Saturday, October 25, 2008

Go Bucks, Beat Penn State!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I hate that sound!

Well, I recently lost my battle to remain out of a chair that I don't like to sit in; the dentist chair. It's one of the areas I'd rather not have to maneuver in my life. It's complicated by the fact that my brother-in-law is one, you know, one of those guys. I'm always afraid of what will be found, I'd almost rather live without knowing.

So, last week, I went. It was a rainy, gloomy, cold, damp day. Just the kind of day it should have been when you're going to the dentist, at least, that's how I think. Now my dentist is a great guy, and the ladies who work with him are just as nice. It's just, that sound. I hate that sound.

Probably not the one you're thinking of, I'm not referring to the drill. Thankfully there was no enamel and decay being drilled into while I was there. It's that sound of scraping off the plaque. The sound of metal against bone. It makes me weak in the knees to think about it as I write. It's a sound that keeps me out of the chair, to be honest with you. And when the sound deadens, sticking to the "soft spot", that makes you want to jump out of the chair, oh you all know what I mean.

Well, the first time in 5 years found me cavity-free. Nothing showed up on the x-rays. My fillings seem to be holding up. The only thing I was told was to go a little easier on my gums. The scrubbing only weakens the enamal that's left on my teeth. But the result is I feel better about my mouth, the floss goes through easier, and I'm using a softer brush.

Now, that wasn't that bad, was it. So what do you think happened when I went home; Terry asked me if I'd scheduled my next appointment. Are you kidding?!?! Give me a break! A week to recover, please.

It probably won't be five years before I go again, I'm sure of that. But I'm not looking to go back next month either.

What's next for me; can you say colonoscopy?

Friday, October 17, 2008

I have blogger block.  Just thinking more about the church, how much I love it, and how I'm worried about our game tomorrow with Michigan State.  

Is that random enough for you?

Looking out my window at the beautiful colors of fall starting to pop out.  I love this time of year. I have a friend yesterday tell me that you are naturally drawn to the season in which you were born.  Maybe that's why Fall is my favorite; and the fact that I get to wear my sweatshirts.

Happy weekend to you all.  I'll be in Lombard, IL on a Faculty retreat with around 200 other faculty and spouses this weekend from ONU, and we are heading into "Homecoming" week here on our campus.  I also get to go see my cousins new daughter, Abby, on Saturday.  So this should be a great weekend.  Hope it's the same for you.  Go to an Apple orchard with the fam, drink some cider, throw some hay, eat some candy corn, and smell the decaying leaves.  Fall is alive and well.  

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Something to remember. . .

I have a good friend who commented on one of the posts, saying that he hopes our "standards" are always founded on scripture and not on the opinions of man.

I agree, but it's impossible to get away from our "opinion".  I want what I believe to be based on sound interpretation of Scripture, but it's my interpretation.  That's why it's important that we do this in community, with the best, albiet not always the safest place, being the church.  I need to work this out with your help.  I need accountability, I need friendship, I need correction, I need your insight.  That can only happen in community.

Let's not fool ourselves into thinking there is a perfect place for that to happen.  If you read church history, there has possibly never been a time when that was done "perfectly".  Ever read Galatians or Corinthians.  That's the church, the church many of us say we'd like to "go back" to. Not the church at its best and/or worst, its just the church.

The church is messy because the church is you and me.  There have been times in its history when it was more institutional and mechanistic, read its history.  There have been times when it was less forgiving, read its history.  There have been times when it was more violent, read its history.  There have been times when they way Scripture was interpreted was downright scary. I don't want to lose perspective on what the church is and what its gone through.  The church is what it is, ours.  Ours to love, ours to change, ours to pray for, ours to live within, ours to cry over, ours to own.  Its us.

I want to remember today that humanity will always be a part of the church, as long as we are. So because of that, there will be times we don't get it right.  There will be times we fail.  There will be times we have to seek forgiveness.  There will be times we need to redefine ourselves. But we cannot survive as people of faith, without the church.  Let's not fool ourselves into thinking we can.

What a group!

I've been privileged over the last three days to spend a lot of time with some incredible people, our regional NYI council.  They are passionate about their relationship with God, the students they minister with and to, and the church.  My faith is always stronger after spending time with this group.

Just want you to know that I believe in the future of our church, because I've seen it's heart this week.  Thanks!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

100 years old!

I love my church!  I believe in what my church is about!    Today, my church is 100 years old. This morning, we were reminded why we were here.

Let me give you a little personal history lesson from my past, as I recall it.  See, I'm a 3rd generation Nazbo, but my own spiritual heritage comes from the heart of my church.

Some time during the 19 somethings, Chicago 1st Church reached out to a 19-year-old young man, asking him to play in their basketball league.  They believed that their message and resources weren't just for themselves, but they were intended to be shared.  So they did.  They built a gym, shared it with those from their community, and one 19-year-old was loved into that church, and it all started on the basketball court.

That's the beginning of my spiritual heritage.  That 19-year-old was my grandfather.  

