Amanuensis

I haven’t blogged in a month, which is a long time. For me one of the many problems with Facebook is that little things that in the past would have ruminated in my mind for a while and be turned into a blog post, are instead vomited out on my Facebook timeline before they can mature. I have blogged less and less the longer I am on Facebook. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just something I have noticed. Of course, there is a easy solution to this, which is to quite Facebook. Yet right now the communication that Facebook enables out weights its disadvantages for my use. We’ll see what happens in the future. I’m starting to use Google+ more. Perhaps that will take over my Facebook time.

Anyhow, I am working on a new message series concerning Paul’s letter to the Galatians and as a part of my reading I have been reading about the nature of amanuenses in the Greco-Roman world. An amanuensis was something that we don’t really have a great modern example of. They were secretaries, editors, collaborators, and translators. The writing style of the day involved all but the most profoundly educated using an amanuensis. For example, Cicero thought one should write in your own hand except in the case of being sick or extremely busy. Then Cicero thought it was ok to use an amanuensis. Cicero was the exception to the rule because he would have been part of the intellectual 1% of his day. The majority of other writers used amanuenses. In fact, most, if not all, of the letters in the New Testament were written with the help of an amanuensis.

So as I was reading about amanuenses I ran across a 3rd century AD payment schedule for an amanuensis’ service. Yes, I was reading a 3rd century AD fee schedule. I lead an exciting life. The payment scheme reads as follows:

To a scribe for best writing, 100 lines, 25 denarii;
for second-quality writing, 100 lines, 20 denarii;
to a notary for writing a petition or legal document, 100 lines, 10 denarii.

Maybe it isn’t really that funny but the 1st quality versus second quality writing really made me laugh coffee out my nose. We in the 21st century act in the same manner, just on different things. I just found myself laughing at the thought of someone thinking, “Mhmm. I’m sending this letter to my mother-in-law. Second-quality writing will be just fine.”

2014 Terrell Family Christmas Photocard & Newsletter

Christmas Card 2014 copyIt is Christmas eve and the boys (a.k.a. our grown young men) are now in their rooms, because even though they are grown we still like to put gifts out for the morning. Pam, I, and the bassets are about to go to our room for the evening. The house is about to be quite for a few hours. Before we do go upstairs and the lights in all the bedrooms slowly go out I thought I would post the 2014 Terrell Family Christmas card and newsletter.

The card that we sent out this year is to the left and here’s the Terrell family Christmas newsletter, if you would like to read it.

 

If you didn’t receive one don’t worry you are still loved. It probably means that it is still in the mail (mailed Monday evening) or we haven’t received one from you in a few years. Social media seems to have taken the place of so much of what used to go into the Christmas newsletter.

Anyhow, I hope you have a most blessed Christmas and that in the midst of hundreds of TV shows, movies, and people saying “this is what Christmas is really all about” and then saying different things that is is “actually all about” you have a moment or two to reflect on the One Who Christmas really is supposed to be all about.  Merry Christmas.

You can see some of the previous cards here.

IKEA The Other Letter

This is an ad from IKEA. It shares a message that is quite close to what we in Tapestry do by joining other churches in doing Advent Conspiracy. IKEA asked kids to write two letters. One to the Three Kings (in Spanish influences cultures it is often the Three Kings, and not St. Nick, that brings gifts to kids) asking them for what the kids want and one to the kids’ parents asking for what they want. It is a great commercial with a good message. Especially when they ask the kids which letter they would send if they could only send one.

If you don’t know about Advent Conspiracy here’s a good primer.

Courage Quote

Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.

Malcom Gladwell, David and Goliath, p.149

Who vs How

The message I delivered to Tapestry yesterday was the “Love All” section of Advent Conspiracy (the movement we participate in with other churches during Advent). I focused on being more concerned with the “Who” of love rather than the “How.” Specifically not just working out details of how we can love people that are difficult for us to love or people that we have forgotten to love, but instead to focus on Christ loving through us and allowing Him to direct. His “Who” can, and will, then direct us to love in ways that we can never do on our own. When we focus on “Who”, the responsibility is on Christ, with us having the responsibility to say “yes” to what He directs and empowers. When we focus on “How” all the responsibility is on us. ‘Who” leads us to work with God, we are responding to what He is already doing. “How” puts the initiative and direction in our hands instead of His.

Anyhow, I stopped into Emy J’s today for some office hours and while trying to finish “Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace” by James B. Torrance I ran across this line, which I would have used yesterday if I had seen it previously. It is:

The question of how is not unimportant, but we must always seek answers in terms of who.

p. 93.

ARGH! It drives me nuts when I discover the perfect way to say something the day after I needed to say it.

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1st Pastoral Response

I am presently reading “Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace” by James B. Torrance and was struck by this statement concerning the pastoral practicality of the Trinity. He says:

It seems to me that in a pastoral situation our first task is not to throw people back on themselves with exhortations and instructions as to what to do and how to do it, but to direct people to the gospel of grace – to Jesus Christ, that they might look to him to lead them, open their hearts in faith and in prayer, and draw them by the Spirit into his eternal life of communion with the Father. (p. 45)

He gives an example of this where while he was walking along a beach he ran into the husband of a woman who was dying. The husband  found out that Torrance was a Presbyterian minister and told Torrance that his father had been a Presbyterian minister also but that he personally had fallen away from his faith. Now he really wished that he had the faith he once had and could pray like his father. He told Torrance that he had been walking up and down the beach trying to pray and failing miserably. Instead of immediately trying to instruct the man on how to pray, and thereby placing more of a burden on the man, Professor Torrance introduced the man to the Jesus who is already praying for us. The Jesus who hears out groans and failed attempts at prayer and translates those as He intercedes for us. Torrance invited the man into the communion of the God who already works, rather than just throwing more duty onto the struggling man.

Torrance sums it up this way.

The first real step on the road to prayer is to recognize that none of us knows how to pray as we ought to. But as we bring our desires to God, we find that we have someone who is praying for us, with us, and in us. Thereby he teaches us to pray and motivates us to pray, and to pray in peace to the Lord. Jesus takes our prayers – our feeble, selfish, inarticulate prayers – he cleanses them, makes them his prayers, and in a “wonderful exchange” (mirifica commutatio – commercium admirable) he makes his prayers our prayers and presents us to the Father as his dear children, crying: “Abba Father” (p. 45-6)

It was a really good reminder for me. My first pastoral response should be to help people know that the Father, Son, and Spirit invite them into what they are already doing, rather than just trying to impose more religious duty. To throw people onto Jesus and his effort, rather than throwing them back on themselves and their own effort.

1914 Christmas Truce

Here’s the video I showed during the message this morning at Tapestry. I thought I would post it for those who wished to see it again, or weren’t there to see it the first time. The 1914 Christmas Truce is an amazing story and a great example of Christmas changing everything if we actually believe in the incarnation of Jesus and take risks to act on that truth.

Q Commons

So friends in the Point area and “threads” I need your advice/opinion. For a few years I have gone to a conference called Q that I really like. It is kind of a TED talk for faith & culture. The conference is now going to do a national/regional collaboration called Q Commons and I applied to host one in the Point area. I’ve been accepted and now I have to commit or drop out. Therefore, I am wondering what your interest in this might be, because I figure if you are interested then there is a good chance it will work for us.

Q Commons is basically 3 national speakers that will be live feed videoed (Malcom Gladwell is one of the national speakers) and 3 regional speakers who will be with us.  Each speakers has around 9 minutes to talk about what they see that is right, wrong, confused, etc. in faith and culture in our nation and region. Gladwell is the exception to this, he will have 18 minutes. Part of the focus of the evening is interaction between those involved in the evening. This means that there are two times throughout the evening that participants talk through ideas that have been discussed. Heck they are evening planning on giving each of the participants a Moleskine to record their thoughts in – I’ll do a lot for a Moleskine.

Anyhow I was wondering what my friends’ thoughts might be. Is this something you would be interested in? Costs $29 for the evening Thursday, February 26th. Thoughts?

Benjamin Watson on Ferguson

I haven’t blogged about Ferguson because I don’t really know how to express my jumbled up thoughts on the situation. So I’ll just share what New Orleans Saints Tight End Benjamin Watson wrote concerning his thoughts. I like what he said. I like it a lot.

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

ht Joy

What if there Really is a War on Christmas?

As far as I am concerned it is not the Christmas season yet. That starts this Sunday with the beginning of Advent. Right now I am more focused on making sure that we smoke enough turkey for me to devour several smoked turkey sandwiches while I watch the Iron Bowl this Saturday (yep I have great priorities). Still there has been a thought that has been bouncing around my head for a few years that comes up around this time period each year. It happens when I begin to see articles and hear people comment on the “War on Christmas.”

The main point of this supposed “War on Christmas” is that some anti-God groups have made it their mission to wipe out all mention of Christmas from the public square. Be it government and community buildings or public and private businesses. It is all a conspiracy to have people say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” and thereby take us all one step closer to the end of Christianity. It all sounds terrible.

persecution-downloadIt also sounds ripe for mockery. Take the photo to the right for an example. A Facebook friend of mine posted the image to the right. I can’t remember or find which friend, I just remember seeing it on a friend’s feed. If you are the friend that posted this image please let me know so I can give you a hat tip.

Anyhow, the worry about this so called “War on Christmas” is that suddenly people can feel like they are being persecuted by an action that isn’t really persecution. “After all,” they think, “this is war we are talking about. If all those ‘happy holidays’ are a part of a war then they are about attacking an enemy, and we’re the enemy.” Thus many well meaning Christians fear that they are in the cross hairs of an enemy’s ideological weapon. This sort of behavior isn’t a war on Christmas and it definitely isn’t persecution against Christians. There is real persecution of believers in the world, but this is not such real persecution.

But what if there really is a war on Christmas and it is different from this so-called “War on Christmas”? When Paul talks about the Lord’s Supper he states the following concerning the manner in which the Corinthians were celebrating the Eucharist.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
(1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NIV)

Paul simply states that there is a manner in which we can “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (What 1 Corinthians 11:26 says we are doing when we participate in communion) that is unworthy of the celebration itself. That unworthy manner actually denigrates the actual celebration. It turns it from one thing, that remembers the Lord and unites His people, into something entirely different, that rejects the God of love and separates His people. How we celebrate something matters.

war-on-christmas2What if this is also true of how we celebrate Christmas? What if the way we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the coming of God to His creation, the Incarnation of God, shows whether we really trust in Him or not. Shouldn’t the manner in which a follower of Christ celebrates and remembers the birth of Jesus bring “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10)? When a follower of Christ celebrates the coming of the Lord to His creation shouldn’t it involve “proclaim[ing] freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)? Basically, shouldn’t those of us who are disciples of Jesus be more concerned with whether we are celebrating His birth in a manner that He would be pleased with, instead of griping about whether are not a minimum wage cashier says “Merry Christmas” or not?

I fear that the real war on Christmas is more about getting Jesus’s disciples to go into debt to buy lots of junk that nobody needs, while turning the celebration of His birth into a time of stress and worry, rather than joy. The psuedo-war on Christmas is just a ploy, a diversion, to make us forget about the real war. The real war on Christmas is a war that is trying to get Christians to treat Christmas as something it is not. Christmas is not about us giving lots of crap to people. Christmas is not about being busier than we can handle. Christmas is not about going into debt. Christmas is not about Black Friday. Christmas is about Jesus entering the world. To use the words of the 1st chapter of the Gospel According to John, Christmas is about us celebrating when “the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish” (John 1:14 MSG). That’s what the true war on Christmas is fighting against. It is a war to keep us from remembering to celebrate in incarnational methods the time God became incarnate and showed up to free His people.

If we just focus on whether a company has Christmas decorations or not, then we’ll never stop to think “How does Jesus really want me to celebrate His birth?” Then we might celebrate the birth of our Savior in an unworthy manner and miss the point of Christmas completely. I pray that all of us who are followers of Jesus fight against that. There’s a war out there folks. Fight the good fight.