Sunday, August 31, 2008


i'm feeling optimistic about westwinds for the first time.

i mean, i've felt good about the winds before;
i've felt like the worst has definitely been put behind us;
i've felt like the storm(s) we were weathering were going to pass, etc.

but i've never felt a surge of enthusiasm like the one i do now.

it feels like our staff and elders are all rowing in the same direction
ben, lori, and becky are all set to rock it this fall
jvo is in a fantastic space right now
and it feels like the best is yet to come

it's a nice feeling

Friday, August 29, 2008

not sleeping...

...last night was my first good sleep since returning from vacation. i don't know why, though. i just haven't been sleeping. i've got no stress, no worries, and no major financial doom hanging over my head... so i'm genuinely puzzled as to why i've not been sleeping.


i may have broken the no-sleep streak with last night's performance.

now if my left eye will just stop twitching...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

more persecution (this is a little gruesome...)

1) NUN BURNT ALIVE: A nun was burnt to death on 25th, Monday, after an orphanage was torched in at Phutpali in Bargarh district in Orissa during a bandh called by Hindu nationalist parties.Twenty children, who were at the orphanage, managed to escape but a priest suffered serious burn injuries in the attack.

2) RASANANDA PRADHAN TORCHED ALIVE: Another person, Rasananda Pradhan, was burnt to death when his house was set ablaze at Rupa village in Kandhamal district.

3) INFLAMMATORY SPEECHES TARGET CHRISTIANS: During the bandh inflammatory speeches spreading hatred against the Christian workers and the community were given by the VHP leaders. To gain the mass support,the activists have also carried the body of Swamiji throughout the town.

4) CHURCHES BURNT ALL ACROSS ORISSA STATE: Churches were attacked in Khurda, Bargarh, Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Koraput, Boudh, Mayurbhanj, Jagatsinghpur and Kandhamal districts as also in the state capital, police sources said, adding 40 houses were set ablaze in Phulbani town.

5) BUSES AND VEHICLES TORCHED: Mr. Mishra Digal was beaten up, while the motorcycles of Mr. R. K. Digal and Jitendra were burnt. Several buses at Gee Udaigiri in Baliguda were burnt.

6) PULBANI CHURCH RANSACKED: The Church at Phulbani,and several other churches at Phiringia were attacked and ransacked. Pastor D. Tatson's house was vandalized and his property burnt.

7) KAKRIGUMA CHURCHES VANDALISED: Churches in Kakriguma have been targeted by the mob that reportedly damaged the Assembly Of God Church and the Philadelphia Church.

8) WORLD VISION STAFF FLED FOR SAFETY: World Vision India office ransacked and the Staff has also fled to jungle for protection.

9) CHRISTIANS TAKE SHELTER IN FOREST FOR PROTECTION: A police camp at Barakhama was also attacked by the Hindu fundamentalists. With several houses being burnt down and people being made homeless, many Christians,particularly from Nua Sahi, Munda Sahi and Suna Tonga have fled into forests for their lives.

10) NUN RAPED: A young Catholic Nun of the Cuttack Bhubaneswar diocese working Jan Vikas Kendra, the Social Service Centre at Nuagaon in Kandhamal was reportedly gang raped on 24th August 2008 by groups of Hindutva extremists before the building itself was destroyed.

11) SENIOR PRIEST AND NUN INJURED: Fr Thomas, director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Kanjimendi, less than a kilometer away from the Social Service Centre, and another Nun were injured when the centre was attacked. They were taken to the police station in a disheveled state as the armed mob bayed for their blood. The Pastoral centre was then set afire.

12) BALLIGUDA CHURCH BUILDINGS DESTROYED AGAIN: On 24th August 2008 evening lynch mobs at the block headquarters of Balliguda, in the very heart of Kandhamal district, which had seen much violence between 24th and 26th December 2007, attacked and destroyed a Presbytery, convent and hostel damaging the properties.

13) CHRISTIAN BOYS HEADS TONSURED: The mobs in Balliguda caught hold of two boys of the Catholic hostel and tonsured their heads.

14) PHULBANI CHURCH DAMAGED: On 25th august 2008 morning followers of the late Lakshmanananda Saraswati damaged the Catholic Church in Phulbani, the district headquarter town.

15) MOTHER TERESA BROTHERS ASHRAM ATTACKED: Mobs attacked the Mother Teresa Brothers' residence and hospital in Srasanada, destroyed once before and rebuilt two months ago, and beat up the patients.

16) BHUBANESWAR BISHOP'S HOUSE ATTACKED: On the morning of 25th August 2008, violent mobs made several attempts to enter the compounds of Catholic Church and Archbishop's house in the heart of the Capital of the State of Orissa. They could not enter because of the police presence. They threw stones at the guesthouse of Archbishop's House, damaging windows.

17) DUBURI PARISH: Another group of fundamentalists entered presbytery in Duburi parish, managed by the SVDs and destroyed and damaged property. Two priests of the parish are missing.

18) Mr. Jamaj Pariccha, Director of Gramya Pragati, is attacked and his property damaged, vehicle looted and burnt.

19) A Baptist Church in Akamra Jila in Bhubaneswar is also damaged.

