Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The first of our 8 Wednesday group sessions of Beginnings- The Spiritual Life began last night at A Moveable Feast, 6:30- 8:15 p.m., 9341 Katy Freeway in Houston. Our next session is Monday, March 30 (instead of next Wed.), FYI. Guests are welcome to come and preview. The food is great (and free) and then there's a talk followed by small groups.
The goal of our group time is simply put, to begin a journey led by the Spirit, the Guide. Just as Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1), so we are invited to start a spiritual journey under the leadership of Holy Spirit.
Each part of the pilgrimage is toward God and with God. Habits, practices, movements are offered and available for the taking. The first "habit of the heart" is willingness to let go. What are the expectations of God, Holy Spirit, spiritual life, that I need to release in order to start the new that's just ahead? What of my own stuff do I need to unburden to receive this newness, the life of the Holy Spirit?
For the daily exercise, be aware each day of the wind. Do something that will help you actually be attentive to the power and life of the wind (spirit).
Come Holy Wind and Breath, Come Holy Spirit. Hover over and around and within. Make new ways out of the old. Bring to life, refresh, awaken, move us in love, heal us in your goodness, bless us with the willingness to venture, begin, learn- every day.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I mean, why do we do some of the stupid things we do? We deny what others see in us, pretending that either they've got it wrong or they don't see how unique and different and special God knows we really are. But wisdom says we're not that different!
While time and chance happen to us all, it's our denial, refusal, and inability to see the obvious. The toxic supervisor shows their underhandedness even before the potential hire is made. Future staff colleagues are put-down. Red flag! Not to worry. I'm different. A clergy leader has a clear history of sabotaging the work of others, but then, we think we're different, so we'll choose to work with them in spite of the evidence that we'd be better off without their "career help."
Or we deny signs of burnout in ourselves: apathy, meaningless, boredom, lethargy, etc., etc. Somehow, we are above it, we tell ourselves. We're not like those other clergy leaders who had problems with this sort of thing. We're taking precautions. We're good, so good that we don't even need help. We're above it all.
I hurt for my clergy colleagues who too often like me, think that denial of my true self and attention to the false self is necessary to get ahead in the church business. Because such denial is based on self-hate and anger, not love. And anger leads to bitterness, resentment, and finally the death of sloth- total indifference.
So the next time you're tempted by the illusion of your own superiority, remember what got you here in the first place: not your moral goodness, ability, or political acumen. In spite of what anyone has told you, it's God's grace, a grace that loves and heals and liberates even and especially what we deny in ourselves.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The obnoxious and out-of-place (but clueless) Yankee fans sashayed back to their daze inns, muzzled and stunned with bewilderment. It was pure delight as dozens of NY tees filed into travel lodges; they had stayed over just to see the spectacle of losing a bad one.
The Couch Slouch column of a couple of days ago, reminded me of how fun it is to see the Yankees fail AT THEIR OWN GAME whenever they do. With that in mind, I smile when I think about:
- People whining about not winning another (91st?) World Series
- Hundreds of millions and no playoffs? Priceless
- "Here come the Yankees" shrieked with every base hit
- The plague of the merciless marauding midges
- CC has had his best year
- LEBRON'S STAYING IN CLEVELAND
- Go Rays- the team to beat
- ESPN's 24/7 A-Rod crawler
- Most of your guys who had a prime are past it
- Joe Torre in the playoffs with the barely mediocre Dodgers!!
Monday, March 9, 2009
The thought of Paul in Arabia has come to mind. I'm living some questions that perhaps I've avoided. It's too easy to construe Paul's hermit sojourn as a rugged, individualistic American would. But I have to think that the call he received to go among the Gentiles with the Jesus Gospel required a rethinking of his life and a remaking of his person and this could only begin with a profound self emptying in the desert.
Paul's being a super-achiever is among the several continuities between his life in Judaism and being an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul is also zealous, whether as a Pharisee- teacher- persecutor, or as a Christ-believer and persecuted apostle. My interpretation- Paul apparently still kept and honored the Torah for Jews like himself as well for Christ believers who were born into Judaism, such as Timothy. The conflicts came when he didn't require Gentile believers to observe Torah.
So what's the big difference in Paul the person? It's answered, in part, by his going to Arabia. For three years. There was safety from the threats of the extreme wing of Judaism that he once represented, as well as protection from Roman authorities. The implication of the text is that Paul went away immediately to seek God. And I like the fact that the question is left to our imagination.
To seek God only is our calling, because we cannot offer what we do not have. So it is with finding a new spiritual director. If I don't learn something in my own search, how can I hope to understand what that's like? If I'm so unfamiliar with the energy, pain and struggle to find genuine Christian community, how in the world can I companion another on a similar journey?
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Quitting Church is an alarming subject to congregational leaders, evangelical or not. This is the work of Julia Duin, Religion Editor of the Washington Times. And it’s the story, partly auto-biographical, of the people exodus and "spiritual brain drain" that the evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal communities have experienced for more then a decade. While the mainline churches are not the focus of this survey, the topic of church drop-outs warrants concern, regardless of Christian affiliation.
The first part of the book is a "big picture" look at the problem. Duin substantiates her case using ample research from the likes of George Barna, Lifeway, the
Whereas most of the energy of contemporary evangelicalism is geared to the under 35 group, according the Duin, the book is an indictment of our waisting both spiritual and people resources in "an era of dumbed-down, purpose-driven, seeker- friendly Christianity." The author is partial to the house-church experience, or covenant Christian community movement. As a college student in
The biggest learning from Quitting Church was the fact that so many are disenchanted and dissatisfied with the most popular brand of Christianity still practiced by many evangelicals; we could probably add mainline Christians as well. The disenchanted are those who have been hurt by the hypocrisy of church people and their leaders, while the dissatisfied, according to Duin, are those who are just spinning their wheels spiritually. Their church is holding them back from engaging in meaningful ministry. The later chapters get down to concrete recommendations of addressing this spiritual malaise, such as 1) Leadership that is freeing and less controlling,
2) Emphasize receiving the spiritual gifts that God, the Holy Spirit, chooses, rather than on spiritual gift inventories 3) Actually practicing all the spiritual gifts (such as tongues and interpretation) instead of denying them for the benefit of seekers. She noted that fewer and fewer charismatic churches are using tongues in corporate worship. 4) Teaching and learning new insights so that people don't have to go somewhere else to grow.
As far as inviting the formerly churched back, it's most effectively done through a friend or family member. Once those folks return, it's all about the friendliness, acceptance, and hospitality of the congregation. The formerly churched need some hope, or a sign, according to Duin, that the status quo has changed.
I wonder if the U.M. Methodist heritage's strong emphasis on continued growth in grace and the vows to grow in prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness, seem to offer a sort of inoculation against quitting? Moreover, can churches like the UMC learn how to do evangelism from the Willow Creeks of the world, and can others learn how to do discipleship like the UMC’s? Can we learn from each other? It seems that by their existence, the more evangelical churches flout structure and aspire to continuous revival and renewal; whereas, mainlines emphasis more organization, and are less prepared for renewal that is not measured by the hard data bureaucracies love. But in the “burned-over” district of movie-house, market-based evangelism that Duin describes, her personal search for authentic community with other Christians reflects the spiritual journey of millions, Christian or not. And that’s the book’s significance.
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- Scott Endress
- Houston, Texas, United States
- Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress