Friday, July 29, 2005

What it means to pastor...

John Frye does a great job at defining pastor in a way that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning to do what I do. You really need to read it here.

Something is not right with the world...

Bob Robinson at Vanguard Church writes a very moving post with which I can identify. Anyone who has ever had to walk a family though the death of an infant struggles with the big questions. Bob writes -

Some would say, in some desperate attempt to find comfort at a time like this, that God must have wanted this to happen—that it must have been God’s will for Noah to have died at 14 months.I disagree.This is wrong. Period. Something is not right with the world.This is the carnage left by the Fall. This is why Jesus introduced the Kingdom of God—to overthrow the power of death through the power of His resurrection.

Read the entire post

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Developing Mental Toughness...

Don't ask me why, but I signed up to be part of a relay team for a huge race this November. My leg of the race will be about 10k. It was one of those decisions that seemed like a way to force myself into some disciplined physical exercise. Well, it worked. I'm doing some disciplined physical exercise at least every other day now. But it's not all that it's cracked up to be. At this point I can truthfully say that I don't like to run. In fact, as I was finishing my little 2 k run yesterday I realized something. It's not my body that needs the training. Well, maybe it does need the training. But what I really need to develop is my mind. I realized that my body as it is right now could run more than 2k. If I was being chased by a British Columbia Grizzly I could keep it up for quite a distance. But my mind, that's another story. Even though my body doesn't need to stop my mind keeps reminding it that it's way more soothing and comfortable to lie down on a grassy stretch beside the road.

This realization has totally transformed my concepts of training. Yes, I need to develop some more physical stamina. But what I need even more is to develop the mental toughness to push my body closer to the limits of my physical stamina. My mind has to set the pace and then call my body to catch up. As I reflected on this throughout the day I realized that the same is true of spiritual growth as well. In any given situation we have options. We can choose to work through the difficulties, calling our spirit to actually live out what Jesus calls us to, or we can take the easy road and just quit. How much of our spiritual immaturity is the result of us choosing to cut and run when things get difficult?

I need to develop some mental toughness for this 10k run. Hopefully God will help me develop some spiritual toughness in and through the situations that He brings my way.

More on understanding "Kingdom"

I posted here about Scot McKnight's series on the Kingdom of God.

Here are some more in that series...

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Thoughts on church.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How far...

Cyndi Nickerson asks a probing question...

"I guess my initial question - How far are you willing to go? is me wondering what do all these beliefs mean to me in the way I live my life. How much am I willing let my belief shape my actions, my decisions. How do you not live radically different that the people around you if you REALLY believe all this stuff? How can you not give sacrificially, hold your life loosely, love without boundaries, forgive constantly."

Read More

A Dangerous Paradox...

Harper's has an excerpt from an August 2005 article that really makes you think. And lest you Canadians shake your heads at the Americans, the same is true north of the border as well.

"And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. That paradox - more important, perhaps, than the much touted ability of French women to stay thin on a diet of chocolate and cheese - illuminates the hollow at the core of our boastful, careening culture."

Read More

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Strength of Weakness

Whoever came up with those "All I ever need to know I learned in..." sayings obviously didn't understand the concept of lifelong learning. It seems that all of life is an education, especially when it comes to spiritual growth. I've been recently "taking a class" (not really a class, just a series of life lessons that God seems to be sending my way) called "The Strength of Weakness". I really thought I had this one down already. I knew all those strength in weakness scriptures, I've even preached on most of them at some time or another. But I guess God thought that maybe I had a little room to grow in this area, so He enrolled me in this particular class. I set it up pretty nicely by doing some stupid things that helped to amplify my own weakness. By the time I had done them there was no doubt that I was a perfect candidate as one who God could use my inability to reveal His ability. As if that wasn't enough, I had some people enter my world who said some very painful things. Things that came to my mind as I laid awake at night. Complicate this even more by one of my children going through a struggle with anxiety, "friendly" emails implying that both I and my church are falling headlong into heresy, and I get to the point where I'm not even so sure that I want to get up to go to "work for God" anymore. In a nutshell, the first part of this "class" has been a review of how little strength or power that I actually possess.

The most encouraging part of this whole process has been the way God has brought experiences around to me that have been so clearly meant for me at this point in my journey.

Angela and I had coffee and cake with a close friend who is celebrating 4 years of sobriety. She has struggled for each and every day of these four years. One of her statements cut right to my heart. She said that the minute she thinks that she has made it, that alcohol has lost it's grip on her, that is the beginning of the end. The reason that she celebrates these "birthdays" (she doesn't enjoy them - they're very humbling) is to remind herself that each and every day she needs God to overcome her desire for alcohol.

And that's a little like I feel right now. I am so aware of my own inability that if anything that happens in my life for the Kingdom I have no choice but to acknowledge that it is God at work. When I fail, He succeeds. When I blow it, He triumphs. And little by little I learn the lesson of the strength of weakness.

There is hope in my weakness. God uses all of this to remind me who He is. To remind me that He will not fail. To remind me that His love for me is not based on my success for Him, but on His own nature as Love Incarnate. Let me leave you with a benediction that comes from Brennan Manning. It goes something like this...

May you lose everything that you've got.
May everything that you try fail.
May you be embarrassed in front of the world so that you may laugh and sing and dance
Before the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good teaching on The Kingdom

Scot McKinght from Jesus Creed shares an excellent series on the Kingdom of God. To understand Jesus and the "Good News" that He came to share you really need to take the time to wrestle with the Kingdom of God.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

More resources on Kingdom...

I can hardly wait...

...for December 9th. That's when The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe will be in theaters. View the trailer here.

Humility needed...

Brian McLaren makes me hopeful and angry all at the same time. Hopeful in that maybe the church can move past the mistakes we constantly make as we seek to present Christ to the world. Angry because he just opens up so many "cans of worms". All anger aside, I appreciate what Brian does, especially in his book A Generous Orthodoxy. As I was reading through my blogroll today I was reminded by Darren at Thin Spaces of a quote from the book that I found to sum up alot of my thoughts regarding a continual "reformation" that the church has to surrender itself to.

"We must continually be aware that the 'old, old story' may not be the 'true, true story.' In other words, we must be open to the perpetual possibility that our received understandings of the gospel may be faulty, imbalanced, poorly nuanced, or downright warped and twisted. Here we must retain the good protestant, evangelical, and biblical instinct to allow Scripture to critique tradition - including our dominant and most recent traditions, and including our tradition's understanding of the gospel. In this sense Christians in missional dialogue must continually expect to rediscover the gospel."

Scary, yes, but very important that we do not allow our ideas for the church to crowd out God's Kingdom agenda. Slavery was sanctioned by the church at various times throughout history. We have to have the humility to at least be open to the fact that maybe we have some blind spots when it comes to our own theology. Humility, the gift nobody wants, but the one that we all need.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The truth is beyond...

As I've been preaching though Acts at my church I am constantly amazed at how the problem was so often that the Jewish religious leaders were afraid to surrender to the new ways that God was leading them through Jesus. They held tightly to what had always been and in the process missed what God was doing. That's probably why this quote from Marcel Proust jumped out at me.

"A little knowledge separates us from God, much knowledge brings us back. One should never be afraid to go to far, for the truth is beyond."

Dealing with conflict

Stephen at Emergesque has some incredible wisdom when it comes to dealing with conflict. He is speaking specifically of our tendency to divide into "political parties" even within Christianity. He writes...

"Sometimes conflict is unavoidable and sometimes, even, one should intentionally take actions that can reasonably be predicted to be controversial. But many,many times, different perspectives debilitate into conflicting egos. That - in my opinion - is what can make party so horrible and dangerous to both community and truth.

There is only one antidote: humility. This expresses itself

- by focusing on the substance of what's being said and setting aside ego and party.
- by provisionally and hypothetically assuming the other person is completely correct
- by evaluating that hypothesis
- by sifting out what is true and either embrace it enthusiastically or if necessary - to refute or, in many cases, both! Many times wholesale rejection of a point of view is inappropriate. Surely something of worth is being said."

Thanks Stephen for what you have shared. I have found it to be true in my own experience as I've watched myself enter conflict with a desire for vindication rather than a sense of humility seeking the health of the body of Christ.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

CS Lewis on Marriage...

A friend of mine passed this on to me in regards to the recent legislation in Canada which allows for gay marriage. My take on this whole issue has been that regardless of what the government says marriage is, God is the one who ultimately defines marriage. And He has made it clear that in His eyes marriage is only between one man and one woman. I think our first mistake was to ever let the government into this discussion. Our role needs to be to affirm what marriage is in the eyes of God and call all believers to show the world what Christian marriage really is. But enough about what I think. Here's what CS Lewis wrote over 60 years ago...

"Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question - how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not." (emphasis mine) (C.S. Lewis, Christian behavior, 1943)

Very relevant. And very challenging - calling the church to live out the truth in the midst of a culture that is opposed to the truth. Sounds a little bit like the book of Acts to me.

Gifts I am receiving...

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)

I am beginning to learn that everything that comes my way is a gift from God. This is a truth that has made it into my head and is slowly descending into my heart. In other words, I know it theoretically, but struggle to live it out practically. I have had a difficult few weeks. I've struggled with some difficult relationships, with some difficult texts, and with some painful criticism. As I reflected on all of that today I felt the Spirit challenging me to see these things as gifts instead of difficulties. So I've decided (in my head and hopefully in my heart) to choose to be thankful for the following...

  1. Criticism - Criticism is a gift from God in that it exposes my own pride. It drags my arrogance out into the light so that I can see it. It challenges my motives, helping me to remember why it is that I am doing what I am doing. It also calls me to cling to God for His affirmation and direction, rather than just doing what I do because people enjoy it or affirm me for it.
  2. Other people assuming they know and understand my motives - This is a gift because it allows me to understand what Jesus must have often felt. It also challenges me not to jump to conclusions in regards to my understanding of the motives of others. And it exposes in my own heart my need to defend myself rather than to live with humility. My gut reaction is to control and to seek power - to be justified for all the world to see that what I did was right and genuine. I just read an article by Walter Norris in the most recent E-pistle from Ron Sider. The article was entitled "Teaching Humility". The following words leapt of the page...
    We have lost sight of the words of Micah (6:8): "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" How many of us evangelicals really believe this verse? Political slander and a spirit of divisiveness were all too evident in the church during the last presidential election, and those attitudes persist. In contrast, humility requires respecting and loving those with whom we do not agree philosophically. Service to others, which is what Jesus Christ calls us to, requires humility and sacrifice. Are we willing to reach down and love those on the bottom? Are we willing to get our hands dirty? Are we willing to be like the One who sends us out? I once read somewhere that "the life that Jesus lived is the life Jesus invites us to live." Does this life conflict with ministers having six-figure salaries, being the star of their own television shows, or hobnobbing (and lobbying) with the political elite? I believe that humility needs to be taught in our churches. It needs to be a part of our active ministry. We need to consider the possibility that our humility might be the most powerful tool for influence that we have at our disposal. (empahsis mine) In his book WHOLISTIC CHRISTIANITY (Brethren Press, 1985), David Moberg maps out a way for evangelicals to make a way for making change. He calls this road map "Strategic Principles for Confronting Change." The first is being biblical, the second is being Christ-centered, and the third is being humble. If we are going to make change that is positive for our society, humility has to be at the forefront of our actions. Moberg further explains, "A haughty spirit that implies that we have all the answers will turn many away; humility will win respect and often friends as well." This is in contrast to those who proclaim that God is on our side as a nation or culture. How do we teach humility and better society through that humility? First, we must live as Jesus lived. Leaders in the church should first set the example of serving not just our friends but also those we do not like or feel comfortable with. The power of the resurrection to work miracles is about being able to love those that society does not love. (emphasis mine)
  3. Painful relationships - (By this I mean relationships where people have chosen to believe something about me that is not true.) I am thankful for painful relationships because they give me the opportunity to love unconditionally. Jesus said, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Mt. 5:46). Painful relationships give me the chance to love those who do not love me. To show grace to people who are choosing not to show grace to me. To forgive those who are not forgiving. If not for the gift of these relationships I would never know the joy of loving others for Christ's sake instead of for what they offer me.
  4. People who are unwilling to see the truth - This has been a gift to me because I am realizing that the ultimate calling that I have is to love people as Christ would love them. I am not called to make sure that they are theologically sound. I am called to love. For too long I have thought it was my responsibility to "Guide them into all truth" and have forgotten that this guidance is a role that the Holy Spirit has reserved for Himself. My role is to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength - and to love my neighbor as I love myself. This last gift has been very precious because it has reminded me that I love people because God loves them, not because they comply with what I want them to do, to be, or to believe.

