Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who is to blame for more non-church-going pagans?

Skye Jethani had this editorial on the Out of Ur blog today...apparently it seems that Al Mohler believes that liberal government is to blame. Read the article here...

A new friend's blog

Okay, I had heard about Pastor Glen from many different folks, but last week I got to meet him. And I must say I enjoyed the experience immensely!

I have discovered his blog, and wanted to share it was all 3.5 of you too. You especially need to read about the farts. One of the best blogs ever.

www.pastorsmucker.blogspot.org. Check it out.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A request for prophetic civility

My how our views taint our responses.

I was opposed to the war in Iraq from the beginning. But George W. Bush was still my president. I wrote that we shouldn't have gone into the war. But he was my president. I challenged my friends about the war. But I don't think I ever denigrated President Bush or called for his impeachment. I didn't call for President Clinton's either.

I am opposed to abortion. But Barack Obama is my president. I will write about being pro-life, in all it's facets. Given the chance, I would discuss a pro-life stance with the president, and even if he disagreed with me, he would still be my president.

Today I'm thinking that for each of us as followers of Jesus, our politics are not of this world, or at least shouldn't be. They are different, they are upside-down (or rightside-up, as the case may be).

So speak prophetically. And respect every human being. Even--no, especially--the ones you disagree with.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Evangelicalism is dead, long live Evangelicals

So twice today I've been sucked into this story, summed up here on Out of Ur:

Evangelicalism is dead.

I say "yeah!"

The first conversation started with my friend Becki on Facebook. She linked to the Christian Science Monitor article mentioned on the Out of Ur blog. To be fair, it's a good article, but as the 3.5 of you who read this blog know, I've called myself post-evangelical for several years now. The death of Evangelicalism happened awhile back, so that's what I said in reply to her post.

I would suggest that Evangelicalism is already dead. Mostly because of #1 on this guy's list. And I think it needs to lay down in the casket, personally. What remains will be precisely those who truly follow Jesus. Me

She responded well: Merriam Webster defines Evangelical: of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels, emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual.By the definition above, it could also be said it is a sad day that it is dead and I would say that #2 played more of a roll in it. Had it stayed true to it's definition and remained about the authority of Scripture and Apostolic preaching of the Gospel that confronted people with what the the death of Jesus on the Cross represents and confronted with what their sin caused and its significance then there would be far less people dying and going to hell. Congregations big/small, church building/home churches, it doesn't matter, they are full of people are unconverted believers (of what they have been told and its not the gospel).

This is somewhat true, but not totally in my opinion. Here's my last entry on her comment page:

The word Evangelical is dead, what ole Merriam says (was she Daniel's wife?) is the definition of Evangelical was really a follower of Jesus, and those have been around for awhile now, and will continue to be around until he comes back. I guess they'll be around after that too, come to think of it. This is the problem with much of our vocabulary and even our ideas as followers of Jesus. We have words to describe something that is complex, but eventually if we're not careful we end up fighting for the word and not for the concept. Words like Trinity, incarnation, atonement, and Evangelical (and some day, the phrase "follower of Jesus") are used to describe complex theological thoughts and truths, but we begin to believe more in the use of the word than the truth it reflects. Words become litmus tests of who is in or out.Evangelicalism is dead. Long live the evangelical.

What an Evangelical truly was, when the word was originally coined, is not dead. Just the hollow shell that it had become. Let's let that shell die. It deserves to die. What rises in it's place--really what has been there in the midst of it all along--is authentic regenerated followers of Jesus.

Pet Peeve #7

Okay, so I'm really not that picky about most things. But there are certain kinds of poor grammar that just irk me. And here's maybe the biggest--using "i.e." when you mean "e.g."

I mean, come on! "i.e." means "in other words." In Latin. Literally it's "id est" or "that is".

"e.g." is Latin for "exemplia gratia" or "for example".

But people insist on such sentences as this one that I saw today: "Misc/General Interns may be students or professionals; however, the internship is not in fulfillment of educational, professional or licensing requirements/goals, i.e. summer camp counselors."

If this sentence is taken literally, it means that THE ONLY kinds of Misc/General Interns are summer camp counselors, instead of what they meant to say, that summer camp counselors are AN EXAMPLE of these kinds of interns.

I wanted to be witty with this, but instead I'm just came out grumpy; e.g. I'm sorry.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The range of emotions...

So a few weeks back my mom was around, and a few of us got into this discussion about the differences between the emotions of men and women. And they told me I should blog my thoughts. Hopefully not to get shot down in cold blood on the street by women who disagree.

Disclaimer #1--I have no clue about women. I have little experience: no sisters, I think I was 11 when I realized my mom was a girl (she was a great basketball player, could shoot a gun, and was in a house full of guys).

So getting married was, to say the least, a little bit of a new experience for me. Living with the fairer sex was enlightening. Not educational, mind you, since I probably haven't learned much, but enlightening.

The first clue about this came years ago when San was quizzing me about something. I got a little offended and told her "stop questioning me!" Her response: "I'm not questioning, I'm just asking."

???

Um, aren't those the same thing?

See, I told you I haven't learned anything. Clearly there is a HUGE difference between questioning and asking. I just can't figure out what it is.

Then there was the time I had done something probably a little stupid, and said to San "Are you mad at me?" Her response: "I'm not mad, I'm just upset."

???

Um, aren't those...oh, never mind.

I have come to believe that men--or at least this one I'm most familiar with, the one I sleep with every night--only have about 5 basic emotions: anger, happy, sad, lust, and fear. Maybe there are one or two more, but that's about it.

Women on the other hand, have 45 different forms of anger. And happy. And sad. And so on.

I don't understand it. But I love it. And hate it. And love it.

"Outliers" part 2

As promised, let me finish up my thoughts on Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers." Last time I told you about how the book was divided into two broad sections. The first was about opportunity.

The second section was about culture. Culture is a high value to me. I should say, being cross-cultural and experiencing a variety of cultures is a high value to me. Coming into contact with folks from other cultures are some of the most vivid memories I have throughout my life--the first Hispanic family to move into my little small town in the Panhandle (the Gallegos--I invited Jimmy to Vacation Bible School and he rode next to me on the firetruck during the VBS parade in first grade); the first time I remember being in the same place as an African-American (8th grade basketball game against Shamrock; one of my friends and teammates used a perjorative term throughout the game), moving to Hobbs, NM, which in that time was about 1/3 white, 1/3 Hispanic and 1/3 African-American.

Yes, I grew up in small-town West Texas (even Hobbs is really West Texas--only 2 miles from the Texas/NM border). One of my friends and mentors who is Latino talks about taking his boys to Hispanic Baptist churches so that they get a feel for their roots. Should I take my kids to small-town redneck churches???

But the real cultural immersion happened when I went to college in El Paso. I fell in love with the border, the blending of cultures and Mexican food. And eventually an Argentine. Now I've been around the world in various cultures, and I love it every time.

But I digress. Gladwell's point is that cultural values strongly shape success. I would say that they do even more than opportunity does.

For example, cultures that are high power-distance cultures (meaning that they maintain a high respect for power and rarely if ever contradict it) have a whole slew of natural barriers to success in our modern world. His example is Korean Airlines from the 70s and 80s. The modern air-traffic system is meant to operate as a 2 or 3 man team in the cockpit. There are overlapping and shared responsibilities, redundant work processes, etc. because you have the lives of hundreds of people in your head and hands. However, Koreans have a natural high power-distance cultural value. So when a pilot starts making decisions that the co-pilot or flight engineer disagree with, they do not speak up. Nor do they communicate bluntly with air-traffic controllers when they are in trouble. To do so would be a disrespect to authority.

And it led directly to several crashes, and nearly put the airline under. Now, as Korean Air, they are a very safe and successful airline. What made the difference? They brought in a specialist from Boeing who basically said "Look, we love your cultural values. They are a big part of what defines you as a people. But when you step into that cockpit, you set aside that lack of challenging authority. You speak up. You say what you believe is wrong. The system depends on that.

Gladwell gives other examples. Probably my favorite is his discussion of the people who settled the Appalachian region of the US, and how their difficult shepherding-on-the-side-of-a-dangerous-mountain past brought certain values to the forefront, and how those values--even though they no longer live in such circumstances--still shape their worldview, their dealing with conflict, and how they are successful in our world.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. It should be must reading for anyone who wants to understand people and what makes them successes or failures in life.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A time for optimism?

It's no secret that I have long loved the writing and thinking of Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, in Austin. I read his Monday Morning Memo virtually first thing every Monday. I've never met him, but he strikes me as my kind of guy: likes beagles, thinks highly of Jesus and the Bible in an irreligious sort of way, and loves to stimulate good thinking. If he plays golf, he might just be perfect...

Anway, his memo this morning is about the economy. Except that like most of his writing, it's not really about the economy, it's about more than that. It's about us. I've copied some of it here, but check out the whole thing at http://www.mondaymorningmemo.com/?ShowMe=ThisMemo&MemoID=1806.



