Chew. Digest. Repeat.

Thanks for stoppin by. The point of the web (in my eyes), and therefore blogs, is the opportunity for community. Or maybe it's the evolution of community. Whatever. Its not about self-absorbed pontificating, but more about getting a diversity of thought out there for all of us to grow from. So that gives me the freedom to write what I think (at least for today) and not hafta give a crap if anyone agrees. Cuz it's not about agreement. It's about engaging with others, and the (hopefully) positive cumulative effect of all those millions of interactions. So interact. or don't. You're a free person.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Overcomer or Survivor?

Well that depends upon your perspective.

If you are a refugee, running from the devastation of your past- and if that devastation has come to define you- then you are a survivor. There is some nobility in being a survivor, but it is limiting. You live in shackles, chained to the trauma that you were forced to endure. You live your life oriented to the past damage. But the largest danger of being a survivor is that you welcome Self-Pity as your traveling companion. Your future is limited by your past, since that is the vision of yourself upon which your eye is perpetually dwelling.

If you are the same person, having been drug backward thru the same knothole, but look forward to something that is "more" (even if you can't yet articulate it), then you may be an overcomer. An overcomer is defined by his/her hope in the future rather than limited by the tragedies of the past.

Take the same person and same severe circumstances. If he looks at those issues as identifying himself, he will see nothing but his lack. If he looks at those issues as horrible circumstances that he had to find a way thru on his way to a compelling hope in the future, then he will approach his life from the perspective of having something worth fighting for.

And therein lies the difference: having something worth fighting for, versus having to fight just because you have to fight. One is the invitation to strength, while the other is the invitation to despair.

The Lonely Desert

As I walk thru this current phase of my life and spiritual journey, I am struck by the paradox of times of great loneliness in pursuit of a relational God. I believe that as we grow, God will call us into seasons in the desert. Some call this the "Dark Night of the Soul", and you can read more about that at the John Paul Jackson blog "Coffee Talk" below. Anyways, I am in that season, and it is not very much fun. But at the same time, it is peaceful- in its own stripping way. Peaceful in the sense of having too much noise in your house, when there is a sudden power outage. You have a choice: fear the lack of power, or rest in the silence.

And the loneliness is a weird thing, as well. I am surrounded by very faithful friends and family, some of whom are going thru similar stripping circumstances. So the loneliness is not an issue of proximity or physical isolation. It is an issue of being "drawn into the desert to be tested".

But I don't fear testing anymore. At least not very much. And not like I used to. I used to believe that testing was a pass/fail deal, where there was great risk of not measuring up and being exposed as the the failure that I always secretly believed I was. I know now that testing is for me, since God already knows the outcome. It is a finishing process. It shows me that God has moved me from one place to another, and that He has been the architect of that new thing. The challenge in the test is to not lose heart.

But what if the test is of your ability to not lose heart??

I told my daughter last week that she is sooo much stronger than she realizes, and that the way she understands just how strong she is is during difficult circumstances where she is able to rise to circumstances that she originally believed would overwhelm her. I knew those words were on a boomerang course straight back to me.

Can the Church Survive Itself?? (part dos) the Trouble with Systems

So in the last post, I wrote about the defining characteristic of the Institutional Church is it's systems. While there are many advantages to these (see last post for details), there are also some real drawbacks.

In my eyes, the greatest drawback to any system is that it is built on men's logic. We feel very strongly about our religious convictions, and want to create better ways to execute our plans. So we create systems for outreach, systems for discipleship, systems for accountability, systems for church governance, and on, and on, and on... But what if God plans differently? Well then, we will study His Word and try to systematize our theology so that we can reproduce His plan within our church. But how many of us would really plan like He does?

How many of us would take something like the Gospel- a truth without which the entirety of humanity will perish- and hand it off to some illiterate fisherman, a couple of prostitutes, and an extortionist (that's what a tax collector was back then)?!?! No, we would create a a Board of Inquiry to examine the most prudent and efficient means to get the message out while doing our absolute best to protect it and defend it. Ever notice how God doesn't ever seem too concerned about protecting Himself or His reputation? Not us. We will look at all available options, then cloak our fear in the name of "wisdom" and take the most conservative, "sensible" route.

And therein lies the problem with systems. Our ways are not His ways. So our systems- built solidly upon our ways- are not His ways. The reason for this is that our systems don't need Him. Sure, we would like it if He cooperates with our plans, and bends Heaven around our schemes to make us more productive and allow us to feel like we are in control. OOPS!! And there is the core of it. Our systems reinforce the illusion of our control. But the cost of this illusion is that we push God out of his church with our systems. We don't like the dependence of faith, so we trade it in on some predictable and controllable and religious. We create a system.

And then by this system we learn to not only control our religion, but we learn to control men. The focus becomes the management of sin rather than the transformation of hearts and the liberation of men. But that is another topic for another post.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Can the Church Survive Itself?? (part uno)

Well, I guess that depends on what you refer to as "the church"...

