Category Archives: Quotable

A Monk in the Blogosphere

What does this mean for bloggers, especially those of us who type so much about faith?

XXIX

A certain brother came, once, to Abbot Theodore of Pherme, and spent three days begging him to let him hear a word. The Abbot however did not answer him, and he went off sad. So a disciple said to Abbot Theodore: Father, why did you not speak to him? Now he has gone off sad! The elder replied: Believe me, I spoke no word to him because he is a trader in words, and seeks to glory in the words of another.

From The Wisdom of the Desert, Thomas Merton ed.

Ideal and Divine Realities

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

This passage, pointed out by a trusted mentor, has been important for me this week. Sometimes we just need to get over ourselves. I’m not perfect… so sue me.

Admonition for 2008

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”

-Benjamin Franklin

HT: Garrison Keillor

Willimon & The Offensiveness of Advent

I’ve had Methodist pastor Will Willimon’s blog in my Google Reader since last May when a colleague talked a lot about him at a retreat. Here’s a recent gem:

More than likely, Advent eschatology offends us for more mundane reasons. I am at church seeking personal advice for how to have a happy marriage or how to get along with the boss next week, only to have Advent wrench my gaze in our subjectivity in its insistence that whatever God is about in the Advent of Jesus, it is something quite large, quite cosmic, quite strange and humanly unmanageable, something more significant than me. I am not the master of history.

So let us begin with the honest admission that our real problem with these Advent/Christmas texts is largely political and economic. Tell me, “This world is ending. God has little vested interest in the present order,” I shall hear it as bad news.

However, for a mother in a barrio in Mexico City who has lost four of her six children to starvation, to hear, “This present world is not what God had in mind. God is not finished, indeed is now moving, to break down and to rebuild in Jesus,” I presume that would sound something like gospel. For her the Advent/Christmas message presages a revolutionary conflagration.

A great deal depends, in regard to our receptivity to these texts, on where we happen to be standing at the time when we get the news, “God is coming.”

It’s Advent. Let the revolution begin.

 

From his most recent blog post.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Year C

Time is just like money- it’s so annoying to be standing at the end of the week or month and be forced to say, “Now, where did it all go?” Let me use my work as an example. One practice I’ve picked up recently is taking a pro-active approach with my scheduling. It’s amazing the difference I notice in how I feel about my workload when I take steps to curb distraction. Time is just like money– think about what any financial adviser will tell you about budgeting. Mapping out where it will go at the beginning of the month is the best thing. I’m discovering this principle translates very well into my time. But we are human, and we’re going down this line of thought because, left to ourselves, distraction usually creeps in.

I’m sure you can relate to this experience somehow. Distraction. Even you Type A personalities out there. I mean, do you really always manage to filter out distraction? Raise your hand if so… Ok, no one? Because I was going to offer to let you preach instead of me. We all find ourselves asking where it all went, don’t we?

Time at work… I’ve already covered that one. Time on the weekend… what about that? Who has projects around the house that sneak under the radar Saturday after Saturday because Engineer Mountain’s wildflowers are in bloom right now, or the Denver Broncos are playing right now, or because that storm just dumped up fresh snow on Purgatory this morning, or because Russell needs your help in the youth ministry right now? Yes, we know how to play in this town, and it’s a huge battle for time.

I mentioned money earlier. Maybe your day-planner is tighter than a tourniquet, but your budget has a couple holes. Anina and I are pretty good with this, but we do have a month now and then where we look back and say “We spent THAT MUCH on the pets?!?” And I was utterly horrible at this concept when I first started managing my own money. How many of you students sometimes feel this way with your allowances?

Or here’s one: energy. Spending all your relational energy at work, and when you get home, it’s your spouse or your kids asking “You had a bad day, didn’t you?” When in fact, this may not really be the case, but instead you simply didn’t have anything left to give them when you got home.

Or who’s familiar with this scenario? A loved one passes away. In that quiet, solitary moment after you first find out, or while standing around talking with others at the wake, you ask yourself “Why didn’t I call them more often?” I didn’t deal with the passing of my mother’s mom very much at all, and this is one question that I really prefer not to confront.

All of these situations, and many others, have roots in our living of distracted lives.

I have good news for you: God knows.

And he used a stout and cantankerous but obedient man named Paul to give us some direction. Let’s pray, and then dig into today’s text. Continue reading

Repentance

To paraphrase Rob Bell:

Repentance is the celebration of what God has already done, and then living differently because of it.

-from Bell’s The Gods Aren’t Angry Tour

So much to digest! More to come soon…

It was good. I didn’t catch as many profound nuggets as when reading Velvet Elvis or watching selected NOOMAs, but Rob’s presentation was definitely engaging and worth the trip!

Catalyst 2007 – Rick Warren

“God’s Agenda”

  • If you want God’s blessing on your life, then you have to get with God’s agenda. 1st line of PDL: “It’s not about you.”
    • Stop praying “God, bless me.” Instead: “God, help me to do what you’re doing.”
  • The Kingdom is the single biggest image in the New Testament.
    • Where is it? Wherever Jesus is king… Heaven, earth, within you…
    • What is it? God’s people fulfilling God’s purposes on God’s planet for God’s glory
  • Cf. Matthew 25: If you want Christ to come back just get out and start sharing your faith
    • The disciples always wanted to talk about prophecy and signs; Jesus wanted to talk about evangelism.
  • God’s agenda is the church.
    • What if someone said, “I like you but I just can’t stand your wife (or body)?”
  • God created the entire universe just so He could create a galaxy just so He could create a solar system just so He could create a planet just so He could create an ecosystem… just so He could create a human that would choose to love Him and He could love the human back.
  • Your parents may not have loved/wanted you, but God did, and he made sure you had the ability to love them back, and in turn love Him.
  • God is a creator. You are most like God when you are creating. So stop trying to change culture. Create it.
  • The Moses “Staff to Snake to Staff” story
    • Why is that in the Bible?
    • Hint- When God asks you a question, it’s not for His benefit.
    • Likewise, when God does a miracle, it’s to teach a truth.
    • Moses’ Staff
      • His identification as a shepherd. Who he was
      • Symbol of Moses’ income. What he had
      • Symbol of Moses’ influence (over sheep :P). What he did
      • Take your ID/influence/income and throw it down.
      • God: “And if you surrender it to me I will make it come alive like you’ve never imagined. And every time you pick it up again, it’ll go dead.”
      • From that point forward, Moses’ staff is always referred to as the Rod of God… it pops up in the 10 Commandments, the Red Sea, Pharaoh, simply all over the Pentateuch
      • So: What’s in your wallet hand?

Warren’s Response to the Moses’ Staff Story

  • After writing Purpose Driven Life, an AIDS trip where he accompanied his wife really turned him around.
  • “What’s in my hand?” – Affluence
    • I Corinthians 9 – “It’s ok to get paid for preaching, but I wanna do it for free so no one can doubt my motives.”
    • Not gonna spend the money on myself
    • Not gonna take a salary from the church
    • Gonna give salary back for 25 years
    • Gonna set up AIDS and poverty charities
    • Gonna become reverse tithers (give 90%, live on 10%)
    • “There’s a bumper sticker that says ‘Honk if you love Jesus!’ Well I wanna make one that says ‘Tithe if you love Jesus, any fool can honk!'”
  • “What’s in my hand?” – Influence
    • Psalm 72 – “Solomon’s prayer for more influence. It sounds more selfish than good ol’ Jabez! Solomon was already the wealthiest, wisest man on the planet.”
    • But it’s only selfish until you read the purpose: “So that the king may help the orphaned and marginalized…”
    • “I want to use my power for these people to speak up for those who have no influence.”

Catalyst 2007 – unChristian

A moderated discussion with Tri Robinson, Chris Seay, Dave Kinnaman, and Gabe Lyons, on Kinnaman’s & Lyon’s new book unChristian.

  • Why does our revelation to others that we’re Christians bring such rejection?
  • unChristian set out to scientifically document perceptions of and attitudes towards Christians. Over 10,000 interviews were conducted.
    • Top perceptions: Anti-gay, Judgmental, Hypocritical, Sheltered, Too political, Proselytizers
    • NonChristians 16-29 years old are 8x less favorable about Christians than their Boomer parents
    • unChristian is not an opinion poll to see how we should act… we still have the Bible for that.
  • “We’re not hated for righteousness, but for self-righteousness.” Dave Kinnaman (DK)
  • “On ‘Oh, this is nothing but media bias…’: Research shows that 16-29 y/o’s have 5 Christian friends, 6 months experience among a church community, a majority have at least considered what it means to follow Christianity, etc. They’ve been up close and personal and have some very real things to say.” Gabe Lyons (GL)
  • “They have personal stories to back up their perceptions of Christians as hypocritical, shallow, etc.” (DK)
  • “This generation is slipping away from us. If we sit back and assume our world’s going to Hell, and just leave it alone… well, we just can’t be like that.” (GL)
  • There’s been a surge of people identifying themselves as ‘Christ-followers’ and other similar terms, instead of ‘Christian’. “We need to be redeeming the term ‘Christian’, showing all the things we’re for.” (DK)
  • If Jesus were physically among us again, “his focus would not be on morality… it would be on God and the Creator. If you focus on morality, Romans ultimately tells you you won’t get morality. unChristian is not despair of where we’re at, but hope of where we can be.” Chris Seay (CS)
  • “Before we’re gonna change our culture, we’ve gotta change our own hearts.” Tri Robinson (TR)
  • “It’s wrong to preach a message about social justice or giving water or feeding the poor without providing an outlet for people to go and put it into action. We need a path to run on and it’s the role of the church to provide that path.” (TR)
  • “Christians today are waiting for their leaders to say its ok to care for the environment.” (TR)
  • “It comes down to our character. So far, the right answers have produced the wrong character. We have to own some of that.” (CS)
  • “In those perceptions are tremendous opportunities. They [nonChristians] are smart & savvy. They do remember. They’re begging for chances and deep conversations to wrestle with their doubts. They’re absolutely waiting to be awakened to God’s purposes. They could change the world, we just have to get out of the way.” (DK)
  • “Spirituality is at an all-time high, but they’re not finding it in Christianity. It’s not just an image problem. It’s not that you have to five yup the truth. You just have to hold it in tension as you engage people that are different than us, that are anti-us.” (GL)
  • “I feel that there is a major major trend coming. Let’s talk about the things we agree on. There are so many organizations that are on the same page that don’t know each other exist. Let’s draw the gifting into one place.” (TR)
  • “They don’t recognize the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ in Christians. The generation is skeptical of us. What will we do? Will we hole up? Do we draw a line in the sand? How could we embody that grace and truth that Jesus tells us he is?” (DK)

