March 2009


flower-emerging

There are few issues as polarizing today as the environmental movement. Many feel that this is another battle in America’s “culture war.”

Nowhere has the issue been more explosive than within the American church. Some churches have latched onto the environmental movement out of theological conviction, others out of a desire to be viewed as nice, still others out of a quest to be considered relevant. On the other hand, many religious leaders have completely rejected environmentalism as mere paganism, and warned other believers not to be blinded by “the green haze.”

I am afraid that far too many of us (professing Christians) have allowed ideological camps to sway us toward, or drive us away from, their positions instead of being reflective, creative, proactive, or even biblical on this issue. I think that we can find a wealth of guidance about environmentalism in the opening pages of the scriptures. The Genesis Creation Poem provides some important truths that must influence our stance, and actions, on the world’s growing environmental concerns.

1. God made the Earth, and God liked it. The physical earth is not bad. It is God’s creation, and God called it “good” a number of times. How should we treat something that was created by God, and belongs to God?

2. God made People out of the Earth. God made adam (human) out of adama (earth). In modern language, we are made out of the same elements. The way that we treat creation, is the way that we treat humanity. The notion of Human vs Nature is not found here. We are presented as a part of the community of creation.

3. God empowered People to care for the Earth. God chose to create humans in His likeness. God also empowers humanity to rule the earth in His likeness. In the reality that God created (also the reality that we live in) – Humanity has a real impact on the Earth. God calls us to use that power for good, and to care for and nurture the Earth.

While the creation poem does not give us details on how to care for creation, it makes it clear that we must care for the Earth. I believe that the people of faith should be leading the way in creation care, not in an attempt to be relevant or hip, but out of obedience, stewardship and love.

What do you think?

Advertisements

mandy-herreraSunday should be about the celebration of good things, and good people. I am planning on sending some shouts out to people on Sundays.

This week I am sending out a shout to Mandy Herrera. Mandy is the volunteer coordinator at The Potter’s House Association – a ministry focused on the thousands of people who live at the Guatemala City garbage dump. I have only known Mandy for 6 months, but I want to give her shouts for a few reasons.

1. Crucial Work – Mandy is in a key role in a ministry that brings holistic relief to people living in the neighborhoods at the Guatemala City dump. It is a brilliant work, which includes Education, Healthcare, Micro-Enterprise, Personal Development, and Community Support. In addition to serving a beautiful group of people (who are too often downtrodden, or at least forgotten, by the rest of the world), Mandy helps guide volunteers into life-changing experiences and relationships while serving in the community. On top of that – She even brought me juice & crackers when I spent the day in my room sick!

2. Mad Skills – Mandy is just great at what she does. She has a great balance of managing the logistics, and building relationships with people, both in the community and on the short term volunteer teams. I have never had to worry about a detail on a trip. Mandy is on it!

3. Strength – The work that Mandy does is not easy. Many people will not even drive into the neighborhoods where she serves. She could do a number of different things that would be easier and have bigger financial rewards. Mandy has stayed at her important post, and many lives are richer.

As I type this shout out, a group from our community is on their way to serve with Mandy for a week. I am thrilled when I think about how God will use Mandy to mold them as they serve in this important area!

You can also send Mandy a shout out. Just look her up on Facebook!

For more information on the Potter’s House Association please go to: http://www.pottershouse.org.gt/index.htm

small-stones

I had the privilege of hearing some stories of great courage this week. These are stories of people who have taken steps that require great strength and courage, most of which will never be celebrated, acknowledged, or even known. Most of these stories do not fit the criteria to get much hype. However, I think that some of the most courageous acts are seemingly the most simple. These stories, these people inspire me with their courage.

I heard one of these stories at our faith community’s weekly gathering. I had first met this man just a week earlier. That night we were exploring “the dangers of hate.” I noticed that he was not enjoying himself. The angry expression on his face and body language made that very clear! We had given everyone a rock that night on the way in the room. At the end of the night we invited everyone to place their rock on the stage as a symbol of letting go of their hate for a person or group. I clarified that there was no pressure to do it that night, but challenged them to always keep the rock with them until they were willing to honestly let go of the hate. This man stayed seated with his head down. After this week after the gathering, this man looked me in the eyes and handed me the rock. He said that he was finally letting go of some hate that he had carried with him for a very long time. I am not a good enough writer to describe how his eyes danced as he talked about this, I am not sure that anyone’s word’s could capture the freedom and joy that I saw in his eyes. It was an unbelievable change. It took an amazing about of courage. Courage to be honest. Courage to resist playing the game. Courage to let go of something that had become his. Courage to change.

This story will not make the local paper. It will certainly not get covered by a 24 hour news channel. However, I believe that this is the kind of courageous action that changes the world. The healing of the world sounds a lot like a the pipe dream of a naive idealist, but the journey there is full of gritty real life sacrifice, determination and courage. I am deeply inspired by this, and other acts of courageous honesty and change in our community. You help inspire me to be more courageous in my journey.

homeless-man-1

In the last post we explored our identity as expressed in the ancient creation poem (Genesis 1). The poem states that we are created in the Image of God. In other words, we are created to be the children of God.

While that reality provides us with some great clarity for who we are as individuals, the implications do not stop there.

One of the most amazing things about the Image of God in the creation poem in Genesis is that it claims to be true for all people. Unlike other creation stories of the day which claimed that the king, royalty, or priest alone were created in God’s Likeness, the Genesis creation poem claims that all people, male and female, were created in the Image of God.

It is simply an amazing claim.

It changes everything.

Just think about the implications …

with our family and friends …

with our neighbors …

with our co-workers …

with the people we think are wrong …

with the poor and marginalized, the outcasts of society …

and yes, even with our enemies.

All of them are created in the Likeness of God.

All of them have the Image of God as their core identity … regardless of whether we embrace that reality or not.

What if we began to live like Genesis 1 was true, not just about who we are, but also who others are?

What kind of world would it be?

What would need to change in my life, in your life?

Image Crisis is something that all of us wrestle with at some point in our lives. Many of us hit this quest for our true identity several times: adolescence, emerging adulthood, quarter life crisis, newly married, new parents, midlife crises, retirement, and twilight years. The problem is clear – how should we live life if we do not even know who we are?

Children of God
I believe that the creation poem of Genesis tells us who we really are. It tells us that we are created in the “Image of God.” What does that mean!? Context helps us. The next time that term “in the image of” is used in the story it is about a child born to a parent (Seth born in the image of Adam). To be created in the Image of God is to be created to be a child of God.

We human beings have a core identity of being children of God. This does not mean that all of us realize or embrace that identity. In fact, most of us have forgotten. The creation poem reminds us what it means to be a child of God.

Parent Child Relationship
There are two primary aspects of a parent child relationship that are displayed in the creation poem. Remember that this was initially a healthy relationship!

1. Intimacy: The child and parent are incredibly close. The parent has a profound love for the child and cares for them and empowers them. The child has tremendous love and respect for the parent. They know each other, not just about each other. It is the desire of the parent for the child to know them, and be known by them.
We are created to have an intimate relationship with God.

2. Resemblance: The child resembles the parent. A being from outside of the situation could observe the two belong to each other. This resemblance includes both what the child values and what the child does. The child is to be about the work of the parent, and do it in the same spirit as the parent.
We are created to resemble God, to act in the World in God’s likeness.

Unity in Diversity
Does this mean that we are called to be clones?
No way!
A good parent can have different types of relationships with different types of kids.
God is big enough that no single human can fully represent Him. It takes a wide variety of people to resemble God.

Restoration
To some of us this sounds like a fairy tale – too good to be true.
Well, yes and no.
The next section of the creation poem tells us that things fell apart. The relationship fell apart because the humans sold out. Unfortunately, each of us continues to sell out, being less than human, less than children of God.
But then the Story gets interesting. The rest of the story is about God working to restore us to our true identity. The Creator goes to great lengths to heal Creation. The Parent is relentless about rescuing the Child. This is the core of story of the Scriptures, and the story of our lives.

What do you think? What would intimacy with God look like for you? What would it look like to live more like God?

blow-horn2

Over the past few weekends there was a protester in the park across the street from our church building. He was holding up signs talking about the “sin” of voting for Barack Obama. I doubt that he reads my blog, but I thought that I would share some of my thoughts with him – just in case. As the disclaimer on the right states – these are my personal thoughts, not the official stance of Elmbrook. Nor should this post be read as a political statement. It is more theological / practical in nature. Most of this was written with a smile.

1. Do you know where you are?! Seriously, bro! I am confident that you can think of a million places in SE Wisconsin that have a higher concentration of Obama supporters than Elmbrook. Let me give you a few hints – drive into the city, look for a mainline congregation, and avoid groups of upper middle class moderately educated conservative white people (not all of us, but most of us)! That is not a sure fire road to success, but it will probably serve you better than protesting to the 5% of Elmbrook (my estimate) who voted for Obama.

2. Check The Grammar and Logic on your Sign. I do not think that you really meant to communicate “Repent for vote Obama = Sin.” I think that you meant something like “Repent. Voting for Obama was a Sin.” The signs also seem to have some confusion in their ideological claims. For example, Obama can probably not be in the same ideological camp as both Hitler and Marx. Nor can he be both an Islamasist and a Communist. None of those ideologies work together. You might want to pick one accusation.

3. You had better be really sure! It is a very serious thing for a person to pronounce Judgment on another human being, or group of humans. IF there is ever an appropriate time for that, then you had better be 100% sure that the message is from God, or you risk damaging your own soul. As a person who has put a lot into knowing God, my advice is that you might want to hold off on this one!

4. Try Worship on the Weekends. What if you put away the angry sign that claims to speak for God, and you joined with other humans, who are flawed like you and me, and you worshiped God? I think that might end out bringing more healing and life to you and to others.

Grace and Peace to you Sign Guy.

jim-holding-alterraRobyn and I moved to Milwaukee about a year and a half ago. We have been very very impressed! This is a great city! In an attempt to give Milwaukee her props (proper respect) I will occasionally write a post about something great about this city.

I am leading off strong with Alterra Coffee.

Alterra is a local independent coffee shop chain here in Milwaukee. Alterra puts first things first – for a coffee shop that means great coffee drinks. The beans are top quality, and they often have baristas who compete at the national level. In addition to great drinks Alterra offers very good food at reasonable prices. The atmosphere is hip yet comfortable, and it includes great music and free WiFi. The chain also has a sense of social responsibility – most products are organic and fair trade and they use renewable energy sources.

To some it up: – this place is simply amazing. I will go as far as to claim that Alterra is probably the best coffee shop chain in the nation. Now I know that all of the Pete’s Coffee fans will protest this claim, but I dare you to give it a try. Simply fly me out to CO or CA, and I will bring the Alterra coffee beans! You could also visit Milwaukee, or place an order at the site below.

This place is so good that my wife, a native southerner, told me in the middle of winter last year (imagine wind chills at 30 below 0) that we could never move outside of driving distance of an Alterra.

Here is the link: http://alterracoffee.com/

Next Page »