If I tell you not to watch Kingsman will it make you want to see it?

kingsmanSomehow we wandered into the movie Kingsman: The Secret Service. Now we know it is another Matthew Vaughn, hyper-violent, self-consciously and darkly-pomo, comic-book fantasy. Director Vaughn gave us the snarky, swearing, pre-teen assassin in  Kick-Ass. If you love me, you will tell me which movies I can see. How did I not know what I was getting into?

I don’t usually hate everything about a movie. But even the clever parts of this one are overshadowed by its generally vile nature – deconstruction with a nasty twist, a training ground for ISIS do-it-yourselfers — only they actually do what you are fantasizing. I hear Vaughn has a rabid fan base, or do his movies create them out of the unsuspecting? (This is where you begin to pray, “Lord saves us!”)

In this unintended horror movie Vaughn does for James Bond what Kick Ass more or less did for Spider-Man. I think it might have been meant as playful. But this child needs play therapy fast, since it is nasty play, like some brutish sibling torturing you when the folks are away.

I admit that the sets are great, the digital carnage is well-executed (what I could see through my fingers) and the tailoring is impeccable. I think they were doing James Bond “today,” and we are so vile we would never understand the sweet 60’s, or even 80’s. At one point the two main antagonists, Colin Firth’s super-spook Harry Hart and Samuel L. Jackson’s baddie, Valentine, sit down to compare their love of the old Bond movies. There was a certainty to them, a style, and an endearing silliness, which they miss. Vaughn’s film argues they have gone out of fashion. He slices them up with so much vulgarity and violence that he makes sure only the slightest hint of their relative humanity is left. When James Bond movies are wistfully seen as the morality we once had, times are indeed rough.

samuel jackson valentineTo my credit, I did get, from the trailer, that Colin Firth had been lured into a thin, comic book plot. I knew it was another recruitment movie. Her Majesty’s secret service are a man down, and the smart money is on Eggsy, a council-estate wild boy, to outfox the handful of upper-class creeps who think they’ve got the gig sewn up.  The gist ends up being that, these days, even a working-class lad can dream big and become a slick, womanizing, “male chauvinist,” dinosaur if he sets his heart on it.  I did not know the Samuel Jackson would do another weird role as the main villain, Valentine, a baseball-cap-wearing tech billionaire. The actor’s lisping delivery is a big joke at the expense of his old foe Spike Lee, but not a good one. He has a henchwoman with razor-sharp prosthetic feet, allowing Vaughn to indulge the kind of effects coup he has made his grisly trademark: she dances around unsuspecting foes and turns them into tossed salad.

About halfway through the movie, I realized I should have brought a scorecard. How many times will the word “fuck” be used in this movie? Am I so out of it that people actually use the word in that many variations? – enough so that the casual viewer in Japan will be able to figure out what is going on?  I needed to write down things that need further research, like whether anal sex with a princess is really considered a reward for good behavior, like whether watching a church full of bigots in Kentucky be massacred provides a great number of people satisfaction, like what is it that made our audience laugh when heads began to explode all over the world?

I suppose my keepers would say, “Will you just stay out of those movies? Have you not heard of porn, or something? Do you not know that marketers are preying upon innocent, unhinged minds (such as yours, I suppose they would mean) to make a buck? Have you forgotten about evil – it’s mainstream?” They would be right. But it is also good for me to get a dose of what is going on out there. In Korea last weekend, Kingsman was hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey (that other horror film that tries to turn S/M into romance). Kingsman has already made $85 million. (Fifty Shades has made $500 million worldwide).  Last week we were talking about how to be more effective at getting out our message as Circle of Hope  — a message also tuned to speak to the times. One thing Kingsman did for me is energize me to get our message out as well as I can. I want to be one of the King of King’s men and keep putting myself in the path of the evils that are rolling over a lot of more-vulnerable victims than I am.

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Redux #3: Would God send Gandhi to hell? — redux

At the beginning of the year I am reposting “top ten” entries. On Friday, I’m reminding people about some posts before 2014 that people have kept reading — there is a “top ten” of them! Here is #3. In June of 2013 I updated a piece that had been surprisingly well-read for a long time. It was well-read again. Gandhi and hell — a perennial dilemma.

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A couple of years ago about this time, I wrote a blog post that has been one of the most-visited I have ever written. I thought I would dust it off a bit and offer it to you again, from Zurich.

