Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I love this guys posts. John O'Keefe is probably my favorite blogger as I share many of his same viewpoints if you couldn't tell that already. i definitely loved this one. Enjoy! Or not!

why i was not raised in the church

for years i could not figure out why i just did not get what many church people were talking about, mostly about evangelism. oh, sure i faked it [wink, wink] and i held my own. i was impressive, i was able to pop all kinds of theological term and concepts into conversations,and people just smiled as i spoke; dude, i was good. i read all the books, talked all the talk and even impressed people with my bull. then, not to long ago, it hit me in the head like a ton of feathers [sure, the weight the same, but they are softer then bricks], the reason i never truly fit in with many in the "church crowd" or some of their ideas is that i was not raised in a church; i was not a "in" the church crowd. i did not have the "church" cross to bear.

that's right, i never had a youth group experiences where the youth pastor made me go home because i was wearing a marilyn manson t-shirt; i never had a youth pastor tell me i was going to go to hell because i dyed my hair blue; i never sat through silly old crusty hymns with off key organs and bad singing; i never had to sit through a sermon from a pastor known to put people to sleep or simply not get the point; i never had the opportunity to serve over cooked chicken, in gray sauce and green specks. i never had those experiences, i was not raised in the church.

when i realized this, my first reaction was to feel as if i missed something in my life; i was actually depressed for a few seconds - then i realized, that i did miss some things and to be honest i saw it as a blessing - that was when i realized why called me into ministry. not because i had this great christian tradition going back generations like so many of the ministers i got to know over time; in fact, being irish the only thing that goes back that far in our family is the love of a good whiskey. go back far enough in my family tree and your find mail-order brides, horse theives and rebels. when i realized i did not carry the baggage of so many other ministers i realized that for me, this is all some what new.

i do not know what it means to be an "evangelical, post-protestant, liberal, conservative, charismatic, fundamentalist, calvinist, anabaptist, anglican, methodist, catholic" because i have never been any of them [well, i did serve in the methodist church while i was in seminary]. but you see, those terms have no meaning to me, and they had not meaning to me for most of my life. to be honest, excluding the way they get people wet [dunk or dip] i could not tell you the difference between many of then today.

you see, as a person who spent most of his life outside the church i can tell you right now, people who are where i was do not give one good rats ass about any of that. to them, all that is just silly stuff people do for control. they do not care what church you go to, what God you pray to, what denomination you hold ties with, or what version of the bible you read - all they care about is "why do you want to be their friend?"

now, that is the danger many people who have all that christian baggage have a hard time dealing with. before you give the standard "good little chrsitian" answer, remember that those outside the church do not care about the "good little christian" answer. they could careless about your desire to share with them christ because you are told to, or you love them in christ [i love the churches that qualify "love" to say, "i love them in christ" and not just, "i love them"], or you want them to be in heaven - remember, none of that matters to a person outside the church; they do not care about those reasons, and to be honest if at any time they feel that any of those are the reason you desire to be their friend - they will run in the other direction. you must become their friend, because you desire to be their friend - any other reason is a lie, and is creating friendship on a lie. friendships must be developed on truly desiring to want to be a friend, not because you desire to grow a church or "save people."

that may sound hard for those who were raised in the church, but to be honest, i hope it pisses you off so much that you spend the next few weeks thinking about it. because, even if you don't like it, it is a fact. i know, because if i knew the people who shared christ with me only did it became they wanted to share christ with me - i would not be here today writing in favor of the church. if you do not make friends with people because you want to know who they are, you are lying about friendship and are only interested in growing a church. i need to say this, because even if you think you are doing good, you are not - be my friend because you like me, and for no other reason. i make friends with people i like, regardless of their faith - and i live my faith as best i can. if in that process, they desire to know about my faith i will share with them from my heart - but today, evangelism starts with the other asking, and not with me telling.

posted by john o'keefe at 27.2.06

Monday, February 27, 2006

Where’s the reality for the rest of us?
Those for whom purpose-driven has petered out?
When life seems like an accident,
Filled with tears, confusion, stress and doubt.

Has God somehow abandoned me?
Maybe I’m a victim of deception?
My life seems like a ricochet,
I guess I’m a purpose-driven exception.

Some say I haven’t figured it out just yet,
Others stereotype me as odd.
Particularly those purpose-driven Christians,
The one’s who claim they have all the answers about God.

My life’s been filled with ups and downs,
A mosaic of contentment, yearning, achievement, doubt, joy and fear.
My life experience doesn’t match up with the formula,
Espoused by the purpose-driven Christians around here.

They say I’m doing something wrong,
I must live their formula to be effective.
When their well intentioned advice hits my heart,
I feel like I’m defective.

They sell promises of peace, prosperity and love.
Yet the reality of their lives seems to diverge from
this trite description.
Divorce, pre-marital sex and depression,
They stand in line at the local pharmacy to fill their
next prescription.

Yes, I believe in God.
To inquirers I respond; “Me? I’m a Christian.”
You won’t find me in your church,
I can’t stand the backbiting and the bitchin.

One thing that I know,
God has a solution to my strife.
He loves me beyond the confines of purpose-
He loves me and my Porpoise Diving Life.

He loves me when life sucks,
When it’s rocked with the unexpected, the disappointments and the fear.
He loves me when life’s awesome,
The lift of the warmth, joy and peace that confound my ability to steer.

He’s present when it gets murky,
Confused, bored, tired and an inability to understand.
He’s O.K. with me when I’m not feeling driven,
Always there to hold an exhausted hand.

He’s on board when I’m submerged,
Overwhelmed with the elements of daily strife.
He’s with me when I surface,
Gasping for air in my Porpoise Diving Life.

Man relentlessly pursues Him,
Countless attempts to put Him in a box.
Every time we think we’ve done it,
He pops out and walks and talks.

If your life doesn’t seem to fit their formula,
If within mainstream Christianity you feel like an exception or excluded.
Don’t run away from God,
There’s another possibility to which I’ve alluded.

Some people tell a story about the life of Jesus,
One with no strife, disappointment or confusion.
This story has no basis in reality.
It’s a man-made fairy-tale illusion.

There is more to God beyond the net,
Don’t let artificial boundaries make you stall.
Jesus lived your Porpoise Diving Life
Dive in with us, beneath the surface of it all.

written by Bill Dahl

Stop judging me for a second
This isn't a beauty pageant
And even if it was you are nowhere near qualified enough
To pass on your shallow views of my inner soul

You checked out my mental legs and found them lacking
Because you don't like where my mind travels
It's the same for my ambition's arms
I reach for the sky but you want me to reach for your approval
Don't even get me started on my spiritual six pack
Ripped for Jesus; cut like the Reverend Usher if you will

My emotionless eyes were the biggest turnoff
I'm not looking for happiness
What I'm searching for can't be taught by society
And I'm talking both sides of the coin
Smart people want me to relate to their Heads
Lustful people want me to grab their Tails

I flipped my worldview and found a third side
One that tolerates the world
And struggles to put up with your genius
I shut off the part of my body
That wants to agree with the most attractive offer
Be it sexual or philosophical

I fell in love with the truth a long time ago
I just didn't realize it until I walked away

by Charles Bridgers IV

43% of Arizona Teens Having Sex

43% of Arizona teens having sex
By Mary K. Reinhart, Tribune

February 27, 2006

A federal survey of risky teen behavior shows that Arizona high schoolers seem to think they’re immortal. Nearly half of them are having sex and drinking alcohol, and one-quarter are smoking pot.

One third have ridden in a car with someone who’s been drinking, and one in five have recently carried a gun, knife or club.

Most aren’t wearing bicycle helmets or eating their fruits and vegetables.

But while the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show what some may consider typical teen behavior, questions about depression and suicide reveal a much darker side.

According to the 2005 survey of 3,300 Arizona high school students, one-fifth have seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months, 16 percent have made a plan and 12 percent have actually tried to kill themselves. The statistics for girls are even higher, though boys are far more likely to commit suicide.

“That’s pretty serious,” said Ilene Dode, CEO of EMPACT, a Tempe-based suicide prevention and mental health agency. “I think people need to be concerned, and looking at what kind of steps we should be taking.”

Twenty-seven Arizona children took their lives in 2004, most of them boys.

