a sidenote

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“Can’t” and “Won’t” seemed to be commonly confused words in religious circles, or in regards to spiritual things in general. “I can’t” if analyzed according to the moral or spiritual or practical situation generally always really means “I won’t”.

I’ve noticed this increasingly over the years.

They actually don’t mean the same thing. “Can’t” seems to be a lot more popular, and blame free.

“Won’t” implies a lot, though it’s generally more honest and true in regards to just about everything. We won’t do a lot of things we’re supposed to do, and won’t stop doing things we shouldn’t be doing.

Sometimes, I guess, we “won’t” so strongly we might even be at the point we “can’t”. I don’t know. I still think we should. Even if it’s hard, and takes practice, and we have to work out of our “can’t” and into our “will”.

I’m at the point where I realize those things I just “won’t” do, even as I realize I really should. It’s not that I’ve changed what I do for the most part, but at least I know who to blame, and realize I should get to working at it at least.

St. Paul seems to say as much in his various letters.

truck

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So after a bit of thick fog and mist the other day my truck really began to look muddy. It was parked under a tree, and apparently the lack of rain for a long while meant the drips from the tree were filled with filth and muck.

After driving it to the store I realized I needed to wash the ol’ Blazer. I got to thinking maybe the hose, soap, and towel method wasn’t my thing.

Instead I’m going for something a little more classic.

Nothing cleans a car like glaciation.

Cleaning my truck by glaciation

What are you looking at?

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mountain quail

still snowing

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snow on saplings
snowing

And before the snow started, a mountain quail came looking for a bit of breakfast, which I fortunately provided by tossing out some seed.

Mountain Quail in snow

time

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The Christian should be just as fluid in time as in space. That’s the trick of this whole business.

Figuring out exactly what this means might take longer than my own life, even if I live to the wide extent my genes imply.

There’s a dance to this, a movement, a flow that incorporates more than how we move, how we act, and what we do. There’s a perception, a being within and without time, moving free along with the one who has been at this work since the beginning.

Tap into this, and one will find real freedom. Freedom to do all things, and freedom to be content in all things.

I sit on the edge and see there’s something to this, only I don’t know what, and I don’t know how. I think about the movements involved in tai chi, and know there’s a similar expression involving time itself, a gentle, pervasive approach forward and backward, involved in the relaxation of the Holy Spirit who filled and fills, breathing in with the breath of the one who is inside and outside of time and this universe.

I note this now, because if I ever get to the point of understanding exactly what I’m saying, I’d like to know when I first intentionally began the process.

The End of Autumn

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In my estimation Fall began early in August of 2005. The weather turned cool, and there were no heat waves to remind us of a lingering summer. It stayed cool through the official beginning, and stayed the same sort of cool through what may according to the records be called winter. But, winter never came. We’ve had Autumn now for six months.

I began to get worried about our Bizarro-Narnia, our world where winter never comes.

Ah, but yesterday everything finally got around to turning. Sure, it’s the seasonal equivalent to getting out of bed around 1 in the afternoon, but I’m glad Old Man Winter finally roused himself and got to work.

Winter Begins in February 2006
Winter 2006, finally

Of course, with the coming of the snow, there is also the coming of the junco, my foul weather balcony friend.

Junco on the balcony.  It’s winter finally!

Judgment

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When we think of judgment on the nations we tend to jump right to those other people. We think in terms of everyone else causing the sin that we have to then wrestle with. This is, of course, not outside the Biblical narrative, for sin is pervasive and those trapped in sin persist with chaos.

However, judgment in the Biblical narrative is not just about Egypt and Babylon. The prophets speak of those nations, and others, but they entirely more speak about Israel, the nation called and covenanted. Because it was called by God it had a specially weight in its responsibilities. God paid special attention to Israel, when it was good it was very good, when it was bad, well, there was suffering all around.

With this in mind I note Wolfhart Pannenberg’s thoughts (ST III, p.516):

The history of the church is not just a history of the missionary expansion of the Christian faith. Nor does it just record the way in which a lasting fellowship has been set up that transcends the frontiers and differences of peoples and races and finds political expression as well ain a a comprehensive order of peace. This is how we might have depicted it in the age of the Constantinian transition. Eusebius viewed it thus.

