Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Sunday, October 31, 2004


"The mystery of the poor is this - that they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do to Him." - Dorothy Day

This week I'm reading several articles from the Catholic Worker Dorothy Day. I'll probably be posting later this week on her writings. Had a wonderful weekend. Visited with friends and went on the Nashville Ghost Tour on Saturday night. It is a one mile walking hour in downtown Nashville guided by a storyteller. He describes several "ghostly" experiences in these particular places. Stories ranging from a dead priest that rings a bell in St. Mary Church to arguing architects that built and are entombed in the state capital. Today my wife went to the Titans and I read Day's book. When she returned we craved our Halloween pumpkins and watched one of our favorite shows, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Hopefully work will not be so wild this week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Learning Process

Work has been incredibly busy with the end of the month just 3 days away. Mostly people are asking for Winter curriculum for kids. The other day I received a call from a lady out in Santa Monica, California who is a pastor for a United Methodist church. I had called a few days before and she was returning my call. I wanted to see what her church was using for Sunday School curriculum, especially with children. Even though she was not interested in our material, she and I spoke for about 15 minutes about education. She was telling me how they practice an old method called "the zone of proximal development." This method was produced several years by a Russian who said that people will learn better if they are in the same class with those that have just learned something new. For example, if you have kindergarten who cannot read yet intermixed with a class of 1st graders who just learned how to read, the younger kids will learn have to read more effectively.

I thought this was very interesting and asked her to explain how this effects her Children's Sunday School. She said that they allow they children to express themselves in various ways and find time to talk about their emotions or feelings with adults. The adults are there to listen, not just teach them stories from the Bible. "So many kids can memorize a verse in the Bible or some equation in school," she said, "but they have no idea what it means. The other day a child from another church that I know told me the first verse she just memorized. She began to say John 3:16 perfectly. Afterwards, I praised her efforts and asked what that verse means. The little girl said, 'I don't know.'"

I love to teach. Last year I taught a Sunday School class for college aged kids at a small church. We usually had about 4-8 people in class every Sunday. After the experience, I wondered about how people learn. And if people go to church and school all the time, are all we doing is teaching them information? Maybe there is a different way we can examine the learning process and how it can be shaped to move beyond information to incarnation. Here is an article I found that deals with Children's education, but could definitely be applied to more advanced ages.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Return of Greatness

Even though I claim MTSU as my Alma Mata, I am still a big fan of Texas A&M football. This is where I attended college for one and half years of my life. I have seen some great football played on Kyle Field back in 1998 and 1999. I witnessed players like Dat Nguyen, Dante Hall, Bethel Johnson, and Jamar Tooms make amazing and game-breaking plays. I saw A&M beat Nebraska, the number 5 ranked team in the nation at that time in front of over 80,000 fans.

Back then A&M was usually ranked in the top 10 of every preseason poll in the nation. For the last few years, they have slumped. R.C. Slocum finally retired and new head coach Dennis Franchione took the reins. In his first season, Franchione saw a team with potential fall to a teams such as Texas, Nebraska and Texas Tech by a margin of 30 plus point, not to mention the 77-point pounding Oklahoma displayed against the Aggies. They finished the season with a disappointing record of under .500, far below what many expected.

But that was last year. Behind a new offense (shotgun 'zone' read) and a dazzling quarterback named Reggie McNeal, the Aggies find themselves ranked 17 with a record of 5-1. So what happened to the struggling team a year ago? Franchione stressed the concept of team to the Aggies and implemented this by removing their names from every jersey - emphasizing that the name on the front is whats important. The coach will replace their names when he thinks they've earn it. Well done, Coach Franchione.

On a lighter note from David Letterman, here is one of the Top 10 Reasons the Boston Redsox Miraclouly Won their series against the Yankees down 3-0:
Number 2: What do you expect - when you have a guy on the team that looks like Jesus.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Qualifications of Youth Ministry

What a great night for baseball!! Go Sox. And go Astros. I'm in a way pulling for the Stros because Jennifer's former roommate works with their organization and can get two tickets each to the World Series if they make it.

I ran across this add for a ministry position on a university's website. My guess is whoever wrote this up is definitely not a teen.

