Monday, June 25, 2012

"Peace is a result not a goal"

"The first thing we need to recover is the knowledge that peace is a result not a goal. Peace is the result of years in a good relationship. Marriages shaped by love result in peace. Instead of focusing on having a good marriage, a husband and a wife who focus on loving one another will have a marriage of peace. Societies that are shaped by justice and love becomes societies marked by peace. Peace, then, should not be our goal; love is. Love is the hard gritty work; love is the way of the cross that produces peace. When we love, justice and peace bubble up as the results of love. People who want peace but who aren't willing to love will not find peace. People who love find peace, whether they think about it or not."

- Scot McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, 73

(image via

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Two by Mumford and Sons: Come Thou Fount & Awake My Soul

Dang, I just love this. These guys are great and a new album is set for release in September. I dare you not to be utterly moved by the song in the second half of the second video. Between these two videos, this might be the best fifteen minutes of your week.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Reading the Bible, and Some Resources

Every so often we do a series on the bible where we interact with questions about what the bible is, what it's for, how it's authoritative, and how to read it (hermeneutics).

In the last couple years I've been challenged by Alister McGrath's work on Christianity's Dangerous Idea, which was, essentially, to put the bible in the hands of the people, "that Christians have the right to interpret the bible for themselves," and the subsequent fallout/repercussions. As a Wesleyan, I try to never forget the beautiful tension that exists in the relationship between Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, which means that reading for ourselves never means that we read it by ourselves.

The thought I'm entertaining right now, to put it very, very simply, is this: It's not that I think everyone should be biblical scholars, but that our readings should be theologically faithful, which means that we need to become better readers and hearers of this story. It sounds circular but it's not. The point, of course, is not just to become better readers about Jesus. We read in order to become better followers of Jesus, which means that I take very seriously the practices that shape and form God's people, that make us into the kinds of people who actually follow Jesus. But one of those practices is reading the Scripture, so we have to talk about it.

In any case, I wanted to toss out two resources that I have found helpful when it comes to reading the bible. They are beginner's resource, for sure, but ones that I return to often when I want to gather up the whole story, as much as possible, in one gulp.

The first is a book by Craig Koester called A Beginner's Guide to Reading the Bible. He tries to be more comprehensive in scope, asking why we read the bible? What's in the bible? How was it composed? Who decided which books made the cut? How have people view the bible? Why so any translations? And why should I read the bible? It's a great little book to have your shelf to help you get and keep your bearings. My favorite part of this book is his summary of the Old Testament. He goes from the patriarchs, to the kings, to the prophets in about eleven pages. It's encyclopedic, but it's pretty imaginatively engaging.

The second book is by Lesslie Newbigin called A Walk Through the Bible. His is a narrative approach to the bible. He minimizes the complexity as much as possible in order to grasp the basic story of the bible, in seventy-nine pages I might add! You lose the encyclopedic and informative feel that you get from Koester's, but you gain a more succinct telling of the story from start to finish.  Plus, not only will you have a really good sense of the overarching story of God in the bible, you can read it in one sitting!

What am I missing? What else is out there like this?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quote by Ray Bradbury on Writing

In honor of the art of writing and the joy of life, here is a swift kick in the pants by Ray Bradbury...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

More like MacGyver...

For this week it's a marriage counseling session (I'm doing a wedding in August), preaching at the KCRM, and preaching at Redemption. In case you don't know, each of these things requires a certain amount of preparation.

It's likely that as I get older I will become more efficient in managing my time when it comes to these things, but at the moment (especially since I don't preach on a regular weekly basis) I just have to give myself over to them. Granted, I'm much better at time management when it comes to sermon prep than I used to be. There is a learning process. But sometimes it seems to take a while to get the creative juices flowing. As a rule, I try to write every day, but there is something intentional about a sermon that requires a little more focus and creativity, which can end up taking time.

Maybe I should become more like MacGyver, flexible, spontaneously creative, entrepreneurial, a clock-buster. Perhaps a sociopath, as suggested, but a nice sociopath. I wonder how many pastors are sociopaths? This might help me not to feel so overwhelmed by my to do list. After all, who else do you want to be like as pastor when you're boxed into a corner, ten seconds left on the clock? For sure, duct tape can fix marriages and sermons.

Carry on...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Another from the Eugene...

I read Peteron's book, Pastor, in March 2011. There are few public figures who are able somehow to weave together an acute pastoral sensibility and keen cultural critique in a such beautiful way. Here's one from the book:

"I love being an American. I love this place in which I have been placed - it's language, its history, its energy. But I don't love 'the American way,' its culture and values. I don't love the rampant consumerism that treats God as a product to be marketed. I don't love the dehumanizing ways that turn men, woman, and children into impersonal roles and causes and statistics. I don't love the competitive spirit that treats others as rivals and even as enemies. The cultural conditions in which I am immersed require, at least for me, a kind of fierce vigilance to guard my vocation from these cultural pollutants so dangerously toxic to persons who want to follow Jesus in the way that he is Jesus. I wanted my life, both my personal and working life, to be shaped by God and the Scriptures and prayer."

