Redemption Reflections

So yesterday my wife and kids were outside playing in our driveway and my wife took some wonderful pictures. I looked over the pictures after uploading them last night and some of my youngest son Kai caught my eye. It wasn’t the inclusion of my son that caught my attention but rather the other subject of the picture: the beaten up and used trike.

You see that trike has an interesting story. It was almost six years ago that I was taking our trash out to the apartment complex dump when I noticed some cast-off “kids” stuff. We were new parents and didn’t exactly have tons of money living off a teacher’s salary and student loans, so I did what my mother would have done: I looked it over to see if we could use anything. I took two things back to our apartment: a toy guitar and a trike. The trike was missing its handlebar covers and was pretty worn but it rolled on the ground nice and we figured our son Micah would enjoy it. He did and so it made the trip back to MN with us when we moved home and has stayed with us. Now it is being used again by our youngest son and he is getting joy from rolling down the driveway through the power of his two legs.

As I sat and reflected on the pictures I couldn’t help but think about redemption and the life of faith. In a small way this trike is a reminder to me of my own life in God. God saw something in me when others couldn’t; namely my father. God took me in and said I had value when others didn’t; namely my father.

I think about how easily my life could be defined by the initial rejection of my father and how my story could have had its end there: cast-off and rejected like the trike sitting in the apartment dump. That easily could have been my story. A story of rejection. But just as that trike was redeemed from the dump by me because I saw value, so my story has also been redeemed by God.

Sometimes I wonder if we miss that good news: our rejections don’t define us. we are redeemed.

Fatherhood and Manhood

First before I go into the heart of this post, I have a prayer request for anyone who reads this post.  Please keep in your prayers Adam and Sarah Walker Cleaveland, who just lost their twin boys (Micah and Judah) who were born at 20 weeks and couldn’t survive.  It was at Adam’s blog that I first encountered this video.

So nothing is closer to my heart/life than the issue of fatherhood/manhood. You see I grew up in a single parent household with just my mother.  Let me tell you that my mother is an amazing woman and I can’t imagine life being differently then it was and I don’t think I am screwed up because I didn’t have a father growing up.  Still, I would be lying if I didn’t say that it had an impact on my life.  I always wondered what was wrong with me that my father didn’t want to have anything to do with me.  I also knew that the one thing God called me to more than anything else was to be a father and to break the cycle.

So that is the background and here is the reason why I want to write about this video: nothing bothers me more than the construction of one type of fatherhood being “biblical” and all else being something other than what God intended.  I wrote a whole paper on it in seminary where I explored those of faith who wrote about fatherhood (by the way sadly most of the books only came at fatherhood from one framework and often that also came with a construct of “manhood” being the same thing as “fatherhood”…which means many who might not have that framework are staying silent on a very important issue…who knows maybe they are out there and I just didn’t find them).

Most of the views I came upon align with the framework Mark Driscoll is coming from in his response to the question posed. It is that view that I want to respond to, but first I want to say that I have tremendous respect for Mark Driscoll.  I disagree with him on many things, but I respect him.  Having met him while I was in college and having conversations with him, I can truly say that I believe that he is a man who is after God’s heart.  I think he has helped many people discover Christ and move closer to God and unlike some I am unwilling to say that because he has a different framework/worldview that he is leading people astray.

On this matter though I think he is wrong and here is why:

(1)  First and foremost to take the passage from Timothy that is quoted by both him and his wife out of its context and to apply to a certain understood construct of family is problematic in my view.  The passage he quotes, 1 Timothy 5:8, is in the midst of a paragraph of instruction that Paul is giving to Timothy about care for widows.  The passage specifically is dealing with those widows who have family members (in this case children and grandchildren) who were called to take care of them according to their faith.  What it wasn’t saying was that “fathers who don’t make a paycheck have denied their faith and are worse than unbelievers.” Could one take the prescription directed at the children and grandchildren of widows and then apply it as such? Yes, but then we get into some deeper questions of pushing interpretation.  Driscoll states it with such conviction and clarity in a way that communicates that it is obvious that that statement is directed at fathers and dealing with the role within the marriage/family economy.

