Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cynicism: Highs and Lows

Continuing from "Cynicism: Broken Wisdom."

Joseph, of Technicolor fame, seemed to get the idea that human wisdom is broken and that no human can imagine God’s wisdom. He exemplified the humility of a man whose wisdom was broken. When the Pharaoh called Joseph, saying, “I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it,” Joseph replied, “It is beyond my power to do this.” (Gen 41:15; cf. Dan 2:27)

What can we know? Can we live wisely at all? The existential despair of this position seems unbearable. Am I doomed to stupidity, indeed, insanity? Gloriously, no! I was reminded of a great promise. How had I forgotten these verses I had memorized in junior high? “If any of you lacks wisdom, let his ask God, who gives freely to all without finding fault, and it will be given him” (James 1:2). Paul affirms that we humans are not doomed: “No one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit, … so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” And “those who are spiritual can evaluate all things…. We understand these [truths from God’s Spirit], for we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:11-12, 15-16). Joseph, too, seemed to understand this. After he admitted that he could not himself interpret the Pharaoh’s dream, he said, “But God can tell you what it means” (Gen 41:16; cf. Dan 2:28, 30).

The Pharaoh, upon hearing Joseph’s interpretation, is advised to “find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge” (Gen 41:33; cf. Isa 29:14; 1 Cor 1:19). Cue Joseph. The Pharaoh, impressed by Joseph, says, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God? Clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are” (Gen 41:38-39).

So now I’m hearing two different things: As a fallen man, my own wisdom is broken, and I cannot grasp at God’s; as a man being redeemed, I “have the mind of Christ,” enabling me to “understand the truths of God’s Spirit” and to “evaluate all things.” In one extreme, I’m so low and broken that I’m unable to distinguish anything good or bad. In the other extreme, I’m raised to such ability that I can make every judgment.

How do I reconcile these two extremes? How do I live this out practically?


Monday, February 25, 2008

What is it with winning?

I am in a big losing streak right now.
Both of my soccer teams are on 3 game losing streaks.  I occasionally play on some Sundays and last night we got smoked by a bunch of high schoolers.  (I recognize some of these kids from substitute teaching so maybe they were motivated to get revenge from the test I handed out on Thursday!)  The previous game my team was clearly superior and clearly was playing selfish and clearly got beat.  I also lost the Oscar contest at a friend's house last night.  Although I showed up late (which had me in the hole) I couldn't pick a winner for the life of me until I rattled off 6 in a row. 
In watching the Oscars I noticed there are significant more "losers" than "winners."  One person "wins" something at the expense of others losing.  My team loses at the expense of the other team winning.  In the larger realm one team will win the league and all the other teams will loose. 
Why is it that winning is defined from the perspective on the end? 
It is like the modern view of salvation that says the winners and the losers are separated at the end, when people are divided between heaven and hell. 
Why can't we "win" now?  Why can't people experience salvation how?  Why is salvation only official when in the end we are given an Oscar to hold?
If winning is more than a final result and a prize given than maybe I'm not on a losing streak.  Perhaps I "won" our game last night because I was able to celebrate the gifts and skills God has endowed me with.  Perhaps I was victoriously because I played well with my teammates.  Perhaps I was the conqueror of the Oscar contest because I shared fellowship with friends and enjoyed the joy of laughter and community.
Guess I'm a winner.  :)

Relationship Advice

If you are single and need relationship advice check out www.danlugo.com.  More proof that the best, brightest and most clever American Puerto Rican independent musicians from Florida who read Dr. Seuss and Robert Weber go to Northern Seminary 

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cynicism: Broken Wisdom

Continuing from "Cynicism: Name It and Claim It."

I was thinking about my critical attitude when I read 1 Cor 4:6: “If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another.” For me, I’ve realized that the leader I am proud of is an ideal I’ve set up in my imagination; I’ve set up a glorified ideal Christian leader (and community) and criticized everyone by measuring them against that.

In some ways, that ideal is a projection of myself, proud and pathetic as that is. (I suspected as much in my last post: [believing I have license to criticize everything] is a few small steps from setting myself up as the standard . . . and the judge . . .) Maybe not the person I am now, but who I think I could be if I truly lived by my values and beliefs. As I compare, I do this “at the expense of another,” judging them and finding them lacking some essential by measuring them according to my fallen concept of perfection. But my ideal is a nobody, nonexistent, unreal.

