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Today & St. Martin, Bishop of Tours


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tumblr_mdt8114ntB1rz3pvdIn morning prayer today the homily shared connected our lectionary passage and the story of St. Martin of Tours (read a bit more about it). The story was about him cutting of a piece of him military cape and giving it to a homeless beggar. He had a dream that night of a Jesus wearing half of his cape and awoke realizing what he should have done. Essentially to give everything to Jesus and to his neighbor!

It’s veterans day. I really appreciate the lectionary passage from Matthew 25:34-40 (the I was sick, I was in prison, I was a stranger, I was naked… and you took care of me passage). That connected to the commemoration of St. Marin of Tours, a military general who encountered Christ, gave his all to Jesus and became a force for peace and charity in the world, eventually being elected bishop. A great way to frame the day I do believe.

I’m seen by some as disrespectful of veterans and a poor excuse for an American or something like that. This is mainly because I hold to convictions of non-violence and am skeptical of political systems and violent means of progress. I rather seek to pledge my allegiance to God and God’s kingdom, making Jesus my King and his teachings my rule of life and the constitution of my home.

But with all sincerity, I don’t want to be disrespectful to veterans and those who have served and sacrificed for this country and other countries. As a friend and mentor once said to my wife and I, “honor what is honorable.” I want to do that. So thank you women and men who have served and sacrificed. I’m sorry you had to do that, I long for the coming of God’s kingdom, where all will be new and there will be no tears or separation, strife or death. Rather, there will be shalom—everything in it’s right place and in right relationship with all people and things. I struggle with language that gives credit for my wellbeing, safety and freedom to anyone other then my God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So I long for this, for the veteran and for the farmer, for those who might be called enemy and for those who I call friends… I long for all of creation to be at peace because of the knowledge of Jesus, sacrificed for all, for the redemption of sin and the hope of life everlasting. I pray come Lord Jesus, come. Come this day and in all days, until you come one day to make all things new.

My response is to try and live into the already of God’s kingdom rather then excepting the not yet of it. This is not without its faults because of my failure and lack of faith but don’t mistake it for non-action. Despite the sinful sloth I all to often sit in my prayer is that the video of freedom and peace we find in the scripture would lead me, would lead the church to radical action. I pray I and we would have the imagination for this Jesus kinda of action.

I pray God will give me the vision and the courage to live and a disciple of Jesus, acting for peace and reconciliation, for justice and truth, for unity and charity… all with the example of Jesus, the one I follow before me!

Just some thoughts.

12232839_972607742778353_1999867474744436856_oOur Collect for the day…

Lord God of hosts, you clothed your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

PS: to my friend who my raise an eyebrow at the “Pray for us” line. Just look at it like you’re asking a brother or friend to pray for you. The idea is that all are alive in Christ, a communion of saints or a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) you might say. Alexander Schmemann explain this best for me, I can’t remember ware, maybe in his book Great Lent: Journey into Pascha book or For the Life of the World… can’t remember but he’s awesome and helped me to be a little less squeamish when it come to this aspect of the faith that has long been practiced.

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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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In The Name Of Jesus: Reflection of Christian Leadership


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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.
ENJOY!

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“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!)

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Lying for the Kingdom?


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The other night at our Middle School gatherings we engaged in a difficult text. Matthew 10:16, you probably know it…

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

I posed the question on our leader sheet, “is it ever ok to lie?”

The idea of the serpent being an example for us is pretty tricky business.

The Sheep and the doves is easy but the snake. A snake as an example… tricky! My leaders were pretty uncomfortable with the idea that I might be suggesting that it maybe ok to lie or be tricky / crafty / deceitful in the pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom.

I talked about the principle of first things. Letting the scripture inform our understanding of scripture. But with that in mind we turn to Genesis 3 and find a pretty negative image of the snake. Layers and layers of tricky.

My goal for this lesson was to start to get our students and leaders to think about the mission God is sending us on. How this mission is difficult and Jesus is giving us the freedom to do whatever it takes to participate with him in advancing his kingdom. It’s not about being good boys and girls but it’s about being agents of King Jesus in a foreign land. A Jesus who was mocked and crucified for not following the rules and for stirring revolution in the land. 

We often want to say Jesus is innocent. But to be honest, he was guilty! 
Innocent of sin, yes. Guilty of talking to a samaritan women, healing on the sabbath and just about every other charge against him, yep, guilty. That’s our example!

The hinge for me is around verse 19 when Jesus instructions his revolutionary followers to not be anxious. They don’t have to worry or be anxious because they are filled with the Spirit of God who will lead them, guide them and inform them on how to do this tricky business of living on mission in the world – sometimes as a sneaky snake, sometimes as a peacekeeping dove and most of the time as a little of both.

