Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gone Africa

Not that I have been posting on this blog with any sense of regularity. But now I'm in Africa, and I'll be working on posting on another blog, specifically about African things.

You can check out my new blog at:

Friday, August 08, 2008

Radically, Surgically, Different

I was in something of a fetal position, a towel under my face to catch the blood and drool oozing from my face. The thought of food made me want to vomit, and my head was in a cloud. Occasionally, I would sit up, dig my fingers into the bed, grimace, and swallow—trembling as the pain shot out to my ears and down into my throat. On the floor beside my bed was a grocery bag full of bloody gauze, tissue, and popsicle wrappers. It was clearly one of my finer moments. And in that haze I remembered a mere 24-hours earlier feeling so healthy.

I had scheduled my surgery sometime in June and had pretty much forgotten about it. The day before, I went shopping for popsicles, jello, pudding, and soup. Everyone told me that having your tonsils and adenoids out as an adult was terrible. I, for one, thought they were all wimps. But the night before my surgery, as I was brushing my teeth, I realized that my current feeling of health could be replaced by a radically opposite feeling the next day. I was a healthy, happy 24-year old, but my doctor insisted that my tonsils needed to come out. The cut and removal of tissue introduces pain, temporary sickness, and general malaise. And it sure did.

I finished brushing my teeth and went to bed with the feeling that I was about to jump off a large cliff—throwing myself into the control of forces outside me, with the knowledge that things could be much different when I hit the grou….err….woke up. Over the next five days, I dealt with a wide array of unpleasant feelings, lots of pain, and a fair share of frustration that things weren’t healing quicker.

Yet, in the last month or two, I have counseled a number of friends to go under the knife. Except the knife I was talking about was symbolic of some radical action that was needed in their life to fix something wrong. Their tendency (and probably the general tendency of humanity) was to make small, subtle changes to try to fix something that was deeply wrong and broken. What they needed was something like surgery, something like a leap of faith.

My surgeon is most well known for doing a procedure called a radical neck dissection. When a patient develops cancer in their tongue, jaw, or neck, the cure requires drastic action. The surgeon will spend hours cutting and removing cancer. Skin, bone, and muscle are replaced from other parts of the body, and then the mess is sewn back together. The patients come from the OR looking like they had a freak accident with a meat grinder. The procedure is called “Radical” for a reason. Over the next few days, the swelling recedes, and the patient is not only cancer-free but begins to heal and look good. (This is the reason I chose this surgeon; I figured if he could do that, he could handle my tonsils.)

I am afraid that many American Christians are walking around with one form or another of spiritual cancer that is eating them from inside out--addictions, greed, an obsession with personal comfort, to name a few. Such things will deform them and then destroy them if left alone. What is required is a radical cut—a major jump into the cure—and we are trying to make small, barely perceptible changes because we are too afraid of disturbing status quo. Or maybe we are afraid of the weeks of pain and slow healing that will inevitably follow.

Perhaps we all need to open ourselves up, and see if there is something cancerous or infected growing in us. A radical dissection of the soul may be just what the doctor ordered. The healing may leave scars, but the joy of freedom and new found health cannot be underestimated.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Post Modern Missions Motivation

Tonight was my church’s annual meeting and afterward a group of us went out for dinner. Toward the end of the meal, I asked my pastor if he had been reading anything of interest. He told me that he had read the first chapter of a book that I had noticed in his library and had made comment on. The book in question is a perspectives book on the issue of Exclusivism/Inclusivism, titled “What about those who have never heard?” I made comment on this book because it represents an issue that has caused me a lot of debate and study. For about a year, it kept me from being licensed with the C&MA. (Anyone who knew me during that time remembers that it was a trial for me—and trial in the interrogation/court sense wouldn’t be a misinterpretation.) The issue in and of itself is worthy of its own series of blogs or perhaps its own theology class…and we won’t attempt that here.

As we began to discuss the topic a bit, my pastor made a comment on the issue in regards to its impact on mission’s motivation. “Risking your life in missions so that someone can have a little bit better life, when they would be going to heaven anyway. What motivation is that?” (Complete paraphrase, and I hope a fair one. He clarified that he was talking about a major shift in thinking from how he was raised.) I am a bit embarrassed about my over-zealous response. As I said, this is an issue I’ve had to talk about quite a bit, and it was a bit unfair to go overboard on an unsuspecting pastor, late in the evening. I responded that I felt one (or I) could find quite compelling reasons for missions in this context. That I was afraid that doing missions solely so that people don’t go to hell bordered on Gnosticism. That doing missions for the sake of discipleship, not shallow evangelistic efforts, was healthier and honored our relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit in this life—and meant that this life meant something. Our conversation was interrupted at this point and never resumed.

But it left me thinking about the motivation to be missional in Christian faith, especially as it relates to the generation divide. I have entertained this conversation with a couple of people, all of whom are my senior, and who have all taken generally the same view, i.e. if you remove the risk of hell, you cut the motivation and urgency out from under the missions movement. This has never made sense to me, but my rebuttals to this assertion have never seemed to make an impact either. Tonight I realized for the first time that this probably has a great deal to do with the generational gap. Being a young person who has had a long-term calling to missions, but who is, nevertheless, steeped in the thinking of my generation, the question of “what motivates me towards missions?” is especially relevant. And further, the question, “what will motivate my generation to be missional?” is also of grave concern to me. (To clarify, by missions, I mean the intentional relocation from one’s culture to another which has less access to the Church, in order to live out the gospel among that people.) The following is just a quick attempt to outline some of my thoughts.

First, I should give a brief synopsis of my belief regarding those who have never heard the gospel, since that is what started this whole topic. I am open to the possibility that God has a means of applying His grace—provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—to people who have never heard the gospel, other than the means which we know, i.e. believing in the historical person of Jesus Christ and praying directly to Him to receive the grace He provided for us through His death. What this does NOT mean: 1. “Everyone gets into heaven.” I am not a universalist (perhaps my God is?). If God chooses to use another method of applying His grace to the lives of some, it is certainly a minority, otherwise He would have informed us of this method. As it is, the only method we know with certainty is the one I have mentioned above. 2. “The historical person of Jesus is unimportant.” I affirm the ancient Christian doctrine of the peculiarity of Christ and acknowledge that no one could do for us what He did. 3. “The death of Jesus is unimportant.” Without Christ’s death and resurrection, we are all hopeless, without a means of being reconciled to God. For us to be reconciled to God, Jesus had to come into specific history and place as the fully-God, fully-Man person, die, and be resurrected. I am simply saying that God might choose to apply this grace to people who haven’t had access to the same historical knowledge we have had. To be honest, most people in my generation probably are unaware of the spectrum of beliefs in the exlusivism/inclusivism debates, but I have a hunch that most passionate, well-thought out Christians my age would have similar beliefs, simply because we share the same generational thinking.

Now the whole concept of missions motivation for a post-modern generation is a bit of an oxymoron in the first place. Post-modern ideals don’t really endorse the idea of telling someone their way is “wrong” (is there such a thing?) and that yours is “right.” There are no absolutes, so going to another culture to convert people is a scandalous idea. Whether a young person has been raised safely in the Church, with a solid Christian worldview, or not, the post-modern ideas get on you. Two points here: 1.) We can either rebut the whole post-modern system (good luck) or we can look within and past post-modernity to communicate the necessity and the motivation for missions. 2.) Hell, for post-moderns (hereafter PM’s), is an uncomfortable thought and won’t be a source of motivation. Hell, a place of absolute separation from an absolute God, because you did things that were absolutely wrong and did not receive the only and absolute means of reconciliation with God. Far too absolute an idea for PM’s to feel comfortable with, let alone be motivated by, even if they do acknowledge a belief in it. Let me expound:

Christian moderns have less issue giving an answer to the question, “who is going to heaven? Hell?” Post-modern Christians (hereafter PMC’s) squirm when asked this question. They may both believe in heaven and hell, and that your relationship with God is the deciding factor in your eternal destiny. But here is the difference. Moderns believe they know things with certainty. Post-moderns, not so much. Moderns have a clear cut standard for who makes the cut, so to speak. Post-moderns believe everything is a bit less clear cut. A PMC will likely believe that people who have rejected the Christian message will spend eternity separated from God, but will likely be hesitant to be forced into saying so. The issue is not one of the PMC’s being more gracious than their modern fathers, nor is the issue, I think, one of moderns having the correct doctrine and PMC’s having poor doctrine. (There is potential for both to have terrible doctrine…each generation must guard their lives and doctrine carefully.) So when asked this question, PMC’s will probably give an answer like this, “I’m not God, I don’t get to decide for other people. I can, however, tell you that I believe the way I know with certainty that I am going to heaven is by my relationship with Christ.” The reference is personal because PM’s are all into things that are personally true. Again, a PMC believes in some absolute truths. That is not the issue, but they choose to communicate in such a way for two reasons. 1.) It is culturally taboo to say that one knows with certainty truth about another person. This leads to the second point: 2.) PMC’s must either decide to communicate truth in the way their modern father’s expect—bold proclamations of absolute truth, despite cultural taboos (which is, as said above, to rebut the whole postmodern system)—or to communicate truth in a way that is accessible to their generation. (No small feat, which requires an in-depth understanding of the thinking and communication of the postmodern generation, and perhaps, as NT Wright suggests, looking past postmodernity for a different way of knowing.) For better or worse, most PMC’s choose to communicate truth from a personal standpoint because it makes connections with other people in their generation. Broad, absolute statements do not. All of that to say, talking about masses of people going to hell will not motivate a PMC to missions. It makes no connection with their method of knowing truth.