But Paul offers some hope, that “if [I] pay attention to what [he has] quoted from the Scriptures,” I could possibly avoid this proud pitfall and a subsequent judgmental attitude. In the chapters preceding this verse, Paul does in fact quote a number of passages: Isa 29:14; Jer 9:24; Isa 64:4; 40:13; Job 5:13; Ps 94:11. In all these verses, we might find a common theme: Human wisdom is broken, and no human can imagine God’s wisdom.

Here I'd used my own imagination to create some clever ideal, but these truths blow that apart. The Scriptures he's quoted certainly accomplish Paul’s purpose: so “you won’t be proud.” Not only am I wrong to establish myself as judge, but the ones I am judging are in this boat with me. There's nothing for me to be proud of. Together in our community of stupidity, we decide what’s cool or valuable or true or legitimate (is this “culture”?), but even if we set about to think it through carefully, our wisdom is broken. Even if we set about to imagine what God’s values are, we can't.

Paul seems to back me up: “It matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.”

With broken wisdom and impotent imagination, can I even obey Paul’s instruction to “question everything” and “keep the good”?

Continue . . .

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Laundry 101

This month is black history month.  At the school I sub at they have a quote a day.  I liked today's quote:
"Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color."
I agree with the spirit of the quote.  I disagree that laundry needs to be separated by color. 
Future college students everywhere take note of this simple advice.  You just need to know two things:
1) Cold water wash
2) Cold water rinse
If you do that than you can mix the colors up like a bag of Skittles.  I have heard this does not get the clothes as clean.  However, realize the important word as.  This means the clothes still get clean, they just don't meet some uber-Tide-commercial-whiteness-standard of cleanliness. 
These thoughts logically lead me to the church.  :)
The popular quote is that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.  In talking with fellow seminarians and friends many of them admit they find it hard to imagine a segregated church.  One confessed to me that she thought it was better to just worship in our isolated communities because it was so much easier and created less problems. 
I couldn't disagree more.  Many Churches will worship in all white (or Asian, black, Latino, etc..) congregations because of their geography.  My home church in Michigan couldn't be racially segregated because we didn't have racial diversity in the community.  However, where there is the opportunity to worship in diversity we must seek it.
Worshiping in diversity brings us to an awareness of the creative beauty God bestows on all people.  Diversity helps us celebrate our uniqueness and gives us opportunity to learn from each other. 
Let me use the laundry metaphor some more.  I don't mean to use the words light and dark in a derogatory or offensive manner.) 
If "light" clothes and "dark" clothes are going to worship together we will have to start with some "cold water" rinsing and washing. We will have to learn how to worship together with gentleness (the gentle cycle).  But cold water and the gentle cycle can only get us so far.  This cycle has it's time and place.  But we want to use hot water, we want to use water that will get us to that uber-Tide-commercial-whiteness-standard of cleanliness.  That level that will get us closer to God.  Why settle to be "as clean" when we can be fully clean?
When we use hot water to wash and rinse the colors will start to bleed and mix and appear ruined.  But what might appear to be a loss of identity on the outside is really a deepening of our individual mosaic.  We might loose a little bit of our identity but in that process we gain the identity of the other.  What looks like a mess to the world is the most fashionable thing to God. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Christ is not Sympathetic.

Adam wasn't the only one convicted at that conversation. Let's be a little more honest! Sarah said, "You guys (both of us) are cynical."

I'll be the first to admit that I'm pretty cynical. I remember in my sophomore Advanced American History class my friend had just learned what the word "pessimist" meant. He was quick to tell me I was a pessimist. He was like a little kid who just learned a new word and he delighted in labeling me. I delighted in telling him to quit talking because I was sick of listening to his voice (I know, I'm so kind!)

I think our generation is inherently cynical. Our parents lived during a time where education and hard work could provide financial and family stability. They grew up with the values of the 50s and in a world where things were somewhat secure.

But they also grew up during the time of the World Wars and human failures. Thus we were birthed into a time where families split up, there is no authority in Christianity, violence in schools is typical, violence overseas is the norm, one educational degree means you just have one, and the minute you get a job it could be outsourced to India. Our President's have lied, our athletes cheated, and even reality TV is scripted.

