well, it is getting late on the west coast and the new year is about 5 hours away. i have to admit that things have been pretty crazy this year - i have been riding an emotional roller coaster, while dealing with some pretty crazy things in my life - but all is good and God is leading, i pray. as i look over the past year i can point to some pretty hectic stuff, and i can point to some pretty cool stuff - but one thing is for certain, processing life has been one crazy dance. here are some things to ponder at the year comes to an end:
what part of up is down?
what part of down is up?
can people actually meet in the middle when they come from two different sides?
if christians are "changed" how come they act like everyone else?
if human life has value, how can we justify taking the life of another?
who determines the rule of engagement?
who engages in the rules of determination?
if we have never been to the other side of the sun, how do we know there are no planets there?
life is filled with questions and most are never answered - well, so i find :D
well, it is getting late on the west coast and the new year is about 5 hours away. i have to admit that things have been pretty crazy this year - i have been riding an emotional roller coaster, while dealing with some pretty crazy things in my life - but all is good and God is leading, i pray. as i look over the past year i can point to some pretty hectic stuff, and i can point to some pretty cool stuff - but one thing is for certain, processing life has been one crazy dance. here are some things to ponder at the year comes to an end:
the idea that the american church "sells" a gospel is not that hard to grasp, because it spends millions on trying to make the gospel message popular. well, actually they spend billions, not millions. in my opinion, the american church spends more on trying to get people to "swallow" a palatable gospel message, that it has lost connect with what the gospel message is all about. it has spent billions on trying to smooth over the rough edges of the message that in reality the message has become so "milk toast" it is of no value to anyone. let me share with you how i see it:
"God Loves You"
the american church has called this to be the center of all it is - it is the driving mantra of the church and the core to all the american church holds dear. but what surprised me the most is the reality that jesus speaks more of how much we are to love God then on how much God loves us [in fact, the only time jesus speaks of "God loving us" is when he speaks of "God loves the world"]. At some level it is a given that God loves us [God loves the world], but it is not a given that we love God [but it should be]. you see, our love of God is so very important to how we see our faith and how we act out our faith. if we look at the words of matthew, mark and luke we see that the center of our love for God moves us to loving others. in fact jesus tells us that if we do not love God we can not love others [jesus shares the truth that if we say we love our brother, but we do not love God, we lie]. so our love for God is center to how we think and act in our walk with others.
salvation as an event:
i am not sure i am on the side of the "accept jesus, say a prayer and all is right and you are saved." to me, the process seems a little deeper, a little more "expensive" then the cheap grace of a quick prayer and a fast dip in water. paul talks about "working out our salvation" [phillippians 2:12] and the word paul uses for salvation is "soteria" and implies a present and future reality. when paul is speaking about "working out salvation" he is implying that salvation is a process and not an event. in 1 corinthians 1:18 paul seems to be speaking of a process, or "perishing" and "are being saved" - the deeper i look into the idea of salvation the more i am coming to believe it is a process and not an "event."
putting yourself first:
too many churches seem to want to make faith a "me thing." a thing where you are better then others, where you have more value then others and where "prosperity" drives our connection with God. they seem to be saying that if you are not "the boss" or "the richest" or the "overseer" you are not truly right with God - but jesus says just the opposite. You see, jesus calls us to be slaves [doulos] to others - not "servant leaders" but slaves, "bond slaves" - not a popular idea, but one that seems to be echoed many times by jesus. we need to remember it is never what you get, but what you give, that matters the most.
i am a realist and i know it is hard to "sell" the unpopular aspects of a gospel where we less then others, called to love God and where we have to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. but then again, what are we "selling?"
voiced by john o'keefe on 30.12.07
with all the stuff flying around about the episcopal church, i just wanted to add my two cents - well, half a cent - i am not that important. i need to start out saying that i know katherine jefferts schori from when she was the bishop in las vegas. i was talking with the episcopal church about planting and worked with them - katherine was great, but there were a whole lot of very old closed minded priests in the episcopal communion [some very cool ones also] - so it just did not click for me [i am sure it did not click for them either, but this is my story and i get to write the history :) ]. but i digress, let me get back to my "pondering."
with the fresno diocese leaving the communion of the american church i got to thinking what was happening in the episcopal church - now, i live in sacramento, ca so i figured i would look into the church here and see what was happening - all i have to say is, if this area is a "norm" for the church they are in pretty bad shape - in the "northern california diocese" there are over 16,000 "baptized believers" in the church, and of that just under 6,000 are in church on any give sunday - now, that may not seem like a big deal, but i tell you i was shocked - think about that, 62.5% of the "members" of the church do not attend - and that is the norm for the episcopal church, and many other churches as well. why? what would cause 62.5% of the people who are seen as "members" not show up on sunday, or any day for that matter?
liberal? i don't think so. conservative? not that either. irrelevant? now i think we are getting somewhere - yes, i believe the episcopal church, like the umc, the lutherns and many other denominations, have become more comic relief and less communion of saints. we find small, silly and seemingly just stupid things to fight about - so we are fair game for the late night comics and conversations at the bar. when a church that serves an area with just under 3 million people and can "boast" [at best] 6,000 people, on a good sunday, there needs to be a honest and healthy look into what is and is not being said in the church. but my ponder falls to this, the church will not look deep into what is happening, so i wonder if anything will change?
just something i am pondering
i have been thinking about a few things as of late; that is not to say that i normally do not think of things - well, kind of, i guess. but i digress..... sometimes, for me, things are never as "clear" as they may seem for others - i tend to have more questions then most - i tend to look at things with a "different view." here are a few things i am processing:
my first ponder: with the shootings at the different churches in colorado i am not sure which makes me more uncomfortable - the shooter going into the church and shooting, or that the church had an armed security guard. i mean, the shooter was killed by an "armed church security officer" - i am not sure i like the idea that a church would have armed security. i am not sure where i stand with this, but i am pretty sure i am not for armed security in a church.
my second ponder: what makes an emerging church? is it "method or message?" i mean, if a church is just cool and flashy, but has the same old message does that make it "emerging?" does the church need a "new message" to truly be "emerging? you see, i am not sure where i sit with this - now if you asked me last week i would have given you an answer, but this is a different week and in that my theology has shifted - it could shift back, but it is hard to tell - give me a week. think of it this way, if only the method changes can we truly say we are a "different church?" if we simply put the message in a different cover, can we truly claim we are a "different church?"
my third ponder: what value is the church? now, i am not asking this to piss people off, but to be honest with myself. what value is the church? what do we add to our communities? what do we add to culture? what do we add to the social mix? if all we do is collect funds to keep a building to gather in one hour a week, do we add to the community mix? if programs, ministries and meetings are so important we need to ask what value they bring to the mix.
my fifth ponder: how are we viewed by the world around us? are we seen as closed, old and losing ground? are we seen as a faith that has little to add to the world? are we simply viewed for what we are against?
now i am certain that these are not new ponders - and i am certain that i will be going back and forth over these for the rest of my life - but that does not mean i do not desire to know what this is all about. life is filled with questions, and so should our faith - i am not seeking answers, all i am seeking is other questions.
voiced by john o'keefe on 9.12.07
as many know, i am not a big fan of televangelists or pastors of "megachurches" who make more money then the national income of many small countries - mainly because i believe they use and abuse people, while actually bringing a bad name to a ministry they claim centers on christ - so, i have no great love for such abuse - but i found something i have even "less love" for - and that is "power hungry senator's from iowa" I have to say i am not at all impressed with sen. chuck grassley of iowa - while i may not have a deep love for the one group, i find the actions of the senator to be scary beyond the actions of any minister, no matter how greedy; let me explain.
the senator, in the throws of his power abuse, is asking people like benny hinn, creflo dollar, the white's, meyer and the copland's to give his committee all financial records of the ministry - now, i am not sure what committee he is speaking for [seeing he is on several] but i am assuming it is not the "agriculture committee" [one he is on] - but even when we look at the committees he is on [per his website] none of them have "over site" of the church - that could be because of that silly little piece of paper we call "the constitution" - he must not have read that one yet. but have no fear, he can get a copy from any fifth grade text book on government [yes, i am assuming he is smarter then a fifth grader, and i hope he does not prove me wrong]
i am always amazed at politicians who strive hard to keep the church out of politics, yet see the need for politics to jump into the churches business. while i would disagree with the theology and the ideas given by creflo dollar [and the others] i have to give the man his props - he seems to be standing his ground and saying "no."
