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XXX: My Rap About Porn Problems

This past Christmas I wrote a rap inspired by the Porn Problems post I put up a year ago.

I listened to a lot of rap growing up. Starting with sneaking Lil' Bow Wow in my portable CD player on road trips, then Outkast, later Kanye. I took a long break but here and there I jump back in and discover good rap is still alive. I discovered Kendrick Lamar before Christmas and was inspired to try my own, taking one of his beats for the track. I have had a pretty cushy life though, so I couldn't find anything to write about that got me angry enough to inspire lyrics, until I thought of pornography. Oh, and I made my voice lower to sound more intense. If you haven't read my previous post called Porn Problems, here it is. Here is the rap and the lyrics below:

XXX marks the spot.

They found me defenseless.

Jumping all these fences then

Dead down in the trenches.

Doubled over, I wish I didn't feel it.

Wish I didn't do it, but I did, and now I see it 20/20.

 

My marbles spilling,

I pick them up. They're on the floor,

Me they ignore, and now I'm reeling.

I should have some wisdom in these molars but I'm still teething,

Still seeking.

 

What is the answer? Where is the higher path?

A partial lobotomy or end up under my epitaph

Too soon. Severing limbs until quadriplegic,

Numbing my senses until paralysis stops my breathing.

There'll be no fireworks, there'll be no celebration

This is the funeral of the villain: the mistakes I'm making.

 

So you come to me asking do I hate myself for what I've done.

Would you end it all for yourself if I just gave you a gun?

Well hunt me, shun me, run me off into the sun,

But as for me my battles done, come see my red run.

And where's your blood?

Four-hundred-ninety times,

Seems the flesh still won.

 

So here's my question:

Where is the line? What's really natural and what is divine?

Or when is it time to find another lens;

A rhyme or reason for this mess we're living in?

Is ignorance bliss or is knowledge supreme ?

Or are we all drifting in the same dream?

My guess is were drifting, but it's not a dream,

And we drift on the ships of the slave or free.

 

Would I rather live in captivity than die in freedom?

So I guess give me the gun.

My time has come,

I'm over board; who cares who won,

Or whether,

I drown weighed down by my chains or find myself tethered

To a raft that washes me ashore in foul weather.

Better found dead or a tattered haggard,

Then a living, lost, locked away, rotting, beggar.

 

XXX marks the spot.

They found me defenseless,

Washed up on the shore,

Alive to live as a weary witness.

-----

Daniel

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West Charlotte Churches respond to Shooting with Prayer

Two stark scenes play out in Charlotte over the last two days. Last night, violent protesting raged on until the wee hours of the morning. Today, weary and sober attenders linger past the hour at noonday prayer at Warehouse242, a flipped warehouse turned church on Wilkinson Blvd. Weekly, pastors and lay leaders from across West Charlotte gather with a bare agenda; to pray for the city. Today, the scene is a quiet, humble, and sobering sanctuary with a small band of black, white, asian, hispanic, young and old intercessors sprinkling the front seats. The loud question filling the silent room is how will the pastors and community leaders respond to both violent protesting and a rising sense of deep injustice within the racial divides that slice through Charlotte. The prayer meeting is attended by both West Charlotte minorities and the white business elite of Uptown. For one hour, once a week, these seemingly insurmountable barriers take a back seat to simple prayer.

Kim Summerrow, an elder at W242 posts to her Facebook wall, "Heartbroken this morning? Come to the noon prayer service at Warehouse 242 to lift our voices in prayer in unison standing beside and for our brothers and sisters. Worried that you might not have time to grab lunch? Perhaps Christ is prompting you to fast. Come for 10 minutes, or the full hour, but come." 

Pastor Kenneth Gilliard, Senior Pastor of Christ Resurrection Church on Freedom Drive locks arms with the Pastor of Service at Warehouse242, Marc Dickmann. The two men stand in harrowing silence before Pastor Kenneth begins to pray. Gilliard and Dickmann started noonday prayer a year ago when the two men, one black and one white, wanted to set weekly time aside to pray for West Charlotte. Soon, representatives from area churches began attending the meetings, and within a few months it became clear that the group was to pioneer an open dialogue on what racial reconciliation looks like in West Charlotte. In addition to Wednesday prayer, the group now meets one Sunday a month to help coach their community through an open dialogue on issues that plague West Charlotte, least of which is racial tension.

Jimmy McQuilkin of Urban Promise Charlotte, read aloud a prayer that Yolanda Pierce, the Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, penned in response to the Ferguson shooting and the start of the #blacklivesmatter movement:

Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury and the depth of the wound. Let us not rush to offer a band-aid, when the gaping wound requires surgery and complete reconstruction. Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment. Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations and restoration, or how we can repair the breach and how we can restore the loss. Let us not rush past the loss of this mother’s child, this father’s child ... someone’s beloved son. Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance. Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice. Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, and the pain that is life in community together. Let us not offer clichés to the grieving, those whose hearts are being torn asunder. Instead… Let us mourn black and brown men and women, those killed extrajudicially every 28 hours. Let us lament the loss of a teenager, dead at the hands of a police officer who described him as a demon. Let us weep at a criminal justice system, which is neither blind nor just. Let us call for the mourning men and the wailing women, those willing to rend their garments of privilege and ease, and sit in the ashes of this nation’s original sin. Let us be silent when we don’t know what to say. Let us be humble and listen to the pain, rage, and grief pouring from the lips of our neighbors and friends. Let us decrease, so that our brothers and sisters who live on the underside of history may increase. Let us pray with our eyes open and our feet firmly planted on the ground Let us listen to the shattering glass and let us smell the purifying fires, for it is the language of the unheard. God, in your mercy… Show me my own complicity in injustice. Convict me for my indifference. Forgive me when I have remained silent. Equip me with a zeal for righteousness. Never let me grow accustomed or acclimated to unrighteousness.
— Yolanda Pierce

Without pretense or hot emotion, the prayer meeting drew to a close. Black and white church goers from different communities rose from their seats to head back to work, but first, a hug. Across the room people of different races greet each other with gazes of understanding and solidarity.

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Miracles & Methodism: A Model for Moving Forward

Dear Methodist Church,

In my freshman year of college, my roommate Wes introduced me to the Avett Brothers, who would quickly become my favorite band. North Carolina born and bred, these alt-country rockers melded their punk-rock days as a garage-band with their love of country and bluegrass music, creating a unique and incendiary sound that spread its flames wildly from North Carolina across the country. Their concerts were raw, real portrayals of the brothers’ lives of love, dreams, and struggles. An audience member couldn’t attend and not be moved; not feel something. Then they reached acclaimed success. They won a Grammy, and shared a stage with Bob Dylan.

By all appearances, the Avett Brothers new sound should have been about to transform the American musical landscape. But the next album, produced by Rick Rubin (of U2, Metallica, Johnny Cash, and Neil Diamond to name a few), took a different tone, and something sacred was lost. When asked how Rick Rubin influenced the process of the new album, members shared that “he helped us calm down a bit in the studio...[before] awareness of key and pitch and singing has been something...I didn’t pay any attention to at all.  All I wanted to do it to get on stage and move and make an impact – surprise people, or scare people, or excite people, or make people angry or happy or whatever.” I was shocked to find the new Avett Brothers album for sale at Starbucks. I bought it excitedly, but only listened to it once.  I called my old roommate Wes, and he let me know he stopped listening to them a year ago. “They’ve lost their roots” he said.

I wonder if this isn’t the story of the Methodist church. As Hempton puts it, “Methodism was restless and energetic, introspective and expansionist, emotional and earnest. It was an unsettling movement led by unsettled people,” and as was the case with the Avett Brothers, “With respectability and cultural acceptance came an inevitable decline in the otherworldly zeal of its earlier manifestations.” Where Rolling Stone magazine and Hillary Clinton may know the name of the Avett Brothers and Methodism, does the average ‘Wes’ know the Avett Brothers anymore, or the modern-version of the downtrodden coal-miner know Methodism as they once did? By tracing the loss of the miraculous in the Methodist church, a correlation can be drawn to the decline of the denomination and shed light on the impact this change has caused in the global church, both inside and outside the Methodist Church.

In order to move forward, it is important to first define what is being called “miraculous.” Wesley explains the miraculous as follows: “In the common course of nature, God does act by general laws, but he has never precluded himself from making exceptions to them, whensoever he pleases...by suspending that law in favor of those that love him. ‘What! You expect miracles then?’ Certainly I do, if I believe the Bible: For the Bible teaches me, that God hears and answers prayer: But every answer to prayer is, properly, a miracle.” The miraculous is then anytime God interrupts the established order, or as Wesley puts it “suspending [the] law.” These occurrences are referred to using a myriad of phrases containing nuanced connotations and meanings, including “extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost”, “the power of God”, “manifestations”, “demonstrations of the Spirit”, “miracles”, and the most negatively charged term, “enthusiasm." These words and phrases will be used in quotes henceforth, but all will land under the umbrella of the term this author will most often use, “miraculous”, more due to clarity than any theological or doctrinal reason.

It will also be valuable to establish a context for a discussion on the miraculous in the history of Methodism. What is the history of the miraculous in the church that led to its prevalence in the Methodist movement? What led to its waxing and waning throughout generations of the church? The miraculous has had a rough history, particularly due to those who have told its story in history books and sermons. Arguments have existed against the continuing of miraculous activity since early in the church, and often people on both sides of the debate reference Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). Dr. Frank H. Billman, wrote in his book “The Supernatural Thread in Methodism”, that early in Augustine’s life, he reasoned that the miracles of Jesus were done to prove His authority and who He was…[thinking that] now that we have the full New Testament, we don’t need that miraculous evidence - it’s in the book.” This theological view has come to be known as cessationism, which holds that the miraculous seen in Biblical times is no longer at play. But Billman continues that “six years before his death, Augustine rejected cessationism…due to a dramatic healing that he witnessed himself…In 426, Augustine wrote, “I realized how many miracles were occurring in our own day and which were so like the miracles of old.”

Luther is another whose position on the miraculous is quoted by both sides of the discussion on supernatural activity in the modern church. The Roman Church’s abuse of the “miraculous,” with miracle-working relics, saints with supernatural origin stories of questionable merit, and leaders hoarding the power and any “miraculous gifts” for themselves, warranted heavy criticism at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism, to some degree, “built itself by attacking the miracles of Catholicism.” Though Luther believed in exorcism, prayer for healing, and “special revelations of the Spirit," when Luther was asked to prove his authority by miracles to the Catholic higher-ups, he said that miracles were “particularly suited to the apostolic age and were no longer necessary to vindicate the authority of one who stands on the side of Scripture.” This was said as a reaction to the abuses of the Catholics regarding the miraculous, but his statements were “taken out of context and codified into a legal system” resulting in a legacy of Reformed and Lutheran churches that embraced a cessationism they believed that Luther founded, Calvin extended, and one in which B.B. Warfield ultimately put the final nail in the coffin of when he published Counterfeit Miracles in 1918. Warfield declared that the Lord had not performed a single miracle on earth since the death of the original twelve apostles and those directly associated with them.”

The near purging of the miraculous from the midst of the Protestant church is a typical reactionary pendulum swing seen in power struggles. Where a dangerous extreme is reached on one side of the spectrum, a reactionary party comes in and takes power, vowing to swing the emphasis to the entirely opposite side. This is the same reason why a certain political party rarely keeps one of their candidates in office for more than two terms. The pendulum swings, and the opposite party is voted in again. The Protestants most likely fell prey to this common mishap of throwing the baby out with the bathwater; while “endeavoring to pull up the tares of false Roman miracle, they have…pulled up the root of faith in miracles, and the great spiritual heritage of the Church with it." Despite this, there rises up occasionally the individual, or the movement, that can grab the strong elements of both sides, and bravely hold them together as one. Remembering that, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the question becomes, when the next spring of supernatural activity would arise, would there appear this man or movement that could walk the tightrope? Who could bear the task of not being carried away with spiritual extremism, but also not dousing out the Spirit’s flames at first flicker?

