Monday, November 13, 2006

Mentally Handi-capped?

Once a month I get paid to watch college sports on TV. That probably sounds fun for many but I'm not the biggest college sports fan (or a fan of watching any sport on TV). What is fun is that while watching these sports I hang out with a 20-year old (not sharing his name) who is mentally handi-capped. I use that term "mentally handi-capped" knowing that he is far from such a description.

In his room, stands a sort of prom picture with a girl and him embracing each other. Of course being the tease that I am, I comment with: "Oooh I saw a picture of you and a girl." In his somewhat contemplative loud voice he responds, "Yeah...that's Sara (not real name). I liked her a lot. She like me lot." I continue, "Oh yeah? Ooooh." And then he throws me into a new world. He responds, "She died earlier this summer." I pause with an internal regret for ever bringing her up. But I decided to keep going in humaness: "Oh. Does that make you sad?" Reponse: "Hmm...yeah, but I liked her a lot. And she liked me a lot. We really liked each other."

There joy together was more important than his sadness for her death. He granted an illumination that I have been to selfish to truly consider. He taught me a little of what it means to love and be human. In his world, death is not all that odd. People die. In our world, we are obsessed with making sure people live as long as our machines can provide life. How would we live with each other if we realized that the people in front of us could die tomorrow or even today? I don't know how to answer this, because my Western influence draws me to label the question morbid and dismiss it. It's not morbid. It's human life. I think we would care for each other with a stronger love if we accepted that we are human; not immortal. Perhaps we would enjoy each other.

Just a thought I have been recently called to ponder: To enjoy each other is to enjoy God.

memorabilia to throw away.

I remember a time when I would pray for God to help me with a decision and try to discern the answer through the feeling I had by the moment I said, "Amen." I write this because this wrong. It is the result of gnostic influence on Protestant churches. Thank God we (the Church) are currently being purged of such teachings. Christian teenagers around the Western world now have a greater opportunity to live life on earth. Thank God for the Incarnation. Thank God for Jesus who prays and leaves the results to the interaction between human free will and our Holy Spirit. Instead of praying for situations to work the way we want, perhaps we should pray for new hearts; for the very Love of God in our being. Perhaps we can pray for the courage to love and be vulnerable to misfortune. May we live in and among Creation and be thankful.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Desktop Confessionals

I used to hate the word "pastor." Even during my first 3 years of undergrad while studying for ministry, I simply could not stand the idea of that word being attached to me. But you know, maybe that feeling was not so odd. I mean who wants to be called the very thing that has seemed irrelevant for the millions of thoughtful people who reject being part of the Church? Who wants to spend a good 20 hours preparing a message that must be spoken and heard through a forest of yawns? Who wants to accept the title that also describes people who have exalted themselves only to hurt people in the end through verbal, emotional, and even sexual abuse? The idea of "pastor" seemed completely irrelevant and even ugly to me for a while, but not any more. So I ask: who would be willing to accept the title of a hurtful and seemingly irrelevant group of people? God.

God in humility allowed "human" to be attached to Godself. When we read Jesus saying things like "The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost," we could read it (with integrity) "The Human has come to seek and save the lost." When humans are killing and cheating each other for the sake of selfish gain (hurtful and irrelevant to Life), God becomes flesh (human) and accepts this title/being for the sake of redeeming it. I currently attend a church in which I am experiencing the position/title of pastor being redeemed. My pastors--Mindy and Josh--are a married couple probably around 27 years old. Their care for the church is not simply that we would grow or that we would feel good. They are patiently calling the church to be faithful disciples--potentially martyrs--for the Kingdom. Sermons are intentionally creative but only as much to let the Message lead and be heard. And leadership is available for all and in many ways demanded. This isn't a church growth method. Actually our church is committed to being small--about 75 people. If we get to 100, people are encouraged to leave and start a new small church. Our church doesn’t claim nor govern any of these new churches. Well all of this is to say: I don't hate the word "pastor" anymore. I know this because I am willing to be one if God leads me that way. But if that is where I'm led, I hope to be there redemptively. Thanks, Mindy and Josh.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Horrible News

Sadaam Hussein was sentenced to death today. I shed a tear—yes, for a sinful man. I am not convinced that a sentence to be killed (hanged in this case) heals anything. Well perhaps it fulfills the desire for revenge, but that’s not Gospel. Perhaps it puts a Band-Aid over the fear some may have about what’s happening in the world, but that’s not Good News. That’s Horrible News. If you would like to read this Horrible News, below is a link to the article on the BBC news website. May we be moved to ask, “Is there another Way to live in this world?” and never give in to accepting “No” for an answer. And may we hear Jesus when he says “Do not be afraid,” even if that means living among "wheat AND tares."

(The picture above is from the day they captured Sadaam in Iraq. It's taken from some guys sick website in which death and revenge is glamorized with words like “God bless America.”)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

AMEN (Let it be)

When I observe this world, the influences on my life, and the tensions of embodied spiritual growth,
God reveals to me speaking freely, “Let it be.”

When I realize that I can't create a plan to rescue my family nor the world,
My dad resonates, “Let it be.”

When I wonder who we've been and where we’re going,
Danny calls me from Wabash street reminding, “Let it be”

When I think I'm born for Something amazing,
My nani smiles at me, “Let it be.”

When I don't know if or what to try,
Brian, Jake, and Charlie experiment with me, “Let it be.”

When I offer an absurd question of confusion about our Creator and The Way,
Craig slowly en-courages me, “Let it be.”

