New Blogsite

I have created a new blogsite:             

It will focus on the concept of theostorying… defined (be me at least) as

“the act of creative reflection on God, and our associated relationships with Him and each other, crafted artistically into the medium of the story, so as to allow the listener to join in the reflection through experiencing the story, being challenged by the story, and inspiring further questions.”

I will put stories, parables, and such on this sight as well as a bit of narrative theology (probably).

In so doing, I have already transferred a lot of articles from this site ( to the new one under the category of parables/allegories.  I also deleted my last three posts here

Strangers in the Land

<NOTE: The image here for vulnerability, I am using as synonymous with weakness. Some don’t feel that way. For them, vulnerability is a virtue while weakness is a well… weakness. I would suggest that both, properly understood, are virtues, and… well… strengths.>

Two passages with regard to the life of Abraham are especially meaningful to me.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”    -Genesis 12:1-3

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.    -Hebrews 11:13-16

These passages make it clear to me that Abraham left a place he knew as home and never reached a new place he considered home. While God told him in Genesis that he would be made a great nation, the Hebrews passage makes it clear, that the concept to Abraham in no way suggested a governmental power, or a nation of possession. In fact, the only land he owned was a burial site.

Let’s consider some implications of this.

  • Abraham is to be a blessing, but to be a blessing as a stranger among those who are part of the power structure.
  • Abraham, and arguably Abraham’s descendants, is not presumed to “bless” from a position of power but from a position of weakness.

We struggle with this. In the book of Joshua, the descendents of Abraham (through Jacob) set up a homeland, a place of power, and were to drive out or kill those who oppose. Of course, this fact is also challenged by the Mosaic Law that stated that one should always be kind and generous to strangers, foreigners, aliens. After all, the Israelites were aliens in Egypt. (Being powerless should always inspire one to be kind and generous when one has power.) It seems that the Mosaic Law expected the long-term normal was that Israelites, descendants of Abraham, would always live with those who were not. Israel was never very good at being a blessing to those around as long as they were a political entity. They spent too much time taking care of themselves, and fighting the “enemy”– both internally and externally.

This all is relevant to us, because Jesus and the Apostles always spoke and wrote from the presupposition that Christians would always live as strangers within larger (non-Christian) communities. The assumption was that they would be salt and light to those around them. One could argue Jesus and His disciples did not foresee Osrhoene, Armenia, Roman Empire, Ethiopia, Holy Roman Empire, and the series of “Christian nations” supporting what sometimes gets called Christendom. <But Christendom is now dead… and we as Christians, I argue, should be happy with this.>

But maybe it is not about what Jesus and His disciples foresaw or did not foresee. Maybe the point is that Christians ARE SUPPOSED TO LIVE AS STRANGERS/FOREIGNERS/ALIENS IN WHATEVER LAND THEY LIVE. If that is the case, there are some things we need to consider:

  • The concept of the “Christian Nation” is flawed from the start. Islam embraces earthly kingdoms, but Jesus actively rejected the concept of an earthly kingdom… both in word (My kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36), and in deed (opposing Satan’s lure to human governmental power). If other religions are seduced by this lure, that is their own call. For Christians, we should not.
  • While we may grieve for the evil behaviors that we see around us, our job is to live holy lives, and generously, sacrificially, help those around us, in word and in deed. Our call is not to try to legislate conformity to Christ’s standards.
  • We should show solidarity and concern for Christians who have the misfortune to live in regimes that hold to the unconscionable behavior of mistreating Christians because they have the power to do so. We should be able to have enough empathy as human beings for that. But as Christians, our empathy should be greater, and we should show real concern for minority groups among us.
  • David Tracy in “Plurality and Ambiguity” notes the Religion is always meant to be revolutionary… anti- (or at least counter-) cultural. The reason is that it challenges the way things are, and points to how things are supposed to be… to challenge people to see the “Ultimate Reality” not the shallow, vilolent, self-satisfied reality around us. Once religion (Christianity especially, but others as well) assumes a mythic role (supporting culturally the status quo) it has lost its role as a religion. Thus, Christianity is not part of the State this side of Heaven.

I have lived as an alien, stranger, foreigner, in the Philippines for 11 years. Although the Philippines is a pretty friendly place… I will probably always be a bit of an outsider. That is okay. It does help me see the other side a bit. As an alien, I am weak. Living in the Philippines, I also live in a weak country overshadowed by a much stronger country.

Christians should spend time embracing weakness. Christianity has always been at its best operating from a position of weakness… rather than from a position of military, or political strength. Maybe one day we as Christians can embrace the words of St. Paul:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Adventures in Typing

I have had to cut back a little in blogging. Part of it is because of a lot of stuff going on this Summer. We have a Disaster Response Symposium that our group (Bukal Life Care) is putting together in partnership with Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary and Virginia Baptist Disaster Response. We also will be doing our first medical mission in two years (definitely out of practice). And we have 16 CPE trainees at our center right now and for the next several weeks.

Additionally, though, trying to do some book writing.

90% Done. “Ministry in Diversity.” Book on Applied Cultural Anthropology, for Missions. Technically, it is done. I used it for my Cultural Anthropology class. I have to finish footnoting and indexing., Also the students wanted more examples (I can get too focused on information at times). This book is for Bible schools… particularly in the Philippines or Asia.

70% Done.  “Foundations of Community and Clinical Pastoral Care.” This has been a slow one. I had it listed at 30% for ages. Many of the chapters are done. Still a fair bit of work in the Pastoral Supervision section. Actually hope to finish it before the anthropology book. To be used by Bible Schools and CPE centers, especially in Southeast Asia.

5% Done.  “Adventures in Theostorying.” The title may change. Have 2 or 3 chapters kind of done. But still a ways to go.

My two fully complete books are:

Theostorying   and   Principles and Practices for Healthy Christian Medical Missions

Feel free to check them out on Amazon… if you have time.

Missiological Thoughts on Pastoral Diagnosis

As I have said before, one of my jobs in missions is administrator of a pastoral care center. So I have always been interested in the correlation, compatibility, and conflict between missions and counseling. This presentation utilizes the 7 benchmarks for pastoral diagnosis established by Paul Pruyser back in 1963. However, we put them in a logical order, as seen in the diagram, Looking at it, there is a correlation between this method of diagnosing and doing pastoral care, with evangelizing. The lowest tier is essentially “good talk” and understanding their beliefs, and social support system. One goes into tier two seeking to find out their felt needs, and connecting that with issues of faith and future. The top tier is exploring response, especially with regards to grace and repentance. I still need to think about how things correlate a bit more, since some of the terms are utilized differently in the pastoral care and evangelism camps.

An important thing that evangelists can (and frankly, must) learn from pastoral diagnosis is the need to understand the hearer, client, patient, recipient, help seeker. The agenda needs to be based, considerably, on their situation and their felt need.

Out of Madness

One of my several unpaid jobs is registrar for a certifying/accrediting organization for Clinical Pastoral Education. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) or sometimes called Clinical Pastoral Training (CPT) grew, largely, out of the experiences and work of theologian, Anton Boisen, 1876-1965.

Anton Boisen, (ca 1900) Shortly after first psychotic break

(Side thought: Boisen lived to to be almost 89. Looking at other great Christian theologians of the 20th century, most  (unless killed by violence or misadventure) appear to live well beyond normal life expectancy for their time and demographics. Does that mean that theology is good for one’s health? Or does it mean that one can become considered a great theologian if one is able to outlive others?)

Anton Boisen had several psychotic breaks (five I believe) during his lifetime, requiring him to be institutionalized for periods of time. He came to the conclusion that sometimes, particularly if not due to an organic cause, a psychotic break is due to a “problem of the soul.” As such, it may have a religious cause, and a potential religious cure. Now to some this may appear to be… to choose a technical term… gobbledygook. But if you think about it, it actually holds merit.

Religious concerns are tied to issues of:

  • Ethics
  • Meaning
  • Belongingness

Is it possible that some psychotic breaks could the mind’s way of addressing issues of ethics (Is my actions and beliefs consistent or in conflict? Am I, essentially, a good person or an evil person?), meaning (Do I have value as an individual? Does life (or more specifically, my life) have meaning? Am I living the life I am supposed to live, or have I taken a wrong turn?), and belongingness (Am I a loyal child of God? Is God someone I can trust? Do I have a healthy role in church/family/God’s kingdom? Is their ultimate hope?)? If these issues (existential doubts and otherwise) are left undealt with, could a breakdown occur? And if so, is drugs and quarantine the best solution?

Boisen brought in theology students to the hospitals, especially mental hospitals, to learn Clinical (“bedside”) Pastoral Care. .The skills there, and the training process associated with this program have been found useful in a broad range of locations beyond hospitals, mental hospitals, and hospices, including jails, parishes, and communities.

I don’t know about you, but reading Zechariah and Ezekiel, it is not hard to wonder if they were mad. Perhaps the same could be said of John the Baptist. Frankly, if they were mad… would that negate their message, or can God use the illness?. Of course, even if they were 100% certified mentally competent, some of their actions could be seen by outsiders as demonstration of mental illness— and then discounted.

And that’s a shame, I suppose. Mental illness may not have the stigma it used to. People do not think of the mentally ill in terms of rubber rooms and straightjackets anymore (or do they?). The big problem is that the label of mental illness often stigmatizes the individual, sometimes for life, and tends to negate their insights. Dr. Cabot, a medical partner of Boisen, cut ties with him after a psychotic break. Understandable, I am sure… but a sad mistake none the less.

I have never been diagnosed with mental illness. I doubt I drift far enough away from the middle of the Gaussian plot, yet, to be so labelled. As a melancholic I do have depressive periods of my life, but I doubt severe or long enough to meet criteria for the DSM-V (for various forms of depressive episodes or disorders). However, I have also utilized a bit of “Boisenian” logic when I have been down. When I am going through a depressive period, I take time to reflect. I consider whether it was triggered due to a disconnect. I know I should be doing A, but am doing B. I have found such reflection quite useful, frankly.

Three quick thoughts:

  • The mentally ill need God’s love. In fact, sometimes the recognition of the meaning and belongingness before God is the start of their “cure of soul.”
  •  Genius may come from, or be confused with, madness. This is not surprising since both genius and mental illness are defined first of all by their distance from the “normal.” Sometimes, the truth is found in the “voice crying in the wilderness.”
  • Mental illness should not be stigmatized. In fact, as in the case of Boisen, the process of psychotic breaks gave him a perspective that helped him serve God more effectively.


Missionaries in Nineteenth Century Africa – A Few Considerations

DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture

The Rev. Robert Nassau, who first landed in West Africa in 1861, spent the following 30+ years in this region, as a religious official and graduate of Princeton University.  And while there is much to be criticized in these early years of missionary service in Africa, there is also a great deal of knowledge and perspective towards local people that can be considered.

Robert-Hamill-Nassau-portrait Robert-Hamill-Nassau-portrait

For example, the growth of ethnographic theory and fieldwork techniques, which took place during the same period,  borrowed heavily from the work of missionaries:  the importance of learning local languages and viewing indigenous perspectives from local points of view, are two key methodologies adopted in ethnographic fieldwork – though, reduced from several decades  in the 19th century to about 12 months today.

Regarding changes over the years between 1890 and 1900, Rev. Nassau is highly critical of European powers and associated merchants, while also assuming that indigenous…

View original post 488 more words

“If Christ be not raised…”

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Several tombs of the type in which Jesus was buried have survived the centuries. This one was discovered during road construction a few years ago near the Jezreel Valley, not very far from Megiddo.

Roman period tomb with a rolling stone near the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Roman period tomb with a rolling stone near Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

So far as I know no New Testament writer ever used the expression “empty tomb” but the phrase accurately reflects what they taught.

The resurrection of Christ is mentioned more than 100 times in the New Testament. Take a look at just a few statements. With the exception of the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation, we have good evidence that each of these books was written prior to A.D. 70. John wrote both the Gospel and Revelation before the end of the first century.


“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come…

View original post 746 more words

The Engineer’s Baby. Part #2

<In the first part, I used the analogy of a designer’s attitude with regards to his creation. There is a tendency to see it almost as in terms of a parent-child relationship. There are positive sides to that and negative sides to that. Now, bringing this to mission projects, programs.>11056

Missions involves creative creation. New churches, new organizations, new projects, new programs, and new applications are developed. There is a certain pride that comes from such creation. And pride, in and of itself, is not bad.(I really wish the English language accommodated better to separate between healthy pride and hubris.)  Such pride often can be beneficial… but it can also poison the heart and the organization. This is not a new thing. Consider this passage from Ecclesiastes chapter 2

20Therefore I completely despaired of all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun. 21When there is a man who has labored with wisdom, knowledge and skill, then he gives his legacy to one who has not labored with them. This too is vanity and a great evil. 22For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun?   

