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Showing posts from January, 2012

eating with monastics

This past weekend I was on a winter retreat with my faith community.  There were 21 of us stuffed into a 4-bedroom chalet in the mountains.  It was amazing to see how gracious and patient people were with each other.  One person volunteered to sleep in the laundry room.  Others offered to help out in the kitchen even if they were not scheduled to assist with cooking or cleaning.  Our hosts welcomed us with huge smiles, hugs, and kisses.  They silently served us in many ways: not only did they let us take over their chalet, but after a snowy night, we awoke to find that our cars had all been brushed off, ready for the trip home. I don't remember hearing any complaints over the weekend.  We cooked together, we ate together, we went on a winter hike, we frolicked on the frozen lake, we drank tea by the fire, we played games, we had times of silence, we worshipped God together, and we prayed for each other. 
Our last meal together was a variation of a monk meal.  In a monastic commu…

loving the job (again)

I was driving on the way to a church meeting last Sunday when I felt something strange - excitement!!  It had been quite a while since I had felt anticipation in coming to a church meeting.  Lately, it was usually a sense of obligation - a burden I had to carry, a task to accomplish. For me, Sundays include getting there early, setting up, making sure the powerpoint is assembled and the projector/computer working, often helping with worship music, sometimes giving the talk, praying, greeting visitors, and then packing up and locking up.  Sigh of relief!  Yes, I hate to admit it, but for the last little while, I have not looked forward to church gatherings.  So, when I felt a mini sparkler in my stomach last Sunday, it was a pleasant surprise. 

The change actually began a week before that while I was giving a talk in the Sunday gathering.  First, you should know that none of us are paid for pastoral work in our church group.  All leadership positions are voluntary, so anyone who spea…

book review: Insurrection

Insurrection by Peter Rollins.  New York: Howard Books, 2011.  190 pages.

Before one even cracks open the cover of Peter Rollin's Insurrection, the reader is warned about the explosive nature of what is inside. Words like "incendiary," "controversial," and "radical" litter the back cover endorsements.  The front cover promises that what is inside will not only take us to the edge of the cliff but push us off (according to Rob Bell)!  Well, for all the hype, I found the book quite a bit tamer than promised, but perhaps that was the goal: to get readers to brace themselves for some strong words about Christianity and in so doing, become more receptive to what Rollins has to say. 

The stated purpose of the book is to outline what a "radical expression of a faith beyond religion might look like and how it has the power to give birth to a radically new form of church, one with the power to renew, reform or even transcend the present constellation of …

accurate worship

I was reading an introduction to 1-2 Chronicles a few days ago and came across an interesting phrase:  accurate worship.  It seemed strangely out of place, yet I know Eugene (Peterson) meant to use exactly those words.  So I did some thinking and reading and researching.  Here are some thoughts that came out of that.

First, let's look at the word 'accurate.'  I consulted with a few people who are well-versed in archery and came away with some good pointers on accuracy.  First, orient yourself towards your target.  Never let it out of your sight.  Second, anchoring is very important.  Be firmly grounded (solid stance) and find a point of reference which will help you to be consistent.  Some people draw the bow back till it touches their cheek.  Every time they aim, they then pull to the exact same spot -it helps them be consistent.  This is called anchoring.  Third, use a soft grip.  Too much tension on the bow or too much tension in your body will pull you off target.  A …

how much does it cost?

I am teaching a course on Christian Spirituality this term.  The textbook I have chosen to use (Devotional Classics edited by Richard Foster) starts off with an introductory section that talks about the cost involved in living a life in accordance with the Spirit of Jesus.  No easing into the subject for Foster, no gentle convincing or subtle sales job.  He just puts it right out there at the front:  being a following of Jesus takes a lot of courage.  How much should spirituality cost me?  Well, how much am I willing to pay? 

C.S. Lewis reminds us that being a Christian is not like paying your taxes, where you give God what he is due and hope there is a little left over for yourself.  He says:  "The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self - all your wishes and precautions - to Christ.  But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead.  For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call 'ourselves,' to keep personal happ…

fresh start, anywhere, anytime

It's a new year.  It's a new day.  It's a new life.  It's a Michael BublĂ© song.

The dawn of a new year is often a time when people attempt a fresh start.  I don't like to save up my fresh starts for January; I like to sprinkle them liberally throughout the year.  In fact, each new day when I wake up is a fresh start.  Though some of the tasks ahead of me may be similar to those I did the day before, and my location or situation in life may not have changed much, each never-lived-before moment is rife with possibilities for creativity, insight, kindness, learning, joy, and embracing new disciplines.  In fact, most days it seems to be a choice:  do I surrender to sameness or revel in the birth of each moment with its accompanying challenges?  I hope I chose birth.

In doing some research for a course, I came across two videos that have got me thinking.  In fact, I believe they have done more than that: they have birthed something new in my thinking and hopefully, wil…