Friday, August 29, 2008

Writing Projects

I spent a couple amazing days with our dear friends Brad and Mary Culver. They have the only Vineyard in Ontario that is like Freedom. We were just coming off of a family trip (with Sharon's mother, sister and sister's kids) to Niagara Falls. That was a fairly intense time so we were really looking forward to the rest that we feel with Brad and Mary. But it was also a good opportunity to move forward with our writing project. Brad and I are writing a book, collecting some of our thoughts on micro-missional faith communities. We have lots of really good ideas, but right now we are trying to narrow it down to just those things that will be really solid contributions. Our big goal is to not present an alternative model of church, but rather to spark the imagination that fuels our freedom to do church in ways that reach out in sometimes completely new ways. As Brad put it, the game is completely changing, and that is exciting.

On Sunday we went to the Gig, which is an example of what is possible when you don't get hung up on models, but dare to dream with God about ways of reaching into marginalized communities (in this case it is musicians and artists). It was really nice church and they have a huge vision. That night we played Zombies (boardgame) and talked about one of the biggest issues with micro-missional churches - integrating families with kids. I'll keep folks posted on how this project is going. I also want to find a venue for my master's research. Publications under my belt is the name of the game in securing a solid teaching position.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thwarted by the Crowds

Went out to see Dark Night, but I forgot it was "tight-night" (Tuesday's is cheap night at the theatres around here). It was a mad house. I got lost trying to find my buddy's house - they changed roads while I was away??? But we figured we'd see it on the normal screen instead of IMAX. Both of us are jonesing to see this film. But the sea of people at the theatre was a bad sign. As we lined up for tickets I caught the marquee that said our showing was sold out already!!!! I would have stayed, but my friend has class in the AM so another time Batman, another time!

I also have been trying to get out GPS up and running, with many setbacks. Sharon got one specifically for geocaching. The basemaps on the Triton line suck and the Canadian TOPO maps (Ontario) that I finally decided to buy require me to purchase an SD card! Arggggghhhh. We are really wanting to give this unit a proper field test. We used it coming home, but the current basemap just has major highways??? The new maps are very nice. This isn't one of those car GPSs that tell you where to go. "Turn right now, you are entering HELL!!!!" No, it is made for getting your boots dirty. It will be awesome when we go camping next.

Much as my day has been frustrating I did manage to make some lemonade. On our vacation my only purchase was a Morley Bright Inst-a-tector. Which I am getting the hang of. So far I found two inverted watermark stamps in a big pile of Wildings I went through tonight. I also found a sweet single band phospher tagged 2.5p stamp that I didn't have. Yay!!!! The inst-a-tector is something I've wanted for a couple of years. I showed up at the Unitrade headquarters in Toronto, on our way home, and was delighted to be given a discount on my new tool! So cool.

Sorry, nothing theological here. I'm still on vacation!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reviewing Books

I will be adding more book reviews here. I joined the Early Reviewers group at LibraryThing and am about to get my second book. I also had a few people online approach me about reviewing their books. I'm quite open to more. What I can guarantee is that I will read the book and place my review both here and on LibraryThing (and if I can find it on Visual Bookshelf (via facebook) then I'll at least rate it there).

What I cannot guarantee is that I'll give you a favourable review. I will be fair and try to look at the book in an academic (ie. critical) fashion. Assessing what contribution this book is trying to make and how well it does that. I will also try to assess how this book will work for the intended audience (as best I can discern that). I will also be upfront about timing. I read quite quickly, but when I'm in the midst of papers or preparing for events free book reviews wait.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Well Prayed Ground

I've been on a bit of a trip this week, took my family to Southern Ontario to visit friends and hang with Sharon's mom and sister in Niagara Falls. I'm not fond of big trips, especially with so many people wanting to do so much. My kids are tired and I'm not really enjoying myself. But soon we will be with our dear friends Brad and Mary, that will be like an oasis just before we return.

But something cool happened. We were leaving Toronto and needed some food for the kids. So I suggested a mall near where I used to live in Mississauga. We got off the highway and fueled up cars and kids for the trip to Niagara Falls. Which BTW is like a giant slug chewed up all the kitsch in North America and vomited it next to one of the most beautiful falls you can imagine??? Certainly the falls shine even brighter next to all this tackiness, but it is seriously unnecessary. But back to my story.

