Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Loaves and the Fishes (or in our case-meatballs)...

Now for a story of incredible blessing...

We decided at the eleventh hour that the weather was going to be cruddy and it would be a good idea to keep everyone warm and safe and indoors. So we put together a hearty lunch: meatball sandwiches, rolls from Serpe's (we ordered four dozen from Malin's Deli),Uncrustables, cookies, bananas, apples, bottled water (we had many cases donated to us, kindly by Fox Rehab).

It was not a surprise that at the end of the day there was food leftover. There is ALWAYS food left over. (As an aside, I'd like to mention that we Americans have lost sight of how amazing that is, in fact, we often act as if it is a major inconvenience- so I'm going to say it again- for emphasis: THERE IS ALWAYS FOOD LEFT!) Okay, now back to the story...

So, as we were packing up this un-suprising, totally expected load of inconvenient food when our math skills kicked in. We were tired (really weary) and so we kind of looked at each other dumbfounded and had to talk through the process...

"Wait," said I, "you said you ordered four dozen rolls. We ate a lot of rolls, and the box clearly has lots of rolls missing, but there's gotta be more than four dozen rolls still here!"

"No, look-the paper taped right to the top says '4 dozen rolls' See?" Valerie replied.

"Lets count them as we bag 'em up," said I. And we began to bag them by the dozen in zipper bags.

When we were done, we had 5 dozen plus 2 rolls (62) when we had ordered 48 and used approximately 24. We looked at each other with wide-eyed glee and realized that we were experiencing our own personal "loaves and fish" miracle. Unbelievable! God is so good!

Then the guilt and fear began to peck away at us. We were in possession of more rolls than we had purchased. The question 'Should we return them?' very quickly was replaced by the question 'Could we return them?' and we quickly realized that we could not- they had been fresh-baked then placed in a box and covered only with plastic wrap. They were not in individual bags and they were most cetainly non-returnable. We began to process aloud our options....

Where can we take all this extra food?

It's 5 p.m. now, we realized, we won't be able to get it anywhere by dinnertime.

Out of the blue, Valerie exclaimed: "Emmaus House!"

"What?!" I asked...

"Emmaus House!" she said, again-as if that would clear things right up- then she added: "It's a safehouse house for women and children who have been the victims of domestic violence and it's right in Newark on Rt. 896."

"Sounds good to me! And if they offer, we can get a tax donation receipt for the food and we'll give it to the deli, since we can't return the rolls." said I, and our crazy half-baked scheme was hatched: She would take all the extra food down to the safehouse while I turned off the lights and locked up the church.

An hour later, I looked at my phone (still set on vibrate from earlier in the day) and saw three missed calls- all from Valerie. Without even bothering to listen to the voicemails, I called her back... A no longer weary voice exuberantly recounted this story:

She drove to where the safe-house had been. The structure was dark and looked lifeless. None-the-less, she knocked on the door, and after getting no answer, decided to call 411 to get the new number. Despite some initial hesitation from the operator, a number was supplied to Valerie and she subsequently dialed it. After explaining herself, Valerie heard an overjoyed voice tell her, "You have no idea how timely your call is!" Some further discussionensued, and Valerie got the new address and then headed her car in that direction. As she was hanging up the phone, Valerie heard the person on the other line, a resident of Emmaus House (who thought that the phone was disconnected) say: "You guys. We're going to have dinner tonight. Someone is bringing dinner over!"

After dropping off the groceries to the four families at Emmaus House (three trips from the car), and being the recipient of many, many heartfelt thanks, Valerie took the tax-receipt they gave her for the donation over to Malin's Deli.

It turns out that the deli had been robbed recently and that this robbery had hit the owner, Ken, pretty hard financially. As Valerie told him the story, she received the same quizzical look I had given her an hour earlier. Ken had never heard of this safehouse either, but he was intrigued. He wanted the address, but Valerie couldn't give him this protected information. She did show him the phone number on the top of the receipt and encouraged him to call with questions.

"Questions!" exclaimed Ken "I don't have questions...Do you know how much perfectly good food I throw out every night at closing? I want to start giving them that food."

Do you see the ripples that are flowing outward from this one thing? God is SOOO GOOD!

We are God's amazing lovingkindness and mercy.

We knew that by being obendeient and having the Faith and Health conference that God would richly bless us and others- but we had NO IDEA. We could not have even fathomed....

Thank you Heavenly Father! Thank You Jesus! Thank You Holy Spirit! Thank you Serpe's Bakery! Thank you Malin's Deli!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fete Accompli

You may or may not know, but I have spent the better part of the past three months planning a Faith and Health seminar. Having never done exactly this, it was quite a learning experience- not just about the ins and outs of event planning, I've done all that was quite a feat to put together this fete because of the dynamics that I encountered within the ministry community. Wow.

I have seen people claim their ministry turf and stalwartly (and stolidly) stand firm and refuse to allow anyone else the joy of participation and the honor of being able to bless others through the ministry. I've seen basically defunct and lifeless ministries kept alive and operating at their bare minimum just so that no one would really be interested in involvement and, hence no one would be interested in taking over said ministry. Fabulous strategy: keep a lame-duck ministry for yourself because it's function is merely to provide you with power and prestige...not to mention something rather impressive-looking on your resume. No ministering going on- but heck- one can't have everything...

This post probably seems a strange departure from my generally enthusiastic and encouraging writing style, but I feel compelled to make this point. What I have seen has been so ugly and so disheartening that the words, whether they sound jaded or not, must be said. I shared this experience, step for difficult step, with a woman who I now call a dear friend. Her perceptions mirror mine. We soon came to realize though, that the only thing we could change was us. We could not and would not force a person to step up to the plate, to fulfill the calling of their ministry. What we could do was to do our best for the glory of God and for the goal of blessing others. We decided to use our frustration to propel us forward to better personal behavior. I personally vowed to take a panoramic mental picture of the entire scenario and then vowed to myself to never, ever, ever do that to a ministry. If a ministry ever becomes more about me than those who are supposed to be ministered to- you all have my personal permission ahead of time to TAKE ME OUT! :) I'm so serious- humble me in whatever way you have to- do not let me get complacent in ministry or lukewarm. I ask you to keep me accountable, dear friends.

Now, back to the event- it went well- really well. You can read about it here if you're interested: But even better that that is our personal story of being overtly blessed by God in a tangible way that fueled our desire to tangibly bless others. More about that later....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Birthday Musings...

Well, it's that time of year again, when I get out my copy of Max Lucado's book-
"A Gentle Thunder" and re-read chapter 9: "What to do with Birthdays?" Even though my theology of the body and spirit as separate and divisible entities is changing from a Neo-platonic one to a more Orthodox Christian one- I still found that re-reading this chapter on the anniversary of the day of my birth was rewarding.

Perhaps you will find it so, as well. Here it is, read and enjoy. I've found the book is a great gift for people for their birthday (especially the fortieth).

