Friday, November 07, 2008

a new day

Well, honestly, I feel like I am getting hours back of my days to read other things besides politics stuff. By no means is the hard work and change already set in stone for Obama, and his presidency is one that I am both looking forward to and anxious to see in action, but right now, it is just nice to slow down from all the drama of the last couple of weeks of debates, discussions, blogs, newspapers, etc. and enjoy the victory. In case you were wondering I did vote for Obama, and while there are certain issues that I disagreed with him on, and hope he will produce some lasting change (perhaps a discussion of another post), I had no false hopes in believing that either candidate would be capable of doing all they promised, nor am I stacking my chips in the governements corner. But that probably has more to do with my ecclesiology than anything else.

I am looking forward to Rowan growing up in this new day however. It is really important to me that Rowan got to be there when his mother and father helped to elect the first African-American president. It is important to me that Rowan is going to live in a country capable of electing a president of a darker hue. It was powerful for me to sit with Rowan last night and tell him a story of this historic election. It was amazing to pray with Rowan for our first African-American president, that God would be with him and his family. I honestly didn't think that I would see this happen in my lifetime...but I couldn't be happier, especially in terms of Rowan never having to wonder "Is it possible?" That new day is here.

I thought McCain's concession speech was the best one I've seen from him. It seemed genuine, heartfelt, and I think that if he had spoken with that kind of tone throughout his campaign, he might of had a better chance of winning. I sincerely hope that he and Obama will be able to work together for some lasting change in the near future.

On a completely different note...I'm in the ordination process. I submitted my paper yesterday, and meet for my ordination council next Wednesday, and the service is set for Dec. 7 during our normal worship gathering (pending a positive recommendation from the council of course!). It's kind of crazy to be here at this place in my life. There are some good folks on my ordination council so hopefully it will be a great time. Of course it makes me a little nervous, but I'm thinking that they won't try to make things too controversial, so let's hope that things go smoothly!

Friday, October 17, 2008

hoping to avoid disappointment and disillusionment

Sometimes being interested at all in politics feels like a large and overwhelming process of simply hoping to avoid disappointment and disillusionment. A large part of me thinks that voting and a lot of the political process and governmental machine is an impractical and unrealistic vehicle in which to place hope and trust for real change. This is not to say that I don't think that at times our government or other governments have practiced elements of justice and goodness in our world, but in the spirit of many of the prophets of old, and in the spirit of many of the new, it is really hard to justify spending so much time reading, watching, and thinking about structures of power that seem to be spinning its wheels in mud that just ends up leaving the car stuck, and the people trying to push the car out from behind dirty and covered in mud.

I've given a lot of serious consideration to not voting this election. Maybe it just isn't worth it. Maybe I just need to spend time living the changes I hope to see and stop reading things that just make me mad or disappointed. Maybe voting is participating in a structure that ultimately goes against what I think are the hopes and dreams of God for our world. Is voting actually making me complicit with the "powers that be" in a way that I am to be held responsible for its crimes or failures that perpetuate violence, socio-economic injustice, racist tendencies, or exploitation in the name of freedom and democracy?

But this post, by Anthony Smith (Musings of a Postmodern Negro), struck a cord in my heart about a month and a half ago. It's a perspective that I haven't been able to shake. I think that it helps to articulate for me a sense of appropriated participation in government. Anthony helps me to reconcile some of my issues of participation in government because he points out a couple of important issues (not that these are all clear from his post, but hit on some things I have been thinking about):

1) Not voting is only a viable choice of a privileged people who have not known what it is like to not have the right to vote
2) Participation in government, especially in terms of voting can provide a change in leadership that certainly matters and will imply different policies, practices, and actions.
3) A lesser evil is still a lesser evil, and since my deepest hope is in another King and Kingdom, as long as I recognize the powers that be for who and what they are in contrast to this alternative way of living, participation in the governmental structures are still really important.
4) It is really important to remember the sin and inequality of the past and to work hard to discern how that impacts the present and will continue to inform the future if change is not sought in the here and now.

So, I am going to be voting this election. I am going to vote, because it is my responsibility as a follower of Jesus to do my best to hear the voice of the marginalized and voice-less in our country and abroad, i.e. the voice of my neighbors, and do my best to vote for the person and administration that will enact more of the practices that make equal the playing field economically, live out justice, break down walls of racial discrimination, are less violent, and more helpful to all people, not just the ones who typically benefit from the system. Voting to look out only for me and my pocket book and my own moral choices cannot be the only viable option (or perhaps a viable option at all in many circumstances?).

But I am voting not as one who is placing all my chips on the government to be the best hope for the world. I have no false conceptions that our government (or any government for that matter) is capable of fulfilling the hopes and dreams of God for our world in a finalized or fully realized manner. While governments may participate and play a role in justice being lived out, the kingdom of God and governments are not synonymous, and it is when they become synonymous that as Christians we must speak up and offer another voice because a lot of things have been done in the name of God and country that certainly cannot be of God. So I am going to be voting this year. And I will keep paying attention, but I will place my hope in a kingdom that is for the here and now, but is not controlled by one government, one political party, or perpetuated through violence. So here is to hoping to avoid disappointment and disillusionment by participating in the political process with an ear open to the truth-tellers of our generation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

really? i mean seriously...

Republicans advocating Waterboarding Obama?

GOP women put Obama's face on mock food stamp currency.

The articles say enough. Shey's quote about Republicans seems to be true, that McCain was banking on many Americans being more racist than sexist. Sad stuff.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

100th post and a revelation/question

So 100 posts. Took me way too long to get here. Writing is something that I love doing, but in the craziness of life with a child, or life in seminary, or life as a youthworker, it seems like the days just go by too quickly and I'm not slowing down to process and reflect and write. I am a much better person when I write often. It helps me to see the good in others and the world around me. It helps me to process the changing light as it hits the trees outside my windows as the seasons move from summer to fall. Writing at once both helps me to find my voice and also doubt it and challenge it into new places. I am working on creating a new rhythm or rule of life right now, and I'd like blogging to be a part of it, because I know that writing is good for my soul and good for my awareness of the world. But I won't sit here and make some vain promise to blog twice a week for the next year or anything, and I don't want the blog to become a chore. But I would like to be more disciplined in my writing practices...and well, I've sucked at it as of late. It's been way easier on the family blog to put up cute pictures and videos of our little boy...but spend less time reflecting on the changes it has brought.

So this is post 100...and at the beach I had a revelation/question. My revelation: outside showers are better than inside showers. period. they just are. my question is, why don't houses in the country have outside showers? why limit the amazingness to the beach? shey tells me it's because they are practical at the beach where you need to wash the sand off before coming inside...and i say boo to that. i want a country house where i can stand outside, take a shower and see the stars above. if we ever own a house in the country or at least where the neighbors couldn't see us all the time...first thing to be added: outside shower. done and done.

one last thing: we went to the beach last week (which was amazing and quite needed rest) and how did the leaves start changing so quickly? nothing seemed to be changing when we left last monday, and then boom, we are home on saturday and the leaves are turning quick. has the leaves changing snuck up on anyone else?

