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Speaking Life and Bringing Hope

I posted an entry just prior to this one that will be infact my message at my sister’s wedding tomorrow. October 1. She is 18 and is getting married to her boyfriend since she was 13. I am performing the wedding. There is part of me that doesn’t want to do, I guess it is that part of me that doesn’t like to be up in front of people for fear of messing up. But for the most part I am excited about it, and am happy to be the one who has the opportunity to speak into the life of not only my sister and brother and law, but also all those there – there are many marriages on the rocks represented and I hope that the Spirit can speak through me in a way that brings some healing and hope to the idea of marriage. I have found healing, hope and beautiful love in my own marriage and wish that all people could believe in the power that lies behind such a spiritual act.

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The Wedding Message I Gave During My Sister’s and her New Husband Wedding Ceremony October 1, 2005.

Silas and Steffanie, the reason you are here in front of everyone is not only to make your love and commitment to each other public but also to put your marriage into the center of a community of loved ones. Marriage is not only a picture of the way God loves each of us, but in a larger sense the Bible calls the church the bride of Jesus. [When I speak of church I mean any group of people who are Christians and meet together regularly – the church is not a building nor a service].

In looking at the church as Christ’s bride, we can learn some things about our own marriages. For the church seeks to remain committed to Christ through both the joyous times and especially in the times of loss and tragedy. The people of God also seek to witness (or make known) the love of Christ to the world from its inner-relationship with him. Finally its seeks to become holy, by way of submitting ourselves to Christ’s Lordship and desiring his will for our lives.
These things are also true of marriage. For it is two people bound up together by a common love – aligning their lives, their will, and their resources to work together in an unconditional commitment to one another. It is two lives becoming one. Marriage should not be treated as a contract, that can be broken or lost. Instead this commitment to one another is Spiritual, because it will at times require resources of which you do not have. This unconditional and spiritual connection to each other should be the way we perceive our commitment in marriage.

When we say “for richer or poorer” we recognize that this is not to sound poetic, but it is a statement with real life ramifications. When we say “in sickness and in health” we trust that each person really means no matter how sick your spouse becomes you will not leave her or his side. Because we do not know what will happen in life this committing to one another calls you to rely most heavily on the resources of God’s Holy Spirit which you both have inside you.

Then we think about how marriage can be a witness to the world, how it can make known the love of Christ to those around us. The word witness can have bad connotations, because it can bring up images hell-bent Christians who hold up signs warning of fire and brimstone, or of tracts that are impersonal and leave life too simplified. Thankfully this type of witness is foreign to the NT. This idea of witness is an outside-in approach, because it argues that conditions of ones life must be just right in order for a person to come to know God. i.e outside circumstances determine the inward ones.

In reality it is very much the other way around, witness (in faith and marriage) moves from the inside-out. What I mean is God meets us where we are at and then transforms us through this experience. This is the way marriage should also be. We cannot think that marriage can only be right, when everything else is in place, when we have the right job, the right schooling, the right family, or the right health. Conditions will never be perfect. In fact often times things can go the other way, jobs are lost, struggle comes from outside relationships, hardships joined with the loss of loved ones and uncontrollable tradgedies permeate this world. And so we find that we must mainted a steady love in these times, knowing that God can speak through every aspect of life.

If you accept this idea, and you live in love and faithfulness to one another no matter what becomes of life, you will be a witness to God’s transformative power. The world will see your marriage as an example to others.

The church does not do its best when it thinks it has all the right words to the world’s problems. Rather it is most faithful to God when it embodies God’s love in the times when it is hardest to do so. This is the lesson for witness in marriage.

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Finally marriage is primarily to make us holy, not just happy – and this holiness comes by way of submitting ourselves to each another; both husband and wife. This is the main starting point for a healthy marriage because when we submit to one another in love, we are most cleary living out Christ’s own example to us. And so it says in Ephesians “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

The greatest struggle you will face within marriage is a struggle for control, a struggle for one person to dominate the other. There is nothing more contradictory to the love Christ taught us than to dominate and control another person. When it becomes dominating, and dehumanizing, the purpose of marriage has been destroyed. If Marriage is to be a healing and holy institution, it must first begin with the utter self-sacrifice of both partners. Marriage is to be healing and humanizing, a witness to the world, when it is not these things it is not founded on the life of Christ.

Therefore all the power of marriage is rooted in sacrifice, sacrifice derives its power from the crucified God. This sort of sacrificial living subverts our own selfishness. Thus a marriage based on sacrifice is our greatest asset in this life, for it purifies and sanctifies us like no other humanly relationship can, and yet because it is our greatest asset it also requires the hardest work, the most upkeep and the most compromise.

This is no different than what we see in the Scriptures, the power of the church lays within Jesus’ life, his death and then his being raised to life – the sacrifice of God. Jesus could only save us from our sins by first relinquishing control of his ownself and rights. And so we are like Christ when we as men and women give up control of ourselves for our spouse. We submit to one another as Christ submitted to humanity. We are reminded of God’s great act as it says of Jesus in the Scriptures,

“For he, who had always been God by nature, did not greedily cling to his rights as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And having become a man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a criminal.???

