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What you win them with | Advent


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



Advent isn’t really about Jesus…


Advent isn’t about Jesus
Advent is all about Jesus

Those statements seem contradictory don’t they. Well, they are both true. In a way…

You see Advent is more about the absence of Jesus and less about the presence of Jesus. So you might say Advent isn’t about Jesus at all, it’s about you!

Advent is about you and that hunger that lies at the core of your being. That longing that you feel deep in your bones. It’s about that edge of your seat anticipation that you just can’t shake.

Advent is best experience in all of these moments, when you roll over, gasp for air, grit your teeth, and hold your breath… when in those moments the only words you can get to slip through your angst are the words, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

This Advent cry, “Come, Lord Jesus, come” is what also makes Advent all about Jesus.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.36.59 AM

I was doing some reading today and this was my Psalm,

Psalm 35:22-25

“Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me. Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” or say, “We have swallowed him up.””

You see, this is an Advent Psalm!

AWAKE! Come, help a brother out! Nothing is going right and there are all these people about to crush me!

That’s the Psalm. And that is an Advent cry! That’s a familiar cry!

We cry out for Jesus to come in his birth.

We cry out for Jesus to come again.

We cry out for Jesus to come in all the moment in-between.

Advent is the time God gives us to remind us how to wait. How to be patient. How to be honest in those moments, like the Psalmist, when God seems absent and ruin seems immanent. We’ve all been there. We’ve all cried out, “COME LORD JESUS!” or maybe “HELP ME JESUS!” 

It’s during Advent that we, the Church, practice together the art of longing and waiting and preparing. It’s during Advent that we learn to live faithfully instead of extravagantly because we are reminded that all the toys and goods are not what we really want or need anyway.

So we learn to wait for the right thing, not just the thing I want right now.

We learn to pray, hope, want and wait faithfully. 

This is the gift of Advent. 

This is all about Jesus!



Advent has begun!


Today is the 1st Sunday of Advent! I hope you are ready to get ready! Advent literally means “come”. It’s all about the coming of Jesus. During Advent we focus on preparing for the coming of Christ, first in his birth and secondly when he will come again. And really, it’s a time set aside to raise one’s aware of all the little moments in the busyness of life when Christ comes and sits besides us, incarnate in every moment. He is the God who comes, always, already and still to come. ADVENT!

I have a little book I put out last year, if you are still looking for some good Advent meditations, devotional readings and scriptures to help you focus check that out. It’s created with the family in mind. Great for teens, parents and everybody in-between.

Well today is the 1st Sunday of Advent and here are some great readings I would like to share.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(from The Book of Common Prayer :: I always just this link to check out the Collect [and we say it in church])

Here are Scripture readings form The Book of Common Prayer
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

My family ready this Psalm around the lunch table today, PERFECT!
Psalm 130 (NRSV)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.


we are your children who long for your coming.
Sorrow, injustice, and fear surround us on every side.
With our hearts on bended knee, we cry to the heavens:
Come Lord, Jesus, set your people free!
Free us from the snares of darkness that drive us away from you,
that we may entrust ourselves to your love.
In the confidence of your love, we march toward Bethlehem
as our souls await the dawning of your redeeming light.

from Alive Now, Nov/Dec 2014
I got this reading form an email devotion I get from The Upper Room, Check it out!
This reading reminds me of our Scripture for today, Isaiah 64:1-9 — they start off the same!

I look forward to this Advent journey. I would love to hear about what you are ready, watching, looking at during this Advent season.

Grace and peace



In The Name Of Jesus: Reflection of Christian Leadership


IMG_0659I recently picked up Henri Nouwen’s book In The Name Of Jesus; Reflection of Christian Leadership. I’ve been reading and dialoging over another leadership book with some folks at church and this book came to my mind. It’s a very different angle on leadership and is structured largely around Jesus and his temptations in the desert that took place right before he stepped into his earthly ministry / leadership role. The thought is that if Jesus faced these temptations as he was getting ready to lead so will we.

