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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Hold Us Together

It don’t have a job
Don’t pay your bills
Won’t buy you a home
In Beverly Hills

Won’t fix your life
In five easy steps
Ain’t the law of the land
Or the government

But it’s all you need..

Love, will, hold us together
Make us a shelter
to weather the storm

And I’ll, be, my brothers keeper
So the whole world will know
That we’re not alone


The song above is by Matt Maher, who is a Christian musician, writer, and worship leader.  I recently bought his album “Alive Again” and listened to it, and then put it on the shelf again for a while.  I recently was driving to the church for the day and this song came on the radio, and I thought I really should listen to that again.  And for the last week it has played nearly every day in my office.

This song has been incredibly powerful to me here lately, especially in conjunction with so many other things happening here at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church.  We have began talking about and instituting “Radical Hospitality” to welcome our neighbors and strangers in our midst.  It is interesting to me the words at the beginning of the song “It don’t have a job, won’t pay your bills, won’t buy you a home, in Beverly Hills.” How often do we focus on the external things, the things that really don’t make a real difference in the world around us.  The label on your shirt, the size of your house, the newness of our car, yet we strive for these things.

I have also been reading “The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical” by Shane Claiborne, one of the founders of “The Simple Way” in Philadelphia.  His accounts of traveling to India and working with Mother Teresa were incredibly powerful, as well as convicting for our way of life.  We have all lived for a long time with the idea that more is better, and bigger is better, a king of “who dies with the most toys wins” mentality.  While we strive for all of these things and for more stuff, there are people on our street who do not have enough bread for their children.

We have all been taught the American Dream story from birth, and we know it by heart, and many live it by heart.  What happens when we truly begin to live “love will hold us together” what will that call us to do? Will it truly call us to be “our brother’s keeper”? Will we have to do something dangerous or seemingly strange?  Mother Teresa told people that you do not have to go to Calcutta to help people, she told people to find the Calcutta where we are. Where is the Calcutta where I am? How do I truly live out love, so that it can hold us together and we can all get to a better place?

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Joyful Noise

“O Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Psalm 91:1-2 NRSV.

Here lately I feel like I have been making a lot of noise, not necessarily a joyful one, or even one much worth listening to.  There has been so much going on here lately that I feel at my wits end a bit too often.  From moving, to meetings, to trying to plan out the next year I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of things and not so much ministry.  Of course all of these things are a part of my ministry, but what does it truly mean to be “in ministry.”

Yesterday I took the morning off to take care of a few projects on our house, you know cutting grass taking out the trash that sort of thing, and I felt refreshed.  I just have to make myself keep referring to my post on rest, and making sure that I don’t run myself to the ragged end. We all are so busy, in fact too busy.  We have activities, schools, families, we have all of these balls in the air.  We sometimes stop on Sunday to make a “joyful noise” to the Lord, but often we are just checking another thing off of our list.

Thinking about the busyness of my life, and that of the lives of the Youth I am ministering to I was struck by a thought.  Maybe our busy lives is just another scheme by our great tempter.  Gasp! A Methodist talking about the devil, and the spiritual dimensions of our daily lives, what a thought.  But this struck me so clearly as I began to write.  This blog is a part of my ministry, something I wanted to do to help connect with people in a greater way.  But is the pressure I feel sometimes just another way to help me not meet the things that are truly important.

As many of you know I lived in Washington D.C. for three years, commuting, going to school, and also being a stay-at-home dad, but there is one thing I notice about that city as I reflect on my time there.  It was a city full of busy people, people who can never put their blackberry or iPhone down.  It was full of people who worked 18 hour days because of the connections of technology. In a city where important things are happening, there was a blaring lack of one thing. Interaction.  Life, as faith, is not lived in a bubble, but in D.C. people often did their best to live without ever really knowing other human beings around them.

Maybe that is one thing we are missing, without taking time for “holy interruptions” those random connections is random places. I think that we, as Christians, can make an incredible “joyful noise” if we live in to the interruptions.  We live such finely orchestrated lives, what if we let that go, what if we truly decided to live into the relationships around.  What if we stop holding ourselves back from truly and deeply connecting with those around us.  What if making a joyful noise was not so much singing, but talking to the people you meet on the street or between classes.  What does it look like when we truly live differently.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

In Service to the King

So it has been longer than I like, I have not posted in more than a week.  Despite being a very busy week and weekend, I now have a house to keep up with.  This is where the post I wrote on busyness ends up being the three fingers pointed back at myself when I point at someone else.

Sunday night was an incredible experience, one I am just now getting to appreciate because of the schedule I’ve kept this week.  We began what I hope will become a tradition for the Youth here at Mulberry Street UMC, and something that is incredibly important to me.  We made hygiene kits for Macon Outreach, which is a ministry of our church and serves the poor and homeless here in Macon.

When I think about the last few weeks in ministry here at Mulberry one thing keeps jumping out to me, especially after our series on “Free Market Jesus”.  When we look and see the phrase “to be profitable for the kingdom” we are being fed a lie, we need to replace this idea.  When we substitute the phrase “In Service to the King,” we get a much different picture of our faith.  Instead of being slaves to the make ourselves profitable, we are seeing our role to God, our King, as more servant-like and sacrificial.

The question I keep asking myself, and in retrospect asking the youth I am working with is, “How do I love my neighbor as myself?”  How do I truly live to serve my neighbor, the other, which in turn is living in service to my King.  While the conjures pictures of medieval knights riding into battle, and also the entire movie “Braveheart” (which I highly recommend!)  I do not like co-opting warlike language to make a point about the spiritual life, but the dedication and devotion practiced by knights is worthy of recognition.  Kristian Stanfill sings “Army of God” and the song says “We are the army of God, we are the kingdom of love” and I love that idea.  We are an army not of bombs and guns, but of love and service to the people who are cared for around us.  How do we truly live into the idea of being devoted to God no matter the consequences?

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Free Market Jesus

We recently watched a video series put out by bluefishTV called “Free Market Jesus” by one of my favorite authors Donald Miller.  If you haven’t heard of Donald Miller I really think you are missing out, he’s a great writer who looks at the world in an interesting way.  His book “Blue Like Jazz” is still one of my favorite books, and I’ve heard that it’s being made into a movie, awesome!

The video is in two parts and is Donald Miller talking about how our ideals of free market economy have at points been incorporated into the language of the church.  While our free market system is an amazing thing and allows our country to prosper beyond many’s wildest dreams it is not necessarily the way the church should work.  When we look at the church more like a corporation and less like a community we lose a great deal of how our faith was meant to be lived.

Donald Miller compares faith and spirituality to less like a corporation and more like a tomato plant, which may seem abstract but let me attempt to explain.  The free market dynamic in our churches tells us to be “profitable for the kingdom,” this is a business phrase that has been inserted into our “Christian-ese.”  A great number of images of faith that Jesus talks about in the bible are agricultural, and point towards the slow and tedious process that faith often is. But we live in a instant and constant gratification world that rewards us instantly for what we do, a mindset that I am often guilty of.  But how do we swim against the tide of culture?

Donald Miller speaks of the idea of spirituality being much more like watching the garden grow than the right now music download that is our culture.  And we have to work to understand that culture is the lens that we see our faith.  We see 3,000 commercial messages every day, how do we put commercialism out of our minds and focus more fully on God? I’m not telling you to get rid of your TV, or to convert your car to bio-diesel, although that is what is often seen as counter-cultural.  I’m saying why don’t we make a real effort to love our neighbors as ourselves, even the ones we don’t like.

I think that faith does not look the same for every person, if it did we probably would not be a true expression.  But I have a desire for not only myself, but anyone who wants to attempt this, to take time to reflect and pray on what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.  How can we authentically and truly make an attempt to live this idea in our daily lives.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2010 in Authentic Faith, Life, Religion

 

There’s a Fine Line Between Denial and Faith

“There’s a fine line between denial and faith. It’s much better on my side.” Rose, Season 1 of LOST

I am not a huge TV watcher, although I do have a few shows that I follow on a regular basis.  One of the holes in my TV viewing life will be LOST, which is one of the shows that I have been invested in for the last few years.  Here lately where we are living we do not receive many TV stations so we’ve reverted to watching series and other things on DVD.  So recently we watched season 5 of LOST and then had some friends bring us seasons 1 through 4.

So we recently began our journey with LOST once again, and I am constantly reminded of how much I had forgotten about the early seasons.  To give you a brief synopsis of season 1 it is their first period of time on the island, when they are learning about the “special” nature of the place.  Rose, whose husband Bernard, was in the tail section of the plane when the crash happened.  Despite what they think is certainty of the fate of the people in the tail section of the plane Rose holds out faith in Bernard’s continued existence.

So in the show after the pregnant Claire by who is to become “the others” Charlie the rock star is devastated by her disappearance.  Rose basically pushes Charlie into actually helping in moving the community further up the beach.  When they sit beside a tree Rose looks to Charlie and says the quote at the beginning of the post.  It spoke to me as an image of the truth about the way those of us who have faith often live.  The difference between faith and denial is usually not a large difference but a very small one.

Often people who claim to not believe in God say so because of the questions and implications of questions given out by the church.  Tough questions are often met with platitudes from the church, not by those in the church getting down in the depths of despair with people.  Often denial begins with despair, and the church often fails at the answering of tough questions.  Theodicy is a big term to say “why bad things happen to good people,” which is one of the toughest questions in the world to answer.  People often leave the faith when they see God and pulling strings or God being irrelevant to their situation.

I have no good answer for Theodicy, it is something I struggle with when I look at the world around me.  While I seem to have a guardian angel that keeps me and my family safe, there are others who are meeting tragedy on a daily basis.  The question that plagues me is why me? Why do I seem to get more breaks or favor in the long run? There are no easy or quick answers, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or a fool.  The only answer I can honestly give to myself on a daily basis is that I believe God is a loving God.  I have faith that God has plans for my welfare as Jeremiah tells us, and that the only way for me to engage with people who are hurting is to get down in the depths with them. How can I be “in the depths” with those who are hurting today?

 
 

The Importance of Rest

So I hope this is a timely post, one that finds a place in your thinking and reflecting this week.  So this morning I delayed coming in to my office, I spent time playing. I went to the playground and kicked a soccer ball around the neighborhood with my favorite people. Quin, Bobby, Amber and I took some time to just enjoy God’s creation and each others company.

Especially with school starting this week for many of you who might read this.  I want to really encourage all of you to take time to rest, this may mean not having an activity every night of the week, or maybe leaving something you could do today undone.  There is a new phenomenon among people and it is to be overly busy, we look at our lives, like Donald Miller yesterday as having to be “profitable.”  This is something I have recently had to come to terms with in a big way, after having been a student and stay-at-home Dad for the last few years.

We have a tendency to over-commit to work so hard to do so much good that we are too busy all of the time.  Now where to do we get the idea that all of our time has to be spent accomplishing something? Let me tell you now that it is not a biblical idea.  Our infinite God took the seventh day to rest from his labors of creating, so if God took a rest how can we think we can go and go and go 24-7?  Often we feel un-useful or even (gasp) slothful at resting, but this is possibly the most important part of self-care we can take part in.

Self-care is making sure that you take time to re-charge your personal batteries and making sure that you can actually works toward something on another day.  I often start my day with a list of things I need to do a mile long, and some days that prevents me from taking time to study and reflect like I like to do.  I have a challenge for those of you who struggle with over-commitment and that is to give something up, not all things needed in our lives.  I challenge you to attempt to simplify your lives so that you have time to rest.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2010 in rest