Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reproducing Preachers

While walking the dog I got to thinking about how to reproduce preachers for growing churches. I've written before about my alternative to video campuses. But I started to think about how to teach preaching. Lately, I've changed the three questions in my simple high school Bible discussion group from What do you like? don't like? learn about God? to the questions used by Cityteam in their successful organic church plants in Africa; What do you learn about God? What do you learn about humanity? What is God telling you to do in this passage?

I'm wondering if preaching is modeled on these questions, the focus of the congregation is kept on the text, and eloquence is not required. Read the passage. Observe the answers in the text to question 1. Then observe the answers in the text to question 2. Then list some of the options for question 3 as homework. This simple format not only empowers developing preachers, but also empowers congregants to apply a simple, but profound, approach for self-study. For the reproducing church that eschews video, this technique united with the preachers' group study as preparation, enlarges the pool of spiritually qualified people beyond those who are also eloquent.

Is anyone doing this already in a network bigger than home churches or cafe churches?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

introspective adolescent books: guys vs. gals

This is about Hunger Games vs. Tolstoy. I am no expert here, but I've been reading Tolstoy's fictional memoir, Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, about a wealthy young Russian. Then I watched the Hunger Games movie, which I enjoyed. My kids who have read the series told me I need to read it as well. But the wait times for the reserves at the library are very long now. Subsequently, I came across Wendy's post on the Hunger Games book series in which she spoke of the strongly feminine perspective in the series. After all this, one of the kid's reserves for the 2nd book in the series, Catching Fire, came in on reserve like the last ping pong ball for the Bingo win.
With all of this furrowing of my mind, full of all this literary compost, I plunged into Catching Fire and read it in a day. It moved along very quickly, except for the morasses of Katniss's inner dialog. For me, it was like walking through molasses. I didn't get it. I didn't care. It seemed stupid. It felt like I was reading Pride and Prejudice again, which I also hated. But thanks to Wendy, now I know what the problem is, my Y chromosome. I wanted to tell Katniss, "You're overthinking all this. None of your boyfriends care that much." I also was annoyed with the female romantic fantasy where the woman writing believes it realistic that a adolescent girl can sleep every night with a hormone-fueled guy, but he'll never bust a move on her (curse you Twilight).

I can only imagine, as I come to the end of Tolstoy's Youth, that a female reader would have the same frustrations I have with Collins. His writing is brilliant because his observations are so fine, on the microscopic level, not just on his surroundings but within his soul. But his inner dialog is more about his pride. He simply cannot get over how awesome he is. I guarantee you this is the average man's inner dialog, since I am an average man. One of my funniest memories from high school is being in the locker room with a guy who said aloud, after lifting, "I can't believe how well cut I am," referring to his muscular definition. Tolstoy's protagonist also makes the finest critiques on the external features of others around him, from their dress, to the shape of their hands, or the setting of their eyes. Katniss on the other hand is more concerned about how others are perceiving her. Tolstoy's protagonist is self-absorbed to the point of making me laugh out loud.

I have a suggestion to make to the American education system. If young men have to read 1800's chick lit, then they should be rewarded with 1800's dude lit. Tolstoy's three part work is not even as long as anything by the Austen girls.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

who is the "disciple Jesus loved" in the gospel of John?

One of our other discussions at our high school Bible discussion group as we finished up the Gospel of John was about John's other #humblebrag, the title "the disciple whom Jesus loved" which he uses twice in the last chapter 21:7 and 21:20. The students enjoyed piling on John a little bit for that. But then I asked them, are their any disciples Jesus doesn't love? If not, aren't all of us who believe on Jesus and try to follow him disciples whom Jesus loves?

That is so cool.

Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times a few nights before the events of this last chapter. Perhaps his leap of faith into the lake that he may have hoped would have been a walk instead of a swim (see the last blog post) was an attempt to prove to Jesus how much he did believe him, despite his lame showing at Christ's trial. That didn't pan out. He probably felt even more ashamed when he finally got to the beach with Jesus. Jesus knew that Peter was ready to restore his relationship with him, but Jesus didn't make him do any act of penance. He is so generous. In John 21:15-17 he asks Peter the same question three times, "Do you love me?" He knew the answer, but this is what brought healing to Peter by affirming his love three times to Jesus. In response to Peter, Jesus instructed him to care for those sheep that belong to Jesus, not the woolly animals but the clueless losers that would be joining Team Jesus, including some of those who joined in condemning him to the cross.

In Acts 2 when Peter tells the Jewish crowd that they were guilty of killing God's Son who came back to life exalted by God, and they feared the consequences of their choice and asked what should they do, Peter did not take the opportunity to turn the screws on them. But he didn't .
Acts 3:36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."
He told them to repent, which means to make a U-turn from the path of  destruction you are on, as you learn about it from God, and get baptized, the outward sign of the inward change. That's it. There was no sin-checklist. Since every believer receives the Holy Spirit, Peter will let the Holy Spirit does his ongoing work in us, gently restoring us on our beach encounters with Jesus.

