Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Nativity of Rachel Shuman

Rachel Lynne Shuman was born to Ken & Becky Shuman on September 2nd 1979. Rachel was born just a couple of weeks after Ken graduated from college. Ken had taken his first church job in Shreveport Louisiana and the Shuman’s were living in Shreveport. Becky was determined that her daughter would not be born in Louisiana so she continued seeing her doctor in Marshall Texas. Rachel was a little slow in coming so one Saturday evening Becky decided to drink some castor oil in an attempt to speed the process up. Well it worked – because just a short time later Becky went in to labor. Becky’s mom had been staying with the Shuman’s waiting to help with the new baby – so Ken loaded his pregnant wife, his mother-in-law, and himself into the Shuman’s Volkswagen bug for the thirty minute drive to Marshall. Needless to say it was a tight fit.
In the early morning hours of Sunday September second Rachel Lynne was born. When daddy saw his little girl for the first time his heart melted. Ken had tried to prepare himself for being a father but the overwhelming feelings he had when he first saw his daughter were even more powerful than he could have anticipated. Of course Rachel became the queen bee of the church, and she continued as queen bee in every other church the Shuman’s served in.

The Nativity of Becky Shuman

Rebecca Jean Brock was born to Rev. Morris and Evelyn Brock on August 8th in Durant Oklahoma. Rebecca is the fourth child of what eventually became seven children born to the Brock’s. Rev. and Mrs. Brock had seven children in eight and a half years! This was before the invention of television. Rebecca was born in Oklahoma but grew up in Missouri. Rebecca became known as Becky. Becky met Ken Shuman while they were students at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Nativity of Jessica Stricker

Jessica, your dad and I were living in Sinop, Turkey where your dad was a military MP on a small (then secret) base jutting out into the Black Sea. I was 19 years old and not about to go back to the states when we found out you were coming. I was actually the last to get the official news, because there is no better system of communication than the grapevine on a small military outpost isolated from the world. By the time the test results trickled down to me, everyone on the base knew you were coming. And for the next nine months, they all worked to ease your way. I think you became a symbol of why they were half way around the world from home, missing their own wives and children. They showed us pictures and told us stories and even gave up their own vacation time so that your dad could spend as much time with me as possible before your arrival.

Three weeks before you were due, they put us on a cargo plane (C-130) that was going to Adana in southern Turkey, where there was an Air Force Base with a hospital. I joined a group of military wives from bases all over, and we each waited our turn to deliver. It was during the 1974 uprising on Cyprus, and the US government was angry that Turkey was using NATO weapons to fight. But the Turks saw the weapons as their property given in exchange for their commitment to participate, and were very offended by US demands. I offer that piece of history in case you ever read about it in books—we were very aware of both sides of that reality, and it may have affected my own religious pilgrimage more that any other single factor I can think of.

The day before you were born your dad and I traveled into Syria (your dad informed me recently—I never new we left Turkey) and climbed up to a castle on a hill, which you’ve seen slides of. The exercise must have excited you, and by 5 the next morning you let me know you were on your way out. Unfortunately, you didn’t communicate as well to the hospital people They kept insisting that you wouldn’t be arriving that day as I had previously predicted you would. But at 11:47pm you did make your way into the world, and you couldn’t have chosen any more pleased parents than we two waiting to greet you.

Two days after your birth, we set out on our trip back home to Sinop. The hospital people assumed (I am sure) we would drive to the airport, get on a military plane and be taken back to whatever base we had come from. But your dad was not stationed at a base with facilities for families, therefore you and I had no status. Sinop was the last stop for the plane, so coming from Sinop had not been a problem. Going back, the plane was puddle jumping and dropping people at bases all over, leaving no room for you and me. (Insert appropriate Christmas music at this point.)

It took us three days to make it home by way of public transportation after your birth. Not having planned on so much travel, we ran out of money at one point and had to borrow from some other GI’s in order to have bus fare for the last leg of the trip. You lived in the cardboard box provided by the hospital for your first four months, and you were well protected and cared for by Turks and Americans in equal measure.

Thanks for asking me to write this. It has made me aware of how much of the story isn’t included. I’ll have to work on that.

Monday, December 14, 2009


We are having a get together at my house on Thursday. For directions just click on point B and select get directions. Now just enter the address of your house and it'll give you directions to my place.

The Nativity of Kathy Hart

I was raised with my story starting: My parents waited anxiously for the phone call and the news that I had finally arrived. They had a long wait because I was happy where I was and didn't intend on coming out to play. I managed to hang on for an extra three weeks before making my presence known on June 18, 1963 in the city hospital in Harvey, Illinios. My maternal Grandmother was the first to see and hold me. A nurse at the hospital placed her in my arms and she whisked me out of the hospital and to my new life. My parents were overjoyed when Grandma laid me in my mother's arms. They had waited a long time for me, because they couldn't have children of their own.

32 years and 345 days later, I was able to put the rest of the story together as I met my birth Mother for the first time. She told me a story filled with sadness, poverty and perseverance. A young, divorced mother already with one toddler, another on the way and no job and a very poor family. She was forced to make the ultimate sacrifice a Mother can make. Placing my best interests ahead of her own heart's feelings, she reluctantly placed me up for adoption. For almost 33 years she wondered, worried and cried over the only daughter she ever had. However, since she had only ever shared this "secret" with a few very special people, no one understood why in the Middle of June each year she would become sad for a few days.

You would think that was the end of the story, but this one has an ironic twist to it. She had told my birth Father that she had lost me and then she moved away before she started to show. The ironic part is that his oldest Sister had a dear friend who was having difficulty accepting the fact that she couldn't have children and had decided to adopt a child.......

The Nativity of Ken Shuman

In the fourth year of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first term as President of the United States - Harold & Elenora Shuman of Danbury, Texas were expecting their third child. Harold was born and raised in Danbury and is a WWII veteran. Harold worked in the oil field for Phillips Petroleum Company. Harold and Elenora lived in a simple framed house that Harold had built himself. The couple had two daughters so Harold was really hoping for a son this time. When the time came for Elenora to give birth the couple drove to the Hospital in Freeport, Texas. Freeport had the nearest hospital to Danbury – but was still a thirty minute drive away. Because there was no Hospital close – the child was born in a chemical plant. The hospital in Freeport was owned and operated by Dow Chemical Company for their employees and local residents. When the couple arrived at the hospital – Elenora was taken to the delivery area while Harold filled out the paperwork. While he was signing all the forms – Dr. Steele the family doctor walked up and said “congratulations it’s a boy”. You see, the boy was so ready to come out and play that the couple barely arrived at the hospital before the delivery happened. Harold and Elenora named the boy Kenneth Wayne. Harold liked an actor on a television program who was named Kenneth. Kenneth was born on January 19, 1957. Kenneth is the third child and oldest son of six children born to Harold and Elenora. As a child Kenneth was called Kenny and he grew up healthy and spirited. There were no angels at his birth (that anybody saw anyway). There were no shepherds or even any chemical plant workers who came to celebrate the birth. There were a few wise men that came to see the family but they certainly weren’t Kings. Kenneth enjoyed a normal childhood and grew in wisdom and stature and every once in a while was in favor with God and

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Epilogue

There’s a pattern here- a pattern we find in the story of the Bible that gives us insight into the deepest truths of how the universe works – Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem, Babylon. Salvation is what happens when we cry out in Egypt. Because we all have our Egypts, don’t we?

