Saturday, March 31, 2007

Rest, Rest, Rest...

Whew what a whirlwind! We just got home from Richmond. We began the day running with 26,000 of our closest friends at the Monument Ave 10K. (We both missed our target times by 2 minutes, but had a good race non-the-less!) Then we went back, got cleaned up hung out with our gracious hosts. Then Jill and I took advantage of some of the shopping around Richmond before joining up with our friends for an early dinner. After dinner we headed home and now I write this post from the comfort of our living room.

Now its time to put some last minute touches on tomorrow's sermon. Then time for rest...until tomorrow!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Run, Run, Run...

Jill and I are in Richmond for the Monument Ave 10K. Its the first race of the season for either of us. It looks like it should be great weather. Jill has been a champ with the training. I expect her to have a great race. My training has been so-so. Not as consistent as I would have liked. Either way its fun to be in Richmond even if it is a brief trip. I hope to be able to report good news in my next post about the results!

Assault and Withdrawal...

Dallas Willard in his book, Renovation of the Heart, talks about two ways humans socially wound one another. Assault, or attacking, and withdrawal, or distancing. Reading about this kind of set off an "Aha!" for me.

God created us to be in community, and when we assault others or withdraw from them, this destroys community. Thus wounding others and perpetuating a kingdom that is not God's. I believe this has deep implications for how I live my life as a follower of Jesus and the vision that I seek in desiring God's kingdom.

One big change is that I will begin using my ipod less in public settings. For instance as I began to write this post, I was listening to music on my computer with my headphones on. I am in a coffee-shop, a public space. There are people sitting all around me. By using my headphones, I am essentially saying, "I am not interested in relating to you." This is withdrawal. So, the ipod is now for in the car or when I am alone.

Another change is the way I relate to others. How am I assaulting others and destroying community? Hopefully I am not. But I am certain I am. Do I look at others with contempt? Assault. Do I say things about people to others in a contemptible manner? Assault. Do I harbor resentment and bitterness towards others without seeking reconciliation? Assault. Unfortunately the list could go on.

Please understand the community that I think I have become aware of is not some Utopian society where all humans are really good people living in harmony. Its a community in which we are all connected through our love of God and God's love for us as evidenced in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, the kingdom of God. A place where God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. A place where individuals are valued because of their value to God, not based on their morality, bank account, appearance, or contribution to society. A place where forgiveness is shared because we are forgiven. A place where we choose community rather than withdrawal. A place where interactions are filled with God's love and not with assault.

I believe this starts with the church. How can we embody such a community? Can our hearts be (re)formed in such a way that we can live this out? I believe the answer is "Yes, we can." The question becomes will we?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Motive of Service...

Scot McKight has a great post dealing with this. The issue is the motivation of our hearts. It seems to me that doing something merely for the opportunity to talk about Jesus is somewhat of a bait and switch. "Here, let me show you 'love''s a double-shot of the gospel!" Yet the other end of the spectrum refuses to mention Jesus because well...I'm not sure why - maybe they are just "good" humanists in church clothes.

Jesus was pretty concerned with how we treat one another, particularly the people who are treated poorly or who don't have a lot. And while I believe all people need to know the saving love of Jesus, I also believe that God is trying to reshape and mold our hearts in this life to be like Jesus. As part of that growth, God desires for us to actually have hearts for the poor, meaning that we love them whether they know Jesus or not. We love them because Jesus loves them. And if we can love them in such a way (or at least try to) then our authentic attempts to show them love will speak louder than any words (or tracts) we could share.

Otherwise, its like making folks sing for their supper...attend this worship service, or say this prayer and then we'll love you, feed you, insert your felt need here.

Bottom line, as McKnight says in his post, all we do we in the name of the Lord - for his sake and his purposes. And who knows maybe his purpose behind our good works is to give us a natural opportunity to authentically share our experience of the risen savior with the people we serve, I don't know that it should be our decision, but God's.

What are your thoughts on these things?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Humbling Church Moment #657

Serving in a church with lots of small children keeps one always looking for good childcare workers. I recently came across a potential worker and arranged for her to come and work on Wednesday nights, during our Bible study. Last night was the first Wednesday she was working with us. This particular evening I happened to be carpooling with some folks from the congregation, and as we pulled into the church parking lot, a lone black SUV with the license plates "DVL SPWN" sat there waiting for us.

The folks I was riding with had concerned looks on their faces and asked, "Who's car is that?" To which I had to meekly reply, "I think that is our new childcare worker."

I may have lost some points there...

The worker said that it was a license plate she got in high school to irritate her mother several years ago. I don't know if it worked then, but I fear it's going to irritate some folks at church.

The moral of the story: in addition to background checks on childcare workers, run license plate checks too.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My Third Place...

What is your third place? There is the place where you live, the place where you work (sometimes those are one in the same!), and then the place where you spend the rest of your time. This "third place" is usually some sort of hobby or activity like motorcycles, running, triathlon, comic collecting, knitting, sewing , etc.

I realize my third place has become my computer. (I'm not sure how I feel about that...) When we moved this past summer I got a new Macbook (which I love!) for personal and work use. As I learned more and more about the mac, web 2.0 and all the cool things out there on the internet, I began spending more and more time on my computer. Which hasn't helped my social life much - although I do spend a fair amount of time at the local coffee shop (on my computer - free wifi is beautiful!)

Where is your third place?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Renovation of the Heart

Over the past few weeks I have been reading a book that has been a strong influence over the shaping (or reshaping) of my heart. The book is called Renovation of the Heart, by Dallas Willard.

