"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Response to David Mills on Anxious Parenting

David's (very worthy) article is found here.


It wasn't my kid on the trampoline with David's. It could have been. My eldest and his youngest are the best of friends. But I do admit that I hesitated half a second the first time I dropped my firstborn off at their house for a playdate and saw The Trampoline. *ominous music plays* Half a second, though, and no more.

I come from a long line of worriers and what-iffers. My dad slept with the window open, just a crack. He liked the fresh air, he said. This is true, but he also liked to be able to hear if anyone was coming up our driveway. My mother insisted I call her every Sunday in college, just to make sure I was still alive. My grandmother fretted that my cousin wouldn't live to see fourteen, especially if he didn't wear an undershirt even in summer. (He's thirty-five now.) We worry, because we care. Mostly though, we worry because we're good at it.

I also come from a culture of worriers. Statistics fly, boogie men around every corner. Children are precious, too precious. They become fragile, and a trip to the ER is quietly the mark of a bad parent.

But I also have three boys. Watching them and their peers grow up, I've learned that the phrase "boys will be boys" is not necessarily true. Its pretty easy to tame the boyishness out of them when they're young. Its just that once you do, you end up with neutered males and the boyishness is really hard to put back once you realize your mistake.

I had to teach the first to get dirty. That's a funny thought now, but he was never a very adventurous child by nature. He had to learn to be a boy, and I wasn't a very good teacher. I remember teaching him to dig in the garden; he hated it. But as he's grown, he has learned to shoot a BB gun, thanks to 4H. And he's learned to risk getting hurt (thanks to Tae Kwon Do). And I've learned to bite my tongue when I see imagined dangers on the horizon.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks? That's the question doctors ask before medicating a patient, sometimes even with dangerous courses of drugs. Do the benefits of my allowing my child on the Trampoline of Doom (he'll have fun, get some exercise, maybe venture out a little further) outweigh the risks (he might fall off and get winded... we may end up with stitches, but its unlikely, or a cast and a lesson learned)? Most of the time, they do... so I worry, because its in my genetic code. But I do so biting my tongue, while my child bounces on the trampoline.

As God has blessed me with two additional boys, one of whom is into electricity and power tools, the other likes to climb and take martial arts lessons (at a young age!) I've learned that I have to keep my worries to myself and let them get themselves into minor scrapes. Its good for them. They can't come running to mommy when they're thirty-five and have kids of their own. And its been good for me, too, as mothers aren't really allowed to cling to their sons.

I admit that I've not been able to cross the line into a totally relaxed parenting style. But at least I've learned (mostly) when to sit down and shut up. How will they learn how to be men, if we never let them live?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

More on rabbit churches.

Admittedly, my last blog post was a little cynical, without any real answers. And while our rabbit-churches are fully dysfunctional, there are, within most of them, genuine believers who either don't recognize the rabbit-system's dysfunction (having never known anything else) or aren't equipped to help change the tide. Within my own congregation, I can think of half a dozen such people, just off the top of my head. (That doesn't sound like many, but in reality it's a sizeable percentage.)

So what does one do with that sizeable percentage? I don't think imposing a top-down strategy is healthy. As soon as the rector or other leadership leaves, dies, moves on, it all falls apart. A friend of mine introduced the idea that a congregation, as a whole, has a set of core gifts that color the tone of the congregation. This makes sense to me, and I've discovered that even the most stagnant congregation can learn to live a little if the core gifts are the means of ministry. Its sort of like doing a spiritual gifts assessment for the whole congregation. Even my most difficult church got into that activity.

I've served a church whose core gift was hospitality... ministry out of that function is very fun, but the danger is that they start to throw parties for themselves. There's health in the gift, unhealth in the expression. Post Genesis 3 we're all like that. The idea is to be aware of the pitfalls.

I served a congregation whose core gift included a passion for healing ministry. I wasn't with them long enough to see the pitfalls, but post Genesis 3 I'm sure they'll stumble upon them. They were a community minded church with a solid future ahead of them. Lots of fun, even though healing ministry actually isn't anywhere close to my own gifts. But within the core, our own gifts as individuals found a place to serve.

Both of those places were awesome Christian communities; both also were in the process of growing out of the rabbit phase.

There has to be an identification of the rabbit-phase to outgrow it... a tough sell in any congregation.

For the curious, my method of exploring a congregation's core gifts is actually a modification of an interactive spiritual gifts assessment I wrote years ago. The program requires some adult ed time and a lot (whole lot) of those giant sticky pad pages (and a big marker). Maybe when I'm over this head cold, I'll post the actual questions for discussion.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

About Churches in the Year of the Rabbit

Someone posted on Facebook, and then a couple of someones posted on Facebook, some hoorah about how churches should be more like rabbits (small and lithe and reproducing frequently) than elephants. Cute. And, in the spirit its intended, it sort of works.

Except that anyone who knows rabbits knows that churches already ARE like rabbits. I have two as pets and let me tell you that there's more to rabbits than baby rabbits. They're not like tribbles, small and fuzzy and eager to reproduce. Rabbits are rabbits... in all their glory.

My rabbits were spayed before I got them. Like rabbits, churches are born with the ability to reproduce rapidly. All the equipment is there. Like many pet rabbits, most churches long ago took the surgical option. A quick anesthetized incision and all those complicated parts that lead to making new rabbits are removed. No fuss, no worry. The outside world likes it when rabbits/churches are neutered. It keeps them from being aggressive, they say. Controls the population. Can't have too many unwanted Churches out there hopping about.

Rabbits can actually be litter trained. Like my rabbits, most churches I know are fairly tidy, spend a lot of time grooming themselves and picking at one another. At the same time, they also enjoy sitting atop the pile of their own mess for no discernible reason. Unless given more productive things to do, they will also dig in their own messes and unknowingly throw it all over the place.

Rabbits, like most American Christians, are scared of their own shadow. They don't like to venture out far from the warren; they need a place to hide in order to be happy. Wanna really freak them out? Pick them up to try to groom them. Or come in to try to clean their pen. Rabbits like a clean space, but one of my rabbits firmly believes that the little broom I use to clean up after them is public enemy number one. The other likes to chew on the dust pan. If you think churches aren't like that just try pastoring one... make a few necessary changes and see who attacks the broom.

Rabbits, while cute and fuzzy, are actually capable of dying from choking on their own fluff. How many churches die from their own cuddliness? The gospel is not really cuddly. Its wonderful, but not fluffy. Never in the history of the earth did a timid fluffy bunny manage to get crucified.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From the Korea Times.... Not for the kiddies...

Robert Park speaks out on North Korea

Robert Park
By Kim Young-jin

Robert Park, the American missionary detained by North Korea last year for crossing its border, is speaking out against human rights abuses in the isolated state despite deep emotional wounds that remain as reminders of his time there.

Little had been heard from Park, 29, who was released last February after 43 days in incarceration for crossing the North Korea-China border. In a recent interview in Seoul with the Monthly Chosun, he offered a scathing review of the regime.

“More than 3 million people have died in North Korea (due to the regime),” he said. “Kim Jong-il has not shared a fortune in aid with the people, using it instead on weapons development.”

Park told the publication he is still haunted by memories of torture he experienced in captivity, sometimes to the point of having suicidal thoughts.

“When they released me, they said: ‘He can’t do anything. Let’s show the whole world. We are victorious,’” he said.

“They must have expected me to commit suicide as soon as I was released. In truth, they still scare me now. But when I think of the North Korean people and defectors, who are in greater pain than I, I can’t die.”

He said authorities shot footage of him being sexually tortured.

During the interview, he said the conditions were so bad that he prayed for Kim Jong-il’s death, but then stopped and began praying for his own.

On Christmas Day 2009, Park crossed the Tumen River carrying a letter asking North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to free the 200,000 people reportedly languishing in the country’s brutal political prisoner system.

Reports by the U.N. and other organizations say North Koreans are subject to vast malnutrition due to chronic food shortages, widespread torture and forced labor.