In Christ’s sacrifice, God had control; your sacrifice will also allow for God’s Control in bringing life not only to your souls but also to your marriage.

So it is that in your lifetime, Steffanie and Silas, you must seek to: 1) be unconditional in your commitment to one another, 2) make you marriage a witness from the inside-out showing the world the love and devotion you have for each other in Christ and 3) submit to one another in mutuality as in reverence for Christ. I believe that your marriage will rise and fall with how well you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, seek to work these things.

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the cream of the top

I tend to get excited about simple things. And then I try to wear them out, or at least this is what emily tells me I do. But anyways, she turned me on to this whole “cream top” phenomena as I like to call it, and frankly its revolutionizing my life. You really need to try it. Brown Cow is a good brand, like it or leave it.

I have actually finished my rough draft of my writing project this weekend. It’s 85 pages really kicked my butt. I can’t believe that I finished it, to be honest I thought I may never do it. Of course the tough part is editing it, and making it into a cohesive whole. This is my least favorite part. Anyways I happy with it, and glad its over.

Not only did I finish that, but I also finished the wedding video I was making. It is my second paid gig for video this one bringing in $250. I actually feel like I am getting paid for what I worked this time around, how interesting…

So now my last big task is to perform my sister’s wedding this coming weekend in Ohio. After that is done, I am very nervous about it, I will have finished all my big projects and will just be a normal person again!!! no school, just work at the bookstore and teacher’s assistant stuff. Then I will begin applying for PhD programs as Emily and I try to discern where the Lord is leading once again. This is the hard part for us. I also hope to begin to re-incorporate some creativity into my life beginning with practicing my guitar and writing a new batch of folk songs. FOLKS SONGS TO CHANGE THE WORLD.

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I am reading through On the Road by Jack Kerouac as one of my non-theological works to help me see the world as more than philosophical treatises. I must confess I am also reading it because Bob Dylan writes about how it influenced his life in his autobiography Chronicles. I have enjoyed reading it, it makes me want to live more, not be afraid to take adventure, and taste the grit of America’s oldest highways. I thought I would give the two quotes that stood out to me today, I guess they connected with something deeper in my soul.

“I took up a conversation with a gorgeous country girl wearing a low-cut cotton blouse that displayed the beautiful sun-tan on her breast tops. She was dull. She spoke of evenings in the country making popcorn on the porch. Once this would have gladdened my heart but because her heart was not glad when she said it I knew there was nothing in it but the idea of what one should do.” –Sal

I know people who live this way, out of duty as opposed to gladdness. When I first met Emily, my wife, I experienced the exact opposite of what Sal sees in his country girl. Emily, not only beautiful, found the greatest excitement and joy in the simplest things of life. She would make popcorn, but not out of duty, out of sheer gladdness and child-like happiness. She made life for me light hearted and help to see that the most unlikely things could offer the most wonderful beauty. She continues to do this for me today. She is my Girl From the North Country.

Dean and Sal, while in Detroit’s Skid Row found that, “The people who were in that all-night move were the end. Beat negres who’d come up from Alabama to work in car factories on a rumor; old white bums; young longhaired hipsters who’d reached the end of the road and were drinking wine; whores, ordinary couples, and housewives with nothing to do, nowhere to go, nobody to believe in.”

This is of course the church, found in a ghetto movie theatre in downtown. Well they aren’t the church yet, but they want to be, they want to find something, someone “to believe in” is that the beginning and end of all of us?

I hope those housewives find some meaning in their lives beyond mere duty. In fact I hope they reject duty, and move to find gladdness, joy and belief.

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Here is an article from thefriend.org
I am posting it not because I agree or disagree but rather I would like to hear any responses from those who are interested in adding their two sense.

A Quaker firearms officer writes Paul Longden

Like you, I hope for a society where there is; no violence, no guns and no
wrongdoing. In the meantime, my colleagues and I live in that grubby world
of crime and violence where, sometimes, there is no choice but to use the
minimum of force.

Should police officers be allowed to become members of the Society of
Friends?

Maybe you think that it’s OK for police officers to become members of the
Society of Friends if they are not involved in firearms incidents? Well,
it’s not that simple ˆ unarmed officers can become involved in firearms
incidents at a moment’s notice. They can be tasked to collect information
from members of the public and this information can be critical to the
correct deployment of firearms officers. Also, unarmed officers could find
themselves used to create a ‘cordon’ to keep the public away from the
scene where a dangerous person is being ‘contained’ by firearms officers.

If, like other Quakers, you find the firearms thing distasteful… Just
imagine if a deranged person armed with a firearm broke into your Meeting
for Worship and randomly shot somebody every 15 minutes. Do you expect the
police officers responding to this incident to be armed only with ‘the
Light’? The police officers will come armed with firearms. They come armed
not so they can kill people, but so that they can; communicate, negotiate,
protect you, protect the public and protect themselves ˆ and go home to
their families at the end of their tour of duty.

You may be wondering how do I, as a Quaker, cope with:

*Anti-war protests?

*The use of force to make arrests?

