Tuesday, April 26, 2005

similar yet different

What do you have in common with the giant anteater know as the Myrmecophaga tridactyla? Or how about the Balaenoptera musculus, A.K.A the blue whale? What is it that you have in common with a dolphin or a bat, a rhino or a cat? Or how about a sheep or a cheetah or an elephant?

What usually strikes us first about all of these animals in comparison to ourselves are the vast differences. Some live in the ocean. Some live in caves. And others live on the wide open plains of the African continent. Some have claws. Others have fins. And still others have wings. Some are big. Some are small. But what in the world do they have to do with us?

Well, compared to most of the other creatures that are on this earth, humanity has striking similarities with the afore mentioned animals. We are all mammals. That is, we are warmblooded vertebrates who at some time in our lives have hair on some or most of our body. We have a four chambered heart, three bones in our middle ear and one bone for our lower jaw. As babies we were all able to be nourished from the breast milk of our mothers. And we all have the potential to get hick-ups from time to time. That is, we are the only kind of animal that has a diaphragm.

Who would have thought that we had so much in common when we all look so different? At our core is the similarity of being mammals. All of the other features that seem to define us so well simply seem to be adaptations for our environment. Whales and dolphins for instance have adapted well to the ocean environment. They obviously can swim faster and dive deeper than the rest of us land mammals. And those silly bats. They can fly. And good thing too, ugly as they are, we don't want them hanging around too much.

Something at the core of our DNA has kept us all similar enough to be classified together as "mammals." Yet each mammal has changed and adapted to their own environment in order to live well. This seems to be the essence of organic church planting.

As churches plant in networks, each church will take on the traits and personalities of the people that make up that local body. Yet if one were to step back and look at all of the churches within the network, they would see a similar DNA. Each church may look a little different on its own, but together they are one.

My hope is that each church we plant will be warm-blooded. That all of them will have a backbone to them. And I am sure that all of them will be a little hairy with hick-ups from time to time. But my hope is that at their core will be a four chambered heart with room enough for Jesus and a few neighbors.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

a word to the mothers of the world

It seems that when many women get married, they are extremely excited to really make the marriage work. They think of fun date nights and couple-type activities that will promote the health of the marriage. They really care about increasing intimacy with their husbands. But then kids come along.

The typical response, initially, is to try to work together as parents to raise the kids. But after a while, the focus of the wife turns from husband to child. For some marriages this happens over time. For others it happens as soon as the baby gets home from the hospital.

Now, I can hear the women out there protesting already. They say, "Well if the husband would change a diaper or two then I would have more energy to give to him." And that is true in some cases. But ask around...even the best fathers become neglected husbands. Why is this?

I think it has something to do with the transfer of intimacy. For the wife, her main source of intimacy was her husband. But when the kids come along she begins to find her primary worth, identity, and intimacy in her relationships with her kids. She tries to be super-mom rather than super-wife. She feels needed. She feels like those kids wouldn't make it without her, and she loves that feeling. Sure the husband needs some attention too. But she is just "so tired" by the end of the day that things like sexual intimacy go out the window.

This shift in intimacy, in my mind, is a subtle form of adultery. She falls more in love with her kids than she is with her husband. The same can happen with husbands, only, it usually involves his work. The husband tends to dedicate all his time and attention to work and it too acts as a subtle form of adultery.

Shouldn't the love between a husband and a wife be the primary relationship in the house? It's kind of like "seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added as well." Making God the primary relationship in our life helps us to love others better. It seems like this is how things work in marriage as well.

When the husband and wife make sure that their intimacy and their relationship is healthy, the kids then have a safe and secure home to live in. I grew up knowing that my parents loved each other. I never had to worry about them getting a divorce. I knew that my mom and dad put each other before me. This didn't make me feel neglected. It made me feel safe. I knew they loved me too. There was never a doubt about that. But I found out early on in my family that life wasn't all about me. My parents gave me love and affection, but their lives weren't all about me. This was a very important lesson to learn early on. Many kids aren't learning this and we are seeing some problems in our society because of it.

So to all you moms out there, I salute you. You are doing the hard work of the Kingdom by raising your kids well. My hope is that you would put your relationship with your husband before your kids. Teach your kids that they are loved unconditionally but also remind them that they are not the center of the universe. Love your husband. Pay attention to him. Have sex with him for goodness sakes. Don't take from him the chance to be a great husband and great father. And be super-mom by being super-wife first.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I dream of...

Link group on Wednesday nights is on Towson's campus at Chrissy Reider's place. She has three other roommates in her apartment-like dorm room. She is the only Christian living there but has the general respect of her other roommates. Our Link Group has had a variety of opportunities to interact with these girls. One of the girls, Mallory, was coming for a while even though she grew up Jewish.

Mallory still isn't all that interested in following Christ. She has had some serious struggles that Chrissy has helped her through, but she just wants to live her life the way she wants. Well, last night I had a dream about Mallory. I am not sure what to think of it. I had a dream that she was dieing. I think at some point I encouraged her to give what life she has left to Christ. And as dreams go, I can't really remember much of it.

So what are we to make of dreams. In scripture they were used like the game on the back of the cereal box. God would have a message for someone but would send it encoded through a dream. Then someone would have the divine gift of interpreting dreams. This person would act like the decoder ring and would communicate in clarity the message of God.

Is that still how dreams work? After years of psychological study of dreams, our society has debunked the myth of the dream. It no longer is prophetic. And part of me is glad because I have had some crazy dreams and I would fear the future if they were in any way prophetic. Apparently, dreams tap into our subconscious in some way. I just hope that doesn't mean that deep down I want to see Mallory dead. I am pretty sure that is not the case.