So, since some of the traditional methods will not motivate the postmodern generation to be missional, what will? I would like to make three suggestions. The first method is letting love replace knowledge as the source of motivation. For the reasons mentioned above, cold, hard facts only make postmoderns squirm, not motivate them. If we can disciple people to develop a heart of love for people they have never met, then we have successful motivation. PMC’s feel much more comfortable sharing truth in loving, personal relationships. The second method is developing a full understanding of what living the gospel in all its fullness is. There is a huge resurgence of social conscience/justice among young evangelicals. I believe this is part of living out the gospel in its fullness; part of being active in the Kingdom of God here on earth. We cannot swing the pendulum toward a purely social gospel, but holding together an understanding of ministering to people’s physical and spiritual needs, will bring about a great deal of motivation for PMC’s. Lastly, PMC’s have been brought up in a global community. They will be naturally motivated to transact with people of other cultures. Teaching PMC’s to form strong cross-cultural relationships and to communicate successfully in such relationships, will hinge natural motivation with successful missions methods.

I am not an expert in modern vs. postmodern thinking, so feel free to comment. I do believe that this is an issue that will need to be explored more in-depth, as it will be crucial to the missions movement in the West.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Inverse Prostitution

“On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths…Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” (Ezekiel 16:4-6)

The Lord of the Universe calls a people to Himself, in order to redeem the whole of His creation. He calls them from despised obscurity. He calls a weak and helpless people to Himself, a people destined to die, and He says to them, “Live!” Today, the call to “Live!” is extended to us as individuals—from all nations and peoples.

“Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine” (Ezekiel 16:8).

Few young teenagers could think of anything more embarrassing than being stripped naked in front of their peers. I remember having nightmares of going to school in my underwear during middle school, and I would spend the whole dream trying to get home to find more clothes. A naked, exposed teen hitting puberty is how God describes His people Israel. Vulnerable to those around Her; Her imperfections out in the open for all to see and take advantage of. And this is how He finds us today in our sin and brokenness; exposed, vulnerable, imperfections glaring, and open to the ravages of sin.

“And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezk. 16:14)

The Lord makes a covenant with Israel. They are to be His people, and He will be their God. He covers their nakedness and adorns them with beauty, so that their fame is known through the nations. He offers protection and provision in a covenant of love. His covenant for us today promises the same—a covering for our naked shame, a reworking of our imperfections, a healing of the damage done by sin in order to make us beautiful. He makes us beautiful as individuals in relationship to Him, and in corporate unity as the Church, His Bride.

“But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his.” (16:15)

Having been made a covenant people—a distinct people with a unique pattern of living and an unsurpassed relationship with Her God—and having been redeemed and saved from the oppressing nations around them, Israel wastes no time in breaking Her vows. She immediately whores after idols and the customs of other nations. Having been redeemed and saved ourselves, we perhaps delay no longer than Israel in seeking after idols and customs that deny the distinct and holy lives we have been brought into. We run back into the naked shame from which we came, opening ourselves to the ravages of sin once again. He has given us life and beauty, and we run back to kicking in our own blood and death. More shocking yet:

“You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.” (16:32-34)

An inverse prostitution of sorts. Israel had an oath from the Sovereign God of the Universe that He would be their God—what more could be needed? Instead, in times of crisis, Israel pays money to other nations to deliver Her. Her lack of obedience and trust cost her greatly. And when we choose to find satisfaction from sin, we do so at great cost to ourselves. When we choose the alluring promises of sin, we pay to make ourselves a prostitute. Much is taken from us as sin rapes us—a rape of our own choosing. If running back to sin were a simple act of prostitution at least we would leave the encounter with something in our pockets, but it is a terrible act of inverse prostitution in which we lose all.

In what ways has sin ravaged us again? What has it taken from us? As individuals? As the Church?

New Year’s resolutions are typically cheap and cliché at best. So I hesitate to tell you that I made some. But in moments of clearheaded reflection at the end of the year, I made some decisions to live differently—more in line with the distinct pattern of living that Christ has modeled for us. I’ve already broken a few of these resolutions, and if it were only an issue of not making it to the gym like I wanted, I suppose I wouldn’t be so concerned. But since my resolutions are choices to derive my life, beauty and worth from the God with whom I live in covenant relationship, and not from the alluring but ravaging life of sin, I am reminded by Ezekiel what is truly at stake.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

All the foolish and weak things

This is a bit of a follow up for a blog I wrote back in June, called “A little down.” At that time, I was feeling so desperate to see God’s work in the people and ministries around me. I still feel that same desperation, but perhaps not with the same doubt that He will come through. However, through this past six months of praying for the Spirit to intervene, waiting with baited breath to see it come, and then rejoicing in the amazing things He does accomplish, God has begun to teach me something of how He works with all the foolish and weak things to advance His Kingdom.

I’m going to be a bit vulnerable here. I think I told one of my girlfriends this one time, and she made fun of me, which wasn’t a major blow to my ego, but did make me realize that I’m a bit weird.

I’ve always wanted to be a spy. I still think about it when I’m driving and I’ve got good music playing. I think about how cool it would be to know five languages, be trained in martial arts, fly around the world on secret missions, and be constantly looking behind my back, ready for the next chase. I imagine that my car is a decked out spy car that has a hidden computer and the ability to transform into some type of racing car and then into a plane. Yeah, yeah, it is childish, but perhaps not as much as my desire to be a superhero. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but ever since the X-men cartoons I watched as a kid, I’ve wanted to have telekinetic powers like Professor X. I’m just sure that if I was either a spy or a superhero, I would kick some butt, take some names, and, of course, save the world.

Usually, after a few minutes of fanciful thinking, my attention comes back to reality. I’m barely fluent in English and at the peak of my French-speaking abilities, my best African friend asked me to pray in English, because I “hurt the (French) language.” Besides my brother, I’ve never had an honest fight with anybody, and to be frank, my body build lends itself to running away more than fighting. I drive a dirty, 1998 Ford Taurus, with a slipping transmission that would have trouble getting airborne over a ramp, let alone turning into a plane. And since I still call Post-It Notes my brain, I doubt I’ll be developing telekinetic powers anytime soon.

Right before reality shatters my day dreams, I usually start coming around and trying to redeem them. I imagine using my powers for the Kingdom. This, for some reason, is always an uncomfortable marriage of ideas and usually leads to my rousing from the day dream. Somehow, kicking butt, taking names, and looking extremely cool while I do so, doesn’t seem to mesh with my idea of the Kingdom. But, to be frank, when it comes to power-issues in the Kingdom, I’m no more comfortable with God’s version either.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

When I pray that the Kingdom of God will advance, I want God to respond by equipping His followers with power enough to sweep through obstacles, crash through opposition, and—in a triumphant flurry—set up His loving, peaceful, and merciful reign. Instead, He seems quite content to work with us in all our weak, messy humanity.

Certainly, some of the most intelligent, powerful, and incredible people I know are Christians and are actively at work to advance the Kingdom. But even their work seems to be limited by the imposition of Christian values. The intelligent are not allowed to brow-beat those who are less intelligent into believing truth. The powerful advance the Kingdom through humble coaxing, not through coercion. Ours is a Kingdom advanced on faithful knees, not on swift feet. Our banner is a cross—an ominous reminder that our very lives are being offered—not a sword which demands the lives of others. Ours is the basin and towel, with which we wash feet, bind up the broken hearted, and minister to the sick and poor. Our calling is to the poor, oppressed, and imprisoned. Ours is prayer and waiting for the Spirit.

And we do these things through small, seemingly inconsequential acts in our everyday humanity. In her book, Traveling Mercies, Anne Lammott says, “I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools—the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But when I grew up, I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said, ‘Do the best you can with these. They'll have to do.’ Mostly, against all odds, they're enough.”

This all started to boil over in my mind the other day as I was helping my African refugee friends. I so often feel inadequate when I am helping them. I was trying to help one particular family reestablish their profile with food-stamps and medicare. This lead to a wild goose-chase of calls and ended up with me having to talk to a lawyer. All of which made me feel like I was in way over my head. I truly felt like God should be using a powerful lawyer or a seasoned social worker instead of me.

Driving home, I was thinking about this, and about several other areas of my life. It seems so humble, weak, and foolish. The refugee ministry keeps me humble, daily. And even though things are progressing there, we’ve had some setbacks that make me say, “Lord, what ARE you doing?” My hopes of becoming a missionary to Africa are, for now at least, delayed. I found out that I will not be deploying this summer as I had thought. Again, a “Lord, what ARE you doing?” moment. The lives of several people around me seem to be quite tumultuous right now, and I feel largely unable to help them. So, I simply pray that the Lord will use all the weak, foolish, and lowly things to advance His Kingdom in my life and in the lives around me.

