Category Archives: religious

My First High School Football Game

I went to my first high school football game last night.  My twins and I went to the Gardner Edgerton vs. Blue Valley West football game.

A Highschool American Football game

My first high school football game ever.

Catch that:  It was my first high school football game ever.  Yep, ever.

Here comes the understatement:  I hated my high school experience.  It was just…awful and painful.  I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t a jock, I wasn’t a brain, I wasn’t part of the drama club or chorus, I wasn’t an AV nerd, I wasn’t in the chess club.  I wasn’t in to art, cars, pep, hemp, computers, yearbook, newsletter, video games, math, meth, smokes, goth, debate, (deep breath), shop, science, government, cheer, beer, steer (ha, cowboy), dance, history…or anything else high school-related.  I never supported my high school’s sport teams.  Go Cougars, yeah, whatever.

What was I into?  I was into God.  A church geek, a Bible thumper, a Jesus freak, a righteous rocker, a religious retard.  OK, maybe that last one was overstating it a bit.  Although it wasn’t a clique, it was still a persecuted and discriminated group (of one?)  to be in.  I was alienated and ostracized.  I admit I brought some of it on myself.  I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school, but I did have a few close buddies.

My high-school years weren’t all bad, like I said, I was a church geek.  When I was at church with my youth-group friends life was perfect.  Our youth group was full of kids, it usually had 30 to 50 teens from several different high schools!  I had friends who looked up to me, friends who loved me and took care of me, friends who helped me grow up, friends who are still the best people in my life.   And leaders that cared about many different aspects of my life.  At church I was popular.  At church I was a drama and chorus geek!  That’s right, I sang and acted-at church!  Heck, I even skateboarded, that counts as a sport right?

My high school years are far, far behind me, but my twins’ high school years have just begun. Four fresh years ahead.   I was very impressed with the “meet the teachers’ night” message and presentations.  There are so many opportunities for students to be successful and prepare for life and college.  And I really want my twins to have better opportunities than me.  A college education without college loans would be a great start.  In addition, an education that develops marketable skills that keep their interest that allow them to give their family better opportunities would be…well, perfect.

Christ is still a most important part of our lives.  We are attending a different Nazarene church that has a thriving youth group.  The twins are making friends, volunteering and hopefully developing a relationship with Christ.

We thought that high school football games would be something we could do together.

My first-ever high school football game was everything I expected it to be, lots of loud rivalry, colorful team spirit, disrespectful kids and, foul-mouthed adults.  I felt incredibly out of place.  But the twins got to hang out and make new friends and fit in.

The #8 Jags fell to the #2 Trailblazers 49-7.

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Chad Miller – Losing a Friend

Chad Miller and his brother Chris were kayaking last week on a swollen Brandywine Creek in PA when they went over a 4-ft dam and drowned.  They found Chris’ body the same day, and found Chad’s body a few days later.  It is a great loss.  Chad was a dear friend from my teenage years.  We were in the same youth group at Oakland Church of the Nazarene in Cedar Rapids, IA.  I haven’t talked to him face-to-face in over 15 years and still the loss is great.  It is also a milestone of sorts.  Besides my grandparents and my dad, Chad is the closest loss that I have yet to experience.  It is a milestone I wish I would have never reached.

There are quite a few links to news stories about the accident and links to memorials, but here is a short list:

Oakland Church had a huge youth group.  Karen Phillips was the youth pastor.  Her dad, Gene Phillips, was the Sr. Pastor.  Tom Darland was my Sunday School teacher and is the current youth pastor.  We must have had 75-125 kids go through the youth group during my jr. high and sr. high years.  At any one time the group was about 30-40 teens.  We were a very close-knit family of friends.  We took the church and youth group extremely serious.  We met Sunday mornings, evenings and Wednesday nights-basically whenever the church doors were open.  There were about a half dozen high schools in the area that had kids that met in our youth group.  The youth group was everything to me.  I had a few close friends at school, but for the most part I was a nobody, a social outcast, a bit of a religious geek.  And I didn’t care much about the social scene there.  But at youth group, well that was different!  I had friends, many, many friends.  I was popular.  I was a leader.  I made life-long friends.  We went on youth and mission trips, choir tours and service projects.  Youth group was my life.  Life was good.  And Chad was a big part of that.

I first became friends with Chad very shortly after he joined the youth group.  We found out that we shared a love for Bill Cosby’s old stand up records!  We recited entire sketches together, laughing our butts off!  That was the beginning our our friendship.

Everyone in the youth group loved Chad.  He was smart, funny and crazy!  Even though Chad was a year behind me, we all looked up to him and wanted to be just like Chad.  He skateboarded, we skateboarded.  He did crazy things with his hair, we did crazy things to our hair!  He rebelled, we rebelled!  Chad had blue hair for a bit, and I think Kool-aid red too!  As in he used kool-aid!  I remember one mission trip to a native-American Indian reservation near Wounded Knee.  We were really roughing it, no air-conditioned houses, no running water except for a hose, no hot water.  We stayed in a couple of shacks and tents.  Chad’s sister, Amy, braided Chad’s long hair.  They were long thick braids.  One less thing for Chad to worry about.  On this trip we were able to get away to a community pool to cool off and to clean off.  So we’re standing there, Chad with his crazy hair, and we’re talking and there’s these little kids gathering around Chad and just staring at Chad’s hair.  It was like the world stopped and they were completely enamored with Chad’s head!  So Chad carried on the conversation trying to ignore the kids.  But they just stood there.  So finally Chad changed his attention to the kids-he looked at them, acknowledging them all around.  But they just stood there.  Finally Chad is making eye contact, staring back, but the kids aren’t looking at his eyes, it is that crazy hair!  Finally Chad had to say something to break their gaze and they finally scampered away!  FUNNY, FUNNY STUFF!  We laughed and laughed and laughed.

There was a graveside service and a memorial service yesterday.  I was fortunate to be able to travel up to Iowa and attend.  There were so many people there.  Mostly family-Chad came from a HUGE family.  But there were so many friends there too.  And I got to spend time with a few of them swapping stories and remembering the good ol’ days of youth.  Many laughs and many tears.

The last time I saw Chad face-to-face he seemed like he was still finding himself, still figuring out God and the church and his life.  He didn’t seem to be that close to God at the time.  I can’t tell you how thrilled and blessed I was a few years ago when I first discovered that Chad was a minister!

I miss Chad’s blue hair! I miss his huge smile! I miss his laugh. Many old friends are mourning this great loss. All the stories I read, all the articles, comments and memories, first it’s interesting because they are either from Chad’s point of view or Chris’. Chris was just the younger brother to me, but I do remember that Chad loved Chris very much.  There are many from Chad’s church that offered very kind words and fond memories.

There is a Facebook page that is dedicated to the memory of Chris and Chad.  It has been up for about a week now.  There are over 190  embers.  Most of the members have funny names with funny symbols.  Chris was a teacher at English First International teaching English and International Affairs.  All of these foreign students offering their condolences and memories.  Chris was exciting and fun.  He tried to teach them baseball!  He introduced them to marshmallows.  So there is a pic of him with a marshmallow, he looks like he is in a classroom with his students.  The marshmallow is on fire!  I don’t know if there was a Sterno there or what.  Roasting marshmallows in class with his students.  That is a love for your job right there!  I also read that he made a mean “better than sex Chocolate cake”.  One of the stories that a student tells is of one of the last classes that Chris taught, he was making a case about true love, he was explaining that he had found it.  Chris leaves a wife behind, Nicole.  Nicole and Chris made a 6-week journey down the Mississippi in a home-made boat that he and his dad, Paul, made!  That is a lust for life!

These stories are amazing and they focus on Chad or Chris.  All of the kind words, all of the remembered stories, all of the impacted lives! Chad and Chris made a real impact on their world. A positive impact. An impact for the kingdom of God. They touched lives and were loved by many. Know this: They were blessed. They blessed others. God used Chad & Chris. They lived life. With a purpose! And many, many people miss them both very much. And we are thinking and praying for all of the family.

It is faith that keeps me from falling into depression or dwelling on the sadness of the loss.  I know that one day I will see Chad again.  We’ll catch up.  We’ll recite Bill Cosby!  We’ll ponder theology.

Dear Heavenly Father, please accept Chris and Chad with open arms.  Please keep them until we arrive. Be with Amy and her family, Paul and Ellie, Nicole, extended family, close friends, students and parishioners and all who were touched by Chad and Chris’ life. Let them know that you love them. Give them your peace and your comfort that only you can give those that mourn and weep. Amen.

I am a better person for knowing Chad and the Miller Family.

Two side notes.  One regarding communication.  I was told about the tragedy from my good buddy David who pastors in Iowa-he too grew up in the youth group with Chad.  He had tried to call me but I was unavailable.  He finally broke the news to me through Facebook’s IM (instant message).  I informed our old youth pastor through Facebook email.  There is an “In loving memory…” page for Chad and Chris on Facebook.  I was able to chat with friends and let them know about the tragedy and also let them know how much I appreciated them-all through Facebook.  Also regarding the Internet I was able to track and read most of the articles from a Google search on “Chad Miller” and focusing on the Google search news tab.  There were many, many articles.  I was also able to directly email one of the reporters and share my thoughts and memories of Chad-and he even published a few thoughts.  Instant communication is amazing.  The funeral home posted a video and had a place to offer condolences.

Second is a lesson learned.  Tell your friends you love and appreciate them.  Thanks Dyanna for pointing this out and then practicing it.  Life is too short.  Don’t wait or take your friends for granted.  Yeah, it is a little sappy, but where would we be without our friends?  I’m gonna do this.  I am doing this.  I have looked up a few more friends (mostly by using Facebook-I may be a little addicted) and told them how much I love them and appreciate them and miss them and will always fondly remember the wonderful times I have had with them.

I love you guys and gals!

-Derin-

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a House

Y’know when you watch a movie and then you watch it again later and it takes on a new meaning?  I re-watched Fun with Dick and Jane:

An update of the 1977 comedy, Dick and Jane are living the good life. That is until Dick (Jim Carrey) loses his job shortly after getting a promotion that convinced his wife Jane (Téa Leoni) to quit her job. The money is gone, and the house ends up in foreclosure. Dick decides to turn to a hilarious life of crime to pay the bills with his lovely wife by his side. Then together they decide it’s time to steal back what Former CEO Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin) had stolen from them.

The first thing to go is their lawn-the sod gets repossessed.  The electricity gets shut off.  They bathe in the neighbor’s sprinkler system.  They downgrade to a POS compact car.  It was a really funny movie a couple of years ago.  Now it is an uncomfortably funny movie.  You don’t have to look too far to see the effects of the current financial crisis.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the financial crisis for a few months now.  Things are getting pretty rough.  I am in the telecom industry and work for a company that can fall apart at any moment.  And I am not alone.  I have many friends and former co-workers that are jobless.  A couple of my friends just got laid off.  A few years ago there were still jobs to be found…now it is somewhat different.

Most people, even though they live paycheck to paycheck, could survive for a few months.  But then they get hungry.  And cold.  Or hot.  And frustrated.  And depressed.  And finally desperate.  Desperate people do desperate things.

Think about it.  I mean really think about it.  What if…What if you lost your job.  Spouse loses theirs.  Interview after interview, resume after resume.  Can’t find a job.  Or worse yet the ONLY job you can find a $10.00-13.00/hr job.  Any job means no unemployment checks.  Or unemployment runs out.  No insurance.  $10.00 per hour times 40 hours a week times 2 (mom & dad) equals…about $40,000 a year.  That’s about 75% to 50% of what most of my friends at Embarq make in a year (with both working).  Could your family make it if you lost 25-50% of your income?  Even those jobs will fade when folks can’t afford to eat out or remodel or whatever.

One of my favorite radio programs, This American Life, on NPR, had an incredible episode a couple of months ago entitled, Bad Bank.  They talked about a hypothetical bank-the smallest in the world, it has the owner’s $10 and a guy’s $90-he earns 3% for storing his money.  Then the bank turns around and loans $100 to a gal at 6% for a doll house.  This is called a balance sheet.  $100 in the bank, $100 being loaned out.  The bank profits 3% interest right?  Except gal loses her job and can’t afford her doll house payments anymore.  Now the bank doesn’t have the guy’s $90 to give back.  The program stated that the top 3 banks in the US have a unbalanced balance sheet-if there was a run on those banks today they would fail.  The banks want the government to know this, but not the average person!  As a friend of mine pointed out, the FDIC insures deposits up to $100,000 right?  Correct, and who pays that?  The government, the taxpayers, you and I.  And so banks are using that argument-give us a bailout now where folks can keep their homes, or bail us out later when we crash and burn and folks are homeless.

