Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Back from Thanksgiving

For the 3.5 of you who read this, sorry I've been unposting lately! Had a great Thankgiving in (cue the chorus) OOOOOOOOOOO-klahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain...

Life is just funny sometimes. I've had some people over the years recommend I get into motivational speaking. Here's me, a la McPherson comics:

And then there's this gem, in case you've got an unscheduled meeting with your boss coming up...

We'll get back to the serious stuff soon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

GREAT quote!

"I'm no doctor...but I believe nicotine plus caffeine equals protein."

John Daly

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Great definition from Eugene Peterson

From today's devotional reading from Peterson writing for Howard Butt's ministry:

The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? " [Luke 5:30] The error persists: despite very clear evidence to the contrary, men and women insist on thinking of Christians as the good people whom God likes. But Jesus said that Christians are the bad people whom God calls to salvation. The church, like a hospital, is full of sick people in the process of being healed, not well people displaying their prowess.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Scientific materialism

Reading for me comes and goes in spurts, usually based on whatever else is going on in my life. The 3.7 people who actually read this blog have sometimes asked me where I find time to read all that I read. I really don't, I just make stuff up...

Actually, reading and travel often go hand in hand. I'm 6'5" and...well...somewhere around 3 big bills. So I hate trying to work on airplanes, even though I'm on them a lot. And since I was in Oklahoma City and now in a hotel room in Dallas today, I read.

A few weeks ago I picked up "Modern Physics and Ancient Faith" by Stephen M. Barr at the library. I finally started reading it today. Barr is a professor of physics at the University of Delaware, and (I assume from the first few chapters) a practicing Roman Catholic. The book is about exposing the anti-religious bias not so much in some nebulous "Science" category (something we talked about recently), but in the beliefs of scientific materialism as establishing the mythical nature of religious belief.

I definitely want to put some of Barr's thoughts down, but in chapter 2 he quotes Augustine of Hippo in a great quote that I had heard bits of before, but this was the first time I had seen it all like this. Let me quote it here, and we'll pick up with Barr in the next post:

"Usually even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics, and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn...If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe our books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren, defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture, ...although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion."

Augustine, "De Genesi ad Litteram"

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The best travel advice around!

My friend--I hesitate to use the word friend, since I have only met her once and talked via email a few times, but acquaintance just doesn't sound good--my friend over at Texas in Africa had a blog post recently about going to Africa for the first time. It's worth reading just for the the fun (she's usually very funny) and for the application for any trip out of the US.

It doesn't matter where Americans go, we're bound to be the most arrogant people there. Even Christians. Maybe especially Christians. See TIA points #4, 5, 19, 23, and 35. My wife and I went to Paris (France, not Texas) for our 10th anniversary. People always ask if we saw any arrogant people in France. We did, but virtually all of them were Americans. Same in South America.

The truth is that everyone is proud of where they're from. And they should be. But Americans seem to have a unique way of displaying that pride in a way that puts down every other culture. It really only shows how small we can be.

So go here and read TIA's 38 points for going to Africa for the first time. It's worth it.


Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity

The Onion

Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity

WASHINGTON, DC—The groundbreaking research found that by simply sitting down and doing work, employees can dramatically increase their output of goods and services.

Monday, November 05, 2007

From this morning's reading of Merton...

"Our ability to be sincere with ourselves, with God, and with other men is really proportionate to our capacity for sincere love. And the sincerity of our love depends in large measure upon our capacity to believe ourselves loved. Most of the moral and mental and even religious complexities of our time go back to our desperate fear that we are not and can never be really loved by anyone...

"The real reason why so few men believe in God is that they have ceased to believe that even a God can love them. But their despair is, perhaps, more respectable than the insincerity of those who think they can trick God into loving them for something they are not. This kind of duplicity is, after all, fairly common among so-called 'believers,' who consciously cling to the hope that God Himself, placated by prayer, will support their egotism and their insincerity, and help them to achieve their own selfish ends. Their worship is of little value to themselves and does no honor to God. They not only consider Him a potential rival (and, therefore, place themselves on a basis of equality with Him), but they think He is base enough to make a deal with them, and this is a great blasphemy."

Thomas Merton, "No Man is an Island"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ministry among immigrants...

Two experiences this week brought this hot topic to the forefront of my life. First, Baptists from all over Texas gathered in Amarillo earlier this week for the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. There's not much more fun to be had than 2,500 Baptists in Amarillo!

Because of the University I work for being a Hispanic-serving institution, I was asked to lead a workshop on ministry among immigrants. It was a great discussion, with about 30 people in the room asking questions about how to best be Jesus in the migratory flow of humanity we're experiencing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Of course, the hottest debates are reserved for issues surrounding how to best deal with the 12-14 million undocumented immigrants in the US. Our workshop had a cordial but tough discussion (what you can manage in 15 minutes of dialogue within a one-hour workshop anyway) on how to best do ministry among "illegal" immigrants. Some felt that it was important to share ALL the story right off the bat, something like "Jesus loves you, here's some food, now go back to your country and stop breaking our laws." Others wanted to serve them in the name of Jesus without talking about immigration status, others still wanted to help them become US citizens. Like I said, it was a cordial discussion, hopefully healthy.

But then I heard today about something that just kills me. We often try to place our students in churches as interns, especially in predominantly Anglo churches that have a growing Hispanic community around them. One such church's pastor had been working with our staff for some time, and we thought we have found the right student to come and help this church.

But some in the church had other ideas.

Apparently, when the student went in view of a call (Baptist speak for a church hiring someone as a minister), some church members voiced their concern about a Hispanic being on church staff and Mexicans taking over their church. In the meeting. In front of our student and his wife. With other Hispanic church members also present.

So what is the church for someone who thinks this way? It is a protector of a culture, a bastion of a time when those people heard God's voice and it ministered to them. But it has become a hollow shell, and the Spirit's voice is no longer heard, when the cultural icon that is a church becomes more vital, more important to protect, than getting the life-changing message of Jesus into the world across cultural boundaries and barriers.