Why is Jesus gentle with us? Why was he gentle with Peter? Because he loves Peter. And he loves us. All of us who are disciples of Jesus are disciples whom Jesus loves!

update: My friend Pastor Eric Stillman shares the same insight on his blog, I am the one Jesus loved.

Why did Peter put his coat on before jumping in the water? John 21:7

I have the great pleasure of facilitating every week a Bible discussion group with several high school students. We've been discussing the Gospel of John  this past year, and we finally finished tonight. We enjoyed the humorous scene John writes about in this last chapter. The great apostle John can't help himself when it comes to embarrassing his fellow inner circle apostle; the denial of Christ, his slowness in getting to the empty tomb, and this event in the last chapter.
John 21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
What's the joke? Well John is the first to realize that Jesus is on the beach, #humblebrag, but then Peter puts ON his coat before jumping out of the boat? I've seen some academic ink spilled trying to explain this weird behavior on the part of this fisherman (good one here). Why didn't he keep his coat dry and let the buddies bring it in with them on the boat? Well, Peter exhibits the behavior of a "ready, fire, aim" kind of guy. But he really seems to be aiming before he shoots this time. He actually stops to put his coat on. My suspicion is that he actually expected to walk on the water to Jesus., based on his previous, nearly successful attempt (Matthew 14:22-33). So he put on his coat as a demonstration of his faith, stepped off the boat, and took a swim instead of a walk. That cracks me up.

One application we came up tonight is that Jesus shouldn't be presumed on to work supernaturally in the same ways, then it would cease to be miraculous. His methods of healing people were varied, from speaking the miracle, to commanding the miracle, to doing the miracle over the horizon, from being touched, from spitting on people, from sticking his fingers in their ears, etc. There is no formula, because he's about the relationship, not the method.

Peter learned this in a funny way. He got to Jesus, just slower and wetter than he planned. Then Jesus restored him after the three fold denial, not by any brutal act of penance, but simply by asking him three times if Peter loved him. What a gentle Lord.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

we're all the Bad News Bears

First off, if you don't know who the Bad News Bears are, go read about them here. In summary, they are a Little League team of losers who gain hope and start to win. My premise is that every religious or philosophical team is a team of losers. But, because we are in teams, we support each other and tease the other teams, even if our coach wants us to recruit other losers to our team. Personally, by similar analogy, I can't imagine someone trying to convince me to become a Duke basketball fan. I hate Duke. And I'm not alone. Also I'm a UConn Husky fan and was there when Laettner ended our first NCAA run.

Wait, I need to cool off....

I don't hate people who like Duke, I just hate the Duke basketball concept. So I can relate to this atheist's feelings towards Christians.

The “hate the sin, love the sinner” line, especially when used in connection with LBGT rights, infuriates me. So now I just copy and paste the comment below. It always seems to piss them off for some reason… hm.
“I consider the act of practicing Christianity immoral, but I still like Christians. Oh… but they probably shouldn’t have any rights. Certainly we shouldn’t allow them to marry or adopt, because that infringes upon my personal belief that Christianity corrupts people. And my personal beliefs take precedent over any rights you think you are entitled to. But I still like YOU. I just disagree with what you DO. Please don’t take it personally.” ~JJ 
 As a member of Team Jesus, I want to say on behalf of the team, "Ouch." I shared this on Facebook and Twitter and some from my team wanted to whip Team Atheist in a ballgame. But I came across this quote from a repost at my non-theist friend's Tumblr page.
I had a friend on that other team, a friend I want to recruit to Team Jesus. I don't want to "whip" him in a debate game, but "win" him over by being winsome. I want to listen to this critique. What I hear is someone's frustration with Team Jesus' hypocrisy. Coach Jesus tells us to "love our neighbors as ourselves" as one of two fundamental rules to live by. Now that is not the same as "live and let live" but there is plenty of overlap. Most of us on Team Jesus are very confident about being on the team that will eventually win it all, so we, me included, can get pretty arrogant about our "upside." This tends to lead us to ignore the fact that we're all Bad News Bears. Our team's upside is all due to our Coach, who has unlimited grace on our foibles. "Foibles" range from the little things to outright atrocious wickedness. Coach Jesus lets anyone join the team, even the most rotten. He doesn't even protect his trademark, letting lots of people do awful things in his name. However, he wants his team to imitate him in humility and forgiveness, which can be hard for us who want to celebrate being ranked #1 before the season ends.

