Sunday, June 27, 2010

Afganistan strategy and Generations

I read an informative and level-headed article about the firing of General McChristal, and what the Rolling Stone article reveals about our military and counter-insurgency strategy.

What the McChrystal flap is about

David Kaiser is an historian who writes extensively about generational theory using Strauss and Howe's theory from their book

Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069

I have recently been re-reading parts of Generations and finding some helpful insights into the current generation of national leadership as well as my son's rising millennial generation.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thanks, Everyone--We're Taking a Break

We seem to have discussed everything about which we had something to say, so we're going to take a break/go on hiatus. Thanks to everyone who has contributed. Check back from time to time and see if something new is sprouting here...

Saturday, May 8, 2010


In a blog piece about the National Day of Prayer controversy, Mark Roberts opens the question, “what would Jesus think?” about the National Day of Prayer. Would he approve of the government bringing prayer into the public square? Or would he say “my kingdom is not of this world?”

My purpose in this post is not so much to talk about the National Day of Prayer, but to talk about how we interpret the life and teachings of Jesus for contemporary public issues. Below is a portion of Robert’s comments about WWJT (What would Jesus think?)

You can access the original blog article at


[Roberts] “You name the issue and Jesus is brought forth to endorse it . . . or to denounce it . . . or both at the same time. So Jesus is pro-life and pro-choice, a Democrat and a Republican, a free market capitalist and a big government socialist, a supporter of traditional marriage and an advocate for same-sex marriage (or even a gay man). Though I haven't bothered to look for it, I'm quite sure a few minutes of Internet browsing would lead to a website that uses Jesus to say about church and state the opposite of what Jon Meacham believes Jesus would say…

…If you've studied biblical interpretation, you know that I have vastly over-simplified the process of trying to understand ancient texts and the characters within them. But just about all credible scholars, no matter their personal theological convictions, would agree that a faithful appraisal of a person from the past requires seeing that person in the context of his or her history, culture, and language.”

So ... WWJT about immigration? Health care reform? National security and war in Iraq and Afganistan? More importantly, how do we go about translating his teachings (such as the Sermon on the Mount for example) into contemporary policy?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why is it So Hard to Get Christians to Focus Outward?

OK, OK, it isn't, at least for some/many Christians. And we have to make clear what is meant be "focusing outward" and how that gets assessed. So let's do that.

What do you think "focusing outward" means/looks like? Where you observe Christians having difficulty in "focusing outward," what observations would you make about them (us)--the kind of people, ethnic group, age, other demographic, church type, etc.? And conversely, where you see good examples of outward-focusing Christians (regardless of the "size" of what they're doing), what do you see serving, motivating, sustaining that outward focusing?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Creative ideas for connecting with people in the real world

Let's change gears and talk a little about how to connect with people outside of church services.

here is a recent post from JESUSCREED ... do you like this idea and do you have any other creative ideas for getting out of the church box?


I am a pastor and had spent nearly a decade in our community pastoring a
congregation full-time and doing what churches normally do related to outreach and the like. I became acutely aware that I didn't know the folks in our small (about 1,000) neighborhood/community. Eventually frustration grew to a tipping point (the Jesus Creed helped with that) and we decided to do a really crazy thing, we opened a pizzeria. The whole idea behind doing this was to get to know our neighbors. We got a lot more than we bargained for.

My wife and I and our four kids jumped in with all 12 feet. We knew more people in our small town after six months of making pizza, than we did in 10-years of pastoring the church; we've been at it three and a half years now. We're just serving them and being kind -- it was the sole purpose of the venture, to just be with the people in our community that we can't seem to get to.

Monday, April 12, 2010

On the Emmaus Road

One of the "best known" of Jesus' resurrection appearances is described in Luke 24:13-35. Take some time to settle into the account and then share what you find. What caught your attention? What questions were raised--and what questions do you think the account is answering? What does it mean for us today? You might be familiar with some artistic interpretations (song, painting, etc.) of this story; if so, please let us know about them!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Doubt It...?

"Doubting Thomas" makes his annual appearance at about this time every year. Thomas is famous, or infamous for his "Unless." When told by the other disciples that they had seen Jesus, alive again and in the flesh, Thomas replied, "Unless I see his hands and put my hands on the nail prints, unless I place my hand into his side (where the spear went in), I will not believe."

