The Latin word for "listen" is where we get our word audit. When you audit a class, you take in lots of information, but you don't do anything with it. You don't do the homework, or if you do, you don't turn it in to get it graded. You don't take the tests. And you don't get any credit either. The same is true in our spiritual lives. You don't get credit for auditing Scripture. You've got to put it into practice...
...In the Western world, we make a distinction between knowing and doing. But there was no such distinction in ancient Jewish thought. Knowing was doing and doing was knowing. If you didn't do it, you didn't really know it. Knowledge isn't enough. Truth must be translated with your life. (Primal, 83-84)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
To learn more about modern-day slavery, you can download the audio book Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade - And How We Can Fight It for free.
Monday, December 21, 2009
How leaders should act like artists (from Harvard Business):
- Artists constantly collaborate. The example given was the common occurrence of an exhibition with multiple artists showing together, or the so-called "group show." Even in the context of a solo show, the artist works with the gallery owner, the curator, the framers, the installers, the lighting person, the publicist to bring their vision to life. Every exhibition is a collaboration to the nth degree.
- Artists are talented communicators. The whole point of a work of art is to communicate something — a thought, an idea, a feeling, a vision. More explicitly, the artist frequently gives a talk to explain the thought process behind the artwork. Engaging the audience in a meaningful, expansive dialogue is often critical to the exhibition's success.
- Artists learn how to learn together. Perhaps the reason why artists collaborate and socialize so well is that they learn in the studio model — ten or more students in the same room for hours on end. Bonded together in a personal space of intimate self-expression, they come into their own through the familial ties of the studio setting. When interviewed recently about the differences in her education at Brown and at RISD, one student who is getting a dual degree from both institutions said, "At RISD there's a lot of learning from your peers. Brown (in the classes I've taken so far anyway) is about listening and note-taking in class."
How artists should act like leaders (from Accidental Creative):
- I speak my mind and fight for ideas but refuse to play the “victim” when my idea doesn’t win out.
- I do what’s in the best interest of the team and the project, even when it costs me something.
- I do the little things that matter even when I could feasibly cut corners.
- I stretch myself to see things from new points of view.
- I think strategically, even when I don’t have all the information I want.
- I don’t point fingers, talk trash or assign blame behind closed doors.
- I have something that guides my creating beyond comfort and preference.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Spiritual maturity emerges as we grow in our awareness and understanding of what our make-up is and what we need to keep-going.
Spiritual wisdom then is the faculty by which we surround ourselves with the needed resources (material or relational), that foster an environment conducive for ongoing growth.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Winfield Bevins, author of grow: reproducing through organic discipleship, is lead pastor of Church of the Outer Banks, an Acts 29 church located on the coast of North Carolina.
You can download a free copy of the book on his website.
Friday, December 18, 2009
To wrap up our series on Philippians, we did so by imagining what was in Paul's heart as he wrote to this group of followers. If Paul could have read it himself, what would it have sounded and looked like?
The following is a dramatized monologue of the Book of Philippians, that seeks to imaginatively enter into the heart of Paul and the impulse of the Spirit of God.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It's designed to make you sit up and think, to change your new year's resolutions, to foster some difficult conversations with your team.
Best of all :: It's Free. Download a Copy...
Or, to find out more about contributing authors go here.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
14-Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15-so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16-as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17-But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service. 18-So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.How we communicate and interact with one another has powerful implications for ourselves, as well as others. In Philippians chapter two, Paul links how we communicate with ourselves and others directly to our endeavors to engage the world around us with the message of Christ. Paul actually had faith that this small band of followers in Philippi could influence the world around them as they were to "shine like the stars."~Philippians 2:14-18
Paul could have said, "try to do most things" without grumbling and arguing, but he didn't. He said, "do everything..." Interestingly, the word Paul chose for "grumbling," It's a whispering, to yourself muttering in disgust or annoyance. It's what we do under our breath as we walk away from a spouse, co-worker, sales clerk, etc when we are dissatisfied with the outcome of a conversation or something that was said. It's toxic to our souls and infective to those around us.