Which brings me to a different subject.  I am curious what their understanding of care for the elderly would be? What is our role in caring for widows? Do we care for widows? I don’t have an answer, but I would hope that individuals who aren’t caring for their mothers/grandmothers would get a serious chastisement and fall under church discipline with the same vigor.

(2) What is provision? To argue that provision is the same as being the sole income provider within the family economy is faulty in my opinion. A father can and is a provider even if they are not the income producer. A father can have authority (which I would argue a different conception of authority than the “you will submit to me that some think”) while still not being the income producer. What seems to be at work here more than anything is a certain construction that goes very deep: A man’s worth as a man is equal to what he produces, if he doesn’t “produce” then he is no longer a man as defined biblically. I find that so faulty though, to me a man’s worth appears to come from God and is found in how that individual seeks to grow closer to God and to help others (like their family) grow closer to God.

(3) The myth of statistics. Driscoll is using statistics as a buttress to his argument, but why? If it is simply a matter of being “biblical” or “unbiblical” then statistics shouldn’t be needed. In fact if one is arguing so hard against the perverted culture that permeates the world then to rely on statistics is to by and large also depend on that “perverted culture” to buttress your arguments when it helps your argument. The lives of humans are not easy to isolate. Want to know why? You can’t get a control. Yes, there are too many variables for one to just use one variable as an argument for why it is right. Yes, those statistics to point to a reality, but do they also take into consideration economic class, neighborhood safety, influences, etc. (you could go on and on) Human relationships and outcomes are complex because we are lives are complex.

Can we get to the heart of the matter?

The real heart of the matter is are parents invested in their kids lives? Do they give of themselves so that their children grow up nurtured and cared for and thus prepared for life. We can rail on manhood, fatherhood, gender-roles, etc., but until we deal with the real heart of the matter which is selfishness then we are failing to name the real culprit. If a man wants to be a stay-at-home dad because well he doesn’t want to work and he thinks it is easier to be a stay-at-home dad and he doesn’t take that role within the family seriously then yeah it is a problem, but no more a problem than if a woman did it. If parents are constantly looking for others to watch their kids because they want to live “their” lives either as individuals or as a couple then yeah it is a problem. But if the parents are seeking to be parents and to provide for their children like God has provided for us, then it doesn’t matter if they are gay, straight, stay-at-home dads, both working, etc.

I should be rebuked if I am shirking my responsibilities as a father and I should be shown my error, but that isn’t about whether I am the money-maker or not it is about if I am being a provider like God has provided for us as God’s children.

Ecumenism – Reflections on the Body of Christ


One of the things I have really been wrestling with lately is “ecumenism.”  I know fancy word.  How fancy?  Too fancy.  Basically I have been wondering about the true unity of the universal Church also known as the Body of Christ.

Last week at the Winona Ministerial Association, I was in charge of the devotional and what had really been weighing on my heart was Paul’s word to the church in Corinth.  Specifically was the passage from 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.  I really enjoy the Message because of the way that Eugene Peterson uses language.  It just jolts and really gets you thinking at times and his rendition of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 which reads:

I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention–that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”  I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own?  Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?”

Peterson just makes Paul’s words so “in your face.”  I mean the visual image one gets of Christ being “chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own” is vivid and it gets the point across.  In my own reflection I can’t help but read these word’s from Paul and wonder if it couldn’t speak to the Body of Christ today by just replacing Paul, Apollos, Peter, Messiah with names for our denomination (or non-denominations).

So often I feel we give lip service to “ecumenism” or just assent to some ideology we know we are suppose to believe in.  We often talk about how we are all a part of the Body of Christ, etc.  But within the same breath we often make sure to mark the boundaries between “our” Christianity and “their” Christianity.  “I’m on the Methodist side.”  “I’m for the Roman Catholic Church” “John Calvin is my man.” “I belong to the Lutherans”  Is there some point where our demarcations of boundaries actually displaces Christ as the central part of the faith? I often wonder if we truly are the Body of Christ, why don’t we do more together? Why don’t we celebrate when other “denominations” are growing and transforming lives?

It is a struggle I have and I don’t have answers.  I only have questions.  I have to believe that we can overcome the differences and I hope to see it and experience it in my ministry.  I so badly want to see issues that divide us to become secondary to the primary message of the Good News and yet that means all sides have to be willing to come to that point and say we can disagree on issues and still be united.  Can it happen?  And if it can’t does that say something about how we powerful and influential we really feel God is in our lives?

Right now the following picture really feels more to me like what the Body of Christ is like…….

Wrestling Thoughts: Public vs. Private

Over the past week I have really been mulling over a post on the micro-church written by Andrew Conard. Some of the comments really got me thinking about public life vs. private life. You can read the post and comments here.

Now I think there is some genuine wrestling with one of the commenters on the functionality of the “home” within the life of a faith community. The commenter states:

I am wondering about possible shifts in the concept of “home” from other eras when this worked in the past, like the early church or even early Methodism. Seems like we have a great many more public places to gather; resturants, coffee shops, movie theatres, etc than might have been available in the past. “Home” seemes even more private, intimate, vulnerable to me becuase of this.

I assume your concept is that it is easier to invite someone to one’s home than elsewhere, but isn’t it possible that it is also harder?

I think these are important questions to ask, but it really got me thinking about some thoughts I have had over the past few months. Why is there such an emphasis on privacy? There really seems to be the strong demarcation between public and private and I am wondering if our Christian Identity calls us to challenge those sentiments.

I constantly am reminded as a young pastor that I need to make sure that I take time for myself and my family. I know this stems from pastors in the past spending all their time at work or allowing their work to dictate their life to the point that it led to exhaustion and split families. However, maybe I am just wired different. I believe that our lives as disciples call us to journey with our brothers and sisters in Christ and to grow together, and I am sorry but isn’t the best way to get to know someone in their home? Isn’t there something about having someone over for a meal and having discussion? Isn’t there something about them seeing the photos you have on the wall and asking questions about the people causing you to share a bit more about who you are? Have we lost this?

Why is the home avoided in so many instances within the life of the church? We gather with these same people on Sundays and yet for most members of the church they might not even be able to tell you where most of the people live, let alone their story? Pastors have an interesting position in that they can do home visits, etc. and get to know those within the community better, but shouldn’t this be what we are all doing? How can anyone feel comfortable sharing their struggles if no one truly knows who they are? Isn’t it in these interactions in the home where intimacy between individuals is fused?

Public life seems to have allowed us to be totally anonymous while still feeling connected. We do have so many public places, but that makes it to easy for us to “feel” connected to people without really connecting with them. When I invite someone to my home that means that I care enough about them that I am willing to open up a space that our culture has made almost exclusively private. People can see the photos (even those embarrassing photos that show the fashions of times gone by), people use the bathroom (and you risk them seeing that place where you trust they will not snoop–the medicine cabinet–or in our case the “drawers”), you allow them to see how you live, what you value. People enter into your life. Not only that but when you invite someone into your home, you don’t just welcome them and then invite them to take a seat on the couch while you make the meal, serve it, and then speak only to your family (wouldn’t that be awkward?….oh wait that is probably what it feels like for many to come into our churches…oh snap). No, you invite them in, you talk to them, you ask them questions, you allow them to enter into your life by getting to know you intimately.

Perhaps that is why I have structured part of my campus ministry the way I have. Each week (beginning in October after I get back from paternity leave….whenever this 2nd son of ours arrives) we will gather at my house to have a meal and to celebrate the Eucharist around the table. People will get to know me and my family and I will get to know them as we journey together to understand God and how our lives interact with our faith. This intimate discussion just couldn’t happen in a public setting because it is just too easy for us to remain anonymous.

This means that some of my “family” or “private” time is being invaded by my job, but you know what….my wife and I would have it no other way. We, as disciples, are fed by connecting with and learning from other disciples. These students are part of our family and we know of no other way to know them intimately than to invite them into our home where they can see all of our warts and blemishes but also really know who we are.

Perhaps we do really need to look more deeply at each faith community’s relationship to public and private life. If most of our members have never been to other member’s homes we might have to ask ourselves what type of community we are?

Just thoughts I continue to wrestle with.