April 23, 2008

I Hate You Because You Influenced Me

I will warn you...this is a rather personal post on my behalf. I am not sure I want this out in cyberspace, but I am posting it because I know I am not the only one dealing with these issues. I know it often helps to know others feel the same way. So here it is...

A few days ago, I learned that my absentee, biological father is dying. By absentee I mean I have only seen him about 6-8 times my entire life for brief moments; the last time, aside from this past Monday, was over 12 years ago for about an hour. Not what would be called a budding father-son relationship.

This lack of relationship and desertion has caused many feelings of hurt and anger through the years. In fact, I have worked through the anger and hurt repeatedly over the past 34 years. I work through issues of forgiveness, and then something triggers the anger and hurt all over again. I never imagined the hurt and anger that would be my personal wrestling match this past weekend. Something about knowing he is dying (2-4 weeks) brought out something different. I had to wrestle with whether or not I would even visit; whether or not I even wanted to visit.

Sometimes you just have to talk to someone...sometimes its not even on purpose. You are just processing stuff and it seems to come out to everyone around you. I talked with a friend who had found himself in a similar situation. I told him about my father. He said, "I tried that forgiveness thing with my father before he died. If I were you I would say 'F@#$ him' and just move on! It will always be disappointing." Another friend told me I sounded selfish because I didn't know if I wanted to see him.

I wrestled all weekend with what I was going to do. I even drove the 30 miles to his apartment, didn't stop, turned around and came back home. It wasn't until Monday morning that I finally decided to visit, and so I returned.

As I sat in his living room, I could hardly speak to him...or look at him.

What do you say to someone who is your father, and yet you don't have a clue what he is like?

So I watched. I watched how he interacted. I listened to what he said. And I got mad. I got mad because I saw mannerisms and facial expressions that were my own. It made me angry that someone who was never a part of my life should still have an influence in who I am. Even the anger and pain at his absence have shaped me. I hated him for that influence.

But I also pitied him. He knows his mistakes. He feels the guilt. He hasn't said so, but I can see it in his eyes; I can hear it in his voice.

After a half hour watching, talking with he and the other guests, he got up to go outside and motioned for me to come along. In those few private moments he explained the cancer and treatment process. I sat fighting the urge to just let him have it, and knowing, deep down, that I had to forgive.

Ever since my daughter was young we have prayed with her before putting her to bed. The standard, and only, prayer we have prayed is the Lord's Prayer; kids like consistency. On Sunday night, as we prayed, I heard the words a little differently... "Forgives us our trespasses as we also for those who trespass against us." I didn't like them in this instance, but there they were, and I knew that I would have to reach that point. I had to forgive him not because it would let him off the hook for what he had done or because he would start weeping and ask for the forgiveness. I had to forgive because I had never verbalized it to him, and because a lack of forgiveness only hurts me and my relationships with everyone else and the God I claim to serve.

So as we sat on the back porch of his apartment, I forced the words out..."I forgive you whether or not you want it or accept it." There it was. I said it, and he took it. Nothing really happened. He was quiet. I was quiet. It was an anti-climactic ending to a fews days of intense inner turmoil.

I still don't know if I actually mean it or understand the extent of what I said...sometimes the words have to come before the actuality. I still don't know what will come the visit, but at least there is an opening. We'll see...

I have written briefly on this before:
Reflections of a Fatherless Father

April 22, 2008

Why I Am Not Modern Despite Many Quantifiable Reasons Why I Should Be

Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck have written a new book, Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be (Moody, 2008).

Here is an extended quote from their front page...After their quote, I have included the preface to my new book Why I Am Not Modern Despite Many Quantifiable Reason Why I Should!

After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Frank, Walter Winks, and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem;...if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found; if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, na├»ve, and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden; if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—if all or most of this torturously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent Christian.