So ought Thomas be honored as the patron saint of our modern, rationalistic-scientific world? Is doubt intrinsically an enemy of faith, or is it possible for doubt to be the friend of faith? We're familiar with having doubts about aspects of faith; is there ever a place to have doubts about our doubts?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Witnesses to the Resurrection

The first church was, to put it mildly, galvanized by what happened on the Sunday following Jesus' death. As the apostles put it shortly after Pentecost, they understood themselves called to be "witnesses to his resurrection." They understood this to include their bearing witness to an event in history... but there seems to be more to it than that.

What might it look like for us to live as witnesses to his resurrection? Are we seeking to communicate merely what happened two thousand years ago, or are we called to witness to what that event means today, in our here-and-now.. and its implications for our future there-and-then? The poet Wendell Berry has a great line in one of his poems ("The Mad Farmer's Liberation Front Manifesto"): "Practice resurrection." What do you think that "practicing resurrection" might, or could, mean for you and for us all?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Forgive? Are you kidding me?"

Jesus tells a vexing little parable about a farmer who sows good seed in his field... then, at night, an enemy comes and sows weeds. Upon realizing what has happened--wheat and weeds now growing together, side by side!--the farmer's servants ask, "You want us to go pull up the weeds, right?" Puzzlingly, the farmer replies, "No, because you'll uproot the wheat along with the weeds. Let both grow until the harvest..." (Matthew 13)

The Greek word for "let" (allow, permit, or "suffer" as in the King James' "suffer the children to come unto me") has the same root as "forgive"; it's the same Greek word in the Lord's Prayer, "forgive us... as we have forgiven." Can Jesus possibly be saying that our response to the presence of evil (weeds) in the world is to "simply forgive" it? Isn't that a stupid approach for a farmer with weeds in his field and for all of us who live in a world dogged by evil? Do we skip into situations of bloody conflict and say, "Hey, everybody--you're forgiven! You can put down your guns--it's all OK!" After all, in every garden we know, the weeds always win, unless the farmer takes "strong measures" to combat them!

There may be connections with an earlier post about hope...

Monday, March 8, 2010


Hi guys,

Ed suggested a month or so ago that we talk about movies sometime. Lets talk about Avatar. All of my young friends LOVED it… I though the special visual effects were spectacular but the story line was ho-hum (Dances with Wolves remixed).

My friend Ray Ciervo critiqued the pantheistic theology behind AVATAR.

Several movie critics strongly disagreed about the movie,

Critics argue

Tell us what you thought? What is the message? What is the philosophical or theological worldview? Did you like it? Are views of the AVATAR influenced by generational issues?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finding Our Way in an Indifferent World

How does hope "work," how does it happen? How/where can we find strength to recover, to be resilient, when our hopes--for good relationships, for good work, for internal healing/peace, for a sense that our lives matter, that they can go somewhere good--just seem to keep getting squashed? The "world" around us doesn't seem to offer much support ("dog eat dog" and all that), and "the universe" certainly doesn't give a flyin' flip about us... Nothing, no one, appears to be able to stick together (in good ways), so now what? How can we overcome our own pessimism and remain hopeful?

Thursday, February 18, 2010


It seems to me that the Jesus warns us against interior lust as well as exterior actions of sin.

It also seems that God has given us a natural born sexual attraction to the opposite sex (at least in 97% of the cases).

Here is a question for discussion: What is lust? And how do we know the difference between lust and normal sexual feelings? Is there a difference? Is it always wrong to notice and appreciate the attractiveness of others? Or just when it includes lust? Should we feel guilty everytime we notice an attractive man or woman? Where do we draw the line?

Monday, February 8, 2010


Now that I have your attention... Let's start with this: what is sex for?

I think it's fair to observe that we livie in a culture that tells us that sexual expression and fulfillment are necessary condition of both personal identity and of a full and complete life: I cannot be fully and truly who am I without the freedom to express my sexuality in whatever ways seem best to me (as long as there is no harm or coercion involved). Whether we want to talk about marriage, hook-up culture, friends-with-privileges, affirmation of and support for GLBTTQQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning) neighbors, pornography, masturbation, and wherever else we might want to go, issues (and questions) around sexuality are at the core of the conversation. So: what is sex for? The amazing pleasure it can bring to me and my partner, or partners? As the ultimate expression of love and commitment--or are love and commitment no longer a necessary part of our various sexual equations? Is my sexuality a purely private matter, or does what I do in my bedroom (or wherever!) have any impact on my neighbors? And what do I do when I'm so horny I just can't stand it?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I would visit regularly and participate actively if we could discuss _______.

