Tuesday, July 27, 2004

What is Church to you?

I am reading this interesting, if not a bit "over the top" article at Bruderhof about a post-modern poetic waxing about what "true Church" is supposed to be. The article takes the noun of church and looks at it like a verb. Look at this point-

"Church is not about what gets proclaimed by a preacher or taught by an instructor. It’s not just songs, sacraments and ceremonies. The church is what gets lived out in daily life by a people who bind themselves together to live for God’s kingdom of unity, justice and peace."

It is hard to argue with this and its very thoughtful, however, much of the article is about why the modern church sucks though- and that is a shame (as well as being a bit judgmental- the author assumes his experiences of church are what everyone else experiences). I am a bit of a church-nerd. I love going to church as well as living as the church- I also love my experience with God as inspired through the Holy Spirit telling others about the life-changing experience of following Jesus.

My church life is about an inclusive love that allows as many people to come to the table of the Spirit as possible- where I serve, we'd rather 'err on the side of inclusion, than err on the side of exclusion' and we have a whole lot of Christians who weren't allowed to fellowship, worship, or practice their faith in the communities of faith they were raised in. We are a cornacopia of wackiness: social workers, teachers, intellectuals, spiritual humanists, doubters, lovers, burnt out but still aflame, hopeful yet realistic- in our church, we show our warts as well as live out our faith. We also have those kind of people that others tend to "roll their eyes" to when talking with a person that challenges their notions of sanity, optimism, or weirdness. It is a wonderful place for sure- but I doubt that every visitor would feel comfortable (although everyone is welcomed). We also tend to attract the kind of people like the author of this article- they come hating church but being invited by a friend, they thought they'd give it "one more shot". And in our congregation- they find a new "church" home.

I love the church where I am called to serve- both as a noun and a verb. It is one heck of a place!

Friday, July 23, 2004

One heck of an interesting fella

His name is Bill Conklin, a member of the congregation in which I serve. He lives up in Washington, DC but for a long time was an active-participant in my parish. An architect by trade, he is also a textile expert who examined and wrote about the finding of Juanita, the mumified remains of a child offered as a sacrifice in the Inca religion. He is also one of the collaborators of the Society of Religion, Arts and Contemporary Culture. The SRACC identifies itself this way,

"The Society's purpose and program are based on the belief that the roles of the arts and religion are decisive. They reflect the struggle to conserve and to recover depth and wholeness, to reaffirm personal responsibility in the face of dehumanization, to define the ground for human freedom and creativity in a culture which tends increasingly to impose impersonal tyrannies over mind and spirit. Religion in isolation from the arts is starved of concrete embodiment of its insights into the fullness of human life. Art gives religion the eyes to see ourselves in all our dimensions, the ears to hear the voice of our inner lives and the instruments with which to communicate with each other."

Okay, so Bill and I had lunch today over at The Mill, a great Korean restaurant on the Upper West side of Manhattan. Afterwards, we went out for coffee at a nearby Starbucks. Seeing how we really didn't know each other, we afforded ourselves with the time to get acquainted. During our conversation, we spoke about faith, religion, and the need to interpret and understand how it is we go about understanding God. I shared with him my moderate views (although some who read this blog may think I am just a big ol' liberal) about God and our relationship with one another (regardless of faith journeys). It was a fun time and Bill volunteered to get me information about the SRACC and Cross Currents, the magazine that highlights the scholarly work of those across religious lines.

I am pretty psyched about meeting Bill and feel blessed to have made his acquaintance. Who knew he'd be someone I could "name-drop" about. ;)

The Risks of Friendships

Okay, so I was having a late dinner the other night with another ministerial friend.  We had gone to witness and participate in an Ecclesastical Council of an ordination candidate in my care.  At the council, we reviewed her faith journey, her doctrine, and how she 'goes about doing ministry.'  After she presented and defended herself, she left the room and we talked about her (in a good way) and voted unanimously (did I spell that right?) to approve her for ordination.  She is one heck of a great lady who brings such a real and honest presentation to those with whom she ministers- she's gonna be a blessing to many in her ministry.

Anyways.. afterwards, me and my friend went out for dinner.  Sitting down to talk, we shared and laughed, and he gave me some great ministerial advice.  And I told my friend about my own fears and challenges about my life in ministry (and my future ministry, wherever that might eventually be).  And I was worried that I told my friend too much information.  But then, on my way home from dinner, I was feeling thankful for my friendship with my ministerial collegue. .  and that got me to thinking about the nature of friendships.  As adults, esp those of us who are clergy, tend to not have as many 'close friends' as we did when we were younger.  We tend to be more guarded and reveal less and less about ourselves, lest someone else be tempted with that greatest of all clergy-related sins, the sin of gossip.  We, the clergy, tend to put up with invisible wall and treat those around us with suspicion when it comes to knowing about our intimate lives.

I have been exploring my own sense of boundaries.  Being the good Oklahoma guy that I am, I tend to talk alot- and, if you stick around long enough, I've been one of those guys that'll eventually tell you what you want to know.. as I eventually get to it after talking and talking.  Having been burnt several times this last year, I've actually been talking a bit less- or at least, cutting myself off before I talk 'too much'. 

