I read Renovation Of The Church against the backdrop of resigning as pastor of my church. Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken brought me to much introspectioI read Renovation Of The Church against the backdrop of resigning as pastor of my church. Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken brought me to much introspection and healing, in the face of that transition, with their theology of church. I identified with their struggles and could feel the pain of their transition. A few times their words stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes as they spoke straight to the wounds in my heart.
After eight years at our church it was becoming clear that our vision of a church that embraces life in the kingdom wasn’t being embraced. We faced the heartbreak of a congregation that would rather cease to be than come to new life. I struggled with my fruitfulness at this church. If Jesus said that Father is glorified in my bearing much fruit (John 15:8), I want to bear fruit! Renovation challenged me again in my struggle, was my expectation of what fruit looked like too tied to measures and metrics? Was it pride that made me want to leave when I felt rejected?
In the midst of the pain inflicted by the backlash to what turned out to be our final push to vibrancy, I held dark thoughts about the dear saints in our pews. It was a healing corrective to hear that the church was to be a messy place, that we aren’t called to make a sect of the in-crowd. They reminded me of my opportunity to bless those who curse you.
As I mentioned earlier to Rob, this reminded me of Ronald Rolheiser’s comments on Sarx in The Holy Longing. The flesh (sarx) that Jesus tells us we must eat to be his is the messy troublesome flesh of his body, the church. We must participate in the imperfect masterpiece, or as Switchfoot pens it, “the beautiful letdown” that is the church. Mike writes, “Our hearts grow bigger for God by worshiping next to they guy who hates to sing, doesn’t know the words and things the tune is lame. We are spiritually better off being in a community with both the committed and marginal” (107). Over the years I have found it difficult to worship where I don’t trust that guy next to me to be longing for intimacy with Jesus.
Last night I went to the Christmas Vigil service at an Episcopal church a few blocks from our new home. I sat behind a couple of young ladies who were clearly there because one of them belonged to the family filling that pew. Their sidelong glances betrayed their mild disdain for what was happening in the service. I remembered Mike’s words and I silently blessed them from behind. In the midst of those who might have been there only to satisfy relatives or admire music and the memorial poinsettias, we did together hear and respond to the Gospel!
I write this on the first Sunday that I haven’t been the pastor of a small church in eight years. I am still mourning the loss as well as enjoying the freedom. I greatly appreciated Kent and Mike in their honesty and transparency. In their story I know I am not alone in my pain or my joys. I rejoice to see Oak Hills as an example that what we’ve been wanting and talking about for so many years is possible. It is a great joy for those of us dreaming of Spiritual formation in the church. I also can’t help but appreciate a couple of guys who have so fully imbibed Dallas Willard’s thoughts, they can’t help but spill out on the page. That makes them feel like old friends to me....more
In Habits of a Child’s Heart, Valerie Hess and Marti Garlett present a very accessible retelling of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. They tIn Habits of a Child’s Heart, Valerie Hess and Marti Garlett present a very accessible retelling of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. They take each discipline that Foster covers in Celebration of Discipline one at a time. They give an overview of the discipline, providing stories from their own experiences with the discipline. Then they give the parent suggestions for practicing the discipline. The practices are very practical and often geared toward the challenges faced by parents. The authors then give age specific suggestions as to how children could practice each discipline. They offer three categories, young children (5-7), middle childhood (8-11) and adolescence (12-15).
Present in this outstanding work is the assumption that the disciplined life is accessible even to children. The goal of the disciplines is not simply character development or building a Christian worldview. Rather it is building of experiences with God through God’s grace. Experiences like these are the stuff of spiritual direction. Fathers Barry and Connolly point out in their book, The Practice of Spiritual Direction, that with out such experiences there can be no direction. The spiritual director is primarily concerned with the experiences the directee is having with the Spirit. Parents have a great resource in the Habits of a Child’s Heart for offering places where children can experience grace moving on them. ...more
Summary Albert Hasse, lays out the spiritual life as coming home. He describes God as being at home and we returning to find him in the present moment.Summary Albert Hasse, lays out the spiritual life as coming home. He describes God as being at home and we returning to find him in the present moment. Using the imagery of the parable of the prodigal son, Hasse describes our need to leave the pigpen of our false self and come to the place of our true self.
Believe Hasse quotes greats such as Meister Eckhart and St. John of the Cross. He builds his argument on the finding of God in the present moment where God communes with the imago dei in the true self. Meister Eckhart’s quote is central, “God is at home. It is we who have gone out on a walk.” If this is true then it follows that our work is to turn away from those tings that draw us to wander away from home and return to our house. Hasse calls these attention-drawing things the empty P’s according to his alliterative ordering.
Doubt Hasse’s focus on the present moment can leave us unbalanced with reference to the future. At it’s worst we can spend the present moment lost in the false self, unconscious of the consequences of our actions. At it’s best such and imbalance fails to recognize the power of time to bring change. With out time change could not occur. The proper corrective to an unbalanced focus on the present moment is Hasse’s reference to the cyclical journey of awakening, illumination, purgation and union. One can also take issue with the true/false-self dichotomy as with out basis in scripture. However I find it does a good job in recognizing the imago dei is still within the midst of fallen humanity.
Synthesis While I have had my fill of alliteration (after Kellemen) Hasse makes good sense in his empty P’s and escape from the pig pen. I found myself of thinking of Innocent Smith as I read about living with disciplined focus in the present moment with awe and wonder. The material is easy to balance and integrate into my spiritual journey.
Application This book is rich with material, I can see myself returning to it as I teach my congregation about the spiritual life. The things that grab my attention right now are a couple practices Hasse mentions. One is the use of a word with little meat on it to return our attention to the presence of God. I found my mind immediately drawn to the word “stone.” Perhaps it is because of the stone’s lack of meat, or because I see it sitting at the side of the door to my home. I imagine it like some teleporter, that all I have to do is think about it and I am back at my door, ready to engage God in the present moment. The other thing that was very timely was Hasse’s treatment of lent (pp 96-110). His description of a feng shui reestablishing and preserving of relationships gave penance a needed focus to me. ...more