from the book of common prayer

I have been giving prayer a lot of thought lately.  Why? Because prayer is a spiritual discipline that requires the participant to be thoughtful about it.  In fact, I pray the least when my heart and mind aren’t engaged in a healthy struggle over my surrender, trust and relationship to God. 

I have the great challenge and privilege of being the pastor to a wonderfully authentic church!  Redwood Hills certainly doesn’t have it all figured out, and that’s not really our goal either.  We’re a simple community whose vision is to be a church who seeks “Hearing…Being…and Serving“, and while this is requires a long journey, I’ve been thrilled to witness so many people engage in this vision and make a point of really exploring what it means to follow Jesus in our culture.

Our current teaching series has been one on Prayer.  We’ve used Jesus’ model for prayer (Matthew 6:4-9) as the back drop and I must say that I’ve both loved teaching on prayer as well as finding myself learning so much for myself.  It’s been a worthwhile challenge to explore prayer and its effectiveness in my relationship to others and God.  I’ve also been reminded of some of the most simple truths about prayer that sometimes we lose track of.  For instance…”God has a knack for wanting to answer our prayers”.  Simple…true…easy to forget.

Last Sunday I read a sentence from Thomas Cranmer’s “Book of Common Prayer”.  

“Almighty God, to whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.”

In NT Wright’s book called, “The Lord and His Prayer”, he makes the reader stop and focus on the words…”all desires known…” and asks the question, how do we respond to this?  Is it a promise, or a threat? 

Think about that for a moment.  If you believe God knows all your desires, then you must also consider how that truth affects the way you approach prayer.  If  we see it as a promise than we’re more likely to be authentic in our prayers, willing to let God’s spirit transform our hearts and minds into His likeness.  But, if we react to this truth as if it’s a threat,well then we’re much more likely to keep prayer a surface level and gaurded one-way conversation. 

This brings me back to the need to be thoughtful about prayer.  It’s our thoughtfulness that forces us to wrestle with these truths and how our inner-most being is responding to them.  I’m trying to see it as a promise that I may pray openly, honestly, and not be afraid to sort through the crap in my heart that desperately needs to be healed, freed, or completely given up.  The funny thing is, that with the extra effort and thought given to how and why I pray, I want to pray more and it all seems to be more simple than before. 

I guess you could say there’s a certain freedom in knowing your heart is completely exposed whether you intend to expose it or not.

Love and Peace.

My appetite for soul slurpees

There are those who say they don’t believe that the Bible contains metaphors.  I’m not one of those people.  The Scriptures are full of metaphorical messages and many are extremely difficult to understand.  If you struggle with understanding the scriptures and wish that they were maybe more literal, then hopefullly you’ll find some comfort in Richard Daulhstrom’s interpretation of  some rather difficult words spoken by Jesus.

“If any man is thirsty, let Him come to me and drink…” Of course, it’s a bit of a rhetorical statement, offered as it was at a time whenon demand faucets and indoor plumbing hadn’t yet been invented, and offered in a place that regular saw temperatures above 100, (or 30 if you’re Canadian). Of course they’re thirsty. The words of Jesus aren’t really words about thirst; the thirst part is presupposed.

 
The real heart of the statement is that when you’re thirsty, you’re to come and drink of Jesus. Now, I love metaphor as much as most people (save some geeky poet friends), but there are times when Jesus’ words frustrate me no end. He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. What’s that supposed to mean? When His mom comes looking for Him, he turns to the crowd and says, “Who is my mother?” as if He’s forgotten what she looks like. And now this: “if you’re thirsty, come and drink of me.” Unlike some of the most popular parables, Jesus never took the disciples aside in the back room and explained this thirst metaphor. He just hung it out there for us to embrace and practice without offering a stitch of explanation.
 
While this frustrates me, it’s also true that these open ended statements are part of what makes the Bible livefor every generation. Because everything’s not spelled out, we need to wrestle with it, pray about it, talk about it, contextualize it, and hold our answers with enough boldness to explain why believe them, and enough humility to discard them when more light shines on our convictions and shows us we need to shift. So, realizing that we don’t have the privilege of Jesus sidebar interpretation, here’s how this living word has been speaking to me lately:
 
First of all, I reiterate that the issue isn’t whether or not I’m thirsty; thanks be to God I am, and most of the time. I thirst for intimacy in my marriage, meaning in my work, healing of my soul, authentic relationships with my adult children. I thirst to be informed by truth and grace as I fulfill my responsibilities of a shepherd. I thirst for sanity in world, peace, justice, beauty, hope.
 
If those were the limits of my thirsts then learning to drink from Jesus would be simple because these are good thirsts and a good drink will quench a good thirst. My problem, though, is that interwoven with those few noble thirsts are lots of other things, uglier things. I thirst to be adored, to be left alone, to be comfortable, to be so wealthy and secure that I need never depend on anyone again, least of all God. I thirst for relational autonomy way too often. I thirst for the stimulation of the city, and the beauty of the mountains. I thirst to expand my sphere of influence, and to move to the middle of nowhere, where I can fish, cook, climb, and be the master of my own universe.
 
What a mess of thirsts! And herein lies the hope of Jesus words, the point for me at which they begin to make sense. It’s encouraging that Jesus doesn’t moralize about my thirsts, casting judgement on my desires. I can already hear some of you accusing me of heresy here, but don’t light the fire yet. For too many centuries, the church has wrongly assessed that our problems stem from our desires. But I can’t find Jesus running around ranting about our desires anywhere in the gospels, even the non-canonical ones!
 
Instead, His invitation is related to what we do when the pangs of any thirst are born in our hearts, never mind whether the thirst comes from our wounded, rebellious soul, or our deepest longings for the world God created. In both cases the admonition is the same: if you’re thirsty, come to Jesus. This is profoundly liberating for me because I’m learning to link my relationship with Jesus with all my thirsts, not just my healthy ones, but the unhealthy ones too.
 
It’s also counterintuitive. The gnawing unhealthy thirsts tell me that they won’t be satisfied with anything less than an unhealthy beverage, the soul equivilant of a monster slurpee when what I really need is fresh squeezed OJ. Of course, this is where faith comes in. This is where I’m learning to interact with Jesus and find some measure of satisfaction in Him, both when I’m thirsting for healthy intimacy, and when I’m lusting for pleasure or escape. Somehow, the turning to Christ in the midst of my unhealthy thirsts has the effect of changing my appetites; not instantly, and not entirely, but subtly and slowly. Thanks be to God, I’m slowly losing my appetite for soul slurpees.
 
The methodology Jesus had mind for “drinking of Him” remains a mystery because I don’t think He had a methodology in mind. He wants us to wrestle with this stuff. For me, a born and bred Baptist, it’s taken nearly half a century to discover that this “drinking of Christ” works best for my sould when I pray daily prayers from a book like this one, which is a decidedly non-Baptist practice. “Coffee with God” is what I call it, and it’s become increasingly important to my mornings, not in a legalistic way, but in some sort of better way. It entails brewing a pot of French Press and then sitting (outside or in, depending on seasons) with Jesus as I pray the daily prayers, drawn from the Psalms, and pour out my heart. I do this because of all my thirsts, and for this reason, I’m learning to thank God for this holy and unholy juxtaposition of desires because together they lead me to the water of Christ I’d never have found if I weren’t thirsty.

These are some wise and relevant words that really encouraged me as I read them early this morning.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Can you relate to this? What do you find yourself thirsting for? 

Love and Peace.

When rocks and fists matter…

If world history isn’t evident enough, the current events in Iran should prove to us that there are two essentials to humanity: Freedom and Voice…

In following the history-making protests that occupy our global media this week, I have found myself reminded of one thing, while wondering about another.

I’ve been reminded that the human spirit can’t live in fear or oppression forever.  All of humanity are created to be free!  Iran is a perfect example of this as hundreds of thousands are running to the streets in protest of the current election results. 

stone

While I can’t exactly support rock throwing, or any form of violence…I love the fact that freedom in Iran is being talked about more than nuclear weapons, which not only fuels fear in the minds or the people of Iran, but here in the U.S.! 

While I’ve been reminded of freedom, I’m also wondering why America has become so quiet.  Why is it that the democratic nations are often the most quiet and last to protest? What has happened to our voice?  What might we learn from the people of Iran as they raise their fists and speak their voice?

voice

I find myself both confused by what’s happening in Iran, and yet challenged by it…

Love and Peace.

Hey, mom and dad…think twice before telling your kid to put their phone away!

In case you weren’t completely sure we’re living in a rapidly changing world, here’s a story that should help you understand. 

Just a few short weeks ago the National Spelling Bee took place and we all know about spelling bees.  But did you know that there are also the National Texting Championships?  That’s right all you text-crazed teenagers and college students…the very thing your parents and teachers have told you to stop doing in class and at the dinner table can now pay you some serious money!

Here’s the story of the 15 year old Iowa girl who out texted 250,000 other contestants…

NEW YORK (CNN)— A 15-year-old girl with a 500-texts-a-day texting habit thumbed her way to the $50,000 grand prize at the L.G. National Texting Championship in New York on Tuesday.

Kate Moore, 15, of Des Moines, Iowa, out-texted more than 250,000 participants for the texting title in New York.

Over 250,000 participants of all ages entered the competition, whose championship rounds were held in New York on Monday and Tuesday. Some challenges were straightforward tests of speed and accuracy, but others required a little extra texting savvy.

In one round, texters had to send texts while blindfolded. Another round quizzed contestants’ knowledge of texting acronyms.

The only acronym to stump every texter was PAW — parents are watching.

The fourth-place finisher, 21-year-old Jordan Rowe, saw her dreams of texting glory vanish in the “pressure cooker” round, where actors dressed as emoticons attempted to distract contestants tasked with texting tongue-twisters. Rowe failed to accurately text “Which wicked witch wished which more wicked witch in the well?” while a human emoticon talked trash about her sister.

Riffing off texters’ sometimes dangerous tendency to text while performing other tasks, another round required contestants to complete an obstacle course while firing off difficult-to-type texts.

“I felt like I was gonna die,” the eventual champion said of the texting gantlet, getting a big LOL from the audience.

The finals on Tuesday afternoon pitted Dynda Morgan, 14, of Savannah, Georgia, against Kate Moore, 15, of Des Moines, Iowa. The two went head to head in a best-of-three showdown to see who could most quickly pound out lengthy texts predetermined by the judges — with no errors.

Morgan, whose stepsister also made it to the championships, took the first round.

Faced with a do-or-die situation in the second round, Moore seemed to bet on accuracy over speed, finishing well behind her opponent but winning the round.

In the tiebreaker, the two girls furiously raced to thumb the final text: “Zippity Dooo Dahh Zippity Ayy…MY oh MY, what a wonderful day! Plenty of sunshine Comin’ my way….Zippitty Do Dah Zippity Aay! WondeRful Feeling Wonderful day!”

The pregnant pause before the winner was announced stretched into a seeming eternity because Moore apparently forgot to hit send after finishing her text.

But then Moore’s phone began to vibrate, signaling that she was the grand champion.

Kate’s beaming mother, Claire, acknowledged that she has confiscated her daughter’s phone on occasion, but said she appreciates that her daughter’s texting habit means she’s in constant touch. “I can get ahold of [her] at all times,” she said.

Nor does Moore’s mother have to foot an appallingly large phone bill each month, because her daughter is on an unlimited texting plan. She did concede that the texting portion of one of Moore’s recent phone bills stretched to 294 pages.

Moore’s victory was all the more awe-inspiring because she got a phone with text capability less than a year ago.

Moments after her victory, Moore agreed to an exclusive text message interview with CNN.

CNN: OMG U r ltrlly the wrld’s bst txter. How does it feel?

Moore: It feels the best! Im so prd of myself & it feels aswm that ive gottn so far! 🙂

CNN: How mny txts do u snd a day? A month?

Moore: Uhhh about lyk 400-500 in a day, an avrg of 12014 thousand a month?

CNN: Wht r u going to do w the 50 k?

Moore: Idk yet! Prlly spend a good amount of the $$$……but ya gotta save some 2 b smart of course!

CNN: Do u ever get in trubl in skwl 4 txting 2 much?

Moore: haah just once or 2ce, teachers hv seen it and taken it away…lol that sux when that happens tho.

CNN: What’s ur crzst txting story?

Moore: Haha I actually have a scar on my hand from txtingg….i was txting on the top bunk and I sat up cuz it was a cool txt and then I hit it in the ceiling fan

CNN. Do ur thumbs hurt?

Moore: Hahah not at all! Ud b surprised they don’t get stressed out.

CNN: Kthxbi.

Moore: cya! 🙂

Now, if I could just find where to enter my name for the “National Mediocre & Rarely Read Blog” awards I just might have a chance at winning some much needed cash!

Love and Peace.

Sometimes life makes no sense…

We all know by now the tragic story of the Air France flight going down in the Atlantic killing all 228 aboard. 

Yesterday the story of a woman who was supposed to be on that flight, but missed it, began to spread.  For all the efforts given by man to make sense of our world, this is one of those stories that makes me shake my head and just ask God to help me trust that He’s working behind the scenes in the lives of her friends and family.

My friend over at The Last Astronaut wrote a thoughtful post about her story and on the idea of being “found and lost”.  You can read it here.

Sometimes life makes no sense, but there is comfort in having Faith…Hope…and Love.

Love and Peace.

Being the church, or chasing cool?

In the last week there have been two blogs that seemed to have made their way into my stream of thought.  One is by my friend over at Spiritfarmer who provides a thoughtful, funny and provocative rant about churches who have subtle ways of saying all other churches suck, but theirs. 

It’s a post (Read Here) worth your time.

The other is a video blog from pastor Ed Young who leads the Fellowship Church in Dallas.  Fellowship is a huge church known for it’s creative talks which deal with topical issues such as sex, parenting, money, and marriage.  Last year I wrote a blog about Pastor Young and his message to the Fellowhip staff about not ever planting churches within the area of Fellowship church.  He claimed then that those who do that are “church pirates”.  It remains the most read post of my short blogging career for some reason…

Recently, Young decided to video himself while driving to illustrate a point about pastors “chasing cool” by swearing and talking crudely.  While I understand what he’s getting at and believe he makes some good points.  I find it very funny that the master of creating a church service which delivers “cool” to the people each Sunday would warn against such a thing.  Here’s the video…

Let’s be honest here.  The fact that pastors are being included into the discussion of “chasing cool” in terms of how they lead and shepherd their churches is not a good thing.  Both these blogs have forced me to look at my leadership, pray for pure motives, and make some changes about the way I think and approach my church.  It’s an easy trap to fall into these days…especially in my Seattle / Eastside culture defined by it’s high achievments. 

I find myself thinking today not about what is cool, but rather what is relevant.  I believe media and creative teaching series’ have there place in today’s church, but the reality is that there is nothing more relevant in all the universe than Jesus and the Gospel. 

It’s with that thought that I also challenge the person who’s seeking a church to attend…a faith community to journey with…or maybe even an intentional community to live with.  Stop gauging your attendance or ability to commit on how cool the church or pastor is.  These things will certainly catch your eye and draw you in, but if many of us are honest about why we’re desiring church…it’s because we want to know how to contextualize God’s word into our everyday living. 

We want more than happiness…we want to be whole.  We don’t really want entertainment…we want to know how to cultivate true contentment.  We want more than priciples…we want to Truth.

But in order for this to happen, those of us who pastor have to stop thinking about how to make empty seats full, and lead those who are commited to the church into authentic disciple-oriented lives.  They will then be the ones to “build” the church by “being the church” within their workplace and neighborhoods.  As well, the people who come each week should stop with their demands to be entertained and stroked.  Stop the mental church shopping where visions of bigger kids programs, sermon props, and state of the art media convince you to “chase cool”.

I guess the last thing I should say is that I can see how this might seem like a small church guy ranting against the big churches who have the resources to afford certain things we don’t.  That’s not it.  I know of plenty of big churches who have a missional approach to their existence, and small churches who emphasize cool more than being the church.  Size doesn’t matter when it comes to being the church, or chasing cool.  The point of the blog is to encourage every pastor or church goer who reads this, to be thoughtful about what their true hopes and intentions are for leading and attending church.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Am I making too much out of this idea of chasing cool?

Love and Peace.

prayer and compassion

The title of this post tells you of my heart for the church.  I’ve been fairly silent in the blogosphere lately…partly because of some vacation and then a mission to the St. Bernard Parish, but also because I’ve been a bit discouraged lately with church leadership and taking time to understandGod’s direction for the Redwood Hillls community.  When I get this way I tend to unplug a bit and try to listen more than I talk. 

Prayer and compassion.  Switch the two and the church is nothing more than a non-profit.  Replace compassion with outreach programs and we often find ourselves busy “doing” church rather than having a true sense of corporate and individual mission.  It’s a fine line that requires constant examination.

I suggest that there is nothing more important for the church to both engage in and display, than prayer and compassion.  By prayer, I mean  the corporate sense.  People coming together in homes, sanctuaries, chapels, and church classrooms to pray together for the protection and mission of their church.  It’s something that I’m imagining for my church and praying that people will soon respond to my call for a community that prays together.

If I were to ask my friends who aren’t a part of a church community to “list several words that come to your mind when I say Church”…they would likely list things such as “anti-gay, anti-abortion, exclusive, money-hungry, consumed with their own buildings, and irrelevant“.  Just today, a friend told me I was crazy for believing that God loves me!  It breaks my heart knowing that people have so rarely seen God’s love, that they assume there can be no divine love given for their own lives! 

Compassion is essential to the life of every Christian and church vision!  Outreaches which attempt to draw people to an event won’t cut it, unless we are also willing to come to them in genuine relationship.  Talking “love” is pointless unless the church is willing to explore the implications of God’s grace.  Compassion is no small thing…it takes constant consideration and sacrifice.  The church can’t control what they deem to be true compassion…we must promote and allow people to practice it on their own, while making corporate prayer the driving force behind our actions.

Prayer and compassion…two very difficult disciplines ,but so important to the life and future of the church.  Question is…are we willing to engage in both of them?

Love and Peace.