LESSONS FROM TIGER • A SPECIAL GATHERING FOR A SPECIAL MAN
RETHINKING GOD IN TODAY’S CULTURE. FREE • JAN/FEB 2010
ROB BELL DISCUSSES THE COORELATION BETWEEN SUFFERING AND CREATIVITY +RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST DECADE OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM
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And so we plot and plan and exert all kinds of energy making sure our lives go just how we want them to, and then we’re endlessly disappointed when things don’t turn out how they’re “supposed” to…and so in the midst of the suffering or the unexpected trauma or the tragedy we say “I never would have imagined this….” The key word here is, of course, the word “imagine.” When things fall apart we have to create a new tomorrow, because the one we were counting on is gone. And so it’s hard and shocking and bloody and we would never have chosen this turn of events, and yet it’s forcing us to create a future we never would have cooked up on our own. In the soil of suffering you’ll often ﬁnd seeds of creativity. This is why cancer survivors often talk about how they’re living now more than ever. They went through something that changed everything. And so there are lots of books and wisdom and perspectives on why we suffer, but what about the “what” of suffering? The “now what?” question – the unexpected ways in which there’s art in the ache. That’s what drops like stars is about. That question. That perspective. That surprise.
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oh to save a wretch like me. by Bo and Melissa Lane It was the summer of 2004 and Melissa and I had only recently moved to the small town of Keokuk, Iowa, to take a youth and worship pastor position at a church there. There was one particular day I remember vividly. It was a good day, and I was feeling positive about the headway we were making in the youth department amongst the young people. I spent the majority of the day remodeling the youth room to make it more, well, “youthy.” In addition, Melissa and I were starting to feel a great connection with those involved in the music and worship department. We felt like, though things were still somewhat new for everyone, we were making progress and things were starting to flow together nicely. All throughout this specific day, I had been thinking on these things and I was starting to feel good about our new role and the progress we were making. But just as I was leaving the church parking lot for the day, I felt an urge to go a different route home. At first I wasn’t exactly sure why I did this, especially since it was completely the wrong direction in which I was supposed to be heading. Regardless, I just started driving, turning left instead of right. And as I turned left, I immediately knew the reason for this illogical prompting. He was a large man in a powered wheelchair cruising down the sidewalk on Main Street. I’d seen him before and, though he didn’t look poor or in immediate need, my heart still went out to him. I felt bad, but never really did anything about it or asked him if I could help in any way. You know, never being Jesus in the flesh. I wanted to, but didn’t. And knowing all this, I felt another urge - an urge to stop and ask him how I could help. So I did.
Well, first I pulled my car into a parking lot on the other side of the road and told myself, “If he crosses the street right here, then I’ll get out of my car and talk with him.” He crossed the street but I stayed in my car. I pulled back onto the street and into a different, more secluded parking lot down the road and told myself, “If he passes by here, then I’ll get out and ask him if he needs anything.” He did. So I did what felt natural. I stayed in my car and pulled back onto the road - such a risk-taker, I know. Then I pulled into the Burger King parking lot. When I say “the” Burger King parking lot, I mean the “only” Burger King parking lot - validating my earlier point that Keokuk is, in fact, a really small town. I’m sure you can guess what I did next. I told myself “If he goes into Burger King, then I’m definitely getting out and talking to him about Jesus.” He wheeled past my car, up onto the ramp, and drove his wheelchair into the front entrance of Burger King. I watched him the whole way, praying that he would go somewhere else – anywhere besides Burger King. But he did not. And so I got out of my car and walked in. If you’re hoping for a nice ending, well, this story doesn’t have one. I was as nervous as could be as I walked through the door. God had called me to this point, the opportunity was there, but I was petrified. I was so nervous to present Jesus, if even by actions only, to this man. He was short a quarter for his meal. I reached into my pocket, found a quarter and handed it
to him. The door opened. He thanked me. I acknowledged politely, “Of course, no problem.” I ordered a burger and stood fairly close to the man as we both waited for our orders - the door still wide open. He turned and thanked me again. It would’ve been so easy for me to simply say, “I’ve seen you around town a few times. My name is Bo.” or “Man, I’ve had a pretty decent day. What about you?” Something, anything could’ve been my first step through the open door. But I let it slip away. He grabbed his order. I grabbed mine. He cruised away in his wheelchair while I got in my car and drove home. That “great day” I had was robbed right from under me and I was the one who stole it.
It’s unfortunate, and ironic, that I had a hard time reaching out to one person when now I have been given the opportunity to reach out to thousands of people each month with our magazine, Rethink Monthly. Who’d of thought, as the hymnist penned, that a wretch like me, a guy who couldn’t even follow the simplest urge, would be given a task such as this.
Bo & Melissa remain awestuck by their Creator and His undying love for them. They’re thankful that God entrusted them with the world’s most beautiful children. They are also captivated by the TV show LOST. Just sayin’. Take a minute and holla at us: email@example.com
rethink monthly MAGAZINE JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2010 - ISSUE 10 EDITORS/PUBLISHERS > Bo Lane > firstname.lastname@example.org
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editorial .............................. pg 04 a special gathering for a special man .............................. pg 06 top movies of 2009 .............................. pg 08 lessons from tiger .............................. pg 10 the art of suffering .............................. pg 12 Random Thoughts On the First Decade random thoughts .............................. pg 18 Of the New Millennium seeing miracles .............................. pg 20 hold the sun steady .............................. pg 22 RETHINKMONTHLY.COM_5
a special gathering for a special man. by Michael Olsen “He that loves his brother abides in the light and there is no occasion of stumbling in him.” 1 John 2:10 The Salem community recently lost a very humble man. Ron Elliott. His name is neither a household name nor what he did nor will how he died become a water cooler topic. He was homeless for many years, living in several shelters and most recently, a deplorable rental unit on 14th Street in Salem. A man who had nothing, asked for nothing, but gave all he had. He was remembered on September 24, approximately two weeks after his death at the Blue Pepper, downtown Salem. Many homeless people gathered upstairs at the Blue Pepper to share with Ron Elliott’s children their life and experiences with this special man. The people who gathered at this “wake” were mostly homeless. I had not seen some of them in a few months, and in some cases, a few years. Some had worn a shirt and tie, others the best they had to wear. But they wore what I had always remembered them by; they all wore a smile. It was good to see them again. We embraced, shared a tear and a story or two. Some, not many, have moved out of staying in shelters, others are still stay in shelters. Some are camping, and others are somewhere between nowhere and goodbye. Ron was homeless and was residing at the Salem Union Gospel Mission when I first met him many years ago. While he was staying at the mission, he worked doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, and most importantly, helping people one on one. He was not in need of a recovery program or a support group. Ron never asked for a handout or special favors. All he asked from this world was shelter and a meal during his cancer treatment; he was willing and ready to work for that. And work he did. He loved helping people. It was ironic he was remembered a block away from a place he made the most impact with people.
“If You Help, You Care” was one of Ron Elliott’s creeds. He was stricken with terminal cancer a few years ago. When you saw him, you could see he was not well, but when he spoke, his appearance no longer became a concern. You would never know that this man was dying. He was alive with the hope of life ever after with Christ and shared that hope with all he met. On occasion Ron and I would walk around downtown Salem. He told me of the mistakes he made during his life. Yet he was amazed of the love that God had for him during his life. Although suffering, he was enthusiastic with the opportunity to help and assist others during their time in “the pit” as he called it. He really believed we were to help one another every day, not just on Holidays. I found out recently that his final days were very painful. He was bandaging his own open sores. His diet was anything he could find to eat. He told another homeless friend a few days before his passing that “it will be ok, the Lord is in charge.” He was cleaning the community bathroom where he ended up living his last days. It was so very sad he ended up in such a dreadful place after giving so much of himself to other people and organizations. Most people I know who are homeless are surviving with what cards are dealt to them by the courts and the extremely bad choices they made during this journey of life. They are not lepers; they need a hand or two along the way. Take a lesson from Ron, whatever your heart directs you to do when you see someone hurting, please follow your heart. CS Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves that “friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of each of all the others.”
Ron never feared being alone. He feared he may have to leave someone alone and not able to help them. For people, homeless or not, a life of loneliness without Christ can be endless. In a world of “me first,” it was refreshing and such a blessing to know a person like Ron who cared for others first; not by the directions of man, but by the Spirit of God. I am aware that there are many ‘Ron’s’ out there; I wish it were not so. I hope someday to start a fund in memory of and honoring Ron Elliot. This fund would insure that a homeless person‘s last days would be comfortable and dignified. Sadly, this may be a very active fund. Ron died on September 10, 2009. He was proud of his faith in the Lord and he wanted to share it with anyone who resided at UGM and other areas of town. Michael was the Director of Ministries for the Salem Union Gospel Mission for 10 years. Prior to his work at UGM, he retired from the U.S.Army after 21 years and worked for Trans World Airlines in New York after his military retirement. He and his wife Wendy live in Salem. Michael can be reached at email@example.com.
N • SERVICE AND INSTALLATIO IAL RC • RESIDENTIAL AND COMME CTRIC ELE • HEAT PUMPS, AC, GAS AND
TOP 5 MOVIES OF 2009 1. THE BLIND SIDE
“The Blind Side. I picked it for a different reason. Yes, the acting was great, but the plot was wonderful. It had all the ingredients of reaching out to people that think they can’t fulfill their dreams. It has Christian overtones, and gives a message that you can come out of the muck and mire, and be a successful person.” - Doug
2. STAR TREK
“Star Trek – totally reinvented the franchise. I usually hate remakes and loved this one! Zachary Quinto WAS Spock - that was some excellent casting.” - Amy
“UP was so cute, we laughed, cried & laughed again. Very colorful.” - Jurita
“Avatar was probably being the best movie experience of all time.” - Anthony
5. TRANSFORMERS 2
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen may have been a bit over the top, but I think that’s why I liked it. You have to suspend your fact checking, rational side for a few hours, then the movie becomes really fun. The humor they put into the script kept us laughing throughout.” - Shaun
A BOOK REVIEW
From the New York Times Bestseller of Blue Like Jazz comes a new book of a man as he explores his life while aiding in writing a screenplay with two movie producers. This man, in fact, is Donald Miller himself. After his bestseller, Donald had written a few books which, in his words, has not sold well. With his recent publications failing, he was back in a place of complacency and stagnation. Receiving a phone call one morning, as he was barely awake, he discovers that there were two movie producers who sought to create a film of Donâ€™s life. Well, the Don in Blue Like Jazz anyway. As they progressed through the screenplay, Don comes to find that his life is boring, that he was not living a good Story. Upon taking a seminar by Story Guru, Robert McKee, and understanding the principles of Story, Don begins to see the relation of how these principles are applicable to real life. Donald begins to explore each principle and how each one connects to life as if God has a pen and is writing our Story, if we choose to follow it. An analogy used in the opening of this book sets the stage as Don takes us scene-by-scene through his journey. Don paints us a picture of a movie where a young manâ€™s desire is to own a Volvo. There will be scenes of the boy overcoming conflict as he interacts in his workplace at the local grocery store and at the end of the movie when he drives off the lot trying out the windshield wipers, we will not be in tears or offering a standing ovation. This does not make for a good Story. But, as Don displays in the book, we live this Story. We want this car in our driveway, or this house, or that job, or a membership at the local golf club and we live as if that is our goal in life...our Story. Don has, once again, captivated the world as he explored the vulnerable and the face-front realities of his life. Don engages with us to seek and begin to live a better Story. From losing weight to hiking a very difficult trail to biking across American to watching a friend pass away, I highly recommend going on this journey with Donald Miller in his new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Let us begin to live a better Story. Freddie Teague is an author and speaker, as well as a book reviewer for Thomas Nelson Publishing. Freddie resides with his wife in Springfield, Mo.
Lessons From Tiger BY TIM CHALLIES
“Tiger’s sin teaches me that the Bible does not lie when it describes the cause of sin, the effect of sin and the inevitability of its exposure.”
