I feel so different today. It must be a New Year.
Last night I was so glad to see 2011 go. It felt exactly like it did on New Year’s Eve of 2010, 2009, 2008…
It’s the same “time” of year that we desire to be the type of person that we didn’t become last year. To make the type of changes that we didn’t make last year. But why does this cycle seem to continue year after year after fantastically-too-quick and full-of-letdowns year?
Time is something that we made up to make sense of our finitude. As humans, we are limited. We can’t grasp the idea of infinity and we struggle to think beyond the confines of our minds. So we created time. We made a calendar. We determined that the rising and setting sun and the rhythms of the seasons and harvests determine for us when we are supposed to do things. To wake up. To plant. To eat. To go.
As if humanity is not limited enough to begin with, our quantifying creation limits us even further. We’re late. We don’t have enough time. We can’t get things done. We can’t make things happen.
We can’t dream. When we sleep, it is typically too short to dream. When we are awake, we are too tired and frantic to dream. And if we do dream of something we think, “I’d like to do that but I just don’t know when I’ll do it. There’s just not enough time.”
We made clocks that tick and tock and move aimlessly into a future that doesn’t even exist. We wait for things to pass only to look back and discover what we could have done with our “time.”
What could you do if time didn’t exist? Oh, wait. It doesn’t.
“The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Go ye, therefore, into all the world and create.
The reality of God’s presence has taken on a whole new meaning.
I have recently been doing some reading by Michael Lodahl, Michael Brierly, and John Cobb on creation, God’s immanence, ecology, God’s need for humanity, and panentheism (not to be confused with pantheism). After writing a number of more academic pieces on these ideas it is difficult to fully process through my thoughts in a brief post. Nonetheless, I have been experiencing a renewal to take more seriously my position as a human on this earth with the responsibility of representing God and allowing God’s presence to be known. As a pastor, priest, and poet, all of which I aspire to be but typically fall short, it is a privilege to be a distributor of the sacraments. Sacraments, quite simply, may be defined as an outward sign of inward grace or any physical things “under,” “in,” or “through” which God comes. Might God come to make himself known through all things? ALL things? And if he does, as a giver and partaker of sacraments, shouldn’t I consider how I treat the created world?
When difficult things happen in life it seems quite normal for us to ask or lament, “Where is God?” Even when things are good, we wonder, “Hmmm… Where is God?”
If God is really everywhere, then where is he? Don’t we typically think that God is somewhere in the space that we call “air,” “space,” or “the heavens” that is infinitely over-and-above us? But what about the space that is infinitely near, local, proximal, breathable, and touchable?
Is it possible that God is present and comes to be known in and through all created things?
Have you ever found yourself wondering, “What in the world am I doing with my life?” You may be a professional in a certain vocation that feels unfulfilling. You may be wondering what degree program to enter? You may have already completed most or all of your college credits and find yourself thinking, “Why, oh, why did I major in this?” Maybe you enjoy your field of study or vocation but the rest of life just feels empty and meaningless.
I implore you to consider the question, “what were you made for?”
Some may say, “I wasn’t made.” Others would assert that they are made to love God and love others. Let’s assume for a moment that we do want to seek good and, therefore, want to act lovingly toward others. Let us also operate from the framework that we each possess an imaginative capacity that allows us to consider and create a vision for life that infuses our unique passions, interests, and strengths with a purpose higher than our own self interest or preservation.
What would that look like for you? What were you made for?
Ash Wednesday. It marks the first day of the lenten season as a means to help the post-modern, post-enlightenment, post-colonial human engage the mourning, suffering, celebration, and hope embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.
“What are you taking on this lenten season?” – a question I began to ask after reading a Twitter post by my friend Matt Frye. He posted, “What 40 day change are you making in your life for this lent season? I’m taking on 40 days of journaling. Something that I need desperately.”
What are you taking on?
Lent has historically and culturally been defined by a person electing to sacrifice or give up some item or substance or external material or non-material product or influence. I value that aspect of Lent but understand it’s limitedness. The act of giving up something may be considered disciplined and necessary to produce a sense of shared suffering and solidarity; however, the completeness of sacrifice is understanding that which fills the places that are empty due to sacrifice.
Matt stated that he is taking on the act of journaling for 40 days. For some, the time spent writing and reflecting could be something that fills a perceived void created by giving up television watching or a Facebook addiction. I have been considering giving up the consumption of meat for the next 40 days. By default, my body would need to be filled by nutritious foods high in protein such as lentils. Rather than sacrificing the consumption of meat I may need to consider taking on a vegetarian diet and committing to growing life giving plants – as an act of discipline and as an act of worship – taking care of this body as a unique approach to environmental sustainability.
What are you taking on? Share your ideas in the comment section below.
Peace be with you.
I don’t carry cash. Really, I don’t carry cash. It is rare to catch me with a $10 or $20 on me. Sarah and I do all of our banking and bill paying online while our purchasing of goods occurs on a debit card that earns WorldPerks/FlexPoints flyer miles with every monetary note we spend. Additionally, we don’t receive paper statements nor do we have to drive to a bank regularly so we cut down on paper usage and travel emissions from delivery. Recently, however, we’ve been writing a lot of checks to all the college ladies that watch Kyla for us. We are running out of checks and had to order more. I suggest ordering through The Check Gallery. The price beats most if not all especially if you are a first-time customer. They also claim to be “your green choice for checks.” The Check Gallery “prints checks on recycled paper using vegetable-based ink. [They] absorb the extra costs associated with using earth-friendly materials so our customers don’t pay more.”