A state suicide prevention program has been taking shape over the past couple of years.

Last fall, Arizona received a $400,000 federal grant to boost prevention efforts in rural and tribal communities, including a screening program to identify at-risk teens.

Bills to suspend the program have been introduced in the Legislature this session.

A suicide screening survey is used at Tempe’s Compadre High School, a campus for at risk kids that also includes a program for pregnant and parenting teens.

Though the latest CDC survey shows that the majority of Arizona teens who are sexually active use condoms or other forms of birth control, about 6 percent say they’ve been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant.

“I’m getting eighth graders,” said Julie Lessard, who runs the Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting Program at Compadre. “They’re teenagers, and they just think it’s not going to happen to them, no matter what.”

More than 5,100 Arizona teenage girls gave birth in 2004, said Patricia Jo Angelini, executive director of the Arizona Coalition on Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting.

The survey gives parents, educators and policymakers an opportunity to talk with children about risky behaviors, she said.

“We need to not just read the data, we need to act on the data,” Angelini said. “This is a really good teachable moment. . . . For parents to sit down with their children, and let them know that they are loved and that their parents are concerned about them.”

Too many children don’t have those kinds of adults in their lives, said Mike Matwick, executive director of the Arizona Career Academy and Pinnacle Education, which has campuses throughout Phoenix and the East Valley.

Matwick said he wasn’t surprised by the survey finding that one-third of students felt so sad for two weeks straight that they stopped doing their usual activities.

“I don’t think a lot of kids have a safe place to go or people to talk to when they’re feeling that way,” he said. “Whenever a kid is experiencing significant social issues, they can’t engage in academics.”

This is only the second survey for Arizona, though the CDC has been collecting data for other states since 1991.

Former state school superintendents had blocked the survey, administered through the state Department of Education.

In addition to questions about sexual behavior, drug and alcohol use, it asks students about their diet, exercise and exposure to violence.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Living Out the Greatest Commandment in America: Irony or Truth?

Penny Carothers

I had an interesting email exchange with a gentleman named Kevin in response to my “Flag-Waving SUV” article that really got me thinking. Those of you that read Blue Like Jazz may know that I had an unconventional upbringing by two fairly eccentric folks. I know very little of the life of growing up in the church, and even less of growing up in the Midwest or the South. I am a Northwesterner through and through. I don’t know where you live or how you grew up, but I do know that our surroundings in great part explain who we are and what we believe. So, you say - yeah, Penny, we got it.

But seriously, does it not ring true on a deeper level? Over the past several years I have watched with growing dismay as the quality of our interactions and our conversations “across the aisle” deteriorate and seem to hit new all-time lows. How polarized will our country - and our community of faith - become before we realize what a wretched waste of time it is to attack and build walls rather than accomplish the hard work of growing to understand one another? I am convinced that where we grew up, who raised us, and what we’ve experienced in our lives is becoming more important than the One who defied death to bring us all together. I don’t have to say where this despicable untruth comes from?

The thing that is truly abhorrent to me is the sad truth that the rhetoric and division of politics has found its way into our discourse on faith. I am often guilty of perpetuating the same divisions that I claim to abhor. Politics are important, but how important should they be to those who claim Christ? If I voted for John Kerry, do I really get dismissed as a flaming liberal who has lost touch with reality? And if you voted for George Bush, do I immediately assume all you care about is abortion and gay rights? With the direction we’re headed, these assumptions are automatic. This route is the wide and easy path - not the narrow. We have to change; starting now, starting here, starting from your next conversation. Are you a tree hugger? Get to know a logger. Do you oppose gay marriage? Get to know someone whose life is affected by banning same-sex union. How many people do you regularly associate with who have different views than you? I’ll be honest — not a one. I have to do something to change that.

I read a very thoughtful email from a man who felt judged by my introductory article because he drives an SUV, voted for Bush, and is a man of faith. My first reaction was, “No way, man, you got me wrong.” I wasn’t trying to condemn, I was trying to repent of my judgment! But I had a creeping feeling that there was a ring of truth in what he said and more than a hint of hypocrisy in my caricature of those who I portrayed so much differently than myself.
I’m not trying to say that I simply go around judging people because of the car they drive - I also judge for the clothes they wear, the sunglasses they sport, and the handbags they carry. I hate this part of myself because I am letting frustration get in the way of seeing people as Jesus sees them. I regularly fall into the sin of vilifying the rich and exalting the poor. We all do, in different ways. How about you; what’s your prejudice? Whatever it is, God says not to play favorites, and I know very well that this is a great struggle.

Finally, in spite of everything that I have said about doing my best not to judge, I must speak out (I can’t help myself!) about the blatant decadence of our society that turns a blind eye to the poor and engages in condemnation and back-biting over disagreements about belief. This is the critical point - the problem is with our society, not the people in it. We must be careful to follow the spirit of Christ, not the spirit of the Age. And Christ is about unity, not division; love, not hate; righteous anger, not self-righteous condemnation.

I’m not trying to condemn when I say that I do not like SUVs. To me, SUVs demonstrate the American penchant for decadence and the pursuit of extreme wealth at all costs (which is not an “American” problem, but a human problem with a wash of fallen historical characters as testament). SUVs say something very profound about our national priorities. Let me quickly explain some of the reasons why I care about the cars we drive and the way we spend our money:

Less than 5% of the world’s population (that’s us) consumes 25% of the world’s resources
30,000 kids under the age of five die per day of preventable illnesses.

One billion people survive on less than $1 dollar per day and barely have enough money to live - they are at constant risk of death because of starvation and disease.

Meanwhile, the US and EU spends $1 per day on each dairy cow on its soil (this is because of subsidization of our agricultural products, so Americans enjoy low prices).

We could provide clean water and save millions of lives for the same amount of money that Europeans and Americans spend on bottled water each year.

Shocking? I hope so. However, these facts do not give me, or anyone else, license to judge someone else for their possessions or their political affiliation. Rather, we are called to do something with the privilege we enjoy because of our place of birth and with the measure of faith we’ve been given. We are supposed to give to those who have need, but the point is not to make loads of money so you can give it away. Instead, we are called to reach out in love and honesty and vulnerability to the people around us - removing the barrier of political affiliation, or class, or race, or sexual orientation, or whatever - to get to know one another, and to learn from one another.

I learned a lesson from my email exchange with Kevin, someone with a humble heart who has very different political views than myself. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that our differences didn’t stop us from communicating, but this is why: God lives in each one of us, and He is much more interested in seeing us become part of a living, functioning body rather than one that is constantly fighting, pulling apart, and stalling His work while we worry about our earthly disputes.

In the end, where does this leave us? Are we to condemn or to love? Listen or argue? Repent or decay? As my friend Lisa likes to sing whenever she gets discouraged about these divisions, “They will know us because of our love for one another.” What do you think: irony or truth? It’s up to you to decide — and to make it reality.

Beyond These Walls

Beyond These Walls
by gord, the pastor of muppets

God calls to us:
“ Turn your eyes, ears, and hearts my people!
Look around you. See what I see,
Hear what I hear,
Feel what I feel.

I see the tears of the brokenhearted.
I hear the cry of the lonely.
I feel the pain of the love-starved child.

For too long you have masturbated in self-importance.
For too long you have distorted my church in the name of preservation.
For too long you have stifled your heart’s cry to feign maturity.


The fool hungers for satisfaction in complimentary words,
looks on himself and is aroused
and believes he has attained stature.
The fool fails to look beyond these walls.

Beyond these walls lies the torn flesh of the marginalized:
suffering and death without hope.
Within these walls lies the hope that will stand the test.

If it stays within these walls;

It cannot dry the tears of the broken-hearted,
It cannot comfort the lonely,
It cannot wrap arms around the child who knows not love.

The hope is My love for you in Christ.
Love that you have known here within these walls.
My love is sufficient for the world!
And I use you to bring this love to the lost.

Let it flow my people,
Beyond these walls.”

The Church Reaching to the Margins

This is a post I found written by a guy named Jay Reimer and it so touched my soul that I had to post this. I hope it touches you too.........................