Not long ago I had some surprising theological discussions at a wedding. (Pastors can be like religious flypaper). Two strangers were surprisingly interested in the afterlife! It did not seem like the usual wedding chit chat, at all. But it was stimulating!

One man was wondering about Rob Bell, who had just written his book questioning typical interpretations of what happens when we die. In the promo video (everything Bell thinks seems to be accompanied by a video) he asks the question, “Would God send Gandhi into eternal fire?”

Just a few minutes later another guest, Who had not been a part of the previous conversation, said he was impressed with Christianity above all the other world religions. He especially admired the call to love one’s enemies (I felt complimented by making it to the top of the world-religion heap). But he just couldn’t get over the idea that Gandhi might be in hell!

gandhi

Uttaranchal statue of Gandhi

Is the fear that Gandhi might be in hell the reason no one is becoming a Christian these days? Did I miss something? Why do I have only have a slight impression of Rob Bell when random wedding guests are asking pressing theological questions on a subject about which he has already made a video?

I have a lot to learn. One thing I learned, again, at the wedding is this: most people have a rather large commitment to defending themselves from any judgment. They are not putting up with a God who would send Gandhi (or them) to hell just because of Jesus. This is what the logic sounds like to me: Gandhi’s steps toward nonviolent political action — brilliantly adapted and applied by Martin Luther King, made him a secular/Hindu saint. His sainthood has been, predictably, deconstructed in a recent biography, but that doesn’t bother people that much. Everybody knows he was good and good people should not go to hell. This logic is important to people, because when they are defending Gandhi from any judgment that might send him to hell, they are also exercising the first line of defense against any sense that they, personally, might be sinful and liable to judgment. I am always amazed that people keep making this argument, especially after years of hearing how bad everyone feels about themselves! But so often another person will rise to the occasion and claim that we can be good enough to go to heaven – and if God judges us worthy of hell, that’s not a good God.

I think the question needs to be questioned a bit. Would God send Gandhi to hell?

Why do you care?

I think people care about whether Gandhi is in hell because they still think that good people are rewarded for their goodness with a blissful state of repose in heaven, which is “up there” somewhere (and maybe we get to fly like angels, which would be cool). And they take comfort that bad people, like Hitler (it is always Hitler) will burn in hell, as bad people deserve. They think, “While I am not as good as Gandhi, I am sure not as bad a Hitler, and I am about as good as most people I meet, so is God going to send us all to burn forever with Hitler?” I have heard this piece of logic repeatedly, and I heard a version of it as a reason not to have faith at the wedding.

Let me repeat after Jesus, “If you save your life, you will lose it.”  The consequences of thinking you can save your own life are huge. Holding on to the hope that your goodness is enough to save you is going to result in loss — at least the loss of what might be more than one’s earthly life. That’s what Jesus says, but people still think they just need to tip the scales of justice in their favor to get into heaven. So my question about the question is: If you think you are good enough, why do you worry about heaven and hell? If you are good enough, be content with the good enough you are. If you can’t be content with that, then trust God to be good for you, good to you and good in you as Jesus.

Why would Gandhi want to live with God forever?

Gandhi’s was good at being good and saving lives. His whole philosophy was about saving people from oppression through direct, nonviolent political action. It was so much better than direct, violent political action (which immediately followed the success of his nonviolent action, big time) that he became a saint, or at least he became the image he worked hard to portray.  In an era in which God has been banished from the public sphere, and in which there is hardly a sense of “public” at all, anyway, the endless competition of politics is all there is left. Gandhi succeeded in “saving” people without God through brilliant, moral politics. Why would he care about being in heaven with some Western, imperialistic “god?”

What’s more, Gandhi believed in reincarnation and believed he was already, at least metaphorically, living forever, in some form. He was well acquainted with the Lord’s claims and publicly rejected them: “I regard Jesus as a great teacher of humanity, but I do not regard him as the only begotten son of God. That epithet in its material interpretation is quite unacceptable. Metaphorically we are all sons of God, but for each of us there  may be different sons of God in a special sense. Thus for me Chaitanya may be the only begotten son of God … God cannot be the exclusive Father and I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus” (Harijan: 1937).