Describing the situation as the “worst act of genocide since the Holocaust,” Park called on the international community to do more as the fate of North Koreans is “everyone’s responsibility.”

“The (Korean) government should change its approach entirely,” he said, urging powers to make human rights the top priority.



__________________________________________

He's right, human rights in NK should be a top priority. I was encouraged by a rumor that China temporarily cut off NK's oil supply (China supplies 90% of NK's oil) in response to their recent threats against the South. They may have prevented war. I'm also encouraged by recent news reports that China's president Hu has acknowledged that China needs to get its own human rights house in order. But as they do that, they also need to weild some influence over their near neighbor and ally. NK is probably the worst human rights abuser on the planet right now, having institutionalized atrocity not seen outside the holocaust in the modern era.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Heroic...

absolutely heroic.
The American media doesn't seem to be carrying this but it bears reposting... from the Korea Times:


Australian teen gives up life for brother

An Australian teenager who insisted rescuers save his younger brother first died with his mother when they were swept away by flood waters, the UPI reported Thursday in Toowoomba, Australia.

Donna Rice, 43, and her sons, Jordan, 13, and Blake, 10, were trapped in their car Monday by a flash flood in Toowoomba, about 80 miles west of Brisbane, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Warren McErlean found the family standing on the roof of the car.

Jordan told him to take Blake first, McErlean said later. He was able to get Blake to safety, although it was a near thing, but the water pulled Rice and Jordan away as they tried to hold on to a tree.

John Tyson, Rice's longtime partner and the boys' father, said Jordan was afraid of the water.

"I can only imagine the fear coursing through his body," Tyson said.



We teach our sons that it is their responsibility to defend those smaller than they are and for older brothers to look after younger brothers, but this story is just beautiful. I often remind my own thirteen year old that in some cultures and times he'd be responsible for holding a job, earning his own living. And I often lament that western teens are too cihldish, too bound up in toys and worthless plastic lives. So to see a teen boy from a country very much like our own have the heart to play the man when his own life would be lost... its a worthwhile reminder that our teens are made of better stuff than we think.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

People

I can't help it... I believe in people.
I'm an introvert, overwhelmed by crowds, noise, hoorah.
But I like people; I can't help it.
I'm slow to get to know new folks, hating small talk and finding it hard to move beyond 'hello, how are you?'
But I've never met someone not worth the effort.
I've been hurt before, had people I couldn't forgive, lost friends. But they were all important, valuable, vital.
And in the end, I've been able to forgive them; and maybe they've forgiven me. I like to think I forgive easily. Usually anyway.

I believe in people.
I believe that every name, the good, bad, and ugly, splashed across my internet news feed, has a story, a need.
I believe that every face I see was crafted by the hand of God, because God, my God, loved and wanted that person from before the foundation of the earth.
I believe that each human being was meant for eternity.

Each one is fallen, but retains the image of God.
Marred, but not erased.

People are passionate, even when wrong.
Emotive, expressive, creative, cruel.
There is almost always a context.
People are gifted, varied, complex.
With hands, minds, voices, people create.
Because God created first.

And so I find it difficult when people walk away.
But at times I've had to let them go.
And some, on occasions more rare than I'd like to admit, have eventually wondered back into my life again.

And I find it difficult when people hate, when arguing is not about debate but anger, when charity fails.

I take the Scriptures seriously in the command to honor others above ourselves.

Though I fail to live it out more often than not.
I like people, but I fail to love.
To welcome the stranger. To hear the story. To know the context.
To practice what I've just preached.

So sad and beautifully offered....

I'll just re-post in whole... courtesy of azstar.net, by way of StandFirm.

Born, died between 2 tragedies

Stephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Sunday, January 9, 2011 12:00 am

COURTESY OF THE FAMILY Christina-Taylor Green, 9, had just been elected to the student council and wanted to meet Giffords.

Aspiring politician Christina-Taylor Green was born in the midst of tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001, and died Saturday morning while trying to meet Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The strong-willed 9-year-old third-grader had gone to meet Giffords with a neighbor when she was shot. She died later at University Medical Center.