Here are the temptations as Nouwen sees them and the corresponding discipline for said temptation…

* The temptation to be relevant // the discipline of contemplative prayer
* The temptation to be spectacular // the discipline of confession and forgiveness
* The temptation to be powerful // the discipline of theological reflection

I think these temptations in Christian leadership, really any kind of leadership, are spot on! I’m have see then, experienced other leaders who have given into them and have struggle with them myself.

Nouwen provides great thoughts and challenges as he reflects on Jesus’ life and his own life. He largely draws from his experience as a priest living with and serving alongside folks who are mentally handicapped in his community L’Arche .

For me, this book raises some extremely helpful questions and challenges some very common notions that are prominent for myself and for anyone in leadership but are questions and challenges that I think every Christian leader will be better for having engaged.

Here are just a few quotes and thoughts.
Really I wanted to record these quotes for myself, as reminders and recurring challenges to the ever present temptations I will face as a leader in the modern day church. Since I was typing up some of my favorites I thought I would share here as well.


“I asked myself, ‘What decisions have you been making lately and how are they a refection of the way you sense the future?’ Somehow I have to trust that God is at work in me and that the way I am being moved to new inner and outer places is part of a larger movement of which i am only a very small part.”
— Intro, p.9

(personally for me that is HUGE these days and I really want to live into this and believe it deep in my bones! But it’s hard, right?!?!)

“I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of human life.”
— From Relevance to Prayer, p.17

“The leader of the future will be the one who dares to claim his irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows him or her to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success and to bring the light of Jesus there.”
— From Relevance to Prayer, p.22

“The question is not: how many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? How can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus? Perhaps another way of putting the question would be: Do you know the incarnate God? In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, that cares, that reaches out and wants to heal. In that heart there is no suspicion, no vindictiveness, no resentment, and not a tinge of hatred. It is a heart that wants only to give love and receive love in response.”
— From Relevance to Prayer, p.24
(As like most of these quotes I could keep going. This is a really great little chance though!)

“Through contemplative prayer we can keep ourselves from being pulled from one urgent issue to another and from becoming strangers to our own and God’s heart. Contemplative prayer keeps us home, rooted and safe, even when we are on the road, moving from place to place, and often surrounded by sounds of violence and war. Contemplative prayer deepens in us the knowledge that we are already free, that we have already found a place to dwell, that we already belong to God, even though everything and everyone around us keeps suggesting the opposite.”
— From Relevance to Prayer, p.29

“I have found over and over again how hard it is to be truly faithful to Jesus when I am alone. I need my brothers and sisters to pray with me, to speak with me about the spiritual task at hand, and to challenge me to stay pure in mind, heart, and body.”
— From Popularity to Ministry, p.41

“Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead.”
— From Popularity to Ministry, p.43

“Medicine, psychiatry, and social work all offer us models in which “service”takes place in a one-way direction. Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix up the roles! But how can anyone lay down his life for those which whom he is not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship? Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to other as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of Life.
We are not healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God. Therefore, true ministry must be mutual.”
— From Popularity to Ministry, p.43-44

“The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world. It is a servant leadership, in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who need the people as much as they need him or her.”
From this it is clear that a whole new type of leadership is asked for in the Church of tomorrow, a leadership which is not modeled on the power games of the world, but on the servant-leader, Jesus, who came to give his life for the salvation of many.”
— From Popularity to Ministry, p.44-45

“When ministers and priests live their ministry mostly in their heads and relate to the Gospel as a set of valuable ideas to be announced, the body quickly takes revenge by screaming loudly for affection and intimacy. Christian leaders are called to live the Incarnation, that is to live in the body—not only in the their own bodies but also in the corporate body of the community, and to discover there the presence of the Holy Spirit.”
— From Popularity to Ministry, p.48

“Ministers and priests are also called to be full members of their communities, are accountable to them and need their affection and support, and are called to minister with their whole being, including their wounded selves.”
— From Popularity to Ministry, p.49

(He goes on here to talk about ministers and priests needing a truly safe place to share with people who do not need them. This is where some of the tension comes in, right. Most ministers and priests use this tension to disconnect themselves and have a good “professional distance” from their parish. I think that can’t be the best and only option. Thoughts?)

“I am also getting in touch with the mystery that leadership, for a large part, means to be led.”
— From Leading to Being Led, p.57
(And he isn’t simply spiritualizing and talking about being led by Jesus. That’s part of it be even the leader needs to let their community lead them from time to time.)

“The temptation to consider power an apt instrument fro proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest of all.”
— From Leading to Being Led, p.58

(I think of the recent implosion of a certain mega church illustrated this perfectly.)

“…we always see that a major cause of rupture is the power exercised by those who claim to be followers of the poor and powerless Jesus.
What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love.”
— From Leading to Being Led, p.59

“Here we touch the most important quality of Christian leadership in the future. It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is make manifest. I, obviously, am not speaking about a psychologically weak leadership in which the Christian leader is simply the passive victim of the manipulations of his milieu. No, I am speaking of a leadership in which power is constantly abandoned in favor of love. It is true spiritual leadership Powerlessness and humility in the spiritual life do not refer to people who have no spine and who let everyone else make decisions for them. They refer to people who are so deeply in love with Jesus that they are ready to follow him wherever he guides them, always trusting that, with him, they will find life and find it abundantly.”
— From Leading to Being Led, p.63-64

“Wealth and riches prevent us from truly discerning the way of Jesus. Paul writes to Timothy: ‘People who long to be rich are a pretty to trail; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and harmful ambitions which plunge people into ruin and destruction’ (1 Tim. 6:9).

“If there is any hope for the Church in the future, it will be hope for a poor Church in which its leaders are willing to be led.”
— From Leading to Being Led, p.64

“The Christian leaders of the future have to be theologians, persons who know the heart of God and are trained—through prayer, study, and careful analysis—to manifest the diving event of God’s saving work in the midst of the many seemingly random events of their time.”
— From Leading to Being Led, p.68

(I would completely agree with this but might also point out I don’t think this necessarily means a seminary degree or Phd. It might, but it might not.)

“I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility. It is the image of the praying leader, the vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader. May that image fill your hearts with hope, courage, and confidence as you anticipate the next century.”

(I typed up all these quotes. There may be some typos, I did it fast! Go pick up the book to get the official goods!)



A New Normal // Music Monday


When I’m working / writing I need music with just the right rhythm, drive and vibe. Not to much going on, not to little. I like some vocals but mostly vibey, ambient, driving kinds of music. I listen to a lot of Explosions in the Sky, The Album Leaf, Sigur Ros, Olafur Arnolds… that kind of stuff. I’ve written a post about Olafur Arnolds [ LINK ], maybe some of these other folks will be future posts as well but today I’m writing about A New Normal. 

Justin Wright is the brains behind the operation. I know Justin a little bit, he’s a great dude and I’ve been listening to his music a ton lately! It’s perfect for my writing and study time. Mostly great ambient, electronic type stuff. Every once in awhile there a great voice added in. I love it and it probably helps that I know Justin and have worked with him.

This summer I was speaking at a camp and I had this idea to have song composed and a video crafted to illustrate one of my messages. I contacted Justin and this is what we came up with. I am stoked about how it came out…

RHYTHM — Creation Full from Erik Willits on Vimeo.

There is a bunch of A New Normal stuff I really love. He has an album entitled Taize which is inspired by this time with the Taize Community in Europe. It’s really good, prayerful ambient music. Use it for study or for your prayer and meditation time.

Probably my favorite album is entitled A Narrative. Unfortunately you can’t listen to this on Spotifty like some of his other stuff but pick it up on the web, totally worth it. I think it might be the first album released, It’s the first stuff i listen to and I REALLY like it. It’s just the right amount of drive and pace for my attention deprived brain.