I've been reading a shorter work by Leo Tolstoy, Childhood, Boyhood and Youth, which is more like three novellas. They are a memoir that is not true, but truthy. (He is an amazing writer.) The story is a first person narrative by a 14 year old boy, in the 2nd book, who grows up in wealth, but loses his mother to illness, and is moved by his father to the grandmother's house in Moscow. Not only does the father bring his children, but also that of poor friend of the mother and her daughter, since they had lived with the family in the country, being greatly adored by the mother. On the ride to Moscow, in their carriages, the boy wonders why this girl he has grown up with is not enjoying the trip. She eventually let's him know that his mother is no longer their protector and there is no longer a guarantee of the family's continued patronage. Without that patronage, they will be paupers. They are rich only as long as his family shares their wealth with them. Her only option, she concludes, if they are turned out is to become a nun. This realization stuns the boy.
Has it ever befallen you, my readers, to become suddenly aware that your conception of things has altered—as though every object in life had unexpectedly turned a side towards you of which you had hitherto remained unaware? Such a species of moral change occurred, as regards myself, during this journey, and therefore from it I date the beginning of my boyhood. For the first time in my life, I then envisaged the idea that we—i.e. our family—were not the only persons in the world; that not every conceivable interest was centred in ourselves; and that there existed numbers of people who had nothing in common with us, cared nothing for us, and even knew nothing of our existence. No doubt I had known all this before—only I had not known it then as I knew it now; I had never properly felt or understood it. Chapter 3, Boyhood by Tolstoy
If I had read the atheist's quote without the context of my friend sharing it, I too would have ready to rumble. But because my friend shared it, my "conception of things ... altered." Instead of offense, I felt empathy. This doesn't change my happiness to be on Team Jesus, but it deflated some of the hubris I have for being on his team. What makes Team Jesus so great? We let anyone join, so we are full of losers. Some of us are so embarrassing. Some of us are so obnoxious. There's just not much good that can be said for the players. But the coach; he's remarkable. He let's anyone join (like me), even the biggest losers (like me), even the embarrassing players (like me), even the most obnoxious players (like me). Team Jesus' greatest weakness, the players, are a result of it's greatest strength (the coach).

All I have to offer to those that I or my teammates offend is an introduction to our Coach. He offers us the wealth of his grace, to be part of his family, and join him in the move to the heavenly city. Any loser can jump on the bandwagon, because everyone is a loser. He guarantees those who go with him, his ongoing, eternal patronage.

I recommend this book I reviewed last summer, Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

Monday, April 16, 2012

book response: The Big Burn by Egan (2009)

Cover of
Cover via Amazon
I enjoyed Timothy Egan's previous book, The Worst Hard Time, about the American Dust Bowl and other, later president Roosevelt. This book, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, has been on my "to read" list since it came out, but it's availability for my Kindle from the public library moved it to the top. Although the great fire of 1910 did not bring haze all the way to Washington D.C., the parallel political story was just as fascinating as the Dust Bowl.

It was thrilling to me to learn of Teddy Roosevelt's plan to liberate the Republican party from the robber barons. The "back to the future" political aspect of this book was especially poignant in light of today's debates, which are essentially the same 100 years later. The only way the radical Republican became president was because he was vice-president when the president William McKinley was assassinated.

Though he said publicly that little would change, in private Roosevelt wanted to steer the Republican Party away from big business and toward becoming "a fairly radical progressive party," as he wrote in his memoir. Loc. 566-67
Although wealthy himself, Roosevelt was appalled at those capitalists who only served themselves and exploited their workers and their natural resources.

"There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensitive to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune," Roosevelt said just before he became president. Loc. 592-94
One of Roosevelt's radical proposals was that some of America should remain unexploited and accessible to any American to enjoy.
In Wallace, [Idaho - jpu] Roosevelt made an appeal to the shared humanity of all Americans, a common plea in an era when the angry poor and the predatory rich were at each other's throats. Loc. 603-5
In an era of free-for-all capitalism, it was revolutionary to insist, as he did, that the "rights of the public to the national resources outweigh private rights." Loc. 625-27
Of course, the extremely wealthy objected to leaving a single dollar on the table. But Roosevelt's ally was another man of wealth who also loved nature, Gifford Pinchot.

"I object to the law of the jungle," Pinchot always said, a philosophy that applied to predatory capitalism as well as the unruly extremes of the physical world. Loc. 778-80
Why does Roosevelt's words seem so true even today? Is it that we still haven't learned?
People living in 1909 were obligated to the future, he wrote. "It is high time to realize that our responsibility to the coming millions is like that of parents to their children, and that in wasting our resources we are wronging our children." Loc. 1313-15
"The great oppressive trusts exist because of subservient lawmakers," he told the farmers in Spokane. It was a direct slap at Ballinger, seated a few feet away, and at Heyburn. "I stand for the Roosevelt policies because they set the common good of all of us above the private gain of some of us," he said. Loc. 1433-35
Egan explains the racial ugliness common then toward the Buffalo Soldiers who ended up saving some towns from this massive conflagration.

