Engaging Culture and Common Good

I had to save this short post by Dr. Richard Mouw. His work on public theology and common good has helped me engage the world and see God’s goodness rather than pick sides or create “insider-outsider” dynamics.

Several good folks are offering excellent responses to the recent declaration by John MacArthur and company condemning those of us who advocate for “social justice.” No need for me to add to the well-stated critiques (such as Mike Gerson’s latest in the Washington Post). But I am a bit concerned about those who defend social justice advocacy as long as it draws only on “the Bible itself.” This ties in with those who accuse some of us for being too “accommodating” to “secular culture” on some justice issues–such as gender concerns and the anti-racism cause.

One of the memorable sermons I have heard was from a Grand Rapids preacher, Clarence Boomsma, back in the 1970s, on Jonah on the ship threatened by a storm. He said there was a dispute there between two parties: a prophet of the true God and a bunch of pagan sailors. If that is all the information we had, he said, and we had to choose sides, we would obviously put our money on the prophet. But in this case, he noted, the pagan sailors were speaking truth when they told the prophet he was putting them in danger by his own disobedience. Boomsma’s memorable punchline: sometimes the world preaches important messages to the church. I am happy, then, not simply to reject out of hand what secular activists have to say to us on gender and race matters. It is important to listen carefully lest we miss some good sermons.

– Richard Mouw

Your Story Takes Courage

Your life is a story.  It has a past/present/future.  There are plot twists, characters, and different settings.

Your story contains a DNA strand of purpose and meaning.  All of it is material that is trying to tell you something about you and this world.

There are beliefs, experiences, and people that have helped give shape to your story–for better, for worse.

In the DNA strand of your story, there is courage to be caught and remembered.

  • I remember the day that I graduated with a masters in theology.  My story?  I was a C student in high school with a lot of insecurities and self-doubt.  Courage got me through seminary.
  • I remember the day when marriage was getting hard.  Our story?  Troubled marriages as examples.  Courage got us through the rough patches.
  • I remember when I was cycling my first century bike ride, climbing 7500 ft.  My story?  Mexicans don’t cycle and never had done a century.  Courage and a tribe of people pushed me through to the end.
  • I remember when started a new job as a corporate chaplain?  My story?  “I’ve never done this before!  What am I thinking leaving all the comforts of the IT world?!”  Courage helped me see that I was made for this.

Feeling discouraged?  Need some #encouragement?  Look at the times when you overcome a struggle or hardship.  Look back on your storied life and see how courage has been finding you!

New Metaphors

Pastoral work is the enterprise of “nurturing folk into a new metaphor”

– Walter Brueggemann

“…the character of the church [is to be a] covenant community that has a story powerful enough to bond people in the corporate and personal effort to find purposes for their lives which are part of the purposes of God.” – James Fowler, Faith Development and Pastoral Care

Umm…what they said!  The idea is that the work of the pastor and local church is to be an activator of people’s vocation, both personally and spiritually, so as to partner with God’s in-breaking Kingdom in the world and local context.  That means decentralizing programs in/for the church and creating a space for people to be in the world through their vocation, not of the world (by nature).

Research on the Effects of Stress

Dr. Archie Hart is a leading expert on stress and its effects.  I had the opportunity to meet him about 4 years ago.  In his book “Adrenaline and Stress“, he addresses various sources of stress.  If we can’t name what is stressing us, we can’t see it healed.

He says,

There are many experts today who arc concerned over the “stress epidemic” in our culture. Almost every direction you look, warning signs arc up. Immunologists warn us that stress is damaging our immune systems, cardiologists warn of heart disease, cancer specialists declare that stress aggravates cancer. Dr. Joel Elkes of the University of Louisville says, “Our mode of life itself, the way we live, is emerging as today’s principal cause of illness.”

The effects of stress are causing much of our illnesses and for Hart, it’s not the big crises that are causing most of the effects–it’s the minor hassles of life.

There are two major sources of stress:  people and pain.

People:  The correlation between stress and people is mainly about experiencing fear and anger.  At times, we might feel like our security is threatened or that someone might withhold their love and approval of us.  Fear and anger cause much of the adrenaline running through our brain and bodies.  The more fear and anger we have, the more stress we’ll have.

Here are a few additional reasons why people cause us stress.

  • Hart says, “One reason is because we need them so much! We all have a need to be loved and accepted by others, and many of us will go to almost any length to achieve respect or avoid criticism. We fear rejection because we so desperately want to be thought of as having value. Our egos crave the respect of others.” (Loc. 1142-1143)
  • People are imperfect:  They can be loving and giving  but also self-serving and inconsistent.  This causes hurt and stress.
  • Lack of Coping Skills and assertiveness:  when others are inconsistent or show relational inadequacies.  We all have basic rights to be valued, heard, and respected.  We may not speak up and share what we need or want.  He says that “Under-assertiveness is the primary cause of much of the helplessness everyone feels from time to time.” (Loc. 1158-1159)
  • Lack of courage to be our true selves:  We may not know who we are which results in not being able to assert ourselves.  Or we fear being our true selves because we may not be accepted or liked.

