Love is an Orientation: Session 1

These are my notes from the first evening of our new Wednesday evening adult study class at church, “Love is an Orientation.” We are principally using the book the book “Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community” by Andrew Marin as our discussion text. We are using the videos and discussion guide which is also available for this book. We’ve setup a website, FaithDiscussions.org, to use as a space for conversations and discussions about the book and the issues it raises.

Tonight we started with a video interview of Tim Keller, evangelical pastor in NYC

What do Christians have against Homosexuality? Tim Keller at Veritas

Some Christian churches are ignoring what the Bible says about homosexuality to engage with homosexuals, others

Some Christians will love and befriend their Hindu and Muslim neighbors, but hate their homosexual neighbors

Heterosexuality doesn’t get you to heaven, so how could homosexuality send you to hell?
– Jesus talks about greed 10 times more than adultery
– you know when you’re committing adultery, but almost no one thinks they are greedy because they are comparing themselves to others

Will greed send you to hell? No. Self-righteousness will, believing you don’t need God.
– what does get you to heaven is a personal relationship with Christ and confessing your sins / your need for him

Of course homosexuality is a sin, greed is a sin too
– unfortunately many Christians hear this and think “if you’re a homosexual you’re going to hell” and that’s wrong

What sends you to heaven or hell is not just “I’m a homosexual” or “I’m a heterosexual”
– you can’t be your own savior through your own actions and good works
– sin underneath the sin which is “I am my own savior” will send people to hell

Thoughts from John on where he’s been with these issues:
– finally started reading the Bible in his late 20s, looking for how he can justify himself in those pages
– my wife pointed out I was reading the Bible as a medical journal and trying to get it to conform to me
– when I started letting the scriptures shape me, looking for the meaning life
– it was a challenge for what the kingdom of God looks like
– what justice looks like is not fighting just for your own way, it’s submitting to others

1991 in General Assembly had a report on human sexuality
– was a culmination of the first phase of this battle in PCUSA
– all about “justice love” (anything is ok as long as it’s between two consenting adults and justice is involved)
– I remember thinking that this has nothing correlated to what I’ve been reading in the Bible

When I was called to Austin Seminary the pastors said, “Why?”
– my answer was I wanted to read the theology that was stimulating the other side of this conversation
– I tried to approach the issue with an open mind in seminary

Entire time I was in professional ministry these issues kept coming up and distracting both sides of the church from doing anything productive, in my view
– so I lost interest in the conversation
– I never heard anything new
– I am always open to hear new ideas, read a new book
– I came to this class hoping maybe there is a way to elevate the conversation, to be more Christian and converse on a better level

Matt’s perspective
– I’ve had gay friends all my life
– my first best friend was gay, he didn’t know until he turned 30 but I knew it when he was 6
– something wrong with me? I always seem to attract gay people!

I am about introducing God’s big plan for people
– that is often about restrictions
– that’s about all I learned

Curt’s perspectives
– John went to a liberal seminary and came back
– I was one of the token liberals at my evangelical seminary because I was middle of the road
– I find myself drawn to the liberal-progressive arguments because they have heart, but when I examine them closely they don’t stand up to rational analysis

Robert Gagne’s book, very scholarly and authoritative
– his book doesn’t have heart

I am really tired of all the factionalism

Keep thinking of Gamaliel, Acts 5
– sitting on Sanhedrian, reminds others we’ve seen uprisings before
– if it is not of God, it will fail
– I wish our big church could wait and see what unfolds: 50 years, 100 years
– it may be a long time

I would like to live in the tension
– I see liberal / progressives cutting all kinds of corners in their interpretation of scripture
– on the conservative side, we see very rigid interpretations that is all ‘head stuff’ where they are not thinking with their hearts

I’d like to encourage for people to live in the tension until we can discern together what is God’s will in this matter
– that’s where I am and why I put this class together

