Happy 2009!

Lord, make us an instrument of
your peace,

Where there is hatred, let us sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

OK – so I cried my eyes out…

Ok – I read the book a couple of years ago…I sobbed at the end.  In fact, I couldn't stop for a while.  Still don't know where that came from…well, after bugging my wife Vicky to read the book (which she did), we checked out the movie yesterday.  Now, I have a rule in my life…NO dog movies.  Old Yeller, Lassie…all the same.  Why is it that they affect us the way they do?  Oh well…we went to the movie…I knew what to expect and even threatened to walk out before Marley gets the needle at the end. 

Well I didn't…and you guessed it, "niagra falls" (sorry, not original with me…check out Scrooged).  Fact is, I had to tell Vicky not to talk to me while we drove home…I couldn't stop crying.  Some would say that is my sensitive side coming out…I don't know.  It just happened.

Good movie…pretty faithful to Grogan's book.  He wrote a great book about a marvelous human journey with his lab sidekick.  That dog was a disaster though.  The book, as well as the movie, is funny at many places.  The book is actually funnier because of the fact that Grogan gets to tell more stories that simply can't be contained in one movie.  But the movie is great family fare.  It handles the death of Marley well…something that many of us had to do before and never gets easier. 

So, what to do?  Ok – go see the flick or wait for the DVD…one way or another, you are in for some tears.  Just count on it!

Christmas “Mindmap”

My online and missional friend, Bill Kinnon, recommended to me a program called, Novamind.  It is a program dedicated to the building and use of "mindmaps".  You should check this out…look at the website and contemplate how it is built on the assumptions of how we learn holistically.  For your "entertainment", here is a mindmap I put together (actually my first) on Christmas…we used it in our community gathering last night:

Christmas Mindmap

Another Great book by Mike Erre

Mike Erre of Rock Harbor in Costa Mesa has shot another great salvo for people outside of his SoCal community to grapple with…Death by Church.  I had the HONOR of reviewing a copy before it went to publishing…I was surprised and delighted by what Mike wrote.  I would recommend you pick up on the book.  Mike is showing that his head isn't just big in size but as big as his heart with intellect and courage.  Click here for a direct ride to Amazon! 

Some Facts on Christmas

 It’s amazing to me how little people really know about Christmas.  Yes, we should know that it is all about Jesus and his birth.  That’s really the only truth that really matters.  But there are many other things that are fun to know.  Consider the following:

The word “Christmas” comes from the Old English, “Cristes maesse”, which means "Christ's mass." From the very beginning of the use of the word, it meant “worship”.  The Christ-mass was a festival service of worship held on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. While most of us accept that Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem a few miles south of Jerusalem, we really don’t know information about the exact date of his birth or even of the specific year.  Calendars differed at the time when Jesus was born. 

Or how about the infamous, “Xmas”?  Some people get offended when they see others call 'Christmas' xmas.  However, the X in Xmas, still stands for Christ.  The X comes from the first Greek letter in the word, “Xristos” (which translated is Christ).  Hence came the word Xmas.  It was not intended to take Christ out of Christmas…just to be able to be a bit shorter to write in notes and letters.  In fact, many people use the Greek “X” for many other things…Xn (Christian), Xnity (Christianity), etc.

We celebrate Christmas on December 25th…do you know why?   Because there was no knowledge about the date of Jesus' birth, a day had to be selected.  Early on, there was a bit of a divergence in dates.  The Eastern Orthodox wing of the Church in the early centuries of Christianity chose January 6. That day was eventually named Epiphany, meaning "appearance," the day of Christ's manifestation. The Western church, based at Rome (i.e. Roman Catholic Church; Catholic meaning universal) chose December 25. It is known from a notice in an ancient Roman almanac that Christmas was celebrated on December 25 in Rome as early as AD 336. The actual season of Jesus' birth is thought to be in the spring, but when the date of Christmas was set to fall in December, it was done at least in part to compete with ancient pagan festivals that occurred about the same time.

Finally, what about gift giving?  How did that become a part of Christmas? The truth of history is that gift giving is one of the oldest traditions associated with Christmas. Some people actually believe that it is older than the holiday itself. The Romans, for example, celebrated the Saturnalia on December 17. It was a winter feast of merrymaking and gift exchanging. And two weeks later, on the Roman New Year–January 1, houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. As the Germanic tribes of Europe accepted Christianity and began to celebrate Christmas, they also gave gifts. In some countries, such as Italy and Spain, children traditionally do not receive gifts on December 25 but on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. In several northern European nations gifts are given on December 6, which is the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. Yet, you have to remember, gifts were given the moment the newborn Savior was born.  The Magi bought gold, frankisense and myrrh.  The Shepherds brought their hearts in prayer and praise.  The angels gave praise to the King as well. 

