“Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices” by Brian D. McLaren [REVIEW]


This book is nearly a decade old now. It ages well, though now what it says may not seem as immediately new and fresh as it once was. Still, I believe its diagnosis and treatment are just as relevant today as it was then. 

Ultimately, as laid out in its introduction, this book (and the series of subsequent books which follow it), seek to lay out a fourth way (“third” ways are soooo 2008) “beyond a reductionistic secularism, beyond a reactive and intransigent fundamentalism, and beyond a vague, consumerist spirituality”. In this sense, this book is a great success. 

Implicit in its prescribed antidote, this book offers the same diagnosis for each of the three problematic ways of existing in the world, despite their radically different orientations–a fundamental disembodying of the human person, as exemplified by their anemic relationship to practices, both communal and private.

To that end, the book outlines ancient historical and theological foundations to spiritual practices. A refreshing aspect of this is that his list goes well beyond the typical Evangelical “pray-and-read-your-Bible quiet time” approach to spiritual practices. There are treatments given to Christian mystical traditions often overlooked by contemporary American Evangelicals, especially when it comes to contemplative, apophatic, and negative theological traditions, wherein one experiences connection through the divine by stopping activity and cogitation to experiencing an emptying rather than a filling.

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I Am Still Waiting. Still. Waiting. Still…. {my final confession}


But as for me, I will look to the Lord,
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
I must bear the indignation of the Lord,
because I have sinned against him,
until he takes my side
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall see his vindication.
~ Micah 7.8-10

I Am Overly-Introspective & Narcissistic


I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.
For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.
~ Ecclesiastes 1.16-18

Falling Off the Face of the World


I really debated on writing this post. Those most intimate of place between my soul and my Creator are too often converted in my mind into sermon, blog, or conversational thoughts. I tend to be quite promiscuous with the details of my relating to God.

Yes, for many, it is helpful, valuable, and “authentic” to be let in to the inner sanctum of one’s spiritual processing. But it comes at great cost to my own vibrancy. I recall a critique I heard once of the great mystic monk Thomas Merton that he “never had an unpublished thought or experience”.

I can relate.

So what am I talking about? When you read this, I will be on a bus from Holland, Michigan to Kalamazoo. A monk will meet me there and will take me to St Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers for a week-long silent retreat where I will disconnect from all electronics and means of communication. I won’t read anything but prayer books, poetry, and my Bible. No phone, email, texting, kindle, news, podcasts, or anything.
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Philly TONIGHT: Open Sanctuary Time for Reflection & Prayer


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We live in a time and place that is happy to tell us all the things we need to do to be the kinds of people we want to be. And churches are good at telling us more things to do and occupy our time with in order to live in greater closeness with God.

But there are some parts of being human and knowing God that don’t involve doing more, but rather stopping and doing less.

At my church, over the summer, we want to try and create space where people can come and just stop; to experience silence, reflection, prayer, meditation, and a little guidance in those things. This is a spiritual muscle we don’t exercise much, but it’s an essential one to work out if we are to become more human and know God more deeply.

So starting tonight, from 6:30-8pm and every Thursday in July and August, we’ll be having an open, unstructured time for prayer, reflection, contemplation, journaling, and meditation.

A few times I’ll get up and read some Scripture, but outside of that, it’s a space people are free to come and go, lie down, walk around, sit on the floor, or whatever they need to connect with themselves and connect with God. No matter your church home, religious tradition, or lack of belief, feel free to use this space in whatever way you need.

So feel free join us at 17th and Sansom St in Center City Philadelphia between 6:30 and 8, and each subsequent Thursday.

Rhythms of Faith & Freedom


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I’m currently reading through Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. Occasionally, I’ll post reflections on my reading.

One big strength of this particular book on cultivating one’s spiritual existence is that it’s focus is entirely on the spiritual life as a response to what God has been doing. Most books focus more on the stuff you’re “supposed” to do. Some slightly betters ones spend their time unpacking and expressing the “beauties of the Gospel” (as they pretty narrowly, individualistically, and Evangelically define it) and then trust that these intellectual ideas and truths woo us and turn our “affections” to God. These are the same people that often see “preaching the Gospel to yourself” as the panacea for everything, be it doubt, fear, confusion, theological questions, or mental health issues.

Barton, however, comes at it from a different angle. She uses the story of Moses as a picture and type for the dance that exists between God and his people. And at each stage of Moses’ life and deepening of his calling and relating to God, she shows how God has actually been at work to, for, and with Moses long before this moment ever came.

So it’s not, “God died for you, so you can live for him!”, or, “See how beautiful God is and all the things he’s done for you! Now doesn’t that make you want to engage with him? (And if it doesn’t, there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.)”
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The Refuge of the Embattled Soul


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I’m currently reading through Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. Occasionally, I’ll post reflections on my reading.

“Reach the campus, reach the world.”

That’s how they got me. With those words, I began an amazing three years in the campus ministry I was a part of throughout college. I was coming out of a fundamentalist evangelical fog, and was desperate for deep, impactful community. I found it in those incredible people.

They had pointed out that our college had students from almost every “closed nation” in the world (countries where missionaries aren’t allowed to go). The campus was a place of such diversity and nationalities; the thought was that this was the most strategic place to have the most global Christian impact. Playing a part in this excited me and stirred me to serve in this mission.

Compared to the few-hundred strong InterVarsity, our little band of 12 or so students were the definite underdogs of campus ministry. We were just starting out and decided to go legitimate and become an official student organization. This would give us access to room and equipment rentals, money, and advertising resources. But we needed “officers” and a board of leaders to do this.

