Friday, March 31, 2006

A couple of interesting articles

The Criswell Theological Review has a couple of interesting reads. The first is an interview with Brian McLaren, describing his understanding of . . . er . . . Emergent/emerging church stuff. It represents his own perspective, which is a bit more politically reactionary than emerging church folk I generally talk to. Also, there was an unfortunate blending of terms as if to suggest that Emergent (as in the "official conversation") is synonymous with the emerging church (which I have experienced as a much broader, diverse movement/phenomenon). With that said, I liked what McLaren had to say, and think the critiques he offers of the state of church in the Western world are fair . . . and, yes, generous.

The other article is "A Pastoral Perspective on the Emergent Church," which again, seems to be an unfortunate blurring of terms, written by Mark Driscoll. It's a cordially written summarization of his experience of the emerging church. Again, it's his own take, so you gotta take it as such - especially his list of the "most important issues" facing the emerging church. Happily, this represents the kinder side of his personality, even in issues where he clearly disagrees with other folks.

posted by Steve at 11:40 AM
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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Two quotes from Henri Nouwen

First this . . .

Eternal life. Where is it? When is it? For a long time I have thought about eternal life as a life after all my birthdays have run out. For most of my years I have spoken about the eternal life as the "afterlife," as "life after death." But the older I become, the less interest my "afterlife" holds for me. Worrying not only about tomorrow, next year, and the next decade, but even about the next life seems a false preoccupation. Wondering how things will be for me after I die seems, for the most part, a distraction. When my clear goal is the eternal life, that must be reachable right now, where I am, because eternal life is life in and with God, and God is where I am here and now.

And then this . . .

How is it possible to keep caring for the poor when the poor only get poorer? How is it possible to keep nursing the sick when they are not getting better? How can I keep consoling the dying when their deaths only bring me more grief? The answer is that they all hold a blessing for me, a blessing that I need to receive. Ministry is, for of all, receiving God's blessing from those to whom we minister. What is this blessing? It is a glimpse of the face of God. Seeing God is what heaven is all about! We can see God in the face of Jesus, and we can see the face of Jesus in all those who need our care.

posted by Steve at 8:32 AM
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Well, I'm coming to grips with the reality that things just aren't working out the way I had wished this week. I've been working really hard to put things in place for a quick trip out to Ohio for Palmer's memorial and wake, but things didn't come together. I will miss saying goodbye in person, and miss seeing some people that have meant much to me. I will pray for them and Palmer's family - especially Amy, who has been blogging beautifully in her loss.

posted by Steve at 9:31 PM
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Driscoll apology

I said I didn't want to come back to the issue of the whole Mark Driscoll vs. Brian McLaren row a couple months back. Well, a couple days ago,
this post appeared on Mark's blog. I truly respect Mark for doing this - and whether I agree or disagree with any given theological or doctrinal stand he may take, it shows some character and a devotion to God and God's people.

In the end, I do not want my tone and style to get in the way of important discussions and kingdom work. So, my intention is to lean into God’s empowering grace to become a holy man who demonstrates greater self-control. In the future, my prayer is that I could continue to speak with pithy edginess and candor that is also marked by grace and appropriate words. I obviously failed this time. Please forgive me and pray for me.


posted by Steve at 5:36 AM
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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A New Orleans snapshot

A week and a half ago I flew with a big bunch of college students to New Orleans for some relief work. We had to change planes in Denver. On the Denver to New Orleans leg of travel I was seated next to a lady who was returning home to a town called Covington, a bit north of New Orleans. She said that her area had taken a lot of wind damage, but no flooding. Her brother, though, had been one of the people who had to get plucked off their rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters. Turns out, he lived about three blocks away from the elementary school in Chalmette where we would be staying. Chalmette is a city in St. Bernard parish, where the worst flooding took place.

Last Tuesday we entered a house in that neighborhood and began clearing furniture, tearing out all the drywall and insulation, ripping up the warped hardwood floors, and salvaging what we could of keepsakes and antiques. As we worked, one of my students called me to come outside to talk to an older gentleman. He was wanting to know how he could get some help cleaning up his house, which was across the street from the one we were working on. I and another team member walked with him to his house, and found an unbelievable disaster. His name is Pete, and he introduced us to his lovely wife, Rose. They've been married for over 60 years, and lived in that house for 50. We spent a good long time talking - actually, a couple students "took over" for me while I stepped away to supervise our other project. An hour later, Pete and Rose were sitting down to lunch with us back at the base camp. Two hours after that, our team finished the house we had been assigned and went over to begin cleaning their place. The whole next day was spent working on their house. They were so gracious and kind. They told their stories and shared themselves with us. They even bought us a carrot cake to express their thanks.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to New Orleans was to hear stories like Pete and Rose's. I want those stories to wreck me. I want to re-tell them so they'll wreck other people enough so that we don't forget. There is still so much to do there. It really is shocking to see how little has been done. Continue to pray, to give, and to serve.

posted by Steve at 10:52 AM
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Monday, March 27, 2006

Another fallen giant

I got a call this morning from Jason, letting me know that Mark Palmer has passed from this life into his ultimate healing. This is dark news for all who knew him. Palmer was an amazing man. When his wife, Jennifer, was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, his faith was unshakeable. I met him shortly after her death. He was clearly hurting, but receiving the healing God provided him through his Kingdom community and through the energetic smile of his beautiful son, Micah. Palmer was blessed with the gift of love once again, and married Amy. But then he, too, received news of his own cancer diagnosis. Once again, faith in immeasurable amounts. He fought hard, spoke boldly of the Kingdom that reigns, and the Lord of it all. He celebrated Micah's fourth birthday Saturday.

Please pray for Amy, Micah, Mark's family, and especially the Landing Place community that he led. They are in good guiding hands of many who surround them with love and wisdom. But the pain is acute, and will not soon fade.

posted by Steve at 12:37 PM
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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Back from New Orleans

Howdy friends. It's been a while, eh? I've been mostly out of internet contact for the past week . . . down in New Orleans. It was a long week with tons of hard work, but we had a really good trip. Everything you've read about the devastation in the city is true. It's hard to describe the feeling of driving up and down neighborhood streets without seeing any signs of life. House after house, block after block with no cars, no people, no lights. You walk into what used to be someone's home, see a refrigerator laying on its side, clothing, pictures, furniture, mud, drywall everywhere. You stand in the middle of the room and look up to the ceiling, realizing that for over three weeks the room was filled to the top with toxic water - in one house we found an inch of mud in the attic.

I'm still tired and trying to get my head straight being back home, but I'll post more throughout this week about the trip. Our group of 18 had an amazing time - tireless work, getting to know the people we served, much laughter. I'll get some photos linked here too. For now, I'm just glad to be with Michelle, so I won't take time away from that. Check back soon for more.

posted by Steve at 7:02 AM
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I am culturally irrelevant

I just got hauled into my first ever NCAA basketball tournament bracket picking contest. I hadn't even heard of some of the schools in the tournament. I have no idea what color most of the uniforms of the schools are. I'm pretty sure one of those schools is just a mail-order diploma scam. And yet, here I am . . . picking winners and losers. I really know almost nothing of the game of basketball. I mean, what's a foul? Seems like there's a lot of pushing and shoving and jostling around, and then some dude barely grazes the uniform of his opponent and the ref blows the whistle. Oh yeah, another thing - why is it that the first 18 minutes of the game goes by with almost no stoppage of play, and then the last two minutes takes like three hours to complete?

I guess this means that some of my dude points are being taken away right about now. So while we're at it . . . I know more about basketball than I do about hockey. I know more about hockey than I do about dating (which, as it turns out is a good thing, given that I'm lucky enough to have gotten married). I know more about dating than I do about plumbing. I know less about plumbing than I do about poetry. I know less about poetry than I do about interior decorating. I know less about interior decorating than I do about hair care products. I know less about hair care products than I do about cooking. I know less about cooking than I do about my feelings.

In my favor, I do know how to change the oil in my car. I do own a chainsaw. I do like football and baseball. Oh, and I don't like romantic comedies.

I'm gonna go try growing some chest hair now.

posted by Steve at 10:43 AM
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Is systematic theology a false idol?

O.k., folks, I'm 'bout to get heretical on y'all, so prepare your ammo . . . I probably deserve it.

I've been thinking a bit lately about the way we approach orthodoxy. We in the Western church have our creeds and code words and secret handshakes that we use to communicate to one another that we're "safe." And we spend a lot of time and money and energy learning all that stuff, so it's clearly important to us. But how does one look at the area of missiology? I've always tended to think of it as some sort of a subset of systematic theology. But now I'm wondering if it shouldn't really be the other way around.

Systematic theology has been a helpful resource to many modernistic thinkers for a long time now. That's good. Even people who organize their lives more by postmodern thought patterns benefit from some of the way most theologians approach their systems. That's fine, too. But what about the non-western world, which has been influenced by modernism on a more peripheral level. Do the "theologians" (or whatever the more appropriate term for them might be) of the Southern hemisphere or Asia need systematic theology?