From "A Gentle Thunder, Hearing God through the Storm"
by Max Lucado.
What to Do with Birthdays: The God of Grave Victory

The comments began a couple of months ago. “Getting close to the top there, Max? Be careful. You pick up speed going downhill."

"Almost there, eh, Max? Won't be long before you'll stop combing your hair and start arranging it."

Thirty days out, the word started to spread (so did my waist).

Reminders became more frequent. "Look at it this way. All your life you've been taught to respect your elders. Now you don't have to respect anyone."

"Don't worry Max. Old age isn't bad when you consider the alternative."

This week phone calls started to arrive.
“I don't know whether to send condolences or congratulations."

"Able to make it out of bed this morning?" my brother asked today.

Actually I got out of bed earlier than normal this morning. On a typical birthday I might have waved off my morning jog and stayed in bed. But this isn't a typical birthday. And the thought of staying in bed never entered my mind. The thought of jogging an extra mile did, but not the thought of sleeping late.

It's the big one. The fortieth. In defiance of age, I stepped onto the dark streets and ran. I wanted to see what a forty-year old jogger feels like. Know what I learned? He feels like a thirty-nine year old jogger.

But even though I feel the same as I did yesterday, my driver's license reminds me I am forty. They say life begins at forty. But so do bad eyesight, arthritis, and the habit of telling the same joke three times to the same person. Lucille Ball said the secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.

Easier said than done. It’s hard to lie about the obvious. When you are young you make a lot of faces in the mirror. When you are old, the mirror gets even. But I tell myself that turning forty isn't too bad; next to a Galapagos turtle I'm still a child.

I've gotten several laughs out of the comments that have come my way. Thought you might enjoy a few:
"You know you are getting older when you try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks only to find you aren't wearing any."
"At twenty we don't care what the worlds thinks of us; at thirty we start to worry about what the world thinks of us; at forty we realize the world isn't thinking of us at all."
"I've gotten to the age where I need my false teeth and hearing aid before I can ask where I left my glasses."
"Forty is when you stop patting yourself on the back and start patting yourself under the chin."

I'll leave it for Dave Barry to sum it up:

As a person starts reaching this milestone (your fortieth birthday) you need to take time to learn about the biological changes that are taking place within your body, so that you will be better able to understand and cope with the inevitable and completely natural elements of the aging process- the minor aches, pains, dental problems, intestinal malfunctions, muscle deterioration, emotional instability, memory lapses, hearing and vision loss, impotence, seizure growths, prostrate problems, greatly reduced limb function, massive coronary failure, death and, of course, painful hemorrhoid swelling- that can make up this exciting adventure we call "middle age."

Growing older. Aging. We laugh about it, and we groan about it. We resist it, but we can't stop it. And with the chuckles and wrinkles come some serious thoughts and questions about what happens when we die. Is death when we go to sleep? Or is death when we finally wake up?

As a minister, I'm often asked to speak at funerals. I no longer have to ask the family what they want me to say; I already know. Oh, I may have to ask a question or two about the deceased, and that I do, but I don't ask them about what they want me to say. I know.

They want to hear what God says about death.

They want to hear how God would answer their questions about life hereafter. They don't want my opinion; nor do they want the thoughts of a philosopher or the research of a scientist. They want to know what God says. If Jesus were here, at the head of this casket, in the middle of this cemetery, what would he say?

And so under the canopy of sorrow, I give God's words. I share the eulogy Jesus gave for himself. The disciples did not know it was his farewell address. No one did, but it was. He knew he had just witnessed his final sunset. He knew death would come with the morning. So he spoke about death. Here is how he began.

"Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father's house;
I would not tell you this if it were not true.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
After I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am"
(John 14:1-4).

What kind of statement is that? Trust me with your death. When you face the tomb, don't be troubled- trust me! You get the impression that to God the grave is a no-brainer. He speaks as casually as the mechanic who says to a worried client, "Sure, the engine needs an overhaul, but don't worry. I can do it." For us it's an ordeal. For him it's no big deal.

The other night I did something that every parent has done a dozen times. I carried my daughter to bed. Five-year old Sara fell asleep on the floor, and I picked her up, carried her up the stairs, and put her in bed. Why? I knew it was time for her to rest, and I knew that rest was better up there than down here.

Doesn't God do the same? Doesn't he, knowing more than we, carry us to the place of rest he created? For God, death is no tragedy. In God's economy, the termination of the body is the beginning of life.

Can you imagine if Sara's sisters objected to my decision to carry her upstairs? "Don't take her. We'll miss her. Please keep her here so we will all be together.

"How would I answer? "Oh, but she'll rest so much better in the room I have prepared for her. Besides, you'll be coming up yourselves soon."

By calling us home, God is doing what any father would do. He is providing a better place to rest. A place he has "prepared for us." Heaven is not mass-produced; it is tailor-made.

Sometime ago I indulged and ordered two shirts from a tailor. I selected the cloth. The tailor measured my body. And several weeks later, I received two shirts made especially for me. There is a big difference between these two shirts and the others shirts in my closet. The tailored shirts were made with me in mind. The other shirts were made for any hundred thousand or so males my size. But not these two. They were made just for me.

As a result, they fit! They don't bulge. They don't choke. They are just right. Such is the promise of heaven. It was made with us in mind. Elsewhere Jesus invites us to "receive the kingdom God has prepared for you since the world was made" (Matthew 25:34).

The problem with this world is that it doesn't fit. Oh, it will do for now, but it isn't tailor-made. We were made to live with God, but on earth we live by faith. We were made to live forever, but on this earth we live but for a moment. We were made to live holy lives, but this world is stained by sin.

This world wears like a borrowed shirt. Heaven, however, will fit like one tailor-made.

By the way, I've often thought it curious how few people Jesus raised from the dead. He healed hundreds and fed thousands, but as far as we know he only raised three: the daughter of Jairus, the boy near Nain, and Lazarus. Why so few? Could it be because he knew he'd be doing them favors? Could it be because he couldn't get any volunteers? Could it be that once someone is there, the last place they want to return is here?

We must trust God. We must trust not only that he does what is best but knows what is ahead. Ponder these words of Isaiah 57:1-2 "The good men perish: the ungodly die before their time and no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to realize that God is taking them away from the evil days ahead. For the godly who die shall rest in peace" (TLB).

My, what a thought. God is taking them away from the evil days ahead. Could death be God's grace? Could the funeral wreath be God's safety ring? Why does an eight-year old die of cancer? Why is a young mother taken from her children? As horrible as the grave may be, could it be God's protection from the future?

Trust in God, Jesus urges, and trust in me.

Several years ago I heard then Vice President George Bush speak at a prayer breakfast. He told of his trip to Russia to represent the United States at the funeral of Leonid Brezhnev. The funeral was as precise and stoic as the communist regime. No tears were seen, and no emotion displayed. With one exception. My Bush told how Brezhnev's widow was the last person to witness the body before the coffin closed. For several seconds she stood at his side and then reached down and performed the sign of the cross on her husband's chest.

In the hour of her husband's death, she went not to Lenin, not to Karl Marx, not to Khrushchev. In the hour of death she turned to a Nazarene carpenter who had lived two thousand years ago and who dared to claim: "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me."

So what do we do with birthdays? As much as we'd like to avoid them, we can't. Pretty soon the candles cost as much as the cake. And as much as we'd like to think we are exempt from the grave, we aren't. So rather than avoid them, welcome them! Welcome them as mile-markers that remind you that you aren't home yet, but you're closer than you've ever been.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Theology Thursday~ Why Theology, Part 4: Theology Must Be God Centered, but Other Oriented

Jesus gave an excellent admonition when he said: “Shema! Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all of your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37)

Theology begins with the command of The Shema. The way in which Jesus’ version of the Shema commands us to love God is nothing if it is not Unmitigated Awe. One cannot gain wise knowledge of The Almighty without this kind of awe. (Proverbs 9:10, and Psalm 111:10)

“Shema!”- is a command to sit quietly in His presence and listen with all that we are; our journey is sustained through holistic interaction with God (all our parts interacting with all of His) and its natural outcome is twofold: a more intimate understanding of God, and the ability to love others with God-mediated love.

When viewed through the lens of The Shema, theology begins to look very different.

We know the word “theology” means the 'study of God.' The Shema gives us clarification to understand that theology begins with loving God with all that we are. When we do so with all of our parts (heart, soul, mind and strength), we develop an understanding (‘theology’ if you will) that is awe-filled, love-inspired, balanced, and has the capacity to be love-mediated towards others. It is only in giving of our minds to God through the Spirit that this kind of transformation can occur, for we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). That is not to say that beginning our theology in this manner will lead to a perfect understanding of God. No, “perfect” is unattainable on this side of the veil. However, we can be sure that the awe of God is definitely the beginning of wisdom-a very good start.

Ephesians 1:15-19 is a prayer from the Apostle Paul to the believers in Ephesus. The prayer gives us a good look at the origins of theology, how a good theology is nurtured, and the fiduciary duties of those who are “enlightened” towards the “not yet enlightened.” In stark contrast to the usual pre-conceived perception of the theologian-novice relationship, Paul’s attitude and approach toward the unlearned at Ephesus is accepting at the outset and shows compassion and concern for the “un-enlightened other.”

Ephesians 1:15-19 (Contemporary English Version)
15I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people.
16So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers.
17I ask the glorious Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you his Spirit.
The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God.
18My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand
the hope that was given to you when God chose you.
Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God's people.
19I want you to know about the great and mighty power that God has for us, His followers...

 Theology should begin with faith, which itself originates from God, himself. (v. 15) (Notice Paul does not say: “knowledge about Jesus…” but “faith in the Lord Jesus…”)

 Theology should be spurred on by companions who are both grateful and prayerful for the other. (v. 16)

 Theological mentoring should always involve a significant amount of prayer for the other. (vs. 16, 17, 18)

 Theology isn’t a purely intellectual endeavor. It requires intervention from the Holy Spirit, and the resultant wisdom then allows for a prayer-generated, supernatural, and “enlightened understanding.” (v. 17)

 This enlightenment also renders an ability to understand our eschatological hope and to discover our Christian inheritance. (v. 18)

 Theological education/mentoring should always be about a heartfelt desire for the other to “know about God’s power” on a personal and communal level (“for us”) (v. 19a)

If theologians actually looked at and approached theology in this light, would polemic and arrogant attitudes exist and abound? Would there be the “incessant quarreling and cold indifference between God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians” that Olson speaks of? (Olson, p. 26) And, if shown this passage, how would our collectively-tentative-Christian brethren feel about theology? Would they still be convinced (as Olson astutely asserts) that: “…theology and doctrine are detrimental to Christianity”? (Olson, p.26).

I posit that if we truly understood that theology was a God-initiated enlightenment that was mainly about understanding hope; and that the pursuit of theology is a developmental task that can only (at best) give us a partial view through a dirty window of The Creator; and that theology starts with loving God with all of our hearts, souls minds and strength, and humbly listening for Him to reveal himself- then ‘arrogant’ would be the last word people would use to describe theologians.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Patriot's Day 2009: In Memoriam

Matthew Flocco

Today is the eighth anniversary of September 11, 2001. The media is saturated with pundits that are giving their opinions about the events that occurred that fateful day. I am going to make my points briefly...What happened on 9-11-01 is not about pundits, or politics, or perceptions. It is about PEOPLE. It is about the people that died and their family and friends who will never, ever have them again...In memory of those people, I have attached a list of the names with included biographical information.

Additionally, I'd like to mention one person who died that day who is more special to me because of a connection I have to him. His name is Matthew Flocco. Matt was the only Delwarean to die on 9-11. He was stationed that day at the Pentagon, a huge honor for such a young man, but he had potential and those who knew him knew he was going places. He died that day at the age of 21, robbed of the opprotunity to reach that potential. Matthew was the only child of my parents' next door neighbors. We did not know him when he died, but after the government settled his estate, his parents (his only beneficiaries) bought the house next door to my parents. My parents have grown to know this wonderful couple, Sheila and Michael Flocco, and have felt privileged to walk this part of their journey with them.

Here is a series of videos done by a reporter from the Washington Post and aired on ABC about Micheal, a sheetmetal worker who went down and helped rebuild the pentagon.

Here is his hero page. Please take your time to write a comment. I'm sure it would be especially appreciated by his grieving parents.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Theology Thursday: Part IIIB~ Theology Must be Knowledgable and Charitable Part II

(Part four of a series, continued from last Thursday...)

Thomas á Kempis also said:

“On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read
but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.”

All that said, had I not been exposed to a Kempis' writings in seminary, I would not be answering this question in the same way. It would not be wise to discount the acquiring of knowledge, and I am surprised at how much I use my seminary knowledge to apply to current issues- and without exception, the historical knowledge is an asset. Knowledge certainly cannot be discounted, but it must be kept in perspective. Otherwise, arrogance and narcissism will rear their ugly heads and alienation will be the result.

Knowledge and training are tools which are best used to communicate or to ruminate; never to pontificate or debate. When that knowledge is not "love-applied" theology (if the orthodoxy doesn't have a corresponding orthopraxy) then we should beware. For in that moment in which love is dissected from knowledge, lies the very real danger that St. Paul referred to in 1 Cor. 13 (using Eugene Peterson's verbiage) as ‘spiritual bankruptcy’:

"So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.”

Charity and understanding- an irenic approach- is absolutely necessary for theology to be transmitted effectively. When the focus shifts from irenic to polemic, the road to disaster is not far away, and this is where theology often falls flat on its face- it forgets why it is doing what it is doing. It forgets that its goal is to have knowledge and impart that knowledge in order to bless and be blessed. Good theology doesn’t pommel or boast.