"The X Church of Christ in Somewhere, USA is seeking a youth minister to become a part of our community, church and lives. Our congregation, about 150, has two elders and nine deacons and an active youth group of 15 - 20. The successful candidate will hold a degree in Youth Ministry or Biblical Studies from an accredited university or have equivalent experience. In addition to the typical youth minister functions, you should be cool and like to "hang out" with teenagers. Being a small congregation, it is important that our youth minister be able to work with other area youth ministers and plan joint activities. We also wish for the youth minister to be involved and involve the youth in missions. If interested, please send a resume and a paragraph describing your philosophy on youth ministry."

Yikes! Who here feels like they are overly qualified in the much needed area of "coolness?" I'm out.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Adam the Naturalist

The weekend was great! All except for my wife getting sick from the outdoors, my car having a flat tire this morning, my good friend getting bit by some poisonous spider, and my tooth being grey. Other than that, I had a great time. I love being outdoors. It was cold (mid 40s) Friday night but the campfire kept us warm. It makes my day to hear my mother-in-law say, "I'm in top physical shape. I can do 45 pushups in one minute." She is in her second week of police academy today, so remember her in your prayers.

Have you ever thought about Adam naming all those animals in the beginning of creation? To be honest, I don't take much notice of the beginnings of Genesis, probably because I know whats there. Also I think the English language does a great disservice to the poetry that Moses was writing. Even though I took one semester of Hebrew, I haven't practiced it since I finished the class (sorry Mr. Bankhead).

So back to Adam...have you ever thought about that scene in Genesis were Adam gets to name all the animals that God created? After my initial reading of chapter 5 in Donald Miller's book Searching for God Knows What, I began to let my imagination fly with Miller's thoughts. I think its interesting that God sees Adam is lonely, even in the perfect Garden. Adam needs someone to help fill this void. First I think it is rather interesting that God made humans to need each other. Yes, God is our ultimate desire, but human relationships are such a necessity in life. After God decides Adam needs a companion, he puts him in charge of naming all the animals. Now if you believe in evolution or not, there are about 1 million to 50 million species around the time of Eden. It would take someone over 100 years to name and even categorize each individual species that was created back then. After the enormous deed of naming the creatures is done, God sees that still no helpmate is suitable for lonely Adam. I wonder during all this time of naming each animal, if Adam was trying so hard to communicate with them to find companionship. Like trying to talk with cattle or swimming in the deep with the fishes. After a long and strenuous task, God creates another being for Adam to understand, to commune with, to connect with each other's souls. It makes me imagine how these two fell in love with each other. Did it take a long time? Was it "love at first site?" After seeing all of creation and coining names for creation, wouldn't Eve in Adam's eyes be the most beautiful and wondrous creation ever made? In a moment such as this, words would be almost impossible to describe the wonder, the emotion, the electricity of the first meeting between these two. Yet, Moses seems to capture this scene with a little piece of poetry:

Bones of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh. (Genesis 2:23)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Thoughts on the Bible

If our modern methodology is superior to the methodology of historical narrative mixed with music, drama, poetry, and prose, then why didn't God choose lists instead of art?

What if we stopped looking at the rules and lists and formulas and rather looked through them at the larger and more obvious message?
(quotes from Don Miller's "Searching for God Knows What")

If we started to read the Bible as the grandest narrative that gives us our identity, how would we begin to interpret its pages? Did God intend for us to map out the Bible's language, to grid Scripture as formulas and charts? How did the Hebrews read Scriptures? Is there any chance we are able to view the Bible purely objectively? What about subjectively? If the Bible is a 6 act play of some sort, how does that effect our doctrines? What if God is calling us to live out the overarching message of the Bible in a improvisational way?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy on Spirituality

I found this interview of Jeff Tweedy (frontman of Wilco) from my good friend's blog. Interesting thoughts about spirituality and connecting with something big than ourselves.

Q: A lot of your songs on A Ghost is Born use religious and spiritual imagery, like ghosts and devils and Jesus. Does come from a gospel and folk influence, or is that something that you personally want to put in the songs?

Jeff: I’m really interested in religious philosophy and theology and comparative religion. Mostly, I’m just interested in spirituality, because I think music is really all about spirituality and connecting with something bigger than yourself. Sharing, having a sense of belonging with a group of people when you’re playing music with people and listening to music with people and playing music to an audience. I think that that is a really transcendent, extremely powerful human experience. It has led me to think a lot about spirituality in particular. And it’s just something I’m interested in. I tend to be very suspicious of organized religion, of dogma, of firmly held systems of belief that don’t allow for tolerance. I find (that) to be contrary to the basic principles of spirituality. I don’t know, to me spirituality is like a biological function of being human. All human ideas and religions seem to grow out of some biological experience. We’re wired to try and figure it out. I just find it all fascinating, and I don’t think there’s anything beyond being in love with the mystery of it all. I’m learning not to care so much about the answers as asking the questions.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Emerging Interviews

Last night was the first devotional I have attended since I have been married. Actually I went to a summer devo once but it isn't the same as the ones during the school year. For those of you who don't know, these are devotionals every Monday night on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. This is the campus ministry that I was involved in as a student for two years and then interned with them for another two years. Raiders for Christ as well as campus ministry in general have a special place in my heart.

The set up was the same. Light off with everyone standing and singing a mix of "old" and "new" praise songs. We probably sing for about 20 to 30 minutes straight (all acappella mind you) and then the speaker gets up and speaks for about the same amount of time. Following this we have prayer requests and then the rather unnecessarily long announcements. When all is said and done, we mingle and catch up with one another. All in all, it was a good time.

Last night, they had another speaker who is trying out for campus minister. So far, they have had 3 total guys come and speak, and have another 3 or 4 left to try out. He did a great job mixing in humor (showed quick wit when a disco sounding cell phone went off) and thought provoking stories that related to his overarching theme: people with a mission. I asked a friend of mine last night what he thought of this guy compared to the others. His reaction stated that the guy from last night was the best so far.

After devo, my wife and I went jogging near campus. Our conversation was geared mostly made on the interview process that churches practice. I have only been to two "ministry" interviews and both were different. Each included teaching a class as well as speaking at a devotional, meeting several students or people who will be involved in the ministry and a meeting of some sort with elders or the board of directors. Jennifer mentioned how difficult it is to base someone's 25 minutes devotional talk on their whole perspective of ministry and life in general. The search committee for a campus minister at MTSU doesn't have a student on it presently. I think this is absurd because those are the people that will be doing the nitty gritty on that campus. Sure you can have a charismatic speaker who can "wow" the crowd with cool powerpoint pictures and neat acronyms, but will does one know he or she will be truly connected to the vine? I guess no one can. I'm sure churches never knew or would have even imagined their ministers would commit adultery or theft when they hired them.

Since this new age is upon us and churches are looking to change with the cultural shift, I wonder how this will effect the process of interviewing in ministry positions. I wonder if churches would ask potential candidates to live with them for one week and allow them to do what they would if they were hired. Maybe they would ask those interested in the job, to travel to a monastery for two or three days after their interview process to contemplate their experience and the ministry at hand. After which they would report to the committee their experiences and thoughts. Maybe emerging churches might not even hire a staff and contain all lay-leaders. This is just from the top of my head, so I haven't put a lot of thought into the idea. Just thinking aloud.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Emerging hermeneutics

Today I find myself with more and more thoughts geared toward this emerging age. For the past few weeks, I have processing several ideas for a book I'd like to write. I don't see myself writing this book until I have more time to research the topic. Whats the topic you ask? I aint telling you, you just might steal the idea. If only there was a way to copyright my thoughts. I knew I should have paid more attention in copyright law. As of now, graduate school is eating up my time, and I'm only taking one class. My mid-term is this Thursday and we'll be covering Huss, St. Benedict, Luther, Anabaptist, Wesley and a few others.

My mind has been running this quote around in my brain this morning: "Does part of being in a post-modern context mean that we're also in a post-methodological context and that all we can do is endless hermeneutics?" This came from Tony Jones via Andrew Zirschky's blog. I thought to myself how our culture is constantly evolving. If this is true, which I believe it is, then aren't we bound to the continuous study of our culture, an unending hermeneutic so to speak? Not only studying our culture, but the way we view the Bible will have to morph as well, won't it? And if this path continues, will methods that churches use ever be constant from year to year? If this postmodern shift is an emerging one, won't the methods along with the presentation of the gospel have to as well?

This may not make any sense to anybody (in fact, I don't know if I understand myself). I guess I'm trying to grapple with the continuous motion that seems to be evident in our ever-changing world. Granted, I'm not one to follow culture first and then see how we can make it relevant to the Bible. I'm in favor of asking, "Am I (we) relevant to the story of God?" Yes we do need to have a cultural hermeneutic, but doing what is hip or cool, or what church X is doing isn't the answer. Methods will have to change because the people that they're geared toward are in constant motion. I just hope that I am able to submit to what God is up to during this age and morph along side his will.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Methods for Discipleship

After reading John Wesley this week (A Plain Account for Christian Perfection) I pondered what a community will look like that practices disciplines or methods as a community. If you know much about Wesley he took discpleship very seriously. During a missionary journey to the Republic of Georgia, Wesley and three of his colleagues took up a rule of life, lived communally and practiced submission to each other. Its been about two years since I read Richard Foster's Celebration of Disciplines. He seems to be an advocate of practicing spiritual discipline individually as well as a community.

When I was in high school, we had teachers that would assign us homework to take home so that we might learn the material ourselves. Although this was the majority, a few teachers would allow the students time to do their homework in class. I wonder, what if we practiced those spiritual disciplines during our gatherings instead of just telling people that they should practice doing these outside of the church.

The crusades that were so successful during the late 80s and early 90s were an attempt to get an individual to make the important decision of following Jesus or not. Saying that prayer or confessing in front of the church or being baptized for remission of sins. But what about getting those people to a decision to follow Christ in discipleship? (this is were the theology of baptism can really be effective) I'm not saying making that initial decision isn't important, but then what? Wesley started up the "Holy Club" at Oxford which resembles our small group movement today. His only requirement for joining the club was this question: "Do you want to be without sin?" With that said, what practices or disciplines will shape not only you as a follower of Christ, but shape your community? Won't it be different for each community considering their context?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Explosions of Hues and Watering Tastebuds

Recently, I have picked up my Message and started to read the gospel again. If you haven't read much of the Message by Eugene Peterson, I'd advise you to check it out. Some of its language is corny at times, but the majority of it is beautiful.

In reading the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about being salt and light. Now if you grew up in church or are in ministry you know exactly where to find this section and you could probably quote some of the verses by heart. Not only that but you could probably teach or preach of its significance without much prep time. After reading this section from the Message, it brought new meaning to me. It literally added "salt" and shed "light" on my previous understandings. Let me explain...

"Jesus said, 'Let me tell you why you are here. You're to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. Or another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.'" As I read this the theme of redemption sang out a wonderful anthem to me. I've heard "you need to be salt and light to this world" over and over again. And believe me this is a good thing. But the difference was being salt and light in this world was just understood to be different in our world. To show this world that disciples are different and to shine it bright before others. Again, I believe followers of Jesus are to be counter cultural, but why? Well, to be in the world but not of it; not to be transformed by the world's standards but by the renewing of your mind. Yes, yes, I agree. But what else? Well, if you're going to be salt, you need to get out of the salt shaker; if you're going to be light, don't hide it under a bucket. Again this is true, but I was not satisfied. My heart searched as I meditated on this section of words by Jesus. Finally the whisperings of the Spirit showed me how we are to "bring out" whats already here.

This world that God created is good, otherwise God wouldn't have said it was. God's beauty and magnificence surrounds the planets and universe and even surrounds us in each human creation. Jesus cared about redeeming the value of God's property. He cared about redeeming people (healing physically, emotional, mentally, spiritually), redeeming a culture that prided itself on the fact that they were the chosen race, redeeming justice to earth, redeeming life to abundant life. Jesus calls us all to bring out the amazing colors of the world and paint with our brushes the strokes of redemption. To brighten the mundane grays into sparkling reds and violets. To contrast the browns with green and midnights with sunshines. To add flavor to this life and to other's lives. To make existence more tasteful and enjoyable. And to be generous with our plates, not hoarding all the tastiness to ourselves. Redemption my friends is the gospel of Jesus. Allow your time on earth to bring out the holiness of life and redeem what God says is good.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Happy Feast Day

Wanted to wish everyone a Happy Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. As a wealth driven, war torn nation, we would do ourselves a favor and recognize this man as someone who promoted peace and simplicity in his time. Below is a prayer of peace from St. Francis.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred,
Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, Joy.

O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
As to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Friday, October 01, 2004

October Is Here!

I get so excited about the autumn. Do you? The leaves begin to change, you start using your heater, wearing sweaters, football. The sunsets seem to be prettier in the fall season. Have a great weekend. I'm off to see my mother-in-law who just got hired to be a police officer. She is headed to the academy this month. Well done Gina...just don't cuff me.