Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

My Sister and her beautiful words of faith.

12:36 PM
Oct 29th, 2010

Green tea. Not nearly as good a strong extra foamy vanilla latte, or a white chocolate mocha for that matter… but better FOR me right? Antioxidants? Earthy natural goodness? I can hear Portland cheering:) (Plus I’ve already had both coffee drinks today… haaaa.) HEY it’s MRI day! Anything goes on MRI day!

I’m sitting at my coffee shop of course. It’s raining. I have my normal seat by the window, a delicious crepe in my stomach, a steaming cup of GREEN TEA sitting beside my computer, and a cd in the windowsill that holds the results from my MRI today. Ooo now I’m trying to squish a fly with it!!

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Quite a while. LOTS has happened… here let’s see if I can catch you up on just a few of these things.

- I had the privilege to be a part of two births very dear to my heart. My little cousin Justus, and Linsey & Robbie’s new baby Max. It was a whirlwind – 2 babies, 2 different states, 2 days apart, BOTH all nighters! These two experiences definitely ranked in those lifetime highlight moments.

- I had my first benefit dinner here in Portland for my non-profit “Consider the Sparrow”. I was incredibly moved to have so many friends come out and show support. Seeing others moved by this vision and witnessing their first-hand generosity continuously leaves me speechless. (More on that later.)

- I was able to participate in a week-long intensive oncology massage training here at a local hospital. Awesome.

- Woohoo! I got to go take a most excellent roadtrip to Montana with the most excellent of company. Love those Bozeman summers:)

- I sold my motorcycle. Alas due to rainy days, needing to borrow storage, wanting to cut down expenses, and not feeling the greatest – my bike has found a new home. Luckily she went to a GOOD home, and will be well cherished – which makes it so much easier.

- Hmmm I have just lived through 4 months of the most challenging part of my cancer journey. Crazy huh? Not diagnosis, not treatment, not crazy breakups, not being bald or even hearing for the first time that 7 years is at the upper end of my life expectancy range. It even surprises me just saying it.

So I guess that’s what I’m going to talk about first.


Never did I think that would be my journey. What does despair feel like? Depression I suppose. What does this sort of depression feel like? To me it feels like hopelessness, helplessness, fatigue of the heart, fatigue of the mind. It feels like fear, restlessness, anxiety, isolation. It’s feels like loss of all coping skills making every situation require HUGE amounts of energy. It’s the inability to handle crowds, but also the fear of being alone and facing the dark swirling thoughts with no one to lock eyes with and get pulled to the surface with Truth. It’s the absolute contradiction to what I know in my faith to be true through Jesus. He is my Rock. He is my Strong Tower. He is the provider of my perfect peace and my hope. He is my JOY. How does this work then, when I know all these things to be true… not just in my mind, but my heart as well? Those were the things that kept me afloat through diagnosis and treatment. Why now do they come, when I have no active tumor growth, work going well, and a cozy place to live? Why now, when I have such great things happening, and loving people all around me?!

I didn’t know either. In fact I would say I slipped into an even deeper depression with the discouragement of also feeling like a failure in my faith, not being able to grasp onto His truths. The ultimate failure – disappointing God.

With a long story squished into a short one… I found out that with my increasing seizure activity (dizzy spells – it sounds nicer:), and some new medication I had started, to try to control them – I had found myself in the deep pit of side-effects. You know, those side-effects that are RARE but they have to tell you about just in case. Yep those were mine. On my list… depression and extreme fatigue. Bummer.

Okay so what do I do with that? It certainly helped knowing there was CAUSE for these emotions that honestly made me feel crazy. It felt like someone else was living inside my body, like I didn’t even recognize myself. And that’s a very disconcerting feeling if you’ve never felt it before.

The problem was, even with knowing the cause, I couldn’t get the emotions to change. The fear, the hopelessness, the loneliness, the struggle to engage in life… they were all still there! It seems like they should just disappear when I realize they’re not real right? Yeah I thought so too.

Well, what happened next, was just life. Life kept trucking. My training at the hospital was coming up – right at the peak of my distress. I knew what was going on by then, but felt my absolute worst in terms of emotional stability, as well as physical, mental, even spiritual fatigue. I decided there was NO POSSIBLE WAY I could do the training. I couldn’t even get through a restful day at home without tears and/or a 3 hour nap. Ha! How was I supposed to handle a week-long, 8 hour/day internship, on the hospital floor surrounded by cancer, life and death, peers don’t share my faith – in fact often criticize it, AND EXPECT TO SURVIVE?? How in the world would I have anything to offer? I talked to my family about it and my mom felt very strongly that I needed to go. I just needed to try. We decided I would go the first day, and if I couldn’t handle it, I would cancel the class and just come home… but I would TRY. She decided to come down to Portland and stay with me that week – making me meals, sending me out the door with a latte, giving me someone to decompress with when I came home. Do I have an amazing mom or what?:)

I felt convicted that in going, God was asking me to be a straight shooter. To just lay it all out, not trying to cover up anything, and not trying to be something I’m wasn’t. The first day of class we were told to bring something that symbolized hope in our lives. Well if that isn’t an opportunity to be a straight shooter, I don’t know what is:) So we went around the room with various massage therapists from all over the world sharing where they found their hope. It was enough to make anyone smile. We passed around amethyst rocks, pictures, petrified mosquitoes (or was that Jurassic Park?:), shells, lockets, purple energy… you get the point:). All was very heartfelt. Then it was my turn. I took out a rock that had Jeremiah 29:11 simply inscribed in it. On one side was written, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord…”, and the other side, “plans to give you hope and a future. What I shared with them was basically this.

