Life Posts

How to Consider New Ideas

How to Consider New Ideas

Recently I had an epiphany while reading the latest book from David Bentley Hart called That All Shall be Saved (see: Amazon link). Before I explain my epiphany, a bit of context on the book itself would be helpful. In this book, Hart methodically dismantles the traditional view of hell. In case you are unaware, there are at least three (although with numerous other variations) traditional Christian ways of understanding the concept of hell.

Not only does Hart go after the most common view today, but he doesn’t even blush a little while he does it. One of the funniest sections in the entire book comes in his final remarks. That’s when Hart drops this little beauty:

Custom dictates and prudence advises that here, in closing, I wax gracefully disingenuous and declare that I am uncertain in my conclusions, that I offer them only hesitantly, that I entirely understand the views of those that take the opposite side of the argument, and that I fully respect contrary opinions on these matters. I find, however, whether on account of principle or of pride, that I am simply unable to do this.

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The Problem with Being Polite

The Problem with Being Polite

As I reflect on many of the tensions we are all experiencing right now, it strikes me that the value of politeness is the thread that runs through it all. Especially for those of us who are Christians, politeness can often seem like the goal of it all.

I value being polite when possible and beneficial. There’s a moment when the great theologian Albus Dumbledore shows how to harness strength and resistance wisely, even in the face of enemies. In J.K. Rowling’s Half-Blood Prince, we find the following exchange:

“Good evening, Amycus,” said Dumbledore calmly, as though welcoming the man to a tea party. “And you’ve brought Alecto too. . . . Charming . . .” The woman gave an angry little titter. “Think your little jokes’ll help you on your deathbed then?” she jeered. “Jokes? No, no, these are manners,” replied Dumbledore.

Dumbledore can profoundly incorporate manners even in the midst of conflict. Yet one of JKR’s most fascinating characters—Dolores Umbridge—is known for being polite in all things… annoyingly polite. Yet she’s also one of the evilest and despised characters in the Harry Potter series. A look at how these two characters use manners captures the confusion we may have on this topic. Some politeness is good, yet it can also mask the presence of evil.

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What Could Have Been

What Could Have Been

As you may have heard, I resigned from my role as Lead Pastor of Abundant Life Church. I requested the chance to share with the church as to my reasons why but was declined the opportunity.

2020 has emphatically highlighted how the church in the United States is at a crossroads. There are systems in place to reinforce a particular narrative and way of living which enable the current structures of power. If that is to be changed in the future (as many hope), it will cost something to create. As my friend Mike recently wrote: “The church is not called to protect and preserve, but rather to call forth a people to a new humanity. May we be the brave and courageous church that we have preached towards, sang about, and prayed for.”

A few weeks ago, I invited some of my friends who experience racism differently than me to share their perspective on my blog (see: Dear Church). I also preached about racial injustice specifically in my last two messages (see: An Opportunity to Learn and Following Jesus When It’s Hard). As many other churches and pastors have experienced lately, this led to some pushback in our church.

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5 Resources from My Study Leave (That You Can Use)

5 Resources from My Study Leave (That You Can Use)

I had the opportunity to spend the last four weeks experiencing a study leave. It wasn’t a vacation, but it allowed me the chance to break my normal rhythms and get away to think deeply and enjoy a time of allowing Jesus to recharge my batteries. I spent a few nights away by myself, read 19 books, prepared for the upcoming year at our church, and reflected a ton in the space this created.

I desire to be the type of pastor that Stanley Hauerwas describes when he says: “The faithful pastor keeps calling us back to God. In so doing, the pastor opens our imagination as a church, exposes us to a wider array of possibilities than we could have thought possible on our own.” A regular routine of rest is crucial to experiencing this.

In case you could use a little recharging yourself (and that’s all of us), here are five tools that proved beneficial for me this month:

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The Speed of Your Imagination

The Speed of Your Imagination

Lately I’ve found my internal thoughts a bit more chaotic than usual. We moved a family of seven to a new state, to a new community, and I began a new job. This brought numerous new things into our lives—many of which we anticipated—and more than a few we didn’t.

As things have sped up in my life recently I’ve felt the need to be even more intentional on slowing down my internal space. Two things in my life correlated to cause me to see this uniquely. First, I read this thought-proking article from the Harvard Business Review called The More Senior Your Job Title, the More You Need to Keep a Journal. Second, I bought a typewriter at a garage sale for a dollar (featured in the picture above). That got me thinking that a typewriter would slow me down enough to write differently and process through my thoughts. The only problem is that my typewriter doesn’t currently work. I plan on taking it into a shop to get looked at, but in the process I found a really cool app made by Tom Hanks called Hanx Writer.

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Staying in Love with the Rain

Staying in Love with the Rain

I’ve lived in Portland for more than a month now, and as I write this we are experiencing our first real rain since I’ve been here. For those that know me well, I love the rain. It was actually a contributing factor to my original interest in moving to the Pacific Northwest. We were at a friends’ house this evening and they laughed as my kids literally kept stopping what they were doing to point out the rain and enjoy it.

Now type these words on my front porch and I’m in awe of the sound of the rain falling into the trees around my house and the intoxicating smell of the crisp air filling my lungs. It makes me feel both sleepy and yet somehow alive at the same time. But the irony is that almost everyone I’ve talked to around here is dreading the fact the rain is back. This summer has been one of the driest in recent memory and yet many Oregonians have been soaking up every ounce of sunshine.

It’s the difference of perspective. I spent the summer in the intense Arizona heat only to come to Oregon at the end of a very warm summer and into a house with no air conditioning (yes my AZ friends, you read that right). I could not wait for the cooler air to come. Yet everyone keeps telling me how tired I’ll get of the rain once it begins in earnest. I have no idea whether I will get sick of the rain and when that might happen if it does, but I also know that I’ve spent my entire life in sunshine. I’ve never really had seasons with leaves that change and snow that signals the arrival of Christmas. My new friends around me have a very different experience than that.

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