Praying to Measure Up...

Last week, January 22nd, I logged on to www.shapevine.com with Len Sweet and author Michael Bywater (see post: "Narcissistic Introspection?" below) to talk about Michael’s book, Big Babies.

We had a blast – ShapeVine is a fantastic venue for online learning and fellowship via webcast and discussion board!

I’ll be continuing monthly interviews with Len and various guests, which is incredibly exciting but also difficult, on some level, to take myself seriously in that setting. Somehow, Len likes me – likes the way I think and the way I write – but the man is a giant. I’m not star struck (in spite of what my wife says), I am humbled. ShapeVine hasn’t yet syndicated it’s old interviews for download (currently it’s all live) but when they do you’ll have to log on and watch that first interview - and I’m sure, subsequent ones. There are three screens: me, Sweet and Bywater. Bywater is an Author in Residence at Cambridge, a best-selling writer, and was best friends with Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) for goodness’ sake.

Who am I?

Oh, I’m a 20-something aspiring writer, a loudmouth blogger, a church-skipping pseudo-evangelical-with-a-bad-taste-in-my-mouth, and a half-time seminarian. From smalltown Oregon. With indigestion and a migraine.

Len is encouraging me – assuring me I need to be an active part of the interviews, etc… and that my book is good enough to get published. But my book is sitting on a desk somewhere, now three months into a seemingly-endless publisher review. Every time I re-read a chapter of it, I wonder what I’m thinking. It feels trite. And when Len speaks, PhDs and DMins and 30 published books come pouring out of his mouth and I’m humbled. Quieted. And a little dumbstruck.

This relationship has been an immeasurable blessing. I cannot express how thankful I am for the time and attention of a truly great mentor, thinker and leader. I’m better for his friendship. But at times I feel a little foolish.

I guess I still worry far too much about what others think. I’m still trying to win a contest no one cares about…


read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at www.essenceproject.blogspot.com/...

Wonder: Through a Crack in the Fog...

There are some mornings (like today, on the way to work) where I get a quick glimpse through that darkened glass. A brief flash of light and color. A taste of holy clarity.

Andrew Peterson sings in my car stereo:
"I say faith is a burden - a weight to bear - it's brave and bittersweet. And hope is hard to hold to... Lord I believe, only help my unbelief! Till there's no more faith, and no more hope, I'll see you're face and Lord, I'll know - that only love remains..."

I could talk in circles (and do) about the church and emerging culture, but God forgive me! Sometimes I forget how much I love the Lord. Then I hear a sweet whisper in my ear and my heart jumps a little and all of the cynicism and frustration that have marked my adult faith seem so petty in view of Amazing Grace.
...

I'm still frustrated. I'm still desperate for change. But I am hopelessly in love with the God who saved me, and so thankful for this morning.


read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at http://www.essenceproject.blogspot.com/...

The Most Important Challenge?

In an online discussion about the Out of the Ooze book, the contributing writers were asked what they felt the single most important issue facing the church in 2008 was.

I recycled part of an old post from early 2006 for my answer, because I am seeing how increasingly critical it is that we begin (because we've barely started crawling here) to envision REAL change...

"I believe it is willingness to sacrifice itself when called to. Willingness to die that others might live."

We are often so afraid of throwing out the baby with the bathwater that we don't realize the baby has been sick for a long time... getting a rash FROM the bathwater. Or maybe getting frostbite because the water cooled off several hours (or centuries) ago.

Or maybe we accidentally used harsh Selsun Blue instead of Baby Shampoo in the water, so it's burning Baby's skin. Or what if Baby's skin is simply getting all prune-like, and it's time to get out and dry off?

And what if the baby isn't even a baby anymore? What if we've been trying to bathe a toddler in a baby tub, and the toddler just doesn't fit? He's still dirty because there isn't enough water to cover him. The water's become black sewage because Toddler was just running through the drainage ditch in the backyard, unkempt and undisciplined... or what if we drowned the baby? What if we were so worried about keeping the baby in the water that we didn't notice his little head went under?

Maybe we were talking on the phone...

All this to say: don't we trust God to lead the Body forward?

Anne Rice said in an interview, "We're too afraid that the devil is winning. He's not winning! WE'RE winning, and we have to start living like it."

Throw out that bathwater! The Holy Spirit will ensure that the baby (the Body of Christ... for Christ's sake!) will survive.

Self-protection isn't our calling.

We talk about "change" so much in emerging circles, but too often all we wind up with are the same old machine, retooled or repainted. This machine is breaking down. We have to let God build something new - more than lighting candles, greasing pomade through our faux-mohawks and playing more accoustic worship songs from the 90s... that isn't new - and it certainly isn't "emerging..."

Do we think Jesus is SO fragile?

Are we so selfish? When will we let go?


(It's time to dream bigger)

read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at www.essenceproject.blogspot.com...

Narcissistic Introspection?

Happy New Year!

Later this month, Leonard Sweet and I will be interviewing Michael Bywater for a webcast at www.shapevine.com/. I've been reading and taking notes on Bywater's most recent book Big Babies - a poignant (and hilarious) treatise on the juvenile culture of Western Civilization, our demands to be entertained, spoon-fed and pampered, and our refusal to GROW UP!

Some of the commentary strikes a little too close to home...

In Chapter 5 Bywater writes:

"I suspect that my grandfather's life was real in a sense that my father's life hasn't quite been, and my life is not at all. The crucial difference is the lack of self-consciousness, and that self-consciousness is yet another hallmark of the perpetual, infantilised adolescents we have all become, monsters of introspection hovering twitchingly on the edge of self obsession, peering into the abyss of our own inner disconnection, occasionally aware that while the unexamined life may not be worth living, the life which only exists to be examined is barely manageable; barely, indeed, a life." (pg. 121)

Ouch.

I'm so used to lamenting the UNEXAMINED lives of so many Christians that it is jarring to read such an eloquent, cautionary word against self-obsessive introspection.

But what of the monks and mystics? My guess is that their meditations are far less focused on the self than on The Divine (and on personal, spiritual and communal connectedness). How often my own meditations are obsessively - and narcissistically - on ME!!

read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at www.essenceproject.blogspot.com/...

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