Category: Member Blogs

Human Like Jesus

In Christian culture, we often—rightly—emphasize Jesus’ Divinity as God. Yet, it is also true that we under-emphasize his equally significant humanity. In this message, Kurt Willems explores how Jesus is the prototype of the life we are all invited to live.

Syndicated from PangeaCast - Pangea Church


New Fruit

As is painfully obvious to me at this point, I have no longer been updating By Their Strange Fruit. I have attempted for some time to return to this discipline that has been so formative for me over the years, but it has become clear that it's time for me to focus on new fruit.Maybe now that I’m daily living out my justice convictions in my work at UM Church for All People, rather than writing from the sidelines of academia, I don’t feel the same need for the outlet of expression.Maybe in this post-post-racial era of blatant bigotry, pointing out the subtly pernicious manifestations of systemic racism felt too trite.Maybe after the election of Trump, my heart justice needed to find new modes of resistance.Maybe after the many repeated unarmed killings there is simply nothing more to say. Simply, "see too many previous posts": Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Tamir Rice, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Ralkina Jones, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, Trye King, on and on and on. Say their names.Or maybe after nearly 10 years, every act of resistance just has its season. Time to bear new fruit.Racism is no less prevalent, Christ is no less relevant.In fact, both are arguably much more so now than ever before.The work continues.I have so much love and gratitude for these years of learnings and relationships that have come out of this space. What began as a simple medium for my own self-education, grew deeper, richer, and much larger than I had ever anticipated. I am so grateful for the many who were so crucial  to the journey.I will leave the site up, both for my own reference and for others’ use, as long as the internets allow. ICheck out the "All People Podcast"may even use it for the occasional outlet to speak up on specific issues as they arise, or as a platform to promote ongoing visibility for justice work happening around the country.As this chapter draws to close, I include some links below to revisit a few of my favorite BTSF posts from over the years. Going forward, I’ll be hosting a new podcast in collaboration with Pastor Greg Henneman, in which we explore being a Church for All People, and the practices that we believe are critical for building the fully just and inclusive Body of Christ. Check it out and subscribe here.I continue to yearn to know how we as Christians can and will get out ahead of this ever-evolving beast we call racism. There are so many brilliant, talented groups and individuals do the work to whom I will always be grateful.And so, what say you readers?How have you been coping in this new era? How do you continue to resist?With so much love, gratitude, and hope,KatelinA few BTSF favorites from over the years:           Is God Colorblind?          White Savior Complex          They Will Know We Are Christians          Timeline of Racism          White History Month          Logical Fallacies: Model Minority          That Mascot Doesn't Honor AnyoneClick here for the full BTSF topical index

Syndicated from By Their Strange Fruit

The joys and dilemmas of road food (Looking West #3)

