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Despite What We See, Humans Are Capable of Great Hospitality

Humans are capable of great good

Published Monday, January 10, 2011


The irony of American culture is that while we try to practice the art of hospitality, we are confronted by many stories of the opposite.

Murders, shootings, burglaries and other injustices are reported so that we are aware of what’s happening and can remain safe, but hearing about these occurrences also confirms something in our souls: Something isn’t right with us if there is always such bad news.

Then there are the stories that hit closer to home — that we don’t talk about in polite company, that are only whispered on the side. Our stomachs churn when we hear them, and our eyes squint because the mind and heart are not made to take these things in.

This is nothing new.

Do you can remember in Sunday school when you were shocked to find that the Bible doesn’t just record the good stories but also the ones that are terrible, if not horrifying?

I remember my friends asking our teacher about the stories of rape, murder, prostitution and incest in the Bible, wondering why they were in there because the Bible was supposed to be a tablet of morals like the Ten Commandments. We didn’t yet realize that even God’s people weren’t perfect, and that darkness and injustice in the hearts of people might be the biggest reason Christ’s sacrifice was seen as a game-changer.

In one event at the end of the regular life of Jesus, people saw that evil has consequences and that God cares more about justice than we realize.

This Christmas season, Bluffton felt the pains of inhospitality in our own community when a shooting in a local neighborhood left a father dead in the street on Christmas Eve. This story is now whispered among us, and increases the irony we feel — a family has lost someone they love, and at a time of celebration and a time to remember hope. Once again, we are forced to deal with the ugly side of humanity.

Collectively, it seems that we are losing the art of Gastfreundschaft, a concept first discussed by the brilliant writer Henry Nouwen as “friendship for the guest.” His words on hospitality echo in my mind: “Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.”

It is a positive philosophy of welcoming others, and it is a choice to let others in, and to experience them for who they are. But if we all close ourselves off, more and more atrocities will occur.

Reaching out and caring about those who are alien to us is a primary way to reclaim who we are as human beings. Believe it or not, we are made to do good, and can accomplish great things together.

Remember the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis? His brothers had sold him into slavery in Egypt, and when they later asked for forgiveness, realizing the slave had become a king, he responded, “‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.nesis 50:19)

While Joseph could have retaliated and continued the cycle of evil, he turned events around and made a hospitable space. That kind of justice puts a stop to cycles of evil and frustration. It is the way the irony we live within, with God’s help, could disappear.

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

Pass It On: COWs are Used for Everything!


(image from

This pic blew my mind.  I knew that cattle gave us milk, meat, and eyeballs to dissect in 5th grade classes everywhere, but I bet you didn’t know that their skin was used in the white sheetrock in your McMansion!  This shows two things.  (1) Americans find a use for everything like the Native Americans did, and (2) The Chic Fil A cows pointing people to eat “Chikin” aren’t nearly going far enough to save their species.  I’m glad I’m human.

Getting Fancy @ Home Office: New Desk and Chair

I always feel good about having a good workspace.  Thanks to some friends of ours, I feel all fancy.  Thanks! Now I can blog at a nice desk.  Thanks!

Happy Birthday Aaron!

I made an 11 second video for my brother:

Also: Thanks to Via Perkins for singing him Happy Birthday at Acoustic Showcase ;)

Pass it On: People Are Awesome

I showed this in youth group a few weeks back before Thanksgiving.  I love seeing positive examples of stuff rather than the popular Epic Fail stuff that people laugh at. Check it out:

On Rational Faith

Today I was at a meeting with some of the men from my church, and we were talking about life, and living – just regular stuff.  Because it is a group of Christian men who are all working on our personal journeys of faith, I found myself analyzing quickly “Why I believe”.  Specifically in God, but also in the universe and seeing it as God’s craftwork, and in humanity and our ability to think and believe in things.

Some people would just say that “I just believe” and that they have no reasons and perhaps do because its been passed down through the generations to them.  Some people say “I feel that God is real” and base their belief in emotional experiences where God met them and changed their life in an impacting way.  Some people are skeptics and believe despite their obvious struggles, and they challenge other believers when their faith is stagnant.  There are obviously many different ways to believe, and many probably not mentioned here.

I thought, at this moment, “Why do I believe?”  It caught me off guard for a second, because I live my life now under the assumption that God exists, is in control, and that I work for God as a vocation but also as one small part in the community of Christ.  I am a believer.   If I could freeze that moment in time though (and it was only a few seconds), I had to rediscover why I believed.

At times in my life I have believed on an emotional premise, as I poured my heart to God not at first by desire, but by necessity.  I had an innate need to realize I was not the center of the universe in my teen years, and that everything I was trying to control and in the middle of emotional turmoil I found great healing through the Spirit of God emptying me of despair and filling me with hope.  It wasn’t really weakness that brought me to my knees, but something mysterious within that led me to pour out my soul and decentralize my understanding of self.

Throughout the college years I continually tested my faith and the faiths of the world in a rigorous Religion/Philosophy degree.   I dealt with the question “Is this true?” and played the skeptic, while simultaneously believing.  During this period I was at odds with just about everyone in the community of faith.  I put aside my parents faith as I discovered my own identity.  I was in contention with the views of my professors despite their brilliance, and I was always side stepping what was presented and in a perpetual “What if?” kind of state.  My peers were much more skeptical than I, and studied religion more for its sociological significance.  I did too, but it was deeper for me.  I wasn’t looking at other people, rather, I was looking at myself and asking “Why?”  In college that seems to be the main thing that we learned.  The ability to ask a question and seek out the answer, though I think more questions were presented than answers would ever come.  I desired to discover more.

Seminary was about knowledge.  I determined that my feelings and beliefs were for one reason or another close to the evangelical in spectrum.  Not in its most conservative or most liberal branches, but I wanted to know orthodox (as in the faith of Christianity through the ages, not actual Orthodox church) Christianity, and since I didn’t believe in transubstantiation or the application of celibacy in the priesthood among a few other things, I would seek out Protestant Evangelicalism.  I wanted to KNOW my faith, and to KNOW it well.  Four years of seminary prepared me to find answers to my questions.  It also prepared me to know that there is mystery in faith, and some things are beyond our own experiences.  I learned why the scriptures are reliable in their sources, and when seen through good lenses, we can find truth about humankind’s relationship with God.  I learned Greek and Hebrew, and translated from old and new testaments that had been put together rigorously from various codices, scrolls, and cross checked sources from antiquity.  I began to trust the texts more and more and saw how the Trinity, though seemingly fabulous beyond my understanding, is attested to by imagery in the scriptures at the Baptism of Christ.  The father, the son, and the Holy Spirit are together – but are one in the Heavens, the skies, and the earth.  I studied the faith, and realized how much one can know (and still feeling like I know nothing at all).  I continue this study of the faith today.

So where does that bring me now?  In the moment I mentioned previously, how do I relate to my faith now?  It is still emotional like in the beginning, it is passed down from my parents (but not my parent’s faith), it is a tested faith with a hint of skepticism that keeps me searching for real truth, and grounded in solid methods of finding answers through ancient and modern sources including people living the faith today.  I have all that behind me, and yet I am at a different step than I once was.  At that moment I realized that my faith is the mish mash of all these things.  All encompassing of who I am.  My understanding of God underpins my understanding of self – and self worth comes not from my own success or failure but from God – who has no failures, and whose activity is always successful.

My faith is about deep thinking while feeling – it is about searching and holding onto something that is beyond what pop culture and consumption can bring us.  This deep within me is beyond the questions that distract us from what seems to me to be evidence that God created all things, that God wished to create a people who would take care of the created universe, and that despite the imperfections of us as a people, God is constantly reaching out and asking people to come back and trust in goodness – in a positive view of him – and in the wholehearted, wholeminded, and wholehanded devotion that goes where God goes, sees what God sees, and seeks to help all people realize that they have dignity not just because they are a wonderful creation, but because God loves them so much that we are each allowed to exist (rather than to not exist at all).  To me that is a beautiful start to the faith.  Existence is a chance to be with God through challenge and prosperity, pain and pleasure, all through our lives.

I am a rational being, not tricked by a shaman, or trying to trick others into believing something I know isn’t true.  I have read about humankind’s experience with God, how He destroyed the fake gods that people make with their own hands and minds, and how those who have faith in him in past and the present have a great future, when their trust isn’t just in our abilities to change the world, but in the One who made us to change the world.

Pass It On: Kid Loves Space

This is an amazing Youtube Vid that I found at Gizmodo’s blog.  It basically proves to me that kids are Smarter than we think, they Understand more than we know, and that they Develop their passions as early as we allow them to through Education.  I’m going to use this video in the future to encourage parents to start education young!  And real education – beyond the leap frog stuff.  Teach em piano and stuff ;)

Reality is Closing in on the Virtual World

Reality is Closing in on the Virtual World

by Daniel Griswold

Originally Run in “The Island Packet” Newspaper on Aug 10, 2010

I knew the world had officially changed when I clicked to add my grandma as a friend on the social-networking site Facebook.

I’m proud to say my mom joined as well, but I distinctly remember how hard it was to teach my sweet mother how to use a mouse without the expression of fear.

Perhaps the world is changing too fast.

More people now create their own image in the electronic mirror. On this mirror, we play out all our hopes and dreams, and the brokenness of our humanity with the friends we have found online.

How easily we forget that behind each profile is a real person.

A war game for the iPhone, with several hundreds of thousands of players, recently had an event that went largely unnoticed: One player committed suicide. It was quietly announced among the player’s army mates, and the account profile that once had been a bastion of warlike activity, suddenly went silent.

Pictures of virtual tears flowed, but no one really knew how to grieve the loss online. Because the people in the player’s army were from all over the world, no one would be able to attend a funeral. And without a connection to anyone who actually knew the player, there would be no one to talk to who actually had met this friend.

