Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Friday, May 27, 2005

Tension as an American Christian

Yesterday after I posted my entry on Kirt and the Gospel, I received a call at work from a customer of mine. Now for work purposes, I'd rather not reveal my exact employers, but I'll tell you (for those that don't know) I work at a publishing company that services churches. So a customer from my base calls me up and wants to order something that they can put in the sanctuary of the church. What to know what it was? It's an American Flag. No big deal right, I mean we do live in America and its ok to show our patriotism. Well, I don't think its as easy as that.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the flag itself. I don't really pledge my allegiance to it but I see it more as a sign of freedom I guess or how this country had its ups and downs like all other countries in this world and how we are continuing (or should be) to seek ways to live together in harmony. And yes I'll probably never burn the flag not because I think its sacred but because I think its stupid to burn stuff anyway.

But I do have a problem when we mix God and country together in one batch. I've written about this before, so I don't want to repeat myself, but putting the American flag in our assemblies is sending a message that God is on our side or that America is a Christian nation which are both bogus ideals. Even singing "America" in church is just downright weird in my opinion. It even seems to have political party implications (religious right/Republicans) if you know what I mean. I think Lincoln said it best when he asked not if God was on our side, but if we were on his side.

So when I placed her order I felt very uneasy during our transaction. I wanted to hear why they wanted a flag in their church. I wanted to tell her that there are other symbols she could put in her church that portray redemption, creation, Kingdom ideals other than the country's flag. Of course I didn't because I'd probably be fired if I did. But I second guess myself this morning as to whether I enhanced this molding of church and empire by ordering her an indoor American flag.

Oh by the way, has anyone seen the "Christian Flag?" Look familiar? This is scary.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Gospel According to Mike Seaver

Since I'm baching it (bachelor for a few days) while my wife is out of town, I can't sleep well. So I watch TV. I had the pleasure of watching Ryan Adam perform on Letterman last night. He resembled a somewhat Refined Woodsman. While scanning through the channels my attention was caught by Mike Seaver, otherwise known as Kirt Cameron to you folks in reality. But I didn't catch ol' Mike on Growing Pains hanging with his pal Bonner, but on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). Now I have to admit, I watch TBN on occasion because I think its entertainment especially the Benny Hinn show. (Oh yeah, note to self, don't watch TBN real late at night or else you'll wind up cutting them a check and send it to them the next day out of your own sleepy haze.)

Anywho, on this particular program Mike and a friend of his with an Australian accent (we'll call him Aussie) were going around to people in Las Vegas and asking them if they would play Russian Roulette for 10 million dollars. If they said that they probably would do it, then suddenly they opened a briefcase filled with 100 dollar bills and a revolver and would reemphasize, "Are you sure you would risk your life for 10 million dollars." Now some usually relented their first response after they saw the gun, but a few said 'bring it on.' As I continued to watch, Mike and Aussie were talking about the need for salvation. Hey we all need salvation in our lives right? The only problem (well not the only problem but the main one) was they were attempting to converse with people using scare tactics. First you scare the "hell" out of people and then they will listen to you about Jesus which will lead them (or really their soul) to heaven. It seems like a very extreme pendulum swing if you catch the cut of my gib.

Mike and Aussie felt it necessary to lay a foundation of HELL before they even progressed in the redemptive story. One scene had Mike talking to this man on the street and the camera was right up in this gentleman's face and Mike was laying out the "courtroom scene" about being guilty of a crime and the Judge telling you that nothing can be done to escape your fine and you are sent to this eternal punishment of bad stuff. I'm sure this might be familiar to you all or maybe you have actually encountered a guy or girl like Mike before.

Now, I don't know Mike or Aussie or anyone from TBN for that matter, but I just can't help but shake my head in sadness that people are hearing a warped view of the so-called Gospel in the form of scare tactics and reductionism not too mention individualism. How long O Lord?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Blogging Authenticity

Recently, I've been struck with the idea of being authentic with my blog. This has been an outlet for me for the past year and I've enjoyed it for the most part. I've tinkered with it, I've changed templates, added pictures, links, RSS feeds, etc. Saying all that, what does it mean to be authentic in the blogging sphere?

For me, it was important to include voices from every area of life. That meant reading and linking those who were mommies, daddies, friends, strangers, pastors, writers, poets, musicians, homeless, gay, single, married, students, conservatives, liberals, unemployed, rich and poor. Even though these pilgrims might have a different perspective on life, I should always be listening so that I may learn from them. I'm grateful for the electronic community that has brought me in contact with bloggers such as these. They bring an added flavor into my world and challenge me to look beyond my own lens at how life can be lived.

There are other authenticity issues to be previewed on blogging, but this is just one that I see as essential. What do you think?

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Communal Trinity

*Warning: Theological wording ahead. Proceed with caution.

How much of the Trinity is understandable? You know the whole three-in-one or one-in-three talk. Maybe someone tried to explain it to you by using a metaphor such as a tree (root, trunk, branches) or maybe as H2O (ice, water, steam). I wonder how much of the Trinity is reflected your theology or even missiology? Is it a non-negotiable dimension of the gospel? Before, I would have said, "Uh, the Trinity is neat, but don't expect me to explain it." While I still believe in the divine mystery of a Trinitarian God (Father,Son,Holy Spirit), I'm beginning to realize how it can shape our view of God and our view of ecclesiology (the church). Allow me to flesh this out a tad.

The Trinity is a community that mutually shares divine nature with one another (3 different persons, but one). The Economic Trinity, then, is each "person" as revealed in the unfolding story and work of redemption. (Father functions in the divine program for creation, Son functions as revealer of God and redeemer of humankind, Spirit functions as completer of divine will) Therefore, there is equality in the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity. Each is not welding for power or prestige between the other, but shares in united love. Yet they do not withhold their love from the created order; rather their love for one another extends beyond their realm unto all creation. They share in the same telos (goal, eschatologically driven) and seek to invite those made in their image to participate in the new reality, a new way of being despite the fact that those who are invited are of inferior status. Doing so reveals the vulnerability of this divine community knowing full well that any could prostitute this lovely invitation.

Could this image of Trinity help the church evolve into a organic community that shares responsibility, loves all, invites everyone into a new way of being?

Thursday, May 19, 2005


I wanted to take time out to thank those at the Emergent Seminarians Breakfast/Conversation this morning for including me. I obviously am not as intellectual as these guys and girls are but they were extremely hospitible to me and for that I'm greatful, seeing as how I didn't pay to come to the EC and missed a tad bit of work this morning. (I should use this "errand running" excuse more often) My tribe as a whole is very far from engaging emergent theologies so it felt like a breathe of fresh air to drink up what these young voices had to say. Sometimes I feel as though churches of Christ are like Eastern Europe when it comes to evolving. My times spent in Romania is a prime example. When I was there, it seemed like I had stepped back in time some 10, 15 years. In my heritage change is not easily taken, making our strides almost 2 steps forward and 2 steps back. I do not want to give up on the institutional church or my tribe just yet, even though I'm becoming more aware of the need for monastic urbanism. But I am thankful for those voices (like those this morning) that make my theology start learning how to swim instead of floating on.

Thanks again Adam, Jake, Will, Mark, Alan, and the two lovely ladies whose names I have forgotten.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Happy Birthday Blog!

May 18, 2004 I penned these words on this blog:

Hi. I'm Clark and I'm a blogger. Yikes! To know all the implications of that is scary, I guess. So after much deliberation and thinking, actually I just had to defeat the laziness plague, I am adding my thoughts and ideas to the blogger community that resides in the time space continuum. I hope I can stick with this, but I make no promises. Anywho, thanks and enjoy.

I've enjoyed expressing my thoughts, opinions, concerns, successes and failures. Mostly I enjoy the comments people leave and their thoughts. I glean insight from you folks. So I want to thank those that read, those that comment, those that don't really understand what the heck I'm trying to say.

