The annual digging season has begun in the city of Gath (a former Philistine city). They are unearthing some interesting things that tell us today what the Philistines were like. An article @ msnbc.com tells some of the discoveries and connections that have been made in reference to this ancient people group and their affiliation with the Israelites as mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.
It’s interesting to me that archaeologists seem to start with suspicion of an ancient text (i.e. like the Bible) and seek to go all out to disprove the claims and the stories contained within (and they are super-surprised if the stories appear true). I don’t know, maybe these findings and the resultant articles and theories that are written paint the discipline in a bad light. Not because of the stellar work archaeologists are doing, rather they appear to be written with a particular slant toward continual suspicion of the biblical text.
It seems, at least to this amateur theologian, that if one thinks that the Bible stories are true and view archaeological conclusions at this point are premature are definitely in the minority of scientific opinion and labeled at best ignorant, but at worst uninformed and out-of-touch with reality.
Regardless of who is right or wrong, the point for me at least, is to hold down the side of the debate that isn’t getting the most press…
Whenever I read a book, I get excited. Whether it’s a novel or a how-to book, the author pulls me into this grand and ideal world, full of possibilities and vision. The characters are larger than life. Concepts leap off the page and what you once thought was impossible suddenly creates a desire to engage in risky behaviors! I leave the pages of a book expectant to see change. I expect myself to adopt the book in its entirety, and if I don’t, then all is lost. It seems like it is either all or nothing for me. So, if I believe in something, I want to grab it all.
What happens in reality, however, over time, is a softening and a saturating of those ideas and concepts and possibilities. I realize that I am changed, ministry with children is different, my parenting is growing, in subtle and small ways. Most books capture larger-than-life stories meant to inspire and call-to-action. But in reality, things happen subtly. When a learner subjects him/herself into the literary world of ideas and concepts and possibilities, they soak into a person and seep out when necessary. Without that subjection, though, there is definitely nothing to “seep” out!
Adventures like this trip to Atlanta, GA are like a book that influences you over time. While I saw some neat things and talked with some stellar people, the impact will not be seen in the immediate, but hopefully, they will be seen and realized over time. I’m excited and anticipatory of a day in the future (perhaps another 5 years from now) where I look back on what things were like 5 years ago (now) and celebrate the growth and change to get it to where it can and should be in the future. Who knows what that is… God does. And it is by His grace, power and involvement (Spirit), that will really come to realize what ministry with children and youth look like @ Hayward Wesleyan Church and beyond in the years to come.
I’ve been reflecting on my life lately… well not lately, I reflect all the time! I’m an external processor, which means when I’m in conversation with people, they don’t receive any canned, or pre-planned answers or thoughts, they get raw and uncensored Jeremy (well…kind of censored!).
When people have asked me how I am doing my answer has been this: “My life has grown incredibly simple.”
Before I was married, life was complex for me. I remember juggling all kinds of things in college, things 3 or 4 people would consider doing separately, but not together. I was an RA in the older men’s dorms, taught SS and helped with middle school youth group every week, met consistently with 5 or 6 different groups for 5-6 different things, engrossed in conversations during all 3 meals in the cafeteria, and sought out professors who I wanted to learn from. I remember thinking, I hope “regular” life is less busy, hectic and complicated. I was assured it was.
Then I got a ministry job and got married. Both of these two monumental changes in my life simplified the complex a little. My job forced me to focus on a few things, vocationally, instead of a plethora of other things. Working with children and middle school students preclude me, typically, from engaging with college students, seeking out professors, or contributing to many different groups at once. Marriage has simplified things in the sense that my relationships are more focused and intentional. Friendships change and relationship postures change when you get married. Regular life was being shaped and realized.
