Thinking Out Loud

December 6, 2013

Knowing the Whole Person

Filed under: relationships — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:46 am

Today a name came up of someone I know rather superficially.

I think I know what energizes him.  I know what he’s passionate about. What drives him. What he talks about when it’s his chance to control the conversation. What is probably the first thing he thinks about when he gets up in the morning.

And in a way, that’s how people know me.  They know what energizes me. What I’m passionate about. What drives me. What I talk about when it’s my chance to control the conversation. What is probably the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning.

Sensing a pattern in them paragraphs?

But there’s a reason why I say know this person rather superficially, and it occurred to me in the car driving home from work.

I don’t know what breaks him.

To borrow from my old sociology notes, I know what holds him together, but I don’t know what tears him apart. This is the problem in the church, we really don’t know each other.

And in a way, that’s what people don’t know about me.

They don’t know what breaks me.

June 9, 2013

Social Justice: Why I Got Arrested -Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Sometimes when you take a stand for social justice, there is a cost. It might mean separation from your family. It might mean facing detainment and criminal charges.

It might mean both

Today I have another one of those situations where I would like to simply say, “Ya gotta read this for yourselves;” and then people would click through; but experience teaches me that for maximum exposure I need to simply carry this here as a re-blog. The author is Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who has been featured on these pages many times before.  The circumstances here are not as important as the principles which shine through, so don’t feel you’re coming into the middle of a story. This is the story.

This is a letter to his children.

To read at source, click here.


A Letter to My Kids: Why I Got Arrested

Dear JaiMichael and Nora,

Since we went to Moral Monday together a couple of weeks ago, I’ve wanted to sit down and write to both of you to tell you why I got arrested—why I wasn’t home that evening to read you your stories and say prayers with you. I’ve rarely felt happier than I did that evening when the bus pulled out to take us to jail. I looked up and saw the two of you standing with mom, waving good-bye even though you couldn’t see me through the wire mesh of the bus window. Thank you for being there for me.

As you both know, we live in a hospitality house and share our life with other people because God has given us this way of life as a gift. It’s not always easy to greet every knock at the door, eager to see Jesus in the stranger. But that’s what we try to do because this is where Jesus promised to meet us. Indeed, the two of you are teaching me much about how to do this as you grow up at Rutba House.

One of the things we know about God’s family is that we don’t all look the same. Even though you are brother and sister, your skin is not the same color. Uncle Matt and Uncle Vern are not the same color. This is how it is in God’s family.

You also know the story of how Grandma Ann, when she was working to integrate the schools here in Durham, became friends with a white man who had led the Ku Klux Klan. Some people say strong black women and white men in the KKK shouldn’t become friends. But Grandma Ann and Mr. Ellis realized that when poor black people are pitted against poor white people, all children suffer. They became friends because they learned a better way.

Some people say that parents should work as hard as they can to give their kids all the opportunities that are available in our society—that this is what it means to be a good parent. I know you’ve been disappointed at times when you didn’t get to have a video game or wear the coolest new clothes. But your mom and I believe that the best life for you (and for us) is a life in the beloved community that Grandma Ann and others worked for—the life that God wants to give us in relationship with others who are not like us.

The men who run our Legislature in Raleigh right now are people who love their kids like I love you. They are afraid because they believe that the inheritance they have to pass on to their children is the wealth that they’ve been able to accumulate. They do not want to see that inheritance squandered by others whom they think undeserving. They are determined to defend their way of life at any cost.

But we believe they are wrong because we know a better way of life. We have asked them to consider the pain they are causing others by pursuing their own interests. They have refused to listen. Because they have power right now, they don’t have to listen to what we say. They can have us arrested and taken away.

But what they are doing cannot last forever because it is not true. God will stop them; we don’t have to. But I chose to get arrested because I don’t want those men to miss out on God’s great party. I want them to know that there is a better way—that they do not have to listen to our worst fears and re-play the worst chapters of our past.

I want them to know that God has invited them to be part of the beloved community too.

