Monthly Archives: November 2006

I’m not a saint, just a parent

Great article from England (The Times online)

In a moving extract from a new book to mark Mencap’s 60th birthday, the Times chief sports writer Simon Barnes describes life with his five-year-old son Eddie, who has Down’s syndrome

2006-11-30-not-a-saint-just-a-parent.jpg
Here is an excerpt:

At the hospital, when they discovered on the scan that Down’s syndrome was a possibility, they very kindly offered to kill him for us. They needn’t have bothered. My wife is, unlike myself, an exceptional person in the field of loving and caring. Please do not read this as a brief genuflection, one of the ploys of married life. Nor is it a literary trick. It is rather the literal truth. One small example. I have two goldfish in my study, both the size of salmon. When one fish was much smaller, Cindy found him dead: flat on the bottom of the tank. She lifted him out and somehow revived him. It was a long and elaborate process, and it worked. That is the sort of thing Cindy does. The idea of not caring for something in your care is an abomination to her. The idea of not caring for her own child was impossible to contemplate. Amniocentesis? Not a chance, it puts the child at risk. And no matter what such a test would say about the child, she would go ahead. There was a life that had to be cared for.

This was not negotiable. It sounds, I know, a little dreadful to put it this way. Certainly, I lack the courage to stand between Cindy and someone she loves. The Devil himself lacks that sort of courage. Had life turned out differently, had I been married to another, had that woman preferred to go the way of amniocentesis and termination, I have no doubt that I would have gone along with that, too, and treated parents of Down’s syndrome children with a lofty pity.

But, thank God, I did not marry someone else. And that left me with a straightforward choice. I could either say that Eddie wasn’t part of the deal and bugger off, or I could keep on keepin’ on with the humdrum routines of life and hope that this would be enough for the arrival into our lives of this unimaginable creature we already knew as Edmund, or Eddie. Well, we needed a name and Joe, to whom I had indeed read the Narnia stories, was especially keen on that one.

A name changes everything, and even when he was in the womb we were not wondering about how we would cope with A Child With Down’s syndrome. We were wondering about living with Eddie.


The Nativity & New Line

My family and I are getting stoked about going to see The Nativity.

2006-11-28-the-nativity.jpg
It looks like has been made extremely well, but we’ll let you know after we see it. There was a very interesting article in the LA Times last week about New Line cinema (the makers of the Lord of the Rings movies, among others):

“New Line a believer in faith market”
— Studio gets a religious education as it woos Christians with “The Nativity Story.”

I think it is kind of amusing how studios are now trying to woo ‘people of faith’. It will be interesting to see how that goes.


Praying with the Psalms

Psalms 138:3 On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.

Eugene Peterson: The soul that praises God develops sinews of strength. Without praise our spirits become anemic and flabby. Praise stretches us to respond to God at full capacity and gives heartiness to faith.

Prayer: Mighty God, in the same way that some develop their bodies in calisthenics and games, I will develop my soul in worship and praise. I don’t want any part of my life to be weak resignation; I want all of it, by your grace, to be strong affirmation — a firm yes to your Yes to me in Jesus Christ. Amen.


an email about evangelism

I sent this email to the canvas group (small group), that my family and I are involved with. We had talked about evangelism this past week and there was an email that got sent out after our time from the leader of the group (Eugene). I replied to everyone in the group with my thoughts. Here that is with edits…

“Hey, Michelle and I had a long conversation about the whole topic of ‘evangelism’ yesterday at home, then on the way to the grocery store, then at the store, etc. & so I thought I would email what we talked about. First of all, Eugene – I want to say thank you for taking the time to think through canvas group, and to prepare for that every week. I know from experience how some weeks that is not the easiest to do, but I really appreciate you thinking through it all, discerning what the scriptures are saying and discerning what you think would be advantageous for the canvas group to discuss. I know that my family and I are blessed to be a part of the group.
On Wednesday, even though Michelle nor I really love role-playing in front of others — it gave us a lot to think about, and we appreciated that.

As Michelle and I were reflecting on our personal journey of faith, we talked about how we had changed in our own personal evangelism. Some of the changes have been very good and healthy, and some — maybe not so healthy. We were involved with a couple of extremely seeker orientated churches (Willow Creek-esque) — where there was a great emphasis on evangelism. Again, it was a mixed-bag — some of it very healthy & some not as much. One thing that was good was a huge emphasis put on ‘reaching-out’ to people. What I would call ‘friendship evangelism’. In our particular culture, that meant getting to know them well enough to invite them to church, and to a lesser degree – personally sharing Christ with them, and leading them to Christ.
It was stressed over, and over again. Invite people to church, get them to come on the weekend, and the church will do the rest. As one of the leaders of the church I was intimately involved in heading this up. Coming up with eye-catching message titles and flyers that people could give to their friends, and even coming up with cool stuff / gifts to give to your friends about our church. As crazy as it sounds now, we had stuff like mini-Swiss army knives with our ‘Rock’ stamp on it, in addition to match books (as a lot of people who smoked came to our church), coasters (they looked like beer coasters), Rock dog tags, etc.
The unhealthy part came when Michelle and I would almost feel like every relationship had to have an agenda — ‘getting them to church’. After about 15 years of being involved with these 2 sister churches, that both experienced great growth because of the emphasis on evangelism — it just did not feel authentic to us anymore. We simply could not do our Christian faith, and evangelism like that anymore.

It reminds me of the quote (in the book) ‘More Ready Than You Realize’:
“Out: Evangelism as sales pitch, as conquest, as warfare, as ultimatum, as threat, as proof, as argument, as entertainment, as show, as monologue, as something you have to do.
In: Disciple-making as conversation, as friendship, as influence, as invitation, as companionship, as challenge, as opportunity, as conversation, as dance, as something you get to do.”

Coinciding with these paradigm changes, we resigned from the Rock, and ended up going for about 6 months before we moved out to LA — (to a church called) — Solomon’s Porch. We loved many aspects of the church. It was very authentic to us, we loved the worship, and we loved the overall vibe of the church. We felt like we started to follow Christ again in a way, that was much more authentic. The church stressed the gospel message, as not just that ‘Jesus died for your sins so that you can go to heaven when you die’, but that ‘Jesus died for your sins so that you can be his redeemed coworker Now in what he is doing in This world And can spend eternity with the one you are giving your life to in heaven when you die.’

The challenge for me these days however, relate to some of your questions Eugene:
– Have I been avoiding His field or too busy working my own field?
– Have I thought about ways to reach out to my “neighbors”?
– Are there opportunities to share the gospel that I miss?
– Do I burn with compassion for the lost?
– Do I have a sense of urgency when it comes to bringing others to Christ?

Much to my chagrin, it is too easy for me to not allow these questions to shape my life like they once did. Following Christ in an ‘authentic’ way, can too easily slip over into laziness in my life, and that passion for the lost can get lost in the search for authenticity. I know it does not have to be this way, but I have felt that tension in my faith acutely this past year.

Sorry this is so long, but I will end it with a quote by Dan Kimball, from a book of his : (by the way – he uses the term post-Christians for non-Christians who have grown up in the post-Christian world that we live in)

“Do you know any post-Christians? Do you pray for any by name? Leaders set the pace for how evangelistic our churches are. I have the privilege of talking to many non-Christians. I try to meet with them and I also have prayed with them. They are post-Christians who through time and trusting relationships with people in our church may eventually come to a worship event. Through this, I have personally seen many trust in Jesus. But it is not an easy or quick process anymore. I carry a 3 x 5 card in my Daytimer, on which I have written the name of seven post-Christians who right now do not go to any church. I pray for them daily, try to make contact with them through the week, and get out of the church office as much as I can to study in places where I can make contact with them. This isn’t easy because it takes time, love, and care, whether or not they ever go to a worship gathering.
Although evangelism will not be easy, I hold out hope that emerging generations will come to know Jesus in numbers beyond our imagination. I believe that if we in leadership grasp evangelism as our mission, if we take prayer seriously, if we set the culture of our churches as one of disciples who evangelize, if we present a holistic gospel, if we don’t rely simply on events to present evangelistic messages, much could happen!”

Warmly,
Greg, Michelle, Caleb & Elisabeth


hope you had a great Thanksgiving

Sorry, forgot to post this yesterday. For copyright purposes — this is from the Wall Street Journal. I think I have read it every Thanksgiving since about 1991.

2006-11-24-thanksgiving.jpg
The Desolate Wilderness
Nathaniel Morton describes what he and other Pilgrims saw in 1620.

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

The Wall Street Journal has published this editorial annually since 1961.


rhythm

It has been a very interesting past few months here in Los Angeles. There are moments when I have to almost pinch myself that my wife, kids and I get to be out here, work with this ministry as a family and serve with some really remarkable, humble people out here (I hope that does not sound too corny — because it is very true).

Then there are moments when I can feel almost overwhelmed with ‘how is this going to work out?’, ‘what do I have to offer this ministry, and this community here in LA?’, ‘we are simply a drop in the bucket, no smaller than a drop in the bucket of humanity in Los Angeles – are we making a difference?’, etc. etc. Maybe that sounds overly narcissistic — but just being honest about what goes on in my head.

I read this, this week and I thought I would share it with you. It helped me to realize the natural ryhthm that goes on in this crazy experience all of us have, of following Christ.

“One of the most basic laws of life is rhythm. Night follows day, winter follows summer, we wake and we sleep. In spiritual life, the traditional language for this is rhythm. There will be times of consolation and times of desolation. In times of consolation we like to pray because God seems close, the Bible seems alive, sin looks bad, and stoplights all seem green. Times of desolation are just the opposite. The Bible seems dry, prayer grows hard, and God is far away.

C.S. Lewis noted that at times God will send us a strong sense of his presence, a desire to be with him, the ability to withstand tempations with ease.

‘But He never allows this state of affiars to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs — to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak perids, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.’

When we forget the law of rhythm, we assume that whatever phase is current will last forever. In times of consolation I mistakenly think that I now have spiritual life mastered. In times of desolation I assume I must have done something wrong, or perhaps God is punishing me. In truth, both seasons are inevitable, and both seasons can bring unique growth.” –from John Orberg’s book: ‘The Life You’ve Always Wanted’

It is good for me to remember that both seasons are inevitable. It is a natural rhythm of life. I dont think that is pessimistic, just realistic of how life is, and what following Christ looks like here in LA, but really anywhere.

grace & peace to you all in this Thanksgiving season.


meaningful communities of Christ-followers

Great quote from a CT article on Starbucks & church — Burned by branding

“What is the church to learn? That’s what the comment section is for, but I’ll start with this thought. If the church is to be merely a dispenser of spiritual goods and advice, a place people pass through to get their religion fix, then we should follow the example of brand-driven corporate giants. But, if we hope to form meaningful communities of Christ-followers we shouldn’t neglect the power of being local. Rather than reading the latest branding book, why not gather mature leaders and listen for the Holy Spirit? How is he advising us to be the community of Christ in this unique place at this unique time?”

With our church, Kairos, out here in Los Angeles — that is what we keep asking ourselves. How is the Holy Spirit leading us to be the community of Christ in this unique place at this unique time? With us, that means having neighborhood churches. To plant groups of Christ-followers all around this city, to have a mega-effect, without having a mega-church.

from our website….

New structure for new times
Just as there are many different types of music–big band, rock, punk, jazz, rap, and pop-there are also different compositions that communities can have to effectively accomplish their mission. Jesus didn’t say, “I came to give you more ‘meetings,’ but I came to give you more ‘life.'”

So when it comes to the structure of Kairos, we believe that the job of the leaders is to create a structure in which good things can run wild. We believe that the majority of the good things that happen occur in everyday life, not just special meetings. Many church structures have an addiction to meetings in the sense that everything revolves around formal get-togethers. We certainly value meeting together, but only so that we can encourage each other to live out our calling in the real world, not simply inside the walls of a church.

A mega-effect without a mega church
We are not interested creating another mega-church, though we do believe we will have a mega-effect. Mega-churches have their time and place. However, we believe that there is a greater need for more intimate neighborhood churches. When it comes to metaphors, we believe that this city and world could use more churches that are more like jazz bands than orchestras. Orchestras are amazing and produce wonderful music, but they require a strict adherence on the part of the musician to play particular notes at particular times. With a jazz band there is a lot more freedom and flexibility to be spontaneous and jam. Jazz bands lend themselves to playing off the cuff, so that is what our structure lends itself to.