Friday, September 12, 2008

another sad day to be a white christian

I mean seriously? (HT: Brian McLaren) Torture and evangelicals, not a good combination...and white evangelicals at that. Uh.

So I alluded to this quote in a comment in my previous post, but in Shey and I talking about politics, specifically McCain's decision to pick Palin as his running mate, Shey made a brilliant yet extremely sad point about why she thought Palin was chosen, basically Shey said: "McCain chose Palin because he was banking on voters being more racist than sexist in this election." I might add to this statement, white evangelical voters. So while I think a lot of conservative, women-can't-be-leaders evangelicals are in some sort of conundrum with Palin possibly being the #2 of the U.S. gov't, I couldn't agree with Shey more about the racist tendencies in the U.S. political arena. It is interesting that we have heard a lot about Obama's relationship to Jeremiah Wright and Wright's liberation theology and questions about racist tendencies in government and history in the U.S....but we aren't hearing nearly as much about Palin's church and their interesting record of political perspectives, not to mention some interesting theology. Greg over at the parish highlights some of the problems evangelicals might/should have with Palin's supposed family values and christian perspectives.

I have to remind the students I work with that my own parents (who are right now 52 and 51) both lived and experienced the integration of schools while in high school. That Virginia, the state I live in, was one of the worst in the formal integration of schools, as massive resistance took place in many counties around the state, some lasting years before integration was allowed. And we need not look hard at current events to see how race continues to be an important underlying issue around our country.

Again, I don't have any false hopes the Obama and Biden duo are Jesus come again, or that they are going to actually accomplish all the change they talk about...not because I think that they are bad people (nor do I think McCain and Palin are "bad") but I am really struggling with some of the perspectives on war, terrorism, healthcare, the military-industrial complex, crossing of theology/political ideology, posturing, racist tendencies, and poverty issues amongst other issues, and I honestly was scared after watching Guliani the other night, and after seeing a painting on the door to the republican headquarters on Main Street in Warrenton where Palin is decked out in furs, looking happy while holding a huge gun...I just am kind of sad with the rhetoric/tone of Republicans right now. And sometimes, I'm just ashamed of being white with the tone of people (like the first link to the recent perspectives on torture) or the ignorance of white folks in their willingness to dismiss the significance of a little ol' African-American community organizer making a difference in such a way that he might become president of the U.S. i have another post on race and voting in the works...but got to get some more work done. until then...hope folks are well.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

a little vomit in my mouth

Let me say first and foremost that I am not a Republican nor a Democrat. I have voted for both parties in different elections, except for president, which unfortunately I can say I voted for Bush W. both times that I have been old enough to vote. To all who thought they knew me, I'm sorry. Feel free to stone me, or laugh, or pat me on the back if need be. I've begun over the last 5 years listening to my little conscience (or Spirit?) that has helped me to see the world in some very different ways...theologically, philosophically, politically, etc. i did struggle with whether or not to vote for bush w. on round two, but ultimately voted for who i thought at the time was the lesser of two evils. This is an interesting election on many levels, but mostly I've grimaced and become disheartened over the political process in general, and wanted to join my Anabaptist brothers and sisters on most days while watching the conventions.

That being said, I don't think either of the presidential candidates and their running mates are spawns of satan. but honestly, i don't think that i have seen as many disgruntled, angry white people in one room together as i have tonight watching the former mayor of NYC Rudy Guliani's speech tonight at the republican national convention. i mean seriously. they made fun of obama being a community organizer...they literally stopped and laughed at him. it sure is something to laugh at, you know, a young black guy trying to make a difference in his neighborhood and city. they showed the faces of young white men my age who scowled with what seemed like hatred in response to Guliani's cadences. where does the anger come from? honestly, i felt like i had a little vomit in my mouth each time Guliani smiled and used terms like "energy exploration" to describe the continued vain dependence on oil through drilling in alaska and wildlife areas rather than "exploring" renewable energy. or take when Guliani emphasized McCain's willingness to go to the ends of the earth to eradicate any enemy of the US with military power, and then pointing to Palin's religion as a sign of God's affiliation with the republican party.

now i will be honest, i didn't watch all of the DNC and i haven't watched all of the RNC. i saw plenty of crap come through the DNC (which up to this point i have watched more of the DNC than the RNC), and i have been watching the RNC mostly b/c i want to try my best to hear from both sides. so, i'm not going to act like this is a balanced perspective...this is simply my reaction as i watched the RNC tonight, and i will finish watching palin's speech tomorrow (shey wanted to go to sleep so i will finish watching it tomorrow), and so far I didn't hate what she had to say for the first like 2 minutes (after the long applause introduction).

but the RNC seemed venemous. i felt dirty watching it, and while i didn't feel good watching the DNC, i didn't feel like i need to take a shower, or feel my chest tighten and cheeks become red as i did tonight watching the political drama of the RNC. there are a couple political posts brewing in my mind and have been for some time now that i'd like to work on in the coming days. i think i might tackle my views on a couple of issues and then maybe point to some others who i think are offering some interesting perspectives currently.

anybody else have some thoughts on the conventions thus far? who are you thinking about voting for...why? and please, let's be civil if any comments do come up....much love.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

days are flying by

I still just can't believe how fast the days fly by right now. It is hard to believe that Rowan is over two months old, and that I graduated from seminary. On this cool summer night, it seems like forever ago I was taking classes (even though I am still wrapping one up from home right now!). On one hand I can't imagine trying to go back to school, but on the other hand I can't imagine not going back. Does that make sense?

I have been making my way through a bunch of books all at the same time right now: Jesus for President, The Dark Materials Trilogy, and two schoolbooks: The History of Israel and Understanding the Old Testament. All of which have been really good. Jesus for President has helped to articulate the Anabaptist streak that runs deep in my soul, recognizing the brokenness of the current political system in the United States while also helping to stir up a more creative political and prophetic imagination for Christians in the U.S. for the upcoming election. The Dark Materials is the series by Joseph Pullman that includes The Golden Compass, one of the more recent whipping boys of evangelicals in the U.S. that are scared that the books will lead their children down the path to hell. The two schoolbooks have been good, but difficult to read when my brain feels this mushy. Thankfully Rowan has started sleeping through the night this past week, and that has helped tremendously to start reading with more clear thoughts. Anybody else reading anything good?

Also, am preaching this weekend if anyone is close by and wants to visit/hang out. No promises that my sermon won't suck, but even so, it would be fun to see you!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

4 years

Happy 4 years of marriage to my wonderful wife and best friend. I love you Shey! Here's to the new adventure of parenthood together. I couldn't imagine doing this without you. Thanks for loving me so well.

Monday, August 11, 2008

i can still cash in

Well, so its been a while. Those of you who are close to the Hayden's know that it has been a crazy couple of months for us, including the expansion of our family, bouts with terrible infections, extended hospital visits, graduating from seminary, and overall just plain old business. For those who may be reading from afar, both literally or figuratively, or following along from my family blog which I write and share with Shey my wife, or have no idea what I am talking about...check out the family is a looong story, with a lot of drama, and there is no need to rewrite everything here. I'll share a couple of things, but otherwise, for more details and lots of great pictures, check out our family blog.