Thank you both for being there in Raleigh with the thousands of others who want a better future for our state. And thanks for helping mom get everything done at home while I was gone. I know it is not always easy to invite everyone in—even the legislators who do not want to listen. But, like I said, I’m grateful to both of you for showing me how to extend the invitation with enthusiasm.

I love you both,

Dad

Two other arrest perspectives appear on his blog from a Political Science professor, and a School Board member.

January 19, 2013

Weekend Link List

Weekend List Lynx

Weekend List Lynx

Lots of stuff that can’t wait until Wednesday!

  • This one is must reading. Matthew Paul Turner asks former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor Shane Hipps all the questions I would have asked about the church, hell, Love Wins and the man he succeeded at MHBC, Rob Bell.

    “This is one of the biggest misunderstandings.  Rob doesn’t have a position or a concept of hell, he is an artist exploring possibilities and making unexpected connections, not a theologian plotting out a system.  In other words there is nothing to agree or disagree with.  It’s like saying I disagree with that song or that painting.”

    Read more at MPT’s blog.

  • CT’s story of the week concerns gay students at Christian colleges. That’s not a typo.

    “Leaders at Christian colleges and universities around the country told Christianity Today their schools are rethinking the way they address the needs of [same sex attracted] students on campus.”

    Read more at Christianity Today.

  • If you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you might remember “visitation” by pastors and church elders. These days, you’re more likely to get a house call from your doctor.  David Fitch’s guest author Ty Grigg thinks you might not have anybody drop in these days:

    “It is not a cultural norm to have neighbors or even friends over to our homes for dinner.  If we want to be with people, we go out.  The restaurant has replaced the space that home once occupied in society.  Typically, for younger generations (40’s and under), a visit will be at a coffee shop or to grab lunch.  In our suburban isolation, the home is too much of an intimate, sacred space for most non-family members to enter.”

    Read more at Reclaiming the Mission.

Other links:

  • Canadian readers will remember a national pre-Christmas story involving the theft of $2M worth of toys from a Salvation Army warehouse in Toronto. Here’s a follow-up on how the organization is working to protect itself by having a solid ‘whistle-blower’ policy
  • Want a taste of that theological educational experience you missed? RegentRadio.com, the internet broadcasting arm of Regent College, frequently offers free lectures by its professors. Currently it’s wrapping up a twelve-part series with Gordon Fee on the Holy Spirit in Pauline Theology with a new lecture available each day.
  • We linked to this about six months ago, but it’s worth a revisit. Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed links to a 9-minute video where an orthodox priest explains various theories of atonement.
  • Sarnia is a Canadian city across the river from Port Huron, MI.  Pastor Kevin Rodgers blogs at Orphan Age and reminds us how a shared meal is a great way to build community.
  • USA Today religion editor Cathy Lynn Grossman looks at the larger religious issues in Monday’s Presidential inauguration ceremony.
  • A New Jersey substitute teacher is fired for giving a student his personal Bible as a gift after the student kept asking where the saying, “the last shall be first” came from.
  • New blogs we’re watching this week — okay new to us:
  • Talk about California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day: Our closing shot this week is from a Facebook page dedicated to books. The picture combines two of my favorite passions: a day at the beach and reading.

Beach Library

January 18, 2013

Review: Awakening of Hope – The Video

Several months ago I reviewed the book Awakening of Hope by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, which looks at several of the elements of what is sometimes called the new monasticism.  While there’s no mention of vows of poverty or silence, and nobody is wearing matching robes (or even hoodies), the book is an excellent study of everyday people who either choose to live in community, or find themselves living communally due to circumstances. The link in this paragraph leads you to a list of the six topics actually under study, which include the concept of a shared meal and the importance of pacifism.

Awakening of Hope - Jonathan Wilson-HartgroveI was quite taken by the book. The text is rich, and JW-H has a wealth of travel and experience to draw from in his writing. But all this time I was dying to know what the accompanying video would be like. Finally, I got my wish.

