Using Scripture Against Obama Is Not Christian

A few times last week I received an email saying “Pray for Obama by using Psalm 109:8″.

It reads, “Let his days be few and let another take his office.”  If you watch the youtube clip, they’ll tell you the next verse.  I know people sent it as a joke but I’m no longer sure that people are joking anymore.

I saw this video with Franky Schaeffer on Brian McLaren’s site and thought to share it with my readers. Schaeffer’s book  “Addicted to Mediocrity” was very influential for me during my Liberty University years.  I’m sure he’d say he’s changed a lot since that publication and I have too.  Regardless, he says plenty for us believers to consider here:

When I saw the teddy bear, I actually began wondering if this was a joke.  But it’s not.  In fact, Cafe Press actually released this statement stating that this merchandise will no longer be available.  Now I should say that I do not agree totally with Schaeffer.  I do not identify myself as a member of the Religious Right but I do not actually see the Right as the “American version of the Taliban”.  That said, things like this make his case hard to disprove.  Whether you consider yourself on the Right, post-Right, moderate, whatever, if you are a Christian, you can not tolerate this.

Certainly I am in no position to actually determine whether this project  was actually started by a Christian but too many are certainly behind it.  (My theory is a clever businessman started this, offered his services to ultra right wing personalities and enough people thought it was funny so here we are but I could be very wrong). Anyway, this ridiculous campaign reminds me of that scene in the movie Saved! where Mandy Moore’s character throws a Bible at the back of her “sinful” friend Mary while screaming, “I am full of the love of Jesus!”.  Most would agree that was a bit contradictory and not Christian.

To be Christian is to be a praying people.  Very quickly someone will say, “Yes, Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and Paul reminds us too …”.  Certainly this is true but to be Christian, we should be extremely careful in even regarding someone as an enemy.   Frankly, I am not convinced that Obama can even be called an enemy but everyone is entitled to their own conviction.  Jesus told us to love all.  Among the most loving, the most Christian thing to do is to care for those we passionately disagree with, to serve the persecutor and to truly pray in a manner that brings glory to God.   Otherwise, we are not worthy of the blood of the cross, we are nothing but spoiled brats who arrogantly speak of a god who is not just, nor compassionate, nor anything that resembles the triune One of Scripture.  That is an idea created by those  who wish to create a god that loves and hates the same things they do – that’s an idol, not the true and living God.

Monday Morning Update – 10.23.09

What I’ve Been Up To:
Just got back from our seminary retreat with Brian McLaren.  As I regard his work as an important influence in my life, I had expectations that I could not ignore.  I also hoped that my fellow seminarians would appreciate Brian as well.  Sort of like when you bring your girlfriend home to meet your family, you want them to like her but  but since she’s special, you’re not going to care that they don’t.  Turns out they liked Brian.  Anyway, he shared a lot about prayer and in doing so, I think revealed a great deal about the character of God, the human heart contained in Scripture and quite a bit about our human souls deal with pain and wonder.  Still processing through.

What I’ve Been Reading:
Just finished the audiobook of Outliers by Malcom Galdwell.  Very interesting in the very good  way.  Leaves you with the thought, “That’s great, wow, what should I do I now though?”  Very  good book, highly recommend it.
Still reading The Justice Project.  It’s not one to breeze through because I am really hoping to  absorb enough to live out and communicate effectively.
Rereading some assigned Karl Barth (I am so ridiculously behind for my independent study paper.)
Generate Magazine (loving it, you should subscribe), the new Relevant with Jon Foreman on the cover.

What Music I’ve Been Listening to:
Jenny Lewis’ Acid Tongue at the moment (crazy album).
Sufjan – BQE, (even some of his Christmas)
Welcome Wagon – yep, Thomas Turner’s article in Generate has compelled me once again.  I like his idea of church and the importance of the spiritual body but also the importance of a physical space where community can be enjoyed.
Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
and the usual podcasts.

What’s Going on in our Student Ministry:
I’ve been so grateful for our youth leaders leading the teaching in my absence.  We certainly have a good thing going here and they are a big part of that.  While there are areas that we need to work on, I don’t see how anyone can say that they come in to our space and not be cared for.
A lot of Invisible Children things going on.  Our students have started a couple clubs in their schools, started some fundraising and one group was able to host a screening in a school assembly for grades 10-12.
We are beginning to work on a benefit concert for late January.
I’m working on our Winter Retreat and looking forward to teaching again after Thanksgiving.