Although Gandhi did not accept Jesus according to His own introduction of himself, I believe that God will accept Gandhi according to his own sense of himself. God respects us, even if we do not respect him. If we choose to die under our own terms, I think those terms are respected for what they are: death. Though we will undoubtedly realize this choice on the way to our permanent death in some way I do not understand fully (of course!), I don’t think it includes being eternally tormented in fire. The death is permanent; that is punishment enough. So my question about the question is: If one does not care to be with God, so what? Why be concerned about Gandhi`s or one`s own afterlife?

Are you sure about your image of hell?

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story about the end of the age when the sheep are separated from the goats. This is the line that bothers people, even if they have just heard about it: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” This seems to be a reflection of Enoch 10:13 (which did not make it into the Protestant Bible) in which evil angels are locked forever in a prison at the bottom of the previously mentioned fire, in the “pit of hell.”

I do not think that God, who absorbed the ultimate violence the world could offer on the cross in Jesus Christ, is waiting around to come again in order to send millions of people to unending judgment – to absorb the ultimate violence he can offer! Yet some people do not want to follow Jesus because they believe the Bible contradicts itself by calling on people to love their enemies, while showing plainly that, in the end, God will condemn his enemies to experience ever-burning fire. Maybe quoting Miroslav Volf again will help with this misunderstanding (I think Exclusion and Embrace is a great book, if you can take the dense arguing).

“The evildoers who ‘eat up my people as they eat bread,’ says the Psalmist in God’s name, will be put ‘in great terror’ (Psalm 14:5). Why terror? Why not simply reproach? Even better, why not reasoning together? Why not just display suffering love? Because evildoers ‘are corrupt’ and ‘they do abominable deeds’ (v. 1); they have ‘gone astray,’ they are ‘perverse’ (v. 3). God will judge, not because God gives people what they deserve, but because some people refuse to receive what no one deserves; if evildoers experience God’s terror, it will not be because they have done evil, but because they have resisted to the end the powerful lure of the open arms of the crucified Messiah(p. 298).

Those who do receive what no one deserves are welcomed into a renewed creation under God’s loving reign. That is the goal. The evildoers are not imprisoned, screaming in agony, in some eternal land of unrenewed creation. I think they get what they desire. They get themselves without God, and that is death.

I am amazed that at one moment I could be singing a spontaneous duet to the bride and groom (oh yes, I did that) and then be talking about Gandhi and eternal torment the next moment. It was a my kind of evening. It also reminded me that eternity is never far away from our minds. We were meant to live with God in love and peace forever. May we not resist what we most desire out of some persistent perversity.

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2014 #3: Exile or Pioneer — we don’t really know what you are going to do with this blog post

Thursdays, so far, have been TOP TEN of 2014 days. This is the #3 most read post of 2014. Last February I encouraged people to be excellent exiles.

I really have no idea what is going to happen — most of the time, I like it that way. I don’t really know if Circle of Hope can sustain itself, since it runs on conviction and covenant. I don’t know whether the stock market will dive and take us with it, whether aggrieved people will unite and upend the social order, whether my friends will move away, or whether my pipes will freeze in the endless winter. Most of the time, all that uncertainty seems like a good excuse to have faith — it is a great grace that living by faith is more fulfilling than knowing whether I should have bought salt before it was all sold out.

mr. batesBut people have a lot of guilt and anxiety about not knowing. They are ashamed they made what look like mistakes and they did not know what was going to happen before it happened. Mr. Bates may do something terrible because of his guilt and shame about not knowing what was happening to Mrs. Bates!

The other day I was at a baby shower and people were quite satisfied that they did not have to buy yellow baby clothes because they knew the baby’s gender already — I am sure science developed in utero photography to ease the anxiety about how to decorate the nursery!  Maybe you laugh, but people are still angry that the government did not predict and prevent 9/11!  Many people defend the government’s right to collect our phone records because they think every measure must be taken so “nothing like that ever happens to anyone ever again!” — we even see our personal experiences as contributions to anxiety relief, guilt reduction and the hope of controlling the future. Don’t we insist that the future must be “better” than the past? And aren’t we taught that good people band together to make sure it will be?

what if

Last night a JIF peanut butter commercial tagged on to the coverage of Olympics was teaching children to imagine their perfect future.  The “scripture” lesson was:

What if I skated so fast the world stopped for a minute?
What if I had a sled and all my friends got in it?
What if I took a shot and scored the winning goal?
What if I cut through the winter air and didn’t feel the cold?
What if I could fly and soar like I had wings?
What if I stood up on the winners stand and heard my country sing?
Nourish every dream with the fresh roasted peanut taste of JIF.

