The Pain of Irregularity

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 7:18 AM

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No, this post does not contain creative and intriguing thoughts pertaining to what some of you sick-o's thought it was gonna be about by the title! lol. Anyway, just a quick post to say sorry that the blog posts (and only the blog posts--thank goodness) have been irregular as of late. More frequency to return shortly. Thanks for hanging in there.

The Tale of the Wild--Err, Camp Fire...

posted by Jeffrey on Monday, January 23, 2006 at 9:04 PM

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Movements, revivals and waves of change. This is the longing (and tradition) of many who make up the Church in our world. There is a problem, however. As God brings about transformation in the structure of His church in this 21st century, it is the small and intimate that is rising into the foreground.

We are seeing less and less of the "wild fires" and an increasing number of camp fires throughout the world. The challenge in previous generations has been not to let the wild fire die out. Our challenge in this (and perhaps future) generation(s) is to connect those who gather around individual camp fires. For some of us, it is so far between camp fires that all we can see is darkness in every direction.

Previous and current "institutions of connection" (is that not an oxymoron of sorts?) such as denominations and associations seem to be dropping the ball in--maybe even totally incapable of--connecting those of us gathered around the camp fires of spiritual communities in search of intimacy with Jesus and the furthering of the Kingdom of God.

So, how is it possible then to connect what I shall here call inter-camp fire communities without programming and systematizing the, um, heck, out of the process? I don't know. But I know we need to be blazing trails between camp fires and get off the wildfire kick.

Thanks to a "fellow trail blazer" (pardon the slight cheesiness of the phrase) and the time he spent with my wife and I today at Panera in Hermitage for sparking these thoughts that generated this post. Oh yeah, and I'm pretty sure he mentioned that the "camp fire" illustration was a Leonard Sweet thing. Sorry to burst your bubble if you actually thought I was that quick and creative.

End of the Spear

posted by Jeffrey on at 8:06 AM

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*Note: No spoilers in this post*

Saturday my wife and I went to see End of the Spear. It was an incredible portrayal of several missionaries' journey into the Amazon basin of Ecuador to reach the Waodani Indians. This is the story of the Saint, Elliot, Fleming, and Youderian families. This is their lives.

The Waodani tribe was famous for their brutality and yet these missionaries labored intensely to reach them. Why? I cannot explain why. If you have ever been given a passion and an adventure from the very lips of God--as if He were physically standing in your midst--can you understand why, in the face of danger and almost certain death, they pressed deeper into the Amazon then ever done before.

I highly recommend the viewing of their story. May it be a glance into a lifetime journey with, and at the same time towards, Jesus that is more than the mediocrity that is known by most of us today.

Who Really Does the Singing?

posted by Jeffrey on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 9:56 PM

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Sing oh Daughter of Zion;
Shout aloud oh Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away your punishment,
He has turned back your enemy.
The Lord the King of Israel is with you;
never again will you feel any harm.

On that Day they will say to Jersualm,
'Do not fear O Zion,
Do not let your hands hang limp.

The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.'



Unspiritual Growth

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 1:50 PM

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I do not long to grow least not as most people use the term. I do not wish to apply certain "formulas" or adhere to some religious regimen in hopes of achieving spiritual maturity. As the late Michael Yaconelli said in his book Messy Spirituality, "...there are no guarantees in the spiritual life, except for one: the longing for Jesus Christ is always underneath our every desire."

Those who have read this book (as I am right now since my wonderful wife gave it to me for Christmas) may recognize that the title of this post is actually the heading of chapter 6. Yaconelli goes on to say, "In spite of all the growth gurus and experts out there, we can't clone, manipulate, or systematize spiritual growth. We can't predict the unpredictable." In the same chapter you find two charts that represent spiritual growth. The first is what most Christians see as the goal--a steadily ascending line. The second is closer to reality--a line graph that goes up, down, and sideways, giving it an irregular, jagged, and odd shape. The unfortunate truth is that we (including myself) are disappointed and frustrated when we realize that we live in the inconsistency of the 2nd graph.

Here I would like to share with you a slightly longer excerpt from the book:
"Usually when we analyze a graph like the second one [twisting and crooked], we make value judgments. The high spots represent the good or positive moments in our relationship with God, while the low spots represent the bad or negative moments. But what would happen if we removed value judgments from our thinking? What would happen if, in place of good and bad, positive and negative, high and low, we used words like resting, listening, waiting, starting, returning, savoring, celebrating, dancing, learning, growing? How would our understanding of spiritual life be altered if we used these other words to describe our growing?

