Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where to Error?

A Facebook and real life friend posed a series of question recognizing that even in our best attempts to achieve balance, thoughtfulness, and wise perspective and action that we do, in fact, err quite often. He asks:

“If the balance is between being too lenient or too harsh, where is it better to err?

Too inclusive or too exclusive?

Too peaceful or too violent?

Defending the vulnerable or defending the comfortable?

We will never be perfect. But I think we can choose our errors better."

If so, how then do we decide where to err?  We all do you know.  We’re inclined to put too much emphasis on this as opposed to that.  We make errors of both judgment and action.

Anita asked me the other night when we finished watching a couple of movies about apartheid in South Africa.  “So, if you were a white man in South Africa at the time ...would you stand on the side of justice even if it might mean losing your family’s affection?” A good question.  In light of the information provided by the movie we were watching I told her that “justice appeared to be the nobler and more Godly road. If faced with the same circumstances I’d pray for the courage to follow the path of justice.” (Please understand this is in light of the context of the particular drama we were watching)

So, where do we decide to err? Our senior pastor at Christ Church believes that when in doubt we should err on the side of grace.  Others can’t abide by that recommendation especially if their version of truth is being challenged.  To err on the side of truth is always best from their vantage point.

I’m inclined to believe that it’s usually best to err on the side of the response that is the least harsh but still measured enough to be impactful. I should mention, however, that this is not my natural inclination. I have a very strong ‘judgment gene’ and a highly functional ‘truth meter’.  My natural reaction is to be hard, not soft.  Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately that has never served me well.  My truth and judgment responses seem to always come across as anger, intolerance and scolding.  Very rarely (perhaps never) do they come across as thoughtful and affirming.The sad thing is that in my desire to correct that reactivity I have found myself becoming too soft even when the circumstances demanded a harder edge.  Where’s balance when one needs it, eh?

The truth is that my knee jerk responses based in and anger and judgment usually cause harm or at the very least elevates the tension.  Now, I realize that there are some things I need to be justifiably angry about but even then will I error on the side of having a measured, thoughtful response or will I just unload?

Jack Connell wrote a thoughtful peace on the Christianity Today website.  It’s called Ministry Mulligans. http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/winter/ministrymulligans.html?start=1

Having to do it all over again he’d be:

More collaborative, less competitive.
Choose more rest, less rush
Choose more friendship, less isolation.

I’d choose to be more trustful and less wary. I’d choose renewal over procrastination and intentionality over reaction.  For sure I’d listen more and talk less. I’d follow the nudges of God instead of the schemes of my imagination.

Instead of feeding the shadow side of my personality I’d feed those things God could use for His purposes. It’s sad to think that the purposes of God are not always second nature to me.

I think our senior guy at our church is more right than not.  Err on the side of grace.  That doesn’t mean one becomes a punching bag or has no opinion.  It simply means that one finds his/her power in the grace of God which often looks like a lack of power to the casual observer.

I’m also inclined to believe that it’s wiser to err on the side of those who have lost their voice, who are marginalized,  and who are being treated unjustly.  The old saying that “Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” still makes gospel sense to me.

And for those who wonder.  I would certainly stand up for truth.  But in more grace filled ways, asking more questions.  There are too many angry people pounding desks, pulpits, and even other people in the defense of God who is very capable of standing up for Himself.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Black Like Me

I went backwards in time to remind myself of some important things over the weekend. I finished reading a book that influenced me profoundly when I was a teenager.

In 1959 a white man by the name of John Howard Griffin decided to pigment his skin black and then try to experience the world of ‘another’ in the deep south.  His book is called “Black Like Me”.  Somehow or another I ran across it when I was in very early adolescence and was struck hard by both his courage and the mind numbing reality of racism.

Growing up in northern Wisconsin race was not a big part of our life.  Most everyone was white.  As a result our prejudices (and there were many) were shared and became our version of normal.  There was two black families in our town and several handfuls of native Americans. When I was in high school Cuban immigrants started coming to our high school in very small numbers. I knew children  from one of the black families and remember, at age 12, (perhaps after reading the book) to do what I could do to befriend the boy closest to my age. His name was Earl. We spent a day together and soon realized that we really didn’t have much in common so best friends was not our destiny but we always remained friendly.  Thus, my first excursion into racial reconciliation.

