I dream of more time

This year is storming forward.  Time is going faster than it should be.  I thought there was time to do stuff, only to find out, I was wrong.    Why am I talking about time?  Well, because my favorite blogger died.  And I am not ready for his death.  I still wanted to read some of his posts.  I wanted to him to be healthy again.  I wanted lots of things for him, but as it turns out, dreams are sometimes only dreams.

Everybody knows it by now, but Michael Spencer (I-Monk) died two days ago.  I will miss him terribly.  I found his blog about three years ago while looking for a few quotes.  I loved his writing and read through all his posts in the archives in a week or so.  From then on, I-Monk was at the top of my RSS reader.  His voice seemed at times like the only sane one in the evangelical wilderness.  He made me cry with his struggles and honesty.  He did not hide his struggles.  Sometimes he used words that I had to look up in a dictionary.  He was a genius and if I had to guess, a workaholic.  In all his posts were “yes!” moments.  You know, when your head suddenly moves up and down as you agree with him.  Jesus was at the center of His life and he knew the church inside and out.  He knew grace and perhaps that’s why he spoke so easily into our hearts.  Brokenness connects with brokenness.  Messy understands a mess.  And he was a voice for the voiceless.

There are lots of things I do not understand, but the one thing I do not understand is why he could not be longer with us.  I know I’m selfish when asking, but we needed his voice in the church.  I do not know of a similar voice.  But then again, most of my faith “heroes” could have been with us a little longer than they were.  Keith Green, Rich Mullins, Mike Yaconelli all died too soon.   When Mike Yaconelli died, my wife had to hold me.  I cried like a baby.  With I-Monk it’s different.  I have been mourning the loss of his voice from the time I heard he had cancer.  Now I mourn him as a person and I think I will mourn Michael Spencer for a very long time.  He was a daily reminder that Jesus loves.  And yes, if you are wondering, he is now on my “heroes” list.  He would in all likelihood not agree with me.   Tough, I’m still on this side of the curtain.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.  Their loss is so much more than mine.  Thank you, Father, for the privilege of reading I-Monk all these years.

Michael Spencer (I-Monk)

Another new year

It’s now official.  I’m terrible at blogging.  But I’m actually brilliant at hanging around the blogosphere 🙂 I’m just not much of a talker about myself.  Never got in the habit and I have a phlegmatic personality.  A very strong one.  It means  that I’m easygoing, relaxed and tends to be low-key.  My experiences/emotions do not fluctuate much.   To me, then, my life is not that interesting.  That is why you are not hearing a lot from my side.  I’ve said most of what I wanted to say.  I had to get it out of my system and now that I have…well you get the picture.  More or less, silence.

I know it’s already the new year, but somehow I’m not embracing this one with much enthusiasm.  I’m still viewing it from afar.  I have no idea why.  There is just so much that have to happen this year.  I don’t feel ready.   It’s sometimes difficult to get me moving and I resent being pushed.  I like my comfort zone.

That said, God is as close as ever.  I’ll put my hand in His and see what happens.  Remind me again in a year’s time to tell you about 2010 🙂

To all of you, I’ll pray that you will meet Jesus in interesting ways in the coming year.  Have a blessed 2010!!

Falling

This from Frederick Buechner,

Gildas stands on just one leg; the other is gone from the knee down: “Gildas begins hopping sideways to reach for his stick in the corner and loses his balance. He almost falls in a heap when Brendan leaps forward to catch him. ‘I’m as crippled as the dark world,’ Gildas says. ‘If it comes to that, which one of us isn’t, my dear,’ Brendan replies. For a moment or two, Brendan pauses in thought, and then he says, ‘To lend each other a hand when we’re falling — perhaps that’s the only work that matters in the end.‘”

Living in fictionland

It was Oscar Wilde who said.

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily.  That is what fiction means.

I think a lot of Christians live in fictionland.  The reason why we are trying to be good is to have a happy ending…or perhaps I should say, a happy ending, NOW.  A lot of us think by being in the church, we will escape the pain of everyday life.  We live in this man-made word where everybody is smiling or pretends to be smiling.  That’s when we begin to give fiction answers to real life pain.  And saddest of all…because we live in fictionland, we miss God in the real one.

Apparently and Question 14

Apparently I don’t blog anymore 🙂 …nearly, but I am still around.  I turned 40 in August.  Ha!! I think we tend to think a lot more around this age for some unknown reason 🙂

I have a friend, Jackie, who was diognosed with cancer.  If you have the time, please pray for her.  We’ve been friends for 21 years.  I introduced her to her husband which was my roommate at university.  thanks…

Ok, on to my question and it has to do with these verses.

