About Me

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I LOVE God, I have been married for 5 years to a wonderful woman, I am a recent college graduate of Lakeland college with a degree in Religious Studies,I have currently foregone going to Seminary, but feel called to work with teens and young adults and do so at my local church, Vineyard CC, in Grafton, WI.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

God's still speaking, but are we still growing?

Think about your church. What draws you there? Is it the way that they interpret the Bible? Is it the values that you share with them? Is it the old world church feel, sitting in wooden pews facing the sanctuary? Or, is it the rock music that ignites the Holy Spirit deep within  you? While the things that could attract you to your church and keep you there are not limited to these things, they do represent four distinct characteristics that contribute to the whole of a church community.

These ideas were brought to my attention by Doug Pagitt when I heard him speak at the WI conference of the United Church of Christ two weekends ago. His talk introduced us to the ideas in his new book "Church in the Inventive Age." If you would like to know more about this book or purchase it, check it out here. In this book and during his talk Doug breaks down the components of culture into the four categories that I represented above with the four questions. As Pagitt puts it, culture, or for our purposes church, are broken down into four categories: our knowledge, our values, our ascetics, and our tools. So, whats the point? Well, the point is that each cultural age brings with it a different church age that is defined by a highlighting or adapting of a particular category, changing the "feel" of church for that time. As each age gives way to a new age it leaves behind churches that do not necessarily follow the transition into the new age.

This lack of transition is not a bad thing. It allows for areas to define themselves and determine what is going to make up their church culture instead of feeling like they need  to conform to the needs of others outside their community. Not everybody can be the same, which is always a good revelation, but what I would like to talk about is the problem with evolving in one area and not in others.

In the UCC our slogan is, "God is Still Speaking." This speaks miles towards what our congregations feel comfortable with evolving within our denomination. What I am saying is that within the UCC we are more comfortable with evolving our knowledge base, the way we interpret the Bible, and what values are sacrosanct as a result of our reinterpretations. Keeping this in mind, when one thing is allowed to evolve, something gets left behind. In the case of the UCC, I find that how we worship; place, time, style, and tools; is stuck in a time warp. This works for some, but I believe an evolution is due.

I love my denomination. I love what it stands for and who it stands up for. I love the fact that everyone is welcome within the walls of our denomination. That is unless you are young/a young thinker that gets bogged down from an "old" worship community. I mean no disrespect in this regard, but I do not see an evolution within the ascetics and tools that we use. A majority of our churches are designed straight out of "Little home on the prairie," They tend to be very monochromatic in both visual ascetics and musical selection.  I think this comes from a scary statistic, it is an "old" denomination. Not in its existence, but literally in the age of the members.

See I have seen this reality first hand. When I went to the state conference I was the youngest person in the room. I wasn't the only one with piercings, but I most certainly was the only one sporting a mohawk and tattoos. While these things are not exclusive to the young of heart or age they can be considered good indicators. To take this one step further, my pastor even challenged me to find at least one person with a similar disposition as myself, tattoos and one other distinguishing characteristic, needless to say, I failed in my mission. That is not bad, but it does make it hard for someone like myself to feel welcome, even among the welcoming.

Change is never an easy thing and should not be done for no reason at all. That being said, in this instance I believe it needs to be done because sooner or later the denomination will just die out. Our young thinkers will get pushed out and be forced to form their own churches and we will be left without leadership going forward into the next era.

Our current leadership believes in "grey" thinking. Another way to say this is they do not believe that every answer is going to work for every person. In this same regard, shouldn't we have the same thought process about our services? Why are our places of worship cookie cutter copies from the past? Why do we not have a service later in the day then 10:30a and during the summer, when we go down to one service, is that service actually earlier then our late service? Why is our music right out of old hymnals? I think you get the picture.

I will be honest, I don't have the answers to these questions. In some areas doing a later service will work and in others it will be rejected with the force of a thousand suns, but shouldn't the options be there? I know that some of our leadership is willing to try new things, which is awesome, but we need to let our parishioners know that they are allowed to think outside the box. If we don't make it known that it is OK to want to change things, then we are going to drive creativity out our doors, even in welcoming and affirming churches.

Its like the scene in "Gleaming the Cube," where Christian Slater's character cuts his hair and throws all of his skater clothes away for preppy clothes, so he can fit in his dead brother's world and get close to his girlfriend. In the end, the only way he was able to save the girl and solve the murder was to be who he was, a skater punk. We need our "skater punks" in our churches, as themselves, so we can move forward. Even King David refused to stick with the status qua and worshiped in progressive and undignified ways, refusing to succumb to the wishes of his wife. We need to worship with the same disregard for the dignified, or at least have that option to. Here is hoping that those who are bored with the same "old" church speak up and help to move it forward.

-Peace and God's Blessings

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"I hate this argument"

Just a few minutes ago I posted a twitter " I hate the argument: 'I hope there isn't a God, because the he is a CRUEL son-of-a-bitch!'" Little did I know that this post would lead me into one of the best conversations I have had on twitter and strike up two of the most concerned Facebook posts I have received in awhile. This left me the idea to discuss where this post came from in a blog.