Ted Grimsrud—February 18, 2019
For as long as I can remember, I have loved road maps. When I was maybe 13 I found an almost mint condition road map for Oregon from 1950. What was special about that map was that it was of Oregon before the Interstate Highway System. I was fascinated especially by Highway 99 before it was superseded by I-5. Quite a few of the little towns, especially in the southern part of the state, virtually disappeared after the new highway came—Divide, Curtain, Wilbur, Azalea, Wolf Creek….
I spent hours imagining road trips around 1950s Oregon. Then, when I got hold of a road atlas for the entire US, the imaginary trips expanded. Finally, in 1971 when I was 17 I was able to hit the road with my parents and younger sister. We drove all the way out to Virginia. We mostly followed the interstates, and I got to drive about half the time. One highlight, though, was when I drove through pre-I-64 West Virginia in the rain. That was a long but beautiful drive. Since we moved to Virginia in 1996, I learned that the road I drove back in 1971 still exists in much the form it had back then because I-64 traversed a much different path. US Route 60 (the “Midland Trail”) from Charleston to Lewisburg remains a long and beautiful drive.
Happily, when I married Kathleen I found a kindred spirit who also loves road trips. We got started pretty slowly since we didn’t have a car for the first ten years of our marriage (though we did borrow her parents’ car for a memorable trip from Arizona to Indiana to Saskatchewan and back in 1983). But once we got our new Honda in 1991 we took every chance we could get. We’ve driven back and forth across the country at least seven times, with quite a few shorter trips as well. We would have liked to have done more and hope still to take many trips. We’ve learned that we have extra fun when we avoid the interstates as much as possible (at least once we made it all the way from Harrisonburg, VA to Eugene, OR, without a single mile of interstate driving).
Road trips mean road food
I have to admit to having a less than sophisticated palette when it comes to meals while traveling. All too often, I have been content to settle for fast food chains or bags of snack food. Even so, from time to time we have randomly struck gold. Surely the most interstate- and fast food-intensive cross country trip came in 1998 when it was just our son Johan (then 16) and me. But we stumbled upon a terrific breakfast spot in the mountains west of Missoula, MT (it might have been Durango’s in Superior, MT). If the two of us were to repeat that drive, that’s the one place where we ate that we would return to, as Johan would never stand for fast food these days.
When Kathleen and I started figuring out how to go west from Virginia to Oregon and Washington while avoiding interstates, we also began to pay more attention to finding decent, out of the way, non-chain places to eat. At first, we simply tried to guess at what looked good when we approached mealtime. Then, we joined AAA and I would try to plan ahead of time using the AAA Trip-Tik service that provided restaurant reviews. For one trip, this approach put us in one Mexican restaurant after another in places such as Ames, IA; Chadron, NE; Sandpoint, ID; Montrose, CO; Dodge City, KS; and Poplar Bluff, MO. Not real creative, but they were satisfying stops—we never tire of Mexican food.
Then, on a short trip to West Virginia, we followed AAA recommendations and ate at a dud (Italian, not Mexican). I did a little checking and discovered that the restaurants that AAA reviews all pay a fee for that service. That knowledge kind of soured us on the Trip-Tik approach.
About the same time, smart phones arrived on the scene, though we were late to invest in that technology. On a trip through New England with Kathleen’s brother and sister-in-law, we saw the power of mobile internet access for the first time. We were driving into Rutland, NH, at suppertime and had no idea where to eat. Mary got on-line and found a really nice local Italian restaurant.
So, when we got our phones, we started utilizing Google maps user reviews. Some of the other apps such as Trip Advisor and Yelp have also proved helpful, though Google is the easiest for me to use and has generally been reliable. My rule of thumb is to seek places that have a 4.5 rating or higher.
The best road food ever
Still, the greatest experience of road food Kathleen and I have ever had happened completely due to good luck. We were driving through wide open spaces in the northeast corner of Wyoming heading toward Montana as lunch time neared. When we entered Montana we saw a small billboard that claimed that The Judge’s Chambers in Broadus, MT, had the best food in 500 miles. We thought, why not? It’s not like we had many other options.
So we pull into this tiny town a bit before noon. We find the restaurant on a side street and the proprietor is out front sweeping the porch. Come on in, he tells us. We would be their first customers of the day. In fact, we are their first customers of the year—they were just re-opening after being closed for the winter. And was this place nice! The food was terrific, gourmet even. The chef was British and was professionally trained. People would fly their private planes from Denver just to eat there. A few more people filtered in as we ate, and business promised to pick up once word got out that they were open again.
Several years later on our next cross-country drive we made a point to get there at lunchtime again. But the restaurant was closed. We knew where the owner might be and we managed to track her down. She told us, sadly, that the chef had left and she couldn’t find a replacement. She still hoped to, but wasn’t optimistic. We made it back one more time on our 2015 trip, and there were no sign of the restaurant even existing any more. But we are sure we really did eat there!
A new resource
Now we have a newly discovered resource, thanks again to sister-in-law Mary. She discovered the web site some time ago. I think she may have one of the Road Food books too. This site has reviews of eating spots from around the country that, as a rule, are out of the way, locally owned, and reflect local cuisine. But also, as a rule, they are not super sophisticated, “foody” places so much as long-standing local standbys frequented by working people and knowledgeable travelers. Most travelers, though, wouldn’t know about these places.
A couple of months ago, Mary had us try a recommended place. It was the Orlean Market and Pub in the village of Orlean, VA—out in the middle of nowhere, about 30 miles south of I-66 a ways west of Washington, DC. It was a charming place, and my Reuben sandwich was fairly good. But it was clear that the review was out of date. I don’t think we felt that the drive was worth it, except that it was an experience.
Then, attempt number two came a few days later when we were returning Mary and Paul to New York City. This time it was the Dutch Kitchen in Frackville, PA—not quite four hours from home, perfect timing for lunch. And this one was a winner. Old fashioned Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. I had turkey pot pie that was excellent. The others were all quite happy with their meals.
So I spent some time at the website. They have reviews for hundreds of places around the country (41 in Virginia). They give ratings that go up to 5 stars (the Dutch Kitchen got 4 1/2 stars), though a perfect 5 is unusual. The one 5 I found with a quick search was Snappy Lunch in Mt. Airy, NC, whose featured menu item is a breaded and fried boneless pork chop sandwich. And I discovered that our local Fulks Run Grocery made the cut and has a killer fried ham sandwich served only on Fridays.
I can easily imagine a road trip out to the West Coast that would be guided by The big problem is that I am striving mightily now to avoid eating things like fried pork chop sandwiches. Maybe I can find a site, and we can alternate meals between the two sets of recommendations.
[This is the next in a series of blog posts under the rubric of “Looking West” that will include reflections on numerous issues of our current day—politics, theology, memoirs, spirituality, and what not. An index for the series may be found at “Looking West.”]