Here is the introduction to my new book:

After growing up in and being educated by many modern-loving church leaders, I have no doubt that the modern church, while VERY defined and far from unified, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be a modern Christian: if you listen to The Gaither Vocal Band, Michael W. Smith, and Carmen (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from 3,000 Humorous Sermon Illustrations, drink black coffee in the morning and soda in the evenings, and always use a desktop PC; if your reading list consists primarily of John Calvin, John MacArthur, J. Vernon McGee, D. James Kennedy, Josh McDowell, and Charles Coleson, (not to mention Dobson, Carson, and Grudem ) and your sparring partners include Brian McLaren, Doug Paggit, and Rob Bell;... if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Blackaby, Sheldon, Robertson, or Lucado; if you like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are solely based on abortion and gay marriage and consider a concern for poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression liberalism; if you are into suit and tie, pop Christianity, televangelist, or what-we've-always-done; if you talk about the Substitutionary-Only Atonement and the certainty of systematic theology; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways postmodernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of doctrines that lead us into certainty about God and is completely inerrant; if you search for truth and are sure you have found it; if you’ve ever been to a church with pews, doxologies, Sunday schools, organ, a hymn book, or suit and tie (growing up in it doesn’t count); if you loathe words like myth, mystery, cultural, missional, and filter l and use words likeinear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy ; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems fair, balanced, and true; if you support women in no level of ministry other than Sunday school, prioritize suburban over urban, and like your theology systematic instead of narrative; if you believe in a strong sacred-secular divide; if you want to just go to the church and not actually be church; if you long for a community that is structured, legalistic, and disconnected to real life and like an institution or business; if you believe who goes to hell is your business and most people will be there anyway; if you believe salvation has only to do with atoning for guilt and little to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is only about believing the right things but not actually living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about heaven coming to us instead of people going to hell; if you disdain narrative, conversational preaching; if you use the word “doctrine” in all your propositions about modernism—if all or most of this torturously long sentence describes you, then you might be a modern Christian.


As a disclaimer, I haven't actually read DeYoung and Kluck's book, but I certainly am not inspired to do so by the introduction they have provided. But, I do make a habit of reading just about anything...so who knows!

I found that I fit some of their description of emergent, not all, but very little of the inferred alternative.

What do you think about their introduction? Does it describe you?

April 16, 2008

Are They Brainwashed?

I just read this article on ABCNews.com. The thought that came to mind is How long before they come for the "normal" Christian's children.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor am I a support of polygamy (1 wife is PLENTY enough for me to handle!). But check out this quote from Joe Szimhart, "a cult information specialist for more than 25 years."

"Any common definition of brainwashing or of a totalistic cult is when someone is involved in a self-sealing belief system," said Szimhart. "They see themselves apart from the rest of the world, and elitist, and think that everything outside is evil."

With a little tweaking, this could easily define large sections of the Christian Church. We see ourselves apart from the world (in the world, but not of the world), often labeled elitist because we believe that Jesus is the only way to receive salvation, we view the world as evil, and we believe that God will establish His Kingdom on earth some day.

The article questions whether it is considered brainwashing to believe in something that a large majority of society does not agree with. In appropriate journalistic fashion, they refused to take a side, but offered alternate points of view...it is brainwashing...it isn't brainwashing.

So, what do you think? Is it brainwashing? Is it not?

April 10, 2008

5 FREE Tools for Church Communication and Design

My favorite word is FREE. I like free stuff...books, food, coffee. Having worked for churches for most of my working life, I have an extra affinity for the word free. Most people in churches, especially the communications "departments" of smaller churches, are working with little to no money. Often, they have to use borrowed programs to get their work accomplished.

So, to help those with little to no budget produce higher quality pieces, I offer the following FREE software tools:

1. The GIMP. While Photoshop is the standard image editing software, there are many who cannot afford the high price tag associated with it. GIMP offers comparable functionality with absolutely ZERO cost. It is an open source image editing program that allows you to do pretty much everything Photoshop can do. Websites like DeviantArt offer FREE brushes, and it is pretty easy to learn how to convert Photoshop brushes for use in GIMP as well. Plus there are plenty of online tutorials to help you learn how to use it.

2. OpenOffice. This productivity suite is comparable to anything Microsoft Office can offer for those on a tight budget. It has word processing, spreadsheet, graphics, and presentation capabilities, and, once again, cost absolutely nothing.

3. Colorpic. This handy little program allows you to mouse over a color on your screen and retrieve is html color numbers. This is useful for creating color palettes for web and print design. Colors can be chosen, saved, and palettes converted for use in Photoshop and GIMP.

