Thursday, April 30, 2009

This has been heavy on my head and on my heart lately: consumerism in the church. In North America, we are trained to be wise consumers. The ability to make such decisions is applauded. Not to mention that we seem to judge success by the amount that one can consume. It's addictive, really. Is it healthy, though? Is it who we are called to be, particularly as Christians? How does it, if at all, lend to a sense of community and wholeness? It seems to me that instead of breeding a sense of looking out for the weak and the least of these, it breeds an attitude of "every man for himself," exactly the opposite of who I want to be and yet it seems to be exactly what our culture encourages and what a side of me does, in fact, want. So we're caught in a tension.

The struggle becomes even more defined, I think, when we start really thinking about who we are supposed to be as Christians and as the Church and see these consumeristic tendencies taking up residency in our congregations. We want what we want, what's good for us and in our way. We all do. None of us are free from it. Even the most well intentioned among us. It's our perspective and our perception of what's best, perhaps even good for the whole group. But what if it isn't? Are we willing to see past what we want for the good of the whole? How do free our view of Jesus and the church from our training as consumers?

So I'm thinking through it all. Trying to figure out how to consume less and sell less, to love more and to live more.

With all that in mind, I ran across this...

Branding the Church

What’s the biggest threat to Christianity today? Is it postmodernism? Relativism? Skye Jethani, managing editor for Leadership, says no, it’s consumerism. In a post on the Out of Ur blog titled, “The Cult of Mac,” Jethani discusses the unique effects that consumerism has had on the church and how branding Christ has created a consumer-driven Christian community. He asks, “If brands have become religions, is the opposite also true? Have religions been reduced to brands?”

What are your thoughts? Is consumerism the biggest threat to the church today?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So here's the does one describe doubting themselves but finding that that makes them rely on God's image of them more...that a sunny disposition or "strong" personality is, in fact, genuine even in the face of internal struggle...that that is, in fact, God's work through them and in spite of them...that it's not to be pitied but to be wrestled with because somehow God is working through it all even when it hurts and causes some big questions...that life is, in many ways, one big juxtaposition of what we know and what we believe and that the journey towards making those the same is often long and full of ups and downs...that sometimes we live what we know so that what we believe will eventually align with the does one put the struggle of figuring out who they are and who they are becoming into words?

Current Read

Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth, J.V.Hart

Round 2

So I went 5 for 8 in the last round. No major disappointments, just a few surprises...including the number of swept series. That almost takes the fun out of it for me! I want battles and game 7's and penalties (Not including "too many men on the ice." Not in the playoffs. That's not cool, Calgary!).

Eastern Conference

(1) Boston v. (6) Carolina
The Canes just fought a good battle (7 games, over time, big fights...that's playoff hockey!) and have some momentum but, unless the break has got to them, I've got to go with the Bruins. Just something about them this year! Boston in 6.

(2) Washington v. (4)Pittsburgh
Washington surprised me last round. I didn't see them pulling it off but they did. Played a good series. Still don't think they've got it in them to beat those pesky Penguins. I'll take good ole' Canadian Crosby and his boys in 7.

Western Conference

(2) Detroit v. (8) Anaheim
Still pains me to do it. Detroit in 5.

(3) Vancouver v. (4) Chicago
Let's face it. Chicago looked good but it's hard to tell if it's because they really were or if it's because Calgary forgot to show up (face it, Calgary fans, that's what happened. Sad but true). Goal tending was sound but not a lot of offense to speak of. On the other hand, Luongo's the man and they've got some scorers on the bench. They made the last round look easy. Canucks in 6.

Let the games begin!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Songs for the Season

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity of helping lead our congregation in worship through song. It's a rare treat now that I'm working with the kids in the back but seems to always be just what I need, right from practicing with the team during the week prior. This particular Sunday included several songs that all seemed to touch different bits of my heart, all in deep ways, all reminding me of the presence of God. These are the songs that spoke to me then and have been played over and over and over (and over!) since then.

Hosanna - Brooke Fraser

I see the king of glory
Coming down the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes, the whole earth shakes
I see his love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing, the people sing

Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

I see a generation
Rising up to take the place
With selfless faith, with selfless faith
I see a new revival
Staring as we pray and seek
We're on our knees, we're on our knees

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what is yours
Everything I am for your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Our God Saves - Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche

In the name of the Father, in the name of the Son
In the name of the Spirit, Lord, we come
We're gathered to-gether to lift up Your Name
To call on our Savior, to fall on Your grace

To call on our Savior, to fall on Your grace

Hear the joyful sound of our offering
As Your saints bow down, as Your people sing
We will rise with You, lifted on Your wings
And the world will see that

Our God saves, our God saves
There is hope in Your name

Mourning turns to songs of praise
Our God saves, our God saves
"Brokenness is the realization that life is too much for us, not just because there is too much pain but also because we're too selfish. Brokenness is realizing He is all we have. Hope is realizing He is all we need. Joy is realizing He is all we want."

Larry Crabb

Current Read

Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life, Lauren Winner
I keep meaning to post this. If you haven't seen it yet, you should! It reminds me that there is always hope and that it's never too late to try. I like that.

Wish I could say that it's playoffs and that that's been what's distracting me but that would be a lie...I mean, it is playoffs but...well...that's not it.
Well, over a month ago I came home from 10 days in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and promised not one but three posts!! So far I've posted exactly none of them. The ironic part is that the first that I wanted to write was on vacation and rest while it has been sheer busyness and exhaustion that has kept me from it.

So here's the thing. I'm not good at resting. I'm not good at sitting still. I'm not good at taking time off. I'm not good at doing things for me just because I want to. I'm much more adept at busyness, working, hurrying and going. There are pragmatic reasons that necessitate some of the activity but certainly not all of it. The rest is, well, the rest is me.

I fight against it. I know it's not right or particularily healthy and yet somehow it seems to still define me. It's a compulsion. A defense.

Now there's honesty for you!

One of the things that I appreciated was that in Mexico, it didn't have to define me. I took off 10 days. No work. No email. No cell phone. No being pulled in a dozen directions. No expectations.

We did have plans. That's one of the things that I love about my family. It's not about lounging around on the beach all day every day. While there was time for that, and it was fantastic, I'm not sure which one of us would have been driven crazy first by making that a 24-7 lifestyle. The thing is that the plans are different.

We had time for adventure and for exploring. There was time for creativity - I thoroughly enjoyed playing with my camera! We were active but it was a different kind of activity. I'm not even sure how to explain it but it was different. We played hard and went to bed exhausted every night but were still satisfied and relaxed.

There was something rejuvinating about that kind of activity. It was good.

There's something even better about that kind of activity surrounded by moments of stillness, quiet and rest.

And, with all that in mind, it certainly didn't hurt that it was 34 degrees there while it was snowing here. A warm break like that makes our seemingly ever extending winters seem a little bit more unbearable!

I guess that's why people take vacations!!

With all that said, It's not that all of the activity here is bad. For the most part, I love my jobs. I'm active and healthy. Challenged and fulfilled.

The problem comes when, in the midst of that, there's no room for the good kind of activity or for rest. I would like to find room for more good activity. Moments of adventure, exploring and creativity. I'd also like to find more room for rest...and perhaps more ability.

Perhaps that aspect of my time away is even more profound in contrast to the way life has been since I've come home. Unable to sleep. Anxious. Unsettled. Restless.

It's not reasonable - although I can't say I haven't thought about it - to jump on a plane and leave town every time one needs a break. It is, however, possible to find a better sense of rythm in the everyday of life.

I'm not sure what else I'm getting at but that I thoroughly enjoyed the break. I felt rested and at rest when I came home. I want to find a way to capture a bit of that here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Article: Who's Church are we Building Anyway

We've been asking this question a lot at Journey. Since before I even knew it was going to exist, actually, this question has been asked and has been used to shape the way that our church culture and philosophies have been built. It's the reason that I enjoy being on staff. It's hard though, because, from my experience, this isn't the way our North American churches have worked. It's not even really the way we seem to want Church to work.

I've been struggling with how to communicate this a lot lately (and taken quite a bit of heat from people who don't necessarily understand the philosophy yet...hard if it's not 100% clear in it's communication and activation) but this article gave me hope. We're not the only ones trying to figure out how to make this work. Perhaps we're not crazy!

Whose Kingdom Are We Building?

Whose kingdom are we building?

The answer to this question might be stranger than you think.

I can’t explain why, but I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about information guides (that means church bulletin for those of you using the KJV). For most churches, these guides are used to announce the detailed information of the “where and when” of every ministry event that the church has to offer. Typically at some point during a worship gathering, someone might even get up on a stage and point out a few of those things found in the information guide to help people know what’s going on.

What would happen if everyone in church actually did everything in the information guide?

Consider the question this way: What if everything you asked people to come to and sign up for was actually filled? Would your church be successful? I’ve realized that with the amount of activities and events that we as church leaders continue to try and offer people, we are guilty of over-scheduling the involvement of our church communities. What has started to bother me about this is that we have become a kind of employment service for our church. Though many of the opportunities we invite our people to participate in are out in the community, we are still serving as the conduit and filter. Because of this, we are causing our people to wait for us as a church to create things for them to do rather than develop the muscle on their own to recognize needs and issues within their own neighborhood and respond. And if they did respond to something that was happening around them, would a church guilt them for not participating in the events featured in the information guide?

This has led me to consider what it would look like to offer fewer opportunities for volunteering and serving through our church (employment) for the purpose of developing our people to pay attention to what is happening around them and respond (deployment).

The idea of developing our church body to be deployed into our city is not a new idea. For years we have preached this message. We have communicated to our people what they need to do to change. What I’m suggesting is that maybe they aren’t the only ones who need to change. Maybe the church needs to change. Maybe we need to back off on the amount of activities we’re generating and become more aggressive at working alongside of our people about how to engage their gifts and talents to be deployed in the work environment, neighborhood and relationships. Ultimately, we can’t ask our people to slow down while at the same time picking up the pace and trying to get more people to sign up for more things. Choosing a church philosophy of deployment over employment might serve as a strong reminder for us about whose kingdom we’re actually building.

One of the things that I think has kept most churches from driving down this road is that the fruit of this kind of ministry isn’t measurable. Might we need to consider that just because you can’t measure something doesn’t mean that it isn’t fruitful. It just means that it might not fit on an Excel spreadsheet.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In other hockey news, all I have to say is... "Thank goodness" oh, and "it's about freaking time!"


So here's my picks for round 1 (she says very tentatively. not feeling so bold)...

Eastern Conference

(1) Boston v. (8) Montreal
Boston. In 6. Kind of wish I could say Montreal but I can't. Sigh.

(2) Washington v. (7) NY Rangers
I'm going for the underdog although it's a long shot and I know it. New York in 7.

(3) New Jersey v. (6) Carolina
New Jersey. No question. In 5.

(4) Pittsburgh v. (5) Philadelphia
For some reason, I just hate Philly so I'm going Pittsburgh in 7.

Western Conference

(1) San Jose v. (8) Anaheim
No question. San Jose. In 5 (only 'cause I'm not feeling bold enough to declare a sweep!)

(2) Detroit v. (7) Columbus
Pains me to do it but I'm thinking Detroit in 5. Man, I hate Detroit.

(3) Vancouver v. (6) St. Louis
This is the series I'm most interested in. I'm curious to see what St.Louis can do. They came on at the end but I still have to go with Luongo, I mean, Vancouver. A battle though. In, hmmm, 7. Yup. 7.

(4) Chicago v. (5) Calgary
I love that Calgary media goes from "we're going to win the division" to "all hope is lost, we're going to die." Since they can't seem to beat Chicago and they can't seem to get their defensive act together, I'm going to pick Chicago. Since, however, I love a good series, even if it does involve Calgary, I'm going to hope it goes to 7.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In addition to being filled with a very satisfying cup of coffee, my starbucks cup also provided me with a little chuckle today. I love the quotes on the cup!

The Way I See It #297

When I was young, I was misled by flash cards into believing that xylophones and zebras were much more common.

So true.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ways I know that spring is finally (finally!) on the way...

1. I heard frogs singing last night. It made me smile.
2. It smells a little outside. Okay, it smells a lot.
3. The birds are back in town (sing it like "the boys are back in town" and it's fun).
4. We're heading into playoff season.
5. I wore my vest more than my jacket this week.
6. I wore my flip flops. *grin*
7. BBQ. Enough said.
8. I washed my car and it was dry enough that it stayed sort of clean.
9. I have an inexplicable urge to clean my house, take excess things away and generally sort...what is it about spring cleaning, anyway?!
10. There are check stops out again. They don't do that during the winter (except at Christmas and New Years). Even the cops don't really want to be out in the winter. Brrrr.

Current Read

Dragon Harper, Anne McCaffrey

Current Read

Stardust, Neil Gaiman
Even without the playoffs (or maybe even more so because there is no playoff run to look forward to), this is satisfying!!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Part of an article...

I just read an article on three key issues facing the Canadian church. Here is the third and, I find, one that I am most interested and able to put my energy into (I think!). What could we do to see the Kingdom here, now, in new and exciting ways? I know it can happen. I believe it can happen. In fact, I believe it does happen...perhaps just not often enough. What would it look like for each of us who follows Jesus to truly prayer the prayer "Your Kingdom Come" and allow God to work through us to answer it!?

Third, we lack imagination for the future. Our faith has become very private. It is about my life and my future. We are seldom acting out of a deep concern for the welfare of our city/region. Few evangelical churches have even wrestled with what it would be like for the Kingdom to be breaking in here; now. All of us struggle with this disconnect between a desire for a bigger church and larger budget on the one hand, and what the contours of the Kingdom would look like in our location, on the other. Here we will need to open ourselves up to scripture, but in particular, to the role of the artist. In the 21st century the artists will lead us. They are the ones who dream. Dreams and pragmatism are always in tension. Unless we learn how to make this tension more creative we will never be able to see the future for our region. We will always be buying it from someone else. And this is the greatest tragedy of the local church in Canada; when we sing a new song, we have bought it from someone else. When we dream a new dream, we have bought it from another church in another country. God is always doing a new work. Even in Canada. The artists help us to see it. - Donald Goertz, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

article - Spiritual Disciplines

by Amie Hollmann

Somewhere between searching for the perfect souvenir and savoring a bowl of gelato, I found myself at the bottom of the Holy Stairs in Rome. I was on vacation, taking in the impossibly blue sky, the salty rhythms of the streets, history under every footstep and culture around every corner. The Holy Stairs, or Scala Santa, is a marble staircase transplanted from Jerusalem. Tradition has it that Jesus walked up these very stairs on His way to meet with Pontius Pilate.

The only way up the stairs is on your knees. So, slowly, I began the journey like all the other pilgrims. It was awkward at first and only became increasingly uncomfortable. As I tried to concentrate on prayer, I realized I hadn’t been on my knees in a long time. My knees were out of shape. Prayer, whether on my knees or otherwise, had not been a priority. I had managed to fit God neatly into my itinerary, but God wasn’t much more than a convenient stop on the tour.

This experience reflected the sad state of my spiritual life. I had been a Christian for most of what I could remember. But I spent more time fixing my hair than reading the Bible. My faith was flabby. I was in need of some serious spiritual discipline.

Discipline sounds like a dirty word in our “eat what you want and still lose weight” society. We want results without the work. But we have to rethink the results and the work. Jesus tells us in Matthew that the big picture is about loving God with our whole being and sharing that love with others. Spiritual disciplines help us focus on the big picture and translate it onto the small screen of our daily lives.

Even though “how to” spirituality books put a fresh face on faith practices, spiritual disciplines are nothing new. The Old Testament shows us how prayer, meditation, scriptural study and worship provide a functional framework for faithful living. And Jesus led His followers by example, opting for late-night prayer vigils instead of watching the Late Show. Washing feet instead of calling for room service. Daily living out what He taught in humble service and simplicity. Even Paul, of “doing what I don’t want to do and not doing what I do want to do” fame, was still training for a marathon.

But what do spiritual disciplines look like today in the frenzied 21st century? Kelli B. Trujillo, author of The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival (Wesleyan), went in search of answers. But what she found was not a “quick-fix 12-step program to a better, more disciplined you.” Instead, while exploring 15 disciplines—including silence, solitude, stewardship, worship, fellowship and hospitality—she discovered a new perspective on traditional practices and creative ways to incorporate them throughout her hectic day. Conditions we often think are not conducive to faith became places for God to break in. Nothing was off-limits.

But the point is not to become a spiritual superwoman. “Spiritual disciplines help me get out of that mode of trying hard and into a more authentic, honest place spiritually, a place that recognizes I can’t be like Jesus through my own efforts,” Trujillo says. “Through spiritual disciplines the Holy Spirit is at work in my life, strengthening me and changing me and molding me.”

Practice may not make perfect, but that doesn’t mean we give up. Even after years in the spotlight as an author, teacher and speaker, Joyce Meyer gives her audiences the same challenge she directs at herself. She shared with Radiant the importance of spiritual disciplines. “I’ve gone through times in my life where I kept trying to fit God in and fit God in and fit in prayer and fit in studying, and I never got room for that stuff. You need to stop trying to work God into your schedule, and you need to put Him first and let your schedule honor God.”

Over time she found that disciplines like morning prayer became a healthy habit and an essential part of her day. “Whatever you do for a period of time, that’s what you begin to crave and desire,” she says. “And for me, now, to go out without spending time with God is almost like going out without being dressed … I feel like I’m missing something.”

Some practices might not be as foreign to our routines as we think. Meditation seemed a little out there to me until I realized I was already doing it regularly. I was meditating on my flaws, my feelings and my schedule. Brooding and worrying. My mind was full of selfishness, pride and fluff. The petition in Psalm 19 that the meditation of my heart be pleasing to God challenges me to replace the old “me, myself and I” mantra with something more meaningful.

Spiritual disciplines lead us to look outside ourselves. When we do, we can embrace a wider view of giving, one that’s not just about how much you put in the offering plate on Sunday morning. Meyer talks about transforming our ideas of giving into becoming an “aggressive giver.” “Giving, to me, is a completely different thing than being a giver,” she says. “When you are a giver, then you actually look for opportunities.”

As a leader of her church’s women’s group, Christina Bender, 28, finds opportunities to serve all around her. Simple acts like regularly giving blood, growing out her hair for Locks of Love, picking up trash and baby-sitting take on new significance when love is at the center of service. “I have learned to really dig deep into the love of God, to smile and offer care and assistance at times that are really not ideal, to people who are maybe unlovely to others or even unpleasant,” she says.

While working for a nonprofit social justice organization, Rebekah Sloane, 31, found service a natural expression of her faith. But she felt God challenging her to take on disciplines, which have not come so easily. “I’m working on incorporating more meditation and prayer into my daily life … those disciplines have always been difficult for me, but over the past few years I’ve found myself increasingly longing for a deeper, fuller spiritual life and feel that meditation and prayer may be part of drawing me deeper.” For Sloane, growth meant revisiting childhood disciplines that didn’t “resonate” with her as an adult.

I have to confess, sometimes prayer seems about as appealing as finishing all my peas. But it doesn’t always have to be served up the same way. We can enjoy some creative freedom with our faith practices. After reading Trujillo’s book, I decided to try out “breath prayer,” an ancient Christian practice Trujillo describes as “praying a short memorized prayer by silently saying one phrase as you breathe in, then praying the next phrase as you breathe out.” She suggests using Bible verses. It’s a way of making Scripture part of my daily vocabulary.

Spiritual disciplines bring me back to basics. Who I am. Who my neighbor is. Who God is. Reminding me that God is present even when my days are disheveled. The late British Christian writer Evelyn Underhill says in her book The Spiritual Life (Ariel Press), “We mostly spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have and to Do. We are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in the fundamental verb, to Be: and that Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life.”

When I finally arrive at the top of the stairs, I have not arrived at spiritual enlightenment. I am the same. The same sloth Christ went to the cross to save. Looking down I see my fellow knee-weary travelers. The skeptic in me wants to see all this as some empty historical exercise. But God is here. Calling. Closer than my breath. Closer even than the bruises on my knees.


As I read this article, I found myself resonating with much! These disciplines are things that I want to dive into more, just like my desire to discipline my physical body more...also coming, thank you. It's hard work but it's rewarding work. I love that it's not about "doing" more things or "finding more time" but about inviting God into what I'm already doing. I've got a lot of learning left to do!