Posts Tagged ‘ Spiritual Formation ’

DANIEL SMITH, CORNERSTONE, AND THE LIFE I HOPE TO LIVE

Last night at Dwellings, the new church that I’m a part of, we hosted the first of three movie screenings in a film series called Contineo. Contineo is a Latin word meaning “to connect or join together”. The heart of the Contineo Film Series is to connect people together through discussions on faith, art, and community as we explore some interesting movies together.

As I sat in the Flint Local 432 watching the first film in the series, Danielson: A Family Movie (or Make a Joyful Noise Here), I was reminded of the place that this idea was born. In 2006, my wife and I made our second trip to the Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, IL. The festival was an experiment that began in 1984 by a group of Christian/hippy/rockers from a commune in Chicago called Jesus People USA. Cornerstone was created to provide a space for Christian music that fell outside of the mainstream by gathering annually to celebrate the diversity of God’s people. Over the years, Cornerstone added different elements to the festival experience including a film festival called Flickerings.

During our first trip to Cornerstone in 2004, I was so excited to see every band possible that we ran around like crazy people. While it was a memorable experience, it was exhausting! So when we went back to Cornerstone two years later, we realized that we wanted to have a more restful experience. It was out of this desire for restfulness and a slower pace that we stumbled on Flickerings. On the second day of the fest we crawled out of our hot, sticky tent and made our way to see a documentary about a quirky musician from New Jersey named Daniel Smith.

That morning I was struck by the beauty, creativity, and honestly that the filmmaker, JL Aronson, was able to capture. I remember being inspired to think of Christianity in new ways. I saw Daniel living out an authentic faith apart from the Christian subculture that so often seems to seek to shelter and protect people from the world around them. Daniel seemed driven to create art from who he was and share it with anyone who would listen. He was true to himself even though the sounds he creates aren’t always the most pleasant for casual listening. As a new Christian, the experience of Cornerstone and watching Danielson: A Family Movie were formational events for me. I began to dream about how I could live my life with the kind of integrity displayed by Daniel. I wondered how I could live my faith in a way that didn’t scare away those who had different ideas and desires than I did. I wondered how art could be used to build relationships and nurture productive conversations.

So six years later, these are still the kinds of questions I wrestle with. And I think with every new day and each step I take I’m moving towards the kind of life I started dreaming about down in Bushnell, Il. Now, that Cornerstone has called it a day (the final Cornerstone Festival took place in July of 2012), I hope that Dwellings will help to create that kind of safe space for people to question and connect with God that Cornerstone, and artists like Daniel Smith, have provided for me, at least did in my little corner of the world.

I’d love to hear from you! What are some experiences or pieces of art that have moved your towards the kind of life you want to live?

If you are interested joining us for the next installment of Contineo, can get more info here.

WHAT TO DO IN THE IN-BETWEEN TIMES

This is a note I wrote to the people who are joining us in the church planting adventure that is Dwellings Church. Though this list fairly specific to those in our community, I thought there might be some helpful ideas here for others, too.

Here we are in the in-between times. I’ve heard from some of the Dwellings folks that they weren’t sure what to do in the time between when Lisa and I finished up at Wildwind and a month or so down the road when we begin meeting on Sundays for worship with Dwellings.

Here are some ideas to help with the transition, some of which our family will be doing, too:

1. Rest. Take a Sunday off and sleep in. God gave us the Sabbath to remember that we aren’t machines. Somebody said (maybe it was Rob Bell, or somebody like that), “We are human beings, not just human doings” See what I did there?

2. Visit another church to see how others experience the community of faith. We’ll be visiting some friend’s churches to share about Dwellings and see how others do it. We’d love to head back to TheStory.CA in Sarnia (the church Darryl helped start) and a church called Praxis way up north. Some of what they are doing really resonates with us so we’d like to connect with some kindred spirits. Maybe you can join us. We’ll keep you posted. Otherwise, visit your parent’s church, or a church in your neighborhood. We’re all family so go visiting and ask for open eyes to love and serve and listen for what God is up to.

3. Invite someone else you might not know that well who is a part of Dwellings over for breakfast on Sunday. This can be church, too. Just hang out and get to know the people of our community in a different way than a larger group setting. Remember, the church is a people, not just a service.