The first thing I need to point out, I most recently heard this argument on a TV show I am watching called "Jeremiah." It is a post-apocalyptic show with strong theological themes and in one scene a woman who was crippled, due to broken bones, something that wouldn't have happened before the big death, was having a conversation and blamed God for everything using my quote from above. The kicker, even in this show the virus that killed everybody was not something natural like MRSA, but instead it was an engineered virus created in a lab that got away from containment. So, even in this it was mans decision not God's, but God did spare the children from the great death and like moses and Noah a few chosen adults were spared as well.

That should give you enough detail about the show to continue this blog, without bogging it down in great detail. I also believe that this sets up why that argument is one of my pet peeves. It does not accept human culpability for our actions.

God gave us this world and created us in God's image. This means a lot of different things, but for this discussion I am speaking about our ability to create. Part of our creativity is a responsibility to our creations. Unlike God, there are limits to our creativity. However, we both have the ability to create community, which means we are responsible to each other. To continue my logic puzzle we learn from physics and observation that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, but that reaction is not a simple mirror reflection. Using this imagery, its like looking into a mirror and seeing someone else's reflection back. Where God has autonomy we do not, even though God does not choose to act in that manner. Consequently, our actions will never be autonomous, unless we place ourselves into a vacuum.

So, when someone says that they hope God does not exist because then God would be a mean son-of-a-bitch, they are saying that God is responsible for every action that man takes, taking away our free will. This is not my experience of God or an interpretation that I mesh well with. I have experienced the evils of humanity and know that even in the darkest hour it is still brighter with God then it is when I gave up on God. In those dark days I tried going at it alone and I learned that it was not God who allowed bad things to happen but our actions that have negative consequences.

I know that some have things happen to them that are outside their control. Others made decisions that effected them or a natural disaster happens and their life is decimated. I know how easy it is to blame God or an understanding of God that we have come to know, but there are many different images of God and our understandings of those images are partly shaped by our experiences.

I am always moved when I see survivors of a natural disaster come together, help each other, and rebuild what they have lost. I am moved even more when they are thankful for their lives instead of condemning their creator for what they have lost. it takes a long way back from tragedy and no one can be expected to be happy with God in the face of negative circumstances but to put so much fault on God does not remove human culpability.

Finally, I was reminded about Job's story during my twitter-sation. I was reminded not to be one of his friends and I had to stop and think if that was what i was being. I was happy to be able to say that I can continue to boast being someone who is least likely to be accused of that. I have many a time raged at God for the hand I get dealt and I also know my God is big enough to take it and loving enough to comfort my pain. In Job, God did let the opposer do major harm to Job. what i believe we should take away from that story is that God wanted Job to get angry. even in his anger Job never forgot who his God was and said that to his friends. I don't expect you to go to worship and praise a God you are angry at, I would even suggest stay away if you are not in the right frame of mind to worship, but you should TALK  to God and you should talk to friends who can just be and be there for you.

I also like to remember that the uniqueness of the Christian perspective is that Jesus means that we do not have to live or fail alone and that God is always there, even if we have top deal with the consequences of someone else's actions.

As always -peace and God's many blessings

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Poem:

When I Met Death

It was late or early in the morning
I looked outside and noticed an eerie light
At least it wasn't boring
The moon or street lamp illuminating the night

Even though I couldn't sleep
I laid my head down and closed my eyes
I tossed and turned, laying in a frustrated heep
I changed my mind and started to rise

I looked and there stood a man in black
where there wasn't a minute before
I said hello to the mysterious man, cutting him no slack
the man turned chilling me to the core

But to my surprise it wasn't a skull to great me
instead it was Johnny Cash
that came to collect my soul's fee
frozen stone cold I was unable to dash

Johnny flashed that famous smirk when I asked
What are you doing here?
In Florida's  hot sun is where death basks
So, I'm filling in, have no fear!

You came to collect my soul, but why?
because your a fan, was his reply.
You drank and drugged and lived a long life
Don't you think I'm too young to die?

Johnny answered again:
I know what your saying
but its not my call
and i have to add in this matter the big GUy isn't playing
So, I better not drop the ball

How can this be?
I haven't seen the world!
I am only Thirty
as I spoke my fist curled

Woa! Wait a minute Boy!
before you get ruff
in this task I take no joy
I didn't mean to put you into a huff

despite your age
you have touched the hearts of many
when you turn this next page
what you taught them will be remembered plenty

See, son, you don't have to worry
in the morrning you may be gone
from tears their eyes may be blurry
but they will know how to sing your song

Speaking of which, it is time to go
I'm singing tonight with good ol' June
She hates to be alone to start the show
so, I have to get to the Pearly Gate Hall soon!

