Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Musings from John:

Do you pray?

Chances are you do, since most people in the US pray, even if they are not sure if they believe in God. Yet, I'm not sure that people expect that something will happen. Maybe they just do it as therapy; maybe it is an existintial cry of pain; quite often it may be something done because it is expected. When this conversation came up recently, one person in the group said that the only way that God speaks to us is through the Bible. If that is the case, is the conversation one-sided? The Wikipedia article on prayer asks, Why pray? Interestingly, it is generally assumed that it is for a personal reason and it doesn't go beyond that. Or if there is a God and He is listening, is it really necessary? Erwin McManus, in a great talk to a Christian crowd (see Mosaic podcast), points out that people from all religions pray - what should separate us is what we should expect in return.

So chime in: What do you expect to happen when you pray?

Let me personalize this: my family wants to be missionaries, even feel called, but in order for that to happen, some things need to be in place within a pretty short amount of time. Honestly, I am not exactly sure what to pray for, and have prayed for different things to happen; but most of the time, the prayer is a silent anxiousness, a tacit longing.

Oh, I know that we'll be fine, no matter what happens. I am struggling to move my thoughts more often to people around me that need far more help than my family. But if you have a moment to spare, I would certainly appreciate it...


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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

You behave that way because...

What is a "worldview"?

That word is being bandied around these days in just about any journal or book that tries to make sense of what is happening in the world around us. I challenge you to find a recently published Christian book without the term. It is being used as polemic, as an apologetic, and when they just don't know what to do about people they don't understand - that is their "worldview." But do any of these people really know what they are describing?

It is hard to argue against the observation that some people do things differently than other people, and maybe there are reasonable statements that possibly describe what is going on. Try out this exercise, curious reader: write your own definition of "worldview." Do it on a sheet of paper before reading on. Ask a friend to write their own definition without looking at yours or looking at someone else's definition.

If I had to guess, your definition probably included something that happened mentally. The process probably looked something like this: you know through observation that people behave differently. Your definition tried to say that people who think alike behave in similar fashion. Most definitions fit this pattern. But can we really do that?

Is it possible to describe the mental constructs that are associated with behaviors of groups? We do not know what is going on in the mind of a single individual, much less an entire community. For example, try to acurately tell me the process that happens in your head when you make a decision. Pretty tough, huh? Now try to describe what was going on in your mind when you did something that you knew you probably shouldn't. Now try to tell me the mental picture, or lense, or construct, that was the determining factor for the people that showed up for church last Sunday, just the ones in your church. Every single one of them, for that reason? I don't show up at church every Sunday for the exact same reason, and there are times when I am not really sure why I am doing what I am doing at any particular moment.

Look at Wikipedia at the definition and then the following discussion to see how different people try to categorize how we think. This is important because there are conflicts in this world, on many different levels. When a group or individual categorizes another group as fitting into a certain "worldview" that negatively impacts their own, expect a power struggle.

A great example of this is the upcoming event when SoulForce visits Abilene Christian University. The following is a quote from the President of ACU about the event:

"A religious activist organization called SoulForce will send 30 to 35 young adults on a seven-week bus tour this spring to confront selected religious or military colleges and universities about their perspectives on homosexuality. The bus tour, called Equality Ride, will visit institutions where, according to SoulForce, “bans on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender enrollment force students into closets of fear and self-hate.” The group plans to visit 19 institutions and one national higher education event. Thirteen of the 19 schools are members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, including Abilene Christian University. The Equality Ride has chosen to stop at ACU March 27 as the group travels through Texas. Prior to the Abilene stop, the group will be at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla. From Abilene, they are going to Texas A&M University in College Station. ACU will be the seventh school visited on the bus tour. The Web site for this group states their intentions: “Through dialogue with administrators and discussions with students, the young activists of the Equality Ride will make clear the harmful effects of the false notion that homosexuality is a ‘sickness and a sin,’ and ‘a threat to the nation and the military.’ ” "

Two institutions have categorized "worldviews" and will have a resultant clash. The clash is not necessarily one of physical force, but concerns the power to dictate behavior.

If you cannot judge what is going on in a group's mentality, or someone else's head, but only observe behavior, how would this affect your participation in this event? If we can only make judgments based on behavior, how can you affect change in other people when we think it is merited? In ourselves?

Through second-hand sources, I heard that President Royce Money announced the SoulForce's visit in ACU's chapel. When he said that we could have the group arrested, some in the student body cheered. I find that behavior appalling (despite whatever was going on in their heads). He then went on to say, "but we will greet them with love and respect." Fortunately, there was some cheering for that as well.

I look forward to your comments...


