Saturday, October 10, 2009

Separation of Church and State?

I awoke this morning early with these thoughts running through my mind. This is a few hours later and I feel like putting them into words. I feel that God put them there, so I am just writing them down.

I have been struggling for a really long time with my thoughts on "if America is really a Christian Nation". I have mixed feelings about this and am pretty sure I don't have it figured out exactly. I am torn between scriptures that talk about a people or nations who turn to God and God blesses that nation, versus knowing that we are all children of God and God loves us all on an individual basis, regardless of what country we live in. I am torn because I believe that both are true. I think that God can bless "peoples" or "nations" who operate more in line with how he would have us treat one another universally, and I think that he God can withhold universal blessings upon a nation or peoples, but bless an individual within that group. But this isn't my main thought ...

I think we are at a point in American History when we have to determine whether or not we are a secular nation (which is what is seemingly happening) or are we a christian nation (a nation that basis its morals, laws and customs upon Christianity). I'm not sure that originally we were intended to be a "Christian" nation. Most of the references that I have seen to early founders of this country, the United States, have lots of references to God, A Supreme Being, or the Creator. It appears the founders were for the most part deists - or believers in God. I haven't come across alot of information detailing references to Jesus Christ. So I draw the conclusion that God (and His guidance and blessings) were a central part of the founding fathers thought processes, hence a Godly nation, but not a Christian nation so too speak. I cannot find where God was left out of the equation in the formation and fundamentals of this country.

So onto Separation of Church and State. This phrase gets tossed out everytime there is an issue where God or Christianity or someone's personal beliefs gets attention in the public arena. It, the phrase "Separation of Church and State" has taken on a whole new meaning, and a life of its own, in our modern culture. It appears that the definers of words and phrases have won the debate, as it is no longer used in its historical context. To set the matter straight - I have no issue with the concept of Separation of Church and State. And its not in the constitution by the way. I don't think "the Church" should set policy for "the State". If you know your history about England and the Church of England and the founding fathers, you understand the relevance of my statement. The Official Organized Church had too much power in the Government/Monarchy and they governed badly and denied people the option to worship as they wished. Meaning, you had to be a member of their Organized Church. And this was enforced by the State. So the separation clause ensured this would not happen again... so we could be Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, whatever.


Separation of Church and State now means that God is totally removed from the public sector. No more prayers at football games, bibles at school, 10 commandments on public courthouse lawns, no more crosses displayed on public lands. Now I try not to to be cynical and am fairly reasonable, but who cares if if there is a cross commemorating the dead on a battlefied. I would not care if muslim monuments or jewish stars of david were erected either. And both of these, by the way, believe in a supreme being, God, as well. I fear, that the very thing the founding fathers were trying to prevent, is happening anyway, only in reverse. That the State, not the Church, is interjecting itself into our spiritual beliefs. Public or private prayer is a manisfestation of ones faith. No one is forcing anyone else to pray. If I am in Tehran, and a muslim prayer is offered, and I am not forced to participate, I do not care. I understand its a Muslim country, meaning that a majority of its inhabitants are Islamic and that is there foundation and custom.

So my question is "are we a Christian Nation". I think probably not. Are we a nation that believes in God? Yes. Have been since the beginning. We even have prayers to God in the Senate. Prayers and religious leaders at Presidential swearing in ceremonies. Is the Church telling the State what to do? I don't see that it is. Is the State telling the Church what to do? Well, its getting dangerously close. A majority of Americans call themselves Christian. Thats great. Some are buddhist and some are muslim and some are agnostic and some are aetheist. The State isn't telling you you have to attend the Official Church of America (Southern Baptist I think - thats a joke). So we have separation of church and state. I'm glad we have it. I don't want a particular chuch or the state telling me when, where and how to worship.

I also don't want the same State telling me I can't, when,where and how. I would like to see our National Heritage stay in place, with our recognition that the nation was founded in a belief in God. That the founders were Deists, and that recognition of a sovereign and almighty creator in the public sector is fine. I also think its okay if someone displays the 10 commandments or prays to God in the public sector. Its not a "Christian" thing, the 10 commandments came from God. The founders and the Congress each pray to God during sessions. The church isn't saying you have to do this - hence it is a separate thing. And its rightly separate. We do this because its an expression of our faith. Our belief systems. Our traditions in the recognition of a higher authority. By displaying the 10 commandments in a courtroom, the State is just affirming the heritage passed down from the inception of this country. And just what part of the 10 commandments are Christian? None.