Books such as The Negro: A Menace to American Civilization were popular throughout the nation, not just in the South, and the sexual drive of black males was said to be uncontrollable when they were around young white women. Dark-skinned men were always "pulsating with the desire to sate their passions upon white maidens and wives," as the white supremacist senator from South Carolina, Ben Tillman, said at the time. Tillman was proud of taking away the vote from black men. "We have scratched our head to figure out how we can eliminate the last one of them," he said. "We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed." Loc. 1872-77
After successfully evacuating the town, after enduring a harrowing night inside a hot train, after hauling water buckets and setting backfires, the Buffalo Soldiers had saved Avery. Over the ridge, their comrades had helped get the women and children of Wallace out of town. Two towns, two missions accomplished. Loc. 3150-52

The highest compliment that the white majority was capable of paying these black soldiers was to call them "white," I guess "brave" or "courageous" were not permissible.

And the Seattle papers seemed equally stunned that the Buffalo Soldiers could perform so heroically. "I want to say something about those negroes now," they quoted a man from Avery who helped organize the exodus and backfire. "They were black, but I never knew a whiter set of men to breathe. Not a man in the lot knew what a yellow streak was ... They never complained. They were never afraid. They worked, worked, worked, like Trojans, and they worked every minute. I can't say too much about them, but I will say that my attitude toward the black race has undergone a wonderful change since I knew those twelve heroes." Loc. 3163-67

Egan points out how this nation was still a nation of immigrants, who fled terrible conditions at home and encountered terrible prejudice in their new home. Again, the more things change the more they stay the same, except Americans complain about Spanish speaking immigrants this way.

Such attitudes were typical in a decade when nine million immigrants came to the United States, and one-third of the population was either foreign-born or a child of someone born abroad. The Italian surge in particular angered those who felt the nation was no longer recognizable, had lost its sense of identity. And they hated all these strange languages spoken in shops, schools, and churches. The Immigration Restriction League, founded by Boston blue bloods with family ties to the old Tories of England, campaigned to keep "undesirable classes" from entering the country. They meant Italians, Greeks, Jews, and people from eastern Europe. "The scum of creation has been dumped on us," said the nativist politician Thomas Watson. "The most dangerous and corrupting hordes of the Old World have invaded us." It was not just politicians who attacked Mediterranean immigrants as a threat to the American way of life. Francis A. Walker, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, called Italian and Greek immigrants "beaten men from beaten races, representing the worst failures in the struggles for existence." Another educated expert cautioned Americans against "absorbing the excitable blood from Southern Europe." Loc. 1943-52

But even fellow white Americans who sacrificed so much to fight the fires were not treated much better. One hero was Ed Pulaski. Congress, who was beholden to the robber barons, could not find a dime to fund the medical needs of men like Pulaski who were severely injured in service to their country.
In the end, Pulaski did not get a dime from the government for the ravages fire inflicted on his body. The reasoning seemed to be that since he went directly back to work after leaving the hospital, he was not disabled, and therefore was ineligible for compensation for lost work time. But of course the reason Pulaski had returned to his job, despite his serious medical troubles, was that he needed the paycheck just to stay alive. Loc. 3761-64
The irony that irritated me and was missed by Egan blinded by his devotion to Roosevelt and Pinchot is that these two wealthy men, who created the forest service which hired men like Pulaski to do such service to their country, did not step in and assist Pulaski either. This is the easily criticized stereotype of the American liberal. They were ever eager to spend America's money for the benefit of Americans, but unwilling to give from their own pockets.

Egan is an engaging writer, able to bring his readers from the political theater to the fiery flames in Idaho, from the political prostitutes in the nation's capital to the whorehouses and saloons of the Montana border. It's one of the better ways to learn history.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

book response: The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Philbrick (2011)

Cover of
Cover via Amazon
I thoroughly enjoyed Nathaniel Philbrick's history of the Pilgrims, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (see my previous multi-part book report) and was more than willing to learn again from him about an historical subject I know nothing about, The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. This book was available for a Kindle loan through my local library and a great read on the Kindle, but I have the same complaint with all the Kindle books that include maps; the maps are very hard to read.

The short summary is this book is excellent. Philbrick credits Sitting Bull's success to prophecy and Custer's defeat to his own hubris, his fellow officer Reno's cowardice and drunkenness, and his fellow officer Benteen's passive aggressive attitude. This way he can appease all the hard-core amateurs who like to single out a single reason for the loss of over 200 US soldiers at the Little Bighorn River. This book was an excellent introduction to this historical event.

The rest of this is my interaction with excerpts from the book, although there are no page numbers, just Kindle locations. Philbrick's observations on Plains Indian culture sounded to me like the ideal of today's libertarians.
 The concept of having a supreme leader did not come naturally to the Lakota, for whom individuality and independence had always been paramount. Even in the midst of battle, a warrior was not bound by the orders of a commander; he fought for his own personal glory. Decisions were reached in Lakota society by consensus, and if two individuals or groups disagreed, they were free to go their separate ways and find another village to attach themselves to. Loc. 1148-52
Although the US government's treatment of the American Indians was atrocious, including the relocation of nomadic groups to reservations, one chief was quoted in the book,and I forgot to highlight it, that he did appreciate not having to worry every night if his horse would get stolen and if he had to go out and fight someone for it the next day, which would be the flipside of the libertarian ideal.

The nomadic life was necessary to follow the buffalo which provided the protein, tools and shelter (bones and hide), as well as religious elements. But settling too long also left their large pony herd without forage. When it was time to move, the families would pack everything on two teepee poles and tie them to a pony. The sticks wold furrow the ground behind them. I imagine this left each location for fertile for natural grasses and other wildlife. Of course, the size of a camp would affect how long they could stay in an area.
A village of that size had to move every few days as the pony herd consumed the surrounding grass and the hunters ranged the country for game. Since almost three weeks had passed since the hostiles had been last sighted, and an Indian village could move as many as fifty miles a day, the hostile camp might be several hundred miles away by now. Loc. 1580-83

Philbrick does not shy away from the atrocities committed by both sides against each other. I'm sharing these here partly to dispel the notion that the Indians were noble savages and that the white soldiers were noble Christians. I'm sure nobility was embraced by some in each group, the ghastly subhuman things tend to leave more evidence and shock. Decades afterwards, Teddy Roosevelt heard some first hand accounts from some Indians.
Roosevelt found the Crows’ account “wildly improbable.” This, however, did not necessarily make it untrue. “Of course, human nature is so queer that it is hard to say that anything is impossible…,” Roosevelt wrote in an April 8, 1908, letter to Curtis. “Odd things happen in a battle, and the human heart has strange and gruesome depths and the human brain still stranger shallows; Loc. 3751-53 - highlight is mine- jpu

While looking for Sitting Bull's encampment, Custer came across a recently evacuated site, where some dead Indian warriors had been just buried. In response, they attacked the dead. "That afternoon, Custer and his troopers systematically desecrated the graves." Loc. 1657-58 But desecration of the dead was not unique to the white invaders.They came across the bodies of US soldiers. "The bodies had been so horribly mutilated that it was at first impossible to determine which one was Elliott’s."
Also, Indian raiders of homesteaders on Indian lands were often accused of raping the women. Less known, to me anyway, is the rapes by US soldiers of Indian women captured after a village was vanquished. This next revelation is stomach turning, involving a the destruction of an Indian village by Custer a few years before the Little Big Horn.
If Custer had committed one certain crime at the Washita, it involved not Major Elliott but the fifty or so Cheyenne captives who accompanied the regiment during the long march back to the base camp. According to Ben Clark, “many of the squaws captured at the Washita were used by the officers.” Clark claimed that the scout known as Romero (jokingly referred to as Romeo by Custer) acted as the regiment’s pimp. “Romero would send squaws around to the officers’ tents every night,” he said, adding that “Custer picked out a fine looking one [named Monahsetah] and had her in his tent every night.” Benteen corroborated Clark’s story, relating how the regiment’s surgeon reported seeing Custer not only “sleeping with that Indian girl all winter long, but…many times in the very act of copulating with her!” There was a saying among the soldiers of the western frontier, a saying Custer and his officers could heartily endorse: “Indian women rape easy.” Highlight Loc. 2561-68 - highlight is mine-jpu

The intertribal warfare was also brutal, even before the invasion by the whites. So it's not surprising that some Indians worked for the US Calvary, not only against other tribes but even to settle personal scores.

For Bloody Knife, who wore the black handkerchief with blue stars that Custer had brought back with him from Washington, this was a very personal battle. His mother was an Arikara, but his father was a Hunkpapa, and Bloody Knife had grown up with Gall, Sitting Bull, and many of the other warriors gathered here today on the Little Bighorn. Whether it was because of his Arikara parentage or his sullen personality, Bloody Knife had been tormented by the other Hunkpapa boys, with Gall—barrel-chested, outgoing, and easy to like—leading in the abuse. Bloody Knife eventually left to live with his mother’s people, but in 1860, at the age of twenty, he returned to visit his father on the mouth of the Rosebud, only to be once again beaten up and humiliated by his old nemesis, Gall. Loc. 3069-75
 In the 1st half of the raid at the Little Bighorn, led by Major Reno, Bloody Knife was able to kill Gall's wife and children. In fact, success against tribal villages was almost guaranteed. But Custer had run into the biggest gathering of tribes in recent history. "Between 1868 and 1878, there were eighteen cavalry attacks on Indian villages of two hundred tepees or fewer, and every one of these attacks proved successful." Loc. 3131-32 This history of "success" sickens me, to think of how many men were killed for simply living on their land that white men wanted for their greedy purposes.