The Church Reaching to the Margins
February 24, 2006

Recently I have been joining my friends Paula, Thomas and Suzanne on their weekly Sunday afternoon visit to a nearby convalescent home. To be honest, it can be pretty depressing, and a little gross at times. When you first walk into the ward, you are greeted by the scent of human urine and an almost palpably desperate silence, punctuated by the occassional quiet murmur of nurses speaking into telephones. As you continue down the hall, you pass by some of the residents as they sit in wheelchairs positioned somewhat randomly in and around doorways and walls. Some sit with heads down, dozing lightly, while some nod to themselves, and others look up and smile even as their neighbor struggles with an uncomfortable restraint, letting out a pitiful scream of both pain and confusion. This last Sunday Paula and I stopped by Doris’s room, where she sat alone, clutching a stuffed polar bear, no light in the room but the fading glow of afternoon. While Doris was glad to have visitors, all attempts at engaging her and cheering her were met with dismay at her circumstances. When Paula asked if Doris had been out with her family recently, her response essentially damned not just her family, but our whole culture, and by implication the church as well. For most Americans who aren’t taken by death at a tragically young age, this will be our collective fate: withering away from a life of vitality and promise to one of decay and regret, isolation, and for some, madness, in the human dumping grounds we euphemistically dub “convalescent homes.”

Not long ago I read the book Jesus in the Margins, by Rick McKinley, and the idea of bringing Christ to all those who inhabit the margins of life has been bubbling and stewing through my thoughts as of late. McKinley describes some of the characteristics of the marginalized as being a sense of isolation, aimlessness, emptiness, vulnerability coupled with defensiveness, and a disconnect from themselves and those around them. The people McKinley describes are people we all know, or he is simply describing us, and the book resonates with so many because it feels like it’s written to me and for me.

But therein lies part of the problem; the reason why there are people who are feeling left out on the margins in the first place, is that we’re still thinking about me. As much as those of us who have been saved out of the margins of life may still have a lot of work that God needs to do to clean up the mess that is our lives, and dig up the roots of our old worldview from the soil of our hearts, that does not free us from our responsibility to be conduits of grace to everyone God has place in our path. As I was driving to the convalescent home on my most recent visit there, the connection between this fact and the state of the people I was going to visit finally hit me in one of those “No kidding, Sherlock” epiphanies. Is there a group of people in our society that is any further out into the margins than the elderly? In the elderly you have a group of people who, first of all, need love from someone, anyone, it really doesn’t matter who, as long as someone is filling that need. This sort of love can be a tool that the Holy Spirit uses to crack open the hearts of stone that many elderly have spent a lifetime hardening, and it can soothe the fragile and desolate souls of those who have been abandoned. However, our fixation on our own pleasure and pain makes it pretty tough to address the needs, spiritual, emotional, and otherwise, of those who aren’t like us and aren’t directly involved in our social circles.

I think we’re all familiar with James 1:27, which says that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” At best they are visited by our money, but not our selves. Even in the church, it seems that we are bent on achieving the same level of materialistic success that our culture tells us we must have, which means we have basically committed ourselves to spending an ever-increasing amount of our time on the achievment of that success. Practicing genuine Christian community becomes a nuisance, a drain on an already busy schedule, or something we’d love to get around to someday. The return on our investment towards material success comes with diminishing spiritual returns, though. The more time we spend in this quest, the less time we have to invest in others, and practicing a pure and undefiled religion before God will end up on the backburner. Besides ignoring a large segment of our population that desperately craves human care and interaction, we’re setting ourselves up for the exact situation we are so intent on tuning out or pretending will never happen to us. Someday when it’s our turn to be old, who will be there for us with the time and the interest to take care of us? Probably no one, if we’re honest with ourselves.

The first time I went to the convalescent home, I recall going with Thomas into a room with a couple of gentlemen whose Alzheimer’s disease had reduced them to laying in bed and staring at the drabness of the walls, or the television as it sat there chattering narcissistically to itself. As Thomas spoke with one of the men, I went over to chat with his roommate. Above his bed were pictures of someone’s (hopefully his) kids and grandkids, along with some faded portraits of a young World War II airman. I shook the man’s hand and began talking with him about the photos, but he was unable to speak even so much as his name in a coherent fashion. His grip was strong, though, and he did not let go of my hand. I realized that that was probably all he needed, was for someone to talk to him and hold his hand, so I plowed on ahead. As Thomas and I prepared to go look for some other folks that he wanted to visit with, I told the man that I had to leave, but that it was good talking with him. Still clasping my hand, he shook it vigorously and as his glazed and clouded eyes searched my face, he repeated again and again, “Don’t forget me, don’t forget me, don’t me…”

I don’t think I ever will, but I pray that the church hasn’t forgotten yet.

Back to the gym

Well I have really enjoyed the time off from running and my legs and body are fully recovered. It's been less than a full week too. So today i am heading back to the gym and will get back into a running and lifting routine instead of just concentrating on running.

I can honestly say to myself now that I will not be doing anymore full marathons. It just takes too much time training and preparing, and it takes way too much out of you. The half marathon distance is the perfect length. Long enough for a challenge, but doesn't require as much preparation, and definitely does not take as much out of you as the full marathon does.

Well we went to the hockey night I had planned. Nobody from church showed up, but I did go to the church just in case to make sure. So it ended up being myself, Patty, her sister Maureen and a friend of mine who lives on the west side now. And itwas a pretty good game, for San Diego anyhow. 28 seconds into the game the first fight started and it was right on our side of the rink. Gotta love minor league hockey my friends.

Tonight we are going to a friends 50th birthday party. There will be a lot of folks from our old church there and it will be nice to see those that we haven't seen in awhile. Our true friends from that church accept us, although some of the leadership has sort of disfellowshipped us since we left. But I extended a hand and was sort of rejected so I'm okay with that now. I did my part and that's that.

I hope and pray that you all have a wonderful blessed weekend. Ciao!

Friday, February 24, 2006


It's hard to imagine the incredible power of a single word: No. But even Jesus said no often, and He had good reasons for doing so. Failing to say no can keep us from doing what's really important: spending time with those in our own homes.

Matthew 5:37 NLT
Just say a simple, "Yes, I will," or "No, I won't." Your word is enough.

Help wanted

Patty needs help at work asap. If anyone knows of anyone that needs a job in Customer Service in a help desk environment send them Patty's way please for details.

Written by Jason Nate

I end with this short story. In Kenya this past summer, we had a roundtable discussion (it was outside in a circle on church pews) and some the questions the Kenyans asked us dealt with cultural issues. "How do we discipline our children who will not obey their parents?" "As a teacher, what can I do when a student refuses to work?" "What about these kids who walk around with their underwear hanging out and refuse to do their studies?" Those questions were the same that we deal with here in America, and the only answer I had for them was Jesus. In my mind, there is no human way to stop the trend we see in our culture. The religious right would like to think that we can legislate it, but that won't work. Others say live and let live, let them do as they choose, but that is not the answer either. We can choose to be optimistic in life and see the good in the world, but without Christ it is of no value. The answer lies in the message of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Preach the Kingdom, spread the grace of God, live as Jesus did, and one at a time God's people will turn to Him. Unfortunately from Scripture we know that things are going to continue to get worse, but we can be good stewards of what God has given us and through His power spread His light and turn as many as we can into followers of Him.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tagged by Tony

Tony challenged me so I'll take the challenge...

Four Jobs I've had
Paperboy when I was about 12 (yes, kids used to deliver newspapers to your doorstep when I was a kid)
Dishwasher at a Countryclub
Cook at Country Kitchen
United States Air Force 1980-1986
National Weather Service (and still pressing on with almost 25 years of government service)

Four Movies I can watch over and over
The Breakfast Club
Slap Shot
The Cross and the Switchblade

Four TV Shows I love to watch
One Tree Hill
Fear Factor
American Idol

Four Places I've been on vacation
Wildwood New Jersey (The Jersey Shore)
Padre Island Texas
San Diego California (The beach to get out of the desert heat)

Four Favorite Dishes
Pork Roast and Saurkraut
Chile Rellenos
Grandma's Enchiladas

Four Websites I visit Daily

Four Places I'd Rather Be
The Majestic Mountain Inn in Payson with my wife Patty (This is our romantic getaway spot where we go to get away from it all and well...you know...get romantic)
The Jersey Shore in the summer with my family
On our honeymoon after Ben marries us at the church when we renew our vows (We were married at the courthouse 18 and a half years ago)
At a lakehouse somewhere on a lake, doesn't really matter where but Lake of the Ozarks comes to mind

Four Blogs I'd like to see do this quiz

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How Can I Discern Whether I'm in a Healthy or Abusive Fellowship?

Abusive fellowships are often the most exciting Christian gatherings around -- filled with dedicated, committed, enthusiastic leaders and members. Do not let enthusiasm and sincerity be the basis for approval. More often than not, abusive fellowships cannot be recognized by mere outward appearance. By discrediting facts, the leaders of such gatherings control information. Leaders may deny these practices -- or marginalize them in some way. It is important to investigate any fellowship thoroughly.

Abusive fellowships often change the meaning of words. In these fellowships, "unity" commonly means agreement with the leaders opinions. Members are often told that they are "out of unity" when they disagree with the leaders' opinions. Healthy fellowships understand that true unity means that

There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4)

Every healthy fellowship will have disagreements, and yet be in unity in the Biblical sense as brothers and sisters in Christ.

In healthy fellowships members commonly maintain friendships when friends leave the group. Abusive fellowships tend to view almost everyone who leaves as a backslider and they view most other Christians as not committed or saved. Healthy fellowships do not consistently tell derogatory stories about those who leave.

In healthy fellowships the leaders prove themselves to be trustworthy in order to be trusted. In abusive fellowships the leaders must be trusted because they are the leaders. To not trust them is to sin.

In healthy fellowships we are admonished to imitate the Christ-like virtues seen in others. In abusive fellowships the leaders are imitated in many more ways than just their virtues. In fact, members take on many of the personal characteristics (personality) of the leaders in a manner that appears unseemly. This is particularly true of those being groomed for "ministry."

In healthy fellowships commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to Apostolic teaching, is absolutely necessary. In abusive fellowships members must be equally committed to the group and to its practices and peculiar beliefs. Some even have members sign "covenant" documents, much like marriage vows.

In healthy fellowships we are exhorted to obey clear Biblical mandates. In abusive fellowships we are exhorted (or pressured) to obey the leaders' opinions --even when our conscience says "no."

In healthy fellowships the confession of sins and "bearing of one another's burdens" is a personal matter that takes place in the context of a larger "family" relationship with other Christians. In abusive fellowships sins are exposed by (or to) leaders and pressure is often applied to confess to the group.

In healthy fellowships secrecy and independence in personal matters -- before God -- are acceptable as long as sins are confessed in private. In abusive fellowships secrecy or independence in personal affairs are scorned, and all areas of life are to be exposed -- even those that do not touch moral issues.

In healthy fellowships we are encouraged to love and bless our enemies. In abusive fellowships showing hatred for our enemies and speaking defamatory of them is acceptable. And often the occasion for "rallying the troops."

Abusive leaders seldom practice this scripture:
...when ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered we respond gently... (1 Cor 4:12, 13)

Matt. 18:15If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.
1 Timothy 5:19, 20Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.
In healthy fellowships Matthew 18:15 applies to every member without distinction -- you are to go to your brother or sister alone -- while 1st Timothy 5:19-20 (a stricter standard) applies to leaders. In abusive fellowships Matthew 18:15 applies to leaders -- you are to deal with them alone -- instead of 1st Timothy 5:19-20. These latter verses are often ignored, thus preventing two or three from EVER bringing an accusation against a leader in error.

Non-abusive leaders rebuke members only for grave public sins, as a last resort (Matthew 18:17). Abusive leaders often publicly rebuke or ostracize members who simply disagree with leaders' opinions. Usually vis-à-vis sermon illustrations or applications, etc.

Non-abusive leaders do not encourage people to leave the fellowships because of differences of opinion. Abusive leaders often assume the right -- unilaterally -- to tell or encourage members who do not agree with leaders' opinions to leave the fellowship.

Non-abusive leaders do not view members as "lacking spiritually" simply because they do not participate in numerous fellowship activities. Abusive leaders view as "spiritually lacking" those who fail to attend most all their fellowship activities. Some even mandate the number of meetings members MUST attend.

Non-abusive leaders do not discourage members from reading information critical about the group. Abusive leaders often control negative information about the group by either discrediting it or by dissuading members not to read it.

Non-abusive leaders do not judge your hearts, but they leave that to God. Abusive leaders constantly judge hearts, motives, and intents. They basically assume -- rather, usurp -- the place of God.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Day 2

Well today is the second day after my marathon attempt, and I hate to say this, but I am even more sore today than I was yesterday. Maybe as the day goes on and I move around a little bit some of the soreness will work itself out. I am a little bit surprised as to how sore I am though. My right calf muscle cramped up on me last night while Patty and I were watching TV. Not really sure what's going on. I am glad that I have the week off though.

Monday, February 20, 2006

What are we for?

I have been reading a lot of John O'keefe these days. Here is a great post from him that really explains the emerging church and what it's all about.

what are we for?
why is it that people seek to find a universal agreement in the emerging? why is it that people can not see what we are for? people say, "we know what you are against, but what are you for?" that got me thinking, and that can be a very dangerous thing [me thinking]. here is what i think we are for in the emerging:

we are for a walk in faith that allows people to read and understand for themselves what is found in God’s Word, and we, as servants in the church, help guide them and ask more questions then we require answers too.

we are for people of all races, ages, genders, understandings, orientations, expressions or other human limit to come together and explore the reality of God, and the reality given to us by God's son jesus the christ.

we are for the different kinds of communities of faith that allows for different kinds of expressions of that faith and takes from different traditions to take us from our lives on the streets to the face of God.

we are for a personal [not private] relationship with a real creator God that is meaning-filled, expressive-oriented, relationship-building and people-connective.

we are for knowing jesus as our salvation, and our redemption; to walk in the teachings of christ and to live our faith as best we can with the human limits we have.

we are for knowing that we may not have it right, and in that "knowing" we are open to hearing the voices of others, and their expressions of faith; either learning from them, or growing with them.

we are for helping people connect with each other in a way that moves them past brief, surface friendship and into each others lives where we touch the soul, and help clean out the garbage that fills our life.

we are for knowing that we seek to experiences a reality in God and share that reality with others; if that happens via candles, chanting, incents, art, touching, expressing, silence, sharing, walking, or anything else we can think of that engages the five senses of our humanity.

we are for, all that God offers, all that community can bring, all that mystery holds and mostly we are for knowing that there is a real God that loves us deeper then we can imagine.

we are for a personal expression of faith, as we find it in scriptures, as we read, pray, meditate and explore the reality of God's Word in our lives.

we are for knowing others, loving others, caring for others, lifting others, accepting others, forgiving others, walking with others, eating with others, crying with others, laughing with others, embracing others, watching others, mostly, we are for others and seeking them out for who they are and who God desires them to be.

there is no "universal agreement" to what an emerging church is, or should be. they can differ in style, location, name, expression and even denomination. to be "emerging" does not mean you have a set pattern, or game plan that looks like everyone else. being emerging simply means we desire a closer walk with christ, a deeper understanding of who God is and a richer expression of faith in its mysteries. why does there need to be a singular definition as to what is to be or what it is not to be an emerging church? for me, i seek a reality in christ that shows as i live my daily walk in God.

i am not "against" anything, but i for a great many things. when people tell me that they know what we are against, i wonder if they are reading our words, or if they are reading the words of others? sometimes we do get upset and we share that, but all in all we are for a great many things, and our prayer is that others are for them also. time will tell, and God leads.
posted by john o'keefe at 14.2.06

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Well folks, for those that don't know what DNF means, it stands for DID NOT FINISH! I dropped out of the race at mile 18. The funny thing is, i don't really know why or what really went wrong. I was feeling so good, was on pace and crossed the halfway point at exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes. But around mile 16 my legs cramped up. I'm talking calves, hamstrings and quads. I've had cramps before but they went away or worked themselves out. At mile 18 I could barely walk so with 8 miles still to go I dropped out. Enough said. I do know one thing though. I don't think I ever want to attempt another full marathon again. I'm 44, didn't start running until I was 40, Have strted 3 marathons and finished 2 of them. I think I will stick to the half marathon distance from here on out. I am somewhat disappointed in that I don't like to quit, but I really feel I made the best decision today because it would have been miserable. So thats it in a nutshell. I'm just gonna relax today and tomorrow. My dad gave me a check for $100 toward the Youth Mission Trips though so that was cool. Since I didn't finish and some of you pledged some money I guess you can bail on the pledge or just give as you feel led. Thanks for all the support I had. My parents were there. My wife cooked me a wonderful pasta dinner last night and she put up with my training schedule for 4 months. Thanks honey, you're the bomb! Patty and her sister Maureen also ran the 8k trail race today and they both finished. Peace out folks. I'm gonna go ice my legs.

