Sunday, August 31, 2014

Out of the Corner of My Eye - Blindman at the Gate

I think I caught a glimpse of truth out of the corner of my eye.
A ghost, a whisper, a suspicion, a subtle and subversive rumor.
So dangerous that every army would be commanded to march against it;
so beautiful that it would drive those who see it to madness
or sanity.
Does the whole of my kind suffer from mental and moral vertigo?
As Melville said of cabin boy Pip,
he saw the foot of God upon the treadle of the loom
and dared to speak it.
Henceforth his shipmates called him mad.
As Vladimir said when they came to bury Fyodor,
the spiritual leader must feel the falsehood prevailing in society;
the prophet must struggle against it, never tolerate it, never submit to it.
I think I caught a glimpse of truth out of the corner of my eye.
Have we been so blinded by the bright lights of advertisers’ lies
that the only true vision is peripheral vision?
In the age of constant commercialization and overblown hype
does truth shout with a whisper and stand out with subtlety?
I think I caught a glimpse of truth out of the corner of my eye.
It terrified me as I fell in love with it.
I said,
This explains everything.
This changes everything.
This challenges everything.
This threatens everything.
This transforms everything.
Dare I speak it?

This post first appeared at

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Worship? For Our Daddy to See - Caleb Miller

One night I was out cooking in my kitchen—I often do the cooking, I thoroughly enjoy it—and I heard my 2 year old son running back and forth from the kitchen to the living room.  Each time he returned, he had another small car in his hand.  Looking at the floor, I saw his little cars all lined up perfectly in a row.  Dylan’s face was beaming, and through an ear to ear smile he shouted, “See daddy, cars!”  He was so proud of his collection of cars and just wanted me to share in his joy.  In that instant, I had a glimpse of the Father’s heart towards us. 

Dylan was thrilled with his cars. He wasn’t bringing them to me because he thought I should receive praise for what he had.  He wasn’t bringing them to ask me for more of them.  He wasn’t even bringing them to play with me.  

He was bringing them because he was proud of them and wanted me to share in that pride. 

I immediately began to think of what we have done to this thing called “worship”.  What is meant to be a place and time (a lifestyle? maybe) where human mortality collides with divine love and sharing happens has become a place of petition & repetition.  

But how do we reclaim it?

We line our cars up for our daddy to see. 

Not so we can praise him for them.
Not so we can ask for more.
Not so we can play with him.
Not so we can repeat catchy phrases.

So we can share with him what we have. 

If we have sickness, we bring our sickness and line it up. We let him share in it.
If we have poverty, we bring our poverty and line it up. We let him share in it.
If we have depression, we bring it and line it up. We let him share in it.
If we have fear, we bring it and line it up. We let him share in it.
If we have health, we bring our health and line it up. We let him share in it.
If we have wealth, we bring our health and line it up. We let him share in it.
If we have joy, we bring our health and line it up. We let him share in it.
if we have peace, we bring our health and line it up. We let him share in it.

Our God is a very present help in time of need - that is certain, but He is not only found in our darkness. He is found in our light. The God who never leaves us or forsakes us doesn’t withdraw because of problems, He excels in them. He also excels in our victories. Not because He wants the glory, but because He enjoys sharing in the things we are proud of as well.  

In short, we worship because we want to share with our dad. Our lives, our gifts, our fears, our hopes and dreams.  We share it all with him, because that is the nature of our relationship with our heavenly father - one of sharing.

In the words of Jack Johnson “It’s always more fun to share with everyone”. Nothing is more enjoyable than sharing with our heavenly father.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monte Wolverton's 'Chasing 120: A Story of Food, Faith, Fraud and the Pursuit of Longevity' - review by Brad Jersak

I recently glimpsed a Facebook post that said only, 'I hate foodies.' I had no idea what a 'foodie' is so, fancying myself a researcher, I googled it. I discovered a whole new world of grand obsessions (especially with longevity) and frightful intrigues ... most of all, the conspiracies (fictional or not) around GMO food. 

What's a GMO, I asked? Genetically modified food. Now I must say, I'm ever so thankful for seedless grapes ... but some of the other stuff. And how about those mountains of supplements that could genetically modify me? Crikey! 

Nimbly backing out through the door, I moved on in happy denial. Not my cause. But I had to admit, these are the raw materials of a riveting suspense novel. Imagine a GMO backfiring in freakish ways, throw in a cultic-religious movement that offers 12 decades of vitality. Spiritual abuse, dietary legalism and a dangerous GMO twist. Now you've got a plot! 

Well, it depends who writes it. And don't be fooled, novels aren't just retreats from reality. They often bear important truths that non-fiction can never carry past our defenses. In this case, author, artist and syndicated cartoonist Monte Wolverton has delivered a page-turner that both entertains and illuminates the reader. Chasing 120: A Story of Food, Faith, Fraud and the Pursuit of Longevity, unveils Wellness 120, the religious health empire of a manipulative health guru, all allegedly based in Scripture.

The novel is not just fun ... it's important. Even aside from the GMO conspiracies, I believe Wolverton's tale speaks to the deep disillusionment of so many people who've been burned by religious hucksters and corporate pop-gurus--people who've built empires on whatever vulnerabilities we carry in our woundedness. It's not enough to upset ourselves with the injustice of spiritual abuse. We need to ask what conditions set us up for it in the first place. What is the desperate need the charlatans promise to fulfill? Rather than just stealing false hope, might there be a good word that delivers true hope? Monte takes us there in Chasing 120, without platitudes or cliches. It's an excellent read that leads to some healthy thinking.

Click here to find out more:
And here's a great 3 minute Intro with Monte: 

"Changing Course" (Loving Our Enemies, chapter 1) by Jim Forest

Chapter 1 of Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment by Jim Forest. The publisher is Orbis.]One day Jesus asked the question, “Do people gather figs from thistles?” The answer is of course no — you harvest what you plant. Plant thistles and thistles take root and thistles they become. If you want to grow figs, you need to start with fig seeds. With this question, Jesus implicitly ridicules the idea that good can be brought about by evil means. Violence is not the means of creating a peaceful society. Vengeance does not pave the road to forgiveness. Spousal abuse does not lay the foundation for a lasting marriage. Rage is not a tool of reconciliation.                    Yet, while figs do not grow from thistles, in the world of human choice and action, a positive change of attitude and direction is always a possibility. Sinners are the raw material of saints. The New Testament is crowded with accounts of transformations.In the Church of the Savior in the Chora district of Istanbul, there is a fourteenth-century Byzantine mosaic that, in a single image, tells a story of an unlikely transformation: the conversion of water into wine for guests at a wedding feast in the village of Cana. In the background Jesus — his right hand extended in a gesture of blessing — stands side by side with his mother. In the foreground we see a servant pouring water from a smaller jug into a larger one. The water leaves the first jug a pale blue and tile-by-tile becomes a deep purple as it reaches the lip of the lower jug. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana, in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” This “first sign” that Jesus gave is a key to understanding everything in the Gospel. Jesus is constantly bringing about transformations: blind eyes to seeing eyes, withered limbs to working limbs, sickness into wellbeing, guilt into forgiveness, strangers into neighbors, enemies into friends, slaves into free people, armed men into disarmed men, crucifixion into resurrection, sorrow into joy, bread and wine into himself. Nature cannot produce figs from thistles, but God is doing this in our lives all the time. God’s constant business in creation is making something out of nothing. As a Portuguese proverb declares, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”                                                                                                                                                                                                       CLICK HERE to read the rest of the chapter

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Walking Wounded - by Greg Albrecht

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.—Psalm 34:17-18
When we think of the term "walking wounded," we usually consider warriors who served their country, whose wounds are visible and known, as well as those whose wounds are not as apparent. 

Most recently, we are familiar with The Walking Wounded who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. While one of the tragic consequences of any war is The Walking Wounded left in its wake, one of the most publicized examples goes back a generation. You will remember The Walking Wounded who came home to these United States from the Vietnam war. These veterans returned, having served their country, having followed their orders, but nonetheless having taken part in an unpopular war. While many were, like veterans of any war, injured and maimed, others looked outwardly normal.

But inside, many were, and still are, seething cauldrons. Many of these veterans still deal with survivor-guilt. They came home, but some of their comrades-in-arms did not. They struggle with the psychological and emotional flashbacks to the pain and suffering they caused, and the pain and suffering they endured. It's called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

I have close personal friends who are Vietnam vets who still suffer flashbacks, who still deal with PTSD, 40 or more years later. PTSD, among other things, can involve waking up in the middle of the night, in fear, in emotional pain, in full battle mode, in the middle of a nightmare induced lock-and-load adrenaline rush. It's never, ever fully getting over the haunting torment of something so excruciating that the mind blocks it out, until something triggers it anew. These moments are called flashbacks. 