More to follow next week...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Invisible Illness Week is Sept. 14-20, 2009

As you may or may not know, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus seventeen years ago when my oldest son, Alex was still under a year old. For many years, I have lived with fatique, frequent illnesses and chronic pain. Having had the opportunity to experience chronic illness first hand has provided me with so many blessings. Really... I believe that I have become a more compassionate person because of it. It isn't always a cake walk- but it's my walk...

Next week (September 14-20) is Invisible Illness Awareness Week. I will be keeping you updated all week about events, but I want you to be aware of the all week free online conference.

Also, during the course of next week I hope to be able to show you some of the faces of Invisible Illness and provide you with some interviews. For now, here is an introductory video on the subject...

Be Well~

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Riley Needs a New Home

My best friend since I was six years old is in a quandry...her cat Riley is just not fitting into the family's life. They are an "on the go" family and he is often home alone. Since they moved into their new (quite large) home, he has become quite "catitudinal" (def: cat with d; a cat who shows his displeasure in catty kinds of ways)...but he only does this when he's been utterly left alone in a very large house. he is darling, personable and very friendly. He is neutered and declawed and very healthy. Would you be interested in adopting him? Let me know...


Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Meal Planning 101: Week Two~ Second Week of School:

Last Week’ Shopping List (we try to shop for two weeks- saves on gas energy, my energy, time and impulse shopping):
Meats: 2pkgs. chicken breasts; 2 lb ground beef; 2 pkgs. London broil; Italian Sausage
Frozen veggies- one bag ea: corn, chopped spinach, peas & carrots, whole greenbeans
Hard/thick tortilla chips
2 cans each of cream of chicken & 2 cans cream of mushroom soup (or 2 large cans)
Chicken base ( I prefer “Better Than Bouillon” brand by Superior Touch)
Garlic & Ginger (either fresh, or to save time- buy in tube, in produce section @ grocery)
Cheeses: Mozzarella- shredded; Cheddar- block; Parmesan-grated; Mexican Blend-grated
Dairy: Eggs; sour cream; Milk; Butter
Sausage (patties and links)
Dry pink, red and black beans
Canned tomatoes- diced, crushed and whole (one can each)
Squash (zuchinni)
Italian Bread
English Muffins
Pancake mix
Lawry’s marinade (Caribbean Jerk, Baja Chipotle)
Lettuce, etc (salad fixings: celery, carrots, onion, tomatoes- whatever you like)
Pasta sauce
Cornbread muffins
Stuffing mix

Leftover Spaghetti with Italian Sausage, Salad, Garlic Bread

London Broil marinated in Baja Chipotle marinade; Green Salad, Macaroni and Cheese

Wild Card Wednesday~
Stir fry beef (from leftover London broil) or order in

General Tso’s chicken, rice, broccoli

Freestyle Friday~
Breakfast For Dinner: Pancakes and sausage or order in pizza

Chicken Soup with fresh vegetable, egg noodles, fresh baked bread

English Muffin Open-faced Tuna Melts and Chicken Soup

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Recipes for Missional Living: Part Two

Welcome back to the second part of our series on the excellent book by Anna Robbins, entitled: Sharing the Feast: Recipes for Evangelism and Discipleship for Today’s Church (Spring Harvest, 2005.) (Again, I highly recommend its purchase, it is one of those “need-to-have-it-in-your-library” books.)

Quickly, I’ll review what we’ve gone over so far…The premise of the book is a simple one: “The way we relate the gospel to the world today is much like hosting a dinner party, or serving up a feast.” We are serving up a “feast” for others; some will be familiar with our offerings will come to the table readily; others, because they’re culturally unfamiliar with our ‘fare’ will be hesitant or no-shows to our fêtes if we (the church) continue to serve nothing but the standard, boring fare we have been for centuries. Robbins teaches how to present the gospel to “unfamiliar taste buds” (the un-churched) because it is a necessary part of evangelism and discipleship. She reminds us that there are those who find comfort and peace in having their “pearl onions” every Christmas (enjoy tradition in their faith practices), and who hold onto those traditions with a death grip. These trappings, however, Robbins posits, can be distracting rather than attractive. Although Robbins points out that there is much that is good that should not be discarded simply because it has been ‘sitting around for a long time in the cupboard,’ she emphasizes the need to be able to distinguish between the “staples” of ministry and doctrine from the “seasonal produce” that may or may not need to be added to make the “dish” palatable to an audience from a different culture. She then sets forth a set of principles with regard to “cooking up” opportunities for evangelism and discipleship within and outside of the church utilizing a healthy and fresh combination of “staples from the cupboard’ and “seasonal items”.

Recipes for Missional Living: Part Two

During my first month at the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, I was informed by a number of people **repeatedly** that I must try Carol’s Jewish Apple Cake. One day, I was promised (by more than one person) that eventually she would bring it in and then I would know how really good a Jewish Apple Cake could be… I looked forward to this event with great anticipation. When the day finally came I cut myself a nice slice and savored that first bite. And then something strange happened…I tasted peach. Yes- peach! It turns out, Carol always substituted peach for apple, and to make matters even more bizarre- (and, normally, this wouldn’t have mattered- except for the peaches…) In fact- Carol was not even Jewish. The cake was undoubtedly delicious, but from there on in, I kidded Carole and the other co-workers that they had all sold me a bill of goods- substituting Carol’s Catholic Peach Cake as a cheap substitution for the “real thing.”

Here’s another scenario…

A friend of mine had a dearly loved recipe for carrot cake. I mean it was the most delicious carrot cake I’d ever had. She gave me the recipe and I made it several times and everywhere I took it- people raved. Then one day, instead of putting three teaspoons of cinnamon, I accidentally put in three Tablespoons. Three friggin’ tablespoons of cinnamon- geez! Well, there was nothing I could do but bake it, so I did. Well, let me tell you- I used the word “was” (as in “it was the most delicious carrot cake recipe I’d ever had”) for a reason…Because now the Three Tablespoon Cake is the best carrot cake in the world. Oh yeah, I mean it. It’s good. Real good. (And if you’re very, very good- I’ll give you the recipe.)

So what’s the point of these two stories?

What I’m trying to articulate is that, in cooking, sometimes you can get away with substitution and addition with only minor alteration to the overall product. Sometimes, however, you end up with an altogether different (albeit palatable) creation.

All joking aside- have you ever tasted something and it was not what you expected? Whether the sensation is good or not, the reaction is similar-“Oh! What is that?”

What if that was the reaction from someone to whom you had been attempting to minister? What you promised to “feed” them was not what they had expected…

What do you do after that- when what is delivered does not meet expectations? Does not fill them…does not fully satisfy?

This is the point that Anna Robbins makes, in her book: Sharing the Feast: Recipes for Evangelism and Discipleship for Today’s Church.

Today, we’ll discuss more in depth Chapter One~ Assembling the Ingredients: from the Store Cupboard.

Robbins starts chapter one with the premise that everyone is spiritual, and hence has beliefs, expectations and a world view which is informed by these (albeit ill-defined and/or ill-informed) beliefs. Everyone has a basic theology, and we all have an answer to the question: “Who am I?” –even if it is “I don’t know” she asserts.

“As Christians,” she further claims, “we base our understanding of God and ourselves on the Bible. We believe the Bible to be a reliable account of God’s dealings with humanity.” These basic beliefs make up the “staple ingredients” with which we prepare our evangelistic/missional/discipleship “feasts.” Robbins instructs us that how we use these staple ingredients will determine and effect the ‘overall flavor and texture’ of what we offer to those who we wish to serve. And so, she cautions, it is with utmost care that we should “take stock” and are consciously aware of the traditional ingredients that we have available for necessary use. We don’t want to ever serve anyone “Christianity-lite”- it might give them the impression that that is all we’ve got- nothing but platitudes and bumper sticker theology. We want, right from the outset, for people to rest safe in the knowledge that the faith we offer has substance and meat; that it’s not cotton candy that tastes good for a moment, but is amorphous and transitory.

Moving Past the Myths that Mess Up the Mix

Robbins asserts that the explanations (“myths”) that spring up in our culture to explain human nature or address certain existential issues frequently go unchallenged by Christians. She cautions that we must address them, and we must know how to do so with a deep understanding and with an ability to respectfully engage the culture.

Here is the list of Myths that we must be capable of understanding and addressing with knowledge and respect:

Creation versus the Myth of Mindless Evolution- we must always include the Creator;
Crash vs. the Myth of Human Goodness- apportion helpful discussions of sin &“the fall”;
Covenant versus the Myth of Creative Distance- incorporate the “God who pursues”;
Christ vs. the Myth of the Good Teacher- never, ever dilute or substitute the Sonship;
Call versus the Myth of Hedonism-too much sweetness and fat ruins the recipe;
Consummation vs. the Myth of Meaninglessness- purpose creates a true existential hope.

Robbins stresses the importance of ensuring the inclusion of all the “staples” (qualities to the above left) but cautions the error of over-stressing them to the point of an unbalanced flavor (she writes “flavour”- she’s a Canadian ex-pat living in London.) There is, she acknowledges, room for diversity with regard to degree of presence of the abovementioned “staples.”

In other words:
We don’t want to serve up Peach Cake when Apple Cake is on the menu; but it may be exceedingly fortuitous to “spice up” the Apple Cake with a generous amount of cinnamon.

Happy “cooking”….more next week.


FreeStyle Friday~ Anything I Wanna Do... Singing the Laments of the Psalms as a Spiritual Discipline

In the imprecatory laments, the petitions can be shockingly horrifying (e.g. individual lament-Psalm 109 and community lament-Psalm 137). On the face of it, one wonders how anyone had the “nerve” to articulate such seemingly vindictive thoughts to God, let alone allow such words to be recorded. But the laments have an essential and marvelous function: by offering them up to God, we have the capacity to see our odious meditations and desperate thoughts transformed into something acceptable (Ps. 19:14), and because we are able to express our feelings toward The Counselor, we are provided with an alternative to outwardly expressing them through either words or actions toward our enemies. As we ventilate our feelings and process them through the filters provided by the Holy Spirit, he searches, tries, sees, and leads us (Psalm 139:23-24) toward healing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Formation Friday

In studying the Psalms for a seminary class, I was once again struck with the vivid and often vitriolic character of the imprecatory laments (mournful petitions). The petitions can be shockingly horrifying (e.g. Psalm 109 and Psalm 137). In these songs, the Hebrew people ask God to vindicate them by triumphing over their enemies in often graphic and disturbing ways. On the face of it, one wonders how anyone had the “nerve” to articulate such seemingly vindictive thoughts to God, let alone allow such words to be recorded. But the laments have an essential and marvelous function: by offering them up to God, we have the capacity to see our odious meditations and desperate thoughts transformed into something acceptable (Ps. 19:14), and because we are able to express our feelings toward The Counselor, we are provided with an alternative to outwardly expressing them through either words or actions toward our enemies. As we ventilate our feelings and process them through the filters provided by the Holy Spirit, he searches, tries, sees, and leads us (Psalm 139:23-24) toward healing. Practicing lament is not often though of as a productive or acceptable way of processing our thoughts and feelings, but I would suggest that it is a powerfully effective spiritual practice and an essential component of spiritual formation. Moreover, it is a way to truly step forward in faith and trust toward God, for we are trusting Him with our most filthy ugliness in the knowledge that He will love us nonetheless.

Here are some examples of modern day laments:

Here's one by Barlow Girl. It's very beautiful, and touching. Here is an entire album of laments by Michael Card and a page at Calvin Institute for Worship's website about lament and Card's work (both written and recorded) on lament for worship. Finally, I have to include this a haunting 'cover' of "On the Willows" (from Godspell) it is so agonally beautiful…

Grace and Peace~


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Theology Thursday~ Why Theology? Part IIIA: Theology Should Be Both Knowledgeable and Charitable

In order to be able to bless the world, our understanding of God (our theology) has to be on the mark, so to speak. We rightly take our theology very seriously, for as theologian Karl Barth articulated:

"If we get God wrong, we get everything wrong."
Good theology has to be accurate, but it has to be charitable, relevant, meaningful, and attractive as well. That is what it means to be “the aroma of Christ”- our understanding of the Triune God should be such that it is irresistibly compelling. We need to be able to speak the language of those around us, and we need to have eyes that see the world through their eyes. We need to know that they scrutinize our behavior and are well aware of when we are little more than “pew potatoes,” sitting around and ruminating about our theologies and doctrines. We need to be able to move ourselves from our sanctuaries into the world and theologize with our actions. Christian theology is most compelling when it acts out its understanding of God in palpable ways that actually flesh out our oftentimes ambiguous and otherworldly conceptualizations.

It has been said that, too often: “Theology among conservative Evangelicals tends to be about right and wrong propositions.” And also that: “The overriding challenge for the church, for those who wish to identify themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ, is to speak coherently and compellingly to those on the outside. We are not interested, therefore, in promoting further theological in-fighting and polemic. The approach must be respectful and constructive and must be focused primarily on issues relevant to the general goals of the project -in this case, the task of communicating the truth of the gospel in a postmodern environment." partii/

The problem seems to lie in communicating in a coherent manner with a voice that is compelling, rather than repellent; in a manner that is constructive, rather than destructive. This is no easy feat.

We are called to be studious with regard to our faith and practices which reflect upon our righteousness (2 Timothy 2:15; KJV; Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.) Education appears to be the key tool in this area. The Bible tells us that the key to equipping ourselves to do the work that God has for us is to shore ourselves up with The Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ;NIV; All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.)

Understanding what we believe as Christians about God is paramount. But is being a Bible scholar a pre-requisite to being able to engage the world? Do we have to know everything and have an answer for everything? Perhaps not, but we do know that we are expected to be able to give an answer for the reason why we have hope (I Peter 3:15) and most importantly, we are called to do this with gentleness and respect. And so it becomes quite apparent that while theology is a key tool to be used in the transmission of the gospel, there are other tools that must be used in conjunction with this “knowledge of God” for the missio Dei to be received effectively.

Theology is only one of those tools. Having a thorough knowledge of scripture, church history and a broad understanding of theology, (including having an understanding of other theologies) are helpful and essential tools that assist us in practicing the art and craft of ministry. But several very important other tools are also essential, in fact a “thorough knowledge of scripture” cannot be gained without these tools. They are silence, contemplation, receptivity, serenity, and clarity. These are the utilities that authenticate theology. Charity, hospitality, and presence are also tools that cannot be done without. These are the tools that invigorate theology.

I am reminded of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis. One of the primary themes of the work is stated this way in chapter one: “Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.” He further makes clear, however, that studying the life of Christ has as much to do with patterning one’s whole life after Christ, as it has to do with understanding fully his words. “Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just,” á Kempis posits, “but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God.” He follows this with an example:

“I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it.”
Excerpts such as:
“If I knew all things in the world and had not charity,
what would it profit me before God who will judge me by my deeds?
Shun too great a desire for knowledge,
for in it there is much fretting and delusion.
Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise.
Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. Many words do not satisfy the soul;
but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God.”

One can see the influence this passage had on John Wesley, who said:

“Beware you be not swallowed up in books!
An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.”
more to follow...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Family Dinner and Mealtime Tips (For Car Rides, Too)!

Family Dinner Tips:
Keep the conversation positive and inviting. For topics, there's always the standby of asking about everyone's day, but you can also talk about what's in the news or plan future family activities over dinner.

Try these Mealtime Conversation Starters:
1. What one special talent would you like to have?
2. If snow fell in a flavor, what would you want it to be?
3. What is your favorite holiday, and why?
4. Which household chores do you like to do?

Mealtime Tips:
1. Don't feel guilty if family dinners are not a daily event. Start with what's possible at the
moment, naturally transitioning toward eating together several times per week.
2. Family discussions need not begin and end while seated at the dinner table. Family
members, including even young children, may begin communicating while helping to
prepare the meal and setting the table. Mealtime conversations may continue as the
family clears the table and does the dishes.
3. The family dinner should be a relaxing, pleasurable occasion. Unpleasant topics,
negative criticism, and passing judgment are not appropriate dinner conversation.
4. Always involve your kids in the dinner discourse. Their participation will not only make
them feel more valued; it will also expose them to new language and ideas. The art of
conversation and learning how to take turns speaking are important social skills for
everyday life.
5. Specific questions to children (for example, "How many nibbles did you get on your line
when you and Dad went fishing Saturday?") are more likely to trigger conversation than
general questions. ("How was your day today?")
6. Laughter is the best dinnertime music.
7. Family dinners don't always have to be evening events. They also can be weekday or
weekend breakfasts or lunches. What's most important is communicating the importance
and desirability of these family meals.
8. Change the family dinner location sometimes. How about an afternoon picnic, dinner
under the stars, or Saturday breakfast in your child's room?
9. Turn off the TV and radio. Unplug the phone or put on the answering machine. Don't let
interruptions spoil this special time.

What Should We Talk About?
• Ask everyone to share their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day.
• Plan the next day’s dinner together.
• Share your own childhood memories.
• Discuss an activity the family can do together.
• Talk with your children about a book they are reading or a movie they have seen.
• Eating dinner together every night is an opportunity to open the doors of communication.
This will help you find out more about your children’s likes, dislikes, and daily life. Having
this information can help you direct your children toward positive activities and behavior,
reducing the likelihood that they will get involved with alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.

Wellness Wednedsay: The Benefits of the Family Table

Did You Know? According to the American Dietetic Association, studies have shown that children who have frequent family dinners tend to have healthier diets.

Now, that may seem like a “no-brainer” but here are some more interesting facts about the benefits of “The Family Table”:

Researchers at the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University have noted a correspondence between family dinners and positive behaviors and living-styles among American teens. Researchers compared the responses of children who reported having family dinners fewer than three times a week with those who have family dinners five times or more per week. The study concluded that children who enjoy frequent dinners with their family are far less likely to develop substance abuse problems.

If a child has family dinner time on a regular basis, he or she is:
-Half as likely to try cigarettes or marijuana
-One-third less likely to try alcohol
-Less likely to have friends who drink alcohol or use marijuana
-More likely to say they won't ever try drugs

In addition to avoiding substance abuse issues, children who have regular family dinners:
-earn better grades
-are more likely to claim that their parents are proud of them
-are less likely to report tension among family members
-are more likely to confide in a parent with regard to a serious problem

Researchers for the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that adolescent girls who have frequent family dinners are less likely to use diet pills or develop eating disorders, such as binge eating or self-induced vomiting.

Why does family dinner time promote such healthy habits? Experts believe a regular face-time between parents and children facilitates communication, which, in turn, helps parents guide their children's behavior. A meal just happens to be the most convenient opportunity for families to connect with each other on a regular basis.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Mealplanner- First Week of School

Meal Planning 101: Week One~ First Week of School:

This Week’ Shopping List:
Meats: 2 pkgs. chicken breasts; 2 lb ground beef; 2 pkgs. London broil; Italian Sausage
Frozen veggies- one bag ea: corn, chopped spinach, peas & carrots, whole greenbeans
Hard/thick tortilla chips
2 cans each of cream of chicken & 2 cans cream of mushroom soup (or 2 large cans)
Chicken base ( I prefer “Better Than Bouillon” brand by Superior Touch)
Garlic & Ginger (either fresh, or to save time- buy in tube, in produce section @ grocery)
Cheeses: Mozzarella- shredded; Cheddar- block; Parmesan-grated; Mexican Blend-grated
Dairy: Eggs; sour cream; Milk; Butter
Sausage (patties and links)
Dry pink, red and black beans
Canned tomatoes- diced, crushed and whole (one can each)
Squash (zucchini)
Italian Bread
English Muffins
Pancake mix
Lawry’s marinade (Caribbean Jerk, Baja Chipotle)
Lettuce, etc (salad fixings: celery, carrots, onion, tomatoes- whatever you like)
Pasta sauce
Cornbread muffins
Stuffing mix

Chicken breasts (marinated in Lawry’s Caribbean jerk the night before & bake or grill)
Ratatouille; Salad: Garlic bread

Crock-pot chili; Roasted corn and peppers; carrot and celery sticks; cornbread muffintops

Wild Card Wednesday~ Stir fry chicken and vegies or order in

Spaghetti with meat sauce (made from meat mixture); Garlic bread; Garden salad

Freestyle Friday~ Super crazy nacho dinner or order in

Chicken breast/Stuffing Casserole; peas and carrots; salad

Pot roast, carrots, potatoes, and greenbeans; garlic bread; salad

Recipes to Follow...

