Future President of the USA?

If you live in Illinois and you haven't been hiding under a rock the past two years, you are likely familiar with the name Barack Obama...he is one of your senators after all. Even if you aren't from the great state of Illinois, you may very well remember him delivering the key note address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. I just so happened to be living in Boston that summer, so I followed the convention very closely. Despite all the terrorist threats and Homeland Security color-coded warnings (it was orange, or mauve, or some color that is supposed to invoke fear and make us head for the hills), my brother and I survived and we even ventured down to the Convention to watch the picketers and the millions of armed forces trying to ward them off.

I listened to the freshman senator's address to the Democratic audience, and I have to say, he is one charismatic, confident and well-spoken individual. Let's be honest, his speech trumped any of the other political superheroes that made their way on stage. So, ever since then the guy has had my attention and has certainly pricked my curiosity. Today he stands as the only African-American US senator and many are touting him as a future President of the United States of America. One year ago, the polls showed that Hillary (please no) was going to be the top choice in '08 for the Democrats...but today many aren't so sure that Obama may be a better choice. He has the advantage of riding a huge wave of popularity and no shady voting record in the senate, but he also comes with a lack of experience under his belt. If history serves as a guide, Obama may want to consider waiting, because John Edwards ran too early in '04 and suffered the consequences. Obama doesn't have the advantage of being a Democrat from the south like Edwards, who could potentially bridge the gap across the Mason-Dixon line, but is from heavy-hitting Chicago-land and is a man with conviction and integrity.

So, love him or dislike him, the reality is I believe that we should get to know him. In an age when so many are too quick to judge, hold prejudices and swear off anyone who comes from the "other wing," I would hope we could have respect for our national leaders (that God has put in place - Rom.13:1) and seek to form an educated, well-rounded understanding of them. In light of that, I want to just share with you some of what I came across today about Senator Obama from a recent convention that was assembled to address the issue of poverty and injustice in our world. It was a faith-based convention with Sen. Obama giving the keynote address (again...I get the feeling some people might be trying to push him towards the White House).

For many, the words "faith and politics" stir anger and discontent, for others it leads to a heated discourse, yet others remain in complete silence. Sen. Obama walks the narrow road to address the marriage of faith and politics, suggesting that the Democrats have abandoned faith which motivated "great reformers" in our country, such as Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., and which they used "repeatedly" to "futher their cause." He states that "secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door when they enter the public square." Sen. Obama, in his speech, was quite open and honest about his personal testimony of coming to know Jesus Christ, but he is also quite frank about his convictions regarding finding a common polity in the midst of a pluralistic society. He has a point in that we'd be lying if we said trying to form a political agenda for the people of America based on Christian convictions would be an easy task (Obama says, who's convictions or which scripture passages would be our guidlines...Leviticus? Dueteronomy? The Sermon on the Mount?). What I love about this particular speech and this particular convention is that they are addressing poverty. Jesus did come to preach good news to the poor, after all. So, enough of my talking, here are the links.

The senator's speech in it's entirety (about 42 minutes). I listened to it and I encourage you to as well. Scroll halfway down to find the link for the streaming audio:
http://go.sojo.net/sojourners/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=3517400&r=

The entire transcription of Sen. Obama's address:
http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2006/06/obama_on_faith_and_politics_an.html

An article discussing Obama's stance on faith and politics:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/28/AR2006062801970_pf.html

PS, if you read or listen to the speech, you'll hear about an email from a doctor in Chicago written to Obama...I felt that I really resonated with his sentiments.

Say it ain't so, Illinois

Our corn-covered state is now home to a church in the small town of Harvey that is actually paying people to come to worship services (the first 75 people at least). For some reason, I get a feeling that Jesus might be overturning some money tables at this church. Or, there might not be any tables overturned at all...which should probably scare them even more.

Please note, this offer is only valid to those 16 and over. Seriously. It's in the article.

Remind me to never cheat in a cycling race

Bike Race Cheater and the Consequence

Comm-Unity

This morning I was reviewing some notes I had taken on Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church from a few months back, and I felt compelled to just share one passage and subsequent parallel passages (I don't like just grabbing verses out of context, I really don't, but I think these particular passages are fairly cut and dry) with you that really hit home on the subject of unity within Christ's body.

I was listening to a message by Rob Bell a couple days ago, and in it he was discussing Moses and Pharoah and why God would choose to work through a human man to free His people, the Israelites, and Rob used that scenario to springboard into a discussion of his belief that throughout history, since that moment in Egypt, God has been looking for a body to inhabit on this earth to display his glory and bring shalom to this earth. Today, after the resurrection of Christ, we the church are Christ's body and in order to reach a hurting, rebellious, lonely and hungry world, we must be unified. To be unified, we've gotta give and lay down our selfish ambitions (Jesus said that we have no greater love than when we lay down our lives for our friends!). So, enough of my chatter, here are the passages on unity:

Divisions in the Church

1 Cor 1:10 “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” NASB

John 17:22-23 ” The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” NIV

Romans 12:16 “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” NASB

Romans 12:16 “Live in harmony with each other. Don't try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all!” NLT

Romans 12:18 "Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible."

Phil 1:27 “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” NIV

A-ma-zing

Prepare to be dazzled. If you have five minutes to spare, watch this video about an autistic man from London named Stephen Wiltshire. You will not be disappointed.

Inspire Me

It's that Time Again

One year ago, I was living the high life--litterally--in Estes Park, Colorado. About 8,750 feet to be precise. And in the midst of that outrageously beautiful place, I wound up training for a marathon. (I'm going to spare you the details, but if you want to know how I got myself into such a ridiculous endeavor, drop me a note) Seven of us battled the hills of Colorado to begin training for the Chicago and Indy marathons. Despite the fact that just a few short weeks prior to this, I would have told anyone that I never had any itentions of running a marathon, because sprinting was always my first love. But low and behold, we ran and we ran and we ran some more and in the third week of October I found myself in Indianapolis with Bemi and Nick to face that giant beast. It turned out to the be the one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I had two primary goals: no walking (except at the water stations) and a sprinting finish. God must have given me an extra dose of his strength that day because even though I wanted to quit at mile 20, I sprinted through the finish line to complete my first race since my high school days. It was the greatest test of my physical and mental strength that I have ever faced and I've never felt so drained of every ounce of energy in my body.

And now here I am again, on June 20, commencing my training for the Chicago marathon in October. I'm pretty amped for the training, to be honest, but I can't believe I am getting myself into this again. What a bunch of crazy yard apes we are...five of us are doing it again this year. The first run was three miles today and my knee is already an giving me fits...

I'll say this much for the skeptics out there. It can be done and you'll be a stronger person because of it...and marathon training is a heckuva refinement for our spiritual lives as well. Don't say it can't be done!

Patience

Did we really need an AP poll to determine that we are an nation full of impatient people?

Nonetheless, it provides a good gut check and a chance to reflect on the value of patience. It appears to me that there are three types of situations when our patience is tested. First, you've got your garden variety supermarket patience tester. Picture it with me...you roll up with your cart full of groceries and after carefully selecting the shortest line, inevitably the line you chose turns out to take the longest. The lady two spots in front of you can't figure out the touch pad technology, and then the next guy has some exotic food item that, of course, doesn't have a bar code and the cashier doesn't know the item off hand, thus necessitating a price check....we've all been there. We're always waiting, we sometimes feel, and if you're anything like me, you struggle with this because you can think of more "productive" things to be doing with your time. And we potentially miss out on seizing kairos moments, even if it just when we're waiting in line with folks at the bank, movie theater or waiting in traffic. In America, we're victims of our own advancement. We desire convenience and when that convenience isn't convenient enough, we get frustrated. There are a couple root issues, but I want to gloss over the other two instances when I think at least my patience can be tested.

Relationships can be a signifcant test of my patience. Maybe you're just spending time helping your kid brother with his homework and he just isn't understanding as quickly as you think he should. Or perhaps you have a friend that you are mentoring or discipling and you are on the brink of frustration over their lack of willingness to really give a valiant effort... When I think of a person who has great patience in this area, I think of my mom. She's worked in education all of her life, save the years when she was a stay-at-home mom. I can only imagine the degrees to which her patience has been tested when working with LD and BD kids.

Finally, I think of the many times that my patience has been stretched when seeking out wisdom from God for making "big" life transitions. In an overscheduled and results-driven culture, we tend to want the make the right move in a timely manner. But I've been learning over the past couple years that there is so much to be said for the journey of getting to the decision or that point when expectations are met. Steadfastness, faithfulness and learning to trust others and God can be great biproducts of maintaining patience throughout the process.

The greatest root issue that that has surfaced regarding this topic is that life is not a story about me...I think that is one of the greatest things I've been learning lately with some big life moves going on. Similar to what I said earlier, I think that my inability to see the value of the journey can sometimes fog my vision when I'm "just waiting." Back in the day, folks used to walk everywhere and I don't think they were complaining about doing so, or thought that it took too long. Okay, maybe that's when little kids started the "are we there yet?" phrase, but you get my drift. We've just become such a me-centered society and I hope that we can somehow, someway break free from it.

Ultimately, the best wisdom on the subject of patience comes from the Scriptures. These are some passages that have really be an encouragement to me when my patience is worn down. Let the truth of God soften our stubborness and selfishness and make us into patient, unselfish, even-tempered men and women.

Proverbs 16:32
Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Psalm 37:7
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Ephesians 4:2
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Inspire Me

I 'd like to try something new. Because photography inspires me to such a great extent, I'm going to try and make that a focus of my blog posts once a week. Yeah, I usually have a photo with my posts that hopefully further drills home my thoughts, but I'm going to just put up a singular photo and see what kind of feedback comes through. This week's photo was taken last summer in Colorado (not that it has anything to do with Colorado :), and I tweaked it a bit in Photoshop. You can see other "inspire me" photos in my newly created Flickr account...it's still small in quantity of photos.

Any inspiring thoughts from this photo? Do you know what the subject is? :)

Lots-o-food

Okay, I really enjoy food. I really enjoy eating. And I love the fellowship of eating a meal with family and friends. It's a gift from God really. But, let's be honest, restaurants give way too much food. Actually, I take that back. For as much as some of them charge, the portions may be okay. It's just that we (including myself quite often) don't have enough self-control to not inhale the 1500 calorie meals we find at American restaurants (i'm not going to toss around the "G" word). Am I not right? :) It's just a little discouraging that it took this long for the health people to finally do this study.

By the way, if you haven't seen SuperSize Me, I think you should. Unless you want to maintain the same image you currently have in your mind about American fast food, then don't :) It left the greatest impact on me of any movie I have watched recently. Note, there are a couple unnecessary scenes, but the overall message of the movie is worth your time.

My greatest weekness food-wise is probably ice cream. I mean, let's just be honest. It's like the greatest thing ever invented...my Grandmas's homemade ice cream, Coldstone... I'm drooling as we speak. But when I heard this, I was taken aback: It has been estimated that to feed the foodless people in our world in a sustainable manner, it would take an initial investment of 20 billion dollars. Guess how much money Americans spent on ice cream last year? Yup. 20 billion dollars. Ouch... I'll just let that one sink in.

Now, I just need to take heed to my own words here and I guess that's a start!

Never ending fun

Thanks to Christine One for opening my eyes to myheritage celebrity photo match...I'm easily amused :) It's not the most consistent thing, but fun nonetheless. Here are few photos I ran and some results.








matches:
73% Julia Roberts
72% Jerry Seinfeld










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top matches:
Amber = 72% Julia Louis-Dreyfus (we've got the Seinfeld connection goin' on)
Ally = 64% Meryl Streep
me = 71% Fabio Cannavaro







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matches:
64% Julia Roberts
63% Rivaldo...?? At least it's not Geraldo














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top matches:
Dan = 54% Magic Johnson
Fred = 57% Hideki Matsui
me = 73% Robin Wright Penn...why do I get stuck being the girl and Fred and Dan get to be the athletes?













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top matches:
my sis = 74% Shiri Appleby
me = 73% Jason Biggs


Setting Cars on Fire

Okay, warning. I'm going to get a little sentimental. Yeah, I know the title wouldn't lead one to think so, but it's coming, just wait.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), it's a movie that many of us have seen. And what a great movie it is. Despite the cheesy 80s music a certain moments, it's gotta be in my top 15. John Candy makes this movie.

If you haven't seen it, I'll try and give you a brief synopsis. Steve Martin is attempting to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving and much to his chagrin, he finds himself on a plane to Chicago, sitting next to John Candy, the very guy who stole a cab from Martin at the beginning of the movie. In the hilarity that ensues, Martin and Candy attemp to get to Chicago via, well, planes, trains and automobiles. Martin starts out by unabashedly informing Candy about how incredibly annoying he is and what a big mouth he has, in addition to his snoring, annoying antics, etc. After the series of unfortunate events and intimate interactions, they end up in a friendship of the most unlikely sorts and Candy winds up spending Thanksgiving with Martin's family.

To my suprise, as I watched it on Saturday, in the midst of the side splitting comments (e.g. Candy: "We'd have better luck trying to play pick up sticks with our butt cheeks) I found it to have some redeeming qualities. I'd seen it a couple times before, but hadn't ever really watched it, well, intelligently. I just laughed when I was supposed to laugh before, but for some reason, just the raw reality of their interactions, unfortunate circumstances (okay, sometimes it goes a bit far), conversation and eventual friendship formation.

At one point, after finally getting a rental vehicle--nevermind the fact that Candy only got it because he was using Martin's credit card--the two are on the road to Chi-Town. While Martin is sleeping, Candy accidently flips his cigarette in the back seat and loses control of the vehicle, sending them the wrong direction down the interstate. They step out of the car after just missing death to drag their luggage off of the interstate, when they hear the flames. The car is smoldering from the cigarette fire. The two guys stand there, just gawking at their only way home as it goes up in flames. They wind up laughing it off despite the fact that they've lost pretty much everything and have been "wearing the same underwear since Tuesday." That's when I realized that everyone should blow up a car, figuratively speaking (or maybe not).

Friends don't become friends through chatter. Friends become close by experiencing life's crazy ups and downs together. Community is community when we can laugh with our friends who are laughing and mourn with those who are mourning and persevere through life's trials with one another. Too often, we can give up on friends and not have mercy and forgiveness and a spirit of peace. I'm learning there is something to be said for loyalty and trudging through the muck to get to the laughter and joy and deeper relationship.

To Be a Kid


This morning, I was taking some time alone at a nearby park, sitting under a shade tree beside the lake, with a nice cool breeze and the sounds of kids playing soccer and birds chirping nearby. And as I sat there, in the shade of the tree, having just read a passage from Isaiah and watching a father and a son trying to catch some fish, I got to thinking about God and his power and greatness and our short lives here on earth and how much awe and wonder we should have for his awesomness. I was really struck about the great degree to which I feel that many of us in America have lost our sense of wonder; not entirely, but in the grind of our hectic lifestyles, I think so. Have we become too sunk in a consumer culture of convenience and technology?

Jesus said that in order to enter into the kingdom of God, we must become like little children, and it seems to me that a big part of the makeup of little kids is their sense of wonder, awe and wide-eyed faith. I listened to a great talk recently given by author Donald Miller about how God fathers us and Don (we're on a first name basis) discussed this idea as well. He told a story about a time in his life when he was living with a friend and his friend's family, and I think it really captures some of the essence of what it means to be one of God's kids. Here's my unjust paraphrasing of his story:

I was going to bed one night about midnight and John, who is a landscape photographer, says to me, "You wanna go with me over to central Oregon. I'm going to try and catch sunrise at Mount Bachelor. "

I say, "Great, is that an invitation?" "Yeah, come, come," John says. So, we drive a couple hours and we're at about 7000 feet, we're above the atmosphere, there are no cars and it's wonderful. John stops car in the middle of the road and puts it in park, gets out and lies down in the middle of the road. It's 4 in the morning, so there isn't any traffice. John says, "Don lay down." So, I lay down in the middle of the road and there they are, billions of stars. We forget how beautiful it is, where we are and how big it is. It looks as if someone took fistfuls of sand and just threw them into the night sky.

I said, "why do you think God did this?" And John said something I'll never forget that i thought was really wonderful. "To dazzle us." God did this to dazzle us. So, we hike up to Mt. Bachelor just before the sun rises and all of a sudden the color starts coming into the sky and its a phenomenal scene. John's taking lots of shots, not sure when the color will climax and we then spent the afternoon hiking around and watched sunset as well. It was just a beautiful day of God dazzling us.

And at the end of the day, John said to me, "you know, when I was a kid, I used to be amazed at how water flowed in rivers and underneath bridges and such. I loved it. And then I grew up and I forgot. But now I've got my son Chris and he loves rivers and playing in them and watching the water flow and because he enjoys it, I can enjoy it through him." I think that's how God is when we look up at the stars or at the sunrise and we are amazed and he says, "I love it when you love it."

It's great to be a kid. Don't let anyone tell you that you have to grow up :)

On another note, you may or may not have noticed, but I've added a few extra levers and pulleys to this blog to try and give a more rounded view of who Jonathan King is and what I enjoy. On the sidebar, you'll find: my Flickr photos (I wish I could link my Kodak photos page, there are a ton more there!), my current month's and previous month's prayer letters and a world map that pinpoints the locations of all the viewers of my blog.

My Intake

I thought I'd try something new and relay to you my intake for the week.

Memorial Day weekend included a wedding in Chi-Town for my cousin, John, and his new bride, Stacey. It's my second wedding of the season, both taking place in very different settings. John and Stacey were married at St. James Lutheran church, the oldest chuche in Chicago.

At the reception, my Aunt Cora, whom I have blogged about previously, graciously agreed to have a dance with me and as we were showing off our stuff, I told her, "All the guys are looking at me. They must just be jealous because I've got the best looking date on the floor." Aunt Cora quips, "Well, wait til I tell the guys at the Senior Center."


Last night, I headed out to Barrington, IL to an AMC 30 (yes, 30!!), right smack-dab next to Willow Creek, for the premier of two Nooma videos. If you haven't seen any before, Noomas are short films that illuminate a relevant topic for our everday lives and truth from scripture is conveyed in an engaging, tasteful and high-impact manner. In the first, entitled "Rich", Rob chatted about the wealth of the "American church" in an age of poverty. Did you know that 92% of the people in the world don't have a car? He underscored what Jesus had to say: "It's better to give than to receive." The second film was shot in the Chicago subways and was entitled "Breathe." It was a huge jump theologically and it just had an aura of reverence and holiness and wonder. I loved it. I'll say this much, if you watch it, you'll never breathe the same again. And I really dig the mucial selection for both, they really helped to bring the audience into the particular topic.

My reading for the week...

After finishing up Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and Velvet Elvis, I've moved on to How Now Shall We Live? by Colson and Pearcey. It's a hearty book, written at the turn of the millenia about the need for Christians to have a holistic worldview, based on more than just the fact that Jesus Christ is our Savior (they aren't discrediting that fact), but also to see the truth of God in all the crevices of our everyday lives and in "secular" culture in order that we may better engage others on the reality and truth of God in our postmodern culture.

My brother, Tim, suggested a while back that I subscribe to Vineyard's Cutting Edge, a free quarterly magazine for church-planters. And me and free are like this:

So, I sent off for a free subscription and my first issue came this week. The subject of the Spring issue is Worship. It included an interview with Matt Redman, in which he talks about the theology of worship and steps that we can take to expand our views of worship styles, including looking at the truth that is being conveyed in the lyrics of our music. There is also a great article about the value of using local talents and artistic influences from the local community to underscore the relevance of God in our communities, rather than just blindly swallowing masspopculture in our worship through music. Finally, an interview with a church-planter in Vienna, Austria chats about how their church has been able to impact a wide range of people through the arts, and not just "we'll spend a little time throwing something together" art, but visual arts that have a great deal of time and energy invested in them to really reflect the creativity and truth of our God.

I stumbled across this article/video a couple days ago on CNN about a baby born in China with three arms. As if one billion plus people wasn't enough, now they are birthing three-armed babies? :)

Have you heard about this mixup in Indiana? Horrifying is all I have to say. Two girls, students at Taylor University, were in a car accident a few weeks ago. One died. One lived. One problem. The parents who thought their daughter was alive found out that their daughter was in fact the one who had died. It was only after the one girl woke up from her coma (scars and swelling prevented facial recognition) that the parents realized it was not their daughter.

This week, I was reading through Judges and had the joy of reading about Samson. I love this account from history. What a crazy story! This guy would be overcome by the Spirit of God and just tear stuff apart with his bare hands. The spot that I had pause on the longest came in chapter 16. Deliliah, his Philistine wife, had incessantly tried to squeeze him for the secret of his strength and ultimately, Samson gave in. He told her it was in the hair. After Delilah cuts off his braids, he awakes, thinking he would once again break free from the Philistine men. But this time, his strength is gone and then here it comes, "But he did not know that the LORD had left him." Ouch. Let that one sink in. It's my prayer that I will remain sensitive to God's Spirit...

Lastly, I've been doing a good deal of online reading about the emerging church. Discussion both supporting the movement and that critiquing it. As I've been visiting more and more churches lately, I've certainly been more keen to the differences in how evangelism, worship and community are done.

Other articles I've read recently discussing emergent churches and otherwise fresh viewpoints on the way the mission of the church is carried out:
A response to critics of emerging churches
Charles Colson writes on emerging churches
Church marketing