Tuesday, March 30, 2004
This is what I did today-
Up at 6:30, to kiss my wife & send her off to work. Did the dishes I was supposed to do last night & cleaned the kitchen, fed the critters.
Had a quiet time- I've been using the prayer in chapter 10 of Waking the Dead as a guide for a few weeks. Reread some bits of the book to refresh my mind, spent some time in prayer for family & ministry team.
Checked my email & had some breakfast, emailed Mike Bishop (see below).
Headed out for the day with my Bible & camera. Dropped off some paperwork at the Social Security office, stopped by my sister's house. Got some early lunch & headed for the cemetery.
Stopped along the way for some pictures.
A ditch in an industrial area-
across the road-
I try to take pictures of what I see- sometimes it works, sometimes not. Some weeds-
I like cemeteries. They're peaceful; they draw out my awareness of God's presence. I've always enjoyed wandering through them, reading headstones, wondering about the stories that go with them. My wife & I occasionally had a date at one before we were married- there are some very large cemeteries in the Chicago area, with long roads/paths that are nice for bike rides.
It took me about ten minutes to find my parents plot. When I realized where it was, I was about ten yards away. As I walked toward it I had to stop a moment- catch my breath, & realize this was going to be more powerful than I expected.
The past week has been so emotional; I guess I figured the worst was behind me. And then I sat on the grass in the middle of the cemetery & cried for a while.
Some of the most beautiful & most tragic parts of any cemetery are the children.
There is a lot of pain & sadness here- I hope there's a lot of joy as well.
After reading this through several times, I realized someone might go away with the wrong impression- there is pain & sorrow, grieving still, but there is a whole lot of joy & peace as well. In fact, the joy & peace far out-way the pain & sadness.
I've been reading several bits and pieces about the Emergent Church movement, and the contrast it has with other movements in the Church, primarily Evangelicalism. What follows is a slightly edited email I sent to Mike Bishop after reading & commenting on a post he made, & receiving a reply from him (you should really read his original post & our comments to get the context of this):
Frankly, I'm not overly fond of Rick Warren's writing. I was part of one of the 40 day groups with The Purpose Driven Life- I made it about 15 days. I had so many arguments with what he said & how he said it that I finally gave up. And I left the group because I couldn't add anything positive to it. I have also looked at the Celebrate Recovery program that Saddleback started and have lots of problems with it as well.
And Brian McLaren is fairly new to me- I have only been aware of and reading his work for about a month. That's true of the entire Emergent movement (? I still don't know quite how to refer to it).
But two things have impressed me greatly as I read about this "new thing" and read the comments and ideas of people that seem to support/embrace it-
The first is not new at all. There seems to be a lot of "get rid of the old ways- because they are the old ways." Whether the reference is to Traditionalism, Evangelicalism, Modernism (and there seems to be little differentiation); the main idea seems to be "out with the old, in with the new." Which has been repeated over & over again throughout time. One of the strongest & most recent examples is the mess of the Sixties. Another would be The Reformation. Yet another would be the beginnings of the Church. Which, of course, points out that not all change is bad, and there are certainly times when radical change is necessary. But even in the founding & establishing of the Church there was the need to embrace and include the positive, healthy portions of the past. I don't see much of that in what I have encountered so far.
The second thing- "What exactly is God doing different..." I don't think you really mean God is doing something He's never done before (please let me know if I'm wrong- that would be a significant theological concern). God has always "...challeng(ed) people to become people who love God, live in his kingdom, and live simple lives for the sake of the world." Yes? And if we take into account culture, well, culture changes with time & location. What is culturally relevant here & now may not be in a few years- or in another country. Scripture has to be read with an eye toward culture. Missions must be approached with a keen understanding of the culture they're trying to reach. As culture changes, God will adapt His church to reach it, to be involved, to engage it, whatever the form. Rick Warren looks at The Passion of the Christ and sees an immense opportunity to reach the culture God has called him to. Brian McLaren looks at the same movie and sees an opportunity- but not one that is going to make a significant impact on the culture that God has called him to. God has raised up a part of His Body to reach the new. But He is also maintaining a part of His Body to continue reaching the old. And although the methods may appear different, the foundation is the same.
Paul said "To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Cor. 9:20-23)"
I suspect I'm not telling you anything you don't already believe. Interestingly, I consider myself very Evangelical, but I think the intent of Emergence is wonderful. Necessary. Definitely part of where God is going. And I have lots of problems with Evangelicalism- I think it's isolated a lot of wounded, hurting Christians. I was/am a part of that group. And God is leading me into ministry, through an Evangelical Free church, to minister the same comfort with which I have been comforted.
I guess my point overall would be that as God moves in an additional (not new, or even different) direction in our culture, we need to be careful to discern what did and didn't work previously, and hold tight to the good. And trust God, because He will do His work.
Friday, March 26, 2004
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Not to be depressing, but I then ran across these articles on the Supreme Court proceedings concerning the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge, and a well stated commentary on the farce of the recent Methodist church trial of a lesbian minister.
I think this reflects the direction our country is going. But we are still responsible for speaking the truth as long as God allows us. Regardless of the popularity or general consensus of the issue.