Addiction, suicidal thoughts, anger, rage – we’ve all got darkness and slavery in our hearts somewhere. Prejudice, hate, envy, lust, racism, ego, dishonesty, greed – we each could make our lists. And they would be long. The wrong and injustice we see around us every day right down to the smallest details involving how we think and feel and act. The Bible uses the word sin for this condition of slavery. The technical definition of sin in the Scriptures is “to miss the mark.” We’ve all missed the mark in some way.

At the center of the Christian experience is crying out in our slavery and being heard by God. Trust that through Jesus, God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves – rescue, redemption, grace. This grace takes us to Sinai. Sinai is where we find purpose and identity. God doesn’t just want to save us; God is looking for a body, a people to incarnate the divine.

We’re invited at Sinai to join the God of the oppressed in doing something about our broken world. And that always involves hearing the cry of the oppressed and then acting on their behalf. If we forget them, we lose track of our own story.

Our story then takes us from Sinai to Jerusalem. And Jerusalem raises the question, “what will we do with our blessing?” What will we do with what God has given us? Will we remember Egypt, or will we lose the plot?
And sometimes we lose the plot. We become proud, we start to feel entitled, we allow our abundance to isolate us from who we really are. And we find ourselves in exile, which can be abrupt and shocking, and sometimes exile can be so subtle, we don’t realize what’s happened until later. And in exile we can slip into despair, or we can re-imagine everything – confession, repentance, a fresh start, a clean slate. We cry out in our exile and God hears us and we experience rebirth.

Jesus wants to save churches from the exile of irrelevance. If we have any resources, any power, any voice, any influence, any energy, we must convert them into blessing for those who have no power, no voice, and no influence.

It begins with someone crying out and someone else hearing. And it’s hard to hear the cry when you’re isolated from it. (Luke 16:19-31) Walls isolate. So can gates and freeways. But when we hear the cry, everything changes. Because when we hear the cry, we’re with God. When God gets Moses’ attention and lays out for him what liberation is going to look like for his people, he tells Moses to “go.” (Exodus 3: 10)

“Listen,” and then “Go.” The going will take a multitude of forms. It will be movement, action, life. It will involve risk, it will mean conversations with people who are nothing like us, and it will probably involve questions and criticism and perhaps even rejection from people who haven’t heard what we’ve heard.

It isn’t just about trying to save the world. It’s about saving ourselves – form the kingdom of comfort – from the priority of preservation – from the empire of indifference – from the exile of irrelevance.

Jesus wants to save us from making the good news about another world and not this one. Jesus wants to save us from preaching a gospel that is only about individuals and not about systems that enslave them. Jesus wants to save us from shrinking the gospel down to a transaction about the removal of sin and not about every single particle of creation being reconciled to its maker and restored to wholeness.

Jesus wants to save us from religiously sanctioned despair, the kind that doesn’t believe the world can be made better, the kind that either blatantly or subtly teaches people to just be quiet and behave and wait for something big to happen “someday.”

The Bible begins with Abel’s blood “crying out from the ground.” The Bible ends with God wiping away every tear. (Revelation 21:4) No more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. Hope – The Christian message is always about this hope.

Jesus chose the path of descent; he comes into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a horse, with children, not soldiers, weeping, humble. And he dies, naked, bleeding, thirsty, alone. Maybe that’s what he means when he says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The “do this’ part is our lives. Opening ourselves up to the mystery of resurrection, open for the liberation of others, allowing our bodies to be broken and our blood to be poured, discovering our Eucharist – our “good gift.” – listening and then going. Because when we do this in remembrance of him, the world will never be the same; we will never be the same.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Chapter Six

In Egypt – there is an endless cycle of despair. This is where Exodus begins, without hope. And God is nowhere to be found. That is what makes the story of Exodus so compelling. A new day is about to dawn. And it will begin tonight. Because God has heard the cry of the people, and God has come to do something about their oppression.
On the night of the exodus, every Jewish man was instructed to take a lamb “for his family, one for each household,” to sacrifice it, and to “eat the meat roasted over the fire… with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.” (Exodus 12:3, 8, & 11) For Israel, the symbol of revolution is a lamb.
Pharaoh is being judged. Plaques have brought the world’s superpower to its knees, but before the journey can begin, there’s a meal - a meal unlike any other. And central to this Passover meal is the command never to forget it. Never forget your despair & hopelessness. Never forget that you were rescued from slavery & oppression. Exodus 12:26-27
John the Baptist declared; “look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) And what does Jesus do on the night he’s betrayed and arrested? He has a Passover meal with his disciples. Jesus takes the ritual remembrance of that night unlike any other and he makes it about himself. For Jesus, his coming death is about the new exodus.
And what is our response to this? In the Scriptures, it’s written again and again that we are to remember and be thankful. The Greek word for thankful is from the verb eucharizomai. It’s from this word that we get the English word Eucharist, the “good gift.” Jesus is God’s good gift to the world.
The church is “the body of Christ”. The church is a living Eucharist, because followers of Christ are living Eucharists. A Christian is a living Eucharist, allowing her body to be broken and her blood to be poured out for the healing of the world.
Writer Anne Lamott says that the most powerful sermon in the world is two words: “Me too.” Me too – When you’re struggling, when you are hurting, wounded, limping, doubting, questioning, barely hanging on, moments away from another relapse, and somebody can identify with you – someone knows the temptations that are at your door, somebody has felt the pain that you are feeling, when someone can look you in the eyes and say, “Me too,” and they actually mean it – it can save you. When you aren’t judged, or lectured, or looked down upon, but somebody demonstrates that they get it, that they know what it’s like, that you aren’t alone, that’s “me too.”
Paul understands that the power of the Eucharist comes from its weakness, not its strength. Paul doesn’t say, “To the strong I became strong.” He only says, “To the weak I am weak.” At the heart of the church, in the soul of the Eucharist, is identification with the suffering of another human being. The church says to the world, “Me too.”
Jesus’ death, the breaking of his body and the pouring of his blood, is for Paul an end to a whole system of “commands and regulations.” And among those commands and regulations is the wall in the temple the divided the one group of people, the Jews, from the other group of people, the Gentiles. Jesus has made peace. “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16) Peace has been made. A church is where peace has been made.
In the new humanity our world gets bigger, our perspective goes from black-and- white to color, our sensitivities are heightened, we’re rescued from sameness and uniformity, because the wall has come down and peace has been made. A church is the new humanity on display. All of these people – who are divided, who never sit down and listen to each other – in the new humanity, in the church, they meet, they engage, they interact, they begin to feel what the other feels, and the dividing wall of hostility crumbles.
This is why it is very dangerous when a church becomes known for being hip, cool, and trendy. The new humanity is not a trend. When everybody shares the same story, when there is no listening to other perspectives, no stretching and expanding and opening up – that’s when the new humanity is in trouble.
The way of Jesus is the path of descent. It’s about our death. It’s our willingness to join the world in its suffering, it’s our participation in the new humanity, it’s our weakness calling out to others in their weakness. What does it look like for us to break ourselves open and pour ourselves out for the healing of these people in this time in this place?
It’s written in the letter to the Hebrews that they shouldn’t give up meeting together because they should “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) The phrase “good deeds” comes from the Hebrew word mitzvot, which refers to actions taken to heal and repair the world. The Eucharist is ultimately about what we do out there, in the flow of everyday life. Church is people – people who live a certain way in the world.
How are people taught to keep the exodus, the grace of God, alive in their lives? By remembering the poor. When you give unconditionally, you will be reminded of the God who gives unconditionally. When you extend grace to others in their oppression, you are reminded of the grace extended to you in yours. Every time we take part in the Eucharist, we’re reminded that we were each slaves and God rescued us. The church must cling to her memory of exodus, because if that memory is forgotten, the church may forget the poor, and if the poor are forgotten, the church may forget what it was like to be enslaved, and that would be forgetting the grace of God. And that would be forgetting who we are.
Our standing in solidarity with the single parent, the unemployed, the refugee, our joining the God of the oppressed to work for justice in the world, doesn’t just make a difference for those who are suffering – it rescues us. The church, the Eucharist, says no to religiously sanctioned despair. The Eucharist is an invitation to be the new humanity. To suffer, to bleed, to open the heart, to roll up the sleeves, to have hope that God has a plan to put the world back together, and it’s called the church. In the Eucharist, there is always hope. Hope for the poor, and hope for the rich.
The Eucharist is about people with the power empowering the powerless to make a better life for themselves.
The Eucharist is not fair. Giving to those who can’t give in return, that’s not fair. Breaking yourself open and pouring yourself out for people who may never say thank you, that’s not fair. Because God is not fair. This is a God who is defined by action on behalf of the oppressed. God is about giving the good gift. Jesus is God’s good gift for the healing of the world. The church is Jesus’ body, a good gift for the healing of the world.
The Eucharist is about the church setting the table for the whole world. The Eucharist is about the new humanity. The Eucharist is about God’s dream for the world.
The Eucharist is saying yes to human community. It’s about the freeing of human conscience to experience the total acceptance of God, and it is about human community and its right and longing to be free. It is the way to a universal religion adequate to the challenge of saving human community and the ultimate renewal of all things. The church is the living, breathing, life-giving, system-confronting, empire- subverting picture of the new humanity.
Jesus has rescued us. His blood equals our redemption. He’s the good gift. The church says yes to the good gift. The church is the good gift, for the world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Chapter Five - Part Two

O.K. group here is part two of chapter five. I wanted to break this part out because I think it will stir plenty of thinking and conversation from us. The views expressed by the authors aren't the views that most of us were taught growing up in church about the book of Revelation. Let me remind us all - you don't have to agree with the authors take. I do hope you will think about what they say and do some personal study, however. I also want you to know that the authors interpretation of Revelation is not a new one. Many Christians have understood Revelation this way for a long time.

Enjoy - and I look forward to our conversation on Thursday night!

A tragic example of what happens when Christians miss the central message of the Scriptures is the way in which the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is taught and understood in American culture. Revelation is a letter from a pastor named John to his congregation. To understand how significant the letter is, it helps to understand its first-century historical backdrop.

First, the emperor: The Caesars, who ruled the Roman Empire, sow themselves as gods on earth, sent to bring about peace and prosperity. Throughout the first century, the Caesars had taken their divinity more and more seriously, demanding more and more overt displays of worship and acknowledgment from their subjects. Many of them demanded that their subjects worship them as the Son of God, the divine one ruling the earth with the favor of the god. One Caesar had a choir that followed him wherever he went, singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive honor and glory and power.”

Second, economics: The Caesars understood that at the heart of the empire is economics. If you want to truly control people, you need to control their money. So if you went to the market to buy or sell goods, you first needed to give an offering acknowledging Caesar as Lord and that you were an obedient subject of his kingdom. If you didn’t, you couldn’t take part in the economy, which meant you wouldn’t make any money and you’d eventually starve. It is believed that a system was developed to identify who had made the offering to Caesar and who hadn’t and this system involved some sort of mark you received to acknowledge your confession of Caesar as Lord and your ability to take part in the market.

Third peace: The Roman army would march into a new land or region, one they had not conquered and announce they were taking over. They would demand that the citizens of that land confess Caesar as Lord. If they refused, they could be killed, often crucified, as a public demonstration of what happens when you defy Caesar. This had a way of bringing people in line with the Roman way.

Fourth exile: The Caesar in power at the time of John’s writing understood just what a challenge the church of Jesus was to his rule. These Christians believed that someone else, someone not him, was the true Son of God and that he alone deserved their worship and acknowledgment of divine status. Caesar believed that the way to get rid of this threat was to send the pastor into exile so that he couldn’t lead his people.

Revelation is a letter written from John, the pastor, to his church during his time of exile. He writes in a subversive literary style called apocalyptic. It uses a vast array of symbols and images and stylized language to convey profound truths about how the world works. John refers to a beast, which is his word for the corrupt, destructive system of violence and evil that is pervasive in our world. He writes of a dragon, the one who does the work of the beast on earth. And then he talks about a mark of the beast.

We can assume John’s audience knew what the mark was – how you bought and sold in the market. The mark was a symbol of your participation in the military-economic complex of the Roman Empire. The mark represented an all-encompassing system aligned against people doing the right thing. The mark spoke to all of the ways humans misuse power to accumulate and stockpile while others suffer and starve.

The mark was anti-kingdom, and John says don’t do it. Don’t take the mark. Don’t take part in the animating spirit of empire: Resist – Rebel – Protest. Revelation is a bold, courageous, politically subversive attack on corrosive empire and its power to oppress people. The people who read this letter would have been confronted with a fundamental question: Who is Lord – Jesus or Caesar? Whose way is the way – the way of violence or the way of peace – the way of domination or the way of compassion – the way of building towers to the heavens or the way of sharing our bread with our neighbor - the way of greed and economic exploitation or the way of generosity and solidarity?

Who is your Lord?

Imagine how dangerous it would be if there were Christians who skipped over the first-century meaning of John’s letter and focused only on whatever it might be saying about future events, years and years away. There is always the chance that in missing the point, they may in the process be participating in and supporting and funding the various kinds of systems that the letter warns against participating in, supporting, and funding.

That would be tragic.

That wouldn’t be what Jesus had in mind.

That would be anti-Jesus.

That would be anti-Christ.

Were the people in John’s church reading his letter for the first time, with Roman soldiers right outside their door, thinking, “This is going to be really helpful for people two thousand years from now who don’t want to get left behind”?

It’s a letter written to a real group of people, in a real place, at a real time, enduring excruciatingly difficult times. Christians were being killed by the empire because they would not participate.

John comforts them, challenges them, warns them, teaches them, inspires them – don’t’ take the mark of the beast.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Chapter Five - Part One

Early in the morning of March 19, 2003, several planes took off on a bombing mission to inaugurate a US military effort called Iraqi Freedom. The target was a palace compound called Dora Farms. It was believed that the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, was staying there, that the bombs would kill him, and that American military objectives would be met.

The missiles missed their target. They landed in homes nearby filled with Iraqi civilians. A camera crew filming the removal of the bodies from the remains of the houses came across a man whose son and two nephews were in one of the houses. Sitting among the rubble, the man said, “Due to this behavior, America will fail. She will fail completely among the countries. And another country will rise and take America’s place. America will lose because her behavior is not the behavior of a great nation.

America is an empire – and the Bible has a lot to say about empires. Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It’s a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.

This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the most powerful empire the world as ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of Scriptures. Because what’s true of empires then is true of empires now. What we see in the Bible is that empires naturally accumulate wealth and resources.
(Stats on page 122)

Now, when many people get a glimpse of how the world really is, whether it’s through travel or study or reading statistics like the ones just cited, it can quickly lead to guilt. We have so much, while others have so little. Guilt is not helpful. Honesty is helpful. Awareness is helpful. Knowledge is helpful. Guilt isn’t.

God bless America? God has. And we should be very, very grateful.

Empires accumulate. And that accumulation has consequences. Blessing and abundance can turn into burdens and curses.

Moses spoke of the need to constantly tell the exodus story, the one about rescue from slavery, “otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 8:12-14

How does a person forget God? The answer we’ve seen again and again in the Scriptures is that you forget God when you forget the people God cares about. Over and over God speaks of the widow, the orphan, and the refugee. This is how you remember God: you bless those who need it the most in the same way that God blessed you when you needed it most.

Entitlement leads to immunity to the suffering of others, because “I got what I deserve” and so, apparently did they. Moses warned about his as well in Deuteronomy 8:17-18, when he said, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord you God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” In an empire of entitlement, when the fundamental awareness is lost that this is all a gift, luxuries can begin to seem like necessities. Excess can become normal. And it can be very easy to lose perspective on just how much we have.

In the same way that entitlement can cause us to lose perspective, it can also cause us to resist checks on consumption.

What we saw with Solomon is that his wealth and abundance naturally led to the priority of preservation. He had to allocate a growing portion of his resources to protecting and securing what he had accumulated. And so he built military bases and bought chariots and horses. This is where the propriety of preservation leads: to larger and larger standing armies, stockpiles of weapons, and shows of force. Which cost more and more money. Which have to be maintained with more and more resources.

The US accounts for 48 percent of global military spending.

When it’s written in the Psalms that some trust in chariots and some trust in God, this is a statement about empire and power. It’s a contrast between two different ways of being in the world. Empires accumulate. Accumulation gives birth to entitlement, entitlement demands preservation, preservation has consequences, consequences are a burden – and that burden takes faith to carry. This is the religion, the animating spirit, of empire.

The temptation in an ever-expanding empire is to fail to hear the cries of those who haven’t directly benefited from the abundance that the empire has been blessed with. If the system works for you, it can be quite hard to understand the perspective of people who have the boot of the system on their neck. If you have the power, it can be hard to understand the voice of those who have no power. If you have choice, options, and luxuries, it can be hard to fathom the anger of those who don’t.

Which takes us back to the road to Emmaus. Whatever Jesus taught these disciples from Moses and the Prophets, it changed their belief about what had just happened in Jerusalem. They had been walking home as followers of Jesus possessing an understanding of the Scriptures diametrically opposed to the work of Jesus in the world.

Followers of Christ missing the central message of the Bible? It happened then, and it happens now. And sometimes the reason is, of course, empire.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Last Night's Discussion:

Saw this article today, reminds me of our discussion last night.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Chapter Four

Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem, Babylon, and on to another man on the road leaving Jerusalem, a man named Phillip. Phillip, one of the first followers of Jesus, was from a small Jewish village on the north side of the Sea of Galilee called Bethsaida. Bethsaida was part of a region called the Orthodox Triangle, one of the most religiously devout regions outside Jerusalem at the time. In places like Bethsaida, there were strict rules about what you could and couldn’t eat; serious observance of the Sabbath; faithful attendance at the religious feasts in Jerusalem; and prayers every day. Philip came from a very small world of very committed Jewish worshipers of God, doing everything they could to be true to their religion. And then Phillip met Jesus, and everything changed. Philip left his village to follow Jesus, deserted him at the cross, reconnected with him after the resurrection, and now he’s on a road leading out Jerusalem, where he meets a eunuch – a eunuch who’s leaving Jerusalem.

Jesus tells his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Luke tells us that the eunuch wants to know more about Jesus. Luke also tells us that the eunuch is headed home, to Ethiopia, in Africa. Africa is, for a small-town conservative Jewish man like Phillip, “the ends of the earth.” Someone from the ends of the earth is asking questions about the new exodus in Isaiah as he heads home.

