Thursday, June 13, 2013

Movin' across town!

I'm moving my blog to a new location. This one has served me well. But, it's time for a new stage in my life and some new exposure. I can now be found at:
The site is in its infancy. However, I exported the posts from this blog so that they will be readily available to me, and you, over there.
For those who have been following me, it'll be a fun adventure.
I hope that you will join me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What in the 'World' is the Church Thinking?

Recently, I’ve read a lot about social and cultural ills, and, how the Church ought to respond to them. Some of these have to do with specific events. I read one this morning that just put me over the top with incredulity. David Hayword shared a story that I found totally unbelievable. Here is a link to David’s blog,
Last week I read a post by Frank Schaeffer about human trafficking. This is an issue that is of paramount importance. And, I commend Frank’s voice on it. He has highlighted the role of social media to the modern-day slave trade.
I could go on and on about the growing economic disparity between the so-called 1% and everyone else. I could mention how our elected leaders are owned and operated by various special interests…special interests that are only concerned about their own interests. Tony Jones wrote a very insightful piece about this at
So, what is the Church saying and doing? From the sermons I’ve heard and the people I’ve talked to, it seems that we are really, really concerned about personal piety and creating a counter-cultural presence. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not disparaging these. (Although, I think the counter-cultural thing is counter-productive. But, more on that some other time.)
I hear so-called Christian leaders speak out against LGBT folks on a regular basis like these people, who, incidentally, God loves. I hear our leaders worrying and complaining because their children masturbate. I listen to well-meaning folks break down to tears because alcohol exists…or tobacco, or pot. I listen to high profile ‘leaders’ talk about gender roles as if they had a hotline to God. Oh, and don’t get me started about science and evolution. What a ‘slippery slope’ these topics present to the ‘faithful.’
So, we reject the culture. We build structures that shield us from the tainted influences of this ‘fallen’ world. We build crap.
I think that it’s far easier to identify specific ‘sins’ and issues that differentiate us, that make us exclusive, than to deal with the real task of building God’s reign here, now, on Earth. What does that look like? I certainly don’t have an exhaustive answer to this. I do know, however, some of the characteristics of it. From Jesus, himself, I see his understanding of this vocation. From Luke 4:18-19 we read, “18. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed,  19. To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”(NASB)
I don’t see a lot about complementarianism in this. I do see a mandate for caring for the distressed and marginalized, however. James adds more insight into the heart of God. He wrote in chapter one of his letter, “Religion that is pure and undefiled in the sight of God our Father is to care for the orphans and widows in their distress, to keep oneself pure from the world.” (trans. mine.) Many evangelicals will say, “Aha! Keep pure from the world. That means individual moral purity. Exactly what we’ve been preaching!” My response is, “Not so fast.” What is James’ understanding of what we translate ‘world’? He used ‘Cosmos’ for this. The idea contained in this language has to do with world systems, not individual piety. The systemic abuses of greed and power undergird this verse. Systems that continue the marginalization of entire groups of people are included here. Embedded privilege is condemned in these few words by the apostle. While we nit-pick about masturbation people who Christ loves and gave his life for are set apart as ‘other’ and judged to be something ‘less than’ us. While we look for ways to define who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ girls and women are abused and subjected to horrific conditions so that men might cling to their power and privilege. Workers are denied living wages so that some corporation can pay handsome dividends to its stockholders. Hundreds can die in a factory in Bangladesh in order to pad some executive’s pockets with pictures of a guy named George. LGBT people are forced to choose between honesty and self-loathing because some religious leader preaches hate-filled sermons to the ‘faithful.’
No, our responsibility to God and God’s good creation is to be a royal priesthood and holy nation. A place of safety for the distressed and marginalized people of the world. Not to defile ourselves by being a party to the very systems that cause the distress and marginalizing.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