What I’m Looking Forward To:
Thanksgiving Day with the family.
Our next Second Mile service on December 19th
The time of Advent

An Encouragement to Particpate in the Advent Conspiracy

I’m one of those no Christmas music til after Thanksgiving people. I have made a few exceptions like Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album and the amazing Sufjan boxset but what I am really thinking about is Advent. Really, I am. For many years, I’ve always felt unprepared for this season but not this one, friends. I even considered writing a pre-advent devotional book entitled “Get Ready to Get Ready” but I got pretty discouraged that the material pretty much was the Christian life. You know stuff like, “As we prepare our hearts to prepare our hearts, let us reflect on what it means to have the presence of Jesus with us now.” Currently, I’ve retitled the project to “Just Another Devotional in Distribution”. My imaginary editor told me that acronyms are sellers in the Christian retail world so “JADID”.)

Well as you can tell from the deep outpourings of my heart that I am ready for Advent. Similar to last year, I’ll focus on certain parts of Scripture, use a particular devotional, and am considering a couple other practices that I do not know how to communicate properly. But among them will be the Advent Conspiracy.

As a youth group, we have set a goal and I am hoping the Second Mile community will participate in some way too. I keep sharing our experience from last year, hopefully not out of a sense of self-righteousness but last year was one of my favorite Christmases. The short story and to keep it specific to AC was that Susan and I simply bought bags of fair trade coffee (from One Village) for most people, a few books (ask my sr. pastor which Tony Jones book he got), a restaurant gift certifcate and donated the money we saved. We bought a couple “normal” gifts for Nathan and each other (Susan got a macbook …. in October and I bought books that I would have bought anyway but this time … even more guilt-free. But they were great answers to people who measure your goodness by what you purchase for loved ones at Christmastime ;-) Anyway, I think I went to the mall twice: once we took Nathan to see Santa (which he didn’t enjoy) and once to buy something for a non-coffee drinking person – fruitcake of course. This year I plan on giving coffee, subscriptions to magazines like Generate and some Invisible Children items.

Everyone I know, and I think I mean literally everyone, has lamented to me at one time or another the absolute frustration of Christmas shopping and has complained of its commercialization. I am sure they have complained to you too.  So everyone we know feels this way. The Conspiracy helps counter that. I know some will think, “You don’t understand, I have a family that expects Christmas gifts – nice ones!” – yes that makes you American, welcome. Or more common, “I just don’t have anything left to give” – seriously, that’s what the Advent Conspiracy is about. Spending less, so you can give more and spend that time that you would have thinking what to get for the person that doesn’t want anything, shopping anyway and wrapping the stupid thing so at the end of it all, you can be closer to Jesus. You now get to redeem that time and hopefully do something constructive with it – you may even choose to worship (and I don’t mean just on Sundays and I don’t mean just in “quiet times”) but imagine worshipping during the Christmas season and spending time with people you love and maybe even showing love to those you don’t know.

Know that I and others like me are not trying to create a new legalism here. It would be easy to do that and may the Lord guard our hearts from that. If your Christmas is fine the way it is, disregard the advice and worship the way you would normally. But if you curse every time you hear “So This Is Christmas”, it may be time for a change.

Hopegiving versus Thanksgiving

These were some of the thoughts I tried to share from our Second Mile service this past weekend.

It was entitled a “Thankless, Guilt-Ridden yet Hopeful:  A reflection on the believer’s posture towards the holiday and topic of Thanksgivingl”

In the facebook invitations, I asked those coming to participate in some fill in the blank type statements like, “When I think of Thanksgiving I think of …”,”My least favorite part of Thanksgiving is …” and “I wish the church would consider … in relation to Thanksgiving”.  I got some good answers.  Regarding what they liked, most enjoyed spending time with family, reflected on the year and shared about certain family traditions.   The responses for “Least favorite …” was more interesting.  Among them was spending time with family, the bloated feeling after the big meal, and bad football games.  There were also some good answers regarding what the church could learn from this time of year.  My favorite answer mentioned was “humility”.  Indeed, indeed, but that would lead to a different post.