4. Do a service project with your family. Is there a need you can meet by spending a few hours together on a Sunday? Connect with the people and the needs around you by giving some of your time, talents, or resources.

5. Consider our Wednesday night gatherings as “church”. Show up. Be present. Worship in community as we learn to listen and dream the dreams God has for our church. Again, church is wherever God’s people are.

6. Go to Wildwind. It’s okay, we love these people. Spend some time with them. They are our family, too. We would, recommend however, to take some time doing something different to ease into our new rhythm of life. I imagine that Dwellings will feel very different on Sunday than being at Wildwind. The change might not feel so abrupt if you take some time away.

7. Spend your Sunday at a coffee shop or going around to garage sales. Notice that for many Sunday morning worship is irrelevant and dated. Listen to the lives of others and try to spot how God is working outside the walls of the church.

8. Seek God in nature. Go for a hike or a bike ride. Spend some time in quiet. Listen God’s still small voice…remember, he is still there even if, especially if, we aren’t busy!

9. Engage in worship on your own or with your family. Read the scriptures together. Write a poem about God’s love. Write a story about God activity in your life.  Do something creative. God is the Creator and we are ‘created in his image’….don’t be afraid. Don’t seek perfection, just do something out of your comfort zone to connect with God.

10. Come up with your own idea. I hope my ideas are just a little spark to get you thinking about being the church over the next month. Grace and peace is the key. No guilt. Just step into the stream of God’s love and see where it leads you. And then come share your stories! We can learn a lot from each other, that is the beauty of community.

I love you guys. I can’t wait to see who we become and how God will use us in Flint. Let’s be open to new adventures and encounters with God in places where we least expect it!

THE KINGDOM IS LIKE…

I love this modern parable about the Kingdom of God written by Mark Scandrette. It captures a beauty that really resonates with me…even though I’m a lousy dancer.

For those of us less familiar with baking and farming, we may need new pictures to help us imagine what life in the kingdom can look like. One of my favorites is that the kingdom of God is like . . . a dance. Since the dawn of time the song of God has echoed throughout the universe. We were made to hear this song and move to the rhythm of the music, with each person’s dance being unique. While most creatures instinctually dance to God’s song, human beings choose whether or not to listen and respond. Gradually we stopped hearing the song, and eventually became deaf to the lyrics and melody. We found other songs to sing, with violent rhythms that made us flail and crash into one another. The original dance became a fading memory that still fills our hearts with longing. Poets and prophets were sent to remind us of the score so we could rehearse and return to the dance. Finally, a Chosen One was sent, at great cost, to heal our deafness and teach us how to move to the rhythm of God’s song again. First, a few of us began to hear the music, so beautiful and alive—it made us not want to dance to our own songs anymore. Now more and more of us are entering a dance that will eventually enchant the whole world. Together we will become one great throng, hearing the same song, and moving in rhythm with the divine aria.

Practicing The Way of Jesus

 

 

MY SHORT CAREER IN BASEBALL

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to try everything! I took karate, I was in cub scouts, I played basketball, I wanted to race BMX bikes, and one time, I even brought home a flier and asked my mom if I could sign up for baton lessons. I was thirsty for life and I wasn’t afraid to try anything. So when tee-ball sign-ups came, of course, I jumped at the chance.

I played baseball all the way from tee-ball to coach-pitch to fast-pitch, even though I was terrible! I hated to practice but I loved to play and be around my friends.

 

The last summer I played little league was the summer before I went to middle school. I always played out in leftfield, which for those of you who don’t know, is that place where nothing ever happens. It was a sunny day and the birds were chirping and I was daydreaming in the outfield when, “smack”, the kid up to bat slammed a pop-fly up into the sky, and unbeknownst to me, right toward leftfield. The ball was coming right for me and I noticed just a little bit too late as the ball bounced off my glove onto the grass. I flubbed the play. It was my big chance and I literally dropped the ball.

Fast-forward a month or so and it’s the first day of sixth grade. There I was. A new school. New classrooms every hour. The  hottest day of the summer. I’m the chubby kid who decided to wear a red silk-shirt with no undershirt and a pair of I.O.U.-bib-overall-shorts-with-one-strap-unhooked-and-a-side-spiked-haircut standing in the cafeteria looking for a place to sit.