Saul in the Old Testament appeared to be reluctant to be the King, first formal king of Israel. However, in his later years he appeared to be desperate to hold his position and receive the accolades associated with his position.

John the Baptist gave the statement about himself and Jesus, “He must increase, while I must decrease.” That statement is memorable, in part, because of its unusual attitude… an attitude, frankly, not shared by John’s disciples.

The Problem is not Pride (in itself at least) so much as Honor and Ownership.  Years ago, I was part of a church ministry that grew to the point that it developed into a separate and successful NGO (non-governmental organization). A year or so after the formal separation, the pastor of the church confided to us, “I wish I had killed it when I had a chance.” Since he had given his blessing to move forward in developing the NGO, that seemed strange. But I believe he felt that his child was being taken away from him, and he felt that its success without him somehow shamed him.

Recently, a somewhat similar situation recurred at a different church (not one I am involved with directly). A church was given a ministry site and that church ignored that site for, literally, years. Then an outsider came in and was very successful there. The pastor of the church lashed out demanding that the ministry would be stopped. Again the issues of ownership and honor appeared to be involved.

While these are Asian examples, Westerners fall into similar problems of honor and ownership. Many an American missionary comes to Asia and sets up an organization and appears to be unable to pass it on to others. One I am thinking of, held onto a church through a major and unnecessary split and through a  huge amount of hard feelings all around. The missionary was, in many ways, a good and capable person— but he could not let go. Even after he died, the legal papers he had set up ensured that fighting would continue long after his death.

On the Other Hand… There is good in some level of pride. When one creates something, one is willing to go a bit further than others to protect and nurture. A young organization or program, like a young child, needs a certain amount of sacrificial love to survive and thrive.

I was part of an organization that we had been part of forming. A huge problem came up that caused deep grief internally, and great embarrassment externally. After we had cleaned up the immediate problem, I had a staff meeting and asked what should we do now. I did suggest that one way to deal with the bad reputation that had now been developed was to shut down the organization and start again. The staff, people who had been with us from the beginning or near the beginning gave a resounding “NO!” We had worked hard to get things moving. We were happy with the good that had been done. We did not want to see it go away because of something that none of us in that room had done. So we pushed through a difficult year until things started to improve. It takes that sort of sacrificial obstinateness,

I was part of another organization that had a different problem, but one that was tearing the organization in two. Those of us on one side, the original founders had to decide what to do. We chose to push through the best we could to make our organization as healthy as possible. Now… you may say this is a bad example. After all, there was a split and we did not heal the split. In fact, however, there were three options since the other side was definitely going their own way:

  • Quit… give up
  • Fight and try to beat the other side
  • Seek two healthy separate organizaitons

Our pride as creators/founders ultimately prevented us from the first option. However, we did not want our pride, honor, and sense of ownership to poison things to create option 2. We chose option 3. So far that appears to have been the best choice.

So what is the end of all of this?

1.  Missionaries/ministers are likely to become attached to their creations. This is not strictly speaking bad. That attachment leads to investment of head, heart, hands, prayer and wallet above and beyond normal sacrifice.

2.  However, the risk is that attachment may lead to the point where one is unable to accept critique, and guidance. It may also not allow one to let go. Such a feeling is often attached to an unhealthy sense of ownership (and personal importance) and a misplaced sense of honor and shame.

3. The balance, I believe is in God. All things are His, while we are stewards... trustees. However, as stewards, trustees, we are also heirs. As such, we should not have a strong sense of ownership since all things are God’s. We should not have too much honor and shame invested in organizations since our honor comes from God, not stuff. On the other hand, as a good steward/trustee there is certainly a reasonable amount of pride in being successful in what God has given… to be called “Good and Faithful Servant.”

The Engineer’s Baby, Part #1

<Ultimately, this is about the trials associated with mission work and ministry “ownership” but that will be in Part #2. Part #1 is dealing with the analogy of babies and creative designs.>

My Only Patent
My Only Patent

Years ago, I was a mechanical design engineer for one of the largest defense contractors in the world. I worked on naval equipment, especially radar systems.

One thing that was challenging was design reviews. This was when one subjects one’s own design to the cold glare of criticism by fellow designers and engineers. It is a hard thing to go through. Yet it is necessary.

