Thanks in the darkness....

As someone whose wandered through the bible a few times, mainly to write exegetical papers and impress professors. I originally wanted to do a post about praising in prison, connect the dots to the horrible situation in India, quote a few scriptures and leave you, the reader, encouraged.

Alas, that blog has been written to death, by many much more eloquent writers than I.

Instead i found myself meditating on my journey, through this life and my faith and realized that when times are dark, I'm not Paul, singing in the darkness with chains around my limbs. Nope i'm more like the desperate woman that's seeking Jesus to be healed of her bleeding. I then realized that as americans we are terrible at grieving. We eschew public displays of grief, we want people to get over it. We dont give them time to heal. This is reflected in the way we treat the Passion narratives. We get to Gethsemane and we skip over Jesus' crying, sweating blood in agony, praying with intensity and being frustrated with his disciples. We gloss over all that until he says "not my will, but thine" or head over to John, where there is no Gethsemane.

Americans are "Hope" addicts. We want the sweet, the reassurance that all will be alright, if we just keep living.

A cranky, but wise, old man told me he believed that hope was a substitute for action. As long as we have hope we dont have to do anything. When i read the prison epistles with this bit of wisdom in mind, i realized that Paul and his companions didn't have hope. They fully expected to die. But instead of sitting there, hoping for a change in their circumstances, they sang, they praised, they prayed, they wrote letters home. They acted.

So in these dark times, lets take action by first giving thanks for what the Lord has done, what the Lord will do and what the Lord calls us to do. Then lets get on with the business of doing it, even if the only thing we can do, is give thanks, pray, praise and sing in our prisons.


C hurch is for the pretty popular people

Lately i've been feeling kinda like the odd man out at church. I've bounced around a few churches in a few countries and have seen very few misfits sitting in the pews. When i hop on "evangelical" websites i see beautiful middle class white people. I am none of those adjectives.

I recently started reading a few other blogs and found out that i'm not the only one who's not fitting in! ( you can read the postings here: http://nakedpastor.com/archives/2420 and here: http://chickchaotic.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/futility-and-fugacity-or-future-hope/#more-218) I spent my younger years trying to fit into the box that i thought i should fit in. With age i gave up that futile struggle.


In looking around i noticed that pastors tend to be popular people. They tend to be the locus that the church is wrapped around. While we would like to believe that we picked our pastors based upon their sound doctrine and theology, the reality is that the deciding factors is their likability and public speaking abilities.

So where does this leave the outsiders. The people who arent "pretty". The people who ask hard questions and leave them unanswered. Who dont wear the right clothes or makeup. The people who have addictions/struggles/lost the battle for purity. Where do they go?

Should we attempt to make those people whole and pretty?Or should we love them as they are and move them towards healing and peace? Who should we be choosing to lead us? Or should we be choosing who to lead?

And sometimes, in the middle of the night, i think that we've got it all wrong. That Jesus never intended for the church to be a building that is lead by someone who has the title "pastor"who conceives and implements programs.

That, thought, more than anything else keeps me awake at night...


A prayer...

In light of the recent fires in Santa Barbara and the loss experienced by Westmont College, its faculty and students. The Fogster would like to encourage everyone to take a moment and pray for the victims and for the firefighters...



On Prophets...

So a couple of months ago a "prophet" visited the church. This caused quite a stir. Before i get too far let me confess, that i am a "prophet agnostic". Im not quite sure that i believe in the people who call themselves prophets. But given that this was a church event, i dragged myself away from my computer and books and headed to church.

When i walked in i could definitely sense an energy in the room. It seemed that people were expecting something to happen. I came a bit late and arrived after the 'prophet' had already started speaking. It was something rambling about prophecy and speaking for God. Obviously not memorable, cuz i dont remember what he said. I do remember that he was funny and relaxed. Afterwards he offered to pray for people and had us line up as the Holy Spirit called us to receive our blessings.

This is where my skepticism comes in... I did line up but as i was walking in the long line i noticed a theme in his 'prophecies'. Many centered around concerns of career, home and money. In front of me i noticed two korean women, who kind of reminded me of groupies. They were definitely from a charismatic background and frankly they weirded me out. When i got to the front i noticed his manipulation of my body. He did talk about some things that i could interpret as having to do with my life and circumstances. But then my skepticism got the better of me.

Of course it doesn't help that i have korean friends and love to MST3K televangelists...

So i called a korean buddy up about his thoughts on prophets and prophecy. In korean christian culture there's a history of going to prophets, some think it may be a link with korean culture animist roots. (another blog post?) Its always nice to discuss things with a fellow cynic. One thing i pointed out is that he kinda reminded me of psychics and mentalists. Both of these groups are masters of what's called "cold reading" . I can do this to a degree myself. Anyways so i asked my buddy, what he thought about this prophet and prophecy in general. His answer confirmed my instincts. Be blessed but take it with a grain of salt.

When i was in seminary i remember studying the apocalyptic writings and prophecy. I remember coming to the conclusion that prophecy was not to predict the future or even JC's return, but was instead meant to either correct the church, send it in a new direction, or build the church up. I dont see how wandering prophets do either. Especially ones with vague prophecies on their websites about the downfall of the west. (This is one of the reasons i reject the doctrine of dispensationalism.) Further adding to my skepticism is that they seem to be able to control the Holy Spirit at will. My understanding of scripture is that the Holy Spirit is at the control of God, not man. (if was more caffeinated, i'd post the scriptures to support this contention)

So i guess the question is, "Are these wandering prophets real or just skilled manipulators?" The short answer is "I dont know". But if one these guys blows through town, sure go up for the blessing, but keep your money in your pocket.


President Elect Obama

I voted and by the end of the night another dream was realized and another barrier shattered and i find that in many ways i have nothing to contribute to the dialogue. What more is there to say? All the op-ed pieces and bloggers have beat me to it. All that's left to do at this point in time is to pray. Pray for healing. Pray for wisdom. Pray for direction. Pray that hope and excitement will continue.

So let us take a moment and pray, for the new president and hopefully a new era in our country.




Today as i watched TV i felt like i was being manipulated. In addition my friends from various viewpoints/convictions/unfounded opinions keep sending me forwards/propaganda. As a person/leader of the christian faith, i am tired of trying to be careful about what i say to people. In the end i just feel plain manipulated.

I realized that there are very few people in my circle of friends to whom i can really talk to about how im thinking of of voting. In most all of those cases, im preaching to the choir. We're all writing in Mickey Mouse and refuse to disclose how we truly feel about Prop 8 for fear of being tarred and feathered by our peers on both sides. In addition some of my friends are convinced that the only true christians are republicans. Im a registered independent and moderate. (maybe im not praying hard enough)

I'll be honest. I blame James Dobson and the Moral Majority. If you go onto their website they have handy voter guides. So the faithful can just check their brains at the poll booth. They dont have to be bothered to read the legislation/candidates positions/think about what scripture truly says. Oh no James and his cronies have done all the thinking for you! Just follow their party line and their interpretation/manipulation of scriptures and you can be rest assured of being a good christian. (when did Christians become lemmings who follow a leader just because they have money and a huge following? Saddleback/Crystal Cathedral/Willow Creek anyone?)

Honestly, i dont care who/what you vote for. I just dont like having my faith questioned over my voting choices. No one has the corner how Christians should vote. In many ways those decisions are between you and God. If you are going to vote, be honest with yourself about why you are making those choices. Dont do it because its the right/christian viewpoint. Do it because you have used the brain that God gave you. You read your ballot and did some research. Actually read the other viewpoints, not just the ones that affirm your own position/opinions/leanings.

Finally don't send/repeat/drone back propaganda. I've spent some time in a communist country. I can sniff out propaganda with a 10ft pole. For the most part i ignore/delete/patiently checkout while i appear to be listening. If you want to discuss/engage me with an issue. Lets do it civilly and in a spirit of exploration. The point not being to evangelize me/you to agree that im/you're right. But to explore the candidate/proposition and examine the consequences/fall out/benefits. Lets actually open our bibles and read not just the proof-texts that Dobson and his bunch trots out, but the whole passage. (imagine actually reading scripture, on our own, in whole chapters!!!)

Time and time again i have found that what appeared to be cut and dried and the "christian" way to be just sheer emotional manipulation, especially by the republican/democratic parties. So when you do your research please take the time to find legitimate/independent sources.

"But i'm too busy!" you say. But its being too busy to care that has gotten us into this quagmire in the first place. Isn't it worth it to take the time to think/protect our right to participate in our government?

Finally church is supposed to be a place of sanctuary. Jesus didn't only heal jews, but also gentiles. Need i remind you that he ate with prostitutes, hung out with tax collectors and his best friends were fishermen! So pastors, please respect this sanctity and the intelligence of your parishioners and leave the politics at the door.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe about the Moral Majority and Dobson and others of that ilk. Our churches are in trouble. Christians get divorced at the same rate as the general public. Many in the pews are wounded/abused/scared/in pain. Many of our next generation are leaving their communities of faith. Instead of poring time and money into voter guides, maybe we should instead be focusing on healing/building/restoring our faith communities? Once those are healthy, i have a feeling that churches will truly be "cities on a hill" and hopefully voting guides will be unnecessary/irrelevant.

We've already lost the culture war and if we keep trying to fight this war, we risk losing the faithful. Lets instead show the culture/political establishment the transforming/healing power of Jesus, not the political might of people who use the label Christian.