“Most of you know that almost 3 years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Ironically the past few months has been the hardest season of my cancer journey. Due to some medication side-effects involving extreme fatigue and depression, I have felt almost incapable of living life. I’m on the route for change, but it will be slow. I almost decided to drop out of this class because I knew I had absolutely nothing to offer – to you all, our patients, or for myself, in my own learning. But in this verse from the Bible God tells me that He has plans for me. He has HOPE for me in my future. Now whether my future looks like the rest of today, or this week, or this year, or many years… He has hope for me. And that’s what I’m clinging to today to be here. There’s also a verse that tells me “God’s strength is made perfect in my weaknesses.” I have no idea what in the world that’s supposed to look like, but I do know that’s what He promises. I also know that if “weak” describes any person right now, it’s me. In every aspect of my life. But somehow through that, His strength is to be made perfect. And THAT is what I’m holding onto this week. And you can know for SURE that anything good that comes of my time this week has absolutely nothing to do with me.“

I’m pretty sure I cried a little. Several people came up to me after and thanked me for sharing, which meant a lot. We had a neat group.

Fast forward a few days. My instructor approached me and asked if I minded working on someone young. She mentioned the patient might want a foot massage. I said no I didn’t mind, I actually was drawn to the younger patients. I found myself at the foot of the bed of a 25 year old girl just diagnosed with a brain tumor, heading into surgery the next day. When I found this out, my heart twisted in a knot. I was looking at myself... 3 years ago! Incredibly surreal. Upon talking to the nurse beforehand discussing this and sharing a tiny bit of my own story, she looked at me with wide-eyes and said, “You have to tell her!” The room was a bit chaotic as the family was obviously still processing this sudden discovery. The girl herself was sitting up in bed looking quite dazed. I briefly mentioned my brain tumor situation and was immediately peppered with dozens of questions. “YOU… had a brain tumor?? But you’re working? You’re alive?? What was surgery like? What kind of tumor was it? What were your symptoms? What kind of treatment did have to you do??” I answered the questions to the best of my ability but mostly kept my focus on the owner of the feet I held in my hands. We were able to lock eyes several times and quietly talk. I asked her how she was doing. She whispered a response, “Confused, scared“. She asked me, “Were you scared? How do you feel now?” Our quiet conversation, my gentle massage, our connection in the chaos, just through knowing we understood a piece of each other’s difficult journey – it was like nothing I could describe.

Every evening our class had a debriefing session and I was asked how it went with my ‘young patient’. I told them the whole story and said, “You know, I was worried I wasn’t getting the experiences everyone else seemed to be getting (exploding catheters, infections, difficult patients/families), everyone just kept asking me for hand and foot massages. Which are GREAT, but what was I learning? Well one of my hand massages that day involved a woman crying from the moment I touched her, through to the end. She had just found out her cancer had returned. She had no visitors. (I got to pray with her the 2nd day… she was a believer! We talked about how fun it will be meeting up in Heaven someday). Then I had this young patient. Who just wanted a foot massage from some random therapist but the therapist ended up being a young female with exactly the same cancer. The second day I worked with her I was able to massage her feet and talk with her right up until transport came to get her for surgery. She got wheeled out with a much more peaceful face than I had seen the day previous. I told them that THIS is the reason I do what I do. I discovered that day, that massage was my MEANS to do what I was really passionate about. To be at the bedside of people in their rawest moments – moments that perhaps I can offer encouragements into... just because of the simple fact that I have a story. The encouragement my patient received that day had nothing to do with my stellar one-of-a-kind foot massage, but it was just the fact that we had a unique bond in our similar stories – and that I was willing to be there. Weak and flimsy that I was:).” I shared all this and broke down crying... not surprising anymore;) I finally found my words to finish. A classmate grabbed my hand. Then I heard a sob, I looked up and saw my instructor looking up at the ceiling just sobbing. Then I looked around the room and saw half of my class in tears. I was shocked!

This was the class I had been so afraid of, knowing I’d be living and sharing my faith so openly. The best part was, I had adamantly told them beforehand that ANYTHING good that came of that week was all God’s doing, not mine – and then to have all that happen! And for all of them to be so moved!

His strength being made perfect in my weaknesses.

Wow. He really did mean it! It really WAS possible when steps were made in obedience and faith. This impossible concept really did suddenly come to life! For me, this has been one of the most significant faith building cornerstones in my life. When God wants to work through me, he’s not limited by my inabilities, in fact the more the better! Less of me always means more of Him. My only job is to step forward in faith, even when my emotions haven’t caught up yet… believing He IS who He says He is. This has become my little altar of remembrance for when I run up against this again. Because I will! It’s impossible and it’s miraculous but His strength really is made perfect through my weakness. Praise God.

Wow that got long:) SO… Consider the Sparrow. Well I guess you just got a taste of it. It looks exactly like I just described. Making my way through different oncology settings (hospitals, cancer clinics, hospice) to offer free massage to cancer patients. Money that has been donated to this vision supplements me with a small income allowing me to do this on a wider scale then just a couple volunteer hours per week. My hope as my energy increases is to schedule myself on a weekly basis at multiple locations. If the need arises, we will look into bringing on more therapists, but for now we do one thing at a time:)

I can’t even describe to you how this feels like a dream come true to me. I love massage, and have since the day I started, but honestly felt that when I got diagnosed with cancer, my massage days were over. To be back in my profession AND to have found a way to use it to bring encouragement into the cancer world, both physically and emotionally – it seems too good to be true. From diagnosis to today, I would have never predicted this path for myself, in a bazillion years. But honestly… honestly I wouldn’t trade it.

