30 May 2008

The Eternal Appetite of Infancy

From G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy:

. . . it might be true that sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grow-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes daisies alike; it may be that God makes ever daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy, for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

27 May 2008

Introducing Jesus . . .

Christ Church Macomb

Over two years ago, John Laster and I birthed a vision to the Rochester Church to begin a multi-site approach for reaching lost, disenfranchised, disillusioned, marginalized people.

That vision is now a reality.

Last week the leadership team finished sharing their life journey's with each other (genograms).

Here's a photo of most of the team celebrating this milestone.

One of the great joys of ministry is seeing a blank sheet of paper turn into a formidable ministry. CC:M's site pastor, Andy Harrison, did a great job this weekend handling the teaching time. I can't wait to see what God is going to do through this team.

23 May 2008


Today is a day in which I'm actually glad to be training for the Motor City Sprint Triathlon coming up in less than a month. This morning I went for a nice, long run and I've felt great all day. Running does that to me for some reason. I know some people hate it . . . some days I hate it. But most days, after I make it past the first ten minutes, I get into a rhythm, and let my mind drift off to theological debates, the Tigers chances of making the playoffs, is Chauncey Billups going to start to dominate the Boston series, a new course I'm teaching in Uganda this summer, who did I forget to call last night, how did I drop that ball at first base last night in our softball game?

And usually, around the 30 or 50 minute mark, after time with Bruce or Bono is finished, I take a nice long walk. Occasionally I get the proverbial "runner's high" . . . most times, I just feel at peace.

We are flesh and spirit, body and soul. Running keeps me connected and whole.

21 May 2008

Women in Leadership

Kara and I spent time at the Chicago History Museum last week during our two day stay in Chi-Town.

This button was part of the display case in the Roman Catholic section of the museum. The button is quite brilliant I think.

I find myself resting in this commentary by James Francis and his depiction of Jesus as the successful "nobody."

“Jesus was born in an obscure village. . . .He never wrote a book. He never held an office. . . . [Yet] all the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, all the parliaments that have ever sat, and all the kings that have ever ruled, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth like this one solitary personality.”

17 May 2008

Bob Russell, former long-time pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky will be preaching at Rochester Church in all three services tomorrow. If you live in the metro area, come out to hear a man of integrity and passion.

16 May 2008

The Great Fire

In 1871, the city of Chicago suffered a devastating fire. By the end of the destruction, almost two-thirds of the city proper had been destroyed. Likely a case of an urban myth run wild, early reports pointed to a poor Irish woman as the one responsible. A poor, immigrant Catholic (the perfect criminal in the political milieu of late nineteenth century Chicago), Catherine O’Leary was the first reported perpetrator. The Chicago Tribune reporter who “leaked” this information would later retract.

Several theories now remain regarding the person responsible for the great fire. Yet, the most interesting element to me regarding the story is the reason the city burned down in the first place. Before Chicago became the “windy” city, it was known as the wooden city for its streets, buildings, factories, and homes were primarily made of a substance that could be destroyed in an instant. Chicago was made of wood and it would soon learn the fallacy of constructing an entire community/existence upon a fragile source.

I find this to be a great metaphor for our cultural situation regarding Christianity and the Church. Made of wood (science= God), our western religious cities are slowly burning. Architects from all over the world are now coming to this city to a) diagnose the cause of the fire (i.e. the failures of modernity) and b) create new possibilities and paradigms within our given context.

This is not to say that the “wooden city” was evil, bankrupt, or false. Rather, it is to recognize the limitations as well as the possibilities now for the future.

You can’t have a resurrection without a crucifixion. Some see the decline of Western Christianity as tragedy. I see it as an opportunity to raise up a new kind of church.

09 May 2008

Mere Discipleship Part Deux

A few years ago, Lee Camp wrote a provocative (and slightly controversial!) book, Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World.

In short, this book is an introduction to a "a different way" of doing/practicing Christianity: the committed practice of non-violence and reckless love. Brazos Press has done a second printing which will be out in a few weeks. This book has had a major impact in evangelical circles, as well as broader Christian groups.

Not long ago, for example, I got an email from a pastor in Southern California from an Episcopal church who was trying to teach Mere Discipleship to his church in a class on mission.

I am honored to have written The Study Guide for Mere Discipleship with Lee last year. Not only was Lee one of the most influential professors during my tenure at Lipscomb (Hazelip School of Theology), I also consider him a good friend, a source of wisdom and wise counsel.

Someone recently asked me, knowing how polemical the book has been, "Do you agree with what Lee is proposing in this book?"

Here's my (not so) simple answer.

I don't agree with everything in the book. Most of it, yes, I think he's right (why I think he's right and what I don't agree with are for another day and perhaps another venue). However, I know this for sure. His challenge to American Christianity is one of the most important voices in contemporary dialog. He's a prophet of sorts, and I have a clearer picture of The Jesus Way because of his writing, teaching and, most importantly, the way in which he lives his life.

Shane Claiborne has this to say about Mere Discipleship.

"What a book. This is one of those books that you wear out carrying around, marking up, and loaning out. Camp's words are timeless, and timely. And the crazy thing is this: the church is actually ready to hear them. In post-Religious Right America, there is an entire generation that is not willing to settle for the dream of America over the dream of God. There is a hunger for a Christianity that is not just something we believe but something we live and embody, a church filled not just with believers and worshippers but with disciples. Lee Camp points us towards a Christianity that is worth believing in."--Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution, coauthor of Jesus for President

Read the book. It will mess you up.

Spiritual Food

Two good friends recently shared this article with me. It's a great description of the relationship between the Lord's Supper and serving the poor.