So I am thankful for these gifts, although at times I grit my teeth as I say, "Thanks God". And there are moments I want Him to go give some of these things to other people and just stop being so generous with me. Yet the reality is (as I wrote here and here) God is using all of these things to make me like Christ. That's the ultimate gift - my transformation to Christlikeness which brings Him glory.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A personal disclaimer... all who read this blog. This is from an unamed source via Steve Brown.

"I fully realize that I've not succeded at answering all your questions. Indeed I feel that I've not answered any of them completely. The answers I have found only work to raise a whole new set of questions which only lead to more questions - some of which we weren't even aware were problems in the first place. To sum up -- in some ways I feel that we are as confused as ever, but I do believe that we are confused on a higher level and about more important things."

Friday, July 15, 2005

From an unknown source...
If you want to take long walks, take long walks.
If you want to hit things with a stick, hit things with a stick.
But there's no excuse for combining the two and putting the results on TV.
Golf is not so much a sport as an insult to lawns.

Absorbing and transforming evil.

One of the most moving aspects of Jesus was the way that He chose to deal with evil. We seem to have this mindset that evil is something to be beaten. It's an invisible foe with whom we go to war. While I do not want to negate the idea of spiritual warfare, I think we have to realize that when Jesus encountered evil He absorbed it and transformed it. That's what Isaiah was looking forward to when he wrote
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53:4-6, emphasis mine)

Jesus absorbed the evil all around Him, took it to the cross and killed it. His resurrection transformed all evil into His own goodness. But how can that be, when we see evil all around us? Bombings in London, AIDS in Africa, poverty and exploitation world wide. It appears that evil is alive and well. Let me see if I can explain myself.

I'll start with Hebrews 2:8-9
In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Emphasis mine)
In Jesus, all evil is transformed. God uses absolutely everything to accomplish His purpose of bringing Himself glory in the earth.

One of the most obvious ways we can see this today is in the lessons that we learn from our own sin. God uses our mistakes and failures to strip away the evil that resides within our own heart. He used David's sin with Bathsheba to make David into a man after God's heart. He used Peter's denials and Thomas' doubts to deepen their humility and trust. He used Paul's "thorn in the flesh" to keep the one who would write more books of the Bible than anyone else in a state of humility and dependence.

Two things I have read lately have reinforced this idea. First, in THE TEMPLE, by George Herbert, I read a section called Affliction (IV)
BROKEN in pieces all asunder,
Lord, hunt me not,
A thing forgot,
Once a poor creature, now a wonder,
A wonder tortured in the space
Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
Wounding my heart
With scattered smart ;
As wat'ring-pots give flowers their lives.
Nothing their fury can control,
While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife
Quitting their place
Unto my face :
Nothing performs the task of life :
The elements are let loose to fight,
And while I live, try out their right.

Oh help, my God ! let not their plot
Kill them and me,
And also Thee,
Who art my life : dissolve the knot,
As the sun scatters by his light
All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers which work for grief,
Enter Thy pay,
And day by day
Labour Thy praise and my relief :
With care and courage building me,
Till I reach heav'n, and much more, Thee.
Jeff Kuhn translation - All those things that plague me will actually be used by God to transform me.

Another book that brought this to mind is John Piper's narrative poem on Job. All throughout the poem Piper uses the term "Leviathan" to symbolize the work of Satan against the life of Job. The most moving section for me is after all of Job's suffering is over. He shares the story with his new daughter. She is full of questions...
But, Papa, please, one more: would you
Tell me about the wind that blew —
About the whirlwind and the word
Of God. You told me once you heard
the very voice of God. What did
He say?"

"He said, 'There's giant squid
Beneath the sea you've never seen,
And mountain goats above the green
Tree line that bring forth kids on cliffs
So high and steep that little whiffs
Of Wind would make a human fall.'
God asked me, 'Is the wild ox all
At your command? And will he stay
The night beside your crib and play
Or work with you on leashes made
Of hemp? And have the horses brayed
At your command, and do you make
Them leap like locusts? Do they break
Through shield and chariot because
You formed their neck? What laws
Of flight have you designed for hawks?
Have you devised the way he walks
On wind and snatches up his prey
In flight? And could you ever play
With stars to loose Orion, seize
The distant chains of Pleiades?
Where were you, Job, when I with mirth
The great foundations of the earth
Did lay, and all the sons of God
Rejoiced to watch a formless clod
Become the habitation of
My bride? Did you once brood above
The waters and appoint their bounds?
And have you joined the King who crowns
The mammoth sky with morning light?
Come, Job, gird up your feeble might
And make your case against the Lord.
Do you know where the snow is stored
Or how I make the hail and rain,
Or how a buried seed bears grain,
How ravens find their food at night
And lilies clothe themselves with white?
And finally, my servant, Job,
Can you draw down and then disrobe
Leviathan, the king of all
The sons of pride, and in his fall
Strip off his camouflage of strength,
And make him, over all the length
Of earth and heav'n, to serve the plan
Of humble righteousness? I can.
I make Leviathan my rod.
Belov├Ęd Job, behold your God!"