I’ll close with this beautifully stated thought from my friend Adam Thada. In reflecting about Christmas—certainly the beachhead advance for the Kingdom of weak, foolish, and lowly things—he says, “But Christmas is the time to believe in the small things once again, to become poor, foolish and simple. We sow tiny seeds that grow into mighty trees. We follow poor, generous widows and feast on leftover bread and fish. We return acts of kindness for our enemy’s assaults. At Christmas, evil is blindsided as love wins from the underside.” Well said, Adam.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

PS to homosexuality and the Church

I read the following paragraphs in an article by Christianity Today. The full article can be read here.

"Which sums up much of ex-gay ministry today. No hype. Limited faith in techniques. No gay bashing. No detectable triumphalism, religious or political. Just serious discipleship. This may be the only group in America that realizes all the way to the bottom that when you decide to follow Jesus, you don't always get to do what you want to do.

The ex-gay movement runs against the cultural tide. Given adverse public opinion, the ambivalent support of conservative churches, and the common assertion that ex-gays condemn themselves to a life of frustration, you would think the movement would shrivel. Yet Exodus affiliates have doubled in number over the last 18 years. Many of its leaders have been in the public eye for 20 to 30 years. They show every sign of stability."

What a lesson to all of Christians! What would the Church be if we began to realize the sacrifice involved in discipleship? What if we fearlessly confronted cultural tides? What if our leaders would stand strong?

Lord, grant that we may follow the example of these, our brothers and sisters.

Our Deeply Sane Moments

The other day I decided that I needed to start smoking. I was driving, window open to the warm summer air, my hand on the window skimming through the breeze, and some great song on the radio. As I pulled up to a stop light, the guy next to me had just reached his hand out the window to flick ash off the end of his cigarette. It was so irrepressibly cool, so relaxing, I decided to buy my first pack at the very next gas station.

Luckily, I walked out of the Sinclair with only a pop-tart and a Mountain Dew (breakfast of champions!). I reasoned that I didn’t have time to smoke just then, and showing up to seminary class (New Testament) reeking of smoke wouldn’t go over real well. I was deeply tired and incredibly stressed, and perhaps a bit insane.

What in the world was going on in my head? Did I really think that a long draw on a cigarette was going to relieve my stress? Or make me cooler? A few weeks back I was preaching from Hebrews 10 and was emphasizing the “day after day, again and again” phrase that describes other attempts to reach God apart from Christ. I shared a definition of insanity that I thought particularly helpful and insightful. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result.

By this definition, I would say that many of us have strongly insane tendencies. I mean, if it’s not drugs or alcohol, it’s the power-games and the rat-race for financial gain. Day after day, again and again, trying to acquire for ourselves something we think will give us those things we truly seek—love, peace, joy. These things are only found in God, revealed and made known to us only through His Son. Really when you think of it, all sins are this type of insanity. We say to God, “I will meet these deep needs within me by a different means than what you’ve provided—I can provide for myself.” So we sin again and again, thinking that this time it might fulfill, this time we might find that which we are after.

With all these moments of insanity, I sometimes wonder if I can trust myself to make any sound decisions at all. Here again, I’m comforted by something I heard. The difference between truly insane people and sane people is that the insane never question their sanity. But still, how do you know when you are making a sound decision? Especially when there seems to be major change or risk involved? Couched in Christian language, one might ask, how does one know God’s will?

Two months ago, I witnessed one of the most stirring and deeply sane moments I have ever seen. A friend of mine reached rock bottom. As three of us sat on the floor in a living room with long periods of silence punctuated by the occasional comment, he kept expressing how much he wanted to leave behind this thing that was destroying his life. He felt destitute, broken down, beat up, almost destroyed, but he had a vision of freedom and he was building resolve to find it. It was if his mind, heart, emotions, and spirit had all come into alignment—telling him the same thing: “Leave this behind.” The road ahead was marked with sacrifice, difficulties, and risk, but he felt compelled to begin. It was sober and sobering; it was deeply sane.

Our deeply sane moments may come only once in a great while. They are moments of great vision grounded with sober reality. They are those rare moments when all parts of seem to align—mind, heart, emotions, and spirit. We somehow seem to know—as deeply as we’ve known anything—this is the road we must take. The road, though fraught with danger and hardship, will lead us to love, peace and joy.

When we leave this moment, we must guard the vision against all our insanities. We must never settle for old coping mechanisms, which we practice again and again, hoping for different results. We are now on a different road. It is terrifying, terribly hard, and deeply sane.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lessons from the 'rents

My mother taught me to clean up after myself, to love with a no-nonsense, fierce love, and to leave things better than I found them.

My dad taught me to work hard, think deeply, and to enter so deeply into other people's lives that your kids feel as if you will never leave the church on Sunday afternoon.

In some senses, the clock is ticking loudly on my time here in Utah. My prayer is that I'm faithful to the lessons I learned from my parents.

I hope that when I leave Utah my affairs here will be wrapped up neatly, my hard work and deep thinking will have lasting effects, and my love and relationships will run so deep it will hurt like hell to leave. I hope in some way to leave this place better than I found it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

How the Church lost the debate on Homosexuality

For the most part, I am very optimistic about the Church’s ability to overcome problems, reach people and be a salt and light presence in the world, even if I do criticize what I perceive to be short-comings in these efforts. That being said, when it comes to the Church and the homosexual community, I’m not so optimistic. I’ve seen the rejection and hate that some within the Church show homosexuals. I’ve seen otherwise grounded Christians freak about homosexual issues that present themselves. And most devastatingly I’ve seen two friends who were Christians turn completely away from the faith because they felt that there was no place in the Church for them. These experiences have left me entirely skeptical and bit worried about the Church’s ability to recover from her faults in this area. I see three areas in which I think the Church has lost the debate already. If we are to reenter the debate in any meaningful way, these are the three areas we will have to address. And then we’ve only scratched the surface—we’ll have years of trying to repair relationships that might be strained beyond repair, save only by miracle.

OUR DOUBLE STANDARD: How we made it “special”

We made a double standard for homosexuality. While many other sins can be addressed with calm, rational, biblical, and loving approaches, many within Christian circles go on high alert when they hear anything about homosexuality. Instead of loving and biblical approaches, we either run away in a dead panic, or pull out the bio-hazard gear and handle the situation as if it might be toxic enough to wipe us all out. Imagine the difference in these two situations. A man walks into your church on a Sunday, sits through the service, and at the end of the service tells people that he is an alcoholic, but desperately wants to come to know Christ. Now, imagine that two men enter your service and at the end they tell people they are a gay couple and they want to come to know Christ. The tension would be palpable. I have a feeling that in many churches the alcoholic would be led to Christ and would be encouraged to seek treatment, while the gay men would be told that they need to stop living a homosexual lifestyle (no relapses or mess-ups allowed) and then led to Christ. Some sinners need grace and forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit to change them from inside out, others (homosexuals) need to change on their own and then can get grace and the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, we have maintained a double standard (not in theory, but in practice) for what is sin and what is temptation. If an alcoholic feels attracted to booze, we call it temptation. If a man is attracted to another man, we call that sinning. A homosexual who becomes a Christian is supposed to experience immediate release of any temptation (and if they ever give in to temptation, we’d probably kick them out of the church). A non-Christian homosexual is deemed a special kind of sinner because their every thought in this regard is sinful. (I differentiate between willful sin and something caused by sin’s corruption of the created order—I mean, here, willful sin.) The Bible’s prohibitions on homosexuality have nothing to do with orientation, but all to do with actual actions. Homosexual orientation, or more appropriately homosexual temptation, is not in and of itself willful sin.

If we are going to have any ministry among homosexuals, we’ll have to drop our double standard. Sin is sin, and it is nasty, but all of it was dealt with on the cross. Our savior had no such double standards.

OUR SEXUAL MISCONCEPTIONS: How we made it hopeless

The Church went from not talking about sex at all, to talking up how great faithful, marital sex is. We’ve talked it up so much that we’ve bought in to a pattern of thinking that anyone who does not get to experience this would be an incomplete person. And since we’ve bought into the notion that when Christ said He had come to give us life and life to the full, He must have been talking about the exact set of things that we feel constitute life to the full (sex being on the top), we are hardly ready to tell anyone that they can’t have sex. We tell the teenager to endure these years, because marriage is coming (wait for sex). We tell the single adult, you’ll meet the right person soon; you just got to work at it a bit (strive for sex). We tell the homosexual, one day you’ll miraculously change, and you too will enjoy marital sex (change for sex). Sex is definitely at the end of the equation for you, we just have to figure out the right path, after all, we can’t leave you an incomplete person forever.

What about a model of understanding that gives merit to the idea of life-to-the-full without sex? What hope do we give to the celibate, homosexual Christian who does seem to be able to throw off the 20, 30, or 40 years of ingrained patterns overnight in order to become a candidate for healthy, heterosexual marriage? What if a person like this won’t live to see this drastic change? We seem to only be able to point to examples of Christians who have been able to make this change, but many voices are now expressing doubt as to whether every person will be able to make this change (though they may be able to live sinlessly). Do we have ministries in the Church to help people live life to the full without sex, without a heterosexual marriage? Or are we so blinded by our version of life-to-the-full, that we can only tell people “wait, strive, or change” instead of “live it now” in Christ.

We must regain a firm understanding that saying “no” to unbiblical sex is, well, biblical even if that means a life of no sex. But if we want to offer hope to homosexuals both in and out of the Church, we must understand and teach that a “no” doesn’t mean a second-rate life. An interesting article that touches on this can be found here.

