Friday, May 25, 2007


Today, our corner of the Kingdom went through the yearly ritual of the announcement of farewells. For those of you unfamiliar with Army nomenclature, that means that over the past few days, people have been given the news of new appointments in our movement. Those of us who signed up as officers don't have a choice really. When you supervising officer indicates you are moving, you move.

This year is an unusually short amount of time for people to uproot their families and get their affairs in order. In four weeks, people will be settling into new homes, communities and assignments.

I grew up in this system. My parents are retired officers. I thank God for their faithfulness, but wonder how they did it with the four of us. The longest I ever lived anywhere prior to one of my own appointments was four years. In fact, I attended four different high schools in four years. I must admit, it was brutal.

I had the duty of informing people of their moves. Some received the news with great exuberance, others with a sense of duty, still others struggled. I know of that struggle as an officer. I have thought a couple of times, "Why me? Why there? Why now?" To be honest, I did not always have an answer. I was not always happy. In fact, in one move, I struggled mightily.

I say all this, because like many of my colleagues, I struggle with the appointment system. I believe that the movement of officers is prayed over and not taken lightly. I know moves at times are even agonizing for our leaders to make. In fact, one leader I worked with would not even kid about moves. He saw our duty as a sacred trust and that it was about the lives of people. I carry that mantra with me today.

Unlike some of my colleagues, I choose to believe that moves are made with the best intentions of the Army and the individuals involved. Many, I believe, are convinced there is a more political agenda in moves. I don't think that to be true all of the time. I don't believe in the "dart board" theory either.

No, my struggle lies in someone else controlling my movements as a person. I have always struggled with this, but then submitted to what I believed to be part of my calling. My mentor, Bill, calls it "intentional obedience." There are many days I lean this way.

I am not convinced that I have always chosen to obey. I think at times, I have not really had an option of what to do. I admit I have not had time to process my options. If I had, I wonder in those times of doubt if I would have maintained my officership. There were trying days. I am enough of a rebel at heart, that the idea that people in a room, no matter how prayed up, would put me in a place with little consultation from me frightens me. Maybe it is my controlling nature. Maybe it is the fact that our culture as an organization needs to become less authoritarian and more collaborative, especially as it pertains to honoring the commitment of officers and the pain of leaving places we love, while protecting our families.

I know I tread on dangerous ground here. I am probably not going to be viewed favorably by many who see our system as totally God-ordained. I think even the best intentions of people involves our humanity and is not a perfect science. Sometimes, I do think we get it wrong. Most times, I think it comes out at least acceptably. Many times it comes out just right. Often times though, I am not sure those of us in this system, fare well.

I love the missional thrust of the Army. I know that it is a God-ordained movement. I believe, however, it may be time to look at the move system. Should we give officers a bit longer time to get ready? Should the process be more collaborative? If so, what would that look like? Even when we pray over the moves do we get them right?

I am not about Army bashing here. As I said, I do struggle with some of this. It is a spiritual struggle for me, I know. I would like some constructive dialogue. I don't want venomous talk. I do think that we need to be truthful. For many of us this will take courage in this open forum. I hope we are not viewed as rebellious or in some way insubordinate. By jumping in you may well be viewed that way. Rather, I want us to really be constructive. As always, I would like to know....

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Prayer and fasting or Physicians and Robots?

Today, one of my spiritual mentors had surgery. Everything went well. The doctors are pleased with the surgery itself. The recovery time will still take a while.

People have been praying for months for this day. People fasted and prayed today for my friend. I also know that a very skillful surgeon performed magnificently in this case. He did the surgery with a robotic device. I am told that the recovery time will be cut dramatically by this procedure.

I believe that all healing comes from God. I believe whether through supernatural means or through the hands of a physician, God does what is necessary when He heals.

I struggle though with those who have what I call hyper-faith. It is the type of faith which discounts any type of natural intervention being used by God and always looks to the supernatural.

This type of faith goes way beyond healing and goes to finances and other issues. In fact, these are the same people who not only have hyper-faith, but also tend to wrap it in the flag. I did have someone once tell me that my faith and my wealth went together. I guess we should tell that to the very faithful Christians in China, Darfur and Pakistan, to name a few places.

I do have faith. I have even seen miraculous answers to prayer. I have a couple of great stories I can stick in here but you would get bored (especially if you have Adult ADHD like me). I do get a little worried by the "Name it. Claim it." crowd who think that by our shear faith that we can have anything we want.

I do believe, however, as we become more obedient to God, our requests become more in line with His will and therefore, are more likely to be answered. We become in-tune with Him and our desires are more like His and we become less selfish and more selfless.

I have also had someone recently tell me that they had someone lay hands on them and an unhealthy attitude was removed. My question really is, "So was this their prayer or your desire?" I think it has to do more with my friend's desire than the specific prayer prayed over him.