Our expression of faith is not to separated from our daily lives, whether christian, muslim, jewish, whatever. The phrase is "Separation of Church and State", not "Separation of God and State". I think the issue needs more exploration before we declare ourselves secular with no reference to God at all. I feel there may be some credence to the relationship between Nation's behaviors and God's Blessings. Haven't gotten that all sorted through in my mind yet, but thats the Word. ~npp

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review of "A Prayer To Our Father"

I have gotten involved with TheOOZE ( in something they call Viral Bloggers. Sounds contagious doesn't it. In a respect I guess it could be. They offer the latest in spiritually themed books if you are an existing blogger, and if you will read it and provide a review on the book. They have to check out your blog first to see if its a good fit, then you get approved and choose a book.

So this is my first run at it. I chose "A Prayer To Our Father...Hebrew Origins of The Lord's Prayer" by Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. The title peaked my interested, as well as the background of the authors. Nehemia is in Jerusalem and is Jewish and holds so many credentials in this arena that its too much to list here. Keith is African American, has a Master's of Divinity and is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. But my interest was that he served as Chaplain of the Minnesota Vikings.

The book starts out with the first 82 pages basically talking about the authors getting to know each other and discussing possibly where the certain important events took place geographically. They would travel to this or that location and Jerusalem and measure it against recorded scripture. Though it had some interesting information, I found this section of the book really dry or bland. I wanted to get to the meat of the subject and was not so impressed with the fact finding tour.

It took until page 83 (roughly midway through the book) for the authors to finally get to the actual Lord's Prayer, or Avinu Prayer as they called it. They broke each line down in separate chapters, and this aspect was actually interesting as it finally addressed the subject of the book. Taking the version that we Christians/Protestants have learned and repeated forever, and comparing it to the Hebrew version of Matthew, they pointed out several words, phrases, etc. that actually put the prayer into a different perspective. Using the cultural events of the day, the historical references and play on words in the prayer, this brought a better understanding of what and why we are saying what we are saying. I found this part worthy of reading. I even taught my christian education class using the section on Daily Bread.

I would recommend this book if you like to read more factual based works. I compared it to reading history or archaeology. If you don't like reading those type topics, you may not like reading this. But the information is good. It is presented rather dry, and there really are no punch lines. I think the information could have been boiled down to cliff note style, meaning the book was about twice as big as needed be.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

how do you define christianity

I received an email from a guy I don't really know. We area associated thru Face Book. He said he was having trouble figuring out his role as "christian" and was dealing with some worldly issues and wanted to know what I meant by my term Protestant Postmodern Tradionalist... This was my response:

"well let me see. Its actually a combination of things I consider myself. Many folks consider themselves denominationally, like Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, whatever... even though I am a member of the United Methodist Church, it is still under the Christian religion and Protestant wing. So when asked "what religion are you" some reply Baptist, but thats a denomination affiliation. So Protestant. Postmodern is a relatively new term. For me it means that I am willing to accept or be open to the premise that we don't know everything there is to know about God, and that the Mystery and Nature of God is probably much bigger than we have given Him credit for. We have put God in such a nice tidy box of doctrines that we marry ourselves to, that we do not allow for the possibility that God could be something other than what we've learned. It is allowing people to keep searching and questioning and growing in their understanding and knowledge of God without all the associated "rules and procedures" that religion has imposed. So thats Postmodern for me.

Tradionalist is basically what is says. I haven't thrown the baby out with the bath water. I take all that I have learned from "the faith of our fathers living still" and apply it to my daily walk and understanding. However, I do not stop there. I do not believe that the final word has been spoken. I believe God speaks to us each and every moment and that creation is still occuring. Back to my "religion limiting God" stuff. Religion or Religious Doctrines dictate this or that and what you should do... I'm not sure that "religion" has it all figured out. So I take my traditional values, mix it with my Postmodern questioning, and try and find my place/relationship with God.

