Archive for May, 2007

soreness

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
(Psalm 19:1-5)

As I was starting the race on Sunday, my friend Matt called my wife and quoted the verse above, to which he had been led that morning during his devotional time. “Bridegroom … champion rejoicing to run his course …” ‚&emdash; how appropriate for a weekend of celebrating a blessed marriage and running a marathon!
Words fail to describe how satisfying this weekend was for us. Gorgeous weather in the 70s and low 80s, breathtaking mountain vistas with quaint Vermont towns in the valleys, remote bed & breakfast with gourmet food and comfortable accommodations, and, of course, the company of my companion and best friend. (that last one was the “bestest” part)

The race was equally satisfying. Here are the pertinent numbers:

Time: 2 hours, 51 minutes, 5 seconds
Place: 37th 36th overall (5th in 16-24 age category)

(you can see way more information on my race than you probably care to by clicking here)

As you’ll see, I remained amazingly evenly paced through 3/4 of the race, then dropped off slightly in the last 10K. This happens to almost everyone, but it shows me that though my speed was up to par, I can be working more on my endurance for the next marathon so as not to “hit the wall” as hard. “The marathon will humble you,” as marathon great Bill Rodgers once said. (I actually met him this weekend, and he signed my race number) As expected, though, my time qualified me for the Boston Marathon, which looks to be my next 26.2-mile test (next April). So buy your plane tickets for Beantown soon!

I hope to have photos of our weekend up sometime later this week, so look out for those.

Lest there be any confusion, however, the absolute best part of the weekend was not crossing the finish line to a screaming gallery of marathon spectators, but seeing the smile of my beautiful wife from across the breakfast table … strolling hand-in-hand with her down cobbled Church Street in Burlington … curling up with her to watch Indiana Jones and Two Weeks’ Notice in our room … enjoying leisurely drives with her through the green mountains …

You get the picture …

crazy month … weekend away

May has been somewhat of an involuntary blogging sabbath for me. It has literally been one of the craziest months ever. From Mitch’s graduation from ACU in Abilene to his arrival in Boston for the month … to a weekend with almost all the in-laws in Boston for Chrissy’s graduation last weekend … throw in the absolute most insane month of the year for me at work, plus Chrissy’s summer classes…

One can see where being profound on a blog day in and day out would drop fairly rapidly on the list of priorities.

Well, we’re in desparate need of some R & R, which we’ll hopefully get this weekend … well, sorta.

We’re headed to a bed and breakfast just outside of Burlington, Vermont, for the long Memorial Day weekend. On Sunday, however, I’ll be running the Vermont City Marathon, the culmination of almost a year of base training and five months of more intense running, complete with 10-to-22-mile runs on the weekend, interval runs on the track during the week, and between 40 and 60 miles of total mileage per week. Oh, and I’ve been eating like Pavarotti in a pool of pudding.

This isn’t my first marathon (I ran the Memphis Marathon in 2003), but I’m ready to see the work pay off on Sunday morning.

me running.jpgSome of you are thinking, “I didn’t know Steve was a runner.” Well, that’s because I don’t blog about it a whole lot. Only those we know personally know of my love of running, one that I’ve had since cross country days in high school. It’s an intensely personal hobby for me, as I actually prefer to strike out on my own than run with a pack of other people (this is quite different than most long-distance runners, I’m told). I tend to think deeply when I’m out running, even coming up with future reflection topics for blogs or other writings. Running is, for me, a spiritual discipline, a time of intentional daily sabbath.

So this is a big weekend for me, though I know marathons don’t carry the same significance to everyone.

n54603344_31007459_4718.jpgIt’s also a big weekend because Chrissy and I will celebrate the completion of our third year of marriage, hopefully the equivalent of mile 1 of a 26.2-mile race. There have been cramps, there have been water stops, and even a few stretching breaks, but neither of us has even once considered dropping out of the race. It truly is a joy to be on this journey with such a faithful, grace-extending, beautiful woman.

