Sunday, December 25, 2005

the best son ever

Any case any of you were questioning whether I would keep my word, here, thanks to Karen Hansen, is me making my parents Christmas dreams come true.


It's like I'm already dead!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Top 5's for 2005

You know what would be clever, that absolutely nobody's doing this time of year?
It would be so ground breaking for us to put our Top 5's for 2005 in the comments section.

It could be for anything. Top 5 records, movies, books, tv shows, concerts, Saturday afternoons, sandwiches. Whatever. The only criteria is that you must have experienced them for the first time in 2005 (that does not mean they had to come out in 2005, so that could mean a movie from the 40's could be in your top 5). So please, wow us with your amazing top 5's for 2005.

Let the comments commence.

Finally, A War Worth Fighting


This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at 707's Sunday night services. It was an awesome night for me because there were a bunch of people baptized, which means a bunch of stories about how Jesus has changed their lives. Since it was the last time we'd be gathering as a congregation I decided to talk about Christmas, and more specifically Emmanuel. I would say that things went swimmingly. It had everything you'd want for a Christmas sermon, Christmas sweaters, Charlie Brown & Linus, even a lite up nativity scene. Towards the beginning I included a sort of joke about how War had been declared on Christmas, that of course failed, and has since got me thinking.

For those of you who are unaware and missed the last post on this topic that has since been removed from Midwest Mindset, let me bring you up to speed on some of the happenings. Apparently non-Christians get pretty offended when you say Merry Christmas to them (or so the Liberal Media would have you believe) so this year all sorts of places tried to start saying Happy holidays. Places like WalMart, Target, and even the White House opted for Happy holidays... or at least they did until they realized that Christians get even more offended when you don't say Merry Christmas. I mean take a look at this guy...



It doesn't just stop with protests and "Happy Holidays" entire news networks have decided to refocus their war coverage to a war the Christians don't have to feel dirty for participating in, the War on Christmas. Fox News has embedded many of it's top journalists with the troops, and one has even put out a book about it warning you about How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought, but one Liberal would disagree with Gibson's assessment, claiming that the Republican's have stolen both Christmas and Religion and unveiling a plan for the Democrats to take it back.

Apparently it's worse than I thought, and obviously not funny at all (note intended sarcasm). Monday I received an e-mail from someone who very humbly confronted me on the issue of the Religious war that is at hand. He shared with me an article that Chuck Colson had written that highlighted some of the stories in Gibson's book about the war. This is when I stopped laughing and started to think. Here's the story...
Apparenlty there was some girl in an elementary school in Texas that had to do a foot tracing and then inside the foot put something about themselves. This little girl put "Jesus Loves Me" inside the foot and hung it on the classroom wall. The teacher "yelled" at her, she started crying and took down the drawing. Of course the parents stood up and the kid got to do a new drawing, but (and here's the kicker) this time instead of a the bold "Jesus Loves Me" she drew a very understated cross in the very corner. Colson and Gibson say that it's a shame because this girl is taught that her religious beliefs are something to be ashamed of and go on from there.

Now I'm sure everyone who's ready to fight those darn dirty liberals would say that this is enough evidence for us to fight back, but I think more than anything it causes me to ask some questions.

Is it a big deal that this happened to this little girl? Probably.
Is this the only story like this? Probably not.
Should I care and get all hot and bothered? eeeeehhhhhh...
What should be our response?

Let me tell you what I've been thinking lately.
In October I was invited to a "bipartisan" Conservative Christian political fundraiser. I went, with everyone I worked with and regretted almost every minute of it. Two of the highlights of the evening were when, through video, they made a direct connection with the ACLU and Demons that Jesus cast out. Later in the night the director/president stood up and gave a "the constitution was founded on the Bible/ if you don't like it MOVE/ the ACLU is the enemy" kind of speech that about made me puke.

I think that the part of this whole war mentality that bothers me the most isn't that there are people opposed to the gospel, but that we draw up battle lines. If we start looking at people who don't share the same "beliefs" as us as the enemy, I'm pretty sure it makes it easier for us to hate those people, wish them harm, and not Love them. When churches start preaching sermons about the "liberal" media wanting to remove Christmas from America I think it calls the Body of Christ to fight instead of serve. It also helps Christains forget that those who don't know Christ are no more enemies of God than we were before Christ's work of salvation in our own lives.

When I think about what's being done to Christians in other countries, and then I hear Colson talk about this as persecution it depresses me. I don't know how we've forgotten that Jesus never expected to win friends and influence people with the Life he lived. He never thought that everyone would look at his life and say, "man, good for you." In fact he promised us that if we followed his commands that we would be hated just like he was hated.