It's Time

Well folks...it's almost 445 am and I am ready for this. I slept very very well last night and had a huge pasta dinner. The Marathon starts in just over two hours. For those that wish to greet me at the finish line I plan on crossing it at noon or after if everything goes as planned. Here's a link to the marathon site and you can look at the course and maybe find me on it or be at the finish line. Pray that I will not injure myself and that I will recover quickly in the days following. http://lostdutchmanmarathon.org/

Friday, February 17, 2006

by John O'Keefe

Some time back I was sitting at my favorite Starbucks with a friend who just recently came back to the church after a long absence. He is not the most disciplined believer, but his heart is set for Christ and his ideas on church are well grounded. He left the church because of “church abuse.” You know, when Pastors and members think they are better then you and strive to beat you – spiritually and emotionally – to think like them; church abuse. Anyway, we were talking about the then upcoming possibility of the Tyson fight that would be coming to Las Vegas if the commission approved his application (which did not happen). As we were “talking,” (my friend gets heated when he talks Tyson and fighting), an “older” gentleman came over and joined us at our table. He started a conversation with my friend, (ignoring me totally), about nothing really. Soon the conversation turned to his reason for coming over (and not smoothly I might add), and that reason? Church.

Apparently this man was a local church leader (I never figured out if he was the Pastor or not, and my friend was not talking). He was wondering why he had not seen my friend in church for a while. My friend smiled and politely told the person that he fell away from the church for a sometime, but was now attending another church in town. He thanked the man for asking, then tried to move back to our conversation. The gentlemen asked why he had not returned to “his” church. My friend, again trying to be very polite, tried to tap dance around the question and not give this man both barrels of his emotional sawed-off shotgun. I could tell it was disturbing him, and I could see he was getting a bit uncomfortable. I tried to say something, but the gentleman would cut me off. I tried to move the conversation along when the man looked at me and said, “Would you please stay out of this? This is between “Jack” (not his real name) and I.” I guess the man pushed too far with that one and my friend snapped, “Alright. Do you really want to tell you why?” my friend snapped. “Yes.” The gentlemen said demandingly. My friend looked at him and tried to explain, but every time he got one word out the man countered with some obscure reason that had nothing to do with what he was saying. He was trying to invalidate my friend’s point of view, and doing a poor job of it along the way. Finally, as the frustration level for my friend seemed to get hotter then the steam used to make the foam on our café mocha’s, he looked the man straight in the face, and as loud as he could said, “Here are the top ten reasons why I think your church sucks.” As he started his list he looked at me and he could tell my shock – I had never heard him speak that way before. He reached over and touched my arm as to assure me he was all right and he had been thinking of this for a while and it was not time to get it off his chest.

“First” he said, “Your church is totally irrelevant to the community. You all talk a good game, but you do not see the dynamic of the community changing around you. Second, your church is filled with poor leaders and over bearing bullies who believe the best way to get anything done is to frighten people. All you have are people who will tell you what to do, and not lead us in doing it. Third, your church has no vision. You guys are just dead in the water. Fourth, your church is old. Your church is filled with old people who have no reason to move ahead. They have more life behind them then they do ahead of them. Fifth, your church is inbred. The people my age in your church are all related to the older people so change is impossible. People who are part of the outside don’t feel welcomed into the inside and voice an opinion; it’s filled with mama’s boys. Sixth, your church is more concerned about image them reality. You all seem to be more concerned with the condition with building then with building the condition of your people. The carpet looks great, because no food is allowed near it. The stain glass is wonderful; because you spend more money on cleaning and maintaining it then you do on mission work. Seventh, your church sees no need for change. You are all happy in your fortress and are not interested in opening your doors to the outside. Evangelism is a dead concept, and community is only those inside the building. Eighth, your church doesn’t share a relevant message for a relevant time. You’re so concerned with doctrine, you are not allowing me to explore the faith and question the unquestionable. Ninth, your church doesn’t care about me as a person, only as a checkbook. Over the time I was with the church I heard more sermons on how much I should be giving and not one on how much you were willing to give up. The only time I had anyone from your church visit me was when “pledge time” came around and you needed me to increase my giving. It got to the point were I felt no matter what I gave it would never be enough. Tenth, your church is all politics and infighting. Things only get done if you can muster enough political support form others to get your point to be heard, press your issues and lobby for approval. You have to wheel and deal to get anything done.”

Wow. Needless to say I was impressed, and a bit confused. (Granted, this is not a word for word, but when I read it to my friend he agreed that it was pretty much what he said.) The man looked at my friend and said, “Well, we understand Satan has gotten a hold of you and these are not your words, but his. We will be praying for you and keeping in touch to help you return to ‘God’s church.” My friend just looked at him confused – he had just sent a half hour giving a point-by-point reasoning as to why he left “his” church and the man did not hear a word. In fact, he did what most people in his position do, he put it back on my friend – as if to say, ‘we’re not wrong, you are. And one day you will see that.’ The attitude is, if you question us it is because you don’t understand God and you are not mature in Christ and you need others to pray for you.

Chaos and The Big Ten

In chaos theory there is this very cool thing called “turbulence.” Now, turbulence is pure destruction. It can best be defined as “destruction inside destruction.” If you were to take a snapshot of turbulence and magnify it over and over again what you would find would be an infinite number or little turbulences inside. Turbulence is turbulence inside turbulence inside turbulence – to an infinite depth. As Gleick writes in Chaos, Making a New Science, “It is a mess of disorder at all scales, small eddies within large ones. It is unstable. It is highly dissipative, meaning that turbulences drains energy and creates drag.” When you are dealing with turbulence is as if all known rules simply breakdown and have no meaning. Turbulence will destroy, and will damage, and will disturbed. The question is just how much?

When air, water or any object, reached certain velocity turbulence will occur – guaranteed. Interestingly, the velocity has nothing to do with increased speed; turbulence can be caused on a decrease of speed. It has to do with “critical velocity.” Ever notice a person who smokes? Take a look at the cigarette that is lit and in the ashtray. Notice the smooth line of smoke climbing from the cigarette? Watch it for a few seconds and notice that all of a sudden the smooth line of smoke starts to go a little wacky at the top? That is turbulence, a host of eddies forming and causing a mess.

If we look at the church, and not just the one mentioned earlier but all churches, we could get a picture of the turbulence that can cause a church to feed upon itself and die. Here are the top ten reason given by my friend in his “conversation” with the older gentlemen:

1. It does not understand the community at large
2. It has poor leadership
3. It has no solid vision
4. It is graying, quickly
5. It’s inbred
6. It’s concerned with look and not action
7. It’s comfortable in its misery, and is looking for company
8. It’s out of touch with the 21st century
9. It’s all about money
10. It’s all politics

These are the turbulences of the church, the eddies that form the destruction of the church on earth. Like so much of turbulence in chaos theory, these eddies are small and seldom noticed. Another interesting thing that comes from turbulence is the reality that turbulence is always present. When things are running smooth, the eddies that form are small and quickly breakdown. But if the eddies are ignored they multiply and become dangerous.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at each of these topics and exploring the details connected with them. My prayer is that we can learn from my friend and see the wisdom of his prophetic insight into the church. But for that to truly happen one must be honest and blunt – so, be prepared for some shocking stuff.

Meeting Brad Almighty
by Andrew Hamilton

Two years ago at the birth of our first child my wife became part of a local “mother’s group”, a regular weekly social group where new mums could come together and share the experiences that go with the first baby. Since meeting, the four girls have formed some really close friendships and travelled a great journey together, so when one of them decided she was going to get married Danelle was an obvious invite – along with me…

Now I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy weddings – of people I know, however when it comes to those I don’t know – and more particularly when it comes to spending a whole day with those people, then I’m not so keen. As a natural introvert it takes a lot of energy to engage with people I have never met before and may never see again. I have also had too many experiences of being stuck on a table in the corner next to the most boring man in the universe.

