03 September 2009
27 August 2009
26 August 2009
25 August 2009
Not known for their musical abilities, the Barton Family caught us off guard.They took classic Motown music (Seger, Motown, Madonna) and turned them into country songs about Josh and Kara. The highlight for me was John Barton's remake of a well-known Marvin Gaye song. The lyrics will give that song away.
Makes us feel so right . . . eous
Helps us walk in the light
Spiritual healing in the body (that's Christ's Body),
it's something that's good for us
Get up . . . Get up . . . lets all go to church
Wake up . . . wake up . . . cause Josh's preaching works.
A close second was Barton's re-do of a Madonna song called, "Like a Theologian" . . . here's an excerpt:
Like a theologian, quoting Brueggemann and N.T. Wright,
quoting Henri Nouwen, Barbara Brown Taylor,
Did I mention Brueggemann?
We're heading down the road in a few days for a new journey. We're taking the friendships and memories from Rochester Church with us to cherish every day. Ministry is a job almost impossible to explain. Because, in most ways, it's not a job, it's your life. It's people. Stories. Difficulty. Joy. Celebration. Disaster. And in the midst of all if it you forget that as you've been giving yourself away week after week after week, others have been doing the same for you and your family.
21 August 2009
17 August 2009
13 August 2009
Jeremy has been in the military for a few years . He's newly married (I performed the wedding incidentally) to a wonderful young woman. Military life's been hard on him. Without going into unnecessary detail, his stint serving Uncle Sam has challenged his core identity, outlook on life, and close relationships.
Andy wanted to do something life-giving (first century Christians might call this "gospel") for Jeremy. In the midst of this burden a brilliant idea was born.
Fresh off of a military tour in Afghanistan, Jeremy returned home to Midvale street in Rochester Hills--the house he grew up in, the same street where Andy lives. Andy got word of what was about to go down. So he got his three kids together and hatched a plan: They would hunt local dollar stores in hopes to find as many tiny American flags as they could get their hands on.
They ended up with hundreds of flags.
The next day, Andy and his family walked up and down the street telling neighbors about Jeremy's return from war. Every single neighbor agreed to honor him (I'm guessing . . . even some of those who oppose both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan) by placing flags in their yard.
I walk in the tension of nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism is blind loyalty to the country one lives in over and above all other value claims (like Christianity). This breaks my heart for I am convinced some Christians are more influenced by Rush Limbaugh than Jesus's own teachings in The Sermon on the Mount.
Patriotism is not nationalism. Patriotism is different. Patriotism honors what is good and just about a particular country (e.g. The Allied Forces liberating Jews from Hitler's concentration camps) without handing over one's identity to said country.
I am not a nationalist because I've given my life over to the life and teachings of a rabbi, God-ordained prophet from Israel. I am a patriot however. There are so many beautiful things to love about this country. Equally, there are so many skeletons yet to have been fully brought out of the closet. Patriots talk about the good and the bad . . . the blessings and the curses.
Back to the flags for Jeremy.
When he returned home for this brief visit, he pulled onto the street he knew best: Midvale. As he drove slowly he noticed hundreds of flags lined up and down the entire street on both sides. He realized, in that moment, the flags were for him. I have not talked to Jeremy but I'm willing to bet that it was the first time in a long time he felt as if his life mattered. People noticed. He was a human after all, not a mere killing machine. Jeremy knocked on Andy's door and said, in genuine gratitude, "Thanks."
The flags for Jeremy are one way to make someone feel whole, complete. Whether you are for the current wars or against them, never let your passion for your side supersede your conviction that soldiers are often the pawns of a much larger war.
The church stands poised to expose this truth. One flag at a time.
If this subject interests you, this is a thread that runs throughout my book, The Feast (coming September 1).
11 August 2009
1. Abilene Christian University's SUMMIT. Brady Bryce has done an excellent job in putting together a conference that blends the conversations in the larger Protestant world for the college campus.
2. ZOE Nashville. One of Kara's spiritual highlights, ZOE Nashville promises to be nourishing this year. We have a new format and some other surprises in store. I believe this conference will bless those present. Eric Wilson, Randy Gill, Greg Taylor et al have creatively put together an approach that will challenge and minister to people from a variety of perspectives.