An Update of sorts

My deadline of May 31st has come and gone. I think that at this time I am going to press ahead with a fiction. I've been able to get quite a few notes written. Mostly from memories, but some that ask questions. Maybe, too many questions. How do I start? How can I articulate complex emotions and passions in a way that doesn't devolve into some kind of voyeurism? How can I honor God and be a blessing to others? How can I avoid 'preaching to the choir'? Because, I have no desire to tell my story to a very narrow and somewhat 'prickish' segment of the culture. The story is not necessarily about, nor for, the kind of faith communities that I have been a part of. It is a story about human frailty and Yahweh's faithfulness.
I have wrestled with how to present real people in real-life situations, (some of them not all that pleasant). Much stress and a few tears have gone into this part of the process. Thanks to our Good Creator, I came across a blog post by writer Wendy Murray this morning. She is a very sensitive person who has gone through a lot of trials. She loves Jesus and desires to honor him and his people. She struggled with some of the things that I am now striving to deal with. In her post she wrote:
As writers who also happen to be people of faith we have to be willing to look straight into the world as it is and at the people who inhabit it for who they are. They are real. They are weak. Sometimes they have sex outside of marriage. Do you know anyone who says the f-word? Have you said it in the past week?

For me, this was Ruach Elohim, God's Breath, filling my lungs; my mind; my heart. Write what is real. Whether others accept or reject the story is not my worry. My task is to tell the story.
Thank you, Wendy!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How the Holy Spirit can show up anywhere.

This past Sunday I went with my wife to the church that my son and his family have been attending. Before going, I went to the church's website to get some information about them. I was not impressed. And, after attending the service, I was less impressed. It was the same church that I had left. Only it had a better grasp of technology. It was more polished. But, a rock that is polished is still a rock.
They are a typical evangelical church. They truly love Jesus. And, they truly think that they are following Jesus. However, they, like so many other fundagelical churches think that their way is the ONLY way to follow Jesus. I disagree alot.
Their service was very much a patriotic thing since it was Memorial Day. Now, I do not want to take away from that. I am all for the veterans who have given so much for this country. But, I absolutely think that the Church MUST stay somewhat aloof to political leanings and patriotism. Ours is a kingdom that is NOT of this world.
Their guest speaker was Vietnam veteran who had lost both legs to a landmine. Of course, the requisite sympathy was evoked. But, this guy spoke to me. He talked at length about following a call. To me, that is like pouring gasoline on a fire. I do not think that I am following the calling that God has given. I feel like I am prostituting myself in order to pay my bills and keep health insurance for my wife and me. His words haunt me. I am deeply troubled. Could this be Ruach Elohim, the Breath of God, speaking? Could this be the Spirit that Yeshua told Peter and the others would come and teach them all things saying that I had no faith? Maybe. I am not sure. All I know is that in the most unexpected place, God may have spoken.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Privileged, and Mostly Oblivious to It

I am a white male. That's what I've always been. That's what I always will be. I can't help it. It's how God made me. If everything was equal, there would be no problem with that. But, things are not equal. I am privileged in this culture. And, God did not make me that. The systems that have been built over centuries have ensured that I would have a privileged position in society. These systems are so deeply embedded in our culture that most of us who are privileged don't even realize that we are. It's just 'the way it is.'
Recently, Tony Jones, a highly educated, white guy made a presentation that rubbed some people the wrong way. One of the people in attendance,Christena Cleveland, called Tony out for being exercising his privilege. Jones responded with obviously hurt feelings. Now, at first, I didn't see all that much that was offensive in Jones' remarks. Shoot! I've probably said similar things myself! As I reflected on it, though, I became more and more uncomfortable. Then, a few days later Jones, I think in an attempt to show how egalitarian he is, posted a request for women and feminists to join in his blog. Again, an understandable response from a privileged person who sincerely believes that he is above reproach in these matters.
This morning I visited the blog of Caryn Riswold. She pretty much dissed Jones' offer. And, she challenged readers to go and read what people who are NOT privileged have to say. One of those links led me to Cleveland's blog. I spent the next 30 minutes reading a 5 part series that she had posted. What great stuff! You see, we who enjoy privilege are blind to it. We simply can't understand why 'others' don't like us. We don't get it when marginalized and oppressed people don't 'get' us. In fact, many of us don't realize that there are any oppressed people out there. After all, we live in a land of equal opportunity. But, as the old cliche goes, "some of us are more equal than others."
I am adding a link to Cleveland's series. I would encourage anyone who happens to stop by here to take the time to read it. It is of utmost importance if we are trying to be the Body of Christ to understand where the other members of that body live and breathe and have their being. It is important, no necessary, that we embrace kenosis, emptying, as Jesus did if we are to live as God's people. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Moods and the Necessity of Keeping On

Again, it's been awhile since I posted anything here. Honestly, I just haven't felt like sitting in front of my computer and creating something that I think someone...anyone...would want to read. Now, for someone who enjoys writing, that can present quite a dilemma. What happens when a writer just doesn't feel like writing? I don't know. What happens when a doctor doesn't feeling like 'doctoring'? Ok, that's not the same. But, you get what I'm alluding to. I have plenty to write about. That's not the problem. And, hopefully over the next week I'll get some of that out here. No. My issue has been that I just haven't been motivated to do this.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that as I have been praying over the last year and a half about vocation, I keep being impressed by one word. 'Write.' My response to this voice has been, 'Ok! Great! Uh, write what?' That's a pretty big question. If God wants someone to write, you'd think that there would be some kind of follow-up. "Ok, now here is the inspiration. I have a project in mind and I want you to get 'er done! Write this....."
Well, that's not how it works, apparently. Recently, however, I have been motivated to move forward. With what, I'm not sure. But, since it's harder to hit a moving target, I thought I'd better get to locomoting. I've set a deadline of May 31st to have a project set. Not sure if it will be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or a 'project to be named later.'
That's where I am this morning. Fortunately, I am on vacation for the next 10 days. Who knows what the next week will bring? Already, this A.M. I had a memory return to the front of my brain. A memory of adolescent love. Hmmm.... For those who know me well, this could be a dangerous endeavor. But, one must follow where the muse leads, I guess.
I'll try to update this blog from time-to-time about this leg of my journey. But, getting the brain and hands to communicate can sometimes prove problematic. We'll see. After all, it is a journey...not a project.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Good news from Cleveland this week. Maybe, we can make it even better.

Well, it’s been nearly a week since the news broke that Michelle Knight, Gina Dejesus and Amanda Berry had been found and released from hell. I was in the kitchen when my wife started to carry on about something. I walked to the living room and she said that Amanda had been found. We watched intently as the story of horrific imprisonment and abuse began to unfold before our eyes. Relief! The families’ hopes had been realized. Gina’s mother had been the ‘point’ of years of hope for her daughter. “Never give up hope!” became a rallying cry for her and the countless others who supported her and Amanda’s families.
But, for me, something wasn’t quite right about how the story was being told by the local media. Everyone on air kept talking about the ‘good’ ending to this decade long ordeal. Yes, every year that passed dimmed the hope that the girls would be found at all, let alone alive. And, here they were! Yet, there were years unaccounted for. There was the loss of innocence. There was the loss of family and friends. There was the loss of self as each of these young women became the ‘property’ of one deranged individual Man. And, this is the story that is missing from all of the good news. One human male thought that he had the right to abduct, imprison and abuse these women. One man, Ariel Castro, took his male privilege to the extreme and subjected three young women to inexplicable horror. But, is he only one man? What is it that causes a person like Castro to consider for even a moment that he has such ‘rights’ over other human beings? Why did he think that it was ‘OK’ to take girls for his own twisted pleasure?
A person whom I have come to deeply respect for her views on issues of sexuality and abuse of privilege, Jennifer D. Crumpton, blogged the day before these young women were found and released. I had read her post and viewed a linked video that night. She wrote about the ‘rape culture’ that is so pervasive in our society. I’m not going to tell her story, but she talked about how male privilege covers up male abuse of others. We live by a double standard in which an abuse victim is re-victimized by media and peers while the male abusers are referred to as ‘boys being boys.’ How ridiculous and perverted! We allow male privilege to rape, imprison and kill, then we all act horrified when an Ariel Castro appears. Ariel Castro, who was embodying the very ‘rape culture’ that we allow to flourish in our midst.
Yes, it is great news that Michelle, Gina and Amanda have been freed. It gives hope to the thousands of other families who have missing children. I hope and pray for all of these that they, too, can be reunited with their loved ones. But, the awful truth is that we continue to allow our culture to embrace gender violence in the name of male privilege.
Please read Jennifer’s post:
And, take 20 minutes to  view the linked video of Jackson Katz, PhD.
Perhaps, if we can use the God given minds that we have, and open our hearts to God’s Spirit and to one another, there may be a truly ‘good’ ending to this story.