- How were you personally touched by Annie May?
- In what ways did she influence your work in God’s Kingdom?
- How do you see her legacy playing out in your life and in the lives of those around you
Thu 15 Nov 2012
Sun 29 Jul 2012
Many are aware that too many young people are leaving the Churches of Christ in search for something different; many are leaving Christianity altogether. We have ideas about why this is happening, but often discussions on the subject degenerate into finger-pointing:
The youth of today are just making excuses for choosing to live like heathens.
The older generation is too stifling and restrictive.
These frustrations are both sincere and understandable. We are people who simply do not understand each other. No one is to blame, and there are many reasons for the disconnect. But, as a fellow-blogger, Matt Dabbs, pointed out, we must also work towards solution.
I am reminded of the parallels between today’s exodus of youth and the one that occurred in the 1960s-70s in Churches of Christ. Thomas H. Olbricht reflected in a 1973 issue of Mission, “It is no secret that a whole generation born between 1930 and 1950 has become Church of Christ drop-outs.”
Parents back then lamented that the world and its heathen ways had gotten ahold of their kids and pulled them away from church. Their kids replied that the church was too confining in its spirituality. When the two generations could not come together, the younger left.
This same cycle has played itself out time and again in the 200+ year history of the Restoration Movement, though in previous periods the results of generational misunderstanding led more likely to intra-movement splits than to Christian drop-outs.
Richard T. Hughes in his book Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America, records the insights of Olbricht into solving the generation gap in the 1970s that might also serve well today:
…the chief reason for the exodus, he insisted, was the failure of Churches of Christ to come to terms with “the crucified Christ” and the implications of the Christ-event for biblical theology. “I find it no long useful to confess the weaknesses of young liberals or of stodgy churches,” he wrote “There are plenty…. So I have one message to churches and those who would leave. Keep the crucified Christ before you.” (349)” [Emphasis added.]
As one who has worked with and loved people in their 20s and 30s for many years, I am keenly aware of their desire to stay seated on the pew with their spiritual parents and grandparents. They love the Church of Christ. It’s the only spiritual home they know and it’s the one they want to stay in.
I know how deeply the people who reared them in the home and in the faith love them and want them to remain in the pews that nurtured them through childhood. Older folks love and are rejuvenated by the presence of the youth, only they fear for them.
When we keep before us Christ crucified perhaps we will lean towards one another more warmly, more graciously. Out of such a posture we become less dismissive of each other and more likely to find ways to proceed together rather than to separate.
Tue 24 Jul 2012
[Preface: The following is written NOT to any one blogger, set of bloggers, or camps in the blogosphere. It is not written in to any one blogging incident. It is finally written in response to the language and style of argumentation too many of us are using too often, and have been for far too long (in this I do include commentors). All should feel free to disagree at will, only keep it respectful.]
Reading has always been part of my self-defining identity, but with 2 teenagers, a husband, 2.5 part-time jobs, etc., I often don’t get to read as much as I would like. But I do watch Twitter and Facebook for worthwhile blog-reads, by which I am often uplifted and inspired.
Far too often, however, blogposts are filled with caterwauling and infighting. Bloggers are arguing with other bloggers about things that are very important indeed, but which, in the long run, really don’t increase the Kingdom of God. We get furious with others when they disagree with our position. We call people in other “camps” names and accuse dissenters of not seeking justice for all of God’s creation without ever really knowing their hearts or their actions. We defend our cyber-heroes and heap further shaming on our cyber-enemies in our comments.
I am all about a good, hearty dialogue that helps all parties reach deeper understanding of each other and better live the Gospel in the world.
And so was Jesus. Immanuel did not shy away from the tough questions of those who disagreed with him, but he did not shame them for their disagreement.
Jesus did not hesitate to upend tables and tell Peter to get his Satan-acting-self behind him. He firmly rebuked Pharisees, ignored the pleas of demons, and stood against the temptations of the Evil One himself.
But Jesus did not do these things prove himself right, correct, precise.
He did them to increase His Kingdom.
To cast Satan down and out.
To call back the deceived and sinful.
Public shaming was not Jesus’ MO. Calling people to His Father was.
Those of us who seek to do the same things through the medium of cyber-space must pay careful attention to Jesus’ motives and methods and take great care; for, as teachers, we will be judged more harshly.
I know that the hearts of those of us who use the cyber-world to talk of God and call people to Him are good. We all want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to order all of our thoughts and words.
It is my prayer that God will constantly well up His Spirit in us that all our writing (and comments) should be filled with his fruit.
