Friday, March 21, 2008

good friday: let it die

When David’s illegitimate son was dying, David put on sackcloth and began to fast and pray, begging God to save his son. However, messengers arrive and David learns that his son is already dead. Upon hearing this he immediately puts aside the sackcloth and prayer and goes to his house where he bathes, anoints himself, eats, drinks, then sleeps with his wife, who conceives a new life, Solomon.

When he senses that he has scandalized those around him who feel he has not properly mourned his son, David replies: “While the child was alive, I fasted and prayed, imploring God to save the child. Now the child is dead. I must move on to create new life.”

Death is a significant overture in Christian spirituality.

After all, we are dying all the time,
struggling painfully to let go of youth,
and possible dreams,
and, in the end, of life itself.

Yet, we do not accept death.

We deny,
refuse to wake up
and do everything except accept that we must let go.

Like the ancient Egyptians who reacted to death by embalming and mummifying their dead, we tend to embalm and mummify what has died in us through contemporary forms of embalming:

our youth and sexual attractiveness are embalmed through cosmetics, dyes, face lifts, pretense and lies about our age;

our wealth and privilege are buried with us through memorabilia, named buildings (we have an edifice complex) and legacy funds;

our plans are ritualized through blogs, journals, and home movies – worshipped in the religion of who we think we should have been.

This also occurs in our loves and friendships. When we first meet, when love is young, there is period of infatuation, of emotional electricity, of honeymoon. But all relationships grow and change and all honeymoons end.

Too often when the honeymoon ends the love begins to die, to grow sour, bland and resentful. Almost always a large part of the problem is the unwillingness to let the honeymoon end. We cling to it in a panic; but love and friendship, like Jesus, need to “rise on the third day,” so to speak. Our loves must ascend to new levels. They must release a deeper spirit.

This is also true for our dreams and hopes. We often go through life refusing to let go of a hope that can never be for us. When we refuse to accept that we are not as physically attractive, slim, athletic, talented, bright, unblemished, strong and connected as we would like to be, then we will always live in resentment and bitterness, frustrated and caught up in a daydream which prevents us from living by constantly saying “if only.”

This cannot endure. We must let these things die. Some things must be killed off – sacrificed, like our old selves, our former selves – the parts of us that displease God.

But do not despair – for God always gives us new life. Whenever something passes, be it youth or sexual attractiveness, something else takes its place.

See, there are two kinds of death and we need to distinguish between paschal death and terminal death.

Terminal death is the death that ends life forever.

Paschal death is death following by new life.

Terminal death is the loss of a child.

Paschal death is the loss of a child through childbirth – the child is lost from her mother’s womb, but born into the world.

We all rightly fear terminal death. It is never good. It is the condition of our broken world.

But – too often – we fear the paschal death as well. We all have little things we’re keeping alive…even though those things are killing us.

We sense that certain things we love (or once loved) are coming to an end and so we cling. It is the clinging that is the crime – clinging to the past, clinging to past hurts, refusing to be made whole again, refusing to embrace the movement of God, or Time, or Life.

We must embrace paschal death. We must let go of some thing – even some good things. This is the cry of Good Friday – something has to be sacrificed in order for us to be whole.

It is the refusal to let go that is the cause of so much unhappiness,
bitterness and despair in our lives.
We must die,
we must accept new life,
we must refuse to cling to the old
so that new life can ascend and a new spirit be given to us.
This brings new love,
new friendship,
new health,
new attractiveness,
new meaning
and new depth;
but to do this requires that we trust God.

We must trust God enough to let ourselves die.

We’ve previously spoken of the Koru fern at Westwinds. In New Zealand the Koru fern contains within it a tiny, curled frond that needs space in order to grow and live. The only way it gets that space is by the intervention of the Maori people, who walk through the bush and burn off the old growth. The Maori burn off the undergrowth in order to encourage new life.

The cycles of death and decay are the compost of new life.

None of us are whole, everyone is broken.