John Wesley and the Methodists proved to be one of these rare gems of history. Refusing to succumb to the extremes of either side, Wesley leaned heavily toward the side of believing in the miraculous, while keeping a strong hand on reason that was most likely informed (subconsciously or not) by the Enlightenment that was happening all around him. A map of his position on the miraculous might look like this, with his position in bold:

                                     |-----------------------------|--------------------------------|-------------------------------|

                   Cessationism         ‘Everyday’ Miracles           Reasonable Enthusiasm          Enthusiasm

Wesley strongly opposed the idea of what we now call cessationism, stating clearly “I do not recollect any Scripture wherein we are taught that miracles were to be confined within the limits either of the apostolic age…or any period of time, longer or shorter, even till the restitution of all things.” Another explanation for a lack of supernatural activity in the church is a population that believes simply in ‘everyday’ miracles; this is a popular view today for those whose denominations do not encourage or intentionally teach on any demonstrative activity of the Holy Spirit, but also do not have a theology (i.e. cessationism) that opposes the miraculous. These proponents might cite the ‘miracle’ of baby being born, or the ‘miracle’ of your car making it to the gas station when you are out of gas; perhaps coupling them with platitudes like “God winked at you.”  Where these might indeed be miracles of a sort, Wesley had a different definition (as stated above) for what constituted the miraculous, and a higher standard for what should be expected in the life of a believer. On the other side, Wesley was also fighting against some religious extremism that led to extra-biblical behavior within his own movement. This topic will be addressed in full later, but for now it is worth noting the genius in how Wesley positioned himself, and consistently so, in the midst of all these factions:

Wesley was not willing to label all manifestations as being completely of God. He said that sometimes they were, sometimes it was a mixture of God and the person, and sometimes it might be the devil. He said, “Perhaps the danger is, to regard [the manifestations] too little, to condemn them altogether; to imagine they had nothing of God in them, and were an hindrance to his work…This should not make us either deny or undervalue the real work of the Spirit. The shadow is no disparagement of the substance, nor the counterfeit of the real diamond.”

Wesley would learn the lesson from history, judging as Jesus says will be done in His final judgement, to “let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, 'Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn'” (Matthew 13:30). The result of Wesley’s decision to walk this narrow road would indeed prove to reveal real diamonds: thousands of genuine encounters with the living God.

The early days of Methodism were a hotbed of miraculous activity, beginning with Wesley and his associates. In 1738, Wesley had been praying diligently for the assurance of his salvation, a component that would mark the First Great Awakening. While reluctantly attending a meeting on Aldersgate street where a Moravian was sharing from Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Wesley wrote “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

This is a story many Methodists are familiar with, but what would follow that same year is seldom spoken of. Wesley recalls, “About three in the morning, as we were continuing in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground." George Whitefield, the great preacher of the awakening, was also there, and added of the experience, “it was Pentecostal season indeed…We were filled as with new wine…overwhelmed with the Divine Presence.” Whitefield’s assessment may be the best to explain this peculiar activity, as when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in the upper room, “others mocking said, 'They are filled with new wine.'” What about the disciples would cause the others to describe them as being drunk? Perhaps this same behavior being seen by Wesley.

As Wesley stepped into a new season of ministry filled with power, these occurrences of people being “overwhelmed” to the point of “cry[ing] out” and “falling to the ground” would come to consistently accompany his preaching. Wesley shares that while he was “preaching at Newgate...Immediately one and another, and another sunk to the earth: They dropped on every side as thunderstruck.” This became such a clear sign of the Lord moving on the hearts of the people, that when “no one was reacting, he would pray “Lord! Where are thy tokens and signs?” and many would be seized and would scream out.” These miraculous movements of the Spirit on people were not the only supernatural activity that Wesley pursued in his Ministry, he would also engage in the prophetic, affirm the gift of tongues, and pray for healing. Wesley tells of an evening when he “called upon Ann Calcut. She had been speechless for some time; but almost as soon as we began to pray, God restored her speech…from that hour the fever left her; and in a few days she arose and walked glorifying God.” All of this laid a supernatural foundation for a Methodism that would be built into what Hempton calls an “empire of the Spirit," which from  his research he determined defines the movement so succinctly that he named his most recent book on Methodism the same.

Interpreting the nature of historical Methodism is like only hearing one side of a telephone conversation, you can hear the initiation of questions and information, but not the response. “Too often,” Hempton shares, “the Methodist message is reduced to its theology and entered the world through learned discourse with printed texts, but that is not what made the movement fizz.” Because of the incredible structural and doctrinal feats accomplished in Methodism to enable such an immense movement to be organized and shepherded well, many may focus on graphs, theology, and social impact, missing what really made Methodism tick. It was, for the most part, an oral movement led by ordinary people, so most of our history based on written texts miss key elements: “Itinerants preached, exhorters exhorted, class members confessed, hymns were sung, prayers were spoken, testimonies were delivered, and revival meetings throbbed with exclamatory noise.” It is most likely into these cracks that the miraculous nature of Methodism has fallen. These were not just pockets of the Methodist movement; everywhere Methodism placed its foot, the miraculous followed. Methodists “believed that God was with them, not in a general theological sense, but in a set of encounters, which supposedly obeyed no other explanation than that of a proactive divine presence.” Dreams, visions, prophetic words of knowledge, electric encounters and other “special providences” of the living God were expectations for the everyday life of a Methodist. Even those outside of the church noted the supernatural as nearly synonymous with Methodism. The Victorian author George Eliot writes in her first classic novel Adam Bede in 1859, “I cannot pretend that Seth and Dinah were anything else but Methodists...They believe in present miracles, in instantaneous conversions, in revelations by dreams and visions."

Seeing that Methodism could be coupled with the miraculous from the beginning, it can also be said that offense at these supernatural claims were also present from the start. How did Wesley respond to these allegations of God’s work being reduced to emotionalism, imagination, and what became the token derogatory term for the activity: “enthusiasm.”  Understanding his and other leader’s reactions will do much to inform our modern day posture within conflict and criticism. Wesley, rife with accusations of leading a movement of enthusiasm, labored much to define the term, assuage the hostility of those concerned, while standing firm in his conviction that what was taking place was indeed of God. Often, he would see those who began on the offensive have their hearts “strangely warmed” in a way as well. At one point a physician who was offended by the crying out of those attending the meetings, fearing it all to be phony, then witnessed a girl’s body healed first hand accompanied by the same commotion, and he gave credit to God. Wesley’s biggest attestation to the validity of these “outward signs,” was the “inward work” that God had done within the individuals who had been affected. Wesley called these people his “living arguments.” How else could you explain some of the most wretched traits, woven deep into the fabric of a soul, to be exchanged in an instant for a life filled with the fruits of the Spirit? Equally important in Wesley’s defensive rhetoric was his concession to the reality of counterfeits. An important distinction was made, as stated earlier, that just because all “miracles” were certainly not miracles, did not mean that the game was over. Wesley was not “unaware of [Satan’s] schemes” that he might “outwit” them, but keenly observed that “satan likewise mimicked this work of God in order to discredit the whole work” (2 Cor. 2:11). Wesley opposed any supposed supernatural revelations that did not line up with Scripture, and made sure to “test the spirits” and see if they were of God. Often those that Wesley disciplined were giving “millenarian predictions” or “fanciful revelations of special authority” (1 John 4:1). Still, the debates persisted, and at long last a war of attrition waged by those concerned won, aided significantly by some key leaders.