When we were getting back on the highway we drove past what used to be a field. A field that I used to walk around in and pray. I had many intimate moments with my Creator in that field. So when I looked over what did I see? A mosque. Unexpectedly this made me very happy. How fitting that the place I found solitude for prayer would become the place of prayer for one of the prayingest religions I know. No matter what else you might think of Muslims, they pray. I think my joy also fitting considering that the days I spent there I was struggling with the theology of the Foursquare church I was helping to plant. I think that place is where I laid the groundwork for my exit from fundamentalist evangelicalism. But it would take quite a while for me to open my mind to see Christ at work beyond the evangelical church.

I think I'll pray for that mosque over the coming weeks. Pray that their times there with the Creator will be as life changing as my own.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Makes Me Sad about Revivalism...

Todd Bentley is getting a lot of traffic in the blog-o-sphere lately. I think Scott gives a really good treatment of the whole situation. For those of you who know me, I have real mixed feelings about the whole revival idealism that has overtaken the Charismatic world to which I still claim to be a part. But the problem I have is with that word revival. I was a lot more comfortable when we used to call these movements renewals.

I noticed this shift during the Toronto Blessing. For a long time we called it a renewal and felt that it was a time of God refreshing the Church. In fact, I was really refreshed through that movement. But it started to take itself far too seriously - and they switched 'r' words. It reminds me of what happened on the mount of Transfiguration. Which I think simply reveals a human tendency to camp around experiences. What our greatest need is not to do away with experience, but to learn how to reflect on these experiences in a critical way.

But the big problem is that most of my beloved charismatics have run reason and education off their lots, chasing them away with shotguns blazing! I think this is why I appreciate Mark Noll's work so much, especially the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (which I will buy for you Todd, just let me know.)

I'm a charismatic. I believe in healing, deliverance, prophecy, power encounters, the works. But I'm also using the brain God gave me to its full potential. You might say I'm intent on having my cake and eating it too - but in this case I know I can. The reason is I've experienced it. That doesn't mean it is easy. There are times when you need to just give your self to the experience, and there are times when you need to think before leaping. But not because these are mutually exclusive domains, rather because as Westerners (in particular) we have trouble bringing out full attention to more than one thing at a time.

I think Scott's offer to Todd (end of his
) is really good. I have yet to see one of these movements pastored well. I actually thought Toronto was pastored well in the beginning, but it felt like the Pentecostals got in there after a while and sorta railroaded things. I still have lots of respect for John and Carol Arnott. I know firsthand how hard it is to pastor in the midst of a renewal. So I have a few recommendations of my own:

1) Distinguish between teacher and pastor. Teachers should be encouraged to study and communicate theology. They should have the ear of the congregation and the pastoral body.

2) Stop picking and choosing from history. Teachers should help the whole movement reflect on what has gone on before and how the church responded. I think we'd save ourselves a lot of grief if we even knew a little about the great heresies of the past.

3) Stop picking and choosing from scripture. Charismatics are horrible exegetes. There I said it. This was Wimber's warning to Toronto - don't try and justify experiences with proof texts taken out of context. Yet, they did it anyway.

4) Stop the cult of personality. That is a frigging plague on our movement. How many of our idolized personalities are going to fall before we realize this? I think about Todd and Shonnah and I'm convinced that this is a part of the problem. It makes me angry because I see so often marriages that become casualties to ministry. There are a lot of facets to this issue, and I'm in no way justifying Todd's actions, but the model it flawed folks and we keep getting wake up calls but not listening.

5) Stop trying to make revival happen. Sure we can pray for revival. Personally, that word is tainted for me. I prefer to line up with Jesus' and pray for the Kingdom to come. Because that doesn't end up as a localized culture ghetto phenomenon. That is what happens in real life, amongst real people. We get into this love of manufactured excitement and miss that God chose a pretty mundane way to reach us. Doesn't mean that the Kingdom never broke in - that is pretty evident. But there is a lot of the story that is just life. I am convinced God wants us to appreciate that and let God show up there rather than in a stadium.

I'm praying for ya Todd. I know folks who have been blessed by Lakeland. I also know those who are frustrated by it. At some point this will blow over and another so-called revival will take its place. But will we learn from this one?

Friday, August 15, 2008

It Is Finished!

I'm sitting next to a pile of three identical documents. Each has the title: An Incarnational Theology of the Emerging Church. And all are authored by yours truly. I am done my Masters research paper!

Because it is a research paper and not a thesis all I do is hand it in and wait. My director (Dr. Heather Eaton) provides the lion's share of the mark. She's already seen it many times and proposed many revisions. So I'm confident that I'll do well.

