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Becoming aware of what God is weaving…


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A few things collided this morning.

Have you experienced that?

When something is really heavy on my heart and mind it happens often. I think it’s one of tricks of Paul’s admonishment to “think on these things.” I’m not sure God jumps into some kind of hyperdrive mode when I think on good and holy things but I wondering if when we tune our attention to what is good and holy and important, I wonder if we don’t wind up seeing it all over the place because it’s on our mind and we’ve tuned our hearts into it. Maybe it’s a matter of awareness. I liken to when I’m looking to buy a new car, say a Honda Pilot. I all the sudden see Honda Pilots EVERYWHERE! They were probably always there but now they are on my mind and now I am aware of them.

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I do think that when I pray about something, anticipating God’s action and my participate, that God does move in ways that God may not have moved if I hadn’t chosen to pray and participate. I believe prayer can move the hand of God. But just as often, maybe way more often actually, God is already moving, doing God’s things when I jump in to participate. I wind up amazed at all the dots that God connects for me, all the things that fall into place and the threads that wind up being woven between worlds and areas and thoughts and prayers — things that I may have thought disconnected and fragmented beofore but now are so obviously connected and integrated… but it’s actually what God was up to all along. That’s how God works ins’t it. God works for shalom. This reality that all things are connected and in their right place. We don’t experience shalom often but when we do we are surprised. We shouldn’t be. This is God’s heart and desire. God is always and already wanting and instigating shalom, peace, rightness, alignment, kintsugi. Sometime we just need to focus, be intentional, BE AWARE and we will witness what God is already doing in our world all around us.

I’m still processing some of things that God is aligning in my head and heart and pondering this thread that I am becoming aware of in my life. I’ll share soon but just the thought that God is living and active in my everyday life, connecting dots, weaving life and love, aligning passions and working for my good is quite an amazing thing!

God is doing the same for you. Think about it.

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Good Friday & Black Saturday


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The Harrowing of HadesSome people call it Holy Saturday, I prefer Black Saturday. And for the record, one of my least favorite things that churches do these days is to have an Easter service on Saturday night. I get it, I get it. I know why you do it but that doesn’t make it any better.

As I was sitting in my churches Good Friday requiem (which might have been the most amazing music I have ever heard in a church building) I was reflecting on the weekend, I even wrote a few things down in my journal. By Friday night Jesus would have been crucified, dead and buried. His words, “it is finished” would have been said and his last breath would have been breathed. Personally I want to sit there, in the darkness. I want to take in the forsakenness of it all. I want t know that darkness, the quite, that stirring chaos. I want to sit in and become familiar with this space, to become aware of the void and the despair.

Most times we want to jump to Sunday, to resurrection. I hate even speaking the word today. It’s still Saturday. Jesus is still dead. Doing his thing in hell while I sit in my own hell. I don’t want to jump ahead I want to take in this fierce silence.

There are many time in my life and in my struggles where I wondering where God is. I wondering if he has abandoned me. I read the early parts of many of the Psalms and want to stop just before the poet gets to the “but I remember” or “but I will praise you” parts. I can relate to the nagging questions “why have you forsaken me” but in those moments I have a hard time with the remembrance and the praise parts.

You see, I want to sit in the dark silence of Good Friday evening & Black Saturday because it’s here, as I remember this story, as I reenact this narrative that I experience true abandonment. Where with Jesus I can honestly cry out, “Why have you forsaken me.”

I want to be so aware and attuned to this absence so that in all the other moments of life that feel so dry and dark I can sense God’s presence even then. And I can sense it because I know what Black Saturday is like and in all of those other moments I will be able to say, “this isn’t that.”

 

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These thoughts are inspired by Ignatian meditation that encourages us to really live into the text and put ourselves, imaginatively into the stories. This type of thoughtful, imaginative scripture engagement had greatly deepened my life. Try it!

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Maundy Thursday — Reflection


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holythursday_15c_rusToday is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. A lot goes on here but the primary scripture i’ve been thinking about is John 13:1-15, the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. Many churches will have a eucharist / communion service that will include a foot washing ceremony. When I was living in Nashville and attending Church of the Redeemer I was able to participate in a few Maundy Thursday service that included foot washing. It was uncomfortable! It was awkward! It was thought provoking. And when all was said and done it was beautiful and deeply moving.

We don’t wash peoples feet. We often don’t love people well. In our culture these things aren’t related but for Jesus he tied these 2 together. Wanting to profoundly love and serve his friends and show them how important it was going to be for them to receive that love and then go and do the same.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.45.29 AMPray As You Go engages this passage in John today and asked a few poignant questions…

“have ever known that kind of love?”

“Is there someone whose love you find difficult to accept at the moment?”

