Friday, January 30, 2009

dave gibbons at innovation

i loved this guy...dave gibbons...he was the only true innovator at the innovation conference.

here are my bullets from his talk about becoming people of the future (as we bring the gospel to the world)

  1. the most important thing you can do is fuel creativity
  2. focus on the fringe of humanity, not the broad middle, because the fringe is either the leading edge creatively or the hurting tassels of cast-off humanity
  3. don't look for quick fixes to big problems - instead, develop holistic and sustainable approaches that consistently help people shadow God
  4. think critically about the ways in which your ministry intersects with the world, people's lives, and with the other streams of your other ministries...and then focus on those intersections far more than you focus on each individual stream
  5. the (truthfully) most important thing you can (really) do is seek God and pray



and, last but not least, while helping us understand why arguing about theology is a really dumb thing to do, dave said this:

the point of a mouse trap is to catch a mouse
the point of a fish hook is to catch a fish
the point of a word is to catch an idea

once that idea has been caught,
it is absolutely foolish to spend your time
arguing about the word used to convey the idea

thoughts on failure

another cool bit of exegesis from innovation concerns failure.

"failure" is only referenced 1 time in the entire second testament: 1 thessalonians 2.1

it comes as part of the letter wherein Paul talks about all the good things that came from a seemingly disastrous trip to thessalonica.

but he frames all the bad things by beginning the section claiming that the trip was NOT a failure.

now, that word failure literally means "proven empty."

paul's "failed" trip wasn't really a failure because it was proven full of good fruit...though not necessarily the good fruit he'd anticipated.

nothing is a failure unless it has been proven empty...this is cool because i often contemplate my failures as a leader. our plant in ann arbor, for example, i consider a failure because it never happened (either time)...but there has been much fruit to come of our "failure" to launch. for example, Jvo and I are infinately wiser about how to broker deals between pastors, businesses, etc. Our church has been saved from the financial burden and emotional liability of a congregation unprepared to be a plant.

there are many other benefits, but these - for now - suffice to make my point.

our failure was not proven empty, and is therefore no failure at all.

so...

you're not a failure as a parent even though your kids aren't serving jesus...because the efforts you've made over the years will not be proven empty even though you feel helpless now

and you're not a failure as a businessman even though you're on the verge of bankruptcy...because you've been able to stretch and grow and feed your family and learn to shadow God even though it feels like all hope is lost

you're not a failure until the last bell rings and then - and only then - do you think what you've done hasn't really succeeded.


1 Thessalonians 2.1-12

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.

We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.

We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

thoughts on righteousness

i heard one of the speakers at the innovation conference define righteousness as "dignity, worth, and value."

that's interesting...the common definition of righteousness is "right standing before God", so this new definition sparks some curiosity on my part.

the most common word (along with all its derivatives) in the bible that we translate as "righteousness" is dikaios, which means "right standing before God...resulting in God's approval" [cf. Strong's 1342]

so...whereas we typically put the emphasis on our standing before God, this fella was putting the emphasis on the effects of right-standing.

both are correct.

but what i'd always previously missed was THE POINT of being righteous...which i now think may have more to do with experiencing the dignity, worth, and value of being in right-standing...rather than in just not making God angry.

this is cool

we all want approval. we all want to feel like we're actually worth something, like we're valuable somehow.

in short: we all want to be righteous.

we try, however, to find that approval - that righteousness - through the good things we do and the many ways in which those good deeds are supposed to elicit favor from other people.

but this must always fail - even if we're perfect, others will never perfectly appreciate our efforts, nor will our efforts guarantee their approval.

no one can ever make us righteous.

except, of course, God

and how does God give us His approval? through obedience? through sinning less?

nope.

we can only find our approval from God through the free gift of grace, given by Jesus Christ.

Jesus makes us righteous.
Jesus gives us dignity we didn't merit.
He values us even when we're worthless.

Isn't that cool?

As someone who keenly desires the approval of those I love...it's fascinating and beautiful to me that God has offered me that approval in spades.

sin monkey [manuscript for the first sermon in the series]

Contrary to popular belief, “sin” is not simply restricted to doing bad things. Neither are the consequences of sin limited to the anger and frustration of God.

No – all sin has real-life consequences.

These consequences are not always immediately discovered or suffered; meaning, it sometimes feels like we get away with our sin because nothing bad happened as a result right away

Neither are they always obvious or appropriate; meaning, we sometimes think that some of our suffering in this life has nothing to do with our sin when – in actual fact – it may be a direct result of it

And, lastly, the consequences of our sin are not always foreseeable or avoidable;
meaning, our sin may cause a kind of chain reaction that affects us and the people we love in harmful ways we may not ever have intended or desired.

Taken together, these consequences ought to remind us that sin is a serious problem. It is not just something we do that we know we shouldn’t…no, it’s far more treacherous than that. In fact, it’s probably better to think of sin as being alive – as if it has been born into the world through our negligence, our stupidity, or our wickedness, etc.

