I left my house on Thursday to give someone a ride.  I hung out at a coffee shop killing some time while my passenger (we’ll call him John) visited a friend, Charlie.  After an hour or so, I went to pick John up again and take him to his new temporary apartment (arrangements that were necessary until his permanent housing becomes available).  I know that’s a quirky way to begin a post but I thought I would share the mundane way my day started.

Except that it wasn’t really that mundane.  A few more details…John’s friend is a poodle.  A poodle named Charlie.  The poodle is staying with a sitter while John waits for his new apartment to become available.  The sitter had called and said that it was time for Charlie to be groomed.  John called me this morning just before left the house to ask if we might add a trip to Charlie’s sitter’s house to our route.  He spoke about his poodle as if it were his child.  He talked about how it understood why he had to have it stay with a sitter and he knew the poodle would still love him.  This all seemed a little humorous to me.

Except that it wasn’t really that humorous.  John has HIV/AIDS.  An HIV/AIDS ministry in our area called and asked if I could give John a ride because he was being “evicted” from the apartment he had been living in.

Except it wasn’t an apartment.  It was a hotel.  I was taking him to another hotel (one in which most folk reading this would never stay).  He’s resigned to living in hotels until he is able to move into some new government housing that will be coming available in the next few weeks.  This ministry helps John pay for the hotel rooms which keeps him from basically being homeless.  Which makes you wonder where John’s family lives…one would think they could help John out through this tough time.

Except that his family has disowned John.  They live 15 miles from the hotel where he was staying.  His parents have “failed to live up to the title ‘parent’ for quite some time” according to John.  Which leaves John and Charlie the poodle and the good folk at the HIV/AIDS ministry, and someone else that might be willing to keep his dog, or give him a ride, or just be a friend, to be…what? family?  What I did doesn’t come close to qualifying as such.

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I pray to the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob…to the Yahweh of Judah…that this is a joke (and it would be funny…except that if reflects some reality in the religion industry today). There are a lot of ways to go with this but I’ll just post this link and see if anything develops in the comments…  Thanks Mark (I think) for sending me this link.

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Serbs clash with UN and NATO in north Kosovo | Reuters

Serbs clash with UN and NATO in north Kosovo | Reuters

It’s hard to keep up with all the unrest in the world these days. I have a Google alert regarding the Kosovo situation because of my travels in that region and because I have friends who live there. Their are complex arguments on all sides of these ethnic clashes and many of the claims made predate the formation of our country. Take a couple of minutes today (at least the amount of time you took filling out your NCAA Tournament brackets) to educate yourself about an issue or about ongoing conflict outside our borders.  Create a Google Alert regarding that issue.  Be an informed consumer of the news and an informed voter.  Here are a couple of links that might help your search:
The Carter Center: Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.
Save Darfur
The One Campaign
Compassion International
World Vision
Peace Corps

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Can Baptists Cooperate? « Tony Jones

Can Baptists Cooperate? « Tony Jones

I attended the gathering that Tony refers to in his blog post linked above. It was a good meeting in Asheville and Tony did an excellent job with his presentation as well. (check out his new book The New Christians:Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier)

I have been involved in what has become the “emergent conversation” for several years now. McLaren, Jones, Padgett, Scandrette, Keel et al. created a network and named the conversation, but it was a conversation taking place across the spectrum of Christian denominations and faith traditions. When we actually saw books putting into words our hunches, frustrations, dreams, etc. it was a total OK-I’m-not-alone-out-here kind of moment. (I remember distinctly asking my wife to read the first few paragraphs of McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian, and she replied back, “Did you write this?”, referring to my own transition from vocational ministry to secular vocation and back and the similar feelings I shared with the character Pastor Dan–“One year from today I will not be in the ministry.”  Like pastor Dan, my prediction was wrong as well.)