"And what did you say, Papa, when
The Lord was done?" I said, "Amen,
And bowed as low as I could bow.
Come here, my lass, I'll show you how."
And when she crouched before his feet
He picked her up, and with a sweet
And tender grip he said, "Watch this."
And on her cheek he put a kiss.

Behold the light of candle four:
What we have lost God will restore
When he is finished with his art,
The silent worship of our heart.
When God creates a humble hush,
And makes Leviathan his brush,
It won't be long until the rod
Becomes the tender kiss of God.

Our God is the God who uses evil for good. He absorbs the worst that Satan has to offer and trasforms it into life. When this truth begins to sink in, the following words seem to have a bit more depth.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

A God who absorbs and transforms evil. That is a God worthy of all honor and glory.

Hard Words...Challenging Questions.

Len at stirs the pot a little with some hard words and challenging questions. He writes...

"If there is any consensus in the emergent church, it is that the gospel preached in North America is not the Gospel. Closely related, many of us believe that what we call 'church' is not the church. The church exists as a quality of relationship and the transcendent intersection of Spirit and flesh in faithful communities that serve to make Christ known. It is dynamic and powerful and bears only a passing relationship to the institutions built by humankind.

A discussion on RESONATE got me thinking about the relationship of the Gospel and its expression in faithful communities. The relationship is much like that of root and fruit.

At the risk of offense, here are some thoughts. If what we see around us is congregations rather than communities.. if we see organizations which mostly limit the earthly expression of the movement Jesus died to birth... if, in other words, we see many gatherings not much 'church'.. then we are witnessing the natural outcome of a gospel that is not the Gospel.

My thesis is this: the true Gospel produces what God intended - authentic and faithful communities of Jesus apprentices who are impacting their world. If what we see around us is not that.. then it is an expression of a gospel that is not the Gospel. The fruit is wrong.. therefore the root is wrong.

Within emergent circles there is consensus on few things.. but one of those few things is that we have mostly lost the real Gospel.. we have exchanged it for slick packaged, self-oriented, pottage.. we have a gospel of sin management, fire insurance, that is informational but does not transform.. it has little reference to the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached. And therefore it shouldn't surprise us if the product is McChurch rather than ekklesia."

What do you think?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A little Candian Humor...

Is there a problem here?

I'm having trouble reconciling this...

"All of our military might and technological advances will fail to protect us if we lose our sense of outrage against the enemy. My hope and prayer is that the tragic death of innocent people in London will serve as a second wake up call. It is time for us to realize we have met the enemy and the enemy is not us." (Written by a pastor and the Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina. Read entire article here.)

...with this...

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Jesus in Mt. 5:43-48; Mt. 28:18-20)
Does anyone else see a problem here?

Our silence speaks loudly of our priorities

Jordon Cooper comments on the CT editorial I wrote about here. He closes his post with some very insghtful comments...

"I have been saying this for a long time here. Our first loyalty is not to Canada or the United States or our partisan views but to our Lord. Somewhere along the way we forgot that Jesus saw us as servants and instead we started to fashion ourselves as the masters and in the process, accepted the power and control that Jesus himself rejected over and over again.

It's sad, outside of Rick Warren and a couple of musicians, many high profile evangelicals were totally silent about the One campaign and Live 8 yet on the same weekend, many were making noise about Sanda Day O'Conner's resignation from the bench. It spoke loudly to me about our priorities."

Read More

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Struggling with how we "do" church...

I know that many of you wrestle with how we can "do" church in a way that is true to the Kingdom of God and yet compelling to a post-modern mindset. There are so many different ideas floating out there - lots of them are very exciting. Len from had a post today that shows some thinking on this that is close to home for me, both geographically (he lives in Kelowna, BC) and ecclesiologically (if that's even a word...). I don't think that we need to throw away the church structures that we have developed in the past (at least not yet) but I do think that we somehow have to give expression to the fact that church is a group of people living in surrender to Jesus and His Kingdom instead of a building or a group that gathers at 11:00am on Sunday morning. Len writes...

The Western idea of evangelism goes like this: you repent and get saved, then you come to Church rejecting the world, the Church takes over your life. The Celts did it a bit different: you welcome and invite folks into your community, you minister with and to them, you disciple them and then you baptize them into the body. The Celts also became part of the community in which they were called - literally adopting its rhythms. Thus the converts are not taken out of the world, but left in the world where they can actually do the work of the gospel. The Celts were remarkable at converting whole communities in this way. When is the last time you've seen a whole community come to Christ? And I don't think getting the people in your church re-saved every week counts.

Last night a group of us.. local friends from a variety of church communities, met at a local 180 acre ranch that may become a kind of new monastic community.. we talked about learning community, worshipping community, working and serving community, healing, and sustainability. Most of us have had dreams of this direction for years.

We see the need for church and community to take flesh in new expressions so that the old church can begin to reimagine itself, and so that the world can get beyond the old images of the fortress and walls. We see the need for islands of peace in a troubled world.

Maybe the time has come for a Celtic renaissance, for places set apart where we can care for the outcasts, love one another, learn and grow together as we work side by side, care for animals and for the the earth, model ecological concern and sustainability, embody sacred space, and show a new way of living."

You can read all of Len's post here, but you can't see the diagrams/pictures unless you go here and scroll down to July 13, 2005.