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Friday, January 13, 2006

Going with the crowd

Alright, due to our own popular demand, here is our world travels:

create your own visited countries map

State travels (we did a little better here, a lot of it because we grew up in families that liked to tavel):

create your own visited states map


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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More info (but on a lighter side)

Musings from John:

Thought I would just throw up some of my favorite books; I know many people don't read much anymore, but for those that do, I'd love to see your lists:

Life of Pi (a very recent addition)
Catch 22
Lord of the Flies
Ender's Game

Some nonfiction:

Prophetic Imagination
The Divine Conspiracy

Ok, so my list of nonfiction is pretty short. I'm in school and being forced to read so I balk a little at that one.


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Monday, January 09, 2006

What I Really Wanted For Christmas

Musings from John:

I have learned a lot about about mission work over the last year. I have garnered information about doing research, training leaders, indigenous church planting, mission movements, ethnocentric theology, etc. It has been worthwhile and needed. I have great data from outstanding thinkers. But the moment I step out my front door, I am on my own (metaphorically speaking - my wife and kids are right there with me).

Now I am faced with real people and real situations. Theories look awfully good in retrospect. It's amazing how truly messy life is, including my own. What I would love to find is a mentor who I can follow, learn from in action, ask questions on the go, and try my own version. Even better would be someone who is really good at it.

Robert Springer is amazing at what he does, and is a wonderful coach. If I was going to be in the nonprofit business, I would follow him around for as long as I could. The partner I worked for at PwC was amazing at business and figuring out what had real value, and if you could keep up, you couldn't help but learn as she blazed a trail. Over the years, I've asked a few people, older than myself, to hold me accountable to keep growing. I've tried to help a few people with a few less years and no gray hairs at least think about who they are and what they are about; I hope to grab a few underclassmen before we leave.

When did discipleship become a lost art? What could possbily be more important? Why aren't more Christians asking this question? Brueggemann has led me to believe, in his incredible book "Prophetic Imagination," that most peope really don't want change, and thus grow. It can be painful.

Now my family is sailing off into water unchartered by anyone I know well, except a very few, and none of them do mission work anymore. Not really even local mission work. Churches in Abilene, even with its Christian school and 30-something churches, haven't added to their numbers over the last couple of decades. Those who are already Christians have only shifted around. It's not like every person in Abilene is a Christian - at least 40% of the population doesn't attend ANY kind of church or religious establishment. It's not that people aren't interested. I did survey work in a neighborhood and most that didn't attend church had the feeling that people just didn't care.

I'm usually pretty good about moaning and groaning about these types of situations, but this time we decided we'd try to act to see what could be done. We know others are trying as well, so I can't just lop all of Abilene in my whining fit. My family has decided to pray for, take the Good News to, and help people who live in some apartments close to our home that is not very expensive (read something into that) and has a history of needing police intervention. We met one couple that is usually homeless and has drug problems, which we are at least gaining some trust because they know we care. I've also met some other families that are very nice.

So now what? Well, we will love these people, which we do. The next steps, problems, potential areas of danger, over-reaching, and just being annoying are things that I am unsure about. I handle chaos and uncertainty pretty well, and one of my majors is risk, but people's souls are at stake and my family's time and energy as well.

So here I am, passing along more info. Something will happen, and then I'll fill you in.


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Monday, January 02, 2006

Wow! What a year...

Musings from John:

Well, the first thing on my mind is that we have gone through some major changes.

I left my job as a minister at Fairfax Church of Christ to go back to school full-time to get a Masters of Missions at Abilene Christian University. To do this, we moved to Abilene, TX, on Jan 3, the same day I started school. Needless to say, Abilene is somewhat different than DC. I took 42 graduate hours in 2005 while working in two part-time jobs and trying to maintain some sanity with my family (the reason why this blog is so far behind).

It feels good to be able to take a moment to think about the past year.

We have sacrificed our savings, stability, and life with friends to learn to be tools to serve others around the world. If nothing else, we have learned some incredible lessons. The most important is that no matter how hard or weird the circumstances, you can get by with the support of friends and family. In fact, our entire plans for the future, trying to make a difference in people's lives and planting communities of faith that are models of love and care is dependent on the vision and charity of friends.

There have been some sweet surprises and some bitter moments. We have made some new friends, but we really miss the ones we left. We came to Abilene to learn, but it has come at a heavy cost, and some lessesons were not really all that valuable. I hope to post some of the best of what we have learned over the upcoming weeks.

I hope that this forum can be a discussion between friends on such topics as what is a missionary (really, a topic for everyone), lessons learned, discipleship, and what is truly important and worthy. That discussion would be worth any price.


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