Thursday, November 29, 2012

In Search of Faithful Companions

"I will search for faithful people to be my companions." 
(Psalm 101:6 NLT)

Again and Again I am struck by the intentionality spoken of in Psalm 101. In v.6, the Psalmist says, "I will search for faithful people to be my companions." 

It seems that we often view the discovery of friends (companions) in kind of a happen-stance manner. Indeed, more often than not, friendships emerge out of such seemingly spontaneous settings and meetings. You meet someone. There's some sort of chemistry or similar common interest and affinity. Then, over time, a friendship develops - perhaps...

But, the Psalmist doesn't seem to be speaking of such scenarios here. He says, "I will search." He's intentionally on the look out. For what? A companion. Person(s) who he can live-life with. And, not just anyone will suffice. He says, I'm looking for those who are "faithful." 

The Psalmist may have many acquaintances, but he recognizes that there are those who transcend beyond into the realm of companion. Those who have the access to speak into our lives, to know us deeply, and to be known by us.

He's conscious of the type of person who has access to his soul. He is aware that he will be shaped by those he "dwells" with and those who are allowed to "minister" to him (speak to him, pour into him, influence him, etc).

We all have friends… 

But, how many are faithful companions? How many faithful companions do I currently have? People who know me - my depths, my dreams, my fears, my frustrations and so forth?

What would it look like for me to "search for faithful people" in my own life?

How many people consider me one of their faithful companions…?

"A friend," wrote Henri Nouwen "is someone who asks how you are doing and then waits around long enough for you to answer." 

How many people do I demonstrate this quality to…? How many ask me and then wait around for the answer…?

We all need faithful companions! May we develop the intentionality to "search." And, a keen "eye" to see those who God is putting in our path to journey with...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Action Bible Devotional

I'm always looking for something to read with my kids, especially during the evenings. Over the years, I've tried several children's bibles, kids devotionals, regular Bible and the like. Recently, I started going through The Action Bible Devotional (published by David Cook) with my nine-year-old son. The publisher states that, "The Action Bible Devotional pairs selected stories from the bestselling Action Bible with spiritual lessons and action-adventure missions that launch kids’ faith into everyday life. Covering themes such as friendship, temptation, sibling rivalry, self-esteem, and materialism, The Action Bible Devotional offers a year’s worth of activities, questions, and ideas that will keep young readers engaged with the Bible every day."

Me and my son are a few weeks into it... 

The images are engaging, the summation narrative used for the various stories is concise and good. I particularly like the devotional reflections at the end of each selected reading. The questions are comprehendible and applicable for my nine-year-old. We've already had several good conversations (and prayer times) regarding various stories in Scripture and how they can be applied to his own life. I look forward to the future moments we'll have together as we continue to work through it... 

I only wish there were 365 devotions to go with the Action Bible, rather than merely 52 (one for each week). We are currently going through 2-3 devotions a week and using the other nights to engage other readings/Scriptures/etc...

The devotional element has several interactive thoughts, questions and means of personal engagement:

  • Each reading as a key verse
  • X-ray Vision (short thought connecting with gospel story)
  • Mission (three fun activities to make the story tangible)
  • Debrief (questions)
  • Mission Accomplished (Notes, etc)
  • Share the Adventure (Ideas for involvement)
  • Big Picture (Creative Page to write, draw, or add to devotional)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Creativity is a Spiritual Discipline

This weeks reading (in the Mosaic Bible) centered around creativity. To be created in the image of God is to possess the ability to create. Imagination is a divine gift. Though when one typically things of "imagination," we have images of day-dreaming, fantasizing and visions of grander for the most part. And while humans are prone to utilize their imaginations for self-serving manners, it is a gift nonetheless. We are entrusted stewards of this divine gift.

Could it be that God wants to use our very capacities of imagination to speak to us or even through us. I can't help but ask myself :: Am I cultivating and developing the creativity God has placed within me OR am I simply maintaining, merely allowing it to exist in untaped measures? Or, worst yet, have I grown content to live vicariously through the active imagination of others...?