A great story from the Baja

I am always amazed at how we get so distracted in a world of so much material prosperity. We often feel that we have very little to offer because we are not "wealthy". I received this email update from Don & Lorraine Karsgaard, Missionaries in Loreto, Baja California Sur, with Mexican Medical Ministries. They tell a fascinating story about how $520 makes an incredible difference in the lives of a lot of people. I was also challenged by the generosity of "Magdalena", who in spite of having next to nothing, was willing to share. This is a story that needs to be told...
$520 = MANY BLESSINGS: One of those who came to Mexico on one of our teams wanted to help one of the poor families here in Loreto that he had gotten to know. (Magdalena is a young single Mom with 4 children.) Our friend wanted to help them with $10 per week for a year, so he gave us $520. We discussed further the need and the project – let me summarize what was agreed and what has happened as a result of this gift of $10 per week: Magdalena would come to our home one day a week for a year, and help Lorraine with the cleaning of our house – that way Magdalene would responsibly receive some assistance (it would not just be an out-right gift), and Lorraine would also be blessed. So this gift of $520, would last for a whole year, and be a blessing to both Magdalena and Lorraine. Everyone is happy and blessed! And this gift has become an instrument of teaching and also been a ‘double’ blessing.

But the story doesn’t stop there. Magi’s house is a small (12x16) cardboard home. How she and her 4 children could live in that small, humble place is truly amazing… Well, the church was given some chairs, and Magi asked if she could have the boxes they came in – she wanted to build an addition to her home with the cardboard. We all thought how nice for Magi and her family! One problem existed though. Where would she get the money for the wood that would be needed for the framing of these cardboard walls? So we talked – I spoke and asked questions, and Magi spoke and asked questions -- and then Magi agreed, that because she is working at our home one day each week – could we pay her in advance for some of her work? (The donor had decided that rather than give $10 per week, he instead would give $520 and have us manage the weekly disbursement of it. Well because of this we were able to help Magi as described…) So we were able to quickly agree to the plan! On that same day a couple of weeks ago, the materials were purchased… and all the people from the church came over to clean up her home and her property, and then they built this addition for her. Today her house is twice the size you saw it to be. How wonderful!!! This gift was now a ‘triple’ blessing! But that’s not the end.

After it was all built, Magi said to Carmen – another young mother (age 19) in the church, who has 3 children and is pregnant with her fourth child. (Carmen has been living with a man, not her husband; and he has not been treating her very well, and now that she is pregnant wants little to do with her… And, Carmen has recently come to the Lord, and wants to serve the Lord, but is getting no encouragement from her man – just abuse…). Magi said to Carmen, “My house is twice the size it was and I would love to share my blessings with you. Would you maybe like to come and stay in our home for a while?” So young, pregnant Carmen and her three children went to spend a couple of weeks living with Magi. This gift was now a ‘quadruple’ blessing!

This last week, I asked Magi if we could help her build a bathroom for them – wouldn’t that be a blessing for them all? (We still have some of the $520, so I thought why not use it in a similar way for Magi.) So this gift is helping Magi and her family again!

Let's be willing to share what we have and watch God multiply the benefits all throughout His Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Leadership Development

I've been reading The Priest by Francine Rivers (she's one of the best Christian Fiction writers that I've ever read) and it's having a pretty profound impact on me. I've never really thought about the way that Moses and Aaron would have felt when they were delivering plague messages to pharaoh. I've always sensed that they would have felt very powerful - seeing God act in incredible ways and using them as His mouthpieces. What this book has done for me is reminded me of the fact that the people of Israel didn't except leadership too well. When Pharaoh gets mad and forces them to continue to work making bricks, only with no straw, they get quite angry with Aaron and Moses.
"May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us." (Ex.
The realization that hit me is that Moses and Aaron had to continue to follow God's leading even when the people were sure that what they were doing was only making life worse for them.

Big truth - Often God brings pain to the life of the leader to help develop the leader. He works on multiple levels at all times. God's purpose was to free His people from Egypt, but he was also developing Aaron and Moses into better leaders - men who could stand for God when all around them people disagreed with what they were doing.

This pain of leadership development is vitally important...but not a lot fun. For the first time in my short pastoral career of 6 years I know that there are people who disagree with me on the direction of our church. And they sit there every Sunday while I lay my heart out to them as I preach. (Lest you think I'm saying that "they are wrong and I am right" - that's not how I feel. I make mistakes like everyone else. I'm just realizing that often no matter what you do you will be misunderstood.) I've found recently that preaching, which was always something that I have loved to do, has become more difficult. I'm not as anxious to "get up there and share" as I used to be. Sometimes I feel a bit gunshy. I told God about it and He has challenged me a bit. I think He is forcing me to realize that preaching is not a lovefest (where everyone agrees, or loves what you have to say, or even likes you), but it is an opportunity to speak from Scripture regardless of the response of or acceptance by people. That's a difficult lesson to learn.

God is shaping me by success and failure - by pain and joy. It's just refreshing to see the same thing happening in the lives of Aaron and Moses.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

More on "The Scriptures"

Scot McKnight, in his blog Jesus Creed writes about some of the same issues that I was alluding to a few days ago here. Some phrases from Scot -

"Knowing the Bible and being smart about the Bible and knowing all theories and fads and hermeneutical procedures and being able to womp on people with what they know is not what the Bible is all about.

"...The purpose of the Bible is not mastery but being mastered..."

" Bob Mulholland has said in his Shaped by the Word, a distinction to be drawn between informational readings of the Bible and formational readings of the Bible. Both are needed, but the former is easier to quantify and measure..."

"Now, to turn the gears, there is a place for emergent folk -- whoever is willing to do this -- to take up the task of articulating a "theory of the Bible" and how it functions."

Read more

The truth about email forwarding...sort of.

Click here to learn the truth. You know you want to. Go ahead, give in. Thanks to Kathleen Cameron for the link.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Worship as Higher Politics

Here's a section from a Christianity Today editorial that says better than I ever could about our need to be the church rater than to control the political system.

"In the heat of partisan politics ... we are tempted to forget that the most potent political act - the one act that deeply manifests and really empowers a 'kind and noble society' - is the worship of Jesus Christ.

In worship we signal who is the Sovereign, not of just this nation, but of heaven and Earth. In worship we gather to be formed into an alternate polis, the people of God. It is here that we proclaim that a new political order - the kingdom of heaven - has been preached and incarnated by the King of Kings, and will someday come in fullness, a fullness to which all kingdoms and republics will submit:

'I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. The city does not need the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the Earth will bring their splendor into it' (Rev. 21:2, 23-24).

