31 Days/2 – Friend of Sinners

“Friend” is not an official title, or a role we have to play, or a function in society. We have our brothers and sisters in the nature of things, and have to live with them. But friendships grow up out of free encounter. Friendship is a personal relationship between people who like one another. Friendship combines affection with respect.

Combining affection with respect does not mean wanting to serve the other person, or having to help him, or making use of him. It means simply liking someone for themselves, just as they are. The affection has to do with the being of other people, the respect has to do with their freedom. Friendship is the opposite of appropriation or the desire to possess. If we become aware of any such intention, we are put off, and the friendship withers. In friendship we sense that there is a wide space of freedom in which we can expand, because we are trusted and can lay aside the protective mechanism of mistrust.

Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life, p. 255.

I am finishing reading “The Spirit of Life” and loved this quote. I love his description of friendship. All the more interesting when you consider that apparently Jesus’s enemies said the following concerning Him.

 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds. (Matthew 11:19)

I think that is consistent with the picture of Jesus presented in the New Testament. He loved people. He loved being around people, no matter their state of being. This doesn’t mean that He didn’t call everyone to repentance, He just also respected people’s freedom of will (sorry my Calvinist friends).

31 Days/2 – The Santa Claus God Quote

Just me and my bud Miroslav hangout with each other. :)
Just me and my bud Miroslav hanging out with each other. :)

A while back I read “Free of Charge” by Miroslav Volf. I believe I have mentioned in the past that I love Volf’s writing and speaking. He is wonderful. Here’s a quote from “Free of Charge” that I really enjoy.

God is an inexhaustibly fertile source of everything. But is it true that God demands nothing? If it were true, how could Jesus urge us, as he does in the Sermon on the Mount, to be perfect as God is? Here is what we do as worshipers of a Santa Claus God: We embrace the conviction that God is an infinitely generous source of all good, but conveniently forget that we were created in God’s image to be in some significant sense like God – not like God in God’s divinity, for we are human and not divine, but like God “in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24), like God in loving enemies (Matthew 5:44). To live well as a human being is to live in sync with who God is and how God acts.

“Free of Charge”, p. 26.

I bear the image of God. Therefore, I need to be like Him in His holiness yes, but also in His justice, His mercy, His grace, His generosity, His sacrifice, His suffering, His love. To bear the Imago Dei is a powerful demand and a powerful thing. To believe in a generous God should lead to us understanding and acting on the truth that we were created in the image of that generous God. The image we are created bearing is supposed to shape who we are and how we act.

That’s the problem with a Santa Claus god. Santa Claus doesn’t serve as a challenge to us to live in generosity and sacrifice (though the story of the real St. Nick should do just that). Nope Santa is culturally someone who just gives to us, supposedly when we are nice and not naughty, but usually no matter what. But a truly generous God Whose image we are created bearing, well that’s another thing all together. Being created in the image of that generous God calls us to live that image out. It calls us to give as God gives, to all who were created in His image.

In addition since there are traces of the Imago Dei (these traces are known as the vestigia Dei) all around us, we, as image bearers, should be drawn to and respond to those traces. While the saying may be that “Opposites attract” the reality is that we are drawn to things and people with which we have similarities. For an odd example consider the report that has been recently released by the Federal Reserve Board suggesting that people with similar credit scores tend to have more successful committed relationships. We connect more strongly with people and things with which we have a common resonance. Like attracts like.

Jürgen Moltmann writes that early Christians often preferred eros to the word agape when referring to our response to God’s love, because eros is a surrendering to attraction and desire, while agape reflects a self’s decision. Eros has God as the initiator and us as those who respond out of desire. If (and when I say “if” I mean “since”) there are traces of God’s image in the people (and creation) all around us, no matter how distorted those traces are, we should still be driven to love them because of the attraction we have to the traces of God’s image in them. The Imago Dei in us can’t help but be attracted to the Imago Dei we see in others. We are driven by the desire of “like attracting like” to love our neighbor because of the desire we have been created with to love God. Like a teenager who can’t stand to be away from her first crush, our desire for God should pull us.


31 Days/2 – Mystery Gifter

Not to beat a dead horse but I am only going to mention gifts this time because it happened again today. For sometime now Pam and I have had a mystery gifter at church. I know that mystery gifter isn’t really a title but I don’t know what else to call this person. Tapestry doesn’t “pass the plate” for offerings. We really don’t make a big deal about money because we don’t really need a lot of money to do what we believe God has called us to do. So contributing to the church via our online mechanism is mentioned in our church bulletin and we have a small offering box on the back table just in case someone prefers to give cash or a check.