I know it sounds crazy to say that, but really, if through our weaknesses and inadequacies we get to experience Jesus in the most powerful way, and get to be USED by Him in the most powerful way… then sign me up for round 2! Truly. I will take my human weakness, anxiety, fearfulness, depression, fatigue, physical ailments, seizures, and perhaps even a young death by cancer… with my powerful God holding me up.

I will take that ANY day over a long, safe, agenda-driven life that depends on my strength and sanity to get me through. 1) I would be boring. 2) I would be bored. 3) I’d be missing out on the most exciting thing that we can ever experience… getting to participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that we may also share in his GLORY (Romans 8)! Getting to experience, use, be used, share, rest, be restored, be inspired, be made powerful by his STRENGTH for his GLORY…. Does it get any better than that?

I’m smiling right now. I hope you are:)

I don’t know what tomorrow’s results may bring… but let’s bring ‘em on! My human strength will always fail me, as it has very consistently over the past several months… but I have tears in my eyes looking back at how he’s met me in the most intimate ways through these struggles. We serve a good God. In the midst of a chaotic and decaying world… we serve a good, most powerful and gracious God.

Praying for you to experience Him that way too. If my experiences can encourage you on this path… these struggles are totally worth it.

Love to you:)



Sooo here we go. It’s tomorrow, appt day. Well this is the day we’ve been anticipating just unsure of what the timeline would be. My MRI shows changes that indicate tumor re-growth. The doctors have asked me to come get scanned again in 6 weeks instead of my normal 3 months to monitor additional changes. Depending on what they see, most likely the next will be surgery.

Funny how today’s appointment follows THIS particular update. Amazing how God works. I even wondered while writing it why God had me going to all those places. I honestly think he was preparing me, and perhaps providing an avenue for my heart to be clearly expressed for all of you, as you hear this news. That is my greatest desire.

I honestly feel okay. Things are a bit surreal right now.. but I’ve always known this day would most likely come. God has settled me in his peace. I know what this news could hold, but the truths I mentioned above still remain. God is good, God is my strong tower, my perfect peace, my ever present help in my time of need. Love Him.

I will keep you posted friends… most definitely more frequently than the pattern of the past several months:) Thank you thank you thank you for your prayers. I benefit from them every moment, and I am most certainly feeling them now.

Love to you all,


Read On 0 comments

The Old Testament and Gays

1:11 PM
This week's podcast is addressing OT passages and homosexuality. It's a must listen podcast!
Click HERE to download.

Read On 0 comments
Read On 0 comments

Our First Ever Podcast!

11:21 AM

Our new podcast is located here! I'll be uploading to the Itunes store very soon.

Click this LINK to listen in itunes.
Read On 0 comments

A Story Out of Memphis, TN

7:41 PM
Today I was quoted in a story published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal (TN) newspaper about a church that tossed a team out of church league softball because some of the players (in particular, the coach) are gay. The story has already generated some 800 comments online, and counting. Just about every pro and con (and everything in between) homosexual argument has been tossed out in the discussion.

Here is the story.
Read On 0 comments

Helping friends, losing faith....

8:44 PM

A friend of mine is hurting, he has a fundamentalist background...had an affair and is now "trying to figure his shit out." Sounds like me, but no; a guy who I thought had it together has hit rock bottom. Now how to proceed, I have/am dealing with the same stuff he is dealing with. I still go to church all the time, (one of those Christians) he's what you call "of the world." Truth is, I received some very good counseling through my church, and understand the virtues of living a moral life using Christian principles. How quickly can we leave it all behind a live selfishly. Please see my other blogpost "Who do I want to be: Intellectually and Morally Stagnant, or Virtuous?" for some thoughts on my journey and why I don't follow every selfish inclination.
Read On 0 comments

Exactly 1 year ago today...

12:12 PM

Today I was meeting a friend of mine to discuss a music project we will pursue. The coffee shop at Wild Joe's was packed, the town of Bozeman, Mt encouraged the residents to support the downtown businesses. One year ago, I was sitting with the other Trail Blazers discussing theology when we all felt a big bump--the lights flickered and we all looked at each other bemused. I figured it was a small earthquake. Then as nothing had happened we continued our discussion.
I overheard someone mention all the smoke billowing out near "Boodles". (a high-end bar and restaurant) This got my attention, so in order to find out for myself I left the discussion to take a peek outside. Two blocks away, I saw 2 building completely destroyed; a car that was "blown" by the force of the blast into the street, and everyone who happened to be nearby just gawking at what just transpired.
The community in Bozeman volunteered time and equipment to help restore the damage. I'm thankful that our town can take care of their own in desperate time, nobody stopped to ask what religion or political party you were, just neighbor helping neighbor.
The explosion was a gas leak, that may have been leaking for weeks.

Read On 0 comments

Finding Epiphany in the "Ah Ha!" Moments of Life

8:41 PM
Yes, I know it's a little late to be blogging about the festival of Epiphany, but honestly I'm not liturgical enough to really notice when these "minor" festivals take place. I do know that Epiphany falls between Christmas and Easter, and that the interim period between the two major holidays is called the "Epiphany Season." And in a way, my negligence in observing the festival this year actually ties right into the topic of this post, which has to do with celebrating "epiphany" every day.