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, just as the Religious Right was blossoming, Richard John Neuhaus put it this way: 'Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final assertion Christians make about all of reality, including politics. Believers now assert by faith what one day will be manifest to the sight of all: Every earthly sovereignty is subordinate to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. The church is the bearer of that claim.' Theologian Stanley Hauerwas, no political ally of Neuhaus, extended the point in a recent interview: 'Christians' first political responsibility is to be the church, and by being the church they should understand that their first political loyalty is to God, and the God we worship as Christians, in a manner that understands that we are not first and foremost about making democracy work, but about the truthful worship of the true God."

Let us be clear: The Christian citizen of every nation has a moral obligation to engage at some level in that nation's political life. We do not recommend withdrawal from the political arena. We admire especially those whose calling falls in this area—mayors, councilmen, senators, representatives, presidents. Theirs is as noble a calling as that of a plumber or pastor.

But Christians who enter that calling, and those who pray for and work with them, must not forget one thing: where hope for this nation, and the world, really lies, and where that hope is most manifest Sunday by Sunday.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

The Authority of the Scriptures...

I have been thinking a lot lately about the struggles that the church is having in most of the Western world. It seems to me that one of the crucial issues that we are struggling with is authority in regards to spiritual matters. Many people have become a spiritual authority unto themselves, using feelings as their guide to what is really true. Others have sought spiritual authority in a person. I think that orthodox Christianity (and I include myself in this category) has always seen Scripture to be the authority in regards to all matters of faith and practice. The question that society is asking today, however, is this - "How does that actually play out? HOW is the Scripture an authority?" One glaring example of this is the section from an episode of The West Wing...

The president of the United States was about to address a gathering of radio talk show hosts in the White House. As the president entered the hall, they all stood and applauded. All, that is, except one - a woman with strikingly blond hair, wearing a bright green suit. At first, her presence rattled the president. He lost his train of thought several times before he finally spoke directly to the sitting talk show host.

"Excuse me, doctor," the president said to her. "It's good to have you here. Are you an M.D.?"
"A Ph.D.," she retorted smartly.
"In psychology?" he pursued.
"No, sir," she said.
"Social work?"
"I have a Ph.D. in English literature," she replied.
"I'm asking," continued the president, "because on your show people call in for advice and you go by the title 'doctor,' and I didn't know if maybe your listeners were confused by that and assumed you had advanced training in psychology, theology, or health care."
"I don't believe they are confused. No, sir," she responded.
"Good," said the president, raising his voice sarcastically.
I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination."
"I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President," she replied haughtily. "The Bible does."
"Yes, it does!" he shouted.
"Leviticus 18:22."
"Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?"
"While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it OK to call the police?"
"Here's one that's really important, 'cause we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean, Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?"
"Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side?"
"Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?"

How do we answer the world when they ask questions like this? Obviously the Scripture is not meant to be used as an authority like that, but how do we use it.

These questions have made me realize that we need a better developed theology of the Bible to address the questions that the world is asking. I'm praying that some of you intelligent people out there would take this on as a lifetime project. I guess one thing that would speak to our generation and those that are coming would be a great metaphor that helps us to understand the role of Scripture as our authority. The best one that I've seen so far is by NT Wright. In his lecture How Can The Bible Be Authoritative? he writes...

Let me offer you a possible model, which is not in fact simply an illustration but actually corresponds, as I shall argue, to some important features of the biblical story, which (as I have been suggesting) is that which God has given to his people as the means of his exercising his authority. Suppose there exists a Shakespeare play whose fifth act had been lost. The first four acts provide, let us suppose, such a wealth of characterization, such a crescendo of excitement within the plot, that it is generally agreed that the play ought to be staged. Nevertheless, it is felt inappropriate actually to write a fifth act once and for all: it would freeze the play into one form, and commit Shakespeare as it were to being prospectively responsible for work not in fact his own. Better, it might be felt, to give the key parts to highly trained, sensitive and experienced Shakespearian actors, who would immerse themselves in the first four acts, and in the language and culture of Shakespeare and his time, and who would then be told to work out a fifth act for themselves.
Consider the result. The first four acts, existing as they did, would be the undoubted ‘authority’ for the task in hand. That is, anyone could properly object to the new improvisation on the grounds that this or that character was now behaving inconsistently, or that this or that sub-plot or theme, adumbrated earlier, had not reached its proper resolution. This ‘authority’ of the first four acts would not consist in an implicit command that the actors should repeat the earlier pans of the play over and over again. It would consist in the fact of an as yet unfinished drama, which contained its own impetus, its own forward movement, which demanded to be concluded in the proper manner but which required of the actors a responsible entering in to the story as it stood, in order first to understand how the threads could appropriately be drawn together, and then to put that understanding into effect by speaking and acting with both innovation and consistency.
This model could and perhaps should be adapted further; it offers in fact quite a range of possibilities. Among the detailed moves available within this model, which I shall explore and pursue elsewhere, is the possibility of seeing the five acts as follows: (1) Creation; (2) Fall; (3) Israel; (4) Jesus. The New Testament would then form the first scene in the fifth act, giving hints as well (Rom 8; 1 Car 15; parts of the Apocalypse) of how the play is supposed to end. The church would then live under the ‘authority’ of the extant story, being required to offer something between an improvisation and an actual performance of the final act. Appeal could always be made to the inconsistency of what was being offered with a major theme or characterization in the earlier material. Such an appeal—and such an offering!—would of course require sensitivity of a high order to the whole nature of the story and to the ways in which it would be (of course) inappropriate simply to repeat verbatim passages from earlier sections. Such sensitivity (cashing out the model in terms of church life) is precisely what one would have expected to be required; did we ever imagine that the application of biblical authority ought to be something that could be done by a well-programmed computer?