For more and more people there is a major something to live beyond,
some skeleton in the closet;
a broken marriage,
an abortion,
a religious commitment that did not work out,
a pregnancy outside marriage,
a betrayed trust,
a broken relationship,
a soured affair,
a serious mistake,
a searing regret;
sometimes with a sense of sin, sometimes without it.

These things hurt, but we must remember that pain is prophetic. It indicates that something is wrong - not just with the individual, but with the whole body.

What we need, perhaps more than anything else, is a theology of brokenness that takes sin and failure serious enough to redeem it.

We need a theology that teaches us that even though we cannot unscramble an egg God’s grace lets us live happily and with renewed innocence.

We need a theology which tells us that a second, third, fourth, and fifth chance are just as valid as the first one.

We need a theology which tells us that mistakes are not forever, that they are not even for a lifetime, that time and grace wash clean, that nothing is irrevocable.

As you reflect on the death Christ suffered, reflect on the deaths he is inviting you to suffer as well:

What things are there in your life that are dying?

What are you clinging to that God wants you to let go of?

What are you embalming that needs to be put to rest?

Are there hurts
That need to be let go of?

What is killing you?

What things in your life need to be put to death?

easter: the harrowing of hell

The Harrowing of Hell
[manuscript for easter fusion teaching]

Several years ago, after the pope had been heckled during his visit to Holland, a Belgian newspaper ran an editorial which commented as follows: the difference between the Dutch and the Belgians can be seen in their separate reactions to the pope. In Holland, people do not keep the commandments but they still want to be saints, so they demand that the commandments be changed. In Belgium we do not keep the commandments either, but we know that we are not saints and so we admit it and ask for redemption.

Our culture struggles with honesty, with admitting weakness.

Much within us and around us invites us to rationalize,
to make excuses,
to demand that standards be changed
or re-integrated
because we cannot live up to them.

But the failure to admit our weaknesses and acknowledge our sins is infinitely more damaging than weakness and sin in-and-of-themselves.

We should remember this at Easter. It is the time for atonement.

Easter is a time for reconciliation, a time where we remember Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

At-one-ment with God.

Jesus comes to us, and loves us, even though we are weak and sinful.

Jesus proved this in many ways – through his death, through his teaching, through his example, etc – but the one I’d like to focus on today is his descent into Hell.

Jesus proved his love for us by descending into hell – a theological bit of pizzazz rarely talked about, though ultimately very significant.

Here it is in a nutshell:

We believe that Jesus Jesus died and descended into the depths of Hades (Ephesians 4.8-10). He did not suffer, for his suffering was completed on the cross (John 19.30). He preached to those tormented because of their sin (1 Peter 3.18, 20; 4.4), spreading the fragrance of himself even into Hell (2 Corinthians 2.14-16). He departed (Acts 2.27, 31), bearing the keys of Hades (Revelation 1.18) and destroying Death itself (Hebrews 2.14).

The doctrine of the descent into hell is first and foremost a doctrine about love,
God’s love for us,
and the power of that love to go to all lengths,
to descend to all depths
and to go through virtually every barrier
in order to redeem a wounded,
and unfree humanity.

Do you know how much love it must take for someone to go willingly into Hell?

There is a story I’ve heard, about a man who died and was sent to hell. His brother came to the gates of hell to beg for his release, claiming that there had been a mistake. His priest came and begged for his release, claiming that man had at least as many virtues as vices.

They were both refused.

Then the man’s mother claim to the gates of hell, aching for her son. She said: let me in.

By dying as he did, Christ demonstrated that he loves us in such a way that he can descend into our private hells. His love is so empathetic and compassionate that it can penetrate all barriers (constructed either out of hurt or fear or whatever else) and enter right into our despair and hopelessness.

We see this idea expressed powerfully in John 20. Twice John presents the disciples as huddled behind closed doors, locked in because of fear. Twice Jesus comes through the locked doors and stands in the midst of that frightened and depressed group, breathing peace into them.

The image of Christ going through locked doors ought to give us a certain hope. It means that God can help us even when we cannot help ourselves. God can empower us even when we are too weak and despairing, even to open the door and to let him in.