The word "epiphany" comes from the Greek word for "appearance" or "manifestation," and the holiday typically falls twelve days after Christmas in the Western Church (which shows how late this post actually is!). It commemorates the visit of the three magi to the manger, where they experienced the direct recognition of God in the infant Christ. Hence, "epiphany" has to do with seeing and recognizing the divine as it comes to us in Jesus.

An epiphany is essentially an "ah ha!" moment, when we look up and suddenly see God standing in our midst. The epiphany may come through some direct manifestation of God, or through our own recognition that God has been standing among us all along. For the three magi of the New Testament, it was no doubt a combination of both of these elements that led to their dramatic realization of God in their midst. We know from the Biblical narrative that the magi already had some awareness of Christ's presence in Bethlehem - they had "seen his star" in the East and had gone off on a journey to see him. But I believe that the real "epiphany" took place not with the initial recognition of the star or with the decision to set out on the journey, but in the moment they knelt beside the manger and said "ah ha! Here is the something - or the Someone - we have been searching for all along!"

In many respects, the story of the three magi is typical of our own spiritual quest. Within each of us, there is an innate longing for the origin and source of our being that St. Augustine referred to as a God-shaped hole in the human heart. At times, we catch glimpses of this numinous "something" in moments of sheer beauty that stir our hearts towards a longing for something even deeper - for Beauty itself. For others the desire springs up in a moment of crisis, when all the pretenses that we have built around ourselves are stripped away and we are left naked before the divine. These are those "magical moments" of life that can be described but never really conveyed in words; they must be experienced. For me, many of these moments came during a time of personal crisis several years ago, that also proved to be one of the most spiritually active times of my life.

These "magical moments" are the lodestars of our desire, the magis' star in the east that propels us to seek and search for that "Something" that we desire above all else. The Christian writer C.S. Lewis understood this concept and wrote about it in several of his books. In "Till We Have Faces," Lewis writes: "It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from." For Lewis, those moments came through experiences of beauty and childhood memories, behind which they seemed to be something greater, of which his deepest experiences of happiness were merely shadows - he called this something "Joy" with a capital J. At times (at least in my experience), it seems that here and there we catch glimpses Lewis' Joy, and it's almost as if they are suddenly reminders of something that we once knew, but have forgotten about or shuffled off to the deepest recesses of memory. It's like driving by a childhood home and suddenly remembering all of the rooms and doors and the games you played in them, and suddenly you say to yourself "I remember that! Now where's the key to get back inside?" It is this innate yearning that beckons us, like the Magi, to leave our native land (whether that be physical, spiritual, or intellectual) and venture into parts unknown, always following that elusive star that shines in our hearts. As C.S. Lewis said: "All joy...emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings."

For the magi, the moment of realization came in the recognition that in Christ, that "something" they had been searching for was there before them, embodied in physical form. 1 John 4: 15-16 tells us: "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." If God is love, then to say that Jesus is "God among us" is to say that Jesus is "Love among us." It was this Love which called the wisemen away from home and which they found embodied there in the manger.

The challenge for us, then, is to capture the message of epiphany each day by recognizing God here in our midst. It's an interesting point of Biblical theology that although Jesus is no longer physically present among us at this present time, in a very real sense he is perhaps more present than he was in his historical ministry, his Spirit now embodied in the lives of believers all throughout the world. There is a sense in which Jesus, removed from the limitations of any one geographic location, now pervades the world. Since the incarnation, we can never again look at the world as "common" or "mundane," because it has the indelible stamp of the creator upon it. It is this very idea that there, in the manger, God and flesh are conjoined, that once and for all overturns and destroys the false dichotomy between natural and supernatural, sacred and profane, for in Christ, the natural becomes supernatural, and the merely physical becomes divine.

A friend of mine once told me: "The life of a true mystic is not characterized by divine experiences, but by the ability to recognize the divine in every day life." In Hinduism, there is a word for this recognition - "darshan" or "darsana." The word "darshan" literally means "seeing," and refers to the sudden experience of seeing God in a person, place, or situation. I can't help but wonder if Christians would benefit from a re-emphasis on precisely this concept in our own tradition, where it is embodied in the term "epiphany." Where do we see God working in our midst? What rare moments have you had when you suddenly blinked and said "ah ha! There it is!"? Please share your experiences of "epiphany" in the comment section, and may we all spend this new year with our eyes peeled for God's footprints in our daily lives.
Read On 0 comments

The Book of Eli: Things to Watch For

8:37 PM
(Warning: This post contains significant spoilers related to the movie "The Book of Eli." If you haven't seen the movie yet, and plan to, please skip this post. You've been warned!)

I'll be the first to say it: "The Book of Eli" is one of the first explicitly Christian films that I've seen since "Amazing Grace" that actually doesn't suck. As a writer, I have a bit of an axe to grind with the Christian entertainment industry, which often seems to trade more on the merits of its faith-based message than on the actual quality of the entertainment being offered.

"Book of Eli" is not your average Christian movie. It's rated R - and with good reason. Bullets fly, and so do limbs - and sometimes even heads. There are a few strong uses of profanity, and although no sexual content is ever explicitly shown, there's an attempted rape halfway through the film (Eli intercedes and puts a stop to it before anything happens, however, but shooting arrow through the villain's nether regions). Just a word of warning to parents who might think that this film is Sunday School appropriate.