However, we were going to this wedding… that much was certain! In fact I even got asked to say ‘grace’ (I am a professional after all.) Given that no one in the families was even remotely connected with church, God or any kind of religion it seemed an unusual request, but I agreed to do it.

The ceremony was over in a matter of minutes – as most civil marriages are – and despite the syrupy sweet celebrant it was quite a pleasant affair.

When the reception came we took our seats and introduced ourselves to everyone around the table. There was a good vibe – and some good wine. I even started to enjoy myself! Then time came for me to do my thing. I was announced and strolled up to the platform feeling a little out of place, but polite guests bowed their heads and played along. As with most of my ‘graces’ it was a fairly laid back affair and all over and done with in a matter of seconds.

With the initial formalities complete we hoed into the food and wine and became part of the dinner time conversation. By 9.15 pm – very early for a wedding – the meal and speeches were both completed. From here until midnight it was dance time… Oh yeh baby!… Now I have nothing against people who dance – I just don’t happen to be one of them. As the music thumped I slouched in my chair and began to feel like it was going to be a very long two and a half hours.

Then Brad, one of the other unfortunate non-dancing husbands sidled up and asked if he could pose a question to me.

“Sure…” I said, wondering what lay ahead, but figuring anything was better than 2 ½ hours of 80’s music.

“How did you feel saying grace tonight?” he asked boldly as he sat down next to me.

Where is this heading?... I thought. What’s he asking that for? The honest answer was that I felt fine, if a little curious at the ‘why?’ of it all, so I told him that. He pushed a bit harder and asked me if I felt out of place performing a religious act in the middle of a group of people who couldn’t have cared less. (I did, but maybe years of preaching in churches have hardened me!)

“Did you feel like it was a sham?” he asked.

“Well, maybe it was… for some.” I agreed. “But it was still a meaningful thing for me and it may have encouraged some people to think about the bigger picture of life”

Then Brad cut to the chase… “You see… a few months back two groups of friends asked me to be a godparent to their kids. I said ‘yes’… I mean what else could you say? But all along I have felt like a fake and I can’t understand how they could do it either? We all took vows we are not going to keep and for what? What has it really achieved?”

These were good questions and I could tell that they came from someone who was concerned to live with integrity. These questions were disturbing Brad and my short prayer before the meal brought them back to him.

We began to talk… a simple conversation really… We spoke about life, kids, working hard, helping others… Brad was one of those ‘salt of the earth’ types – a really good guy, a caring husband and father and someone who was concerned to make the most of his life. We spoke about faith and he told me that he couldn’t see why he would need to be religious as he was a decent bloke and did the right thing by other people.

The conversation lasted nearly an hour and a half but it was just two sentences halfway thru that left an indelible impression on me.

After we had shared the basics of our lives and discovered that we both wanted to be men who made a contribution to the world and who thought of others, Brad said to me “You know… you and me are very similar people. We both care for others and we both want to do good. We are very similar”

Now as a person gifted in the whole area of evangelism this was my opportunity to dive in and present the gospel. True?...

I believe it was an opportunity to share the gospel – a great opportunity, but I also found myself doing it in a way different to what I have so many times before. In a past life Brad’s statement ‘You and I are very similar people’ was my cue to say ‘Oh no we’re not! Let me show you why’ and to then start explaining his fallenness and my redeemedness with a view to helping him turn from his life of sin.

However this time I found myself saying ‘You know… I think you’re right there. We are very similar people’. As the words tumbled out, completely unplanned, they felt right, but sounded wrong. Years of practice seemed to tell me I had blown it. But I continued… “Maybe where we differ is that I orient my life around Jesus Christ and seek to live like him. How about you?”

“I don’t know” Brad said “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

In case you missed it…

The difference between my old evangelistic script and the spontaneous (I believe ‘spirit led’) response of this time was simply the starting point. In my old script I began with people as sinners in need of forgiveness and destined for eternity separated from God (all true). And while the Christian story was hard-wired into the psyche we could sometimes get away with it.

But in a post-christian age those approaches just won’t cut it. Try telling most people today that they are sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness and see how long the conversation lasts.

“I might do some stuff wrong, but I’m not a sinner!!”

“Basically I’m a good person.”

If we are to engage in real meaningful dialogue with people who are not Christians then we will need to recognize that they do not perceive themselves as sinful. So our attempts to convince them of their depravity will of course be met with resistance if not anger and accusations of judgement.

As I spoke with Brad I felt God was asking me to recognize our common humanity. To see that rather than being very different from those who do not follow Jesus I actually have a lot in common. The image of the creator is in both of us. It's this image that leads us to live good lives, to be decent citizens to ask questions about life.

It's just a starting point, but maybe it’s a significant key to ongoing conversation with good-living people who need to know Jesus.

Contagious Disease strikes Christians!


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Any advice?

I will not mention names due to the sensitive nature of this. What do you tell a mother who's son is really out of control? Patty and I have been praying for this situation. The kid is in high school, does what he wants and is out of control. Left the house last night and never came home. He was located this morning and is home now.

It seems he doesn't go to class, doesn't listen to his mom or dad at all. I guess the cops are going to come and talk to him today. But what can a parent do in this situation? Please post advice as the Spirit leads you and please be in prayer. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Things I know now!

As some of you have probably noticed, I am very bitter about some things that happened at my old church and have recently begun processing a lot of it through my blog. I guess I am still angry about most of it. But I do believe that I went through this for a reason. Otherwise, me and my family would not be where we are at today in a healthy church. This may be confusing as I jot down some thoughts going through my head right now but just bear with me.

I am sober today through the supernatural healing of Jesus Christ who took any and all desire to use mood altering substances away from me on the spot. There is no other way to describe what happened. We used to go to Fazoli's after church on Sunday nights and I remember a conversation I had with a certain person that night. Let me first explain a few things. After my last binge over 5 years ago I was in a detox unit and the following day I had a choice to make. My insurance was not going to pay anymore for me to be there. The Pastor had been in contact with Teen Challenge and I was accepted to go into the program. However, I would have lost my job and all benefits because it is a yearlong program. Someone from my old church told me that I could not stay sober unless I went to Teen Challenge. Well I am happy to say I am clean and sober to this day. Why would someone say that to a person?

I recall having a conversation with someone after church one Sunday night. I had made the comment that we had to get home because it was getting late and Shannon had school in the morning. This person then stated that when they were young they just didn't go to school on Monday's because church was more important than school.

My wife and I were dragged through the mud a few times in the Pastor's office. I don't really know what was going on here because all of the accusations were totally false and I think it had to do with someone's "agenda". Why we didn't leave then I do not know.

Some things I observed...
Legalism, Dictatorship, Agendas, Church before family. All unhealthy in my opinion.

I have been to some gatherings with folks from this church since then. I made a point to go up to a certain person and greet him on a couple of occassions at these gatherings. the last time was Christmastime at their live nativity scene. I made eye contact with him and he saw me. But I got that "look". The look I know all too well by now. He did not greet me or smile. He just avoided me. I guess I am "bad" because I left this church.

If you are shunned because you left a church and you have done nothing morally or biblically wrong, then this is morally wrong on their part. I don't know if it is a pride thing or a power trip. But it is wrong.

I have had some people apologize to me personally. These are true friends that still go to this church that saw some things after we left. Thank you. You know who you are.

I know what a healthy church is now. I go to one. I have grown more spiritually this past year than I ever have in my entire life. I am sure there are some folks in my church that are judgemental and legalistic. But I do not see that in the leadership of this church at all. I see love, compassion, and true caring.

Thank you Lord for bringing me to the point I am at now in my life. Surrounding me with people that are trying to show others what Kingdom living is all about. It is not about control, judging others, legalism, or show. It is about loving others as You love us. Putting others first.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Marathon for Ireland Mission Trip

Well folks, the 5th annual Lost Dutchman Marathon is a week from tomorrow. At 7 am on Sunday February 19th I will be embarking on a 26.2 mile run. I have run two of them in the past and I can tell you one thing from experience, it hurts! Especially the 2 days afterwards. The first marathon I ran and finished in 5 hours and 50 minutes. The second one I finished in 5 hours and 30 minutes. My goal for the 19th is to finish right at 5 hours. Meaning I am hoping to be limping across the finish line around noon. If you care to come out and cheer me on there is a map of the course in the link provided below.


