Monday, May 30, 2005

IKON-ic encounters

Just back last night from the monthly IKON service. A couple of the guys - Pete & John - had just arrived back from The Emergent YS Nashville conference a couple of hours prior. They had some good news about their experiences at the conference leading two IKON services. They will be releasing an ambient / spoken word cd later in June released by Proost - Jonny Baker's own label. A book will follow later this year called 'How [Not] to Speak About God'. The book will contain the low-down on twelve IKON services all packaged together nicely with theological underpinnings included. IKON is a real community providing real benefit to it's memebers and those outside. The real challenege in the days ahead as IKON see more attention from the world will be to not implode with self-importance and remain authentic as individual members pursue Christ wherever they are at on their journey.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Here we go . . another move . . another country

Today I spoke with the builder - whom, I might add, has been overly accommodating to us - and it's a go. We told him that pending our application for residence in the Republic of Ireland and a few items about the home - we're moving in January! So, the next three months or so will be a wonderful journey of a renewed passport, another expensive 'sticker' for indefinte leave to remain in the UK, applications for residence in the Republic and others for tax benefits, mortgages and loads of services for our new home in Cloughjordan [pronounced 'clock-jordan'], County Tipperary!

God is good and I'm looking forward to the new adventure with my wife, two kids and dog in tow. I suspect it'll be a hard transition (especially for Christy) because of having no (close) friends, no familiar sights and being tucked away in a very small village - but we'll survive -and then some. It IS beautiful though. You can see mountains in the distance almost 360 degrees around!

Finished business and sleep

Well, the weekend with the crowd in Birr, Co. Offaly went well. We [the fam & I] had a great time meeting new people, absorbing the natural beauty and exploring 'Pathways to Spiritual Growth'. Last week, it was a mad dash to retype the entire course, but we finished it - just before leaving [thanks to my darling wife who loves typing!]. Most of those on the weekend were involved in the Church in various capacities and on various levels, but we did manage to have the honour of two gentlemen fresh out of drug rehab joining us. It was refreshing for me to see the passion for Jesus that one of the guys had - God at work!

We also stopped to see the home we have been considering to make a final imspection. And as of yesterday, Christy and I have decided to trust God and yet again head out into the unknown - moving to a new country, knowing very few people. May God shock and awe us once again as we create space for Him to do so!

In terms of 'Dreamers' I am looking at the possibility of inviting a post-modern, 're-thinker' over called Spencer Burke from www.theooze.com this autumn to share thoughts and get us talking [and doing]! Anyone have any input on the man? I’m off to bed – I haven’t been practicing the spiritual discipline of sleep very well lately.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Not so good at this . . .

This blogging thing is definitely more work than I thought it would be. Maybe it's just that I'm not in the 'blogger' mindset yet. Or maybe it's just because I think that if I'm going to post something it has to be a long treatise on some major event or train of thought I'm experiencing at that moment. Anyway . . . I think I'll give it some more time to see whether I'll stick with it. The last thing I want is for this blog to become another 'thing' that I have to do - or feel I have to do. Man, with all the pressure to match up to my more 'mature' blogging friends . . I'm starting to feel insecure ;-).

Christy, Neve, the unborn child in Christy, and I are heading to the middle of Ireland this weekend [seems like I've been in the middle a lot lately - what about a mission to the coast!] because I'm leading a retreat for people who give a lot of themselves to the Church and don't often receive much back. They have chosen the title 'Refresh' - no pressure Shane - they're hoping that what I bring will give them a bit of zing back in their steps. I am really looking forward to it. The principle of serving those who serve others is close to my heart and right in line with the Dreamers of the Day vision [www.dreamtoday.org]. I have decided [hopefully with some inspiration!] to use the 'Pathways' course that I and a few of my Willow Creek intern buddies were guinea pigs for back in '99. I love the course because it has the potential to really free people up in their relationship with Christ to enjoy Him more fully! Props to J. Ortberg and R. Barton for the material . . . we'll see what God's up to.

We have to make a decision this next week on whether to put a booking deposit on the house we've been talking about for a month or so. It's crunch time. God, please show up, I don't want to make a stupid mistake . . . just a smart one.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Bohemian Christmas

Last Christmas my wife, daughter and I went to Prague. It’s a beautiful city. For many who have been there, that’s an obvious understatement. I was in awe. I would venture to say that Prague is the most beautiful city I have visited. It was magical.

