Friday, October 3, 2008

CHURCH IN MISSION // Quote

The nation's motto, e pluribus unum -- out of many, one -- reveals both an early recognition of diversity and the value of unity arising from this diversity. But the motto also is sufficiently vague to leave room for debate and change over time.

~Michael Emerson, People of the Dream

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Watch What You Say

Blessings are not quite the same as prayers, because the person addressed is not God but other people. You look them in the eye, as it were, and say, ''Grace be to you.'' There is however a prayer-like quality, because implicit in the blessing is the appeal, ''O God, make these very words of mine a means of grace from you.'' (John Piper)

Hmmm. Wow. I'm more of a conduit of God's when I bless someone or say, ''Grace be to you.'' I'm actually asking God to open up a conduit of grace to them. And because we live by faith in future grace, those are powerful words to be uttering. I'm suddenly in on God's work, what he's doing in someone's life.

So when you say, ''God bless you'' or ''Grace be to you,'' remember what you're asking. Maybe say it more often...people need God's grace.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Faith by Future Grace

Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. (Matthew 6:32-33)

Monday, September 1, 2008

SPIRITUALITY & MISSION // The Jewish Sabbath

By way of information a typical Jewish Sabbath looks something like this:

Mid-afternoon on Friday observant Jews leave work to begin Sabbath preparations. Everything that is not done during Sabbath is readied and Sabbath begins at sunset. Sabbath candles are lit after a blessing is recited several minutes before sunset. The family then attends a brief evening service.

After service, the family returns for a leisurely, festive dinner. Before dinner, the man of the house recites Kiddush, a prayer over wine sanctifying Sabbath. The usual prayer for eating bread is recited over two loaves of challah and the family then eats dinner. After dinner, the birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited.

The next morning Sabbath services last from nine to noon. The family says Kiddush again and has another leisurely, festive meal. A typical afternoon meal is cholent, a very slowly cooked stew. Once birkat ha-mazon is done, the family studies Torah for a while, talks or does some other leisure activity. A third meal is required before the Sabbath is over.

Sabbath ends at nightfall, when three stars are visible, approximately 40 minutes after sunset. At the conclusion of Sabbath, the family performs a concluding ritual called Havdalah (separation, division). Blessings are recited over wine, spices and candles. Then a blessing is recited regarding the division between the sacred and the secular.

SPIRITUALITY & MISSION // Sabbath in My Context

From my final paper:

Sabbath practice in my current context, Fuller Seminary, will establish a routine for Sabbath practice in my future context. So far in seminary, especially through “Spirituality and Mission,” I have added the power of a retreat and the insight of the Contemplative stream to my Sabbath practice in my current context.

The spiritual retreat taken this quarter opened my eyes to the “magic” found in simply taking time to break from the rat race. The time away and the garden setting allowed me to write out all the emotions, questions and prayers that were bottled up inside me. The retreat allowed me to breathe easier and for the first time in a long time, to just enjoy God. It was like Sabbath: a time to rest and a time to remember God and remember who I was in God.

Studying the different streams of the Christian tradition through Foster’s book Streams of Living Water was a learning experience. I recognized all the streams but had not considered the ones outside my own with very much depth. The Contemplative stream was one for which I gained new appreciation. I am not prone to consider monasticism too much; I am not called to live such a lifestyle. But the current situation of my life really connected with the quiet and calm that the Contemplative stream portrayed. Life so far in 2008 has been a whirlwind of sorts, often leaving my insides to ask, “What have you done to us?” Reading through “Practicing the Contemplative Tradition,” I feel the words “Sabbath rest, Sabbath rest, Sabbath rest” pounding on me over and over. Foster’s take on the Contemplative tradition reads as Sabbath rest to me. I feel like I could open these two pages every Sunday (or whenever my Sabbath might be) in whatever context I find myself, and there will be my Sabbath practice.

Beyond my time at Fuller, I am not quite sure what routine life will hold. I feel like I should be prepared for the “un-set” schedule. Still, the rhythm of Sabbath must be incorporated. After this study, I believe that it is not only a necessity but also a requirement. I see my Sabbath as including worship time, prayer, reading, perhaps naptime. Especially, I see blogging as part of my Sabbath practice as a means of reflection and remembrance.

For professional church workers the decision to find and take a Sabbath is often hindered by “their efforts to please God and their efforts to save the world.” As a speaker to the Church, I must remember that I am not her Savior and I am not her Provider. I must also remember the rhythm of rest goes back to God and creation. This rhythm “matches how we were created; only in its keeping can we truly flourish.”

Ministers often set apart a day other than Sunday as a “day off” or their “Sabbath.” As post-seminary life takes shape, a day that might not be Sunday will be set aside as my Sabbath.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

LIFE IN MICHIGAN // Still Alive

I have been enjoying family time in Michigan. More posts coming soon. I've been doing my homework and have come across some interesting items in both Anthropology and Biblical Foundation of Mission. PLUS, I still have words on Sabbath.

Friday, July 18, 2008

QUOTE // On Romans 8:28

The two conditions of Romans 8:28 are simply clarifications of what it really means to trust God for this great promise of future grace. Trusting him for this promise is not merely believing that he will work for your good. You can believe that and be wrong. It means looking through the promise to the one who promises, and by grace - that is, by his sovereign call - apprehending in him the spiritual worth and beauty that will go on satisfying your heart forever; and then embracing that beauty as your chief treasure above all that the world can give. This is the meaning of loving God, and this is the essence of faith in future grace. When you have this faith - when you fufill this condition by God's gracious call - God works all things together for your good.

~John Piper, 'Future Grace'

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

QUOTES

I let God out of the box and he got unpredictable. He sure got real big. God has really changed a lot since Sunday school.

God hasn't changed but I sure have.

~Dr. Charles Kraft

I think God lives in trees - because he's always pushing me out on limbs.

~Pastor friend of Dr. Kraft's

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

HE SAID, SHE SAID TOO // With the Help of Francis & Brooke

***This might not be a new thought but it’s at least a refresher. It’s something I’ve been dwelling on quite a bit in the last few weeks.

DESERT SONG
Words and Music by Brooke Fraser

This is my prayer in the desert when all that’s within me feels dry.
This is my prayer in my hunger and need. My God is the God who provides.

This is my prayer in the fire, in weakness or trial or pain.
There is a faith proved of more worth than gold so refine me, Lord, through the flame.

I will bring praise. I will bring praise. No weapon formed against me shall remain.
I will rejoice. I will declare. God is my victory and He is here.

This is my prayer in the battle when triumph is still on its way.
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ so firm on His promise I’ll stand.

All of my life in every season you are still God.
I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to worship.

This is my prayer in the harvest when favor and providence flow.
I know I’m filled to be emptied again. The seed I’ve received I will sow.

© 2008 Sony/ ATV Music Publishing Australia (Aust. & NZ only), Hillsong Publishing (Rest of world)


Here is a story about “Desert Song” and the song performed:



This is a worship song coming out on the new Hillsong album This Is Our God. This is a good Sabbath song (more coming on Sabbath soon). But something I heard inside me when I was listening to this song: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV). And I thought about what “for good” meant – for the good of whom? For those who love God and for those called according to his purpose.

“Well,” I thought, “that puts us in the center of the story and we’re not the center of the story. God is.” So while God works all things together for good for us, there must be another step in which God’s name is known, in which God is prized above everything, in which “for good” takes on a bigger meaning than just comfort for us here on Earth. Isn’t that what we often take this verse to mean? That God is going to make a bad situation better, that he’s going to change up the bad hand you’ve been dealt, that he’s going to ease the pain here and now?

In the context of Romans 8, suffering is necessary to be a co-heir with Christ in his glory (vv. 16-17) (being a co-heir in glory is quite an image to ponder). Paul talks about creation groaning with the children of God as we wait for the day that we are released from pain, suffering, death and decay, and look forward to the new bodies and freedom that God promised. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and groans. He helps us in our “distress” or “weakness” (v. 26). This distress or weakness is a continuation of us waiting for the glory that was promised, the freedom from these bodies. It’s not about a trial that comes upon us Monday morning at work. It’s a distress about awaiting the bigger picture “patiently” and “confidently” (v. 25). The good (v. 28) is about that fulfillment of the promise – not about a temporal or material good on Earth but an eternal good. We suffer here but “the good” doesn’t mean relief comes now. Relief comes when God sets us free from the body.

Then we have the question: What do we do with the suffering we experience now? “We suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (v. 17). How to handle suffering is also seen in Romans 8:28. God’s promise to work all things together for good is for those who (1) love him and (2) are called according to his purpose.
- Love him: The Shema is the most basic command: “Hear, O Israel, YHWH our God, YHWH is one; and you shall love YHWH your God.” Those who love God are the true Israel.
- Called according to his purpose: God’s purpose as seen throughout the Bible is to restore creation, to be the all-sufficient one, to have the glory of his name known throughout the Earth. His purpose for Israel was that the nation would show the praises of the one true God in the world.

God will accomplish the good (release from suffering, death and decay) for those who are the true Israel: those who love him and show his praises to the world. If we love him, we’ll do our job, our purpose, and we’ll praise him. Here God becomes the center of the story!