it seems that creflo's lawyers have answered the "request"[actually a demand] of the iowa senator with a "Dollar's lawyer asked that the investigation either be referred to the IRS, which would give greater privacy to the churches, or that the Senate committee get a subpoena for the documents." - but the senator, in his complete understanding of the constitution replied with "I can't tell (the IRS) what to do. I can't refer anything to them unless I know something is wrong. And I won't know if anythings wrong until we get the information." what? he has no idea something is wrong, yet he is demanding books and information to "prove something might be wrong" - that seems to fly in the face of "self incrimination" - another one of those silly little constitutional things they must not have gotten his head wrapped around. in case the senator does not know, asking people to give you their books for you to look over to see if there is something "wrong" is called a "witch hunt" - bad form senator.
well, i am not a big fan of over paid preachers and huge expense accounts - i believe the way that is solved is by people not giving to them, and not iowa senator's with too much time on his hands demanding books to search for what may or may not be there -
i have been lazy in my duties as a blogger - not because i do not like blogging, i do, but because finding the time between life and life gets hard. so, here is a "catch-up" of things i have been planing on blogging about:
two books i wanted to bring to your attention:
living under jacob's ladder by grey mariposa [self published on lulu for $6.25 download and 15.95 paperback]. this is a must read for all who like poetry. "grey" has been publishing work on ginkworld and the ooze for awhile and has always been shown to be a writer who can capture the emotion of the moment - this is a must add to your library.
out of the ooze, unlikely love letters to the church from beyond the pew: this book is great mix of voices and one designed to open the eyes of the church - if that is possible. it is a collection of some articles from the ooze [i have on in the books also], ones that truly expressed a deep love and a desire for change in the church. over the next few weeks we will be developing a blog for the contributors to the book and open a great deal of conversation.
I already mentioned the community blog that will be developed from the book "out of the ooze" so it seems silly to mention it again [even though i just mentioned it again] - but did i mention the new "ministry position" section on ginkworld? well, let me plug that:
if you are looking for a person for an emerging church, or you are looking for a position in the emerging church, just head over to the new ministry position section of ginkworld and either add your position of check to see what is there.
well, i think that's all i have to say right now :) i will be posting again this week and diving into some ideas that have been floating around in the back of my mind - so they will either be scary or silly - no telling.
voiced by john o'keefe on 10.11.07
trust is a very interesting thing. in the modern world you "earn trust" or you "lose trust." trust is not "a given" as the basis of many modern relationships. it seems many people have a natural order to "distrust" others. no matter what is shared, no matter what is "proven" some people just do not trust others - and in many cases they do so without any reasons - as one person once told me, "it is just my nature not to trust."
i am uncomfortable with that idea of life - with the idea that seems to express doubt in the hearts and actions of others. i just do not fit well in that world, a world where doubt and skepticism rule the ideas and words of others. i am just very uncomfortable around people who do not trust others. you see, i think people who do not trust others simply do not trust themselves.
trust is the center of every relationship we have with others. every time we express doubt we lose part of ourselves, we lose a part that we can not get back. for those of us who find trust to be the most important part of human relationships missing parts of who we are simply means we never truly know the person we seem to be.
voiced by john o'keefe on 26.10.07
i am not a "political" person; i do not like politics. i mean politics does not impress me and those who run the country do not impress me - but i can tell you, they sure do strive to impress themselves. they see themselves as something important, but the reality is many people see them as "bags of hot air" who have lost connection with the people they are suppose to serve. they forget that we are their bosses and that we determine what is and is not important - and they just seem to miss how it all comes together. they are all out of touch with the people, and they have no idea what to do next it is unfortunate, but the fires in socal are the perfect example.
i have been watching the press over the fire and i have to say, with the exception of our "govenator" i have not been impressed with those who are holding elected office - the left is blaming the right, the right is blaming the left; every one is blaming everyone else - they blame the war, the president, other officials, the environment, the green house effect and much more. they blame and point, and point and blame and never once do they say, "let us not point fingers, let us lift hands" - they are quick to use their fingers to point at others, but they forget that those fingers are connected to hands that can be used to help - so, here is what i would like to see happen -
to all politicians in california [and those outside california who have added their hollow voice to the rampage] - i would like to see you grab an axe and head to the foothills and help put out fires. i would like to see you in a jump suit working at a feeding station and forgo the photo op that would come from it. i would like to see you collecting garbage at the housing centers and the emergency site. i would like to see you reading stories to the children and helping people set-up for a nights sleep.
i would like to see politicians doing something that actually helps, and stop with the lip service. it is one thing to complain about how bad things are, but it is another thing to get dirty actually helping solve the problem. so, when i see politicians sharing their empty words on the tube about how everyone else is to blame all i can think is how hollow they must be inside, because their words are falling upon deaf ears -
voiced by john o'keefe on 24.10.07
we know it took longer then we figure, but we did it - given coding issues, design issues and just dealing with the time to do it, along with living our lives and keeping our families happy - but the ministry placement is up and running - in beta. while we have received a great number of comments from people saying "about time" we have also received emails from people saying "why?" well, to answer that we need to share our heart -
we did this, not to make a buck, because we felt there was a deep need to place emerging thinkers in emerging communities where they feel welcomed. there is nothing more destructive to a person then to be placed in a community of faith where their thinking is not the same as the community. the idea is that the communities placing an ad would be emerging, at some level; and the people looking at the ads would also be emerging at some level. this way there is at some core connection a union between people and community.
there is a fee, but trust me it is not a big fee and it is not designed to cause the ministry to suffer - it is designed so that we can help pay some of the expense connected with ginkworld - hosting fees, bandwidth fees and the like. our only concern is that we keep moving forward in this ministry - so, what is the fee? $54.00 to list the ministry opening for three months, and there is no fee for people to look and search the database for different positions.
take a look, check it out and let us know what you think - we truly desire your input.
voiced by john o'keefe on 29.9.07
i had lunch with a good friend yesterday and we were talking about church- and what needs to be done in and about churches today. here are some of the things i think the church needs to confess, and seek forgiveness, as they strive to walk closer to where God desires them to be.
i believe that the american church has lost its true call: i see the church concerned with numbers; members, money and ministry - they center of the idea that the bigger they are, the more money they have and the more ministry they offer means they are "more blessed" by God - they
voiced by john o'keefe on 26.9.07
a comment made on my "grace driven" post got me thinking - and opened my eyes to something i had felt, but could not put words too:
"I am a professional ministry person and I have noticed that across the board we (as professional ministry people) don't like each other very much. For that matter we don't trust each other very much. Its probably because as leaders we don't take grace seriously. Its too unpredictable. God can make lemons into lemonade and we want retribution."
man, did that open my eyes to so much - they brought up a very good point - and one BIG reason i am not excited about the current state of the church - pastors do not like each other.
i have seen it, felt it and, to be honest, must say that i have even been there - why? not sure, trust is one big reason - and that one runs deep in many directions. pastors do not trust each other because we think other pastors are going to "take" our people -
let's be honest with that one. i have heard other pastors say that they are unwilling to do joint services with certain pastors because they feel that the other pastor is a better speaker. they believe if their people hear the other pastor they will "go to his church" - you know you have not allowed certain local people speak in your church because they are better speakers. this is a "trust issue" but it also is a "self centered" issue - we want to be the center of our peoples universe. we say, "look at the cross, not me" but we act "look at me."
i am in process with this one, because i have felt it and i know i have acted this way - i am trying to find the words to express this lack of trust - to identify it, name it and then act upon solving it. i think this is one of the biggest reason the church is declining in growth - people feel our lack of trust and some how know it is wrong - so they stay away.
as pastors we need to get over this - because if not we will be adding our voices [even the silent ones] to the echos of past voices striving to kill the church
voiced by john o'keefe on 17.9.07
not too long ago i started to run; now i am not a big running fan so i just run about a mile and a half - which is actually just jog. i use to ride the bike at the gym, but as of late money is tight so the gym is out - and so i run.
now, the cool thing is i get too spend time running and just thinking to myself - running and thinking - i like that - it is my "zen time" - where i can envision changes i need to make and opportunities i can see coming my way - i like the run time, and so i run.
today, i noticed something very interesting - as i was running i noticed that if i keep my eye on where i am going, i get winded faster - but, if i keep my eyes down, looking at the journey, with the occasional look up, i spend more time thinking about other things and less time getting winded - that impressed me enough to be thinking [during my looking down time] about my faith walk [run] and what'[s happening to me in the process - because i am in the process of completely losing my religion - which is cool, because in that i believe i am finding God.
you see, if we spend our time looking at where we want to be we miss out on so many things - like the wonder of the run - the ability to just ponder the possibilities and notice that the cracks in the sidewalk will not trip you up - but, if we are looking up at the destination we miss the flowers planted along the way, we miss the dips in the road that cause us to trip, we lose track of the rhythm of the run and we miss the opportunity to just be with ourselves and God - because we are thinking about the destination, we miss the wonders of the trip.
i like the journey, the destination is not that impressive to me - it is not that i "get to go to heaven" that desires my heart to know God - it is learning all that God wants from me that counts - because if i only think in terms of "going to heaven" i miss out on what it means to live a life dedicated to christ, dedicated to his teachings, dedicated to achieving the light that flowed from christ to others, dedicated to knowing how grace, love and forgiveness are the centers of all we do and all we can offer the world - because in the reality of the moment we know we can not offer anything to anyone - we do not offer heaven, we do not offer salvation, we do not offer life - we can only offer ourselves and let God work in the lives of others - and so i run.
voiced by john o'keefe on 5.9.07
i have ben thinking recently about a great many things - but the one that has been driving my thoughts of late is this idea of grace - what is it, how is it to effect us and what is it that makes it such a important part of our lives - and, in my personal view, is the center of all we are as followers of christ - as disciples of the master we should be "grace driven."
grace is one of the hardest things in our faith to grasp - because of the required elements that make up grace - for grace to be grace, it must be carried with love, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding and have at its core ideas centered on helping others, going beyond self, giving of your total reality and mostly a desire to be willing to die for another - even someone you do not know. it is in those elements we truly find the grace christ had for us and it is truly the grace we should have with each other.
grace requires that we accept each other for who we are, and not what we think others should be. grace requires that we forive all, not just those we think are "worthy" of forgiveness. grace requires that we love everyone with "corinthian" love, and not just those we like. grace requires that we seek to understand those we do not understand, not to change them but to truly understand them. grace requires of us a true change of heart, a true change in life where we place the needs and wants of others above the needs and wants of ourselves.
i have written before that living in grace is harder then living via the law - because when we live via the law we have "rules and regulations" we can follow to help us know what and what not to do - but when we live by grace, we live by what we believe the holy spirit is telling us - we believe we are acting in the way God desires us to act - when we live by grace, we live by a standard set by christ, and carried over time to the hearts of millions.
you see, when we are "in the law" we can only do as the law tells us - if the law says "being nude is a sin" then we naturally carry that to the extreme and even disallow bathing "in the nude" - but with grace, we see the human body as a wondrous gift from God - and see the form as something wonderful, filled with grace. law blinds us and causes us to create other laws - which cause other laws - and we become a culture based on laws, where only the judges and lawyers have any idea what we are doing - or how to do anything.
the idea is not to be driven by the stick rules of law, but by the fluid nature of grace - to learn to move with the nature of our hearts and connect our reality with the reality of God. it is when we do that, when we strive to live by grace and find no excuses for not doing so we connected deeper to the God who created us, and the humanity that God created.
voiced by john o'keefe on 3.9.07
i am amazed at our critics. most misunderstand us so much that they place people like benny hinn, rick waren, and others into the camp of "emerging" - that's cool, but many do they miss the boat in how we think and what we believe - but recently it has been more of a "name calling" game on the part of our critics - we have been called "girly-men" or "sissies" - here is an example "headline" of a blog that is anti-emerging:
Emerging Church: bad as Gutless Grace Girliemen? Worse than Wrongheaded Wrightophiles?[wright, by the way, will be at soularize this year - you need to check it out] Sillier than Leaky Canoneers? — OR —Emerging/Emergent Errors; Puerile Pomo Prattle; Abominable Antinomian Aberrations; Novel New-Perspective Nonsense; Crazy Charismaniac Charlatanism; Sanctimonious Sacramentalist Superstitions; Cynical, Condescending Catholicity; Private Prophetic Phantasms; and Seeker-Sensitive Silliness: What Do They All Have in Common?
let me see if i can address one of their concerns - the one that appeals to me the most
"gutless grace girlieman"
as i stand with my hand in the air, i proudly proclaim that i am a "gutless grace girlieman." you see grace as something very important to my faith walk - i believe i should err on the side of grace, and never on the said of "law" - keeping in mind that the law is over and we are to live in grace - but those who are "anti-emerging" seem to also to be "anti-grace" - heck, they seem to be "anti-everything" even when they claim to be open and loving.
i am a guy comfortable enough in my "maleness" [which is a role defined by culture and not scripture] to believe that grace is the most important part of our faith - because when we live in grace we offer forgiveness, we can show love, we can accept people where they are and have honest, open and loving conversations with them - but when we live in "the law" we demand "justice" so forgiveness is out of the question - we only love those we like and we are unwilling to accept others who differ from us - so, while many may see me as a "girlieman," i see myself as a loving, caring, open and welcoming person of faith who walks in the light of christ - besides, at 6' 2" and 225 lbs with a chest bigger then my waist - there are not many willing to come to my face and call me a "girlieman" - interesting
now, as one "girlieman" to another - of all genders - let me say to stand proud in living by grace - know that as a follower of christ we are to live, breath, bleed and spread grace to all the corners of the earth - no matter the cost. what they seem to think is "funny" and insulting - i find truthful and supportive - i live in grace, and i would pray you do also.
voiced by john o'keefe on 2.9.07
some time at the end of may, beginning of june, i received a email from a bud telling me they heard of a church in the sacramento area that was looking for a pastor - he sent me a email address, but no web link [cornerstone christian church in el dorado hills does not have a website - recently i did find out it was formally "el dorado hills baptist church - in el dorado hills; which i had no idea about at the time i sent my resume] - and a short note saying, "they want to go in a new direction" - well, i am not keen on that [as i will explain later] but he was a friend so i send an email anyway saying:
"i received a email from a friend telling me that you were looking for a pastor, if that is the case i would be interested in sending a resume" -
that was it, the gist of the email - short and sweet; you see, i try not to send a resume just to send a resume - it is kind of a "test." you see, i have found that most churches are not caring enough to send a reply to an email asking for information, and that is the kind of church i have no desire to team with in ministry. i desire to open a dialog and ask questions about the church long before i send a resume. let me be honest, i can be a rather "radical" individual and as a pastor i truly expect those in "overseer" roles to actually do something and be an example of faith ["boards" are stiff and are only useful if they are walked on, or to build boxes with - and in either case i am not comfortable] - so i know i can be a pain in the ass, but i believe to walk in the light of christ requires us to stop talking and start doing, but i digress.
i send that email on june 5th, and as my test proves more times then not i never received a reply back; i figured they just "blew me off" [as most churches will do] - and that is not a big deal, because the more i thought about it the idea of "wanting to go in a new direction" should have caused me to not even think of sending an email - because in "church speak" "wanting to go in a new direction" always means "we got pissed at our old pastor and fired his boney little ass because he would not listen to a thing we told him to do - so, we are looking for a pastor with no balls to come in and do as we demand; keeping in mind that if what we tell him to do does not work we will still blame him for the failure and kick his boney little ass out on the streets with his family - like we did the last pastor." i should have known, but i sent anyway - why? i have no idea.
the "red flag"
the more i think about it, the more i realize the "want to go in a new direction" and the no website thing are two very large "red flags." you see in my world if the church does not have a website it is not in the 21st century - and that speaks volumes to "wanting to go in a new direction." now, at the time i had no idea the church was with the southern baptist church [another red flag], but that seems to be the the "norm" for southern baptist churches in the sacramento area, of all the southern baptist churches in the association less then 30% have a website, and just over 60% have an email address. maybe i was caught at a weak moment and thought, "well a friend said it was ok" - i have no idea, all i know is that it all came back this morning.
i got a reply:
this morning i opened my email and received a email from the "cornerstone christian church" - almost 3 months later - saying this:
"Thank you for your interest in the Lead Pastor position at Cornerstone Christian Church. We received over 130 applicants and, after much deliberation and prayer, we have narrowed our search to five individuals. We regret to inform you that at this time, we are no longer considering your application for this position.
May God guide you as you continue to seek his will and direction."
the lie - and the reaction:
what caused me some "concern" was that i never sent them an application - so what did they give "much deliberation and prayer" over? of the 130, mine was not in the mix - so, what were they praying over with my "application" [the one they did not recieve]? you see, to me, this is a lie - the church lied - it never received an application, so it could have never consider it at any point in time - but that is par for the course.
this little adventure reenfources my feelings twords the church and is just another reason why i do not like organized religion, and why i find most - if not all - churches to be a place of "questionable morals" at best - what i have found oer my years of dealing with churchesmis that, almost all the churches i have emailed and asked for information have either not answered my email at all, or if they did answer my email they simply referred me to their website for answers - and they never answer any questions i have had - why?
cornerstone christian church lied - now, i am sure that may seem harsh for some to here - and i am sure others will put it back on me saying things like "well, we all lie" - but i expect much more from a church - think about that for a sec, if the church lies about something how can i believe what they say about anything? if they lie about receiving a resume [which may seem small] how do i know they are not lying to me when they say they will love and care for me and my family? when does a church, or christian, cross the line between "little white lie" and "big bold black lie?" at what point does the church say, "it is ok for us [the church] to lie, but it is not ok for others to lie?" if i were to lie in the church would i be asked to leave? why should we view what they do as a "mistake" and what others do as a "lie?"
cornerstone christian church does not care - hard to grasp? but that is exactly what it tells me by not responding to my email for almost three months, and then replying with a message that does not apply to me at all - think about that - the church, as i have experienced it, treats people applying for a position with less dignity and honor then corporate america - i have been treated much better when i apply for a non-church position then when i apply for a church position - my questions are answered and my calls are returned.
churches need to be above what the world expects - they need to care, be honest and gracious in replying to emails - they need to be above what others expect from corporate america, and they need to show that people come before anything else - churches need to get rid of the corporate mentality and start to treat people with honor and dignity - they need to go beyond lip service and truly express the desires of christ - because the words of christ guides us, not the laws of man - hard to grasp? maybe, but until it changes, many people like me will not step foot into a church because we are tired of being hurt, insulted, belittled and thought of as something less then a child of God
10 years ago the world lost one of the greatest ladies to walk the face of the earth; no, one of the greatest human beings to ever walk the face of the earth. she died to early and yet made a powerful impact on many lives. her heart for those in need was great; her voice was a voice for those in need who, because of no fault of their own, had a hard time in life. she gave of herself on a daily basis and was willing to give more. no matter where she went people noticed her; they knew her; they felt her; they wanted to be by her. she was a great lady, and one the world will miss greatly.
10 years ago mother teressa left us to stand before God to hear the words "welcome, my good and faithful servant." i'm sorry, did you think i was going to mention princess di? funny, but the world is not interested in mother teressa - she was not as beautiful, she was not as rich, she did not have "royal blood," she was not in line to be queen - yet, as i write this i realize that she was beautiful, because her heart was bigger then anyone i could ever imagine; she was rich, because she honored God and cared for those who did not have; she was of "royal blood," because she was a daughter of the most high God; and her kingdom is the kingdom of God - so, yea she was all that and a cup of tea.
i heard a story that one day the pope gave her a fleet of limos, because [as the pope said] a women of her status should have limos - she in turn thanked the pope and turned around, sold them and used the money to feed those in need - i wonder, would di do that for another?
as i look at the differences between being "modern" and "postmodern" - i am struck at the paradox that is di/teressa - modern/postmodern:
mother teressa is more postmodern - she actually does the ministry - she does more then just "call attention" to a problem - she works, hands on, to solve the problem - she never becomes "the spokes person" for the problem, she becomes the voice that does the work and stands along side others in doing the work -
di is modern, she is the "write us a check" to solve the problem - she does not "get dirty" - but she stands for the photo op where she "touches" one of the fallen masses and asks us to "give of our self" - while never really "giving of herself."
of the two, i am more impressed with mother teressa - and not at all impressed with di - as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of di - with specials, movies and books - i wonder, will we get the same about mother teressa?
voiced by john o'keefe on 23.8.07
it has been a long time coming, but we are back in cali and loving it all. we drove across country and saw some very cool things - and had some very interesting experiences. one thing i learned during the trip is that sprint is not a very good cell phone company if you are driving across the 80 - we never seemed to hit a tower, even when we were under a tower.
we drove from north carolina to cali in about three days, but coming home was worth the effort. long trips are a great time to think and just restock life. as we were driving the open spaces i was able to think about life, my faith journey and all that comes with it - one thing that came to life is the desire to "make it simple." you see, too many church are making a faith journey hard, complex and filled with rule and regulations that are just not part of a valid faith walk. i came to the conclusion that our faith journey should be rather simple.
if you are seeking jesus as a teacher, you have all you need - seeking the help of another person can sometimes lead to "you must do this to be a 'true' christian" teachings. being a "true" follower is found in your voice with God, not with the voice others desire to place on you. you see, churches and ministers like thinking of themselves as "important" and i have come to the conclusion they are not - God is important, jesus is important - church is not important, ministers are not important, "church leaders" are not important - what is important is the desire to walk in the light of christ and seek the way of God. to know one is standing in a relationship with God and not with a human.
driving across country can be very interesting - in many ways - hearing the voices of "radio ministers" and the lines they strive to sell makes on thing why would anyone ever get involved in the church - i know that as a follower, all i desire is to be connected to God - and to be honest, i would never follow the teachings of many i heard across 80.
voiced by john o'keefe on 16.8.07
over the next few weeks i will be sharing with you some of the reasons i left "organized" religion. it needs to be said that i will be giving the reasons to you in no particular order - or in no particular importance. i will share them as they come to me, and i am able to express my feelings; they will come as ramblings from my heart. just so you know, everything is fair game. the reasons could be triggered by current events [as this one was], or just a "flash back" from past experiences - or a combo of both. so, without being long winded, let me share with you one that hit me today -
organized religion claims to love, but in fact finds reasons not to love:
today, as my wife was reading the news online she found a story about high point church in texas canceling the funeral of a man "last minute" because he was gay [story].
now the church claims that they did not know he was gay until the last minute; while the family claims the church knew he was gay from the start - so, who is right? well, in my experience dealing with the inner workings of the church i am more apt to believe the family and not the church - i know, i am very skeptical and jaded.
as a pastor, i was never concerned with what others thought, i felt we needed to do the right thing - and we needed to stand by what christ expected of us. in that, i got slapped many times and i am ok with that - because i knew i was doing the right thing. but here, as a church pulls out last minute, to help a family grieve and work through the loss of a family member - it blew the chance to minister and show that the "church" is above what others claim - the church gave in to pressures [and i am certain those pressures were coming from "major" givers]. the church could have said, "look, we do not agree with the lifestyle of your family member and we will be a place for you to find comfort in christ. we ask that you respect our views in this service, but we are first and foremost here for you." but, that was not the case.
the church said that they "did not agree with the lifestyle" of the person and could not hold the service based on that - ok, but what if a family member is a drunk, will they hold a service for them? what if a family member cheats on their spouse, would the church reject the service based on "not agreeing with their lifestyle?" what about a teen who dies and is not a virgin, would the church reject a service based on "lifestyle" issues?
you see, "lifestyle" issues are weak, and at best just a smoke screen for "we are afraid to lose money and members" over this issue; to me it shows a lack of integrity on the part of the pastors and church. it takes much more courage for the church to stand-up and say, "we are here for the family and we will support them in this time of need" - oh, and the fact that the guy was not a "member" has nothing to do with it; that would be simply another excuse to show how closed organized religion can be.
on a more "personal" note - high point uses the domain "church unusual" because it claims to be "not a normal church" - but it is so normal, it is the center of normal - and the funny thing is that on no place in its website does it claim that it finds "homosexuality an unacceptable lifestyle."
voiced by john o'keefe on 11.8.07
i was talking with a person not to long ago that seemed rather "upset" - actually, they were very upset - with my refusing to take on words like "christian" or "evangelical" or "saved" or "whatever" in connection with my faith walk. while they seemed to be upset with a great many things about me, that was one of the biggest - the "other biggest" later in the week - so they asked me, "well, what are you?" as if i needed to "be something" they could define to be me; to be someone. i was rather insulted, and asked for them to "go deeper" with the request - well, this upset them even more and they pulled the "it depends on your definition of it" line from the clinton slap-down; as if that was going to make me back down in fear. so i said, "ok, you know more about these things then i seem to know, so then what am i?"
they did not seem to have an answer; what they wanted was to "direct" the conversation and have me "admit" i was a lost puppy in need of their guidance "back to the lord" this way they could make me think that i saw my path was wrong - so they asked me again, "what are you? if you are not christian, what are you?" so i said, "humm, let me see, how about 'a follower of jesus.'" they said, "so that makes you a christian." not sure it does, in fact i am pretty sure it does not. let me explain -
being a follower of jesus means i place the words of jesus above all others - now, we can debate over what jesus did and did not say - but all in all, i take the worlds of jesus over paul and others; most "christian" while claiming they do, truly don't. in fact, i take the words of james and jude [brothers of jesus] over the words of paul - after all, they lived with jesus and paul never met the guy. so, who knows jesus better then jesus and his brothers and sisters?
i also think being a follower of jesus means i am willing to follow in jesus' foot steps, and not in the foot steps of preachers and pastors who think their shit doesn't stink. i care less what robertson, hybell, or any other preacher has to say - i look to jesus as an example of how i am to live and how i am to interact with others. i look at most preachers and pastors and i see how i do not desire to act, or how i do not desire to be - if looking at them means i believe i should be doing what they are not doing, then following them seems all out stupid.
another thing i think shows a difference is that being a follower of jesus means i do not care about the church, because it is not a place where support, comfort or grace can be found - if the church is just like every other place, filled with "people who are lost" then what value is the church? if they are just as lost as i am, why would i follow them? why would i want to be a member of such a club? if they treat me just like everyone else, why join their club? heck, if i join the loin' i at least get a lunch out of the deal.
over the past years, i, and my family, have been abused by the church and used by the church and hurt by the church too many times to count. the "church" always uses the same excuse to justify what they do and how they act, that say, "we are imperfect humans and sometimes that means we hurt each other" - may i suggest they read scripture and find out we are suppose to be changed! we are not suppose to hurt each other, and we are never to hurt another to the point of them walking away from the church - and in reality, when i interview those who have left the church most of the time it is because they were treated poorly.
what am i? simple, i am me; a follower of jesus - nothing more and nothing less. i care for others, love others and strive to do what is right each and every day by others. i am willing to do what it takes to help others and to love those who walk with me as jesus loved me, and those who are walking in different paths, i love as i love myself. i have no idea where this faith walk will lead, but i can assure you i am not evangelical - because i just don't like the uniform and the commitment is lose; i am not a "christian" because that carries with it some big bags that mean nothing and simply cause a great deal of pain to others. i like where God has brought me, and i am comfortable with my faith walk - i can only hope others are also.
voiced by john o'keefe on 28.7.07
i had a great conversation with a person who works in a church office, and she got me thinking and processing about some very interesting things. i am usually not big on names and places because i like the idea and the story to stand on their own, but becky over at sungrove community church gave me a great deal to think about, and also hope that the church may be getting it right after all. now, as many know i am very vocal when i see the church doing an injustice, and i pull no punches when i believe the church processor is about to fry a wire - so i have to be willing to give credit where credit is due and i think our conversation was a very interesting one for me - but let me put it in prospective.
today, much earlier in the day, i received a call from charles conniry, a great guy and the head of the dmin program at george fox university; we spent time talking about the church and her being a rather "dusty, crumbly" institution. in our conversation, i was not very "supportive of the church." you see, over the past few years we [my family] have been hurt by the church at some very core levels. this feeling of hurt, and that is a mild way of saying it, runs deep and it can make a person very bitter and angry - and that bitterness and anger can be focused in places we never want them to be placed. i have not blogged on this because i know in my heart that some of that bitterness is there and God needs to work it out. so, anyway, i shared that with charles [and they still want me in the dmin program - go figure] and he shared a story with me, cool - but then i speak with becky and i have to share that her voice gave me a deep feeling of hope for the church and the possibility that the church just might become what Christ wants of it..
one of the things we talked about was this idea that everyone is talking about "community" and she was wondering what i thought a "community" was - and i have to say, it hit me hard but allowed me to start a process that is powerful in my life. you see, like most people i was ready to give the "company line" that community was a gathering of believers and yada, yada, yada.. you get the drift; but i soon found myself thinking in a very different way. we talked, and we started to talk about the idea that as a church we are not a "community" - because Christ never calls us to be a community - we are a family; brothers and sisters with Christ. we are not a "community of faith" rather we are a "family of faith" - family; living, breathing, loving, supporting, helping, caring, giving, moving, dynamic family - we are to be there for each other as Christ was there for us - and let me see if i can explain this at this point, because at some level this is still in process.
I believe, Jesus said two very important things to his followers, and they were aimed at two very different groups of people - first was when he was confronted by religious leaders trying to trap him, he shared with us a center of how we are to act in community, "love others as well as you love yourself." this is a way of life for many followers and this has become the center of many a theology and many a ministry, and that is great. we must love others as we love ourselves, because Jesus shared it as one of the greatest rules given by God to live our lives. now, i have written before, and i believe it to be true, that one of the reasons we do not do this very well is because we do not love ourselves; so in reality we treat others as we treat ourselves - we do not love us, so we do not love others. but this command is how we are to treat those "outside" the church [the community], and here is where it can get sticky.
Jesus also shares with us another level of love, one that is much deeper then simply "loving yourself." as Jesus was getting ready to head to the cross he was speaking with his followers and shared this level of love, he said, "love one another as i have loved you." ok, so this idea of loving one another is based on our willingness to die for each other - we are willing to give up everything we have for each other and we should be willing to go out of our way for each other - as a "family" we should be ready and willing to give it all away for each other. so, in Jesus' mind there are two levels of love we are to have - one for community [the larger kingdom of God] and the other is for family [those we serve in a local church] - you see, this is a much bigger form of love, because it is a love that identifies us as followers of Christ. loving others is great, but showing a Christ love for each other is central to being seen as a follower of Christ. people are looking at us and seeing if we truly love each other in this way, and they are seeing we do not - so they question if we truly desire to follow the teachings of Christ. now that is where some sticky points come into play.
are we willing, as a family of Christ, to give it all away for just one person in our community? if we are called at three AM by a member of the church crying because her husband beat her, are we willing to get in our car and drive her to safety? what of the parent who is having trouble with a teen? would you be willing to take a child of a single mom on your family vacation? what doe you do when you hear a member of the church lost their job and may lose the house because of it? have you ever purchased groceries for a person in the church who is in need, without them knowing it was you? how do we care for that teen who comes and says "i am with child?" how do we help the elderly in our church? do you visit those who are shut-ins in the church, or do you simply demand the pastor do that? [after all, he gets the big bucks]. where do we draw the line, if we draw a line, between helping the community and helping the family? how can we hold our heads up as followers of Christ, when we refuse to hold the hands of those in our faith family?
voiced by john o'keefe on 11.7.07
What is the value of human life? I shutter to even ask the question, because even the question has an “economic overtone” that seems out of place with the idea of human life. You see, we have lost direction in the world, because we “value” economics and profit over human life. To even ask the question of “what is the value of human life?” means we seek to place a monetary value on the intrinsic reality of life; think about it, when you read the question you were in search of an answer that had a “dollar value” connected to it. When we think in terms of life having an “economic value” we seek to say, “There is a break even point” where a certain amount of human life loses is acceptable, even profitable.
The idea, for me, is not to determine the “value” of human life, but to shift the way we view what is and how we value other humans; we claim life has “value” yet we toss it aside as cheap. You see, we “value” our cars, more then we “value” the air we breathe; we “value” cheap food, more then we “value” the people picking it for us; we “value” our comforts, more then we do the comforts of others. We are willing to make changes as long as they do not “cost” us very much. We value what is good, right and just for us, but not for others; what we value must benefit us and if it causes harm to another it is of no concern to us, it is “the cost” of doing business. When we face issues like war, “illegal” immigration, abortion, poverty, slave trade, child abuse, prison reform, and many other issues facing us as a culture, and a world, the foundation of our answers can be seen in how we view human life.
For example, in the 20th century alone about 300 million people died because of wars, directly or indirectly. Think about that, 3 million people a year died for 100 years. Did you know that about 25 States have less then 3 million people each living in them? Killing 3 million people in one year would be like killing all the people in Hawaii, West Virginia, and Alaska, combined. It would be like killing everyone on the east coast from Vermont to Maine and toss in Maryland for good measure. 3 million people is more then the populations of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana – and many other Western States. So, what is the “value” of human life? To truly answer this question we need to rethink much of what we know from the 20th century.
Life can not be given an “economic” value, no matter how we try. I asked the question of “what is the value of human life?” to a friend and he quickly answered with the title of Arthur Porges short story from 1985, “$1.98; that is the value of all the chemicals in the human body.” But that is not what I asked. I was not concerned with the “value of the human body” I wanted to know the value of human life. In a society where human life is “valued” there is no trade off between economic gain and human life. If human life is simply added into the equation of “doing business” then we have lost our humanity and replaced it with greed.
When we place an economic value on life we cheapen life, and devalue God and we show future generations that human life is not worth holding on too. We place a “Darwinian” view on human life, and we place it is the same category as the value of a car, a boat, a toaster. As a follower of Jesus I can not, in any way shape of form, place an economic value on human life. Human life is a gift given by God and we should respect it above all else; if not we cheapen the gift and proclaim that God’s gift to us is based simply of the economics of the day. We should hold human life to be the highest of all endeavors we have as a society. As people of “The Way” we should be the loudest voices for the rights of all human life. We should place aside the social, economical, and cultural realities of human life and claim all human life is higher then any “value” placed upon it.
