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!


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!


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.


Saturday, June 23, 2007


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 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!