For me, Thanksgiving has always been an interesting time.  Certainly there are many positive things to enjoy about this holiday.  However, over the years, I have found this time to carry a sense of personal frustration as well.  Years ago, I remember sitting in a Thanksgiving Eve service where there was a time of sharing on what we were grateful for and the ways we’ve seen God work this past year.  At the risk of sounding ungrateful and judgmental, I remember thinking, “Wow is that all God is to you?”

They were comments like:

I hate my job but at least I have one. (Yeah I can feel the praise shake the windows of heaven on that one)

My mom is crazy but at least I have one.  (See you tomorrow!)
My boyfriend is an idiot but at least he takes me out on the weekends (and he’s rich but I won’t say that out loud).
My wife is crazy but at least I’m not single. (Ok, I haven’t heard that one out loud at a Thanksgiving service but I have heard it peoples’ minds).
Single people who say, well, I’m glad that I’m not married to the wrong person. (And we all know how the church feels about singleness.  Better to be married 4 times and cheating on your spouse then to be single in some churches.  You might even get asked to be an elder … only if you are a man of course ;-)
I’m glad that I’m not among the percentage of people who don’t have clean water, and adequate clothes, medicine, and shelter (that should break our hearts not give us a reason to be thankful for our circumstances. In fact, how can we be thankful this time of year having knowledge of that?)

While I digress and exaggerate heavily, to me these are not reasons to be thankful.  Further they are not reasons to celebrate the goodness of God.  If anything that sounds like Darwinism to me.  “Well at least I didn’t get eaten by a lion today”.  Or the Christian version of that, “Well, at least I’m better off than Ananias and Sapphira”.

Now I am sure upon hearing some of these statements,  the person sitting in front of me was moved and felt God’s presence in a powerful, profound way; I am very willing to concede that this is my problem and not the sharer’s and certainly not the fault of the service itself.  Unfortunately for me, the negative feelings of this service and the way we as a Church talk about this time of year have continued to appear.  Since then, I have learned a few things and among them is I am not alone in these feelings and perhaps God is trying to tell us something.

Some of the text below is based on slides I had prepared and the text was from I Peter 3:8-18.
The challenges of well-intentioned holidays like Thanksgiving:
The personal pain in life sometimes make Thanksgiving sentiments feel trite.

The “sudden” spiritualization of the holiday to be thankful to God may lead to a forced thankfulness
and eventually guilt.

How can I be thankful in the midst of so much suffering?

Many have carried over this idea that we have attach a certain religious mentality to this holiday in order to be faithful to Jesus.  Unfortunately this has led many to self-righteousness, legalism, and hypocrisy.

It creates a caricature of God that is fickle, weak, unsympathetic and an ignorant old man.  And once a year we have to bring what we are thankful for to the altar … so that He will bring us Christmas gifts.  This reminds me of a favorite U2 line on No Line on the Horizon, “Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.” – from “Stand Up Comedy”.

I think the above expresses a shallow view of life.  If you have ever been to a cancer ward, you may know what I mean. A few years ago, I visited with a cancer patient who was getting chemotherapy.  We talked, we laughed, we listened to each other’s stories, we even prayed.  Of course, I left thinking, “wow, I’m grateful for my healthy. Grateful that my wife is ok too” but I confess two things

It’s probably that’s it’s a matter of time before someone is visiting me with a life-threatening illness/disease.  Further, what about the person with the life-threatening illness?  How can I be grateful in a world that has cancer?

We reconcile these thoughts with:

“Well, it’s a fallen world and you can’t live in fear you know – true – sorta.

And the classic line, “Carpe Diem – Seize the moment!”.  But this motto carries an unknown expiration date.  Indeed we ought to live being self-aware with a sense of mortality but I usually hear this as a rallying call for “to live life to its fullest”.  That is another line that is misleading.  Not that I think we should live to its least or one that is mediocre. The issue is that these movie lines have the tendency to lead our hearts to being self entitled and inward seeking.  So the line we usually say is, “Seize the day (for myself)”

Which leads to the question, “Does this mean thanksgiving is a temporary season?”

And what about can one be thankful in the midst of cancer?

I think of my friend who has since, passed away. He told me though he may not have too much longer, the disease has brought out the best in life.  The best from his family, friends, church, and from himself.  It’s such a shame that you have to be dying to get this.

