WHY: Soundbites Shouldn’t Matter (and Church History Does)

In my Church History class we’ve finished the Reformation. We’re on to the English Revival under George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers. Dr. W recently handed back our papers on Luther. I went in to talk with him about it not because I was unhappy with the grade but because I wanted to do better on the next one. We ended up discussing me. Everything from Meyers-Brigg’s to my current living situation and all the way back around to my church home in Seattle.

I don’t want you to think I’m going to mount a great defense for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. To be honest, Mark makes me incredibly uncomfortable sometimes (despite the fact that he’s tagged on my list of things I’m listening to). I’m about as Egalitarian as a Complementarian can be without actually being an Egalitarian. But in recent weeks there’s been a backlash (again) with Mars Hill and I felt slightly compelled to write as one who used to attend church at Mars Hill and who still podcasts Mark on occasion.

There was a matter of Church Discipline recently at the church and unfortunately someone’s information was let loose on The City and there’s been some controversy over whether or not church discipline is (a) acceptable and (b) too harsh in this instance. From what I’ve read in Scripture, I think that church discipline is entirely necessary. From what I read of the situation in Seattle, the situation doesn’t seem out of hand–it’s harsh, but sometimes truth is painful in its redemptive act.

That being said, it was hard to watch the church be attacked againYou don’t know what it’s like to be embroiled in controversy amid believers until you’ve had to walk to church through protestors to get to service on a Sunday morning or had to take criticism from a professor at your Christian college for where you attend church. It can be exhausting. It can be discouraging. Last week was like that experience all over again, via the internet.

And with that being said, I will acknowledge incredible reticence with Mark. In the past year, it sometimes feels like the man just says things to get a reaction, to force controversy. I don’t agree with all of his theological positions. I don’t think I’ll be reading Real Marriage if I get married because of the mixed reviews I’ve read. I don’t appreciate how argumentative he is. Sometimes, I wish Mark wasn’t so…well…so Mark-like.

But when I spoke with my professor the thing I kept coming back to was Mark Driscoll reminds me of Martin Luther.

Most of us know Martin Luther as the spark that ignited the Reformation. Erasmus laid an egg, Luther hatched it and by God we don’t trust the Pope anymore, do we! But Luther was much more complicated than that, and he was not the noble rescuer of lay people that we sometimes imagine. Luther was incredibly anti-semitic, and he cursed his opponents. Literally: Luther wished some of them to Hell. He was bombastic, he wrote against his opponents with incredible ferocity. Some of the things are disturbing. Some are amusing. I have a friend who sent me this link recently where the page refreshes each time with a new insult that Luther wrote.

I don’t love these parts of Luther. I find them disorienting: how could a man so obsessed with grace refuse to show it to his opponents? That’s a different discussion. The point is Luther was complicated. He had faults. Yet, he was the man for the job. Who else could have stood up to the Papacy in the 16th century, with the threat of excommunication (i.e. damnation), being hunted and yet continue to stand forcefully against the church that ruled the entire Western continent? Luther. Maybe he had to be bombastic, verbose and abrasive to get his point across, to maintain his position, and to change the tide of history.

Mark Driscoll isn’t going to change history, not in the way that Martin Luther did. But he is in a unique position. He pastors a church in one of the most unchurched cities in a rapidly secularizing nation. It’s a city of art and music, one of incredible beauty. But it’s a city of abuse, sorrow, and conflicted ideas. Mark is pretty black and white. He stands against the culture of his city, he is always pushing people onward and forward. Yes, he says wrong things. Yes, he overstates his position sometimes.

But I think that Mars Hill also does incredible ministry.

I don’t mind the criticism of Mars Hill and Driscoll. God knows, we should all suffer some criticism to keep us humble. What does make me uncomfortable are those who react to soundbites (which is truly all we hear at a distance), and then refuse to engage the man, the ministry and the good things that are happening.

We don’t write off Martin Luther–in fact, we celebrate him! Every Reformation Day friends and I drink German beer together and toast the man who freed us from the tyranny of the medieval church!

It’s similar with the church I still consider my second home. Mark Driscoll has sin. He has flaws. But the church of Mars Hill does good things. I think it’s dangerous to negate those things based on misspoken words and disagreement over issues that should be periphery within the faith.

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Seattle Bound!

By the time you read this, I will be on the road to Seattle.

This weekend, a friend is getting married. I first met Amanda when she bounced across the hall in our freshman dorm during move in. I was a bit overwhelmed by the energy contained in this short dark haired figure that invaded the room I shared with Karin. But by the second or third week I was bursting into Amanda’s room without knocking at all hours of the day (and night). I was sit on her or August’s bed and just ramble about my day, the upper class boy, theology, etc. Amanda only yelled t me for my intrusions once when I interrupted a roommate arguement. But we were fast friends.

So this weekend, I am thrilled to have the chance to see her get married. She put up with a lot of unfortunate experiences in her dating life. How great is it to see her wed a good man who loves God and loves her?

Two of my friends are driving up with me this weekend. The twenty one hours in a VW Jetta this weekend (each direction) will be really good for bonding…or really good for annoyance with one another! We will be driving through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington. We go from sunny Colorado to rainy Seattle and will arrive on Friday evening.

As I’m headed out, I am reminded of how good community is so important. When I first talked about this trip I had no idea how it would be affordable. I was getting to Seattle one way or another. But I also couldn’t imagine how I would afford a plane ticket. A couple of friends, however,proposed driving and splitting the cost of gas. How great is that? And how great is their willingness to ride with me for 21 hours? I beyond blessed to have friends like this.

I had to leave my study group a bit early Thursday morning to grab a few last things for the trip. All my boys said goodbye and said they’d be praying. I love that I know they are serious. Just as we pray for a friend’s wife who is having joint issues, I am able to trust that they will be praying for safety.

And then there is the community I am going home to. There are cousins to see (and meet!), Keeleh on Saturday, Dr Davis on Sunday and half a dozen on Saturday night for Ethiopian food at my favourite spot! God blessed me with a huge community in college. Even the ones I don’t talk to on a regular basis are the kind of people I know will still come and see me when I am in town. How sweet is that?

Not to mention the church I get to attend on Sunday night. Mars Hill Ballard look out. Cause I’m coming home.

_________________________

I will be doing updates via phone on Facebook and Twitter. Follow me there to see pictures from the drive and the trip! And I’ll see you next Wednesday for the first installment of “Why Wednesday?”

springtime at the HUB

I wrote this during Adullam’s Gathering on Sunday.

I miss SEattle today. I think it’s because things are blooming and the air is heavy in a very un-Colorado-muggy-kind-of-way. Not that Seattle is muggy, that is more reminiscent of Chicago. But when I stepped otuside this morning, the air was cool and sweet. THe tree in the backyard is green and fuller than I remember last year. It reminded me, the air and the tree and the soft wet earth, of Easter in Seattle. I thought of walking to church that first year, in a dress that didn’t fit and slipping over patches of mud in the black shoes I’d bought for Josh’s wedding. The air was clean, sometime between the death and resurrection it had rained and the world felt washed in hopeful sorrow. And then there was the year i Had joined a community group at church. I remember the darkness gathering on Good Friday as we went to a party that clelbrated the saviour’s death. A bizarrely morbid and joyful affair as we mourned the death and waited rather expectantly because we’re on the side that knows what is coming in a few days’ time. I went to Lynden that year, shared a creaky bed with Caitlin and hardly slept. It poured rain that morning as we attended Oikos and rearranged the furniture for a family luncheon to which I had no prior reference in my haphazard nomaid life (lived far from the reaches of blood relations). But the dreary grey was warm in a way. It kept us huddled together as we laughed and celelbrated the man who put aside the clothes of the grave and stepped into the sunlight and blooming green and hopeful air of spring. I miss Seattle sometimes. Though in all honesty, i will say I do not wish to return. But the springtime air and the creepy plants, the wet muddy earth that stains my hand scrubbed floors and the sigh of relief as I drove to the tune of the Black Keys…Thank God he comes this week and comes again.

And even as I sometimes miss Seattle, miss the vairous homes that I have known, I’m at peace in the springtime as we contemplate the coming death and hopeful return.

Behold the Lamb of God.

[Selah]

basement revelations

sometimes the world hurts.

You have PTSD.

You are becoming an alcoholic.

You are with a boy masquerading as a man.

You can hardly provide for your family [and it is growing].

You are lonely.

You are bipolar.

You are worried.

You are insecure.

You have cystic fibrosis.

You are a widow.

You are the father of a murdered, unborn child.

And you are the mother.

You are afraid.

You are waiting, always waiting.

