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Learning to Prayer


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My time at Nashotah House has begun!

This week is orientation. All week, all the time! It’s a lot, but there is a lot that goes on at this place. Most notably, every day starts with morning prayer at 8 am, then bells ring at 12:30 pm for mid-day prayer, and then we gather again for evening prayer at 4:30 pm.

Everything revolves around this rhythm of prayer. Our life, our community and our learning all are rooted and sustained by this practice of prayer.

If nothing else is formative at Nashotah House, I know beyond a doubt this will be (even though I am quite sure many other things will be as well).

I thought I would share a prayer all the students and faculty pray every day at evening prayer.

11891237_10153607230635956_4106079202307804684_nA Prayer for Nashotah House

Bless, O Lord, this House, set apart to the glory of your great name and the benefit of your Holy Church; and grant that your Name may be worshipped here in truth and purity to all generations. Give your grace and wisdom to all the authorities, that they may exercise holy discipline, and be themselves patterns of holiness, simplicity, and self-denial.

Bless all who may be trained here; take from them all pride, vanity, and self-conceit, and give them true humility and self-abasement.
Enlighten their minds, subdue their wills, purify their hearts, and so penetrate them with your Spirit and fill them with your love, that they may go forth animated with earnest zeal for your glory; and may your ever living Word so dwell within their hearts, that they may speak with that resistless energy of love which shall melt the hearts of sinners to the love of you.

Open, O Lord, the hearts and hands of your people, that they may be ready to give and glad to distribute to our necessities. Bless the founders and benefactors of this House, and recompense them with the riches of your everlasting kingdom,
for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Know that Andrea and I are also praying for you—our friends and supporters. This will be a challenging chapter of our story, but one we are excited about because we know it will shape and mold our family for the ministry God has before us. And we know we have a great team of friends who are praying for us and supporting us every step of the way! Thank you!
Grace and peace
Erik

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Fundraising opportunity


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To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited when I realized I was going to need to be a fundraiser for the foreseeable future. I’ve done bits and pieces in the past and always struggled with asking people for money.

At this point, my family is three months into raising funds for the first year of the vision we believe God has given us. We’re trying to raise $56,843.00 to cover our seminary and living expenses. Throughout this process, I have read several encouraging books and had numerous encouraging conversations. And the biggest miracle of all isn’t that we have raised over 60% of our funds, or that in the process I find myself growing and learning because of this difficult task, but that my aversion to fundraising is nearly gone! It’s still hard, and I realize that I’m only beginning. But to see how the Lord is providing and how our community of friends are coming around us and believing in what God is up to in our lives has been a truly amazing thing!

Like I said, we’ve raised a little over 60% of our goal. All in all, we need $11,218 more to meet our goal and be fully funded for our first year of seminary, with church planting in mind.

Our prayer is that we are fully funded by the end of the August!

We’re still looking for a few partners. Is that you?

One cool opportunity we have right now is the Nashotah House Matching Funds Scholarship. You fill out THIS FORM :: Seminarian Support Donation Form and send it directly to Nashotah House with your attached check. When someone gives in this way, Nashotah will match up to $4,500 in seminary tuition and expense. For example, if you give $50 directly to Nashotah House, they will match it and we will receive $100 toward our seminary tuition. (Get more information on this opportunity here).

Andrea and I have also set up a giving / partnership page on our website www.TheWillitsFamily.com. If you’ve been asking, “What is he talking about?” as you read this blog, you can find all the details there.

I’ve always struggled asking people for money—really, asking people for help. But in the Kingdom of God we participate together in God’s work, always willing to help and partner with each other for the good of the Kingdom and good of the world.

Sometimes asking is really hard.
Sometimes giving is really hard.
Sometimes receiving is hardest of all.
But asking, giving and receiving free, unmerited, unearned, 100% grace is something we must all learn—most importantly in our relationship with Jesus, and also in our relationships with one another.

I’m learning, growing, receiving and, with God’s help, living every day more fully in the Kingdom of His Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

Here’s a bit from one of those books I mentioned. So good!!!

“We may think of fundraising as a necessary but unpleasant activity to support spiritual things. Or we might believe that fundraising reflects a failure to plan well or trust enough that God will provide for all our needs…
From the perspective of the gospel, fundraising is not a response to a crisis. Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. It is a way of announcing our vision and inviting other people into our mission. Vision and mission are so central to the life of God’s people that without vision we perish and without mission we lose our way…
Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.”

From A Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen

Thanks, friends!

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RHYTHM :: Life, Love and blogging…


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I had an amazing time at camp this past week! Our theme was RHYTHM and I look forward to sharing more about that with you! I had a few people at camp ask me about my blog… WHAT?!?!  I didn’t think anybody even read this thing. I’ve been trying to hit my blog once a week for the past few months. Don’t look back to far, you’ll see my failure!  But i’m gonna keep trying to hit this about once a week. Some times it will be more and sometime I might even miss a week (don’t give up on me — i’m giving you opportunity to practice Christian love, patience and persistence.)  😉

I’ll be blogging on ministry, music, life and other thoughts and pondering.
I have a couple writing projects that i’m working on and starting to work on. I’d love to run some of that by you!

Basically i’m always thinking, working and creating.
The more voices, the better the conversation! So let me know what you think.

The next few post will about about camp. And some of the things I shared there. Our these was RHYTHM. So much fun!!!


Stay tuned for the conversation! I’m loving it!!!

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Why you should quit The Ministry…


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jesus34.jpg.w300h409I have a friend who is a full-time pastor, associate actually but probably does more than his Sr. pastor, he’s good! But I think he should quit his job and get out of ministry. Let me tell you why.

Another guy I know, he’s a priest at a local parish and is experiencing what a lot of us “professional Christians” experience, the inability to really dig in and share life with people. We were talking about his community group and he isn’t sure he can do the small group thing because there is an expectation that he would have the answers. There is also probably a bit of a compulsion to give the “right” answer if the wrong ones are being tossed about. This isn’t uncommon, i’ve felt it and so have many of my friends who are pastors and preachers.

Now maybe you could still get a pay check form the church. Wear the collar and park in the clergy space at the hospital (there are some perks we don’t want to give up right!) But maybe we need to quit doing ministry and just start sharing life with people. To start living in a way that should be standard for all Christians not just those that get paid for ministry. Maybe we should only do things as professional ministers that we would also do as professional bike messengers or professional lawyers or professional… you fill in the blank. If you wouldn’t do it when you weren’t getting paid, don’t do it JUST because you are.

This is probably idealistic. Maybe there are things that are apart of any job as a professional that you’d hate but can’t help, things you have to do. Does anybody love every aspect of their occupation? If so, teach me your ways. So i’m not saying this is some hard and fast rule but what I am trying to get at is what I see in my friend and if I were honest, it’s what I see in myself all to often. I can be a horrible friend, a really crappy neighbor but when it’s my job or when i’m “ministering” i’m all over it. If you’re going to be a crap friend to your friends don’t act like your a good friend to the people you’re getting “paid” to be a friends to.

The goal in quitting ministry is to have the ability to actually live life with people and let ministry happen as it should for all of us, no matter how we get paid, you might even still get a check from the church and preach a message on Sundays. If we can find ways to shift our professional mentality I really think that our status as simply authentic human beings, people who has quit ministry will begin to shape how we actually share life with people. It will shape the conversations we have, the dinners we go to, the beers we drink and the games we attend. All these things and more might all be a bit more natural as they flow from life instead of being contrived via a job.

“So what do you do?”
“Oh, i’m i just a dude. I happen to work at a church though.”

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So, do you get paid by a church? How have you felt this dilemma? Or have you?

I think an interesting part of this conversation could be to flesh out a theology of the priesthood of believes and how the professional priest fits into this community of priests that we all are called to belong to. I’m sure there are some good resources on this, any suggestions?

(These few icons and the one above inspire me as I think about the priesthood of all believer and the great cloud of witnesses the scriptures talk about.)
Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 1.08.03 PM

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The Computer Apocalypse…


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Well i’ve been on track to keep my commitment of blogging once a week. But then the computer apocalypse happen!

That’s right, the computer apocalypse.

There are no zombies in this story. Arnold Schwarzenegger, skynet and killer robots are also not involved. But it’s pretty apocalyptic in my world anyway.

About 8 months ago my hard drive crashed. I spent $700 to save a very minimal amount of data off my crashed computer, probably recovered about 30% of my data. The end was near. Apple replaced my hard drive for free because i was covered by AppleCare. With my computer running well and a mix of data recovered by the extorters at TaylorMark and an old backup i had on an external hard drive we were up and running and falsely confident.

Fast forward 7 months and 28 days. My 3 year AppleCare expires. No worries, we’re running strong, my computer is backed up, i have a new hard drive! All is right with the world. (cue ominous music).