Overall we are a generation of cynics. We find it difficult to trust. If I am speaking too broadly I apologize, perhaps I am projecting my feelings too generally. But I think I would find some sympathizers.

I am challenged because I find no sympathy for cynicism in Christ.

I find that cynicism is diametrically opposed to the kind of hope that Christ ushers into humanity. Despite our failing and sin there is a reality to live in that is not of this world. A reality that came (Jesus incarnated as sent by the Father) is here (as witnessed by the Holy Spirit), and is yet to come (the culmination of history, when "Jesus returns").

That is the real reality. That Jesus redeems the brokenness of this world and calls us to live in the hope of love. Not a distant future hope but a budding hope that blossoms everyday.

Cynicism: Name It and Claim It

Recently a friend spoke to me as the voice of conviction. I had gone to IHOP with Mike and our friend Sarah. We were discussing things that we all deeply care about, things we want to see change, things that we hope for. In the conversation, I had drawn a conclusion with grave finality, punctuated by the silence as we all absorbed it, myself smug and unhappy. Sarah broke the silence with “You seem really cynical.” She wasn't being mean. I didn't feel judged. She said it like she was telling me how her meal tasted. Perhaps it is that I am someone for whom words are not taken lightly. Or perhaps it is that her words staked out a place for the truth where only an unspoken haunting had hung. I knew she was right—I was critical and cynical—and I didn’t like it.

One of my mantras is “Question everything. Keep the good” (1 Thess 5:21). I hold it high and proud as license to critically evaluate everything. The drawback is that this thinking is a few small steps from setting myself up as the standard by which I evaluate anything and the judge for all that I criticize. In this spirit, I can easily become focused only on the failures and miss the good things in what I’m judging. Another mantra I live by is the belief that “the danger is in the extremes.” While I’ve spent a lot of time questioning everything, I failed to balance that by “keeping the good.” My friend Sarah distilled all these convictions with her terse observation over pancakes, bacon, and orange juice at IHOP.

Since then, this conviction has taken root, and I’ve been struggling to find some direction or corrective. The question I’ve come to ask is “What’s the difference between being discerning and being merely critical or cynical?” Discernment seems to have a more positive, proactive nature, whereas criticism or cynicism only sees what is wrong. But beyond seeing what’s wrong, what else does discernment offer?

Continue with "Cynicism: Broken Wisdom"

Monday, February 18, 2008


I read Adam's post and felt compelled to write one as well.  I realize staring blankly at the blank Word document that compulsion is so agonizing.
I feel compelled to write something, to produce something, to give a token of thought to this blog.  Compulsion is effective, just like guilt is effective, to creating change.  But it is only effective for a short amount of time.  Guilt is like a New Years' resolution.  I have a cd Learning Spanish from my resolution two years ago and I don't know hardly any Espanol.  Last year I was going to memorize a Bible verse every week but that lasted only about 2 months. 
So guilt can drive me to write this blog post but not develop it anymore.  And you know what?  I'm not going to write anymore!  I'm just going to wallow in this guilt...
Hasta luego   :)

Paper Clip 3

The analogy of a paper clip certainly need not be confined to the discipline of prayer alone. The paper clip (oh small and unimportant paper clip!) could represent any number of spiritual disciplines that an individual incorporates into his or her life. Still, the bent posture of prayer and the openness, expectancy, and trusting implicit in the act of prayer are valuable pictures of how we might rightly approach any discipline we undertake—not for the value innate to any discipline, but for the infinite worth of the one for whom we undertake them.

It is an easy conclusion to draw that practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer makes us spiritual people or that doing so will bring us closer to God or make us holier or more righteous. Those things are possibilities, but not inevitabilities.

Mike’s “Paper Clip 2” post reminded me of an insight that revealed to me that I’d believed this falsehood. I trace it to Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. Actually, I’m not sure if it was his book at all, although my memory recalls it as such. Do you ever have that experience? Where you try to recount your memory through a book or a place only to find that it was nothing like you remembered, in other words, not nearly as good?

No matter, I found the passage that captures that informed my thinking about the purpose of spiritual disciplines: “By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done…. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.”

