Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
He says it like it is.
Writing in his book entitled, The Prevailing Church, he says…
“The church leadership often hears, “If you change, I will leave.” Unfortunately, few people are speaking up for the lost communities who are thinking, at least subconsciously, “If you don’t change, I won’t come.” p.92.
Who is church for?
Is it for those who have feasted at the table and altar and know with certainty where they will go when they die? Or is it for those who have lost their way and aren’t sure which direction to orient their life toward? Or is it both?
Sadly, to often we are more concerned with keeping saints satisfied rather than attracting “askers” who are longing for something to erase the angst of their life.
To be sure, we are interested in reaching lost people, but often on our terms. We are not sure what to do with people who bring “checked baggage” into our churches.
We are a lot like the flight attendants who smilingly tell us “please stow all of your belongings into the overhead compartment or underneath the seat in front of you.”
The people I am meeting are looking for a place where they can unpack their baggage and find a safe place to tell their story.
In northern Spain, there is a way known as El Camino de Santiago. Along that pathway there is an albergue, or pilgrim’s hostel. On a sign at its entrance are these words.
Just a thought….
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Welcome. What an interesting word. It seems like a word that should mean"come on in."
It's the kind of word that you see on signs advertising restaurants along the expressway.
You see it on mats at doorway entries.
It is even seen above building doorways.
We say it to people throughout the day.
But do we really mean it?
The church I attend wants people to feel welcome. We do all kinds of things to ensure that people who visit become part of the family. Some of the things that we do are subtle and others are overt. The goal is to make people feel welcome.
Here's what I am wondering. Is it possible to hang a sign over the door of our church and then build a fence that people have to pass through to experience our welcome?
Many churches adopt a model that says, "we want you to behave like us...believe like us and then you belong. A fence is erected. The welcome sign is out, but there are some rules.
The church I attend has adopted a model that looks like this. "We want you to belong...we want you to believe, then we think you will behave like a kingdom person." The welcome sign is out.
I think all churches want people to feel welcome. But there are fences that must be passed through before a person is welcome.
There are a lot of people that I meet daily who aren't a part of the church today because the fences and barriers were larger than the church's welcome.
I am just wondering to do we spend more time on "welcome" or "fences?"
Just a thought....
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I have been there many times, but today was different.
It was a day that reminds me of one of my favorite definitions of "revival."
Revival is when, "God gets tired of being mis-represented and decides to show up and represent Himself."
Yep. That's what happened.
God showed up. He represented Himself well. He destroyed all of our measly representations of him. He was powerful. We stood silent before Him at the close of the service.
Yep, you guessed it. A few people cleared their throats. A pew creaked. There were a few other noises that I couldn't identify.
Then, there He was. "How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given..." God. That's right God showed up. In the silence, he showed up.
It caught some people by surprise. Even those who had prayed a prayer something like, "God please show up and meet with us," seemed to be caught off guard.
You see, we think we can predict how, when and where God will show up. The only thing we can do is be prepared for the moment when He shows up.
When was the last time God showed up where you worship? I mean really showed up and did something that could only be attributed to His Power.
Do you remember the words from your days of playing Hide and Go Seek? "Ready or not here I come." Sound familiar?
I am convinced that God shows up when people are ready.
Just a thought.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
"Rigid Ways." That phrase haunts me.
I wonder what it means and how our understanding of God's ways are always eclipsed by the prejudice of our ways.
Be very careful about "recipe approaches." Exercise caution when someone says, "here are four steps" to following God. "Here are three principles" to knowing the will of God.
It makes me wonder...If we can explain how God acts and works, have we really understood God? And is it God? Or is it a god of our own making?
Somewhere in Scripture it says, "for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."
Who said we have to "find our own way?" We see in the lives of those who have gone before us hints and clues about ways to God. There are plenty of saints who have left us "a record of their journey."
I am searching for "journey records" to guide me. I am in quest of "maps" that will propel me forward in my pilgrimage. I am in quest of "stories" that connect me to His Story.
I guess I am searching for some good reading for the road...
"journey records....maps....stories" I would settle for two out of three.
Just a thought....
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Has consumerism, materialism and capitalism bought the Christian faith and re-worked it into something that is more marketable and palatable to the masses.
Have we overlooked, "the purest and truest joys" that are within our reach?
Do we consult USA Today, Entertainment Tonight, or Oprah for words that will change our lives.
I am reading biographies of St. Francis of Assisi in an effort to journey on the "road through the past leading to the future."
St. Francis, was an interesting pilgrim...He was called by God in an epiphany, ostracized by family and friends, and led a group of fellow pilgrims in acts of piety which led to the founding of a holy order.
Embracing the vow of poverty, St. Francis sought to embody a faith and praxis that seems distant from pilgrims that I meet on my journey.
The Bishop of Assisi approached St. Francis one day and said, "Your way of living without owning anything seems to me very harsh and difficult."
St. Francis' reply is powerful.
Then it hit me...
The faith that is up for sale on so many religious corners is the one that I am willing to let go of as I take steps on my spiritual journey. The faith that is being offered on television, radio and from many pulpits seems anemic.
Robert Webber in his book entitled, Younger Evangelicals, quotes David Di Sabatino who has served as the editor of Worship Leader.
St. Francis would say, "true that...."
What say ye?
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Sitting in Barnes & Noble reading those words gave me an existential chill.
Something is "up" in a world that is "down." What if the brand of Christianity peddled by today's churches is anemic in light of the angst felt by most of today's pilgrims?
I feel it. I sense it. I wonder if I am the only one.
I wonder what would happen if 1st century Christianity met the Christianity in the church I attend? Would they recognize one another? Is there a marked difference?
Colleen Carol Campbell, a journalist has been probing these issues. Her research suggests that todays young people whom she identifies as "new faithfuls" are growingly dissatisfied with a culturally co-opted Christianity and are searching for meaning to their faith by returning to the faith of the early church.
"New Faithfuls" is not just a young demographic. It is a group of people who are increasingly dissatisfied with a faith that seems to be suffering. Today's faith-immune system has been compromised and leaves our faith vulnerable to every stray infection.
Why are the "new faithfuls" embracing orthodoxy and passively rejecting the faith expressions of contemporary Christianity?
The answer might lie in the simple statement taken from the introduction to Robert E. Webber's book, Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World.
"The road to the future runs through the past."
What road are you on?
I am walking backward in an effort to take steps forward. It's a paradox. It doesn't make sense.
It seems the further back into the past I walk, the clearer I am able to see the future.
Just a thought...
In the days ahead, watch for stories from the past to inform our future.
Monday, February 18, 2008
“I’m sorry I am so slow” she said. I responded with a typical non descript response, “That’s O.K” What she said next jarred my malaise. “I was just admiring the beautiful tile floor in here.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from this beautiful woman who was in her early 80’s. She was shuffling behind her walker while her daughter pushed her way to the check-out counter. There we were. She behind her walker, me behind in my daily busyness.
What was God trying to say to me as I was busily pursuing my scheduled activities? What was God trying to teach me during this brief aisle encounter?
Frustration was rising as I saw her eyes glued to the tile floor as she slowly shuffled her feet along the floor. “Come on, come on, hurry up lady.” Those words were ringing in my head as I was anxious to get to the one hour photo counter to retrieve my daughters photos.
She was moving toward me as I dodged her daughter coming my way. Her arms were clutching packages as tightly as her mom was clutching the walker. It seemed as though three generations were locked in the cosmetic aisle of the local drugstore.
Moving in slow motion the elderly woman finally raised her glance to catch my attention. She apologized repeatedly for moving so slowly.
This seasoned citizen had captured the complexity of living a life of appreciated simplicity. She was not so consumed by the busyness of the season that she didn’t have time to look at the patterns of the floor tile.
As soon as she announced the reason for her slowness, I took the time to look down at floor tile and its pattern. Admittedly, I did not see the beauty that she had seen.
I patiently waited as she passed by where I was standing. Still staring at the floor I vaguely sensed that she was gone. I moved toward the one hour photo counter and looked back at the aisle where my path crossed this senior citizens.
The floor was not much different than other commercial businesses. What made this floor different was that two people stopped to admire its beauty. I would have never noticed the floor except that she brought it to my attention.
I began to wonder. How much do I miss everyday because I am so busy with my schedule and my agenda. I am thankful for the opportunity that God gave me to stop and to see His plan.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Just a thought.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Sure enough, he came out on stage as the consummate professional that he is.
Five years old.
At that age I was trying to decide how to get an extra cookie after dinner. I was trying to stay up past my bedtime. This little guy was in a Shakespeare play on a University campus. Times they are a changin'.
The Winter's Tale tells the story of two kings whose friendship is torn apart by a midlife crisis of epic proportions. It is the story of time, repentance, suffering, deception, and forgiveness. And, oh by the way, Ronan our five year old friend was in it.
He was adorable.
Sitting in the theatre, I was trying to listen carefully as the Shakespearean English often distracted my attention away from the carefully crafted plot.
Then it hit me. A phrase. A simple sentence that arrested my attention.
Fumbling in the darkness, I reached for my pen.
"I like your silence, it the more shows off your wonder."
Writing those words in a quiet dark theatre gave me pause to think.
Can I be in awe and wonder and be talking at the same time?
Can I express wonder at what God is doing all around me and still be talking on and on?
I wonder if God ever says to me, "I like your silence, it the more shows off your wonder."
His Word always supercedes my word.
His power is made perfect in my weakness.
He says, "Be still and know that I am God."
Ronan, thanks for your work in The Winter's Tale. Shakespeare, thanks for penning those words centuries ago. God, thank you for your "gentle whisper" that makes me stand in silence.
How's the noise level in your life?