I remember hearing that John Howard Griffin would be lecturing at what was then called Superior State University.  Just 14, I wandered over and took my seat in an auditorium to listen to his story.  To this day, I don’t remember much about what he said but just being there, in that room seemed important to me.

Before my freshman year in college I spent time with some other ‘work study’ types on campus.  We were trying to earn enough money to actually attend classes.  It was my first real experience of multi-culturalism.  It was pretty clear that all of us on campus were poor and it was a diverse crew of folks.  White folk, urban Black, Puerto Ricans, Bahamians, and residents of Hong Kong.  That was the summer of 1968.  Eugene McCarthy (an alum)visited the campus  this summer I remember, even replacing me in softball game I decided to blow off.  I still recall watching the Democratic convention with this mixed group of friends and we all wondered aloud how what we were watching would impact our society.

When our summer was over our little community broke apart.  It split along racial lines pretty much.  Nothing nasty.  Still little nods to each other and occasional conversation but the ‘times were changing’ for sure.  And I remember thinking how sad it all was.

Rereading ‘Black Like Me’ reminded me of those days and more.  It helped inform the rest of my life.

Sometimes when I look around me I realize how blessed I am to have friends and acquaintances who are different than I am. And I realize that the blessing has happened because God is continually nudging me in the direction of the original vision he planted in my teenage heart.  Why is it that I quit law school and started to volunteer at a south side Minneapolis boys club?  Why did God drop me into the middle of the San Joaquin Valley where I allowed myself to be loved on by a group of Mexican-American kids, or why was Hug High School in Reno (the poorest of them all) the place where God decided to start Young Life in the state of Nevada?  Why Evanston and why the south side of that city?  Why Breakthrough?

I think God planted something deep in my heart. It’s like He’s saying over and over and over again something important about the Body of Christ and what my role in it is supposed to be as he seeks to create His version of the Beloved Community.

I went back to my future I think when I reread “Black Like Me”.  The reminder of some early whispers of God and his unfailing attention to remind me of those murmurings throughout my life is greatly encouraging. But I'm also realizing that God isn't done with me.  He's planted something deep inside of me for a reason.  There's a purpose behind what He continues to do.  It's quite humbling and invigorating.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who's Orthodox?

As I look at my book shelves it's filled with authors who have been questioned and labeled as 'false teachers' or at least 'not quite on message' at times.

C.S. Lewis
Carolyn Custis James
Donald Miller
Ruth Haley Barton
Martin Luther King Jr.
Parker Palmer
Gordon MacDonald
Shaine Claiborne
Tim Keller

And many more.  All are under the evangelical umbrella and all suspected by one group or another as possibly theologically dangerous.

Dare I say I also have books by Franciscan friars and Benedictine nuns, Anne Lamott, Brennan Manning, Kathleen Norris, John Piper, D.A. Carson, liberal Methodists, and ‘any war is a bad war' Mennonites. Each and all living out faith in Jesus in ways much differently than others I know.  And for sure they are suspect for their theological perspectives in at least some of the circles I travel in.

Could it be that one of the problems with our theological approach these days is that we limit ourselves to listening to only those people we agree with and we are only looking for standup guys and gals with similar theologies and ideologies to our own?  And if they are too dissimilar then are we guilty of lobbing grenades of suspicion ...dismissing them, labeling each as being ‘outside the faith’?  Just asking.

 I can go to certain websites and anyone associated with using spiritual formation terminology is viewed as heretical. That includes folks like Larry Crabb who loves Jesus deeply. Even my wife has a made a ‘watch’ list or two for having certain guests on her program.  And I’m saddened for I know how deeply orthodoxy runs in her own life and the lives of her guests.

On the flip side those on the left side of orthodoxy look at right leaning evangelicals and wonder when ‘they’re going to get it’ and accuse them of abandoning the true faith and for allowing false prophets in their midst.

Of course, most of the world doesn’t give a rip about our internal discussions, books, music or movies.  They’re just trying to make sense of life and they’re choosing in record numbers to figure things out without the church. And people are leaving the church because the answers they’re getting are just too pat. ‘Trust and obey’ isn’t cutting it for them.

