Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Messy Floors

As a way to support myself, my wife and child, I teach at an area middle school. Often I post from Room 303 during my lunch. Just like today...

I just looked up to see bits of paper, pencil shavings, and some abandoned projects scattered all over the floor. After two of my three classes, this room is a disaster. I wish the kids were neater. I urge them to be neater. They seldom are.

But this messy floor is hard evidence that the learning process has been plodding along in this room. Learning is messy. Even school or "book-learnin'." The more involved the learning project, the greater likelihood of a mess.

So, too, with spiritual formation. It is a messy process. Finding wholeness and holiness is messy business. There are falls, spills, scrapes, debris, mess.

I could have clean floors in Math 303, but little learning. We can have neat, tidy communities of faith, too, if no real spiritual formation is taking place. May I always be blessed with messy floors. The eternity of my brothers, sisters and me are worth all this mess.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Finding Your Story in THE Story

By request, here is an audio version of Touchstone Community's Teaching Time from Sunday, January 15, 2006 entitled, "Finding Your Story in THE Story." (Click on title to hear)

Synopsis: My life, my story, is part of THE story God is telling in the Bible.

The stories of practically all cultures follow a distinct pattern that I refer to as "The Story WAVE." First there is exposition or introductory material that lasts only a brief portion of the whole story. It just "gets you into" the story by introducing characters, time and place setting and the conflict. Then the majority of the story gives us the rising action in which characters seek to resolve the conflict through a series of complications or obstacles. This action reaches the climax or resolution when the problem is solved and the conflict ends. The anti-climax simply ties up a few loose strings in a brief way. Even TV shows and movies (which are really visual stories) follow this WAVE. All stories follow this pattern...

...except the story that is the Bible.

Instead of a WAVE the Bible story follows a Boomerang pattern. I first realized this distinct and unique pattern under the ministry of Kevin Myers. His copyrighted "Bible Boomerang" teaching points this out brilliantly. Using that idea of a story that moves away from a beginning, turns 180 degrees and returns to the start, we see the Bible story. Now the Bible story has parallel beginning and ending and building a people sections and a dramatic turning point. We discover his directing history from "God and man united in peace and love" to "man ruining it all" through "God building a people to bring Jesus to us" to the "birth, death and resurrection of Jesus" which turns the corner back to "Jesus building a people to bring us to God" and finally "God and man united in peace and love." Our life right here and now are part of God's story.

Read-Thru-The-Bible Challenge

2006 has been designated "The Year of the Bible" by our community of faith. We are challenging everyone who attends Touchstone Community to take up the challenge to read through the entire Bible, beginning with their first encounter with us.

So many people are skeptical of the Bible and the claims it makes about itself and the claims Christ-followers make about it (these are not always the same, you know.) Many think of it as a mythology, a book of "begats" and written about times too distant to connect relevantly to our current situation in life. Many refer to quotes that parents or more likely grandparents have made from the Bible like "Spare the rod, spoil the child," which are not from the Bible (it's from Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac.)

My suggestion...read through the Bible for yourself and examine it for yourself. I dare you!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

FUBU Christianity

I teach public school in the inner-city. Many of my students were FUBU apparell. I have come to learn that FUBU is an acronym For Us, By Us. The five original creaters of this now multi-million dollar corporation were African-Americans from Queens, NYC. They were upset that someone outside the inner-city was producing and profitting from the sale of urban clothing. So they started making cloths For Us, By Us-- the inner-city consumer.

FUBU has been accused of exclusivity. Some take the For Us, By Us to be a racial statement. Some feel only urban kids should wear this urban gear. But this negative speculation is just that--speculation.

But the phrase For Us, By Us certainly provokes some thought. Especially to a pastor like me who dreams and works and prays for a community of faith that reaches those "church-as-usual" has not reached. I am constantly concerned that our gatherings, outreaches, events, bridge-building efforts are for those still outside the community of faith. I believe that the church, Community of Faith (COF,) exists for those not yet a part of it. So I wonder...how much of Christianity in America is FUBU -- For Us, By Us?

Do we seek to be served with styles we enjoy, buildings that make us comfortable, a level of holiness that reaches just to our level of living?

How are we reflecting Jesus who expressly declared he came not to be served (consumer mentality) but to serve (servanthood?)

Dear Jesus, the Father's Suffering Servant, grant that I may never see my community of faith as FUBU. May we every day and in every way live for Them, the unreached, and like Paul do everything I can to connect to them and through this connection connect them to you. May my life and my community be FOBY -- For Others, By You. Amen.