If your perception of Zondervan curriculum involves packages hosted by Philip Yancey or Andy Stanley, you’d be a little out of your depth with this one. Owing more to NOOMA than anything else, the six 15-minute sessions involve some very raw footage — with varying sound levels — that may or may not be in focus. In the very first minute Shane Claiborne is interrupted by a child at the door of the house where he’s filming, Chris Haw is distracted by backyard chickens and the people whose dining room Shane is using come home to find a film crew in their house.

More to the point, the segments are more of an extension to the printed book. When you’ve read the chapter and people have gone around the circle and discussed the various take-outs, you then start the DVD and are immersed in the topic on a whole different — and probably unexpected — level. The interviews — including one with L’Arche founder Jean Vanier — complement rather than continue what the book was discussing. (The book also contains the DVD study questions, there is no additional resource needed.)

I asked Gary O’Dwyer, a local pastor friend who is working with both the book and the DVD to confirm this and he agreed,

“The video is not tied directly to the book. The main portion of the video does offer some very interesting/inspiring individual examples of Hope as well as living Christ’s message.”

The six segments are somewhat equally hosted by Shane and Jonathan, and the DVD also contains nine short bonus clips, including Shane’s story of how The Simple Way got started.  Running time is about 90 minutes total with a U.S. retail of $26.99. Click the image above to watch a three minute preview. If you can only choose one item to purchase, I would suggest getting the book.

January 5, 2013

Five Reasons to Church Hop This Week

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:01 am

Church HoppingHey! I didn’t write this. Maybe I wish I had. Credit goes to Kirra at the blog Thoughtful. (Click the title to link.) While some people consider church-hopping to be some type of rampant plague or scourge, the point is that most people are very faithful to their faith family week-in, week-out. This was written to encourage them just to one-time consider a one-off visit somewhere else. Is that such a bad thing?

5 Reasons Why You Should Attend a Different Church Next Week

If you’ve been attending the same church for more than a year or two, it might be time to visit another church next Sunday.  This isn’t a permanent change but just one Sunday to do something different.

When we go to the same church for years, we get comfortable.  We know the people, we know the songs, and we know the church.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it is good for us to leave what makes us comfortable once in a while.  There are many good reasons to visit a different church once in a while. Here are five.

1.  Remember what it was like to be a guest.  If you’ve been attending the same church for a long time, you may not remember well what it is like to attend a church for the first time.  You don’t know anyone.  You don’t know if the place you chose to sit if that space is someone’s “spot.”  Will they serve communion?  How will they serve communion?  Will you know any of the songs they sing?  When you visit a new church and then come back to your home church, hopefully you will find yourself more sensitive to those who are attending your church for the first time.

2.  Appreciate a different style of worship.  If your church sings hymns, try one that has a praise band.  This is not just about music; if your home church is casual, try out a church that is a little more formal or liturgical.  Put on a tie or a dress.  Church can be done in many different ways; you don’t have to love the new style, but learn to appreciate the different ways the church worships.

3.  Get a different perspective.  If you’ve been listening to the same one or two preachers for a while, listen to someone else’s teaching.  You might not agree with everything they say, but sometimes the best way to sharpen your beliefs is to consider the ideas that you disagree with.  On the other hand, you might learn something that you find rings true that you’ve not heard taught before.  Just be sure to weigh carefully what you hear, whether at new churches or your home church.

4.  See what other churches are doing.  Observe their methods, programs, and activities.  How do they do Sunday School?  Do they order the service in a way that seems more conducive to worship?  If you see something you especially like that you think could work at your church, approach the leadership and humbly offer your suggestion.

5.  Recognize the body of Christ is all over the world and all over your city.  The people at the church you choose to visit may be strangers, but we are all going to be sharing heaven together.  Christ only has one body.

December 11, 2012

The Gifts We Bring

On October 30th, I was a guest blogger over at The Master’s Table, the blog of Clark Bunch. I decided to pick up on the ‘table’ theme and used that as a springboard to look at what it means to add value or substance to a situation where we find ourselves; the issue of conflict and unity in Christian community; and creating ministry environments and community where everyone is given a voice. You can read by clicking here, but I’ve also reproduced it below.

What Do I Have to Bring to the Table?

