Reflecting on Earth Day

It’s been my experience that too many evangelicals do not really care about the earth.  To many of them, it’s like the old house they were raised in. They know that they have “invested” in the retirement home of their dreams so why bother repainting the walls, fixing the porch, and worrying about the ozone layer, “This house ain’t worth it no more.  It’s going to someone else’s problem. 

My aim in this post is not to make an “environmentalist” out of you (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but to expose our neglect of the stewardship of our planet.  It seems to me that too many evangelicals have dismissed environmental concerns such as consumption and pollution as a part of the left Democrat agenda that can either be ignored, dismissed, or refuted.  My problem is that when it comes to the care of the planet, more people think of Al Gore than the Church. 

We can debate all day whether there is global warming or global freezing or whether these global problems are man-made or part of the natural cycles of the earth.  Indeed we cannot stop volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes or tsunami’s, but we can make our land fills smaller, our waterways cleaner, our soil richer and our world more beautiful.  I am not saying that we ought to stop preaching the gospel in order to do this; I’m saying that this is part of the gospel.  While I do not think that I am the chief offender (for once I’m not), I know that I have not always been the most faithful steward of my world and I find myself convicted.

I wonder about the parable of the talents in relation to being faithful stewards of the earth. No, I’m not necessarily saying that we need to invest in the earth and multiply it in the “talent” sense and try to get two earths.  But if the servant who was given one talent was despised for hiding it, I’d be afraid to think of what his master would have said had he invested foolishly or worse, spent it recklessly!   Leaving the parable, God has given us something to be faithful of, to manage, guard and enjoy.  As a church, it is my opinion that we are neglecting this responsibility. 

Almost every believer I know thanks God for “this beautiful day” when they pray. Almost every church I know doesn’t recycle.  Almost every believer I know loves nature.  Almost every church I know uses Styrofoam cups during their coffee hour.  Almost every believer I know believes that Christ’s resurrection has conquered death, saved our souls, and redeemed all of creation but I see us love our America significantly more than our earth.  If the earth is something that God has called us to be faithful over, then how can believers ignore this?

Monday Morning Brief 4-21(on Tuesday)

What I Enjoyed This Week – 1. Celebrating Nathan’s first birthday party with our family and friends.  I can’thelp but being really sentimental and grateful but I’ve been very moved by this season of life.  At the party, I was reminded of the many incredible family and friends we have.  We couldn’t invite everyone and there were some that couldn’t make it, but we couldn’t help but feel loved by so many.  I think we all had a good time … except Nathan.  He didn’t take his morning nap and that ruined his afternoon.  After we sang happy birthday to him, he didn’t stop crying and so he didn’t eat his cake and we all wanted to see that. His real birthday is this Sunday and we saved the cake so maybe then.  Pictured here is my favorite moment of the day. Nathan came over and gave me this sweet hug. It came after his nap and the party was winding down and a I promised him that his first car wouldn’t be the church van.  It was a beautiful father and son moment.

2. I was fortunate enough to catch the first game at the new Yankee Stadium with a few friends.  We were missing one though (but I commend him for his financial responsibility, especially at this stage in his life). As for me, I felt that I had to be there.  I shudder to think how much more embarrassing of a loss it would have been had I not been in attendance.  Seriously when you go to games like that, the outcome almost doesn’t matter, you go to be a part of it all.  

Regardless of what thinks of the Yankees, it’s a beautiful stadium and for a while there was a big part of me that didn’t want a new one.  They did a great job but we’ll see if the Yankees magic and charm crosses the street because I’m a little afraid that we may have lost a thing or two in the move (too many luxury seats that equate to 4000 fewer seats worry me).  But again, the stadium is great.  


What Caught My Attention this Week – 1. Desmond Tutu’s NY Time’s article What Burma Needs From the White House. 2. The Obama-Notre Dame debate.  Should Notre Dame have invited him to speak?  I think I’l blog about this one day.  

