Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

2.18.2015

Opportunity Knocks

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

-Thomas Edison

2.15.2015

Celebrating Black History?

Why would a White man write an article celebrating Black History?

...thats a fair question, but I think the answer is obvious enough.  A better question, however, is why would anyone want to read an article from a White man celebrating Black History?

Hopefully that question is answered in the next paragraphs.

Permit me an observation.  Some of the most articulate African-American voices I interact with are often given a platform to speak to White people about issues of race and racial reconciliation.  White culture, and in particular, White Christian culture, is coming to terms with the fact that the gospel demands that we share meals with Christians of every cultural background (see Galatians 2).  In light of this, articulate African American voices are sought after by some White Christians...  but those voices are quite often only invited to speak about one thing: race and racial reconciliation.

The White Church will have a panel discussion around issues of race, and invite a multi-cultural group to speak, or will have an event focused on the issue and invite an African-American scholar to present some ideas the topic.  In and of itself, this is a good thing.  We need people of all cultures speaking to the issue of a reconciled and reconciling church.  In particular we need the voices of the Black community to share their perspectives and their pain regarding the racial history of our world and the Church.  The problem lies, however, in the fact that this is often the only space where White Christians are willing and able to hear Black voices.

Back to Galatians.

Paul's argument is not that Jews and Gentiles must resolve past hurts for the sake of the gospel, but rather, that Jews and Gentiles must eat together for the sake of the gospel!  Indeed, the entire point of resolving past hurts is precisely so that we can enjoy fellowship in Christ!

What this means to me is that, while it is indeed vitally important for me to hear Black voices explain the history of race from Black perspectives, it is equally, if not more important, for me to hear Black voices speaking about worship, poverty, Christology, prayer, Ecclesiology, discipleship, addiction, Missiology, evangelism, technology, leadership, business, philosophy of ministry, socio-economics, etc. from Black perspectives!

The Church needs the wisdom of the Black community's voice, not just on issues of race and racial reconciliation (although this is one of the great gems that the Black community has to offer the global church!), but on all issues.  The Body of Christ needs every member healthy and fully engaged for us to be healthy as a whole.  If we belong to Christ, then we belong to each other.  While this must be asserted when one part is suffering, it should also be asserted when there is no suffering!  Should we only give attention to our hands when they are injured, or might we consider using them for work, and play, and art when they are healthy as well!

So... back to the question at the top; why would anyone read an article celebrating Black History that is written by a White man?

Simply put, if we are to ask for the African-American voice to speak to every facet of life in God's good creation, then we ought to expect to hear the White voice speak to issues of race and reconciliation.  If I have asked African-Americans to speak about the breadth and depth of life and ministry, then perhaps I ought to speak to the issue of race and reconciliation.

Admittedly, this article has not actually been much of a 'celebration' of Black History or Black culture, so much as a push in the direction a multi-cultural future!  So I will end with a few practical thoughts that might help:

1) Recognize our failure at a multicultural church as a failure at believing the gospel (Galatians 2:14); as a failure at Christian maturity.  We must begin to talk like this and think like this.  "I won't eat at the table with 'them' because I won't trust in the power and truth of the gospel."

2) Start with eating together with those different from you.  Jesus scandalized his contemporaries precisely by who he chose to eat with.  This is because table fellowship builds intimacy.  Let us learn to eat the bountifully diverse fare of the Lord's Wedding Feast!

3) Look for collaborative projects with Christians of different cultures and traditions.  The word conspiracy literally means "to share breath with another."  This is the definition of intimacy.  Let us find conspirators amongst Christians of all cultures!

4) Move towards giving away control, power, and influence.  This means you will get things that you dislike and disagree with.  Do so anyway, for the sake of the gospel.

5) Be true to who you are in Christ, don't hide yourself or pretend to be something you are not.  But be humble and accept others as they are in Christ, allow them the same luxury to be themselves!

6) Expect this to be a painful process.  Don't be afraid to communicate your pain, but be even more attentive to the pain of others!  Think of it like a poodle dating a gorilla, it surely requires a great degree of sensitivity and creativity!

1.25.2015

Local Church

"Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff."
Eugene Peterson

See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/09/27/faithful-end-interview-eugene-peterson/#sthash.aZIKrRqe.dpuf

1.21.2015

Marriage

Marriage is about 'two becoming one.'  Two lives becoming a single life.  A common home, a common purpose, a common dream, common finances, common responsibilities, a common reputation… you get the picture!  A single life, with two persons.

So here is whats required:

Communication:

Firstly, sharing yourself with the other person, and secondly, learning to receive from that other person.  Learning that what motivates you to say and do certain things, is not necessarily what motivates them to say and do those same things.  Understanding and sharing what you are at the core of your personhood with your spouse, and allowing them to share with you as you seek to understand them.

Reconciliation:

Repenting of sin and offense on your part, over-and-over-and-over-and-over…

Forgiving sin and offense on their part, over-and-over-and-over-and-over...

1.04.2015

Conformity

“The test of character posed by the gentleness of God's approach to us is especially dangerous for those formed by the ideas that dominate our modern world. We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. The fashion of the age has identified mental sharpness with a pose, not with genuine intellectual method and character. Only a very hardy individualist or social rebel -- or one desperate for another life -- therefore stands any chance of discovering the substantiality of the spiritual life today. Today it is the skeptics who are the social conformists, though because of powerful intellectual propaganda they continue to enjoy thinking of themselves as wildly individualistic and unbearably bright.”

― Dallas Willard

1.03.2015

Chili Recipe Redux

This is my second attempt at writing down a chili recipe (after my first attempt was probably 2 out of 5 stars).  I would personally add more seasoning, but my wife didn't want me to, so I left it the way it is.  It can use a little more salt, but that can be added at the table.

Start by chopping the following (food processor for all but the onions) and sauté over medium heat in the bottom of stock pan in olive oil:

3 large carrots
3 large celery stalks
2 bell peppers
3 large onions
3 large bay leaves

Once they start to get soft add the following:

2 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 beer
24 oz corn (can or frozen)
24 oz pinto beans (can)
24 oz black beans (can)
24 oz red beans (can)

Once the meat is fully cooked add the following:

24 oz tomato puree (can)
24 oz diced tomatoes (can)

Once the chili begins to bubble turn down heat and add the following:

4 medium cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 1/2 oz molasses
5 teaspoons of chili powder
3 teaspoons of cumin
2 teaspoons of paprika
2 teaspoons of oregano
2 teaspoons of black pepper
3 teaspoons of salt

Let simmer over low heat, if the chili is too thin, thicken it with tomato paste, corn starch, or other thickener.

12.17.2014

Racism Means Many Things...

In talking about racism, I believe it would be helpful to distinguish between the following things:

#1 Systematized Racism (Bigotry): Social/political/economic structures that are intended to treat one racial group different than another.  Examples: Impinging upon voting rights of a particular group.  "Whites Only" signs that were placed everywhere.  Redlining practices.  Preferential hiring practices.  Refusing to investigate or prosecute lynchings.

#2 Individual Racism (Bigotry): Personal animosity and/or discrimination towards another person because of their racial background.  Examples: The use of racial epithets.  Violence against person or property. Ostracism.

#3 Systematic Racial Injustice: Social/political/economic structures that are not intended to treat one racial group different than another, but indirectly accomplish that end.  Examples: Educational systems that prioritize the children of wealthy and powerful families.  A justice system that dispenses justice to the poor much more harshly than to the wealthy.  Government subsidies to the poor that have largely gutted poor communities of their work ethic and their family units.

#4 Racial Pride: Being glad of one's own heritage.  Examples: Celebrating our culture through holidays.  Promoting the values of our culture to those of other cultures.  Learning about historical events from the perspective of our culture.

#5 Cultural Privilege: The reality that our society is made up of people groups from many cultures, but only one culture can be the dominant culture.  For those individuals within the dominant culture, they are both privileged, and often ignorant of their privilege.  Examples: The white, middle-class values of punctuality, industry, and self-reliance are a standard by which all people are expected to live up to, while the values of other cultures are downplayed and ignored.  Images of white people are considered 'normal,' images of anyone else are considered something 'less normal.'  The structures necessary for our society to function are created with implicit reference to white cultural norms.  The fact that #4 is indiscernible to our society when the racial pride of whites are on display, but somewhat radical when other groups do the same thing.

#6 The Legacy of Racism: The generational legacy of #1 (which no longer exists) and #2 (which is both illegal and socially unacceptable, although still existent in plenty of individuals and communities).  Examples: Different racial groups have different correlations with poverty.  In particular the descendants of individuals who have suffered from #1 and #2 have passed down their pain, their anger, their legacy of deprivation, to their own descendants.  Additionally the family unit was greatly disintegrated in some communities which has lasting negative effects generationally.

(I don't know what the best labels are for the above, suggestions are welcome.)

Along with the above categories, I would add these thoughts:


1) The reason for the above categories is this, the honest* debates surrounding racial issues in our culture are often exercises in miscommunication.  One side is talking about #6 and #5 and #3, but the other side thinks they are talking about #1 and #2.  Or the other side sees #4 or #2 happening and equates it to #1.  I do think we need to be able to distinguish between these various realities as an aid to understanding what is actually happening, and as an aid to communicating about what is actually happening.  Bluntly, misdiagnosing a situation radically decreases your credibility to speak to people about these issues.

2) Race (as opposed to ethnicity, or country of origin) is a social construct, that is not rooted in any scientifically discernible reality. That doesn't make it less 'real,' but does point towards its roots in xenophobia and ethnocentrism.  This is true for all peoples…

3) Perhaps most importantly, we need to be able to distinguish between those responsible for creating these realities intentionally, those responsible for creating the realities unintentionally, and those responsible for dealing with these realities.  All human beings should be responsible for dealing with these realities (certainly all those who claim to follow Jesus).  Almost every human being is responsible for these realities in the sense that they have tacitly participated in them without any real reflection (this is true regardless of race and class).  But very few people are directly responsible for intentionally creating any of this.  Assigning blame to people who are not guilty of what you are accusing them of not only decreases your credibility, but actually hinders the process of finding and pursuing solutions.

*Many public debates around race are simply political posturing by people of all colors trying to gain power.  These are not miscommunication (i.e. failures at communication) because there is no real attempt at communication taking place.