Friday, January 21, 2011

Je vais etre tres occupe - I am going to be very busy

I began my semester as a student of the University of Kansas today.  I really, really love the college atmosphere.  I love the stately buildings and energy of college campus.  But what I'm quite nervous about is the full class load I'll be taking.  In another language, nonetheless. 

So I'm giving an advanced apology to my thousands upon thousands of loyal blog readers, "I'm sorry."  I'm sorry that I might not be posting a lot during this spring semester.  I'm going to be quite busy. 

How is God going to use this French language that I'm learning?  Well, that's still to be discovered but I'm excited about the possibilities and the chance to be learning a new skill. 

A bientot!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trinity Family Midtown

I still have the piece of paper, my "church planting contract."  In October of 2004, I committed to several things.  One was that I'd stay in Gardner for at least 5 years. I fulfilled that one last October.  Another was that our new church would plant another church within 5 years.  Well, we're a few months late, but we're fulfilling that one as well. 

There have been so many good things happening with the Love Wins:LGBT ministry, so many relationships built and so many people from the LGBT community that have been asking the Love Wins team, "tell us about your God" that we've decided to stop asking them to come down to Gardner and we're bringing TFC  downtown. 

I'm actually a bit late posting this because this Thursday will be the third gathering of "TFC Midtown."  The gatherings have been quite a success so far, with more people hearing about it and planning to show up.  I was there on the first Thursday and Andy was quite surprised by some of the people who did come. 

Just think about this.  A little over a year ago, the Love Wins teams entered the bars downtown with quite a bit of anxiousness, wondering how they'd be accepted.  Now, we have a new campus of TFC a couple blocks from those bars and people who have been mistreated and rejected by the church are getting involved in a church and learning about the inclusive and transforming love of Jesus Christ. 

This is a short blog post, considering the immensity of this step by our church.  But I could write pages and pages and not communicate just how wonderful and amazing this is. 


Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK and Peace

"One day as Napoleon came toward the end of his career and looked back across the years—the great Napoleon that at a very early age had all but conquered the world. He was not stopped until he became, till he moved out to the battle of Leipzig and then to Waterloo. But that same Napoleon one day stood back and looked across the years, and said: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have built great empires. But upon what did they depend? They depended upon force. But long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love, and even to this day millions will die for him."
You can read the entire sermon on my wife's blog.

From a sermon in which MLK explains why he opposes the Vietnam War.
"My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."
You can read the entire sermon here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Definitely on the curvy part

I had lunch the other day with a friend of mine who has been on quite a journey of exploration the last several years.  He has a very rationale mind that is quite adept at figuring out a process or mapping a system.  For the past several years, he's been taking that approach to trying to "figure out" faith.  I've seen him work through some intellectual barriers and take some big steps of faith however, he just took a MASSIVE step that is almost counter-intuitive to his natural, rational approach. 

The other day at lunch, he told me how just recently it dawned on him - the Christian life is not about figuring everything out but rather living daily in a relationship.  In a relationship, there are some things we keep coming back to as the foundation of a relationship but we also live in a committed relationship even though we don't have everything figured out regarding the other person.  While the commitment may be static, the ways in which we interact within a relationship are fluid and changing. 

In the midst of that conversation, I shared an image I like to use to explain repentance / conversion.  It's starts out as a line going away from God and toward self, but changes into a curve away from self and back toward God.  Jesus often said, "repent, for the Kingdom of God is near."  The repentance that stands as the foundational act of the Christian life (or relationship with Jesus) is turning away from self and toward God.  While there is one point in which we begin to turn, our entire lives are about continuing to turn more and more toward God. 

I hope this makes sense without the actual drawing...

Well, when I explained this to my friend at lunch, he responded by saying, "I'm definitely on the curvy part."

Considering everything he's been through in his life, all the faith struggles and intellectual doubts, it's hard to overstate the brevity of that simple statement. 

And I can't explain how thrilling it is to see the huge steps of faith that this friend has taken and to have been with him on some of those steps.  I was reminded of what God said through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart."  Of course, I'm also reminded that God does the seeking and because he's so desperate to live in relationship with his children, he'll do whatever is necessary to lead us into that relationship. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


While waiting for the snow forecast for the end of the weekend, I had a rather funny thought.  When I worked as a courier at FedEx, I preferred that it snowed over the weekend because snow made my job very difficult. When I quit FedEx and went full-time at TFC, I hoped for snows to hit during the week, since snow made it difficult to pull our trailer and meant that we needed to fork out some cash just to have the parking lots cleared.

Now I work at FedEx and TFC. Now I wish it would never snow. But it started snowing Monday morning.

