Thursday, June 30, 2005

Back from Vacation

Hey, is this thing on? Purrs and roars are back now that we've returned from sunny FL.

My Emerging Church friends are roaring with new decisions every day. The question of whether these are good or bad decision remains to be seen, but a prayer wells up within me:

Lord, don't let this be another thing we talk about in theory. Don't let us get bogged down with whether it's a program, a movement, or a conversation.

Don't let us get stuck defending a right to exist and to call ourselves Christian.

Don't let us argue to hear ourselves talk or even to gain agreement. But don't let us settle for less than Christian truth.

Don't let us be so enamored with our lack of form that we shun all form, and don't let us bow too easily to formulas without thinking.

Don't let us stick with old physical structures, communal structures, or philosophical structures that keep us from following Jesus. But don't let us throw out the old just for the sake of the new.

Help us, Lord, to keep the main thing the main thing: Jesus is Lord, and we are here to love and serve God and to love and serve the world.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Entertaining Angels?

Here's something that doesn't happen every day. I'm home alone on Saturday; Laura and the boys have gone to Target. There's a frantic knock at the front door. I open the door, and there stand two teenage girls and a teenage boy. (Their names have been changed even though they're innocent). They're looking for my 15-year old. And they're full of energy like they're on an adventure. When I tell them that my son is not home, they want to wait for him. They travelled over an hour to get here. I ask how they know him and they say they met him online on Myspace. I gather that he had no idea they were coming. I invite them in and call my boy to come home(Thank God for cell phones). I offer them a drink. Only Jamie takes one.

Then I say "Until he gets here, you have to talk to me." "Okay!" is the response.

TDad: So you met my boy on Myspace? What exactly do you do on Myspace?

Jamie: Well, you make friends. You post pictures, and your friends comment on them. You talk about stuff.

TDad: Do you all have a Myspace page?

Jamie and Carrie: Yeah.

Derek: I hadn't gone to my page in a long time. I signed on and there were all these people there that I didn't even know.

TDad: So do you then go visit these people, like you're doing now?

Carrie: Yeah, I have.

Jamie: No, I've never done this before.

TDad: So what's the deal with my boy? What made you come and visit him?

Carrie: Ask Jamie, I just came for the ride.

Derek: I just came 'cause they needed a car.

Jamie: Well he seemed like such a nice guy.

Carrie: I don't even live around here. I live in Utah. But I'm not a Mormon!

Jamie: So are you having a nice summer?

TDad: Well I don't really get a summer like you guys do. I still have to work.

Jamie: Well, what do you do?

TDad: I work for the Methodist Church. I edit books and do some other stuff.

So how do you guys know one another?

Jamie: Well Carrie and I met at church. She came to spend the summer with her mother who lives around here. She lives with her dad in Utah.

TDad: So what church do you go to?

Jamie: Well, it's the LDS church, but I'm not a Mormon. I'm a Christian. It's just that my parents make me go to the Mormon Church.

Carrie: Yeah , my dad and stepmother, too. My dad is like the stake president, but I'm not a Mormon.

Jamie: So, are you Baptist or Methodist? Your boy said you guys go to a Baptist church, but didn't you say you work for the Methodist church?

TDad: I'm a Christian. I try to follow Jesus. That's what's important to me. My Baptist friends might think I'm a little too Methodist. My Methodist friends might be afraid I'm Baptist. I just care about trying to follow Jesus.

So how does that work for you? You have to go to the Mormon church, but you don't agree with it. What don't you agree with? And what happens when you go?

Jamie: Well, basically no-one talks to me cause I look like this. I like to dress kind of goth. And, like, right now this sleeveless top, I couldn't wear there and you're supposed to have only one earpierce in each ear. I just don't think you should force people into those beliefs.

Carrie: Yeah, my parents force me to go to church, and I don't think you should do that. I think people should be allowed to decide for themselves what they believe.

TDad: We make our boy go to church.

Jamie: Yeah, I heard that.

TDad: Well, I agree with you. People should be allowed to make up their own minds about what they believe. No-one should try to force them to believe anything. Actually no-one can. We know that. I have no desire to force my kids to believe anything. But I do hope that they live Christian lives. As along as they live with us and until they are 18, we make them go to church. As parents we want to train them that way. But we know we can't make them believe anything.

About that time Laura and the boys come home. I leave the teens to their own conversation.

What's your theological worldview?

Here's my score on the notorious quiz
You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Roman Catholic


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


Reformed Evangelical






created with

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Posted by Hello

I'm feeling tense. There's a churning in my stomach, a restlessness in my bones. And my mind is alternately single-minded and scattered. Why? because we bought three avocados in the last few days, they've been trying to ripen for guacamole. I finally decided they were ripe enough, and I gathered all my stuff. But I could only find two avocados! I REALLY wanted three.

I know what happened. "Somebody" (he's about 15 months old) thought the avocado was a "ball" and played "Put It in the Cabinet" or "Put It in the Drawer" or "Throw It over There." No one was watching him that particular moment, and now somewhere in our house an avocado is rotting.

I know: one out of three avocados shouldn't have that much power in my life. For your information, I don't really think it was the avocados. I think it was Moby's CD "Play" (actually it's the two-CD set). Before I started looking for the avocado, I started looking for the CD. It was an all-day search (suddenly coins, sheep and lost boys come to mind, but especially the coins. See Luke 15). I was actually looking for Moby for a work project. No, really. Since I have CDs both at work and home, I looked all day both places. Whenever I didn't have to think about something else my mind was working on where Moby could be.

