Dispatches from the Journey

6 01 2011

For those who do not know, I am relocating to Southern California from Columbus, Ohio.  Currently as I write, I am in a motel room in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  I have traveled through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas.  I will probably get to California today, but first I have to go through New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.

This is the fourth day of my journey.  I am going to California because I know longer have a job in Columbus, and need help from family to get back on my feet.  The funny thing is that I was just musing about living in California.  I was thinking that I could be closer to my aging parents who both live out there (the are divorced, she lives in the Bay are, and he lives in Southern California). I could also help my sister and her family raise my nephew Matthew (his was killed two years ago this past New Year’s Day).  Plus, I would get my three daughters: Rebecca, Sojourner, and Jordan for a longer stretch of time when they visit. Ironically, I will actually see them more by relocating to California.

I do feel that I am on a journey, both literally and figuratively.  This is a journey that I did not choose, but I guess chose me, for reasons I simply do know.


John Fountain’s Testimony: The God Who Embraced me

24 03 2007

This is a powerful example of personal testimony about God’s real presence in one man’s life: Listen to the audio here.

All Things Considered, November 28, 2005 · I believe in God. Not that cosmic, intangible spirit-in-the-sky that Mama told me as a little boy “always was and always will be.” But the God who embraced me when Daddy disappeared from our lives — from my life at age four — the night police led him away from our front door, down the stairs in handcuffs.

The God who warmed me when we could see our breath inside our freezing apartment, where the gas was disconnected in the dead of another wind-whipped Chicago winter, and there was no food, little hope and no hot water.

The God who held my hand when I witnessed boys in my ‘hood swallowed by the elements, by death and by hopelessness; who claimed me when I felt like “no-man’s son,” amid the absence of any man to wrap his arms around me and tell me, “everything’s going to be okay,” to speak proudly of me, to call me son.

I believe in God, God the Father, embodied in his Son Jesus Christ. The God who allowed me to feel His presence — whether by the warmth that filled my belly like hot chocolate on a cold afternoon, or that voice, whenever I found myself in the tempest of life’s storms, telling me (even when I was told I was “nothing”) that I was something, that I was His, and that even amid the desertion of the man who gave me his name and DNA and little else, I might find in Him sustenance.

I believe in God, the God who I have come to know as father, as Abba — Daddy.

I always envied boys I saw walking hand-in-hand with their fathers. I thirsted for the conversations fathers and sons have about the birds and the bees, or about nothing at all — simply feeling his breath, heartbeat, presence. As a boy, I used to sit on the front porch watching the cars roll by, imagining that one day one would park and the man getting out would be my daddy. But it never happened.

When I was 18, I could find no tears that Alabama winter’s evening in January 1979 as I stood finally — face to face — with my father lying cold in a casket, his eyes sealed, his heart no longer beating, his breath forever stilled. Killed in a car accident, he died drunk, leaving me hobbled by the sorrow of years of fatherlessness.

By then, it had been years since Mama had summoned the police to our apartment that night, fearing that Daddy might hurt her — hit her — again. Finally, his alcoholism consumed what good there was of him until it swallowed him whole.

It wasn’t until many years later, standing over my father’s grave for a long overdue conversation, that my tears flowed. I told him about the man I had become. I told him about how much I wished he had been in my life. And I realized fully that in his absence, I had found another. Or that He — God, the Father, God, my Father — had found me.


Bono At the NAACP Image Awards

11 03 2007

Rick Warren on Hannity & Colmes

31 01 2007

The video is of rather poor quality, but I like how Warren represents both himself and the faith.

Life is Hard

5 01 2007

Things have been crazy, my pay has been significantly decreased since November by InterVarsity (I have to raise my own support). Plus, we had a pipe burst the night before last, and water was everywhere. We had to shell out over $800 to get it fixed, and then the plumber told us that our drain pipe is broken and that is another $800 fix. On the very next day (yesterday) I was asked to resign from my new job selling Honda’s at a local dealership. I don’t know if we will have enough money to pay our mortgage and the van note this month and the months to come. And I don’t have a clue what to do. Life is hard and it is certainly not a board game. And we just got the board game for our three girls for Christmas. It is their favorite game. We just played it during our family time together a few days ago. They love this game, I hate it, because it only reminds me how difficult life is and all of the mistakes that I have made.

