Sunday, August 29, 2004


I feel completely unprepared for the work I have at the church.
Even though I talked myself up in my application, I'm not sure I have the skills to carry this through.
I'm in charge of ten adult church school classes.
I've never really participated in an adult church school class... ever.
I've been in the Church all my life, and I'm not sure why.
I know that I have to exercise, because I have chronic headaches if for no other reason, but I don't.
I'm hopelessly addicted to television.
Cable doesn't help.
When I didn't have a Christian Education connection to a church, music was my source of strength and spirituality.
Now I don't have music anymore, and I'm lost.
I've put a lot of effort into convincing people that I'm called to be a pastor, but I have no experience with any pastoral duties.
I'm a terribly slow reader. It takes me months to finish a book.
Though I've always had good grades in general, I did horribly on my senior thesis.
I'm terrified that I don't have it in me to write a major research paper of any kind, but I want to get a PhD.
I'm a flaming introvert.
Sometimes, I just don't want to be around anyone.
I'm very tired of meeting new people at my new church.
I never get to know any of them.
I want to hide in my office.
I'm tired of that, too.
I hate dealing with finances.
I don't think money should be important.
I worry about it all the time.
I used to be about as conservative Republican as is possible.
Then I was a member of the Green Party.
Now I'm a Democrat.
I don't know why.
When I was conservative, I wasn't very forgiving.
I didn't forgive myself, either.
Then I decided that it was more important to be forgiving.
Now I'm not as good at maintaining personal holiness as I once was.
I'm not sure I care anymore.
I never really learned how to pray.
I still don't really know how.
Especially when it involves other people.
My prayer life feels pretty bleak.
Somehow I think I can be a pastor.
I've never really had a conversion experience.
I don't want to.
I still feel guilty about it.
My theology is very communal.
I'm not very good with people.
My Christology is incarnational, not salvific.
I work in a Baptist church.
Today, I skipped out on the church school class I had planned to visit because I didn't want to talk or think about Titus.
I don't think it was Paul that wrote Titus.
I haven't really sat down with my Greek in almost two months.
I don't really hold many spiritual disciplines anymore.
At one time I did.
I think they're important.
I'm not sure how to start.
My wife's love languages are Acts of Service and Receiving Gifts.
Mine are Quality Time and Physical Touch.
When I try to be loving, I usually give Words of Affirmation.
When I get stressed, I want to stop everything, curl up in a ball, and do nothing.
It doesn't really seem to help.
I love the rain.
I live in a city that gets 325 days of sun a year, and I don't like it.
People think I'm crazy.
Sometimes, I think I actually like to be depressed.
I struggle with inappropriate thoughts.
It makes me hate myself.
That doesn't help anything either.
I secretly wish I were Catholic.
I can't abide the dogma.
I considered become Episcopalian.
I can't handle the rich people.
Maybe I just want to wear fancy robes and clerical collars.
When I read the Bible in the morning, I'm a better, nicer person during the day.
Lately, I don't do this very often.
I like to think that I grew up country.
I really didn't.
I'm not very close with anyone in my extended family.
It makes me sad.
I don't know much about my cultural/ethnic heritage.
It makes me feel culturally and ethnically homeless.
I used to get angry about cultural/ethic discussions.
Now I just feel empty.
I work really hard to be racially and gender sensitive.
I now think that my voice is not needed, that it time for me to shut up.
I like hiding in my books.
I'm not very good at doing anything productive.
I'm afraid to tell you who I am.
For some reason, I feel that God is calling me, but I feel unsure of myself.
According to my candidacy psych report, I have disassociated myself with stereotypical gender roles.
Yesterday, I had a very good time beating my friend at Sega NBA Live '97.
I gloated.
I used to be an Arian: I didn't believe in the divinity of Jesus.
Mark is still my favorite Gospel.
I am overly excited about having my own office with my name on the door and my own business card.
I think it's important to speak openly about one's thoughts and feelings with loved ones.
I'm terrible at it.
I can be an elitist snob.
I'm snobby about not being snobby.
I can never seem to sleep when I need to.
I'm generally a hypocrite.
I believe in natural, organic, small family farms.
I hate fruits and vegetables.
If I could, I would eat Macaroni and Cheese nearly all the time.
Yes, it would be Kraft.
I think there is a particular kind of church music that might be more appealing to young adults.
I'm a young adult, and most of the time I don't like that kind of music.
Sometimes I feel like a waste of resources.
I'm young.
I'm human.
God made me this way.
For some reason, I'm pretty sure God still loves me.
I'm glad.

i read

This post by Jenell Paris just hit me between the eyes. My wife and I are also unable to have biological children, and if we did, they'd probably be deformed or something.... that's all i have to say right now.

