An Open Letter to the Scientists

Dear Scientists of the world,

Please show us that the reason you came to be a scientist is because you wondered about something you didn't know, and that wonder consumed you and drove you.

When someone writes a newspaper article about a new discovery you made, please tell us how many wrong turns your investigation took, how many times you asked the wrong question or missed something. Tell us about how much you kept wondering through the whole thing.

Because when my students see an unbroken string of stories about how we've just proved something, they learn that it's the results that matter, and not the wonder. That curiosity is only good when it's leading to proof. That things we can't see, and don't understand, don't matter until we can, and do.

I love what you're doing for the world, making medicine and cool gadgets and the Showtime Rotisserie. And I know we-- scientists and ministers-- can play nice together, since all the things you're discovering are things God made work that way. So let's make each other's jobs a little easier, and give the world back the gift of wonder, of process, of saying "I don't know."




It's a great time to be in ministry

...as this article from the Christian Science Monitor points out.

"The rising interest in spirituality has led many more students to enroll in religion courses or to major in religion, reports The New York Times. Many students choose to live in dorms that allow a focus on matters of faith. Often, these students were raised by baby-boomer parents who did not impose a religion on them, but when faced with difficulties on campus, the students search for answers to tough questions of life."

How do we make this happen?

I had a whole discussion this week with my small group about how they weren't going to read their Bibles. We had a dare, since we're in a series right now about how to use the Bible, which was to pick a number between 3 and 8, and read the Bible that many days between group meetings. The discussion then ran through some of the following comments:

Buddhist student and pastor's kid: "We already know everything about the Bible; we've read it before!"
Fairly reliable student: "What if reading it one time is pretty much impossible?
Me: "How is that impossible?"
FRS: "Well, I'm studying for finals."
Particularly obnoxious student: "Yeah, finals are way more important than the Bible!"
Struggling student: "What if I read the same thing every day?"
POS: "What if I read one word every day?"
Me: "You have to read more than one word at a time."
POS: "What if God was leading me to that one word?"

How do we overcome resistance to reading the Bible because it's too ________ (fill in: boring, old, weird, violent, irrelevant, hard...)? I really want my students to be excited about Scripture because every time I open it something jumps out at me, but they don't seem to be catching on. Help!


Bible will not be declared an "indecent publication"

From Reuters, this story:

HONG KONG (Reuters) - "Hong Kong's media regulator has rejected calls to reclassify the Bible as an indecent publication following more than 2,000 complaints about its sexual and violent content, including rape and incest...

Publications classified as indecent in Hong Kong can only be bought by people aged over 18 and must be sealed in a wrapper with a statutory warning notice."

Finally, a good answer

My students have been asking questions that have both stumped and inspired me in the last couple of weeks, and one that comes out especially often has to do with prayer, and it usually goes "Why won't God give me what I'm praying for?"

This small thought snuck into my mind the other day and won't go away:

We ask for anything we think would be good enough.

But God will only give us what is perfect for us to have.


But why do we have church?

A student came up to me last week and asked, "Why do we have church (meaning the regular Sunday worship)? Why can't we just have youth group and Bible study?

I explained it was because we needed to hear the Gospel and have Communion.

"But why can't we just do that in youth group?" he wanted to know.

I told him it was because we needed a priest to do Communion, and that we needed to hear the sermon.

"But why couldn't the priest just come to the youth group?"

I didn't have a good answer for him that day. But it made me think.

Well, J, the reason we have church is because we need the chance to worship with the whole community. By which I mean this:

If we had the Gospel and Communion in the youth group, we would end up having those things with people who were just like us: young, growing in faith, and without a lot of experience at anything. We would invite Jesus into our little circle and enjoy our time with Him all by ourselves.

We have church because we need to worship with people who are old. People who have a lot of stories to tell with their lives. People who are just beginning to wonder about God. People who are wrestling with Him. People who are different-- in their ages, in their faith development, in their involvement with the church-- from us.

Church is so we can talk to God together.
Church is so we can see the people we pray for.
Church is so we don't ever think we are the only ones who know God, because we're comfortable in our own little way of doing things.