Hart offers two assessments to identify how stressed you might be and how to analyze your stress sources (i.e. home, recreation, work, general).  Underneath each category are examples such as “Angry at spouse, financial problems, angry at boss/coworkers”.

 

From pain to belovedness

Being away from home can be disorienting. The familiar is suspended for the unknown.

Being at home in the deep places of my heart when traveling happens when I return to the message of belovedness.

New settings may trigger old anxieties.

Being away from home can make me feel like a lost stranger in a new city.

When I return to the voice of love, I see the new place as a gift, one not to fear or resist.

The voice of love helps me to see my own brokenness and lead out of vulnerability and trust.

The voice of self-rejection is self-critical, making many demands of the self and of others that can’t really be met.

An old pain resurfaced this past week that made me get on my knees and wonder what I’d do. It was a few loving conversations where I heard the voice of love calling me back home.

Beloved friendships have the power to point us back to our original identity: belovedness. I don’t find my deep identity in my work, roles, music, gender, or ethnicity. I find it in the voice of love.

I can only long for this home or belovedness because I have been there before. I can only return because I’ve once claimed it for myself.

And when I do return, I am blessed as a child of God. My gender, ethnicity, and gifts now make sense.

Letter to Darrell Issa

Below is a letter I wrote to our representative Darrell Issa.

I’m also including the link in case you’d like write him yourself. It took me 5 minutes.

https://ziplook.house.gov/htbin/findrep_house

Mr. Issa:

This is the first time I ever reach out to you or any other political representative and as such, I am heartbroken over how our government is separating children from their parents who are crossing our borders seeking refuge and asylum.

While I understand that we have laws, we also have a moral code to follow: One that primarily seeks to love our neighbors, especially those who are experiencing trauma in crisis. We cannot be separating children from their parents. That is not moral and it is not how my generation wants to be remembered by. As one of the people that you represent, I am asking what your office will do you to advocate for children and their parents staying together. What might you propose and how can someone like me help to remediate the situation?

Praying for The family is being affected and our leaders to live out of a more conscious that seeks the flourishing of all.

Ten Agile Axioms That Make Managers Anxious

Agile management is at odds with the basic assumptions and attitudes of traditional management
— Read on www.forbes.com/sites

The interesting thing is that when firms operate this way, they make a lot more money than companies that focus directly on making money, including the five largest and fastest growing firms on the planet (by market cap): Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, now worth over $2 trillion. It involves a shift from a focus on inanimate things (money, products outputs) to a focus on people (human outcomes, experiences, impact)

Revelation Update #2

 

I have this painting in my office.  It’s called a pantocrator and it depicts Jesus as righteous and just (holding the book of the Law), as well as offering a sign of peace (a sign of faithfulness and mercy).  

Jesus as a Just and loving Emperor.
Jesus as a peacemaker and faithful Emperor.

Revelation 4 is captures the central image of the whole book:  Jesus is Lord (Caesar/Emperor). The throne room scene is about painting a picture of true reality.  

Reality gets us dealing with what’s at hand.  Sometimes reality feels painful and overwhelming so we hide, try to control it, or give in.  

John is getting a dose of reality:  Jesus rules and reigns with power, justice, and peace.  The invitation to open the door that is standing in heaven is to enter into right reality, which will cause us to fall down to our knees in worship.

May you and I have a vision of reality and surrender to it.  It’s the best good news for our lives that aligns us towards our true selves in Christ and redemption in this world.

Revelation Update #1

Revelation Update #1

Any Star Wars fans on the team?! 🙂

I tripped out when they came out with episodes 1-3, mostly because I couldn’t conceive the back stories they were going to tell. It didn’t make any sense to me so I rely on my son’s, Christopher and David, to relay the stories to me.

John’s writings in Revelation are kind of like Star Wars in the sense that the order they were released in doesn’t make sense. John’s visions aren’t sequential. This means that he could be sharing a vision and then the text says, “And then I saw…” and it’s a completely different episode…maybe episode 7 when he was just on episode 2.

One way to keep the story straight is to remember the main vision which begins at chapter 4: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.” (Rev. 4:1)

Paul Spilsbury says, “…John is summoned through an open door in the sky. On passing through this door he comes face to face with a panorama of breathtaking beauty and majesty–the throne room of God (if such a place could be called a room). This initial scene is the hub of the whole book. Everything that happens after it is like spoke, radiating outward from this vision of God on his throne…” (p.45)

If you ever feel lost in the book, go back to Revelation 4…and bow down in worship before the One who calls you his own.

If you want more Revelation resources, message me and I’ll send you what I have. And if you’ve found anything helpful on the book, let me know as well! 🙂