Sara Miles describes the significance the holy meal has had in her spiritual maturation. A former atheist, Miles describes the Lord’s Supper as the place where the esoteric, ethereal, and abstract notions of Christian belief are defeated by the truth that Christianity has always been a religion based upon tangible practices. Describing her first communion, she writes, “Faith turned out not to be abstract at all, but material and physical. I’d thought Christianity meant angels and trinities and being good. Instead, I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the despised and outcast are honored."

There's food and then there's

07 May 2008

The Color of Water

A few months ago, I mentioned the best-selling book The Color of Water. As I prepare to teach and preach this weekend, I've been drawn back to this amazing story and the way in which it connects with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

About ten years ago, James McBride wrote a book about his mother that captured the hearts of many Americans. The book, The Color of Water, is his tribute to his mother who raised twelve children on her own in the Red Hook Housing Projects in Harlem, New York City. “As a boy . . . James knew his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she’d simply say, ‘I’m light skinned.’ Later he wondered if he was different, too, and asked his mother if he was black or white. ‘You’re a human being,’ she snapped.”

On another occasion, after a rousing experience in church, James asked his mother if God was white or black. “God is a spirit . . . neither. God is the color of water.”
When James was 14, his stepfather died. His biological father, a devout Christian who stared the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Harlem which still stands today, died while his mother carried him in her womb. The death of two husbands sent his mother into a state of chaos. She coped by riding her bike all over Harlem. While most drove cars, took the bus, hopped on the subway, she decided to ride her red bike through the busy streets of America’s biggest city. “The image of her riding that bike bicycle typified her whole existence to me. Her oddness, her complete nonawareness of what the world thought of her, nonchalance in the face of what I perceived to be imminent danger from blacks and whites who disliked her for being a white person in a black world. She saw none of it.”

The Color of Water is the story of his mother’s life—a story of a rabbi’s daughter (she was Jewish ethnically but later became a bible believing Christian because of the acceptance she experienced in the black Christian community), born in Poland, raised a southerner, abused by the men in her life, only to escape to New York City to make a new life for herself and her children. In the end, all twelve of her children attended college: they became doctors, lawyers, teachers, and psychologists. From the projects to Harvard, their mother’s eccentric ways and unrelenting love pushed them to seize all that life offered. In retrospect, all of her children realized that their mother’s love was like the power of the moon. “It’s what made the river flow, the ocean swell, and the tide rise, but it was a silent power, intractable, indomitable, and thus completely ignorable.”

05 May 2008

Education and Spirtual Formation

Saturday’s graduation at Rochester College was an interesting event. I sat and watched student after student (some I know well, others seeing for the first time) receive their diploma. Near the very end, a young handicap female student came onto the stage. All of the sudden, the room changed. The meaning of the day became all together different. She carefully controlled her wheelchair and with a deep smile accepted the diploma she’d worked tirelessly to attain. And she graciously accepted the rousing applause offered by the audience.

I often forget what a privilege education is. For a young minister just beginning his doctoral work, it was a powerful reminder that each person is their own “story”—presented with challenges, questions, and obstacles unique to their own circumstances. Some folks are dealt a relatively easy “hand.” That would be me. Others are dealt a hand of hardship and adversity. And, yet, many find a way to take on the strength of that which they overcome.


My small group is doing an intense study on “spiritual disciplines” right now. There seems to be a great deal of buzz around the phrases “spiritual formation” and “spiritual disciplines.” As one of my friends pointed out, this is not the same discussion as conversations of old regarding sanctification, holiness, and morality. This is an attempt to historically connect with the practices that have stood the test of two thousand (or more) years.

The formation stream has many tributaries.

  • Holiness: Having pure thoughts, words, actions, and overcoming temptation.
  • Contemplative: Spending time with God in prayer and meditation.
  • Social Justice: Helping the invisible among us.
  • Charismatic: Nurturing and exercising my spiritual gifts by the power of the spirit.
  • Evangelical: Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and reading the Scriptures.
  • Incarnational: Unifying the sacred secular areas of my life while showing forth God’s presence.

Over the next few months, our group is going to spend two weeks reflecting and responding to our study of each stream. For the next two weeks, we’re focusing on the “contemplative stream.” Silence, breath prayers, devotional reading and personal written prayers will be our focus.

Confession: I’m strong in the “social justice” and “Incarnational” streams but struggle in the “charismatic” and “contemplative” (unless academic reading counts) areas.

How about you?

02 May 2008

This week, I'm following two great discussions. One has to do with how we interpret the Bible in a complex culture. The other is about "a guy going to see about a girl"--to use a line from a recent American classic film.

01 May 2008

. . . A Marathon Ain't So Bad

As I've noted in prior posts, my brother and I are training for a triathlon this summer. As a gesture of full support and solidarity, my dad e-mailed this story to us yesterday. All the sudden, a marathon is looking pretty tempting.

Great White Killed Triathlete

An L.A.-based shark expert, examining two tooth fragments extracted from the body of a 66-year old triathlete, confirmed a 15-to-16-foot great white killed the man off the coast of San Diego last week, according to the Associated Press. While training in Solana Beach, David Martin was lifted out of the water by the shark, pulled underwater, resurfaced to scream “shark,” and went under again.

The shark quickly fled. Several other swimmers pulled the victim to shore, but it was too late. The retired veterinarian quickly died of blood loss from the massive injury that crossed both legs. Scientists theorize that the shark mistook Martin’s black wetsuit for a tasty sea lion. A member of the Triathlon Club of San Diego and 40-year resident of the area, Martin was a dedicated athlete, frequently using the beach for training.

Click here to read the rest of the story.