My favorite song of his, which is on Spotify and features a mutual friend singing is I Can Feel Your Heartbeat. Joran Frye, which is the person who introduced me to Justin and A New Normal and plays in the band Urban Rescue (Justin also play in Urban Rescue), but Jordan sings and Justin works his A New Normal magic and creates an amazing song! 
Check it out on Spotify or listen below or even better, go buy the album (or just the single) and there is also a live video on youtube you can hunt down if you want. ENJOY!



DO WORK :: productivity in a time of distraction


I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity this week! I’ve got lots of writing to do in the next couple months and not a ton of time to do it! I’ll be using the hashtag #DOWORK as I write and blog and tweet about writing, blogging and tweeting. HA! Not really, I’ll be giving some updates and info on my writing but I also hope to share some things that I find to work when it comes to the productivity game. I struggle in said game and I hope I can experiment a bit as I hunker down and do work! I’ll share my journey along the way. But only a little bit… I’m trying to be productive here, gosh!

How about you? Do you have any tips, tricks or tools when it comes to productivity? I’d love to hear.

Tim Ferriss has a bunch of good productivity tips on his blog & in his book. He also has a good podcast to check out. Below is a link to the @tferriss podcasts on productivity. These are all what Tim calls “inbetweenasodes” which are shorter mini-podcasts. They’re my favorite. His regular episodes are way to long! Fascinating but to long.
The episode entitled [ Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me) ] is the specific one I’m talking about but all three you’ll find at this link are pretty good!

I also found these websites with productivity tools and reviews. I’m looking forward to checking some of them out.

Here is a list of productivity increasing apps :: 99U – 10 Online Tools for better attention & Focus

And Mashable has a list as well :: 6 Apps That Block Online Distractions So You Can Get Work Done

And then there is this list, it seems the most thorough. The website blocking tools are where I am most interested right now. A good timer would also be helpful I think :: Gigaom – 19 apps to boost concentration 

I also downloaded a little app called FOCUS. It looked cool and was free! 

I also saw this one that is an open source program but It does’t look as cool, maybe even looks a little scary. Worries me to put it on my computer but I may try it out. The app is called Selfcontrol. 

Now on with the work!




The Head and The Heart // Music Monday


Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 10.29.21 PMI am by no means a connoisseur of song writing and things of that nature. I do have friends who are amazing song writers and I try and listen to a lot of good music. More then any of that I just know a song that connects with me lyrically and musically. The band The Head and The Heart have a handful of such songs, 2 in particular.

The 1st one I’ll share is their song Down in the Valley.
It’s their tune that caught my attention. It’s been on repeat ever since and I’ve grown to really love this band because of it. It all started with this tune…

I’m a total wanderer. My wife and kids have settled me down a bit in the best sorta way but I will confess that I often romanticize my previous life and the travel and adventure I lived in those years. Sidenote… I was a traveler not a tourist. I’ve been learning the difference as I read the book Vagabonding (another post for another time!)

Songs like this resonate deeply with my traveler / wander inner life. The desire to be rooted, you might say in “an age old trade” but finding myself all over the place, even if only in my mind these days, but yea, I get it!

The second song that is REALLY REALLY on repeat and is, in my opinion, an amazing song and one I feel like I could have written myself if I were a song writer or talented at all in the craft of lyrics…

I can relate!
The idea that life just keeps moving and friends and community keep moving! You miss folks like crazy and you can only hope that somewhere around the corner or down the road your paths will cross again. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of community lately. How that looks, how one participates and even leads a community of people. What does it mean to come and go and yet stay in heart a bit. What does it mean to stay, but to stay in the past romanticizing some alternative reality. The only thing that is real is now and I could use to remember that from time to time.

I also think of how Paul, speaking about the community he knew and loved in Philippi talked about this. The affection he had for these people he was no longer with but had hope around a future reunion but love for them in their present absence.