So then I hear songs like the above and I think that no matter the season, no matter what happens, I will praise, I will rejoice, I will declare. It could be famine, fire, battle or the good harvest, and I will praise because that is what I am called to do. My purpose is to show forth God’s praise to the world. I have victory in God and HE is here. God is my victory. That third verse (“This is my prayer in the battle…”) is Romans 8 – in the battle with suffering, this decaying life, as a child of God and co-heir with Christ, I can stand firm on the promise that God is working for the good, the ultimate good. That deserves a shout, a smile on the face, overwhelming gratitude and JOY! It shouldn’t matter what my situation looks like, because in every season I am to do one thing: praise.

It’s seems so obvious; why don’t more people get it? As my pastor Francis reminded us on Sunday, we know the ending – we win! (David Crowder Band said it a couple albums ago, too.) Francis said, “There should be an attitude of victory about us. There is no fear, no sting in death. I know how this thing ends. I know there is tragedy here but in the end we win. So why stress about world with pain? Do you walk in this kind of confidence? Do people look at you and see you as powerful, confident and not to be overtaken?”

He told the story of Solomon. Rather than asking God to get rid of all his enemies, Solomon asked for wisdom. He could have had all obstacles removed, all of his enemies wiped out, but instead Solomon asked for wisdom. We shouldn’t pray for obstacles to be removed but we should pray for wisdom. The easy way out would be to remove temptation but God wants us to be mature. Romans 5:3-4 says to rejoice in our sufferings because they are good for us.

“YES! That’s what I’ve been thinking!” I said to myself. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen people walking in worry or defeat. I look around church and see people singing songs that speak volumes about God, his power, his greatness, his glory but look so blah while they’re doing it. I talk to friends that seemingly have very little passion for their church, for proclaiming the glory of God in their lives. And I think, “How can you say that the Spirit of God dwells in you but you look lifeless and act lifeless?”

Romans 8 closes with, “If God is for us, who can stand against us? Who will dare accuse us before God? What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing and no one can.” If we know that win and we know that death, life, angels, demons, fear, worries and the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love from us, then we should carry an attitude of power in us. We should be able to hear and/or sing the song above with absolute confidence, belief and power that God is the victor and the world needs to know about it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

QUOTE

We cannot know as God knows. Therefore, love. Accept those with differing opinions and practices as likely to be at least partly right. Be humble about one's own opinions and practices, since they are at least partly wrong. Love each other, whether or not we agree, for "to love is to obey the whole Law" (Rom. 13:10).

~Dr. Charles H. Kraft, Anthropology for Christan Witness

Sunday, July 6, 2008

QUOTE

The pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch; but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else (God, our fellow humans, animals, the garden and sky) instead.

~C.S. Lewis

Saturday, July 5, 2008

LIFE IN CALIFORNIA // Life Outside Tennessee

I just closed out my first six months here. Last Sunday it came to mind that I originally thought I would stay here six months and then go back to Nashville for six months, and then do it all over again.

Man, I can’t imagine going back right now. No offense to all my friends in Nashville but I really just can’t imagine being there right now. (I also haven’t fully recovered from the long three-day drive out here and am certainly not ready to make that trek again anytime soon.)

I guess it was easy to consider a 6-month/6-month trade-off when I hadn’t lived here yet. But as I watched life unfold here and there (Nashville), I realized there was more to this story than just coming out to get some courses done in California.

I was fine with moving to California. I knew that it had to happen eventually. I just didn’t think January 2008 would be the time. I wasn’t overly excited but I was fine with it. I knew that it was God leading me, which gave me confidence. I believed it was part of the story that he’s telling through me. And even in the moments of doubt, peace came. When moments of doubt came, I would think about the alternative to moving: staying. And the thought of staying in the same situation, going to work everyday, doing schoolwork and filling in any gaps with freelance, church, friends, etc., filled me with dread and agony. The best way to say it is that if I had stayed, I would have been miserable. Not because I was anticipating something so great in California, but because I knew I was supposed to leave. So to stay would have been wrong.

Yet I didn’t fully understand what it meant to leave. It wasn’t just about being in school and working towards a different career path. It wasn’t so much about going as it was about leaving. And it took me a while to see and accept exactly what was up.

It was interesting to see how life unfolded back home shortly after I left. My church merged with another church, for one. The church I had been attending and done ministry with suddenly looked different and pretty foreign to me. That led to thoughts of perhaps staying in California longer than short-term. Then some different things happened in the life of my best friend and I was thousands of miles away and felt completely unable to help. It was so frustrating. I was frustrated with the situation and I was frustrated with God for taking me so far away at just the point that I felt I could be really useful. I didn’t get it. I was upset, confused, separated but I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t feel homesick. There was no regret. So I said, “God, tell me. Tell me what all this means. Because I have some mixed feelings.”

And God’s cool. He reminded me that he wanted me in California and that the idea of staying in Nashville didn’t sit right with me. I would think again about the option of staying in Nashville and I knew that wouldn’t have been right. I felt the question, “If you had known this would happen, if given the choice, would you have stayed?” And I answered confidently in him, “No, no, I still would have left. I could not stay.”

And so God led me to the perspective that this journey to California wasn’t about going. It was about leaving. Leaving the world as I knew it Nashville. And I began to feel that God was separating me from the life I had known. My identity for the last 10 years has been in the music industry. What I’ve done and how I’m known, as for many people, have been tied to my job, my career. At his right time in the story, he plucked me out of Tennessee and placed me in California. (Though I still don’t have a clear vision of why or what’s going to happen in place of this previous identity.)

Sometimes I feel selfish because I don’t pay as much attention to Nashville. There are moments I wish that I were closer to home. Where I could jump in the car and just road trip to Nashville real quick to comfort a friend – or comfort myself. But that’s simply not an option being in California. And planet tickets are flat expensive. So here I am for a reason. I’m learning. I’m learning to see seasons. I’m learning why Jesus came to Earth. I’m learning about church. I’m learning patience. I’m learning to rest. I’m learning how to be away. I’m learning how to study, to read. I’m learning how to build relationships from scratch (this one is hard and requires much patience). I’m learning that I’m OK being single. I’m learning about faith in future grace. I’m learning the importance of living today because I have no idea what the future holds. And it’s OK.

And if I were in Nashville, I wouldn’t be learning any of it.

LIFE IN CALIFORNIA // My Box

I was thinking the other day about seeing things on a larger scale here in California. Los Angeles is a whole world away from Nashville. (And Nashville was quite a change from Michigan.) The diversity here is just…more! All the ethnicities, I see so much and so many around me. All shapes and sizes living life, whatever life that is (though I usually see it from inside the Jetta as I’m driving)

Fuller has me climbing out of my box to explore, look around and learn as well. I feel at home while I also wonder where I am. There are always rumblings about Fuller being liberal this or liberal that but it is a fully evangelical seminary. The faculty encourages all ideas to be laid out on the table. One is free to choose whatever idea she likes, just back it up! So I have found myself in interesting discussions or lectures where logical ideas that I never heard before were brought to the table. Some sound good but they just don’t seem to fit the world that I know while some absolutely make my spirit jump for joy. Take some and leave some. My Anthropology professor made the point in lecture this week that if we focus more on books with little application, we will quickly become cynical and that's how some have lost their faith in seminary (my paraphrase of Dr. Kraft).

For example, in my New Testament: Acts to Revelation course this winter, our professor gave lectures on the textual criticism of the Pauline corpus: which books Paul wrote, which ones he didn’t, when they were written, etc. I found myself getting caught up in those discussions. I found myself becoming cynical toward the Christian tradition I had been brought up in. We might find out one day if Paul or one of his disciples actually wrote Colossians but for me it finally down to the point that the argument didn't matter when it came to applying the words canonized in the Bible as the words of God. And I decided though it was interesting to investigate and discuss, that was a part of Fuller that didn't find a place in my daily application and context. So, I took the notes and became more scholarly but left most on the table.

On the opposite end, in my New Testament: The Gospels course this spring, my mind and spirit seemed to flourish as the assignments had me straight up in the Bible, teaching me how to read it with different eyes. The notes and the techniques Dr. Green gave us were and are absolutely applicable. It’s flat out amazing when you just do a “close reading of the text.”

Recently my box (my life and my perspective on it) came to mind. A time or two in the last six months, I think I toyed with idea of throwing my box away and starting over. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Get out of that box and think differently? Plus I had people here and there telling me that I would trade in Nashville for Los Angeles. All this together, I decided that I needed to go back and look at my box.

I found that six months later my box, my world, is bigger. It’s holding a few more things but it's still me. It looks like me and smells like me. It just sounds and thinks a bit differently. And I felt for the first time, I knew that it was OK. I knew it was OK to keep the same box rather than toss it out and start over. For a while I listened to the voices saying, "You like it; you'll stay." But recently I've worked at quieting those voices and decided that I need to hold onto this box, my world, me, what I know. It's 32 years of history, memories, stories, faith. This is where the word "go" came to me. This box holds the vision for this journey.