Syndicated from Thinking Pacifism

Church for the 21st century?

This is possibly the most revolutionary, revelatory and important book about the church and mission I have ever read. If you are interested in how the 21st century church can become a missionary community in first world countries, this book can teach us new ways, and inspire us to new efforts. If you are tired … Continue reading Church for the 21st century?
Syndicated from the Way?

Trump and US Democracy (Looking West #2)

Ted Grimsrud—February 16, 2019
For some months I have been reading about the American Civil War. It’s been fascinating for many reasons, and I expect to be writing about what I am learning and thinking for a long time. One thread will be how sobering it is for me to read about the US past in relation to our current national political stormy waters. One of the premises of the Trumpian proclamation is that America used to be “great.” Well, it certainly wasn’t great in the middle part of the 19thcentury. And, painful as it is to realize this, many of the ways it wasn’t great back then are still with us—white supremacy, economic inequality, warism. And, of course, Trump’s agenda to “make America great again” seems only to exacerbate those problems from long ago.
Surreal, but not necessarily utterly exceptional?
It is surreal to have a president like Donald Trump, likely the most repellant person ever to hold that office. I don’t know of any president whose policies and philosophies I disagree with as much as Trump’s. I know of no other president who was as dishonest, as self-centered, as oblivious to other people’s feelings, as closely linked with the most corrupt elements of the broader American society. But at the same time, I realize that just about every other American president has also had disagreeable policies and philosophies, has been dishonest, self-centered, oblivious, and linked with corruption.
I think it is a mistake to view Trump as utterly exceptional. I get the sense, among people I talk with and read, that Trump is this foreign element in our political system and all we need to do is get rid of him or, at worst, wait him out for two more years, and then things will be ever so much better. I’m not so sanguine about our political system and about the state of democracy here. I wonder if the Trump presidency might be most useful not as a contrast to how things normally are but as a vulgar, veneer-stripped-away exposure of how broken the system has become (and maybe always has been).
Deep-seated problems
Our political problems are deep and long-standing. If there is anything hopeful to emerge from our current dysfunction it’s that the Trump years may be stimulating a creative and democracy-enhancing reaction. I believe that the only way toward a better America is the growth of grassroots, participatory citizen action. There are some signs of this happening. Here in Virginia, we were a bit of a bellwether in the 2017 election with some impressive victories that have born some fruit in state politics. I think the viable presidential candidacies of, say, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are encouraging.
But things are pretty bad. And, mainly, not because of Trump. He essentially helps us see the depth of the problems. For example, the Republican Party’s embrace of a politics of racial exclusion goes back to the Goldwater campaign in 1964. Taylor Branch, in his America in the King Years trilogy, gives us a precise moment that signifies this. A hundred years earlier, of course, the Republicans had been the part of Emancipation. And they retained an openness to black participation, tenuous as it was. Frederick Douglass had been a Republican, as had Martin Luther King, Jr.
However, with the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and the struggles within the Democratic Party over how to respond, some Republican leaders saw an opportunity. Southern Democrats began to abandon their party as it reluctantly gave space to the forces of equality. Goldwater’s campaign reached out to those disaffected Democrats and essentially turned its back on the tradition of black support for Republicans. Branch tells of one specific black Republican Party activist who was excluded from the 1964 Republican convention—with the sense that now the tide had turned.
What followed was Richard Nixon’s successful “southern strategy” of turning white supremacists away from the Democrats—a strategy that reached its apex when Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for president in the heart of the old segregationist South prior to the 1980 campaign. By the end of Reagan’s presidency, the transformation was complete—the racist South had switched en masse and since has become the core of the Republican electorate. Trump, of course, depended on this core for his election and has played to it consistently. But he had nothing to do with creating it.
Democrats and a renewed Cold War?
As an indication of the depth of our political crisis, we only have to look at how the mainstream of liberal America has responded to the horrors of Trump’s election. A key element of the “opposition” has been to trump up (pun intended) Cold War fears and to make enmity toward Russia a core issue. This has led to many Democrats and corporate media pundits criticizing Trump for not being warist enough! And it has also led to stunning credulity regarding key institutions of American Empire such as the CIA and FBI as “defenders of democracy.”
I fear that when the Trump nightmare ends, we will end up with an even more powerful military-intelligence regime. Even Warren and Sanders, as hopeful as so many of their emphases might be, don’t seem inclined to challenge warism very profoundly.
It’s important to remember, though, that the future is not determined, so we can’t know what life-affirming creativity might emerge from our current difficulties. However, right now I can’t envision many positive outcomes. I agree with the pessimism of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as they edge the clock of obliteration closer to midnight than it has even been. Trump is certainly a major reason for this pessimism. However, I think we need to recognize that on many issues (e.g., unquestioned increased military spending, use of drones, hostility toward immigrants, inaction in relation to climate change, refusing to hold corporate criminals accountable), he has only continued trajectories already present during the Obama years.
The lesson to be learned from the Trump years, I suggest, is not mainly “no more Trumps!” but more “transform the system root and branch!”