1Co 12:21  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
1Co 12:22  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
1Co 12:23  and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,
1Co 12:24  which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,
1Co 12:25  that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
1Co 12:26  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Have you EVER been in a congregation where verse 22 was visibly seen in action?  In other words, have anyone of you reading this, EVER been in a congregation where the weakest was indispensable?

I have never been in such a congregation or seen one.   Have you?

What do we believe about small?

There is a general consensus that a small setting/few people are better for connecting with each other and with God.  Almost all denominations have small groups.  Some denominations are just small 🙂 We have the house church movement. Small Christian communities can be found all over the world.  Most of the leavers of the organised part of church actively promote a smaller setting for coming together.  I am one of them.

But for some time I’ve been wondering, how far are we willing to take what we believe?  Let me explain.  If we believe in small personal settings for getting to know God, do we then also believe in the preciousness of the small everywhere?   Will we rather go to the small one-owner store than the mall?  All around us individuals are trying to make it on their own little space.  Will we be the ones who connect and support them?  Hairdresser, mechanic, bookshop etc.

The reason I ask is because, especially in business, there are large systems at work.  These systems do not really care about the small guy/gal.  (The church is not the only space around us who became a system.)  We live in these systems.  Are we going to get out of them as well, or is it only the church that bothers us?

What are your thoughts?

Discipleship on and on and on

Yesterday, I equaled discipleship with the relationship a parent with a baby/newborn.  That’s exactly what I believe discipleship is.  When a baby is born, it is the parents that have to find their feet.  They are the ones who have to get up at night.  It is their schedule that is compromised.  I say this because lots of people see discipleship as a relationship where the child has to do everything the parent tells him/her.  The discipleship movement was especially tough in this area.

So, you have a new born Christian on your hands.  What do you give him/her?  What do you do?  In the beginning there’s lots of poop and crying.  It the parents that clean up the mess, not the child.  They spend a lot of time with each other.  Bonding takes place.  The child starts to crawl.  He/she starts to copy what the parents do.  After a while they give their steps.  They fall.  It’s important to know here that a child is not told how to walk.  He/she is shown.  And they will fall.  That’s OK.  You have to let them fall; otherwise they will never get the walk-thing.  Slowly over time they learn what’s it like to be part of a family.  They learn how to play.  I’ve read about it and seen it.  Children who are loved and know they are loved, explore more.  Their world is bigger.  The love they feel, give them the security to move farther away from us.  And so, time goes on.  In teenager stage they might rebel.  Question everything.  See a bigger world full of unjust things.  Become more self-interested.  They ask questions like “What is my place” in all of this.  How do I fit in?  Do I want to fit in?  (Important these questions are.)  More time goes by.  They grow up and come to a place where they are ready to be parents.  You don’t see each other as much as when they were babies.

That to me is discipleship.  I think it’s also important to note that it’s also the interaction of two paths.  You are on your road towards more of God.  He/She is on THEIR road towards God.  It’s not the same path.  The greatest gift you can give a person is to let him/her find their own path.  Let them make mistakes.  Let them seek.  Don’t give so many answers.  Ask them what they want to do, and let them do it even when you know they may fail.  You are NOT helping the person if he/she becomes a replica of you.  If you control the person or use control to do what you want, you are not of God.  Jesus actually made it very difficult for people to stay with Him.  They could walk away at any time.  The parent is the servant.  Not the other way around.  As time goes by, you will spend less time with each other.  You will not see each other twice or three times a week.  Perhaps once a month or less.  Time will take you apart.  You will call each other friends because that is what you became and the bonds will be strong even if you are many miles apart.

Pro 27:17  Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Ecc 4:9  Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively.  Ecc 4:10  If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. Ecc 4:11  If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself ? Ecc 4:12  Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.

In the end, I believe discipleship is friends walking together in Jesus.

Discipleship is too slow

I’ve been thinking a lot about discipleship the last few weeks.  I’ve written about discipleship before and much of this post will echo that post’s sentiment.  Maybe it’s just the sceptic in me, but I do not know if we will ever see discipleship functioning in the church.  It’s just too slow for us.

Let me give you a quick round-up what I believe on discipleship.  It’s a process of a babe becoming a grown-up and a grown-up helping the babe along the way.  It’s not something we have in the church.  We believe more in the jug-to-mug way as Mark put it today.  I’m going to give some numbers as to the time frame I believe in.  Please, these are not set in stone.  I’m wrong a lot.  Don’t bite my head off if you differ from me.

I always connect discipleship with 1 John 2 where we find these verses.

1Jn 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
1Jn 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
1Jn 2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

We all know these verses.  I like these verses because there is an element of growth in them.(From babe to grown-up).  Also, these verses show that it doesn’t matter how “old” you are, God is just as present with the babe as with the grown-up.

Time frame wise – You must be at least 28 years old to be a father/mother and I am being very lenient with the 28.  I would prefer 30-35 years old.  To go from babe to grown-up – at least 8 years when you have someone who is discipling you.  If you had to fend for yourself like most of us had to(children growing up by themselves) – 15 to 20 years.  This is a very broad generalization.  There is no rule when it comes to God.  He can use anybody any age as He wishes.  Young people will probably kill me for this time frame.(I would have), but I believe life has to throw a lot of stuff at you, before you are ready to be a father/mother in the church.  You could also tell me that Paul began some congregations and left after only for three weeks.  I know.

All I’m trying to say is that it takes longer to go from babe to grown-up if you do not have parents.  And…some people in church, do not have the weight to be parents.  I’ve always marvelled at the irony of today’s church.  I’ve seen people getting into leadership after they have been Christians for 6 months, because they are learnt (doctor, professor, lawyer etc.), have charismatic personalities, have money, are beautiful/brawn/smart.   I can find this almost amusing, if it wasn’t so depressing.  But then again, a babe looking after babes is the norm in church, not the exception.  We are not known for our “deep” spirituality.  Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that we simply do not believe in discipleship as an option in today’s church.  In my 40 years I’ve only met 1 pastor who discipled.  It gives me the creeps when I hear about a three week course in discipleship.

We still believe church growth is about numbers or we equal knowledge with growth.  Well, from where I am standing, it seems God does not always prefer the numbers or reveals Himself to those with the most knowledge.

Discipleship is about growth.  Jesus-Life-Growth in real life.  Funny that we believe Sundays and Wednesday evenings (choose your own day) is enough for this to happen.

More tomorrow. (I hope 🙂

Is there a hell?

The next time a person ask you, if you believe there is a hell, ask them this; “Are there people who send you spam?”  Look closely at their faces.  Hell, suddenly seems possible… and necessary 🙂 🙂 🙂

Have a nice day!!

We long for…

I-Monk is one of my favorite bloggers. Last week he had a post with the sub-title What Many Of Us Are Looking For.  This is what he said.

We long to be human beings, fully alive to who we are, to God, to one another and to all that being made in the image of the incarnated God means.

We long for beauty, for multiple expressions and experiences of beauty.

We long for relational and emotional connection; to know we are not alone; to love and be love; to be heard and to hear our human family.

We long for worship to engage the senses, the body, the whole personality. We long for mystery, not explanation. We long for symbolism, not just exposition. We long for a recognition of what it means for God to be God and for each of us to be human, not for more aspirations to know as much as God and instructions on how to be more than human.

We long for Jesus to come to us in every way that life comes to us, and not just in a set of propositions.

We long for honesty about the brutal pain and disappointments of life, and we long to hear the voices of others experiencing that brokenness.

We are tired of the culture of lies that Christians perpetuate in their fear that someone will know about the beer in the fridge, the porn on the computer, the affair, the repeated abuse, the unbelieving child, the nagging doubts, the frightening diagnosis and the desperate fears.

We long for a spirituality of stillness, contentment and acceptance in the place of spiritual competition and wretched urgency. We have grown weary and sick of being “challenged” to do more, be more committed, more surrendered, more holy by our own energy.

We long for prayer that is not a means to accomplish things, bring miracles, generate power, impress the listener. We long for the depths of spirituality, not the show of being spiritual.

We long to be loved, to be quietly accepted, to be told to lie down in green pastures, to stop the race, to pray in silence. To be given a spirituality of dignity, not a spirituality that is a feature of this week’s sermon series on how to have more sex, make more money, have better kids, smile more, achieve great things and otherwise turn the salvation of Jesus into a means to an American end.

We long to understand the spirituality of those whose religion does not drive them crazy. We long to know the Bible’s message and then be free to live it. We want to be lifted up, not beaten down. We hope for a simple spirituality, not an exciting, never-before-experienced high from the show.

One of the sentences that jumped out for me was this one. “We long for prayer that is not a means to accomplish things.”  That sentence says a lot about us as followers of Jesus.  I wonder if we will ever love God for who He is?