Christian altruism and a new start

I’ve had this blog since November of 2002, often it has fallen victim to the needs of life, expectations to be more than me, and simply being low priority. Today I hope to start anew… again… for the 1,000th time. Maybe it will stick this time… maybe.

I bought a new domain name (for $1) so I guess I have some motivation… I better post at least one new entry… is that worth $1?

So I figured I’d start by explaining the new name of this little place “Romans 12 us” – as you can imagine it comes from the book of Romans, chapter 12, in the Bible. I came across this idea because I was trying to think of something which would describe my values for this place, but not setup any expectations or box me in. I started with ideas like “”, “” and “” – but they were all taken domain names.

I also have a strong idea that at the core, true, center of altruism is Christianity. Which is defined as:

Disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.
“some may choose to work with vulnerable elderly people out of altruism”
synonyms: unselfishness, selflessness, self-sacrifice, self-denial.

Sounds a bit like Christ, yes? However to become altruistic we need to understand the idea of “renewing the mind” and “becoming a new creature”. I decided to read all of Romans 12 again; the entire chapter speaks to every issue in life, the church, and the world. I was floored, re-inspired, and excited to rediscover the gold of knowledge that is in Romans 12, especially in light of today’s political, societal, and overall pessimism towards the world, both in and out of the Church. Go ahead and read it, this post isn’t going anywhere.

See what I mean? Every nugget in Romans 12 is a building block towards Christian altruism, from there we can focus on making disciples with these traits and characteristics as the aim.

Part two to come… how this is impossible except as an outflow of the faith we have in Jesus.


[Update: 9/27/16 A part two never came, and I changed the site domain and name back to “no small talk” – I look back at this name change as an ill-thought idea, back to our regularly scheduled programming]

Urban co-housing, we could do this!

< Daybreak Cohousing in Portland - Common areas aren't used a couple times a year, they are focal points for community interaction - click to enlarge; photo by Grace Kim >
< Daybreak Cohousing in Prtland - Common areas aren't used a couple times a year, they are focal points for community interaction - click to visit original article on citytank; photo by Grace Kim >

Urban shared living communities are a very fascinating idea to me; the modern “commune” (now being referred to as “co-housing”)is far from our typical hippy era picture we usually hear about. Today’s living communities focus on the idea supporting one another, and doing the most with the least, rather than being “lead” by a single person, these new communities focus on group decision making and putting the good and needs of the group ahead of the wants of the individual, while still respecting the individual dignity and privacy. I came across a fascinating article about some communities here in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere (I strongly recommend reading the article).  I also know of some friends from our Seattle days who live in a small Christian shared living home with two other families.  When Alexis and I were interns, we had our own mini version of this, with a men’s house and a women’s house across the street from each other, we shared meals together, and did chores together – being mostly young, raised middle-class, and suburban dwelling people – it was rather dramatic, yet we bonded in ways only possible from co-housing.

These communities are not “hostel” style, each family has their own living space with bedrooms, bathrooms, living room, and possibly a kitchen as well, and circumstances differ from community to community. Most communities make a point to share a meal or two each week, split up the community maintenance, and help one another out. What I found the most intriguing is that 40% of people living in these kinds of communities said they regularly gave financial support to their neighbors when in need far more than when they lived in our traditional self-contained fashion. Of course living in close proximity with others has its ups and downs; however I believe the benefits far outweigh the shortcomings.

These new communities are not removed from society, rather they are integrated into the fabric of the urban life, in the midst of our dense city neighborhoods where people can easily get to work, grocery shop, and interact with humanity. This sounds a lot like “the good old days” where people valued other people, and more than that, it sounds quite close to something we can read in Acts 2:42-47. This is an idea I can get behind, intentionally living together, sharing resources, taking care of one another, and letting iron sharpen iron.

Maybe someday we’ll be able to buy an apartment building and turn it into one of these living communities, and not just open to other Christians, but rather a mix, and have it be an opportunity to be a light house to others and our community. The idea is huge, but I’m ok with those now, since our call to Poland will no doubt reflect many of these values, maybe we’ll start something in Kraków along these lines?  I know plenty of young adults and families who would probably jump into an idea like this fairly easily – a built in support network, yes, make it so.

Image of Christ and the Church in today’s culture?


So a while back I started seeing some interesting ads around, the “I’m a Mormon” ads, you know the ones featuring “normal everyday” people, NFL stars, doctors, lawyers, etc. This made me think… what on earth would a “I’m a Christian” ad even begin to look like? I wont’ even try.  But then I read an article on one of my favorite online magazines, Out of Ur, called Mormons, Mormons Everywhere and I started to think, does it matter what the world thinks?

It’s a hard subject to approach, but one that I think we (the Church) fail at quite miserably. There’s are part of me that simply thought “just let them think what they want” – but I don’t think that truly reflects the attitude or value we want. We should care what “they” think, but we don’t want to just come up with marketing schemes to make it happen. In the end it’s true transformation of our lives, our friends, and the community around us that will be our “ad” to the world.

But I still think, maybe the Mormon ads do at least (for those of us who at least try to be open minded) get people to rethink their preconceived ideas of Mormons. As I said, I have no idea how the Church in its current state would ever come together to agree on an image to encourage America (and the world) to rethink their ideas… But maybe the Mormons have something going on?

Barfing and quirks

marcus&I.jpgMy buddy Marcus (the one actually attempting to dance) posted a couple of blog entries recently which got me thinking.  I don’t have a lot of time at the moment to expand on my thoughts, but two quick responses…

When it comes to “are you a barfbag friend?” there are definite seasons in which I feel like I’m on either side of that equation.  The beauty of being in a (caring) Church family is that, no matter the season you are in, people will be there to simply listen (not giving advice, or suggesting action plans and lists) to what’s going on.  They’ll (hopefully) consider how they can help rather telling you “what you should do is…”.

The balance in this though is, how far do you go before gracefully and lovingly telling a friend, “hey I think you need to do something about…”, and for the most part I think we (we being the Church, weather it’s a culture issue or not) are afraid of confrontation, thinking that we “can’t tell someone what to do” – however I challenge that mindset, we should be able to tell someone what we think they can do, but it is all about tact, grace, and options – not “you should do this…” Of course this needs to be done tenderly, preferably out of relationship, yet I do believe there are times, where as brothers and sisters in Christ – we just need to speak loving truth, even if it won’t be well received – otherwise we may find ourselves with a brother/sister who ends up with deeper consequences because no one loved them enough to give them another perspective.

As for Marcus’ “20 of my quirks” post, man, do I have a lot of quirks (just look at me in that picture), many of which are directly tied to my own insecurities… Since I’ve run out of time for this post, I’ll have to do a whole entry on this – I have a lot of history on this blog, I think I’ll find plenty of quirky things to look at over history (or just randomly click on the archives tab on the right).

Will You Please Give It Up?

This caught my eye while browsing my blog/news subscriptions today and so I thought I’d share it:

Shared by TravisM

Yes and amen – Love this kind of stuff – check out the original site – all around good stuff, funny stuff.

You are on the verge of giving up on your dream.
You are tired.
You are broken.
You are weak.
You are done.
Guess what?
You are finally at the place where you can achieve your dreams.
“For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong” – 2 Cor 13:9

You are sitting at the place where you can give up your feeble attempt of living the Christian life and finally let Him live this impossible life FOR YOU.
So in your weakness…may your dreams finally begin to rise.

Be encouraged ragamuffins.

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Why Having an American Flag in Church is a Bad Idea

This caught my eye while browsing my blog/news subscriptions today and so I thought I’d share it:

Shared by TravisM

I have to agree, American flags in churches (particularly ones up on the platforms, alters, or anywhere prominent in the worship environment) are so strange to me – Glad that where I worship doesn’t have one where we worship (just out front).

Note this is a shared article, not written by me, follow the links below to access the real article and comment.

Now I wrote this a few years ago (October 8, 2007), but I often think about it. I wrote it on a myspace blog back when myspace was the thing to have. I was writing a paper about patriotism and went back and found it, and thought it was worth reposting here.

I heard a story about an interview a Native American activist gave a few years ago. When asked, “What would you like this country to do for you and your people?” he answered, “Well, one small thing the government could do for us is to return Mount Rushmore to the state in which they found it.” The interviewer was shocked, unsure how a seemingly innocent symbol like Mount Rushmore would make a difference to the Native American way of life. The activist continued, “It would be a start, a small thing, but a start. You can imagine how humiliating it is for us to have had one of our sacred mountains defaced with the images of some of the bloodiest leaders in history– Roosevelt, Washington, Jefferson, and a man like Lincoln. It’s bad for our children to look up and see those images carved into stone. Some of them might take them as examples they ought to follow. What if some of our children grew up to be like Jefferson?”

This man lived by a story in which a monument like Mount Rushmore had very different implications than for the average American who had been told a story in which those four men were heroes. The community of Native Americans that he was a part of shaped his identity so much that he looked at the world around him with different eyes, seeing a different “real.”

If someone was to ask me the question, knowing I am an “activist” (or disciple” of Christ, “What would you like the church to do for you and your people?” I would answer, “Well, one small thing the church could do for us is to return the American flag to the place from which it came from.” At my interviewer’s shock and curiousity as to what that had to do with my identity in Christ, I would continue, “It would be a start, a small thing, but a start. You can imagine how confusing it is for us to have both the symbol of this country and the symbol of the Christian faith side by side on the platform of the church. It is almost as if the church is suggesting that the Lordship and power of Jesus Christ is equal to, or at least not opposing to, the lordship and power the American empire has. Yet the only way the American empire has gained its power and its citizens’ allegience is through violence and war. Christ came and taught us that we have much more powerful weapons than war. It’s bad for our children to look up and see those images next to each other, as if they were not in opposition. Some of them might take up the way of the American flag as the example they ought to follow. What if some of our children grew up thinking that violence is what brings true power?”

I live by a story in which a symbol like the American flag has very different implications than for the American who does not know Christ. When I see the American flag inside a church next to the cross, at the very least I see an out-dated obsession of clinging to the idea of a Constantinian Christian Nation. As the idea of postmodernity spreads, however, crashing down that ideal, it is a very exciting opportunity for the church. No longer do we have the option of successfully changing this nation “Christian” through laws and customs that do not require each individual to die and be reborn. Now we have the chance to focus on “being church,” identifying ourselves with the truthful story of the Gospel.

The American flag confuses our commitment to that truthful Christian story.  Nations and empires derive their authority from promising to do good for us if we will behave as cooperative citizens. As Christians, we submit to the truthful authority of Jesus Christ. It is by focusing on his truthfulness and forming a community that submits to his authority that we shape how we live and speak and act in this world.

One can only act in a world she can see, and one can only see by learning to say. The church’s language is a language that requires the self to be transformed to be part of that language. The presence of the American flag in our church is not a sign of transformation or of understanding the true enemy of the cross. It is not a commitment to the peculiarity of our story, and does not explain that it is through that story that we see the world for what it really is. It is a sign of defeat, sicne we have been domesticated and convinced that the nation we live in is really not all that different from the Kingdom of Heaven, and that they both stand for the same values. This fails to acknowledge that honor, courage, fidelity, and love have no meaning apart from Christ.

I relate to the Native American activist. I have no real expectation that my request will be carried out or even given much attention. Yet I make the request nonetheless, knowing that my silence would be unfaithful to the story I align myself with.

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we had a friend over today!

This caught my eye while browsing my blog/news subscriptions today and so I thought I’d share it:

emma came to hang out with us all day!  we had so much fun.  the kids didn't know she was coming, so they were surprised when they woke up.
at breakfast, meshach asked what bug she should be. {i call them big bug, doodle bug and lady bug.}  he came up with honey bee and called her that sporadically throughout the day.  :o)

meshach loved to help take care of her and offered his hand to her on our walk.
it was such a beautiful day!  after lunch we went back outside to play with chalk.

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Social Justice Is Sexy, Starting A Church Is Not

This caught my eye while browsing my blog/news subscriptions today and so I thought I’d share it:

Shared by TravisM

I feel the same way – social justice is fantastic, great, wonderful. But as soon as we begin to talk about creating communities (churches) to cultivate these ideas and fellowship with Jesus – then the sexiness goes away…

Poland missions… not sexy. It’s not Africa, it’s not China, it’s not social justice (although it will be cultivated), and it’s not tangibly building church buildings… so what is it?? That’s a blog post to come.

In the mean time read about Soul City Church, b/c those ideals are ideals that I (and Alexis) certainly have in common. And give you feel lead, we’re all about expanding all part of the Church world wide.


Here’s the deal.
Social Justice is sexy.
Just ask GAP, Bono, Angelina, and the slew of others who have decided to give back.
I am all about the sexiness because it opens peoples eyes to the needs of this world.
Giving to help children across the world makes peoples hearts full.
And it should.
I sponsor 3 kids through Compassion International and their lives are changing every day.

What isn’t sexy?
Giving to a church in downtown Chicago who will soon preach a story of transformation to the hustlers that live there.
So I’m going to simply ask.
Would you pray about giving to my new church?
Soul City Church
We are slowly trickling into the city of Chicago over the next few months and need all the help we can get.
No it’s not sexy.
But it is a need and I’m not ashamed to ask on behalf of my church family that you pray and if you feel led…
Give Here.
10 bucks. 25 bucks. Whatever you have.

Thanks Ragamuffins for contributing to lives changed in the city of Chicago

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A Counter-Cultural Quiet

This caught my eye while browsing my blog/news subscriptions today and so I thought I’d share it:

For some people, the Advent season on the church calendar is one of the most anticipated times of the year. For some, there is no other time in which their love of God is stronger, there is no other time in which they are more aware of God’s mercy in their lives and in the world, there is no other time in which their hearts go out to others with such affection, and there is no other time in which their joy is more profound.

I am not one of those people.

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