The hinge is that they (all of us) must be connected to God the father, the Son and the Spirit in order to effectively live out this mission. It’s not as simple as “Do not lie.” But we find our fullness in the mission of God when we follow Jesus and are filled with his Spirit in the messiness of his mission in a dangerous land.

Remember Jesus! 
Essentially what he is saying in Matthew 10 is that we should expect what happened to him to happen to us. And in order to effectively be on mission with him we mush be connected to him and be following him step by step.

John Wesley said, “Holiness (living like Jesus) is moment by moment.”

Tricky business.
Amen

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Reading & Multi-Faith Dialog…


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I’m reading / listening to a lot of books lately. I always have about 5 books in the works but these days i’m actually getting through some of them. Part of that is thanks to Audible. I’ve never really been into the listening of books. It’s not the same as reading, much harder to retain and really engage the text, at least for me. But recently i’ve really gotten into it. And i’m working through some books that i’ve wanted to read but probably never would have.

I wrote about the Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography. SUPER good and i wold have never of read that book, way to long!!! but listening to it, all 30 + hours, was great!

I just finished listening to Brian McLaren’s book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World. It was extremely thought provoking and challenging.

I think it’s one of those books that a lot of evangelical Christians will just write off because they know they won’t agree with where McLaren wants to go. But as true as that might be it’s a book that lots of people should read. I posted on Instagram that McLaren said a lot of things i didn’t agree with but probably needed to hear.

I want to think and talk more about this idea of interfaith dialog. It’s really fascinating to me. The idea that maybe we can interact with people of other faiths without some agenda to “save them” or something. It gets tricky but in the world we live in it’s an important conversation we need to be having.

I just starting listening to a series of talks by Fr. Richard Rohr. He’s a Franciscan monk who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation. His thoughts and his books are amazing! I’ll probably write a bit more about his series The Art of Letting Go (which is what i’m listening to right now) a bit later. But he also hits on this idea of interfaith dialog and respect.

He tells a story of Saint Francis telling the monks in his order that if they were to see a Quran on the ground that they should pick it up, kiss it and place it on the Alter. He said this because it’s a holy book that represents people seeking after God.

Things that make you go hmmm….

Anyway. It ‘s a topic that is on my mind these days and it seems that i am running into the conversation around every corner.

More thoughts to come. 
For now, i’ll just keep reading.

Peace
erik

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Preaching from the eye of the storm…


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Wondering…

How do you in healthy ways communicate your own doubt and struggle?  As a leader and preacher, to adults but especially to students, how do you approach this stuff when your in the middle of your own storm, when life and struggle seem to be at their peak and when your wondering if this stuff is even true.

I mean ALL leaders, or all honest leaders have times struggle and doubt, right? I read through the scripture and there seems to be a pretty strong embrace of biblical characters who doubted and struggled. The Psalms seems to highlight this especially.

So how do you engage these text that are full of promise and proclamation and them share these things you think are probably true but are struggling with yourself.

It’s funny that i’m wondering about this at i begin to share this series of messages entitled UNBROKEN because right in the heart of the opening verses i’m sharing is this…

“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25)

Maybe there is some answer there.

But in the middle of life and questions and calamity verses like Romans 8:28 are a bit hard to swallow sometimes.
“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

John Wesley talked about a time when he was struggling to have faith and he decided to preach faith until he had it. I like that. It does stir some tension and questions in my head and heart but i like it.

Just woundering…

(PS : This was a blog i wrote and save as a draft a few month back… just saw it and figured i probably should post this action. Oppps…)

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Beauty & Worship // Space & Values…


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The church values beauty and creativity because God values these things, right? Maybe it’s because God IS beauty and creativity so when we live fully as we were created to live, made in his image and filled with this spirit, when we embrace beauty and creativity we are participating in the life of God. Maybe it’s something like that.

I think in our worship we often forget this kind of stuff these days.

Our buildings are big square office boxes next to other office boxes. Even when we spend LOTS of money on a building it probably just looks like the school down the street. Our art… wait, we don’t really do art anymore. Our music is often times mimics of a pop culture with very little redemptive imagination.

Mostly we come to worship / sing a few songs about Jesus and listen to a message about Jesus, we don’t value much else. And it better not last much longer than an hour… after all, we have things to do.

Well on a night like tonight i remember the value of sacred music and sacred spaces. I think of the good, the true and the beautiful and how the church has always valued these things.


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Don’t get me wrong, i struggle with the amount of money that is spent on some church buildings and chapels, i personally don’t put a high value on appearances (in some ways), on pomp and circumstance, and on flashy kinds of things. I live in a tension when it comes to these things. I see value in space and beauty and creativity… but i also like low key, come as you are environments offered by many churches these days.

Screen Shot 2011-12-05 at 10.28.34 AMI’m not sure i like one over the other, i probably prefer beauty to bland but a mix of the 2… i guess.

I do know when i come to a night of worship at a church like the one i am privileged to work and worship at i remember that historically the Church has valued beauty and creativity and has lead the way in sharing it, often through architecture and art. I definitely think the church, in some ways, needs to regain that place in the world.

What do you think?
How do we reclaim space? Especially when it comes to worship and buildings / architecture… or does it matter?

Do we care about beauty or art or creativity? What does this look like as communities of faith if we say we do value these things?

Is it possible to value mission and beauty at the same time? (i’m thinking of the argument, “we could have spent that money on the mission field instead of a building.”

Alright, enough rambling.

My wife and i had an awesome night of enjoying Christmas music in a beautiful building created for worshiping God. It was great and these are some of my rambling thoughts at 1 in the morning.

Enjoy?

peace

erik

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT :: Shane Claiborne


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I’ve had a couple opportunities to hang out with Shane and am always impressed with humility and normalcy (if that’s the right word). I mean seriously, he’s a dude who makes his own clothes and then recycles his bath water to wash the clothes that he makes… i’m not sure that’s normal but with that said he’s actually a pretty down to earth, normal guy just trying to help be actually be like and follow Jesus. I like that.

Here is a video i ran across today that i thought was some good food for thought…
Enjoy – and then share your thoughts.

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Living in the tension…


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Tension is a really interesting concept, right? Tension can produce beauty…
I’ve always been fascinated by bridges and tension bridges are some of the most amazing things ever. I mean look at this one, or just google them, AMAZING right!

Screen shot 2011-05-30 at 8.34.43 PMAnd tension is KEY when it comes to composing beautiful music. Think of a guitar, a piano, a harp… all need to be dialed into a precise amount of tension to capture the right tone and tune. And not only do the instruments need tension, their tone and pitch play off of one another, often producing a tension in notes that produces amazing music! The wrong amount of tension, too much – too little and it’s just noise, maybe even out of tune noise.

Tension is good, beautiful, it produces the backdrop so that we can dance.

Tension can produce beautiful if we’ll let it. Screen shot 2011-05-30 at 8.37.02 PM

But as we know, if we put to much tension into the equation… SNAP!

To much tension and the guitar string snaps, the bridge collapses, or the relationship falls apart.

You see, every relationship your in also needs a healthy amount of tension. It can be your boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband. It can be your community, your roommate, or your teammate. Relationships will not go deeper and further if some tension isn’t involved and embraced in your relationship. Tension can be the very thing we need to get us from here to there. Tension produces conversations that grow a relationship, tension creates points of decision where your either going to choose to love people, talk and maybe even fight it out with people you want to share life with or the tension just cause you to bail.

If you avoid tension your whole life you will never get anywhere, you will never make music and will never be apart of the dance. But if you embrace tension, learn to live in and deal with it when you need to, if we learn to hone tension to get us where we want to be as individuals and as communities, and if we find just the right amount of tension to embrace, just maybe we will hear the music and if we’re brave enough, maybe we’ll even dance.

I don’t know. I think i hear the tension but i probably am to scared to really embrace it. And if i were honest it feels like the tension is trying to rip me in two sometimes. It even seems like people all around me are crumbling under the tension and doing everything they can to just avoid it. I want to be the kind of person who lives faithfully and courageously, embracing the right kind and amount of tension so that i can participate in this dance that is life. But way to often i just feel like a jr. high boy, i kinda hear the music, i even like it a little – what i understand of it, i might even be bobbing my head a bit… but dance? HECK NO!

I feel like there is a lot of tension in my life these days. I will probably share some more about that in the days to come. For now, i’m just contemplating the idea of tension and wanting to live well in the TENSION.

Grace and peace
erik

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Salt & Light with Mr. Keller


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So, i’ve never really gotten into Tim Keller much. I blame it on John Piper (long story). Keller seems to lean a bit to reformed for my liking but a lot of people who i really respect are big Keller fans, maybe i need to give him a shot.

ALSO, i’ve preached over the last year quite a bit on being Salt & Light…
The message has been entitled ::
Preserving & Illuminating a Masterpiece; A Meditation on Being Salt & Light.
(the file is unedited / rough but listen if you dare. When you click on the link a down will ensue, it’s an MP3 file.)

So today…
I ran across this little video of Tim Keller talking about being salt & light, talking about the christians call to interact with culture and as he says, “being salt because we are lifting up the right way of being human opposed to the wrong way.”

I really like what he says. And i lean pretty heavily toward the “Hauerwasian” view of things and the idea of counter culture but i agree with him, i’m not sure why both views can’t be embrace by a community and probably even by the individual.

Just listen for yourself… and enjoy!

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