Oh yeah, I also don't enjoy shovelling the driveway. And as you can tell from this video, it's going to be a few years before I can make my boy go do the shovelling. And the grunt you hear from Erin was from me hitting her with the shovel - I had no peripheral vision with my hood on.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I love being a parent

Glad we recorded that when we did because Dawson has now started pronouncing the "r" and the "g", making his version of "frog" not so funny/ offensive anymore.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Some More from "Generous Justice"

Okay, here are a few more thoughts to follow up my previous blog post.

"Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke concludes, after studying both the word justice and its kindred word righteousness, that in the Old Testament, 'the righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.'

Therefore, just men and women see their money as belonging in some ways to the entire human community around them, while the unjust or unrighteous see their money as strictly their's and no one else's. After all, they earned it, and that's the main reason they have it. That view of life is naive, as we have seen, and it collides head-on with the Bible. So in Deuteronomy 24 we read:

"14 "Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns. 17 True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans, and you must never accept a widow's garment as security for her debt. 19 When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don't go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all you do."

The reference to the harvest was an exhortation to landowners to allow the poor to 'glean.' If we read this text closely, we see that part of the landowner's harvest was 'for' the immigrant and poor. That means that in God's eyes, it was actually theirs. We should be careful not to think this means that the land belonged to the poor - it belonged ultimately to God and provisionally to the landowner. In God's view, however, while the poor did not have a right to the ownership of the farmer's land, they had a right to some of its produce. If the owner did not limit his profits and provide the poor with an opportunity to work for their own benefit in the fields, he did not simply deprive the poor of charity but of justice, of their right. Why? A lack of generosity refuses to acknowledge that your assets are not really yours, but God's.

Here is another example. Think of the millions of children and teenagers in this country who have grown up in poverty. They attend failing schools and live in an environment unconducive to reading and learning. By the time they are in their teens many of them are functionally illiterate. This locks them into poverty or worse. It is estimated that a majority of convicts in prison are illiterate. Who is to blame?

Conservatives may argue that this is the parent's fault. It is due to a failure of moral character and the breakdown of the family. Liberals, however, see it as a failure of government to stem systemic racism and to change unjust social structure. But nobody says that it is the children's fault they were born where they were. Those children are in poverty largely because they were not born into a family like mine. My three sons, just by being born where they were, have a far better chance to have flourishing, happy life in society. There is an inequitable distribution of both goods and opportunities in this world. Therefore, if you have been assigned the goods of this world by God and you don't share them with others, it isn't just stinginess, it is injustice."

The Power of Naming

I often point out injustices and/or inconsistencies I see in the world. Sometimes I do so on this blog, sometimes I do so on facebook - which usually creates a lot of heated discussion. At worst, I'm just being a whiner who starts fights. But I've thought there might be a 'best.' Well, according to this blog entry from the Christian Peacemaking Teams, there is a power in whining... I mean, naming.

CPTnet 26 December 2010 *CPT INTERNATIONAL: Oppression is bad, now what?*by Tim Nafziger and Mark van Steenwyk

Both of us have spent time analyzing the way we are part of the dominant culture in the United States. We know that we, as heterosexual, white men, benefit from a system that is racist, sexist, and heterosexist and that we are against oppression. However, we want to move beyond analysis and become allies to people who are not part of the dominant culture. We have been studying literature on the topic, including Anne Bishop’s Becoming an Ally, and have noticed some interesting parallels between the practice of becoming an ally and what Jesus is trying to do in the Sermon on the Mount.Naming the ways we see oppression operating in a group setting is part of becoming an ally. “Naming” is the practice of unveiling a truer narration than the one that identifies only blatant bigotry and chauvinism as the problem.

Naming means noticing when members of the dominant culture are the only ones speaking in a mixed group and pointing it out. It means confessing those times when we have dismissed people because of our unintentional prejudices. It means our honoring the moments when members of an oppressed group name oppression rather than out responding to this naming with defensiveness. It means making sure it isn't the women in a group who have to call out a man for making a sexist remark, intentional or not. It means breaking ranks with other members of the dominant culture. It is risky.

Naming happens when we bring hidden things to light, speak truth in the midst of error, or confess our complicity in systems that devalue others. It is about letting go or unlearning the lies, and binding the reality with our attention, presence, words, and actions. We are moving beyond mere symbolism to real praxis—acting in a way that unveils oppression and co-creates liberation.

Isn't this what Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount? In the Beatitudes, Jesus is Naming the truth, thereby opening the space for a new reality. When he said “Blessed are the poor”, in that moment of Naming, he unveiled lies, and, with his fellow poor, co-created a new reality—a new moment in which previously entrenched realities broke open so that a new future was possible. “Blessed are the poor” is revolution-speak. It is about the in-breaking of God.