"Book of Eli" is a bleak tale, taking place several decades after the earth's destruction by a cataclysmic event that ripped a hole in the sky and killed off most of humanity. Those left behind after the catastrophe struggle to survive in a barren wasteland, where water and other resources are scarce. But unbeknownst to most of the remaining population, there's a greater lack in the land that they yet realize - a famine of God's word. It is precisely this which Eli (Denzel Washington), the film's protagonist, carries in his backpack, in the form of an old, leatherbound Bible, which may be the last copy of the book in existence. Eli stumbles into a helter-skelter ghost town ruled over by the crafty Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who also wants to get his hands on the Bible - for purposes other than those Eli has in mind.

Not surprisingly, the film has a lot of spiritual content beneath its gun-slinging, limb-slicing exterior, ranging from Eli's overt quotations of Scripture to several more subtle themes. In this post, I'd like to highlight three of the more interesting themes that I picked up on while watching the movie last week; if you have others to add to the list, please add them to the comments section.

Dueling Views of Religion: Eli and Carnegie represent contrasting views of religion. Where Eli seeks to use the Bible to help humanity find its way forward from the brink of destruction, Carnegie repeatedly states that he wants to use "the book" to control the illiterate masses. For Carnegie, the Bible is a "weapon," a tool of power to be used to manipulate the people into doing his bidding. Thus, Carnegie represents an antithesis to Eli's pure faith which has often reared its ugly head in the history of the church - a desire to use religion as a cudgel to beat the population into submission to a leader's ideals. In the film, Eli immediately recognizes the danger of Carnegie's thinking, and refuses to let him gain control of the Bible. From a Biblical perspective, Carnegie reminded me a lot of the Pharisees of Jesus' day, who had a firm grasp of orthodox religious tradition, but used it to oppress, rather than liberate, the people in their spiritual care. For the modern Christian, a question arises from this conflict: where do we see Carnegie's version of religion at work in our churches and in our society? Will we allow the Carnegie version of the faith to become the defining 'face' of Christianity, or will we embrace the hope-filled, loving Christianity of Eli?

Protecting the Word vs. Living by the Word: In the early scenes of the movie, it's clear that Eli is a man with a one-track mind: he wants to protect his precious Bible at all costs. This focus drives him to continue his journey "west," but it also hardens him. Early in the film, Eli is confronted with a situation in which a woman is attacked by several thugs on motorcycles. Rather than intervene, he hides behind a pile of rubble, telling himself "it's not your concern, stay on your path." As a viewer, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Eli to whip out his machete and spring into action, and when he failed to do so I thought: "oh my gosh, what a jerk. What kind of a Christian role model is this guy?" The effect is intentional. Later in the film, we see Eli evolve in his relationships with others, and it's ultimately his friendship with Carnegie's daughter, Solara, that brings out a more caring side in his personality. Faced with a choice between saving the Bible or saving Solara's life, Eli chooses Solara's life, letting the Bible slip into the hands of his enemy while he himself takes a near-fatal shot to the gut. Eli later explains to Solara: "I spent so much time trying to protect it (the Bible), that I forgot how to live by it."

Eli's conflict represents the vital balance between protecting the Bible and its teachings and the need to live those teachings out in practical ways. Although most of us will never have to protect our Bibles from gun-slinging thugs, a more subtle temptation exists to emphasize doctrine and the "purity" of our teaching to the exclusion of practical expressions of faith. This conflict shaped the fundamentalist-liberal controversy of the early 20th century, with the result that many churches fell to the extreme on one side or the other, by either emphasizing doctrinal purity as an end in itself or by abandoning the Bible altogether. Eli reminds us that our professed faith and the book it's founded on, are worthless if they don't drive us to "to do more for others then you'd do for yourself." (Eli's paraphrase of the "golden rule.")

"What You Meant for Evil, God Meant for Good:" In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers, who had sold him into slavery: "You meant it for evil to me, but God meant it for good." The climax of the Book of Eli had me a bit confused at first, but after chewing on it, I've come to see it as an expression of the idea that God bring good even out of the evil actions of others. Near the end of the film, Carnegie succeeds in stealing the Bible from Eli. When Eli is unable to retrieve his lost treasure, Carnegie takes it back to his ghost town, intent on putting his evil plan for domination into control. End of story. Bad guy wins. Right?

Well, not exactly. You see, the Bible [MAJOR SPOILER] is actually written in Braile. Only Carnegie's blind wife, who has been abused and manhandled by her vicious husband throughout the movie, is able to read it. As Carnegie sits dumbfounded, demanding that she translate it for him, his wife runs her fingers over the pages of the Braile Bible and smiles briefly - a subtle indication that perhaps she has connected with something on the page. Shortly after this, she announces that Carnegie's town has descended into anarchy, and that he himself is dying of an infection caused by a gunshot wound that he received earlier in the movie. This leaves his wife as the only character capable of reading the Bible - and, perhaps, restoring order to the now chaotic town with its wisdom. Although it's never explicitly stated whether Carnegie's wife responds to the message of the Bible, it's implied that her daughter, Solara, returns to the town at the end of the movie, wearing Eli's coat and carrying his now famous machete, no doubt with the intention of continuing her mentor's work. Although Carnegie resorted to murderous ends and intended to use the Bible as a tool of power, his evil plot actually ended up putting God's Word in the hands of his chaotic village - thereby making him and his schemes a vehicle of the town's redemption, even against his own best efforts to do evil.
Read On 0 comments

Men...and being attracted to other women after marraige.

12:55 PM
My wife asks me a lot of questions. Am I selfish because don't want to rid myself of being attracted to different women. I know this is impossible, and my wife realizes this; but she wants me to desire to never be attracted to any woman but her. What can I say to this?

I've tried to answer this many ways, truth is men love to see attractive women. If I keep looking at them, develop lustful feeling or imagine how I can approach them; that is wrong.
Let me know what you think.
Read On 14 comments

What are your favorite books?