Student Ministry Update – We did our Sr. High Service Project Weekend and it was pretty good.  Though I wished that more students were able to attend I was reminded why I love to do these.  I know it’s not about numbers and I have a resentment for those that stress it but these weekends are solid and I’d rather bring 30 of them to this than going bowling.  Anyway, I had mentioned to the students that because there were so few, they weren’t going to be able to hide behind anyone – they were going to have extend themselves and serve.  Friday night we went to the Good Shepherd Mission in Paterson and a couple of our kids shared about what God has brought them through.  They did really well, especially since they were being vulnerable.  Before we concluded the worship service, one of the guys in the program stood up and commended them and led an affirming applause.  I don’t care about applause but I was blessed that ourkids connected with the men again.  Saturday morning we picked up trash (not bc of Earth Day but because there was trash on the ground) around our church and around our community.  Then that afternoon we spent time with those who have developmental disabilities at the Eastern Christian Children’s Retreat.  These posts are supposed to be brief but it was so good for us to spend time with people that we never get to see.  We got great responses from the students and I hope this was another step in developing our student culture of Christ and mission.

What I Am Listening To – All the usual podcasts and the new Decemberists album The Hazards ofLove. Initially I think it sounds like the Decemberistis which is ok, that’s who they are and I like them.  But I was hoping for something a little different like the difference between Death Cab for Cuties’ Plans and Narrow Stairs. I’ve said stuff like this before and a few weeks later appreciated the album in a different way so hopefully that will happen again. I’ve also been listening to the Welcome Wagon.  Thomas got to see them in concert so I’m hoping he blogs about that.  If you like Sufjan, you’ll appreciate them.  He produced, played and sang with them.   

What Amazed Me this Week –  Susan Boyle!  Wow, like everyone For the one person who may not have seen this here you go.  Click here for the link (embedding code was disabled by request.  Networks still haven’t figured it out)

Monday Morning Brief – 4.13.09

So much to say but I’ll try to keep it brief.  But remember I said try.

What I Enjoyed this Week – 1.  We really did have a great Easter.  We saw some relatives through out theweekend that we hadn’t seen in a while that .  Also, we really enjoyed our church community this Easter.  It will be almost 3 years that we’ve been at this church and I’m really feeling that I am a part of people’s lives and they are part of mine.  We’ve felt that about 2 years ago but we’re really feeling it now.  Who knows, I may stick around another 5 or 6 … months (I know I just wowed you with my incredible faith ;-).  Our services were pretty good too.  We are an inter-generational church which has it’s beautiful moments and tougher moments. Easter Sunday we had a choir with a band that just really sounded good together.  I’m not much of a choir person (meaning I’m not 50 years old) but I was really moved by the service.  3. I enjoyed my Lenten practices this year.  I do feel I could have done better at one of them but was pretty blessed by the others. I don’t really know how to talk about it in this space but I encourage you to participate the next Advent/Lent.  

What Else I Enjoyed this Week – 1. The return of baseball! drama in New York, Manny not producing, sleeper times like the Marlins coming out swinging, the Cubs looking good and rumors of baseball being played in the midwest – the old pastime is back!  Oh, and my fantasy team was quite victorious over my fellow pastor, neighbor, fellow Yankee fan, Tim. 2.  The Lost episode with Ben was great.  3.  Had some good discussions with a few of my friends which began over this blogging medium.  Also appreciated how my friends and I disagree over important matters.  Again, this is part of what compels me to the emerging church thing.  It’s culture allows for great discussion, truth-searching and soul searching.  Looking forward to more of this.

What I’m Reading – Just finished Exploring the Old Testament – A Guide to the Prophets by J. Gordon McConville.  Almost finished with Jesus, the Final Days by Crag Evans and NT Wright.  Just started reading Who Goes There? By Rebecca Price Janney.  And  The Hauerwas Reader (Yeah, let’s just assume that I’ll always be working through that).

What’s Been on the Ipod – Podcasts and lectures.  As far as music, there are weeks when I have to listen to something new and there are weeks that I feel I don’t take advantage of the music collection I already have.  So, it was a week of U2, Dylan and worship music. 