For me the problem with the idea of thankfulness is that it is bound by results. It’s on the opposite side of faith.  It tends to measure God and the blessings of life circumstantially as opposed to relationally.  Consider for a second that Jesus did not come to give us better circumstances or to keep us from experiencing pain but rather for redemption, to lead us in the abundant life and to allow us to live in His Kingdom.

Our question this time of year should not be, “What do I have to be thankful for?”. That may more like the second last question (but I think there are about 20 worth asking prior).  Among the many reasons, one is because the last question in the journey of the Christian faith should be “Can I still hope?”

This is why we can be thankful in the midst of the storms of life sure.  But I tell you what’s important is that we have hope in the midst of the storm.

This is why we can enjoy the blessings of life but we cannot stop there, but rather we must offer the hope to those that are suffering around us.

Because of the work of Christ, I have hope.

And so … (more slides)

Let us focus on the basis for our faith to begin with – Christ and His work.

  • Let us be blessed by His love.
  • Let us be inspired by His redemption for all.
  • Let us dwell in and share the hope that He brings.
  • How then do we share the hope that we have in Christ?

  • By allowing the Holy Spirit to help us overcome our self-absorption and seeing the
    hurt/needs of others.
  • By using Scripture, prayer, community, and all of God’s revelation to help us understand the mission of the Father’s Kingdom.
  • To serve as Jesus did.
  • We finished with by introducing the Advent Conspiracy (more on this later) but the concluding idea was that maybe for this time of year, we as a Church can be known for our sharing of the hope we have in Jesus. This led into an extended time of prayer for confession, reflection and the seeking of God’s hope for the journey.

    It was a beautiful service.  After prayer our worship leader, Glenn led our time.  After our benediction, we hung out in the sanctuary and nice things were said about our time but of course, life resumed again.  Some had places to get to, some were tired and a few of us went to a local diner.  I don’t know if anything dramatic happened but for me, I was encouraged by the evening and I among those who see its potential. May the Lord lead …

    Reflecting on the Crowder Band Show at Terminal 5, NYC

    This past Friday, I took a vanful of Sr. Highers and God’s favorite youth leader to Terminal 5 in NYC to check out the David Crowder Band in concert.  If you have ever seen a Crowder show you know you are in for a good time but you also know you are in for a worshipful experience.  They have this interesting ability to combine the reverence and a great mood that allows you to think, “I”m worshipping, I’m having fun, it’s not cheesy, and I don’t feel guilty.  Well alright then.”

    Taken from @crowderbands twitpic

    Taken from @crowderband's twitpic

    Opening was Seabird who got a lot of Relevant Magazine buzz.  We also caught their set at this year’s RevGen.  I think what I like about Seabird is that they  are a band that has a solid piano feel but doesn’t sound like Coldplay.  Now we all like us some Viva La Vida but every once in a while it’s cool to see a piano and not think Chris Martin. Not only do they have their own sound, but they don’t dress like hipsters.  They pointed that out when they said they needed to buy skinny jeans so people wouldn’t stare at their overalls.  At least the boys from, umm ….  I think they said Kentucky which makes that the first time I heard that state mentioned all year since I filled in Kentucky for my March Madness bracket.  Anyway, they are comfortable with themselves.  They have some solid songs like “Rescue”, “Falling For You” (which I hear was on Grey’s Anatomy) and “Don’t Know You Are Beautiful”.  You can listen to their myspace stream here.

    Following Seabird was a Danyew.  I think it’s the lead’s last name and I think he said his first name was Phil.  Not sure.  A lot of the attention went to his drummer, Brandon, who plays like he was Jesus clearing out the temple.  Taking no prisoners, he beats those drums with everything he’s got including coins from a barista’s tip jar.  I remember liking the sound but they were more entertaining to watch.  It got them noticed and I am sure they will figure out the balance of their music and showmanship.  I think the catchy song was “Streetlight”.  It’s about how God hovers over your life like a streetlight and illuminates the road but then it gets dark again but then there’s another streetlight.  See?  Ok, it’s not about that at all, in fact, I have no idea what it is but they seem cool and I wish them the best.