I heard that and laughed out loud! What if I spend every waking moment becoming an elite athlete? Wouldn’t the moment of my achievement last me my whole life through? Wouldn’t I be happy and justify my existence? Wouldn’t my parents be alleviated of all the shame I normally bring them? Wouldn’t I have made all the right choices and achieved a mistake-free performance? Ugh. Our dreams of our splendid future, based on the fullness our personal splendor is not the same as having faith, JIF commercials notwithstanding.

I became a Christian for many reasons, but a main one was certainly because I was surrounded by people who had the breathtaking audacity to think they were smart enough to organize, even legislate my future. As they were organizing according to how they saw the past, I experienced the grace of looking over their shoulders and seeing God in my future through Jesus, the presence of the future. I received the blessing (or curse, depending on how you look at it) of being a history student and watching people in the past repeatedly learning from their mistakes and repeatedly thinking that their brilliant conclusions meant they had a lock on the future — the people who killed Jesus were sure they were doing it for the benefit of future generations! That arrogance is alive and well among the least of us — even among the odd people who lead Circle of Hope. We want to have a successful cell and end up reproducing what was, what was successful and familiar, not what is next. We stay on the treadmill of history applying the same crazy audacity, always thinking we will be the generation that gets it right.

Basic Bible teaching: We are strangers and aliens in the world. Jesus is the pioneer.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11

“Foreigners and exiles” is also translated: strangers and pilgrims, aliens and exiles, wayfarers and foreigners,  strangers and sojourners

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith  Hebrews 12:2

“Pioneer and Perfecter” is also translated: founder and perfecter, author and finisher, source and perfecter, source and goal, leader and completer.

Jesus is at home in every culture and every era, yet a product of none of them. His grace makes us better and we contribute goodness to the world that makes it better, but we don’t base our security on whether we did that so right that wrong won’t turn around and bite us ever again. Our audacity is knowing that we matter very much, whether we prove it by getting everything right and having our retirement feel secure or not.

Know all you can, predict all you can, but trust all you must. Study to succeed, master the ways of everything, but rely on Jesus. Learn from the past, strive to be excellent, but understand that Jesus is going ahead of you and only God knows your future. Make your greatest achievement be mastering your exile.

Our great grace includes the promise that the hope of the faithful will not be disappointed. In that hope we have a lot of room to be joyful failures, to be people who can see the wonder in the rubble, to be pioneers who never tire of seeing the sun come up over the next horizon on the journey.

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Is that Jesus dancing?

There is far too little tribal dancing in the church. That is my critique for the day, so if your train stop is coming up, don’t worry, we’re good.

It think we may have finally “got it” the other night on Mardi Gras and “did the word”: Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp” (Psalm 149). We did not have specialists interpreting with dance or waving flags and such (which is fine too); we just got out there and shook it as the common good we are.

We even had a flash mob moment in honor of Ben/Gwyn and Nate/Jen (it even made Gwyneth get teary over Uptown Funk).

Of course we did that! It’s in the Bible!: “Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

Jesus has saved us and made us his people. We’re happy. That’s a good enough reason to dance. So if you are getting off the train now, feel free to stop reading. You probably have what you need.

But I do want to point out that there are some more very good reasons to dance. I’m glad we exercised a few. Yes, people showed up for our party! – and they even danced with nothing lubricating their system but fastnachts and root beer!

Dancing makes trust.

For most of us, it is hard to get out on the dance floor. Ra begged Gwen and me to get out there and get the party rolling, since nobody will dance at a dance for the first half hour. She reminded me of jr. high when I was in dance class and the teacher would taunt us boys to walk across the multipurpose room floor and ask a girl to waltz. Terror.

Being pushed out on the floor was threatening. It reminded me that people love looking at dancers and talking about how they dance. A couple of my dear friends were, indeed, rating the best COH dancers the other night. That’s scary. Some men, in particular, refused to dance all night and stood off to the side like the kids in the Lord’s quote: “They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance’” (Luke 7:32).

But when you get out on the floor and realize we are all in this together, heedless of the fear, forgetting the judgment, and despising our shame, it loosens the place in us that trusts God and works trust into our very bodies! And getting out there does wonders for trusting others, too. Dancing with someone is pretty intimate, pretty vulnerable – its trusting someone because you think they love you enough to do so. We need that. Dancing is a trust system and we want to live in one.

