Thursday, May 29, 2014

The bi-vocational blues

From Toledo, IA
Yep; we have that much | (c) Jeff Parker/Cagel Cartoons
Student loan debt has been a hot topic of conversation lately, at least in my social media circles. It's always a hot topic for my wife and I because, well, we have a ton of it. Like three-masters-degrees-at-a-private-university-all-subsidized-by-student-loans worth of it.

Six years ago, when we first told my family that we were moving to Virginia for grad school, they were not impressed. My brother kind of angrily told me that I was being irresponsible with my family's financial wellbeing. At the time I thought, "No I'm not!," but there are plenty of days this side of the transaction that I wonder...

Debt certainly has set constraints around my call to the ministry, particularly in my rural context. The number of Church of the Brethren congregations in my district that could afford to employ a pastor full-time are very few. So when we moved back to rural Iowa, it just so happened that my not feeling a particularly strong calling to pastoral ministry worked in my family's economic favor. Even if I'd wanted to be a full-time pastor, I likely couldn't do it around here; so I kept my technology job for Eastern Mennonite University, an arrangement that looks to continue for the foreseeable future.

Friday, May 9, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Righteous, compassionate justice

From Toledo, IA
Nate Hosler, with the
Church of the Brethren Office
of Public Witness
The Scripture from Ephesians guiding yesterday's prayers for the abducted girls in Nigeria focused on the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the name above all names, the name to which ultimately every knee on earth and in heaven will bow, and every tongue will confess as "Lord."

I'm alluding there to another Scripture, this from Philippians 2:1-11, which talks about the kenotic/self-emptying nature of Jesus' lordship. It is not a lordship enforced by the power of the sword, but rather it's a power born of suffering and absorbing the world's violence. It is a path that Jesus calls his disciples to talk, individually and collectively in his body, the church. We are to be a crucifom/cross-shaped people.

Today's daily prayer focuses on God's justice, which in this situation we actively and desperately desire. In the face of such horror, even people far separated from it such as myself want to see these innocent girls redeemed and the men responsible brought to face justice. But both our burning desire for justice and concrete expressions of justice must themselves be brought under the Lordship of Christ. We must think carefully about what God's righteous, compassionate justice might look like even in horrific situations such as this.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Jesus, redeeming Lord

From Toledo, IA
Dr. Rebecca Dali, of the Center for
Caring, Empowerment,
and Peace Initiatives.
(Photo by Stan Noffsinger)
The Toledo church plant project received a letter from the denominational offices of the Church of the Brethren today. It contains a list of name, those of the more than 200 girls abducted from a school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. Many of these girls have connections to the Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigheria (EYN), the CoB in Nigeria.

The denomination has also provided a daily prayer guide for this horrifying tragedy. The page shows a photo of my fellow Christian peacemaker, Nate Hosler, demonstrating in D.C. with many others on behalf of the abducted girls. Nate and his wife, Jennifer, spent a number of years in Nigeria teaching Christian peackemaking and my correspondence with them has been edifying. While I don't have any personal experience with the EYN, I have many friends and colleagues here in the U.S. like Nate and Jennifer who do. So the horror I've only barely been able to grasp myself has been brought somewhat closer to me through these connections. I do indeed join my prayers with them and all the saints who are praying for this horrible situation...