Often, the muttering, serves as a type of bait. We mutter something under our breath, not so much to be understood, but to be heard. Hoping that someone will say, "What was that...?" Only to give means and permission for us to vent.
Paul connects this outflow to our level of "purity" and "blamelessness," not to mention our influence on the world around us.
Christmas is a season of shopping bliss, unfortunately the bliss wears off before we can even find a parking spot. Everything beyond that can easily become a chore, a duty and a hassle. To which, Paul simply says...
...Do everything without grumbling and arguing...
Here's a further teaching on this idea from our series Philippians: Discovering God in the Midst of Life.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In the series, which will begin Wednesday, January 20, 2010, we’re going to wrestle through several tough questions that have been elevated to surface with the recent surge among the New Atheist. In each of the teachings, we will explore both sides of the spectrum. We'll look at things from the perspective of an Atheist or skeptic, as well as that of a thinking follower of Christ.
Over the four weeks we’ll look at:
Faith and Doubt
There is a healthy tension between faith and doubt. Doubts aren't inherently evil, in fact, there’s much that we can learn by exploring our own doubts and those of others. We will explore what some of the fundamental claims of the New Atheist and how can we intellectually respond to their questions, criticisms and dispositions.
Faith and Science
Are Faith and Science at odds with one another? Does that which can be deduced through science discredit what Scripture says?
Faith and Evil
If God exists, why has so much evil be perpetrated in His name? After all, isn't the Church is responsible for so much injustice.
Faith and Suffering
How could a Good God allow so much suffering?
The following are a few of the things that I’m reading, watching and listening to in preparation. Some of these are from the perspective of a Christian Apologetics and others are from significant voices within the New Atheist movement.
What's So Great about Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller
Faith and Doubt by John Ortberg
Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge by Dallas Willard
fora.tv is a great visual resource. There are a number of videos by Atheist such as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason), Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), as well as presentations and interviews by authors like Dinesh D’Souza (mentioned above). Flora.tv also has a video page within iTunes University.
Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Craig Lane
Christian Apologetics with Ravi Zacharias
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
A few of those perceptions are,
These perceptions, as noted, more often than not, have nothing to do with Jesus or His message. It's not the mystery of the cross, nor the cost of discipleship that become snares.
Here are a few of the questions I believe each of us must wrestle with.
Does our church actually provide an environment congruent with what we hope people will experience?
Are the aforementioned perceptions of those not a part of the church confirmed during their "worship" experience or are they presented with a new reality of "church" and the people of God?
My hope is that not only will people discover the life-transforming power found only in the message of Christ, but that they will also experience the essence of community.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Frequently I'm amazed at how subjects that are multi-layered and awe inspiring like the Story of Scripture, the wonder of creation or the dynamics of human history can be flattened down to a mere linear-monotone-humdrum captivity, resulting in what feels like a fatal death by bullet-point.
Let's face it, communicating to a group of people, regardless of the size can be a challenging undertaking. Further, there are certain subjects that seem to not leave much room for creative interpretation or innovative and engaging communication.
Statistics could be one of those subjects.
After all, how much can one do with numbers and graphs to captivate an audience? Hans Rosling is one of those aforementioned persons who deals with copious amounts of data. He is a professor of International Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Rosling is however, an example of someone who can take a subject as seemingly mundane and sleep inducing as statistics and communicate it in a way that is humorous, informative, entertaining, no to mention inspiring.
Recently, Hans gave a talk at TEDIndia in which he vividly demonstrates that statistics are not boring. He brilliantly presents more than numbers, data and statistical predictions. He conveys the story that is actually behind the statistics and the names behind the numbers.
His video is one worth watching. (link)
Hans' video causes me to imaginatively wonder what other subjects have we marginalized to boring, irrelevant, or simply unappealing? Subjects and topics, that if only communicated in the form of a story could come to live with penetrating power?
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Fyodor Dostoevsky's crowning life work, The Brothers Karamazov, stands among the greatest novels in world literature. His exploration of faith, doubt, morality, and the place of suffering in life are equaled in no other work of literature, save the Bible.