I live on a street that is full of duplexes.  The short block has maybe 20-30 families on it.  If half of them lost their jobs to the point where they could not pay their rent/mortgage and got behind to the point where they were getting evicted…if that happened over the period of a few months they would easily get escorted off the property by the authorities-some would get deported.  And what would become of empty houses?  Where would homeless folks go?  Personally I have no family in the area.  I have no friends with extra houses in the back yard.  But what if that happened over the period of a couple of weeks?  And multiply that times the number of neighborhoods around the city.  It is a much different picture.  There would not be enough police to force folks off the properties.   There would be folks who refused to leave.  There would be desperation, theft, anger, violence.  Things could get way out of control very fast.  Evicting squatters would be at the bottom of the list and the least of anyone’s worries.

OK, here it is, here is the heart of my thoughts:  What is the role of the church in these financially stressful times?
Does the church encourage their congregation to uphold the law and keep the peace?  Will churches open their doors to people who are homeless?  Open soup kitchens and clothing pantries?  Offer transportation-carpools?  Treat people with dignity and respect?  Offer training?  Assistance?  Pull their monies together?  Help single moms?  Pay mortgages and rent?  Stock food pantries?  Pay for lights, gas, water, etc?  Or be in a similarly depressing state?  Will churches end up in foreclosures too?

One of my friends has been laid off-for a year.  He paid his bills with credit cards.   He is pretty upset that he did the responsible thing, went into debt and kept current and others are getting bailed out.  And what about those that took out loans that shouldn’t?  The ones that knew they could not afford it?  The ones that depended upon the banks to deny them the loans.  They should get bailed out?  Businesses should be rewarded for failing?  It doesn’t seem fair!  The responsible ones are getting punished.  That all sound reasonable…right up until you lose your job.  And you suddenly become one who shouldn’t have taken out a loan.  You become the irresponsible one.  You become the failure.  And you feel like you have no options.

I work with a guy at Home Depot (most likely a few guys like this), he has a wife and child.  He works full time and he still qualifies for federal assistance.  I mean he is doing things right!  And he still can’t make it!  He is still at poverty level.

Another friend points out that laws are man-made and that we should do what we need to do to take care of our families.  What does that mean?  Squatting?  Stealing?

Another points out that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  But I am afraid that this line of reasoning is “prosperity Gospel” and faulty.  The truth is that God will never let anything happen to us spiritually to cause us to fall from grace-to break our spirit.  I am afraid that money is another matter.  Food, shelter, clothing, transportation-not spiritually guaranteed!  Will my theology friends steer me straight?  Or back me up?

Another says let’s go, the rapture is coming, Big Daddy is gonna take us home.  However, history paints a different picture of suffering and poverty-Christians participate, and are not delivered from it.  The plague, the depression, wars, martyrs.  God’s people are continually delivered from their sins.  Just not from the pains of this world.

And I am sure the list can go on and on.  The economy isn’t really that bad…It is the worst ever.  Tax and spending is the answer or not the answer.  The President is too liberal.  The Republicans are vetoing everything.  But I don’t care about the President or our government or economists.  I care about the church.  What is the church gonna do?

Another one of my friends attends a church who wishes to move from a temporary setting (mobile church-they set up each week in a school or some sort of facility, then tear it all down and store it during the week) to an actual building.  The pastor is continually asking for money for this endeavor.  My friend asks if that is the responsible thing to do?  The pastor is encouraging folks not to get “distracted” by the environment around them.  My friend is a little uneasy about that.  He sees people around him having a rough time.  He doesn’t want them to become a distraction that gets ignored!  He is considering giving to a charity.

What happens when folks stop paying tithe?  Not because they don’t want to, or because they don’t have any money left after paying for food.  But what if they don’t have money.  Any money!  What if they don’t have food?  No place to live?  No gas to travel?

I know it is a depressing and bleak picture.  I hope it is all crazy talk.  On one hand I say that things will never get that bad.  On the other hand I see layoffs and low-paying jobs.

But…what if?  And what will Christ’s church do?  I hope pastors are paying attention.  I hope they are thinking about preparing for a possible crisis.  I hope Christians are thinking outside of their consumer society.  Outside of their immediate family-you might not think you have extra room…but your friends may be eying your garage or basement soon.  Heck, I might be eying your basement!

I would like to know what you think.

Here’s what I think I think:

The church has a real opportunity to be the church.  The real test will be to see Christians taking in other Christians (and non-Christians!).  Families!  Will churches open their doors to the poor?  The homeless?  The filthy?  The non-Christian?  I hope so.

Will Christians do the right thing?  I don’t know what I would do if I was facing eviction.  I don’t know where I would go or what I would do.  I have no family in the area.  I don’t know who I would feel remotely comfortable asking for a place to stay-for a family of 6.  Or a handout.  Or a ride to work.  I would really want to stay and become a squatter in my rented duplex-my landlords have a real nice house…until they need to downgrade to my place.  I hope I embrace legal and peaceful options.  I hope I remember who is my Father.  I hope I remember you, my friends and offer to help you.

Will Cristian landlords reduce rent?  Will Christian business owners take a decrease in pay?  Will Christians continue to sacrificially give?  Will Christian landlord evict families?  Well, these are difficult ones that have no easy answers.

I hope most of these questions will not have to be answered-especially by me.

-Derin-

PS:  Please send pics of your basement.

And Who is My Neighbor

Lost Luggage-When I Grow Up I want to Be an Adult

Our past has a sneaky way of catching up with us. The truth is we all have our own baggage that we would like to permanently misplace somewhere. Throw it out, burn it, leave it behind-lost forever. Most of us deny our past, forget it, pretend like it never happened and we move on. But we don’t move on. Because we don’t know how. We get stuck. Our past effects our today.

My good friend Irene had such an experience. I appreciate her honesty and I hope she embarks on a journey of healing. But it reminded me of my own journey and my own past.

My 4 year old had a very tough time waking up this morning. I didn’t just switch topics… It turns out that even though mom and dad sent him to bed, he didn’t actually go to bed or to sleep. Instead he was caught by my twins playing in his room with his toys with the light on pretty late! Of course HIS version of the story was that our twins barged into his room, turned the lights on and woke him up.

This is what children do: They make bad decisions, they suffer unknown consequences and then they angrily blame someone else later on. But, that’s what kids do! They don’t know any better. When Calvin realizes that it feels better to be awake and happy in the morning then he’ll make better decisions at night. Or he’ll understand that he is the reason why he is cranky and whiny. But today he is 4 and he just doesn’t get it. So it is the responsibility of someone older and wiser to guide him and help him make the right decisions. Someone safe.

What happens when the influence isn’t wiser or safe? What if another guides us in the wrong direction? What if an adult hurts us? Well, then we get a whole lot of 4 year old adults running around.

I have a past too. And so does my spouse. It is ugly stuff. Abuse, hurt, pain…unhealthiness. At one time we were adult children, running around making bad decisions that hurt ourselves and others. We blamed our past and we blamed others. Because we didn’t know how to make good decisions-we just didn’t know what that looked like. We just knew the screwed up past. We had an inkling that our past wasn’t the same past as most of our friends. We hoped that the present wasn’t how things were supposed to be. But we didn’t have the maturity to make the right decisions. We become a wounded adult child. We needed help. We needed another healthy influence to help us grow up. And to help us realize that we are responsible for the choices we make today.

So some of us seek help. I spent the first several years of my marriage in various Christian self-help groups. Christian 12-step programs, learning how to recognize the screwed upness of my present, learning how to set boundaries. Recognizing who caused the pain, identifying the unhealthiness in the past, understanding how it effects my present and finally recognizing that I am the only one to blame for my present. Recognizing my need for Christ and healthy friends. I found safety. I found people who were like me. I found healing. And I was able to break free of my past and be liberated.

I didn’t do it on my own, but I grew up somewhere along the line. I still have my past-I can’t erase it. It isn’t lost luggage. It isn’t stuck in a closet somewhere. But it is no longer the centerpiece of my life. And it no longer controls me. I have learned how to deal with it, to live with it. It is neatly packed and out of the way. Where it belongs. Where it won’t hurt me or others. I don’t have a need for it. Because it is dirty and trashy. But I understand it. I remember it when I need to. And most of all I learn from it. I recognize when I am doing something because of it. And I make a different decision. A healthy decision. And because of that damn dirty, filthy, sinful, painful, abusive, harmful past I am able to help others. I become a wounded healer. That is a miracle and it is grace and mercy all at the same time. Heck, now I am an adult among many 4 year olds! It seems absurd at times. I’m the healthy one! Healthier anyway…

Minnie and I are always keeping an eye out for those around us who are wounded and who we identify with and who might be looking to grow up. We’ve been there. We want to help. The truth is we aren’t the parent/adult that is needed in their lives. Christ is the only healthy adult that can truly transform and heal and restore one to healthiness. Fortunately Minnie and I know that Holy Father. And we would like to facilitate introductions.

-Derin-

A Great Time to be Alive-Cures for Cancer and Autism

I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate life and modern advancements in medicine. And God’s timing as well.

My friend Cliff has terminal cancer. It is this cancer that is in his chest. The doctors were talking about quality of life and not quantity of life. They were certain that cancer would eventually take his life. They had talked about surgery as a last resort-if Cliff became disabled or had trouble breathing etc. That was before.

Cliff went into surgery a couple of weeks ago-the cancer was pressing against his spine and he couldn’t walk. The surgery was successful. Cliff called me a couple of days after the surgery-he was winded-he was already walking with a walker! He asked me if he had told me that he has a new doctor. He had failed to mention that his old doctor lives a few houses down from another doctor; they shared notes and the new doctor took Cliff’s files with him on vacation and spent about 12 hours looking over the data. He came back and scheduled a consultation with Cliff. This new doctor believes that he can get ALL OF THE CANCER out of Cliff’s body. Amazing. There have been so many cool advances in medicine.

Another very cool advancement: When Cliff was researching his cancer a couple of years ago he discovered that a few doctors were using missle guidance systems to operate on cancer patients. The laser would move along with the patient’s breathing and movements as it targeted cancer! Pretty crazy.

If Cliff hadn’t gotten worse when he did his doctor may have never offered his records to another doctor who seemed to have the miraculous skills and knowledge to eradicate “terminal” cancer. That, my friends, is God’s timing.

Another modern development surrounds Autism. Autism has been in the news lately and rightfully so! The storeis don’t really tell you what is going on behind the scenes that are spawning the stories that you are seeing on TV and hearing on the radio. When children and military personnel receive vaccination shots mercury is used as a preservative. Most folks can naturally excrete the mercury from their system. But some cannot. Remember the Mad Hatter from Alice and Wonderland? The phrase, “Mad as a hatter”, was used many years ago to describe folks who hand-crafted hats. The manufacturing process contained mercury (in the tools I think), eventually these folks display symptoms of anger and madness! Why? Answer: mercury.

Mercury is NOT good for the body. Mercury surrounds nerves and blocks signals. The cool thing is that mercury does not damage the cells and nerves, it just holds them hostage! Most people have a natural ability to excrete mercury from their system. Others, it seems, may not excrete the mercury so easily-they get vaccinations and shots and the mercury settles in the brain and they then develop symptoms of Autism or OCD or mental illness. I do not think that vaccines and shots are preserved with mercury an longer.

So anyway some doctors are taking unprecedented and alternative approaches to helping folks who suffer with Autism and other symptoms such as OCD. The goal is to flush the mercury out of the body! Testing along with medicine, in some folks, has resulted in a HUGE reduction in the symptoms. Dan Marino’s son suffered from autism. He went through the expensive and lengthy process and now his son does not have any signs of autism. One of the bad things is that the process makes symptoms worse before they get better. But a possible cure for Autism-a very little known condition? AMAZING! Now the science is still out there, some folks go through the program and are still autistic. Autism is a very misunderstood condition. Some folks may have Autism “naturally”, while others may have it because their body does not naturally excrete mercury.

Here’s the real story that gets buried: You won’t see drug companies jumping on the bandwagon to offer these “detox” drugs to folks though. They don’t want to admit that their drugs that used mercury as a preservative were harmful in the first place! Can you imagine the money that the drug companies would lose? Well, you don’t have to imagine. Lawsuits have already been filed and won (or settled) by folks to have the big drug companies pay the $75,000 that it costs to go through the mercury detox programs. The programs last about a year. Which means an autistic child MAY be “cured” within a year. THAT is amazing! Extremely amazing.

I work with a gentleman who is going through the program with his daughter. He was in the military and suffers from OCD and his daughter has Autism. They are both pretty brilliant people. They understand that their behavior is not rational. But they don’t have a choice. Maybe advancements in modern medicine will offer a cure.

-Derin-

I Am With You Always-Jesus Action Figures

UPDATED POST:  The original website is here:  http://www.wearefishermen.com/home.html   But the website seems to no longer work.  It seems that the manufacturer is selling these through amazon.com. and I have linked to them below:

I am Freedom–Biker Jesus

Biker Jesus Figurine
by Fishermen

I am Freedom–Biker Jesus

I am Spirit–Surfing Jesus

Jesus Action Figure Surfing “I am Spirit”
by Fishermen

I am Spirit–Surfer Jesus

I am Victory–Soccer Jesus

Jesus Soccer Action Figure ‘I Am Victory’
by Fishermen

I am Victory–Soccer Jesus

I am Peace-Camo

Jesus Action Figure Military Outfit I am Peace

I am Peace–Camo Jesus

I’d like to hear what YOU have to say about these Jesus action figures.

