27 March 2009

Weekend Plans: Writing, Friends, Hoops, Outliers

I spent this afternoon putting the finishing touches on the teaching for Sunday. After I did that, I worked on some final editing for Jesus Feast. Editing is not my gift. I can do it, but it isn't my favorite thing in the world. For me, it's a lot like weeding. It's cool for ten or fifteen minutes, but I start to get restless after an hour or so.

This is going to be a great weekend. We have the Storment's in town this weekend. Jonathan, Leslie and Eden are here in Rochester Hills to encourage our leaders for Rochester Church. Jonathan is on staff with Richland Hills Church in Ft. Worth--a super talented preacher and teacher, I know he will bless us with his mind and heart. We appreciate the Richland Hills Church for letting us share the weekend with the Storment's.

Tomorrow, I'm planning on taking him to the Wright Museum in Detroit. After church on Sunday (we're co-preaching together, he's teaching a combined adult class), the five of us will get to catch a Pistons game.

KG loves going to Pistons games. Not quite as much as Tigers games . . . but she still loves catching some Deeettttroooit Basketball.

The NCAA Tourney has been fantastic. I don't claim to know much about college football but I just can't be convinced that a college football tourney would NOT work. Seriously. What can it hurt to try?

I've got my KU gear out for tonight's match-up against MSU. Most people assume I'm a MSU fan. Oh contrare mon frere . . . I'm a KU fan through and through. I converted one of my best friends in high school to KU Nation. He went on to be All-America in college. Coincidence? I think not. I still catch him at the health club wearing KU gear. All my Wichita friends are gearing up for a good game tonight (wearing their KU colors). Rock Chalk!


I just finished Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is sensational. The premise is that we have cultural assumptions regarding success: genius, innate ability, etc. Gladwell makes a convincing argument that remarkably successful people usually have the perfect storm of events which produce people of great achievement. Gladwell makes some brilliant insights regarding socio-economic factors at work in our educational and professional institutions. I would think every teacher, minister, lawyer, doctor--just about anyone interested in seeing people become more--could benefit from the unique slant provided by Gladwell. For those not familiar with Gladwell, he's the author of The Tipping Point and Blink. From Bill Gates, to Canadian hockey stars born in February . . . this is a book that will seriously mess with your mind.

26 March 2009


Our local paper recently did a piece on Shaun Hover. If you want to read the entire piece, click here. Here is an excerpt of the article.

Hover took a second course of study — on missionary development and leadership training — at YWAM and then designed and led his own outreach trip to Barcelona, Spain. The city attracts young skateboarders from around the world every summer.

“A lot of them are lost and looking for anything ... going from party to party. We got to know so many people,” he said. “I got to sit down with guys for coffee and tell them, ‘This is what I see happening in your life and you know it’s not good.’ I’d let them know God loves them. I’d talk about the good qualities God gave them and they’d share their struggles and open up to me.”

Drifting through life

Josh Graves, teaching minister for Rochester Church of Christ, said young people — especially those living in affluent communities — need to hear that message. He said some young adults today “stretch” their adolescence into their 20s and drift from “pipe dream to pipe dream, living week to week” without using their talents or becoming genuinely engaged in society. “We’ve got a whole generation now that have been living off the hard work of parents and grandparents. There are some Gen-Xers and Milleniums that are engaged, but there is a huge chunk of folks who are just drifting,” Graves said.

Hover spoke to 250 middle school and high school students last weekend at Rochester Church of Christ, incorporating his skateboard into his message.

25 March 2009

Addicts--All of Us

In Second Corinthians, Paul writes, “. . . there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

*Maybe this is about demonic activity (Paul’s more charismatic than most care to admit).
*Maybe this is describing a specific/occasional sin (he travels for a living, after all).
*Maybe Paul’s describing doubt (a person of such deep faith has to doubt too).
*Perhaps Paul is depressed (he has good reason).
*Paul’s eyes are going bad (c.f. Galatians 4:13 and 6:11).
*Those false teachers are finally getting under his skin (the revenge of the Ninevites).
*Could it be a reference to Paul’s speech impediment/lack of oratory flash?

All of the previous are possible. I want to introduce a different way to read this text. It might work in the church more than it would in the academy (which is fine with me).

What if Paul is describing an addiction?

