Kelly Kennedy, They Fought for Each Other

Kennedy was a reported embedded with a company in the Iraq war, Charlie Company 1-26.  This book is a compilation of their long tour in the city of Adhamiya as they suffered immeasurable loss serving their country and the people of Iraq so honorably.

I borrowed this book from a friend whose son was in Alpha company, and is also mentioned in the book.  Needless to say, when the stories are about people you know and care about, it puts a whole different feel to it.

The big thing I think this book does for me is give me even more compassion and empathy for the young men and women who are trying so hard to help in a situation where winning is basically impossible.  I can’t even imagine trying to build relationships with a community knowing full well that some people  in the community are very bad bad guys – and not being able to get them until after they’ve struck first.

We’ve gotten our troops into a heck of a mess in the middle east, I’m praying for peace and for hope to emerge in a place where it seems hard to come by.

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Morgan and Stevens, Simply Strategic Volunteers

This little book by Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan is super-packed with tips and guides to help pastors and volunteers maximize their impact for the church and for the gospel.  It seems like there was something helpful on every page, and they don’t go into super detail, keeping it moving along.  This makes it an easy read and a great book to share.  Much of it you may already know, but there’s enough in here that it will be helpful.

Here’s some take-aways:

  1. The dirty work is the work.  Leaders who want to live in crystal palaces aren’t leaders.
  2. It’s so easy to encourage people.  So encourage people.
  3. Ministries must work together – sharing resources and people according to the mission.
  4. The best work must go into the most important ministries.  That means the youth ministry logo can’t be super-pimp while the church logo is clip-art.  Even if the youth  minister is great at marketing, those skills must be leveraged for the whole church, or the church will go into silo mode.
  5. Know the difference between leaders and doers.  Not that one is better than the other, but when each one tries to do the other, people in the system get frustrated.  So, let those who love being doers, do and let those who have leadership gifts, lead.
  6. Never give up.  Ever.  The work of the church is too important to give up.  So leaders, take care of yourselves so you don’t have to quit.

Jones & Pagitt, Emergent Manifesto of Hope

I got this book on a clearance table, which is always depressing for the authors :).  Tony and Doug are the heads of Emergent (thought emergent has no real head leadership) and edit this book by several different Christian leaders.  I have read or worked with most of the authors of the various chapters before, so it wasn’t radically life changing for me.  There were a couple chapters by brand new people to the emergent conversation though, so it was interesting.  This would definitely be a good way to get introduced to the Emergent organization if one had never read of it before.

On a different note, I found myself (and continue to) to be increasingly feeling comme ci, comme ca (you can google it) about Emergent.  It has made a great contribution to the church, but now the dominant voices seem bent on liberalism, entrepreneurship and especially pushing  homosexual agenda in the church.  Frankly, that stuff is boring and not much of a contribution from such a well educated bunch.  I’ll still be friends with Emergent, but I don’t think I care to buy the t-shirt.

Lent 11: Leonard Sweet’s 11

How funny that my 11th lent book was called 11!  That was totally unintentional – it must be a sign!!

Anywho – I recommend to all young or inexperience preachers to read a Sweet book at least once a year.  The amount of great stuff that he packs into every single book is awesome.  You simply don’t find Leonard Sweet books that are a waste of time and/or money.  11 is a book about the relationships that you need to become who you are meant to be.  Pretty good thoughts.

Here’s some cool take-aways:

  1. p.25, “The worst thing you can do is to create a matched community, an inner circle of people who see life exactly as you do.  Life is becoming more complex, not less, which necessitates an ever-greater diversity of counsel.”
  2. p.41, “The difficult truth can concern little things.  Our sins make us look ridiculous more than anything.”
  3. p.71, “Bishop John Sperry, the retired Anglican bishop of the Arctic, had been a missionary bishop in the vast Yukon Territory, where there was no Inuit (Eskimo) translation of the Bible.  So, he set about producing one, but fairly quickly came to a sudden halt.  In the Inuit language there is no word for joy, just images and metaphors.  When the translators came to the resurrection story, they had to find a word to express joy, and the closest metaphor to what joy meant in Inuit culture was ‘wagging the tail’.  That explains why in Inuit, John 20:20 became, ‘When the disciples saw the Lord, they wagged their tails.’ “
  4. p.129, “The founder of my tribe, John Wesley, had no problem with his itinerants or anyone else disagreeing with him…in Wesley’s own words, ‘I have no more right to object to a man for holding a different opinion from mine than I have to differ with a man because he wears a wig and I wear my own hair.’ But then Wesley kept the metaphor going: ‘But if he takes his wig off and shakes the powder in my face, I shall consider it my duty to quit of him as soon as possible.’ “
  5. p.132, “Earl Creps testifies that ‘in countless hours of writing, talking and consulting about baton-passing, I had assumed the whole time that we had something that younger leaders wanted to inherit.  But what if that’s not true?’  Creps goes on to pose two questions for us: a) ‘Is the notion of ‘baton-passing’ just a Baby Boomer conceit?  Would the Church be better served by more ‘start-ups’?”  b) ‘Is the Emerging Church mainly an example of being offered the baton and saying, ‘No thanks’?’ “

Lent 10: Blivin and Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus

Bivin and Blizzard operate within the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, which helps develop the Hebrew nature and roots of the origination of the Christian faith.  This book is intended to be the first in a series of books on understanding Jesus’ words in a Hebrew context.  Their premise is that the gospels were originally Hebrew, but the oldest manuscripts we have today are in Greek, so the gospels and even Christianity have been slanted in a Greek though pattern.

Really the book is tedious, but the appendix is novel and insightful.  I didn’t underline or note even one thing though…which should tell you how useful I found this book…

Grove Easter 2010

What an amazing day at The Grove!  Today was our 6 month anniversary of the official launch and we could not have believed that God would do what he has in just 6 short months!  I love seeing God in action in real people’s lives – both the lives of already-Grovers and in brand-new-Grovers!

And – just so all the Grovers know – I love serving as your pastor.  God has decided to really let us walk through the fire with some stuff in the last 6 months – but we’ve only become refined (not burnt lol) and even more useful for God and His grand mission!

Here’s some random thoughts:

  • Setting up Saturday night was a hoot.  Good job by everyone there – being in the gym provided us with some new problems and people did a great job of taking initiative and making things work.
  • We had to rent a stage – but someone built the backdrop and someone else built a great big cross and a couple people set up the projector screen and the banners.  It looked really really good to me.
  • One of the things I learned as a new senior pastor is that it is impossible to sleep on the night before Easter.  No joke, I was so amped up I didn’t get to bed until 3am because I was so enamored with the message.  I mean, how can the resurrection not get your heart beating and keep you up at night!  Then, once I went to bed I laid awake for an hour!  Brutal – but I’m more excited for Easter than even Christmas!
  • This video got me a little worked up too!
  • Sunday morning, me and the kids always pray for The Grove once we get into the car to do.  Today LJ prayed that God would have 100 people come to church.  It was great.  Then God answered his prayer big time as almost 500 people joined together to worship Jesus!
  • Even better than the presence of great people was the sense of God’s presence this morning.  There was just something urgent I felt in the worship and while I was preaching too – I had high expectations on Jesus!
  • The Grove had it’s first real live drama sketch today too.  They did a great job – thanks to everyone involved – it added to the service in a unique way!
  • The GroveKids staff did an excellent job of adjusting to the increase of kids and the new spots to do ministry.  They did a great job of communicating with parents and creating an environment that was fun, safe and clean!
  • The teaching this morning was on Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus went out of his way to restore and reinstate Peter the Apostle.  John chapter 21 gives me so much hope in life, I was worked up to share it with the family.
  • Quite possibly the neat-o moment came when people exited the gym and they were handed some salmon in a little cup.  In the teaching I emphasized the smell of fish (you can listen at Albany Grove) and this made the whole hallway smell like fish.  Mad props to Brad and Jill who set it all up on Saturday night.  The best was when I heard someone in the hall complain to their friends that it stinks like fish and their friends said, yeah it’s just like when Peter was called by Jesus and she was like amazed.  It was such a novel way to make the end of the service experiential and it worked!

Alright – time to sleep – I fell asleep playing wii with Khobi today – in the middle of the game, so I know I’m worn out!

Lent 9: Horsley, Jesus and Empire

I’ve relented on my lent reading, so I’m ending up with about 50 pages a day instead of 100.  In part because I see no reason to beat myself up and try to “impress” Jesus – as if he cares if I can read 100 pages instead of 50 – and in part because of shockingly good books like Richard Horsley’s Jesus and Empire.

Horsley is a professor at U of Massachusetts and he’s written several books with interesting titles; while this is the first I’ve heard of him, I wouldn’t be surprised if I picked up some more of his books in the future.  This one, Jesus and Empire is an interesting comparison of the Roman Empire and the American Empire.  While most books look at the peace of Rome, Horsley looks at what life was like at the edges of the Roman Empire – where it was a little rough and wild at times.  He then compares this to the places in the world at the edge of the American empire – where America is influencing the world at the edges (think recent wars and stuff like that).  It’s an interesting book about the awkwardness of being a Christian ( a tradition of “underdog” ) and being an American (a tradition of “champion”).

While I love that Horsley doesn’t get judgmental on America – he’s not a flaming liberal that thinks America is evil and stuff – I do wish he would at least mention the good that America has done in the world.  The progress of the world’s technology, life expectancy and economy must give a lot of credit to America’s contributions to the world.  A big difference between Rome and America (as far as I can tell) is America’s generosity in their foreign policy.  All the same, it’s a book well worth the read.

Here’s 9 great (and thick!) takeaways:

  1. p.3, “Ancient democracy had gone awry in the decline of public virtue and the rise of self-interest, as Roman patricians sought their own selfish interests above those of the Republic.” (tell me that’s not the frustration of most Americans with their politicians 🙂
  2. p.40, “the resistance was deeply rooted in the Mosaic covenant, the very foundation of Judean society.  In every case it is clear that, following the principle of exclusive loyalty to God and God’s law, the religious and political-economic dimensions are inseparable.”
  3. p.54, “The principal division was clearly between the peasantry and their rulers, Herodian and high-preistly as well as Roman, not between ‘Romans’ and ‘Jews’ generally.”
  4. p.90, “Not always, but often enough, the rulers had killed the prophets…Most vivid in the memories of Jesus’ followers, Herod Antipas had arrested and beheaded John the Baptizer for his insistence on convenental justice.”
  5. p.98, “The impression prevails that Jesus did not condemn Roman rule.  The traditional view is that Jesus was preaching a spiritual kingdom, while Caesar headed the temporal kingdom – but now we recognize that as a later self-protective and accommodationist Christian projection.”
  6. There is a discussion on the parallels found in Jesus’ exorcisms, Roman Empire on page 100 through 108.  Especially with a look at Mark 5:1-20.  Simply amazing!
  7. p.105, “In the confidence that the Roman imperial order stood under the judgment of God’s imminent kingdom, Jesus launched a mission of social renewal among subject peoples.  In contrast to some of the scribal intellectuals who were waiting patiently for God’s decisive ‘intervention in history’ to terminate imperial rule, Jesus and his followers understood God to be acting already in the people’s lives and communities.”
  8. p.112, (interesting in relation to communal salvation) “In this meaning context, then, it is highly significant that both the Markan and the Q mission speeches include several indications that the mission focused on villages, not just on individuals or households.”
  9. p.133, “With a cadre of other teachers and organizers, Paul set about building communities of the faithful in key cities around the eastern Mediterranean areas of the empire.  Paul and his mission are usually understood in heavily Lutheran theological terms.  But once we cut through the old theological view, it becomes clearer that Paul was, in effect, building an international anti-imperial movement of an alternative society based in local communities.”