Friday, October 21, 2011

What makes a good neighbour?

“Which one of these was a neighbour to the man in need?” This question is the conclusion to Jesus' answer to another question “Who is my neighbour?” Note that Jesus doesn't answer the question asked, Jesus doesn't say “Those in need are your neighbor.” Jesus asks who acted as a neighbor, he really answers the question “Why be a neighbor?” with “Be a neighbor because you see ones in need.” Everyone is our neighbor in this world, it honestly may be the best term we can use for others. The Greek term used here literally means “the one nearby” and has the implication of “a person I know of.” We all know people in need, either specific people who we know by name, or people who we know exist even if we don't happen to see them everyday because of how our world is sometimes divided. We can all talk about places where there are struggles and people who are in need, and because of that we should call them neighbor.

One of the ministries we worked with this past summer was the Urban Ministry center in Charlotte. They call all who come to see them neighbors, and often over time by name. They care about the homeless who have need of medical care, food, clothing, shelter, help getting paperwork so that they can be employed, and just love from another person who has the ability to help. Our youth were touched by one of these neighbors, Gary. As Gary told his story, you could see the stories of others we had met over the week flood through the minds and hearts of our youth. They saw someone who they could help and could love, and made a decision that they weren't leaving without finding him again and giving him a gift. This isn't because it was the right thing to do, but because he was a neighbor. One in need.

It doesn't matter who our neighbors are, we will know them when we see them, because the Spirit that lives within us sees others spirits and feels their needs. This is God at work in this world, caring for others and fighting for justice. But more than that it is building a relationship and being that neighbor, a neighbor who doesn't separate from others, whose concern, like the Samaritan in scripture is for the “other” the “neighbor.” There are no walls, no rules, no laws, no expectations that keep him from being a neighbor. Likewise we must question the things that divide us, do they likewise keep us from seeing each other and our needs, from letting the Spirit of God act among us as it wishes, bringing all together in God's love. In The Mending Wall by Robert Frost we see a narrator who questions the walls that are built between neighbors, and a neighbor who seems to the narrator to walk in a sort of darkness, protecting self interest and not sharing love, even as he is unable to understand the need for such a divide and just clings to it because it's always been there. May we be ones who question the walls in our lives and in the world. Thus may we become the neighbors to all that we are called to be.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Monday, October 10, 2011

What would I ask myself:

While I was out directing 50 HS/MS on how to act on the Ed Sullivan Show, someone asked me online what questions I'd ask someone interviewing for a youth and family position. Here is a short list of things:

Why do you feel this ministry is important to a church?

What things would be a sign to you that a church thought this ministry was important?

In doing this ministry, what things do you see being the best use of your time and skills?

What are some of the best things you've seen others do that you have not been able to replicate (and follow up with "Why" if needed)?

How do you see other ministries in this church affecting and intersecting with this ministry?

Where do you feel you (would) work best when doing this ministry?

In what ways do you find the parts of this ministry similar? different?  (depending on what info they have may also have to ask "what do you find to be the essentials of this ministry")

Something you thought would work really well didn't turn out the way you expected, what would you do?

How do see relationships, programing, resourcing, and planning working together in your view of this ministry?

A new family comes to worship, what do you do? (or has been coming for a month, depending on what you want to know)

How does your own life reflect the ideals that you feel are most important to the work of this ministry, in what ways does it not?

How does this ministry affect other groups in the church (list if needed)?

How do you deal with someone who feels that a major part of your ministry is "not for them?"

Who are the most important people to your ministry?

I could go on for a while (and have) but this is a good kickoff interview list I think to get people to possibly give more than just canned answers and open up comfortably about if a ministry is truly a fit.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Growing or Transforming

I will not forget the words of my late seminary professor Cecil, he would always say: "Your job as pastor is to take care of the church, and taking care of the church is assuring it's health and long life.  You do this by bringing in young families.  Those are the most important people to a church."  I thought then it was a bunch of bull, and I still do.  Yes, that is now, has been, and will probably continue to be the way to assure that the church goes on functioning for yet another generation, but it misses the importance of actually being church. 

The congregation I work with is undergoing a revisioning process, and it has been hard to stop the talk of "how do we grow the church" within that conversation.  I agree we shouldn't just focus on what our church is but on a picture of what it could become in this process, but really transforming the church is different than just growing the church.  Cecil is right, if you want to grow a church get focused on your youth, children, and families, but if you want to transform a church, then everyone is involved. 

I was talking with one of the children at the church recently and asked the question "What is church here for?"  Her answer: "To take care of those who can't take care of themselves."  Do to the nature of the conversation we didn't get much deeper than that, but it is true, we are here to be community, to carry one another in a way that is healing and creative.  We're not just here to bring other people in, we're here to be part of what goes out and changes the world.  We must then focus not on those who can help us, but on helping those who can't help themselves.  We are transformed by interacting, and I would hope that we're trying to be transformed into people with a larger vision.  That means discovering new things about God, the world around us, and ourselves through relational experiences. 

I took a group of youth this summer on their first mission trip.  I watched them put together thoughts about inequality, human rights, and God's plan for all creation in ways that I'd never heard before.  They connected with people, and then made bigger connections.  We so often miss this in our normal church lives.  We disconnect what we're up to in a building or through our programs from the bigger picture.  Yet I truly believe that the reason it is essential for us to gather together is so that we can be transformed by one another. 

This then extends to the church as a whole.  If the church is going to be transformed it has to truly interact with the world around it.  It can't be just a bubble with programs to draw in, it has to be a living moving creation that goes out and interacts with the world around it.  It has to take care of those who are part of it that can't take care of themselves in order to be able to take care of all.  It has to visit, it has to love, it has to be with the world,  walking with the world and hearing the issues, and then working to help those who hurt, who are unable to help themselves, just as Jesus did. 

We are the hands and feet of Christ.  If we believe this, believe ourselves to be God's body, we need to be about God's work.  Jesus did not worry about washing himself, he served and washed others.  It was not about how many people were following him, but about what he could do for those who did.  Jesus transformed the world by doing the work of God.  The children came to him not because he created an environment that was child friendly, but because children recognize true friendliness and are attracted to it naturally.  If we want our churches to be transformed, to continue to be relevant in generations to come, we must act as friends to the world.  We must go and do God's work, and trust that God's love and grace is truly as irresistible as we claim it to be.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The God of America

I spent a good bit of time in my childhood/teens in SBC churches.  I even remember a seminary board member who was part of one of these churches telling me they were always there to make sure I had every opportunity to live up to my potential (at least until I got divorced).  I have a fairly good working knowledge of the conservative christian world because of this I think.  Today's event in Texas and the politicizing of faith is not what I remember anyone in that world really standing for.  The political ideologies played some part in things sure, but what we taught and were taught was all about helping others regardless of the cost.  Now I admit that it often glossed over some of the national social issues, but I remember many nights carrying blankets for the homeless, driving them to shelters, and giving money towards medical missions at home and abroad.  These were the things people talked about and did.  Yes, there was an annoying amount of morality based theology, but the "literal" reading of scripture didn't read like "America the Chosen nation."  It often read very differently than that.

I don't know exactly how this side of Christianity got co-oped by those wanting to create fear and promote nationalism, but it certainly seems to have happened.  Maybe it's because instead of being a community where various ideologies had a voice, all the dissenting views left or were pushed out (and some of both happened).  Without dissenting voices it is much easier to broker fear, without those who push our buttons and make our blood boil that we truly love, it is easier to call them enemies, to push them into a group known as "other."  I say this with a sense of fear of what could still happen in the PC(USA), where the sides divide, glad to let go of struggles and settle into a comfortable place.  I don't think that's what we're called to.  I think we're called to struggle.  To struggle along with those we disagree with vehemently, to struggle about the meaning of scripture, to struggle with questions of power, privilege, equality, and love.  We need to see that none of us have the only way, and that we must go together if we are to do anything good in this world.

Today there are people praying for the economy, for our nation, for moral values, and for other things that I personally find to be misguided prayers.  I would rather us pray for equality of humanity, care for creation, love for all, and continued struggling together, but those praying for these other things can only journey with us if we're willing to treat them as equals and not as others.  I do not agree with the co-opting of God for national, personal, or ideological gain, but I do nothing better if I'm not willing to engage in the conversations and act in love.

That being said, I must say why I am pained by the subjects of these prayers:
1. The Economy - Those who have lost before know that these prayers are ones of protect what I have.  Yet, God is clear that nothing is our own.  Should we lose everything, we gain a freedom that we do not have when we possess things of our own.  We should not pray that God fixes the economy, but that we will learn what many who have been or are homeless know: There is a real difference between want and need.
My prayer: http://youtu.be/a-O88_hZD5o
2. Our Nation - I do not hate the US, but I do not think we deserve any special blessings, or even deserve all we have.  We are truly a nation of privileged and power, and any prayers for our nation should begin with a greater realization of what protecting our own does to damage the rest of the world.  God is not interested in making our nation great, rather God is interested in the greatness of all of creation and that begins with us all realizing our shared humanity, our shared divine spark, and our shared call to be stewards of all of Creation.
3. Morality - I don't think we should go about killing each other or just doing whatever whenever, but really it is not what people do in scripture that makes them faithful or not, why do we think that's the key for us?  The key for those called faithful within our Christian (and by extension Jewish) tradition is a willingness to listen and discern that which God wants from them.  Jonah is reluctant, Moses is both reluctant and immoral, Peter falls far from belief or morality (cutting off ears, easily forgiven?) . . . these are heroes, and they should be because they never stop struggling and discerning.  They are faithful, not moral.  The why is of greater importance than the what.  This also means that we are not to decide for others what is most faithful in any specific instance, but again walk along side them in their journey, for we do not know which paths are narrow or wide while we are on them.

There is much more I could say, but really you've probably read all you want to by now.  Again, I wonder how many others really think that God is America's God?  How many feel that God is more interested in us than any other nation?  How many think that God feels that the things we call important to God are really the things that are important?  How many want a God that is a God that is going to say "You didn't feed me when you saw me on the street corner that one time, you're a goat, go to hell."?  How many think that God just wants you to believe, be fairly moral to those you care about, and ask for lots of forgiveness, all while trying to protect that which you think of as yours? 

Or do we really realize that God created us for something more, for greater works of faithfulness, for an actual relationship with God, each other, and all of creation that calls us to give all of ourselves up and being uncomfortable and struggling, but to do so together in love with one another for there we will find peace?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Can one depart a relationship graciously?

I heard the term again today . . . Gracious Departure.  I can't tell you how uncomfortable that term makes me.  It's like a CIA coverup, let's work out a deal and then it'll be done and all go our separate ways.  Before you know it, it'll be like nothing ever happened.

For people that's BULL.  For churches that's BULL.  It is the nature of relationships that some end.  Many when they end, need to end, and when both parties recognize that it does become easier to move on.  Those in that situation though are few and far between, and even then division of shared identity is problematic.  This best case scenario then recognizes the irreversible change that we create on one another and the links created.  This does happen, but it's never quick and painless.

A truly gracious ending to a relationship though is more complicated and happens only 1 of 2 ways in my opinion:

1. A recognition that a relationship needs to end from 2 parties, with a full recognition of mutual connections and commitments, and an understanding of the continuation of these apart, leaving open the potential for forming a new relationship in the future.
2. A realization that a relationship is not, nor was it ever as both parties may have interpreted it, with an agreement to continue to work and define said relationship for what it is, not what either side thought it was.


Of course to read between the lines there, many would argue that neither is an actual departure from said relationship.  I would argue from a Human Communication viewpoint they are actual departures, just outside of what we view as the norm.

Yet, at this moment it seems though that this split that is happening within the PC(USA) is not amicable, much less gracious.  Both sides have put a claim on parts of the shared identity as solely belonging to them.  This means that we're not looking at a Gracious Departure, but a Violent Disassociation.  I've been here done this in the Baptist world, some churches there had packed their bags more than a decade earlier and were already out the door, just playing house with the denomination.  Their exit was expected, but they still thought that it would "prove a point."  It didn't.  Other churches still cling to some form of dual identity, but really have hacked off a leg or 2 in the process in order to feel comfortable with their decision.  The problem for these churches is they realized the bond that was already formed and didn't want to lose it, there was value in the relationship they had fought for, and they still wanted to be heard. . .on some things.  On the other issues, they'd take their ball and play elsewhere until their partner (SBC) made them take the rest of their stuff from the house as well.

I see both of these things happening in PC(USA).  The "Fellowship" group is seemingly trying to do the latter, while a number of churches are willing to just take the bags they packed and leave.  There though are many churches who haven't committed to either of these approaches, but feel the tugs of one or both.  It is for these that I fear the consequences of what we choose to do with the others in regards to a "Gracious Departure."

I will use a circumstance I know for an example.  I know 3 churches in an area who are all currently restless due to the passage of 10A.  They all have sessions that are "examining the options" or have examined them.  Given the right set of circumstances they may all take a chance at a "Gracious Departure."  The pastors and sessions have tired of fighting with the denomination.  So let's assume they agree to make a "Gracious Departure" would it really look like Grace?

Church 1 - Leads the Hispanic ministry in the area, without them this growing ministry collapses within the PC(USA) for the area.
Church 2 - Is more theologically diverse than their Session believes.  Their pastor is honestly struggling to work through issues he's having, but is committed to the denomination, if they leave his turmoil becomes worse.  The other staff member would quit immediately.  The church would lose people and probably go under in the resulting turmoil.
Church 3 - Again, an active church in community outreach, heads up many presbytery wide initiatives (school and clothing drives, education events, etc). 

Regardless of how both the church and denomination handled the departure of any of these churches it would be less than gracious because the connections are too deep.  Termination of these relationships couldn't be done cleanly and quietly. No relationship termination is without explosive collateral damage when disassociation is involved.

I admit that I do not desire for there to be a mass exodus of conservative congregations, I feel denominations are stronger and better able to grow faithfully when there is pushing and struggling together rather than moving to places of ideological agreement.  This also goes for efforts to name churches according to ideological stances on any certain issue (fellowship, more light, etc.) but as long as we don't use these tags to disassociate with one another, it would be a smaller price to pay in my opinion.  I do not believe that in all cases the fight should be to keep those who have been out the door for years, they're going to go anyway, but let's not encourage others to go that way because we're acting as we feel we've been acted towards.  I don't think this denomination would be stronger if the chopped off all that feel uncomfortable, don't fit.  To say that it would is as fundamentalist as one may claim those who now feel like leaving are.  This has been and will continue to be a complex journey of faith we take together.  This is not the end nor is it a beginning, it is just another moment in the journey and the journey together is what I think it is really all about.

So maybe there is a way still to redefine these existing relationships, maybe though there does need to be some sort of "break."  I don't know the answers, but I feel we're not doing enough to truly be a people where ALL are welcome when we're too willing to let the uncomfortable, the misfits walk (regardless of who these misfits are).  This is a hard issue for our church, just as it is when friends, lovers, or any other relationship becomes strained and difficult for a long time.  Let us journey together in God's grace.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Creating a Spirit of Fear

I spent today with a youth who I know has lots of thoughts and opinions, but rarely expresses them.  You can see her brain working but rarely do words come out beyond "That's fine", "It's okay", "Whatever you want", "I can do that", etc.  Around the half way point of the day, she finally says this: "I don't say much because I'm afraid I'll say something wrong and disappoint someone or embarrass myself."

I was told recently how impressed people were with how "mature" my kids are.  Well, I wanted then to tell that parent then that I wish my kids knew more about what being a kid is like.  These are kids who are expected to take care of younger siblings, take care of grieving parents, and take care of each other due to loss in the community.  They are kids who live structured lives run by coaches and directors, kids so talented that they seem to always be placed in leadership roles wherever they go.  This seems to have been the case for most of them since they got to middle school.

How hard do we push our kids to grow up?  Why do we push them in certain ways?  It seems to me that we far to often view kids as our legacy, and thus try to give them a leg up in being "the best they can be."  Youth are the future of the church, our kids "shouldn't go through what we had to,"  we want them to have "happy lives."  All of these ideas have major issues.  We set up kids to shut down because they're afraid of failing us, and thus failing themselves and God by extension.  We make kids feel like what they do is attached to who we are and our emotions.  We set them up to think if people aren't happy then things have been a failure.

We shouldn't focus on happiness of any individual or group when talking about what it means to be adult or to be Christian.  Rather we need to use a language that encourages finding "meaning" and acting on that "meaning."  Kids know they want more than to be happy, but we've been telling them for so long that "we just want you to be happy" or "I'm not upset at you, I'm just not happy right now" that they don't even know what it is they're seeking.

So since they know there's more to life than being happy, but it seems the only other options are pleasing "adults" who seem to want to be happy at their core.  This sets up the fear of disappointing others or self that my youth today spoke of.  They want to make sure they're saying, doing the right thing.  They don't want to feel bad about a wrong choice, so why even bother choosing anything when "someone will tell me what to do." 

So what type of place do we need to create within the church for our young people?  A place where they know they can't disapoint us? A place where they can seek meaning?  A place where they're encouraged to speak what is on their mind freely, just so they can get it out there? Probably a little of all of these things, but it's not easy because both the culture and the church is full of this legacy thinking, full of people afraid to be wrong, afraid to risk their "good name," afraid they may find themselves uncomfortable while searching for meaning instead of happiness.  We can't ask our youth to be in the present, to be the change they want to be, if we're not willing to join them.  They are not the future, they are the present, and their questions, their struggles are our struggles.  But we're the adults, we should provide real opportunities to journey through these things, not provide a place where youth are afraid to journey as individuals and within the community.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Human Communication and Social Media

I love social media, I truly do.  As an Aspie, it has been a wonderful way to get closer to people without the difficulties I have in normal social situations.  I've met people I never would, shared great ideas, gotten closer to people who I may have just barely known otherwise.  Yet, those who know me know I go against the grain when it comes to the idea that we can form community from social media alone.

My issue has always been based on issues of how much we share with each other in these places and the types of connections we form.  We tend to gravitate towards the extremes, towards those who share views close to our own, or in some cases towards conflict with those on far poles from us.  It seems that many people just form pseudo-communities based around ideological or demographic similarities.  There's nothing wrong with these relationships, but if you read my previous blog posts you will know that I don't think these things can be the basis for community as defined from a Human Communication perspective.

Well, now I'm adding a new piece to this.  I've spent some time today reading and researching on the idea of a global/cosmic consciousness (or 6th sense).  In studying this, I begin to really see patterns that show that we "think" with some idea of each other, that we don't just react but that we connect to each other and all of creation with some commonality of thought or common desire.  A "God Spark" if you wanted to make it theological.  But studies show that the level of connection over distance is significantly weaker than that of people who are closely connected through local communities that interact physically.  Much like magnetism, the closer we are to one another, the more this global thought is shared.  These are not common opinions, but emotional responses and physical subconscious reactions.  This is not saying we can make each other think alike, rather that we share a deep emotional, maybe even spiritual connection.  It is the feeling we're being watched, it is these moments that come from a physical experience, not just one through interaction of ideas (social media's base).  Our emotions are not just reactions, but do seem linked to something bigger and greater than individual moments.

It also makes me wonder about myself as an Aspie, I really want to find some research about the subconscious activity of people with Asperger's syndrome. Some of this research tonight on human emotions and how we understand them individually and in community seems to indicate to me it is those connections that act differently in Aspies. We don't read faces well, we don't act according to social norms, is it possible that my extreme logic is something connected to being somehow disconnected from the global consciousness. Yet, studies also show that some Aspies have a higher level of premonition than normal, so this would say we're still connected but less reactive and more proactive. So I want to ask: do we move outside the collective consciousness or do we just connect differently? Regardless of this answer: How does that effect how we view and understand God? 

All of this put together makes me wonder if my response to social media is based on personal experiential evidence, or if there is something real that social media can't recreate?  I am convinced that there is something more to physical contact that even the best connections through electronics cannot recreate.  For that reason, I plead for those who feel alone to seek community in places like churches where not everyone thinks the same.  I plead for churches to be those places, places where we can walk faithfully seeking and discerning, not being indoctrinated and conformed to ideological ideals.  I hope that what we find out about our commonality as humanity, be it a global consciousness or not, is the key to what brings us together into community.  For it is that commonality, that "image of God" in all of us, that truly can change the world.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I am Deathly Ill, and loving it.

There is a lot of talk about what ails the church and how these things will eventually destroy the church as we know it.  In my denomination (PCUSA) there is a group that says we're "deathly ill."  They say this as if we have some form of cancer that needs to be cut out and then maybe by some miracle we'll be able to live on.  Well I might be able to agree we're deathly ill, but only in the sense that I'm deathly ill.  I have diabetes, it appeared randomly and without warning.  Doctors are still confused as to why and how I have this, I have no family history and no medical/lifestyle issues that would have logically led to this disease.  Yet here I am.  It will eventually directly or indirectly lead to my death if I live out my life to that point.  But that is what proves my point: I don't know what will kill me, I do very consciously know that I will die at some point and that I have an illness that will lead to death, but I don't know that it WILL kill me, I don't know if it does HOW it will happen, and I don't know WHEN I will stop existing physically on  this earth.

So if I am to argue that the church (like many of us) does have things that will eventually kill it within it, what does that mean?  Should we be changing everything?  Should we just hope for the best?  Or do we realize that we have a purpose regardless, and continue to aim at that purpose, recognizing our weaknesses, dealing with them within the larger picture.  So often we as people name ourselves after our weaknesses. I do it too.  I'm a diabetic, I'm an Aspie, I'm an Extrovert...I am I guess these things, but to state them this way is to say "this is the core of who I am" which is a very false statement.  I have diabetes, I live with Asperger's syndrome, I need people to be energized.  These statements are much more true, they acknowledge things that are part of me for better or for worse, but don't define me by these things. They also are all things I can control, they won't go away, but I can recognize issues that come up and deal with them rather than hiding behind the "illness."

So often when we look at the problems of the church we start defining the church by these problems.  This leads to a view that whatever issue is at the center is less of a process of change and growth and more of something that needs urgent attention.  There are times the church needs urgent care, but that really can only happen on the local level (like surgery on a tendon/dealing with individuals) when it comes to the systemic issues of the church, we need to be constantly living with the struggles and realizing that these problems are most often not the end, but part of our journey of faithfulness and discernment.  We do have some big issues in the church because we are diverse people struggling to understand who God is and what life is about.  These are things that no matter our personal experiences, are not complete certainties.  They are, in my opinion, the very reason for existence.  We are discovering what it means to be what we were created to be. Created in God's image and as stewards of creation.  It is our struggles to understand what those things mean that eventually tears the organizational church apart, but when and how, and even if this happens is not something we'll know until it occurs.  So to use a analogy from the world of diabetes: rather than reacting by throwing out all the sugar and carbs, why don't we see what our bodies can handle and what life looks like.  We may be surprised by how we can find balance and joy just by trying to faithfully live out who we really are...The Body of Christ.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Short Response to Albert Mohler

I just read Albert Mohler's recent article regarding sexuality orientation and Christianity.   If you want to see what this is look here:
http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-church-and-the-clobber-scriptures-the-bible-on-homosexuality-50792/

I can't help but respond to it, I don't like to respond to things just to argue with them, especially when it comes to people who I know are not going to have a discussion with me on the topic (such as I expect Mohler wouldn't).  Yet, I have to because what is done in this article is so wrong.
  
I don't know much about Jay Bakker's theology.  I'm sure we wouldn't agree on every point.  Based on Mohler's article, I'm left to assume a changing God, which I would disagree with.  Of course based on other things Mohler has to say, I'm not sure I trust his understanding of that, but even if it is true, it's not a point that would cause me to side with or against Bakker.

What I can say though is that Mohler doesn't present an argument here regarding Christianity and Sexuality Orientation, rather it is a series of personal attacks and unsupported statements leading to a predetermined conclusion.   While Bakker's parents lives influence his theology, that influence, that history has very little to do with Mohler's stance.  It seems it is only brought up in order to remind people of "The Sins of the Parents."  While "biblical,"  I'm pretty sure not even Mohler would actually preach such a thing.  It is one of those things that everyone rejects (unless you're a group like Westboro Baptist) because it doesn't make sense with the overall narrative of scripture and of creation.  Of course without holding to this theology Mohler's next point would seem illogical.  Mohler then presents Bakker's view of the Old Testament what I assume is fairly decently, but with wording which, as one would expect, leaves one thinking Mohler doesn't completely agree.  This though is essential, otherwise Mohler would have to argue that Bakker is up a creak because of his parents (again, Mohler seems to try to walk a fine line here, setting up fences where they work best for him).

So having spent the majority of his space talking about Bakker's family and regarding things that protect him from being called a "fundamentalist" or other such attacking term, finally we get to the crux of Bakker and Mohler's disagreement.  We're in for some great exegetical and theological work here.  Or. . .not?

Mohler claims that arguments that texts mean something other than what Mohler has understood them to mean as "not faithful to the texts."  Why does he feel this way?  I HAVE NO IDEA!  He makes no statements to what makes a translation or interpretation faithful, nor does he do any work to show why his view is faithful.  WHAT?  Okay, well maybe I should already know these things if I'm reading his work, so lets move on.
Mohler also claims that it's wrong to doubt historical views of scripture. . .you mean like slavery?  relationship between races?  gender equality?  Hold on, so maybe he wasn't so okay with Bakker's OT theology, and we are suffering from the sins of our forefathers in very personal ways!!!  I have no idea how he's doing this little balancing act, maybe he'll help by explaining the difference here . . . OR NOT?!?

Instead he turns back on the attack.  Claiming that the term "clobber" is problematic.  I'm not sure I argue with that fact, but his why is off base.  He doesn't argue that clobber is a reactionary term, but rather, that what is being done is right and shouldn't be considered bad in any way.  That we are called to point out when others do something wrong, and thus we all should be "clobbered" by scripture for doing THINGS THAT ARE WRONG.  This is where my theology comes in:  It's not the WHAT that is sinful, but the WHY.  Anything we do can be sinful when we do it for the wrong reasons, of course we are really the only ones who know if we did something for our selves or for God/others.  That is something that takes discernment and reflection.  Both of these things seem so far to be missing from Mohler's article.  But there's still a bit more.