Here's what I mean when I use the word addiction. I probably mean something different than what you think of when you hear or use the word. Addiction is “the repeated surrender to a power/force that prevents us from being the person God created us to be.” That is, addiction might be more prevalent than we think.

Paul is very articulate about this current condition in his life. First, he says he prayed repeatedly for the removal (three times). This prayer for deliverance could span several months or years, we simply don’t know. Second, Paul prays for the removal of something that is preventing Paul from knowing God more deeply. Third, the word for “thorn” insinuates something that pierces, a power that presses in. Sin is not merely about making good choices. It’s also about recognizing that there is a power at work in the world which seeks to smother, dominate, and oppress. This should not surprise us. A power that loves to “steak, kill, and destroy”—to quote Jesus.

We are good at recognizing the obvious addictions: sex, gambling, porn, alcohol, drugs, and eating. But, if we pay attention to our lives, most everyone I know wrestles with addictions that are less obvious. However, just because something is less obvious does not mean it is less deadly or destructive.

Some of us have “covert” addictions: drama, anger, fighting, thrill, avoidance, shopping, TV., film, gossip, vanity, clothes, racial jokes, sports, gender exploitation, comfort, power, Internet, blogging, e-mail, funny you-tube videos.

An addiction is the place we go when we want to hide from God. God’s world is so big; we think we can get away from God. But we can’t. Because it’s God’s big world. Not ours. As long as we are unable to identify the “thorns” in our collective life together, we will not be able to fully experience Jesus as the one who liberates from the powers of this present darkness.

22 March 2009

Knocking on Doors: More on Spiritual Friendship

Assumption: Post-moderns would never go door knocking.

Not so fast.

For the last two years, I've heard a whisper as I drive down Avon Road coming/going to the synagogue (a.k.a. the Rochester Church building) . . . "What does it look like to live locally for Jesus? What does it look like to live locally here, in this particular context?" People get fired up to go to the City, Uganda, Rio, etc. But, what would it mean to see Rochester Hills as a unique space for God's rhythm to break into the daily grind?

Rowan Williams (I tell my students at RC, "Not Robin Williams . . . but Rowan Williams . . .") reminds us that "the hardest place to live is right where we are." I live in an affluent part of Metro Detroit--Oakland County. That's not bad or good, it simply is. But it is sometimes way too easy to live somewhere else. To dream that God wants to work in only the dramatic and spectacular settings.

The sexy places.

Directly across from our church facility is an apartment complex in which Indian, Hispanic (not "Spanish" as some like to say), Latino, White, Black, and Asian call this area "home." It is, pound for pound, probably one of the more diverse, in every sense of the word, spaces in Rochester Hills.

As far as I know, our church has done little to connect to the real needs of the people living here. Well, that's all about to change. I don't know what it's going to look like, but I'm going to spend the next few months provoking the leadership and body of Rochester Church to develop "Sunday eyes" for this neighborhood. "Friday eyes" look at the world as it is. "Sunday eyes" look at the world as it can be. This is not to say we will infiltrate the neighborhood as if we posses God (because we're the church folks) with a conquering spirit of imperialism. Rather, we are compelled to love our neighbors as Jesus loves them. Remember, for Jesus everybody is a somebody. Everyone is a someone. There are no strangers or enemies in The Jesus Way. Also remembering that God is already out "there" and that we are simply called to join God to see what God is up to.

This happens through conversation.


Eye contact.

Personal touch.

Feeling uncomfortable.

This morning, ten of us from Rochester Church spent 30-40 minutes walking the premises of the apartments across from us. We asked the people we met if we could a) do anything to help their families in this tough economic time (Michigan's the eye of the storm right now)? and/or b) prayer for them in any specific way? We did not go with any ulterior motive other than to be a tangible blessing in their life.

I jokingly quipped to one person "We should have worn short, black dress pants with white dress shirts. I could have brought a few bikes from my house." My friend, Shaun Hover (one of the coolest people I now because he does not try to be cool), looked at me and uttered the infamous slogans of 20 somethings across our great nation, "Not so much. Not so much, Josh."

When Jesus ascends to heaven at the beginning of Acts, the angels say to his disciples, "Why are you staring up to the heavens?" Barbara Brown Taylor says it is because the disciples then (just as disciples do now) want to look up to the heavens for God. But God is not "up" . . . he's "out" . . . in the highways and bi-ways, in the nooks and crannies of our world. If only we take the time to see through different eyes.

Living someone else's life is easy. Living in a made-up scenario is fools gold. Living in hopes of God meeting your every need is shallow. Living right where you are, seeing yourself, and others around you as tiny evidence that God still does miracles each morning in the cry of the infant, the rising of the sun, the hug of a teacher, the tear of a grandmother--that's the the Christianity of Christ. It's the difference, as many have noted, of having faith in Jesus and having the faith of Jesus.

Spiritual Friendship

If you are interested in hearing a different way of understanding Israel's wandering in the desert, click here and listen to "Longing for Egypt" . . .


I am really interested in discussions about spiritual friendship. I appreciate the way in which Jesus says, in the Gospel of John, "No longer am I your superior, boss, or power-holder. For now on, I want you to call me friend."

I've spent a few hours in my life pondering what it means to be deeply spiritual friends with Jesus and those whom Jesus befriended in his ministry.

I am convinced that one of the greatest measuring devices for one's spiritual health is to honestly analyze the friendships that fill our lives. Are our friendships based on economic gain (that is, what can this person offer me)? Are our friendships based merely on security (that is, what person is just like me that I can safely walk with)?

For that reason, I was blown away the first time I read Same Kind of Different as Me. Specifically, this book is about the relationship between a sharecropper turned homeless man and a wealthy Dallas Metro-plex art dealer. Early on in their friendship, Denver says to Ron . . . “If you is fishin for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend…But, if you is lookin for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever."

19 March 2009

Drinking Deeply

Drinking deeply from good books is one of the vital spiritual disciplines I've implemented in my life over the last ten years. I have been a reader of autobiographies since high school. Once I entered college, my world exploded by reading novels, history, theology, philosophy, science, postmodernism, memoir, etc. Staying up late or getting up early is a small sacrifice for immersing yourself in a great book.

I recently read three excellent books that might catch your interest.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison is outstanding. Pilgrim Heart by Darryl Tippens was solid. Origins of an Urban Crisis will challenge everything you think you know about urban decline and white flight (with Detroit as the backdrop).

The on-deck list is formidable. Outliers is already rocking my world. Tell it Slant promises to be another great Peterson book. Little Chapel on the River is supposed to be a book about church that isn't about church. Tepper Isn't Going Out sounds bizarre but I love the premise. Craig Kocher told me "you have to read" Blood Done Signed My Name. The Black Swan looks to be similar to Outliers--a book that will challenge my thinking about the way I think. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus quenches my thirst to continue to understand Jesus' Jewish context of the first century world.


If you've read anything recently that you want to share, feel free to post.

18 March 2009

MAVS and March Madness

I lost a bet with a die hard Dallas Mavs fan last night. Here's the implications. Of course, I'm a die-hard Pistons fan.

Kudos to the Mavs for beating the Pistons last night. I won’t mention the fact that A.I., Rasheed, and Rip Hamilton did not play in the game. Or the fact that the game was played in Dallas. That would be a cheap shot. The Mavs have a bright future ahead of them because they have one of the great owners in the NBA. I think they will be able to shake the demons from the tragic loss to the Miami heat in the NBA Finals a few years back (along with the Jason Kidd trade).

Predictions for March Madness:

*Louisville and Memphis in the Final Four (Louisville)

*Duke and UNC in the Final Four (UNC)

*Louisville takes it all (Pitino is back in the limelight)

Ancient Graffiti

Without doing research, I'm wondering if any of you can guess the historical and theological significance of this piece of graffiti from the ancient world? Hint: it is a political and religious drawing.

17 March 2009

Lessons Learned: Writing

I've learned a lot of lessons from writing Jesus Feast. Many of those lessons have been swirling in my head the past few weeks. Recently, a friend called to ask me about the writing process (lessons learned, mistakes, perspective, etc.). That helped me to think more concretely on why writing is such a vital part of a) how I've been gifted, and b) spiritual disciplines that move me.

1. When you write well you speak well (usually). I write out virtually every speaking event I do. Rarely do I take what I've written "with me" . . . however, writing allows me to use words with precision as well as notice sayings, phrases, words I revert back to in a pinch. Words are what allow us to construct reality. The words we choose are precious.

