Friday, April 28, 2006

University Life

Video Game Hour Live is a call-in show featuring these dudes playing video games (they are students at the University of Texas). The show can be seen on Friday nights here in Austin on digital cable channel 10. I'm not making this up.

At least there are no commercials.

Video Game Hour Live
Originally uploaded by whatnext.

Failures of the Church Overcome

1968 was a tense year. The Vietnam War had deeply divided the nation. Americans spat on one another over a conflict that had consumed thousands of lives.

I recently had the opportunity to learn about one of those lives. And I learned a sad lesson about how some people in the church have used faith as a weapon.

I serve as an intern at a large, suburban church. One of the members told me about her faith journey. She grew up Methodist and married in college. Once married, she and her new husband, a C-130 pilot in the Air Force, moved to Okinawa, where he flew sorties during the Vietnam War.

One day, he didn’t come back. He was missing in action.

My sister in Christ was given the shocking news by the commanding officer and chaplain of the unit. The chaplain, who had obviously not received pastoral care training, told the parishioner that he "understood what she felt."

"No, you have no idea what I'm feeling,” she replied.

After a short period of time, my parishioner friend was sent home. Immediately, she began working with others organizing support for those with loved ones who were missing in action. One of her first tasks was to contact churches to pray for missing personnel and their families. The first church she called was her hometown Methodist church.

Her request for prayer was rejected. "Some people in this church disagree with the war," said the pastor, "So we cannot pray for your missing husband."

My friend went on, but I had a very difficult time listening. I was shocked at the pastor's remark. I finally regained my senses and rejoined the conversation. She was telling me about how she eventually made her way back to the church after feeling rejected for a long time.

A few years later my friend remarried, this time to a fighter pilot. The couple was stationed in Germany. While flying at high speed, a bird pierced her husband's canopy and struck him in the heart. He stayed alive long enough to eject himself and backseater.

The response of the church: "Because your husband is dead, you can no longer participate in the spouse's group. Please find another group." I continued to listen while seething.

That my friend came back to the church again is amazing. Even more amazing is the ministry to which she has been called - funeral support. "One of the most critical functions the church performs is being with those who are grieving." She transformed her earlier rejections into a power that now benefits the larger Church. Grace abounds.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Faith and Public Life: The Amway Christian

A profile of Mr. Richard DeVos:
Richard DeVos believes that religious faith, private enterprise, charity and commercial life are connected in a straightforward way: "Freedom is a gift from God," he tells me. "With freedom, we can show compassion. And compassion breeds success."

Mr. DeVos certainly knows success. He is the co-founder, with his childhood friend Jay Van Andel, of Amway Corp., the international direct seller of cleaning products, cosmetics and other household items. The two men started the company in their Grand Rapids, Mich., homes in 1959. Still in the DeVos and Van Andel families today, Amway has grown into a $6 billion conglomerate operating under the parent firm Alticor. The success of Amway and its related companies has made Mr. DeVos one of America's wealthiest men.

Among the forces behind his financial success, Mr. DeVos maintains, is his faith. He is a life-long practicing member of the Christian Reformed denomination (a group of Calvinist evangelicals).
The rest of the article can be read here.

New Disciplines

A new multi-year spiritual discipline begins now, and I have adopted one of today's appointed Psalms as an inaugural. Here it is:

שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת בְּשׁ֣וּב ֭יְהוָה אֶת־שִׁיבַ֣ת צִיּ֑וֹן הָ֝יִ֗ינוּ כְּחֹלְמִֽים׃
אָ֤ז יִמָּלֵ֪א שְׂח֡וֹק פִּינוּ֮ וּלְשׁוֹנֵ֪נוּ רִ֫נָּ֥ה ֭אָז יֹאמְר֣וּ בַגּוֹיִ֑ם הִגְדִּ֥יל יְ֝הוָ֗ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִם־אֵֽלֶּה׃
הִגְדִּ֣יל ֭יְהוָה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִמָּ֗נוּ הָיִ֥ינוּ שְׂמֵחִֽים׃
שׁוּבָ֣ה ֭יְהוָה אֶת־שְׁבוּתֵנוּ [שְׁבִיתֵ֑נוּ] כַּאֲפִיקִ֥ים בַּנֶּֽגֶב׃
הַזֹּרְעִ֥ים בְּדִמְעָ֗ה בְּרִנָּ֥ה יִקְצֹֽרוּ׃
הָ֘ל֤וֹךְ יֵלֵ֨ךְ׀ וּבָכֹה֮ נֹשֵׂ֪א מֶֽשֶׁךְ־הַ֫זָּ֥רַע בֹּֽא־יָב֥וֹא בְרִנָּ֑ה נֹ֝שֵׂ֗א אֲלֻמֹּתָֽיו׃
(Psa 126:0-6 BHS-W4)

A Song of Ascents.

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
(Psa 126:0-6 NRSV)

:: What Next? :: Commentary
This "Song of Ascents" is a psalm of restoration and rejoicing upon Israel's return from Babylonian exile. This was a restoration so remarkable that " was said among the nations, 'The LORD as done great things for them.'" May we all sing similar songs of ascent as we are restored from exile in ourselves to fellowship with Jesus Christ.

esn 19657-060427-113701-90
© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Charts of the Day

Here are some interesting county-level maps which show the regional distribution of the nation's major denominational groups.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Faith and Science

The most recent edition of public radio's Speaking the Faith features a fascinating interview of Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne. The broadcast is available online in multiple formats. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the complimentary relationship between science and faith, or in matters related to the existence of evil and theodicy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Earth Day Part Deux

Mark Steyn on another kind of church:
Environmentalism doesn't need the support of the church, it's a church in itself -- and furthermore, one explicitly at odds with Christianity: God sent His son to Earth as a man, not as a three-toed tree sloth or an Antarctic krill. An environmentalist can believe man is no more than a co-equal planet dweller with millions of other species, and that he's taking up more than his fair share and needs to reduce both his profile and his numbers. But that's profoundly hostile to Christianity.