Maybe waiting is good and not waiting is bad. Maybe stopping has a higher value than starting. Maybe success is bad and failure is good. Suddenly the ups and downs of spiritual growth come into better focus. Some of us grow fast, some slow, some both fast and slow."
If I were to illustrate the past several months of my wife and I's life on such a graph it would probably look something like scribble art. One thing is sure, my thinking has been challenged more in the pages of this book in the past 2 weeks then it has in a long time. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Right now, to be honest, it really doesn't matter.

It Seems Like a Good Day for Epiphany

posted by Jeffrey on Friday, January 06, 2006 at 8:45 AM

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It is January 6th. Do you know what that means? I didn't until a few days ago when I stumbled across this celebration on Google. January 6th is the Christian feast of Epiphany. The origin of this holiday can possibly be traced back as far as Clement of Alexandria in the year 45 A.D., but more definitely to Ammianus Marcellinus in the year 361 A.D..

This holiday marks the official end of the Christmas season in the liturgical year in addition to ending the Twelve Days of Christmas--the period of time from December 25th to January 6th. The festival is to commemorate the arrival and gifts of the Magi (who were not actually manger-side during the birth of Christ) to the Christ child. Their gifts serve to reveal Christ to the world as Lord and King and hence the name of the celebration is given (epiphany meaning "to show" or "to reveal").

In most Western churches, the festival is not necessarily observed exactly on the 6th of January, but mostly on the Sunday after the 1st Saturday of the month. The celebration is tied as well to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is celebrated on the Monday after the Epiphany Sunday (in U.S. tradition, that is--in other traditions it is celebrated on the actual Sunday after Epiphany).

So if you'd like to celebrate Epiphany this year, here are some enjoyable traditions to take part in:
  • Have a family "undecorating" party--if you have not yet taken down your Christmas decorations (since the Christmas season is officially over).
  • Read the story of Befana (see this for more info). According to legend, as the three wise men journeyed toward the manger, they came upon an old woman who was cleaning her house. They invited her to join them; she needed to continue cleaning but said she'd follow when she'd finished. But Befana never found her way to the manger, and has since been wandering the earth looking for the Christ child.
  • Bake/buy/and decorate a "king's crown" to serve for dessert. It's a traditional Epiphany cake with a trinket (traditionally a bean or figure of an unclothed baby) baked inside it. Whoever gets the piece with the trinket reigns as king or queen of the feast and gets to order everyone else around.
Want to know more about Epiphany? Here are some links: Wikipedia, New Advent, the Voice, and Epiphany in Yahoo!.

**Update: If you'd like to partake in an Epiphany Cake and live in Nashville, Provence in Hillsboro Village has them on sale today and today only! (You'll have to go there to get one, I just reserved the last one they had available for hold.) Oh and by the way, the reason that Provence has them for sale is b/c the ancient city of Provence (when it was a Roman province, before it belonged to France) was a major center from which the celebration of this holiday originated**

An Epiphany...

posted by Jeffrey on Thursday, January 05, 2006 at 7:26 AM

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Whew, long time no post. I must say, after the weight of that twelve part series (never to be done again!) the break sure was nice. Nevertheless, an interesting thing happened over the holidays. I arrived at yet a greater realization of how deep my prejudices and issues actually reside.

We as a community of faith only formally got together once over the holidays. Something inside me all along was screaming, "Oh no! This isn't right! We're not "meeting" together! Crap, we've gone astray!..." After a couple of weeks of spiraling down into the chasm of this line of thinking God gently reminded me of the journey He has set us on. He has given us a dream to be transformed into a community of faith--to be Church; not to be another segregated group of people trying their best to do church. *Disclaimer: Not to say, by any stretch of the imagination, that all local bodies of faith are as trite as the afore mentioned. In addition, I in no way speak against those that are--I pray and dream that Christ will loose them from the bonds of their "religious" law.*

As God rescued me once again from a faulty ideology instilled in me from youth (not like I'm 50 or anything--uh, actually I'm 23, but you get the picture), He patiently reminded me that community does not and cannot center on a regular meeting--or gathering, if you will. No, community is much more than that. Spending time with and tending to our individual families is a part of healthy community. Spending time in relaxation is part of healthy community. Spending time with each other outside of a weekly (or however frequently it may occur) "gathering" is part of healthy community.

Nevertheless, in addition to all these, a purposeful and specific gathering to explore and be caught up in the mysteries of God together is also a part of healthy community.