Blogging in Lent

For the past little while I've been having a little bit of trouble deciding what my direction is for this blog and what, ultimately, it does for my ministry and that of my fellow youthworkers.

Because of the confusion, I haven't been updating all that often, and sticking to lighter-hearted (except the last post) topics.

To clarify, I will be fasting from blogging during Lent, to pray over the direction God has for this part of my ministry and ask for guidance on how I should direct my efforts.

The RYW podcast will take the same hiatus; I'm much clearer on my intentions for that, but the two are connected and so both need the guidance and prayer that I'll be giving them.

Any prayers you're willing to offer for me would be very much appreciated!

How big is your box?

Talking with a student the other day, we started on the subject of who should go to Hell. Let's just say we had very different opinions.

Actually, let's say a little more than that. My student believes that, even should someone reach him with the Gospel of Christ, Osama bin Laden categorically deserves damnation.

The dangers I pointed out in his thinking (thank you to the Spirit for these, since I'm positive I hadn't thought about this myself) are twofold:

All deeds aside, (not to excuse them but because the argument goes a different direction) Osama is more a symbol today than an actual man, and beginning to think a certain way about him will subtly begin, in our fallen and sinful human minds, to stamp everyone else associated with the symbol of the leader the same way, and thus begin to call for all the leader's followers to wind up in Hell as well.

This leads to the second problem: we cannot decide that any person deserves Hell with no chance of redemption. For one thing, it's not our decision; it's God's. For another, if we've already decided, we've drawn a box around who can be reached with the power of the Gospel, and who can't. That limits our evangelism, our prayer life, and the challenges from God we're able to hear for our lives. And that does not advance God's plan for us.

What makes radical Christianity different from radical anything else is that we truly believe there is no one outside the reach of Christ's grace. This isn't to say that everyone will believe in that grace or respond to our invitations to experience it, but neither is that objection an excuse for us not to earnestly reach out to everyone and try to share the story we have. If it turns out some surprising people are in Heaven because of the outreach of radical Christians, so much the better.

We may not ever stop believing that repentance and redemption is a possibility for anyone.

As we're getting ready for Lent to begin, I think a worthwhile exercise is to ask God to expand the boxes we work in so that we can believe and act as if no one is outside them, no one is not worth prayer and outreach.


He thought I wanted to hear it...

A student of mine invited himself to come to lunch with me yesterday. He was telling this story about a girl, who is apparently "really cute" and he'd love to go out with her, but they don't know each other very well, but somehow they spent the afternoon in the same place... the important part came when he said,

"And then she offered to drive me home and I thought, 'COULD THIS GET ANY BETTER?' because... um... uh... because she's such a safe driver!"


Interesting website

Found this today: Challenge The Blasphemy. They did a YouTube video where they found a bunch of folks who are posting videos specifically saying they deny the existence of God/Christ/the Holy Spirit, then recruiting believers to commit to praying for those people.

As they remark on the website, "the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." --James 5:16.

It's an interesting site. A lot of the responses from the people being prayed for aren't real positive; an obvious concern is that it'll drive people away from faith by seeming to force prayer on them, but God has worked in much more mysterious ways. It's an interesting project.


Cellphones tool for teen dating abuse

Christian Science Monitor story:

"In the survey, conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, 20 to 30 percent of teens who had been in relationships said their partner had constantly checked in on them, had harassed or insulted them, or had made unwanted requests for sexual activity, all via cellphones or text messages. One out of 4 reported hourly contact with a dating partner between midnight and 5 a.m. – in some cases, 30 times per hour. And 1 out of 10 had received physical threats electronically. A much smaller percentage of parents reported that their teens had had such experiences.
"Dating violence has always had this core feature ... of trying to control the thoughts, feelings, and actions of another person," says Julie Kahn, program director of the Transition House Dating Violence Intervention Program in Cambridge, Mass. "When you add the technological piece, there are more ways to track someone, to keep someone on an 'electronic leash,' if you will.""

The website that goes along with it, for the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline


A future evangelist?

I had the following conversation with a student yesterday:

(The setup: Whether or not to go on the mission trip depends on when soccer camp is.)

Me: So how exactly does your managing the varsity girls' soccer team serve Jesus?

Him: I'm serving his community.

Me: So that means nothing. How are you doing that?

Him: I'm serving all the hot girls.

Me: Tell me how that isn't completely un-Jesus-like?

Him: Um, I'll tell them Jesus loves them?

Bottom line seems to be: if all sinners were great-looking, all youth groups would have a stellar record for evangelism.


Away for the weekend

I'm off to the church council retreat tomorrow morning; be back Saturday night with, hopefully, some great stories and plans for helping our church do evangelism better. This means, according to the author of the book and facilitator of the retreat, Martha Grace Reese, "sharing something you enjoy with people you like."

I like that phrase, and her book: Unbinding the Gospel.

If you've already read that one, check out this one: Bad Science: The Short life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion.

Have an excellent weekend; I'll be back with stories from the retreat, and middle school youth group!


Colts win Super Bowl; disciples astonished

I wish I could take credit for this one; a pastor (and a loyal Bears fan) at a church I visit on the weekends began his sermon Saturday evening by speculating that at the end of the game, the Chicago Bears would be like the disciples, saying: "We have worked all night, and caught nothing."

Who says prophets aren't still alive among us?


Rookie on the Radio: Show notes for episode 4

On this week's "Rookie on the Radio," Undiscovered listens to Project Damage Control's "Try Again;" we'll brainstorm with teachers and Quakers on how to get the most out of our post-event debriefings; a kid calls me on "So I called this kid" and we'll wind up with a thought from St. Catherine.

"Undiscovered" music comes from the Podsafe Music Network
Podcast intro and exit music comes from CCMixter user SCott
"A Thought" music comes from CCMixter user duncan_beattie

Simon Hole and Grace Hall McEntee's article "Reflection is at at the Heart of Practice" is from the May 1999 issue of "Educational Leadership."


A Confluence of Challenges

From today's lectionary readings: 2 Timothy 3:1-17

"But mark this. There will be terrible times in the last days. People will... have a form of godliness, but deny its power. (ellipsis covers the list of other horrible conditions people will have-- the break isn't there to change the context.)

From the book I'm reading, prepping for CSMSG's vestry retreat: "Unbinding the Gospel" by Martha Grace Reese

"I was leading a retreat for eight smart, loving pastors of growing mainline churches. Off the cuff, I asked, 'Hey, what difference does it make in your own life that you are a Christian?'

Silence. Loud silence stretched on. And on. I stared around the circle in disbelief. Finally one volunteered hesitantly, 'Because it makes me a better person?'

Since that retreat, I've asked hundreds of pastors what difference being a Christian makes in their own lives. Most reacted with surprise. Most had a hard time answering."

In what areas of all our lives must we ask God's forgiveness for denying the power of a relationship with Him?