When I begin to think God can use me in the Hope for the Church,
Dr. Leth interestingly affirms, “Let it be.”

When I question whether I'm at the right place doing the right thing,
Jennie stretches her hand with an ear saying "Embrace and 'Let it be.'”

When the body is broken and the blood is poured before my friends and I,
Jesus nods to me and urges, “Let it be.”

When the world around me thinks I'm crazy,
My brother Mark comes to me in vivid memory and laughingly declares, “Let it be.”

When I wonder if I should really be in ministry or if such a thing is really real.
Katie repeats, “Let it be.”

When I have a new idea that might make others cringe,
Megan shrugs with the peace of curiosity, “Let it be.”

When I don't know if I'm on the right mission,
My mom cautiously whispers, “Let it be.”

When I've committed to being over my head,
Ricky opens a book and dares me, “Let it be.”

When I want to be defensively define myself and then realize it’s not working,
The Spirit swarms the group and reaches my lips to whisper, “Let it be.”

Let it be. Let it be. Let it be. Let it be.
Simple words of Wisdom: Let it be.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Theo-political Conclusion...well for now.

I don't think I could live in the suburbs ever again. As that sentence is read by fellow 20-somethings, I could imagine multiple nods of affirmation...but I still feel need to explain. I've never actually lived in a suburb as I imagine it. You know what I mean; those neighborhoods that feel so "perfect" that you think they're wax or plastic models only to be observed. I have however attended school at ONU and grew quite comfortable in that suburban utopia. I love ONU, but I currently live in Kansas City...and actually in the city. I work at a bank two blocks away from my apartment so I get to interact with my community in one of the most vulnerable areas of life. I have stories from the bank, but instead I want share a little of what Eric O. Jacobsen characterizes as a city in his book, Sidewalks in the Kingdom.

He says a city has a variety of architecture, houses that come right up to the sidewalk, and local businesses that make the city unique. Suburbs, on the other hand, were created for people who wanted secure neighborhoods and privacy. They created the "front lawn" so interaction with neighbors or those walking the dog could be minimal. The houses are clones which means that although individualism is found independence (creativity) is squelched. And corporations run the joint up close and from a distance depending on where the mall is. The suburb is quite impoersonal as it creates a physical lie. Cities give much more opportunity for us to live out the fruit of our Holy Spirit. The randomness, busyness, dispair, wonder, diversity, and collection of ideas give us more chances to be patient (like in traffic), kind (like to the poor smelly person who "bothers" you for help), peaceful (like to the guy who wants to mug you), and faithfulness (like when considering where to shop). This view does tend to give divinity to cities, but hey, God does reveal the end as being a CITY (in Revelation).

One thing I've really noticed about living in the city is that it keeps me thinking about the poverty, racism, and crime that results from U.S. systems and structures. But they become more real, because I have daily conversations with those in dire need. It's like they are no longer a "topic" or "object" of discussion. These are people in my life--people I discuss with. So I've begun a new practice. When someone randomly asks me for money...instead of simply giving money or simply refusing, I engage in conversation. Sometimes I give money but if I'm broke I let them know, "Yo, I really want to help you out, but I only have $2 to last me the day...and I gotta get lunch later today." This sounds wierd, but I think it may begin to interpersonally break down the ideas that the requester is an object in need and I am an object without need. Life begins to be shared. Perhaps this is a not the best way to deal with these sorts of situations, but I'm okay with that...I'm in the city. I'll learn as I live here.

By the way, my apt is in that picture.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fresh Off The Mental Press

If you think about it, and please do, the passion that drives myself and my fellow 20-somethings to scream FAIR TRADE across college campuses, city parks, and myspace sites is the same passion that lead fundamentals to legalistic rules and the eventual prohibition of alcohol. In both cases, the general public made the topic a big deal and even capitalized on it. And in both cases, Christians followed along and supported the mission with the Jesus narrative bleeding all over it. According to Rodney L. Reed in Holy with Integrity, these Christians initially rejected alcohol so they wouldn't pour money into a system that perpetually destroys lives. Sounds familiar doesn't it? So are we merely doomed to social and socialistic trends? George Marsden in Fundamentalism and American Culture explains that WWI scared the fundamentalist Christians into turning the passion into legalistic rules so they could freeze time for their followers. I think if Holiness denominations today were to be true to its history, they would add Fair Trade to their legalistic manuals. I wonder how we would react to that. Well let's not be surprised if the next RELEVANT or SOJOURNERS magazine has a picture of pretty 22-year old girls holding a sign that says "Lips That Touch Free Trade Coffee Will Not Touch Ours!" It's a good thing I drink tea. : )

Monday, September 04, 2006

Mi Pelicula Favorita

Thanks to Hutch, I've just come across another movie I would actually buy--I only own two DVD's: Finding Forrester and The Cosby Show 1st Season. I think Dummy reveals the rhythmic off-beat pattern and wonder of post-liberal hope. In some ways this is simply another follow your dream flick, but the the cheap cinematography, the persistence of Jovovich's character, and the odd on conclusion reminds me of the fact that every person is an artist at some point in her life. Every child is an artist. But slowly over time and "maturity" they learn that they are not. I mean, if you work with kindergarteners I dare you to ask, "How many of you are artists?" I'm sure at least 90% would joyfully yell "me!" while stretching their hands way up as if separating their shoulder proved something. But ask an eighth grade classroom or an intro to fine arts class at a university. I bet the response dramatically decreases over time. What happens to the artist within who hopes for the lifelong vocation of beauty? Oh, this movie is hilarious too.