OUR MISPLACED AGENDA: How we made it “us versus them”

Probably in large part because we made it “special,” we have turned the issue into a relationship so antagonistic as to be down-right sinful. When the Church covered her eyes and ears and began to hum really loud, instead of seeking to learn and understand; when we decided to control homosexuals with legislation, instead of reaching them with the gospel; when we responded to them with fear, anger and hate, instead of love; we played right into a trap. We added fuel to flame that was galvanizing the homosexual community’s identity. And while we’ve chosen to argue about orientation, genetics, and legalities, they have chosen to emphasize identity. We’ve done nothing but reaffirm their conception of their identity. In fact, a group with a strong identity is much easier to attack, than individuals with an amorphous connection. So we made it “us versus them.”

In the process we forgot all about one of the most fundamental questions we purport to answer: Who are we? We are God’s creation. We are loved and cherished by Him. We are sought after by Him. We are sinners to whom He has offered salvation. This is the true identity of every person on earth.

Homosexuals often find their homosexuality to be a huge part of their identity. This identity, they feel, is under constant attack by the Church. So why would you ever step foot in place that attacks your very identity? If we are going to be relevant to the gay community in any way other than antagonism; if we are going to love the sinner but hate the sin, we are going to have to lovingly set the record straight on identity. Until we do, we’ve lost before we’ve even started. Could you imagine a committed American soldier having any inclination to join a group of terrorists hell-bent on destroying American soldiers? I would argue that most gays would feel the same way about joining the Church. We must differentiate between actions/lifestyles and identity. They are not first and foremost homosexuals; they are loved and sought-after creations of God. This is part of the scandal of the gospel—what you do is not who you are in the eyes of God, it is instead what He has done that makes you who you are.

OUR HIDDEN POWER: How we made it this far

My only optimism is in the Holy Spirit who seems to work in the hearts of believers in order to prepare the Church for each big challenge. If only we will listen and heed Him. It seems as if more and more within the Church are rising up to meet this challenge with wisdom and love. We have seen homosexuals come to know Christ and even change, and this we can certainly admit is by no stellar efforts on our part as a whole, but by the efforts of the Spirit through individuals who chose to listen and obey. Holy Spirit, breathe of the living God, renew us and all the world.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Honest about our puffy feet

My parents are visiting from Ohio this week and today I took them up to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. It was a beautiful but long trip. In the quiet and tired moments on the way home, I began to think of, for no reason other than my random, tired mind, a substitute teacher that I once had in elementary school.

The woman was average height and thinning black hair, but by far the most fascinating aspect of her was her feet. I still remember the first day we met her. Our teacher was going to be gone for a week or two and she was coming in to take over. We all immediately became fixated on her feet. Some of us knew we shouldn't stare, but no one could resist. They were puffy feet--they swelled up and out of her shoes. She wore a dress flat with a fairly open top and her foot just billowed out of that open shoe like it was the top of a muffin.

I remember thinking we might get in trouble for staring, but she shocked us all when she started class. The first thing out of her mouth, after her name, was, "And most people are curious about my feet." She spent the next few minutes explaining that her feet were swollen and nobody really knew why. And then she fielded the barrage of questions from the inquisitors we were as elementary students. No, they didn't hurt. Yes she did have trouble finding just the right shoe. No, it didn't feel like a water balloon you could pop, but was rather firm.

Now I don't know much about this woman today, but what struck me as amazing as I was recalling that event was her simple acceptance of herself. She was not caught up in all the image games we tend to play. She had puffy feet, and that was that. She didn't hide them or make excuses for them. She didn't change the subject whenever someone brought it up. Instead, she bravely and honestly explained her puffy feet to a bunch of first graders. She demystified the whole thing, and we came, rather quickly, to accept her puffy feet as a welcome visitor in our classroom.

What would the world be like if we could all just live honestly with our own puffy feet? What if we weren't so concerned about image, but rather just accepted ourselves and presented ourselves honestly to others? What if we just admitted that our hair wasn't perfect, or our smile was crooked, or that our skin was in full mutiny to our wishes? What if we could be honest about that fact that we were uncomfortable with our weight, or worried that we aren't athletic enough?

And as amazing as that would be, I'm really wondering, what if those in the community of believers would just be honest about our spiritual, emotional, and character puffy feet? What if we could just admit that we weren't doing "OK"? What if we talked honestly about the things that plagued us? What if we named the sins that continually knocked us down? What if the Church was the safest place to share these things? See, unlike physical puffy feet, these things can be healed in community.

Protecting images is destroying community.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A little down

The last couple of nights I've been kind of down. I've been hanging out with people and have been having a great time, but when they leave I begin to reflect and I get this anxious and sad feeling in my heart.

See, for the first time in my life, (except once, but that lasted like 3 hours) I've been doubting God not for intellectual reasons or lack of understanding or lack of faith, but because of power. I know in my head that God's power is unlimited, but my heart has been anxious to see that power in action, and it feels as if He is sitting on His thumbs when His mighty working is needed.

I've got a friend who's really been struggling lately. He's had a rough life and has gotten this feeling that God has cut him a raw deal. The struggles that he so desperately wants to throw off keep plaguing him. His desires seem unfulfilled. These struggles and feelings of disappointment are pulling him into dangerous waters; he's ready to throw in the towel. And what I want so desperately to see happen in his life seems to be on the other side of an impossible battle.

I tutor these Somalian refugee kids. They are struggling to make it in this life. I read their report cards and see things like "minimal proficiency" "at risk" and "negative attitude." They are getting sucked into the gang life--into drugs, violence, and sexual promiscuity. At 12 and 13 they have to translate everything for their parents--forced into the role of an adult before their time. They live with a shell of Muslim religion they seem to know so little about and which seems to do nothing for them, other than prevent them from eating pork and petting dogs. And what I want so desperately to see happen in their lives seems to be on the other side of an impossible battle.

I have these friends at work. Some are Mormon, and they've bought so hard into this religion that I see to be a deception, that they seem content to live with meaningless legalism. Some of them aren't Mormon but want nothing to do with religion because of the hypocrisy they've seen. I've been working to establish stronger and stronger relationships with them, and I find that I truly love them, which hurts because I want them to have what's most important to me. And what I want so desperately to see happen in their lives seems to be on the other side of an impossible battle.

We've had all these new young people come to our church lately. They've been in and out. It seems like we just start establishing a relationship with them, and then they just disappear. They come in so hungry, and we start to show them where to eat, and they slip out the back door. And what I want so desperately to see for this ministry seems to be on the other side of an impossible battle.

When I get to thinking about all these, I get a little low. And when I think about the battles that are raging, I start to think about me. I think about all the stuff that holds me down. I think about the countless times I've let the Lord down. I think about the times I've just completely botched my witness in front of my friends. I think about the struggles inside me that I've sworn for the thousandth time would end today. And what I want so desperately to see happen in my own life seems to be on the other side of an impossible battle.

Last night before I fell asleep, with this anxious, sad feeling stirring in my gut, I became almost desperate to see God's power at work. All these battles to be fought and I feel like "where's the power to fight these?" So, I'm a little low.

"Holy Spirit, breathe of the living God, renew me and all the world."

Fixing problems

The other day I went to a meeting of people that advocate for the refugee population here in Salt Lake City. This has become my second full-time job out here. I had Wednesday through Saturday off this week (oh the joys of being a nurse), and I was with them for at least three or four hours each of those days. But back to the meeting.

A lady who teaches ESL at one of the local schools here but is just starting to volunteer with our group was at the meeting. She made a comment that meet with unanimous approval, head nods, claps, and "absolutely's" from around the circle, including myself, as if she had hit our purpose right on the head. The moment I stopped parroting the approval, I realized with a sense of horror what I had just approved.

It's not that the lady suggested we bomb government buildings, or made some overtly demeaning or racist remark (emphasis on overtly), or something else horrible like that. She simply said that research showed that if we don't intervene with a population like this, who has been so traumatized already, they will turn to drugs, alcohol, violence and other destructive behaviors. She concluded by saying that what we were doing was for the good of the community, that it was essential to preserve our community.

Maybe that doesn't sound horrible to you; it didn't immediately to me either. I mean she is right, research probably does indicate all of those things (I see it with my own eyes). Let me tell you one other comment before I share my sense of horror.

One of the ladies that leads these meetings said to me a bit later on in the conversation, "Jake, why don't you take some of these new volunteers and introduce them to the families you've been working with, and then once they get started, you can move on to a new family."

Are you kidding me? Move on to a new family? These families aren't just some problems I'm trying to fix, so that as soon as someone else can deal with them, I can move on to the next problem. These are people; people I love. That's why I reacted (delayed as it was) so badly to what the teacher had said. What we are doing is for the good of the community? Sure, but that isn't what I'm there for. I'm not helping these families because I'm worried that if I don't one more user and one more pusher will be added to my streets. No, I'm helping them because I'm terrified that that user or that pusher might have a name, and it might be the name of one of my boys. I don't give a rip about statistics, but I'll fight with my whole being to make sure that one of my kids doesn't become one.