So this Midwestern-by-way-of-the-South girl knows that God doesn’t want her to get rid of her box, her world, for a bigger West Coast one. It just doesn’t make sense. The West Coast box would certainly cost more. But God is adding some West Coast things to my life, my world, but it's still me. I thought I would have to start over and get a new box for all the California and seminary experience. But really this is all growing with me. It won’t be too small for all these ideas, visions and perspectives at the end of the journey. I don't have to become an entirely new person. God didn't start over with me; he just took me to a new location.

And I think I believe more now than I ever have that this box, this world, this life of mine holds a mess of secrets that won’t come out until it gets a little bigger anyway.

LIFE IN CALIFORNIA // Seeing Saturn

So I went to the Griffith Observatory about two weeks ago. I wanted to explore the place more than I did but it was getting late. I’ll wait on my outer space-lovin’ friend Leslie to visit so we can explore together.

But I did get to see Saturn through the giant telescope. The picture to the left is the monitor showing us what we were going to see – Saturn. The astronomer lady who was the telescope tour guide noted (over and over for the newcomers to the telescope room) that Saturn has 60 moons and on a good night six are visible, “but only one decided to show up tonight.” So I saw Saturn and one of its moons in the telescope.

For waiting in line so long, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed but Saturn sure wasn’t very big – only the size of a sunflower seed.

But it was clear and colorful and the real thing. It was the planet Saturn!

Some perspective: Saturn is the third planet farther out from Earth (…Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) and the sixth planet from the Sun. Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system. When I looked out the open roof by the telescope, I could see Saturn with the naked eye and then just down to the right was Mars. Saturn is 1.4 billion kilometers from the Sun and it takes about 29.5 Earth years for Saturn to orbit the Sun. That means it has only finished one turn around the Sun in my lifetime. One time around! And I’ve been around almost 33 times!

This thing is enormous. Look at this picture that compares the size of Saturn and Earth.

Still, even with such enormity, Saturn only showed up as a colorful sunflower seed in the telescope. It is super far away. The space between it and us is ridiculous. I am reminded that there is a whole lot going on out there that I can’t even begin to comprehend.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

QUOTE

Good missionaries have always been good 'anthropologists.'

~Eugene A. Nida, Customs and Culture

Monday, June 30, 2008

LIFE IN CALIFORNIA // Reagan Presidential Library

My friend Mincy and I went up to the Presidential Library in Simi Valley yesterday (6/29). First, it's amazing piece of property. The drive up is amazing and the views are something else. And the building itself is pretty amazing, too.

Inside, the museum and library are real well done. We were there for about two hours and could have taken more time but I had to get to church. [Smile]

Here are some photos:

Ronald Reagan's memorial/resting place


A section of the Berlin Wall given to Reagan


Oval Office


Air Force One - the actual one Reagan used as did Bush I, Clinton and Bush II. Reagan ordered the one currently being used by Bush II.


The entrance

QUOTE

Prizing is the essence of praising.

~John Piper

Sunday, June 15, 2008

LIFE IN CALIFORNIA // Seeing Nature

Something I realized recently: I've been noticing more things nature-oriented out here. Which is ironic since I live a city. But if you haven't read "A Mouse Tale" or "A Tale of Two Squirrels", you need to visit my "outside seminary" blog. The "mouse tale" still makes me smile.

But I've also had little moments with nature including the pretty large snail "snailing" along the sidewalk in Pasadena and the little white butterfly that kept flitting just ahead of me as I walked down the sidewalk along in my apartment complex - like it was keeping me company on my walk.

And then there are the blue, blue skies of Pasadena that you don't always get in other parts of L.A. And the green, green palm trees against those blue skies. All with the mountains as a backdrop to the east. Just lovely.

I started to wonder why I was noticing all these things so often. My conclusion: because I walk everywhere around Pasadena. Walking not only does the body good; it does the senses and soul good, too.

And I can't help but stop and think, "God, it really is good. Thanks for bringing me here to see it."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Spring Quarter Finished

I finished my final paper for New Testament 2: The Gospels on Thursday evening (it was due at 11:59:59 p.m. And I finished my final paper for Spirituality and Mission at noon on Friday (it was due at 5 p.m.). I had time left over on both.

All that to say, I'm free for a week until I start leading myself through my distance learning courses. I'm going to reflect some more tomorrow (Sunday). Til then, I'm relaxing....

Monday, June 9, 2008

NEW TESTAMENT: THE GOSPELS // John Interpretive Assignment

My Interpretive Assignment on John 13:1-15:

Verse 1 is an appropriate starting point for this text. It is marked by a change of setting with “now before the festival of the Passover.” In the previous verses Jesus had been speaking to crowds; now John’s narrative turns to the supper with Jesus and his disciples. Verse 15 is an appropriate end. The narration of Jesus’ “example” of foot washing concludes in that verse. Verses 16-20 correspond to vv. 1-15 but do not carry keywords such as “clean,” “wash” and “feet.” The phrase “very truly” (vv. 16, 20) sets the text apart to itself.

The opening phrase, “now before the festival of the Passover,” occurs in similar forms in 2:13; 6:4; 11:55 and 12:1. In 2:13, it opens the scene where Jesus drives the merchants and moneychangers out of the Temple. In 6:4, it comes before the feeding of five thousand people. In 11:55, it comes after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and includes “many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.” In 12:1, it leads to Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet. Each time the phrase is used in John, a significant event occurs, mostly in public settings (except perhaps 12:1). This phrase could be a signal from John that a noteworthy event is taking place.

Keywords in the text are “know/knew/knowing,” “understand,” “world,” “devil,” “heart,” “betray,” “supper,” “table,” “water,” “wash,” “feet” and “clean.” “Know/knew/knowing” (vv. 1, 3, 11) refer directly to Jesus. Jesus uses “know” (vv. 7, 12) when speaking to disciples. Jesus tells Peter that he “will understand” (v. 7), indicating a future revelation of the meaning to his action. “Understand” (v. 12) is then used as Jesus offers explanation for the foot washing. “World” occurs twice (v. 1), in reference to his departing and in reference to “his own” that he would leave in it. John uses “world” in every chapter (except 2) leading up to this text. “Devil” (v. 2) is connected to words “heart” and “betray” (v. 2). “Betray” (v. 11) is also connected with “he [Jesus] knew” and “clean” (v. 11). “Supper” appears once in NRS (v. 2) but appears twice in ESV (vv. 2, 4). In ESV “supper” bookends a sentence that reveals the devil putting betrayal in Judas Iscariot’s heart (v. 2) and reveals Jesus’ knowing that God had given all things into his hands and that he came from and was going back to God (v. 3). John gives readers that information and then relates that Jesus “rose from supper” (v. 4). In NRS he “got up from the table” (v. 4), which also indicates the mealtime. The “table” or “supper” is an important cultural reference, signifying fellowship and intimacy. This “supper” is with Jesus and his disciples (the persons mentioned in the story). “Water” is poured (v. 5) and used to “wash” (vv. 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14) the disciples’ “feet” (vv. 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14). “Clean” refers to the body (v. 10) and the disciples (v. 11).

The Gospel of John connects Jesus to “water” several times: Jesus turns water to wine (2:1-11), Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (4:1-26), Jesus heals the invalid at the pool (5:1-15), Jesus walks on water (6:16-21) and Jesus heals the man born blind, sending the man to wash in the Pool of Siloam (9:1-7). In 13:1-15, Jesus pours “water” into a basin and begins to wash his disciples feet (v. 5). Another reference to foot washing occurs in the OT when Abraham acknowledges foot washing for his three visitors (Gen. 18:4). Ceremonial cleansing happened before Passover as Jews traveled from the country to Jerusalem (11:55). This story takes place “before the Feast of Passover” (v. 1). Ceremonial cleansing takes shape in this text as Jesus gets up from his place at the table (v. 4) and begins to wash the disciples’ feet himself (v. 5).

The foot washing is an action Jesus performs with his hands. The one time Jesus’ hands are mentioned in this text is “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” (v. 3). Presumably Jesus uses his hands to take off his outer garments, pick up the towel, tie it around his waist, pick up the container with water to pour into the basin, wash the disciples’ feet and wipe them with the towel (vv. 4-5). After John tells readers that the Father had given “all things” into Jesus’ hands, he immediately tells a story of what Jesus did with his hands: foot washing. The foot washing itself is set apart from the rest of the text with Jesus getting up from the table and taking off his outer garments (v. 4) and putting on his outer garments and resuming his place at the table (v. 12).

With foot washing, Jesus takes on a lower status, the status of a slave/servant who would wash feet. This would be a significant action in that culture. John notes only Simon Peter calling attention to it. There is no mention that other disciples said anything. There is also no mention how many disciples had their feet washed before Jesus “came to Simon Peter” (v. 6). Peter addresses him as “Lord” (v. 6), which is in juxtaposition to Jesus washing feet and Peter’s question, “Are you going to wash my feet?” (v. 6), could presume that he simply does not understand what it all means. To which Jesus answers, “Afterward you will understand” (v. 7). Jesus does give one explanation later (vv. 12-15).