-Derin-

Celebrate the Day That Christ was Born to Die

I love the Advent season. It is a season of anticipation. It is also a season of Christmas music. At the Home Depot they have been playing Christmas music since Black Friday.  I am about sick of it.  And I couldn’t figure it out at first…I mean yeah you hear the same song every 45 minutes, by a different artist, sung completely different, and sometimes, most depressingly, in a country style, but why do I have this urge to remove my eardrums out of my head with a utility knife?  And then it dawned on me:  None of the songs were actually about the birth of Christ!  They were all commercial Christmas music for the most part. Songs about winter and snow and lights and Christmas trees.  Trite and familiar and it is supposed to make people happy. It just pushes me closer to the postal edge.  I’ll give you a white Christmas in a winter wonderland…  Willie Nelson sings Christmas songs?  Brings shivers to my spine.

On a different note…(get it, on a different NOTE?  Because music is made up of notes?  And I’m talking about music…Yeah, pretty funny stuff!)

Ever since City On A Hill: Its Christmas Time came out I have been hooked. I hope you will check out the link and buy a copy of it, you will not be disappointed. It is Christmas worship pure and simple. There is one song in particular that cuts into my heart, it is an original song (new) and it is sung by Jars of Clay, but the lyrics just tear me up. It is talking about Mary: “…you gave birth to the death that would bring us to life.” Just insanely powerful. Jesus was born with one purpose: To die for our sins so that we may truly live.

The other series that I just can’t get enough of is BEC’s Happy Christmas volumes 1-4. There are many traditional songs that are sung traditionally and some that are sung with a rock edge. And some original stuff on it too. Here is my favorite song of the series by Reliant K. Click on the link to see the youtube video and hear the song.

Reliant K-I Celebrate the Day

Again, Christ came to this earth and was born to die so that one day I would pray that he would save my life. Wow. Incredible. Powerful. Simple and profound. It just makes me want to fall and worship the Christ Child and anticipate his return.

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Happy Christmas,

-Derin-

Blessed Beyond Grace and Giving Thanks

I used a new phrase in the past couple of weeks, “Blessed beyond Grace”. Now, I don’t know if I actually coined it, but I can’t consciously remember hearing it. And, quite frankly, I like the phrase a whole lot. At first read there is no such thing as being blessed outside of grace. But I mean it to say that I am blessed beyond Grace (capital G). Beyond salvation, beyond reconciliation, beyond forgiveness. I am blessed even though I have been made right with God and have a relationship through Jesus Christ. I am blessed even beyond that. God has chosen, for whatever reason (and let’s be accurate-out of grace) to bless me with many other things in addition to salvation (Grace). I hope that makes sense…God continues to pile on the goodness on top of salvation.

I was born in the richest nation in the world. I have clean running water that probably has fluoride for the teeth and minerals added for good health . I don’t merely live in shelter, but a 3-bedroom duplex with a garage and basement. And not out in the sticks or isolation or in the middle of a crowded ‘hood, but in wealthy, affluent, convenient Johnson County, KS. I have 4 Wal-Marts within 10 minutes of my house, like 20 within 20 minutes. Heck, 135th st has 2 Wal-Marts, a Sam’s Club, 3 Price Choppers, and at least 5 Mc Donald’s-all on one friggin’ street. (Is “friggin” a cuss word?)

I am not merely clothed, I have designer jeans, name brand underwear, new socks, a catalog-company shirt and a super warm fleece. And shoes. And that isn’t merely what I am wearing today, but my drawers and closets are full of nice clothing.

Shelter, clothing…FOOD. Yeah, fridge stocked with it, freezer in the basement, cupboards and pantry full of it. I am at least 50 pounds over weight.

Transportation, check. I have 2 minivans. That alone makes me wealthier than 92% of the world.

So, I guess what I am saying is that I have much to be thankful for and, that ultimately, I am blessed WAY beyond Grace. I have an awesome family. My wife loves me. I have 4 healthy boys. I have 2 wiener dogs (Dash & Izzy) that are mostly potty trained. I have a great job and so does my wife. I have an XBOX360 and a Wii. Ahh, blessed. I have friends who love me (or at least love to make fun of me). I am mostly healthy. I am somewhat intelligent and educated. I go to a great church with a great support system. I work with great people.

You can’t get much better than that.

Here is the Beechner family Christmas card 2007. Derin & Minnie are in the back. Then Keegan is on the right left and Kaleb on the left right, they will be 12 in mid January. Calvin will be 4 in mid December and Corbin will be 2 at the end of January.

Beechner Family Christmas Pic

Notice the sledding pics?

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Happy New Year,

-Derin-

Is the Church Failing Politically?

I posed this question to a fellow believer this weekend: If the American government is not restored religiously does this mean the Church has failed? Let me explain.

We were having a conversation about religion and politics. It was stated that America was founded on Christian principals and by Christian leaders. I agree. It was also stated that America needs to repent and to be restored to a Godly nation. I agree. So I clarified, I asked what the role of Christianity (or Christ) is in someone’s personal life? And we agreed to restore that individual to God-So that they can enter into a relationship with Christ.

What if that never happens in our American government? What if Christian leaders don’t make it into elected/appointed government leadership roles? The response I got was that then America would be worse off and stand in judgment! AGREED! At least in the spiritually. The response I got was that God would raise up Godly leaders. And once again it was re-stated that individuals need to reconcile to Christ and be saved. What if Godly leaders are not raised? Is that failure on God’s part? On the church’s? I think not. My friends thought differently.

Although I agree that individuals need to be reconciled, need to be saved, need to have the transformation that can only occur through Christ Jesus, what if that change never comes to fruition within American politics and leaderships? What if Christians constantly become the minority and pushed underground? The truth is that America is becoming secular and “turning away from God” I only put it in quotes because I am not so sure America was ever that Godly.

So I posed the question: If the American government is not restored religiously does this mean the Church has failed? Keep in mind that it is the role of the Christian to follow Christ-to help introduce individuals to Christ. It is the church’s role to change individuals! Not the government. Do I believe that Christians should not have a role in politics? NO! But I also do not believe that by not converting Congress that that somehow means failure on the part of the church.

Because take America out of the equation. What if we were Chinese or Middle Eastern or Russian? Would the calling that Christians have be any different? No. The culture would be different, the location would be different, our methods would be different-things would look different. But not the calling, not the Gospel message, not the task, not Christ.

And what happens over and over again to the church when it is given a taste of power? When Christianity was first legalized? When it gathered a military to fight against Jews and Muslims? When the Religious Right pulled the political puppet strings? Things were bad. People got hurt. People got lazy. Grace was cheapened. Religion was fashionable.

I think the day is coming when the American church will be restored to its “rightful” place: a position of humility. A position of persecution. A position of servanthood. Where Christianity is not popular, not worn like a badge of honor, not respected and where it is difficult to be a Christian. That day is already a reality for Christians in the Middle East, Russia, China, Muslim cultures, etc. And where is the church victorious? The church is growing in China and Russia. The Middle East is making martyrs out of Christians-heroes of the Christian faith. The blood of the saints is the seed of the church people! Lives are being transformed in the Middle East and in Muslim countries.

What say you?

-Durk-

11 Presidential Issues

Building on the last post (http://www.wqad.com/Global/link.asp?L=259460) I want to talk a bit about the 11 issies reflected in the 11 Questions from the survey.

Issue #1 Iraq: Question: What is your opinion on the war in Iraq? I can only assume that the 6 answers were a summary of all the candidates. I didn’t agree with any one answer, but I closest identified with: “We are going to be in Iraq for a long time, as a support force for the Iraqi government and forces.” I believe the US should should hunker down, and militarily keep peace, set up a permanent base and start to focus on rebuilding while we train their military and create a completely safe environment for the Iraqis to form their government. The killing HAS to stop-and that can only be done with an effective military/police presence (Iraqi and foreign). My preferred exit strategy: None, we set up shop just like Germany and Japan. And we support the government in the same way-let them become independent, but never out of our sight. Or we leave and watch the whole country fall apart-which is lose-lose for everyone. I selected “Very Important.”

Issue #2: Immigration: Question: What is your position on immigration in the United States? Again, I didn’t agree 100% with any one answer. And I think I choose a different answer each time. I am trying to find the Christian answer to this and not just the Republican answer. Security is the most important part of this one to me, the US needs to know who is coming here. A fence is a joke. I don’t believe in blanket amnesty, but I don’t think the answer is splitting up families and blanket deportation either. I don’t support government-funded welfare either, you can’t just come to this country and not work! I like the bill that was just presented extending amnesty to children who were dragged here by their family. I believe in stiff fines and penalties for employers. I think denying citizenship for children born here to illegals is insane and not to mention, illegal. So I guess I’ll pick ‘Tighten security first, but I also believe we should provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already here.” And pick 3rd out of most important.

Issue #3: Taxes: Question: Do you believe the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts should be made permanent? This is where my conservatism shines through. YES. Plain and simple. Importance: let’s make it a 2.

Issue #4: Stem-Cell Research: Question: Should federal funding of embryonic stem cell research be expanded? This is where my pro-life stance shines through…Nope, especially federally-funded. Now having said that there is stem cell research that does NOT include embryonic. I have no problems with that. I still have a problem with the federal government funding it. Importance? Eh, I don’t know. Is this a big deal? The short answer is that it depends. I’ll make it a 2.

Issue #5: Health Care: Question: Do you favor or oppose the concept of universal health care in America? A few months ago I would have opposed this. Today…I keep asking myself what is the compassionate thing to do? And I keep asking what is the best for those that simply can’t afford to pay for health care? And the reasonable answer is to favor universal health care. I don’t want my taxes raised because of it. Importance: Pretty high, 3.

Issue: 6: Abortion: Do you favor or oppose legalized abortion in the United States?  Of course I picked that I oppose legalized abortion.  Not much room for debate there.  However, the importance…I hope this isn’t news:  abortion is legal in the US.  And it would take some pretty huge legislation to change that.  As a Christian I believe that abortion is a modern, on-going holocaust.  However, the US is not a Christian nation!  It is secularizing at a pretty good clip.  So even though it is important to ME I don’t think abortion will significantly change in the near future-no matter what the president vbeleives.  Unless maybe if the Church steps up and becomes known for the place to have your baby in a safe environment that pays expenses and gives the child a good home.  I rated it as a 2.

Issue 7:  Social Security: Question:  Do you favor the concept of privatization of Social Security to any degree? Conservative me:  Yep.  Importance:  High, 4th (highest).  What to say.  I hope that I can take advantage of Social Security benefits when I retire.  I think I can invest money better than the US government.

Issue 8:  Line-Item Veto: Question:  Do you favor or oppose giving the president a “line-item” veto; that is, the ability to remove parts of a spending bill without needing to veto the entire bill? Yes I do and not that important, 2.  Sometimes less is more.  At least part of the bill would get passed without sneaky pork spending!

Issue #9:  Energy: Question:  Do you support federal assistance for the production of ethanol and/or biofuel as an alternative to oil? Yeah.  It is time to the US becomes more independent from foreign oil.  And I don;t think that the private market cares to step up.  So I think it is BEST for all in the US if the gov’t paid for it.  Importance:  Well, would we be in IRaq if we were like primitive South American countries that are independent from any foreign fuels?  No, Saddam would still be killing people.  So it is of the highest importance, 4.

Issue #10:  Marriage: Question:  Do you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman? Yawn.  This is an issue that detracts from other important issues.  Don’t mess with the federal Constitution, leave the issue up to states where the power belongs.  So oppose, importance, not very, I give it a 1.

Issue #11:  Death Penalty: Question:  Do you favor or oppose the use of the death penalty for certain crimes?  Let’s just say I am consistent, I don’t believe in killing unborn babies nor born grown-ups.  I know that the Bible allows for it.  I get it. Would Jesus go around killing?  No.  Another issue that tends to detract from starving people who can’t afford health care and can’t find paying jobs. Importance:  Well, more important than issue #10, 2.

Candidate:  Sam Brownback?  Yeah right.  Fred is like 10th!  But I have filled it out where he was like 3rd or 4th.  Anyway, I’m with Fred for now.  And YES, the results DID surprise me.

So here is MY criteria:  I will vote for a candidate that most alignes with the way I believe.  I won’t single out one issue.   I will also vote for a candidate that has a chance in hades to win.  A vote for a 3rd party is a vote for Clinton!  And that is simply bad news.  So let’s say it comes down to Hillary vs. Giuliani…I will vote Republican.

-Durk-

The Door’s Interview with Brian McLaren

I enjoyed this interview with Brian McLaren in the Wittenburg Door Magazinehttp://www.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/mclaren.html

It led me on a search for Brian McLaren’s thoughts on homosexuality:  http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2006/01/brian_mclaren_o.html
I  found the comments VERY interesting too.