I thus became the President of our campus ministry.
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Cultivating Your Soul to Lead


paul-art-wingI’m currently reading through Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. Occasionally, I’ll post reflections on my reading.

In my seminary program, there’s a lot of talk about one’s “True Self”. We live so much of our existence living from the place of masks, coping mechanisms, fears, anxieties, etc.–our “False Selves”. Articulating it like this is so helpful in some ways, but in others can be frustrating.

At least for me, this “True Self” seems so deeply inside of me, so elusive, that I’ve very much resigned myself to never actually knowing this self. Like a celebrity or historical figure, I’ve had to learn to live with the reality that I’ll never actually meet this person, no matter how much I may want to. I’ve come to terms with a reality in which I just need to be gracious with myself (just as God is) that most all of my life and existence will be more “False” than “True”, and I just need to make the best out of that.
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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #5 [3/24-30/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I’m still trying to figure out the best pace at which to post these, so be patient with me. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Genesis

History, Theology, & Wrestling with God | Genesis 32.24-32

When morning came, it was Leah | Genesis 33.10

How Christians can read Old Testament horror  | Genesis 34.25-31

Exodus

God’s Sovereignty, Moses’ Will | Exodus 3.4

Our infinitely compassionate (and delegating) God | Exodus 3.7-8

The Proof that God’s Right? When He Is.  | Exodus 3.11-12

Who God is When We’ve Forgotten Who He is | Exodus 3.13-15

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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #4 [3/17-23/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I’m still trying to figure out the best pace at which to post these, so be patient with me. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Genesis

Responding to the Covenant | Genesis 17:10

God & Sarah: one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible | Genesis 21.1

The Echoes of History &  Abraham| Genesis 24.22-23

And the story moves from Abraham to Isaac… | selections from Genesis 26

God’s Camp is Our Camp | Genesis 32:1

Wrestling with God: History & Theology | Genesis 32.24-32

Responding to the Covenant | Genesis 35.9-13

Exodus

Moses the Levite? | Exodus 2:12

Moses the Shepherd | Exodus 3.1

A quick note on why everything you think about angels might be wrong | Exodus 3.2

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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #3 [3/8-16/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I generally post between 1 to 3 of these per day, which can be difficult to keep up with. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Pastors, Purification, & Their People | Nehemiah 12:30

There is an order to pastoring. We’d do well to heed it.

Covenantal Confusion (on my part) | Genesis 6:18

Noah Covenant “versus” Abraham Covenant. Go!

The Saving Call of Christ: you’re already saved | Matthew 9.13

Be who you are.

The God of Chance & Randomness | Genesis 13.14-18

God gave his people some glorious sloppy seconds.

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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #2 [3/3-7/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I generally post between 1 to 3 of these per day, which can be difficult to keep up with. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Haha. Such a great narrative turn. | Genesis 6.5-8

Haha.

Weirdest. Love story. Ever. | Genesis 29.10-12

The OT has some great stories to tell great truths. It’s love stories, however…

You marry a family | Genesis 29.13-14

In which the father of the bride says Adam’s marital vows to the future son-in-law.

Politics & Tithe | Ezra 8.35-36

Some interesting church/state arrangements here

The Economics of the Soul | Nehemiah 13:19-21

How capitalism can kill our souls.

Pastoring the Sabbath | Nehemiah 13:22

Here’s one pastoral task we often miss.

Esther is no Sunday School role-model | Esther 2.8-9

Turn on some slow jams and read this. Also be sure to catch the comments.

Esther & Political Advocacy by God’s People| Esther 4.3,8 [DOUBLE-HEADER]

This is why I started this series. Read this, and then read the comments. My mind was blown. Hopefully yours will be as well.

The Holy Spirit exorcizes, no matter who you are | Matthew 12:24-28

It seems the Holy Spirit shows no favoritism.

Love your neighbor…even other denominations | Matthew 22:34-40

Bet you never caught the context of this key verse….

Paul’s ministry thesis & maybe Theophilus’ identity? | Acts 28.23-31

We get a little deep into some reader-response literary criticism and biblical studies.

Preaching the Gospel to Christians | Romans 1:14-16

The Gospel. Is. Everything.

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See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #1 [2/24-28/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I generally post between 1 to 3 of these per day, which can be difficult to keep up with. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Death & Life; Names & Vows | Genesis 3.20-21

Adam names Eve only after the Fall. Why?

Noah, Prophecy, & the Comfort of the Earth | Genesis 5.28-29

Noah’s name is interestingly prophetic…

Abraham’s son Ishmael was part of Covenant! | Genesis 17.23-27

This blew my mind. I’m still trying to work through the implications.

Abraham almost loses his son & he worships?! | Genesis 22.13-14

This is why Abraham was the Father of our faith. I couldn’t do it.

Insecurity Leads to Fasting? | Ezra 8:21-23

On sin and spiritual discipline.

Male Headship & Societal Injustice | Esther 1:17-22

A longer one (also part of our Women in the Church series). Some lessons for our Complementarian friends from the book of Esther.

Universal Intimacy: The Beautiful Transition | Matthew 11:25-39

This is what Christian Universalism looks like.

What Draws Out Jesus’ Compassion? | Matthew 15.32

It might not be what you think.

Women at the Cross | Matthew 27:55-54

The Gospels really make an effort to highlight the women. Why?

Who Sent Whom? | Acts 13.2-4

Beautiful words about God’s work through us.

The Good News changes, the Good News gifts | Acts 20.32

The proclamation has got a lot to it.

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See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.