Saturday, March 27, 2010
Now, how many times do you think the movie "Hoosiers" will be on this week?
Well, last time in our space we looked a a baddie with a really big head - so why buck a trend, we shall continue to look at baddies with misshaped melons. (Hey - check out the pic at the bottom of this post - that's a bunch of messed up heads.) This by the way, raises a question - why is it only bad guys end up all deformed? There is a subtle form of bigotry at play here, but that is a subject for another time.
Today we turn our attention to a literal Egghead. NO! - this is not the Vincent Price character from the bad '60's Batman TV series. This is a Marvel villain who originally appeared as an opponent of the Astonishing Ant-Man!
Apparently Egghead is dead now - at least the one with the cool head. There is some robot pretender about that looks really malevolent, but come on, you have to love a guy whose head is actually shaped like an egg. I am sure they killed him because he came off too corny for the modern age, but then what's wrong with corny?
In fact, why stop at Egghead? 'Ol Eggy joined several bad-guy groups over the decades, why not one made up of guys named solely for the shape of their heads. There could be "Moonhead" (really big, really round) and Pearhead (you get the idea here, in fact a whole bunch of fruit heads) and of course, Carrothead.
Hey Marvel - that's a freebie!
Friday, March 26, 2010
On Christmas Eve day, the suburban families would deliver the gifts to their adopted family in the city. The spirit of the season as it was shared in this very personal and tangible way would enrich the lives of both poor and affluent families in unique ways. It was an idea that had great appeal and it gained momentum each year.What a perfect illustration of selfish charity. Oxymoronic perhaps, but apropos nonetheless. We have a deep tendency to want to experience the benefits of our charity - we give because it makes us feel good.
But the year I moved into the city, the first year I sat in living rooms with needy neighbors when the gift-bearing families arrived, I observed something I had never seen before. The children, of course, were all excited at the sight of all the colorfully wrapped presents. The mothers were gracious to their beneficiaries but seemed, to me at least, to be a bit reserved. If there was a father in the home, he simply vanished. At first sight of the gift-bearers, he disappeared out the back door. It dawned on me that something other than joyful Christmas sharing was happening here. Although the children were ecstatic, the recipient parents were struggling with a severe loss of pride. In their own homes, their impotence as providers was exposed before their children. The mothers would endure this indignity for the sake of their children, but it was often more than the fathers could take. Their failure as providers was laid bare. It was destroying what shreds of pride they were managing to hold on to.
It was obvious that this charity system had to change. The following Christmas, as caring people began to call in for their adopted city family, they were asked if they would be willing to give an extra gift this year. Would they give the gift of dignity to the dads? Instead of delivering the gifts directly to their adopted family, they were asked to bring them unwrapped to the Family Store where a Christmas toy shop would be set up.
A small price would be placed on each toy or article of clothing-somewhere between a garage sale and a wholesale price-and parents from the community would be invited in to Christmas shop. Those that had no money could work at the store to earn what they needed to purchase gifts for their family, since cash flow would be generated through the sale of donations.
Then on Christmas morning, parents in the city would experience the same joy as those in the suburbs: watching their children open the gifts they secured for them from the efforts of their own hands. We renamed the Adopt-a-Family program and called it Pride for Parents.
But that is not the kind of giving we are called to in Christ. we are called to give without such benefit, or even assurance. We are called to give and trust in God that our giving will accomplish what we want it to. Further we are to trust in God even when we know that the gift has gone wrong.
There is even a theological related aspect. In this illustration, the recipients of the charity are allowed an illusion if you will of buying the gifts. Of course, its still charity, but the parents are allowed to pretend that it is not.
I wonder, just wonder if the same should not be true of our faith. We Calvinists know that we cannot earn our salvation, but the humility that that fact generates is not readily or easily accessible, particularly in those newer to the faith. We work so hard to preserve the "truth" of our Calvinism but I wonder if we do not in the process humiliate people away from the cross.
A good friend once said to me that there was "something to be said" for "believing like Calvinists and acting like Arminians."
I think this makes his point perfectly.
I'LL SAVE YOU NELL!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Victory By Submission
Every time I resist temptation, it represents a triumph of Jesus Christ over all that would do me everlasting harm.Triumph...VICTORY comes from obedience - that is to say submission to the will of our Lord.
I find it odd how often we forget this. Christ's ultimate victory for us came through submission to the will of His Father, (Matt 26:36-44) and we are to share in that victory (Gal 2:20) - how is it then that we expect our victory to be on terms other than submissive ones? It is right there in our face - we all know scripture, we all understand the words, and yet we behave so differently.
Could there be any stronger evidence that the Christian's journey in far more than an intellectual one?
The challenge for us as individuals and for the church is to find out how to take and lead that non-intellectual portion of the journey. This is why word became flesh and "virtual church" will never work - there are some things too deep for words. (Rom 8:26).
Liturgy - art - beauty - these are but doorways to this place...
