Friday, March 27, 2009

My Biggest Laugh So Far in 2009!

Yesterday morning I had my hardest laugh so far in 2009. I know it's a long story but I just had to write it. Here goes...

Every other Thursday we have a "Senior Staff" meeting with Dave & Eugene of Highrock Arlington, Josh & Dan of Highrock Brookline, and Kiho of Highrock's Korean speaking church plant "Worship Frontier". Unfortunately, Eugene was sick yesterday and couldn't join us. This was most unfortunate for Dan b/c typically Dave and I have wild and crazy ideas that Dan and Eugene have to temper. So Dan called me yesterday before the meeting wondering if we should cancel. His reason?...b/c without Eugene to help Dan he was afraid that Dave and my ideas might run amuck. I assured him it would be fine and he headed toward the meeting (at my apartment).

In the meantime, Dave showed up a bit early and I joked with him about Dan's concern. As I was telling him we realized that we should pull a fast one on Dan...that perhaps we should plant a "crazy idea" in the middle of the meeting where I would agree with Dave and begin to freak Dan out. But what could we do? Dave and I began to plot...

After a minute Dave's diabolical mind found our answer. About 20 minutes into the meeting Dave would begin telling Dan and me about a new movement at Highrock Arlington in which people receive healing by the laying on of hands and how this has been most effective in the area of sexual healing. But the effectiveness has been born primarily out of the fact that the laying on of hands is VERY literally...the laying on of hands. Dave would tell us about women's and men's prayer meetings where the recipient of prayer undresses and allows those praying to "lay on hands" and ask God for healing. (for those not familiar with Highrock church - this is NOT something we do!!)

Furthermore, Dave would suggest that we at Highrock Brookline should consider trying this...and I would heartily agree. This kind of nonsense would hopefully send Dan into a frenzy begging us to reconsider and lamenting Eugene's absence at the meeting.

Soon after our plan was fortified Dan arrived and the meeting began....

Sure enough, about 20 minutes in Dave began to tell us about a new ministry at Highrock Arlington. He relayed that it began at a women's prayer meeting with Maye Chan inviting one of the women to "expose" herself and receive prayer and the laying on of hands. He went on to say that it had been so successful among the women that it had spread to the men's group as well and that great things were beginning to happen.

Now, my strategy in all of this was to join Dan in his shock at the opening of Dave's story but then to begin to warm to the idea until eventually I was convinced of the ideas merit. I would then try and persuade Dan that we should try it at Highrock Brookline. But the plan soon had to change as things did NOT go as expected.

As Dave was explaining this new "movement" I began my act of shock and awe at this rediculous revelation. I, of course, assumed Dan would join me in my shock at the absurdity of what Dave was proposing. But surprisingly, Dan seemed relatively unphased. As Dave was talking Dan was nodding, it was almost as if he had heard this story before. As Dave's story continued, growing more and more rediculous along the way, Dan began nodding all the more and began responding with statements like "Yeah, I understand.", "Yeah, I've seen stuff like this before.", and "Yeah, I had some experiences with this stuff when I was younger."

With each passing comment and nod the laughter was building inside of me. I felt it first deep in my stomach but could feel it rising through my chest, my neck until finally it erupted from within me. How was this possible? How could we create such a ludicrous story and find that it not only did not shock Dan but seemed legitimate to him. How could something so rediculous now become rational. My laughter grew until I was eventually keeled over in my hallway crying and laughing with Dan still at the table nodding.

In Dan's defense, I don't think he actually has any real experiences like this in the past but he was trying to be sensitive and supportive to Dave's experience. But the sequence of events left me chuckling all day long. It was a great laugh. So thanks to Dave for his creative mind and to Dan for his tender heart - they both fed my soul yesterday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Legalize All Banned Substances?

I suppose it is ironic that this post comes immediately after my post on "Faith Forming Books", but I'm guessing those who know me well won't find it odd at all.

Cnn.com posted an article today by Jeffrey Miron, a lecturer at Harvard. His thesis is that prohibition of drugs is a bad idea from almost all points of view: security, economics, health, etc. He suggests the legalization of all drugs, not just marijuana.

While I realize that there are probably some law enforcement officials out there that might take issue with this article I find these points of view fascinating and refreshing. I'm not at all convinced that he's right but appreciate his perspective and logic.

Read the story here or I've copied it below...

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Jeffrey A. Miron is senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University.

Economist Jeffrey Miron says legalizing drugs would greatly reduce violence.

Economist Jeffrey Miron says legalizing drugs would greatly reduce violence.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Over the past two years, drug violence in Mexico has become a fixture of the daily news. Some of this violence pits drug cartels against one another; some involves confrontations between law enforcement and traffickers.

Recent estimates suggest thousands have lost their lives in this "war on drugs."

The U.S. and Mexican responses to this violence have been predictable: more troops and police, greater border controls and expanded enforcement of every kind. Escalation is the wrong response, however; drug prohibition is the cause of the violence.

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.

Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.

The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons.

Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade. This is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for prohibited industries but rare otherwise. Mexico's recent history illustrates this dramatically.

Prohibition erodes protections against unreasonable search and seizure because neither party to a drug transaction has an incentive to report the activity to the police. Thus, enforcement requires intrusive tactics such as warrantless searches or undercover buys. The victimless nature of this so-called crime also encourages police to engage in racial profiling.

Prohibition has disastrous implications for national security. By eradicating coca plants in Colombia or poppy fields in Afghanistan, prohibition breeds resentment of the United States. By enriching those who produce and supply drugs, prohibition supports terrorists who sell protection services to drug traffickers.

