21 December 2008

Just a thought...

I was thinking about Cosby's question to me about what I thought about the difference between 3rd world and Western christianity. (Cos, I have been thinking about it a lot.) It got me started thinking about baseball.

I use to love baseball. I was 8 years old and I started watching baseball with my father who was a SF Giants fan. They were playing the Dodgers, who just moved to Los Angeles. Sandy Koufax was pitching and I was hooked on LA. Very low key game but there something about baseball that I loved. It seemed an everyman sport. Black and white television didn't show the beauty of the Candlestick park nor the uniforms. But a few years later, watching my first game in Candlestick was incredible. LA vs SF, a double header. Koufax vs Juan Marichal and Don Drysdale vs Billy O'Dell. I saw Maury Wills, Johnny Roseboro, Frank Howard, Willie and Tommy Davis, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepada, the Alous, Jose Pagan, and I was in awe. Maury Wills stole 3 bases. I walked down to the Dodger dugout and got Maury's autograph before I got run out of there by the guy who was selling CrackerJacks. I wanted to be, Maury Wills, a base stealer. I studied him and memorized his stats. (Later, I met a woman who was married to Maury's son.)

I bought baseball cards which came with a free piece of chewing gum. I studied them, I looked at the pictures every weekend and evening. Even in the off season, I thought about baseball. I played in the street with a bat that I had and a ball that my neighbor had. We all had gloves. We made up games like Indian Baseball, three flys up, and others. It was very organic.

I played little league a couple of years later. We played at the K-8th school down the street. The teams had matching t-shirts with the sponsor's name on the front. Ours was the little grocery store down the road. A few years later we got full uniforms and they built a stadium, it even had a concession stand, where they sold hot dogs, seeds, soda pop, snow cones, Wrigley's gum, and not much more. They put in lights so we could play at night. It was pretty cool. I was selected to play in the All-Star team my last two years. It started turning into a big deal. It was then that I saw that the game was beginning to change. It started to become more about the stadium than the game and a pocket full of sunflower seeds.

I saw Roger Maris hit his 61st home run on television! But I wasn't impressed with Mark McGuire or Barry Bonds beating the record, so pumped up on steroids, they looked like the scientifically altered guys that Rocky Balboa fought against from Russia or Nazi Germany. Big deal!

There is an intrinsic power and authority in baseball when it is left to the purity of the game. There is a naked truth when it is played in vacant lots or in the streets with the kids from the neighborhood. It is easy to replace the game with the buildings, statistics, professionalism. When the game becomes an event it loses the power.

I think 3rd world christianity is still about Christ and not about church buildings. I was at a service once when the electricity went out. It was a morning and sun was shining but we didn't know what to sing because the projector didn't work, the band was out of business, and the microphone didn't work. Finally someone sat at the old piano and started playing, They will know we are Christians by our love.

I got an email a while back from someone who asked why I don't like the church (I have gotten a few) and I replied that it isn't the church I am against, it is people who are more interested in that which powers the building than that which powers our soul...

01 December 2008

It doesn't matter how you voted...

...it is still an amazing thing.

South Africa elected Mandela which was incredible, this is significant.

13 November 2008

Liturgy

I have been at a retreat at Lake Tahoe and am realizing what is missing in my soul is liturgy that reminds me of the majesty, power, love of God. Not empty words and form but life giving truth from scripture as told through story and verse. Being led in song and responsive reading engages my mind, heart, and soul. The thought that goes into the planning and design brings inspiration to me. I have the kyrie ringing in my soul throughout the night and following morning.

I think I am going to start writing liturgies.

01 November 2008

I think this is it...

I am not sure I want to do this anymore. I think I have said everything I need to say. I don't think it is making any difference except irritating some people, of which I seem to have done much. I

I don't trust anymore in the church-institution as it now stands but I believe in the followers of Jesus who are seriously following the way, truth, and life of Christ as written about in the Holy Scriptures as well as by the counsel given to them by the spirit of God. I don't believe that is the best we can do. I think it has become ineffective and full of itself. It is not attractive anymore because it doesn't believe and contain the power, mystery, and wonder of the living God who redeems lives and offers hope. It seems more interested in knowing academically more that experiencing more. Entertaining than releasing, consuming than feeding, judging than releasing. I don't trust the academic institutions which know what happened last century but isn't equipping for the next century.

I am aware of a new work that is beginning to reach out, set free, use their building for ministry 7 days a week instead of just Sunday and a few nights out of the week. I am excited to see old building saved from the wrecking ball downtown and retrofitted to meet other churches needs than just the one who paid for it. Churches who are leaving the denominations because they are tired of arguments of redefining the gospel instead living it out. People who are meeting in house churches and are taking their faith seriously and giving to individuals in mission, or beginning missions themselves in the neighborhood around their homes. Some are leaving their medical jobs to be parish nurses through a neighborhood church or clinic. People leaving older ministries and churches to start new missions that reach out to the kids that the churches have kept out of their buildings.

Ministries are beginning that deal with everyday issues that people have, such as tutoring reading and math, instead of just an "evangelistic message" of how they will be after they die. One friend is creating microloans for people who are trying to start a family owned business from their home or trucks. Some have started small bakeries which begin to employ a few others in the neighborhood.

I believe in that church, not the former...

(ok, boys it is your turn)

05 September 2008

The community organizer, the hero, the old party guard, and the mom...

Well, I was afraid that this was going to be a boring election and as I said yesterday, a fresh wind blew into the arena. Some thought that I was supporting Governor Palin was endorsing her. I was not, I was excited to see that there are debates going to happen that will be fun. They have not been. Old politics seem to be the continued soup d' jour. The easiest thing is to put the opponent down instead of encourage the party to be more than they have been in the past.

CMD, I believe that this country needs to be changed, community by community, and that it cannot be done by one guy or woman in DC. Change happens on street corners, PTA and AA meetings, with conversations on garden swings, phone calls of accountability, Tuesday night prayer sessions, lunch meetings at the taqueria, around the dinner table, in the fields at harvest time, in Research and Development laboratories, not in DC and not on the convention floor.

I am not offended by speeches that put down community organizers, heroes, mothers, or party hacks, that is part of the show. I am greatly offended by rhetoric that is the same old tripe year in and year out as we put our hopes in one person to lead us to the promise land. These are the same speeches that I have heard many times since I started watching them in 1968. Reality cannot not be in a convention center or in a speech on TV, all of that got changed when debates started being televised and it was more important what people looked and sounded like than their character and actions. The money and time that was spent on those two events could have done a lot more good in the streets than on the stages.

Palin, Obama, McCain, Biden's real character is seen by their children and not when a camera is around. It is just a show. Would people really say those things if there wasn't a camera around. Can leaders really say those things about a mom with children who are dealing with the same thing that happens in each of our homes and neighborhoods? Can someone really say those things about a man who worked to bring about real change in community or spent years in a ?

I love speeches, but they are no different than television or radio shows unless there is action to follow. Both Clintons gave great speeches, that gave the impression that they are in 100% support for Obama when just the previous few weeks they were opposed to him. They talked about his lack of experience and said the same thing that Palin said but now that the party must be seen as united they say these things. And people believe them.

Even though I love these conventions, I don't put any hope in them. My hope is not in the olympics either, even though China did an incredible job hosting this one. Russia marches into Georgia, Darfur is an atrocity, AIDs as well as malaria is still taking too many lives each day, and too little is said or done. Rwanda is spoke of by politicians as as an ebenezer of inaction yet the same thing continues in many parts of the world.

Sometimes I think that Obama and Palin would do more as community organizers, but then are we suppose to be doing that?

03 September 2008

01 September 2008

Labor Day...


I was studying Genesis this past year and spoke on it during the summer and one of the things that caught my attention was the curse on Adam.

Genesis 3:17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."


I thought, "Is that really the curse for Adam? Is that curse still relevant today? Is there an emergent curse? One that deals with us, white, middle income, males, who sit behind a desk, works with computers instead of farm implements, and who buys their groceries at Von's or the Piggly Wiggly? We have overrode the curse with technology and hired out the labor to laborers."

Then I started thinking of the Kingdom and who is blessed in the Garden. Those who work in the Garden. Not by profession but by heart and soul. It is easy to override the curse but that doesn't give us the blessing. Just because we don't sweat in the toil for our food doesn't mean that we find ourselves blessed in the living of our lives.

