Reflecting on Memorial Day 2014

There is generally a bit of unrest in my heart when it comes to the observances, remembrances and celebrations of our patriotic holidays. If you’ve been a faithful reader of this blog, this tends to come up from during July 4ths, Veterans’ Day, 9-11 and of course, Memorial Day.

Normally, I’m a fan of social media but I tend to avoid interacting on it on these days because it tends to add to my unrest. Too much sounds either trite, or overly-militant, and some sound overly-passive, borderline dismissive. The point of such an observance is that we stop what we do and remember the cost it took to allow us to do what we do. Some of what I observe takes me out of that but I try to be grateful for those who are encouraged from what they find on social media.

To be sure, I have nothing but respect, admiration and gratefulness for those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Further, members of my own family have served in their respective militaries voluntarily and involuntarily and again, I have enormous respect and admiration for them. My heart breaks and I pray for the families who find this day painful as they remember their loved ones. May God’s peace and strength find you.

But it’s not necessary to have lost a loved one to feel the pain of this day. How can you not pause and pray upon seeing pictures of a widow knelt by a graveside? How can you not feel the remorse of a child [Read more...]

The Need for Christian Unity Post 1 – The Gospel Coalition Fallout

I was having a conversation recently that discussed the needs of the Church.  We began discussing unity and if the North American Church was more or less fractured now than ever before.

We cited recent events like what’s going on with the Tullian Tchividjian, Tim Keller and The Gospel Coalition and the comment sections of the blog post 6 Heretics Who Should Be Banned From Evangelicalism – original and Relevant’s posting. (Note: I appreciated the post, comments – ugh. Though it goes against my hope for conversation and community, comment sections on mainstream blogs are painful and often void of conversation and community).

Which got me thinking, if Tim Keller and Tullian Tchividjian can’t get along, are we in trouble? If the best thing to do concerning comment sections on Christian blogs is to NOT read them, then what does that say?

First the Keller-Tchividjian-Gospel Coalition Fallout. From what I can tell, both are high integrity, laser focused people with no time for distraction. Yet, our Twitter feeds are filled up with what transpired with Tullian kicked out of the Gospel Coalition. TGC is offering a clarification that’s it’s due to a theological difference and Tullian has called that a “flat out lie.” As an outsider who does not follow Tchividjian that closely (he’s too intense for me at times) and as one who is not a faithful reader of TGC, I’d like to hear about another time when a blog kicked someone out over the doctrine of sanctification – Come on TGC. I appreciate that it’s complicated, I chuckle that it has [Read more...]

On “Helping” and Brian Fikkert’s “First World Poverty” Q Talk #QNashville

The Q talk I’ve been thinking about this week is “First World Poverty” by Brian Fikkert.

Some readers of this blog might know him from his book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … Or Yourself that he coauthored with Steve Corbett.

Lately, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with that book. I appreciated when I read it, but it was all the conversation that I had with those who read it (and said they read it :) that I found some frustration. Normally for me, the conversation brings added dimensions and greater appreciation for the book and while some of that happened, there was also an unexpected negativity and condescension. To be cheeky, the book isn’t titled, Helping Hurts but in fact preceded by the word When.

My frustration was this part of the conversation didn’t push people to help more and in a better way, but instead, it pushed help away (This is a similar point I tried to make in yesterday’s post). Now this not the intent of the book of course, it argues the opposite, but it’s a pattern that keeps getting repeated in my small corner of life.

So when I saw Brian Fikkert listed as a presenter, I had a mixed reaction. First one being, I’m kinda tired of this conversation, perhaps time for a differently framed one, maybe I’ll skip this one. Glad I didn’t because in all truth, his talk was one of my favorites.Here are some of the notes my friend and I took (thanks Jon!):

1. How would you describe success in your own life?  Strong family. Healthy Church. God-sized call.
2. How do you think you can get there? The Spirit, the Church, and community.

Western Economist believe that success is consuming more things, so you need more [Read more...]

Do Hashtags Like #Bringbackourgirls Make a Difference?