And that led me to this article by Mark Driscoll who is a critic of the Emergent movement and directly responds to the above article (which also led me to research what a “male lesbian” is):  http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2006/01/brian_mclaren_o_2.html  And an apology at the end?  WAY COOL!

All I can say is wow.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

-Durk-

Rob Bell-Micro Econimics-The Door Interview

There was a great interview with Rob Bell in the Wittenburg Door Magazine. One of the things that I found most intriguing was this comment about Micro-finances.

clipped from www.wittenburgdoor.com
…there are huge things going on. Like micro-finance. I was in Rwanda—essentially you take someone in poverty and give them a couple of bucks so they can start a business. We met a woman who started a business, built a house, fed her family and her business was now self-sustaining and growing—on a $40 dollar loan. A Western church gave this woman forty bucks and look what she’s done. Economically speaking, that’s one of the hopes of the world right now. We have more money than we know what to do with. American churches have more concentration of wealth than any time in history in a world with massive poverty. But some are exploring with micro financing, working with ground churches and trying things that could help save our world.

   

I think it would be extremely cool to pay a few bucks and see someone start a business that could sustain their family, community and possibly country! Very exciting! Read the whole thing here: http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/rob_bell.html

-Durk-

Another sermon on giving and tithing…

Another Sunday where I feel like crap.  I want to give, I want to be obedient.  But we simply don’t have the money to pay tithe and our basic bills.  And I do mean BASIC BILLS.  Rent, daycare, electricity, natural gas, water, gasoline, groceries, phone, clothes…there is simply nothing left.  We are still a month behind on rent.  I paid our water bill on Thursday-about an hour before it would have been shut off-we still have a garnishment against my check.  And we are still behind and way, deep in debt.

We are in a season of financial difficulty and rebuilding.  I believe it is just for a time.  We are coming out of a very long season (10 plus years) where we made continuous bad decisions with our finances.  We were not good stewards with what had been given to us.  We repeatedly acted reactively and whimsical.  HOWEVER, NOW, we are planning, we have been following Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and we have been making and sticking to a budget.  We are making better decisions, we are pro-actively budgeting and paying bills on time and communicating with debtors.

So the real issue today is do I heed the words of my pastor and act in obedience.  Or do I continue with The Plan?  This financial plan that we have is in an “emergency” mode that addresses the basics.  The next phases will include giving, saving and getting out of debt.  I keep telling myself that by not giving now we will be in a better position later to give-to be obedient and faithful and consistent with tithe.

But today Pastor is pleading with us to be obedient-TODAY and to give.  The thing is we simply don’t have money to give.

And so it goes back and forth.  On one hand there is a plan that gives us peace and security-a plan that we are being faithful to.  A plan that we are confident will lead us to a place where we have a healthy balance with our finances-a place where we can happily and fairly easily pay tithe.  It is a plan that we have entered into with prayer, faith and obedience.  It is a good plan.  It is a plan that works.  It is proven.  And right now it includes the absence of a full tithe.
On the other hand is a blind leap of faith to be obedient in my relationship with God.   It involves sacrifice.

I keep telling myself that we were not obedient before, work the plan and then we can be obedient in the future.  But sacrifice is not supposed to be easy nor affordable.

I don’t know what the answer is.  Part of that obedience is simply choosing to NOT pay a bill that can lead to not having daycare, no electricity, no water, no phone, an angry (er) landlord, no heat, no a/c (hey this IS Kansas), no hot water, no water at all, no gas, and the list goes on and on.

I don’t subscribe to a “prosperity gospel”.  I don’t believe that if I give all of my money away that God will bless me with loads of money.  The truth is I can sacrifice a basic bill to pay tithe and then NOT have the money to pay that bill.  I am behind on daycare, but have been paying on time since on the plan.  I have had my electricity shut off more than once in the past year-in the cold winter and in the hot summer.  The water has been shut off.  The phone has been shut off.

And on that one hand we are vowing to pay our bills on time.  And on the other hand we are not paying a tithe to God.  Not today.  But soon.  And freely-in obedience and consistently and faithfully.

-Durk-

An Emerging Me is Changing My Life

I am recognizing that our culture is changing. We are moving from a modern culture [or have already moved] into a post-modern culture. And that means a whole lot of different things to different folks. So I am exploring what that means to me and to share links to friends and findings related to an emergent culture and to an emerging me.  I created a new page called EMERGING ME.  Primarily I am exploring this concept in relation to the emerging church, but I also want to recognize post-modernity in everyday life and in my American culture and the influences it has had on me and the world.  And future trends.

Unfortunately all of what I wrote and what I read is so vague and mysterious and (gulp) subjective.   I wish someone would just stand up and start pointing to all of the modern influences on my life and tell me what to change.  But even that concept is a modern one.  And it is how I got to where I am!  I have been told what THE ONLY biblical way of looking at the world is.  I have been given the picture of how God looks and how salvation works.  And I was told not to deviate from the plan!  I have been told what to do and what not to do.  Alcohol is bad, period.  And those that drink, well they are bad too, even my conservative, reformed brother in Christ.  Heck he smokes a pipe and cigars too!  And he likes Halloween!  How can he be a Christian?  How can he be saved?  And he is a 5-point Calvinist!  DON’T GET ME STARTED!  The TRUTH is that Dan IS a fellow follower of Christ.  He teaches me new things about what it means to be Christ-like all the time.  He IS my brother in Christ.

It used to be that theology was organic, it changed, not the tenants, not the Orthodoxy, but what that looked like in culture and what it looked like in relation to the latest issues.  It changed as it relates to politics, music, customs, etc.  And then it was defined, outlined, proven and solidified.  But guess what?  Culture changed, politics changed, music changed, customs changed and people changed.  God didn’t change, but our response to the Gospel and our relationship with Christ should always be changing.  What it means to be saved from our sins changes and to be reconciled with God changes.  Yes it does, YES it does! If nothing else it changes with our sins, it changes with our relationships!  But it also changes with our culture and with the changes of life.  Morphing, improving, growing, evolving.  And sometimes that demands theology and religion to change too.  God does not change.  But we change.  People change.

The way we learn has changed (scholastically and scientifically, the Internet and blogging).  What we are learning has changed (microbiology, modern medicine, space).  Transportation has changed drastically just over the past 100 years!  Commerce changed.   Technology changes drastically every few months.  And ALL of the effects our relationship with God and others.   No you say?  When is the last time you wrote a letter?  How about an email?  IM?  Big deal?  When is the last time what you said in an email was misinterpreted?  Letters used to be read differently than our casual emails.  We have instant ways of written communication that can intentionally and unintentionally hurt our friends, families and others.  And it can also build us up and encourage one another.

The reformation changed religion forever and for the better because the church needed to change.  The Holiness movement changed religion in the US and in England (sigh…for the better-mostly).

Likewise, I believe that the emergent conversation that is going on in this country will change religion and the church forever.  And believe me, the church needs to change.  The church needs to help the poor again.  The church needs to stand up for justice again.  The church needs to help people again (even gay people).  The church needs to be Christ again.   The church needs to stand for peace and reconciliation again.

I AM CHANGING.   I WILL CONTINUE TO CHANGE.  Even if it hurts.  Even if it is hard.  Even if the costs are high.  Even if I don’t want to.  But today I do want to change, I want to be a better person.

-Durk-

Reminders Change My Life

It is a shame, but I have to constantly be reminded of things that are pretty basic. Here is a short list:

  • Back up data (see a few posts ago)
  • I am a Christian first
  • War is bad

I am sure my wife has a much longer list.

I Am A Christian First

My Pastor Donnie recently reminded me of this and Monte’s blog reminded me again and re-enforced this idea. I have a tendency to be a Republican first. So instead of seeking a proper biblical or Christ-like response I look to Rush Limbaugh, the news and NPR BEFORE I look to the Bible, the church or to my brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is simply wrong. I am a follower of Christ FIRST and foremost. I just happen to be born in the US, so I am an American next and finally I align myself politically with many of the ideas of the Republican party-and that should be last on the list, or near last. That means I have to ask myself what would Jesus do? Or what is the right thing to do biblically? Or what is just? Or what is the least harmful response. Who is going to get hurt the most and why? And then ask questions regarding freedom, the US’s view of liberty and lastly, personal responsibility, private ownership and free trade and open commerce. I have failed to do this in the past. And for that I am sorry and I want to do better.  I want to change.

War is Bad, but Sometimes Justified

Although it is not always avoidable, war is bad. Killing people is bad. Stopping bad people from continuing to hurt and kill people is almost always the more right thing to do. It is just. it is right. And many times that looks like war. And sometimes it does not, sometimes there is diplomacy and embargoes and such. But war should be entered into cautiously, be very calculated and be decisive and short. So I have to ask those questions I was just telling myself to ask when talking about war. WWII was a war that, I believe, was justified entering into. Hitler=BAD, killing Jews=bad, attacking the US=bad, world domination=bad, stopping the Axis=good. Ending tyranny=good. Lives were sacrificed, but for a much greater good.

But what about the Iraq war? Well, I don’t have all the answers. I think many of the things that Saddam Hussein did to the people of Iraq were wrong. And so did a court from his country. He was tried and put to death. Saddam will not be hurting anyone else ever again. That is a good thing, it is a greater good. But invading Iraq? This war could have been avoided and should have been handled differently. Intelligence was bad, caution was thrown to the wind, calculations were inaccurate, planning was incomplete, and the war goes on and on with no decisive end in sight. I’d like to think that Bush’s intentions were good and that things have progressed badly. I am also not talking about “war on terror.” A declaration of war on atrocity and murder and oppression and evil is noble, justified and should be the goal of every country and every people-it is the greater good. All people of the world should be able to live in freedom and peace no matter their skin color, where they were born or what they believe.

But back to Iraq, OK, we did it, we are there, so now what? I don’t know. I think we should either gain control and establish peace and restoration or get the heck out. The first will take a whole lot more effort, people, and military might. I think dragging it out forever is NOT the answer and some of the rules of engagement are getting people on both sides killed. The latter will leave a country to fend for itself. And I believe that that will leave Iraq to be a breeding ground for hate groups like the Taliban and al Qeada to do what they have don in the past, initially come in, establish peace and appear to save the day and then make life miserable for the Muslim people, especially women and children.

This is change for me. Change is difficult, but it is good.

-Durk-

The Times are a Changin’ or maybe it is Just Me?

This past week has been a pretty big one for me. I will try to get it all out, but this week there have been a few changes in the way I think and look at life. Now I have to say that all these changes didn’t really occur overnight or in the course of a week. I have been learning over months and years.

My work laptop crashed last week. That allowed me to slow down a bit and read some blogs a bit! Where to start…for the past few years I have had a strong interest in the Emerging Church. It is a philosophical and theological and lots of other “icals”. And I ran across a website for Emergent Nazarenes. There was a really cool post there that asked folks to share ideas about ways one can cultivate humility in their lives. One of the comments was by Monte. Well I knew this just had to be Monte Asbury, a pastor friend from the Nazarene church I grew up in. And sure enough it was! Monte is still pastoring in Washington, IA. And he has a lot of insightful things to say. And so I began to read his blog.

MONTE ASBURY CHANGED MY LIFE

Monte is one of those people that has a way of making huge impressions on you. Now I am sure if you ask Monte about me he will say that I was some kid that grew up in a church where he attended before he was a pastor.  (And actually he will be MUC kinder and he will remember more than I think!)  I am sure he knew who’s kid I was, but other than that I was some young kid and he was a married guy with children. He wasn’t a youth leader.  He also might remember that  I saw him again a few years ago at a Robbert Webber worship conference (I JUST discovered that Robert Webber died? OH MAN I’ll get back to that in a later post). We were both older. And he recommended a book to me: A New Kind of Christian. That was one of the best recommendations ever.

Monte Asbury had a HUGE impact on me when I was in high school. There was a gentlemen in our church that died of cancer. Bernie Herne. Bernie was a patron saint in our church. He was so Christ-like and holy. He was so cool, he was humble and gentle and loving. He is one of the folks that I identify with being sanctified and filled with the holy spirit. At the funeral many were quiet and mournful. Except for one. This one guy, he kept talking out load during parts of the service. Someone would talk about the life of Bernie and the love of Christ and this guy would proclaim, “yes” or “Amen”. And then someone sang a song and the message was that living here is alright and heaven must be cool too, but if they had chance to choose between the two they’d go home, to be with their Lord in heaven. AND THIS GUY, HE LOSES IT! He is shouting and almost hollering, “PRAISE GOD” and “AMEN.” I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. You see Bernie was at peace. He was home! He wasn’t in pain anymore. But more than that, he got to finally be in the presence of his Savior! He got to meet the Christ that he had faithfully served. I didn’t fully understand that. But Monte sure did. He got it. And it made him so happy to know that this guy who he called friend and brother finally went home where he belonged! Monte is another person who I think of when I think of what it means to be sanctified. That memory is burned into my mind. It was so powerful to me. Monte really understood something that I wanted to get. And not much has changed.

Look for more changes…

-Durk-

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow about a week ago. So I thought it was time to give it my review.

I want to start out by saying that I thought it was a fantastic final chapter to a very entertaining series. It kept my attention and I enjoyed the story very much. There were many “loose ends” that were addressed at the end. I was just thinking yesterday that I would have liked to have known what happened to the house elf Kreatcher and maybe the plight of house elfs in general. But other than that most of my questions were answered. It definitely was an appropriate ending to the series.

So I liked the book and liked the series. But I am still hung up on the whole allegory thing. I still think it just might be JK Rowling’s intent for the series to be a complete Christian allegory. But it isn’t a perfect allegory by any stretch of the imagination.

There is a scene from CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where the Son of Adam and the Daughters of Eve are walking into Aslan’s camp. For me it was one of the first times that the allegory was staring me in the face. The younger brother, the other Son of Adam, had betrayed his family and was being held captive by the White Witch. The other 3 traveled to go see Aslan who might be able to help fight against the White Witch. And here they are entering the camp, walking through it to seek Aslan. And there are all of these other creatures, centaurs and such that they are walking by. It was very cool on the big screen. And then all of these creatures recognize that these three are human…and they do the most incredible thing-they bow, they offer respect! It was at that point that I lost it, I just started to cry, and not subtly, but in convulsions. I just kept thinking, “No, you don’t understand, stop! We don’t deserve that kind of honor and respect! You don’t know what kind of evil we are capable of.” And I thought of how heaven welcomes us in, these dirty, filthy, rotten sinners, they rejoice when we are gracously accepted by Christ.

And then there is the scene where Aslan lays slain. Suddenly his body disappears. The altar where he had laid is broken in two. Again the allegory smacks you upside the head. The curtain between the Holy of Holies and the priests ripped in two.

I have to say, there are no scenes in any of the Harry Potter books that scream out the allegory. There are things that happen and things that are said that can be taken in an alegorical manner, but nothing that is blatant. And for me that is most disappointing. I thought there may be something at the very end of the final chapter. But the death is nothing too special. There is no parallel of what happens to a Harry while he is dead. The “ressurection” is nothing special. And finally the victory is nothing special. Instead of the story representing the Gospel there are themes that are present: Harry conquers death, is a savior of humanity, overcomes evil with good, and is an example of a good person. In the end though I thought Harry was a pretty lame representation of Christ. I also thought that the author had a pretty good opportunty to create some pretty amazing final scenes that may be Gospel representations, just his reappearance alone could have defeated Voldermort. Maybe others could have been brought back to life. And as mentioned in the allegory editorial on mugglenet it would have been cool if the Veil of Death room had been destroyed or torn apart or whatever. And finally although there are “things worse than death” that was mentioned, nothing seemed to have come of it too much.

I want to state again that the book and the series are awesome stories! Just not that great of an alegory.

-Durk-

Music Video-"Jesus Christ" by the group BRAND NEW-

I don’t know if this is the original video or not-guessing not. It is what I found on youtube.

BRAND NEW LYRICS
“Jesus Christ”

Jesus Christ, that’s a pretty face
The kind you’d find on someone that could save
If they don’t put me away
It’ll be a miracle

Do you believe you’re missing out?
That everything good is happening somewhere else
With nobody in your bed
The night is hard to get through

And I will die all alone
And when I arrive I won’t know anyone

Well, Jesus Christ, I’m alone again
So what did you do those three days you were dead?
Because this problem is gonna last
More than the weekend

Well, Jesus Christ I’m not scared to die
But I’m a little bit scared of what comes after
Do I get the gold chariot
Do I float through the ceiling

Do I divide and pull apart
Cause my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark
This ship went down in sight of land
And at the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands?

I know you’re coming in the night like a thief
But I’ve had some time alone to hone my lying technique
I know you think that I’m someone you can trust
But I’m scared I’ll get scared and I swear I’ll try to nail you back up

So do you think that we could work out a sign
So I’ll know it’s you and that it’s over so I won’t even try
I know you’re coming for the people like me
But we all got wood and nails
tongue tied in hate factories

We all got wood and nails
tongue tied in hate factories
We all got wood and nails
And we sleep inside of this machine
————————

Finally my thoughts:
I think this song is a powerful look at how a secular world looks at death, Christ’s return and their own fearful and evil intentions. I like this song very much. It should speak VOLUMES to those that claim to follow Jesus Christ.

-Durk-

Kind of A Big Deal

It is kind of a big deal
The unconfirmed news that it has been the intent of JK Rowlings to write a complete (but not perfect) Gospel allegory with the Harry Potter series is kind of a big deal. At least to me. But I also think it will be with many, many others. And that may be understating it a whole lot. I mean this news elevates JK to be in the same categories as CS Lewis & JRR Tolkien! And that is pretty cool. It puts her in categories with pastors, evangelists, maybe the likes of Billy Graham! Maybe.

It also really strikes a cord with me on a weird level of…competitiveness. I mean it is like all of a sudden JK is sneakily bringing Christianity into super pop-culture! It really is like JK has tricked the world! She also tricked many ultra-judgmental and critical Christians. I don’t know why but that makes me happy. Really happy. It is like some sort of “win” for Christianity versus the secular (and versus the Christian misguided). And I am not too sure I should be happy about that.

I mean it is like handing out all this kind of uber delicious candy that tastes way too good to have any benefits and then it becomes addictive only to find out much later that it is incredibly healthy for you! It is like someone jumping from behind a corner and yelling “HA!, GOTHCA” It is like stealth Christianity. I don’t know what all of the witches are going to do with this knowledge. I doubt they will all suddenly convert and change their ways.

I felt something similar when the first CS Lewis Narnia movie, The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe was released. It was like tricking Evil Hollywood into making something that was of spiritual worth, something that was Holy, something that was for the good of Jesus Christ. It is like some sort of massive covert alter call!

But Christianity should never be sprung on someone, it should never be forced or coerced or manipulative. And many times well-meaning people do really dumb and counterproductive things.

Although I don’t think that is what is happening here with the Harry Potter series (nor do I think that is what happened with The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe). I think some could feel that way.

I am kind of a big deal

I don’t know how to put this…but…I’m kind of a big deal. I wrote to Ms. Abigail BeauSeigneur-the author of the article presenting her premise that the HP books are indeed JK Rowling’s creation of a Gospel allegory-and she wrote me back! In the email I invited her to read the rest of my thoughts on my blog. And she read it! That puts my readership up to like 5 people! Including me of course. If you would like to read the correspondence then click here: http://durkniblick.wikispaces.com/durkandabby

-Durk-

Harry Potter and the Christian Allegory

No, it isn’t the title of book number 8. It is the latest talk about the Harry Potter series. First read this article shockingly entitled, Is Harry Potter the Son of God? An original editorial by Abigail BeauSeigneur: http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/editorials/edit-beauseigneura01.shtml

I guess I should first start by saying that I am a pretty big fan of the Harry Potter series. I have read all of the books thus far, have watched all of the movies thus far, have heard the books on tape, own 4 of the 5 movies (the 5th is in theaters now) and I have been planning the next big Line Standing Event to stand in line this Friday for the final book release at midnight. And then I need to profess my status as a born-again believer and follower of Jesus Christ. I am a pretty conservative kind of Christian. I believe that the Bible contains the word of God and is perfect and inerrant as it relates to salvation and reconciliation to a relationship with God. (I chose my wording very carefully there.) I am a Christian and a fan of Harry Potter!

I have to tell you, my first thoughts of the article were pretty negative. I have just NEVER thought of the Harry Potter series as a Christian allegory. I have NEVER thought of Harry as a representation of Jesus Christ. I am hung up on these points. But after reading the article I have little doubt that JK Rowlings, the author of the Harry Potter series, indeed intends the Harry Potter series to be an allegory of the Gospel. And JK is pretty cool, although she seems to be pretty quiet about her personal beliefs she seems to be a professing Christian or at least an attender of church. And she does site Christian authors CS Lewis as being influential on her life and literature. I have no problems with her or the series in general.

Next let’s talk about allegory versus a story about good and evil. Dictionary.com says, “John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (Bantam Classics) are allegories.” CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia is a Christian allegory. Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is another Christian allegory. However, a great and epic story of good triumphing over evil is JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I consider the LOTR books to be THE best fiction literature ever, period. And although there are many allegoric symbolisms, it is not a complete allegory. Instead it is a story where good triumphs over evil. Tolkien didn’t really like the idea of Christian allegory-he was tiffed at Lewis over the Narnia Chronicles.

My wife reminded me of the sermon series that our Pastor Donnie gave at Trinity Family, “The Gospel According to Harry Potter.” It has been a while, but she asked if Donnie actually called the series an allegory. I don’t remember, but I do know that he made comparisons, but in the end I always thought of the series as a story of good triumphing over evil, not as an allegory.

I suppose it is the unorthodox parallels and the character of Harry Potter that hangs me up the most. One crucial point in the essay, BeauSeigneur states that “Harry may also have the power to resurrect himself.” The comparison that the writer was making was to Voldermort (the bad guy in the HP series)-who had magical powers to ressurect himself. But the implication is a parallel to Christ. I do not believe that Christ raised himself from the dead, God ressurected Christ from death. Most Christians who have a beef with the HP series get hung up on the point of magic and dark arts and such. I don’t have a lot of issues with this, but it does speak to where the power comes from. I have always read that HP’s (and the rest of the characters) power or ability to perform magic comes from within themselves. There is no mention of an external power source or a higher being or a power higher than their own. And the power that Jesus had always came from someone higher than himself, from God the Father-it was God giving Christ the power to heal and perform miracles. It was as though Jesus set aside his God-power and let God work through him in his humanness.

Like I say, my biggest, hugest hangup is the comparison or the representation of Harry Potter to Jesus Christ. To coin a phrase, “Harry Potter, you are no Jesus Christ…” Harry is by no means a spotless lamb. He does not personify a sanctified individual. Instead he is fully human. A human with all of the proper characteristics of such, with a sinful nature and a desire to satisfy the self. Compare this to Aslan in the Narnia Chronicles. Aslan is the righteous kingly lion-kind, compassionate, perfect and righteous. And Aslan ultimately lays down his life for humanity. Harry makes bad decisions. He alienates his friends. He hurts people by his actions. He’s just no where close to a Good Person. I have never seen righteousness within him.

I suppose JK will site the Greatest Goodness as Love. Maybe Harry will become such a good person. And Harry will end up making choices that demonstrate love and then sacrifice himself so evil can be defeated. And then have the innate power to ressurect himself. But what is lacking in all of the story is the constant righteous one. If it isn’t blatantly God then it needs to be a transparent 100% righteous individual. One who is spotless and clean. I just don’t see that in Harry. Maybe Dumbledore, maybe.

The author of the editorial makes an argument for Harry being Holy and pure and righteous based on the things that he possesses (wand, mother’s blood, etc.). The argument presented puts Harry in a position of holiness rather than a character of righteousness. That is most interesting.

All of this does raise some interesting points. It is as though JK has sneakily slipped a very cool and popularly accepted allegory about (gulp) CHRISTIANITY into the mainstream media. Onto the top-sellers lists, into the hands of millions, into CHILDREN’S HANDS! And into Hollywood! How long did it take Tolkien and Lewis to be immortalized and worshiped in Hollywood? What will the fundamentalists and The Christian Right do with this new revelation?

I don’t know. I know that it would be pretty cool if JK Rowlings comes out publicly and admits that the Harry Potter series is indeed a Gospel allegory. I think it would be cool to see her in the spotlight pimping God! Pointing people to Christ and maybe even encouraging people to read the Bible.

Maybe JK Rowlings will finally be asked spiritual questions in a kind and non-threatening environment. Maybe her “Satan” status will be elevated to “sister” status. Will the fundamentalists and The Christian Right change their minds and finally shelf the Harry Potter series along side The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Ring trilogy?

Well, I am not even sure if I am ready to do that yet. I will wait to read the book and wait to hear from JK Rowlings. But the series will still be in the same room, along the same wall on the same set of shelves. Maybe just above the Left Behind series.

I’ll conclude with the last brilliant paragraph from Abigail BeauSeigneur’s editorial. It totally gives me chills, goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.

She [JK Rowlings] has told us where to look to find out what is coming in the final book – her Christianity. She has told us that it’s so easy a 10-year -old could figure it out.(249) The secret to Harry Potter is tied to Rowling’s Christianity. The master of the red herring has done it. She has tricked the entire world. What appears to be a book about witchcraft is a story about Jesus Christ.

Durk

Summer Vacaton 2007 (6 of 6)-Religion

PART ONE

There is a definite change in mood as you get closer to the East coast and as we got closer to Minnie’s fundamental family.

