High Praise for Anne Rice’s New Book – read it!

Rtchpctl_large_bookcoverAll I can say is this – read the book.  After reading the first of Anne’s books about Jesus, I eagerly anticipated the release of "volume 2".  As she did in the previous work, she handles the narrative of Jesus with gentleness, reverence, impeccable insight, and stellar (and holy) imagination.  The chapters on the baptism of Jesus, the wilderness temptations and the Cana wedding celebration are priceless.  They provide truckloads of homiletical and hermeneutical possibilities…just wadding into those two chapters will give you a new appreciation for those powerful events in the young life and ministry of Jesus.  This is a creative "exploration" on the humanity of Jesus…contrast that with the Gnosticism that is rapidly infecting our culture (with the likes of Course in Miracles, The Secret, and Eckhart Tolle’s book, The New Earth)…I won’t even say anything about the fact that many Christians are essentially "operational gnostics"…but that’s for another post.  I am going to read the book again…soon!  In the meantime, you can check out this video that was posted on YouTube and get an idea of the extensive scholarly "due diligence" that went into the writing of the book.  If only many others who dare to take on the life of Jesus would be so thorough.  Anyway, enjoy…more to come…

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Matt Redman’s reflections on worship songwriting…good to see and hear!

All I can say is "check this out".  It is a rarity, an extreme rarity, to every hear someone say, "I may have made a mistake"…Matt does it humbly and lovingly.  Hey, I’ve written some songs, studies, sermons, etc. that I know now I wouldn’t have written in the same way.  Frankly, that is what growth is all about.  So, check out what Matt has to say…would love to hear your comments!

Something good for Passion Week Reflection

I ripped this off from one of my favorite blogs – it is meaningful to me…how about you?

Read Luke 23

I
imagine myself at the back of the the throng of priests, rulers and
people when Pilate said of Jesus, “What crime has this man committed? I
have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore, I will
have him punished and then release him.”

As a woman, I would have kept my head down and my mouth closed as the men shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!”

This
Holy Week, 2000 years later, I find myself standing at the back of
another throng of vehement men and complicit women, choosing Barabbas
all over again.

Choosing Barabbas by listening a gospel of
“grace” that straitjackets people from doing acts of justice and mercy
for fear of being judged for “works.”

Choosing Barabbas by confusing my allegiance to the Prince of Peace with my trust in my nation’s military strength.

Choosing
Barabbas by sitting silently while people rant against the welfare
state while their churches budget almost as much for new video cameras
as they do to help the poor for an entire year.

Choosing Barabbas
by submitting to a false dichotomy requiring men to always lead and
women to always follow, denying them their full inheritance and
fruitfulness in the kingdom of God.

Choosing Barabbas by ignoring
the goodness of creation, and failing to join with secular groups where
God is doing good in the areas of environmental and economic
sustainability–failing to see that my short term gain and convenience
harms rather than shows love to my neighbors.

Choosing Barabbas
by endorsing the offer of a God who’s interested in meeting my every
need, when I know that his purposes are larger than that–that they are
systemic and cosmic in scope.

Choosing Barabbas by reducing the power of the Resurrection to an escape from the messiness of an embodied faith.

Choosing
Barabbas by failing to participate in Jesus’ death by picking up my
cross as an act of judgment against systemic and individual sins and
the top-down powers of the status quo–and by failing to announce his
Resurrection as the vindication of the way of mutual submission and
love.

Awareness and getting exactly what you are looking for!

You get exactly what you look for…I watched this video (thanks to Mr. Riddle for the head’s up on this one).  It made me realize some things about my life and heart of late.  You DO get exactly what you are looking for…our awareness is suspiciously guided by expectations and prejudices.  Give it a look and see what you think and how it can help you get in touch with some of the stuff that you do in your heart and mind!

Unchallenged Incompetence in Ministry?

SurprisedWell…I am working my new job (posted below is a bit of a reflection on my new professional journey) and it dawned on me that I have to hit some professional "objectives" and goals (essentially numbers) pretty quickly in order to make an income.  Bottom line, there are a few things that I have to do…have a growing number of leads, appointments and presentations…I have to have a set number of "closings" in order to be able to count on a specific level of income.  NOW, I want you (dear reader who dares to indulge in this blogging idiocy – specifically MY idiocy) to know that these realities have never been outside of my consciousness…I’ve always had personal performance goals and working objectives for what I did professionally.  In the recent journey of the Youth Leadership Institute, Sally and I were very specific on how many students we wanted to have assembled for our conferences…in the APU class journey, I wanted to be an effective and "popular" teacher so that I could help the school with enrollment numbers…even in the church I had my own goals.  The only problem I saw in ministry as I did it over the span of 30 years is how often leaders had NO objectives…in other words, there was an "unchallenged incompetence" that was acceptable in ministry.  Many leaders would NOT grow in their professionalism…many leaders would NOT read new books that would stretch their mind and heart…many leaders would NOT look at the viability of the programs in the church with the expressed purpose of eliminating those that we ineffective…in fact, many leaders did NOT even challenge organizational systems in the local church that muddied the effectiveness of being responsive to the specific needs that were surfaced by the church’s vision and ministry/mission purpose.  In other words, effectiveness and growing professionalism was sacrificed in the name of "Christ" and "Christian love"…in other words, no one ever seriously looked at the truth…there are many many many (did I say "many") churches that are simply "skating" through life…there are many church leaders who are simply getting a paycheck and asking for more than next year and NOTHING, absolutely nothing changes.  They just keep dong the same thing over and over expecting different results (see Scott Peck on that one).  What do you think?  Is it just me?  More to come…unchallenged incompetence…mmm, I like that phrase the more I think about it.  No wonder so many people are tired of church life…it is the only place where many of them see what most of them don’t see anywhere else but in church life.  Like I said, more to come…

As usual, California “leads” the Nation?