Now I was the only Christian at the meeting, so maybe I took a unique perspective. (Don't get me wrong, these people are wonderful.) Or maybe I'm over reacting. But I firmly believe that I'm part of a kingdom (The Kingdom) that has a unique concern for individuals. There isn't concern for individuals over and against the community, but the two are held in a tension. Mine is a kingdom in which the shepherd leaves the 99 to find the 1, but mine is also a kingdom in which "the many parts make one body."

And the issue here, as I think about it, isn't even community vs. individual. In a community the members are still people. The problem here is the typical "fix it" American mentality, which usually has self at the center. See we can be awfully generous (at least in our own minds) when we are trying to fix problems. And that is what we see, problems, not people. We throw money at everything because we believe it fixes everything. But it doesn't fix people. And we throw our ingenuity, our activism, and our left-over time at problems, because these fix problems. But they don't fix people. People are messy and you just can't fix them.

We will only begin to understand what true generosity and true community are when we stop trying to fix problems, and just start treating people like people. When we learn to love people--messy, awkward, error-prone people, whom we find to be strangely like ourselves--then, and only then, will we make a difference--a difference that will be felt community-wide.

Quit fixing problems and start loving people. And Holy Spirit, make it true of me.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fundamentalism or Orthodoxy??

So when did any form of Christianity that asserts the particularity of Christ among other religions become labeled "hardcore fundamentalism"?

I stumbled on this article on Yahoo! (coincidentally after having talked about Kirk Cameron at breakfast this morning) this evening. Found here, the article details the conversion and new ministry that Kirk Cameron has undertaken. I actually had an opportunity to hear Kirk speak at my school a couple of years ago, so I was familiar with his testimony as well as his ministry strategy. More thoughts on that later, but what really caught my attention was this statement:

"They have harnessed Comfort's writing and Cameron's celebrity to create a small multimedia empire that is in service of a hardcore fundamentalist message: Accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior or you will not get to heaven."

Again, I ask, when did this basic Orthodox, protestant, evangelical tenet get subverted under the banner of hardcore fundamentalism? I object to this for a number of reasons. First, I hold to this message and don't consider myself a fundamentalist (let alone a hardcore one, unless you consider me a grammar fundamentalist, as you will see). Second, much like CS Lewis protesting the way the word 'gentleman' was being used to describe something other than what a true gentleman is, I protest this use of the word fundamentalist. A fundamentalist is a subsect of Christian practice, not Christianity itself. The use of the word fundamentalist in this context is a redundant use of sorts, and actually distorts understanding, making either the word Christianity or fundamentalism a useless word (I have a sense which word people would love to make worthless). Thirdly, the word hardcore (let alone fundamentalist) is wrought with connotation, most of which is not favorable. Lumping a basic Christian message under the title of hardcore fundamentalism is far from neutrality in journalism. Lastly, taking a message that is a basic tenet of Christianity and labeling it "fundamentalist" ties all adherents to fundamentalism. And since the banner of fundamentalism has gone from meaning "a subsect of Christianity" to being more synonymous with "religious fanatic", on the plane of backward, polygamist Mormons and Islamic terrorists (a plane on which, although I have my disagreements with them, I would not begin to place fundamentalist Christians), the adherents of basic Christianity get lumped into a group of polygamist, jihadists. I'm sure there are those who would be eager to label me that as well....but, well... I can't even get one wife, let alone three, and I mulling over pacifism.

Now, it might be more appropriate to label Cameron's methods of sharing the gospel as "hardcore," but still not necessarily fundamentalist. I will diverge from his methods, but not his basic message. I'm not a big fan of confrontational evangelism (any single method of evangelism which claims to be the only means, gets labeled suspect in my book), and I think there are more effective ways of presenting the love and grace which are central to the Christian message.

Well, having made my grammatically fundamentalist complaint for the day, I'm going to go grab some Taco Bell (talk about hardcore) and head to bed.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A letter to St. John

This was my final class assignment for seminary...I enjoyed it a lot. I was to write a letter to St. John telling him the history of Christianity in narrative form. This is far to long a post. Also, I should write another post about the use of narrative theology in reaching post-moderns...but we'll worry about that some other time.

Dear John,
I grew up sheltered, I know I did. My mom and dad stayed together. My older siblings were typical; I got picked on, but they were also fiercely loving, protective and loyal. Our house was big enough; the table was set with dishes of hot food made with love by mom before we even got hungry. In the summers, our huge yard became a wonderland—grassy fields for ball, soft and dark padded forest floors, smelling of pine, led to worlds of imagination and fun. Fall would come, and while the leaves turned hues of fiery red, bright pink, and wonderful orange, I would wake up early, grab my lunch (made by mom) and head out for the school bus. Winter brought snow days, snow forts, and the warmth of the fire place. Spring would come and the rains made rivers in our yard, in which we would play—barefoot in muddy water and wet grass—after the rolling thunder had cleared. All was right with the world.

But even sheltered boys grow up, and even sheltered boys leave home and taste bitterness in the world. I remember Columbine, and the sickening fear of two boys shooting their classmates, and the weeks of daydreaming about what that would be like in my high school, and the imagined escape routes. And I knew something was not right with the world. I remember Haiti, and that little boy with a swollen belly, discolored skin, and passing out granola bars amidst the hot dust like I was a king. And I knew something was not right with the world. I remember 9/11, the car radio, a speaker saying a plane has hit the tower, and then Oh my God, Oh my God, a second plane, and the paralyzing fear and obsessive TV watching, the mourning, and the air of unsettling. And I knew something was not right with the world. I remember Sri Lanka, tropical breeze, swaying palm trees, ankle-deep in sand, warm ocean lapping my heels, and looking in horror at tsunami-carnage. 15,000 dead in what the eye beholds; try to fathom, try to mourn, try to have compassion. And I knew something was not right with the world. I remember Gabon, red dust, dark hospital room, dying 19 year old, swollen belly, puffy skin, kidney failure without cure here in Africa, but easily handled in America. And I knew something was not right with the world. I remember the book, reading through tears, Rwandan Holocaust, and then meeting Emmy, holocaust survivor, refugee, with so little help; my country failed to stop it, my country failed him. And I knew something was not right with the world. I remember the free health clinic, honest, hardworking people, jobs lost to outsourcing, in tears accepting charity, hauntingly similar to mom and dad, and me. And I knew something was not right with the world.

Even sheltered boys disobey, and even sheltered boys taste bitterness in themselves. I know the pride, the elevated view, the haughty confidence, the self-worship. Something deep within abhors it, and I know something is not right with me. I know the burning anger, the knife-words, the child tantrum, the letting go to an emotion. Something deep within abhors it, and I know something is not right with me. I know the lusty desire, the greed, the collection of things around my heart. Something deep within abhors it, and I know something is not right with me. I know the “that which I want to do, I do not do,” and the “what I hate, I do,” and the “I do not understand what I do.” Something deep within abhors it, and I know something is not right with me.

Saint John, who will answer; who can answer? My generation is asking. My generation wants to be a part, a part of something bigger than all this anxious questioning. Scientific method, logical rationalism, and fact will not capture us. Truth is wanted, but only that truth which enraptures and includes us. Our parents see black and white and tell us to see the same; we have been taught to see shades and are discontent will all these sharp lines of distinction. Fact and statement are black and white and sharp lines fail to communicate; stories paint with shades, and to stories we can belong. Tell us a story we seem to cry. And funny, John, that Sunday School felt-boards and bed-time stories should answer the bitterness, which the pupil thought was a world apart.

In the beginning, the Spirit hovers over waters, over the formless, empty, and dark. And God—one who speaks and creates, one who is before, who has seen the beginning, active as the first scene begins--speaks commands into existent reality. Spoken word separates light from dark on the first day, and on the second a word divides water with an expanse called sky. Land pulls up from watery depths, flora bursts forth and the third day passes. Governing lights are spoken into existence, one to rule the day, one to rule the night, as God speaks on the fourth day. The waters teem with fish, and the expanse is filled with the flutter of wings on the fifth day. Creative genius speaks the animals into existence, but hold, He is not done. The speaking, pre-existent One has a masterpiece to reveal. “Let us make man in our image.” “Male and female he created them.” The seventh day dawns, completeness, and He rests in garden paradise that is good, with the male and female that are very good. Shameless nakedness rules equitably over the garden and is in complete harmony with the speaking, active One who rests. All is right with the world.

The serpent is crafty, forked tongue lying. Eve buys in; Adam joins all too willingly, to become like God, knowing good and evil. Oh would that they remain content in their innocence, being like God in image alone. Knowledge of evil becomes bitterness and death for all of creation. Harmony is broken, naked innocence hidden behind fig leaves. Garden paradise is closed; Adam and Eve must live in corrupted creation. Now the creation must groan in expectation. Through Adam, corruption is breed, into the fabric of humanity, into the created universe. Evermore, something is not right with the world.

Humanity now makes God in its image. Corruption abounds, every heart-intention is evil. The speaking, pre-existent, active One is filled with deep pain. Harmony is broken, naked innocence hidden behind fig leaves. Grieved, a deluge is planned. Yet a plan of grace survives. A man will pass through the waters and be saved. Noah has found favor, grace, and will start over with a representation of the corrupt creation. Eight start over, but fail to live in harmony. Something is indeed wrong with the world.