1:14 PM
I'm going to add an Amazon link that will feature 6-10 of your favorite books relating to you spirituality. Please let me know, comment below.
Read On 2 comments

A New Kind of Christianity - McLaren

5:21 PM
In A New Kind of Christianity McLaren quickly introduces two very important ideas: the six-line narrative and reading the Bible frontward instead of backward. This seems to be in line somewhat with the Preterist approach to the Biblical narrative; any thoughts on this from anyone? Is mainstream Christianity even aware of these possibilities?

I would love to hear your thoughts on how the outlook on the narrative spins their theology and defines where they are today in their faith...

Read On 0 comments

Is Christianity a Death Cult? Part 2

12:02 PM
Is Christianity a Death Cult? Part 2

In our last post, we examined a claim made by columnist Joel Stein, who suggested that Christianity often looks like a "death cult" to outside observers. Stein based his claim on the Christian faith's apparent fixation on death - a fixation stemming from an overemphasis on the idea of eternal life in heaven after we die.

In contrast to Stein's claim, I highlighted some key teachings from Jesus that seem to paint quite a different picture - namely that the reign of God is in some sense being realized in history, and that it is bringing about a radical transformation of human affairs. To highlight the transformative nature of this message, I briefly drew attention to a number of important ideas from the New Testament, many of which can be gleaned from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6), including love of enemy and neighbor alike, the radical equality of all people in God's social economy, and the rejection of all armed and political revolutions as the means of establishing peace in our communities. Today, I'd like to unpack the practical side of this issue just a bit more.

What we believe directly effects how we live our lives. If I believe that the goal of my faith is ultimately to escape this "vale of tears" for a better world somewhere up in the sky, then I will have significantly less motivation to work to improve conditions in this present world. This is evidenced by churches that place a great emphasis on spiritual needs, but neglect to work for the betterment of those in their communities. In extreme cases, an overemphasis on the afterlife can even lead to apathy. One indiviual that I know of has become so fixated on the idea of the second coming, for example, that he actually accuses 'liberals' of doing satan's work by 'trying to save the earth, which is the devil's throne.' In his view, any action to try to save this present world from environmental destruction is misguided, because the intention of God (as he understands it) is to remove believers from the world into a place called "heaven." Indeed, he is so eager to get it all over with that he once hoped out loud that President Obama might actually be the antichrist, because that would mean that Jesus would soon return. (This leads to the interesting question of whether or not a professing Christian should actually vote the antichrist, since getting him into power would presumably hasten Christ's return!) Furthermore, his belief that all of the world's problems will be solved by the second coming of Christ has led to a case of apathy by producing an indifference to the issues that effect us on a daily basis. This is the sort of attitude that Stein takes aim at in his article - and with good reason.

Fortunately, most radicals are not consistent in their worldview. To my friend's credit, he is an active volunteer with several charitable organizations in his community, and I fully believe that he would take the shirt off his back to help someone in need. He can be one of the most compassionate people I know in a pinch. He just doesn't quite see the breakdown between his actions and his philosophy - which is probably a good thing in this case.

The idea of a present reign of God unfolding in the world puts things in a different perspective, though. It means that the corners of God's life touch and overlap with our present life - sanctifying each moment and bringing divine potential to each challenge we face.

For me, that's a large part of understanding the Christian doctrine of the incarnation - that idea that in Christ, God has manifested among us, taken on human flesh, and entered into the stream of human life. I believe God entered that stream in order to sanctify it and draw it up into his own life. While many Christians view the incarnation as being primarily about God coming 'down' to us, I see it as two-directional - in the incarnation, God not only comes 'down' to where we are, God also lifts us 'up' to where he is. In Christ, the divine stamp is once and for all set on physical life and on humanity; we can never again look at the world around us and think that God is remote from it. Instead, we must look at every rock, every city, and every mountain and think - "God has been here. Like an explorer setting foot on new land, God has come and set his flag here, claiming this world as his own." The incarnation kills in one stroke the primitive notion of an angry God fuming somewhere in the clouds, and the deistic notion of a detached, uncaring God who winds up the clockwork world and watches it go on its own steam. The idea that Jesus is "God among us" means that God is at work in human history, not above it or outside of it or somewhere ahead of it, but right here in the nitty-gritty midst of it.

In the Book of Isaiah, God promises a "new heavens and a new earth" (Isa. 65:17, 66:22), and 2 Peter 3:13 tells us that we are "looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." The promise of God, and the end of Christian faith, then, is a complete overhaul of creation - a new paradigm in which the world-system you and I are familiar with is replaced and superseded by the reign of God in the hearts of men and women. This is the facet of the biblical message that those who emphasize the afterlife rightly draw our attention to. Their mistake, however, is in relegating this new reality entirely to the future, or else assigning to an incorporeal spirit realm.

A key piece of the "new creation" puzzle is in 1 Corinthians 5:17 - "therefore, if anyone is in Christ, s/he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!" What does that mean? Well, as I understand it, it means that in some sense, God's new creation - the new reality that the writers of the Bible were looking ahead to - has already begun to break through into this present world. That is to say, the new reality is here, in you and me, if we submit ourselves to God's reign and partner with God in manifesting that new reality in the world. Like the Pharisees asking Christ where and when the Kingdom would come in, with its mighty army and conquering flag, many Christians today are looking for a single apocalyptic moment when God strikes down the wicked and establishes his reign through brute (albeit supernatural) force. But we may not get that apocalyptic moment; what we're looking at might be something more like a colonization - one that began with the landing of the King, and continues as lives are transformed by the gospel of his kingdom. Indeed, the whole thing may really be more gradual than we've dared to believe; a transformation of hearts and souls that will one day overtake the world-system we know, transforming it from within.