First off, Shey and I are so thankful to have a new member of our family, Rowan Joshua Hayden, born on June 10, 2008. As of my previous post, I was giving my Master's Sermon on June 3. After preaching (and passing!) my master's sermon, I went home to Shey who was having severe back pain and spasms. After not sleeping, we called for an ambulance to take Shey to the hospital, upon which we would be staying in either Fauquier or UVA Hospital for the next 3 weeks. To make a long story short, Shey ended up having osteomyelitis, being the second or third reported case of osteomyelitis occurring in a pregnant woman that has been recorded. Not a great way to be special! Rowan was born at Fauquier Hospital, and then transferred to UVA, where he stayed for two weeks receiving various treatments for a variety of issues. Thankfully Rowan has had a full and great recovery and is home and doing well. Shey's recovery was quite a bit longer, but thankfully, she too is doing a lot better and we are all home together. I'm glossing over some of the most difficult times in my married life (and life as a whole) that tore my insides out at times, but maybe later I'll unpack more of that experience here, but right now, just the basics.

Shey is one of the most amazing people I know. For sure I am biased, but she is so much tougher than me. Shey is so strong, kind, and courageous, and I couldn't have been more proud of being married to anyone in my life. And Rowan, not only is he cute, but he's got the strong spirit of his mom, and he too is a fighter and so very strong. The family has expanded to include this new little man, and I couldn't be happier than to have them both in my life!

On another completely different note: the Hayden's have also bought their first Macbook (the first we both have had together, and the first we've each had since we were kids). In fact, this is my first post from the new black macbook we bought, and so far, I couldn't be happier with our new computer. We still have some learning curves but each day gets a little easier in learning how to use our new computer. If anyone has any good tips or advice on how to get to know our macbook better, let me know!

Lastly, it is exciting to know that as little as I've posted i can still cash in on my blog and stir up some bitterness even without posting. (Glad you are back safely from Germany Seth!) I really do hope folks are well and am looking forward to getting back into the swing of posting. For the most part, I will probably keep most of the family stuff on the family blog, but I'm sure there will be some overlap, well, b/c they are my family.

So what have I missed? How are folks doing? And of course, meet Rowan:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


so it's been a month since i last posted...again. i have had so much that i wanted to share, and yet the time has been blazing by. Shey's pregnancy has had some busier times than we expected, which means that I basically went to school, did schoolwork, did church work, spent time with students, helped take care of the house and Shey, then hit the repeat button. I finally got the garden planted (more on that soon) and in the meantime have turned in a Master's Sermon (see more info below) and am getting ready to graduate. It's been nice to slow down from some stuff, which by "some stuff" I mean going to class three days a week, but really, I've found more than enough to keep me busy otherwise. If you are in town and want to show a little love and support, I will be preaching my Master's Sermon next week. If it works, I'll try to record it, post the audio and manuscript. Just as an FYI: my sermon is clocking in around 20 minutes, so don't worry, I won't be preaching for an hour or anything. I'd love to hang out afterwards too if anyone would like to rejoice in the ending of school! Here is the info they sent out:

Dear Students,

Graduating Students Josh Hayden and Eric Reiser will be giving their Master’s Sermon on Tuesday, June 3rd at 6:00 PM in the Chapel at The Leland Center.

We ask that you attend this event to show your support for these two students.

Please see the ad below for more information.

The John Leland Seminary


Graduating Student’s Josh Hayden and Eric Reiser are to give their Master’s Sermon


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

6:00 PM


The Chapel at The Leland Center

1301 N. Hartford St. Arlington, VA 22201


Much love to everybody. Sorry for the lack of posts. I hope you are doing well.

Monday, April 28, 2008

what is salvation?

So I am wrapping up a final semester of my M.Div. (dang, that has gone fast) and I'm taking a class called "What is Salvation?" We figure it out. We finish off the perfect theology of salvation in this class. Okay, not really. In fact we don't even try to. We do explore the various theologies found in the NT, historical theologies, and contemporary theologies that highlight different perspectives and theological spaces that are created throughout the history of the church.

I was reading James Cone today for my class tomorrow night, a book called God of the Oppressed, and came across this:

"Whatever else the gospel of Jesus might be, it can never be identified with the established power of the state. Thus whatever Christians ethics might be, it can never be identified with the actions of people who conserve the status quo. This was the essential error of the early Church. By becoming the religion of the Roman state, replacing the public state sacrifices, Christianity became the opposite of what Jesus intended." (Page198)

And also this:

"Liberation as a future event is not simply otherworldly but is the divine future that breaks into their social existence, bestowing wholeness in the present situation of pain and suffering and enabling black people to know that the existing state of oppression contradicts their real humanity as defined by God's future." (Page 159)

Powerful words that seemed quite timely for me in the midst of Obama's campaign and his pastor's remarks. If you ever get a chance to read Cone, I highly recommend his profound works on God, justice, racism, liberation, and salvation. I hope for more regularly scheduled blogging as school winds down and graduation grows closer...not to mention the new addition to the Hayden family!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

in case you were wondering

(I know, I don't post in a month, and then twice in one day...)

Check out what we saw in the yard today!

So, yes, in case you were wondering I'm still a dork. I still watch birds. But come on, a bald eagle. That is awesome. Right in our yard.

so it has been a month...

Since I last posted.

Things have been a little out of control in terms of the busyness of life lately. We have had a lot of stuff to get ready for our new family member, school is kicking my butt this semester, and church has been busy too. Shey has also had a pretty rough go lately. We had a trip to the hospital on Monday after our doctor told us that we should go since Shey hadn't been able to stop throwing up for over 5 hours, and was having heavy stomach cramps, they wanted to make sure the baby was okay, and that Shey wasn't going into early labor. After a couple bags of IV fluid, some blood tests, and more throwing up, we headed home after about5 1/2 hour stay at the hospital on Monday evening/night. Our little man is well and Shey is well (in terms of the her blood work, not the throwing up part). But we are pretty beat. Just when you hope things would quiet down a bit so that you can hold the craziness together, it seems to have gotten busier.

But during this time, I've been reading some good stuff at school, listening to some great music, and seen some funny things, and had some interesting thoughts on politics, missiology, being a dad, poetry, Harry Potter, and bumper stickers. There is no way that I can even explain all that, but I thought that I'd throw out a couple of things that have been good for the soul as of late, and maybe a snarky comment or two about some missiology stuff.

First off, I finished the series of Harry Potter over spring break. Dang, it was really good. I wanted to hate that series so much, and think it was going to be a waste of time, thoughts, and energy, but it was sooo good. So much better than Chronicles of Narnia, on par with Lord of the Rings, and just a beautiful read overall. Some of the books made me weep over the sense of family, friendship, the intricacies of life and death, love, stubbornness, and community. It made me sad that I lived through the creation of those books and didn't read them as they were coming out...that I didn't get to embrace the excitement and longing for each book. On a completely different side note, but tied in with both Harry Potter and politics, I saw this bumper sticker this week on my way to school and laughed out loud:

While I haven't been writing on the blog, I have been doing a lot of schoolwork, and reading some blogs still. April's last three posts have been some of the best posts I've read in a while, you can find them here, here, and here. The McCarty's have been sharing some great pics from the farm, and have been a delight to read: in a post/letter to Wendell Berry, marriage/parenting, and being a parent and its change in the relationship between spouses. I read a roundtable discussion with Derrida, transcribed by John Caputo with his commentary on the discussion in a book called Deconstruction in a Nutshell that is a really good read, it made me laugh out loud (how often does philosophy do that?) and it was insightful in so many ways, specifically in articulating why people get so upset with postmodernism, and especially deconstruction. I've been reading some W.S. Merwin and have forgotten how good poetry is for the soul.

I have been really interested in the political stuff going down, especially the comments of Obama's pastor, and thought that The Postmodern Negro had one of the most helpful posts in how to approach and have helpful categories with which to talk about the issues. I have a lot I'd like to say, but little time to say it especially after reading James Cone last year which was amazing, so I'll point you to Anthony's post. I will say this however...I grew tired quickly of a bunch of rich white people speaking their mind about the situation like they were experts on either a) black theology or 2) racism. Lest we not forget, my parents (who just turned 50) went to segregated schools in VA that had to be integrated in Northern VA, near DC. Let's not forget the context of words like Pastor Wright whose life story has been informed by racism in ways that we must be careful not to forget.

Lastly, I mean seriously, what is this stuff from Dare 2 Share? I got a little flyer from them today, and one of the stories/testimonies that they share in the flyer to convince you to bring students says: "Before the D2S conference, my daughter was as likely to cough her lung up through her nose and reinsert it through her ear as to evangelize her friends. But the very night she got home from the conference she was simultaneously sharing her faith with four friends (including a Muslim she barely knew from one of her classes) on IM. Because she attended the conference with friends it's now normal for them all to share their faith. 'All my friends are doing it, Dad.' Wow! (italics mine)"

Seriously, this arrogance is what makes me crazy! She assumes, after one small conference, and a good dose of guilt that her story is better than the Muslim student, who she barely knows, and begins a conversation with them to convert them to their story. Where is the humility here? Is this kind of proclamation so easily assumed to be better than sharing life with people and having relationships rooted in reality rather than false conceptions of the "other"? Is anybody else catching the arrogance or humility in this way of "evangelizing?" I'm all for understanding mission and living/sharing good news, but this kind of stuff, especially in youth ministry is frustrating and prideful.

Anyway. sorry for the long post, but i hope folks are well. school ends in about another month. hopefully i will get to post more in the coming weeks...but no promises. much love to all.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Justice Mission

Tonight the youth and I will be finishing up our last lesson in The Justice Mission curriculum. I'm not much of a curriculum kind of guy, but after some great recommendations from Seth, we embarked on the journey towards reconciliation, redemption, and justice for the marginalized and oppressed people in our world. I have gotten some really strong feedback from students whose lives are being impacted in our discussions, studies, and reflections about the mission of justice by God. The Justice Mission curriculum is supported with videos that I found to be conversational, and non-emotionally manipulative, which is nice for a change, and unusual for student materials. The curriculum focuses on the work of The International Justice Mission, an organization that puts into practice the justice mission in wonderful ways. While the videos moved me deeply, along with our discussions, even to tears at times, I didn't feel manipulated or forced into a corner with no hope of how to bring this stuff into reality. In fact, it was the stories of change and salvation that brought such hope to my heart; my heart which struggles to believe that this justice, holistic salvation of the oppressed and marginalized, for the down-and-outs, and hopefully for me, the oppressor, the slacker, and the perpetrator of injustice can somehow come into reality.

Here are two emails that I received from some students that highlight their thoughts about our investigation into the justice mission:

"Thanks for youth group tonight. I super really enjoyed it. I feel like it was kind of deep and mental in a very positive way. I predict that I will be thinking a lot about what we talked about throughout the week and I can't wait to work on the journal sheet you gave us. I'm not quite sure why, but I just really loved youth tonight."


"I just wanted to let you know that I think this justice mission is a really great idea. A couple of weeks ago, we were watching Hotel Rwanda in class, and people were so ignorant and had no idea that genocide exists nowadays. I really think this is a great way to learn about all of the prejudices in the world and ways that we can help stop it just in every day life. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for a really great lesson. These past couple of weeks, I have really been struggling with the idea of oppression and what I can do to help. I am looking forward to hearing more about this and learning about it."

I was talking with a friend recently at a birthday party about salvation, and the penal-substitutionary theory of the atonement, and I've been thinking a lot about the importance of telling a story of salvation that includes a change of the self, our communities, and our world, in a way that includes a radical sense of joining with God in laying down our lives for others. If salvation is limited to getting off the hook for sin and getting out of the punishment of hell, where does the motivation and need to join God in God's mission of justice for our world come from?

This has been a great experience, and if you have been thinking about going through the Justice Mission, I would recommend giving it a try. I'm pretty skeptical of curriculum stuff, and this was really good. Not to mention that Marko, the folks over at the Justice Mission, and other Youth Specialties folks were praying for us, followed up with us, and will help with any questions you might have.

Friday, February 29, 2008

a little boy

For those who catch up on the Hayden Family via my blog, and haven't checked our joint blog over at The Family Hayden, (which by the way, Shey is a freakin' awesome blogger, a much better writer than me!, not to mention that she blogs consistently!) we had some exciting news last week:

The above picture is the most recent glimpse of our new son! We are having a baby boy! And isn't that a cool picture, he's sucking his amazing. (On a side note, the new 4-D sonogram pictures are so cool.) Everything looked really healthy, Shey is progressing well, the due date is sticking to July 6. For some health stuff based on Shey being a high-risk pregnancy because of a genetic trait that predisposes her to blood clots, they will probably induce her before July 6, but that's the date for now. Here's another picture helping to illustrate that this is a boy:

Some friends and family have already given us some cool stuff for the baby, and now stuff for our new baby boy. My parents gave us a little blue soccer ball, and a UNC t-shirt, along with some funny little "Momisms" and "Dadisms" books. Shey's folks have started storing up some cool baby stuff, gotten some really cute outfits, and animal place mats. Not to mention that Shey's dad is building a nursery for us in the house we are renting.

Things have been slightly crazy of late, but I'm really glad to have such great family and friends around to support us, and help us find our way through. Shey turned 27 this week, and it was so great to spend another birthday with her. We've almost known each other for 10 years now, wow. I love you so much sweet's to a fun trip over spring break, and here's to hoping that our son gets the creative, artistic, and generous spirit that you radiate and inhabit.

I'll leave you with another picture:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jubilee Retreat (the follow up)

Hello all...a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks that give me more things to talk about than I can seem to find time for! But I will try to post a couple things today. First and foremost, our Jubilee Retreat a weekend ago went really well. There are tons of links below (in an earlier post) to everyone involved, but I'll highlight some of the stuff that happened over the weekend. Stephen has a great synopsis here along with his reflections that give some perspective of the retreat. I couldn't have asked for a better partner to plan and lead a retreat with. I hope this is the first of many trips we will do together!

Our speaker for the retreat was Jon Middendorf, a youth-pastor-become-senior-pastor at a church in Oklahoma City. Jon is a great guy, let me say that off the bat. We had great conversation, some good laughs, and shared some of the stories that are our lives together. We talked about how we began to be interested in the emerging conversation, and connected our journeys together through books, ideas, and the hopes and dreams of God for our world. Jon is an excellent speaker, casting grand visions of what the kingdom of God is like, how it comes about in the practice of Jubilee, and how it impacts the various relationships in our lives. Whether with God, personal, global, local, familial, or with creation, Jon helped our students to begin to recognize ways that God is seeking to reconcile the whole of creation in Christ. On a side note, Jon is a tall dude...please let this picture fool you into thinking that I am taller than I really am. I am standing on my tip-toes in this picture and Jon is laughing at me. Big thanks to Jon for traveling out to work with some crazy Baptist youth workers.

LivingStone Monastery where we stayed was a seriously awesome retreat location. The artwork around the monastery, the people who took care of us, and the ease with which things flowed seamlessly together helped make the retreat such an awesome experience. We couldn't have asked for anything better. They prepared our meals, they provided space for our worship gatherings, and they provided housing for us to stay. The care for our students and the excellence with which things were done helped make the trip go so well. They were flexible when things ran over time, and they worked with us when we had questions. A big thanks to Chris for working with our groups and helping us make this retreat happen!

Two of the most significant parts of the retreat for me personally were when we sang the theme song of the retreat "Give Reviving" and when we participated in communion together. Give Reviving is a beautiful hymn, redone by Chelsey Scott for the latest Indelible Grace project Wake Thy Slumbering Children. The lyrics of this song brought into an art form, the ideas, visions, and dreams that we hoped to inspire in our students during the retreat. Below are the lyrics and also a video that Stephen took of Kent and Tim playing the song during the retreat from his digital camera. Kent, Tim, and Andrea simply did a beautiful collaboration of work and art to help lead us into worship through images and music. I can't begin to thank these friends enough for their help in planning the retreat and working with us. They helped make the worship gatherings the beautiful experiences that they were, and I hope we'll get to do something like this again together!

Give Reviving

1. Father for Thy, promised blessing,
Still we plead before Thy throne
For the times of, sweet refreshing,
Which can come from Thee alone
Blessed earnests, Thou hast given,
But in these we would not rest
Blessings still with, Thee are hidden,
Pour them forth and make us blest!

2. Prayer ascendeth to Thee ever,
Answer! Father, answer prayer
Bless oh bless each, weak endeavor,
Blood-bought pardon to declare
Wake Thy slumbering, children wake them,
Bid them to Thy harvest go
Blessings O our, Father make,
Round their steps let blessings flow

3. Let no people be forgotten,
Let Thy showers on all descend
That in one loud blessed anthem,
millions may in triumph blend
Give reviving, give refreshing,
Give the looked-for Jubilee
To Thyself may, crowds be pressing,
Bringing glory unto Thee

Tag: Give reviving, give refreshing,
Give the looked-for Jubilee
To Thyself may, crowds be pressing,
Bringing glory unto Thee

© 2007 Innocent Smith (admin by The Loving Company)/
Petit Bateaux Music (ASCAP).
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Lastly, our time of communion, and our participation in the Eucharist was one of the most moving times I've had with God in community for a while. After Jon set up our time, he invited Stephen and I to share the bread and cup with everyone. Stephen held the bread as each person came up, broke off a piece of bread as Stephen looked into their eyes and told them, "This is the body of Christ, broken for you." Then each person came to the cup, where they dipped the bread and I looked into their eyes and said, "This is the blood of Christ, shed for you." It had been a while since I've done communion by intinction, and for a few minutes, I felt like I was able to see people as I imagine God sees us. I was swelled up by this sense of hope and love, that Jubilee is possible, that each of us in Christ are able to join together to help fulfill the hopes and dreams of God for our world. For a few brief minutes, I lived in the reality that this was the sense of compassion, love, and hope that Jesus felt for the people he came in contact with during his life. Or maybe it was looking into the eyes of students and close friends, and feeling a deep sense of mystery being enacted, with the locus of meaning found in the reconciling Christ of my imagination and hopes. Whatever the reasons, and perhaps for others than I've mentioned, God seemed real and present in a way not often sensed for me.

There is so much more to share, and for a better break-down of the retreat, check out Stephen's post, but I thought I wouldn't traverse the same terrain, but share my experience of the retreat a bit. I'll try to post some other things today that are happening in the world of Josh and Shey. But I wanted to process the retreat a bit, and catch folks up who were wondering how it went. Thanks to everyone who helped make our retreat such a great experience.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jubilee Retreat

This weekend Westwood Baptist Church's youth group is joining us for a retreat at LivingStone Monastery in Newport News, VA. The unifying theme and jumping off point of the weekend is this idea of Jubilee from the Hebrew Bible, this sense of God seeking reconciliation amongst all people and creation through the dismissal of debt, the freeing of slaves, the release of the oppressed, rest for creation, and more. I had been dreaming of this retreat for a while in my head, and with the great help of Stephen Gray, we have settled in and created what I hope will be a great experience and opportunity for conversation, reflection, and prophetic insight for our students (and most likely ourselves as well).

We have asked Jon Middendorf to speak for our retreat, he is the Youth-Pastor-become-Senior-Pastor of Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene, and podcast host with one of my favorite bloggers over at Leadership Buzz. He is going to be taking a look at some gospel passages that reiterate and emphasize this imagination of Jubilee, and how we might let this concept inform our lives and impact our world today. Jon has been talking about this idea of Jubilee at his church for a while, and so when we started emailing about possibly working together (a long time ago now), and I asked him how he'd feel about talking about Jubilee, it was a great fit. I'm excited to have a chance to talk about theology, emerging stuff, the change from youth to senior pastor, and just life stuff with Jon. I'm hoping that this will be the start of a new friendship, and will be a wonderful experience for our students.

We will be hosting the the retreat at LivingStone Monastery, a Protestant monastery in Newport News, VA that should be a creative space for reflection, conversation, our worship gatherings, and change. For the record, if you are looking to host a small to medium size retreat, probably no more than 50 people, then this might be a great option for you. For $25/night, they provide lodging, 3 meals, and meeting space. You really can't beat that. They are wonderful to work with, timely in their responses, and helpful to accomplish your goals in setting up your retreat. You can do stuff with those living there, or you can do your own thing, they are flexible and help you think through details. I can't recommend them enough!