Willard's main is writing about the process of spiritual (re)formation where our hearts are made new in Jesus Christ. I am about halfway through it (trying to read about a half a chapter a day). I am currently in the section about transforming the mind, and the past couple of days I have been reading about "feelings". In particular, Willard is discussing:

Hope - anticipation of good not here yet
Faith - confidence grounded in reality
Love - to will the good
Joy - a pervasive sense of well-being
Peace - the rest of the will that results from assurance "about how thing will turn out"

Willard suggests that if our hearts are resting in the above things, those feelings which destroy our heart (desire, pride, lust, etc.) will fade away. He argues (and I agree) that the foundation for spiritual (re)formation is the power of the Holy Spirit, but that we play a role. We are active participants in this renovation.

He uses a three part model for how we participate in the renovation of our hearts. First there is vision - we envision what our transformed lives will look like. Second is Intent(ion) - we have every intention of living into that vision. Finally, there is Means - we use means (prayer, disciplined thinking, accountable discipleship group, etc.) to intentionally live into the vision of a renovated heart.

So although I haven't finished it yet, I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What about the resurrection?!

The other day I attended a funeral for a young woman (37). It was a sad event because family and friends were mourning the tragic loss of a loved one. It was even more sad, because there was no mention of the resurrection or the hope we have in Jesus.

Now, I didn't know this woman. She was a friend of several of the women in my congregation. I went to the funeral in a pastoral capacity as a sign of support for them. However as I sat listening to the presider an already sad event grew even more sorrowful.

There were probably 150 - 200 people in attendance. People coming to this place to share grief and support for the family and friends of this young woman. What a wonderful opportunity to share a word of hope to this community in their grief.

Instead, the presider read about 25 selected readings from the Bible. Then he read a commentary to some of these passages from a sect known as the Christian Scientists. I found myself growing angry as the presider read. It wasn't that he was reading poorly, he read well. I couldn't help but think of how people were hearing this. Did they understand what they were hearing? Was this soothing to them in this time of grief? Was it clear that Jesus' resurrection, his victory over death, gives us hope in the midst of our grief over the death of a loved one? Isn't that the purpose of a Christian funeral?

Or was this was merely a memorial service. People gathered to remember a loved one, here some words read, tell stories, cry and go home. That's it. Death wins. It's done. Finished.

Sad indeed.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I will be the first to admit, I am a pretty selfish guy. I don't mean this in a "poor me, say nice things to me" kind of way. I mean it in the "right now this seems to be the condition of my heart" kind of way.

One of the ways I seem to be most selfish is with my time. I guard it jealously. I try to horde it up in chunks, so I can do the kinds of things I want to do. I try to manage my calendar so that I am master of my time. (This is not necessarily a bad thing.) And typically when interruptions pop up my initial response is frustration because...well...its ruining my plan.

Well, today three interruptions came my way - and for some reason (most likely the grace of God) I was able to embrace them. I didn't see them as things that kept me from what I wanted to do. I saw them as ways to help others and maybe even serve God.

In these instances, by not clinging so tightly to my time (notice how I said "my" time, like I own it in the first place - ha!) By letting it go, interruption turned into blessing. Or, maybe a better way to say it is that interruption turned into being. I wasn't managing. I wasn't doing. I was just being.

As I write this, I recall a thought that occurred to me last night as I was drifting off to sleep: each day is a gift from God. (Kind of underwhelming, huh?) But for some reason, at 12:07 AM this struck me as profound.

I mean really and truly, I have taken for granted for the past 32 years that when I go to sleep, I will wake up the next day - kind of like when I start my car, I just assume that it will start. Last night I kind of realized that just because I assume that I will wake up does not necessarily mean I am going to wake up. Each day is a gift.

Anything could happen while I am asleep (i.e. a natural disaster, war, fire, a stroke... without going into morbid details, you get the point.) So I decided while laying there, awaiting a peaceful slumber, that I would wake up tomorrow morning (which is actually today) with gratitude for the gift of another day of life; thankful that God, in his grace, has allowed me one more day on earth.

Maybe, somehow last night's reflection subconsciously worked into my psyche, so that today I wasn't as selfish with my time as I was yesterday. Maybe I am maturing and seeing the value in living fully in the present and being more selfless with my time. Maybe I should forget what I think just before I go to sleep.
Or...maybe God is at work in all of this, pointing towards the simple blessings he gives - like another day on earth - and is transforming my heart one day at a time.

My hope is that its a little of the former three and a lot of the latter. Either way. Today is nearing its end. Time to go to sleep. I wonder what tomorrow will bring...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Recommended Reading...

1. Simply Christian, by NT Wright
I really enjoyed Wright's style and thoughtful presentation of Christianity. Some would call this the "Mere Christianity" of our time. I enjoyed how Wright started with a foundation of three different world views and followed those through the various topics - helping the reader to see that what some may consider Christian is really not, and vice versa. Regardless of where one is on the journey, I believe this book is a good companion to have with you!

2. The Gospel According to Starbuck's, by Leonard Sweet
I drank (pardon the pun) this book up! Sweet does a great job of analyzing a cultural icon and the things they do well and then suggesting generally how the church or Christians might consider applying those principles as followers of Jesus. His E.P.I.C. (Experience, Participation, Image-driven, Connections) approach is helpful and worth the price of the book itself. While reading this though, I must admit I had to wonder if this book was somehow partially funded by the coffee industry.

3. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
I just finished this one this morning! Gladwell's use and explanation of some current trends is very interesting. While one could argue with the conclusions he draws regarding those trends/epidemics, he does a good job stating his case for what sends some trends/epidemics past the tipping point. I am still absorbing in the ideas and trying to figure out how these apply to my local church context.