    Then Crowder Band took the stage – in suits because you know, it’s the Church Music tour and you have to dress up for church.  There is so much I like about this band.  They understand that worship music needs to evolve and they create a lot of good energy that isn’t really directed at them. Who would have thought that this tall, skinny guy with big hair would be able to lead the masses over so many years in worship.  I mean let’s face it, “being sexy for Jesus” is the last thing on anyone’s mind.  The words are on a screen asking you to sing along and at every show there is a mandate to just sing loud and not pretty and that’s what people did.

    The 80’s new wave sound of Church Music is a brilliant departure from Remedy and Collision and my hope is that we learn to incorporate these new songs in our worship communities.  It will be tough but I hope to see worship bands in the future use these new sounds.  I’m all for guitar, drums and the Jars of Clay violin but it will be nice to see how we evolve from here.  They played the new stuff like “Happiness” and “How He Loves” and the old stuff like “O Praise Him”, “You Are My Joy” and “Glory of it All”.

    To name three other big bands in the Christian music scene that I genuinely appreciate would be Jars of Clay, Switchfoot and uhh, … ummm … well three is a lot but that’s why Crowder is special.

    Worst part of the night was not being able to escape all the Owl City mentions (you know who you are).  Come on people, it’s catchy but we all know it’s a publicity stunt by Relient K’s Matt Thiessen.

    taken from the stage by Mike (the bassist).

    taken from the stage by Mike (the bassist).

    Reflecting on Brett McKracken's relevant post on "Why We Like Watching the World End"

    I just enjoyed reading Brett McKracken’s “Why We Like Watching the World End” and I felt that my comment was going to get long so I thought I’d finish it here.

    I admit that I feel two things when I watch a movie like Armageddon, I am Legend or any movie that either has Nicolas Cage worrying and running or Morgan Freeman narrating and preaching.  The first is, “Wow, it’s so cool how they trashed New York City.  It’s almost as bad as what Philly sports fans do when they win something”.  And two, “We really should consider moving to South Dakota because whether it be terrorist, nuclear, natural disaster, or the killer-bee invasion, we’d among the first to die here in north jersey.

    Brett offers reasons of why we enjoy watching thee movies like pointing out it’s part of human nature to be curious of such destruction.  He also discusses the reminder of justice and compassion which I appreciated him saying.  I don’t think everyone watches these movies to see people perish.  We also watch to see hope emerge in the midst of the worst case scenarios.

    But I fear there’s another reason why some of my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord like to watch, talk and imagine these end of the world scenarios – spite.    It seems to me that those of us who have been raised with a dispensational theology want to see the world be punished.  I mean if you think the freeze scenes of The Day the Earth Stood Still were cool, imagine how cool it will be to watch consuming fire engulf the heathens while we safely watch from our raptured cloud with “real” surround sound.

    To be honest, it grieves me when I hear my fellow Christians speak gleefully about the destruction of the earth.  While it is impossible to imagine the specifics,  I believe God will judge and redeem all of creation.  It always feels as though that person is saying, “Burn in hell, suckers! You should have listened to us when you had the chance! Bet you wished you had been ready now, huh?”  As the old songs goes,  “And they’ll know we are Christians by our spite, by our spite, by our spite …”  I hope God forgives me for jumping off that cloud because I do not believe that is a trajectory bound for His Kingdom.

    Back to why we like watching these types of movies and I am including zombie, horror and chic flicks here.  Because these scenes don’t normally happen, we get to watch them consequence free.  As Brett mentions, i think there is a fine curiosity that is normal to imagine.  It’s human. But as he also says, that feeling after witnessing  countess  people perishing should motivate us towards compassion and mission.

    Reflecting On Our Invisible Children Screening

    What is Invisible Children?
    For those who don’t know, for many years these children were being abducted by Joseph Kony’s army the LRA and turned into child soldiers (and many of the girls were trafficked).  To avoid being abducted, many of the children would commute out of their village and to a bigger town and sleep in hiding. The next morning they would return to do their schooling and chores and then commute back (There are some absolutely horrific and heartbreaking stories).  Since the ceasefire in 2008, Cony’s army is believed to be in the Congo and night-commuting has stopped.  This has become an important time for healthcare and education. You can learn more and watch short video clips at and order the full length dvd’s, which of course helps raise funds.  You can read more of the beginning of IC here.