Andrew Marin is a very interesting guy
– very conservative, evangelical Christian
– was shaken to the core when 3 of his closest friends came out as homosexual within 3 months of each other
– moved with his wife to Chicago, has lived for 10 years in Boys Town living with LGBT community learning what things are like for them, and what the church has been like for them

Watching these videos makes me realize I’m a homophobe
– this is like discovering I’m a racist environmental

We have many stereotypes that are wrong
– not all LGBT are out, loud and proud, and want to have nothing to do with Christians

Laura teaches human anatomy and physiology, and is the sponsor of the “Equality Club” at her school which is the LGBT club
– I asked her to come as a resource to this class

Now sharing our names and 1 thing related to these issues that we’ve wanted to hear addressed. Here are the questions we shared together:

– Why is it hard to be honest and open about these issues?
– Why is this such a big deal?
– What’s the church’s response to homosexual actions?
– Are people born with their sexuality defined?
– What happens to unrepentant homosexuals?
– Why as a society are we singling out this one issue?
– What are heteros so afraid of?
– Are there any gray issues here?
– Can we explore the complexity of sexuality and sexual identity?
– hOw can we be on the compassionate side and act against hate?
– What does ‘living in the tension’ about this issue look like?
– How does God want ME to address this?
– Could we welcome people into our church community who are gay and support gay lifestyles?
– Why do we spend so much time talking about the gospel of Jesus determining if you go to heaven or hell, rather than what it looks like to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ / in his kingdom?
– How can we reclaim our brothers and sisters who we (in many cases) have pushed aside our out (even of our churches)?

I mentioned Google’s project “It Gets Better” and in my question asked how we can be on the compassionate side of this project, which is (I think) an outstanding project. It’s seeking to give hope to kids to not give up and commit suicide in their teen years if they are gay and struggling in their school / family / community. As Christians we (I think) need to be on the COMPASSIONATE side of this discussion, NOT on the (or a) HATEFUL side.

It Gets Better Project - YouTube

John’s point: We should keep all issues of sexuality in our minds
– all the colleagues I’ve known who have lost their positions in the church, and in 1 case even their ordination, have been over heterosexual behavior

money, sex, power: all of these things have a lot of control and influence over us

Free 1 Year Bible on YouVersion

At the encouragement of others in my church and Friday morning men’s group, I’ve started reading the “One Year Bible.” Rather than purchase this Bible version in paper form, however, I’ve started reading it for free on the YouVersion Bible iPad app. It is free and not only tracks your reading, but also lets you save notes. You can make these notes public to share or keep them private. You can also read notes others have shared publicly, which is a very interesting and potentially valuable way to socially interact as well as reflect when reading.

YouVersion 1 Year Bible (free) on iPad

YouVersion 1 Year Bible (free) on iPad

I started this a few days late after the new year, but thankfully the app lets you catch up. Just read ahead, and then in your reading plan select “catch me up.”

YouVersion 1 Year Bible (free) on iPad

Since I read the first three days of verses today and chose “catch me up” twice, I’m on the right schedule to finish by December 31st. You will need to create a free account on the app, or directly on the YouVersion website, which you use to login on the app and track your Bible reading. I’ve completed a couple of shorter reading plans previously using this system. I have never read through the entire Bible in a year, however, so this will be a first for me. My wife has talked about doing this too, and I’m going to encourage her so we can share in our discussions and learning throughout the year. Consider reading the Bible this year with this great plan! Another alternative is the website www.oneyearbibleonline.com. I really prefer the option to read on my mobile devices, however. YouVersion syncs whether you read on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The latest nagging of my wife has been for me to get a hobby, so I started looking up the finest top drone brands like I did when I was a teenager so I could get into RC planes again.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad, edited later with Mars Edit. Cross-posted from “Moving at the Speed of Creativity

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Good resources and conversations about Christian parenting

I had an opportunity yesterday to attend the “Journey” Sunday School class at Liberty United Methodist Church in Liberty, Missouri. I attended with my sister and family. Their class is using the “Making Children Mind without Losing Yours Video Series” by Dr Kevin Leman, which is based on his book by the same title. Their class is mainly for parents, and has a great format: Discussions in class, frequent fellowship events, and group mission activities. They have purchased an inexpensive apartment which they maintain as a class and lease to (usually) a single parent with children living in their area. What a unique mission project!