The book explores the possible role of four brothers in the unresolved murder of their father, Fyodor Karamazov. At the same, it carefully explores the personalities and inclinations of the brothers themselves. Their psyches together represent the full spectrum of human nature, and continuum of faith and doubt. Ultimately this novel seeks to understand the real meaning of existence and includes much beneficial philosophical and spiritual discussion that moves the reader towards faith.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Perhaps, listening, true listening, is very similar.
Communication consists of more than the moving of the lips. Yet, the cessation of such movement is typically taken as our cue to respond. As it is with the musical sounds of an orchestra, communication isn't complete when the lips stop moving, rather when the vibrations of those words and where they originated from have had time to reach the back of who we are and once again returned…
It isn't until those words have had time to give themselves fully to us, or until we've had ample time to receive, perceive and understand more fully what's behind those words. After all, the masterpiece being played by the orchestra is much greater than the notes on the page. It isn't until all these notes come together that music emerges. So it is with human communication, it's more than the words, much more indeed.
Unfortunately, under the trance of time efficiency, we often are prone to spend more time thinking of a response or rebuttal while the other party is talking, than actually engaging the words coming forth from them. As such, we only hear the "notes" and miss the "song" all together. As William Isaacs said, “People don’t listen. They reload.”
Yet, when we refrain from merely “reloading,” there’s a knowing and wisdom that emerges out of the silence. This wisdom then speaks into the present. "Silence," Henri Nouwen wrote, “teaches me to speak.”
I’ve noticed that one of the most “full” and deeply resounding moments are those moments just after one has shared from the core of who they are…
In such moments, it seems, the last thing that is needed is for me to speak…
Monday, November 30, 2009
Learning to celebrate the small things is a practice and discipline in and of itself.
This is one of the things that I've observed about the team(s) that I have the privilege of working with at Palm Valley Church. Rarely a week goes by, where I don't hear someone talking about a person that jumped on board to be a part of the ministries at hand. Typically, it's just one person they're talking about. One person, in the midst of dozens that may be serving on a given Sunday. But, it is one person, with a name, passions, gifts and a story to tell.
The tendency is often to lament, "I only had one person sign up." And, that's understandable because dozens are needed. Yet, that often breeds a sense of un-thankfulness within us for the one who did.
Being able to see the "small things" and appreciate them is an under-appreciated gift all by itself, and a skill most of us simply forget how to do as we grow older and more mature.
Learning to celebrate the small things is a practice and discipline in and of itself... and it's one worth mastering... in every area of our lives.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Perhaps, you should consider a set of juggling balls.
Research has shown that working with one's hands while thinking, increases brain activity and generates greater creative flow.
Juggling is a fun clinical approach to improving one's mental, emotional and of course physical well-being. It is form of activity that works to balance both hemispheres of the brain (right brain & left brain) to improve motor-skill functions, reading, writing, creativity and ability to focus on tasks. It can help reduce and prevent the development of Anxiety, Alzheimer's and depression.
While you're at it, grab a classical CD. According to numerous studies have shown that classical music has a quantitative effect on us intellectually and emotionally. It's referred to as the "Mozart Effect."
Psychologists at the University of Leicester, UK, played music of different tempos to herds of Friesian cattle. Dairy cows produce more milk when listening to relaxing music, say researchers. They believe farmers could get an extra pint from their charges by playing classical music or smoochy numbers in the cowshed.
So, if your stumped for economical, actually useful gifts ideas. Grab a set of juggling balls and a Mozart CD and make someone in your life a little brighter, smarter, neurologically healthy, not to mention creative.
If you're cheap... The dollar store typically has classical CD's, as well as medium size bouncy balls. Do a little creative wrap-job and presto...
Friday, November 27, 2009
Researchers say the findings challenge the notion that the structure of the adult brain does not change except for negative changes caused by aging or disease. Instead, the study suggests that learning produces not only functional but structural changes in the brain.
Juggling Actually Boosts Brain Power
In order to see if the structure of the adult brain changes in response to demands, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to look at the brains of adults who have learned to juggle.