While Bloody Knife was able to settle his score with Gall, others were not as successful, including Dorman, also part of Reno's raid.
One of the wounded was the African American interpreter Isaiah Dorman. Since he was married to a Hunkpapa woman at the Standing Rock Agency, he was well known to many of the Indians gathered there that day, one of whom was Moving Robe Woman. Loc. 3618-20 ... The second cartridge worked, however, and Moving Robe Woman killed Isaiah Dorman. Dorman’s body was later found beside his coffee kettle and cup, both filled with his own blood. His penis had been cut off and stuffed in his mouth and his testicles staked to the ground with a picket pin.Loc. 3624-26
At the end of the battle, with all of Custer's men dead, the winners celebrated in different ways.
As the warriors fought over plunder, the women, many of whom had lost loved ones that day, took a leading role in mutilating the dead. “The women used sheath-knives and hatchets,” remembered Wooden Leg, who used his own knife to scalp one of Lieutenant Cooke’s shaggy sideburns. Loc. 4954-56
Again, this was not a practice limited to the Indian savages, but was practiced by the white savages in uniforms as well.
Chivington’s soldiers had mercilessly killed and mutilated the women and children and later displayed their lurid trophies of war at a parade in Denver. For the Native women who’d survived what was known as the Battle of Sand Creek, the mutilation of Custer’s troops provided at least a modicum of revenge. Loc. 4957-59
I have two previous blogs (1, 2) on the Sand Creek massacre. If you read those expect to cry some. And then it's hard for me to mourn so much for Custer.
Of the Seventh Cavalry’s approximately 750 officers and enlisted men, 268 had been killed and 62 wounded. They’d lost not only their leader, but almost half their officers and men in the most devastating military loss in the history of the American West. Loc. 5098-5100
Hitler was able to point the finger at America's history in the subjugation of the West and use it as a positive example to justify his invasions to the east and the inhuman practices he endorsed. At least Germany has sought to make amends. The US, on the other hand is still derelict in its promised duties and obligations to those confined to reservations. What it couldn't do by direct action, it did by ruining the ecology of the plains.
In 1944, the Army Corp of Engineers decided to turn the Missouri River into a series of lakes. It’s been called “the single most destructive act perpetrated against an Indian tribe in the twentieth century.” With the building of five dams in North and South Dakota, the U.S. government flooded 550 square miles of tribal land. Since the waters of the Missouri were what sustained the Native peoples in this region, the dams eliminated their most fertile and sacred lands. Hundreds of Lakota families along the Missouri were displaced. But it was those peoples whose ancestors had assisted Custer’s Seventh Cavalry—the Mandan; the Hidatsa; and Bloody Knife’s people, the Arikara—who suffered the most. With the building of the Garrison Dam in North Dakota, these three tribes lost the very heart of their reservation at Fort Berthold, forcing approximately 95 percent of the agency’s residents to relocate. Loc. 5501-7

America's success rests on the timbers of great injustices. It's amazing how much mercy God has extended to our country.  As we learn in 2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. May we learn from our history and try to fix what we've left wrong.
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Monday, April 09, 2012

book response: Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale

I've been greatly encouraged by this complementary Kindle review copy from Booksneeze of Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale. It was even more profound for me as I read it over this past Easter weekend. This book is a report on the success of a church planting movement (CPM) among African Muslims as simply strategized by Cityteam, originally an outreach to the down and out in San Jose, California.

Their methods are simple, and familiar to anyone, like myself who has studied the simple/house/organic church movement. Here's the process. Love your neighbors. Find the "son of peace," (Luke 10:6) by depending desperately on prayer. Read the Bible together with those who are interested and let the Bible change them. As they read it, ask them what they learn about God, about humanity and what God wants them to do with what they've read. Next time you get together, ask how it went. Read some more. The study format is extremely simple but everyone is challenged to apply what they've learned every week. Eventually, many convert and are baptized. The converts are encouraged to replicate what they have encountered. They claim over 600,000 converts to Jesus in the past 6 years. They believe this remarkable success among a group perceived as violently resistant to Christianity is the result of a literal application of Jesus' command at the end of Matthew, the Great Commission,
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Their focus is on discipleship and obedience instead of conversion.
Too often, ministries focus on mass marketing the gospel, creating enough consumer impressions to drive demand, casting a wide net hoping to restrain a percentage of the fish from jumping out of our boat, reducing the gospel to the lowest common denominator of conversion rather than discipleship, with a hope (but not a plan) for eventual maturity.
They are not saying this is the only way, but that this way succeeds where they are working.
This kind of discipleship model—one that begins with discipleship and moves toward the point of conversion—is how many Muslims are becoming Christ followers.
No one wants to be discipled by a salesman though. But people are interested in what their friends are doing. That's why loving their neighbors is key for these church planters.
But he had learned a secret in his disciple-making training: if you want to touch a Muslim’s heart for the gospel, you have to be a genuine friend. You need to ask God to give you honest concern for them, not see Muslims as trophy conversions, but as people whom God loves and whom you can love as well.
They have no beef with larger churches with big buildings and staff. They note, however, that these systems in antagonistic regions have a very hard time getting off the ground or sustaining their outreach.
We often talk about two kinds of churches: Elephant churches have lots of programs, activities, and people. We need churches like this, but they are very slow to multiply, just like two elephants that take two years to produce offspring. Rabbit churches are small, able to hide in plain sight, and multiply very quickly. Two rabbits can theoretically produce more than one hundred million rabbits in three years.
On the other hand, Bible reading groups can easily lay low and stay unthreatening. The facilitator is no threat either, because he or she only seeks to keep the focus on the text, which is also a strength of the model.
When working with lost people, we have to avoid falling into the role of explaining Scripture. If we do, we become the authority rather than allowing Scripture to be the authority. If we are the authority, replication is limited by our leadership capacity and the time we have to teach every group. Consequently, shifting from Scripture being the authority to the teacher being the authority will keep groups from replicating as they should.
Elsewhere they write, "Do not teach or preach; instead, facilitate discovery and obedience." I've seen this method work in the small groups I've facilitated. Why should I tell people what to hear from God when God is more than capable of revealing that to them himself? This model is not limited to Africa either. It bears fruit around the world, including the United States.

The book is full of anecdotes from their believing friends in Africa who have left Islam. This is not an anti-Islam book but a pro-African book and needs to be read by those who want to see God's kingdom come but have run out of ideas on how to facilitate that.

 Update: Similar ideas from Central America on Short Term missions our way and Jesus' way.

1st barefoot run of 2012

It wasn't even half a mile, but I'm trying to learn from my past couple years of injuries due to going out too hard too soon. As Barefoot KenBob says, it's all about good form and you learn the best form from surfaces that give your body immediate feedback, not the beach or the golf course. So I set out on some macadam and then some concrete sidewalk in the low 40's this morning. The cold helps with the desensitization. The short distance allows me to concentrate on form. I plan to keep it real short this week.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday: No matter how bad we screw it up, even in his name...

Good Friday is so good because it shows that no matter how bad we screw it up, even in his name, Jesus still wins. Jesus threatened the religious leaders of his nation, and in their narcissistic views, he was threatening God himself and his chosen nation.
I call them narcissists because that's how Jesus describes them.
Matthew 23:4-7 "Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help.  Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next.  They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions,  preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.' The Message
After Jesus raised a man from the dead who had lain in a tomb for four days, instead of acknowledging his deity and giving him his due worship they decide they needed to kill him, even operating in a supernatural gift of prophecy that comes from God himself.
John 12:47-53 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. NIV 
These leaders had misrepresented God, despite being the most knowledgeable about the Scriptures. In John 5, Jesus confronts them on this,
John 5:38-40 and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me -- the one he sent to you. "You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me so that I can give you this eternal life. 
They can't accept who their studies point to, Jesus, so they seek to kill him and remove him as the option. Jesus was not surprised, he knew this fulfilled prophecy of Isaiah 6:9-10.
Matthew 13:14-15 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. ESV
All sorts of wickedness was happening in opposition to Jesus, but he carried on with his mission. Jesus knew the greatest victory would come through the most horrifying defeat, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He was abandoned by the person he most invested in. God, his Father, turned away from him, Jesus asks through reciting Psalm 22 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46

He had tolerated harassment, twisting of his words, rumor mongering, and oppression by narcissistic religious rulers until his execution at their instigation. He lived out his preaching of turning the other cheek. He knew it would all be worth it. On this darkest day of the Christian religious calendar, we can call it good because on this day he willingly carried our sin away. But he knew the promises.
Crucifixion by Picasso 1930

Isaiah prophesied about him in the 53rd chapter. It's a short chapter, but I highlighted the key words for Good Friday.