It’s approximately 10 days later. I’m in the trows of finish a book, it’s the day of my deadline. I’m about 2 hours from completion, i’ll be sending the manuscript to my publisher shortly but i’ve been working late nights and early morning, trying not to do any book writing on my church job time. So yea, i’m tired and in need of cafine, Starbucks here i come. I set up at St. Ar Bucks and begin to work when the pinwheel of death begins to show it’s ugly colors! (if ominous music still plays switch track to something like the deathstar music from Star Wars… “dun dun da dun, dun da dun dun”). At this point i turn of my computer, i mean it probably just needs a little refresher. I might lose a few edits from my last save but nothing big.

I give it a minute, take a drink of my Americano and hit the power button. Gray screen. Twirling powering up icon. Then a gray bar, it looks like i’m downloading something but i’m not, that’s odd, that doesn’t normally happen. BLACK. (the sound track should be something dissonant and chaotic, some kinda of apocalyptic trance music.)

The apocalypse has officially begun.

You know that book i had mentioned. Yea, it was saved. ON MY COMPUTER.
Now, it’s gone!

I sit back in my seat at Starbucks. This seems so surreal that all i can do is giggle. This doesn’t really happen to people does it? The day your deadline and dead is your computer. It’s so ludicrous that it’s kinda funny, in a “i want to cry” kinda way. But yea, everything is gone.

Luckily my wife and i had been emailing early drafts back and forth so i have the raw early edits via email but lots and lots of work was gone. It felt like someone had strapped a 50 pound bag to my back and asked me to climb a mountain. 

I’m sure my publisher thought i was telling him a “my dog ate my homework” kind of story. I was absolutely miserable. And the Apple store couldn’t fit me in for 3 days. The store closer to my house for 5 days. When i finally did go to my appointment, i was late and they couldn’t get me in because they were packed. I had to just drop off my computer and let them look it over.

So my my hard drive had crashed again. Fortunately the Apple store was able to recover some data before they replaced my hard drive. I recovered all the work i had done on my book. But those five days of recreating what i had done because i thought it was all gone were absolute hell. $160 bucks later hard drive #3 was in my MacBook Pro and we are rolling.

But that’s not all.
Fast forward 3 or 4 weeks.

Working on my computer, it’s late at night. My son has a little toy on the table, it’s a plastic blue ice cream cone. I’m reading some blogs, doing a little of this a little of that and i pick up said blue ice cream cone. The top pops off and bubble solution spills on my computer. Not a lot. I didn’t freak out at all. A little on my track pad, a little on my keyboard. I gingerly get up, grab a paper towel and dab up the bubbles. About 15 minutes later my trackpad starts responding weird. Buttons aren’t clicking, things are freaking out. I immediately back up my computer. I’ve learned. I turn off my computer after a succesful backup. I let it sit for a few. Then attempt to turn it back on. It’s still acting super weird, buttons aren’t working, my cursor is jumping around the screen, etc. I turn it off and go to bed. In the morning, BLACK! My computer won’t turn on AT ALL! (You know that apocalyptic trance music? Yea, turn it up until your ears are bleeding.)

I take my computer to the apple store. They have to send it away. $400 dollars later i am up and running again. New logic board, new keyboard, new font panel or something but i’m working. And i’m blogging. And i’m hoping the computer apocalypse is over. I’m a Christian, i just want some resurrection life!

Sorry for the long blog. It’s all true. Not an ounce of exaggeration unfortunately. I guess i needed to vent. But hopefully i’m back on. Blogging at least once a week. I got a list of stuff to catch up on so who know, maybe eve a little more.

Grace and peace
Erik

 

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Family Fun…


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Kids can be tough! Being a parent can be really hard work and exhausting. No doubt.
But they are such a gift!
Here is my crew…

Reese is my little lady! She is friendly but fragile. She doesn’t like being tossed around but she loves being held, at least for a few short minutes and then she wants to start crawling around. She’s slow to walk but quick to explore. We’ll see what that means for her in the future. She’ll stare you down, looking deep into your soul, i’m nervous this will be a manipulation tactic in the future. I’m mainly nervous cause i know it will work on me every time. She is in a waving phase… as you can see in the picture today. She is beautiful and i think she will be my soft hearted, friendly little flower. But her beauty scares me… teenage years = lock & key!

