The Santa Claus God

Last night I started “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. I am really just at the beginning of “Free of Charge” but right now I think this paragraph is wonderful.

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.

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.

A CALL TO WORSHIP FOR THE TRAGEDY IN CHARLESTON

[Leader]
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

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

[Leader]
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

[All]
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

[Leader]
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

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

[Leader]
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

[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

Amen

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.

(pp.136-7)

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.

My Longest Blogging Break Ever?

Well this has been my longest break in blogging since I began in 2005. It wasn’t purposeful. I’ve had things I have wanted to write about, so that wasn’t the problem either. The biggest problem is that most of the things I have wanted to write about have been long and drawn out in their nature. I am not a fan of blogs that are consistently long winded, so I try not constantly write long posts for my blog either. One long blog post a week is okay, in my opinion. The rest of the time I like the posts to be medium or small in their length. So recently everything I have wanted to blog about have been long winded subjects. Thus I have several very long drafts that I guess I will post eventually.

Anyhow I am going to being posting again.

Right now I thought I would post one simple change that I noticed today. When we started Tapestry we would joke about the fact that our two lowest attendance Sundays of the year were the immediate Sunday around Christmas and Easter Sunday. This is, of course, the exact opposite of every other church in the nation. This is why some joke about C&E Christians (people who only come to church on Christmas & Easter), joke which I personally think are stupid, but that is another post and I am keeping this post from being too long.

Anyhow the reason for the low Christmas and Easter attendance at Tapestry was and is that Tapestry has a very young population of “threads.” Since so many “threads” are young they tend to be the ones to travel back home to see family. Thus Tapestry is scattered all over on this holidays that are consider family  as well as religious holidays. Thus our Tenebrae gathering usually has much greater attendance than our Easter gathering.

Well we still have a lot of youngin’s making up Tapestry, but they have attracted others who aren’t quite as young. This is awesome. It also means that Easter and Christmas are no longer super small in attendance. It is really weird having a crowd of people on Easter. I am not sure that I am used to it yet, but I like it.

image
Sorry. I know it is a pretty crummy picture. I blame my phone’s camera app … not its operator.

 

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.