Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Hermit's Song

For I inhabit a wood
unknown but to my God
my house of hazel and ash
as an old hut in a rath . . .
For music I
have pines, my tall
so who can I
envy here, my
gentle Christ?

from the Irish monastic period - "Marban, A Hermit Speaks" as translated by Michael Harnett in The Book of Irish Verse, ed. John Mantague (New York: Macmillan, 1974) 57-58.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Emerging Anam Cara

I'm writing again. It's been something I've hesitated on for too long. I'm releasing an article in stages which explores the similarities of relationship between a spiritual director to a directee and the Emerging Church to the wider Church. The working title is The Emergent Anam Cara. Anam Cara is the ancient Irish term for a spiritual director (which I prefer) and it means 'Soul Friend'. Of course, ALL comments are welcome . . that's why I'm posting it!


The world is a strange place.

It’s made up of so many seemingly disparate yet inter-related parts that, on the whole, work so beautifully together and constitute what we call life. I’m reminded of the visually stunning Volkswagen commercials from a while ago that played this out. They would typically start with an apparently random question, “Do you like kung fu?” then would proceed to lead you down a purportedly logical succession of inter-related items ending with “. . then you’d like the new Volkswagen Jetta.” You may have a similar sense about the flow of this article while you read and reflect. Stick with me, it may yet render what you seek.

Maybe a new, engaging and more profound commercial can be made which would be of use to the Church and it’d go something like this:

Do you like Jesus? Then you’d be interested in his Father’s world.
If you’re interested in his Father’s world, then you’d want to be a
part of what He’s doing there. If you want to be a part of what
God is doing in His world, then you’d definitely need to know about
His Church. It stands to reason then, that if you need to know about
God’s people (His Church), you’d most definitely welcome the
conversation that is the emerging church.

Not as engaging as kung fu and congo drums, but hey, it works. Now a question for you.

What is the most potent aspect of the conversation known as the ‘emerging church’? I think I know . . and it’s nothing new. Let me qualify that last statement, what’s most potent about the “growing, generative friendship” known as the emerging church is a vital element of its ontological DNA - the question. It’s most potent because people have difficulty escaping the gravitational pull of an unanswered, open-ended question. It’s also somewhat unnerving when cognitive dissonance becomes your shadow, revealing itself when you are washed in light of any intensity. But there is life in difficulty and possibility in ‘pain’. Every death gives rise to the inescapable reality that something fresh will follow.

In many ways, the current (predominantly Western) conversational piece around theology and ‘occasional’ methodology within Christianity is not unlike the role that the Anam Cara (Irish for ‘Soul Friend’) or spiritual director plays in an individual’s life. The benefit of this conversation to the wider Church is of unparalleled significance to its vitality and (in some cases) longevity.

I recently finished two years training with the Irish Jesuits. My course of study and practice was in the field of spiritual direction. The experience was transformational. I had one simple prayer entering this course - that I would be challenged - and I most definitely was! The greatest and most intense desire in my life is to become more like Jesus; that is to say, to become the man God designed me to be and dreams I can become. Keeping in line with that central desire, my heart requested ‘challenge’ from the Three-In-One because woven within the fabric of challenge is the possibility for change. Strangely, the same possibility is seemingly unwelcome by many of the institutional (if only in one’s inner life) aspects of Christianity, as seen in the apparent unwillingness to engage healthily in the very present reality of the church in crisis and a culturally-informed connection to one’s context.

Since much of my mind is immersed in issues of personal formation, cultural translation of timeless realities and creativity, naturally I’ve noticed a few similarities between the art of spiritual direction (I use the term narrowly) and the emerging church (I use the term broadly). What follows are a number of those observations which will be teased out in more depth.

