Tag Archives: Simplicity

A Christmas Anticipation

It’s December 21.

I remember as an elementary kid – December 20 through 23 were the dog days of Christmas. Time inched by as I anticipated the day I actually wanted to have inch by: Christmas Eve. I wanted all of Christmastime to be like a perpetual Christmas Eve; all the glow, all the excitement, and all of the wait finally coming to fruition by one night’s sleep.

I remember the emotion of waiting and anticipating – an emotion I wanted to hold on to and, once past, nostalgically missed on December 26.

Now, I can’t truthfully say that any similar kind of longing emotion is within me when I think of the Coming of King Jesus. I wish there was something more there, but…

…then I imagine. What if I shifted my mindset, my longing.

There is a beauty of the Christmas season in the church year and that is that the Christmas season begins on Christmas instead of ends. This is a symbol that allows us to retain the anticipation of the Coming King but helps us realize that the King is here with us, right here, right now.

…and I imagine again…

…what if all the emotion and anticipation poured into Christmas Eve was also channeled into each and every moment of life? We couldn’t retain the emotion and excitement of every day – all days would blend into one likeness and none would be special or anticipated. But, I pause to wonder how I might anticipate the person of Christ with me (and with you) in the most ordinary of days, days like December 26.

 

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The Life of St. Francis (What Propelled Him?)

Today (October 4) is the day we celebrate the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He’s a guy I want to learn more about – beyond the elementary stories I’ve picked up. I want to learn and experience what propelled him into some of the radical, yet ordinary decisions he made. I want to embody some of the same passion he carried within himself as God moved him along – that kind of passion that allowed him to express freedom as he followed and knew Jesus as savior and lord.

For starters on learning, I read this this morning:

A clip about Francis from www.commonprayer.net:

Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1286)

Francis was born to a merchant family in the Italian city of Assisi. As a young man, he was attracted to adventure and moved by romantic tales of knights. When he himself became a knight, Francis met a leper while riding through the countryside. Overwhelmed by a divine impulse, Francis dismounted his horse, shared his coat with the leper, and kissed the man’s diseased face. Captivated by the experience, Francis began to re-imagine his life in light of the gospel, renouncing his selfish desires and his father’s wealth. A beggar for Christ’s sake, Francis inspired thousands to walk away from worldly success and join his movement of friars who sought to renew the church in their day.

Next step for learning, this soon-coming IVP book: The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom. I look forward to its release!

Peace, friends.

 

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Ben.

How Do We Let God’s Love Grow In Us? [Invitations from God | Book Note]

“Learning to listen and respond to God’s invitations is the path to real freedom.” (Invitations from God, p. 11)

Welcome to August.

Many of us are starting to feel the uptick in opportunities and obligations with family, school, or work. We’re facing the seasonal decisions of what to be involved with or not. Invitations come flying at us! The hard part is knowing which ones to entertain and how many of them to accept. We’ve felt the seasons of burnout and overcommitment and do not want to return.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book Invitations from God is a fantastic reading tour in our life’s landscape that is bombarded by advertisements. The questions she writes, the invitations she pinpoints, and the simple things she reveals are very helpful in sparking a prayer dialog with God – a time to search together what God desires in life. As we’re faced with many invitations or feeling stuck in a place where we don’t feel invited, Calhoun’s words bring encouragement and life – and a good number of healthy challenges. She helps us discern big questions in life: What does God desire? How do I walk with Jesus and live? How do I learn to die to self and in so experience a new kind of life?

As I read Invitations from God, I saw Calhoun drawing my attention to this idea: Life at its fullest is life renovated to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Each chapter in the book stems off this and provides exercises, invitations, and questions to help us pay attention to God. This all happens right in the middle of ordinary life. (That’s what I feel is a strength of Calhoun’s writing – she takes the spiritual life and helps make it ordinary again.) Each one of these invitations is a very down to earth, ordinary invitation. They’re a return to human-ness.

Calhoun’s repeated word, “Invitation,” is a word that needs to become more and more natural and recurring in our language of life with God. People need and want to hear again and again that God desires life for us and he wants to renovate our entire selves to experience life with Himself – a life that begins to naturally, and in an unforced way, pour out love. This is an absolute invitation! Come – experience life as God intended. Come – be made well. Come, follow Jesus. Know God’s love, learn how to love, and live a life of free dependence on the Source of Life.

The invitation that was the most striking to me was the invitation to remember (chapter 10). The invitation is: “To become aware of how my story fits into God’s redemption story and how it is meant to set others free.” It’s striking not because it’s hard to do or completely revelatory, but because that’s just where I sense God at work over the last few months in my life.

Remembering took root when I was recently talking with my Grandparents in their house. We live a thousand+ miles apart and don’t talk as much as we could. My two boys played next to my wife Jenny as Grandma and Grandpa streamed story after story, memory upon memory. They talked non stop for two hours. Grandpa kept saying, “Passing on your story is very important – it’s really all you’ve to pass on.” I’d never heard him talk like that before. He wanted me to take it all in, to know him and his details, to perhaps see how part of who I am is also part of who he was and is. This dialog set me on an inner expedition, weaving Grandpa and Grandma’s story together, wondering how I’ve been indirectly affected by it, and how my story will affect my boys and their children. So, it was neat to read Calhoun’s chapter on remembering – it took me back to re-thinking my family’s story and my story and seeing how woven God has been in it all – no matter how hidden or seemingly silent.

I wonder if a failure to remember and explore our Story is what’s causing so much demise in our Christian communities today – why there’s a flood of younger generations no longer keeping company with the Church and perhaps even with Jesus. I think we’ve in a large part forgotten our story with God and forgotten the invitations He’s extended to us throughout history. As Calhoun wrote, “When we forget our sacred story, amnesia about who God is set in,” and, “…how we remember determines so much of who we are and who we become,” (p.172). Also, “…everything finds its place in the redemption story,” (p.176).

I’m thankful for the dialog Calhoun sparked for me and look forward to sharing it with others. I recommend this book to you and to all explorers in the faith who want to be immersed in the language of invitation and who are looking for both an embrace and challenge in their journey with Jesus.

For those interested, Calhoun’s invitations are:

  • The invitation to participate in your own healing. (To cooperate with the Trinity in my growth, healing and emotional maturity. [John 5:6] p.24)
  • The invitation to follow. (To conform my life to Jesus’ path of descent, service, and sacrifice for the sake of others. [Philippians 2:5-7] p.38)
  • The invitation to practice the presence of people. (To see people as Jesus does – as the most important things in the world. [Genesis 33:10; Luke 7:44] p.56)
  • The invitation to rest. (To set aside the compulsion to “do, do, do” and live into God’s creational rhythms that nourish and restore the body, soul, and relationships. [Hebrews 4:1] p.71)
  • The invitation to weep. (To open myself to the naturalness of tears as Jesus did, learning to feel and weep over the things that move God’s heart. [John 11:35; Genesis 6:6] p.86)
  • The invitation to admit I might be wrong. (To humbly accept that my knowing is incomplete and that I don’t have everything right so I can be open to hearing more from Jesus. [Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 16:2] p.102)
  • The invitation to forgive. (To live into Jesus Christ’s forgiveness so I can let go of the hate, hurt, and brokenness of the past and live into freedom. [Luke 7:47; Colossians 3:13] p.122)
  • The invitation to wait. (To let go of my need to control people and circumstances so I can trust that God is at hand and be present in the moment as it unfolds. [Psalm 62:5; Psalm 37:7] p.136)
  • The invitation to pray. (To live entirely with and in God – relating to him at all times and in all things. [1 Thessalonians 5:17] p.153)
  • The invitation to remember. (To become aware of how my story fits into God’s redemption story and how it is meant to set others free. [Deuteronomy 15:15; Psalm 63:6; Luke 22:19] p.169)
  • The invitation to the most excellent way. (To embrace the ego-sanding way of Jesus, who loves his neighbor as himself. [John 13:35; 1 Corinthians 12:31] p.183)

Musings on Theology, Questions and Spirituality (Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs?)

Size comparison between some of the [dinosaurs...
Image via Wikipedia
Eugene Peterson wrote something along the lines that spirituality and theology are never really separated – that good theology and good spirituality always come together in a life well lived, keeping company with Jesus. He wrote this in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

Today I fielded another neat question. Someone asked about dinosaurs and a timeline of biblical events. That got me thinking: sometimes we just have random questions that don’t really “live out” – they’re just little questions we have. Those kinds of little questions seem to be pretty important to a lot of people. Some might go too far with them and assume that faith is a compilation of answers to our questions, but most of what I see is a faith in Jesus lived out and grace from God encourages questions that are a lot like a kid’s – questions like: How big was the flood? What happened to dinosaurs? When did the Exodus really happen?

Are these questions important? I answer: Are the questions my three year old son Jude asks important? You bet. They’re important precisely because they get my own imagination cooking on such things — which in reality is me stitching together a life of seeing God’s hands in everything — from dinosaurs to DNA shifts in humanity. I’m also the kid with questions, the one who’s just curious and wondering and it feels so good to be able to ask questions with others – again, questions that don’t “live out” as much as through them we see that Someone lives in us and opens our lives to the prayerful dialog.

So, what kind of questions do you have?
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Parish: The Localized and Particular (Parochial)

There is something inside of me that has a deep affinity for closeness, community, or “parish” (as I just learned from Common Prayer). I love when I experience moments of closeness – family and friend closeness. I’ve also seen that the word “community” has become kind of a buzz word – losing it’s meaning through overuse.

Community this, community that. Sometimes I think the word gets used just to sound cool rather than describe what a person is truly experiencing at the moment.

Another word, and old word, is catching my attention this morning: Parish. I’ve only heard it used to describe a small congregation somewhere in the country — St. John’s Lutheran parish. …The parish of The Sacred Heart.

Parish.

It’s an old word. It carries tradition. It’s too clunky to get overused, I imagine.

Parish. The localized. The particular. The right here, right now. The people I’m committing myself to regardless if a higher paying job comes in front of me.

Something that needs rebuilt is a sense of community (opps, there’s that word again) — I mean, a sense of parish. I think it’s something many of us long for, deep within. A sense of belonging to a group in a way that everyone knows that if something bad were to happen to one of the “parishoners” then the rest of us would step in and lend a hand as best we knew. I’m talking about something much more outreaching than the typical local church (though that’s the best thing going right now). I’m thinking of a neighborhood of people, a few block radius, something like that. People who strive to live life together, ordinary life. …sharing things. …paying attention to one another. …talking on the front porches. Things like that.

Now, I think it would be wonderful if this group could pray together, read Scripture together, and be the church, in a true old-fashioned parish way. You know – the kind of way that shows up in a rural congregation when no one leaves after the service is done – everyone’s just hanging out, sharing stories, all those nothin’ too important stories.

Two Questions: How did we get this fragmented? How do we recreate?