Where are we at?

•October 26, 2009 • 1 Comment

Yeah, I’m blogging again. Theraphutic ,my wife says and maybe she is right. Our Teen Center is still happening and I think wonderfully so. That doesn’t mean it comes without struggles or pain. Beauty rarely does. I am still changing. My own Theology and practice keeps changing, I think because of experiencing God in a whole new way and many of my hard held beliefs has rubbed up against human stories and that has caused me to see thing through the lenses of love rather than doctrine. Not that the two cancels each other out but doctrine functions differently with love as an engine. You may believe the same thing, but it works out differently in relationships.

I am a strong opponent of drugs, but when a 14 old girl, living under horrible circumstances, smokes pot so she won’t cut herself, experiences with all kinds of sexual expressions to feel connected and loved, and you are one of the few who carries her story, your perspective change, your lenses change, your life changes…

I have deep held beliefs around sexuality, homo and hetro, but when a young, 14 year old gay teen, with deep pain and suffering, living in foster care, in and out of Juvi, teased and bullied, ends up at the Teen Center door step, my beliefs around sexuality does not become a dividing line or battle field. Love becomes again the lenses through which we see and engage him  with. We have said since the beginning that any teen who walks through our doors are created in the image of God and should be treated as such.

I am learning that there are stories behind peoples behavior. You can learn more from their stories than you can from their behavior. Compassion and love are easier to find as you listen and carry peoples stories than if you focus on behavior.

I still cry. Probably more than ever. I drive home from the Teen Center so broken at times over the lives of these teens. I struggle with the fact that so much of their “sin” or “misbehavior” are just ways to survive, to make life livable. Ways to not go insane. Smoke a little pot so you don’t take out all your anger at your parents on your siblings. Have some sexual experiences to feel alive in an otherwise emotionally dead home.

I struggle with that so much of the church is absent. Hidden behind thick walls and huge parking lots. But i do it too. I hide sometimes as well from injustice and change.

I’ll end with a story from today;

My son got in trouble today for punching a guy, pushing him and yelling at him. The guy’s mom stormed into the teen center and wanted to talk to me and my “punk ass” kid outside. Outside I found out that my son, after countless attempts to make the guy stop teasing and bullying his gay friend, had enough and did something about it. Not the wisest choice of action, but standing up against injustice. I told the mom I would address my sons choice of action and her son’s choice of words and attitude. I’m not sure she liked that. Her son was only “teasing”, my son was violent… On our way home we discussed more “non-violent” ways to stand up against injustice and protecting our friends… we’ll se what tomorrow brings…


Love your enemies…

•October 9, 2008 • 2 Comments

I got this from one of my Mennonite Buddies, Phil Kniss.

I am so challenged by my Mennonite friends to live in more of a peaceful way.

I am learning more about what it means to love my enemies from them and maybe one day I will not watch Ultimate Fighting anymore 🙂

Read through this press release and feel free to comment…

News release: Mennonite Scholars Participate in Iranian Conference on Muslim Doctrine

With much international attention to Iran’s policies and influence in the wider region of the Middle East, some observers are also taking note of religious dynamics. On September 6-7, three Mennonite scholars participated in a conference in Tehran, Iran, devoted to study of the “science of messianism,” also known in Shi’a Islam as “Mahdism Doctrine.” The Bright Future Institute, of Qom, Iran, organized and hosted the conference.

David W. Shenk, global consultant with Eastern Mennonite Missions, Salunga, Pa., Thomas N. Finger, independent scholar at Reba Place Church, Evanston, Il., and N. Gerald Shenk, professor of church and society at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va., were invited as guests and contributors to continue a series of exchanges between Mennonite leaders and the religious leadership of Iran that stretches back for most of a decade. Those contacts, facilitated largely by the Mennonite Central Committee (Akron, PA), have included studies by Iranian scholars in Canada, Mennonite scholars resident in Iran and several theological dialogues and conferences.

The September gathering in Tehran drew more than 100 international participants and an estimated 4000 Iranians. Leading Ayatollahs and Iranian President Ahmadinejad were key speakers at the conference.

The figure of the Mahdi in Shi’a Islam is identified as the Twelfth Imam in succession after the Prophet Muhammad. In Mahdist doctrine this Imam is understood as being hidden but not dead for the past eleven centuries. After a lengthy period of injustice and immorality, he is expected to return to establish justice and restore righteousness on earth. Although not all Muslims, especially in majority Sunni branches, share this identification and hope, the doctrine is gaining substantial attention in Iran today. Allusions to Christian teaching are frequent, and in some versions the return of Jesus Christ and the expected Mahdi figure are linked. A display in the conference lobby prominently looped a video proclaiming: “Do you know—Jesus Christ is coming soon? And the Mahdi comes right after that!”

David Shenk was invited to present on “Messianic Hope in Biblical Eschatology” to a plenary session, drawing on his lengthy acquaintance with Islam in Africa and around the world. He began with a reference to Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s recent letter to U.S. President Bush (May 8, 2006). This letter also named this hope for the second coming of the Messiah. It read: “Will we be given a role to play in the promised world where justice will become universal and Jesus Christ (PBUH) [peace be upon him, traditional expression of respect] will be present? Will they [the prophets] even accept us?”

David Shenk’s paper and another presented by Tom Finger carefully outlined the characteristics of human society that is marked by God’s rule, expressed in the life of the early followers of Jesus as non-violence, equality and economic sharing. David Shenk further stated that Jesus the Messiah is the fullness of the presence of the kingdom of God. Finger’s review of biblical eschatology followed the opening addresses of the conference.

“The papers focused on righteousness and justice, as well as the Jubilee proclamations and Jesus’ beatitudes,” Gerald Shenk observed. “These helped to further illuminate the nature of God’s reign as revealed in a Messiah who exhibited suffering love and forgiveness.”

Gerald Shenk’s paper discussed the rise of messianic movements in the American context during the past two centuries. He also traced the same beliefs into movements of dispensationalist theology, which account for support by many contemporary Christians for the nation of Israel both before and after 1948.

Professor Muhammad Legenhausen of the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom commented on the significance of having Christian views presented within a religious conference in Iran. He said that in his sixteen years of observation, previous conferences have involved primarily Muslims speaking to Muslims, even if some incorporated Sunni/Shi’a differences.

He told Gerald Shenk that, “to have a Christian voice present without being antagonistic is tremendous!” Dr. Legenhausen has encouraged the numerous contacts that Mennonite scholars and leaders have pursued with their counterparts in Iran.

David Shenk, in direct conversation with President Ahmadinejad after his opening address, handed the president a copy of his well-known text, A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue (co-authored by Badru Kateregga). He also inquired about ways that Christian leaders might help to facilitate the ongoing dialogue Ahmadinejad’s May 2006 letter to President Bush invited.

In a further exchange, Finger said, “In my brief meeting with President Ahmadinejad, I told him that many Christians in the U.S. are praying for him and for the peace and welfare of Iran. He thanked me.”

Gerald Shenk said, “We had many opportunities to worship with local Christian groups. The local Christians were encouraged to see Christians participating as distinguished foreign guests in the wider dialogue of the Mahdism conference.”

He continued, “In the context of heightened international tensions, the courtesy extended across historic religious divides to welcome the witness of Christian scholars in the framework of new thinking about Islamic hopes and expectations was remarkable.” The inclusion of Christian scholars elicited numerous further interviews for Tehran’s television and newspapers.

The Mennonite delegates were also hosted for a full day of interactions with scholars at the Khomeini Institute in Qom. The two-day conference in Tehran elicited 260 scholarly papers, of which three volumes were published in Farsi in time for distribution at the conclusion of proceedings on September 7.

–Gerald Shenk

Professor at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia

You can fins some Phil Kniss stuff here

This should be interesting…

•September 23, 2008 • 12 Comments

Continue reading ‘This should be interesting…’

I shouldn’t stay up so late and surf the net…

•September 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I found this…

I’ll comment later when I’m done crying…


•September 3, 2008 • 5 Comments

Well…here’s the link to the video that started the thing. Here’s the link to the follow up Letter from one Mr. Moore. It’s not fresh of the presses, but I’m slow when it comes to political dog fighting. Well…I didn’t think the video was very mean-spirited at all, clumsy and inappropriate…YES…and Mr. Moore’s letter… well…I found it interesting but somewhat self-centered and self-righteous but nothing to get all upset about. So where’s the dog-fighting? On the blogs! Oh my word…do a search and go to some of the websites. People got really angry about this. It is amazing to read. There are lots of Republicans who don’t like Democrats and Democrats not liking republicans. Sometimes it borders on hatred.

