Reflection on Boston and West

I was in Phoenix all of last week.  I was attending a retreat for young ministers.  The retreat was jam packed and I had little time to check email and did not have any TV access at all.  It was only through twitter that I even heard about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Watertown, the factory explosion in West, TX and the “man hunt.”

As information was flying across the internet I was able to catch a glimpse here and there.  As the days progressed and more and more information was being made available it was a difficult pill to swallow.  It seemed like it was an unrelenting barrage of tragic events.  Some of the people I was with in Phoenix stated that they were glad they were in Arizona during all of this, not because it was away from the action but because they knew they would be glued to their TVs while the events unfolded.

So what can we learn from these events?

First, don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear on the news.  In the first few hours of the bombing and the West explosion, there were so many conflicting reports.  News agencies try to get the best information they can but sometimes the first information that is reported is either false or extremely over exaggerated.

Second, the human condition is alive and well.  Humans unfortunately at their core have the ability to enact violence and hatred on one another.  Whether it is racial tensions, religious objections, ideological differences, humanity can be a viscous beast. When tragedy strikes we reflect on how this could have possibly happened. We begin to think of ways this could have been prevented and sometimes that leaves us feeling empty and agitated. I know this is a dismal view when it comes to humanity, but is something that we as the human race have been trying to fix for millennia. Wars, hatred, violence, genocide and human rights violations are in our past; you don’t have to look that far to find this in history.

However, not all hope is lost. (see below)

Finally, humanity is not as flawed or selfish as we once thought. Yes, I know this might be hard to completely understand given the death in Boston (and the previous point), but I read report after report of first responders and police officers running TOWARD the blast sites in a effort to help others. Even the runners of the marathon continued to run to the local hospital to donate blood for the victims AFTER they had already ran 26.2 miles. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of supplies were collected in the days after both Boston and West. People recognized that those who fell victim to the bombings and accident at the plant did not intend for this to happen. We as a species have a great emotional gift called empathy. Our hearts break when we hear of tragedy and mourn right along with people even if we ourselves are not effected.


As a minister I began to reflect on the message of the Gospel and how that message was being played out in these cities. A colleague and ECLA minster, Rev. David H., tweeted something that stood out to me. (See below)

For me, the message of the Gospel is more about love and grace and care than anything else. Christ reminds us that his time on this earth is one marked by serving and loving than by being served. Christ’s redemptive and radical message of wholeness and grace is one that should inspire others to do the same. Christ’s message is one of self-lessness; it is a message that makes us look outside of ourselves to facilitate a world where peace, love and justice reign.

Maybe Rev. David is right… if the message of the Gospel of love and wholeness can not be shown in times of uncertainty and instability then maybe we should close up shop. However, Christian’s from all walks of life clung to the notion of God being ever present in the lives of those effected and walking right beside them.


May we continue to pray for those effected by the tragedies in Boston and West. May God’s comfort and peace and grace and wholeness be poured out.

Come Spirit Come.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

When Starbucks Is Thought Provoking…

"my morning pick me up"

“my morning pick me up” via Instagram

Today I went out to run a couple of errands and more importantly to get a haircut. For the past few days I was starting to resemble Grizzly Adams or at least a distant cousin. After I dropped off my daughter at pre-school I made my way to get my hair cut at location near the church. I arrived at 9:30, but they did not open until 10am. Not a problem… why? Two stores down is a Starbucks.

I made my way into the establishment and purchased a Grande Tribute Blend and took a seat. I read emails and tweeted and like many High School girls I took a picture of my coffee and posted it to Instagram (see above). It was posted to Twitter and Facebook and I received a comment pretty quick on Facebook.

The comment was from a colleague in ministry in Indiana– Jay. He had an interesting experience at a Starbucks when he was getting his “morning pick me up.” He just recently started a blog and I thought his first post was quite thought provoking.

Here is a snippet of the post.

What I had just experienced is commonly called “Paying it Forward.”

It sounds like a really nice gesture, and it is. But as I was going through this experience, I was quickly thinking and processing my feelings. First was obvious, FREE COFFEE!!!! Then I thought, “How long has this been going on today?” I had seen a story on the local news about how one Starbucks in town had 50 some-odd people “paying it forward.” Then I thought, “I can’t be the guy who breaks this cycle and look like a total jerk. The social pressure to continue with this trend was very high. Then after I gave her my card, I thought, “Wait a minute, what if the person behind me just ordered a $10 coffee?!?!” I obviously did not have that kind of budget.