I come from a church that understands that it wasn't, and isn't created for it's own purpose.  It wasn't and isn't for those who are already there.  It has been and is for those who aren't.  A church that reached, and is still called to reach out, to prostitutes, drunken men and women, the homeless, gay, and many other marginal groups, inviting them to join us on this incredible journey of rediscovering who our God is, and how much he loves us.   A church that started with 10,000 members, and has grown to 1.8 million in 152 countries.  That's still a blip on the screen, but the reality of a dream for those called Nazarenes.  It's the realized dream of a group of people who believed that their purpose for being was for "them".

It's been a great 100 years.  Not perfect, but God has used the people called Nazarenes to work with our other brothers and sisters in the faith to redeem our world.  As good as the first 100 has been, with God's help, may the second be better.

Praise be to God!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

. . . more thoughts today.

Can I throw something else in the hopper today. (Not like you can stop me, it's my blog)

I'm reading a book my friend wrote called, A Century of Holiness Theology, which is an historical look at what Entire Sanctification has meant to my particular tradition. Can I quote from a part of this book to add something to what I'm thinking about these days related to the church? (I know, I did it again, sorry)

The first quote is a warning from 1979 by Dr. Rob Staples, who was my theology prof at seminary. He is not speaking of universal creeds, but of our particular denominational creedal statements.

"Creeds are but the church's human articulation of the message of the Bible. . .The church (Nazarene in this particular reference) must keep alert to the priority of the gospel over the creeds. The church's demand for loyalty to the creeds must basically be a demand for loyalty to the kerygma." (parenthetical emphasis added)

He goes on to say; "Attitudinally, we must draw upon Wesley's 'Catholic Spirit' and reaffirm that when we cannot think alike we may still love alike, and when we are not of one opinion we are still one of heart."

May it be so for us.


Okay Aaron, this is for you.



It's the way it is

Sometimes we spend our life apologizing for the decisions we have made in the past, for a variety of reasons. Parents, friends, and children. Sometimes apologies are very appropriate. Sometimes, they're not needed.

When talking about how everyone was raised in the church, at least those who grew up in my era, not going to movies, dances, not smoking, or drinking; I don't think an apology is needed for the decisions that were made, it's just the way things were. That was how we lived if we were Christians, these were the new "disciplines". Those boundaries defined what it meant to be holy. Be it right or wrong, and thank goodness the church continues to mature, it was just the way things were.

That's probably why when I was growing up we, at least from my tradition, had problems with the Lutheran minister who lived down the street from us and was an alcoholic. Or that's why we struggled with the Catholic family, who's son happened to be one of my best friends, but whose dad smoked. The issue wasn't that they were "bad" people, it was because of the "things" they did, that were different that what we did.

I remember when I had that conversation with my dad about not being able to go to Jungle Book that Saturday afternoon with Eric Friedland. I was 9. I remember where I was standing in the front lawn of our home in Hillsdale, MI. I remember how much it hurt; but that was the way it was. My dad, as a minister in the church, had to uphold the standards of the church, which not going to the theater happened to be one of. I didn't understand it, may not have agreed with, was inconvenienced by it, but it was the way it was.

Here's where I want to get with this conversation: isn't that the way it always is? Shouldn't there be standards that "mark" us as people of faith, and distinguish us from those who aren't. No, we haven't always done it well (orthopraxy), but I think we've really been trying. Is it still okay to try? Is it still okay to "work out our Salvation with fear and trembling"?

Oh, maybe movies and dancing weren't the issue, is that safe to say? Maybe smoking and alcohol aren't either, which is more controversial to say. In saying that though, there will always be standards that mark us, and some mark us even more distinctively as different members of the same Body. Some will think nothing of drinking wine, or more than wine on occasion, while others have deep convictions related to the drinking of alcohol. I hope that's okay, because it's just the way it is.

In my Christian Formation class, we use one of our creeds, called the Apostles Creed, to unite us. When I take a poll in that class, I have a variety of denominations represented, from the most liturgical of traditions, Catholic and Lutheran; to those identified more as evangelical; EV Free, Baptist, and Nazarene. Yet, in that class, there are certain truths that keep us one. There are also certain "truths" for each of us that distinguishes one from the other. I think I'm okay with that. We need to hear from all sides in this, don't we. I just don't want us to start thinking the eye is more important than the nose, if you know what I mean.

So all that being said, as I sit and write on this Saturday and continue to reflect on the church and my childhood, I'm the first to admit that there were some quirky issues the church had when I was growing up. There always have been, ask your kids. My parents did make mistakes, and I followed right in their footsteps with my kids. Yet in all that quirkiness, I never doubted the heart of my parents, I knew they loved me. And with all the blemishes in the church, these same issues make us who we are. I hope today, we remember that. It's the way it is.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bread Breaking

I hear a lot these days about emergent, and some of my friends align themselves with the Emerging movement, I just don't know what it is.

We react to it, respond to it, critic it, argue with it, argue over it, read about it, confront it, disagree with it, and resent it. We also admire it, resemble it, agree with it, talk to it, wonder about it, wish we were it, and a whole host of other "its". I just wish I knew what it was?

