Archive for February, 2010
As the images and information come in about the Chile earthquake, aftershocks and the resulting tsunamis, many of us are reminded of the earthquake in Haiti just over a month ago. All day, I’ve heard people comparing the two earthquakes (the Chile quake was perhaps 500x stronger than the Haiti quake). Of course, the most common question is, “Why was the damage so much less in Chile?”
That’s a question that can be pretty easily answered by anyone with knowledge of the two countries. Chile is located in the infamous “Ring of Fire”, where 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur. Yeah…90%. Haiti, on the other hand, is a country that hadn’t seen what could be considered a major earthquake since 1860 and not one of this magnitude in nearly 250 years. The Chilean people prepare for earthquakes. The Hatian people do not. Chilean buildings are made to withstand shaking (although many collapsed during this massive quake). Hatian buildings, many made of unreinforced concrete, crumbled under even modest shaking. So, the disproportionate amount of damage and casualties in Haiti is easy to understand, even if it’s difficult to swallow.
Unfortunately, there are still hundreds who lost their lives yesterday and hundreds of thousands who had to sleep outside last night. To them, the devastation is just as bad as Haiti. Their families will be forever changed by this event just like the families in Haiti. The big difference to you and me? This is not as “sexy” of a news story for the media to cover.
Is that an unfair assessment for me to make? Well, judging by the CNN coverage today that spent an hour showing a webcam in Hawaii waiting for a tsunami to hit (and the seeming disappointment by the anchors when nothing really happened), I think the news media will be done with this story in less than a week. It’s not going to make them money, not going to win them awards and not going to increase their ratings. So they will forget about it. And so will we.
Need proof? We’re already letting Haiti slip from our minds. Before yesterday, when was the last time you thought about Haiti? Did you think about the fact that millions are sleeping outside in the rain? Did you think about the separated families, the children stuck in UNICEF camps and those who can’t leave the country because of government corruption?
And even if you have thought about Haiti, has it dominate your thoughts and conversation like it did a month ago? Is it as real to you today as it was then? Sadly, probably not. I confess that even though I think about and pray for Haiti regularly, it has slipped from the forefront of my thoughts. How in the world did I let that happen when there is so much work still to be done?
And what about New Orleans (which is still rebuilding) or Indonesia? Yeah, remember Indonesia? Six years ago, a massive earthquake and the accompanying tsunami killed over 230,000 people (roughly the same as the Haiti quake). Before all the tsunami talk yesterday, when was the last time you thought about that deadly wave in Indonesia? Have you prayed recently for the countless number of people who lost loved-ones in that tragedy? Have you looked to see how you might be able to help the people in that region? Again, I confess that I hadn’t until today. (I found this article which outlines the rebuilding success and remaining challenges).
As eager as I am to help in Chile and Haiti, right now there isn’t much I can do. But in 6 months or a year or 5 years, when these people really need the kind of help I can provide, will I have forgotten them? Will I, like the media outlets that inform me, have moved on to the next disaster, political scandal or “sexy” news story? Wow, I hope not. God, help us to remember…and to lend a hand and a voice when others have forgotten.
Cosmologist and Theoretical Physicist Sean Carroll is trying to figure out how we got to where we are. In the process, he is making as many arguments for intelligent creation as he makes for natural formation of the universe. I don’t think he means to do this and, frankly, I’m not into looking for opportunities to say “gotcha” every time a scientist has a question about our origins.
I actually love to hear about new theories and new areas of study about how we got here. God gave us these brains for a reason and I don’t think he has any problem with us saying “How did this happen?” or even “Why did this happen?” However, as physicists and cosmologists study the universe, it becomes more and more difficult to explain how things came to be in the absence of some “outside force”. I think one major flaw in the current scientific climate is that whenever scientists bump up against this reality, they simply throw out that theory and look somewhere else. In other words, they work on a theory just up to the point where it requires input from an outside force because they have determined that there are no outside forces acting on the universe.
What if some of these scientists decided to actually continue pursuing one of these theories? What if instead of trying to explain the origin of the universe without action by an outside and/or creative force, they simply tried to figure out what that force was? What if the thing on the other side of the Big Bang was not simply a nice, balanced, symmetrical “other universe”, but was actually a force far greater – one that, once discovered, would open up to an entirely different understanding of the universe and of our existence in it. It seems like that should be interesting enough for someone to look into.
However, the scientific community and the faith community have a common fault. By and large, they have dismissed each other out of hand. The “intelligent design” folks stop listening as soon as they hear the words “Big Bang” or “evolution”. Likewise, the “big bang/expanding universe” folks stop listening when they hear the words “intelligent design” or “creation”. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if people like Sean Carroll got together with people like N.T. Wright and actually tried to discover where theology and science intersect. I believe that together with one another, we would discover deeper truths about science, nature and God than we ever will apart from one another.
I’ve included a 2 part talk from Sean below which gets a little heady at times (and a little “out there” at times) but which captures his current theory and study. Then, I’ve included a very short video of N.T. Wright discussing the power and depth of the Genesis text.
