Sunday, January 28, 2007

Jacob Marshall Benbow is here!

What a wonderful day it was yesterday, as Diane delivered Jacob at 6:42 pm. He has brown hair, giving us a brunette, a blonde, and a red-head, and he is very laid back and sweet. In fact, he is so laid back that Diane is having trouble getting him to wake up and eat! Check the video below for Eliza and Psalter's first meeting with Jacob. Will post some photos on Flickr as soon as I figure out how to make a new grouping on the site.

Friday, January 26, 2007

First video for Jacob, who is arriving tomorrow

Still more technology from flickr

Here is a GUPY 2006 photo. Click it and this will link you to more pictures on flickr.

Glenwood Camp From Dayna 324

Check out the GUPY 2006 Slide Show!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A book that lives up to its name

As I was reading Practical Justice: Living Off-center in a Self-centered World by Kevin Blue, I had the thought, "Man, these chapters are so practical." Then I remembered that the book was living up to its title, and really appreciated the skill and intent of the author. In yet another super book from IV press, Blue (who is a colleague of mine in InterVarsity Urban Project circles) clearly, prophetically, and theologically exhorts Christians to see the Bible with eyes of justice, and to live out the teachings and call of Jesus. The thing that makes this book such a great resource is that Blue doesn't just talk theory, but rather gives simple and practical next steps, some of which are very challenging and some of which are accessible to anyone. For example, in his chapter "Giving a Man a Fish" which teaches on meeting immediate needs of the poor and homeless, Blue gives four pratcitcal steps. 1) Buy a homeless person food and sit and eat with them and offer to pray with them about their circumstances. 2) Volunteer at food pantry or serve at a homeless shelter. 3) Visit a convalescent home that houses residents who are economically struggling. 4) If you live in a less-urban area, identify the pockets of poverty that certainly exist and ask God how you might be used there.

Blue also made me squirm with conviction a couple of times. In particular his chapter "Should I Help?" adddressed some of the excuses that I often make in not helping people. Here are the paragraphs that messed with me.
"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime. Therefore don't give him a fish." This is the cultural mantra of much of the middle and upper class. While Jesus says directly to give to those who ask (Matthew 5:42), we are encouraged to interview, be suspicious of, and ultimately not give to beggars. Why? It seems that we think people are poor because they ought to be. Or is it a disease that can be caught if you associate too closely? We are taught that those who are poor don't want to work, are manipulative, don't care about themselves or others, are criminally dangerous, or are unmotivated to do better. Yet Jesus doesn't mention any of these conditions as a reason not to give to someone in need.

Now, Blue has more to say in this chapter, and he is balanced and grace-filled as he speaks truth. But he calls Christians to embrace God's heart of justice and show us ways that we can participate in that, and he writes to exhort, encourage, and challenge. I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

If I were really, really rich for just one day...

I would buy one of these in heartbeat.

And give lots of money to starving kids all over the world.

I would most likely be donating said money via previously coveted -I mean mentioned - iPhone, which has internet capability. So I would donate money while listening to songs (or watching a video) and fielding a phone call, but not while I was driving.

Monday, January 08, 2007

My kind of church

Yesterday (Sunday) we held a goodbye party for one of our co-labor-ers here in the neighborhood, and so we used the Eagle's Nest (fellowship hall) at our church for a simple meal of pizza and soda and generic cookies. The party opened with a DVD of kids and moms and grandmas from all over Glenwood saying their video-goodbyes, complete with a blooper reel at the end, and concluded with people in the room saying their goodbyes "live." A group of women from a recovery home (all of whom were baptized together just a few weeks ago) sang a beautiful song about hope in the midst of feeling in chains. And we prayed for our friend to have a safe and transformational time away.

In the room were single moms and singles without kids. Young married couples with babies, and older marrieds whose kids were in college. There were poor and moderately wealthy, black and white, struggling and established, many walking with Jesus and some teetering on the brink of falling away. I watched Eliza and Psalter playing with some of the kids who come to tutoring and felt the ease with which everyone in the room interacted and loved each other, not dwelling on racial and class lines. The community love there was genuine, not a forced attempt at reconciliation or a sense of the haves giving to the have nots. And I couldn't help but think, "Now this is church."