We have transferred the curse and the humiliation to those who toil in the fields and sweat for the food which we eat in our air conditioned homes. We treat them with contempt when they want a better standard of living for their families by asking for a fairer wage. Farmers are not the villains here, we are all.

We cannot use scripture to demand our family values are held by government but turn our backs on the people who labor for our food, when those same scriptures call us to love justice and mercy. We who follow Christ cannot be blind towards those who the curse is cast upon and expect that we can keep our family values intact. Are the laborers without family values? Are the laborers not worthy of the redemption to the garden and isn't the Garden where we find our values?

I think Labor Day is for us to remember the laborer and not just another day off from work...

24 August 2008

Redemption...

I am sorry that I haven't written for a while but... I didn't want to.

Now I do.

I have been thinking about what the church is about and what it hasn't been about. Redemption and worship.

The place that Jesus calls us to is redemption. The place that God, the creator calls us to is worship. And the Spirit leads us in both.

When the worship service is about self gratification and the kind of entertainment it has been about for the past 100 or more years it loses it depth. When what we do is reinforce the position and place of the institution and not the restore 'least of these' to their place in the Kingdom, we lose its heart.

"OK Tony, that is enough of the putting down of the church blogs! Can't you write about anything else?"

No, because that is what I do. You can go to any other blog on Blogger and find some better blogs, smarter blogs, historical blogs, prettier blogs, more porn blogs, etc...

This one is what I have been thinking about all summer. For what are we created? Genesis 2:15 says, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Place and purpose. That what we are about, place and purpose. In relationship, we are placed in a place to do God's purpose. Worship. Redemption.

That what the garden work is about. Working to keep its God purpose of life and restoring, or redeeming it, to continually bring people back into the place and purpose of the garden. It is more than being green..

Ok, but where does the church entertain? In its format. When the local church look to calls a pastor, they ask for his/her sermon tapes, look at the size of the church, go to the service. If they like the pastor, they call him/her. If they don't, on to the next. We look at the theology, style, haircut, robe, etc. John the Baptist would never make it today. Camel hair clothes? A diet of locust and honey? We are not inviting his wife to the potluck, that is for sure! But yet people came to see him to be redeemed. Is there a RQ (Redemption Quotient)? Not a saved quotient but a move from outside the relationship with God to a walking relationship? I like how Genesis 3 tells of the walks with God in the "cool of the day..." I see so many pictures in my mind of walking with God in conversation. It starts with wonder. We get the heart of the message as well as the message in those walks. More than just theme for the summer, but the focus of the day... of the life. This is greater that just a good theology, or academic understanding of God, but a deep intimacy. Intimacy fulfills the heart much more than entertainment. Entertainment takes up space, intimacy occupies the space. There is worship in intimacy, focus on the love of your life, soul, and heart.

Understanding the correlation between worship and redemption is huge. The Savior becomes a heart name more than just a lyric. When one is brought back into relationship with the Creator through the actions of the Savior, our heart is continually thankful, focused, unified. My dad's friend had an heart operation by a very skilled surgeon and it saved his life. In the conversation that I overheard as a child this man went on and on about this surgeon and how much he owed him everything. Is this how I feel about Jesus? I owe him everything? Or do I put my criteria on how I want to worship Him instead of lavishing my affections, trust, etc on Him.

This was a stream of consciousness and not a teaching...

01 August 2008

My dear friend

We lost a dear friend tonight, Bill Paup. Thank you for sharing your life with us...

31 July 2008

Towb

Genesis 1:1-5 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

If you have been with me for any length of time you know that one of my favorite Hebrew words is towb. The word in Hebrew text is pictured above. The word is God saw that the light was GOOD. I have been thinking all year about that line, "what makes it towb? And I came up with it is towb, not because God said it and that makes it good but because it was that which God had intended the outcome to be. Something isn't good because it isn't bad, it is good because it follows the way of God.

I have been thinking about what I have been about and wondering if it has been towb. Am I doing not just the right things but the towb things?

17 July 2008

The road...

I was looking in my mirror this morning and I saw a lot more gray and a lot more tan. The gray was in my hair and beard and the tan was on the top of my head where their is no gray or hair.

I went out to my office which overlooks the road down the middle of camp and saw a number of staffers who were Sherwood campers (4th - 6th graders), not so long ago. I then began to ponder how many people have come through this place in the last 16 years since I have been here and began to miss them very much. Some of these people have been very significant to the philosophy of ministry here. I still talk to some of them and type to others. Others I run into periodically as they drop off their beautiful sons and daughters for their week of camp (some are coming to their second year of highschool camp, for mercy sake!)

I am having conversations with people who are now on staff who are about ready to jump into their careers and leave us. I am happy for them but I begin to feel the pains begin again. I am excited for them and wonder how many people have left this place that I haven't seen since - and begin to miss them already. I remember being a teacher and feeling the same thing.

Each of us have been given time and space from God and I am very honored that I get to be a part, no matter how much, of many people's and cannot not feel sad but honored. And can see how they have influenced my space as they spent time with me...

05 July 2008

Germs, the new killer of redemption...

I wonder if those of us who live in relative easy lives really understand the redemptive message of the Good New of redemption in Christ Jesus. Not that it is really complicated, but that it is in relationship to people who are living outside of an intimacy with God.

I bought the assurance policy back in 1974, April 19. I was headed to heaven because of a free gift from God through the Beloved Son, Jesus the Nazarene. I had done that a couple of times in elementary and Junior high but this was different, I was going to heaven when I die. Guaranteed. I was a drug addict, set free and needed to tell others that they could be set free and go to heaven, because Jesus washes us white as snow. Some told me that I could fall away, be aware; others said I would never lose my ticket to heaven, be assured. This was perplexing. I found out it depended on which church I went to as to whether or not once saved - always saved.

I saw grace, the Gift of Redemption At Christ’s Expense, when people got saved but I never saw much difference in the world around them. Some went on to seminary, and came back with a different assurance and others became parents and elders, business owners and workers, teachers and educators, a lot of Starbucks associates, and a variety of other placements.

I didn’t see the peace that passes understanding, then I thought I guess I will see that in heaven. The same with justice, equity, risk, courage, passion, greater love... heaven must be a wonderful place. No war, no injustice, no worrying about cholesterol or salt, spiritual bodies with great metabolism, and no need for eye glasses.

But I got hopeful when I read that Jesus told the disciples to tell people that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. He went on to say that when the Spirit of God comes, greater things will you do. The Kingdom is now and the power of Spirit is given to us? Wow! Some told me it was but it was only a short dispensation and now we are just left with the stories of heroes and mystery. The spirit retired after its stint with the apostles who died on fire, on crosses and on islands. "Today we have truth."

I asked about why there are so many denominations and splits from denominations to create new denominations, that split to create new denominations, that split... And they said that they are arguing over the interpretation of the Truth. Many told me they are concerned with this generation because they don’t believe in absolutes anymore. Huh, I wonder if they are just tired of the “splitting interpretations” and are looking for the Truth outside of the community who think they really have found the truth as long as it has a beat you can dance to.

I wonder if there is any correlation with the lack of courage and the rise of pornography addiction. Not that pornography has stolen courage, but we have protected our children so much that they are afraid to risk let alone leave home without their bottle of Purell antibacterial hand cleaner. I am seeing teenage boys with a packet of handiwipes in their wallets incase they get lucky and touch something that just might not be 100% free of germs and bacteria, living dangerously. So when germs are more of a concern than courage I can see why we are in such deep hoisen sauce.

How do we raise up courageous people who aren't more afraid of what they will catch on the airplane ride over than the place they will be loving people in? How can we redeem when we live in such a worry and care over microscopic germs and bacteria yet never seeing the world wide tragedy in the neighborhood around us. Redeeming the curse is a life with high risk and great boldness. Courage in spite of fear or panic is needed to bring redemption to those who don't have any money to buy handiwipes...

21 June 2008

A new thang...

I am starting to put my thoughts about camping on a blog other than this one. If you are interested, you can check it out at by clicking here.

17 June 2008

An open letter...

Dear Penny,

You have been asking what is God doing with us and I have been putting it off for a couple of reasons. First, I am not sure that it is the Creator or me and second, I do not want to speak for anyone else but I can try to give you my perspective.

