Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Believe

I found this great book that is a collection of short writings, essays, and letters from religious leaders that address issues of peace and non-violence. From Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King jr. to Thich Nhat Hanh, Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, etc. all have incredible insight concerning the relationship between God, society, man, violence, and peace.

A section from this book entitled I Believe is what I wanted to share with you. I read with a pretty critical eye most days anyways, but I especially had my critical eyes focused when I came across this piece called I Believe. Yet, I found that my theology agrees with almost every line of this poem of sorts. It is really long, so I highlighted that lines that really stuck out to me.

I Believe
I believe in God
I believe in Jesus Christ
I believe in Man.

I believe in God as the infinite power which is the reason for my being.
I believe in Jesus Christ as major revelation of God.
I believe in man as the house of GOd, created in his image.

I believe that my finite person is incapable of ever comprehending the infinite, yet God reveals himself to me daily through myself and relations with others, through the lives of men and women throughout history, and ultimately through the life of Christ.

I believe that through Jesus Christ, the man from Nazareth, God reveals to me the life I should live.
I believe God lives within me and all of mankind.

I believe the basis of life is love: love on oneself, love of one's neighbor, as as Christ has said, love of one's enemies.

I believe we are meant to live in harmony.
I believe that when we seek this harmony with the motivations of love, we glorify God as he has commanded.

I believe in the basic law of God: Thou shall not kill.
I believe in the basic law of God: Thou shall have no other gods before me.
I believe that since God lives within each of us and all of us, the service of man is the service of God; therefore the destruction of man is the profaning of God.
I believe in non-violence as witnessed by the life of Christ.
I believe the laws of man must become secondary when they conflict with the natural laws of God.

I believe life must be a witness.
I believe this witness must be total, a commitment of all one's talents to the glory of God.
I believe this witness must work to overcome national, racial, economic, political, and cultural divisions to unite mankind in peace.

I believe the way of God is the way witnessed by Christ which is the way of peace.
I believe peace is found through its pursuit.
I believe God is revealed through the pursuit of peace.

I believe to search for the revelations of God is to work to know God.
I believe to seek God is to know God.
I believe God reveals himself through revelations of the soul.
I believe the soul is revealed through the process of the search for it.
I believe the search takes many individual and collective forms.
I believe it is found in the development of creativity which is within all of us, which we must work to free for the collective use in the service of man, is again the revelation of God.
I believe it is most found in the service of my fellow man as witnessed by the life of Christ, the man closest to God.

I believe just as Christ's life is a witness to the laws of God, my life must be a witness to my search of him through my service to man.
I believe therefore that I could not kill another man nor could i in good conscience serve or involve myself in any system, nor support in any way, the creation or continuation of any process which seeks to or results in the killing (I would add suffering) of another man.
-Perry Muckerheidi

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Spurgeon Quote

I forgot how much I love Charles Spurgeon. In the bulletin at this morning's service this quote was offered in the front as a source of reflection. Enjoy.

"It has been said that "the proper study of mankind is man." I believe it is equally true that... the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls Father. IT is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned it its infinity. But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. And, while humbling and expanding. this subject is eminently consolatory. 0h, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.
-Charles Spurgeon.

Church w/ Tim Keller

I am the only when left of my family staying with my aunt in NYC. I stayed behind to visit Union Theological Seminary on monday and fly home monday afternoon. I decided to go to Church this morning and the only Church or pastor that I am familiar with in NYC is that of Tim Keller's. He probably falls under the category of a minor Christian celebrity because of the many popular books he has written. Most notably, The Reason for God and The Prodigal God. The name of the Church is Redeemer Presbyterian and the congregation has 6,000 thousand members. The church has a unique way of gathering in that there are many locations (not churches but auditoriums and other halls) that Tim Keller makes his way around to through the day and gives the sermon at each. The service I went to must have had 2,000 very diverse people packed into a college auditorium. It was as solid classical service outlined by an old school liturgy but capped off with a enlightening sermon from Tim Keller. The sermon was entitled To Know the Living God and here are some high lights that I took from it:

God is knowable. Therefore, what is it to be in fellowship with God? or to know God or to walk with God?

Knowing God is a heart experience but not pure mysticism. There is an objective body of truth that can not be ignored, i.e. the Bible and the clear commands and clear overarching themes that dictate the Christian life. Hence, you can not create your own God from a feeling or whatever else that does not come from or align with this body of objective truth.

