Obama, Notre Dame, Abortion, The Church and Me

Obama speaking at Notre Dame has been an absolutely fascinating moment for me and of course, for many others.  You can read his speech here.    There’s a lot to appreciate here.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I respected that Notre Dame invited President Obama.  I respect people’s right to disagree and protest. While not the route I would go, I also respected that some students decided to skip their own graduation as if Obama was the creator of abortion.  The weekend was filled with people were arrested (like ‘Roe’ of Roe v. Wade), heckling, applause and for some of us, we acknowledged that perhaps there is something to gain from listening to someone who has the opposite view.  That spirit can be summed up in Father Jenkins’ introduction.  

I find myself wondering about many things in light of all this.  First, know that I am pro-life.  Second, know that I sympathize with all women who have found themselves to be pregnant and scared.  Third, know that it is my conviction that each child deserves the right to be born.  Fourth, know that I still respect those who passionately feel otherwise.  Fifth, we need to do our part as a Church and a society to come along side the pregnant woman who is struggling with her situation.  And this is just the very basic tip of the surface of what we need to do.

When a woman gets pregnant and is either unwed or wed but living at the poverty level, (or any other scenario, young college student, professional working woman, etc.), we have to say more than, “Well you should have thought before ….” or  “The right thing is to keep the baby or put the child up for adoption.”  I’m not saying the point of that statement is wrong, I’m saying we need to do more.  As an adoptive parent, I obviously see the beauty of adoption but I also know that it takes a very special person to go through the pain of putting a baby up.  But what about the woman who can’t do that?  She wants to keep the baby and if she can’t then, unfortunately abortion becomes her conclusion.

If among our chief goals is fewer abortions then we need to work with people like President Obama and others that we swore off as enemies.  For years I believed in the teaching I was given that if we changed the culture, abortion would lose its stronghold.  While I believe that is a solid theory, it seems we have to do more until it is proven true because I am no longer content in only saying and believing those words.  Thus,  I have found myself wondering what would happen if the pro-life energies were focused on working with places like Planned Parenthood.  I think I can hear some think “What???” 

Here’s what the current situation seems to be to me.  A Planned Parenthood opens on one side of the street.  It is my perception that PP is interested in performing as many abortions as possible (it is a multi-billion dollar business).  Eventually a pro-life clinic opens on the other side and of course they compete against one another.  Every pregnant woman that enters their respective doors is urged to abort or keep their baby or put the child up for adoption.  And here we are. 

What if we converted some of our pro-life clinics into free day cares for those like single working mothers (or whomever) exclusively for those referred by Planned Parenthood? While I am not saying that we should not open pro-life clinics or close all of them, what I am speculating is the need to find ways to work with places such as Planned Parenthood.  The donations made it to the former pro-life clinic could go to day care workers, and among them could be mothers and a percentage of PP’s profits could be contributed to these day cares and needy homes.  Indeed I too see numerous issues that would have to be resolved and a long line of potential abuses but the idea only serves as a start.

Here’s another.  What if we as a Church had “Single Mother Sunday” the week after “Sanctity of Life Sunday”  Is this glorifying the wrong person?  I suppose it depends what you mean by glorifying but I see this very much in tune with the gospel message itself because no matter how I look at it, I am the wrong person.  I am grateful for grace.  Is what I suggest that different?

What if for every missionary our church supported, we also supported a needy family?  The point wouldn’t be too support fewer missionaries, but to help people get on their feet so they don’t repeat the cycle. 

What if our Christian counselors offered free counseling for every woman who had an abortion or for those who struggled with the decision, kept the child and trying to figure out the next step? 

I could probably go on but my point to my fellow evangelicals is this – can we not work together to reduce the number of abortions?  Most of these suggestions have a financial commitment behind them, but I think they also have a mercy, caring element as well.  Would that not change culture?  I argue that it would do more than our current strategies.

Joel Kotkin – The Future of Suburbs at #Qconf

You may be “suburbed” out from hearing of its problems and to its hope but this is a conversation that isn’t going anywhere.

Here are my notes: 

Joel Kotkin – The Future of Suburbs

Began by giving a history of how the suburbs came into our American lives.

There was the Victorian Industrial City.

The British alternative, Garden City. 

Town and country must be married,” Howard preached, “and out of this joyous union will spring a new hope, a new life, a new civilization.”  – Ebenezer Howard

In the West, the single family home became the predominated desire.  It was the social universal aspiration – everyone gets their own home and yard.

