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Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2006 at 9:51 pm

overheard…

“Jesus doesn’t meet our needs; he rearranges them. He cares very little about most things that I assume are my needs, and he gives me needs that I would’ve never had if I hadn’t met Jesus. He reorders them.

I used to ask seminarians, “Why are you in seminary?” They’d say, “I like meeting people’s needs.” And I’d say, “Whoa. Really? If you try that with the people I know, they’ll eat you alive.”

Now, if you’re a pastor in Honduras, it might be okay to define your ministry as meeting needs, because more people in Honduras have interesting biblical needs—food, clothing, housing. But most people in the churches I know get those needs met without prayer. So they’ve moved on to “needs” like orgasm, a satisfying career, an enjoyable love life, a positive outlook on life, and stuff the Bible has absolutely no interest in.” – Will Willimon as quoted in Leadership Journal

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2006 at 3:14 pm

livin’ for the love of the city

last night we served with this guy, pastor phil wyman. all of us at sinners and saints love this guy and think you’ll love him too. the story of his community’s commitment to “be a blessing to the city of salem” is featured on the front page of the wall street journal and is included in the the salem evening news as well. you can pick up the journal at your local newsstand and read the news article by clicking on the link provided above.

in related news…

life has been really rich lately. i’ve reveled in renewed connections with friends in the lou and chicago-land, felt my crusty soul unfold as simkins and i rolled through the midwest, reveled in the cardinals winning the world series and spied the first signs of reconciliation in one of my most essential relationships. so much has happened that i’ve had precious little time to write, but i suppose that’s the way it goes. of course, i’m planning to explore these experiences further sometime after they cease to be relevant.

i suppose that’s a long way of saying that i would like to forego any reflection on the past week so that i can talk about what happened last night. for the past several years a small contingent of sinners and saints has been partnering with the gathering as together we seek to “be a blessing” to the people of salem. throughout the years we’ve served free hot chocolate, offered “p(s)alm readings”* and donned monk robes to offer free confessions to whomever will hear them.**

last night, as we were wolfing down meatball subs and openly wondering whether we should open the confession booth since there was a surprisingly small crowd walking in and around essex street, phil wyman received a call from christian day, one of salem’s high priests of wicca. christian reported that the entrance to their psychic fair was being obstructed by fundamentalist preachers who were causing quite an uproar. so he decided to call pastor phil and the police in hopes that the witches and the visitors to the witch city could find some peace. at that moment, for some unknown reason, i received christian’s plea as a call to action. so four of us quickly finished our subs, donned our monk robes and headed down to the museum place mall.

once we arrived on the scene, i realized we were walking into a fairly volatile situation. the street preachers were condemning the crowds of sins like beastaphilia, the witches were claiming that one of their number was physically assaulted by either a member of repent america or an associated group and a goth kid was verbally abusing the preachers, denouncing the christians by screaming things that i am hesitant to repeat and stopping just short of taking a swing at any person who countered him.***

at that moment, i realized that i needed to do some pretty quick thinking. should i stand in front of the preachers and counter their condemnation by proclaiming Christ’s blessing upon peacemakers? i tried this approach for a moment but quickly realized that fighting fire with fire was not the best option. should i spend the next few hours standing in front of the “persecution cams,” smiling a benign smile and thwarting fundamentalist attempts to blatantly objectify my fellow citizens? i tried this course for a while, but realized it only incensed the “preachers” all the more and did little fulfill our calling to “bless the city of salem.” finally, i settled on simply speaking grace and truth to both the passerby and those who were committed to condemning non-christians for failing to live up to a kingdom ethic. this latter approach appeared to produce the best fruit, a couple of slices of which i would like to share below.

almost as soon as i decided to share Christ’s peace with the crowd i bumped into a young man who had once been a foster child of a family i know quite well. as soon as i saw him i removed my hood, reminded him of our connection and encouraged he and his friend not to pay much mind to the spite the preachers were spewing or even pay them much attention. i told that by standing around gawking at the street preachers and trying to convince the latter that they actually were not “nazis” they were only encouraging this event to continue.

after i spoke with a few more people i bumped into a leather clad townie who seemed amused by the street preachers and openly wondered “how anyone could take this shit seriously.” i confessed to him that i was a Christian who believed that Christ offered us the most beautiful, good and true approach to life, but that i thought it was ridiculous for the church to require non-christians to embrace the sexual ethics**** that Christ expected of the church and believed that the group that most needed to heed the call to repentance was the church. the townie responded that he had fought many great battles in his life against “crack, crystal meth and the bottle” but had ultimately found freedom from his addictions. moreover, he readily admitted that he believed in Jesus and, during one of the street preacher’s more hostile harangues, he pulled out a harmonica and started to play amazing grace.