What an incredible amount of effort went into this. It took a year for me to narrow my topic, research my area, present a proposal (at our seminar), revise this proposal several times, write my paper and do endless revisions. I clock in (with bibliography) at 59 pages - 60 is max. I am really happy I managed to not hit the max - I watched fellow students having to cut, cut, cut - so sad. That doesn't mean that I didn't cut lots along the way, but going into revisions I was pretty close to my targets for each section. There was one stupidly late night where I wrote a few pages, in the morning I ended up taking everything but one or two sentences out!

Well I'm gonna take these down to the school now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Content of the Gospel

One of the areas I have been looking at in my research is what I call the evangelical witness of various evangelical traditions. The idea of evangelical witness gives me a broad way of talking about a variety of practices that these traditions employ in trying to present their understanding of the gospel to people outside of their groups. But what I didn't think was worth tackling in my paper (which has a stronger focus on the dismantling of the sacred/secular split going on in many emerging churches) is the content of this gospel. As I look at various evangelical movements I see that many of them consider a presentation of substitutionary atonement as the gospel. The Bridge Illustration is a good example of what I am talking about. It becomes a formula: you have sinned, you need to repent, Jesus paid for your sin, here's your get to go to heaven card now take your place on that pew over there. Certainly as someone with twenty plus years in the evangelical world I was led to believe this is the whole of the gospel content, now I am far from sure it is even the most appropriate presentation. Seriously, is this really good news? And if the gospel is supposed to be good news, then what is that good news and how is it relevant to the world that God is supposed to love so much? These are questions worth meditating on before the next time you are tempted to strap on a big placard and go out into public.

BTW the guy in the picture looks like a guy I know, and yes I can totally see him with an sign like this. Scary.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lumière Festival

Thursday I had a complete draft of my research paper. Clocking in a 57 pages with a selected bibliography, I was happy with my wiggle room for revisions. Then Saturday morning the last of it to pass through my first readers returned and I made most of those changes in the early afternoon. I'm at 56 pages, which is good because I already have revisions to make that will add at least a page to chapter 2. The whole process involves agonizing over word after word. But the revisions are a lot more bearable now that I have a full draft and even better some of it garnered compliments on my improved writing ability.

Last night I took time to take my girls to a new festival - Lumière. What's not to love about dressing up like fairies, plopping glow sticks into homemade lanterns and enjoying dance, costumes, actors, jugglers, stilt walkers, and lots of lantern art. It was still light when we got there and Sharon dressed up in a convincing Snow White, she even dyed her hair. Instant celebrity. My favourite comment was a little girl asking her mom how it was possible for Snow White to be at this festival. I also loved it when kids would come up and my youngest would say, "that's not the real Snow White, it's just my mommy in a costume." It was in that terribly cute matter-of-fact manner that only Chelsea and pull off.

When the sun went down things really lit up. Tonnes of candles were offered up to make the night a success. It was very pretty. We forgot to take a camera, but in the long run I think a camera would have just got in the way. I didn't dress up this year, but I'm thinking if we go back I just might be Prince Charming. Too bad he is a forgettable bit role in the Snow White story.

OK, back to the revisions. Friday my director and I made a plan to get this paper ready to hand in by Friday. Most of it has been through her scrutiny once and a third of it is good to go now.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Have a Jesus Period

Everytime I see that add for tampons that has the tag, "have a happy period," I can't help thinking how many of the women in my life turned into Mr. Hyde just before their visitor arrived. How is anyone going to have a happy period after they've just decapitated everyone they claim to love!!! Well, I found an answer. King of emotionally manipulative kitschy Christian musical storytelling - Carmen, has some really horrid merchandise on his website. He also has surprises for the souls, braver than I, willing to offer him money. Perhaps he has solved other mysteries of the universe.

His solution - the Jesus Period. Yup. A Jesus Period. The secret contents of this box are not revealed (unless one send the requisite love gift) but for those of us who suffer the ill effects of PMS (Pretty Messed up Situation that happens once a month (at least) but this makes too long an acronym so we'll just use the first three words) it is really tempting.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Go and Vote!!!!

Scott is hosting the Worst Preacher Ever Championship. You can google up sermons from all of these choice contestants. Some of the pairings are particularly hard - Pat Robertson and John Crowder for instance. I went with Crowder because I don't identify with Robertson so I don't feel like he belittles my faith as much as Crowder does. Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton, both people I would like to hear less from, but with Tilton it is personal and while I dislike the theatrics of Benny and really dislike his theology - I do think there is something going on there.

Personally I'm rooting for Tilton to win!

Go and vote now!!!!!