A movie that’s actually worth seeing!

All I can say is that this was a great movie…very fresh, funny, insightful, transparent, and approachable.  It does NOT have the greatest language – so those of you who can’t handle that sort of thing, avoid it.  It will undoubtedly annoy you.  Give yourself a break and don’t allow yourself to be annoyed.  But for those of you who like to be annoyed, this movie is for you…for many, many reasons.  Here is a story of adolescence – rationalization, assimilation into cultural norms, parental laxness, communication, abortion, etc, etc.  I found myself really enjoying this movie.  Actually, I was surprised.  I thought I would not enjoy it because I would be too analytical.  But this movie disarms you…I am not going to post anymore…just go see it!  It is one of the rare moments where critics got it right!  And it is actually "pro-life"!  Interesting!

Nations Apologizing to nations…People apologizing to people…me, I’m joining the crowd!

You have heard over the past months of public apologies either being offered by nations to nations or people to people.  Apparently, there is a lot of "sorrys" that need to go around.  Maybe you heard that there was a movement afloat in the USA Congress to apologize to the Albanians for WW2 issues.  Then there are apologies being demanded by ethnic peoples for issues of discrimination.  Then there are the public apologies on the airwaves for "foot in mouth" disease that happens on an increasing scale on a daily basis (especially in politics).  Well…to make sure that these countries and people don’t feel alone, I was thinking the other day about the apologies that I need to extend.  They are extensive…but here goes:

I want to say "I’m sorry" to:

  • my kids to never having enough time to spend with them when they were small because I had to spend all my time with "church people"
  • my wife, Vicky, for all the times that she looked absolutely beautiful and I was preoccupied
  • my wife, Vicky, for all the times that she didn’t feel good and was struggling with how she felt about herself and I was too preoccupied with how bad she was feeling because I wasn’t going to get what I needed from her
  • my dad and mom for the many times I used them as examples of "un-holiness" and abusive parenting instead of honoring them, praying for them, and finding a way to love them unconditionally
  • all the people I called friends over the years but never really knew any more about them than just "headlines"…I’m sorry that I used you to boost my low self esteem by thinking that the more friends I had the more important I would feel
  • all the members of local churches I’ve served who heard countless sermons from me about supporting institutionally self-serving causes instead of serving the Kingdom of God
  • to the Lord God and the citizens of the Kingdom of God for all the times that I initiated any program in a local church that sucked up tons of financial resources that were focused on me building MY kingdom and not Jesus’
  • to the local churches I’ve served where I felt that I needed to be the center of attention…where the worship experiences were only ‘good’ if I was "on" or "up" or "interesting" or "better than Bill Hybels" (or my buddies Mikey and Nate :0))
  • to all the local churches, conferences, organizations, and retreats I’ve served where I felt that I had to be musically better than Hillsong United, Tommy Walker, Dave Crowder or any other "hot" worship and music leader in order to provide for "them" a good worship experience INSTEAD OF encouraging them to open their heart and life to God wherever they may be during any day in any place at any time
  • to all the classes, seminars, and conferences where I had the honor to teach and I was more concerned about my reputation and how smart I was instead of simply doing what God was asking me to do from a humble and self-sacrificing spirit
  • to all the authors of books I read where I hated "you" because you wrote so well and I didn’t
  • to my current friends and community members for how I often feel sorry for myself because I’m focused on me
  • to all the people I taught where I was a poser, worrying about making sure I demonstrated that I had intelligence beyond my education instead of telling them the truth – that I have been educated beyond my intelligence

Oh well…it’s time to get off this gig…I’m simply glad in my heart for forgiveness!  At least, the Lord’s forgiveness!  More to come…

McCall…sometime to celebrate, reflect, talk and have some fun!

Mccall02Vicky and I took off for McCall this weekend for some romantic time away but also to have some time to talk about the major transition that is happening in life starting tomorrow (Tuesday).  McCall, Idaho is a wonderful place and the Whitetail resort is a great part of the town.  It’s right on the lake…huge amounts of snow…picturesque…romantic…all I can say is "good times".  Our buds in the journey of life, Roy and Sally, suggested we go up to Whitetail on the dinner package.  Frankly, what a great bargain.  You get a chance to have a gourmet meal that normally costs over $125 for two (sans wine) included in the overall bill.  For us that means, minus the dinner, the room cost was only about $100 per night.  That is awesome for the suite that we had.  Most importantly tough, we had many many moments just to envision life outside of our Youth Leadership Institute journey…outside of full-time "church" work…and in a marketplace position that is 100% commission work. We prayed…shared feelings…got encouragement from one another.  All in all, valuable time.  In fact, my heart feels full for the first time in weeks.  I think I’ve been speeding toward the end of the YLI journey not only in a lightening pace but also with a soul that has been increasingly depleted as the time went on.  So, we’re taking the new steps together…attempting to discover a new sense of identity (Jim Palmer and my bud, Dave warned me about this one)…and trusting God in fresh ways in a new season of life.  For those of you in our relational circle, thanks for keeping us in thought and prayer.  We covet that…HUGELY!  Re/New Ministries is taking steps day by day…we are just trying to do life together in community understanding that Kingdom living is more that what happens in a building that sounds like its religious.  We are involved in some local faith efforts and we are seeing what God will illumine in the days to come.  More to come…the story continues!

