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Archive for December, 2006

Written December 31st, 2006 with 4 Comments »

1. I was reintroduced to the incredible sufficiency of Jesus Christ. 2. I recommitted myself to Biblical Christianity and returned happily to my Brethren in Christ church and heritage. 3. I saw liberal and/or progressive religion/Christianity for what it really is: Secular Humanism (well, at least when it’s not Modern Paganism/Witchcraft) dressed in religious/Christian garb (vocabulary). 3. I deeply contemplated, prayed over, and embraced God’s calling on my life. 4. I shared deep moments of communication with my wife. 5. Saturday morning breakfasts with my son. 6. A cool and costume-themed birthday party for my twin girls and their grade school friends at Wheatland, the house of James Buchanan - the 15th President of the United States. 7. My family survived - without injury - a stop light rear-ending of our Honda Accord by a Dodge Durango chock-full of underage, drunk Amish kids who scotch-taped porn to their dashboard. 8. We adopted a family puppy pre-named Trinity, during the time I admitted and repented of my own theological error re: the actual Trinity. 9. I noticed the blazingly new “Stay Out of My Room!” signs my kids made and taped to their bedroom doors (good time flies by!). 10. I bought and read Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformisison Rev. I love that book!

Written December 31st, 2006 with No Comments »

A glimpse of future communal living: Cae Mabon Pictures. “The Cae Mabon Retreat Centre has been evolving since 1989,” according the Cae Mabon website. “It is set in natural woodland by a rushing river, near a deep lake, at the foot of high mountains and almost within sight of the sea. A family of beautiful, natural, earthy structures provide appealing spaces for groups to meet, retreat, work and play. People have looked all over Britain for something similar but in vain.”

Written December 31st, 2006 with No Comments »

Another glimpse of future living: That Roundhouse is an ecohome of wood frame, cobwood and recycled window walls, straw-insulated turf roof, with solar power for electricity, compost toilet and reed beds for grey water. Incredible.

Written December 31st, 2006 with No Comments »

Sept 18 2006: Today was the first day of CPE orientation. I met a great bunch of folk. The people I will be learning with seem wonderful. The 1st year residents are great too. The entire setting is wonderful. The director has really built a solid department, to say the least. I am so glad to be a part of the department. I expect to learn a lot.

That said, I must admit that I am more than a bit anxious about the whole thing. It just seems to be so much to take in at once. I am sure it is not so much, but my nervousness is amplifying it all. These people do such important work. Serving the sick, broken, and dying is about as high a calling as one can ever hear. I think that understanding has me more than a bit nervous now. All will be all right … I am in more than capable hands and have a fantastic leadership team.

Sept 20 2006: Today was a lot less anxious than Monday. The setting was a bit more familiar - though I did manage to get lost trying to find the CPE classroom. I am finally achieving a sense of orientation to my surroundings. I found the free parking garage (always a good thing). I know my fellow interns even better now. Things are starting to level out. We will see how it goes once I actually hit the floor and interact with patients and families.

Sept 25 2006: I learned a lot about decedent care today. I shadowed Richard for most of the day. Learning from real-time experience definitely helps me practically assimilate all of the classroom discussion. A properly facilitated combination of the two is simply awesome.

Today I watched a son watch his father die. The experience is one not simply explained. It is too big. It was too sacred. It was incredibly personal. Richard was a model I will not soon forget - if ever. He was a solid spiritual presence for the son. He was a non-anxious presence. He was a holy guide. He led the son in a religious service best described only with words like holy, sacred, righteous, and memorial. It was a thing of beauty. I was glad to be part of such a sacred event. I learned much.

I also learned that death in this setting is not something I should be afraid of, personally speaking. Richard was not afraid; he led. I am glad I had the opportunity to go through a death with a resident before I had to face one on my own. I would have been more afraid - perhaps even a bit disturbed - had I gone through a death/dying process all on my own. I have a great model from which I can now build and find my own voice and sacred leadership.

Sept 27 2006: I am ready to go … not much more to say. I will say that my anxiousness has gone from about an 8 to a 4 thanks to orientation and Richard’s modeling. We discussed our beginning and ending anxiety levels before concluding class today. It was wonderful to hear how everyone else was equally nervous last Monday. We are all in the same boat. I think that illustrates exactly where we will find our support while we work to be the spiritual support for others for the next 35 weeks or so. We will find it in the collegiality we share and will share with one another as we learn and grow together.

Oct. 3 2006: My first morning of clinical rounds began with a small and spontaneous group discussion regarding the terrible tragedy that occurred in Lancaster Co. One of the little Amish girls was flown to the hospital’s Trauma Unit where Richard was serving as the chaplain on call. It was a very emotional start of the morning, to say the least.

My rounds were difficult at first. I had to make sense of the print out I was given - specifically how to read the room numbers. I know I was told all of this in orientation, but it was born anew as I hit the floor solo. I also had to work very hard to gain a bit of physical orientation. I honestly had no idea where I was or what direction I was heading for a significant part of the morning. Once I familiarized myself with the layout of the floors and nursing stations my orientation began to materialize. I found my way around nicely after about an hour or so.

