Thursday, April 29, 2010


how might today's
extremists appear to
future generations?

Origen, one of the early church fathers, was a man whose greatest ambition in life was martyrdom. In fact, Origen’s father, Leonides, was killed while in prison. Origen — not quite 17 — made plans to join his father, so they could be tortured side by side. But tradition has it that Origen’s mother hid his clothes to keep him from leaving home.

Never fear. Origen found other means with which to prove his faith. He sold the family library and emasculated himself, dedicating the rest of his life to teaching, philosophy, and comforting those in prison.

Except Origen’s acts weren’t viewed as extreme (unless you count the fact that he was extremely popular with students). So how might today’s extremists appear to future generations? And what might those generations think of those we accept as normal, successful and commendable?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Work hard.


A lot of people go through life accepting just about anything they read or hear.

And most of it’s just crap.

I’ve been thinking about that, thinking about whether I’m actually making a difference. Am I making the world a better place? Am I helping my students to wade through the lies, half-truths and just-plain-nonsense? Am I giving them thinking tools and challenging them to actually use them or just filling their heads with more of the same?

Work hard. Smile. Don’t do drugs.

The world doesn’t need more go-getters. What it needs is people with healthy crap-detectors, people who have an idea where they’re going and whether the getting is even worth their time, people who want the truth and won’t settle for anything less (no matter how comfortable and safe the status quo).

Monday, April 26, 2010


How well do you or can you really know anyone? What is the threshold for trust in a relationship? What if that trust is broken (because it always is)? Does that spell the end?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Efficiency Thinking

It's become
so efficient that it no
longer functions.

Just a few years ago, my sister and I decided to unhook our dishwasher. It was a kind of quiet protest.

We’d noticed that tools of convenience actually tend to make life less convenient. For instance, modern appliances save time. But the saved time comes with a need for more space (to house the appliances) and a larger income (to pay for them and the energy they use). Besides that, I tend to take advantage of the time-savings by adding more stuff to my schedule. I decided that living efficiently would no longer be my standard of success.

But it wasn’t until after we’d made this decision that I started to notice how efficiency thinking had invaded not just our homes but also our businesses and social institutions. Take church, for instance, which has become — in so many cases — a kind of one-stop spiritual shop. Every human need has a program (with more being created all the time). We’re becoming busier and busier, struggling to keep up with committee meetings, service projects, Sunday school commitments, home Bible studies, potlucks, small groups.

People need relationship. We’ve made them pay for it with time and responsibility. And now they don’t have time for what they need, for what’s important. No wonder, then, that so many of my friends are disconnected from church. It’s become so efficient that it no longer functions.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Looks like I'm going
to need another
batch of brownies.

On a Sunday morning in 2005, I had a strange experience -- I got sick thinking about going to church. So I didn't go. Here's some of the processing that followed:

I got sick this morning, thinking about going to church. I suddenly felt dizzy and tired. Incredibly tired. I sat down on the couch (with a plate of brownies for sustenance).

What’s going on? Church has been my life. I volunteer for hours every week, attend services at several different denominations, read just about anything I can find regarding what it means to live a God-centered life, what it means to know God. But I had to face the fact that I don’t like church. It feels like a waste of my time. I resent having to go.

Is there anything wrong with church? Anything I can put my finger on? I still believe in God, and we spend a lot of time talking about God. Maybe that’s the problem. We talk God to death every Sunday. But when is there time to experience his presence with us in corporate worship?

What about all the good that churches do? We sent money, supplies and volunteers to help with Hurricane Katrina. We provide food baskets and Christmas gifts for impoverished children in town. We hold an annual appreciation dinner for local public school teachers. We offer free counseling to couples in crisis. But do we know our neighbors? Do we love them? Is our giving truly generous or a burden that we carry (because that’s what good people are supposed to care about)?

I asked my students, last week, where church originated? Where do we get the idea of church? Nobody seemed to know for sure. It’s just always been, some claimed, while others thought that God had founded the institution.

But that can’t be true.

Jesus didn’t go to church. He invited people to enter a new way of life. It seems that we’ve watered down his message, replaced the Kingdom of God with a social institution.

What’s that mean for me? What’s next? What can I do? Should I do anything? I don’t know.

Looks like I’m going to need another batch of brownies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Am an Island

for each to experience
integrated living, a chance to
know and be known

Looking around on a Sunday morning, I wonder how many people have felt lonely in church. Even surrounded by others, isolation is possible.

So many of my fellow worshipers are people I only see on Sunday. We don’t live in the same neighborhood. We can't all work in the same town or for the same company. How many have the opportunity to minister to or with others in this group?

What I desire is for each to experience integrated living, a chance to know and be known: to work with, live with and minister alongside a spiritually-connected people.

Monday, April 12, 2010


It’s easy to give, harder to let go.

When a gift is unappreciated — greeted with disinterest, anger, or even greed — I want to take it all back, un-give. It’s then, in the moment of regret, that I discover my attachment and wonder if I really gave (or only pretended at generosity).

Friday, April 09, 2010

Free Will

Is it easier to believe in fate, the idea that every thought or choice is determined by inputs (environment, relationships, events)? Or that life is random and unpredictable? Do I choose, or is even this an illusion?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Too many people I know live blurred lives, racing from experience to experience, thrill to thrill. They think they’re pursuing the next big thing, when most of the time, it feels like they’re running away.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

so much of my
identity was intertwined
with church

Back in 2002, I was thinking about leaving my home church, a decision I eventually made (though it ended up being temporary). I struggled with the fact that so much of my identity was intertwined with church. I volunteered with the youth, drove the bus, worked on committees, changed the sign board, cooked for potlucks, showed up at business meetings, represented the local church at denominational events.

Who would I be if I left?

What, if anything, would be left of me?

Looking back, I wonder if people realize how difficult it can be for people to leave. I'm convinced we must take such decisions much more seriously than we do.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Questions About Church

1) Why do programs sometimes seem more important than people?

2) How do we give people more opportunities to connect on Sunday mornings?

3) What if we could shift the focus away from the platform and start noticing the people hidden behind hymnals and Sunday smiles?

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Shape of Community

a place where people
seriously struggle with what it
means to believe

This week, I've been mulling a series of conversations I had with friends a few years back, regarding what the church could be. I remember one Sunday afternoon in particular:

A woman spoke of her desire to be part of a place where people seriously struggle with what it means to believe instead of simply showing up for the social connections or from a sense of duty or in order to get some Sunday morning entertainment. Another shared his vision of creating a place that was open all the time — a kind of community center — a place where people gather to seek counsel, to come together with friends, to discuss and take action on issues of social justice. A third talked about an increasing individualism in society that competes with our desire to be known. We long for community but struggle with commitment.

And there was lots of homemade peanut brittle.

What about you? What do you long for in a faith community? I'm still not sure I know.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

tend to fill
whatever time and
money I have

Back when I was unemployed, I used to live for Tuesday mornings. That’s when the garbage truck comes. I love to watch the compactor in the back of the truck as it smashes all the neighborhood junk.

I wish life were that simple. Instead, commitment and responsibility tend to expand and fill whatever time and money I have available.

I need a life compactor.