You see, every time we sin it’s as if we’ve brought home a pet monkey. This “sin monkey” has a mind of its own. It wants to do things that you don’t want it to do and it will certainly do those things while your attention is diverted elsewhere.

Furthermore, the things the monkey wants to do are not good things. Monkeys, as a rule, are mischievous and destructive. The monkey wants to smash your pictures, break your stuff, trounce your furniture, and harass your friends and family.

While the monkey is little – little sins, after all, might conceptually begin as little monkeys – the consequences of bringing the monkey home seem miniscule and easy to repair. A small monkey is only likely to break a few picture frames which are easily replaced, just like a small lie is easy to correct or make-right once we’ve been caught in it.

Bigger sins, though, mean bigger monkeys. And bigger monkeys can do a lot of damage. A large monkey in your living room will trash your house, destroy your peace of mind, and keep the people you love away from you because of:

  1. your anxiety over their safety
  2. their own worries about their safety
  3. the ridiculous nature of owning a monkey in the first place
  4. their impatience with your inability to control your stupid pet

This, again, is just like bigger sins. For example, a substance addiction will keep your friends away because of:

  1. your strange behavior as your try and hide your addiction
  2. their worries about their safety [and the safety of their children and their reputations] while you are drunk/stoned/etc
  3. their judgment – they cannot believe you’d be so foolish as to ever “experiment” with drugs/alcohol/prescriptions/porn/etc
  4. their judgment – they cannot believe you’ve let this problem get so out of hand

And, of course, just because some sin/monkeys start out small doesn’t mean they wont grow. In fact, every sin/monkey will grow until it is finally killed. Sin doesn’t just go away – remember, it is alive now that it has been born into the world – it must be put to death.


For the wages of sin is death…
ROMANS 6.23

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
COLOSSIANS 3:5-6

The soul who sins is the one who will die.
EZEKIEL 18.4


Sin can only be resolved with blood.

So, little sin monkeys eventually grow into larger, more destructive ones. For example, a small lie you tell your new employer about previous work experience doesn’t matter much when you’re an entry level clerk; however, ten years down the road – if that lie is discovered – you could lose your job, your severance, your reputation, and any chance at a similar job in a similar field.

Because you fudged your resume.
Or your taxes.
Or your sexual history.

Smaller sins are only smaller at first, and they are only considered “smaller” because they’re easier to make right.

Half truths and exaggerations can be mended; the Holocaust cannot.

But the longer you let the monkey live, the harder it is to kill. It just keeps getting stronger and stronger and your fear of it keeps on growing.

You get the point.

At least, I hope you’re starting to…after all, one of the big reasons we’re doing this series is because so few people ever seem to get this.

Sin must be put to death.
Every sin.
Every time.

Of course, when I say this many good and God-fearing Christians think that what I’m driving at is our need for Jesus Christ. Christ, after all, atoned for all our sins and makes us right before God.

This is 100% true.

However, it is also true that Jesus’ sacrificial death has NOT removed the consequences in this life for our sins.

To put it simply, you may not go to Hell for your sins because of Christ, but you may continue to live in Hell now despite him.

Sin is as much about experiencing Heaven-on-Earth as it is about getting into Heaven after Earth, as much about avoiding Hell-on-Earth as it is about avoiding Hell after Earth.

It is as much
about an Altered Life
as an After Life.

Jesus saves us from the ultimate punishment of our sinful nature.

He does not, however, prohibit us from owning pet monkeys.

Consequently, many Christians are often bewildered as to why their lives suck so much. They think that Jesus has paid the penalty for their sins – which he has – and that that means their sins will no longer haunt them in this life – but here is the problem.

Sin still has real life consequences. Period. Being a Christian doesn’t save you from the natural consequences of your sin – no! – the real worth of following Jesus is access to the Holy Spirit who guides us into lives of decreasing sinfulness and increasing maturity.

The Spirit leads us to sin less SO THAT we suffer less in this life
SO THAT we can shadow God in the redemption of this world, acting as His
representatives

SO THAT we can devote our time and energy into helping others experience the
life that God has for them instead of worrying about [and trying to fix the damage from] our
sin monkey as it destroys all that we own – our possessions, our achievements, and our
relationships.

So, what everyone needs to do is kill the monkey and fix their furniture.

You’ve got to invite God to kill the sin monkey – cooperating with Him and being obedient to His Spirit – and then you’ve got to invite God to help you repair everything that the sin monkey has ruined – furniture, relationships, possessions, self-image, and every little thing in between.


Kill the monkey. Fix the furniture.


That’s the bottom line.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kill Me

I've met about a dozen people over these last 2 days...all of whom have entered my life because of the same thing.

What thing, you ask?

These two little words on the cover of my notebook: kill me.

