Wednesday, August 27, 2008

my thoughts on current politics

I am perplexed.

Donald Miller gave a decent prayer at the DNC. I was suprised by sanctity of life comment given the audience. Admittedly, in political arenas and policy matters, I am conservative. Regarding social issues I am a bit more moderate, to a point.
Oh yeah, and I love "Blue Like Jazz".

First off, I found it odd that there would even be a prayer/benediction that addressed a God, especially a Father God. The ACLU Liberal Wing has found its home in the DNC and are consistently pushing the anti-god agenda in all public arenas, and scream "separation of church and state" out of context to the reality of where that clause is located and its intent.

Then he goes on to invoke poor folks and fatherless children and single moms and corporate greed. Was he pandering? Does he feel this is the only political party that addresses these issues? Would he feel comfortable giving the same prayer at the RNC if asked? Does he really think that any party really cares or is the answer?

Now admittedly, the RNC would probably ask a more evangelical type like billy graham or rick warren in the first place. Cameron Strange is a cool guy and a great editor of Relevant Magazine (of which I read and was an original subscriber) was an odd choice anyway.

I guess i really felt that maybe this new emerging church movement would not be taking political sides and would, instead, be focusing on solutions and holding both parties accountable. Because neither one has delivered on their promises and people are still hurting while the bureaucracy moves right along.

If, somehow, this is going to turn out to be the other end of the spectrum, you know opposite of the religous right, i.e., the religious left, its not going to be helpful.

It is difficult for me to digest that anyone proclaiming the good news of the gospel would put their faith in a political party as some sort of solution. The religious right did it with the Republican Party and it got christianity nowhere really.

Can we quit throwing the stones? I am hoping we are bigger than that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Shack by William P Young

I have just finished the book titled "The Shack" by William P Young.(
Now I can't tell you much about the author. He was unknown to me before reading this book, but apparently was not unknown to God as it is evident that some message is being spoken here, through this fiction, that isn't fiction. I won't tell you about the books content because that will ruin it for you. I can tell you its worth hours of your time.

Originally my best friend Ricky D called me and said "you have got to read this book" and delved off into its content and coolness and read me an excerpt over the phone. Now Ricky D is one of the most interesting thinkers of modern jesus stuff I know, and is always reading this or that and getting entangled in something or the other. I, however, can't keep up with him for the most part and have to selectively figure out which book to read or movie to watch. But in less than a week, our associate pastor came up to me and asked, "Hey, have you read The Shack?"...

so okay, I get the message. No, not The Message bible, the message from the Holy Spirit or God or whatever it is that reinforces that you should do something. So I buy it. First my spouse gets it and is completely enthralled in the content. This is fascinating because she typically doesn't read much and especially theological/spiritual/christian dominated stuff. But she read it all quickly and liked it.

Back to my opening paragraph. I just got through with it. And though it wasn't a total eye-opener in my terms of how and what I see Christianity as being, it was presented in a way that evoked emotional responses from me. This guy Young has some really good insights on the nature and interactions of man and god. Parts of the story forced me to deal with some of my own stuff, reminded me of segments of my own spiritual journey dealing with tragedy and understanding and anger at God and questioning... and the list goes on.

So, if you have the time, I would recommend "The Shack". Go to WalMart or Sams or wherever and get a copy. Its under $10 bucks. Do it today after work. Go soak in a hot bath and start reading. The first part is hard to get through - but totally worth it. Kind of like life. ~npp

Monday, August 18, 2008

clean or used

I used to sell books on ebay. I had a ton of them. Everything from college books left over to novels to non-fiction to whatever... I had too much. So a friend told me about, part of ebay, and I would list the books there and sell them around the country, and pocket a little money.
This book selling thing had guidelines on how to judge the condition of the book. A "like new" copy would have no writings, cover in great shape and show no wear/ useage. It would be, for all appearances, new, hence, desireable and bring more money. Then the categories and values decreased from there. This many writings in it or highlights or notes or worn cover or messed up binder or whatever. The more visible usage, the less value it commanded. So for a long time, I would read a book, being careful not to hurt the dustcover or bend the binder and never, ever write in it. It would look as good as new when I was finished with it, and I could get a good amount of money for it.
But as time has passed, I no longer find value in "like new" condition. I like to see a book thats been appreciated, read, writings in it. Some highlights for emphasis. I will now underline those points I find interesting in my books... will make little notes to the side of what my response to a certain statement was. And I keep those books. Years later to pick them up, reread, and enjoy my thoughts for the moment.
And sometimes, I see people like this. I think I used to judge people like I did a book. If they looked clean, had no visible wear and tear, no rough edges, no "highlights"!, then they must be "like new". Valuable. Desireable. You know, clean cut, nice suit, polished appearance.... kind of like a pharmaceutical sales rep or executive of some sort. My hometown banker always looked like that. But over time, I have developed a fondness for the used books. I like the way they feel, their binders giving just a bit to the pressure I put on it. Maybe a few wrinkled pages from some earmarking, noting something interesting has happened here. They take on a character all their own and seem to gain in a value something can only receive from being used.
and I wonder.
I wonder if that's how God sees us. Does he see us as valuable if we are neat and presentable and have that "like new" appearance? Many I see dressed up in their "Sunday Best" give me this impression. Its like showing off for God. Maybe he'll thing more of us if we look presentable! But I really don't think so. I think that God sees us more like a used book. Something that has been handled, a little rough around the edge, maybe an earmark here or there or some lines have been drawn under the words for emphasis. Maybe he sees our worn cover and bent binder and understands that we have been bent this way or maybe not handled with care sometimes. And all this God sees, and God enjoys, because we, like a good used book, have gained in value to Him, because we have allowed ourselves to be used.
I hope someone picks me up one day, thumbs through my worn and written in pages, and finds some comfort, and value, there.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Is Church It?

Saying Goodbye to Guilt Ridden Christianity
was the topic sunday morning. If you go to the link and read it, it pretty much boils down to the motivation of why you are doing what you do.

Are you motivated by a passion for Jesus Christ? God? Your own ego? Are you motivated by guilt? Guilty that you should attend weekly services or guilty that you should either tithe or tithe more? Guilty that you are asked to be on a committee or other such venue and you really don't want to and you say "yes" anyway because you feel bad telling people, especially church people, no?

So this was the topic and it was a good discussion. From the discussion came the following. There are two stages we christians/church goers experience:
1. Churchyness - Encompassing doing all the stuff that falls within expected social norms: attendance, tithing, serving, whatever. Stuff that has to be done for the organization to accomplish its goals/mission. I fondly dubbed it "trying to DO IT right!". Meaning, doing church right.
2. Spiritualness - This I dubbed "trying to GET IT right!" meaning that at some point your motivation changes. Your awareness changes. The process of church may not do it for you anymore. You are aware that, as the old saying goes, "going to church makes you no more a christian than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger". You actually have to live the christian faith, not just take part in its process. Get your spritual side in shape!

I also think many people are stuck in #1, either blissfully or just unaware that there is more. Not everyone mind you, but more than one thinks. So my thought is - is church attendance more important than feeding the poor? obviously not. But do we feel personally guilty for not going out to feed the poor? Many do not. Because we are part of a larger organization that we give money too and "they" (whoever they are) go out and do that stuff. We donate fans in the summer, blankets in the winter, food all year long, and someone else distributes those needed items. Its christianity from a safe distance.

But many think of christianity and church attendance/service as synonomous. And it is not. You are a good christian because..... "He is always in church". "She is always serving on committees". "He teaches sunday school". "She is always dressed nice and so are her children". But why?

If your answer is "because I have a passion for people and God has called me too serve in this capacity" then you are coming from a place of positive motivation. If your answer is "because I feel like I have to" or "I just couldn't say no" then that is not a healty place of motivation.

Even worse, however, would be this answer. "I do not know, I guess its just expected" or "because I was brought up that way and I am bringing up my kids that way". If church has become a social norm for you then please, reconsider what you are doing and why you are doing it. In the new testament, Jesus wasn't really all that concerned overall with the processes or then social norms of the day. He knew them.. as a boy he participated in them... but he always challenged them. He always put them in the proper place, which was beneath the needs of the people. People always had more value than rules and processes to Jesus. Still do.

So, say Goodbye to Guilt Ridden Christianity. Say Hello to passionate service. Oh yeah, and how do I come to these conclusions? I was in stage one for oh, so long.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

my years of wandering in the desert are over

Five years ago the United Methodist Church felt it necessary to send a narcissistic, passive/aggressive manipulative control freak to my church as senior pastor. Now I am not one of those folks that can't get along with clergy. Good lord. I have known pastors for 40 years in the UMC and other places, and have gotten along, dare say are friends of most of them. But this guy, hmmmmm...
Shortly after arriving, this PhD. Titled Senior Pastor began alienating everyone around him in his quest to "straighten this church out" and membership and activity plummeted.
Now, as you can surmise either from earlier writings or just if you know me, I could not set by quietly as this guy ran everyone off and ruined what spiritualness was there. Now to be fair, he didn't run "everyone" off. About five people rallied around him and his authoritarian management style and took over the church, in a manner of speaking. Of course, I noticed that they tended to possess the same character qualities. Many others simply refused to fight, preferring "nicety and civility" and stood idly by as it became a mere ember of its former flame. This made me even angrier. I recall Revelations, "I would rather you run hot or run cold. But this lukewarm is going to cause me to spew (read vomit) you from my mouth".
Now, if a church is on the wrong track and a pastor has been tasked by God to make it shake up and ship out and get too moving, then that's OKAY with ME!!! Who am I to argue with God? But let me assure you, this was not the case.
So each year in May I have prayed that he would get reappointed by the Annual Conference, and each year nothing. So this past May came and went and I resigned myself that the UMC is actually trying to commit a form of membership suicide if this was the best they could do.
So today, I go to teach my little group and first thing I hear is that "the Senior pastor is being moved to...". My heart skipped a beat. I felt like Moses looking at the promised land. My wandering in the desert has come to an end.
Then I thought about it. This guy just lost his father this week in hospice. His daughter has registered for college here. His son is due to start his sophomore year in three weeks, and now the official UMC has decided to move him. And I don't really think its fair to his family.
of course, my grandfather always told me "never look a gift horse in the mouth".


we donated $75 to help in the moving expenses.

blessed be the name of the lord!