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Archive for the ‘Journey’ Category

Many Faces

Thought of the day:

“The Church as the body of Christ has many faces. The Church prays and worships. It speaks words of instruction and healing, cleanses us from our sins, invites us to the table of the Lord, binds us together in a covenant of love, sends us out to minister, anoints us when we are sick or dying, and accompanies us in our search for meaning and our daily need for support. All these faces might not come to us from those we look up to as our leaders. But when we live our lives with a simple trust that Jesus comes to us in our Church, we will see the Church’s ministry in places and in faces where we least expect it.

If we truly love Jesus, Jesus will send us the people to give us what we most need. And they are our spiritual leaders.” (emphasis mine)

– Henri Nouwen

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Who Am I?

Here we are, almost 4 years after stepping through the doors of my current church. Sadly, I “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. More accurately, I haven’t been able to be fully present as myself. I feel constrained to fit in within the boundaries and the borders inherent in traditional church life. Honestly, at times I feel caged. All I want is to be me, to be able express myself in the liberty of the Spirit. As Bruce Lee said, “To me, ultimately, martial arts means honestly expressing yourself.”

Who am I?  Well, at times,  I am a provocateur, who loves to challenge the status quo and stir things up, especially in the midst of dry and rigid formalism and traditions, and shallow and sentimental silliness.

I’m also a philosopher loves to reflect deeply on ideas and eschews superficial thoughts. I am insatiably curious. I will question everything.

At times I’m a reluctant prophet who is grieved at the current state of the church and longs to call people back to the simplicity that is in Christ.

Other times, I am a poet/painter, yearning for a deeper connection to the people and world around me, longing to be able to express my deepest desires, to paint what is possible here and now—yet knowing that ultimate fulfillment and flourishing awaits the eschaton.

In my better moments, I aspire to shepherd others, hoping to function as a failing and faltering pastor-teacher (minus the clericalism) who is burdened to feed the flock with healthy food, to care for them deeply, to protect them, and to lead them beside the still waters. Perhaps those days are past for this tired old soul? Or perhaps because only professionals are recognized as qualified?

Lastly, there is a part of me that shall always be the prodigal: running away from my Father and then crawling back on my knees, begging for forgiveness.

Right now, at this juncture, I feel the church needs to hear the prophetic voice, but alas, “a prophet is not accepted in his hometown” (Luke 4:24; ISV).

“But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord
    or speak in his name,
his word burns in my heart like a fire.
    It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!”
– Jer. 20:9 (NLT)

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The Weight of Wait

By nature, I am a problem solver. However, I’ve had to learn again and again, especially in this season of change, that I need to wait. The burden, מַשָּׂא, of the needs all around me weigh heavy upon my heart, and my natural inclination is to rush out to meet those needs. However, there are often obstacles, especially when the problems are structural and systemic.

There seems to be some frantic and frenetic busyness born out of impatience or insecurity. There are fences of fear that seek to contain and constrain; there are gatekeepers and guardians. Thus shut out, I am reminded that I need to let go of my desire (however well-intentioned) to rush in and fix the problems, even though it is hard to silence the prophetic impulse to speak into the situation.

If we are wise enough to pay attention to the quieter voice,
it might sound something like this:

Enough.

These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

– David Whyte

 

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

– T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker III”

 

Solitude. Silence.

Be still my soul.

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Ever since the event of Sep 13, I have been very restless and have had to endure many sleepless nights. So, I have been doing a lot of reading, reflecting and writing (yes, and praying, though not as much as I should). As noted in my earlier post, I have tried to emphasize the need to be still and wait. That said, it doesn’t mean that we can’t reflect and dream.

Anyone who knows me, knows that writing is therapeutic for me. Therefore, it should not be surprising that I have spent a lot of time writing down some thoughts about the recent situation. One thing that came out of my reflections was a “60 Day Plan”, i.e., my own ideas about what I personally feel should take place in this season of transition. I don’t make any prescriptive claims about my so-called plan; they are just my ideas, nothing more, nothing less. It is my conception of one way forward.

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Glass Bottles of our Ego

Reflection for today:

“When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper.”

― D.H. Lawrence

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Crossroads

On Sep 13 I received an email from the lead teaching pastor (we’ll call him Gary) informing me of his resignation from the church I belong to. I was shocked and saddened but not totally surprised. Why was I not surprised?  Because in February of this year, a colleague at work predicted he would be gone before the year was over. Indeed, just 2 days prior to receiving the resignation email, my colleague sent me this email:

Next year will be a new beginning for your church.
Focus your energy to prepare the church in the era after the change happens.

Don’t ask me how he knew. I’m not sure he even knows!

NOTE: this post is NOT about Gary and NOT about trying to analyze why he left. It’s actually about my own journey and how this is but one event in a series of events that have happened during the past year or so.

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Simplicity

A brother just reminded me of Tozer’s words from his classic, The Pursuit of God:

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all. If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now, as always, God reveals Himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent.

Tozer always has a way of speaking into my life, no matter what condition or situation I’m in. Thanks brother for the much-needed reminder!

 

 

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