My heart is tired of being disappointed by leadership so I might have a bit of a chip on my shoulder and I am trying not to let that influence what I think God is saying. I am also very conflicted about what I think God is doing in the US, in California, in a little town called Oakhurst, and in a fat, bald guy who is at a camp, VERSUS what I see going on with many in the world who are suffering terribly. So when I compare that our number of campers are small, gas is at an all time high and rising, I am gaining weight, etc. I have to weigh that against what is going on to many, many in the world who are starving, malnourished, drinking polluted water, government troops are killing many, if they aren't rebel troops are and many flee their homes and leave behind family and friends who may be dead or missing. It seems that my inconvenience is being perceived as life threatening, which it is not by any stretch of the imagination.

But what I am hearing God say to me is about me returning to the first love, relight the fire, only this time with truth and not emotions. Allow the truth to set me free instead of being on the rollercoaster of feelings and conflicts. I asked what does that mean, to relight the fire of truth and I was led to study Genesis and begin there. I began to ask myself, do I believe what it says in just the first verse, that God created the heavens and the earth? I think I do but then I am asking what would my life look like if I truly believe that it is about what God had intended rather than what I want it to be.

Do I give things time for the Spirit of God to hover over and begin to see things in the spirit as well as in the rational mind? It is hard to wait for the Spirit to finish hovering before I take over and rationally get 'er done. I pray for God's blessing instead of waiting for instruction. When God begins to speak am I listening for The Voice or listening to fear's loud voice?

Do I watch with eyes of the Craftsman who sees that it is good-measuring against the intention? Do I let The Voice define what is good or am I more concerned about people with influence and intimidation or do I play it safe so I don't lose my job or standing in the community? I know this should be how we do everything but I have a sense that I need to go back and check the foundation before I concern myself with the ascetics of how it looks.

I tend to follow cultural shifts instead of being a steward of that which God has give me responsibility. I can be concerned with the environment if it is prudent or I can be responsible because I called to be a steward. I tend to get wrapped up in being caring about the poor and oppressed because there are some cool graphics or bracelets instead of hear God say that "...it is not good for man to be alone..." and that I become a friend to those who do not have one while being a steward of the Kingdom.

I have been given instructions and freedom to choose what I consume from a bounty of trees in the garden, yet I end up eyeing and rationalizing my way into a stomach full of consequences of a life that is outside of the beautiful place that God created for me. I tend to then complain that a loving God wouldn't give me the consequence of my choices instead of taking full responsibility and then looking to pay for my choice. My choices are what I think is best for me aside from what The Creator planned for me. It wasn't the fruit that caused my eyes to be open it was looking to places that weren't intended for me to gaze. I became intimate with the outsider, and ended up moving into his neighborhood.

I think what God is telling me and showing me is really what is going on in my life...

Hope this makes sense.

10 June 2008

The shirt...

No controversy, you say? Then you have never read Genesis 1-3. This makes the Revolution into a tea party.

01 June 2008

I still remember...

When I was in eighth grade, my teacher, Mr. Stone, gave us an assignment as part of our U.S. government curriculum, to research those men (there were not any women running for President in 1968) who are the candidates with who we most identify. There were many who were running that year:
Democrates:
Roger D. Branigin, Governor of Indiana
John G. Crommelin, retired US Navy Admiral from Alabama
Paul C. Fisher, businessman and candidate for the 1960 nomination from Pennsylvania
Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice President of the United States and former senator and candidate for the 1952 and 1960 nominations from Minnesota
Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. senator from New York and former Attorney General
Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States from Texas
Thomas C. Lynch, Attorney General of California
Eugene J. McCarthy, U.S. senator from Minnesota
George S. McGovern, U.S. senator from South Dakota
Daniel K. Moore, Governor of North Carolina
George A. Smathers, U.S. senator and candidate for the 1960 nomination from Florida
Stephen M. Young, U.S. senator from Ohio

Republicans:

Frank Carlson, U.S. senator from Kansas
Clifford P. Case, U.S. senator from New Jersey
Hiram L. Fong, U.S. senator from Hawaii
John V. Lindsay, Mayor of New York City
Richard M. Nixon, former Vice President and 1960 presidential nominee from California
Ronald W. Reagan, Governor of California
James A. Rhodes, Governor of Ohio and candidate for the 1964 nomination
Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor of New York and candidate for the 1960 and 1964 nominations
Winthrop A. Rockefeller, Governor of Arkansas
George W. Romney, Governor of Michigan and candidate 1964 nomination
Harold E. Stassen, former Governor of Minnesota and candidate for the 1944, 1948, 1952 and 1964 nominations
John A. Volpe, Governor of Massachusetts
William C. Westmoreland, US Army General and Commander of US Forces in South Vietnam from South Carolina

I chose Robert Kennedy. I was fascinated by JFK, I remembered coming home from school for lunch and seeing my mom in front of the television crying and heard that the president was assassinated. I had never heard that word before. It then became a very common word throughout my life. JFK, RFK, & MLK.

Robert Kennedy seemed to bring those without voice into the light. Farm workers, rural poor, urban poor, etc. He brought to the forefront that the USA has been a strong nation for those in other countries and now we should do the same for those who live here. I lived in farm country and many of my friends were children of farm workers as well as farmers. I knew the people he was talking about. The very day and hour Dr. King was shot, Robert Kennedy gave an eloquent speech to the african-american people of Indianapolis, Indiana. He was speaking in the very poor section of the city and many told him not to go in there, not tonight. Here is what he said:

Ladies and Gentlemen - I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because...

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.

For those of you who are black - considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible - you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization - black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.


(Interrupted by applause)

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love - a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

(Interrupted by applause)

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.
(Applause)


That was impressive, even for an eighth grader.

Robert Kennedy flew into Fresno and my father, an avid Nixon supporter, took me to see him speak. Even more impressive. Then on the night of the California primary, I couldn't stay up for the results of the elections, it was a school night, I asked my dad if he would tell me the results in the morning. He then woke me in the morning and told me the terrible news, "Robert Kennedy won, but was assassinated in Los Angeles after his victory speech."

I can still feel the fear, shock, dismay, lostness, and hopelessness of that moment...

My dear friend Spinner sent me this link: CLICK HERE

28 May 2008

We are in fairly typical May weather as we are getting some rain and some beautiful clouds hovering in the area. It really brings out the peace and beauty of the trees.

16 May 2008

Thoughts...

We are only here for a moment.
Times remembered, dreams hoped for.
Apples eaten, seeds planted for first fruit only the grandchildren to taste.
This is not the end, but we are a long way from the beginning.
All I have is today, so that tomorrow will be available for them.

New friends come, time enjoyed,
old friends leave, heart grown.
All we have is memories
for first fruits for the next.
_____



Stained shirts last longer than the taste,
smells linger, when lights turned off.
Darkness brings a light that endures,
the flash of time, all that love secures.
_____



The wave comes to the shore,
a new one forms farther out.
The ride diminishes,
the strength further pales.
_____



You have filled my life,
it cannot be taken.
My memories stirred,
my love not shaken.

I miss you my friend,
I knew it would change.
My life you have influenced,
my heart rearranged.

The phone does not do it,
an email leaves only a trace.
I miss the coffee,
I miss the embrace.

Travel well,
You left it strong.
The distance is annual,
the next memory, prolonged.
_____

14 May 2008

Ben and Jack


Ben and Jack
No Controversy, just pictures...

Since we're neighbors let's be friends...

It is clear that I am not communicating well. I am not against Denoms, I am calling for a deep, soulful, prayerful, look at what we are gathering together to do. What are the possibilities that can take place with a group of people who follow after Christ, believe in some of the same things, are in close proximity to each other, and have a building and means, to meet the needs of the people in the parishes around them? If we partnered with some other like-spirit groups, what could happen?

If you want to talk more about this, let's go out for a coffee and talk some more. I think I have typed enough...

13 May 2008

The Blue is up...

The glass being half full...

In the last series of posts and comments, I noticed something. There is a glass with only half the water in it. Several times I read, "That we live in a fallen world..." That is bad theology. And what is worse it is only half true. The keepers of the truth say we live in a fallen world are only giving half the message. It is the same message that when you die you will be saved and go to heaven. Period. It is not about now, but about later. The new earth and such. There is a lot shaped by that thinking. It is weak and very Dispensational. Do we think that Christ only died for the apostolic movement. The apostolic movement didn't stop in the first century AD, it continues today.

