Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Great Article...

...from Andy Crouch in the most recent Christianity Today. He says what I often feel. Especially after meeting with the members of our Regional Fellowship this week. I am tired, but I am hopeful. Here's most of the article...

"Not long ago I attended a strategy session for the culture war. Participants examined the decline of marriage, the cheapening and flattening of human sexuality into contextless pleasure, the exploitation and destruction of unborn human beings. Speeches were given. Brows were furrowed. Resolutions were made. War, I was reminded, does terrible things to the warriors.

In the room were veterans of a conflict that has simmered for decades, with few victories for the conservative side. All were earnestly committed to the cause. And most, to be blunt, were not having a very good time.

I support many, if not all, of their aims. There is a time for concerted action and forceful advocacy when a culture is beset, as ours indisputably is, with violence against the weak and the disintegration of our deepest promises. There was violence and disintegration in the day of Jesus, too. Jesus was hardly shy about confronting the patterns of sin in his culture - though he was consistently harder on the pious than he was on the pagans.

But everywhere Jesus went, life blossomed. The sick were healed, lepers were touched, daughters and sons were plucked from the mouth of the grave. Jesus left behind him a trail of leaps and laughter, reunited families, and terrific wine, as well as dumbfounded synagogue leaders, uneasy monarchs, and sleepless procurators. His witness against violence, amidst a culture in rebellion against the good, was neither withdrawal nor war. It was simply life: abundant, just, generous life. And, ultimately, a willingness to let the enemies of life do their worst, confident that even death could not extinguish the abundant life of God.

...I had to leave the meeting early. I took a train to a very different sort of meeting. In a row house on a West Philadelphia street, the leaders of a small church were gathering for a weekend of study and prayer.

Their pastors are a young couple, gifted and winsome and bright, who freely admit that they have little idea what they are doing, but who have a vision for a thriving church in the heart of the city. The church's neighborhood, a bit like our culture, is a bewildering mixture of gleaming affluence and grimy neglect.

In a cozy living room furnished with well-worn sofas, we munched on Kentucky Fried Chicken and quaffed Yellow Tail merlot. Candles were flickering. The leaders were laughing, talking, catching up on one another's stories: young mothers and grandmothers, thin graduate students and amply proportioned social workers, neighborhood lifers and newcomers, their skin many different hues, drawn to one another by the gospel.

I took a deep breath. I sank into the scruffy couch. The conversation died down, and we began to pray, soaking in a comforting, empowering silence. Then we talked about their church's abundance of ministries and shortage of finances, the dizzying array of needs to be found just by going a few blocks in any direction, and the biblical stories of God's people in exile, agents of peace in the midst of pagan cities.

I left that night feeling a tremendous sense of hope, the hope I have found over and over again in the most unlikely places, in war zones both figurative and literal where Christ's followers worship and serve. There is nothing that can break your heart like the church, but neither is there anything that can so restore your heart as being among a few people whose love is transparent, tenacious, and utterly not their own doing.

I do not know how, or whether, the culture war can be won. Human culture, like human nature, is too incorrigible, too intractable, for unambiguous victories. I suspect we have consigned our armies to a conflict that is unwinnable by definition, and by making disciples into warriors, we have risked robbing them of the hilarious high calling that is the new birthright of every Christian: to be an agent of improbable, impossible life in the midst of the world."

Read the whole article

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wonder and Fascination...

Today my 5 year old turned 6. She’s the baby of the family, the youngest of four beautiful girls. Maybe that’s why her birthday sets me to thinking. I watched her as she played at the public swimming pool tonight. Too young to be on her own; tethered to her dad by her lack of swimming ability and the pool rules, yet happy to be close by.

As she reminded me to watch her every move, my mind drifted back to this day six years ago. I can still remember her real birthday. I watched in awe as my wife did more than I could ever imagine in order to bring Bethany into the world. Even though she wasn’t our first, she was our first Bethany, and I held her with all the wonder and fascination of a first time papa, maybe even a bit more. I mean, after all, I knew what was coming in the days ahead.

I’d never been more wrong. By the next afternoon the doctors were showing concern. Bethany wasn’t eating. She began to throw up bile and so a tube was put into her nose to drain her stomach. It was the first of many tubes and wires to come. The medical personnel said many things, “We’re not sure what this is”, “This is very serious”, “Your daughter could die.” We moved from one hospital to another for more tests. Finally just past midnight we were sent to a third. They found a large cyst in her abdomen. But we could tell the doctors weren’t happy with that. It didn’t explain what was happening to her. The next morning we’d watch as they wheeled her from the intensive care nursery into surgery. The baby just down the ward from her who had been taken into surgery a few hours earlier didn’t come back. I wondered if Bethany would ever celebrate a birthday.

But obviously she did. Six, in fact. And I am hoping for many more. But the truth that really gripped me tonight was that I am in exactly the same spot that I was six years ago. I have no idea what tomorrow may bring. I trust that God does, and while I often argue with Him as to the way He chooses to do things, He hasn’t offered me the reins yet. So I watch her tonight, once again with all the wonder and fascination of a first time papa, this time a little more aware of the delicacy of this thing we call life.

And I like it that way. I don’t want to know what is coming tomorrow. Jesus said it pretty clearly, “Each day has enough worry of it’s own.” So my goal is to savor what I have. Six years have passed like six days. Soon she won’t be tethered to me by anything, other than her own wishes, and we know how fickle little girls can be. There will be times I want to hide her away, protect her from pain, keep her safe and naive and six years old. But that’s not my job. My job is to love her, serve her, lay down my life for her. To keep that wonder and fascination alive in me and maybe even pass a little on to her.

Happy Birthday Beth. See you tomorrow.

Trading Up...

Here's a great story...

"Kyle MacDonald had a red paper clip and a dream: Could he use the community power of the Internet to barter that paper clip for something better, and trade that thing for something else and so on and so on until he had a house?

After a cross-continental trading trek involving a fish-shaped pen, a town named Yahk and the Web's astonishing ability to bestow celebrity, MacDonald is getting close. He's up to one year's free rent on a house in Phoenix"

Read the rest...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Messy, Messy Churches

I've really appreciated much that Jim Martin has written, but this post on "Messy, Messy Churches" is one of the best things I've ever read. I have been blessed to live among a church that, while not perfect, is learning to be "grace-full". Take the time for a lesson in what the church should be...

"I've learned some things in the most unlikely places. I thank God for many years spent in school. I thank him for the opportunity to wrestle with important ideas. But--it was in Florence, Alabama almost 24 years ago that I began to wrestle with the grace of God."

Read More:

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Too much faith for me...

I don't think that I have enough faith to believe this explanation...

"Rare conditions could have conspired to create hard-to-see ice on the Sea of Galilee that a person could have walked on back when Jesus is said to have walked on water, a scientist said today."

Read More