Archive for September, 2007

My Wife – Cooking Up A Feast of Words

My friend of 10 years and wife of 1.9, mother of our gorgeous and quirky little almost-four-month-old, is an amazing cook. And a better writer than me. Continue reading ‘My Wife – Cooking Up A Feast of Words’

Radio Nowhere

In an unlikely HT to both Doug and Steve, I’ve found this amazing video from Springsteen and the E Street Band’s upcoming album, MagicContinue reading ‘Radio Nowhere’

Loving the Bible, Part Two: Creativity is ‘Holy’ Writ, Large

Psalm 92 (Re-Imagined)

1 It is good to give thanks to Adonai,
To make much of Your glorious reputation;
2 To publish word of Your grace by daylight,
And Your loyalty ’til the
midnight hour;
3 On parchment and in hypertext,
In prose and spoken word.

4 For you, Adonai, have turned me into an avid reader;
Your Story has me turning life’s pages in joyful anticipation.

5 What an awesome storyline, Adonai!
How layered are your plots!
6 The un-nuanced don’t know,
The hack critics just don’t get it;

7 Pop-bestsellers waste entire forests
While widening the wardrobes of one-book-wonder-writers.
But their books (so-called) are destined for the bargain bins—the recycling bins,

8 While your Story, Adonai, is an enduring classic.

9 The characters who try to sabotage your loving subplots
Will meet untimely ends;
Their Injustice League will be disbanded.

10 You have imbued me with the strength of the animal kingdom,
And have deputized me a super-hero before you.

11 I don’t need super-sight to see my foes’ downfall,
Or super-hearing to hear my assailant’s doom.

12 The strength of the just flourishes like palm trees in nice weather,
They grow deeply-rooted like cedars in

13 Planted firm in the dwelling place of Adonai,
Organic life flourishes in the soil of God’s courtyard.

14 Ancient trees will still produce fresh fruit,
Green and brimming with their life-giving energies.

15 If trees could talk they’d say Adonai is good and fair,
The embodiment of unadulterated, Rock-solid justice.

Continue reading ‘Loving the Bible, Part Two: Creativity is ‘Holy’ Writ, Large’

Loving the Bible, Part One: Fresh Expressions

I’m going to blog about Scripture 2-3 times this week, and then by weekend hopefully write a bit more about my travels in Virginia last week and some exciting anti-slavery happenings in the Triangle area.

Ah, the Bible. 66-83 sacred texts (depending on your canon), comprising one volume, the most-owned and least-read piece of literature in the Western world. “Breathed” by God, written by people, transmitted in a variety of mediums throughout the ages–I love the Bible, and have grown to appreciate it (and wrestle with it) more and more the older I get, even as its significance and use in my life (and the life of my church community) has kaleidescoped as the years go on.

One way in which we, as the Christian family, continue to express our engagement with and delight for Scripture is through fresh translations and Bible publishing projects. There is a lot of debate over “formal” versus “dynamic” equivalence in translating Scripture into contemporary living languages–some say do it word-for-word and others, idea for idea. Most contemporary Bible-readers, though, utilize a variety of translations (and thus, translation schools), and for different reasons, ranging from scholarly to devotional. I like to think of dynamic equivalence renderings as contextualized, incarnational, in-the-moment responses of worship to God, made public for the benefit of a longing humanity. With this in mind two projects in process now are worth raving about… Continue reading ‘Loving the Bible, Part One: Fresh Expressions’

Higher Ground for Jena Tensions?

The world and the blogosphere have been abuzz recently about a racial infraction that seems to have hit an archetypal nerve: A small Louisiana town, a “white’s only” tree in a high schoolyard, black students desiring parity and being threatened with nooses hanging in the tree. A rupture of deep-seated tensions, fights break out, white students get slapped on the wrist and black students get charged with attempted murder and thrown in jail.

As a human being, as a friend/follower of Jesus, and as someone married to an African-American woman, I am appalled by what happened in Jena, Louisiana. If you’ve been under a rock the past several weeks, you can review what’s been happening here. See also this informative (slightly dated, but in a good way–you’ll see) bit of guerrilla journalism from Philebrity TV (HT: Pilgrimguide):

I am glad that concerned people of all ethnicities have taken to the streets of Jena and are calling for justice. And yet as I observe what’s happening, I wish there was a higher way.   Continue reading ‘Higher Ground for Jena Tensions?’


I’m back from Virginia! In the morning I’ll post some thoughts–on strategic foresight, the Jena 6, and more…promise!

