Monday, October 13, 2008


In celebration of my 900th post, I made a request for 9 questions for me to answer. Here, then, is a somewhat long compilation of those questions and my answers. Note: I've corrected a few minor spelling and grammatical errors from the original comments.

1. Over the course of 900 posts, what have you learned about yourself, your ministry, and your family - not necessarily in that order - that has simply amazed you? I'm not sure if this a blogging-specific question, as in, what have I learned while writing these 900 posts, or whether it's a more general question about what I've learned during the time frame that I've written the blog. I've certainly used this blog to work through some things. Well, I guess there's no need to separate the two aspects of the question. Here goes...

Myself - I've learned that I'm not as over certain experiences as I thought I was, particularly experiences related to spiritual abuse by trusted people. That theme has popped up on this blog a couple times as I've had to wrestle with new aspects of those experiences. I've learned that my junior year of college was one of the darkest periods of my entire life, and I didn't really know how dark until I started writing about it. And I've learned to look back with a more balanced perspective than perhaps I have before, which has been helpful and healing.

My ministry - If it wasn't for the blogosphere, I may not have learned about emerging/emergent/missional stuff until more recently, when aspects of it have (finally) made it into my own denomination's conversation. There was a time when I couldn't get enough of the books, the blogs, the discussion and debate. I've come through my most obsessed phase, but have nevertheless retained an appreciation and it has certainly influenced the way I approach church and ministry issues. My congregation probably hears about the need to be missional more than they care for.

My family - This is the harder one, because I don't blog about family stuff nearly as often as the above topics. I have taken a hard look at what I experienced as a PK and I'm trying to use it as a basis for my own decisions regarding my family - particularly helping Coffeeson to plant real, lasting roots somewhere rather than moving every 5-7 years.

2. [A]ssociate the first word or brief phrase that comes to your mind with these nine topics:

Familyhood: Awesome
Ordination: Honor and privilege
Palin/Fey: Funny because it's true
State of the Church: Needs to adapt
Detroit Lions: Pathetic
Dirty diapers: Necessary evil
Book-less society: Criminal
Blogging vs. sermonizing: Coin flip
God: Emmanuel

3. I'd like to know your stance on following (because they can be quite controversial within the church):

Assisted Suicide: For me, the key phrase is "quality of life." I look to Jesus' words in the Gospel of John when he says, "I came that all may have life, and have it abundantly." Is one truly able to live under certain conditions, or are they simply able to exist? I think about hospital rooms I've visited where one is hooked up to so many machines...they are physically alive (existing), but they have little to no chance of consciously interacting with their surroundings, let alone enjoying them (living). If the choice is between merely existing or truly, abundantly living, I do not see assisted suicide as something to be barred at all costs.

Gay Rights/Marriage: I believe that many of our scripture texts that purportedly deem homosexuality as wrong are a lot more muddled than many claim. There are cultural and language factors--both the text's and ours--that need to be taken into account when interpreting them. In addition, there are biological factors that prevent homosexuality from being deemed a "choice," as if it's just a switch that can be turned on and off. That, and I've heard enough experiences from real live gay people that lead me to believe that homosexuality is not evil, nor a disease, nor a choice. Nor do I believe that homosexuality (or heterosexuality, for that matter) is merely about who you have sex with. Sexuality is also about who you're attracted to, who you love, whose life you wish to link yours to. Taking all that into account, the union of two consenting adults of the same gender seems the next logical step. No issue with it here.

Tithing:  Honestly, I hadn't been very well-read on the Biblical basic for tithing, but this question inspired me to go and see what exactly it says.  As we generally understand it today, tithing is the practice of giving 10% of one's income to the church or perhaps a charity of some kind.  In the Old Testament, tithes were given by the Israelites chiefly to care for the Levites, the tribe given the special task of minding the tabernacle and ark of the covenant.  A tithe of that tithe was stored up, "designated to the Lord," and every third year brought out to feed any Levites, orphans, widows, and immigrants in the area.  One can see our present practice's origins in these acts of caring for a "priestly" class and for the poor.  I see tithing as something that can be more broad than giving to the church.  First, I see it as a spiritual discipline and not an act of ecclesial obligation, and I don't just think that tithing is meant for the is to be designated for people who need it by people who mean it.

Pre-marital sex: For some reason, I first think of teenagers when I think about this issue. And my opinion on that is that I really didn't know what I was doing when I was 17 even though I surely insisted otherwise. And while there are exceptions, I'm going to go ahead and say that not many 17-year-olds really do. So my short answer is, "Wait until you've really matured, and then be prepared." I'm not a fan of abstinence-only, because it seems to be human nature that telling someone they can't or shouldn't only provides more incentive to go ahead and do it. I'd rather we tell people to be smart rather than try to moralize them into submission. But I'd also stress responsibility and consequences, which I guess is the allegation against "safe-sex" curricula (i.e., they downplay such things, which is crap) over and against "abstinence-only."

4. What is the best thing about being a dad? I actually have two things. First, I love seeing and being surprised by how Coffeeson changes and grows day by day. It's been incredible to watch him learn to use his appendages, to gain more and more control over his motor skills, to recognize his parents and others more and more, to see him go from barely rolling over to being on the verge of crawling. I can literally watch this little human being grow before my eyes.

The second is when I wake up around 7:00 in the morning, and I can hear him stirring on the monitor. Usually, he's just talking to himself. Sometimes, he's rolled over in his crib and he's not happy about it. But I'll wander in, and he'll look over and give me a huge grin. There's no better way to start my day.

5. Name 9 great coffeehouses at which you've sipped in your lifetime.

Cafe du Monde, New Orleans - Best. Coffee. Ever.
Kaldi's, St. Louis - Favorite spot to study in seminary
Coffee Cartel, St. Louis - I didn't frequent this as often as Kaldi's, but being on a key corner of the Central West End, there was lots to observe
Seattle's, Wooster, Ohio - Now defunct, a good place for college hipsters
Tulipan Hungarian Pastry & Coffee Shop, Wooster, Ohio - Relaxing atmosphere
Wholly Ground, Tiffin, Ohio - This place actually went by 3-4 different names while I was at Heidelberg...this is the one I remember
The House Cafe, DeKalb, Illinois - Have only been here once when I went to visit a friend
Matt's, Doylestown, Ohio - Chocolate Raspberry coffee. 'Nuff said.
Sonnet's, Wadsworth, Ohio - Good quiet place to read up on sermon material, plus they host open mics twice a month

6. What are the stories behind your tattoos?

"Luke 24:34," upper right arm - The short version is that, in a moment of deep despair and a horrible crisis of faith, the Spirit led me to this verse: "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon!" I consider that moment incredibly pivotal in my faith journey. For a slightly longer version, read this.

Crumbling stone cross, right shoulder - I wanted to get a cross, but I didn't want to get a "pretty" cross, know what I mean? The cross isn't pretty, and to get something ornate didn't feel right to me. It also carries my own cynical statement concerning the state of the church.

"Full Failure All-American Hero" by Derek Hess, upper left arm - It helps if you see a pic, so go here. Basically, I like the statement that it makes about human limitation and mortality.

7. What do you not want your son to know about you when he grows up? What do you want him to know?  I don't want him to know how insecure I feel sometimes as I strive to meet his needs and do what's best for him.  But I do want him to know that every time I step out for work-related things, I'd rather be at home with him.

8. What's your favorite computer game? Super MarioKart for Nintendo 64. I kick much butt at it. I also love FreeCell.

9. What's the most important thing in following Jesus?
I think that the most important thing is letting him speak for himself and wrestling with what he says, without any extra Paul/Augustine/Luther/Calvin/Favorite Pet Theologian tacked on. Don't get me wrong...other theologians can certainly be edifying, but most of the time Christians allow them to crowd out his teachings, let alone a true sense of discipleship that is more than belief in the right things.