Being an ally involves a commitment to move past defensiveness when we are challenged on our own oppression, as unintentional as it may be. If we are open to recognizing our own complicity in oppression, members of the dominant culture (be it heterosexual, white or male) have a lot to gain, both socially and spiritually. Our relationships with those not part of the dominant culture can deepen. And when we are in deeper community with our brothers and sisters, we take a step closer to the vision of the beloved community and our mutual liberation.

Mark van Steenwyk is co-founder of Missio Dei, an Anabaptist intentional community in Minneapolis and a writer, speaker, and grassroots educator.Sources for this article include Ervin Stutzman, Glen Alexander Guyton, Joanna Shenk, Sylvia Morrison and Anne Bishop. This is an excerpt of a longer article.
For the entire post, you can click here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Generous Justice

The first book I've read in 2011 is "Generous Justice" by Timothy Keller, link

This was a powerful, inspiring and thought-provoking book. You could tell I think so by checking out all the highlighted sections and dog-eared pages. When reading something like this, I want to post all the great ideas of the book on my blog, but my fingers just get too tired. So here's one idea from the book to share.

According to Keller, there are three root causes of poverty found in the scriptures, oppression of the rich over the poor, natural disasters and personal moral failures.

"Multiple factors are usually interactively present in the life of a poor family. For example: a person raised in a racial/ economic ghetto (factor #1) is likely to have poor health (factor #2) and also learn many habits that do not fit with material/ social advancement (factors #2 and #2). Any large-scale improvement in a society's level of poverty will come through a comprehensive array of public and private, spiritual, personal and corporate measures. There are many indications that scholars are coming to have a more balanced, complex view of poverty and are breaking through the older Right-Left deadlock." pg 35

"In both the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus delivers a famous discourse, which is usually called the Sermon on the Mount. For centuries, readers have acknowledged the beauty of its high ethical standards. What is not noticed very oft...en is how Jesus weaves into a whole cloth what we would today call private morality and social justice. Along with the well-known prohibitions against sexual lust in the heart, adultery, and divorce there are calls to give to the poor (Mat 6:1-4) and to refrain from overwork and materialism (Mat 6:19-24).
In Western society these sets of concerns have often been split off from one another. In fact, each of America's two main political parties has built its platform on one of these sets of ethical prescriptions to the near exlusion of the other. Conservatism stresses the importance of personal morality, especially the importance of traditional sexual mores and hard work, and feels that liberal charges of racism and social injustice are overblown.
On the other hand, liberalism stresses social justice, and considers conservative emphases on moral virtue to be prudish and psychologically harmful. Each side, of course, thinks the other side is smug and self-righteous.
It is not only the political parties that fail to reflect this 'whole cloth' Biblical agenda. The churches of America are often more controlled by the surrounding political culture than by the Spirit of Jesus and the prophets. Conservat...ive churches tend to concentrate on one set of sins, while liberal ones concentrate on another set. Jesus, like the OT prophets, does not see two categories of morality. In Amos 2:7, we read, 'They trample the heads of the poor; father an dson go in to the same girl.' The prophet condemns social injustice and sexual licentiousness in virtually the same breath (see also Isaiah 5:8ff). Such denunciations cut across all conventional political agendas. The Biblical perspective sees sexual immorality and material selfishness as both flowing from self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness.
Raymond Fung, an evangelist in Hong Kong, tells of how he was speaking to a textile worker about the Christian faith, and he urged him to come and visit a church. The man could not go to a service on Sunday without losing a day's wages, ...but he did so. After the service, Fung and the man went to lunch. The worker said, "well, the sermon hit me.' It has been about sin. 'What the preacher said was true of me - laziness, a violent temper, and addictions to cheap entertainment.' Fung held his breath, trying to control his excitement. Had the gospel message gotten through? He was disappointed.
'Nothing was said about my boss,' the man said to Fung. When the preacher had gone through the list of sins, he had said, 'Nothing about how he employs child laborers, how he doesn't give us the legally required holidays, how he puts on false labels, how he forces us to do overtime...'
Fung knew that members of the management class were sitting in the congregation, but those sins were never mentioned. The textile worker agreed that he was a sinner, but he rejected the message of the church because he sensed its incompleteness. Harvie Conn, who related this story in one of his books, added that gospel preaching that targets some sins but not the sins of oppression, 'cannot possibly work among the overwhelming majority of people in the world, poor peasants and workers.'" - pgs. 54-56