And somedays I wonder when it will get better? It is hard to exist in the tension of the Kingdom here and now but coming and not  yet. But you know, I think that’s the beauty of community. Ingrid sends me random facebook messages about being beautiful and gives me music and scripture. Keeleh hands me random sermons. Recently I got to speak some words of encouragement to Ingrid. Chris prayed over me (and our entire group) at Brad’s the other day. That house is freaking anointed. I got to tell Sarah that someday there will be a love that does start and end in this confusion. I told Caitlin she is normal, none of us know what we are doing with our lives. This is why the Christian life is not meant to be done alone. Because while we are actively being saved from our depravity, our tendency to wallow in the unholy, we are still broken and needy. The community of faith holds us up and pushes us onward. We are always spurring each other on to God, to joy, to holiness, to heaven where we will look back and see the shadows of this world lengthen and then fade in the bright sunlight of Heav’ and there we will be the whole, strong creatures we were meant to be. We will run without broken knees across wide plains that stretch ever onward. We will drink water and it will have taste. We will dance and even the white people will have rhythm. We will eat and drink and the feast of the Lamb will be the best party ever. We will drink and not be debauched. We will see each other for the true beauty that we were created with, no longer marred by the stained world that will have passed away.

But now we wait. And we stand together to remind each other that even though sometimes the darkness is overwhelming, someday,  it will  not be so.

I hurt for the world.

But it is good to  hurt. It makes me long for home.

Kitchen Floors

So, as I think I mentioned at one point: I washed the kitchen floor on Saturday. It’s linoleum, or vinyl, I don’t know the difference. It’s a greyish blue with mottled brown bits that I struggled not to see as stains that needed scrubbing to be freed from the clutches of the floor. It had been swept already, probably wiped down too. But there was no sheen, and I knew it wanted to be washed, not moped, not wiped not vacuumed. It wanted washing: on hands and knees with bucket, cloth and brush.

It was a decision I pushed off for sometime. I was tired, after all. It wasn’t required of me anyway. It probably wouldn’t be good for my knee to be impaled against such an unforgiving surface. Not to mention, I just wanted to read my book and maybe write. Not to mention, I wanted to be selfish and lazy. But somewhere, something got the best of me, and I scrounged through the closet in the hall to find a bucket and the cleaner that was in front of me for half an hour while I googled various home remedies for vinyl washing soaps–not only am I blind spiritually, it would seem I am also blind to the obvious reality in front of my nose, at eye level, on the shelf, in a giant purple bottle glowing under the gaze of “Mr. Clean.”

It was a very domestic evening. I listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll and dreamed about Seattle. I wiped around corners of cabinets and floorboards with the paint peeling off in tiny flakes. The dirt is nestled into the groves where vinyl floor embraces uneven floorboards and crooked edges. But the cloth so gently dipped down into the crevices, and with gentle arms brought the dirt to service, the crumbs and bits of life forgotten and she cradled them in her fibrous clutches until I sloshed it all through browning water and moved to the next square. I scrubbed at sticky spots, scoured away chunks, swabbed under counters and stove alike, where the debris was greater but the fighting less. It was a bit painful at some moments, there’s not point in pretending that my body isn’t angry with such actions, or that my knee doesn’t abject to such trials. In fact, it does so quite vehemently, with dull aches and shooting pains, that joint let me know: I’m a crotchety old man, even if genetics and calcium density claims age 22. I do not like this attempt at relaxation via domesticity.

But the house was cool and quiet. The wind outside rustled the leaves that have turned to their brilliant interpretation of the summer sun that nursed them until this month when it whispered goodbye and began a slow but steady retreat. Mark vacillated between shouting and calmly calling for repentance.  I hummed a tune that’s been stuck in my head for days on end. The flowers on the counter smelled sweet and graceful, dipping down in a delightful curtsy as if to say “why thank you for cleaning the home we’re now to share.” The candles snapped and the light wavered as the water grew darker and thicker.

I scrubbed and scoured and it was a perfect evening. I don’t know that I have ever washed a floor before, on my hands and knees. I have taken a toothbrush to floorboards and insistent blemishes in the past. But to scrub the floor clean with diligence and attention to this extent? Doubtful. It was work, I won’t lie. I am,  by nature, fairly lazy. I prefer to read, to write, to make lattes, to bake and to go for long walks. So I will admit to being entirely surprised by the adventure of scrubbing a kitchen floor. I thoroughly enjoyed it, sermon, music, prayers and all. It was relaxing, in a bizarre way. It was uncomplicated, refreshing and restorative.

