Friday, December 30, 2005

shameless plug

If you haven’t checked out my wife Jamie’s blog, you should. Though she’s not nearly as angry and bitter as I am, but she does, from time to time, have some clever or insightful things to say. You can click on the above link or on the link I have to her in my right column.

By the way, pay no attention to the fact that my picture shows up on her profile. It got there by accident and I haven't figured out how to erase it without replacing it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

for the most part...

Well here I sit, in Edmond, Oklahoma, typing away on the keyboard as my wife, glaring at me, folds laundry. I tell her that if I folded laundry there would be nothing for her to do, as I do everything else. This conversation never seems to go very well. She just doesn’t listen.

What is the difference between accountability and bomb dropping? I don’t know, I’m American…oops, sorry about that one, it just sort of slipped out, but that brings me to the point of this post It has never been my desire to bash for bashing’s sake. As I type away, sometimes very passionately, my hope is that this church I was born into will see the flares and at least consider changing lanes if not getting out of the car to help. It is never my desire to bash, but it is my desire to wake up a sleeping church. I suppose some people sleep harder than others and so, sometimes, a good shaking seems appropriate. But, and let me be very clear about this, I don’t in any way think I’ve got it all figured out. The only thing I know for sure is that people are in need of the gospel yet few seem very impressed with the way we’ve packaged it. As someone once said, the gospel is a diamond rolling down a dung heap. Every few hundred years, it’s important to chip away at the dung so that we can get back to the diamond. So as I vent my frustrations on this blog, please know that I am the KING of generalizations (see). I take what I’ve seen, and what I’ve experienced, and assume a lot. Sometimes I think my generalizations are pretty close to the truth. After all, despite a few NBA players here and there, most white man CAN’T jump. But I also recognize that a few can and are jumping and sometimes I forget that it’s more motivating to see the ones who can than the ones who can’t.

So with that in mind, and with Christmas just around the corner, let me share something that I have become more and more thankful for over the past couple of weeks. My home church in London. It’s actually located in Wood Green, to be more specific, and it’s a Salvation Army church.

My church is far from perfect, and sometimes it feels like they enjoy thinking about doing stuff so much that it takes them forever to actually get around to doing it. But it’s also desperately trying to become a church that Jesus would be proud of. For one thing, it’s unbelievably diverse. No token cultures here. More than thirty different countries (let alone cultures) are represented at our church, from Asia and Africa, to the Middle East and Europe, and even as far away as North and South America. My cell group alone has five different countries represented in it. And the worship is a great mixture of both old and new songs, both relevant through the way they are led. And, best of all, they seem to have a conscience. It isn’t rare to hear a sermon, on a Sunday morning, about fair trade and the need to check clothing tags before we buy. Mission projects are presented on a regular basis and even now they’re trying to raise money for a great new project in Haiti. Last Christmas I shared with my cell group that we had a family at our project that could use some help with Christmas. In one night the people in my small group gave over $300 to help provide Christmas for a single mother and her son.

After growing up in church and then getting an honest look at a lost world that wasn’t being reached, it’s doubtful that I’ll ever be content with the way the church does business. But I think it’s important to point out when Christians and churches are truly stepping up. And ours is sure trying.

Wood Green, we miss you guys.

And now, for all of you in Edmond and Virginia (and others that I don’t know about) who read this thing and never comment, now would be a great time to share your own stories of a church or even a believer who is truly missional in their approach to life. Phil, even you’re welcome to comment! : )

And, if I don’t get in a post before the 25th, have a very Merry Christmas. Oh, and if you’re still worried about “re-claiming the holiday season for Jesus”, start by taking down all those Santa decorations you’ve got hanging around your house!
Oops. There I go again…: )

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

commenting on the comments

Well here I go, commenting on the comments. Something I hate to do.

Islamic extremists' goal is the annihilation of an entire way of life but Christian extremists' isn’t? Really? I’d go much further than that. I’d say most Americans, let alone Christians, would like to annihilate certain ways of life. The following is a short list: socialism, communism, any religious forms of government outside of Christianity, and homosexuality. I think to believe otherwise is to be walking through life with blinders on. And while the difference between right-wing extremists and Christian conservatives may need to be better defined, I think most Americans I know would fit more comfortably in the right-wing category than whatever Larry’s (a good friend) definition of a Christian conservative may be. I have to admit, I’m not sure I know the difference anymore. Based on the fact that the “Moral Majority” define themselves as both Christian conservatives and as members of the right-wing, I’m not sure I see a difference.

And, in case I’ve been misunderstood, I also DEFINITELY believe that Christians should be involved in politics. The problem is that we only seem to be involved in politics that make life easier for us (the church) rather than politics that look out for the vulnerable. The fact that much of the American church is supporting a government right now who is attempting to pass a budget that cuts food stamps and medical coverage for the poor and gives, yet more, tax cuts for the richest Americans is evidence of that. For more information on this, check out this article from the Sojourners website.

Finally Bill, I agree with much of what you’ve said. The church has a long history, and still today pushes a gospel that says “you can have Jesus, but only if you look like us”. For more on this, check out George C. Hunter’s book The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again. If you check out my right column, you can read the first chapter of this book.

By the way, I watched Oprah's My Favorite Things show this afternoon. BIG mistake!

I also saw a bumper sticker that said "God is not spelled G.O.P." He's not??? That's not what I've been told.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

observations so far...

Well, I keep waiting to get some good photos before I post, but the weather has been very Londonish and I’ve just not been up for taking them. So the following are my observations so far.

First of all, I have to say that it’s been very weird to be back in the States. There are a lot of little things that I just hadn’t noticed before I stepped away for two years and then came back. I think the most obvious are the excesses. It’s just hard to believe how much of everything there is, and just how much goes to waste. I’ve never seen more Hummers in my life. It’s like we’re living on a pimped out military base. The following are just a few more observations from the past week:

A bumper sticker that read “America, love it or leave it.” ??? So much for democracy.

Last Sunday morning we visited a church that is very near and dear to our hearts. We managed to arrive during Sunday School and the college (Uni) class was watching a sermon on video. I walked into the class just in time to hear the video preacher say “Save yourself for marriage. Because there’s nothing more erotic than two virgins in a bed together.” These are the kind statements that make the BBC come to the Bible Belt and do documentaries on us! : )

Two out of the city’s four sky scrapers have coordinated their office lights so that when you look at the building from the outside at night, crosses show up on all fours sides of the outside of the buildings. This is so shocking and I intend to get a picture of it. No wonder people around here are offended when a retailer decides to use the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. This is truly a bubble.

The gun show is coming to town.

Standing in a right-wing church, singing “peace on earth, good will towards men.” I’m not sure that everybody saw the irony in this.

More Christian billboards than you could possibly imagine. Between the billboards, the crosses on the outside of skyscrapers, and people offended at just the thought of any other religion being recognized other than Christianity, it truly reminds me of the Muslim countries we condemn for allowing their Muslim religion to influence their politics. I see a big double standard here in the way we expect Muslim countries to separate their religion and politics vs. the way we expect our politicians to recognize Christianity when making decisions that affect the country.

This all sounds so condemning, and I don’t mean to be that guy who goes to Europe for a few years and comes back eating veggie burgers and driving solar powered cars, but it’s so weird how shocking and excessive it can seem when you step away from it for a few years. As Jamie and I looked at baby clothes this past week, we couldn’t help but notice that there were baby sweaters going for as much as most families from developing countries make in a month or more. Yet people were buying them up as if it were normal and even necessary to purchase a $30 sweater for your baby that she’s going to spit up on in the next five minutes. I’m not mad. I’m just sad. Sad for those people who are going without, and sad for those people who have been brainwashed into believing that they need all of this stuff to live a complete, happy, and successful life.

It’s almost Christmas so I’ll try to make my next post a little lighter.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

important article

There's an extremely important article on Moby's blog today. I'll give you one quote, but beg you to check out the entire article.

"if a musician made a record wherein he talked about killing blacks and jews would he get covered in the press and played on radio and mtv? if the answer is 'no'(as it should be), then why is radio and mtv filled with music that has lyrics about killing and brutalizing women and gays? is it somehow less offensive when women and gays are brutalized and killed?"

Monday, December 05, 2005

donate towards our tree...

So, after posting my thousand word essay on the need for Christians to be culturally sensitive if we’re ever going to reach a non-believing world with the gospel, one of my Muslim girls, upon finding out that she wouldn’t get to see me next week before the holiday break, wished me a Merry Christmas as she was leaving club today. Haha! Oh well.

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here it’s like people are getting nastier the closer we get to Christmas, especially on the busses. I keep witnessing argument after argument between perfect strangers. It’s getting ugly and it’s getting me down. And then, to top it off, I find myself spitting venom on the internet at Christians who I feel are ruining my opportunities to tell the world about the love of Christ. So with that in mind, I’m going to attempt to digress here (Unless I see another petition. In which case I’m going to start spitting again.).

The tree pictured in this photograph will be one of the things I’ll truly miss about London one day. This is our third holiday season (Christmas for us, Hanukah and Kwanza for others) in this community and every year somebody goes out and decorates the middle of this tree. Not the top half. And not the bottom half. Just the middle half. What’s up with that? Who is making this decision? I realize that we live in a poor community and all, but seriously, this is all we can afford? Enough lights to decorate the middle half of one tree? Oh well, it always makes me laugh.

I’ve added a few new links to my Favorite Blogs column. And there are a few others I’ve not added to the column but are definitely worth the read.

Vietnamese God isn’t a Christian blog, nor does it seem to be religious in nature, but it is a great blog about life in Vietnam with amazing photos. Definitely worth checking out.

The Boy Who Heard Music is actually Pete Townsend’s blog. I was surprised when I accidentally stumbled onto it. Not only does Pete Townsend blog, but he actually uses blogspot, a free service. That seems kind of funny to me.

How to Do Stuff may be the most creative blog I’ve ever seen. This guy writes about everything from carving turkeys to making a flame thrower out of a candle and a squirt gun (why do I see Drew quickly hitting the link after that last line?).

Finally there's Moby's blog who, like it or not, often has some pretty important things to say about the church. Here's a guy who considers himself to be a follower of Christ (and really knows his Bible) but, like Bono, would really rather not be associated with the actions of the church.

I also subscribe to a million blogs on bloglines but can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to add a link to that here. See!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

is your church boiling mad too!

Well here we go.

It seems that yet another group of Christians feel that their rights have been violated! Evidently some of the non-Christian retailers around them simply want to acknowledge the fact that their customers are celebrating many different holidays around this time of year, from Christmas, to Hanukah, to Kwanza, to Eid, and even New Years! So, in an attempt to wish all of their customer a happy holiday, they’ve decided to use the phrase “Happy Holidays” in their promotion instead of “Merry Christmas”. SHOCKING! Why would I wish a Jewish person a Merry Christmas? And, if I were a retailer, why would I not acknowledge my Jewish patrons’ holiday? And the only way to do that is to either hang a million signs with every holiday listed, or simply say “Happy Holidays” which covers everybody. But the Christians are in an uproar and yet another right-wing political organization has come out of the woodwork to pass around a petition and get Christians to boycott these retailers.

I love you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, but every time you say something like “this is OUR country! If they don’t like it, they can go find their OWN country!” you sound like a redneck. Saying that we “discovered” this country is a lot like telling a police officer that I “discovered” your car stereo. And while it’s true that the majority of our white, slave owning fore-fathers were “Christians” (though not very good ones, evidently), it’s also true that our fore-fathers were smart enough to know that America would never truly be free and democratic if people of ALL religions weren’t free to worship there. In fact, that’s why SOME of the early European settlers came to America (learn your history).

I’ve always thought that one of the most remarkable things about Jesus’ ministry was the fact that he spent his days, not defending the “church” against the Roman government, but defending lost and defenseless people against the “church”. Jesus spent his days defending the poor and the lost against a religious institution that was interested more in intimidating and holding power of people than serving God out of a pure heart. And he did it because he wanted all of them to know that grace prevailed over power, and fear, and intimidation. He wanted them to know that God had come to save them.

This was a hard lesson for the Jews to swallow. They wanted a King who would liberate them from slavery and give them back their land. But that’s not what Jesus came to do. He came to serve and to teach us how to serve. So, when his disciples suggested that he not pay his taxes, Jesus handed them a coin, said “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” and reminded them yet again that he had not come to be militant. And, when Peter decided to “defend Jesus” by cutting off the ear of the Roman guard, Jesus healed the Roman guard and reminded Peter that that’s not what he had come for. That’s what Jesus did, he healed and offered hope to the lost, and spent the rest of his time sorting out all of the religious elitists.

The world is turning to all manner of religion right now. And most of them do it looking for a way of life that promotes peace, and love, and good will towards all mankind. Isn’t it a shame that they can’t see that in Christianity anymore? Because that’s what Christ (the guy we named our religion after) was all about. But lost people don’t know that anymore because we don’t show it. Instead, too many Christians spend their time huddled in their buildings, planning the next political rally where they will picket and promise to boycott non-Christian businesses and institutions for not worshipping with us. What they see in us, far too often, is a militant political machine that’s out to force Christianity down their throats and stand up for our rights! As Americans, we have the right to worship any way we want to, but we don’t have the right to force everybody else to worship with us. God gave that right to all mankind long before Thomas Jefferson came along and made it a law, so why is it that Christians want to take it back?

Militant Christianity is the ugly side of religion.

Instead of spreading anger, and resentment, and hate, and venom, we should be spreading the love of Christ. We should be serving these people. That’s what Jesus did and that’s what he called us to do. And he did it, and commanded us to do it, because that’s what wins people’s hearts, not brow beating them with it.

The church has spent the last twenty years whining, and griping, and picketing, and boycotting lost people for acting like lost people. How ‘bout we spend the next twenty years serving the lost and helping the needy and see which one wins more people for Christ?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

new digs

As you can see, I’ve redesigned this site. I’ll probably still do some tweaking here and there, and I can’t decide if that flicker photo thing over there on the left looks cheesy or not, but I wanted to get the new template posted before I took off for the States. Sigh. Five glorious weeks of stuffing myself at Taco Bueno. Mmmmmmm…Taco Bueno.

I got a lot of ideas and tips around the net but found one page invaluable if for nothing more than the color template alone. You can check it out here. Great site with lots of helpful tips.

By the way, I’m thinking about adding one whole column simply for posting apologies to all of the non-Christian companies, Christians have decided to boycott, because those companies won’t promote our religion. I love you my friends, but you are crazy-wrong.

Is “crazy-wrong” a hyphenated word???

Love you still. Tim