The disciples are amazed at and overwhelmed by this new reality in which everybody everywhere can understand the new thing that God is doing through Jesus. People from all over the world understand each other. And on a road leaving Jerusalem, we have an African asking questions about Jesus, hearing the significance of Isaiah’s words explained in a language he can understand.

It makes so much sense to the eunuch that as he and Philip pass a body of water, the eunuch asks if he can be baptized. This question about baptism takes us back to Egypt, to Moses’ leading the Israelites through a body of water, which is referred to as the baptism of Moses. (1 Corinthians 10:2) The water symbolized their death to the old and their birth in the new, the movement from bondage to freedom. Baptism is a picture of exodus.

According to the law, a eunuch is excluded from the assembly. (Duet. 23:1) As a good conservative Jew, Philip should have viewed the eunuch as “damaged goods” and refuses to baptize him on that basis. If Philip baptizes the eunuch, he will be breaking a serious rule that he was raised to respect and follow – a rule that determined your standing with God.

This is the tension throughout the early church. What do you do when your religion isn’t big enough for God? What do you do when your system falls apart because the new thing God is doing is better, beyond, superior, more compelling? This isn’t just a tension for Philip; it’s one of the central struggles of the early church. For many of the first followers of the Way, Jesus was wrapped in layer upon layer of Jewish culture, custom, and lifestyle.

For Paul there are two fundamental modes of existence, two pervasive and ultimate realities in which humanity exists: the old condition of darkness and sin and slavery, and the new reality of light and forgiveness and freedom. Paul uses the phrase “body of sin” in a very communal Jewish sense to refer to the reality of the sinful mode of existence of all humanity. It’s the realm and reality of the powerful’s fearful coercion of the weak, whether they’re using tanks and bombs or “the customs of Moses.” It’s anywhere that power is misused. What he’s against is religious rituals that replace the freedom, the liberation, brought by Christ. When people are manipulated with quilt and fear, when they are told that if they don’t do certain things they’ll be illegitimate, judged, condemned, set to hell forever – that’s violence.

The gospel is leaving its former confines, Luke wants us to know, and it’s heading to the ends of the earth. And that means nothing looks like it used to.

The eunuch was traveling by chariot. Pharaoh, an African had chariots, Solomon bought and sold chariots. In the Scriptures, the chariot is a symbol. It’s symbol of empire. It’s a symbol of oppression and violence. It’s a symbol of wealth used in the priority of preservation.

In the Psalms, it’s written that “some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

Jesus has been telling the disciples about the kingdom of God – the realm, the reality, the way in which the weak are put first and the widow and the orphan and refugee are remembered and “justice and righteousness” are upheld, as the queen of Sheba would say. But the disciples aren’t asking about that kind of kingdom. Their question is about another kind of kingdom. They want to know if the old kind of kingdom is going to return, the one with horses and military bases and palaces. Their question is essentially, “Are you now going to pick up the sword and start swinging, purging our land of the Roman Empire so that we can have our privileged stat as God’s people back?”

They still don’t get it. They want to take back their nation for God. Jesus urges them to consider “something for everybody” but their question is about what the future will look like for them. Their question about kingdom shows that they have confused blessing with favoritism.

Luke gives another detail about the eunuch: he is in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia. He’s in charge of the wealth of one of the empires of the nations. And he’s just been baptized, he’s said yes to the new exodus, and he’s joined the Jesus movement. The wealth of the nations is entrusted to a Jesus follower.

Instead of building towers and forcing others to make storehouses out of bricks so that some are stockpiling while others are slaves, this new movement is ruled by generosity, and compassion, and sharing. The gospel for these first Christians is an economic reality. It’s holistic and affects all areas of their lives. It’s an alternative to the greed and coercion of empire.

Luke writes that the eunuch “went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39) Acts is a story of movement, motion, and progress. It’s people being caught up in something that simply must expand, and stretch, and go. Because no one city, no one religion, no one perspective, no one worldview can contain it.

Luke wraps up the story of Acts with Paul in Rome, miles from Jerusalem, at the center of a thoroughly non-Jewish world, sharing the message with whoever is interested. He “welcomed all who came to see him.” All – that’s who this Jesus is for.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Chapter Three

After years in exile, a significant number of Israelites eventually do come home to Israel. They return to Jerusalem, rebuild its walls, and construct another temple. But when those who had seen Solomon’s temple see the new one, they’re heartbroken, because it’s nothing like its former glory. Things just aren’t what they were.

They’re not in Babylon anymore. They’re now home, but it isn’t what it used to be. The Roman Empire, the superpower of their day, conquers Israel and begins a long, oppressive occupation of their nation. Instead of being hauled away to a foreign land by a conquering army like before, this time a foreign army has come to them. Roman soldiers march through their villages, ordering people to carry their packs while taxes are collected so the Romans can build an even bigger army to conquer more nations.

Imagine going to Jerusalem for the festivals and gathering with thousands of other Jews and singing together the great songs of David about the days when things were better. Songs about victory, songs about the power of God, songs about all of the nations bowing down to your God. Imagine growing up with that history, that heritage, that story, and then trying to explain to your children just what these Roman soldiers, who don’t even believe in your God, are doing in the streets of your village.

This is Israel at the beginning of the first century. Occupation, oppression, shame, and humiliation. A nation of people wondering where their God is, asking, Why is this happening to us again? Home, and yet still in a sort of exile. Clinging to the suspended promises of the prophets, looking forward to the day, the day of hope, the day when another son of David would come and lead then in a new exodus.

430 of slavery in Egypt – 430 years in exile – 430 back in Jerusalem, but still in some form of exile – and then Jesus is born.

Here is the new son of David, one who can hear the cry of the oppressed, and he’s inaugurating a new marriage covenant as he leads them in a new exodus. At one point Jesus even says, “I am the way”, which is a new exodus term.

Jesus keeps insisting that a new kind of kingdom is “coming” and he’s forever explaining to his hearers what this kingdom is “like,” that it is “upon you”, and that it is “near”. Power is flowing through Jesus to the broken, blind, and lame – those who need it the most, who have no power. Jesus is a servant who uses his power in the service of compassion and love – that’s what a servant does.

Isaiah (42) had said this would happen. A son of Davis, who uses power purely, leading a new exodus, showing the way to a new city and a new temple, displaying a new humanity.

Jesus insists that his work will lead to a renewal of all things. Anticipation grows as Jesus travels from town to town, village to village, teaching and healing and comforting and explaining and announcing that God is doing something new, something big, and that God is doing it through him. Massive crowds listen to him, people give up everything to follow him, children line the streets and sing about him as the new son of David.

