Wednesday, October 22, 2008
No, I don't smoke..but this IS the church ashtray.
Last year, Len interviewed me ...and some others...about spiritual formation.
For you localites..We'll be looking at this topic soon in my leadership class...and likely on Sundays.
For what it's worth, here is my interview..
but how about YOU ...anyone here...answer some of Len's questions...I'd enjoy that.
- what is spiritual formation to you?
- how have your views evolved in the last ten years or so?
- what do you personally practice to be formed.. personally .. communally?
- what further practices attract you, might you eventually add?
Talk on these below in the comments section, or link us to your own post.
"By planting the flag outside the walls and boundaries of the church, so to speak, the church discovers itself by rallying to it---this is mission."
-Hirsch, "The Forgotten Ways," p 236
This beautiful park bench;
and the house behind it,
is the highlight of our neighborhood.
Actually, the saints who live in the house behind the bench are the highlight of the neighborhood,
which is precisely the point.
Those Third Day saints who have been to our house and hood will recognize it; the family visited us last Resurrection Day to share the mom's prophetic art.
Which the bench also is.
The bench was placed on the prominent corner lot as a prophetic act/blessing/gift/gatekeeper/mission to the neighborhood. I have seen high-schoolers (clean-cut as well as gangster-looking), and senior citizens sitting on it; taking a break on their walk home; and journey through life.
Folks stop for a smoke, a prayer, to people-watch, to drink gin...
The Tongan and I once were pretty sure we caught some angels sitting on it one Sunday morning.
It is a Godsend.
It is surely the most prayed-over bench in our city.
It might even be the postmodern version of Finney's "anxious bench."
"Tear the curtain down; Pull the altar to the ground.." as St. Mike Roe and the 77s once prayed in a church..uhm bar I was visiting...2:20ff in this clip.
Of course the bench has to be screwed into the ground; the original bench was stolen.
But that didn't deter the mission, or the gatekeeping family.
This is church "as God wants it"; planting the flag outside the walls. Not as a gimmick; not as a sneaky, cheesy, sexy evangelistic strategy to get those butts into pews.
But to get those butts blessed, even if they never enter a "church building."
Which they already have...
PPS. Of course this is the same family who did THIS with their house at Eastertime.
"When the sun beats down and I lie on the bench...."
I am wanting to unlearn everything I've learned about church and pastoring.
I don't know how many churches have played the music video for Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You".
Probably not too many, as the refrain is:
"It's a damn cold night/
Trying to figure out this life...
But damn, we just had to play it. It was stunning to see
how quickly our folks (Jeannie lead the way!!)caught the God-hunger in this song
("Isn't anyone trying to find me??"). Explore this song more here on our forum; and huge thanks to RevKev for turning me onto the song. Yes, I admit that I cheated by uppercasing the "Y" in the "you" in her lyrics, but that's how I hear it.
It turned out to be a great wikiday; as we collaboratively listed some scriptures that included the phrase or thought "with you".
If I am "with" someone, it means we are an item., for example. If I say "I'm with Scott Jones" at reastaurant, it means he's paying my bill.
"I'm with you" can mean "I'm tracking with you" or "I agree with you."
Of course we noted that Jesus's very name, Immanuel, has "with you" embedded right in it.
We caught the paradoxes:
Sometimes the "with you" presence of God seems to save you from trouble (Acts 18:9-10), and sometimes save you in the trouble
Ken remembered that Mary was promised that the baby would be named "God with us," but then the very angel split (Luke 1:38)
Guess God cant live with or without you.
And yes, we did show that very U2 video at the prayer meeting before the gathering...
noting that the fluid lyrics seem at times Jesus speaking to us, sometimes us speaking to Jesus. We caught the overwhelmed Bono (having just buried his father, and playing to his hometown crowd of 80, 000) at 4:13ff moving into his spontaneous/Spiritaneous prophetic Bonglosealallia (see the comments on this post) utterance.
We also were caught in awe of Jesus' wanting to be "with us" before sending us out into ministry (Mark :13-q4 ), let alone God dancing and singing over the sheer joy of being "with us." (Zeph 3:16-17)
But also we keynoted that being with God, and God with us, is not a passive hanging out.