Perhaps systematic theology has been a helpful missiological tool to explain Jesus and the Kingdom of God to the Western world. But it may have less value to cultures that organize themselves around different values than rationalistic logic. Narrative is a hip thing for emerging church types to think about, but there are a large number of cultures in the world that have organized themselves around narrative and oral history. What if we placed importance there instead of systematically trying to convice these people of the value of all the solas (scriptura, fide, etc.)?

The important thing when it all comes down is how people respond to Jesus, right?
Systematic theology may be a really great tool for us to use to explain Jesus in North America. But it is probably overstating the case to think of it on a much higher level than that. Missiology, though, defines how we will approach our theology (systematically? narratively?). Those who focus too much on their systematic theology may be compared to a woodworker who focuses more care and attention on his chisels than on the cabinets his chisels help create. The non-Western world is off using saws and hammers. Is it possible that the cabinets they create are essentially the same, despite having used different tools?

My biggest seminary books are the theology ones. Maybe I need to go get me some big fat missiology texts instead. Do such things exist?

Maybe my orthodoxy isn't as important as I've come to think of it. I'm not saying there's no value in it (after all, I do still live in North America, so being able to use those kinds of tools well helps me here). But mission trumps it.

O.k., you can start yelling at me now.

posted by Steve at 8:04 AM
link | 2 comments

Ambien . . . a dieter's nightmare . . . literally

Oh sure, blame it on the sleeping pills. Apparently people who take Ambien for sleep take up some nocturnal eating habits. [read more]

posted by Steve at 7:58 AM
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Monday, March 13, 2006

Amazing 3D sidewalk chalk art

Wow - check this out. Pretty amazing how they create these effects.

HT: Steve McCoy

posted by Steve at 11:12 AM
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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Off The Map . . . On The Front Page

Our new friend, Jim Henderson, founder of Off The Map, recently hired an atheist via an eBay auction. The eBay Atheist now blogs for OTM about his experiences attending Christian churches. Very interesting stuff. Well whadya know? The Wall Street Journal did a front page story on it in today's edition. Read more here.

posted by Steve at 4:10 PM
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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Cobalt Season

Ryan and Holly have just released a new live recording of parts of their tour. I'm gonna go grab it, and then I'm gonna start getting anxious to see them my own self, right here at the Purple Door.

posted by Steve at 2:38 PM
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Mardi Gras party

Now that I'm a week overdue, I thought I'd pop a couple of lines here about our Mardi Gras party last week at the Purple Door. Fun times. Our visiting crew from Louisiana promoted the heck out of this thing on campus, and generated a bit of a buzz about it. Can you see how?

These guys followed students around, cruised Greek Row, and got a good lot of people to come to the party. The good times rolled for a good long time. We had some students show up clearly looking for some booze and, er, exposure, but we kept it pretty tame, and just got to know people. Live music, dancing, jambalaya. Good times.

As the UW student newspaper noted, our party was about the only Mardi Gras thing going in the U-District.

posted by Steve at 5:24 AM
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Monday, March 06, 2006

Stephen Colbert picks the Oscars!

Watch this . . . Colbert nails it - 5 for 5 using a secret code.

posted by Steve at 5:25 AM
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Friday, March 03, 2006

Time magazine jumps on the house church bandwagon

Here's a simple article on simple churches.

HT: Urban Onramps

posted by Steve at 11:05 AM
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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Quality coffee + sustainability

My favorite coffee shop in Seattle, Victrola Coffee, is my favorite for multiple reasons. First, they are absolute artists with espresso. They really are amazing. Next, they are very into their community. But one of the very best things about them is that they sell only Fair Trade, shade grown coffee - in other words, they believe in sustainability. They are now selling a special roast of coffee, that comes with a story - this is a good example of why they do what they do.

posted by Steve at 1:54 PM
link | 1 comments

Ash Wednesday

For our Ash Wednesday observance at the Purple Door, we decided to contextualize a little bit. We had the students move through various stations describing Ash Wednesday and Lent. When they came to the station of the imposition of "ashes", we marked their hands with the sign of the cross in henna. That way, they carry the mark throughout the season. We meant no disrespect to tradition, but we wanted to bring it home a little.

posted by Steve at 8:51 AM
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spirit farmer data

I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
e-mail me:

seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
dwight friesen
john chandler
amy palmer
ryan bolger
rudy carrasco
ryan sharp
sings in the sunshine
rick bennett
scot mcknight
karen ward
alan hirsch
dan kimball
petey crowder

i'm reading it

colossians remixed
africa unchained

i finished reading it - 2007

generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
the politics of jesus
readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

i blogged it

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