.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Working during the Holidays

Alone in the office between weekend and Thanksgiving,
the computer whines a breathy flatline,
its mechanical thoughts heat circuits and chips
until a fan blows it cool enough to crunch
more numbers. My screen grows words
from zeroes and ones. My speaker sings carols.

Every job becomes a kind of house arrest
on days too gray to call vacation.
But I can still say thanks here between
a desk and credenza. Driving past the Guadalupe
between cedar woods and limestone hills,
I blasted hot air from the dash until my knuckles burned.
Just past Comfort the highway climbed above the fog
and I stopped by the house to feed my dogs, smiling
when they whined and jumped and licked my hand
as if to say, "Thank you, thank you, Master Man."

(I wrote the first draft of this little poem during the Thanksgiving holiday, but I found it this morning. With 2/3 of the office still out for Christmas it seemed like a good project for my fifteen minute break...)

HillCountryWriter Category: Poetry
Technorati Tags:

Thursday, December 22, 2005



I originally posted this on Out of Ur, a blog hosted by Christianity Today.

At the end of Exodus, God calls Bezalel to build His tabernacle. Or more accurately, the pieces of His tabernacle. Bezalel's craft becomes his act of worship, and he helps create a place of worship for all Israel.

But Moses finishes the tabernacle. Bezalel and his men only make the pieces. Bezalel has one role, Moses has another. Both acts of worship lead to the creation of a place where God will live on earth.

Folks, we are that place. The tabernacle prefigured the temple. The temple prefigured Jesus Christ. And Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that the church would become the body of Christ. This body gathers several times each week in many places to worship God.

During worship God equips us. God encourages us. God changes us everytime we meet Him--whether in the gathered church or the scattered church of our daily lives.

Like Bezalel and Moses we all have different jobs. If you want to deconstruct the church, you could say we carry different pieces like the Kohathites. God has called me to worship through drama and choir and writing. I love the hymns. I love a good repetitive praise song. But these things are only one tiny piece of God's tabernacle.

We all carry different pieces, and we are all still priests. No matter how different my piece is from yours. No matter how different my church and denomination is from yours, all Christians are priests. God calls us to bring our different pieces together. That's worship.

When Moses put together the pieces of the Tabernacle, God's glory came down. The men who created the tabernacle in worship could no longer touch it.

Worship is dangerous. Worship brings God's glory down to earth. And it destroys our sinful, earthly lives.

HillCountryWriter Category: Drama
Technorati Tags:

Thursday, December 08, 2005


CTI Blogs

Somebody who works for Christianity Today named Rich compiled this list of CTI related blogs.


Getting Started with a Drama Ministry

All of this sounds good, until I remember the small churches across America. Do we really want to encourage them to do drama? Won't it be terrible? Won't it be distracting? Who wants to sandwich amateur hour between the homily and the holy communion?

Perhaps Sunday morning is not the best place to start. Sunday morning the stakes are too high. People have certain expectations for the tone of a worship assembly. Bad drama can make church service feel like a spoof.

On the other hand, elaborate outreach productions may not be the place to start either. A long show can just be overwhelming. Elaborate costumes and sets, long scripts, eternal rehearsals, large casts, and often small audiences.

Three months of work sometimes serve up a half-baked play for a crowd of a few hundred. Even though God is glorified, we wonder if there aren't better ways to serve him with our time.

Start slow, find an appropriate venue. Children are gracious audiences. Tap into a puppet ministry. Once a month, substitute a drama of similar tone. A children's curriculum often comes with skit ideas. Use these to gain confidence, then write your own.

Once you move to the Sunday morning service, recognize the special demands for this context. Most short skits will still feel too long. Five minutes is pushing it. Ten minutes will feel like an eternity. Sunday morning drama needs to be the same length as other elements of worship.

Many churches use soloists or choirs. Rather than worship actively, the congregation will listen to one song from a soloist or the choir and sing the other four with the choir.

Give the choir a break one Sunday. Adapt a skit to the same length as a normal choir song. Or write your own. Three to five minutes long.

HillCountryWriter Category: Drama
Technorati Tags:


Whatever You Do, Glorify the Lord

You see, drama ministery is not only about the audience. In its earliest stages, it is about the actors. Many of them have been told that their talent doesn't belong in the church building.
Serve outside these walls, the traditional church says. For years actors have felt like unwanted outcasts. Tolerated, but not encouraged. The church seemed to be telling them, "We don't need your kind here."

Of course, the Body of Christ is not limited by a building. Actors, writers, and directors can still serve God in school theater, community theater, or professional theater. They can bring his church to a corner of our culture that doesn't often meet Christ.

But there is a special feeling from serving God in the traditional church setting. Performance doesn’t have to be limited to out reach and mission work. It can also lead the Body deeper into God's word.

HillCountryWriter Category: Drama
Technorati Tags:


How God Prepared Us for Drama

"Every Church" where I attend still has two different worship services. Traditionalists, mostly older folks, attend at 8:00 just after the cock crows. They hold their hymnals and sing along with an organ. The rowdier bunch, mostly younger folks, come at 11:00 to hear a full rock band. But both groups hear the same message, attend the same bible classes, and love God with the same passion. They even love each other most of the time.

We joined the church because the pastor wanted to begin a regular drama ministry.

They have used drama with the youth group for several years—performing skits on mission trips to liven up churches even smaller than our own. They even perform a Christmas pageant every year at the community theater. This year's combination nativity and passion play moved me to tears.

On our first visit, I sent a note in the collection plate. "We haven't joined yet, but we would love to help with your drama ministry." I was Gideon testing God. The pastor's response would be our fleece.

Just a few weeks later we met for lunch to discuss Sunday morning drama.

At our lunch, I explained my experience at Oakhills Church in San Antonio, one of those mega-churches. My wife became a Christian in her first church drama, a ridiculous little show about Elijah. Even before WillowDrama, Oakhills was parting the Jordan with ziplock bags of colored water on an overhead. (The youth minister tried not to jerk the river open too quickly.) Elijah even rose up to heaven—on the hydrolic lift maintenance used to change light bulbs.

It was high-class drama, let me tell you.

But it changed my wife. And it changed many of the actors.

HillCountryWriter Category: Drama
Technorati Tags:


Drama at Every Church

Drama ministries are taking off across the country. Mega-churches like Willow Creek and Saddleback use drama to appeal to baby-boomers with a seeker oriented "come to church" message. At the same time, emergent and post-modern churches like Cedar Ridge Community Church use drama to appeal to Gen X-ers. Both groups are bringing new life to biblical narratives that have been bogged down in church traditions.

I read exciting things online about what other churches are doing. I see exciting books about how to start drama ministries. I see a huge archive of scripts online—priced beyond my church's limited budget.

You see, I don't go to a fancy mega-church. And my church certainly doesn't plan on emerging from our small town just north of San Antonio, Texas.

HillCountryWriter Category: Drama
Technorati Tags:

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


In my morning quiet time, God told me...

Howard Butt says, "The source of all relational leadership comes from a relational God."

I like relational theology--the idea that my faith becomes real in my relationships, rather than in my theological doctrine. Relational theology doesn't dismiss doctrine entirely, it just places relationships with real live people above relationships with abstractions discussed in the texts of dead people.

I love my church, but...

I am disturbed by the number of people who talk as if they have some direct link to God.

Maybe my faith is weak, but God doesn't speak to me. At least not directly enough that I can invoke his name to support the little bit of insight I found in the scripture this morning. (I was studying Joy, it was cool.)

So many Christians talk about their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

That sounds good, but what does it mean? I can barely maintain my relationships with people I can see and touch. I am pretty much out of sight, out of mind.

So you can imagine that I don't feel as close to Jesus as I do to my wife. How can I? I've never seen Jesus!
I'm not talking about some metaphysical conversion experience that transcends space and time. I'm not talking about Jesus in others, the least of these kind of stuff.

I'm talking about the Jewish guy from 2000 years ago. Like Thomas, I want to see him if I'm expected to have a relationship with him that is more than just an analogy.

So to those people who say, "This morning in my quiet time, God told me..." What are you talking about? How does God tell you things? Do you mean your personal insight into God's Word through scripture? If that's what you mean, why do you say "God told me" in a way that sets yourself up as some sort of prophet?

Friday, December 02, 2005


Raising Kids in a Post-Modern World

Recently, my cousin raised the biggest question in all Christianity. She was studyind Calvinism and said, "My biggest problem is Calvin was a man and therefore, they are holding closer to man's doctrine than to simply what the Bible says."

Calvinism arose out of Calvin's personal Bible study. His understanding of God proved useful to many people in the church, so many of them adopted his interpretation as their own.

We all do this. Many of my beliefs come from Calvin's contemporary, Jacobus Arminius. Theologians have a name for what my cousin and I believe, too: Arminianism. And if you want to link it to a different person, that's fine.

The point is we can trace every theology back to human doctrine. The Bible is God's Living Word, but my human brain is the one reading it. I may even reject all previous human theologies to rely on what the Bible says, but I am only going to discover human doctrine ­- because I am human. When I read the Bible, when I study, when I pray, I see through a glass darkly. But soon I will know God fully, even as I am fully known.

Wonderful thought!

I'm not suggesting some kind of post-modern relativism. Relativism teaches that there is no absolute truth. It teaches that each individual perspective has as much validity as every other.

I believe in an absolute truth. There is only one name that has been given to us by which we can be saved, Jesus Christ. He is the Truth.

We can know him, but we cannot know him fully as long as we are in this world. Instead, we must devote ourselves to the piece of eternity with which we have been entrusted.

My dad taught me about the Kohathites in Numbers 4. They have changed the way I understand my relationship with God.

Like us, they were priests, part of the tribe of Levi. When God moved through the world, their job was to carry his house. We play a similar role when we help him move his Word through the world today.

The Kohathites carried pieces of the tabernacle all wrapped up. They didn't understand what they were carrying, but they knew it was holy. And dangerous. If they touched it, they would die.

We too have pieces of God's Word to carry. What we carry is holy and dangerous. Because Jesus lives in us, we don't have to fear death like the Kohathites. I can unwrap my piece of God's Word, I can study it, I can touch pieces of God directly in prayer and study. But in this life I must remember that I only know in part. God is bigger than I can possibly imagine. His Word more complex than I can possibly imagine.

I cannot know him fully in this world. None of us can. But we try and we try and we try because he is so wonderful.

The universal church is the closest thing to God in the world. I want to study all the saints from Calvin to Arminius to Augustine to Elisabeth Eliott to C. S. Lewis to Bultmann. I want to learn about the piece of God's Word that they carried.

Did their humanity distort the message God gave them? Of course. My humanity distorts the message He gives me. I see God's reflection in a warped mirror, but I can still learn so much about him from what he chooses to reveal to me.

But I take Exodus 20:7 very seriously. I try so hard not to misuse the name of the Lord. This commandment is about much more than cursing. It is about my witness to the world. If I mistake the finite piece of God which has been revealed to me for God's infinite and eternal glory, I am mistaken. Worse, if I teach others that my view of God is anything but a small piece of his glory, I am misusing his name. God is absolute truth, but I can't know him fully in this world. To pretend I can is to misrepresent him to the world.

Real Live Preacher has a great article that addresses this topic. You can read it at the irreverent but wonderful site, The Wittenburg Door.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?