My discussions with patients were either very brief or very long. There seemed to be little room for something within the middle of the two. Most of the patients were willing to talk or postponed the visit. Some patients said they had just ingested a bit of medicine that would be making them feel ill shortly. I was invited back tomorrow. A different patient had just spent a significant amount of time with her home church minister. She was fulfilled from that visit and needed no more spiritual care.

My longer conversations were very edifying, for the patients and me. I had an extended conversation about WWII with two older men who shared a room. It was a great discussion and it allowed one of them to share - and perhaps relive - his glory days. A female patient talked to me for an extended time about her children. She really, really wished they lived closer. It too was a very edifying conversation for the both of us.

Overall, I think today was a success. It began difficult but ended with me feeling more comfortable about what I am doing here at the hospital. I think I will become even more comfortable - and consequently better prepared to be the spiritual presence I need to be for patients and families - as I continue to gain more time and experience on the floor.

Written December 31st, 2006 with No Comments »

I wonder if “Low Impact Woodland Homes” are the future? The way forward, according to the site: “Somehow, as dozens of green writers have already pointed out, we need new policies that conserve nature while encouraging people to choose and build their own homes. We need to reverse the flow of people from the land to the cities, and to give people something worthwhile to do. We must grow more of our own food, organically, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels and techno-fixes. Will there be humans living here in a thousand years? Birds, trees, hedgehogs,apples too? If so, we have to move fast now.”

Written December 31st, 2006 with 1 Comment »

Among other predictions for the U.S. in 2007: 1. 35 percent predict the military draft will be reinstated. 2. 35 percent predict a cure for cancer will be found. 3. 25 percent anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ. 4. 25 percent anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ. 5. 25 percent anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ. (SOURCE: DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer)

Written December 31st, 2006 with 8 Comments »

When is enough death and killing enough? I am sad for our humanity today. The whole human race is seriously broken, as is painfully obvious. The execution of Saddam Hussein is no victory. It is no occasion for happiness or celebration. We should all cry, and profusely so. Killing will not usher in peace, it only results in more killing. The execution of Saddam Hussein is in fact a symptom of a huge theological problem of which we all play a sick part. I watched the uncut video of the hanging of Saddam Hussein (the video is living on my hardrive right now). It was awful. It is also one of the clearest windows through which one can peer deep into our human sin, brokenness and consequent and universal human condition. We are a sinful, broken people, all of us. The so-called Enlightenment has failed. The Enlightenment is dead! Western methodology and Science have their place, as does a man like Dawkins, but none of it speaks authentically about the human condition as displayed for the world to see in this video (which is only a small, small slice of a much, much larger broken reality). Human beings in the 1st century and 21st century are indistinguishable, save the difference created by our possession of fancy toys, technological gadgets and the now corrupt idea that we know so much that we no longer need God. So, we know that the earth is not flat - big deal! Our great and wonderful “knowledge” has not made one ounce of difference in the way we treat our neighbors and consequently ourselves. We still are broken in all the wrong places. God is still waiting for us to admit our broken condition, and our need for Him, and to repent and embrace His Word. Peace and the end to this cyclical destruction and violence will never be realized until we do so. I pray for forgiveness for us all.

Written December 30th, 2006 with No Comments »

Not more than five minutes after I posted the words “Deep Evangelical” in the post directly below this one, did I receive an e-mail inquiry asking about the phrase. I will explain what I mean by “Deep Evangelical” in a bit. So, stay tuned. Thanks!

Written December 30th, 2006 with No Comments »

Note: The following is a short piece I wrote for a leadership class I recently completed at the liberal seminary I attend. The class drive was toward what was called “transformative leadership.” The practical and theological question(s) inherent to my following reflections are being asked from within a specific context, and speak directly to this context. What is this context? The context is one wherein a liberal religious organization is proclaimed before an authentic religious center is identified. I am simply at a loss as to how one can in fact become a “transformative leader” in an organization which lacks something tangible to actually transform. I am not a religious liberal, or a progressive Christian. I am a Deep Evangelical who is dedicated to orthodox Christianity and practice. I am thus largely because of time spent bewildered in liberal religious settings, which only resulted in questions as follows.

The readings and class discussions shared as of late have left me with one very relevant question regarding the so-called need for “transformative leadership” in ministry: “What exactly are we attempting to transform?”

The question of what exactly it is we are attempting to transform is ridiculously important. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, if one is lost - or in this case/scenario an entire group or organization - the most detrimental response is to set off wandering in search for a direction; searching for direction while lost only results in a deeper and more defined confusion. A group must first admit that it is lost, then proceed toward healthy organizational grounds.

The present pluralistic context here at the seminary forces me then to ask, “What exactly is it that we are trying to transform?” Is there honestly something here that can be transformed through “transformative leadership,” or is there only a deeper and darker confusion waiting? I honestly feel there is only a deeper and darker confusion. It is only my opinion, but I stand firm beside it.