3. Lipscomb's Conference on Preaching. Pound for pound, this is one of the best conferences on preaching/teaching in the evangelical world. David Fleer has put together another outstanding line-up (save me)--diverse in perspectives and background, unified in commitment to the ministry of Jesus.
I know these conferences well and am confident they will give you more energy in your pursuit of God.
08 August 2009
03 August 2009
01 August 2009
28 July 2009
Blood Done Sign My Name. Timothy Tyson’s story of growing up during the height of tension in the Civil Rights Movement. His father, a Methodist minister, stood for equality and dialog when it wasn’t popular or kosher.
The Elements of Style. A classic on the basics of writing well. It’s stood the test of time.
Writing to Change the World. A little bit of everything, this books dares you to imagine writing as a form of changing hearts and minds.
How Not to Speak of God. Written by a new favorite author (Rollins)—I love the way in which he holds the world in one hand, and the story of God in the other. If you are not into philosophy, don’t touch this book.
On Writing Well. Another classic, this is the gold standard for the basics of writing.
Bird by Bird. This book is written by Anne Lamott, need I say more?
This I Believe. A collection of short essays, This I Believe captures core principles people live their lives by in five hundred words or less. Excellent stuff.
An Altar in the World. Part-mystic, part post-modern description of spiritual disciplines—BBT has written another provocative book.
Justification. N.T. Wright’s latest work in which he responds to John Piper’s critique of his overall theology. Why Piper wants to spend his last best days of ministry going after Wright, I can’t understand. Piper represents a group of neo-Calvinists (which includes Marc Driscoll) who want to take on the emerging church and other post-modern expressions of Christianity (as if you can do church outside of culture). Scot McKnight sums up Wright’s work in a powerful way: “Tom Wright has out-Reformed America’s newest religious zealots—the neo-Reformed—by taking them back to Scripture and to its meaning in its historical context. Wright reveals that the neo-Reformed are more committed to tradition than to the sacred text.”
The Unlikely Disciple. The best surprise read of the summer, this memoir chronicles an Ivy League students’ journey to Falwell’s Liberty University. Fantastic read. A must for any young adult serious about their faith. Or any person seeking to minister to the young adult demographic. There's enough in this book to offend you, no matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum of church doctrine.
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Interesting book (in a line of other books put out by Zondervan) providing rich historical background per the Jewishness of Jesus. There are others, better written, but this is excellent popular level reading.
24 July 2009
21 July 2009
The Detroit News did a little story on the work we've been doing in Cass Park for the last four years.
19 July 2009
Others who study this story say that the Samaritan in this story represents the minority person/group in a given culture. The Priest becomes the “conservative Christian” and the Samaritan becomes the “gay man some love to hate.” Or the Levite represents the “rich” and the Samaritan is the “homeless woman in
Something deeper is going on in this story. One Jewish thinker has opened up this parable in drastic ways for me. She writes, “To understand this parable in theological terms, we need to see the image of God in everyone, not just members of our own group. To hear this parable in contemporary terms, we should think of ourselves as the person in the ditch and then ask, ‘Is there anyone from any group, about whom we’d rather die than acknowledge, She offered help or He showed compassion?’ More, is there any group whose members might rather die than help us? If so, then we find the modern equivalent for the Samaritan,” Amy Jill-Levine in The Misunderstood Jew (149).
17 July 2009
13 July 2009
Tiger Stadium sits at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in downtown Detroit.
Old as World War II, worn-down tennis shoes and my grandfather’s nylon mesh General Motors hat. In America, we know what to do with old things. At least we think we know what to do with things that pass their prime. We destroy them. We abandon them until they look shabby enough to justify our destruction.
“Build a mall,” we scream. “Some condos would look nice.” “We could put a highway right there,” says another. “What this city needs is a new skyscraper.”
The wrecking ball rips through the right field wall where all of baseball’s greats once stood. The ground near home-plate—where Cobb, Horton, Greenberg, Cash, Kaline, Gibson, Trammel, and Fielder planted themselves before launching little white balls to the moon— is desecrated because of a city council plan to make condos.