People assume that these words have nothing to do with suicide, but never expect - and are humored to learn - that these words were written to Jvo during the last conference we attended together.

That conference was so boring we preferred death to further diatribe.

We opted for starbucks instead...and I'm still reaping the benefits.

Ed Setzer is tearing it up!

Notes from his session:

The New Church (the church of the future) will:

• seize economic opportunity
• address sexual brokenness
• wrestle with gender inclusion
• face increased intolerance from the media
• navigate the post-Christian context
• regain confidence in the gospel
• address evangelical confusion
• rethink discipleship
• network together
• work through denominational catharsis
• implement new innovations

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Recap on the staff/elder retreat

In brief - this was such a great experience. Everyone got a chance to weigh in and share their dreams and plans for the winds.

Together we were able to focus our plans for the next year, decide on somemissional initiatives that we could quickly put into place, and Jvo and I got the opp to press home our desire to lead more people into fuller life development.

Big win.

Very cool.

We'll do it again next year.

Leadership Network Innovation Conference

So I'm hanging out at this conference, meeting some ministry folks, and experiencing some of the same feelings I always do in these situations:

Why am I here?

See, as a contrarian I find that conferences provide insufficient time/place to evaluate ideas...not that that's necessarily something that they can/should fix, just that that's a necessary evil of these things.

Which, of course, is why I love to read: so I can disagree, hash out applications, and vamp along similar latitudes without feeling like a jerk.

Anyway - I'm spenind much of my time asking the question: God, in what ways r u using these experiences to edit my heart, my ambitions, and my mind so that I can follow u more truthfully?

And...where will I next have coffee?

Friday, January 23, 2009

staff/elder retreat

we've got some time carved out tonight and tomorrow for our staff and elders to get outta town and do some brainstorming about the winds.

it should be cool.

we have a fantastic staff right now and an exceptional elder team. both teams feel healthy, intelligent, and ambitious for God to do something fresh and meaningful at westwinds. both teams are fun and their love for each other is evident.

plus...everyone is coming

do you know how rare that is?

anyway - pray for us this weekend as we dive in hip-deep into the mess-winds and do what we can to honor God with our planning.

cheers!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

best TV show ever!


listen, i like LOST, 24, and Fringe...

but nothing - not anything in the world - comes even close to battlestar galactica.

now - i know what you're thinking [dave's a sci-fi nut...he's canadian...he's writing "sin monkey" for cryin' out loud], but you can't even call yourself a real person until you've watched this show and let it blow your mind.

hands down.

greatest show on TV.

tonight's mid-season premiere? amazing...3 big sha-zaam type moments where [unlike in LOST] the plot twists made excellent sense and felt like they were the natural result of life gone wrong in a wild universe.

if Jesus made a TV show...even he would have to admit that Battlestar Galactica is only marginally the second best show on earth.


Friday, January 16, 2009

hey - poetry guy - pound sand!

just read a skillfull, yet horribly distasteful, poem in one of my jesus-rags ["geez"]

it was a re-writing of a psalm by a Canadian anti-war poet,
comparing the injustice of US aggression in Iraq
to the Assyrian occupation of Israel.

In the poem, he promises God's retribution against western soldiers
and specifically describes our troops losing limbs to IEDs.

Now, i've got a brother in Iraq right now
and - regardless of my personal feelings on the war -
this poem is deeply offensive.

so,
mr. poet,
just because you're young,
and educated,
and Canadian,
and have a voice,
doesn't give you the right to use your privilege
to suggest that God will blow my brother's legs off.

you're profoundly stupid to think that you can explain away your spite with clever rhetoric.

next time rhyme about something more poetic...like iams or assonance

or those black berets and turtlenecks your friends wear while spend their parents' money.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

first, second, and third testament woes

my wife told me that her friends mocked me at their bible study this week.

woe to you, you wicked harpies :)

[just kidding]

anyway, the cause of their mockery was my new tendency to refer to the old testament as the first testament, and the new testament as the second testament.

well...to try and save some face for my dear [and remarkably holy] wife, i thought i'd quickly explain why i've begun doing this. two reasons:

  1. this past spring i spoke for the US Airforce Academy and I used the term "old testament." in the room were several practicing Jews and one exceptional rabbi...all of whom took great offense to the idea that the Hebrew Bible was "old", or "washed up", or "passe." so, in an effort to honor our spiritual ancestors and be sensitive to the movement of God in and around these people I began intentionally using the term "first testament" which was given to me some months earlier by len sweet. which brings me to the next reason...
  2. len has always encouraged me to see my life as a continuation of the story of God and this world...as a kind of third testament, so to speak. once i was goofed with the rabbi, this idea came to mind and - since then - i can honestly say it's helped me to think of how i'd like my chapters of the book of acts to be written
so there...hopefully that helps a little.

though, please feel free to continue with your mockery. after all, we only tease the ones we love :)

an overview of "sin monkey"



Contrary to popular belief, “sin” is not simply restricted to doing bad things. Neither are the consequences of sin limited to the anger and frustration of God.

No – all sin has real-life consequences.

These consequences are not always immediately discovered or suffered; meaning, it sometimes feels like we get away with our sin because nothing bad happened as a result right away




Neither are they always obvious or appropriate;
meaning, we sometimes think that some of our suffering in this life has nothing to do with our sin when – in actual fact – it may be a direct result of it

And, lastly, the consequences of our sin are not always foreseeable or avoidable; meaning, our sin may cause a kind of chain reaction that affects us and the people we love in harmful ways we may not ever have intended or desired.

Taken together, these consequences ought to remind us that sin is a serious problem. It is not just something we do that we know we shouldn’t…no, it’s far more treacherous than that. In fact, it’s probably better to think of sin as being alive – as if it has been born into the world through our negligence, our stupidity, or our wickedness, etc.

You see, every time we sin it’s as if we’ve brought home a pet monkey. This “sin monkey” has a mind of its own. It wants to do things that you don’t want it to do and it will certainly do those things while your attention is diverted elsewhere.

Furthermore, the things the monkey wants to do are not good things. Monkeys, as a rule, are mischievous and destructive. The monkey wants to smash your pictures, break your stuff, trounce your furniture, and harass your friends and family.

While the monkey is little – little sins, after all, might conceptually begin as little monkeys – the consequences of bringing the monkey home seem miniscule and easy to repair. A small monkey is only likely to break a few picture frames which are easily replaced, just like a small lie is easy to correct or make-right once we’ve been caught in it.

Bigger sins, though, mean bigger monkeys. And bigger monkeys can do a lot of damage. A large monkey in your living room will trash your house, destroy your peace of mind, and keep the people you love away from you because of:

• your anxiety over their safety
• their own worries about their safety
• the ridiculous nature of owning a monkey in the first place
• their impatience with your inability to control your stupid pet

This, again, is just like bigger sins. For example, a substance addiction will keep your friends away because of:

• your strange behavior as your try and hide your addiction
• their worries about their safety [and the safety of their children and their reputations] while you are drunk/stoned/etc
• their judgment – they cannot believe you’d be so foolish as to ever “experiment” with drugs/alcohol/prescriptions/porn/etc
• their judgment – they cannot believe you’ve let this problem get so out of hand

And, of course, just because some sin/monkeys start out small doesn’t mean they wont grow. In fact, every sin/monkey will grow until it is finally killed. Sin doesn’t just go away – remember, it is alive now that it has been born into the world – it must be put to death.


For the wages of sin is death…
ROMANS 6.23

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
COLOSSIANS 3:5-6

The soul who sins is the one who will die.
EZEKIEL 18.4


Sin can only be resolved with blood.

So, little sin monkeys eventually grow into larger, more destructive ones. For example, a small lie you tell your new employer about previous work experience doesn’t matter much when you’re an entry level clerk; however, ten years down the road – if that lie is discovered – you could lose your job, your severance, your reputation, and any chance at a similar job in a similar field.

Because you fudged your resume.
Or your taxes.
Or your sexual history.

Smaller sins are only smaller at first, and they are only considered “smaller” because they’re easier to make right.

Half truths and exaggerations can be mended; the Holocaust cannot.

But the longer you let the monkey live, the harder it is to kill. It just keeps getting stronger and stronger and your fear of it keeps on growing.

You get the point.

At least, I hope you’re starting to…after all, one of the big reasons we’re doing this series is because so few people ever seem to get this.

Sin must be put to death.
Every sin.
Every time.

Of course, when I say this many good and God-fearing Christians think that what I’m driving at is our need for Jesus Christ. Christ, after all, atoned for all our sins and makes us right before God.

This is 100% true.

However, it is also true that Jesus’ sacrificial death has NOT removed the consequences in this life for our sins.

To put it simply, you may not go to Hell for your sins because of Christ, but you may continue to live in Hell now despite him.

Sin is as much about experiencing Heaven-on-Earth as it is about getting into Heaven after Earth, as much about avoiding Hell-on-Earth as it is about avoiding Hell after Earth.

It is as much
about an Altered Life
as an After Life.

Jesus saves us from the ultimate punishment of our sinful nature.

He does not, however, prohibit us from owning pet monkeys.

Consequently, many Christians are often bewildered as to why their lives suck so much. They think that Jesus has paid the penalty for their sins – which he has – and that that means their sins will no longer haunt them in this life – but here is the problem.

Sin still has real life consequences. Period. Being a Christian doesn’t save you from the natural consequences of your sin – no! – the real worth of following Jesus is access to the Holy Spirit who guides us into lives of decreasing sinfulness and increasing maturity.