What's shocking to me is that the people who hate on you for trying to follow Christ's examples are never those who are outside the church. If you say that we should love these people, care for them, not fight back, return evil with "actual" good, pray & love our enemies we are exiled by those from within the church.

I think this whole thing is stupid, which was the unspoken punchline. The entire country shuts down on a holiday named after Jesus. More people will go to church this weekend than any other weekend this year. Heck, even SNL will get preempted for Mass. There's no war on Christmas. The ACLU isn't the enemy. We're not fighting the liberal media, the democrats, the evolutionists or the spaghetti monster.

Maybe this Christmas it's time to remind people that our battle isn't against flesh and blood at all, but is in fact a spiritual battle that is ALWAYS won with LOVE.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Call to Conversion

Mark LeVine's article in the new Mother Jones is an interesting read. In it he criticizes the left for its casual approach to peace. He wonders what would have happened in Iraq if, instead of protests, peaceable people would have gone over to Iraq and placed their bodies in front of American (and Terrorist) violence.

He uses as his model for this kind of embodied peace the Christian Peacemaker Teams. These people "got in the way" (a particularly good wordplay considering John 14.6) of the violence, and have been doing it virtually alone--without the support of the peace movement in America or anywhere in the West. But LeVine argues it didn't have to be that way; rather,

"There was a moment after the invasion, before the insurgency took root, when the peace movement could have made a difference in Iraq. Instead of writing off Iraq as lost to Cheney and Rumsfeld, expending energy in tirades against American empire—when is the last time an anti-imperialist movement ever succeeded in the West?—or worse, actively supporting violent insurgency at the very moment other peace activists have been held hostage (as have some of the most senior members of the movement), the movement could have marshaled its resources and helped Iraqis build a non-violent movement of resistance against both occupation and the violence and hatred it breeds."

He says that the peace movement on the left has settled for a "cheap activism" and that this has been its failure to be a political force. I think what he fails to see though is that on the other side of the cheap activism coin is "costly grace." In other words, the call to discipleship is necessarily prior to the peace witness put forward by the CPTers. It is not something that anyone can just go over and do. What LeVine is arguing for--unwittingly, probably--is a call to conversion. The ethic of peace displayed by the CPT is not something that can be picked up and discarded when its effectiveness wears off. It is a way of life; it is its essence. They witness to peace because of who they are called to be, not because it suits their politics.

LeVine begins his article with this thought "IMAGINE IF SUNNI INSURGENTS decided to face down the greatest power on earth with a human chain of non-violent resistance. Or if Hamas threw human shields rather than human bombs at Israel." This is precisely unimaginable because it requires an ethic of peace that goes beyond a simple peace movement--it requires a peace witness, the witness of the peace of Christ specifically. To throw one's body in front of violence is an unintelligible and absurd act unless one believes one is following Christ in his death and resurrection. The peace witness he calls for does not happen without the specific politics of the "kingdom on earth as in heaven." I once had a vision that was quite similar to what LeVine imagines: I was sitting in Church on a Sunday morning listening to a sermon on Sodom and Gamorrah. This was during the violence happening in Haiti in February 2004. Suddenly, it was as if I saw the entire church body (some 500 people) get out of our seats, file out of church, board airplanes and fly to Haiti. Once there, we put our bodies in the way of the violence; in this way we witnessed toward the peace of Christ.

Of course, the CPTers are witnesses to our comfortability as well. They (you too Paco) are our constant reminders of the radical call of the gospel on all our lives. So, even if LeVine doesn't call for conversion, the acts of the CPT certainly do, and more prior than that, the life and death of Jesus call for metanoia.

On a completely different note, how on earth did Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs get left off of Pitchfork's Top 50 albums of 2005?!?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Vengeance is mine," saith Arnold


Last night, in the most secretive part of the nighttime, Stanley "Tookie" Williams was put to death in California. He was the cofounder of the Crips street gang and was convicted of murdering four people. Since then he had become a leading advocate against gang violence. He had written books advocating for kids to steer clear of gangs and had been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace prize. But that is all over now. He was put to death last night.

http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/World/2005/12/13/1351396.html (The pope does something right, finally).

I guess I am curious of thoughts in the midwest (or elsewhere) on the death penalty. Is this justice? Can Christians participate in the killing of criminals?

I guess I am surprised that more Christians didn't stand up to the state in this case, a man who was working out his redemption by trying to right some past wrongs. Is there no room for reform in our system? The man was an advocate against gang violence, and yet this seemed to be ignored--especially by "the Terminator." What I am not surprised at is that once again our governmental system showed its true colors. We do not live in a democracy when the opinion of one Arnold S. overrides a petition of over 50,000 signatures and many more voices. THAT does not surprise me. But the fact that the church was silent once again, especially in a case of killing a man who was working on redemption, does. Maybe I just need to lower my expectations.