The disciples became the apostles when they were sent out, not when they were chosen. Hence the name, Apo stolons (which means sent on a mission) We who are sent and speaking of the good news that in spite of the fallen world, there is a redeemer who has overcome the world, we are the apostles. We hold the message of hope not "reality." It is not enough to say our institutions are fallen, it is that we are keepers and, hopefully, spreaders of hope. I am not down on institutions because they are fallen, I am trying to wake them up to the hope that they have. Yes, many do have and preach hope. Yes, many are, moving into areas of despair and bringing hope.

I have this vision of some presbyteries and churches: I am driving by a church with a marque out front and it says "vival tonight" on the sign and there are a few letters that have fallen and lay face down in the grass below. So I drive up and attend the Revival meeting but it isn't what I thought. I walk out to the marque and look down at the letters, pick them up and instead of seeing an 'R' and an 'E' I see an 'S', a 'U' and an...

11 May 2008

El nuevo emergente

This morning, Scott and Julie Henderson and I traveled to Corcoran a good hour and a half trip from home to attend a church (iglesia) with a group who will begin coming to camp this summer. The church's name was, Centro Cristiano Agua Viva.

I loved it!!! (¡¡Lo amé!!! )

Let me tell you why.

First, we were welcomed. Not just by the pastor but by everyone. First it was the pastor and the young woman who interpreted for us. I thought alright this is going to be great. Very kind and gracious people. We walked into the sanctuary (santuario) and then we met the congregation. People came up and greeted us with a handshake and a "God bless you."

Then, we began to worship (adoración) . Singing with such liveliness and loudly proclaiming his goodness, might, and love. "Glorias Dios" would be heard shouted out throughout the morning. We stood and sang for forty-five minutes. Clapping, singing, praying, and listening to the pastor direct our attention to the majesty. I don't need translation when someone is talking about God's majesty, it was on his face and in his heart.

Third, they translated the message for us. They could have spoken in their language but they included us in on the discussion. I heard their story, they shared it. It wasn't a closed group. Translating the story includes others.

I was reminded, by Pastor Ramon, what makes us unique is that we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the redeemer, Jesus Christ. It is more than just being christian, but true worshipers of God, through our relationship with Jesus.

Amen (Amén)

10 May 2008

An alternative...

In two of the key songs of this past year in hit movies were very simple tunes. The movies were low budget and filmed quickly and without special effects or any enhancements. Juno and Once were about story. About things that happen in real life. Sure there have been other stories but these were different. Moral choices were prevalent in both films. "Anyone Else But You" and "Falling Slowly" are very simple songs, almost nursery rhyme simple. And people love them.

I think it says something about this time and generation. It needs to be about story, simple and not complex. I think it needs to not be about words only but assimilation. Get people to be a part of the story quickly. Help them identify themselves with The Story. Instead of talking about sin, we need to begin to talk about life. Abundant life. It cannot be academic (and please don't react to that) but it needs to be learn-able. It needs to be about good news, in terms of hope, but it also needs to be about truth. We need to go back to Genesis and see the story without all the preconceived notions. It isn't about the argument whether it was six 24 hour days or evolution or young earth vs old earth. Let the story be told. It is a story about God and us. We need to take time in it.

I think we need to also reteach how to think. Some times we try to cram our square peg theology into lemniscate curve. It is important to have good theology, but good theology is not closed and tidy. There needs to be mystery and journey in it. A humility of seeing dimly helps to keep proper perspective. We have a bright group of young women and men on the horizon, but they don't have the same story that I grew up with. They aren't surrounded by a safe place to mention Jesus. Families are busy and it is about activities as much as it is about stuff. Not a lot of time to tell or hear stories.

Where do this generation learn the mechanics of community? Dinner table conversation is minimal. Learning how to listen and wait, reflect and consider, hearing and thinking through possibilities are often what is at that table. Moms and dads are busy, teens and children are over committed to music, sports, and studies. I was talking to a mom who said she is on the run from 2 until 7 getting her kids to and from places. Then get the kids fed, studies done and put to bed to wake up and get them off to school, pick them up and again, get them to their activities. Weekends are about travel sports, Sunday school is a moral activity. Just as soccer is a physical activity, and now they are equal in importance.

So where do they hear the story? Where do they understand and wrestle with the logos, ethos, and pathos of the stories of Old and New Testament? Where do they hear their father's or mother's testimony (story)? Where do they ask questions? How do they even learn to question? It is easy to teach theology, it is hard to have a theology. That takes relationship with God, so we need to be telling our stories.

This summer I am trying something different. We are telling the story of creation and trying to create places for questions so that the answers may have a place to nestle. We have tended to give answers when there wasn't questions asked. It takes more intelligence to ask questions than to teach answers. This isn't about a test next week, it is about living according to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Not by rules. Pavlov's dog learned quickly how to react to stimuli and consequence, but did it know how to create.

When I was in elementary school I asked the teacher why did I have to learn this arithmetic? He told me, "Next year you will be learning harder math that requires you to know this." "Yeah, but when will I..." "Sit down and do your work!" I checked out at that point, I needed to know the context of the information, not just the information. It needs to have a place in order for me to understand and participate in it.

Speakers are not going to teach or just download information but set up the conversations that will take place in small groups or cabin/church talks. They will be rattling the cage a bit, provoking people to think about where they get their ideas. A bit of the Socratic method to get them to delve a bit deeper than just regurgitate that which was given to them at some point in their lives.

I don't think it is about faith when you just have knowledge. It has to be applied to one's life. It has to affect the way that we walk. Like Jacob after the wrestling match, he became Israel. Faith is a bit of a dislocation or the hip, if you will.

08 May 2008

The round table at the pub...

Timbo, Al, and Tyler, and others,

I really enjoyed this this time together.

When I was growing up, my father and I would talk about politics at the dinner table and get into some pretty wonderfully intense conversations. I was working for the McGovern campaign and he was a stanch supporter for Nixon. He would let me take his Toyota Land Cruiser to school and let me put a McGovern sticker on the left side of the car and he'd put a Nixon sticker on the right side of the car.

The conversation at that table would get to the point where my dad is sticking his fork out at me, with a piece of ravioli hanging on the end, and in a loud voice that if McGovern gets elected there will be chaos, anarchy. He would tell me that this was a great nation and that we need men like Nixon, not McGovern. I don't remember what I said but I am sure it was nonsense. But then when dinner was over we would sit on the couch together and watch the 6 o'clock news.

I know that I am not very articulate and a bit passionate. I wish I could explain myself like my brother in law, Will Eisenhower or my dear friend, Scott Falk. I also wish that I could just fit in, go along with the crowd and not see what I see. I make Christel nervous when I talk but she would have me no other way. I love her for that, I am a lucky guy. I am rock solid that Christ is the only way to God.

I have much respect for Al, Timbo, and Tyler as well as others who don't always agree with me. I appreciate the fact that they would take the time to talk. I wish we could meet in a pub and sit around and share, argue, point our forks at each other, etc. Debate is healthy, differences produce a bigger picture and greater success.

Timbo, I must have hurt you and others by some of the words that I have said, for which I am deeply sorry. There have been a lot of emotions in me over the years and many things that I am just starting to realize and having to deal with. A few years back, I was the one left who knew anything from before. I was scared and worried as well as tired and depressed. I really did not mean to say anything derogatory about the good people who worked very hard to save CC and create a professional food service as well as support the program. I won't say much more other than we went through a lot which caused frustration and feelings that were producing much love.

I was really proud of what was going on in the past few years with CommonFIRE and the people who made it possible, Sean, Julie, Cos, Laura, Karolina, Janice, and others. We did not know how to do this "program" but we did something that we were proud of. I didn't do a good job of saying something good without sounding like no one did anything good before that. Timbo, I am sorry. Hope you will forgive me.

Tyler, You have had a huge impact in my relationship with Christ. I don't know if you remember the time I met with you at Peet's in Davis and we talked IVCF and about racial reconciliation and how it was really changing your heart and mind. I haven't forgotten that conversation and that had caused me to challenge my view of God and the children of God. Many things have taken place since then but that was the seed that started germinating my current heart. I don't think I ever told you that.