CaliforniacbccirclesHeadline LA Times – you have to read this!  Now, I have to admit, that there are times that I have had some "issues" with homeschooling especially when those who do so use the "home" as a shelter for their children NOT to be "touched" by the "evil world".  Setting up "the world" as something that is evil, to be avoided, and hidden from is the philosophical reality that begins to shape a dangerous dichotomy in mind of a child.  Eventually, children have to learn how to make their way as followers of Jesus IN the world…the world is something to be cherished as a gift of God…needing to be redeemed, yes…needing to see the in breaking of the Kingdom, without a doubt.  But not something to be feared or to be hiding from.  EVEN SO, the California Court of Appeals is going too far.  To have this ruling "come down" from the courts smacks of something diabolical…in other words, the whole thing smells rotten.  Apparently, there are 1000’s of kids who are in danger of being truant and also 1000’s of parents who could be breaking the law for not being credentialed teachers.  Read the article and draw your own conclusions.  Friends, this could be another way of stoking the already intense fires of education debates in the good ole USA.  As has been said before, "California leads the Nation"…will we see other states weigh in on this issue?  Could it be that the homeschool movement will be under attack?  You do realize how much $$ and power is wielded in a decision like this, don’t you?  Obviously, more to come…

Update on my new Job and Employment Journey

TombstonesbigI’m on my second month of my new journey in the marketplace.  As many of you know, I have joined the world of the bi-vocational…I am in community with a wonderful, growing group of people who are attempting to live the KIngdom here in Idaho (Re/New Ministry); I am also continuing to teach two to three online courses in biblical studies for Azusa Pacific University; beyond that, I still have my fingers in some other life "pies" (family, music, hockey, friends, Allelon’s Missional Work, keeping up with long distance buds Yambar, Bundy, Barnes, Hixson/PLBC, Ryan, Mikey, teaching/speaking when invited to do so at conferences, camps and churches, etc.).  In January, I joined the staff of Accent Funeral Home in Meridian Idaho as a Memorial Counselor.  It is now my "full-time gig".  There were many reasons for the transition…many of them come from the desire to live a different type of lifestyle than simply one that I lived for over 30 years in the local church world.  This new job gives me some amazingly opportunities to live what I have been professing for years – being a follower of Jesus, giving God praise in every situation, looking to find a manner in which to glorify the Kingdom despite circumstances, and living out my giftedness without having to be employed by a group of people who desire for me to be a professional Christian.  So now, I spend my days talking to people about death…helping people prepare for their funerals/memorials services, counseling those who have experienced loss, and meeting new people in the community to serve them with the love of Jesus without ecclesiastical pretense.  Of course, one of the realities of this new job is that it is a commission job..in fact, 100% commission.  That in and of itself is not only a challenge but a HUGE revelation for me.  It is in some respects simply what I had witnessed when I was traveling in Eastern Europe a few years back…people would make their way into the world to buy and secure their "daily bread".  They don’t have huge homes with side by side refrigerators and pantries in most places in Poland, Hungary and Romania (home of my long-time pals Dorina and Marius and Viktor).  What they do have is a lifestyle where daily they enter the world to buy their "bread" for the day.  In many respects, that’s what I do now…every day.  I pray that I can serve people, continue to build the reputation of the firm and owner of the Funeral Home in the community, and enter the world to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage.  If I do my job well, it might end up in a sale…if I don’t, it won’t.  It’s pretty simple actually…we had some savings stuck aside for this purpose and we’re praying that I will be financially successful enough to sustain our family and our financial obligations.  As I’ve said to my pals, I’m representing a Funeral Home I "believe in" (they are a family owned, small business that helps people with integrity and love) and I "sell" something that I believe in as well…I would always tell people in churches that they NEEDED to put together a plan for their funeral.  In fact, pre-need funeral planning is a powerful gift of love to a family…it gives them a gift of simply being able to grieve when a loved one is lost…not having to worry about planning and the rising costs of funerals.  In addition, in this business as Yes is a YES and a No is a NO…pretty simple.  I am not strong arming people into making funeral plans…but doing my job, telling them about how important pre-planning is and how great of a product we offer to people who desire to go in that direction, and then I let them make the call (all the while, trusting the Lord is provide for Vicky’s and my financial needs).  Anyway, that’s the scenario in a nutshell…I say this humbly, would you  pray for me in this journey?   I am finding joy in it…in a strange yet fulfilling sort of way.  In this industry, you see clearly the needs of people…raw, real, personal, and deep.  This week alone, we’ve had two funerals for suicide victims (one 21 years and one 71 years, both gunshot wounds) in addition to a 2 year old who passed away.  The healing power of God is alive and well…the presence of Jesus is hiding in the most mysterious of places…and the love of God is being experienced, as Jim Palmer says, through unworthy servants, Divine Nobodies…like me.