Prohibition harms the public health. Patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other conditions cannot use marijuana under the laws of most states or the federal government despite abundant evidence of its efficacy. Terminally ill patients cannot always get adequate pain medication because doctors may fear prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Drug users face restrictions on clean syringes that cause them to share contaminated needles, thereby spreading HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.

Prohibitions breed disrespect for the law because despite draconian penalties and extensive enforcement, huge numbers of people still violate prohibition. This means those who break the law, and those who do not, learn that obeying laws is for suckers.

Prohibition is a drain on the public purse. Federal, state and local governments spend roughly $44 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. These same governments forego roughly $33 billion per year in tax revenue they could collect from legalized drugs, assuming these were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco. Under prohibition, these revenues accrue to traffickers as increased profits.

The right policy, therefore, is to legalize drugs while using regulation and taxation to dampen irresponsible behavior related to drug use, such as driving under the influence. This makes more sense than prohibition because it avoids creation of a black market. This approach also allows those who believe they benefit from drug use to do so, as long as they do not harm others.

Legalization is desirable for all drugs, not just marijuana. The health risks of marijuana are lower than those of many other drugs, but that is not the crucial issue. Much of the traffic from Mexico or Colombia is for cocaine, heroin and other drugs, while marijuana production is increasingly domestic. Legalizing only marijuana would therefore fail to achieve many benefits of broader legalization.

It is impossible to reconcile respect for individual liberty with drug prohibition. The U.S. has been at the forefront of this puritanical policy for almost a century, with disastrous consequences at home and abroad.

The U.S. repealed Prohibition of alcohol at the height of the Great Depression, in part because of increasing violence and in part because of diminishing tax revenues. Similar concerns apply today, and Attorney General Eric Holder's recent announcement that the Drug Enforcement Administration will not raid medical marijuana distributors in California suggests an openness in the Obama administration to rethinking current practice.

Perhaps history will repeat itself, and the U.S. will abandon one of its most disastrous policy experiments.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Faith Forming Books


At Highrock Brookline we are currently going through a sermon series on the Book of John and throughout the series we are asking the question "Who is Jesus?" Our goal is to enter into the experience of those 1st century men and women who were experiencing Jesus for the first time: hearing his teaching, seeing his miracles, and making their own decisions about his identity. And as we enter into their experience we are asking the same questions ourselves. Was he madman or Messiah, magician or miracle worker, lunatic or Lord?

However, I realize that one of the additional issues we face in the 21st century is not only asking the question "Is Jesus God?" but asking an even more fundamental question than that..."Is there a God at all?"

So, during my sermon this week, I mentioned three books that have been helpful to me as I have asked that question. Personally, my questions and doubts have rarely centered around Jesus and more often have centered around the question of God. And the three books pictured above have been formative in my own journey of faith.

"Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis is at the forefront of that formation. Lewis' own faith journey began as an attempt to provide an airtight case for atheism and ended with him on his knees "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England". Lewis' explanation of a universal moral law is the foundation of both his faith and the book and remains one of the great Christian apologetics.

"Total Truth" by Nancy Pearcey is a LONG book but a good one. Its basic premise is that Christianity (at least Western Christianity) is captive to culture rather than having captured culture. Pearcey does a nice deconstruction and lays out a case that if the Christian faith is truth then it is Total Truth and must not be relegated to a personal, privatized faith. Rather, it must infiltrate every part of our world.

"The Language of God" by Francis Collins is one of my favorites. Personally, my biggest doubts about faith have come around the issue of science and our origins and so Collins' book has been a wonderful gift to me. Collins was the lead scientist on the Human Genome Project and writes with a sense of intelligent awe that is inspiring to me as the reader.

If you are someone with genuine questions, not so much about Jesus, but about God, I would recommend any and all of these books. But start with Mere Christianity! :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Is the Economic Crisis Hitting Boston?

After the dismal report on job losses this Friday it looks as if the American economic climate will continue to deteriorate in the months to come. And while the numbers are staggering and the reports of more and more people losing homes and moving into tent cities is disheartening, I can't help but notice that Boston seems less affected than many other places in the U.S.

And so two questions arise in my mind. First, will we be affected as severely as other areas of the country? If not, why not? Or am I just missing stuff that is happening right in my own backyard?

And two, if we aren't affected as as much then what is our role in all of this? I have been thinking about this question this week and don't have a final answer yet. But with so many in our country losing jobs and homes it seems appropriate that the church in Boston needs to find its place of service and ministry in all of this.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Crossing Guard

I often drop Minhee at work in the mornings and then drive over to Panera to work for awhile. And on my way there is a busy intersection (near a school) at the intersection of Clinton and Dean. The thing is, while it would usually be an annoying intersection with clogged traffic, it is actually one of the simple pleasures of my day.

Brookline has staffed the intersection with a female police officer during the morning commute and school drop-off time. Not only is this woman there every single day but she is the single greatest crossing guard I have ever seen. She is economic in motion and movement but still wonderfully clear in physical communication. She pays equal attention to all entering streets, pedestrians, bikers, etc. She is confident in her decisions, totally aware of the rhythm of the morning and yet pleasant and warm in the midst of it all.

I love going through this intersection every morning simply because of her good work. I am a huge fan of people who do simple and seemingly mundane jobs with excellence. I believe God has made this woman for this kind of work and she is doing it with timely precision and even grace. And for some reason this connects me to God personally just a little more each morning as I pass. I'm sure she's totally unaware that some weird guy who's driving by is feeling a little closer to his Lord every morning, but he is, and that is a testament to God's good gifts and her good use of those gifts.

I am debating whether I should write her a quick note of gratitude and encouragement and hand it out my window as I drive by tomorrow. I know she would hate the inefficiency but perhaps the gesture would make up for it. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sad News

The potential mentioned in my previous post has passed. Sadly, the young woman terminated her pregnancy earlier today.