 What I’ve Been Watching – Saw Knowing with Nicholas Cage.  I enjoyed it but it was a lot different thenwhat I though it was going to be.  I only saw the previews and I didn’t realize it was a true sci-fi movie.  I thought it was going to be more like a natural thriller with a twist of the mysterious/supernatural.  I suppose I thought it was going to be The Day After Tomorrow with a splash of Contact.  Turned out to be pretty apocalyptic and pseudo-biblical ?? kinda – I don’t know what to call it.  It’s an interesting movie, again, not sure I was ready for it.  Saw it with my sr. pastor so we had a fun discussion about that.  In fact, I think that was one of the saving graces of it.  Had I watched on DVD by myself, it’s fair to say that I would have been disappointed.  One of my problems is that I couldn’t figure out the purpose of Nicolas Cage’s character and I still can’t.   I think I’ll talk about this movie as a reference point like the way I talk about heaven and hell in What Dreams May Come.  Knowing actually has a decent conclusion once you realize what kind of a movie it is.  I’m not the only one who thought it was a little weak though.  The New York Daily News did not appreciate it – Nicolas Cage’s ‘Knowing’ isn’t prophetic … just pathetic.  

What’s Going on in our Student Ministry –   1.  Several of them are off for break these past two weeks so getting together has been easier.  These kids and their school educations are very inconvenient for a youth pastor.  ;-)  2. Aside from the Kimball’s They Like Jesus video curriculum, we are doing a service project weekend this upcoming week.  I always look forward to these and wish we could do them more often. Anyway, Friday night, we’re headed to a men’s ministry in Paterson that we’ve built a decent relationship with over the years.   A lot of these guys have been through the terrible times of drugs, prison, abandonment, violence etc.  They join this 9 month Christian rehab home that aims to set Christ first in their lives, rebuild their fractured relationships (which is a common theme in most of their stories) and get them off to a sustainable trade or career.  Many guys return for one reason or another, many fall away, but many see this as the turning point of their lives.  We will also be doing some community service and then off to the Eastern Christian Children’s Retreat that houses and ministers those with mental disabilities.  This will be our first time there so I’m looking forward in seeing how this will go.  I visited it a couple weeks ago, I think it’s going to be pretty eye-opening.  2. We also have several fundraisers for our mission trip that we’re planning, it’s a busy time.  Looking forward to August.

What’s Going on in Seminary – starting a new class next week – Jesus and His Message.

What I’m looking forward to 1. Nathan’s first birthday party.  2. Q Conference in Austin, Texas.

What I am Doing at the Moment – Just got off the phone with everyone and cramming for my final exam before our youth leader’s mtg.  

Good Friday Reflections

It’s Good Friday and for me, it’s been a good day so far.  These days are always kind of interesting because you’re trying to balance the sacred with the practicalities of life.  So far I’ve spent time doing some beautiful things, like hanging out with the family, trivial things like taking out the trash, and spiritual things like reflecting on the significance of this day.  

Indeed there is a heaviness as I remember what our Savior did for us.  I also reflect on my loved ones that have passed on and imagine myself thinking about them had Christ not died. I imagine how it would feel if they were not Christ-followers.  I’ve thought about a lot of things today.  What about my loved ones who are still living and the difference the cross makes for our new son and the new lives that were brought to this world since last Easter.  I reflect on the people that I don’t know, the ones that don’t like me, and the ones that I don’t care for. 

There’s a joy too.  I know, understand, and love the meaning of the Resurrection – a dead man lived again.  And this man was God and his name was Jesus and he extends this same life to me.  It’s a mind-blowing story. 

I read a few things today, John 15 & 16, Jesus the Final Days by Craig Evans and N.T. Wright (CT has an exert from Wright’s concluding chapter here), and a couple of blog posts:

Tony’s post – Why Jesus Died.  

Evan’s post, What You’ll Probably Hear at Church this Easter Weekend (but I Hope you Don’t).   It’s excellent.  I’d like to add John 10:10 and it’s context to his point, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.  

And the always moving poetry of our dear friend, Thomas.  Here’s the opening verse of The Day Before the Last

The day before the last,
when bread is just bread,
and wine is just wine,
there is a chance, a facet
of hope to cling to, for us gathered.