For a while now someone, or several someones, have been putting random gifts in the offering box for Pam and me. They have generally been small but very meaingful gifts. Little things that say that this person or persons knows us. Pam has received a “Mr. Darcy” keychain & library socks and I have received a two “widow’s mite” coins and a bumper sticker that I had mentioned to some people that I thought was fun. I will admit that I have felt a little weird about these being put in the offering box but that’s just really me being stupid (you see I have some hangups about a few “pastoral” things). Still I have very much appreciated each of the gifts, and I know Pam has as well.

That person, or persons, has struck again. Today I was surprised with an audiobook. C.S. Lewis at War, which is a dramatic audio concerning Lewis’s wartime BBC readings that eventually became Mere Christianity. I don’t know who to thank but I sure do hope that whoever gave me this knows that I appreciate it greatly. Whoever you are thank you. Your gift was well time today and I am thankful for you.

I promise I don’t plan on mentioning any further gifts for the rest of the month.

31 Days/2 – Gift Payments

I think better when I am doing two things. The first is that think better when I am regularly involved in challenging conversations with those I love and respect. Pam and I have the best, challenging, conversations. Really you should hear our bedtime conversations. They usually involve us sharing a quote with each other from whatever we are presently reading and then discussing that subject with each other. It is wonderful “pillow talk.” I do the same with friends around coffee or lunch (except that isn’t “pillow talk”, because that would just be plain weird. This is one of the things I loved about working at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. I was in an office suite with people who held the best conversations. Over the past seven months I haven’t had as many such conversations with friends. Life was hectic and I was doing my best to just to stay a float. Thankfully one of the reasons for the busyness has ceased and life is back to at least a sense of normality.

The second thing that helps me to think better is writing on my blog. I’m not a great writer (just ask Pam who generously read all my M.Div & D.min papers and corrected them), but I do believe that regularly writing something on the blog helps me to think deeper about the things going on around me. It helps me to observe the world, rather than just walking through it. I write about the things that I have spoken with Pam and others about and things that I’ve seen or heard about that make me wonder. That’s where I believe my problem has been lately. The thing that I have been thinking about and talking with Pam the most about over the past six months is something that I don’t believe I can write about at this moment. I’m not “vague booking” here. I’m talking about my dad’s cancer. It just isn’t my place, at the moment, to write down any of my thoughts concerning his illness.

What has happened instead of writing about this is that I have basically stopped posting anything on my blog. I’ve maintained this blog for 10 years and I don’t want to stop writing on it. I enjoy posting things, from the meaningless to the at least meaningful to me. So I have decided to steal form my genius wife and do one of the 31 days things that she does with many others each year. The goal is to get me back to writing about something. I believe it would be stupid of me to try posting 31 days in a row after basically not writing anything for months. Therefore, I am going to try something every other day. We’ll see how that works. This will still probably be too much after this break. Succeed or fail, hopefully the attempt will help me to get back into the groove of writing something regularly.

Today’s post has to do with this photo of Thule Commuter Bicycle Panniers.




This is what I received as payment for the wedding I officiated last Saturday. I use italics on the word “payment” because I tell members of Tapestry that they don’t need to pay me anything for doing their wedding. I ask that they cover my expenses if the wedding is somewhere other than the Point region, but other than those expenses there is no need for them to pay anything. You see, I LOVE doing premarital counseling. I really enjoy helping couples think through what a good marriage looks like. I regularly tell young couples that I don’t care that much about the ceremony (really I’ll do anything they want as long as it is moral and ethical) but I care a great deal about their marriage. So I focus on the marriage instead of the wedding. I usually do around five 1 1/2 hour sessions of premarital counseling (if you want to see what we normally talk about you can view them in reverse order here). I don’t want to ask young couples who are a part of Tapestry to pay for that, nor do I want to ask them to pay for the time writing the ceremony or doing the ceremony. So I do the opposite. I ask them not to pay me anything and tell them that I am doing their wedding as a friend.

But most people still want to give me something to say thanks. I’m okay with that. Saying “thanks” is a great thing. So what has often happened are gift payments for me officiating the weddings of people connected to Tapestry. I LOVE this.