4. Stock.xchng and Morguefile. These websites offer great photography at no cost. Most only ask for acknowledgment that their photo is being used. These images provide a good starting point for any design project.

5. Inkscape. This handy program is a vector graphics creator similar to Illustrator. If you have to work with vector graphics, this program is hard to beat for the price of FREE.

One more FREEbie

6. Google! If you are not using the capabilities of a Google account, you don't know what you are missing...e-mail (gmail), Docs, spreadsheets, Notebook, Reader, the possibilities are seemingly endless, and Google is improving them constantly.

Here are a few more posts you may like:
10 Writing and Creating Tools I Can't Live Without!
5 Quick Steps to Improve Your Church Communications Pieces

What are some of your other favorite tools?

April 8, 2008

I Love Fire!

One of the nicest things about being outdoors for more than a week was building a fire EVERY night. Being a former Eagle Scout, I take great pride that most of the fires were 1 match starts. There were some windy days.

I hate getting the wood and stuff together, but I love the warmth and inspiration a fire brings. There is something inherently cheerful about a fire crackling and dancing in the fireplace. A fire uplifts and encourages...it offers hope.

Keeping a fire burning is hard work. I had to wake up at all hours of the night to add more wood, stoke the coals, and keep the fire going, or else it would die. If the fire died, we would either have to start all over again the next morning or we would have to do with a cold start to the day.

One night, while stoking the fire and adding wood to the coals, I noticed that many of the logs I added the night before were simply burned through in the middle; where they had laid across the main section of the fire. The ends, though charred, were unburned. The fire simply ate its way through the middle section of the log, and did not burn its way to the ends.

I also noticed that once a log was removed from the fire it would go out. Coals and hot spots would burn for a while...sometimes hours, but flames were only sustained by the presence of other logs. A log simply wouldn't burn without other logs.

The parable was certainly not lost on me.

Hope, passion, love, even faith all die out if we do not have someone else there to sustain the flame with us. We need other people to help us burn our brightest and strongest. We also need that addition of new wood to keep the fire going. We cannot do life alone.

This is why church, in some form, is important for personal, spiritual growth. We need other people. We need them to encourage us, teach us, and even hold us accountable (most people don't like that part). Without being part of a church community our faith dies...like it or not.

April 7, 2008

A Picture is ONLY Worth a Thousand Words


View from the Top 2
Originally uploaded by themerge
We left Saturday morning at 5am from my house, and traveled 5hours to Ohiopyle, PA. Then we hiked about 6.5 miles to our first camp. Sunday morning was a rough day. We woke up to low 20 degree weather, and prepared to leave camp by 9am. We were sore from hiking in the day before, but knew we had a large climb and a 12 mile hike ahead of us. The climb was about 1,500ft up and 2 miles long. It took us about 2 hours of steady climbing to reach the top (yes, we were out of shape and took a number of breaks).

When we got to the top, the view was exhilarating. I couldn't believe how beautiful it was. I was excited because I had survived the climb, but also because the view was breath-taking and worth the effort.

James took several pictures of the scenery while I stood staring into the beauty; trying to breath in the essence of it.

I was disappointed when I looked at the pictures. It seems that a picture is ONLY worth a thousand words, but experiencing the view is worth so much more. Throughout the entire trip I kept thinking...that would make a nice picture...but then I remembered that the picture would not do justice to what I was seeing.

I thought about how I allow my life to become like the picture...ONLY worth a thousand words. I fill it with many things, activities, busy-ness, and fail to experience the beauty and exhilaration for myself. Life is meant to be lived.

Backpacking was an opportunity to not only put myself to the test physically, but to take stock of life. I don't want to simply content myself with beautiful desktop images of mountains, of wilderness, of life going on around me...I want to take the pictures and experience them for myself.

April 6, 2008

I Can't Believe I Drank the Water!

A friend and I just spent 8 days backpacking in Pennsylvania; covering 70 miles.

Pennsylvania offers some great backpacking trails, but the iron soaked water leaves something to be desire. We found a place that had clean, filtered water and shows the difference between regular water and the pumped well-water we were usually drinking.

More to come...