I've been reading, thinking, and talking my whole life.
BA in English and Humanities from Houghton College - with lots of seminars thinking through the fact that "ideas have consequences."
PhD in lit from the University of Pennsylvania - with endless discussion about desconstructionism, the politics of meaning, the challenge of narrative structure.
Teaching writing at three very different colleges, and ensuing conversations about faith, communication, call, purpose, and the possibility of a harmony between Christian faith and intellectual pursuit.
Ten years at home with three inquisitive kids, and investment in disfunctional public education, faith-averse civic involvment, and a loving, prayer-filled home group.
Then over a decade of youth ministry in a setting surrounded by universities, in a church full of professors and their very thoughtful kids.
Still, I find myself wondering, how much of what we believe is half-heard, half-thought through, borrowed, believed without examination?
Kids repeat what their parents have said. Adults repeat what they've been told Christians should / do / might believe.
And we all move so quickly that conversation, real dialogue, deep exploration, is almost impossible.
I am deeply grateful to family members who challenge me to keep exploring, and thankful for those I've worked with in ministry, kids, young and older adults, who have challenged me to live more consistently, more faithfully.
As I leave youth ministry and embark on a season dedicated to "prophetic imagination," I am conscious of Paul's instruction to the Philippians, “—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
The Greek word for “work out,” katergazomai, refers to “the specified action which produces what by nature is inherent in something.” In other words, as people who have received the gift of God’s salvation, we’re called to find out what that means, then learn to live it. This isn’t a casual, easy, effortless task: it involves "fear and trembling”, a phrase Paul used to suggest extreme importance. And it’s not a solo activity; the “you” is plural; the calling is communal.
As we obey Paul’s instruction, as we learn to walk in harmony with God’s good purpose, we become visible witnesses, “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”
What, exactly, is the word of life we hold out? What, exactly, is God’s good purpose we’re called to? What does salvation look like, in practice, in community?
Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, wrote "If you cannot express yourself on any subject, struggle until you can. If you do not, someone will be the poorer all the days of his life. Struggle to express some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else. . . . You must struggle to get expression experimentally, then there will come a time when that expression will become the very wine of strengthening to someone else."
This blog is my effort to express the truth of God to myself, and to invite others into that struggle.
We know in part, but the call remains to learn, grow, and hold out the word of life. This blog is a path of discipline for me, and I hope an avenue of conversation for others, in exploring salvation, obedience, community, witness, prophetic imagination,care of creation, justice, peace, love.
My prayer is to push past the “good ideas” of religious conversation, and to live, together, the reality of God’s kingdom, in a way that challenges disbelief, calls into question the values of the kingdom around us, and shines God’s light in a way that brings Him glory.
The poem is important,
as the want of it
proves. It is the stewardship
of its own possibility,
the past remembering itself
in the presence of
the present, the power learned
and handed down to see
what is present
and what is not: the pavement
laid down and walked over
regardlessly--by exiles, here
only because they are passing.
Oh, remember the oaks that were
here, the leaves, purple and brown,
falling, the nuthatches walking
headfirst down the trunks,
crying "onc! onc!" in the brightness
as they are doing now
in the cemetery across the street
where the past and the dead
keep each other. To remember,
to hear and remember, is to stop
and walk on again
to a livelier, surer measure.
It is dangerous
to remember the past only
for its own sake, dangerous
to deliver a message
you did not get.