Only the name Peter (not Simon Peter) appears in his reply to Jesus (v. 8), though Simon Peter again appears in his final comment (v. 9). Why does John drop his given name Simon (v. 8) for Peter, the name given him by Jesus (1:42)?

There is the element of ceremonial cleansing before Passover to this text. There is also the story that Jesus knew his hour to depart this world had come and he loved his own to the end (v. 1). Who were “his own”? In response to Peter, Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (v. 8). So those washed by Jesus would become his own. In 13:1-15, those would be his disciples. This story is about their identification with Jesus. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (v. 12) so all present would have a “share with him.” Yet, John already revealed that devil had put the thought of betrayal of Jesus in Judas Iscariot’s heart (v. 2). John does not mention that Jesus skipped over any disciples (i.e., Judas Iscariot) or that Judas Iscariot was not present for the foot washing. What’s the implication for Judas Iscariot to be considered one of Jesus’ own but to also have the information from John that Jesus knew about the betrayal (v. 2)?

Jesus says that washing the feet is enough to signify being clean (v. 10). Those traveling to Jerusalem for Passover presumably came by foot and went through ceremonial cleansing (11:55). Did this only include physical foot washing? Participating in the ceremonial cleansing then, a Jew would be considered entirely clean and ready for Passover simply by foot washing. John (and Jesus) then takes cleansing a step further. John connects “betray” to “clean” (v. 11). Betrayal is not a physical quality but an action or decision of the mind or heart. John already connected “betray” and “heart” (v. 2). John takes the foot washing done by Jesus and makes it about the heart being clean or unclean.

In 13:1-15, foot washing is about becoming a servant to others (vv. 4, 14). It is about identification with Jesus (v. 8). It is about washing all feet, though betrayal might be within a person (vv. 2, 10, 11). It is about more than cleansing the feet; it is about cleansing the heart (vv. 10-11). Ezekiel 36:25 mentions cleansing the heart: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols” (NIV).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

SPIRITUALITY AND MISSION // The second part of my spiritual autobiography

Here is the second half of the spiritual autobiography. I did some major tweaking in it - the one I turned in didn't do the topic justice for the page limit I had. It's long but should read fast. (Maybe we'll see this in book form someday?)

MUSIC CITY
I lived and worked in Nashville for 10 years. I didn’t know anyone when I moved there. I didn’t have a job or career plan. I just knew that was where God wanted me. I was there to work in the Christian music industry. And I did, successfully, for 10 years. Everything came easily; everything came as God planned. I had good jobs and great jobs, job changes and layoffs. Always God provided: financially, emotionally, spiritually.

Then January 2007 arrived. I was in Atlanta for the Passion 07 conference, working for the media relations firm that represents the Passion Conferences. I had the easy job of writing one press release each day for the event. In exchange, I got paid and had access to the conference for free. This was the third Passion Conference I worked in this capacity. This would be old hat.
But two things happened at this Passion Conference: I heard Francis Chan speak for the first time and I heard Beth Moore speak again. When Francis spoke, I was completely captivated with not only his message but with his teaching and communication style. I became an instant fan. The next morning, I remember I was working on my computer while Beth was speaking, when something made me stop and look up. I don’t think it was anything in particular she said. But as I looked up, that something (what I now think was the Spirit leading) said inside me, “That’s what I want to do. I want to be a Beth Moore. I want to travel and speak. Hmm, that’s odd. That’s nothing like me.” End of thought. Back to the computer. End of conference. Back to life and work in Nashville.

The first half of 2007 brought the normal course of life – though Francis Chan’s Podcast from his church in Simi Valley were added to it. I continued freelance writing and editing, working for a company based out of Malibu, Calif., called All Access Music Group, volunteering for my church and making coffee drinks at Starbucks. I dealt with relationship issues, bosses, deadlines – normal “life in America” stuff.

The next encounter with that Spirit voice came at a women’s retreat in May. The retreat took me from that normal course of life and it was there I felt the Spirit once again lay hold of me, asking me to release some recent disappointments and my own expectations for my life. I remember telling God, “Whatever you have for me. My hands are open.” If only I knew….

One month later I walked into my office and sat down at my computer and something changed. That stirring came again. That voice spoke up, “I cannot do this anymore. If I am still coming into this office for the next two years, I won’t be in God’s will.” The thought startled me a bit. I always thought I would be in Nashville working in the music industry. That’s why God led me there. Rather than move past the thought, as I did the Beth Moore one, I let it sink in. And there was immense calm. I even flipped it around and asked myself the question, “What if you do stay?” Without pause, I answered, “I will be miserable if I have to do this any longer. I need to do something that will affect the church and the kingdom.”

There was my answer. Almost immediately, I started exploring my options for a master’s degree, one that would equip me to serve my sister and brother-in-law in their overseas missions work. The search was short. Within one week I applied to the MAGL program at Fuller…and then I waited. I received my acceptance letter about six weeks later. I was not accepted to the MAGL program but to the MACCS program. Exciting but not exactly how I pictured it. The MACCS would require a move to Pasadena. The MAGL could be done from the comforts of my organized life in Nashville.

I talked to God about it, asking him why this program. I never got a straight answer. Through the conversations, though, I believed that this was what he wanted me to do. So, I started with two online classes in the fall. I was not in a rush to move to California. I pushed that requirement to Fall 2008 or later. I figured by that time I would have a chance to get all my home and life affairs in order. But in mid-October I had a conversation with David Crowder for a feature story I was writing. Our conversation centered on justice, compassion and the church’s role in such missions, the very topics and questions that I was exploring in seminary. I hung up the phone from the interview and in an instant, I heard the Spirit say to me, “You have to go now. You need to get started on this. You cannot wait.” I guess by this time I learned something about that voice. I trusted it. Sure, it had told me some odd things, like “I want to be Beth Moore.” But now I was getting it. I had told God, “Whatever you have for me.” He heard me and took me up on it. Without hesitation, without question, I said, “OK. How this will work in two months, I have no idea, but OK. I’ll go.”

Within two months I packed up my Nashville life. I moved most of it into three friends’ homes and drove the rest to California. And in the process I discovered with 98 percent confidence that this was the road God paved for me (the other two percent worried about renting my house). You see, or 18 months, I had been working for a company based in L.A., so my job came with me. God opened housing at Fuller in my budget within six weeks and provided tenants in my house the same day I moved into my Fuller apartment. And I was only 40 minutes from Simi Valley and Francis Chan. I smiled at God when I realized that one year to the day that I first heard Francis preach in Atlanta, I left Atlanta with my best friend bound for L.A. One year to the day that I heard the Spirit suggest a Beth Moore-type career, I was on the road to California. My entire life, the whole direction, the story as I knew it had completely changed – literally in one year.

Ten years in Nashville opened my eyes to the ups and downs of mixing Christian ministry with business. Those years also saw me in God-given jobs that taught me invaluable lessons and provided me with numerous skills for the work that lies ahead. Most of all, life in Nashville and all its ministry and career opportunities taught me how to rejoice in all things, especially the unexpected things.

REJOICE
I have two tattoos (for now). The one on my right wrist is a cross, facing me, as a constant reminder of God’s compassion and Jesus’ obedience. The one on my left wrist is the word “REJOICE.” This comes from my reading of another influence, John Piper (introduced through the Passion Conferences as well). If one word sums up my life now, a life so rich in Christian heritage, so rich in God’s faithfulness, yet so challenging in the day-to-day, it is the word “rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice always; again I say rejoice.” In all things I rejoice. I rejoice in the childhood of protection. I rejoice in the circumstances of adulthood. Not much rattles me now, not much shakes me. I’ve learned that nothing surprises God (thank you, John Piper), so whether things look bad or good, I just rejoice in the fact that God is bigger than any of it.

Now in my 30s, when I look in the mirror and see the scars, I’m reminded. I’m not reminded of a dog attack. Rather I’m reminded of my life and I become overwhelmed with gratitude to God. I almost shouldn’t be here but I am and I cannot take the credit. I couldn’t save myself from such massive trauma as a baby. I realize again that this life has little to do with me. I didn’t pick the parents that would raise me in the tradition that they did. The college where ultimately my faith became my own was not my first, second or even third choice. I certainly didn’t plan a career change and a move to California at 32.

A friend once told me that 10 percent of life is what happens and 90 percent is how you respond to it. What happened as I accepted my context, as I accepted my culture, as I accepted my faith tradition, as I lived out that story? What happened as I simply learned to rejoice in all things? What happened when I chose last summer to live life with open hands? God slide Nashville over to the side and placed California in the center of my open hands. Even as unexpected as California was, as untimely as it seemed, there is no doubt that it was God’s leading. I look in the mirror at those scars and I know that God loves me and he has great things for me. He turned the page to an unexpected new chapter of his story in me. I kind of asked for it though. Still, it’s a chapter that I never imagined and one that I’m thrilled to be living for him and with him.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NEW TESTAMENT: THE GOSPELS // Luke Interpretive Assignment

There was an interpretive assignment on Luke 13:10-17. I chose not to do this one for a grade but still took notes on the class discussion. (I did the one for John 13:1-15; that one will post soon.)

