Fifth and final article in the amazing series “Electing to Follow Jesus” by Randy Harris you will want to read and share

After hearing Randy Harris speak at the 2016 Pepperdine Lectures, I wanted to share the message of the lectures in print form, got his permission, transcribed, then re-worked the material into five articles, with deft editing help from Karissa Herchenroeder.

We published the five articles about the church and politics in a series called, “Electing to Follow Jesus,” and we ran these articles at Charis Magazine during the run up to the election and shortly after.

We kept the principle names of candidates out of these articles. Why? We want these articles to be more timeless and serve a generation as a primer for understanding our own baggage, how we can take a prophetic stand but still be wrong, and how some Christians have chosen to engage or not engage politics.

We believe the articles will have a long-term impact. Thank you to Karissa Herchenroeder and Charis, the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA).

Here are the links to the articles on Charis Magazine.

Claiming Our Baggage

The Gospel of Jesus vs. The Gospel of Peter

How to Be a Loser

Strangers in a Strange Land

Prophets of Justice and Mercy

This series represents a collaboration between Randy Harris and Greg Taylor, co-authors of Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.

Randy Harris is spiritual director for the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry and College of Biblical Studies. He also teaches theology, ethics, preaching, and biblical text courses in the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry at Abilene Christian University. Randy speaks at numerous conferences and churches throughout the year and has authored and co-authored several books, including the newest, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.

Greg Taylor is preaching minister for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greg is author of several books including “Lay Down Your Guns: One Doctor’s Battle for Hope and Healing in Honduras” and “High Places: A Novel,” and has co-authored several books.

Howard and Sam Dig For Gold in Tennessee

Howard Claude in 2004

Ron and Gidget lived in a trailer park on Nolensville Road in Nashville, Tennessee called Claude Country Village. It was the owner and namesake of Claude Country who introduced me to the Marcinkos. But before I tell you more about Gidget and Ron, I want to set the scene and show you this village where they lived and give you some background that only the owner of the trailer park could give. This is a story about many people but this particular chapter is about two men from Arkansas seeking their fortunes in Tennessee. One was a born-salesman named Howard Claude and the other was founder of a rising star in retailing; a man named Sam Walton.

When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, I commuted past a large trailer park that most people barely noticed. Virtually invisible to bypassers, the residents lived in mobile homes tucked back in a holler with a bluff behind that overlooked about forty acres of land. I asked many people who drove along Nolensville Road daily, “Have you ever noticed a trailer park near the corner of Old Hickory and Nolensville Road?” They would invariably say, “There’s a trailer park there?”

There was a rumor a big box retailer wanted to buy the land the trailer park sat on, and I wanted to know what would happen to the nearly one hundred residents if they had to move to make way for a new development.

I finally noticed the park in 2004 because I read the Tennessean daily, and the business section was reporting that Walmart was looking for a new location to build a Supercenter. Land in Nashville over the past few decades had become like gold but the terrain is very rocky and hilly and often very difficult and expensive to develop.

Over months of considering different large tracts of land, the news came out that Walmart developers were considering purchase of a mobile home park on Nolensville Road. City Council Member Parker Toler had already made some enemies with his aggressive push for development of a Target and shopping center on a wooded knob near I-65 on Old Hickory. Now he was quoted calling the little trailer park on Nolensville Road a blight, a clear set up for removal and development of this land for a large retailer.

In addition to Claude Country, a bar called Eddie’s Southside Bowery, and a Phase One Used Auto Sales flanked the entrance and were included in the assessment by Toler, that this area was drug and violence infested and needed to be removed and businesses developed and tax base improved.

One day driving by the park I decided to pull in and talk to the owner and find out if the park was indeed for sale. [following the new model of www.wadehodges.com, where readers pay 99 cents to finish a good story, you can tape four quarters to a postcard and mail to me if you want, or just click below and read free].

Continue reading

What Really Matters

Read this issue of Wineskins edited by my friend Sara Barton along with Editor Keith Brenton. I’ve stepped down from Wineskins but continue to love what the magazine is and does for Christ-followers and those who want to follow Christ.

Sara has collected essays by twentysomethings who write about what matters.

What our church is reading

We’re working through several books in our church right now.

1. We’re doing a Route 66 study on Wednesday nights. Each Wednesday we survey another Bible book. We’re on Jonah this Wednesday night. I start each class with, “Well, Jeremiah (or whatever book we’re studying) is my favorite book.” God’s word is incredibly powerful and rips apart our assumptions and changes us. When we read it again with open hearts, we find we are not reading as much as it is reading us.

The Leader's Journey

2. The leadership team (shepherds and staff) are reading The Leader’s Journey right now. The book is by three authors out of Houston, Jim Herrington, Robert Creech, Trisha L. Taylor.

3. Our Garnett staff is reading Seven Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, Lane Jones.

Women, Slaves, and Homosexuals

4. Finally, one of our church classes is reading Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals to help us with reading and interpreting Scripture on roles of women in church and life.

Crying Indian and Recycling

Do you remember this commercial? If you grew up in the 70s and watched TV, it’s part of your consciousness. But have you really done anything about it either personally or on a large scale? I think our society has done a lot, but we’re also still lagging both on personal and national scales.

I know it’s weird to say this, but recycling and composting is a spiritual discipline for our family. That will make sense to some. For others that are squinting their eyes and cocking their heads, consider this: spiritual disciplines don’t all happen on your rear with a book laid across your lap. In fact, most don’t.

Brother Lawrence found spiritual meaning in the mundane and normal of life. Recycling and composting both helps us reflect on our consumption and also do our part to help tend God’s creation.

Recycling is a hassle that we don’t do for ourselves. We don’t make any money from it. It’s a chore that we all pitch in to do, and we do it for the sake of God’s creation that we are called to tend and restore, not constantly consume.

We have a friend in Nashville who works for a school and encourages recycling by having a company keep bins at the schools and giving part of the profits to the school. She manages the children in the lunchroom to divide all the garbage into categories and gets children and parents to help work Saturdays when the community comes up to recycle.

It was this friend who converted our family to recycling. After composting kitchen scraps and recycling, we typically have two bags of regular trash a week for a family of five and the rest goes into recycling.

Today’s recycling from approximately one month of collecting:

45 pounds of newspaper, magazines

6 pounds of glass (mostly spaghetti/pizza sauce, one jar of Durango, Colorado honey)

5 pounds of plastic (milk jugs, soda, etc.)

15 pounds of cardboard

2 pounds of tin cans

3 pounds of aluminum cans

The bulk of this fills up our van with seats down, about a dozen bags that garbage collectors don’t have to fool with, that stays out of landfills, and that recycle into products and save using new resources.

Are you constantly consuming and throwing away without a care? I used to but will no longer.

Debating what moral issues are . . .

This debate is important . . .

Jim Wallis: Dr. Dobson, Let’s Have a Real Debate

Last week, James Dobson and a number of other Religious Right leaders wrote a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals, claiming that work on climate change was a distraction from “the great moral issues of our time.” I responded on our God’s Politics blog on Friday, with the piece Dobson and Friends, Outside the Mainstream. So far this week, we’ve had several other good responses from Brian McLaren, Bill McKibben, and Lyndsay Moseley. And, I’ve invited James Dobson to a debate on the question, “What are the great moral issues of our time for evangelical Christians?”

James Dobson’s letter attacking Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals has caused a firestorm, and maybe the beginning of a really good dialogue. Brian McLaren’s post yesterday pointed out that the letter from Dobson and friends actually acknowledged that there is a real debate among evangelicals about the seriousness of climate change and the reasons for it. So instead of calling for Cizik’s resignation for saying global warming should be a moral issue for evangelical Christians, why don’t Dobson and his friends accept a real debate on whether climate change is, indeed, one of the great moral issues of our time? A major evangelical Christian university should host just such a debate.

But I want to focus on the following very clear statement from Dobson’s letter:

“More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.”

That is indeed the key criticism, and the foundation for the real debate. Is the fact that 30,000 children will die globally today, and everyday, from needless hunger and disease a great moral issue for evangelical Christians? How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? And isn’t the still-widespread and needless poverty in our own country, the richest nation in the world, a moral scandal? What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS that wipe out whole generations and countries, or the sex trafficking of massive numbers of women and children? Should genocide in Darfur be a moral issue for Christians? And what about disastrous wars like Iraq? And then there is, of course, the issue that got Dobson and his allies so agitated. If the scientific consensus is right – climate change is real, is caused substantially by human activity, and could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths – then isn’t that also a great moral issue? Could global warming actually be alarming evidence of human tinkering with God’s creation?