- Eugene Peterson, Pastor, 4ff.

Eugene Peterson Interview

Watch for the early Chris Farley reference. Oh, and he also has some good stuff to say about pastoring.

(via Per-Crucem-ad-Lucem)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Of prayer and place, with Wendell Berry and Richard Rohr

Something seems to work between the two...

- "By interworking of chance and choice, I have happened to live nearly all of my life in a place I don't remember not knowing. Most of my forebears for the last two hundred years could have said the same thing. I was born to a people who knew this place intimately, and I grew up knowing it intimately. For a long time the intimacy was not very conscious, but I certainly did not grow up here thinking of the place as 'subject matter, I have never thought of it that way. I have not lived here, or worked with my neighbors or family, or listened to the storytellers and the remembers, in order to be a writer." - Wendell Berry, Imagination in Place, 1

- "To be contemplative, we have to have a slight distance from the world - we have to allow time for withdrawal from business as usual, for mediation, for prayer in what Jesus calls 'our private room.' However, in order for this not to become escapism, we have to remain quite close to the world at the same time, loving it, feeling its pains and its joys as our pains and our joys. So the fulcrum must be somehow be in the real world [sic]. True contemplation, all the great masters say, is really quite down to earth and practical, and does not require life in a monastery." - Richard Rohr, A Lever and Place to Stand, 1ff.

The problem with our standard of living...

We use too much. Wendell Berry says we've got to use less. And to be smarter about how we use.

Watch Wendell Berry on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Quote by Wendell Berry

"For many years, as a nation, we have asked our land only to produce, and we have asked our farmers only to produce. We have believed that this single economic standard not only guaranteed good performance but also preserved the ultimate truth and rightness of our aims. We have bought unconditionally the economists' line that competition and innovation would solve all problems, and that we would finally accomplish a technological end-run around biological reality and the human condition."

- Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food, 5

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Around the Horn ... in video

This weeks cyber round up is in video format. There's some funny, impressive, and freakishly amazing stuff out there!

- Neil Gaiman remembers Ray Bradbury. And reads a story he wrote for him on his 91 birthday.

- Iranian kid jams with his Grandpa (via Blaim it on the Voices).

- Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer dances (that's an understatement).

- Ever wonder what The Wire would be like as a musical???

- Norman Wirzba talks about farming, the church, and the problem of industry.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Saving the (Super)powers

I've been in the thick of Walter Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament, but now I'm finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In part three he spends several chapters talking about the various aspects of partnership with Yahweh: Israel as partner, the human person as partner, the nations as partner, and creation as partner. I found his consideration of the nations as partner to be really insightful and challenging, particularly the part where he talks about the superpowers of the Old Testament: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. While all four of these superpowers are easily villainized as those who must be defeated, we can't forget that each, in some way, was solicited by Yahweh to partner with Him in the redemption of His creation (see pages 502-518).

- Egypt, through Joseph, becomes a refuge during a great famine (Genesis)

- Asssyria is the "rod" of Yahweh's "anger" (Isaiah, 10:5) against the idolatrous northern kingdom of Israel, as God commissions them to "take spoil and seize plunder" (Isaiah 10:6).

- Babylon, specifically Nebuchandnezzar, whom Yahweh calls "My servant" (Jeremiah 25:9), functions like Assyria except towards the rebellious southern kingdom, Judah.

- Persia, perhaps the least threatening of the four, is the means by which the people of God are able to "return" to Jerusalem, albeit still in service to Persia, in order to rebuild the temple.

In the end, however, these superpowers overreach, as they are wont to do, thus receiving from Yahweh the same judgement as Israel receives. 

So, two things:

1. I find interesting the way Brueggemann is able to situate the chosenness of Israel within this geopolitical scope, namely that the centrality of Israel needs to be sharply qualified. Yahweh won't be monopolized by Israel's concerns as such, regardless of the covenant. Israel is always a small fish in a big pond with a cosmic implications. The cosmic implications of salvation are always in God's purview, regardless of what Israel says and does, and especially if Yahweh must move outside the bonds of covenant for the life of the world. That's a wild and surprising God, right there!

2. I find his argument for the salvation of the superpowers to be really, really compelling. His section on Nebuchadnezzar is great, and at points downright moving in a poetic sense, the way preaching is supposed to be! The story of Nebuchadnezzar is like the story of Jonah in a sense. What if your preaching actually works and people return to God? This is the challenge of "love your enemies" because there may come a point one day where you will fellowship with them at a common table. If you haven't already been practicing forgiveness and reconciliation, what makes you think you will all of a sudden be able to share in the Lord's Supper with them? This is the public challenge of the Amish community shooting back in 2006. It all comes down to hope. Do we hope our enemies will be saved or destroyed?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Where Do You Live?

