Showing posts from November, 2008

Beyond Walmart Hospitality

Reading Amy Oden's God's Welcome: Hospitality for a Gospel-Hungry World has led me to classify hospitality as a legitimate spiritual discipline for Christians and their communities. This volume offers a seasoned biblical, theological, and very readable reflection on the ancient and counter-cultural practice of opening our lives and our churches to strangers not because "radical hospitality" is the current gimmick for retooling stale churches, but because of who God is for us in Jesus Christ. Everyone yearns for God's welcome, and the need to belong and to to be "at home" is one of the most powerful of human hungers.

If we're not careful, we'll adopt what the author calls the "Walmart" brand of hospitality, the kind that only looks good. So the persistent theme of the book is a challenge to go beyond the easy, feel good hospitality of our retail culture. Even though most people probably appreciate the smiles and waves of greeters, goo…

A Time Between and Revelation

Our 2008 Thanksgiving Day lands in the middle of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Christian year, and the first Sunday in Advent. I had the privilege of leading an adult study of Revelation to Chapelwood's Cornerstone Class these past seven weeks. The study was based on an actual reading and commentary on most of the book by chapter. The best study I know of is James Efird's book, Revelation for Today. It's both very readable, stays doggedly with the actual text and the community context of the Apocalypse. It's also a thorough debunking of Darby's fantastic interpretations which seems to reappear with every new generation.

I've enjoyed teaching this class and, along the way, have learned:
Revelation is a natural segway into Advent/Christmas, because it can foster a meaningful discussion of what God's coming among us looks like now and in the future, especially in a world racked by economic misfortune, trauma, war, violence, natural and human disaster…

The Essence of Spirituality

When John Wesley wanted what the Moravians had, he identified perhaps the most basic element in human spirituality: the yearning for something more. The peace of Moravian faith Wesley witnessed for himself amidst the trauma of a terrifying storm at sea. While he was panic-stricken, the Moravians were singing hymns. St. Teresa of Avila was known to have prayed, "O God, I don't love you. I don't even want to love you. But I want to want to love you."

There are often moments when we are confronted with the true spiritual reality of our lives: we want for ourselves what we see in others. A friend and colleague seems tremendously in the zone every time I see her. So centered, focused, prophetic, possessed by a mission that is undeniably authentic and obvious. What can I do but admire that!

There is no silver bullet of spiritual health. No matter where we are or where we've been, I believe all we've got to work with is our longing for more of God. And the honesty, l…


Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons is a masterpiece for anyone interested in their own spiritual health. I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Emmons in a 2007 lecture in Houston. If you ever doubted the role of gratitude in healthy spirituality and human wholeness, then this book is for you. Actually, this volume is a must read for our own well being, especially as we offer spiritual care to others.

Emmons maintains that gratitude not only is good for those who practice it, but also, motivates us to do good. It seems that gratitude is "in season" right now; however, within everyone is what the author believes is a "set point" for happiness. Practicing gratitude can increase a person's capacity for happiness significantly. The paradigm of the book is that gratitude and happiness fulfill and complete each other. The happiness/gratitude cycle includes both enjoying and recognizing good gifts, good intentions. "Everythi…

You Make Me Want to be a Better Person!

We hear too much about being accountable, which seems always to address the letter of the law. A variety of covenant groups meet to report on the presence or absence of specifically Christian practices of the members. Church hierarchies ask clergy to self report an inventory of bodies and bucks that will be used in assessing the effectiveness of the self-same clergy. Sort of a built-in conflict of interest there, don't ya think?

Whereas the behaviors, practices, fruits, or numbers can be used as a measure, accountability's style of relationship is more transactional, and it runs on power over to define what success is. Everything depends on who decides what constitutes accountability. The bare minimum is neatly laid out. Those always touting accountability are what Charles Dickens would call the "grad grinds;" they inhabit a place in the food chain and status quo of institutions.

Loyalty, or being counted on, is much different. It deals with the relational aspects of …

Clergy Wind-Up Toys

Do you remember the era of wind-up toys? Every June, our family would gather at my grandfather's home for his birthday. He would share his collection of wind-up toys for the adults and children to enjoy. I think my Dad, who also collected these things reveled in this time as much as we kids did. As we matured, we made fun of company yes men who went to work with their brief cases and had, we imagined, a huge key in their back that, when wound-up, made them all look and act the same way.

Bureaucracies like church structures live in a bubble and see only a part of the world. For the sake of self-preservation, we block out what we don't want to see, feel, and engage. The effect is to numb any pain with the addictions or the drugs of choice the organization offers: recognition, promotion, rewards, status, reputation, success. The theme becomes clergy heroics 101 or minister show-and-tell.

And so, well intentioned folks say things like "These numbers reflect souls, and that…