Think of those old science fiction movies and comic book stories where a time traveller from the distant future returns to the present to tell the world what the future is like. That's not far from the mark when it comes to the biblical idea of the new creation. You and I are that time traveller; the future is represented in us.

2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture! Notice that the word "participate" is present tense. Our participation in the "divine nature" begins now, and stretches into eternity. For me, then, Christianity is fundamentally an invitation to enter into and participate in the life and work of God in the world. That is a life and work that is, by its very nature, eternal. And it is in this dynamic participation - dare I say, partnership, or better, romance, with God - that we find the "eternal life" that Jesus spoke of; a life that transcends the boundaries of this world and the limitations of death. C.S. Lewis once wisely noted that looking back from the perspective of eternity, we'll see that it was heaven or hell all the way through. That is to say, in some sense, heaven and hell are simply continuations of the lives we live here and now - the natural end of a trajectory either towards God or away from God. Perhaps Maximus put it best in the movie "Gladiator": "What we do in life echoes in eternity!"
Read On 6 comments

Is Christianity a Death Cult? Part 1

11:57 AM
In an October, 2006 op-ed piece, Los Angeles Times Columnist Joel Stein mocked Christianity as a "death cult." Stein writes:

"I'd never realized how much of a death cult Christianity is. When we weren't fixating on how awesome Christ's murder was, we were singing about how terrific it was going to be when we bite it. Chipper up, Christians! There's a lot to live for. They're making more of those 'Narnia' movies."

Unfortunately, Stein is not alone in his appraisal of Christianity. A blogger over at Skeptical Eye laments: "What is it about Christians and death? They seem to think everyone should be as obsessed about it as they are. " While many Christian readers recoil at Stein's sardonic appraisal of the Christian faith, a thoughtful appraisal reveals that there is indeed a kernal of truth beneath the sarcasm. Christians often do seem obsessed with death - not only the death of Christ on the cross, but particularly the death of believers as the gateway to spiritual fulfillment and ultimate happiness. For many Christians, the fulfillment of God's promises is something that happens "in the future, when we die," and the goal of the Christian life is ultimately to escape from this mortal coil to "spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven." This is further evidenced by the first of the traditional "Kennedy questions" (named for evangelist James Kennedy, although it's possible Ted might have asked them a few times over a stout bottle of whiskey, too) that have become the de facto model of evangelism for many conservative Christians: "If you died tonight, do you know for sure you'd go to heaven?"

It was this concept that George Orwell mocked in the character of the Raven in Animal Farm, who promises the suffering animals a place called "sugarcandy mountain" after death in return for their endless labors on the farm. And, sadly, it is this version of Christianity that is preached in many churches today and accepted without question as "orthodoxy" by many Christian believers.

As a Christian, I actually agree with Stein in many respects. The problem I have with his humorous critique, however, is that he is focusing on only one kind of Christian belief - one which I find to be alien to the teachings of Jesus. Further, I maintain that a radical re-evaluation of Jesus' teachings on the meaning of salvation can potentially provide a way forward for the Christian church - one that will lead us past our current fixation on death and renew our ability to function as responsible citizens and agents of positive change in the world.

Ask many Christians what the meaning of the "gospel," or "good news," preached by Jesus is, and you will often get an answer that goes something like this: "The good news is that Jesus came to die for my sins. As a result of Jesus' death on the cross, if I put my faith in him and accept his sacrifice, I will be spared from eternal hell when I die and will instead spend eternity with him in Heaven."
Yet Jesus' understanding of his own "good news" seems to be quite different. The oldest of the four canonical gospels, Mark, records: "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel ("good news") of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:14-15).

The Greek word translated as "kingdom" in this context also carries the meaning of "reign." So for Jesus, the "good news" or "gospel" was the message that the reign of God had begun in human history. This good news was a dramatic call to live out a life narrative that was radically different from those being offered by the world at large - particularly the narrative of power, greed, and unbridled ambition that had often characterized the reign of the Roman Empire in the lives of the Jewish people among whom Jesus lived. While many Jews looked for a military coup against the Roman oppressor and the establishment of a theocratic state, Jesus taught that a person entered God's Reign through faith, rather than through force of arms or political wile.

Naturally, many people at the time of Christ attempted to interpret his teachings in light of a literal revolution that would restore the sovereignty of the Jewish people in their land, but Jesus was careful to delineate the difference between God's spiritual reign and the geopolitical reign of all worldly kingdoms. In Luke 17:20-22, the Pharisees approach Jesus to ask "when the Kingdom of God would come." Jesus' reply is startling: "The reign of God does not come in a way that can be observed, because the reign of God is within you." Some Bibles translate "within you" as "in your midst." Both translations are potentially accurate, and both convey a different shade of meaning. In the first case, Jesus is saying that the reign of God takes place at the personal level, within the life of the believer, while in the second, he is emphasizing the idea that God's reign had already begun - in fact, it was being realized right in the midst of the Pharisees, even though they were unable to see it. Perhaps Jesus meant to call attention to both ideas.

The essential teaching of Jesus, then, is the idea that God's reign in human affairs has, in some sense, already begun, and that you and I are invited to actively participate in it. Through faith, we may be step out of whatever tyranny we are currently enslaved to - whether that's the literal political tyranny of the Roman Empire, or the more subtle tyranny of greed, avarice, addiction, or a broken self-image - and into the freedom of God's radical new way of life. This reign of God provides a radically different framework in which to situate one's life and experiences - a new story or narrative in which to frame the human experience, which is marked by redemption, the triumph of love over hate, and the victory of life (in the fullest sense) over death. Indeed, the entire New Testament may be seen as illustrative of what life under God's topsy-turvey reign may look like: enemies are forgiven and embraced with love; the poor are exalted and treated with respect; slaves and masters, men and women, foreigners and natives find equal place around the King's table. It is a new paradigm of living, one as revolutionary today as it was in the first century A.D.

In the next post, we will briefly examine some of the practical ramifications of a kingdom-centered worldview, and how a re-emphasis on this important teaching could potentially help the Christian church overcome the sort of stereotypes that Stein attacks in his column.
Read On 0 comments

A Mysterious New Blogger Appears....

11:57 AM
Hey Gang,

Secret Squirrel here. Uncle Jesse has requested that I share some of my posts from with the group here. Shhh. Don't give my identity away.

Read On 0 comments

God only loves some...

9:10 AM

Theology matters:
"The plight of the missionaries is a natural consequence of their theology. A theology that says God only loves a certain group and, will torment everyone he doesn't love for all eternity is one that justifies any means to "save" people."
What are we doing, and does a belief in hell really effect our outlook on the rest of the world. Speaking from personal experience, I remember being a fundamentalist and I'd look around at my high school and college and have a deep longing to save everyone. I was reserved for the most part, unless I was at a kegger talking theology with my friends. Here's the messed up part: I felt I was "in the world, not of the world." I was a missionary, encouraging others to attend church with me. I succeeded bringing a several friends to church, even "saving" a few. Yeah, I was a super-Christian, I could hang out with un-believers yet stay strong, nonjudgmental and love them all the same. (even though God may send them to an eternity in hell)
Ahh...the irony of it all. Many Christians tell me I must hate what God hates..

For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! (Psalms 97:9-12 ESV)

I struggle with this, I still can't love people, knowing God hates them. Some Christians will object to this statement, but the age old question, "How can a loving God send people to hell?" still persists. Many authors have tried to tackle this question, some saying we all deserve hell, so he's really amazingly loving by selecting some of us.
"Oh! That really helps!!!" *sarcastically*
The more I've poured over Scripture, the more I don't believe hell exists. The Old Testament doesn't mention it, Jesus uses the Pharisee doctrine to cast their own legalism into their own doctrine. Jesus refers to the Greek belief of Hades, he also point out a garbage dump in Jerusalem. (Gehenna)
I have much more to say, but I'll say it at a later time.
Read On 3 comments

"Theology Amidst the Rubble (of Earthquakes and Human Minds)"

6:41 AM
Here is the link to my latest post on my "A Baptist Perspective" blog. (It is not about Baptists per se, and it may actually be quite heretical!)
Read On 1 comments

McLaren, he's as clear as mud

11:28 AM
Watch this video. Yes, I can approve my gay friends and accept them. How can I look them in the eye and tell them I don't approve of their behavior. Is being gay on par with being a thief, murderer, or pagan? Where is the line? What do you guys think?

Read On 2 comments
Read On 0 comments

PCA Church Membership Vows...

9:35 PM

Take a look at these vows, can you (the readers) follow these?

1. Do you acknoweledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?

Members at Third Church acknowledge their utter hopelessness as sinners. They acknowledge that they have willfully disobeyed God, and are therefore deserving of His just punishment - eternal condemnation. Regardless of the maturity level of the Christian, they acknowledge they remain "sinners" in need of the mercy of God in Christ. {Rom. 3:9-20, Eph. 2:1-4]

2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?

Members of Third Church promise their trust in the Lord Jesus - and in Him alone - for their salvation. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone. Members of Third acknowledge that they contribute nothing to their salvation.

3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?

Today, sadly, many look at the Christian life as optional for the believer. Third Church members recognize that this should not be and are instead committed to following Christ. This does not mean that we do so perfectly, nonetheless, "godliness" will characterize our lives. We strive to be a holy people, but do so with dependence upon the Holy Spirit as He sanctifies us.

4. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?

Third Church members commit themselves to worship the Triune God on the Lord's Day, glorifying God in public worship and encouraging each other, being thus built up in grace. The Church's work is to worship, but this includes carrying out the Great Commission. We seek to carry out this ministry by preaching the Gospel to each other and to all the world through service and the use of our gifts.

5. Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

This submission is an acknowledgement that God has placed our leaders over us to care for our souls. Members realize they are fallible men, and will err, but they seek to submit to them as God's instruments in leading them in the service of Christ. Discipline, here, more generally means submitting to the Word of God which the leadership at Third is committed to faithfully teaching, preaching and applying.
Read On 0 comments

Why Thursday Morning Is Good For Your Brain

7:40 AM
Could our Thursday morning meetings be good for our brains? Here are some excerpts from an article entitled How to Train the Aging Brain from the New York Times:

“There’s a place for information,” Dr. Taylor says. “We need to know stuff. But we need to move beyond that and challenge our perception of the world. If you always hang around with those you agree with and read things that agree with what you already know, you’re not going to wrestle with your established brain connections.” .....

Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.” .....

In other words, we're messing with one another's brains over coffee on Thursday mornings!

But try this: read the entire article, and then ask yourself - what is my Sunday AM worship service doing for my brain?
Read On 1 comments

Recent Comments

Blog Archive