...this place of victory through submission.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Henri Nouwen tells the story of a sculptor whose studio was next door to the home of a little boy. One day, a big flatbed truck pulled up to the studio and delivered an enormous block of marble. The big front doors to the studio opened and the marble was wheeled up to the studio. The little boy, playing in his front yard, followed the workers into the studio to see what would happen. A few days later, he watched as the sculptor took his hammer and chisel and began to chip away at the piece of stone. The boy eventually lost interest and went away. A couple of weeks later, the boy went back into the studio and then to his amazement, he saw no longer a big chunk of stone but in its final phase a beautiful carved lion. The boy was amazed and said, "How did you know there was a lion in that marble?"How often does the church do the exact opposite - we do not encourage the lion in the marble - rather we wish to "square up the block" so that it can fit neatly into the stack.
Many people just need someone who believes there is a lion inside that block of marble.
It is the nature of institutions to develop standards, missions, roles, procedures, and everything they do must fit into them or move on. Each person that comes to the church is block of marble - inside of it may be a lion, or maybe an ostrich, or.... But we cannot let all those blocks of marble become all those things because that would be , well, chaotic, and we could not control it.
Which is the point in the end. WE CANNOT CONTROL IT. Leadership in the church is an unusual thing - its not about controlling the institution, its about enabling and encouraging the members of the institution to become whatever they are inside their blocks while setting boundaries that are reasonable (It's NOT OK to be a "hooker for Jesus.")
Too many churches these days decide to be something and then just tell people interested in being something a little different to find another church. That's just sad, and limited, and in the end it lacks God's perspective becasue it's about control.
Of course, if we really get down to it, it's about resources, they are limited and have to decide where to spend them. Which brings us back to encouragement. If the church cannot commit much in the way of financial resources to something, it can still encourage it. Rather than tell someone to find a church that is like that we can still love that individual and encourage them to pursue their dreams in our midst.
But we want CONTROL. Control we can never have because giving such to God is the whole point.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Young pastors or seminarians often ask me for advice on what kind of early ministry experience to seek in order to best grow in skill and wisdom as a pastor. They often are surprised when I tell them to consider being a 'country parson' -- namely, the solo pastor of a small church, many or most of which are in non-urban settings. Let me quickly emphasize the word 'consider.' I would never insist that everyone must follow this path. Nevertheless, it is worth thinking about. It was great for me.Specialization is a funny thing - I worry about ministry professionals in general because it is a radically different lifestyle than the one most of us live. And yet, they are the people that are supposed to help us become the people that God would have us be.
The tradition of clergy being "set apart" as they are has its roots in two distinct historical facts. One is the secular power of the church - clergy was set apart to wield that power as a ruling class of sort. The other fact is in the preservation of knowledge - it is an academic preservation highly akin to teachers.
And yet, the original pastors, the apostles, were set apart only after careers in "secular" pursuits. God called them out of the mundane and set them apart only after they had been "people like the rest of us." But they were also around at a time when education was wider spread than it would be after the fall of Rome and the church had no political power at all.
We live in an age when education, at least in American, is extraordinarily wide spread. We also live in a place and an age where you might be able to point to a ruling class, but virtually anyone with a mind to can join it. I wonder if it is not time for our clergy to be more "apostolic" under such circumstance.
There is a lot of that. Many people in this day and age just "hang out a shingle" and set themselves up as pastors - a totally entrepreneurial event. I am not necessarily in favor of that, I very much like the gate keeping functions of ordination and denomination. NO what I am wondering about is taking Keller's idea a step further.
Keller's suggestion is a great one - we all need "rounding" - a broader picture of where we fit into the grand scheme of things. His point, that "soloing" in a small church gives such perspective is right on.
But what if our candidates were urged to, somewhere in their development, seek "secular" employment for a period of a few years? What if they had the experiences, at least to some extent, that the rest of us have had. Not the part-time odd jobs that we all have when trying to pay for our educations - I am talking about real, wage slave stuff, salaries, benefits, 40-60 hours a week - the whole drudge.
What if they had to make their faith a reality not in the church, but in the world in the same way we do every day?
Just an idea.
Monday, March 22, 2010
That is certainly the thought that ran through my mind when I read this post by Ron Edmundson:
It is easy during times of trials and difficulty to forget the value of brokenness. Not many people would choose to be burdened with heartache or disappointment, but few that go through suffering fail to realize some value from those times…after the trial has passed.Everything Ron discusses is true, and right, and valuable, but...
As I was recently reflecting on my own times of distress, I discovered 7 values to brokenness
But analyzing brokenness is a way of escaping it. God does not want us to understand the value of brokenness, he wants us to be broken. He does not want us to put our pain into context, He wants us to, in the midst of the pain, lean on Him.
When we learn the lessons of brokenness, we substitute our understanding for His strength - we substitute an intellectual lesson for a meta-physical one.
The value of brokenness is in living through it, not understanding it.