And then it’s over. Jesus is arrested – and tried like a criminal – and then killed.

Luke tells the story of two of his disciples heading home after his death. (Luke 24:13-35) They’re walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, the village they left to follow him. How embarrassing. Can you imagine returning to your hometown after having made an error in judgment this large? Dropping everything to follow a man because you thought he was something that apparently he wasn’t?

For these disciples, Jesus’ death is the end of hope. For their fellow traveler, Jesus’ death isn’t the end of hope; it’s actually the beginning of hope. It’s as if Jesus says, “If I do it like everybody has done it since the beginning of time, how would that change anything?” If evil always takes some form of violence, then more violence isn’t going to solve anything.

The only way to break that cycle is for someone to absorb it. A true leader of a new exodus would have to resist ever using power in the form of violence against another human being. Isaiah called the one to come a suffering servant. (Isaiah 52:13-15) Someone would have to have the courage to put away the sword, forever, regardless of the consequences for his own security. No matter how tempting it is to pick it up and start swinging, someone would have to say, “Forgive them, Father, because they just don’t’ get it.”

So all of creation is in sort of exile, east of Eden, estranged from its maker, far from home, what’s the penalty for that? What would be the payment to end that exile?

The prophets had declared that someone would come who would be willing to pay that price, the price for all of creation breaking covenant with God. And if that price was paid, that would change everything. Everything and everybody could then come home.

In a couple of hours, using nothing but the Hebrew Scriptures, this man converted all of their despair to hope and a vision of a new future.

In Jesus’ day, people could read, study, and discuss the Scriptures their entire lives and still miss its central message. In Jesus’ day, people could follow him, learn from him, drop everything to be his disciples, and yet find themselves returning home, thinking Jesus had failed.

Which is a bit like walking with someone for hours, only to discover that you had missed who they really are the whole time. Because the stranger is, of course, Jesus.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Chapter two

The descendant of Solomon find themselves enslaved in Babylon. They once had the palace and the temple and slaves and the thriving economy and the massive military. They had wealth, and influence and peace and blessing, but they lost it. They forgot their God, they neglected the widow and the orphans and the refugee, and everything fell apart.

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered. There on the poplars we hung our harps… our tormentors demanded songs of joy…How can we sing… while in a foreign land?” Psalm 137:1-4

They hung up their harps. The harp was an instrument of joy and celebration. The harp was a sound you heard when life was good. But the Israelites are not in Jerusalem anymore; they’re in Babylon - Where they hang up their harps. And they weep. They cry out in Babylon.

When the system works for us, when we have the power and choice, when we’re ruling from Jerusalem, when we have no needs to speak of, who needs to cry out? Crying out reminds us of our dependence. Weeping leads us to reconnect with God.

It didn’t take long for these exiles sitting by the side of the river in Babylon to connect their agony with the story of their ancestors who were slaves in Egypt. If God freed our people once before, couldn’t God do it again? And so it’s here, in exile by the river, amid the tears of despair, that God’s people begin to dream again.

Prophets rose up in the midst of all of the despair and hanging of harps and proclaimed not the end but the beginning of something new. On the heels of colossal failure, the Jewish prophets imagined the greatest picture of hope and the future anybody’s ever thought of anywhere.

The real problem, the ultimate oppressor, is something that resides deep in every human heart. The real reason for their oppression is human slavery to violence, sin, and death. There’s an Egypt that we’re all born into, and that’s what we really need an exodus from.

An exodus is a departure, a leaving, a movement. It’s motion, energy, and action. An exodus is something you do, something you’re caught up in, somewhere you’re going, something you join because you don’t want to stay where you are. The prophets called it “the way”. (Isa. 40:3)

Apparently, anyone can join (Isa. 40:5). Everybody is welcome to come home. People of “the way” headed home. (Isa. 48:20) Now “the way” wasn’t a new idea. (Exodus 13:21)

But in the new exodus, the one in which everything will be different than it was before, the truth will be so deeply etched into people’s consciousness that they will naturally do the right thing. New exodus people, remarried to God, leaving exile, headed home.

They understood the danger of returning. The danger of returning is that we will forget what just happened. And so the way, the prophets insisted, would lead back to some sort of new Jerusalem.

But the prophets didn’t stop here. A new exodus, a new way, a new marriage with a new covenant, a new city, with a new temple, one big enough for the whole world to worship together in – what’s left for the prophets to promise? What’s left is love. (Isa. 29: 19-25)

For the prophets in exile, no vision was too large, no dream too big, no hope too beyond what would happen in the new exodus. A movement bigger than any one nation, bigger than any one ethnic group, bigger than any one religion – all of which raises the question, who will lead it?

Isaiah calls him a “Prince of Peace” and predicts that he’’ “reign on David’s throne… upholding it with justice and righteousness…forever.” (Isa. 9:6-7) Isaiah said that he’d have the Spirit of God on him and would “proclaim good new to the poor.” (Isa. 61:1)

Here by the river, in exile, all of these expectations began to coalesce into one person: a servant, a prophet like Moses, a prince of peace, a way out of exile. What began as hope for a Jewish leader for Jewish people needing an exodus from exile in Babylon evolved over time into the expectation of a leader who would be for everybody.

And this is how the Hebrew Scriptures, also called the Old Testament, end. With all of these suspended promises, hanging there, unfulfilled, undone, waiting. A group of people by a river who have lost it all, asking the questions:
What if we had it all back?
What if we could do it again?
What would we do differently?
What if a child was born and a son was given?
What if David had another son?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Chapter one - part two. The Cry of the Oppressed.

David’s son Solomon comes to power. Solomon is brilliant and wise and wealthy, and Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom begins to gain a global reputation. A queen for the land of Sheba comes to visit Solomon. She’s from far away, from a different land, from a different kind of people, with a different religion. And she wants to know more about these people and their king and their God in Jerusalem.

Wasn’t this what Sinai was all about? God was looking for a body, a nation to show the world just who God is and what God is like. And now it’s happening: foreigners from the corners of the earth are coming to ask questions and learn and just who this God is.

After survey the kingdom, Sheba says “Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.” And what does she mean by “justice and righteousness”? - Freedom, liberation from violence, protection from anything dehumanizing. She understands that God has given all of this wealth and power and influence so that Solomon would use it on behalf of those who are poor, weak, and suffering from injustice. Sheba gets it. Solomon, like us, can use his power and wealth to do something about the cry of the oppressed, or he can turn a deaf ear.

The Bible tells the story: “Here is the account of the forces labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, and the wall of Jerusalem.”