And yet.. those tried and true friendships we have with our peers and collegues involves a risk- that risk is about self-revelation and honesty.  It is about having someone you can share your crap with and still feel accepted.   And in that sharing, we find a connection that helps us realize we're all in this life together- and its those friendships that empower us.

I say all this only to point out that 'real friendships' are important to our well-being and those real friendships can only happen if we're honest and open.  Sure, we need to choose our friends wisely- oh mah gawd!  we need to be VERY wise- however, once we find someone we can trust, we really gotta take those risks of self-revelation.  It is in these risks that deep friendships are formed and our own personal lives are sustained.


Monday, July 19, 2004

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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Cool balloon, eh?
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Today's the Day

Well, the day is here.. today is the last day of my pastor's employment at Broadway Church. She has taken another church just north of the city and today our church will celebrate her 20-year ministry. The Rev. Dr. Bonnie Rosborough has been a stalwart pastor who has been guiding the church is amazing ways. She has touched so many lives, mentoring so many future pastors, and nurturing so many disenfranchized men and women into the faith of God. She has got to be one of the most amazing people I've ever known- and to think that she's been teaching and mentoring me is both an honor and a joy. I am sooooooooooo going to miss her.

Starting on Monday, I'll be the acting-pastor once again. I filled this role a few years back when Bonnie went on her 9-month sabbatical. I've been well prepared for this particular function and am not worried. Our congregation has been well prepared too as well as preparing themselves for the changes we're going to face. Presently we're searching for an interim-pastor who'll help get us on track before we begin our search for a new senior pastor.

It's going to be a very interesting and adventurous time for a while. Please pray for us (and me) as we navigate these waters trusting in both God and one another to stay the course.

Indiana Woman Killed in Mistaken Rapture

Associated Press Writer  
May 28, 2004 
A Blue River woman was killed yesterday after leaping through her moving car's sunroof during an incident best described as a "mistaken rapture" by dozens of eyewitnesses.
Thirteen other people were injured after a twenty-car pile-up resulted from people trying to avoid hitting the woman, who was apparently convinced that the rapture was occurring when she saw twelve people floating up into the air, and then passed a man on the side of the road who she believed was Jesus.  
"She started screaming ‘He’s back! He’s back!’ and climbed out through the sunroof and jumped off the roof of the car," said Everett Williams, husband of 28-year-old Georgann Williams, who was pronounced dead at the scene.  "I was slowing down but she wouldn't wait till I stopped," Williams said. She thought the rapture was happening and was convinced that Jesus was going to lift her up into the sky," he went on to say.
"This is the strangest thing I've seen since I've been on the force," said Paul Madison, first officer on the scene. Madison questioned the man, who looked like Jesus, and discovered that he was on his way to a toga costume party, when the tarp covering the bed of his pickup truck came loose and released twelve blow-up sex dolls filled with helium, which then floated up into the sky.
Ernie Jenkins, 32, of Fort Smith, who's been told by several of his friends that he looks like Jesus, pulled over and lifted his arms into the air in frustration and said "Come back," just as the Williams' car passed him, and Mrs. Williams was sure that it was Jesus lifting people up into heaven as they drove by him. "I think my wife loved Jesus more than she loved me," the widower said when asked why his wife would do such a thing.  When asked for comments about the twelve sex dolls, Jenkins replied, "This is all just too weird for me. I never expected anything like this to happen."

Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Eight, by Katherine Neville

Holy Cow! The Eight, a book written by Katherin Neville was one heck of a fun and wonderful read (heck, even my mom liked it!). Its about a woman who is brought into a deadly game in search of the Montglane Chess Service, the mystical chess board given to Constantine by the Moors. She intwines history and historical figures around this 1000 year old chess board and its mystical pieces as it contains hidden in its pieces, a secret formula to rule the world.

The Book has its slow periods but all in all, once you pick it up, it'll be hard to put down. If you plan to read it or have already done so, please comment on it here. It'd be nice to hear what others think of this book.

Friends finding their own way

I have been talking with this really great friend of mine who is exploring his faith in a different way. As he continues on his faith journey, he is looking for expressions that meet his needs as well as answering a few of the questions that his former faith tradition either ignores, pretends doesn't exist, or is flatly hypocritical about- and he's sick of it (and for good reason).

As I look back over my spiritual "coming of age", I traveled a road that was bumpy, veering all over the road, and sometimes not on any recognizable map. I have worshipped with Baptists, Methodists, and charasmatics, participated in a deliverance ministry (casting out demons from people), I've worshipped in demonstratedly protestant churches (where you have no idea what the main message was), and ranted and supped with the best Calvinists rallying the Five Points of Calvinism (the doctrines of predestination). And then, later in life when I plunged into great despair that resulted in my spiritual life spiraling out of control, I spent many a day dazed and confused over this thing we call religion (seeing how I had such varied doses of it). With much prayer and support, I recovered from my spiritual disarray and found a spiritual home where my faith thrives and explores- it has the freedom to experience God in new ways as well as discovering God in surprising and unexpected times.