Syndicated from Thinking Pacifism

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – Kudos to the psalmist for reminding us of how to live a good Christian life

“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” (Psalm 1:1 – 3)
I get stuck on the word “happy” beloved reader. What does the psalmist mean by “happy”? The NIV says “blessed” and I find that word goes down easier. In fact in other translations the word “blessed” is used more often. And that eases my discontent. Because right now I am not “happy” but I do feel blessed. As of this writing I am healing from the radiation treatment but it feels like I have a long way to go. But I feel blessed that I got through the treatment, and that healing will come – just not sure of the pace and course of healing. But . . . . the psalmist is not talking about physicality but the state of one’s soul and spirituality. And that beloved reader is still intact.
Yesterday I talked about heeding the lessons that Jesus set out for his disciples and those within his hearing. And we who have head it across the years and generations should pay heed also. The psalmist does well in anticipating what Jesus would say in the “Sermon on the Plain.”
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Verses 4 – 6)
You may say to me, heed these words yourself Carole! And I do, and tuck them in my heart placing my hopes in and on them; “the Lord watches over the way of the righteous.” So even if I feel down and not “happy” I can keep hope alive in me and anticipate better days. I can take comfort in being blessed, and wait until being “happy” is more possible. I am trying beloved reader, I am trying! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Please Leave Time for Transformation