I don’t do a lot of formal meetings in the course of a year, but when they come up, I like to arrive prepared. If there are multiple people involved, sometimes I will say nothing for the first twenty minutes, looking for the idea that’s being missed, the implication that’s not being considered, the parallel to another situation that’s not being remembered. Then I will interject something that I feel is helpful. I want to make a contribution, not simply nod in agreement or call for the vote.

When moderating comments at my blog, I often tell people I’m looking for “value added” remarks. Something that furthers the discussion. If you attend one of those churches where the pastor still goes to the back door as you’re leaving, you’ve probably heard people say, “Good sermon;” the way the kids on the midget soccer team bump fists with the opposing team and say, “Good game.” It’s all very pleasant but it doesn’t say anything. Try something like, “As you were dealing with that chapter of Romans, it reminded me of this passage in Hebrews where…” Your pastor will probably collapse in shock. Adding value is a way of letting everyone know that you “get it.” That you’re willing to take it to the next level.

In a circle of Christ-followers, people will speak of “the gift of encouragement,” but true encouragement is more than saying “Good game;” it’s about building people up. When I was a weekly worship leader in a local church, I once asked our congregation, “What do you have to remember to bring with you on Sunday mornings?” Some people teach children and have to bring their lesson plan. Most bring their tithes and offerings. Some bring a casserole dish (full) for the church potluck or a similar container (empty) that they’re returning to someone who brought them a meal when they were ill. However, sometimes I think we need to bring a word, a thought, a concept, a scripture verse that will encourage someone, or the overflow of a book we’ve read or a sermon we downloaded that we can’t help but want to share with someone receptive.

Bringing something to the table is intentional. It’s part of a type of table fellowship where everyone gives and everyone receives. It’s about making the people who come in contact with you leave richer because you connected.

The problem that we have as Christ-followers sometimes is that nobody wants to make waves, or be the one who is simply rocking the boat. We want to avoid the friction created by challenging traditions and norms, so we tend to make contributions that we feel lead toward consensus. We’re basically asking the question,

Are We All on the Same Side of the Table?

One of the features of the Christian blogosphere is the way things tend to get very polarized. Issues become black-and-white, and people who postulate a different interpretation or a different take on one individual element of doctrine are immediately written-off.

The point is here is that we should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. We should be able to entertain differences while at the same time affirming our overarching unity in Christ. I can read something on Clark’s blog that I feel is totally wrong — and he on mine, though I can’t possibly imagine what it would be — and perhaps even suggest in a comment that not everyone shares his view. But I click back to see what subject he’s covering the next day.

Too many times in the body of Christ we shoot our wounded. The bottom line is that we all “see through a glass darkly.” We’re not going to be on the same side of the issue on every item on the agenda, but the person with whom I disagree the most at this moment may prove my greatest ally ten minutes from now. I think that’s also why it’s important to ask ourselves,

Is There Room at the Table for Others?

I love the equal opportunity that the blogosphere offers. People can, in fact paint graffiti all over my walls if they so desire. I see people coming and going all the time and in many respects, this ought to be the model of all Christian community, with what we call church (i.e. weekend services and midweek events) being but one expression of that community.

That’s why I love the vulnerability of pastors who have Q&A times at the end of their sermons. It invites even the first-time visitor to have a seat at the table and there’s nothing at all that they can state or ask that God’s Word isn’t capable of responding to. No comment or opinion cannot be deflected with the same ease that Jesus, when they were ready to stone him, demonstrated by disappearing into the crowd.

We don’t have to defend the body of doctrine by excluding people from the discussion; because ultimately, it’s His church, not ours; it is the master’s table.

November 2, 2012

A Guest at the Table

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:21 am

This week I was a guest blogger over at The Master’s Table, the blog of Clark Bunch. I decided to pick up on the ‘table’ theme and used that as a springboard to look at what it means to add value or substance to a situation where we find ourselves; the issue of conflict and unity in Christian community; and creating ministry environments and community where everyone is given a voice. You can read by clicking here.