(who will, incidentally, be cheering me along when I want to quit at miles 18, 19, 24, 25 on Sunday)

our commission

We’re discovering that our commission here in Boston is not to plant churches, but to live radically as the called-out people of God, in close proximity to like-minded disciples. (and invite others into the way of Jesus, but one that we are modeling first and foremost)

What, you ask, is different about that than what we’re all called to do? Good question.

——————–

UPDATE: OK, I had some time on my run to think about what I mean when I say these things.  Let me break it down.

“live radically” – The way of Jesus is radical in the world’s eyes, because it places its hope in something that is not of this world.¬† It embraces the “dream of God,” which is to see all people put their whole trust in Him and adopt His character: care for creation; identifying with and speaking for the poor and marginalized; expressing our God-given creativity; imitating Christ in purity and righteousness; practicing interdependence and fellowship with fellow believers; enjoying rhythms of work, play and rest; and making all of life a “song of praise” to the Creator. (the church does so many other things and God is so many other things, but space doesn’t allow me to list them all here…)¬† You can see how this way of life is truly “radical” to those not living in God’s plan, but as Shane Claiborne says, these things are “ordinary” to the Christian.

“called-out people of God” – We are called out of many things.¬† I like Mike Frost’s use of the term “exiles” in his most recent book, which has that name.¬† Our lives are exilic in many ways: we live in the desert, under the tender care of a loving and leading God, but awaiting a final day of deliverance; we live outside of the domain of religiosity, which is a slave to laws and power and human strength; we live outside of the kingdoms of this world, choosing instead to serve the King of Kings.¬† So this is what I mean by “called out.”¬† I suppose it could also mean that we have God-given purposes on our lives, but I mostly mean it in an exilic way.

“in close proximity” – This is different for everyone, of course, but the older I get, the more I’m convinced that true, deep fellowship is difficult — if not impossible — outside of regular, informal contact in the context of close proximity.¬† For some, this means living down the street, and for others it means living in a big Victorian house together.¬† The non-negotiable in our minds is¬† regular contact with other “exiles” that doesn’t need to be planned out, and that spurs us on to follow the way of Jesus.

“like-minded disciples” –¬† Those who strive to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ, and take Jesus at his word, no matter how difficult.¬† This has enormous implications, of course.

In summary, I think the people of God critically engage, but refuse to adopt, many of the facets of the culture around them.¬† God’s way serves as a refreshing alternative to the way of self-indulgence, dog-eat-dog, and hopelessness, because it is a taste of life lived as we were created to live — as fully human.

mitch is here!

mitch.jpg

Mitch is Steve’s younger brother.¬† Mitch got an internship in Boston.¬† He’s here for a little over a month.¬† He’s staying with us.¬† We’re happy.¬† He dressed up like Elvis for a costume party, which explains the photo. (his chops aren’t nearly that long)

life is indeed short

Check this out:

billboard.jpg

Thankfully, this Chicago billboard was taken down by the city this week. As my friend Houston said, this might be the equavalent of “Got Milk?” for the relationally challenged.

But what does it reveal about the way we (humans) are?

——————-

PH2007050902804.jpgIn other news, a fight broke out last night in the balcony of Boston’s Symphony Hall at the opening night of the Boston Pops, a show which featured Ben Folds. Apparently, one man began to heckle another man a few rows down, who he perceived to be a fan of the New York Philharmonic, the Pops’ bitter rival. The NY fan, disgruntled because his orchestra can’t seem to put things together in 2007, shot back with an expletive-laced comment about how the Boston’s orchestra relies too heavily on its “power-packed woodwind section” and its high-priced cellist from Japan, and it was on. Hair was pulled. Shirts came off. Girlfriends were embarassed.

Luckily, before anyone fell out of the mezzanine level, the “Boston Cops” were called and both men were ejected …. from … the … concert hall. (never thought I’d ever type that combination of words) Historians are already calling this the “Symphony Brawl of 2007,” an event that will go down in NY-Boston rivalry history.

