Friday, December 28, 2007

Getting in the Way

My wife and I journeyed back to the Midwest for Christmas and we had a wonderful time hanging out with our family. Yet one family member sparked something in me that I had to share with you.
I have to start by saying that I love my grandma dearly and every trip home is not complete without seeing her. But over the course of the last few family gatherings I've noticed something a bit strange going on with my grandma: she feels that she is getting in the way of my family's time together. This causes only one response from me: WHAT?! Why would my grandma, who is part of the family, feel like she is getting in the way of the family's time together? A bit strange, don't you think?

Now I'm sure there are all kinds of psychological explanations for this and my family is certainly not free from from any sort of dysfunction (is any family?), but this situation has made me more observant of how overly courteous we have become as a society. We don't want to interrupt anyone or anything, but if we do, we want to draw as little attention to ourselves as possible. We simply want to get out of the way of other people.

This is quite a contrast to the way Jesus lived roughly 2000 years ago. Sure, he was born in the quaint, little town of Bethlehem to a very ordinary young woman, and we don't know much about his childhood other than that he liked to hide from his parents in the temple (definitely an ulcer-causing experience for Mary!). But when Jesus began ministering to those around him, he certainly didn't stay out of the way of other people. In fact, we was probably a bit pushy by our standards. Think about it: he invited himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner (ever done that to anyone else?); he placed himself directly in harm's way when he confronted the religious rulers of his day; and one of his best-known parables is about traveling on the same side of the road as those who have been stripped, beaten, robbed, and left for dead (the Good Samaritan). Apparently, Jesus was pretty intentional about getting in the way of others, perhaps because he had something to offer those he encountered.

The beautiful thing about following this "in-the-way" Jesus is that he invites us, a bunch of ordinary people, to continue his ministry of getting in the way of others not because we have something so special of our own to offer people but because we have the life of Jesus to offer other people. His life--one of healing, encouragement, justice, compassion, love, joy, and peace (to name a few)--is the very life we have to offer others.

From the perspective of Jesus, getting in the way of others is not an impolite act, it is the most life-giving gesture we can offer them. May we become the kind of people who intentionally get in the way of others so that they may brush up against the risen Christ who works in and through us.

Peace!


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Restoration

A very strange yet powerful thing happened the other day. In lieu of our regular staff meeting on Friday afternoon our director came in and announced he was going to lead us through an intervention. The timing of it and the need for it were surprising to us all, yet something powerful occurred during our time together.

The way the intervention worked was that the first time around the room each person was allowed to share his/her frustrations as specifically or vaguely as one wanted and no one could respond. Our sentences had to begin with the words, "I feel..." It was an uncomfortable situation to say the least given that our team has had a few conflicts in the past. Anyway, on the second time around the room and after hearing the frustrations of others, each person shared what he/she was going to do to lower the frustration level of others. This process seemed to lower the tension level in the room and among the team, which I think was the director's purpose in doing it.

I found this intervention experience to be similar to the biblical practice of confession. Historically, Catholics have been much better at confession than Protestants, yet I feel that confession is more than a religious duty as it brings us face to face with the image of God in which we human beings were created. When we take a moment to reflect on all the ways we are not becoming the kind of people God created us to be (by gossiping, lying, cheating, holding grudges, etc.) we find ourselves as distorted images of the good, beautiful, truthful, compassionate, generous people we were created to be. It's truly a humbling experience.

Now there are at least two wonderful things about biblical confession. First, confession is a great reminder of who we were created to be. And second, confession does not allow us to stay in a depressed state--because we realize we haven't measured up--but rather it invites us into the realm of forgiveness where, whether we believe it or not, life can truly start anew. In a way, confession is like a mini-resurrection, a restoration of our being.

The apostle James gets at this point when we encourages his community to "confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed" (James 5:16). It seems that James views confession and healing as part of the same process, the process of restoration.

There's much more we could discuss here and I hope I have articulared myself clearly enough for you to grasp some of what I'm trying to communicate, but I want to wrap up this post by inviting you to take a few moments to reflect on the image of God in which you were created and then spend some time confessing to God and/or to others where you haven't quite been the person you should have been. And at the end of it all, I pray that you will experience a lightening of your burdens, a healing in your soul, the hope of forgiveness, and the restoration of your life which is only possible through the resurrected Christ.


'Til next time. Peace.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bringing Heaven to Earth

Whenever I talk with my friends about heaven they typically describe it as a place away from here, as if it's a fairy tale kingdom up in the sky somewhere . These friends of mine assume that having faith in Christ translates into a ticket out of this world upon death. Now I'm no expert in what life is like after death, but if we take Jesus and his mission seriously, it appears that one of his primary goals was to bring the beauty, goodness, justice, and love of heaven to earth, so that those who gave their lives to follow him wouldn't just sit around waiting to escape from earth when they die but that they would seek to live the life of God here on earth. Essentially, Jesus' followers seek to bring heaven to earth.

As I mentioned above, I'm not attempting to answer any questions about what life is like after death, but what I think the church needs today is a better understanding of its mission for the here and now. The Scriptures are filled with stories about how the first followers of Jesus sought to love God and to love those around them as a way of demonstrating what heaven is like. And my prayer is that we too can learn to love God and others in the way of Jesus which will demonstrate just how much heaven is crashing into earth.

Richard Rohr. a Franciscan priest, wrote the following words and I pray that they inspire you to become the person of love God created you to be:

"What word of hope does the Church have to offer the world? The world is tired of our ideas and theologies. It's tired of our lazy church services. It's no longer going to believe ideas, but it will believe love. It will believe life that is given and received. We are afraid to touch the flesh of God, even to touch the flesh of one another and understand what God is calling us into. Thomas the apostle symbolizes our temptation toward heady faith, so Jesus asks him to touch the wounds (John 20:27). God is not calling us into our heads. Yet we've lived in our heads so long, the world no longer listens to us. I don't need your words, the world says to us. I don't need your sermons. I want life. And I want life more abundantly. What word of hope do we have to offer to the millions of workers in the world who see no meaning in their life? What word of hope do we have for all the women who bear children and, day after day, say, What is the meaning of this life? For most people in the world the question is not, Is there a life on the other side of death? It is, rather, Is there life on this side of death? Until us Christians give evidence that there is life on this side of death, the world does not need to believe our dogmas and giant churches. It doesn't need our words of hell. It needs our promise of heaven."


Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Chorus

I have to admit that I'm not very good at remembering, so I'm intentionally writing about Thanksgiving the day after we stuffed ourselves with food because Thanksgiving is a backward-looking celebration and I want us to take a moment to reflect back on the time we just shared with family and friends and to give thanks for all that God has done for us.

In the Scriptures, whenever the writers encourage their readers to give thanks, they always invite them to look backward. For example, the Psalmist in Psalm 107 sings about the many ways God redeemed his people: he rescued them from their enemies (v. 2); he fed them (v. 9, 36-37); he even saved those who rebelled against him (v. 10-15). And all throughout his song, the writer invites people to "give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for humankind" (v.8, 15, 21, 31-these verses seem to be the chorus of the song. Essentially the writer invites us all to remember God and everything he has done for us.

So take a moment today, even if you're still among family and friends, to give thanks to God for all he has done in the lives of your friends and family and in your life. For at the heart of being thankful is the process of remembering.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Caffeine anyone?

Just in case you were thinking I had forgotten about last month's Just for Fun drawing, I'm here to announce the winner of the $45 Starbucks gift card. But before I do that, I want to let you all know that the Just for Fun drawings will be put on hold for a while. I will, however, continue to post my thoughts on "becoming" the kinds of people God created us to be. Thanks for all the comments you have left in the past and I look forward to hearing more about the kind of person God is calling you to become in your particular context.


And now, without further ado, the winner of October's Just for Fun drawing is JANET, otherwise known as Janny K. Congratulations Janet! Please email me with your mailing address so I can send you the gift card.

Have a great week everyone!

Peace

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just for Fun

I have to apologize for my absence the past couple weeks. I don't really have a good excuse other than that my work has been so exhausting that I haven't had much energy to write much less think at night. But I'm taking steps to make time for it because I really enjoy bringing the Scriptures alive for others. Anyway, enough about that, let's get to the fun part!

Since it's the last Friday of the month this is your last chance to leave a comment which enters you into a drawing for a $45 Starbucks gift card. I should mention, however, that after everything I've been going through at work, the card may only have $20 left on it by the time I send it out to the winner! (Just kidding). So here's my question for Friday, October 26:

What was/is your nickname? If you don't have one or never had one, then create one that you would like others to use when they identify you. And as always, if there's a story behind your nickname please feel free to share.

In case you're wondering, my nickname throughout college was Cakes. Interestingly, many of my friends never knew my real name; they only knew me as Cakes. I guess that puts me in the same category as people like Cher and Shaq, right? (yeah right!)

Peace!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just for Fun

Today I had a particularly bad day at work and it reminded me that some people have bad days at work EVERYDAY. So I'm curious, what was the worst job you ever had and what made it the worst? And if you happen to be one of the eight people in the world who absolutely loved every job they had, then answer me this: what was the single worst day you had at work and why was it so bad?

Peace

Friday, October 5, 2007

Just for Fun

I recently found a bookstore in our neighborhood that will buy used books, so I spent some time going through all the books I had accumulated over the last several years hoping to narrow down my library to a few (dozen) favorites. As I was going through all my books I was reminded of my favorite books of all time: Where the Red Fern Grows was a childhood favorite while Life of Pi currently tops my list. That leads me to the just-for-fun question for this week:

What is/was your favorite book?

I look forward to seeing what you enjoy reading. Perhaps I'll pick up a few of your favorites the next time I'm at the bookstore.

Have a great weekend!

Peace


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rest

Just last week I was telling some of my co-workers that I rarely get sick enough to miss work, and wouldn't you know it, on Tuesday I came down with one of the nastiest colds I've ever had making me miss the last two days of work. Funny how that happens.

Now I realize I might cross some theological boundaries with this question, but do you think Jesus ever got sick? He was human after all, and if John 4:6 is accurate, we can assume that even Jesus experienced fatigue, which for us usually leads to some sort of illness. But instead of continuing on with his journey like so many of us do, Jesus stopped and rested.


Perhaps that's one of the purposes behind illness, to make us stop and rest from a life of hurriedness, efficiency, effectiveness, and success. As I'm experiencing now, there's not a lot you can accomplish when you're sick, and perhaps that's exactly the position God wants us in from time to time. So I encourage you, before you get to the point of illness, to stop trying to accomplish so much and let every aspect of your being rest with God.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

And the winner is...

Jacque! Congratulations Jacque on winning September's drawing. Email me with your mailing address and I'll get the $25 gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond in the mail right away.

And for those of you who absolutely NEED your coffee in the morning, you'll be happy to know that the prize for next month's drawing is a $45 gift card to Starbucks!

Enjoy your day!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Just for Fun

My wife and I recently committed to staying in Pasadena after my graduation because we sensed that God had something in store for us here. And as we have continue to discuss our commitment to stay here we have begun talking about all the sports teams in southern California and figured that we should probably select at least one to support, one we can call "our team." We haven't settled on one team yet, but that didn't keep me from wondering who your team is. So who's YOUR team?

Respond to this post with your favorite sports team (at any level) and I'll enter you into the drawing for a $25 gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond for which the winner will be announced next week. And if you want, you can send me your opinion on which southern California team we should support.

Have a great weekend!

Peace

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When life gives you peanut butter...

Today was just one of those days at work: the kids I work with were extremely disrespectful, the team I serve on was not communicating very well (or at all), and on top of that I kinda got in trouble for doing what I thought was a good thing (getting healthy snacks-apples, raisins, orange juice, etc.-for kids who usually ingest chips, ho-ho's, microwave meals, and sodas all day). So I came to the lunch room feeling a bit frustrated to say the least and the goop that was on the menu didn't help matters at all (we typically label the goop as the "mystery meal" so as to not hurt the feelings of the cook, but seriously, it looks like something I wouldn't feed my dog, and I don't even have a dog!). Yet, something profound happened during the lunch hour.

I was caring for two boys who usually serve as the source for my headaches everyday, and even though they were having a rough morning (being disciplined is never fun is it?), they went to lunch, noticed what was being served, and went straight for the peanut butter jar. "This is not going to be good," I thought to myself, as I knew that a jar of peanut butter could be used for a myriad of things: as a weapon to knock one's brother unconscious or to start a food fight by spooning and flicking it all over the room (these were only two of the immediate thoughts I had). Yet, the boys who had been wreaking havoc all morning surprised me by grabbing the jar of peanut butter, turning toward me, and politely asking me to make them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in as innocent a tone as possible. It was as if all the events of the morning had never happened. They held the jar of peanut butter toward me, wanting my help, without holding any grudges toward me for the way I had disciplined them just minutes before.


So this got me thinking about the things I hold onto for way too long: my frustration, my pain, my mistakes. If I reflect for only a moment on the experiences that caused me this frustration and pain or the mistakes I made I would come to realize that they really aren't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life. In fact, the only reason they carry any significance at all is because I've held on to them for so long. If I had dropped them minutes after they had occurred I think I would have much more hair on my head and a few less wrinkles. This has led me to believe that the greatest hindrance in my life is myself. I often get in my own way by not letting go of the things that should be let go of.


I think Jesus highlights this very thing when he heals a man's withered hand on the sabbath. The religious authorities were so focused on their narrow, insignificant law which did not allow healing to take place on the sabbath that they failed to see the broader potential for the restorative healing of a man's hand and life (Matthew 12:9-14). It's amazing how narrow our focus can become sometimes.


Now the boys were definitely frustrated with me during the morning as I had to discipline them for their bad behavior, yet when they grabbed that peanut butter jar and were looking for help in making sandwiches, everything from the morning was forgotten. They were living in the present, not the past. They had let go of their frustration from the morning and were now solely focused on filling their rumbling stomachs with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And of course, I was honored, humbled, and delighted to turn their expected peanut butter deviance into sandwhiches that would nourish them because doing so was not only good for their stomachs, it was also good for my soul.


So when life gives you peanut butter...make pb & j sandwiches!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More rules

First, thanks for your feedback on the rules you had or have in your family. It's good to hear that I'm not the only one living in a place that has some goofy rules.

Also, I wanted to pass along a link to a recent message given by my pastor in Grand Rapids who I think does a magnificent job spelling out Jesus' approach to the legalistic society of his day. Click here and then download the September 16 message titled "Both Sides of the Cup."

Enjoy!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just for Fun

Oops! I almost forgot to post the Just for Fun question of the day. Since I just finished up a post on rules, lets stick with that topic.

What's one of the strangest/funniest/most stupid rules your parents had as a child or you now have for your children?

And since I know you're curious, the prize for this month's drawing is a $25 gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond.

Have a great Friday!

Rules, rules, rules

An interesting tension has arisen within the team I serve on as we seek to move women and children toward greater wholeness in every aspect of their lives, and the tension is created by two different approaches to bringing about change. The approach most of my team members take is what I call the "rules" approach, which essentially is concerned with establishing and implementing rules with the hope that one day, after enough correction (using a system of reward and punishment), a person will succomb to the pressure of the system of rules put in place and learn to live the "right" way. This is also called "behavior modification." The other approach, one that I call the "love" approach and one that I operate with, is fueled by my experience and conviction that all the rules in the world will never bring about the permanent transformation that a personal encounter with the Creator of our being brings about. Following Jesus is at its core a journey toward greater freedom, not of obeying more rules.

Now I'm not saying that our society shouldn't have some rules-stopping at red lights is good as well as keeping all your stamping stuff in your room (one my wife really appreciates being reminded of!)-yet I think that having too many rules only breeds a lifestyle of legalism. And when many people within one region begin to take on the same legalistic lifestyle, a legalistic culture develops, which I think is perhaps one of the intended targets of Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30 where he says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." It appears that Jesus is contrasting the life of God (centered on freedom) with the life of the Pharisees (essentially centered on following rules-and they have a lot!).

A friend of mine recently told me something I think is deeply profound. He said, "Sometimes we try so hard to get close to God that we actually end up further away from him." What he was getting at is that the life of a Christian should be about embracing the love and grace of God as a gift, not trying to earn God's love, mercy, acceptance, etc. in whatever ways religion comes up with. Now I'm sure you've heard things along the lines of, "If you would only pray more, then you would feel the presence of God" or "If you would only give more then you would experience God's blessing." While those things sound good, they're not all that biblical. Rather than finding people who follow the rules well enough to earn God's love, grace or blessing what we find in the Scriptures is a bunch of people who according to the religious leaders of the day did not deserve God's blessing (the "sinners" and "tax collectors") but who experienced the favor of God and embraced it as a gift, not as compensation.

So what does it mean for you that Jesus' burden is light? Has following him been a journey toward greater freedom, closer relationships, increasing patience, and deeper trust in your Creator? Or has religion (and all its rules) gotten in the way of the life Jesus graciously offers you every morning you awake-a life of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8)? My prayer is that you will become people who ignore all the rules religion has asked you to obey and who learn to embrace more deeply the life God offers us-his own life.

Happy journeying!

Peace

Friday, September 14, 2007

Celebration

Late last night I finished a research paper which was the last requirement I had to meet in order to complete my seminary degree. Yeeeaaaahhh! My wife and I are truly overjoyed and we can't wait to celebrate this accomplishment this weekend.

While it's not the greatest accomplishment of my life, the completion of my degree is definitely high on the list, which leads me to the first Just-for-Fun question for September (I have yet to determine the prize. But trust me, it'll be good!)

What has been your greatest accomplishment in life?

Feel free to share anything you have taken great pride in and have a fantastic weekend.

Peace!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Regret and Celebration

I apologize to all my faithful readers for the lack of blog content the past couple weeks. The Internet was supposed to be installed last weekend when we moved but got postponed until this past Tuesday when it got postponed again (making my wife and I extremely frustrated with the cable company whose name I will not share-but it rhymes with "barter"! LOL). So with all that I've had the misfortune of being offline for the last 10 days or have not had a chance to post anything exciting, the least of which should have been the winner of last month's Just-for-Fun drawing. But it just so happens that just minutes ago the drawing took place and the winner of the $45 Kohls gift card is the person behind the screenname leenda. Congralutions leenda! Please email me with your mailing address so I can send you your prize.

The Just-for-Fun questions for September will begin next week. But if you want to submit a comment or just say hi, you're welcome to do that. Hopefully we'll have all our boxes unpacked by the middle of next week.

Have a great weekend!

Peace

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just for Fun

This weekend we're moving, and as I look around our apartment full of boxes I'm reminded of how much stuff we've collected over the last 2 years. We came into our apartment with way too much stuff and somehow we managed to pack even more in, which has only magnified the space problem we started with. Now my wife and I are similar in that we both like to hold onto things just in case they COULD serve a purpose sometime down the road (we suffer from packratitis). By how often do those "coulds" ever come out of the boxes we pack them in? Not very often, right? So this time around, we committed to simplifying our lives from all the clutter surrounding us (I should mention that not very many stamping materials were involved in this process of simplification!). Anyway, this leads to my just-for-fun question for August 31, which is the last opportunity you have this month to be entered into the drawing for the $45 Kohls gift card.