I think there are false teachers and heretical teachings.  There are people who say ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ and you wonder what rock they’ve been hanging under and what scripture they adhere to.  Drives me crazy.

But I’ve been wondering.  What do you think are the non-negotiables of orthodoxy these days?  What would make you label someone as theologically suspect or a false teacher? What's the line that someone must cross that immediately invalidates their point of view?  I'll be interested in what you have to say.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rob Bell. How Could You?

Well, I’ve read Rob Bell’s book Love Wins.  Here are some general observations after what was, admittedly,  a pretty quick read.  I’m thinking that I’ll want to go through it again.  I’ve got all kinds of circles, underlines, smiley faces, frowny faces and questions marks throughout the book. 
  1. One of my litmus tests for any book,speaker, program or retreat is to asks the question …”Did this help me fall more deeply in love with Jesus?”  Rob Bell’s book did help me fall more deeply in love with Jesus.  More than ever I want to be in relationship with the “visible expression of the invisible God.”
  2. Rob Bell isn’t a universalist although he flirts with ideas that many devout people have been trained to avoid. 
  3. Believers who hold tightly to certain systems and patterns of belief could feel attacked and backed into a corner.  This is not a book for people who aren’t willing to think.
  4. I think this would be a great book study especially with people from a variety of theological perspectives. Since we mostly hang out with people who believe the same things we believe that might prove difficult. J
  5. Rob challenges our assumptions about time. What we see as the end … isn’t …according to his thought process. 
  6. If you believe that Christian thinking stopped shortly after the Resurrection and began again with the Reformation you’ll struggle with reading this book.
  7. If you believe that God only speaks through conservative, evangelical theology you’ll struggle with reading this book.
  8. Rob Bell does believe in hell.
  9. I don’t think his thinking deserves to go unchallenged.  How to do it with dignity and respect is the question though.
  10. He does believe that Jesus is the ‘way, the truth, and the life’.
  11. I think he talks a lot about a Catholic notion of purgatory.
  12. The book is an invitation to live as if heaven starts now.
  13. I don’t believe Rob Bell is a heretic.
  14. This isn’t anything new.  I’ve heard some of the same themes in his speaking and in the Nooma videos.  This is just a smart, new package with a terrific marketing campaign.  My guess is that the Bell kids have college paid for.
  15. If you’re someone who likes to live in a world of ‘theological and biblical tension’ you’ll enjoy this book.  It will be like iron sharpening iron.  
  16. If you’re an ideologue of any conservative stripe you’ll probably hate Love Wins but it will be good for you to engage with the ideas before you throw the book against the wall and dismiss them entirely. 
  17. If you’re a theological liberal Bell's refusal to jump into the shallow end of the universalistic pool might prove to be unsatisfying. 
  18. Rob does provide a satisfying perspective on what I would call a more wholistic view of the Good News.
Final thoughts. I’m adequately trained in theological and biblical areas.  Despite that, there’s so much I don’t understand.  Period. Not just in Love Wins. And so I embrace the mystery of faith as part of the reality of my journey.  I cling to the creeds for they give me a firm foundation for life changing belief.  The Word of God sustains me with both its clarity of thought and in its ambiguity. I believe that in Jesus God reveals the purpose of His plan and I ask for the Lord's grace to live the way of Jesus in today's world.  All that to say ...I'm not afraid of a book that challenges my thinking or system of belief.  Nor should you be. My faith is big enough to be challenged along the way especially by Rob Bell who I believe has a good heart.

Please pray for Rob Bell.  He’s an influential voice.  He’s getting  hammered in many circles instead of being engaged.  Is Rob right in all that he says?  I sense he’s making some educated guesses and perhaps viewing certain things through the lens of his own bias.  Like us all he “sees through a glass darkly”.  I applaud the courage it took to publish this book.  Blessings to him for helping us to think.  May our thinking lead us to engage with the God who is and not the God we’ve created in our own image and likeness.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another War?

Today our country joins with others to stop evil in Libya.  Is it the right call?  I guess we’ll find out.  It certainly won’t be a popular call for nothing ever is these days.  But it’s certainly a gutsy call in today’s political climate.

Should we or  shouldn’t  we?  Can we remain silent when we look into the eyes of a tyrant intent on the destruction of his opponents?  Or should we retreat caring for our issues and our people only?

The times are filled with peril aren’t they?

I’m not a fan of war. I’ve always believe that ‘war is unhealthy for children and other living things.’  And yet I know there are times when faced with scurrilous evil that we are called to battle.

We live in a world these days where enemies are rarely defeated.  There is no signing anymore of 'surrender documents' these days.  Instead, the war goes underground, into the alley way, and into the hands of the terrorist.  Hate lives on.

My guess is that we will be at war for the foreseeable future.  There is no cutting off the head of evil these days because there is no singular entity to go after.  There is now a shadowy network of alliance.  When one is defeated another rises up.

It sounds a bit trite to even say this but I must.  We live in a global community.  Isolationism is no longer an option.  Economically our lives are intertwined with others throughout our world.  For better and worse, in many respects, we are one.  In that, I find both strange comfort and perplexing uneasiness.  The comfort comes from the hope that the ‘oneness’ we experience will lead to some rock solid solutions to the problems ailing us.  The uneasiness comes from knowing that oneness is always mightily challenged by selfishness.

Some will look to scripture and gaze into the skies for Jesus’ soon return.  ‘War and rumors of war’ will galvanize end timers.  However, that is very unsatisfying from my perspective.  Sitting, hoping and waiting is unappealing and plays into the hands of our real enemy.

So what should people of faith do?  I’m at somewhat of a loss as to what to say and I find myself offering only this.

Certainly, we must pray for the Lord’s will to be done.  Perhaps a pledge to pray for leaders of the free world who are stepping into unpopular and gut wrenching territory.  For sure, for a quick end to what is happening in Libya.  We must pray for the protection of innocents.  We must pray against evil and ask for the personal courage to confront it wherever we are. And we must ask for the Lord’s help for each of us to the next right thing, in the right way, with the right attitude, and the right motivation.  I’m naive enough to still believe that good people doing the right thing can create a world wide tipping point towards good.  God is asking us to be ‘kingdom builders’ and the only way we can do that is by behaving like kingdom people.

The whole world is being tested these days.  Perhaps if we embrace the story line presenting itself and enter into it determined to help rewrite the plot line of worry, hate, terror and despair God will use our obedience for His purposes. We can still make a difference you know.  With God all things are possible. All things.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Never think out loud.

I’ve been following some of the Rob Bell stuff over the past few days.  Here’s what I’m learning. If you are an evangelical Christian don’t ever, ever, ever, think out loud in any kind of public forum about controversial issues.  You’ll be thrown to wolves claiming to be sheep.

Rob Bell has written what looks to be a controversial book.  He’s dead meat in some circles already.  Even people who haven’t read his book are throwing him under the truck and labeling him a heretic.  I wonder what that says about us?

The problem with Christianity, it has been said, is Christians.  Oh my we can be an ugly, pretentious bunch of malcontents can’t we?  We go to battle over our preferences and stand quiet about the Lord's convictions.  We gather in little ghettos of paranoia and argue over some of the smallest things.  Of course it’s also been said that what’s good about Christianity are Christians.  You know of whom I speak I’m sure.  They are the ‘wounded healers’ (thank you Henri Nouwen) who in word and deed so evidently follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

But when we are bad we are very, very bad.

Here’s the thing about the Rob Bell controversy.  I have hunch he’s saying some stuff that needs to be talked about. Deeply talked about.  He’s raising some long dormant issues and showing them the light of day.  It’s making the status quo nervous.  Maybe deservedly so. For sure, because Bell is an influential voice what he says will be noticed.  A meaningful conversation needs to occur. But the conversation won’t happen if there’s a climate of finger pointing and mean spirited accusation.  Who wants to be in a conversation when people are shouting and sticking fingers in their ear so they can’t hear?

