Thursday Random Thoughts

1. The Auburn/Alabama rivalry is crazy. It’s like soccer, only no one get’s killed. Yet.

2. In a world of cool, quirky and functional, it is nearly impossible for us understand that what is ‘lovely’ is a means of sanctification.

3. Do any church leaders ever think, “Hey, let’s make this event smaller than last year?”

4. You probably think I talk about bacon too much. That’s just crazy. More than likely you don’t talk about it enough.

5. Relax. It is finished.

6. I most likely preached my worst sermon ever this past week. Glad to get that over with.

7. There is nothing more radical in our day and age than to be still and know God is God.

8. I had very little idea of what a pastor was until about a year ago.

9. We stand on the shoulders of giants, who we probably would not follow.

10. Do you love the silence of Paul on issues that are dear to you?

More Random Thoughts

1.  Have I mentioned there is a new Radiohead album coming this Saturday?

2. Have I mentioned how much I like bacon?

3. My second grade daughter made me and the wife valentines all by herself. You might as well not offer money for mine. No matter the amount, I wouldn’t take it.

4.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot get into Mumford &Sons or the Avett Brothers.

5. I just started Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson and cannot stop thinking about it.

Angry Along With the Scriptures

Earlier today I was alerted to something which made me angry. Nail-spitting, lightening bolt-throwing anger. The kind of anger that wells up like lava in the pit of your stomach and makes you glad you are not acquainted with weaponry of any sort. That rare anger making all work impossible. The kind that makes you quiet, severely so. The kind of anger that can only come from a personal affront by a public act.

Dealing with such anger is hard because I am unaccustomed with it. Maybe that is why I dealt with it differently today. Usually I would seethe and listen to the Clash. Maybe Social Distortion. And do so as loudly as I could till my own emotions were worn down by the frenetic and voluminous decibels challenging my ear-drums and age. But today I did something different.

I read a Psalm. Psalm 4 to be exact. My cousin Luke read it at a prayer gathering about a month ago and I’ve been seeping in it for as long. This is new for me. To be so quick to go to the Scriptures when mad about something. I am not sure I have ever done this. When sad? Yes. Happy? You bet. Confused and needing help? Regularly. But I have never – that I can recall – gone to my Bible when ticked off. Righteous anger or not.

It helped. And not because it fixed me. But because it drew me into a story and a conversation about God and his people and the anger they can feel. If anything, reading the Psalm put sinew and flesh, muscle and veins full of blood on the bones of my indignation. But it steadied me too.  Without telling me to calm down, I did so anyway.  Thankfully it is not the calm of wishing it away. But the serene disposition of being glad I am angry. The alive-ness of pointing to a wrong and not ignoring it. Sometimes not being angry is a wretched thing. And I am thankful for the anger of David. And God, himself, satisfied.

Psalm 4
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Random Thoughts

1. New Radiohead album due out this Saturday.

2. “Reading through the memoirs of Eugene Peterson is like reading in another world.”

3. Wait, so military coups are OK now?

4. Taylor Swift is pretty much Avril Lavigne.

5. The people of my church are incredible.

6. Bacon.

7. I don’t want to be a consumer of religious goods.

8. All these people keep talking about the problem of AT&T dropping calls. In my book, that’s a solution.

9. I don’t want to be a seller of religious goods.

10. There is more of Adrian Monk in me than I care to admit.

I Just finished Peterson’s Memoirs

I just finished Eugene Peterson’s memoirs which will be available next Tuesday. A review is coming…actually I hope to write a non-review review. I hate book reviews. Suffice it so say, for now, I loved every page. It was far better than I even could have imagined. Actually a lot of people will hate it. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing. And not doing.

It’s sad really. The young pastors in my world should be made to read it. But they won’t. They will read ‘how-to’ books and learn better how to sell Jesus. And update him. Make him cool. Palatable. Cool for a culture tyrannized by as much.

The non-review is coming next Tuesday. I’m about to read it again.

My Advance Copy of Peterson’s Memoirs Has Come In

No need to be impressed. I simply contacted the Publisher, happened to get the right person and they said they would be glad to send me an advance copy. A first born child might or might not have been promised.

It was delivered today.

Blogging could be light over the next week or so as I intend to write a review for this blog. It may in fact show up elsewhere. I hate book reviews. But I love books and I love to write about them. Maybe I can eek one out.

It is late Wednesday evening. As of right now, it is sitting about 8 feet from me. Painful as it is to wait, I will not begin till the morning. Sleep would be impossible if it was begun now. My biography of Garbo will have to tide me over till the morning.

Missional: The Mercurial Shibboleth

Irreligious Thought #3: The whole “what/who is missional?” conversation is weird to me. Shouldn’t we pick words that have been around awhile to get worked up about?

Let me start by saying I am not interested in criticizing those who use the term ‘missional’ per se. They are too respected by me. Too many sincere. And far too many worthy of emulation. The kind of men and women I’d prefer to point to other than myself. Plus I have used the term and will continue to use the term.

But I do think the discussion about who/what is missional is weird. Strange. Off-kilter.

And not because we should not care about the things people say we should be doing in order to be ‘missional.’ I just think it is weird I am being asked to be missional at all.