Oops, so I lied…I just read this…read it too, OK?

This article appeared in USA Today (yep, the multi-colored fishwrap) today…"Spiritual Growth nurtured within".  You may not like it…but it is revealing what alot of people have been experiencing and seeing in our culture…many people are "reporting" that they have a "good relationship" with God WITHOUT belonging to a traditional local church.  When I say "alot", we’re talking 86% according to research done recently.  So, read the article.  Could it be that people’s overreaction to the questions posed by Pagan Christianity’s authors (Viola and Barna) are really relevant?  Our fixation with being apologists for current praxis is blinding us to a growing reality.  This article is written by someone who has no ax to grind…no dog in that fight (bad cliche, I know) but reveals what many of us are experiencing but many of us are denying.  Take a peak at the article!

I’m trying to get to posting…but it’s too crazy right now!

FrustratedI wish I could spend some time contemplating issues and life’s journey in a manner that would merit a post on my blog…but things are a bit crazy right now.  The YLI Grant journey is coming to an end and I’m finishing up the Lilly Endowment report for APU.  I have four classes online this semester…that means I have about 100 students, 35 of which are Nursing students @ APU’s extension in San Diego…most of them have NOT taken an online course much less a bible course.  So, I’m answering tons of emails weekly. Our faith community (Re/New Ministries) is meeting twice a month for gatherings that are taking time to plan and facilitate.  In addition, I am starting a new job this week…studying for and taking an insurance exam that is required by the state of Idaho for the position that I will be working at a local mortuary…yep, you read that right…read my previous posts for more if you want.  So, time is short…I’m reading Pagan Christianity and Wide Open Spaces…working through Robert Alter’s great new translation of the Torah for my bible reading program for the year…and reading novels for fun…so, I should have some stuff to add to the broader conversation of faith…but I just cant’ find the time.  So, forgive me.  I’ll be back by the end of this week…I hope!

Pagan Christianity is heating up the Blogsphere!

ImagesI thought that Global Warming, Roger Clemen’s interview on 60 minutes and the debates/elections were heating up the airwaves and blogsphere over the past weeks.  Little did I know how much this little, new book is causing "quite a stir" amongst a truck load of peeps.  I just got my copy today…in fact, bought three copies (one for me, my  son Aaron and my cigar-addicted pal, Dave) and actually had Amazon send my buddy Nate in T-Bay a copy for our "loving discussions" to continue (sorry Nate, you won’t get it until February according to Amazon.ca). So, I will hold my comments until I read the entire thing…I did read the intro and chapter one of the Net…all I can say is that it is important to ask questions of institutional church.  Many, many, many are getting downright angry and defensive…I don’t blame them. As a friend of mine alluded to a few weeks back:  there are many pastors and institutional church leaders who are pouring out their lives (bloodletting at least) to better the local church…it ticks them off to think that others would overtly criticize something to which they are giving heart and soul.  It is like someone criticizing a person’s marriage if they feel like they are doing all they can to have a great, God-honoring relationship.  All I can say is this – I don’t think it is offensive to ask any and all questions these days of what many of us see in the church…if we don’t ask the questions and admit that dialog helps us grow and gain new insights from other perspectives, we will be doomed to repeat historical mistakes that will end up bankrupting good intentions.  Reading these comments from Barna and Viola and allowing their questions to bring something fresh to our attempts to incarnate God’s will for community is like exposing ourselves to some "liberal" biblical exegetes or atheistic philosophers or borderline "orthodox" theologians.  Some of the hub-bub over this new book reminds me of what I saw with the hysteria over The Golden Compass and Da Vinci Code.  Got to be careful…as I am apt to say, "more to come"…

Now it is easy to understand!

Confused___by_mushy_peaSo…here’s my journey of late.  As you know if you read my post from New Year’s Eve, changes are in the wind for me.  Big changes…I’m not going to get into all the reasons again because you can read about it in full below on that post.  Let’s just say that my NEW profession requires that I learn a TON of new terminology and procedures.  After spending over 30 years of my life in pro-church, I came to know the language of religion.  Then it dawned on me, as I sit at my computer taking an online course for the new job, how much insider language is used in the church…if I’m confused and dazed about all the new language that I am exposed to in a transition into a new work world, I wonder how many people came into church world and were confused about all the language that we throw around without giving one moment’s thought about what the average person knows or doesn’t know.  Language is important…it isn’t a stretch of the imagination to come to some understanding of why Jesus used parables to teach…everybody knew the metaphors and everyone understood the language.  The language of the religious elite (unfortunately I must repent of my own desire, at times in the past, to "astound" people with my religious intellect) leave most high and dry when it comes to understanding, learning and being transformed.  No wonder so many just look amusingly confused when we religious types throw around words that they can’t relate to and don’t use in everyday conversation.  In a Post-Modern world where the metanarratives have changed and religious terminology has lost favor in culture, we need to be not only sensitive but committed to be living examples of truth as well as avid translators of Kingdom realities into everyday experience for everyday people.  Oh well…back to the "new world".  More to come…

