Saturday, February 26, 2011

My wife is amazing . . . (my kids are too.)

While I am at work, kicking my feet up, Serenity is at home with our four kids. Usually, when I spend a few hours alone with the kids and Serenity gets away to have coffee with a friend or to just have some time on her own, my head nearly explodes from the frustration that wells up inside me. Don't get me wrong, I think my kids are great. They are fun to be with and possess a compassion and kindness that fills me with joy. They each put a smile on my face in their own unique way.

However, spending an entire day with them can sometimes become a little stressful. Serenity is able to do this day in and day out with a grace and love that, as she would be the first to tell you, can only come from the Holy Spirit.

Homeschooling an 8, 6, and 4-year-old with a 16-month climbing all over you is a fantastic feat. Doing it without going crazy is even more fantastic. Doing it well is supernatural. My wife pulls this off. Yes, she is not perfect, and on occasion as I walk into the house after a day at work and see her still in her pajamas, she gives me a look like I better take the kids for a while or . . . well . . . I don't know, but it wouldn't be pretty.

She not only pulls this off with grace and love, but she does it with an amazing creativity. Last week each of our 4 kids went through the stomach flu and Serenity was still able to do this amazing project with them:

That's right, our solar system. Each paper-mâché planet in their respective spots orbiting around the sun (the ceiling light), and don't forget the newest dwarf planet (Pluto) on the far right.

Not only are our kids learning something, but they are having fun doing it. On top of that, my wife puts in the time to make our kids feel valued and esteemed as children of God, preparing them to be "in the world, but not of the world."

I'm sorry I don't say this enough, but thank you Seren for doing this important work, and doing it well, you are an awesome home-schooling momma.

Justice/Injustice Personified

Understanding the differences may demonstrate your understanding of the Kingdom of God. I know I'm still striving to recognize them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What matters to God?

Last weekend, Serenity and I were able to attend the Justice Conference in Bend. It was an wonderful time of being filled up by an amazing God. The conference was packed (literally, over 1,000 attendees - the conference center ran out of chairs - and six 1-hour sessions each day) with scholars, pastors and speakers who revealed new concepts and challenges to both of us. We both came away from the weekend feeling renewed and more focused on seeking "what matters to God." Most of the time we struggle with knowing exactly what that means, but we are seeking an answer.

I want to give you a snapshot of some of the speakers and concepts that stood out to me. Each of these I plan to wrestle with individually, and could probably write a post about each. Another time maybe.

To open the conference up, the lead pastor at Antioch Church in Bend, the driving creative force behind the conference, Ken Wytsma (check out his blog here) shared a message entitled Why Justice?

Ken spoke about the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (action)

Yet he goes on to say that many in the Church have changed it to the Silver Rule: "Do not do unto others what you would not want done to you." (passive)

Possibly the most powerful concept of the entire weekend was when Ken showed a video of a young girl trapped in the sex trade in southeast Asia, explaining that it was when presented with this issue that he realized:

"God simultaneously hears my prayers and the prayers of that little girl."

This forces us to see many of our cares and worries in a completely different perspective.

What matters to God? That little girl matters, not as if we don't, but when we pray that God would fix our VW, when viewed from this perspective, you have to wonder how concerned God is in answering it. And we are now presented with a choice - do we follow the Golden Rule or the Silver Rule? Do we seek justice (action) or do we simply not hurt others (passive)?

You can watch his entire message here:

Mike and Danae Yankoski spoke on Saturday morning and shared about living out justice every day. Mike wrote the book Under the Overpass, which greatly influenced our own walk towards God's call to love the marginalized. Danae co-authored Crazy Love with Francis Chan, and they wrote a book called Zealous Love together.

[Andy footnote]: It can become popular to "shop" for justice issues. A lot of idealists are swept away by every issue of injustice in the world and quickly become overwhelmed by the enormity of pain and suffering throughout our world. Mike and Danae encourage us to live it out in our daily lives. One of my prayers is that His Spirit will give us eyes to see the injustices in our communities rather than fruitlessly search out the newest and hippest trend.

Mike spoke about the Hebrew word "shalom." Many simply translate shalom as "peace," but it is much more than that, it is "the flourishing of everything that is." The opposite of shalom is injustice. We must seek justice in order to experience shalom. We must be both ambassadors and agents. Ambassadors 'declare' and agents 'seek out.'

Ultimately we must be adamant about justice, we must be searching for it in our daily lives, yet we are not called to do all of the work of the kingdom.

Shane Claiborne rocked it as usual. He spoke on several issues, it might just be better for you to go and watch this YouTube video, it is very similar to what he spoke on last weekend:

Eluding to the parable of the mustard seed, Shane said "The Kingdom spreads best by fascination not by force."

Adam Hochschild gave a synopsis of his book Bury the Chains, which is about the fight to end the slave trade in the British Empire. This was very interesting (and not just because I have a history degree, even right-brained Serenity said it was good.) Really good stuff about the fight for justice and how it might take a life-time, but it is close to the heart of God.

Lastly, Nicholas Wolterstorff, an authority on justice, and the Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale spoke twice over the weekend and just about made my head explode. On Saturday night his message was about Matthew 25 and the parable of the sheep and the goats. When we do the things Jesus talks about in the passage, feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner and love the orphan and widow are we doing the things of charity or the things of justice? Dr. Wolterstorff would argue we are living out justice, not simply benevolence.

One of the most interesting concepts discussed this past weekend was the Greek word dikaios. Dr. Wolterstorff believes we (English speakers) have incorrectly translated this word. The "romance" languages of Spanish, French, Italian, etc. translate dikaios as justice, while most English translations have the word as righteousness. This word can sometimes allow us to focus inwardly and make our faith individualistic. As in Matthew 5:6:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
When we change the translation to what Dr. Wolterstorff believes to be a more accurate translation, it brings new meaning to the words of Jesus:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.
Or again in Matthew 6:33:
But seek first his kingdom and his justice, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Dr. Wolterstorff claims that this word, dikaios, is mistranslated throughout the Old and New Testament. This allows us to see that seeking His Kingdom is a synonym to seeking justice. At the very least it demonstrates that seeking justice is something that matters to God.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sins? They now have an app for that.

This is classic. They now have an app for Catholic confession. You can scroll through a list of sins, choose the one you committed and then receive penance for them. The app guides the sinner through the 10 Commandments with a series of questions attached to each. Users tick boxes for the sins they have committed. The $1.99 app then guides them through contrition and offers sample phrases they can tell a real-life priest to be absolved of sins.


Off to the Justice Conference this weekend in Bend, OR.

I'm beginning to realize more and more that the work we are doing out of our garage is the work of justice. There are so many things that are intertwined in our little community Tuesday afternoons: reconciliation, redistribution, community, compassion. It is so simple, yet complex.

I'm very excited about wrestling through some of this during our time this weekend, not only will it be a time to dive into our role as people who create space for God to do his work of justice, but it will be a great time for Serenity and I to have some space of our own, become refreshed on our mission, as we make a push for our 1 year Jubilee anniversary!