Solomon had slaves. Slaves who labored to build his temple, palace, and other buildings. Wait. The Lord’s temple? This is the same Lord who sets slaves free correct? The defining event of Solomon’s ancestors was the exodus right? And now Solomon is building a temple for the God who sets slaves free… using slaves? This is a major moment in the Bible. In just a few generations, the oppressed become the oppressors. In a few generations these wandering former slaves who were newly rescued from an oppressive empire have become empire-builders themselves. Solomon isn’t maintaining justice, he’s now perpetuating the very injustice his people once needed redemption from and, in the process, building a kingdom of comfort.

Solomon uses his massive resources and wealth to build military bases to protect his…massive resources and wealth. His empire-building leads him to place a high priority on preservation. Protecting and maintain all that has been accumulated is taking more and more resources.

Moses said (Duet. 17:16-17) that the king “ must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord had told you, ‘You are not to go back the way again.’ He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.”

Solomon breaks covenant with God. Jerusalem is the new Egypt. Solomon is the new Pharaoh. Sinai has been forgotten. This puts God in an awkward place.

God is searching for a body, a community of people to care for the things God cares about. God gives power and blessing so that justice and righteousness will be upheld for those who are denied them.

At the height of their power, Israel misconstrued God’s blessing as favoritism and entitlement. They became indifferent to God and to their priestly calling to bring liberation to others. There is a word for this. A word for what happens when you still have the power and the wealth and the influence, and yet in some profound way you’ve blown it because you’ve forgotten why you were given it in the first place. The word is exile. Exile is when you forget your story. Exile isn’t just about location; exile is about the state of your soul. Exile is when you fail to convert your blessing into blessings for others. Exile is when you find yourself a stranger to the purposes of God.

And it’s at this time that we meet the prophets, powerful voices who warned of the inevitable consequences of Israel’s infidelity.

God hates their religious gatherings! When God is on a mission, what is God to do with a religion that legitimizes indifference and worship that inspires indulgence?

God doesn’t have a problem with eating and drinking and owning things. It’s when those things come at the expense of others’ having their basic need met – that’s when the passionate rants of the prophets really kick in.

God want to live among the people in the sacred union of the divine and human, but they aren’t interested. “But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets. Amos gets kicked out of the palace. Jeremiah gets beaten up and put in stocks and thrown in a pit, and the people don’t change. They don’t remember Egypt. They’ve forgotten Sinai. They’re too comfortable. The system works for those with the power and influence to change the system. They can’t hear the cry.

Eventually God has enough. Everything falls apart, the temple is destroyed, many are killed, and those who survive are carried off to a foreign land called Babylon. And in Babylon, the survivors become “servants.” And what is a servant who serves against their will? A slave. The Israelites find themselves slaves in a foreign land. Does that sound familiar? Sounds a lot like Egypt, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Cry of the Oppressed - Chapter One

Egypt, the superpower of its day, was ruled by Pharaoh, who responded to the threat of the growing number of Israelites in his country by forcing them into slavery. They had to work every day without a break, making bricks, building storehouses for Pharaoh.

Egypt is an Empire - built on the backs of Israelite slave labor.

But right away in the book of Exodus, there is a disruption. Things change. And the change begins with God saying:
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people… I have heard them crying out… I have come down to rescue them… I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them…”

A God who sees and hears. A God who hears the cry. The Hebrew word used here for cry is sa’aq, and we find it all throughout the Bible. Sa’aq is the expression of pain, the ouch, the sound we utter when we are wounded.

But sa’aq is also a question, a question that arises out of the pain of the wound. Where is justice? Did anybody see that? Who will come to my rescue? Did anybody hear that? Or am I alone?

The Israelites are oppressed, they’re in misery, they’re suffering – and when they cry out, God hears.

This is central to who God is: God always hears the cry of the oppressed.


What started in a garden is now affecting the globe.

The word for this condition is anti-kingdom.

There is God’s kingdom – the peace, the shalom, the good that God intends for all things. And then there is what happens when entire societies and systems and empires become opposed to God’s desires for the world.

Egypt is an anti-kingdom. Egypt is what happens when sin builds up a head of steam. Egypt is what happens when sin becomes structured and embedded in society. Egypt shows us how easily human nature bends toward using power to preserve privilege at the expense of the weak.

Exodus… is about liberation from occupation.

God sends a shepherd named Moses to lead them out of Egypt. But that’s not the end of the story.

It’s actually a beginning. Their journey takes them to the foot of a mountain – a mountain called Sanai. And what happens at Sinai is revolutionary.


It’s here, at Sinai, that God speaks.

God hasn’t talked to a group of people since Eden.

Sinai is the breaking of the silence. God is near. God is about to speak. It’s believed that this is the only faith tradition in human history that has as its central event a god speaking to a group of people all at one time.

Rescue, redemption, liberation – it’s all received from God. It’s all grace. It’s all a gift.

God invites the people to be priests. It’s an invitation to show the world who this God is and what this God is like.

Sin always gains a head of steam when it goes unchecked. And that always leads to institutions and cultures and structures that are anti-kingdom. This leads to dehumanizing places, like Egypt had become, which these former slaves standing at the base of Sinai know all too well. And God’s response is to form a different kind of nation, a “holy” one shaped not by greed, violence, and abusive power but by compassion, justice, and care for one’s neighbor.

It’s as if God is saying, “The thing that has happened to you – go make it happen for others. The freedom from oppression that you are now experiencing – help others experience that same freedom. The grace that has been extended to you when you were at your lowest – extend it to others. In the same way that I heard your cry, go and hear the cry of others and act on their behalf.

God measures their faith by how they treat the widows, orphans, strangers – the weak – among them. God’s desire is that they would bring exodus to the weak, in the same way that God brought them exodus in their weakness.

Exodus 22

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save the Christians

We're going to be discussing the book Jesus Wants to Save the Christians by Rob Bell each week in our small group. Here is what we will be talking about this week:


As a result of the murder, the text says, “Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”

East of Eden.

There is a place called Eden, a paradise, a state of being in which everything is in its right place. A realm where the favor and peace of God rest on everything.

And Cain is not there. He’s east of there.

And he’s not only east of Eden, but in chapter 4 of the book of Genesis, the text says that he was “building a city.”

It’s not just that he’s east of where he was created to live, but he’s actually settling there, building a city, putting down roots.

The writer, or writers, of Genesis keeps returning to this eastward metaphor, insisting that something has gone terribly wrong with humanity and that from the very beginning humans are moving in the wrong direction.

God asks Adam, “Where are you?”

And the answer is, of course, “East.”