Remember, Christmas is all about memories, gifts, celebrations, and love.  Yet, isn’t it true – if it wasn’t for Jesus, why even know the facts about Christmas?  You see, once you know about Jesus, that’s really all the facts you need to know.

We really do need this, right?

 We need more versions of the bible, don't we?  You check out "bible" on Amazon and you get over 400K suggestions. Now we have the People's Bible (which I'm NOT going to comment on – you can say "thank you Robin" anytime you want) – Gets me thinking:

How about these – The Narcissist Bible (it’s all about me), The Proof Text Bible (all the verses taken out of context – just a collection of the verses all mixed up at random), The Fundamentalist Bible (all foundationalism verses highlighted and cross-referenced), The Joel Osteen Bible (all challenges to poverty, self-denial, or spiritual humility re-interpreted), The Saddleback Bible (all the books placed in a linear, outline version with helpful places to fill in the blanks – wear a Hawaiian shirt while reading and see more of the Pastor Rick interpretation of the specific text), NeoCon Bible (all verses that promote colonialism and “hawkish” warfare pursuits are highlighted), how about the Chicago Bible (with the important theological sections for sale to the highest bidder), the Dislexic Bible (everything written backwards), The Veggietales Bible (with Yahweh taken over by Larry the Great and Powerful Cucumber), or the…oh, I can't go on any longer…it's maddening!


I’m breaking a promise…sort of


I couldn't resist making a brief comment on this picture…apparently a church in my hometown of Detroit brought a couple of SUV's on the "platform/chancel" to be able pray for the success of the negotiations between the USA Government and the Big 3 automakers.  Oh my…does this even merit a comment or two?  It is equal in my eyes of bringing $100K in cash (wrapped and unmarked, of course) and "laying hands on the cash".  This is a quote from the pastor:

week, lives are hanging above an abyss of uncertainty as both
houses of Congress decide whether to extend a helping hand."

I have to humbly say that my wife and I have faced uncertain times this year…in fact, more than 75% of our community is in the same boat…job transitions and uncertainty.  We haven't brought in SUV's into our worship gatherings though…we haven't brought in any other symbol of our failing prosperity.  We have read Psalms and prayers like this though:

Psalm 124

 1 If the LORD had not been on our side—
       let Israel say-

 2 if the LORD had not been on our side
       when men attacked us,

 3 when their anger flared against us,
       they would have swallowed us alive;

 4 the flood would have engulfed us,
       the torrent would have swept over us,

 5 the raging waters
       would have swept us away.

 6 Praise be to the LORD,
       who has not let us be torn by their teeth.

 7 We have escaped like a bird
       out of the fowler's snare;
       the snare has been broken,
       and we have escaped.

 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.

For some reason, I think this is a better strategy…

Rational, understanding, and kind thinking and praxis…

My online friend Jamie had a great post today about solidarity and support of people who are on the same journey as followers of Jesus.  Here's what he had to say:

This is an essential part of the process of spiritual and missional
maturity, both for individuals and communities.  We must be willing to
put our ideas and ideals into action and allow the larger Body of
Christ (with whom there should be mutual and trusting relationship on
some level) to speak frankly, constructively and even correctively into
our lives.  After all, how else are we to grow and learn?  How else are
we going to resist falling in love with our own ideas and models,
allowing us the freedom to change as is needed?

As I read the many conversations only about the different ideas and
models, I have begun to become more aware of the posture of analysis
different people take.  For the most part, those who are committed to
truly become God's people in the world engage the issues, even the
criticisms, appropriately.  However, it is very easy, as theology and
ministry become professional practices, to treat these evaluations with
overly clinical eyes.  At times, this approach lacks the patient grace
and familial love that should characterize our relationship to others,
especially within the Church.  How would our engagement of these issues
change in tone and  nature if we were committed to consider the heart
of the other first?

I am not suggesting that rigorous academic, theological and/or
organizational analysis is not important.  However, I am saying that
these approaches must come under the temperance of relational grace and
consideration.  Whether we are critiquing missional theology and models
or mega-church attractional techniques, we must intentionally
acknowledge that we are relating to sisters and brothers in Christ. 
This does not ignore or even diminish the important role of corrective
(even prophetic) challenge, but rather realigns our focus foremost to
the heart.

To that end, as you come across ideas, examples, model- even rants and
polemics- pause to consider the person or persons behind it.  Let us
change our posture of clinical analysis to one of patient
consideration.  Even where correction and rebuke is deserved, let us
respond with the undeserved grace that we also received from Christ and
hope to receive when we put our own ideas and lives out before a
watching world.

It is not only hard but impossible to argue or disagree with such a gracious perspective and stance as we engage each other in missio dei.  This isn't a blind holding of hands and singing of "Kum ba yah" but it is a loving engagement that places responsibility for ultimate accountability in the right hands – God's!