It is both through my own experiences and how I interpret the working of the Spirit that have shaped my wrestling with religion and faith- I, whether this is a good thing or not, have come to terms that my faith is separate from my religion. It should come as no surprise then when reading my posts, you may find a rant or two about the evils of religion (or, those beliefs one must adhere to in order to be 'considered a christian' by those who invent or interpret the rules). Honestly, religion can have its place, and its best place is helping people understand the work of God- its worst place, is when it only permits participation in ways its leaders deem appropriate.

Anyways, all that aside, my friend is exploring faith as it is interpreted by others who are exploring what religion means to them. He is also digging deeper into his own spirituality to find its meat. He is on an interesting faith journey, one that will turn out all right- and his journey will be filled with analysis, self-inspection, much discernment and a spirit-led pursuit. Pray for him that he might find the journey that blesses his soul- and that wherever he goes, God will precede him on his journey (making the way smoother and enlightening as he goes).

After all, it is God's promise to us that what God has begun in us, God will complete- regardless of where our journeys take us.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

This explains everything!
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Friday, July 09, 2004

"What's up?"

I remember in highschool how my friends and I would greet each other in the halls. We would say something like, "What's up?" or, "How's it hangin', dude?" We didn't really expect to get the lowdown on how either of us was "really feeling", only, it was a way to say hello.

Now, in my adulthood, I find that my friends often say, "Hey, what's up?" or, "How's life treating you?". I've learned that greetings rarely change. However, once in awhile, I find a friend or they find me and ask with genuine interest, "How you are doing?" It is with these special friends that I and they, have the permission to really sit down and share our lives with one another. Thomas Merton has this really great quote, which is written out below, that speaks to these conversations. His words take such intimate conversations deeper and encourage us to ask those really insightful and meaningful questions of those we call our truest friends.

Thomas Merton

If you want to identify me,
ask me not where I live,
or what I like to eat, or
how I comb my hair;
but ask me what I am living for,
in detail, and ask me
what I think is keeping me
from living fully for
the thing I want to live for.

Gotta love them vacations

Okay, so I thought I would've written more on my blog during my vacation than just that one post about getting into first class on my flight. As it turned out, my vacation was one heck of a rest and relaxation experience.

Here are the things I did on my vacation: got up late, ate brunch, hung out with my family, napped, ate, watched cable tv, went dancing, stopped off at Dunkin Donuts to bring home a dozen donuts for breakfast the next day (they make these really tastey and heavy donuts, nothing like they serve here in NYC), and then went to bed. Repeat. Of the times I varied from this schedule, I: drank Margaritas pool side (at my brother's house), played golf, visited with old friends.

My family is doing quite well. Mom is looking and feeling good, Sig is enjoying himself, my eldest brother and his family are doing well (although he did have a brief health scare on the evening of my return flight). My middle brother, well.. he is up to his old tricks again, which, as it turns, is a really bad thing. However, that is normal for him- so.. I guess things are the same for everyone.

One of the jewels in my vacation crown was the golf outing with an old friend (and his wife who kicks butt on the golf course). We both played pretty well (although he did beat the stuffing out of me), it was fun to laugh (or not have to laugh, depending on where you were sitting), swing, and get reaquainted. Thanks Paul for a great time (he reads my blog from time to time)!

The bad thing about my vacation is that it ended too soon. And, I won't be able to have another vacation until the Fall. However, that said, my vacation couldn't've been any better.

Upon returning to New York City, I feel refreshed and ready to begin again with all the fun and serious responsibilities that have waited for me. I think I'll put off some of those serious things until I get the "donut binges" out of my system- Lord only knows how that kind of withdraw can affect one's ability to get much accomplished. :)

Sunday, July 04, 2004

First Class, Woo-hoo!

I finally did it- I was upgraded to First Class! Wowsers, it was an amazing experience. I got some great food, wine before and after each meal, and plenty of leg room. I'd never flown first class before and now, I want to fly it every time.

What made the trip even better was this guy who was seated next to me. Sitting down, we both noticed we carried a "spit cup" on board, and grinning from ear to ear, we both felt we'd met a kindred spirit in each other. (Isn't it amazing what smokeless tobacco can do to unite strangers?) heh heh

We sat down and began talking. We learned that we both went to the same college, knew some of the same friends, both were church guys- it was a facinating experience that revealed to us how small the world really is.

I am a big fan of being open to the movement of the Spirit- and realizing that God often connects us with other people in surprising and unexpected ways. But a person really must remain open to the movement of God for this to happen. In some ways, it is like a HotSpot at a local coffee shop- the Spirit is always on, it is up to us to get connected. Through prayer and recognizing ways in which the Spirit connects us, we find this really amazing network that God keeps up and running. By seeing God at work around me and being attentive to the Spirit, I met a new friend. Together, we talked and shared our faith; and I was enriched by his.

Who'd've thought that on a first class flight to Oklahoma, I would connect with the Spirit and meet a new friend along the way. Daaaaaaaaaaang, this is just another reason I loved my flight. Pretty cool, eh?