    How We Got Involved
    For me, It started when my friends Todd Hiestand and Gary Alloway were planning to take their church, The Well, to a sleepover in center city Philadelphia to create awareness for the “Invisible Children” of Uganda.  Like most people I know, there are so many causes and organizations that need help.  How do you discern which caues/organizations to support and which ones not to?  It’s an impossible question but I’m of the school of thought of being faithful with the opportunities that present themselves and for us, this came was one of them.

    I was very moved by the first Invisible Children dvd called “The Rough Cut”.  It’s disturbing alarming and even more depressing is knowing that Uganda is not the only place of such evil atrocities.  A few years ago, we showed it to our Sr. High youth group.  They too were moved.  Immediately, I had facebook posts and emails about what we could do to help.  It started by taking a  collection and later buying a  few dvd’s and a few shirts.  Last year we saw another one called “Sunday”.  It’s a story centered around a teen-age boy named Sunday that lost his family but now dreams of being a doctor.  This past summer at YS’s DCLA, we saw their newest one called “Go” which features their new “Schools for Schools” campaign (American schools helping Ugandan ones). Afterwards we signed up to host a screening.  One of the awesome “roadies” called us and the date was set for Wed. Oct 21st.

    Aside from raising financial support, creating awareness is an  extremely important part of the cause. We are not a large church  and not a large youth group but we decided that this was a cause  that we wanted to share with our friends.  In some ways, this  became a way of discussing faith and religion with others.  But  instead of asking questions like, “Do you know where you will go  after you die?”, a better question was “Would you like to come to  a free documentary screening about the atrocities in Uganda?  It’s  really moving and we can help.”

    Flyers were created, Facebook invites were sent, and quite  seriously, most of our students felt this was among the easier  things to invite people to.  The weekend before our screening, we  stood outside grocery stores, Starbucks, and went business to  business asking if we could post our flyers.  When the night  finally came, we had almost 200 people.  Even better was that  crowd brought their wallets and bought shirts, dvd’s and signed up for the “Tri-campaign” ($3/week to IC).

    We had a really solid response afterwards from students, parents, and people from our community we met at A&P, who saw our signs in deli’s, laundromats and Facebook.  One mother called me the next day and said something to the effect of, “You are showing us that we need to rethink evangelism.”  I think I’ll save that for another post but that was a moment that did my heart some good.

    Invisible Children is a form of the Gospel.  And screenings are an excellent opportunity of telling our communities that Christians care about the needs outside its walls.  Further, the situation in Uganda is dire.  I’d like to encourage you to look into this, especially my fellow youth pastors.

    How you can get involved:

    • Go up on and watch some of their shorter video clips.
    • Order some DVD’s
    • Read up on the history of the war in Uganda.
    • Consider inviting a bunch of friends and host a screening with the hopes of creating awareness
    • Not a youth pastor?  Consider showing a documentary to a few friends or your church small group.
    • Commit to giving through the “Tri” Campaign (3 bucks a week)

    So what’s next for us? It looks like a benefit concert.
    As always, holler if you have any questions.  Would love to help in any way I can.

    What I've Been Doing – 11.9.09

    What I’ve Been Enjoying:

    1. Our new baby Dylan. Susan is recovering well, her parents have been extremely helpful, and our one year old Nathan is enjoying being a big brother most of the time.  I won’t get into anything deep like the previous post (thansk for the loving words by the way) but I’m still pretty high on life right now.  My observations on Dylan so far are: 1. Light brown/reddish hair?  Holy recessive genes Batman, didn’t see that coming.  2. He doesn’t cry as much as the first one did (we still love you, just pointing out observations).  Seriously, though it’s only been 2 weeks (and too early to tell), Dylan seems to be a fairly peaceful kid.  3. He likes me.  Of course he loves Susan but everyone does.  And he has to love her, she feeds him.  The dad on the other hand, has always been optional.  If it weren’t for my athleticism (Nathan is mesmerized by how far I can throw those toy balls) and baby-bathing skills, I’m not sure if my relationship with Nathan would be as close as it is.  Dylan seems to be calmed by my voice and my charm.  So far, so good.

    2. Yankees win the World Series!  What can I say – it’s a good year when your favorite baseball team wins the world series the week after a son is born.  Because I’m a good youth pastor, I cancelled sr. high youth group so that we could watch Game 6 together.  I’m so glad I did that.  Community is gained by going through storms together, studying Scripture, interceding for one another, serving on mission trips and cleaning up food pantries.  Community is also created in watching the Yanks bring home their 27th championship.