There is a famous picture that shows Jesus standing outside of a door, the door to the human heart, and there is no doorknob for him to open. The purpose of the picture is to remind us that we must open the door and let him into our hearts. The picture is not without its merits, but ultimately what it says is untrue.

Christ does not need a doorknob.

Christ can enter through closed doors, solid walls, or through the barriers of fear and suspicion.

The picture expresses a truth about human love. In the human arena, these are the dynamics of love; unless a heart opens from the inside, human love can only knock and it must remain outside.

But that is not the case with God’s love, as John 20 depicts. God’s love can descend into hell. Unlike our love, it is not helplessly knocking at the door of fear, depression, hurt and sickness. It does not require that a person, especially a wounded and dying person, first find the strength to make the initial move to open his self or herself to health.

There is no hell,
no private hell of wound,
or even bitterness,
that God’s love cannot and will not descend into.
Once there, it will breathe out the peace of the Holy Spirit.

So, what does this mean for you and I?

Well – to break it into digestible bits – it means that:

1. God loves us unconditionally and there is nothing we can do, sin included, that even for one second can change that. We can go to hell, and even there, God does not stop loving us.

2. It means that we live under the law of mercy, not of justice. We cannot undo, or even atone for, our sin. It must be forgiven, washed clean through Christ’s sacrificial death.

3. How do we receive that forgiveness? By opening the door? Perhaps we would be better served by another metaphor. Perhaps a better way to conceptualize it would be to have us stop fighting God.
a. Imagine that the love of God is a great wet blanket placed upon you, saturated with the sweetness of love and mercy. Instead of throwing that blanket off, accept it and live within it – let it warm you, shield you, and comfort you.

b. Imagine that God appears to you and picks you up like a child, cradling you. Stop fighting Him. Allow yourself to be held close to His heart.

If you resonate with these images – these desires – then pray with me:

God –

I have many regrets. I have done many wrong things. I have hurt others, myself, you, and the world – sometimes in small ways, sometimes in greater ones.

Please forgive me for all of this.

I do not want to keep fighting you. I want your love and forgiveness. I want to feel it. I want to know I have it.

I willingly accept whatever it takes to know you and be known by you.

I am yours.


thanks to ronald rolheiser

this easter season i'll be drawing from the wisdom and perspective of ronald rolheiser (author of "the holy longing"). over the last six months his writings have been particularly influential, and i thought it'd be appropriate to give him some props here.

...because, you know, hermit-like catholic priests often stalk the blogs of young canadians living in exile


christ the lord: road to cana

i'm so rarely moved by a book to write any kind of review or endorsement.

but anne rice's "christ the lord: road to cana" is fantastic. go buy two copies and give them away...hear back from your friends how great it is...let the anticipation build...cry, beg, and moan...then go buy two more copies and keep and read only one.

biblically consistent
scholarly credible
and truly, genuinely, spiritually formative.

you'll notice no endorsement of "the shack" here...if you're looking for a spiritually provocative novel get "road to cana"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

souls are the sole missional province of the church (how's that for a wordy title?)

we've been having some discussions at westwinds lately about soteriology (the theology of salvation) and social justice (aka, helping people)

both are, scripturally, considered "mission" in the truest uses of the term

jesus gave us a soul-reaching/saving/reconnecting/welcoming mission
jesus gave us many missions to do good/redeem the world/love the world/help the poor

at westwinds we have done an increasing amount of really cool missional-justice things. whether that's our gals loving single mums on mother's day with reprieve; or our teens raising $$ to give away cars to families in need; or dave midkiff tackling recycling in the earth-hating community of southern michigan; or rob and wendy white purchasing a home downtown and using it for classes, giftings, and soooo much more; or our many justice initiatives through causemology (our spiritual formation portal at ww); or our advocacy for churches and pastors overseas (like cedric in cape town, dries in pretoria, phillipe and sophia, etc.); and on and on and on

i'm so proud of our church for the many ways they've come to the party to love the world as god has loved the world.

on the flip side, though, we are increasingly troubled about the mission of saving souls.