In the study, published in the Jan. 22 issue of Nature, researchers divided a group of young adults who had no experience in juggling into two groups. One group was given three months to learn how to juggle three balls simultaneously, and the others remained non-jugglers.
MRI scans were performed at the start of the study, after the jugglers became skilled performers and could juggle for at least 60 seconds, and three months later. During that three-month period, the jugglers did not practice or attempt to extend their skills.
Although the participants had similar brain scans at the start of the study, the second scan revealed that the jugglers experienced significant expansion in the area of the brain associated with the processing and storage of complex visual motion.
The amount of expansion also correlated with the juggler's performance. The more skilled they became, the greater growth they experienced.
The increased areas seen on brain scans among the jugglers declined by the third brain scan. The non-jugglers showed no change in brain structure during the study.
Researchers say the temporary brain structure changes occurred in motion-selective areas of the brain, and the mechanism behind these changes is unclear and merits further study.
[SOURCE: Draganski, B. Nature, Jan. 22, 2004; vol 427: pp 311-312.]
Mark Twain wrote, "What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history."Jonathan Edwards put it this way:
“The ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them.”
Scientists, who study the brain tell us that when a thought is triggered, synapses fire and send the message of that thought to another part of the brain that influences emotions, responses, attitudes etc.
Any pattern of thought or action repeated many times results in a habit with a corresponding neurosignature, or brain groove. If a similar synapses fire happens consistently over a period of time, actual, visible grooves literally form on the surface of the brain. A brain groove is a series of interconnected neurons that carry the thought patterns of a particular habit.
After these grooves are formed, one’s thoughts begin to automatically flow in a certain pattern – they follow the groove. Before long, no matter what the situation. No matter how hopeful and optimistic the outcome may look. Our thoughts will still flow down the groove of lest resistance, much like water in an arid desert.
The question then becomes, what does our individual "neurosignature" look like?
Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly has done years of research in which thousands of subjects are given pagers that go off at random intervals. People have to write down what they are doing and thinking and feeling when that happens. One of the most striking findings of these studies involves the effect of solitude.
When people are alone, undistracted by noise or activity, their minds naturally drift toward an awareness of discontentment, a sense of inadequacy, anxiety about the future, and a chronic sense of self-preoccupation.
Contrary to what we tend to assume, the normal state of the mind is chaos… When we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing t do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing… entropy is the normal state of consciousness.
To avoid this condition, people are naturally eager to fill their minds with whatever information is readily available, as long as it distracts attention from turning inward and dwelling on negative feelings. This explains why such a huge proportion of time is invested in watching television, despite the fact that it is very rarely enjoyed.
The good news is that we can actually restructure our own neurosignatures.
"The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death,
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Interestingly, as we get "older" and more "mature" one of the things we forget how to be is thankful. We become too sophisticated to be excited and too responsible to be thankful -- we simply forget. Somewhere in between mortgage payments, car loans and moving the yard we lose the wonder of a child. Thanksgiving has the ability to begin reversing these effects.
I've noticed, at least in my own life that Thanksgiving:
1. Helps bring things into perspective.
Philippians 4:6-7 says,
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
There are times in life where things just don't make sense. There are seasons were there seems to be a residual funk that lingers. Thanksgiving has a way of bringing perspective into these times. I love what Asaph wrote in Psalm 73:16-17
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.Then I saw the whole picture."
2. Thanksgiving helps us to identify God in the midst of Life.
I enjoy looking at Where's Waldo? pictures.
In these images, Waldo is always there - somewhere. We don't always readily see him at first glance. In fact, more often than not, it takes a little searching, looking, even waiting for him to emerge from within the crowd before our eyes.
He's always in a busy scene with lots of movement, walking stick in hand.
In life, God is a lot like Waldo. He's always there in the midst of the busyness, yet its in the midst of such busyness that He becomes lost - at least to our awareness. Yet, He is still present in the midst of the chaos, if only we can pause, breath and once again become aware of His present-nearness. Paul wrote to those in Philippi that God was there in their midst, working within them, even when they were unaware.