Rivers and road man, rivers and roads! ;-)

A couple more links…
a link to a great live version of Down in the Valley [ LINK ]
(really this whole eTown series is pretty cool!)
Here is a good live performance [ LINK ]
Finally, a good playlist of their tunes… [ LINK ]




4 Marks of the Anglican Church


Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 4.26.59 PMYesterday I watched / listened to the investiture of the Archbishop Foley Beach. He is the new Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). I hear great things about him and he seems to bring some exciting vision and mission to the ACNA, which is the group I find myself apart of these days.

He shared a message during his investiture that I thought was worth sharing. I think the 4 things he identifies are 4 things any and all churches would benefit from focusing on and committing themselves to. They are 4 things I can get on board with for sure!

Here they are along with a few quotes & thoughts…


4 Marks of the Anglican Church in North America

#1. We are a repenting church

“I call all people; bishops, priests ,vestry… everybody, REPENT.”
“It means changing your mind…”

#2. We are a reconciling church

“We’re called to be a reconciled and reconciling church.”
”To be at peace with God and one another.”
”We pass the peace every week. It symbolized we are at peace with our brothers and sisters.”
”The question that must be asked is, is there someone or a bunch of someone’s that you need to be reconciled with?”
Ephesians 4:30 – “forgiving each other as Christ has Forgive you.”

#3. We are a Reproducing Church

Matthew 28:29

“We’re called to be a reproducing church, a disciple making church.”
“This is a major reason why we are given the Holy Spirit.”
“The power of the Spirit is related to our go and make disciples.”
“We must go!”
“Draw a circle around your church, a 1 mile radius. And go meet your neighbors.”
“The fish are not going to jump into your boat.”
“Anglican Christians know both their Bible and their cat.”

#4. We are called to be a relentlessly compassionate church

2 Cor. 5:14,1 Tim. 1:5…

“I challenge you pray this prayer, “Lord open my eye to see the hurt and pain in the people around me.”
“People are craving the answer to their needs and we have it… Jesus.”
“Jesus expects his body to be his body.”
“We must be a living body engaged with the people around us. We must be the temple of the holy spirit…”




A conversation partner | Wesley & Student Ministry


A conversation partner | Wesley & Student Ministry
(a book review)

A fellow I crossed paths with quite a few years ago recently contacted me about reviewing a book he wrote on student ministry and John Wesley. My first thoughts was… I like student ministry, I like John Wesley and I really like free books! SURE!
Now I guess I should confess that it wasn’t all that recently. I’m a bit behind on writing this little ditty here. Sorry Jeremy! But the good news… the book is available, go buy a few copies!!! Tell em’ Erik sent you.

So here’s the review…

Lost_Soul_YMTo have a conversation partner who helps you think through how what you believe shapes what you do is an extremely value thing. Youth pastors often get pretty stuck in the rut of just making it happen; programs, events, small groups, mission trips and a million other things. I speak as one such youth pastor. Often the why can get buried in dust kicked up by the doing. To have a few people that are continually calling you back to the why of ministry is really important. In this this book Jeremy is offering himself to fill a bit of that space for anyone who has been shaped by the beauty and truth of John Wesley’s theological contribution. (And to say practical theology is redundant but if you’re into Wesley much you already know that.

Bottom line, if you like Wesley and if you work with students you’ll like this book. So pick up a few copies and let Jeremy lead your student ministry staff and volunteers in a conversation about the real Wesleyan soul of student ministry!

That was my Amazon review, I would add that I especially enjoyed a couple of the grace sections. To talk about how prevenient grace and the means of grace can and should be a reminder that God is always and already at work, taking pressure off youth workers and rather inviting us to create spaces and places for that grace to be encountered. I love the vision and invitation we get from Wesley’s understanding of Grace and Jeremy helps us remember that we are simply participating in the grace that is always and already wooing and working on all of us.