Think of it in terms of the paper clip. Laid out straight and proud, the piece of wire might masquerade as a key or suffice as a toothpick, but it was not made for that, and those other things do it better. Bent as it was meant to be, it is ready to be used for any two or more papers. Does its form ensure that it will be used immediately? No. But it is available and prepared for use when that purpose might arise. In the same way, spiritual disciplines like prayer prepare us. They make us ready to be used by God, in his time, at his disposal. But if we are not bent, we will not be ready. Certainly we could do other things, but we were not made to. John the Baptist knew what it meant to be bent.

He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!”

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fred Flinstone....backstabber.

I heard some funny stuff today because I was around my friends and they are funny people. 
This is the conversation.
Guy 1 "Isn't it kinda messed up that Fred Flinstone ate a big rack of meat?  I mean he worked on a Brontosaurus all day and then went home and ate a dinosaur.  How could he betray his co-worker-kind like that?"
Guy 2 "Well look at farmers, they work with cows all day and they eat hamburgers."
Guy 1 "That's not the same.  This is like a cowboy eating his horse."
Maybe you had to be there but I thought it was gold.  I just got a mental picture of the Lone Ranger barbecuing Silver over an open fire!  (If you dont' get that reference it is probably because you are cool.)
If you think Guy 1 is funny check out his blog: http://joshsabo.blogspot.com/

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Paper Clip part 2

One of the first things I do when I arrive to sub at school is look for paper clips.  Each class has handouts, tests, or work to turn in and it must be "sectioned off" in the folder.  Heaven forbid, if the 2nd period algebra worksheets get mixed in with the 5th period!
For me a paper clips represent boundaries.  Going out on a limb here...I think spiritual disciplines can be thought of as boundaries.  They keep us in right relationship with God.  They keep us balanced and aligned with God's work. 
Discipline has such a negative connotation, which is unfortunate.  The disciplines of prayer, fasting, fellowship, etc, aren't to be "endured" but rather celebrated. 
For Lent I too decided to take up the practice of prayer.  By not surfing the net, or purusing endless info. I am better able to free my time.  Now this was intially hard because I don't have a set time everyday where I "surf" the net. 
So after the first couple of days I was not very obedient in re-orienting my prayer life.  I found that I wasn't able to naturally subsitute my "surf" time for "prayer" time.  What I have done in response is set aside time for purposeful prayer.  I realize that by actually making an effort to pray it happens! 
Even though I freed up the time before it wasn't happening.  Why?  Cause prayer is hard.  Prayer doesn't happen in removing priorities.  Rather, prayer happens by making it a priority. 

Meditation on a Paper Clip

I push a lot of paper at my job. Thus, there are plenty of paper clips roaming about looking for work. I have a drawer full of them, big and small. I have one in front of me right now. I turn it over in my fingers as I’m reading at my desk. The paper clip is this simple little piece of wire bent three times into a useful tool.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I unbend a paper clip so that all I have is a long, straight metal…nothing. The only uses I can think of for a straightened paper clip are to pick a lock, pick your teeth, or poke through that little hole to reset your PDA. These are functions for sure, but even if you try to bend the metal back to form, it just is never quite the same.

I mentioned last week that during this Lenten season, prayer is one of the disciplines I’ve committed myself to. It’s going okay. I admitted to myself last night that I really don’t know how to pray much at all. I mean, I can do prayer and I can say some words and bless a meal, but I can’t pray for much more than 10 minutes. I confess that one inspiration for me is this general impression I have of some of the famous spiritual men and women of centuries past having spent long hours in communion with their Lord. Perhaps that betrays the truth most of all. I don’t know what it means to pray; I’ve idealized it. It all appears very spiritual until your sitting there, kneeling there, wondering, “Okay, now what?”

The man who inspires my prayer most is Daniel, of lion’s den fame. His story has taught me the few things I believe about prayer. That’s where the paper clip comes in. Like the paper clip, Daniel was bent at the knees, probably again at the waist, bowing before his God. He was not about his own goals, straightened out and useless. A man does not pray who has things to achieve. This bent posture of reverence showed Daniel to be available to God’s purposes, not because he prayed outwardly, but because inside his will was bent like a paper clip. His prayers were so regular, Daniel so committed, that even his enemies depended on them in their plans to destroy him (and they were proved right, or Daniel proved faithful, for he faced the lions as a result).

