Sunday, March 26, 2006


I've been listening to the emergent podcast and thoroughly enjoying the replay of the theological conversation with Mirosalv Volf. Good stuff, but too much to take in the first time, so it's good for a slow processor like me to hear it all again. One of the things said that I've been working on for a while is that I am not a Christian because I hold the Truth but because I am held by the Truth.

who is god.
what is god doing in the world.
how is god achieving this.

who are we.
where are we going.
how are we supposed to get there.

connecting the two.
what should we ultimately trust.
how should we order our trusts, provisional and ultimate.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Serving vs. Working

I have been thinking about what it means to serve as opposed to work and how that ties into our definitions of leadership. There have been a lot of books writting and conferences attended on the issue of leadership, but we really don't need to look any farther than Jesus to figure out what it means to lead through service. As the ultimate leader with people following him some 2,000 years past his death, he pretty much show us all we need to know. (see my reflections on John 13 as my definition of serving)

I know those who define leadership as the ability to determine direction for a group of people. That's part of it, to be sure, but only part. You can work your tail off to make a group of folks function successfully but if you're not serving them in a loving way, your work will be in vain (see 1 Cor. 13).

This is an especially important distinction to recognize in working with folks in a ministry setting. If one person is working and another serving, there will be conflict and disrespect.

Friday, March 17, 2006


This year as I was praying about what my personal Lenten observance would be, I got an interesting message. Some years I've done nothing. Some years I've done a complete media fast. I've never tried to give up chocolate, because, let's face it - it just so happens that Lent coincides with Cadbury Creme Egg season and to me, those are truly the nectar of the gods.

The message I received from God was that this year Lent would be about creating habits, not about giving things up, and that the focus would be on reconciliation. I wish God were this clear all the time; things would be easier.

It should be no surprise, then, that the past week has seen the disintigration of one of the dearest friendships I have known over the past 4 years. I don't know what to do. I have begged and pleaded with this friend for dialogue and reconciliation and he refuses. I have prayed and asked friends to pray, and he will not budge. Clearly this is something God knew about when he started me on this journey and I am not amused. I am at a loss for what to do. I am fighting my natural tendency to aruge and be right. I am wanting to fix things and I can't. I am putting this request out to the universe because all prayers are welcome.

I would also like to hear of other Lenten experiences and know and about the battles going on out there so I can pray for you.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Making room for the strangers in our midst

To take up our Lenten practice this year in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we face a unique challenge in this call to make room for God. In recent months and in different parts of the world, we have seen the escalation of strong sentiments against immigrants. These sentiments appear to be mounting in our own country as well. How might our various Lenten practices such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, our effort to empty ourselves so as to make room for God, relate to the complex reality of immigration, especially in the face of increasing hostility toward immigrants? Pope Benedict XVI's first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est ("God is Love") is helpful to us here. Writing on love as the heart of the Christian faith, our Holy Father says:

...if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be devout and to perform my 'religious duties,' then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely 'proper' but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me...Love of God and love of neighbor are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment...No longer is it a question, then, of a 'commandment' imposed from without calling for the impossible, but...a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others (Deus Caritas Est no. 18).

To the question: "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus' answer is clear. As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the Church. This Lenten season, join me in committing our Lenten practices to making room for the stranger in our midst, praying for the courage and strength to offer our spiritual and pastoral ministry to all who come to us, offering our prayer and support for the ones in our midst who, like Jesus, have no place to rest their heads (Matthew 8:20).

- Cardinal Roger Mahony, Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, in his Lenten message, "Making Room."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lent Expressions

Hi there - I'd love to hear from some of you about what's going on for you for Lent? What are some observances you are practicing? How are your churches celebrating? What are some ideas you all could share?

My friend Sam Andress has some great stuff you all should read. Check it out @

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Christ As Pursuer

I am a recovering Southern Baptist. Often in Baptist World, you'll hear the phrase "accepting Jesus as your personal savior." This is basically code for an arrangement you make with God to go to heaven when you die. Contrast that with the idea of making Jesus your personal teacher. Trusting Jesus with your life is believing that the things he said about living are right.