Nothing But the Blood: Johnny’s Response (+ Sweet Virginia)

So we’ve been having a rip-roaring discussion about ways of understanding and resonating with Jesus’ atonement this past week–I apologize to those who have intereacted with me in private emails and discussion lists about this, as I was barely able to keep up with the public comments section on the blog! I will be revisiting these, and probably asking many of you permission to quote your thoughts either “on” or “off” the record.

But for now, the instigator and my friend, Johnny, has written a response of his own. Check it out.  He brings together passages of Holy Writ which–as Bob Hyatt opined–“It’s not just a particular reading of the certain Pauline passages that get you to substitution. I mean, c’mon, folks…”

So…those of us who feel that the story we tell about “sacrifice” and “propitiation” is out of sync with Scripture’s compelling “minority report” and God’s movements of salvation history today…how do we celebrate and embrace these passages?

For the next several days–probably most of this week–I’ll be taking a bit of a back seat and reading what you have to say, marveling at your generous spirits and collective wisdom. I’m serious friends, I have the best readers so far. In what could have been a very nasty comments section, we’ve actually evidenced Christ’s grace and working in our lives by the tone of our comments. I am edified by this.

Why won’t I be so quick on the uptake myself?

Because in the morning (by the time you’re reading this) I am in the air, on my way to Regent with Jay Gary and Frank Spencer to hang out, learn, and be part of a symposium with public policy futurist Graham Molitor. So if I do blog, it’ll be about that.

And I’m pretty sure I will be blogging the week, so stay tuned! See ya in cyberspace…

Zeitgeist and Paraclete at Play


Wikiklesia: Voices of the Virtual World Volume One is now in paperback! For those of you who don’t like staring at computer screens to read your books, now you can see the collaborative writing project that involved 40 of us over a two-month period of time–in convenient fully portable paperback technology 🙂 . 100% of the proceeds from this book go to the Not For Sale anti-slavery initiative, so please–buy ’em by the truckload. They make for edifying reading *and* doorstops, if need be.

In related news, Paul Walker has been blogging through the entire book on his excellent Out of the Cocoon blog. This past week, Paul arrived at my chapter–Zeitgeist and Paraclete at Play–and does some wonderful interaction with it. Check it out!

Spilled Blood & The Cosmic Christ: Atonement Dissonance

“It’s a sad, sad day when those in the believing community (rather it be local or at large), consider the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ to be insufficient or even irrelevant to their spiritual (which is their only) lives. This matter touches on everything from the forgiveness of sins (which some deem to be such a small, small, matter), to the entrance into and residence within the Kingdom of God (which, all of a sudden, seems to be such a huge, gigantic matter). These two matters cannot truly be separated.It would seem as if there is some sort of mass movement which is based upon works rather than faith, whose aim is….honestly, I don’t know what their aim is.”

So begins my dear friend and former Atlanta church-mate Johnny in a post entitled Dogmatic Statement from an Emerging Fundamentalist. I don’t think Johnny is truly emerging into fundamentalism, but his frustration (and good, heartfelt articulation–please, go and read his entire post) is borne at least in part from my poorly-stated sharing about something that’s been bugging me lately: How evangelical Christians interpret Jesus’ atonement.

In short: I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with a depiction of God-the-Father that supposedly requires blood sacrifice in order to divert his vengeance from a humanity he hates so much that somebody’s gotta die. This is not consistent with the God of Jesus Christ that I see depicted in the Gospels or the Epistles; it seems to focus on a forensic understanding of “the cross” derived from a particular reading of Romans and especially Hebrews that ignores the rich tapestry of other atonement understandings held by the first followers of Jesus.

Nonetheless, I am not saying that human beings are peachy-keen on our own merits and in no need of reconciliation. I think we are cracked eikons, fractured images of God who are gathered up in love and power of Spirit for restoration and wholeness, insofar as we surrender to this process. I think we are alienated from God, creation, and each other; inwardly, outwardly, and collectively we can be a tangled up knot of dis-integration and dis-ease (I am not afraid to call this sin, though it’s a religiously-loaded term these days), in need of God’s cleansing presence. I believe that God is all-in-all, but that we receive a special blessing when we open ourselves to God’s omnipresence, trusting Jesus and “letting God in” volitionally. And I think that Jesus’ life, actions, teachings, power, execution, resurrection and ascension and indwelling are intimately bound up in this glory-displaying, grace-enacting gesture flowing out of a gratuitous Triune God.

I simply think that when it comes to God and us being alienated from each other, we moved. And we know a prodigal God, who’s on the move toward us always. It isn’t that “God can’t countenance us without The Blood ’cause we’re too shameful to look at.” Hogwash! Jesus laughed with, visited, and ate meals with all the wrong kind of “filth” before his State-and-Religion-sponsored execution, deliberately trouncing the prevailing opinions of the purity codes of his day. To Jesus, uncleanness wasn’t contagious, holiness was. We need to ask forgiveness of all we have wronged, God first and foremost. But God’s hand isn’t a fist until said moment. It never was.