As I fell into the social pressure that was placed upon me by complete strangers, I pulled out of the parking lot, finally with my coffee, and I thought: ”WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT?!”

Jay took the experience of free coffee and the guilt associated with not “paying it forward” and views it in the lens of social justice and the Christian response.  This post is an excellent example of public theology and how Christians are called to be the light of Christ to all people at all times.  Good job Jay 🙂

I highly recommend that you read the entire blog post, click here to do so.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Review of “They Like Jesus, But Not The Church”

It’s no secret, the church is in a decline.  Attendance and support for the Church has been in on a steady downturn for many, many years. A whole host of reasons have been given on why this is.  Some blame MTV and iPhones, others blame parents for not taking their children, while others blame extra-curricular activities and sports.  Whatever the problem might be, rarely does anyone blame the church itself and the people that are attending it.

Dan Kimball is a minister and author.  He noticed that when he met people and got to know them that there are a great number of people who like Jesus, but not the Church.

The book discusses what the Church has done to foster these views, and how to address them. Kimball encourages Christians to leave the “Christian bubble” and listen to what non-Christians are saying.

Through a series of interview Kimball articulates six objections that people have with the church. At first glance a person is who in the church and has a connection with God because of it might be defense and even dismissive. Therein lies the problem. Kimball argues that Christian live in a “Christian bubble” and therefore think they know and understand those who do attend church or even believe in God.

Here are the six objections

Objection #1: The church is an “organized religion” with a political agenda;
Objection #2: The church is judgmental and negative
Objection #3: The church is male dominated and oppresses females
Objection #4: The church is homophobic
Objection #5: The church feels Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong
Objection #6: The church is full of “fundamentalists” who take the Bible too literally.

Kimball does a good job of showing both sides of the issues, expect for number four; on this particular issue he touches on the accepting side of the issue but still comes down (and pretty hard I might add) on the side of homosexuality is sin.

Selected quotes from the text:

“The more we focus on what we stand for instead of what we stand against, the more we will line up with Jesus and his teachings about the kingdom of God, and the more we will be seen as a people who will believe in truth and love.”

“We need to be open and honest about the difficult passages and odd stories in the Bible. It seems more people are doing their homework about the Bible outside the church than they are inside the church.”

“Our goal should not be to get people to ‘go to church.’ We should be inviting people to participate in the life of the church community and to participate in the activity of God, not merely inviting them to attend our worship services.”

Kimball’s book may not be the end all be all to Christian evangelism and prevalence  but I believe that this book is a good conversation starter. Kimball glosses over a few things here and there but for the most part drives home the point that the church has to do something to reach out to the emerging generations.

I think that this text would be good for the leaders of a church or even an evangelism committee. The point of reading this text is to start conversation, not to change minds… that takes time.

Link to Amazon

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Happy Reading!!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

God In Our Midst: Review of “The Guardian”

On February 14-17, Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas will host the first annual Texas Christian Film Festival.   You can learn more about the festival by going to TXCFF.com.  “The Guardian” is one of the films being shown.


“The Guardian” is a short film (15 minutes in length) written in 2010. The screenwriter was a sophomore at Pasadena High School when she won Houston’s Cross Wind Productions’ Teen Scriptwriter Contest.  The prize for her winning was to have her screenplay professionally produced. While most sophomore aged high school girls are worried about getting a date with the star quarterback, this screenwriter had her sights set on bigger things.

“The Guardian” is a wonderful film of finding God in our midst. The short film follows the life a young teenage girl who has lost her father and her way in life. Her home life is not the greatest and she is looking for someone. In a strange encounter, she befriends a homeless man who for some reason cares for her.  Through her interaction with this man (played by Houston’s own Wayne Dehart) she sees that God’s hand is active and alive.

While the film is short, the message is powerful.

3 out of 4 stars

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan


Update: We have received word that this film is a finalist at the Milan Film Festival in Milan, Italy. Congrats!

Finding God In Tragedy: A Review of “Faith Under Fire”

On February 14-17, Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas will host the first annual Texas Christian Film Festival.  From now through the festival I will be posting reviews of the films shown.  You can learn more about the festival by going to TXCFF.com.


June 22, 1980 was no normal Sunday. This particular Sunday in the quiet town of Daingerfield, Texas will never be forgotten. On this date, Al King, Jr. entered the First Baptist Church and opened fire, killing seven people including a seven year old girl.

This day and the days after it are the subject of a documentary entitled “Faith Under Fire.” (Trailer Below)

This film recounts the moments that changed so many people’s lives on a typical Sunday morning in Daingerfield.   Director Sondra Martin Hicks takes the viewer on a emotion filled retelling of the tragic events.