(by the way, i know that terminology has caused a lot of hiccups for people...just go with me here for a minute and any pomo hangups will be a little alleviated)

see, we understand that everyone comes to faith along a slightly different path. there is only one way to gain access to the father - through jesus christ his son - and salvation is available only through jesus; but there are many ways to find jesus.

some find jesus through scripture
some through prayer
some through a vision or a miracle
some through conversation
some through apologetics
some through friendship
some through culture, media, happenstance

at ww, we try and authenticate the spiritual journey that people are on, allowing them the freedom to be led by the spirit and to dry increasing closer to jesus. we understand our role to be to lead each person a little deeper into him.

so...whether you've been a christ-follower for 50 years or 50 minutes, we believe that god wants us all to draw closer

and closer

and closer

we call this a theology of journey, and we believe it's much more biblically honest than the raise-your-hand-if-you-don't-want-to-burn-in-hell-tonight approach or the fill-out-this-card-and-enjoy-your-best-life-now approach

but it does create some tension

for example, in the other ways of addressing salvation everyone in church gets to see who comes to faith in christ. so, if i give an alter call in fusion and 20 people every week came to the front to accept jesus, that would look really good to those who are just watching.

whereas, by inviting everyone to move a little closer to jesus, we lose the benefit of seeing one another commit.

there's much that could be said here about whether or not those who "just watch" ought to be concerned about their own motives/preoccupations...but that's not what i'm interested in soapboxing for now.

my point is that the church suffers in the absence of knowing publicly that people are being transformed.

so, even though i believe we see more genuine transformation in the lives of new christ-followers at westwinds than i ever did at the 1000-kids-a-summer-made-decisions-for-jesus-at-my-personal-evangelistic-camps
people feel less confident that that transformation in actually taking place

because they can't see it

now, on the flip side, even though we see (and hear) of a remarkable amount of life transformation, i'm still deeply concerned about us seeing more

and more

and more

in my life

in the lives of all those i know

and definitely in our church

but - for now - i'm simply blogging that our current challenge is how to get these stories in front of our people more and more frequently

because otherwise all they see are our social justice efforts

which, from the outside, look like a enthusiastic not-for-profit club (with a devilshly handsome spokesperson :)

and church, if it is any way to resemble the communities of the new testament, must be about so much more than just playing nice

hell is (not) for heroes

i've been thinking a lot about hell lately

well, for the last 6-8 months really.

the existence of a literal hell has come under some hot and heavy fire by several in the emergent community...which troubles me. i always get nervous when someone is willing to say "that thing that every christian has believed in for 2100 years (+ however long our spiritual ancestors, the hebrews, believed in it)...well, we think that thing is totally wrong now."

now, to be fair, there are teachings of the church that need to be re-worked in light of new evidence (textual, archaeological, contextual) and some of the things we thought to be beyond-discussion have turned out to be very much in discussion all along (tithing, for example, though widely practiced in christian america has NOT had a stellar history in the global, universal, practice of christian spirituality).

anyways...all that to say it's been weighing on me that some of my fellows are willing to throw the hell-baby out with the judgment-bath water.

c.s. lewis' book "the great divorce" is a novella about someone entering heaven. it's been very influential for me and i've read (and quoted) it many times.

over the years i've reflected on how much his version of hell sounds like the private hells that so many people live in today.

he makes no claim that they are the same...but he does demonstrate their disturbing symmetry. that symmetry has been a factor in other, less judicious, folks coming to the conclusion that 'hell on earth' is really the only hell scripture ever talks about; and, conversely, that 'heaven on earth' (as in the present heaven-on-earth, not the future eschatalogical one) is all we have to hope for.

others have done a far better job than myself refuting these claims. some other time, perhaps, i may throw my hat in the ring and defend these doctrines myself.

but...i've been rambling simply to get to the point that "hell" is soooo much like "hell on earth" that it's prompted me to try my hand at a fictional account of life in hell.

i've written about a minister who wakes up in his coffin, digs himself out of the grave, and finds himself trapped in his rotting corpse (as opposed to his new, glorified, body) forever in hell.

too macabre, do you think?

here is a brief sample from the second section, entitled "going down"

There are many kinds
Of people staying in Hell;
Though, none of us got along.