The very great Commission promised the "With you" will be with us as/if we go and make disciples of all nations." Lo, indeed. (Matt 28:18-20)
But what nailed us is the connection and conjunction of
"I will always be with you".
"The poor will always be with you."
Those words (Matt 26:11) of Jesus about the poor have been used as cop out and opt out. You know, "Jesus himself said there will always be poor people, so there is no need to help them...much.
Let alone any possibility of actually ending extreme and unnecessary poverty.
Sparks and Shekinah flew as we began to corporately connect the dots.
Only then did I remember and quote Bono's sermon:
"God is with us if we are with the poor."
Then I had someone bring Amos 5:14 into the mix; the only Scripture with a condition on the "with-us-ness" of God. Wouldn't every believer love to know that there is apparently one thing we can do that will cause the Omnipresent ever with us Imamnuel to...in a sense...not be with us?
"The Lord will be with you, if...
I actually didn't recall , but was guessing/hoping that the context and definition of "being good" in that passage had something to do with helping the poor. I wanted a prooftext; and because I am a recovering pastor, I pressed in fake confidence; having Scott read deeper into the passage until he found the word "poor."
Thank God it was there.
"God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places. (
stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor."
God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. 'If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become
This is true religion. True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. “Love thy neighbor” is not a piece of advice, it’s a command. And that means in the global village we’re going to have to start loving a whole lot more people, that’s what that means. That’s right. “His truth is marching on.” ..Because where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.... whatever thoughts we have about God, who He is, or even if God exists, most will agree that God has a special place for the poor. The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. God is with the mother who has infected her child with a virus that will take both their lives. God is under the rubble in the cries we hear during wartime. God, my friends is with
the poor. And God is with us if we are with them.
Unless we buy the "new phyics" that Mike Roe satirizes so well in his brilliant song by that name..
that will preach!
The Lord be with you.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Saved Humans. Creatures capable of such outstanding declarations of faith and yet, at the bat of an eyelid, they become cowards and it seems that the astounding miracles they have witnessed mean nothing in light of their current tribulations.
Like a pendulum, we oscillate between believing - waiting for deliverance and lack of belief.
I'm at the top of the list when it comes to what I've described above. And it's been on my mind recently. I am actually going through a period of doubt right now.
But before I continue let me recall the men and women of the bible who have been afflicted with the same condition. Actually I'll only name one.
Enter Elijah, a Hollywood tale
We have Elijah whom longing to show the people of Israel the power of the one true God, beckoned them to Mount Carmel, for a showdown of Hollywood proportions. (1st Kings 18:1-39)
Four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal showed up that day, offering a sacrifice to their God, calling out his name, requesting that his fire consume the sacrifice. But nothing happened.
When Elijah's turn comes, we read the following:
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."
34 "Do it again," he said, and they did it again.
"Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!"
This was a man who prayed and saw fire fall from the skies. Fire.
Afterwards, the prophets of Baal were slain and of course Queen Jezebel, in a rapt of fury over her prophets went after Elijah.
We read that Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. So much so that he prayed he might die. He was tired, weary, afraid and lacking the faith that had made the miracle he had seen before, possible.
1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them."
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
Now, if a man who prayed and believed the good Lord would in fact show his power and then saw FIRE fall down from heaven can, two seconds later, throw the towel, fear for his life and get utterly depressed, then what is to say that we, the many who are not prophets of such caliber, the many who have not seen fire fall from heaven at our request... what is left for us then, but to realize that we too can have horrible faith swings.
A Personal Testimony
In December 2006, Christmas eve, I was sitting on a park bench, weeping while a friend held my hand. I had been unemployed for 6 months and had lost my house and everything in it. I was reduced to living in a room at a relative's house where I was humiliated and treated unkindly for not contributing with enough $ to the household.
My prospects of finding a job and ever moving out of there were bleak. It is nearly impossible to rent a furnished place in Chile as rent is so high. And for years I would have to save money to be able to have all that I once owned. That meant living at that relative's house for an even longer time and I was afraid bitterness would fill my heart. I feared I would not be able to cope.