WobbleThe Beagle Sings with Buble
My staff can hardly get any work done. It seems the whole world is calling to ask what I think will happen with our economy.The President of the United States made a primetime speech last week. The press is an interesting animal. The Chicago Tribune predicted the president’s speech would "live among the annals of man," while its competitor, the Chicago Times, editorialized that "the cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances of the president." Those papers were talking about Abraham Lincoln. The speech was the Gettysburg Address.Before I go any further, let me acknowledge that I’m aware of how dangerous it is to speak of politics or religion. No matter what I say on either subject, I’m going to get a firestorm of emails correcting me.Even so…All indications are that President Obama’s speech lifted the mood of the nation. When the mood of the nation is optimistic, our economy sings like Michael BublĂ© and money flows like water in the street.
More than one friend has told me that Obama’s plan will end in disaster. I choose to believe otherwise. I choose to believe. I choose.A jet is low over New York City. Both engines have failed. Any idiot can see that everyone on the plane is going to die. The pilot can fly into a building and kill all the people inside, or he can line up on a street and kill unsuspecting motorists instead. These are his only options. Well, I’m on that jet and I say this pilot is going to land on the Hudson River and the plane is going to float long enough for everyone to get out safely and then we’re all going to hop onto some big passenger ferries that will be exactly where we need them to be.Don’t laugh. It could happen. By the way, you’re on this jet, too.I bought a book at the airport the other day. Barack Obama wrote Dreams From My Father fifteen years ago. As a writer, I was deeply impressed. If a man can be judged by what he writes when he is young, we have an extremely intelligent president. A history book of ancient Israel tells of a starving city surrounded by an enemy army. “Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, "Why stay here until we die? If we say, 'We'll go into the city'-the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let's go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die."That story ends happily. Not just for the lepers, but for everyone in the city. Well, not quite everyone. There was one man who insisted that God himself couldn’t save the city. Interestingly, everyone made it safely onto the ferryboats except for that guy. He was the moron screaming hysterically ‘We’re all going to die!’ while the pilot was trying to land the plane on the Hudson.It’s really an interesting story. You ought to read it.Roy H. Williams

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Book Review - Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I probably enjoyed this book more than any other I've read recently. Gladwell has written a couple of other tomes I've read; The Tipping Point and Blink. But Outliers jumps to the top of my favorite list for him, and one of the best "aha" moment books for me.

The book's stated purpose is to identify what makes one person (or group) successful and one not. It examines two large ideas--opportunity and culture--and their impact on our success.

Now we USAmericans really like to believe that everyone has equal advantage. We believe in the concept that people (and their success) is by and large a factor of their work ethic and attitude. Sure, your natural ability may provide some limitation (if you're 5'4" playing in the NBA is probably unrealistic) but we can find ample anecdotal evidence of people who were told they were too short/stupid/poor/etc to succeed at a particular task but overcame all odds and succeeded anyway. And we like to think that is us.

Gladwell points out you might as well be planning to win the lottery, cuz the odds are against you.

In the first section, he deals with opportunity. Does everyone have the same opps for success? Again, we want to say yes, believe yes, but in our honest moments we have to answer no. Did you know that 14 of the 75 wealthiest people in the history of the world were Americans born between 1830 and 1835? Why would that be? Because they were just the right age to take advantage of the post-Civil War boom of economy in the US. How about that the 10 founders of the largest, most successful software firms in the US were born between 1950 and 1955? All of them. The world came together to give them opps that others simply did not have.

Maybe the most intriguing example is elite Canadian hockey. If you examine the birthdates of the best players in the late teen clubs, you will find that about half were born in January, February or March. Luck of the draw? Not a chance. January 1st is the cutoff date for age of being on one year's team vs the previous years. Kids born in the last quarter of the year are nearly a year younger than those born in the first quarter. Now at the age of 18, that's probably not a significant difference. But these kids started playing organized hockey when they were old enough to skate, and when you're 5 on Jan 2nd vs Dec 14th, it makes a HUGE difference. So in the younger years, those born in the first 3 months get identified as the best players. They get put on the best teams with the best coaches, and get more practice and game experience as they grow up. If you were born in the last quarter of the year, your odds of a successful hockey career are significantly reduced.

This has incredible implications for parenting, for education, for sports, for all kinds of leadership development issues. We are subconciously giving better opps to certain kids for no other reason than the month they were born in. Are there exceptions? Of course. But they are exceptions.

One implication I thought about a lot in reading this is how we at Buckner develop solutions for the 145 million orphans in the world. How do we really provide the right kinds of opportunities for these kids to succeed in the world?

In my next post, I'll deal with the second half of the book, the cultural factors of success.