Everyone just lived
Like normal, hating their jobs
But working for the weekend.

No one cared either.
It’s too much effort to hate.
Lethargy insulates us.

The government is
The worst thing in the whole world,
Like froth on a mug of brine.

They pretend to work,
But they’ve been lifeless ever
Since Brutus pricked Julius.

Politicians cry
“peace, peace” when there is no peace.
There are only the pieces.

We live with worms in
Nightmares from our childhood.
They get away with murder.

more verse, and many illustrations to come


Saturday, March 15, 2008

carmel's superhero results...which may cause some rumors

Your results:
You are The Flash

The Flash
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
Iron Man
Fast, athletic and flirtatious.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

my superhero results

Your results:
You are Superman

Iron Man
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
The Flash
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Friday, March 14, 2008

words from the tall skinny kiwi

found this interesting post from a fellow in new zealand and thought i'd reprint it here. to go to the original, go to or click the title above and it'll take you right there

* * * * * *

Offensive language: I Think My Mother Taught Me

WARNING: If cussing and offensive language piss you off, excuse my King James, please do not read on because I WILL refer to words that are deeply offensive and yet must be mentioned if we are to have a serious and objective look at the subject of offensive language and the emerging church movement.

Interesting conversation going on this week at Monday Morning Insight. Charles Swindoll has been dropped from VCY radio station for using 'vulgar" language [including buns, heck, crap, balls] I think it was the "crap" word that got him in trouble.

Todd says . . .
"VCY alerted IFL that day that the word, “crap” is crude, uncalled for and offensive and should not to be used in a Christian’s vocabulary, let alone come from a pulpit and broadcast all over the country. VCY stated to IFL that this term Chuck used did not pass the test of Ephesians 4:29." Ingrid responded and is being backed up by Ken who is quoting Tozer and the finger wagging is happening all over.

BTW - Chuck Swindoll was my pastor in the eighties when i lived in Orange County. My wife was a missionary sent from EFC in Fullerton and we were married in that church. He is a good man and if he says "crap", then i would assume that the era of crap being a swear word has ended and people need to get used to it.

Same with "ass". In January this year, John Piper got called out for saying that God "kicks our ass". He explained later that "backside" would have sufficed, and there was much conversation [see links on Justin Taylor's blog and Wayne Grudem's response]. But, honestly, no explanation was needed. I think saying "ASS" should not ASSault anyone and is not ASinine in the slightest. But that depends who is ASking. The word is no longer offensive except to a tiny minority of people . . who are probably ASleep in ASpen. The word might even be an ASSet to poets who need to AScribe strong* words to ASSociates.

* is an ASterisk.

Its usually the emerging church that gets slammed for bad language and cussing. The most famous is Mark Driscoll who was called "The Cussing Pastor" in a book by Donald Miller and chastised by John Macarthur in his Grunge Christianity?. As I said a few days ago, Mark Driscoll is NOT offensive to the people in his congregation. Every culture and geographic location is unique and finding a universal code of non-offensive language is impossible.

Actually, the international emerging scene uses far more 'swear' words than the American. One reason for this is that English is often a second language and certain words, learned from watching Eddie Murphy movies, dont have the same impact. Ohhhh . . the things I have heard . . .

You probably have too. Not so much in emerging church evangelism, as the critics charge. Nothing trendy about cussing at all. But if your church has ever hosted an open mike night and 20 artists are plumbing the depths of their souls and expressing the results with language that fits . . . well . . you hear stuff that your mother never said. Once I was in a church meeting in Texas and a new Christian read some poetry that verbaized his repentance from a recent slip up. We all listened intently as he tearfully read out his confession, in a really loud voice, "God . . . I am sooo sorry. I feel like I have been f___d over by the devil".

What would you do if that happened in your church?