(image yourself in this story…)
“What do you want to say to Jesus, and what does he want to say to you?”

They close with these two pieces…

“‘I have set you an example’ says Jesus, ‘that you also should do as I have done.’  Speak to Jesus about what this invitation means to you, and how it might become a reality in your life?”

“We adore you o’ Christ and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

The medition today from Pray As You Go struck me and I wanted to share it. Take 12 minutes today, listen and engage, you won’t regret.

I hope you’re abel to find a good Maundy Thursday service today. Let it prepare you tomorrow, Good Friday and the darkness that follows and the light that is right around the corner!

Grace and epace
ERik

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A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE WILLITS FAMILY


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Willits Family #2The next big adventure is here…

It is with a ton of excitement and a bit of sadness that I share with you that Andrea and I will be packing up this June and moving north. I will be attending a seminary in Wisconsin — Nashotah House Theological Seminary. We’ll be on campus for the 2015-16 academic year and making big plans for the future!

Our sadness comes from knowing how much we will miss all of the amazing families at our church and all the incredible friends we’ve met in Texas! We’ve been Texans now for over 3 years. It feels like home and we will miss it!

Our family is loved, our kids are well cared for and we have really come to love the people and place in return!

Our year at seminary will be really exciting. Nashotah House is a very unique place and will offer our family a great opportunity to be formed spiritually through prayer, worship and education. There is also a great community of families, students and faculty that we look forward to sharing life with.

We take this step after a lot of thought and prayer.
We sense God leading and we want to follow!

If you know me, you know that I’ve had church planting on my heart for a long time! Andrea and I are beginning to feel like it might just be the time to do that. WOW!! But we want to be ready! Our hope is that Nashotah will be just the right place for us to be formed spiritually and to prepare through prayer and conversation for the adventure of church planting! We’ll be on campus for about one year and then I will finish up my education through their distance program while living in the place we have discerned to plant a church.

In conversations with my Sr. Pastor / Rector, Fr. David Roseberry, he also recommended I pursue this education with my sense of a calling to ordained ministry, leadership and church planting in mind.  So, I’m looking forward to the theological studies and Anglican formation, but Andrea and I are really excited to take this year to pray and dream about church planting.

Our prayer will be where, when, and with whom God might want us to plant a church. Our leaning right now is that we will end up back in McKinney, Texas. McKinney was rated the #1 place to live in America this past year! And we think it just might need a strong new church to participate in God’s mission of love and redemption among the growing population!  We’re open to where God will lead us and who he will put in our path to partner with, but this is what we are currently thinking about and praying about.

It really is exciting!
But it’s a bit scary as well!

We need all the prayer and support you can give!

We are going to be doing fundraising over the next six months to cover some of the tuition and living expenses, so plan on hearing from us.

We also plan on setting up a blog specifically to keep all our friends and family in the loop on how you can pray for us and support us as we embark on this new journey!
(Look for that in the next month!)

We know that God is leading us and that we have a strong community of friends and family that will come alongside us to participate in what God is doing!

We are excited to see how God will lead and provide over these next couple years. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support!

With love and excitement,
Erik and Andrea

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LENT 2015 :: An Intro


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Lent has become my favorite liturgical season. Not because it’s fun and festive but because it has produced the most significant spiritual growth in my life. One of my proposals is that every liturgical season is a gift from God that enables a person to become fully human and experience spiritual growth in particular ways.

Lent is the space we are given that allows us to experience temptation, difficulty and dryness. We are reminded during Lent that God is not distant when God is quiet and that our difficulty isn’t necessarily because of a problem but rather it may be a preparation.

Either way, because you are human, because you are dust and to dust you will return, you will experience not only the good but the difficult and tempting parts of life.

Lent is God’s gift to us, creating space to experience this while affirming His love for us as He did in the life of Jesus.
So in all of this we share in His suffering and are prepared to participate in His resurrection.

There is a lot more to Lent but those are my thoughts for today. 
I wrote a little Lent devotional book if you want to read a bit more. 
Here is the intro to that book which will briefly introduce you, if you’re not familiar to some of the Lenten basics…
I also plan on blogging every Wednesday about Lent and my experience.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.25.50 AMFrom Lent…

Lent is the time in the Christian year that leads us to Easter and our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. For most of my Christian life, I was aware of Lent but didn’t engage in the creative aspects Christians have participated in for hundreds of years. However, for the past several years, my engagement in Lenten exercises has provided water for my thirsty soul. Lent is usually a period marked by prayer, penitential activities, helping those in need and radical self-denial.
I have simplified those ideas in my own life focusing on three things. With the hope and expectation of participating in the resurrection, during Lent I will:
• add something,
• subtract something, and
• spend intentional time in self examination.

And here is a prayer to begin your Lenten season
(and I hope you will find a community to experience an Ash Wednesday service today. You won’t regret it.)

From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Books of 2014


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Last year was the year of the audio book for me. My friend Brad and I have an argument about reading vs listening. I still feel like I am cheating when I say “I read” a book when I actually only listened it. This doesn’t diminish listening to books, as you will see I listened to a lot of them BUT they are definitely 2 different things.

Anyway, here are the books I took in in 2014…

I READ ::

Sabbath As Resistance by Walter Bureggemann
Creed by Winfield Bevins
Prayer; Our Deepest Longing by Ronald Rolheiser
A Spirituality of Living by Henri Nouwen
( I read this twice this year and have read it in previous years. It’s so good!)
In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen
(This is also a repeat, I read this once in college. It’s profound!)
Discerning the Will of God; An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making by Timothy Gallagher

I read bit of A LOT of other books but these are the only ones I made it through. Honestly, they were all pretty amazing. The Brueggeman book and the Rolheiser book are ones that I will be recommending for years to come! Nouwen is already on that list. Timothy Gallagher has a whole series of books in his Ignatian Spirituality for everyday life series. They are really good, I like them a lot but they aren’t amazing. Worth ready, yes! But I won’t be buying copies for all my friends or anything. I ready half of his Discerning the Spirits book as well. Also good not great.

Now here is my list of audio books. Because the list is so long I’m going to start with my top 5.

Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson
I’ve been wanting to read this for awhile, the paperback is on my shelf. But then I saw it on Audible, DONE! And it was really good, so good in fact, I will still pick it up and actually read it sometime. Loved it. I learn to love Eugene Peterson more more… I have 2 books of his in my Audible queue right now!

Malcom Gladwell!
David and GoliathThe Tipping PointBlink
I’m not sure which of these I liked better. They were all extremely fascinating! I probably like David and Goliath the least but again, they were all good. Malcolm Gladwell is probably my favorite author to listen to. His books are packed with amazing stories and he is always drawing such incredible conclusions. Yea, he’s amazing! I plan on listening to more of this stuff this year as well!

Falling Upward by Richard Rohr
Rohr is a bit crazy at times. He says some stuff that I’m like, “Really, that seems a bit weird.” But more often then not he is spot on and draws me into the deep end of life and faith! I’m currently re-listening to his book The Art of Letting go. I’m listening slowly and take through notes this time through! Falling Upward, also absolutely phenomenal!

Vagabonding By Rolf Potts
This was recommended by a couple people and it didn’t disappoint. I now want to go travel the world but other than that, the call to simplicity and openness. The call to be a traveler and not a tourist. These are all things that the follower of Jesus should listen to, take to heart and, by the grace of God attempt to live! It was a great book! I’ll definitely get a paper copy and read it at some point!

The Fish That Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen
I’m not exactly sure what captured me about this book and this story but I was captured. Super interesting story about the banana man and the start of the banana industry.

Here is the rest of my list — with a 1 – 5 star rating!

Present Perfect by Gregory Body (**** )
The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs (**** .5)
Bad Religion by Ross Douthat (**** )
Too Busy Not to Pray (**** )
Evil and the Justice of God (****.5)
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry (****)
What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell (**** )
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig (***.5 )
The Holy Spirit and Power (Sermons) by John Wesley (***  )
The King Jesus Gospel (**** )
7 Men by Eric Metaxas (***.5  )
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson (***  )
Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley (***  )
The Art of Procrastination by John Perry (***  )
Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola & George Barna (*    )
The Book Thief by Markus Zusah (***.5  )

There ya go! What’s on my 2015 list…
I’ll tell you soon!

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The “Fridays” of Life….


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“On all the Fridays of our lives, when with Jesus we want to say, “God, where are you?” maybe He (Jesus) is just hanging there present and absent all at the same time, waiting for the subversion of your story and ultimately His story to be proclaimed. After all, Sunday isn’t far away.”

This is a little bit of a Good Friday reflection I gave awhile back. I put it in the Lenten Devotional I published and came across it today as I read and prepared for the current writing i’m doing. I needed to read it. Maybe you do to.
Resurrection & harrowing-of-hadesTrying not to let stress and stifles control my focus and joy.
It may feel like Friday but Sunday is coming.
(I think Tony Compolo has something to say about that as well.)

To read the rest of the reflection above pick up my Lent devotion for yourself and your community.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18th, 2015.
(If you are curious about Lent and what it’s all about check this out [ CRI Voice on Lent ] or just know this, Lent is all about getting your heart and mind ready for Easter, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.)

 

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Epiphany — Let’s keep it going!