Jack, well he is all boy! He can be extremely polite but watch out, he might want something. Yep, he’s my little con man. I think he is going to be smart, clever and conniving. Hopefully we can channel his powers for good. I think he will be a handsome young man and hopefully that mixed with this con man tendencies doesn’t equal anything criminal. He doesn’t know a stranger and can hang with the boys but also can be fiercely independent. I think he will have lots of friends but a larger inner space than most because he will also be comfortable with himself. He gives great high fives and even better hugs!

Being a dad is a huge gift from God! I could write much longer paragraphs about each of my little loves. They are amazing and i love dreaming about what they will be someday! And i love even more enjoying today!
Some people fight for years, spend their fortunes, cross air and sea to live lives of parenthood. For others, it happens before you want it to. But i believe for everybody, not matter how it happens… it’s truly a gift from God. Don’t take it for granted. Not everybody gets this gift. Take it with gratitude and be fully present every minute! That’s really hard as well but i want to try!

 

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When you like Jesus but not his followers – Christians


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I read this article from Relevant Magazine online this week and it’s an old conversation but one that keeps coming up. And i think i agree with the primary krux of the article although i didn’t like the tone. I’ll explain, but here is a link to the article…

So the article surrounds the lead dude from Mumford and Sons (a band i really dig) saying he likes Jesus but not the church or Christians. Nothing new right, i mean check out Dan Kimball’s 2007 book and a dozen other articles and conversations i’ve read since i was in college. But the fact that the writer of this article acts like it’s a new fad isn’t the most annoying part of the conversation to me, the attitude and tone is what really what put me on edge.

If we were honest, us self-proclaimed Christians would have to admit there is tons of junk and labels that come with the territory. If you want to be really screwed add the title pastor to that. Try to have a conversation with the gay guy at the coffee shop or bar after you tell them you’re a Christian pastor. So yea, i understand where Marcus Mumford is coming from. Part of me wants to join him. My hope would be that as Christians we would own up to our shit. Admit in the name of Jesus the Church has done some pretty horrible things and discriminated against a lot of people, we’ve used the Lords name in vain quite a bit.

Don Miller in his book Blue Like Jazz comes to terms with this and he and his friends set up a confessional booth. But instead of taking confessions they give them, on behalf of Christians. This is the postures i think we, the Church, the body of Christ and dare we say, us Christians must have.

Overall i like this article, it said some good stuff and it did own up to some of the Christian baggage we have but for me, i just want to make sure that when i fight for a label like Christian i take a posture that redefines it instead of supports the notions lots of people already have.

James chp 1 says some important things about this…
here is verses 26-27

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tonguesdeceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

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Holiness as being and everyday life…


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I come from a tradition that makes a really big deal about holiness. I think they do with with the best of intention and with the realization that holiness is really important for the follower of Jesus. The problem I ran into is that many people in said tradition is that they have a very poor practical theology of holiness, in my humble opinion.

I’m sure this would upset some folks if they read this, they probably won’t read it, I think we’re ok. And if you are reading this and are upset… don’t loose your holiness over it. 😉

Maybe this is an ongoing conversation, WAY to much for one blog post for sure. But i would argue that holiness is less about what you do or don’t do and much more about ones heart. I could have used the cliche, which is true but a bit to trite i think… “Holiness is more about who you know that what you do.” There is some truth in that but probably not nuanced enough for my liking. Anyway…

As yesterday’s post stated, it’s about being not just about doing.

Holiness isn’t about drinking or smoking, isn’t not about sex or sexuality, it’a not about dancing, cussing, watching TV or movies — or the lack of any of these activities in your life. It’s also not about going to church, reading your bible and praying. Not of these activities or the absence of them equals holiness in a persons life. It’s not about saving the world, feeding homeless or being a missionary either.

There is only one thing that is a 1 to 1 correlation to holiness and that is know Christ and him crucified. Everything else is secondary and a product of that which really is holiness, knowing Christ.

I’m pretty convinced that holiness is about the heart and the “being” of a person and way less about the doing, their actions whether positive or negative. The catch is, when put this simply i don’t think many would argue. The problem is that the conversation quickly and unfortunately moves into so many other things that i have listed above. I think it moves so quickly to morality and things of that nature that we struggle with really believe, in our bones and in our hearts that holiness is actually about being and not doing (or not doing). 

We could talk about our journey into holiness and wholeness and how some of these things we do or do not do and that they might be indicators of progress and maturity (i would add maturity — as Paul uses the term, is a really important idea here) but they are not the whole story and i don’t believe they are the proof of holiness.

This really is a big conversation.