An open letter to all of my students

My dear young friends in Christ,

No, I cannot personally prove to you that God is real. But at the same time, I cannot prove to you that any of the situations you see on reality television would actually happen if there weren't any cameras there, and you believe in those rather easily.

No, having never been there, I cannot personally prove to you that Heaven and Hell are in fact real places. I can also not prove that winning the county Little League championship in third grade will land you a spot on the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, but you're talking about that as if it's going to happen tomorrow.

No, I cannot personally prove that the Bible records with complete accuracy the miracles Christ performed, since I wasn't there to see them myself. But neither can I prove that the tips you pick up in "Cosmo" will in fact lead you to Mr. Right, and you quote them the way I'd like to hear you quoting the New Testament.

No, it's not possible to completely understand the book of Revelation and Christ's second coming. But if Jesus had a band, and they were reuniting after many years, you'd want to know all about it.

Finally, no, I cannot prove that your friends, family, teachers, co-workers or that guy at the bus stop will understand why you want to live a life that is faithful to God, and not to yourself or to them. But no one understands you anyway.

I love you all with the love of Christ,



Skittles: Steal the Rainbow

From MSNBC, this story:

"A man caught removing tires from a truck
has been charged with stealing the tractor-
trailer containing $250,000 worth of Skittles,
police said."

The most odd part of this story is that the Skittles in the stolen trailer were worth $250,000. The tires and rims he was trying to remove and sell were worth $500. I suspect there's a metaphor there, useful for youth Gospel messages.


The difference was, she did it on purpose

"As he went along, he passed a woman in the crowd who had been constantly bleeding for twelve years, and no one could heal her. She thought to herself, 'If I can just touch him, I will be healed.' So she reached out and touched the hem of his robe, and instantly she was healed. Jesus stopped and said to his disciples, 'Who touched me?' They laughed and said, 'Master, the crowd is pressing and jostling against you-- dozens of people have been touching you. How can you ask who it was?' He replied, 'I know someone touched me; I felt power go out from me.' Then the woman, seeing she could not go unnoticed, threw herself at Jesus' feet and in front of the whole crowd told how she had touched him and felt herself instantly healed. Jesus said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.'"

At the evening prayer service before the Confirmation banquet, I had the honor of reading the Gospel lesson for the day, and the quote at the beginning of this post was part of it. After the service, the story got me thinking.

The whole crowd touched him. Anyone close to Jesus, wanting to hear what he said, bumped up against him and pushed into him on all sides. Some of the crowd was behind him, pushing him forward. Others were in front, trying to hear and lead the way at the same time. They all touched him, but one woman reached out to him. One woman touched him on purpose, knowing that if she could just contact Christ, something would happen to her life.

In this story, where am I? I'd like to automatically say I was with that woman, reaching out to touch Jesus on purpose, but there are some days when I know I'm so familiar with Him that I know I'm probably bumping and pushing, maybe even getting ahead and trying to get Christ to follow me. How do I avoid that state?

And where are my students? I know they're reaching out, but there are many times when I know they're reaching out in the wrong direction. How do I keep them in the crowd so they can hear Christ, and hear from Him which direction they should be pointing?

Above all, I pray that they and I will learn to do all these things on purpose, conscious that something will happen when we contact Christ, even if we underestimate it.


There's a light at the end of this tunnel

...and someday our students will get there, and do things like this: (AP, via NYTimes.com

"Twenty years later, Wiese hauled [her] diary out of storage and read it to a bar full of strangers just for laughs.
''Cringe readings,'' these exercises are called, and they are growing in popularity around the country.
Groups in New York and elsewhere convene to relive what most would rather forget: the depths of their teenage angst. Participants get up on stage with their ragged, old diaries and are instructed to read only material embarrassing enough to make them cringe.
It turns out that embarrassing is also funny. When Wiese appeared at the reading, held monthly at a Brooklyn bar, the room was packed beyond capacity. The 33-year-old fundraiser may have been cringing, but her audience was cheering."