But already in his day the rift of the Arian controversy was taking place that would have momentous consequences for years throught the conversion of important Germanic tribes to the Arian form of the Christian faith, not to that of the orthodox church.

Then in the 5th century came the schisms resulting from the christological controversy. These developments contributed considerably and perhaps decisively to the breaking apart of the Roman Empire and to the collapse of the Western half in the storm of barbarian incursions, but especially in the 7th cnetury to the loss to Islam of Christianity’s original territories in Syria and Palestine, along with those in Egypt and North Africa, with the loss of Spain to follow.

We cannot integrate these events into a concpt of church history in terms of the thought of mission alone. They cut right across this thought.

From the standpoint of a theology of history they come only under the category of judgment. As regards their connection with the dogmatic divisions of the church, and especially with the attempts at purification by force, we might indeed regard them as the expression of a historical judgment of God on his church.

The category of judgment is essential also if we are to understand theologically the history of the church in the medieval West. It applies to the part played by the East-West schism in the loss of Asia Minor, Constantinople, and the Balkans to Islam. The inner decay of Western Christianity as a result of the swollen claims of the papacy, which shattered the concept of a harmony of the spiritual and secular powers in the life of Christendom, and later made the Reformation divisive, can also be evaluated theologically only from the standpoint of God’s judgment on his church.

We are also to see as an expression of God’s judgment in history the alienation of the modern world of Western culture from Christianity inasmuch as its secularism is ultimately derivable from the results of the church’s 16th century divisions and the Wars of Religions that they occasioned in the late 16th and 17th centuries.

The shattering of social peace by the intolerance associated with confessional differences, as more recent historical investigations of the 17th-century history tell us, was the decisive reason for the abandoning of what had hitherto been the prevailing view that the unity of religion is an essential basis of the unity of society. The emancipating of society with its political, economic, and finally its cultural forms of life from all ties to relgion has produced teh secularism of the modern world of Western culture. But the results of the schism in the Western church were the starting point.

With this then may be the tendency to throw the whole of Christianity out, as many are apt to do either in action or in watering down the theology. This isn’t quite the response. For as with Israel, judgment was not an act of abolishment but one of refocusing. When the unified nation could not be a reflection of the Divine to this world, God split the kingdom. When this didn’t work he abolished the kingdom, making the people no longer unified under a king, but rather a nation in the diaspora, spread about all the nations, unified only by their renewed faith.

When looking at the mess of Western society we, after two thousand years of efforts, have only ourselves to blame for that which we so heartily condemn. And in this is also the hope and solution. It is not to recover the power and influence which incited societal rejection and God’s judgment, but to instead restore in each of our lives the qualities of the faith that is affirmed by Christ and empowered by the Spirit to become a domain of holy resonance which encounters each person, not with judgment or control, but with love and transformation.

It is to God we must turn with all our being, and seek the power of the Spirit for the transformation we, apart from the Spirit, only bring to ruin.

Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.” (Joel 2:12-14)

In this blessing is the hope of the Nations, which has already been left, but so often entirely forgotten. We are, as a Church, restoring the walls having been reminded by judgment the nature of God, and in this we are like King Josiah, able to take a new stand as a people and take an approach to this world which forsakes our commitments to our own powers and begins anew to rely on the power of the Spirit which formed the Church, and maintains the Church, under the headship of Christ.

May peace truly be with us from now on.

diagrams

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I’m starting to think that the real reason I haven’t yet pursued full time ministry is because I abhor ministry diagrams. You know the kind with circles and squares, and arrows leading all sorts of directions. The best ones even have colors.

I don’t like them. They don’t make sense to me. Well, I understand them, I mean I’m not stupid, but I don’t like them. In general at least. Some are helpful, but those are exceedingly rare.

Now the problem with this sort of thing is that folks who love Leadership (which is different than actual leadership) fall all over themselves putting together a new picture. The next big thing always involves some circles, and triangles, and arrows, and such.

