who hear and proclaim God's "Good, Good, Very Good..." to the creation around us....

Friday, October 16, 2009

Success and Community

Yesterday morning, community leaders gathered together for a breakfast with a purpose. Sure, many of them probably came simply because it was sort of a "who's who" for Decatur, and to eat scrambled eggs with the cities finest, and finest schmoozers. Truthfully, you don't have to be a great leader to go, you just have to be involved in representing a business of some sort, and/or just willing to pay the $16 to eat among them. But I'm sure there were some there who genuinely desire to lead well. :)

The main speaker was Salome Thomas-El, principal from the Philadelphia area. He had a rough time growing up, and understands what many students are going through. His story sounds compelling, and I really like what he's doing/living out....even if it is becoming a Disney movie. Side note: Why Disney? Why? Why not just let something good be something good, and not have to capitalize on it? Or perhaps...does good become better when Disney is allowed to amplify its' message to the world? Hmm.

In any case, while many are struggling to leave inner city jobs, and make enough to support their families in locations that are "safer, more updated, nicer, etc..." whatever. Salome Thomas-El decided to stay with the inner city, and encourages others to do the same. As a father and husband (he is too), I gotta admit, that's be a hard message to swallow. So much contained in the words "inner city" are things I want to protect my children and family from. Yet, it's the call to the church as well.

One thing he spoke of, I think is a very popular sentiment, no matter where you live it seems. From the article above: "Success is a rejection of their background (and community)." How often do you hear young people talk about success and "leaving this place" as if they go hand in hand? How many of us feel more successful than those who "still live back there"? I admit, it's an illness that I find in myself sometimes.

Not that moving away, pursuing a dream elsewhere, etc...are bad things. But what about promoting a success that finds itself at home in a long term sense of community? How about raising students and relating to them in a way that helps them envision themselves as part of something worth staying a part of/coming back to?

May we be a people who view success differently than the world...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Youth Directory - For Free!!!

Hey all..I know I have one or two youth workers who stumble on my blog. For you special few, I'm posting about a helpful tool I've found. I may be completely out of touch, and you may laugh that I don't use _______ instead because it's so completely easy and free. But in case, like me, you found yourself wondering how to compile a youth directory easily and free....here ya' go:

I used GEFC Directory 2.1, which is a free shareware program. They do offer the ability to pay and subscribe to having them host/save your address/database online. But you can still use their software without paying for any of those services, simply by clicking "Register Later" when using the program.

You simply upload pictures of your teens into a file, and remember where it is. You'll want to crop them to a square around the face, it shows up best. Then you add each person's information as a separate set of data, like any student database you may have used before. It allows you to select your photo for each student/leader, and set up a profile for your booklet (front page/back page inside and out designs). Then you print, and make copies!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

parent - ing

Addison turned 3 years old this past August. Sophie is going to turn 2 in February. Ruby is just over 4 months old. Whew.

Addie has a free spirit, or at least, she advertises something like that. In actuality, she's very cautious and takes things a step at a time. Often she'll want mommy or daddy near, not to do it for her, but simply to give her assurance that she can do it. She loves loves loves to dance. I know dance "classes" exist for girls her age, but I don't think I want dancing to become a class just yet. She's a professional dancer already, and if she takes a class, she may realize she's a beginner. She's a princess, except for the moments where she's a mommy to her younger sisters. She'll tell you she's not hungry during this meal, and eat for two at the next one. Her smile can light up a room, or daddy's face at 6am when he sometimes needs a reminder that he's a morning person. I love her.

Sophie also advertises that she is very independent. But she totally means it. Independent of any need for clothing. Independent of any desire to work well with or give much thought to gravity. Independent of any drive to hone her skills at anything just yet. She's a do-er. As seen in recent videos, she's not afraid to get into a mess. Perhaps not because the mess does not intimidate her, but because she doesn't see it as a mess. She loves to pop her peas like bubble wrap, and most other foods become toys or history quickly. Sophie loves to run, naked preferably, but as that can't last long, we encourage clothed rampages. Her legs are still getting used to how fast her mind wants them to go, and have taken more bruises than Addie ever did. Silly faces are her specialty, and she knows how to make you smile. I love her.

Ruby cries out in a house already filled with happenings "I'm coming!!!". She can smile and laugh larger than either of the first girls ever did at this age. Only one problem - there's no audio yet. It's coming though. We've had glimpses of it, and they usually lead to a long case of the hiccups, to discourage trying further. Her cries can be heard half a mile away, but her large eyes and giant smile can travel even further into your heart. When given the opportunity, she'll plant her little feet on your lap, and stretch out her legs, as if to prove that balance is the only thing keeping her from standing independently. She sucks her thumb, no pacifier required. Although by sucking her thumb, I also mean she often counts her entire fist as her thumb. When her eyes lock on you, it's impossible to resist. I love her.