Giving a stern warning to those who criticized the Methodist miracles, Asbury resolves with a familiar axiom, “the friends of order may allow a guilty mortal to tremble at God’s Word…and the saints to cry and should when the Holy One of Israel is in the midst of them. To be hasty in plucking up the tares is to endanger the wheat.” This is the same explanation Wesley gave as to what happened to miracles in the Protestant Reformation mentioned earlier. It seems history was not learned, and therefore would be repeated. Four characters entered the storyline of Methodism at a decisive point that would be the tipping point into a Methodism weary and distant from miracles. These characters represent a few key ideas reacting to miracles that led to their dissolution from the denomination.

James Buckley, the editor of the Methodist journal The Christian Advocate “wrote a two-volume history of methodism that highlighted the development of its legal and ecclesiastical institutions and all but ignored Methodism’s beginnings as a denomination of supernatural religious experiences.” Buckley was responding to the Faith-Cure movement and the Pentecostal revival that broke out within his time as the editor of the journal, and his case is one of the classic pendulum-swing mentioned previously. An extreme version of the miraculous was taking place, and Methodism had to take a stance on it; the easiest being to discount it altogether and run the other way. Buckley explained away miracles with naturalistic explanations, sharing the cessationist conviction that these supernatural phenomena only happened in biblical times.  

The second figure to arise was Borden Parker Bowne, a professor at Boston University, a key early Methodist training center. Bowne began a wave of liberal theology that attempted to accommodate the Enlightenment era’s scientific discoveries of the human psyche, sociology, and Scripture into religious education. At its zenith, humanism reigned supreme as Arthur McGiffert, president of Union Theological Seminary declared that "religious education…should be such to convince everybody that things can be controlled and molded by the power of man.” In short, "God’s presence was not to be sought in unusual experiences or unexpected or extraordinary events.”

The final railroad switch on the tracks was John Fanning Watson, a Methodist writer from Philadelphia, who pushed back on enthusiasm in hopes to give Methodism a more respectable name, especially in higher classes. Watson “started writing vigorously and systematically against ecstasy in the 1810s….[and] Over time Watson’s viewpoint gained ground. Higher economic levels, increased education for preachers, and a growing desire for social respectability all contributed to diminishing the extent of exuberance and ecstasy among American Methodists.” The result was that the supernatural spirituality of former years was at first marginalized, then branched off altogether from the “main trunk.” Watson’s aim was to give Methodism a better name in civilized culture, insisting that the “excesses of the few were firmly identified with the poor…illiterate [and] blacks.” It is should not be a shock then, that not long after the effects of this sunk in that “the poor were abandoning Methodism in droves.”  With the trade in of the miraculous for social respectability and a humanistic theology, a change was coming for Methodism that they were not expecting: increased influence and decreased recruitment; a pattern that is obviously unsustainable over the long haul.

When Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure, he tells them to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Jesus had given them the task of spreading the gospel, but demanded they not go forth without the Spirit. Again he directs them in Acts 1:8, saying “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The command was strictly to not grow the church apart from the leadership of the Spirit. At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon those in the upper room, Peter preached and three-thousand believed that day. As mentioned previously, the seemingly drunken nature of the disciples led to some grumbling and questions of authenticity in that day, but the fire was not quenched, rather the preaching of the gospel continued to go forth coupled with the power of God displayed with these signs. As Paul says later to the Corinthians, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom....my message [was] not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The Methodist church toward the end of the nineteenth century adopted a gospel preached void of the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” that it once had, the result which was the start of a slow decline of growth in the Methodist church. Ultimately, the final recorded year of growth was 1968, and the stats for the modern church seem detrimental: “In the United States during the period 1991-96 the United Methodist Church closed 1,025 churches and opened only 210, a ratio of five to one.” Out of all the explanations for what has happened and what should happen now, one thing is blatantly obvious, business as usual isn’t going to cut it anymore.

So what is a viable solution? We must start with identifying some of the crucial missteps identified so far. But first, it must be noted, as Hempton does, that there are some aspects of decline that are exogenic, and which the Methodist church had little control over. For instance, the Methodist movement dovetailed nicely with the American Revolution, and in many ways rode the waves of the democracy that offered individuals empowerment and liberation. Democracy puts the power in the hands of the masses: the poor and the oppressed; so does Christianity. Methodism especially was a movement of the downtrodden and marginalized: women, blacks, and the poor. Revolution and the settling of America encouraged risk: moving to the west, and starting over, perhaps if only to lose everything. Yet this all changed at the industrial revolution of America between 1820 and 1840, where cultural values shifted rather to mass production, consistency, and security, signaling a cultural change that influenced an adolescent Methodism.

Primary schools were originally developed to prepare industrial workers, therefore, risk was eliminated from the equation. This system has principally remained the same and now tests are taken still today where the grading system is based on knowing facts, and decreasing the margin of error. It is as if in the Olympics for the high beam, a gold medal was handed out to the one who grasped on to the beam tightest with all his or her limbs for the duration of the performance. Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Perhaps these can lend us some insight into a developmental problem in Methodism. Buckley, Bowne, and Watson seemed to have observed the Methodist church, and deemed it was time for it to “grow up”; time to put away foolish whimsical ideas about the supernatural, stop embarrassing yourself with risky expectations and behaviors, and move on to a more mature Methodism. The problem with this is, of course, Jesus commands in Matthew 18:3 that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The mishap for the Methodists here was in discerning the difference between “childlike and childish.” Certainly there were people who were leading the church in a childish manner, many of whom Wesley disciplined himself, but much of the beauty and power of the Methodist church came from its childlike nature.

By the 1850s, there were as many Methodist churches and ministers as there were post offices and postal workers. How did this happen? Methodism was a church for the people, run by the people. It thrived on a bottom up strategy, with quick and easy on-ramps for the common man to not only interact with God, his Word, and the church, but also to become actual ministers. Asbury had no education like many other circuit riders who evangelized America. Peter Cartwright, a famous circuit rider, wrote in his autobiography that:

“Many times…the itinerant had to camp out, without fire or food for man or beast. Our pocket Bible, Hymn Book, and Discipline constituted or library. It is true we could not, many of us, conjugate a verb or parse a sentence, and murdered the king’s English almost every lick. but there was a Divine unction attended the word preached, and thousands fell under the mighty hand of God, and thus the Methodist Episcopal Church was planted firmly in this Western wilderness, and many glorious signs have followed, and will follow, to the end of time.”