Mohler's final argument has strong? and weak points:
The Bible’s condemnation of same-sex behaviors is comprehensive and clear. Really is it?  I see no support for that out of this article.
It is interwoven with the Bible’s message concerning God’s plan for humanity, marriage, and society. Really?  God states plans for marriage and society?  I seem to miss these clear and comprehensive scriptures as well.  I see some guidence on the subjects: That they are to be full of love and focus on others and not about ourselves.  Maybe that's what Mohler means.
Human flourishing is found only by living in obedience to God’s revealed plan. Hold on, we're back to "The Sins of the Parents" here aren't we?  No? Maybe it's just a prosperity gospel?  No?  What is your point here?  Maybe you mean this the way I'd say it "We find our deepest joys when we live in a state of faithfulness, seeking and discerning God within the world, and joining in where God is working."  Okay, maybe if that's what Mohler meant I can go with him here.
Our rebellion against the Creator is never so insidious as when we declare that our own plan is superior to his. Avoiding the male only God language issue (I struggle at times there too), I wouldn't argue too much with this.  Of course, I would say that "Sin is when we think we choose to think we know all the answers."  Careful Albert Mohler, I think you may have just pointed out the plank in your own eye.

When the Bible, in part or in whole, is dismissed as “clobber Scriptures,” it is not only the Bible that is subverted, but also the Gospel. The Church must recognize that fact clearly - and fast. Speaking of planks, I see nothing in how Bakker or others interpret these scriptures as dismissing them, only working to discern more about the nature of God through them.  So I agree with you, if you are simplifying God and Scripture to just something you can dismiss. (kind of like the arguments made by Mohler regarding this subject) then we should be aware and work harder at understanding the God who we are created in the image of and who calls us to stewardship of creation.

Cranky Pants Post

I'm a little cranky today.  I've heard a couple of friends who are recent seminary grads complain about their debt and their difficulties in ministry.  I appreciate the reality of these issues, but when they move from discussing it as a personal issue to "don't you agree that these are problems for all those going into ministry" universals.  I want to throw them under a fundamentalist bus...or better yet ON ONE!

My experiences have hardships of their own, but through them I am the minister I am today.  Does that mean that I missed out on certain things at early ages?  Yes!  I rarely had the money to go out with friends in college because I was paying my own way through it, likewise in Seminary I had both an unpaid internship and a paying "secular" job so I could pay my way  through there as well.  These are not BAD THINGS that happened to me along my journey, but choices I made because I felt a call towards my passion daily. 

We all make choices, they all have consequences, and all choices I have ever made had a downside of some sort.  I don't though regret them, they made me who I am, and THAT is what is important.  This moment is what is important.  How we get somewhere influences things, and how we view the world beyond this moment is essential to consider, but what we do "at this moment" is all we can actually control.

It's an obvious concept, but also an odd one.  We've spent much of our lives thinking of time as this constant, this ticking of seconds.  Yet that is just how we relate to it, a construct created so we feel more in control.   Yet, we're not in control of anything but this moment, and even there all we really control is what we do.  We don't control what happens afterward, we don't know the effects of our actions.  Our understanding of time influences our decisions every day, but should it?

What if we just did the best we can for God in each moment, took the risks, put our own needs secondary?  What if we didn't worry so much about our futures, and focused on God's now?  I dunno what would happen.  I'm not completely sure if that's the call.  I do though know that the world happens much faster and much slower than we're able to experience it and that there is more to this world that what affects me. 

With that in mind I look at my choices for this moment, knowing that I continue to be influenced by past choices, knowing that what choice I make now will affect not just my future but all of time.  Yet, I am free to make that choice because God is still in control.  So the question is not a matter of past or present or how we got here or where we're going, but rather the question is: What does it look like to be faithful? Constantly discerning.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Montreat Signature Conference

So those of us blessed with Asperger's syndrome tend to struggle socially.  Finding a balance between that my extrovertness is never easy but rarely does it come out the way it does when placed in unfamiliar situations by myself.  That has been day 1 of the Montreat Signature conference for me.  I've been battling the duality of myself so much that I really am not focused the way I want. 

I really want to talk with people, get to know them and share.  Yet, I have NO IDEA HOW and it seems everyone else is in their own world here with people from their church or school or old friends.  I feel completely on the outside. 

Now that I've said that on to the subject at hand.  The theme here is being spiritual in a crazy busy world.  A valid and worthwhile theme, but one that doesn't come with nice Presbyterian answers.  Unfortunately more than half the people here seem to be the type that want that and nothing more.  So there were moments tonight when some people were rolling their eyes at a sermon that seemed even a bit "safe."  Yet, the points are well heeded by anyone who wants to think about things spiritual.  We do have to change what we think is important to daily living if we want to see bigger changes in our lives.  If we always think that things should stay the same, or that things are just a certain way and that's the way it should be we become self defeating.  You can't give one thing lip service while doing something else. . .

To bring that back around, I'm sitting out in the lobby hoping for some contact because at least there are people here.  Maybe some of them will speak to me, maybe not, but it's at least trying something to change things.  BTW: Cooperative confirmation classes are NOT new and shocking.  *shakes head*

Yeah, now I'm eavesdropping.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hymn Text Draft

A Short Hymn on Living Faithfully

We give ourselves over to comfort
by refusing to search for new ways
Transversing what we see as desert,
our focus set on heat and the blaze

Sometimes we must look to the outskirts
and sometimes we just have to look in
Fight power with something that subverts
For we know it's God's love that will win

Though we are not called to our privilege
We each are given much in this life
We must not carry it as baggage
But use it to bring light unto strife

For faithfulness is just to follow,
follow God into the unknown
To "love one another" is hollow
if those different than us we disown

©WolfWill 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rough "One Take" poetry

The following is just off the top of my head right now.

We give ourselves over to comfort
Refusing to search for new ways
To tranverse what we see as desert
So focused on heat and the blaze

Sometimes we must look to the outskirts
Sometimes we just have to look in
Fight power with something that subverts
For we know Gods love it will win

Though we are not called to our privilege
We each have a lot in this life
We must not carry it as baggage
But use it to bring light to strife

I have little burden to carry
If I carry just what's my own
But share with the hurting and wary
And my faith I will not disown

To be faithful is but to follow
Follow God into unknown
For "love one another" is hollow
If we journey just with our own

©WolfWill 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who am I?

Another day where I wonder if I come across the way I want when I talk.  So many parts of me compete for attention, and somehow I feel so over-aware of them most of the time.  I am an Aspie, so I fear change, but my theology and philosophy in life is that we're always changing.  I'm an Aspie, so I struggle socially, but the lowest I've ever scored on a Myers-Briggs type test is 95% Extrovert.  I need people, but I never quite feel connected.  I'm a diabetic, but my A1Cs tend to be in the low 5s.  I'm a type 2 diabetic, but every doctor thinks that that HAS to be WRONG, because nothing says I should be, and I have no family history.  I am a diabetic, but I get by on very minimal medication and not the strictest diet ever made.  I have a Master of Divinity, but I'm not ordained nor do I plan to be.  I work as a Christian Educator in the PC(USA) where it's unusual to have the combination I just mentioned.  I'm a undeniably Presbyterian theologically, but I'm definitely Quaker when it comes to life and spirituality.  I graduated from a Baptist seminary, though I grew up without a denomination, but I now will fight for the PC(USA) until I, or it dies. I am NOT a youth worker, but youth and parents would all probably fight hardest to defend me against anything said against me.  I am obviously loved by kids, but my wife and I want none of our own.  I am a coach, a director of plays, and love to preach and teach, but again I'm an Aspie and it stresses me out to no end.  I'm Male, an competitive athlete, but also a theatre major who looks quite good in a pair of high heels.  I am a theologian, who is logical (Aspie) and a science nerd (love me some quantum physics) but also artsy (theatre major) and a bit of an anarchist.  Not to mention I'm a perfectionist in a world where I know I'm anything but.

So who am I?  Am I defined by my diet?  My marital status? My "way of thinking"? How I get my energy?  My educative background? My theology? My spirituality?  My job?  My gender?  My "disabilities"?  My political views?

Some would argue I'm all of these things, I though tonight feel like I'm none of these things.  These things are all comparative.  I only need to be defined by any of these things when they affect the circumstance I'm in at a given moment.  At this moment, I'm just a guy typing a stream of consciousness blog post.  I AM though ALWAYS one thing.  I am always a creation made in the image of my creator.  I decided long ago in my studying of faith, scripture, and life that the idea of being made in God's image was not about how we looked, but what we were capable of and what we exist for.  We are capable of creation, that is undeniable, we see that which we have created all around us.  Yet we exist for more than creation, the same way that God exists beyond acts of creation.  We exist to be stewards of creation, to maintain creation with the same love that it was created and continues to be cared for with by God.

Stewards does not mean: Use as we want.  Creators does not mean: Be our own God.  To be creators and stewards of creation means that we have to constantly be seeking that which is best for creation, that which God desires.  Those desires are also our own deepest desires.  We desire to be understood, thus we should desire to understand.  We desire to be loved, thus we should desire to love.  We desire to feel a purpose, thus we should desire to seek our purpose and to work to do that with all that we are.  We are blessed with all that God is, all the power to be whatever we want to be, but we should want to be that which God is.  That is what we see in the life of Jesus.  Jesus doesn't do everything we do daily, the world is different, but does everything with the same WHY that we should have behind everything we do.

I am a steward and creator, created by God to LOVE and take care of ALL of Creation with ALL that I am.  I can be less, I can choose not to be this, but this is who I am called to be, who I aim to be, and who I desire to be.  In that I know who I am, because I know WHY I am.

And it is who we all have been created to be.  I am not going to say let us forget that which makes us different, because in our differences are better able to understand the depth of God and of life and are better able to be that which we are called to be.  I am though saying that maybe if we spent a bit less time with the comparatives of life it wouldn't be so bad.  Maybe we can actually enjoy our diversity if we focused less on the "What" we are and remember the "WHY" we all are, because in that "WHY" we are all equal, and that then lets each of us be "Who I am"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A post by The Righteous Reverend Deadpool

I was asked today about the Rapture.  After offering to help the young lady experience it, I picked myself up off the ground and sermonized as follows:

Let us assume thusly that we are never beyond the grasp of life. If you shoot me do I not get back up? If you electrocute me do I not still kick your butt? Thus I tell you as sure as you are at risk of me here today, you will continue to be at risk of me until the day that you join me in paradise...with chimichangas. Do not be concerned! For we all realize that the day is coming, but do not know when.  Thus live as thus that day may be today, for you do not know when I come for you. Bang Bang.

**We really need our own catchphrase!**

Friday, May 20, 2011

A wondering wandering stream of consciousness regarding recent events.

A lot of things have been happening in the world of religion recently.  We've had questions about justice and vengeance, questions of inclusion and exclusion, questions about heaven and hell.  These are big issues but they keep echoing a singular thought in my head.  What do we really know?  And thus, how is it that we know it?

I spent a large part of my seminary career contemplating what in scripture should be treated as contextual and what was actually stated as a universal truth.  For some of my friends it probably is hard to hear that when I got to seminary I was struggling with who could be a pastor, I had put large groups out of this place, myself included.  I figured I would be something else in the ministry, but that my life, and my choices had excluded me from ministry.  I actually figured I'd end up about where I am, although I didn't know what a Director of Educational Ministry was at the time.  Yet, after taking language courses and beginning to read the bible in a new way, full of words with deeper, more varied meanings than I had been taught growing up, I found myself at a crossroads.  A place where I knew that there were no simple answers, so I either could try to find someone else to follow who would give me the answers (a favorite writer or professor perhaps) or I could strike out on my own and assume nothing.  I will admit that in trying to do the latter, some of the former has happened as there really aren't original thoughts, just new ways to put them together and help them make sense for self.   The end of the day though, I found that my theology based on pstis as faithfulness meaning a focus on the why.

This though means that I now find nothing worse than telling someone that what they hear God saying is the opposite of what God is actually saying. That is not to say that there aren’t universals, but I have come to realize what it really meant to carry someones burden with them. It is not to lead them to where is right, but rather to get into the messy ambiguity of the journey, to walk with them on their journey of discernment. This means that often the call is to put my own ideas on the back burner so I can hear others where they are, and then struggle along with them.  Also, it means that since community is so core to my ideals that the primary purpose of community becomes a safe place to struggle together.  A place to be challenged, a place to be loved regardless of differences, a place where we grow and connect, supporting one another in our journeys towards understanding God and life.

This means we should not assume we know the answers, yes our life experiences and what we've learned may have given us a good lead on understanding things, but we still all have much to learn.  Faithfulness is a journey of discernment, where we're all seeking God continually.   Where my journey intersects another's we both can learn and grow.  This leads me back to all the recent news:
Who are we to take another's life?
Who are we to decide who God is calling to ministry?
Who are we to decide what happens to others when our physical beings no longer function as we know them?



Who are we to claim we have the answers?  Yes, we may have been created in the image of God, but we are called to be the stewards of creation. Thus we are to use what is inherent to our beings to do as God would do, not to try to be God.  We should embrace the ambiguity of the journey and not remove it, choosing to make choices and discern more from our experiences individually and shared as we move forth towards that which only God knows.

Welcome to the struggle.  For we cannot know truly another person's "why" when it comes to an action, we can only ask that they share that with us and that they let us share our "why" with them.    Our individual journeys can be faithful without agreement, but we should not act to preclude anyone from continuing their journey.  This to me is THE universal.  We are to love.  We are to open ourselves up and move beyond places that are comfortable.  We are to be that which is the greatest love that we have experienced. Or as Steven Hawking said in his recent interview: "We should seek the greatest value of our action."  For me the greatest value is to show the greatest love.  To be that which supports the day to day struggle and walks with another, seeking and sharing that which is life for today and forever.

Thus ends this wondering wandering post.  Love one another.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Responding to Hawking through Theology and Science

I wrote a long paper in seminary on the existence of God as found in Quantum Theory.  That in no way makes me Steven Hawking's equal on the subject and I am going to say that up front.  Yet, I tend to get obsessed by certain things, and one of these obsessions for me has been Quantum Physics. Having followed the science for most of my life, I cannot say I am shocked by Hawking's quotes regarding heaven.  I though am somewhat surprised. Now that I have said that, I would like to consider what it is I hear him saying from both a theological and scientific standpoint. 

Theologically, I am not surprised at all by his claim.  He has been distancing himself from ambiguity for some time.  As a scientist, Hawking is always been looking for the answer, and in his search he has done much to forward our understanding of the universe, but in recent years he has started drawing conclusions that have yet to be proven out.  Now that is part of science (and part of faith), we have to have ideas of what we are working towards, but sometimes certain beliefs or thoughts or fears take control and we decide certain things are "just so."  In the case of  Hawking, his moment of deciding things were “just so” was when he decided that not NEEDING a creator was the same as not HAVING a creator.  That movement removed a number of ideas from potentially being part of his reality.  One of those ideas was the idea of heaven and the afterlife. You cannot have a heaven without a God.  It is that simple.  There is no afterlife if there is no reason for life, and without a creator, as Hawking has said himself, we are just here by random chance.  So that brings up one theological question before we get to the scientific stuff:  Why is it that he also says that the purpose of life is that we "should seek the greatest value of our action" in the same interview where he says there is no afterlife?  Who then sets the idea of value?  There is inherent in that statement a global ethic.  Hawking is not just saying "do what's best for me" and he obviously does not assume that as individuals we are just part of a larger "program" as he speaks of death by saying: "I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."  So within his theology, the individual has value, but life also has some greater purpose.  This issue gets even more complex when we look at the scientific implications of his statement.

Scientifically, Hawking continues to support M-Theory as the most likely explanation of the universe and all happens within it.  I likewise think M-Theory has more pieces of truth in it than other theories, and feel confident that some version of Super String theory is going to show up as THE theory that we base all future discoveries on.  So for the sake of the rest of this blog post M-Theory will be synonymous with Quantum Theory.  In Quantum Theory there are many dimensions (M-Theory says 11) that make up our universe.  Three of these dimensions are easily observable: Height, Length, and Width.  The fourth we assume is time (though there is debate about how space-time really exists in relation to how we mark it/recognize it).  Yet even then, there are 7 dimensions we either do not experience, or cannot fully recognize in the physical world.  This is where we get to the scientific implications of Hawking's statements:  To say there is NO heaven, is to thus say that all the other dimensions can be understood within the context of the dimensions that we already experience.  How is that so?  Because it logically assumes that the other dimensions are subservient to the ones (and Hawking would include space-time as we generally understand it) that we experience.  Otherwise you can't make a statement like the one that there is no heaven, or that we are nothing more than computers (brains).  Those statements give precedence to the physical.

Thus it is that I do not argue with Hawking's theology.  I do argue though with his scientific beliefs.  I give the unknown equal footing with the known.  All 11 dimensions share equal importance and one does not exist without the ones we do not experience being active and equal.  For me the other pieces of the universe are not just shadows, but active parts on planes that do not touch ours all that often.  I believe that the spiritual is one (or more) of these planes and I believe that when the spiritual comes in contact with the physical amazing things happen (See creation, Christ, or our own spiritual moments). Maybe this is also what happens at "Thin Places" and amazing stories of the supernatural, or maybe not, but either way I have to say that we know that the physical dimensions make a difference and thus scientifically I assume that it is true of all the dimensions.

With that in mind, I must politely disagree with Hawking. There is more to life than the physical, and while I take an ethic similar to his own "seeking the greatest value" I am convinced of a creator and an existence that continues even when the physical ceases to function in a way we understand.  Would we experience the world the same without the other 7 dimensions?  Some could make that assumption since that is what we can know through our experience.  But IS the world the same without them?  That is where I say no. Without these other dimensions there is nothing, creation as we know it does not exist, yet because they are able to touch our physical dimensions we are likewise made up of more than just the physical, and do not cease to exist because our "computer" stops working.  We seek the greatest value because we were created to do just that, and in doing so we continue to seek answers about that which created us.  Hawking’s statements seem to me to indicate a desire to try and stop that search for himself and thus assume he has the answer.  I though, knowing a scientific brain, doubt that he really has, and thus give thanks for his own faithful searching journey which has, as shown in this response, influenced my own. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Willingness

There are a varied number of words in Greek translated as Willing(ly, ness, etc.), but while some are more about wishing (boulomai) and others more about passionate desire and want/eagerness (prothumos), the word that seems to touch the idea that we as Christians go willingly (as Christ did to the cross) is thel√≥. This is a word I struggle with when translating Greek. Is it related to desire? Is it related towards faithfulness (intent)? 

No matter which way you go with it, the idea of being willing in the sense that we are able to will something to happen or in the sense that we do things with a certain attitude doesn't seem to exist here.  This changes in some ways the way that many currently interpret the word. It may have something to do with attitude, but it is not about going and doing things because it's what we WANT to do, or because it will lead to things we WISH would happen. 

I think Willingness is very closely related to faithfulness, which means  we don't always know where we're going when we're being willing to move, it means that those initial steps may be done sadly, begrudgingly, maybe even with a little anger, but yet we move.  And we move not because we fear the outcome if we don't but because we are open to that which moves around us. That is the willing that says "take this cup from me" in the garden, yet still heals those who are bound to destroy you.  It is the willing that doesn't take the escape routes that are available. 

For me, the idea of willingness is so connected to the idea of faithfulness in scripture, that it is something we cannot do alone, but it is connected to the design of God. Thus willingness is: That which we cannont NOT do. It is: That which we must, because our wish for the outcome to come (whatever it may be and unknown to us) is too great to overcome.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Presbyterian Discernment

Am I wrong to kill in order to feed my family?

Am I wrong to take an extra loaf of bread from the food pantry because I know I won't be able to get a ride next week?

Am I wrong to call someone a murderer because they were a soldier for the other side in a war?

Am I right to quote chapter and verse from scripture to say that women can't be ministers?

Am I right to point to specific instances where people of a certain ilk have done evil and apply it to all people like them?

Am I right to think that things should be as I once perceived them to be because then it was simple, and life was good (at least from my point of view)?

These are extreme examples of what happens when we frame our lives in idealistic ways shaped around legalistic right and wrong.  Yet we do it on a small scale everyday, because we're afraid of the unknown, because we want quick answers and want to win, to be right.  There is a quote from The American President that sounds a lot like what I just said: "He is interested in two things and two things only; making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That ladies and gentlemen is how you win."

That doesn't sound like too nice of a person, not one that we'd want to be close to really does it?  Yet sometimes I think that is the God we create for ourselves.  One who wants to win, one that sets down right and wrong on every little thing that happens and will inflict punishment when we "lose" our gamble of making a choice.  So we're afraid of that punishment, and ready to blame whomever or whatever it is that is the cause of the problem. 


Yet, I worship a God who is Love.  Love is something that we all experience, and God must love us at least as much as the person who loves us most in this world.  The people who love me most in this world, are the ones who I know will forgive me, who give me room to make mistakes, who are more interested in my day to day journey than if I'm ever going to "make something of myself." 


Today in the PC(USA) there will be a "deciding vote" cast (probably in Minnesota) that will spark up a lot of talk about a lot of issues.  I have my views on these issues, and I'm sure you do too, but let me put one bug in your brain:  The statement we are accepting into our book of order is nothing is not full of ambiguity.  I'm not sure either side would argue with that, or that either side is completely comfortable with that.  Yet it is for me all about love, and love happens on a journey, and ambiguity gives us a chance to journey together to many places yet unseen.  At the end of the day though, it's not about the place we arrive at, but the journey that got us there that leads to the best stories, the strongest lessons, and the greatest bonding moments of a trip.  Let us celebrate this journey we begin together, with Love and not fear.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Define Community

What is a community?  I was taught in my studies of Human Communication Theory, that a community required a "diverse range of varied demographic factors and ideological viewpoints."  This group also though had to be "committed to something of value that creates corporate equity."  So there's something that everyone is invested in, and that commitment seems to be bigger than the sum of the differences.  Yet the differences are as essential as the common commitment.  Without these differences there is not community, just a pseudo-community (like college) where the commonality creates connections that are only as deep as the agreement.  In a community, the common commitment is stronger than that which can break it because of the diversity involved.  A community realizes they don't need to agree on every (or even really any) point, but are committed to journeying together through whatever comes their way.  This includes all the inner conflict that will come because of the diversity of demographics and ideologies. 

All of this is to say that in a time of searching, struggling, and disagreeing on issues large and small, we must remember that movement towards places of "like-mindedness" will lead to nothing more than a cheap substitute for true community.  Rather, it is essential that realize that willingness and faithfulness are not thing we are trying to reach and do, but a part of the journey that we are on, individually as part of the whole. This means that part of faithfulness is being in constant discussion and discernment with those who are in our community and inviting others to be part of that community. This is not easy, especially if we feel we have "the answer" and others are in contradiction with that answer. Seems so simple, but so often is difficult, painful, and confusing . . . at least for me.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Entitlement

We live in a culture of entitlement.  There it's been said.  We all feel like we should get what we deserve in the end.  That though is the issue, we're so focused on the end.  Recent discussions with former professors and student cohorts regarding the idea that "The sense of entitlement to a degree has surpassed the desire to gain an education" have brought me to a place where I wonder how we can become more focused on the journey instead of the results.  Is that even still possible?  What will it take to realize that where we live, learn, and love is not a place, but a process?  

I'm surprised by the amount of energy expended trying to figure out what it will take to get teachers to press the "pass" button, to get the bare minimum to advance in careers (if I do this and this, I should get a promotion, and if not I can spin it into a better job), to find the excuses, to find the fun, to find anything that gives us a moment of enjoyment.  If we put half that energy into our passions and took our time that we waste wishing and hoping and thinking that things are impossible for us to focus on each other and those passions how much more would we love the journey.  We fear loss, we fear failure, we fear risk, because we've been taught there is far to fall, but if we were to realize that there isn't a final win or loss, but just a whole life to live and find joy in. 

We should want to learn, to discover, to investigate the world around us throughout life.  If we're not seeking then we're claiming that we know all the answers and there is nothing more to life that what we're currently doing.  If that is the case we should be a world full of people who are always joyful and always energized, yet no matter who I talk to it seems that someone is still looking for something, or unhappy with something, or wishing for something.  Thus there is still more to life than any of us understand, a better life, a life that is closer to the one we're designed for.  There is something more than the ends, and while some may interpret what I'm saying to be that we should strive for "more,"  what I'm really saying is quite the opposite.

We should find more joy in the journey.  We should stop wishing things were different and be the change that we want to see.  We should expand our knowledge willingly, we should walk faithfully following those natural pulls within us to something greater than self, we should want to be challenged, to be involved with those we encounter and not just passing by on our way from point A to point B.

How many of us even know what those points are?  What happens when we reach them?  Are we then back to searching for a new purpose?  Truly happy? 

The things that would just be different if we checked our entitlement at the door are amazing.  If we're all just really seeking and searching then there is no best way, no best place, no me vs you, but just a bunch of different thoughts that we can share and learn from, places we can stretch and push ourselves.  Yes, there are things that would be essential, but they are written into the idea of journeying together, we can't take away from others journeys, our journey would have to be shared equally, we'd have to be open, be honest, and be willing to be in true community with others and not just with those we "agree" with, but that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Faithfulness

It was a hard decision what to call this blog.  I basically created it as a way to get out a lot of thoughts that I normally would have rolled into papers or curriculum but at the moment have no reason to do either, so they're getting a bit pent up in my head and coming out in full force in various debates rather than on their own. 

So, first off a bit about your writer.  I am an Educator at a Church in South Carolina.  I am a Greek scholar with a real passion for trying to better understand scripture through a better understanding of the Greek language.  This leads to the title of this first post, Faithfulness (pi'stis).  It is my favorite word, it is a word rarely translated as such when going from Greek to English in scripture, but almost always translated as such in other texts from the time period.  More often scripture translates it as belief or faith.  My theology started to change when I started looking at verses and seeing their meaning with a focus on faithfulness. 

But what is faithfulness?  That is a more complex topic which I'm sure I'll prattle on about later, but for now let's keep it simple:  It is related to intent, to a journey, to a willingness, to that something that we can not NOT do (or that which we must).  It is the background behind our actions, our attitudes, our all. 

In that I hope to be faithful in this blog, I hope that this part of my journey will be of use to those who read it, and a way for us to journey together.