This particular Xmas eve my relatives had picked a fight as there was not enough $ for Xmas supper and it seemed to be my fault.
Every single day, from my bedroom window, I saw a cross against a backdrop of mountains. The angle made it so that this stubborn cross peeked at me wherever I moved. Stubborn in its determination, a reminder that I should not give up, that help was at hand. This cross was no architectural whim, it was God's way of strengthening me, perhaps not with an angel like he did Elijah, but with an object that made an indelible imprint on my heart.
I prayed that my circumstances would change, I prayed that I would be able to forgive these relatives and not be filled with bitterness, I prayed for deliverance.
One night, after another bitter fight, I wept and prayed until 6AM.
Two months later I received a call from a Canadian company willing to have me relocated to the South of Chile. A chance to start over. A job.
Today, I'm off to Canada in a week or so to take over their marketing and IT section. I am also studying at the university (courtesy of the company).
The company owner is Christian.
I have a house of my own. Mine.
I have seen the hand of deliverance in my life, I've seen answers to prayer in what is nothing short of a miracle.
(I must also mention that once upon a time I asked for a street prophet and I got a Christian street evangelist follow me with a message. He told God he would not speak to me unless I spoke to him first, otherwise I'd think he was a stalker. And guess what. I spoke to him first for no apparent reason... but that is another story).
In light of these miracles in my life then why, I wonder, am I so f****ing sad? For over a week I have not slept right, I've been fearing financial struggles, I've cried (which is something I do not often do), I've felt lonely (I'm at that age where you need a husband)... I've worried about my mother's future (I support her financially so she means the world to me)... I've been ungrateful thinking that I don't enjoy office work (and I have the best work environment you can ever want, my boss is my best friend in this city). I've longed to find a place where I feel I belong, a job that makes me feel alive. A husband.
And in all these "wants" I forget where I was taken out of a little over a year ago.
Yes, I'm ungrateful. Yes, like Elijah I forget the miracles, the love and the deliverance. Elijah wanted to die, he was feeling a man of little courage. I wanted to sleep for ages, feeling a woman of little value, of bitter thoughts, a woman who in spite of seeing God's hand feared she would end up an old maid working in an office, with a heavy heart and a bitter countenance...
As if God could ever be that cruel!!
Yet my shallow mind has irrational fears and like a pendulum I get these faith swings.
And I feel like a faithless underachiever.
Me, the Eternal Trier
Yet I stumbled upon the writings of Grantley Morris, who wisely states:
It is not unusual for an explorer trekking through new territory to stumble. It might be an unpleasant hindrance, but what matters is not his falls but whether he keeps pressing on. It's his determination to keep forging deeper into virgin territory that makes him a hero, and his falls cannot detract from it. In fact, even if his progress seems abysmal, the more setbacks he suffers, the more impressed people are when he keeps trying.
If ordinary, self-centered people have this attitude towards those who have the tenacity to keep trying despite enormous failures, imagine how much more impressed God is when you keep trying. More than anyone in the universe, the God of infinite knowledge understands just how tough you find it. Moreover, love sees a person in the best possible light, and God loves you infinitely more than anyone else is capable of.
Yes... we can fail and fall a thousand times, we can become an Elijah... we can have faith swings. But we can forgive ourselves and choose to not give up, knowing that God sees our faith swings with love. And knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, how much he delights in us getting up and holding on.
We can become Eternal Triers and that's not a bad thing.
In follow-up to Sunday's message on temptation in exile, in which the interaction was phenomenal. I love wikichurch...especially on days like Sunday when I feared it would be too acadamic and "talking head."
The Scriptures are clear that "no temptation has seized us except what is common to all humans" , and that with the common temptation God will provide a (common?specific?) way out. (1 Cor 10:13-15)
But within these overall common temptations;
there are characteristic and unique temptations in different times and seasons.
If ever there was a unique time and season in church history; in Western culture--and our personal lives....
..this is that time.
We might coin such a time, season and place as
For an honest example of one of our own saints (a Celtic one) journals from exile," read some blog posts here.
On the church/culture level:
“post-Christendom is the culture that emerges as the Christian faith loses coherence within a society that has been definitively shaped by the Christian story and as the institutions that have developed to express Christian convictions are in decline.” (Murray, Post-Christendom, 19).
Here we are.
On the good news of the economic crisis/opportunity/exile, read Len:
...Given the meltdown in the US economy, and the reverberations throughout the world, one wonders at our current location. This morning on CBC on the way to breakfast I caught part of an interview with Margaret Atwood on her new book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. Margaret is a respected Canadian author who has always had a fascination with debt. It began, she relates, when she prayed the Lord’s Prayer as a child. She noticed that some versions of the prayer asked for forgiveness from sin, others from debt. It turns out that this theme is common in the great faiths. What great faith could really claim to be comprehensive in human affairs that says nothing about economics in human communities?
What really caught me today, however, was how we are all in the same boat. On the one hand a millionaire may stare in the face of the credit crunch and wonder if he can access the resources he needs for his business; on the other hand those of us with ordinary mortgages wonder if they will be sustainable by 2009.
The result of all this uncertainty: fear. And that is where the resources of the Gospel become relevant.
How about that...wemight as well be relevant for once!
Sunday we suggested that three probable temptations of a person or church in exile are
(click underlined words for more)
- simulacra (as opposed to the "really real")
- koinonitis (as opposed to communitas)
- docetism/it's "all spiritual" (as opposed to "everything is spiritual"...see Rob Bell videos here).
Under this last category, we asked ourselve to fill in the blank with the biblical answer:
"The antichrist spirit denies that Jesus Christ is ___________"
Of course, the answer is not the usual assumed answer("divine" or "God") but:
See 1 John 2 and 4: it's all there:
"This is antichrist: denial (not that Jesus was/is God),
but that he CAME IN THE FLESH."
Any god that does not incarnate is not God.
How are we seduced by the antichrist spirit or worldview, especially in exile?
Any time we in essence deny Jesus "came in the flesh" and was really/very human.
We looked at a chilling portion of Eugene Peterson's "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places"
And we can be trained to recognize the antichrists as the men and women who tell us that Jesus wasn't human the way we are — "how could he be? He is God! ... recognize that for all their fancy talk about Christ, for all their superspiritualities, such people are just that, antichrists" ...
"The antichrist option has always been a convenient loophole for not loving actual, named people." (p.324)
(click "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places" )
We also glanced at Mike Frost's outline in the book "Exiles"
click here to read our friend Len Hjalmarson's helpful review of this important book..
..unless you don't WANT to cultivate the four delighfully dangerous disciplines we need, if we are to resist the temptations/testations of exile:
• DANGEROUS MEMORIES reaching back to Abraham and Sarah. Israel was tempted to substitute more reasonable and respectable memories rather than embrace the ambiguity and embarrassment of such messy heroes.
• DANGEROUS CRITICISM that mocks the deadly Empire. We need two kinds of critique. First, we need an ongoing religious critique of the tamed gods of the Empire (commercialized Christianity). Second, we need the political critique of entrenched power, wherever we find it.
• DANGEROUS PROMISES that imagine a shift of power in the world. The kingdom of God will come. The poem of Isa.54:1-3 is first despairing, but then affirms a wild and outrageous hope.
• DANGEROUS SONGS that predict unexpected newness of life. We sing a new song and affirm a reality we have not fully experienced. Worship is a political statement.
(Frost, based on Bruggeman)
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
|What Be Your Nerd Type? |
Your Result: Literature Nerd
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Monday, October 06, 2008
Anyway these are the first amazing folks to sign on for full posting power..join us! We'll make this pahe holy chaos together!
Friday, October 03, 2008
is a spoof.
But Dougsploitation scored a recent interview with the lead singer from this 25-year old video here. And Skib will want to take advantage of the full album download.
AND...best news of all:
After seeing it projected during the announcements at their church, The David Crowder Band quickly came up with a cover version on the spot: