July 23, 2014

This week I am in Faithvillage‘s Contributor Spotlight. They asked me several questions about the blog and about the work I do at IJM. Here’s a sample:

If someone is just beginning to introduce liturgy into their worship, what books or resources would you point them to?

I think the best primer on liturgy and the church calendar is Kimberlee Conway Ireton’sThe Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year. Bobby Gross’s Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God is also helpful. The Ancient Practices Series that Thomas Nelson put out a few years ago is also a great resource (especially Scot McKnight’s book, Fasting). I think participation is the best way to introduce yourself to liturgy in personal devotion, so grabbing a copy of the Book of Common Prayer or The Glenstal Book of Prayer is the best way. There are great resources for whatever faith stream or tradition you are in, and I would encourage wide reading across denominational boundaries. Because really, that’s the best part of starting to bring liturgy into your worship: liturgy is the foundation of every shoot and branch of the Christian faith, and once you start internalizing the rhythm of a thousand plus year old Christian spirituality you can start seeing how the unique aspects of a denomination’s way of doing prayer or Communion is connected to the core liturgy that makes up the Christian faith.

You can read more contributor spotlights here.

July 21, 2014

Gracious and Loving God,
slow to anger and abundant in mercy:

Give to us this day your Word
as nourishment, that we may be
enlightened and energized
through the Holy Spirit
to build the kingdom
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give strength to our minds,
fortitude to our souls,
and hope to our hands,
as we turn your daily bread
into good work and a harvest
worthy of the Coming King.

Amen

July 16, 2014

RV FireYour heart is still before God. You are meditating, in prayer, focused on your Creator. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see it. People are running on the highway, cars are stopped. Smoke rises from an RV stalled out in the middle of the road. Then, the smoke turns black and flames engulf the whole vehicle, smoldering metal and bending to the fire’s will. The RV is in an all consuming fire.

There is one secret I have learned about communing with God at times like this. You cannot.

Life outside—on the highways, in the cubicles, in the family room—does not conform to the rhythms of our spiritual lives. We cannot prevent RVs from catching on fire during our time of stillness. We cannot remove the chatter of children during prayer or their need to go to the bathroom during our favorite song at church. We cannot foresee the important phone call or the traffic jam or the burnt dinner. We can only be ready to be present with God as long as we are able, and as long or as deep as life allows.

The real secret to communing with God during the stuff of life is to just show up. That’s really all that is required of us. Yes, there are disciplines like fasting or prayer walks or meditation that help us show up well, but the crux of our spiritual life will be to always show up. No matter what. God is ever present, waiting and yearning for us to be in relationship, and even present in the times when we are so focused on our daily tasks. God is there, inviting us to just show up and be ready to participate in a beautiful relationship that transcends the stuff of this world. God is there before the RV catches on fire. God is present after that same vehicle is a smoldering and spent pile of ash and shriveled metal. All we need to do is keep coming back into our Creator’s presence, and we will be on the right path.

July 14, 2014

Faithful One,
Who pulls the sun above the horizon
And sets the stars in the sky;
Who adorns the flowers with their fragrance
And blooms the fruit of the earth;
Who stills the onslaught of the storm
And repairs the broken walls:
To you be unending hallelujahs and unceasing praise.

Let the music of our hands at work,
the joy of our families,
the bonds of friendship
and the blessings of our corporate life
together as your Body
be a sign of your salvation
and a proclamation of your goodness
now and forevermore.

Amen

July 7, 2014

Holy One of God,
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who ransoms the souls of the faithful,
Sets the captives free,
Brings sight to the blind and
Gives life to those who are perishing:
Death has no victory over you
Or your kingdom.
Evil slinks away from your presence.
Rejoice all you nations!
Celebrate all you peoples!
Christ is Lord forever—
His reign is unending!

Amen

June 23, 2014

God of goodness and mercy,
of gentleness and kindness,
of righteousness and faithfulness:
be the light of our salvation
and sustain our souls.