It matters little where you stand on issues being debated in our culture today. If human life is not valued, no change can ever be made. Think of how different a Pharmaceutical Company would be if they valued human life over the “rights of their share holders.” Think how different we would be as a society if we proclaimed that all human life has value and was worth the time to save. Think of where we would be as a people if Hospitals saw the patient over the profit. Think of how different our world would be if we just loved people for who they are, and valued them for just being them. Think how different we would be as a faith if we spent less on building buildings and more on building people.
So, does human life have value? More then anyone can possibly afford.
when tragedy hits, our faith is tested and measured. when "something goes wrong" we see how our faith is embedded in our lives. how we react to tragedy is a direct measure of how secure we are in our faith. this is real personally, and this is real collectively. when tragedy hits, we can either gather in support of the injured, or we can simply ignore their hurt and say "there but for the grace of God go i" - my prayer is that we react and we support.
i received an email from keith giles [you know, "keith's voice"] and he shared with me some news i would like to share with you - and see if you can help in some way; on june 20th, "the simple way" house, community center and neighborhood were the victims of a 7 alarm fire - destroying most of what was there. thank God no one seems to have been injured, but the emotional reality of a fire and the destruction that follows can be very traumatic.
if you, your church, your community, your family can help in any way possible - that would be great. our friend tony campolo has set up a donation page for those seeking to give, and the link to that will be at the bottom of this post. also, i have included a link to the simply way's website for those interested in knowing more - and contacting them directly with help offers.
if you desire, you can send checks directly to the simple way at:
The Simple Way
PO Box 14751
Philadelphia, PA 19134.
visit the the simple way website for more info: the simpleway
tony's donation page: click here
here is a 3.25 minute video of what happened:
voiced by john o'keefe on 21.6.07
it should not amaze me, but it does; it should not cause me to be concerned, but it does; it should not sadden me, but it does. what can do all that? the reality that the church is simply not hearing the voices of those who are calling for change - and what amazes me the most is how the church puts its collective head in the sand and never even notices that things have changed - and yea, i have to admit that it hurts a little.
recently a friend or mine, bob carlton, posted some very interesting information via my facebook account - he was quoting some recent barna research done on "non-church" people between the ages of 16-29. the servey asked, "what is your current perception of christianity?" here is how they responded:
91% said antihomosexual
87% said judgmental
85% said hypocritical
78% said old-fashioned
75% said too involved in politics
72% said out of touch with reality
70% said insensitive to others
think about this, churches are all that, and more, to those outside the church - man, do we need better pr.
think about this for a second, with the exception of the homosexual issue [and we can debate that at another time - even though some will only focus on that topic] none of those things are "doctrinal" - they are how christians treat others, how christians are seen treating others and how christians interact in the culture at large - with the exception of one thing, this has nothing to do with what christians believe, but how christians act - or does it have something to do with what christians believe? think about that. if you believed in love, how would you act? if you believed in forgiveness, how would you act? if you believed in grace, how would you act?
the idea that christians are seen as judgemental and hypocritical is amazing to me because as a follower of jesus i know he told us not to be either. we are boldly told to not be that way in scripture - jesus, you know the guy we claim to follow, tells us over and over to not judge others and to stop being so hypocritical - but those in the church simply ignore that call and say, "well, we are only human and not able to change" - if that is the case, if there is no change from what you were before you started to follow, why should anyone follow? what value is a faith that does not call us to change, and change us? what value is a faith that simply seems no different from the world around?
what the church fails to notice is that people see those who claim to be christian as "little christs" - when they treat people like crap, others think then that their god is telling them to treat people like crap - it's a reality. if you claim to follow the teachings of jesus, and you treat people like crap then the teachings of jesus must tell others to treat people like crap. how we act is how others define our God - christians do it all the time with muslims, and other faith traditions. even if you don't like the idea, if you call yourself a christian you are an ambassador of God, and people who see you and how you act define God in those terms - if you are judgemental, so is your God; if you are hypocritical, so is your God; if you are old fashion, so is your God; if you are anti-anything, so is your God; if you are out of touch with reality, so is your God; if you are insensitive to the needs of others, so is your God.
well, the stats are in and the church will do as it has done in the past - they will ignore them, deny them, and argue them as meaningless; they will take their collective heads out of the sand for just a moment and then they will close their eyes and pretend it never happened - and as they do, churches will close and the faith will become more and more irrelevant to those it is trying to reach.
what i believe will be the most amazing to me is that many in the church, many in the evangelcial church, will not read any of the stats and they will go about their day as if nothing changed - they will ignore the world around them and in their own way, in their own world, they will think they got it right - while those outside the church are laughing.
voiced by john o'keefe on 19.6.07
it took some time, and there still is some tweaking we need to do - but we overhauled ginkworld - and it was a a process. but we think it looks cool. we are playing with the idea that we desire an "evolution" - so we gave ginkworld a very "cccp" theme - very "1917 revolution" - tell us what you think.
we got rid of the java menu - because it gives foxfire people a fit - and replaced our menu with a simple css menu - we think it helps a great deal
we removed many of the "not needed" code so the site loads faster - while the index is php, we kept the back end html - it was a hard decision but one we felt would give us the ability to maintain the feel we desired
we added feeds to our blog, and our community blog [if you are interested in writing for our community blog - let me know] and we added some achieve feeds so past stories and stuff will come up on a random [we like random] basis - ever time you reload ginkworld a bunch of new "more" articles will pop-up.
we have added a youtube play list - and we will be changing this weekly with new videos - either music or just some crazy thing we like - it's like a trip to candy mountain, without the scar :)
we will be tweaking the article area over the next few weeks - we are trying to get the code to do what we need - most of it is going fine - but we are missing some font colors and we are trying to figure out what the deal is :)
we hope you like the new look - we hope you spread the word and tell others about us and what we are striving to do - we are a place where "normal" and radical voices can be heard in the noise that is around us.
voiced by john o'keefe on 17.6.07
over this past year i have been truly diving into this idea that the church needs to evolve -not just in style, but in theology and heart. i have come to some major conclusions that i think are primary for my sanity and the sanity of those i love.
conclusion one: the church, while in a desperate need for an extreme makeover, is unwilling to look deep into its own heart to see the pain it causes others. you see, for the dysfunction of the church to truly have a deep meaning it needs to feed its dysfunction. in that, the church has closed its eyes to the reality around it.
now, is it possible for the church to pull itself out of this spin? i would say "not at all." for some this would seem negative, and it may be - but for those of us who have been abused by the dysfunction called "the christian church" we see it as a bold, in your face reality.
conclusion two: whenever a person calls the church, or christians, on the table for all the garbage they do and all the hurt they give, the church or the christian calls them negative. while this may have worked in the past, i find it simply another tool of the dysfunction. you see, telling me i am being negative because i point out how hurtful the church is does not change the reality that the church is hurtful. all it does is try to place the conversation on what is and is not negative and off the facts at hand.
now, can the church or christians change this tactic? i think not. it serves their purpose of my first conclusion - so, in that the church, or christians, will never stop crying that others are being negative.
conclusion three: the church in the usa has it good and is in no way shape or form a martyr. i am so tired of american christians talking about how the church is being persecuted. what? because we can't place a plastic jesus in the town square during christmas we claim persecution; because we can't sing "jesus loves me this i know" at a "spring festival."
now, can the church get over this self imposed idea that it is being run down and hurt by others? i doubt it. the fabric of the church is too woven with the idea that we must claim to be a martyr to truly have a voice - so stories are made-up to make the persecution seem real.
i think three conclusions are good for now. i think the church needs to remove its collective head out of its collective ass for it to be able to see the sun and know where the sidewalks are. but i am not sure it can happen. because no institution is ever truly changed from the inside, i am not sure the institution of the church can seek change. the insiders are in control, and they refuse to listen to the voices from the outside - so, the church will die - the church will close it's door and the idea of a "christian" will slowly go to the recycle bin. what comes out of the recycle? hard to tell, but i hope it is nothing like the church today -
voiced by john o'keefe on 16.6.07
ever get tired? i mean truly, in the heart tired? tired of all the garbage shared by the church and those who call themselves christian? you ever get to the point in your faith where you think what's it all for? why be a christian is there is no difference between those in church and those outside church? why deal with the judgments from those who need to look closer at their lives, before they make a call on your life? why take the time to invest in people who backstab, gossip, insult, belittle, hurt, assualt all in the name of christ?
for me, i am past the stage of hearing "we are just human" as an excuse to treating others like shit. i am tired - while i am processing my "tiredness" in light of christ, i know that my tired is not something i take lightly. in my sharing my "tiredness" with another pastor i was told to "shake it off and get over it" - ever get tired?
voiced by john o'keefe on 10.6.07
over the past year i have received spam from people wanting my penis to grow and my hair to return; i have received spam from "hot chicks" and russian teens; i have received invitations to buy repo-homes, new cars, cell phones, and even a boat of two; i have received spam for sex, cigars, and even more sex - but today was the very first time i received spam from a member of congress. brothers and sisters, it looks like congress, and the members thereof, have officially entered the realm of sex, penis growth pills, repo-homes and russian teens - that is right, congress is not spaming with the rest of the bottom feeders of the planet.
now i try my hardest to help all the honest people who email me; you know those african lawyers who need my help to embezzle 40million dollars out of some third world country - i always email them back and let them know that there is no need for me to help - they should simply allow the country to take the money and use it to feed the poor. funny, i never get a response, go figure. but today was a rather high mile stone in my enjoyment of reading spam - a congressman actually spammed me - how cool is that?
roy blunt, a congressman from the state of "mo" [7th district] - or "big mo" - well, just "mo" - i know what your thinking, "congressman blunt," sounds like a spoof - but he is truly a member of congress. guess what, he is the "house republican whip" - wow, spammed by the whip - man is that cool. i wonder if the "bluntster" knows that i am not in his party? i wonder of he cares? i wonder who he purchased [actually "rent" - you never really "purchase" email address for spam] from? i wonder if he realizes that his spaming me makes me think far less of him and anything he stands for? i wonder if he cares? i wonder if he realizes i do not live in his district, or state? i wonder if he is sucking up for a prez-run in a few years? i wonder if he realizes that he comes across "funny" in his video for the kids?
he felt it wise to spam me with the following question: [catch the * at the bottom, that one is a kicker]:
"As Congress renews the debate on immigration, do you believe, as I do, it must first put forward a serious plan to secure our borders without offering amnesty to those who continue to enter this country illegally?
*By answering this survey, you are subscribing to my newsletter."
he spammed me with a question that is so stupid, it is funny. besides being a question that simply bates the issue, there is no place for a comment, no place for a true and real dialog - i'm sorry, i was thinking [even for a second] that he truly cared about my views and was actually wanting to have a dialog - my bad, i have to remember he is a politician, and they do not care about things like reality, real, "truth" or even honesty.
for the "bluntster" it is "back and white" world [a "not sure" answer is not designed to show his desire to see gray - he simply would see that as a person not seeing his point of view - and them slam-spam that person with a ton of spam] . he is not interested in honest conversations with people about a topic he knows very little about - you see, i can imagine that in his world a "Hispanic" is simply the guy who washes the dishes he eats off when a lobbyist buys him lunch. he makes zero connection between the human and the world.
i don't know, i found it funny - we are spending millions catching and trying to catch spammers and a member of congress simply can spam all he wants because he was elected to serve people - but then again, i am of the honest opinion that there is no honest politician. i think roy blunt is proof that politicians simply desire to follow their own rules, and they laugh at the rules they make for the rest of us - so to roy "the spammer" blunt, bad from bro
voiced by john o'keefe on 6.6.07
i never know who does it, but someone adds my name to silly email lists that for what ever reason there is, i can not get off - and "1000churches" is the one i have been most recently added to - and when i got to "unsubscribe" i am not given that opportunity - but i am able to add my name to other needless email lists - and that is always exciting - but this time, this email list actually gave me something to think about - oh, and not in a positive way.
you see, they are hawking "double your church membership" in just one short year - or less - and they have the "proven" system to do it - and for $37usd you can have the system also - what a deal. here is what this system will help you do:
--A comprehensive, proven, winning church attendance program that will keep them coming back!
--Powerful, winning church growth ideas, tips, and strategies gathered from highly successful ministers, church planters, and congregations!
--Methods and techniques easily adaptable to nearly ANY congregation or religious tradition!
--Learn how to achieve speedy attendance growth
--Discover the secret of retaining their attendance and participation once you’ve gotten them in the door
--Uncover the secrets to a good (attendance-boosting) church service
--How to make the most of your Sunday School
--How to recruit the best leadership for your church
--Includes sample letters, forms, and mailings for your direct-mail attendance campaign
--Exclusive access to a members-only website with even more resources
--And much, much more!
what i find so interesting, and so hurtful, is that in no place on the entire long drawn out website does it speak in any way shape or form of helping the hurting, loving the unlovable, caring for the homeless, the sick, the hungry - no place does it speak of helping people live a life in christ - it talks about members, money, man-power and building programs - most of which are reasons i left organized religion -
when i get emails like that, and i visit sites like these i am reminded of all the garbage and the lies being tossed around churches today - it hurts to know that people who call themselves "church leaders" would do such things to the church - people who use and abuse the church at massive levels.
the best part is - "this is a special offer and usually sells for $147 - but if you act now you can get this wonderful deal for $37" wow, an offer this good must be too good to be true :)
voiced by john o'keefe on 26.5.07
i have a confession to make, i did not go to church this week - and i do not feel bad about it either.
i am tired of hearing the crap from the front and seeing nothing getting done. let's be honest, we talk more about doing, and we spend very little time actually doing. i know, i spoke the crap and to be honest very few in the church actually did anything - i think many people who claim to be a follower get lost between the desire to help and the desire to sit on their collective asses and play a tune - and i think the time has come to stop making excuses about it and own up to it - and then make a real decision to make a difference.
i believe, collectively, christians talk a good game, seldom play the game and when they do play the game they desire to change the rules to fit their needs at the time - let me make this point, collectively, the "christian church" claims over 6 billion members - ok, and we still have poverty? we still have homelessness? we still have starvation? we still see only those "true republicans" as "true christians?" we still do not get the idea that we are suppose to make a difference in the world, not become part of the world?
i am confused at churches that spend more on the up-keep of a building, then they do on feeding the hungry in their community. i am lost to explain churches that have more people on staff "doing programs" then they have "doing ministry." i am bewildered by a church that would point people to government programs instead of going that extra mile for those in need. i am hurt by a church that would pay their pastor [and a pastor who would accept the pay] more then the income of the average person in the church. i am tired of churches that scream and lick their own "wounds" while letting the world around them fall apart.
i have a confession to make, i so dislike what i see the church has become - country clubs for the rich, or social clubs for the middle class - when a person makes a selection to join a church because "business will do better" we have lost our place in the world. when collectively we are unable to serve the communities around us, we have lost the right to claim any place in that community. when we "preach the gospel according to the political party" we have lost creditability with those who believe we should be different. when we ignore the words of jesus the christ, we share our faith with the world around us - the problem is, we share an empty faith based on "winning souls" and "keeping up with the church next door."
we can actually make a difference if we just came together as a "kingdom of God" and saw how working together can make a difference - think of the possibilities we could offer the world is we stopped thinking about our buildings, our stained glass, or pew cushions, of brass name plates and if we focused on just one issue - one problem - think of what we could do if we mobilized hundreds of millions of christians - we could stop civil wars, we could bring water to dry lands, we could cure aids, we could actually make a difference - if we just got past of petty differences, focused on the task we could change the world - in one generation we could actually make a bigger impact on the world then all other generations past - we could do this, but for that to happen we need to be a unified collective voice - willing to place ourselves second, and others first - are you ready?
voiced by john o'keefe on 14.5.07
Author: Ron Martoia
ok, here's the deal...[well, kind of the deal] i need to be honest and open. i am not big on reviewing the works of others. when i am asked to do so my first reaction is to run and hide. i am the king of skeptics and always want to come off with some negative crap about the book - being a skeptic is my default operating system - but i have to say, i liked this book. i like ron and consider him a friend and i like "Morph;" but i need to go deeper with this and say that with all honesty i loved Static. while i would admit to being a bit more on the edge then ron, i found his desire to go deeper into helping reshape words and ideas to be very helpful. where i would have trashed the idea, ron takes phil into a deeper place and that is very cool - i found ron's interaction with friends [phil and jess - runner] to be one that echoed many a conversation [excluding the running part, i do not run]. in fact, i would say i found it insightful at times. ron's daring to take on some words and ideas that are the foundation of the church, dust them off, kick them around and breath new life into them and then have them come to life in narrative is exciting. while this is no simple task, it is one that truly needs to be taken on - and while others are doing so, i think ron moves out ahead of the gang with a readable, easy to grasp book that is well worth the $15.00 - this book needs to be on your desk - if not, at least keep it where you do the most reading.
voiced by john o'keefe on 10.5.07
i have never been impressed with some of the translations of scripture that we have. many who translate carry a political agenda that seems a bit out of touch with me - this agenda can be found in the king james, the niv and so many others. for example, the king james version translates the word "scheol" as "hell" when it is speaking about "bad" people, and as "grave" when it speaks of "good people." it seems a bit sided to me. while i would never think of myself as a hebrew scholar, i felt a desire to "reword" the opening of the bible - while i would never say i was a poet, i did want to give it more of a "poetic" feel.
i am a believer that the bible should open with the word "God" - because everything that flows from the bible, flows from God. with that as a "guide" i give you the "first account of creation." as a little side note, i also hate the way the bible is numbered - i do not care what anyone tells me, there is no reason for the numbers. so, here is what i think the opening of the bible should be:
A Story of Creation:
God, because of infinite love, in the beginning of known time decided to separated the heavens and the earth. To see all that there was in this great void, God's being moved all along the void, moving over all that was and would be. In that, God took the formless, chaotic darkness and with words, created something out of nothing
On the first day of God's creation, God said, "illuminate;" and there was great illumination. God saw the illumination of the sun and of the stars filling the void and God knew it was good. God called the illumination of the sun, " day," and the illumination of the stars was called "night."