Project Parent 365 - Day 1: The Hands
Creative Commons License photo credit: BuckDaddy

Here are a few notes I jotted down yesterday in class which I thought were both thought provoking and worth sharing.

Rules without relationship lead to rebellion

Super parent syndrome says: “I own my children”
– they are gifts, we don’t own them

The Christian home is not a military bootcamp

Misused verse: spare the rod and spoil the child (that is not the verse)
Proverbs 13:24

Quote from El Guapo: “I know you like I know my own smell” (from movie “Three Amigos”)

Don’t be afraid to do things that are counter cultural, you want your kids to be different
– Kids who aren’t different are married 7 years (before divorce) and have 1.7 kids

Research question: Do kids behave better on a playground with fences or without? With fences

Being counter-cultural is a big issue

God lets me choose right or left, he does not force us to be good
– are you good at letting your children choose and make decisions?

Letting our kids make choices is SO important
– good idea to take your kid’s picture when they dress themselves, and when you pick your clothes for them (this worked for parents who wanted their daughter to realize what she looked like sometimes when she chose her own outfits)

Do you want your home to be a cage or a nest?

[END OF NOTES]

Earlier this year the Sunday school class used the “Fireproof Your Marriage” curriculum, and my sister said it was great as well.

I do enjoy teaching 5th grade Sunday school, and this will be my 4th year to teach it at our church in Edmond. I miss opportunities like this Sunday school class to discuss parenting, family and personal issues with others however, and to go to a Sunday school class with my wife. Their “Journey” class is a very warm, welcoming group and clearly a great outreach ministry of their congregation.

If you’re involved with or leading a church class for parents, you might check out both the curriculum options I’ve linked in this post. Both sound great for Christian parents to use! And, if you happen to live in or near Liberty, Missouri, consider visiting Liberty United Methodist Church and the Journey Sunday School class!

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REMIX of the Bible Book Bop by Go Fish

Last month our 5th graders shot video and photos to create a “remix video” of the song “Bible Book Bop” by the group Go Fish. We have posted this video as a YouTube response to the “official” music video version of this song, so Go Fish can officially approve if we can have permission to share this on the public Internet. This song is their “intellectual property,” so we need to get their permission. This was really fun to make, and hopefully will:

  1. Help us all remember the books of the Bible better
  2. Inspire us to think about the power of communicating with media, and our own abilities to use media (including video) to share the Gospel of Jesus
  3. Help us learn more about HOW to create with media and safely / legally share it online with others

Make sure you check out the original / official version of this “Bible Book Bop” video by Go Fish, and also visit their website at www.gofishguys.com. Go Fish rocks, and so do our students! 🙂

These are our song and image credits, which we included at the end of the updated video:

Video Credits

This original song is by The Go Fish! guys. Visit their website at www.gofishguys.com. Images used as the background for our green screen sequences were shared under Creative Commons licenses:

www.flickr.com/photos/dotdoubledot/1281864495

www.flickr.com/photos/mandj98/314192764

www.flickr.com/photos/wolfgangstaudt/2217173388

www.flickr.com/photos/danielygo/3949411671

www.flickr.com/photos/loswl/3006536934

www.flickr.com/photos/20792787@N00/2720278372

www.flickr.com/photos/squarejer/522183263

www.flickr.com/photos/chrispollard/201911637

www.flickr.com/photos/iko/106957481

www.flickr.com/photos/martyworld/1464117348

This video was shot using still images from an iPhone GS and video from a Sony GSC-Websharing flash camcorder, and edited with iMovie ’09.

