My copy of Julie Clawson's Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices arrived yesterday and i wanted to make sure that you all knew about it as soon as possible. This is a book that I am really excited about, not just because I wrote the forward but because I think that it is one of the most important books that I have read for a long time. In it Julie talks about how the everyday choices we make in our lives have ramification for the lives and wellbeing of people around the globe. She highlights the consequences of our food and clothing choices and both for the people that produce them and for the environment in which we live. Everyday Justice challenges us to recognize that these decisions are an important way that we show our love for God and for our neighbours. It is a must read for all who care about God and God's world. I will probably blog more about it in the future and would love to hear your opinions on this topic too
This weekend I was in Pasadena CA at the West Coast Health Care Missions Conference. Unfortunately I spent most of the weekend feeling miserable with a headache, temperature and nasal congestion. It is the first time I can ever remember cancelling a workshop because of health. And I received little sympathy from my medical friends all of whom took a few steps back each time I came near because of their fears of H1 N1 flu. In spite of that it was a great weekend reconnecting to friends old and new. I was particularly impacted by a talk given by Bryant Myers, now a professor at Fuller Seminary who worked with World Vision for many years. His question Do we point people towards our organization, towards money, towards, power or toward Christ? really had me thinking. He talked about how the effectiveness of World Vision projects often pointed people towards World Vision as the saviour rather than towards Christ and it made me aware of how subtle the difference can be. Bryant talked about the fact that the go and tell evangelism we so often practice is deeply flawed because the power of conversion and of discipleship remains outside the community. It is people outside the community who bring the message and hold the answers. It is often even the people outside the community who ask the questions - the community members themselves are often seen as passive receptors of our message rather than active participants in it In the gospels the questions about the reality of Christ are always asked by the community itself in response to the acts of God in their midst. The Gospel message is so much more powerful when it is proclaimed in response to acts that make people aware of a new reality and challenge them to ask questions that point them beyond what they already understand. The challenge of the gospel is not in what we say but in how we live. To be truly spiritual people we must live our lives and do our work so that we bear witness to the spirit of God that dwells within us and not to ourselves and our own ambitions. We must live in a way that can only be interpreted in the light of the spirit that is within us. It is only then that we will find people respond with questions that point them not to us and our organizations but to God and the reality of Christ. Only then will we authentically bear witness to Christ and draw people into a living relationship with God. Makes me think of Mother Theresa who said - I bear witness to Christ at all times and occasionally I use words.
If you are like me you are always looking for resources that help you understand the lectionary. Here is a great list of lectionary resources put together by Bosco Peters in New Zealand. I particularly appreciate the international nature of the resources. I would heartily recommend Bosco Peter's site Liturgy as a great place for resources on liturgy. Love the Southern hemisphere flavour but it also has relevance for all of us who live in the northern hemisphere too. Thanks Bosco for all the good work you do in this area.
I was just reading an article this morning about the wildlife we like to attract to our garden. It talked about the fact that all of us love to see nice furry creatures like squirrels and winged creature like colourful birds and buuterflies out our windows. We tend to ignore the destructiveness of some of these creatures - the racoons and deer that eat an entire row of corn in the night for example. After all they look so cute while they devour our favourite plants. Most of us are not so keen on the less loveable creatures - the stinging, slithery and slimy critter like toads and snakes and spiders. They make some of us shudder just to think about them. Ironically these are the creatures that we most need in the garden.