I saw a table with a few guys I recognized but I couldn’t remember where I knew them from. Not wanting to be the kid standing around by himself scanning the room for a familiar face for too long, I asked this table of kids if I could sit down. Everyone was chatting about their new classes and the other kids that they knew when one of the guys at the table looked over and starts talking to me. “Hey, I remember you”, he said. I was drawing a blank. I had no clue who he was. He spoke up again, “yeah, you’re the kid who dropped that ball when you played against my little league team this summer. That cost you the game.” I was stunned as the table erupted in laughter in my general direction.

Trying to think fast, I joined in the laughter and threw out some self-depreciating humor to cover up the sound of my breaking heart. I was fragile and scared. I just wanted to fit in.

On the bus that day on my way home, I thought to myself, “If only I hadn’t dropped that ball…”

It’s not that this one event is the root source of my insecurity and inability to understand what it means to be loved but it represents how we come to pick up so much of the baggage that we carry with us through life. I can still see how this experience and others like it have contributed to my desire for the approval of others and the creation of what Brennan Manning would call my “glittering image”. Other folks speak of this “glittering image” as “the false self”. It’s the “me” I’ve created to protect and isolate myself from the influences in the world that would make me feel unworthy and insecure.

Jeanne Stevens, in her book Soul School, talks about the idea of reprogramming our standard operating systems so that our “If only’s” start to become “Even though’s”.   Even though I’m not smarter, I am loved. Even though I don’t have a lot of money, I am loved. Even though I have a limited education, I am loved. Even though I am single, I am loved. Even though I not skinny, I am loved. Even though I was born into a dysfunctional family, I am loved. Even though I dropped that ball, I am loved. You are loved.

A few months ago, I ran into the father of one of the kids I used to play little league with and I was instantly reminded of my short career in baseball.  When I got home, I looked up my old teammate on Facebook and sent him a message telling him that I ran into his dad and had instant flashbacks to little league. My friend replied right away with a response that blew me away. He said, “I still remember that time you caught that pop fly.” I was so confused. Sure, I remembered missing my fair share of pop-flies but my memory was kinda fuzzy. so Then, it all came flooding back.

I was playing third base, with one out left in the inning, a kid hit a pop fly in the infield. I wasn’t really paying attention but the ball was coming right for me. At the last second I looked up and stuck my glove out in front of me just as the ball dropped into my glove. I was stunned. I had totally caught that ball by accident. Or maybe it was by grace. Maybe it was by the grace of God that I ran into my friend’s dad so I could re-connect with his son who could help me remember another story.

May we all come to learn another story. The story where we recognize our true identity as God’s beloved.

 

MY BEST READING EXPERIENCES OF 2010

In this 3 part series, I will explore some of the best of 2010. These selections are based on things I experienced in 2010, not necessarily things that came out in 2010. Please feel free to discuss my list and what you would add in the comments section.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Donald Miller has not written a book that I didn’t love. I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a fan-boy. He writes about God and life in such a conversational voice you can’t help but feel like he is a friend. Miller’s latest memoir chronicles the story of his journey to transform his book Blue Like Jazz into a film, climbing Machu Picchu, and biking across the United States to raise money awareness about the water crisis in Africa. Don shares his stories and encourages readers to create their own. This book provides great inspiration for those who need some motivation to get off the couch.

Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

In this book, the great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, shares a series of letters he wrote to a non-believing friend who asked  Henri to make the case for the life-with-God offered by Jesus. Henri writes with compassion and depth that stirs the soul. This book holds a special place for me because I read it while I was on my first silent retreat at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House. God often speaks through other people who are further along on the journey. Henri Nouwen is always worth listening to.

Picking Dandelions by Sarah Cunningham

A teacher in my home state of Michigan, Sarah Cunningham’s memoir encourages us all to look for the remnants of Eden while identifying the weeds that sprout up in our own lives. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Cunningham for this blog. We talked about her books, spiritual growth, and her experience of weeding her own garden-soul. See what she had to say here.

Wisdom Chaser by Nathan Foster

Another killer memoir. Are you sensing a theme here? This pick is a book by first time author Nathan Foster who shares stories of climbing 14,000 foot tall, Colorado mountains with his spiritual-guru-father, Richard Foster. Nathan paints beautiful word-pictures about relationship, redemption, growth, and adventure. Read my interview with Nathan here.