I mean, are we talking about the North American church, the Russian church, the Korean church, etc.? Or are we talking about your particular denomination and how the powers that rest at the top of that particular pyramid think that they should tackle the cultural obstacles before them (and you)? Or are we talking about the global church (I really hope not, cuz that's way too complex an entity to try to speak generally about).

So, for the sake of clarity, let's define the church into two camps: Institutional & Relational. I choose this language, because you can redefine either into various cultural iterations wherever you may find yourself in history or the world. And let's also be clear that we are not casting aspersions on either model. Each have strengths and weaknesses. It is in these strengths and weaknesses that the actual issues lie, in my view...

The strength of the Institutional church is in it's organization and ability to mobilize groups of people in a common direction. This has been a considerable blessing to the world, in that it is the American church that is largely responsible for much of the benevolence and charitable giving in the world. It is the Institutional church that has taken stands against social injustice and championed many of the social revolutions that have brought needed changes into the world.

So how does the Institutional church do this? The answer lies in the structure. And while there are certainly diverse interpretations (i.e. denominations, styles, etc.) they all have some common structural characteristics:
  • Geographically focused- whether it's a mega-church meeting in a stadium or a home church meeting in, well... a home, there is a fixed meeting point
  • Time focused- all attendees know that "church" happens at a certain time each week, and the events of the service have certain time allocations
  • Hierarchically focused- regardless of the "flavor" of the individual body, the Institutional church has some kind of established hierarchical system for governing itself and controlling its direction
There are other characteristics, but I think these are the major ones. The underlying commonality is that the Institutional church is built on systems. Systems that lay down the underpinnings and actually create the structure itself. Systems defining the beliefs. Systems regulating the expectations of the parishioners. Systems governing the finances. Systems defining who is eligible for leadership. Lots of systems, almost like the programming in a computer or complex piece of software.

So the Institutional church can be recognized by its adherence and dependence upon its systems. It's strengths as discussed above lie in its abilty to leverage those systems toward a noble or Godly goal. In my next post, I'm gonna dig into some of the inherent weaknesses of the systematic approach.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm tired of Christians

I know, I know... no one wants to hear another frustrated Christian vent. It has lost its novelty on us all. But I have been re-invigorated by the post of a very bright mind out there among us ( My thanks and admiration to Tia, btw.

So, maybe we need to push thru the negative to get to the real point. Doesn't God allow us to live in the tension in order to bring us into the new?? So it would seem that all of us that are searching and bitching and listening to ourselves opine on the irrelevance of the modern Western church need to get off of our collective arses.

I don't believe that God is going to hear our bellyaching and say, "Oh... I guess I'll give in to their pouting and reveal the "new plan". Then they can arm-chair quarterback it and decide if it fits their ideals and get back to me with their suggestions and edits..."

I believe that the corporate frustration felt by those of us that feel disenfranchised from the corporate church is in fact labor pains. God is birthing something in us, and we need to not miss the fact that the best way to get thru the pushing is to focus on the joy to come.

While the church (little "c"...) may be on the endangered species list, the Bride is getting ready to be revealed. But the Bride belongs only to the Groom, and will not serve another. If we are to be that Bride, we must quit trying to get Heaven to bow to Earth. We must jettison our love for our systems and forms and lists and organizational methodologies. These are all Control. These link all the way back to our love for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. "If I can create a system, I can control my environment. Then I will be safe."

But God gets no joy working within our tiny methods. Don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that He doesn't work and move within the Institutional church. He does. I just don't think it's His favored environment. It is like a Father who is also a PhD-holding member of MENSA teaching in a nursery. He plays with the toddlers, engages in their micro-political schemes and games and hierarchies, stifling the condescension in his voice as they take themselves and their culture (that seems sooo relevant and compelling to a 3-year-old) way too seriously. His joy is in taking the opportunity to teach and play and mature them. But it is certainly his desire to see them move on out of the nursery some day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Drinkin Coke & vodka

Gotta keep the beast asleep

Else I'll sink into dark water

where i feel the devil creep

but i cannot let him get me

so i'm ballin up my fists

he says he wants to bet me

that i can't resist

Is this a melt-down?

Am I cavin' in?

No I don't wanna feel this

I need oblivion

But then Grace settles down beside me

rests her hand on my thigh

Says, "I know that you can do this

I can see it in your eye"

So I'm callin out the devil

tell him give me your best shot

he smiles and says i sound like my daddy

Right before he, too, was caught

Then he looks right at my children

With a smirk so dead and cruel

and he says he already has them

and he's always had me, too

But with Grace right here beside me

I can tell he's bluffin' tall

Cuz she reminds me who I am

and to what i have been called

So i tell him he's a liar

that my kids are strong and free

That may have worked on my daddy

But it won't work on me

So I let my words just ring there

And I pull my Grace real close

Feel her strength still linger

As i offer up a toast

"Here is to all new beginnings

And to the lies they leave behind"

And to my Grace credit the winnings

She's all the Good I need to find

"Here is to all new beginnings

And to the lies they leave behind"

And to my Grace credit the winnings

She's all the Good I need to find