Here’s one, for instance, that details how to run a district wide men’s ministry:
men and their ministry

This is a good one because it not only shows the various categories but also looks vaguely like a sports field with a really big scoreboard, making it especially effective for men. I might criticize it because I’m not sure about the direction it is going, and all good charts need arrows and directions. Plus, a good postmodernist would be instantly skeptical by the strong foundationalist/ hierarchical perspective which lies at the core of this philosophy. But as good postmodernists are generally a prickly lot no matter what anyone does it is best to ignore them and peer longingly at the ministry diagram for all its brilliance. GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL!

Really, the fact is I don’t like diagrams. Some people do, and some of those people might really be great people. But, I tend to not like the same sorts of approaches as those people, mostly because they always are showing their diagrams, and I don’t want to see them.

Though truth be told I can’t number the amount of people who I’ve talked to who are looking for a church and list having a good diagram as one of the key factors for their commitment to the Leader(s). Good diagramming is just under good Biblical preaching as a factor for church attendance, and just above adequate child playground equipment.

Given this fact I’m surprise more churches don’t make their diagrams part of their church sign. Of course this would mean changing the sign every week but at least everyone would know exactly which circle, square, arrow, or overlap they were part of before they even entered the parking lot. This would help facilitate Leadership quite a bit, though I also understand the role of keeping the diagrams locked in the safe to be shown only to the Leadership initiates as a key part of their upward mobility. It’s important to keep the important stuff for the important people, so they know they’ve gotten somewhere in the community, and can thus snicker at the people who are in their various circles, squares, or arrows while not even knowing it. Not knowing where one is also is a key to being manipulated in following the proper Flow of any particular diagram

Even though though I don’t like diagrams I decided to summarize my ministry philosophy with one. I am absolutely convinced this reflects the way to restore the church in the 21st century, and will form communities founded in love and unity. Under this paradigm folks will find acceptance and encouragement to pursue their own giftings, with nominality being resourced through the particular system so that seekers do not end up becoming leavers.

Here’s the chart that details my missional rubric:
The key to a succesful ministry community

If you get on my Leadership team you’ll get to know the details, until then you are still a part… though I’m not going to tell you which part.

Posting

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Whither the Emerging Church which so heartily consumed my time these last few weeks? Since coming back it seems I haven’t reflected, pondered, ruminated, or unpacked my experiences and thoughts.

Well, quit your whining. I have so. Just not here. Some of this stuff is going into a new personal project. Other bits are going into some of the formal assignments as required by the class, though not necessarily required for me. Those assignments are being blogged, but not blogged here. Rather they are blogged elsewhere, in a special place, in a special blogger place.

Yeah, I audited the class. I’m still doing the work I don’t have to do. Indeed, I’m doing more work than I have to do even if I had to do it. This is a sign of something I’m sure.

Valentine’s Day

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Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family,
assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended,
and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises
to make him renounce his faith in effectual, commended him to be beaten with
clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14.

For some people Valentine’s Day is still sort of like this.

But be thankful. Because God is indeed good. This is true whether we see the blessings of another in our life, talk with another in our life, or can just share the bounty of God’s love in our life.

As that great romantic writer Jurgen Moltmann says:

First of all there are the beginnings of the experience of love, in which something stirs us without any act of our own: the look — the lightning flash — the kindling touch, the loving embrace, the heartwarming closeness. A spark, a flame, springs from the one to the other, sometimes of almost mystical immediacy, which then has first to create the mediating consonances and aquiescences. Erotic relational fields come into being, with their personal resonaances and shared harmonies.

Experiences of God are often described in a corresponding way: the electrifying touch of the Holy Spirit, the experience of faith which warms the heart, the thrust of energy which is called ‘rebirth’ to a new life, life’s charismatic blossoming, and not least: the shining face of God which is invoked in every benediction and from which the Spirit comes to give life peace, and the illumined face of Christ from whom the life-giving Spirit comes to illuminate believers. In this sense the Spirit of God is like the divine Eros which pervades all created being with the power of its love:

Steadfast may we cleave to Thee,
Love, the mystic union be;
Join our faithful spirits, join
Each to each, and all to Thine. (c. wesley)

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.” 1 John 4:16-17

God is love. God is with us. So we all can be thankful for such a love as this.