Something’s missing in Detroit. Life is concentrated around work and home. Mundane universes often revolve around job titles, salaries and what’s happening with a son’s third grade science project. This is not bad. Having a job that is meaningful is life-giving and increasingly rare in today’s economic climate. Focusing on one’s family is also good because it’s a core responsibility.
But we don’t have a lot of other places. Church used to be an other place. Starbucks poses as one though I doubt its longevity. Tiger Stadium is a sacred space to so many not merely because of the games won (and lost), the athletes, the drama, and the great hot dogs. Tiger Stadium is a space where, for a few moments on a warm summer afternoon, men not known for their ability to share hopes and dreams were able to hope and dream together. Something to cheer about. Something to grieve. Something to look forward to next year.
The wrecking ball tears the walls, fences, cement, structures of Tiger Stadium. They not only tear what is visible. They also tear the things that are invisible. And, of course, it’s the invisible that is often more real than the visible. It’s the invisible that lasts beyond any of us.
I don’t know the answer. I only know that when our other spaces go down, we are never the same. The park, the library . . . or even Tiger Stadium. When we destroy—whatever it is we destroy—we are never the same. Today, that’s what I believe.
09 July 2009
Tiger Stadium. As I write this, Tiger Stadium is slowly evaporating.
I remember sitting in the right-field bleacher seats with my grandfather and twin brother when I was twelve or so. The Yankees were in town to play the beloved home team, the Tigers. Throughout the course of the game, my brother and I derided the Yankee right-fielder wearing the number twenty-one which had been stitched into the back of his jersey.
“You’re not good enough to have your name on the back of your jersey,” we repeated over and over again. Passionate we were, knowledgeable we were not. It would be at least three more years before I learned of the Yankees tradition to omit last names on the back of jerseys as a nod to the significance of the name of the front of the jersey over and above the name of the back of the jersey. This is a lesson almost completely missing from the modern professional landscape in which baseball players have their names on their jerseys, gloves, and even (depending upon your status) engraved into the wristbands resting on one’s forearms.
On the way home, my grandfather delivered some important news. “Boys, do you know who plays right field for the Yankees?”
“No. All we know is that he does not have his name on his jersey so he must not be that good.”
“His name is Paul O’Neil. He’s one of the best hitters in the game today.” A silence fell over the car. A silence not too different from the silence of a principal entering a classroom in which the substitute teacher has had it, relinquishing all authority to The Principal.
“Oh,” was all I remember offering in response to my grandfather. I made a mental note to myself that I would, at least when it came to sports, do my homework before I would make grandiose claims. By the way, I recently went back and looked up O’Neil’s stats from this year—he won the A.L. batting title.
Humble pie. A big ol’ slice of it.
08 July 2009
06 July 2009
05 July 2009
During his class Rushford traced the history (Paul Harvey style) of well-known hymns. We followed his teaching by singing stanza's from each hymn.
I've noticed a shift in many of our students at Rochester College over the past few years. The ones who seem to be engaged on deep levels with the teachings of Jesus and his mission for them in the world--they are not satisfied with simply grabbing an emotional experience on Sunday morning. They view worship as part of their lives of confession. When they sing, for instance
O to grace how great a debtor.
Daily I'm consigned to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wonder, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above!
. . . these students are connected to all the lips who confess God's presence in the precise incarnation of these words. If the church forgets where she comes from she will be a widow in the present and an orphan in the future.
Rushford ended his class with this remarkable line, "When the church flaunts here contemporaneity and disavows her roots with the past, she often limps when she was called to run."
01 July 2009
1. Time with Otter Creek Church. Between meals with staff and elders, worship on Sunday, we felt a great sense of peace about the family we are joining and the mission of being the church together. I still have important work to do in Rochester over the next six weeks, but I'm eagerly anticipating joining the OC Leadership Team. I will be writing much more about this new adventure in the coming weeks and months.