Week One Monday Dinner Recipe~Marinated Chicken Breasts and Ratatouille

Week One Monday Dinner Recipe~ marinated chicken breast and ratatouille
Chicken breasts
marinated 2-3 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in Lawry’s Caribbean jerk the night before & bake or grill the next day after work) No worries, no work!
Ratatouille: cut up tomatoes in wedges, zucchini in thick (1/2 in) slices, steam in microwave for 5-10 minutes until semi soft, but not overly wilted, add salt, pepper to taste- (Mary Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt is my favorite), ¼ c. chopped Vidalia onions or dehydrated minced onion to taste, add shredded cheese (whatever blend you like- I buy the leftover heals from the deli and use whatever they have- it’s never come out bad, yet!); spray casserole dish with butter flavored cooking spray, add all ingredients; cover top of casserole with a breadcrumb/melted butter/parmesan cheese/shredded cheese topping. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Salad- add to lettuce carrots, celery, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. Take the “extra time” (it really takes no extra time-believe it or not) to cut up the vegetables for the week-celery and carrot sticks, chopped carrots and celery.
Garlic bread- slice several pieces off your Italian loaf, butter, sprinkle with garlic salt and parsley, broil on low 3-5 min until golden brown.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Recipes for Missional Living: Part One

Seen the inspiring movie, Julie and Julia, yet? If not, what are you waiting for? This part of my blog is in deference to the ladies and the blog that inspired the movie…

That said, I will be taking time out, each weekend, to share “recipes” on how to do ministry better…I’ll be reviewing books, interviewing church planters or other leaders in the missional movement, and the like.

I thought I’d start off ‘simply’ by reviewing an excellent book by Anna Robbins, a lecturer in Theology and Contemporary Culture at London School of Theology. The book, entitled: Sharing the Feast: Recipes for Evangelism and Discipleship for Today’s Church and was published by Spring Harvest in 2005. I highly recommend its purchase, it is one of those “need-to-have-it-in-your-library” books.

The premise of the book is a simple one (and catchy, too, if you enjoy thinking about these issues in terms of table-fellowship): “The way we relate the gospel to the world today is much like hosting a dinner party, or serving up a feast.” We are serving up a “feast” for others; some will be familiar with our offerings and hence, will come to the table readily, while others, culturally unfamiliar with our ‘food’ will be hesitant or no-shows to our fêtes if we continue to serve nothing but the standard, boring fare we have been for centuries. Robbins acknowledges that the thought of trying to present the gospel to “unfamiliar taste buds” can be a daunting one, but that it is a necessary part of evangelism and discipleship.

Unfortunately, there are many who find comfort and peace in having their “pearl onions” every Christmas- tradition is important- and Robbins stresses that there is much there is much that is good that should not be discarded simply because it has been sitting around for a long time in the cupboard. She emphasizes the need to be able to distinguish between the “staples” of ministry and doctrine from the “seasonal produce” that may or may not need to be added to make the “dish” palatable to a certain audience.

And so, Robbins sets forth a set of principles with regard to “cooking up” opportunities for evangelism and discipleship within and outside of the church utilizing a healthy and fresh combination of “staples from the cupboard’ and “seasonal items”.

More later...In the meantime, buy the book and we can read it together.

Rice and Peas~


Friday, August 28, 2009

Confessions of a (Reforming) Harried Woman…

Cooking Up Fun: Back to School Week Meal Planning

If you're anything like me, you are both relieved and distressed that school's back in session. You’re relieved because everything has it's time, and well- goshdarnit- it is just plain time for summer to be over. No more "Mom, I'm bored." No more coming home from work to a trashed house.

But, there is always a trade off. The free-floating anxiety that you’ve been experiencing because of the free-reigning chaos of your summer schedule is about to be replaced by that rigid torture device known as the “school year schedule.” Oh sure, it feels good to slip into it now- you’ve been needin’ a little structure- but just you wait…by October you’ll be feeling like it's hour nineteen and you’re in an 18-hour bra.

Trust me on this.

So, because I love you and feel for you and want you to enjoy life…we’re going to do a little project together. We’re going to do meal planning-yes that’s what I said- and you will love me for it.

Meal planning (and other forms of household hyper-organization) will save your life, and your sanity. It was my saving grace, and a tool I use to keep me moving forward, despite always having a lot on my plate.

Trust me on this.

Lookit, I was a single mom who worked two jobs (sometimes three) for eight years while my kids were small and I somehow managed to be an officer in the PTA and maintained a social life on top of that. And I didn’t lose my mind…(well not completely or for any substantial amount of time and without requiring hospitalization.) So when I tell you to trust me on this…trust me.

Meal planning 101:

Meal planning Rules to live by:

1) Know your schedule for the week.
2) Plan your menu for the week.
3) Cook some things ahead of time.
4) Re-appropriate leftovers.

Four Goals of Feeding Your Tribe:

1) What you serve should be nutritious.
2) What you serve should be delicious.
3) What you provide shouldn’t exceed your financial budget.
4) What you provide shouldn’t exceed your energy or time budgets.

Four Ideas for Economical (saving, time, money, and energy) Eating:

1) Shop Less Often. By planning carefully and stocking up you’ll find that you’ll save a lot of time, money, energy and gasoline.
2) Be Your Own Restaurant- try to eat at home (or send home-cooked meals with your tribe-members) as much as possible.
3) “Group” Your Cooking Sessions- for example, use an entire box of pancake mix and individually freeze what you don’t eat for a quick breakfast trick on busy school mornings.
4) Work From the Day Before- plan your meals in such a way that yesterday’s leftovers become today’s main fare.

More included.

FreeStyle Friday~ Anything I Wanna Do.... Today: What's the Central Message of Jesus?

This may come as a big shock to you, but the central theme of Jesus, as made very clear in the Gospels, is not what you may have been taught... If you were taught that the main reason Jesus came was to save you individually from hell-fire and damnation- you have been unwittingly taken on a journey of missing the point.

No really...

That is only a piece of the puzzle, only the tip of a much larger to speak.

Jesus did come to save you as an individual, and it is my sincere hope that you have taken Him up on this awesome offer. (If you want to know more about this, feel free to contact me at

If you have done this, you may have had the experience of someone asking you "Why you did it? or What did you get saved from?" and these are often great opportunities to bear witness on an individual level as to what kind of brokenness a life given over to Jesus can be delivered from.

But, again, answering these questions only answers part of the question.
Another question that deserves a thoughful answer is-
"Now what? What did He save you for?

Ask yourself that question- if the only answer you come up with is, something like this: "So I could go to heaven when I die."
...then we need to talk...

Seriously...We need to have a chat.

You gave your life to Jesus, didn't you? You've gotta expect he'll want to use it, rather than put it up on a shelf somewhere for 'safe-keeping'.

No, Jesus wants you to get into the game. To be a player. He wants you to enjoy the joy of experience, community, and participation and the unparalleled glory of co-creating with the God of the universe, himself.

You, my friend, were saved to be a blessing to the world!

This is clearcut, it's your end of the Abrahamic Covenant (the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12) See here:

“I will make you into a great nation

and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

and you will be a blessing.

(Now, this time, read that "Will Be" as an imperative- as in "You will, you must be...a Blessing!, rather than as a declarative: "Yup, you'll be a blessing..." It makes a huge difference...)