2. There's no such thing as the perfect piece. I've long ago given up the idea that a writer can attain perfection. For instance, I make spelling errors on this blog all the time. Some times I catch them, some times I don't. I care about spelling correctly (I'm too TYPE A not to care) but I don't overly dwell on this. The book is in the fifth draft. I still find mistakes in this draft. I still find a sentence that is awkward. I'm not trying to attain perfection. I do, however, want the pieces/chapters/segments to be good. I thing perfection is overrated. I think good is better than perfect.

3. Writing opens up doors you did not know existed. A Pandora's Box of sorts (though it's one of the most overused metaphors in the English language)--writing takes you to conversations, events, and experiences you have buried in the deep, deep places of the soul.

4. Writing allows you to develop your own voice. The single most important thing related to vocation (whether that's writing, speaking, playing the guitar, etc.) is to learn to trust the you that God has created you to be.

5. Writing gets you into a rhythm of not only seeing the world as it is . . . but being able to see (what I call an imagination soaked in the Jesus Story) the world as it can be.

6. Writing consistently makes you a better listener. I pay attention to the inflection and cadence of the waitress at IHOP. I notice the way the mechanic talks about the engine of my car. I become a witness to the way in which God has made us, as the Psalmist writes, "fearfully and wonderfully." Instead of engaging in a conversation in order that I might show someone how much I know, how funny I am . . . becoming a writer forces you to listen to the way others see the world. Writers tend to be introverted. We look inwards. Going deeper with one's writing means the invitation is given to get outside of myself, and to behold.

7. Writing is a form of prayer. Nothing more to say about that.

16 March 2009

Spring Means (Detroit Style)

Spring means . . .

no mo' snow (we hope)
brats (b-r-a-w-t-s) with lots of ketchup
Tigers baseball games with Kara
Saturday afternoons at the park
bike rides
long walks with Kara
waking up to the songs of birds
no mo' snow
long Sundays in Cass Park
evening strolls to the ice cream store
mowing the lawn
March Madness
softball on Thursday and Saturday nights
new life
my birthday
NBA playoffs
mosquitoes (I used to be allergic)
the arrival of Lucas
no mo' snow (we hope)

Most of all, spring means new life. This has been a rough winter for Detroiters (urbanites and suburbanites). The news is packed with gloom and more gloom. The arrival of spring is a glimmer of hope that the future is full of new possibilities.

14 March 2009

Meditations on "30"

Many wishes, anecdotes, insights, stories, and maxim's were shared with me yesterday on the occasion of turning 30. Here are the two funniest.

First, one friend, who's known me since I was a wee lad, reminded me of a great point made by George Carlin.

"I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life ... . You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!! But then you turn 30.Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

A second funny story. I left Josh Ross a voice message late yesterday afternoon after I'd just finished playing one-on-one with my twin brother, Jason. Which, if you are really perceptive, means Jason was also celebrating a birthday yesterday. In fact, we've been celebrating our birthdays on the same day for thirty years running. Back to the story (one which RC Warriors will no doubt dispute). In between pick up games, I dunked a basketball. Chalk it up to energy, frustration (my brother, the college tennis player turned triathlete, had just beat me). It felt really good. Though, as I write this blog early Saturday morning (when all good writing gets done), I'm hurting. Bad.

My voicemail to Josh Ross was to the point, "I know about your super-human metabolism and your 40 yard sprint time (Josh was a stud high school quarterback) . . . forget all that . . . I dunked at 30 years old."

Later last night, Josh Ross sends me this text (in response to the dunk): "What? You got Viagra for your 30th birthday old man?"

Touche Josh. Touche. Guess I had it coming.

11 March 2009

The Ultimate (Guys) Birthing Plan

Kara and I recently started a birthing class offered at the local hospital where Baby Lucas will enter the world late April/early May. Our instructor (a really sharp and funny nurse) walked us through many important aspects of preparing for birth . . . mainly . . . you can prepare but you are never ultimately prepared.

Some hospitals today allow parents to develop a birthing plan. That is, here's what the parents like to see happen in the ideal birthing situation. Call it consumer delivery with a touch of creativity. Of course, my imagination perked up when I heard the words "ideal birthing situation." Here's what I envisioned when I heard those words.