Today, 50% of immigrants come first to the suburb.

– We now have multi-generational, multi-cultural neighborhoods in our suburbs.

– Employment as moved into the suburbs.

The archipelago of the  towards “smart crawl”. It won’t end sprawl but will “smart” will make it more efficient. 

May appear as a village system.  (there was a cool artistic rendition shown of beautiful country field with a future looking “village” with a couple roads leading into it.)

The belief that work will return to the homes similar to pre-industrial models.

The goal will be to restore the “Sense of Place”           

“City is a state of mind, body of customs and traditions.

You can read a more indepth article Rule, Suburbia off his blog that was published in the Washington Post

Monday Morning Brief – 5.18.09

What I enjoyed this week   1. Nathan started walking!  For a few weeks he’d take a step or two and then realized he could crawl faster.  But yesterday, he started to walk.  He’s so proud of himself too; he smiles and waves as he barrels around the house – it’s great.  2. I enjoyed our seminary retreat once again.  We went to the Harvey Cedars Christian Center at the Jersey shore.  Though we were missing a few friends, I think we all appreciated the speaker, Meredith Wheeler (don’t be fooled by the first name, he’s a guy).  Also enjoyed spending time with our cohort and getting to know people from other ones.  3. Rooming with Jon Frost.  He knows baseball, reads Karl Barth and I drifted off to sleep as this pastor of alternative worship sang all of Crowder’s ballads on A Beautiful Collision.  Woke up to him screaming, “You are my …JOOOOYYYY”.   4. The Yankees winning some close ones. 

Student Ministry Update – 1. Finished up with the Dan Kimball They Like Jesus but not the Church study.  We received really solid feedback.  Next up is our series on love, dating sex, purity, identity, etc. called “Spring Fling”.  2. For years our sr. high girls wanted a retreat weekend. We always said yes but there was always a reason we couldn’t do it … until this weekend.  I say it a lot but probably not enough, I’m truly grateful for our leaders and great female leaders are hard to come by.  I know the “rewards of God” are not distributed in the means of parking spaces and sales at the mall, but may the Lord spoil them just a little along side His constant grace.  3.  There was also a guy’s night in at the home of long time youth leader extraordinaire Eric.  The rumor was that it was pizza, wings, and Christian beer (which since they are under-age, I am really hoping means root beer, otherwise, this post loses its “highlightness”). 

What I’ve Been Watching – 1. LOST Season Finale – Amazing but now it’s over.  So now I feel like I just broken up with.  I guess I’ll be listening to Dashboard Confessional until the new season. 2.  Haven’t yet watched the Office season finale.  I’ll get to it one of these months.  Feel free to spoil it for me (Pam accidentally kills John with a line drive right?), With the exception of a few episodes, this was a dissappointing season. 3. Saw Star Trek over the weekend with seminary friends.  I am not a Trekie so my expectations were pretty normal.  I liked the movie, you should see it.  I see the allure of Star Trek as it relies on science and theories.  I like the idea of the Federation and keeping the peace of the universe. However, it’s always lacked magic for me.  I know that’s a pretty subjective statement but Star Wars has the the Force, this ancient Jedi warrior culture and lovable characters like R2 and Chewey and menacing ones like Darth and Bobafett.  Lucas made many mistakes though.  He cursed us with JarJar, metachlorians, and Hayden Christensen (who is a lesson for all – just because you look cool, doesn’t mean you can act).  While I do like Spock, I always found Kirk to be weird and annoying.  It could be the curse of William Shattner but when I was 5, I liked him in TJ Hooker which was better known for Heather Locklear.  Anyway, I think between Shattner, a story that didn’t connect with me, and no offense, the Trekkies that I did know, umm, well, let’s just say that I thought the “light speed” scenes were cool.

What I am Listening to – Bob Dylan’s Together Through Life. 2. I downloaded Coldplay’s free live album, Left Right Left Right Left but only gave it a listen as we were driving to the shore for the retreat. 3. And pretty much everything Ben Gibbard.  Miguel loves Death Cab and Postal Service so I walked around all weekend singing, “So this is the new year … but I don’t feel any different.”

What’s Going in Seminary – just finished a great class called, “Jesus and His Message” and tomorrow we being a new class called “Organizational Assessment & Change”.

Looking forward to – going to the Yankees game tonight with Tim.  And going to Aruba with my whole family!!