Cross-posted to our 5th grade BlastCAST blog.

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Digital Dialog: The Intersection of Technology, Learning and Faith

I’m planning on facilitating a class this fall at our church on Wednesday nights which I’m titling, “Digital Dialog: The Intersection of Technology, Learning and Faith.” This will be a 15 week course at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma, and class will begin (I expect) at 6:30 pm each Wednesday night of the fall term following the meal at “The Gathering.” Anyone is welcome to attend and participate, whether or not you are a member or Sunday visitor to our church. The course description I sent this evening to our church administrative assistant for publication is:

Digital technologies provide unprecedented opportunities to learn, connect and communicate with others around the world. In this class we will explore using laptops, smartphones, and the Internet. This class is BYOL: Bring Your Own Laptop! Guest wifi connectivity will be provided during class, but a laptop or smartphone is NOT required! We will not only discuss how we can constructively use new technologies for learning and communication, but also explore how these resources can intersect with and impact our journeys of faith, our families, and our Christian community. New topics will be addressed each week, based in part on Wesley’s forthcoming book, “Powerful Ingredients for Blended Learning.” More info is available on www.powerfulingredients.com.

The bio I submitted (adapted from my personal website bio) is:

Wesley Fryer is a digital learning consultant, author, digital storyteller, educator and change agent. With respect to school change, he describes himself as a “catalyst for creative engagement and collaborative learning.” Wesley serves as a co-convener for the annual K-12 Online Conference and is the executive director of the nonprofit Story Chasers Inc., the lead partner in the statewide Celebrate Oklahoma Voices digital storytelling project. His blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” (www.speedofcreativity.org) was selected as the 2006 “Best Learning Theory Blog” by eSchoolnews and Discovery Education, and is utilized regularly by thousands of educators worldwide. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Google Certified Teacher. Wesley is married to Shelly, and together they have three children, ages 11, 9 and 5. Wesley is serving his third year as a Deacon for First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, is a fifth grade Sunday School teacher, an active member of the Friday Morning Men’s Fellowship, and has taught Stopmotion filmmaking courses the past two summers for the FPC Fine Arts Camp and the Edmond Fine Arts Institute.

Technically I’m not a “Google Certified Teacher” YET, but that should change on August 5th when I attend the Google Teacher Academy in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m not positive I’ll be able to pull this off, but I may attempt to broadcast and archive these classes with Ustream. I may use a separate Ustream channel, however, rather than my main one since these classes will have a decided focus/slant toward Christian themes which relate to technology.

Last fall I taught two five week courses at our church following a similar format, one on “Exploring the Biblical World with Google Earth” and another on iTunes University. The Google Earth series is available as a podcast on iTunes. Just search for “Google Earth” and you should see it under the “podcasts” category. These episodes are all available as free downloads.

Exploring the Biblical World Google Earth on iTunes

At a minimum I’ll likely audio-record these sessions and make them available as weekly-updated podcasts. I am not positive but I’m think that instead of using my Moodle site to share resources, I’ll use the Digital Dialog Ning site.

If you have any ideas related to these issues or questions I’d love to hear them. This should be fun. Last fall we had a good class of about 10 regular participants, and I think everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about a variety of technology topics including ways they related to our faith and families. At some point down the road I want to write a book titled “Digital Discipline” or “Digital Dialog,” but this fall it seems to make most sense to use my forthcoming Powerful Ingredients book (written with Karen Montgomery, which should be completed by the end of August) as our curriculum. The book doesn’t and won’t include the Christian themes and slant of this class, but that will be easy/straightforward to add in our Wednesday night discussions during these classes.

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God’s Unfair Love

when we don´t get what we deserve that´s a real good thing
when we get what we don´t deserve that´s a real good thing

Those are the words to the Newsboys song Real Good Thing. It speaks to the amazing gift of God’s grace.