Verse 10 is a good place to start this pericope. The form changes as does the time and setting (“now”, “Sabbath,” “synagogue”). Verse 17 is good place to end the pericope. The form changes again (parable, miracle story, parable). The word “therefore” comes in v. 18. That prompts the question, “Why is it there?” The teaching continues through two parables through v. 20. Verses 10-17 stand on own and interpret the verses around them. Luke intrudes on Jesus’ narrative (minor break by Luke in v. 18). A new problem is presented in v. 18. Luke 13:10-17 is a classic miracle story form (a type scene). In a type scene, like a miracle story, the author provides someone with a problem that Jesus heals and then he gets in trouble, which leads to conclusion. What Jesus does miracle-wise in Luke leads to praising and rejoicing. It is an account. Another way to look at this is that Luke 13:10-21 is some kind of section within Luke and there are two pericopes divided by an intrusion from the narrative and change of form.

Jesus: In this text Jesus is a teacher in the synagogue (not teaching through actions) (v. 10). In Luke though, teaching and miracles are side by side (Luke 4-9). Jesus authorized as a teacher in the synagogue (v. 1) (he was a standard speaker in synagogues) but the leader of the synagogue engages people and not Jesus (v. 14). The leader teaches Torah here (v. 14) and makes Jesus to a rebel, deviant because he does not do what was expected according to Torah. For the leader of the synagogue, he stepped outside the routine (which he can do because he is leaving the synagogue, teach elsewhere). Luke, the narrator, names Jesus “Kyrios” or “Lord” (v. 15). Luke is saying that Jesus is authorized by Luke – he uses that term (“Lord”) for God. Jesus not called healer in this text but heals.

Healing: The woman had a disabling spirit (v. 11) so was this a healing or an exorcism. Yes. In Luke, healing always has an “overcoming the devil” element. Luke is attributing illness of all kinds to Satan. He does not try to say that Satan is behind every trashcan but that there are two forces/purposes at work in the world: God and Satan, light and darkness. Has Satan taken a personal interest in this woman? No, not likely. But for Jesus to heal her is to push back the forces of Satan that hold her. For Luke, anything that works against God is evil. Luke suggesting that physical problem tied into the spiritual problem. Sinful actions lead to physical ailments, but physical ailments cannot lead to sinful actions. Cosmically, there is something wrong. Satan is at work in the world and Jesus is rolling back the purpose or work of Satan.

Leader of Synagogue: If you were looking for God’s mercy, where would you go on the Sabbath? To church or synagogue, yes? Jesus (the Lord) answered the leader of the synagogue with “you hypocrites” (v. 15). Hypocrite is a transliteration of a Greek word. It can mean “thespian” or “actor with a mask on a stick” (two-faced) in the Greco-Roman world. In the Jewish world (in Job or Maccabean) it could be “god-less,” meaning one who has so little understanding of God that even the things he or she tries to do, the directedness is even wrong. He or she doesn’t understand so all his or her attempts at godliness are misdirected; he or she can’t do anything right. Paul gets clarity about who Jesus is in his Damascus Road experience – not from being two-faced but from not understanding who God was. He said, “I was zealous for God,” then he received the revelation. There is a positive synagogue leader in Jairus (8:41) but here (13:14) is negative one. Luke will not let you categorize people. One question Luke wants answered: how will you respond to God’s grace in Jesus? Any categories become deconstructed for us.

The woman: What is her first problem? She is a woman. Her second problem? She has a visible illness. So what is her status? Her posture is representation of her status in the world – bent over (v. 11). She was a marginalized woman with an ailment: physical, social, cosmic, emotional, spiritual. What is her real problem? The physical issue or her problem in the community? The physical problem was not enough to cause the problem. This is about her marginalized place. Jesus’ real healing comes in v. 16. when he names her a daughter of Abraham. Jesus makes sure that we understand that this is not a bone problem; calling her name makes her whole. If you take care of animals on the Sabbath, how much more a daughter of Abraham? The Sabbath rules were based on interpretations of Leviticus, not Leviticus itself. The standards for priests were made for all people. Was the woman even there to be healed? Where was she standing? Jesus was in the front so he calls her into the public eye. The woman was healed and praising God (v. 13). She had restoration to community of God’s people. She gets a name from Jesus (daughter of Abraham). She had no name in the story until Jesus gives her one. In Luke 4:16-30 and 13:18-19, there is “proclaim release to the captives” and “send the oppressed away in release,” What has Jesus done in Luke 13? He took what was bound and set free.

Sabbath: When Luke says “Sabbath,” you know something big happens: healings, fulfillments of Isaiah. The question to ask here is, which Sabbath does the leader of the synagogue have in mind? The Deut. 5:15 or the Exodus 20:11? The Exodus Sabbath is interpreted in Second Temple Judaism eschatologically. Jesus interprets Sabbath differently. There are markers of Jewish identity and how you keep Sabbath is critical. Jesus says he is faithful to God. In the context of Exodus 19 and 20:1, which speaks in the context of liberation, Jesus sets this woman free.

Pictures of Pasadena

I thought I should comment on the pictures that I'm posting to the right. They will be historic markers or interesting points in Pasadena.

This week is Fuller Theological Seminary. That is Payton Hall, one of the original buildings. So far I've had all my classes in the classroom extension to this building. The Seminary just celebrated 60 years this spring.

Last week's picture was the Rose Bowl, built in 1922. As a U of M/Big Ten football fan growing up, having the Rose Bowl in my backyard is pretty cool. Now I go jogging around it three days a week.

The first week's picture was the 1913 Colorado Street Bridge, also known as Suicide Bridge (can you guess why?). You see it when driving into Pasadena on the 134 highway, coming from anywhere west or north (pretty much the only direction I go - Burbank, Hollywood, Malibu, Simi Valley, etc.)

Read about it here: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ca-suicidebridge.html

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summer School

Just registered for my summer courses...

Waitlisted for the five-week Pentateuch intensive. So instead it looks like I'll do two distance learning courses, Biblical Foundation of Missions and Anthropology (one of the concentrations, I'm considering).

Doing two IDLs instead of two actual classroom courses sets me back in finishing my on-campus requirement by next June. But by next summer, I'll have more credits and should be able to get any summer on-campus courses I need to finish up the California portion of this journey.

These two IDLs will give me the freedom to hit Michigan for a few weeks this summer. Darling Elizabeth does turn 2 on July 31! And Aunt Jackie will be there!

Cheers!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

LIFE IN CALIFORNIA // Cornerstone Simi Valley

Take a break from seminary and look at life in California - starting with some reflections on my church.....

CORNERSTONE SIMI VALLEY
I love my church. The irony (?) is that I wouldn’t have known about Cornerstone if I hadn’t heard my pastor Francis Chan at Passion 07 in Atlanta which is where I also felt the Spirit begin moving me toward change – change that would become career change, school change, location change – and I would end up leaving Nashville (from Atlanta) one year later to the very day that I heard Francis speak. My life changed in one year, literally.

It was a no-brainer decision for me to go to Cornerstone when I moved out here. Francis has become one of my heroes and when I realized that Simi Valley was only 40 minutes away, I knew that was where I needed to spend my time in church while in California. Cornerstone’s vision for how church should be done as well as its commitment to give 50% of its entire income away to missions...what a place to learn. I have learned as much from Cornerstone as I have from Fuller. And it only takes two gallons of gas to get there.

Cornerstone has four services every Sunday and there are approx. 4,000 members currently. The church meets in a really nondescript building that is directly in the middle of a Simi Valley neighborhood. Many of its rooms are in buildings around it that are converted storefronts. For the most part if you drive around the block, you wouldn’t even know there was a church there. The people, the church itself, are just a bunch of normal people. There is nothing flashy about this place. It has the modern technology but it’s just simply not that flashy. I love this place. I feel so at home.

They just paid off the debt on the building (that story is probably on a podcast) and have property in Simi Valley that they are working on building an outdoor amphitheater as the new church building. They were going to build a larger sanctuary but felt convicted about spending all those dollars when people around the world were in need. So, they are building an amphitheater so the church can meet together at one time, with less debt and more money to give away. (How rad is that idea?) To be cold on a Sunday morning is a small price to pay for those suffering in other places, including in Los Angeles.

Most recently, they announced that the focus of Cornerstone was going back to that of the early church, where we needed to be involved directly and deeply in each other’s lives, no matter who, no matter where, no matter what. They divided the church up into a series of community groups based on where people live. For those of us who live outside Simi Valley, they also formed groups to represent the about 50 cities outside Simi. I joined the Burbank community group – the closest one to Pasadena. I've been to a couple Wednesday night "meetings," helped some folks move a couple Saturdays ago and have had dinner with a couple from the group.

Apparently there are about 30-40 people that drive to Simi from Burbank alone – and we all thought that we were the only ones. The people in this group are late 20s and 30s, single, newlyweds, soon-to-be new parents – and I’m friends with them already. I’m really looking forward to having them close by and off campus.

I'm also in the process of meeting about four other folks from Fuller who also drive to Cornerstone. Our first "Cornerstone Connection" group is tonight after C-stone's 7 p.m. service.