Book Review – Metzger’s Consuming Jesus

51bszt6ygl_ss500_Book Review – Consuming Jesus by Paul Louise Metzger

Quick take – buy this book and read it!  It is not as much about “consumption”…it is part of the thesis of Metzger.  There are better books on Consumption (e.g. Kavanaugh’s Following Jesus in a Consumer Society and Consumed by Ben Barber) and American/Western Culture.  Read those if you want to study and reflect on that “ism”…especially Kavanaugh’s book which was a “life-changer” for me!    BUT, if you want serious exhortation on the issues of Race, the economic realities that force people into class divisions, and the pathetic response of contemporary “church world”, then this book is for you! 

“…consumer church…(is) about those who are in and those who are out…evangelicals appear mean-spirited and interested only in a privileged few…all forms of disunity in the church can be traced, in the end, to an absence of practical love…”

The words above are from the opening pages of Paul Metzger’s new book, Consuming Jesus – Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church (Eerdsmans, 2007).  If those words bug you, offend you, or irritate you deeply, I would avoid this book like the plague.  Having been raised in the great city of Detroit, Michigan in the 1960’s, I am very much aware of the issue of racism.  My extended family was extremely racist…no, they were not KKK members…just ordinary white people who felt strongly about groups of people who were not like them.  I lived in a segregated, middle class neighborhood that was divided up into two groups – Lutheran and Catholic.  That was about it.  Anybody who “looked” different was a target…in fact, during the riots of the late sixties, it was clear to me as a child what “side” my family was on.  And, frankly, it is a part of my past that was in need of healing in MY heart as I grew.  I don’t believe I ever had a problem with racism but because I grew up in a racist system, I had a deep-seeded fear of people who were racially divergent.  That’s the honest truth…I grew in my acceptance of all and any race as I grew as a Christ-follower but it was a journey that took a lot of time and a wide-variety of experiences engineered (I believe) by the Spirit of God to emerge as a more loving soul.  In addition, I eventually entered the professional ministry in a denomination that heralded “inclusivity” as its multi-decade emphasis and buzzword.  The denomination was a historical, Anglo, primarily Germanic and Scandinavian structure that had a history of being exclusively “white”.  It was interesting to me as a pastor in the denomination that efforts to be “more inclusive” meant fast tracking ministry preparation for what the denomination called “minority candidates” as well as attempting to alter a liturgy that was very racially “exclusive” to make it more inclusive.  The problem was clear though – as long as “you” (the excluded) accepted “our” way of doing things, our way of worship, our way of talking, joking and “doing” church, “we” were happy to be inclusive.  If “you” wanted us to change, forget it!  I know the denomination didn’t want to admit that reality but that WAS the reality.  It was, as Metzger lays out in the book, very comfortable for the “us”.  Truly breaking down dividing walls and finding ways to integrate our churches would take a dramatic change…something that most churches in the denomination were not willing to do.  So, enough of my stories…quickly, on to the book.  Metzger takes on the sacred cows of homogeneity, consumer church, mega-church, rapture theology, fundamentalism and a whole host of topics that, over history, have taken us as followers of Jesus and plopped us down in the reality that we live in today.  He indicts the “church” for the fact that we have “moved on” past the entrenched issues of race, class, divisiveness and faith only to adhere to and feast on consumerism, free market capitalism and modernistic ideals of success and growth!  Here’s another segment for you to take a gander at:

“As Americans, evangelicals are often blind to faulty pragmatic practices because Americans rarely question success.  The Germans were the same way: they were blind to the diabolical evil because Hitler’s program was very efficient and effective in making Germany “work” and return to prominence” (p. 48).

All I can say is “ouch”.  Friends, this is the way the entire book is…it is prophetic and challenging BUT necessary for us to read.  Metzger does not just slam and go but offers constructive ideas for a renewed and healed “church”.  This is well worth your time…this man is smart and brave!  In addition, he has Don Miller and John Perkins on his side…both comment in the book through foreword and afterword.  Reading this book is like reading the prophets in the Tenack…the difference is this – you might think you can weasel out of the line of fire of the prophets because it is in the bible and not necessarily talking about OUR time.  You know how easy it is to be a bible editor (looking purely for those verses that are inspiring and positive)!  You can’t get away from what Metzger has to say…you need to hear it, ponder it and pray for renewal in a NEW way!  Check it out!