CLICK HERE to continue reading Greg's article

Saturday, August 16, 2014

One Day, God Planted a Stake in the Ground - Jo Pestell

God spoke
        Darkness came
                        God was there

God spoke
        Light came
                        God was there

God spoke
        Creation overflowed
                        God was there

One day God planted a stake in the ground

"Everything I have is yours
    - share it with me or use it for yourselves"

They ate
         A different light came
         They were hidden from each other
                          But God was there

"Everything I have is mine"
    - but still a voice within whispers of a different way

One day God planted a stake in the ground

"This is my body given for you"
    - a gate or a stumbling block

Take, eat
          Their eyes were opened
                           And God was there

"Lord, it's hard to give my body to serve you"
    - but the Spirit comes and brings strength within


Sometimes when we speak
           Darkness comes
                           God be there

Sometimes when we speak
            Light comes
                            God is there

Lord help us speak
            "Your kingdom come"
                             God is here

This poem first appeared at

"An eye for an eye" - Prot (KPAX)

"Let me tell you something, Mark. You humans, most of you, subscribe to this policy of an eye for an eye, a life for a life, which is known throughout the universe for its stupidity

"Even your Buddha and your Christ had quite a different vision; but nobody's paid much attention to them, not even the Buddhists or the Christians."

Prot (from KPAX)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Should Christians Do about the Violence in Northern Iraq? - Andrew Klager

To answer my title right off the bat, I don’t really know. This piece won’t solve anything, but I think I’m in good company in this regard. The following might, however, help us change the way we think to avoid making the situation worse and perhaps move in a more positive direction.
I was originally going to write a piece on why I don’t post stories about persecuted Christians on social media, but I’ve decided that it would be inappropriate to do so given the real-life horrors in northern Iraq. If I couldn’t read my piece to the parents of a raped and beheaded child, I shouldn’t be writing it. “Holier-than-thou” pieces are stupid anyway.
Christians are asking what we should do in the face of such barbaric violence as that which ISIS has meted out against the Yazidis, Shi’a Muslims, Assyrian Christians, Kurds, and those Sunni Muslims whom they regard as kuffār (unbelievers) because they have entered a state of jahiliyya (the reemergence of the ignorance that preceded Islam, this time due to Western influence).
Now, I realize that I’m writing this from an elitist position in a peaceful society far removed from the brutality that has drenched the sands of northern Iraq in innocent blood. I get that. If you believe that I shouldn’t be writing about this situation because my relative comfort will inevitably render the following unrealistic and trite, I’ll understand. It’s not easy to keep emotions in check, to think straight while helplessly viewing images of unspeakable brutality through brimming eyes. I don’t think that anything I write below is easy to do. It certainly isn’t easy for me.
So, what are we supposed do? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

'Love Your Way Through' - Richard Beck

The other day I came across this line by Cornel West. It's a short line, but it captures so much about how I feel about life and living.

In describing how he tries to approach life West says his intention is
 "to love my way through the absurdity of life."
To love our way through the absurdity of life.

I think a lot of theological conversation ends up in absurdity. In the face of pain. In the face of suffering. In the face of death. In the face of things we know nothing about.

In the face of all that absurdity I think Christians talk too damn much.

Me included, given the flood of words on this blog.

But the main reason I am a Christian is that it gives me a way to "love my way through." My Christianity isn't a metaphysical system. It's not a theory. It's not a creed or an orthodoxy. It's not a sacred book.

It is a way to love my way through.
Richard Beck first posted this at:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How we respond to the fall of a spiritual abuser - David Hayward

This cartoon depicts the danger of surrendering our dignity and rights to a spiritual abuser.

I read Adrian Warnock’s thoughts on Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29 story. Warnock’s thoughts can be summed up with the following:

  1. Accept it. We shouldn’t be alarmed by what’s happening with Driscoll. No church is perfect. No pastor is perfect. These things happen. Paul and Barnabas are an example of disputes within the church.

  2. Back off. Warnock blames the internet for a lot of the problem because everything gets reported by everybody for everyone to see. We don’t really know what happened. Most of the criticisms now seem to have more to do with the past than the present. There are elders around Driscoll that know him best and we should leave them alone and trust them to handle this.

  3. Restore him. Warnock says that we should accept Driscoll’s apologies and trust the elders who say that he’s changed. Driscoll has been a great voice for the gospel and he should be restored to his bold preaching ministry.

When Warnock’s asks the question, how should we all respond as Christians?, he immediately set the tone for his article. I suggest that telling us how we should respond in such situations actually inhibits true critique and true healing. Warnock means well for the church, including Driscoll, but I fear he underestimates the importance and impact of the story that is unfolding for the countless people who have suffered or are suffering from spiritual abuse.