Alan Hirsch at Q, Austin

The second session proved to be one of my favorites.  Alan Hirsh, author of The Forgotten Ways gave a fantastic vision for the church that truly desires to be missional in the post-Christendom world and he presents a summary of it here:

It starts with this picture.

Each ‘m’ represents one significant cultural barrier to the effective communication of the gospel whether it be language, worldview, religion, racial history etc.

Based on the “Attractional” model, our missional stance in relation to the world will work only to people within a close cultural orbit.

It will not work with those in say, M3 bc they are socialized in their own context (or cultural orbit).

If an individual from this marker was to enter into the church model, it would be the seeker that would have to do all the cross-cultural work (rather than the church).

Thus, attractional in a missions environment is extractional.

Problems with extractional:

Contrary to Incarnational impulse

Violates our “sentness” as a church

Is a big problem for missioanal movement (bc again, it takes people from their culture)

Leverage is found in changing the church’s missioanl ecclesiology.

Among our current problems is that our delivery system is stuck.

90% of churches are trying to become Contemporary Church Growth Model (CCGM) attractional type of churches

This is a strategic problem.

2 more problems present themselves

because of m0-m1 cultural orbit, if it works, it will only reach the 35%-40% of people in that orbit.

CCGM  is a missional problem.

And we get more of the same.

This is also organizational insanity –  the problem of the church cannot be solved by the same mentality that began the problem. 

“If you have dug a hole and realized that you need to dig the hole over there,  the solution isn’t to keep digging in your same hole.”  (just when I thought the hole analogy couldn’t be expanded upon …)

The decision we make now will affect the next era and will invoke imaginary solution to thrive in the 21s century.

My reactions:

The church needs to be different to the m2-m3-m4 …

Which means we need to rethink what it means rethink church.  (I’ve been hearing that expression for so long). 

I love the cultural orbit idea and I plan on using it.  I think it demonstrates the realistic influence of a church.  Given a particular context, this ministry can only do so much.  Not that we ought to be “foolish” enough (replace with “modern”) to know just exactly to what extent, but there is humility in this idea and it’s great perspective for us a church.

Understanding our cultural orbit ought to help us with several things.  First, that our current ministries, approaches, personalities, models have limits.  Or for those that speak “pop” – one size will not fit all.  So if you have ever said, “I would never go to a church like that” or “This person would probably never feel comfortable at a gathering like ours” then you are scratching the surface of a suitable starting point.

Second, and much, much harder is the need to create different types of “models” (read “churches”) that will reach the m3’s and m4’s.  In doing so, we will have a better grasp of how to be missional and help us re-think the Gospel.

One of the values of these types of presentations is that it provides a vocabulary for thoughts you may have had but didn’t have the articulation, the research or the expertise to communicate them properly – especially to those who disagree with you.  

Q Conference – Why Austin? – Post 2

Each year Q is held at a different city that has cultural significance to our country.  The first year being Gabe and the Q team’s hometown, Atlanta, and last year was New York City.  According to the Q site “(Austin) is against that backdrop – a city seeking to maintain and re-express the heart of its identity – that Q 2009 comes to Austin.” You can read more and also listen to Gabe Lyons talk about it here.

For the first session, Gabe interviewed David Taylor who among many things serves as a pastor in Austin and Lisa Hickey who works for (and from the sound of it pretty much runs) Austin City Limits.  Each spoke of the hip uniqueness of Austin including their live music scene, its affordability, its vintage shops and its friendliness. It’s small enough where you can go grocery shopping downtown with your car but big enough that there’s a fair amount of public transportation.  For me having lived outside of Philly and now NYC, it was hard for me to appreciate the alleged abundance of public transportation (I think I saw a bus or was it a van …) but that was just my perception.  What I did appreciate was the Austinians  had gone to great lengths to insure that their downtown was not overrun byt franchise restaurants like Chill’s and Applebee’s (I pray for the day when Time Square gets rid of that Olive Garden).  Indeed, there were quite a bit of cool eateries, among them was a restaurant owned by Sandra Bullock whose food was far better than Miss Congeniality.  Anyway, they want you to know there’s more to Austin than SXSW and Stubb’s.  That was helpful for me because that’s all I think of when I think of the town.