You can hear the pain, the anguish, the heartbreak, the “what ifs”, the “why them?” and the raw emotion still after 30 years.   Hicks weaves the story of the event and the the reflection of the event in a powerful way.  At one point, the viewer is able to hear the original church audio of the moment when King entered the church and opened fire.

“Faith Under Fire” examines how faith, community, love and justice co-exist.  For some this experience brought them closer to God, for others it was years before they could return to a relationship with God.  I began to question how I would react if my child or wife was killed.  Would I call for the death penalty?  Would I chose to forgive?  Would I hate the person who did this?  Could I ever learn to “deal with it”?

During this film you hear the reaction and thoughts of the family of Al King, Jr.  It was surprising to hear their version of that fateful day.  King was cold, mean and abusive and his wife and children were powerless under his reign.  In their minds, there was nothing that could have stopped him from committing the act of violence that he did.

In the end, this film brings up so many different emotions.  But through it all, the viewer  is left with a sense of how faith even under fire can hold up and restore people.

4 of out 4 stars.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan Dolive


And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part X (Inauguration Edition)

My latest blog on Houston Belief


I’ve said many times before that I believe that some people who were Christians and left the faith or those who reject Christianity altogether do so not because of any objection to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They object to the actions of Christians themselves.

This is just another example of how one stupid act can make all Christians look bad.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle, Washington has been known for his outlandish statements. Generally he takes to the social media and makes wild statements about what it means to be follower of Christ or how a certain group of people should act.

Normally I just roll my eyes and have a good discussion with other minister friends but this time, he went too far. Now I am not saying that his previous 538 wild statements were somehow deemed “ok” by me, but I think that this one deserves special attention.

Driscoll took to the mighty Twitter on Inauguration Day and tweeted this:

Really Mark? Really? Please inform the masses in what class at Western Seminary did you learn the complex inter-workings of knowing a person’s faith? Last time I checked you and the President were not sharing a brew on the White House lawn.  So then how are you capable to judge someone’s faith and intent?  How are you able to say that he does not know God, that he does not believe in the Bible?

BIG WORDS MR. DRISCOLL, BIG WORDS.

Just another reason why people aren’t Christians and yet again it has NOTHING to do with Jesus. If the image of Christianity is one of judgment and self-righteousness, well we might as well close the doors and go home. The idea that Christians have some sort of mystical power that allows them to peer into the soul and heart of others is a stretch.  This is not the image of Christianity that I want to be promoted.

Could it possibly be Mark that the President and you might have different understandings of what it means to live out the gospel? Is it possible for the two to co-exist?  I am assuming that in your mind they can not.  This my friend is saddening.  If all of Christianity believed in your version of the gospel, it would be pretty plain and monochromatic.  But Christianity is diverse, rich and multi-layered.  Sure we can disagree on theological concepts but if the fact remains that we are doing it as a response to the Gospel and the faith that we hold dear I do not see a problem.  Sure people can take it to the extreme like Westboro Baptist, but isn’t this tweet just as extreme?

Driscoll’s words fly in the face of what Jesus actually taught in the Bible that he claims he knows but the President does not.  The problem with his words not only are they extremely judgmental, but they make all faithful followers of Christ look bad.  Not every Christian believes that the President is not a Christian, not every Christian believes in the same understanding of God, Jesus, the Bible, the authority of the Church or even sin.  Just becasue you might not have voted for the President or even like his policy choices, the President (whether you want to admit it or not) is created in the same image of God that you and I are.  Belittling the President or anyone for that matter is down right wrong.

As Christians in the 21st century we are called to become more than just talking points, cliches and tweets.  Christianity at its core is based in relational loving and caring.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Lance Armstrong and the Deception of Greatness

Lance Armstrong has been called the greatest athlete of all time… until now.

Lance Armstrong won the most grueling endurance bicycle race a record seven times… until he was stripped of them.

Lance Armstrong was the Founder and head of Live Strong, a cancer support group where they tried ‘to inspire and empower’ cancer survivors and their families…. until he was forced to resign.

Lance Armstrong had it all… until he lost it all… he strove to be great but took another route to get there. In his search for greatness he found out that the path is hard to travel and not for everyone.

The troubling part of the Lance Armstrong doping story is not the fact that he used illegal medicines to enhance his performance. It is the fact that through it all he denied it over and over again. He sued people who wrote about it and sometimes won monetary settlements because of it. He was dead set on keeping his house of cards up while the world kept trying to look it.