I will bless those who bless you,

and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

will be blessed through you.”

Did you ever look at it that way? No? Well ya gotta admit- it's pretty cool, huh??

Watch this vid- it'll make it a little more clear...

Let me know what you think...

Why Theology?- Part II: Theology Must Be Missional

Theology Must Be Everybody’s Responsibility. Theology Must Be Missional.

All believers are called to be “ministers,” whether we do so in a full-time capacity, or not. We know we have been set apart, and we are clear that the directive that we have been given is a directive to be different. This gets to the idea of holiness as defined by Dr. Jim Bruckner, Professor of Old Testament Studies at Northpark Theological Seminary. Holiness is not for holiness’ sake; holiness is missional. We have been called to be the agents of change in the world, a holy (set-apart) people who have been blessed by God solely to be a blessing to the world. Neither is theology done for the sake of theology. Holiness and theological understanding are both constructs which are designed to be utilized to make clearer a much larger picture which involves a mission to bless the world. If we are made holy/set apart by God to bless, then it only stands to reason that, when it comes to theology, we approach it in the same manner: we set ourselves, our ideas, our minds, apart- we take captive every thought, so that it may be in obedience to God and to his mission in and for the world, the missio Dei, which is to be a holy blessing to the world.
We must expect that we will be asked tough questions by those with whom we have the privilege of coming into contact. We know that we will be challenged by these questions. We also know that in answering these questions, we have the opportunity to be a blessing. We cannot bless the world in a vacuum. We cannot impart an understanding of God to others if we do not know others; and we cannot impart an understanding of God to others if we do not know God. Our role in the world is distinct- we are always on task, always in the ‘hot seat’, always on mission. Dan Kimball has said that, “theology comes alive when we are on mission and challenged with different ways of thinking.”

To Be Continued... (More on What Theology Must Be to be Effective for the missio Dei...)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Theology Thursday: "Why Theology?" Part I

Theology: who needs it? Theology: what good is it?

Why should someone preparing for ministry
have to take theology courses?

Who should study theology?

Are average believers called to be “theologians”?

These are legitimate questions asked by many who claim belief in Jesus Christ and who seek to follow His examples set in life, love, service, prayer, and worship. In His book Mosaic of Christian Belief, Roger Olson writes that, “…many persons who are committed personally to Jesus Christ and to Christianity as a way of life have little use for anything approaching formal doctrine or theology. Belief for many of them is slightly more acceptable than doctrine, but theology often sends shivers down the spines of Christians who are convinced-rightly or wrongly- that much of what is wrong with Christianity, and especially Western Christianity, has arisen through formal theological reflection.” He goes on to further quip (on the behalf of these tentative believers) that:

“Jesus unites: doctrine divides!” (Olson, p.17)

The abovementioned witticism, although framed partially in jest, holds a great deal of truth in just four short words. It causes us to ponder other questions, such as:

Is theology necessary- is it a useful tool that we need in order to propound the
Missio Dei, or is it merely a seemingly antiquated endeavor used solely by an elite few
in order to draw lines around who is “in” and who is “out”- or even worse, is it merely a tool used by some to “domesticate” God in order that He be made serviceable to selfish human desires? Can “theology”- used wrongly- impede the Missio Dei?

The answer is “Yes.”

If all of the above propositions are true-and all in some sense are- then it appears that there is some work to be done within the Ecclessia…But where to start? How can such fears, prejudices, and misconceptions be dispelled and corrected?
It would seem that an important task would be to deconstruct the pre-existing popular conception of theology of every-day church-goers. It would seem equally important that every-day believers understand what their fiduciary duty is with regard to theological reflection.

Theology: What is it? What is it good for?

Defining theology is a good place to start. Theology is best viewed as a developmental process which involves scriptural study, historical knowledge, (among other things), and most importantly-a Spirit initiated and mediated examination and reflection; which, when used together can lead eventually to a “knowing of God.” Thusly defined, the next question- “What good is it?” is easily answered. For if theology is defined as a God-given process by which we learn to know of and know God more deeply- then its merits become self-evident. Unfortunately, theology is frequently misconstrued as a science that is mastered by a higher intellect, and is used as a construct by which one can claim to possess a superior knowledge of God. Defined in this way, theology loses its meritorious benefits, and easily becomes just another tool for self-elevation. Hence, theologians are frequently thought of as pompous, bombastic, self-absorbed, head-in-the-clouds people who are “so heavenly minded- they're no earthly good.” This is what detracts, rather than attracts people to theology.

(to be continued...)

Works Cited: Olson, Roger E. The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity. New York: InterVarsity, 2002.

Celebrating Man's Best Friend

A recent study found that "man's best friend" is capable of recognizing 165-250 words, has the intelligence of a 2-4 year old child and they even possess math skills...Amazing!

In honor of one of God's best gifts to humankind- Man's Best Friend- here is One Fantastic Video of "Spy",who is clearly one bright pup! (P.S. Doesn't he remind you of my Jack Russell/Manchester Terrier mix, Rex?)


Wellness Wednesday

The second wave of Swine Flu is due to hit sometime this autumn. It is suspected that this strain will have mutated sufficiently such that it will be more virulent (powerful and more dangerous) than the strain that went around earlier this year. The CDC is reccommending that if you even suspect that you have the flu, you should quarantine yourself (limit forays into public- especially work and stores) and see your healthcare provider immediately. Here is an excellent video directly from the CDC. Let me know if you have any questions. I'm happy to answer them as best I can and/or re-direct you to someone who can help you.

Be Well~


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Abundant Harvest 2009

Even though we only have a small backyard garden (approx. 20 X 20), my husband and I manage to always have a decent enough "crop" to be able to give away tomatoes and peppers to anyone who will take them. This year, we cut back drastically on the banana peppers (I mean, really, how many things can you do with banana peppers?) and increased our plantings of cucumbers. (Last year, they were delicious and we couldn't get enough of them). Yesterday I picked 24 cukes and 29 'maters! (See pics). We harvested enough to take a big container of work (and I took a bunch of rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, mint, and scallions-too), keep a bunch for ourselves, and give some away to the neighbors. Tonight, I bought a couple of pizza shells and made two delicious, fresh ingedient pizzas.

Easy "Recipe":

2 Boboli-type pizza shells, or use Pillsbury pizza dough if you prefer
Your favorite pasta sauce- I used Classico Spicy Tomato Basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Sprinkle a bit on top for a "white" [sauceless] pizza)
Fresh Basil and Oregano
Fresh Tomatoes
Mozarella Cheese
Salt, Pepper, & Garlic to taste

Combine ingeredients for a quick, fresh, delicious meal.

The boys loved will, too!)


“Healing means…the creation of an empty space where those who suffer can tell their story to someone who can listen with real attention…it is the…task of creating and offering a friendly empty space where strangers can reflect…without fear, and find the confidence that makes them look for new ways right in the center of their confusion. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.” ~Henri Nouwen And so...welcome to my empty space…