Al, I have known you too long to not really know you. Thank you for responding to Lara with hope and invitation. It was what you said that I am identifying with here, People don't care about denoms anymore they come to meet Jesus. We need to show them Jesus. So they could know they are the beloved.

Thanks for the conversation

06 May 2008

Maybe you're right...

I was driving home from work, when my phone rings. It is from a friend whom I haven't heard from in a long time. He was asking me why I pick on the church so much. He wanted to know if I still believed in Jesus. He asked if I was hurt by the church or what was it that was making me so angry. What did the church do to me that was so bad?

So I thought for a while, hmmm maybe I was wrong. I mean after all there are good things going on in the church each Sunday. People getting together, singing, hearing messages, no drinking or cussing, rarely is there nudity, people dressed up and looking nice. Children walking up to the front to listen to a story just designed for them. Choirs singing, ushers ushering, preachers preaching. What am I so upset about? This is good stuff. Parking lots are clean, people parking their cars and walking into a beautiful building. Mellow out, Tony. What is the problem, dude?

I then started thinking why am I so upset with people who go to seminary? I mean after all they are high achievers and very successful in a very stressful arena. It isn't easy to leave the real world and be couped up studying for 3 to 4 years and get a Masters in Theology. Then to go on and get a Doctorate. I am not sure what a doctorate is but many are getting them. My brother in law and father in law both have Ph.Ds. I am not sure why they didn't get a doctorate.

The phone call really shook me up. A Shakabuku of sorts, a swift, spiritual kick to the head that altered my reality forever.

There is nothing dangerous here! Why don't I keep my mouth shut and just go along with the program. Someone once told me that I look at the glass as half empty and they prefer to see the glass as half full. I should begin to appreciate that the glass is not chipped or that the water is not polluted, or has teeth in it. Yeah, that is what I will do, go along...

Then I woke up.

05 May 2008

Denominations... (Sorry Cory, this may be a long one.)

Boy, did you miss the point.

You assume that I am against denominations, I am not. I am for people who are passionate about the living God who is at work today. Yes and many denominational churches are involved in wonderful, dynamic ministries to the poor, oppressed, outcast, disenfranchised, etc. Many have food pantries, clothe closets, soup kitchens, etc. for people in their parish. Many go to city hall and represent those who have no voice in their parish.

I am working with some presbyterian missions who support a cooperative who are making our t-shirts this year. Not American Apparel but the women's sewing cooperative in Nicaragua. I heard about them at a presbyterian conference of other camps throughout the country. They gave out free chocolates to tell us about free trade and entrepreneurial cooperatives in South America. The dark chocolates were my favorite.

Denominations have a shelf life, God does not. That is not a negative statement towards denominations it is just true. We are near the expiration date now. Not that it is time for them to go, they are diminishing quickly. We see a constant drop in the numbers in the PCUSA and I hear it is in many other denoms as well.

But I have a question. Can anyone tell me what the value of a denomination is today? Is it the meeting once a quarter of pastors and elders? (Then why do so many pastors miss them?) Is it a common set of beliefs held by brothers and sisters who support one another? (Which ones constitute forming a denom?) Is it a fund raising mechanism for missions? (Then why are they closing missions and camps?) Can it be replaced? What happens to the churches in the denomination if the denoms no longer has power and authority on decisions made at the local level? What holds them together?

How can a "church" leave the denomination and a lawsuit erupts as to who owns the building? Are we talking about people owning the building or an institution? If presbyterian people within a church, form an independant corporation and decides to buy the property next door and build a multipurpose building, does the denomination own that or do the people who go to church there own that? What is the difference? Is the denomination people or someone out of district who is hired to own buildings, property, and pensions, but they never step foot on the property, never seen the building, never knew the person who is investing a portion of their paychecks in their future. If a church leaves their other denom and brings the church to the PCUSA and after 30 years decide to leave the PCUSA, who owns the building? Is the building denomination or is the people who are still attending the church? If it is the people how can they leave themselves?

Regarding doctrine... Are you saying that the Ku Klux Klan do not have a doctrine that is central? Are you saying that those who have developed deep ways of thinking of seeing people as unhuman or are not children of God, do not have doctrine? Of course they do. These people have doctrines. The Crusades was started with doctrines. Those in the south who were against Martin Luther King, had doctrines. These were church folks, my friends. The liberals who marched with MLK also had doctrines. Today we don't think of those people as liberal, but they were shunned by most white churches. César Chávez caused a lot of issues in the white churches. When the Mennonites supported him and the union, many MB churches left the denomination. In the SJ valley, many presbyterian churches were against what he was trying to do. It is hard to have farmers in your congregations and support farm laborer becoming unionized. (I think I just made the farmers mad.)

I am saying that those who follow doctrines more than scriptures can be very dangerous indeed. It is not having doctrine that is the problem, it is holding tighter to those than on to a God who transforms the heart and mind. Are we open to have our doctrines change? I had a friend who was so TULIPized that when it came to a woman with demonic harassment he could care less, because she was not saved. She was not called. There is an arrogance in some who have their tidy doctrines. There are some who go to seminary, Bible college, christian liberal arts universities, etc. who feel that they have studied and have the right doctrine because they were taught it by professors, who were taught theirs by professors, who were taught theirs by professors, who were taught theirs by professors, whoo...

I am not talking about people who are continually looking into the Scriptures, listening to the Spirit of God, in fellowship with like-hearted and minded people, who are working out there salvation with humility and awe. We all have doctrines. I have a doctrine of what makes a great calzone, which route is the fastest to San Luis Obispo, where to sit in the sanctuary, etc. I have a set of doctrines on my brothers and sisters who work in fast food and how they should be treated, how the Jesus speaks to me and others, the work of the Holy Spirit, the work of the cross, and the creation of the heaven and earth. But I would not go to war with my brother and sister over them. (That is a doctrine, isn't it?)

Are you open to a lot bigger God who is unfathomable fully, (we see through a glass dimly, don't we.) Or do you stick with what you know and are content there?

Actually, what you said about Calvin Crest is totally wrong. People who had a dream started Calvin Crest. Good men and women who gave up much of their time, moneys and talents started Calvin Crest. The denomination gave up a couple of times, but not George Crichton, Luke Fritz, R. D. LyonWilliam Eisenhower, and others who searched for a place where they could get away and teach, worship, play, and have fun in creation. Sandy Brown can tell you the whole history but I would not say that the denomination started Calvin Crest, individual people did.

And actually, we get less than 6% of our budget from presbyteries and churches. Those who come to camp: students in schools, guests groups, businesses, people who go to church presbyterian and other denoms as well as non-denoms, make up a great percentage of our budget and pay my salary. Individuals who still believe in the ministry also contribute a major portion as well. If I started teaching some of the things that our denom has published in the past few years, I would be asked to leave and people would not be coming.

Does the denom pay your salary or do the people in the pews who decide each week to come back to church where you serve give you your salary each month? If the people left the church, would Louisville take over and start paying your salary? We forget that it is people who do things not institutions. Institutions maintain institutions.

Feel free to tell me what the denomination is about today. Sell it. Here is an open forum.

03 May 2008

A bit of an apology... kind of.

I am sorry that I do not write more. Some have told me they appreciate my writing, pictures of Ben and Jack, etc. I am in the midst of a lot of thinking about somethings that are better not published until thought through more. I don't want to be a heretic but I also don't want to continue on in the same old same old as before.

There is reformation in the air. Because the other reformation has become as corrupt and callous as the reason for it in the first place. It is not time to go back to the original reformation but to the Source of all that is good, pure, honorable, true, lovely, excellent, and praise worthy to see what it is the Creator is doing today than look backwards to the past other than to recognize the same Voice and Sacred Heart.

Denominations were started out of a group of people who huddled together in solidarity through persecution and exile as well as seeking what it was that God was doing in a time when others were not necessarily doing that. These sects were set apart for a purpose not an institution. The purpose has been lost because it had been accomplished. Scripture was central, today doctrine is. Doctrine and theology has become central or solé while Scripture and Spirit has become suspect. Those who's doctrine was central cause apartheid. Those who's doctrine was central fought to continue slavery. Those who's doctrine are central perpetuate hunger, segregation, racism, sexism, and war. We mold God into our doctrine instead of finding wonder and awe in a dynamic Creator. We drive past the poor to argue doctrine. We spend time studying that which will win an argument without spending time with those who are meek.