Everywhere you ventured (within the old city) there was an over-arching feeling of transcendence. The city seems to have established it’s independence from the rest of the world – emitting a perpetual feeling of timelessness. I was wowed by centuries old architecture drawing influences from many cultures and time periods. Dark, shadowy towers and intricate gothic spires stretching into the evening sky. The plethora of inimitable restaurants and bistros with coloured awnings and blazing patio warmers were just as varied in offerings as they were in style. Sweet melodies – from classical to musicals – were on offer daily at various locations around the city. That’s to be expected from a city that drew many of the composers we refer to as ‘great’ in our day. In it’s own way, Prague daily pays homage to those musicians that enriched it’s borders for so long.

There’s a dark side to the city too. It’s one that draws tourists, albeit possibly not as many as those who come for the ‘lighter’ attractions on offer. There are unbelievably packed cemeteries with rough-hewn tombstones marking the graves of so many Jews that died in the city, along the Vltava river. It’s sickening to observe the irregularly placed, overlapping grave markers. Respect for the dead, or those who mourn them, gave way to expediency and racial discrimination. It’s said that Hitler, in his sick, twisted interest had planned to create a museum dedicated to ‘an extinct race’ in Prague. He had planned to ‘honour’ the Jews after systematically killing each and every one. By deliberate action, and a sort of psychological posturing, we strive to make sense of the past by dragging it again and again into the present.

What impacted me the most as I strolled the streets of Prague with my wife and daughter was that I will soon be gone. It was a somber and incredibly sobering five days. A very ‘Ecclesiastes’ experience. There is wonderful profit being reminded that we are but wind passing through the fingers of God . . it’s called perspective. A cold shower first thing in the morning has a similar effect. It’s when you tell yourself you’ll soon be food for worms and that everyday from this point on MUST mean something. Near the end of the film Pulp Fiction, Samuel Jackson’s character has a similar experience when he describes what he called a ‘moment of clarity’. Those few moments we are granted are like diamonds in the hand. Precious. Valuable. To be treasured and protected.

It’s simply too easy to be wound (or to tightly wind ourselves) into irritable, explosive, dissatisfied people. Too easy to get ‘stuck in a moment’ that doesn’t give us more life, but steals it from us. Too easy to settle for lives that are so unlike the lives we were meant to be living. It’s far too easy to squander the precious, short-lived gift called ‘living well’. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have grown too attached to the small lives we lead. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown that holds us back from really living. Maybe it’s our misconceptions about what really living will really be like. I have few answers and a nagging hunger for more.

Quoting Paul, Eugene Peterson has re-dressed a portion of the Bible in his opus called the Message which speaks tomes to me. I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13). We were meant for so much more. The lives many of us live are often times only shadows of the life that Christ intends - that kind of ‘God-infused life’ He pours into those who are like empty cups waiting to be filled.

San Diego band Switchfoot address this issue in their song ‘Meant to Live’: We were meant to live for so much more, have we lost ourselves, have we lost ourselves . . maybe we’ve been living with our eyes half open, maybe we’re bent and broken . . and everything inside screams for second life . . .”. The equally inspired song ‘Dare You to Move’ adds this to the conversation, “. . the tension is here, the tension is here . . between who you are and who you could be . . between how it is and how it should be . . .”. Thankfully artists like Switchfoot have captured our fleeting moments of clarity in sonic ‘aide memoires’, which can be the voice of God to those who are listening.

My brief visit to Prague was worth far more than a simple Christmas get-away. There was a far greater reward that came from it than watching my daughter chomp the head off a chocolate Santa on Christmas morning. It was the gift of a higher viewpoint . . like a cliff edge from which I could see my life with a wide angle lens before re-joining the race on the plains below. It was a little bit of ‘God vision’. These moments come and go like sun between the clouds – but they’re so sweet when they come.

Most of the times God gifts me with that fresh perspective I’m making space to engage with him in His Word. I’m raised up to a higher way of living. When we’re there we need to make decisions. Decisions about our pace of life. Decisions about our direction in life. And decisions about our companions along the journey. Important decisions that must guide us through the next leg of the journey to another vantage point where we rest and recalibrate. Our decisions MUST translate into action.

I want it to be true of me as it was of David; For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. . .”(Acts 13:36). What decisions are guiding your life?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Soul Friendship and moving South

The Rev. Ray Simpson, guardian of the Aidan & Hilda Trust on Holy Island - Lindisfarne at the Soul Friendship weekend in Roscrea.
this is an audio post - click to play