I am pretty sure you don't have a choice
but if your still not down
just use your voice
and later in life is when i'll be back around

I wasn't one for rules
so, let me tell you one more thing before I go
just because you have seen death don't be blue
live your life like there aint no tomorrow

You know just one more truth
you live forever in your loved ones hearts
so, don't be afraid to be a goof
they are the fruits that show your smarts

I know this seems a little heavy
but Johnny really let me live
all because I wasn't ready
a second chance he did give

his exit was as awesome as his act
in one turn he was playing
being introduced as the man in Black
is what the announcer was saying

Oh, what a sight
to see Johnny fade away
his music filling the night
on my pillow my head still lay

although I was conscious
the entire concert I got to hear
now wondering what was like on his bus
forgetting about this I did not fear

So, When m\y wife awoke i told her
the music and his words fresh in my head
she asked if I was sure
As sure as I am that I'm in this bed

She was Jealous of my interaction
torn over her mixed feelings
trying to find some satisfaction
unsure of my revealings

you dream about Cash
What do I get?
 Glimpses that are gone in a flash
could put a normal person into a fit

I will praise God
that you are hear another day
and Johnny Cash
For not taking you away!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why isn't Church like a Punk Concert?

I just got done listening to a sermon from Jay Bakker that he gave this last Sunday, June 5th, 2011 at Revolution NYC. In this sermon he spoke about accepting our faults, just as the disciples had accepted theirs. By accepting our faults and avoiding a disguise of perfection, we better live out a grace filled life. He pointed out that this is where the church fails it members, it forces us to hide who we are because even the darkest thoughts that pop up with in our brains are part of who we are.

For many of us, our dark sides are a lot more noticeable then others. They cannot hide it from the outside world because it is something beyond their control, like bi-polar disorder, something I am very familiar with, as my wife is one of the many people in the world who suffers from this disorder. My heart breaks with the recognition that the only thing that can be done is to try to control the disorder with meds and therapy. It breaks even farther when the medications fail and my wife spirals to the point of self hatred. It is this self hatred that really caused Bakker's message to stick with me.

My wife is not the only one who hates things about themselves. I also have a laundry list of things that I hate about myself that make accepting God's grace harder and I believe makes my ability to forgive those around me harder. In fact my anger and ability to hang onto my anger are two things I hate about myself. In this we are in good company.

Considered one of the greatest of all the apostles, Paul had much to hate about himself, but he still had one the greatest connections to God recorded and he didn't even learn directly from Jesus as his contemporary did. I believe that one thing that separates Paul from most of Jesus' present day followers is that Paul straight out spoke about what he hated about himself, he confessed to his dark side, and he never, never let anyone forget it! Take what he says about himself in 1 Timothy 1: 15; " This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: 'Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners' - and I am the [WORST] of them all (NLT)!" To steal some imagery from Bakker, this is like Paul's AA meeting.

If church was more like an AA meeting, church services might be more supportive for the worshipers. They might be able to get beyond hiding their sin from each other, they may just be able to accept God's grace and spread that grace to those that they meet. After all, God does love us no matter how sinful they are. Just think about John 3:16, that is how much God loves us. So, if God can love us in our sinful state, why can we not love ourselves and others and God commands us to?

I want to leave you one last thought. Take a look at all of the alternative groups that a person can belong to from being a punk, to a member of a fraternity, or even a gang and an obvious pattern arises. These groups accept you for you and all of your freaky thoughts. You become a member to have a family who takes care of you no matter what. Why isn't the church or our families as accepting? Why is it that we have to search out groups that will accept us when the Church should always, always be that group?

In this final thought I couldn't help but think of some lyrics by Linkin Park. Recently, Linkin Park's songs have had a lot todo with reconciliation. They seem to be calling out to us to give them a reason to change the way that they see that they should. I think one such song that speaks to what Mr. Bakker and myself are speaking about is "New Divide." My understanding of these lyrics is that our singer has seen the grace that God offers, but two things are holding him back from accepting that grace: 1) the representatives of God are not offering what they see is possible in God and 2) the singer themselves cannot reconcile the grace offered with those things that they have done. I will leave you with the lyrics so you can decide for yourself if my assessment is correct.
-Peace God's many Blessings upon you

"New Divide"

I remembered black skies
The lightning all around me
I remembered each flash
As time began to blur
Like a startling sign
That fate had finally found me
And your voice was all I heard
That I get what I deserve

So give me reason
To prove me wrong
To wash this memory clean
Let the floods cross
The distance in your eyes
Give me reason
To fill this hole
Connect this space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies
Across this new divide

There was nothing inside
The memories left abandoned
There was nowhere to hide
The ashes fell like snow
And the ground caved in
Between where we were standing
And your voice was all I heard
That I get what I deserve

So give me reason
To prove me wrong
To wash this memory clean
Let the floods cross
The distance in your eyes
Across this new divide

In every loss in every lie
In every truth that you deny
And each regret and each goodbye
Was a mistake too great to hide
And your voice was all I heard
That I get what I deserve

So give me reason
To prove me wrong
To wash this memory clean
Let the floods cross
The distance in your eyes
Give me reason
To fill this hole
Connect this space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies
Across this new divide
Across this new divide
Across this new divide