Not to be forgotten are the folks I’ve met in Collide, the young adults group at Cornerstone. We meet every other Friday night. This is the group I went backpacking with in the Grand Canyon – and will be backpacking with in Yosemite in August. I’ve gotten to know quite a few people here but mostly only see them at Collide or on Sundays. My friend Lena and I have started meeting for dinner on Tuesday nights. We meet in a central location as I drive home from Malibu and she drives home from N. Hollywood to Simi. It’s been really great having some sort of social life during the week. I think my other real good “friend find” in Collide is Crystal; she also lives outside Simi but in Santa Clarita which is still 40 minutes from me.

What I’m learning at Cornerstone: I’m getting a chance to apply what it means to serve my brothers and sisters, and together we’re now looking for ways to serve the community. I’m learning what church should look like and what the church should act like. What does it mean to come to church? Why are we there and who are we there for? It’s not about the individual. It should never be about what you get out of church. Have you heard it before? The church doesn’t exist within walls. The church moves outside the walls. We are the church. God is love – we have God in us – we should be reflecting that love, shouldn’t we? What’s our attitude in church? Why are we going?

SPIRITUALITY AND MISSION // A portion of my spiritual autobiography

For my Spirituality and Mission class, we had to write a 5-7 page spiritual autobiography. I found it very difficult to narrow it down to 5-7 pages. I have so much to write, so many stories, so many important people that need to be honored for their role in my life. Leading up to this assignment, I had been thinking about writing a book - and now I'm certain it should happen, someday.

In the meantime, here's a portion of my paper:

It was July 1977. My family stopped to visit my dad’s parents when returning from vacation. During the visit my grandparents’ dog attacked me as my 6-year-old sister Jennifer and I (only 18 months) pet it. It pushed me over and grabbed my face (picture small face in dog’s mouth). The dog clamped on so tightly that my dad had to quite forcibly yank the dog off me. “He was so upset that he wanted to rip the dog in two,” remembers my mom. “It was a pretty wild scene.” As my parents raced some 30 minutes to the hospital in Grand Rapids, I fell asleep in my mom’s arms. She remembers thinking that I was dead. I was not. Sixty stitches and reconstructive surgery around my mouth and chin left permanent reminders of the close call though. I was hospitalized for a week until doctors removed the stitches but it was a year before the swelling disappeared. Today I look in the mirror and see the scars. The event won’t replay in my mind; I was too young for the memory. But when I see the scars, I absolutely know that I am in God’s story.

BORN DUTCH, CHARISMATIC BY DEFAULT
Western Michigan – a Midwestern Bible Belt. Grand Rapids, Michigan – a Mecca for all things Christian. Zondervan Publishers, Family Christian Bookstores, Mars Hill Bible Church and Rob Bell, and Calvin College to name a few. Churches abound here. Seemingly everyone follows some faith tradition. In the South the Christian culture is heavily Southern Baptist, while in West Michigan it is heavily Christian Reformed. Families of Dutch descent (Van-this or Vander-that) are prevalent, including my maternal grandparents (making me half-Dutch). The Dutch are a conservative, religious group of people with a penchant for tradition. Metropolitan Grand Rapids reflected that. The culture in which I was raised was always attend church and always vote Republican. (It has literally taken me 31 years to finally become a Conservative Moderate.)

Both of my parents were raised in Grand Rapids but not raised in Christian homes, strangely enough. My dad and his six siblings were left to their own devices. Grandma Chapman was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and Grandpa Chapman was a devout alcoholic. Christianity and church going were not forced on my mom and three siblings. Grandpa Timmers did not have much use for organized church, and though he allowed Grandma Timmers to go, it was not something that stuck with the family.

Still, my parents were saved September 4, 1971, in their early 20s at a little Assembly of God church named Calvary Memorial. The church was a few miles down the street from my grandparents’ house where my mom grew up. My parents never looked back. My parents were saved in an AG church, in the charismatic tradition, and that became the tradition they followed. Our family left Calvary Memorial when I was almost four. Our new church, First Assembly of God, was all the way across town. It was late 1979, before the term “mega-church” was common; but even so, First Assembly was becoming that quickly. I don’t remember anything but it feeling normal from the start. I basically grew up at a mega-church in the Assemblies of God denomination. I was saved there at six and spent my elementary school to college years attending twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday, joining children’s choir, youth choir, youth trips. I was baptized by immersion in water at 13, prayed to receive the gift of tongues right after (which, according to the AG, should happen as “initial evidence”; mine took a week) and began to use tongues in private prayer and corporate worship.

By default, I am a Pentecostal Christian. I never questioned it growing up because I trusted my parents and I liked my church and the friends I had there. What I saw and learned made sense in the little Grand Rapids world that I knew. The conservative values and Christian faith fit in the mold of conservative West Michigan. I am still a Pentecostal Christian involved with an Assembly of God church because I studied and experienced the charismatic tradition on my own as an adult and I believe “being led by the Holy Spirit” brought me through every decision (good or bad) since leaving the “default” zone of my parents’ home.

RULE FOLLOWER
Much of my spiritual journey can be traced to an interesting characteristic. I am a rule follower. Something inside me forces me to do things (except the speed limit) by the book. Part of that is the influence of my parents. In the Chapman house, there was no dating until college, no movies, no secular music, no Halloween, no school dances. Drinking, smoking and drugs were on the unspoken list. Some might call this upbringing na├»ve or sheltered. I used to call it that until I thought about it. In retracing these steps, I realized that my life wasn’t sheltered in a negative sense, but in a positive sense. My life has been protected.

I can almost trace my decision for rule following to one night in junior high. I lied to my parents about going to a school dance. I was caught the same night. The expressions on their faces and their words of disappointment did me in for life. I made the decision right then to never lie to them again. And I haven’t. For real. How is a good question? I do not think that I could carry out a decision like that as a teenager without something or someone else at work in my life. I believe as my charismatic tradition informs me that it is the Spirit of Jesus at work in me, God’s child, to live out a life worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice for the glory of God.

I think my parents knew what growing up without protection was like. They didn’t allow that for their children. More important than the rules they established in their house was the prayer. Every morning from Kindergarten to 12th grade, before we walked out the door for school, my parents prayed for us with us. “Dear heavenly father, we love you. You are to be praised. Be with these children today. Keep them safe. Let them be your light to the world, to bring glory to name. Amen.” How clearly I hear those words. Every morning for 13 years. I am convinced that is how my parents raised three children who only very occasionally got in trouble, never rebelled and are all serving God in various vocations. I am convinced that my journey, living by the book, by God’s word, goes back to the protection of the Spirit and the audible prayers of my parents.

FORTY-FIVE MINUTES AWAY
Something in me wanted to move away from home and West Michigan for college. I ended up 45 minutes from home at Hope College in Holland, Mich. The most western part of Western Michigan. Even more Dutch people, including my roommate Jennifer, born and raised in Holland herself. A four-year private liberal arts college, Hope is affiliated with the Reformed Church of American (RCA). It is a conservative Christian college. It offered me the most financial aid. It was absolutely where I needed to be.

My faith finally proved to be my own in one my final courses at Hope, my senior seminar on pluralism. There I discovered a classroom of Hope students that could not say or did not want to say that confession of Jesus as Savior was the only means of salvation. I mistakenly thought the course would be more apologetics, rather than it be non-apologetics. For all the tears I shed in that class, that class was the key to my awakening. There were Christians in the world that thought other religions were just as valid for eternal salvation. That was news to me. My West Michigan church bubble popped. My faith in Jesus, my perspective on the church, my belief in who God was – everything I had been taught was challenged. It all suddenly needed to become my own. And it did. I learned to stand on my own two Christian feet in that class. I graduated in December 1997. One month later I moved to Nashville, Tenn.

SPIRITUALITY AND MISSION // Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne wrote The Irresistible Revolution to convey what it means for Christian believers to become Jesus in the flesh now in America. I say “in America” because that is Claiborne’s context and his audience is the American church. He is American, born, raised and educated, and he resides and works in a community called The Simple Way in Philadelphia. He has experience in the America context through both urban community and the mega-church environment (Willow Creek in Chicago). He also adds experience and understanding to the topic through his travels and work in India and Iraq. Claiborne tells his and other people’s stories to express the ways in which the American church is and is not making a difference in society and culture today. He wants to awaken Christian believers to think outside tradition and to look outside church walls to see what needs surround them in their communities. He writes in a manner that does not condemn the Church entirely for its past and current track record but he does not leave much wiggle room for Christian believers to finish his book and not change the direction or focus of their faith in action. Claiborne celebrates “the least of these” through his stories while petitioning the Church to be the Church and to do something, whatever possible, to help the needy, the forgotten and the misunderstood.

Several friends recommended this book to me when it first came out but I never got around to reading it. What a perfect opportunity to read it now – as a required reading for class. I had a few misgivings as I started the book because so many people I know had read it, enjoyed it, praised it but never changed their patterns of living. I was wary about jumping on any bandwagon (for me, I think of Blue Like Jazz, Velvet Elvis, same deal there). As I read the book though, Claiborne’s story resounded with me more than I expected – perhaps because, since being at Fuller and at my new church in Simi Valley, my perspectives on the American church and the job of Christian believers has been enlightened and expanded. If I picked up The Irresistible Revolution back when friends first recommended it, it might not have meant what it does today. I have a greater appreciation and understanding and desire to apply what Claiborne talks about in the book now than I would have had in the past. The book gives me examples of how Christian believers are applying the Jesus’ words to their context and environment. My future ministry might not match what Claiborne & Company do in Philly, nor might I find myself participating in sit-ins and protests, but based on the “model” of Jesus shown, I can find ways to apply the same Jesus principles to my context of America in Tennessee. Halfway through the book, I remember thinking, “Will he condemn the entire history or the work of every American church? Will this turn out to be one of those negative books?” Right after thinking that, Claiborne said something like, “I’m not saying every church is wrong or that no one is doing this.” That made me happy.

The application for missions in The Irresistible Revolution places the burden or weight on the American church (though “burden” and “weight” are strong words). Claiborne offers these stories as a challenge and encouragement to the American church to begin thinking beyond programs and buildings to reach souls, and to begin thinking about seeking out and providing practical life needs within local communities. I think this can extend to global missions, too, where churches can become involved in what Christian believers (indigenous and expatriate missionaries) are doing around the world.

NT1 THE GOSPELS: Interpretive Assignment Mark 1:1-15

Dr. Green requires two interpretive assignments from four texts from the Gospels. My first one was on Mark 1:1-15. No research required. Here is what I found in my close reading of the text:

Verses 1-15 are the correct verses for this pericope. Verse 1 is obviously the beginning of the Gospel according to Mark. There is no earlier place to begin the reading. The beginning even uses the word “beginning” (v. 1). Verse 15 is a proper end to the text. The word “gospel” or “good news” (v. 1) is repeated twice in vv. 14-15, creating bookends. The focus of the story changes in v. 16 as Jesus is in a new location (“along the Sea of Galilee”) and new characters are introduced, as Jesus calls the first disciples (vv. 16-20).

Verse 1 is not a complete sentence. It sounds like a full statement but is not a complete sentence. Mark’s writing will tell the story of the good news of Jesus Christ. Mark uses the title Christ (anointed, Messiah) alongside the name Jesus, which indicates that Mark sees a larger story than just a man Jesus happening. Translations include (or footnote) “Son of God” (v. 1), bringing God into the story. Is v.1 only meant for what Mark includes in vv. 2-15 or for the entire Gospel? The use of the word “beginning” could be simply for this opening section because it sets up vv. 2-15. One clue as to v. 1 being intended for only this text is the use of “gospel” (vv. 1, 14-15). Using v. 1 as the introduction to this text, rather than the whole Gospel, leads to a close reading of the text in which Mark tells what he believes to be the actual beginning of the good news about Jesus. It creates a prologue to the rest of the Gospel.

Verses 1-15 are a narrative. The OT echoes (Mal. 3:1; Isa. 40:3) introduce John and Jesus (v. 4). Mark also then introduces Jesus through the work of John (v. 9). From that point the story builds on Jesus: his baptism (v. 9), revelation from God (vv. 10-11) and temptation by Satan (vv. 12-13). The climax comes with Jesus’ proclamation and the start of his ministry (vv. 14-15). The theme of the prologue is that Jesus was the Son of God and brought the kingdom of God to earth so that humanity could become a part of it. God’s work is ongoing and Jesus is here to proclaim that. That is summarized (v. 15): “‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (ESV). Mark explains to the degree he believes necessary who Jesus is and from where he came with a focus on the baptism of Jesus rather than the birth and childhood. Mark begins with Jesus as an adult, following the expectations of ancient biography.

Keywords are “voice,” “proclaiming,” “wilderness,” “repentance,” “gospel,” “after,” “Spirit” and “baptism.” “Voice” (v. 3) cited from Isaiah is “crying” (or calling?) and later Jesus comes into Galilee “proclaiming” (v. 14). “Proclaiming” (v. 7) is paralleled with “voice” (v. 11). “Wilderness” (vv. 3-4) appears in the OT reference and in reference to John and later twice in reference to Jesus sent to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit after his baptism (vv. 12-13). Repentance is linked to baptism by John (v. 4) and repent (v. 15) becomes part of Jesus’ message. Gospel (v. 1) is repeated twice in vv. 14-15. John uses the phrase “after me” (v. 7) in his preaching and Mark begins Jesus’ public proclamation or the start of his ministry “after John was arrested” (v. 14). Spirit or Holy Spirit (vv. 10, 12) is introduced. Baptism (baptizing, baptized) appears twice in v. 4, twice in v. 8 and once in v. 9.

Baptism is the central action of Mark’s prologue. The story centers around the two main human characters baptizing (John) or being baptized (Jesus). Mark must believe baptism is an important feature of the Jesus story as he uses the event to introduce Jesus. The baptism by John is “of repentance of the forgiveness of sins” (v. 4). Why does Jesus come to be baptized if he was sinless? No mention of Jesus’ sinless nature is made in this text, unless the revelation of God (vv.10-11) counts (“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”). Even there, Mark appears to give his audience information that perhaps John heard (or anyone else present at Jesus’ baptism, which is unclear in the text). Mark writes, “And when he (Jesus) came up out of the water, immediately he (still Jesus?) saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him (Jesus) like a dove” (v. 10). This text reads as if Jesus was the only character to see or hear this event. “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You (Jesus) are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (v. 11). God speaks directly to Jesus. Did Mark believe that Jesus was the only one who heard that? What does that mean for the rest of the Gospel? No one was aware of Jesus as the Son of God if Jesus only heard the words of God. And even if one were to think that John heard or saw, he was removed from center stage in vv. 14-15.

Verse 12 then immediately moves Jesus from baptism in the Jordan to the wilderness, where he faces Satan and angels minister to him. The temptation of Jesus is only given a summary but the mention of the Holy Spirit, Satan and angels introduces a story in the divine or spiritual realm outside the physical realm alongside the wild beasts.

Why was John out in the wilderness? There is no background on John given here outside the OT reference “as it is written” (v. 2) then “John appeared” (v.4). Does Mark’s audience know the significance of John? Is Mark setting his Jesus story in the world beyond Jerusalem (or Israel) by describing John out in the wilderness, dressed in camel hair and a leather belt (v. 6)? Mark describes John as living outside (apart from) the Temple and Jerusalem, eating locusts and wild honey. The wilderness could describe anything outside the city, not necessarily a no-man’s land of wilderness. Jesus’ movement into the wilderness was described as being with wild animals (v. 13) though. Mark’s prologue begins with Jesus receiving a “secret” word from God and emerging from the wilderness, as if he appears from nowhere with an aura of mystery around him.

The OT texts given (vv. 2-3) in the ESV, NIV, RSV and NASB all use “in Isaiah the prophet” (v. 2). Typically there is a footnote that remarks “in the prophets,” which would fit better as the quotation in v. 2 is Malachi 3: 1, and verse 3 comes from Isaiah 40:3. Isaiah 40:3 is cited differently in Mark 1:3 than in the original. Isaiah 40:3 says, “The voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’” (NIV). In Mark 1:3, the break comes after “in the desert” rather than after “calling”: “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord….’” The voice as cited in Mark 1:3 sounds as if it is coming from the desert, whereas the voice in Isaiah is merely a voice calling about preparations to be made in the desert. A reference to the desert or wilderness and a reference from a prophet would have an impact on a Jewish audience. Who was Mark’s audience? Can this subtle change in the reference be traced anywhere? The reference as it reads in the Gospel according to Mark sets up the story for John to be in the wilderness or desert calling for the preparation for the Lord. Such a citation works to Mark’s advantage in this prologue as it sets up the entrance of Jesus (v. 9), and that is what this text is about.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

SPIRITUALITY AND MISSION // Reflection Paper

The first reflection paper I did for Spirituality and Mission was based on an article by Eugene Peterson entitled "Seminary as a Place of Spiritual Formation." Quite interesting. Our TA who grades the papers said that most everyone in the class (70 or so) were pretty much in the same place and probably didn't know it. That we were all struggling with our spirituality and feeling spiritually less-than-fulfilled while in seminary....

Here's my paper:
Homoousian vs. homoiousian. Of same substance vs. of similar substance. Words introduced to me last fall in Early Church History at the start of my seminary studies. I was excited, ready to study and work toward a career change. My first two courses online went well. I was challenged and encouraged as I did my coursework and immediately applied it to ministry. My spiritual environment and church community were still intact and in daily and weekly use. This is good, I thought.

Then I moved to Pasadena in January to start my on-campus requirement. To say that the move threw my spirituality into a tizzy is a tad overdramatic but there are days that it feels exactly that way. I followed God’s lead as he moved me across the country and worked out every detail in perfect timing (as is his way). He just gave me the simple task of tying up loose ends. Still, I found myself in Pasadena in a tiny apartment (compared to a whole house in Nashville) where I didn’t have but one old friend close at hand, I was in need of a new church community and I was forced to create a new work schedule that lived in harmony with classes and homework.