I am not sure that I have much to say right now...

27 April 2008

Choir...

The singing was incredible. Women who were raised in the church, knew the hymns, remembered the harmonies, lifting their voices in praise like a choir of angels.

Except one.

She was out of tune, off rhythm, not blended, and clashing against the three part harmonies of the others. She sang at full volume. On Friday night when we first started singing, women kept turning around to see who was it that was singing so out of tune and causing the harmony to dissonant. All except the women at her table. They all drove together. She was a part of their body. It wasn't that they didn't hear her or care if it sounded good, they knew her and knew she was singing her part... and yes, out of tune.

Each time we gathered to worship and sing, There was this one singing in the midst of such harmony. I started thinking, it sure would be nice to hear the women without her so that I could enjoy the beauty. It became about the music and not the worship for me.

In the afternoon, from 1:30p to 5:00p, we had freetime for the women, when we opened the boats, had crafts, food demonstrations, hikes, games, and the giant swing for them to do. Near the end of the afternoon, the woman who was the off key singer decided to give the giant swing a shot. The giant swing is about 34 feet in a tree that you have to climb, using the "staples", which are about 4" wide and sticking out of the tree 3" or so, which makes it pretty hard to climb, especially for a first tryer.

After putting on her harness and standing in line for 30 minutes or so, it was her turn. "On belay!" "Climb on!" She started out climbing the 7' rope ladder and had a hard time doing that, but was encouraged by those around her and the staff. The people who had her on belay where helping her by pulling her a bit on the rope to get her up instead of stuck. It was very hard for her to muster the strength but she did not back down. She was asked a couple of times if she wanted to come down, but she refused.

30 minutes pass, then 45. More women started lining up waiting for their turn. We could see the encouragement turn from support to frustration. Then one woman angrily said what many were thinking "Why don't you just bring her down so the rest of us could get our turns in before it is time for dinner." It is hard to hear out loud what we are thinking in our hearts.

The staff asked her if she wanted to quit, she said no and they continued. One of the staff told the woman who spoke out, that we are here to support her make it through her fear just as we would anyone else. Which just frustrated the woman even more. Responding in love is not what is wanted when we deal with the flesh. Compliance is sought. Sure pull her down. Humiliate her. End our discomfort and satisfy our desires, so we can go on to the next desire. Been there, done that, need the next thing to consume. Damn the people, full speed ahead!

When dinner came I was told of the story by the staff who got chewed up a bit and usually I would have been uneasy that we didn't accommodate the woman who was impatient because she paid as much as the other woman and should have gotten her turn without feeling put out... But then a peace came over me in a different way than ever before. And it became about ministry not accommodation. The woman who was frustrated experienced the love of Jesus through our staff for the woman on the swing. She saw people who were loving and patient (and were probably as frustrated as the inpatient woman but found love for the woman for whom they were responsible). Love confronted her impatience and those around her, and isn't that why we have Christian retreats.

Are Christian retreats and conferences about accommodations or spiritual transformation into the image of Jesus Christ?

During worship that night the singing was sweeter than before with the woman still singing her part in full voice and adding to 3 part harmony to make it 3.1 part harmony.

05 April 2008

Potluck...

One of my favorite times at church when I was growing up was the once-a-quarter Potluck dinners. Sometimes there would be a speaker, a missionary or a pastor visiting; a special event like a talent show, christmas pageant, game night, hymn sing, etc. No matter what the program it would be kicked off with a potluck.

I was talking to a high school student the other day and he had never gone to a potluck and didn't know what it was, so here is a definition, A potluck is a gathering of people where each person is expected to bring a dish of food to be shared among the group.

Of course you never had a potluck because that would mean that you were contributing rather than just showing up and consuming what was furnished for you. Then after it was over you probably criticized the meal instead of talking about which dish was your favorite and aren't you glad that Mrs. Seeley makes her award winning casserole and brings it each time.

Potlucks gave individuals more value because they contributed instead of just consumed. Mrs. Seeley took pride in her gift to the supper as many would coo as they were tasting it. Sometimes a new member would show up with their specialty dish and they were immediately welcomed, as people were trying to find out who made the new lasagna. Yes, there was a bit of competition and Mrs. Seeley was beat out by Mrs. Ray's chinese chicken salad, but usually a few potlucks later we were cooing again the new casserole Mrs. Seeley brought and people reminisced about how good her other casseroles had been. Mrs. Bell's chocolate cake was to die for as the ratio of frosting to cake was almost 1 to 1.

An Armenian family moved in and they brought some new kind of dishes, baklava, hummus, and peda bread, and people were talking with their mouth full. A Japanese family brought a sweet chicken, called teriyaki which was new to us. Enchiladas by the Martinez family were always a hit and if you weren't there early you would be ticked all night as people were remarking how she made the sauce taste better than the kind you get from a can. People started asking for the recipe from these new families. We would bring bread that my father made and people were glad we did. It was always better with butter instead of that new stuff that comes in a plastic tub.

We ate well, but better yet, we knew each other better. The program afterwards was really insignificant compared to the life of the body that sat and enjoyed the lingering fragrances of community.

22 March 2008

Commerce and the cross...

My old school chum Mas Masumoto is a farmer and a writer, living on his farm in Del Rey, California, just outside of Fresno. In his book, Epitaph for a Peach, Mas wrote about how he was going to need to pull up some of his peach trees, the Sun Crest, to make way for a new variety that has a longer shelf life at the market, but does not taste as well. Let me just share a little from Mas' website...
As pleasurable as a perfect peach, Epitaph for a Peach tells the passionate story of one farmer's attempt to rescue one of the last truly sweet and juicy fruits from becoming obsolete in a world that increasingly values commerciality over quality. The story of Mas Masumoto's Sun Crest peaches begins on the day he turns the bulldozers away from his orchards and vows to give himself four seasons to find a home for the fruits of his labor.

What does one do when their livelihood depends on producing a product that someone needs to give money to keep one in the vocation? Most of my friends who sell insurance says that is what commerce is, someone has to buy what you produce or you will no longer be producing. There has to be value from the buyer for the product in order for them to purchase it. They must have a felt need for it or they will not buy it.

But what if the product is truth? What if the presentation of that truth is love?

What happens when the consumer is more concerned about what makes them feel good than what will bring them life? Does the truth then get compromised just so that the truth can be told in smaller quantities? Do we start diminishing truth for added ingredients just so that it has a longer shelf life. Soon it becomes more about the added ingredients than about the truth. We start defending the need for the MSG, guar gum, binders, fillers, emulsifiers, processed sweeteners, added juices, caffeine, Red dye no. 2, and other nontruth ingredients that are only there to put the item on the shelf so some unsuspecting goof sees on the label 100% pure and begins towards the "check-out line," thinking he's got the real deal...

Note: My dear friends, I am not sure I have much more to say.

13 March 2008

Called...

A friend of mine and I were talking about being called into ministry. I was still thinking about that even a day or two later. "Being called into ministry." Was I called into ministry? Was there a setting apart this life and time to do ministry? Can you even do ministry or do you just minister. It is more than doing but more of ministering.

I have been thinking about my friends Nancy Donat, Phil Skei, and Beth Eckloff. They moved themselves, and in Phil's case his family, into an area to minister. They don't do ministry, they minister. They raise their own funding, buy their own home in the high crime neighborhood of Fresno where they minister. To the neighbors they minister. They don't go to do ministry, they just minister. They talk to people about whom they are ministering and people support them. Their homes are set up to minister. Backyards turned into places people can come to and play. Living rooms turned into homework rooms.

They don't punch out and leave the ministry, they live in it. 24/7/365 (this year it is 366).

I ask myself a lot these days, "would I still do what I do, if I didn't get paid to do it?" Would I start this which I do, if it hadn't been started? Is my identity tied into the organization or into the Savior?

Then I ask myself, "Am I called?"

10 March 2008

Sitting with heroes...

Last Saturday night I attended the fundraising dessert for Fresno Institute for Urban Leadership. The guest speaker was John Perkins who spoke on being the righteous who effect change in the community. I have heard him many times in the past 30 years, and he is still a very powerful speaker.