Be blessed. CP
Mon 26 Mar 2012
Spoiler alert: The following presents a viewpoint that is decidedly politically INcorrect.
After watching the KONY 2012 video I had more questions than answers.
- Who is this guy behind the camera and why did the video seem to be a whole lot more about him and his insights (discovering the fool-proof solution to Kony that no one else ever managed to see) than about the actual children and families suffering Kony’s atrocities?
- Is there truth to the claims that these children are invisible? Is it possible that Ugandan and other African families simply go on with life as usual after their babies are stolen from their homes? Is it really true that no one else is doing anything to stop Kony except this crew of young filmmakers?
- Is making evil famous really the way to sweeping change?
Conversations with folks on the ground in Uganda pointed me in the direction of credible resources as I grappled with the call to “Make Kony Famous.” I found mixed responses to the film. Some OpEd writers praised the video, others found it less that stellar.
But all agree on one thing: Kony is a master-mind of evil and atrocity that must be stopped.
Despite the rhetoric of the video, however, there are, in fact, many individuals, groups, and nations acting against Kony and lifting up their voices for his conscripted child soldiers. The Uganda army has pursued Kony and ended his reign of terror in Uganda. Kony is a fugitive from the law and continues to be pursued as he moves into other African nations. Kony’s child army is not invisible to Ugandans.
To call the child soldiers “invisible” children is to further the Western myths that continue to plague the continent of Africa: That it is a dark continent wherein true humanity and love simply do not exist. That African parents do not weep over their losses to Kony and that at best they are helpless to do anything. That Africa is a continent of tribal warfare in which all Africans participate and for which the only solution is Western wisdom.
I believe the hearts of the American public toward the children stolen by Kony are good. We want to help. We sincerely want to end the suffering. But to African families sorrowing over their children, giving the full attention of American social media and the Hollywood film industry to a man cavorting in evil is beyond unthinkable; wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with KONY 2012 unwittingly spits in their faces.
In the end, the message of change the video KONY 2012 proffers is perhaps the last message of change Americans need to hear: Do more of what you already do, only do it louder. Do nothing, only do it with intention, and save Ugandan children.
Re-posting videos is what social media is all about. How many of us already wear t-shirts and wristbands promoting a cause?
There is nothing inherently wrong with these activities, but they are not the path to major change. As soon as the next call for change comes along, we will throw the old t-shirt in the laundry pile and proudly display a new cause across our backs.
T-shirts bring awareness. They do not bring change.
The only true agent of change is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Prayer, seeking the Lord, fasting, hearing the Spirit—these are the most powerful tools we have on behalf of the broken. We should never underestimate that. Never underestimate Him.
May we be ever vigilant in our pursuit of good over evil.
May we continue to fuel the flames against evil and atrocity.
May we never cease to turn our faces to the Lord and seek His power and wisdom, knowing that the battles against evil in this world are won only with the armament of God.
Wed 21 Dec 2011
I awoke with a start early this morning. Today is the last day. So much to do. So many more goodbyes.
As my mind rose to a fully awake state.
As I became aware of the dull ache in my heart.
As thoughts of my sleeping boys passed through my consciousness.
I heard the following refrain lilting through my mind:
Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Light up my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Those words calmed the groggily rising storm in me, and reminded me to turn to my Father on this day of sadness at the closing of a lifetime in one place and the joyful anticipation of His magnificent gifts in another. Here is what I found in my turning:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4
He has given to us everything we need so that we might participate in the divine nature.
This is the promise of the steadfastly loving God of all creation. By that promise I am assured that the breath of heaven pours over me its holiness, for He is holy.
May we all experience in a fresh way today our participation in the divine nature.
Fri 2 Dec 2011
I recently completed a task that involved looking at numerous church websites in order to discover how churches are explaining their faith in the online world.
Format and cool-factor varied tremendously from site to site. What churches chose to write about themselves, their theology and denominational (or lack thereof) disctinctives varied even more.
But one thing remained consistent almost everywhere: the overwhelming use of scripture references.
I love the Bible. I must have 10 personal copies in a variety of translations. I have two iPhone and iPad Bible apps, and I read the Greek New Testament.
I am all about the Bible.
But when our attempts to communicate our faith to the world overwhelms even one who has spent 20 years in ministry, 15 of those in and around graduate level theological education, we might want to stop and ask ourselves whether we are really hitting that nail on the head.
When our first-impression statements to the world about God and His people involve a multitude of scripture references (all of which utilize a code of abbreviations and numbers), we might want to put ourselves for a moment in the shoes of those I call the less-churched (believers who came to faith as teens or adults and missed out on learning the books of the Bible songs) and wonder how our statements come across.