First, upon arrival to the hospital, Beethoven's Fifth will be playing quietly in the background. Upon entrance into the hospital, the famous Las Vegas announcer-guy will grab a mic (preferably a mic that drops from the ceiling) and announce to the world, "Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the hour we've been waiting for . . . let's get ready to rummmmbbbblllleee."

After that serene beginning, Kara and I will both receive robes that read Baby Daddy and Baby Momma on the back. Mine is white with blue trim. Kara's is white with green trim.

As we approach the room where Lucas will enter the world, a rep from M&M's will offer me a lifetime supply of peanut M&M's for "the enduring trial I'm about to go through." I graciously accept and begin to devour a king size bag of God's favorite candy. I remind the M&M rep that Kara's the real hero in this drama.

The mood needs to change so I slip an Enya CD into the CD player (my man card was pulled a long, long time ago). Kara and I both get foot massages from a European massage champion. The lights are dimmed and we listen to scholarship offers from Duke (Coach K who has Kobe on the phone talking about how we would've gone to Duke had he not gone to the NBA right out of high school) and Roy (UNC baby) and Bill (KU's the leader at this point).

At this point, Nelson Mandela enters the room and reads to us from Letter from a Birmingham Jail. He then offers a South African blessing for Lucas's future. He ends by reading a prayer that is specifically written by Desmond Tutu. "Lucas, God has big dreams for you," are his parting words. Bono has also sent us a video message in which he sings Pride.

Just then, things heat up. Kara is ready to deliver. After thirty minutes or so, the moment has arrived. Queen is playing "We are the Champions" in the background, Stuart Scott is texting me for up-to-the-minute information. Lucas enters the world, I'm crying, Kara's crying and Lucas offers us the universal sign of stability; he gives us the peace sign.

I do what any good dad would do. I ask the nurse if I can have the honor of cutting the umbilical cord. The nurse says, "Of course." With a Dwight Shcrute glimmer in my eye, I pull a large Samurai sword out and cut the umbilical cord in half, while yelling, "Freeeeeddddoooom. They can take our lives but they can never take our freeeeddddoooommm."

That's the ultimate (guys) birthing plan. Of course, if you don't appreciate satire, this little piece will be lost on you. Kara's birthing plan is much more simple and realistic. Hey, a dad can dream can't he?

10 March 2009

Finding Your Way

My good friend, Phillip Camp, recently wrote a book for those people entering graduate school/seminary (or merely contemplating) in preparation for ministry. The books is succinct, funny, poignant, and insightful. Phillip was one of my (toughest) teachers at Lipscomb . . . I now consider him a fellow pilgrim on the journey. He has a passion for reflection and practice--he's a refreshing reminder that many academics care deeply about how ideas are implemented into everyday life.

Finding Your Way is a book to add to the list.

Here's the blurb I wrote for the back cover.

Finding Your Way is the postmodern version of Thielicke's A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. As both a teacher and friend, Phillip Camp is wise in navigating the task of loving God with one's heart and one's mind. Because he is a committed academic and minister—Camp's book will be a compass for seminary students of all tribes and denominations.

To read the Wipf and Stock description, click here.

Dear Kara

I'm a firm believer that we do not affirm and encourage each other enough (in society in general and in the church specifically).

I wrote this short letter to Kara recently. It was read to her at the baby shower our church family put together. I could not be there (I was speaking at a church in Kansas) but wanted Kara to know how honored I am to be "doing life" (as our small group calls it) together.
If you have not affirmed your wife/husband/significant other in an intentional way . . . I'm giving you homework this week. Do it.

Dear Kara,

I know you don't like public attention. In spite of me and your dad, you have always been a person who prefers to be behind the scenes, using your gifts and talents for God in simple but powerful ways. Since we've lived in Michigan you've helped our Cass Park efforts by cooking, and arranging misc.. gifts for our friends (chap stick, lotion, scarves). You have been the rock of our small group, organizing and encouraging the many different people God has woven into our lives. You are Mrs. Consistent when it comes to serving on the praise team and in the arts.

This does not even mention your work as a bank teller, substitute teacher, and organizer to Josh (Lord knows I'm all over the place, traveling several times per year--yet you keep me grounded).

All I have just mentioned does not define you. You are not what you do. You are special because you are made in God's likeness. You emulate and reveal God to me and others in ways that only you can. I want you to know, by proxy of this letter, I'm honored to be bringing Lucas into the world with you. I'm excited to be partners in this, the most terrifying and thrilling, of all our adventures to date. Yes, even more than the ominous time we were stranded in Paris during a bomb scare on our way back from Uganda.