*The carriage and use of firearms?

With the anti-war protests, I have no problems of conscience or faith. I
see my role as a referee. I believe I am there to allow both sides to
carry out their democratic rights. The military to carry out the will of
the state and the protesters to carry out their right to protests.
(Remember, in other countries Quaker protests against the military would
be met with abduction, torture and execution). I am pleased if the
protesters are able to make their point without being banned or interfered
with (as may happen in a Central American country). Whilst I am greatly
troubled by war and all the preparations for it, I consider my role to be
essential in allowing the protesters to exercise their lawful, democratic
rights.

With regards to the use of force to make arrests, I am totally committed
to making sure that the minimum force is used in the arrest and detention
of suspects. I expect my staff to use good communication skills to resolve
situations. However, if they are left with no alternative but to use
force, to protect themselves or others, I expect them to be decisive,
utterly professional and to use the absolute minimum of force.

The police use and carriage of firearms causes me no problems of
conscience or faith. To me, the firearms and less than lethal options,
such as baton rounds (plastic bullets) are vital pieces of equipment. This
equipment is used in a defensive mode and allows officers to carry out
their duties, with an increased chance of survival against an armed
suspect. I enjoy the reward of safely arresting a dangerous suspect and
the firearms team going home to their families, rather than the mortuary.

As an authorised firearms commander I am privy to the initial debrief of
firearms operations carried out throughout England and Wales. The tales of
bravery and restraint shown by firearms officers are breathtaking. Many
are the occasions when they could have discharged their firearms, within
the law and procedure. Instead, they take incredible risks in order that
suspects may live.

I have been prompted to write this article by recent developments within
my Monthly Meeting, where a long-standing Friend raised a concern over my
suitability for membership, due to my involvement in the police carriage
and use of firearms. I have received genuine support from many Friends for
my chosen career, whilst a small minority of Friends display a polite
coldness, prejudice and ignorance about my career. I have heard of other
police officers receiving a similar response from their meetings.

I am left wondering, what sort of people does the Society of Friends want
as members?

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A New Monasticism

A really good article about re-monking the church from Christianity Today. I am surprised the favorableness the magazine gives to such a radical idea.

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The Lyrics from Arcade Fire’s “Intervention”
In response to comments about the “world” knowing
more about the Jesus than the church.

I thought this song was good example.

Keys taken back I throw
The people they all grow
And choose what they want written on their stone
All quiet and alone

You can taste the fear
Lift me up and take me out of here
I know I want to fight I want to die
Just tell me what to say

Working for the church while your family dies
Little baby sister gonna lose her mind
Every spark of friendship and love will die without a hope

Hear the soldiers groan
All quiet and alone

There’s something in the air
The people they all sit and stare
And tell me what they point to tell me where
And tell me…

Who’s gonna throw the very first stone?
Whose gonna re-set the bone?
Sitting with his head in a sling
I hear the soldier sing

Working for the church while your family dies
Little baby sister gonna lose her mind
Every spark of friendship and love will die without a hope

Hear the soldiers groan
All quiet and alone

Sunshine light
Someone teach me how to fly
And onto something for wish I would die, but I just don’t know what
Though I can taste the fear
Lift me up and take me out of here
And make it all concisely clear
You know I’m gonna fade

Working for the church while your family dies
Little baby sister gonna lose her mind
Every spark of friendship and love will die without a hope

Hear the soldiers groan
All quiet and alone
Hear the soldiers groan

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In Ryan’s post today he notes some of the “characteristics” of the emerging church. These are the things that I have taken in one hand and held quaker “characteristics” in the other and have found incredible similarities. This means a couple things. a) the Spirit when renewing the church does similar things. b) the Friends church has a vital structure that should be utilized more fully in today’s postmodern/global world. and c) we (Friends) can, if we truly listen, to the Spirit see where we can negotiate and change in order to follow its leading.

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a new life and a new light

I am trying to get into the swing of working 8-5. Emily and I have been getting up at 5:30 which gives her some time to prepare spiritually for her day filled with 9th and 10th graders. I get up and read blogs, post comments, and try to peel my eyelids open. I have been getting to work at 7:15, where I sit in the coffee shop until 8 doing some morning reading. Lately I have been reading Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans. I am fascinated by Barth, and as always I think “how can Barth speak to Quakerism.” It is surprising how much he has done that is helpful to us. I must confess I am much different than other Quakers because I love systematic theology, Biblical studies, Philosophy and Missiology. There is little of this written by Quakers (I know our fear of systematic theology – but we can get over it) in the way of these fields, its out there but hardly compares to all the history that has been done. The problem with so many history books is that they don’t offer the interpretations from then to today. This is the job of the other fields, and this is (in my mind) not being done or done well.

I have begun (only barely) by creating a wiki, called “New-Light Quakerism.” I intend for this to be a large group project by many voices, hopefully those who are serious about their tradition and faith – though as in good Quaker fashion dissenting views are also welcome. I will post more on this later.

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The use of blogs as church wide practice

Ryan Bolger has a very interesting and useful post about the use of blogs for churches.
he is my comment, lame but nontheless.