Shortly after Aileen and I were married we moved to the small town of Dundas, Ontario. A historic and picturesque town, Dundas has made its way into a few movies. When we lived there, a movie called Haven (starring Natasha Richardson) was shot in its streets. We lived just half a block from the action so would sometimes wander on over in the evenings to watch what was happening. One thing that fascinated and impressed me was how the filmmakers transformed the town to fit the setting of the film. The movie was set in the Second World War so for the sake of historical accuracy the town had to look like it had during the 1940’s. All the parking meters had to be pulled up and all the traffic lights had to be pulled down. The streets were suddenly filled with beautiful old antique cars. Many of the storefronts were little changed since the 40’s but of course there were some that had been built since and could not possibly pass the historic test. It was amazing to see what happened to these ones. In a matter of a couple of days the props people constructed false fronts for all of these stores. An ugly stucco building that was clearly a product of the 70’s or 80’s was transformed into a brick-built small-town general store from the 40’s. Nothing had changed inside, but the outside was given a fresh and entirely deceptive new face. One of the climactic scenes of the movie has the lead character marching a large number of Jewish refugees through the town. They shot this scene and a few others and then, nearly overnight, the town was restored. The parking meters were put back into place, the traffic lights were strung back up, the old cars were hauled away and all those false fronts were torn down. The ugly buildings were exposed again, as ugly as ever. The movie, antiAmerican propaganda as it turns out, was awful. But that’s beside the point. I was thinking about Tiger Woods this weekend and thought about the town of Dundas and all of those false fronts. I’ve hesitated to write about Tiger. First of all, his travails are reaching the point of media saturation, I think. His story has been glamorized and made into a sick form of entertainment. Of course it’s exactly the kind of entertainment our culture loves. We love reality shows which, by and large, are only pseudo-reality. We get to watch families fall apart on television and consider it entertaining. But even then the situations are only half real at best. But here we get to see a real family crumble. Their pain is our delight as we watch things turn from bad to worse. Yet here we are all seeing the ugly effects of sin and maybe it is a good opportunity to reflect for just a few moments on the nature of sin and the cost it demands from us. It proved an opportunity for me to think about Tiger’s situation and draw lessons from it. Here are three lessons I have learned from Tiger Woods.
False Fronts Will Crumble There is always this temptation to construct false fronts, to add a layer of respectability between yourself and the way you want others to perceive you. Tiger Woods wanted to be known as the all-American family man, a loving husband and doting father. His sponsors, the companies for whom he was a spokesman, needed him to be this kind of figure. And so he said all the right words and put on this veneer of respectability. In front of the cameras he played the role that was demanded and expected of him. And yet behind it all he was the opposite of so much that he claimed to be. Eventually and inevitably the false front collapsed and the truth was laid bare.
Imagine what would have happened in Dundas if the filmmakers had disappeared without tearing down those false fronts. Sure they would have stood for a month or two; maybe even a year or two. But before long they would have crumbled and fallen down. They were not build of sound materials and were not built on a solid foundation. They were made only to look the part, only to disguise the ugly and unfitting reality. All false fronts will eventually crumble and fall. The lesson is, do not mask your sin behind a false front. Do not construct elaborate falsehoods to mask your sin and your shame. These false fronts cannot stand forever. And the shame and pain of the ruin of a life lived out behind false pretenses will be far worse than the shame and pain of just dealing with sin immediately and properly. The temptation to mask your sin is nearly as strong as the temptation to sin in the first place. But to mask it is just to compound sin upon sin. It is merely to delay the inevitable.
You Cannot Hide Your Sin Indefinitely Sooner or later your sin will find you out. Just weeks before all of his sins were revealed and his life was laid bear, Tiger conducted an interview in which he insisted that family comes first in his life. “Family first and golf second. Always be like that?” asked the interviewer. “Always,” replied Woods. Yet even then he was in the midst of affairs. Even then he was telling barefaced lies, thinking that he could get away with them. The lesson is, you cannot hide your sin forever. Your sin is going to find you out. Your sin wants to find you out. I love how J.R.R. Tolkien displays this in The Lord of the Rings, how the ring puts the ringbearer under its spell but at the same time it wants nothing more than to captivate and expose and destroy him. Its beauty and desire is really a means to enslave and expose. And all sin is like this. It promises what it can never truly deliver. It offers the desires of the heart but delivers the most tragic and unexpected results. Do not give yourself over to sin. Sin is a cruel, cruel master. Like that ring it will draw you in and like that ring it will chew you up and spit you out. And isn’t this what Satan loves? Wouldn’t he love to draw you into sin and then enjoy watching you suffer the downfall of that sin? Do not give yourself over to sin; inevitably you will find that it is impossible to hide it forever.
The Stage Will Be Bigger Tiger Woods committed sins against God and sins against his wife and did so in a closed and private setting. Very few people knew about his sin and very few were there to witness it. The actual sins were committed in private on a small, intimate stage. But the stage for his fall is international. Where only the smallest handful of people knew about his sin while it was happening, today countless millions know about it. The other day in the grocery store I spotted his face on eight of the ten magazines by the checkout. People are calling this the sports story of the decade. It will follow him for the rest of his life. His family will never be the same. Surely he did not anticipate all of this when he indulged his sin. The lesson here is that the stage for the fall is usually infinitely larger than the stage that was used to act out the sin. Private sins are so often publicly exposed. Think of people you know, perhaps in a church context, who have sinned against their families. So often they sinned in private but were exposed in public. So often their disgrace was so much wider than their initial pleasure. And again, this is exactly what we should expect of sin and of Satan. Sin’s pleasure is fleeting, its pain eternal. Tiger’s sin teaches me that the Bible does not lie when it describes the cause of sin, the effect of sin and the inevitability of its exposure. Had Tiger just read the first nine chapters of Proverbs and applied those ancient but timeless lessons to his life, he would have known all he needed to know to understand where his sin would lead him. How much better would it have been for Tiger to be mastered by God instead of being mastered by sin.
