Monday, April 30, 2007

River City, IA in Littleton, CO

My wife directed three outstanding performances this weekend of the musical "The Music Man." Those of you who are not connoisseurs in musical theater, this show is set in the early 1900's and is the story of people in River City, IA and the nice little world they have created by being insulated from most things in the outside world. While in the midst of this commune, of sorts, Harold Hill comes into the town in an effort to scam the local people into selling them a boys band. Harold manipulates the people into believing they have serious moral problems in the town, as can be evidently seen by the presence of a pool table. Ok, now there is a love story and other interesting plot lines, this overarching theme is my focus. I found the setting of River City and that of many concerned parent groups at my wife's school eerily similar. Now, I have no idea if anyone from that group will ever read this, but this is not an attempt on my part to be vindictive, I am hoping to convey some of the facts.

1. A sense of moral superiority rooted in the desire to save "the children" and agitated to believe a lie based on manipulated evidence.

2. The need and necessity for credentials that fit within an accepted norm.

3. Becoming agitated by authors who are merely thought to be inappropriate, but have actually been engaged on rare and minute instances.

4. And finally, this sense of moral superiority blinds us to the fruits in our lives and others.

While I am aware if you don't know the situations I am referring to this is a bit cryptic, but the comparison is not exact. Anyway, great job Erica on an awesome job. You make those kids shine.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Evangelism...Jesus style

I was at our small group last night and my friend Michael made a really intriguing point that I have been thinking about. We were talking about the purpose and goal of evangelism, specifically in light of the common evangelical strategy of knocking on doors and getting people to say the sinner's prayer. We watched a clip from "Freedom Writers" that emphasizes the importance of gaining the respect of the people you are trying to teach before you have the right to speak truthfully into their lives (as a side note, that movie is a magnificent example of how I understand evangelism. This woman who does not really change who she is, but loves those kids so deeply that they desire to emulate her life). This discussion moved quickly into looking at the model of evangelism in the life of Jesus and his disciples. What did it mean for Jesus to send out his disciples to evangelize? What was the message before there was the death and resurrection? Matthew 10:7 says, "As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven has drawn near.' Heal sick people, raise dead people, cleanse lepers, cast out demons; without cost did you receive, without cost give." The reality is that it seems the message of the disciples was to be the message of both John and Jesus, but it was not to simply remain words, but necessitated the healing action and powers of God. While I believe that there is a sense in which after the death and resurrection there needed to be a re-working of the message, we cannot disregard the evangelistic style of Jesus. Maybe our message needs to be more about this present life than the future. If the Kingdom is at hand, what are we waiting for? I am just trying to learn what it means to live out evangelism...Jesus style. I would love your comments.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mourning in the good of life

So, our house (pictured here) is under contract after approximately one week on the market, a miraculous fact in this market I am told. Upon realizing this momentous landmark in our journey here in Denver I have been hit with a deep sense of sadness. The last seven years in particular have been filled with this exuberant, yet lame, trend of engaging in meaningful and deep relationships only to see them dissolve with the changes in life. My roommate from college, Josh (see link on the side to Carn-dog's comments), just wrote a blog about one of his buddies moving on and he is one of those people that it is truly mournful to miss out on his friendship. I have some other buddies from college and even high school that I am just remembering and missing those moments of joy and laughter together. I am not sure what the next few months hold, while moving back to Minneapolis seems like the most likely option, but I ache at the thought of such a sudden change to friendships that I covet so deeply. Sometimes I worry because I don't feel things as deeply as others, specifically my wonderful wife, but I am realizing in this experience that I am starkly aware of those emotions. Well, here's to the good moments in life and learning how to deal with the undeniable pains that go along with those joyful celebrations.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Perhaps this will dissolve like another Left Behind novel

I am sure that this will be one of many blogs devoted to what has been happening in Virginia over the last 24 hours in regards to the shooting there. As I was in the bookstore this morning my boss was asking us how we were processing the whole situation and my friend noted that he is having a difficult time experiencing compassion in the situation and is not sure why. I think that this is a legitimate observation, particularly in the midst all of the disasters and horrible tragedies that occur everyday in our world. How do we properly grieve for the horrors of the world and not become overcome by sadness that we are unable to get up in the morning? I struggle with this (and on a side note was rather annoyed by the proclivity to blame among the media rather than attempt to assist in the grieving process) because I believe that one of the grandest callings of Christians is to be a kind of people who honor ALL of life, whether this is our enemy in another country or our enemy at home, and I believe this means grieving for all of life. I am beginning a project on the book of Lamentations and have been impressed by the intracacies of the lament in that book. The entire book is an acrostic of lament (each line beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet) and I was struck this morning how sophisticated the language of lament was to those ancient peoples and how important that is for Christians to resurrect. We need to revitalize lament, not just in an off-the-cuff fashion, but through the means of artistic expression that are able to grasp the depth of sadness and through that revitalize hope in who we should be as a people of God. Here is my first attempt:

What do you do with a life that is no more?
Does it make sense to allow my heart to feel it all?
If I go there will I ever come back?
In allowing myself to die with them can I arrive at the depth of their pain?
It is senseless, it is vile, it is gross, it is revolting, it can be redeemed
Was God crying as that man pulled the trigger?
If God cried should I not be crying too?
Where else was God crying today?
What did I forget to grieve?

May lament help us arrive at the realization that this is not what life is meant to be and this carnage is NOT "simply human." Try living lament.

"They charge me with fanaticism. If to be feeling alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large." - William Wilberforce.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What is my/our deal?

My friend Ryan (picture to the right with an awesome beard) recently wrote a blog about prayer and its presence, or lack thereof, in our lives of faith. That got me thinking about my journey of prayer within my faith. It all began in junior high when my mom began giving me journals and I would write out my prayers, but rarely actually pray them in the standard sense of closing my eyes and attempting to imagine a deity of some kind. Moving on from this rather safe relationship, my college years were filled with long and sometimes arduous times in the prayer chapel at Bethel University. These were fruitful, but seemed to be lacking in their sustainability. As I found my way to seminary I have had many theological discussions regarding prayer along with doing a learning contract on the topic, but have found that my prayer life continues to falter. I recently read a book by Greg Body called "Seeing is Believing" where the main premise is the need to use imagination as a source of engaging with God. The point is that we remember visually, not with data and facts, and that to truly engage a being that cannot be seen we must use our imagination. It is an outgrowth of some of the characteristics of lectio divina (see Eat this Book by Eugene Peterson for an introduction on this topic)

So, beyond the intellectual exercises that I attempt to utilize to help my prayer life become more of a conversation, I need to come to grips with the honest truth. I think that I am truthfully afraid that in my prayer I might get to a point where God decides that my sins are too great an offense. I think that I fear the justice of God in my prayers which sometimes makes me not want to pray. I know that this goes against much what I say that I believe theologically, but it is the truth of my journey. I long for that intimacy, but sometimes it is just hard to find. I would love to know of your journeys...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

THE problem with the world (or maybe just one large one)

I grew up in Minnesota and continue to be a die-hard Minnesota Twins fan. I have been pleasantly surprised by this past week where, living in Denver, I have had the opportunity to see two of their games. Now, this fortuitous situation has made me think again about the meticulous sovereignty of God, but thankfully whenever I see the Twins on national television they are playing the Yankees which reminds me of the deep depravity of humanity. Chief among the "sinners" must be Derek Jeter. For those Jeter fans, I must say that I might like him if he played for a small market team and was not drooled on by every announcer, but he has been lumped with an unfortunate crowd (the old adage must be true, "you're only as good as the crowd you're with"). Jeter is very sound fundamentally, but the biggest difficulty I have is the seeming necessity for the camera person to follow him into the dugout while the announcer posit what his mysterious thoughts are at that moment. Ok, maybe that isn't my biggest difficult, maybe my even greater problem I have is when the announcers completely ignore the reigning batting champion (Joe Mauer) and the reigning MVP (Justin Morneau) along with the reigning Cy Young winner (Johan Santana) in order to look longingly at Derek. Do I sound bitter? Good, then I have properly conveyed my sentiments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"The wrath of God was satisfied"??

My wife and I have been going to a wonderful church for the last 4 months. Wellspring church is a part of the Anglican Mission in America (there sending church is located in Africa). Our Easter service was raucous and I loved it. One of the songs that was sung that I dearly love was "In Christ Alone." This is such a beautifully moving song, but have trouble when we get to the line that states,

Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

This line has always intrigued me and I am not quite sure what to do with it. I was chatting about this with some friends in the bookstore and one of the main conclusions we came to (with the help of one wise professor) is that there is a problem in our thinking when the wrath of God and the love of God seem like dichotomous opposites. Perhaps the main issue is with our definition of wrath that seems to stem most often from violent presuppositions which I have a hard time relating to the picture of God in the person of Jesus on the cross. Finally, I know this is a bit crass, but when I imagine the wrath of God being satisfied I picture a toddler throwing a temper tantrum who needs to be appeased into settling down. I am sure my Calvinist friends will note my limited perspective, but this is my blog and it just needed to be said.

My final analysis (at least for today, who knows what tomorrow will bring) is that the idea of the wrath of God is completely meaningless outside of the love of God. If God shows wrath, and this cannot be in the way it is seen today (i.e. the "shock and awe" campaign in Iraq), it is only out of his outrageous love and outrageous love cannot be fulfilled through killing that person.

I need some help so please give me your thoughts and opinions.

Monday, April 9, 2007

I'm SO sorry!!

We just had another ultrasound for our little girl and I came to the startling revelation that she has inherited my awkward toes. So, someday when she is reading this blog I need to say that I am sincerely sorry. For those of you unaware of my issue, my little toe is rather small and almost hidden beneath my other toes and my second toe is considerably larger than my big toe. Anyway, hope you love me anyways.

Let's all become immigrants

One of my two classes right now is "Old Testament Social Ethics" which has its moments of being very intriguing, although unfortunately I have been having far too many moments of zoning out in the hopes of soon being out of a classroom setting. We have a few different papers (one is on terrorism and is a wonderful exercise, I am reading "Where is God" by Jon Sobrino and you should all read it sometime) and the one I am thinking about right now deals with Hispanic Immigration. The goal is to engage numerous contemporary sources on the issues and compare the political/economic/sociological issues with the view of the Old Testament. I just read a chapter of "Beyond Smoke and Mirrors" and the main argument was that immigration into the United States is caused by the market needs of the United States. He defined the market needs not specifically related to money, but a social structure in the United States that does not allow certain people to fill certain jobs within the workplace. When people with a certain sense of entitlement come into those lower roles they force a pay increase which forces a pay increase on those above them and ruins the economic mobility of the company. Anyway, it ends up being our own sense of entitlement as Americans that forces the need for illegal immigration. I found this fascinating and wanted to get any thoughts you all might have. This is such a complex issue and I am just at the beginning of digging into it.