The funny thing is that I specifically heard God say that this year, 2007, would be a year of blessing for us as a family. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not some kind of prosperity, name-it-and-claim-it, preacher. But I do believe that God is going to bless us both spiritually and materially this year. Yet I also believe that life is going to continue to be difficult and hard. I guess it is supposed to be that way. I just saw “The Pursuit of Happyness” with my wife. The main protagonist of the movie, Chris Gardner said near the beginning of the movie that the framers of the Constitution were on to something when they put in the preamble of the Constitution something about the “pursuit of happiness”. Chris made the salient point that happiness is never a destination, but a pursuit, a striving towards some kind of ineffable goal.

I think that Chris is on to something here. I don’t think we ever arrive at a total place of bliss, at least not in this life. But I do believe that we can experience joy right now. Joy is not the absense of difficulty or pain. It is actually a choice to choose to be joyful inspite of how hard life is. This means that ultimately, you have to have faith in order to experience deep and utter joy.

So yes, life is hard. I am having a really tough time right now, but I still have faith, hope, love, and yes…joy.

Dealing with Genocide and Terrorism in the Bible

2 10 2006

What has been troubling me in the last few years since 911, is how groups like Al Qaeda use the Bible and the Quran to justify their violent acts. It is easy to say that this is just a Muslim problem, but that is not true, because there are numerous Old Testament scriptures that have God actually commanding the ethnic cleansing of entire groups of people, like the Canaanites for example. Because of this, I can understand why agnostics and atheists are more fearful of people like myself who are very passionate about their faith and believe the Bible to be completely true. This is a deep and fundamental issue for all people of faith in my opinion, and we have to address it head on. So in the near future, I will be doing a series of posts that will deal with the problem of religious violence and how to address it biblically and theologically.

Contra Benedict: Taking Issue With the Pope on Postmodernity

20 09 2006

I am not a scholar, merely a campus minister with a modicum of gumption. So I take on the Pope with some trepidation, who no doubt is no mean scholar and only the leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world. He knows several languages, I know only one. He can read the Bible in its original languages, well, at least I know the Greek and Hebrew alphabets. That said, with regard to his recent talk that has created such a flap, I boldy and baldly say that he is flat out wrong.

Contrary to what many people think, the Pope was really not trying to take on Islam (though I think he meant what he said about Islam, even if he was quoting Byzantine emperor from the latter part of the 14th century). No, what he was really taking on was postmodernity. The Pope essentially believes that Christian theology needs to be made on an equal footing with empirical sciences. Along with this, he is arguing that Greek thought needs to be exalted too, because he believes that it was no accident that the New Testament was written in Greek, and that the first non-Jewish believers were Greek. So he does not see a disjuncture between the rationalism of the Greek mind and Christian faith. He of course is against the gnosticism that comes from Greek thought, but nonetheless, he sees the rationalism and reason arising out of the Greek philosophy as being necessary for faith that is based on reason.

On its face, this sounds good, but the problem with this thinking is that it is necessarilly chauvinistic, narrow and downright untrue in my humblest opion. It is chauvinistic in the sense that he does not recognize God’s ability to speak to all cultures everywhere. He unwittingly exalts the Greeks, but what about the Jews who actually were the carriers of Holy Writ for centuries? He says nothing about Jewish thought and philosophy, but exalts Greek thought. And what about Native American culture, where many tribes believed in the Great Creator, respected the land, and lived without avarice and an overweening selfish ambition.

But no, the Pope wants us to exalt not only Platonic philosophy, but also Cartesian thought, that quite frankly is too self-focused, and even helps to undergird the worst of Greek docetism. In this sense, is not Christ not more clearly seen amongst the Cherokee than the European? This view would suggest that the European was not only the possessor of the Gospel, but the possessor of a superior civilization. Now I do not believe that all cultures are equal. There are some cultures that are truly brutal and dehumanizing. However, I would assert that European culture in the time of slavery and colonization was the most brutal, dehumanizing, barbaric, and uncivilized culture of the day. The Native Americans tribes were by no means perfect (hey, everybody needs Jesus), but they were not subjugating and destroying whole groups of people like the English, the Spanish, the French, et al.

So my main beef with Pope Benedict XVI is with is lack of historical context when he made his remarks. Surely he understands that Catholicism has just as much blood on its hands historically as the Muslims do? What, does he forget the Spanish Inquisition and the Counter Reformation? We do not even have to go that far back, how about the Clergy abuse scandal of the 1990s that is still rocking the Church? In light of all of this, I just think that his comments are off base.

Tomorrow, I will show how the Bible refutes his claims.