Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Fear...

Lately my life has taken on a good kind of quiet. This dispensation began over a month ago when, in a tear filled moment in the parking lot of Ninfa's, I said goodbye to the three little people who made my days dance with the soundtrack of vitality. It was in the car driving home that I came to grips with the axiom that everyone else except for me had seemed to master-- Change happens. I'm a good learner, but I'm a slow learner. I grappled with the lesson of change for years, clinging to the words of people from Garrison Keillor to Kathleen Norris, writers who celebrate lives of repetition and extol the virtues of ritual and the expected. But they had become my crutch, an excuse to never look forward.

But now I'm looking forward and backward, and I'm also looking all around me. And I am seeing things again. Things that would have passed me by in my dispensation of grief. Wonderful things. Things that do not get much airplay. Things such as this...

Yesterday as I was driving on Lake Air, approaching Bosque, I noticed an elderly man had fallen on the sidewalk and a group of people were gathered around him. Not knowing if any help had been called, I pulled over into the next parking lot and walked over to see what I could do. A young black man dressed in urban attire (read: bling) was pacing back and forth. I asked him what happened. He said that the man was walking along and fell down, almost into the street. The younger guy was terrified because he had almost hit him. The elderly gentleman, obviously suffering from dementia of some kind, was being tended to by a rather large white lady adorned from head to toe in tatoos and a middle aged hispanic man wearing a uniform and who appeared to be on his way home from work. A cop showed up and took charge of the situation, at which point the rest of us began to walk away, so as to not be a distraction.

As I was walking away I heard the younger guy thank the other two for stopping. He saw what happened and panicked, not knowing what to do. The lady responded that it was know big deal, she just wanted to be a good neighbor.

Now I know this sounds like it is straight out of one of those insurance commercials about how every day people do the right thing and when other people see this they start doing the right thing. Maybe this is true. Who knows? But as I drove away this verse from the Bible somehow popped into my head-- "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear." I'm not sure what that had to do with anything that had just happened other than to cause me to realize how much of our lives are determined by fear. Fear of the future, fear of the past catching up with us, fear of our neighbor and fear of the unknown. It seems as if fear is all around us. It is the main instrument used by both (yes, both) political parties to shore up votes. It lurks around our corners and controls many of our lives.

But for three people yesterday, fear didn't divide, it brought together. And in the middle of this city, with police and ambulance sirens descending on the scene of the event, there was a sense of quiet. I got into my car, closed the door and pulled out of the parking lot on my way home. Over my speakers were the words from a Crowder Band song... "All the love in the world is right here among us, and hatred too...and so we must choose what our hands will do." Silence in the midst of chaos. I thought of the people I have said goodbye to, the people I have recently met from beginning school, and those I love that are still close. And for the first time in a really long time, I was not afraid.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Adventures in returning to school...

This is either a post about how old I am, or how quickly things change. Probably both.

I had the day off and mentally dedicated the entire morning to standing in line at Baylor. I had a simple form to turn in to the cashiers office and assumed university life the week before classes begin hadn't changed much since I was an undergrad. So I walked to the end of the line and mentally went into zombie state. Less than five minutes later I hear the receptionist say "Next." I looked up to see that I was at the front of the line. The lady apologized for making me wait so long. I informed her that that was one of the shortest lines I've ever stood in.

Walking out of the building I remembered fifteen years before, registering for classes at TJC. There was a huge open room filled with professors and advisers sitting at tables. Each particular course had it's own spot. You actually STOOD IN LINE just to sign up for a class. It wasn't unusual for you to wait in line for over an hour for a particular class, only to get to the table and find out the class had just filled up. It was a grueling process of delay and disappointment.

Now, though, things are done on those internets thingies. Apparently I have already done everything I need to do to begin school. Everything online tells me I'm "all clear," but I still have this great fear that I will walk into class the first day only to be told the class is full and I can't take it. I'm crossing my fingers...

Edit: I wrote this post last night. When I woke up this morning CNN.COM had printed THIS annual story.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Answering Aaron...

