Wednesday, April 18, 2007

on my desk

We have a big chair in our office that I often sit in to read, especially if Sean is on the computer. It's nice to be in the same room even when we're doing different things. I was laughing at how many books I have on the go - maybe my attention span is shortening as I get older - I can't just do one at a time any more. Unless it's fiction; then I don't put it down till it's done.

The fiction that I'm reading now is just comedy fluff: Paper Moon by Linda Windsor. I had to give up on the last one I was reading, House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. That was really disappointing - I am a huge Dekker fan, but this was a horror movie on paper. I'm sure it had some great spiritual parallel lines in it, but I couldn't get past the axe hammer fights while locked in the meat locker freezer parts... I'd still recommend any of Ted Dekker's other stuff. Next up for me is his new one, Showdown.

These are the non-fiction ones I'm into (what I meant to be writing about!):

Soul Shaper by Tony Jones. Exploring spirituality and contemplative practices in youth ministry. I'm finding it a good deep thirst quenching one. It's a really good summary of different approaches to Spirituality. I'm looking forward to the chapter at the end on establishing a "Rule of Life" which is "a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness."

Soul Salsa by Leonard Sweet. 17 surprising steps for Godly living in the 21st century. He asks "How can one live a biblical faith that emerges from everyday living?" Each chapter looks at one way to live a Godly life - think the flipside of your day when you're not practicing the ancient spiritual disciplines from the above book!

Sex God by Rob Bell. Exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality. It's good. I recommend it. You can borrow it when I'm done. It's refreshing; it presents the goodness and wholeness and purity of sexuality that God designed and explains why we have turned it into something bad or dirty or casual. I haven't read his last book Velvet Elvis, but that will come soon, I think.

Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado. Living in your sweet spot. Got this one as a birthday present. Lucado is ultra positive; reading one of his books is like a warm fuzzy. I went through a phase maybe 10 years ago where I read most of what he had out, but haven't read any since. There are a couple of titles out now that I wouldn't mind reading through one day. This book attempts to teach you to Use your uniqueness, To make a big deal out of God, Every day of your life. (Yes, those caps are intentional; those are the three sections of the book.) It has a workbook section to it to help you discover your sweet spot. Not a bad book.

Growing a Healthy Church by Dann Spader and Gary Mayes. This one is about building "an effective discipling strategy for your church," and has been very useful as I'm in the midst of rethinking what we do and how we do it. That sums it up pretty good - if I try to explain any more, the nutshell will get too big... It is a great standard - written in 1991, it's not old enough to consider a classic yet, but I think it might be in that catagory. It's very solidly based on Jesus' example.

I read once that for every new book you read (like all of the above) you should read one classic. Ones on my shelf that I should read are:
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
Maybe someone could check up on me in a couple of months and see if I've started any of those...

So many books, so little time.

connecting with the earth

I'm in the middle of Rob Bell's book Sex God, which is about "exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality." It's a good read. In one chapter he talks about how we are meant to be connected with God, connected with each other, connected with the earth, but how our reality too often is disconnection with all those things, and even a disconnection with ourselves.

Last week I decided, partly because it needed doing, and partly because what I read was mulling around in my brain, to spend the first part of the day when I got home from walking the kid to school, in the yard. I never did get all the leaves off the ground last fall. So I've been doing two bags a day, sometimes more, but not trying to be a superhero and get it all done at once. The following is what I wrote in my journal this morning:

I started the day once again outside raking leaves. Half an hour in the yard reconnecting with the earth has been really good for me. It's taking time for something that usually never gets high enough on the priority list to get done. I'm recognizing and responding to my need to be in nature - in your creation. You commanded us in Genesis to look after the land. I have my name on a title deed saying I am owner (as much as we can own land) of a small parcel of it - and I spend more time tending my man-made house and going out then I do caring for this small patch of nature you entrusted to me. And it doesn't take time away from my other stuff, in fact it fuels me to do it better. I get exercise and fresh air and a sense of peace that the world is not resting on my shoulders. Then I can tackle my tasks with the proper attitude: to do my best and not stress about it!

Friday, April 13, 2007

two thoughts

I was studying in Galatians today - 5:13-15. The gist of it is that we are called to be free, right? But we are not supposed to use this freedom, this not being bound in by a bunch of rules, as a go ahead to indulge. We should instead love our neighbor as ourselves. This fulfills the spirit of all the old laws, anyway, right? We are free just to love as we should, without being hemmed in. I thought this was pretty cool because I've been pondering the two greatest commandments as I think about the vision for our young adult ministry: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

The second thing, which in part lead to the first thing, was a way to study your Bible. Instead of reading it through in a year or whatever and just plowing through it, (like I used to do), I am now taking it little by little and getting as much as I can out of one book or topic before moving on. This is what I've been trying to do this year, and last night I read an article that made that process really simple. I thought it was worth passing on.

Tim Elmore is the guy that wrote this. He says he reads a section (one thought or idea - sometimes a chapter, sometimes less), then writes 3 paragraphs:
ONE TIME - a paragraph paraphrasing what was happening to the original audience
ALL TIME - a paragraph defining the all time, universal principle found in that text
MY TIME - a paragraph describing what my personal application should be to the truth.

Simple and catchy enough to remember. I challenge you to try it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

a thought from our prayer room

I picked up a small candle from the pile. One of many. This one was a little dented around the edges, and the wick was a black stub. Perfect, I thought. The candle was supposed to symbolize me - I was supposed to light it from one of the three large candles symbolizing the trinity and place it around them, reflecting on how God's light in my life should and will make a difference in the world around me.

I'm not starting with a perfect untouched little tealight - I have lots of life left, but there's some that's been used up. I've got the marks and scars that show that life hasn't always been fair or kind. But that wick will still light - isn't it true that it is easier to light a candle once it's already been lit? Once you've seen the power of God in your life, it's easier to give him that space again.

Another parallel. So I set my candle down on an overturned metal tray - it was a beat up old christmas one, so we were using the shiny flipside. It, too, was scuffed and there were dents in the edges. Just like my neighborhood. It's not the prettiest. But God loves the people around me. And for now, that's where He has placed me. And that's where my light will shine. The bent and used tealight shines on the old scuffed tray with a light that is pure and that can't be changed. It is just like the big candle it was lit from. The flame is the same.

Amazing how something so simple can mean so much and sink so deep.

I picked up another one to symoblize my kid - to pray that her life would be a shining light on our street and wherever she is. The one I picked up that time was unscuffed and pure, but sitting beside mine on the tray, we cast more light together. More of that same flame.