When it comes to preventing damage to your garden, however, these critters are the ones you want visiting. Snakes, frogs, carnivorous lizards, wasps and eetles help keep the true pests in check."As I thought about this I could not help but think about the similarities to the church. What makes a healthy church? We love to attract the well dressed and the wealthy. We love to attract the energetic and the likeable people. We are not so keen on the outcasts - the mentally ill, the homeless, the disabled. Yet so often it is those that look good on the outside who do the most damage in the church. A pretty face and a well packed wallet can easily disguise a deeply broken personality that suddenly erupts in broken relationships and destructive behaviour. The perfect pastor or church elder who is suddenly caught in an adulterous relationship. With the outcasts we are often aware of the sins and the brokenness right up front. And they scare us because as a result of their own brokenness they are able to see through our facades. They know our churches are not healthy, they know the well dressed are as broken as they are. It amazes me how transparent my struggles are to those who are often ostracized and disregarded by the church. Maybe that is part of the reason for our rejection. We don't want to face up to the areas in which God still needs to transform us and unfortunately in the process we turn away the very people that can make our churches healthy. Just as the garden needs the stinging, slithering wasps and reptiles so our churches need the homeless and the marginalized. We need the broken and disabled people in our midst to enable us to confront and eradicate the real pests both in our own lives and in the life of the church.
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Too Busy to Pray
Well the pace of life is ratcheting up as we get ready for our trip to Australia in 12 days as well as my trip to LA tomorrow for the West Coast Healthcare Missions Conference. So many details and at the moment we do not have an assistant to help us. And that all reminded me of another prayer I wrote over the summer which as I read through it again this morning reminded me to take a deep breath, slow down and pray. I really do find that when I do take time to slow down, pray and listen, the burden lighten and the sense of urgency disappears. Suddenly all those details I was struggling with either seem to disappear or suddenly become manageable.
God you promise us a burden that is light and a load that is easy, You anoint us to study your word and meditate on your ways, May we never be too busy to listen, May we never be too tired to pray. God you invite us into your community but also to solitude, You call us to work but also to rest, May we never be too busy to listen, May we never be too tired to pray. May we see this day as an opportunity, To see you, to know you, to represent you, May we never be too busy to listen, May we never be too tired to pray.
My friend Jeff Johnson has just put together this promo for an upcoming CD he and Rhil Keaggy have produced. It Features photographs and images by artist, Kathy Hastings which inspired the instrumental collaboration between guitarist, Phil Keaggy and keyboardist, Jeff Johnson. As you know I love Jeff's music and often use it as background for my meditation videos. This is a great collaboration. Enjoy [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KchWP2RKawI]
What Will The Future Hold?
Summer is drawing to a close, and it seems to me that the end of the year is moving towards us at a very rapid clip. The MSA team has begun a series of discernment sessions to try and shape at least some of what we focus on over the next couple of years. As we have gotten back into this process which we began using about 18 months ago I realize how much I have missed them over the summer. This is a group discernment process developed and used by Quakers for running not just church but also business meetings. It works from the premise that God speaks to and through everyone and provides an environment in which we can listen to the ways in which God is speaking to us and discern our direction together. We live in a world with much uncertainty, one in which we all feel buffeted by change beyond our control. Often we wonder where and whether God is really in the midst of what is happening. I find that using this process really helps us to discern where God is and how God wants to lead us. So many of our strategic planning and futuring techniques stem from our belief t - spoken or unspoken - that the future will be more of the present only bigger, better and more prosperous. The last year has dispelled that illusion but many of us still want to go back to the old ways of doing things. I mentioned in the recent MSA yearly report that using this process has stimulated our creativity. It makes life a little messier than a well ordered strategic planning approach but is exciting to watch God take control and shape what we do. It is also exciting to see each person involved in this process grow and blossom as they are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and their sense of God's leading. None of us really know what the future will hold but I am more convinced than ever that this is the type of process that provides the flexibility we need to lead us into our rapidly changing future while maintaining a sense of the fact that God is indeed still in control. You can read more about the process we initiated last year at these posts Quaker Discernment More About Discernment More on Quaker Discernment I had just finished the draft for this article when I came across this post The Problem with Non that seemed so appropriate in relation to what I had just written that I thought I would add it as a reference for reflection. I think that part of the reason non profits find change difficult is that they develop structures and ways of thinking that build rigidity and inflexibility and really do not allow for change at any level. What do you think?
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