2. Lowry Family. The Lowry Family hosted us while we were in town. They truly embody the gift of hospitality. My favorite moments were the passionate times of story in the family room while we devoured ice cream. The Lowry's vision for Lipscomb is palatable and exciting. I can't wait to see what the next several years look like at DLU.
3. Christian Scholars Conference. In addition to spending time with Otter Creek and house-hunting (more in a moment), I attended and participated in the Christian Scholars Conference. I'm biased, because Barbara Brown Taylor teaches where I'm doing my doctoral work, but her presentation on "The Power of Story in an Age of Twitter" was incredible. I have a writing class with her next week at Columbia Seminary. Needless to say, sending the pre-course writing assignments was the toughest e-mail I've sent in a long, long time.
I presented on a panel tackling the topic "Theological Education as Spiritual Formation." The discussion was lively and challenging. I'm still processing the implications of what it looks like for professors, in the words of Earl Lavender, to shift towards thinking of themselves as "missional coaches."
4. Tokens. Thursday night allowed us the space to finally be a part of Lee Camp's creative genius known as Tokens. Part Prairie Home Companion . . . part social commentary . . . set to incredible blue grass music . . . I describe Tokens as unassumingly subversive. Lee's interview with noted historian Hubert Locke was one of the highlights for me (Locke is from Detroit).
5. House Hunting. Let's just say we saw 31 houses. The house we got was the 31st house we walked through. Sara Barton was our arbitrator through this process. It was exhausting but worth it.
Soon, I'll write a blog about Jerry Rushford's class at Otter Creek Church on the role of hymns in our modern church experience. Powerful material.
22 June 2009
Kara's creative genius at work
You were born in a fascinating time, 2009. This is the year America swore in its first ever Black President. The Red Wings almost one another Stanley Cup and the Pistons learned how hard it is to replace a leader. North Korea is . . . well . . . being North Korea. Cold Play continues to dominate the music charts and television continues to put out better material than movies (when you are older I’ll tell you about a guy named Jack Bauer). Oprah still rules the world despite the fact that Al Gore invented the Internet. America is in the midst of two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan). Jay Leno is no longer the host of The Tonight Show. John Updike (famous writer), Chuck Daly (former coach of my favorite basketball team, the Detroit Pistons), Paul Harvey (America’s storyteller) and Hellen Suzman (Civil Rights advocate from South Africa) all died in 2009. It’s been an interesting year. What a time to be born!
I pray you will be a risk-taker. If you want to be a concert pianist, be the best concert pianist you can be. If you want to build homes in Trujillo, Honduras, be the best carpenter you can be. If you want to practice medicine, do so with every ounce of energy. Whatever you do, don’t play it safe or give in to the societal pressures to “have it all” and live the “American dream.” Whatever you do, do it as if you are doing it for Jesus himself. I promise to not be the dad who lives my dreams through you . . . Even if that means I give up sports to learn the intricacies of concert pianists.
I pray you will possess a deep humility. You are entering a world under siege. Evil and sin do not reside “out there” among “them.” Rather, the Bible teaches us that evil runs right through the middle of us. As you grow older, you will make mistakes. You will make choices that will hurt yourself and others. The more you own your secrets and scars the less your secrets and scars will own you. Jesus teaches us to be the same person in secret as we are in public. His brother was so moved by this teaching he told a group of Christians that “confessing sins to each other” was vital in the spiritual life (James 5:16). I promise to emulate this by sharing my own shortcomings with you.
I bless you today with every ounce of fiber inside of me. As you grow in God’s big world may you come to know that you will only find rest when you rest in God. May you become the person God dreamed you to be when he gave you to your mother and I. God’s gift to you is your life. What you choose to do with your life is a gift back to him. I will never be the same because of your presence in my life.
P.S. I know the "---" are not grammatically correct but it's the only way I could format the page for blogger. If blogger no longer exists by the time you are old enough to care, I tell you more about it.
20 June 2009
19 June 2009
Stephen King is arguably the most popular fiction writer in recent American memory. In his memoir/guide to becoming an effective writer, he warns the writer that might me tempted to shape their life around their craft instead of their craft around their life.