Between Kansas City and St. Louis there are dozens of adult book stores and adult clubs along the highway. That changes as you get farther east. The adult businesses were replaced with huge religious billboards that offered strange church-language messages-telling people that they were sinners and to repent and asking passerbyers if they knew where they would spend eternity. Sinners, repent and eternity. Old words that used to hold common meaning and now sound foreign and for some reason harsh. The world does not have a religious foundation like it used to. Culture changed dramatically. Christians haven’t changed that much over time.

Minnie’s family still hands out tracts to people. In my opinion billboards and tracts are an easy way for Christians to feel good about themselves without actually having to invest time and energy developing relationships with others. Then again so are looks and stares and judgments. I can’t dismiss them altogether, but I question their effectiveness. I can’t name one person that I know that was saved via a billboard or a tract. I do have friends who have accepted Christ as a result of other Christians who have become true friends to them. Offering acceptance, friendship and finally offering direction to a missing piece in their life.

But these antique religious messages also send a negative message, “CHANGE WHAT YOU ARE DOING”, but why? And change to what? There is no message of hope and no message to turn to a personal, intimate God who desires to relationship with mankind. It is a fundamental difference of what it means to be saved-of what salvation means. To these folks it is being saved from hell. To me it is being transformed so that we can enter into a relationship with God. One is positional and the other is relational. The first involves freedom from punishment and the latter involves a friendship that blossoms now and fully develops in another life-heaven.

Then there is the Amish and Mennonite country of the East-Pennsylvania Dutch country. First there is the names of the towns, cities and townships. Many are named after biblical words and names, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Emmaus, etc. But then it gets a little weird, Harmony, Fertility, Blue Ball, Puseyville, Lucky, Unionville, (I am NOT making this up!), Pillow, Fruitvill, West Middlesex. I thought there was a Chastity, PA, but I can’t find it now. What were these pious people thinking? OK, I know that some names hold much different meanings now than at one time…but come on! There is a bumper sticker that reads “In Pennsylvania Intercourse is just this side of Paradise” And it is geographically accurate. And those names all seem to clash with the visual (there is a town named Media)-horse and buggies and wool clothes and pastries and farmers markets and quilts and head-coverings and overalls and bikes for the progressive, and long beards and the black hats. We saw a horse and buggy that had been hit by a car. I do not know if anyone got hurt.

PART TWO

Like I mentioned before, The In-Laws are fundamental Independent Baptist. Which means they are first and foremost Christian-I consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. And then they are Calvinists (once saved, always saved) and then they are fundamentalists-which practically means that they have issues with those that don’t believe exactly as they do. I understand this, I attempt to have friendly, thought-provoking discussions, and finally agree to disagree, and most of the time we walk away still friends (or at least still related).

And there’s my cousins and my sister-in-law. Cousin Melanie married Josh. Melanie comes from a missionary family, she is a preacher’s kid-she grew up in South Africa. She has had some wild times in latter years, but she is now trying to lead a life that honors God. The rest of the family has high hopes for Josh. Now I wouldn’t label Josh as a pagan or anything, but he is not a professing Christian. I would label him as a seeker and I think that he might even want to accept it all blindly, but he just can’t. Why should he!? He seems to be analyzing and, well, seeking. And that is totally cool, I respect that very much. Sister-inLaw on the other hand just can’t wait for Josh to “make a decision” to follow Christ. It is this terminology and mindset that troubles me.

There are so many people out there just waiting for someone to say a prayer or to make a confession. To me those initial steps are crucial, but not the end all. For me it comes back to a relationship. At the essence it is a relationship with Christ, but the journey often involves relationships with those around us, friends, family etc. Fellow believers that offer advice, encouragement and most of all, an example.

It kinda starts with a warped view of Calvinism. John Calvin was a theologian and one of his core beliefs is “perserverence of the saints”. Which means that one cannot lose thier salvation, they just can’t wake up one day and not be saved-like they lost their keys or something. But is has also come to mean that one cannot willingly walk away from the faith. This is where we differ. I do not believe that anything or anyone else can steal our salvation away from us. But I do believe that we can leave it behind, we can walk away. It is though we walk beside Christ and as we pause (as we stumble, as we make bad disicions, as we hurt ourself and others) Christ continues. We can always ask for forgiveness and opt to catch up. But sometimes we don’t chose to catch back up, we camp out in our weakness and selfishness and often times lose sight completely and it is then that we need to re-establish our relationship with Christ-to be put back beside him again. It is the “inbetween” that folks aregue about. Where would one spend eternity if they are in that “out-of-sight” state. The state where they have done nothing to improve thier relationship with God and do things to hurt God. Sin is sin and it still separates us from God.

Apparently I am one who was hindering Josh from making his end-all dicision. I pointed out a shirt on the boardwalk at Ocean City, MD. It was a Harley-Davidson shirt and the back said, “If you can read this then the b*tch fell off.” I thought it was a pretty funny, I still do. It is just a shirt. It is pop culture. ANYWAY, Tammie let me have it via my wife. Apparently Josh said something to Tammie to question my salvation. And she was accusing me of preventing Josh from making that fateful decision. I am not so sure what Josh actually siad.

So Josh, sorry bud if I offended you, reall, forgive me. Even though Christians aren’t perfect some still have a sense of humor. Taste is another issue. I might not have much of the latter, but I like to laugh, a lot! And we could have a whole discussion on cussing and wholesome conversation. I always strive for wholesome conversation, but sometimes I cuss, it might be a bad habbit, but sometimes coming from someone like me, well it is out of place and adds to the funny! There are also those that cussed in the Bible, those that used very strong and curt words-cussing I do however, try to pay careful attention to who (whom?) my audiance is.

Tammie, I am sorry that it got back to you, but when Josh is ready to enter into a relationship with Christ I hope he has a full understanding of what he is getting into, at least that is what I see him looking for before he makes a dicision. There is nothing wrong with that. I just hope he doesn’t think that he has to surrender a life of fun and humor for a life of solomn boredom and family baggage. The Christian life is so full of LIFE and freedom and joy and fullfillment.

-Durk-

Where is the Church? My 1st Rant

I have been talking to my mom about the emerging church or the Emergent Conversation that is taking place in the Christian church around the world.  Google those phrases and check these out:

I don’t fully understand it, so I am not too sure how I can explain it.  I have read criticisms and I have read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren who is really at the forefront of this conversation (they do not like to be called a movement).  I also saw McLaren speak at a conference.  I do know this: The Christian church has dropped the ball.  Now I want to say that I am not ranting and raving against my mom.  I’m just ranting to the air.  I guess it is to the church, but to no one in particular.

The church has dropped the ball…and who is picking it up?  The government with their welfare programs that keep the poor just poor enough to not want to do anything about not being poor!  Who is picking it up?  Planned Parenthood slaughterhouses that get rich by pretending to love their victims, while still manageing to offer some sort of false hope.  Where is the church?  Encouraging the discrimination of gays and promoting war (KEEP READING…).  Why isn’t the church helping low-income families?  Why isn’t the church helping single-parent families?  Why isn’t the church helping the sick and poor?  Why isn’t the church promoting peace?  Why isn’t the church doing its job?  I don’t know, but I understand that the world has turned from the church that stopped offering hope and to the world that has nothing to offer.

So let me clarify a couple of my above statements.  I think homosexuality is a sin.  Thankfully it is the church’s job to help introduce the sinner to Christ-who forgives sins and transforms lives.  I think the winds of change in Iraq were the right thing to force.  But I am not blood-thirsty.  As I write this there has been a thwarted terrorist attack in Europe, Hezbollah is attacking Israel and Israel is defending themselves and I have not forgotten 9/11.  Tyranny and terrorism should be fought against.  HOWEVER, war should not be romanticized.  War is not good!  It is necessary at times.  Those times should be decisive and short.

I think part of the problem is that the church should be separate from a capitalistic culture.  Don’t get me wrong, capitalism has its place: in the economy!  Heck, I eBay, that is capitalism at its purest.  But the church should be a socialistic community of believers (within the church and within society).  The church should be a place where the members want to make more so they can give more away to those in need!  I remember thinking in college that the early church practiced socialism and that socialism could be a good American economy.  I was very wrong.  Bresee had it right or maybe it was Wesley, “Make all you can, save all you can and give all you can!”

It’s the church, THE CHURCH that should take care of people.  The church should love people.  The church should give away time and money and love.  The church needs do invest in people and not expect a financial return.

Where is the church when it comes to illegal immigration?  Should the church be on border patrol with guns?  Should the church be harboring fugitives and helping people break the law?  Is their another way?  Why isn’t the church offering to help immigrants come to The Land of Opportunity LEGALLY?  Because it involves, spending money and giving up time!  That kind of compassion used to be called sacrifice.  Christians are not so good at that anymore; they leave that up to Christ, they nail Christ back on the cross and tell Him to stay there.

I am not a supporter of separation of church and state, I think it is unconstitutional.  But it is happening everyday.  So Christians can choose to fight it or they choose to accept it.  I guess I do both.  I vote with my heart, but I also do not believe in legislating morality.  We no longer live in a Christian nation (if we ever really did), so once again Christians find themselves as the outsiders or the foreigners within their culture.  I think it is important to make that distinction.  The world does not understand Christianity!  It isn’t their job to pass Christian legislation or to believe the way we do!  The world does not follow Christ.  It is the job of the sinner to sin!  That is what they know!  That is what they understand.  But yet we Christians still operate like we are still in power.  But we aren’t.  And that’s OK; it is the way it has always been!  That is when Christianity does its best-when it is under fire!  It was Tertullian who said, “In the blood of the martyrs lies the seed of the Church!  ” I’m not saying that we should sit back and watch while Christianity gets outlawed, but I don’t think that it is always the church’s job to legislate morality.

I think homosexual marriage can put an end to the sacred institution of marriage and I also think that banning homosexual marriages alienates homosexuals from the church.  On one hand you have the world doing what the world does, sin!  On the other hand you have the church hurting a group of people.  It is a way for the church to discriminate against a community of lost people.  Christians don’t fight to outlaw couples who live together or protest against couples who get divorced for non-biblical reasons.  We don’t rally to outlaw affairs.  I mean what is the church doing about Rev.  Phelps and his band of haters; they protest at funerals!  AT FUNERALS!  I don’t know what the solution is, but what if the church fought with the homosexual for their freedom (to sin)?  Don’t you think that at some point they are going to take notice and build healthy relationships with folks that represent Christ?  And maybe learn what it means to live a life without sin?  Wow, how cool would that be?  I know, many of my friends don’t agree with me on this.  I am also not out there holding hands with the homosexuals as they march down the street.  But I struggle with voting to ban gay marriages and civil unions.

Take a slightly less controversial issue: Children with AIDS.  What if the church worked with AIDS stricken children the way Mother Teresa worked with those stricken with leprosy?  And why are Christians more apt to help children and kick sick adults to the curb?  Where is the church?  Campaigning for Republicans?  Trying to rebuild the Religious Right?  Trying to defend the actions of George Bush?  I’M GUILTY, right here, that’s been me.

I think I am winding down a bit…

Oh yeah, the Emerging Church… Well, it is all about what it means to be a Christian in a post-modern world.  How do you build the Kingdom of Christ when those that need to be transformed are no longer convinced by apologetics?  Post-modern people no longer respond to arguments.  Systematic theology tries to convince folks that Christianity is truth, that kind of method is a thing of the past.  People don’t want to be convinced, they want to see Christians living out an authentic life that actually means something to them.  They want to see it, they want to experience it.  They don’t want to hear sermons on prayer; they want to learn how to pray.  They don’t want to hear about the attributes of God, they want to experience the love of God.  It is very experiential which is very close to existentialism, but that is exactly where the unchurched, non-Christians are and they can’t be convinced or talked into something.  They want to see it.  They want Christians to live what they believe so that it makes a difference in their lives.

How do you present Christianity in a media-driven culture?  You present Christianity with media.  You present the e-Gospel.  It is the same ageless message, but presented in a modern way.  And not watered down, but in terminology that represents modern language.  Not catering to people that are seekers, but having a message that is presented in a way that the average person can understand.  Post-modern people communicate on a 6th-grade level, but are educated on a master’s level!  Use smaller words to describe the same message of hope.

How do you build a community of faith in a culture that longs to have community again?  Well, you participate in the community!

OK, I am almost done.

Finally, a word about justice.  Brian McLaren tells a great story that illustrates the difference between justice and mercy.  Say you are standing before Niagara Falls, just looking out into the water in awe.  Suddenly you see a person floating in the river, they are drowning, fighting for their life to get to shore before they go over the edge!  You panic, regain your composure, get some folks together and pull the guy out of the water to safety!  That is an act of mercy.  Say you see another person, you pull them out, and then another, and they seem to keep coming!  Again, pulling these drowning folks out of the water are acts of mercy.  But where is the justice?  Justice is when you walk up river and stop the guy that is pushing people into the freaking water!  STOP THAT GUY!

The church needs to practice justice & mercy.  But the church also needs to first stop pushing people in the water, and then they need to stand up against others that are doing the same.

OK, I feel better.

-Durk-

Fasting (Part III . The Conclusion)

In part one I explained that my pastor had given a challenge to fast 1 24-hour period a week for 4 weeks. Sounds pretty simple right? Well in Part Two I told you how the fist 3 Wednesdays went. Here is the conclusion and my thoughts.

Wednesday #4 The last Wednesday. The last challenged fast.

  • OK, I had a great breakfast, egg casserole; hash browns…OK enough of that, no reminders of food.
  • 12:05 and all is well, I am not hungry. But again, I am drinking lots of water and keeping my mind active. 3:25 and all is well. Been SUPER BUSY AT WORK, I think that makes it easier.
  • 4:15 Experiencing hunger pangs, but still standing strong! I have been writing this while fasting, I really enjoy the research and journaling.
  • 5:30 As I am leaving I get a phone call form home, supper is waiting…I reminded my family AGAIN that I am fasting. I get home and what is there for me to put away? Supper, the family is on their way out the door.
  • 6:30 Finally getting around to putting the food away…it looks soooo gooood. So I look for ways to justify breaking the fast. I don’t find any. I put down the tiny piece of broccoli. I hold strong. I prevail. I am hungry.
  • I made it through the evening. 3 out of 4 Wednesdays, not too bad.

Observations

I’d really like to work up to the fast during Lent. Lent is the Christian season before Easter. It is a time set aside to identify with Christ who had been fasting in the desert for 40 days. At the end of that time he is tempted by Satan-one of the temptations involves bread, Christ has the strength to deny the offer and rebuke Satan.

Lent is the time when you see a lot of folks order fish-they are not eating meat…that one always puzzles me, I mean fish are not meat? It is also a very holy Christian season. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday this is an identification of dying with Christ. And ends with the arrival of Holy week which includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and finally culminating in a celebration on Easter Sunday.

There are many spiritual benefits from fasting. All result growing in one’s relationship with God. Just like the body goes through a cleansing during a fast so can the spirit. Just like the body is starving for food, so does the spirit. During a fast the body is denied and the spirit is fed. Isn’t it just the opposite most of the time? It is nice to intentionally set time aside to focus on God.

Many people fast when seeking God’s will for their life or the answer to a decision or problem. When you are a week or so into a fast there is a physical sensation where one feels elated, very in-tune with their surroundings; simply put, they feel great and ready to take on the world! The same can happen spiritually, instead of spending time at a meal or just doing whatever over your lunch periods or at dinner time, spend that time feasting on the Word of God (as Pastor Donnie says, “Fasting is Feasting”; see I was listening), and spend that time communing with your creator and analyzing your spiritual walk. It can be a very joyous mountain-top experience.

A few good books on the subject are God’s Chosen Fast, Celebration of Discipline, and lastly the book that my pastor has been primarily using for his sermon series, The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life (Emergent YS) by Tony Jones.

My Disclaimer: You gotta see your doctor and study the practice before you start a fast longer than a couple of days. You can hurt yourself if you don’t, so do!

What I Learned

I learned that fasting can be done with a little effort. I learned that I am definitely emotionally addicted to eating. I guess that every time I look in the mirror, guess confirmed. I learned that with a little effort eating can be ignored. I learned that I am fasting for the wrong reasons; I am fasting from being challenged not to eat and not from being challenged to grow in my relationship with God-my fault, not my pastor’s.

I am glad I took on the challenge. I can also see why one of the examples that Donnie gave from the pulpit was a guy who fasted once a week for 2 years. TWO YEARS! But it makes sense, I mean after a month of fasting (which was only 4 days) I paid little attention to God, His word and His son and instead paid much more attention to the lack of food. But maybe after 104 days of fasting I will have a better understanding of the Bible and have developed a deeper relationship with Christ.

Conclusion

Lastly, fasting should always be a spiritual exercise, at least in context to Christianity. Either do it for your personal, non-church related, physical reasons or do it for spiritual reasons. Don’t fast during Lent to lose weight! Fasting is definitely not some spiritual diet plan. So don’t mix the two up. I say that to remind myself that even though I do need to lose weight, a 40-day fast is not the answer. Why? Well, because during a fast the hunger is supposed to shift from the physical to the spiritual; that is the purpose of the spiritual discipline-to grow in your relationship with God

-Durk-


Fasting (Part II. The Fasts 1-3)

In part one I explained that my pastor, Donnie Miller of Trinity Family Church, has been preaching a series this summer that has been designed to be a spiritual summer training program. He started off with prayer and journaling and has moved through fasting to silence. Donnie challenged us to fast 1 24-hour period a week for 4 weeks. Here was the challenge: Fast for 4 consecutive Wednesdays. Fast for a 24-hour period. Eat breakfast, and then don’t eat until breakfast the next morning. Sounds pretty simple right? Well, here is how it went.

Wednesday #1:

I ate a descent breakfast at McDonald’s with my wife and little ones. I had no problems skipping lunch & dinner. Then I went to help a friend with his flooded basement. A little manual labor here, a little sweating and tears there…then he ordered pizza for us. Fast broken. But I learned an important observation: The earlier skipped meals were a breeze! I wasn’t even hungry until I saw that delicious cheesy pizza and smelled the sweet aromas of pepperoni and hot steamy deliciousness, just sitting there in front of my face begging for me to consume! I feel I could have made it with just a little more effort (and the lack of pizza in front of my face)!

Wednesday #2:

I put in a little more effort and I survived the fast! But see, that is way too dramatic of a way to express it! I REALLY WASN’T ALL THAT HUNGRY! I experienced no hunger pangs (fake hunger pain-just the body used to eating at a certain time and gets ready for the food to come on down the ‘ol pipe). I had a bigger breakfast, but I tried not to gorge myself, that is just silly and in the end it does not work. I did drink quite a bit of water and I did drink some tea in the evening (it was hotter than Hades outside, over 100 degrees), I even went to the movies, and get this, I DIDN’T EVEN EAT POPCORN! And I wasn’t even tempted, I even thought about continuing into Thursday! Observation: I understand my addiction. I am taking baby-steps to be the one in control of my own body. I noticed that as I kept busy and drank water, that I was pretty good to go. Another observation: I am not going out of my way to address the spiritual side of all of this.

Wednesday #3

  • (Written while fasting) I am doing well. I ate a good breakfast and here it is 2:37. I am bored. I also need to drink more water. I find myself hungry, but no hunger pangs, I am just bored! I still find it fairly easy to get through the day. I am realizing that I am not actually hungry, I just want to eat; another confirmation that food is an emotional outlet for me.
  • (Written after fast) Again, I did it! And again, it wasn’t so bad, really. Most of the time I wanted to eat out of habit or from an emotional response-I was bored to tears in the afternoon, so I wanted to eat! I will say breakfast (today-the day after the fast) tasted extra good and I ate a big lunch. I ate a big dinner too. I like eating. I like food. I’m hungry.

There’s only one more Wednesday to go; to be concluded in Part III.

-Durk-

Fasting (Part I. The Challenge)

My pastor, Donnie Miller of Trinity Family Church, has been preaching a series this summer that has been designed to be a spiritual summer training program. He started off with prayer and journaling and has moved through fasting to silence. I would like to talk about fasting.

Fasting is simply the denial of something. It is commonly in relation to food. So if you fast a meal you skip a meal. There are many variations. Most of the time it does not involve excluding water and sometimes juice may be drunk as well. Most of the time the practice is related to religion; many world religions acknowledge the practice. In Christendom many fast for many different reasons. The Lenten Fast is the most common or “popular”; it coincides with Jesus’ 40 days in the desert before he started his ministry. Christians’ observance of the practice vary from not eating meat on Fridays (except fish…) to a real honest-to-goodness 40-day fast! Some people fast sleep, some people fast eating chocolate or not listening to the radio. But this isn’t fasting in the strict use of the term, it has just evolved in practice.

Why folks fast also vary. There are folks who regularly fast for healthy-related reasons. Fasting helps detox the body. In the case of religion, and specifically Christianity fasting should only be done in relation to a spiritual discipline, to seek God or to draw closer to God.

I have attempted fasting in the past; I have never been too successful. I have even felt panicky at the prospect of denying myself food. Honestly, I like to eat, just take one look at my physique (or my chubby face).

I would say more accurately that I am addicted to eating. OK, I know what some are saying: We’re all addicted to eating! But I am not talking about the physical need for sustenance-I mean we have to eat or we’ll die, yeah, I get that.

I am talking about an emotional desire to consume tasty, delicious food! Steak & potatoes, sweets, fast food, ice cream, French fries, candy, pop, chips…well, you get the idea. I like to eat! And I don’t necessarily like to eat unhealthily; I just like to eat what tastes great! Most of the time that is junk food, fast food, fried foods, pizza, etc. Occasionally it is the succulent peach that is in season and perfectly ripe. Rarely is it a salad with the exception of a salad from Pizza Shoppe with extra pink stuff and pizza on the side! OK, I’m drooling.

I like to sit down with friends and share a meal; this is very important to me. I like to eat while watching TV. I like popcorn during movies. I like snacking at the mall. I like late-night runs for ice cream with the family. I like multiple portions.

So when Donnie challenged us to fast 1 24-hour period a week for 4 weeks, well, I was happy to think that I could do it, but not too eager to actually go through with it. Here was the challenge: Fast for or 4 consecutive Wednesdays. Fast for a 24-hour period. Eat breakfast, and then don’t eat until breakfast the next morning. Sounds pretty simple right? I’d really only be skipping 2 meals.

I’ll tell you how it went in Part II.

-Durk-

It’s Been Over A Year

It has been just over a year since I lost my dad. I was reminded about it just yesterday-a friend asked me how I was getting along since my dad’s passing-I told him that it was a year ago on Memorial Day. A whole year. The year where you experience all of “the firsts”. The first birthdays without dad/grandpa, first his birthday, then mine, then my wife, then my boys. The first holidays without a visit or a phone call-Independence Day, Labor Day weekend, Halloween (Dad would have liked the boys’ costumes and our Hallow Haunt business), Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, etc. We purchased a white mini van. Then there was the birth of Corbin Riley. Dad didn’t even know Minnie was pregnant. Corbin was baptized on Easter Sunday. And finally Memorial Day was here and gone. It has been over a year. And I have to say that it has been a…well, an awkward experience for me.

As most of my friends know (and some acquaintances), I am a pretty emotional guy. I cried when my kids were born (yes, all 4). I cry at movies and TV shows; I cry every time I watch that “Extreme Makover: House Edition”. I cry as I worship God. But I have not “emotionally” mourned my dad’s passing-I haven’t cried.

I can’t really tell you why I haven’t cried, why there is the absent of some emotional moment where I come to grips with the powers of the cosmos and the rhythm of life. But I know this: I loved my dad very much and I miss him very much.

My dad and I had a pretty close relationship. We got along great, always did. I loved to hear his stories. I think my dad was proud of me and loved my family. And I miss him. There’s hardly a day that goes by where I don’t have something reminding me that dad isn’t around anymore. Something to fix around the house, something to look at with the car, a family milestone to share, pictures to email, and the list goes on and on.

There was no funeral, no viewing, no ceremony, no memorial service, no gathering to just talk! And that is the way my dad wanted it, he wanted to be cremated and that’s it-no dwelling on the painful passing, just remembering the good times. And that’s what happened. There was a road trip-all the way to New Mexico to meet up with my Aunt (who dad was traveling with-they both had retired less than a year before his passing). Although it was a somber trip, for me anyway there was no journey involved, no formal opportunity to feel the pain and to process things. I say “for me” because I remember my wife and twins talking and crying. I just drove in silence. Not really thinking, not really processing. So I have had to find other ways to process life without dad.

I saw a counselor shortly afterwards. It helped. One of the big questions that he posed to me was did I feel that my father was proud of me. Although I had to think about it, I had to say yes. Yeah, dad was proud of me.

In some ways I have done better than my dad. He was a 6th-grade drop out and I completed college. He had had 2 marriages and I have worked pretty hard to build a happy marriage and to form a family. I have a good job. I have a good life. Dad was happy for me. He told me many times that he loved me. He would hug and kiss me and my family-he adored my children.

My dad was not a professing Christian-he did not claim to have a relationship with Christ and with God. That is also a source of pain. I have never looked to my dad as a source of spiritual guidance or direction. Now I know that my father could have had some sort of death-bed experience-he was not feeling well, had lain down and then had a heart attack that took his life-almost immediately. Maybe in his sleep. Maybe not. He did not seem to greatly suffer. I am thankful for that.

It would be comforting to know that my father had had a spiritual experience before he died. It would be immensely comforting to know that I would see my father again in the next life. But I can’t really hold onto that kind of hope. I know that was not true of the way my dad lived his life and I just don’t know that to be true in his passing. And that makes it more difficult to process; as far as I know, my dad really is gone. Most likely I’ll never see him again. And that is probably the most painful part of all.