But then I looked around the room to the listeners and there were just as powerful people, who have responded to his messages over the years, and are doing the very thing that he started back in the early 70's. People who relocated into the high crime, high poverty areas of Fresno to be light to neighbors. People who started after-school reading and homework programs in their homes. In their homes, not in their church buildings. Phil and Ricci Skei, put a basketball court and playground in their backyard so the neighbors could have a place to play. Nancy Donat, is a parish nurse, who relocated into this neighborhood who has kids all over her home and has turned rooms into studyroom.

A woman, who's table I was sitting at brought her 4 daughters to hear Perkins speak just because her pastor told the congregation this was a good thing and he was a good speaker. She had never heard him before. Exposing her daughters to righteous speakers instead of taking them to another movie.

I was told the other day that I am a "the glass is half empty" kind of guy, and he and another pastor were "the glass is half full" kind of guys. Sitting in this room with "full glass people" filled me up again to see the power of a full gospel.

04 March 2008

Why I did not...

PLEASE NOTE: This is not directed at Michael (I have much love and respect for him as someone who is sincerely and deeply trying to follow after the way, truth, and life of Christ) or any particular way of viewing scripture with which I might disagree.

I told the story instead of using scripture to fight scripture because I was sickened by the use of scripture to put people in their place. Yes, it is scripture that gives us place, but it is also the misuse of scripture, over the many years, which gives people power, oppressive power over others. One of the things that she said was, "give me scripture to fight this battle." I will never do that. I love scripture, I love the story of faith and the truth of creation, the fall, the journey of those chosen of captivity and freedom and back into captivity, the prophets, the kings, the poems and wisdom, the words, the rejection of the words, the virgin, the shepherds, the birth, the wise men, the life, the sermon, the selection of the disciplined, the betrayal, the garden, the trial, the cross, the tomb, the stone, the fingers in the wound, the ascension, the power and authority, the persecution, the letters of correction and instruction, the story of what was, what is, and what is to come, the Amen... that have set people free for years but it's intention was not for battle.

This blog was not about a woman's place or role but about the use of scripture as weapons for arguing a point.

I have close friends that are wrapped up in apologetics, so they can argue with the heathens. Instead of practicing patience and love, they may win the argument but they always lose the battle. People walk away, they rarely are attracted towards this method of "evangelism." I am sure that is not what scripture was intended for. I have a Latter Day Saint friend who use to want to argue with me about "protestantism" and I told him if he could tell me why I chose Christel to be my wife and not the millions of other women in the world then we could discuss Truth. He thought he had the truth. I met a follower of Mohammed while I was waiting in the doctor's office and we started up a conversation about truth, he used his scriptures to discuss his, as I used my scriptures to discuss mine. We didn't agree nor was there much disagreement. Nor was there any bloodshed. We shook hands and I went in to find out I am overweight and don't have a thyroid.

I don't think love is the opposite of scripture but the fulfillment of it. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. I know that we like to save this chapter for weddings, but it is not for that event, but I think it is for those who use scripture, gifting, wealth, martyrdom, etc for self purpose instead of Kingdom purpose.

I didn't hear that Kingdom purpose when the young woman was asking me for scripture so she could win this battle. She needed a children's story. And when we make scripture anything more than a children's story, I think we miss the point big time. Again, please don't think that I am speaking small of scripture, rather I am elevating children's stories.

This cult has been missing the point since before Jesus.

01 March 2008

PART TWO Guns don't kill people, stupid people kills people...

A year went by and Sophia never brought her dog to worship. No one did. The memo was successful.

Or was it. Was the intent of the memo to not bring dogs to worship or was it to train up a dog in the way that they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it?

I asked Sophia into my office, which freaked her out, because she thought she did something wrong and was going to be reprimanded. That is a typical reaction for the staff. If I was initiating the conversation, something must be wrong.

She walked in with a timid look on her face. "Have a seat on the couch." I said.

"I haven't seen Hendrix around lately. Is he alright?"

"Well you told us that we could not bring our dogs to worship anymore." Sophia said with a bit of an edge.

"Did you understand why I was saying that?"

"Yeah, dogs don't belong in worship!" She snapped.

"That is not what I said. What if dogs could understand, be educated, contribute, and even teach, would my memo still be valid?" I asked.

"That is impossible! THEY ARE DOGS!" She yelled and she got up and left the room and the conversation.

Sophia walked out to the parking lot and got in her car and left. And then she drove, no where in particular, just drove. She found herself, after an hour or so, in front of Mrs. Huppotasso's house. She didn't want to go in, so she just sat. Confused, angry, frustrated, ...and lost.

Just then a car drove up as the front door opened and out walked a golden retriever, who turned and as if to say something to the older woman at the door. Mrs. Huppo smiled and said something back, that Sophia couldn't hear.

The retriever walked over to the car and the man got out and opened the car door, the front door, while greeting the dog. He yelled out to Mrs. Huppo, "Thank you, I will see you next week for my time with you." Mrs. Huppotasso, waved and nodded in agreement, "See you then. Be on time."

"I know, I will." With that he got in his car and drove off.

"Oh no," Sophia said, as she saw Mrs. Huppotasso walking towards her car.

"Well, hello Sophia, it has been a while. How are you and Hendrix these days?"

Sophia just sat in her car. She couldn't open her mouth because she wasn't sure what was going to come out.

Mrs. Huppotasso, opened the passenger side door and sat down. Sophia didn't anticipate that she would be so bold to sit down when not invited.

All Sophia could do was stare at Mrs. Huppo. Who was this woman who could make dogs talk? Was she a witch?

Finally, Mrs. Huppo said, "You are not the only one who doesn't come back when their dogs begin to talk. Most don't. It is too much too comprehend for people. They don't see how this is possible because they don't think what IS possible. They only see what is and not what was intended.

"We like to keep our dogs in their place. They are pets, not equals. Roles are the safest way to think. Because it seems to limit the possibilities instead of imagining what could happen. It is easiest to classify humans, animals, trees, rocks, fungus, etc. because then we can see what things aren't instead of what they are.

"This isn't magic, and no dear, I am not a witch. The only thing I do is talk about forgiveness and break the lie that has bound God's creatures into roles instead of worshippers. True worshippers don't stay in roles, they stay in truth. And it is this truth that sets them free to be that which God had originally intended them to be. It brings them to the spirit of the garden instead of the flesh outside the gate.

"When we think with 'outside the gate' minds, we limit that which was the original purpose of creation. We were formed to be in fellowship, conversation, intimacy, and have fun with God. It is not unbelievable for a dog to talk, but it does take belief and then faith to talk to a dog. We say the same thing about God. I hear many people say that God doesn't talk. But the truth is the Creator spoke and speaks everything into life. The sin is we don't hear because we don't believe.

"'Outside the gate' thinking can have its benefits. If you are good at OTG think, you can have control and power over those who are not as good at it. OTG is limiting, oppressing, corrupting, etc. It thrives on fear. Because when you are in control in this way of thinking, you are always afraid that someone will come and take it away from you. Someone can come with more abilities, better looking, smarter (by this I mean that they have more words at their disposal to intimidate), greater force, and steal it away from them. They cannot see anything unless it is concrete and limited to three dimensions. It is easy to control three dimensions.

"But when you introduce 'garden thinking' you are aware of the Spirit as well as the material, they are not separated. You see the truth as far more than academic, but poetic. Poetry that resonates with all of creation not just within a very limited space of three dimensions. It affects the way you see, hear, taste, touch, know, understand, walk, speak, breathe, etc. Fragrances have as much place in understanding as words. Colors have sound as well as weight.

"Garden thinking brings power through service not might. Might is the lowest form of communication, it is the easiest. But loving others through serving is the highest form of communication because it does not rely on words. It is pure. Those who rely on words, study words, master words but never get to the heart are only one step up from the barbarian, the conquerer. Those simple souls that we call "retarded" really understand more than the "gifted in academics" because they have to communicate without words and causes us to go back to 'garden thinking' to communicate effectively to them.

"So you see, my dear one, it is nothing for a dog to talk. Rocks and trees shout out the glory of God all day long. The real issues is the training that has to come to those who only talk and have relied on it these many years to send forth a message which is still woefully short of intimacy with The Creator. Deep intimacy is not limited in spoken words. The Word spoken by the Creator was not with the mouth of God but through the spirit and life of God.