Let’s consider Warnock’s advice through the questions of a victim of spiritual abuse.

- See more at:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Christianity in the Age of Nuclear Weapons - Brian Zahnd

Today is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Saturday we will mourn Nagasaki. As we remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the quarter of a million casualties suffered, I would like to share a few words from A Farewell To Mars.
It’s easy to imagine that the world doesn’t really change — that it simply marches around the maypole of violence, trampling the victims into the mud same as it ever has. But as true as that may be, something has changed. We are post-something. If nothing else, we are post-1945 when the enlightenment dream of attainable utopia went up in smoke — literal smoke! — from the chimneys of Auschwitz and a mushroom cloud over Hiroshima.
After 1945 we lost our blind faith in the inevitability of human progress. A threshold was crossed, and something important changed when humanity gained possession of what previously only God possessed: the capacity for complete annihilation. In yielding to the temptation to harness the fundamental physics of the universe for the purpose of building city-destroying bombs, have we again heard the serpent whisper, “You will be like God”?
When Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, witnessed the first atomic detonation at Los Alamos on July 16, 1945, he recalled the words of Vishnu from the Bhagavad Gita…
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
When the monstrous mushroom cloud rose over the New Mexico desert, did the human race indeed become Death, the destroyer of worlds? It’s more than a legitimate question. We’ve now lived for over a generation with the most haunting post-Holocaust/Hiroshima uncertainty: Can humanity possess the capacity for self-destruction and not resort to it? The jury is still out. But this much is certain:If we think the ideas of Jesus about peace are irrelevant in the age of genocide and nuclear weapons, we have invented an utterly irrelevant Christianity!
(The artwork is Mushroom Cloud by Luciano Civettini.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Importance of Being Creative During Deconstruction - David Hayward

Alone But Not Lonely - by Nakedpastor David Hayward

Making art was an important part of my healing and reconstruction process.

I didn’t know this at the beginning of my deconstruction. It didn’t know this consciously after I’d left the ministry and the church. In fact, it wasn’t until I published my new book, The Liberation of Sophia, that I realized making art helped save me.

It was the week after I left the church when I drew my first Sophia drawing. The one with the bear. The inspiration to draw her was unstoppable.

It was four years later when I drew my last one. The inspiration to draw her stopped.

It was when it stopped that I realized it was probably important that I did it. Drawing Sophia every week and writing about her journey was, I concluded, a crucial part of my healing.
It’s strange, but when I stopped drawing Sophia, I also stopped painting. I haven’t done a new piece in quite a while.

I draw my cartoons every day. I enjoy it. It’s creative. But it’s my work.

Being creative just for creativity’s sake! I need to get disciplined in that again. And I’m going to advise people when they are going through deconstruction to be creative and discipline themselves to be creative every day.


To read David's answer, CLICK HERE

Hallelujah in Hell - Peter Hiett

Faithful Questioning: Does questioning the Bible mean questioning God or ourselves? - by Derek Flood

When we question the Bible, does it mean we are questioning God or that we are questioning ourselves? Many Christians assume that questioning the Bible entails questioning God, and thus is an expression of rebellion and sin.  Consequently most apologetics focuses on "defending" the Bible from the "attack" of those on the outside critiquing it. The assumption is that those who question the Bible are attacking the Christian faith itself, and are thus outside of it. In other words the assumption is that Christians cannot question the Bible.

I'd like to propose that the opposite is in fact that case: that questioning the Bible is a necessary part of a healthy and faithful expression of our faith. The reason is that the focus of questioning the Bible is ultimately to question our interpretation and application and thus to question ourselves. The goal is to be faithful. We question so that we can follow better. We question so that we can avoid wrong and hurtful interpretations. 

When I question the Bible I am personally not interested in questioning God. That's not our job. However it is our responsibility to question what we humans do in God's name, especially when we can see that we are justifying deeply hurtful things in the name of our religion. Part of that involves questioning our (at times messed up) image of God. Questioning therefore involves humility rather than arrogance because it means recognizing that our understanding of God and of what is good and right is always limited, always "through a glass darkly" as Paul says (and it says a lot that the guy who said that about his own knowledge of God was the same guy who wrote most of the New Testament!).