I’ve just finished listening to Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli. It’s a wonderful listen or read, whatever you choose. The final chapter deals with God’s unfair love. To anyone who hasn’t experience grace, the idea that’ God’s love is somehow unfair seems ludicrous. But as scripture declares,

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Cor. 1:27

God’s grace and love does not match the world’s logic. As Yaconelli describes in the book, the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the fact that those that began work late in the day received the same as those who began in the morning just doesn’t seem right. Our world would never stand for this unfairness.

But as I continue to have God’s grace lavished upon me I can only see myself as a beneficiary of the unfairness. My mind is constantly influenced by the ways of the world and often forget this amazing gift that I’ve been given.

God’s grace is extremely difficult to explain and harder to understand. But I’m so glad he’s given it to me. That’s a real good thing.

Reasons for Stories of Faith

Our Friday morning men’s group at church is continuing a study of Dallas Willard’s book “The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God.” Among other projects this fall, I have started a new project titled “Stories of Faith Podcasts” with our youth deacons. I’ve started a webpage (still hidden from direct linking from the main website because we’re not ready for the official project announcement to the congregation) for this initiative, as well as a WordPress.com blog where we’ll link episodes into an RSS feed. Right now we just have 1 episode, which we recorded Sunday night.

Stories of Faith Podcast

I still need to create the Feedburner feed and link it to the main page on the church’s website.

This morning I was continuing to read Willard’s book (along with Matthew Chapter 5) and came across this passage, which spoke to me as a justification for why initiatives like our “Stories of Faith Podcast” are so important and needed in today’s world. On page 64 Willard writes:

It is, frankly, hard today to think adequately of God– or perhaps to think of him at all. Our intellectual history works against it, and we certainly do not get much training for it. Frankly, our daily experience, under pressure from many quarters, constantly keeps us from thoughtful living and “dumbs us down,” in many ways– especially theologically. But the resulting lack of adequate ideas and terminology does great harm to our faith. It insulates our real life from what we say we believe. We cannot, even by a miracle, believe a blank or a blur, much less act on it. There is now “what” for our minds and lives to lay hold of in such a case– or it is the wrong “what.”

To trust in God, we need a rich and accurate way of thinking and speaking about him to guide and support our life vision and our will. Such is present in the biblical language, of couse, and it continued to be carefully crafted in the works of Christian writers well into the twentieth century.

Still today the Old Testament book of Psalms gives great power for faith and life. This is simply because it preserves a conceptually rich language about God and our relationships to him. If you bury yourself in Psalms, you emerge knowing God and understanding life.

While the content, style and form of user-created content like that included (and to be included) in our Stories of Faith podcast series may be a far cry from the carefully chosen language of the Old and New Testament books of the Bible, I believe that God continues to speak through his people. I hope this podcasting initiative, and more specifically this COMMUNICATION, learning and evangelism project, will enable more people within our congregation and in other places and times to “think more adequately of God” and obtain more “rich and accurate ways of thinking and speaking” about Him.

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TouchBible: a Bible iPhone web app

Thanks to John Bennett (via Twitter) I learned about TouchBible, a web app providing searchable access to the Holy Bible for the iPhone and iTouch from iBibleZ. This is a preview of the application on YouTube:

TouchBible does not offer as many translation options as The Bible Gateway, but does offer the following versions currently:

English

  • King James Version (KJV)
  • American Standard Version (ASV)
  • English Standard Version (ESV)
  • Bible in Basic English (BBE)
  • Darby Bible Translation (Darby)
  • Webster’s Bible (WEB)
  • Youngs Literal Translation (YLT)

Chinese

  • Chinese 汉语/漢語
  • 和合本 – Chinese Union Version (CUV)

Have you found and tried other online searchable Bible web apps for the iPhone? I used a searchable Bible program on the Palm I used a number of years ago, and have REALLY wanted to have a searchable Bible on my iPhone. The downloadable NT Bible which iBiblez offers is actually just an html attachment you can view using the iPhone’s mail feature. It does support selection of individual NT books and chapters, but not keyword searching. Hopefully developers with iBiblez or other groups will use the iPhone SDK to create an actual application which runs entirely offline and permits Bible searches with multiple translation versions. I’m sure we’ll see that before long!

