Saturday, January 31, 2004

Blue Like Jazz part 3

I finnished the book this evening. If you are reading this I highly recomend Blue Like Jazz. In his last chapters he talks about three important things. How to Love others, How to Love Self, and Jesus. I am blown away by one thought. H did not Love himself and He had not allowed himself to be loved. His girlfriend had just broken up with him as a result. He writes:

"I was scrubbing the toilet when the voices began. I'd listened to them so often before, but on this day they were shouting. They were telling me that I was as disgusting as the urine on the wall around the toilet. And then the sentiment occurred. I am certain it was the voice of God because it was accompanied by such a strong epiphany like a movement in a symphony or something. The sentiment was simple:Love your neighboor as yourself.
(after a question "is God telling me I'm gay")
God was not telling me I was gay. He was saying I would never talk to my neighboor the way I talked to myself, and that somehow I had come to believe it was wrong to kick other people around but it was okay to do it to myself...So, I stopped hating myself. It no longer felt right."

Sometimes I wonder why my wife loves me. I mean I don't deserve it. I can be a real ass at times. Worse yet is that I hate that part about me and I will dwell of for days. It still bugs me that I can be such an ass and say such hurtful things. I think though I am starting to really believe that people actually love me. If people really love me then maybe I can believe (I know it but don't always believe) that God loves me. Maybe I can learn to not hate myself or parts of me. Tolani is teaching me that I am loved for who I am, the real me even in my assness. What a thought.

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

Blue Like Jazz part 2

In both books Don talks a lot about identity and doubt. I read his writing and I feel like I am looking into a mirror. Don talks a great deal about being raised in the Church, being a youth group and college age group leader, and still feeling like he did not know God. I have been there sometimes I think I'm there now. In my attempts to follow God I feel like I'm blind. I wonder if whether my beliefs and faith really make a difference in my life. If they are real beliefs then they should make a difference. But I wonder.

Yesterday I came home from the office and I was a real ass. My primary responsibility now is watching the budget and getting it in line. We are in debt to the denomination because the people responsible for the budget have not watched our spending the last year. Costs increase + donations go down + expenses go up = we are screwed. So much of the last week has had me being in pure business mindset. I don't like myself much when I get this way. I'm direct. Probably too direct. I end up in a situation where I want the facts and only the facts. When that gets done I'll tell you the facts. I was in the tell you the facts mindset when I got home. I did not listen first!! There were a few things in the house that bugged me because they were not put away and I got very direct with my wife. I was truly an ass. I know she forgave me and God forgives I just don't like myself sometimes. I just hope I can learn to do the business related things without becoming an ass all the time.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Blue Like Jazz

A couple years ago I was blown away by a book I found on the clearance table at Family (the only good stuff at Christian bookstores tends to be on the clearance rack). It was called "Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance" written by Donald Miller. What impressed me the most is that his writing style is unmatched. He effortlessly blends true stories with theological treatise. In Blue Like Jazz the setting has changed. Don uses events in his life to talk about theological concepts. His first chapter introduces his childhood where he talks about being raised only seeing his Father three times.

Growing up in a single parent house I understand some of what he went through. He says when he was young he remembers the years between phone calls and then magically he would spend a weekend with his dad. After sixth grade to phone calls stopped. Luckily for me the phone calls never stopped. I do remember the phone calls saying "I'm comming" living in Idaho made travel tough but I remember the hours I would spend perched on the couch waiting for a car or a call. Just hoping he would not call to say he wasn't coming. When I was a child I was not close to my Father either. I loved him I desperately wanted to spend time together. One year I saved up money from my paper route to buy tickets to a Mariner game. I used what money I had to buy things for him so he'd know I cared. But our relationship was still distant. Within the next 18 months Tolani and I are planning on having a child so I will be a Father. I can only promise to not be a distant father.

Back to Blue. Don uses his story to talk about something very few people understand.

Today I wonder why it is God refers to Himself as “Father” at all. This, to me, in
light of the earthly representation of the role, seems a marketing mistake. Why would
God want to call Himself Father when so many fathers abandon their children?
As a child, the title Father God offered an ambiguous haze with which to interact.
I understood what a father did as well as I understood the task of a shepherd. All the
vocabulary about God seemed to come from an ancient history, before video games,
Palm Pilots, and the Internet.


Why do the vast majority of Christians and the Bible use this Father analogy? I hate it. But if I said "in the name of the Mother, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" I would be branded a heretic. It would be worse then any of my thoughts and there must be some actual heresy to some of them. The whole Father thing really sucks though, but so would mother, damn I hate language.

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Sunday, January 25, 2004

Dwight’s Challenge

Dwight challenged me unintentionally of course to write more about my personal struggles. Oddly enough many of my emotional struggles tend to be intellectual in nature. Growing up I was put into a position where I had to ignore my emotions. I grew up idolizing Spock. Always keep the emotions in check. The last year + of getting to know Tolani, and probably for the first time truly opening up to another person, has been a discovery of my emotions.

I realized yesterday that I have attended more funerals in the last six months then in the rest of my life. It has forced me to realize something. Someday I will die. Death doesn't scare me as much as dying does. I see too many get old and loose their minds. They are not themselves before they die. This is what I fear. I do not want to loose my mind. I'm always thinking about something, when I'm not I don't feel right. It frightens me that some day I won't be able to think or process or remember. Often at funerals I cry because while I am blown away by the stories of the departed I mostly am scared of loosing my mind.

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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Evangelicals and funerals

I just got back from a memorial service for a long time member of my church. As the associate my role in these things is minimal. That is actually a good thing as I hate funerals. Anyway the service was great; people shared their memories of Dan. He was a music teacher, big band leader, church member, a truly joyful Christian. The service had gone about an hour and 15 minutes when my boss the senior pastor started to give his "devotion." He proceeded to give a 15 or twenty minute sermon on how we must accept Christ. It was full of BS like just accept and just believe, and we must accept Christ to go to heaven. Then he prayed the "God convict these people" prayer. In my opinion this mindset of lay it on them when they are morning sucks big piles of cow s***. Is emotional manipulation the only way for people to come to faith? Why do preachers think we need to say anything? Can't we let the person's life speak for itself? But hey I hate funerals maybe evangelicals are partly why.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

This and that

Well I finished Power Failure over the weekend. I came away with a pounding headache. If you have never read intense philosophy do not pick up this book. He had a good point though. We should not automatically accept technological advances. Not every advance is good. I got the sense that he was a bit nostalgic about the past. He wants a world where we have diner time and everyone in the family comes together. That doesn't do much for me on a daily basis. However I see his point in using meals to celebrate as a community. Unfortunately Power Failure also comes off as Anglo centric. He actually argues that western Anglo culture is actually the worlds dominate culture. (I am not in the mood to look up the page number.) Maybe because it is dominate for him. If he moved to LA he might have a different perspective. I Love LA I can eat all the Mexican food I want, and its pretty damn good. My point is that there is NO DOMINATE CULTURE.

On another note I started reading some light reading that is spiritually and intellectually more challenging. I started reading Stories of Emergence. Mostly because its Mike Yaconelli's last book. He wrote the first chapter about his life as a pastor it almost brought me to tears. What hit me is that community is what I am searching for. A place to be me a crazy sometimes insane theologian who loves God and his/her Kingdom. I have read about five of the stories each one has hit me. Spencer's (www.theooze.org) hit me equally. Giving up the prestige of the pastorate to hang out with artists and help us fellow travelers on our journey. I think the most impactful thing is that these are stories real peoples stories, fellow travelers like me and you. Pick it up if you haven't read it.

This morning I had a meeting with the residents at our senior living complex about a new computer lab that we are getting from a grant. It lasted about an hour and I tried to answer questions and get input. After I went on a walk to get some lunch and try to think out my sermon (didn't happen) I wondered by the library and picked up a few used books. I got back and was accosted by the budget. The senior pastor has given me the task to figure out this mess that we are in because no one has been paying any attention to what is going on. So after an hour and a half and a headache I came home with a question does anything I am doing really matter? Is it of any use other then a job that pays the bills? I'm a pastor what does that mean? I occasionally preach and I give some sort of guidance to a small group of Jr Highers. So what? Is it worth the headache? Is it worth the sleepless night trying to figure out something honest to say though I could throw a three point BS sermon together and everyone would be happy except me and God.

The status quo really pisses me off. And yet nothing will change at the church until June when moves come and who knows what will happen. Until then I live with my inability to change the status quo.

O well, may God give us all strength on our journeys.

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Sunday, January 18, 2004

Paintball

As I said there was some great team work. When we worked as a team we were very successful. However when we tried the "everyone do their own thing" approach we got killed very fast. 1 or 2 might survive but most were killed. I think there might be a lesson in it.

When we go off by ourselves trying to make our own way we get killed mutilated and destroyed mentally and spiritually if not physically. When we work together some may be lost but we will succeed in the end. Maybe succeeding is simply living and surviving, but apart from the team, surviving becomes an impossibility. Maybe the team is the goal. So, what can we do to build teams? I do not believe talking is enough.

Also, in a team I must give up my authority and my views of what we should do, the team must decide. Too often we look for what we want. "If you don't agree with me I don't want you on my team." Disagreements will happen, we must use those to learn and build the team. In the end the team is better then the loan wolf.

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Who am I

I saw this at dwights blog so I thought I'd take it. I guess we have something in common
I'm a Wesley I guess that answers a lot as well


"What a mystery is this, that Christianity should have done so little good in the world!
Can any account of this be given? Can any reasons be assigned for it?"
You are John Wesley!

When things don't sit well with you, you make a big production and argue your way through everything.
You complain a lot, but, at least you are a thinker and not afraid to show it. You are also pretty
liked by people, and pretty methodological about your life and goals. You know where you're going.
Some people find you irritating, so watch out for people leaving you out of things they do.


What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson


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Saturday, January 17, 2004

My wife's new blog

Check out my wife's new blog (See the link for Tolani Finley). It should be pretty cool thing. Her views are often different as we are different people and we ask different questions. www.urbansalvationist.blogspot.com

We went paintballing today. I had never been we were with a large group so we had our own field. Got some valuable lessons in teamwork. I might have something to say on this tomorrow.

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Friday, January 16, 2004

Power Failure part 3

The author argued for something very interesting. His premise is that while many practices have been eroded by technology one has not. He calls these communities of celebration. He uses three examples repeatedly; street musicians, tennis and church. As opposed to football or the Olympics which have become "consumable commodities." These communities come together not out of some cause or work but these are voluntary associations where people come together to celebrate either music, the sport of tennis, or Christ's death and resurrection or God's activity in Life. He argues that these celebrations revolve around a real tangible thing i.e. the body of believers. Then he gets interesting, while arguing that there should be public support of community celebrations, in the form of covered areas for street musicians, or community (free) tennis courts, he argues that there should be public support of religious celebrations. He was too philosophical and not story bound enough to convince me. So I ask you should the public support religious celebrations with money or infrastructure?

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Dying and Space

I just have a few scattered thoughts.

One of the members (Dan) of our church was diagnosed with melanoma about 7 years ago. He is in his late 60's I think. Well over the last couple months he has taken a turn for the worse. I have not seen him in a while as Christmas came and such. Being the associate I am not the primary pastor doing a lot of this visitation. Well I went over to his house. His wife is recovering from Hip replacement and so is on orders for no pressure on her hip. Thus there are a number of caretakers and the like. But I saw Dan. He is a shell of his former self. I could not recognize him. It was not him. He barely remembers anyone including his family. Its hard to say how much is his medication. I left and I cried. It just isn't right that people suffer so much. My biggest fear is dying a slow death where I gradually loose my mind. In fact it’s loosing my mind that I'm most frightened of. I told my wife "if I ever end up like that, take my ass to Oregon” She said she would never have me euphemized. I still wonder, is it better that people suffer then they just simply go to whatever is next while they still have some sort of dignity? I don't know but I just never want to be like Dan. This is the hardest thing I have to do as a pastor it makes me hate it at times.

On another note. Our president the hang em high Texan himself has said lets give NASA another billion reallocate 12 billion and let go to the moon. Hell lets go to mars. I'm not against space exploration but everyone shouts "it will bring technological advances." Are they worth it? How many people could be fed or who many people without health care can get it for the 13 billion we are spending in 5 years going to the moon? Is all the technology worth it? Is anyone willing to ask these questions? Will anyone stand up to Bush and say no? Let’s fix this world before we spend to money and recourses exploring others. If we set our minds to it we could cure malnutrition and give everyone health care and the technology would advance to meet these goals but we care to much about "is there water on mars" This man asks is there water in Africa or housing on skid row, or health care for the poor, or food for the refugees? Well is there? Until the answer is yes I don't give a damn if there is water on Mars.

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Sunday, January 11, 2004

Power Failure Part 2

This post primarily deals with why Borgmann believes it’s important to realize that we live in a material culture. For us philosophers he starts with
"First in aspiring to theory it, (philosophy) has been removed from practice. Theory can inform practice, but practice is richer than theory while theory and, above all, self-sustaining. Practice can survive without theory while theory arises from a practice and perishes without the nourishment of a practice. Practice as philosophers have always seen it, is in turn removed from its tangible setting. Yet material culture constrains and details practice decisively. Practice, abstracted from its tangible circumstances, is reduced to gesturing and sometimes to posturing."
In essence we can not treat life (practice) as a science project, observing and making theories based on practices which are bound to a specific setting.
He goes on to argue to argue that the philosophers have given up their right and responsibility to make moral assessments of modern technological life. He argues that in today’s society there are two kinds of realities "commanding reality and pliable or disposable reality. He uses music as an example. Commanding reality is like a musical instrument. It requires work but ultimately it is treasured. While it may get very little playing time an instrument has a commanding presence in a room. A disposable item may be a stereo. While they can be imposing in size as well as louder and sound better then a played instrument they are disposable. They have a short life span. My thought was of computers. How long do we expect a computer be functional a couple years at the most?
Furthermore values are changing. What we value most in today’s world are these disposable things. The same is true with food. "The practice of cooking has been greatly diminished through the availability of convenience foods and microwave ovens (I’ll add restaurants as well)...Food itself has been reduced from a contextually intelligible and illuminating thing to an opaque if glamorous commodity." Food has become something to be consumed.
He concludes by arguing that many including most liberals who look for equality "overlook the narcotic effect that disposable reality has on people."
He then argues that ultimately ethics belongs to "communities of celebration" this is where I will pick up latter.

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Saturday, January 10, 2004

A search for authenticity

Yesterday I met with another SA officer. He has been a friend/mentor for a few years now. We talked about everything from life and diet; both our wives have us on diets. The conversation went two directions primarily.

We talked about a class he is teaching at the training school which focuses on “joyful theology”, trying to approach theology in a way that brings back joy. For most Christians their beliefs don’t make a difference in their lives. It looks a lot at sciences relationship to theology, specifically the role physics and creation theory play in our theology. Can there be any joy if we understand God as a changeless, timeless, all knowing, (the old Omni’s omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient) being. What is the nature of God? Shouldn’t how we see God make a difference in our lives? What if God’s primary character traits are not the Omni’s but are relational and creative? Would that make a difference?

We then talked about TSA. Specifically what are we? It seems as though we want to be a church and many are fighting to keep the idea that we are a church. However, if we look at what 90% of officers do we are not pastors. We spend the bulk our time administrating a parachurch ministry. The problem is that we are not real with ourselves. We keep saying things like “we are a church” or “mission team leaders” or whatever the latest buzz words are. If we say we are one thing when we are really another then we are deceiving ourselves or we are hypocrites, our perspective will dictate which word we use. Does it really matter how many people come on Sunday? Does it matter if we have Sunday “church” at all? Why not become the best international/local parachurch ministry in the world allowing our officers to be part of other worshiping communities.

In this process I am also questioning the validity of the senior pastor model. What speaks more a single full time paid pastor or 5 6 or more part time or volunteer pastors using whatever gifts they have. I would rather be in a community of people who are serving each other and doing the work of the church “feeding and clothing the poor, bringing liberation, healing the sick, community and individual transformation.” TSA as a parachurch could be a powerful force in this calling, as a church we usually just suck and get in the way. We have unique role and position in society. We must use this position to network with the growing postmodern Christian population to reach other postmoderns.
In order to do this we must start to be honest with ourselves and others. This covers the essence of what we are, finances, what we do, and be more open in general. We can not be afraid of others especially Christians like we have a monopoly on being “right.”

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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The Bridge in Portland

I found this at Jason Smith's Blog.
Great article about a church doing something right.
http://www.portlandmercury.com/2003-12-18/feature.html

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On Christmas

As it says in my header I am an officer (pastor) in TSA. As a result Christmas is a very busy time in our lives. Those of you who are part of TSA understand this others do not. Here in Redondo Beach during Christmas we gathered and distributed over 1000 toys distributed over 200 food boxes and raised about $52,000 during our 5 week annual Red Kettle campaign. In comparison to many corps (SA churches) our Christmas was small.

Every year about this time I ask myself; Was it worth it? Is it worth the twelve hour days six days a week? Is it worth the stress that I put my body through trying to figure out all the logistics, let alone the very real thing called if we don’t raise the money we’ll close down? Is it all worth it? In answering this I ask another question; Why do we do this thing called Christmas? Is there a better way to do it?

People come it
People go out
Can’t remember a name
Or even a face
People come in
People go out

They get their toys
They get their food
Some believe they’re entitled
Some just say thanks
People come in
People go out

Why?
What’s the point?
They walk out the door
No name, No Face,
People come in
People go out

What's the point
There only a stat
Why bother with a name
Why can't I remember a face
People come in
People go out

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Sunday, January 04, 2004

Power Failure Part 1

The other day at Borders I picked up "Power Failure: Christianity in the culture of Technology" by Albert Borgmann. I started reading it after the Seahawks lost in OT. (The Broncos are getting blown out so all is ending well.) Borgmann is a philosopher at the University of Montana. What strikes me about this book so far (Intro and Chapter 1) is that Borgmann attempts to define our culture as a culture of Technology. I will be curious to see what Borgmann sees as a Christian response to this culture.

My one question is: Is he right? His definition of Technology is complex including the consumer culture but is there more to today’s culture?

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Saturday, January 03, 2004

Friendships

Over the past couple days a number of things have happened that reminded me how important Community and friendships are.

At Christmas things are quiet here at the training school. (Normally this is a two year program but since my wife is still in the program we live on campus which is about 10 miles away from my office.) Not that I minded the quiet it was nice for a time. Last night a couple of my friends and I went to Borders. My favorite times are when I have free money (Christmas presents). We went and I found a few books but the best part is that it gives us a chance to catch up and voice our frustrations as well as our moments of happiness. It was a subtle reminder that while my T is my best friend there is something well, Holy about three guys, books, and borders gift cards.

Another thing happened yesterday. A friend of mine came for an unexpected visit last night. We went through TSA training college together and he is at a Hispanic church about an hour away. It seems that he just needed to talk. We hadn’t touched base in about three months way too long. But friendships seem to be beyond time and space.

Finally, I have been surprised to see friends of mine many who I have not seen in almost a year visit this blog to see my musings. Friendships are truly a blessing from God.

How often do we forget the importance of friendships? May God forgive me for forgetting how essential friendships are.

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Water

In the postmodern world metaphores speak more powerfully then matter of fact truth claims. In my current position I am burdened with the task of speaking/preaching in a way that is true to my being as well as a way in which communicates truth to an older (mostly over 65) congregation. Thus my sermons have taken on a life I was never taught at CCU or at The Salvarion Army (TSA) training college (pastoral training school).

Tomorrow I will be delivering a sermon on God as water. We are spending the month talking about Renewal. I started thinking about water being the primary source of renewal for all of creation. Without water all things die. Yet the very thing that causes and brings back life (reclaiming a desert) can also be that which causes death and destruction. This was made very evident in the recent floods here in California.

So, if God is water (a metaphore used throught scripture to discribe God and what God does) and water causes both Renewal and Destruction, what does this say about God? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Friday, January 02, 2004

This is my first of many posts. My name is Bill Finley. I have been married to my wife Tolani for four months and loving every bit of it. Last June I was commissioned as an officer (minister) in The Salvation Army. I am currently the associate pastor at the Army in Redondo Beach CA.

I graduated from Colorado Christian University in May of 2000. It was here that I came to realize and accept much what it means to be a postmodern christian. (btw I hate the word PoMo but I have no other word to use.) I can offer much thanks to Dr. David Williams, Janet Rummfelt, and Woddy Northcutt. They and others first created an enviroment where we could ask questions and maybe or maybe not find answers.

I have come to a place where I am comfortable with my doubts and questions. This blog will be a place where I can post info about Life (what we are doing ect.) Faith (My thoughts, questions, and observations abouth this thing called faith) and church (questions and thoughts about the church at large and the branch known as The Salvation Army.

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