    Got to enjoy the World Series parade too.  I went with my favorite student Jake ;-) and favorite church member, Dave. We made it to about 2-3 blocks from city hall and stopped to watch on this screen with a couple thousand people.  It was great to be out in the sunny, cool fall day with my fellow brothers and sisters in the Yankees.

    What I’ve Been Reading –

    For school –

    – Religious No More by Mark Baker.  While I wasn’t crazy about the beginning of it, I loved the middle and conclusion.  We have book debates set up for class and my group has to defend the major themes of it.  It’s a good book to defend, I’m looking forward to it.

    – A couple of commentaries on Galatians. One by Richard Hays (New Interpreters) and another by Martin Luther.  Hays isfantastic and I find it to be very helpful in seeing new things in Paul’s work and thought.  I am not enjoying Luther’s as much because for one, be raised an evangelical, I find it to be very familiar and two, he doesn’t really engage the text from a commentator’s perspective; he preaches it.  I don’t want sound trite in that and I regard Luther as an extremely important figure in the history of the church but his commentary isn’t as incredible ;-)

    – The Justice Project edited by Brian McLaren.  It’s a book about condensing God’s goodness into a few basic sound bytes with Scripture verses, easy to memorize that sit on a train … and if you get stuck, you can consult your bracelet … oh wait, that’s how we have diluted the gospel and the ruined idea of evangelism.  I just started this book but I am among the many who see justice as an ignored or marginalized aspect in the mission of the church.  The Scriptures are very emphatic on the role that justice needs to play in the life of the believer.  Looking forward to reading and using the ideas of the book.  Lastly, I think our “evangelism” would make a bit more sense if the church was interested in pursuing justice.  More to say on that one day.

    What I’ve Been Listening to:

    – Homebrewed Christianity podcast with Harvey Cox and Phillip Clayton.  I need to listen to it again but what I heard I really liked.  Unfortunately I was listening at the gym and I found myself hating how fatigued I was started tuning out the stimulating conversation.  Soon after I started playing Coldplay (because it  just makes you feel better).

    – Relevant Magazine Podcast – always excellent, always funny, and probably the best thing about Orlando.

    – Mars Hill Audio Journal – Before there were podcasts, this was an audio journal hosted by Ken Myers (who used to work for NPR).  He interviews academics. It’s nerdy, it’s good, and it’s the closest I plan on getting to Stanley Fish and Scott Moore (not that there’s anything wrong with them). I listened to issue 97 and particularly enjoyed the interview with Scott Moore who talked about how our patriotism may conflict with our faith and with artist-writer Makoto Fujimura whose name comes up in countless conversations.

    – New Sufjan Stevens – BQE.  Still need to see the documentary.  It’s a soundtrack (think symphony not Garden State) about a road (think the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, not the Parkway) by one of the most talented people of our era (think Sufjan, not Zach Braff ;-)

    What I’ve Been Watching on Television – Now that the baseball season is over, it’s just football on Sundays and Mondays and Office and Community on Thursdays.  Don’t recommend any new shows for me, this will be a welcomed time until Lost begins.

    What I’m Looking Forward to:

    1. David Crowder Band concert at the Bowery Ballroom this week

    2. Second Mile service.  It will be our second.  It will focus on the topic and holiday of Thanksgiving, suffering, community, and how does a Christian reconcile all of this. Can a Christian be thankful when so many are suffering?  How does a Christian be thankful if they are void of community?  And would Jesus have eaten turkey on the last Thursday of November?  If so, with who, where, and with or without gravy?These are important matters for an important time.

    3. Seminary Retreat with Brian McLaren.  Reason no. 167 why you should consider attending Biblical Seminary

    Reflecting on the Birth of Our New Son, Dylan

    I happen to be in a beautiful season of life right now.  For those who don’t know me or our story, this wasn’t always the case.  My wife, Susan, and I will have been married for 10 years this coming January and we have just started our family last year with the adoption of our first son, Nathan. This week brought us our second child, Dylan.