This illustration has been incredibly helpful to me. But I'm wondering what the implications of it are? I'm wondering if some of you out there in the blogosphere can help me think through this a little better? Are you up to the challenge?

The Spirit of Christ...

“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.”

-- Henry Martyn, missionary to India and Persia

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not

A quote from Bono, via Bruderhof..

Now, for all its failings and its perversions over the last 2,000 years—and as much as every exponent of this faith has attempted to dodge this idea—it is unarguably the central tenet of Christianity: that everybody is equal in God's eyes. So you cannot, as a Christian, walk away from Africa. America will be judged by God if, in its plenty, it crosses the road from 23 million people suffering from HIV, the leprosy of the day.

What's up on trial here is Christianity itself. You cannot walk away from this and call yourself a Christian and sit in power. Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it's to have any meaning in this world—and stop being its apologist.


I got a phone call yesterday from an old friend of mine named Colin Scott. Colin and I were roommates in Mexico around 15 years ago when we served with a group called Spearhead run by the Latin America Mission. We hadn't spoken in years. As I refelected on our call I realized that it was a highlight of my day. It was great to get caught up on each others lives. It brought back so many memories of the times that we had together in Mexico. (I could tell you some stories, but that would have to be another entry on this blog. This one is too sappy to ruin the mood with recounting "The Adventures of Jeffito and Colincito - Gringos in Mexico City".) My reconnection with Colin reminded me of the sovereign way that God puts people together. We had learned some of the same things about God through our different experiences. And the cool thing was that we were able to pick up right where we left off.

Why am I writing this? I guess I was just reminded that relationships are important. We need to remember that. And maybe we need to take the risk to reconnect. The benefits are amazing.

Comparison chart of Traditional, Pragmatic, and Younger Evangelicals

Here's a chart that fits right in with the comments I blogged about yesterday from Tall Skinny Kiwi. Interesting to see the shifts in the church.

Link to Chart

Rick Warren's Awakening...

A quote from Rick Warren -

"And that was a turning point in my life two-and-a-half years ago, where God basically said to me - and I've never heard God speak audibly; it's in my mind - 'The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence. The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.' And in religious terms I had to say, 'God, I repent, because I can't think of the last time I thought of widows and orphans.' I live in a very affluent Southern California neighborhood. There aren't any homeless people lying on the streets where I live. And I said, 'I can't think of the last time I cared about the homeless.'

And so I went back and I began to read scripture, and it was like blinders came off. Now, I've got three advanced degrees. I've had four years in Greek and Hebrew and I've got doctorates. And how did I miss 2,000 versus in the Bible where it talks about the poor? How did I miss that? I mean, I went to two different seminaries and a Bible school; how did I miss the 2,000 verses on the poor?"

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Dealing with change in the church?

You have to read this. Andrew at Tall Skinny Kiwi does an incredible job in highlighting some of the areas of tension and change in regards to church. I mean it, you really need to read this.

What I said and what they heard...

This past Sunday in my church I made a reference to homosexuality and abortion as sins. My point was not so much to condemn these two acts as it was to condemn the way some "Christians" respond to them. Protesters holding "God hates gays" signs and people who shoot abortion doctors should realize that their actions are not in line with following Jesus. That was my point. But as always, what I am trying to say and what people hear are not the same thing. I got an email on Monday which emphasized the following points...

1. The writer was very disappointed that I called homosexuality a sin.
2. The son of the writer was a homosexual who was living a healthy life and contributing to society.
3. A member of our church had told this person that if his son was a homosexual that he would shoot him. From the writer's perspective, my comments would serve only to reinforce this type of thinking.
4. That if this type of "judgemental" thinking was what it meant to be a Baptist that the writer had no desire to be a Baptist.

I spent some time today crafting my response and really felt that this is how I feel about the whole issue. I am putting it here to see what the two of you who read this blog think.
Hello ------,

Thanks for your comments. I do appreciate your honesty. I'm sorry that I offended you. I did not mean to encourage anyone in our congregation to look down on or mistreat anyone who is gay. Comments like the one you mentioned by one of our members are exactly the problem. God loves people regardless of their sexual orientation. If you'll recall my point was that "Christians" who hold signs that state that "God hates gays" should also realize that it is a sin to hate anyone. We are all sinners, all in need of God's mercy.

I do believe, based on my study of the Bible, that homosexuality is a sin. This does not mean that your son does not have a valid faith, or that all homosexuals are not Christians. I know of deeply committed Christians who hold the opposite viewpoint on this from me. My fear about the church is that we have made homosexuality THE sin. We are so willing to condemn others without looking first into our own hearts. Lying, gossip, materialism, disregard for the poor - all of these things are sins. While I see homosexuality (the practice of homosexuality as opposed to the orientation of homosexuality) as a sin, I do not, by any means want to be seen as promoting hatred or condescension toward those who are homosexuals. They, like me, need the love and forgiveness of Jesus. And my role as a follower of Jesus is to live in a way that shows them respect, dignity, and love. On the issue of whether it is a sin or not, I am willing that we can agree to disagree. But I have no choice in regards to what Christ asks me to show them - love, just like He calls me to love everyone.

From your email I can see that these two ideas seem to be in contradiction. I really did not want it to come across this way. I am not making any judgements about the integrity of your son, or about his contribution to society. In fact, I have found many homosexuals who I know to be more "moral" than many Christians. This concerns me, and this is what I was trying to address.

In regards to your not being Baptist, I would applaud your decision. It is much more important to wrestle with what it means to be a follower of Jesus than it is to try to fit yourself into the imperfect mold of being a Baptist.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Many people disagee with me but don't have the courage to verbalize it. You did it with love and respect, which makes clear to me that you are in pursuit of truth and not out to hurt or destroy.

I have never met you as far as I can remember, but I would like to. I also would like to make clear that coming to our services doesn't mean that you agree with everything that we (or I) say or do. I don't think we'll ever find a group of people who agree completely on everything. Part of the benefit of coming together is to strengthen and challenge one another in our areas of disagreement, while unifying around the call to follow Jesus.