He is like Pete Rose; Pete Rose was accused of betting on baseball during he career and was banned for the sport for life. He denied his involvement for years… until he broke his silence in his autobiography in 2004. The support that people had for him until that point quickly went away.

Lance Armstrong is now in an elite class that he did not intend to be in. He now is in the class of disgraced athletes who have been caught cheating to attain greatness. Lance Armstrong got rich on the back of a lie, he became famous on the back of lie. Now is famous for the wrong reasons and I believe the worst is yet to come.

Greatness is not built on anything but greatness itself. What is it about the human condition that so desperately wants to be on top, to be the best, the most popular, the most noticed? As a Christian, people would assume I would default to the standard Christian answer: Sin, but you might be surprised on this one, I’m not going there.

No, for me, the heart of the problem isnt sin itself, rather selfishness aka the human condition.

Theologians debate about many different things, christology, soteriology, and the human condition. The human condition is the one thing that plagues all of humanity and the gospel has to answer the problem. It is easy to just make a blanket statement that “sin” is the human condition. Not so fast my friend… you have to get a little more specific than that…

For me the human condition could me many different things but I believe the biggest one is selfishness. Selfishness pervades all of humanity from the smallest child to the oldest adult. As we grow and mature we learn how to handle and deal with our inner struggle with selfishness. I mentioned this one time to one my professors in seminary and she did not like that assertion In her mind it was hard for her to say that a newborn baby was selfish. While we do lift up children in our society on the whole they are kinda selfish. In other instances in the animal kingdom babies are left to fend for themselves, humans do not that. Another professor chimed in and stated he could see “where I was coming” from and stated that there is no biological or even logical need for my 2 year olds horde all of the toys and will not share them. Did someone teach them that? Maybe… but maybe not.

I liked what CS Lewis once wrote about selfishness

“At this very moment you and I are either committing [selfishness], or about to commit it, or repenting it.”

I am not saying that I have some sort of moral superiority to Armstrong because I didn’t cheat at cycling; but what I am saying is that I have the same being in me that caused him to strive to greatness by any means necessary. We are both made in the same image of God, fallible in the same way.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Christmas is the end of the beautiful journey of Advent. May we celebrate the coming a Christ once more & continue to model his loving spirit.

Merry Christmas! Christ is born!

We Were Made For This… Advent 2012

A row of tea candlesAdvent has led us to this moment; we are expectantly waiting the coming of the Christ Child. Our hearts and souls are filled with hope, peace, love and joy. Advent sets us on a trajectory toward the moment when we will encounter Christ a new. May we continue this journey not only during the season of Advent, but for the rest of our lives. The story of Christmas can not be contained into four, one hour long church services. The message is greater than that.

Throughout our lives we seek something greater than ourselves.  We seek something that gives us completeness and wholeness.  The message of Advent is that there is something worth waiting for; not just during December but for the rest of our lives.  Darkness will be overcome, light will shine bright, hope will be restored, joy will fill our hearts, love will abound for all and peace will finally reign on Earth.

The Advent message is one that calls to wait and watch for the coming of Christ in our midst, for the coming of the Savior born to a unwed teenage mother 2000+ years ago.  Wrapped up in those bans of cloth was a promise of life a new.

May we remember the message of Advent and the call of Christ to remember and reflect the love of Christ.

The power of God is felt and known more deeply when we wait for the coming of Christ and the hope we have in his coming.   Darkness to light, chaos to peace, exclusivity to inclusivity, an outcast to the God bearer– All because of the indwelling of God; the movement of God, the incarnation in a baby born to a unwed teenage mother with zero status socially.

We were made for this… we were made for something greater than ourselves

“My soul magnifies the Lord My spirit rejoices in God my savior.”- Luke 1:46

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


(“A Row Of Tea Candles” available under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tschiae/8213244223/)

6 Objections of the Church from “They Like Jesus But Not The Church”

I am currently reading “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” by Dan Kimball.  It is an interesting book on how the church is seen by those in the “emerging generations.”  The author does not hold back in calling out followers of Christ on both sides of the theological spectrum. In the book he list six objections people have to the church (they are listed below)

What do you think about these six?  Would you add or take any way?


Objection #1: The church is an “organized religion” with a political agenda;
Objection #2: The church is judgmental and negative
Objection #3: The church is male dominated and oppresses females
Objection #4: The church is homophobic
Objection #5: The church feels Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong
Objection #6: The church is full of “fundamentalists” who take the Bible too literally.