Many of these deal-closing conversations include the familiar question, "What would happen if you died tonight?" But I would like to know, what would happen if you didn't die tonight - what would your life look like tomorrow? It seems like a better question would be, "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal teacher?" There is a distinction between an arrangement you make to go to heaven when you die and a relationship that makes a difference in how you live.

As humans we like to legalize things and take what Jesus said and see them as rules he was laying out for us. Most often, he wasn't doing that so much as speaking against conventional wisdom and defining the kingdom. Again, not laying out rules, but giving guidance that require our own discernment (sermon on the mount)

The Hebrew education system illustrates what it meant for Jesus to be a Rabbi, talking about the 3 phases.
1. Beth Shefer - boys age 6 - 10
2. Beth Talmud - boys age 10 - 14 - you had to be good, know the OT, etc., to get in and become a talmudim. If you didn't get in at this point, you were sent back home to learn the family business
3. Beth Midrash - if you were the best of the best you got in here, you would pick a rabbi with whom you wanted to study and then beg and interview to study with him. If you were accepted by him you took on his yoke, or teaching. It was beneath the dignity of a rabbi to solicit students - students had to beg to be accepted.

Jesus went to James & John and said "Follow me." This was totally against the culture and tradition because Jesus went to guys who had flunked out of Hebrew school and were told they weren't good enough and to go home and work for their dad. Then he went out soliciting students as a Rabbi, which wasn't done. Jesus went about finding the ones that were told they didn't measure up, and going against what was considered dignified for a rabbi and asking people to become his students.

(this was all gleaned from a sermon John Ortberg gave @ Menlo Park Presbyterian Church)

What if we lived differently?

Ok, so I've succumbed to the temptation to post some thoughts and see what kind of response I'll get.

John 13:1 - 11

Last night I watched my recording of Tony Campolo on the Colbert Report. It was not necessarily good television, in that Tony isn't so much a tongue-in-cheek kind of guy, but it was good in that he is the kind of guy that isn't intimidated by pretty much anyone. He sat there on Comedy Central and talked about how different the world would be if we all took the words of Jesus seriously. Not something you often hear on Comedy Central, but I appreciated it.

I've been stuck in the beginning of John 13 because I've found it newly perplexing on many levels. Here are the first few verses:

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table,a took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

The things I'm finding interesting are first the phrase "he loved them to the end." Other translations say, "he showed them the full extent of his love." I find that interesting that that phrase is used here and not other places, say, the crucifixion. Keep that in the background for a minute. Verse 3 is the kicker for me right now because basically what it's saying to me is that Jesus had a strong sense of identity and mission and was therefore able to show the full extent of his love by engaging in the lowest act of servitude. Interesting note in verse 2 - Judas was already set to betray and Jesus knew it, yet he washed Judas' feet. The institutional church in our culture is all about big things, all about spiritual "personalities," all about the next major trend, etc. I think that is largely because we don't know who we are or what we're called to do. We are totally the sheep who've gotten so busy about grazing because we think we need to be "fed" that we've wandered away from the shepherd and now we're just sitting there.

This passage is one of the reason that my friend Kenny says that John 13-17 is the most dangerous passage of scripture: it challenges our comfortable cultural Christianity. If we really were secure in who we are, what we're supposed to be doing and where we're going to end up, it would be no problem for us to wash feet, be gracious, love people to the end, even when we know betrayal is inevitable. Doing something big, being known, etc., is just not what we're about. It's so alluring, but it's ultimately and empty experience. The question we should be asking is not, "what can I do to get myself noticed?", but rather, "how can I love better?"

So I would ask myself, am I ready to do the lowest thing without ever being appreciated? Frankly, I don't think I am. I want people to think that I'm gifted and value my contributions.

This story seems to me to be the gospel in a nutshell. The church in America seems to have reduced the gospel to information that is to be disseminated for the purpose of recruiting people to attend our own central gathering.

I write this on the first day of Lent, just to remind myself of the chain of events that follows this story.