Monday, October 12, 2009

forgiving the sinner sinning

As mentioned in my previous post, what Jesus was proclaiming was something radical and upsetting to those Pharisees. He was proclaiming forgiveness as being possible not only for those who are repentant and who have begun to change their ways...he was offering it to those who were still caught up in the midst of their sins and actively sinning.

Did he ask them if they wanted to be forgiven, and then wait until they turned away from their sinful way and asked for forgiveness, and once he was certain they "really really meant it" and were "sorry enough", he knighted them "Forgiven"? Nope. Did he gracefully offer them the "credit" of forgiveness, contingent on payment conditions that they would follow after He left, and commit to coming back to check on them to see these conditions had been met? No.

He offered forgiveness. Free, and full of love and IN THE MIDST OF THEIR SINNING.

What was this forgiveness? As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, it was a transformation of what had happened. The event was not obliterated/erased/annulled, because that would undermine the need and beauty of what happens in forgiveness. The event becomes transformed/redeemed as something that is ("forget it, as if it never happened"), and at the same time ("remember it, so that it doesn't happen again").

How often have we heard "Oh, I want to forgive _____, if only they'd ask for it/turn from their ways." Or even "Oh, I've forgiven _____, I just can't treat them as a human being ever again or allow myself to accept that others do."

When we do forgive someone of a "large" offense, we sometime believe it is our (right/obligation) to hold what they've been forgiven of in front of them. But it is not OUR duty to hold on. It is our duty to release. It is the duty of the one forgiven to hold on to the event that has been released in order to know what exactly the future can be freed from.

Which is all good and fine when we're talking about people cutting you off in traffic. It takes on entirely new dynamics when talking of something much more substantial. But I suppose the larger the offense, the larger the opportunity to communicate the foolishness of how forgiveness works in the Kingdom of God...

(realizing that referring to certain offenses as "large" compared to others only hurts the case of viewing things in a Kingdom light)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation

Yesterday I was driving in the usual "to work" traffic. It was raining and cloudy, which made it just dangerous enough that we were all going a bit slower than normal. I could see behind me, there was one individual who was weaving their way from lane to lane, making small advances in the line of cars. Sure enough, he came up behind me, weaved over, sped up, and weaved back over what seemed like inches from my front bumper.

I confess my initial thoughts toward this person were not loving.

But it set the stage for an easy location for a difficult dialogue on forgiveness to take place.

Would it be possible for me to forgive this person, even without them asking for forgiveness? The nature of the word "forgive" (being a gift, unconditional, full of grace, not part of an "economy", based in love and no other motive but itself) would lean towards it being a perfect example of where the gift of forgiveness can take place.

I can live towards this offensive driver as if they'd never offended me, but at the same time their offense has not been annulled or obliterated, but transformed by the act of forgiveness.

Some might even say, if the driver pulled over and apologized immediately after it happened, I would no longer be able to offer a truly unconditional forgiveness. I would simply be responding to an offer for reconciliation. Which is still very important, and needed in our communities. But it is not the same as forgiveness. Reconciliation takes place in the realm of economy. Of offer and acceptance. Even if sometimes the offers are lopsided, which may require an amount of forgiveness to "level the field".

"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus didn't cause a stir because he came proclaiming that sinners could be forgiven. Even the most devout Jews understood/believed/hoped towards this. Jesus was unpopular among we religious for proclaiming that sinners ARE forgiven already. It is a gift of love. It doesn't come with stipulations for how to earn such forgiveness, but at the same time offers an undeniable call when such forgiveness is realized...for how life can begin anew.

May we live as people who offer true forgiveness wherever possible in our lives. Even/especially in the areas that go much deeper than being cut off on the way to work in the morning. God help us....

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Humor of Peter Damian

There's been a section in the book I'm reading lately (like over the past several months....silly dense books that require way too much time to read but are still ridiculously good so we continue to plow through them) about Peter Damian and some of his writings. Yes, he wrote specifically against the sin of homosexuality and it being found among the religious leaders of their day. But he also branched out from that into over-arching issues. It's amazing to me that a thousand years ago, people were writing and posing such wonderfully complex questions, and many of them are approached by new people today as if they've never been thought of.

Damian did a lot of thinking/writing in the realm of forgiveness. Putting it in the realm of virginity (since most sins can be seen as a loss of "innocence" in whatever area they are in), when one is forgiven, can God go back in time and make something that has happened as if it never happened?

The response is a bit humorous.

There was a large focus in their day (and still today, even if we don't talk about it or give name to it) on this aspect of "being" (ousia). Damian believed that God could do anything that was good (in God's nature), not to be limited by any aspect of ousia (space/time/matter/etc.). That the goodness of God stands outside of being....not bound by it and whatever that all means.