And I think we need to be very careful as Christians to continually seperate sin from sinner. None of us are condemned- but none of us are innocent either; and calling our sin a "lifestyle" or some other claptrap is very dangerous.
Thankfully, we have a Merciful God.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Anyway, I spent the day at Epcot last Wednesday as a chaperone for my son's science class. Got to take a few pictures. If you're interested->
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I've been having a rough week or so, and the last 3 days have been particularly difficult. I've been reading Waking the Dead and some of the difficulty has come from what I've been learning, but not all.
I sent out a prayer request this morning to some friends- I knew I needed some support. And after that God gave me a big wallop of insight, that I suppose in retrospect should have been more obvious. The first anniversary of my father's death is approaching- March 30th. I was reading a bit of Waking the Dead, and God gently pointed out that that was at least part of what I was reacting to. I talked to my wife a bit and she reminded me that this coming week was also the worst of the process of watching him die- and then I talked to my sister awhile, and that helped a lot.
After my mom died, a year ago January, my dad decided he didn't need to live any longer and decided to quit taking all his medication (heart & diabetes) and stopped eating any solid food. He pretty much confined himself to his bed. Over the next 10 weeks he lived on Sprite. We (my wife, sister, & brother-in-law) spent as much time with him as we could, and watched him deteriorate. In the last few days he was sleeping more than he was awake. He would be asleep and stop breathing for as much as 45 seconds. And when he started breathing again we realized we had been holding our breath, waiting for him to breathe.
He got to the point where he couldn't talk any more, and then slipped into a coma. Shortly after that he died, early on a Sunday morning.
Grief is an amazing thing. Everybody's is unique, I suppose. I think I did most of my grieving for my mom at her funeral- and I don't think she's had the lasting impact my father has. I was mad at him when he died- I agreed to let him go the way he chose (not sure I had a choice there) but I was really pissed during and afterwards. I think he wasted the end of his life. I think he was very selfish and self-centered in what he did. I think it reflected a lot of his life. I also think that he didn't have a clue about what he was doing.
I think if anyone had ever told him that he was being selfish, or causing his children anguish, he would have been very surprised and hurt himself. He loved us as much as he knew how. I know some of his background, the way he grew up, and it was very hard, tragic in some ways. I know God blessed me a great deal through my father, and that he gave as much of himself as he knew how and was able.
There has been a lot of healing, but there is more needed I'm sure, since we get so much of our concept of God from our earthly fathers- even the best of them are flawed. Thank God, He wants us to know the truth.
Another thing that God has been working on in me this week is being open. I have had some sin in the past that had me in bondage- it was stuff that caused me shame, and in my pride I thought I could handle it on my own. Those, of course, are some of the greatest lies satan can get us to fall for. But God has been putting a hunger in me for deeper relationships with other brothers & sisters in the Lord, and is drawing me into a fellowship with a small group at church. I'm really excited about it, as He put that desire in me & is now fulfilling it. They are a tremendous source of encouragement & strength.
Thanks for the prod, Reid-
Saturday, March 13, 2004
"Why is America so eager to retreat from (it's) principles? Why is America eager to dismiss the authority of God? If we dismiss God, then we dismiss the inalienable rights He has ordained and the equality He has declared. Without God, “justice” changes with the winds of the day. People do whatever they wish. We see this later, in the time of the judges-- In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit (Judges 17:6). Without moral authority, judgments will be based solely on the influence, status or usefulness of the person.
The American justice system has its problems to be sure. Sometimes the wealthy get away with murder. Sometimes people are unjustly punished. But no system in the world makes a greater effort or goes to greater expense be fair. There are reforms to be made. There are improvements to be sought. But removing God would not be one of them."
(The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.Words of Faith (c) 2004 Jeffrey D.Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation ofthe source for non-profit purposes.)
Monday, March 08, 2004
Speaking of Ruislip, if any of you happen to be family you might want to look at this-
Like some peace and quiet. My home, with 6 kids, 5 of whom are teenagers, 2 cats, and one large dog, is not a place that is calm by nature. Usually, quiet occurs between midnight and 6 am. And that would work for me except for the lack of sleep that would result. Combined with a hectic schedule, it's hard to catch that combination of conditions that I prefer.
So it is often the case that when something passes through my mind that I want to write about, I won't have the conditions I seem to need. And when I do reach that point of quiescence (one of my favorite words- I once read the wrapper on a popsicle that claimed it was "quiescently frozen." Which, I suppose, means it wasn't dragged, kicking & screaming...) I will likely have lost the original train of thought, probably the very idea that started it. "I know there was something back there, somewhere..."
Lack of time, noisiness, interruptions- all these things can trip me up. And I wonder why I even bother. After all, if God wanted me to write something He'd give me the time, right?
But I've also been reading about spiritual warfare, about how satan comes only to steal & destroy, and I wonder if this is related somehow?
Now as a case in point, since I started writing this I've had to stop to print some school papers for my daughter, and answer a couple of phone calls. I have to keep re-reading what I've written to figure out what's next. If anything.