Words change. I am sure Charles Spurgeon would not talk about "n*gger entertainments" as he did in a 1891 Sword and Trowel publication. And the translators of the King James Bible would probably not employ the word "piss" (1 Sam 25:22, 25:34; 1 Kings 14:10, 16:11, 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8) for "urinate" or "to relieve oneself". The word "sucks", it was pointed out by Justin on in 2005, is no longer a deeply offensive word. Words change, just like cultures change. And applying outdated templates is not always appropriate.

But some words ARE offensive to a lot of people and the Scriptures have much to say about the way we speak and the words we choose. Heres how I see it. Heres the skinny.

Words change and their impact changes. As I already said. I see swear words as belonging to three distinct historical periods and forgive me if they are becoming cliche in these conversations.

1. In Premodern times, the most offensive words were excommunicatory in nature.
Offensive words were religious terms that threatened punishment and damnation. Its still the same in French. My French speaking friends tell me the most offensive words in their language are still along those lines of religious cursing and calling someone a "devil" In English, the words "damn" and "hell" used to have a harsh edge but have softened over time. The names of God and Christ and Joseph/Mary are often called up to create offense. In fact, the word "cuss" is related to "curse" which has religious overtones, as does the word "swear".

At Sunday School, i was told not to use words like "Geez Whiz", and "Jeepers" because they were toned down versions of swear words. There were lots of these words - "Gosh", "golly" . . ."struth" which means 'God's truth' and is still popular in Australia.
My mother was brought up in a very strict Presbyterian home and was forbidden to swear. She and her sisters said "Amster-naughtyword" instead of Amsterdam.
BUT . .. she was allowed to repeat the refrain "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a nigger by the toe . . " That was not offensive in her day.

2. In Modern times, which is where many people still live, words that cause most offense affront our personal and private sensibilities. These offensive words [explicit?] are normally associated with private body parts, bodily functions of a toilet nature, and sexual relations. The shift began in the 1800's in USA, when restrictions on language focused on sexuality. It is this era that many older people still use as a standard of the most offensive swear words. For example, as a child, I was not allowed to say "bum" or "crap" or "piss". Obviously, harsher words than these were also forbidden.

3. In our Post-modern times, as the voices of the margin dwellers and powerless have been given consideration and brought to the center, it is exclusionary language that causes most offence. Marginalizing people due to their race, gender, disability or status is about the most offensive thing you can say. Once I accidently used the word "girl" instead of "woman" - the uproar was global and the judgement swift. People still remind me of it. Mark Driscoll has also been rebuked by emerging church folk for comments that sounded misogynist. This makes him an interesting subject, as someone who has managed to offend people in at least two camps.

But I have never heard Mark Driscoll say "n*gger" like Spurgeon did . . . and I am guessing he never will. And Spurgeon wouldn't either in today's world. Despite his reputation as the cussing pastor, I dont think Driscoll is motivated to offend people. I might be wrong but I think he is more concerned with expressing the fulness and impact of what he wants to say in the everday language of his people. Are'nt we all?

Just a month ago, hip-hop producer Russell Simmons recommended eliminating "extreme curse words" from the recording industry. Which words? They were "n*gger, "bitch" and "ho". Note the absense of sexual or bodily function type cuss words. These days, no one loses their job for saying "crap" but if you say "N*gger" in USA or "Ching" in Australia or "Coconut" in NZ or "Paki" in UK then your entire career might be on the line.

In the USA a lawsuit was brought against a Southwest Airlines Flight attendant in 2003 for using this rhyme, even without saying the n___ word. What she said was "Eenie, meenie, minie, mo, pick a seat, we gotta go". Its the same refrain I used to repeat when counting.

I think my mother taught me.

[hey mum - dont worry . . you didnt know any better]

In the UK, a paper published on offensive language called 'Delete Expletives' found the word "n*gger" had the most movement - going from eleveth position in 1998 to fifth in 2000. In the same time period, the word "Paki" went from seventeenth to tenth. "Paki" in USA hardly registers as a swear word at all.