So how am I to interpret this dream? Maybe its symbolic. Maybe the dream was just a metaphorical way of seeing that Mallory is slowly dieing inside. Maybe it was a foretelling of the future and maybe she will die in a few days. I hope not. Maybe it doesn't mean anything at all. Maybe I am just concerned for her and my brain weaved together a grand story of her death. In any case, God I pray that you would watch over Mallory and guard her from death until she can come to know and experience you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

eyes to see

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1) Frederick Buechner wrote, "Glory is what God looks like when for the time being all you have to look at him with is a pair of eyes."

My appearance is what I look like when all I have to look with is a pair of eyes. But what do I look like to the One who has more than just eyes with which to look? It seems to me that Jesus didn't just have eyes, but he had eyes to see. He didn't just have ears, but he had ears to hear. I wonder what the world looks like when, like Jesus, we have eyes that truly see.

The prepositions for the way that Jesus looked go beyond "at." Jesus looked at people. But he also looked "into," "through," and "after" people. He saw what His Father saw when we looked into the hearts of his friends. I wonder what he sees when he looks in our general direction.

I spent about a week in Galilee during my semester of study in Israel. I marveled at the idea that I was seeing what Jesus saw. I was seeing the landscape where Jesus spent most of his adult life. I watched the stars that Jesus would have looked up at during his late night prayer vigils. But something deep inside knows that I didn't see what he saw. And still I wonder if I see who Jesus sees all around me.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Many of us who are anti-abortion abhor the idea of thousands upon thousands of tiny lives being killed each year. If the the laws were to change to allow abortion to happen only when the life of the mother is in critical danger, I wonder how we would respond.

Some might still hold that no abortions should be legal because it is murder. Others might leave room for a few cases of legalized abortion here and there. The idea being that to value life means also to value the life of the mother.

What seems to be inconsistent is the reality that many who hold the strictest view of abortion (no abortions under any circumstance) do so because they value life and justice. "It is not our decision to make," they might say, "that is up to God." And yet many folks who are so adamant about abortion, support the war in Iraq.

How are these views contradictory? Well, in any war there are innocent casualties. And even though our technology helps us to reduce these, there are still innocent people, numbering in the hundreds, who have been killed in Iraq to date. Is the innocent life of an unborn American child more valuable than the life of an innocent Iraqi child? Of course not. So why are we ok with war?

"But its different", some might claim. "The war is supposed to help the Iraqi people be free from the oppression and violence of Sadaam. The innocent deaths are an accidental by-product of doing good." While that is true, I don't believe the decision is different. When we decide to go to war, we decide to have "accidental innocent deaths." We know these accidents will happen and will number in the hundreds. We just don't know to whom.

I am no legal expert here but according to public.findlaw.com "an unintentional killing that results from recklessness" is involuntary manslaughter . And "a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life" is considered second degree murder. Either way, the loss of innocent life in war is a crime. And it is a crime that we know will take place when we decide to go to war.

It's a strange political position we find ourselves in when we rail against the first degree murder of the unborn innocent, but rally around war with its inevitable second degree murder and manslaughter of innocent lives. We justify these losses as mere casualties of a just-war. Our ethics are no better than the pro-choice advocate who sees the loss of the unborn as simply a loss of cell clusters in the pursuit of women's rights.

I invite all of your responses on this one. Help me understand where I have gone astray in my argument. Bring all your ideas about foundationalism, pacifism and justice and help me understand. I can no longer justify my own undertanding of the value of life and the pursuit of justice with my views on abortion and war. Teach me whatever you have to offer. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Growing up as a boys in America, we are inundated with sexual images and various opportunities for lust. Through our adolescent years we sort of consume all of this imagery like a Friday night at the Golden Corral. And the smorgasbord just seems to get larger as we get older.

But at some point in our masculine journey, we are struck by the desire for just one woman. And to the distain of our flesh, we entertain the idea of being with one woman only. We wonder at the thought of putting to rest all of our lustings after various women, real or pretend, and pursue one above the rest. The temptation, of course, is for us to turn back to the ways of old as soon as we make an attempt at "monofeminism." (That is a word I made up...just go with me here.)

This human drama seems to be a representation of what happens to our interaction with God. At some point we attempt to be monotheistic. By that I mean we don't just espouse the view that there is one God, but we actually begin to worship only one God. We as societies and as individuals move to a place where we desire to put aside our chasing after many gods, in favor of the pursuit of The One, The Only, The God of Israel.

The typically male struggle to be faithful to our wives seems to just be a shadow of what is happening behind the scenes. Though we might first assume that it is a battle of lustful desires or a battle of the mind, deeper still, it is a battle of the soul. The tendency for our eyes to wander and for our thoughts to chase after internet images and video pleasures is a smaller battle in a much larger war.

The war itself is asking us to, "Choose today which God or gods you will serve." Daily we are faced with whether we will remain monotheistic, submitting ourselves to God, or whether we will carve out our own household idols. And the most harmful idol, of course, is the one we try to groom at the start of each day and the one which consumes our thoughts as we rest our heads on our pillows each night.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

three stages of truth

"All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed. second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
– Authur Schopenhauer

I wonder what relevance this quote has for the Emergent Church. We don't really ascribe to disembodied truth. Truth for us has flesh and bones. It has a perspective and a culture. We can see that the life of Jesus has passed through the stages of ridicule and violent opposition. And one day our hope is that he will be self-evident.

We, as the Church, live in the "not yet" tension between violent opposition and becoming self-evident. In the past 2000 years of our history, we have been on both sides. We have been the ones being ridiculed and opposed. Most often, however, we have been the ones to ridicule and use violence. Ironic.