Abram is called; a family and people of God he will start. God will show His faithfulness and grace to the patriarchs, undeserving misfits. Abraham believes God and it is credited to him as righteousness—a response of faith to the speaking One brings back harmony and relationship. Isaac and Jacob continue in the heritage. Jacob’s sons sell Joseph to Egypt, and now the people of Israel grow up in the land of Egypt. Oppression begins and the Lord calls Moses to deliver His people. Pharaoh refuses to let the people go, plagues are called down. In preparation for Exodus, the people make bread without yeast, sacrifice the lamb and apply its blood over their doors. Blood spares them from certain death. They flee, Egyptian armies pursuing, to the Red Sea. The water means death to them, but God makes a way, they pass through the waters and are saved. Pursuing armies die in the waters. Now the Lord will make a covenant, a deal, with His people. The people will obey the commands. He will be their God, and they will be His people. Disobedience will be forgiven by the offering of blood, saving people from death. Oh but it is not the blood of bulls and goats He desires, but obedience. The covenant seeks to restore the relationship, the harmony between God and man. Israel only proves how deep the corruption runs. Through generations and reigns of kings, the people wander and disobey the covenant, worshipping that which can never be in relationship. In great forbearance, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob calls them back, only to be grieved with deep pain again. Ultimately they show—harmony is broken, naked innocence hidden behind fig leaves. The idolatrous people of God are conquered by nations who worship idols of wood and stone. Something is indeed wrong with the world.

Who will answer this; who can answer this? A long awaited Messiah, the Christ. One who will deliver his people from this bondage, who will restore the people to covenant relationship. Who but God—the creating covenant God—can do this? Now the true nature of God revealed—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Trinitarian mystery—“Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is one,” and yet three persons in relationship and perfect union. Greater mystery—the Son leaves heaven to be born a babe. All heaven watches in breathless anticipation as Son becomes Messiah.

Roman rule, occupation, oppression. Pagan emperor rules the people of God. The zealous long for the Messiah, but when, where, how will he come? Mary and Joseph pledged to be married. Humble, simple, Nazarene. Can anything good come from Nazareth? Mary with child, pregnant, not by human means, but by the Spirit. The baby she bears is no ordinary child, and yet a baby that must be wrapped in swaddling clothes. A humble birth in a cave here on earth; in heaven, the woman gives birth, the serpent, now a dragon, lunges to devour the woman and child, but is foiled. This is the child who will “rule all the nations with a rod of iron,” yet, on earth, he is helpless Nazarene babe. In heaven proclaimed, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God.” Something incomplete has been revealed, curtain pulled back for a peek at God’s cosmos.

Jesus grows. He meets his cousin, John the Baptist, a voice in the desert making straight paths for the Lord. Jesus is baptized by John’s unworthy hands. Jesus passes through the water, and the pronouncement is made, “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” From the waters to the desert, Jesus is led by the Spirit to be tempted. Unlike the people of God, who pass through water to fail in the desert, the Son of God, will pass through water and resist every temptation in the desert. The Son, the Messiah, will rule humbly, not with miraculous seduction or compromise with the serpent. Unlike all who have gone before and failed to maintain the covenant relationship, Messiah is wholly faithful. Something incomplete has been revealed, curtain pulled back for a peek at God’s cosmos.

Emerging from the desert, Messiah, Son, Jesus, calls his disciples. He will teach them the story. He will teach them about the kingdom, revolutionary yet so unlike any other, simple yet so difficult to grasp. A kingdom in which the poor own heaven, the meek inherit the earth, and the insulted are rewarded. A kingdom in which the law governs even the intentions of the heart—comprehensive rule, over body and soul, society and individual, external behavior and internal disposition, cities and nations and homes and churches. A kingdom in which subjects sell all they own to find a pearl. A kingdom in which the shepherd leaves 99 to find 1, and the vineyard owner pays equal wages for a day or an hour, and the host calls the blind, lame and poor in from the streets to replace his honored guests. Utter foolishness, worthy of scorn, but irresistible, heralded by the mighty working of healings and miracles, guided by two commands, love God and love neighbor. Something incomplete has been revealed, curtain pulled back for a peek at God’s cosmos.

The zealous wonder, could this Jesus be Messiah? Will he overthrow the emperor? They fail to grasp his kingdom. Disillusioned, their zeal will become “crucify him, crucify him.” Knowing his time is short, Christ takes his disciples to an Upper Room. Passover meal shared. Bread without yeast broken; “this is my body.” Wine poured; “this is my blood.” Preparation? For an Exodus? Irresistible allusion, still yet incomprehensible. Something incomplete has been revealed, curtain pulled back for a peek at God’s cosmos.

Betrayed by one of his own, deserted by all his closest companions, Jesus is handed over. Beaten, mocked, crucified. Blood runs down. Jesus gives up his spirit. Body buried in an empty tomb. Early on the third day, two Marys discover an empty tomb. Angel pronouncement: “He has risen, just as he said.” Resurrection reunion and final commands—go and make disciples of all nations. Through his own death, sacrifice, and resurrection, the Son, the Messiah, has enacted his kingdom on earth. He has made an Exodus from the reign of evil into the reign of righteous relationship. Something not yet complete has been revealed, curtain pulled back for a peek at God’s cosmos.

A story not yet complete, but end foretold. Cosmos curtain pulled and behold a white rider, riding into conquest. He conquers the red, the black, and the pale horse; Christ conquering completely the evil of war, the evil of famine, and the evil of sickness and death. Evil on every plane—social, ecological, biological—is struck down by the white rider. With the resurrection, his ride has started; with his return, all that would seek to mount an Armageddon- resistance to his reign will be swallowed up. Something gloriously complete glimpsed, curtain pulled back for a peek at God’s cosmos.

And Saint John, the story could be told for a lifetime. And indeed this is the goal, to tell and live in the story for a lifetime. A story with salvation as plot; catastrophe-surpassing, creation-rescue as theme. His death and resurrection are an Exodus for me; I pass with Him through the waters of His death and then live in new covenant with Him. The bitterness tasted within me is answered. In new life, I join with the white rider in warring against evil, and wait with eager anticipation for His final triumphant ride. The bitterness tasted within the world is answered. Salvation has become my life theme, my story. I will tell it to the world, answering the bitterness tasted with a glimpse of God’s cosmos. I will give my life to this story; my mind will be renewed by the story. And my prayer will be always, Come white rider, come again Messiah. Maranatha!

In Christ,Jake Tillett
With a little help from Eugene Peterson, NT Wright, James Wakefield, and Saint John.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


A while ago, in a small group Bible study, I shared a few comments on what I had learned about Christian community at college. On my drive home from the study, I began to think about how often that topic had come up in my four years at Indiana Wesleyan University, a mid-sized (but growing) evangelical Christian college. The redundancy of those conversations about community made me think that my generation must be wrestling with this idea. As I continued thinking about this, I realized that I had heard at least three other topics discussed among my peers on a very regular basis. These buzzwords had the ability to stir up conversation in a heartbeat among diverse groups.

It is probably never a good idea to take four topics, discussed among a small group of Christians from roughly the same doctrinal heritage, all in the same age group, and in the same geographic location, and then make sweeping generalizations about upcoming trends in the evangelical movement. So here is the disclaimer: I’m about to do just that. I’ll be the first to admit the limits of this conversation. However, let me justify this approach with some additional thoughts. First, the nature of the evangelical community today is that we are well connected, at least within the evangelical sphere of North America (and we can pray that the day when evangelicals from around the world have a larger voice in the American Church comes soon). Students my age are reading books from authors all over the country. They are hearing sermons from podcasts and reading Christian thought on blogs and other websites. Christian youth are getting together at conferences around the nation. So potentially, even the small sample size of students I encountered at IWU could represent the thoughts and trends of the American Evangelical Movement. Second, the nature of IWU contributes to this. The school is growing rapidly and is becoming more widely respected among Christian colleges. IWU was consistently ranked number one in spiritual atmosphere by Campus Life magazine while I was there. All that to say, some great minds and great people, whom we can expect to be leaders within the evangelical movement, were present while these buzzwords were being tossed around. Notwithstanding, I still admit the limitations to this article, and I’ll even caution that this article is still very much “in the rough” and I’m about to make some dastardly generalizations…feel free to correct them in a comment post.

Before we get to the topics themselves, let’s explore the significance of these “buzzwords.” I think it is safe to assume that in Christian history (as in all history) we don’t really see much that is “new under the sun.” We see a cyclical pattern in which an idea or pattern of behavior that is neglected in one generation eventually makes it back to the surface in another. Thoughtful Christian leaders should be active in identifying these patterns and trying to mold and moderate them so as to avoid the consequences of the neglect-emphasize-abuse cycle. (e.g. individual piety and neglect of social piety; emphasis on social justice and reform; the Social Gospel-only abuse.) The obvious place to start in identifying these patterns is to listen to what the upcoming generation is talking about. Often the ideas that the new generation is tossing around are present because of a long absence in previous generations. The idea/behavior is making its way back around. As these ideas are tossed around (first among the reformers of the older generation, then commonly among the new leaders), they create (or maybe simply point out) the need present, and soon enough people begin to put them into action. My assertion is that these four catchphrases—community, revival, authenticity, and passion—are looming on the horizon as major upcoming trends in the evangelical community. Those from an older generation can probably tell you where we first began to see signs of “resurfacing,” but I can only give you insight on these current themes of my generation.