My question is simply this: Are you a pack rat or a thrower when it comes to things you don't use? Feel free to share about anything you have in storage that you can't believe you've kept all these years.

I'll post the winner of August's drawing by Tuesday of next week.

By the way, on my way back from class a while ago I saw the car in the picture above parked outside our apartment. A serious case of packratitis, huh?
Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Just for Fun

August has been an extremely busy month for my wife and I, so last night we both agreed it would be good for us to get away for at least a couple days and go to a place where no one can contact us and where we can lay all our responsibilities aside in order to catch our breath. We like to think that taking a break is an integral part of our journey of following Jesus for two reasons: first, we were created to live in a rythmn of 6 & 1 (see the creation story in Genesis 1); and second, even Jesus got tired and took a break (John 4:6). We haven't settled on a place to escape yet, but our discussion got me thinking about where or how others like to get away from it all.

So for this week's Just for Fun question, answer me this: where do you like to go or what you like to do to get away from the chaos of life?

I hope you have a restful weekend.

Peace

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Hometown

Currently, I live in Pasadena, California but I grew up in the small farming community of Orange City, Iowa way up in the northwest corner of the state about one hour away from anywhere or anything except corn, beans, and pigs. Two things you cannot beat about that area of the country: the sunsets and the peoples' warmth. With the land so flat and the air so clear (deeply contrasted by the smog I now live in) the sun seems to sit on the colorful horizon every evening waiting for you to notice it, then once you pause to take it in it begins to slowly disappear as if God is bidding all who see it a peaceful "good night." In regards to hospitality, if you find yourself in Orange City for longer than an hour it's likely that you'll receive an abundance of verbal hello's and finger-lifts (you know, the motion you see drivers making when they have one hand on top of the steering wheel and they raise their index finger at you as you drive by in the opposite direction--it's the farmers' way of saying hello. And just so you know...rarely do you get a different finger raised at you! LOL). But more than that, the way families and neighbors look out for one another is something that I believe sets Orange City apart. Your needs rarely go unnoticed, which sometimes can be misunderstood as snooping or gossiping (which does go on) but people really do care about you. That's why I'm proud of my hometown.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hometown Fun

In this week's TIME magazine there's an interview with Drew Carey, the new host of The Price is Right. Now if you know anything about Carey, it's that he hails from Cleveland, Ohio. From the clothes he wears to the jokes he makes, Carey's pride in Cleveland is evident. Even in the interview he says he wants to give away trips to Cleveland instead of Mexico or Hawaii. The man loves his hometown.

This leads me to the just-for-fun question of the day: If you were marketing your hometown (or the city you currently live in) to the rest of America, what would be the top selling point(s) you would include to attract people to it? In other words, what makes you proud to be from where you're from?

I look forward to reading your pitches.

Enjoy your Friday!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Commercials

Oh wow, I completely forgot about this commercial until Leenda commented on it (Thanks Leenda!). It's utterly repulsive on multiple levels.

As for favorites, I have to agree with those of you who enjoy the Mac commercials. I really like Mac's security commercial. "Allow." Ha!

Anyway, thanks for all the links. I'll try to put some of them out of my memory over the weekend.

Peace

Just for Fun

During the past month my wife and I have been muting the tv during a commercial for a popular pizza chain because one of the actors in the commercial drives us insane. Now we're people who don't usually get too riled up about little things like that, but this commercial REALLY annoys us. So I'm wondering...

What commercial drives you insane? And on the flip side, what is your favorite commercial?

If possible include a link to the commercial(s). And in case you forgot, everyone who answers these questions will be entered into a drawing for a $45 gift card to Kohls.

Enjoy your weekend!

Peace

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Remember the Future

I've been working at the mission for over a month now and there's one thing I hear on a daily basis that is becoming increasingly more disturbing. At least once a day I talk with either a child or his/her mother and as we talk it never fails that the person's past comes up in our conversation. Maybe it stems from an old picture or from a comment someone made to them earlier in the day, but no matter how it comes to them their past is fast-forwarded into the present forcing them to relive the horrific past they are so desperately trying to escape. Everytime I listen to them tell me their story, I wonder, Is it really necessary for us to remind one another of our pasts? Does being reminded of our pasts really do all that much in moving us toward becoming the kinds of people we were created to be? What if all the energy we expend in remembering our pasts could be more beneficial for our journeys if we redirected it toward the future?

I like the approach the apostle Paul takes in many of his letters when it comes to helping people become who they were created to be. Take his letter to the church in Ephesus, for example (for now forget the arguments of scholars who think someone other than Paul wrote Ephesians). While Paul acknowledges the pasts of his hearers (2:11, 12), he spends a good portion of his letter reminding them of who they are called to become. His encouragement in 4:15 sums up his approach when he writes that the people of the church "must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ." In the surrounding verses, Paul effectively shifts the focus of the Ephesian believers from their pasts as Gentiles to their future of becoming like Christ. And yet, the future of the Ephesian believers belongs not only to them, but to all believers everywhere, including us today.

Now I could go on and dig a little deeper at this point, but I want us to think about what it means to "grow up" into Christ. And with that, what does it look like for us to experience change driven by our future, not our past? How can our lives today more accurately reflect the future life we are growing into?


May you become a person who remembers the future more than you remember the past.

Enjoy your Wednesday.

Peace



Friday, August 3, 2007

Just for Fun

During my commute to work today I realized that I forgot to post the Just-for-Fun question this morning, so please forgive me for posting this later than usual...

Thinking back on all the holiday events you've participated in (family dinners over the holidays, Christmas pageants, Memorial Day BBQ's, etc.), which ones have been your favorite and least favorite and why?

Have a great weekend!

Peace

Monday, July 30, 2007

Movies and Drivers

Two things to share on this Monday:

First, Taylor and I went to see The Simpsons movie last night. I have to be honest and say that it made us laugh pretty hard at times. Besides its typical irreverence and meandering plot it is filled with a ton of comedy which I think makes it a must-see movie this summer (as if my opinions are worth anything!). The spotlight--as it is in most of their tv episodes--is focused squarely on Homer for the majority of the film, but it periodically wanders over to others including Lisa, her new environmentally-concerned friend, Flanders, and of course Bart. If you're not a Simpsons fan, you may want to pass this one up. But if Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie (or any of their friends) have made you laugh in the past, they'll make you laugh even harder in the movie.