Part of what makes it hard is that one’s design is the product of one’s creativity. One works on it for days, weeks, months. It is the product of time, stress, anguish. Finally, the design is done and is presented to the world with pride and trepidation. It is not hard to see that there is a correspondence between this and having a baby. Some might suggest that a major difference is the lack of labor pains… but I can assure you… that a lot of labor and some amount of pain is associated with design “birthing” as well.

With babies, people don’t typically poke, prod, and examine the child and say things like, “Hmmm… rather ugly child, don’t you think?” or “Okay for a first attempt… hopefully you will do better next time.” All newborn babies are normally seen as beautiful… the criticism is usually reserved for when they are older. (Wouldn’t it be nice if the unique miraculous beauty of a newborn could be continued to be recognized in school-age children, teenagers, adults?)

In engineering, however, the design process requires periodic critiques on several levels: design reviews, customer reviews, prototyping and testing, cost analyses, and so forth. The difficulty is that the design engineer feels like he or she is the parent of the design and so criticism of the design is often taken personally.

I believe that the feeling of pride for a design is, in part, God-given… just as the feeling of pride of one’s own child. There are values in it. Shortly before I got out of engineering, I was designing a hydraulic manifold. I had never designed one before. It was not my area of expertise… so I had tried to “spec” it out for outside work. That is, I sought to outsource the design to specialists. Unfortunately, that did not work because they came back with a clearly inadequate design. Next, I tried to do half or two-thirds of the work and leave the details to the detail designers. But when my design was critiqued, they reviewers strongly recommended that I don’t do that… that it was likely to fail that way. They also noted a key problem with the design work I had done… based on a backpressure issue that I was unaware of. I decided that enough was enough. For the next three days, I lived and breathed hydraulic design… sweating, as it were, drops of blood, my blood, into the design. After three days, I was done with manifold. I gave it to drafters and the CNC for prototyping… and it… failed. But quickly it was found that the failure was a hole that was drilled too deep in prototyping. When fixed… it worked. “Hurray for the home team!!!”

What is my point? I put that much effort into the design… not because I was being paid. Actually, I was getting ready to leave the company. I did not put that much effort (blood sweat and tears) into it because of a sense of personal  duty. I did it because the design was my “baby.” I wanted to ensure that my baby, my design, would succeed and grow up healthy and successful.

Success in design requires a touchy balance of creative ownership (having a sense of owning or parenting the design) tied to a recognition that the design is not one’s own, but the product of a team that is working together to critique and modify it for its own good. The balance between identifying one as parent and not as parent in a design is a bit tricky. You want to tell the others that they don’t understand the design like you do. And in fact, you are probably right. You do know it better. But that intellectual and emotional knowledge also leads to being blind to some problems that need the help of others.

What does this have to do with missions? Everything. Mission work is a creative activity. One pours one’s creative energies into it. but then others come along and criticize the work… or challenge one’s sense of ownership. How does one deal with that? I will look at it in Part #2.

Coptic Easter and A Feast in Rural Egypt – Recipes Included

Nice to hear of the Christian faith as practiced in different parts of the world. Even better with recipes included.

DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture

With Easter upon us, I’m sharing my blog about the holiday in Upper [southern] Egypt:

Villages and hamlets in Egypt have traditionally been compactly built of mud brick, with crop leavings and fuel wood (such as cotton stocks) being stored on the roofs, as here.  In the absence of both space and rain, this is a good policy.  Source - Impresions de Egipto Villages and hamlets in Egypt have traditionally been compactly built of mud brick, with crop leavings and fuel wood (such as cotton branches) being stored on the roofs, as here. In the absence of both space and rain, this is a good policy. In this picture, a woman is bringing her expectant donkey a serving of barsiim or other succulent greens from her fields.  Source – Impresions de Egipto

During the years that I spent a good deal of my time working and living in Upper [southern] Egypt while conducting  doctoral research, I was invited by friends in a nearby izba [small, extended family-based village, or hamlet] to join them at their church for Easter celebrations. Not having been to a Coptic Easter, I gladly accepted.

Shenouda ii celebrating coptic easter in cairo, 2004. al-ahram weekly 24'3'05 Pope Shenouda ii celebrating Coptic Easter in Cairo, 2004…

View original post 2,623 more words