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Indeed you are powerful

I am thrilled to have found a wonderful Friday morning men’s fellowship group at our new church here in Edmond, Oklahoma, very similar to a Friday morning men’s group I participated in back in Lubbock for the past few years. Ever since I went to my first Promisekeepers event, which was probably back in 1998 or so, seeking the fellowship, accountability, laughter and levity of another group of Christian guys has become a very important part of my life.

Our Edmond men’s group is about 50 or 60 men strong each week, and one of the best things about it is that we have men who are all different ages. There are probably more retired guys than younger ones, but I think the age range is very good– it runs from 30s (I don’t think we have any in their 20s in there currently) up to 70s and maybe even 80s. Older guys have so much more “lived experiences” and wisdom than us young whippersnappers, that it is a great opportunity usually to just hang out and listen. I want to have the “margin” and perspective on life that these older guys do NOW, and not wait another forty years to get it. That is a real struggle, but hanging out with these fellows, listening to them and learning from them seems like a good recipie for learning their secrets. Maybe some of that patient, gentle spirit will rub off on me! I am not sure if it is working, but I think there’s a good chance it might be doing some good.

We have started a new book study on John Eldredge’s book, “Wild At Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.” I read this book at least three years ago, it was published in in 2001– and I am so glad to have this encouragement to read the book again, reflect on it, and share about it with other guys. I am also very glad to have this blog as a place to record my thoughts and offer them up for feedback and response. I will try and “chunk” my ideas a bit better for this blog than I sometimes do for my primary blog– because I think people are more likely to read shorter posts and part of my purpose is to encourage dialog and responses.

The first excerpt I want to respond to from the book comes from page 10, in chapter 1. Eldredge writes:

Capes and swords, camouflage, bandannas and six-shooters– these are the uniforms of boyhood. Little boys yearn to know they are powerful, they are dangerous, they are someone to be reckoned with.

This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the movie series “Star Wars.” This is from Episode VI, “Return of the Jedi,” and Darth Vader is speaking to Luke on the planet Endor before he takes him up to his star ship to meet the Emperor. Vader says:

Indeed you are powerful, as the Emperor has foreseen.

I love that statement and observation. Yes, Luke has grown powerful in his own right under the guidance of his mentors, Obi-Wan and Yoda. And now, his own father is recognizing him. All children yearn to be acknowledged and recognized by their parents, I think, for the men and women they have and are continuing to grow up to be.

I got in the habit many years ago of having my own children repeat certain phrases that I would tell them. I know that “self-talk” is very important in terms of shaping identity, and there are so many terrible messages in our popular culture today that reinforce the WRONG messages to both young people and adults alike. For my daughters, I often have them repeat the following after me:

I AM powerful.
I AM strong.
I AM beautiful.
I AM smart.
I AM a good thinker.
I AM good.
I AM nice.
I AM sweet.

I want my own children to speak this reality into their own lives: They ARE powerful because God has created them in his own image to be his children, and to do his work. He has equipped them each with talents and gifts that they are called to discover and to use, and part of my role as their father is to help them discover their identity and learn at the end of the day– or rather on the path of their own journey of faith, that they each ARE powerful…. Powerful beyond words, or as Miguel has written before, “powerful beyond measure.”

I think it is very important as parents, teachers and just adults in our society that we help empower young people to believe in themselves and in the calling which they each have in this world to do important work. I have no idea what my children will do in the future, but I do know that I want them to move forward into that future with confidence and sureity about WHOSE they are, and how wonderfully he has crafted them to be his agents on this often dark planet.