Category Archives: faith

daily ys staff meditations — friday

friday
BEAUTY

rise up, my beloved, my fair one, and come away.
for the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone.
the flowers are springing up, and the time of singing birds has come,
even the cooing of turtledoves.
the fig trees are budding, and the grapevines are in blossom.
how delicious they smell!
yes, spring is here!
arise, my beloved, my fair one, and come away.
song of songs 2:10-14

Beauty. Find some.
Take a long drive on a beautiful two-lane highway.
Hike in the Cuyamacas.
Sit at your favorite beach.
Go to an art museum.
Play beautiful music.
Eat wonderful food.

Notice the beauty in yourself.
Look at the people around you and recognize the beauty in them.
Breathe it all in…deeply.

daily ys staff meditations — thursday

thursday
REST

are you tired? worn out? burned out on religion?
come to me.
get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
i’ll show you how to take a real rest.
walk with me and work with me-
watch how I do it.
learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
i won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. matthew 11:28-30

SLEEP.
SLEEP A LOT.
TAKE A NAP.
STAY IN YOUR PAJAMAS ALL DAY IF YOU CAN.

You might also find ways to spend time today in real rest.
Real Rest comes when we show up to God.
When our real self comes into contact with the real God.

When I get honest with God about my thoughts, feeling, and situations, I slowly become aware that God is holding me in the midst of all the chaos and beauty of my life this day. Real rest is what follows.

SLEEP SOME MORE.

daily ys staff meditations — wednesday

i asked our staff spiritual director, beth slevcove, to put together a guide for our 7 day weekend, our sabbath-week. as i was reading and thinking about today’s suggestion, i thought i should post them, as they are just wonderful. feel free to join us! i’ll have to post four days worth right now to get caught up; but use them whenever you want…

wednesday
DETOX

while they were on their way jesus came to a village where a woman named martha made him welcome in her home. she had a sister, mary, who seated herself at the lord’s feet and stayed there listening to his words.

now martha was distracted by serving, so she came to him and said, “lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to get on with the work by myself? tell her to come and help me.”

but the lord answered, “my dear martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! but only one thing is needed. mary has discovered it- and I will not take it away from her. luke 10:38-42

Read this a few times out loud.
Read it slow and listen if a word or phrase stands out to you. Notice if things bug you about this scripture or attract you and let those things become entry points to prayer.

Detox. If we take this week seriously, there are toxins that will come to the surface. Things we don’t notice in our full, busy lives. Things that drain our energy and rob us of life. What are they? What toxins have snuck in unaware? What are we choosing to go without this week? What are our distractions? Our worries and anxieties? And what is the One Thing Needed? The answers will be different for each of us.

This might be a good day to journal, or take a long walk alone and rant. Get your words out in conversation with God. Get in touch with how your body feels, how your mind feels, how your heart feels. Get your words out so you can make space inside yourself.

the hipness of judgmentalism

i decided something today: judgmentalism is the easy seduction of the hipster (or progressive) christian. i’ve been so convicted recently about my own judgmental attitude. god has been just nailing me on this — not by showing me god’s wrath or something like that, but by revealing to me that i’m hurting the heart of god. and the frustrating part of this is that god is showing me how i’m doing this to people in the opposite direction that i’m heading: people more conservative than me. i mean, really, wouldn’t it be easier if god showed me how i’m hurting his heart with my judgmentalism toward people who are adherants to frameworks of faith that i wish i could possess? wouldn’t that be neat? but, no. god has to go and show me the hurt being brought on the kingdom by my judgmentalism toward those who’ve hurt me, those who taught me legalism, those who were even more extreme than i in their devotion to structure and rules and answers.

dang.

and today i was confronted by it from some friends i love very, very dearly.

[[update: i have decided to delete the story i had here. it was very personal, involving people i love; and it’s not right for me to “put it out there” without their permission. so, to neuter the story: some people i feel a strong amount of kinship to, people i choose to be with because of their lack of legalism and abundance of grace to me, showed, today, the dark underside of judgmentalism. it was toward a young guy new to our collective experience, who’s doing what young guys do: showing some great passion while making a few decisions someone who’d been around the block a few more times would not make – call them rookie moves. i think that’s all i can tell and still have it be neutered.]]

but here’s the point. a big part of why i love these people so much is that they really understand grace. they have been burned by legalism and judgmentalism in the past — every one of them. and they want nothing to do with it.

i’m not trying be holier-than-thou here — i’m sure plenty of stones could be cast at me. and, ironically, if they weren’t so set on judging, i would likely be going there myself — they just got to it first, so i’ve been offered a reprieve. it just seems to me that judgmentalism is a muck of quicksand that we humans can’t quite seem to get ourselves out of. me and my friends in the emerging church are just as prone to judgmentalism as first-fundie-baptist church down the street (though the emergent response to our critics is an absolutely stellar piece of non-judgemtalism).

the most enlightened so easily slip into dismissing the “un-enlightened”
the most progressive so easily slip into dismissing the non-progressive
the most mature so easily slip into dismissing the immature
the most hip and culturally-creative so easily slip into dismissing the less hip and less culturally-creative
the most whatever so easily slip into dismissing the un-whatever

[sigh]

lord, save me from this.

just finished “the last word”

i’ve had a pre-release copy of brian mclaren’s the last word and the word after that” since early february — months before it was released. and like a total dork, i put it on my shelf (can’t think what i was reading at that moment), and didn’t get to it until these last two weeks (i coulda been the cool kid on the emergent playground if i’d read it back then!). i finished it at an irish pub this evening on a “reading date” with my wife, jeannie (she was reading the first-draft manuscript of mark yaconelli’s upcoming book).

wow.

one of the more significant threads of my theological journey over the past half-dozen years is the nagging sense that my understanding of the atonement, my classic evangelical explanations of christ and the cross (which i’ve held warmly for three decades or more, and have used as explanations to thousands of junior highers), just weren’t enough for me anymore. the idea that jesus death is/was only about staking the wrath of a perfect, yet just, god, who must punish sin, and all that. [don’t flame on for this — i know pretty much every argument you could throw my way — i’ve thrown them myself for years.]

a half-dozen years back, i started shifting how i did “the response time” at camps and retreats i spoke at. even though my approach had long ago moved beyond what i considered to be manipulative, i was once again being confronted with the idea that i was manipulating young teens into the kingdom (this time, not by my methodology, but by my theology). so i started changing my language, and started shifting my approach, and all the while, i was seeking — personally — for a deeper or newer or more complete understanding of salvation and atonement.

in the last two years, i think i’ve mostly landed somewhere on this. but it’s still pretty fuzzy in many ways. brian’s book (which is getting high praise from some, and being wholly dismissed or called dangerous by others) puts words on many of the things i’ve been thinking.

i’m not sure i agree with everything in the book — yet. but, i still contend that questions are better than answers; and brian’s book helps me frame my questions.

in the end, i liked the 2nd book in the trilogy (“the story we find ourselves in“) best — it was the most helpful to me of the three. but this one rocked also. i might have to read it again, along with the first two.

questions are better than answers

this statement (“questions are better than answers”) is one of the CORE values we came up with a few years back, as part of our one-day CORE training for youth workers. it was one that brought with it much heated discussion with the CORE team. there were those on the team who weren’t happy with this as a statement by itself, saying that while Jesus certainly raised lots of questions, he also provided many answers. some lobbied for a modification, along the lines of “questions can be as helpful as answers” or “questions are sometimes better than answers” or something of that sort.

but sitting here at the emergent convention seems to be a good place to ruminate on this tension. and all i can do is fall back on the statement itself. frankly, i do not find answers all that helpful. i suppose the primary reason for this, in my life (and i think this is reasonably universal), is that the “answers” we think we have are almost always temporal, or situational, or — at the very least — lead to new questions.

for some, this seems to be a very frightening thought: how can i know anything, if i can’t settle on an answer? but this very question (ooh, a very helpful question in and of itself) is built on such a faulty set of assumptions. sure, i “know” that God is characterized by love (let’s just use this as a sample “answer”, since christians of all stripes would agree on it). and i “know” that is true, as opposed to it’s theoretical opposite: God is characterized by hate. but while the answer gives me a road sign, it doesn’t give me a destination. so, last year i might have responded to that “answer” with a certain set of new questions, this year (today) it brings with it a whole new set of questions. and this does not leave me in a place of fear; it leaves me in a place of wonder, a place of exploration, and a place of humility. and these places are exactly the places God wants me to be! God does not desire for me to be in a place of conclusion.

just yesterday, someone asked me what a defining mark was about the emergent crowd. i thought for a minute, and the best answer i could come up with was: they (we) are not afraid of any question.