The Case for Kerry

It seems like everyone is either voting for or against Bush. It only makes sense. Most people who are voting for Kerry probably knew they were voting against Bush before they even knew who John Kerry was. But I think that it's important to point out some of the reasons that one might want to vote FOR Sen. Kerry, if only because it changes the topics of discussion.

One reason (and perhaps the most important) that I'm voting for Kerry is.... he's a flip-flopper. Yes, I actually consider this a virtue. I respect people that are not afraid to change, both their minds and the way of life. Obviously, growth only comes through change, and I like for people to grow. The very favorite people of mine, and the most wise, are the people who are always looking for ways to improve themselves, for ways to learn. My wife, a fourth grade teacher, would call this kind of person a "lifelong learner." I certainly hope that I'm one, and I respect people who are. In fact, I even think that God calls us to constantly change our minds. Kerry seems like a guy who isn't afraid to change his mind.

On the same point of flip-flopping, I like people who look at each situation individually and in the context of the present time. I think it's okay to be for something at one time and against it at another time. In fact, I think that correct decisions and best courses of action are very often situational. This doesn't mean that decisions are ungrounded; it means that they have a greater degree of success. We have certainly seen lately how success is in large part dependant on good intelligence (good information) and advance planning. Situational decisions, therefore, have a greater chance of success. Sen. Kerry seems to make decisions based on the current situation.

Reason two: complexity. I think that the world is very, very complex. Especially in the world of international politics and diplomacy... There's history to think about. What kinds of historical trends play into a certain situation? Who are the various people involved? How will they interpret the situation? What is the psychology and sociology of the situation? What about the economics, the religion, the care issues? Things are complicated. John Kerry is afraid to acknowledge the complexity in a situation.

Reason three: self-sacrifice. I know what you're thinking... he's going to talk about all that overworked war-hero stuff. Nope. I mean that he wants to increase taxes on the wealthy. Yeah.... he's pretty wealthy. But he still wants to increase his own taxes... more than other peoples. That impresses me. Humility and self-sacrifice are at the top of my list of virtues. This just seems like an interesting example of it.

Reason four: religiosity. Kerry is religious. We know he's a Catholic, and we know he's getting in trouble from the some of the hierarchy over his pro-choice stand. That's good. It shows a believer who is using reason to work out his faith. (Reason, by the way, is part of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, which also includes Scripture, Tradition, and Experience.) I'm glad to see someone who, while taking their own faith seriously, is not afraid to take a slightly different stand. I'm also glad to see a public figure who is informed by faith, but doesn't beat people over the head with it... who doesn't use his public office to try to push his own religious beliefs.

Okay, I could probably say a few more things, but I think I've made the point I wanted to make. I've even learned a bit myself in the writing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Campaign Game

For some online campaign fun, try this Denver Post Game.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Postmodern Christianity: Experience

The rescent post by Fr. Jake has gotten me all worked up about postmodernism and its role in the changing face of Christianity. Now, I don't have all of the philosophical background to debate this completely academically, but I do have something to say. I rely heavily on Leonard Sweet's Postmodern Pilgrims here, though I'm not a Sweet fanatic.

Yes, experience is key to postmodernism and to postmodern Christianity. Whereas modernism relies almost solely on reason and rationality, postmodernism believes that nothing can exist outside experience. That's not quite true -- nothing can be experienced outside experience -- so we can't understand anything that is completely outside experience. We cannot speak about objective truths because no objective person exists to tell us what they are. No one can be objective. If we claim to understand an objective truth, we are dilluding ourselves. We are simply arrogantly claiming that our understanding is objective, whereas our opponant's perspective is clearly not. No one has a monopoly on the truth. To claim to completely know the absolute truth is dangerous, arrogant, and a heresy. If we understand our own humaness, we must admit that we just don't know for sure. This is not to say that universal, objective truths do not exist, at least in theory. It is to say that we could never know them in certainty.

Now, let's talk about what I like to call "the severed head syndrome." This is the general paradigm of modernism, and it is the system that is operating in many churches, especially mainline Protestant churches. The idea is that the church only serves the rational mind. From the moment that someone walks into a church service, they might as well be just a severed head, because that is the only part of them that will be served. They sit in a pew virtually motionless for an hour and don't do much except listen. Most Protestant churches think that the sermon is the high point of worship -- yes, a time when we get to sit and listen to someone make rational arguments about God and humanity (not all sermons, I admit, but many). Sure, we might stand up and sing a few hymns. But does the service usually reach our hearts? Does it speak to our guts? I'm pretty sure it doesn't do anything for our bodies.

These kinds of services are lacking the element of experience. They operate almost solely on the rational plane and completely ignore the possibility of symbolic and mystical experiencial truth. We are not just severed heads! Yes, rationality and reason are important. A faith without reason is a blind and groundless faith. But a faith without experience is a dead faith. A faith that leaves no room for mystery leaves precious little room for God.

I want to be sure to point out that not all Christian worship has fallen prey to the severed head syndrome. Orthodox and Catholic Christianty still maintain a strong sense of mystery and leave room for the worshipers to truly experience God. Anglican Christianity, I believe, tries very hard to develop a faith that is both rational and experiencial. Even Pentecostals leave room for experience. Some of the mainline Protestant churches are doing the worst. We worked toward the very worthy goal of developing a Christianity that could stand up in the new world of science. We've done a pretty good job at that. But in the process, we have cut out an essencial part of the faith: experience. Look to the mystics -- it's there. Look to the liturgy -- it's there. Look to the ritual -- it is there. Look even to the mythos in the biblical text -- experience is there. If we take experience away, all we are left with is pointless mind games. What is the point of a perfect systematic theology if it doesn't apply to the experience of everyday people? Why should we have great thoughts about God if we don't ever experience not understanding God, but still listening?

We don't need to be afraid. Admitting the importance of experience will not cause the faith to crumble. We don't need to worry about losing the unquestionable, unviersal truths. Did they ever really exist in the first place? We just need to experience -- even when we don't understand -- in order to understand more fully.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Exegetical Moment: Mark 1:15

I've been working my way (very slowly) through the Gospel of Mark in Greek. I just finished up my formal Greek training at Iliff this last term, so I thought reading through Mark would be a good summer project to keep my skills fresh. Well, I haven't gotten very far, but here are some brief insights.

It's right at the beginning of the Gospel. Jesus has been baptized by John and been in the desert being tested by satan. Once John has been arrested, Jesus is ready to come out of the wilderness and begin his ministry. He comes into Galilee and starts preaching the good news, or gospel (euangelion in greek) of God (not Christ), and saying,

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

That's what the NRSV says, anyway. The Greek actually packs quite a bit more meaning in than can be easily conveyed in English.

First is the word "time." In Greek, there are two kinds of time. Chronos, like chronometer, is clock time. Not that there were a lot of clocks around in Jesus' time, but it's everyday sort of minute to minute time. Kairos, on the other hand, is more of a seasonal time. "The right point of time, the proper time or season of action, the exact or critical time" says the Liddell-Scott lexicon. This is the kind of time that is used here. "The appointed season of action is fulfilled."

Second is the "kingdom" of God. The Greco-Roman audience probably would have heard "the Empire of God," the same way one would refer to the Empire of Rome. Not a crucial point in the this passage, but interesting.

Now we come to the real meat of that passage: "repent, and believe in the good news." Let's look at "repent" first. The Greek word is metanoeite. It is an imperative verb -- Repent! However, it is in the second person plural -- y'all repent! Also, it is a continuous verb, which means that it refers to continuous action -- y'all keep on repenting, or y'all be continuously repenting. That's quite a different meaning than the once-and-forever sort of repenting that we hear about from many Christians. No one time giving your life to Jesus here; this kind of repenting is continuous and something that we do together. But what does it mean to repent, anyway? Well, metanoeite is a compound word, and it means "to change one's mind or purpose." Wait a minute, did he just say that repenting is changing your mind? Yes! "All y'all keep on continuously chanding your minds." That's right, Jesus is calling us to be continuously changing, to learn and to grow. That's what repenting is, to keep turning around as we understand better, to keep on changing the way we believe and live.

Now, the word for believe, pisteuete is in the same tense, mood, person, and number as metanoeite is -- y'all keep on continuously believing. But it doesn't really mean "believe" either. It's really the verbal form of pistis, which is the word for faith. We don't have a verb for this in English. We would have to say "to faith" -- I was faithing, she will faith. Even to say "to have faith" isn't quite right, because we're really talking about an action here, not just a static belief. It's not something that just happens in the mind, but something that happens in the life. "All of you keep on continuously living out your faith." This is not something you can do once in your dormroom when the evangelists come through, but something that we all have to do continuously -- acting out our faith in our lives.

So, we're left with a translation that looks a bit more like this:

"The appointed season of action has been brought about, and the Empire of God has come near; all of you be continuously changing your ways and minds and be continuously living out your faith in the good news."

A little more clumsy than the NRSV, but bringing out more of the subtlety and meaning.

I should credit my professor, George "Tink" Tinker, for pointing me in this direction, but I confirmed it all in my own study.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Altar Call

I'm working at an American Baptist Church, and this Sunday, I'll get to participate in my first altar call. It's something that's definately outside my tradition. To be fair, though, it's not really a full-blown, you must convert or burn in hell sort of altar call. In fact, they don't even call it an altar call, but an Invitation. Basically, we offer an opportunity for people who want to begin a walk with Christ (or if someone just wants to join the church) to come forward and talk with the pastor, etc. It's really fairly low-key.

This Sunday, my job is to invite people. Thankfully, I don't have to do the follow-up actually talking to people who come up part, because I would be pretty lost. Like I said, it not really something that was ever done in the Methodist Churches I've been a part of. In fact, it's all a little scary.

However, I have to admit that this is an important part of church life. Most Methodist Churches haven't had an honest to goodness conversion in so long that they wouldn't know what to do if they had one. If someone came up after service and said they wanted to commit themselves to Christ, most pastors would probably be taken a little off guard, and might not know what to do. We're awefully good and education and raising up disciples, but not so good at the adult "conversion." So anyway, I think this will be a really good learning experience, doing the whole altar call thing, and I'm glad that I'm going to be able to know what to do with new converts.

New Scandals in Iraq

There are a couple of new stories about US misconduct in Iraq that don't seem to be making the US media. The first is extended concern over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, that US military medics may have been complicit in the abuse. Check out the BBC report and the Aljazeera story. There are also charges concerning mishandling of funds by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Here is the Aljazeera link.

It is important that we take these charges seriously. We may want to simply dimiss them, but rest assured, the Arab world will not. We need to think very clearly about whether or not the US still has the moral authority that we claim to have. Can we say that we're not a colonial power, that we're simply spreading freedom and liberty throughout the world? Will the rest of the world agree?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A life remembered

Yesterday was my first day in my new job as a pastoral intern at a medium-sized, mainline church here in Denver. Mostly, I went to lot of meetings -- necessary, but not always fun. However, one of these meetings was a funeral planning meeting -- my first one ever. It doesn't exactly sound like a good time: meeting with a family whose loved one has just passed away, trying to get them to share memories of the deceased so you'll have enough information to give a eulogy. (To be clear here, I was mostly observing my supervising pastor: I'm not planning on conducting a funeral by myself in my first week on the job, nor am I licensed to do so.)

Contrary to my expectations, It turned out to be a sacred moment. It was a time for the family to share deeply their memories of their mother, both good and bad. It was a time of tears and pain, but also of celebration, smiles, and laughter. It was a healing and bonding moment. I must admit, I feel very priviledged to have been invited into that sacred space. I feel honored to have shared in the naked honesty of those lives. And I learned a great deal in those few, holy minutes.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Presidential Gaffe

I just love this quote from the President. "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful - and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people - and neither do we." Yeah, I know that it was just a stupid mistake, but sometimes I think he's just about got to be trying to skrew us over. Click on the title of this article to go the BBC report. You can even watch the video.