First, I love it because it is so much more relational than a check. The gifts usually reflect who the couple is and also my relationship with them. Take the above photo above as an example. This is a couple who loves to bike and with whom I have had a lot of conversations concerning good quality bicycle panniers. They have loaned me various panniers for me to try out, in hopes of me determining the next set of bicycle panniers I should purchase (when you have two kids who like to bike you tend to “lose” any nice bicycling equipment you might own). When they gave these panniers to me I smiled so much that my face hurt. I have received many such gifts. From journals, to Chuck Taylor All-Stars, to a single fishing lure that had a World Vision fishing kit sponsorship attached to one of the hooks. These gift payments are some of best pay I have ever received, because they reflect a knowledge of who the couple is and who I am. They are so much better than a check.

The second reason I love these gift payments is because they make me feel like an old time, small town pastor. Seriously, it is like someone stopping by the house and saying “Pastor, I want to thank you for that ceremony and thought you could possibly use some eggs or a slab of beef.” It really floats my boat because I think gift economies are pretty cool and very inline with the kingdom of God. One day I hope someone gives me a chicken or a goat … though I have no idea where I would keep such a payment.

Anyhow the above bicycle panniers have been used multiple times since the wedding last Saturday and I am very thankful for them.

I’m Back … I Think

I haven’t posted anything on my blog in 2 months. This is the longest time in between blog posts since I started blogging in 2005. I don’t really like this lack of blogging. Life was far busier than it normally is for me and the majority of my energy was focused on making it from day to day trying to be a decent follower of Christ, husband, dad, son, friend, and employee, rather than blogging … or for that matter fishing, running or riding my bicycles. Thankfully life has calmed down.

I suppose this means that I will begin to blog (as well as run, bike, and fish) a little more often. I’m not going to do it right now because I am watching the Packers/Bears game and this basically meaningless post is the best I can do while watching the game. I, however, will tell one brief story.

This past week I bought a new pair of waders for duck hunting. I am pretty pumped about them because they are breathable and I was able to get a great deal on them. Two days ago I decided to pull them out and let a little of the “new wader smell”escape from them. Mhmmm I love that “new wader smell.” So I sat them on couch in our living room to air out. That was fine and dandy till Montana, our female basset hound, decided she needed to go pee at 3 a.m. In the dark it is amazing how much these waders looked like someone just randomly sitting on my couch. I didn’t scream when I caught their “sitting” figure on the couch, but I may have come close.


One Church Liturgy

This morning Tapestry joined around a thousand other churches across the U.S. in a joint responsive reading to declare we stand with our brothers and sisters in Charleston and look to our Lord for comfort and strength. I thought the liturgy was very meaningful and moving.  Therefore, I asked one of the authors of the One Church Liturgy (thanks Leroy Barber) if I could post reading to my blog to share with any thread who couldn’t be at Washington Elementary School this morning.


We stand before you today, oh Lord
Hearts broken, eyes weeping, heads spinning
Our brothers and sisters have died
They gathered and prayed and then were no more
The prayer soaked walls of the church are spattered with blood
The enemy at the table turned on them in violence
While they were turning to you in prayer

We stand with our sisters
We stand with our brothers
We stand with their families
We stand to bear their burden in Jesus’ name

We cry out to you, oh Lord
Our hearts breaking, eyes weeping, heads spinning
The violence in our streets has come into your house
The hatred in our cities has crept into your sanctuary
The brokenness in our lives has broken into your temple
The dividing wall of hostility has crushed our brothers and sisters
We cry out to you, May your Kingdom come, may it be on earth as it is in heaven

We cry out for our sisters
We cry out for our brothers
We cry out for their families
We cry out for peace in Jesus’ name

We pray to you today, oh Lord
Our hearts breaking, eyes weeping, souls stirring
We pray for our enemies, we pray for those who persecute us
We pray to the God of all Comfort to comfort our brothers and sisters in their mourning
We pray that you would bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes
We pray that you would give them the oil of joy instead of mourning
We pray that you would give them a garment of praise in place of a spirit of despair

We pray for our sisters
We pray for our brothers
We pray for their families
We pray for their comfort in Jesus’ name

We declare together, oh Lord
With hearts breaking, eyes weeping and souls stirring
We will continue to stand and cry and weep with our brothers and sisters
We will continue to make a place of peace for even the enemies at our table
We will continue to open our doors and our hearts to those who enter them
We will continue to seek to forgive as we have been forgiven
We will continue to love in Jesus’ name because you taught us that love conquers all

We declare our love for you, our Sisters
We declare our love for you, our Brothers
We declare our love for you, their families
We declare our love as one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism
We declare they do not grieve alone today


A Good Father’s Day

20150621_174727Today I gave money through World Vision Microloans, along with all the “threads” of Tapestry, to help a man buy an Ox as a way to honor those who have fathered us, called my dad to tell him Happy Father’s day, received a call from Adam (who is working at a camp), went fishing with Noah, ate one of my favorite meals cooked by Pam, and received my own personal pack of Pecan Sandies.