That is not to say that my worship experience earlier that day was invalid or not spiritual. I was fed from God's Word, I worshipped with Brothers and Sisters in Christ. But as I continue to read Scripture with the lens of reconciliation and transformative justice in place, I can't help but believe that church is should be more than homogeneous, more than based on worship preference, more than good sermons. It should be a place where the boundaries of our culture and prejudices are overcome by love and good deeds, by a commitment to relationship for the long hall, and by a commitment to gathering people of varying background, cultures, and financial means.

And that gathering of a diverse people should be a more concentrated gathering than what I typically experience. There certainly are people of several races and cultures who worship regularly at my church. There certainly are people of varying economic levels in service on Sunday. But they are scattered, not concentrated, and are therefore often overlooked and unheard, and their transformative presence is not felt by the Body at large.

I am both sad and thankful for the gift of our time yesterday. Thankful because it was sweet to my spirit and gave me a hopeful picture of a beautiful church. But sad because most of our friends from Glenwood who were at this party do not attend our church on Sundays, and I wonder how long it will be until yesterday's snapshot becomes a living reality.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Getting Reconciliation Blues

I can count on two fingers the number of books that I have read on one day – The Hobbit and, now, Reconciliation Blues by Edward Gilbreath. Granted, I read this book over the course of a day of traveling from St. Louis to NC, but the day wasn’t that long, and the book kept my attention.

I think that this is a new must-read for the Church, both for those of us who already are on board the racial reconciliation movement, and for those who are not sure or have not even begun to think about it. What I think this book does very well is that it presents the racial divide in the American Church in a way that is palatable and readable. In a review quote on the cover, Phillip Yancey calls Gilbreath a “gentle prophet”, and that description is right on. Because Gilbreath is a black man who has lived, worked, and worshipped in a largely white evangelical context, and who identifies himself with the evangelical label, he can speak with experiential authority of the struggles of minorities in the evangelical world. But rather than cast stones and bitterness, he presents his experiences in a truthful and gentle way.

Another strength of this book is its breadth. He does not get bogged down in statistics, nor does he spend a lot of time on one particular area, but instead he covers a broad swath of the evangelical world, from worship (an EXCELLENT chapter) to politics, and he also has some insightful chapters on black evangelical leaders like Martin Luther King, Tom Skinner (click to check out this talk from Tom at Urbana 70, but I would listen to it sitting down because it is amazing and jarring), and Jesse Jackson, and talks about why some/many in the evangelical world hesitate to identify Jackson, and even King, as evangelicals.

Gilbreath is a journalist and an excellent communicator, and I have found his book a terrific blend of facts and experience. While Divided By Faith is an profound and prophetic look into the state of race in the Church, readers can easily get bogged down in the numbers and sociological language, especially if they are just starting down the road of racial reconciliation. This book is easy on the eyes and challenges the heart and mind, but does not leave you feeling condemned or hopeless.

An excerpt from his chapter called The First Shall Be Last:
“Pursuing diversity is not just for the benefit of minority groups; we all stand to gain from it. But without a sustained, intentional effort to make changes, it’s easy for evangelical institutions to fall right back into their “white” default mode.
"I don’t mean to sound jaded or cynical. I understand that a big reason for this lack of a sustained intentional effort is the natural human tendency to gravitate toward that with which we’re most comfortable. But I’m also guessing that much of it has to with appeasing donors and constituencies. Money and economic control go to the systemic root of a lot of our race problems in the evangelical church – but I don’t want to dwell there. Suffice it to say, it’s risky for a nonprofit to upset its funding base. Whether it’s a matter of donors, subscribers or even chuch members, it’s a lot easier – and cheaper – to keep an existing patron than to find a new one. When Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:24), he was foreshadowing one of the fundamental complications of running a Christian organization today. Ask any pastor or ministry leader – it’s a crazy balancing act. Yet it speaks to the heart of where our priorities are, and who we are as the people of God.”