On the second day of God's creation, God said, "separate;" and with that an expanse formed which separated water from water; water above the expanse and water below the expanse. God called the waters above the expanse "sky" and the water below the expanse was called "sea."
On the third day of God's creation, God said, "land;" and with that, the waters below the expanse moved and gathered. out of that, dry land appeared. God looked upon the land and the waters, God called the dry land "earth" and the waters God called "seas." God was very pleased and knew the next step was at hand. So, on this third day of God's creation, God said, "life;" and with that word, the earth brought forth all forms of plants, grasses, trees, plants, herbs, fruits of all kinds filled the earth.On the forth day of God's creation, God said, "seasons;" the light which God created as defined by the sun in the day, and the stars at night began to move as to collect time in its path - each day would give in to a weeks, weeks in to months, months in to years and to the passing of different seasons. God knew this would also be good.
On the fifth day of God's creation, God said, "water-life;" and with that word all the life of the two waters came into being - birds filled the sky and fish filled the seas. Everything that swims, swarms or flies was created. God was greatly pleased, and God's spirit moved among them and God blessed them and they moved about the whole planet. God saw the life and was greatly pleased.
On the sixth day of God's creation, God said, "earth-life;" and with that word life sprang-up all over the earth. all the animals of dry-land came to being; all things that walk, run, climb, herd, or slither were created; both warm-blood and cold-blood were created as God desired. On this day, God also created a life that God took special interest in and God called this life "human." God endowed the human with the special gift of being in God's own image. God created humanity, and gave humanity the responsibility to care for all that God had created before God created humans. God told humanity to care for and help all the living creatures of this world. God told humanity that all the plants were created for them to eat. God told humanity to oversee everything, and bring forth descendants who would help care for God's creation God saw that all God created was good, and God was pleased. On this day, God had finished all the work of creation.
On the seventh day of God's creation, God rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. God made it a Holy Day
voiced by john o'keefe on 9.5.07
yea, that's right we are moving back to cali - we tried the southeast, but we soon found we were ducks out of water. we have nothing against the southeast, it is just that we did not fit in it - we tried, we tried hard - but it is hard to take the cali out of us :) we are west coast people -
so, we are heading back to sacramento - while i will be starting my dmin soon, i have no idea what i will be doing - maybe some more web design, some more graphic arts and the like [would love to teach at a university or college] - or, if God is willing and you know of a community of faith looking to reach the "misfit" in us all - i would love to know about it. while we are sad, and we have made some great friends here, we know that those friendships will carry no matter where we live. so, we leave "norcar" for "norcal" :)
voiced by john o'keefe on 26.4.07
i have been thinking about this for a while, and i have "given in" to the realities of my world - i have started a new myspace group called "the church of the misfits." here is what the "description" says:
"the church of misfits is a gathering of people who want to ask questions, have open dialog and truly make a difference in this world. this is a community seeking to know what it means to be on a faith journey towards God. if you have all the answers, this is not the place for you - we are looking for people who truly desire to ask questions - to seek out answers together - not to be manipulated into making a decision based on what is predetermined by some organized religious group - we desire to ask, seek, question and wonder. while we will start as a online community, our desire is that we meet every once and a while in our respective cities and areas, and we actually do something with our faith - we actually become what we claim we are."
i have been praying a great deal as of late over the condition of the institutionalized church. i have come to the realization that i do not fit - and that is the truth for so many others - we do not fit - we do not feel welcomed - it could be because we are divorced, we are single, we have no kids, we have too many kids, we are black, we are white, we are asian, we are hispanic, we are mixed, we are native, we are new, we are young, we are old, we are fat, we are skinny, we are short, we are tall, we have tats, we are pierced - what ever it is, we are just not made to feel welcomed when we visit a church - we are excluded - it could be for theological reasons, political reasons, emotional reasons, or other reasons - it matters little, we are made to fell unwelcomed in what is suppose to be "the house of God"
recently i heard a pastor say, "i am tired of people saying they are unwelcomed in my church. my congregation is very friendly and welcoming, people who feel unwelcomed need to ask themselves if it is us, or them, that make them feel that way" - to which i reached back and punched him square in the mouth [not really i am a pacifist, but it did cross my mind :)] - i looked at him and said, "if 10 people visit your church and 9 of them do not feel welcomed, who has the problem?"
if your a misfit and would like to connect with this group - and you dear to join myspace :) - come on over.
voiced by john o'keefe on 22.4.07
first, let me get some "likes" out of the way:
i like myspace - i have a myspace, and i belong to a few groups - not as active as i like, but i go and read as much as i can [my favorite groups are "revolutionaries wanted," and "the movement project" - they are two of my favorite groups]. i also have friends and family with myspace accounts - and it is easy for us to stay in contact with each other - so, yea i like myspace.
i also like youtube - i love my trip to candy mountain on youtube, and there is just something very cool about four guys singing and dancing on exercise equipment that can make you just smile and enjoy a good song - some of the funniest stuff i have seen in a very long time is on youtube.
i also like facebook, and i also like linkedin - i have accounts on both and some very good friends left some very nice comments about me on my linkedin account - i like the connection and the ability to be out past my little world.
ok, so those are just some of the things i like about the web, in fact i like the whole idea of web 2.0 - love it - well, you got me, i don't "love it" all. now, here is where i earn the label "heretic" and have others seek to remove me from the book of life; hold on, this is a big on in the evangelical wold - i am not a fan of "mychurch" or "godtube." there, i said it - i am out of the closet and i feel a thousnd pounds lighter.
i am sorry, but you can't convince me that they are not "christian rip-offs" of the original. even though "mychurch" spends a whole lot of time saying "we are not a christian myspace" - that is exactly what they are - and they can shout all they like that they are not, they are [a rose, is a rose, is a rose]
i need to explain that i am not a big fan of the mychurch and godtube sites, not because they are ripping off other sites and then claiming they are not [that's marketing,and its a game the emerging mind understands] - i am not a big fan because it creates a very big "us and them" thing that i am striving hard to find biblical support from [and can't]. christians are living closed, exclusive lives - and we all know that is a reality.
well, let's look at the reality of it all; visit any evangelical church you like, on any sunday you like and grab ten people and ask them, "can you name five non-christian friends you hangout with on a regular basis?" here is what i think you will find - 9 out of the 10 could not give the name of five people they consider friends who are not christian, because the evangelical church has become an exclusive club, where they only hangout with other members of the club. some will say this is a good thing, what they calim is "christians need the support of other christians and we are called to be separate from the world;" but christians are hanging out with christians, and in turn not being a light to the world, they are shining their lights in each others face and trying hard to see who can have "the brighter light." what they are doing is simply hiding their light under their laptops. it is easy to hang out with people that think and talk like you, and it is hard to go past your comfort zone and truly share your life and faith with those who may not understand you, or you may not understand them - but that is what Jesus did for us.
christ calls us to "go and make disciples" - instead, the amercian evangelical church is now saying - "stay, and make christians" - so, for me i like myspace - i connect with people who are asking questions about faith, about God, about christ, about the journey - and the really cool thing is that not only are they hearing my voice, but others - my faith is placed in the market place of ideas and it can hold its own. to me, and this is just my opinion, i find places like "mychurch" to be "hiding places" for christians, where they can hide behind the "it sounds good and logical to hang out with each other" and not hear the life pains of a person who does not know of a loving, graceful and kind God - and the way i see the journey is that i would rather be a sheep among wolves, then a sheep among goats :)
voiced by john o'keefe on 18.4.07