So if you would, comment and let me know who you people are so I can visit your blogs and thank you. Peace.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Proceed with Caution

*Warning: this post may gross you out. Proceed with caution.*

My appointment yesterday was with my regular doctor. My wife mentioned that I needed to get a physical done since I haven't had one in a lengthy while. I checked out alright (pending the blood test comes back ok). The one thing I did mention to the doc was one of my toenails looked a little gnarly. In fact it has been looking like that for a few months now and hasn't cleared up. Well he tells me that my toenail has a fungus meaning I'd have to take medication for up to 6 months to clear it up. If it doesn't clear up in 6 months, then I'd probably have to take it again. So what is the cost of this wondrous fugi-removal medicine? $340 smackers!! What the mess!?! $340 for a stinking pill that I take every other weekend for 6 months. Needless to say I'm not going to buy the medicine (not for the sake of affordablility but for the sake of ridiculousness). I think I'm going to try some holistic treatment for my alignment like soaking my foot in green tea or rubbing Vicks Vapor Rub around it. Anyone got a home-remedy to share?

Maybe I'm a tad ventish because my wife is going to spend a week in Florida with her folks and the Emergent Convention in Nashville is happening this weekend and for the second year in a row I am not able to go. Although it is happening from just a few blocks away from where I work........hmmmm.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Seeing Goodness

I've got to cut this short in lieu of an appointment today.

This weekend I had significant conversations with 3 people that I know, but haven't seen a quite some time. All three dialogues showed me that there is goodness in the world, and I'm glad these people are alive. They inspired me to seek out goodness and compassion in my own context. They don't read this, but for the sake of anonymity I'll refer to them as C, J, and M.

The first conversation surrounded the inner city situation in our town and in other places such as St. Louis and New York. C was extremely passionate about mentoring inner city youths in New York. He plans on moving up to NY after he finishes school and getting involved with the urban environment.

In my second discussion, I heard from J about how he has been to the edge and back. A few months back J was a living with his girlfriend, engaged, and ready to move and buy a house all while attempting to finish school. Not long before they were engaged, his soon to be bride left him, moved in with another fellow and is probably expecting. If anyone was in this position, one would have to be crushed. J was, but there seemed to be a renewed sense of him. He seemed different than the past few years I have known him. He said that life is......good. He felt as if he had another chance in life and was excited to be alive.

Finally, M told me her current work with the pregnancy center as a volunteer. She said that she really has connected with several of the girls there. The work is generally stressful, but she wants for the mothers to know that people do care about them and their baby, even if they have been raped or they don't know who the father is or if they are minors.

These 3 random people that I encounter this weekend portrayed glimpse of a breaking in Kingdom. It felt good to be alive and witness a breath of goodness in this world.

Friday, May 13, 2005

I Heart Huckabees

Probably the most interesting and thought-provoking movie I have seen in a long time was I Heart Huckabees. My wife and I went on a date last night that included dinner at our favorite local Italian place and renting a movie. I had wanted to see this film since it came to the theater but didn't have a chance to watch it. The movie is an existential comedy that covers several philosophical ideas such as the meaning of life, the connectedness of all humanity, and identifying reality. Even though the picture leaves the audience with more questions than answers, David O. Russell co-wrote and directed an enjoyable film that makes the audience think, yet laugh at the same time. Metaphysics and philosophies swirl throughout the film like the delightful music of composer Jon Brion. At times the characters seem to echo Solomon's poetic cry in Ecclesiastes that life is meaningless, random, and hopeless. Suffering cannot be evaded in one's existence, so one has to enter their own egocentricism to elevate the pain. Other times the characters seek out is the interconnectedness of all matter, meaning everything has equal value, therefore "everything you could ever want or be you already have or are." From this idea their worldviews and identities are deconstructed to see all of life like fabric on a blank: connected. Overall, it was a humorous film that was extreme smart (or extremely dumb). I can't say whether or not you should see this film cause it won't be for everyone. And trust me, just cause I liked it doesn't make me smart in the least sense. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Change or Die?

Thanks to Jason Clark via Tim Keel for this article.