The Spirit leads us to sin less SO THAT we suffer less in this life
SO THAT we can shadow God in the redemption of this world,
acting as His representatives
SO THAT we can devote our time and energy
into helping others experience the life that God has for them
instead of worrying about [and trying to fix the damage from] our sin monkey
as it destroys all that we own –
our possessions, our achievements, and our relationships.

So, what everyone needs to do is kill the monkey and fix their furniture.

You’ve got to invite God to kill the sin monkey – cooperating with Him and being obedient to His Spirit – and then you’ve got to invite God to help you repair everything that the sin monkey has ruined – furniture, relationships, possessions, self-image, and every little thing in between.


Kill the monkey. Fix the furniture.


That’s the bottom line.

working away...

i'm on day 3 of writing "sin monkey." just taking a break now for a quick shower and late lunch.

it's good stuff - the atlas, i mean, not the macaroni and cheese i'll shortly be eating

but i confess i feel stupider :) than normal, having just holed myself up only the week before last to finished my manuscript for navpress.

that's a lot of time in the hole.

of course, manscript time was invigorating - especially until carmel forbade me to smoke my pipe in the office - but writing sin monkey is good too.

it's funny, in all our fusion talks about shadowing god i realize we've only ever talked about relational and missional sins.

what i mean is, we focused our "don'ts" on things like family, friendship, ecology, justice, etc.

but we've not spoken much about piety.

we've not spoken a ton about the way we speak, the way we think, the inputs/outputs of our daily lives.

i wonder if that has as much to do with my upbringing as i suspect...or, if maybe that omission is telling of my own blindspots.

certainly anyone who knows me knows that i've always struggled with speech. when i'm angry or tired or frustrated or - sadly - even overly relaxed my speech is typically pg-13.

i'd like to change that.

it may always be the sin i struggle against most; but i do want to keep struggling. i can, of course, find ways to justify why it's "ok" to speak this way in most of the particular cases...but i know i'm just justifying my lack of self-control.

since i've already been justified for real, i'd like to keep working on making it obvious.

Stonehenge Beneath the Waters of Lake Michigan

found this today...thought it was very cool



In a surprisingly under-reported story from 2007, Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University College, discovered a series of stones – some of them arranged in a circle and one of which seemed to show carvings of a mastodon – 40-feet beneath the surface waters of Lake Michigan.
If verified, the carvings could be as much as 10,000 years old – coincident with the post-Ice Age presence of both humans and mastodons in the upper midwest.

[Image: The stones beneath Lake Michigan; view larger].

In a PDF assembled by Holley and Brian Abbott to document the expedition, we learn that the archaeologists had been hired to survey a series of old boatwrecks using a slightly repurposed "sector scan sonar" device. You can read about the actual equipment – a Kongsberg-Mesotech MS 1000 – here.
The circular images this thing produces are unreal; like some strange new art-historical branch of landscape representation, they form cryptic dioramas of long-lost wreckage on the lakebed. Shipwrecks (like the Tramp, which went down in 1974); a "junk pile" of old boats and cars; a Civil War-era pier; and even an old buggy are just some of the topographic features the divers discovered.
These are anthropological remains that will soon be part of the lake's geology; they are our future trace fossils.
But down amongst those otherwise mundane human remains were the stones.

[Image: The "junk pile" of old cars and boat skeletons; view larger].

While there is obviously some doubt as to whether or not that really is a mastodon carved on a rock – let alone if it really was human activity that arranged some of the rocks into a Stonehenge-like circle – it's worth pointing out that Michigan does already have petroglyph sites and even standing stones.
A representative of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology has even commented that, although he's skeptical, he's interested in learning more, hoping to see better photographs of the so-called "glyph stone."

[Image: The stones; view larger].

So is there a North American version of Stonehenge just sitting up there beneath the glacial waters of a small northern bay in Lake Michigan? If so, are there other submerged prehistoric megaliths waiting to be discovered by some rogue archaeologist armed with a sonar scanner?
Whatever the answer might be, the very suggestion is interesting enough to think about – where underwater archaeology, prehistoric remains, and lost shipwrecks collide to form a midwestern mystery: National Treasure 3 or Da Vinci Code 2. Even Ghostbusters: The Return.
But only future scuba expeditions will be able to tell for sure.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

an introduction to our series on sin [from the teaching atlas for sin monkey]

Adam ate the apple, and our teeth still ache.
Hungarian proverb


I love stories, especially off-beat stories that break your typical literary molds.

I like George R.R. Martin and Charles Williams.
I like Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. LeGuin.
I like C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy far more than his Narnia books.
I like Max Brooks’ World War Z
that describes how the world almost ends
in the Zombie War.
I like John Wyndham and Ray Bradbury and Margaret Atwood –
but only when there are their sharpest
…and only because Atwood is a Canuck.

And I love the Bernie Gunther stories.

These stories, written by Philip Kerr, are crime noir set in 1940s Berlin. They chronicle the shadowy escapades of a private investigator whose main clientele are Jews fleeing the Third Reich.