“Community” was about as common a word as “salvation” on the IWU campus. The broader evangelical movement is definitely showing this trend. The implementation of small groups; the desire to get back to early Christian-style fellowship; and numerous books on the topic have pounded this into the forefront of the evangelical mind. Churches are being formed with community being an almost singular tenet. Megachurches are giving way to new “organic, community-focused” churches. Traditional churches are struggling to implement new strategies that will enhance the community experience of members.

Why? I think America is beginning to experience the fallout of our hard-core individualism. In years past, the heartiest individualists always managed to make it on their own with only loose social connections or those formal relationships needed to succeed in the capitalistic economy; the rest fell back onto the ever-stable institution of traditional family to be their community support. The nuclear family offered enough emotional support to get by (extended family became a remote backup), while still allowing a great deal of individualism. Traditional family is becoming the exception today. Family members don’t do the same things, think the same things, or believe the same things; communication is limited (despite the ever increasing number of communication means); dysfunction is becoming altogether too prevalent. Without this bedrock of community support, people are looking for something new; a new source for vital support and they are finding this in the institution of friendship. This has been mentioned elsewhere (to many places to merit an actual citation), but look at popular TV today—Seinfeld, Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, etc. People find the support they need in groups of friends. There is the possibility that we are also craving some of the deeper benefits of community that were absent even when traditional family support was present. Non-Western cultures largely haven’t gone wild with individualism, and the West may be hungering for some of the security we see in their community structure. We were, after all, created by God to be in community; we have an inherent need for other people, and we’ve probably ignored this for too long.

The breakdown of family has hit the Church too. Single people use it as an outlet to connect with others because they live away from family, married women or men come without their spouses, teens from broken homes find refuge in youth groups. Thoughtful Christian leaders will do what they can to preserve and enhance traditional family structure (this hasn’t gone out the window, nor should it…maybe, just maybe, however, it will loose its sacred cow status that has come at the exclusion of other forms of community), but they will also see some vast opportunity in making these connections outside the family. If fostered correctly, community has the ability to enhance spiritual growth, depth, and impact in members’ lives and society as a whole.

However, while we talk so frantically about this (mainly, I think because we are trying to fill the vacuum left by the disappearance of family structure and the growing hunger for something more), we have a long way to go in learning what true Christian Community looks like and functions like. True accountability and taking care of each other’s physical needs (at a cost to our own financial security) are just initial steps in the learning curve. Submitting to older, wiser Christians in order to maintain peace won’t be popular either (“Me, my thoughts, my knowledge, my Bible, and my choices” has been the ingrained theme for a long time). It also remains to be seen whether these new trends will develop into something deeper than just ‘getting enough emotional support from my friends so that I can continue being my own person.’ If we get past that, we’ll see if our fast-paced, highly mobile culture even has the capacity for the type of relationship-growing required by true community. Our best step at this point would be to allow our brothers and sisters in non-western cultures to start critiquing us, and we Protestants might want to start taking some cues from our Catholic siblings as well. (IF that all goes well, somebody, in about…oh…ten generations might want to start bouncing some of Martin Luther’s ideas around the Church again as a prophylactic treatment to group-think.)


Usually accompanying any discussion of community, the word authenticity came up. It was the idea that in this new-found community, one could be truly themselves without putting on airs. I think this directly relates to the renewed interest in community. My generation is sick of having to be the rugged individualist who keeps his/her struggles, emotions, and thoughts to him/herself. We’ve seen how keeping some of these things to yourself can be explosive (as recently as Ted Haggard). We are tired of the pastor who gets up in the pulpit on Sunday morning and acts as if he were immune to the trials and struggles the rest of us face. We are tired of the cheesy, fake smiles and the “I’m great, how are you” banter. But at the root of it, I think we are hungry for love; unconditional, accepting love; agape love. We are growing tired of unnecessary judgment (unless of course we’re judging older generations as antiquated, stodgy, and generally out-of-the-loop).

This desire to be authentic with fellow believers has enormous potential. Authenticity allows accountability; it allows others to share your burden and help you along. Fostering an attitude of agape love within the Church is at the heart of what Christ wants for His Bride. However, we must steer clear of the temptation to say, ‘here I am, this is what I do, love me but don’t try to change me.’ We must come to the realization that encounters with agape love are always life altering.


It might be a result of my school’s Wesleyan, holiness heritage that I heard so much talk of “revival.” I mean, we DID have fall and spring summits (a not-so-cleverly repackaged revival service) at the beginning of each semester, and there was always a contingent of students hoping that maybe this time an old-style revival would break out. (I confess to having been part of that contingent on a number of occasions.) But I think my generation comes by our desire for revival in a different way as well. We see across my generation a renewed interest in spirituality; be that the occult, new age, Eastern religions, or just plain mix-n-match spirituality. In our post-modern way, we’ve rejected traditional methods of exploring spirituality, but we’ve also rejected the secular, academic assertions that science reigns supreme. (And depending how you look at it, either you see a gigantic mess or an enormous potential for the Kingdom.)

Revival is the way of my Christian peers saying that we want to be in touch with spiritual reality. We want to go beyond the science of knowing God, and we want to be in touch with Him in a very real, POWERFUL way. In the revivals we’ve learned about, we’ve heard that God shows up in an undeniable way, and we’d like to get in on that. And Christian leaders in this post-modern world of ours should probably start jumping on this. (Many already have.) As the status of scientific, logical truth is increasingly devalued, some other way of knowing things is being sought. Spiritual power struggles are going to come to America in a real way. (If you are raising an eyebrow at this, don’t worry, the rational, Modernist in me is doing the same…and I truly believe this. If it helps, think about missionaries in animistic cultures confronting witch doctors and demonic strongholds…somehow it doesn’t seem so farfetched when we don’t talk of it in the American context) Prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit are going to be essential, not just in talk, but in practice. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Pentecostal movement for pioneering in this area (and I’m not suggesting we all run off to become Pentecostals…but their growth worldwide should cause us to take note.) Thoughtful leaders need to be on top of this idea of revival, maybe not in the traditional sense (though there may be a time and place for that), but very much in the sense of encouraging believers to adopt spiritual disciplines that will put us in deeper contact with spiritual reality, i.e. the Holy Spirit alive and active in us.

Revival-thought has a ton of pitfalls. It can rely heavily on emotionalism, which can be deceptive and prone to disappointment when the emotions just don’t come. I think the idea of revival also appeals to our instant-gratification, microwave society. We want contact with God, and now; instead of the processes of spiritual discipline and discipleship that are anything but instant. To add to the difficulties, the type of spiritual power that comes through these processes is not something we manipulate and control, we are simple conduits through which the power can flow. (On the other hand, those in the occult are given the sense that they control the power. God always no such pretensions; Satan delights in them) Also, while I tend to be less fearful of post-modern thought than some, I do see great dangers in tossing out our basis in logical thought. Christian teachers must seek to preserve the place of absolute truth, while showing us how to know it emotional, spiritually, and logically. (In post-modern environs, these three will have to be bound together in order to preserve truth.)


Usually attached to this notion of revival is the word passion. There are bands and conferences bearing the name. We want to be passionate in our worship of God and we want to live passionately—being “on fire” for God. There is, in this idea of passion, a sense of wanting to belong to something bigger than oneself. And so we sing as if our loud voices, upward raised hands, and swaying bodies were making us a part of this “something bigger”. (Is this a possible explanation for why we have shifted so heavily to the “I think, I feel, I do,” style of worship?) And we honestly try (success rate???) to live passionate Christian lives.

Here’s the problem with passion—it’s just so hard to maintain. At least our type of passion is. We define passion as this frenzied energy poured into something we are DOING. The quiet, adamant resolve that will actually help us live passionate Christian lives doesn’t appear on our radar screens when we think, “passion”. If we are to benefit from this passion trend, we need to learn to reign in the energy, develop a resolve to wait on the Lord, and then learn to apply the energy to those works the Lord assigns us. Trying to live high-energy all the time will simply cause us to chase our tails and collapse in an exhausted dizziness.

Honorable Mention

Social justice is back on the surface in a big way for evangelicals, and this buzzword probably deserves more than honorable mention. The evangelical church will be fighting AIDS, poverty, environmental destruction, and racism in the next generation (these themes are all alive and well today in the Church. I just get the sense that they will be even bigger issues for us.) And as long as we take note of both Matthew 25 and 28, I’ll be happy to see us go there.

Passivism is getting more attention these. The good old Anabaptist theme is back through the writings of those like John Howard Yoder. I’m not sure that the large majority of evangelicals will buy into it (at least not as long as evangelical continues to equal Republican), but we should keep an eye on it.

Independent. I think we could see a larger contingent of evangelicals picking and choosing their candidates, regardless of party line. We put forth a lot of clout to help Republicans get the offices they wanted, and we didn’t get the dividends we wanted. And while we still like the conservative values and small government, growing numbers are saying, hey, what about education, what about the poor? Pro-life, pro-traditional marriage democrats could see a lot of evangelical support.