The emerging church is to the wider Church as a spiritual director (Anam Cara) is to a directee in that:

the Anam Cara is to help the directee recognise God’s voice and activity in their life through the use of appropriate questions

the Anam Cara is to ask questions of the directee that invite reflection leading to a new course of action / pattern of thought

the Anam Cara encourages the directee to invite God to speak into their situation by exploring the endless connections and correlation of Scripture to the whole of life

the Anam Cara offers the directee suggestions for creating opportunities to communicate and connect with God via differing spiritual practices - ancient and contemporary

the Anam Cara helps draw attention to inordinate, unhealthy attachments to things as well as resistances to God’s advances of love in the life of the directee


Summing It Up . . .

This image pretty much sums up where I believe God is leading me to invest and focus on in the coming year. It's from a conference advert by some friends at the Assemblies of God churches in Ireland. The church is called St. Kevin's Kitchen at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. I spent 8 days there in solitude and silence in Nov. 2006. A poem came out of that time amoungst other things. See the posts here

LOST Returns

It's coming back to television in Ireland February 4th! I can't wait . .

I think I just wet myself.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The most inspiring song for me right now is . . .

Unbreakable by fireflight

"Where are the people that accuse me?
The ones who beat me down and bruise me
They hide, just out of sight
Can't face me in the light
They'll return, but I'll be stronger

God I want to dream again
Take me where I've never been
I want to go there
This time I'm not scared

Now I am unbreakable
It's unmistakable
No one can church me
Nothing can stop me

Sometimes it's hard to just keep going
But faith is moving without knowing
Can I trust what I can't see
to reach my destiny?
I want to take control, but I know better

God I want to dream again
Take me where I've never been
I want to go there
This time I'm not scared

Now I am unbreakable
It's unmistakable
No one can church me
Nothing can stop me

Forget the fear, it's just a crutch
That tries to hold you back and turn your dreams to dust
All you need to do is just trust

God I want to dream again
Take me where I've never been
I want to go there
This time I'm not scared

Now I am unbreakable
It's unmistakable
No one can church me
Nothing can stop me

God I want to dream again (I want to dream again!)
Take me where I've never been
I want to go there (I wanna go there)
This time I'm not scared

Now I am unbreakable (I am unbreakable!)
It's unmistakable
No one can church me (No one can church me!)
Nothing can stop me"


Their sophomore release will be out in March from flicker records

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Story of Stuff

I came across this really, really interesting site in the last week or so called The Story of Stuff. You may be as impressed / moved / challenged as I was if you have few minutes to stop and reflect. You can download the well produced video with Annie Leonard presenting by the same title to use at your discretion, or use a banner on your site. I have shown it to three people already. It's like looking in the mirror.

I only wish they had offered concrete suggestions for changing behavior because the case was made so compellingly that many of us were at a critical point of decision-making and then were left to ourselves. Many who watch it would not be intentional enough to seek out options themselves. Unfortunately, as in most scenarios in life, culture-makers have to spoon feed most of the populous. There are a seriously small percentage of people in the world who are self-initiators. Fortunately, the trend seems to be moving in the other direction!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Reason

The real reason I headed to Dublin was to hang out with a new friend, Eric Patrick, who's flyleaf's pastor. He and I were put in touch by mutual friend Michael Guido who's been pastoring creatives for 22 years. It was great to spend time with Eric and some of the band this weekend getting to know them and their hearts for this field of reaching people through music. Eric & I went in search of and found U2's old Windmill Lane studios as seen it this pic.

Flyleaf Rockin' the Crowd

Here's a decent shot of the band in full force last night. They were fantastic but it was a short set of about 30+ minutes. It was great to hear songs like 'All Around Me', 'I'm Sick', 'Fully Alive' and 'Cassie' live. The mix for Lacey's vocals were a little off but it was still a great show. I'll post more photos soon.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ready for the Gig

Here you can see the queue growing outside the Ambassador in Dublin tonight getting ready for the gig with flyleaf and KORN. I'm looking forward to the former but not the latter! I've been listening to Flyleaf for about 2 years and this will be my first live show.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Have you seen this?

What is Big Think?

bigthink.com is a new and growing website, currently in its private beta version, with a simple mission:

This is a digital age, one in which a wealth of accessible information empowers you, the citizen-consumer. But where is the information coming from? How accurate and unprocessed is it, really? Ask yourself this: how empowered do you feel debating a television screen or a newspaper?

Our task is to move the discussion away from talking heads and talking points, and give it back to you. That is Big Think's mission. In practice, this means that our information is truly interactive. When you log onto our site, you can access hundreds of hours of direct, unfiltered interviews with todays leading thinkers, movers and shakers. You can search them by question or by topic, and, best of all, respond in kind. Upload a video in which you take on Senator Ted Kennedy's views on immigration; post a slideshow of your trip to China that supports David Dollar's assertion that pollution in China is a major threat; or answer with plain old fashioned text. You can respond to the interviewee, respond to a responder or heck, throw your own question or idea into the ring.

Big Think is yours. We are what you think.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

Well, what you see in my hand is an advance, uncorrected copy of Tony Jones' new book being released in March this year. He gave me the copy about 6 weeks ago when he was over with us for a few events. I've been waiting till I finished another book before getting into it but the time is quickly approaching to do so. I mean, what's the point in having an 'advance' copy if you don't actually get in on it before it's no longer an 'advance' copy, right? I'm really looking forward to digesting it after some of the conversations Tony and I had the week he was here in December. I'll list the contents below to give you an idea of the flow of the book before it comes out. [If this is a 'no-no' Tony, just let me know!]

Chapter One - Leaving the Old Country
Church is Dead
Signs of Death - and Life
The Problem on the Left
A Case Study: Go Where I Send Thee
The Problem on the Right
A Case Study: Don't Ask Us About the Chickens
The Real Problem: Left Versus Right
Caught in the Crossfire

Dispatch from the Blogosphere: Musings of Postmodern Negro

Chapter Two - Dispatches from the Frontier of the American Church
An Allegory
An Alternative Ending
Geological Musings
What Exactly is Emerging?
The Beginnings
"The Bible is Propaganda"
The New Kind of Christian Effect
Meanwhile, Across the Pond
Then till Now
The Church's Choice

Dispatch from the Rocky Mountains: Katie and Kristen

Chapter Three - Who Are the Emergent Christians
Hunches and Intuitions
Influencing Culture or Influenced by Culture?
An "Envelope of Friendship"
An Emergent Voters' Guide

Dispatch from I-35: The Terrific Tale of Trucker Frank

Chapter Four - The Theology, Stupid
Darthmouth Days
What Exactly, Is Theology?
Theology on the Rise
Going Deep
Skiing the Slippery Slope
So, a Biblicist and a Relativist Walk into a Pastors' Conference . . .
The Expurgated Lectionary

Dispatch from Seminary: Legalisms and the Left

Chapter Five - After Objectivity: Beautiful Truth
The Thrill of Interpretation
Reading the Whole Bible
"Sonny, It Ain't Nothing till I Call It"
Truth (a.k.a. God)
After Objectivity: Dialogue
Beautiful, Messy, Incarnational Truth

Dispatch from the End of a Three-Mile Dirt Road: Rediscovering "Church"

Chapter Six - Inside the Emergent Church
It's a Great Day at Jacob's Well!
Tightly Knit: Journey
The People's Liturgy: Church of the Apostles
Time to Rethink Seminary
MyChurch: A Paean to Solomon's Porch

Epilogue: Feral Christians
A: "Emergent Village Values and Practices"
B: "A Response to Our Critics"
C: "Disastrous Statements"

Tony seems to feel like what's within these covers will be a lot of food for thought and probably fuel for the fire! [not his words] Let the heartburn begin!

Trends in 2008

Here's an article in USA Today entitled, 'In 2008, People Want to Connect' with a list of various trends predicted by a number of cultural connoisseurs. I don't think they're all on the right track. About two of them are seemingly very narrow interpretations of trends, or at least they're not very speculative because the trend (or it's anti-position) has already been a strong presence in culture. The two I dispute are: New Civility and Pleasure Revenge. What do you think, are these accurate? What other movements do you perceive?

In 2008, people want to connect

Social networking 2.0
So far, the bulk of the hoopla surrounding MySpace and Facebook has focused on kids connecting with kids. But the coming year will see social networking expropriated like never before by Mom and Dad as they push to make more efficient use of their time as well as stay in touch with their aging parents.

Expert central
The Web may well have put the world at our fingertips, but many of us are feeling as if it's getting a wee bit crowded out there. In 2008, those companies that can help us navigate that sea of information and misinformation will become trusted friends, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research giant The NPD Group.

Group think
The enormity of our pressing national issues will cause us to band together to push governmental and business leaders to provide relief and guidance, says Hans Eisenbeis, senior editor at Iconoculture, a consumer trends research company based in Minneapolis.

Green redux
The message delivered by An Inconvenient Truth and its Nobel Peace Prize-winning star, Al Gore, was both simple and dire: Work to stop global warming now, or else. That mandate probably left many feeling either overwhelmed or bullied into a narrowly focused green to-do list.

New civility
No, next year we're not likely to find all our doors held open or stacks of thank-you notes in the mailbox. But there's a feeling that the hardships we're likely to face next year will be met by a return to manners, says Peter Post, great-grandson of etiquette maven Emily and lead presenter of the Emily Post Institute's Business Etiquette seminars.

Radical acceptance
Anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff is convinced that the new year will find more people responding to the problems affecting the USA — such as the war and the economy — by setting out on a soul-searching mission that eventually will lead them to engage fully with the questions at hand.

Pleasure revenge
OK, being nice to neighbors could be a way in which we regain our true sense of self. Then again, there's another possibility: glorious, damn-the-torpedoes, guilt-free indulgence — pleasure revenge, in the words of Faith Popcorn, founder of BrainReserve marketing consultancy.

Read the full article here

Here are Kester Brewin's (author of the Complex Christ / Signs of Emergence) postulations for 2008.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Everything Will Be Alright

"Everything will be alright in the end,

if it's not alright,

it's not the end."

Art and quote from inspiring bookazine at

College Students Seek Spirituality, Leave Pews

Here's a very interesting study that was conducted on the 'spirituality' of college (uni) students:

While college students are notorious for dropping out of the pews, a new study shows that attendance decline does not amount to a lesser interest in spirituality.

"Many students are emerging from the collegiate experience with a desire to find spiritual meaning and perspective in their everyday lives," said UCLA Emeritus Professor Alexander W. Astin.

A UCLA study, released Tuesday, found that college juniors are more likely to be engaged in a spiritual quest compared to when they first entered college as freshmen. The study showed that 41.2 percent of freshmen in 2004 reported they considered developing a meaningful philosophy of life "very important" or "essential." Three years later in 2007, a majority (55.4 percent) of the students agreed."

Read more

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Obama and the Irish Connection

Here's a brief clip from our national news agency RTE this past weekend of Barak Obama supporters in the village of Moneygall, Co. Offaly, Ireland (the next village over from us) which is in our parish. My friend and rector, Stephen Neill, is interviewed briefly as well as many people who would apparently be happy if Mr. Obama was granted the title Mr. President. I pass through Moneygall almost daily in my travels and it's pretty strange that this 'blip' along the N7 is now reveling in the connections with the rising presidential hopeful. As for me, I've got some more research to do, but I'm hopeful as well . . .

For the post on Barak's family connection with our local parish revealed in May of last year see here

Monday, January 07, 2008

Amazed by 'Amazing Grace'

I have just watched the film 'Amazing Grace: the William Wilberforce Story' and I was moved. I didn't really expect that much of it in regards to quality of production, casting, etc. to be honest - mostly because of my presumptions of what I thought was going to be a 'Christian' production (it's a loaded statement, I know). I was wrong.

First of all, it was not solely a Christian project and secondly, it was of the highest standard with excellent acting. I actually recognized a good few actors in it which I did not expect to see amoung the cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Rufus Sewell, Jeremy Swift, CiarĂ¡n Hinds, et al. They were so inspiring. The story was undeniably inspiring and challenging. If any movie could persuade one to move from lethargy to action - this one can. The message throughout the film is that there is no belief without action - "faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26) as James said.

Unfortunately, in our contemporary Western world people tend to legitimize 'faith' or belief as something absolutely plausible outside of action. It seems true that the ancients would have never conceived of such a dichotomy. To believe something is to act. I am acting . . . I'm heading over to the International Justice Mission to see what I can become a part of.

What about you?

BTW - I think the screenwriters made a fairly clear case for the strong connection between William's activism (faith) and those moments of quiet he enjoyed as 'God found him'. That has most certainly been true in my experience the past 20 years of following in the footsteps of this person called Jesus.

Bonus: Check out John Newton's (hymn writer, clergyman, abolitionist & Wilberforce's mentor) connection with our county of Donegal here in Ireland and how it was integral in the overall story!

A Fantastic Couple

I've always thought we look good together! A good match.

Sad News Indeed

I received news this morning that John O'Donahue passed away while in France on holiday this past Thursday. He was a poet, priest, author, messenger, philosopher and a hope-filled vessel of light and laughter. I never met him personally but I had plans in the works to invite him along on a pilgrimage up the Shannon River this summer for young adults around Ireland. We are planning on visiting some ancient Christian sites while reflecting on how God is inviting us to allow Him to write the next chapter of His story in Ireland with our lives. I thought it'd be just the thing John would have enjoyed. Those plans have changed . . . as have many people's with his passing.

I did have the rare privilege of hearing him on two ocassions this summer at Greenbelt. Those moments were full of joy and inspiration. You can download either or both of the talks here (with others).

I will leave you with a blog post that a friend of mine, Gareth Higgins, wrote about his friend John:

"John O’Donohue was my friend. We had been getting to know each other for almost four years now – a lifetime in our transient world – the very world that John’s words sought to slow down. I felt that we had in some sense adopted each other as compadres on the spiritual journey – a 50-something former priest taking into his life a 30-something former evangelical; both of us bound by our common Irish heritage, love of cinema, and fondness for sipping what he insisted on referring to as ‘firewater’. We spent many hours talking on the phone, eating together, and engaging in two of our favourite pursuits: whiskey and talking about movies. He had a way with words that made you feel whole again – he created a space with language, both spoken and written, that felt like the home you never knew you were missing, but now never wanted to leave. His work on retrieving the earthiness of celtic spirituality and helping make sense of it in a postmodern world is so profound that its impact has not yet been fully felt, and it represents something rare in a consumerist, post-Britart culture: a work of art that will outlast its author. He managed also to write with the utmost seriousness and care for language, making his books the kind that you read slowly, savouring each page; meanwhile, his public talks were characterised by an indelicate Irish charm and the kind of wit that leads to laughter so deep it makes you feel like you belong."

Read more

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Whitening of Ireland

Two early morning scenes:

The joy on a little girl's face

A winter wonder office-land (my office is the buildig on the left)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Reserve a Spot in Heaven!

It is now possible to enjoy your sin filled life and buy your way into Heaven, but how?

Finally, here’s your chance to reserve and guarantee your spot into Heaven before the time actually comes to go.

What sounds better to you, eternal happiness or endless damnation?

We’ll let you decide.

Essential and All-Access Travel Kits available

I'm posting this because it is so ludicrous it's funny. I'm amazed that something so off-the-charts ridiculous could garner so much attention but, then again, the world loves hype!

FYI - Jesus is the highest example of what it means to be truly human and alive in the love of God.

Another site

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2008 Theme Song!

This video is indicative of the kind of things that excite and enthuse me . . people taking some recognizable, 'traditional' elements and creating something totally fresh and fairly unrecognizable. I have seen this once before (including someone beatboxing while playing a flute!) but I like the mixture of these two influences. Maybe I'll just adopt this as the theme song for 2008 . . or at least a cool ringtone for my phone. Blessings on you all in this new, fresh, wonderfully wild New Year. May God surprise us all with Himself this year!