I think I owe the Church an apology.For most of my life, I strongly believed that women shouldn’t be pastors. It’s not that I didn’t think women could be capable of leadership in any other setting, but I thought that ordaining women as pastors was against the Bible and therefore against God’s commands.For many years I was willing to get into debates about this, trying to show people that the Bible clearly says women should be silent in the Church (1 Corinthians 14). I tried to undermine the authority a woman might have because men were supposed to be in charge.Well, I don’t believe this anymore. In fact, I can’t imagine the Church without female leaders and pastors. They bring a vital perspective that men simply can’t and God is using them all around the world to spread the good news of Jesus. I realized very quickly that the problem wasn’t with women, as if they weren’t capable or “made” to be in pastoral roles. The problem was that I was too proud and arrogant to accept the leadership of a woman.My point is that I’ve moved on this issue. I’ve changed my mind. I’ve been transformed.Now, that process didn’t take place overnight. It took years. The first step for me was getting to know female pastors. Not only were they genuine about their faith, but they were wise and humble and strong … and everything I hoped a pastor would be. Through that experience, I started to look at Scripture again and realized that I had been ignoring the narrative through the Bible that lifted up women as leaders. I saw the mutuality of relationship that the Bible moves towards. Most of all, I came to realize that my opinions about women was putting unrealistic restraints on God’s work in the world. In a sense, I wasn’t saying that women shouldn’t be pastors, but that God can’t use women in that role.From my own experience, I know that transformation takes time. Changing a stance on an issue doesn’t happen overnight, especially if someone has believed a certain way for a long time or if that belief is tied to a faith structure that would see it crumble if the belief changed.In order for people to change, they need a different narrative - a different way of seeing the situation or the bigger picture. If there’s misinformation, they need the truth. For some, they need to reason things out - they need the arguments and debates. But I believe, most importantly, in order for transformation to take place, they need loving people and communities who are willing to give them time by walking with them gracefully as they try to figure things out.Why am I saying all this?Over the last few years, I have become increasingly disturbed at how issue-oriented our culture has become. It’s amazing to me that even though we are much more secularized, we somehow still have the need to claim moral stances. I believe this creates a culture wherein people pick sides on topics and expect the rest of he world to side with them. And when they don’t, the labelling begins. Usually those labels are absolute (this person is a racist, misogynist, homophobe, corrupt, predator, fake, liberal, or white supremacist) and don’t recognize that people can change. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we let every negative stereotype persist. I’m also not saying that we just let things slide or don’t do anything about the larger social structures that keep injustice in place. But when we label people with such absolutes, it’s as if we’re saying that they are these things, rather than people who hold such beliefs and opinions. That’s a big difference and one of those options leaves room for transformation. We need to be empathetic to the reasons why people believe certain things and realize that underneath all of our layers, we are all humans created by God.The Christian faith has always believed that transformation is possible. In fact, it’s necessary! Alongside that belief is the conviction that no one is too far away or too far gone to experience redemption. The Bible tells the story of Saul who used to seek out Christians in order to have them killed. But Saul was transformed after encountering Jesus and a Christian named Ananias who helped him get his life back on track (Acts 9). What we need in this world, if we want to see real transformation, is a commitment not to hate, call out, or excommunicate, but to be like Ananias. He showed Saul grace, hospitality, kindness, and friendship. Ananias welcomed a Christian killer into his home and led him to repentance and change. I’m sure other Christians may have thought that Saul was beyond hope, but Ananias listened to God’s word and chose to love his enemy.I’ve had a few people like Ananias in my life so far. Instead of labelling me, calling me stupid, telling me to change or get out, they offered me hospitality and grace. They listened to me and offered me alternative narratives and facts. They remained my friends even though I didn’t change my mind right away, and when the time came when I did see things differently, they never said, “I told you so.”If you really want to see change in the world, don’t respond to opposing views with attacks. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Offer hospitality and friendship. Share a different narrative without condemnation and be humble enough to allow yourself to be transformed as well. See them as people created in the loving image of God. And most important of all, leave time for transformation to take place. 
Syndicated from Blog - Moses Falco

Rest in Peace

Death has been on my mind a lot lately. Not my own, necessarily, although I do think about that more than I probably ought to. But just death as a phenomenon. Both of my grandmothers have died in the last six months. Several people in my orbit could well be approaching this threshold. I just returned from a pastors conference about death, funerals and the Christian hope. Death has been a hard thing to avoid lately.
For most of my life, I have stubbornly rehearsed the familiar Christian maxim that death is the final enemy to be defeated, the destroyer of human flourishing to be fought against with everything we have. Death is bad, full stop. I still feel like this most days. But of course death is also the most natural thing you could hope to find. Everyone dies. Everything dies. Christianity has always insisted upon the unnaturalness of death but we must acknowledge that this is, on the face of it, a thoroughly counterintuitive claim in light of observable reality. It’s not hard to imagine how some would write off post-mortem hope as so much wish projection and fear assuagement—”projecting our paltry selves ad infinitum,” as Christian Wiman puts it.
At the conference this week, a friend commented in one of the forums that they don’t spend much time thinking about the post-mortem component of the Christian hope anymore. Who can say what, if anything, lies beyond? Maybe what comes after death is something like a sabbath rest—the cessation of struggle and pain and conflicted pursuits. Maybe death is when we finally get a really long break from our tormented selves. We Christians tie ourselves in knots trying to do enough, believe enough, think clearly enough to prepare ourselves for eternity. What if it’s all a bunch of puritanical striving toward nothing. What if, in the end, we are destined to simply rest in peace?
A theology reading group that I’m a part of has been reading Dale Allison’s Night Comes over the past few months. It’s a book about death—about what might become of us, what we might hope for, and what death might mean. In keeping with the theme of the book (endings), I skipped to the end of the book even though our group is still in the middle. Allison’s last few paragraphs caught me off guard, initially. And then, after a few more readings, they began to resonate a bit more deeply.