Tom’s Shoes

One thing that sometimes turns me off to even the noblest of fundraising plans and charities and stuff is how complicated they can get. I mean, before you give to something, you should investigate it and find out where your money’s going. So when 55% goes here and 30% goes there and 84% is overhead, blah blah blah, I’m like, “Eh, it’s kinda complicated… Whatever…”

So what about a charity or service that has a 1 to 1 giving ratio? Pretty straightforward and real easy to give to.

Tom’s Shoes.

You buy a pair, another goes to one of 600,000 barefooted kids in Ethiopia. Easy.

On that note, here are some wise words about what we buy:

In simple English, this is truth
So see if this makes sense to you
Under the guise of Jesus Christ
Beneath the vibe and all the lights
They lie, these spies
Covered, your eyes
I never knew this was a contest
I guess we lost it long ago

Blue mixes
Kick us while we’re down, yeah
Fixing prices
Sure, you say one thing
But your actions tell the truth on you

So, blue mix means to weaken sound
Turns concert halls to battlegrounds
Make us pay to go on tour
Marked up t-shirts to match yours
Blind fans, gold mine
You are, dollar signs
And when did this become a contest?
I guess we lost it long ago

Blue mixes
Kick us while we’re down, yeah
Fixing prices
Sure, you say one thing
But your actions tell the truth on you

You are responsible
To watch what you buy
These bands that you love
Pull the wool over your eyes
So watch them
Watch us
Watch them

Five Iron Frenzy, “Blue Mix”

[FIF HT] : t.c.

Catalyst 2007 – Patrick Lencioni

“The Ministry of Management”

  • Work is under-focused-on in our lives. Not in terms of time spent, but how it’s often thought of as that “other thing we do.”
    • Even in church. There’s not much talk about work. Family, poverty, orphans, etc. All admirable topics, but honestly, what takes up the majority of our time? TV clergy/priests always shown giving a sermon or leading confession, never doing paperwork.
  • Ah, but it’s changing. Shows like “Dirty Jobs.” The people on those shows, the people that have crappy jobs, seem to be pretty much content. And then we look at the CEO’s and high-level managers, and they’re miserable!
    • Maybe we should be focusing on … fulfillment.
  • Nobody’s immune from the “Oh, crap, I gotta go to work tomorrow…” blues.
  • “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” -Samuel Johnson
  • Observed an obviously cheerful young employee at an airport fast-food joint. His colleagues obviously despised him.
    • BUT… Like everyone else, he deserves to love his job. So what does he need from management to help him continue on as he is?
  • We all need just a few simple things, or rather, need the absence of a few simple things:
  • Anonymity
    • We ALL have a need to be known.
    • Why don’t we think we’re supposed to invest in the people we work with? (Especially those with whom we’re trusted to manage!)
      • Lencioni was wined and dined while being recruited for a consulting job out of college. Very same managers actively ignored him from Day 1 on the job.
    • Excuses for allowing anonymity: Too busy, forgot what it’s like to be
    • there, fear of suddenly coming off as disingenuous, lazy, arrogace
  • Irrelevance
    • You have to know that you make a difference in someone else’s life, however large or small that difference might be.
    • Pastors have the “making a difference” market cornered, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need reminding that people appreciate the difference they do make.
  • Immeasurement
    • A Fundamental Wondering: “How am I doing?”
    • We need to be able to know how we measure up, and ideally need to be able to informally measure ourselves
    • Do those you manage have the tools to know how they’re doing? They could be miserable if they don’t..
    • Example of immeasurement: pooled tips.

    Bottom line… Don’t wait to retire so you can go be a missionary, and let that be your grand legacy of influence. Don’t wait to retire to realize the impact you have at the place you’re at right now. The people you manage are more long-term impacted than anyone you’ll short-term serve on a mission trip or other retirement project!

(RPD comments forthcoming.)

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