Christianity. In my walk I have been everything I describe in my teachings and conversations, so I speak from experience. I have been arrogant, evangelical, servant hearted, judgemental, confused, apathetic etc... Christianity used to be for me a set of rules and processes, church attendance and committee meetings. It wasn't personal, it was social. In our geographical region, many consider themselves "christian" because they attend church. I saw a saying once that stated "going to church no more makes you a christian that going to mcdonalds makes you a hamburger". funny but true. Max Lucado used the term "Churchianity" to describe this. Its a social norm for us in this area to go to church, but as you know we don't always practice Christianity. Which brings up the main point: What is Christianity anyway? What does it mean to you? In my old self, I used to think it was a set up behaviors: christians don't drink, smoke, curse, have lustful thoughts, vote democratic, etc. They go to church and do nice stuff in the community. I have found that none of this is true. Christianity is merely "practicing the teachings of Christ" or "Christ follower". hmmmm... so what DID Jesus say? Basically, it is Love One Another. Jesus is quoted as saying the greatest commandment is:"You must love God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this: 'You must love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:35-40) So basically love. Not too much judgement in there. Not to many rules. No doctrine. Just examples from his parables on how to treat people. Relationships. So Christianity has very little to do with church, or, uh, religion.
Now, we express ourselves thru worship and act together as the body of Christ through the organized church. Not bad. Good stuff if the focus is good. Build the kingdom but not the the empire so to speak. But you can be a Christian without going to church. Because Christianity and Religion are not the same. enough said on that.

So, do you beat yourself up as a Christian? Not good enough? Have too much baggage for God to use? The bible is full of stories of folks just like that who God used all the time. Point being Christians are not perfect and are spinning their wheels trying to be, or at least for beating themselves up over it. Michael Yacconelli wrote a book entitled "Messy Spirituality". It gives you permission to understand that you are only human, you will have issues, and that you will never be perfect. God loves you anyway. Heck, he created you, so he knows we are flawed and lacking. Doesn't mean he can't use us.

And for some reason, people think when they "accept Christ" its like a magic pill, and nothing bad will ever happen. Again, unbiblical. Life happens regardless if you are a Christian or not - its who you put your trust in to get you through that is the difference. If you rely solely on yourself, you'll fall flat on your face. If you trust in God, you may fall flat on your face, but He will help you up.
So yes, you will deal with worldly issues. I'm not sure in what respect your issues are, but it is Okay to have them. We all do. Its how you choose to deal with them that matters.
any of this helpful? continue the conversation?"

I hope the conversation continues.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Affirmation and Doubt

Recently, in the past month or so, I have been struggling with doubt. Doubting myself in teaching our adult christian education class. I keep thinking people will figure out I'm full of *** and call my bluff. I wonder to myself if I am teaching what I am supposed to be teaching and if anyone cares overall. I am very careful to check myself periodically to make sure some narcissism isn't seeping in, and instead of it being about the spiritual journey - it becomes all about me. I am wary of that. I "know" its not about me, but my personal ego and self gratification sometimes get the best of me, so I try to remember to be gracious and humble whenever possible.
A couple of weeks ago, while doing our current study over the book "I'm Fine With God... It's Christians I Can't Stand" one of the members who attends about once every other month shows up. We are talking about whatever and she asks "Why do we care?". I'm kind of taken aback. Why do we care? Well hell, why do we care about anything? I wanted to say "well I guess in your case you don't care"... but I didn't. I tried in my best political voice to articulate why we should care, because Christians doing stupid stuff gives us all a bad name and leads people off-course on their spiritual journey.
And I went home kind of ticked off. Questions like "why bother" and "am I getting through to these casual christians" bounced inside my heart and head until I couldn't stand it. Maybe I'm off base and someone else needs to take over teaching.
Yep. I was Eeyore. Woe is me. But hey, it was my pity party.
Someone else taught for me this past Sunday as I was out of town and I met that person for breakfast this morning. He related to me that they had a general open discussion of our past class topics and people really opened up. They discussed how a certain book or study resonated with them and how all of the studies seemed to come together. They shared personal stories about growing up, dysfunction, church, and tied it back to each thing we have talked about over the last year or so. There was even a first time visitor who shared that he was a recovering addict and dealer who has been clean for the past two years.
Affirmation. A little message from God?
Yes, they have been listening. growing. discerning. connecting. trusting. It was good to hear that. Relieved my doubts about what we have been doing. That it does make a difference, and yes, the answer to "why do we care?" was answered.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle

I had no idea it had been this long since I blogged last. For some reason, life has seemed to fill itself with all sorts of distractions to keep me busy. From family to work to other pursuits, I am often amazed at how much I have to do and that thet end of the day comes so quickly. There are many times I have had GREAT THOUGHTS on things to blog about, and of course I am in the shower most of those times and can't write them down, so of course I loose the thought.
A week ago today I bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle. A big one. Lots of chrome and shine to it. I love riding motorcycles. I have owned and ridden one off and on since the age of fourteen. For the last eight years I have ridden a Kawasaki Vulcan Classic. A very eye catching and comfortable bike that has given me years of reliable service. But I have wanted a larger bike for about two years but couldn't bring myself to spend the money. Here are some of the reasons.
Yep, guilt. I felt guilty about it. They are quite a bit of money and in the realm of things are not a necessity. It is money I could spend elsewhere on the family. I had a bike that was paid for so I didn't really HAVE to have a bigger bike. I also wondered what Jesus would say about it. That is money that I could have used in tithing, or donating to non-profits, or whatever. Yes, guilt.
Okay, thats about it. Not many other reasons I put off buying one. But I absolutely love the feeling of riding a powerful machine down the roads with the wind greeting me and being at one with my surroundings. Its like therapy for me. I can clear my mind and just get lost and not worry about whatever. After a nice ride I have a better attitude and overall feeling of all is okay. It releases me from chains that ties me to life, and allows me to live.
It does my soul good.
So I will enjoy my new Harley. I will relish in the moments that God allows me to commune with him in this way. It is truly awesome.
Live to Ride - Ride to Live.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An American Lesson from Six Flags Amusement Park

This past week I took a small vacation with my family. We ended up going to Six Flags over Texas amusement park in Arlington, Texas, with the kids one of the days. My children are all school aged, from 6 to 16, and we try to teach some good life lessons on and off when the opportunity arises. This day would prove to be one of those times.

It began with our arrival to the parking area of the park. If you haven't been there, you have to pay to park. Always have. Of course, over the years it gets more expensive. But this time there was something different. There were different levels of parking, each with their own respective costs. There was general parking for $10, prefered parking for $15, and Valet parking for $20 or so. Now whats strange about this is the parking lot isn't that big. So you pay more bucks to walk a few feet less.

Then its off to the main gates to purchase your tickets. Once you pay your tickets to get inside, there was another opportunity for you to spend your money. I believe it was called a Speed Pass. For an additional $20 you could purchase this speed pass and avoid the waiting in lines by accessing another way to the ride and getting put first before those waiting in line. So while you, average Joe American who paid to park and enter are standing in line with the other Joes, someone else walks past you and gets in the front of the line because they outspent you.

And I found something totally distasteful about that. Something wrong with that in this land of equailty we refer to as the United States. Where all are supposedly equal. And my kids noticed it as well. You want to be able to tell your kids that the American Dream is available to everyone, and that if you work hard and do all the right stuff, that you can achieve anything you wish. And to some degree that is true. But not totally.

In this representative democracy, certain things are still dependent on luck, right place at right time, who you know, and how much money/advantage in life you have. Not that you can't better yourself no matter what, but the aforementioned list does come into play despite what others might say. If you have a GED and mow yards for a living, then decide to complete college and get a job managing a grocery store, you have engaged in part of the American dream. You are not relegated to a life of mowing yards. However, If you are the offspring of the person who owns the store, well, lets just say your options are somewhat different and on a greater scale.

And we in America love our status symbols don't we. Its amazing how we try to separate ourselves along ecomonic lines in ever so slight ways. Automobiles for instance. It was Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Toyota, Nissan, etc. They made fine cars, so pick one. But if every average american is driving one, how do we let others know we have more money than them? hmmm... Lets see, lets build a toyota and call it a Lexus and charge more for it. Let take a chevrolet suburban, call it a cadillac escalade and charge more for it. That way the folks with more money let the average american joe know it.

Now if you have one of these cars (I happen to like the Lexus very much), this post isn't a dig at you for owning one. Its an observation on how marketing and money come to play in our everyday lives. And we don't even seem to notice. And so it was with Six Flags. Pay $20 more per person and you get on the same rides as everyone else does, just a few minutes faster. But minutes, like money, are just another way to divide us.

And so my daughter and I have a discussion on the way out of the park. I asked her if she knew what the "Golden Rule" was. She said yes, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And I told her that was correct, and that is the way we live. Okay, try to live. But I also told her the other Golden Rule: Those who have the gold make the rule. We live by a set of values in this society that are opposite of what our ideals as americans should be. We often don't treat others the way we would have them treat us, and that's too bad. And the speed pass makes me sad.

Monday, May 18, 2009

what i learned from my political race

Well the political race for me is over. I came in a solid 3rd out of three contestants. But what I learned was immeasurable. And here are a few of them:

I get competitive but I still couldn't "sell myself". Felt odd patting myself on the back.

I had to fight the urge to slam my opponents.

It was hard taking the high rode, especially when people wanted me to say something bad about another person in the race.