so, in the spirit of the emergent convention, i re-affirm this statement, and would even add stronger language to it:

questions are always better than answers

my year in review

my life experienced a directional shift 18 months ago when yaconelli died. sure, there has been role-shifting and lots of other tangible stuff as a result. but that’s not the shift i’m talking about. there was an unlocking of emotion that seems to have had a “no turning back” impact on my heart.

the second phase of this shift kicked in exactly a year ago this week, when we chose to take a significant redirection path for YS, launching out on a route of reinvention (without being able to see the end-point on the horizon at that point). much of this was cognitive, but has had deep root-level implications for my heart-unlocking.

phase three seems to have occured over a series of two YS exec team retreats, where we dealt with identity issues (personal and corporate). a new level of self-awareness started to come into view, and this seems to have had a side-effect of ramping up this emotionalism in my spirit.

the final phase (at least the last marker in this) was the heart-breaking that occurred in me surrounding my time at jeanne mayo’s youth leader conference, and the significant healing times i had with monty hipp and ron luce (which i referred to earlier, but can’t risk commodifying by blogging about it).

there have been overt implications of all this (like, i understand leadership differently than i did a two years ago, and, therefore, i lead from a different place; and there have been great implications in my marraige). i have untapped a surprising ability to cry, or at least be overwhelmed with emotion, that had previously been unavailable to me.

but the most striking result for me has been this: for a good 10 years, i’ve had a keen sense that god has been involved in my life — in my professional roles, and in my thinking. this has certainly had profound implications. it’s not that i didn’t believe that god was involved in those aspects of my life prior to 10 years ago; it’s that i became aware of it, i could feel it. but what i’m seeing now, maybe for the first time in my life, is a growing awareness that god is actively shaping my heart and emotions. it’s wonderful, of course. but if i’m fully honest, it’s downright terrifying also. for the first time, i’m starting to understand in a non-cognitive way what yaconelli was always talking about when he referred to jesus as terrifying.

one of the scary things about tapping into emotion is that they’re not all good emotions (like warmth and compassion). a smaller part of this is that i also seem to have tapped into a new reservoir of rage that i didn’t know was possible from me. i think i’d always truncated it in the past. not that i’ve acted out on this occaisonal rage (other than the time i almost strangled our dog for tearing up the family room carpeting). but my controlled anger bubbles up to a more intense level (which i can only describe as rage) on a regular basis.

the group of guys i met with this week, when i mentioned this — almost as a little verbal sidebar — at the end of my recap of the year, challenged me that i need to get some help with this. initially, i was quite resistent. but i’m choosing to accept the spiritual wisdom of the group, and am blogging about it here as a stake-in-the-ground (look! it’s accountability!) that i won’t blow this off.

further thoughts on accountability

i’m home from my four days in the woods, 3 hours north of toronto. here is a stream-of-consciousness list of random thoughts (some in response to the experience, some in response to the comments on my earlier post). i’ll also post seperately about my own time of sharing and implications.

    the water in lakes three hours north of toronto is still absurdly cold in early may, as was experienced when five of us took a jump off the end of the dock. we all agreed later, while in the hot tub, that another minute or so in the lake could have meant death.

    8 guys can consume a remarkable amount of junk food in 72 hours.

    i can’t force anyone to share what they don’t want to share. that was the crux of my earlier post. in the evangelical church (my tradition), we’ve had this idea that accountability is something you “hold” someone to. bull.

    a better word for what we experience at this annual gathering is “group discernment”. in six of the eight cases, the end result of our individual sharing times was something we didn’t see coming. it wasn’t about listing our sins. it was about saying, “here’s what’s been going on in my life and mind and soul this year”, followed by 30 to 60 minutes of probing questions that lead to a collective discernment (a spiritual discernment) of some action that needs to take place. it was spiritual direction without any one person taking the roll of spiritual director (we all took that role, collectively). in two of the cases, the result will likely mean a sabbatical of some sort — to address what we discerned as the-edge-of-burnout or the-edge-of-depression. in two more cases, the result will likely mean some sort of short-term counseling to help with either identity pieces or anger issues.

    i think this group discernment is what some of you were getting at in your comments about accountability being an issue of community. but i had community with the guys i met with back in the day (where deep levels of crap were still withheld by some) — which still leaves me thinking our traditional concept of accountability is wack.

