mystery

9 09 2008

the more unknown life becomes the more i realize that i’m not meant to live the known life. there is this great mystery in not knowing what is next, where God will shift things in the next moment. it’s a mystery so unique and great that it draws me in to just dwell in it and the God that is behind it all.

as i write this i am sitting in piles of junk, surrounded by a big mess of clutter, not sure which piece to start with as I try to make it liveable again. personally, i am untied from all the normal confines, separated from employment, from cohabitation, from romantic relationship. It’s all one big pile of uncertainty, a mini-mystery if you will.

a lot of the time the idea is that we should be trying to figure out our lives, figure out God’s plan(s) for us, to wrap our minds around the mystery. i’ve just been struck with how wrong this all sounds and seems. God is an infinite being whose very initial definition is the understanding that we cannot really understand. so why then the massive desire to get it, process it, analyze it all, and spit it out in religious language? there should be a need to just soak up the ambiguous nature of everything and trust in God to provide.

we spend so much time wandering around trying out this and that, claiming it to be the will and desires of God. perhaps God would love for us to just spend some time to stop and sit with Him, deepen a relationship of love, and be drowned in mystery. we have this infinite knowledge base in God who chooses to impart some of His understanding upon us, plenty of which we leave untapped. the endeavour should be to soak up God, not to try to run around pronouncing His position as if we are the almighty, infinite, holy and perfect being. this is to resurrect the relationship with God that we were ultimately designed for, and shown glimpses of with the creation of adam and eve.

adam walked (walked!?!) with God in eden and was blessed with such a close encounter with His creator. God clearly defined a boundary with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but presented Himself to adam and everything else God had made. adam had the creator, the perfect and holy one right there with him who he walked with in relationship. in his basic nature, from the point of creation, adam only knew of relationship with God. the only thing that adam didn’t have was knowledge of good and evil, not knowledge in general. if that’s the only thing adam couldn’t eat, would it not make sense to assume that he had everything else? in relationship at the point of creation, adam had such a rich knowledge from walking with God and soaking it all up.

at the very beginning, God designed it so that we wouldn’t know it all, but that we would have a rich relationship with Him in His creation. so why, oh why, do we go to the ends of the world to try to understand the mind of God through our systems, through our trees, and run away from the relationship? because we can’t bring ourselves to the point of admitting that we don’t know, that we aren’t meant to know it all.

maybe we need to stop pouring into our paradigms, our schedules, and start listening, walking, and soaking up God and who He is in relationship. this is going to look different for you than it is for me, but that’s alright, there isn’t a system to it. but there’s nothing to say that we can’t begin journeying along the path of relationship and uncertainty together. in fact, i would say that we should make a point of doing this together, in community. i think i’m ready to get immersed in a great mystery…

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an exercise in trying to find the “sweet spot”

24 08 2008

it seems to be that we, Christians and the Church, have excelled in getting a point across.  we have made it clear that we have a message that we are going to get out, even though it often only hits those sitting in the pews or chairs.  on any given sunday you may walk into a church building and find any number of Christians raising their hands in worship and listening intently to the pastor preaching on the stage.  even during the middle of the week you can come to the church building and attend a seminar or discussion or a fun event that people from the church are putting on.  messages are getting out there and are being communicated in various ways so that the people attending might absorb some of it and grow in their spiritual lives.

but what’s the message?  what are we really getting across?

i have a feeling that the majority of the churches in the Western world have been communicating the importance of belonging, of giving, of many different things.  but what is the main message that we are all trying to get across?  basically, are we hitting or missing the mark?  do we honestly focus on the biggest and most important thing of all, or do we dwell in the small, nitpicky, questionable things that might improve our financial or social lives?

this comes from a message i just heard from Jim Cantelon.  the name may strike a familiar chord as a former pastor, television host of 100 Huntley Street, and currently working in Sub-Saharan Africa with churches there dealing with HIV-AIDS.  the guy has got a lot of credibility and is on the front lines of social justice in the Christian world.