Aaron, in a comment on one of my recent posts, asked me to review a post of his from a few years back and to think about whether or not I am in a place of agreement with it. His post can be found HERE. I honestly don't remember the post, but I notice from the date that it was written during a time of my life when I wasn't too concerned with much of anything other than making it through a moment with enough oxygen to survive. It appears that there was a good conversation going on between Aaron, Cory, and Jason.

Aaron's basic question is if I agree with his tenet that emergent voices(mainly McLaren) could had initially used a little more humility in their writings concerning what they describe as a new way of thinking about and experiencing faith. And my basic answer is, after a little more life perspective-- Absolutely. I look back on my measly writings and see that although I sought to convey a sense of gentleness and humility, the content of what was being said ("post" this and "post" that) was, by its very nature, quite pretentious. In essence, the continual use of the prefix "post" revealed that many of us believed we could make extremely grand statements about our present that previously were reserved for historians.

But I will say this-- The way emerging thinkers wrestle with postmodern ideas makes it more likely that they will have an inordinate amount of sinful pride as it relates to their relationship with the larger evangelical world. But it also gives them an ability to recognize this pride much quicker than those who place such a high premium on an absolute belief of traditional theological doctrines (i.e. Calvinism- Arminianism.) I've always understood that a Christian dialogue with postmodern thought should not lead to uncertainty, as many believe, but to humility. I don't deny absolute truth. I do, however, question whether or not there is any tool available to humanity to objectively discover what absolute truth is. This "hunch" of mine should not lead to despair, but to hope. It should not lead to a belief that I am above history and not bound to the centuries of struggle great people of the faith have had, but rather to a confession that I am just as inadequate at understanding as the next guy, and that what I know now should not be held so tightly that I cannot be taught differently.

So, that's a lot of words to answer a question in the affirmative.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Just something...

I saw a bumper sticker today for a certain church in town that read "God is still in charge, and it is all important."

While I'm sure I there are significant differences in how I and this church interpret the words "in charge," I still hold to the belief that this world belongs to God and that God has the first and the last word concerning all its affairs. And no other statement describes how I want to live in this world than the phrase "...and it is all important."

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Going back...

Several weeks ago I mentioned that this fall I would be returning to Truett seminary. Shortly thereafter I received a few comments and emails from people wanting me to talk through that a bit more.

First, a little clarification. Most acquaintances I've spoken with think that I have a significant amount of the requirements to complete a seminary degree, but I actually only attended Truett for a semester in the fall of 2002. So I'm still practically at the beginning. I left for one reason-- I was broke. Today I live with meager financial resources, but back then I was so deep in the hole it made no sense for me not to be working full time.

But it was a good time for me to put the brakes on a graduate degree for other reasons. Highest among them is the fact that I was not in a place where I was ready to learn. This was in the days shortly after we had all finished reading A New Kind of Christian and we "knew." We felt McLaren had pulled the veil back on hundreds of years of church history and we were ready to ride the tide of revolution. (This was, of course, before McLaren proved to be not much more that what many of his critics charged him with, and that we, in our McLaren hysteria, denied vehemently-- A repackaging of a 60's political-theological liberal) In the midst of all the "above the line" talk, I was not prepared to stand on the line that the saints of the past had wrestled hard with, and had found God on. I was only ready to preach the emergent gospel of communal bliss. (I was slow to grab on to the "justice" side of that gospel coin.) I cast a knowing eye on the college-sophomore phenomenon of being a smart-ass-know-it-all, but I was not so different myself.

I'm sure there are similar things I am blind to now, but hopefully I'm in a more humble place, ready and open.

The reasons I am returning are twofold. One is that a few people that I love and respect dearly have been gently nudging me in this direction for a few years. They have confirmed things about me that they felt were some of my gifts. Always a sucker for the good things people have to say about me, I began to take these compliments to heart and slowly came to a realization that I needed to go ahead and get it out of the way.

The second, and perhaps more authentic reason for heading back to Truett is that I am beginning to get tired of a life that is simply one more damn thing after another. For years I have preached the gospel of the mundane-- the good new that God is alive and well in the routines and boring moments of people living hardscrabble lives in the normal day-to-day. I still preach that gospel and believe it fully. But I'm also ready for the other side, the side that says God is also alive and well in new things, in the adventure of lives that seek out challenges.

So, that's that. Hopefully there will be seminary update blogs as the years go on.