Recapping Last Week: Q Conference, Teaching at Gordon, Nepal and Baltimore

I am following the advice in one of those blog help posts on what to write when you don’t know what to write. The advice was write what is on exactly your mind. Well, there’s a lot on my mind and I definitely feel the log jam of thoughts and so I’m recapping my week a bit, tring to avoid rambling and see if it leads to some follow-up posts.

Substitute Taught at Gordon College

I have a good friend adjuncting there and she was looking for a local pastor to talk about discipleship and give an introduction to the missional church which happen to be among my favorite subjects (had she asked for a crash course on fantasy baseball, it would be have been a trifecta!). That class went well and was followed by another discussing the doctrines of heaven, hell and the afterlife with a dozen undergrads trying to process their recent lectures and that week’s readings that included N.T. Wright and Miroslav Volf.

It’s an awesome morning when you get to talk to young people about Willard, Hirsch, Wright, Volf, consumer Christianity, and the missional church. Grateful for my friend asking me to do this – found a lot more fulfillment in this than expected.

The Q Conference 
I really loved this year’s Q Conference that took place in Boston which allowed for Susan to join me. So often I go to these things alone and try to offer some type of a recap which is never helpful enough.

True story, last year I told Susan about Shauna Niequists’s incredible presentation. About six months later Susan told me about this Shauna Niequist Q Talk that she just happened to see online somewhere. I said, “Yeah that was great. I mentioned that to you, right?”IMG_5125

She said,  “You did? Well, maybe … It was so good – Thanks!”

“Thanks for what?”

Yeah this is the difference between experiencing it for yourself and hearing about it.

I love all the Q’s – this year, I really benefited from so many of the talks speaking specifically to some of our most pressing issues today including racial reconciliation and what Ferguson taught us, dealing with Isis, understanding human sexuality and same sex marriage/relationships among others. Much to process, and I fear the blog will not be suitable but we’ll see.

I was also grateful that I got to attend with a few friends and fellow staff, some of whom graciously volunteered to serve us. I was also glad to see some of my “Q Friends.” Though there is never enough time to catch up, it’s good to know these friends are out there, trying to serve the common good.

So grateful Q came to Boston. I know it’s a difficult and expensive city for a conference-gathering but it’s an awesome city. It’s a special place as it’s filled with both great history and brilliant new ideas – tradition and innovation. It’s unique in that way and the Q Team captured and shared that spirit so effectively.

The Nepal Earthquake

Heartbreaking. The idea of the ground shaking and your shelter crumbling down above you is such a horrific thought. At the moment there are 4000 confirmed deaths and the number keeps climbing. Can I confess that I don’t really have the words. I’m like many when they hear of a natural disaster on such a massive scale – how can this just happen?

I continue to think that such lament is necessary as an appropriate human response. It should startle us, it should cause us pain, as we are wired this way. May our lament never be a posturing and may we help in the ways we can, through aiding of relief efforts, through our prayers, and when the time comes, supporting rebuilding efforts (For those interested, we are supporting through World Relief and World Vision).

Freddie Gray and Baltimore Protests & Riots

You may have seen the video of the bike cops arresting an injured Freddie Gray and as you know, he died over the weekend, leading to both, peaceful protests and inciting violent rioting in Baltimore.

The facts of how Freddie suffered such severe spinal injuries after his arrest and on his way to the police station have not been released and frankly, need to be as soon as possible. May due and just process prevail and if foul play is discovered, may justice be served. You can google and read for yourself but as I understand it Freddie, who has a history of drug possession, dealing, and burglary, ran from police for an undetermined reason, his leg was injured in the apprehending, then between being taken into custody and arriving at the police station suffered life-threatening injuries that included a severed spine, crushed vocal box and numerous injuries to his face and upper body – none of which happened during his arrest.

For the moment I’ll avoid obvious speculation but that report is damning. His fleeing and his rap sheet do not make a fair game for any form of brutality.

The obvious comparison is the Catholic Church priest scandal. If bishops=police chiefs/politicians/officials are protecting and harboring pedophiles = violent criminals with badges and allowing free access to the public and then this is clearly scandalous. We may say the majority of priests are honorable men of God who have have taken their calling seriously. We may also say that vast majority of police officers are honorable, law-abiding men and women upholding their oaths and serving the public faithfully. But we must also say there are clearly dysfunctional, wrong-headed people that are taking advantage of their authority and acting unjustly and with cruelty. For the law enforcement system to overlook this, it would be similar to those Catholic Church archdioceses and dioceses overlooking the pedophilic men they wrongly kept as priests and covered up their cases of molestation. Feel free to call me out if you find this to be an unhelpful comparison, but it’s how I’m processing right now.

As far as the peaceful protests and also the riots, all I can say is that we have to see both. My casual observation has been the numbers peacefully protesting have differed, but seems safe to say that they are well in the thousands. This is significant to me. And while the media may be over-focusing on the riots, looting, vandalism, destruction of public property, injured officers, and multiple buildings set on fire is news too  – over 200 arrests, over a hundred destroyed vehicles and about 15 buildings set on fire as of this posting. We have to see both because both are happening. Obviously, the next steps would be to look deeper, to consider what are the root causes of rioting (not to justify mind you, but to understand). All this is definitely on my mind and heart. Feel free to pass along any relevant articles and thoughts. I did appreciate the Atlantic’s The Mysterious Death of Freddie Gray.

 How Life Intersects With the Happenings of the World

Once again, this is the frustrating part of social media. We have so many thoughts, reactions, and happenings throughout the days and weeks. Sacred, trivial, of global/national significance, to personal, to intimate matters of the heart. Context is a tricky thing – our posts, tweets, status updates only tell a portion of the story.

I’m thinking about our sermon series on faith and doubt – UNBELIEVEABLE. Loved that our church made it safe to doubt – the church community is a good place for that.  Also, I was grateful to have preached a message last Sunday night, “Maybe the Disciples Made the Whole Thing Up” on the historical Jesus and the validity of the resurrection. Though we had a misfire with the recording, I plan on blogging about it and some of the messages.

Been reading a lot lately and hope to post some book reviews – Surprised By Scripture by N.T. Wright, Did God Kill Jesus? by Tony Jones, The Divine Conspiracy Continued by Gary Black Jr. and I’m about to begin Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and  Questioning Your Doubts by Christina Powell.

In addition to all this, our first-born turned 7 this week. And of course, the mind races and time is flying by, but it feels to good to be a father playing with Legos, it feels good to be married to a wonderful wife as we enjoy the beauty and manage the kid-chaos, and in the big picture, our hope is that we are raising a family that will be faithful to our calling and be intentional about serving the needs of our world.

Grace and peace to you as you live and mediate on the happenings of your life.

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