the premise is this: the main point is about what Jesus established as the main point and is reiterated time and time again through Scripture to give us a greater understanding.  the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbour as yourself.  as i’ve written before, this is the foundation of the Christian life and is the necessity above all else.  but i’m not just writing about sitting on your ass and trying to love whoever sits next to you in church, or the guy that walks by with his dog every morning.  yeah, that’s important, but it’s clearly not the point.

the main point is this: to have a vertical relationship with God based in righteousness, which feeds to a horizontal relationship with humanity based in justice.

as Jim mentioned in his message, the Evangelical community has gotten really good at the vertical relationship, about being able to sing our songs and work on our own devotions, but we’ve abandoned the horizontal relationship.  likewise, groups like the Mennonites have focused probably too much on the horizontal relationship and not enough on the vertical.  in his words, “it has to be about finding the sweet spot”.

in looking at the main point and considering it, one must understand that it calls for more than just giving money to a foreign group, or praying for your church.  a horizontal relationship of justice means that we get outside of our bubble and examine the world we actually live in.  a world that has a very different perception of life than the average Christian in the West.  you’ve probably read all the statistics, so i won’t go there with them, but i do want to throw out the idea that our lives, as much as they are vertically planted, are horizontally immersed.  aka, social justice and the Church or the Christian, need to be working at this together.  social justice should be the heartbeat of the Christian life when we examine our lives with others.

i am blessed to come from a church that has chosen to build into the lives of the widows of our community, the single mothers.  these women are often giving so much of themselves to their children and jobs that they are emotionally and physically drained on a regular basis.  meanwhile, the happily married couple with the three perfect children, and the two perfect jobs, living in the perfect house, going to the perfect church, totally miss the fact that their are people right around them, often more than a few, that could use some genuine care and love from the people that are supposed to have their lives grounded in it.

as the Church in general, and i’m not trying to bash here but just observing, has chosen to focus on the little things like our financial welfare, our need for civility, and potluck lunches, our world around us is suffering and plummeting with minimal to no exposure to the Church and social justice.  what if we started to pay attention and focus our efforts on the HUGE things going on, and the real horizontal relationship we’re called to?

the Church has an awesome opportunity to make a huge difference in this world and see the love of God spread throughout, but we’re not going to get it out there as we sit around and focus on the petty things that could make our own lives better.  we have to make our lives about others, about the widows and orphans, the ones God has said He deeply cares for.

we have to be so deeply immersed in loving God and loving others that we find ourselves in the “sweet spot”, caring about and making a difference in the things that matter to God.

we have to care about social justice as much as we care about our own relationship with God.

we have to love, and do it dangerously.





the servant leader

5 06 2008

It is servant leadership…in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader

this follows closely on the heels of yesterday’s post about the responsibility of the leader to the community and the community to the leader.

a current struggle of mine is in regards to the role of the community in supporting their leader, beyond nodding the head during the sermon on Sunday morning, or shaking his hand on the way in or out.  in one sense the pastor or minister is an employee of the church, or the larger organization, that serves the community when they show up to “worship” with all the baggage out there.  if we hold just to this view, than the leader is just there to give the listener the product, or the message wrapped up with a nice little bow, and then withdraw until the next time or the next need shows up.  this is wrong, purely flawed.

the leader, assuming that he or she has an ounce of humility to lower themselves to some degree of servitude, is as much a part of the community as the man or woman who walks in with worries.  to take the position that the leader is above all others and therefore to be left alone at the top and to deal in a power exhortation downwards, is a corrupt view of the western Christian Church.  on a whole, pastors are left on an island by their people, the very ones who sing the praises of the preacher, or of the visit that the pastor made to the hospital during the past week.  one wonders if it’s that this is expected or that it is genuinely appreciated and valued.  what would it look like if your pastor was in the hospital?

we cannot ignore that the pastor is to minister to the people and is in place to lead the community of faith towards worship.  but the pastor is as much a member of that community that hurts, struggles, and doubts from day to day.  the pastor is not some perfect man on a pedestal, waiting to be worshiped and adored by his people because he did what was expected.  the pastor is as much in need of the very words that were spoken in the message as the man sitting three rows from the back, or the woman feverishly taking notes in the second row.  the pastor is a member of the body, is one with all other believers, not above or below, but has humbly accepted the role of leading the people to worship of the God on high.  the pastor is not greater, for he needs the people as much as they need their leader.

the question is, when will we start treating our leaders, pastors, and ministers as such?  when will we lose the stigmatism of a leader that doesn’t need the fellowship of his or her brothers and sisters as much as we need to hear the teachings and wisdom that God has given to the leader?

wake up people, we’ve got to learn to love our leaders as much as they love us.





the community and the shepherd

3 06 2008

When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over other and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits…

Ministers and priests are also called to be full members of their communities, are accountable  to them and need their affection and support and are called to minister with their whole being, including their wounded selves

the culture of this time would have the common person or churchgoer assume that secrecy is one of the most valued traits that humankind must cling onto.  some sort of lie has been built up to suggest that the human being must keep themselves hidden from those around them.  such a thought process has crept into the minds of those who lead our churches, preach to the masses, and proclaim the Good News in their lives, of which i myself am a guilty member.  i’ve kept secrets, we all have, and still do to this day, but i suppose the point of Nouwen here is to expose the minister or priest as above that standard.

if we are truly to be about community and about brothers and sisters in Christ caring for one another, we must choose to be open and transparent with each other, even if stings and wounds us.  as proclaimers of the Word we can stand up on Saturday night, Sunday morning, or whatever midweek program we run and tell people that they need to be a part of community and know what it means to love one another.  but as the one saying it and telling others about the value and importance, are we truly doing it ourselves?

maybe the reason we feel so burned out, useless, and abandoned in ministry is because we chose to hide ourselves on a higher platform than the community we are to be a part of.  we’re not to be set apart from our communities, we are to be one within it, so we must choose to be transparent and vulnerable as such so that not only can we minister to the needs of the community, but the community might minister to the needs of the leader.





do we love?

31 05 2008

The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?

we are in the business of getting consumed with our status and our image in the world, and losing sight of what it means to truly seek the heart of God. it comes down to a simple matter: love. love with Jesus, the fully-God and fully-man. nothing else really matters when it comes down to it. if we don’t love Jesus and aren’t in a love relationship with the God who saved the world, then what have we?

but if we are in love with Jesus, nothing else matters, it all falls away, because the power of a loving relationship with an infinitely powerful God blows everything else out of the water. there is no business in worrying about status or image because it means nothing when we are loving Jesus and know that we are wrapped in His arms of love.





microtastic living

4 02 2008

wow, that title makes absolutely no sense but it sounds cool so i’ll go with it. in respect to living right now, i’ve got my roommate snoring away beside me right now and i’m sitting here listening to some Foo Fighters and maybe some Hillsong United soon. talk about differing tastes.

it’s been a while since i’ve posted on here, maybe a sign that i’m just really really busy. there is a lot to do right now, but there’s so much other stuff going on in life that i really don’t want to just think about the work. among the things weighing down on me right now are the whole post-relationship tension, summer employment, and life in general. maybe i can think outloud and dialogue about it all right now.

the summer…well, i’m officially going to be done my education come May, and then who knows what. i’ve had my dream for a while to spend that time with a pastor and to be able to just learn underneath him, but i’m not sure if something like that will actually work out or not. the best i can do is just take steps to find out if it will and let God open and close the doors that there are. i mean, God’s got it all in His hands and i just have to trust that He’s over everything, just like He says. i do have to go out and make the effort to do what He wants me to, but in the end, can i really control it? it’s quite the situation isn’t it? but it’s the trust in Him that brings me through it all.

in terms of reaching out, i had the opportunity to sit down and discuss with some guys about what it looks like to be a part of the community as a whole and get involved. so as a tangible way to reflect this, i’m going to make a commitment to head down to Williams Coffee Pub a couple times and just hope that i can strike up conversation with some people, ride the bus a bit more, talk with the cashiers at Zehrs, have a conversation down at Tim’s. it’s nothing radical, but it’s showing people that there are christians out there who care and love the people that are in the world. i think that this is part of what it means to reclaim the hearts of a lost world for God’s kingdom. i can’t say that i personally have any idea on how to do it perfectly, but at least i can try some stuff and see if i can make a difference for the kingdom.

so life is busy, full, and way too over-burdening. but in retrospect, He’s got it all under control.