53:1 Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the Lord’s power revealed through him? 53:2 He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him. 53:3 He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant. 53:4 But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. 53:5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. 53:6 All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him. 53:7 He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth. 53:8 He was led away after an unjust trial – but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded. 53:9 They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully. 53:10 Though the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished through him. 53:11 Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins. 53:12 So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.” NET
St. Paul rehearses this prophecy of Isaiah's from hindsight in the modified form of an early Christian hymn.

Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This looks pretty old and I like that the bull angel looks like he is smiling, found here.

God's plan is never frustrated despite our best efforts, despite the devil's efforts, despite the efforts of those who claim to be helping Him as a means to help themselves, despite the efforts of those who really are trying to help him.

I think of God, metaphorically, as a teacher in a pre-school orphanage. Some of the three year olds are rotten, and some are nice, and some are trying to be helpful. Some in the class want to please Him and some want to please themselves. Some are beating on other kids. Some are mixing the water colors and making them all brown. But He has a plan. He'll pull the fighters apart. He'll play follow the leader with them. He'll hang high their works of art done in brown water colors. He'll put stickers on their shirts. All of them think they have the key to his heart because He loves on each of them so well. One year, he enrolls his own son to the pre-school. Coming from the teacher's home, the Son knows all about the Father's ways and His love. His dad has sent his Son to school as a role model and as an ambassador to these kids to let them know he wants to adopt them all and make them part of his family, so they can come home with him after school, and not have to stay in the orphanage. But some kids have become masters in the orphanage. They don't want to lose what they built, despite it exists in a foul orphanage run by a cruel manager. They decide they need to shut the Son up and beat him up badly. But the Father brings him home and heals him and brings his Son back to school, to prove how loving he is as a Father.

This orphanage is not our home.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Grain bin homes for Haiti and the U.S.

First of all the credit goes to Owen Geiger and his EarthBag Building Blog for, yet, another great find. Second of all, I like the idea of repurposing grain bins into homes. Third of all, I was thrilled to see that this business, Sukup, is donating these houses to Haitians in Les Cayes, map, and Croix-Des-Bouquets, map, through Haiti Relief Fund, Inc. This video shows a representative excitedly looking over a demo house at the Sukup factory.

This is Sukup's explanation of the house.
Sukup Safe T HomesTM are engineered structures that are suitable for all phases of recovery effort. They are quick and easy to construct, making them ideal for emergency situations. The all-steel construction makes the Sukup Safe T Home perfect for longer-term use, since they are weather-, fire- and termite-proof. They are also movable, making them well suited to transitional shelter needs. The round shape of the Safe T Home allows the unit to withstand high winds. They are also virtually earthquake-proof.
They also put together a video.

Here is a link to some of their pictures in Haiti. They also have more videos on their Youtube page about their construction trip. This one shows a recent trip in which 11 homes were erected in Les Cayes, first by company representatives then by a Haitian crew.


They can fit a dozen homes in a shipping container. Each home costs $5700 USD. But there is a time penalty in shipping to Haiti. Their blog says they have a container that's been held up for 6 months, basically for a ransom.

In the first video, the company rep says these houses could be much wider and/or much taller. I think something better could be done with insulating the walls, maybe an extra layer all the way up. But with the equatorial sun mostly shining on the roof, maybe the walls don't get that hot, and some bamboo around it would help shade it as well. A covered porch would be a great addition to these buildings, much appreciated in the rainy season.

Of course, as someone who likes round houses, I'd like to live in one as well. But I'm really happy that some Haitian families are getting out of tents and into these homes.

Monday, April 02, 2012

the pre-school theory of the atonement

The means of Christ's atonement was not an issue decided by the early church in a creed, so we are left to view it from it's many angles. Here is my analogous contribution.

I sometimes think of God, metaphorically, as a teacher in a pre-school orphanage. Some of the three year olds are rotten, and some are nice, and some are trying to be helpful. Some in the class want to please Him and some want to please themselves. Some are beating on other kids. Some are mixing the water colors and making them all brown. But He has a plan. He'll pull the fighters apart. He'll play follow the leader with them. He'll hang high their works of art done in brown water colors. He'll put stickers on their shirts. All of them think they have the key to his heart because He loves on each of them so well. One year, he enrolls his own Son to the pre-school. Coming from the teacher's home, the Son knows all about the Father's ways and His love. His dad has sent his Son to school as a role model and as an ambassador to these kids to let them know He wants to adopt them all and make them part of His family, so they can come home with Him after school, and not have to stay in the orphanage. But some kids have become masters in the orphanage. They don't want to lose what they built, despite it existing in a foul orphanage run by a cruel manager. They decide they need to silence the Son by beating him up badly. But the Father brings Him home and heals Him and brings his Son back to school, to prove how loving he is as a Father.

This orphanage is not our home.