Writing a Song (the Guitar Series, part 3) - Caleb Miller

I've gotten a new guitar, and it has been restrung. It is now time to write the song. When I sit to write a song, I don't usually have any agenda on writing, it's more of a private (meaning, just me) session of playing and working through melodic lines in my head. Usually, I'll try to do this when everyone is gone from the house for a couple reasons. First, I get a little nervous singing something I haven't written yet with an audience. Second, I get distracted easily by my kids, and wind up playing with them instead!  Once I have the house to myself though, I sit to play. Some people like to craft their lyrics first, and then put music to them, but I like to hear my guitar sing. Often, I will hear a word or phrase come out of the guitar, and that becomes my starting point. Sometimes, I'll just sing that single line over and over, until it becomes locked in my head.  Then, I'll put the guitar away. Why? I don't want to force it. I want the guitar to have the time to teach me the song, and all too often, I try to simply create a lyric that matches. I'll usually go grab some coffee and keep humming that line over and over in my head.

When I return to my guitar, I'll change the key or even the tuning of the guitar, but keep playing that phrase. It is now that the song usually begins to pour out - both from my guitar and my soul, singing in unison.  Often I won't write the song down until this point, and I usually don't write the chords over the words yet even when I have written the words down.  I still want the guitar to be able to sing its song too.  As a songwriter, I look at lyrics as a product of the soul, and the music as a product of the instrument's resonance. Once I have what I consider to be the basic song, I'll put everything away and give it a few days of rest.  I will keep meditating on the lyrics and melody, but I don't want to get the melody so locked that it can't grow and change.  When I revisit the song, it gets rewritten and grows into the finished product over the course of many days and often weeks. I even have a couple songs that took more than a year to get the finished version ready.

For the Common Good: A Draft Statement on Christian, Muslim, Jewish Friendship - by Brian Zahnd

A few years ago I drafted a statement to explain the friendship and cooperation I have with Ahmed El-Sherif, an Arab Muslim scientist, and Samuel Nachum, an Israeli Jewish artist, as we work together for peace in Israel and Palestine. This seems like a good time to share it again.

For the Common Good

We are Jews, Christians and Muslims.
And we are friends.
We seek to follow our respective religions faithfully.
We do not believe all religions are the same.
We recognize the reality of our religious differences.
But we are friends.
We are devout in our faith and respectful of our friendship.
Our faith and friendship need not be mutually exclusive.
We recognize that we share common space — the common space of a shared planet.
For the sake of the common good we seek common ground.
We do not share a common faith, but we share a common humanity.
In our different religions we do not practice the same rituals or pray the same prayers.
But in our shared humanity we hold to a common dream: Shalom, Salaam, Peace.
We hold to the dream that our children may play in peace without fear of violence.
And so…
We pledge not to hate.
We pledge not to dehumanize others.
We pledge to do no harm in the name of God.
As individuals we do not compromise the truth claims of our respective religions—
But we will not use truth claims to fuel hate or justify violence.
We will practice our respective faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
But we believe our faith can be practiced in the way of peace—
We believe our faith truly practiced need never be at odds with humanitarian ideals.
Our religions share a complex and intertwined history—
A history of interaction that has too often been tumultuous and bloody.
We believe there must be a better way and we seek that better way.
The way of peace.
We are Jews, Christians and Muslims.
And we are friends.
We seek common ground for the common good.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace.

Ahmed El-Sherif
Samuel Nachum
Brian Zahnd

P.S. I’ve been asked, Are you implying a concession to not evangelize in exchange for coexistence?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sinead O'Connor: "Take me to church, but not the ones that hurt ..." by Brad Jersak

"Take me to church
but not the ones that hurt
'Cause that ain't the truth"
Sinead O'Connor

Just because someone has been hurt badly or offended greatly in the context of a 'church' (whatever that means) and has stormed away in anger and wailed and railed about ... does not mean they have renounced love or forgiveness or the need for a safe place to belong. It does not mean they've shut out their own conscience or have no regrets about harm they've done. It does not mean they've let go of their own beautiful song ... songs of love and joy and lament and healing.  

Within Sinead O'Connor's beautiful repertoire, you'll hear it all -- from prophetic protest to blasphemous barrage, often in critique of the church she can't quite stop obsessing about and pining for. So when she sings, 'Take me to church,' we know she's got no interest in 'the one that hurts' ... and of course, she means, 'hurts children' and 'hurts women' and hurts 'the poor' and so on. That kind of 'church' (no matter how it dresses up or down) isn't the truth, doesn't represent the truth, doesn't know the Truth. But it also strikes me that if she could find a safe place to belong that echoes her own experience and let's her tell the story without judgment, you can bet that place would be 'the one that hurts' ... that is, such a 'church' would be a harbor for the hurting and give them space to continue processing their hurts without faking it.