What does it look like to be in fellowship with God? The following are the six different aspects Keller offered as to know if you are walking with God:

1. To know God is to delight in his presence. You know you have really experienced God's presence when you cant stand living in the absence of that presence.

2. Intimate 2 way communication or exchange.

Prayer - you know you are not in fellowship with God if you treat him as an ATM.

Word- you know you are in fellowship with God if you are reading the word and asking questions and learning in a way in which lead you to adore God more, repent, etc. Are you reading the word and learning about yourself, God, and the world?

3. When you are in relationship with a person they influence your life and you lose certain freedoms. Therefore when you are in fellowship with God there is a loss of freedom but also a gain of a different more joyous and eternal freedom.

Probably the most accurate way of knowing if you are walking with God is if God is messing up your life.

4. You love and desire Christian community

5. Anybody who knows God wants others to really know God.

6. Organic growth from the inside.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Only in New York"

"Only in New York"... is a phrase that I have grown accustom to through the years. I have come to new york at least once a year since I was a baby to visit family. I have been blessed with the contrast of experiencing "normal" and "conservative" life in the midwest with the fast passed, unusual, liberal lifestyle one experiences daily in the city.

"Only in New York" is a phrase used when one sees something so outrageous and so unusual that it could only happen in new york city. These are instances that most New Yorkers walk right by without stopping or maybe even acknowledging the unusual/weird event. The most you might see is a double take, a shake of the head, or a smile, but they never stop or veer of course.

I had one of these moments this week that stopped us and elicited the response, "only in New York." As my family was walking down the stairs to take the subway home from time square after a broadway show, we witnessed an usual scene on the platform. A very tall,lean, and muscular black man had his shirt off seemingly working out. He was big enough and ripped enough to pass for a professional athlete, yet he was working out on a subway platform. He had work out bands and was using the tiled stone pillars as an anchor point for familiar exercises. While also using benches that people wait for the subway on to elevate his feet to do push ups. The only reasonable explanation was that this man could no longer afford his gym membership.. or had come to the conclusion that the could get just as good of a work out on the subway platform then at an overly priced LA Fitness. This guy might be on to something because well... he was ripped!

"Only in New York" would anyone think of doing what this man was doing and "only in New York" would most people simply walk by without even giving this man a double take.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Plastic Bags Parody

It is kind of a parody in itself that plastic bags have not been banned completely. They are so blatantly a terrible thing for the environment that it I challenge anyone to contest why they should stay in use. This is a cool cool video:

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Immovables, Advice to College Seniors

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the "future." A new season of life is approaching and it has had me analyzing and pondering my life. I have been asking myself these questions (that hopefully every one asks them self often, but especially all my fellow seniors.):

When and doing what do I feel the most alive?

Are there times when I say to my self, "yes, this is what I was created to do"?

What wakes me up in the morning?

What injustice bigger then myself just grinds my gears?

What am I passionate about?


I've been having conversations, asking these questions, and visiting places. I refuse to be stressed, anxious, to do pro's and con's list, to take tests, to look over job listings, etc. What I have been focusing on figuring out what the "immovables" of my life are. What is it that is in my essence that I want to be about? Because thats what I want to do, how I get there and the details of what some "job" or grad school look like are just not that important. I want to be tapping into and living out of what is uniquely me.

My immovables so far:
Ministry, faith based non-for profit, or teaching are really the only fields I can see myself in.

I want to be in a diverse community.

I want to be in an urban environment.

I want to be in the middle of the brokenness of this world. Especially, brokenness that is a result of the evil systems of this world, i.e. poverty, homelessness, addiction, etc.

I want to teach high school and college kids one day. Not immediately but I want to be hired not because I have a ph.d from Harvard but because I have invaluable real life experience.

I want to connect the youth of the wealthy "burbs" with a Jesus who will burst their conception of a Christianity that only sits around in a circle and talks about masturbation.

Those are my immovables. I think this is a good first step (really the only step I know to do). I am willing to bet that 99% of college seniors in America are not thinking about this process like I am. But this is the only way I know how.

I am not suggesting that every college senior should choose a path of "ministry" or to move into the city and hang out with poor people.

I learned a long time ago to avoid doing anything I just have to do because I have to. Surely, you have heard your parents say "you just have to work for a few years, get some money under you and then do all this humanitarian stuff". Nahh, mom, nahh Dad. I dont think so. The fact that we feel like we HAVE to go to college to be successful is a myth of its own and was forced upon us since we walked through the doors of our first day of elementary school.

Don't just do something to do it, to be comfortable, because it is a good start.

