Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I am not a military man.

My dad served in the Army. He is one of the most patriotic men I know, even though we don't always agree on politics.

I believe in peace and want to pursue it with all my heart. Jesus called us to be peacemakers in the world.

I live in a place where peace has been bought and paid for. A friend recently put a quote on his Facebook page that waging war to make peace is like having sex to save virginity. And while it's a pithy quote, I can't totally buy into it the way he apparently does. As I've written about before, I don't think that peacemaker necessarily means pacifist. Too often some fall into the trip of doing nothing to stop evil. While Jesus may not have made war, he definitely did not do nothing.

I struggle with war and violence and their outbreaks in our fallen world. I like living in a free country. But I don't want to fall into the opposite trap either, the trap that places God in a patriotic box and believes that war is justifiable to protect that which is a luxury. No, freedom is not a luxury, it is a privilege. But let's be honest, lots of wars have been fought over, well, stuff.

But in the midst of my own nonunderstanding of where Jesus wants me to be, I love and respect those who have sacrificed for the sake of freedom. They were and are a great generation. And today I watched this video and cried in gratitude.

So, thanks.

Church and Politics Quiz

A few months ago CT did a Hermenuetics Quiz to help you see what you really think about the Bible.

Today I took the Church and Politics Quiz. I found it really interesting. It takes a few minutes, but take the quiz and see where you might fall.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shopping for churches

Having now gone through our 2nd move in 5 years, we're church-shopping again. Fortunately, we're not the kind of people who church shop without moving (that's a whole 'nother thing, the sheep-swapping that goes on between today's consumer-driven congregations), but still, when you move to another town 350 miles away, it's hard to stay connected with the same church community.

So, we've been visiting churches. Evaluating worship styles (I'm a rock-n-roll kinda guy, but not so much the 100% energetic positive pump-you-up-before-preaching kind; prefering instead the acoustic authentic kind), critiquing preachers (I prefer a guy who says it like it is but with good communication skills), people attending (I'm telling you, it's tough after 20 years in El Paso and 5 years in San Antonio to be in the same room with SO MANY white people), youth groups, children's ministries, etc.

Throw in the mix that I work for a denominationally founded ministry that would strongly prefer I attend a church in that tradition. Finding a church is tough.

So I posted on my Facebook page that I thought there should be a better way. Someone asked me what I meant. So I'm thinking through the options. Since it's never sufficient to just curse the darkness, here's some potential candlelighting ideas...

1. Automatically attend the nearest congregation to our house. We Americans love choice, so this doesn't necessarily sound like a great option. Sort of has the feel of an arranged marriage (what if we're not compatible?). But let's be honest. Do our choices typically work out that well? My cynical side says just look at the people we elect to office and you can figure out we don't choose well. Even something as important as marriage still ends in divorce almost half the time. Surely leaving the choice to chance or Providence or God or whatever can do at least that well. I could even factor in the tradition and say that I will go to the closest [insert denomination here] church. Period. It's an option.

2. Go the route of my friend Keith Giles (click the link at left to see his blog--well worth reading) and live out my ecclesiology. Whether you call them house churches, small groups, life groups, whatever, I believe these communities of people who actually know each other and live out life together are churches. Most of what we call churches are actually just collections of churches at best, and just gatherings of unconnected people at worst. Neither is technically a church. But a few things keep me from doing this. One, I'm not sure my family is ready to make the leap. Youth and children's ministries that are hopping with activity are exciting. And they can make a great impact on kids. That's definitely something to consider. Two, I'm naturally lazy. The habits I've developed are comfortable, and doing some sort of house church thing would mean changing some of those habits.

3. So we're left with church shopping. I'm thinking of developing some sort of matrix that maps out our criteria and an evaluation of each area, so that we can see each place compared to the others. My wife would love that (not). And I think we'll pray about it all too...

Monday, August 18, 2008

One of my favorite Christian songs

We've had lots of discussions here about what defines art as somehow being Christian. I was reminded today of one of my favorite Christian songs. I really think this is a great song.

I've Never Been To Me ( Charlene )

Hey lady, you lady, cursing at your life. You're a discontented mother and a regimented wife. I've no doubt you dream about the things you'll never do. But, I wish someone had talked to me Like I wanna talk to you.....

Oh, I've been to Georgia and California and anywhere I could run. I took the hand of a preacher man and we made love in the sun. But I ran out of places and friendly faces because I had to be free.

I've been to paradise but I've never been to me

Please lady, please lady, don't just walk away. 'Cause I have this need to tell you why I'm all alone today. I can see so much of me still living in your eyes. Won't you share a part of a weary heart that has lived million lies....

Oh, I've been to Niece and the Isle of Greece while I've sipped champagne on a yacht. I've moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed 'em what I've got. I've been undressed by kings and I've seen some things that a woman ain't supposed to see. I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me

[spoken]Hey, you know what paradise is? It's a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we'd like them to be. But you know what truth is? It's that little baby you're holding, it's that man you fought with this morning. The same one you're going to make love with tonight. That's truth, that's love......

Sometimes I've been to crying for unborn children that might have made me complete. But I took the sweet life, I never knew I'd be bitter from the sweet. I've spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that costs too much to be free. Hey lady......I've been to paradise, (I've been to paradise)

But I've never been to me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ooh, my first post from Today's Christian Woman...

I didn't notice until I copied the link--really it was in the CT summary I get. Really.

Anyway, this was a great article. The writer, Holly, calls Christian trinkets "secondhand witnessing" and makes a great case that uhm, it doesn't work. Maybe even turns people away. I am much more crass and cynical and say that most Christian trinkets are scams to make money for somebody. Okay, probably not most.

I think I want a t-shirt that says "Shirts can't be Christian, only people can."

Here's the link to the article.

I have loved since I first saw them years ago

Here's the latest...

The subversive Jesus

My friend Keith has done it again. Written some challenging and maybe provocative things, but some things that imho are spot-on. We have domesticated Jesus and made him into the Jesus of Bible stories for 4 year olds (come to think of it we've done that for the whole Bible, but I'm repeating myself.

The article is so good I asked Keith if I could reprint the whole thing here, and he agreed, as long as I linked back to the original and said nice things about him. Of course, when I think of Keith I can't get too far into it without remembering how he and I parodied a ventriloquist one night at a park revival, where I pretended Keith was the dummy. The wooden kind. And he was hysterically funny.

But I digress. Here's the article, and click on Keith's link to the left to see some other great thoughts from him. And don't forget to answer his question for reflection at the end.

[Subversive Underground] "My Subversive Jesus" by Keith Giles

This Sunday morning I was very challenged to read about how Jesus very directly and intentionally confronted the empty traditions of the Pharisees by what He said and did.

HEALING WITH MUD AND SPITTLE In John chapter 9, Jesus sees a man born blind. His disciples ask if this blindness is due to sin from his parents or his own sin. Jesus responds by saying that it is not because of anyone's sin but so that God's power may be displayed in his life. What Jesus does next is very subversive. He spits on the ground, makes a cake of mud and smears it on the man's eyes and tells him to wash his face in the pool of Siloam. When he does the man is healed. If you're like me you've probably always wondered why Jesus healed this man in such an unusual way. We know he could have simply spoken to him and restored his blindness, yet for some strange reason he performs this miracle in a very weird and, frankly, disgusting way. Want to know why? The answer reveals some of the intentionally subversive methods of Jesus. In the Mishnah, the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism, it says "To heal a blind man on the Sabbath it is prohibited to make mud with spittle and smear it on his eyes." (Shabbat 108:20) When Jesus decided to heal this man, on the Sabbath, using this exact same method prohibited by the Mishnah, he was publicly opposing this section of the Rabbinic Law and making a statement about the foolishness of a rule which prohibits healing someone from blindness. His actions are a deliberate attack on the established religious system of the day. If you read the entire passage in John 9 you'll see that this healing prompted an investigative tribunal by the Pharisees to determine how this person was healed, by whom and why. "They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." - John 9:13-16 Clearly the Pharisees were upset over this and did all they could to undermine the miracle and to condemn Jesus for his actions.

NEGLECTING TO WASH HANDS In Luke chapter 11 we read of another direct encounter with the Pharisees where Jesus publicly opposed their teachings by his acts of subversion. "When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you." - Luke 11:37-41 Again, the Mishnah clearly says, "One should be willing to walk four miles to water in order to wash your hands rather than to eat with unwashed hands" (Sotah, 4b) and "He who neglects hand washing is as he who is a murderer" (Challan, J, 58:3). Jesus knew he was breaking this rabbinical law when he and his disciples ate without washing their hands. He didn't forget to wash his hands, he intentionally walked past the line of people who were engaged in the religious hand washing ceremony and went over to the table and started to eat. Jesus pointed out how foolish it is to go through an outward ceremony of cleanliness when inside our hearts we are filthy. Jesus urged the Pharisees to give what they had to the poor rather than engage in outward displays of holiness.

