Author Archives: Daniel Mitchell

About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason.

The Awe of God – A Guest Post by Brant Skogrand

Dan’s Preamble

Wow, have we been guest-blogger-posting fools lately, or what? One of the great things about running a tiny li’l blog like this one is meeting other bloggers. Brant Skogrand is a fine fellow who attends River Heights Vineyard with me, and he has a little something to say. Brant normally blogs here. If you like his post here, why not check out the rest of his stuff?

End Preamble

 

*          *          *

Six years ago, inspired by the awesome experience of hearing God audibly speak to me, I started a blog. Called The Awe of God, I set out to capture and document instances of God speaking to people.

Here’s what I have learned along the way.

  1. God connects with each of us uniquely. For some of us, God speaks audibly. For others, it’s through scripture. Visions have been reported. In numerous instances, God speaks through the people around us. Other times, it’s a still small voice inside.
  2. God has a plan for our lives. Whether it’s showing a woman that she has breast cancer in order to educate others or saving a man from suicide, God will speak to us in order ensure that His will be fulfilled.
  3. By following God, things could happen that we never would have imagined. Like Alfonso Fernandez, who followed God to become the Spanish radio voice of the Minnesota Vikings. Or Jennifer Henderson, who left her $100,000-a-year job at a Toyota plant to open a Christian bookstore.
  4. While many people may be reluctant to admit it, they have heard God’s voice. Sometimes people don’t want to disclose that God talked to them for fear of appearing haughty (especially here in Minnesota) or seeming too religious. However, covered by the anonymity of a survey, 20 percent of Americans admitted to USA Today that they had heard the voice of God. Sometimes what God says to us is just extremely personal, and we don’t feel like sharing that with others.
  5. God’s presence is fleeting. I guess that He doesn’t want to overstay his welcome. Or it could be that He just wants to make a short yet powerful statement, such as the time when a grandmother heard of a chorus of harps as she was comforting her dying grandson.
  6. God has a sense of humor. Johnny Hart, the creator of the comic strip “B.C.,” felt that God wanted him to do the comic strip as a way to share God’s humorous inspiration. Author John Eldredge shares God’s sense of humor in his book “Beautiful Outlaw” when, asking God why He doesn’t give John hearts anymore, God responds by having John come upon a dried piece of cow manure – in the perfect shape of a heart.

Thank you, God, for your amazing presence. I am still in awe.


I love Pat Robertson so goddamn much – A WTFaith Quickie

Every time Pat Robertson talks, it’s my birthday.

The above link is a CNN religion blog article about Patty Rob’s “Top 10″ most controversial quotes. While I remember this one from my mis-spent pagan youth. . .

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

. . . I got great joy out of some of the gems I was exposed to for the first time.

Like this one!

“Many of those people involved in Adolf Hitler were Satanists. Many were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together.”

Clealry this man is a master of social science. He has more facts that Xerox.

Read the article, then comment with your favorite Patty Rob quote, and why! And if you actually, non-sarchastically love Pat Robertson, could you. . . maybe. . . maybe explain that to me, a little?

Kisses!


Why I Haven’t Been Arrested (Yet) – A Guest Post by Rev. Peter Benedict

The other day someone shared a link to an article that I find kind of awesome and somewhat irritating. For those with TL;DR syndrome, the gist of the article is that an elderly African-American divinity school professor was studying the Bible and decided that to follow Christ meant he needed to stand up for “the common man” and get himself arrested.

This article is awesome in that 89 year old divinity professors don’t fit my prototype for “guys who get arrested.” It’s also awesome in that he redefines holiness in terms I admire. He writes:

“Speaking holy words has serious consequences. These are not words that simply speak of God. There is nothing inherently serious or holy in God talk. The holy words that bring

consequences are words tied to the concrete liberating actions of God for broken people. Such holy words bring the speakers into direct confrontation with those in power.”

As a nascent blogger I need these words. They free me to be non-serious and non-holy in blogging about faith and Christ, and they also challenge me to action. They specifically challenge me to confront power where it’s used for oppression. While there are people who do so through writing (dissident bloggers under oppressive regimes), I’m pretty sure it’s a stretch to define blogging in America as taking any concrete liberating actions of God for broken people. I do some work that might fit that bill, particularly my leadership in a recovery group, but if I’m going to talk (blog) more, it’s worth some time to reflect on whether my life matches what I admire and value in others.

Ask myself some tough questions, like, "Why don't I own a black beret?"

Ask myself some tough questions, like, “Why don’t I own a black beret?”

Thus my irritation in reading this article. I’ve lived an arrest-free life, and my regard for those who practice civil disobedience (whether Thoreau, MLK jr., or ancient professorly dudes) is high enough that I both admire them and also feel a stirring to action. There are causes that, when I consider them in my mind, seem worth getting arrested for. My list is probably different from yours, dear reader, but for me the list includes the oppression of illegal immigrants, human trafficking, whatever war we’re busy carrying out, and the plight of single parents in our society.

When I realize that I “believe” (with my mind) that a number of causes are important enough to get arrested over them, I invariably start to wonder whether I should go out & get arrested. I’ve had this conversation with my wife, and she’s OK with being married to a guy who’d do this, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get fired over it. I’ve even made plans. But you know… life is busy. Stuff comes along, “later” sounds good, and then later becomes never.

I can't do time today - my stories are on!

I can’t do time today – my stories are on!

One of the causes I’ve spent some time (not enough!) on is restorative justice for felons. I spent years doing and dealing drugs, carrying and using in restaurants, universities, homes, bars, airplanes, and airports. I think some part of my subconscious wanted me to get caught: I used in the alley next to a police station, and getting high on an airplane is probably non-justifiably stupid, right?

So the fact that I’m walking around free as a bird with no record is, as far as I’m concerned, a fluke. Yet my friends who got caught, many of whom used less often and never dealt, have lives vastly different from mine. They’re unable to rent, unable to find jobs, stuck telemarketing or incinerating deceased animals. Their entire lives have been twisted for the exact behavior I engaged in.

So I attend the Second Chance Coalition’s annual gathering at the state capitol, and I’ve visited our local state congressman, and I wear SCC’s propaganda T-shirts. But am I willing to give up my arrest-free record in solidarity with those who are struggling to be restored to society?

Maybe I am. I’m pretty sure my record won’t be clean forever. Busy-ness and my kids and job and to-do list are facts of life, and perhaps there’s some wisdom in waiting until you’re 89 to go get arrested, but perhaps the future will come sooner because of the example of some people following Jesus in North Carolina. I’m grateful for their words and action.

1. Is there anything you believe in strongly enough that you’d get arrested in America for it?

2. What do you think of the guy in this article, or of the guy writing this blog post? Is civil disobedience laudable, laughable, or somewhere in between?

3. What do you think of restorative justice for felons? Veronica, you’re welcome to answer this one with a treatise or two… and so is anyone else who cares.

Thanks for reading, and ESPECIALLY for commenting. I’d love to learn from you.

Like, does anyone know which cops in the Twin Cities region use those comfortable handcuffs?

Like, does anyone know which cops in the Twin Cities region use those comfortable handcuffs?


Looking for help from YOU! – A Guest Post by Rev. Peter Benedict

Pete Benedict is a friend of the blog. He’s commented numerous times, I’ve used silly pictures of him on more than one occasion, and he home brews incredibly good beer. He’s also my pastor, although I’d like to point out that he became my pastor because he was my friend, and not the other way around. Pete’s got an exciting new project in the works, and he’d like your feedback on it. Let’s give him our attention, children, and there will be ice cream after the test.

The world has too many books. When I consider all the amazing writing I don’t have time to read, my heart is saddened… I hope that the afterlife gives us an eternity to catch up, because if not I’m never going to get a chance to take it all in.

 And yet I’m planning to write a book with a friend. On the face of it (and deeper!) this seems dumb. Self-published books are now being given away by the boatload, and I’m under no illusions about how many books I can sell. If I work hard, efficiently, and get lucky, I might come up with minimum wage, yay! As a pastor who works too many hours, as a father with three kids, as a guy who loves his free time spent home-brewing and disc golf and running and reading and video games… why would I want another job?

I guess the answer is: I don’t. But I want to do what’s right, and when I’m not sure what’s right, I want to do what seems good and fun and exciting. I’m a Christian hedonist… I love my life, I have a fairly ridiculous amount of joy in my life (I describe myself as “stupid happy” regularly), and it’s been my experience that joy comes when I follow God.

For the last four or five years I’ve been leading a group of random folks who get together monthly to discuss a theologically related book over beer. Theology Pub has been one of the sources of joy in my life. We get to interact with diverse authors, disagree with each other (or agree with each other) about Big Ideas, enjoy great beer, and return again the next month. When I’m there I can speak freely and have a blast, and I also learn a ton. We ask the same questions of every book (What was most compelling? What did you like best, and least? What does this book have to do with how we live as individuals and as a community today?).

When one of my friends from Theology Pub recently wrote a book (on public relations, his field) I was impressed. When he suggested we write one together, I thought the idea sounded like a good one for the alternate universe where I have time for that kind of thing. When he brought it up again and my heart kind of leapt in my chest, I realized… this could actually happen.

So, having learned the value of doing things well vs. doing things now, I suggested we each pray for 30 days about whether this is a good idea. During that 30 days I had an experience that felt like it was from God. I asked a friend, older and wiser and very focused in his work, what he thought of this crazy book-writing idea. I knew he’d shoot it down, because he’s always challenging me to focus my work and family life. Instead, he thought, looked me in the eye, and said: “You should do it.” As he did so, I felt like God put his hand down and spoke with him.

So now we’re figuring things out. Questions like: How do we want to do this together? What will the book be about (I could write more on that one… and will, some day soon)? How do we get started?

That last question is the reason you’re reading this post. We decided to get started by launching a blog, one where I’ll write weekly and invite anyone willing to write as well. We decided to start writing blog posts weekly, and while eventually they’ll be on our own site, for now they’ll be wherever anyone will publish them.

Our plan for the book is to call it something like “Reflections on Blue Ocean Faith,” and to center the book on how pointing our lives toward Jesus affects everything about how we interact with our culture and with one another. I’d like to have guest writers (like Dave Schmelzer, or Ryan Bauers, or Lauren Catlin, or Charles Park, or any other sucker willing to dive in!) contribute chapters, because there are a million people with great things to say.

Our plan for the blog is to call it “Blue Ocean Reflections,” pending confirmation that the Blue Ocean Faith movement isn’t changing their name any time soon. We’d like it to be a faith blog that fosters discussion and not only allows disagreement, but looks for it. I’d like to see posts from atheists, agnostics, young dudes, old ladies, pastors, and anyone else interested in having a discussion in a context that’s centered in a community that’s asking the question: How can we head toward Jesus?

Toward that end, I have a few questions for you, and I’ll follow up with anyone who wants to reply to any of them.

 1. Does the world need another book?

2. Is there anything worth saying any more?

3. What do you think of the idea that God speaks directly to us, as I’m assuming happened during my 30 days of prayer?

4. What’s important to you about how people of faith relate to our culture?+
5. Is there ANYTHING AT ALL UNDER THE SUN you’d like to say, or hear more about?

 Peace, WTFers. God is with you.


The Exodus example.

You might have heard about it on Facebook. Or maybe you ran across Rachel Held Evans blogging about it.

Or maybe you read it here.

Or here.

It’s been lots of places, is what I’m trying to say.

When Brandi heard about this, she said, “This is it, Daniel. The people who lead by hate are going to lose.”

But that didn’t sound right to me.

“No, they’re not,” I replied. “They aren’t going to lose because it’s not about winning or losing. They’re going to be healed.”

I didn’t say that to mean that people only take a hard stance against homosexuality because they are broken – I am saying that we’re all broken. For some people, their hatred against the LGBT community was a defining character trait. For others, it was just a part of their human makeup, which by definition includes both the light of the Creator and the stagnant, filthy muck that we get from living in a war zone. I’m not saying that “affirming” churches are right but “biblical” churches are wrong. What I’m saying is that all of us our sometimes wrong, in ways big or small – and very few of us ever have the courage to repent, to apologize, to come clean, and to make ourselves vulnerable to those we have hurt.

In the Vineyard, they talk about the Kingdom of God in terms of the “now”, and the “not yet.” By that they mean that Jesus brought the Kingdom to earth, but that until he returns, it isn’t yet fully realized. This is an important stance to take if you want to teach people that they have a responsibility to help bring the Kingdom closer. It isn’t just that God is going to move the needle closer to the “now” position until, one day, there’s no where else for the needle to go – we are acting in partnership with the creator, with the duty to participate in the rebuilding of the world and the privilege of being part of something that God himself is directing.

Call me a sentimental fool with girly feelings, but I think we just helped move the needle. And today, I’m proud to call myself a Christian.