    i also have a truly wonderful community i meet with every week — my small group — that provides some of this; but it’s different. there was something significant about this week being a time when us 8 guys said, “we’re here to deal with our stuff — good, bad, ugly.” one of the great strengths of my small group is its diversity — we are all different ages, in different life stages, and in varying places in our spiritual journey. this provides a context that is more like a true expression of church. the group i met with this week, however, is somewhat more homogeneous — we’re all guys, we’re all in professional roles with high pressure and the ability to have culture-shaping influence. we all have the ability to screw up our families if we’re not keeping that on the radar. and all of us have been in some season of role transition — which provides a level of insight and kinship that, i think, massively aids in the group discernment process (we can see each others issues more quickly and clearly). another interesting piece of this group is that we truly have the capability of helping each other, in tangible ways, with the “next steps”.

    i stand by the idea that (maybe this is more true for men than it would be for women?) there’s something very powerful about us only meeting once a year (and, understand, everyone in the group is in more regular connection with some of the others in group on a more regular basis). it’s helpful for looking at the macro-level issues in our lives, because our starting point for each person is what we talked about last year when we were together. it seems to me that some of the strength of this group would be minimized if we met weekly or monthly (which would be impossible, of course, since we are all over north america), which could rob us of the opportunity to truly get into the macro-level stuff.

    having a seperate space to set up a video projector for Halo carnage is cathartic.

so, i guess one of my conclusions is that i need to stop referring to this group as an accountability group. that, and i’m really not a fan of salt-and-vinegar chips, which the canadians ate as if their lives depended on it.

accountability is a sham

I don’t expect to be able to blog this week, until Friday. I’m on a plane right now, flying to Toronto for my annual accountability group, and will be meeting in a fairly remote cabin/condo without connection.

So – annual accountability? For years (not now, but previously) I was in a guys accountability group that met weekly. They were my best friends, and we really lived life together. But we also met once a week – usually on my front porch, so cigars were involved in the best Lewis and Tolkein way – and voluntarily talked about what was going on in our lives and minds and hearts and souls.

Problem is: all accountability is voluntary. Just because we met every week, we never had a hint that one of the guys had a 10 year struggle with porn that – later, after our group had moved on – almost ended his marriage, and did end his youth ministry career. And this was just the kind of thing we talked about in our group. But he, voluntarily, chose not to.

So when some friends from around the country and I entertained the idea, three years ago, of starting an accountability group that would meet for three days once a year, my first response was: well, how can we have any real accountability with that format. Bottom line: accountability is a sham. You can no more hold someone accountable to issues of the mind and soul than you can mandate grace or peace. It’s voluntary. one of the guys in my current group didn’t reveal his struggle with alcohol the first year, but did last year. really, let’s just excise the word “accountability” from our little church-y lexicon.

i’ll be bearing my sould to 7 friends this week in Toronto. or not. we’ll see.

passion

i don’t know if i’d ever heard this description of passion before, from Jurgen Moltmann (Kenda Dean references it in Practicing Passion):

passion is loving something enough to suffer for it

i think i could go sit in a cave (or, more likely, a hotel room) and ruminate on that for a year. it sure had my head buzzing friday when i read it on a plane. and i talked about it all weekend (likely, the people i spoke with thought i was a simple caveman who’d never heard the word passion before, as this was, of course, its obvious definition).

i’m kinda big on passion. my wife gets really tired of me “doing talks” on passion at camps and retreats and such. i preached on it at my church last year. i’m not sure if i’m naturally pre-disposed and pre-wired to be into passion (likely); or, if i’ve experienced stuff in my life (whatever that would be) that would drive me to embracing passion (likely); or, that it’s some combination of those and other factors (likely).

when i realize i’m passionate about something (like, let’s say: an idea for a book we could publish at YS, or an event idea, or a book i can’t wait to finish reading, or a family vacation), i experience a fullness of life that pulls me up above normal living for a bit. and those blips above the surface seem to be — as i look backward — the markers of my spiritual journey. even if the moment of passion (or day of, or week of passion) doesn’t seem to be anything remarkably church-y or jesus-y, later, i can see that it’s become part of the unfolding of my spiritual journey.

those markers (i’m liking the word ebeneezer these days) are holy points, mercy points, grace points. they’re the “thin places” (i can’t remember where that phrase comes from) where heaven and my existence are a breath apart; where God’s story and my story are scratching each others’ backs and rubbing each others’ shoulders.

i guess what i’m thinking is this: every moment of passion in my life is a holy moment. is that true? i suppose it’s more accurate to say: every moment of passion in my life is pregnant with the possibility of holiness.

hmm. still more to think about.