Creativity is a spiritual discipline:

  • What are practical ways in which we can cultivate and develop creativity and imagination...? 

Now to him who is able to do 
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 
according to his power that is at work within us... 
~Ephesians 3:20

"I have an incredible awe for the natural world and the divinely inspired environment.... But I think I also have a similar kind of awe for the day-to-day. For me, a ceiling fan or air conditioner or dictionary can hold incredible, supernatural meaning. It's very exciting to think about the workmanship of man, created in the image of God."
(Sufjan Stevens)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Daddies Home

Have you ever noticed how excitable children can be? 

How quick they are to celebrate the seemingly mundane moments of life? 

Nearly ever afternoon, joy-filled squeals erupt within my house, as I pull into the driveway. “DADDY’S HOME!” The point here isn’t my royal greatness in the kingdom of fatherhood, rather the ability of a child to become instantly ecstatic with celebration. But it isn’t just my arrival, it’s moms, sunny days, bike rides in the park, even apple sauce. A child’s capacity to celebrate the smallest moments of life is limitless.

It seems the older and more mature we become, our capacity to celebrate the seemingly small and mundane moments of life diminishes tremendously. Is it that we’re becoming smarter and wiser or duller and numb? In our sophistication we can discern numerous reasons to help deflate the enthusiasm and excitement out of just about anything or anyone.

“Because children have abounding vitality,” writes G.K. Chesterton in his outstanding work Orthodoxy, “because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy.” He concludes with the penetrating thought, “for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Lately, I’ve been reflecting about how I can cultivate more of these childlike (or should I say Godlike) qualities in my own life. The following are a few small things that are helping me to move in this direction:

  1. Live Today

Many seem to live with the illusion that joy will come someday when their current circumstances change. Days spent daydreaming about how much better things will be when they get married, have children, get rid of their children, get grandchildren, etc. Others get lost in the events of yesterday, replaying them as they could’ve been, would’ve been, should’ve been. The only day we can live in is the this one – the one called today. The Psalmist declared, “This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24)
  1. Smile
This is simple, yet profoundly practical. Here’s an experiment you can do right now. Stop reading, smile while counting to five. Scientists tell us that the mere act of smiling, actually releases endorphins (natural anti-depressants) in our bodies, causing feelings of happiness and joy to emerge. What would happen if at every stoplight, while you waited (patiently) you smiled? At the very least, we wouldn’t be so quick to jump on the horn when the person in front of us is a little slow in punching the gas-on-green.  However, I imagine we may actually being to see things from a more joy-filled perspective.

Smiling faces make you happy,
 and good news makes you feel better.
(Proverbs 15:30 GNT)
  1. Designated Times of Fun
There are days when I come home, perhaps during a particularly busy or stressful week and declare “Family Fun Night.” Whereupon, all three kids begin to jump up and down chanting “Family fun night! Family fun night!” Our destination may be a restaurant, putt-putt, a play-scape or a yogurt shop. The point isn’t the place; it’s the posture and attitude. It’s a time of intentional connecting and celebration. The only stipulation is that all cell phones stay at home or in the car. After all, it’s impossible to be present with the family if my mind, eyes and thumbs are captured by the clutches of Facebook updates and such.
  1. Be intentionally Grateful
If we’re not careful, we can all become full-time professional critics. We can spend our days seeing everything that’s wrong with everything, while remaining crippled in our ability to see the good, the beautiful and the divine that is often present in the mundane.

Have you ever noticed that the more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. What is there in your life worth celebrating? What are you grateful for? What if, before you went to sleep tonight, you simply began to tell God what you are thankful for?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. 
–James 1:17

When we celebrate, John Ortberg writes, “we exercise our ability to see and feel goodness in the simplest gifts of God. We are able to take delight today in something we wouldn’t have even noticed yesterday.” Intentional celebration and gratitude increases our capacity for joy.

  1. Dance Like No One is Watching

Have you ever noticed how often the thing that prevents us from experiencing joy is our preoccupation with ourselves? There’s a direct correlation between my willingness to pour myself out for the joy of others and my ability to notice and celebrate the multitude of small gifts God offers each day. Boredom, writes Walker Percy, “is the self stuffed with the self.”

When children become excited, they dance. When was the last time you danced? I don’t mean went to a club and danced. I mean, danced for joy? Did you know that the God of Scripture dances? The bible tells us that God dances over His people with singing. What would it look like for you to join Him? Here’s a suggestion: when at home, crank up some music and dance before God – as if no one was watching. If you are married and have children, you may even want to invite you to join you. If you struggle with this, I’ve found that it sometimes helps to put a pair of shorts on my head. Just don’t forget to smile.

To miss out on joy is to miss out on the reason for your existence.
Lewis Smedes

Joy is the serious business of heaven.
–C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 11, 2012

Decided but not Discipled...

I'm currently reading through King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight. The aim of the text is to explore the meaning of Gospel and Salvation as presented throughout the New Testament. His premise is that we've settled for a view of "gospel" and "salvation" that may be less than biblical. The book explores how the Gospel and Salvation are presented theologically in the New Testament (via Gospels, Paul, Peter, etc).

The foundational introduction contends that we have placed much emphasis on people Making a Decision for Jesus. However, such a decision may not be congruent with them actually becoming Disciples of Jesus.

Below are a few quotes from the opening chapter:

"The primary barrier to the power of Jesus' gospel today - that is, a view of salvation and of grace that has no connection with discipleship and spiritual transformation. It is a view of grace and salvation that, supposedly, gets one ready to die, but leaves them unprepared to live now in the grace and power of resurrection life."

"Evangelism that focuses on decisions short circuits and - yes, the word is appropriate - aborts the design of the gospel, while evangelism that aims at disciples slows down to offer the full gospel of Jesus and the apostles."

"We cannot help but conclude that making a decision is not the vital element that leads to a life of discipleship."

"Our focus on getting young people to make decisions - that is, "accepting Jesus into their hearts" - appears to distort spiritual formation... focusing youth events, retreats, and programs on persuading people to make a decision disarms the gospel, distorts numbers, and diminishes the significance of discipleship."

Friday, February 03, 2012

Monday, January 09, 2012

Through the Bible...

I need a change.

Something fresh.

This pretty well summarized my thoughts as I began to reflect on various spiritual practices that I would engage going into 2012.

Over the years, there have been various ways of engaging Scripture that I've found helpful. For the past several years, I've targeted specific books of the Bible and/or passages to explore, ruminate and study. This year, the desire began to grow to read through the complete Bible from the beginning.

This type of reading plan has often frustrated me, given that I tend to prefer a slower more contemplative reading of Scripture. That being said, this year I'm hoping to be able to accomplish both.

As I'm reading through each day, I am looking for those moments where it seems most needed to slow down, pause and prayerfully reflect and journal about what's there. I'm super excited about the new discoveries that will be found this year...

Two new items that I'm really excited about: The Mosaic Bible and Glo Bible.

I was looking for a new Bible to work through. I didn't want a study Bible, yet I was looking for something that would offer something fresh to my weekly reflections. I came across the Mosaic Bible which does just that. At the front it has weekly reflections-meditations that coincide with the Christian calendar.

The following is a brief explanation by Tyndale:

Holy Bible: Mosaic is about helping you encounter Christ in a deep and authentic way, through insight from every continent and century of the Christian Church. Historical and contemporary art and writings from across the globe offer a depth of Scriptural wisdom and understanding as you read and reflect on God’s word.

Mosaic is arranged so that every week has variety of content for reading and reflection. Each week follows a theme appropriate to the Church season (such as Advent, Easter, etc). The content included for each week includes full-color art; Scripture readings; a historical reading; a contemporary reading; a prayer, creed, hymn or quote; and space for reflection.

The other resource that I'm using is Glo Bible software. As I'm reading through, I'm using Glo's "journal/add note" feature to capture thoughts, insights, reflections and prayers. For just under $35, you can sync notes from up to five devices. This works well for accessing/input from my phone, as well as from my desktop. It also works in partnership with YouVersion.