Dancing commits us to joy

Very few people can dance with the tribe without a smile on their face. I suppose that’s why the Baptists I worked for were against it. Actually these Baptists were privately pretty fun and happy, but publicly they were straight-laced and sober because they thought that was being holy and they didn’t want anyone to know they were secretly a lot less perfect than they appeared. For quite a few years my dancing instincts were squashed by the Bible lovers who ignored all the dancing in the Bible.

They were like Michal watching David dance when you’d think everyone would want to be as out-of-control holy as David was: “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart” (2. Sam 6). I don’t know, for sure, why Michal despised David, but she sure was not increasing the joy in town that day!

There cannot be too much joy, even when things are bad and people are bad and they don’t deserve to be joyful – or insert any Michal-like judgment you feel here____. The fact is, most of us are not Michals and it makes us happy to see you dance. It probably makes you happier too.

Dancing represents a common good.

One time, a long time ago now, a close-knit church I was in realized that they felt really good whenever someone got married and the whole church got our on the floor at the reception and danced like one big group, partners notwithstanding. A few times they made such a positive impression with their happiness and togetherness that it became the talk of the rest of the guests and the bride and groom were proud of their cool, Christian friends. So we decided to hold a dance for All Saints Day. The one glitch was that the Brethren in Christ also thought dancing was not a holy thing to do. So we asked the bishop to give us a special dispensation. He did not think we would fall into sin, so he dispensed with the policy. Not sure he had the power to do that, but we went ahead.

christ-dancing_heimo-christian-haikala

Heimo Christian Haikala, “Christ Dancing on the Sea of Galilee.” Oil on canvas. Source: http://www.heimohaikala.com

In a communal group like the BIC, dancing is a great visual aid. It is an incarnational demonstration of being the visible body doing what Jesus does. At least it represents God’s mindset as Jesus describes it in the story of the lost son. The father says, “Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing (Luke 15).

You could have “heard” our dancing a long way off on Mardi Gras! — stomping, hooting, Cyndi Lauper wailing about girls and fun. It drew quite a few people into our common good. Near the end I was dancing with a group of men who were finally into it. One of them came in mentally worn out and for a while got some relief. He could feel his spirit rise. That’s what Jesus does. We hope to dip people in the music of his body to share some happy resonance.

Everything else we do builds trust, joy and the common good, as well. But I really like it when we dance — even though it is kind of silly for me to dance. We don’t hear about Jesus dancing (I bet he did, though) – but we do hear a lot about people thinking he was silly, and we still hear that directed whenever we act like Him, too. His whole life was kind of out on the dance floor, wasn’t it? — asking people to dance, making people know joy, demonstrating a different way to live. Our Mardi Gras party was a good training.

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Redux #4 — It is OK NOT to be WEIRD — the Bible’s many “rights”

At the beginning of the year I am reposting “top ten” entries. On Friday, I’m reminding people about some posts before 2014 that people have kept reading — there is a “top ten” of them! Here is #4

In the fall of of 2013 I tried to help people consider how they make decisions about what is right. With the companion piece, I pointed out how broad the Bible is compared to the cultural assumptions that masquerade as normal.

While I was waiting for baby Hannah to arrive the other day I read a book. (The labor took much longer than I expected! )  It was such a good book that I can’t resist applying a few of its more applicable thoughts to what we are going through right now.

We live in a weird culture and it has influenced us so much that our Christianity is weird. But our church is the brave antidote to that, unless we make it weird.

we-arent-world

Pesky sociologists deconstructing again.

Jonathan Haidt,  a UPenn alum, wrote a well-received book called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion. It is not a Christian book, even though he gets a lot more sympathetic to Christians by the time he is finished with his huge study on why people react the ways they do when it comes to politics.

He realized that his blue-state sensibilities were actually rather WEIRD. By that he means: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. As far as assessing how humans work, in general, WEIRD people are statistical outliers in the world today and certainly are out of the mainstream of history. USonians are even WEIRDer than Europeans.  Haidt says that “several peculiarities of WEIRD culture can be captured in this simple generalization: The WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships. It has long been reported that Westerners have a more independent and autonomous concept of self than do East Asians. For example, when asked to write twenty statements beginning with the word ‘I am…,’ Americans are likely to list their own internal psychological characteristics (happy, outgoing, interested in jazz), whereas East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships (a son, a husband, an employee of Fujitsu).“

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2014 #4 — Marriage in the new creation

For the next few weeks, Thursday is TOP TEN of 2014 day. This is the #4 most read post of 2014. Last June I tried to keep our conversation about sexuality going by publishing a variation on the theme of our statement we made after our lively “Doing Theology” session in the spring.