Johnny, I’m sorry if to you I’ve seemed to deny the “eternal and inward” paths of Christian spirituality to embrace “world peace” and “God’s Kingdom” exclusively. To me these are two facets of an unbroken whole, too. It may be that we’re assembling these pieces together differently these days, which can be painful, I know. Disunity sucks, especially when brothers in faith have walked in such unanimity in times past. Please be patient with me as I go through this (post?)structural renovation of my spirituality and thinking about this matter. I wish to “chuck” nothing that is wholesome, good and true. I don’t want to magnify what I do for God; my boast, too, is only in God’s sustaining presence. All of my rethinking–or reimagining if you prefer, hee hee–is not to adapt myself to the latest theological fashion, but in a quest to love God more fully and honestly, as well as my neighbors more vitally and holistically.This is for the survival of my interior life–my prayer and worship. It’s also for how I frame the Hope I have within me to others. I am terribly interested in how I communicate the good news of God in Jesus to friends, enemies, and strangers. I only want to share with them the very best, and very truest. Even though our images of the Divine are always, constantly provisional, I want the image of God I hold in my heart to be as authentic as possible.

On a practical note, I’d like to get us both a copy of Scot McKnight‘s newly-released book, A Community Called Atonement, to read together. From what I hear McKnight might help both of us articulate what’s nagging at our hearts about Jesus’ death, and its significance to our lives. I know it is written as a peace-making, bible-teaching book, calling for a ceasefire in the “atonement wars.” Sound good?

For the rest of you, please stop by Johnny’s insightful post, and comment there. (You can comment here too, but maybe in light of both of these posts.) Give pause and take your “atonement pulse.” If you follow penal substitutionary atonement (currently the one in favor in official evangelical and Catholic theologies), why is this understanding of Jesus’ death and shed blood meaningful to you? If Christus Victor, moral influence, mimetic, or ransom atonement understandings resonate with you, why is this? What is it like being the underdog in soteriology? [If I get really industrious I might make a post later of nothing but links to define all these terms; I know they might be daunting for some of you. But I don’t have time right now…sorry!]

New Worship for a New Covenant

Welcome, visitors from Jonny Baker’s blog! Thanks for the link love, Jonny. In the comments of Atheist Worship you said “Many alt worship groups have been down this road…” Let me stop you right there and say, Yeah! Please don’t think I’m being original here in my disaffection, anyone. Check out these sites for people a good decade or so further along this journey than I, doing amazing things. Okay, Jonny’s comments continued: “…and let go of singing altogether for a season to find other ways of articulating liturgy. we are doing a series of pocket liturgies on proost that capture some these articulations from various communities. In the US if you go to LuLu or via Proost.”

Let me echo this with a hearty “amen”: If you want to access a creative community of people passionate for God and God’s dreams of a renewed humanity, check out the above two links. Jonny and Grace (a place, not a person; though perhaps an organism, and maybe Personified…) have been real pioneers in alternative worship, and with Proost they have tapped into some of the most fertile Spirit-stirrings going on in the UK and beyond. What’s particularly amazing is that they’ve recently made all of the material on Proost–easily thousands of dollars of music, multimedia resources, and eBooks–available for around a $US 120 year subscription. When I get some extra dough I’m gonna take advantage of this treasure trove, and then I’m gonna blog some reviews about much of this. If you’re an emerging church plant looking for ideas for real, “bottom-up” worship expressions, a house church struggling with corporate adoration beyond big-box institutionalized religion, I’d recommend Proost.

But wait–there’s more! Real quick, I wanted to spotlight two bands that I think are pioneering meaningful new contours with worship-in-song: Agents of Future and Bodies of Water. I don’t even know if “Bodies” is Christian per se, but I find their enthusiastic exclamation of both Old and New Testament narrative to be refreshing. (If it turns out they’re just being “indie ironic” with their biblical beltings, well, I reserve the privilege of “listener’s interpretation”!) I’ll give ya a YouTube of both:

Bodies of Water (I wish the sound quality on this was better; they have several free full-legnth MP3s here):

Agents of Future, with the mighty Todd:

It’s worth noting that US and UK styles differ wildly, and are rooted in their local cultures and contexts…a “new song” unto God will not sound the same every place, everywhere, packaged for consumption…and that’s why it rings true. Adios for now.

PS: People wanting to read up on ‘worship’ here, also see my “Atheist” follow-up, Restoring Worship: An Example.

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  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave