Friday, February 29, 2008

The Culmination of Discipleship

I always wondered about the details of discipleship. I heard Dr. Grant say it is: "being accountable to and for someone." I heard Susan Hunt say-in the context of Women's ministry-it is a relationship between an older woman and a younger woman. Either way, I felt discipleship was portrayed as a mutual learning experience with a kind of give-and-take relationship. It was not simply the mentor mentoring the mentee. Though I always heard it to be the case, I never really understood how discipleship could be so mutual a learning experience, such a simultaneously, edifying endeavor, an equally, encouraging scenario. This I never understood-at least not until I walked through my mentors' hard times right alongside them.

It seems to me that there are stages of discipleship. One is the intentionality stage where either one or both parties covenant to interact and take part in each other's lives. I say one party right along with both, simply because it is often the case that souls such as myself either do not think they want to be mentored initially, or they do not realize that someone is actively mentoring them. In the intentionality stage, I think of things like e-mails, phone calls, and coffee get-togethers where mentor and mentee sit down with the express purpose of "getting to know" each other. Then maybe an invitation to dinner and an opportunity to see home life-or at least the surface of home life. In the intentionality stage of discipleship, I am still convinced that the majority of responsibility for intentionality falls on the shoulders of the mentor. If it were any different, would the mentee need mentoring?

Somewhere along the way intentionality gives way to a more relaxed involvement in each other's lives. It is no longer necessary to schedule coffee every other week because interaction seems to be more of a given, a dependable guarantee of the open door policy. Intentionality is not altogether thrown to the wind by any means, rather it takes on a new and necessarily more creative role. Familiarity does not do away with intentionality, rather it necessitates it all the more. With the involved interaction stage comes a closer and more vulnerable look at home life, character, and peculiarities. When I think of involved interaction I think of assisting in a move-whether it be books or an entire house-I think of grocery shopping, games, and planning Christmas parties. Involving each other in the ordinary stuff of life, whatever happens to come up, making sure the other person has an opportunity to help or take part if it is at all appropriate or possible. In this involved interaction stage, I still see the weight of intentionality falling on the mentor's shoulders, but an equal willingness must be displayed by the mentee to not only accept the interaction, but to actively involve his or her self in it. This is the beginning of mutual edification.

Not until recently did I recognize something that I will call intercessory discipleship. It is the relationship that has made its journey through the oft-times monotonous ordeal of intentionality, to the enjoyable involvement of just being a part of one another's lives, and then is confronted by the yet uncharted waters of trial and hardship. The foundation of trust was laid early on, but never tried so unforgivingly as with the advent of heartache and trial. To truly know a person is to see what that individual is when he or she can no longer help it. It is the showing of vulnerability by the mentor that ultimately is the most profound lesson, not so much the telling of it. The telling resides in the intentionality stage, even in the involved interaction stage, but that is merely the foundation. The "AhHa" moments come strongly and unexpectedly to the mentee after having witnessed how to walk through adversity well. The intercessory part comes when you know the person so well that words are unimportant, nothing needs to be said, there is a mutual understanding, and in that is comfort.

That is where the mentee, properly trained by a godly mentor, exemplifies what Christ said to His disciples in Matthew 10:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master...

It is a culminating opportunity when disciples can lavish the love and intentionality that has been shown to them back on their mentors. Is this the "be all" and "end all" of discipleship? No. But it certainly is a wellspring of hope and comfort along the journey of life.

Discipleship and Leadership

One question I have had since early high school is: "Who holds up the holder-uppers?" Leaders are not any less vulnerable than the rest of us. If anything they are more vulnerable from their more solitary lookout and scouting position than if directly on the battlefield where there is at least some safety in numbers.

My mom is a firm believer in giving a "cup of cold water" for the sake of the Kingdom. From my youth, I have multiple images in my head of sitting in a church service thinking the pastor was getting a bit slow and boring when in fact, as my mother realized, he was simply tired and thirsty. Whether or not anyone else in the congregation caught on, I feel that I will never know; but I do know that my mother was the only one that ever acted on her insight as she got up quietly in the middle of service and got the man some water.

One of my favorite Bible stories is only three verses long. In Exodus 17, the children of Israel have not only left Egypt, but they have crossed the Red Sea, sung of victory, had bitter water made sweet, received bread from heaven and water from a rock. Interspersed among it all was much complaint about hunger and thirst, and whining about dying in the barren, forsaken wilderness. The one man who led Israel through all of it, who petitioned God for daily sustenance, and had been the recipient of thousands of complaints, now has to lead his people into battle against Amalek. Moses is tired, no, he is exhausted, weary, worn, malnourished, over-worked, with little sleep and fewer benefits. But he continues on because he knows Joshua needs his encouragement and the children of Israel need to see God's hand mightily at work.

With all this in mind, Moses takes his place at the top of a hill overlooking the battle, but chapter 17 makes very clear that he is not alone:

So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

Most leaders, most mentors, hide their pain and weariness from public spectacle. Aaron and Hur had a long history of intentional living and involved interaction with Moses that lead them to the insight that he needed them at this one moment more than ever before. The lessons of discipleship are wrapped up in this one story. Aaron and Hur knew Moses enough to know what he needed, they acted on their insight and provided what they could, then they stuck with Moses, seeing the battle through to the end. The cup of cold water, or the need of the moment in this case was a stone to sit on, while the intercessory act of holding up Moses' hands was the fruit of his faithful and intentional discipleship all along the way.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dr. Blood's Coffin

This evening I stumbled across some old back up CDs of files from high school. As I was clicking through memories and scanning over past thoughts I ran across this movie review I wrote almost 9 years ago. My first thought was, "My I was a passionate little munchkin wasn't I!" My second thought was, "Wow I thought I was a good writer back then!" My last thought was, "Hmm, I think I would actually like to see that movie again." And so I share my review with you in hopes that one day soon I might watch it again and see if I am still as hearty an advocate for the film as I once was!