Oh, I've read the books. I know what they say. I just don't hear anything that new. I really don't. Sometimes I'm amazed how we become so enamored with "their" churches, thinking they are so perfect. They aren't perfect, they're just young. Young things always have their advantages.

Marriages, children, franchises, stores (Walmart Grand openings, please), restaurants (can't wait for the new Culver's to open here); see what I mean. New smells different, looks different, tastes different, because it's new.

But I really don't hear anything coming from this segment of the Church that a lot of us haven't felt for a long time, we just weren't eloquent enough to write about it. I see new churches popping up in the name of emergent, but they're trying to figure this out like the rest of us. Tell me, how is that different?

I mean, come on. Haven't a lot of us been frustrated with the church for a long time. It's unwillingness to even allow a certain type of song to be sung. I remember when I was growing up, we weren't allowed to sing choruses, not because they were too fast or too loud, or we couldn't have "those" instruments in the church, but it was because that's what the Charismatics sang. Ridiculous, I know, but true. Am I the only one that remembers this.

Back to the Nazarene history, "Pentecostal" was dropped from the name because that was beginning to refer to the group that spoke in tongues. We've been isolating ourselves from each other for a very long time, long before you or I were on the scene.

Maybe what emergent is, is a way to actually get us all in a room talking. Maybe it's a way we begin to major in the majors again. Maybe it's a way for me to appreciate that the Roman Catholic church has something to offer the greater body, that the Baptists can teach us a thing or two about security in Christ, that we can learn from the Episcopalian's that those in the homosexual community are humans too, a place where I learn that Democrat's aren't sinners, a place where I realize that God transcends government, politics, economics, and gender. A place where we can learn to love each other again.

I remember something my dad used to do, "back in the day". He wouldn't announce it, because I think he was afraid no one would come. But when they got there, they knew what was up. They'd see the loaf of bread (one loaf was enough, we were a small church) sitting in the front, and they knew we were in for an interesting evening. Ever been a part of a "love feast", like my dad used to call them.

The object was this; everyone would gather in the sanctuary, and once the initial formalities were taken care of, my dad would announce that we were breaking bread with each other. The purpose was reconciliation. My dad always had a sense when his congregants needed this most, and he'd say something like this.

Maybe there is someone in here that you need to seek forgiveness from. Maybe there is someone in here that needs to seek forgiveness from you. Maybe you haven't talked to someone for too long because of a grudge, or maybe you just need to tell someone you love them. Then he'd turn them lose, and it was always a beautiful thing. I, as a child, never fully understood what was going on, except there were a lot of tears, hugs, and back slapping. We guessed that was a good thing.

If emergent can be our "love feast", so be it. But I'm just tired of us thinking it's an either/or proposition. Maybe emergent can help our churches, in their present form, experience a healing as well. Maybe it's not just for the macro church, but it's for the micro churches as well.

I say it's about time we break some bread.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Is God big enough?

I heard a sermon one of my friends preached, and he was talking about the things we used to believe.  One of them was, that God was bigger than sin.

There was a lot more to that than just that, he said it more eloquently than I'm writing, and I'm representing him poorly.  But it did make me think.  

Do I really believe that God is big enough?  Bigger than my backache?  Bigger than my financial woes?  Bigger than my worries?  Those bigs seem so small.  What my friend was talking about was much bigger than these; like. . .

Is God bigger than sin. . .really?  I guess there was a day that people in the church believed that.  I'm wondering if we still do; cause if not, then sin wins.

What kind of a God is my God if sin wins?

Being a Kid

I remember early on my faith being shaped by things that I'm not sure were really all that important.  You know, or maybe you don't; stuff like not being able to go see Jungle Book when I was in the third grade because it was in the theater (sorry mom).  I remember what that town was like, and I remember what the church was like.  There were a lot of people doing a lot of things because they thought they were the right things to do.  No one was permanently scarred because of what we were doing, or maybe better said, what we weren't doing; at least I didn't think so at the time.  I don't think we were legalistic, we were just doing what people did.

It wasn't long after this when my dad moved to another church in another town, and not because he wanted to, or because he felt God was moving him, but because his superior thought he was ready and it would be a "good move" for him.  Well, let me tell you, it wasn't good for any of us. So, what was I supposed to make of that?

Well, one is that I grew up.  For reasons I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand, I was never one to question whether God existed.  I never really wanted my life to be without God.  Not sure whether that was driven by my strong sense of hell (after all, I did grow up in the Thief in the Night era), or whether I was afraid of my dad finding out, or whether I just had an incredible sense of who God was at a young age, and never wanted to walk away from that.  That sounds good, let's go with that.

At any rate, the things that happen to you when your young shape you, never leave.  Sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the not-so-good.   

You know one thing I realize, reflecting on what it was like for me to be a kid, is that I grew up in an era when our parents understood that part of their role was to protect us from what might harm us.  They were stern, you bet.  But it was for my own good, at least that's what they told me, and I think I believe them.  Using discipline for protection; sounds like sound advice to me.  Not a bad picture of God either, is it?

Thanks mom.