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Advent seemed to gain some traction this year! Guys like Louie Giglio and others spoke and wrote about Advent, even calling for people to “bring Advent back.” Which among some of my friends was a bit humors. Our thought is that Advent didn’t really go anywhere, you did. But regardless, it’s great that communities are embracing the rich resource that the church calendar offers us.

Let’s keep it going!

At the end my Advent book that was published 2 years ago I left the reader with this though on Epiphany as a springboard to continue their journey through the year with the church and her calendar.

Epiphany

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The Season of Epiphany begins after the Twelve Days of Christmas and continues until Lent, 40 days before Easter. What exactly is it, and how do we observe it? Well, we’ve all had an “aha” moment when the lights go on and everything makes sense. That’s an epiphany. It can happen slowly, like when the lights are gradually turned up in a room, or suddenly, when everything goes from black to full color and light in a moment.

I’ve had epiphanies take place both ways but it’s always God who turns on the light! He reveals Himself and makes it clear that life will never be the same. This experience is different for every individual, but it’s all a revelation of God’s self.

Thus, Epiphany is the season in the church calendar when we watch and listen as God is quietly—or sometimes not so quietly—revealed before us once again. Sometimes, even when we try hard to do so, we just don’t see God in our everyday lives or in the events of our world. Epiphany gives us the time and resources to watch, wait, listen, look and be open to the revelation of God. Watching and waiting are practices we can intentionally carry over from our Advent journey because Epiphany is a season that reminds us God constantly wants to reveal Himself to us. He longs to turn on the lights, connect the dots and show us the way!

The Lectionary will guide us through three key Scriptures readings during Epiphany. We traditionally focus on the Magi, who literally had the bright light of a star turned on above them to reveal what God was doing in the world. We also consider the baptism of Jesus, which more fully reveals who Jesus is, the Son of God. The season concludes with pondering the story of the Transfiguration, the scene that gives us a glimpse at the pure radiance of Jesus, the light of the world, as He reveals Himself to some of the disciples. Epiphany is a season to really explore these aspects of Jesus’ story that reveal Him in new ways.

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So there you go! I hope this could be a great springboard to guide you through this next season of the church!
If you want more reading for flection during Epiphany check out these resources. And keep an eye out toward the end of 2015 for a new resource I’m putting together. I can’t wait to share it! More on that coming soon.

The Book of Common Prayer
(Of course! The reading and prayers are all here.)

A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God
(This is a great resource that follows the liturgical calendar. It includes explanations of the seasons, daily devotional liturgy with scriptures, prayers and reading for reflection. It’s a must have!)

Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year by Robert Webber
(Webber is the forerunner for all us “Evangelicals on the Canterbury trail.” This is a really good resource on the calendar and it’s significance. Less devotional and more informational but great nonetheless.)

Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross
(I haven’t fully got into this resource but it seems great and what I have read in it I really liked. Check it out!)

 

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What you win them with | Advent


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It feels kinda weird but I have been reading my own Advent devotional along with this one. (which is really good!)
But reading my own words has been like reminding myself what God has been teaching me over the last few years when it comes to Advent. It’s like hearing my best self give my current self advice for the Advent season. It’s been weird but God has really been using it. It’s almost like re-reading your journal or watching a video you recorded a few years back as you give your future self advice or something. (I’ve never done that but I’ve see it in the movies ;-)

So this is the thought I had written last week in the Advent Book, day 13 if you’re curious.
(it’s cut up, edited & shortened a little from the original for this blogs purposes)

Nativity Cosmic IconHave you ever hear the phrase, “What you win them with, you win them to.” …
As we engage the Advent story try and think honestly about God’s means and method of winning, of saving and redeeming the world in Christ. Jesus comes poor and powerless. He come humbly; He comes as a minimalist. He comes needy and he comes crying. Not as a powerful king, flashy entertainer or a crafty politician but as a baby. A BABY! In this form, He begins His redemptive mission to win the world to himself and to make all things new.
In Christ’s birth, we get a glimpse of God’s means. If this is how God is choosing to win and redeem the world, maybe this is also how He wants to shape our lives, our purposes and our mission.

Adding to the thought from the book I would say that maybe God wants us to use some of the same means as we spread His love and help people to see the God who is wooing them and winning their affection for the abundant and redemptive life He has created us all for.

Church leaders.

How would this Advent idea change what it looks like as you plan Christmas services and evangelism efforts?

Christians. Followers of Jesus. Those on mission with and for God.

How would this Advent idea change how live and how you share your faith?

When we keep this in mind maybe we can more fully participate in God’s redemptive love and His rescue plan and maybe even it could inform how we prepare for His return. After all, it’s always Advent right!  #Advent

This is connected to the Advent Book and the Advent Webguide — Check them both out today!

And look for the hashtag #AdventWG2014 for more Advent connected content

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