My wife and I have turned purple, I think. We are not as Conservative as we used to be. We have lots of friends who are die hard, you should see some of the e-mails I get. I find myself in a sort of no-mans-land. Having moved towards the Democratic side of things but still very pro-life. I have friends on both sides not understanding my political positions. If I am a Christian, I should be pro-life and vote Republican or If I am a Christian I should let the woman choose and vote Democrat. I apparently can’t have it both ways. I know one thing though, I want to become better at listening to people, give more space for people to disagree and try not to get sucked in to the dog fight myself, so…in leau of the video and open letter to God

God, would You lead us in these times of decision and election, would you help us hear clearly from You and from the people trying to be elected.

Would you keep all the presidential and vice presidential candidates safe and sound.

Would You protect them and their families.

Would You give them the courage to keep a civil and fear free debate.

Would You give them open hearts and listening ears.

Would You help them unite us.

Would You give them the strength to lead the way in respecting people with different opinions

Would You help them be passionate without rudeness

Would You most of all, have mercy upon this nation

In the Name of the Father,

and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit


Shaped By A Story Part I

•September 2, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This fall at the Teen Center we will read this story from Luke 19:1-10(the message) together once a week with the staff,

Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way – he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by. When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?” Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor – and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.” Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

We wll read this story and try to dwell in it. We will ask God to shape and form our work and our souls to this story.

I already love it. We so work with the little ones, so often stopped from seeing Jesus because “the crowd” in their way. I am excited about this practise and have done something similar with the Allelon crew. There we call it “Dwelling in the Word” and we use the text from Luke 10, which I found really interesting to read the two texts next to each other so to speak. They are in so many ways similar. I will try each Monday to write a little reflection from this practise, should be interesting…


Check this video out, and the song…


by U2

So you never knew love… until you crossed the line of grace
And you never felt wanted… ’til you’d someone slap your face
So you never felt alive… until you’d almost wasted away

You had to win, you couldn’t just pass
The smartest ass, at the top of the class
Your flying colors, your family tree
And all your lessons in history

Please… please… please…
Get up off your knees
Please… please… please…

(One, two, three, four)

So you never knew… how low you’d stoop to make that call
And you never knew… what was on the ground until they made you crawl
So you never knew… that the heaven you keep, you stole

Your catholic blues, your convent shoes
Your stick on tattoos now they’re making the news
Your holy war, your northern star
Your sermon on the mount from the boot of your car

Please… please… please…
Get up off your knees
Please-yeah… please… please…
Leave me out of this place

So love is hard and love is tough
But love is not what you’re thinking of

September, streets capsizing
Spilling over down the drains
Shards of glass, splinters like rain
But you could only feel your own pain

October, talk getting nowhere
November… December… remember
Are we just starting again?

Please… please… please…
Get up off your knee there
Please… please… please…

So love is big, is bigger than us
But love is not what you’re thinking of

It’s what lovers deal
It’s what lovers steal
You know I’ve found it hard to receive

Cause you my love I could never believe.

Reflections on last week

•August 31, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I guess it’s fair to say that something stirred deep in the hearts of me and my wife this week about the whole Lakeland Revival thing. As I read my posts from this week and the comments, I still wonder why this whole thing hit me like it did.

Language: I just do not speak “Charismaneze” anymore. A new out outpouring! A new move! The new thing! God is here, God is there, Let’s go see what God is doing over here, over there; it is at the core a deep theological misunderstanding and creates, I believe, sensational driven believers. It has become a passion in my life to help people understand and get a new imagination for that God is at work in the ordinary, every day is a new out pouring, every place is holy, God moves through all of us…

Focus: We have to find ways to “kill” the habit of creating personality cults. Oh, if we only knew how to build things for the sake of the world instead of for fame and visibility.

Honesty: Let’s just not take people’s word for super natural stuff. I think it would be helpful for the Charismatic tribes to put in place, maybe instead of a council of Apostles 🙂 , a “Let’s-really-make-sure-people’s-stories-check-out” council. I know the Catholic church has (a) group(s) that consists of doctors, scientists, and others that travels to investigate the miraculous. I think that is a great idea.

Don’t shoot our wounded: As we are reaping the fruit of our horrendously backward ideas of Christian leadership, let’s show mercy and kindness. Let’s not, like my wife so poetically called it “build pedestals for people and as they fall, walk away and leave them bleeding”. If we are going to suck, let’s not suck at showing mercy and kindness

At Last: I confess my own inconsistency; I said in a post that I am getting rid of additives, that I just want to be called Christian and then do three posts on why I am Post-Charismatic. Maybe one day that additive will be gone as well…