A lot of folks run for different charities. I want this marathon to mean something so I am dedicating this race to the folks that have to raise the most money and that is definitely the folks from our church that are going on the Ireland Mission Trip.

What I am asking is for people to sponsor me. If you wish to help support these folks from our church that are going to Ireland you may write a check out to Vineyard Community Church in the amount you wish to donate. Your donation is tax deductible. Please specify in the memo of the check or enclose a note that this is a donation for the Ireland Mission Trip. The money will be divided up equally between the folks that are going. The address to the church is:
Vineyard Community Church
601 S. Cooper Road
Gilbert, AZ 85233

I will also be sitting out in the foyer of the church tomorrow morning before all 3 services asking for folks to sponsor me. If you cannot sponsor me, I ask that you pray for me while I am running this race, that I will remain injury free, and that I will recover quickly in the days following it. I did take the week off from work as I know from prior experience I will need it. Please also keep the kids and adults that are going on this mission trip in prayer, that they will be able to raise the funds to do so and that they will serve and represent the Kingdom of God in their service and actions.

Phillipians 3:12-14 says
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting what is in the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us to up in heaven.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Addressing Obstacles to Christianity

Perhaps the biggest faith-deterrent for the average person today is not so much violence and warfare but the shadow of fanaticism. Many non-believers in Christianity have friends or relatives that have become ‘born again’ and seem to have gone off the deep end. They soon begin to loudly express disapproval of various groups and sectors of our society—especially movies and television, the Democratic party, homosexuals, evolutionists, activist judges, members of other religions (all of which are branded ‘false’) and public schools. When arguing for the truth of their faith they often appear intolerant and self-righteous. This is what many people would call fanaticism.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

EMPATHY FOR SIN, SYMPATHY FOR SINNERS: Brokeback Mountain and The End of the Spear Controversy


Monday, February 06, 2006

The AFA vs. The Book of Daniel

I am so freaking sick of the AFA and the crap that they pull. It really gives Christians a bad name in my honest opinion. "Sign this and send it to NBC telling them that they're all going to hell for putting such a program on the air." Yada yada yada. "Don't shop here because they can't say Merry Christmas." Give me a break people.

Folks, there is a knob on your remote control that changes channels or turns the TV on and off. Use it! If you don't like a store's policy or the fact that they are homosexual friendly workplaces, don't shop there.

I also do not believe that it was the "AFA" that caused this show to be taken off the air. Petitions do not work. Ratings do.

Hey, I didn't watch the program but have heard plenty about it to know what the gist of the program was. Why doesn't the AFA do something to get Pat Robertson off the air? I am sick of hearing comments from non-christians trying to compare what Christianity is to people like him and folks that are associated with the AFA.

I think that the Religious Right Wing folks (the AFA, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, etc) have done far more damage to the image of Christianity than a TV program ever would. If anything, they are portraying Christians as contentious and unloving.

Just my 2 cents but I had to vent about this.

Am I emergent?

Renee Altson is the author of Stumbling Toward Faith, an emergentYS book that was published in September 2004.

Here is the soundbite from her on the emerging church movement:

“Here’s what I know about the kind of church I’m looking for. I’m looking for a church that honors story, that holds a big God, and that creates a safe place for people to be human with one another.
More than anything, I am exhausted with the effort that so many churches put forward in pretending. True community, as I hope to live it, involves us sharing in each other’s moments of joy, pain, doubt, belief, despair, hopelessness, and faith. It is truly a journey with one another.
I don’t know that this makes me ‘emergent’ — and I certainly don’t know that any definition ever truly can define what I’m looking for — but I do know that in my experience with the emerging church, I have found more of an open attitude to these things I seek. If nothing else, the emergent church is engaging in conversation that many other churches are not willing, nor able, to have.”

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bono's remarks at Prayer Breakfast

Bono Lauds, Prods Prayer Breakfast

U2 activist reaffirms call to fight AIDS, poverty before audience including President Bush.
by Sheryl Henderson Blunt in Washington, D.C. posted 02/02/2006 02:00 p.m.

Bono, keynote speaker for the 54th National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton Washington Hotel on February 2, urged American leaders to follow through with promises to aid the world's sick and impoverished. He lauded the audience of national and foreign government, military, and religious leaders for their efforts to fight AIDS and grant debt relief for Africa. But Bono also prodded them make harder sacrifices.
"After 9/11, we were told America would have no time for the world's poor. We were told that America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. … But America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors." Bono said. "You have doubled aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. And Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support of the Global Fund, has put 700,000 people onto life-saving antiretroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria. … But here's the bad news. There is so much more to do. There is a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response."
Event planners had tried to keep the U2 frontman's appearance a carefully guarded secret. He co-founded the Washington-based humanitarian organization, DATA (Debt. AIDS. Trade. Africa.). He has been recruiting churches and American politicians in the battle against the AIDS pandemic. He said treatable diseases cost Africa 150,000 lives every month—a "completely avoidable catastrophe." He also chastised those who champion free markets while preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products.
"While the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject," Bono said. "There are the laws of the land, and then there is a higher standard. We can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so that they say it's okay to protect our agriculture, but it's not okay for African farmer to protect their agriculture to earn a living. As the laws of man are written, that's what they say. But God will not accept that."
The advocate also called again for the U.S. government to increase its foreign aid contribution by 1 percent of the federal budget. Bono said, "It sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, 1 percent is the best bargain around."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Gospel Song For a Restless Spirit

I am reading "Walk On: The Spriritual Journey of U2" right now. Chapter 7 really touched me. Here is a long excerpt from it.

The Joshua Tree was u2's finest moment. Until the album's release in 1987, the group had been all potential and promise. With The Joshua Tree, U2 achieved it. The album welcomed their status as rock ledgends. Yet as U2 sat at the top of the music charts around the world, the Christian community used the album's release as reason to write the band's spiritual obituary. One of the songs in particular sparked the backlash. It had the band's former Christian community in Dublin, as well as many believers around the world, mourning-and in some cases celebrating-the evidence that the band's days of being torchbearers of Christian truth were over. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was a pivotal song in the band's artistic intentions and spiritual development. The Soul Patrol and Theological Police were out in force, though, and they concluded their case that anyone who had not found what what they were looking for could not have found Christ.

It was a remarkable response that not only highlighted a shoddy piece of listening to the song's lyrics, but also showed a great error in what was masquerading in some quarters as Christianity. There seems to be a belief that once someone makes the initial connection with Jesus Christ, he has arrived. Immediately, a watertight box of solutions is handed to him. No more questions need to be asked-Jesus is the answer! Everything is now explained; there is nothing left to search for. This view is built on a need for precision and perfection, which have always been enemies of art, which is all about coloring outside the lines. It is also an enemy of the reality that following Jesus is a journey, not an arrival.

The members of U2 knew what they were stirring up. By now, disillusioned with former fellowships or churches of any kind and growing in their own spiritual thinking, they were making a statement about a less dogmatic approach to their faith. Yet the dogma in the song is widespread. Even with the song's dichotomy, it could be regarded as their clearest confession of faith. Daniel Lanois spoke on The Making of The Joshua Tree video about having suggested that Bono write a gospel song. up to that point, the band had been writing songs with Christian content. A gospel song was another category entirely, and Lanois seemed to have seen it as a natural place of inspiration for a band that was so wrapped up in all things Christian. Bono listened to his producers advice and wrote "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," calling it "a gospel song for a restless spirit."

The Joshua Tree was the album on which Bono discovered the art of the song. Before this, there had been a lot of impressionistic improvisation. But somewhere between The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree, Bono began to hone his craft. It could have been that sharing stages with the likes of Dylan, Baez, and Sting and hanging out with great writers had provoked bono to try to imitate his peers. Perhaps it was a new sense of belief in what the band was becoming. Whatever it was, The Joshua Tree took the experimentation of Eno and Lanois' The Unforgettable Fire, melted it into the tighter sounds of Lillywhite's first three albums, and added more attention to lyrical detail. The result: "Our most literate record yet," according to Bono. His focus on the song made "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" a concise creed of redemption: Jesus breaks bonds, looses chains, carries the cross and all of our shame. After the confession there is the clear and confident assent of "I believe it."