Fruit could be an important part of this conversation.
I would think that looking at Matthew 5 and 6, all that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount up to the point where he challenges folks to “be holy as your heavenly father is holy” would be important words to look at.

I mean there is tons to look at in the scripture to add to this conversation. I definitely miss the emphasis on holiness, i think it’s important and something i want to continue to think about and challenge others to think about in their own lives.

We’ll continue the conversation…

Grace and peace
erik

PS :: The image above was one on found on the internet and was a womans interpretation of holiness. I like it!
( Here is where i found it. ) 

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Rituals // Some Things Are Hard to Explain…


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Early in my spiritual life i came to an understand that rituals were an unnecessary and even negative thing. Something the Catholics and other people who didn’t have a real faith participated in. Things have changed…

#1. I’m an Anglican. And i’ve been reading A LOT of Catholics guys lately. Not quite Anglo-Catholic but ya never know.
So yea, rituals have become a big part of my life of faith. I really value them and see the beauty in their rhythm. So i apologize to my Catholics friends i either doubted and demeaned or attempted to convert when i was in High School. Sean, you specifically come to mind.

Now a lot of my evangelical friends might want me to explain this a bit more. I could give lengthy theological banter here but instead i’ll show you a picture and say a few things.

 #2. I’m a dad and this is my son Jack! Just about every Saturday we go on an adventure. This includes many different things that Jack is fond of; car washes, parks, finding big machines (backhoes, bulldozers, and the like), going to the mall so we can walk up and down every escalator in the place and play in the lego store, finding water fountain to play in. AND always, ALWAYS going to Starbucks to get some chocolate milk!

 

Our Saturday adventures are our father & son ritual. At least for me it’s a really deep and meaningful time for me to connect with my son and experience life and love with him. There might be times when he is over it and thinks our Saturdays are lame or times when he thinks there are better things that could be done with his Saturday mornings but i will always be here for him, waiting and wanting our lives to intentionally intersect, for us to have a beautiful rhythm that we share, a ritual that is ours. It’s still hard to explain but it makes more sense to me when i think of our Sat. AM ritual as the center of our ever evolving relationship.

My relationship with God is also ever evolving. Sometime it feels as if it evolving in negative ways but if St. John of the Cross is right and the Dark Night of the Soul is God’s way of purifying us for our journey into perfection then maybe even when it feel as if God is distant and your spiritual life is dry, when you feel like you could be doing something better with your Sunday mornings… maybe it’s then, especially then when the eucharist needs to be participated in and the Word needs to be heard and the prayers of the people need to be said. Ritualistic. Absolutely. Because maybe there are times when that is exactly what we need, a good ritual.

There are very few Saturday’s, actually i’m not sure there has been one yet, when i don’t think about my own father and all he missed out on because he wasn’t around. And i think about how badly i want to be there for my son and how badly i want him to know that i love him. That’s another thing that’s hard to explain. Growing up without a dad feels like i never learned this particular language and now i am learning it by inhabiting the land of fatherhood. It’s a foreign language but one i think i am picking up pretty fast and one that feel as though i was born to know, i think we were all born to know the language of love, especially as communicated to us by our mothers and fathers.

Here’s to living a life of ritual and rhythm. Because maybe it’s exactly what we need.

 

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Good intentions…


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So i am full of good intentions. 
Blogging… i fully intend to blog and then get busy with more important things and 6 months go by like a blink and i realize i haven’t blogged since that last post when i said i was going to blog more. CRAP!

More recently, as i mentioned in my previous post i attended a spiritual retreat with my family and Ion Morgan Cron was the retreat guide. He spoke about and lead us in times of silence, reflection and solitude. I have FULLY intended to water the garden of my soul with these practices since i came home from the retreat. But intentions are not actions and i have fallen short in the action part. I even found an app that’s a meditation timer with all kinds of cool bells and whistles. Literally church bell that start and end your meditation time. I’m telling you, i’ve got some great intention.

Spiritual Director!

However, i realize how much i need this sort of intention and action in my life that i’ve decided to take the next step and find someone to help me slowdown, reflect on somethings and keep me accountable to put actions to my intention. So i found a spiritual director here in Dallas and met with him for the first time the other day. It was really interesting and it’s exciting to have someone in my life devoted toward helping me on my own spiritual journey, guiding and directing me into the things of God.

Putting actions to my intention is important. I look forward to sharing a bit of both.

Do you ever have the best intention and not the greatest follow through? Or am i all alone here? Would love to hear about it and how you overcame the valley of good intentions! Share your story, Leave me a comment.

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