There seems to be disagreement on the meaning of the term. All of us who use the term ‘Trinity’ should be fine with the use of words not found in the Scriptures to describe those things we see in the Scriptures. But people do not argue about the word ‘Trinity.’ It’s been around a while. So people argue about whether there is a Trinity or not.

But ‘missional’ is pretty new. And hip. No one was using this term when I was in Seminary 10 years ago. We talked about church-planting alot. And we talked about missions, evangelism, apologetics and mercy ministry. But the term was yet to be en vogue.  Now it is used without definition and argued over fairly regularly. And what is mind-boggling is how it is now a descriptor for faithfulness. This is where it gets weird for me and I have trouble understanding it at all.

We have this descriptor – missional. It means different things to different groups of people. It is a new term in the history of the church. It is a litmus test for others – “They are not missional, therefore they are not faithful.” Inevitably, there are arguments about not only who is and who is not missional but what the actual term means.

Let me say, perhaps it worth getting to the bottom of. The subject – regardless of the meaning of the term – has some significance. This is not what is weird about the whole thing. What is weird is that it seems possible the term will move out of usage before we even get a handle on it. It’s got a mercurial quality about it.

Let me add a few closing thoughts:

– First, is ‘missional’ replacing another term? Is there a synonym? Are we describing something which already existed and had a term to describe it or does the word reveal some innovation?

– Second, Maybe we should stop using ‘missional’ as a litmus test. I see no harm in describing your church or ministry as such. But using it to downgrade the faithfulness of others seems rather presumptive while such a new term still unfamiliar to large swaths of the global church. It’s mercurial quality demands this also.

– Third, the word has already become a shibboleth. If you say it with confidence, you are good to go in some circles. Do we really want to trade in words this way?

– Fourth, we may already be there, but the word will soon be marketable. In other words, it will be used to sell books, music, tickets, curriculum, etc. (Prediction: T-shirt with ‘Got Missional?’ on the front.) We need to stop and think.

None of this means, we should stop using it. I should not look down on those who use it. Again, I use the term. But I have to use it knowing it is not a term everyone gets. It certainly cannot be term I would argue over.

Here is the entire list of Irreligious Thoughts.

All The Right Answers

Other teachers will understand me when I talk of how I’m learning far more than my students. The 9th graders in my Practical Theology are smarter than they think are. But I’ve noticed something.

There are two kinds of students in my class. Those who are familiar with the Scriptures and those who are not as much. Not that one group believes more than another. One group just knows the Bible a little better. The problem? When they open it up, the group most familiar, does not see what is there.

They see what they think is supposed to be there. They see what they think they are supposed to say. But they miss what is really there. Not because it is complex or hidden. They just have not learned to see stop and see what is there. Why? They think they have all the right answers.

I can only assume this is the case for adults too. We listen to lots of sermons and read lots of books. We read furiously through the Bible in a year. But we rarely read the Scriptures in a way that causes us stop and think deeply about a passage.

To see what is there instead of having all the right answers.

Salinger and Merton

In the past week I’ve read articles/blog posts about two people in particular: J.D. Salinger and Thomas Merton. Salinger wrote one of the most controversial books of the twentieth century. Merton was a monk in Kentucky.

I became interested in Salinger when I read about his reclusive life. Why would a cause celebre do this? This is what has also interested me in Great Garbo and Van Morrison. Why after so much success withdraw? In a culture hell-bent on celebrating celebrities? A new biography was released recently and I was hoping it would give me some answers. 
Thomas Merton keeps coming up. Eugene Peterson references him a lot. And I keep seeing quotes by him here and there. But I knew nothing about him. Then I read a post this past week. I got a little more interested. Not because I am interested in Roman Catholicism. Just interested in him. If he is good enough for Peterson, he is good enough for me. And Peterson did not let me down with Annie Dillard.
So this morning before I sat down in the library to study, I took a small detour to the biography section and looked for anything I could find on Merton. His autobiography was there. So I picked it up, sat down, opened it and saw enough to be interested even more.
After reading an article about Salinger today, I am less interested. His reclusiveness may have had a lot to do with his desire to be a cad. Anyway, gold lost its luster quick. And I was disappointed. But more than disappointed I was repulsed by this man’s life and its incongruence with his writing, which was supposed to be a compelling reaction to postwar America. And then I remembered something I had seen in the introduction to Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain – it was also a reaction to the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War.
And Merton also withdrew.

So here I am – a protestant reformed pastor – reading Merton – the Roman Catholic Monk – while taking breaks from sermon work.

10 Reasons You May Not Want To Read This Blog

This post is in celebration of having 50,000 hits on my little blog. Let’s see…Mom, you’ve probably clicked on here for about half of those.

1. I like the suburbs just fine.

2. I have read all of Jane Austen’s novels at least 5 times. P&P about 12 times.

3. I play with words and numbers in my head almost constantly. I mainly rearrange them. Think of it as grammatical and mathematical fung shei. This could prove I’m insane. Or just brilliant

4. I should have not graduated from HS. I needed a 65 in my 2nd attempt at Algebra 2. I got a 65 only because my teacher was tired of me.

5. I cry easily when watching movies.

6. My skin crawls more easily.

7. I listen to Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney. Loud.

8. Eugene Peterson saved my vocational soul.

9. I want to know why Paul never commands anyone besides pastors to evangelize.

10. I can and will go negative at any time – soli deo gloria.