Please let me know if you would like to talk further.

By Grace,

Jeff Kuhn

Any comments from the blogosphere?

In case you're wondering...

...I am not a cat lover.

If you are a kindred spirit when it comes to cat hatred you might enjoy this. I fully expect to take some flack for this from all you cat lovers, but it's worth it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

When less is more...

The more time passes the less I am sure of and the more confident I am that Jesus is all He said He is. It is encouraging for me to see others at the same point in their journey. My faith has become less about answers and more about quiet trust in the One who is leading. Anne Lamott writes,
“Another problem involves what the light looks like. I have thought over the years, that the light would look like success, a good man, a child, a Democratic president, but none of these were right. Moses led his people in circles for forty years so that they could get ready for the Promised Land, because they had too many ideas and preconceptions about what a Promised Land should look like…We have to sit in our own anxiety and funkiness long enough to know what a Promised Land would be like, or, to put it another way, what it means to be saved.”
So much of my spiritual journey has been about letting go of what I thought God was doing in order to embrace what He’s actually up to.

I never wanted to be a pastor. Thought they were too secluded from the real world. What an idiot I was. But God is patient (and persistent), and here I am pastoring a church, never more sure of His calling in my life than I am now.

I thought spiritual leadership was about giving people answers. Truth is that it’s more about walking with people through their questions. I’ve realized that God doesn’t need me to be His agent; He can do His own PR work. He wants me to be His hands, showing compassion, serving, loving, dying. Sure, you speak the truth, but your eloquence and insight aren’t needed, He just enjoys letting you be a part of what He is doing.

I thought being a pastor was about discerning vision and preaching with passion. I am learning that it’s more about riding the roller coaster we call life. Let me share with you a day from a couple of weeks ago. I got to the office at 9:00am on Friday and spent the next hour talking with a suicidal woman on the phone. Our church has tried to help her repeatedly, just like every other social agency in our town. But she continually burns her bridges, abuses those who help her, and justifies it by saying that God is leading her to do these things. At 10:00 I met with another person. She has every reason to be suicidal and yet God is slowly but surely changing her heart. On my way back to the office I met with a family of a 66 year old man who had just died. They have little or no understanding when it comes to Jesus and what He intends for us. It was an hour of trying to bring some hope to a situation where there is none, or at least it feels that way. When I got back to the office I had to do the intensely spiritual work of responding to emails. That was followed up by an hour of wrestling with Acts chapter 2, asking God to speak to me and enable me to speak clearly to others. At 2:00 I did a funeral. Once again, very little hope, just a deep love and respect for a man who they will miss everyday for the rest of their lives. I wrapped up the day trying to finish off my sermon. And all of this is set against the back drop of hurt feelings and misunderstandings that surround a recent church decision. And yet I love it. I’m seeing God in places that I never dreamed He would be. And guess what, He’s getting the job done. I should’ve known that when He said that He would build His church that is wasn’t some politician’s promise, good only for the time it takes to get them in office. He meant what He said. And He’s good for His word.

I thought that peace was the absence of all these struggles. I am learning that the real peace comes in the midst of the roller coaster. You can only use a parachute when you’re falling to the earth at some insane speed. You can only trust God when it looks as if there is no hope.

So I’m learning to be sure of less, but to be more confident of the less I know to be true. It’s an interesting paradox, and one that’s difficult to explain. I guess that’s what makes it so beautiful. Easy answers lose their beauty when held up to the light. But when you experience something that is beyond describing, or at least describing fully, the truth seems to actually grow in beauty as the light reflects across the surface of the unknown.

That’s just the way God likes to do things.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Proverb...

Emergesque points us toward the scripture...

The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.

Proverbs 29:7 (NIV)

Ouch. That's pretty clear, isn't it?

Lesslie Newbigin

For all you thinkers out there you should really take the time to read Lesslie Newbigin, especially The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Scot McKnight gives a good intro and some links to follow up on here and here.

That'll strectch you a bit. But it's good for us, isn't it.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Take off your shoes...and look!

I have a friend named Matt (check out Matt's music here or an MP3 sample here - he's the most profound song writer that I have ever experienced - and I'm only a little biased.) who lives in the southern United States. We’ve been friends since university. He usually comes to visit “Supernatural British Columbia” at least once a year. I am always amazed by what he says is his favourite thing to do in BC -- look. That’s right, he can spend hours just looking at Mt. Cheam, at an endless field of corn waving in the breeze, or at the salmon as they run. It’s all so new to him, so breath-taking. He says things like, “How do you get anything done here with all this incredible beauty to look at?” And I, of course, don’t really have an answer. The sad reality is that I tend to miss all those images that fill Matt with wonder and amazement. Life is busy, I have a wife and children, a job, and there’s not much time left over for “looking”.

When Matt leaves I’m always challenged to realize what we have here in the Fraser Valley. I have to admit that he’s right. Life moves so fast that I often miss something truly fantastic. It takes someone with a new perspective to remind me of the magnificence of the everyday. Henry W. Longfellow wrote,
"If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change. But now the silent succession suggests nothing but necessity. To most, only the cessation of the miracle would be miraculous and the perpetual exercise of God's power seems less wonderful than its withdrawal would be.”
The world all around us has much to say.

Most of the poetry in the Bible was written by a shepherd named David. He spent hours out in the hills caring for the sheep and doing just what my friend Matt does - looking. He began to see beyond what was there to the One who brought it into being. David wrote,
“The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

As I was thinking about these things I came across a quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a file I keep of tidbits that have impacted my life. It seems to sum up what I'm trying to say in this blog.
“Earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. But only He who sees takes off His shoes.”

In the hurry of our lives we often miss something very important. God is calling to us. He’s reminding us of not only His power, but also of His love. A love that gives us beauty to behold, to enjoy. Take some time to look. And then listen. Take off your shoes. This is holy ground. God has something to say to you.