Then along came these things called kids! Interesting how easily they came along without much discussion. Amanda and I waited for about 3 years before we had our first, then less than 2 years after Sari, along came Macie. I tell you what: the complexity of life really simplifies when you are really tired from an all-nighter that you didn’t choose because they are throwing up or fussy and restless all night! Extraneous things in life tend to get neglected more out of survival than anything. Raising kids has forced me to really simplify the other things. It’s funny, but we tend to gravitate toward couples with children close to our kids’ age. This isn’t discriminatory on our part, more another means of survival and thirst for “adult” connection!
In the path of simplicity, however, is a paradox. You see, while I say on one hand that my life has really been simplified, the parody/paradox here is that WITHIN the simplicity, is a world of complexity. Confusing? You bet! Try to figure out why a 3 year-old girl is crying and throwing a fit. Try to discern what a 1 year-old girl wants as she is learning to talk and it all sounds like…huh? Try to figure out why they wake up at night fussing, or fight when sister is playing with a toy the other isn’t playing with, or why in the next moment they can be incredibly cute and obedient. Sometimes this stuff happens all at the same time!
Simplicity of focus, complexity of issues and problems and special moments within that focus… ah, the recipe of life. I haven’t read the book on the graphic above… I googled “simplicity” and “complexity” and that was a top image link. “Simplexity” I kind of like that word. No matter the content of that book, that word epitomizes my life right now.
Back in April, I was asked to come in and meet with a ministry at our church called Mentoring Future Families. This is a strategic outreach for single parents (typically women) and their children. They serve a meal, then there is a babysitter for the kids and the moms go and talk about stuff (i.e. parenting, life, etc.). Really neat ministry.
After introducing myself and talking about children and youth ministry at Hayward Wesleyan Church, I asked if they had any questions they had always wanted to ask a pastor. One young mother asked me this profoundly simple, yet complex question: “How can I grow in my spirituality?”
One of the leaders looked over at me and said something to the effect of “Boy! I’m glad you’re here!”
A question like that could mean any number of things. Some women in this group are Christians while others are not. I could have given her some tips and techniques, however, I could tell that that is what she wanted me to do. I remember thinking to myself (praying actually!): How would Jesus field this question? I thought of the rich young ruler who really wanted some tips and techniques from Jesus in order to “inherit eternal life” and yet Jesus told him to get rid of everything and follow him. So I answered the question this way:
I talked about my own experience with reading the Bible. I said that as a pastor and a student of the Bible, I have read it countless times. I told her that generally speaking I have a good handle on the Old Testament and the Epistles in the New Testament. While there is always new things to learn and insight to be gained, by and large those areas of the Bible are rather easy for me to grasp and continue to work through understanding them. However, the area of the Bible that gives me the most trouble is the Gospels. That Jesus character always trips me up! Stories in the OT stay fairly consistent. Paul and the other writers in the NT are not extremely shocking. Jesus, however, is extremely shocking. Just when I think I’ve got him figured out, as in what he’s probably going to say next, he does something totally unexpected! It’s like he’s God or something!! No matter how many times I read stories in the Gospels, I am always on my heels when it comes to interacting with Jesus. It’s good because it reminds me that as humans we won’t have this thing all figured out, but there is a person that we can look to who does have it figured out.
So my advice was to read through the Gospels and try to figure Jesus out and see where that might take your “spirituality.”
(note: I really do think the rest of the Scriptures do the same thing I am talking about with Jesus in the Gospels. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I have the rest of the Bible conquered—I do not. At this stage in my own biblical understanding, the Gospels is what continually challenge me.)
This wasn’t on purpose. I love my cellphone. It’s a smartphone that’s capable of fetching emails as well as simple internet searches and reading, in addition to calendaring, unlimited contacts and other “media-related” stuff. Along with my wallet and keys, this phone is always in my pocket.
Not the last 3 days. I was trying to make a call before we got into the motor home for our trip to Wenatchee, WA to go camping with my friends from college and my phone was locking up on me, so I set it in a compartment in the truck. And for those of you who know what it’s like loading up the supplies it takes to take 2 toddlers on a 3 day trip away from home, you know how long and arduous it would take to transfer to the motor home. It wasn’t until we were about 10 miles down the road that I was going to have Amanda look up our route on Google Maps on my phone, when I realized that I had left my phone in the truck.
Bummer. I suppose I could have justified turning around and going back to get it, but that was silly because I didn’t really need it. So basically, I didn’t have access to email and the internet for 3 days. It was good for me. I didn’t know or realize how “mentally”, “behaviorally”, and “habitually” I am connected to the internet. It was good for me to experience this 3 day fast. Weird and unsettling, but good for me. It’s not that the INTERNET is bad. My dependency on it is what is unhealthy and why it was so good for me to be away from it for a couple of days.
I wonder if these kind of experiences (intentional or unintentional) help reveal things about our character? I wonder if we ever pay attention to these kinds of things? Do you? Is it worthwhile?
A famous preacher had a friend who was well known for his short temper. One day, at a party, he asked this friend to help him serve some drinks. The preacher himself poured the drinks, deliberately filling several of the glasses a bit too full. He then passed the tray to his friend. As they walked into the room to distribute the drinks, he accidentally-on-purpose bumped into the friend, causing the tray to jiggle and some of the drinks to slosh over the brim and spill. ‘There you are, you see,’ said the preacher. ‘When you’re jolted, what spills out is whatever is filling you.’ When you’re suddenly put to the test and don’t have the time to think about how you’re coming across, your real nature will come out.
After You Believe – N.T. Wright – The Transformation of Character – pg. 28
I’ve been thinking about myself lately. Particularly when Sari or Macie does something “not good” and anger wells up inside of me… and not the good “parental” kind of anger… just mad anger. I’m asking myself the question, why am I responding this way? I wonder what is “filling me.”
And this is not just about short fuses, it is really about how our character comes out in every day life. It is easy to force yourself to respond correctly in the moment (“just don’t get mad this time with Macie…”). It’s quite another to TRAIN yourself to respond correctly/wisely/kingdom-of-God-like ALL THE TIME. The author of the story above goes on to talk about how Christian character is slowly and deliberately formed over a long period of time so that whenever the moment of “crisis” comes, it is second nature to respond the way God wants… or more specifically the kingdom of God is made alive in us (“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10) as a witness to this world.
Interesting… I wonder if God “jolts” us to help us recognize what is “in” us? And perhaps to correct or encourage what we are allowing to fill our hearts and minds.
What is a normal, everyday Christian capable of and expected to do in the kingdom of God, the church? I don’t think we define it concretely enough. Do they have to ingest one Christian book a month, study the Bible everyday devotionally (and intermittently, theologically), pray, be involved in “ministry” at their local “church building” community as well as outside the “church building” in their particular civic community, show up for church every Sunday, be involved in a small group, journal, etc?
What does it really mean to be a spiritually involved person? What does it mean to be an active participant in the expanding spiritual kingdom of God in this world? And particularly for the normal, everyday human being? How much stuff is too much? What is reasonable, sustainable, appropriate, etc? When are we supposed to just live and recognize God is entirely okay with that…actually more than okay than we think?
Perhaps our lives (normal and everyday as they are) are the labratory of God’s kingdom. Perhaps the daily decisions we make as God’s special people actually bring about his kind of kingdom (or world). Perhaps we shouldn’t lump a lot of really good, “spiritual” thing on people, but teach and instruct a viable “kingdom-living ethic”, modeled after the pattern of Jesus (who being in very nature God…). Maybe then we will truly be exercising God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
Pastors, in particular, seem to do a marvelous job living beyond what a normal, everyday person has the time (realistically) to handle. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s actually fairly good to be able to have the time to devote to the spiritual life in order to lead people through their spiritual lives… but I wonder if pastors are supposed to be modeling a “daily living, everyday/normal, kingdom ethic” as well? What are people “seeing” modeled in the normal, everyday life of their pastor?
I came across a video that describes what I’m wrestling with in this post. This video is actually a promo video for a curriculum, but the content the speaker discusses actually addresses some relevant things.