Conspicuously absent

Absent from the conversations. “Absolute truth” seems to be the conversation of many in the older generation…I don’t remember hearing it among my peers. This means that either we are content letting others fight the battle and we’ll pick it up when we have to…or…maybe we’re just not so convinced it’s the battle we really want to fight. “Career missions” used to be the emphasis; it has switched to short-term missions or missions dabbling (repeated short-term trips, or a couple years before coming back to the States to get a ‘real’ job). People want to experience missions (probably because we’ve become such a globalized world and a short-term trip is a nice excuse to travel…and then a host of other more noble reasons), but they aren’t lining up to sign their lives away as career missionaries. (Those of you who know me, know that I reserve the term missions/missionary to the Christian work in a cross-cultural setting where the Gospel witness is limited or non-existent. There is good reason for this, but it’s the topic of another blog.)

Want to add anything? Please leave a comment. I would love to hear diverse input.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shadows of reality

I’ve been hunting shadows lately, and let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy.

As most of you know, I graduated this past April and have subsequently moved to Utah. This last school year went well, but kept me extremely busy with work, classes, and traveling. The combination left me exhausted at the end of the year, with just enough strength to say goodbye to friends, knowing that it will never be as convenient to see them now that we have to “grow up.”

Now, I’m not hunting for just any old shadow, I’ve got a specific one in mind. It worked out for Wendy, Peter, and John, so I think it will work out for me too.

A few days after graduation I packed my bags and left with my brother and his family to go back to Utah. This was supposed to be the start of another fun adventure. I was going to interview for jobs in Salt Lake because somewhere in the past couple years I heard the call, “Go west, young man, go west”, and thought it would be a grand idea. The next couple weeks proved to be not so grand after all. My normally healthy sense of adventure abandoned me and I felt bored and lonely more than I have in years. The reality of life post-college began to dawn on me and I was ready to sign up to be a career student. (Maybe I could set the Guinness World Record for number of degrees!?) But see, God’s been working on this whole reality bit with me lately.

And that’s why I’ve been hunting Peter Pan’s shadow, because I figure if I can get him to come this side of Neverland, I’ve got a good shot of flying back with him. (the “You can fly” song is playing in my head right now.) The way I see it, the Lost Boys have got it figured out. With wisdom that surpasses their years, they saw that being a kid is where it is at and the whole growing up thing is for the birds. Neverland must be a pretty rockin’ place. I mean, I’d take just about any place that would isolate me from reality right about now.

I’m not talking about the reality of having to get a job and pay for things that you want, although it wasn’t so bad not having to do those things. (I know you hard working adults would love to hear that college is so easy and that working life is so hard…I’m not giving you that satisfaction…yet.) I’m talking about the reality of life change. The reality of having to leave friends, mentors, professors and the safety of a Christian bubble, of having to struggle for a new role/place in your life, of the work it takes to strengthen a relationship with a sibling, of the helplessness and uncertainty that comes with all that, and to top it off, the reality of not really feeling like doing what the Lord is calling you to.

After my couple weeks in Utah, I flew back to Ohio, without a job. I was pleased about this because I thought it meant I could get a job in Indiana and forget this whole “Go west” deal. But it turns out that the call to “Go West” wasn’t just something I dreamed up, it was the Lord’s calling. Doors closed in Indiana and a great job opened in Salt Lake. I reluctantly accepted, and then plunged myself into two more weeks of reality-less living. I went to North Carolina to visit friends, I went to South Dakota to a friend’s wedding, I went hiking in West Virginia, and then finally packed and headed to Utah. Somewhere in that 96 hours of driving (I’m not exaggerating), the Lord told me to “Wait,” to “tarry in Jerusalem” if you will. In the midst of my uncertainties, in the midst of my lack of desire (one might be tempted to use the word dread) to wait. I kept hoping Peter Pan would get here quick.

Lest you think I’m some kind of sissy, I’ve got a hunch the disciples were hoping for the equivalent of Neverland right after the Ascension. You get used to living with a guy who can make problems disappear by just speaking to them, and I’m pretty sure your feelings of invincibility start to wane when He leaves, only to be replaced by major uncertainty. If I am Peter, here is what I’m thinking: ‘It’s not been so bad these last three and half years. Our biggest trial was the whole crucifixion ordeal, which seemed major at the time, but I mean, COME ON, He beat that too.’ Then Christ says, “I’m leaving. Go wait in Jerusalem till you receive the Spirit.” And now I’m thinking, “Hey Jesus, I got a better idea. How about You stay, and we’ll forget that other guy. Remember that ‘On this rock I’ll build my Church’ prophesy, yeah…let’s you and I go get those two-by-four’s and start.”

And so I am here in Utah, with the same command as the disciples had…to wait. Waiting really stinks because it gives you plenty of time to come face to face with reality. But I’ve gotten a sneak peak at the next chapter. I know the Spirit comes upon the disciples, and I know that He will give me further direction, further wisdom once the reality has done its work in my heart.

The good news is that once reality devastates us and pulls us from the stupor of unreality we’d love to live in, then the sweet reality of the Spirit comes. And when He is our reality, we become instruments that literally change the scope of history.



August Marathons

It’s August now; you can feel it in the air. Maybe it’s just the heat that is so telling; a sweltering heat, but with the characteristics of the last hot flames of a fire that will give way to the comfortable glow of red embers. August isn’t a month usually associated with change, like April bringing spring, September bringing fall, or January bringing the New Year. But August has always been a time of dramatic and abrupt transition for me.

I was born in August, so I guess it is only appropriate to yearly experience transition as crude reminder of my earthly debut. In my younger years, I used to dread my birthday, silently praying that it would be a long time coming, because, inevitably, among those brightly wrapped presents would be school supplies—a sickening omen of the death of summertime freedom and the commencement of school. High school alleviated some of that dread by freeing me of my summer job and bringing the sweet sweaty smell of my cross-country teammates as we trained under the blazing sun. And in college…well…August during college was like nothing else. I’d finish up my summer adventure, collapse from sheer exhaustion for a couple days, only to wake with an exhilaration that bordered on euphoria as I prepared for another semester with friends and professors. (Sure, memory has a tendency of tinting such things with a rosy, happy glow, neglecting the not-so-pleasant, but I’d rather it be that way.) Maybe it’s the transition I can smell, but I always know it’s August.

I had my first August run today; no spectacular scenery or distance, but very reflective. The smell of transition (and sweat) all around, I began to think about running, especially marathoning and sprinting. The differences are remarkably profound. A runner who has always considered sprinting a distance, weak cousin of “real running”, I suddenly felt an urge to get back to sprinting. Whatever else I might say about it, sprinting does have the flare of rapid transition and adrenaline.

Now don’t get me wrong, sprinting isn’t without some discomfort, but by the time you feel the searing burn in your lungs, legs, and flailing arms, your feet sail across the finish line. You can collapse from sheer exhaustion for a couple moments, only to wake with the resurgence of your strength. Marathoning brings a different pain altogether, which at once causes intense longing for the finish line, and, in the good marathoner, causes a scorn and disregard of pain allowing him to push even deeper into the realm of pain, enduring it with each new step.
As I said, sprinting also has the exhilaration of adrenaline. From start to finish, this handy little hormone sees you through, making sprinting mildly reminiscent of a drug-induced ecstasy. Marathoning is largely devoid of such ecstasy. The adrenaline buzz wears off in the first mile or so and a profound drudgery sets in. I’m often asked about “runner’s high,” but to quote Caedmon’s Call (completely out of context) “the problem with these mysteries is they’re so mysterious.” There is no accurate prediction of when this feeling will come. In fact, during a marathon, one finds such pleasant feelings almost odd, wondering why it comes when it does, carrying you for a few miles before abandoning you completely. The longer I run, the only thing I can say for sure about such highs is that they become less important. Instead of seeking such a “high” I have simply become more content with those runs in which no “high” can be found, instead resigning myself to a simple joy in having completed another run.

Therein lies another great difference. The joy of completing a marathon has little to do with the applause received during or after. I will confess that more than one of my best performances in high school found motivation in the recognition I knew I would receive. Sprinting is almost always done in the arena of recognition. Marathoning requires too many lonely miles both in training and in the actual run itself to carry recognition as a motivator. Somewhere in the long training miles, the only voice you become able to hear is the one in yourself, prodding you on, encouraging, challenging, and rebuking. The recognition of others can be encouraging and uplifting, but it becomes much less significant.

So this warm August morning as my feet rolled across the black pavement, a pang of sadness hit me as I realized that no dramatic transition awaits me this August. That’s why I wanted so badly to sprint; I’ve been sprinting much of my life. One would think that a long time runner like myself would be able to tell the difference between sprinting and marathoning, but I’ve been thriving off the adrenaline, instead of abiding by the principles of marathoning. I’ve been rushing around from one adventure to another, one ministry to another, only to finish and start again, always with a new flourish of adrenaline. I’m afraid that this August, the Lord has a marathon in mind.

What pace will I keep when the thrill of transition leaves? Will I learn to push deeper into the hardships I face—like being a vibrant Christian witness among a people so steeped in false religion or continuing to forge a relationship with my brother and his family? I want to learn to be content with joy instead of a “high.” I am striving to find new Christian fellowship to “run” with me. And I want to run this race for the voice calling out inside of me, the voice of Christ my Savior.
This August there will be no sprinting for me, only the constant effort to put one foot in front of the other in rhythmic, measured pace.

“Beware of the inclination to dictate to God as to what you will allow to happen if you obey Him.” Oswald Chambers