I suggest the metaphor works well for academicians, pastors, teachers, athletes, writers, and anyone else who tends to become addicted to their "craft" at the expense of those closest to them (something I regularly confess to . . . though I have to admit that since Lucas's arrival, I have done almost no serious writing and I'm perfectly content with that . . . for now).
King begins by talking about the massive oak desk that sat, for six years, in the center of his writing room.
For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind, like a ship’s captain in charge of a voyage to nowhere. King confesses the chaos that this led to, the sheer egocentric view of life that ultimately tore his personal and family life apart.
A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put it in a large living-room suite where it had been, picking out the pieces and a nice Turkish rug with my wife’s help. In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza. They usually left a boxful of crust behind when they moved on, but I didn’t care. They came, they seemed to enjoy being with me, and I know I enjoyed being with them. I got another desk—it’s handmade, beautiful and half the size of the T. rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave . . . It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.
See Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (
16 June 2009
You can listen to a dialogue sermon Patrick Mead and I did on "heaven" (May 3rd) from a scientific (Patrick) and theological (moi) perspective. I also did the first week in this series (April 19th) at Rochester Church.
I really appreciate Barbara Brown Taylor's question in An Altar in the World: "What is saving my life right now? What is saving my life today?" For me the answer changes. Today: Kara's love for Lucas is saving me today. Definition of save--rescue from my propensity to live according to the wrong story. That is, I play the wrong part, I take on the wrong role.
Rochester College has launched a MRE degree in missional church leadership. Mike Cope wrote a good blog about this recently. Mark Love is a perfect fit to lead this focus and for Rochester College in general. The program can be done long distance. If you are a minister/lay person interested in learning more about the missional church perspective, you will want to investigate this program.
15 June 2009
13 June 2009
p.50 ...an original story I called "The Invasion of the Star-Creatures." I kept hearing Miss Hisler asking why I wanted to waste my talent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk.
p.57 [The editor said] when you write a story, you're telling yourself a story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are NOT the story.
p.67 I did as she suggested, entering the College of Education at UMO and emerging four years later with a teacher's certificate...sort of like a golden retriever emerging from a pond with a dead duck in its jaws.
p.77 Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel *&%$ from a sitting position.
p.101 It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.
p.106 Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
p.118 Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful.
p.122 You should avoid the passive tense. You can find the same advice in The Elements of Style. The timid fellow writes "The meeting will be held at seven o'clock." Purge this quisling thought! Put that meeting in charge. Write "The meeting's at seven." There, by God! don't you feel better?
p.124 The adverb is not your friend.
p.128 Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as "good" and other sorts as "bad," is fearful behavior.
p.145 If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.
p.150 Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness.
p.153 For me, not working is the real work. When I'm writing, it's all the playground, and the worst three hours I ever spent there were still pretty damned good.
p.154 The combination of a healthy body and a stable relationship with a self-reliant woman who takes zero *&^% from me or anyone else has made the continuity of my working life possible. And I believe the converse is also true: that my writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and my home life.
p.164 I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way.
p.176 It's also important to remember that it's not about the setting, anyway--it's about the story, and it's always about the story.
p.208 Once your basic story is on paper, you need to think about what it means and enrich your following drafts with your conclusions. To do less is to rob your work (and eventually your readers) of the vision that makes each tale you write uniquely your own.
p.212 Take your manuscript out of the drawer. If it looks like an alien relic bought at a junk-shop or yard sale where you can hardly remember stopping, you're ready. Read as if it's someone else's work. "It's always easier to murder someone else's darlings than it is to kill your own."
p.215 Every writer has an ideal reader. "What will this person think when he/she will read this part?" For me that person is Tabitha.
10 June 2009
In 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Gonin led a group of British soldiers in liberating a large concentration camp. In his journal, he gives an account of the dehumanization they'd encountered:
I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywhere, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen. It took a little time to get used to seeing men, women and children collapse as you walked by them . . . One knew that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diphtheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing would save it. One saw women drowning in their own vomit because they were too weak to turn over, men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely they had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference. Piles of corpses, naked and obscene , with a woman too weak to stand propping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women croutching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves . . . [a} dysentery tank in which the remains of child floated.