Don't just do something for a little while that will be miserable, but will give you six figures a year. While in the back of your mind you are waiting for the day you can quit and do what you really want.

Gosh what an injustice. My advice to college seniors is to search for what makes you feel most alive. Find and note those moments that you stop and say..."yes, this is life, I do not want to be any where else, this is what I was created to do." Figure out what it is about those moments that elicits that reaction and let that dictate your future. Not job security, comfortability, what you are good at, or what you parents think will be a "good" and "successful" future.

And. If when you figure this out begin presently to let it dictate your life. Not waiting for some arbitrary graduation date that we have been programed to expect, plan, and wait for the last 16 years of our education.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seeing Jesus

Seeing Jesus is a discipline of stillness. If, I really want to see him. I’ll need to avoid being consumed by always trying to do things in his name, and I’ll need to be motionless, intent on beholding what is in front of me.
Greg Paul

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tolstoy on Christianity

I have probably sounded like a Marxist lately. This wont help.

This is a quote from a Count Lyev Nikolayevich Tolstoy or Leo Tolstoy. I found this in a book that is a collection of different religious voices for peace. I am not an expert of ole' Leo, but I am pretty sure in his later years that he denounces Christianity, probably for the contradictions in the faith he identifies here. Either way, this is a cool quote.


"This pervasion was accomplished long ago in the time of that scoundrel the emperor Constantine, who for doing it was enrolled among the saints. All subsequent governments, especially our Russian government, do their utmost to preserve this perverted understanding, and not to allow the people to see the real meaning of Christianity; because having seen the real meaning of Christianity, the people would perceive that the governments, with their taxes, soldiers, prisons, gallows, and false priests, are not only the pillars of Christianity they profess to be, but are its greatest enemy." -Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dorothy Day Quotes

Here are a couple of quotes from my main lady Dorothy Day. She was an activist, a writer, a catholic, and never swayed from calling herself a Christian anarchist. Anarchy gets a bad wrap in America because we believe in a big government with a lot of control. But it actually is something a lot different than the common misconception of a society in pure chaos. Anyways, thats besides the point. Enjoy these quotes from an innovative and faithful lady.

To be a follower of Jesus, one would certainty not seek after authority, or look for political office. It is thrust upon one by ability and recognition of that ability by others, as it was in the case of St. Peter. St. Abros, Dius XII and so on.

The social order which depends on profits which does not consider the nature of man’s needs, as to living space, food and work, is a bad social order, and we must work to make that a kind of order in which it is easier for man to do good.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Life as a House

I watched the movie Life as a House for the second time this weekend. This go around my attention was drawn more to how broken and down right f'ed up the character's lives were. Sexual brokenness, addiction, unloving fathers, illness, crappy marriages, homosexuality, etc plagued the lives of the different characters. One man's realization of his brokenness and his quest to redeem his life through building a house, transformed his life and everyone around him. By inviting others into the process of redeeming his brokenness others were changed, grew, and became new.

Is this not what we do as followers of Christ? As readers of the Gospel we are acutely aware of how broken and incomplete
this world is. We also know just how shattered the individual can become in this broken world. So really ... are Christians anything more than people that have a more realistic view on ourselves and this world that we live in and know someone (God) that is in the process (with or without us) of redeeming and reconciling the brokenness of the entire creation? With humility, hope, and patience we enter into a relationship with the creator who is redeeming the world. Knowing that while working to redeem this world alongside God that God will in fact redeem us, and by working on our own brokenness we will also join in the process of redeeming creation. Kind a vis versa or paradox concept.

Last night, we celebrated and remembered Jon and Annie Houghton's house they have lived in for the past 6 or 7 years. Unlike other people, their lives were not their own, the house was not their own, their family even was not their own, food, couch, tv, etc was not their own. And because they were aware of their brokenness and knew the creator that was redeeming them they invited literally thousands of young people to come into their home ask questions, laugh, cry, and pray all in the hopes that they themselves would be offering a safe place or a sanctuary for young kids to come to move forward and out of their brokenness. Praise God for their willingness to sacrifice privacy, comfort, and quiet for all some many lives to be transformed.

A house is never just a house. It is not inherently anything. The people living in that house get to decide what it becomes. And how powerful of a thing for a family to realize that their house has the potential to become a direct tool for ministry. To offer a place for questions to be raised, maybe answered, for hope to be created, and for love and grace to be poured out on those that walk through the door.

A few year ago I wrote this piece during my internships as a community organizer in urban Indianapolis. Also called Life as a House, but with a different perspective.