"And there was silence in heaven for about half an hour" (Revelation 8). Seriously, what's on your minds? What are the questions, topics, issues that are currently most engaging to you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Capon, p. 26-27 - Trusting Jesus

Continuing our discussion on Capon, I am embeding pages 26 and 27 here. Comments?

Capon 26

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Kingdom in Parables

Joseph got me thinking about Robert F. Capon's The Parables of the Kingdom. I'd read it many years ago, but got it off my shelf and have started to revisit it. So, over the next coupla posts, I'd like to offer for your comments and reflections a paragraph/passage from Capon. Here's the first, from the first chapter "A Word About Parables":

"In the Bible, as a matter of fact, God does so many ungodly things--like not remembering our sins, erasing the quite correct handwriting against us, and becoming sin for us--that the only safe course [for studying the Bible] is to come to Scripture with as few stipulations as possible. God used his own style manual, not ours, in the promulgation of his Word.
"Openness, therefore, is the major requirement for approaching the Scriptures. And nowhere in the Bible is an un-made-up mind more called for than when reading the parables of Jesus. Indeed, if I were forced to give a short answer to the question 'What is the Bible as a whole about?' I think I would ignore all the subjects mentioned so far [it's about God, Morality, Religion, Spirituality, Salvation] and base my reply squarely on those parables. If they have a single subject at all, it is quite plainly the kingdom of God.. I would say that the Bible is about the mystery of the kingdom--a mystery that, by definition, is something well hidden and not at all likely to be grasped by plausibility-loving minds" (5).

Thursday, January 21, 2010


ok, getting kinda quiet in here. While we continue pondering the value of listening to those we desire to serve, go check out some of the new humor I have posted on my humor blog


I continue posting funny stuff (at least for me) and very occasionally Billy Long posts one of his gems. If you have any good material, send it along to me. It is amazing the power that good humor has for healing and restoration.

speaking of which, did you hear about the old Calvinist who fell down the steps? After he got up and dusted himself off, he said "I'm glad that is over with."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Listening

I'm also in the middle of Greg Mortenson's Stones Into Schools, which is the follow-up to his first book Three Cups of Tea. I recommend both highly! Permit me to provide some background before posing a question.

Mortenson, after a failed attempt at K2, the world's second tallest peak, became separated from his climbing partners and somehow managed to wander, half-dead, into the tiny Pakistani village of Korphe. While recovering, he noticed that the children of the village had no school building or supplies, and what little learning went on, went on outside. Partly in gratitude for their hospitality, and partly out of a desire to help, he pledged to build them a school building. Incredibly, despite unbelievable obstacles, he succeeded--and these efforts have grown into the Central Asian Institute, which has now built over 150 schools throughout rural Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What has really captured my attention is the way that Mortenson, a thoroughly "non-professional", has learned to listen to the people he seeks to serve. He is clear in his mission--to build school buildings, especially for girls, throughout Pak and Afg; no school is built unless the local elders guarantee that girls will be welcomed--but has also learned to ask questions and really listen to the answers people give.

End of introduction. The question/s: what have you learned from asking/listening to people whom you desire to see come to be followers of Jesus? What have you learned about how they see themselves, their circumstances, and "spiritual things"?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Back to natural law for a minute...

I've been doing some more reading in natural law, specifically J. Budziszewski's Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (IVP, 1997), which is a helpful primer on the topic. Here's my question: because Protestants have tended to see human reason as being thoroughly distorted, defaced and degraded by the Fall, has that caused them/us to be less able than our Catholic brethren to engage with neighbors on issues of public policy and the common good? Doesn't the concept of a natural law--that there are things that we simply can't not know--serve as a helpful way of finding common ground with our neighbors on public issues?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Gift of Friendship

Friendship is one of the greatest gifts a human being can receive. It is a bond beyond common goals, common interests, or common histories. It is a bond stronger than sexual union can create, deeper than a shared fate can solidify, and even more intimate than the bonds of marriage or community. Friendship is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly. Blessed are those who lay down their lives for their friends. (from Henri Nouwen)