I'm not unfamiliar with spiritual warfare. But I'm not well-versed in it either (unintentional pun, sorry). And I will admit my thoroughly Western predisposition- it's all rather uncomfortable. Which doesn't make it any less of a reality.
I'm not coming to any conclusions here. And my lunch break is technically over. So I guess this will go back into the pot to stew awhile longer. Hmm...
Friday, March 05, 2004
1 from each of the following countries-
Taiwan, Province Of China,
And 1 that is totally anonymous. Hmm...
So He told me I was feeling this way because things had been so busy- not bad busy, just a lot He had me doing- and now the busyness was over and it was time to rest a bit. I headed for work, still tense and unsettled. At which point God told me to be late for work and go walk on the beach for awhile.
Yeah, I know- that's kinda' hard to believe. It took me a few minutes, too. But He was very insistent. So I drove out to the beach, took off my shoes and socks and rolled up my pants, and went for a walk. Wiggled my toes in the sand, walked in the surf a bit (brr, still), talked to the seagulls. Then He took me down a ways to a rock outcropping that the surf was washing around. I stood on it for awhile and we talked about how the rock was like His Spirit- how I could see parts of it, but I didn't know everything about it; how I could stand on it and the waves might get me wet but couldn't knock me off; how it held so many things together; how it sustained life.
So anyway, it was time to go. And that fixed the problem.
Some of this is from my break-
*Something I've been re-learning. A still, small voice that I have to be still and quiet to hear. Hmm...
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
The other day I was reading something that led to something else, etc, and wound up, by way of John Bradley and Jason Clark reading a letter by Brian McLaren, and an interview with him as well. Brian is someone who has put a lot of thought into what's being called by some, the Emergent Church, and has the respect of others who have done the same.
Now, I don't know anything about emerging or emergent or whatever. In fact, I had never heard of any of it until I started this blog , and started reading others that seem to have similar interests. As best I understand, the intent of the Emergent church is to bring the Gospel to a post-modern culture; post-modern being a reference to the moral stance of 21st century culture. I think.
I was, uh, bothered, by some of what I read in both the letter and the interview. It seemed to me there was a lot of negative criticism toward the traditional, modern, & postmodern versions of the church.
However, what bothered me most in both articles, was that McLaren asked lots of questions without offering any answers. In fact, in the interview, he seemed to back way off what he said in the letter, without offering any solid answers to the questions presented to him. Kind of like he was above being questioned and you had to accept what he said because he said it.
Now, I can't claim to be very familiar with McLaren. And I don't like feeling this way about a brother in Christ. So I knew I needed to either get more input, or let it go entirely. My life is incredibly busy these days, so I figured that although I was curious, I had to let it go- felt that that was what God would have me do. And I felt peace about that.
Enter Reid, stage right. Ha. He sent me to one of my most trusted resources- Christianity Today Online. A very Traditional, Evangelical bulwark. To an article by...drum roll please...Brian McLaren! There goes God, messing with my box again.
Well, the article at CT helped a lot. Answered some questions and helped me have a better perspective of McLaren. I think we have some very similar views, but we use different words. I did, and still do, consider myself very much 'traditional' church, but I agree with much of what McLaren says in the CT article. And as I've had time to think about the whole thing, it seems to me that in spite of differences in terminology- language- we still have the same goal: to live the Gospel as God leads us.
I know God gives a variety of gifts. But there are also varieties of expressions of those gifts- each person has hands and feet, but I'll bet my hands and feet are distinct from yours. All of us are equipped to do the work God has for us, whether the style is ancient, traditional, post-modern, or futuristic. And we are all part of the Body of Christ. Maybe that's the point.
Monday, March 01, 2004
Maybe part of the reason worship was so incredibly good yesterday, was that God was preparing my heart for the movie. The songs we sang made me aware in a new way that Jesus is my life- that is, He is living His life in me.
And a line from one song- "i'm lost without you", really hit me because as I said to my wife, "I am so not lost!" It's a great thing to know.
I talked to my kids before we went. I wanted them to be aware of a few things- to know that though the movie was based primarily on the Gospels, there was a certain amount of artistic license taken. And that there were some details here and there that are conjecture- there is so much in the details that no one knows- but that the overall story was accurate, and faithful to the truth.
I also wanted them to understand this as best they could- Jesus died for us. The entire reason for His life was His death. I think Mel Gibson's intent was to imprint on us how great the cost, the payment, Jesus made for my sin. How He suffered. The horror of what He endured, and how He took on Himself the punishment I deserved.
And yet, with this incredible depiction of His physical suffering, the greatest cost was something that the movie could only give a hint of. The greatest cost of my sin was that, as Jesus took my sin upon Himself, His Father had to forsake Him- Justice demanded it. That is a price we can't comprehend- to be cut off from the presence of God. I believe there is a physical aspect to hell, but I also believe that the worst part of eternal condemnation will be an utter isolation. And that is something, most thankfully Lord, I will never know.
If you haven't been yet, I recommend that you arrange to have some time afterwards to reflect. The words to describe my reaction, my feelings- it is very difficult, but it was an experience I am very grateful for. Maybe that's the best way to say it- it was very difficult to watch, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.