The online world is part of my community.  Tonight, I’ll gather with my church and we will worship and reflect on the meaning of this day.  Praise the Lord for his unconditional love.

Monday Morning Brief – 4.6.09

What I Enjoyed This Week – 1.  Nathan trying to figure out how to walk.  He is not walking on his own yet, we’ve enjoyed holding his hand and helping him around.  He’s a bit wobbly but it’s been fun.  2.  Going to get Nathan’s passport.  It’s crazy to think about but a year ago, we had just found out about his existence (and they told us the baby was going to be a girl) and here we are.   3. Salty Fusion – Our student leadership team ran youth group Wed. night.  They did a pretty good job and I was encouraged by the student who did the lesson.  4.  Enjoyed (and frustrated at certain moments) watching the panel discussion about the emergent church at the  Christian Book Expo.I thought Scot and Tony spoke truthfully and courageously. They have said some of those things (what is emergent, what isn’t, etc.) a number of times and I loved that this was recorded.  I plan on pointing people here as a reference.  I hope to add my thoughts one day but check out Tony’s here and here.   Thanks to whoever posted it on Tangle.  Also loved that Scot mentioned our seminary president Dave Dunbar and our celebrated professor John Franke.  5.  Holy Week!  In my last church this was such a crazy busy week with all the easter dramas and services, it was hard to take it in.  These years, I’ve enjoyed the slow reflections I’ve been able to partake in.  Imagine – God suffered for you and me … and then rose again.  I’m reading through John right now and as always, moved by it.  

Reading – Exploring the Old Testament – A Guide to the Prophets by J. Gordon McConville for seminary.

Listening to – a bit of everything.  Found myself listening to White Stripes the other day, Sufjan, and the Arcade Fire.  I guess I was feeling pretty 2005ish.  Also enjoyed a bunch of podcasts – Fermi, Homebrewed Christianity, Mars Hill (what, Rob’s wife is pregnant?) & Relevant Magazine.

Looking forward to – I told the church during announcements that I have the gift of prophecy because I was doing well on my brackets. (I’m winning 2 out of  3).  Yeah, 3 people thought it was funny but I’m looking forward to rubbing it to those in the youth group bracket.  Back to back years now; it’s going to be a dynasty. 2. Speaking of dynasty, the Yankees will win it all this year.  Aside from that, I am looking forward to a new season of baseball.  This will also be my first season  doing fantasy baseball. 3.  Going to the Fermi Project’s Q Conference.  4. First family vacation in May (Susan and I haven’t been on vacation in several years and we’re going to Aruba with pretty much everyone in my family.  Should be fun).

What Made Me Laugh – I actually did think the Guitar Hero commercial with Coaches Krzuzewski, Patino, Williams and Knight with Metallica was pretty funny.  Yeah the Risky Business scene has been covered so many times but I actually think this one is good.  What I also can’t believe is that Metallica is in the commercial.  Not kids who like Metallica, not a cut-out shot of them playing on stage someplace else but them in the flesh.  If you would have told me back in the height (1991-92) of the “Black” album that these guys would be in a video game commercial with college basketball coaches, I would have said, “Yeah right, and Bono won a Nobel Peace Prize.”  I’m glad I’m living here but it’s a weird place.  Here it is:



What Jack Bauer Would Say to Stanley Hauerwas

I can hear Jack saying now, “With all due respect professor, I must torture this terrorist in order to save innocent lives.  I’ll kill him if I have to.”  I can see Dr. Hauerwas shaking his head and saying, “We were not created to kill one another, we were created to commune with each other.”  I’ve heard it said over and over from theologians to professors to pastors that we want theology to be accessible to the common man.  Well friend, this is what it looks like – great theological figures in imaginary dialogue with fictional television characters.  I’ll refrain from that but here’s what I am thinking.

At ephiphaneia’s Amidst the Powers Conference, Dr. Hauerwas asked, “What would the pacifists do if they got a world in which they wanted?” I have spent two weeks falling in love with that idea and I like that image more and more.