ROB BELL DISCUSSES THE COORELATION BETWEEN SUFFERING AND CREATIVITY BY JOSH MANN AND ANTHONY TRASK
RETHINK MONTHLY: You recently wrote a book, Drops Like Stars, and in just a few short weeks, you’ll be on the West Coast giving a presentation of the same name. Can you tell us what led you to write a book about connecting the dots between creativity and suffering? ROB BELL: Two things: First, I cut my teeth as a pastor. What happens when you’re a pastor and have an actual congregation full of people is you end up getting invited in to some of the most intimate moments of people’s suffering. I can think of an endless number of times when there’s some couple that I’ve only met twice, and then I end up in the I.C. unit with them in the last hours of their kids’ life. Or a family, who I’ve probably had five conversations with, whose sixteen year old son hangs himself, and I end up sitting in the hospital room all alone - just me and the family. Or I go to a funeral home to plan a service and it’s just me, the family, the body, and the casket, and I have to put together a service in the midst of all this grief and pain. Or the endless couples that I’ve met who are struggling with miscarriages. Then I see those same couples two years later and they’re still suffering. So part of it as a pastor is just watching people go through agonizing suffering and then seeing them a year later, two years later, three years later, and seeing the kinds of things that came out of their suffering. And secondly, I make things for a living. Whether its books, films, even sermons, there’s a certain sort of art to creating things - a certain agony to the art process. You have an idea about something and then you just work and work at it. It’s frustrating and you feel like you’re missing it. Then eventually it starts to exist. So I started to see all these parallels between the creative process and what I had seen with people who had gone through brutal suffering and all of the creativity and imagination that their suffering actually unleashed. RM: In the book, you say, “And so we’re polite and we play by the rules and when asked how we are, we answer, ‘I’m fine, thank you,’ just like we’re supposed to. And then we suffer. There’s a disruption
and our boxes get smashed.” Did you write this book out of your own experiences with suffering, or were they more out of observations of other people’s sufferings? ROB: In the end, the book is kind of absent of my own experiences, but it’s deeply shaped, and a lot of people who’ve read the book have had the same sort of idea and say, “Hey wait, there is a bunch of you that’s missing in this book, but it’s got to be there somewhere.” My next book is essentially going to be all of the agonizing, brutal sorts of things that led to up to this book. But, yeah, my own experiences have deeply shaped the book, and my experiences will probably have its own book; just not as many pictures. RM: Speaking of the visual element of the book, how did you connect with the designers to develop such an engaging, creative piece? ROB: Mark Baas headed up the design, and he’s been a friend of mine for ten years, and we’ve been through all sorts of things together. Right away I knew that the content had to have a strong visual element, and when I finished the first draft I read it to him as my friend, but knowing that he might have some opinions about it. He immediately said, “Let me art direct, please?” There are several photographers and designers, all here in Grand Rapids, and Mark put together a whole team of people. When I had originally hand-written the first draft, I had a lot of notes in the margins - picture of this here, picture of that there he took it and ran with it. We had the concept together, but he really oversaw the details of getting it all shot.
RM: There was a phrase in the book, “You can’t create without pain.” You also mention, with the cross, that God says, “I know what you’re feeling.” But what about God’s creation prior to pain, prior to the fall, and prior to the cross? Some of the best things we witness in this life were created in a world and at a time without pain. So, does that conflict with your message that creativity has to come out of pain? ROB: When I first talked about creativity and suffering, several people said “You mean the tormented artist?” or “Only people who were abused can write great music.” There’s sort of an illusion in culture where the tortured artist is the only person who’s able to
“I THINK IN OUR CULTURE WHAT PEOPLE NEED ARE SPACES WHERE YOU CAN GRIEVE AND BE ANGRY AND VENT AND RANT AND YOU CAN BE FULLY HUMAN WITHOUT HAVING TO, IN THE END, PUT ON A POLISHED SMILE. THAT’S ACTUALLY, I THINK, WHERE WE BEGIN TO HEAL.” access their feelings. Central to the Christian story is a Trinitarian God who creates out of joy. The universe is the overflow of love and harmony. God doesn’t need pain to create. The cross, however, and the new creation does come about through pain. That’s the story of the cross. Out of all this mess, something beautiful emerges. RM: Concerning the response of the book, do you feel it has connected with people who are still asking questions about life, still searching for faith?
killed in March, and the wife got the book and read it out loud to her husband, five months after their son was killed. They talked about that being the beginning of the healing process for them. In one city, a man’s mother died of cancer twenty-nine years ago, and he said he felt that at the Drops Like Stars live event, for the first time he was able to go places he hadn’t gone. He was able to heal in a way he hadn’t in the previous twenty-nine years. One woman from Tampa, Florida bought tickets for her and her husband, and from the time she had bought the tickets until the night of the event, her husband died. So there have been some very visceral, powerful encounters I’ve had personally. Our culture is a culture of denial. We don’t have good culture modes for grief and mourning, let alone just asking questions. And I think a lot of people with faith backgrounds feel guilty for being angry or venting or putting God on trial. Being honest about how they’re really feeling is not something they’ve been encouraged to do. My experience has been that when people are given a medium, whether it’s a book or a live experience where they don’t have to have everything resolved - they don’t have to end everything with a nice Bible verse about how it’s all going to work out - there’s a certain freedom in that to be healing. Some people think that half the Psalms are laments. And some of the psalms don’t end with “it’s all going to be alright.” They end just hanging there. And I think in our culture what people need are spaces where you can grieve and be angry and vent and rant and you can be fully human without having to, in the end, put on a polished smile. That’s actually, I think, where we begin to heal. So, the feedback has been that this has given people that certain space, and that’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 16. ROB: There was a man and his wife whose 22-year old son was
RM: What do you think has happened in modern evangelical Christianity where for so long it hasn’t been alright to lament or be in mourning? Where did we take a left turn to get to this place where everything has to be neat and in order? ROB: The consumer mentality - the altar of consumerism - is almost like water that we are swimming in. It’s almost like you have to drag the fish up onto the beach and just beat it senseless. Think about the ways people evaluate your average sermon. The number one way a lot of people evaluate a sermon comes in the form of a question: “Did you like it or not?” Imagine after Jesus tells
the parable of the wheat and the sower or he curses the fig tree. Imagine people saying, “Did you like it?” You know, those aren’t categories you generally find people throughout history using. Or secondly, people evaluate and say “Did she do a good job? Did he do a good job?” These are all the ways in which spiritual practice has been co-opted by consumer culture. So, the questions aren’t: “What’s going on inside of you? What is the Spirit doing to you? In what ways are you stretching, evolving, growing, or being transformed?” Instead it’s “Did they do a good job?” which is essentially a subject, object, relationship, in which
we stand at a distance and observe and then evaluate and decide whether or not go to that church. A guy the other day said to me, “I’m church shopping.” Can you imagine saying that to the mystics or the apostles? People use phrases that are absolutely insane with a straight face. RM: Well, we just hope he finds a good deal somewhere. ROB: Exactly. In a way, a spiritual path has become a commodity like everything else. You have to begin to see that this is the water that the fish are swimming in. It’s so pervasive that it takes profound awakening for people to go: “Oh my word, this is absolutely screwed up.” For a lot of people, the way they were taught about God is that this is an answer to your problems. But the truth is if you decide to follow Jesus, this may be the beginning of some of your problems. There is massive suffering on a global scale and Jesus invites us to see the world as God sees it. Then we begin to steal and see things that we didn’t see before. On many levels, the spiritual path has always, for thousands of years, involved suffering. That’s been a stated, obvious consequence of directing your life in purposeful ways. These are traditions and paths that have been lost to many people, especially when they are given a bright, shiny, happy god, who will fix all their problems. Part of it is introducing people to their own history. When you do, all sorts of beautiful things happen then. To find out more about Rob Bell’s Drops Like Stars tour, visit the website at www.dropslikestars.com for times and locations. You can also read or listen to this interview in its entirety on the Rethink Monthly website at www.rethinkmonthly.com.
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FIRST E H T N S T H G U O H T M O R ND NNIUM E L IL M W E N E H T F O E DECAD The 2000’s were a definitive decade. The decade was birthed in the fear that omnipotent computers somehow failed to realize that their internal clocks would be unable to switch over to a New Millennium and would cause complete and utter destruction to our technologically based society because of this lack of foresight. After months of stocking up on canned foods and bottled water, the world awoke on January 1st, 2000 to see that their fears were unfounded; and breathed a collective sigh of relief that society would not be thrown into the dark ages. And life returned to normal for a while. There did, however, seem to be global disappointment as people began to realize that the New Millennium did not bring with it ‘flying cars,’ ‘moon cities,’ and ‘robot housekeepers.’ But that doesn’t mean that the previous decade didn’t bring with it many new and interesting challenges, discoveries, technological advancements, and cultural breakthroughs:
September 11th THE definitive event of the 2000’s was, without question, the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. This horrific event will forever be seared into the consciousness of the American people who woke up that fateful morning to see the world changing in front of their eyes. That day has caused a rollercoaster of emotional, political, and societal ups and downs ever since. The nation was united in mourning and resolve; the nation became divided as it began to look within its own borders for sources of terrorism seeded from overseas; wars began and many of our young men were sent abroad who would never again come home, our nation agreed and disagreed on the validity of these wars, and security was tightened up in ways never seen before in everything from sporting events to air travel.
Communication One of the most notable technological and social changes that took place during the past decade was the ways in which we communicate. TEXTING The decade started with almost every adult in the nation owning a mobile phone, and people
talked on them proudly- some even sporting new high tech ‘secret service’ish’ headsets to gloat in their new self-found importance. But almost overnight, text messaging became THE way for young people (specifically) to communicate. No longer would you have to have obligatory small talk with someone when you wanted to tell them what time you would be home for dinner. Now you could simply type a short response and have it sent in no time and get back to playing that critically important video game without ever having to hear the sound of a human voice. Texting has fundamentally changed the way we talk and type. Abbreviation has become the new grammatical norm; as we regularly use phrases such as, “LOL, WTH?, TTYL, BFF, and OMG” in order to spend even less valuable time actually communicating with someone. SOCIAL NETWORKING About midway through the decade a new behemoth of communication broke onto the global scene: Social Networking! Almost immediately, two websites emerged as THE way to connect with friends old and new on the worldwide web: MySpace and Facebook. You no longer needed to actually communicate with your friends, now all you have to do is check their status updates to see what they’ve been up to. Wanting to meet your best friend’s new girlfriend, but don’t have the time? No worries, all you have to do is send them a friend request and check out a few pics and your good. Facebook and MySpace make things like keeping up with long-lost high school friends, and annoying relatives, seamless and instantaneous. Throw in Twitter to the mix, with its on-the-fly microblogging that simultaneously updates your Facebook status, and you have a system that in less than five years has revolutionized the way we connect and communicate with others. And there’s only room for this new medium to grow and evolve. With all seriousness though, Texting and Social Networking can be used to keep in contact with more people, more often, in less time. My only fear is that, if we are not careful, real face to face intimate relationships will suffer and turn into mere virtual connections.
Money As the decade and the millennium began, the economy was soaring high off of the last remnants of the dot-com boom. And as people were freely spending money, banks were freely lending it without doing their homework to make sure that it could actually be paid back. Because people were borrowing so much money so freely, they were investing in real estate like never before- buying big houses that only a decade earlier they would not have been able to buy. Then the prices of homes sky-rocketed. And as the decade drew to a close, people’s interest rates on their loans rose along with the prices of the homes. People, who were barely scraping by with lower interest rates, could no longer afford their mortgages. House were in foreclosure like never before, property values began to take a nose dive, the stock market plummeted, employers laid off record numbers of employees, and before we knew it we were in a full-on recession.
Environmentalism One thing became apparent quickly in the new Millennium; Green was the new Black. Now saving the environment, once reserved for liberal hemp-wearing hippies in towns like Eugene and Berkley, was hip! Words like ‘Carbon Footprint,’ ‘Global Warming,’ Eco-Friendly,’ ‘Clean-Energy,’ ‘Bio Diesel,’ and ‘Hybrid Car’ became as common as reruns of the Fresh Prince of Bell Air on Nick at Nite. And Al Gore, who once was seen as the boring robotic Vice President for Bill Clinton, was now the global superstar for environmentalism.
Entertainment TELEVISION During the 2000’s, Survivor started a Reality TV revolution. It spurred on countless other Reality Shows with topics ranging from ‘Home Remodeling’ to’ Talent Shows,’ from ‘Normal People Living in a Big House’ to ‘Dating Shows,’ and from ‘Plastic Surgery’ to ‘Dumb Celebrities Living in Small Town America.’ The 2000’s saw the complete and total destruction of MTV as it transitioned from being a cool channel that showed music videos all the
time, into being a channel that showed trashy Reality TV about teens living very abnormally wealthy lives and grown men hitting each other in the crotch with hockey sticks- on purpose. But there were some amazing things that happened to television in the 2000’s: flat screen TVs and the DVR. Big screens became affordable, packed amazing high definition pictures, and could now easily be hung on the wall as their weight radically decreased. And no longer would you be forced to watch commercials or be a slave to the time slot your show was on. All you now have to do is tell your cable box to record the shows of your choice, watch them on your schedule, and fast forward through all the Snuggie commercials. CELEBRITY The 2000’s were a decade of celebrity obsession. The masses waited with baited breath to find out the status of Brad and Jennifer, Brad and Angelina, Nick and Jessica, and John and Kate. It was big news when a young starlet thought that ‘Chicken of the Sea’ was chicken, not tuna. And everyone stood in awe whenever a celebrity came out of the closet. But probably the most tragic example of America’s celebrity worship over the past decade was the rise and fall, and rise again of Brittany Spears. MUSIC This past decade saw the total evolution of the music industry as people stopped buying CDs and starting listening to music on the mega successful iPod. The iPod hands-down was THE gadget of the decade. This meant complete acceptance of illegally downloading music instead of paying for it at all. And now instead of relying on millions of dollars in revenue from record sales, artists have to be creative in their money making, heavily relying on concert ticket and merchandise sales in order to make a buck. And sadly, an overall snapshot of the world of music during the 2000’s cannot be given without mentioning the death of music’s biggest superstar, Michael Jackson. FILM Batman movies are cool again. Enough said.
Christianity Christianity has evolved in various ways since it began two-thousand years ago- sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. In its purest form, the message of Christianity never changes, only the method in which the message is transferred. The first decade of this new millennium was no exception as the Church witnessed many monumental shifts in its culture.
THE EMERGING CHURCH As the decade began, many young Christians in the post-modern world started to feel disenfranchised by the Modern American Evangelical Church Culture and its penchant for consumerism. So in response, there was a strong push to get back to the roots of New Testament Christianity. This was done somewhat successfully as these young progressive Christians turned their attention towards authentic community, responsible stewardship of resources, compassion and justice for the poor and oppressed, and the importance of the words of Jesus. But the ‘hard to define’ movement became more known for their candles, prayer labyrinths, and doctrinally vague leaders prone to relativism than their desire to grow closer to Christ; and has now been confusingly divided into two classifications: The Emerging Church, and the Emergent Church. It will be interesting to see what the new decade has in store for this mysterious trend in Christianity. MULTISITE CHURCH One surprisingly successful and pleasant trend of the 2000’s in the church world was the emergence of Multisite Churches. As churches began to grow and were hungry to reach others for Christ, instead of launching large giving campaigns and erecting enormous fortune-costing buildings that could seat thousands of people only to find out that they would have to add more services or build larger buildings as they continued to grow, they began to open up medium sized campuses all over the metro areas where their ministries were based. This has enabled churches to reach more people in more areas of their cities for less money. They reach more people because it’s easier for people to invite their friends to church if the church is in their own neighborhood, and the church can do that in multiple neighborhoods at the same time. It’s cheaper because they can rent a facility on Sundays to hold their worship gatherings in various neighborhoods or can erect many smaller buildings on smaller pieces of property versus a giant building on a humongous piece of property, and can centralize their leadership and administration in one location. Technology has allowed this to be possible in recent years. One pastor can deliver one message to multiple campuses and tens of thousands of people at one time through relatively cheap satellite or internet broadcasting. Or the pastor’s message during the church’s first Saturday evening service can be recorded and then shown to the following services during the same weekend at several locations. Throw in a local campus pastor to shepherd the people and a live campus worship band and
you have yourself an authentic church service. And the strange thing is - studies show that the congregations prefer to watch their pastor via video versus in person. HIPSTER PASTORS Another interesting trend in Christianity during the past decade was the emergence of Hipster Pastors. In the past, pastors were expected to dress formally wherever they went so that they would be distinguished from the rest of the world. Inevitably, this caused people to see pastors as individuals who were elevated above the rest of society and, subsequently, they became totally unrelatable and irrelevant to the very people they were trying to reach out to. So a few progressive leaders across the Evangelical world starting dressing down, and starting dressing hip so that they would be seen as culturally progressive within their unchristian communities in order to be relatable and relevant to the new world they now found themselves in. Pastors like Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Ed Young, and Steven Furtick have become almost as well known for their urban-progressive-yet-casualfashion-sense as they have their theology. And now on Sunday mornings all across America you are more likely to see your pastors wearing jeans, untucked shirts, bulky glasses, tight t-shirts, fashion-forward boots, and even flip flops than polyester suits, ties, sweater vests, and nicely polished oxfords.
A Look Ahead While this has been merely a brief snapshot of the past decade, it will be fascinating to see what the teenage years of the New Millennium will have in store. Here’s to hoping for less plastic ‘spinner’ hubcaps, Facebook Farmville requests, and guys wearing pink shirts with popped collars; and more awesome ‘As Seen On TV’ products like the Snuggie and the ShamWow, Fail Blog, YouTube Videos, and of course- world peace. “Peace Out!” is another expression I hope we can leave in the past.
Anthony Trask is blessed with an incredible wife and two awesome kids. He currently copastors Fellowship Church in NE Salem. You can listen to his weekly messages at www.fellowshipsalem.com or read his blog at www.anthonytrask.com.
seeing miracles. It’s hard to believe in miracles isn’t it? Do you think perhaps it’s because we have become jaded by charlatans, or because we have become desensitized by all the special effects we se on TV and movies. But make no mistake; miracles still happen. They happen at the edge of a mean and sinful world where light pushes back the darkness. Many miracles happen in distant remote places where God is able to show His awesome power. I’ve talked to missionaries who have witnessed awe inspiring miracles. But, I’ve seen them too, and I saw them when I went to the edge. It all started that first day when I walked into the Edgewater District as a volunteer of the Salem Dream Center (a ministry that reaches people through volunteer service and works projects). I stepped on to the edge that day; looked over and jumped. My life has not been the same.
That was a first. We weren’t sure what to do. After walking away in disbelieve we talked about what just happened, and what we should do. We came up with a plan to write her a note that said we were sorry for bothering her, that bothering her wasn’t our intent. We only wanted to be friends. We acknowledged all that she did: working full time, going to school, and helping to raise her grand kids.
The next Saturday, we went back to that same door that had been slammed in our faces, and as we knocked. It swung opened, only this time two arms were thrust out of the door and the woman grabbed me in a tight hug. Then all of the sudden she pushed me back and said, “My name is Linda. My name is Linda.” I replied, “That was my mom’s name, she passed away a few months ago.”
We closed our note saying; “We won’t bother you, but we will always be out here on the street on Saturday mornings if you need us.” We placed that note on her door on a Saturday, the week after Thanksgiving. We snuck up, quietly put the note on her door and ran.
Linda slammed the door, but God opened a heart.
That same day our anonymous woman called West Salem Foursquare Church, and asked if we were part of the church?
As time passed Linda and I became very good friends and we are great friends to this day. On Saturdays Linda and I always talk about what I read in my devotionals, about what she has read in the Bible, and about her family and mine.
You know the feeling you get when you are driving and you see those blue lights flashing in your rear view mirror? Well that’s what I felt when on Sunday I was asked if I had left a note on a door in Edgewater, because a woman had called about it. But relief flooded over me just like when the police car passes and pulls over the car in front of you.
A little more than a year later after Linda opened her door and welcomed me with a hug, she received Christ. A short time later her daughter and son-in-law received Christ. I was amazed at how God worked in her life, and then through her life to reach her children. I never took a Bible, or even tried to get her to accept Christ, I just listened, talked and told stories, and God did the rest.
I was resolute to learn her name. Every Saturday we would knock on her door and try some new clever way to learn her name, only to be thwarted by her determination to remain anonymous, and I guess impersonal.
The woman called to tell us she was sorry, and to tell us that we could come back. Melanie, the pastor who answered the call, could have taken the message as it was given, but instead she asked, “Are you OK?” The woman broke down crying and told Melanie that two days before she slammed the door on us, her 7 year old grandson died a tragic death.
Linda and I talked a lot and I honestly thought I knew everything about Linda. She had told me about her daughter who led a life of regret, about her son-in-law who was drug addict. We talked about some very deep and painful stuff. Then one day she asked me, “Did you know I have a son?” I said, “nope.” She replied, “That’s because I’m embarrassed of him.”
This battle went on for some time, then on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, when we knocked on the door, it swung open and a hand thrust out. In a stern and harsh voice she proclaimed, “I’ve had enough of your friendliness, leave me alone,” and the door slammed in our faces.
Melanie went on to talk with her about God, about death, and about a world that is cruel: one that doesn’t make sense. At the end of that conversation Melanie could have said goodbye, but instead she asked if she could pray for her. The woman broke down crying again, and said yes please pray for me.
She continued, “My son is in prison for murder. He’s in there for life without parole.”
On my first day in Edgewater, my team and I knocked on the door of a woman who wouldn’t tell us her name. Week after week she would talk to us, but never tell us her name. Our conversations were always centered on everything that she did, kind of her way of telling us, look I’m OK; I don’t need your help.
She went on to tell me about his life and how terrible he was to her. She said all he ever did was take, and never cared about anyone, never said he was sorry for the pain he caused.
by Craig Oviatt Then she told me that her son had received Christ. My first thought was jail house conversion. She must have read my mind because she said, “Yes that is what I thought, but then he told me something that made me know it was true. He told me, ‘Mom, I did it. I killed that man, I deserve to be here. I know God didn’t have me kill that man, but I think God wants me here so I can help people come to know Him.’” Linda looked me in the eye and said, “He always said he didn’t do it, he said he was framed. Now he said he did it, that’s how I know he really has turned his life over to Christ.” Then she told me, “You know my boy always took from everyone, now he wants to give back. He wants to be a pastor.” She went on to tell me that he called her every Sunday and for the past year and a half she shared our talks, shared our devotionals and what she heard in church or on TBN. She said God just took those words and made them grow in him. He told her that over the phone he could hear the difference in her, and his sister. He wanted what they had, they were happy, they had moved beyond their past and were alive. He wanted that. One Saturday a few months ago Linda told me she knows she will never see her boy on the streets of this world, but she knows she will see him walking down streets of gold, and he will be holding the hand of Mike’ her grandson.
More than a year has passed since that day her son accepted Christ and her son is still studying to be a pastor. He is also helping in the chapel. He has moved beyond his past and he is alive. He said the change in his life is so dramatic, that other inmates will come up to him and ask him, “What happened to you?” It’s then that he tells his story and offers them what his mom offered to him: life with a Father who loves them exactly as they are and forgives all their sins. Miracles still happen. Some are simple, some are amazing, but they happen in far off distant and remote places, and yes they happen right down the hill from the church I call home. I walked into Edgewater in 2003 knowing that I had nothing to give, you know what? I was right I didn’t and I don’t, but God does. All I have to do is step to the edge every Saturday and push back at the darkness of a cold and harsh world with His love. Then He shines with a light that goes beyond the blocks I walk, and shines into a prison thousands of miles away. You know I was terrified that first day I stepped into Edgewater, It wasn’t easy but all I had to do was step out of the boat just like Peter did. All I had to do was exactly what the Bible says I should, go out into the world and use the gifts God has given me, and use the passion that He put in my heart. That’s when I get to see miracles right there at the edge. Craig Oviatt is the Director of the Salem Dream Center and is on the pastoral staff at West Salem Foursquare Church. Craig is married to Renee`, the love of his life, and has four wonderful children, a son-in-law, and one beautiful granddaughter. He loves to write, read, cook, and be at the Salem Dream Center.