I know some of you will come back with that great OT verse "Some trust in chariots and horses, but we trust in the Lord." This is true. Yet, don't you think if God could use a donkey to deliver a prophecy, He could use a robot to deliver us from illness? Don't you think that our obedience in holiness is what really triggers answers to prayers and not just faith?

Well, I am rejoicing that my friend, leader and mentor is on the road to his healing. I do hope that you will not see my blog as a lack of faith, but a realistic look at what it means to be faithful.

So what about prayer and fasting (which I believe in, by the way) and physicians and robots. Where do you stand on this issue of faith and obedience? Do you believe in a "Name it. Claim it." theology? Do you believe that it is our obedience that leads us to pray in concert with the will of God. Or do you believe there is another way? As always I would be interested in knowing....

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Social Cocooning or Salt and Light?

This is going to be a hard one for me. It will mean that I may tread hard on the toes of some of my friends. Also, there is a part of me that says that what I am about to say will be viewed as an attack on people. It is not. Just like the rest of my posts, it is meant to spark questions and reflects some of the questions that I constantly ask myself.

I have had a couple of conversations recently which have pointed the fact, that there is a great deal of what I would call social cocooning by Christians, especially evangelicals. Today, I was in a meeting that I was chairing. It was our employees recognition. It is traditional to give our employees the rest of the afternoon off after the luncheon, which ends around 2pm.

To send the employees home, I quoted the great philosopher and comic Martin Lawrence (OK, maybe he is not such the great philosopher) to dismiss them I said, "Look, you ain't got to go home, but you definitely got to get up outta here." Immediately some of my more conservative and older employees looked and said "Huh?" Those under 35 and who have some contact with things that are not necessarily considered Christian, laughed and cheered. Someone said, "That is so confusing. Are you shutting down the office?" I knew I was not in NYC anymore but firmly on the buckle of the Bible belt.

When I politely tried to explain why I said what I said and then made a reference to Martin Lawrence, it was lost on some people. One person even asked, "Why would I want to even watch anyone like that? I am a Christian!"

Earlier this Spring, a corps in our division held and American Idol contest. It was well-attended by Christians and non-Christians. It was a great outreach. Many were ministered to through the outreach. When reading that the corps was having "an idol competition" one of my colleagues (Who I absolutely love) said, "I find it incredibly offensive and anti-biblical that we would have a corps having an American Idol contest." He made a reference to an Old Testament Scripture talking about idols. This is the same person who when we were playing a game was shocked that Janet actually knew some of Madonna's songs. Aghast that Christians would even know about this, we were given to listen to a lecture on the evils of popular music. We could go into the fact that most "Christian" groups are recorded on labels owned by the same conglomerates that own labels on which hard core rappers and punkers record, but that would be too much for this post. That does not even go into the commercialization of Christianity. But alas, I digress.

I am also amazed at the amount of officers who either home school or do private school. If it was based on the issue of poor performing academic schools or insecure schools I would be more sympathetic. I know the argument from most of my friends is that they want to "protect" their kids from evil and humanistic influences. I argue that in order to really have a faith that is not embedded, but practical our kids must be put into places and situations where they stand up for their faith and work it out through temptation. By the way, Christian schools and other schools have many of the same problems that public schools do. I see this and the other issues as an attempt at social cocooning and living a monastic life instead of being salt and light in the world. I know I make broad statements here and each case must be weighed on its own merit.

Were there times, I challenged my kids and myself on the type of movies and music we listened to? Yes. I still do. Were there times I thought about my kids going to private school for the educational benefit? Yes. Never did I think about protecting them from worldly influence. I think that might give the devil too much credit.

Was I ever worried about going to hell for watching American Idol? Uh, no. In fact, I thought and still think it very important to be conversant on popular culture and to engage it for the sake of being salt and light in the world. By the way, I don't think popular culture is always as evil as many evangelicals make it out to be.

I see it as important for us to be in the middle of the whole thing. I see us needing to be in the midst, making a difference through engagement, not retreat or being cocooned. Should there be boundaries? Yes. Do I live on the edge of those boundaries and make some people uncomfortable? Definitely.

That is what makes faith so intriguing to me. As we work out our salvation with "fear and trembling," I think there is a whole movement of Christians who are trying to take back and redeem culture and knock down the Ned Flanders (By the way for those who are not in the loop, that is a reference to the Simpsons, one of the most popular TV shows of all time.) image evangelicals now sometime have.

I do struggle with how far is too far. I do struggle with a brand of Christianity that tends to shy away from conflict and engagement. You may think I am wrong. I admit I might be. I am working this out for myself. I am anxious to hear from you on these matters.

What do you think?