20) Christian institutions like St. Arnold's School (Kalinga Bihar) and NISWASS report some damage.

21) BOUDH DISTRICT [Adjoining Kandhamal]: Fundamentalists enter the Catholic parish church and destroy property. People are fleeing to safer places. But nothing seems safe.

22) MUNIGUDA: Muniguda Catholic Fathers and Nuns' residence have been damaged.

23) SAMBALPUR: HM Sister's residence (Ainthapalli) has suffered damage.

24) PADANPUR: One priest is attacked and admitted to a hospital. Hostel boys and the in charge have moved away from the place.

25) MADHUPUR: Madhupur Catholic Church currently under attack.

26) SMALL CHURCHES: Attempted violence on small churches in various districts, including Padampur, Sambalpur near GM College, Talsera, Dangsoroda, Narayanipatara, Muniguda, Tummiibandh, Tangrapada, Phulbani, Balliguda, Kalingia, Chakapad, Srasanranda.

27) VILLAGE CHRISTIAN HOUSES ATTACKED: Houses attacked on forest hamlets of Balliguda, Kanjamandi Nuaguam (K.Nuaguam), Tiangia (G.Udayagiri), Padangiri, Tikabali.

28) KALAHANDI DISTRICT: Houses burnt even though the district is more than 300 kilometers from the place where Swami Lakshmanananda was killed.

29) PASTORS' HOUSE BURNT: Pastor Sikandar Singh of the Pentecostal Mission beaten up and his house burnt in Bhawanipatna.

30) KHARIHAR: 3 Christian shops were looted and burnt. Pastor Alok Das and Pastor I M Senapati beaten up.

31) AAMPANI: Pastor David Diamond Pahar, Pastor Pravin Ship, Pastor Pradhan and Pastor Barik beaten up and chased away with their families.

32) NAKTIKANI: Mob surrounds village to attack Christians.

christians persecuted in india

...we just got this email from our national missionary in india, suresh sawant. we often think that persecution is a thing of the past - or, more commonly - that we are always the ones guilty of persecuting others.

this is simply not the case.

we need to be in prayer, and take very seriously, the plight of global Christ-followers who suffer for the things we neglect:

Christians are being persecuted in the state of Orissa, hundreds and thousands of them have fled into jungles, or forest to hide themselves, today, my friend called me from Orissa asked me pray for the Orissa and he is getting ready to flee in the jungle, he also told me that there is a pregnant lady, hidding the jungle.

please ask the church to pray for the Christians in Orissa and also that states may not be affected by it.

1) Baptist Churches are being targeted in the continued spate of violence that has spread its tentacles across the state.

2) Gajapati district today has witnessed torching of one independent Baptist Church. Local sources report of a church in Baliguda and six in Phulbani district being burnt by the errant mob.

3) According to reports three persons were burnt after their houses were torched at midnight of August 25th 2008. One each in Kandhamal and Bargarh were burnt to death during the 12 hour statewide bandh.

4) Compassion East India office (NGO) in Bhubaneswar was ransacked. While in gruesome act a man named Ramesh Digal was brutally cut into pieces.

5) Three adults and one child were reportedly killed in fresh violence in Barakhama, Kandhamal.

6) Kandhamal district has already witnessed the death of 15 christians so far. Two in Mutungia village, 1 in Petaponga village, 1 in Borimunda village, 3 in Katinga village, 3 in Tianga village, 3 in Adikuppa village and 1 in Bakingia village were hacked to death by the rampaging Hindu mob.

7) Mission Compound in Sunapanga in Baliguda is also set on fire. Terrified Christians from Padapara, Marlova and other places have fled to the jungles.

8) There have been already over fifty eight instances of violence in which more that 400 Christian houses are gutted down by fire in Kandhamal including 150 houses in Rupagaon alone.

The authorities are mere helpless spectators watching Christians being lynched before their eyes.

pray pray, pray, pray for the presence of God to be real to them in the midst of fiery trials.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

donald miller at dnc

mental health and jesus

today i'm meeting my friend greg gallager for lunch. greg is the ceo of recovery technologies, a mental health agency in jackson, and he has come up with a great idea.

his idea - an idea that we are actively pursuing - is to put a westwinds campus on site at his mental health agency and offer mid week services to therapists and clients. he wants to provide spiritual wellbeing, and believes westwinds can assist him in this mission.


grumpy bum

last week is catching up to me...

i'm sick
i'm grouchy
i'm impatient

pray for those who have to work with me

Saturday, August 23, 2008

excerpt from week 5 (the cultural mandate)

In the beginning…

God created us in his image and likeness -
a little bit lower than the angels, and a little bit higher than the hares.
He told us to be fruitful and multiply -
to rule the earth and to subdue it.

We were a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy people.

But we could not content ourselves with so little.
He made us his shadow,
but we wanted the light for ourselves.
We could not stand that God was Most High
and so we were always somewhat less.

He gave us dominion.
We began our domination.

Domination required instruments…
So we made weapons and went to war.

Domination required settlement…
So we took many women as slaves and there was much rape.

Domination required industry…
So we made buildings, and then we made temples, and then we made idols.