If you want to understand Austin then you need to appreciate a couple of their unofficial mottos – “Just like God loves the whole world, we love Whole Foods” and “Help Keep Austin Weird”.  It’s a cool town with a lot of personality despite it’s size, and I still can’t believe that I parked all day for $7.  Having Q here the year after NYC added credibility to the idea of distinctive cultural centers and I hope to make it back. Next year is Chicago and I know they got a culture of mediocre pizza, mediocre baseball and now an above average NFL quarterback to complement its mediocre wide-receiving core.  Looking forward to be shown otherwise. Who wants to go with me?

The Q Conference, Austin, TX – What is Q? – Post 1

A couple weeks ago, I attended the Q Conference in Austin, TX.  A lot was said and among my goals is to put out these posts before next year’s conference (yeah, I’m pretty ambitious).  Anyway, because it’s not very publicized, many do not know what the Q Conference is or who the Fermi Project are.  Well after my second year attending it, I’m not real sure I do either.  But whatever it is, it’s good – real good.  Here’s what I know.

The Fermi Project was started by Gabe and Rebecca Lyons a few years ago.  Prior to that,  Gabe was on the Catalyst Team and as the story goes (the one not told by Gabe), he was given a great deal of credit for the success of Catalyst.  After a few years there, Gabe felt compelled to work in a different direction, one smaller and more conducive to conversation and eventually the Fermi Project was born. 

So what does Fermi mean?   Yep, that’s a good one. It’s “a metric unit of length equal to one quadrillionth of a meter … (That clarifies it all, right?).  Basically, “In contrast to things that are big, Fermi represents the beginning of a chain reaction”  (and slightly fuller explanation here.) But the name certainly matches their origin story.

The Fermi Project puts on the  ‘Q’ Conference (‘Q’ is for ‘Question’).  The tagline is for Q is Culture, Future, Church, Gospel.  The speakers focus on one of these and are from one of the 7 channels of influence which are: media, business, education, government, church arts/entertainment, and the social sector.  Similar to T.E.D.S., each regular session presenter is given exactly 18 minutes for their message (there’s literally a countdown clock next to them) and also there is the keynote presenter who receives 36 minutes.   This was the first year they did the 36 min. and I think it worked out  pretty well.  It’s hard to stay attentive for 30 speakers, so the time limit is a great idea that keeps everyone focused.  In addition, there are talkbacks, panel discussions, music (Over the Rhine, Zach WIliams), group discussion, free fair trade coffee (Land of a Thousand Hills from Rwanda), and after-parties at local pubs and billiard places.

Most of my friends know that I enjoy attending conferences and I find them to be extremely beneficial for so many reasons.  Hoping some of you can join me next year.  Til then, I’ll try to communicate the goodness of Q.

Reflecting on Adam Walker Cleaveland's Ordination

For the last few days I’ve been thinking about Adam Walker Cleaveland’s latest frustration in getting ordained. Check out his post, “When an M.Div. from Princeton Isn’t Enough”.  What do you do when the denomination that you are seeking ordination from is making you jump through (to say it politely) seemingly unnecessary hoops?  As we all like to say, each situation is different but unfortunately, not every situation is treated as a unique case and their treatment of him seems to fulfill every negative stereotype of the institution.  And our dear friend believes they like him.  

The quick summary is that he is trying to be ordained by a particular presbytery, but this one is unsatisfied with the classes that he took to complete his MDIV from Princeton Seminary.  Add that he has another Master’s in youth ministry and passed his standardized test on his first attempt, they still want him to take 7 more classes!

Provided the concessions he is willing to make (taking the two classes he mentions on his post), I do not understand the motivation behind this denomination in making things so difficult.  I understand that we as a church do not want “just anybody” to get ordained but it’s been my understanding that we still want people to actually get ordained. Right?

This is reason 587 of why people leave an established tradition and start their own which eventually repeats the same problems which is why we have so many denominations and independent churches.  Honestly, I would not have believed it unless I was alive now – it’s almost unfathomable.  Admittedly, I do not read all my emails/memos but are we trying to catch up to the number of boy bands or something?

But here we are and denominations and the Jonas Brothers are a part of our reality and I’ve come to appreciate and dislike a great deal about being in a denomination.  I feel I can contrast this for my first church was independent and my current is a part of the Evangelical Free Church Association (we like to say that we are not a denomination but for this post, I’m going to say we are.  Please don’t tell them or I might not get ordained ;-). 