The increasingly prevalent lack of a center in Mainline Churches presents us with the same problem we find here at the seminary. The lack of center here at Seminary is probably a reflection of the lack of a center in the churches from which students come. Too, the opposite may be the case, albeit to less of a degree, I think, given the average age and second-career status of the majority of seminary students. At any rate, I can’t help but wonder what it is we would transform in the Mainline Parish? There is a fading center there too. Should it’s fading center be rescued and transformed? If not, then what?

I cannot help but to enact a hermeneutic of suspicion when I hear a call for “transformative leadership” in this setting because I am totally unsure of what exactly is being held up for transformation. Again, what are we trying to transform? There must be identifiable problems with and within the status quo, right? If it were not so, then why the call and/or need for transformation and/or transformative leadership in the first place? What are these problems? Are they really problems? Maybe those things that are being called “good” are in fact “bad” and detrimentally affect the entire organization and/or ministry of the Gospel of Christ? If this is the case, how aware and/or honest are the current crop of leaders concerning it? Maybe the status quo is actually the problem! Maybe the seemingly blind dedication to pluralism and/or theological relativism is a detrimental product of a preferred reliance upon liberal social and political values over historic and traditional Christian and theological values. Maybe? Are people even willing to consider it? I doubt it! This scenario forces me to question the whole idea of transformative leadership and its applicability to the current program. What exactly are we trying to transform?

I question the idea of transformative leadership in this context because I wonder what the end goal really is. It seems seriously counter-productive - if not a bit disillusioned - to try to apply liberal religious methodology to a larger society in which it will neither work, nor be accepted. Do we really think people will buy what we are selling if we simply adjust the approach? Do we really think people are so disengaged theologically that they will actually toss their religious heritage, gut Biblical Christianity and visit our churches on Sunday just because we make a slight adjustment to our approach to leadership? What about the deeper issues, such as doctrine, relevance, tradition and the difference in life made possible only by the revelatory aspects of a Christianity now gutted and discarded in the name of progressive and liberal social values? So, I must ask, again, “What are we seeking to transform?” What is in fact left to “transform?”

I wonder too what exactly are we inviting people to come and experience, if that is indeed the goal of a “transformative” sort of new leadership. What - or who - are we worshiping? How will a transformed leadership help make whatever it is we worship more accessible to the masses. What is church even about anymore? Is it myth? We, on the one hand, tell people the Bible is a time-trapped, misogynistic, and relativistic piece of everyday literature; on the other hand, we try to convince the marketplace of its dire importance. How is this possible? Do we actually think people are dull enough to buy what we are selling? Do we even realize what we are doing? Is it even Christian anymore? How will simply transforming our leadership make any real difference? I ask for the last time, “What are we trying to transform?”

I think something serious is going to have to happen with the foundation before we try to maximize mass accessibly to it via transformative leadership. A leader can only be as good as the organization being led. An organization can have the most transformative and dynamic leadership on earth, but will go nowhere as long as what is being led is bankrupt and irrelevant to the larger marketplace. Jesus said old wineskins would not be the best containers for new wine. New wine poured into old wineskins would burst the skin. The wine would be lost. Jesus said we should use new wineskins for new wine. Today many Christians lack wineskins altogether; there are none available it seems, new or old. I wonder what Jesus would say about our present lineup of good-hearted folk with hands extended and cupped … patiently waiting for someone to pour in a bit of new or transformative wine. Note: Transformative leadership is only as viable as the foundations of that which is being lead. A Christianity strapped to relativism is no foundation for this marketplace of ours, no matter how dynamic the leadership.

What is our wineskin? What are we trying to transform? Is whatever we are trying to transform, transformable? Will it work in the marketplace? What do we worship? What do we want to give to the marketplace via our transformative leadership?

Oh, that we all would just return to the authority of the Scripture and the basics of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Written December 30th, 2006 with No Comments »

A 24-year-old Joseph Smith published the now famous “The Book of Mormon.” Smith’s mission was to restore original Christianity. The Christianity Smith witnessed was not the original, but a form corrupted by what was called “The Great Apostasy” (the apostasy began soon after Jesus’ ascension and remained until Smith’s First Vision in 1820). Smith says that while a teenager he was visited by an angel named Moroni. Moroni directed him toward a hill where he discovered numerous artifacts and most importantly a book of golden plates upon which strange writings were etched. He returned to the hill over a period of years because he was not permitted to take the book of golden plates. The golden plates were translated over time with the help of friends and later became known as the “Book of Mormon: An account written by the hand of Mormon, upon plates taken from the Plates of Nephi” (the title was translated directly from the title page, according to Smith). Smith had baptized several followers by the time The Book of Mormon was published. Kirtland, Ohio served as the location of the world’s first Mormon temple. Smith’s many, many followers consider him to be an “American Prophet” (the first latter-day prophet). Joseph Smith also thought that God approved of polygamy.