WHY SO SUBVERSIVE? Jesus could easily have healed on another day of the week, and he could have easily healed without the spittle and mud cakes, and he probably should have washed his hands before he ate, but these were opportunities to demonstrate how foolish these laws were and how much more God cares for people than he does for rules and laws.

MY TURN NOW It made me wonder, what are the modern traditions that I need to oppose by my actions? How can I follow Jesus by standing against the ways of man and, at the same time, declare my allegiance to the things of the Kingdom? Quite honestly I haven't yet worked this all out, but I do feel that there may be a short list of things that I could do and say in my every day life that could condemn the empty religious rules of men in favor of the values of the Kingdom of God. Can you think of anything? -kg

** NOTE: Many thanks to Frank Viola for enlightening me on the Mishnah teachings in his excellent book, "Pagan Christianity".

** GREAT CONVERSATIONS Over at my main blog there are some pretty cool conversations going on. You should take a peek HERE

Monday, August 04, 2008

First blog in 3 weeks--let's call it the whiner edition

Hey, greetings to the 3.5 of you out there, waiting on pins and needles for me to get off whatever island I've been on and write something. Anything. Well, hold on, here goes. As much as I hate whining, this might just fit that category.

About a month ago we decided that if we could find a house in Flower Mound we would go ahead and move, even though we haven't sold the house in San Antonio. So after 3 days of looking we found what we were looking for, well, almost what we were looking for. It's a great house in the sought after Wellington subdivision (that's what they say, I guess I have to get my snobby going), and we close this Thursday (yeah!).

We went with Pods for moving our stuff. No, we're not heading to Mars, as one friend asked. Pods parked 2 giant containers on our driveway and 5 guys came, packed up the house and loaded the pods. This is definitely the way to go. It took them 5 hours what would have taken San and I 5 days. Well worth it.

What? Oh, this doesn't sound like whining? Hang on, we'll get there.

So on Friday the 26th of July we had 2 packed pods. Only one problem. All our stuff wasn't inside. So, we rented a 10 foot UHaul to take the rest. After what turned out to be a short detour back to the UHaul place to fix a tie-down on the auto trailer (I pulled a trailer with my little SUV on it), we made it to Arlington around dinnertime.

Yes, Arlington. My in-laws had just closed on a house here that they will move into when they retire. Only one, small problem. The A/C wasn't working. We called the warranty place, they couldn't get someone out til Monday, whoops, that turned into Tuesday. Then the contractor and the warranty company started arguing over which one made us wait longer. Well, today is the NEXT Monday, 10 days later, and here I am sweating in the kitchen of that house.

We decided we couldn't sweat here all last week though, so God bless our friends in Flower Mound, they took us in. 4 adults and 6 kids. Fun, fun fun, fun fun. Actually it went pretty well, except for displaced sleeping children...while there on Friday their neighbor backed out of his driveway into our van. Same neighbor that has backed into two--count 'em--of our neighbors cars since they moved in a few years ago.

Then came the call from our realtor's assistant in San Antonio. She had gone to check on the house and the connection where our washer hooked up to water was leaking! Water on carpets and through the walls. Can I get an 'amen'!?! It all made me post on my Facebook page that I wondered if Job ever cussed. Even under his breath?

So we went to the weekend retreat on my parents' farm in Oklahoma, where I hauled hay for the first time since I was 17. That is a job every person should have in their lives. But only when they are teenagers.

This morning we left there at 4:45am to get here in Arlington in time for the A/C fixer people to do their work. They are halfway finished. I'm still all the way sweaty.

But, the good news is we're pretty much in the metroplex now. Should all go well--and really, what reason do I have to think it won't"--we will close on Thursday, fully fund Thursday afternoon and get the keys, and have our Pods delivered to our driveway on Friday. (Won't that Wellington HOA love that sight!). So make your plans now to come see us in Dallas. Just don't park in the street across from our friends' house...