The troops cared for the victims of genocide in ways that go beyond description. One by one. Wounds bandaged, tears wiped, stitches sewed, broken limbs put into casts. These soldiers demonstrated in a powerful way, what it looks like to look at the world, and fellow humans with “new creation” eyes.
It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the postmortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity (Rob Bell, Sex God, 30).
09 June 2009
05 June 2009
Last summer, Wiesel spoke to Rochester Church/Rochester College. Here was my recollection of that evening.
I don't quite know how to describe the Elie Wiesel event from this past week hosted by Rochester College at the Rochester Church of Christ (adjacent to campus). 2009 is Rochester College’s fiftieth anniversary, and John Barton (V.P. for Academic Affairs) deemed it a good idea to invite one of the twentieth century’s most important writers and thinkers to campus to talk about the role of language regarding such religious concerns as faith, reconciliation and forgiveness. He could not have selected a more important voice.
The auditorium was at “capacity” by 6:30 p.m.—Wiesel didn't enter the room until 7:20 p.m. When he finally entered, the entire room (about 950-1000) erupted in sincere applause. There's something special about having a presence like Wiesel in a smaller, more intimate setting. I suppose it would be similar to listening to Eric Clapton play in a smaller venue, or hearing Maya Angelou recite her work in a high school auditorium. The venue was large enough for the event to feel important, small enough that the audience felt like participants, not spectators (as happens in church most Sundays). Jew and Gentile, some Christian some not, gathered to hear from this leader who survived the Holocaust over half a century ago.
As for the speech, Wiesel stood in one spot the entire 50 minute presentation. He weaved rabbinic wisdom and story-telling, with personal wisdom and lessons regarding "the power of language for forgiveness and reconciliation." There were times he strayed into philosophical fields and historical nuance, but, for the overwhelming majority of his speech, he kept the diverse crowd within reach.There were too many great quotes to list in their entirety (e.g. "I am defined by me relation to you. If I honor you I honor God. If I dishonor God I dishonor you." Or . . . "After the Holocaust, of any other profession, writers committed suicide at a higher rate than any other profession. Why? Because, writers need words to make sense of their life. And survivors of the Holocaust shared one conviction in common: we had no words for the abandonment we'd experienced." Or . . . "A handshake sometimes has the weight of a poem." Or . . . If Auschwitz did not end racism in the West, what could?")Wiesel shared several incredible stories of his work in reconciliation with well-known world conflicts and leaders.
One story lingers in my heart. Following Nelson Mandela's release from prison, Wiesel held a reconciliation conference in which he invited the then President of South Africa, along with Mandela. After listening to Wiesel and Mandela describe the brutality of ethnic genocide and institutional racism, the young president stood up and declared to the entire audience, "I was born into apartheid; it's all I've ever known. My fervent wish is that I now am able to attend its funeral."After the crowd left, I found myself contemplating the “so what?” of the night. I cam to this conclusion: As humans, we only get one brief shot to make a difference in this world. Most of us might not have the opportunity (or burden) to impact the world to the degree of Elie Wiesel. I am certain however, that with our very words, we can create and heal more worlds than we'd ever thought possible. I left the Wiesel event with more hope than I've had in a long time. Enough hope to think that God might do his best work in the midst of human chaos and suffering.
The United States is in the midst of an intense political campaign, in case you had not noticed. We, the baptized, should take Wiesel’s sentiment seriously that language possesses the power to create or destroy. The church should be the community which models to the rest of the world the meaning of such words as truth, dignity, respect, mutuality, honor, dialog, and trust.
If you have not read any of Elie Wiesel's work, I would start with Night and eventually find my way to The Messengers of God and The Kingdom of Memory.
04 June 2009
Lucas is four weeks old today. Here's a fun photo for you.
29 May 2009
Josh Graves knows that the soul's hunger is not satisfied by right beliefs alone. People crave spirituality - and not just a wishy-washy, airy-fairy, this-and-that spirituality either. They want a robust, lifelong, dynamic, profound, and deep-rooted (or radical) spirituality that is focused, not simply on "my needs" or "my feelings," but on Jesus and his mission in our world.