But because "ousia" is something that is brought into existence by God, that means for something to have "being" it must be something good, for that is the nature of God. So if something has previously happened that is not good (i.e. "evil"), that thing that has happened has a sort of "non-being", since it obviously did not come from God, source of all ousia. It doesn't actually have "ousia". Damian's initial response, therefore, would be something like "why would God have to undo something that isn't?".

But Damian would eventually concede in a way that, although focusing on God's superhero omnipotence, still offfers us something helpful in our thinking of God. He would say that because God could have stopped Rome from becoming Rome (before it happened), God still can today. This follows the logic of God being not bound by the realms of time. He talks a bit about the most faithful way of speaking about God is ALWAYS in the present tense. (Gotta love that. If we take away nothing else, to remind ourselves to speak of God always in present tense. Not so much "could do", or "will do", but "is doing". :) ) So even though something evil that has happened lacks "ousia", and doesn't actually "exist" as most things do, God can go back and alter that future just as much as He could have stopped it before it happened.

Which begs the question (by logic, not necessarily because I'm anxious for an answer), that I've not read Damian's response to, "Why not, then?"

Guess I'll have to keep reading....

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Coaching 101

Last week I was involved in some training going on in the Free Methodist Church in the Midwest area. It's something you may have heard of in other business or ministry contexts. It's the art of "Coaching". Based on a book called "Coaching 101", we each began a relationship with a coach a few months ago, who is going to guide us through the process of becoming a coach ourselves.

I have to be honest, I was a bit cynical at first. I think mainly because it sounded very much like the kind of "development" found in my sales experience between managers and salespeople under them who they wanted to develop through discovering their goals, and what it might take to achieve them.

Even when I began reading the book, and at points during the class itself...it sounded like something that rubbed me the wrong way. It felt like we were forcing a system and technique onto something Christ said should be motivated by love - not a desire for "successfully multiplying our discipleship efforts".

I still believe it can be something that's approached in the wrong way, and with the wrong motivations. But the experiences and heart shared throughout the week, and throughout coaching sessions have definitely given new light to the possibilities for God to work through these efforts. It offers something incredibly counter cultural - a conversation environment where a "coach" is purposefully turning it towards the other, and towards the other discovering what the Other is guiding them towards.

It's a great pattern of conversationing to follow: to come along side someone you care about and help them discover what God is doing in their life, simply by taking the time to have someone reflect back/flesh out in words what has been/is/could be happening in their life. To establish what actions can help move in that direction, and accountability to see it through.

But it's also been/being a great reminder for everyday conversations with family, friends, and those who simply need to be talked to in a way that's different from how most people in their day talk with them. Which is such a simple concept, you would think someone who spends a lot of time thinking about Jesus would have made the connection to his conversational relating areas of life. But nope. I'm generally horrible at it. I like to talk, and I like to add my 2 cents to things, finishing people's sentences and taking spotlights.

I pray that I can talk to people I care for differently on a more consistent basis.

Towards the other, and the Other. :)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Pumpkin Painting Personalities

Subtitled: "Why potty training may be more difficult with Sophie."


Friday, October 02, 2009

"today" people

I was reminded yesterday of a very important aspect in who we are as Kingdom people. People who are living in the life we've been set free to live because of what God has been/is doing/will do in Jesus Christ. I will try and summarize it horribly. :)

We are called to forgive, which is, in a sense, letting go of the past. We are called to release from owing anything to us, those who have offended or wronged us in any way. The Spirit of Jesus Christ, who has forgiven us and released us, steps in where this can be difficult for us....giving life to our forgiveness.

We are also called to not worry about tomorrow. "Each day has enough troubles of it's own". The day of the Lord comes "like a thief in the night". Everything we read is about being ready, but not being ready for someday way down the road that we'll try and figure out when exactly it's arriving. We are called to be ready...TODAY.

Which brings us to today. "Give us THIS DAY our daily bread." We pray for God to give us what we need for today. We live, today. As followers of Christ, we are not bound by hurt or revenge from the past, nor are we anxious for the future. We exist in today. God transforms in today. God offers newness today. TODAY is a gift.

When we recognize TODAY as the gift that it is, it allows us to LIVE TODAY differently than the world around us. The world that is begging to be set free from the chains of yesterdays. The world that is curled up in a ball in the corner about what might come tomorrow. We stand in the midst and yell "TODAY!", giving thanks to a God who is making all things new as we yell.

At the same time, we are a people with an amazing history and covenant story between God and His people who have been and are being used to reach all of creation with His good news.

We are also a people with a future, called to live and embody the hope of a tomorrow where God has gone ahead of us. We are to be responsible, and care for what is to come.

But we live TODAY as people with healthy relationships to the past, present, and future....in the context of Jesus Christ. May we breathe slowly today....living within it's rhythms and measures each minute we're given....