SEAN CARROL PART 1
SEAN CARROLL PART 2
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. As a matter of fact, I could probably write “Lessons from Lucy” Episodes 1-30 by now. Over the past 3 months, I’ve learned so much from my baby girl and I know I will continue to learn from her for the rest of my life.
You see, in so many ways, she’s so much closer to what we are created to be than I have been in a very long time. At the same time, so many of her actions remind me of the things that seem to be hard-wired into us that simply defy logic. Today’s lesson:
I OFTEN FAIL TO IDENTIFY MY ENEMY
It seems silly to think that an infant would have any enemies. After all, the only people that Lucy has extended contact with are her mom and me. And yet, Lucy does have an enemy. This enemy picks on her, scratches her face, steals her pacifier and blocks her bottle from getting to her mouth. This enemy pulls the blanket off of her and removes her socks so she gets cold. This enemy even goes so far as to poke her in the eye from time to time.
The enemy, of course, is a baby named Lucy. She is her own worst enemy. Over the past three months, Lucy and I have had a running conversation about this issue. “Lucy,” I tell her, “if you wouldn’t pull that pacifier out of your mouth, then you wouldn’t get upset.” (I don’t think she’s listening.) “Baby,” I say, “if you didn’t kick your socks off, your feet wouldn’t get cold.” (She does it anyway.) “Sweet girl,” I beg, “please get your hands out of your face so papa can get the bottle into your mouth.” (This one makes her really mad!) No matter how many times we have the conversation, she just doesn’t seem to get it. Now you may say, “Adam, she’s only three months old. She doesn’t know any better and she certainly doesn’t have the ability to understand what you’re telling her.” Hogwash! My baby is brilliant! Haha.
Seriously though, Lucy doesn’t have the ability to understand my very logical explanations of her self-torment. However, I should be able to understand the concept, right? At 32 years old, surely I could recognize if I exhibited similar behavior. But, alas, that is not the case. I (like so many of you) have spent my entire life being my own worst enemy.
When you’re 3 months old, it means you pull your pacifier out of your mouth. When your 20 or 30 or 50, it means you pull away from friends when you are hurting and need them the most. When you’re a baby, your hunger for that bottle causes you to put your hands in your mouth (blocking the bottle in the process). When you’re an adult, your hunger for “the good life” and for stuff causes you to get yourself in over your head financially, which ultimately makes you a slave to debt and drags down your quality of life.
The apostle Paul put it so succinctly in Romans 7:15
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
Yeah, Paul, me too, buddy. Me, too.
This post is in reply to “Coming Out Religious” by my good friend Randy Bohlender. It began as a comment on his blog, but became way too long, so I thought I would post it here. Check out RandyBohlender.com for the original post.
My friend Randy Bohlender, in his post “Coming Out Religious” discusses the way that politics and religion seem to collide on the campaign trail. On the one hand, politicians want to be seen as men and women of faith, of strong moral character and of deep conviction. On the other hand, they’ve been conditioned to get as many votes as possible at any cost. The result, as Randy points out, is a “total separation between church and mind”.
I’ve always thought these kinds of “I believe [fill in the blank] but it won’t affect the way I govern” statements were silly. I understand that someone may hold a certain belief but not feel like that belief should be legislated onto others, but I don’t think anybody really felt like Mitt Romney was going to legislate that we all become Mormon. I get why a politician would want to distinguish between personal faith and national legislation, but to say that something as central as one’s faith has no bearing on the decisions that an individual makes day in and day out is ridiculous. Equally as ridiculous are the ardent supporters (be they on the right or left) who will justify those kinds of comments from their candidate, yet flog the other side’s candidate for similar remarks. Conservatives and many Christians tripped over themselves during the primaries to explain to us why Mitt Romney was a great candiate “even though he’s Mormon”. Not that there’s anything wrong with standing up for a candidate (and I believe that someone can be a strong leader and govern effectively even if I disagree with their theology) but I have a hard time believing that these same conservatives would be as willing to let the whole “he’s a Mormon” thing slide if Mitt had been a Democrat. As a matter of fact, it would have probably been a central talking point on Fox News and talk radio for months. (See every “Is Obama a secret Muslim?” discussion.)
You see, the problem with politics is that it has become way too WWE and not nearly enough DIY Network. Politicians and those who support them are so focused on painting themselves (or their candidate) as the the “good guy” and the opponent as “the bad guy” – or better yet, “the incarnation of evil and all that is wrong in the world” – that they’ve lost site of the work that is supposed to be done in Washington. They’re pointing fingers and yelling, threatening to pull out the metal chair and smash in each other’s head. Meanwhile, our home is in disrepair and in need of a little DIY fixing. On one had we find the “separation between church and mind” and on the other hand, the “unbalanced application of rage”. In the end, whatever your guy says is evil, twisted and manipulative and whatever my guy says is good, honest and pure.
In reality, we’re talking about politicians. And every politician I know of is a human being (except maybe the Governator). And every human being I know fails to be 100% pure anything. We are all partially right and partially wrong, part good and part bad. Therefore, to offer our allegiance to a person or party or even a set of ideals without allowing ourselves to question or challenge that person, party or set of ideals is to walk blindly into the future. It is, in essence, a robotic life controlled by a political machine – a machine that has become very good at picking out “one issue voters” and playing to them, a machine that has discovered the power of even the slightest nod toward a particular group, cause or belief and a machine that can nuance a message so that people on both sides of just about any issue will feel like they’re being heard and that this candidate might change something in their favor.
I would love for politicians to let their “yes” be “yes” and their “no” be “no”. But until then, I determine to read between the lines and refuse to be pandered to by the crafty salesmen on the right or the left who think they can manipulate me into following them blindly.
Have you ever had so many thoughts bumping around inside your head that you feel like you can’t focus on any of them? It happens to me all the time. You see, I wear many hats. I’m a pastor, a musician, a marketing consultant, social media manager, husband, father, friend, etc. I’m also a thinker – not in the sense that I have some deep philosophical contribution to make to society, but in the sense that I think long and hard about a LOT of stuff. I process information 87 different ways. I am usually able to argue both sides of an argument, to derive a positive outcome from just about any situation and to extrapolate some kind of life lesson out of whatever calamity I find myself in. In short, my mind goes 100MPH and honks its horn loudly when people get in the way.
Recently, all of those thoughts (and the thoughts spawned off of those thoughts) have been colliding in my brain like a nuclear reactor. They’re good thoughts – thoughts that, if organized, could lead to great things personally, professionally and ministerially. Organizing them, however, is a little more challenging. This kind of thought-bouncing can drive a person crazy…or, it can drive you to action.
When thoughts collide, sometimes they reveal a piece of your heart that has been, up to this point, hidden. When I look back on my journey thus far, I realize that most of the things that I’ve done in my life that I would call “significant” have come from these thought collisions. When I felt like God was calling me into ministry, but that I couldn’t do it unless Melody was there with me, I proposed to her. When I knew that God wanted me to become a better musician and also a better leader, we moved our newly formed family from Tennessee to Ohio and dove headlong into church planting. When I felt the urge to take a break from full-time church ministry but still felt like I should be involved in whatever it was that God was doing in worship, we again moved our family – this time to Texas so I could work for Vineyard Music.
When I think back to these moments, they were all preceded by a level of discontent and a period of hyperactive thought. And here I am again. But this time, it’s different. This time, frankly, it’s less about me. I would like to hope that it’s partially because I’ve matured some over the past 10-15 years, but whatever the reason, I’m not so concerned about what I “do” in the future or where I “end up”. I’m way more focused on how we – me, Melody, Lucy, future kids, the Church, our friends, our family, etc. – can further the cause of Jesus in the world. In many ways, I’m thinking about much larger things. At the same time, my thinking is less grandiose and more practical.
I think a lot less about the millions of details that may be involved in “God’s will” and a lot more about the two things I know he has asked of me…and of you: to love Him and to love other people. It is “Jesus 101″ and yet I fail at it over and over every single day. I fail in small ways, by not being considerate toward my wife or not paying attention to the person that takes my order at the restaurant. I fail in big ways, by turning a blind eye to the plight of the poor or judging entire people-groups without ever seeking to understand them. And so, I’ve begun to think on those two simple commands. Love God and love others.
Who knew it would be such a Pandora’s box? You know what it means to love God and love others? It means everything. Jesus said “the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” To think on these two ideas means that you think about loving the Father, Son & Holy Spirit and loving the people they love. You think about how you spend your time, your energy and your money. You think about how you invest in people, how you treat people, how you love them – if you love them at all. You think about inequality and injustice, poverty and human trafficking, clean drinking water and clean streets. You think about disease, famine and natural disasters. You think about politics, religion and the strange bedfellows that they make. If you truly want to love God and love all of his people (and if you’re a thinker), you start thinking about all of this and more.
And the more I think about it, the more I come to the same conclusion. Yes, there are a million things that I could and should be doing. There will be many moments now and later where I am forced to choose whether I really mean it when I say I love God and love people – when I will be required to put my money (and my time, and my energy) where my mouth is. There will be opportunities for me to do a lot of good and to impact a lot of people. But no matter how much I do, if I’m the only one, it will only be a drop in the bucket.
That’s where the community of the Church comes in. In my lifetime, I can only adopt or foster so many kids. I can only take so many mission trips. I can only donate so much cash to a limited number of causes. But the Church? The Church can adopt tens of millions, foster hundreds of millions, canvass the world with the Good News of Jesus and absolutely end poverty, hunger and slavery at home and around the world. The Church has the manpower and the resources to change the world almost overnight. So what are we waiting for?
We must end the navel-gazing, the in-fighting and the finger-pointing. We must unite under the banner that we can agree on – the banner of Jesus – and march forward. We must stop constantly arguing the minutia of theology if it gets in the way of us obeying the very basics of our faith. We must do the stuff of God. And, as Valentine’s Day approaches, it seems appropriate to note that it all comes back to love. Of God. Of People. Jesus 101