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)
Thanksgiving helps us to become more aware of His presence. It helps us to identify God in the midst of life.
3. Thanksgiving helps us remember that ultimately it's not about us - but God & Others...
When I pause long enough to reflect on where God is working within my life, circumstances and relationships, I become thankful. In the midst of such thankfulness, I'm reminded that life is so much bigger than me... We all need reminding of this, sometimes more often than others. Nonetheless, in thanksgiving, we become aware of God, His provisions and the others who are a part of our life.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The average human process over 10,000 thoughts a day. Interestingly it's said that, “as much as 77% of everything we think is negative and counterproductive and works against us,” writes Dr. Shad Helmstetter, in his book, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself.
This week, as we continue tracking through the Book of Philippians, we explore what the Bible says about our thought-life, the power of meditating on Scripture and its correlation to our growing to become more like Christ.
During these moments, I always pull out my smartphone (which most days isn't all that smart) and send myself an email with the idea. At other times, I'll jam the thought into my calendar or simply write it on a piece of paper or a napkin.
Imperative to the creative process of a communicator, or anyone for that matter, is developing a system that allows you to capture thoughts, ideas, inspirations, and the like.
All of the world is a canvas and each individual is an interesting story to be read. I love what Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Man wrote,
“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plants and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lighting becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life.”
The following clip shows some of the practical uses of EVERNOTE.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
(Please note that each idea has a graded code at the end. P is for Preschool children, E is for Elementary children, T is for Teenagers, and A is for Adults.)
1. Using large sheets of paper, everyone in the family draws pictures of things they're thankful for. Keep the artwork for next year and display them side by side. (PETA)
2. Create a Thankful Box, in which family members put slips of paper telling what they're thankful for. After dinner, read the papers out loud. (ETA)
3. Encourage each person to bring some special object to the table that represents what they are thankful for this year. Let each take a turn to share their object and how it represents their thankfulness. (ETA)
4. Experience dinner together with only candlelight. Reflect on what it would be like to be without lighting, heat, shelter, etc. Spend some time praying together, thanking God for all that you have, as well as praying for those in need this season. (PETA)
5. Write a card to someone you are especially thankful for. Be sure to allow time, material and stamps so this project will work. (PETA)
Friday, November 20, 2009
A desire to make a difference. Leave a mark on the world. To live and when one’s life is over, for that life to simply have made a difference in the world in which it breathed, moved and walked.
I haven’t thought about that talk, nor the phrase much in the past seven years, though I’ve talked about purpose and destiny on a number of occasions. Yet, recently, this phrase, or rather, the essence that lies at the core of this phrase has been echoing from deep within. Once and a while, it will creep in to my thoughts. Each times it makes entry into my mind in unique ways and within diverse situations.
At the center of my being, I know God has purposed my life to make a difference. I can reflect back through the past sixteen-years, even further and vividly see the hand of God, as the Psalmist said, directing my very footsteps.
God has been so intimate, specific and generous to me. There’s a longing to somehow capture that story so it can be known by more than just me and a small handful. There’s a desire to do something with my life, that when I’m gone, the influence will still continue. It’s less about being “somebody,” and more about simply wanting what God does and speaks into my life to bring life and direction to others. I want to make a difference. I don't want to live an inconsequential life.
Perhaps, this is part of my inner motivation to begin writing more -- to simply capture these elements of the journey. I’ve been pondering this for a while, but as I was reading this evening in the book Organic God, the thought emerged again. Margaret Feinberg, in the book, does a fantastic job of simply telling her story and journey with God. She’s writing about various attributes of God, but it’s more than that, I suppose God is always larger than an attribute of sorts. In the telling though, she authentically weaves her own story into the plot. Part of her writing is so powerful, because as I read her stories, I find myself.
I’ve had those same stories. God’s taught me similar lessons.
Yet, have I deeply reflected, captured and written about them?
If it did, would this aid in living a life that has consequences beyond myself...?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
One of my favorite authors Frederick Buechner in his book Listening to Your Life brilliantly writes,
but that God is present within it,
always hiddenly, always leaving you room
to recognize him or not…
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.”