There is much more to heed from Daniel’s disciplines and practices—well worth your time. Prayer is still largely a mystery to me—in purpose, method, results. But for now, I think it suffices, and perhaps is God’s own clever means to his end, that I come like a paper clip, like Daniel, regularly, openly, honestly, determined, asking God, “Okay, now what?”

Continued here, then here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Note: This blog continues a series that started with Jesus:counterculture.

Jesus’ teachings baffle me sometimes. Consider a few scenes from his life.

First, in the temple. Jesus and the disciples are loitering about, when Jesus pauses. Look. Quick, look! The disciples scramble, looking about. What is Jesus pointing at? Where? There! That old woman? Yes! Why? She just gave her last two pennies. So? She gave her last two pennies. It was everything she had. (Lk 21)

Then in a home, while Jesus is eating, (Jn 12) a single woman, of no status in that day, brings some spendy Calvin Klein Eternity and douses Jesus’ feet in the perfume. Judas, of betrayal fame, couldn’t believe it: That was a year’s wages! That money could’ve gone to charity! But Jesus blows him off, “Leave her alone….You’ll always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”

So Jesus watches a poor, old widow give up everything and then accepts a year’s worth of cash poured on his feet?

In his famous “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus warns his audience, “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of the religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:20).

But on another day, Jesus is having lunch with these Pharisees and said, “You crush people with impossible religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Lk 11:46).

Jesus accuses the pastors and leaders of demanding too much from the Jews, but then he calls the people to even higher standards. Isn’t that hypocritical?

On another occasion, hoping to catch Jesus in a subversive mood, someone asks Jesus, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar of not?” Finally, let’s hear it straight from Jesus about the government.

You know the rest (Lk 20:20ff). Whose image is on the coin? So then give Caesar his money. Jesus the revolutionary isn’t sounding too rebellious at the moment. Strike that story for the cause. So what’s the deal? Is Jesus for or against the government?

Two more scenes. The first is the woman at the well (Jn 4). She was a Jewish half-breed and a slut. To her, Jesus offers a life worth living for, the “living water…giving [her] eternal life.”

The second is an obscure story (Mk 7). The woman is a Gentile, an outsider like the first woman but subject to less racism. “Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit, and she begged [Jesus] to cast out the demon from her daughter” (7:25-6). Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from [the Jews] and throw it to the dogs.” Yes, he was referring to her, a Gentile, a dog. (But see how it ends.)

This countercultural Jesus offers life to a half-breed no-status slut but disregards the needs of a humble Gentile widow. Was he only compassionate if you caught him on the right day?

Doesn’t Jesus make you mad? Not like angry mad, like insane mad (well, maybe that last one would make you angry mad too). He seems so evasive. At every turn, his words seem to contradict themselves.

This question of the countercultural Jesus strikes at deeper problems; these scenes paint a maddening, apparently contradictory, picture of Jesus. It’s not just a question of whether Jesus is countercultural but whether he lives by any principles at all. It’s about something more than (or other than) being subversive or countercultural. But what is Jesus about then?

Do you believe in Miracles?

I have about 15 minutes here at work and I don't have access to my Bible.  But I remember reading in Hebrews early this week about miracles.  It got me thinking about the lack (or our lack of what we call) miracles.

Al Michael's is famous for his often played quote, "Do you believe in miracles" when the United States hockey team upset the Russian giants during the 1984 Olympics. (I think that's right, I can't quite verify this stuff and lack of internet access makes it difficult!)  Was that a miracle?  An underdog hockey team full of college kids defeating the Goliath of international hockey?  Maybe.

Maybe a miracle is simply a surprise.  Or an anomaly.   Something  unexpected.  Something we didn't predict.  Better yet, something we didn't expect.

Our expectations tend to determine our reactions.  For instance, when somebody gets cancer we expect the worse.  Rarely do we expect healing.  And when healing does occur it is "miraculous!"   It shatters our expectations of what can happen, or what should happen. 

So perhaps miracles would be more prevalent if we re-orient our expectations.  Or better yet, if we don't have any!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The WikiBible!