The Methodists would cast their homespun nets out and reap the reward of a grassroots revival. Methodist pastors got their hands dirty with the people, and spoke from a place that they could understand, since many of the ministers worked other jobs to survive, and some were purely volunteers. One minister of a Congregational Church commented that "they are constantly mingling with the people, and enter into all their feelings, wishes, and wants; and their discourses are on the level with the capacity of their hearers...The ignorant, the drunken, the profane listen.”

It is worth noting as an aside that music did much to accomplish this task. Methodism was truly a “worldwide singing movement.” The Wesley’s hymns were for the common man, meeting them where they are and compelling them to a personal revolution. The lyrics are full of “personal pronouns, active verbs, and intense struggles.” The Wesleys would adapt new lyrics to popular melodies, avoiding “sophisticated anthems or singing in parts, preferring tunes that were singable, teachable, memorable, functional and accessible to all…They transmitted complex theological ideas in accessible language." Music is a vehicle for faith that is specially set aside in Scripture to hone in the hearts of believers on God, magnifying their love for him with both their mind, in comprehending the concepts being sung, and also in the spirit, as their relational adoration increases as these realities set in.

One of the greatest challenges of an adult’s life is to steward the maturation of their child. Is it possible to raise a child to maintain their childlikeness while growing out of their childishness? Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he told his disciples “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The Methodist church did not afford such a stewardship, and has suffered the loss. Methodism lost in its striving for institutional stability, investing in more security, and compromising for decreased conflict. By increasing the requirements for elders and deacons, the common man was factored out. Hymns that were once remarkably apt to communicate the gospel to the uneducated were institutionalized due to their effectiveness, yet now are no more relevant or comprehensible to some than Chaucer is to a child. Traditions are important, but manmade traditions that are tested and don’t bear fruit, must be tossed out, as Jesus made clear (Mark:7-9).

The leaders of Methodism seem to have sought for a solution to the problem in seminaries (“maybe it is a theological issue?”), in society (“maybe it is an ethical issue?”), and in structure (“maybe it is in an organizational issue?”), and where all three of these concerns are most likely valid, what if we are looking for the ends without the true means? What if the problem is a spiritual issue, and from working out this kink living waters might flow and inform the other problems provided? It seems that the time is nigh for Methodism to embrace its heart religion again. To take a risk. To believe in the impossible. To grow up, yet grow young. To unlearn some human wisdom gained through the years, and make room for the wisdom and power of God again. This will fly in the face of those who have come to respect the Methodist church for its great stability. Rarely do we hear of scandals in the Methodist church or of money laundering. To that I would say that it is much easier and tidy to mow a field where weeds are found, than to let the weeds and crop grow up together, and steward the crop's protection throughout. I am by no means encouraging scandals, but the door very well must be opened to them to make way for the real thing, just as the front porch light that illuminates the dark also attracts bugs. It cannot be forgotten that regarding opposition, “Methodism at its heart and center had always been a profoundly countercultural movement. It drew energy and personal commitment from…its challenge to accepted norms in religion and society. It thrived on opposition, but it could not long survive equipoise.”

One might say this position is dramatic, that it looks too much like Pentecostalism or something like it, but we might need to go no further than Wesley himself and the foundations upon which the denomination lays to find that this would not be a new thing, but a revival in the truest sense of the word: a recovery of what was lost; a resurrection of what has died; a resurgence of what has faded. The stakes have never been higher, as the statistics show. What would a child do? Hold on tighter, or make the big jump? The truth is, Methodism “is not a religious movement that can survive for very long on institutional consolidation alone. For Methodism to thrive it required energy, change, mobility, and flux.” For the Methodist church to grow again, it needs to begin recruiting again; to begin recruitment, it needs to embrace the Great Commission again; and to make progress in the Great Commission, the Methodist church needs the Holy Spirit, just like the disciples did.

What would happen if at the next United Methodist General Conference, before voting on the important issues at stake, responding to problems, or discussing strategies for moving the church forward, the leaders stood up and declared “we are going to join ‘together constantly in prayer’ until we ‘have been clothed with power from on high?’” (Acts 1:14, Luke 24:49).  What would ensue probably wouldn’t be what the world or even the leaders expected, it may not even look exactly as it did before, but my bet, based on our history, is that there would be a growth the worldwide church hasn’t seen since Wesley and Whitefield took to the podiums. And of course it may get messy, and there would be many who mocked, but would that make us any less Methodist?

With a loving, graceful, and hopeful heart for the Methodist Church,

Daniel Jackson

 

Works Quoted:

K. W. Harrell, "Songwriting Session - The Avett Brothers @ MerleFest," Evolution of a Fan, https://evolutionofafan.com/2013/05/03/songwr iting-session-the-avett-brothers-merlefest/.

Dr. Frank H. Billman, The Supernatural Thread in Methodism

Hempton, David. Methodism: Empire of the Spirit. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys

George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense

Wesley, John. "The New Birth." The Wesley Center Online. 1999. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/john-wesley-the-methodist/chapter-vii-the-new-birth/.

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UnCreated God | Student Questions | Edition 1

I am the new student director at Warehouse242, and in the process of getting to know my new squad, we took some time to write down our wrestles with God: the questions we have in the back of our mind that we are afraid to ask. 

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing my searching as I seek to wrestle through the questions of my students. They aren't answers, but I hope they help in your own searching. 


QUESTION: You were the beginning of everything. How did You come to be? How were you "there" at the beginning?

The intro to God's story starts  out with "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth". This kind of sounds like the Big Bang Theory. There was nothing (or, if we're getting technical, a small, dense, hot soup). Then there was something.  The difference here is that Christians believe there was God instead of nothing. Then there was creation. We see God as uncreated (no start), sovereign (He's in charge of everything), eternal (He never ends), and spirit (a member of a different realty than we currently live in). 

Our world is confined. We have a start and an end. We have an up and a down. We age. In attempts to make God fit into our reality, the idea of Him not having a starting point is frustrating! Square peg, round hole. He doesn't fit into our parameters of what works and what doesn't. 

Through the story of Christ, we have a taste of what it's like in God's world. We see the impossible happen. People who are dead start to live again. Bodies that are broken get instantaneously healed. Jesus flies up in the air, seems to teleport at other times, can walk through walls and eat food all in the same body. We also see this when God's kingdom breaks into the Old Testament. People's faces glow so bright that you can't look at them. Donkeys talk. The in breaking of the Kingdom of Heaven means that our 3 dimensional world becomes 4 dimensional. The impossible becomes possible. We have promised words that when God's Kingdom of Heaven is fully realized here on earth we will see things like colors we've never seen before, lions laying down with lambs, and the end to daylight because the Lord, God will be so bright we won't need the sun anymore.