It has been a year. Still no tears. Still no explanations as to why there have been no tears. I still miss my dad. But I am continuing to process things. Even with this writing.

-Durk-

Sending Pics from My Phone and Teaching eBay or Why I signed up for Myspace.com (X3), Spaces.msn.com, Photobucket.com, Hotmail.com & Yahoo.com

Even though I have had my own website in one form or another for years now, I took the blogspot.com plunge about a month ago with the purpose of having an online diary. I told myself I’d journal more. I’d write more. I’d be funny more. For all practical purposes I have, pretty darn cool (I AM VERY FUNNY NOW!). The next step is to get a real forum thread going.
Since I first signed up with blogspot.com I have also signed up with:

  • Myspace.com – a hip and happening, ever-growing and mostly for-the-young-people. A place where anyone can get a website and have a web-presence. No-name bands, politicians, every student, and really, anyone who is anyone has an account with these guys! It is almost creepy how their web presence has become a standard of sorts. So of course I have 2 or 3 accounts with these guys. We’ll get into that later.
  • Spaces.msn.com – This is klinda a cross between Blogspot.com and Myspace.com. This is a Blog-type of site, but with a few extras, you can upload pics, have lists of links, etc. I was looking for a place to merely store pics to use with eBay. It did not meet my needs, but since it is Microsoft you can link XBOX stuff, have Windows Media Player play lists, and pretty much help Bill Gates take over the world.
  • Hotmail.com – Hey everyone needs to have a free email account-so you don’t use your work email! And with hotmail I can use the MSN email program on my pocket pc phone-so I can send pics and such. This was a new account to replace my old account that I can’t remember the password of…nice…more about that later.
  • Yahoo.com – OK, this I have had. You can use your Yahoo ID to sign in to MSN, but not use it for MSN’s Pocket PC Phone email account…Why? Well, anyway, you can’t.
  • Photobucket.com – This is a gem of a site, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before! Basically a FREE site that allows you to VERY EASILY upload pictures from your hard drive and then store them in a photo album and in a place where they can be accessed from many other programs like eBay and Blogspot! It even let’s you do a filmstrip-type of display (below) where you can take several pictures and have them scroll by! Or in a “photo stamp” that you see under “links” on the main page of my Blog. SWEET!

All of this form-filing and login & password recording originated from a couple of different goals.

First, I wanted to send pics from my totally awesome Sprint PC phone. The phone comes with Pocket MSN-a program which in addition to allowing you to access MSN from the phone and not a website (you can check news, weather and IM chat), it also allows you to check email-again not from a browser, but from a program! It is fast, simple and works with Pocket Outlook! SUPER SWEET! MSN (Microsoft Network) is just one way that Microsoft is taking over the world; it is their Internet entertainment/web presence. And I discovered that I can login to MSN using my very old Yahoo.com login and password. You haven’t lived until you have played online pool with Yahoo.games.com! But what I can’t do is login to MSN mail with my Yahoo login/pass. For that you have to have a Hotmail account. WHICH I DO! So I use it…password does not work…No problem, just have the password sent to…email address, well that isn’t gonna work now is it? I CAN’T ACCESS EMAIL BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW MY OWN PASSWORD. OK, so I can answer my secret question. What is my favorite pet’s name? WHAT? Well I don’t know, Mr. Pibb was my first pet, lower case upper case periods and spaces…no I must not have used that…Well then there is Roman Greco…Roman or Greco? No, well I just got Dash, the mini wiener dog…nope that does not work either. Now my password isn’t just forgotten it is fried, as in too many attempts. So now what? Well after click after click after click and after getting an email response that I can have my password sent to an alternate address THAT I HAD TO SET UP TO BEGIN WITH, and finally getting NOWHERE I throw my hands up in the air and just sign up for a new account! Heck it’s free, takes just a couple of minutes. FINE. But I really liked my old name and it matches my XBOX360 screen name…so NOW what? All well.

Second, I wanted to store pictures online so I could access them via HTML from somewhere else. I did not merely want a photo album and I didn’t want to use a web server, real honest-to-goodness web space that I am paying for (which is what I do for MY auctions)! I have been showing a friend how to get all setup on eBay. One of the very cool things about eBay is that you can use HTML to create auctions. The biggest advantage: You can show folks more pics without having to pay extra. Disadvantage: You have to “store” your pics somewhere else; you have to have your pics somewhere where the HTML can pull them from-NOT ON EBAY! The answer came in a passing conversation about Myspace and Ebay: Photobucket.com Photobucket is a free site where you can sign up in seconds and start uploading pics immediately and VERY EASILY! There is a form with a browse button, you find the pic on your local drive, you can give it a title, and whalla! STORED PICS! Not too sure where they actually are within this Photobucket website? No prob! Click a couple of buttons and THEY PROVIDE THE URL FOR YOU! Want to get all fancy? Click a couple more buttons and it gives you the code and url in a couple of different formats (Flash or DHTML) to post in a filmstrip format or a “stamp” format (see above bullet for examples). Still not good enough? IT ALSO DOES VIDEO! SA-WEET! All of that is free, there is other cool stuff that you can pay for, but the freebies are pretty powerful stuff. I had been trying to show my HTML-illiterate friend how to upload pics from his PC to his cable companies web space…not real easy. Photobucket takes away ALL of the headaches!

I know, I know, there are a whole lot of cool websites out there! I know this! I used to collect all kinds of addresses. And now it seems I have started up again! I welcome YOUR favorites!

-Durk-

Never Remembering a Time when You Didn’t have a Relationship with God

My newest baby, boy #4, Corbin Riley, was baptized on Easter Sunday. Many people have inquired about our choice to baptize as opposed to the more Protestant tradition of infant baptism. So here is my formal explanation.

I belong to the Nazarene denomination. We are similar to the Wesleyan Methodist (John Wesley), the Free Methodist, Church of God (Holiness) and other holiness denominations. When the Nazarene church was formed it combined with several other denominations-all having one thing in common, a desire to stress holiness and entire sanctification. So there were churches from the Baptist, Methodist, etc, etc traditions. Because of the many diverse backgrounds, the newly forming denomination decided to allow many of the different tradition’s ceremonies and liturgies to be allowed. So, for instance, Baptism: the Nazarene’s allow for immersion, sprinkling, anointing, and well, as long as you get wet, you’re considered baptized. And with infants you can opt for a traditional dedication or infant baptism.

The whole Infant Baptism vs. Dedication “debate” can be boiled down to a Catholic vs. Protestant issue. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace. The outward sign involves getting wet! You can read and study John the Baptist about the origins of the practice, but John baptized Jesus-at Jesus’ request. The inward grace, or the thing that happens on the “inside” is the change that takes place in one’s heart, soul & mind. The mind has been transformed, the soul has been cleansed, and the heart is renewed. Spiritually speaking one has been forgiven of their sins, restored to state where they can relate to God and in short: they are saved.

That’s all fine and dandy for those that make those choices. But what about little babies that can’t make those choices? Are they saved too? Well, herein lies the different debates (as it relates to the subject at hand…I am realizing that there are MANY theological tangents that I could go on). For the Catholics this issue came to a head: children were dying at very young ages and they wanted some sort of assurance that their child, would be saved from the fiery pit of hell. So the priest baptized the child, thus securing the child’s salvation-forever. It is the forever part that I can’t live with-at some point the person has to become accountable for their own actions and accountable for responding to God’s call for a relationship.

Most protestants throw this idea out and hold to a magical, subjective “age of accountability”, where a child is not responsible for their actions up to some age where they then become accountable.

Other protestants hold to a Calvinistic (John Calvin) or a predestination view: That some are chosen and others are not, male, female, young, old, etc. Choice is pretty much thrown out the window with the whole age thing. God hates some and rejects them and loves others and predetermines that they will be saved. They have my attention up until “God hates some…” Not to mention that this throws out man’s responsibility to respond to God.

So where do I stand? So which camp am I in? Well, as usual the Nazarene view is a mixed one. I suppose we hold to the “age of accountability” where there is this subjective age where a person becomes accountable for their actions. But Wesleyans also believe in what is called prevenient grace, or the grace that goes before. That grace is bestowed on all of mankind and this grace is constantly leading the person towards Christ. Wesleyans would say that this grace is what allows man in his sinful state to be able to respond to the salvation message. For babies who cannot respond this grace covers them. They are covered by prevenient grace. They are not responsible for their sinful state. Until they are, and that comes with age and awareness.

So tell me again what this has to do with infant baptism? Yeah, I know, I am getting there.

Kaleb & Keegan, my identical twin boys, were dedicated. In the dedication ceremony children are presented before the church where the parents promise to raise the child in the ways of Christ and in accordance to the Word of God, the Bible. The congregation also promises to help raise the child. It takes a community right? Babies are introduced to the congregation and the parents get a neat certificate, that is stored away with all of the other special memories. The parents, pastor and church dedicate the child to God. Kaleb & Keegan have also dedicated their lives to God and have entered into a saving relationship with Christ. They also chose, on their own, to be baptized. They were dunked (immersed). Their feet flew up in the air! It was cute and cool and special all at the same time.

For most protestants (again not the Calvinist and not most Catholics), there is an expectation of a salvation event, a specific point in time where someone marks their conversion, one day they were walking away from God and they were not saved and then next they were walking with God and were saved. Believe me there are MANY people out there whose lives have been changed and a prayer or a sermon or a religious experience is the event that they point to where they met the Living Creator who totally transformed their life. They are a new person.

Corbin Riley and his bigger 2 year-old brother, Calvin Wesley (yes, CALVIN WESLEY) were baptised as infants. It is my hope that they will never know a time when they did not think of themselves as experiencing and understanding the saving love of Christ. I hope they never think of themselves as outsiders, as unsaved. Instead of having to point to a time when they were saved, I would hope that there comes a time where the choice is to “stay in” or walk away from it all. And I hope that they never point to a time when they walked away, but rather continually make the choice to advance in their walk with Christ.

In infant baptism there is a similar dedication. But, to me, there are much deeper and intentional messages. I am making a covenant with God that I will raise my child in an environment where they can experience God’s saving love and where they can learn what it is to be a follower or Christ. My family and church family make the same pledge. And for me it is also a stand against the Evil One, it is a proclamation to Satan: You cannot have this child. You cannot take this child. This child is Christ’s until the day he chooses otherwise.

Again, it is my hope that Corbin and Calvin will never know a time when they weren’t being saved. I hope that they will always be able to look back and see the Hand of God in their lives and that their lives are constantly being transformed, cleansed and renewed.

They are still free to choose. They can reject God. They can walk away. They can come back. They can commit their lives to Christ and they can re-commit their lives to Christ. And if the day comes that they deem a milestone in their life, a day where they can look back upon and say “That is the day my life changed!” Well, then I hope that they consider the ceremonial proclamation of such a change, the outward sign of the inward grace: Adult baptism.

-Durk-

Holy Week-A Week of Anticipation

We are at the beginning of what is traditionally referred to as Holy week in the Christian tradition. It marks the last week of Lent and ends with Easter Sunday. It is a week full of anticipation.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday which celebrates the day that Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey-as a king may have done. And the people respond by hailing Jesus as a king. Palm branches were waved-as the people would do for a visiting king. Then the people go a step farther and shout “Hosannah”-Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, they recognize Jesus as at least a prophet, and quite hopefully the Christ.

Thursday is Maundy Thursday. The Last Supper is celebrated and in some churches the church leaders will hold a foot-washing ceremony. Jesus washed his friend’s feet before they ate their last meal together. It is truly a moving experience when your pastor takes your smelly feet and gently washes and removes all of the lint and dirt off.

Friday is Good Friday. A terrible name. There is not much good about it. Typically the Good Friday service follows Jesus as he prays in the garden, is arrested, is tried by Pontius Pilot, his brutal beating and suffering and finally his death by crucifixion. The Passion of the Christ follows the Stations of the Cross. Traditionally these Stations of the Cross are where there are litergies and readings at each phase of Jesus journey to death. Another very moving service. All colors are stripped from the cross. The service ends in silence and sometimes darkness. Participants are encouraged to leave in silence.

Then there is the wait. Holy Saturday is typically spent in silent prayer.

But then there is Easter-the day that marks the resurrection of Jesus. The pastor stands before the congregation. Still in silence. Traditionally people will not have spoken since Friday. He extends his hands and shouts, “HE IS RISEN!” And the people respond, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” And the Easter Sunday celebration begins. Fasts are broken and Catholics can eat beef without feeling guilty.

I explain all this for a couple of reasons. I am no longer a part of a liturgical Nazarene church, where Holy Week would have been celebrated and practiced. I am part of a church-plant, a new church-Trinity Family. We are an emerging church. We practice different liturgies, new things-our worship really rocks with a full rock band. And that is cool. We are ministering to a post-modern people. People’s lives are being changed by the love of Christ.

I miss the liturgy.

And finally this Easter will hold a special meaning for me and my family. Corbin Rielley, my 10-week-old will be baptized. I am looking forward to Easter Sunday with great anticipation.

-Durk-