Adams post made me think about how we read the Bible, how we "filter" the text.
About two months ago I heard Scott McKnight speak on this topic.  I don't remember the entire lecture but he was detailing how people study the Bible.  I recall two ways he cited people read the Bible.
1) The Hallmark Method:  Here we read the Bible for an encouraging word or clever phrase that will energize us for the day.  For example, we are feeling anxious so we read all the verses from our concordance that correspond with being anxious.  This isn't bad but it is problematic because it tends to subject the Bible to our repetitive state.  There is a good chance we might suffer from anxiety consistently and thus we devoid ourselves of rich material to read.
2) The "To Do" Method:  Here we read the Bible for instruction for how to live and act.  The Bible becomes a rule book that simply prescribes how to live. Of course the Bible does provide this for us but it is more than just a list of rules.  There is context, culture, characters that interplay with the practices and principles God sets out in the Bible.
McKnight suggested that we read the Bible in a Wiki method.  Like the popular website Wikipedia the Bible is a collection of information (that is a crude way to put it) that constantly changes each day because people can contribute to it. 
What McKnight means (what I think) is that the Bible takes a dynamic role in people's lives and forms them each day.  The "reader" participates in "re-writing" the text as they interpret it within their life.  The cool thing about Wikipedia is that it has to be legitimized in community.  Your interpretation must be confirmed and affirmed within the body of Wiki readers and gains validity as it is worked out in dialogue. 
None of that is my original ideas and maybe Scott has posted these thoughts on his blog.  Check it out, I can't think of the site but if you search "Jesus Creed Blog" it will come up! 

Sunday, February 10, 2008

God's words > RSS feed

Jumping off of Mike's thoughts. He wrote:

People live with "mental blinkers" that help them filter their experiences. Because of overload we let a lot of information pass through without noting its significance.

The danger is that we live with a short memory. We let the information hit us and than we discard it. Not because it isn't significant but because we are bombarded with so much information we need to prepare for the next wave.

I know I deal with this on a daily basis. Mike can attest. I'm constantly sending him links of articles to read, sometimes 3 or 4 in a day. I'm constantly sifting through my RSS feed for new valuable thoughts and ideas.

In a sad irony, one of the things I've committed to renewing during Lented season is meditating on the revealed words of God. For all the time I spend sifting through the ideas of men, I am spending nearly no time taking in the words that God would speak into my life. He's spoken, but I'm busy listening to other voices.

But even then, when I am reading God's revealed words, am I sifting through it for good content the way I do online magazines and blog posts? Would I email my friends, saying "read this!" or judge it worthless and move on to another feed?

I must practice reading it differently than I do when I filter through the internet content providers'. I must dwell there in the time and place set apart (made "holy") by the reading of the words God spoke. I must meditate, wandering through his words like a lost man looking around for any sign that will point him in the right direction.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Rememeber this Information!

If I had access to the Internet I would look up some statistic that cites how much information we are bombarded with everyday.  I'm sure it's a lot.
Much of this is due to our inter-connectivity.  75 years ago I wouldn't have access to the weather in Hong Kong or hear about the new CD my favorite band is going to produce.  I don't think that technology is bad, after all it enables me to write this post and some random guy in Texas to read it! 
I'm reading a lot about Urban Ministry and one author cites that people live with "mental blinkers" that help them filter their experiences.  Because of overload we let a lot of information pass through without noting it's significance. 
The danger is that we live with a short memory.  We let the information hit us and than we discard it.  Not because it isn't significant but because we are bombarded with so much information we need to prepare for the next wave.
I think that is true of our lives in Christ.  It is easy to forget God's faithfulness.  It is easy to forget God's grace.  It is easy to loose perspective.  It's hard to remember.  It's hard to pause.  It's hard to be steadfast.
But all it takes is a moment.  A moment to remember what God has done and will do.  And that change what we do. 
So our ordinary lives are transformed into extraordinary worship.  Through something as powerful as memory our simple acts, like sharing table fellowship, have cosmic power.
do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:25

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Jesus: counterculture

This is the second Adam. (No, not Jesus, although Adam might have a Messiah complex! Just kidding!) What I mean is this is Adam's second post. It's an insightful look into what it means to be a Christ follower in American culture. Enjoy!

I recently finished Niebuhr's Christ and Culture and am currently reading a new book, unChristian, which considers what Christianity's reputation is currently in young culture. In some ways, these two books are dealing with the same issues, the same issues that people have been dealing with since Noah stood alone before God as a righteous man, or perhaps even before that. More recently, Christ became the ultimate example of what it looks like when God interfaces with culture.

Some Christians, following their reading of Jesus, have chosen to distinguish themselves from their surroundings by taking the countercultural approach. In Niebuhr's terms, this paradigm is "Christ Against Culture," and their hero is Jesus the revolutionary. This is very much in vogue, as it is already in the larger culture. For example, Shrek is the counterculture of Disney and its modern retellings of popular fairy tales. The rise of the emo kid or the punk in contrast to the athletic jock is a victory for outsiders everywhere. In like fashion, some Christians have chosen to define themselves by what they're not. This is where unChristian chimes in its insights: the foremost concepts that come to mind when young culture thinks of the Christian faith are hypocritical, conversion-focused, antihomosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. Predominantly, these concepts are negative and define Christians by what they're aren't, what they don't, or what they're against. So, if countercultural is the target, we certainly appear to be succeeding.

Yet, I challenge this belief that because Jesus was countercultural, we should be also. I am not saying Jesus was not countercultural. He certainly disregarded social norms, religious traditions, and governing powers in dramatic fashion. But Jesus was countercultural in relation to a specific culture in a specific time and a specific place. Yet, because culture is always changing, we do not face the same culture that Jesus did. Certainly there may be some parallels, but by and large our cultural landscape is far different—economically, socially, religiously, politically, you name it. That Jesus was countercultural in that Jewish-Roman culture means only that. To say that Jesus is always countercultural in all cultures at all times and in all places is to misunderstand what motivated his intentional and specific disregard for authority.

What motivated him is much more exciting than simply the prospect of having the reputation of being a rebel.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow is Lent.
Today is Fat Tuesday.
What are you doing for 40 days? 
Me?  (Well thanks for asking)
I'm giving up Internet access for 40 days except e-mail.
This has meant the last 3 days have been spent paying credit cards in advance, making reservations, canceling online subscriptions, getting directions for trips weeks away, renewing library books, printing off soccer schedules, downloading articles I have to read for future classes.
I use e-mail to communicate with people so that is all I am going to use the Internet for.  I found a way to post via e-mail so that's what I'm going to do. 
Giving up Internet access and I'm substituting reading and prayer. 

24 turn 25

So I am at the mid-mid life crisis.  I turned 25 on Sunday.  Yeah, that's right.  I had a Super-Bowl-Birthday!  Jealous? 
I don't feel 25 years old.  In one vein I feel a lot older. 
In a lot of ways I'm fortunate and spoiled.  Not many people my age have had such a vast array of jobs and relationships.  Not many my age have my unique education or travel experiences.  But I don't highlight those things to bolster myself, rather it reminds me to be thankful.
On the other side of the spectrum, I'm not so fortunate or spoiled.  I think I have experienced some things that have aged me well beyond 25.  My cross-cultural experiences have brought me face to face with a lot of poverty, brokenness and pain.  Working at the hospital ushered me into places of death and despair.  I don't highlight those things for empathy, rather it reminds me that God goes deeper than pain.
The things that use to make me laugh, (Family Guy, the Simpsons, certain humor) doesn't anymore.  I don't think that is necessarily a lack of joy but my humor has matured.  I find joy and laughter in more intricacies in life.  Recently I really feel like God has just restored a sense of joy in my life, thanks to the people I'm around.
Still I don't feel 25 years old.  In the other vein I feel a lot younger.
My friends are getting married or are married.  I'll admit I'm just too selfish with my time to be prepared for marriage.  Other friends are having or have kids.  I have a hard time keeping track of my work schedule and fiances let alone worrying about raising a family!  I'm not ready for a full-time job and I still laugh when one of my friend farts. 
As for this next year I don't know what is going to happen.  In recent years I always have a concrete plan or timetable (1 year volunteer service, 8 month interim job, 3 month summer job, hospital work for 5 months, etc)  But now I am just walking forward without knowing. 
And I get a feeling that God is preparing me for something big.  I'm ready.  Bring it on.