28 November 2008

Seeds of Life

Many years ago, seeds of faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ were planted in fertile ground throughout the Bible Belt region of the United States and throughout rural America. I have enjoyed the fruit that has cropped up there and grown from it. It has made me want to die to my own self-interest and live as Christ. It has made my family and me more integral and wholly God's possession. It has made us realize we are blessed to be a living blessing!

So, numerous partners are sending our team with bare seeds in order to sow them on fertile ground in Wollongong, Australia. We believe many beautiful plants will grow up because God has already prepared the ground for the harvest and Jesus is the light that enlightens and enlivens everyone. We're so excited to be his workers. Pray with us that we can present a new crop to God as a pleasing offering to Him. As Paul said, "I’m doing this because God gave me the gift to be a servant of Christ Jesus to people who are not Jewish. I serve as a priest by spreading the Good News of God. I do this in order that I might bring the nations to God as an acceptable offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit." Romans 15

With another thought in mind, somewhat related, we are not going as church-planters per say, but as seed-planters. As Jesus said, "Go and make disciples . . ." and it was God who has always added to the church and created new communities.

So, what is this seed? It's often difficult to distinguish the seed from the fruit, message from the messenger. On one hand, it is a seed that can only grow properly in one kind of soil: the fertile kind. On the other hand, it is a seed that can grow all across the earth wherever people are found; and that is what it is meant to do. In fact, a preview of this "seed" was given to Abraham: "Through you all the people of the world will be blessed." In this very seed is the truth that it is for every tribe and subculture in the world. God loves the world.

Of course, in addition to the purpose in the seed itself to fall across the universe, is the deep and central life and story of Jesus. Though outwardly the world is wasting away due to sin, inwardly it is being renewed day by day through whom none other than the Resurrected One. The redeeming, resurrection power held dormant in the seed will not be exhausted until it has transformed every tribe and club and destroyed all present powers including the final power: death. Life overcomes death.

So, if I were being extra concise about describing this seed, I would say that 1) it must be planted in every tribe and language and, 2) it is universal life through the only one who can defeat evil and death. It must be planted to the ends of the earth, but its roots must be deep in the indestructible life of Jesus.

I didn't include other essential beliefs (e.g., One God) or related core practices (e.g., one baptism), though there aren't very many of these. I wanted to be too concise and just say what, latently, the seed is in four english words: ONE FOR ALL LIFE.

24 November 2008

New Frontiers into Reality (Some quotes)

"As every school child knows, the belief that the equator defined the end of the world limited the spirit necessary to produce reality." Edwin Friedman, Failure of Nerve

"The equator served as an emotional barrier, . . . a belief born of mythology and kept in place by anxiety. Such beliefs exist in every society and take hold to the extent that society is driven by anxiety rather than adventure." Edwin Friedman, Failure of Nerve

"That which does not kill you will make you stronger." Friedrich Nietzsche

"The ship is safest when it is in port. But that's not what ships were made for." -Paulo Coelho

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." -Paul, the apostle

"We can only live changes: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create." -Ivan Illich

" . . . take note of those who live according to the pattern . . ." -Paul, the apostle

"A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution." - J. Oswald Sanders

" . . . mission is . . . God's initiative . . . to restore and heal creation." -Darrell Guder

"No song, however satisfying, is ever satisfying enough." -Jason Whaley (me)

17 November 2008

Imagination with Nerve

. . . extraordinary changes in form and perspective for painting, sculpture, literature, and architecture . . . the Reformation led by Luther and Calvin . . . the invention of the watch . . . observations of space, the creation of the telescope . . . the newspaper . . .

In seeking a source for this "Renaissance," the culmination of which began in 1492, Edwin Friedman writes:

It is appropriate that this "rebirth" of the human spirit has been referred to as the "Renaissance." But the tendency to attribute the Renaissance to a renewed interest in learning may, despite its origins, be the same kind of academic bias that focuses leadership training programs on data and technique rather than on emotional process. It certainly has not been my experience in working with imaginatively stuck marriages, families, corporations, or other institutions that an increase in information will necessarily enable a system to get unstuck. And the risk-averse are rarely emboldened by data.

Columbus's discovery was the catalyst for the quantum leap we call the High Renaissance. So, getting a gridlocked relationship system unstuck requires not a cognitive phenomena, but imagination and curiosity. Friedman names this spark, if you will, "nerve."

He says, ". . . I believe that the catalyst for those other imaginative breakthroughs was the "nerve" of the great navigators who led the way."

In the midst and wake of Columbus' voyages to the New World, Michelangelo sculpts his David . . . Leonardo completes the Mona Lisa, and Shakespeare! and Galileo!

And I love what he says here to name the history lesson:

The effect of America's discovery on the European imagination was as though God had been hiding a piece of land bigger than the known world since the dawn of creation. The great lesson of this turnaround is that when any relationship system is imaginatively gridlocked, it cannot get free simply through more thinking about the problem. Conceptually stuck systems cannot become unstuck simply by trying harder. For a fundamental reorientation to occur, that spirit of adventure which optimizes serendipity and which enables new perceptions beyond the control of our thinking processes must happen first. THis is equally true regarding families, institutions, whole nations, and entire civilizations.

But for that type of change to occur, the system in turn must produce leaders who can both take the first step and maintain the stamina to follow through in the face of predictable resistance and sabotage.

O Lord, let me never discourage leaders who have this "nerve". Let them teach me imagination and curiosity. Wake me up to their imitation of Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. Amen.

13 November 2008

Character Visa

I'm applying for a Religious Worker Visa to Australia. Here is what has happened recently:

While traveling through Atlanta, Georgia, we stopped in to get my lungs X-rayed. Done. Went upstairs to Dr. W's office and gave urine and blood and got a physical. Dr. W said I'd probably live to 100. Great. Now I feel like I should take extra care of the body God gave me.

Then, Dr. W tried to contact us yesterday. He's been very helpful. Last night I was thinking, "Maybe he wanted to tell me that, on second thought, I'll live to 110," but we called him back and found out that the radiologist thought my lungs were too full of air or something. So we took a lateral X-ray and expedited it to Dr. W who, as I understand it, will pass the X-rays on to the embassy in D.C. This was already an expensive, bureaucratic process. Thankfully, we knew someone in Memphis who took X-rays for a steal of a deal.

So, as perplexed as we are, I can't imagine what Mexicans feel like trying to legally work for a few years as migrants in America. The difference between us and them is, they are trying to survive. To be as resilient as many Mexicans, it seems I need to reframe how I see this process.

At this point, all I can see are the pains of the system in process, but I know there must be some excellent and praiseworthy things in this process. Let me try to name these . . .

Dr. W said my lungs were probably so full of air because I'm athletic and fit. That was quite encouraging. He also said my heart is super healthy. So, I'm not as worried about the number two highest risk of death--heart disease. The number one cause is iatrogenesis. See Journal American Medical Association July 26, 2000;284(4):483-5

I suppose this process could work to make me more perseverant. Perhaps I'll become more able to complete tasks thoroughly in the future. People will trust me with greater responsibilities than they have in the past. Perhaps I'll be able to help someone else through a similar trial.

. . . Well that's a start. Maybe I'll notice some other excellent and praiseworthy things in this process as it goes along. And, at this point, it seems like it will keep going along until my 100th birthday. Surely by then I will have become a character.