Henri Nouwen on a good teacher’s “articulate not-knowing”

Many Christians operate under the premise that humanity is so thoroughly wicked and corrupt that we can’t trust our intuitions about anything. So the only solution to that is to find a “Biblical” teacher who knows the answer to everything and wins every argument. The assumption is that anyone who questions that teacher is part of the devil’s plot to sabotage the teacher’s faithful witness. But my experience with teachers and mentors has been that I seek the opposite of that kind of teacher. Henri Nouwen describes my kind of teacher in the following passage from Reaching Out: Continue reading

Monday Merton 6.24.13: Mercy

This week’s Monday Merton is taken from chapter 11 of No Man Is An Island, “Mercy.” I feel like starting off by sharing one of my favorite gems from James 2:12-13 which I only discovered recently: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Thanks be to God that mercy does indeed triumph over judgment. Continue reading

Can we have a real conversation about civil liberties now that the government is spying on white people too?

spying on white people

It’s quite the ideological whiplash to transition from the outrage over the Boston marathon bombing (Why didn’t the FBI do more to prevent this horrible tragedy?) to the NSA outrage (How dare you mine our private data from Google to spy on suspected terrorists? There are white people who use Google!). You can’t have a world in which Benghazis are guaranteed not to happen and have your civil liberties too. Well, unless you make the law officially racist and ban Muslim foreign students from getting visas while exempting white people from things like taking off their shoes at airports… Continue reading

Viaje Dominicano 2013 #6: Un cumpleaños memorable

[Today’s entry comes from Erin Lauer whose daughter Anna celebrated her eighth birthday yesterday with us here in the Dominican Republic]

Flashback to 2005… Ethan and I were blessed by the birth of our first daughter, Anna Ruth. That day will forever be etched on our hearts, as she was truly a dream come true. She was born at one of the best hospitals in the nation where she and I received top-notch care. Shortly thereafter, we welcomed her into our comfortable home where she did not want for anything (we had even received a wipe-warmer as a baby gift!). Right from the start, Anna’s future was secure. Continue reading

Viaje Dominicano #3: My God is a great big God

[I decided to take a Sabbath from the blog for the rest of my mission trip and let my fellow mission team members guest post for me each night instead. This first post is from Robert Greenwood.]

I am 48 hours into my first international mission trip and I have been tasked with writing the first blog entry from our trip to the Dominican Republic.  As a newbie fresh into the experience, I thought it might be most helpful to reflect on some of my thoughts leading up to our departure.  When I took the step to commit myself to participate in a mission trip, a lot of questions ran through my head about what I had committed myself to.  Questions like: What is a mission trip?  I really don’t have any skills that would be useful.  I know I am not a model Christian.  If I do go work as part of a team, will our work really make any difference?  What if I do something that damages someone’s relationship with God?

As I wrestled with these questions, I also found myself inside my own head exploring the foundations of my own faith.  It was our co-leader Jane who said at one of our first meetings that we are not taking God to the Dominican Republic; he is already there.  He may look different to us.  But he is there already working and ready to work with us when we get there.

Over the weeks that followed I found myself thinking more about a very early experience I had in the church that I grew up in.  I remember being in grade school and wondering if the devil was talking to me, telling me that God did not care as much about all the rules of the church as much as the church seemed to.  That is what I felt, but I was not going to tell anyone.  Then one summer we had a vacation bible school week based on the children’s hymn “My God is a Great Big God.”  Wow I remember thinking — God is more than anyone of us can comprehend?  Now that was something that I could believe in!

Over the years, as I have learned about the big bang, history of war and conflicts, the life cycle of stars, the perspectives of different peoples that share different sides of an event, quantum theory, I have always thought — wow my God is a great big God.  And the exciting thing about a mission trip, at least this mission, is the opportunity to step outside the particular of a church to experience the universalness of God.  In the Dominican Republic we have had the opportunity to meet some of our other brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are part of a universal church, but God has worked through their history in a different way.

It is in this moment of time that I have the privilege to have a supportive family and the resources to choose to embark on this mission trip.     Before we even left it has been a great opportunity to wrestle a little with my faith.  And having spent a few hours here and experienced some of the work of the Christian community here and the other Christian visitors that had gone before me, some of my initial questions seem a little silly.  So little of the success of any of this depends on my personal ability.  Many hands do indeed make for light work.

The fate of “those who destroy the Earth”: Revelation 11:18

While I’m down here in the Dominican Republic, I’ve been reading some theology books in Spanish to improve my fluency. One of them is called La Palabra No Está Encadenada (“The word is not enchained”) by Xavier Alegre. He has a chapter on the book of Revelation that interprets it as “Christian resistance and prophetic hope.” Revelation is usually the anti-environmentalist prooftext par excellence. If God’s going to destroy the world anyway, why should we care about driving SUV’s (as Mark Driscoll jokingly tweeted)? But what the twenty four elders around the throne say to God in Revelation 11:18 ought to give the Al Gore-haters and climate change-deniers some pause:

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My mommy was my first pastor

mom summer 2011 cropped

This is a picture of my mom holding my son Isaiah two summers ago. I preached a sermon that summer in the Dominican Republic on their Mother’s Day which is the last Sunday in May. My passage was 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. If it sounds more simple and straightforward than how I usually write, it’s because it was originally written in Spanish and my vocabulary is limited. Basically my point was that mothers are called to be the pastors of their family. That’s what my mother was to me, and it has made all the difference. Continue reading

An idea: smoking hot sermons from on-fire preacherwomen

So I got an idea of a way to turn the “smoking hot wife” meme against its patriarchal self. Let’s share some smoking hot sermon podcasts from some on-fire preacherwomen like Nadia Bolz-Weber, Amanda Garber, Lillian Daniel, etc. I heard one from Charith Fee-Nordling at the Missio Alliance conference; my word, it about burned a hole straight through me. So if you’ve heard a smoking hot sermon from a preacherwomen, put a link to it in the comment section or if you just know of a preacherwomen with some prophetic fire, then put her name. If you participate, then I’ll check out these links and come up with a top ten or something like that.

So what about other religions?

We’ve been having a very stimulating conversation at our confirmation retreat that has completely derailed from my plans, but as I learned at the Missio Alliance, the Holy Spirit is a spirit of disruption. I’ve been so grateful that these kids have been bold with their questions because my presentation felt very flat and boring. And then they made me squirm by asking about people from other religions. Do they go to heaven too? Don’t we all just have different names for the same God? Oh boy… Continue reading