Brian D. McLaren (from the Foreword)
Author of Everything Must Change
Here is a book that asks one of the most dangerous questions in the world: "What if Jesus really meant the stuff he said?" The Feast is an invitation to taste the goodness of God in Jesus, the Jesus who has been able to survive the mistakes of Christendom. And it is my prayer that all of us who feast on Christ will become what we eat -- for the world is starving for Good News that they can see and taste and feel.
author, activist, and recovering sinner
In my ministry on a college campus I find young Christians and old who are yearning for a spirituality that demands everything and returns joy unending. Like loaves and fishes with baskets leftover, this book will fill those who hunger after God with good things. Read, and feast on the gospel of Christ.
Associate Dean of the Chapel
In The Feast, Josh Graves explores the terribly important question of what it means to reconfigure Christianity as a way of life, instead of a mere system of beliefs. Along the way, we are reminded of many of the harsh, jagged edges of the story of which we are a part, which challenge our pre-conceived notions of what discipleship entails. But the story is not just of the cost of discipleship, but its joy too: So Josh also gives us a picture of a great feast indeed, a compelling picture of a kind of life lived in genuine liberty, and thus beauty.
Author of Mere Discipleship
This book is not one more argument about "post-christendom Christianity." There is little need for that. The Feast is rather a series of meditations on following Jesus today. The results are stunning. I came away not merely convinced, but moved.
Abilene Christian University
At a time when it’s clear that fewer in the West consider themselves to be Christians, it’s critical that we think carefully about the meaning of the Jesus Story. Is it possible that what others are rejecting isn’t Jesus himself – with his proclamation and embodiment of God’s reign – but caricatures of that story? That’s why The Feast is such a welcome book. Josh Graves is both a guide and a companion on this exciting journey to understand and experience afresh the meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
In The Feast, Josh Graves leads us beyond what happens when we discover Scripture. He challenges us to imagine what happens when Scripture discovers us.
What you hold in your hand is of great relevance because it concerns the eternal. And eternal matters are always relevant. I found The Feast to be biblically-grounded, culturally-accessible, and subtly offensive to the spirit of religion within me. It's because of each of these realities that this book is so engaging. Joshua Graves writes humbly, confessionally, without an heir of condescension or condemnation - inviting us to imagine with him what it looks like for things to be on earth as they are in heaven and to prayerfully contend for it to be so.
Farmers Branch Church
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.
This is 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.
According to Christian scholar, Alister McGrath, almost two-thirds of all Christians lived in the West in 1900. And now, only one-third were still recognized as “Western” by 2000. In the last fifty years, Christianity shifted to the far corners of the world: China, South America, and Africa. Scholars now note there are more Anglicans in Africa, for instance, than in all of Great Britain. In fact, it seems there are more Christians living in China and Africa then in the United States—a statistic unimaginable even fifty years ago.
My own religious tribe, Churches of Christ from the American Restoration Movement, has been slowly declining the last three decades in the United States. Besides two major segments of Protestant faith—Pentecostal and Independent/Community—most of Western Christianity is in the midst of a season of stagnation or severe decline.
In virtually every part of America (including the Bible Belt), Christianity is dying a slow death. Out of these ashes exists the opportunity to continue to dream about God’s activity and the potential for the story of Jesus to receive a fresh hearing.
Part autobiography, social justice manifesto, historical reflection, treatise on grace, journal from the urban/suburban world, and narrative reading of Jesus’ life—The Feast is a book seeking to bridge the world of reflection and practice. The chasm of belief and practice (a product of the Enlightenment and its quest for facts and objective truth) is evident even in many of today’s “post” modern writings. The Feast is one attempt to do reflection and practice in a harmonious dance.
See Philip Jenkins outstanding trilogy on the emerging shape of global Christianity: The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (New York: Oxford Press, 2006); The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford Press, 2007); and God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis (New York: Oxford Press, 2007). Also, Brian D. McLaren’s Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007) is one of the more constructive blue-prints per the church’s local and global mission in our pluralistic society