May 23, 2005


So it's been a while. And there's a good reason for that - I've been away. It started with graduation (yes, I'm actually a B.A. with honors now), and then we had a trip to Indianapolis for some training at Global Partners because ... we're going to Australia! It's official! Then to Rhode Island to my Aunt's surprise 50th birthday party. And let me tell you, it's been a killer week. Not so much in the "hey, I loved this week, it was killer" sort of way, but ...

I spent the week mostly tired all the time. I got very little sleep starting the night before gradgitation, and it turned into a theme for the rest of the week. [sidenote: I can't believe I just typed "gradgitation" for public consumption]. But while I'm still very tired, I've spent the week constantly amazed at God's amazing ability to just ... provide.

It started with the lack of sleep thing. I almost fell asleep during Graduation because a) I'd gotten two hours of sleep the night before, and b) the speakers droned. Really. I mean, they just talked about nothing for about an hour and a half while we had to sit there in the sun instead of playing in said sun (for those of you who don't live near here, Rochester doesn't get much sun - second only to Seattle in the nation when rated for cloudiness, FYI). Then the rest of the week I got maybe 5 hours a night because of the various elements of being on the road, working on "homework" for training, etc.

And yet I stayed awake. Even better, I managed to learn a TON at the training.

Next I noticed that God's got this habit of providing for me in lots of other ways too. Mostly I noticed it financially. We have to raise this butt-load of money for our mission trip. I mean, a real whopper of a check to write; apparently the cost of living is repugnently high in Melbourne, at least by Rochestarian standards. Which is not to say they live extravagant lives, just to say that everything costs too much, sort of like Boston or LA. But then we find out that my wife's old mission fund is still open and has almost 1/6 of our goal already in it! [sidenote: this doesn't mean we don't need your help, so if you feel like donating to the cause, we'd love your financial support.] [other sidenote: we also need prayer support and help with communication to our sponsors, so if you'd like to do that, we'd love that help too.]

God amazes me. Seriously amazes me.

It's like He's whispering the whole time "just wait, I'll give you great reasons to trust me." If I had any doubts that we're supposed to go to Melbourne, they've been summarily eilminated, one by one, as God continues to pull one miracle after another from out of His seemingly endless sleeve. It's quite the feeling, knowing God is on your side. Exhilerating, captivating, and entirely motivating - I can't wait to start on the mission trail.

But first, this pesky business of moving has to bee taken care of. So without further ado, I go to pack more boxes ...

May 12, 2005

By Their Love

So just to follow up with my last post, I've been thinking some more about it (including a few mental pokes from Greg) and I'd like to clarify something.

What I wrote was an investigation into why it is that men don't tend to find themselves involved in the institutional church. What's interesting is the self-fulfilling prophesy that happens. Guys are told "you're not Christian because you don't come to this event we call 'church'" and what happens? The guys think they're not part of the church, think they're not Christian, and perhaps begin to stop BEING Christians. Because Christianity is not a religion - it's a relationship. And if these guys stop pursuing that relationship with God because they think they're not a part of it, whose fault is that?

I guess maybe my point is that we've started excluding lots of people - mostly guys - from the body because we make the church to be a place/event instead of that organism of people, and so we say "ah, you go to a lot of church events, you must be Christian" instead of "ah, you live the life, you have a relationship with Jesus, we know you're Chrsitian because you love so well." Church is not an institution - it's a group of people, a community of believers who all have relationships with Jesus. We've given up communicating to build community and instead, gone and started categorizing people, which really just boxes God in. We've created our own formula instead of being as inclusive as possible - like Jesus did.

Now, I'm not arguing for relativism here. Relativism is saying "everyone is in, because every path goes to God!" It's just as judgemental as saying "you're not going to heaven" because it claims to have the answer. I'm not saying that. We've been told the answer - Jesus is the way - but frankly, we don't know WHO knows Jesus. I'm saying we shouldn't judge - we don't decide who gets to heaven, we just know how they get there. There's a whole lotta difference (and yet a fine line) between "judging" and "discerning." Our responsibility is NOT to say "you are a good/bad follower of Jesus." Really, it's not.

The problem comes when we have to decide who is supposed to do X for the "organization." Does Bob lead worship this weekend, or does Vivian? Do I ask Jane to do the finances or do I ask Freddy? And in light of the fact that suddenly we're not supposed to say "you're a Christian" ... what do we do?

We discern. We love. We obey.

Great Chris, thanks for trying to confuse me, I'm going to go read another blog.

I don't mean to give the same old answers, but frankly, there's more to them than meets the eye. I think discernment has more to do with making your best guess than some strange divinely-revealed formula. I mean, you ask God, and assuming He tells you "this is what you should do," you go with that. But that's more like letting God do the work, and so if you can get away with that, sweet. But if God says "you pick," you have to discern - use your best judgement, as long as you don't judge. And it might work out, it might not. But it's not going to be 100% certain - because I don't think that certainty is the point anymore.

God is all that is certain.

We are told we can know Christians "by their love." And "love is patient, kind, never vaunted up with pride, never thinks of itself, always sides with truth." So maybe instead of judging people, we're supposed to love them unconditionally, as Christ did. You can't judge someone if you're too busy loving them unconditionally. And when we love, we obey. And the world suddenly gets just a little better.

May 10, 2005

The (Fe)male Church

So I've spent some time thinking about it, and I'm still no closer to a conclusion as to why in the world there are more women in church than men. I talked with Greg about it a bit, and he said that church isn't really a time or place, but a group of people. Ok. It's a good answer, a correct answer, and a good start, but not quite what I'm getting at. And so far, nobody else has tried their hand at answering the question: why is it that this group of people (a good start, again) is made up mostly of women these days, not men? I'm told this is true for the first century church as well, and for the church through history in general: women make up a larger portion of the body of Christ than men do.

And it makes no kinda sense to me. I mean a) I'm a guy, b) I believe in Jesus, and c) I have plenty of guy friends who are Christians too. But plenty more that are of the female persuasion. So I figured I'd try to sort it out by writing about it.

Ok. So let's see. Here are the options that I could think of:
1) women are smarter than men, and are naturally drawn to the truth because, well, it's true.
2) men are more rebellious than women, and will therefore run from truth more often.
3) God likes women better, so He predestined more of them.
4) there's something about the church that attracts women but not men. aka women are more relational than men, and find those relationships in the church, whereas men need solo time with God and find it on the golf course.
5) there are just as many men as women that are part of the church, but the men just don't go to an organized religious gathering but women do.
6) Christianity is false and women buy into the whole "connection" mumbo-jumbo that Jesus supposedly taught easier than men do.

I think I'll stop coming up with bogus ideas, because while those are certainly possibilities, I'm killing myself to find a legitimate answer. Ok, so let's go through them and maybe some new (better) ones will flush out as I think.

1) women are smarter than men, and are naturally drawn to the truth because, well, it's true.
Lots of discussion has been had about this, mostly at coctail parties and in high school cafeterias. And at weddings, lots of this at weddings. Because you have to wonder, is it something about the people? I don't think so, most researchers would say that women and men have about the same mental capacity in a relative sort of way. I mean, I'm not nearly as smart as most of my women professors, but then again, I'm not as smart as most of my men professors. In fact, UR has about a 50/50 split of women and men in academic careers. Ok. Next.

2) men are more rebellious than women, and will therefore run from truth more often.
A distinct possibility. In Eden (not to be confused with Edam, a sort of cheese), Eve was tempted by the serpent, but Adam was asked by Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. He had a choice - does he refuse and know that something will come between him and his woman, or does he agree and drive a spike between him and God? Obviously we know which one he chose, and that legacy has been a problem for men ever since - and this could certainly play a role in the truth. Ok, so maybe a better label for this is "men inheret a legacy of rebellion from Adam". Moving on ...

3) God likes women better, so He predestined more of them.I like women better than men too, but for a different reason. Right. So this is totally bogus, since I don't really agree with the Calvinist definition of "predestination," but rather with C.S. Lewis' understanding of it: Predestination is the same as free will, which is way confusing and frankly causes more mental problems than any other theological debate I can think of. Point being, I think God likes everyone, and so women are just as important as men are just as important as women and so on and so forth.

4) there's something about the church that attracts women but not men, aka women are more relational than men, and find those relationships in the church, whereas men need solo time with God and find it on the golf course.Possible. Very possible. I'd make this argument more valid if I had asked the question in a local context, rather than the historical context in which I framed it. If the church lately had been more laden with women (which it is), it would make sense, because the new culture IS very relational and women ARE very relational and it all kinda works out. Guys like golf, I'm pretty sure that it's got nothing much to do with God when they go out and swing clubs at little white balls. Maybe God likes golf too, I dunno. But the church, as of late, has made a much larger appeal to men because it offers a sort of ritualistic feel that men tend to find appealing - "just come on sunday and that will fulfill your religious obligations for the week." This is the case for evangelicals AND catholics AND orthodox AND mainline protestants alike. But the church hasn't been that way always - the medieval church was very much like that, but pretty much everyone was "Christian" (by force, I guess), so that's not very helpful. The first-century church was very relational and communal but not very ritualistic, and it appealed more to women than men - case in point, Perpetua and Felicitas, especially because Jesus treated women way better than his contemporaries. I'd say this one has a lot of weight to go towards the explanation.

5) there are just as many men as women that are part of the church, but the men just don't go to an organized religious gathering but women do.
Again, maybe. I guess this is a question of definition - how do you define "religious" or "Christian" or whatever. Furthermore, how do you tell if someone is really into their faith or not. Some people are way into "Jesus-talk" but really don't show too many spiritual signs (they just like the lingo), and some really aren't into "Jesus-talk" at all but live out their faith every day and do so with incredible stamina. So which is it? I'm thinking that this is again, a possible explanation - men really don't tend to like the community thing as much as women do - but only in part, because lots of organizations (like in business) have more men than women.

6) Christianity is false and women buy into the whole "connection" mumbo-jumbo that Jesus supposedly taught easier than men do.
Um, no.

Ok, so that's all I've got. Here's what I'm thinking: men are less relational than women are, and combined with their inherited legacy of rebellion from Adam, men are less likely to be a part of the church. The small-group entities appeal to women because that's what women (in general) really like - a place to be with friends. Guys don't like talking as much, they like doing - and so they won't want to be part of small groups, they'd rather be part of a habitat for humanity project where they get to help somebody. The question is, which is more spiritual? Frankly, I'd say you need a little of both, but if you got a guy to come to a project, he'd probably be more likely to come to a small group occasionally.

To be sure, the church has been very much a theoretical entity as of late - they talk a lot about love and such things (which women like to hear, and then get together in small groups and talk more about it), but don't necessarily SHOW such things (which is how men tend to function - on a DOING level).

I've written too much already, so please, I'd like to continue this discussion, but I need input - what do you all think?

May 9, 2005

The Change

My thoughts on the new paradigm as it relates to my church. Enjoy.

When God Shows Up

The past weekend has been enlightening for me. Mostly about myself, I think, but as I reflect on it, I can't help but learn a few things about God - and what He's really been up to. In my last post, I more or less ended on a dismal note, personally, spiritually, and emotionally worn out.

As it turns out, that's a really great place to be.

It doesn't feel so great, as you can imagine. You feel drained, not wanting to do anything but lay around and sleep or maybe eat or something. You feel abandoned, like the one thing you thought was certain - God - has left you without answers, without that sense of cohesivness you depend on to make it from day to day.

And it's funny how it's a great place to be.

Because as I reached that lowest of lows, questioning everything, I realized - my mind is now completely open. I don't think I have the Answers, I don't think that I'm sufficient, and I don't think that it'll be anybody but God that gets me out of this.

And that's when God showed up. When I finally stopped yelling and screaming and pounding my fists and shrieking in rage at Him, when I gave up fighting Him and started just listening, hoping to hear even just a whisper. And that's when I heard it - and it was a whisper, not the booming voice I'd wanted so badly.

The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" [1 Kings 19:11-13]

What are you doing here, Chris? Why do you question what you already know to be true? Why do you seek that which is not yours? It's ok - I've forgiven you already; My grace is sufficient for your questions, for your yearnings, and for your pain. But you already knew that.

It's amazing how moved one can be - how moved I was - when I finally heard Him speak. And it wasn't one of those music-swelling-heart-wrenching-the-sun-came-out-just-like-in-the-movies sort of moments. Rather, it was a quiet moment that seemed to last an eternity and a second all at once, a moment of peace, joy, and tranquility. While it was but a moment, it was, as He said, sufficient, and I rest in His arms assured that I am well loved.

May 5, 2005

The Demon

I'm never quite sure what to do when it hits. I've prayed, I've not prayed, I've been angry, I've slept on it, I've been angry some more, and I've given in. Every time. There's this demon in my life that keeps rearing its ugly head, and I don't know how to stop it. Have you ever had one of those? The ones that you'd give anything to get rid of, anything to be free from, but no matter how hard you try (or don't try), they remain, like a splinter in your foot.

I'm tired of running, of fighting, of failing. And I know that in our weakness, the spirit intercedes for us, but you know what? I keep hearing silence! And it just goes to show that no matter how true you know something to be, know matter how much head knowledge of something you have, you may not just quite KNOW it yet.

Tears never quite help either. I feel like I've reached some sort of realization with God, some kind of truce from the assault (from the other side), some kind of peace - and yet it only ends up being just that, a pause, before the guns start all over again, pounding at my soul's very walls.

And of course I know what it is - it's how God builds character. The whole "silver refiner" bit, how you have to go through the fire before you turn into pure silver. I don't think I'll ever get pure - I can't take the heat.


Maybe it's just been a bad day, maybe it's just been a bad week, but whatever the cause, I'm feeling very low right now, lower than the usual (albeit occasional) lows, and feel ... lost. Broken. Empty.

It'd be a really great time for God to pop His head in and say hi.

May 4, 2005

Lightbulb Jokes

Cheap lightbulb jokes, from Chris Irwin, for your enjoyment. Rock on.

Q: How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One to change the light bulb and one to cast out the spirit of darkness.

Q: How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: ... change???

Q: How many Methodist does it take to change a light bulb?
A: "...what, it's burnt out???"

Q: How many Church of Christ members does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None; "Unless the Bible specifically authorizes us to change the light bulb, we shall not change it."

Q: How many Televangelists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 54; One to tearily sing about the burned out lightbulb, one to bind the spirit of darkness that caused it to be burned out, one to prophetically give us a word from God about the need for a new lightbulb, one to to show a video on the ministry's many lightbulbs they continually change throughout the world, and about 50 more to count the money received from the faithful to buy that new lightbulb.

May 3, 2005

Finals Week

In lieu of the fact that I've been terrible about posting lately (finals week), I'd like to give you some links to people who have been saying what I want to say.

Church - and life in general - is just messy sometimes, and you can't always package everything into a nice box with a ribbon like you'd always like to:
Stacie's Latest Blog

And just because it's funny, and I'm interested to see what my sons turn out to be like in the future (probably just like this only more often),
Greg's Latest Post.

Anyway, enjoy ... and pray for me, I have my last final of my undergraduate career today and I'm really not looking forward to it.

May 2, 2005

A New Kind of Christian

I read this today from Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian and wanted to share it with everyone reading.

"I think some Christians use Jesus as a shortcut to being right. In the process they bypass becoming humble or wise. They figure if they say 'Jesus' enough, it guarantees they won't be stupid. ... That doesn't seem to be working! If people reject Jesus when they hear some half-baked would-be evangelist strutting his stuff and mocking the Buddha or Muhammad, I don't think they're really rejecting Jesus. They're rejecting the arrogance, ignorance, and bad taste of the preacher." ~Brian McLaren

You should read it - it's good.

Relaxing for the Future

Well, I got that break. There's nothing quite like a day of laying around doing nothing but watching reruns of Alias and playing dumb computer games with the wife. And I made fondue, which was about the best I've made yet ... even if it ended up a little lumpy, it still tasted fantastic!

Now it's time to buckle down and study for the music history exam I have tomorrow night at 4. I'm not really relishing this part. I have so many things I want to do - and most of them involve reading, writing, doing things that are entirely unrelated to music history in every way. But it's my last final, and so that of course means I should take it seriously. After this final, I'll be done with college. Done. Finite. With but one thing left, and that is to actually go through the ceremony.

On future plans: we received from Wesleyan World Missions a big packet of stuff. And so begins our new life: we are officially missionaries. They have this idea that we're going to
Lifegate (which we are, for maybe a week or two), which I'm not sure what to do with. Is it dishonest to leave them in the dark for now? I feel kinda bad.

In any event, before I can go to Australia, I have to study. Time to buckle down.