Would this suit you? I can't imagine living like this with kids, but then maybe I don't have a big enough imagination. Still, it's a really interesting idea that certainly challenges contemporary Western cultural assumptions about our use of space as well as what we build homes out of. I wonder how economical it actually is?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Reflecting on a Walkabout

Here are three meandering reflections on pilgrimage, or as we like to call it: walkabout.

- A couple days ago, my friend Steve and I set out on another walkabout. This time I took my phone with me to track our progress. Eighteen miles! It took about seven hours, with about an hour for lunch. I was exhausted at the end, sore and sunburned. And we're already talking about what the next one's going to be! The first three hours were relatively easy, as far as it goes. By the time we reached our destination for lunch, we had walked nine miles. We didn't stop to rest at all so I was hungry and tired. Our midway point was a farm out south of Kansas City, owned by a friend of Steve's. About two miles out from the farm we guessed that there would probably be a refrigerator full of ice-cold refreshing beverages. When I sat down with that cold drink in my hand, I started to have a small imagination for what true hospitality and friendship might actually look like. I had reached a point where I was desperately in need of something cold to drink, a point I, and a lot of other North American, hardly ever truly experience. We eat and drink out of habit and indifference, rather than necessity and thankfulness. The walk back was much more difficult. My biggest concern was my hip flexor and my feet. I was doing my best not to change the way I walk, knowing that would cause pain to parts of my leg not used to bearing that much weight while walking. I did pretty good, except the lower parts of the my leg - the muscles next to my shin - really hurt me the next few days. We found a walking stick that proved to be really helpful. One of us would use it for a couple of hills and then we would switch. We stopped a several more times on the way back to rest. At one point we found a shaded spot on a bridge that was just about perfect for a two minute respite before we finished the last leg of our journey. At one point near the end we came upon a blackberry tree. There's nothing better than a sweet taste in your mouth when you've been walking for hours, sipping hot water. What is the kingdom of heaven like? It's like a the taste of rich, sweet blackberries at the end of a long, long walkabout.

- I'm starting to understand the need for pilgrimage as a spiritual discipline, at least for North American Christians for whom the status quo is ease and comfort. I'm reminded of something I read once by David Burrell. He says, "In Beth Sahour we have a YMCA pool; I go there three mornings a week. There's a BMW pulled off the side of the road, and it's one of my swimming partners. I pull to the side, and I say, 'What's that?' 'It's a puncture.' I said, 'Let's fix it.' As a driver of a BMW, my friend had never fixed a tire in his life. And that's the American strength, 'Let's fix it.'" But he points out that such strengths can also be our weakness. It can turn into arrogance such that we need no help from others because we can just do it ourselves. This kind of self-sufficiency, though, can also lead to a kind of slothful laziness as we construct a reality that removes us further and further from the land and the virtue of work. It's gone from we can do it ourselves to we can't do anything for ourselves. I'm not one to talk as I feel tragically removed from the land, but I hope the rest of my life leads me back there.

- In his book, The Sacred Way, Tony Jones quotes Robert Brancatelli on the subject of pilgrimage. "[Brancatelli] sees three steps in the journey. The first is separation, the time of leaving home and that which is comfortable and familiar. The next stage is the liminal period, when the pilgrim is at the edge, the border, the frontier of spirituality - this is when the pilgrim leaves home behind and makes Christ her guide. Finally, reintegration into the community takes place, but the former pilgrim is now, in many ways, an adult with is an individuated faith of his own." I always say you never walk the road alone, but you have to walk it for yourself. I wonder how many of us have barely started the adventure of separation where we truly begin to hold loosely the "stuff" of our lives in order to deeply embrace a better, more divine way.

(The image is one that I took from our walkabout)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Around the Horn

Just a couple of videos for this weeks around the horn. Y'all don't want to read anything anyways. But you might want to help me write a story (see below).

- Watch this lady from Code Pink speak out against U.S. use of drone warfare. What do you think? (via Juan Cole). He also posted this piece on the drone question.

- You need to spend some time with Jean Vanier. What a great video!

- A movie I will see, likely in the theater (that's a big deal for people with little gremlins, I mean, kids).

- Let's have some fun, yeah? I'll give you the first line of a story and you give me the next. Keep adding on to what others write and we'll see where it takes us: "As he rounded the corner, he knew that one thing was for sure: he would never do that again." What's happens next?

(Image via imomus)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Solar Energy from a Soda Bottle

I love this.

Hauerwas 101

I just came across a video interview of Stanley Hauerwas that is a perfect beginning point for those interested in Hauerwas who have not yet delved into reading him. Several "famous" lines and stories make there way in here, which made it enjoyable to revisit. Any newbie's to Hauerwas will find it a valuable and challenging introduction!