If an election has no issues - it is one big popularity contest.

People still like to follow the crowd and vote for the candidate with the most money.

Campaigns are expensive and it takes money to do the smallest bit of campaigning.

There are people who believe in you and help out and there are those who don't.
If someone might lose a dollar over taking a side, they will side with their dollar.

There is a lot of paperwork and regulations to follow just to be a candidate.

I am proud I tried.

Who knows what is in store for me later. Maybe another run. Maybe not. I am restless.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tea Party

As some of you know I am running for a political office. Its a school board and non-paid (just like my nonprofit propheting) but an elected position all the same. And of course I would have opponents so I'm having to purchase signs and campaign and all that jazz. But I have to admit its pretty damned interesting.

Being a fiscal conservative and a social moderate is quite the balancing act. To mix reason with politics is almost undoable. Its like Spirituality and Religion - its hard to get past the rhetoric and noise to what is actually important. But I'm trying.

I have been on this Facebook thing for some time now and it is quite interesting as well. Reconnecting with folks I haven't heard from in 20 years and some folks I have never even met. I like the way technology functions in this respect. However, sometimes our media doesn't always work this way.

Take the Tea Party's of last week. To watch the mainstream media, one would think that it was an isolated minority of right wing extremists fueled by Fox News and talk radio. That the audience was exclusively those folks. I think the British attempted the same labeling and propaganda against the Colonists/Founding Fathers when they threw their little temper-tantrum in Boston. Admittedly, there were "some" fringe elements there, but they were NOT representative of the overall crowd. There were democrats, libertarians, republicans, conservatives, moderates, christians, non-christians, spectators, and others.

And I think the main stream media and possibly some talk shows have missed the point. Its not Anti-Obama. Its Anti-Stupid spending of our tax dollars. And this was started in the last days of the Bush Administration. Of course the finger pointing is always prevelant depending on one's point of view, and enough fingers pointed in enough differing directions is bound to cause enough confusion so that the issues and solutions are not forth coming. And thats unfortunate.

Now I'm a pretty simple fella, and somehow spending money we don't have (and spending it recklessly) just doesn't make sense to me. If we have people in this country without medical insurance, losing their homes, and a growing unemployment rate, why in the world would we pledge billions to other countries (such as Sudan) when we are having to borrow money from China just to stay afloat here? And if we are going to bailout anyone, how about the people who paid the taxes in the first place? Why give it to the big corporations? We see what they have done with it and the common folks, like myself, are still no better off.

Well, Bush is to blame. No, Obama is to blame. No, greedy corporations are to blame. No, irresponsible home buyers are to blame. How about all of the above. Okay, so everyone is to blame. Could we at least quit the pandering and propaganda and solve this issue. The media tore Bush down all the time. The talk shows tear Obama down all the time. Maybe its time we tore ourselves down, and these political lines and idealogy, come to grips with we aren't ever all going to agree on the best way to do anything, and at least get something done?

probably not. Well, I gotta go put out some more campaign signs....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Put Christ Back in Schools?

I came across this on Facebook the other day, "Put Christ Back in Schools". Someone had joined this group and had sent me an invitation to join as well. So I asked myself "who took Him out?". Where in the heck did they put Him? I have a bobble-head Jesus (yes, my baptist friends think it complete heresy) in my office on the shelf, and I had a mental image of someone moving him somewhere just to mess with me. I would start a group "Put Jesus back on the Shelf", but that wouldn't sound good either now would it.

Now I understand what people mean when they say "Put Christ Back in Schools". Its an expression of sentiment that their beliefs and freedoms of religion are being trampled upon by political correctness, culture wars, atheists, and whatever else, and in some measure I believe they are correct. It is a two-edged sword however, as freedom to practice ones religious beliefs is more inclusive than just chrisitainity, and I'm afraid those same persons who would like to pray to Jesus at football games would not be so inclined if the prayers were Islamic to Allah. Anyway thats another discussion.

So why isn't Christ in schools? Are you folks leaving him at home when you pack your lunches and grab your books and head out the door? Are you busy getting your gradebook and your lesson plans together and forget to pick Him up with your purse and ID card? Since there are no official clergy present in the lunchroom, are you not able to pray over your meal? Are you so focused on your sport that you don't take Him into the locker room with you?

So who took Christ out of the schools in the first place?

Yep. You guessed it. We did. We are responsible for "Putting Christ back in Schools". Christ is not a bobble-head that has been moved from my shelf to another location. He is not a morning prayer right after the pledge of allegiance. Christ is us. We are the hands and feet of Christ/Jesus. He dwells within us. Our actions are an outpouring of our hearts. So if anyone took him out, it would be us.

So let's take it a bit further. Put Christ back in our Families. Put Christ back in our Workplace. Put Christ back in OUR CHURCHES! And the way to do that is to put Christ back in your heart and take him with you. And you don't need the government for that.

Now if you want to talk about the legitimate assaults on Christianity from the culture, (as in the group suing in Texas over the moment-of-silence) we can do that in another post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

a day in the life of the prophet

So I'm camping yesterday with my lubberly lil' family at one of the State Parks when my eyeglass frames break. Fun times. I am officially a dork now with one ear piece missing and the glasses perched upon my nose held only in place by the other ear piece.

So off I go to the place where I purchased them to get another frame and we decide to go to the local chinese food place for lunch. I'm wearing my normal weekend camping attire, a pair of cargo shorts and a black t-shirt from my good friend's faith community (Journey IFC) and my gold chain with my United Methodist cross hanging from it. While I'm eating, an older fella with his company logo shirt comes in the door and our eyes meet. Somehow we seem to connect as we look at each other, and then he goes to another part of the restaurant. A little later on I'm interupted by the words, "Excuse me sir." Holding an egg roll in one hand and a mouth full of something that looks like chicken, I look up and its this same guy. He says to me, "Thank you for wearing that cross". I respond with something stupid I'm sure, like "Thanks" or "your welcome" or something, and he says, "I appreciate that". And its not the "politician smiling suck up way" of saying something, it was the "sincere somber I've got a story" way of saying something. So he turns and walks out of the restaurant. I resist the urge to follow him outside, due to my family being with me, but would really have loved to hear his story. To see where he is in his life. There was something there.

We leave and go to the place where I bought my glasses and they don't carry that frame anymore. I call the eye doctor and he loves me so much he works me in so I can get a new exam. We drive over and I walk in the lobby and have a seat. My family goes elsewhere. A lady in her 50s walks in and sets in the lobby as well. Just she and I. She looks over at me and asks, "Is that a United Methodist cross" and I replied yes. Thats all it took. She opened up like the flood gates of the Hoover Dam and begin telling me how her grandparents were the charter members of some baptist church in another community, how she had been a Baptist for 50 plus years of her life but is now going to one of the local United Methodist churches. I said "good for you" and she kept on... I was a Baptist for 50 plus years until I got a divorce. Then I was treated differently because I was divorced. This lady also had a story to tell and I listened. We talked about judgement of others and how different she now felt with a grace filled theology instead of the one she had grown up with. She said she wished she had known this earlier in her life because she actually liked to go to the casinos, have some wine and dance every now and then. I told her it was a beautiful thing that she was a recovering baptist and she replied "I'm recovered!". I tried to explain there was no such thing as a "recovered baptist", that its a process like AA, you are always in recovery, and she just laughed. She said she now teaches a sunday school class and thoroughly loves it. She wasn't allowed to at her Baptist church it sounded like.

She asked me if I had read "The Shack". Wow, yes I had read it and it was a good read. She said she was reading it now but some of her Baptist friends said it was heresy. We both agreed those folks would probably have a rude awakening when and if they actually met god. Then the lady who worked there spoke up and said she was reading it for the second time. It went on like this for a while until they called me into the exam room. I gave the lady the name of a book to read that lets her know its okay to be human, "Messy Spirituality" and she had me write it down on a piece of paper. I have no doubt she drove down the street to the book store and bought it. This lady, in her 50s, was all on fire with finally getting the chance to figure out who she is and what she believes and what God wants of her.

It was totally cool.

And this happens to me all the time. Another day in the life of the nonprofitprophet.

And that is cool as well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

so I'm teaching over Matthew when...

I've been teaching over a study of Matthew for the past several weeks. Its a pretty good study and the group, as far as I can tell, is enjoying it. We try to mix our discussions up by studying a book such as Blue Like Jazz, watching a film clip and applying it to our daily walk (the last was Batman The Dark Knight), and then a study of one of the books contained in the bible. This gives us some variety.