So, I guess I am saying that words still offend but those words are in a state of flux and their impact is related to what is happening in society.

And God's word is still just as applicable today as it has always been. Apart from one of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20) telling us not to use the LORD's name in an empty manner [ie, without thought or meaning, or 'in vain'], there are two passages from the Scriptures that stick in my mind:

1. Jesus warned his listeners against calling anyone "Raca" or empty-head.(Matthew 5:22). This is the kind of exclusionary and demeaning insult that makes up the harshest offensive language today in these postmodern, postcolonial times. The equivalent of "Raca" will be different in every language. "estupido" in Spanish is a very harsh word but in English it isnt very offensive. But there are plenty of insulting words that rip people's esteem to shreds and the command of Jesus remains. Lets not tear each other down with these kinds of words. Love builds up and it never destroys. Love is the language of the Kingdom and the Kingdom is more about power than words (1 Cor 4:20) so we shouldn't get too hung up with wrangling (good Texas word) over words.

2. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." Eph 4:29-31 Again, lets use words to build people up. Lets NOT use our words or our blogs for slandering others or expressing our anger. Give your anger to God and let him deal with it. Words can tear down or build up. Lets build each other up and not grieve the Holy Spirit.

Carla Rolfe has some viral-worthy advice on this and anyone who gets intoxicated with criticising and ripping down should pay attention:

"If someone is currently blessing you or has been a blessing in your walk, take the time to tell them. Call them if you can, or email them, or send a card. Find a nice way to lift their hearts and know that they have indeed blessed you and strengthened you." Go bless someone, Reflections on the Times

And when it comes to choosing words to express oneself, I try to keep in mind my audience. If i am invited to preach at a traditional church and there is a lot of grey hair in the front rows, I figure their list of bad words is from an earlier historical period than mine and the language I choose will hopefully fit the situation and will not cause offense. Why offend when we have a message to get across? But its not always easy to express oneself fully to multiple generations.

And if the person i am listening to uses a word that offends me, I will be quick to believe the best (1 Cor 13) and assume that they have walked a different path, and what i consider offensive may not necessarily be the same standard by which they judge their words.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

fun birthday so far

i'm 31 years young today, having officially gone over the hill (version 1.0).

my friends here have been awesome - jvo rocked me by surprising me two weeks ago with foo fighters tix, brad took me to see the awful (yet still enjoyable) 10,000 BC, and craig took jake and i to the gold show.

what great friends!

p.s. i'll not be blogging about all the ways in which my wife is good to me on my birthday. she and the kids are doing fun daddy birthday stuff later today with my long-distance family (which, these days, is all of them).

ecclesiastes resources

Friday, March 7, 2008

quelle surprise?

i've been learning a lot about myself lately, and much of what i'm learning surprises me.

here are some examples:

i'm more of an artist than i'd previously thought, but less social
- amateur filmaking has become graphic design has become illustration has become verse
has become briolcage, has become fantasy, has become mixed-media
- in vancouver i'd had so many strong and healthy relationships i'd just assumed it was because i was such a social i know it had more to do with the fact that i'd known those people for decades (insert "duh" comment here)

i'm more curious, but less confident
- i used to think i had all things ecclesial and theological wrapped up tight in a little bow...then i read the rest of the bible
- len told me that we're all at least 25% wrong, we just don't know which 25%...ha!
- i truly believe that the eastern orthodox church has a truer biblical theology than do most protestants...but their churches are small and dying and deathly inconsequential to the world...what am i supposed to do with that?

more mystical, less apologetic
- i hate fighting about theology
- i hate smarmy know-it-all bible-college students, fundamentalists, or coked-up weirdos
- i hate that i hate them...i wish that the grace i had for them was growing faster than it is my great unanswered prayer
- i'm more interested in charism than i once was...but not in the ways that i see it in the world...i'm deeply invested in discovering a third way forwards (i.e. not craziness and not apathy)

more instructional, less motivational
- i wish i did a better job at challenging people to live differently, so that they heard god speaking to them directly and could respond to him
- instead i think i err on the side of being spiritually bossy...although, one of the consistent comments i get from folks is that i need to be more direct and more prescriptive...hmm...

more collaborative, less managerial
- i get excited when creating, and love to create and talk through any number of things with anyone i'm with at any given moment
- i'm not great with making sure that everyone else dots all their i's and crosses all their t's

more family-oriented, less goal-oriented
- i love my kids, i love my wife, the rest is gravy
- meaningless, meaningless, a man works all day and night to get something he doesn't have and what is it all for? no one cares about what he does...
- i've worked hard to correct this (to the way it is now, with family first) and i'm glad i can honestly say it's different

these things have caught me a little off guard. to be sure, there are others i will undoubtedly discover over the next little while...but i'd once thought i was the exact opposite in these areas. isn't that funny how much we can change?

i learned the word "processing" from randy

i've been processing a lot this week (i used to just say i was thinking about a lot of things, but i've been effected with the processing nomenclature since sharing space with ra-vo), but have been reluctant to blog about any of it.

i actually think that i have more weird thoughts about blogging than about almost anything else, such that whenever i start wrestling with something that (typically) other people would wrestle with on their blogs i react. most of my thought processes are private. i'm not really keen on being quoted in the midst of trying to come to terms with my true feelings and i often wait until i've reached some internal consensus before posting anything here.

does that make sense?

anyways, one of the funny questions i get asked from time to time is about pushing boundaries - why do i push them? why do i like it? where do i get off deciding which boundaries to push? etc.

now, i'm coming to grips with the fact that no one is likely to believe me when i say this, but i'm really not interested in pushing boundaries.

most of the time i do so it's by accident or ignorance or both.

i'm just doing the best i can to live guided by and governed by the spirit. not everyone hears me talking that way all the time, so it becomes tricky for them to reconcile what they've perceived about me in public with what they get from me here or in person, but it's true.

when you're preaching, your mind is so focused on so many concerns and details and pieces of information that you aren't too concerned with reflection. you can't reflect while preaching. you have to do all your reflecting before or after teaching. teaching/preaching is the presentation of weeks (sometimes months) of thought, prayer, consideration, study, and lived history.

consequently, people sometimes make the assumption that the confidence i display while preaching is simply the inherent confidence of a strong personality. this is not true. i have a strong personality, but it's bolstered during fusion by a host of other preparations and concerns.

all that to say that, in life, i try and spend a lot of time listening to the spirit, whereas in fusion people typically only see me teaching material i've already "listened on."

so...back to boundaries...

i really don't like to push them. i don't feel like pushing them. i don't get off pushing them. it's just not my thing.

my weaknesses, though, are when i feel like extra-biblical boundaries are pushing back at me.

i won't go into it a ton, but suffice to say i exhibit an embarrassing lack of self-control whenever i feel like someone else's boundaries have been forcibly applied to me. it's something that god is teaching me about myself.

so, i repent of that anger. i ask god to continue guiding me. i ask him to reveal my blindspots back to me in increasing measure. i want to be a godly person who is correctable, humble, editable, and cautious of others' preferences...without becoming a doormat, a figurehead, or someone completely consumed by the fear of man.

top 10 items on Jacob's thank-you prayer list

every night before bed my son and i list 3 things we're thankful for. as part of our causemology wave for nov-dec i'd been writing them down (causemology is our spiritual formation thing at westwinds).

here are my top 10 favs from the little dude (discounting, of course, the many times "mommy, grandma, grandpa, papa, grandma glenda," etc. were named:

"i'm thankful for..."

10. optimus prime

9. that we played secret agent

8. charlie, my pet monkey

7. my four girlfriends - faith, madison, cecily, oliva (sorry, gals)

6. feeling happy

5. wrestling with my family

4. clapping my hands when i get excited

3. the happy tree (a big tree in our backyard that, whenever jake was sad after moving here, immediately helped him to stop crying and cheer up)

2. that jesus keeps the monsters away

1. my daddy

* i know i said i wouldn't include the obvious ones like mommy, etc. - but this is my blog for cryin' out loud... :)