His most recent book details the true events surrounding the expatriation of Adolf Eichman, one of the worst of the Holocaust masterminds.

At the end of the book, Eichman flees to a South American hideout. Shortly thereafter, history picks up where fiction left off, and anyone with web-access can easily discover how Eichman was picked up by Israeli undercover agents who transported him to Israel to stand trial. There, prosecutors called a string of former concentration camp prisoners as witnesses.

One was a small haggard man named Yehiel Dinur, who had miraculously escaped death in Auschwitz. On his day to testify, Dinur entered the courtroom and stared at the man in the bulletproof glass booth - the man who had murdered Dinur’s friends, personally executed a number of Jews, and presided over the slaughter of millions more.

As the eyes of the two men met - victim and murderous tyrant - the courtroom fell silent, filled with the tension of the confrontation. But no one was prepared for what happened next.

Yehiel Dinur began to shout and sob, collapsing to the floor. Was he overcome by hatred? By the horrifying memories? By the evil incarnate in Eichmann’s face?

No.

As he later explained in a riveting 60 Minutes interview, it was because Eichmann was not the demonic personification of evil that Dinur had expected. Rather, he was an ordinary man, just like anyone else. And in that one instant, Dinur came to a stunning realization that sin and evil are the human condition.

“I was afraid about myself,” Dinur said. “I saw that I am capable to do this - exactly like he was.”

The horrifying realization Yehiel Dinur experienced is – sadly – we must all one day endure.

Each of us, regardless of our upbringing, our socioeconomic status, our education, our achievements, even our religion, are capable of darkness and harm to a remarkable degree.

Surely, not me – you might say – I’d never do anything so heinous as participate in the Holocaust.

Right. I should hope not. But the Holocaust came from somewhere. It wasn’t as if it was a “neat” idea that a bunch of angry Germans dreamed up one rainy afternoon. It was born much earlier – through national shame, hope for a better future, misplaced allegiance, deception [self-deception, willful deception, etc.] and a host of other “baby-steps” that turned human beings into monsters.

And this is precisely the point – we all have it in us to go bad.

The line between good and evil in this world is never simply between “us” and “them.”

The line between good and evil runs through each one of us.


We must not make the trivial mistake of supposing that a one-off petty thief and a Hitler are exactly alike, that the same level of evil is attained by someone who cheats in an exam as by Bin Laden. But nor must we suppose that the problem of evil can be either addressed or solved if we trivialize it in the other way, of labeling some people “good” and other people “bad.”
N.T. Wright


So, this series is about the evil inside each of us – the evil we call “sin.”

Now, I understand what sin is not a very popular topic. After all, religious dialogue about sin [and sinfulness, etc] often tends towards condemnation. It’s as if we all were at a great party somewhere, and – drunkenly and inappropriately – all the world’s religions personified began to accuse us of being stupid, miserable, dishonest, violent, and unchaste.

Sin feels like a personal insult.

Perhaps there’s no way around that. Perhaps we live in a world that too-frequently excuses our all-too-frequent arrogance.

Perhaps.

But, perhaps there are ways to talk about sin that are actually helpful.

That’s what I’m trying to do here.

Sin, after all, is something we need help with. Why? Because it hurts us. Sin is not simply a word we use to talk about the arbitrary preferences of God; it is the word we use to describe the self-destructive behaviors that we all flirt with and that God has outlawed as a means of our protection.


Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is hurtful.
Benjamin Franklin


So, this Teaching Atlas is designed to do three things:
1. help you understand sin and its consequences
2. help you repair the damages caused by sin
3. help you live in such harmony with God that you can sin less, thereby enjoying more of the
great pleasures that God has prepared for you in this life AND so that you can repair the
damages of sin more quickly and more fully


Hopefully, once you’ve been equipped with better understanding and a couple of tools for the journey you’ll find yourself “slipping” into sin less and less – being less of an Adolf or a Rudolph, so to speak – and [again, hopefully] you’ll find yourself seeing the world with new eyes envisioning new possibilities as you shadow God.

Oh – and one more thing! – I almost forgot to tell you.

This Atlas largely deals with sin metaphorically – treating sin as if it were a destructive pet monkey.

I know.

I know!

This sounds dumb – everyone tells me that right off. But give it a chance. I think this metaphor is one of the most powerful and intelligent ways to understand the harmful effects of sin available. If you’ll open yourself up to the theology behind this metaphor, then the metaphor will give you a simple, simple way to understand sin and – more importantly – how to make sin right.