Her neighbor was shot four times and was recovering from surgery Saturday evening.

Christina-Taylor had just been elected to the student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School and had been interested in politics from a young age, her father, John Green, said Saturday night.

"She was a good speaker. I could have easily seen her as a politician," her father said.

The brown-eyed athletic girl had one sibling, an 11-year-old brother named Dallas, and the two loved to go swimming together.

She'd already told her parents she wanted to attend Penn State one day and have a career that involved helping those less fortunate than her.

She also loved animals and was a passionate dancer who loved ballet, hip-hop, jazz and gymnastics and was the only girl on her Canyon del Oro Little League baseball team, "The Pirates." She played second base.

Christina-Taylor came from a family of baseball players. Her grandfather, former major-league pitcher Dallas Green, was team manager for the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the World Series in 1980.

"She kept up with everyone, she was a strong girl, a very good athlete and a strong swimmer," said her mother, Roxanna Green. "She was interested in everything. She got a guitar for Christmas so her next thing was learning to play guitar."

Christina-Taylor also enjoyed singing in a church choir at St. Odilia's Catholic Church, where she had received her first Holy Communion in the spring.

"'Let the children come to me,' Jesus said (Matthew 19:14). Christina is with Him," Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas wrote in a letter to parishioners sent from Jordan, where he is attending a bishops' meeting.

Already aware of inequalities in the world around her, Christina-Taylor often repeated the same phrase to her mother: "We are so blessed. We have the best life."

Her birth date no doubt helped inspire Christina-Taylor's interest in politics, Roxanna Green said. She was one of 50 9/11 babies featured in a book called "Faces of Hope."

"She was born back east and Sept. 11 affected everyone there, and Christina-Taylor was always very aware of it. She was very patriotic and wearing red, white and blue was really special to her," her mother said.

"She was all about helping people, and being involved. It's so tragic. She went to learn today and then someone with so much hatred in their heart took the lives of innocent people."

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 573-4134.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Armchair Politicians

Revolting.

An Arizona congresswoman is shot; her life, if she survives will never be the same. My first impression is that this is what women's liberation has given us, the right to become a target like so many political figures who have suffered assassination attempts in generations past. At first it was reported that she had died, another sensless martyr to someone's unnamed cause. Several people indeed were killed, but only the famous, a federal judge, seems to be named.

Congresswoman Giffords' prognosis is nothing short of miraculous. The fact that she's alive, perhaps responsive, through surgery. It is no wonder that, in search of the scoop, several media outlets prematurely reported her demise.

But within hours the trend of blaming her political opposition has begun to emerge. On the left, it is now considered acceptable behavior to blame the "Tea Party" people, Sarah Palin, and the poor soul (reported to actually be a childhood friend) who ran against Congresswoman Giffords in the last election. Their choice of language is now blamed for inciding a crazed man to murder because their rhetoric included words like "take aim at" and her unfortunate opponent once offered a rifle range soiree to drum up support among the Second Amendment supporters (of which Giffords herself is reported to be one).

Now I can't stand the angry white men of the radio (and presumably television, for those who watch the box) any more than anyone else, but do they bear blame for the actions of one insane person? Are the thought police so powerful that our use of metaphor now brings us to blame for the actions of others? And is throwing blame really America's way of supporting the victim of a terrible crime?

I know that from most directions, on the right and on the left and from the middle and the fringes of our politics, most Americans are moved to compassion over this incident, that took several lives, including that of a nine-year old child. But it is shocking that the Congresswoman's own contingent, those who tend to support her party (though I suspect she is more centrist than the liberals in question) seem to prefer to find someone to blame. The person responsible is in police cusstody, isn't it time to comfort those who mourn?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

An unexpected gem...

I found this posted on another site... its not usually the sort of thing I click through for, but the person who posted it is someone who tends to think interesting thoughts... anyway, I thought I'd share this view on postmodernism and "the most aggressively inarticulate generation since, you know, a really long time ago..."

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Saint for Our Time


Thanks to standfirminfaith.com for posting this... I thought it worthy to pass along.