The advantages of being in a denomination is the comradery that you can have – if you want it.  Honestly, I enjoy our annual meetings and I like the emails that I receive informing us of a networking opportunity or a new church plant or workshop that is coming to the area and various other things.  Independent churches have to network themselves with others to have something similar which is something that my previous church was not interested in.  But it’s great to be a part of a similarly-minded community that you desire each other’s mutual success and fulfillment in serving the Kingdom.  After seminary, I will have been in this denomination for 4 years and by then, I think I will have a feel for it.  Assuming I feel the same way I do now, I’ll apply for ordination here.  Having spoken to countless people and reviewing the ordination packet, I’m confident that I will have a better experience but if not, hmmm …

Anyway, I could go on and contrast but Adam’s case demonstrates an obvious problem – the ridiculous behavior of those with too much power and not enough sympathy over an issue of great importance.  My personal opinion is that they simply do not want Adam to be associated with their denomination.  Which is a real sad statement to make but I am simply unwilling to believe that a group of reasonably intelligent people reviewed his application and came to this unsympathetic conclusion.  Given the story is as I read it, they have thoroughly investigated the matter and determined that they will make it next to impossible for him to obtain this ordination from them and are hoping that he gives up and proceeds in a different direction, likely the Methodist Church as this is the tradition he is currently serving in. 

Prediction:  Having won the lottery, Adam could go back to school to obtain the completion of these classes and achieve the highest grades a student has ever received. Mark my words, new issues will have arisen detailing why he cannot be ordained or what he needs to do next in order to be ordained.  It may be something simple like, “We have too many men so we need you to undergo an operation” or it may be something completely impractical like, “We need you to read all the Left Behind books and believe that they are based on the Bible”.  As surely as Calvin watches from heaven hating the acrostic TULIP, this presbytery has foreordained Adam not to be admitted. 

Though I would negotiate and exhaust the opportunity to satisfy my stubborn need for closure, Tony Jones offers an interesting solution.  Skip the denomination and be ordained through his community of friends (Also, I do agree that they are sinning against Adam.  It’s just too cold for a group of supposed God-fearing people to act).  What would it look like, what would it actually mean?  If Adam was not in his Methodist setting, but planting a church or something, I would find this to be beautiful and an ideal solution.  In any case, I am signing the “petition”.  You can do so too here.  

Back to the point though, If we weren’t thinking like a present-day Christians, we may consider this to be obvious.  Can’t you hear the thought, “Well who needs some denomination to tell you that you can administer the sacraments?  Where did Paul get his ordination?  You say from the Lord Himself right?  Prove it.  Are you going to show me a letter written by Paul or one by his friend Luke?”   

If we weren’t present-day Christians that grew up with terms like denominations and accreditations, we could make a safe assumption that as a Church, we could ordain each other.  I understand why doctors have MCATS and get Board certified and get licenses.  But similar to how church communities hire and call pastors, it seems they could/should have the same ordination privileges.  What if that were expanded and an individual was able to select their ordination committee? 

This is what I don’t like about our current state of the church.  We read passages like I Cor. 12 and call ourselves a Body then do everything we can to be as non-relational and unemotional and take on the form of some kind of robot void of a soul.

All this said, I will respect whatever Adam concludes he ought to do whenever he decides to do it.  He has a lot of good advice on that blog and many people care about him (and yes, there are those that call themselves Christians that are eager to watch him fail and suffer too.  They are the canker sores and warts of the Body and Christ died for them and I love them like Jesus loved the Pharisees).  Grace to you, Adam.

Monday Morning Brief – May 11, 2009

What I Enjoyed This Week – 1. Mother’s Day.  Last year was Susan’s first Mother’s Day and it was an incredible time as Susan and Nathan had just arrived from FL (where Nathan was born).  I was fortunate enough to preach that day, a lot of my family was there and my grandmother was just released from the hospital the day before (Mother’s Day was the only time she met Nathan for she was taken back to the hospital that night and she went home a few weeks from then).  There’s a lot of other significant parts to that day but this year was wonderful too.  Sitting in worship with Nathan on my lap and my 15 week pregnant wife, Susan, next to me listening to our new senior pastor in a church that we love being a part of was a great joy to experience.  2. Elliot James Hiestand was born.  3.  We spent some time with friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  We really miss them.

What Disappointed Me – Though I am a proud Yankee fan, I was disappointed by another MLB superstar testing positive for a banned steroid substance.  Manny Ramirez was one of my least favorite players to begin with.  He was a former Red Sox, I found him to be arrogant, and thought his antics were lame, unprofessional and complete lack of respect to his team (but they deserve that sort of thing up in Boston).  When there was talk that NY was interested in him, I actually changed the name of my fantasy football team to “Say NO to MANNY!!!”.  I believe this action was what led to the Dodgers being the only team dumb enough to offer him contract after contract this off-season.  But as a baseball fan, Manny is good for the game.  Kids love him, they think he’s fun and he’s exciting to watch if you could forget what you knew about him.  Anyway, baseball has been tainted for quite some time now and we have at least 102 names (that number fluctuates every time John Kruk or Peter Gammons reports by the way), that will surely remind us that this was the culture of the game and no one had the courage to stop it years ago.  

What I’m Listening to – new Bob Dylan, the Decemberists, Jars of Clay, all the same podcasts Homebrewed, Relevant, same, same.

What I’m Reading – The Reliability of the Gospel Tradition by Birger Gerhardsson, Leading with a Limp by Dan Allender.  Almost finished with Who Goes There?: A Cultural History of Heaven and Hell by Rebecca Price Janney 

What’s Goin’ on in Student Ministry – All is still well.  Almost fininshed with the Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus but Not the Church study.  This last topic is “Do Christians take the Bible too Literally?”.  We talked about gougging out our eyes (we told our students not to do that), the trees in the field clapping their hands, hell, lake of fire, the worms, bottomless hole and oh yeah, Jesus’ usage of Isa 66. in Mark 9, etc.  2. Was thrilled that our mission dinner/silent auction made about $6700 and our car wash brought in about $700 this weekend.  3. Still love our leaders and our other volunteers.  4.  Girls’ retreat coming up, Guys night out, Senior Sneak …

What I’m Looking Forward to – 1. Our seminary retreat this weekend to Harvey Cedars (Jersey Shore).  2. Our family trip to Aruba! 

What Made Me Laugh – 

Reflecting on Obama Being Invited to Notre Dame

In my last post, I mentioned that I feel blessed for having so many friends.  So maybe it’s time to lose a few ;-) Almost each day I receive an email or hear a comment that expresses the shock and disappointment regarding President Obama being invited to Notre Dame and like usual, I am bothered with the outrage of people (yeah, I’m outraged with outrage).  But this got me thinking.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been but frankly, yes, I too was initially surprised that Notre Dame invited Obama. Generally speaking, people regard Notre Dame as the symbol of American Catholicism and I wondered about this for a while (at least 30 seconds) and I’d like to make a few assumptions:

The decision makers of Notre Dame are highly intelligent capable people and they probably thought             this through.

This wasn’t a spectacle too distract from their terrible football team.

Notre Dame isn’t posturing for a federal bail-out.

Then it occurred to me – could it be that Notre Dame is interested in conversation? I’ve been sharing to some my friends that we as evangelical Christians need to change our paradigm in various areas. Among these areas is the idea of the culture war. For starters, we need to stop calling it a “culture war”. Second, those “enemies” or those who we sharply disagree with are not going to change their minds in the midst of our protests, books, blogs, sermons, and our Fox News Channel personalities (who seem to be quoted more often than our Messiah). Evidence of this is the last 40-50 years of reaction in attempt to combat the effects of the sexual revolution. Campaigns and images like these posted to the right are not going to make a profound difference.

Those who we differ with may at least dialogue with us if we invite them to our tables, honor them at our events, show them the same love that was shown for us. I truly believe good can come out of this mentality and at worst, it will be a start.

I can hear it now, “Aren’t you afraid, that Obama will convert the Notre Dame students to the abortion agenda? He’s very convincing you know …” No, no I’m not. That’s not what I care about.  I am interested in fewer abortions and the regard for life, not more people to check “I am Pro-Life” during a Gallup Poll. “Are we not inviting the wolves to come and prey upon our flocks?” No because this is the type of logic that has moved us further out of discussion and set up yelling matches. This is what has armed the battalions of our new civil war, “Blue States verses Red States”. “Aren’t we compromising our convictions by allowing this sort of thing?” I know people are tired of reading/hearing this, but again, Jesus ate and drank with prostitutes and tax collectors and others who obviously had different convictions than he did.

Likewise, I’d like to see a school like Concordia invite a respectable conservative like Hugh Hewitt to address their students or a Columbia invite a guy like Cal Thomas. (Forget the Robertsons, Coulters and Limbaughs, they are not interested in conversation).  Another great example is that I loved seeing Don Miller pray at the Democratic National Convention and I pray one day he will allowed back into one of our churches ;-) A negative example is the reaction that Relevant Magazine editor, Cameron Strang, received when he was scheduled to pray at the DNC. Listen, we do not even need to exchange honorary doctorates (honestly, I’m not sure I even understand the point of that) but simply begin by dialoguing with one another – with honor and class.

If we are truly interested in some progress, solving problems like reducing the number of abortions performed, we need to start channeling our energy into working together as opposed to hating and trying to destroy each other. We can begin by welcoming Obama to Notre Dame.

Monday Brief – May 4, 2009

I’ve got 2 weeks worth of catch-up.

What I enjoyed this week (and last week) – (1). I can’t say the year has flown by but I can’t believe that Nathan is a year old already.  I also enjoyed stopping by Giselle’s First Birthday party too. (2).  The Fermi Project’s Q Conference in Austin, TX.  I have a couple drafts that I need to finish up but I’m excited to share some of these thoughts with my friends here.  (3). Our Dinner Silent Auction went well.  We raised a little over $6500 for our mission trip to serve at the All Saints AIDS Camp in Nassau, Bahamas.  (4). Thought Tim Nye did a great job on his sermon last week.  You can listen to it here. (5). Though this is borderline overly dramatic for a blog post, it seems more and more I’m reminded of the goodness of my family, friends and my spiritual community.  I’m enjoying seminary, youth group is going pretty well, and I love my family room (when I’m not studying or watching the Yankees middle-relief give up 5 runs in the 7th).  Where was I?  Oh yea, I’m finding it harder and harder to complain but don’t worry, I’ll find a way for I’m fairly resourceful

What I’ve Been Listening to –  the new Jars of Clay album, The Long Fall Back to Earth is pretty good.  I’ve always had a great appreciation for Jars of Clay.  They are a band that has never failed me.  Zach Williams!  He was at Q and I hope to listen more soon.

What I’ve Been Reading – The Coming of the Kingdom by Herman Ridderbos for school.  It’s pretty lengthy and I think for the first time ever, I liked the middle of the book more than the beginning or end.  But it’s a pretty thorough analysis on what Jesus meant by the coming kingdom.  As a youth pastor, I feel affirmed that we’re not selling the “Hang in there, Jesus is fun and we’ll all go to heaven one day and play dodge ball forever, while the Newsboys perform and it will look like our beloved camp but with a Starbucks … that tips us for coming in …”.  But I’m also a bit overwhelmed by the bit that I have not been able to communicate effectively because has Ridderbos affirms, it’s pretty complicated and in-depth.  (2).  Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World by David Wells, also for school.  I think everyone likes this book but me.  It provided a solid overview of thought throughout the ages but I find it to be a little dated.  In my humble opinion, Dr. Wells ought to read up postmodernity since the year 2000 and consider the shortcomings of the enlightenment and the modern age and how Christian postmoderns (not just the emergents but don’t exclude them either) have responded.  So perhaps it’s time to update and re-release it.  (3). Almost finished with Who’s Goes There? A Cultural History of Heaven and Hell written by Rebecca Price Janney, a Biblical Seminary graduate (represent sister).  Theooze.com was kind enough to send me for review.  I’m liking it and hope to post on it soon.

What’s going in our student ministry – I was grateful that leader extraordinaire, Eric, who led Fusion for us while I was away.  I’m always trying to find the balance of over-using and under-using our youth leaders.  (2.) Was also very grateful for all our students who partipated in the silent auction by either helping to serve the food or participating in the auction itself.  They had nothing to gain but to help their friends.  I’m encouraged because we’ve been saying that this is our mission trip, these students are going but you are a part of it too.  This is how missions works.  Could it be that they are getting some of that?  I’ll know if I don’t see 10 community service papers requesting signatures on my desk this week or if they show up to help at the car wash this Saturday.  (3). Needing to plan out our senior sneak.  Each year we take the active seniors for an all out celebration of getting kicked out of our youth group (I mean graduating).  Previous years have included seeing Seinfeld perform, Brian Regan, beach trips, incredible restaurants, Yankees games, staying at the Waldorf, NYC, Philly – yeah it’s been pretty ridiculous.  We figure how can a public high school make a bigger deal than our church?