P.S. management accepts no responsibility for craving bananas.

the face of evil

furious george, the sin monkey


Saturday, January 10, 2009

innovation conference

jvo keeps teasing me about this conference i'm going to, later on this month. it's a church leadership conference about [you guessed it] innovation...only, most of the presenters don't seem all that super-duper-innovative.

to be fair, when we look for inspiration for the winds we rarely look to others withn the church. most of those ideas feel, well, too "churchy". we usually look to TED conference, or fast company, or wired, or hollywood, etc.

but i'm gonna risk this one. i get the feeling that the innovations that will be most helpful to me will be those that focus on the business-leadership side of church rather than the presentation/architecture of worship.

and i'm okay with that.

if it sucks, no big deal - i've been to lots of sucky conferences in my 13year career.

if it's pretty good, great - there are only so many decent conferences...i'll file this one away for a drought year

if it's awesome, perfect - i'll tease jvo back with all "my" new ideas in february :)

anyway - wish me luck

innovation conference, january 27-28, 09
http://innovation3gathering.com/

Friday, January 09, 2009

sin monkey

monday i'll start writing our next series for the winds, "sin monkey."

the basic idea is that every time we sin, it's like we bring a monkey into our house. at first the monkey is cute, but as it grows it becomes more destructive - breaking furniture, causing stress and anxiety, isolating us from others because they're afraid of what the monkey will do next...

anyway, our big motivation is to remind people that sin is a really big deal in real life - not just because god gets angry

likewise, we'll want to help people understand how to put their monkey to death and fix their furniture after its gone

working on my book..freezing in my basement office

finished part one of "shadowing god" around 2am this morning.

feels good...glad i ditched "jerm" in favor of the new title...feels less forced, more like me, more true to my concerns and perspective

it is seriously cold in my office...have a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and a space heater shooting up my pants legs (not a metpahor)...hoping that the 'fires of my imagination' count for something more than warm thoughts

anyway...just an update

thanks for your prayers.

d

the good sad

during the course of this week and all that has accompanied the death of randy, i've been amazed at how good sadness can be.

i mean, we're all very sad. we loved randy and miss him very much.
but christ has offered us a completely different brand of sad - the good sad.

the good sad has few regrets, for randy has left us well and we honor him in our hearts

the good sad has very little bitterness, for we know that randy is far happier and more contented now than when he was here (even before he began suffering with his cancer)

the good sad asks questions but they are not furious, because we understand (in some measure) that god has not wasted randy's life...nor has he thrown it away...nor is so riduculously over-simplified answer been offered to us through scripture as to why randy left us now...we wrestle with our questions, but take comfort in the grandeur of a god who invites us to do so.

perhaps more than anything else during this time, i've been struck by how true and real christianity is.

looking at beth and seeing her courage and her faith...well, it's supernatural. she's not pretending to be joyful - she's actually filled with the light of christ as she rejoices in her dearly departed husband.

walking through westwinds i'm struck with the genuine love and enthusiasm to remember randy and wish him bon voyage. there is no falsehood in this...just jesus.

and it's very cool.

we have something peculiar in christ - the good sad

and i'm wonderfully thankful for it.

randy shafer's funeral sermon

Blessed are those who die in the Lord;
They may rest from their labor
For their deeds follow them.
Revelation 14.13

I hate sermons at funerals; yet I find myself in the ironic position of having to deliver one.

With whatever strength was left to him at the end, Randy asked me to tell you about Jesus. He had Faith like a Vice, and he believed that the God who ennobled him to face death, fight cancer, and love until he expired was present and active in this world.

And that God loved you.

But Love is a concept too frequently removed from our lives…because there is so much heartache in this world, so much sorrow.

Much of this heartache revolves around the fact that we don’t know who we are. We don’t know where we come from. We have lost ourselves.

But I know you are. I know what you are. And Randy has asked me to remind you that we are all fundamentally spiritual people.

We are spiritual – whether or not we want to be, or choose to be, or pretend not to be.

We are made in the image of God. The Hebrew word here means “shadow.”

We are God’s shadows.

We are not made to keep rules and make rules. We are not made to judge. We are made to love.

We were made to be whole – but we have broken ourselves and scattered ourselves and become a hateful, proud and religious people.

And so we live and move and find ourselves cut adrift from our worth in this world. We are often lost and confused, hurting broken and sad.

And so, as a partial remedy, I’d like to tell you a story – the story of God and this world.

It begins with God, who is three in one. It begins with oneness and this one god creates our world and puts us in it in His image, puts us in it whole.

Just like He is one, we are made whole; we are made one.

Yet through our selfishness, our pride, our preference for pleasure placed over our desire for Love, we destroy that oneness. We tarnish the image of God. We diminish it and oneness is compromised.

The whole story of the First Testament is of the people of God coming to terms with their brokenness and isolation. They are ashamed and shattered and they have no sense of who they are. When they recapture that sense, they lose it again quickly.

The story of Jesus Christ, the true story of the one god coming into the one world, is a story inviting us back into our true selves – our whole selves, ourselves as shadows of God. Jesus prayed, “Just as I and the Father are one, I pray that you would be one in me as I am in Him.”

We are in the middle of the story and we find ourselves now in the tension of knowing we were made whole but are not now One.

So what is the problem? What is the source of our brokenness? Of our lack of identity?

Sin.

And what is sin?

Sin is distortion in any direction – God, self, others, world.

Sin is the breaking of relationship.

How do we get rid of sin? How do we make things right? How do we become whole?

For starters, the ultimate healing for sin is found in the ultimate relationship – a relationship with the God of the Universe. Sin is so powerful, it requires a greater might to exhaust it.

So we go right to the top.

God – the being above whom there is none other - has power to defeat sin. You need that power. You need God. God is only met through Jesus Christ, His Son. There may, it has been said, be many paths to Jesus Christ…but Jesus is the only true pathway to God.

Get God. Get Jesus. Get rid of sin.

And then what? Once I’ve stapled myself to God…is sin taken care of? Will there be no further distortion? No more pain?

There will be more pain. Sin persists.

In order to live well, to live as your true self – shadowing God – you’ve got to start paying attention.

Randy was adamant that God was speaking to each of us in every moment…and he was right. God is speaking to you directly…but you must quiet yourself in order to hear him. You must lower the ambient noise level of your life and open yourself to His Spirit.

You need to pay attention.

Our spiritual life is comprised of attentiveness. You may be religious because of what you know, but you are only Spiritual because of who you listen to.

We are what we do with our attention.

And – in this world of remarkable information and media – it can be so hard to pay attention to anything.

Which is why we pray. Prayer is paying attention.

Prayer is simple, easy, and sometimes even silly. It is conversation with God. But that conversation changes us. It transforms us. It reminds us that we are spiritual people, that we are designed to shadow God in this world, and that our true identity is not found in numbers and achievements, but in relationship – with God, self, others, and the world.

Pay attention.

Pray.

Pay attention to God, who is calling you to live differently than you are now.

Pay attention to the nudges and nuances, the shifts and shades of His Spirit as He leads you into a better life – a more adventurous, fuller, richer existence.

Pay attention.

And if you don’t always understand what you’re seeing or hearing or thinking…then read the Bible – it is the decoder ring for spirituality; or speak with others – in spiritual conversation and friendship, together uncovering the magic of who God is calling you to be.

Because if you want to have meaning in this life, you’ve got to discover who you really are. You have to recover your true self – as a shadow of God, designed to go where he goes and move when he moves.

And the only way to do that is to listen, to pay attention, to devote yourself to the hospitality of the Spirit.

To help people in this regard, Randy (while he was on staff at the Winds) spend some time crafting a creed for our people, and for those in Jackson who would endeavor to follow Christ. At the time, we had taken it as our missional emphasis to focus on community – turning our “I’s” into “WE’s” so to speak. So this is the WE Creed.

As an act of unity and a declaration of our intention to follow Jesus, I’d like us to recite the WE Creed together today.

I give myself to the JOURNEY of knowing and FOLLOWING Jesus and his way
to seeking the truth of the scriptures

to locking arms with the PEOPLE of Westwinds
to responding to the movement of GOD in and around me
to loving and sacrificing for others
that all may experience the full life
God DESIRES for his creation.

christmas eve prayer

God –

You were born in a time like ours
In a place like ours
To people like us.

There was nothing extraordinary about our lives
Until you were brought into them
Nothing to remark upon
Until you interrupted our sadness,
Our poverty,
And our isolation
With light
And with those riches that endure.

You came and waited for us to wake up
From the dream of our selfishness
Into the Christmas morning of your mission.

Help us to forget our religious nonsense
And to leave behind our silly ideas

Help us – instead – to heal the world
By being healed, ourselves, through you.

We offer you our hearts
As hosts and homes

Live in us, be born in us, forever.

Amen

beth's email concerning randy

Dear Everyone...

Our dear sweet Randy passed away quietly last evening at 7:15 p.m. We know that he is with the Lord and at peace....no more struggle.

He loved each of you in a special way and we are so grateful for your love and prayers for us throughout this difficult journey. It has had a strange beauty as well and we are in awe of what God can do.

Friends and family have been gathering here to love on each of us. The kids and I feel so peaceful...and it all is a bit surreal as well. We look forward to the celebration of Randy's life planned for Saturday, December 27th @ 3 p.m. at Westwinds Community Church. There will be visitation on Friday, December 26th in the evening also @ Westwinds. Due to the holidays, weather, etc, the service will also be livestreamed on the web @ 3 p.m. on the 27th www.westwinds.org

Love you all.....Beth, Jenn, Ian & Emma

randy shafer

my good friend randy passed away last night after a brave two -year battle with cancer.

i loved him very much.

there was not another father who loved his children more,
nor a pastor who carried the burdens of his people more faithfully,
nor a friend who more genuinely sought god's advice for how best to serve each of us.

randy was singular in his ability to love.

he is now, thankfully and well-deservedly, caught up in the laughter of christ. he has been baptized into this new life by our tears, and we wish him extra grace for his new adventure.