Domination required society…
So we built cities and then we made our Empire

Domination required communication…
So we constructed our propaganda.

Domination required finance…
So we sold our souls.

And then,
Sickened by what we’d become,
God repented in his heart that he’d ever made us.

And so he took it all back.

He took us back to one family
In a boat with the animals
That sailed for more than a month
on a swimmer’s sadness.

And now,
We get to start over.

There is a new beginning for us now.
There is a new creation.
There is now, therefore, no more condemnation
for those who are alive in the Word.

In this new beginning is the Word
and the Word is with God,
and the Word is God.

We are, with God, beginning.


am i forgetting something?

im about 110+ pages into this teaching atlas (don't sweat, i'll pare it down later).

but i keep feeling like i'm forgetting something...



good theology...check

new ideas...check

people who care...check



ah crap.

Friday, August 22, 2008

mark driscoll on harsh language

top ten rejected names for the genesis series

10. Intelligent Design on a Dime

9. Genecide

8. Pow!

7. Darwin some, lose some

6. EvoLucius Malfoy

5. the whole Shebang

4. Creationschism

3. The Big Bangs (like, you know, hair)

2. The Catalina Wine Mixer

1. Show me the Monkey

Thursday, August 21, 2008

props to the doods of theology...

it's only appropriate to give credit where credit is due, and - for this upcoming series in genesis - there are some theological heroes of mine who deserve it.

first, i am deeply indebted to the work of john f. haught on process theology. haught is a prof at georgetown and his book "god after darwin" has formed me more than anything i've read in the last two years.

you can buy it here

i've also become a fan of much that matthew fox has to say...though not all. so i hesitate to recommend his work (without, at least, some caution). but if you're willing to read it alongside something a little more cautious, then you can get it here.

in my mind walter brueggemann is the best old testament scholar in the world. he's - quite simply - an astounding intellect. his commentary on genesis is the best. buy it here, dork.

middleton, a jamaican ex-pat living in the great white north, introduced me to postmodernism with his book "truth is stranger than it used to be." in "the liberating image" he introduced me to most of my good ideas about the imago dei which - over the years - have been confirmed and supported six ways from sunday. this book is pretty academic, but very influential. buy it here.

collins book proved to me beyond a shadow of any doubt that you cannot be a thinking person and disregard evolutionary biology. not everyone feels this way. for those who still have doubts, buy this book here and trust me - you'll love jesus more when it's done than you do right now

here we go again...

in my short life i've demonstrated a penchant for kicking the proverbial bee's nest.

it's always played out in my life as a bit of the "contrarian" gene
at least, that's what ben redmond calls it
he claims my first response is to poke holes in everything i see or hear or read

sometimes i begin to get so bothered that i can't stop thinking about something
especially when things don't add up the way they should

like about tithing, for instance
or the popular notion that christians are supposed to hate the world
or that the phrase "chasing after the wind" is supposed to be really meaningful (in its ironic meaninglessness)

or this whole schtick about genesis being a kind of recipe for how god made the world

for several years i've just ignored this itch
content to think it about it later
but then i couldn't stop thinking about it
and i just kept studying and studying
and, before long, i realized that it certainly wasn't a recipe

which sated my irritation for a while
i had the satisfaction of knowing that there was more there than we're truly unearthed as of yet

as time went on
it began to bug me

i mean
it couldn't just be a poem, could it?
that would suck
that would mean it was one of the most oft-misunderstood and ultimately powerless pieces of the biblical text
which - for the very reason alone that it is at the very beginning - just didn't sit well with me

so i began to dig
and dig
and dig

and then it popped.


smashed me in the face
changed my life
changed my mind
changed my heart

the love
the wholeness
the healing
rushed into me over and over again
and i came into new life

because it has great meaning
because it has great power
power to change
power to see
power to bring about reconciliation

and we go again

i do my best to approach this with humility
but i feel myself crackling with enthusiasm
and i don't want to diminish the latter for fear of subduing the former

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

two days in...

i've been writing for 2 solid days now. yesterday from 1:30pm-12:15am, today from 9:10am-9:23 (and counting) pm.

i think i'll divide this series into two parts. the first part will deal with the exegesis of genesis 1 (primarily) and 2 (a little only). the second part will deal with the imago dei and theosis.

in the first part, i'm trying to show the value of criticizing the empire; of prophetic speech; and that the strong theology of the text is not damaged by it's lack of "history."

in the second part, i'm trying to show that we were made to imitate god in specific ways.

both parts tie in closely with our missional emphasis this year at the winds: the invitation to shadow god.

some of this stuff is a big leap for your typical christian; but i believe it contains great power and understanding about life here on this earth as we seek to foster greater hospitality to the spirit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

cool feedback so far...writing like a maniac

i've gotten the coolest feedback over the last few days about this series on genesis (which, btw, i'm thinking of calling creation-centered spirituality).

i've had a baker's dozen conversations with folks around the winds saying things like "i'm sooo glad you're talking about this. i hear so much about it and it always sounds like religious bologne." or "oh good. i have so many questions about this and i was really hoping you'd address it in fusion."

which is really cool, because the reason we decided to tackle this one is because of our own - prior - confusion and sense of abandonment by our teachers and leaders.

for a while, i honestly felt like "no one" was going to respond to the question of our origins with anything 'original' to say. everyone just seemed to be beating a tired horse without asking critically significant questions.

