What’s Your Story? Here’s Mine.

Corridor SkyEaster is a time to remind each other of what Jesus did.  What he did then and what he’s done now.  Here’s my story.  What’s yours?

I didn’t grow up in the church. I was given a lot of freedom when I was young and as a fairly shy person didn’t know what to do with it. I experienced serious depression as a teenager. I was always good in school and used success to build up my ego. I decided I was “the smartest person who has ever lived”. In college I devoted myself to philosophy. I thought if anyone could figure out the meaning of life just by thinking about it surely that person was me. The more I studied the less I knew and the more depressed I became.

        One sunny day while walking under my dark cloud I realized that there was one thing I had never truly doubted. I had pretended to doubt it, but deep down I had always known that everything we see around us came from somewhere. I had always known there was some kind of God. Not a weird spirit-being out there, but something that created all this. That day began my search into what people thought about God and why. I studied Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Hinduism. I took classes, read books and talked with people. I also began reading a bible someone gave me in grade one.

        I used to be a very ‘logical’ person. I always had to ‘prove’ everything. By the summer of 2000 my bible reading had brought me to the gospel of Luke, which my ‘logical’ mind could not comprehend. Jesus simply commands and tells. He rarely explains and never proves anything. As I read, however, I experienced something entirely new. Something entered my mind that was not me. In fact, it was very different from me. It was a voice, it was very loud and this is what it said, “THESE ARE THE WORDS OF MY SON. LISTEN TO HIM!” You may think that I am lying or crazy, but I am neither. This happened and I can remember it as well as I remember eating breakfast this morning. I stood up and it stopped. It returned every time I sat down to read for about five minutes.

        That experience became my proof. I became more certain that Jesus Christ is the Son of God than I have ever been of anything else. I was and am willing to bet my life on it.

Book Review: Crazy Love by Francis Chan

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I am disappointed by this book and confused by its popularity.

The book boils down to “love God with your whole life”. But it is delivered in a boring, frustrating way.

Good Stuff:  This book is clearly popular and lots of people online say it changed their life or their thinking.

Complaints: I agree with all of Chan’s main points. It is the message of the New Testament and the most important message in the world. But hundreds of others have written on the same subject and done a better job.

Much of the book is Chan quoting the bible and saying, “I know you’ve heard this before, but have you really THOUGHT about it. Stop reading right now and think about it.” Come on.

A book on the primary message of the bible should do the work of bringing this message to life for me in a new way. This book did NOT do that.

Bottom Line:

I have heard a lot about Francis Chan and was excited to read his most popular book. I can’t think of when I have been so disappointed. I cannot understand why so many people have reviewed it so positively. Are we all just writing nice Christian reviews?

Book Review: Huckleberry Finn Audio by Elijah Wood

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This book is one of the funniest and best I have ever read and I cannot say enough about the performance.

I had tried to read this book before and honestly could never get into it. The performance brings it to life.

Good Stuff:  Extremely funny. This book is deep and surprising.  It is both series of funny stories with no real point and a treatise on race relations in the United States.

Complaints:  I have none.  Be warned that the N-word is all over this book. It is also edgy about religion sometimes.  At a critical point Huck decides he will try to free a slave even though he knows it is wrong and will go to Hell for it.

Conclusion: I laughed out loud for a third of the book. At the end I clapped even though I was alone in my living room. I am astonished at both Mark Twain and Elijah Wood. You have to listen to this book. Seriously.

Jesus Outside the Church?

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Luke 4:16-30 is the story of Jesus going to Nazareth where he grew up and preaching a sermon their synagogue.  It’s a story I didn’t understand for a long time, but I think I do now thanks to God’s spirit and an amazing book by Kenneth Bailey.

Jesus has just begun his ministry after being tested by Satan in the desert.  He has traveled around a bit preaching and done some healing.  He enters Nazareth knowing that he will be rejected by his own people.

Bailey argues that Nazareth is a settlement community of Jews established about 100 years before Jesus was born.  Most people in Galilee were not Jewish. Settlement communities were supposed to spread Jewish influence by growing.  They were supposed to take over the region from the Gentiles through cultural dominance. The people of Nazareth had a mission.

Isaiah 61 is a text that fits right in with this mission.  It was understood to mean that when the Messiah came he would restore the original land of Israel to Jewish rule and make all the Gentiles slaves or servants.

Jesus enters Nazareth and preaches a sermon on this very text.  The only problem is that he changes the text.  That’s right, he changes the Bible. He brings in verses from another place in Isaiah and he leaves out the verse where God takes vengeance on the Gentiles.

He then preaches a sermon that enrages his own people.  He gives them two examples of faith.  The two examples are Gentiles who lived in their own region.  They aren’t even believers. One is a widow who Elijah helped. She had faith enough to give Elijah her last bread during a famine and God provided a miracle to save her. But she was a worshipper of Baal, the pagan god of the Sidonians.

The second example is Naaman, a Syrian general and enemy of Israel.  He had faith to ask the prophet Elisha how to heal his leprosy and then to do what he was told even though it didn’t make sense to him.  He did become a believer and worshipped God, but he also continued to worship the gods of his country.

Why would Jesus point to such people as examples of faith? 

The people of Nazareth knew truth from the Bible. In many ways they were very close to God.  But they had become captives to the idea that God was only at work in them and in this one task they thought they were called to do. They could not imagine that God was at work outside their church. Jesus says that they are blind.

We who are the church today are no different are we?  I am no different. If I see something good happening or being done outside the church I don’t know what to do with it. I want to brand it as Christian and control it or else I dismiss it and ignore it.

I was sent a song yesterday by Peter Mayer called Holy Now.  It is about this very question. Where is God at work?

Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind.  Who are the blind?

Our Homeschool Pomodoro Lifestyle

tomatesThis is the second year my wife and I (mostly my wife) have homeschooled our two older children. They are currently in grades 6 and 2. Here’s a snapshot of what I call our homeschool pomodoro lifestyle.

First, what is homeschool?  It does not mean teaching your children anti-social tendencies along with math and reading alone in your basement. Homeschoolers don’t have to be weird or particularly intellectual.  Some are, but so are some kids in public school. For us homeschool means learning in a community based on families instead of one based on classes and age.

We are part of a group called the South Delta Home Learners.  We chose that group because it is big and active. The group, along with our church, makes up our kids social and educational world. They do swimming lessons, choir, scouts and all kinds of special educational events with these same people. These are the friends they play with.  They know all the parents and the siblings. Some they call auntie and uncle.  The line between education, recreation, friendship and family is blurred. 

What’s a Pomodoro?  It’s the Italian word for Tomato.  It is also the name of a productivity system named after a tomato shaped kitchen timer. Check it out at www.pomodorotechnique.com.  The pomodoro system is based on focused work for short periods, followed by breaks.  The idea is that by doing this you will be much more productive than if you work straight through the whole day. I believe that’s true. Our experience of homeschool is a lot like the Pomodoro system.

Every morning the kids eat breakfast and begin their work. They focus for an hour and a half.  During that time they get ready, dress, brush teeth, make beds, read their bible, do their chores, and do all their Math, Reading and Writing for the day.  What?! Only an hour and a half?  Yes, that’s right, in that amount of focused time every day they can easily keep up with provincial learning objectives for those subjects.

After that their days are different.  Sometimes they play the rest of the morning then go to a friend’s house.  Sometimes they have structured activities: swimming, scouts, music lessons, church groups, etc. Anyone who went to public school, like me, would think their schedule is remarkably free. Every Thursday we take a rest day, as I have written about here.  Our entire family essentially does nothing for whole day.

So far the results of this homeschool lifestyle are fantastic. The kids like school and even enjoy the subjects they don’t like a little. They keep up with school and are able to spend lots of time having new experiences and doing what they want. They have more friends than I ever had growing up and these friendships are of a different kind. They are friendships between families. We focus hard, then we rest and play. I am not suggesting homeschool is the only way, just that it can be pretty awesome for some families.

 

by Isaac Whting

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