Embracing a Theology of Death

By Neil Cole, Church Multiplication Associates

In every town of America there is at least one church with a building worth hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars. This church meets every Sunday morning with only eight to ten silver and blue haired women and one or two balding gentlemen for a “service”. Empty parking spaces, silent pulpits and dusty pews cry out for days of glory gone by. The church has been dead for years, perhaps decades, but has been kept alive unnaturally by an artificial life support system. The soul is gone, brain waves have ceased, but mechanization keeps the lungs breathing, the heart beating, and the door opening every Sunday morning at precisely 10 AM. Why? We are so desperately afraid to admit failure that we will keep the church alive as long as we can. It is as if the continuity of Christianity depends upon this one church staying alive. If the church dies God has failed, and we cannot allow that.

Why are we so desperate to keep churches alive? While I know that the church is special to Jesus (His bride!) I think we have lost touch with something very spiritual…death. Can it be that death is as spiritually right as life? Well consider this, without death you cannot have a resurrection, the Gospel, salvation…life. Perhaps it is time that we embrace a theology of death.

The thinking behind this has caused us to commit the worst treason possible against heaven‚&emdash;self-preservation. Why is self-preservation so bad, aren’t there worse things a church can do? Self-preservation is nothing short of blasphemy, it is taking into our own hands the function of Deity. It is playing God, plain and simple. That is the problem. As a consequence, literally tens of thousands of Christians and churches are deceived into a “churchianity” that is carried out by men, for men, under the name of God. I wonder if God likes getting the credit for all of the crap we do.

While we clearly avoid a theology of death, the opposite is not a theology of life, for life is not what you will find in churches that strive to avoid death at all costs. I don’t know how it happened, but sometime in history we bought into a theology of safe. We think that we should do what is safe, for ourselves, for our families and for our churches. In fact, we are convinced that anything that is unsafe must be outside of God’s will and is thoroughly un-American. A theology of safe is put in place as a defensive measure to avoid death. This leads us right down the path of self-preservation.

Jesus is not about safe. He is the one who said things like… “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” “He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” “Let the dead bury the dead‚&emdash;you follow me.” These are not safe and wholesome words, they are words that shake us up and toss us out way past what is safe.

I have come up with two acronyms to expose some of our delusion regarding these things. The first reveals our inadequate theology of SAFE. The other is how Jesus wants us to embrace a theology of DEATH.

Safe is…

Self-preservation = our mission
Avoidance of the world and risk = wisdom
Financial security = responsible faith
Education = maturity

This is what a theology of death looks like…

Die daily to who we are
Empowerment of others (not self) is our life
Acceptance of risk is normative
Theology is not just knowledge, but practice
Hold tight to Christ with an open hand for everything else.

Jesus said, “He who clings to his life shall lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” We need to embrace a theology of death, our lives depend upon it!

round-up

here are a few good things I’ve read this week:

&emdash; First, as Radical Congruency pointed out, TallSkinnyKiwi may have written the most important piece on ecclesiology so far this year. You need to go read it. Now. =)

&emdash; Miller asks perhaps the most important allegorical “What if?” question you’ll hear … today. (ok, this year … or in your lifetime) Well, would you?

&emdash; Mark shares his reflections — the good, the bad, and the ugly — on a year of living with another couple in intentional Christian community.

&emdash; Houston weighs in (sorta) on the immigration debate with this humorous post.

Last night, I heard D.L. Hughley on the Tonight Show talking about immigration. He quoted the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to be free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” and said that if we don’t want immigrants here, we should sand that poem off. “Or at least add, ‘Except Mexicans,’ to the end,” he added. “Now we want to build this high wall down along the border,” he said. “We should at least engrave their names in it and tell them it’s some sort of monument to them.”

&emdash; Finally, some Episcopal churches in the Boston area are holding “U2charist” services, which will weave live versions of the Irish rockers’ spiritually bent songs into these churches’ normal liturgy.

What have you read of some profundity this week?  Do share.