(hence, my own personal journey over the last 2 years in genesis).

anyway - i'm writing like a maniac this week and hoping to get 4/6 chapters done by the i can get a little perspective and finish things off next week.


how to study the bible

Sunday, August 17, 2008

audio prayers

while i was on vacation i began using tumblr as a way to keep my thoughts from crowding my head.

since i've returned home i've been using it as a way to store some random thoughts and audio prayers (since blogger doesn't have a good way to do just audio files).

you can find them at

at any rate people often make the mistake of thinking that christian spirituality has to be perfectly ordered and good, so i've been putting these things out there to sort-of show how i approach jesus...warts and all.

actually, that's probably a good caveat. i make no efforts to sanitize or clean up these moments. they're just honest bits of how i think/relate/pray/talk to jesus.

which makes me think that another good caveat would be to point out that i don't go out of my way to make them especially coarse or to somehow try and prove something either. they are just what they are...moments, snippets, of a few of my talks with god that may serve to encourage you.

the theology of rhythm (prayer)

God – I confess I’m not always listening to your music.
I do not always follow your rhythms.
I do my own thing.
I march to my own drum.
And, often, I regret it and am burdened by the consequence.

Please help me to follow you.

Help me to understand what you are doing
In and around me.

I want to play along with you.

Help me to listen
And to feel the movement of your spirit
In each moment.


Friday, August 15, 2008

carmel is smrtr than me

last night we were talking about genesis and she suggested i frame the week on evolution this way:

assuming that everything we find threatening about evolution were proven 100% true, would it still be possible to be a christian?

after all, once upon a time we thought it was heresy that the earth was round; similarly, we also thought it was heresy that the earth may rotate around the sun...and, in this case, there are even scriptures to "prove" that the sun rotates around the earth.

for example:
Joshua 10:12-13:

"Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up
the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight
of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the
valley of Ajalon.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had
avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book
of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted
not to go down about a whole day."
Additional biblical "proof" for a moving Sun was seen in Ecclesiastes
1:5, where it is said:

"The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his
place where he arose."

so, you see, once upon a time it was assumed that scriptural metaphors were actually cosmological facts...and we're all a little embarrassed by it because we now know how mislead our earlier scholars were.

at any rate, carmel's suggestion was that we sidestep this whole question completely and simply begin with the assumption that IF it were all proven true THEN WE CAN HAVE CONFIDENCE that our best theologians would indeed find a way - a biblically honest, intellectually credible, god-honoring, jesus-loving way - to reconcile scripture with scientific reality.

so maybe a good title for that week would be: how to be a christian once evolutionary theory becomes fact

or: god after darwin

or: creation centered spirituality

furthermore, we probably need to acknowledge that - even IF all our 'worst' fears come true - there will be other, problematic, issues that arise out of this scientific discourse.

and it's these problems that most excite me because they provide the framework for brand new theology to be done...we'll be answering questions that ultimately will become the centerpiece of intellectual spirituality but that currently few people are asking (many thanks to john haught for illuminating us all in this regard)

for example: if evolution is simply god's way of creation, then how do we account for the inherent cruelty in natural selection? if it's the strongest that survive, how can we reconcile the fact that god made it that way, and then describes himself in scripture as the god of justice who upholds the weak?

also: evolution has so many dead ends, works with incredible randomness, and invites a remarkable amount of chaos into it's process. many evolutionary stages lead to immediate death and the extinction of species because the changes to their biology make them less adaptable to their environment, not do we reconcile the 'perfect' god who 'orders' the world with a god who seems like he's playing biological dice and simply experimenting with the inhabitants of earth lab?

and: what about the imago dei? if it should be proven that we are the descendants of apes...does that mean that they, too, bear the image of god? or, that we are somehow less special in god's eyes than scripture seems to indicate? where does this idea of the image come from, anyway, and why is it so important?

ahhh...i am electrified by these questions...when we hit this one topic in this one week we'll likely spend much of our time answering these kinds of questions rather than squabbling about my poor grasp of biology.

until then...
drink coffee. eat meat. be merry always.

stay away from me on the road...

...because i've been listening to fawlty towers season 1 on my iphone, am laughing hysterically, and am probably about to careen into a barrier.

but, boy, it is funny...

Thursday, August 14, 2008


ever wonder at how much of christian spirituality is repentance?

i mean, of all the spiritual disciplines/exercises i do - and i like to sip, sample, and repeat disciplines regularly - it's always good, old fashioned repentance that seems to occupy most of my conversation with god.

i think it's because i sin so much.

i judge
i criticize
i speak out of turn
i dismiss
i scoff

i get angry
i get melancholy
i get self-absorbed
i get sullen

i am impatient with those who major on the minors
i am impatience with those who are lazy
i am impatience with those who run their mouth and don't contribute to the kingdom

and, when i delve into scripture
i am reminded again and again that all of these attitudes are deeply sinful

and so, because i am serious about living in such a way as to honor god
i find myself repenting a lot

which, sadly, isn't to say that i don't repeat my sins
because i do
they're like a playlist of ignorance and aggression
and they force me to repent even more

i was given great occasion to think about my present need for repentance
having spent almost 7 hours this week on the phone with apple tech support

...those (&^*&% guys are like a make-me-sin factory

there i go again.

stupid iphone.

hold your horses, tonto

someone asked me earlier today how i was doing with all of the hate-mail and/or negative feedback i've been getting about our genesis series.

to which i responded: what hatemail?

if i've given the impression somehow that i've been overrun with controversy, i'm terribly sorry. i've had a few, very positive, discussions about the series and am quite happily working on it even as we speak.

i'm trying to be very intentional about inviting early dialogue, so that people within our church can speak into the formation of the series, helping me clarify my objectives and use language that doesn't accidentally enflame.

that said, i'm sure that some of the things we discuss will be hugely difficult for fundamentalist christians to swallow. i'm not yet sure what to do about that...apparently, my personal beliefs are not always the most popular ones :)

at any rate, i think god is trying to teach me to wear my big boy pants and just get over the fact that sometimes - to follow your convictions and listen to the voice of the spirit in your life - you have to do things that are unpopular with some folks (and, sometimes, that even means church folks whom you love and feel called to serve).

if you'd like to be a part of prepping for this series, you can send me an email at and i'll let you know about when we're all getting together to talk things through.

be in peace...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

how to listen to a sermon

alternate dimensionality

got this email from my friend matt yesterday...


Can't tell you how excited I am about the Genesis series. Can't wait to hear your talks. Don't know if you would be interested, but there is a great book called "The Science of God" by Gerald Schroder. Didn't see it on your book list. Fascinating book.

Quick Synopsis: He's an MIT physicist who basically shows (using Quantum theory) that there could have been a six literal day creation in a different dimension that would have translated to 16 billion years in our dimension.

Just thought I would mention it to you:


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

genesis reading list

God after Darwin: A Theology of Evolution. John F. Haught

Original Blessing. Matthew Fox

Envisioning the Word: The Use of Visual Images in Preaching. Richard A. Jensen

For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care. Steven Bouma-Prediger

Three Treatises on the Divine Images. St. John of Damascus

A Community Called Atonement. Scot McKnight

The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1. J. Richard Middleton

Interpretation: Genesis. Walter Brueggemann

The Divine Image: Envisioning the Invisible God. Ian A. McFarland

In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis. Henri Blocher

Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality. Rob Bell

Understanding Genesis: The World of the Bible in the Light of History. Nahum M. Sarna

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Francis Collins

Human Destiny. Lecomte du Nouy

visual worshipper

cool church site, visual worshipper, has lots of innovative ideas using projection. i think a site like this is the perfect inspiration for a place like calvary - whose walls are almost completely white.

a few quick bullets on the genesis talks...

I’m scared that the good things I believe I have to offer – indeed, that I feel I have an obligation to offer – may get lost in controversy...which would suck. So, here is a little info about the series i'd like to float in advance, to help good conversation get started.

Here are some bullets to help isolate the central "problem":
• the “conflict” between evolutionary science and biblical faith centers on genesis 1
• genesis 1 talk about a 6 day creation, taking place about 6500 yrs ago (assuming we add up the age of all the people recorded in genesis, working our way back to the beginning)
• scientists, however, maintain that the world is probably almost 16billion years old (+/- 2 billion yrs)
• when confronted with these facts, many of us feel like we are supposed to now pick a side – either the side of science, thereby dismissing the truthfulness of scripture (including all of the claims of jesus christ and his apostles), or the side of faith, thereby dismissing scientific evidence (and associating evolutionary biology with atheism and an attempt to destroy christian spirituality)
• my belief, though, is that genesis 1 should not be taken as a kind of historical document that outlines how god actually created the world, nor do I think it was ever designed to be that kind of document.
• I’ll outline why I believe that in a moment, and what – instead – I think genesis 1 is about; but, for now, let me just say that if we understand that genesis 1 is not about science, but is instead about theology, then this first conflict disappears completely (there are other, consequent conflicts that arise, but they are much more easily reconciled and far less problematic to our faith)
• so, because I think genesis 1 is not a scientific document, I do not believe there is any need to choose between science and faith.

This is my real purpose in talking about evolution.