All in all this has been a fantastic Father’s day.


Want to Raise Money for Clean Water? Run With Us.

I have run a few races as a part of Team World Vision raising money for clean water. Two weeks ago I ran the Eau Claire half marathon and saw that they had a large group of people running as a part of Team World Vision. I talked with one of the leaders and became convinced that we could do the same in Stevens Point. So I have decided to start looking for people who would be interested in starting this up and making it a thing in the Point area. We happen to have a wonderful half marathon in Stevens Point every year, the Justiceworks Just Run half marathon and 5k. The Just Run already supports a great agency, how much better would it be if we ran in such a way provided clean water for others? I think it would be a great thing and want to see about getting some others to join me.

So here’s my plan.

  • Try to get 7 other people to do this thing with me. Talking with the Eau Claire group they said that 8 people was enough to get the whole thing started and growing for the next year.
  • Register for the Justiceworks Just Run halfmarathon for September 5th at 8 am (that’s the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend and the Jazzfest) – Right now it is the early bird special rate of $50.
  • Get people to buy a Team World Vision jersey. I have my old one but I think I am going to buy another one because it is a little big for me now. It fit over my gorilla suit when I ran the Bock Run in March.
  • Start Saturday group runs June 13th, twelve weeks before the race. We’ll train as we want, individually or with others, during the week and then have group runs on Saturday where we all meet up to begin and meet afterward for coffee or lunch.
  • Start raising money for clean water.
  • Run the race and celebrate.

I’ve done this once before and it was a lot of fun running a race where people recognized the shirt you were wearing and cheered you on based just off what they knew the jersey represented. I think it would be real cool to turn this into a thing in Stevens Point. Anyone with me?

Being Offered A Beer

While I was not raised in church, when I became a follower of Christ I pretty quickly became a part of a Southern Baptist church in Alabama. There is a lot of a specific culture that goes along with such churches. To be honest it is easy to criticize much of that culture because I have been on the inside of it and still have a lot of links to that culture (after all, I am a Southern Baptist minister). Yet the reality is that with all the flaws of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) it still represents so much of how I understand the good news of the kingdom of God. I am a fan of Southern Baptists . I love the racial diversity that is now so much a part of who we are, even though we started out with very undiversified rationales. I also love the diversity of styles of church that are manifest because of the fact that Southern Baptist believe in a very limited number of essentials to faith. These essentials are known as the Baptist Faith & Message. Anyhow there are many others things that I could mention that I love about Southern Baptist but that isn’t the point of this post.1

Instead this post is about something that isn’t Southern Baptist belief but is generally SBC and Evangelical church culture (at least in the South). Te cultural element I am writing about has to do with the reality that as an Evangelical minister I was rarely offered a beer by the people I spent time with, until I moved up North and started a church from scratch with people who weren’t raised in church or at least in a Southern Baptist church. This isn’t a condemnation on the church (well maybe it is, but I’ll let you decide that), rather it is me jumping on myself. The Baptist Faith & Message has nothing in it concerning drinking alcohol. There’s a pretty good reason for this and that reason is that there is nothing in the Bible against the responsible use of alcohol. Yeah there have been SBC resolutions about alcohol, but if you know the way Baptist churches work (the local autonomy of the church is very important to us) then you know as Granny Hawkins from “The Outlaw Josey Wales” would say that those resolutions are worth “doodly squat.”2 They are words that make someone feel good at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting, but don’t have any effect on the churches (though they do have some effect on the convention employees). The point is that a statement against alcohol isn’t a part of basic Southern Baptist faith, though it generally is against typical Southern Baptist culture.

And being engulfed in that culture is why I believe I wasn’t offered a beer. Not because people in the churches in which I pastored didn’t drink beer, I know that many did, but because people in the churches I ministered within knew the basic Southern Baptist culture and therefore knew that you shouldn’t offer the church’s pastors a beer, even if you had them in the fridge. The reality is that in every other church I have ever ministered in the nature of the ministry required me to spend the vast majority of my time with people who were already in the church, thus knowing the basic Southern Baptist culture and therefore not offering me a beer.

The fun thing is that I don’t even like the taste of beer. I much prefer sweet tea and Diet Coke. My Diet Cokes not only tickle my taste buds, but they also usually come with free refills, and that tickles my cheapness “taste buds”.

Now up here in Wisconsin when someone finds out that i don’t like beer they generally respond by saying “that’s just because you’ve never had a good beer” and then they offer me whatever beer they prefer. I’ve tried a lot of  different beers since moving up to Wisconsin and the result has been that I am even more sure than ever that I don’t like beer. Thus I still don’t drink alcohol but I am now regularly with people who don’t think anything of offering the Southern Baptist preacher a beer. That wasn’t true at one time in my life in ministry.

That’s real the point of this post and it is about me no one else. I don’t know if all my friends who are Evangelical/SBC ministers are regularly around people who aren’t so entrenched in the culture of their church that they would never offer their “preacher” a beer, or not.3 I suspect some are and some aren’t. What I know is that until I moved to Wisconsin I spent most of my time around “church people.” People who knew the cultural expectation and weren’t going to even acknowledge the existence of alcohol, let alone offer me a drink. I loved and still love these “church people,” but the reality is that I should have been spending far more time than I did with people who weren’t “church people.” I regret now that I didn’t spend 70-90% of my time around non-church people. While I know God did some good through the ministries that I was fortunate enough to lead, I do wonder how much more good would have been done if I was around people who were constantly asking me if I wanted a brewski.

I think this is one of my new measures whether I, as a minister, am spending my time with the right people or not. If I am not regularly being asked if I would like a beer or something else,4 then I am probably not spending my time with the people I need to be with. Waitresses and waiters don’t count. That would be cheating. I think this may be my new question for my friends who are Southern Baptist ministers, or if I ever get to ask a question of a SBC candidate for president of the convention, or if I ever have fellow staff members at Tapestry. We’ll begin the meeting by asking “When’s the last time you were offered a beer by someone you were spending time with?” If it hasn’t been recently then I’ll ask “Are you sure you are spending your time in the right manner?”

  1. For example, the Cooperative Program. I love supporting mission work through the CP. 

  2. Interestingly looking up the Granny Hawkins quote I saw a quick link to the etymology of “doodly squat” and basically since doodle and squat are both slag terms for excrement the phrase “doodle squat” is basically crap squared. Not important, but it made me laugh. 

  3. This excludes my friends who are Lutheran, who are probably offered a beer at ever church potluck. 

  4. I have been offered pot at least twice in the past year. 

The Problem of Good

I am presently reading a few N.T. Wright books in preparation for an online course he is leading. One of these is his new book “Simply Good News” which I am really enjoying. It is an easy read that I highly recommend for anyone. In fact, if you were at Tapestry this past Easter Sunday the message you heard me deliver was heavily influenced by this book.

Anyhow I just read the following section discussing the flip side of the problem of evil in regard to God. Wright wrote:

The problem [of evil] is well known, and we’ve met it already. It’s not simply that, as in the Woody Allen quote, God seems to be a bit of an underachiever (as though he were the CEO of a company that’s not doing as well as its shareholders expected). It is that in this world of beauty and power, of sunsets and starlight, there are multiple layers of violence, bloodshed, and apparently wanton destruction. There are small creatures, rather a lot of them, who live as parasites inside other larger creatures and whose sole raison d’etre appears to be to eat them alive from within. I won’t go on: the problem, as I say, is well known.

In fact, the problem can also work the other way. Theologians have written about the problem of evil, but atheists less regularly about the problem of good. If everything, including my brain and emotions, is the result of random collisions of atoms, why do we find ourselves in such awe and delight at so many things in the world? Can it really all be explained as a legacy of our evolutionary biology? That seems to take reductionism to ridiculous lengths.


I like that. There are things that I have gone through and been through with others that I love and respect that have lead to me asking “Where are you God?” Yet there are so many more moments of beauty and truth that lead to me saying “Wow God!” The “problem” of good speaks of a Creator and reminds me that we are not on our own. I remember this as I am sitting at Emy J’s watching it rain and preparing for Sunday.