Second item, and quite a shift from the first, is that as I was driving home from work today in rush hour traffic I was struck by an interesting insight and wanted to throw it out there for you to ponder. I was behind a car who was going 10-20 miles per hour slower than the rest of the traffic around it, which was indicative of a driver who did not know their way. Eventually, after about a block, the driver pulled into a parking lot that seemed to bring a sense of relief to not only the driver but to those behind her, including me.

As I thought about this situation, I was struck by how often Christians are like the drivers behind someone who doesn't know their way. The lost driver (i.e. a Christian who is just beginning the journey) often frustrates those who are more familiar with the road (i.e. the journey of faith or the kingdom way of life). I wonder why those of us who are a little more familiar with the Christian life don't catch ourselves more often and step back to come alongside those who are just beginning the journey. Many Christians, unfortunately, do not slow down for anyone new, and I wonder why anyone would want to become a Christian if they know they're going to viewed as a nuisance by the very group of people they are seeking to belong to and become like.

Anyway, I was convicted of my own impatience as I am continuing to grow myself and I pray that we all will look out for those who are just beginning their journeys and come alongside them as supporters and friends rather than just pass them by and hope someone else with nurture and care for them.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

And the winner is...

Lori M.!!!

Congratulations Lori on winning the first Just-for-Fun drawing. Please email me with your address and I'll get your $45 TGI Fridays gift card in the mail right away.

Thank you to everyone who submitted responses. It was a lot of fun getting to know y'all better.

And just to whet your appetite, the prize for the Just-for-Fun drawing for August is a $45 gift card to Kohls! Look for the first post on Friday, August 3.

Have a great weekend.

Peace


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Just for Fun #5

It's the final Friday of July, which means that today is the last day for you to submit a response to the Just-for-Fun question of the day in order to be entered into the drawing for a $45 gift card to TGI Fridays. Be sure to submit your responses by the end of the day Friday so that I don't have to exclude anyone from the drawing (and then feel bad about it and include them anyway).

So without further ado, today's question is...

(drum roll please...)

If you were going to be on the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and you had to choose one person for your phone-a-friend lifeline, who would you choose and why?

I'll be sure to post the winner of this month's prize by Monday morning.

Enjoy your weekend!

Peace

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Gospel on the Ground

First off, thanks for sharing your comments on the kind of person you want to be known as after you breathe your last breath. I pray that you are intentionally taking steps toward becoming that kind of person. As one of my coaches always said, "if you don't know where you're going, you'll end up going nowhere."

Next, I'm finally starting to work full-time this week with Union Rescue Mission. I've been working there part-time until I finished up both my degree and my other part-time job. Anyway, I'm anticipating that I won't have much time to blog this week (don't worry, I won't miss Just-for-Fun Friday!) but I've been thinking a lot about something and I'd like to read your feedback about it. The question I've been asking myself lately is this: What difference does the gospel make in the world?

Now as a seminary student I'm aware of how quickly we can relegate the meaning of the gospel to the cognitive realm (which is necessary at times), and Jesus does spend some of his time encountering others at that level (primarily through his teachings). But Jesus also spends much of his time bringing about significant, concrete change in the lives of others, particularly through his healing ministry. If nothing else, one thing the Gospel writers are clear to point out is that peoples' lives change after they meet Jesus, whether through healing, repentance, or both. I could go on about this, but for the sake of space I'd like to end by simply asking you about the concrete difference the gospel of Jesus Christ has made in your life or in the life of someone you know. Feel free to share at any level you're comfortable (this is a public blog after all). I look forward to reading your stories.

Have a great week!

Peace





Friday, July 20, 2007

Just for Fun #4

I'm taking a break from writing a research paper and I figured I'd throw out Friday's just-for-fun question a little early. Actually, it's not so much a question as it is a statement, so I'm inviting you fill in the blanks below using any words or phrases you want.

At the end of it all, I'd like others to remember me as a person who was __________ and ___________.

Be sure to fill in both blanks and, as always, feel free to provide any information on why you chose what you chose.

Make today a great day.

Peace

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Risk and Growth

In Matthew 16:13 we find Jesus and his disciples entering the district of Caesarea Philippi, a place 25 miles away from the Sea of Galilee (where Jesus carried out much of his ministry) and a place where worship of the Greek god of nature, Pan, was prevalent. The disciples were a long way from home both geographically and religiously, and yet they trusted Jesus enough to follow him to what some considered a dangerous place. If it's true that some of Jesus' original disciples were only teenagers then I'm pretty sure their parents would not have approved of them going to Caesarea Philippi; it's not a place where young Jews would go to hang out. But Jesus leads them there, to a place where their beliefs are challenged and where they are confronted by a world quite unlike their homes in Galilee and Judea. And in the middle of their time in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus essentially asks his disciples if they trust him, if they trust in who he is, and they come away with a deeper trust in him as the Messiah.
I think Jesus sometimes leads us into dangerous or uncomfortable situations far away from our familiar surroundings so that we can learn to trust him more deeply. Leaving home and encountering different religions sounds risky to many of us, but I wonder if they're just opportunities for us to grow in our faith.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Newness

In reading through Paul's letters in the New Testament I'm amazed at how many times he urges his readers to claim their objective identity as people found in Christ. He's constantly reminding them that they are "in Christ" and belong "to Christ" even though they may not be living in a Christ-like manner at the time.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul sums this idea up when he writes, "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation." Now in the original language, we don't find the words "there is a" included. So the way it reads in the Greek is, "If anyone is in Christ, new creation." This sounds a little strange to English speaking people, but I think it's a powerful reminder of the newness we are offered whenever we encounter Christ, or should I say, whenever Christ encounters us.

Think about the encounters Jesus had with people in the Gospels and about the newness he offered them in those moments. In Luke 19:1-10 Jesus encounters a greedy man (Zacchaeus) and offers him a new way of living-a generous way of living. Matthew 15:29-31 reveals the newness of a healthy life that Jesus offers people living with physical ailments. Wherever we find Jesus, we find newness. They are inherently connected.

Some Christians think that being found in Christ is all about having our sins forgiven. It's true that forgiveness of sin comes with being found in Christ, but it's only part of the larger image of newness and salvation that Jesus paints for us. To be found in Christ is to encounter a newness so complete that it touches every aspect of our being. Some call it a "fresh start" or a "blank slate." Paul calls it "new creation." No matter what image we use, the whole of our being is offered newness in Christ.