Contemplative Youth Ministry by Mark Yaconelli

This pick is sort of a trade book since it’s specific to youth ministry. Mark Yaconelli sensed something critical was missing in youth ministry and began to explore the practices of the early church fathers in order to connect to God. As Mark began his own contemplative journey (learning to be with God), he discovered that much of today’s youth ministry is based on fear rather than love. Doing rather than being. This book is a practical field manual to help youth leaders begin a journey into a deeper relationship with our Creator and encourages ministry from this place of depth and connection. This is a must-read book for anyone who works with youth in a ministry setting.

What are your picks for “Best Reading Experience of 2010”?

TO THE SUMMIT: AN INTERVIEW WITH NATHAN FOSTER

Endorsements from Philip Yancey and Eugene Peterson grace the back cover of Nathan Foster‘s first book, Wisdom Chaser (IVP Books). The book closes with an afterword from Nathan’s father, author and speaker Richard J. Foster (Celebration of Discipline). If the company we keep says anything at all about our personal character or the content of our work, I’d say Nathan Foster is someone worth spending at least 200 pages with. In his memoir, Nathan recounts the time he spent with his father sumitting mountains, both literally and metaphorically. Nathan travels to the edge of adventure and to the depths of his soul and invites his readers along for the ride. I recently had the opportunity to ask him about his book, his dad, and his thoughts about outdoor life in his new home state of Michigan. Enjoy!

The stories in your book, Wisdom Chaser, take place around your attempt to climb as many of Colorado’s Fourteeners with your dad, Richard J. Foster. Could you talk a little bit about how this whole adventure got started? What led you to take on this adventure?

Sure. It really started as a joke. “Hey, dad you want to climb the highest mountain in Colorado?.” It was something I really wanted to do, but I fully expected him to say no.

It seems that at the heart of your book, it’s really all about relationships. What is it about relationships that are so important? What did tackling the Fourteeners with your father teach you about relating to others in meaningful ways? Continue reading

LETTERBOXING FOR LIFE

A few years back, my wife came home from a visit with a friend more excited than I had seen her in quite some time. She insisted she had discovered something “amazing” for us to do together that was “going to be a blast”.

photo by sugarskull7

Lisa’s friend Monica told her about the hobby of Letterboxing. Monica herself had gotten pulled-in as a result of spending too much time with an art teacher friend. She evangelized us, sharing her cute, little pastime with my wife and we’ve been hooked ever since.

Letterboxing came to us at a time when we were trying to learn to live with more frugal finances. I remember making a list of free things to do for fun so we could share our passion for quality time without having to spend too much money.  Letterboxing fit the bill.

But what is this so-called Letterboxing?

Well, it’s sorta like geocaching but different. Letterboxing is a neat mixture of low-tech treasure hunting, stamp collecting, and art creation. Participants seek out hidden boxes that contain rubber stamps (usually hand-carved) and a logbook. Letterboxers carry their own stamp with them as their personal identification card.  They use their stamp to “sign-in” to the logbook found in the letterbox and then make a print of the rubber stamp they found in their own logbook that they carry with them. There are some great websites that share more more about the history of Letterboxing and clues to get the journey started.

I consider my wife and I to be casual Letterboxers. We have never been to a Letter boxing convention, meet-up, or stamp-swap. We just spend a few weekends  every summer going on little hikes in search of new inkblot souvenirs. It gets us outside, moving around, it provides a little adventure, and its a lot of fun.

Like any adventure, you come up against the unknown and unexpected. Sometimes you begin a journey with a certain destination in mind and end up somewhere other than where you thought you’d be. Sometimes you get to the destination and you don’t find what you are looking for. Maybe the treasure has been taken by someone else or maybe it’s hidden so well that you don’t feel like taking the time to find what you are looking for. Other times you find exactly what you were looking for and walk away pleased — but don’t take your find for granted, you can’t count on every experience being the same. There is excitement and disappointment around every turn. But that’s what makes it real. I have found that the journey is the best part. It’s not about what you find at the end as much as enjoying the beauty that is all around you at any given moment. That thing that lies ahead keeps us on the journey. Knowing that something worthwhile is out there makes the journey worthwhile through all of the twists and turns. Life-with-God is sorta like that…

but what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Letterboxing is pretty neat.

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