So, God is uncreated. In our world this is impossible. Cause and effect. Who made God? In our world, every plant has a seed it came from, and every child grew in the womb of a mother. But God is outside of our world. His reality is not our reality. He knows no time, no beginning, and no end. And because He exist outside of our reality, He is absolutely sovereign. 

I think it bothers us that God is uncreated because it doesn't fit into our reality. But God not fitting into our reality is a good thing. It means His nature is all together different from our nature, and if we believe and pray "on earth, as it is in heaven" (or in our reality as it is in His reality), we might get to see MORE of His mind breaking, incredible, amazing reality in our world today. 

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Cor 2:8

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Bethel Music + The Gospel of John


Get lost in the love story of Jesus again, centered by the beautiful wordless worship of Bethel Music's "Without Words" albums

Bethel Music's "Without Words" and "Without Words: Synesthesia" played alongside a reading of The Gospel of John, in the contemporary language translation "The Message" by Eugene Peterson

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Radiohead vs. Coldplay: A Study in the Purpose of Music

In the nineties, two bands emerged from the UK as distinguished and fresh to the music scene: Radiohead, led by Thom Yorke, and Coldplay, led by Chris Martin.  I became entranced with both of these leaders growing up.  I have seen both in concert, where I realized quickly how similar they were.  Besides visually looking alike, the leaders of the two bands play the exact same roles.  Both of them write the lyrics and music for their bands.  They sing the lead parts during the songs and play acoustic guitar or piano during them, as well.  The direction that these two musicians take their bands in often follows the same path.  They have both experimented with electronic, ethnic, hard-rock and non-lyrical music on their band’s records.  Although Yorke and Martin share similarities in their musical style and life-related characteristics, there remain significant differences between them in these regards. These similarities and differences lead to the discovery of two core needs in humanity that music is meant to provide.

My favorite Radiohead

Thom Yorke is angry, and his lyrics are almost always acutely poised for attack. Teeth showing, claws out - songs are often based on world issues such as materialism, poverty, war, and government corruption.  Other times they are more personal, but with weighty, often dark overtones: they focus on the deterioration of relationships, insanity and the emotional absurdities of humanity. The names of songs like “Knives Out” and “I Am a Wicked Child” are good examples of his style.  The music he writes is tense and serious due to the usage of distorted minor chord combinations.  His music exerts a pessimistic view of the world to most, and to others a strong desire for it to change, or to change it themselves, from its corrupt state.

My favorite Coldplay

Chris Martin’s music is unfailingly uplifting and romantic.  The names of his songs show their optimistic nature; such as “Beautiful World” and “God Put a Smile upon Your Face”.  They give feelings of hope to the listener.  His music incorporates major chord patterns, causing the mood of his songs to be light-hearted.  Lyrically, his focus is on the love that he has encountered throughout his life and the beauty found in daily situations.  Martin’s music is cheesy to some, but most perceive it as enjoyably catchy and emotionally appealing.

Thom Yorke has many mysterious and haunting characteristics.  He has an injured left eye that stays half-shut, giving him a look of being consistently demented.  He wears the color black in most concerts and public appearances and is seen in photographs with a snarling look of malcontent.  Yorke seems to take life seriously, and his music as very personal.  During concerts, he is known to yell at audience members if interrupted and lose his temper if a song does not go as he planned.  His music is a close reflection of his life characteristics. 

The life of Chris Martin is content and joyful.  When in public, he and his band are seen wearing bright colors and big smiles, proving their attitude to be cheerful.  Martin greets his audience with praise and gratitude after every song.  When a problem occurs on stage, he is better known to laugh and move on than to be upset or stay stuck in the moment. He dances around on stage in every show, smiling and laughing, like it is the best day of his life. These characteristics are played out in the overall optimism of the songs he writes. 

Faces of Martin and Yorke overlayed

Faces of Martin and Yorke overlayed

Although they have several similarities, Chris Martin and Thom Yorke prove to be contrasting in several significant ways.  The fact that they share a fan base seems confusing.  The explanation is that the differences they have apply to different aspect of the listener’s lives.  I, like other fans, enjoy these two bands because of some qualities they share, but also for the characteristics that they differ in greatly.  One is yin, the other yang. One is a glass-half-full perspective (a theme Martin explores in his song "Glasses of Water") and the other half-empty. The question this dichotomy introduces is imperative to understanding the purpose of music: is it to simply get us through the day? Is it here to provide a rose-colored lens to look through, or to divert our focus from the everyday problems we all are so aware of to the mystery and beauty of what is all around us that we might be missing? Or is the purpose of art to magnify the hidden issues? To snatch the wool from our eyes, rip the bandaid off, and make us feel something real in a raw, untempered delivery. Is music meant to sustain us or to change us? To cheer on to our play of life or to chide us as our biggest critic. Is music here to bolster a life all about working in the harsh, cynical yet remarkably productive New Yorke, or vacationing in the sublimely ignorant and peaceful Lake Martin? Well, I like New Yorke and Lake Martin, and I need both. I need the rough streets to chisel me down to being a life that's worth living, and the other to soak in the warmth of all that's worth living for in life. Music needs both. Humanity needs both.

Let's be real: Radiohead is a way better band, musically. Chris Martin even has hinted at wanting to sound like Radiohead at the beginning. From Rolling Stone: "At last night's free Coldplay show in London, frontman Chris Martin joked that his band's song "God Put a Smile on Your Face" sounded an awful lot like Radiohead's "2 + 2 = 5." "Sorry, we shouldn't be talking about plagirism," he joked. "Ignore that!"" Elsewhere Martin said "Sometimes I feel like they [Radiohead] cleared a path with a machete, and we came afterward and put up a strip mall," he says. "I would still give my left ball to write anything as good as OK Computer." 

I say all that because, guess who played at the Superbowl and who didn't? Most people know Coldplay and not Radiohead. I think that is revealing. Most people want an IV of Coldplay music, and would rather ignore Radiohead music. They would rather keep the wool over their eyes, stay in that cushy, ignorant, sunny place and never face the hard facts. But music has more to offer. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (as I said, I love Coldplay - the best concert I've ever been to by far), but let's listen to something that is musically incredible while emotionally and intellectually challenging. If you have never listened to Radiohead, go with Chris Martin's suggestion: start with OK Computer. If you are a Radiohead...head...that thinks Coldplay is cheesy: get out in the sun a little - maybe start with Viva La Vida. I think Radiohead and Coldplay are like Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, protons and electrons, your mother and her smart phone: they can't live with each other, but they can't live without each other either. They are equal but opposites. They need each other.

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And Who Is My Neighbor?

Daniel:

Our friend Janell has spent the last month with us. We have had some amazing journeys to DC and NYC for New Year's Eve. The adventure she is about to start is one we sadly can't go with her on, but we can send her off with a bang.

Janell is going to the front lines of the Syrian Refugee crisis to the island of Lesbos, Greece with Adventures in Missions, alongside Samaritans Purse, the Red Cross and the UN. Lesbos is receiving the highest number of refugees daily, the trip there you might have heard on the news where dozens have died just in the past month. Convicted by the crisis, Janell is heading over to help the refugees, being one of the ones picking shivering children out of the overpacked life-rafts, threatened by hypothermia or starvation; wrapping many in NASA blankets; shuffling many quickly to the Red Cross medical tents. We were thrilled when she decided to go, helped her setup an awesome new website (www.janellking.wordpress.com - click to see how to support her as well), talk through travel details, and pray with her as she discerned the next steps in support raising for the trip. We couldn't wait to see the support for her by her friends and family to send her off well.

But that's not really what happened.

I'll let her jump into the details below.


Janell:

I remember the image like it was yesterday. Do you know the one I’m talking about? The image of the little boy’s body washed up on the shores of Greece. Do you remember the waves of outrage the image caused at the atrocities happening in Syria, and how quickly people moved to respond? No? Most people don’t.  The news of ISIS and terrorist attacks and the waves of fear of the refugees have long swept over the images of death and suffering experienced by the people of Syria.

I've been sharing about my heart for the refugees to friends, family members, and complete strangers. The response has been surprisingly negative. The first response usually looks something like this:

“I mean.. You can help them just as long as they don’t come here.”

“That’s so sad. Those muslims are dangerous though.”

“Why would you do that? There’s enough people here in America that need help. Why go all the way over there helping THEM?!” 

A short video on the Syrian refugee crisis

“We can’t help them. They will bring their religion and their oppressive antics over here. America is already over-run by foreigners. They don’t belong here. Tell them to go to Asia or something.“ 

“Girl, do you have a death wish? You can’t go help. It’s too dangerous.”

“America needs to stop playing big brother. It’s not our problem to help. They got themselves in this mess, let them figure it out.”

I’ve spent the last 6 years traveling the world, experiencing a plethora of different cultures, religions, beliefs, and ethnicities. I’ve lived amongst the poorest of the poor, held their dying children, whispered love into the thrown-away, abused and neglected children of society, listened to stories of those infected with HIV/AIDS (as well as genocide victims, survivors of rape, widows, etc.), watched as revival gangs bloodied each others bodies, prayed for miracles of food when feeding hundreds of starving people, and experienced first hand what a drought looks like and how precious water is.

My journey across the world has shown me that we cannot take our privileges for granted, nor should we let these privileges be an excuse for not responding to injustices all around us.  I have also learned that we can learn so much from those who are different from us. 

I have friends of all kinds of religions - friends whom I deeply love and respect. This blog is specifically for my brothers and sisters who call themselves believers of Jesus, although I hope in some way this speaks to everyone.

To me, the response to the refugee crisis is a simple one. I’ve been confused and so heart broken over America’s response to love those who need help- especially the church. 

I’ve attempted to uncover some biblical truths for those struggling with compassion and empathy in hopes to bring understanding to our mandate and response as believers. Take a look at what the Father tells us to do:

1. Love Refugees As Yourself

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

2. Leave Food for the Poor and the Foreigner

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

3. God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

4. The Sin of Sodom: They Did Not Help the Poor and Needy

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

5. Do Not Oppress a Foreigner

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

6. Invite the Stranger In

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

7. We Were All Baptized By One Spirit

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

8. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14)

9. Have Mercy on Your Neighbor

He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:29-37)

10. Jesus Calls Us to Love our Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-45).

11. Jesus Was a Refugee

“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Matthew 2:13-15).

Jesus chose to walk this earth, not as a King, Chief Priest or wealthy landowner, but as an undocumented child refugee to Egypt. 

If our Lord deliberately chose to identify Himself with refugees, we should not be too quick to overlook the significance—Jesus was in solidarity with those fleeing persecution.

 There is a chance that some of those who seek refugee status have some connection with violent radicalism. What then is your response to an enemy? On this, Jesus is very clear… Love your enemy.  You can argue that this is naïve. You can say that it is unrealistic. But you cannot argue that Jesus called you to something different. Jesus showed us how to love our enemies - not seeking to preserve His life, but to lay it down. Are you willing to pay such a high price for loving like Jesus?

Now is the true test of our faith. Will we also care for immigrants, refugees and foreigners, or will we turn our backs, saying it’s too hard or too dangerous?

The world is watching. Will the church rise up in this hour to be true love in action? Will we model the radical love Jesus asked us to live by? Or will we sink back into fear, discrimination, hate, racism, and war? 

What will you choose? 


Daniel:

This blogpost wrecked me, as I'm sure it did you. It got me thinking about how we see people far off and different, and make compromises in reasoning for why to not help. Why to not see them as our neighbor. But let's do an experiment: look at the story of the Good Samaritan one more time, with some substitutions of the current situation in Syria, modernizing the parable of Jesus a bit. I'd like to title this experiment...

What Could a Modern Good Samaritan Look Like?

"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Bible? How do you read it?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A Muslim was going down from Syria to Greece, whose government were robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a politician was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a humanitarian aid worker, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Christian, as he journeyed, came to where the muslim was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, providing medical care, food and warm clothing. Then he set him on a boat and brought him to a new country and took care of him.  And the next day he took out his credit card and gave the number to the customs & immigration office, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, charge it to my card.’  Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

[Adapted from Luke 10:25-37 / Changes in italics]

What if the Syrian Refugee is our neighbor? Are we walking on the other side of the road?

Our call as Christians is to the marginalized. The inconvenient. The illogical. Will we answer the call?

Scripture says that the good samaritan looked upon the man and had compassion. 

Janell is selling T-Shirts that have the word "Compassion" on them. They look awesome. If you would like to help Syrian Refugees in a tangible way, support Janell by buying one of these t-shirts here, or donating directly through her website here.

 



 

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Bovine Inspiration: Freddie the Cow Escapes the Slaughterhouse

When my friend Janell told me about a cow escaping a slaughterhouse in NYC two days ago, the idea was at first hilarious (the image of this cow running wild through Manhattan in my head), but then afterwards I felt strangely inspired. 