Although some might find this a tad morbid, part of me, with a sort of reverent curiosity, now looks forward to [death]. Most of the time, to be sure, life is full, and I’m all for staying with the familiar as long as possible. On the usual morning I eagerly anticipate the coming day, and on the usual evening I return thanks for most of what’s happened.
On occasion, however, the adventure seems stale, and it’s not so easy to feel grateful. The world, which is ever full of wonder, isn’t the problem. It’s rather me. I repeatedly resolve to do better, and I fail. I set out to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful, and my attention wanders. I aspire to love God with all my heart and soul and mind, and my neighbor as myself, but I get distracted.
My incessant failures are more than frustrating, and sometimes I grow weary of myself. My fatigue can be such that I long to quit this stage for some other stage, to wake up in a new and different world, to swap my current self for something better, to undergo whatever will turn Romans 7—“I can will what is right, but I cannot do it”—into nothing but a bad memory. As it became evident long ago that this isn’t going to happen in this world, I don’t always mind the aches and pains and the memory glitches that attend aging. They remind me that night comes. My hope is that light shines in the darkness.

Maybe all of us, in our more honest moments, feel this way. Or, maybe not. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s only introspective melancholic types who think along these lines. I admire those whose whose conviction about what comes next seems unshakeable. I really do. I have never been able to manufacture such certainty about the topography of the afterlife and I’m not sure I ever will. I take comfort in the fact that Jesus said a mustard seed of faith was enough.
But I, too, hope that light shines in the darkness. Desperately so. I long for life where the reality of Romans 7 recedes into a shadowy and unremembered past. And I am still convinced that the bare existence of this hope is itself powerfully suggestive of what might lie on the other side of death’s door. The good, the true, the beautiful—these cannot just be pleasant and useful fictions to keep our overactive prefrontal cortexes occupied for a few decades on a chunk of rock hurtling through space. They somehow have to mean more than that.
They point, surely, to the God who has set eternity in the human heart and who finally offers rest, wholeness, consummation, forgiveness, peace and, yes, even life, unnaturally eternal and eternally unnatural.