in the midst of these encounters i also had the opportunity to speak with a young christian woman who had traveled all the way from wisconsin to preach to the people of salem. after we had a brief discussion concerning the primary focus of prophetic condemnation in the scriptures***** i asked her whether she had ever heard of marshall mcluhan. she told me that she hadn’t, so i spent a few moments explaining his dictum that “the medium is the message” and openly wondering with her whether spreading condemnation upon non-Christians was the best way to share the life in Christ we both value so dearly. our amicable discussion reminded me that true dialogue with the street preachers was both possible and potentially beneficial.

later i spoke with a slightly inebriated man who really wanted to know whether God’s forgiveness, which to him seemed to good to be true, was real and later responded to another question by affirming that even a broken man on his deathbed was not beyond the gracious embrace of God.

there were other remarkably beautiful encounters as well, such as when one of the witches crashed the church after all the earlier craziness to thank us for being a means of peace to the city of salem,****** but i’ve probably said too much already.

i’ll conclude by simply noting that last night i had the opportunity to share the gospel of God’s peace and embody Christ’s reconciliation in a manner, and to an extent, that i never have before. moreover, i left the city revelling in the fact that those who seek to be a blessing are often the most blessed indeed.

i can’t wait to get back to salem. if you’re in the area and would like to join us you are more than welcome.

* which i absolutely suck at.

** we confess the sins of the church in hopes that the Holy Spirit can clear new ground wherein reconciliation takes place. we stole this idea from donald miller’s blue like jazz and freely admit that our act is wholly unoriginal.

*** one of the fundamentalist’s video cameras was not so lucky.

**** the preachers roundly condemned homosexuality, adultery and fornication and returned to the topic of homosexual marriage time and again. but apparently they found the topic of beastiality most titillating. i must confess that after they loudly addressed “those who practice beastiality” i loudly asked “so where are the sheep?” i don’t know if the latter question was constructive, but i found it quite funny.

***** for the record, the people of God are almost always the object of such condemnation. Jesus does indeed denounce people as whitened sepulchers and hypocrites, but you’ll never find him speaking in such a manner to egyptians or greeks. the same principle almost always applies to the old testament prophets as well, though, in fairness, jonah did openly denounce the ninevites.

****** forgive me if i keep further details of that beautiful encounter to myself. some encounters should not be reduced to words.

In Uncategorized on October 24, 2006 at 5:00 pm

memorandum from captain random

this article is the oddest piece i have ever read on CT.com. if you often find yourself wondering what ann coulter, doing “the binky” and the ingredients of conejo soup have to do with Christian discipleship, you’ll love this article.

if would rather die than have to repeat phrases like “it’s time to get your big girl panties on!,” “you have boobs” or “y’all pause for menopause” to middle aged southern women one.more.time.

tomorrow i’m heading out to chicago to join mr. simkins for a journey down the world series. be sure to look for us on FOX.* it’s your duty judy!

i was oddly intrigued by this cnn puff piece on bob newhart. i especially liked the part where he confessed: “Being a comedian,” he writes, “means you are antiauthority at heart.” that quote reminded me of dr. david wells’ warning that “the most violent thing you can do to an institution, proposition or person is to laugh at it.” i often remember that admonition from dr. wells right before i smirk and start ripping.

* i’ll be the asshole snapping a rally-towel in a random thunder-stick user’s face.

In Uncategorized on October 24, 2006 at 2:44 pm

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

the first time i met dr. spencer he described his church as “a wonderful place to be sick in.” he responded to the question on my face by saying, “if i was dying of cancer, pilgrim church is right where i would want to be.” as a progeny of the church growth movement, i had expected dr. spencer to define his church by their vision, numbers or programs. so it surprised me when he defined his church as a source of sweet consolation.

a couple of years ago, i got really hooked on a sermon tape that was produced by leadership magazine. on one side of the tape, john piper preached a rousing sermon on racial reconciliation focusing on 2 corinthians 5 and mlk’s “letter from the birmingham jail” as his primary texts. since i am a son of the south who has wrestled with the demons of racism and learned that the surest sign of salvation is one’s desire for and sacrifices on behalf of reconciliation, i found this sermon incredibly inspiring. on the other side featured a “leadership community” teaching by john ortberg in which he envisioned spiritual growth in terms of the passage i’ve quoted above. pastor ortberg began by admitting that some Christians, especially in an environment like willow creek, truly soar in their faith. these people have a deep and abiding relationship with God, find it easy to invite others into the life of God and are constantly incarnating the faith in powerful ways. other people, he surmised, are running the race of faith and not growing weary. some of these folks are new to the faith and cannot get enough of Jesus’ teachings, others are people who find obedience to the sermon on the mount to be an absolute delight. however, ortberg confessed that there are still others who can barely find the strength to walk in faith. these are people who find it difficult to get out of bed every morning, are constantly afraid of the signs of despair that blight the horizon and can barely find the strength to persevere in the faith. ortberg’s admonition to this latter group was to neither fixate on those who soar or envy of those who run, but to simply keep walking.
keep walking.

today, after nine months of desperate struggle in the midst of a year that has been littered with death and surrendered few signs of life, i am finding it hard to walk. fortunately, much like dr. spencer, i realize that i am in the midst of a community that constantly dispenses sweet consolation, i am blessed with a pixie-like wife who will not let me collapse before the pernicious clouds on the horizon and have friends who do not consider it a burden to carry me along when the situation requires it.

this is not a cry for help but a commendation of a God who graciously empowers soarers, runners and walkers alike and a community that truly cares for its members. truly, i am blessed.

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2006 at 7:13 pm

overheard by pixie

Lunch break at a doctor’s office is pretty much synonymous with magazine perusal. Today I decided to take a break from “People” and read the cover article in last week’s Time Magazine about Barak O’Bama.

I have a hunch that the following quote will be following me around for the next few days quietly disrupting my neatly ordered ideas. Since misery loves company, I shared the quote with Jeff who wanted to subject the whole blogosphere to the misery that is the thinking mind.

“It has not always been the pragmatist, the voice of reason, or the force of compromise, that has created the conditions for liberty,” he writes about the antislavery movement of the 19th century. “knowing this, I can’t summarily dismiss those possessed of similar certainty today – the antiabortion activist…the animal rights activist who raids a laboratory – no matter how deeply I disagree with their views. I am robbed even of the certainty of uncertainty – for sometimes absolute truths may well be absolute.” *

The companion article entitled My Spiritual Journey (did he take IDS 201?) provides some interesting thoughts on the role of community providing a home for ideals, particularly as it led to his conversion to Christianity.

Not all things in life are provided gratis so for these thoughts you will have to do a little reading yourself.

* Bold font in last line added by the Pixie for emphasis.

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2006 at 5:18 pm

musing…

the further i walk down this narrow road of faith, the more reticent i become about reducing discipleship to evangelism. i don’t believe the disciple’s sole calling is to seek the conversion of the world. rather, i suspect that our calling is to: holistically follow Jesus, communally proclaim the Kingdom of God and together incarnate Christ’s compassion upon the world.

that being said, i have nothing but respect for many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are absolutely on fire for evangelism. both the intensity of their focus and their willingness to be made fools for Christ is laudable, and i long to be as passionate about praying for my persecutors or advocating on behalf of the fatherless as they are for sharing the four spiritual laws or hearing their friends and family mutter the “sinner’s prayer.”

although i question (and, honestly, sometimes detest) the methods used and the ends sought by my fellow ee-vangelicals and fundies, and think both the church and the world could benefit from the ecclesia following brian mclaren’s advice to spend a few years apologizing for our sins instead of investing ourselves more fully in apologia, i am jealous of the ee-vangelical fire and, today anyway, find myself lusting for their passion.

i fear this is a weird confession, but i’m going to post it anyway.

go cards.

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2006 at 12:01 pm

musing…

this morning realized that many of my mentors have been trying to teach me the same lesson for years. uncle freddy constantly reminds me that God is not a captive of our abstract conceptions, but chooses to engage, and in a very real sense unfold His life in the midst of, tangled up individuals and dysfunctional communities who for some unexplained reason still long for a sense of the holy. in his music and with his life rich reminded me that Jesus is not captive to the demands or expectations of any sub-culture. in fact, He is committed to turning over tables in every nook and cranny of the public square and constantly calling us to leave our place of comfort and meet him in the margins. moreover, philip yancey has spent the better part of a decade reminding me that our first-century Jewish Messiah is not captive to our reductionistic confessions and God’s grace usually operates outside of our conceptual boxes.

again and again this small contingent of God’s great cloud of witnesses is chanting God is not captive, God is not captive.

so why do i continue to live like the life of God and the incarnation of His Kingdom is somehow captive or contained within the church? why do i disassociate participating in the life of God within the context of the church from working out my faith within the context of work? every once in a while, i realize that i am failing to follow God and serve those who were created in His image in the workplace, which fortunately or not, is the context in which i live the majority of my waking life. in those moments, like this moment, when i realize that i have left the way of Jesus outside the door of our cubicle farm and could care less about incarnating the Kingdom within this space i am utterly ashamed.

i realize that God is not captive to my compartmentalized world. it’s time to start living in step with that truth.

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2006 at 2:27 pm

mid-morning time waster: your customer secret service exam


your manic-depressive, non-christian c.s.s. co-worker has had coldplay’s fix you playing on repeat for three straight hours. you know that your co-worker is currently in a manic phase, has recently threatened to dispose of an adversary by “cutting them up into little pieces and vacuuming them up with a vacuum cleaner” and will probably collapse into gasping sobs if you say anything, but you feel that it is time to act. would you address the situation by:

a) politely requesting that your co-worker put jim henson’s “rainbow connection,” her other favorite song, on repeat for the remainder of the day.

b) give her a burned copy of sonic flood’s derivative new single, “Jesus Christ will fix you,” so that she will break the monotony and hopefully get saved.

c) cut chris martin into little pieces and vacuum him up in a vacuum cleaner.

d) keep your mouth shut for one time in your occupational forsaken life and sing rodgers and hammerstein’s “the farmer and the cowman should be friends” under your breath in a vain attempt to dislodge the song from your consciousness.

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2006 at 7:23 pm

mid-afternoon time waster: your customer secret service exam

thank you for applying for lightway’s customer secret service position! we know that you have a spectacular talk time, are an aggressive, god-centered up-seller and are among the most efficient at return resolution within our company. however, it takes more than excellent metrics to join the C.S.S., you are going to have to show us that you are a mature christian man or woman that can resolve every conceivable issue with grace and truth. please answer the following questions carefully. your future in under-employment will depend on it!

1. on monday morning a customer calls to request a return authorization for the plastic locust bugs from the “god’s exciting exodus!” series. like many difficult conversations, this exchange has the possibility of escalating into a major customer crisis. please read the dialogue carefully and pick the best response to the situation.

customer: “i received 15 locust bugs and would like to return each $3 piece for a $45 credit.”

c.s.s. rep: “ma’am, you actually returned 12 pieces, so upon receipt of return you will receive a $36 credit.”

customer: “you don’t UNDERSTAND. IT SAYS I RECEIVED 15 PIECES ON MY PACKING SLIP.”

c.s.s. rep: “ma’am, i’m afraid you might be reading our, admittedly rather complicated, packing slips incorrectly. you actually received…”

customer: “YOU’RE SAYING I CAN’T READ? YOU’RE THE ONE WHO CAN’T COMMUNICATE!”

c.s.s. rep: “ma’am, if we can talk like adults here, i’m sure we can resolve this issue in an efficient and effective manner.”

customer: “I AM TALKING LIKE AN ADULT! HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME OF SPEAKING OTHERWISE? WHO ARE YOU TO ACCUSE A CUSTOMER IN SUCH A MANNER.”

at this perilous point in the conversation do you…

a) apologize to the customer by saying, “i am sorry that you did not like my response. would you like to speak to my c.s.s. handler about this matter?”

b) follow the trusty dictum “the customer is always right,” by telling the customer, “okay, you can return all fifteen pieces and upon receipt of return we will credit you $45.”
c) respond to the irate customer by saying the following: “no ma’am, you are speaking like a petulant child. now if you will just calm down for one moment we will resolve this issue together.

d) scrunch up your voice and fake a static noise into the receiver before hanging up on the customer and hoping that she receives another c.s.s. representative when she calls in again.

those who answer today’s question correctly will proceed to question #2, which will be posted tomorrow.

In Uncategorized on October 16, 2006 at 2:41 pm

thankful


on saturday i had the opportunity to man a hot dog stand and serve hundreds of families at salem’s annual “children’s day.” by the end of the day i smelled like sausage, had openly lusted over a bull-mastiff that donned a hooters outfit and was thankful once again for the opportunity to stand beside and serve with the gathering – a community that simply seeks to “bless the people of salem.” we’d love for you to serve with us this halloween as we bless the city of salem by providing hot chocolate, inviting people to hear confessions and serving the city of salem in any other way we can imagine. this is one opportunity you will not want to miss.

by the way, as i saw a hundred and fifty kids line up for the costume parade i could not help but think about some of the horrible costumes i wore as a child. i am almost ashamed to admit, especially in light of current events, that when i was nine years old i put on a “dr. k” t-shirt, pulled a mets cap down over my eyes, slathered my arms and face in brown paint and trick-or-treated as an inexplicably drug-free doc gooden. apparently in 1986 nobody thought twice about letting a kid roam the neighborhood in black-face, but i think that if a kid tried that today his experience might be, understandably, different.

what was your worst costume ever?

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