Can Christians support the death penalty? Is this our sense of justice or is a just punishment something else for us? Where does redemption fit into this schema for the church? Does the church always hold out hope for a transformed life, and thus abstain from putting anyone to death? Just some food for thought.

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you executed me..."

Monday, December 12, 2005

look who's famous!

thought everyone should know that my brother is officially famous, at least a little more today than before. He's one of four featured "Rev.s" in this article in the Plain Dealer. Here's some of my brother's incredible quotes:

"Sikora, who oversees small group ministries at his church, said the biblical theme that struck him was the value of having a childlike faith. It is the youngest child, Lucy, who is quickest to believe in Narnia, to offer forgiveness to those who have committed offenses and to pursue the good even at personal cost.

"Lucy's the one who gets it from the beginning," he said. "She, with childlike eyes, can see all the things the others cannot."

"What are the weapons of the kingdom of God?" Sikora said. "It's not violence. It's Christ's love."

Still, lest anyone's expectations become too heavy, moviegoers should relax, Sikora said.

"I think, just as a movie, it was really great," he said. "It was fun to watch."

"My favorite part was when the witch was trying to seduce Edmund! That was both sexy and weird!!" Sikora, who had a creepy look in his eyes at this point, went on to say, "I think the movie would have been better had those horse women all been bare chested. I mean, Lewis himself was into kinky sex stuff, so it would just be faithful to the spirit of the book."

Jesus and Dental Surgery



In the same spirit as the ipod/cross - I give you these amazing Jesus drawings. These are drawings of Jesus reminding the dental assistants, carpet layers, body builders, clowns, drafstmen, and insurance agents of the world that he's "with us always."
Where's the Bowling alley attendant one?
(taken from creativeprocrastination.com)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dusty...solve this!

In hopes to lighten the mood and unify us as one in this blessed Christmas time, I have created a Midwest Mindset Frapper. This is a Google map hack that lets us see where all of us "mindsetters" live across the great US. So...go to frappr.com/midwestmindset
sign on and tell us where you're at!

Now that we resolved Homosexuality...

Rush Limbaugh "likes the Christian peace makers" being captured. Apparently, Christian peacemakers speak with a lisp, most assumedly homosexual as well. Thanks Rush, you always make me smile...I mean swear...

Follow this link and listen to the about 4-5 minute audio clip.

http://mediamatters.org/items/200511300010

As an added bonus, there is some Midwest Mindset represented on the clip, because of a caller from FORT WAYNE INDIANA...and boy does he hate peacemakers...

"These people are liberals, their warped...I'm telling you there is part of me that likes this."

Thanks Rush,

Friday, December 02, 2005

Russian Squirrel Pack "Kills Dog" !!!!

"A pine cone shortage may have led the squirrels to seek other food sources, although scientists are sceptical."



i know that given my location and lifestyle i ought to be using my short and precious internet time to post on deep issues here or on my blog, but instead I thought i would post this most amazing story. Not just the idea is amazing but all related aspects of the story and the actually telling of the story and the people interviewed. I wish i had covered this story. Plus did you realize people actually lived in this part of russia? Maritime territory? Scientists? Russian Squirrel Pack? Kills dog?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4489792.stm

The end of the story is definetly the best:

"If it really happened, things must be pretty bad in our forests," he added.

Komosmolskaya Pravda notes that in a previous incident this autumn chipmunks terrorised cats in a part of the territory.

A Lazo man who called himself only Mikhalich said there had been "no pine cones at all" in the local forests this year.

And something totally different but more important

In a completely inappropriate add on to this post(as is most of my life, vastly inappropirate contradictions) please pray for CPTers kidnapped that Jake mentioned below (although there are four not 1). I know these two pictured below. Tom Fox was present at my training, and James Loney was one of our trainers, and who its seems to me is a completely amazing man, active in both Iraq against the war and in Canada working for first nations peoples rights (you know, injuns).

My friend Justin who also works in iraq, but is currently in cyprus, tells me that situation is looking up and numerous arab political and activist groups (ecspcially those whom cpt has assisted in palestine) have issued public statements and on al jazeera asking for their release. Justin's blog has some good information about it and is a good read about iraq in general with some good links too.

http://www.justinalexander.net/

also of course www.cpt.org has information. Please pray. Like all organizations CPT has problems and weaknesses but these are people trying to live out the gospel.