Friday, February 23, 2007

Jesus Christ - King of the Brews

"Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”
-Martin Luther

* Historically, God’s people have greatly enjoyed alcohol. In the European world one of the most Christian drinks was beer.

* Saint Gall was a missionary to the Celts and renowned brewer.

* After Charlemagne’s reign, the church became Europe’s exclusive brewer.

* When a young woman was to marry, her church made a special bride ale for her, from which we derive our word bridal.

* Pastor John Calvin’s annual salary package included upwards of 250 gallons of wine.

* Martin Luther explained the entire reformation as “..while I sat still and drank beer with Phillip and Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow.”

* Luther’s wife Catherine was a skilled brewer and his love letters to her when they were apart lamented his inability to drink her beer.

* When the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock the first permanent building they erected was the brewery.

So what happened?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Italian-Irish Connection

My family and I were recently graced with the presence of a good friend who came over (nearly at a moment's notice) from Nashville to visit us here in our home for two days. His name is Micheal Guido. I count it a privilege to call him a friend. 'Guido', as we call him, is a man with a big heart. He has been called to serve the Art & Entertainment industry through the ministry of presence. What he does - the way in which he serves people working within that industry - is often misunderstood. Guido comes alongside people and simply makes himself available to support them in all of life's varying experiences - especially in their journey with Jesus. In this way PR Ministries serves in a similar capacity as the Holy Spirit - the paraclete - to come alongside, remind us of Jesus' words and guide us into all truth while giving comfort, encouragement and rebuke when necessary.

Guido, his wife Celeste, and their family have sacrificed so much to follow God's lead into this crumbling fringe of society to help people see God's love for - and invitation to them - into relationship. I considered it a major privilege to be able to live out my calling (Dreamers of the Day) by serving Guido in his. We simply made our home available to him and created space for God to do what He does best - the care of the soul! Guido is someone that constantly challenges and inspires me to give more and more of myself to God. His knowledge of the Scriptures puts me to shame and his heart cares so much for the lives of people that it is often on the verge of breaking. If you're the praying type please pray for him, his family and the very important work he does as it presents many very difficult challenges. If you'd like to support him financially you can make contributions to his ministry and in so doing you're investing in the lives of countless musicians, actors, politicians and the like - many of whom we will never meet.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Creativity Is a 'Kingdom' Calling

Something interesting I found to read at The Trinity Forum. . .

"Judging by the paucity of Christian books and journals on such subjects as literature, poetry, and the arts; the dearth of well-known and much-admired Christian composers and artists; the frenzied focus of local congregations on restructuring, repositioning, and revamping the liturgy; and the continuing pressure on Christian educators to teach for economic success, giving serious, extended attention to creativity and the disciplines that go with it is just going to have to wait.

Yet this position, in this or any generation, is a short-sighted mistake.

Human beings, and particularly those who follow Jesus—the redeemed of the Lord—are made for creativity. Through creative work of all kinds we mimic the one who created us in his image, and we discover a key component of our calling in the Kingdom of God. Through creative disciplines and activities, the followers of Christ may not only enjoy a measure of fulfillment, satisfaction, and delight they cannot otherwise know, they also reify their vision of the life of faith in ways that bear public witness to the beauty, goodness, and truth of God, and of the divine economy. To neglect or minimize the work of creativity in any generation is to fail in one of the most foundational aspects of our calling . . ."

read the full article here

Discovering Your God-given Self

Last weekend I took part in an annual event called Reflect hosted by the Church of Ireland Youth Department. The event is for those serving in youth ministry or considering becoming involved in youth ministry. The focus for these weekend events is very personal and delves more into what it means to follow Jesus in each one of our unique life situations than it does on praxis in youth work. This year's theme was Passion, Purpose and Practice. The content of the weekend took the form of a course called Network which I was first introduced to at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, Illinois when I worked there from '98-'99.

Network helps individuals discover their Servant Profile which is a way of saying 'how God has wired us up'. The purpose of the course is to help people be 'fruitful' (effective) and 'fulfilled' in a meaningful place of service. Network enables someone to give a name to their Passion (that which is like a fire in your bones; what would keep you in conversation late into the night), Gifts (divine empowerments to serve others) and Personal Style (personality orientation). It is a human-contrived course and therefore is fallible, but I have found it so useful, time and again, in facilitating individuals to better understand God, His love for them and His invitation to join Him in His work in the world. It was a major milestone in my journey with Jesus when I first took the course and it has helped me be more settled and intentional with the time God gives me on earth . . to say nothing of the excitement and wonder of working with God in ways which I thoroughly enjoy!

Have you heard of Network? Have you been through the course? What was your experience of it? Are there any other truly beneficial courses /books that have been a journey of discovery fo you leading to a 'fuller' life?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Eight Days in the 'Valley of the Two Lakes'

At the beginning of November I spent eight days in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow on a private retreat. I went partially to fulfill a requirement for my course in spiritual direction with the Irish Jesuits as well as to get some space to be present before God after a hectic schedule. It was a time of sorrow at being away from my family for 12 days (was away for work 4 days before the retreat), a time of rest, reflection, struggle with myself and hope for the future.

There is a legend that St. Kevin (the founder of the monastic city there) was walking from the site where the monastery would later be founded to where he resided by the larger upper lake which is further into the valley. On his way there, he had to pass by a smaller lake known as Lough na Peiste while he walked on what is now known as the 'Green Road'. As he passed by, a monster (what is referred to as a worm) appeared from the lake blocking his way to his place of solitude (known as St. Kevin's bed). Instead of running from the 'worm' or killing it, legend has it that Kevin befriended the beast and then went on his way.

Whether the story is true is not important, it's the principles that we (and particularly I) gain from it. The place of solitude represents Kevin's unique connection to, or relationship with his God. The worm represents the darkness of Kevin's own heart/soul that threatens to devour or destroy him. Kevin's action in dealing with his 'inner demons' as Henri Nouwen called them, is not one of extremism or imbalance. He neither ignores (flees from) that there are, nor attempts to purge (kill) in his own might the parts of his life that are in rebellion against God. He instead accepts the aspects of his character that are not yet under the healing hand of Christ and acknowledges that he, in his own ability, is powerless to save himself. Kevin understands (befriends the 'worm') that God's love for him isn't just for the person that he might become, but that God loves him as he is (and too much to leave him that way) and so he brings his whole self - darkness and light - before God (place of solitude) to receive from Him what Kevin could never give himself.

We are all on a journey. We are either on a journey toward God (Christ) or away from Him as C.S. Lewis said (in not so many words). We are therefore all pilgrims (peregrinos) and for those of us moving God's way, we must recognise that the process of becoming more like Jesus is exactly that - a process and a journey.

(Psalm 121:8)