Month: May 2006

Untaming the wild and enabling the radical …


A friend recommended the novel, Gilead. A father is writing something of a memoir to his son. The father is a pastor. We often talk about taking this life of following Jesus seriously. We must admit we seem to have “tamed” the wild and “softened” the radical way of the Kingdom. I read the following passage from Gilead and thought it striking at the heart of a reckless following needed for our day; something to curb our penchant for accumulation.

I have had a certain acquaintance with a kind of holy poverty. My grandfather never kept anything that was worth giving away, or let us keep it either, so my mother said. He would take laundry right off the line. She said he was worse than any thief, worse than a house fire. She said she could probably go to any town in the Middle West and see some pair of pants she’d patched walking by in the street. I believe he was a saint of some kind. When someone remarked in his hearing that he had lost an eye in the Civil War, he said, “I prefer to remember that I have kept one.” My mother said it was good to know there was anything he could keep. He told me once he was wounded at Wilson’s Creek, on the day of the death of General Lyon. “Now that,” he said, “was a loss.”

When he left us, we all felt his absence bitterly. But he did make things difficult. It was an innocence in him. He lacked patience for anything but the plainest of interpretations of the starkest commandments, “To him who asks, give,” in particular. ( p.31)

Striking images â??Ã?¶

I met Jim about 10 years ago. We struck up an immediate mutual admiration society. He was about 77. We met just a short time after my maternal grandfather passed away. He and Faye, his wife, took a liking to our two girls in an instant. Our oldest quickly dubbed him, â??Ã?úGrandpa Jim.â??Ã?ù

We sat and listened to the story of building the home in which Jim and Faye shared. He loved to garden, the tractor was a sure place for reflection. A large tree shaded nearly their entire front lawn. One day we had stopped by to chat and he described the process involved in planting and nurturing â??Ã?úfescueâ??Ã?ù in a climate not really conducive to the cool blades of grass this variety would sprout. Summers were given to trips to Southfork and Creede in Colorado. Jim enjoyed sitting along the Rio Grande fishing for trout. He loved the outdoors.

Jim battled several forms of cancer. His body bore the brunt of treatment, his heart became very weak. Just last month a test revealed the news – a heart that pumped at about 30%. Certain inevitabilities come with that kind of information. The doctor assured Jim and Faye he could do what he wanted but would need to pay attention to his heart. There was no treatment – the cancer treatment the likely culprit in this diagnosis.

Monday a week ago Jim left this place for the place Jesus promised. His leaving created for me a striking image. People spend lots of money creating visuals to convince us we need the latest product. I am not sure you could do better than Jim in his leaving. Here is a bit of what I shared at his Memorial Celebration last Friday.

Certain images stick in our mind. I admire those who can capture a thought or truth visually. We can give Daniel or Andrew, out audio-visual gurus, an idea and they are able to translate that visually; it is very powerful.

Jim left us with a powerful image. Certainly we should remember his persevering spirit. We ought to emulate his doing that moved him beyond just hearing. The image I want to leave you with is one Jim did not intend. I have thought about this since Monday evening when Faye was sharing with me the events of the late afternoon. You may have heard the story but did you catch the picture?

Before the local news was over and the world news had come on Jim went to move the hen off the roost and check for eggs. He was doing something he enjoyed. The outdoors held an attraction. A few years ago I recall him telling me about his diligence to grow fescue in his front yard. Talk about work! He loved to sit along the Rio Grande and fish for trout. The tractor was certainly a place of reflection. The garden his joy.

Jim did not make it back to the house. But, in his pocket were two eggs he gathered. Eggs have always been a symbol of life. Jim stared death down a number of times. He could do so because he understood his hero had defeated death. This family understood hero. Leon shared with me last evening he was near certain everyone in the family had been helped by Jim. Jesus was Jimâ??Ã?ôs hero.

Today we celebrate life. Death is swallowed up in life and the eggs in Jimâ??Ã?ôs pocket serve as a powerful reminder that we come to this place with a confident hope because of the Resurrection of Jesus.

This striking image lingers for me â??Ã?¶

An illustration of a clarifying conversation … Oh, for more of the same …

My previous post noted my response to my friend, J.D. Greear. I note friend to highlight the following e-mail exchange regarding my previous post,

Todd, canâ??Ã?ôt seem to sign in again to your blog. Iâ??Ã?ôm sure it is a user error on my part. [text with j.d.’s personal e-mail omitted]

Perhaps it was vindictive for some of the personalities involved. It certainly wasnâ??Ã?ôt for me, and I donâ??Ã?ôt believe it was for you (since you didnâ??Ã?ôt agree anyway!) The only way your apology seems to apply is if there was a common motivation in every representative that voted. Otherwise, you are simply apologizing for sins you did not commit. Or, you are implying that the Convention as a whole had the motivation of which you apologized. Iâ??Ã?ôm not offended, but you seem to implicate me in your response, and though God alone knows my heart, I do not believe that was my motivation.

I know there are certain things which conscientious Christians cannot link arms with. I cannot join hands with a CBF brother knowing that on his other hand is a soteriological pluralist who advocates homosexuality. And I donâ??Ã?ôt believe that is hyperbole; a CBF pastor less than 3 miles from my church is an activist on both accounts. I cannot give any money that would go to that guy to promote

For this reason, I believe we had to pull out of the BWA. I voted my conscience. If one day I become convinced I am wrong, I will apologize for it. But I do believe I voted my conscience.

Anyway, hope to see you in Greensboro. There are, of course, no hard feelings about this, I just wanted to be clear.

Feel free to post this, I just couldnâ??Ã?ôt do it from my home computer.

Hello J.D.,

Glad for your response. I certainly wish I did not have to use a login for my blog but comment spam can be quite tasteless.

I will update my response with a clear separation of the quotes noted as not being yours. I apologize if anyone may have inferred from the post that you were the source. I have no doubt you did not vote to dissociate from the BWA for vindictive reasons. I do feel very strongly things were set in motion long before you came on the General Council that would eventually lead to the decision. My series of posts that precipitated the one to which you replied located the reason for my apology by virtue of my association as a Southern Baptist. I thought long and hard about just how I fit into the whole scheme of things and consider myself, whether I like it or not, an extension of the decisions the Convention makes. I could have easily apologized for the boycott of Disney, and maybe it would have been less sensitive an issue.

Many have had a difficult time with the idea of apologizing for sins not committed. When the Southern Baptist Convention apologized for its racial positions of the past, many who voted for that resolution (I was one of those) did not participate in those sins. Yet, with a resounding voice we apologized for the â??Ã?úsins of our fathers.â??Ã?ù When I read that just today Matthew 18 “may have been“(changed from the original to reflect that i was not at the meeting but also read here) flaunted by the Chairman of the IMB Board of Trustees â??Ã?ì one who claims to stand on inerrant, infallible Scriptures, I believe I must apologize to Wade Burleson. I did not sin against Wade, but that is the action of the IMB which receives our support.

I understand your conviction regarding the CBF pastor down the road. I do not think this representative of the CBF any more than I believe every Southern Baptist is vindictive. My caution comes when I am willing to pitch the whole out for one of its parts. Adopting that approach, I would on occasion have to pitch the SBC. If poor theology is the measure for cooperation rest assured there is plenty of bad theology within the SBC; and I am not excluding what you describe in the CBF pastor. Not sure how you will read that last sentence. I am suggesting there is likely at least one pastor in the SBC who fits what you describe in your CBF pastor illustration.

Let me reiterate my past sentiments regarding you and your wife. You two share a genuine understanding of hospitality. I experienced this first hand in Spain. Our brief time getting to know one another gave me a great sense of you integrity and character. I believe you voted your conscience and am glad you did. I am glad you were not offended for that was not my intent to offend you. Dialogue is the only way forward and I am glad to share in the work of the Kingdom with you and come to differing conclusions on this issue. I desperately hope this kind of camaraderie around the Gospel increases among our younger leaders like yourself. Otherwise I do feel a continued â??Ã?úMcCarthyâ??Ã?ù styled hunt by those who desire uniformity rather than unity.

I too hope to see you in Greensboro.

Blessings.

Todd

Response to J.D. Greear … UPDATE

J.D. left a comment on my post, “My apology … Count me in … Memphis on my mind …”. I left a reply offering an e-mail dialogue. I attempted to call J.D. yesterday but he was unavailable. I do not believe J.D. is avoiding me or the issue. We are both busy and some days we have more time than others to attend to these kinds of things. J.D. is a sharp young man and as I have noted before very hospitable. I also noted in my reply to J.D. I was glad he would be nominated as a V.P. in Greensboro.

I thought I would offer my reply for my readers. J.D. asked if I thought the SBC withdrawal from the BWA represented a,

“way of getting back at the CBF. The implication is you thought it was kind of a catty, childish response.”

I am not sure I would have used these words but J.D. indeed expressed my sentiment.

He also asked in what I mistakenly thought was a duplicate comment,

“What would make you say that?”

J.D. may remember the conversation in which the following statements were made [These comments were NOT made by J.D. Greear.]

“If they are in, we are out.”

and,

“You don’t know what they have done to some of us.”

These two statements represent “to me” a vindictive motivation. That may well communicate a catty and childish behavior.

â??Ã?úDo you see the vision, Todd?â??Ã?ù â??Ã?¶ Golden â??Ã?¶

The conversation twisted and turned; a mix of information and passion. â??Ã?úOne million AIDS orphans in the Valley of a Thousand Hills in Kwa-Zulu Natal.â??Ã?ù â??Ã?úWe can change the world, Todd!â??Ã?ù â??Ã?úKwa-Zulu Natal is the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic.â??Ã?ù â??Ã?úWe hold the hope for these people in the palm of our hands!â??Ã?ù

Thursday afternoon Heather and Patrick Reynolds arrived at the â??Ã?úbeach shack.â??Ã?ù The â??Ã?úbeach shackâ??Ã?ù is Spencerâ??Ã?ôs affectionate name for the home he shares with his wife Lisa and children Alden and Grace; just a few blocks from the ocean in Newport Beach, CA. Lisa worked on a wonderful dinner while I sat and listened to Heather talk about life and serving in South Africa.

I first heard Heather, who founded “God’s Golden Acre” (and the new website), at Soularize in Minneapolis a few years ago. She spoke Thursday as she did then. Convinced Christians possess the resources to not only affect change but to bring about systemic revolution to lives racked by AIDS, Heather challenged us to think beyond food. Her dreams remain today.

After dinner and more about life in South Africa, Heather looked at me and in her South African accent asked candidly, â??Ã?úDo you see the vision, Todd?â??Ã?ù At Snow Hill we continue to move our thinking in ways we may be a blessing to the world by living out the gospel of Jesus. Future opportunities to partner with Heather and Godâ??Ã?ôs Golden Acre will push us further into our understanding of the mission of God. Yes, Heather, I see the vision. Thank you for sharing with me the dreams of God to bless a wounded people.

Stay tuned. We may have the opportunity to host Heather later this fall and in the summer of 2007 to assist the work at Godâ??Ã?ôs Golden Acre by hosting the Zulu Warriors.