This guy made it out. And he was scheduled to be slaughtered THE NEXT DAY.

I became intrigued with the story. Would the cow be caught? Shot? Sent back to the slaughterhouse? Be hit by a car? Be rescued?

Maybe all of this is striking me harder because Sherei and I have been going meatless for January. After talking with our associate pastors who are vegetarian, and hearing them expose the truth of the meat industry they discovered through watching documentaries like "Forks Over Knives" on Netflix, this story is sounding more and more like a bovine miracle.

Watch the video below to see what Freddie had to look forward to if he didn't escape. Warning: this video is slightly graphic, but not nearly as bad as many others.

If I was Freddie and had any inkling as to what was coming for me. If I heard the bleating echo through the halls of the slaughterhouse, or became curious about why my living space was so small - I'd make a run for it too.

I wonder if there was an inner longing for another land in Freddie? If he believed deep inside somewhere that there were rolling hills for him to explore with fresh grass for him to eat, a cool breeze in the air, and a family for him to care for?

See I bet Freddie was a conspiracy theorist. All his friends thought he was crazy. He was convinced the life they were all living was a sham, that there was a greater existence outside those walls that they were made for. One with family. Fulfilling food. Frolicking fun. Freedom. But they rolled their big eyes whenever he brought this fantasy up, and told him to get with the program. Just keep his head down, and stick with business as usual. If he challenged the status quo...there'd be consequences.

I wonder what the cattle-lyst for his escape was? We're not told how Freddie made it out, but my guess is he saw one too many friends disappear, ate one too many bleak dry grass and cereal dinners, saw the sun peak through a high above window - just out of reach of feelings its warm rays on his cold, damp, dirty skin - one too many times, and decided to make a run for it.

Watch the video above again, and note how the cow responds to his new found freedom. He is running, half free and half frantic. He is both out of harms way, and yet not safe yet. Not fully free yet. Many have made it as far as he has, and been shot down, or dragged back into the hell they came from. He is out of the Egyptian bondage, but not to the promised land quite yet. And Isn't that where so many of us live? Delivered but not free.

I was showering this morning and noticed a sticker on one of Sherei's shampoo bottles: "50% More FREE." I laughed and thought that was the oddest thing. How can something be MORE free? What a stupid marketing technique. If it is free, it doesn't cost anything. It is either free, or it is not. Don't worry, I get what they're trying to say, but come on. Something can't increase its freeness! And then I thought of this message by Christine Caine, and how I have lived so much much of my life as a believer set free by the cross, yet not living in the full freedom of a Spirit-led life. I am receiving the living water, but in cracked cisterns that leak and occasionally run dry. Listen to Christine Caine speak to this idea at this year's Passion just a few weeks ago:

My favorite part of this story is the ending: our cow is rescued. 

This cow that was once just another number, another consumer product to be mindlessly eaten by the masses (did you know there are 100+ different cows in a single McDonalds hamburger?). But this wasn't our cow's story anymore. He was picked up by an animal sanctuary from a distant land, across the great divide (New Jersey...). He now will live 100% free. Adopted by these caring beings of a higher power, yet not of the dark powers that ran the wretched slaughterhouse. He was given a name, a place and a purpose. His name was to be Freddy, named after the lead singer of Queen. Now he is free to roam, eat fresh grass, play with friends, and sing "we are the champions my friends" indignantly looking toward the slaughterhouse he was raised in. 

He is an animal kingdom example of the kingdom of heaven; of the human soul escaping to freedom. A dairy good...I mean very good picture of what it looks like for us to wake up and realize we're in a cage keeping us from the real life, mindlessly moving forward on a conveyer belt toward death. 

Freddie was validated in his belief of a greater life. And what a peace he must live in. How appreciative he is of the life he now lives. His stories must make the other cattle of the sanctuary tremble. But his mind must wander to the other nameless ones he left in the slaughterhouse.

So what is Freddie's next move? My guess is to set the captives free.  

Check out the song "Terminal" by Jon Foreman and let's take his advice to "not let your soul die before you body does."

Check out the place where Freddie gets to live now...paradise.

 See the full video below. Long live Freddie, who inspired both man and beast.

---

Daniel Jackson 

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Poetry I Penned in Peru

In 2009 I went to Peru with my best friend, Griffin. There was lots of time in Peru.  On the days we were in villages along the Amazon we went to bed with the sun. Plenty of time to sit around and read Whitman by the lamp in your tent shielded from mosquitos. Lots of time for thinking in the morning on the dirt floor when the roosters wake you up. Tons of time on the canoe with a potato and boiled egg breakfast dreaming of banana pudding and holidays with family.  Time for wondering about wandering forward in life. 

In that vacuum of time and far away space - I wrote these poems in my journal. And I still cherish them as treasures. They hold fragments of that time; glimpses into my mind during those precious wanderings and wonderings in Peru.

Here they are, along with some of my favorite Peru pictures I took:

 

How Is It That Sometimes?

 

How is it

that sometimes

a whole speech is quite worthless

but one word can mean the lot?

 

How is it

that sometimes

years of embracing are forgotten

but one gentle touch

is not?

---

 

Authors

 

I give authors respect by soiling

in relentless use, their books.

I award my fedora and Oxford suede shoes 

when they stink as bad as they look.

 

My Author wrote me well and yet I rebel;

I crave clean, tidy, unstained -

when what honors Him most is brown sweat on my brow and

at The End, see this body worn lame.

---

 

Blind Hunter

 

To whom shall I be

to this likening of a bride to be?

 

I am nothing.

 

Perhaps a blind hunter

dressed in orange as my only sign;

but a parade of orange it is

to this bride to be.

 

“What an orange is he!” says she.

---

 

Bottle

 

I think I’ll bottle myself soon;

put me up on a shelf -

not to preserve but rather, ferment -

keep every feeling to myself.

 

She who discovers me one day

will be rich, and I not sorry;

for she who finds this jar of clay 

Will be my wife, I do pray

---


Brittany


Sometimes I think

I would like a dog:

a sweet, Brittany bred.

They only would like to keep you company

and if you wish to

scratch on their head.


I get lonely of touch

though I have God love

it might be nice to have Him snuggle instead.

But since not, for a while

I will settle for dog

and have it cuddle and sleep in my bed.

---


Mist


I’ll disappear soon

like the mist atop a lake;

born with little reason 

then gone without a wake.


It seems time spent so fleeting

might have little or no cause,

but my time was spent in peace -

the most important time of all.


I’ll disappear into the lake;

no more of misty me.

That wispy mist above is with

the Lake who is beneath.


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