He also asked, “When was the last time you went to see a movie that was about peace?”  I think for me, it was when I took Susan to see “He’s Just Not That Into You” around Valentine’s Day.  I am grateful he didn’t ask, “What were the last three movies you saw about peace?”  And if I’m being honest (which is one of the vows, I decided not to make for Lent), my first answer probably doesn’t even suffice because that movie is not about peace, it’s a chic-flick void of physical warfare. 

I’ll tell you the truth, though it would mean that I would go to less movies, I would gladly trade my beloved Braveheart and your beloved Star Wars if it meant that we could eliminate the war narratives and their violent results that have permeated our culture.   While I’d like to imagine refocusing our imagination and efforts from warfare to addressing some of our other world crises, I know this is not our present circumstance.  Discovering how it could be is obviously a long unending discussion that I am not ready to dive into here.

The strength of  Dr. Hauerwas’s message was how we as a “civilized” people have moralized war.   It may be helpful to insert here that I am not a pacifist but like most people, I hate war. I do believe there is righteousness in just-war theory.  I do not equate the pre-emptive strike in Iraq.  I do credit the Bush administration with the safety of our country of having no terrorist attacks since 9-11.  I pray against living in a situation like Israel where I would think twice of taking my wife and son out to the grocery store.  This imperfect, self-contradicting reality comes with significant prices and I think all of us need to have the integrity of not over-simplifying the problem. 

While it may bother me that Hauerwas writes these words from the safety of his office at Duke Divinity School, and I get to write these words from the safety of my home and you get to read these words in the presumed safety of your workplaces and coffee shops, this is where we should remember Jack Bauer.  Jack Bauer makes it possible for us to believe in pacifism.  Further, I am not sure one can truly be a pacifist if they live in the safe police-protected middle class American suburbs.  The point of this post is not to give license of who can and who cannot be a pacifist under what circumstance.  That would be even more self-righteous than I already am (and I am trying to cut back on that).  But seriously, if a Palestinian citizen tells me he/she is a pacifist, I’ll listen.  

To be fair to people like Dr. Hauerwas, it is that Palestinian or that Rawandan that he’s speaking for but here in the West it’s become too convenient to identify with being a pacifist.  Would we be pacifists though if the opposite views were not symbolized by characters like George W. or Jack Nicholson’s’ Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men?   Would we be pacifists if our enemies were attacking our soccer games on Saturday mornings? Would we be against all forms of torture if we had a terrorist in custody that admitted to planting a bomb in our elementary school but refused to disclose its actual location.  Meanwhile our children are learning their multiplication tables … perhaps for the last time.  On that day, I am praying for Jack Bauer. 

Again, I mention this because if we are being honest, it’s easy to be a pacifist today here in the West in 2009.  I want to know if you’re still one when the serial killer is trespassing through your home and is not interested in your material wealth, he just wants to see you and your family suffer.  On that day, I wish I was Jack Bauer.

This season on 24  has been entertaining.  Hauerwas’ words echo as we watch Jack suffer and lament the many people he has killed and the person he has become.  As I think about this, I think it’s just as fair to ask what if Jack became convicted at Stanley’s lecture during “Amidst the Powers”.   What if Jack Bauer became a pacifist?  (If this has already happened, know that I haven’t’ watched every season.  If it did, umm, he’s regressed).   I can picture him sitting in between Evan and I hanging in his head as Dr. Hauerwas told the story of his friend Roger who explained that killing and then being asked to return to normalcy was the hardest part of war. 

What would it look like if Jack Bauer became a pacifist?  It’s almost comical because I cannot divorce the violence from him.  He’s a one-dimensional character. I cannot see Jack taking up gardening and discussing Wendell Berry with Thom.  I am not even sure he can enjoy going to a baseball game for the paranoia of vulnerability would drive him crazy.  Nor could I see him opening a coffee shop with Tony Almata.  They would have a back up in line and Jack would yell into his Bluetooth, “Chloe I need more espresso beans NOW!”  