Paul instructed the followers at Philippi to look around them and out of everything that could be observed in the world in which they found themselves to simply, find "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise." Once they were able to begin to see these things, they were to dwell on these things.
For Paul, as Henry David Thoreau penned, "It's not what you look at, but what you see." In this text from Philippians, Paul is simply encouraging us to develop a heart to discern, an eye to see and a mind that cultivates the capacity to "think" upon these things. Unfortunately, more often than not, when we look at the world around us we are more prone to see what's wrong with it, rather than what's right. We see that which is broken, fallen and needs to be fixed, rather than that which God is presently redeeming.
If we posture ourselves as Paul exhorted, we will begin to see “every creature will be to you a mirror of life," as wrote Thomas à Kempis, "and a book of holy doctrine.”
This phrase found in Philippians 4:8 is in the present tense and imperative mood, which notes, in short that it commands a continuous action…
Further, the middle voice is reflexive which means that you yourself are to continually initiate this action and participate in the effects or results thereof.
Biblical scholar Gordon Fee in his volume one Philippians, Paul's Letter to the Philippians, points out that Paul is using language the Philippians would have known from their youth, he singles out values held with the best of Hellenism. He states,
Paul is using language the Philippians would have known from their youth, he singles out values held in common with the best of Hellenism. But as v.9 implies, these must now be understood in light of the cruciform existence that Paul has urged throughout the letter…
Paul is telling them… to “take into account” the good they have long known from their past, as long as it is conformable to Christ.
Paul is encouraging the Philippians that even thought they are presently “citizens of heaven,” living out the life of the future as they await its consummation, they do not altogether abandon the world in which they used to, and still do, live. As believers in Christ they will embrace the best of that world as well, as long as it is understood in light of the cross (Fee, 416).
The most common response to such a culture is not discrimination, but rejection. This text suggests a better way, that one approach the market-place, the arts, the media, the university, looking for what is “true” and “uplifting” and “admirable”; but that one do so with a discriminating eye and heart, for which the Crucified One serves as the template (Fee, 421).
How skilled the Church has become at "rejecting" everything, rather than exercising the discernment of "discrimination." May God help us to engage the world in which we live in with eyes to see it from the vantage point of the Crucified One.
As Jean Pierre de Caussade wrote in his book The Sacrament of the Present Moment, may “each moment is a revelation from God."
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Just then, a gust of wind blew threw and a few leaves rustled in the air. Without a flinch, my son jumped up and began running around the patio. His arms began to wave this way and that, along with a skip and a jump, not to mention a joy-filled smile on his face and a giggle that brings life even to the numbest of souls. Then he stopped, looked over his shoulder, turned around and in one giant swoop of the arms, as if grasping the very wind before him shouted, "Gotcha God..."
What if we could approach our days with the same child-like wonder of faith? Looking, listening, reaching, skipping, and most of all "swooping" to capture the God-moments of our day.
God’s Voice is speaking, resounding, even echoing all around us.
Can I sense it?
Fleeting thoughts, feelings, impressions, mental images, even billboards.
Did I see them?
Obscure verses embedded in Scripture, the whispering of a friend, the comment of a spouse, even the babbling of a young child.
Do I hear it?
The old poem of Elizabeth Barrett Browning still ring true,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
The rest sit around and picks blackberries.
Or, as John Ortberg wrote in his book God is Closer Than You Think, “God wants to be known, but not in a way that overwhelms us, that takes away the possibility of love freely chosen… He often shows up in unexpected ways. He travels incognito… You never know where he’ll turn up, or whom he’ll speak through, or what unlikely scenario he’ll us for his purpose.”
The question becomes, how do/will I capture the “whisperings” of God in my life?
when they pass through the lips and the fingertips."
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
…is essential, not optional, for Christ-followers.
…is a process, not an event.
…is God’s work, but requires my participation.
…involves those practices, experiences, and relationships that help me live intimately with Christ and walk as if he were in my place.
…is not a compartmentalized pursuit. God is not interested in my spiritual life; he’s interested in my life - all of it.
…can happen in every moment. It is not restricted to certain times or practices.
…is not individualistic, but takes place in community and finds expression in serving others.
…is not impeded by a person’s background, temperament, life situation, or season of life. It is available right now to all who desire it.
…and the means of pursuing it, will vary from one individual to another. Fully devoted followers are handcrafted, not mass produced.
…is ultimately gauged by an increased capacity to love God and people. Superficial or external checklists cannot measure it.
From the small group resource Fully Devoted by John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson, & Judson Poling.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Feinberg in her chapter “surprisingly talkative” is reminiscing about how God spoke to her - directing her into that which she was to do with her life. The Voice spoke more in silence than that of a sonic-boom. Later, she reflects on this process and her perspective and posture now towards this “gift,” and this is what caught my attention. She writes,
“In his silence, God allowed me to discover the gift that he had woven inside of me. That process has given me a deep sense of appreciation for the gift, so that I just can’t walk away when things get tough. Because of God’s silence, I recognize writing as one of those things I was created to do. that’s why, like an artisan, I spend long hours honing my work - praying for the beauty to emerge” (Organic God, 85).
As I began to reflect on these lines, it caused me to look at my own life and gifts - those things - that thing - that I’ve felt God’s nudging on most in my life. I began to wonder, “how am I ‘honing’ my gifts?” I practice using them a lot, but am I honing them?
Teaching and preaching can often be a touchy subject to ask such a thing. It’s as if, there’s this mystical-sacred force behind it, that to ‘hone’ in and practice the art of communicating would in some way contaminate the gift itself. Yet, I’ve heard some really dry, boring, and in need of some serious ‘honing’ preachers. I often wondered when listening to such aforementioned preachers, “who are you talking to?” and, “have you ever listened to yourself talk?”
Yet, if one were called to be a musician, a writer, or even a plumber, they would do everything possible to stay up with their particular field of discipline. Why wouldn’t we do so with teaching and preaching?
I often have paid attention to various forms of communicating and read up on a number of authors perspectives, yet deep within there’s a sense that “to practice” and developing such skills is in some way less pure.
After all, all we really need is the ‘anointing.’ Right? Just two weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours in Barnes and Noble perusing through a half-dozen communication books. Every book was trying to tell me how to “get people’s attention,” “prove my point” or what have you. Part of it just felt so mechanical, predictable and well honestly, manipulative. I don’t want this. I do want to engage the minds and hearts of listeners, but not by the means of some trite, slick or mechanical persuasive skill.
At the end of the day, there must be a balance between our personal integrity and our intentional and development of the skills and gifts that God has entrusted us with. I love what it said of David,
with skillful hands he led them.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
This is a question I get asked quite often. In some circles its a "buzz word" of the latest discipleship-lingo, while for others, it's a word of apprehension, held with no small level of suspect.
Below, is a sampling of various authors and their attempt to conceptualize and define the essence of spiritual formation in a couple sentences or less. As you read through them, note the various nuances particular authors make or emphasize.
What make each unique? Look for the common themes that emerge throughout them. As you reflect on what others have written, begin to ask yourself, what's truly imperative, essential and beneficial in a person becoming "formed" into the "image of Christ."
- “A process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” (Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey 15)
- “Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God's spirit, for the transformation of the world.” –from The Upper Room (http://www.upperroom.org/companions/tipsarchive.asp?act=details&loc_id=2974&item_id=203312)
- “Thus, we can define spirituality this way: Spirituality is about what we do with the fire inside of us, about how we channel our eros. And how we do channel it, the disciplines and habits we choose to live by, will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our bodies, minds, and souls, and to a greater integration or disintegration in the way we are related to God, others, and the cosmic world.” (Rolheiser, The Holy Longing 11).
- “Spiritual formation is the continuing response to the reality of God’s grace shaping us shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith for the sake of the world.” --Toward a Definition of Spiritual Formation by Jeffery P. Greenman and Donald Goertz (Tyndale Seminary)
- “The dynamics of shaping the human spirit toward maturity and consonance.” (The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation 107)
- “The end of all Christian belief and obedience, witness and teaching, marriage and family, leisure and work life, preaching and pastoral work is the living of everything we know about God: life, life and more life. If we don’t know where we are going, any road will get us there. But if we have a destination—in this case a life lived to the glory of God—there is a well marked way, the Jesus-revealed Way. Spiritual theology is the attention that we give to the details of living life on this way” (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 1)
- “My condition is called a desire for God’s ‘habitual presence’….In spiritual theology this condition is not merely recognized; guidance is provided on how that hunger may be satisfied.” (Diogenes Allen, Spiritual Theology, 2)
- “Spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.” (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, 22)
- “Scripturally speaking, the spiritual life is simply the increasing vitality and sway of God’s Spirit in us. It is a magnificent choreography of the Holy Spirit in the human spirit, moving us toward communion with both Creator and creation. The spiritual life is thus grounded in relationship. It has to do with God’s way of relating to us, and our way of responding to God.” (Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast, 6)
- “Christian spirituality, then, simply put, is God’s passionate embrace of us; our passionate embrace of God.” (Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace, 16)
1. What features you deem most important as you create a definition of Spiritual Formation.
a. It’s a journey…process…continuous…ongoing…
b. It’s intentional.
c. It’s relational. True formation can’t happen void of community.
d. It’s influential (to others in our community and the world at large).
2. What issues are at stake?
a. Spiritual Formation (and the quality of my life) is always transforming… is it “integrating” or “disintegrating”?
either a creature of splendid glory or
one of unthinkable horror."
3. What categories re-surface in the definitions I provided?
a. It’s a process…
b. It’s our response to God’s initiative…
c. We’re being formed to the likeness/image of Christ.
d. It influences others…
What are some key elements to spiritual formation from your perspective?
Which of the above definitions do you like best and why?
This message explores various ways of engaging God in rhythmic seasons of life. In it, we look at the role of spiritual disciplines and a Rule of Life in the process of our spiritual transformation.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
One of the early Christian rules for life is found in Acts 2:42. Here we find that believers "devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." This rule shaped their lives and hearts in the circumstances they were in. It acknowledged the impossibility of becoming like Christ through effort alone. The rule offered disciplines that made space to attend to the supernatural presence of the Trinity at work in and among them.
A Rule for Life is a simple statement of the regular rhythms we choose in order to present our bodies to God as our "spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1). Each rule, or rhythm, is a way to partner with God for the transformation only he can bring. Rules keep our lives from devolving into unintended chaos. They aren’t a burdensome list of do’s and don’ts, enumerating everything you might do in a day. Life-giving rules are a brief and realistic scaffold of disciplines that support your heart’s desire to grow in loving God and others" (Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook).
To develop your own Rule for Life. Start by answering these questions. From the answers begin to write your Rule for Life:
1. When and where do you feel closest to God? How do you experience God’s love for you?
a. Pay attention to experiences, practices and relationships that draw you toward God.
b. Are there particular practices that open you to God?
2. What is most important to you?
a. What gives you a sense of security and self-worth?
b. What would people who know you best say it’s like to live and work with you?
c. What/Who receives the most attention in your life? (Your job? spouse? Family? Friends? Hobby?)
3. What practices suit your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rhythms and cycles? (prayer, Bible reading, silence, contemplative walks, retreats, etc)
a. What limitations are built into your life at this moment?
b. What longings remain steady throughout?
c. What responsibilities and rhythms change with various seasons?
4. Where do you want to change?
a. Where do you feel powerless to change?
b. What can you ask the Holy Spirit to help you do through grace what you cannot do through effort alone?
5. Which disciplines can you choose that arise from your desire for God’s transforming work and that suit the limits and realities of your life? Begin your practice.
*The above explanation and questions are found in Adele Calhoun's book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. Though "spiritual discipline" combined with the word "handbook" may seem a bit dry and boring, I've found this book to be a personal favorite. Calhoun's descriptions of various disciplines are clear and concise, not to mention very practical and applicable. This is a great resource for someone wanting to explore what it looks like to integrating spiritual disciplines into their daily rhythm of life.