I asked all four of our kids--those who live with us and those who don't. They all let me know either by words or tone that they're not that crazy about Moby anyway. Not the point.

And, again, one CD out of... well... a lot ought not to churn me up like this. Chalk it up to anthropologically residual fight or flight response or something like that, but it just IRKS me that I can't find this CD! (Did I mention that it's the two-CD set?)

Maybe it's in that black bag I've carried back and forth from work. Maybe it's in that box, or that one, or that one, or the closet I've already looked in four times. Finally I told Laura, if it's not in that black bag (wherever THAT is), I give up. I'll have to save my pennies and order another one. I found the black bag. It's not there. I give up. The churning lessens.

I shift gears and start cleaning up my ongoing mess in the computer room. Too much stuff, I know. Cleaning up a little clutter might de-clutter my mind. Just empty this box and I can get rid of it. There, it's emptied. And what's this behind it? Oh Moby!

Now how did it get there?! Oh, yeah, "Somebody"! Now if we could only find that rotting avocado.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Family Times

Damon and Grandpa Posted by Hello

This picture is here by accident, but I'll take the opportunity to pontificate on my love for this Baby Boy and his apparent love for me. Damon might be discovering that Grandpa looks a little different from everyone else in his life, but he doesn't care. For him, love is thicker than blood.

Is Christian love or, or as my new cyberfriend (he doesn't even know me) Anthony might put it, is the Eucharist thicker than blood or race?

EmbRACE-ing Church?

Yes, It's true. This year's Emergent event in Nashville was even whiter than last year's. After the "Embracing Church" CCC, I was sitting with Glandion Carney, who got out the convention booklet. We leafed through it and found that he and I were the ONLY nonwhite leaders pictured. And we led a CCC which ended before the actual convention began. I know that Jen Lemen added non-white leadership to her CCC as well, but their leadership, too, ended.

In fact, the not-so-progressive National Pastors Convention showed greater diversity both in its leadership and overall participation.

This is the description. What does it mean? What, if anything, should be done about it?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Real Star: A Mini-Tribute

Kim and Mom out back Posted by Hello

This week, I've been moved to tears twice.

When I left home for college (another life ago), it's kind of wierd, but I prayed a very specific selfish prayer. I asked God to give me the ability to cry. I felt cold and wanted to learn to feel a little more. Almost 30 years later I have since learned to DULL my feelings in a number of ways, but that's another story.

The second time I was moved to tears this week was yesterday morning when, at our company worship service (what a perk of the job!), Psalm 42 was read. The scripture alone moved me to tears. I mean real water-dripping. That was an answer to the almost-30 year old prayer.

The first time I cried this week was occasioned by our Little Girl, who is now in college. We visited her at her college apartment 45 minutes away, then went out to lunch with her, her brothers, her Drew, and her nephew. At lunch she announced that her last presention in her speech class was to be a tribute. I sensed where she was going with this and would have been disappointed had I been wrong. I wasn't disappointed. Kimberly said "I have to back it up with resources, so you'll probably be getting a phone call." Then she turned to Laura, her mother, and said "I'm doing it on you." That's when the tears started. Even now they're welling up again. You see, I know my wife. I know her faults better than probably anyone. But I also know how deserving she is of this tribute.

I got the phone call the next day. Kimberly said she was going to speak about her mother's forgiveness, compassion, and giving heart. She wanted me to comment on forgiveness. I won't tell you everything I said, but mainly I tried to convey that forgiveness was not only a ready quality in Laura (from which I have benefited greatly) but that it is a quality she has inspired in others, including me.

And as I write I am reminded of that Bible passage in the letter to the Hebrews (10:24). I keep quoting it these days: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Perhaps Laura doesn't consider, but she definitely spurs. That's why she's a Real Star to me and to her kids.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Real Stars

Started re-reading Eugene Peterson's Run With the Horses this morning (as if I'm not already reading enough books). He begins the book lamenting how badly we live. "Not so wickedly, he says, "but so inanely. Not so cruelly, but so stupidly." He goes on to say "We have celebrities but not saints. Famous entertainers amuse a nation of bored insomniacs." This book was written in 1983! How much truer is it today than it was even then? We don't even apologize for entertainment celebrity anymore. We accept it, indulge it, draw (phony) strength from it.

I don't want to lump well-spoken, well-meaning, mission-oriented, Spirit-filled (let it mean whatever it means to you) Christian celebrities with the vapid celebrity of image, but I am grateful for people in my life who can be real stars without celebrity. And I'm grateful for "conversations" at Emergent with regular folk trying to figure out and live this Jesus-following life.

Jeff and his wife, from right here in the Nashville area for, instance. I approached Jeff in the bathroom (I have no shame) and asked about his church community. Jeff and wife (don't remember her name) are not your traditional Southern Baptists, but true to their SBC heritage, they are mission-oriented. Jeff's frustrated with empty tradition (not that tradition is necessarilly empty), and for his frustration and conviction he's been ousted from his congregation.

But from that bathroom conversation (and the outside-the bathroom-conversation with his wife and two friends) we had said enough to set a breakfast appointment for the next morning. Jeff didn't want to talk about his ousting congregation. He was concerned about the Scripture conversation in the learning community. I hadn't experienced that Scripture discussion yet, but it concerned Jeff. It seemed a litttle TOO open for his taste. If the church is emerging, to what is it emerging? And what is our touchpoint of authenticity, of Christian integrity? If Scripture is not that (I think it largely is), what can we rely on?

I won't bore you with my thoughts on the topic. I'll save that boredom for a later post. This one is about the joy of conversation with Jeff. Since we're local, I'm hoping we can get together to hash this stuff out together.