So today's discussion was over Matthew 19: 13-30, where Jesus blesses the little children, despite the disciples trying to keep the kids from bothering them and Jesus. Jesus sets them straight and blesses the kids and then makes a couple of examples on how they need to be like these little ones to enter the kingdom. And then the story of the rich man asking Jesus what he needs to do to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Now, I know you've heard this story at least a hundred times. And so have I. But when preparing for it this week, I just got tickled. You know, it struck me funny. So Jesus is standing there and this unknown person (presumably wealthy) asks Him what he has to do to enter the kingdom. Jesus says "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." And the guy replies, "Which Ones?". Man, I just laughed. "which ones?". So I'm thinking "all of them you moron!". Why would God give you commandments and then say, "uh, go ahead and choose which one of these you'd like to keep". And it reminds me of my conversations with my kids. "eat your french fries." to which they reply "do I have to eat them all". Or "eat your carrots" and they say "how many". So Jesus replies with six commandments the guy needs to keep and names them. Now I'm not Jesus, and I have no idea why He cut him slack and only said six of them, but I guess He had his reasons.

So the six have something in common, they are all centered around our relationships to others. How we treat and respond and respect and love each other. Out of the 10 commandments, Jesus chose these. And that tells me something about what is important to Jesus when he actually allows the guy to keep only six of the commandments. Jesus is concerned with relationship.

now there is more to the story of course. The young man says he has kept those six (don't know about the other four) so wanted to know if there was anything he hadn't done. Jesus says, "yep, go sell your stuff and give the money to the poor" and that would do it. The guy can't do it. He values stuff more than people. And the scripture says he is grieved by it.

So is something keeping you from the Kingdom? Is it possessions? Is it fear? Is it control? I wonder what Jesus would tell us if we asked, "what do I need to do?". I wonder if He would cut us some slack?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I'm not exactly sure when this took place, but I was probably ten or eleven years old when awareness began. Awareness for me took the form of noticing girls, and then noticing myself and becoming self conscious about how I looked. Before this time, I was blissfully unaware of anything other than whatever was taking place at the moment. I just reacted to my surroundings like a squirrel in the middle of the road with an approaching car - all over the place.
And it was about this time that my dad became unemployed. He was an insurance salesman and I don't really remember what happened, I just knew that for a while there he didn't have a job. And somehow I found out that he had borrowed some money from the neighbors to buy us kids some new t-shirts and underwear for christmas. I can still remember my younger sister crying about not getting the toys she wanted, and how sad my parents looked.
So we never asked for anything much. Except now I was starting to notice that my clothes weren't quite in style. My mom, bless her heart, took it upon herself to purchase me two pair of jeans for school. Bell bottoms. Dark Blue. Totally yuck. And I hated them. So everyday at school, while on the playground or at P.E., I would run and slide and try to tear them up in hopes of getting a new pair. And finally, one day, after much sliding, the knees ripped! Yippee, home free. I went home and told mom and showed her my dilemna and was expecting the "lets go get you another pair then" and I could pick out some cool ones.
Didn't happen. Mom took them from me, ironed a patch on each knee, and handed them back. Yes, a terrible blow had been dealt to my self esteem.
This was also about the time Nike tennis shoes became popular. They are nothing now like they were then, but they were the prized possession of the day. Blue nylon looking things with a white check on the side. And I wanted a pair. I guess I bugged mom long enough that we had to drive all the way to the big town eleven miles away to find them. Yep, we left Maberry and went to Mt. Pilot. I can still remember getting them and getting back into our chevrolet caprice station wagon with the wood trim, and looking at those shoes like a prized possession. It could have been a golden trophy. Mom's words still come to me: "You better take care of those. I have never paid $14 for a pair of shoes in my life". For real.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. (pun intended)
I am much older, and though I try to be aware of how I look and what I wear to a certain extent, I don't really care much if its to the approval of others. I wear boots. Cowboy boots mostly. And I wear them all the time if I have pants on. Suits, jeans, slacks...heck, I don't care. I like boots. And in the summer, shorts and sandals only. Its me. Its who I am and it makes me comfortable.
Fortunately, I can afford this stuff now. And my kids get what they want also for the most part. One is eleven years old now and hasn't quite gotten to the point of being aware of what the culture says she should wear. And that's good. One is sixteen, and is thoroughly self conscious about her looks, but not because of what others will think about her, but how she wants to look. She is very comfortable with herself, something I really wasn't at her age. And the self confidence of both of them makes me proud. They don't follow the crowd or the culture or the marketing overall. They totally dislike Hannah Montana clothing. YEAH!
I'm not sure if its harder being a kid now than it was for my generation. In some ways its seems so, in others not. I guess its all relative to the situation. Times seem more complicated, but kids seem cooler. The seem to be more comfortable with who they are. More accepting of others. More into social activities. More concerned with the environment and food drives and "race for cure" activities and saying I love God on their MySpace pages...
More Aware.
Good for them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sweet 16