All year we have been trying to get out of the congress-type polarization of the Church’s dialogue about sexual expression and get into the grace of staying focused on everyone’s redemption. I think we are doing a good job. The pastors came up with a statement on marriage in March and taught it to the cell leaders. I think it is a good summary of where we have come so far. This post is based on that statement. What follows are three big points about marriage and sexuality and some basic ideas that might help apply them.

love never fails2We need to keep the love chapter where it belongs

The apostle Paul places his famous “love chapter” in the middle of his teaching about how the Holy Spirit is making the body of Christ out of the Lord’s followers (1 Corinthians 12-14). He does not place it after his chapter on marriage (1 Corinthians 7), which he could have easily done. The placement is important to note. Paul fully respects marriage as part of the order built into creation, but it is not equally important in the new creation.

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For those too broken to eat the bread and drink from the cup.

This Wednesday we begin the season of Lent. Some of us long for Ash Wednesday all year.

Even though the discipline of imitating Christ’s 40-day fast is an old one, each year it is new, as well. Because each year we are called out into the wilderness as a year-different person than we were the previous year: a year wiser or a year weaker, a year more mature or a year more undone. As a new person who is the “I am” we are right now, we are called out to meet the “I am” who is God. We go in search of our true selves as we meet the one who makes us new and whole in a whole new way.

light in clearing

This year at Broad and Washington we are even more pointedly gathering around the communion table to share the Lord’s death so we can share in his resurrection. It will be just as mysterious as Paul described it to the Philippians as the letter to them: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

When Jesus, the great “I am,” welcomes us to the table, some of us will not want to go. This post is for you.  

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Redux #5 — Spiritual Midwives

At the beginning of the year I am reposting “top ten” entries. On Friday, I’m reminding people about some posts before 2014 that people have kept reading — there is a “top ten” of them! Here is #5

In February of 2013 I celebrated people who help others come into their spiritual rebirth in Christ.

People were clamoring for spiritual direction! One of the best things I heard throughout all the dialogue of our mapping process last year was the persistent request for more help to grow in grace. We need to nurture further gifted people in the body who direct us. We need to pay attention to the people and resources we have already been given. We want to provide everyone with good opportunities to go deep. It will take more spiritual midwives — men or women who can help with the spiritual birthing process. We need them, whoever they might be.

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2014 #5 — How to follow Jesus at work

For the next few weeks, Thursday is TOP TEN of 2014 day. This is the #5 most read post of 2014. Last September I tried to sort out what we think about work and what we should do about what we think — at “work.”

Sometimes going to our daily, money-making job can be tough for a Jesus-follower. Do we just shut off our hearts and souls and get the money, or do we dare to ask the questions that keep bubbling up? “Can I do what I am assigned to do and still honor Jesus?” Even harder, “Can I think as I am supposed to think as defined by my employer and still be a Christian?” We have to answer the question, “Can I dare to serve Jesus without reservation and still have a normal job?”

You’ve got to know who you are in Christ before you can know what to do. We are good trees that bear good fruit. So think about how Jesus-followers approach the idea of work.

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Iraq Aftermath — six things Christian peacemakers can practice right now.

Gulf War – began on August 2, 1990 and ended on February 28, 1991. “The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated the cost of the Gulf War at $61 billion. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States covered $36 billion.” (CNN)

Iraq War — began on March 20, 2003 and officially ended in December 2011 (troops were recently added to fight ISIS). ”The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades. “ (Reuters).

iraq aftermath

I start with a few facts (although true financial facts are hard to get from the U.S. government) because many people who attended our event: Iraq Aftermath, did not have too many facts at hand for themselves. We were blessed with four people who had been to Iraq personally, spanning the 25 years of U.S. warmaking: Gwen White before the first Gulf War, Joshua Grace at the beginning of the Iraq War, Shane Claiborne during the Iraq War and Scott Krueger once during the Iraq War and twice after. They were full of facts and memories that astounded many of us who listened.

iraq aftermath panel

 

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