Syndicated from Rumblings

Looking West – Introducing a Blog Series

Ted Grimsrud—February 15, 2019
I was born in Eugene, Oregon, back in the mid-1950s and lived my first eighteen years in the tiny town of Elkton, Oregon, about an hour’s drive southwest of Eugene. After a couple of years going to college in Monmouth, Oregon, I ended up back in Eugene at the University of Oregon and except for a couple of excursions for graduate school spent the next twenty years there.
It’s now been almost twenty-five years since our family moved away from the West Coast, the last twenty-two being in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Part of my soul remains in Oregon, though. When I raise my eyes from my computer right now, I look west. I do that a lot, often for minutes at a time. Sometimes, I’m just taking a break. But often my mind moves to the years gone by and to the sensibilities of the world in which I grew up. I’m still that person in so many ways.
The lure of writing
For as long as I remember, I wanted to be a writer. I decided in middle school to major in journalism, thinking at the time of being a sportswriter. I got the degree but decided against the career path. My writing energies turned in a more, I guess I could call it, ecclesial and academic direction. As a pastor and college professor, I did write a lot, some of which was published. I imagined when I retired from teaching a couple of years ago that the writing would come easier and my productivity would ratchet up. So much for the best laid plans. It’s been kind of interesting for me in that the ideas have continued to bubble up as much as ever, but the actual effort to turn the ideas into something concrete has not been as easy to generate as I had hoped.
I have moved forward on several projects, but not at anything close to the rate I had hoped to and with as yet no publishable fruit. I still have hopes. I may be a couple of years older, but other than some arthritic discomfort that ironically first emerged about a week after I turned in my final set of grades, I feel that I have as much potential for productivity as ever.
For a variety of reasons, some clear, some inchoate, I have decided that some self-conscious blogging might help move me forward. Part of what I hope to address in the days to come is some more reflections on the process of (and difficulty in) writing in our present context, with least some autobiographical reflection. At this moment, though, I simply want to note what I hope to do more than why. I imagine most days sitting down and typing for an hour, and then calling that blog post done. I imagine cranking out about a thousand words or so each time. One of the main emphases will be current affairs. But I expect to do some deeper theological reflection, to report on some of my bigger writing projects, to think about timeless kinds of issues, and who knows what else.
One of the reasons I have always wanted to write is simply because I have had things I want to think about and writing seems to help. It’s a way to think through something big—such as the process of writing books about how to interpret the book of Revelation, about how to think of salvation, and about how to respond to World War II. But it’s also a way to think about more immediate issues and concerns—articles, sermons, lectures, and magazine columns.
I’ve enjoyed writing blog posts over recent years. Occasionally, these have gained a bit of an audience—though only for brief times—and have stimulated some engaging conversations. But even when they didn’t seem to get any attention, I always felt good about writing them. So, I guess one way to frame what I hope to do with this “Looking West” series is that I hope to get into a habit of regular posting in order to give myself pleasure.
I know that blogging has seemingly lost a bit of its cache by now. I’m not trying to catch any waves of trendiness by investing energy into what now may be a passé medium. But I know that I will feel better each time I post something. And I also hope that having the regular discipline of setting fingers to the keyboard and letting my thoughts find their way on to the computer screen might grease the skids a bit to make it easier for some more large scale writing to happen.
“Looking West”
By “Looking West” I guess I have in mind looking out my window through the trees to the mountains and imagining what’s beyond as a mode of reflection, even imagination. There are some thoughts out there just beyond the horizon waiting to be found and wrestled with and articulated. And it is also true that something of my sense of self and of having something to say links with the world of my first forty years of life out West.
Last night, before I went to sleep I decided to try this form of writing. Then I started thinking of possible themes and made a list. I don’t expect to address each of these and I, of course, expect many new ideas to bubble up if I do get some momentum going. But these are the kinds of random (and presently often cryptic) possibilities of what might be coming: squirrels, anti-semitism, Trump, Mennonitism, Tom Waits, cooking, losing weight, John Howard Yoder, grandchildren, road food, the Civil War, abortion, Ralph Northam, pacifism, New York City, freeways, electricity, big box stores, fatherhood, feminism, retribution, death, white supremacy, and rivers.
One of my more satisfying writing experiences came a number of years ago when I was asked to write a monthly column for a denominational magazine devoted, I guess, to spirituality (broadly defined). I was asked to write some reflections on peace each month related to the general theme for that issue of the magazine. I never got much feedback, but I thought it went pretty well. It was a creativity-enhancing experience to be told in a quite general way what I should write about but then having freedom about how to do that. So I thought about peace in relation to a number of things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I envision this blog series to be a bit like that. Almost everything I can imagine writing about will be oriented toward my peace convictions. But I don’t know what all of those topics might be nor do I know exactly how they will relate to my core convictions. It should be fun to find out.

Syndicated from Thinking Pacifism

Podcast: Is Buddhism More Transformative than Christianity?

Greg looks at faith and transformation and compares Christianity with other worldviews. Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS
The post Podcast: Is Buddhism More Transformative than Christianity? appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Sweden Deports Christians to Persecution When They Can’t Answer Ridiculous Questions

What does Matthew 10:34 say? Which things are forbidden according to Christianity? Can you describe the sacraments?
If these questions seem hard – even unanswerable – to you, you’re lucky not to be a Christian asylum seeker in Sweden.
Since many years back, the Swedish Migration Board tries to differentiate between “real” converts from Islam to Christianity that risk persecution in their countries of origin, and “fake” ones who only seek a cheap way to gain asylum, by asking various questions.
Sweden being a very secular country, most officials who come up with these questions are not Christians themselves. Furthermore, they don’t have much knowledge about Christianity – even though they might think so themselves.
Me and some friends decided to conduct an experiment. We designed a test called “Am I a Christian” based on real questions the Swedish migration board had been asking converts the last couple of years.
Apart from the three mentioned above, the test included questions like “How many parts does the New Testament have?”, “What’s the difference between the Protestant church and the Orthodox church” as well as the inflammatory “What are your thoughts on the New Testament being very anti-women?”
The test went viral. Pastors, priests, bishops, theologians, celebrities… all kinds of people answered the questions and shared their results on social media. Within four days, over 100,000 people had participated. Only 300 of them scored more than 60 % correct answers.
To read more about this, check out my article in the Christian Post. Please pray for the situation to change, and for a Jesus revival in Sweden!