We offer the daily tasks
that consume us to you,
for we accomplish nothing
without your grace.

We submit to your will,
that we should love you
with our everything
and love our neighbors,
and even our enemies,
as ourselves.

Renew us amd transform us
by your steadfast love
into the people of God.

Amen

June 9, 2014

God of the Heavens,
keeper of the stars,
Lord of the darkest, most remote places
of the universe,
the one who hovered and breathed life,
and the Creator of every living thing:

Be our salvation, our comfort,
our hope, for you are holy and righteous,
your words are true
and your light dispels all darkness.
Glory to the Almighty God,
Sun of Righteousness
and Breath of Life.

Amen

May 19, 2014

God who has called
his people to repentance,
who has set the world on a course
toward the coming kingdom,
who has appointed his Son
as Savior and King—

you alone are worthy
to raise the dead to life
and forgive sin and evil deeds.

May we proclaim the good news
of your lordship to the heavens,
to the hills, the valleys, the plains,
and to the depths of the sea.

Amen

May 13, 2014

Continuing with the “Journey Through The Faith” series, I will be sharing several reflections from my college faith experience before moving on to post-college years. My last post was on becoming Baptist by default, and the next two posts will be on my journey in the church during college.

There are moments in life that feel like a point of no return. Points were we step over a threshold and into a whole new existence; one we cannot return from.

Double dipping was one of those times.

Double dipping is a breaking of an unwritten rule. It’s either being greedy or being gross, or both. In my case, it was entering the waters of baptism a second time.

Between the majority of my classmates and professors at school and the people at church, I came to have serious doubts about whether I should let my first baptism count. In high school I had said that I wanted to wait and be baptized until I was a member of my own church, and now here if was, a part of this Baptist church. In essence, I had been lying. I was loathe as a high schooler to get into theological battles during my pit stop with the fundamentalists, and I knew no one would ever even take me seriously. That church, and specifically the pastor, could eat people alive. I finally broached the subject with the youth pastor at the church about the legitimacy of my earlier baptism. He gave the response I assumed, that I should be baptized as a believer, but he was not combative or condemning. He was honest and dialogued with me. He was pastoral about it, and I respect him for it. So I was baptized a second time. Double dipping.

For a long time after I resented Baptists, resented people who would just let someone make a decision he or she regretted. And I regretted it within months. But the resentment was a veil to my own sinfulness in the situation: I let fear of being wrong and the rules of men to sway me around, never once seeking God in it. I was the one who made the decision. I wasn’t coerced. I don’t mean to imply that rebaptism is right or wrong. All I mean is that my heart was very much in the wrong place.

This episode in my life caused a deep repentance and a change in how I approached God, so not all was lost. In seeing my profound weakness in the situation, I realized that I could not look at any spiritual action as a product of me. Spirituality is a co-product between God and a person, and God is both author and perfector. We are but participants in the story God places before us.

What I learned in this double dipping was that baptism was not mine. That’s where so many error: claiming baptism. Baptism is God’s, not ours. Yet I acted as if I could control the theological and spiritual aspects of my life without God’s input.

This event defines my spiritual life up to this day. It was one of my brazenly calloused moments. I took something of God’s and made it my own. I made an idol of baptism.

I don’t make as many idols today, and I’m thankful that God is faithful and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, a love he has shown me since the day I was born, my first baptism, my second baptism and all the years in between.

May 12, 2014

Great and Powerful God,

You have ransomed captive souls and raised the dead to life.
Who should fear when the God who brings darkness to light
is on their side?

When the mountains shake and the waters thrash,
the God of heaven and earth is our rescuer.

When darkness threatens to swallow all light,
Jesus, the Son of God, is the sun of righteousness.

When the winds of evil turn to harm the least of these,
Holy Spirit, breath of the living God, triumphs over sin and death.

Who should fear when the God of rescue is on their side?

Amen