October 29, 2012

A Snapshot of Monastic Living 2012 Style

While we connected at concerts and music festivals, I never did get around to seeing Jesus People USA‘s operation in inner city Chicago. Long after Cornerstone — both the festival and the magazine — had faded from memory, my interest was piqued again listening to Shane Claiborne talk about The Simple Way in Philadelphia.

But nothing demonstrates the essence of living in Christian community like a read through Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s latest book, The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith (Zondervan, paperback).  Wilson-Hartgrove’s name be familiar to those of you who invested in Common Prayer, a sort of devotional on steroids which offers a complete liturgy for each day of the year.  He’s an associate minister at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, NC, but is probably best known as a leading spokesperson for a movement usually referred to as The New Monasticism, and his blog The Everyday Awakening.

The Awakening of Hope should not surprise anyone by being a type of apologetic for Christian community. Chapter subjects include:

1. Why We Eat Together
2. Why We Make Promises
3. Why It Matters Where We Live
4. Why We Live Together
5. Why We Would Rather Die Than Kill
6. Why We Share Good News

which are also covered in a 6-part DVD. (The print version also includes a chapter on fasting.)

But there’s something here that has a much, much broader application to all of us. You don’t need to have lived in community, toured one, or even known anyone who chose to spend any amount of time in one in order to appreciate the implications of what he writes on those of us who call the suburbs (with 2.4 children and 2.0 vehicles) home.

This book will make you rethink your current expression of faith.

But as I read this book, I could not help notice an uncanny similarity to another Zondervan writer, Philip Yancey. As I wrote for a book trade review these similarities include:

  • written from experiences made possible by extensive world travel in that present-tense voice used by travel writers
  • honest and personal and engaging
  • rich text — any one paragraph could stand on its own for study and further consideration
  • relevant to the situation we find ourselves in, which probably isn’t a monastic community
  • healthy doses of scripture verses that are somewhat cross-indexed or juxtaposed

So we have (a) challenging subject matter that is foreign to the Christian experience of many of us, (b) a writer who knows this subject with great intimacy, (c) a writer who delivers a quality product.

In other words, this is a powerful book.

I’d especially recommend Awakening to anyone who read Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution, the aging rockers who well remember Chicago’s JPUSA, anyone who lived in community at YWAM or some similar training mission, anyone who spent the summer on staff at a Christian camp, anyone who spent time in a mission station overseas, and anyone who has ever wondered what it might mean to sell the house and the SUV and live out their Christian life in a new way.

For a very brief excerpt from the book, click here.

 

March 2, 2012

So, You Think You Know That Person?

Years ago, just before an annual meeting at a local church where I was serving, a woman went to the pastor quite distraught over an article I had written in the local newspaper on some municipal issue that she didn’t think was appropriate for someone on church staff.

The pastor let her rant for awhile, and then said, “Well, say what you will, but I know his heart.”

While I appreciated his coming to my defense, I also have tried to adopt a similar attitude toward others. I need to either (a) admit I don’t know people fully, and certainly not as God does; or (b) try to get to them better, not just superficially, but get to know their heart.

So as soon as I saw this at Barry Simmons’ blog yesterday, I knew I had to share it with you.

Danger of Assuming Knowledge of Someone’s Heart

Jesus said “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). However, contrary to secular society’s assumption, he was not saying that moral evaluations are off limits.  In the same Sermon on the Mount he talked about knowing someone by the fruit of their lives. What I believe He was saying is that we must be careful to apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to others, and with the same severity.  We should give others the same level of mercy and understanding that we want for ourselves.