Balancing a job in the “God-forsaken” music industry with two time-consuming courses left my soul asking, “What have you done to me? Do you remember me at all?” Perhaps halfway through winter quarter, I stopped. I sat down to consider all the parts of my new and old world that needed attention. I looked at my schedule to set boundaries so my student person and career person did not overtake my spiritual person. I found that my spiritual person, my soul, required more than Christian academics and Christian community for its nourishment. Both of those fed my soul, kept it alive in a sense, but they weren’t nourishing it – like I was eating ice cream and calling it my dairy allowance for the day.

Since my assessment, I am more aware of what I’m feeding my soul. It’s still not consistently great but I’m working on it. I’m aware of the need and I’m continually asking the Spirit to guide me and aid me. My spirit and my soul continually feel more hopeful about being in seminary as I become more settled in Southern California, more connected to my church community, meeting new people on campus and in a good routine with my jobs; they are catching up to where my brain already is.

The Eugene Peterson article made me sigh with relief. I’m not the only one that feels this way! This is not uncommon. There is community to be found in this seminary struggle. I also like what he says about the difficulty everyone has talking to God no matter the condition of life. Seminary is only one condition, one place and it gives me a certain setting for spiritual formation right now. There are other conditions as well. Not only will I experience different conditions at some point but I will also be in a position to help others look at their conditions and how their spiritual formations develop there.

I also discovered a way to identify this “intellectual cancer” to be aware of its existence so as to recognize and challenge its existence in me. I am a writer and editor by trade so I love words. They’re pretty much my life and Peterson’s description of the words Logos, logoi and logismos will be used routinely in my seminary studies now. I can and should take the time to look at words and subjects, and place them within the correct categories above for sanity in my brain and for peace in my soul. What is the Word of God, what words describe that Word and what words get in the way? Peterson’s reminder about bringing every thought captive will hopefully keep my brain from being overwhelmed and my soul from running amuck.

[I have the Peterson article in a PDF if interested.]

SPIRITUALITY AND MISSION

The missions course for this term. Looking at the various streams of Christian tradition and how they come together: holiness, contemplative, charismatic, evangelical, social justice and incarnational. We are also reading books from Desmond Tutu on the forgiveness and healing in South Africa post-apartheid and a book on compassion from Henri Nouwen. I read Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne - that will require it's own blog.

So far this course has led us to look at our own spiritual journey (I’m in the process of working on my spiritual autobiography) and how our context growing up has brought us to Fuller and how what we learn at Fuller will be applied to our future context. The further we get into the course, the more interesting it becomes. I don’t really have any specifics on this course because it keeps building. I also think most of what I’m getting out of this class is actually coming through my life outside Fuller....

NEW TESTAMENT: THE GOSPELS

NEW TESTAMENT: THE GOSPELS
Covering The Gospels. Professor is Dr. Joel B. Green. A NT scholar that just started teaching at Fuller. Previously he was up at Asbury Seminary in Lexington. (See, it’s a good thing that I didn’t listen to you and go there, Aaron. I would have missed out on Joel Green and that would have been, quite literally, a tragedy.) Three things about him: he’s smart and he’s funny and he’s a great teacher. I’m really enjoying this class. We have five weeks left, so you should be hearing more about this class.
  • I like the assignments he’s giving us. No exams. We have two book reviews to write and two interpretative assignments chosen from four passages he’s chosen from the four Gospels. And then one final paper, an exegesis on one of those four passages. The interpretative assignments are close readings of the text – no outside research required. In the first one I chose, Mark 1:1-15, I discovered so much as I just focused on that text for a couple days. Things I never saw before. It was amazing. And then the day it was due, we spent class time going through it together, and there were some more things I didn’t even get to in my 1300 words.
  • One thing that stands out so far comes from Matt. 25:31-46, the sheep and the goats. Who are “the least of these”? Most often “the least of these” comes out as the poor and needy. But could “the least of these” here be our brothers, Christian brothers....missionaries? Are we taking care of the missionaries?
  • He also brought up the matter of the “sea” while we were discussing Jesus the miracle worker in Mark. As I learned in NT2, in Revelation, the sea is where evil came from, the beast came from the sea. Dr. Green said the root of that word for “sea” also means chaos or evil. The sea is evil, produces chaos, which is why it “will be no longer.” And what about Jesus walking on water. He has conquered evil already...walking on the water. The storm and the seas respond to his “peace, be still” or “be quiet!” Leviathan was defeated in Isaiah 27:1.

NEW TESTAMENT: ACTS - REVELATION

Covered exactly what the title says, Acts to Revelation. This course was led by a brilliant Pauline scholar. We spent most of our time in Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Hebrews and Revelation. For all the books we looked at authorship and dating based on contents, etc. Nothing that I can’t look up later in the books that we had to buy for class.
  • Romans: One of our papers was on the purpose of Romans. It actually turned out to be interesting research. My conclusion: Paul wrote Romans for missionary, pastoral and apologetic purposes. I got an A. I understood the missionary and pastoral purposes beforehand; researching the apologetic purpose was new. The idea that Paul was heading to Jerusalem with the offering from the Gentile churches and was using Romans as a practice run for what he was going to say...sweet. Put all three parts together and read Romans...sweet.
  • Read Paul’s letters in order: 1 Thess, Gal, Phil, Phlm, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, Rom
  • Revelation: This was my favorite part of Dr. Kim’s lecture. I think he actually became more animated in this part of the course. Maybe that was because he was almost done teaching us, I don’t know. But his description of the structures within Revelation was absolutely fascinating. The most fascinating part: "And the sea will be no more." Still makes me shake my head in amazement. (And my New Testament professor this quarter Dr. Green – another brilliant man – touched on this recently, too.) Have you ever thought about why "the sea will be no more"?
    • The new creation in Rev 21 is more than a restoration of original creation. For in it there will be “no longer any sea,” whereas in the first creation the “sea,” the primeval source of evil (cf. 13:1), remained as the potential threat to the cosmos (Gen 1:2; 7:11). Check out Isaiah 27:1.

GLOBAL EVANGELICAL MOVEMENT

Covered the history of the evangelical movement from the Wesley brothers and Jonathan Edwards to 20th C. movements around the globe. We ended in South Korea with Paul Yonggi Cho. This was a class that I wish would have been in a semester format, rather than the quarter format. It felt like we were flying through everything – including the reading. I could barely keep up – and then I gave up after the required reflection papers on the reading were turned in. By that time we were knee-deep in reading for the final 15-20 page paper on the topic of our choosing.
  • My final paper was on Walter Rauschenbusch, leader of the social gospel in the early 20th C. I spent a lot of time reading biographies and articles on the man, as well as many of his writings that included his theology for the social gospel. I discovered that I didn’t necessarily agree 100% with all of his beliefs/theories re: the social gospel. But I did learn a great deal about working for the justice of the poor and oppressed. I was left wrestling with the question: what’s the balance between believing the Kingdom of God is already here now and believing that we are working for the Kingdom of God that is yet coming? How much change can be effected now and how much change do we wait for? Tenets of the social gospel are not what I was taught growing up but there is truth and worth in them - a balance needs to be found. As Rauschenbusch said, “The Kingdom is always, but coming.”
    • Book I recommend: Biography on Walter Rauschenbusch by Paul Minus.
  • Those of us with AG roots trace those to Azusa, which is 25 minutes from Fuller. How many Pentecost Sundays did I see the illustration about the Azusa Street Revival? I don’t know – quite a few. Now I have the rest of the story, I guess you could say. Granted, it wouldn’t have been that hard to find a book about the whole event to read up on it but alas, I decided to pay a large sum of money for a class. (I guess that could be the case for any of these classes I am taking – there must be something more to this learning than just reading.) Knowing that the AG is and has been predominantly led by white men in the U.S. since its inception is one thing – but to actually stop and consider in class and in readings how racist it was...well, it could drive me crazy if I let it. I’m still AG. What the Pentecost Sunday illustration never told us was that the similar things were happening around the world around the same time. Americans like to take credit for everything. And granted, the Azusa revival was a significant event in the evangelical church in America and it did lead to the formation of denominations including the AG but let's remember there is a whole globe to explore.
  • Who is an evangelical? Anyone who believes that lives need to be changed (conversion), the expression of the gospel in effort (activisim), regard for the Bible (biblicism) and stress on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (cross-centered). Are there Christians out there who are these things but wouldn’t call themselves evangelicals (especially in America)? And vice versa, are there Christians who call themselves evangelicals but don’t look like the four things above?
  • What happens when the number of evangelical Christians in non-Western Churches outnumber those in the Western Churches? Wait, do they already? What happens when the Western Church looks at the world through that paradigm? What if we’re not in control of something?
  • Are short-term mission trips a good thing? Effective?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

For those interested

I was going to email updates about what I'm learning at school and in California.

Those updates were becoming too long.

Too many thoughts were coming to mind.

I thought a central location would be a better idea.

I've had numerous blogs and sites going for some time now.

This one will be kept to itself.

Special.

You're invited.