As if trapped in the portion of Scripture stating, “I have forgotten happiness” (Lamentations 3:17), the fun stopped for a little while, as the players had to grapple with a real life that existed on the other end of the WiFi. A human soul is missing from among us. He hadn’t just disconnected for the night; no, he was never going to reconnect again. The players had to feel some very human emotions, and eventually we all had to talk.

“I called on your name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit. You have heard my voice, ‘Do not hide your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.’ You drew near when I called on: you said, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:55-57).

In the game, players began to offer prayers of support for their fallen friend. In a game where every player is artificially immortal, we all remembered how truly mortal we are. Somehow in the virtual world a very real world thing had happened. We mourned and supported one another.

I’ve heard of this happening more and more as we connect to one another in the electronic world. On Facebook, people leave comments on the pages of their lost friends; in the games, a player’s profile becomes a memorial for thoughts, prayers and grief. And clips of this activity are now included in the evening news.

Though none of this will ever replace the warmth of a real hand and a hug, experiencing a new form of community has opened my eyes. The virtual world is no longer a separated space, but rather, part of reality.

And the world continues to change.

Daniel Griswold is director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Twitter Name: dannonhill

Read more:

A New Kind of Sacred – Contemplating Cultural Religion

Prelude: There is a new term out there for the up and coming Generation, and its “Millenial”.  Basically anyone born after 1980.  We are people who have watched it grow, or have always known of the internet.  I’ve read in the book “Me, Myspace, and I” that in contrast to other generations, we are very different.  I suppose because the greatest technological advance ever (more people on earth), tech and symbol and communication, and everything are changing more rapidly than ever before.  “Change” is the “stability” in my opinion.  While people will want more things not to change, culture is leaving those people behind.  These same people realize it, and then adapt as well, and they enter the Millenials world.  Our technology is people, our stability is change, and our expectations on society and culture are huge.  The whole world must change for us, by us, and our energy produces little in tangible goods.  Since machines do most of the labor, our generation does not produce warriors, or food, or product on the whole.  We consume these things.  We produce thoughts, songs, entertainments, and endless ways to escape.  That transcendence that we are looking for, produces its own religion.  Its not even materialism anymore.  That was a scary thing and we are surrounded by its effects.  But our religion is “Creation-ism”.  We have been told we can do anything, and so we are trying to accomplish the impossible.  The impossible to us, is not doing regular work – it is being a star.  So we have religious leaders.

Watch this video and read on:

Radiohead and Experience: My friend posted this on facebook today.  Its of the band “Radiohead”, an incredibly influential band in my generation.  Like many bands, they have symbols to be known by.  The dim lights, the technology surrounding them, the sounds that they make which are unique to the experience they provide.  And they work hard to create a space that people can experience in their presence.  It is an incredibly serious task.  It involves who they are (in the lyrics and the sounds their instruments make), it involves the sacred space (the place between the artist and the consumer (where the symbols are given and received and interpreted and appreciated), and there is a transcendence that elevates a person beyond normal existence (one does not experience the world like a concert in normal life).  In a world that is less and less religious, Radiohead, and countless other bands, provide a religious experience that changes peoples lives.  They leave the concert saying to themselves, “Something” happened here.  And they never forget whatever happened to them.  They process it and it stays with them for the rest of their life.  It becomes a marker, and they try to re-experience it over and over, but nothing is like the real thing- Radiohead, in person.

Religions Ferver All Over: Religion is popping up everywhere.  The passion that people used to direct toward God is now focused in other realms.  Politics, War Strategy, Patriotism, Charity Work, Entertainment, Celebrity, Family, and many other parts of living as a human in community.

A few hundred years ago, one would have had to go to a John Edward’s sermon to have a life altering experience, or a sermon by Whitfield, or Wesley, or Finney, or whatever missionary roved about.  Now the bands move from city to city, popular culture gives meaning to my fellow millenials.  There is no pulpit, but there are microphones and synthesizers. And they are listening to the sounds, whether the artists know whats moving through them or not.

I wonder what God is doing with all this?  I wonder how much of this is healthy?

The Church and a Response: Some churches are looking at this and making worship services that reach the Gen-X crowd (who were anti-program and institution in nature – think X-Files), and some are moving beyond and seeing that millennials are different and seek more intense transcendent experiences involving light and sound, that convey a moment where they are completely open to receive the Gospel.  But their quest isn’t always a healthy one considering how expensive the experiences they demand cost.  Think how much a concert ticket costs, and wonder a bit about how much you are willing to pay to go and experience worship of God.  Interesting, no?

Conclusion: All things are ultimately in the hands of a great God who will rule over all people with justice and love – and I wonder how it will all mix when Radiohead fans meet up with the peoples of ancient cultures, and all make some show of their appreciation to God for the gift of music in our lives.

New world, new symbols, but humans are still the same.  We always need a few basics, even when we want alot of things that distract us.

Pass It On: Easter is Coming

The easter season is still on us people.  My pastor came to me wanting to show this video in service, and I was blown away.  It starts off so heavy, but you’ll find it is powerful and well worth it.  If you haven’t thought about the power of Jesus, a guy that lived 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, this video may refresh and inspire.


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