One day, that Word, came to those who only spoke with their mouths and a few heard it, not just with their ears, but with their spirit and life, which was breathed into them, from the Life of God. They heard more than the syllables articulated but heard the truth. And they found themselves free. Free to experience the intimacy of the Voice

"The freedom wasn't of this world, because those who only speak with their mouths, had them arrested, tortured, and killed. This was tragic but the great tragedy was that soon those leaders who could hear were being replaced with those who could only speak. After a time, those who only spoke, redefined The Voice into not what could be heard, but to what could only be read. Reading became the standard and hearing became lunacy. For those who hear were relegated to standing outside of the buildings because those who read could not validate those who hear. Authenticity was only given to letters of the word instead of the intention of what was said.

"Faith was changed to a reading understanding instead of a living understanding. Reading is measurable: number of volumes read, number of papers written, then number of papers published so more people could read and write. Walking became obsolete, listening became heresy and intimacy became institutional. Intimacy was replaced by compliance, submission was replaced by subjugation. Worship became an hour long event with only the speakers and readers in charge."

Mrs. Huppotasso, stopped speaking and looked at her front door for a few moments. She was remembering how many dogs entered that doorway barking and exited talking. And how few of their 'masters' ever entered...

24 February 2008

Guns don't kill people, stupid people kills people...

I haven't let off some steam lately and thought I would this morning.

I was interviewing a dear friend's daughter the other day and I asked her about what it was like to be the daughter of a mom who was a pastor. And she said that she hadn't thought about it until she came this year to the christian university where she is a student. I asked her to explain.

She said that when she was a kid growing up, her mom was well liked by her friends and the adults in the church really respected her and would talk with her about their lives. She was proud of her mom, but didn't think it was a big deal that she was a pastor she was just a working mom. Her dad is highly respected in his line of business.

But when she got to this university, a place of great minds and thinking, she encountered people who said her mother was doing things that were against God and scripture. This was really confusing for her and she was looking for scripture to back up her mom in this argument and asked if I knew of any.

I told her a story...

Not too many years ago, I wrote a memo to the staff stating that their dogs could not be brought to worship anymore because they were causing a lot of problems. They were barking in the middle of my preaching, howling during praise singing (off key), scratching and licking themselves in places only Michael Jackson and Madonna grabbed while performing on stage, and the kicker, they were lifting a leg on the pews. The dogs were not allowed to be in worship anymore!

One of the staff members with one of the dogs, Sophia, was unhappy with my decision. She came and talked to me. I told her that her dog was the worst. This hurt her feelings and said that she loved this dog and said it wasn't fair. I said, it is not about being fair but about being able to behave in worship. I said that she was not able to control her dog and that the dog was not adding to the service but distracting everyone from the reason we were there. The dog needed to be training to behave wherever he was.

She thought about this and she decided would take her dog to obedience school. She looked in the yellow pages and found a school nearby, Mrs. Huppotasso's Canine School, and placed a phone call to the school. Mrs. Huppotasso answered the phone. Sophia asked if she had any openings for her dog to begin classes.

The woman said yes they were starting a class on Mondays and Wednesdays next week. Then she asked Sophia a question, "What do you want to accomplish by taking the dog to my school?"

"Well, I would like to get him to behave and do some tricks and not crap in church." Sophia said.

Mrs. Huppotasso laughed and said, "Alright, then bring the dog on Monday. What is the dog's name?"

"Hendrix" she said.

"Great, see you next Monday. Drop Hendrix off at 5:30p sharp and pick him up at 7:00p."

"Pick him up? Don't I get to be a part of the training?" asked Sophia.

"Yes you do, but this class Hendrix will be trained, and the next class you will be." the instructor said.

"Oh..., alright, see you then." the staff member said a little confused.

Monday arrives and Sophia drives up to the front of the school, which is really a small home with a small yard on the side. She is prompt to drop the dog off at the school at 5:28p, where Mrs. Huppotasso is waiting expectantly in the driveway to meet her. Sophia gets out of the car, opens the hatch, puts the leash on Hendrix, and lets him out of the back of the Subaru. Introduces Hendrix and herself to Mrs. Huppotasso and said she would see her in an hour and a half. Mrs. Huppotasso turns and says, "Remember, 7:00p, sharp."

She drives back home to get her dinner ready and then when it was time to go, she put the food in the oven on low and drives off to the school. Sophia is thinking she hopes this works, Hendrix has been a good companion for her and it would be great for him be obedient so that she could take him everywhere with her.

She arrives promptly at 7:00p and as she drives up, Mrs. Huppotasso and Hendrix are in the driveway waiting for her. But this time there wasn't a leash on the dog.

"You won't be needing this any more." as she hands her the leash.

"Wow, you are good."

"Well, yes but your dog is really smart."

"Um, thanks, see you Wednesday." the staff member says.

"Be prompt, 5:30p," the instructor says as she heads in the house.

"I will."

On the drive home, Sophia looked back at him in the rearview mirror and noticed that Hendrix was looking out the window and not doing anything but staring. He didn't do the usual hyper behavior of running back and forth between both side window, but just sitting and staring. It was as if he was thinking. She asked out loud, "Did you have a good time, boy?" and Hendrix turned and formed a smile and appeared to nod and then looked out the window.

That was odd, she thought.

Wednesday came, and again, Sophia promptly dropped the dog off to the instructor who was waiting in the driveway. The staff member put the leash on Hendrix and took the dog to the instructor, who said, "I told you, he does not need this anymore." and gave the leash back to her and said, "Be back promptly at 7:00p!"

"But just in case." and tried to hand it back to her. Sophia couldn't believe that the dog could be trained that fast to not need the leash.

The teacher paid no attention and turned with Hendrix by her side, to go in the building. The dog was looking up at the instructor as they walked as if he was listening to her.

This was the routine for the next few months. Each Monday and Wednesday Sophia would take Hendrix to Mrs. Huppo's (as she began to call her) promptly at 5:30 and just as promptly pick him up at 7:00. Hendrix was not peeing on the furniture anymore but was still not allowed to come to church. He even learned some great tricks. At first it was the usual, rolling over, sit up, walk on his hind feet, play frisbee,

One Wednesday, the staffer dropped her dog off to Mrs. Huppo, drove home concerned that Hendrix was liking the instructor more than her. She went home and again, prepared dinner and drove back to the school promptly at 7. Only this time, the instructor was not there to meet her, only Hendrix. He was sitting patiently in front of the school and walked over to the car as Sophia opened the rear car door to let him in. Only this time he didn't jump in but walked up to the front passenger door and waited there.

Sophia held the door up and called Hendrix over to her, "Come on boy, get in the car." Hendrix just looked at her. He had never done that before.

"Do you want to sit up front with me, boy?" she says as she walks toward him.

"Yes, please." Hendrix says quietly.

Sophia's jaw dropped and she stops dead in her tracks. "What did you say?"

"Yes, please. I would prefer to sit up front with you."

"Your a dog, you can't talk!"

"Well, yes and no. I am a dog, but I can talk. In fact, I can think, I can express my thoughts and even change my mind. I can be trained but even more wonderful, I can be taught as well as teach.

"Let's go home and we can talk about it over dinner."

That night over dinner, which instead of eating the dogfood, he asked for what she was eating. Sophia wasn't too happy with this idea but ended up giving Hendrix that which she had made for herself. Hendrix started telling her his perspective on some of the issues that he was concerned with such as what life was like for him, how violent people are to their pets and to each other. He told her things that went against some of the things she thought. Sophia didn't say much, except, "Dogs can't talk." Hendrix disagreed repeatedly, but was seeing something in Sophia's eyes. She needed him to be a dog, just a dog. It was going to affect who she was in her own house. Her identity, her place, her control. Later in the evening, she changed her words to "Dogs shouldn't talk."

Sophia didn't take him back to Mrs. Huppo's, she never took the second semester herself and ended up being a bit intimidated by Hendrix. She thought once about taking him to a talent scout because she thought she could make some money off of this trick but ended up just kind of keeping him at home. She quit taking him with her places. And after a while, Hendrix became less talkative, and eventually started barking... and ended up peeing on the furniture again.