Which is all to say: I think I’ll be listening to more Mark Driscoll and scrubbing more floors than expected over the next several months. I might pine away for Seattle, dreaming of the massive dark sanctuary where i could sing as nowhere else. Thinking of the rain on the stairs outside my dorm room, or crashing against the window of my apartment. I might long for the walks on Queen Anne, the Halloween parade in Fremont, the bridge to Ballard, the delight of watching a city be washed and reborn day in and day out. This is, after all, what comes of listening to Mark. But in a strange way, it is also what enables me to be content where I am: suburbia. Colorado. October. 22. Single. and deeply in love with Isa.

assorted memories

I drove “home” tonight to the basement apartment that holds the bulk of my earthly posessions but which I am not yet accustomed to considering as anything more than a location of residence. It is the place where I usually sleep and sometimes eat. It is the place where I most often shower and dress, though truth be known I almost always have a spare set of clothes in my car. It is the place to which I oft times return at night from wandering the world amidst work, play and worship. But it is little more to me than that. Right now, it is simply the room I rent where I recently had daisies that now languish in the trashcan that is not mine, while I am sitting on the bed that does not belong to me, writing–putting to “paper” the one thing that is truly mine, as it were.

Tonight I drove “home” from my parents’ house after a long evening of conversations and job hunting. I talked with David about ethics and legislating morality which carried into dinner and evolved to a discussion with my father regarding limited government, my right to life and property, and the need for academia–or was it philosophy?–and a night that ended in both tears of frustration and eyes rubbed red for sorrow. And as I drove on the lonely highway at a breakneck speed I dreamt of days long past and thought I should write this note to you. Perhaps it was the shooting star that I wished upon that brought such things to light: the warbled memories that run like old films with browned edges and stuttered movements. But no matter the cause, while I nervously considered Israel and sang while shouting alongside Bebo I thought of you, and you, and you and then I thought perhaps my silence would not do.

I thought of you and the look on your face when I stepped off the plane and came in the gate to baggage claim. Your hair was getting long and kinky then, darkened by the winter grey and falling in your eyes. You looked delighted to see me, and I remember the sort of vague sense of relief in spotting you across the tiny crowd that milled through the open space of that tiny airport. You wrapped your arms around me and I remember feeling safe; but I think that even then, somewhere inside of me I knew that this feeling might not last. I pushed the thought away, I needed you then, desperately. And through those long nights of grey winter when my life had gone dark and hopeless, I would need you all the more: to point me back to Jesus, to remind me of my brokenness, to tell me a’hava, and to kiss away my fears. I am thankful for you, I know that, and I am thankful for the blessing of God that you were: keeping me in the church, keeping me on the path, keeping me in the fold despite all stubborn attempts to jump the fence and race for the wide open spaces to which I have yet wandered.

And I thought of you, in the parking lot at Village Inn, staring at the stars as though unsure how to acknowledge my presence or the apology. Your hands were in your pockets, and you looked so uncomfortable while I tried to ask forgiveness and longed for so much more. The stars were poking out, it was warm and almost humid. I thought of sitting in your truck, after shivering in the parking lot, talking until after 1am just months before that moment of torrid confession and petty forgiveness. I remember the way you looked at me, with care and concern in your eyes, your ridiculous green hat sliding down and blocking the light of hte parking lot lamps. You prayed for us that night, or you prayed for me at least. I wanted you to hold my hand, but in some kind of distant respect, you wrung your fingers together and held them in your lap and spoke those words to Jesus that both awed and encouraged me. I swore that night to know Him as you do, and for that I must say thank you.

But most of all, I thought you. I worried about the past month, the things I’ve said, the words I’ve written and spoken, and all the feelings I’ve never had the heart to share. I was frightened, shy and hurt by others before. I didn’t know how to answer the things that you said, and so I either remained foolishly silent or went ahead and said the things I didn’t mean. I thought of that night at the park, watching fireworks through the rain. I thought of you with your arms wrapped around me, reassuring me while I cried about the sins of my past and the ways that I’ve hurt others. I thought of the night in the kitchen, running my fingers over your battered knuckles and praying that God would heal your heart and restore you to the good. I thought of our walk when my knee ached so badly and you wanted to go home to protect my body but I wanted to hear you talk, more and more and more! and so I stubbornly shut my mouth to complaints and we wandered for hours more. I prayed to God that I haven’t ruined you for Him. I prayed against the things that hold you back, the chains that you (as I) so desperately cling to. I cried with my father tonight for your sake. How can you look Him in the face, yet turn and walk back to the life even you admit has done so little for you! I begged God for your soul tonight, not for my sake (though you’ll never see that), but for yours. I am culpable in your salvation, or so it seems to a somewhat arrogant heart. I am culpable in that I am terrified to be the only one who ever speaks and perhaps you did not hear, or perhaps I spoke too softly, to gently or to harshly. My sin, my pride, my insecurity, my foolish girlish ways, they are often a distraction, or more likely, they can be destructive. I’m not perfect, and my fear is that perhaps I’ll have spoken well but acted poorly and thus have pushed you away. But you must see! You must come! He can heal your heart, like I told you on the highway, passing under the exit sign for Belleview, after selling the bike, while holding your hand and saying someday you’d by another. I am not so good, I insisted, but for the grace of God. And you brushed it aside like it was nothing, a ridiculous excuse, something that made no sense. But someday, you’ll see. I have this shaky confidence that someday, Abba will bring you home to rest and peace and you will know Him. I only wish it would come sooner than I think He deems it necessary. But better later than never, and so I’m praying for your soul and your heart and your being. I wished on that star for you tonight, that Jesus would bring you to Him. I wished for you, and a little bit for me.*