I do think there were a couple chapters where he was stretching it a bit or maybe trying a little to hard. His contribution about John Wesley’s class meetings and bands is good but not unique. I would love some more source material and resources around this.  But no doubt thinking about how Wesley structured his ministry is helpful for the church and specifically youth ministry. And the book ended strong as well. The missional nature of Wesley’s theology, the constant impulse to be on the go alongside God’s grace, to be living in a way that is for the world is strong and Jeremy does well at highlighting that this and challenging the youth worker to embrace this.

My cirque is minimal, this is a good book. At first read I was bit unsure of the title but I get, I think. The soul is all about our desires and impulse, it’s about what is deep, at the center of a person. The soul (and I would add the heart, if we were speaking in OT terms) is root of all our actions.  My soul often feels buried by my to-do list. This book and John Wesley are both great partners in caring for the soul as we participate in the mission of God for the sake of the world.

You can pick up the book here.
And read more about the author, Jeremy Steele here. Or read his tweets. Or his blog.



Solitude is where community begins…


I had the opportunity to join some folks I work with on a retreat over the last couple work days. Our family ministry team at Christ Church snuck away and spend some time together at a really cool log-cabin retreat / wedding venue just North East of Plano. The location was actually in McKinney, which is the town I live in. It was about 15 away from my house.

We had a great time of praying alone and together, talking about things ministry related and even more importantly, things related to our personal formation as people who follow Jesus. I very thankful I work with folks who find this type of engagement important and “productive” in most meaningful of ways.

Nouwen Quote

This is a quote I pulled from a little book we read during our personal prayer / retreat time and then talked about when we came back together. The book the quote is from is entitled A Spirituality of Living  by Henri J.M. Nouwen. I’ve read this book a couple time before and I’m sure I’ve shared a quote or 2 from it’s pages right here on this blog. Maybe even that quote I put in that picture… it’s resonates so deeply I could post it once a month for many months to come and it would do my soul, my inner life good! (the picture is one I took on location at the retreat.)

I even took a little spiritual temperament test (we all took it and chatted about it). Contemplative wasn’t my top temperament but just behind it. Hmmm… I’m not sure that test would have looked remotely similar a few years ago! That’s exciting to me. I think with God’s help, my spiritual directors help, some good & godly relationships and significant growth that only the Spirit of God can bring about I am learning to heard my monkeys and order my desires rightly around Jesus and the life he desires to live in and through me. I have lightyears to go, I am still totally and completely a novice (in the proper monastic sense) but I’m on the path and for this A.D.H.D. kids (recently diagnosed! ;-)  that is a really big deal.

Screen Shot 2012-09-11 at 10.18.04 PMA few more from Nouwen… 

Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there space for that in our lives?

In and through the Spirit we become participants in the communion of love that Jesus shares with his Father. That is the mystery of our redemption and the promise of the spiritual life.

The way I would like to define communion here is that Jesus spent the night listening to the Father calling him the Beloved. (Luke 3:22 & 9:35)…
It is with this knowledge of being Beloved that Jesus could walk freely into a world in which he was not treated as the Beloved.

To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of our being and permeate our whole life. Who am I? I am the beloved. If we are not claiming that voice as the deepest truth of our being, then we cannot walk freely in this world.

Real freedom to live in this world comes from hearing clearly the truth about who we are, which is that we are the beloved. That’s what prayer is about. And that’s why is is so crucial and not just a nice thing to do once in a while. It is the essential attitude that creates in us the freedom to love other people not because they are going to love us back but because we are so loved and out of the abundance of that love we want to give.
This is where ministry starts…

Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we are going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that we are. We will expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. They cannot.

Community is solitude greeting solitude: “I am the beloved; you are the beloved. Together we can build a home.”

The word discipleship and the word discipline  are the same word—that has always fascinated me. Once we have made the choice to say, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus,” the questions is, “What disciplines will help me remain faithful to that choice?” If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we have to live a disciplined life.

It takes real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our mind.

A spiritual life without discipline is impossible.

Solitude, community, ministry—these disciplines help us to live a fruitful life. Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete.  (John 15)

(Just a few of the great quotes from the book! You should really check it out!)