    After years of fertility treatments and going through a series of unfortunate events from a family tragedy to the proverbial first church experience, we find ourselves reflecting on this journey we’ve been on.  It’s funny  (for lack of a better word) how life unfolds.  When you get married in your early 20’s to a beautiful girl, life looks pretty optimistic.  There’s the beautiful struggle of getting rid of college loans, clothes and vehicles and the needed transition to appear as an “adult”. But as you get older, you realize so much of adulthood is a mirage created by media, expectations and that inner voice that’s always questioned your self-worth.  Add the negative people you meet and subtract the freedom you once enjoyed and you’re on your way to a life so many call “the same old, same old”.  From bad bosses to tragedies to bad movie sequels you just paid $10 to see, it’s easy to understand why so many twenty-somethings get jaded.

    I’m not sure we ever knew how rough it was getting for us.  My wife and I tried to keep each other encouraged.  I remember when everyone was getting pregnant around us, we’d laugh and say the one thing all these people had in common was that they knew us.  In our first church, we had began a Married WithOUT Children group and it was the coolest thing to “kick” someone out because it meant that they just celebrated the arrival of a baby.  It got rough when we realized the entire group we started with had “graduated”.  We never begrudged anyone for getting pregnant.  In fact, we were sort of relieved that our loved ones weren’t going through what we were going through.  The only time we felt felt that it wasn’t fair was when someone complained that they were pregnant.

    One of the worst days I remember happened while I was a in movie theater.  My wife and I had different days off and I would end up going to a matinee by myself. I went regularly because one, I like movies, but two, I needed the escape.  One day, I sat in the theater watching a movie that carried a strong element of tragedy and in my mind I heard the unspoken theme, “Not all of our dreams come true.”  And while I never gave up on wanting to see my wife be a mother and wanting to be a dad, something changed. I realized it very well may never happen.  I had to release it. The closest thing I could compare it to was letting go after my grandmother passed away.  While you can’t ever forget the memory or the knowledge of someone you cared about, you move on knowing that you won’t see them at Christmas.

    Then life got cruel.  Susan’s brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.  A young driver thought he could beat him through an intersection.  In his second day of surgery, I knew he was going to be ok.  It was a Sunday in fact, and it was my turn to preach.  The passage was on God promising Abraham that he would have a son.  This was a very special sermon for me as it revolved around faith, obedience and promise.  Add to it that we were going through fertility treatments and I thought about God and Abraham almost every day.  My wife flew down to FL to be with her family and I stepped into the pulpit with the faith that could move mountains.  I knew that everything was going to be ok.  I knew it, though it sometimes take a while and sometimes you have to go through the pain, that there would be joy in the end.  I was in the church lobby enjoying the high from an appreciated message when one of the secretaries told me my wife was on the phone.  Susan told me her brother didn’t make it.  I couldn’t believe it – I was so stunned, especially because I really, really believed everything was going to be ok.  He left behind a beautiful 2 year old boy and a wonderful wife that didn’t know she was pregnant when she buried her husband.

    We stopped fertility treatments that year.  Then after 5 years, I resigned from my first church.  Then we got pregnant!  I remember the joy of feeling vindicated when my wife told me the news. Things were going to be ok.  A very short while later, Susan miscarried and waves of pain spilled over us once again.

    Eventually we found a church that we wanted to be a part of.  And while the new start would usher in a time of healing, we hesitated in getting our hopes up.  That’s the thing I learned about going through depressing times – you can never imagine life getting better. Don’t get me wrong, I was never clinically depressed, or suicidal, nor did I question God’s love for me, but I do remember feeling the numbness of life. Laughing at Seinfeld, drinking a Guinness while eating my wife’s cooking were the pleasures I knew not to take for granted because not too long before that, nothing was funny and nothing tasted good.  But for a while, this was as good as life got.

    So a few years ago, had someone told me that  2009 would be finishing like this, I would have cursed you for tempting me to get my hopes up.

    I know that we have no guarantees regarding health, difficult times, and further tragedy. As believers,  we see the mysterious hand of God at work in our lives (not that I necessarily believe that God fore-ordained all this to happen this way) and we have chosen to enjoy this time as opposed to living in fear that these blessings will be stripped from us.  We’ve come to learn some of the different aspects of living by faith.  For years it seemed that we were living on the faith of the impossible.  Fighting despair was the challenge.  The past couple years have been living on the faith brought about from joy.  Fighting fear has been the newest challenge but the Lord is near.  For now this is is where we are and while nothing is perfect, there’s a lot of wonderful things happening, we can’t help but be grateful.