Redemption, atonement, and the substitution death of Christ. There would be no more succinct a theology of the cross in all the songs that were coming from the Christian bands that U2's Christian critics would hold as models of sound theological content. The band, which many condemned for not proclaiming the Gospel and being ashamed of it, could not have spelled it out more clearly or poetically. Surely, this is what the Church needed. Christians in the real world being salt and light (Matt. 5:13,16)-and in this case with a dirty great big fog horn, proclaiming the faith with the attention of the nation if not the greater part of the world. The song held the number one position on the singles charts for more than a month.

Instead of being a rejection faith, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is an indication that U2 might have been closer to biblical truth than the narrow and precise Christians who pointed their fingers. In the book The Post-Evangelical, English vicar Dave Tomlinson states: "Evangelicalism is good at introducing people to faith in Christ, but unhelpful when it comes to the matter of progressing into a more grown-up experience of faith." Tomlinson may generalize, but it is true that the evangelical wing of the Church spends a lot of energy on being "born again" but little time on "growing up" again. There is a failing to encourage newborn believers out of the maternity ward and into the big world where they will spend the rest of their spiritual lives trying to find what they are looking for.

The New Testament contains a letter from the apostle Paul to the church in Philippi. Paul makes his beliefs clear. He tells the Phillipians he has given up striving to get to God by being a religious Pharisee and has put his belief in the "righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Phil. 3:9). After years of working on some kind of way to God by adhering to his Jewish rituals, rules, and regulations, he has set them aside and now believes in the Gospel that U2 so elegantly describes in its hit single. Paul could not find what he was looking for by being religious.

He says: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me ... Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on" (Phil. 4:12-14). Paul had to take the belief, then go where that belief would lead him. Proclaiming a new doctrinal statement did not bring with it an overnight holiness. He had to keep "pressing on to the higher calling of my Lord," as Bob Dylan had paraphrased on his song "Pressing On" from his Saved album in 1980.

If Christians look at the events of the past few years in Rwanda, Angola, Mozambique, Sarajevo, the Middle East, or Belfast City, they cannot say those tradgedies are what they have been looking for. If they look at a church filled with gossip, malicious lies in the name of truth, the bondage of legalism, or the bigoted hypocrites who sometimes hold power, they can't say this is what they are looking for. As they look into their own lives and see the egotistical, selfish, sinful spouse, parent, child, workmate, or friend, they can't say they have found what they are looking for. It is the realization that they haven't found what they are looking for that should draw them back to the only hope for being born again or growing up again: that someone broke bonds and chains and carried the cross in our place. It is only God's grace, through that work of redemption, that has brought them safe this far. And it is only His grace, through that work of redemption, that will lead them home. Until believers take that breath out of this world and into the hope-filled eternity of the next, they will be searching.

Bono's running and climbing and crawling toward that kingdom of oneness and realizing that as well as speaking in the tongues of angels, he sometimes holds the hand of the devil-this is perhaps a truer description of the pilgrimage of faith. Bono has been honest about his failings when it comes to his life and Christian journey. While the Church might ignore the darkness within and try to cover up its hang-ups with a shirt and tie, Bono has continually shown us himself, warts and all. That the Church has covered its eyes perhaps is a hint that it fears such honesty. In admitting to their doubts and weaknesses, the members of U2 got condemned from the very place where everyone should have raised their hands and said, "Hey, this is a perfect description of my yet imperfect faith. I believe all this, but, man, I need to keep running."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A mugging with a cool twist

I like to read Tony's blog. I had the opportunity to meet Tony when he came to Gilbert Serve during the Summer of 2005. Great guy, servant, and blogger. Here is his blog:

Well today I'm reading his blog and he had posted a very cool story from another guy's blog which is here:

Enjoy this post.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
St. Antonio: Que clima frio!

Although the cherry blossoms are appearing a bit early this year, tonight was proof that winter still looms. Although the winter is good for showing off my large collection of flannel shirts, I do miss the days when a breath of air doesn’t result in my nasals burning and sticking together. Ah, how I wish it was el verano.

Today as I walked home, I tucked my chin into my chest and put mis manos in my pockets. The day started off warm enough, so I did not bring a hat, gloves, or a scarf. Many times I feel that my Guatamalanness will be sufficient for warmth and many times I am sadly mistaken.

Walking in the dark is never an issue. People in my neighborhood know me and nod when they see me coming. Some who prefer to wave do so, but I nod. It is too cold to remove my hands from my pockets.

Today was not like most nights. There was commotion on my walk home. About one block after I got off my stop I heard quick steps coming in my direction. Before I had an opportunity to turn around hands were on my back pushing me down and pulling at my neck. My gold chain.

I felt the chain break around mi cuello and create a blood blister before it gave way to my attacker. A nice kick to the back of the head was my reward for relinquishing my St. Antonio gold necklace and medallion that was given to me by one of my tias. The gentleman who forgot to give me his name ran off north on 13th street before making off on Kansas Ave.

Pobre attacker. This is not his day. I got up on all fours and peered from the top of my eyes as my soon to be friend made off with a smile on his face. I smiled. This is my first mugging. Now I can join the women who live in Logan Circle and tell stories.

Pobre attacker. This is not his day. He must not have realized he was jumping a Guatemalan named El Guapo. You see, in my day I was quite the runner and rust has yet to take over my body. For two seconds I stayed on all fours watching him run away. I decided to say the prayer of St. Antonio, who is the saint of lost things. After all, my medallion was lost.

I got to my feet and started running after my soon to be friend. He had slowed to a jog and was expecting me, like most of his victims, to stay down. I am not only Guatemalan, but guapo as well. I need to have my gold. After all, gold is the bar code of Latinos and Armenians since 1932. I wanted my baby back.

Running was not being done on the sidewalks, but on the street where the pavement makes less of a sound on my leather soles. A quick honk alerted him to my presence and he went a bit faster, but by this time I was 3 meters behind him. My new amigo was starting to yell things at me,

“I gotta gun dude. I gotta gun.”No you don’t. No you don’t, amigo. You run too freely for someone who has a gun. No tienes nada mi amigo. No tienes nada.

He turns around and actually spits at me hitting me in the chest where my medallion would have protected me. Oh boy. This is not going to be fun, but I believe this is better than Yoga. At this point I could have tackled my new friend, but I had spit on my sweater. I was in no tackling mood. Instead, I swiped at his foot and his momentum put him to the ground chest then chin. He realized he bled when he wiped his red sleeve sticking out of his jacket on his face. I hovered around him like a wolf does prior to eating his prey. I smiled and showed my tongue while smiling. He was up against wall on the sidewalk leading to someone’s home. I leaned down, smiled, and said, “Hola amigo.”

“Fuck you!”

Yes. Fuck me. It has been a long time since I have been in any kind of physical altercation and I thought about ending my streak with this new friend of mine, but I changed my mind. His body showed the deterioration from which I have grown too accustomed in my neighborhood. I saw the beginning of tracks on his arms. My friend had allowed a greater being to take control of his life. I could not hurt him. He was already hurting.

That necklace was given to me by my aunt. I’d like it back please. It means much to me.

I looked at him in the eye as only another man can and he handed it to me trembling. The look of guilt was in his eyes for he had done this act in desperation. Without thinking, I reached into my pocket and gave him a $20. I know what this money will obtain, but I wish that it holds him over until he feels the urge to hurt another. Too many of my brothers have fallen with this ill.

He took my money and no thank you was needed. The look on one man’s face is all that is required in times like this. He walked north towards his treasure and looked back only once as I stood staring at him go away.

As I walked home holding my broken necklace I said a prayer to St. Anthony. I asked for my new friend’s soul to be found.

Mucho Amor,

El Guapo

posted by El Guapo in DC

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Emerging Beautiful Mess & The Kingdom of God

It ain't just about doing church on Sunday's folks. i really like this emergent church movement and believe this is what it's all about. anyhow, here's another article of the many I post. This one really touched my heart more than some of the others. Enjoy! or not!