East of where he’s supposed to be. East of how things are meant to be.


We are east of Eden.

Something is not right.

The Germans have a word for this. They call it ursprache (oor-shprah-kah). Ursprache is the primal, original language of the human family. It’s the language of paradise that still echoes in the deepest recesses of our consciousness, telling us that things are out of whack deep in our bones, deep in the soul of humanity. Something about how we relate to one another has been lost. Something is not right with the world.

The Roman Empire, which put Jesus on an execution stake, insisted that it was bringing peace to the world through its massive military might, and anybody who didn’t see it this way just might be put on a cross. Emperor Caesar, who ruled the Roman Empire, was considered the “Son of God,” the “Prince of Peace,” and one of his propaganda slogans was “peace through victory.”

The insistence of the first Christians was that through the resurrected Jesus Christ, God has made peace with world. Not through weapons of war but through a naked, bleeding man hanging dead on an execution stake. A Roman execution stake. Another of Caesar’s favorite propaganda slogans was “Caesar is Lord.” The first Christians often said “Jesus is Lord.” For them, Jesus was another way, a better way, a way that made the world better through sacrificial love, not coercive violence.

A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.

And the ursprache continues to echo within each one of us, telling us that things aren’t right, that we’re up against something very old.

And very deep,

And very wide,

And very, very powerful.

For a growing number of people in our world, it appears that many Christians support some of the very things Jesus came to set people free from.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Are you ever disappointed with God?

This Sunday I'm filling in for the preacher at a church on Sunday morning. The title of my message is Trusting God In Spite of Disappointment. I think it's a pretty good message.

What do you do when God disappoints you? What do you think? How do you feel?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bring Something Sunday!

Hey group – this Sunday July 19th, I would like to ask you to bring something to share in our worship gathering. It can be anything. You can bring a reading, a poem, a story, a book, a picture, a scripture passage, a card, a quote, or even something to eat or drink. I don’t care what it is – just bring something. Thanks in advance for your participation.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Week of Prayer for Children

You’re Invited!

If you believe that informed, united, intercessory prayer can alter the course of the lives of children, and if have a passion for making a difference in the lives of at-risk children, then join A Week of Prayer for Children and participate in The Leadership Summit! This is an ideal opportunity for those who lead congregations, children’s ministries, or for those who participate as prayer and outreach leaders. It is also focused on leaders in the private sector with concern for the future of our children.

A Week of Prayer for Children, August 16-23, 2009
A prayer guide will be available by July 1st via the Internet from any of the sponsoring groups for all who want to pray in unity around specific, identifiable needs of our children. The guide focuses on 7 systemic issues facing children in the greater Houston area. There is no need to go anywhere. Pray wherever you are! Pray in your prayer closet, at family devotion time, in small groups, at work, and in your congregation. Do so with the knowledge that your voice is being joined in informed, unified prayer with thousands of others across the area.
A Leadership Summit, Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Did you know that Houston is ranked among the lowest in the nation among cities regarding several critical aspects of caring for children? The Summit will provide up-to-date information on the issues and current needs of at-risk children; it will highlight practical ways to respond; it will mobilize prayer for the children of our city; and it will draw media attention to the needs of children.

The Summit will be held at the facilities of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer, Houston, TX, 77027 from 11am – 1pm. Hear a presentation of strategic information regarding at-risk children in the Greater Houston area and join your voice with others in a united season of informed prayer.

The Summit is sponsored by a growing number of congregations and ministries that are listed on page 2 of this Fact Sheet. If you would like to join the list of sponsors, contact Jim Herrington at

The cost of lunch at the Summit is $10. To register go to this link (

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Wellspring Creed

We believe in God – the creator of the universe:
God is full of mercy and grace,
God is just and loves justice,
God is love and is on our side.
God’s hope is to be in relationship with every person,
God’s plan is to restore all of creation to wholeness, and to see his dream for the world - his kingdom come.

We believe in Jesus the Christ:
Jesus is the human expression of God,
Jesus is the savior of the world,
Jesus is the living demonstration of God’s dream for the world.
Jesus came to put the world right again,
Jesus came to display the justice of God,
Jesus came to provide real & eternal life – life as God intended it to be lived.

We believe in the Holy Spirit:
We believe that the Holy Spirit is here now,
The Holy Spirit guides us into truth,
The Holy Spirit empowers our lives as we seek God’s kingdom as our first priority.

We believe that God has a purpose for each of us, and so in faith:
We commit to recognize & honor God,
We commit to pursue a relationship with God,
We commit to embody the character of God,
We commit to align our lives with God’s dream for the world – helping to make the world a better place.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

easter blessing 2009

blessings on you...
you who have waited these forty days.
who have sat with anticipation in the garden.
who have remained in the upper room.
who have hoped for today.

and blessings on you...
who have waited much longer than forty days.
who have lost, been scorned, and are broken-hearted.
who have been prideful, or ashamed, or simply alone.
for you who have run out of hope.

blessings on all of you for today is a new day.
today will not take away the pain.
today will not solve everything.
today will not make the past different or better.

but today, in this space, you are loved.
not loved because you have behaved well.
not because you have sinned less.
or because you believe in a man that may have died on a cross.

you are loved because many people in this room have made a commitment.
a commitment to be a people not just of words, but of action.
you are loved because you are here.
you are welcomed,
and you are blessed.

happy easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Deep Change or Slow Death

In his book "Deep Change" Robert Quinn coined the phrase slow death or deep change. Every day individuals and congregation make choices that lead in one of these two directions. Deep change is hell! It's frighening and messy - yet it is key to any kind of transformation. It takes great faith to journey into deep change. Why do so many who claim to be people of faith, have so little when it comes to this important aspect in life?

If you come up with an answer please let me know because currently I'm left scratching my head.

Monday, February 09, 2009


What kind of house did Mother Theresa have?
What kind of house does Greg Mortenson have? (Three Cups of Tea)
What kind of house does Blake M. have? (Toms shoes)
What kind of house does Ruben have? (made a difference in D's life)
I really don't know what any of these peoples house looks like, but I do know that they made an impact on the people around them and the community,

So... I ask myself "What kind of "house" does Wellspring have"
We don't have any idea what it might be for the futere, but are WE making an impact in the community.

For me, I am going to TRY to stick with the commitment that it doesn't matter what our "house" may look like. I know this is probobly a no brainer for most of you, but for me I realized yesterday that I was really wrapped up in the "outward" appearance of Wellspring. I don't want our identity to be in a building, but I was there.... and I am glad for the changes... it allowed conversation to help me realize how bad I was there.
Hope this makes sense.