Inventive. Daring. Artistic. These are not words typically used to describe a new album by a praise and worship band. Modern worship has fallen into a familiar rut as of late and while that’s certainly not a bad thing, there has been a successful formula that many worship artists have followed. Hats off to David Crowder Band, one of the most successful praise and worship groups, for crumpling up the manual and drop kicking it out the sanctuary doors. Lyrically, Church Music is a worship album through and through. The songs are filled with “hallelujahs,” “praises” and “holies.” Musically, Church Music is made for the dance floor. Think Nitro Praise meets Passion. The result on paper almost certainly sounds disastrous, full of cheesy clichés and wannabe production aspirations. Neither is the case with this incredible collection of music. Songs like “Eastern Hymn,” “The Nearness” and “The Veil” are some of the best electronic songs you’ll hear all year. “All Around Me” takes a hit Flyleaf song and transforms it into an incredible worshipful experience. “How He Loves” is by far the best take on this modern worship song that has been recorded by many other artists this year as well. They hit it out of the park. I give huge props to David Crowder Band by taking a giant leap forward in their music, forgetting about how many churches can pull off their songs on a Sunday morning or how their fans would react to what is an obvious progression, but still a bit shocking at first. They have produced an entertaining album full of vertical lyrics that never point anywhere else but up and created a subgenre that they can own all by themselves. Well done.
by Danny Gette I sat alone in the chapel Saturday morning, waiting for the prison worship team to join me for practice. A voice over the loudspeaker let me know I would be in for a long morning. An emergency count was called for, confining each inmate to their cell, regardless of any classes, visits or programs. I decided to wait it out and see if a resolution would quickly follow. For the next hour, I reflected on the missing piece to my sermon the following Sunday: what does it mean to “seek the Lord” as Uzziah did in 2 Chronicles 26 (before his pride shot it all to, well, you know). This has been my great prayer in the past year, to truly be able to seek Him. I put this up there with “praying for patience” as I tend to seek Him in the midst of affliction. Is God answering those prayers through conditions in my life - conditions designed to bring about the very thing I seek? One could ask “If God is sovereign and good, why do His interactions seem like games, why does His love, as you call it, come with pain?” As a father to my son, I so want him to learn responsibility and resourcefulness - to the point that I want him to “earn” the objects he desires, or to learn to go without. I know this is all from love and for his best, but I get a glimpse of my son’s perspective when my Father deals with me in the same loving, efficacious manner. I can complain and worry like an eight year old if my prospects seem less than bountiful. It helps if I begin with the premise that “God is love” then take the riddle and solve back to the premise. “That’s cheating!” you say. No, like any problem, we must work with the information we know to be true, and there is nothing truer than the fact that my God is love (space does not permit a defense of this argument, but I welcome a debate anytime).
I suppose there are more pro-active ways to seek God such as regular time in devotion, listening to (usually by reading) His words, talking to Him, thinking about Him, obeying Him (usually by loving and serving others). These are great methods for the professional “searchers” like me, but all too often, they are just “methods.” Much like my wonderful son, once I know the rules, I seek to find ways to manipulate the “system” to my advantage. Last Friday evening, at Mill Creek Correctional Facility (Movie Ministry Outreach), a visitor asked me why I come into the prisons. I gave him very good practical answers: my past criminal behavior, the clear call I received from God, Matthew 25, etc. I was very dissatisfied with that answer but unable to discern the reason. Alone in the chapel, with nothing but sunbeams on the wood paneling for company, I was given the answer. Our call to worship that day was to be Psalm 84, from where we get “Better is one day in your house than a thousand elsewhere.” I have always known that when I join brothers in the prison, it is a special event - light in a very dark place. These are men who love the fellowship, the worship, the opportunity to serve, and they are always sad to see our time come to an end. I realized the difference between this church and many on the “outside” is one of watches; in prison church we look at our watches in hopes that the time goes by more slowly - as if God would hold the sun steady for a while; in many outside churches we look at our watches wishing the hands would run faster to get us to our next event of the day. In prison, I get to live out Psalm 84.
Perhaps one of the sunbeams illuminated my rather slothful intellect at that moment and told me that I have one of the finest ways of seeking God known to man, I get to regularly fellowship with men who love Christ with repentant humility and love each other sacrificially. The real answer for why I go into the prisons is - I get to see Jesus there. I shared this with the men on Sunday, and more than one tearfully agreed. I so much love to see them each week, and yet long for the day their faces are missing from the congregation; the day when they worship in their own churches with their families. I pray that in His house they look at their watches and ask the hands to go slow - Jesus is among us! Danny Gette is a prison minister in Salem OR. He passionately believes in and teaches the complete transformation provided through the redemptive power of the Cross. When not in the prison, he loves spending time with his family and church. Find out more at www.psalm119ministry.blogspot.com.
COMMUNITY HOMELESS CONNECT
March 23rd 2010
9am-4pm at Salem First Baptist Church
“Homeless Connect is a one day resource fair focused on connecting homeless individuals and those at risk of becoming homeless in Marion/Polk counties with services to help improve their lives.”
For more information, contact Linda Macrae at 503-585-6232 or email@example.com To volunteer, contact HandsOn Mid-Willamette Valley at 503-363-1651 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on Jan 13, 2010
In this issue of Rethink Monthly, we interview pastor and author Rob Bell about The Art of Suffering. We also take Lessons from Tiger and le...