What “environmentally friendly” organizations/suppliers/companies/products do you recommend?
A review(ish) of Rob Bell’s newest book. Drops Like Stars is Bell’s best book yet. I was able to get a pre-release copy of the book from the Poets, Prophets, and Preachers conference held in Michigan. The book is now available (release date was August 1). Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Brian McLaren said, "I’m deep into revisions for A New Kind of Christianity , due out next March, and I’m feeling ‘in the zone.’ The first draft is done, but I revise first drafts like Chuck Norris unleashes roundhouse kicks, so the really intense work is underway."
Brian , you are my hero (one of them). You are a man of humility (unlike some other unnamed authors and speakers I’ve met) and a man who can write a first draft. I am so retentive, perfectionistic, and obsessive that I cannot get through a rough, first draft. I get stuck editing as I go and thereby get nowhere in my writings. I need to follow the advice spoken by Sean Connery’s character, William Forrester, in the film Finding Forrester , "Write! Bang the keys!" (or something like that).
A recent chapel service at MVNU was constructed by the Art Department. There was a very loud banging typewriter during the entire service. I heard a lot of negative feedback from some students but I’ve always appreciated the Art Department chapel and the unique forms of creating thoughtful reflection. MVNU students, here is your chance to unleash your thoughts: What is your reaction and reflection concerning the incessant banging of keys during a chapel gathering?
After receiving a number of comments (some online and some in conversation or e-mail) about the "Why MVNU Students Go To Journey" posts, I think there is great value in responding to some of those comments.
Response to Journey Comments #2. The 20 minute drive from MVNU in Mount Vernon, OH to Howard, OH .
The concept of locality and proximity has centralized within my processing of ecclesiology. Proximity is a loaded concept for the church. I didn’t feel like I fully articulated all that cycled through my head while briefly expalaining "#2. The 20 minute drive…" Particularly, I think I was too cordial with a positive spin.
While a core desire for connectivity exists, are attendees of a larger, corporate, and institutionalized gathering really connecting? External from the gathering I would suggest that connection does happen here and there but that connection is primarily within pre-existing relationships that are not generationally diverse. Some may value the wisdom and kindness of chronologically older people but many simply do not tolerate the perspectives of a different demographic.
The Chavez noted in a comment that carpooling is "a way to build more connection than gathering around the coffee urns and picking through the nasty, cream-filled half long-johns can ever provide. It would provide opportunity to digest and dialogue about the mornings [teaching]." This is a step in the right direction both for environmental/creation care and for learning. If we are to proceed further from this concept would we be able to confess that our lack of sustainable connectivity stems from a fear of deeper connection with others? Resultantly, "it is possible to attend a service and appease ones conscience by claiming that ‘I went to church.’"
Driving a far distance to "attend church" seems mostly to be a means of staying unconnected and uninvolved. It doesn’t require any effort except for depressing a pedal and refilling an empty fuel tank. Empty. Empty … irony?
And just for the fun of it…
Would Jesus drive a BMW… or a green Honda Element (not an "either/or" question)?
After receiving a number of comments (some online and some in conversation or e-mail) about the "Why MVNU Students Go To Journey" posts, I think there is great value in responding to some of those comments. Here we go…
Response to Journey Comments #1. The perception that going to a Sunday morning gathering is still necessary.
"Most church services remind me of the ‘self-help’ aisle at Barnes & Noble. i can get more spiritual depth and understanding from turning my compost pile and planting seeds in the ground." – Tom Joad.
I must recognize that Tom Joad is more of a naturalist (labeling/categorizing noted) than many. I would consider this a good thing. Turning the earth does not resonate as a "spiritual" practice for most people. I would consider this unfortunate and sad. Nonetheless, depth of teaching is a real issue for Sunday morning gatherings. When I attend a Sunday morning gathering I frequently find myself writing my own thoughts in my Moleskin simply because whatever is or is not being taught is not at all engaging. I’m reminded of a question asked by my professor Rick Ryding, "Is there teaching if there is no learning?" Too often, Sunday morning lectures are boring, shallow, mundane, uncreative, and guilt laden.
It is also important to note for other commentators that the original post is not saying anything negative about the portion of a week that is called "Sunday morning." Rather, it is critiquing that which is usually deemed (in Christian circles) as necessary during that time slot. I don’t care if followers of Jesus decide to meet on Sunday mornings or Thursday afternoons. In reality, the church is present together more often than not. The importance placed on that which usually happens on Sunday mornings is the problem. There may be very significant and "spiritual" things happening on a Tuesday morning but those things may go unrecognized as worship or as church. It is necessary for us to move our thinking away from a large, corporate, institutionalized gathering in order to recognize things like compost and seeds as things which engage humanity in worship of God.
With which is Jesus more concerned, our gatherings or acts of worship?