Change or Die?
Sounds pretty harsh doesn’t it. Several doctors and business executives discussed why people refuse change and the factors that help engage change. “Behavioral change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings,” said one doctor. In a study of heart patients who were told they either stop their behavior or suffer the consequences (like death), the majority didn’t change their behavior. Since death was just too frightening to think about, these patients would return to their old style of living. Researchers noticed that the doctors motivated their patients with the wrong catalyst. Instead, medical professionals should counteract this negative stance on changing behavior and seek for the patient to live a joyful live. Not only do doctors motivate people by saying they will live longer, but they will actually feel better by doing normal things like talking a walk, or making love. Joy then becomes a more powerful motivator than death.
For more please read the article. It has some great applications for discipleship in my opinion.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Fair Trade Certified

One of my co-workers won a radio drawing Monday for free bagels and coffee at his workplace. So today he invited us all in to share his prize. While I munched on my blueberry bagel, I noticed my coffee cup was Fair Trade Certified. Here is the statement next to their logo:

When you ask for Fair Trade coffe, your choice guarantees that farmers receive a fair price, ensuring great coffee for you and a better life for them.

I had never seen this before, but became very curious. Since this morning I checked out a site on Fair Trade supported by Oxfam. From there I read an opinion piece by Coldplay's frontman Chris Martin about the inhumane trade rules for 3rd world countries such as Ghana. Basically, these farmers (think 18 year old boys or single moms with children by her side) cannot compete with the market thus selling their crops many times for less than it cost to produce them. Personally, I don't know what to do about this issue, other than make it known that we are enjoying others labor for a price that is inhumane and unjust. I guess I should refuse to drink coffee that isn't fair trade certified. Maybe thats a start.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A New Kind of Urbanism

Props to Jonathan for the link.

A current thinker for Radical Orthodoxy, Jamie K.A. Smith wrote an article a few years back discussing the state of the emerging church. The idea in his article for a new urbanism was very refreshing. He talks about how the emerging church should be partnering their concerns with the redemption of these urbanized cities. Where modernity has laid many of neighborhoods and ghettos by the waste-side in the metropolitan areas, postmodernity in the church's context should be for rebirth and renewal in the "least of these" environments. Churches seem more interested in moving to the safe side of suburbia rather than living among their urban neighbors. Not only are some shying away from these areas, the underlying idea of the socio-economic barrier dividing these two (urbanized central and suburbia) can at times be stark. Not to mention its members and the dividing economics seen there. For more info read his article. Smith tells it better than I could.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Manute Bol: Being a Blessing

Not to many times do you hear the name Manute Bol in conversation. For those NBA illiterates out there, Bol was a 7 foot 7 inch giant hailing from the Sudan region in Africa. Sure he had the second most blocks in league history in only his rookie season and played 11 seasons in the NBA, but he was probably most known for his freakish height. I mean the first time he dunked a basketball he got his teeth stuck in the net.

What some might not know about this unique human being is his involvement with his country during a nasty civil war pitted against southern non-Arabic tribes. Bol spent about 3 million dollars he earned in the NBA to help free the country of its fighting, enslavement and famine. After a shaky peace treaty from rebel factions and the Sudanese government, Bol moved to the capital to work with the same people who had fought his own people. Furthermore, officials promised him a job in their government to seek reconciliation. The only problem was he had to go against several of his principles and convictions to be hired. Opting not to do so, he lived in fear of the government because they feared that he would leave the country and continue his anti-governmental activities. Interestingly enough, Bol lobbied in Congress 3 months about the fertile terrorist grounds in Sudan in the early 90s.

Finally Bol returned to the states, only his fame was eradicated from him as well as his funds. Broke and saddened by what he had witnessed back home Bol continued to give back to his people. In 2002, Bol boxed in a celebrity-boxing match against William “The Refrigerator” Perry of the Chicago Bears. From the match he collected a cool $30,000 that was entirely donated to a Sudanese relief fund. He works with his charity, the Ring True Foundation, which helps Sudanese refugees, mainly living in the United States. Most of these are the Lost Boys, young males who have lost their families in the war torn region of Sudan.

In his native dialect (Dinka) Manute Bol means “blessing from God.” He now resides with his wife and child in Connecticut, living off the generosity of his friends. He is not living the high life, in the sense of living in a massive mansion, driving fancy cars, and wearing designer suits. But he is living the high life of being a blessing to others.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dehumanization in War

Herbert from the NY Times does another follow up to his previous article about the dehumanization and glorification of war in Iraq. Read here.

The Shins: Review of 5/4/05

Last night I attended the Shins show at the Mercy Lounge in downtown Nashville. The Mercy Lounge was a splendid venue, very spacious and clean. Because my wife isn't a big fan of my music, I met my friend Bill there at the venue.

The opening act was a 6-piece band out of New Zealand called the Brunettes. Before the show I had heard nothing about them. Let me just say, "WOW!" They were a lot of fun. Sure the lyrics weren't in-depth with songs about a record store or guys that sup up their cars, but their music was bright and cheery. And talk about multi-instrumentalists, these guys (and girls) were playing like 2 or 3 instruments each song, not to mention clapping at the appropriate moments. The last song, a tribute to those loveable twins (Mary Kate & Ashley) brought the house down. During the middle of the song, the lead singer was the only one playing and singing because the other band mates were putting on some sort of hat or mask. When they turn to face the audience, they are all wearing a mask with the face of those Full House cuties. It was hysterical.

As far as the main act went, I enjoyed the Shins very much. They had some good energy, not to mention some crazy mishaps in the beginning (broken guitar string and fallen keyboard). I couldn't stay for the entire show because I have to wake up at the booty crack of dawn each weekday to get to work, but I caught about 10 songs probably. James Mercer can really sing and hit those high notes. He looked like Kevin Spacey, not to mention the keyboardist resembled Chris Katan and the bass/guitarist was a carbon copy of Joe from Fear Factor. Most of the songs were played verbatim like you would hear on the album. But the energy was great which made it all the better. I'm glad I went to see them. No regrets.

What I remember of their playlist (not in order):
Pink Bullets
When I Goosestep (Wicker Park soundtrack)
Turn a Square
Know Your Opinion!
Caring Is Creepy
Girl Inform Me
Girl on the Wing
Pressed in a Book
So Says I
Mine's Not a High Horse
Fighting in a Sack

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Emergent Cohort: Nashville

Well I must say, I had a lovely time dining and meeting each one of you at the emergent cohort today in Nashville. It was great to gather with fellow bloggers, teachers, counselors, and pastors to discuss the nature of life in an emerging context. I couldn't have asked for a better lunch hour.......


I couldn't find the stinkin cafe!! I mean when I am looking for 203 Louise Ave and there is not one, something aint right. So I park in a medical plaza parking garage 2 blocks away and try my luck on foot. Up and down on Louise Ave I went. I even asked several patrons if they had ever heard of this particular cafe or street address. No dice. I finally call the cafe and the owners give me directions, to which I can't seem to understand. I walk a few block back to my car only to see that my lunch break is quickly coming to an end. I finally give up my search and head back to work where I eat my lunch at my desk, alone. (did I fail to mention spilling a nice amount of Spirit on my pants) After several week of anticipating this meeting, I miss it because of a silly mistake plus my ignorance of downtown Nashvegas. Gosh my life is pathetic.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Justice of Humanity

In a discussion with some friends on Sunday, we pondered the meaning of the word "poor." We were talking about Jesus and how he hoped to bring good news to those "poor" people. For me, my interpretation of poor is very limited to homeless people or those in the slums. But a few insightful ladies talked about being poor as a fact of someone who is suffering, or someone who is lonely, or a woman who couldn't have children (back in Jesus time, barren women were seen in a bad light, as if God cursed their womb). For the Pharisees, someone who was "poor" was probably someone who wasn't morally in line with them (aka: sinners), like tax collectors or prostitutes.

Several times in the Gospel of Luke Jesus is eating and partying with these "poor" people. Not only that, he treated them as equals. He saw them for who they were, human beings. We challenged each other to treat all we meet as a human being created in the Divine's image.

So it hurts when I read this editorial in the NY Times this morning. Our military, who we seem to praise and pray for courage and strength, don't treat these precious Iraqi citizens as human beings, but as worthless scum. Especially when a sergeant kills unarmed Iraqi who are detainted in a fenced in area for the reason of throwing rocks at his buddy. The sergeant's response:
"Well, I saw them bloody my buddy's nose, so I knelt down. I said a prayer. I
stood up, and I shot them down."

Granted this (hopefully) doesn't happen all the time, but this war, like all war, has shown the ugly side of the human condition. But like these soliders, I have failed to be good to the "poor" as well. Have mercy on us Lord.