I have been walking around wondering if the hashtag #Bringbackourgirls campaign makes a difference. Is it helpful or is it hindering or is it pointless?

The ultimate desired outcome is for these girls to be rescued unharmed and for the evil-doers to be brought to justice. I don’t say this to sound trite but this really is the plot to the movie Taken with Liam Neeson – even better if it could all be done without violence. If this does not happen, it’s obviously tragedy as the most desired outcome is unrealized and things like hashtags feel pointless.

Or are they?

As soon as we saw Michelle Obama holding up the #Bringbackourgirls sign, we probably all  knew this [Read more...]

Reflecting on Donna Freitas’ Talk on Hookup Culture at #QNashville

Another presentation that I find myself thinking a lot about is Donna Freita’s “Hookup Culture.”  Feel free to psycho-analyze – I have been too.

She’s the author of  The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy and she sees answering the hookup culture as a “justice issue.” While I have never thought of it in that light before, I certainly think exposing the damage of things like the hookup culture potentially contributes to the common good, the betterment of society, and better-lived lives.

The first line of her talk:
“I feel like I have to warn you, I’m Catholic. We have the Catholic explaining hookup culture.”

IMG_3465 Rest of my notes:
Young adults believe they are supposed to be casual about sex in college.

The official social contract of the hook-up:
[Read more...]

Reflecting on Andy Crouch’s Talk on Religious Freedom at #QNashville

I was grateful to have attended #QNashville and wanted to share some of my highlights. First, pardon my northeastern snobbery, I had to adjust being in Nashville. Though I spent my adolescent years in a small town, I’ve always been around major cities with huge buildings, crazy traffic, people everywhere, confusing streets, and airports with multiple terminals.

At the Nashville airport, there’s one terminal and its slightly larger than my local Target. But small airports are not unusual. What is unusual is that people were allowed to park their cars in designated “Pick-up” spaces and they didn’t leave them running either. They parked, put some music on, got out and waited for their family/friends.  I think one family had a grill they were about to set up and start tailgating but then grandma came out while they were assembling the tent.  And then when the security officers went around, they would all wave to each other. At Logan airport, my wife and I fold the stroller, dodge the buses, load up our luggage, buckle our three kids in carseats and survive an interrogation from the legions of officers faster than a NASCAR pitstop. And the weird part is, we’re not upset by this because we think this is safe.

Well there I was, waiting for a great friend I knew since college to pick me up in his Prius. He used to want a Ferrari. Now he was on time, he drove carefully, he listened, and his music selections were [Read more...]

Post-Easter Reflection – Looking Back on this Year’s Lent

It’s interesting how the year looks from when Lent begins and how Easter passes. Our New England winter was quite the metaphor moving from a cold, dark snowy winter, to an even colder, darker, snowier one that showed no signs of ending. Then … finally (some) warmth and light.

Every Lent, every Advent, everything, should be different in some way from one year to another. In my mind if one can be copy and pasted to another, one probably didn’t gain much from it. It should be different because despite how monotonous and tiresome things might feel, in actuality, life is different.

In light of that, my Lenten experience was marked by a number of things:

- First the spiritual – the movie Frozen ; I know, I know, but our entire family unabashedly loved it. Hearing our two year old singing, “Let it Go” every morning will always bring a smile to my face.

- A more spiritual highlight has been observing our boys understand more and more of the Easter story. We have been intentional about not being overly graphic and this year we focused on how Jesus loved us by giving life to all those who believe in him (substitutionary atonement can wait til next year).

- Lent was filled with many wonderful moments as well. Two dear friends of mine had children born in the same week. Both families each have their own stories – both wonderful and incredible and I can’t be happier for them.

- If I can go back to another movie, this Lent was also influenced by the movie Noah and the more I think [Read more...]

What I Hope to Get Out of #QNashville This Year

(I wrote this on the plane out here to the Q Conference – haven’t got the chance to post til now)

As I’ve said about most events I attend, I think it’s really important to consider what you hope to gain from the experience. Last year, I was feeling a bit more sarcastic. This year has been pretty hectic and I feel the possibility of going through the motions here. So being intentional about being present and open to receive what the Lord shows me feels necessary and a part of faithful stewardship.

Some first thoughts heading out: I’m not completely settled on being in Nashville. Why Nashville, Gabe? It’s the home of so much of the sub-culture that I … hmm, what word am I looking for … “hate” feels too strong, “am annoyed by” feels a bit light, I don’t know but Nashville feels like it’s contributed to the problem of the Christian sub-culture. I’m sure people will tell me I have it all wrong, there are some really great pockets of counter-culture, etc. I don’t deny this but it’s probably also true for places like Cleveland as well but I doubt Q is headed there ;) (Umm, no offense Cleveland).

In any case, I’m excited that I will likely walk away gaining something completely different from what I initially thought – I welcome this. And sometimes the gain comes months down the road. Still, it’s good to consider what gained up front.

My first two years there, I remember so many of the presentations simply blowing my mind. “I never knew that, thought of that, or cared about that!” In more recent years, I’ve stopped hoping/looking/waiting for that. I find that I risk objectifying/sensationalizing each presenter/presentation. And it’s a poor stewardship.

So here’s what I hope to get:

1. I want to get deeper into the conversation of “serving the common good.”  Some call is the missional church conversation, the justice conversation, Kingdom living, whatever. I want to learn, do, grow, and show others what it means to serve in Jesus’ name for the sake of others, without strings attached.

2. Catching up with friends. Even though I spend countless hours on the phone, I am admittedly terrible at staying in touch. I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that many others are too. But the reality is that you really can’t be great friends with everyone and the great thing is there are wonderful people and allies all over the place. So I’m looking forward to catching up with great friends, making new ones, spending time with allies and having amazing conversations with some people that I may never see again.

3. Though I’m not crazy about adding more books to my reading list, discovering new writers, blogs, sites, etc. is of great value to me. I like to have a sense of what’s out there and I like to be stretched.

4. I can’t relate to everything that is being presented, but it’s good for me to raise my awareness at least on a general level of certain topics and issues that are not in the center of my radar. It’s also interesting to me how through the years, your heart finds an appreciation for certain topics you previously found disconnected/uninterested from.

5. As one who feels his calling is to serve those disenchanted with the Church, specifically the Over-Churched and the Under-Churched, Q is one of the best post-evangelical conversations I have found. Anything I can gain on this front would be so worthwhile to me and to those I serve.

If you’re reading this and attending Q, what are you hoping to gain from our time this year. In the meantime, know that I would love to connect. Find me on Twitter @tg24 or in line for coffee or email me.

 

The Link to my guest-post on The “Boston Marathon Tragedy and Holy Week”

Last week I wrote a post called, “The Boston Marathon Tragedy and Holy Week” on our Grace Chapel staff blog “Deeper Closer Wider.”

Here’s the intro:

“We find ourselves in the middle of Holy Week one year since the Boston Marathon bombings and I can’t help but see the similarities of the innocent dying at the hands of evil men.

What is it about our depraved hearts that allow for such a propensity to hurt people we don’t even know? How does one convert their soul to follow a self-righteous philosophy of hate, pain and death? What possible narrative could have been created that would have deluded one into thinking such actions contained any virtue or honor? How does one build a bomb whose sole purpose is to kill people cheering for their family and friends at a marathon of all places??”

You can read the rest of the post here.

Why Does God Drown the World? Still Reflecting on Noah – Post 4

I keep thinking and blogging about the movie Noah and have found it to be an appropriate exercise throughout Lent. If you are just stopping in, welcome and consider this your spoiler alert. If you’d like some earlier context, check out earlier posts “Presuppositions and Expectations – Post 1″ & “The Complexity of Calling – Post 2″ and “Justice, Mercy and the Awkward Moment with Ham – Post 3.”

I remember the first time I saw the trailer for Noah and seeing the incredible special effects of the water and destruction. My next thought was something like: “Oh no, now I have to process why God drowned humanity again.”

My second thought was they got Russell Crowe to play Noah so either Kirk Cameron just led him to Jesus [Read more...]