Lucas will get to discover all the things I already know. You are beautiful, resourceful, humorous, lovely, dependable, brilliant, and all together fun. I would not wish for my life to have turned out any different than the manner in which God has shaped it to be. You are the nearest experience of God's Grace in my life. I love you without conditions.


07 March 2009

Being in a Chaotic World

Interesting opinions piece in the N.Y. Times recently. 
Scot McKnight has a brilliant little piece on "Impostor Syndrome"


I was in a conversation with good friends recently about the power of knowing the stories of those around us. Kara started talking about how important genograms (gee-know-grams or gen-o-grams depending upon whether you say tu-mate-o or ta-mawt-o) have been in our Rochester Church life group.

1. Knowing someone's story (where they come from, their values, hurts, dreams, and hang-ups) allows you to more easily extend grace to each other. 

2. Knowing someone's story gives you the tools and language to speak into their life when the time comes. Some people need a swift kick while others need a pastoral touch. Figuring out who needs what is one of the challenges of deep spiritual friendship. 


The previous would've helped a Christian group I recently spent time with. On the SW side of Detroit, you'll find the largest Arab population in the world (outside the Middle East of course). Mostly Muslim (not all Arabs are Muslim . . . some are Chaldean Christian) many immigrants from Yemen, Iran, and Iraq call this rough place home. There's a remarkable Christian outreach ministry to the poor here in SW Detroit. 

Along with several students at RC, I spent the bulk of Wednesday at two different mosque's. Say what you will about Islam (and there's a lot to say, God knows they have as many challenges if not more than Christianity right now) . . . we're still talking about people. The Christian group we were with tried to convince us to debate the imam's, a sort of no-holds-bar-death-debate. Most of our students declined saying, "We'd rather attempt to truly understand Islam before we critique it." Students from another university were ripe for the debate. They launched into a contrived (and logically shallow) war of words with a local imam who was clearly too much (intellectually speaking).

I'm not interested in saying that Muslims and Christians are the same. This simply isn't true. There is much of which we disagree. However, our differences must never allow us to avoid the hard work of having authentic dialog that is more than simply political posturing and religious rant. I'm fond of the Jesus Story in which he demonstrates the ways in which Jews and Samaritans (two religions at odds with each other, both prone to violence and terrorist activity) have to continue to see each other as people . . . not principles or intellectual problems to be solved. When I listen to people rant about Islam for instance, I usually follow with a simple statement, "You might be right about what you just said. But let me ask you this. How many Muslims do you know by name?"--BTW, the same question I ask when someone demeans the homeless, etc. 

Besides, if you are going to be the kind of Christian who might influence Muslims to consider Christ as God-in-the-flesh (what Christians call evangelism ) . . . that will likely take place because they've encountered an unmistakable and unshakable confidence in who God is calling me to be, the way in which I live that out. Some say this is naive. Some say this is not logical. 

It's called the Jesus Way. It's called the way of Incarnation. Paul said it best. "While we were still God's enemies, God died for us." That fundamentally changes the way in which we engage our alleged/legit enemies. 

Besides, what's harder: Hiding behind passionate arguments or taking the time to truly know someone, to hear their story, to understand what makes them them?

06 March 2009

How We Decide

One of the more interesting questions I'm pursuing in my reading and writing is this simple question: "what does it mean to be human" exactly? I loved Rob Bell's description in Sex God that humans are both spirit and body (not animals which are body with no spirit and not angels which are spirits with no body). I've since learned that Bell was building upon the work and thinking of Augustine and C.S. Lewis. 

I've recently read a book that I highly suggest for those of you who are interested in the ways in which science and religion are coming together in our time to help us understand the project of being human. 

The book, How We Decide (by Jonah Lehrer, 2009), combats Plato's conviction (and now longstanding cataract) that reason is meant to keep emotion in check. Hence, the more moral/successful/wise a person is, the more his/her reason is controlling emotion. Plato uses the analogy of a chariot and horse (chariot corresponds with reason and the horse, emotion). 