It was only a twenty minute drive home, lengthened perhaps a minute or two by the cop who wove through lanes to follow me before finally exiting just one before my own. But it felt like hours, to run over the memories, to pray, to hope. And for a little while, my mind slowed down and I was able to sing; “I am everyone who’s ever lost hope,” but Bebo reassures me, Jesus always brings hope back around.

“Come ye weary, heavy laden

Lost and ruined by the fall

If you tarry, till you’re better

You will never, come at all”

______________________________________

* a little bit for me, because, though I am greiving the sad month I’ve endured and the loss of both our relationship and friendship I am perfectly willing to admit: I’m still a bit hung up on you. [well shoot son, ain’t that just the kicker]

Seattle Weekend

This is Caitlin and I on the way home from church today. Just for me, the Ballard bridge went up (nothing to do with the sailboat going underneath). So like the tourists we make fun of, we jumped out of the car and took some pictures! yay ballard!

This is Kelsie freaking Job and I at Palomino's on the east side for desert and an all around good time in cute little cocktail dresses. Caitlin was there too, and we had a great time!

Kellie and I at Macrina Bakery. We had delicious lattes and baked goods and caught up on life in the past nine months since we've seen each other

Alicia and I at Gasworks, having perhaps one of my best conversations all weekend. Starbucks, sunshine, blankets on the grass, and a favorite roommate, what can be better?

and did I mention, it’s spring time in Seattle? the trees are withered and the air still frigid in Colorado, and we may be expecting our snowiest month in March. But in Seattle, the world is in bloom and life is beautiful.

Look out Seattle!

Tomorrow morning I am off on another grand adventure, this one to an old home with dear friends and places to revisit rather than explore for the first time. I’m pretty excited. We’ll see how happy I feel at 3.00AM tomorrow morning when I roll out of bed. But once I’m in that pick up truck on my way to DIA, I’m sure I’ll be just giddy with excitement.

Today I got off work late (as usual) with a pounding headache that made my eyelids heavy and my tongue thick in my mouth.  Out of habit I turned the radio on while headed home on the only street that services lonetree to parker. As I flew westward, passing a long line of cars headed hte opposite direction I couldn’t help but smile. In spite of the ridiculous headache and the fifteen minutes that were stolen from my afternoon, it was a perfect afternoon.

The sun was shining.

It was warm.

I dug painkillers out of my purse while trying to shift at the yellow lights that turn red far to quickly. I rolled down my window with that manual crank that makes me look like a fool as my head bobs up and down in the process. I could feel the cool air on my skin and the sun warmed my face to a glowing pink that came from more than just the heat.

Tomorrow I am headed home, to one of many homes. I am going to see Caitlin and dance in the rain. I am going to hug Alicia and drink far too much coffee. I’ll be sleeping at Amanda’s without catching a wink. And on Sunday, I’ll be rocking out to Mars Hill worship and listening to Mark even while missing my friends here and the church that I have come to love in Colorado.

Tomorrow I will be getting picked up by a good friend at 3.30AM and will be rubbing my eyes and yawning during the whole 45 minute ride to the airport. But the sun will be coming up just before we arrive, streaking the sky with yellows and pinks amid hazy clouds still waking from their own slumber. And tomorrow, maybe, we’ll have time to sit in the airport and chat and sprint on the moving sidewalks that always make me giggle.

And in someways, the airport will be as wonderful as the trip. Because I have a very strange affinity for airports: probably after living in them for a good portion of my life, they feel as homey as rainy Seattle and sunshiney Colorado and humid Latin America. Besides, I’ll be with Jason looking forward to being with Caitlin (and so many others). And when you are with a good friend like that, one place is as good as any other.