Sixteen years ago today my life was forever changed. Entering the world was my first child. A daughter. Now I have been scared plenty of times in my life. From getting shot at to car wrecks to fist fights to getting caught doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing.
But nothing, absolutely nothing could prepare me for that day. There are no words to describe the anxiety and fear I was feeling with concern for the birth I was about to be apart of. Oh yes, I got to go into the delivery room of a C section. I hate medical stuff. Seriously. Freaks me out. Mainly because I am not in control and I have to rely on other people. Total trust. I have this problem with God sometimes as well. but back to my story...
So we are in the delivery room and "surgery" starts and I get quizzy. Of course my wife is put under and is being cut with a sharp instrument, but all I can think of is "Oh my God don't let me pass out!". Within a couple of minutes a little nasty looking thing gets lifted into the air (never ever looks like that on the television does it), and a child is born.
I freak out. Is it breathing? I run over and for some wierd reason start counting fingers and toes. Great! they are all there as they should be. Oh my God something is wrong cause they are putting her in a basket! Stop worrying dad, we are only going to weigh her. Oh.
Whats the name dad? Crap - I can't remember. I blurt something out.... It sounded right when it came out so they wrote it on the side of the see thru plastic baby box. I then remembered my wife. They say she is okay too. Good.
I want to throw up. I want to set down. I can't do either. They hand me a baby wrapped up in a blanket with a little pre-mugger stocking cap on its head. I hold my daughter for the first time. Geez she is small. I'm afraid I'll break her. I give her back really quick.

that felt like yesterday.

Today she turns 16. She is a beautiful person. Inside and Out. I can't believe I've been a parent this long. She has two younger sisters that are as endearing as she is, each in their own unique way.

I am going to give her a hard time tonight as we go out to eat for her birthday. Each of them get to pick where to eat for their birthday. Its getting expensive. I am going to be the dorky dad. Its my job to be the dorky dad. Hopefully, one day, someday, she will look back on her life, and these moments together will be as meaningful and special as they are to me.

Happy Birthday Sweet 16.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"I'm Fine with God...It's Christians I Can't Stand"

Okay, so the title of this post is actually a book I am reading. Of course the title of the book enticed me to buy it, and I'm glad I did. It is written by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, neither of whom I have heard of before.

But it is good. An easy read, nodding your head in agreement page turner. I can see a good study based on this book. It is subtitled, "Getting past the Religious Garbage in the Search for Spiritual Truth".

I think if you read this and see a little of yourself in the pages, then maybe it'll give you pause to think and reflect on just what it means to be a Christian. A real christian. Not the "Norman Rockwell" painting of your mind's eye of what a christian is. Parts are serious, parts are cras, parts are downright funny.

So, if you do nothing else this week. Go buy this book. Or at least go by Barnes and Noble or Books a Million or wherever you like to go, pick the book up, set your butt down and read Chapter 8, pages 135 - 151. I could do my whole study on this one chapter.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Communion for five please...

After teaching last sunday over evil and chaos, and using the brilliant new Batman The Dark Knight movie scene where Joker is in the interogation room of the police station and Batman is forced by Joker to break one of his rules... and its brilliant... and some people got it and others didn't...

and so goes the church.

Its seems that some people get it while others simply don't, and I struggle on what approach is the best approach to herd them along into a more meaningful and HONEST relationship with Jesus/God. It appears that many are content with mere showing up while others are not. I know that it is a progressive walk and this is one of many steps on that walk, so I'm hesistant to push. I know this because it was part of my walk. In the southern united states, it is a cultural and social thing to do: go to church. Its not really because you are a christian and just love to get up and go worship, its sort of the expected thing, and hopefully, somewhere along the way, something "clicks" in your little head and heart and it becomes meaningful and expressive and relational.

but we have to slow down and be purposeful don't we, and that is very difficult in this society. A society of cell phones and text messages and internet and schedules and deadlines and...

so this thought came to me this morning. To accomodate the busyness of every day life, maybe we should put a drive thru window at the church, like Bon Qui Qui at King Burger, with a menu of what's available and you can order it there (and leave your monetary donation of course).

"Communion for 5 please", I ask over the intercom at the drive thru window. The red LED display confirms my order for 5 communions and flashes a "do this in rememberance of me" quote...

God i hope not. ~npp