We will be having 3 worship gatherings, a chance to put Jubilee into practice through a service opportunity, a question & answer session with the community living at the monastery, and we will watch either 4 Little Girls or God Grew Tired of Us to further reflect on Jubilee on Saturday evening. Along with our speaker, we are bringing in some great friends of mine, Kent & Andrea Jaffrey and Tim Gardner to play music for the worship gatherings. They are fantastic musicians and Andrea while being a Ministries Assistant at our church, is also helping run the videos, and slides, etc. during the worship gatherings. The songs that they have chosen look awesome, the slides/videos are cohesive and powerful, and overall, it looks like the worship gatherings are going to be beautiful.

Sunday, we will head home, stopping for a little relaxation, food, and fun at Chuck E. Cheese after the main part of the retreat is over. I can't remember being this excited for a retreat in a long time. Summit Lake was awesome with Chris Folmsbee last year, but it is fun to craft a retreat with a friend in a smaller setting, and dream specifically for the students I am working with, and build it from scratch.

Here's to a good weekend, great conversation, God's Spirit moving and us being open to hear and see. This is the closing prayer for each worship gathering for this weekend, and sums up well our dreams for where our hearts will be moved towards:

A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make us intruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Trees aren't supposed to fall on cars. Right?

In the midst of an ice storm that came through our area in the last couple of days, one snarky little tree decided to forget the above adage and decided to go ahead and fall on my car (as seen below). The damage wasn't terrible, but to think that I nearly accepted an offer from the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 10 new trees this year...if this is the kind of behavior I can expect from trees, well, let's just say I won't be planting any new enemies soon.

Sorry for the lack of posting (I wish I could say it is because I am halfway through Book Six of Harry Potter), I have started a new semester of school, and Hebrew, Hermeneutics, and What is Salvation? have been kicking my butt, along with this retreat that I have been planning for the youth that happens this weekend. I'm going to write more about the retreat, but I have to say, I haven't looked forward to a youth retreat this much in a long time. I think that it is going to be a really great weekend for the students I work with. If you add to the retreat preparations a tree falling onto my car, two days before this retreat, in the midst of the busyness of starting school...I'm just glad to have some sanity at the moment. I hope folks are well...
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

in light of the coming super bowl (Shey will appreciate this)

Yay sports!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

getting back on the saddle

Well a new semester of classes is beginning. I've already started a class over at Catholic University in the last few weeks, but as of yesterday, Leland classes are back in session. I'm taking a full load this semester: Hebrew I & II, What is Salvation?, Biblical Exegesis, along with an intensive, Theology and Film, all over at Leland, along with my Hermeneutics and Religion class over at Catholic. It's a full semester, but it looks like I should be graduating on June 14, 2008. I will need to finish up two classes post-graduation or post-end of the semester which is I believe May 15.

It is so hard to believe that I may be finishing up my master's already. I will have finished my degree in only three years at Leland which may be one of the quickest for an M.Div. I have truly enjoyed my time there, and the education and development has been a really beautiful time in my life...hard, and wrenching at times, but beautiful. I've made some great friends there, and am looking forward to another strong semester of learning and growth.

That all being said, starting a new semester is really tough, I usually begin the semester muttering to myself: "There is no possible way that I'm going to be able to get all of this work done." This semester I'm also muttering: "There is no possible way that I'm going to get all of this work done, along with taking the time to enjoy these months with Shey before we have a child, work a full-time job, prepare to be a dad, and be a friend to others....and figure out how we are going to financially make it through Shey no longer working."

Don't get me wrong, I can't wait to see our child, to hold her/him (we find out on February 20 the sex of the baby), to be a parent with Shey...but I usually fall into a panic at the beginning of every semester that lasts about a week as I get going, and try to figure out how in the world all of the busy things in my life are going to work. You add the usual stress to the fact that our lives are beginning to go through a large transition (which I know is good, but still is scary sometimes!) and you get quiet Josh, the one who doesn't talk much, is slow to respond to anything, and who can't stand the inconsistencies in his life. How church makes me feel empty a lot, how I want to buy locally and organically, and never shop at Wal-Mart again, but I need a notebook for a class and don't know where else to buy one that isn't being sold by a major corporation in our town, and I want to really embrace the growth in the youth group, and the changes that I'm seeing in the kids, but am scared that I will fail them as a leader and friend.

Shey and I had a really great talk last night and we worked through some of this, and she is so wonderful at helping me have perspective and believe that this will all work out when I just want to sit and read Harry Potter and pretend that my classes don't exist. The funk that usually lasts for over a week is clearing already, though I'm still scared, still overwhelmed a bit, it is nice to be on the same page with Shey in the midst of my spinning head and thoughts. So I'm getting back on the saddle, with some new music, some great stories (thank you J.K. Rowling), and the excitement of a new beginning and new life. We heard the heartbeat again yesterday of the little one inside Shey, and I was thinking this morning of the strong steady sound that we heard, and how that rhythm, that strong and steady rhythm can be a song of hope in the midst of feeling overwhelmed. That I can keep taking steps with that rhythm going on in my heart and in my mind, and find strength for this new day.

inerrancy and the separation of church and state

In only about a minute's time, Colbert makes a quite clear punch at the logic of the inerrancy of the Bible, and the end of the interview highlights Colbert's support of the unification of church and state. Enjoy: Colbert's interview of Rick Warren.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Stephen amazing

Stephen Colbert is one of the funniest people on television currently, and his brilliance and ability to hit the central nerves in a situation never cease to amaze me. I got his new book for my birthday, (thanks Tim & Kristen!) and I've seen a couple of great videos lately, that frankly are too good not to share. Thanks to Eric for pointing me in the right direction for these two interviews, and to the McCarty's for posting a link to this fantastic video of Colbert from back in the day, probably from when he was on the show Strangers with Candy? (Is that right Seth?)

First interview is too easy. Stephen interviews David Levy who got a PhD for his work and new book discussing how within five years humans will be regularly having sex with robots and how eventually robots will be teaching humans various techniques for love-making. Colbert recognizes the inherent danger in the possibility of "gay-bots." Amazing.

The second interview is with Lou Dobbs over the issue of immigration. The interview is done by Colbert's Spanish-speaking affiliate show Colberto Reporto Gigante, complete with breaking through an immigration fence to get to the interview, a purple suit, and interview conducted in Spanish.

Lastly, here's a link to a video demonstrating the dancing and singing skills of Mr. Colbert.

(HT: Eric and McCarty's)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Baptists and Post-Modernity

During a worship class last year which my friend April helped teach/inform the readings, we read a book called The Great Giveaway, Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from: Big Business, Parachurch Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism, and Other Modern Maladies by David E. Fitch. The book is really good, not because I agreed with every jot and tittle, but because it brought so much deep and thorough thought to ecclesiology and mission (and thus also evangelism) in a post-modern context. I loved the book and have recommended it to a few people since, including a guy who is pretty anti-postmodernism (as he's understood it in the modern apologetic books he's read) in my church that ended up really liking the book and it sparked some great conversation between us.

That all being said, Fitch has a great post up today that is an interview done by some of his PhD students at Northern Seminary with some local Baptist pastors who are very interested and invested in the postmodern discussion and ecclesiology. Chicago is cold and far away, but I'd be interested in PhD work like this, with a clear and open eye towards what is actually happening in churches, with the other eye deeply rooted in theology and philosophy. The interview isn't real long, but it is really good, be sure to check it may be a good discussion starter for some of us Baptist folks in our own congregations locally.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

corporations and spirit of liberty

So I've been pretty sick this week, which sucks because it is the last week before one of my classes starts at Catholic University next week (but thankfully I have a few more weeks until classes at Leland start). And in the spirit of being sick, I've been watching lots of depressing movies, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, and I watched The Corporation yesterday. The Corporation is a documentary/movie discussing the power and roles of corporations in our country and the political, economic, and even religious power that they wield in our nation and around the world. It was a hard movie to watch. It's hard like reading Wendell Berry is hard; it's just so hard to know where to begin how to change my life. It seems overwhelming and like there is no hope to buy products that aren't tainted by blood of marginalized and oppressed people in third-world countries, or that aren't environmentally sustainable. I mean, one of the worst scenarios from the movie was that when Coke realized that it couldn't keep its product brand name in Nazi Germany and not lose credibility and face in the States, that it created a new brand name Fanta, which in the states, we most often think of as the orange soda, that is made by Coke...they simply changed the name brand, even though Coca-Cola owned and created the product, so that it would be less likely to be traced back and associated with the Coke name. I mean, Nazi's need Coca-Cola too right? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. It's just so hard to know what do with the accessibility to all this information about the ways corporations have used the system to make a profit and damage people and the world. Any suggestions with ways we can do something?

On a completely separate note, I met with my spiritual director again this week, and I have to say, it was just what I needed. I felt like crap after that night of meetings, and sort of paid for it the last couple of days, but that conversation was great. We talked about how I was able to see God in the midst of Advent, and the routine of keeping the hours, and that even when things changed when I visited family, and my routines became different...I didn't struggle with the ol' evangelical guilt of not "spending enough time for my 'quiet times'" or praying enough. Rather, in the midst of not being in routine, I prayed short prayers, tried to listen more to my family and to my wife, and try to put the interests of others above my own, and I saw God in new ways over break. Not in the emotional or spiritual high kind of way, but in the centered, balanced kind of way. My spiritual director said that this is what St. Francis de Sales called a "spirit of liberty" when life with Christ was balanced and centered. Traditionally I think I've lived in the extremes of trying to be rigorous and ultra-disciplined, never missing certain prayer times, journaling, reading the Bible, etc. or I've been on the other extreme of being undisciplined, intentionally against reading the Bible or praying because of the evangelical guilt or pressure. But this time, and I sensed God in it, I didn't freak when I missed praying the hours on vacation, or wasn't spending much time alone or in silence, instead I prayed the short prayers from Traveling Mercies, "God, help me" or "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you." And in those times, God was near, and I heard the still small voice. I felt it in a conversation with my brother on the last night I was there, I felt it when Shey told me that I had loved her well over vacation, I felt it when my mom spent time sewing on new buttons for the baby's gift that she passed on to us. And I have to say, I like that spirit of liberty, of being centered and balanced. I know I don't live there often, and I know when school starts up, it will probably be gone. But I want to enjoy it now, and say "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you" as this new year begins. Meeting with Father Lou has been wonderful thus far and a real blessing...they say that finding a spiritual director that is a good match is like one in a far so good. Amen, Amen.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

one last YL post

This is a little more info and another realm of the issue that I didn't even know about. An insightful post by Tony Jones. If these non-negotiables really do carry over to Capernaeum stuff, that is a bit crazy to me.

YL cont'd

The last year I was on student staff with YL and the last year I formally led (and was training freshman leaders with Shey) I was most involved with work with middle school students. I thoroughly enjoyed their energy, their questions, and their perspectives on faith issues. The other leaders on my team and I realized that the sort of formula of talks that we had been working with wasn't reaching kids in the way we hoped and the kids who had been with us for a while had heard similar talks for two years now, and more than that, the changes we saw in a lot of the kids wasn't lasting as long or going as deep as we liked. Now I'll be the first to say that we weren't a perfect team, or that the results were a direct result of YL formulas for talks or anything trite like that. I realize that life is never that black and white.

But in our third year of working with students we felt this overwhelming sense in our prayers and in our conversations as leaders and with some other leaders from other schools, and my conversations with the area director who I worked with at the time (who was going to seminary), that we may try to explore more of the story of God's over-arching narrative. That we would begin where the Bible begins and tell the story of God's activity and redemption, and creative reconciliation over the period of a year beginning with talks about God the Father and creation, then stories of sin, promises/covenants, brokenness, the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death and resurrection, the life of the church, the mystery of the Spirit...we were still all relatively conservative on most theological matters, but felt compelled to tell these other parts of the story.

The three of us who were leading did not come into a relationship with Christ through YL, though we all strongly identified with the mission, and the relational connections that YL espoused and lived, but we struggled with the club talks aspect and the formulaic approach to the talk schedule that didn't always fit in with where our kids were at, and in our thoughts didn't express the fullness of the story that we felt like beginning in the OT helped to accomplish.

We had some really positive results with the kids, but more than that, we felt like we were able to help kids to take a step back and look at more of the picture of how God has worked throughout the ages, especially in Christ, but also through the Spirit and in people. To expound on my first comment in the previous post on this stuff, I think the main crux of the issue is that McSwain wanted to present the gospel story in a different order: person of Christ, love of God, repentance (possibly here), cross, (repentance possibly here), resurrection (repentance possibly here), sin (repentance possibly here). YL is advocating: person of Christ (which may include love of God, but is different than what McSwain is arguing for in his understanding of covenental theology), man's need, sin, cross, resurrection, repentance. I may be a little out of order with man's need/sin, I can't remember which goes first for YL, but with McSwain, his issue seemed to be that the presentation of the gospel had to follow the YL outline when theologically it didn't mesh with his reformed and covenantal theology.

I have two issues with this situation mainly: first is the whole formulaic approach to the gospel presentation/non-negotiables. Where do you draw the line on the non-negotiables? If the non-negotiables are the essential matters of the faith, what does that do to the rest of the story of God in Scripture in terms of fitting in with the gospel presentation?

Second, is how the document is being used from the top-down as a litmus test of theological priorities for staff who are all over the board theologically. I am not trying to say YL is out to get people, I don't know Denny from anybody else, but it stinks that it has come to firing folks over disagreements over the methods of sharing the gospel in YL club talks.

boo-yah baby!

And by that I mean the Hayden's are having a baby!

Ushering in the new life Shey and I are blogging together over at The Family Hayden Blog and hope that you'll join us there if you are into that kind of stuff. There will be baby talk (inexpressible sounds that make no sense but sound amazing), heartbeats (we recorded the first time we heard the heart beat), pics (we got the baby's first pic up already), ramblings from Shey and I, and other general family news that we deem appropriate, fun, or irritating to Seth.

Many of you have already heard the good news, but we wanted to wait until the end of the first trimester to go totally public.

We are really excited, scared, and thrilled for the new adventure, and look forward to sharing more with you over on the blog.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

non-negotiables and Young Life

Well, there are some interesting articles coming out about Young Life and The Non-Negotiables of Young Life's Gospel Presentation. As I graduated college and was coming off a stint of student staff with YL, I honestly was wondering when this type of document would come out and try to establish from the top down, certain criteria by which the gospel was to be shared and told within the organization. The Non-Negotiables act as a sort of litmus test for staff members, though YL has said they will not make all staff members sign the document yet YL has already fired an area director and accepted the resignation or has fired 9 others related to the area director in North Carolina.

I come from a pretty strong YL background and have a lot of friends in those circles, many of which have or do read this blog. I'd be interested to hear your reactions to the articles one in Christianity Today and another in Christian Century, or even the Non-Negotiables. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have had some problems with the formulaic approach of club talks and what it means to "share the gospel" for some time now, and that the non-negotiables worry me a bit. Specifically the often emotional manipulation that can come in focusing on sin first rather than the love of God, resulting in students wanting to be saved from hell rather than being motivated by love or the story of God's action in the world and our invitation to join God. Also here are some blogs talking about stuff:

Tony Jones- Something is Wrong at Young Life
Rick Lawrence- Heartbreak and Controversy
Mark Van Steenwyk- The Gospel According to Young Life

This isn't a specific critique of YL in our area because it has been some time since I've been involved in the actual work of YL in our area, and I'm not trying to say that they are all bad people at the top of the organization or anything. But I do have some serious questions, and am a bit disappointed in the top-down approach of forcing staff to work under a document, besides the point that theological training is not a necessity from the organization's standpoint. So how can staff who've not necessarily had the theological training to know whether or not such a form is helpful or detrimental deal with some of the nuances of the argument? That is not to say that theological training is necessary, but certainly would be helpful in this discussion.

I've said this to others before, but I think that YL and Crusade, etc. and other organizations that focus on a certain aspect of the Christian life, i.e. evangelism, and are not linked to specific churches or denominations, have a lot to reckon with in light of post-modernism. The critique of the enlightenment and its inherent epistemological presuppositions and the claim of the Bible being the authority without acknowledging the various interpretations and methods of interpretations will pose problems in the future for organizations the are sort of battering down the hatches and creating non-negotiables.

I was pleasantly surprised in the non-negotiables document to see a plurality of viewpoints being expressed about soteriological issues, while the Scripture piece seemed to say that the OT pretty much existed only to point to the NT and Jesus, as though the OT is not good in and of itself and important in the story of God's salvific work in the world.

That's enough for now, I look forward to hearing what some of you might think about this recent activity in YL...peace!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

favorite albums of 2007

I feel like I say this every year, but dang, 2007 had some great music. Armed with a subscription to eMusic for the last few months, and a healthy does of some great iTunes gift cards, I've been able to get some great music this year. I'm going to do a top 10 of sorts, with some honorable mentions, b/c honestly there is just too much good music to try to cram it into 10 little slots. And further, I'm not David Letterman, I'm not that funny, and there were more than 10 great albums this year. So here goes:

Tied for #1. The National- Boxer. Big thanks to Seth for introducing me to this band out of NYC via Cincinnati. I can't stop listening to this album. And it's hard to pick just one great song, I feel like you have to listen to this album all the way through every time.

Tied for #1. Arcade Fire- Neon Bible. Arcade Fire is one of the most innovative bands around. I anxiously awaited this album perhaps more than any other this year, and it didn't disappoint. A little darker at points, with a beautiful tapestry of instruments in layers. A must have along with The National's Boxer.

3. Wilco- Sky Blue Sky. This is a fantastic album all the way through. The song writing is a bit more direct, without becoming shallow, and the music is also more clear without seeming trite. This album is one that I can just put on and let run the gamut.

4. Ryan Adams- Easy Tiger. I love Ryan Adams, and I really love Ryan Adams with The Cardinals. I am enjoying the musical direction of his last couple of works, and his songwriting is amazing.

5. The New Pornographers- Challengers. I've said it already, so I'll quote myself: "A softer side of this star-studded band. This is a fantastic album, well-composed and thoughtful." Neko Case is amazing.

6. Bodies of Water- Ears Will Pop and Eyes Will Blink. This is a Sufjan-sounding gang of singers and musicians that is a lot of fun and helps stretch traditional instruments into new places. This is my first listen to this group, and I'll be coming back for more.

7. Harp 46- Santuarium. This album brings one of my favorite bands into a new realm. The addition of Amanda Lee helps capture with a new instrument (being Amanda's voice) the deep and soulful spirit of this band. Along with the original lyrics and original compositions, this album hit me square in the heart.

8. Patty Griffin- Children Running Through. This acoustic-folk record is my first glimpse into the world of Patty Griffin. I really enjoy her powerful and unique voice, and the sort of genre-challenging quality of this album.

9. Lifesavas- Gutterfly. I can't believe I'm on #9 already and am just now interjecting a hip-hop album, but this is a great indie hip-hop band out of Portland that is combining jazzy beats with clever lyrics. I highly recommend them, and say thanks to Ben for introducing me to this great group.

10. Derek Webb- The Ringing Bell. As usual, Derek's music and lyrics continue to challenge and prod to eventually deconstruct the Christian music label, and provides provocative insights into the world of politics and faith. This is one of the most accessible pop-rock albums thus far in his solo career, and I have certainly enjoyed it.

11. Iron & Wine- The Shepherd's Dog. The latest from Sam Beam has created quite a stir for me. Beam has a more full sound in this album without overwhelming his whispered voice. The songs on this album are good stories put to music.

12. Radiohead- In Rainbows. Besides the magnificent pay-what-you-want aspect of this album, the music was great, and the lyrics haunting at times (in a good way...if that's possible). This album moved in a different direction than Yorke's solo release without losing the best qualities of his solo album and the best of Radiohead's previous work.

13. Kanye West- Graduation. While I hoped for more out of this album lyrically, the music is mesmerizing at times, and is amazing to run to. It's a fun album, that I hope will free Kanye to pursue some other artistic expressions away from the school scene.

14. Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. A straight up rock album that is really fun to listen to. This is a new band for me, but one that I have really come to enjoy and appreciate. They may help pave the way for rock in the future.

15. Andrew Bird- Armchair Apocrypha. On some days this album was higher up on the list, as it is moody, folky, and beautiful. This album was a first for my by Bird, and I am thoroughly impressed and am looking forward to getting to know more of his music.

16. Common- Finding Forever. Largely produced by Kanye, this album was not quite as good as Be, but was still really good. This album fell a little short lyrically for me, but the music was innovative and powerful.

17. St. Vincent- Marry Me. I have really loved this short album for the time that I've had to listen to it so far this year. Her quirky (in a good way) voice and interesting music to boot has been a great new artist to listen to this year.

And with that, I'll end my list. There are some other artists and albums I've enjoyed, but these have been some of the indispensable albums of the year for me. If you got some recent iTunes gift cards, check some of these bands out, or better yet, try out a subscription to eMusic for an indie-friendly music buying experience. Happy New Year and here's to another great year of music!