Lehrer thinks that the distinction between reason and emotion is false. He argues, that the two are essentially, the same coin just two different sides. In his book, he demonstrates how reason is dangerous when all emotion is abandoned. For instance, psychopaths, are not unreasonable people. Quite the contrary. However, psychopaths (because of abuse, isolation, etc.) are unable to feel . . . unable to imagine what it would be like to be someone else. Because they cannot feel and imagine, they are more inclined to violence and manipulation. The first thing we learn about humans, is that we have an amazing capacity to love and that capacity must be exercised and expanded.

Lehrer convincingly suggest that the truly moral person is one who knows when to approach life as a science (reason) and when to approach life as an art (emotion). He believes that the fully developed person works his/her way through life with an innate sense of distinguishing between the two. 

In the conclusion of the book, Lehrer offers an analogy to bring everything together. He suggests that it might help for some to view life as a poker game (work with me here). There is an element of poker that is purely mathematical, based upon reason, probability, etc. In fact, most novices get in trouble because they are unable to comprehend the basic science of poker. However, poker is also an art. Often times, what you are actually holding in your hands is not as important as what others think you are holding. Hence, the art, drama, creative interlude. Of course, one can take the analogy too far and suggest his ethic is significantly flawed because it is based in self-interest (something he works hard throughout the entire book to dismantle).

If you struggle picking out a box of cereal at the supermarket . . . or which job offer might be the best for you and your family . . . or which shirt to wear for the important meeting . . . or what color to paint your bedroom . . . this book is for you. 

03 March 2009

More Jesus Feast

Here's another snippet from Jesus Feast. I've had excellent editorial help from Leonard Allen, Greg Taylor along with Josh Ross, Sara Barton and Kara Graves (oh yeah . . . and the religion classes I've taught at Rochester College along with a spiritual formation class I taught last year at Rochester Church). After the book comes out, the previously mentioned people might not claim me. Sigh.

I'll do little previews here and there over the course of the next several months: quotes, snippets, summaries, etc. For now, here's a little piece from the introduction along with the table of contents.

In the last fifty years, Christianity shifted to the far corners of the world: China, South America, and Africa. Scholars now note that there are more Anglicans in Africa, for instance, than in all of Great Britain. The largest Christian congregation in the U.K. is Kingsway International Church—started by two African leaders. 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.

As hard as it is to swallow, more chaos consumes the twenty-first century global landscape. The devastation of America’s “9-11,” the Indian Ocean Tsunami, tragic earthquakes in Pakistan and Kashmir, the horror of Hurricane Katrina, and the latest surge of wars in the Middle East should cause Christians to ask two important questions, “Is God present and working in the face of such pressing evil?” and, “How can Christianity be ‘good news’ for those who do not ‘believe?’” These two questions under-gird this entire work. I’m convicted that Christianity’s real genius and power rests in her ability to bring healing, justice, and equality to all people. The real test of Christian theology is the result it brings for those who do not (yet) subscribe to the Christian faith.

“In other words, our Christian affirmations about the uniqueness of Christ achieve their real impact when they are subjected to the test to establish their credentials and validity not only in terms of the religious and spiritual universe in which Christians habitually operate, but also and indeed especially, in terms of the religious and spiritual worlds which persons of other faiths inhabit," says Kwame Bediako.

Jesus Feast engages the discussion of what Christianity, as a spiritual movement and not an institutional religion, can sound and look like in a pluralistic society like the one emerging in these United States. Christians and spiritual seekers must continue to examine the food being consumed. I want to help you re-imagine Christianity as a way of life, not merely a set of beliefs. That’s why this book, in this order, is about: God, Mary, Jesus, discipleship, justice, forgiveness, true beauty, unexpected prophets, hospitality, water, food, money, and spiritual disciplines.

Foreword by Brian McLaren
Part One: Re-Imagining Jesus

Introduction: Spiritual Anorexia

Chapter One: God of Surprises

Chapter Two: Theotokos

Chapter Three: Wrestling with the Real Jesus

Chapter Four: The Greatest Risk

Chapter Five: Can I Get a Witness?

Chapter Six: No Future without Forgiveness

Chapter Seven: Suffering Made Beautiful

Part Two: Living Reminders

Chapter Eight: Professor Jack

Chapter Nine: A Place at the Table

Chapter Ten: Food and Water

Chapter Eleven: Keeping Up with the Jones’s

Chapter Twelve: An Invitation to Dance

Epilogue: Jesus Feast