This is Hauerwas’s point.  War robs too much from men and women.  Survival, though obviously significant, is only part of them dilemma, re-acclimating is truly another part. That is something that we can agree on, pacifists and non-pacifists.  Some days, I am not sure if there can be a compromise between the two.  Being “only a little violent” or “non-pacifist when necessary” are among the reasons for the creation of just-war theories.  Perhaps another post, I’ll speculate on what Dr. Hauerwas means when he says, “The Christian alternative to war is worship” and “Because of the cross of Christ, war was abolished.”  It seems we can learn a lot from Dr. Hauerwas and even Jack Bauer but I find it difficult to think of one and not the other.  Who knows, maybe Jack would be relieved by the ideas that people like Hauerwas promote and maybe he’d say to Stanley, “Thanks.”

My Alma-Mater, Liberty University …

My Alma-Mater, Liberty University Has Been in the News Lately

I can hear some of you now, “You went to Liberty??” Did you graduate from there or did you get kicked out? Though it was the only time in my life where I had reason to contemplate whether suicide was the unforgivable sin, all in all, Liberty was a good experience for me (I submitted that to be an honest endorsement for their recruiting catalog but their publications has yet to reply).  What helped me was that I had a great group of friends that I bonded with, had some great professors that influenced me, and I met my wife there. Graduating Liberty was what I imagine is similar to robbing a bank and getting a way with it. You’re glad you did it but don’t want to go back there. Yes indeed, the rules were too much, yes Dr. Falwell said some crazy things (but there was a cool side to him too), and yes, I met some of the strangest people I hope to never see again until my perfected nature meets their perfected nature in heaven.

First there was this:

Seth Curry (who led the nation in freshman scoring this year) brother of Davidson’s superstar Stephen transfers out of LU to Duke. Doh!  That said, I was happy to read that Liberty’s coach had some encouraging things to say about Seth’s decision.

Second is this book that is getting a fair amount of attention by Kevin Roose called, “The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University” – Great title and wow, America’s Holiest University??? That’s like when Falwell would call it “The World’s Most Exciting University”. Some there may firmly hold to absolute, objective truth and see it all in black and white but alas, it was at Liberty that I first learned how to think in relative terms and I point to the above statement as Exhibit A.

Anyway, Christianity Today had a nice interview with Kevin. Initially, I suspected that his polite candor was a ploy to get you to like him and buy the book then get fooled but it seems that this is precisely the paranoia that Kevin is describing.  He seems pretty genuine and I probably trust him more than some Christians I know.  Here’s an exert:

CT – What most fascinated you about evangelicals and evangelical culture?

My social circle was pretty much empty when it came to evangelical Christians, so my impression was that these students were just interesting and smart and personable. They were not at all like the caricatures I had adopted in the secular world: the placard-waving, backwoods evangelical. They were just nothing like that, so I was heartened by that. But it also made me intensely curious; they seemed like people I would get along with. What would actually happen if I tried? So I think it was their humanity that came through to me.

CT – You largely blame “paranoia and lack of exposure” for the culture war between evangelicals and non-evangelicals. Do you think it’s possible to bridge the gap between the two sides?

A lot of my friends at Brown, I love them to death, but a lot of them are paranoid of evangelical culture. A lot of them would send me e-mails during my semester saying, ‘Are you getting tortured down there? Are they burning you at the stake?,’ and then the same thing on the other side. My Liberty friends would talk about secular culture as one big orgy, and it’s not. My fantasy is to have other people do versions of what I did. How cool would it be to have an exchange program between secular colleges and evangelical colleges and have [students] switch places for a semester? I think we could do a lot to break down that wall.

Kevin also has the distinction of being the last person to interview Dr. Falwell in print. Here’s the link courtesy of and here’s my comment:

“Good article. As a graduate, I feel I have he right to say that indeed Liberty is an unusual place. There are some great things about it and some … hmmm …. not so great things. The same was true with Dr. Falwell. There were numerous times as a conservative, I’d wince when he’d mention tele-tubbies or Ellen. I loved that he was friends with Larry Flynt though and I admired these types of moments.
I did appreciate his interactions with us as students around campus. My personal favorite were when he would speed around the Vine Center after convocation and pretend that he was going to run over the students. Freshmen would always freak out. I will also never forget him crowd surfing at the Big South Tournament. Lucky for him, I carried his right foot for about a second.”