He was also saying that we should not be quick to presume we know someone’s’ heart or the facts of their situation. Here’s a thought provoking list from Kevin DeYoung of things not to assume (prejudge):

Don’t assume you know all the facts after hearing one side of the story.
Don’t assume the person is guilty just because strong charges are made against him.
Don’t assume you understand a blogger’s heart after reading one post.
Don’t assume that famous author, preacher, athlete, politician, or local celebrity won’t read what you write and don’t assume they won’t care what you say.
Don’t assume the divorced person is to blame for the divorce.
Don’t assume the single mom isn’t following Jesus.
Don’t assume the guy from the mission is less of a man or less of a Christian.
Don’t assume the pastor looking for work is a bad pastor.
Don’t assume the church that struggles or fails is a bad church.
Don’t assume you’d be a better mom.
Don’t assume bad kids are the result of bad parents.
Don’t assume your parents are clueless.
Don’t assume everyone should drop everything to attend to your needs, and don’t assume no one will.
Don’t assume the rich are ungenerous.
Don’t assume the poor are lazy.
Don’t assume you know what they’re all like after meeting one or two of their kind.
Don’t assume you should read between the lines.
Don’t assume you have interpreted the emotions of the email correctly.
Don’t assume everyone has forgotten about you.
Don’t assume they meant to leave you off the list.
Don’t assume everyone else has a charmed life.
Don’t assume a bad day makes her a bad friend.
Don’t assume the repentance isn’t genuine.
Don’t assume the forgiveness isn’t sincere.
Don’t assume God can’t change you.
Don’t assume God can’t love you.
Don’t assume God can’t love them.

June 29, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday list lynx

Christianity Today magazine has found that recent articles on worship resonate with people, and that’s reflected in the first two links this week:

  • People want services to be accessible, but D. H. Williams asks the question, ‘Are there limits to this strategy?’
  • Why did the church embrace the pop/rock style found in today’s modern worship, but not utilize jazz or big band in its day?  Lawrence Mumford looks at the diversity of worship styles.
  • And over at Relevant Magazine — which we’ll return to later here — Adam Wood reminds us that worship involves the participation of both leader and congregant.
  • Ever been stuck in a checkout line where the person in front of you seems to be buying out the whole store?  Pete Wilson was, and he was anxious to get on his way, until he suddenly saw the person ahead of him in a different perspective.
  • I understand a little of where John Shore is coming from.  He’s certainly sympathetic to people who are both gay and professing Christians. [Example]  But does he go too far in one direction?  The blogger known as The Son He Loves thinks so and calls him on it.
  • Castanea, a word meaning ‘Chestnut tree,’ is also the name of a tribal community living together in Chestnut Hill, Tenn, which serves in this USAToday story as an example of what is called The New Monasticism.
  • Dan Kimball writes about Francis Chan‘s Erasing Hell with words like these: “It comes from a heart that is broken about hell. The pages themselves almost weep it is so heartfelt written. I know that sounds kind of corny, but it is true. This is written from a broken heart on the topic and that makes all the difference.”
  • If you’ve got Adobe, here’s the link to the .pdf with the Committee on Bible Translation’s response to the Southern Baptist resolution regarding the updated NIV Bible translation.
  • Also lining up to take a shot at the new NIV — with the accompanying fifteen minutes of fame — is the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  You can read the .pdf containing the CBT’s response to the CBMW. This best addresses the so-called ‘gender issues’ in the new translation, though it won’t satisfy people who already have their minds made up.
  • Discovered a new blog this week for our “If You Want Deep, We’ll Give You Deep” department.  Check out this treatment of the subject of atonement.  (Full title: …Without the Theoretical Nonsense.)
  • With two potential Mormon Republican presidential candidates, not to mention a Broadway play, here’s ten things you may or may not know about the faith of your LDS friends.
  • And speaking of cults, Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like thinks that the proponents of the kind of faith he blogs about are actually a bit of a contradiction.
  • There’s a Christian Game Development Conference.  Who knew?  But never underestimate the popularity of computer gaming.  By the way, for bonus points, visit their site and try to find clues as to where the conference is taking place.
  • Yet another CT piece; this one on how in their zeal to expand, multi-site churches with satellite campuses are now crossing state lines
  • A Pew Forum survey shows that Evangelical leaders are less concerned about Islam and more concerned about creeping secularism.
  • Jon Acuff has four reasons why people ditch church in the summer.  (Reasons not really good enough.)
  • Finally one more from Jon Acuff and his article on Christian satire for Relevant magazine, where we find today’s closing image:

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