So what kind of newness could you be faced with in Christ? Could it be physical healing? Could it be a new lifestyle of generosity? Could it be a new compassion for those on the margins of society? Because we're broken human beings and because our brokenness runs deeper than we can ever realize, the options are endless; and in case we want to surrender hope that newness will ever come to us, we have the promise of Jesus that newness is on its way. In Revelation 21:5, Jesus declares, "See, I am making all things new." If anyone is in Christ, newness.








Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just for Fun #3

Today I was driving down the freeway on my way home from work and I noticed the cars in the right lane coming to a stop about 1/2 mile from the next exit. Thankfully I was in the far left lane and didn't have to mess with the back-up. "You gotta love traffic" I thought to myself. Then I saw something that has become one of my biggest pet peeves: there will be a long line of cars waiting to take an exit off the freeway, and rather than waiting his/her turn in the long line of traffic, a driver will fly up on the lefthand side of all the backed up traffic, obviously thinking that the rules of driving don't apply to him/her, and after passing a long line of people patiently waiting in line, the driver will merge at the last possible second, cutting in front of dozens, if not hundreds, of other drivers, not having to wait his/her turn. Now, I understand that some people aren't the best at following directions and have to sneak in at the last second, but this stunt happens far too often for it to be an honest mistake. It drives me nuts.

So my fun question of the day is, What is your biggest pet peeve? And feel free to expound on why it bothers you so much.

Have a great Friday!


Friendship

I recently started working at a family center where women and their children receive holistic, rehabilitative care. As I was chatting with one young girl who recently moved to the facility, I asked her if she liked being there. She shook her head without saying the word "no." I then asked her if she missed anything about where she came from, like her friends, and she responded, "Yeah, I miss some things, but I don't miss friends because I didn't have any." My heart broke right then and there.

What kind of world do we live in where children can grow up without having any friends?

Jesus' words in John 15:12-15 are a powerful reminder of the kind of people we are to become. Followers of Jesus are called to be people who extend friendship to those who most desperately need it.

My prayer for you and I is that we will become people who seek out those who have no friends and offer our own friendship to them just as Jesus offers his friendship to us.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Promises

I was chatting with a friend today about a situation in his life that is causing some anxiety. After explaining some of the details and confessing the fear he had about the future, he concluded by saying, "But God will do what's best for me." I didn't think it at the time, but later I thought, "Is that really true about God? Does God really do what's best for you or for me, an individual human being?" I tend to believe that this kind of thinking is a bit wacky and not so true of the God we read about in Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture can I find a promise from God to do what's best for me or any other individual. God seems to have something else in mind when he makes his promises.

One promise that I cannot escape when I read Scripture is God's promise to always be with us. In Isaiah 41:10, God says, "Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." And at the end of his ministry, Jesus promises his disciples that he will be present with them as they go out and make more disciples (Mt. 28:20).

In the times of our lives when we're feeling anxious about something, I wonder how much we really want God's best for us. We think that if we can attain some degree of certainty then the anxiety will go away. But I think that rather than wanting God's best (whatever that is) what we really want is God's presence. We want someone to join us in the trenches of life; we want a friend to go through hell with; we want to know we're not alone. And that's what the Incarnation teaches us, that God IS present with us in our lives.

So may you, as you face many uncertainties in your life, believe in the depth of your being that God is with you and that he "will never leave you, nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5).

Friday, July 6, 2007

Just-For-Fun Friday #2

I apologize for not posting sooner in the day. Hopefully those of you out east will have a chance to respond before your Friday is over.

Anyway, here's the just-for-fun question of the day for Friday, July 6, 2007:

If you could have a conversation with just one person from the past, present, or future, who would it be and what would you want to talk about?

Remember that those of you who respond will be entered into a drawing at the end of the month for a $45 T.G.I Fridays gift card.

Enjoy your Friday...what's left of it.

Peace!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

An Image of Community

A friend of mine passed on this link to me. It's a video of a baby buffalo being attacked by lions and alligators, only to be rescued by its large, extended family. Be sure to watch the whole thing (it's about 8 and 1/2 minutes long). It's a great image of what it means to be surrounded by a community of people who love you and care for you, a community who is willing to put their lives on the line in order to save yours. But be warned, the video is not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Freedom part 2

Isn't it amazing how many of the images and messages we take in on a daily basis actually entangle us and add weight to our already heavy burdens, telling us that we need to change something about ourselves in order to be somebody? I don't need to mention any specific messages because you can just turn on your tv or look around at the magazines in the line at the grocery store and find more than enough images. Many of the church's messages (spoken and unspoken) are the same way-they don't encourage freedom, but instead promote shame and guilt for not living a certain way. That's not to say we don't need to be convicted of destructive behaviors in our lives, but most of us already know what those behaviors are and don't need to be reminded of them. What we desire is to be free and we just want a little help.

In his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul finds himself in a similar situation. Toward the end of his letter, Paul writes, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1). What was this "yoke of slavery" Paul was warning against? One possible answer (and one I think has quite a bit of merit) comes from recent research on ethnicity that shows how widespread the phenomenon of identity switching and situational ethnicity was in the Galatian province during this time. People were changing identities just to fit in to whatever context they found themselves. So what scholars perceive the issue to be in the Galatian church is that the Gentile believers were being pressured by Jewish believers to become like them, which meant they had to be circumcised, and this is something they were actually considering doing just to fit in (a bit frightening for the older males, no doubt!)! But Paul steps in and argues that because of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, the demand for the Gentile believers to be circumcised is ridiculous. Through faith in the resurrected Jesus, all demands to become like someone else or to achieve a certain lifestyle are gone. Jesus encounters us right where we are at, with all our issues, and declares to us, "You're free!"

Paul's encouragement for the Galatians was to live as free people, to not succomb to the expectations of others, and that's is Jesus' encouragement for us.

So when the world spins out of control, and the expectations of others (or even of yourself) come flying at you, know that in Jesus you are free from those expectations. May we become a people who learn to live more fully in our freedom.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Biblical Freedom

Yesterday I did a little studying on the concept of freedom in the Scriptures. Here's what I found:

In the Old Testament, freedom is most commonly understood in relation to the Exodus, where God rescues, or frees, his people from captivity, slavery, and oppression in Egypt. In Judaism, this episode of freedom is considered the central narrative of faith-a narrative in which God demonstrates his faithfulness to his promises for his people as he sets them free and calls them to set others free. Essentially, Israel is to be for the world who God is for them. But since Israel does not always embrace their calling, God sends prophets to them in an attempt to correct their course. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah are two who get pretty riled up about Israel's lack of freedom (read Isaiah 61-65 and Jeremiah 34 for a taste).

Hundreds of years after Isaiah and Jeremiah, another prophet appears on the scene, one who a group of Jews considers to be the promised Messiah. His name is one that means "God saves" and in his own description of the purpose for his coming, Jesus says he was sent by God "to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free" (Luke 4:18). Freedom is at the heart of Jesus' ministry and if we read the Gospel accounts of his activities while on earth, we find that he did indeed free people from captivity and slavery in a myriad of ways. In this way, Jesus can be seen as ushering in a new Exodus of sorts. If anything, Jesus demonstrates that God is a God who loves to set people free.

The Scriptures have much more to say about freedom, particularly in the letters of Paul and Peter, but I have some questions before we go any deeper:

1. Living a life of freedom necessarily entails that someone has been enslaved, so if we consider ourselves to be people of freedom, from what have we been freed?

2. Along with #1: In your own journey, in what ways has God freed you?

3. Finally, are enslaved in any way in your life right now? Maybe it's a financial difficulty, a relationship that's not healthy, a prolonged illness, or something else. In light of your current situation, what does God's freedom mean or look like for you?

A great song with the theme of freedom running through it is "Changed" written by a worship leader in our Mars Hill church community in Grand Rapids. Click here to listen to it (the other songs are great too!).

I look forward to reading your thoughts. Make today a great day!

Peace!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Music and Freedom


Wow! I'm amazed at the honesty in your responses to the first just-for-fun Friday question. I thought at least one person would throw in Beyonce just to throw us off, but you didn't. And since this is an interactive blog I figured I should answer the question too. So here it is: my favorite band/album in high school was Live: Throwing Copper. I think the album was released in 1994 but since I grew up in the boonies in Iowa the music didn't reach us until 1995 (LOL). Live always had a nice blend of storytelling and headbanging elements in their songs, and I just noticed that I actually have one of their songs on my iTunes playlist (Lightning Crashes). Anyway, I'm definitely not the rocker I used to be!


Being that Independence Day is on Wednesday I thought it would be interesting to discuss the topic of freedom throughout the week (unless you're from the UK, then we can talk about defeat-just kidding!). So as we head into next week, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the issue of freedom. How would you define freedom? How have you experienced it in your life? What images does the mention of "freedom" conjure up in your mind?


I look forward to your responses. Have a great Saturday!


Peace.



Friday, June 29, 2007

Just For Fun Fridays

With all this heavy thinking going on during the week I thought it would be good to have some fun on Fridays, so here's what I'm doing. Every Friday I'll post a just-for-fun question for people to answer. For every Friday you submit an answer you'll be entered into a drawing for a TGI Friday's gift card at the end of the month. So if you submit an answer on all 4 Fridays in July, your name will be entered 4 times into the drawing giving you a much better chance at finding yourself at your nearest TGI Friday's sometime soon. By the first Monday of the next month I'll post the winner of the previous month's prize and arrange shipping with the winner then. Make sense?

Ok, here we go. Even though it's still June, we're including submissions to today's question in July's drawing, so you can actually be entered 5 times instead of 4.

The just-for-fun question of the day for June 29, 2007 is:

What was your favorite song/album/band when you were in high school? Feel free to provide any background information for why it was your favorite.

Your answers will obviously reveal your age (or age range), so if you want to keep up the facade you can throw everyone off with your favorite song from 2007 (like anyone will believe you! LOL!!!). Oh, and by the way, the card amount for July's prize is $45-just sweetening the pot a little.

Enjoy your Friday!

Peace.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Becoming the Church" continued

Thanks to those of you who posted your thoughtful comments on what makes the church church. I have yet to formulate my own response, but I encourage others to continue posting your thoughts and experiences. Hopefully we can all learn from one another.

I have some follow up questions to consider as we continue thinking about what makes the church the church:

1. To whom does the church belong?
2. For whom does the church exist?
3. What is the purpose behind your church?

Let's see where these questions take us. Enjoy your Thursday!

Peace to you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Becoming the Church


I am currently 2 days away from the last day of class in my seminary education (Woohoo!). I can hardly believe that I've come this far. It's been a difficult journey at times (particularly around finals week each quarter) but by the grace of God I have nearly completed my degree.

The class I'm finishing up right now essentially asks one question: what makes the church church? In other words, what elements are critical to the identity of a church so that if one of those elements was removed we would no longer call that church a church?

We have discussed a number of answers to this question from the historical perspectives of the major Christian traditions present in the world today, namely the Eastern Orthodox. Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions. I'm curious as to what you, the reader, think about this. What elements do you consider essential to the identity of a church? In your mind, what makes the church church?

Any and all comments or questions are appreciated.

Peace!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Change


Have you ever wanted to change your life? I know I have, and I'm sure you have too. It might be a habit or an attitude or something else, but we've all wanted to change something about ourselves at one point or another in life.

So we set out on a journey to change our lives, and if you're like me, you set out by yourself. I'm not sure why it is that we go about trying to change all by ourselves, but I have a hunch. I think the reason we seek change on our own is because the thing we want to change (a bad attitude, an overweight body, a harmful addiction) are things we don't want others to know about us. The negative things about us are every bit a part of our being as are the positive things, but we'd much rather keep our masks on than be honest with others. Maybe we don't think others are trustworthy or maybe we don't think they will be supportive of us in our journeys toward change. Whatever the reason, we usually go about change by ourselves.


Christian communities in the poor and oppressed regions of Latin America approach change differently than those of us in Western/American society. They see individual change as something that entails the whole community. One's identity is dependent on being in community with others, and one's needs (those changes one seeks to make) are addressed in and by the whole community. Now these communities are not like our huge megachurches in America; they are small, non-hierarchical communities in which each member meets the pressing needs of the others. But in order to meet the needs of others, the needs must present themselves, and that takes vulnerability on the part of all the members. One's change comes as a combination of their own efforts and the efforts of those around them. An intriguing way to live, huh?

When I read the Gospels I can't help but think that Jesus sought to bring about change by connecting people in community. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus heals a woman and then refuses to let her follow him, but rather sends her back to her town to be restored to her community. Jesus understands that she needs others in order to maintain her journey of change. In all the Gospels, Jesus is found to have gathered twelve disciples around himself for the purpose of bringing about change in Israel; he didn't try to do it himself.

Change happens in community, not in isolation. Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk, argues that any renewal of the Church that is not a return to some type of community, loyal relationships, or family, isn't renewal. I would extend his argument to personal change change as well. We cannot bring about renewal or change on our own.

So may we follow in the way of Jesus as we go about seeking change in our lives. Let us pick up the phone, send an email, do what we need to do to surround ourselves with others as we journey toward change with humility, perseverance, vulnerability, and trust. We can't do it alone.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Patience part 2

One interesting thing about being impatient is that it leads to a solution-oriented approach to life. Just think about it: whenever a problem arises, the first thing we do is seek a solution. A child starts to cry and we immediately think of a way to silence him/her. For every nick, scratch, and scrape in life we seem to find a band-aid. We all have a little "Mr/Ms. Fix-it" in us, don't we? So we apply a quick solution to our problem and the problem goes away...for a while.

Perhaps this is where many of us run off course in life. We think that our solutions, if applied over and over again, will fix our problems and eventually heal our brokenness. But that's not how deep wounds are healed. The depth of our brokenness is beyond the human capacity to heal. We need outside help, and that help often takes a long time.

Healing is like a slow trickle of water that needs time to penetrate deep into the dry, rock hard soil of our beings in order to get to the root of our brokenness. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, years, or even the rest of one's life for healing to occur (if it comes at all). And we don't know how much we need to be healed until we realize just how much we resist the slow, healing work of the Spirit of God in our lives by running around from activity to activity at 100 miles per hour. Our impatience may actually prevent the healing we desperately need to take place in our lives.

Healing takes time, which is probably why programs like AA are 12 steps long instead of 3. Addictions, whether they be to alcohol, work, porn, beauty, food, shopping, drugs, whatever, are really manifestations of something broken deep within us, and much time is needed in order for them to be healed. People who have gone through 12-step programs say that they didn't choose their addictions, their addictions chose them. And the way they experienced healing was to surrender their desire to find a solution on their own and to embrace the slow, healing presence of the Spirit of God at work in them. Essentially, they learned to be patient.

May we, as people created by a patient God, learn to embrace the presence of God when the crap of life comes our way (and it comes along all too often, doesn't it?). May we learn to embrace the tension that the slowness of healing creates in the face of our brokenness. Together, let's seek to become patient.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Patience part 1

While driving on the freeway today I was reminded that we live in an impatient culture. Cars flew past me like I was standing still. "They must have something important to get to" I thought as each one revved up its engine in order to squeeze past my bumper so as to change lanes and accelerate toward its destination. People are in a hurry. The slow lane of life doesn't exist.

Isn't it interesting how we think all the little gadgets in the thousands of ads we see everyday will make our lives better and are going to help us find time for the "important" things in life, and yet all they do is make us more impatient? The very things that are supposed to slow us down in reality actually speed us up. How many of you, after having purchased one or a number of these "time-savers," now find yourself with more free time than you did before?

I think if we're honest, we'll all admit that many of the memorable technological advances of the past decade have been widely embraced because they have successfully targeted our lack of patience. We stick with something until the next bigger, better, faster edition comes along and then our lack of patience creeps up and tells us that the thing we have now is no longer sufficient to live a good life, that now we need the new thing if we're ever going to have time to do what we want to do.

We who live in Western society are not patient. We don't like to wait for things. And yet the Scriptures tell us that in order to live the best life possible we need to become patient. The wisdom of Solomon teaches us that "the patient in spirit are better than the proud in spirit" (Eccl. 7:8). Also, I find it interesting that of all the things Paul could have listed, he mentions his patience as one of the attributes he most wanted Timothy to emulate (2 Tim. 3:10). Of course, we can't forget that patience is included in Paul's list of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Most notably, it is interesting that Jesus himself is never described in the Gospels as being in a hurry. Even when Jesus received word that the brother of his disciple Mary had died, he did not rush over to the village of Bethany right away, but "stayed two days longer in the place where he was" (John 11:6). If the Scriptures are truthful, it appears that becoming patient is necessary for anyone desiring to live the best life possible.

As you seek to live the best life possible, may you learn to endure through the difficult and annoying experiences of life by following in the patient way of Jesus.

(Patience, part 2 coming soon)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Being Mastered


I recently graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with a Master's Degree in Theology and upon reflection on that experience I came to realize that having a master's degree in theology is a bit oxymoronic. Can theology, the study of God, really be mastered by me, a human being created by God? Can the created master the Creator? Henri Nouwen picks up on this question in his book Reaching Out (Doubleday: 1975) saying, "To prepare ourselves for service we have to prepare ourselves for an articulate not knowing, a docta ignorantia, a learned ignorance. This is very difficult to accept for people whose whole attitude is toward mastering and controlling the world. We all want to be educated so that we can be in control of the situation and make things work according to our own need. But education to ministry (e.g. earning a master's degree in theology) is an education not to master God but to be mastered by God" (104).
In our journey toward becoming people mastered by God-people whose lives demonstrate that Jesus is Lord and that we are not, may we take to heart the words of Paul who encourages us in the same way he encouraged the church in Ephesus to "lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Eph. 4:1-6).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

New blog


After a 6-month hiatus from blogging-due primarily to the demands of school and work-I'm back online with a new blog through Blogger. I've titled this blog "Becoming" because I hope to share my reflections on how we, the people of God, are becoming (and, unfortunately, are not becoming) who we are called to be as inhabitants of this earth.
Life is a journey-a journey that has a starting point and a destination-and we're all on this journey together. And in case you're wondering how you can participate in this journey on your own, well, I have bad news for you...you can't! We are unable to arrive at the destination on our own because to participate in the journey necessarily entails that we be in relationship with God and with one another. That's how we were created to live..
The picture above reveals two things about the journey. First, regarding my own journey experience, my lovely wife is an essential person in my journey. I wouldn't be me without her. Second, the image of a marriage covenant is how many of the prophets, poets, and apostles of the Scriptures describe the journey of God and humanity (just read through the Psalms and Song of Solomon-the images might surprise you). The commitment to walk together through the joys and fears of life is largely what the journey is all about.
This journey is what theologians call "life with God." It involves learning how relate to God, to one another, and to ourselves in healthy, wholesome ways. Essentially, it's about learning to live in the way of Jesus.
Since you're reading this, you must in some way be connected to the journey (either seeking to join up, already participating in it, or trying to get away from it). Maybe you found my blog by mistake or maybe you're here intentionally. Either way, welcome to my blog and to my journey. I pray that through our conversations we will join in the journey of becoming who we were created to be. Enjoy the ride!