As to what I think genesis 1 is really about...
• It is designed to show us that god made the world
• that god is in control of the world
• that god created us to steward the world and look after it
• that we are under his authority and will be judged and loved by him
• that we have a massive responsibility to him – and not merely to ourselves and our own desires – in the world

As to when I think genesis was written...
• contrary to popular belief I’m not a bible scholar, just a pastor, so – from my best research delivered by our best bible scholars – it looks like genesis 1 was written around 600 BC, during the assyrian/babylonian captivity
• the research that indicates this is based on some very technical stuff – namely diction, word choice, parsing and phrasing, textual criticism and dating, authorial concerns, etc... I could go into more detail here if you like
• suffice to say, though, that the author of genesis 1 is a different author than that of genesis 2 (in fact, most of genesis is a kind of mish-mash of authors)
• furthermore, the author of genesis was probably a prophet not a historian, which is hugely significant (as I’ll outline below)

As to why that is significant...
• the language of genesis 1 closely mirrors that of other creation stories from the ancient near east (the enuma elish, the gilgamesh epic, etc.)
• except that genesis 1 makes some very special distinctions...
• for example, in other creation stories the world is created in violence and fire
• in genesis 1, though, the world is created in love through speech and song
• in other creation stories, the world is born in chaos and destruction
• in genesis 1, though, the world is born out of chaos/void by a god who loves and authors order, playfulness, and beauty
• in fact, it seems like genesis 1 was written to correct the errors of the other creation stories...that essentially it was designed to say (to the babylonians or whomever else) “you’ve got it wrong...YHWH made the world, and he made it in love”

As to what I think genesis 1 was designed to communicate to its original audience (i.e. why it was written at all)...
• given the above info, I think genesis 1 was likely written by a prophet
• as we know, the intent of a prophet it to critique and to criticize those things that are wrong in the world and to speak forth of a tie when god will make them right
• I believe genesis 1 was written with the intent to critique and provoke the people of god into a kind of holy rebellion against their oppressors (the babylonians, assyrians, etc...)
• I think it’s a poem that basically says “people of god, don’t buy into the gross lie of our captors. God is not a god of violence, but a god of love. You were not created to be slaves, but to be sons and daughter of god. The babylonians think that they have a god-given right to conquer, rape, and destroy, but this is a lie. God hasn’t made us for destruction, he’s made us for dominion. Even though it looks like the babylonians are right at the present time, god will ultimately deliver us from their oppression. Don’t lose hope.”

How can I justify such a completely different interpretation of this text than the more “popular” one...
• research, mostly – most of our biblical eggheads (middleton, brueggemann, sarna...just to name a few though there are many, many others) agree about date, authorship, and intent
• furthermore, even our earliest Christian theologians didn’t think genesis was about the date/time in which god created the worls (augustine, origin, ireneus to name a few)
• again, I think the purpose of genesis 1 is to tell us who we are in relationship to god (shadows and imitators), who god is in relationship to the world (creator, lord, lover, judge), and what our responsibilities are to the world as we seek to honor god (look after it, care for it, cultivate it)

Am I the only person to think this...
• no, in fact, I have learned to believe that this stuff is true based on my study of other people's work
• as such, none of this material is “my own”

Do I think this really needs to be taught at ww...
• yes. There are huge payoffs in the conversation about evolution and faith
• yes. There are huge payoffs in coming to an understanding that the way god wants the world to be is in stark contrast to the way the world actually is (whether that world happens to be the word of 600BC Babylon or 2008 Jackson)
• yes. I think hurting people can take immense comfort from known that God is on their side in the midst of their suffering.

Why am I ok with teaching it, even though it is likely to cause some kind of a stir...
• because I truly am heartbroken over many of my friends (and former constituents) who have walked away from their faith in jesus christ because of the inability of the christian church to provide an adequate defense of the scripture in light of the findings of evolutionary biology
• because I genuinely believe that if we can equip our people with an alternative to either abandoning god or abandoning reason then it is my god-given responsibility to do so
• because I have the love and support of my wife, our elders at westwinds, our staff at westwinds, and of people like yourselves – who are willing to make sure I take the utmost care when talking about such sensitive matters and are committed to ensuing that I am neither reckless nor irresponsible with this work

oops...graphic take 2

what am i trying to do with genesis 1??

my real aim in tackling evolution during 1 week of this series in genesis is to prove that there is no real conflict between evolutionary biology and biblical faithfulness.


i don't think that the bible is threatened by proof that the world is 16billion years old.

now, many other, wiser, more capable people have tackled this topic before me - and in no way do i actually think my efforts will rival theirs - but i feel like it's my job to weigh into the conversation here.

some have wondered about whether or not it's my goal to convince people that evolution is "right"

this is not my goal. i'm not a scientist. heck - i can hardly add.

my goal is simply to illustrate that if evolutionary theory were proven right beyond any shadow of any doubt ever that our faith would not suffer one iota. we would be neither discreditied nor forced to believe something we know to be untrue, nor would we be forced to do some kind of hermeneutical jujitsu to make our bible say something it really doesn't in order to save face.

others have wondered if i'm going to try and convince everyone to be a literal 6-day creationist.

this is not my goal either.

it's true that the world could be only 6500 years old, and that it could have been made in 6 literal days. god is god. he could've made it in 6 minutes 6 minutes ago. if we believe in god, we open ourselves up to the possibility that he is capable of doing anything.

but again, my goal is simply to prove that there is no conflict between faith and science, not that faith and science are the exact same thing as revealed in scripture.

so, in the diagram above, you see three boxes. there is the box of evolutionary science - which is not my interest - there is the box of the scripture - which is my interest, but not necessarily as it pertains to evolutionary science - and there is the middle box of the conflict.

this 1 week where we teach on evolution will focus on the middle box, the conflict.

essentially proving that there is no real conflict there at all.

i believe god created the world

after some discussion about genesis, one of the big questions i've been asked several times is whether or not i believe god created the world.



i think god - above whom there is none other, who is revealed to us in the holy scriptures as triune (father, son, spirit) - created the whole earth, universe, omniverse, and anything and everything else we may ever discover.

why do i believe this?

in part because that's what it means to be god - the unmoved mover, the creator, the author of existence

and also in part because of the many testimonies of scripture - not the least of which is genesis 1-2, psalm 8, 146 and a whole slew of others.

Monday, August 11, 2008

genesis + evolution

we announced to our westwinds owners tonight that we'd tackle the touchy subject of evolution this upcoming fall during a series we'll do on genesis. i invited dialogue after the meeting so i could hear from people about how best to communicate the "essentials" and the "non-essentials" for the series.

to be honest, i'm stressing about it.

the reason i'm even talking about it at all - because i really have no desire to kick this particular hornet's nest - is because my heart breaks for the kids who feel like they can't keep following jesus and retain their intellectual integrity. most christian kids get so bludgeoned with evolutionary theory in school, and never hear a sound biblical defence of genesis, that they feel like they either have to [a] give up on their faith, or [b] give up on their minds. it just seems - to them - like evolutionary science completely discredits the 6-day creation account (and, by proxy) the credibility of scripture as a whole.

so, i'm teaching on "the theology of evolution" in week 3 of this genesis series to try and show that there is no contradiction between genesis 1 and a 16billion yr. earth. i feel like it's my responsibility to help people understand the scriptures better, so we don't create conflicts where none exist.

to that end, here is a kind of summary of the things i heard tonight about what i need to make sure i communicate well during this series (with some of my own thoughts thrown in for good measure):

Things to remember for genesis…

• make sure your focus is to show that there is no apparent contradiction between scripture and science
• be sure to allow for differences of opinion (i.e. you don’t to be either an evolutionist or a
proponent of intelligent design in order to be “in line” with westwinds and/or david
• make sure you say things like “my god is so big and so capable that he could’ve made the
world in 6 minutes, 6 minutes ago…but even if he didn’t that doesn’t shake my faith” so that
people know you are unashamedly a follow of YHWH as he is tremendously revealed in
• approach the topic with humility – ask for grace from people, make sure you acknowledge
that you are neither an expert nor the only thinking person with an opinion who considers
themselves a Christian
• delineate the fact that a literal 6-day creation account is not – nor has ever been – a creedal
statement for Christianity…which means that plenty of good and god-honoring people fall on
different sides of the issue without sacrificing their commitment to Jesus Christ
• highlight the ways in which you feel like you’ve drawn closer to god because of your studies
in genesis
• don’t argue for evolution – simply do your work in the text; leave the science to the
scientists and the exegesis to the biblical scholars…you are a theologian, not a scientist.
• Remind yourself constantly that the reason you’re doing this is to help kids who feel like
they have to pick between intellectual honesty and spiritual integrity – that is a false
dichotomy. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. You can hold the bible to be
literal, true, and sacred as well as have an unpopular opinion about the origins of the

Sunday, August 10, 2008

bible kid

westwinds is a magnet for biblical weirdness...

i guess there's always one church in every town that invites gossip, suspicion, and intrigue. back home it was victory christian center. we - myself included - used to scoff and sneer at all the goofy and presumably unbiblical things they did in service of relevance or whatever. i stopped. most others continued. maybe i'm reaping what i've previously sewn.

anyway - in jackson, the church-of-ill repute is westwinds.

which means that we typically get 1-2 crazy comments a month from someone holier than us, more learned than us, or most fervent than us.

today, though, i had a funny one...(funny = weird, as opposed to funny = ha ha)

this young guy came up to me, rather bashful and sheepish i might add, and told me that he'd had a dream about westwinds. he'd never attended before, but in his dream he saw the word "westwinds" next to romans 3.13.

trying to be obedient to god, he visited the winds three weeks ago. because ben, and not the main teaching pastor, was speaking he decided to come back once i'd returned from vacation.

so today he sought me out and delivered a fairly harsh scripture.

"Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit."
"The poison of vipers is on their lips."

thing is, he said that he himself didn't think it really fit. he felt like the winds was dead-on scripturally and he really enjoyed fusion (and, particularly, the teaching).

weird, right?

now, i'd stake my actual, physical life and all that i know and love on the fact that - more than any other church i know - westwinds cares deeply about adherence to the scriptures and faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the biblical text.

but, to be safe, i asked this young guy if he'd pray with me. together, in the lobby after the 9am fusion, we asked the spirit to reveal to us any way in which this scripture might be intended for me personally or westwinds as a whole. we asked god to reveal our blindspots, to confirm that this passage was for us (if indeed it was for us), and to humble us as his servants so we might do a better job of making him proud.

again, i really think that something somewhere got screwed up with this guy's dream.

i think.

but i also think that most people god wants to correct and blind to their own need for correction.

my spirit bears no witness to him bringing this scripture, but - holy spirit - if i'm wrong i really, really want you to help me see it.

i think that's the only true and godly response i can have in this scenario.

in the meantime, however, i have to keep living and leading as if my perceptions and spiritual intuition are spot on. the world needs more churches like westwinds. westwinds needs to become more and more hospitable to the spirit, and we need to do a better job of mobilizing our own community for mission.

so we'll keep following jesus the best way we know how until he checks us.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

my wife needs a job

carmel was working a couple of part time jobs before we went to van, but one of them costs us more money in gas than it pays and the other one just fizzled out.

i'm tempted to advocate for her saying something like "anyone need a beautiful, talented, intelligent lady for a reasonable price"...but i think i might attract the wrong kind of interest.

anyway - if you know of any part time work, let us know!

how did we miss it?

i've been thinking a lot lately about how we really seem to have missed the mark as christians.

especially in the west, we've required christianity to reprioritize itself away from the teachings of scripture and towards the conservative preferences of white people.

i say this, btw, as a fairly conservative white person :)

when i went home this time around, i was often saddened by how much of my "christianity" seems to have been lost. by this i don't, of course, mean that i'm any less devoted to jesus, or the teachings of the apostles in scripture, or that my prayer life is suffering somehow or that i'm not deeply concerned with living so as to hear "well done, g&fs"

just that everything "christian" these days seems to be stuff that isn't A-priority important in scripture (or, even, in christian history and tradition)

so, these days, christians have to be tithers, advocates of intelligent design theory, disengaged from the world, own only "christian" media, dress right, talk right, and persist in forcing their opinions relentlessly.

(you'll notice, p.s., i've left all the "obvious" ones out here...being republican, going to church every sunday, etc...)

but i'm forced to wonder...

can you be a christian and watch R-rated movies, listen to coldplay (or even rage against the machine), dress down, speak normally, think critically about what the bible is actually teaching in regards to creation and/or money and/or sexuality and/or faithfulness.

well, obviously i believe you can.

it's just that it makes me so sad to see how such a belief is truly a minority opinion...most christians just do all these things and then lie about it to each other, or - only slightly better - lie about it on sundays.

as a reminder, i like the creeds for remembering what it means to follow jesus in our beliefs, and i like to use jesus' words to the 70 as a reminder about what it means to follow him in deed.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Luke 10.2-9
Jesus told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'"

Friday, August 8, 2008

top 5 worst things about leaving vancouver (this time...not counting family and friends)

5. no more mountains...honestly, michigan looks like 220 grit sand paper

4. no more clancy's deli...good bye apple-sausages, i will savor your memory always

3. no more days of staying in my pajamas until noon (even at westwinds you can't do THAT)

2. no more sleeping in my grandmother's bedroom (actually, i'm glad not to be sleeping there...that bed is creepy and creaky in all the wrong ways)

1. my kids go to bed in pacific standard time, but continue to wake up eastern...curse you adorable, beautiful, demons!

top 5 best things about being home in michigan

5. small spiders...seriously, those monsters in vancouver must be on crank

4. cheap golf (with my good buddy craig playford)...great courses here for almost no money

3. my imac (why did i ever leave you, baby - you know daddy loves you)

2. my trailer-trash above ground pool (p.s. only i am allowed to make fun of my pool...if you make fun of it i'll drown you in 5,000 gallons of toddler pee)

1. i'm still not dieting

Thursday, August 7, 2008

x-files movie the worst ever

i love the x-files

i've watched every episode. i've fantasized about having 'i want to believe' tattooed on my back.

i even thought gillian anderson was pretty when she had SHORT hair (that, btw, makes me a true believer)

but this movie is the worst movie ever. it's almost as bad as learning that Jvo sang karaoke Billy Joel to the crowd at lollapalooza ("uptown girl"...seriously, dude, we need to have a talk about what kinds of things are gay).

x-files has the following dumb-ness en force:

* a pedophile priest...
* who brings mulder and scully out of their 10-yr affair in a shack in the woods...
* via his god-given visions of dismemberment...
* which leads to a woe-begotten tale of a same sex marriage gone wrong...
* because husband #1 is dying...
* and requires husband #2, who is a russian (of course) scientist (of course x2) to save his life...
* through means of his top-secret head-transplant research (yup, you saw that correctly)...
* which has so far only been successful on dogs (oh yeah, there is a two-headed(double the success) guard dog in here that bites mulder, presumably for having a beard that looks like big bob's baptist church threw away after using it for joseph at christmas)...
* but they're stopped just in the knick of time so that mulder and scully can look longingly at other failed tv show pilots and b-movies

my favorite part? the fact that husband #2 transplants husband #1's head onto the body of a women, as if to say "i really, really love you, man...but maybe i'd prefer your wiskers if they were attached to breasts"

do not go see this stupid movie.


just spent about an hour talking with my good friend (and editor) caleb seeling at navpress. he told me some good news, that navpress has decided to publish my work on genesis + the imago dei.

look for "jerm" by yours truly in the summer of 2010.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

back in traction

we arrived home around 4am and i shot off to work at the winds around 11.

i love this place.

i love the staff. i love the people. i love the smell of the building, the uneven tile, the rusty concrete scultpures, and the 600 emails waiting eagerly for me to 'delete all' without any feelings of guilt whatsoever.

it's good to be back.