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Emmanuel Baptist Church (Alexandria, LA) were actually the vehicles that led me initially into this emerging church conversation early in the 1990s. I was employed within the systems of the Southern Baptist Convention and observing the noise and clamor of Baptists fighting from the inside was at the very least disillusioning and more accurately faith-destroying. However, running parallel to the Southern Baptist train-wreck were these two institutions: Emmanuel and CBF. Neither were wowing anyone with anything approaching numerical growth. Both had their own problems. It would have been impossible to go “Pollyanna” about either. However, the community of faith I found in those places felt like home.

This post has gotten WAY too long. I’ll just end abruptly by saying it was very cool to read in Tony’s blog, “thems my people”. It was nice for someone from one side of my family to recognize the resemblance to the other side of my family.

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Father. Father? Father!! *&$#@! Father! …father…

The Cry to God as ‘Father” in the New Testament is not a calm acknowledgment of a universal truth about God’s abstract fatherhood. It is the Child’s cry out of a nightmare. It is the cry of outrage, fear, shrinking away, when faced with the horror of the ‘world’; yet not simply or exclusively protest, but trust as well. ‘Abba Father’–all things are possible to Thee …

Rowan Williams

This is from my readings a couple days ago. I’ve read it before but for some reason it seemed to resonate a little more deeply on this particular day. One thing that education and life experience rob you of is your innocence…or maybe just your naivety. There was a time that I could get pretty emotional about the “Abba, Father” sermon. It was quite simple because I have a model “earthly father” to project upon my image of God. When taken to a divine degree, it made for a pretty impressive Father God. Then I went off to seminary to get my credentials…learn to minister, to preach, to vocationally do what I felt “called” to do. I’ve lived within this vocation for about 20 years in various forms. It has been an interesting and rewarding journey for the most part.

However, one thing I’ve realized over the last couple of years is how jaded I have become concerning religion. I’ve found that it fits well in the old adage, “Legislation and sausage are two things that are much better appreciated if you don’t have to watch them being made.” For me, religion can easily be added to that list. My understanding and experience of God is for the most part a vocational, religious and abstract exercise. It has been well outside my experience to actually engage “Father God” in the concrete ways alluded to by Rowan Williams.

The closest I have come to that was hearing my own cancer diagnosis almost a year ago and lying in my bed at night pleading to live to see my grand kids. However, as the urgency of that time fades away with each clear report from my doctor, I easily equate those emotional prayers with the trauma of that initial experience. Please hear me accurately. I am not trying to be overly dramatic, nor am I saying I’m an agnostic or atheist. I am merely saying, a tangible relational experience of God has ranged from difficult to non-existent in recent years.

I’m attempting to adopt some new practices into my spiritual life. I’ll see what happens. My rational self remains rather skeptical about the outcomes of these new routines. I’m sort of at the point that I want to say to myself, “Don’t just do something, STAND there!” I’m weary of DOING religious stuff. I would like to be in a living relationship. It would be cool for it to approach my relationship with my dad. Instead, it’s still an abstract exercise at best.

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Flock Browser – The Social Web Browser

Flock Browser – The Social Web Browser
OK…I’m a fan.  I’ve been using the Flock browser for several weeks now and love it.  Check it out!  It really makes tasks like email, Facebook, uploading photos, blogging, reading news feeds, keeping up with blog feeds, etc. extremely easy.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  I never thought I would quit using Firefox but I haven’t opened it in 2 weeks.  I think you’ll love it.

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Kornheiser on Spirituality

(listen to excerpt) Tony Kornheiser on Spirituality

I’m a pretty big Kornheiser fan (I DVR PTI, I subscribe to the podcast of the radio show, etc.). I like him because he’s funny, intelligent, and his show is about much more than sports. In this clip, Tony and the gang talk about spirituality. I found it to be a fun/smart discussion. My goal for the coming year is to start a group that looks/feels like Tony’s Yom Kippur golf outing (click the title link above or here for the excerpt). I think at one level, what was so meaningful about that outing and what draws most of us toward that kind of experience is the community that allows such a conversation to occur. I want that. I know the dangers of trying to “program” something like that. However, the best church planting advice I ever heard was , “start something you need.” So…we’ll see what happens.