Syndicated from Charismactivism

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Kudos to Jesus for teaching hard lessons concerning the Christian life

“He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.
And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.” (Luke 6:17 – 19)
Everyone loves a good performance and performer. And Jesus delivered. But . . . . . Jesus was more than a miracle. More than a “flash in the pan” of power. He came just to do miracles, but to change people and the life they lived.
“Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” (Verses 20 – 23)
Additionally, Jesus was more than “good news”, more than kudos for enduring tough times. Jesus was out to turn upside expectations and assumptions.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Verses 24 – 26)
I am not sure if all of this was directed to his disciples or to those who were gathered – those who had benefited from the power and healing. Living a Christian life is more than an “easy ride” through this world. I have learned that many times over, and learned it at a very young age.
That is not to say there is no blessing and comfort in living a correct authentic Christian life. But those blessings and comforts are not necessarily what the “earthly” world would call benefits.
At this writing I have completed the last of my radiation treatments. Now I turn my thoughts and attentions to healing and regaining what was lost to me because of the treatments. But, beloved reader, I have gained more during this time than I have lost. Once again I learned my strength and endurance does not come through human flesh and sinew. My strength and endurance comes from the Lord. And whatever my future health may hold, because of the Lord God strengthening me and guiding me, I am blessed beyond measure! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

What my Parents Did Right

“What do I do?” The veteran parent looked at me helplessly. It was my first year of teaching, and I felt as helpless as he looked. What did I know about parenting?But after 7 years of observing the families of my students, I realize I actually do know one or two things about parenting simply because I had good role models.Here’s what I learned about parenting from my parents:#1 Love: Family was a priority.In my early childhood, we had a weekly family night where we would play games together. Eventually, this morphed into a sports day on dad’s day off. I vividly remember one of dad’s college students coming over to ask him if he’d play basketball that evening. “You’ll have to ask my kids,” Dad said since family night was scheduled for that night. A frequent Christmas gift was skiing together; this encouraged us kids not to value material gifts but rather time spent together. My parents prioritized family when we were kids, now I find that us kids continue to prioritize family time, making schedules work to be together or helping dad out by volunteering at his church’s community day or leading worship at his church.#2 Ministry: We interacted with a variety of people.When we lived in Pennsylvania, my parents took us to the park during peak times so they could get into conversations when people. We’d hand out drinks for free to start conversations or volunteer to clean bathrooms at gas stations.In Virginia, my family took a meal and then ate at a local homeless shelter once a month. My parents encouraged us to split up so we wouldn’t overwhelm the residents. Instead, we had to make conversation with people very different than us. We also were very involved in helping out a single mother. I remember my mom asking me for some curtains I loved but no longer used in my bedroom. It was hard, but I gave them up for the single mom. Later, we did a weekly kid’s club at a trailer park and school. We kids were tasked with planning games, telling the Bible story, and playing with the kids. Everyone was involved.It's hard for parents to know how much to shield children from pain. Many times we view a childhood that is full of "friendships with people like us" and away from the poverty or crime associated with the city as privileged. I don't have any answers. But I know that talking to the homeless, the stranger on the sidewalk, and the basketball player at the park as well as living in inner-city Columbus where our neighbors weren't necessarily law-abiding, nonviolent, honest people with two-parent homes taught me to love people, gave me confidence in interacting with a variety of people, and exposed me to the pain of the world in a much more realistic and empathetic way than television.#3 Passion: They loved the Bible, so we did too. My mom loves the Old Testament and how it sets up the New Testament and she emphasized this frequently when she taught us the books of the Bible through artwork, created huge props for Sunday School out of refrigerator boxes, and assigned us to read through the Bible for our yearly Pizza Hut challenges. Before lunch, we’d work at memorizing a Scripture passage, sometimes adding motions to help us learn it. Dad enjoys theology which came through in our regular family devotions and his analysis of movies we watched. One of my favorite times of the day was when I would clear the table after dinner. Dad was often still eating his ice cream after everyone else had left, so I’d ask him some theological question I had, and we’d discuss it --with mom chiming in occasionally as she did the dishes. Dad bought us stereos and had a huge supply of sermon and Bible tapes that’d we’d often listen to as we went to bed. I would ask my brothers for a sermon with good stories or on a particular topic. They had listened to them so many times, they could pick one that fit.Looking back, I don’t really remember the conflicts or frustrations. Instead what comes to mind is how my parents had the right priorities --and they let us kids join in participating in those.
Syndicated from .life is a metaphor.


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