May God teach us to take the gloriously rich and complex knowledge of Him he has so graciously lavished upon us and translate it into the beautiful simplicity that is the Gospel message.
Fri 21 Oct 2011
Ever wonder what it means to be Christ-like?
Ever wonder how to know what Jesus would do?
Ever ask how to carry forth Christ’s mission in the world?
If you want your life to look like the life of another, then you need to know what the other life looks like. Here is what Jesus’ life looked/looks like:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
The radiance of God’s glory. Sound impossible? It is.
Holy God, grant us this day that we may shine brightly like the Son as the radiance of your glory through the power of your Spirit which indwells us.
Photo credit: http://www.spektyr.com/Gallery/Golden%20Radiance%20Mandala.jpg
Thu 6 Oct 2011
I’m not a big fan of reality TV. I’ve got enough drama in my own life (albeit boring drama in comparison) to fill hours and hours of TV every week. But there is one reality show that I absolutely refuse to miss: The Middle.
While not technically a “reality TV” show, The Middle comes closer to reality for most of us than any of the true reality shows.
Offering up a caricature of family life, the Heck family hero is mom, Frankie Heck (played by Patricia Heaton). Despite being the “third-best used car salesman (out of three),” Frankie never gives up on her silent-or-sarcastic husband or her self-absorbed children. Here’s how ABC describes the Heck kids:
There’s Axl (Charlie McDermott), her semi-nudist teenage son conceived while under the influence of Guns N’ Roses; Sue (Eden Sher), the awkward teenage daughter who fails at everything… but with the utmost of gusto; and their seven-year-old son Brick (Atticus Shaffer), whose best friend is his backpack.
Last night’s episode chronicled events which led to Frankie being so fed up that she ”packed” a plastic shopping bag and headed to her mom’s for an indeterminate amount of time. This left Mike Heck and the kids to figure out what they did (or failed to do) that drove their wife/mother away.
Over the course of the next 24 hours, the kids decide on some major changes they could make for their mom: picking their dirty clothes off the living room floor, washing all the laundry, doing the dishes, and so on. In nearly the same breath, however, they conclude they better not make any changes in case the changes actually upset their mother even more.
So they return to status quo until their dad calls and says he is on his way home with their mom. Realizing their mistake, Axl, Sue, and Brick attempt to make clean the house in under 30 minutes. By the time Frankie gets home, her house is so clean that she gets giddy with gratitude, but when the camera pans to the glass patio door, the audience sees the all the junk the kids “cleaned up” in a huge pile in the backyard.
There has never been a TV show that has split my sides with so much laughter. The Heck’s are a delightfully dysfunctional family who, no matter how far they push each other, always remain united by a fundamental love for each other.
At the risk of sounding hackneyed and trite, I cannot help but think how much like the Heck kids I tend to be in my relationship with God. Too often I am aware of major changes I need to make for my Father, but I choose a spot on the couch instead and only make changes when life comes down to the wire. As a result, I generally end up with a huge pile of junk in my backyard.
Tue 27 Sep 2011
My chapel talk at Harding School of Theology today during split chapel (in wav audio format). Many thanks for the opportunity to be a part of the spiritual life at HST!
Mon 26 Sep 2011
This past weekend I traveled with Mark to South Baton Rouge Church of Christ Louisiana, where he led a Spiritual Formation retreat. The retreat was brilliant and offered a much-needed time for reconnection with Mark and rejuvenation in the Lord.
Community is a spiritual discipline many of us fail to understand. We think of spiritual disciplines as things we do, but in the case of community the discipline is something we are a part of. Of course we all know we ought not “forsake the assembly.” And many of us have been in the building long enough to have lights blinked on us, or we grew up knowing that “if the church doors are open, we are there.”
But the community of God is so much more than a requirement to check off a list. It is a marvelous conglomeration of different kinds of people who lead different kinds of lives, but who all proclaim faith in the same God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We live in a world that calls us away from God as a belief system, and we live lifestyles that pull us in every direction but towards God. In this milieu, the community of God grounds us deeply in relationships that support our faith and call us closer to each other and to God.
As I drank in the truths that come from spiritually forming experiences this weekend, the community of God in my life was expanded with new relationships with the amazing people of God at South Baton Rouge. And I realized again that whether we spend 3 days or 15 years together, the people of God can make indelible marks upon our lives.
(This post is dedicated to all my new friends in Baton Rouge, and most especially to their new president, Mr. Jimmie Carter.)