Saturday, September 27, 2008

And the world goes on

When we moved back from Kansas City to the Boston area, we promised ourselves that we would regularly visit large bodies of water.  In KC, sometimes I'd get excited at the sight of a big puddle.  It was just the closest thing we could get...

So we've taken the kids a number of times to Nantasket Beach (usually in the late afternoon or evening).  And I'll often eat my lunch at Wollaston Beach, or just stop to watch the waves sometimes.  It's a pathetic beach compared to some, but not compared to the puddles of the Midwest.  And Meghan enjoys taking her "alone times" at the Hingham Bathing Beach.

I stopped the other day to stand for a bit at Wollaston Beach.  The wind was decently strong, creating waves loud enough to drown out the cars and busyness behind me on Quincy Shore Drive.  I appreciate these times because they are a fresh reminder to me that life goes on.  No matter where I am, how busy I think things are, or how much I'm "missing out on," the waves continue to roll over and over and over.  And they always have.  

There's something comforting - something that I need to remember often - about the knowledge that God has always been moving, and God is moving now, and God will move in the future.  While I may often feel like I'm missing out on things, being in the season of life that I am in, I'm not necessarily missing out on God.  And what matters more?

I am of use for Kingdom of God.  I may not be as I envisioned it two or four years ago.  But I am of use for God's Kingdom.

Some of us studied Genesis 20 a few nights ago.  It's a rather disturbing, seemingly hole-filled narrative of Abraham and Abimelech.  The wrongs of the story are 100% Abraham's fault, yet Abimelech receives the calamity of God, and to be restored, Abraham prays for Abimelech.  It's very backwards.

We've been asking what the story of God is throughout our Genesis studies, remembering that what we have is the collection of narratives passed over generations to the people of Israel (and giving due respect and understanding to culture, etc.).  So then we ask ourselves, what does this say for our story today?

...this one was tougher.  Some pointed out that it just seems as though Abraham continues to mistrust and do wrong, bringing bad times and events to those who come in contact with him.  Yet God carries him through nonetheless.  

In one sense, we can see the grace of God in the story.  Despite Abraham's major short-comings, God was going to use him nonetheless.  I guess that gives me comfort...

More recently, we looked at the next chapter (Genesis 21).  Abimelech comes back into the story and this time he outright says it: "Wow, Abraham...God is in everything you do," which I read to say, "Nothing goes wrong for you.  You've got it all good.  Your touch is Midas'."  

This resonates with me.  While it might seem good from another's perspective, it's a difficult place to be in and to maintain a healthy understanding of God's work in one's life.

I guess the grace of God works in different situations.  Usually we think of God's grace as that which makes up for lacking, and that's true.  But God's work in our lives may take other forms as well, just carrying us along despite a lack of major difficulty, transition, or tragedy.

I've begun Brian McLaren's new book, Finding Our Way Again.  I'm hoping that I actually hear this one well.  It's a much different book than McLaren's norm, as it's the kick-off book of a series of books on seeking God's face through ancient spiritual practices (fixed-hour prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.), rather than a practical theology or "everything must change now!" book.  It's got a much slower pace.  I'm looking forward to it and have enjoyed journaling the first couple of chapters so far.  I'm taking this one slowly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Does Charity = Love?

Does "giving to charity" result in love? Is it transformative? For the giver? For the receiver?

There's the old saying, "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime." I wonder of the extent of that statement.

Someone else recently got me thinking about this (I don't remember if it was Claiborne or who, sorry). And then I've had a couple of discussions with others about short term missions lately. In seminary, I went through a phase where I thought short term mission trips were ridiculous. The money exerted seemed a waste and that if we'd just give that money raised to the people we set out to help, we'd help them more than by spending it all on our own transportation. But short term mission trips are hardly about those with or to whom we minister. The transformation inevitably takes place in those of us who go. It's somewhat like pilgrimage.

Anyway, I've often wished that I had millions of dollars with which I could do great things. Who, at some point in their life, hasn't? But as I've thought about it lately, I'm not sure how much long-term good I could truly do with it. True transformation, both for myself and for my neighbor, has hardly anything to do with money. Yes, money is the currency of human power, and power is very important, but when it comes down to it, transformation through experience and relationship is what I'm really seeking and is what the world really needs.

I don't know...I just don't envision Jesus sitting around handing out money.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Jesus for President

I finally finished Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw.  

The book was annoying at first.  Chris and Shane give criticism of the evangelical church...something I'm used to and have often done myself, and a necessary task if we're going to seek after the Kingdom of God.  However, the manner in which they offer these criticisms was frustrating because it was cynical and often mocking.  My hope was to use this book as a resource within my own community.  Some within my community may read those criticisms, get mad at them, and miss the message (a message with which I wholeheartedly agree).

Over time, however, my appreciation for the book grew more and more.  I wasn't a big fan of Claiborne's first book (The Irresistible Revolution).  I didn't even get into it.  But I greatly appreciate J4P.  It was challenging, confirming, and refreshing.  I may still offer it to my community for thought.  

I've come to see the manner of the book as more prophetic than mocking.  Jesus and John the Baptist both gave criticisms that were cynical and even mocking as well.

There are a number of quotes worth sharing, but the one that has haunted me the most was this: "Idolatry is what we would sacrifice our children for."  This was specifically written in a section about political freedom, war, and pacificism.  Yoder and Hauerwas began my trip towards pacificism.  Claiborne and Haw are fueling it.