I’m looking forward to reading Rob Bell’s newest book ‘Love Wins’.  Already, based on some reviews, I have a hunch there’s some things I’m going to struggle with.  Some assumptions, preferences and convictions of mine will be challenged. I’ll  probably have some things to say, perhaps even challenging Bell’s conclusions and thought processes. There’s also a good chance that I’ll be able to endorse good portions of the book.  Both in the challenge and in the endorsement I run a risk.  For on both sides of the aisle there will be people who won’t want to have a conversation but instead will want to label and accuse.  It’s too bad. For those folks are missing out on all the fun stuff where good people exchange meaningful ideas and where minds are changed by persuasive arguments based on rigorous biblical reflection.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Life Changes.

It changes in a minute.  One minute life is as usual. The next everything changes.  Everything.

The Japanese earthquake comes on the heels of what happened in Christchurch, the floods in Australia and Afghanistan, and the devastation in Haiti.  We sit in stunned silence praying for those who are suffering. Some (I wish most) go online and send some $$$ to our favorite aid group.  And then we wait.

Some, I’m sure, point a finger to the sky and scold God. It’s understandable.  When we are feeling circumstances are out of control we look for someone or something to blame.  God is both available and convenient. Scolding God offers short term relief I suppose but lacks long term satisfaction.

Some others start paging through their Bible looking for prophetic linkages.  They are certainly there for the finding but there’s something disconcerting about ‘end times’ fascination and conjecture in the midst of such deep despair and suffering.  Those of us who are faith filled, but more cynical, can point to other times and places when the end was supposed to be near but here we are living as unraptured beings still.  And we kind of wish the 'prophetmongers' would care more about what is right before us instead of always looking in the sky.

My take.  Stuff happens.  And bad stuff happens because nothing in this world is operating as it was created to be. We all feel the impact of a world racked by sin.  We see it when nature turns a bit ugly, in fractured relationships, in gut-wrenching injustices both personal and systemic,  in sickness and finally death.  Some despair in the midst of this. Others look for God in the midst of it all and are encouraged to keep building the kingdom instead of shaking our fists at it.

Only a few days into Lent we get smacked upside the head by something ugly and gut wrenching.  It should stir our hearts towards prayer and action.  At least I hope it does.  I don’t pretend to understand what all this means.  But when I don’t understand and can barely comprehend I yearn to walk more fully in the footsteps of Jesus.  Someday, Scripture tells me, I’ll see more clearly than I do now.  But now is not the time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On Wisconsin?

I’ve been following the fracas up north in Wisconsin (my home state).  It’s a gutsy fight with some huge issues on the table.  Unions are up in arms, the Tea Party is calling for fiscal integrity at any cost, Democratic legislators are hiding out, the remaining Republican legislators are starting to find loopholes to advance their cause, and half the state is deciding to hang out in the capitol for as long as it takes.  And now legislators are being sent death threats.

I don’t know how to solve any of this actually.  My take is that unions have a right to exist and government employees need to be able to organize to gain leverage.  And a good union will know that at this particular time in history everybody is going to have to  come back to the table to rethink all those things we take for granted.  But they need to be at the table because like it or not they still serve as a necessary check and balance to both the excess and the indifference of government.

The Tea Party is learning that not everything they advocate for is really the ‘people’s choice’ no matter what the last election led them to believe.  But I’m actually glad they’re around and keeping everyone alert.

I do wish the Democrats hiding out in Illinois would go back home because they’re just going to develop some really bad habits hanging around our politicians.  Kind of wish they’d go back to the table.  Sure, they don’t have the votes but that’s part of the political process. And the Republicans aren’t winning the battle by finding loopholes either.  It’s got be frustrating to be without a quorum but those who live by the loophole usually get strangled by it in the end.  Gotta hope the governor in Badgerland will choose to rethink his strategy.  He might get what he wants in the short term but the issues are bigger than the here and now.  I'm kind of thinking that a bi-partisan approach would garner the biggest wins but I'm not sure we're capable of doing that anywhere these days in these polarizing times.

I’m glad to see people taking it ‘to the streets’ again.  It’s reminiscent of the Madison of my college days. After all it’s still by the people and for the people... right?

 And I do hope that all the fools sending death threats will be found and justice will be done.

There’s lots of anger up in Wisconsin.  I can understand it.  We work hard, plan our lives, start living into some dreams and then all of a sudden our goals are blocked. Then we either fall apart or go crazy with our anger.

It’s starting to happen all around the country.  We’re starting to settle into the stunning realization that what was ...isn’t anymore.  It’s all changing before our eyes.  Everything. And we’re not sure what to do except demand that everything go back to the way it was. Aint going to happen.

Sometimes my idealism kicks in and I wonder if we’re not on the edge of a stunning discovery.  I kind of dream that we’ll all wake up and realize that God can be trusted and that there’s a whole way of living and being that is staggeringly good.  What if we cared more, gave more, loved more, served more, worshipped more, conversed more, did more with less, became more generous, and looked, with habitual compassion, on the ‘least of these’ Jesus talks about?  What if we once again lived in communities where everyone, indeed, did know our name?  What if my need could be met by your excess?  What if we learned to carpool, recycle, read again and worked hard at becoming really interesting people?  What if we chose to only elect people who sought for common good and refused to endorse anyone who is obviously out for themselves?  What if we turned our back on excess and worked hard to insure that everyone lived in suitable housing and had a decent meal on their table?  What if we asked publicly held companies to really act with a sense of justice even if it impacted our own return on money invested?  What if we made it a practice to think win/win whenever we were at odds with other good people? What if we all decided to be good people at all times? What if?

I think God is doing a ‘new thing’.  It’s pretty obvious he’s allowing the whole world to enter into a huge time of transition including us here in the west.  I think the Lord might want us call a time out on advocating for our preferences and opinions and instead use our time to seek Him out and ask some hard questions about how he wants us to live our lives especially in light of the overwhelming needs and cultural issues before us.

I hope my friends in Wisconsin figure it all out.  But the mess we’re in all over the country won’t be swept away easily.  The solutions of the past might not be enough for the future we’re about to step into.  I really believe that the answers we need will ask us to do the very things we don’t want to do.  Perhaps then God will have us right where he wants us.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Ash Wednesday tomorrow.  I know a fair amount of people of faith who don't know anything about Lent.  Too Catholic for many more conservative folk of a certain Protestant bent.  But for many of us Lent makes sense and it is a good practice.

Lent prepares us for what is to come in the ups, downs and majesty of Holy Week.  It is about preparation.  It's about getting ready.  It's about a spiritual readiness so we can enter into Holy Week with eyes wide open. We get there through some very intentional spiritual practices.

A common Lenten question is "What are you giving up?" The belief is that in the 'sacrifice' one readies his/her heart and soul for whatever God is about to  do next.  It reminds us of the 'sacrifice' on the cross.

I'm going to do some things that will be good for my spiritual health and that includes giving up some guilty pleasures.  I want God to speak into my life.  Prayer, fasting, and sacrifice are time tested ways to prepare to receive what God is trying to get me to hear.

Do you ever feel that you're standing at a major life crossroad? Sure you do.  At least I hope you do.  That's a bit of my naivete I'm afraid. Because I know full well that all too many have very poorly developed  spiritual antennae and could be in the middle of the biggest crossroad of life and not even think of listening for God.  If that's you.  Might I suggest that you wake up. Sorry if that sounds harsh but someone's got to say it to you.

Lots of people use Lent as a means of earning brownie points with God.  It's kind of an empty religious tradition that doesn't lead to any sort of life transformation.  The best I can determine this spiritual life isn't about 'brownie points'.  That's kid stuff.  Just about everyone reading this is well beyond childhood.  You don't need brownie points.  You need a real, honest, authentic relationship with the God who loves you like crazy.

I'm really looking forward to Lent this year.  There's some things I need to figure out.  So in big and small ways I'm going to press the 'pause' button on my life.  I'm going to live with some intentionality fully expecting God to show up.  What about you?  How are you going to do Lent this year?  How do you want God to show up in your life?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Moral Compass

So what do you think?  Anything about either of these situations that bothers you?  Encourages you? Makes you wonder?

Brigham Young University center Brandon Davies was suspended from the Cougars' nationally-ranked team for the remainder of the season because he violated the school's honor code provision that prohibits premarital sex, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned.

Davies, a sophomore from Provo High School, acknowledged his transgression to BYU officials on Monday, according to multiple sources.

On Tuesday, the school owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced Davies had been dismissed from the team but was being allowed to remain in school while his situation was under review by the Honor Code Office. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Radio reports said that he turned himself in. (WMVP Chicago)

And in Evanston, IL at Northwestern University this controversy rages. (based on reports from Chicago Tribune and Northwestern Daily)

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro said today he is "troubled and disappointed" by the live sex toy demonstration on campus last week and has launched an investigation.

He released a statement saying the university is looking into the appropriateness of the demonstration, where about 100 students in a psychology class witnessed a naked woman being penetrated by a sex toy.

Schapiro called the decision by Professor J. Michael Bailey "extremely poor judgment."

"Although the incident took place in an after-class session that students were not required to attend, and students were advised in advance, several times, of the explicit nature of the activity, I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member. I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission," Schapiro said...

Bailey has defended the demonstration. In a statement Wednesday night, he said "the students find the events to be quite valuable, typically, because engaging real people in conversation provides useful examples and extensions of concepts students learn about in traditional academic ways." 

The first response from Northwestern however was from Al Cubbage identified as a spokesperson for the university. "Northwestern University faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial and at the leading edge of their respective disciplines," Cubbage said in the statement. "The university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge."

In his statement, Bailey said he has no regrets about the incident, which has received national media attention.

"Do I have any regrets?" he wrote. "It is mostly too early to say. I certainly have no regrets concerning Northwestern students, who have demonstrated that they are open-minded grown ups rather than fragile children.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Brain Blurts

The whole Charlie Sheen implosion is horrific to watch.  Just heard he's approaching 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. Guess we love watching train wrecks. That's pretty sad actually.  

The Academy Awards Show made a run at being relevant with younger hosts,  They were looking for a wider demographic.  Better material might have helped the relevancy concern . Funny is always good.  Glad ‘The King’s Speech’ won best picture.  Thought it was pretty uplifting and the acting ensemble was stellar.

Rob Bell has a new book out.  Lots of people are really mad about what he’s writing but I don’t know anyone who’s actually read it yet.  It will be interesting to see if folks will enter into the debate with any degree of civility. From what I've been able to surmise he's raising some issues people would rather not talk about.

Loved this quote I found on Sojourners. "I want the liberals who despise the Bible to take it more seriously, and the conservatives to do more than massage it for their own interests." - Rev. Peter J. Gomes, a Harvard theologian, author, and Baptist preacher who died Monday at 68. (Washington Post)

Wisconsin lawmakers are hiding out in Illinois. Are they being strategic or are they merely cowering in fear?  Something doesn't feel right about what they're doing.

The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin is pitting reform against the unions and all the history behind that movement.  This is interesting on a whole lot of levels. Happy to see democracy at work with good people taking a stand.  I wonder what the win/win is in all this though? Loved what I read someplace today “What would Jesus cut?”  Not happy hearing about death threats.

In Illinois, the legislature continues to do ‘not much of anything’.  Glad some things remain constant.

Both the NBA and NFL will be having labor negotiations.  Not sure anyone is going to have much sympathy for either side.  Multi-millionaire owners talking to multi-millionaire players about deals that only the rest of us can dream about.  Hope we don't get any ten million dollar player crying that he needs more in order to feed his family. 

The new Mayor in Chicago is going to be a force to be reckoned with.  He really does display a steely resolve.  I have a hunch that Chicago won’t be his final stop on the political ladder.

That guy in Libya is convinced none of his people are really upset.  He also believes Charlie Sheen is acting normally. My guess his life is about to look a bit different.

 'Change' anywhere in the world starts a chain reaction impacting us all. Anyone notice gas prices are getting a little scary?  We’re experiencing the ‘cost of freedom’.  It leads to an interesting question. Do we really want others to be free if it takes money out of our pocket or inconveniences us in any way?  Higher costs at the pump is maybe one way we get 'skin in this particular game'.    

It’s still ugly in Haiti I hear.  How soon we forget. Unlike New Zealand which has infrastructure and stable government the folks in Haiti are starting from ground zero.  Let's keep both countries in our prayers.

New grandson Eamon Patrick Murphy is a pretty cool kid.  What a life. Eats, sleeps, poops then starts the cycle all over again.  Pretty much the way life ends now that I think about it.

Going through physical therapy for a nasty bit of arthritis in my knee.  When I stand I sound a little bit like the entire drum line in a marching band.  If pt doesn't work, they'll juice it.  If that doesn't work I go titanium.  Still amazed at what we can do today to heal people up that wasn't available just a short time ago. We're blessed.

First fist fight (say that ten times real fast) of the season in Cubs camp.  Feisty group.  That probably means a World Series for us this fall.  Or not. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Lead Us Not

Why do wives worry about their husbands available and attractive co-workers?
Why do teachers worry that students aren’t doing their own work?
Why does the IRS wonder if we’re being honest on our tax returns?
The issue is temptation.  We all know the line between doing what’s right and good and wrong and bad is oftentimes very slender. 
I’ve been thinking about the Lord’s prayer a lot and in it we come to the phrase ‘lead us not into temptation. 
At first blush it sounds as if we’re asking the Lord not to tempt us. As if he’s standing there trying to compel us to do something that is evil. We know from Scripture that God isn’t in the tempting business but that He does allow our lives to be tested and trials to be present.
As a result there is no moment of your life that is not a moment when unbelief and disobedience is not a strong possibility. And so we pray as the Message phrases it ...”Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” 
Thomas Merton once told young monks at Gethsemane Abbey.  “Behind the attractions and the surface of things in the world, there is a force at work to deceive people - a force of deception.  Something’s cooking ...look out! If you stay out of the way of this force -whatever it is - you are better off.  And if you go horsing around with it, you are in trouble.” 
The trouble is that we might really like the story this force wants to write for us.  You know the chapter headings in that story don’t you?  Procrastination. Indifference. Greed. Lust. Food. Vanity. Pride.  Satan always uses both our circumstances and our desires as plot lines.
Whatever it is the temptation will always be to find happiness and fulfillment  in something other than God. The temptation is always to replace God with self in some way, shape or form. Self-preservation, self-concern, self-promotion, self-gratification.
There is an almost infinite variety of temptations.  Each is an opportunity to grow and make a God honoring response or to stumble and fall. Temptation is an insidious thing. It waits to prey on us in the most tender of moments.
I read about a couple once who were given the news that their son had an incurable disease.  Everyone, as you can imagine, was torn with pity for them, but they remained remarkably calm and uncomplaining.  One night as a friend left their house, he paused to express his admiration for their fortitude and spirit.  The boy's father looked up at the stars and said, "Well, it seems to be that we have three choices.  We can curse life and what it does to us at time and look for some way to express our rage.  We can grit our teeth and merely endure.  Or we can accept our life as still a gift, somehow, from God.  The first alternative is useless.  The second is exhausting.  The third enables us to go on truly living.  Gil Bowen sermon 11.21.99
The temptation was to curse life and the circumstances they found themselves in. To grit their teeth and endure.  And I’m sure they considered that. We all would.  But they stopped long enough to challenge what that would do to them.  And in the midst of what must have been a formidable temptation they chose to live by accepting this very hard set of circumstances. They decided to step into that story instead of the one the  tempter had for them. 

Or consider something we all deal with ‘greed’.  Not long after the movie Wall Street came out everyone was talking about the famous speech Gordon Gekko gave.  We refer to it now as his “greed is good” speech.  And a whole lot of folks bought into that particular philosophy.  And they caved into the temptation to get as much as they could anyway they could do it.  And that temptation has ended many a life and gotten us in some pretty deep economic waters and to some deeply murky and ugly cultural plot lines. 

About the same time I heard about some enormously wealthy men here in the Chicago burbs.  They formed a small group.  They called themselves the ‘Bruised Camels’ based on the scripture that says ‘it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven.”  They knew that their blessing of wealth would also be the place where the greatest attack would come from in their life.  And so they banded together to support each other in how they went about making and using their wealth for the glory of God.  They stopped long enough to understand the challenge before them and instead of bowing to all that greed represented they instead chose to move in the direction of generous stewardship. They chose the better story.

Bottom line is that the devil wants you to live into the teeniest of stories. Always on the lookout for little pieces of happiness. Settling for eating, drinking, and being trendy. Accumulating stuff. Having just enough God to be ‘religious’ but not enough to change our lives.  And God is saying “I’ve got a better story. Let's write it together.”