What are we voting for again?
August 31, 2008, 7:42 am
Filed under: culture, emerging church, friends, politics

This week, Anthony Smith posted up a stirring, challenging blog entry about what he hears when white Christians tell him not to vote.  It’s really very good, and worth the time and contemplation.  I’ve posted in the past about my tension with voting, and how for a time, voting was a right that I set aside.

I’ve also posted about the current political process, and how we in the church would do well to temper our enthusiasm for any political candidate.  To summarize, we need to keep in mind that whoever is elected in November is nothing more and nothing less than the figure-head of an empire that competes with the Kingdom of God for our attention, hearts, and allegiance.  It’s a good thing to pray for, hope for, and possibly even work for a candidate who will most closely honor Kingdom values in her or his political work.  But please don’t get so caught up in the hype that you miss some obvious signs.

You can bash Bush all you want for his extension of empire.  You can praise Bush for sticking to his convictions, despite plummeting popularity in the polls.   But you know what?  He is nothing more and nothing less than the figure-head of an empire that competes with the Kingdom of God for our attention, hearts, and allegiance.  Further, he is the figure-head of an empire that has been doing the same old thing for a long, long time.  “We” started on our own soil, of course, extending our empire at the expense of Native Americans and Mexicans, not to mention importing slaves to “help” us with that work.  “We” have extended ourselves well beyond our borders countless times – sometimes for seemingly good, benevolent reasons, and sometimes, not so much.

My friend, Eliacin, has posted a helpful summary of U.S. interventions in Latin America alone, as a way of illustrating that this empire of ours spans many years and many presidential administrations.  He raises some very important points.  Taste this:

To assume that change will happen by just focusing on November 4 is a naive view of history and a adolescent understanding of democracy. On Nov. 4 people will elect a new administrator in the same system of power that perpetuates itself. There are bigger systems than the executive and the legislative at play here. On Nov. 4 the imbalanced of structure of representative “democracy” is will not be on the ballot. Nor there will be a vote about the position of hierarchical power of the wealthy elite (individual, coorporations, international trade organizations) whom live and operate outside national politics but benefit economically from it. There will be no option to vote about the myth of the USA as patriarchal leader and police of the world. These and more are some of the structures and foundations that need to be strongly questioned and challenge in order to bring real change.

Whether your convictions are to vote, or to not vote, as a matter of conscience and responsibility, please just keep in mind what your primary identity is, and what your primary vocation is within the context of empire.  If you find yourself getting stirred up in the hype of political conventions, that may be o.k., but don’t forget what these people represent in the big picture.  And don’t forget that regardless of who “wins” in November, we have an ongoing responsibility to speak truth to power, work for the causes of injustice, and pray for the inbreaking of the Kingdom reality.  The candidate you support now may be the president you need to protest a few months from now.


Another book I need to re-read
August 30, 2008, 1:17 pm
Filed under: books, missiology, school, theology

I’m doing some research and writing today, which has me buried in a book I read about three years ago.  It’ The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History by Andrew Walls.  I remembered it being good, but now I’m thinking it needs to be on the short list of books I go back to every year or two.

A couple of choice quotes for you:

No one is saved through Christianity – though it may be possible to be damned through it.  (p. 9)

The purpose of theology is to make or clarify Christian decisions.  Theology is about choices; it is the attempt to think in a Christian way.  And the need for choice and decision arises from specific settings in life.  In this sense, the theological agenda is culturally induced; and the cross-cultural diffusion of Christian faith invariably makes creative theological activity a necessity.  (p. 79)

My high tech bathroom
August 28, 2008, 7:27 pm
Filed under: home improvement, technology

O.k., I said I wasn’t going to talk about the bathroom project anymore.  But I was playing with Microsoft’s new toy, Photosynth, and put a synth together of the new bathroom.  I took 42 pictures, loaded them up, and now you can see a 360 peek into last week’s work.  To view this, you’ll need to download Photosynth, but it’s pretty easy.  Once you’ve done that, you can click here to view my bathroom.  Of course, on the main page of Photosynth, you can also check out the Taj Mahal, which is infinitely more interesting.  But I put my little synth together in about 15 minutes, including the time taking the photos.

Trying to plug back in
August 26, 2008, 9:28 am
Filed under: family, home improvement

Well, yesterday was my first day back after “vacationing” in the master bathroom of our home.  As I mentioned, I was doing an overhaul of the bathroom, prompted in part by the presence of dry rot in the subfloor – conveniently covered by carpet, and prompted in part by the absolute ugliness (both of which are pictured in my previous post).

I still have a few small things to finish up – baseboards, towel rods, sealing grout – but it’s pretty much done.  Here’s what we did: gutted the whole room with the exception of the tub and shower tile, replaced rotted subfloor, installed new tile, toilet, vanity, sink top, faucet, light fixture, switches, and put two coats of paint on the walls and ceiling.  Not bad for a total amateur.

Once again, the old version:

bathroom makeover 013

And, the new version:

bathroom makeover 007 bathroom makeover 005

The natural sunlight makes the walls look more yellow than they actually are.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with work, especially given that we’re less than a month away from the kickoff of inter::mission 2.0.  I think it’ll also be good to return this blog to something other than a home improvement journal.

Blogging about nothing
August 21, 2008, 6:58 am
Filed under: denomination, family, home improvement

The blog’s been dark for a few days here.  Just thought I’d let both of you that read it exactly why . . .

First, I had a couple of days worth of annual staff meetings at the denomination.  Here in the Northwest, we’re in the middle of a major organizational restructuring.  There are parts of it that I really like, and well, some other parts that I’ll not whine about.  Won’t do any good.

Second, I’m in the middle of changing this:

bathroom makeover 003

into this:

bathroom makeover 001

Things have already progressed since that last picture.  But it’s gonna be a few days.  I’ll try to update the blog as I’m able, but if there’s nothing new when you pay me a visit here, you can just use whatever time you had allotted for reading to pray for my back!

The Generosity of Receiving
August 14, 2008, 10:29 am
Filed under: spiritual formation

I recently spent a large chunk of time with someone I value a lot, and who I’ve always thought of as an extremely generous person.  I admire the giving attitude and sharing I’ve seen demonstrated over the course of many years.  One thing doesn’t quite add up, though – most attempts to give back to this person are met with resistance. “Oh no, don’t do that” or “That’s o.k,, I can do it” or “Let me pay for that.”  This goes well beyond simply courtesy statements, too.

It made me ask a question about true generosity – is it possible to be a great giver without being able to also be a gracious receiver?

From my perspective, I found it frustrating to want to share myself and my resources with someone who has given vastly more to me, but to not be allowed to.  It was disappointing.

Even as I write this, though, I feel the weight of my own hypocrisy.  I often have a pretty difficult time receiving help.  People around me offer to do work with me, and I’ll thank them as I’m turning them down.  Perhaps the most readily recognizable example of this is during our Thursday community meal times at The Purple Door.  I really enjoy cooking for large groups, and putting my heart into it.  But during the prep times each week, people will come hang out with me in the kitchen and they offer to help – whether it’s chopping vegetables or stirring a pot, or making some iced tea, and I am not very good at just saying, “Yeah, sure, if you want to make the salad, that’d be great!  Thanks, I really appreciate that.”  Instead, we sometimes have three or four people standing around talking and watching me run around frantic because I’m late getting dinner finished . . . mostly because I won’t receive help graciously.  And don’t even get me started when it comes to asking for help.

I’m sure this says a lot about my inner feelings of inferiority or whatever.  But I’m going to set out to be a better receiver.  I still love giving and sharing with others, so I won’t stop doing that – but I want to grow in my generosity by just saying “Yes, please” and “thank you.”

My plea to the publishing industry
August 11, 2008, 2:08 pm
Filed under: books, culture, school

I would like to make a humble request to anyone out there who is involved in the publishing industry.  I really need some help on this one, o.k.?  It may seem a bit selfish, and maybe just a little counter-intuitive, but really, I’d appreciate it if you could do whatever you can to help.

You see, I’ve been in school for the past couple of years, and even now that I’m done with the coursework phase of my degree, and I don’t have to keep up with my professor’s required reading lists, I am in the middle of a huge research and writing project.  All of that to say that I am simply incapable of keeping up with the massive amounts of new books that you publishers keep churning out.  Granted, I don’t need to read every new title that gets published, but there are a significant number of books that I see publicized, blogged about, and celebrated, and I just don’t have the time to get to them.

I’m a literary fellow – I love reading, and do a lot of it.  But not enough to keep up. 

Sadly, that’s only half of my problem.  The other half is that the more progress I make on my dissertation, and the more I spend time going through notes and flipping through the stacks of books that are on my home office desk, the more I realize that there are quite a large number of books I’ve already read once or more that I really need to return to.  In some cases, I read them too fast to have retained enough.  In other cases, the books are so good, so compelling, that they need to be re-read at least once every two or three years for the rest of my life.

So what do you say publishing industry?  Do you think you could just take the next year off, and not publish anything?  For me?  I still love you.  I just think we need to take some time off from each other.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I really want to work things out, but I need some time away.  You understand, don’t you?  Maybe you could spend some time with the movie industry – I don’t see enough of them these days, either.