The idea of life weighed on my mind heavily this past holiday season as I thought about the Giver of life who came as a mere baby to die and to arise from the grave, victorious over sin so that we as Christians could enjoy eternal life.

Occasionally I love to watch a good horror movie. This past week, that urge struck me once again as my family and I visited the grandparents. I glanced over rows and rows of my grandfather's old movies until I found a title that sounded oddly intriguing. "Dr. Blood's Coffin". I read the back cover. "A doctor's quest to create the perfect human". I slipped the video out of its "oddly intriguing" cover, placed it in the ever beckoning VCR, and sat down hoping that the hairs on the back of my neck would not be disappointed…

A brilliant young doctor’s medical carrier was cut short when it was discovered that he was conducting experiments on living patients. This doctor, Dr. Blood, moved to a small town where his father was the local physician. There, where no one would suspect him, Dr. Blood continued his quest to make a dead man live.

At this point, I must admit, the movie was not “scary”, but I was in for a rather exciting surprise! As Dr. Blood was attempting to take out a living man’s heart to place in a dead man’s body, the town nurse stumbles into the gruesome scene. I found myself cheering as the young nurse argued for life in this “horror” movie:

Nurse: “You can’t let a man die so that you can discover something. It doesn’t matter how important it is, that is murder.”

Dr. Blood: “Everywhere men are dying, great men: philosophers, artists, scientists, but if they could live on look how they could contribute to the advancement of man. He [the man who is “donating” the heart] is going to help me prove that I can give life where there was death.”

Nurse: “You still can’t let a man die, you’re a doctor.”

Dr. Blood: “He is going to die, but in dying he’s going to help someone else live, some one who deserves to live.”

Nurse: “Who are you to say who is to live and who is to die. You have no right to judge.”

Dr. Blood: “Yes, I have. As a scientist I have the right!”

Nurse: “No, you have not. That right belongs to God because it is He alone who gives life.”

Dr. Blood: “No, I can take [that man’s] heart and with it I too can create life.”

Nurse: “That isn’t creation. You have to kill to give your sort of life.”

Dr. Blood: “You’re like the others. You want to limit man’s progress.”

Nurse: “No, what I say is that until you can create life out of nothing, then you have no right to take life.”

Dr. Blood: “Try to understand. A scientist has to be ruthless and unafraid. No one has the right to put limitations on my work because of some outmoded superstitious belief.”

Nurse: “You want me to deny God and instead to kneel down and worship a new god, science?!”

Dr. Blood: “No, I’m asking you to believe in me, to help me, and share in my discovery.”

Nurse: “Never.”

Dr. Blood: “How can you be so blind? Can you see what it can mean to the world to let brilliant men go on living, contributing to the greatness of man?”

Nurse: “You want the world to bow down to your greatness. You have the pride of Lucifer. Well, he also wanted to be equal with God and he suffered damnation for it. Anything you conjure up will be in his image.”

Dr. Blood: “You will use any excuse to stop me, because you’re frightened that I might succeed.”

Nurse: “No, no, I’m frightened at what you’re doing to yourself. Oh yes, you can give some sort of life to the body, but the men you are talking about aren’t great because of their bodies, their great because they use their minds and their souls which are in the image of God. All you will have will be a physical shell, which will be evil. Is that what you want?”

Dr. Blood: “I want to prove that science can overcome death. I want to prove that there are no limits to man’s progress, and if the only way I can do this is by calling on the power that be well then I call on this power. I call on it to guide my brain, my eyes, my hands to prove that I am right….”

My how that nurse hit the target. This message was proclaimed via a movie almost fifty years ago—before Roe v. Wade, before the big cloning issue, when life had a little more value than today.

At the conclusion of “Dr. Blood’s Coffin”, I immediately heralded it as one of my favorite movies. Not because it was labeled a “horror” movie, not because of the quality of the footage, but because it appropriately and adequately portrayed the battle for and against life. More than ever we are to be vigilant in our proclamation of truth, our proclamation of the gospel, our proclamation of life.

In the end, Dr. Blood was strangled to death by his own creation. The hairs on my neck may have been disappointed, but my soul was not. Rather, it was stirred anew in the affirmation that Lucifer has already been condemned, but, also, that we must not be guilty of standing idle.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Red Herring

I have yet to try Dishwasher Salmon. Not having a dishwasher myself has proven more of an obstacle than I had originally thought. I do so very much want to attempt it soon though, so keep your hopes up and I will post as soon as the experiment is executed.

On a slightly different but terribly similar note, I should like to report that I did try zip-lock-microwave salmon in my Logic class yesterday. My students found it a bit unbearable in smell and extremely revolting in appearance. I am sure that is only the case because I neglected to "dress it up", if you will, with any herbs, veggies, and the like. At any rate it was a jolly fun endeavor. We were learning about Red Herring fallacies so I told them about the horse riding hunting trips of yore when the hunters would take their trained dogs and galavant all through the woods in search for foxes. To train their hounds, hunters would wave dead fish (red herrings) across the fox scent to get the dogs off track and then in turn teach them to stay on track. So, we set out on a lemon hunting expedition in class yesterday while the wafting scent of microwave salmon lingered in the air threatening to detract them from their common and proper search. Ah, the joys of teaching!

Monday, February 04, 2008